Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A New Low in Government Truth

Have you heard that we're going to hit the dreaded debt ceiling again in the fall
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department said again that it can continue to pay the country's bills in full without breaching the legal limit on borrowing until sometime after Labor Day.

Nailing down an exact date is hard to do at this time, because of several factors affecting the government's cash flow, according to Matthew Rutherford, assistant secretary for financial markets.

But budget experts forecast that the debt ceiling will likely have to be raised by mid- to late fall because of a better-than-expected fiscal picture.
That entire three paragraphs from CNN is a lie.  Utter bull crap.  Because we would have hit the ceiling in May, the 18th to be precise, if the Department of the Treasury was telling the truth.  You see, they haven't adjusted their "debt clock" since the end of the day on May 16.  The reported debt has remained the same for 75 days so far. 
( - According to the Daily Treasury Statement [pdf] for July 26, which the Treasury released this afternoon, the federal debt has been stuck at exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 70 straight days.

That is approximately $25 million below the legal limit of $16,699,421,095,673.60 that Congress has imposed on the debt.
For the record, check the US Debt Clock website, which shows the current debt at $16.883913  Trillion at the moment, not $16.669421 (I use rough numbers because it changes as I try to copy, and I want to get down to the single millions in digits).  If they were to add $25 million, and we borrow almost $3 Billion per day, they'd go over the limit.  I can't say I'm entirely sure what the game is, although it seems to be all theatrical effects, "because we can".  If they hadn't frozen the date in May, they would have had to start the theatrics of arguing over the debt ceiling back last spring.  Does fall make better political theater?
 (source is clearly

For new visitors, I've often said we don't have a debt ceiling in any real way, because we always raise it when we get close to it.  It's theater, but not particularly good theater; politics is show business for the ugly, right?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Bit More on the Civil War You Don't See Coming

Yesterday's post gathered a really excellent comment from an anonymous commenter.  As I've done once or twice before, I repeat it here, with some editing.  I hope I don't change the meaning!
The problem with SS in a nutshell is congress. They have made it like welfare and have changed the rules over time to give away more then ever comes in. The fix is really rather simple. First understand that in the early years going back to at least the 50’s the federal government took money from the SS trust fund and today that amount including compounded interest exceeds $4 trillion.

So the fix: First remove anyone from collecting SS who didn’t pay into the system. Sure there are old folks and kids and disabled who really need the money but cut them off if they were not the actual people who paid into SS. Second set the individual monthly payout to be proportional to what the retiree paid in over their lifetime. That is someone who paid $100,000 into SS will get half as much a month as someone who paid in $200,000. Third make the actual payout consistent with general accounting procedures for a annuity. That may mean a particular retiree only gets $100 a month ( or $500 or $750, etc) and not the more generous $1500 or so that SS now pays on average. And the last step is the most important and that is to adjust the total payout each year so that it does not exceed the total paid into the SS system. That means this year you might get $900 a month but next year it drops to $850 (or could go up too) and every retirees SS benefit adjusts accordingly. This way it is impossible for the SS system to go broke. It only pays out to those who paid in and met all requirements and it always pays out no more then it takes in.

The bottom line is a contract was made and the retirees fulfilled their part of the contract. While we may believe it would be easy enough to simply pass laws and end SS the courts will bat last and there is plenty of precedent for deciding that the federal government would have to use it’s power of taxation to meet this contract. So we either fix the system or we face endless litigation and risk an even greater liability in the future.

One last point; SS is one of two programs (Medicare is the other) where the beneficiaries have paid for the benefit. If SS must be cut or as some say eliminated it can only be done morally after all giveaway programs like welfare (all federal welfare programs), federal subsidies, loans, grants, foreign aid etc. are eliminated. It would be immoral for the federal government to make a contract with me to have me forcibly pay in 6% of my income for 50 years promising to pay me a small retirement after age 65 and then renege on that promise while continuing to spend tax money on programs were the beneficiary contributed nothing directly to the funding. So if things are so bad that SS must be ended it can only be done after all other federal giveaway programs are ended as well. By my estimate $1.2 trillion federal dollars are spent yearly on the 2400 federal welfare programs. Most of the rest of the budget is spent on the various “giveaway’s”, (student loans/grants, farm loans and subsidies, energy subsidies, foreign aide, etc.). All of these programs exceed $1.2 trillion as well. Frankly I would welcome cutting the federal budget by $2.4 trillion plus another $824 billion for SS. But somehow I suspect the intent is to try to cut SS but not cut any of the other federal programs. And that brings me back to the morality and legality of such an action. Can the federal government end the SS contract without the umbrella of going through an actual bankruptcy? And can the federal government morally justify taking all the retirees money all those years and give them nothing in return but continue to pay welfare recipients and other hangers on? I think not. I think they will have a legal and a political fight on their hands. I think it would actually be easier to end welfare and the many other wasteful subsidy programs then it will be to end SS.
The problem with everything in this country in a nutshell is congress. 

More seriously, I don't know of any real efforts to get rid of social security.  For all intents and purposes, it really is the third rail of politics and the constituency for it is so big and so vocal, it's unlikely it will ever be ended, before the country collapses (figure 2020 plus or minus 10 years?)   When I say "it won't be there for me", I don't mean it's totally gone, necessarily, just that it's functionally gone.  The "more generous $1500 or so that SS now pays on average" can be made entirely worthless simply by continuing the inflation we're undergoing.  Shadowstats says the current inflation rate would have been reported as around 9% before they started changing the methods in the 1980s.
But think of it this way: inflation is at least the amount of money created out of thin air.  QE4 creates  $85 Billion/month, or $1.02 Trillion/year.  The GDP is 15.8 Trillion, so 1.02/15.8 is about 6.5% inflation.  You can see on that graph, the official inflation rate is about 2%.  At one point, Bernanke actually said they could directly deposit money in everyone's personal accounts: that would be the equivalent of devaluing the dollar without being all formal and adding zeroes to the currency.  Recipients would still get that  $1500/month, but it would buy about what $150 or $15 a month buys today, depending on how much they deposit in every account. 

Those of us close to retirement were forced (under penalty of prison) to contribute to SS for our entire working lives, like 40 to 45 or 50 years.  The promised to have that money grow and be available for us.  Remember, it wasn't originally supposed to be our retirement, it was "supplemental income insurance" for widows and other elderly people.  As near as I can tell, they ran it that way for a few years until they thought no one was watching.  Then what they did was the equivalent of hiring a bunch of hookers, getting naked, and snorting coke off their bellies!  Oh, and they changed the laws controlling SS so they didn't look quite so corrupt to the casual observer. 

I think your plan has merit. The extension of SS benefits to people who never paid into it, such as illegal immigrants, is part of our problems with the system, and simply limiting it to people who paid in would help immensely.  One of the problems with the system you don't mention is that if you paid into the system for 45 years and die before you get a penny, it could all be gone.  It's ironic to talk about the hydra and morality in the same piece, but they try to sound that way - when they're not instigating class warfare.  I have no problems with reducing federal giveaways at the same time. 

Meanwhile, guys like the commenter Anon0814 quotes (and maybe Anon0814 himself - hard to tell from just the couple of sentences) are blaming us for them getting stoned and stealing our money. 
"You either destroyed the greatest country on earth, or stood back and let it happen, in one generation."

" Now the younger generations have to fight a civil war or resign ourselves to live in a 3rd world cesspool."
Seriously, what more were we supposed to do besides vote against the obviously evil ones and have our candidate get beaten most of the time?  Were we supposed to start shooting?  When? 1965, when the first boomers were 20?  When Nixon declared the gold standard dead in 1973?  Exactly what were we supposed to do?  And exactly when?  Some of us are still trying like crazy to get them to not crash the country and you see just how much good we're doing.  We're also trying like crazy to not be a burden on anyone, but now because of the stupid progressives, we can't even buy a product like health insurance. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Civil War You Don't See Coming

Here's your next civil war coming right here, and I bet you haven't thought of it.  No, not the feature article on 35 facts to scare a baby boomer.  In the comments to the this article on Western Rifle Shooters' Association.

It's how everyone is blaming the Baby Boomers for its troubles.  The war will be when hot head kids start killing their Boomer parents; and if not their own parents, the nearest Boomers.  Frankly, it won't go well for the older generation.  With the exception of the rare psycho, parents aren't very likely to kill their own children. The comments, as often happen, have plenty of "you Boomers screwed up everything", and "stop whining". 

The 35 Facts don't scare me in the slightest because there's nothing in there that matters.  Why should I be afraid because other people are unprepared for their retirement, and they plan to work until they drop?  This should scare the kids, not a Boomer, because the old guy with the better job isn't retiring, so they have less opportunity.  Am I supposed to be surprised Social Security won't be there?  That there's a 134 Trillion dollar unfunded liability?  My wife tells me that in 1978 or so when I told her that there would be no social security, I was the first person she had ever heard say that. Here's one for you ZH: if you cut everyone's meager social security in half, so that instead of living on dog food, they could just lick old dog food cans, we'd still have a $67 Trillion unfunded liability that can't be met.

Then CA links to an article on FakeNation about "The Villages", a too-planned-for-my-taste retirement community over north of Orlando.  (And confidential to "Jake"; when you say, "Endless geriatric summer camp in endlessly perfect weather." you really need to go spend August in The Villages before you go talking about perfect weather).  Like so much inter-generational warfare agitprop, it's full of broad brush generalities about Boomers that might describe a few percent of the group.  I mean, is there anyone who really fits the entire profile in this piece?  It's like someone tried to combine "Leave It To Beaver" and "Forrest Gump" and somehow make Gump into Gordon Gecko ("greed is good") from "Wall Street".  What about the Boomers who enlisted for Vietnam?  What about the ones who worked two jobs, or went to school at night to drag themselves into a better career.  When there's a baby boom, that means there's obviously a lot of competition for every job, so you had to really work to get that nice job so many deride. 

The economic mess we're in is a complex mess and there is no simple, painless way out.  (Well, it's simple but light years from painless).  You can't point your fingers at any one group; yes, not even central bankers, and say they're the ones responsible.  As I've said before (in two episodes), the economy was due to slow down, if not crash, for a variety of reasons.  (The second piece covers why investing in stocks was such a really bad idea for retirement).  We're seeing the collapse of fiat currency worldwide, an epic showdown between Keynesian and Austrian economics.  There are mountains of debts that have to be paid down, that will take generations to repay.  Frankly, I believe most of it will be written off.  Banks, loan underwriters and millions of people are not going to get what we were promised because it simply isn't there.  There are only two ways they can get that $134 Trillion: lots of growth or creation of money out of thin air - which gives you worthless paper for your portion of that $134 Trillion.  
As commenter Battlefield USA says, "Remember… millennials, gen-x, baby boomers. We are all in this together. And of the three, some will die, some will live."  Encouraging this sort of strife is a tactic perfect for  Encourage your enemies to fight each other: (1) it divides resistance and so makes them easier to dominate (2) if they kill off people, there's less burden on your wonderful Obama Health Services.  From their standpoint, what's not to love? 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Different Kind of Project

The projects I've written about here have tended to be kind of techy - whether it's my little solar panel plaything or my AR-15.  This is a different kind, rather low tech in comparison.  No electronics at all.  No soldering.  No machining (probably).   

I'm making a couple of fishing rods.  Took off Friday for a trip over to a great store that sells everything you need for rod making, Mud-Hole in Oviedo (between Orlando and Sanford).  (No financial affiliation, yada, yada.  I was just really pleased with the service and selection).

I'm not new at this, but like everything else in fishing, it has changed a lot in the 30+ years since I fished regularly.  When I was in my early 20s, and fishing from piers and jetties, I would look at the custom rods in the tackle shops and drool.  Surely all that fancy work had to make a better rod, right?  But on a part-time work/part-time student budget, over a hundred bucks for a custom rod was big money.  So I got a book and learned to do it myself.  Now, in those days, custom rods tended to have a "diamond wrap", a pattern formed by winding thread up and down the blank above the handle.  It was the sign of a custom rod because no factory would spend that much time and effort to do it. Today, some custom rod builders actually weave patterns in the thread

Joey's custom rods, just somedood I found online.  Not mine.  This is the kind of custom thread work guys are doing today.  

Rod making requires virtually no tools except the thread that holds the guides in place.  Add in some glue (usually epoxy), masking tape, a finish (again, usually a clear liquid epoxy), and an Exacto knife or scalpel.  There are some times and places where a little motorization helps, and many makers use a sewing machine motor.  The finishes we use tend to be runny and need to be slowly turned to keep them from looking bad.  I have an ancient barbecue rotisserie motor.  I wound several rods using nothing more than my lap, and wrapped the thread around the pages of the phone book to add tension.  This isn't rocket surgery. 

I still have and fish with the first rod I ever built from purchased parts - right around 1974 or '75, if I recall.  I re-did the diamond wrap around the bottom of the rod a couple of times, with the current build going back to about 1979 or 80.  Being just about 40 years old, the guides were starting to show signs it was time to rebuild the rod.  A spinning rod I built in the early '80s had two guides that actually came apart when I took it out a couple of years ago; the older rod apparently had better guides. 

And I'm building a custom for Mrs. Graybeard that will be beautiful.  Since it has been many years since I've done this, I'm doing mine first as a sort-of sacrificial project.  Better to make my mistakes on this one than the next.  I took the old rod apart today.  Sawed the reel seat in half with a cutoff wheel in a Dremel and pried it off.  Removed all the guides.  Started the process of rebuilding from a bare blank.  I'll update as I go along.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

JJ Cale - 1939-2013

Just a few weeks ago I posted a little piece on JJ Cale, with a video of one of my favorite songs he wrote.  Tonight, I learn that JJ died of a heart attack Friday night, a quick ending that leaves me in shock.  AP music writer  Chris Talbot put it this way:
If musicians were measured not by the number of records they sold but by the number of peers they influenced, JJ Cale would have been a towering figure in 1970s rock 'n' roll.

His best songs like "After Midnight," ''Cocaine" and "Call Me the Breeze" were towering hits — for other artists. Eric Clapton took "After Midnight" and "Cocaine" and turned them into the kind of hard-party anthems that defined rock for a long period of time. And Lynyrd Skynyrd took the easy-shuffling "Breeze" and supercharged it with a three-guitar attack that made it a hit.
To expand on what I said back in May, even if you've never heard of him or never heard him play, you've absolutely heard his laid back style of blues, country, rock and Western swing that has been played by Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), Lynyrd Skynyrd and many more.  The list of artists that have performed his music includes Johnny Cash, Maria Muldaur, Neil Young, Tom Petty, The Allman Brothers, Carlos Santana, and Waylon Jennings. I'm sure I've left others out.
Clapton once told Vanity Fair that Cale was the living person he most admired, and Cale weighed the impact Clapton had on his life in a 2006 interview with The Associated Press: "I'd probably be selling shoes today if it wasn't for Eric."

That quote was typical of the always humble Cale. But while Clapton was already a star when he began mining Cale's catalog, there's no doubt the music they shared cemented his "Clapton is God" status and defined the second half of his career.
Unusual among musicians, Cale wasn't about making himself stand out.  He never put his face on album covers.  He didn't care about being famous, and once quipped about "fame and fortune", "I'd like to have the fortune, but I don't care too much about the fame."  When asked if bothered him that there were millions who knew his music but didn't know anything about him said, "No, it doesn't bother me," he laughed. "What's really nice is when you get a check in the mail."

His website simply says: 
JJ Cale Has Passed Away
JJ Cale passed away at 8:00 pm on Friday July 26
at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, CA.
The legendary singer / songwriter had suffered a heart attack.
There are no immediate plans for services.
His history is well documented at,,
and in the documentary, To Tulsa And Back.
Donations are not needed but he was a great lover of animals so, if you like,
you can remember him with a donation to your favorite local animal shelter.
And as a little tribute, a piece I've never seen before tonight, but that captures some of that JJ feel that makes the influence on Dire Straits, for one, seem so obvious.

Just In Case It Matters

Just a few random thoughts that ran through my head this morning, centered on what has gone on in the two families of the Martin/Zimmerman trial in the 18 months or so since that fateful encounter.  I really think this can come down to a very simple question, posted at the end.

Everyone has reported on the incident where Zimmerman went to the rescue of a family that rolled their SUV.  The rescued family is now hiding, as best as they can, afraid they'll be attacked by someone in the groups of terrorists threatening everyone involved in the trial.   

A few months ago the Martin family filed to trademark their son Trayvon's name.  Presumably due to restrictions on trademarking a proper name, they filed two trademark forms, one for "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon".  Trademark isn't granted yet, so no need for the (tm) sign.

I saw an argument that they're trademarking those to keep someone else from trademarking them and making money off Trayvon's name.  Now maybe it's just me, but I don't think I'd care if someone else made that money.  I'm sure they see it differently, but I don't see where it's any skin off my back if someone else figures out a way to make some money of it, and there's always the chance they end up sending boxes full of "Justice for Trayvon" shirts to Africa

A few weeks ago the Martins settled their lawsuit with the Homeowner's Association of the neighborhood where he died, reportedly for over a million dollars?  Considering Zimmerman wasn't on duty for the Neighborhood Watch association that night, just a guy on the way to the store, I can't help but wonder exactly why they sued, except that they can.  They don't have any legal expenses in the recently completed trial; that was paid for by the State.   They get flown all around the country to appear on TV shows, but they don't pay out of pocket, the shows do.  To be coarse, you can buy a hell of a lot of funerals for a million bucks.  It's an American phenomenon that if your family member dies of cancer, or a heart attack or stroke - too bad, so sad - but if they die for any other reason, by God, there's money to be made (and people are trying to come with ways to sue over bunches of diseases, too).  It's an American sickness, and the Martins have it, too.

By the way, anyone want to apply for a trademark on this?

So I have a simple question:  given all this who would you rather have as next door neighbors, the Zimmermans or the Martins?

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Real Reason I Like Thunderstorms

While driving around Orlando today on a day without storms. 
iCrap photo of the A/C in my '09 Ford Exploder. 

The typical afternoon thunderstorm will drop that about 15 degrees.  A storm with lots of vertical development drops it even more when that cold air from 55,000 feet collapses down to sea level.  Over near the coast, we get a sea breeze most days and it really helps.  40 minutes later or so, closer to home, it was 90.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Once In All of Human History

On July 19th, for the first time in human history, Earth was photographed by two of our satellites; Cassini, in orbit around Saturn, and Messenger, orbiting Mercury.  From Saturn, we see a single dot, easily confused for any of the other lit dots in the sky, except being a bit brighter.  In the Mercury Messenger image, we see our earth-moon system as a dual planetary system.  With our outsized moon, many astronomers view us that way. 
Look well at that little spot - the bigger of the pair of dots.  Every person in your family, or my family; every person, great or small, known to history or lost to time, has lived on that dot.  Every single thought, word, or deed our species knows of took place on that little dot.  No human being has ever ventured beyond the second smaller dot in the right image.  Space-faring?  We have barely gotten off the porch.  

Click to embiggenate.  Or go here to get other sizes.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Great Men

Yesterday, Francis Porretto at Liberty's Torch posted one of his thought-provoking little essays, as he is wont to do.  The idea is simple, whom would you nominate as the "greatest figure" of the 20th century?  Fran responds with a short list of four:
  • Thomas Edison
  • Nikola Tesla
  • William Shockley
  • Charles Drew
It's hard to sit in 21st century America and grasp how much Edison's signature invention affected the world at the end of the 19th.  Beyond the light bulb, though, with his labs at Menlo Park, he developed a method of developing things that was enormously productive.  I doubt I need to tell you about Tesla, as there's somewhat of a Tesla Renaissance going on these days.  I wouldn't single out William Shockley without the coinventors of the transistor, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen.  As I've said before, mankind has made more transistors than any other thing we've ever fabricated, including nails.  Charles Richard Drew developed the modern blood banking system, which has improved the lives of billions. 

A very distinguished group.  But what about others?  First, it's almost inevitable that a list like this will tell you as much about the preparer than the people on it.  With three engineers to one doctor, it has a decided technical leaning.  Commenter Matthew Wennerlund nominated Norman Borlaug, the agronomist who developed what we call wheat these days (genetically very different from the wheat our ancestors ate).  He has undoubtedly saved or enabled the lives of billions of people and in terms of pure numbers it's hard to top that, no matter how wretched that "wheat-like food stuff" is and no matter how many people have problems with celiac or related syndromes from it.  That's a "first world problem".  If you starve to death in childhood, you don't get celiac later in life.  It's similar to how the gene mutations that causes sickle cell anemia survives and isn't selected against: the gene gives survival advantage against malaria, allowing children to live long enough to reproduce.  

I think there's a place for the pioneers of rocketry to be considered, such as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky or Robert Goddard, suggested by another commenter.  But we should be tying to narrow this down to the single "greatest figure", not just add people. 

From my parochial perspective, I'd think of Edwin H. Armstrong.  In the earliest days of electronics, Armstrong invented the essential "superheterodyne" architecture used in every type of radio, which is still the way it's usually done today, as well as inventing the FM mode.  Everyone who has used radio, TV, cable TV, weather radar, or hundreds of other things, has benefited from Armstrong.  

What do you think?  Did you notice that not one of these people is a government official?  When you go to consider them, you end up looking at the ones who caused the most death and destruction in the world: Hitler, Stalin, Mao...   Just goes to show you, when you look for the "Greatest figure", you end up with scientists, engineers and doctors.  When you look up the ones who have done the most damage, you get politicians. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Need Some Kitty Downers And I Need Them Fast

Back in the really old days - Season 2 of Saturday Night Live, they did a skit on drugs for dogs: Puppy Uppers and Doggie Downers.  Well I need some kitty downers and I need them fast. 
I've written about Mojo before.  Moe is just a lot of fun; he's very interactive - chats with us, and genuinely wants to be around us.  Unlike any other cat I've known, if you hold your hand down, he'll stand on his hind legs to rub against your hand, basically standing up and launching his head into your hand.  He'll sit in uncomfortable places to be close to both of us.  He likes for us to talk with him.  He has rituals we have to follow at times, like before and after work.  And if we're both not in our places, he'll sit and expectantly wait for the second one to join in.  When I get out of bed on most mornings, within seconds of my standing up he has flopped down next to her to get his tummy petted.  Lately, he has to lie down in the bed between us to be petted when we turn in for the night.  He could literally be petted every waking minute, I think. 
(Simon's Cat uses this sign language to say "feed me".  Moe has his own approach.)

The problem is, he'll wake up during the night and decide he needs attention.  This morning I was disturbed from a deep, deep sleep by him sitting on my pillow and licking my head.  I held up my hands (still asleep) and he nipped at my fingers - his usual "sign language" for "feed me, servant!".  I looked at the clock and saw it said 25.  In my haze of waking, brain said, "25?  That's not a time.".  I concentrated hard and looked again.  It was 2:51.  To shorten the story somewhat, I didn't get much sleep after that.  Running on empty. 

So I figure if I can get him some kitty downers, and I can get him to sleep through the night, I'll be better.  I tried catnip - the booze equivalent - that didn't work, so I need real kitty sleeping pills. Ever heard of a cat that won't sleep enough?  They say the average house cat sleeps 13-16 hours a day.  That would be fine if I could get him to sleep all night.  Lacking that, I'll take some of whatever the anesthesiologist gave me last time I was out.  For me, not him. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

"I Could Have Been Trayvon"

Yes.  Yes you could have, Mr. President.  Because you don't have any real character.  Certainly not enough to be one of these guys. 
You don't have the character of George Zimmerman, the man you so desperately want us to despise, who came out of hiding long enough to rescue a family, (audio warning) but in doing so, revealed where he's living.  (GZ needs to find a really anonymous equivalent of the witness protection program, and learn how to disappear.) 

Hell, Mr. President, you don't have the character to pay your respects when a genuine hero like Chris Kyle gets murdered, but you'll practically make it a state ceremony when a drug-addled twit dies of an overdose.  Or let a two-bit, wannabe thug try to make his bones playing the knockout game, try to kill the guy when he fails and then fail at that, and you're on it like Oprah on baked ham.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pacific Rim

Yeah, you know how my taste in movies runs to comic book/sci-fi/juvenile stuff, so we had to go see Pacific Rim.  I think the quote I heard that sealed the deal was,
"You've got a robot the size of 20 story building using an ocean-cruising cargo ship to beat a monster the size of another 20 story building across the face.  I was crying nerd tears". 
At the risk of introducing too much plot to get in the way of the monster bitch-slapping, in the near future humanity comes under attack by a succession of monsters called kaiju coming through a dimensional warp under the pacific.  After several come through in succession, and millions of people die before the monsters can be killed, humans develop monster robots called jaegers (hunters) that are controlled by the mind and movements of the operators.  After they find the load on the brain is too much for one person, the robots become controlled by pairs of operators who have to have their minds linked, so that every thought goes through both minds. Total mind meld.  There: I've caught you up to the first two minutes of movie. 
Robot "Gipsy" getting ready to put the beating on a kaiju with a cargo ship. (source)  Two hours of escapist bliss ... with out one single mention of the names BHO, TM or GZ. 

If you like escapist, action, sci-fi flicks, check it out.  If you like that, chances are I had you with the quote.

Quote of The Day

Or quip of the day?  From Daniel Peterson, via Sense of Events

Saturday, July 20, 2013

44 Years Ago

Neal Armstrong working on the LEM, Tranquility Base, July 20, 1969. 

While we lived in North Miami, 250 miles or so south of the KSC, we were in New York City visiting relatives that whole week.  I was a teenager.  It would be the last time I would see some of them, and 12 years until I'd see others again.  Somewhere around here I have small prints of 35mm film pictures I took of the crew of Apollo 11, at an anniversary celebration for KSC Employees and families, when Mrs. Graybeard was working on the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters avionics.  Ought to scan those in before they fade away. 

I was as sure as can be we'd have visited Mars by now. 

Annnnddd.... It's Over

Although there isn't a rider or team we particularly care about, and the sport as a whole has suffered from the continual destruction of its past heroes for doping, the lovely Litespeed-riding Mrs. Graybeard and I have followed much of the Tour de France this year, the 100th Anniversary. The tour concludes tomorrow, but today saw its last real fighting stage with a brutal mountain climb up Annecy-Semnoz in the Alps.  Mountain climbs in the tour are rated with an algorithm that factors the percentage grade, length and altitudes.  "Easy" climbs are Cat 4, going to Cat 1, but today's stage and the legendary mountains of the tour - Alpe D'Huez, Ventoux, and many others - are HC, the French abbreviation for "Beyond Categorization" - too hard to categorize. 

Twenty years ago, when I switched from jogging to cycling to save my knees, I ran across a saying on the internet cycling forums: TIOOYK - There Is Only One, You Know - and it's true, there's just no other sporting event that's like grand tours in general, and the TdF is the big one. There is just nothing else in sport with majesty, color and spectacle of the Tour.  Not to mention the raw athleticism.  Get a group of boys playing together on bikes and you can guarantee that they'll eventually race to see who's fastest.  You want to race?  Fine, let's race up that mountain most people can't even stand up straight on. 

Cycling is the only sport where competitors from different teams have to cooperate to win.  The physics of riding in a group is that the inner riders, sheltered from direct air drag by the outside, can reduce their power output by 20% to as much as half in a really big peloton (the term for the big group, the platoon, of cyclists).  A breakaway of a single rider can rarely win, but manages to do so once or twice per Tour.  A group of perhaps 6 to 10 can give each other enough advantage to hold off the rest, on the "easy" flat stages of the race.  When the finish line nears, though, the cooperation turns back into a race, with guys trying to stay in second or third to get enough shelter from the wind to make a break for it. 
As an example of a small group taking turns pulling into the wind to help each other, here's a scene from this year's tour, racing to the summit of Mt. Ventoux, "The Monster of Provence", on last Sunday's stage.  Chris Froome of the UK is in the leader's yellow jersey, and young Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana in white - Quintana won today's stage.  In this stage, Froome broke away from Quintana with about a km or so to go and won easily on the epic mountain.  The tour wraps up tomorrow with the essentially ceremonial ride into Paris and along the Champs-Elysee.  Barring a meteor strike on his team bus or something equally odd, Chris Froome will win the Tour overall, with Nairo Quintana winning the best new rider's white jersey and second place on the podium (probably along with a fat new contract!)   It's a gentleman's agreement that the only real competition tomorrow will be the final sprint on the Champs, and the three podium positions will go unchallenged.  Usually. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Fla. Governor Scott MAY Have a Spine

I assume that most of the people who drop by here are not from Florida, so you may not know that most conservatives and even some Stupid party members are not exactly fond of Governor Scott - sometimes called Governor Voldemort.  He has been known to cave to virtually any pressure whatsoever.  So imagine our surprise when we found he may possibly be showing a spine by telling NAACP organized protestors he's not going to initiate repeal of our stand your ground laws.

Governor Scott is on travel "recruiting businesses", and was not at his office when a group of protestors called "Florida's Dream Defenders" decided to occupy his office and demand SYG be repealed. Dream Defenders has been traced as a group funded and organized by groups "(f)rom the socialist-oriented SEIU union to ACORN to Occupy to a litany of George Soros-funded organizations" - and even the US DOJ (remember the reports of how the DOJ's CRS organized many of the original protests).
According to the Palm Beach Post, Scott is not budging. He sent a letter of his own to Florida NAACP President Adora Obi Nweze late Wednesday, informing the group that travel will prohibit him from returning to the capitol on Thursday.

“After holding seven public meetings and considering 16,603 pieces of correspondence and 160 public comments at Task Force meetings, the Task Force concurred with the Stand Your Ground law and I agree,” Scott wrote, according to the paper. “It is also important to note that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was not argued in the Zimmerman case.”
Scott screwed up from the start on this case.  When the Sanford police decided not to arrest Zimmerman that first night, but continue their investigation, he got involved.  More precisely, he caved and rolled over for Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the other hustlers.  He's the one who dumped the prosecutor in charge, Norm Wolfinger, and appointed the epically incompetent and corrupt Angela Corey to prosecute Zimmerman.  Even worse, Corey has still been out on the stump saying bad things about Zimmerman and the case, trying to inflame public outrage, and he hasn't throttled or fired her.  Earth to Angela Corey!  When a jury decides that the events in a case have occurred in a particular way or sequence, that's considered the truth.  You may have heard of this "truth" stuff some time before. 

It's encouraging to see signs of a spine developing here, but he has a long way to go.   

Thursday, July 18, 2013

CNC Continues to Change Everything

I guess this is getting to be an occasional series here, but Shopbot is introducing a new concept in CNC tools, called the Handibot.

In a move that seems rather unusual for an established company with a good reputation, they're using a Kickstarter Crowdsourcing model to fund development of this new product.  They've already met their funding goals with plenty of margin.  At the moment, they're at $293,709 funded out of a goal of  $125,000,  235% of goal, and still have 12 days to gather more funding.

The heart of the tool is a standard Makita router capable of handling any standard 1/4" shank router bit - or a 1/8" router bit with a collet.  Or a standard 1/4" shank end mill or other milling machine cutter.   

What's novel about this tool is that instead of you bringing work to the tool and either clamping the work to a table or feeding it into the machine, you bring this tool to the work.  That means it can be put on a wall or a ceiling to make precision cuts.  Its native work area is 6"(X) by 8"(Y) by 4"(Z).  Not very big, but it has a rail system that allows it to be used to cut virtually any sized piece.  Watch the video, if you haven't.  

Finally, they are trying to create a user community to suggest new ways to use such a revolutionary tool and help suggest the apps that will run the Handibot - and they say that desire is what's behind the crowdsourcing approach.  

No, I'm not ready to jump for this, but I think I'll keep an eye on this one.  It looks like a very nice addition to a shop, especially the woodworking side. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too Good Not to Share

A guide to understanding the introverted.  Too big to reproduce here, but good.  

I'm not sure when I first realized I was an introvert.  When I did, it wasn't considered some sort of big deal.  You just preferred smaller numbers of closer friends to a crowd, and you tended to be the quiet one in a room.  It wasn't until much later that people who focused intensely on things; puzzle solvers, problem solvers - or who preferred solitary hobbies like distance running or long distance cycling were labeled as having a "syndrome". 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Did A Lying Police Chief Kill Trayvon?

Robert Stacy McCain ("The Other McCain") writes in American Spectator about an aspect of this story that hasn't gotten attention.  You may not know this, but Trayvon Martin was not from Sanford (a suburb of Orlando), where he died; he was from Miami Gardens, a suburb of Miami about 200 miles south of there (and very coincidentally, where I grew from 5th grade through graduating high school). 
Trayvon Martin was not from Sanford, the town north of Orlando where he was shot in 2012 and where a jury acquitted Zimmerman of murder charges Saturday. Martin was from Miami Gardens, more than 200 miles away, and had come to Sanford to stay with his father’s girlfriend Brandy Green at her home in the townhouse community where Zimmerman was in charge of the neighborhood watch. Trayvon was staying with Green after he had been suspended for the second time in six months from Krop High School in Miami-Dade County, where both his father, Tracy Martin, and mother, Sybrina Fulton, lived.
Who cares?  Internal investigations have revealed the reason young Martin was not incarcerated for crimes he committed, and was simply suspended, is that a police chief was under-reporting crimes so that his statistics looked better.  The police chief later resigned amid scandal.
Both of Trayvon’s suspensions during his junior year at Krop High involved crimes that could have led to his prosecution as a juvenile offender. However, Chief Charles Hurley of the Miami-Dade School Police Department (MDSPD) in 2010 had implemented a policy that reduced the number of criminal reports, manipulating statistics to create the appearance of a reduction in crime within the school system. Less than two weeks before Martin’s death, the school system commended Chief Hurley for “decreasing school-related juvenile delinquency by an impressive 60 percent for the last six months of 2011.” What was actually happening was that crimes were not being reported as crimes, but instead treated as disciplinary infractions.
Trayvon's crimes weren't discipline problems, like skipping school or being late; he was found in possession of stolen goods and "burglary tools" one time.  A little time in "juve-y hall" might have done him some good.  Isn't it ironic that if the police had done their job and put Trayvon in detention, he would not have been in Sanford?  The fatal encounter could not have happened. 
(Map of Trayvon's "home turf"- source - I grew up less than a mile NW of the left center edge of this picture)

In a very real sense, through inaction, the Miami-Dade School Police Department and Chief Hurley killed Trayvon Martin, in two ways.  By suspending him instead of incarcerating him they encouraged him (memo to school officers: being suspended from school is more like a reward to these kids, not punishment) and enabled the trip to Sanford.  By not punishing him for crimes they rewarded him there, too, and taught him that he can be a successful thug. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Goodbye Big Sis

So Janet Incompetano is going to leave her position of uber fuhrer of the DHS to be the president of the California state university system.  This is just up her alley.  It's a position almost as useless as the job she's in with less scrutiny, less oversight and the same requirements for ability to, you know, actually "do useful work". 
I'd love to put a "Janet's Greatest Hits" list here, but I'm sure I'll miss some. 

My all time favorite was the underwear bomber, Christmas of 2009, when she famously said, "the system worked" - in the sense that it didn't work at all, and there are only two reasons that plane didn't blow up: (1) the Tango was stupid and didn't get the explosives right to make a big bang (although he did immolate his "wedding tackle") and (2) the passengers grabbed him and beat him. 

She was responsible for the attack on anyone with conservative or libertarian views as terrorists.  The DHS released the famous "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" document number IA-0257-09.  (pdf warning)  A document that reads like an 8th grader put it together in a few minutes before bed for class the next day. 

She's responsible for the stupid euphemism "man-caused disasters".  She said crossing the border illegally "isn't a crime per se".  

I could go on, but I won't.  Let's just say goodbye, Janet.  Don't waste any time moving on now.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.  There remains a chance, however slim, that they'll appoint someone who actually knows something. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Break in the Clouds

In the literal sense: it has been raining most of the day since Friday, and it has currently stopped.  This is all supposed to move through today and tomorrow we're forecast to go back to our regular 30% chance of afternoon showers. 

And in the metaphorical sense, the clouds of the Zimmerman trial are breaking.  Yeah, they're being replaced with the clouds of the Zimmerman riots and then the clouds of what looks like a coming Zimmerman civil suit, and railroading by the Department of Injustice, but I'll take my glimpse of the clear skies.  Hey, the news channels even spoke briefly about the incipient royal crib lizard, and it's nice to hear a different story in the news! 

There are miles of commentary on the case, so I won't add another inch.  Peter  is excellent.  Tam is, too.  I said in a comment to my own post last night that Francis Porretto has an important commentary everyone should read. Add to that, you should read John Derbyshire's commentary, too, because it's uncomfortable and important.  Sometimes in life, the things that make us uncomfortable are the things we need to ponder. 


Friday, July 12, 2013

QoTD - Nation of Laws vs. Nation of Men Edition

QoTD highlighted in bold.  It's from John Ransom, nominally the financial columnist at Townhall in an article called "The Date Rape of America".   
In the late 1980s, when Leona Helmsley bragged that rich people didn’t pay taxes only little people did, prosecution quickly followed. She served time in jail for her braggadociosness. But today it’s almost as if Obama and his cronies rub our noses in it, and celebrate the fact that they get to decide who pays and who doesn’t pay.

If I learned anything from my study of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s it is this: You can't exercise that type of power without using some bayonets. And as Boris Yeltsin observed "You can create a throne of bayonets, you just can't sit on it for long." [emphasis added]
 Read it all.  Some of the comments are pretty worthwhile, too. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Government That Despises Its People

It's not easy to determine who first voiced this observation, but I've come to regard President Obama not so much as the first black president, but rather the first anti-American president.  Maureen Scott at Renew America wrote an excellent summary piece, hitting many of the things that bother me deep in my gut.
Obama has never given a speech that is filled with calm, reassuring, complimentary, heartfelt statements about all the people in the U.S. Or one that inspires us to be better, grateful, and proud that, in a short time, our country became a leader, and a protector of so many. Quite the contrary, his speeches always degenerate into mocking, ridiculing tirades as he faults our achievements, along with any of his critics, all for the sake of a laugh, or to bolster his ego. He uses his Office to threaten and create fear while demeaning and degrading anyone who opposes his policies and actions. Unlike a secure leader, who has noble self-esteem and not false confidence, Obama displays a cocky, haughty attitude and a dread of being critiqued.

Mostly, his time seems to be spent causing dissention, unrest, and anxiety among the people rather than uniting us (even though he was presented to us as the "Great Uniter"). He creates chaos for the sake of keeping citizens separated, envious, aggrieved and ready to argue.
Of course, being an America hater, raised on the bile of anti-Americanism instead of mother's milk, he surrounds himself with other America haters.  Witness Eric "my people" Holder, a modern Klansman (as Velociman put it today) (H/T WRSA), who not only uttered that terrible line in congress but has staffed the DOJ bullpen benches deep in militant civil rights activist attorneys we can be sure will tie up or dismiss any case against anyone who isn't white.  The DOJ already has a long pattern in this administration of not prosecuting black crime, such as the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation crimes. 

In the last two days we learn that the public outrage that sprung up over the Zimmerman case was funded by you and me - Eric Holder sent taxpayer funds to the DOJ to organize public protests. The secretive CRS are called "peacekeepers"; the more accurate term would be "peace breakers". 

  • CRS employee spent $1,142.84 to travel to Sanford, Florida from March 25-28, 2012 “to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies”;
  • CRS employee spent $751.60 to travel to Sanford, Florida from March 30-April 1, 2012 “to provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31”;
  • CRS employee spent $1,307.40 to travel to Sanford, Florida from April 3-12, 2012 “to provide technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford”;
  • CRS employee spent $672.24 to travel to Tampa, Florida from April 18-20, 2012 “to meet with RNC official related to possible protests and demonstrations during the RNC”
  • As professor Bill Jacobson says at Legal Insurrection blog, "Racial politics supported by State power."

    Of course an administration that puts an Eric Holder in charge of "Justice" would give rise to a weaponized IRS; it's the same personality in a different building.  There doesn't have to be a written order from the president telling them to do it.  It would be a natural thing for an America hater do.  Use the power of state against those backwards conservatives you despise so much.

    Many people were fooled by the "Great Uniter" rhetoric of 2008, and honestly thought if they elected a black president, it would help race relations in the country.  Instead we have a president who appears to pour gasoline on any racial flame he can find.  Instead we have example after example of the president always striving to be the "Great Divider"; always trying to pit groups against each other; always searching to find places of calm and turn them into places of strife.  We have the "I don't know all of the details but the police acted stupidly", and we have "I don't want to impair the investigation", but then added, "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon", but the Ft. Hood massacre by an obvious Jihadi is labelled "workplace violence", and "we shouldn't jump to conclusions" - the same thing he said after the Boston Marathon bombing.

    Returning to Maureen Scott again,
    Never have we had a President who spoke with a caustic, evil tongue against the citizenry rather than present himself as a soothing, calming, and trustworthy force.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013

    We're Professionals: Don't Try This At Home

    Sometimes you come across stories that are just so breathtakingly stupid, you have to pass them on.  According to ARS Technica,
    The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is an agency in the Department of Commerce that promotes economic development in regions of the US suffering slow growth, low employment, and other economic problems. In December 2011, the Department of Homeland Security notified both the EDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that there was a possible malware infection within the two agencies' systems.

    The NOAA isolated and cleaned up the problem within a few weeks.
    EDA's CIO, fearing that the agency was under attack from a nation-state, insisted instead on a policy of physical destruction. The EDA destroyed not only (uninfected) desktop computers but also printers, cameras, keyboards, and even mice. The destruction only stopped—sparing $3 million of equipment—because the agency had run out of money to pay for destroying the hardware.
    In reaction to a simple malware infection, the EDA destroyed an estimated $170,500 in computers, monitors, cameras and mice.  But wait!  That's not all.  It actually cost taxpayers  $2,700,000. 
    ...$823,000 went to the security contractor for its investigation and advice, $1,061,000 for the acquisition of temporary infrastructure (requisitioned from the Census Bureau), $4,300 to destroy $170,500 in IT equipment, and $688,000 paid to contractors to assist in development of a long-term response. Full recovery took close to a year.
    Remember, the insect overlords are our philosopher kings.  They're simply our betters in every way.   

    Of course, since they're an agency "that promotes economic development in regions of the US suffering slow growth, low employment, and other economic problems." which is to say the blue states, it's always possible they were using the infection as an excuse to destroy evidence of something they wouldn't want widely known...

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    Well, I Ain't Never...

    I was poking around the musical side of the intertoobs tonight and discovered something I've never seen before.
    As they used to say where I grew up, well I ain't never seen nothin' like that before...

    That's called a harp guitar, and the artist playing it is Muriel Anderson, one of the virtuosos of the instrument and a very accomplished musician.  You'll note this particular harp guitar has 12 strings, but isn't a conventional 12 string guitar, which has all of the stings in the space of the single neck.  The harp strings can't be shortened with frets, like the six on the guitar neck.  That leaves them as single bass notes or drone strings, if you prefer.  You can search YouTube for videos to hear what they sound like, or I can direct you to this one by Muriel.

    Monday, July 8, 2013

    School Insurance Preventing Concealed Carry?

    According to the Talking Points Memo, Iowa insurance company EMC has decided they will not insure any schools that allow concealed carry on campus.  The issue has come up in Kansas, where EMC currently insures 85 to 90 % of the school districts.  Kansas legislators passed a bill effective July 1st allowing the schools to permit teachers and staff to carry weapons to protect children. No school districts in the state had adopted such a policy as of Saturday. 
    "We’ve been writing school business for almost 40 years, and one of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any on-site armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers,” Mick Lovell, EMC’s vice president for business development, told the Des Moines Register. “Our guidelines have not recently changed.”
    Note that the decision is based on their longstanding policy, not on statistics from the experience.  Considering how small the number of school districts that allow staff of any kind to carry is, and how small the number of school shootings is, that's not surprising.  I went to the source to see if they had statistics, but they don't.  EMC says it's not a political decision, but a financial one.  Without actuarial data, it's a guess.  They believe it raises the risk they're subject to, but have no idea how to price that risk, so they're refusing to insure schools that might produce that data.   

    The problem here is that in our litigious society, the availability of insurance could end up setting the policy.  School liability insurance has already had effects on the activities available to students; seen many trampolines in schools lately?  And I can't say that without remembering the Simpsons episode where they put a trampoline in the back yard, and the final scene with the back yard covered everywhere with injured kids.

    Sunday, July 7, 2013

    More Tales From the Police State

    Though SurvivalBlog is limping along, still hindered by the DDOS attack they've been under since Wednesday, they have routed around the damage and are serving up information again.  From there, I followed a link to the ABA Journal (the American Bar Association) article, "How Did America's Police Become a Military Force on the Streets?", by Radley Balko.  If the name isn't familiar, Radley has written on the over-militarization of the police for several years.  He's a fellow of the CATO Institute and has written for the Huffington Post as well.  This is clearly an area where there should be no party lines, and even the most pro-cop people are starting to see the problems with no-knock raids over a few dollars worth of marijuana; raids that inevitably result in killing the owner's dogs or children.  And this isn't even addressing all the raids on the wrong houses, chronicled on CATO's separate web site.

    You should RTWT.  It's a bit long, but worth the time.

    The article starts the look at the police militarization from the perspective of the founders and the third amendment in the Bill of Rights.  He asks, "Are cops constitutional?".  He traces the history behind the 3A and slow change from an "officer Friendly" guy walking a beat or otherwise on patrol into the paramilitary SWAT teams now used to collect evidence of tax evasion (leading to a suicide) and other non-violent crimes. 
    On Feb. 11, 2010, in Columbia, Mo., the police department’s SWAT team served a drug warrant at the home of Jonathan Whitworth, his wife and their 7-year-old son. Police claimed that eight days earlier they had received a tip from a confidential informant that Whitworth had a large supply of marijuana in his home. They then conducted a trash pull, which turned up marijuana “residue” in the family’s garbage. That was the basis for a violent, nighttime, forced-entry raid on the couple’s home. The cops stormed in screaming, swearing and firing their weapons; and within seconds of breaking down the door they intentionally shot and killed one of the family’s dogs, a pit bull. At least one bullet ricocheted and struck the family’s pet corgi. The wounded dogs whimpered in agony. Upon learning that the police had killed one of his pets, Whitworth burst into tears.
    All of this was for nothing.  The end result of the damaged home, shattered lives, and murdered pets was a $300 fine for marijuana pipe at the Whitworth's home. 

    But remember, we're all probably federal criminals.  We all probably commit three federal felonies every day without knowing it.

    Ralko tells the story of Betty Taylor, a cop who got pulled into the SWAT raids as a follow-up officer, one who tried to take care of kids in the house - if they hadn't been killed.  She talks of how the job ruined her love of police work.
    Taylor made her way inside to see them. When she opened the door, the 8-year-old girl assumed a defense posture, putting herself between Taylor and her little brother. She looked at Taylor and said, half fearful, half angry, “What are you going to do to us?”

    Taylor was shattered. “Here I come in with all my SWAT gear on, dressed in armor from head to toe, and this little girl looks up at me, and her only thought is to defend her little brother. I thought, ‘How can we be the good guys when we come into the house looking like this, screaming and pointing guns at the people they love? How can we be the good guys when a little girl looks up at me and wants to fight me? And for what? What were we accomplishing with all of this? Absolutely nothing.’ ”
    Taylor recently ran into the little girl who changed the way she thought about policing. Now in her 20s, the girl told Taylor that she and her brother had nightmares for years after the raid. They slept in the same bed until the boy was 11. “That was a difficult day at work for me,” she says. “But for her, this was the most traumatic, defining moment of this girl’s life. Do you know what we found? We didn’t find any weapons. No big drug operation. We found three joints and a pipe.”

    How the war on drugs begins.  Note the escalation of amounts claimed as stolen by heroin addicts in 1972, starting with $2 Billion and eventually being quoted as $18 Billion, when the total of all reported property thefts in the entire nation was $1.2 Billion.  Every single statement was a lie. 

    The Gun Blog Black List is Back

    It looks like Mike Miles of 90 Miles From Tyranny has resurrected the name, look and feel of the old Gun Blog Black List.

    You may adjust your links accordingly.  I've added a GBBL link back in the right hand column.

    Saturday, July 6, 2013

    Solar Cycle Update

    I did my last update to the progress of the current solar cycle, Cycle 24, at the end of January.  Six months later is probably a decent time to update things.  Here is the progress to date:
    The black line is the monthly solar sunspot number (an average), the blue is a smoothed average of a few months (three months, IIRC) and the red curve is the prediction for the cycle at this point.  As was the case in January, you can see we are rather far below the predicted Sunspot Number. 

    Geek out note - you can skip this and not miss anything: the sunspot number is not what you think it is.  It's not obtained by taking an image of the sun and counting all the dark spots.  It's a two digit number where the first is ten times the number of spot groups and the second the number of spots.  If there was a single dark spot on the entire earth-facing hemisphere of the sun, the SSN would be 11: one group, one spot.  In general the number is k*(10*G+S). (where k is a coefficient for each observatory that helps adjust for differences in their capabilities).  The point of this note is that when you see that SSN of 100 back in late '12, it's not 100 spots,  it's some number of groups and spots.  

    To adapt some of what I wrote back in January to today, the prolonged minimum between cycle 23 and 24 was the second longest since the Dalton minimum of the early 1800s.  The thing is, the low activity may not be ending there.  In the '90s, astronomers Dr.s William Livingston and Matthew Penn of the Kitt Peak observatory in Arizona noted that their readings on the intensity of sunspots were trending downward.  They checked data many times and plotted trend lines.  Once they saw the lines, they published a paper showing that by 2015 there may be no sunspots left at all.  The paper was not well received, which is fine, but about a decade later they gathered another ten years' worth of data, reanalyzed everything and concluded they were right the first time.  (summary pdf here)  It's important to say they may well be wrong, but completely independent predictions from NASA and others are saying the next cycle, 25, is going to be even weaker than this one, and may approach quiet sun levels at its peak.  Which is to say the cycle simply may not happen

    What does this mean to us?  Several things.  First the good news: those dire predictions you read about a killer solar flare taking out everything are much less likely than before - and it wasn't very likely to start with.  The other side is much less positive.  Prolonged solar minima have happened before, and they are associated with mini-ice ages.  I use the tentative language because humans simply haven't been able to measure sunspots for most of history.  In extended minima, the growing seasons become shorter and weather changes to become less friendly to crops.  Widespread food shortages are a real possibility.  And while people talk of the possibility of a real ice age, not a mini-ice age, I think we don't know enough about how those start to talk with any credibility. 

    Of course, it's politically incorrect today to assert that the Sun, the ultimate source of every erg of energy on this planet, could effect climate.  That's just talking crazy.

    Friday, July 5, 2013

    What's The Difference?

    What's the difference between Mohammed Morsi and Barack Obama?
    Problem is, it's not just the DC crowd that's full of power hungry despots.  There is no shortage in the People's Democratic Republic of Massachusetts, either. 

    Thursday, July 4, 2013

    Happy Independence Day

    I'm pleased to see that there's a move to not just call today the 4th of July, but to use the proper name.  Let's remember what it really was - the day we declared our independence of tyranny.

    IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

    The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

    He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

    He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

    He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

    He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

    He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

    He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

    He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

    He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

    He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

    He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

    For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

    For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

    For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

    For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

    For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

    For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

    For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

    For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

    He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

    He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

    He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

    In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

    We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.


    I would have highlighted portions that I think are particularly apt today, but the whole thing would be highlighted.

    Enjoy your day.  To those who serve - and have served - to provide this gift of liberty for us:  Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

    Wednesday, July 3, 2013

    The Best Laid Plans

    One of those things my Mom always said was, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry". (which the Quotations Page tells me is from poet Robert Burns). 

    With a long weekend coming, I was filling it with all sorts of ideas of what to do.  As it turns out, I had a hard time leaving the office yesterday.  Seems the facilities crew decided that prime quitting time was a good time to wet mop the stairs.  I've known for a while that my New Balance trail shoes aren't very good on wet surfaces, I just had it reinforced.  I fell three steps, landing hard on the sharp edges of two steps on my back.  Temporarily winded, I sat on the floor at the midway point for a minute before getting up, carefully walking the other half way down and driving home.

    To make the story short, I suppose this is like anyone slipping on ice up in the frozen north.  A trip to the ER later showed nothing broken.  Use ice packs, muscle relaxants and a prescription NSAID. 

    My butt is the size of Volkswagen bug and a cool shade of blue-purple, but what really hurts is where the stair hit between my shoulder blades. 
    Yeah, it was just like that.  All weekend plans on hold.