Thursday, December 29, 2005

Still in holiday recovery mode. Not a lot going on other than work and sitting at home playing with one of my Christmas toys. My mother-in-law got me a Western Digital Passport; basically a 60GB laptop hard drive in a case that connects via USB cable to any PC. It runs off the USB power, so there is only one cable. If you need to, there is provision for plugging it in, but it isn't necessary. In fact, in order to do so, you have to buy the wall wart separate. In any case, fast, quiet, and 60GB is big when you've been working on a 9GB laptop. So far, I have ripped about half the CD's in the house to it and moved a lot of data to it that is either expendable (downloads that could be easily re-downloaded in case of failure, for example), or that already exists in multiple areas (digital photos that are on two other systems and on CD). That has filled up about a quarter of the drive. Not bad for a hundred bucks and a form factor somewhere between a deck of cards and a paperback book. I may go back and pick up another one. Right now, all our digital photos to date don't take up much room (a couple gigs), but I've been looking into services to digitize all of my 35mm slides and film. If I do that, I would prefer to have separate drives for music, photos, archived data, etc. That will likely all fit on one for now, but that won't last long. In any case, if you need more disk space, it's hard to get any easier than this. I haven't had enough experience with this to trust it as primary disk space, but it is certainly good enough for a second portable copy of large amounts of data, a backup device, images of install discs, etc.

The Feds are dropping M3 data in March, 2006. What does that mean? M3 is, to grossly simplify things, the sum total of all money in our system. That may seem like an important number to keep track of, and historically it has been very important. There seems to be disagreement over whether that still holds true. Currency traders, who make obscene amounts of money by taking advantage of the fluctuations in world currencies, say it isn't all that important, there are other indexes that give a better picture, M3 is outdated, blah blah. Gold bugs, like the ones that wrote the article I linked to above, say M3 is the single most important number generated by the Federal Reserve. Both sides are in a position to know a hell of a lot more that I do. Both sides also have horses in the race, so I take their opinions with a healthy dose of sodium chloride. Having said that, there are aspects of this that make me nervous. First, this is one of the most inflationary administrations in recent history. Second, the announcement was made in a very odd manner, almost as an aside, and not accompanied by any explanation as to why. Call me paranoid, but I don't think holding large amounts of US dollars after March is a good idea.

Ponder for a moment all the blood and treasure we have spent in places like Iraq. Reflect on the destruction of civilian air travel by the TSA. Consider the desecration of the Constitution by George W (as in "wiretap") Bush. Then read this. Feel safer? The most critical pieces of information this kid needed were supplied by the federal government itself. I can't have tweezers on an airplane because I might use them to hijack the plane, but the feds are handing out information on how to extract and purify radioactive isotopes to random people.

Ok, now lets look at this situation from another angle. The War of on Terror has cost how many 100's of billions? Now along comes a kid bucking for Eagle Scout and for a few thousand bucks builds a respectable atomic pile from scrounged materials, aluminum foil, and duct tape. It's hard to tell from a magazine article, but I'm guessing it produced enough heat to run a small RTG. I'm certain there is no way this home-built RTG would have provided enough electricity to run a house, but it raises some interesting possibilities as to how we could have better spent a couple hundred billion dollars. Forty or so years ago, either Heinlein or Asimov speculated that every house would run off its own RTG installed in the basement in a sealed cask with warnings in a dozen languages that if you were persistent and stupid enough to break the thing open, you would instantly die. For a half-trillion dollars, I'm sure we could be there.

At least the story ends well: Hahn is now in the Navy instead of rotting in some jail cell.

That's all folks!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Just taking a little blogging break for the holidays. We really don't have anything going on right now; just working and looking outside at the depressing weather. I has been above freezing and raining for over a week. We still have snow; nasty-looking grey and black slush, actually. Our road is a disaster. But I get two three-day weekends in a row, so, woo hoo!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Just a quick note to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Well, last night didn't go quite as planned. Instead of setting up stuff to sell, we spent the entire night wrapping Christmas gifts. I guess it had to be done, but it's a job I hate; for one thing, it seems such a waste of time/money/resources, but mostly because I suck at it.

Anyway, I haven't provided a lot of reading material lately, so I'll try to make up for it today.

Obviously, the biggest news since Watergate broke is that our Beloved Leader has been spying on us. Nixon resigned for spying on political enemies for a very specific purpose (fear of an October Surprise during the presidential election). Emperor Bush has been caught in what amounts to a generic fishing expedition on the entire population of the United States. Not that any of this makes him different from any president we have had since Nixon, but claiming that what he did is OK because such leading lights of morality like Clinton, Carter, and Nixon did it also is not helping my cynicism. In any case, many others have covered this from various angles far better than I ever could, so read up on it here, here, and here.

More from KipEsquire on the death of probable cause, "air" marshals on trains and buses, and The War on Sniffles.

If that isn't enough reading to keep you busy, then you are more in need of a life than even I am.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

We spent a major chunk of this weekend just sorting through the piles of crap stacked in every room. A lot went into the file cabinet, but even more when straight into the trash. I'm not sure where this stuff comes from, but is just flows into our house in an endless stream. I either have to devote an entire day every few weeks to deal with it, or I have to spend a solid hour every single day just to keep the horizontal surfaces in house clean.

Yesterday I took an unscheduled day off work for generator maintenance and snow plowing. I ended up taking the Honda into the shop for carburetor work. It's been getting weaker and weaker, until Sunday when it couldn't hold frequency under load. We are now on our four-year-old 5KVA Yamaha generator and praying it holds up. So far, it's been running like a champ, but it has a lot of hours on it. My experience is that one day it will just die without warning. Then we will be in a major crunch, because we have no backup and no money to buy another generator.

Tonight, I will once again be working on E-Bay and its book-selling cousin,

That's all I have time for today.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today, I eliminated the Truth Laid Bare from this site because there didn't appear to be any truth to it. Their code simply does not work with this site. Worse, repeated attempts to contact someone at TLB proved futile. It may well be that I implemented the stat collection code incorrectly, but there doesn't seem to be a live person at TLB to answer questions. In any case, 9 out of 10 times, I would get a SQL error when I went to their site. I have all the stats I need through Web-Stat, so TLB wasn't needed in any case.

Last night I tried to get caught up on finances. I also started working on getting things set up on E-Bay so I can start eliminating the piles and piles of books everywhere in the house. There are easily 1,000 titles that I would like to get rid of. I don't have things quite ready, but when I do, I will post something here and add a link over on the right side of the page.

This is one of the stupidest ideas I have seen in a long time. First, I played soccer for six years, have watched soccer for most of my life, and now have coached soccer. In all that time I have never witnessed, nor have I heard of, a head injury. Second, helmets will cause more injuries that they will prevent. If you doubt this, imagine someone running at top speed hitting you in the chest (or face) with a helmet on. Unlike football, there are no pads in soccer, other than shin guards. And a helmet well-built enough to do any good will cause more neck injuries than it will prevent head injuries. (Bicycle helmets are pretty much a waste. I wear one riding in the woods only to keep from getting hit by brush and small limbs. In a major crash, bike helmets simply disintegrate.) Of course we all know where this is going; schools have been trying to eliminate athletics for decades. This is just one more step in that direction. You have to wonder about the IQ of these people; aren't these the same morons that constantly gripe about how fat our kids are? Lets see: stop serving yucky vegetables in the cafeteria and serve pizza, put soda and candy machines every ten feet in every hallway, eliminate gym class, and now eliminate sports. Hmmmm. I wonder what the effect will be on the kiddies' waistlines?

I love the Onion sometimes. The problem is that this is almost not funny given that Wal-Mart and Target fire any employee that wishes a customer "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays."

That's all I have time for today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Well, we got the Christmas cards done last night. We were up working on them until 1am, but at least they are done before New Years this year. Obviously, that took up the entire night, so nothing else to really report.

The Japanese continue to refine humanoid robots. Asimov is beginning to look positively prophetic. This one is replacing a receptionist. At a lease price of $100K a year, they don't quite make economic sense. Yet. Moore's Law works on the ASIMO as well as it does on desktop computers. Give it five years. The question we need to start thinking about now is what happens when there are millions of these things doing jobs that are currently being done by people. I know the standard answer from the Austrian economic school is that the people displaced by the ASIMO's will all have jobs building the ASIMO's. Or will they? Wouldn't building ASIMO's be a perfect job for an ASIMO? I don't think people yet realize that this won't be a case of guys working in the buggy factory just getting a new job across the street at the car factory.

And Fred Reed is at it again. I sit in a grey box all day, five days a week. It literally sucks the soul out of your body, leaving an empty husk. I'm not sure I want to roll back progress quite as far as Fred advocates, but I think a lot of people need to start asking hard questions about why they continue in a pointless job day after day.

That's all I have.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

This is cool!!! Plasma in a microwave. The site recommends working in a well-ventilated area. I'd recommend setting up outside at least 100 feet from any buildings, and observing via a video feed from behind a very sturdy barrier.

Still nothing really going on other than moving snow. I left the house yesterday at 7am and didn't step foot in the house again until 11:30pm.

The fun doesn't stop there. Tonight it's the joy of Christmas cards. Can anyone say "writer's cramp?"

Not much else to say.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

This is the first blogger post from home since the end of July. We finally have a phone line and an active ISP account. You wouldn't think things like this would be that hard. But that's northern Michigan for you; a little slice of the Third World right in your backyard.

Other than that, it's just snow removal. That is our life. And fighting with malfunctioning equipment. We do a lot of that as well.

That's all I had. I just wanted to see if everything really was working.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Today I saw the first sunshine in a couple weeks. There is snow everywhere, meaning I get to spend the next two or three days in the truck plowing snow.


Otherwise, there just isn't anything going on right now. I have no motivation whatsoever to go anywhere or do anything.

Anyway, I blogged a while back about fights between students at a Houston-area high school and the New Orleans student refugees. It seems time isn't helping things much. Fights, marking, and vandalism have become common. The previous article has pictures which pretty much told the story: black, inner-city kids from New Orleans wearing colors vs. the "normal" students. This article has no photos, but I'm willing to bet my next paycheck that they would look remarkably similar to the previous ones. When will people learn that inner-city blacks are a separate nation that does not want, nor is it able, to assimilate into the mainstream American culture.

That's it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The good news is that I tracked down the source of the majority of our issues with the boiler. Way back when we first moved into the house, we didn't have the inverter and batteries set up, so we just ran the generator all the time. To keep the furnace from resetting every time I shut the generator down for refueling, I had purchased a UPS that had enough battery life to keep the heat on for a half hour or so. Once the inverter was on-line, I never bothered to take the UPS out of the loop. It appears that it was the cause of our problems. The bad news? Things still are not perfect, but at least we have heat. Most of the time, anyway.

Other than that, we have mostly been dealing with snow, snow, snow, and more snow. It is only December 7th, and I'm already sick of snow. I'm sick of shoveling snow, I'm sick of wading in snow, I'm sick of cleaning snow off my truck, I'm sick of plowing snow. I don't think I am suited to this climate.


I haven't really had much time to poke around my usual collection of web sites. The only thing that I have to share is yet another example of the law being an ass. Now I am no where near naive enough to think that there was some golden age where the courts didn't favor big business over the little guy. But this is just so far out of bounds that it is hard to believe this article wasn't picked up from The Onion's web site. Given that small business is the source of recent job growth, this sort of open hostility to them can't be a good thing.

I know I haven't posted much lately, but I just haven't had much to say. One thing that will certainly help is that we now have internet access from home. It's just a dial-up connection, but that seems to be my only option at this point.