Monday, March 31, 2008

Why I Scrub Pots Reason #4,675

I swear, on more than one occasion, I found myself working for this guy:

Stuff on Demand

Print-on-Demand comes to the furniture industry. Most books outside of the mainstream categories and authors are printed when you order them from Amazon. I know several guys who design computer chips the same way: customer sends chip specs to the designer, the designer creates the chip on a computer and sends the digital file to a chip foundry, the foundry builds the chip and ships it to the customer. This will be the way we get everything sooner than you think.

Somewhere, Gene Roddenberry is smiling.

Speaking of Fools...

... the idiots responsible for the current mess want more control. Maybe we will just convert all our savings into gold. Or maybe Ramen. We made a quick stop at the grocery store last night to buy four things; a gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, a pound of mozzarella cheese, and some garlic bread.

$15 out the door.

April Fool's Day

Geek humor has to be seen to be appreciated.

At least we know the economy isn't completely in the toilet as long as things like this exist.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Music Industry Almost Gets It

Now the music industry wants Congress to add a $5 tax to every internet connection to be distributed "equitably and fairly" to musicians. After the RIAA and the labels skim 90% of it, of course. And "musicians" means "only musicians with contracts with the major labels." The five dollars will get you unlimited access to the major labels' catalogs with some sort of DRM.

OK, Warner Music? You listening? You want to have more money than God? Take the money you are currently using to bribe lawmakers and hiring industry flacks and use it to rent a ton of disk space from the big guys like Google, UUNET, etc. Set up a subscription system for $10-$15 per month for all the DRM-free you can download. More money than God. Guaranteed. And no need to pay for whores for the entire US Congress to get it.

Speaking of Chickens... in coming home to roost, banks post their worst results in 17 years. Now there is concern that home equity loans may trigger more losses. Let's think about this; for nearly two decades, banks have been encouraging people to treat their primary residences as ATM's. Just yesterday, I received an offer for a home equity loan. Mailed to an address with "Apt 4" as part of the street address. Obviously, the banking industry needs to take a few more tens of billions in losses because it is still being run by retards.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for the financial sector. They made their bed, now their chickens can sleep in it. Or something like that.

Food Prices

The price of rice skyrockets. Burning food in our car engines is such a great idea!

The restaurant business is tanking. I'm sitting here typing this post instead of working because an hour after the restaurant opened, they still hadn't seated a single customer. We haven't had a really good night yet this month. So far, the bakery job looks to be going better, but a lot of their business is baking bread for restaurants. Both places are complaining about huge increases in the price of everything except meat. Those will catch up in a month or so; slaughter houses are currently flooded with animals that ranchers can no longer afford to feed, so meat prices are temporarily being held stable or even slightly depressed. But not for long.

Computer Voting

One more reason why voting will become increasingly meaningless. As a former systems person, a couple points caught my eye:
...lost 313 keys to the memory-card compartments where votes are stored on machines and hired taxi drivers to drive to election precincts and pick up the memory cards that contained the votes...

...not only did the county fail to conduct mandatory tests on the machines before the November election, but a county programmer had also intentionally disabled an internal auditing function for logging any changes made to the machine software...

...1,100 different ballot styles on 4,200 voting machines...
Where does one even start? These systems are systemically flawed and being run by the incompetent.


Fred Reed on immigration. The problem is clear. Physicists do not swim the river. Nor do doctors, computer programmers, accountants, or (thank God) lawyers. I'm not sure how many dishwashers and pool boys we need. Money quotes:
...A couple of years back I listened on the radio to a Mexican-American politician from Texas. He pointed out that when the Mexican children now in school reach the age of eighteen, they will control the government of the state....

...Shortly the US will have a southern tier of states under Mexican-American control....

...Mexico consists of three layers, or maybe two layers with a spectrum between. The governing class is white, and at about the European level on IQ tests, not surprising because they are European. You have the mestizos, who do conspicuously less well, and the pure Indians, lower yet. The white upper class is not swimming the river....

...It’s a different world. And coming to a mall near you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

End Game

Looks like all the IPCC leaches will have to go find real jobs.

Speaking of end games, the losses keep piling up at the big banks and hedge funds.

And in other end-game news, it looks like Obama is going to mess up my political predictions by bumping the Ice Queen off the presidential ticket.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Time for another long, rambling post that hits on a number of random topics and has no real point. Those of you who merely skim, you will probably want to do a lot of that.

Some random magazine that we get had an article featuring pre-teen bands. One of them is a group of three 12- and 13-year-old kids that call themselves Care Bears on Fire. Points for the band name. Music isn't bad either.

When I was thirteen, my hobbies were watching TV and playing Pong. Huh.

Work has been interesting. The restaurant has been very slow. Tuesday was the worst day since it opened, Friday and Saturday were both the worst Friday and Saturday ever. I hope this doesn't continue for long. Of course, now I have a backup if the restaurant tanks working at the bakery in the same complex. I do have to wonder about the bakery owner: my second day at work, everyone ran out the door at closing while I was in the back washing dishes leaving every single light on and all the doors unlocked. The first I knew that I was alone in the store was when someone wandered in trying to buy bread. I had no idea what needed to be done to close up the store, no key to lock the place up, and no phone number for the owner (or even a last name). I finally caught one of my co-workers still wandering around outside and figured out how to lock the place up so I could leave. Strange way to run a business.

I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about electronic distribution of music, movies, books, magazines, etc. The one thing that I'm not sure about is that little concept of ownership and how it seems to be changing. I've talked before about set-top boxes that give you access to a catalog of movies for a set monthly fee. There is talk about similar deals for music and books that would use your iPod- or Kindle-style device as the set-top box, as it were. The advantage, of course, is not having to store anything. I'm sitting next to a shelf literally groaning under the weight of CD's, DVD's, video tapes, and books. I'm using up a good chunk of a terabyte of disk space with MP3's, video, and e-books. All that disappears into the "cloud" under this new model. The problem is that I would no longer own anything. Most people under 30 I talk to have no problem with this as long as they can build play lists or favorites lists and access them from any and all electronic devices. My problem with this system is the ease that things can disappear or be altered. One minor example: the digital erasing of the Twin Towers from movies shot prior to 9/11. I think this rather stupid idea has been shelved for the most part, but if no one has a private copy of any movie, it would be pretty easy to do. Or remove objectionable scenes. Or whole movies. Politically incorrect books simply vanish without a trace, or are subtly changed. Legal wrangling between band members causes the sudden disappearance of their entire catalog. Maybe this isn't important to people. Maybe it should be. Maybe 1984 needs to come pre-installed on every Kindle. And maybe Eurasia really has always been the Enemy.

I ws listening to TWiT and just decided that John C. Dvorak is the biggest ass on the internet. And that takes some doing. I cannot stand his rudeness simply for the sake of rudeness combined with a complete ignorance of pretty much everything. I'll still catch Leo Laporte's Tech Guy podcast, but screw you, Dvorak. Leo Laporte needs to do himself and the rest of the internet a favor and dump this jerk.

This has been around for a while, but it is still funny. It's a voice mail some guy left as he witnesses a car crash and the resulting altercation between the guy at fault and the car load of old ladies he hit. Only in Texas.

The mainstream media is starting to pick up on the fact that there is still plenty of controversy over just what is happening to our climate and why. That a lot of very smart people who have spent big chunks of their lives studying such things are very unconvinced by the so-called consensus. That we should be spending money on reducing the uncertainty in the data instead of burning tons of fossil fuels to fly politicians all over the world to plan the destruction of the only economy with the capital to actually do something should it prove necessary. Fact: the climate has been warmer in the last thousand years than the worse-case scenarios being pushed by Uncle Al, yet we have penguins and polar bears, Venice survived, and the world's forests didn't burst into flames. The "consensus" ignores this, or simply waves it away with "it's different this time." If you ask the obvious question of how it is different, you are written of as a "denier." This entire episode will go down as the classic case of the failures of the peer-review process combined with government-funded research.

Quick note on the "Currently Reading" and "Recently Read" lists: you may notice that books suddenly appear as recently read without first showing as currently being read. That is due to the fact that both of us (Debbie more than myself) frequently complete more than one book in a day. It's a bit of a pain to update the lists, so I only do it once every day or two.

Next week should be interesting. I start off working doubles Tuesday and Wednesday at the restaurant. After that, I should start settling into the "normal" routine of mornings in the bakery, a couple hours break, then evenings in the restaurant. I should get 10-12 hours a day, which will help with the budget even as I die from overwork and lack of sleep. It will be nice to have some extra cash for the cruise, so I won't be making any adjustments until we come back. Then we will see what shakes out. I'd like to see if I could work the bakery job into something closer to full-time and drop the restaurant. The only problem with the bakery job is that I am surrounded by bread and cookies, so I expect to weight about 300 pounds in a few months.

Told you this was going to be random.

How Did We Get Here?

The current issue of Portfolio magazine has an article by Jesse Eisinger that pretty much nails where we are and how we got here. Everyone is sorry when things go wrong, yet those same everyone's just keep rolling along making millions while leaving nothing but devastation in their wake. Our entire economy has become a giant Ponzi scheme run by used car salesmen.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Work, Work, Work

Now that Psycho Chef is gone, work is much quieter. As I suspected, most of the problems remain and it is slowly dawning that Chef was not the source of all evil. But I just scrub pots.

Meanwhile, I now have a second job. Scrubbing pots. The pay is the same and I will get around 20 hours a week out of it to add to the 25-30 hours I get at the restaurant. Today was the first day and it went well. The work is easy and everyone seems pleasant. The only problem is that it is a bakery. I am literally surrounded by tons of bread and cookies. I expect to weigh around 300 pounds in a few months.

Well, I have to get up "early" tomorrow. I have to get tot the bakery nearly at the break of dawn: 11am. Can you believe that?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The New Music Industry

The writing is on the wall. The days of selling albums are about to become history. The price of an iPod goes up the price of a couple CD's and the buyer gets to download however much music they can manage over a broadband connection for the life of the device. Apple being Apple will attempt to lock that music to the device somehow, but no one else will.


No wonder our economy is in trouble when idiots like this are considered to be reliable sources of information. Someone needs to buy this fool a dictionary:
"Speculation has dominated oil prices," said Gary Adams, vice chair of oil and gas at Deloitte & Touche USA LLP. "The lower U.S. dollar is driving value. It's leading to a speculation in commodities as a hedge against the falling dollar."
Moving out of a depreciating paper currency (Monopoly money) into physical assets like gold and oil are not speculation; it's self-defense. And the US dollar isn't "driving" anything and certainly not value. Who let this moron out of his padded cell?

He did manage to have one coherent thought: we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, RIP

I just found out that one of my all-time favorite authors died yesterday. I'll just let him speak for himself:

The world is a poorer place today.

Decisions, decisions

Yesterday we got our "pre cruise documents" -- the listing of all the shore excursions that are available on our cruise next month. What a hard choice in some of the places. Some are so expensive, but then we think ... when will we get back over there to do it again?

At least with most of this trip -- everything will be prepaid or paid for in US dollars on the cruise ship. We will have to "experience" the BAD exchange rate while on our land tour in Italy for 5 days. None of the meals are included on that part. I hate to see what a meal will cost over there. Might have to pack alot of pop tarts and granola bars and live off that until we get on the cruise!

Five weeks from today we will be in Venice. Yeah! Can't wait.

Gettin' Old

Besides the creaks and groans when I go to stand up!

My oldest niece (my side) turns 17 tomorrow. (OBTW -- your birthday card will be late) Wow --- hard to believe I have a niece that old -- and hard to believe my youngest brother has a daughter that old! I'm sure all adults feel that way at times. We don't grow old, just the kids do.

Tonite I went out to dinner with a friend from work. She made a comment about having to look in the mirror sometimes to realize what she really looks like now. In her mind, she is still in the 80's. I totally agree with her --- though, I don't go look at myself in the mirror. I just feel like it isn't 2008 and I'm not 44. I can still look at my Mom and not think she is over 60. Since she isn't "growing old looking", I shouldn't be either. (I certainly hope I look as young as she does when I age another 20yrs)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welcome to the Third World

Ah. This is how tourists from third world... er... "developing" countries used to feel coming to the United States:
The U.S. dollar's value is dropping so fast against the euro that small currency outlets in Amsterdam are turning away tourists seeking to sell their dollars for local money while on vacation in the Netherlands.
Of course, we will be in Europe just in time for the US$ to hit rock bottom....

Monday, March 17, 2008


Yesterday, we sat around watching movies and reading, so I'm playing catch-up this morning. The first thing I see is that Bear Stearns completely tanked and was purchased by J.P. Morgan for pennies on the dollar. I love this stuff:
...sold to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. for the fire-sale price of $2 a share in stock, or about $236 million. Bear Stearns had a stock-market value of about $3.5 billion as of Friday -- and was worth $20 billion in January 2007....

...the Federal Reserve is taking the extraordinary step of providing as much as $30 billion in financing for Bear Stearns's less-liquid assets...

...the Fed said it would lend Wall Street as much as $200 billion in exchange for a roughly equivalent amount of mortgage-backed securities....

...The Fed, according to a person familiar with the matter, didn't care so much about the equity holders and was trying to prevent a bankruptcy filing that could have sent shock waves through the markets....

..."The building is worth $8 a share."...

...J.P. Morgan is essentially getting Bear's coveted prime brokerage business for free....

...Meanwhile, worries persist that other securities firms and commercial banks might be on shaky ground....
And it looks like the vote is already in from all those countries that have been funding our drunken-sailor spending:
...Asian, Mid East and European investors stood aside at last week's auction of 10-year US Treasury notes. "It was a disaster," said Ray Attrill from 4castweb. "We may be close to the point where the uglier consequences of benign neglect towards the currency are revealed."...

...Former US Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers says the Fed's shower of liquidity cannot cure a bankruptcy crisis caused by a tidal wave of property defaults.

"It is like fighting a virus with antibiotics," he said....

...As of June 2007, foreigners owned $6,007bn of long-term US debt. (Equal to 66pc of the entire US federal debt). The biggest holdings by country are, in billions: Japan (901), China (870), UK (475), Luxembourg (424), Cayman Islands (422), Belgium (369), Ireland (176), Germany (155), Switzerland (140), Bermuda (133), Netherlands (123), Korea (118), Russia (109), Taiwan (107), Canada (106), Brazil (103)....
Well, I know I'm feeling really optimistic right now. I think I'll run out and invest in some bank stocks.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah

I was going to post another of my uplifting posts on the economy, but it's getting boring.

So instead, by popular demand (OK, so it was only one person; sue me), here is a gross-out picture of my foot. This is what dish detergent does to your skin:

Maybe Madge would like to soak her fingers in this stuff.

Work is interesting right now. Everyone knows chef is getting fired tomorrow except chef. He started blustering today about how things were going to work in "his" kitchen. Every person in the kitchen quickly walked out or had sudden coughing fits. But in 24 hours, it will be over for better or worse. Monday, we have an all-hands staff meeting to be introduced to the new guy. The restaurant owner is making the point to everyone that he is not a chef, just a line cook.

The interesting thing is that there are systemic problems with the restaurant, as anyone would expect in a new business owned and operated by someone that has never owned or operated a restaurant before. But in typical scapegoat fashion, all the "sins of the people" are being heaped on chef's head who is about to be driven into the wilderness. So what happens on Tuesday morning when 90% of the current problems are still staring everyone in the face?

One more reason why I just scrub pots.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Unremitting bad news, that is:

Record crude prices.

Or, more likely given the overproduction of oil, a crashing currency.

Record gold prices (or... well... you know).

Falling retail sales.

Rising foreclosures.

Fist fights and riot police at the welfare office. Money quote from one disappointed beggar:
Shayla Williams, 22, of West Palm Beach, was angered by the police tactics.

"This place is going to get shot up later," she yelled to officers. "They can't treat us like this."
Ms. Williams' race is not given. Anyone care to speculate?

The Hydrogen Economy

Hydrogen is all the rage as the ultimate clean fuel. But, as one would suspect, there are a few problems the greenies love to skip over:

Yes, the only exhaust gas from a hydrogen engine is water vapor. The problem is that there are no hydrogen wells. The most common source of hydrogen today is stripping it from fossil fuels like natural gas, which releases carbon into the atmosphere. So, like ethanol derived from food crops, when you consider the total carbon footprint, burning hydrogen is no better, and likely much worse, than burning fossil fuel directly.

Hydrogen is dangerous. Don't tell my parents, but I nearly lost a foot to a hydrogen explosion in my high school chemistry class. Hydrogen makes propane or natural gas look like a pussy; why do you think NASA uses it to launch the shuttle?

Hydrogen WANTS OUT very badly. Any piping, coupling, or fixture that works for propane or natural gas will leak hydrogen like a sieve.

Keeping hydrogen in a liquid state requires enormous pressures and very cold temps. Those temperatures are maintained in part by constantly allowing liquid hydrogen to evaporate (that's the steam you see pouring out of the shuttle just prior to launch). NASA keeps pumping fuel into the vehicle right up to the point is starts moving to compensate. Not sure how all that translates into the family car. Maybe I just lack imagination. Or maybe that's why a state-of-the-art hydrogen vehicle only has a 100-mile range, weighs 4,500 pounds, and costs six figures.

And last, but not least, the focus of the linked article: infrastructure. Or, more accurately, the complete lack thereof. Even the most pessimistic cost estimates are probably grossly optimistic.

And the Band Played On

The "leaders" of the "music industry" continue to publicly display their complete lack of relevance as well as morals.

Meanwhile, Nine Inch Nails is raking in the big bucks after telling their record label to piss off, in spite of the fact that their new album is all over the P2P networks.

  • Price is everything. I am hardly a NIN fan. In fact, I have probably only heard one or two of their songs prior to buying Ghosts I-IV. At conventional CD pricing, those 36 tracks would have cost at least $50 and likely more. I would have never paid that. I was happy to pay the asking price of $5, even after listening to them and deciding about half the tracks are collections of random noise. I'll risk $5 on something I know nothing about. Never $50.
  • People who can pay will pay, even when what you are selling is available for free. It was worth $5 to grab all 36 tracks plus a bunch of artwork and other extras in a single zip file from a reliable source rather than deal with all the hassle of P2P. NIN also has more-expensive packages all the way up to an Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition for $300, which sold out in less than 24 hours.
  • Radio? What's radio? I think I heard my grandpa mumbling about the "wireless" once. Seriously, does anyone under 30 listen to the radio? I have an iPod Nano that holds enough music that any given track will only repeat once every six days or so if I listen 24 hours a day. On iTunes, I have 4,500 tracks that would take over two weeks to play through. The last time I listened to the radio, I couldn't go more than 45 minutes without a repeat.
  • Labels may still have a role to play, but they aren't.
  • The RIAA has completely succumbed to Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law.
The internet is a disruptive technology. We are watching the music business being disrupted. Broadcast TV and radio are dead men walking. Movie theaters will stay around because few people have the room in their home or the money to duplicate the immersive and social environment you can get in a theater for $10. (Or free, if you happen to be married to a good travel agent working for AAA....) But the rest of the industry is going to change dramatically. For starters, Pixar and the like are going to drive the price of talent down by a couple orders of magnitude. The days of being paid $25 million to pretend you are a fictional character in front of a camera are numbered.

The Internet can be a Scary Place

This is just creepy. I'll never look at a Garfield strip the same way again.


I was in Ft Lauderdale last week for a cruise training event. One of CLIA's biggest -- the 4th annual cruise 3sixty conference. We had several classes and seminars to chose from. I took several -- all were good -- one lousy -- one great. We had three general sessions -- all interesting. The last was the best --- we got to see/experince four different groups from the cruise line entertainment staff. The one from Celebrity was awesome --- a variation of the Cirque line.

The three ship inspections I had didn't turn out so well. The first had lots of delays and basically we got to see the dining room, have lunch, walk up one deck across the ship and back down to exit. The next day the first ship inspection was okay ... the second didn't happen. We had just gotten inside the embarkation terminal when the fire alarms went off. They had to clear the whole building. We were told it would take 30-40 minutes to clear the alarm/building. I was cutting it close as it was to get to the airport in time for my flight. Our leader called another bus back to pick up those of us that wanted to go back to the convention center instead of waiting to hopefully tour the ship. That ship (the Radiance of the Seas/Royal Caribbean) was the one I really wanted to see. It is HUGE! Oh well...maybe another time.

Today we got an email about a FAM trip (seminar at seas) on Royal Caribbean ship doing a 7 night Mexican Riviera cruise. I was excited --- I have never toured or cruised to that area. Then I looked at the dates..... May 11-May 18 It leaves the Sunday after I get home from my cruise tour. I still told my boss I would be interested. It will be fun to see if I get it. Imagine flying home from Rome on Friday --- unpacking/washing clothes/repacking and flying to LA Sat night or Sun am. Hey....if it gets okayed....I'm sure I can handle it. (I just hate to think of how many emails I would have after being off for 4 weeks!)

$3.18 this morning

I was hearing about gas prices increasing, so I paid attention this morning. One of the "cheaper" gas stations I drive by was up to $3.18. It is the one on the reservation -- so it is usually lower than most in the area.

I am VERY glad I am only 2.5 miles one way from work instead of close to 30 miles!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Prices Keep Goin' Up...

... because the Fed keeps devaluing the US dollar. As I said in a comment to a previous post, if you think gas prices are bad, just wait until you make the next trip to the grocery store.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gas Prices

All I can say is "Wow." $3.60? The last I checked (which was Saturday), we were still under $3.10. Looks like we will be staying close to home, unless ya'll really beat the snot out of that little Amazon search box right >>>> over >>>> there >>>>. To the right. And a little down.

Oooo, yeah. That's the spot.

More Changes

I'm experimenting around with more changes to the site. First, you may notice that some things have been moved/removed over on the right side of the page. There is also a new section for what we are reading and some recently read books.

Which sort of brings me to the more significant change: we are now Amazon Associates. If you wish to buy any of the books that will eventually be listed there, we get some shiny rocks from Amazon if you use the links on our page. It isn't much, but I'm hoping it pays some of the bills associated with this blog (which also aren't much, so the universe remains symmetrical). I'm trying to get some of the other Amazon widgets to work so that you can click through to buy most anything from the Amazon site and we get a chunk of the action. I also don't like the amount of space having the cover images in the side bar takes up, so those will likely become text links. Besides, Amazon provides broken code for the image link, which I have to hand-edit to make work. Their text-only links work without me having to fuss with them. We'll see how this goes.

Again, I'm not getting much for this. If it covers the $5/month it costs me to track the stats on this site, I'll be a happy boy.

[Update: The image links have been replaced with text links. Much better, I think. Now if I could just get the flippin' search widget to work....]

[Updated Update: I have the small search widget working. Turns out the Firefox Ad Blocker plug-in was doing what it was supposed to be doing: blocking ads. I told it to ignore stuff from Amazon, and Ta-Da! it's there. I'm trying to get the newer search widget with the product category drop-down, but Firefox won't show it. IE7 does, so I suspect Ad Blocker is still getting in the way.]

[Update to the Updated Update: The larger search box will not show under Firefox, even with Ad Blocker disabled. I'm going to try clearing out all history, then shutting down and restarting Firefox.]

[Updated Update to the Updated Update: No joy; looks like I have to brave Amazon support to get this working. At least the half of my readers using IE will have no problems; the rest of you are stuck with the small, crappy Amazon search box for a bit.]

[Update to the Updated Update to the Updated Update: Uninstalled Ad Blocker, reinstalled it and told it to leave alone. All is well.]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Food Prices

Food prices are surging. Or the currency is crashing. Whatever.

We are not exempt from the laws of economics and history, even here in the United States.


The scuttlebutt at work is that our current psycho chef will be gone soon. A lot of hopes for a happier and healthier kitchen are being pegged on a new guy that few, if any, of us have met. According to Waiter, we might want to hold off popping the corks just yet.

The nice part about not having any ambition is that as long as he stays away from me (something he failed to do once and has not repeated the mistake since), I just keep scrubbing pots.

Why I Stopped Voting

Fred nails it.

'Nough said.

Movie Shorts

Five second versions of your favorite movies:

Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

2001: A Space Odyssey

Silence of the Lambs


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Slip Slidin' Away

Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, but it's nice to know as America slides into irrelevancy, there are others breaking trail for us.

Ye flippin' gods.

Public Education

Lack of funds is not why public education in this country sucks dead bunnies. Give a kid a laptop and he will use it for games, web surfing, IM-ing, updating his/her Facebook or MySpace page, or anything you can do with a computer other than what the school system thinks they are doing with it. If you want them to learn, take away the laptop and replace it with a competent teacher and a chalkboard.

Political Polls

Are there ten people who are not politicians that pay any attention to polls?

Why I Scrub Pots for a Living

Military Intelligence

I always knew that Military Intelligence was a contradiction in terms, but now a lawyer acting on behalf of the Air Force has issued a DMCA take-down notice to You-Tube concerning a video that the Air Farce itself freely distributed. Would someone explain to me why we let these people have guns?


If we ever end up in a studio apartment again, I'll be shopping here.

I'm almost tempted to get a case of these thing and see what I can make out of them in terms of shelving or a wicked entertainment center.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Boredom's Harvest

Stick a musically-inclined guy in the Antarctic along with a guy that's good with a video camera and you get:


Following up on my last post on solar electric. One idea that has been around since the 1970's is the solar-thermal concept. This uses sunlight focused by mirrors to heat water and run a steam turbine. Even though it sounds a bit Rube Goldberg-esk compared to the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity, it actually is more efficient. It also would tie better into the grid by generating true alternating current rather than the pseudo-AC that inverters produce (solar electric panels can only generate DC). A demonstration plant was supposed to be built here in Arizona, but of course never got off the ground.

A company called Ausra claims to have a solar-thermal technology that can provide 90% of the electricity used by the United States using "only" 9,600 square miles (Vermont) provided that someone, somehow, somewhere can develop "the ability to store energy for 16 hours, thus creating a stable power source through cloudy periods and the night, a feat that has so far eluded engineers." That's sort of like claiming that you have a vehicle that can get 1,000 mpg as soon as someone develops an engine that gets 1,000 mpg. Energy storage for nights and cloudy days has always been the stopping point of any solar energy concept. The rest is old hat that we have known how to do for decades.

There are answers, of course. The bulk of electricity is used during the daytime. Use solar energy technology during the day and nuclear at night. Or put the solar panels in space where the sun never sets and the "sky" is never cloudy, and beam the energy down.

Or just do what we are best at doing: nothing.

The Good News Just Keeps Rolling In

The Fed is going to pump even more currency into a rapidly inflating currency market.

Hang on, folks. It might get a little bumpy.

How to Stay Married

Know when to just do the dishes:


This is the sort of stuff we did in my high school chemistry lab classes. Even then, there was no way a teacher would get away with this in the public schools, but we had a lot more leeway at my parochial school. I shudder to think what would happen today.

Pournelle's Iron Law

Wiley Miller nails Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law:

Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Flatulence is now a patriotic duty."

This just in.

The four major organizations that calculate "global average temperature" all agree: in one year, more than 80 years of global warming has been wiped out. The quote in the title is from one of Jerry Pournelle's correspondents:
If this is true, the consequences are appalling. Most of North America and all of Europe north of the Alps will be under a mile of ice by 2030. This means that most of the advanced countries except Australia will cease to exist. There can be little doubt that the need to survive will trump any international norms of behavior: I would expect that Europe would invade Africa and the US would invade Mexico, accepting genocide of the indigenous populations as an unfortunate necessity, given the absolute need for lebensraum.

Perhaps we could delay or stop the transition by using nuclear explosions to release floods of methane (a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) from the hydrate deposits under the Arctic permafrost and on the continental shelves, and/or by mounting a major effort to reduce the albedo by shoveling dirt over northern snowfields. Unfortunately, the reputations and income of far too many influential people now depend on the existence of the GW threat, and they will resist recognizing the truth as long as possible. In any case, I don't expect politicians to have the chutzpah to act before it is too late.

Until we find out whether the present cold is transient or getting worse, the Precautionary Principle demands that we all do our duty by guzzling as much gasoline and emitting as much CO2 and CH4 as possible. Flatulence is now a patriotic duty.
Now this could all just be a blip in the data, and 2008 will jump back up where it was in 2006. Note the huge, unsustained spike in 1998. But the important point is this: global cooling will screw things up much faster and much more thoroughly than global warming ever could.

Our move to Arizona is looking like a better idea every day.....


Everywhere you go and most anyone you talk to, the conversation inevitably turns to the massive, Bush-Cheney-oil/gas/coal/nuke industry conspiracy that keeps us from making the switch to pure renewable energy. Inevitably, a simple (-minded) solution is offered, like the Prius, or LED light bulbs in your home. ("If every household in the United States replaced one incandecent light bulb with an LED equivalent, we would save the equivalent output of one whole nuke plant!") So I thought I would do a little exercise in figuring out just what are we talking about in terms of scale for replacing all electricity with solar. I picked solar because it is the most proven, most reliable, most durable way we have of creating electricity that does not involve burning dead dinosaurs or playing with nukes.

Before I start, a note on methodology. I'm lazy, so I used Google to find various facts and figures. The numbers come from whatever was in the first four or five search results. I went for TLD's in the following order: .edu (typically universities) .org (anything from fronts for the oil companies to fronts for back-to-the-jungle greenies to legitimate research sites) and lastly, .com if I had no choice. I don't even bother with .gov sites for this sort of thing. The math was done with a caffeine-addled, sleep-deprived, work-stressed brain and a free Office Depot calculator. I may get the number of zero's wrong at one or more points, but I'm sure that they will not have a material effect on the outcome.

Every assumption I made was in favor of solar:

I assumed that a 200-watt solar panel actually produces 200 watts when put in natural sunlight. As the ratings are based on lab conditions using artificial light, no panel has ever produced its rated wattage sitting outside in the sun. Installers de-rate panels by 20% or more when calculating how many will be needed. But by some miracle, our panels will produce their full power.

Anywhere on earth receives an average of 12 hours of sun a day over the course of a year. I assumed that our miraculous panels will be able to harness the entire twelve hours of daylight. Currently, installers assume only 8 hours of sunlight is usable. The rest of the time, the sun is too low in the sky and is being filtered through too much air/water vapor/dust to deliver anything useful to a solar panel.

Cost figures are for the panels only. Our miracle panels do not require mounting frames, wiring, inverters, batteries, etc. to actually do something useful. Just prop them up in a field and it all Just Works. And our panels will last forever, will never need maintenance or cleaning, and will arrive at the installation site defect free.

Anytime I get tired of typing out long strings of digits, I reserve the right to round. All rounding will be in favor of solar energy.

Let's begin:

The United States consumes 3,386 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. Each of our 200-watt miracle panels will produce 876 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. That means we need approximately 3.86 billion panels.

Currently, a 200-watt panel costs $1,000. We will assume that our miracle panels cost half that. There are reasons that we will get to in a moment why our panels will actually end up costing more than $1,000 apiece, but we are trying to be optimistic. After all, despair is a sin. At the $1,000 price point, that's a cool $3.86 trillion. For comparison, the proposed 2008 federal budget is around $3 trillion. Our rose-colored scenario would cost $1.93 trillion.

A 200-watt panel is roughly 4.5 x 3 feet, which translates into 1,869 square miles, or the state of Delaware for our little project. This doesn't include the spacing required between each panel for expansion, because our miracle panels do not expand in direct sunlight.

Current production is somewhere around 500 megawatts of panels a year in the United States. I wasn't able to find exact numbers, but I was able to find several proxies (blah, blah, n-megawatts a year, half/twice/10% of total panel production in the US last year, blah, blah). The 500 megawatts number is likely a gross over-estimate. The actual number is likely much lower. In any case, at the rate of 500 megawatts per year (2.5 million 200-watt panels), it would take around 1,500 years to manufacture our panels. Obviously, we need to increase production capacity, but even at current levels, feedstocks are running tight. This is what I was talking about when I said that our panels were going to cost far more that the current $1,000 price tag because we would have to build an entire new industry to support the level of production needed to complete this project in a reasonable time frame. It's probably safe to say that some feedstocks just don't exist on this planet in the quantities that we would need, so add in the cost of moving asteroids around or some such.

So if we want to, we certainly can replace all existing sources of electricity with solar panels at a cost of a couple trillion dollars, using up an area equivalent to the state of Delaware, and taking 300 generations to complete the project.

So what's stopping us? Lets just do it!! Our children's children's children's [insert another 297 "children's" here] children are depending on us! The journey of 1,500 years starts with a single step!

Exercise for the reader: repeat the above calculations using any renewable source of electricity you care to use: wind, solar, biomass (Just how big of a cow poop pile do you need to generate 3,386 billion kilowatts? And whose back yard do you plan on putting all that poop into? I also think someone got seriously confused on units as I doubt some farmer is producing 3 megawatt hours a day from a pile of cow shit. That's the output of a fair-sized nuke plant every month.), tidal, deep ocean currents, whatever you want in whatever combination.


OK; I've had some sleep, so now I can finish what I was going to say. I probably shouldn't blog at 3am. I've also made some minor corrections and completed a couple sentences that I finished in my brain, but my fingers didn't get the memo.

Anytime you see a list of sources for electricity, coal is king by a large margin, followed by natural gas, nuclear, hydro, etc. Down at the bottom of the list, you will find 2.5-3% from renewable sources. And even that is being generous when you consider that the Department of Energy considers burning garbage to be a renewable source of electricity, which, in a way, it is. But when people think of clean renewable energy, burning trash isn't the first thing that leaps to mind. Unfortunately, that makes up the bulk of renewables; wind and solar contribute only a fraction of a percent of all electricity. Even taking on a much smaller task, say replacing all the electricity generated by petroleum (less than 2% or 61.558 gigawatt-hours) would be a monumental task.

Of course, if we concern ourselves with just eliminating CO2, we can follow the example of the French and revive the moribund nuclear industry. But if there is one thing the greenies hate more than coal, it's nuclear. And, as we have seen from the King Green himself, Al Gore, it isn't about accomplishing anything; it's about getting your mug in front of the TV camera and trying to meddle in other people's lives, all the while congratulating yourself on how superior you are to the rest of the human race.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Geek Post

For the handful of readers that know who he is, here are 16 Gary Gygax jokes that Woot better not catch you making. My favorite joke that I'm not making:

“Now who will lead our young people to Satan?”

Stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive!

Disco never dies, it just smells like it does. Just like certain presidential candidates. She still has a chance to prove me right, and it looks more and more like she will hang on until August.


A couple people at Arcosanti had these. I never tried them myself; I always had more fun watching other people wipe out.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Busy day my last day at work this week --- I booked and paid in full four more cruises. YEAH! That means my requirement of 30 cruises under my name and office is officially done. This cruise3sixty conference I am heading to, will finish up the rest of my "training" and ship inspections. Our cruise tour in April/May will fulfill the personal experience cruise requirement. And then I am done! That is the fastest accreditation (MCC Master Cruise Counselor) I've ever heard of. Next I have to think about signing up for the ECC. That one is pretty tough -- 50 cabins booked in a 12 month period, 5 ship inspections, and two 7+ cruises on cruise line I didn't use for my ACC or MCC. That leaves the expensive ones (except for Norwegian) left to sail 7 or more nights on. YIKES!

A comment on Ric's post about seeing flames this way while I"m gone ---- don't believe a word of it. He is a great cook and a pretty darn good house husband. (Thanks -- I luv u!)

I am taking the camera with me to Florida -- so those of you that want to see the "holy foot" will have to wait until next week.


Facts are Racist

Fred on immigration.

If you dare, click on the link to American Renaissance. We all know what you can't say, and who you can't say it about.

Just Great

I stay off the internet for a mere twelve hours and I come back to this:

The Federal Reserve's rescue has failed.

Oil at a new record high. (Or is that "US dollars at new record low.")

Border war in South America.

Water wars in the United States.

We indeed live in interesting times.

Volkswagen Gets It

Well, sort of. They are flashing a hybrid diesel around that gets 70mpg. I keep saying that if the hybrid concept has any merit, then diesel hybrids are the way to go. But here is the part I don't get: The Volkswagen diesel Rabbit got 70mpg when I was in high school. Thirty-eight years later, the best we can do is a car that gets about the same mileage at the cost of far greater expense and complexity?

In 1980, the only way to break a Rabbit, or any other Volkswagen product, was to drive it into a tree at high speed (or, in my case, the side of a Blazer, but that's a long story...). Is there anyone that believes that three or four years of constant exposure to corrosive chemicals like road salt won't reduce all those fancy electronics to mush? I speak from experience here. Three times in the same winter, my fancy electronic-everything Chevy 3500 was reduced to an inert pile of scrap due to the corrosion of an electrical connection. Not running poorly or some minor system failure. Rather, dead-dead; as in paying hundreds of dollars to have a three-year-old, $50,000 vehicle hauled to a garage on a flatbed.

So as long as you live someplace like, oh, I don't know, Prescott, Arizona, you won't have many problems. At least until your vehicle is two or three years old and the battery has to be replaced at the cost of a few thousand dollars. But you couldn't pay me to depend on a three-year-old hybrid in Michigan.

Personal Stuff

Still not much going on at the Frost household. Work, eat, sleep, read, watch movies, rinse, repeat. The only real excitement in our life was a bit of an accident I had at work on Thursday. I was moving the five-gallon bucket of dish detergent concentrate that feeds the dish machine and sloshed a bit on my shoe. No big deal. As we were locking up and getting ready to leave, my foot started itching a bit. Great. An allergic reaction. I have to be careful with soaps as a rule, but it never involves anything other than some itching and a rash that goes away in a day. As I walk home, the itching gets more intense, then turns to burning, then serious pain. I run the last hundred yards to the apartment and immediately remove my shoe and sock. The top of my foot has large black spots where the skin is coming off. I rinse in cold water, shower, etc. The pain goes away and there doesn't seem to be any real damage other than some large ugly holes in the top of my foot. Debbie said I should take pictures to post here, but I don't want to loose the handful of readers we have.

The next day, I got my hands on the MSDS for the detergent, and it just says to avoid skin contact and flush with lots of cold water if contact occurs. So I doubt my foot is going to fall off or anything. I can wear shoes and go to work and all that stuff. I'm sure there will be big nasty scars, so sandal season could be interesting for anyone who looks at my feet.

We are both getting lots of reading in lately. We are averaging a book every day or two depending on mood and the book. I know. Exciting stuff. We're such party animals.

Debbie leaves very AM Wednesday for some cruise accreditation stuff in Florida. She will be gone until Sunday. If anyone back east sees flames in this direction, I'm trying to cook myself dinner. Seriously; I permanently disfigured my foot with dish soap. How well do you think I'm going to do on my own for nearly five full days? I understand from certain readers of this blog that frozen pizza rolls can be eaten right out of the bag. That may be all that stands between me and dumpster diving behind Denny's.

Anyway, I'll leave you with this:

Saturday, March 01, 2008

One promise kept

Happy March 1st! The past few days here have been beautiful. Cool in the morning and gets up to the upper 60's/lower 70's by afternoon. Nothing like they have been getting in Michigan!

Happy to report I kept one of my promises from my last post. I did get a personal card written and in the mail -- on the last day of the month! I haven't found those "missing" bonds or get any cards made or get any weight off.....but lets see what I can do this month. I did start the book I was talking about -- hard to go through it by myself -- just looking at the things I highlighted is depressing. That book will take awhile to work through. I have to get out to buy some ink pads and maybe some other card making stuff. I decided to send all my nieces/nephews a special "puzzle card" this year for their birthdays. I have one coming up in just over two weeks. (Jerrica -- I apologize now for how it will look. Not much practice before yours)

Next week I fly to Ft Lauderdale for a cruise conference. Will be busy with seminars, classes, trade shows, a couple ship inspections and other events. I hope to get outside sometime to enjoy their beautiful weather (70-80s) Then about six weeks after I get back from that, it is time to start packing for our cruise tour. One thing I don't like about this cruise ship is they don't have laundry facilities that passengers can use. How on earth do you pack for a 3 week trip and be able to take that luggage on an airplane?! I am really glad I am not a shoe person.

Be watching for an ugly picture to be posted soon .... I don't want to give anything away yet ... but OUCH!

Wikileaks is Back

Judge Jeffrey White reversed the ruling to remove the entire Wikileaks site in a dispute over a fraction of one percent of the information on the site. As of around 2pm today, is resolving correctly. But big questions still remain.

The key problem I see is the question, "Who/what is" It is not a corporation, partnership, LLC, PC, non-profit, for-profit, or any other IRS-classified organization. It has no offices, no officers, owners, directors, employees. It began as part of the Chinese dissident movement and can claim founders in the US, Europe, South Africa, Taiwan, and Australia. We will be seeing more and more of this as the Web continues to penetrate deeper into society. The traditional notions of jurisdiction, boundaries, and ownership will prove inadequate. This is most certainly not over.