Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pre-Happy New Year Post

I'll post something late tonight or early tomorrow morning about the new year and how badly 2009 sucked dead bunnies. This isn't that.

Instead, this is about the snow storm that interfered with a global warming "scream-in." And not for the first time. The organizer calls it "irony." I call it a sign from the gods that you are an idiot for a) using time, resources and a not-insignificant amount of fossil fuel on some thing as pointless as a "scream-in" and b) repeatedly scheduling global warming protests in the middle of the winter, thus maximizing the likelihood of "irony."

A new study questions whether CO2 levels have actually increased over the last 160 years. Now, this runs counter to numerous studies that shows it has, as well as common sense (which is often a poor guide in these matters). I'm not commenting on the quality of this particular study and I'm sure the global cooling deniers will do their best to destroy Dr. Knorr for heresy. But I want to point out a key phrase:
To assess whether the airborne fraction is indeed increasing, Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.

(Emphasis mine.) All those hockey-stick graphs out there? If you look at them carefully, the y axis is less than a half degree C, far less than the uncertainty in the data, especially when compared to temperature records from 100 years ago that have nearly 2 degrees C uncertainty. In my high school physics class, you failed the lab if you reported results with more "accuracy" than the least-accurate piece of equipment you used in the experiment. Why? Because the teacher considered it a form of lying. He wasn't wrong, and the nonsense in Copenhagen is a perfect example of why.

I've said many times that the only way to "go green" and not live like Neanderthals is to go nuke. There are obvious problems with that, but they result from politics, not the technology, as this article makes very clear. We could have clean, near-limitless, cheap energy if we wanted to. But we would rather play politics. (shrug)

And John Greer over at the Archdruid Report has an Immodest Proposal as we start the New Year. As a person with strong libertarian leanings, talk of "reforming" the federal tax code always strikes me as what Paolo Solari (the architect of Arcosanti) calls a "different kind of wrongness." But I like what Greer is going for here; given that a lumber company is only able to profitably manage a stand of timber because we have, for example, a standing navy that ensures that said timber plot will still be under the lumber company's control in twenty years, then shouldn't the taxes necessary to fund some fraction of that standing navy come from the extraction of that timber, rather than from taxes on the logger's wages? Of course, I can see 1,001 ways that could be distorted into something very ugly, but, as Greer points out, utopia isn't an option. Every system will be exploited by someone to benefit themselves at the expense of the rest of us. As Greer says in his essay:
I’m going to suggest a handful of limited, tightly focused changes that I think have a real chance, if they were to be implemented, of canceling out some of the self-defeating habits of the current system and replacing them with effective incentives toward the sort of habits our society needs to establish.

Which, I think, is at least asking the right question. We can argue about what those changes ought to be or how effective any given change will be in attaining the stated goal, or even which human habits are "self-defeating." But given that the basic assumptions behind current political discourse are so obviously broken, Greer's plan sounds more pleasant that the alternative.

Well, Debbie's home and we have to figure out what to do for dinner.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Congressional Reform Act of 2010

Found while looking for something else:

Congressional Reform Act of 2010

1. Term Limits, 12 years only, one of the possible options below:
A. Two six-year Senate terms
B. Six two-year House terms
C. One six-year Senate term and three two-year House terms

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

2. No Tenure or pension. A congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund moves to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system and Congress participates with the rest of the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; server your term(s), then go home and back to work.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan just as all other Americans.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

6. Congress looses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the rest of the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

8. All contracts with past and present congressmen are void effective 1/1/2011. The American people did not make these contracts with congressmen; congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators; serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

I don't see much to argue with and, unlike all the major legislation passed in 2009, it could be written up in a couple pages that every congresscritter could read and understand in a matter of minutes. Which is precisely why this will never happen. Read your history: Whenever politics becomes a spoils system, the result is fairly predictable. And unpleasant.

Meet the New Year, same as the Old Year (with humble apologies to The Who).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Back on the Hamster Wheel

Back to the normal daily schedule. At least until Thursday, then we get another 3 1/2-day weekend that we haven't planned anything for. We may try to do some local touring if the weather cooperates. Yesterday, Debbie got bored sitting around the apartment and mapped out a half-dozen or so covered bridges all within a couple miles of the apartment, but it didn't stop raining until about 20 minutes before it gets dark. So we'll probably try to get out and about Friday and/or Saturday taking lots of pictures, and Sunday will be a day of R&R in preparation for the long winter slog with new jobs (meaning no time off). (And the plural is me being optimistic; no news on the job front yet. Not that I expect anything to happen until after the new year anyway.)

Speaking of weather, 24 hours ago it was 50 F. Right now it's snowing big fat fluffy flakes. I don't know if this back-and-forth thing is normal for New Hampshire, or if this has been a weird winter.

By now, everyone knows about the Crotch Bomber. A perfect example of the system working perfectly. The federal government was warned by the guy's own father, was on the international terrorist watch list and may have not even had proper documentation to be on an airplane. But the system is working perfectly because anyone flying now has to be at the airport 4 hours before their flight (or not), not have access to their carry-on at any time during the flight (or not), banned from the restrooms either ten minutes or an hour before landing (or not), forced to keep their hands in plain sight (or not), banned from having carry-on at all (or not), be labeled a terrorist suspect for having a carry-on (or not)... All of these thing may happen (or not) on any given flight in any combination because the new security measures are designed to be "unpredictable." Meaning if you are a white, 80-year-old grandmother in a wheelchair or a US soldier traveling in uniform, expect to be subjected to all this and more when you fly. If you're a 20-something middle-eastern male traveling on an international flight without a passport after spending time at a known terrorist training camp, you won't have to worry about any of this because the last thing we want to do is profile.

The airlines are terrified by all this, of course. As they should be. I can drive a long way in four hours. In fact, here on the east coast, I can pretty well cover a half-dozen or so states with a four-hour radius. Add in the two or three hours it takes to get to and from the airport and the resulting six-hour radius covers the entire north-east, parts of the mid-west and a fair chunk of Canada. Add in two or three more hours for the actual time I would spend in the air, and you now have a big chunk of the entire eastern US. All of which will cost more lives than all the terrorist attacks in the US combined because driving has a far higher fatality rate per passenger mile than air travel.

Or this is all a bunch of arm waving that will result in no real changes once the dust settles. One interesting point that Jerry Pournelle makes: the response to the shoe bomber was to make everyone walk through security barefoot. How will the TSA goon squad respond to the Crotch Bomber and his exploding whitey-tighties? The shoe nonsense created an airport fashion trend with people running around in TSA-approved footies. Maybe the next round will doom underwear and bring togas back in style. Lending a terrifying new aspect to walking through an airport and hearing a small child yell, "Grandpa! You're peaking!"

In an attempt to quickly change the subject, Theodore Gray asks, "Is science as important as football?" The short answer is, "Absolutely not!!" The longer answer is that one only has to compare the level of funding in science vs. sports, the level of emphasis both inside and outside the school given to science vs. sports, the level of attention in any media given to science award winners vs. the star quarterback, the level of funding for college science scholarships vs. athletic scholarships, or any of a thousand other signals we as a society give to our children that being smart don't mean shit and being good at sports is what really matters. How many people can name the high school with the highest academic performance in their state? How many people can name the high school with the best sports program? And yes, I realize that wasn't the precise point Gray was making, but his article just describes another aspect of the same thinking; science must be cut back and made boring in the name of safety, yet more kids are permanently injured and killed in a single football season than have ever been injured in a science lab.

And in the weather-isn't-climate category, we have the NOAA three-month forecast vs. the actual temperature data. NOAA wasn't just wrong in a few specific areas or by statistically insignificant amounts. They were completely wrong in every possible way. Simply flipping a coin (heads is above average temps, tails is below average temps) for each US county would have been more accurate than NOAA's weather models. And yet those same models can so accurately predict a couple tenths of a degree warming in 50 years that we should destroy our economy in a misguided attempt to prevent that warming? Models are built on assumptions. The ability of the model to predict real-world events is the test of those assumptions. If your model is unable to predict real-world events in even the most general terms, it is your assumptions that are wrong, not reality. I would think that obvious, but that doesn't seem to be the "consensus."

Well, I need to get some lunch down and get ready to head into town. I'm supposed to take a test this afternoon to see if I'm smart enough to work the 2010 Census. Then I'm picking up Debbie from work and going out for something to eat. We're tired of all the food we have in the house, so we'll probably hit one of the local hot spots everyone keeps telling us we just have to try.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After

Well, another Christmas in the can. Calling ours low key would be gross understatement. There was no tree or decorations; we left our Christmas stuff in the apartment when we were unpacking, but when it came right down to it, we just didn't have the energy. We had clear skies here, but we were surrounded by freezing rain and snow, so no hangin' with the fam. We had a few gifts from my sis and Debbie's mom (thanks again!!), but we didn't "do" Christmas for each other this year. Unless you count the $5K+ we spent dragging ourselves and our crap all over the country a Christmas gift. But there was monkey bread and ham and potatoes and biscuits that come in those crazy exploding cans. And more monkey bread this morning. So it was Christmas, just not a big-deal kind of Christmas.

Speaking of those crazy exploding biscuit cans, am I the only one that thinks the fool things should come with a bomb-squad style blast shield? I normally make Debbie open them, but we had a defective can last night, so I was forced to "help" which means I was standing as far away as possible poking at the can with a fork with one hand while protecting my face from the blast debris with the other. Debbie meanwhile was "helping" by laying on the floor laughing hysterically. It may only take 9 minutes to bake the damn things, but it takes 20 stress-filled minutes to open the stupid can. By the time it was all over, I didn't want dinner; just a big glass of Grey Goose and a nap. I'd love to meet the sadist who invented those things so I can ask him if he stomps on kittens in his spare time.

I've got to change the subject. Just thinking about it is giving me a panic attack. The worst part is that I know there is another can hiding in the fridge ready to blow my face off the next time I reach for a soda. Evil, I tell ya. Pure Evil.

Anyway, the replacement router showed up Christmas Eve, but I waited until Christmas morning when everything was shut down to give it a whirl. It worked for about 20 minutes, then started acting up again. I really wasn't in the mood, so I just yanked it until I had the time and inclination. Late last night, I started poking around on the Linksys and Road Runner sites looking for ideas. One interesting find: my "new" router is two hardware revisions out of date and several firmware revisions behind as well. Based on the dates for the firmware releases, I'm guessing my "new" router is well over a year old. If we were talking about a toaster or a chair, no big deal. But this thing is nearly a full cycle of Moore's Law out of date. I find that rather unacceptable. Worse, either Linksys sort of pre-smudges up their routers with dust and such to make them fit in with your existing hardware, or this was repackaged. But no matter; after upgrading the firmware and making some rather obscure tweaks to the router settings, it all seems to be working. Of course, it's listening in, so the minute I post this, it will start going nuts again. But for now it works and Debbie can work on her PC once again, which makes her incredibly happy. Now I just have to re-establish her link to the Drobo so she can get to all our files and we're back in business.

And that's pretty much it. According to the weather map, we are surrounded by ice storms so it looks to be another day spent sitting inside, munching leftover ham, reading books, watching movies and being terrorized by exploding biscuit cans. Have a great day-after-Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

OK, so I'm a few hours early. Sue me.

First, I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas to Amazon who just saw their cash cow, the Kindle e-book reader, get hacked. Kindle books can now be transferred to other devices at will. Once again, there is no copy protection or DRM scheme that cannot be hacked or bypassed by someone sufficiently intelligent and/or determined, Hollywood's efforts to "plug the analog hole" by legislative fiat notwithstanding. Thus it has always been and thus it will always be as long as humans (or some subset of humans) are analog, intelligent and determined

And Merry Christmas to the 8th-grader undergoing facial reconstruction after being beaten by a group of other 8th-graders because someone was accidentally hit with a basketball. But, as the article takes great pains to point out, at least it wasn't as bad as it could have been. It could have been racially motivated. Whew. Glad we dodged that bullet. Just another mixed race group beating the living hell out of some spic kid. Move along. Nothing to see here. Just a big "misunderstanding."

Merry Christmas to those who own oil stocks as oil sneaks past $77/barrel. I love the green-shoot spin:
Crude has jumped from $69 a barrel last week on investor expectations that global crude demand, especially from Asia, will rebound next year and help boost prices.

So Merry Christmas to everyone as gas prices continue to rise. And just remember while you are feeding the grocery budget into the gas tank that this is a good thing.

And just in time for the holidays, John Greer finishes up his three-part series on our current political collapse. He focuses on the implosion at Copenhagen, but it applies equally well to health care or our national debt (which just had its ceiling raised to $12.4 trillion or $40,000 per person), or any of the other political footballs that have been consistently punted down field by every administration and Congress since JFK. And if you haven't already, read part one and part two just to really make your holiday bright.

One of Jerry Pounelle's readers states what he mistakenly thinks is an irrefutable summary of the global cooling deniers' consensus position. Notice how easily someone outside the field of climatology who possesses above average intelligence can disassemble the consensus. (shrug) Not that it matters. Our political masters have decided that Something Must Be Done, so we will do something that will be a complete failure at reducing CO2 levels but will be wildly successful in turning congressional offices into lifetime appointments and enriching the enlightened souls who hold their leashes.

A follow-up to yesterday's post: The U. S. Commission on Civil Rights has already warned both houses of congress that their respective bills are discriminatory. In what I'm sure will come as a shock to no one, the warning has been completely ignored and the bills are larded with discrimination against white men and Asians. Nothing really new there other than how blatant it is. I guess one could be optimistic that this bill will be immediately challenged in court before it can even be implemented, and that the Supreme Court will make a sweeping ruling that flushes government-instituted racism down the toilet and at long last, ushers in the truly color-blind society envisioned by Martin Luther King. (giggle, snort) OK, OK, I'll stop. Just trying to lighten up a rather depressing blog post.

Cnet News is reporting that internet users are online an average of 13 hours a week. A week? Really? I'm on more than that a day. I smell some serious flaw here. First, it relies on self-reporting, which as we all know consistently under-states reality when there is social pressure in that direction (TV watching, internet usage, playing video games) and over-states reality for "good" things (reading books, visiting museums, female virginity [male virginity is a condition to be cured; see the movie 40-year-old Virgin]). Second, how do you define being online with an always-on internet connection? My PC runs 24/7 and is only disconnected from the internet if Road Runner goes down. I turn on the TV/42" monitor when I get out of bed, log into Facebook and Twitter and don't log out until I go to bed. Am I "online" 24 hours a day? 18 hours a day? Only when I'm sitting with the keyboard in my lap? What about iPhones, Androids and the rest of the whole gamut of smart phones and pocket PC's? What counts as "being online"? Having the device powered on or only when physically typing in a Twitter or Facebook ap? I love that the study excludes e-mail? E-what? You mean that Yahoo web app that alerts me when something happens on Twitter or Facebook if I happen to be logged out of those? Seriously; other than "forward monkeys", does anyone spend more than a few minutes a day on e-mail?

To dig a little deeper, what do we mean by "being online"? I'm being serious here. Ten years ago, it was easy. The only way to be online was sitting at a keyboard in front of a PC and dialed into an ISP. Now, even entry-level cell phones have the ability to do internet-ish things. Is sending a text message from one cell phone to another "being online"? Why not? If I send that same text message to my Facebook or Twitter account, is that "being online"? How is that fundamentally different from the previous scenario? How is texting between two cell phones any different than IMing between two iPhones? Am I "online" when I pay for stuff with a credit card? The verification is done over VPN, isn't it? My point: the internet is now a fully integrated utility. Not "going to be in ten or twenty years". IS. NOW. Asking how many hours a week I spend "online" is like asking how many hours a week I spend using electricity. The answer is, "Always. Whether I realize it or not."

So anyway, our Christmas plans are simple: sit in the apartment and watch the rain/freezing rain/snow over the weekend while watching as many movies and reading as many books as possible. We may even do a little organizing in the office (which needs it badly), but I wouldn't bet money on it. So I'll just finish off this uplifting bit with a hearty "Ho! Ho!".... Ooo. That reminds me of a Tiger Woods joke:

How is Santa different from Tiger Woods? Santa stops at three ho's.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Moral Defectives on Parade

If anyone doubts that Obama is anything other than a student of the corrupt Democratic Chicago political machine, the health care bill ought to settle the matter. From Jerry Pournelle's Tuesday View:
Change You Can Believe In, Chicago Style

Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial worth your attention. There is no better term for the ObamaCare Bill than Despotism. It's all very well for Congressmen and Senators to look out for their states, but this bill is a pure transfer payment from Republicans to Democrats. There is built into the bill a 40% tax on the most comprehensive -- and thus most expensive -- health care plans: But it does not apply to everyone. Longshoremen, for instance, are exempt -- and of course their unions have negotiated some of the most comprehensive healthcare short of what Congress gets. Other lines of work, nearly all heavily unionized, are exempt from the 40% tax (which will pretty well eliminate these plans for those who aren't exempt from the tax). Also, 17 States will be exempt; for the rest it's just too bad. There is no attempt at an explanation for these arbitrary transfers from those taxed to those not taxed. There is no logical reason why some are taxed and some are not. It's simply a set of earmarks, rewards to those supporting the "plan" and punishment for those who don't.

It's exactly what the Constitution was designed to prevent, a despotic transfer of wealth from one group to another.

Change you can believe in.

Indeed. A majority of America asked for this, and now we are all going to get it good and hard.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jobs and Photos

I finally got around to cleaning off the camera and putting the photos on our Flickr account:

Anyone interested in an old sewing machine?
Some photos from the road and our new apartment.
A few photos from Thanksgiving in Connecticut. The weather didn't really cooperate.
Photos from our trip over to Portland, Maine.
Our 2009 Christmas loot so far. And our pet penguin.

Today, I had an interview with a staffing agency. I was informed I am over-qualified for every job in Keene, NH. The guy said he didn't want me to get too hopeful. Not much chance of that.

Anyway. I have resumes in about a dozen places, but I don't expect to hear anything until after the holidays. Who hires over Christmas? In the meantime, I'm on the intertubes Google-ing "101 ways to dress up ramen."

That's it. Maybe more later if I feel more like writing something. Not in the mood at the moment and iTunes serving up a bunch of Snow Patrol ain't helping.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mostly Tech Post

But first, a word from our sponsors:

Yes indeed; it's in the 20's this morning! I feel like Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men, except the snow storm that blasted the east coast missed us completely. Not a single flake. Woohoo!


I've been living with Win7 for a couple weeks now. There are a few glitches, but for the most part, I have seen no reason to change my initial impression: Best Windows Ever. If you have Vista, GET IT! If you have XP on a fairly new machine, GET IT! I know I should be all impressed with it because of the improvements under the hood to make it more stable and secure than either XP or Vista. But what I like most is that from what I can tell, Microsoft has pulled its Human Factors division out of the moth balls and put it front and center. This is the group that takes normal people off the street, sits them in front of a computer with a dude in a lab coat watching them taking notes of the problems they are having. And then the magic happens: the coders actually FIX THE PROBLEM! If most people look under the View menu for something that the coders thought should be under the Format menu, guess what code monkeys; MOVE IT! Or put it both places. That this has been done with 7 is so obvious, it sort of pisses you off when you realize it was something Microsoft could have done two versions ago. But that's what happens when code monkeys run the show: it logically belongs under the Format menu and YOU WILL COMPLY WITH MY WISHES!! (The best depiction of this attitude can be found on any episode of The Big Bang.)

Bottom line, it doesn't matter what could have been done, it has now been done. GET IT.

I've also had a few weeks inside Google's Chrome browser. There is a lot to like about it. There is a lot be annoyed with. Whether the like's outweigh the annoy's is going to be a personal choice. For the record, I'm typing this in Firefox. Chrome is fun, fast, lightweight. The minimal interface works well with web applications like Facebook where you want the browser to mostly disappear. But there are some serious defects. First, no plug-ins. This is being addressed as we speak, so this is in no way a deal-breaker, but it is jarring to load a web site and have the content obscured by ads, most of which you can't close and in fact if you accidentally drag your mouse over them, they try to take over (looking hard in your direction, Second, the text rendering sucks. I didn't notice this until I went back to Firefox. Web sites were suddenly easier to read at lower zoom levels. That's when I noticed that text in Chrome was fuzzy with colored fringing when zoomed in. Not good when you already have bad eyes. Related to this, zooming seems to break things. The map at the right showing the location of recent visitors stops working. Drop-down menus in Yahoo mail appear on the wrong side of the screen. The last major annoyance for me also relates to the zoom function: Chrome doesn't remember the zoom level on a web site. It doesn't sound like much, but it really gets to be a pain after a while. The whole point of Chrome is that you aren't supposed to notice it, and then here is this big, flashing neon sign screaming, "Feed me, Seymour!" every time you open a web site.

Reading that, you would think that the decision for me is a slam dunk. Well. Yesterday, I had iTunes running with the Visualizer at full screen. I noticed it kept hanging up. That seemed odd given I'm running a quad core with 4GB RAM. I killed Visualizer and saw my CPU pegged at 100%. That can be a sign someone is trying to kick down the door, so to speak and I had something try to sneak in through iTunes a couple days ago. I immediately bring up Task Manager to see what was going on. Firefox was using one entire core for itself. Combined with the two cores I donate to World Community Grid and the half-dozen other apps that were open, the computer was running flat out. So I start playing around with Firefox; enabling and disabling various add-ons, starting it, ending it, switching back and forth between Firefox and Chrome and just generally mucking about. Task manager tells the tale: Even with a dozen tabs open, Chrome never used more than a couple percent of the CPU. Hey Mozilla; guess what you guys need to do some serious work on? The difference seems to be that Chrome starts a new process for each tab that goes away when the tab is closed. Firefox is just one giant blob growing larger with every tab you open. That wouldn't be so bad, but Firefox is like government spending; a one-way ratchet that only increases consumption of memory and CPU until you shut it down and restart it.

So I'm seriously torn here. On the one hand, Firefox is like that really comfy shirt your wife is always trying to throw in the trash because of the huge pizza sauce stain on the front. I've used it for so long, it just feels right. On the other hand, Chrome is that flashy British sports car that is just flat-out fun. Right up until you try to take it to the grocery store and realize that a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread completely fills the trunk. I'll probably bounce back and forth, using Firefox for my heavy-duty web browsing, but have Chrome open with the stuff I leave up all day like Facebook and Twitter. That way, I can close Firefox when I'm doing other things, especially CPU-intensive stuff like full-screen video. And then just wait to see what happens with the next versions of Chrome and Firefox. If I had to bet, I'd say that unless the next version of Firefox really blows people's socks off, Chrome is going to eat their lunch.

Enough geek stuff. Time for some ranting. When you first see this article, you may think I'm going off on the climate thing again. But read it all. This should be disturbing to anyone. Call me paranoid, but the New World Order is here, and it's everything the tinfoil-hat crowd promised. At least there was some comic relief as the Gore Effect continues unabated. It has been said that those the gods would destroy they first make mad. Maybe this is the gods trying to drive Gore over the edge. One can always hope.

And in the "Big Corporations Run By Idiots" category, we have The North Face taking legal action against a college freshman for creating a parody clothing line called The South Butt. The result is the same as always, fame a fortune for the kid and the corporate lawyers come off looking like the complete douche bags that they are:
He [Winlemann, owner of The South Butt] started with an online business and then began selling them [clothing items] at Ladue Pharmacy in St. Louis. Ladue's owner now acts as Winkelmann's sales manager and makes a small salary based on commission.

Seeing the burgeoning company as a way to help his parents -- who had experienced some financial hardship in the weakened economy -- pay for his college tuition, Winkelmann went a step farther.

In 2007, The South Butt was incorporated with the state of Missouri, with the help of Winkelmann's stockbroker father....

He estimated selling up to 200 items in the past couple years, but now he has sold that much -- if not more -- in the past day or so. He's now rushing to fill back orders and get new inventory manufactured.

I feel sorry for the North Face public relations people who have to somehow spin this into anything other than the complete disaster that this is. If I ever become CEO of a company (giggle, snort), all the lawyers will wear body suits with a big target on the chest and the PR guys will all be armed with pellet guns. Strike a blow for common sense. Buy something at The South Butt.

Last but not least, I see Michigan has struck yet-another blow against property rights. One. More. Time. This is not, as the linked article stupidly suggests, a battle between the rights of smokers, vs. non-smokers. This is about property rights and the difference between public spaces owned by the government (such as parks) and private property open to the public (like bars, restaurants or hotels). If the government has no right to dictate your actions in your own home, they have no right to dictate how the owner of a hotel or bar runs his business. If you don't like being exposed to cigarette smoke, then by all means ban smoking from your home and only patronize businesses that do the same (which is a great many of them, something the article glosses right over). The funniest part of the whole thing is that the same people who are all for smoking bans would go apoplectic if the government passed a similar law banning, say, having more guests in your home than can be safely evacuated in a fire. Property rights are one of the foundational elements of our republic. I will repeat: this cannot end any way but badly.

I should probably wrap this up and try to get some other stuff done. I have a bunch of photos that I need to get uploaded to Flikr, some accounting, and about six jobs to send out resumes for. Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One Big Job Done

We finally finished up the Christmas letters tonight after dinner. It took waaaay longer than I had planned on it taking. One of the reasons was the sheer volume; we were within a few letters of 200 and we left off a couple dozen at least. This is about double what we normally plan. Part of the increase is that whenever we move, we send to a lot of people we normally don't just to get our address out to everyone. Plus both of our families are growing as people keep growing up, moving out, then having their own kids who grow up and move out. I don't know how to cut it back, but it's pretty clear that Debbie won't be making 200+ Christmas cards by hand next year, and you don't want a hand-made card from me. Ask Courtney and Joe if you doubt the truth of that statement.

Anyway, all the messing about has kept me mostly off the intertubes, so everyone gets a break from the usual lunatic ravings. That will likely continue for the rest of the week. I have to deal with all the piles of Really Important Stuff that are scattered all over the apartment and breeding in the dark corners. I have no idea what most of it is or where it came from, but I'm sure there is stuff in there I'm supposed to be paying attention to.

Speaking of which, we still have a dead router sitting in the middle of our living room. I contacted the company again today to find out what's up and got a prompt response telling me basically to chill out, it's Christmas, they're really backed up, and it's going to be a while. Great. Thanks. Wheee. I'm sure the next message will be they are out of stock and would I like to spend more money for a slightly nicer router larded down with features I don't need. I should have just made do with some POS from Staples.

Speaking of which, we bought a new laser printer at Staples a while back. It was the day before we were leaving for Portland, so I didn't have a lot of time to mess with it other than to open the box and realize that it didn't include the USB cable. Now ain't that sweet. We went back for the cable after we got home, which Staples was glad to sell us for half the price of the printer. I wonder if Staples pays kick-backs to the printer manufacturers so they'll fail to include all the parts necessary for their product to function normally. Ye flippin' gods. I can't even go to a store and make a simple purchase anymore without feeling ripped off. Yes I know I could have order the cable from Amazon for six bucks instead of paying $25, but we really needed the printer up and running (see the first paragraph).

Well, enough whinging for one night. Besides, my keyboard needs some juice, all of which probably means it's time for me to go to bed.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Still Unpacking

We had a week off of unpacking while we were in Portland, Maine. We were hoping it would all be done when we got back. Unfortunately, the unpacking elves must have missed the memo. So yesterday we tackled the spare bedroom which we are setting up as an office and craft space for Debbie. But before we did that, we needed to get all the stuff that is supposed to be hanging on walls out of their boxes and up on the walls. That is always time consuming for two reasons; we have a lot of paintings, drawings, prints, posters, and photos to hang, and we have no idea what the "right" way is to hang the stuff. So we make random holes in the walls and just keep moving things around until we get something that doesn't look completely stupid. But we got it all mostly done, although I got up this morning and immediately made a mental list of all the things that were going to get tweaked today while I should be doing other things. One of those "other things" is to carry all the now-empty bins and boxes out to the storage unit. I've been putting it off because thanks to the snow-then-rain-then-freezing-rain storm last night, the parking lot is a skating rink. The salt truck finally showed up about two minutes ago and the sun is actually shining, so I will do that real quick once I'm done messing around here.

The other job I have to complete is our Christmas letter. I know most of our family and friends have no idea where we live, but the timing of our move made it impossible for us to send anything out early. I'm hoping to get them all done today and out in the mail tomorrow. We finished up the text of the letter last night, so now I just have to format and print them out. Then the real fun; addressing 100+ envelopes. Wheee.

Whenever I want to look up information on a potential purchase, my first stop is always the internet, specifically Google. But I almost always end up frustrated because of the enormous pile of useless information out there. Not useless as in inaccurate, but useless in the sense that for every opinion or experience, its antithesis from an equally-credible source exists. I thought it was just me; that I was somehow mentally deficient or doing something wrong. Well, at least there is one other person who is having the same difficulty I am. Now it may be that both of us are equally stupid, but it may be that Google's search model is going down the same path Yahoo's did, which was the reason for Google. So who is next up to bat and how long will it take for them to be rendered useless?

While us common folk struggle through the recession, it's nice to know our overlords are doing well:
Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession's first 18 months — and that's before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.

Nice. Anyone care to bet that these are not people doing the real work of the federal government, but a bunch of PHB's sitting in endless meetings with other PHB's? The next government-created bubble: Government.

If you want to know what the early-20th-century Wild West would look like in the 21st century, look no further than Sheriff Joe in Maricopa County in Arizona. It seems his antics have now come to the attention of the Federal Marshals. One can always hope that hanging makes a temporary come-back.

I know I said I was going to stop obsessing on the climate, but there was some good stuff on WUWT from over the weekend. First, an animation that puts the Hockey Stick in perspective:

Which assumes there even is a Hockey Stick. I'm sure a climate "scientists" can explain how two years of abnormal cold is caused by global warming. Maybe one these "scientists" currently in Copenhagen deciding our fate. A glimpse of our future?

Enough. This stuff isn't going to move itself out to the storage shed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


We made it home around 8:30 last night all in one piece and (as far as we know at this point) with all the stuff we left with. The apartment survived our absence along with most everything in it. The one exception was the wireless router. It was acting weird the last day we were here, but I wasn't sure if it was the router or the wireless adapter built into Debbie's laptop. My hardwired connection seemed to be working fine, just the wireless that was going all wonky. When we got home last night, there was no connectivity on the main system. It couldn't even see the router, not alone the internet. So unplug the cable modem, unplug the router, count to ten, plug the router back in and wait for all the status lights to go green. Huh. No power indicator, no wireless indicator and all four of the activity lights for the hardwire ports are solid even though only one of them has anything plugged into it. Unplug the router again and count to 20 just to be sure. Plug it back in. Same result. Curse loudly. Unplug. Plug back in. Rinse and repeat because we all know you can fix things by swearing at them and repeatedly doing the same thing that isn't working. Except this time no amount of swearing, plugging and unplugging was going to make this thing work. Pull the router and connect directly to the cable modem, cycle the modem and the internet pops up all nice and pretty. Crap.

I contacted the company that shipped the thing and they are all like "Woa, dude, so sorry, we're all over this thing" so maybe I'll have a replacement some time next week. Maybe. I was supposed to receive instructions on how the exchange works "shortly" at 9am this morning. I'm hoping they just ship a new one with a return label for the old one and a letter saying that if I don't mail it back in n days they tap my credit card for the second one. And hope and reality rarely coincide. Especially in the PC world.

Other than that, not much going on at the Frost Manor other than collecting, installing and configuring all the apps I need to get back on track since tossing Vista overboard and loading Win7. Most of the time has been spent pawing around in my e-mail and all the folders on my Drobo looking for activation codes. (You have any idea how many places a file can hide in 1.5 terabytes?) Those are all being collected in one place so I can find them easier next time. Although I'm sure that where they are now made perfect sense when I put them there months or years ago, even though today I have no idea what I could possibly have been thinking. With luck that process will be complete today and I can spend tomorrow getting caught up with a month's worth of accounting that's been piled on the floor next to my chair since we moved in. Unless I decide to veg out in front of Hulu and Facecrack all day. One of those will definitely happen.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last Full Day in Portland, Maine

It's windy and cold, but the sun is out and at least is isn't raining/snowing/sleeting/hailing/meatballs. I ventured out briefly for some more picture-taking and to visit the house that Longfellow grew up in. It was a contrast to the house I saw Tuesday; much more of a family home rather than an exercise in showing off. Both are fun to wander around in, but for completely different reasons.

I promise that some day I'll find something on the web that catches my eye that has nothing to do with climate. That day isn't today. Sorry. We have a good article on hockey sticks and how they fit into the big picture. Short version: the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the worst predictions being made today and yet we still have polar bears and penguins. The Medieval Warm Period was just one of several temperature peaks in the last 10,000 years, which in turn is a brief warm interlude in the norm, which is COLD. Colder than anything that any New Englander or Michigander has seen in all of recorded history. The author's conclusion is something I've been saying in various ways since the 1970's:
In other words, we’re pretty lucky to be here during this rare, warm period in climate history. But the broader lesson is, climate doesn’t stand still. It doesn’t even stay on the relatively constrained range of the last 10,000 years for more than about 10,000 years at a time.

Does this mean that CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas? No.

Does it mean that it isn’t warming? No.

Does it mean that we shouldn’t develop clean, efficient technology that gets its energy elsewhere than burning fossil fuels? Of course not. We should do all those things for many reasons — but there’s plenty of time to do them the right way, by developing nanotech. (There’s plenty of money, too, but it’s all going to climate science at the moment. :-) ) And that will be a very good thing to have done if we do fall back into an ice age, believe me.

For climate science it means that the Hockey Team climatologists’ insistence that human-emitted CO2 is the only thing that could account for the recent warming trend is probably poppycock.

Which according to Al Gore makes the author (as well as myself) a holocaust denier, a moon hoaxer and in league with those trying to reanimate Hitler. Science is so much easier when you can simply demonize anyone who disagrees with you. And cut off their funding.

Now another view on why we won't do any of those sensible things:
...the immediate costs of doing something about the issue are so high, and so unendurable, that very few people in positions of influence are willing to stick their necks out, and those who do so can count on being shortened by a head by others who are more than willing to cash in on their folly.

Anyone who doubts this is true need only read Jared Diamond's discussion of Easter Island in Collapse. While there are arguments to be made against Diamond's particular narrative, there can be no doubt that the island's inhabitants suffered a collapse in no small part because of the massive destruction of the natural resources carried out by the very people who depended on those resources for survival.

And I would like to point out that if you do read Greer's complete post, there are statements he makes that I don't entirely agree with. I do believe would could have an industrial society without the use of fossil fuels strictly from a technology/engineering standpoint, but because of the political realities he describes, we won't. But in the end, can't and won't pretty much land you in the same kettle of fish, so it's more of a quibble than a disagreement.

(And it is entirely possible that I have misread and/or misunderstood Mr. Greer and we are, in fact, in agreement. If so, please disregard the previous paragraph. I think that should cover the CYA, as it were. Moving on.)

And to wrap things up, Jerry Pournelle asks what I think are perfectly reasonable questions of anyone on any of the numerous sides of the climate debate:
Please tell me how to determine (1) the temperature of the Earth in 1895 -- what operations do I go through to generate that figure, (2) the same for the year 2000, and (3) exactly how to decide what weights to give the ground temperature at Santa Monica airport, undersea temperatures at various latitudes, stratospheric temperatures, and other measures to generate this single figure of merit.

Does anyone know how this is decided?....

Given that the figures of merit are calculated properly, what was the warmest year of the 1901 - 2000 period? Were any adjustments made to the method of determining the single Earth temperature or were the same operations used for each given year? If the generation of the global temperature was adjusted or refined, how, and why?

These are elementary operations. The formulae can be published in a single book, but I haven't seen that book. The data can't be much larger than a couple of gigabytes. The multiple factor equation can't be that large -- a thousand weighted factors? I presume it is linear, meaning that it's a few seconds calculation, and the program to do it can't be much more than a few hundred lines of FORTRAN. The climate models may be incredibly complex -- more so than the Model of Doom that was so popular in the 1980's -- but an explication of their flow charts and some measure of the sensitivity of the outcome to given input elements can't be that difficult. I have never seen any such thing or even a reference to one, but I may not have spent sufficient time on it. Still, I can't find students who have been told where to find such an explication....

The point here is that we are dealing with decisions that allocate trillions of dollars and have enormous effects on global economies. We do so with what amounts to suppression of actual debate on the science involved. That was the importance of Climategate: that the peer review system itself is being manipulated. That's no surprise, since it has been happening for generations....

To the best of my knowledge things haven't changed a hell of a lot since the mid 1990's, when the consensus was that all the modelers saw warming coming at an increasing rate, and the data gathers said at best "maybe" and many said "we don't see it yet," and a few more courageously said "we don't see it at all."

I'd also like to see a more public debate on just how we determine what is the optimum CO2 level, and why that of 1900 is considered what we would really like to have. CO2 levels are measurable; engineering to achieve those levels can at least be studied for reasonable costs and cost/effectiveness of those measures as opposed to the costs of carbon taxes. No one seems very anxious to do any of those studies.

Again, all very reasonable. One would think answering these sorts of questions would be elementary, but merely asking them makes one an enemy of all human kind in the mold of Pol Pot. This is not science. This is politics. Which is why Greer's analysis is as depressing as it is spot on.

And that's probably enough good cheer and sunshine for one day.


Via Tombo:

How many kids would stick with music lessons if they were working on stuff like this instead of Für Elise?

OK, OK; that was pretty cool. Point conceded.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Day Three in Portland

I spent our third full day in Portland, Maine sitting in the hotel room watching the weather through the window. I sneaked out around 7am just to run around the corner to the grocery store for more survival supplies: two kinds of donuts, cinnamon graham crackers, yellow corn tortilla chips, banana nut muffins and Diet Coke. I'm not going to be one of those dumb people you see on the news getting in a fist fight over the last box of Teddy Grahams; I'm planning ahead. When I left the hotel, it was just starting to snow. By the time I was done shopping and walking back, it was coming down pretty good. When I got back up to our room on the 9th floor, I could barely make out the building across the street. It turned to rain around noon and is still coming down. The temperature is 36F and dropping fast; tomorrow morning could be the really interesting part of this trip. Fortunately for us, everything should be back to normal Friday afternoon when we drive back to New Hampshire.

Yesterday, I was wandering around aimlessly snapping photos of this and that and stumbled across the Morse-Libby House. It was $15 and I couldn't take photos inside the house, but my hands and the camera both needed warming up, so why not? Because it's the off-season, they don't have formal, conducted tours. Instead, you wander around poking into the various rooms, each equipped with a person to explain things to you. Most of the time I was there, I was the only one in the house, so I ended up chatting a great deal with the staff who had little else to do. And it was a fascinating house built by a rather interesting character. If you're ever in Portland, take a couple hours and part with the $15 and take a wander.

Other than that, not much to report. There is nothing new on the news sites other than more of the "All Tiger Woods All The Time" crap and stories about the weather. (Spoiler alert: it's snowing in states that normally get snow this time of year and raining in states that normally get rain this time of year. I know! Who'd a thunk? And all because of global warming. Damn oil companies!)

Well, I need to send out the hotel shuttle to retrieve Debbie from her day of training, then figure out what to do for dinner. We'll probably just do the hotel dining room tonight rather than try to walk around on steep, icy, brick sidewalks.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Post that Defies Titling

Buckle in kiddies; it's gonna be another one of those posts.

Last night, we tried out a "floating" Italian restaurant [Debbie informed me that it wasn't an Italian restaurant even though I had pasta]. It was floating in the sense that you had to walk a gangplank over water to get to it and its general shape hinted that the structure was free-floating at some stage in its life. But it didn't move as it was firmly anchored on pilings running down to the bottom of the harbor. The food was good and we ate way too much, of course. The best part was that our server's name was Luigi. Yep. Perfect. We spent the rest of the evening laying in front of the TV in our room suffering the sweet agony of over-full bellies and fell asleep around 9pm. Life is so hard....

Couple more follow-up's on the whole climate thing. First an article that touches on something I mentioned in my climate rant from a few days ago. I said in reference to the state of the raw data that science isn't an exact science. This article does a great job of showing just what someone is up against when dealing with weather data from a surface station. He also shows how that difficulty has been used as a smoke screen to lie about the climate record. It's long, and gets technical in parts, but worth the trouble if you care.

And a bit of humor:

No comment. None. Nada. Moving right along....

Branson and Rutan are making news again with a commercial space liner. It's "only" $200K per seat, but don't break your arm reaching for that wallet just yet. It only carries six passengers and there are already something like 300 tickets bought and paid for. This vehicle won't dock with the space station or go to the moon, but it's another step towards commercial access to space. NASA seems to be waking up to the fact, if a bit late, that after next year, American cannot send humans into space for the first time since the Mercury missions, and are actually getting their fat ass out of the way.

Something that will come as a surprise to no one:
The Obama Administration is touting that their stimulus program has saved or created 640,329 jobs since it was enacted back in February through the end of October. This number is updated and posted on the Administration’s web site. That amounts to $246,436 per job based on the $157.8bn that has been awarded so far! Total compensation earned by the average payroll employee during October, on an annualized basis, was $59,867. If the government had simply used the funds awarded so far to pay for a year’s worth of labor, that would have paid for 2.6mn jobs!

And if the government just mailed out $50K checks to every household in America, it would cost about 10% what we currently spend at the local, state and federal levels on various welfare scams. (shrug) Business as usual in Foggy Bottom. Moving right along.

Anywhere outside of North America, diesel engines rule. The reason is simple. For any size of engine from lawn mowers to trains, a diesel will only use 60% of the fuel that a comparable gasoline engine will use. If anyone really cared about how much gasoline we use (as opposed to just whining endlessly while continuing to do the same thing) nearly everything would have a diesel engine in it. VW to its credit, keeps pushing diesel solutions. The latest gets 70mpg. In a real car that real-sized people can get into that has real cargo space and can be manufactured and sold and driven today. Hello, US car companies? Where are you?

I'm not going to get in-depth on this story if for no other reason that it would likely cost me my last two readers. But maybe someone can explain to me how suing everyone in sight is supposed to make you feel better about your parenting fail that lead to your 18-year-old killing herself? Moving on.

Batteries printed on copy paper. Sweet. Batteries are the weak spot in so many applications. We really need a huge leap forward in this area. A technology that uses a light-weight material like paper would be huge.

And I'm off to scare up some food for myself and get out of housekeeping's way while they clean our room.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Random Thoughts from Portland

I spent most of today trying to get on-line access to numerous bank accounts, our cell phones, etc. while attempting to update our address. I know we had already gone through this with some of these, and in one case, the only way to even open an account is online, yet they insisted that we we not set up for online access. Yea, like, whatever.

But it all ended well with complete documentation on how to access everything (at least until some 19-year-old decides that the web site is looking "stale" and changes everything) and nice secure passwords instead of having the same password for everything from Facebook to our money market account. This has been a project that has been on the to-do list for a long time, but finishing college, moving, remodeling, moving again, and unpacking sort of pushed it off the list. But it's done. Maybe at some point I'll write up a little ditty about how to manage the mountain of user ID's and passwords that afflict anyone who spends a lot of time online. But not today. Tomorrow isn't looking good either.

I did take a several-hour break to give housekeeping a chance to get into the room and do their thing. I had grand ambitions of getting around Portland and taking pictures of all the cool buildings, but my hands and camera started to be negatively affected by the cold after about a half hour and a couple dozen photos. One problem is that most places are closed on Monday, so there was a serious shortage of art galleries and coffee shops I could dive into and get warm. At least I was able to get a sense of distances to some of the places we want to visit while we are here, so I'm hoping tomorrow will be more productive.

The Telegraph has an article that makes a good follow-up to my rant the other day about science and AGW. Some of the highlights:
Ms Jorgensen reckons that between her and her rivals the total number of limos in Copenhagen next week has already broken the 1,200 barrier. The French alone rang up on Thursday and ordered another 42. "We haven't got enough limos in the country to fulfil the demand," she says. "We're having to drive them in hundreds of miles from Germany and Sweden."

And the total number of electric cars or hybrids among that number? "Five," says Ms Jorgensen. "The government has some alternative fuel cars but the rest will be petrol or diesel. We don't have any hybrids in Denmark, unfortunately, due to the extreme taxes on those cars. It makes no sense at all, but it's very Danish.

So from now on when any government ministry or department or agency does something incredibly stupid, we should all say that they've gone Danish.
The airport says it is expecting up to 140 extra private jets during the peak period alone, so far over its capacity that the planes will have to fly off to regional airports – or to Sweden – to park, returning to Copenhagen to pick up their VIP passengers.

Excess CO2 breeds even more excess CO2. Of course we the benighted are supposed to live in trees and die before 30 to make up for it. How very messiah-ish of them. Aren't these some of the very same people that were all worked up over GM execs flying to DC on private jets to beg Congress for money?
And this being Scandinavia, even the prostitutes are doing their bit for the planet. Outraged by a council postcard urging delegates to "be sustainable, don't buy sex," the local sex workers' union – they have unions here – has announced that all its 1,400 members will give free intercourse to anyone with a climate conference delegate's pass. The term "carbon dating" just took on an entirely new meaning.

Um... yea.
Instead of swift and modest reductions in carbon – say, two per cent a year, starting next year – for which they could possibly be held accountable, the politicians will bandy around grandiose targets of 80-per-cent-plus by 2050, by which time few of the leaders at Copenhagen will even be alive, let alone still in office.

Kips Law: All politicians are moral defectives.

And the wrap-up that tries to put a big smiley on this farce:
The hot air this week will be massive, the whole proceedings eminently mockable, but it would be far too early to write off this conference as a failure.

The author could have just stopped at "mockable" and pretty well summed it up. And we are heading out to DiMillo's Floating Restaurant for dinner, so I'll just end this right here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Portland, Maine

Just a quick note: We made it to Portland in one piece, found our hotel, and found where Debbie needs to go for her classes. Now we are heading out to forage for some food. More later if one of us feels like sitting at the computer.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Science and Other Stuff

Climate-gate (for lack of a better term for it) continues to boil. I waited before posting something just to see how it all shook out. First off, anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I am deeply skeptical of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis (AGW). The whole things boils down to a feud between the people who collect data (which shows no warming other than the 1C/century warming that has been going on since the end of the Little Ice Age) and the people who build models (which show run-away warming due to CO2 emissions from human activity). One of two things can cause collected data to disagree with results predicted by a model; either the model is wrong, the data is incomplete or corrupted in some way, or some combination of the two (science is rarely an exact science). When it comes to climate science, both the data and the models are suspect at this point. On the data side, we only have systematic data collection going back less than a century with the best data only going back a couple decades. When you are dealing with a system that changes over centuries and millennia, twenty years of data is really not going to get you far. There are secondary effects that can be looked at (ice cores, lake sediments, tree rings) that will push the data further into the past, but those are subject to all sorts of adjustments and interpretations. Even the current data is suspect due to the poor siting of many of the surface stations. On the model side, none of the models predicted the current cooling we are experiencing right now. None of the models can take conditions from some point in the past and "predict" the climate at any subsequent year. The very concept that something as dynamic and chaotic as global climate can all be distilled down into a single number, global average temperature, seems absurd from where I'm sitting.

It would seem obvious to me that what we should be spending money on is collecting better data and refining the models so they produce useful predictions. But that isn't what is happening. What we have is politics; a consensus that AGW is happening among credible scientists with "credible" meaning only scientists who believe in AGW. We have groups of politicians like the IPCC issuing alarmist reports for public consumption that contradict the scientific studies those reports are allegedly based on. We have politicians going to exotic places and being treated to free sex in exchange for doing nothing (other than adding tons of unnecessary CO2 to the atmosphere). And now we have a very embarrassing collection of e-mails that show the leading "experts" on global warming seemingly more interested in generating consensus (and thus guaranteeing their continued funding) rather than seeking facts. This isn't about hastily written e-mails worded in a way that could be misconstrued (for example referring to a method as a "trick" or a "hack"). This is about data being jimmied in a computer program to create a graph with a completely different shape than what the original data would have looked like. This is about a scientific journal publishing an editorial that reads more like some hatchet job in a British tabloid.

In 1974, Richard P. Feynman had this to say about proper scientific conduct:
There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in "cargo cult science".... It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked.... Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them.... If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it.

Unfortunately, "cargo cult science" is a fairly accurate description of what we are seeing in current climate research circles. Which is a shame, really, when you consider that we are running an uncontrolled experiment on the only habitable planet that we know of. I for one, would like to see some real science about the impact that the collective actions of 6 billion-plus shaved apes are having on the only place in the known universe where we can exist. That is too important of a question to be left in the hands of political hacks like Al Gore and Jim Hansen.

Meanwhile we have science being done the right way. First, Mars meteorite ALH84001 is back in the news. This was the one that was found back in the 90's that had chemical signatures for microbial life. Everyone got excited at first, then some begin to come up with alternate explanations that didn't involve anything living. Now further work shows that maybe the first impressions were correct. Notice that no one is having their funding threatened or yelling "Denier!!" at anyone. This is how science is supposed to work. And in other Mars news, the Mars rover Spirit is making discoveries as a direct result of all its thrashing around trying to get unstuck from the soft sand it's been trapped in for over six months. Like everyone else, I sometimes question NASA's priorities, its funding, even the intelligence of those running the place. But no one can question the over-the-top success of the Spirit/Opportunity missions. If we're going to have a NASA, this is what it should be doing.

In completely non-space, non-global-warning news, it's snowing. We're scheduled to leave for Portland, Maine tomorrow morning, so that figures. At least we have covered parking so we won't have to dig the car out of a snowbank. But we will be traveling on unfamiliar, two-lane roads that may be covered in ice and snow. Fun.

I'll wrap this up with an interesting bit I stumbled across. By what warped logic can someone be guilty of trespassing on their own property? By what twisted definition of the word "ownership" can someone dig up someone else's property after expressly being told they could not, then have the rightful owner arrested for challenging their right to be digging? Property rights have become a complete joke in this country, which is one reason I don't own any. There is no way this can end well.

And on that happy note, I'm going to sign off so I can watch some mindless movie and maybe do some napping.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A Minor Victory

I was able to get the wireless router working last night. Step one was to throw away the installation CD with its step-by-step configuration helps. Step two: Power down the cable modem, plug the router between the cable modem and the PC, wait for all its little lights to start flashing, then power the cable modem back up. Step three was to go in and set up a user id and password on the router and enable security on the wireless side. The whole process took five minutes and worked perfectly on the first try. So either Vista's networking was completely borked up by whatever had happened to Vista (and I still blame HP's print drivers) or the setup program that Linksys shipped was at fault. Or both. Or neither and it was all caused by a stray cosmic ray. In any case, it works. I really wasn't comfortable not being behind a router so I can sleep a little better now, Debbie can use her laptop again, and we are all set to get a new printer to plug into our wireless print server so we can both get back to killing trees.

After a day of using Win 7 Ultimate 64-bit, I'm happy to say that I'm still happy. If you have Vista, absolutely get Win 7. If you have XP, the picture is a bit more mixed. XP has been around for a long time, so a lot of machines running it may not have the horsepower to run Win 7. But anyone with an XP machine less than a couple years old would likely benefit from the upgrade. So far, it seems to be one of the best Windows versions yet. We'll see if I still feel that way in a couple weeks. One major annoyance thus far has been the constant rebooting during the night, then as soon as I sign on, another message pops up to tell me that another update will be installing and rebooting my system the next night. I assume this will calm down after a few days. At least I hope so; World Community Grid is losing a lot of CPU cycles because of this.

While I'm on about new software, I may as well say that I'm still using Chrome and beginning to like it a great deal. Bouncing back and forth between Chrome and Firefox makes it obvious that Chrome fits better design-wise with Win 7. It's fast and it has no problems with any of the sites I routinely visit. There are still some minor glitches, and it's really annoying that it doesn't remember what zoom level you used the last time you visited a web page. But I would expect all that to get ironed sooner rather than later, and in the meantime, they are pretty minor nits. Rumor has it that the next major version of Firefox will look more Chrome-ish. I love Firefox and have used it practically since its first version, but it looks and feels, well, clunky next to Chrome. If that shakes up the Firefox development team, that's a good thing. Chrome may yet prove to be the best thing to ever happen to Firefox.

I also gave the Lightroom 3 Beta a spin. I really like it, but there seems to be some fatal problems in the import function. To be fair, Adobe says right up front to not use the beta as your primary photo editing tool, and someone like me who has never even seen the software before trying to hack through a beta version was just dumb. I uninstalled it this morning and will go back to the old way. But what I really like about it was that even though it is a long way from free, it could replace four or five free programs (maybe more; there is a lot to Lightroom) that I currently use, none of which is really what I need but they sorta kinda get me there.

Which brings up something else that I don't get; my reluctance to pay for software. I just dropped the better part of a c-note on a router. We routinely go out to eat for 40 or 50 bucks, which in a very literal sense is flushing money down the toilet. I spent $600 on our current camera setup....

[Short time-out while I dance around the apartment singing loudly to JoCo's Code Monkey.]

Um, where was I? Oh yeah. So why does spending $200 for a piece of software require months of agonizing? If the money is a problem, then would it be that hard to not eat out for a month and get the thing already? Does anyone else have this problem or is this some manifestation of my mental illness unique to me?

Well, I should get back to the job hunting thing. Yesterday was a bust on that front due to all the housework, so today I want to make sure I have everything all ready to go when we get back from Debbie's week of training up in Maine. Tomorrow we venture out to find some sort of improvised desk for the office, and a new printer that will work with Win 7. Which has been another stumbling block in the job hunt; it's very hard to give someone a copy of your resume when you can't print it out. This shopping trip will double as exploring as we will be going places we've never been. We think we know where we are going, but the test will be if we a) succeed in getting to our goal and then b) ever find our way back to our apartment. If you never hear from us again, you'll know what happened.

Later. (Maybe...)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Windows 7 Unexpectedly

I'm typing this on a Windows 7 machine. I hadn't planned on installing Windows 7 tonight. In fact, I had decided to put it off until after the first of the year. I just had too much to do to mess with a new operating system at the moment.


The fun started with Vista nattering at me about some updates. Normally, it just does it, then tells me about it. When I finally got sick of this thing popping up in my face, I clicked on it and saw there were several optional updates. To shut it up, I told it to do it already. One of the updates was a new driver for my video card.


Updates ran, system wanted to reboot, I said yea, and a couple minutes later, instead of my 1920x1080 screen, I have mush: text was completely unreadable, graphics had all sorts of weird fringing going on, and it was all smashed into the center 2/3 of the screen with the top and bottom bleeding off the screen. Zooming the TV didn't help, rebooting didn't help, fiddling with screen resolutions didn't help. I headed over to AMD, grabbed the latest driver. No joy. Uninstall and install a previous version. No joy. Looked around on the web and found I wasn't alone, but no one really had an answer. I finally found a combination of screen resolution and zoom factor that was at least usable, figured there would be an fix in a day or two, and moved on to the next project.


The next project was to get a wireless router on our cable modem. The nice mailman just so happened to have dropped one off today, so I opened up the box and started in. Everything looked good until the router tried to access the internet. It said it couldn't. Oddly, I could. Did all the usual unplug-count-to-five-plug-back-in jazz. Now neither it nor I could find the internet. Reboot and restart the router's install process. Dies again. Try evil and potent magic while cursing wildly. Nothing. Finally get tired of broken crap, pull out the router, throw it along with its little power brick and Cat-5 cable in the middle of the living room floor (where they remain to this moment), direct-plug the cable modem back into the PC, reboot. At least I can get to the internet, but the whole mess is still acting flaky. In fact, the whole mess had been acting flaky since it came out of the box and got set up last week.


I ran my xcopy job to copy the user areas from drive C to the Drobo, unplugged the Drobo, put in my Windows 7 DVD, rebooted, told it to burn everything to the ground and start over. Two hours later, I'm running Windows 7.


I can tell already that it's going to take some getting used to. The interface is very clean, which is a problem when you are used to the old way. But I think I will be able to adapt fairly quickly. And of course, the PC has that nice snappy feel of a new Windows install before it gets all grunged up.

Well, I need to get things set back up on my nice, (sort of) new, (kind of) shiny PC.

Back to Job Hunting

Well, I'm back to pounding the pavement looking for work. Well, not right this moment. I'm actually sitting on the living room couch blogging at this exact point in time. But in general, today has been focused on getting the job hunting machine up and running. My resume is in sad shape, so the first priority has been beating it back into some form that would induce someone to hire me. (Side note: anyone that wants to lie and say nice things about me when someone calls you, send along your name, address, daytime phone and e-mail address. Thanks!!) Whenever I take a break from that (and this), I really need to organize the bookcase next to the computer monitor/TV. My OCD is going haywire looking at all the stuff just tossed haphazardly on the shelves. GAAAA!

Debbie's job is going good. She likes her coworkers and the job sounds like it will keep her busy enough that she won't end up bored right away. It's kind of weird after all these months of neither of us working to have her gone all day. I'm sure I'll get used to it. She has to head up to Maine for training next week. Whether I go with her is going to depend on the whole job-hunting thing. If I'm not working, I'll be going with her. If I am, I'm not. If that makes sense.

I can tell this is going to be one of those posts. Sorry.

Yahoo and Verizon are trying to block a freedom-of-information request asking how much they get paid by the federal government to spy on their customers. I figured the feds just paid some fixed rate, not that the providers were allowed to submit an arbitrary price list. But on to the meat:
Yahoo writes in its 12-page objection letter (.pdf), that if its pricing information were disclosed to Soghoian, he would use it “to ’shame’ Yahoo! and other companies — and to ’shock’ their customers.”

Um, duh? Maybe that's because the conduct of Yahoo is shameful and shocking? Just a thought. Maybe Yahoo's lawyers should google "karma." (Yahoo search would just take them to a Culture Club fan site.) Anyway. Verizon gets a bit more creative even while simultaneously insulting the intelligence of their entire customer base:
Verizon took a different stance. It objected to the release (.pdf) of its Law Enforcement Legal Compliance Guide because it might “confuse” customers and lead them to think that records and surveillance capabilities available only to law enforcement would be available to them as well — resulting in a flood of customer calls to the company asking for trap and trace orders.

Uh, yea. Moving right along....

When we lived in Arizona, the antics of Sheriff Joe were always good for a laugh as long as you weren't on the receiving end. It's good to see he and his faithful deputy dogs are still putting on a show:
A Maricopa County justice of the peace said Monday that a defendant who was arrested last year for clapping during a public meeting was “objectively accurate” when she called the deputy arresting her a “fascist.”

Nice work, Joe. Way to go.

In other news, GM's government-appointed CEO quit. Or he was fired. I wasn't real clear on that point. Anyway, his objection was that the board and the government that hired him were second-guessing his decisions. Maybe he should google "lackey." Or "fall guy." (shrug) Maybe GM should try out a new slogan: GM: The Next Amtrak or GM: Same Junk, More Bureaucrats.

I was checking out the free beta for Adobe's Lightroom 3. It really looks sweet compared to using the free stuff like Google's Picasa. I've considered switching to shooting in RAW whenever I'm doing photography (instead of snap shots), but I don't really have the software to do anything useful once I get the files off the camera. But one of the big reasons I chose the camera I did was because it had RAW capability. I knew that Lightroom wasn't free but I had no idea what it cost, so I checked on what it would set me back once the free beta expires next spring. Holy. Crap. The current version of Lightroom costs half what I paid for our new PC. Ouch.

But it is a sweet product. I wonder how long it would take me to pick up that many pop cans on the side of the road. Or I could Craigslist a few of Debbie's Precious Moments.... (Just kidding, honey!!!)

Well, I need to get back to the job search thing.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

History Repeating

I see from Obama's speech that his history education is no better than the average high school graduate. Pity. Michael Moore gets it for cryin' out loud. Ah well, at least failing in the Graveyard of Empires will put us in good company. What I don't understand is what is so hard to figure out. Afghanistan is not and has never in its long, sad history been a nation other than on paper and in the fevered imaginations of outsiders attempting to force into being that which has never been. This is worse than trying to reanimate a corpse; it's an attempt to reanimate a rock. I love the finishing touch; giving a date when we will be leaving. Doesn't take a genius to figure out a winning strategy for the Taliban.

In completely unrelated news, a shocking, absolutely shocking, revelation that will take every healthcare IT person by complete surprise: All that money spent on computer systems by hospitals doesn't reduce overall costs by the time you take into account the cost of the systems and the people needed to keep them running. I'm stunned, I tell ya. Flabbergasted, even.

In other completely unrelated news, my search for employment is coming up a bit empty. But it's very early in the process, as in only one day so far. Tomorrow is another day.

Time for some reading, then off to bed.

November Stats

It seems like I just did one of these posts a few days ago. I'm not sure what happened to the month of November (or much of the rest of 2009), but my computer insists that it is December 1st, so it must be. Huh.

Anyway, traffic was up closer to the long-term average with 319 visitors. The increased traffic seems to be the result of several factors. The primary one, of course, is that we posted more in November than in previous months. Posting a link on Facebook whenever I post something here seems to be driving a little extra traffic as well, probably combined with friends and family wondering what's up with the Frost Gypsy Caravan and our latest wanderings to New Hampshire. We'll see if that interest continues once the content returns to the more-typical political ranting. Another source of traffic has been this site's sudden and inexplicable popularity with the Next Blog button on the Blogger toolbar. Not complaining or anything, but it just seemed odd.

Windows is still the OS of choice with over 87% of visitors running something from Microsoft. Windows 7 has yet to really catch fire, most likely because upgrading from XP involves more pain than the average user is willing to endure (see Apple's current collection of rather clever ads). I would be surprised if Vista users don't transition rather quickly, but I would expect anyone running XP to keep running it until they buy a new PC. Mac and iPhone accounted for 8.5% of hits, Linux less than 1%, and Other accounting for the balance.

In November, Microsoft's Internet Explorer pulled ahead of Firefox. Or, more correctly, Firefox is being nibbled by Chrome with it's share dropping down to just over 38% while IE held steady at nearly 45%. Which makes a certain amount of sense. The kind of people that would take the effort to download and install Firefox are also the kind of people who would be just as likely to download and install Chrome. Meanwhile, the people who simply use whatever came installed on their PC continue to do just that. I do note that both IE and FF have been very successful in getting the vast majority of users on the latest major versions, which is for the better, in my humble opinion. Not that that will shut down the bad guys, but why make their job easier? Chrome and Mozilla 5.0 were tied at just over 5% each, Safari at a touch over 4%, and Other making up the rest.

While I'm at it, I haven't said much about choices of operating systems or browsers lately. One reason is that my mind has been occupied with other things for most of 2009, like finishing my college degree after diddling around at it for 27 years, jobs (mostly the lack thereof), and packing and moving all our worldly possessions twice in four months. The other reason is that I didn't think there was that much to say. I've always been an advocate of the Use What Works school of computer selection. When I first got into computers in the early 1980's, the only question that mattered was, "Will it run Lotus 1-2-3?" What CPU or OS the machine had was irrelevant because the only thing the machine was going to do was run Lotus until the grid lines were permanently burned into the monitor. While computers are expected to do much more now than they were way back then, the rule still applies: what you need the machine to do is the primary consideration. Who wrote the OS is irrelevant.

The reason I bring this up is that I've seen several instances of fanboy behavior on Facebook and Twitter lately. Not that fanboys are anything new; they have existed since the earliest days of computing. The difference I'm seeing is that ordinary people that really don't have the knowledge to back them up seem compelled to jump on the fanboy bandwagon and exhibit rather dick-ish behavior where everyone can see, gettin' all evangelistic about this OS or that browser being "better" or "more-secure" than some other OS or browser. It's very simple: what's "better" is whatever gets the job done with as little fuss for the user. Firefox is my default browser because for what I do on the internet, it works better than IE. I'm running Chrome right now to see if it in turn makes my life easier than Firefox. So far the answer is, "No, but it's close." Does that mean I hate Google and Microsoft is evil and anyone using Chrome or IE is a retard? Hardly.

As far as the more-secure argument, is there truth to the statement that Windows is inherently less-secure than OS-X or Linux? Absolutely. Microsoft made what I consider to be a couple huge blunders very early in Windows development (namely, the Registry and shared code between applications and the OS). These weren't considered show-stoppers at the time because there was no such thing as the internet (at least for anyone likely to be running a PC) and precious little in the way of networking. These blunders have not been corrected largely because Microsoft has always had backward compatibility as a primary goal, unlike Apple who has screwed over both its development community and users on a number of occasions. The payoff is that ditching the legacy stuff allows Apple to be quicker with innovations as well as correcting past practices that cause problems as the PC computing environment evolves. If Microsoft tried that, there would be crowds of angry geeks and Aunt Minnie's in the street demanding Bill Gate's head on a pike.

All of which is beside the point, because it stems from the wrong question. The right question to ask: Is Windows secure enough at this point to be used by an average person? I think the answer for both Vista and Win7 is, "Yes." WinXP was a disaster in this and every other regard when it was first released, but with some help from a geeky relative or neighbor kid, Aunt Minnie should have no problems with its current incarnation. The key is, as always, the person sitting at the keyboard. Almost all currently-active malware requires the participation of the user, and no OS is safe in that sense. (Well, that's not entirely true. I doubt anyone bothers to write malware for something truly obscure like BeOS, but if you give Aunt Minnie a machine running it, she'll probably write you out of her will.) The user has always been the weakest link in any discussion of network security, whether we are talking about the internet or the NSA. The only cure for that is constant education, not profanity-laced diatribes that anyone running [insert hated OS or browser here] deserves whatever evil happens to them.

I guess what I'm saying is to abide by Wheaton's Law: Don't be a dick. Life is just too short for juvenile crap, even if you happen to be a juvenile.

Well, I need to get some things done today, unlike yesterday which completely slipped by me.