Friday, July 30, 2010


I finally got the call that I was waiting on since Tuesday. I got the job in Florida. I start training classes on Monday, August 16th. Woo hoo!

Off soon to Lucky's for our anniversary dinner and celebration dinner.


Happy Anniversary Ric! Luv ya ;-)

Sleepless in Burt

Can't seem to get to sleep. Part of the problem is that my tumbly is rumbly after a massive dessert at Uno's after dinner today. A steady diet of Maalox is helping, but I know as soon as I lay down, the ol' acid reflux will be kicking my butt. So I'm blogging instead.

As Debbie already mentioned, we are in Michigan hanging with her mom and some of her fam. We did a little minor work around the place and started loading up what we are going to take up to her family reunion next weekend. We should be working our way further north Saturday morning for a two-day party with my family. During the week, we'll drive around and try to see everyone we can, then Debbie's reunion and day after party/graduation party for her niece next weekend, and then we start working our way back to New Hampshire on Monday.

Still no word on jobs. Debbie was supposed to get a phone call on Tuesday, then today, and now tomorrow for sure. The delay could be because the place is really busy or really disorganized. We're hoping the former. But that means that we still don't know when/if we are moving to Florida. Well, the "if" part is pretty set; we need to get some place warmer and cheaper. But the "when" is really getting to be a bugger.

There has been a lot of yapping about letting the "Bush" tax cuts expire at the end of 2010. The media is constantly portraying this as a big tax cut for the rich, and therefore should be allowed to expire. This is a perfect example of what my great-grandmother called "lying by omission". Yes, the "Bush" tax cuts did in fact lower the top tax rate. It also lowered the bottom tax rate. And all the tax rates in between. If Congress allows these tax cuts to expire, every single person who pays taxes will experience a tax increase. Combined with planned roll-backs and eliminations of "Obama" tax credits, a big chunk of the middle class that paid little or no taxes last year are in for a very rude surprise. Some experts are understandably concerned what effect this will have on the so-called recovery. Gee. Ya think?

Congress responded by spending its last week before summer vacation by voting on resolutions to congratulate sports heroes. Way to go guys. Nice to see you solved the world's problems and still had a week left over for useless bullshit.

In case you doubt how we the underclass are viewed by the ruling class, the Elmhurst, Illinois city council is looking into banning eye-rolling and audible sighing at its meetings. Such activity is "disruptive". I only wish I were joking.

Britain continues to dismantle its centralized health care system even as our own ruling class insists, in spite of the opposition of the majority of the country, that we will imitate their utterly failed system.

Illegals are fleeing Arizona. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I know according to all right-thinking people that I'm supposed to feel sorry for criminals that now face the prospect of being caught and punished for their criminal activity. Ya know; just like what happens to us damned honkeys when we break the law. But somehow I just can't muster up the level of moral outrage demanded by our ruling class.

Of course the damned honkeys in the ruling class do as they damn well please. Next they'll be demanding the Divine Right of Kings.

Peggy Noonan has a good wrap-up to the sickening Shirley Sherrod story. Why does it feel like the whole race thing is getting worse instead of better? Someone explains how they took a step back from the edge of the cliff and they are immediately thrown off of it for daring to admit they are human and had to correct some mistaken notion from their youth.

In more personal news, Debbie found the obituary for my high school basketball coach in today's newspaper. RIP, Coach Kelsey. I learned more of the important stuff from you than from most "teachers".

Well, I think I'll try to get some sleep.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Michigan

We made it to my Mom's house late last night -- the drive from our place in NH with pit stops/gas stops/lunch and dinner breaks took us 16hrs -- but we did it all in one day!

Chilling out today -- the hardest thing we did was running to Meijers to turn in our popcans from NH to get the 10cent MI deposit and picking up a few things needed for the rest of this week and the reunion. (Oh, we swept up part of the basement -- dead ladybugs and spider webs)

We have a new chef in our midst while here --- Ashton is the dinner chef. Tonite we are having steaks, green beans, potato salad and tossed salad. Mmmmmmm. Wonder if I hires out?!

No news yet on my Florida job. The lady from the cruise place emailed Tuesday and said she would call me that night after 530p. No call or further email Tuesday... this morning I emailed her and gave her Mom's land line to call instead and finally got an email around 430p saying she had been super busy and would call me tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it is good news after she talked with her CEO about the training class and me. I guess I will be waiting some more.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Packing up

We hit things hard this weekend and packed up quite a bit of things that we probably won't need to use in the next month. We have bins stored almost everywhere (but the bathrooms!). We want to get things ready so we can head to Michigan and visit with family and friends before my family reunion. We are figuring (hoping) that we will have to leave Michigan the Monday after my reunion to come to New Hampshire to pack up the Penske truck (AWESOME discount if you are member of AAA!) and head down to Florida to unpack and get things ready for my new job. Keep those fingers crossed about that job. I hope to hear a more definitive yes answer next week.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What would YOU do for a Klondike Bar?!

Call around to the stores to see if anyone is open later than 9pm!
Of course the one across the street closes at 9p, the one down the road a couple miles closes early; so we have to head out to Keene and Hannafords. We can't leave until after Ric has a shower -- for some reason he doesn't want to go out in public all stinky -- I told him he could sit in the car and I would run in myself, but he decided he was pretty ripe and tired of smelling himself.
Oh well :-( I can wait a bit! Klondike Bar --- I"m coooooming!!!!!

5:55pm Friday

Yes, that was the time I got the email (no call) from the place I interviewed with Monday, July 12th. The basic answer is to hurry up and wait some more. This is her email to me:

I just wanted to let you know that the other applicant I planned on hiring is not going to work out.

Though I think our interview went well I will need to speak to my CEO regarding our hiring plans next week. I cannot do a full training with only one person in attendance if all went well with you.

I will get back to you next week and let you know for sure what our plans are. It looks like it would still not be until Aug. 16th that the training would take place anyway so you can certainly count on that for sure. I will get back to you as soon as I know more about our agenda.

Hmmmmm....then only thing I can say is I guess this means we CAN go to my family reunion in Michigan the beginning of August. Yeah!!! I hope I hear something definite by the middle of next week, not at closing time on Friday, but will take what I can get.

Good news on family front -- my oldest nephew(Tristan) had surgery last night and things went well. He will be in the hospital for 5-7 days. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Still Waiting

And we are still sitting here waiting for "The Call". Debbie had two possible start dates; Monday and mid-August. We're assuming that she won't be starting on Monday given that she has not heard anything as of this morning. If they do contact her and want her to start on Monday, we'll be doing some serious scrambling over the weekend. In the more-likely event that we hear nothing, or they want her to start in mid-August, we will probably finish up whatever packing we can do right now, then take off for Michigan sometime next week, hang out there until after Debbie's family reunion, then scoot back here, finish packing and be off for Florida. At least that's the plan as of this morning. I'm sure we'll have a new plan by tomorrow.

I'm playing with making movies out of our photos with Picasa and Pinnacle Studio 12 (the software that came with our Dazzle). I tried it once before and didn't really like the results, but I figured I would give it another shot and mess with the settings a bit. One thing I noticed right off is that Picasa only makes .wmv files. I hate the artifacts that compressed video produces; stationary objects in the background shifting around, blocky areas whenever there is a large chunk of a single color, parts of people's faces becoming detached from their heads, etc. Anyway, the whole point of the exercise is to figure a way to get our photos distributed to my non-internet parents that doesn't involve paying 10-20 cents per print for each of our 10,000 or so digital photos. We're giving them our old VCR/DVD player when we head back to Michigan along with (hopefully) a pile of DVD's of some of our trips so they have something to play on it.

In the Gulf, the cap is holding and the relief well is looking good. As an antidote to the alarmist post I linked to a couple days ago, we have a letter from someone actually working at the site. Bottom line is that Matt Simmons is a complete nut-job. At least according to someone working indirectly for BP. This is what I love about the internet; here we have two people, both with strong credentials in the oil industry that don't just disagree on a few minor points, but rather flatly contradict each other. Sort of like global warming. And health care. And education. And peak oil. And nuclear energy. And... Then the pundits wonder why the general public tells the lot of 'em to go to hell.

On the Final Gasp of a Dying Media front:

Borrowing a page from patent trolls, the CEO of fledgling Las Vegas-based Righthaven has begun buying out the copyrights to newspaper content for the sole purpose of suing blogs and websites that re-post those articles without permission. And he says he’s making money.

I'm sure he is. America used to be about making things. Now we just play stupid legal and financial games.

Speaking of which, Wal-mart is giving the federal government a taste of its own medicine. While part of me cheers for Wal-mart, the idea that a corporation can muster the resources to fight the government to a stand-still is disconcerting. While everyone is justifiably concerned about corporations that are too big to fail, should we not also be concerned about corporations that are too big to control?

Speaking of too big to fail, the bank bail-outs continue with the total amount now standing at $3.7 trillion and growing by approximately one TARP per year. All without a single vote in Congress. Amazing.

One of the things people left Europe and came to the US to get away from was the European ruling class, which currently operates under names such as the Council of the European Union and the European Central Bank. The US in turn, has always had a significant fraction of people with the desire to "be European". Those people now have their wish:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors' "toxic assets" was the only alternative to the U.S. economy's "systemic collapse." In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets' nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term "political class" came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public's understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the "ruling class." And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Some indications as to how the ruling class thinks and how it views us in the underclass:

Ann Arbor, Michigan is laying of firefighters to save money while paying $850K for a water fountain. The ruling class explains that this isn't a problem because the water fountain isn't being paid for out of the general fund. We in the underclass are supposed to nod our heads and say, "Oh. Then it must be OK."

The White House continues to run Chicago-style backroom politics with no regard to all those pesky law things. We in the underclass cannot object without being labeled "racist". We are also expected to toe the line when it comes to all those pesky law things the ruling class ignores.

The ruling class can demand anything from anyone at anytime without regard to cost or existing law. We in the underclass are expected to just roll over, piss on ourselves and comply.

The ruling class is allowed to lie without shame. We in the underclass are expected to accept even the most ludicrous of those lies with a big smile and an open wallet.

The ruling class tells us the Bush tax cuts that expire at the end of the year only affect the rich. They don't, of course, but we in the underclass are numerically illiterate when it comes to our personal finances and will never know the difference.

Here's a big surprise: When the government was paying people to buy houses, people bought houses. When the government stopped paying people to buy houses, they stopped buying houses. That anyone would have expected it to be otherwise is an indication of how being intelligent doesn't prevent people from believing stupid things. The problem, according to the ruling class, is the unwillingness of the underclass to take on debt:

Total household credit has contracted for seven straight quarters. Mortgage debt is down $462 billion from the peak, which it reached in November 2008. Bank-card borrowings, which peaked two months later, are off $126 billion. Auto loans have fallen $122 billion; home-equity lines, $77 billion.

To peruse such figures is to get a whole new sense of America’s economic crisis. The bank failures and bailouts of the fall of ’08 called to mind a great and terrible battle. The drone of falling credit numbers since then suggests a ponderous army in drawn-out retreat. As Stephanie Pomboy, publisher of the newsletter Macro­Mavens, has pointed out, government transfers like stimulus spending and tax credits masked the effects of diminishing credit for a while. That is to say, even if people were unwilling to borrow, they were happy to spend money they got from the government. Now that government supports are being pulled away, the effects of deleveraging are in plain view. Home and car sales are plummeting again. Job growth has shrunk to a sliver. Personal bankruptcies are soaring. Deflation, a dangerous state of economic dead air, when prices fall from lack of demand, is a distinct possibility.

Got that? Living within your means is bad for the economy. I hope you are all hanging your head in shame. Modern economic theory is such fun, especially when it face-plants into reality. I'll leave you with some comforting thoughts from a Wall Street insider:

"Life is such a fucking disaster," a prominent New York hedge fund manager said recently. "We all live in some kind of world we create for ourselves. And I think that what happened is that built into that world were very enlarged expectations about what life was going to be. There's been this sensation of excessive expectation that, frankly, became unsustainable."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Finally... Photos

It only took me three weeks to get it done, but I finally got our White Mountain photos off the camera, cleaned up, and loaded into our Flickr account.

Not much else going on. We've been pretty lazy the last couple days, but that changes tomorrow. Our bikes are all fixed up and adjusted (nothing major wrong with mine; just a dried-out rubber seal) so we will both get back to doing our daily ride in the morning. Then sorting and packing instead of reading and munching chips.

And still no word on anything.

That's it for today. I need to get dinner started.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back in New Hampshire

We're back. No little elves came and packed up all our stuff for us, so it looks like we'll have to do it ourselves. Again. Still no word on jobs for either of us; thus no idea when we will be moving. We hope to know something definiter (more nearly definite? Sorry; my degree was management...) by the end of this week. Until then, we're hanging loose and stuffing things into big plastic bins.

We did decide on an apartment. It's only 7 miles from one of Debbie's potential jobs, 8 miles from the second, and about the same for one of my potential jobs and walking/biking distance to the second. It's in the "good" part of Sanford, which, given that Sanford has one of the highest per capita crime rates in the nation, doesn't say much. Sanford is sort of like Flint, Michigan with alligators lurking in the drainage ditches. (Seriously. A kid lost a hand swimming in some little pothole while we were there. A wildlife dude shot the gator and recovered the hand, but it was too mangled to reattach.) But the complex seems to be a decent place. People actually know each other, which is unusual for apartments, and there seems to be at least some effort at community rather than just the temporary flop house we currently live in, where most of the residents barely acknowledge we exist.

We did the Universal Studio Islands of Adventure thing on Friday. Two words: Don't bother. Especially at $80+ a head. There isn't much there and what is there doesn't measure up to what the The Mouse delivers on a bad day. Even the brand new Harry Potter stuff just wasn't. For one, there was nobody in costume interacting with the crowds (other than ordering them to get in line). And I realize a lot of it was because it was the new thing, but I simply will not stand in a line in the Florida sun so I can go into a gift shop. It was bad enough that we had to stand in an hour-long line to even get into that section of the park. Not to get on a ride or into a sit-down restaurant, mind you. That was another one- to two-hour line. We stood in line just to be allowed to walk through the Harry Potter Experience. Anyway, hot, loud, crowded and gift shops. That's Universal Studio's idea of a good time. Your mileage may vary. Ours certainly did and not in a good way.

My bike developed a very annoying squeak this morning while out riding. I'm out of dry lube and WD-40 did nothing. Not surprising given that the bearings are sealed. And it's not just a squeak, but grinding as well, which likely means an expensive trip to the bike shop. I haven't put nearly enough miles (and certainly not enough hard miles) on the thing for it to be having these sorts of problems. If it turns out that repairs are going to cost much more than a c-note, I may be looking at a longtail. Cheaper than a second car and useful all year in Florida.

I had a minor tragedy while in Florida. My sandals, which have been to the pyramids of Egypt and the Parthenon, the peaks of Mount Washington and Haleakalā, walked the streets of Pompeii, Ephesus, Venice and the Vatican, gave countless tours of Arcosanti and have trod the streets of a third of the states in the US, gave up the ghost. Not bad for a pair of $5 Walmart specials. Replacing them turned into a bit of a chore. They started giving out on me back when I was working the census, so we shopped around before we left for Florida and couldn't find a single pair of sandals. Lots of flip-flops, but no sandals. I wasn't really surprised as I'm practically the only person in New Hampshire who wears the things. But it wasn't any better in Florida. I finally found sandals (not flip-flops, which take up half the shoe department in every store we visited) at the Lake Mary K-Mart. Exactly two styles and only one in my size. And they cost $20. These puppies better last until I'm dead.

Anyway, fare thee well, my good and faithful servants:


(And yes, you can see the green carpet through the sole of the left sandal. There's some major mileage on those soles.)

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, the jubilation over BP finally getting a cap on the main pipe is somewhat muted today as oil started seeping out of the seabed. At least the oil flowing into the Gulf is essentially zero. For now, anyway. Of course, things could be far worse than we've been led to believe. Even if Matt Simmons is a total nut and everything goes exactly right from here on out, this is a long way from over.

You know that game where you try to connect random actors/actresses to Kevin Bacon? Well, you knew someone was going to do it eventually. Yeah. There's an app for that. Enter a name and The Oracle of Bacon will give you that person's Bacon Number (the degrees of separation between that person and Kevin Bacon). For example, Robert Pattinson (aka Sparkle Tits) has a Bacon Number of 2; he was in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with Gary Oldman, who was in Criminal Law with Kevin Bacon. The site is horribly slow; I'm assuming it's hosted on a small server that is getting its brains beat out with all the traffic. But have faith; it eventually responds.

This is getting rather long, so I'll just cut it off here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

...and Still Waiting

Still no word on any Florida jobs, but we've been filling our days with endless tours of apartment complexes; 35 or so places in the last three days. This morning, we narrowed the list down to 6 possibles. We revisited two of those today before the rain sort of ended all the fun. We're pretty sure we already know which one we will pick; it's 5 miles from Debbie's new job (assuming she actually gets it; no word yet), and it's close to things like the Super Walmart and several places where I could possibly get a job. But the kicker is that the rent is less than any other place we've looked at. It's smaller in terms of square feet, but it puts the square feet in the living space instead of wasting it in huge, elaborate bathrooms and bedrooms. I have no idea why the people who designed our current apartment thought it was a good idea to make the master bedroom twice the size (not counting the walk-in closet and bathroom) as the living room.

We also found some of the... well... sketchier parts of the Lake Mary/Sanford area. We knew we were entering the... more colorful parts when we started passing check-cashing and bail bonds places (and burned out houses and empty strip malls and... well, you get the idea). One road we were following turned into a sandy two-track after passing by an abandoned warehouse. I have no idea if there really was an apartment complex down there; we U-turned and crossed that one off our list. Sometimes the rent is just a little too cheap.

We're taking tomorrow off to zip down to Universal Studios to see the new Harry Potter thing. It's only 40 minutes from here so we figured why not? This is also why we also asked about bigger apartments at a couple places, because we figure once everyone gets the word that we're less than an hour from Disney World, there will be a line of people wanting to come "visit" our new apartment.

I haven't bothered to keep real close tabs on the news while we're down here, but I did see that BP managed to get a cap on the well that is capturing 100% of the oil. I know there were concerns that once the main leak was capped that oil would start leaking from other places, but that doesn't seem to be a problem so far. At last; some good news.

Time for ice cream, so done blogging for a while. We head for "home" Sunday morning to wait some more.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Waiting again

Well...had my interview this afternoon. I think it went well. They have one more person to interview this week or next and then will make their decisions. If hired, I would be starting either July 26th or August 16th. Of course, August 16th would be better for us -- that way we would have plenty of time to pack things up, visit Michigan family and friends, go to my family reunion and niece's grad-fest and move down here after finding a great apartment complex.

We saw about 1/2 doz apartment complexes today. This morning we had 2 or 3 we liked, this afternoon we only got to see two after my interview and before the offices closed. One we both liked, the other had some good points, but overall I'm not sure about it.

Tomorrow we head to Sanford to see about 1 dozen, Wednesday south of here for other cities. Thursday and Friday what we didn't get a chance to see before and then to narrow things down. I have tickets to Universal Studios, so we may head down there Thursday to see Islands of Adventure and the new Harry Potter stuff. Neither of us have been to Universal Studios, so it should be fun for us both.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Leavin' on a jet plane

Our plane leaves Manchester airport in 12 hours.

Ric spent part of the day checking out apartment listings within a 10-15 mile radius of Lake Mary (where I'm interviewing on Monday afternoon). There are quite a few in the area, so we are hoping for some "move-in specials" and some nice places that aren't too expensive. We will see...

Well, I should try to get some sleep before we drive over to the airport tomorrow. Night all!

Friday, July 09, 2010

...and it's Back!!

After dinner, we drove over to Staples and picked up the cheapest wired keyboard and mouse we could find. Came home, unplugged everything non-essential, plugged in the keyboard and mouse and hit the power button. The last ten times I booted the system, it would throw a partition table error immediately after POST. This time, it booted right up to the login screen. I added back devices one at a time, rebooting after each one and now I'm back in business. I have no idea how I fixed it, or if it magically fixed itself while the system was sitting in the living room powered off. I probably wasted the $30 for the keyboard and mouse, but I needed them anyway. Once we get to Florida, I plan to start getting back into doing system builds for fun and profit. Well, mostly fun; I'd have a hard time buying the parts for what a built system costs these days, never mind selling it at a profit. Mine would be made with much higher quality components, but almost no one cares about that sort of thing. But I would like to get a small Ubuntu system going for Debbie's mom so we can cure the recurring virus problems she's been having.

Now I need to get busy to make up for the lost 12 hours and get things ready for the big move.

Couple of Rants

Not mine, for once. The first is a video by Alex Jones. I have no idea who this guy is beyond what I see in this video; a Rush Limbaugh wannabe right down to the hand gestures and right-wing baiting phrases ("Martial law!" "Foreign banks!" "Globalist engineers!" "NAFTA!"). But that doesn't make his central point wrong: it is a sign of mental illness when LeBron James and Lindsey Lohan are anything other than a page 26, one inch footnote wedged in between a mattress ad and the weekly column by the local Communist Party nutjob. Anyway, the video:

As a somewhat related follow-up, we have the latest from Fred Reed:

...At sixty-four, you don’t have a lot of elders. Besides, they mostly have Alzheimer’s. When you are older than our rulers, you take a dim view of  august official turkeys. Dumb-ass kids. You look at a corrupt old hen like Nancy Pelosi pecking at bugs in the national barn yard and think, “Oh help.” Even if she is older than sixty-four.

...Reporters don’t meet Important People because we news weasels are meritorious, but because the press enjoys power all out of proportion to its worth. If people knew reporters as well as I do, they would emigrate. You could take a blind cocker spaniel with a low IQ and give him, her, or it a press card from the Washington Post, and in three weeks every pol in the city would kiss up to the beast, who would develop delusions of grandeur.

...So once age and realism have eroded any expectation of adulthood or good sense, you realize that there is no hope. The limbic urges that power Washington are exactly those that you would find up some forgotten holler in West Virginia, at Jimbo’s Pool Hall and Rib Pit. 

In other words, the politicians and journalists that Alex Jones is concerned are misdirecting the moron proletariat's attention away from what's important, are themselves just slightly smarter, better-looking morons. Sounds about right.

No luck on the system resurrection front: I need a wired keyboard and I don't have time to wait for Amazon. Looks like I'll be picking up an over-priced cheap keyboard. The thing is, I could swear I got a standard keyboard and mouse with the system when I bought it. Probably sold the thing on Craigslist for $2 during one of our moves.

Blown Partition Table

The power just came back on after being off for an hour or so. I was in the process of formatting a new external hard drive when the power went out, so of course our main system now has a trashed partition table and won't boot from the hard drive. I just packed up my Win7 DVD, so now I get to unpack and see if I can recover or if I just need to nuke from orbit and start over. Which is going to really suck. The tricky part is that I just realized that I don't have a wired keyboard. Anywhere. So I'll most likely need to head over to Staples and buy a friggin' keyboard. Luckily, all our files are external, so I can substitute the laptop for the main system assuming I can find a VGA cable. I think I still have one of those floating around in my pieces-parts box. The timing really sucks; we fly out of here in two days and we really need access to our resumes and such. This is a job-hunting trip. All because Public Service of New Hampshire can't keep the damn grid up for more than a few days at a time.

Weren't these stupid little machines supposed to make our lives easier?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

No More VHS

After several months of more-or-less constant effort, I finally finished digitizing all our old VHS tapes. The files may be huge, but them bits take up a lot less space than the 50 or so VHS tapes we had to move and find a place for everywhere we land. Not to mention that some of those tapes were somewhat past their prime, and won't likely survive more than another half-dozen viewings. We will also be able to ditch our VHS/DVD player; it will get donated to my parents (who still don't have a DVD player) when we head up to Michigan in August (if we get to Michigan in August; that's still somewhat up in the air but looking very likely). We'll be unloading a lot of other stuff while we are there; sort of a portable freecycle.

We're getting a jump on packing, pulling stuff out of closets, boxing up the dust collectors, etc. The apartment looks like we were robbed right now with stuff thrown into piles all over the place. I nearly killed myself trying to walk across the bedroom last night. But it will be nice when we come to crunch time and we have a big chunk of the work already done.

Not much else going on other than getting ready for spending all next week in Florida. It will be nice to get out of the heat here on the east coast and down south where it's cool.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Visualizing Budgets

When people throw around figures in the billions and trillions, it becomes hard to maintain any sense of the scale of what is being discussed. Here is a video that was made as a visual aid to the latest stupidity to come out of our nation's Imperial City, but it also serves as an excellent demonstration of just what we are up against economically. (Sorry for the click-through; I couldn't see a way to embed the video.)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Weekend Travels

Debbie had a three-day weekend off work because of the holiday, so we headed up to the White Mountains on Saturday. We spent most of the day on Mt. Washington, which is widely believed to have the worst weather in the world. You won't get any argument from me on that point; it snowed there on Thursday, and wasn't much warmer Saturday (high temp was low 50's with 35-40mph winds). There is a permanently manned weather station at the summit with the dubious distinction of having measured the highest human-measured wind speed on the planet (231mph). It used to hold the record for the highest measured wind speed period until an automated weather station in Australian beat it out in 1996. We also rode the tramway up Cannon Mountain, but we were running short on time, so it was a fast trip. We have pictures from both places, which of course are still on the camera. I'll get to them. Soon. Real soon.

Sunday and Monday, we started packing up the less-essential items and making our usual we're-not-moving-this-again pile. I'm still cranking away at my VHS-to-digital project which will eliminate one very heavy bin as well as our VCR. More books are getting piled up for donation to the local library. If we keep moving every couple years, we'll eventually get stuff whittled down to somewhat normal. Next week, we will be visiting the alligators for Debbie's interview and looking into the housing situation. If the stars align, we'll get a definite answer and have everything set before we head back to New Hampshire. That's probably asking too much, but we could get lucky this once.

Another good census story, this one from the phase I decided to pass on being a part of. In order to make this the most inefficient census in history, there are now people being paid to make follow-up calls to confirm information that has already been submitted. It's being sold as a quality assurance measure, but as you can see from that interview, this has little to do with QA and a lot to do with dragging things out as long as possible.

Here is something that we can expect to see more of:

Venezuela's government has seized control of 11 oil rigs owned by U.S. driller Helmerich & Payne, which shut them down because the state oil company was behind on payments.

Those greedy bastard corporations; expecting to get paid for stuff. Of course our government would never resort to the wholesale take-over of an industry, would it?

Speaking of energy, here is an example of asking the right question, but coming to the wrong answer:

"...I want to talk about what will happen when there’s no coal."

Good start. So, what exactly will happen?

In two centuries, people will still want to drive cars, fly in airplanes and have lighting in their houses.

People want flying cars, stock markets that only go up, endless credit and to spend half their life being paid to not work, but as we've all found out over the last couple years, wanting and having are two different things.

Coal can be converted to gasoline, if necessary, as the Germans did during World War II....
“The good news is once you build these [Fischer-Tropsch] plants, you can use anything, including garbage, for the biofuel conversion. The big problem is the initial capital cost.” We can adapt the facilities over time.

Umm, Nazi Germany lost the war in part due to chronic fuel shortages. Probably not the best example to use as an argument for a rosy future of limitless hydrocarbon fuels. And yes, the "big problem" is always "initial capital costs" as in who is going to pony up the billions (trillions?) that it would take to replace even a fraction of existing liquid fuel demand? Our bankrupt government? Our bankrupt corporations? Our bankrupt citizenry? Has anyone built a single full-scale trash-to-gas plant? What is the conversion ratio? Is there enough trash to supply even a small fraction of current liquid fuel demand?

Ultimately, predicts Laughlin, we will learn how to reclaim carbon from air.

And where is the energy to suck trace amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere and transform it into liquid fuel going to come from? And what will the net energy (energy in the liquid fuel minus the energy to create it) of this system look like? This is the worst kind of magical thinking: Do nothing and expect future technology to bail you out.

Well, I'm off to bed.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Independance Day

Happy 4th of July to all. Hope everyone is having a fun and safe holiday weekend.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Double Dip?

I wish the title referred to ice cream. But before we go there, let's do this:

As Debbie mentioned a couple days ago, we'll be in Florida in about ten days. Not being ones to follow the crowd, we thought we would visit during the hottest part of the summer. I guess if we're going to live there, we may as well get used to it now. The plan is to go down for Debbie's interview, then spend a week looking around the area and finding a place to live. We already have a short-term option, but it would involve moving all our stuff into storage, then moving it again when we find something permanent. As much as we both enjoy physical exercise in brutal heat and humidity, we'd rather not. I talked to our landlord here, and breaking our lease won't be difficult, just expensive. We have a couple options for how to do it. One is fixed cost: we write a check and drive away. The second is variable, but could either end up costing us less, the same, or more than the fixed option. It depends on how quickly they can "turn" our apartment. There have been a ton of move-in's the last couple months, so we may go for the variable option and take our chances. What exactly happens while we are in Florida will also have an impact on our decision. So, yea. Mostly still up in the air, but not as much up in the air as a couple weeks ago.

In the mean time, I've been busy reducing what we have to move by ripping VHS tapes to digital files. I'm using the Dazzle and whatever software came with it. If you need to do what I'm doing, this is the thing to do it with. Take it out of the box, plug it into a USB port, install the software and Everything Just Works. Slowly, but that's not the fault of anything; it's just the price of admission for translating an analog medium to a digital one. The practical result is that I can only get about five movies a day transferred. I've managed to get through around 45 so far and still have 24 to go. I want to be done before we go to Florida for Debbie's interview, but that will depend on how much I get done this weekend. I already know that I won't be doing anything for the next 24 hours while all the current digital movie files migrate from the old Drobo to the new one. (It turns out that moving over a terabyte of data via USB takes some time. Who knew?) We have plans for Saturday and Sunday, but they don't involve the entire day, so I may get one or two done each of those days. I may just do a marathon session next week to get it finished.

Back to the double dip: I recall thinking (and blogging) in late 2008 and early 2009 that I was being pessimistic in thinking the economy wouldn't start turning around until late 2010. Well, it's officially the second half of 2010 and:

New jobless claims rise.
Home sales drop.
Our "leaders" don't have a clue what to do.
Tent cities are making a comeback.

Hawaii isn't the only place with tent cities; odds are there is one close to your home or work, or your child's school or, as in this case, soccer field. We have one behind the strip mall where Debbie works. Nothing beats going to pick up your wife from work and arriving just in time to see some homeless dude whip 'em down and take a shit 20 feet away. And I'm sure nothing bad will come of having teenaged girls routinely walking through the same area to and from school.

On the other hand, how horrible can the economy really be when we collectively spend 10's of millions of dollars to see good 'ol Sparkle Tits one more time.

Our government still thinks that there are citizens of these united States that are so dangerous they cannot be allowed on an airplane, but not so dangerous that they should be arrested. We can only hope that there is still at least one judge out there with some brains. It is beyond obvious that the congress and president are idiots in the formal sense of the word.

It seems even on the internet, the news cannot handle more than a couple stories at a time. Currently, the attention is on the mushroom cloud over our economy and the bad refereeing at the World Cup. So I thought I would check up on a couple other mushroom clouds (one metaphorical, one literal) that haven't been in the news as much lately. The first metaphorical mushroom cloud is the out-of-control oil well that continues to foul the Gulf of Mexico. The upper estimates put it in first place for Gulf oil spills. It still has a ways to go to be in first place over-all, but I have no doubt it will make a good run at that record before this is all over. And because the ghost of Murphy has a sick sense of humor, the very first named storm of the hurricane season is in the Gulf making a mess of everything. The second, more literal mushroom cloud is our friendly Icelandic volcano, which seems to be sleeping. No one knows if this is merely a short nap, or if Eyjafjallajökull is in deep sleep, but for now the worst seems to be over.

One of the three Chinese curses is, "May you find what you are looking for." What will likely be the best illustration of that curse for several generations is the end result of the sexual revolution. At least for women:

...It quickly came to the old country saw with fangs: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Guys learned that they could say, “Check your oil, lady?” and it worked. Praise de Lawd! Gloria Steinem and Andrea Fire-Plug-with-Leprosy Dworkin had done what men had failed to do in millennia: produce a race of obligately loose women.

...It seems to me that the feminists got just what they wanted. They made their bed. Now let them lie in it. But quietly. Oh please, quietly.

One of my parent's pastors from waaaaay back used to talk about the pendulum; how things always overshot, recovered, overshot the other way, and so on. The idea was that each swing was a little less extreme and eventually we ended up at some tolerable median. The problem now is that we have people who are paid good money to keep pushing on the pendulum so that is keeps swinging to ever higher extremes. As any kid with access to a swing can tell you, eventually the pendulum turns in on itself and things go from "Wheeee!!" to "Ghaaaaa.!! (thud)" very quickly. We're somewhere between the Ghaaaaa! and the thud.

More on the planned destruction of the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater:

...Paolo Soleri, the amphitheater, has existed for about 45 years. For some reason (there can be no good reasons), it is now in danger of being demolished. As with the examples mentioned above, this appears to be the decision of either one man in power or a committee with the same power to destroy a unique and irreplaceable work of art/architecture. Once gone, this building can never be re-created—though I expect that 30 years from now there will be legislation proposed to build a replica in Styrofoam and plaster at great cost once the value of this building to the community, the State of New Mexico, the United States and the world is understood. 

I don't know, but I suspect that there are at least two problems. The first is simple neglect. I've never been to the Paolo Soleri amphitheater, but I've lived in the Southwest. There is a tendency to build, neglect while using, then demolish or simply abandon things when they deteriorate beyond usefulness. I'm sure the Soleri is no different and I've heard from many people that it has been seriously neglected by the current owners. The second problem is, presumably, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Again, I've never been there, but I lived for a year in something else designed by Paolo; "wheelchair friendly" ain't in the man's vocabulary. Add in renovations for changes in fire codes, electrical codes and all the rest, and it doubtless adds up to a serious chunk of change. But why is the bulldozer always the first, and usually only, option to consider? Why the rush? Is New Mexico filling up so fast with illegals that there is no time to consider any other options? The dude is 91 years old; could the owners at least continue their current policy of neglecting the place until the man is dead and then start bulldozing his life's work? I doubt those making the decisions care what I think, but I would be sad to see the Soleri go.

James Kunstler has a cheery little piece this week:

...President Obama made a very interesting remark when the financial regulation package passed in the senate the other day. He said the bill would make sure that "Main Street is never again held responsible for Wall Street's mistakes."

...Never again?
What the fuck?

Why even this time?  Why isn't there an army of federal attorneys out there, their teeth bristling with subpoenas, beating the bushes in every lane and skyscraper floor of lower Manhattan (and Fairfield County, Connecticut, not to mention a thousand office parks around the USA) to roust out the grifters and swindlers who took Main Street to the cleaners this time.

Is there still a Justice Department? Did they all take a leave of absence? Or is it just that all trails lead to the White House and its current occupant's gang of Chicago goons?

Anyway. I need to try for some sleep. Everyone have a happy Fourth!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

June Roundup

June was another slow month for us in terms of posting. We did slightly better in terms of visitors (189) compared to last month, but still off the long-run average. With all the disruptions we will be dealing with, I would expect the next couple months to look very similar. Our biggest sources of new visitors continues to be Google and The Archdruid Report. The second makes sense; I frequently post there and link to articles which the blog's author kindly reciprocates as track-backs. The first confuses me. Almost no one goes past the first or second page of Google search results, so how is a infrequently-updated, low-visitor-count, personal blog getting ranked so high up in search results?

Speaking of Google searches, as expected "two unicorns humping on a bed of roses" is the winner of this month's most unique search phrase, followed by "debbies inflatables" which came from our up-tight, the-United-States-is-Satan friends over in Iran. I'm sure they were just looking for an on-line store named Debbies that sells Zodiacs.

The various versions of Windows has become even more dominant on our visitor's PC's (over 90%). Mac comes in at 5.8%, Linux at 2.1% and the balance is various mobile devices. People seem to be doing a better job of keeping their browsers up to date, aided no doubt by automatic version checking, background downloads, etc. that make keeping up to date much less painful than it was just a few years ago. The most-current versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome are in use by nearly three-quarters of June's visitors (34.4%, 25.9% and 12.2% respectively). Out-of-date versions of IE and Firefox (all Chrome users where on the latest version) only made up 17% of visits, and all but a handful of those were only one version behind. The balance of visitors were either using Safari or something mobile.

Enough stats for one day.

I Want One!!

You can buy them here.

I hope to get around to a real post later today.