Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Virginian: Protection against hyper-inflation

The Virginian: Protection against hyper-inflation: "The most cautious, conservative people are hurt worst. People who keep their money in cash or in checking accounts can be wiped out as currency becomes worthless. Pensioners are next since most pensions are not tied to inflation. Bond holders are next as bond values evaporate.

Who is the beneficiary of hyper-inflation? People who are in debt have their debts essentially erased by hyper-inflation. Of course the biggest debtor in this country is the US government who can magically erase its debt through hyper-inflation.

But what about the ordinary middle class American who has a home, a 401k, a modest savings or investment account? Well “real” assets like natural resources (including gold) will keep up with inflation. So will real estate."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Toy Whimsy: You Can Move Things With the Power of Your Mind!

Toy Whimsy: You Can Move Things With the Power of Your Mind!: "I just love this! In a few more years we'll be able to...remember we had this kind of technology but don't have the money to buy it."

And that is the problem.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Project BLT @ One Hungry Chef

Project BLT @ One Hungry Chef

This is how you do it from scratch. He starts with seawater to make the salt. These are good skills to know.

But there are a lot of things he didn't have to make: the hardware. That is rather hard. There is a lot of hope still.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Howard Jacobson: It doesn't matter if there's a recession or not, because Armageddon is on its way - Howard Jacobson, Commentators - The I

Howard Jacobson: It doesn't matter if there's a recession or not, because Armageddon is on its way -
Howard Jacobson, Commentators - The Independent
: "More than a whiff of Armageddon in the air these last few days, what with Sydney Harbour turning blood red and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeating his Holocaust-was-a-lie libel at the United Nations, a denial carrying in its coat-tails the threat that it won't be a lie the next time."
I still don't think we are all going to end up eating each other in a Mad Max scenario, but perhaps a quick descent into Dark AGes 2.0. A major war, some global cooling and a deadly pandemic could do that quickly.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Volokh Conspiracy - Should Laws Be Simple or Complicated? A Dialogue:

The Volokh Conspiracy - Should Laws Be Simple or Complicated? A Dialogue:: "The exchange below between Eric Posner and Jonathan Adler brings up the classic tension between simple laws and more complicated ones,"

Oh bother, I though laws should be clear and judges existed to do the interpreting not the lawyers or the lawmakers or even the laws themselves.

It looks like something is pushing the legal system off balance.

US Scientific Literacy doubles - rises to only pathetic

The literature of truth | Free Newsletter: "According to Dr. Jon D. Miller, Director of the Center for Biomedical Communications, the number of scientifically literate adults in the U.S. has doubled over the past 20 years.

The bad news? That only gets us up to 20 percent.

Only 48 percent of Americans know that humans didn’t live at the same time as dinosaurs. Less than half know that electrons are smaller than atoms. And few know what DNA is or can define a molecule."

How can that be? Public schools have been pushing science hard since Sputnik. Since then we've been to the Moon, and have built a few space stations.
I hardly expect your average person to MacGyver a radio out household junk but come on.

There is something deeply wrong with the public schools if this is the case. And you wonder why I am worried about another Dark Age.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Popular Mechanics

Popular Mechanics: "“You’re not making heat, you’re moving heat,” Colorado geothermal installer Jim Lynch says. Installations like Lynch’s tap into the earth below the frost line—which always stays around 50 degrees Fahrenheit—to reduce a home’s heating and cooling loads. All HVAC systems require energy-intensive heat movement, a task responsible for over half of the average house’s total energy demand. Geothermal works more efficiently because the system’s mild starting point creates an efficient shortcut to the target temperature. Imagine a 100-degree Florida day or a 0-degree Michigan night: Spot the system 50 degrees, and it doesn’t work so hard to get the house comfortable."

That 50 degrees makes a big difference. That's why lots of people use their basements as an air conditioned zone in the summer time.

We have an awful lot of things we can do to reduce and otherwise streamline out energy usage. We can really reduce the amount of energy we use by doing fairly simple things to our homes.

The oddest thing is the first question people ask is, "What's the payback?"
That is one of those totally insane questions that seems to exist only to stop you from doing something. Like "What about their socialization?" like the most important part of your child's education is their socialization, surrounded by other unsocialized children with just one enlightened teacher in the room, where they have to sit down and be quiet.

A solar power system for your home costs about as much as an SUV and no one ever asks about the payback on that. Hint: there isn't one.

There trouble is that they don;t have a good financing system for these alternative energy systems. It isn't that they can't do it. Look at Town & Country Foods, you can buy food and a freezer on a 6 month payment plan. You would think it would be possible to create a 36 month payment plan for an energy system that is worth incredible amounts when the utilities fail. Some politician may be needed to do this but it isn't very sexy or shovel-ready. Oh, well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

'Mechanics of Materials' Textbook Published Online, Available for Free

'Mechanics of Materials' Textbook Published Online, Available for Free: "There are at least two good reasons to check out Madhukar Vable’s undergraduate textbook 'Mechanics of Materials.'"

This looks useful.

Are You Saving Enough For Retirement? Use These 4 Simple Rules Of Thumb And Find Out Now.

Are You Saving Enough For Retirement? Use These 4 Simple Rules Of Thumb And Find Out Now.: "How do you know if you are saving enough so you can afford to retire? And more importantly, are you saving enough to retire with confidence so that you can support your present lifestyle without running out of money early?"

Okay, this is something I need to work on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ -

Gregg Easterbrook: The Man Who Defused the ‘Population Bomb’ - "Often it is said America lacks heroes who can provide constructive examples to the young. Here was such a hero. Yet though streets and buildings are named for Norman Borlaug throughout the developing world, most Americans don't even know his name."

A good question, a very good question.

It reminds me of someone else, a little further back in history, who did something similar, George Washington Carver. He saved Southern agriculture. But you can't get a school or even a street named after him.

We have plenty of heros but they are never heard from, I wonder why.

Fun with Oxygen

The Fastest (and Most Dangerous) Way to Light a Grill | Popular Science: "About a year ago, when resident mad scientist Theo Gray pitched me a Gray Matter column on liquid oxygen, an extremely energetic form of the element, he first proposed showing how to use it to light a grill nearly instantaneously"

The first video I saw on the internet in about 1997 was this guy lighting up a grill and dumping LOX on it. Wow fun stuff.

The comments are hilarious, yeah school science has some issues, but that is a political not a teaching issue.

185 things you can make with a pig

Pig 05049: Change Observer: Design Observer: "Christien Meindertsma traced what happened to the body parts of a specific commercially raised pig, she discovered a lot more than packaged meat"


ht kottke

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hit & Run > Norman Borlaug: The Man Who Saved More Human Lives Than Any Other Has Died - Reason Magazine

Hit & Run > Norman Borlaug: The Man Who Saved More Human Lives Than Any Other Has Died - Reason Magazine: "Norman Borlaug, the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history, has died at age 95. Borlaug was the Father of the Green Revolution, the dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity that swept the globe in the 1960s. For spearheading this achievement, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970."

Of course no one has heard of him, he doesn't fit the narrative. He singlehandedly saved the world from Malthus. The progressives hated that and they seem to be in control of the history books right now.

Remember the power of just one man, woman or child.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eliza Gray: Samuel Johnson and the Virtue of Capitalism -

Eliza Gray: Samuel Johnson and the Virtue of Capitalism - "It was the ultimate gathering of statesmen, thinkers and artists, the likes of which aren't likely to be found in Davos or at any Renaissance Weekend. 'The Club,' as it was simply known, was founded in 1764 by the moralist and polymath Samuel Johnson, and included the likes of political philosopher Edmund Burke, painter Joshua Reynolds, naturalist Joseph Banks, historian Edward Gibbon and economist Adam Smith."

I think we need something like this again. TED is a different take on the question.



I remember hearing the news on the radio to work that a small plane had hit the Twin towers and wondered what the weather was like because a B17 had hit the Empire State building after WWII.
I remember being frustrated about not getting the news because the Internet was clogged and we had no other way to get news into the office.
I remember sadness seeing the towers fall.
I remember anger at those who did this.
I remember determination to never let it happen again.

I remember.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Scandinavia's Small Towns | Scandinavia and Iceland

Scandinavia's Small Towns | Scandinavia and Iceland: "Town planners and government officials may think in terms of economic rationality and viability. But as more people move to the cities, perhaps we should raise our caps to those who stick it out in their small towns. They might be waging a losing battle, perhaps, and also costing taxpayers a bit more money, but they sure make the world a more interesting and diverse place. And if, in the future, hordes of Somalis and Iraqis, Philippinos and Thais, are all residing out in the sticks in Scandinavia’s far-flung regions, then all the better I say."

The logic shown by the different sides of this article is unexpected. Something to watch for maybe.

Day of the Gaucho Waning in Argentina -

Day of the Gaucho Waning in Argentina - "Indeed, all over the pampa, ranchland that was home to Angus and Hereford cows has in recent years been replaced by fields of soybeans, corn and wheat as commodity prices skyrocketed by more than 300 percent. This year, a third of the 15 million animals expected to go to slaughter will fatten up in the now-ubiquitous feedlots, three times as many as in 2001."

Economic effects are changing the taste of beef.

Monday, September 7, 2009

E-Books Directory - Categorized Books, Short Reviews, Free Downloads

E-Books Directory - Categorized Books, Short Reviews, Free Downloads: "E-Books Directory
Welcome! We have exactly 2323 free e-books in 397 categories."

Cool. Knowledge is power.

American Thinker: By the Book: How Democracies Perish

American Thinker: By the Book: How Democracies Perish: "While visiting a used bookstore a few weeks later, I found another Revel book, How Democracies Perish. In its pages, I found a chilling examination of the methodologies used to undermine and destroy free market democracies. Written within the context of the cold war, Revel dissected democracies external and internal conflicts, those arising from the totalitarian impulses of socialism. He identified democracies fifth column, the political insurgents that fight against prosperity and success, deluded by utopian ideologies and filled with the monumental arrogance that defines the left."

Worth finding. I think. It's got at least one great quote.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Telegraphs Ran on Electric Air in Crazy 1859 Magnetic Storm | Wired Science |

Telegraphs Ran on Electric Air in Crazy 1859 Magnetic Storm | Wired Science | "On Sept. 2, 1859, at the telegraph office at No. 31 State Street in Boston at 9:30 a.m., the operators’ lines were overflowing with current, so they unplugged the batteries connected to their machines, and kept working using just the electricity coursing through the air."

Cool. That could be a problem today. This would be very similar to an EMP event or a blackout from a big ice storm, it could take a while to recover from.

ht Instapundit

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

HealthMap App Will Tell You How Diseased Your Neighborhood Is - Healthmap app - Gizmodo

HealthMap App Will Tell You How Diseased Your Neighborhood Is - Healthmap app - Gizmodo: "Ever wondered if someone in your neighborhood has a case of Swine Flu, African Horse Sickness, Chicken Pox, or other infectious diseases? Today's your lucky day: the HealthMap app will show you up-to-date reports and even send push alerts."

Very useful.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Volokh Conspiracy - How Much Did Crop Diversity Decline in the 20th Century?

The Volokh Conspiracy - How Much Did Crop Diversity Decline in the 20th Century?: "According to the conventional wisdom, the twentieth century was a disaster of monumental proportions for vegetable crop diversity. The conventional wisdom is wrong."

That's good, I am worried enough about of food supply.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Seth's Blog: Who gets to decide what you want?

Seth's Blog: Who gets to decide what you want?: "One definition of happiness is wanting the things you're likely to get (or, conversely, not wanting the unattainable). One definition of marketing is persuading the world it wants what you have, regardless of whether they can afford it or not."

Reminds me of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials)

News Blog Articles | The Powerful Have a Different Perspective on Ethical Behavior | Miller-McCune Online Magazine

News Blog Articles | The Powerful Have a Different Perspective on Ethical Behavior | Miller-McCune Online Magazine: "In determining whether an act is right or wrong, the powerful focus on whether rules and principles are violated, whereas the powerless focus on the consequences,” states the study “How Power Influences Moral Thinking,” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. “For this reason, the powerful are also more inclined to stick to the rules — irrespective of whether this has positive or negative effects — while the powerless are more inclined to make exceptions.”"

Fascinating. It would explain so much.

Where Have You Gone, Bell Labs? - BusinessWeek

Where Have You Gone, Bell Labs? - BusinessWeek: "America needs good jobs, soon. We need 6.7 million just to replace losses from the current recession, then another 10 million to spark demand over the next decade. That's 15 million to 17 million new jobs. In the 1990s, the U.S. economy created a net 22 million jobs (a rate of 2.2 million per year), so we know it can be done. Between 2000 and the end of 2007 (the beginning of the current recession), however, the economy created new jobs at a rate of 900,000 a year, so we know it isn't doing it now. The pipeline is dry because the U.S. business model is broken. Our growth engine has run out of a key source of fuel—critical mass, basic scientific research."

Actually, I was just wondering about this. How come there are so few big announcements of major scientific breakthroughs anymore? Who is doing any basic research anymore? LHC notwithstanding it seems very few people are doing anything even remotely basic, and barely any are doing even tactical level research, outside of the current war. Universities had generally gone to a research model focused on practical application. Who thought that was a good idea?

Basic research is something that pays off 20+ years down the line, if ever. This is a timeline far outside a typical CEOs management lifespan, much less next quarters bottom line. Who came up with that rule?

And I am not just talking about here in the US but around the world. India is still trying to move its people out of general poverty and China, while generally having a long view, seems more focused on securing natural resources, oil, metals, &etc. Generally ignoring or strip mining their human resources.

ht Slashdot with some great comments for once.

Bell labs, IBM labs, and others were destroyed, seemingly as collateral damage in bringing down big monopoly businesses. The destruction of innovation has been so thorough that I have to wonder if it was deliberate.

How about a couple of examples that seem to bare this out: First HP, when Carly was elected as CEO she even said she hated the company as it was. So she radically changed it. She spun off the test equipment devision, killed R&D and even the calculator division. They went from being the top of the calculator market to a joke with TI taking over.
It went from a company doing a lot of basic research into a commodity PC reseller who didn't even make the products they sold anymore. How bad must it be when the CEO leaves that the employees break out the champagne and the stock price shoots up. It will take a couple of decades to rebuild that capability if ever.

Apple is another classic example, The founder Steve Jobs was forced out because he wasn't management-ey enough. So it got handed off to a sugar-water salesman, Apple didn't do so well after that, until the founder came back and gave soul back to the company. Even then it took years to get back, but now Apple is doing amazing things. I fear for Apple when Steve finally leaves.

Something very strange is going on I am not sure why these rules have been put in place or even who but they are bad for everyone and need to be removed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Big Hollywood � Blog Archive � Steve Ditko’s Eternal Relevance: ‘In Principle: The Unchecked Premise’

Big Hollywood � Blog Archive � Steve Ditko’s Eternal Relevance: ‘In Principle: The Unchecked Premise’: "Among the scores of Ditko’s own creations include Dr. Strange, The Creeper, and the unique and uncompromising Mr. A. Ditko has also illustrated some of the most memorable fantasy stories the comics medium has ever seen."

Wow. It starts so small, doesn't it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Criminal Incompetence - Inside Higher Ed

Views: Criminal Incompetence - Inside Higher Ed: "Gambetta argues that something similar takes place among the baroni (barons) who oversee the selection committees involved in Italian academic promotions. While some fields are more meritocratic than others, the struggle for advancement often involves a great deal of horse trading. 'The barons operate on the basis of a pact of reciprocity, which requires a lot of trust, for debts are repaid years later. Debts and credits are even passed on from generation to generation within a professor's 'lineage,' and professors close to retirement are excluded from the current deals, for they will not be around long enough to return favors.'"

Oh, bother.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Banality of Evil – The Health Care debate takes a dangerous turn � Matt's Meditations

The Banality of Evil – The Health Care debate takes a dangerous turn � Matt's Meditations: "One of the fundamental virtues Americans have always held is the value of life. Whether it is in the care for sick infants or the billions spent on AIDS research or the heroic measures in the operating room on an inner city gunshot victim, or on the battlefield where our troops are indoctrinated with “no man left behind”, or our fundamental obligation under Medicare for the care of our elders,� we have almost always managed to do the right thing. We make herculean efforts to do so. There is a preferential option for the weak in our culture that we must never lose that is based upon our humanity and our faith.
Or do we, like Eichmann, simply shirk responsibility by saying we were only following orders?"


Basics - Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop -

Basics - Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop - "Robert Sapolsky, a neurobiologist who studies stress at Stanford University School of Medicine, said, “This is a great model for understanding why we end up in a rut, and then dig ourselves deeper and deeper into that rut.”

The truth is, Dr. Sapolsky said, “we’re lousy at recognizing when our normal coping mechanisms aren’t working. Our response is usually to do it five times more, instead of thinking, maybe it’s time to try something new.”"

This is something important to be consciously aware of.

We've all done or seen people just keeping doing things that are just plain not working for them or anyone else and wonder why they don't do something else.
I've been there pushing the food bar and ignoring the food. I've worked jobs that had no reward and only punishment. I've had coworkers ask me how I do it without crying and I can only reply that I have no more tears, no more feelings.

Last year I helped an acquaintance move, the house they were renting was being foreclosed on, he had lost his job and had gotten an awful job that didn't come close to replacing the income, the stress level in that home was terrible. A lot of people complained that they weren't ready for the move, I think that they had forgotten how. I know I had for a while.

Fortunately, it looks like it is reversible, but who can take 4 weeks off in a supportive environment.

Monday, August 17, 2009 | Knoxville, TN | Remote Area Medical takes mission to Los Angeles | Knoxville, TN | Remote Area Medical takes mission to Los Angeles: "Remote Area Medical usually takes their free healthcare to rural areas, or developing countries. This week, they're helping thousands in Los Angeles, California. Its the first time RAM has gone to a major metropolitan area."


Saturday, August 15, 2009

John Mackey: The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare -

John Mackey: The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare - "While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:"

These certainly look like some really good ideas. The most interesting part seems to be that it was laws and regulations that created this mess to begin with. I remember government creating new regulation with allowed the creating of HMOs which nobody really liked. and then PPOs.

And I've always wondered why employment and insurance have been coupled together. It turns out it was a result of the New Deal and wage caps, big companies wanted a way to improve the compensation of their workers but couldn't due to wage cap laws, so they worked a deal with government to allow them to give insurance as a benefit and not count it as earnings.

This smells and it smells the same as nuclear power. Nuclear power doesn't cost all that much to make but the cost of the red tape and anti-astroturf and the cost has risen too high to be worth doing.

I would say that more then half the cost of healthcare is now going to regulatory compliance and lawyers, but you would never see it on a billing statement that way, it is subsumed into everything so a patient never sees it.

Kind of hard to make a proper decision on this when that is the case. But then that is the point I suppose.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lunch with Jared Diamond / Columnists / Lunch with the FT - Lunch with the FT: Jared Diamond: "But Diamond rejects the notion that his work can be read as advocating authoritarian central planning. “When people talk about the greater efficiency of dictatorships, they are forgetting that a dictatorship is no more likely than a democracy to make a wise decision,” he says. The Chinese government moved quickly to ban lead in petrol, but it also virtually abolished education during a phase of the Cultural Revolution, he says. A democracy could never do that."

Why is it that the first thought lots of people have is to give the government more power? That tends to not work in the long run. But sometimes I wonder what the Romans were thinking as Rome fell.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The case for learning a skilled trade - Jun. 19, 2009 - Ask Annie

The case for learning a skilled trade - Jun. 19, 2009 - Ask Annie: "Lamacchia isn't anti-college, but one of his firm beliefs is that not every good job requires a four-year degree, and not every kid needs to get one. Since he launched the site in 2003, he says, 'I've heard from lots and lots of teachers who agree with me. They write things like, 'It's about time someone said this! But don't use my name.''"

Not a surprise, really.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 Life | How cooking makes you a man Life | How cooking makes you a man: "Cooking doesn't change the actual number of calories in food -- meaning that, if you take two portions of raw vegetable or animal product and cook one of them, when you blow it up in a bomb calorimeter and compare the two, you'd get the same number of calories. But there are two big things that cooking does. One is that it increases the proportion of the nutrients that our bodies digest, and from the data I reviewed -- for instance, in the case of egg protein it goes from 50 percent to 90 percent -- it looks as though that effect can make an enormous difference. And the second thing it does is that cooking reduces the costs we pay to digest our food."

Wow, even bigger then I thought.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

See You in a Hundred Years | Logan Ward

See You in a Hundred Years | Logan Ward: "Their mantra was, ‘If it didn’t exist in 1900, we will do without,’ and they did—no electricity, no telephone, no computer."

Hmm. I'll have to look at this.

Chrysler Destroys Its Historical Archives; GM to Follow? | The Truth About Cars

Editorial: Chrysler Destroys Its Historical Archives; GM to Follow? | The Truth About Cars: "Over the following decades, the automaker centralized and organized its archives, records dating back to the very beginnings of the American automobile industry. And then the company’s new owners decided history is bunk. Cerberus eliminated its archivist position. They stopped funding the documents’ maintenance. The company limited access to their archives and then stopped it altogether.

Worse was to follow."

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"
- George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 3

Monday, July 27, 2009

Do You Have These Core Human Skills?

Do You Have These Core Human Skills?: "If you’re interested in improving the quality of your life and work, there are the 12 primary areas of “Core Human Skill” you should focus on developing…"

Good stuff.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

$190,000 withdrawn in $20 bills - national |

$190,000 withdrawn in $20 bills - national | "His message to Westpac: 'If you don't support the community, the community won't support you.'"

Universities and Economic Growth

Universities and Economic Growth: "The days in which the U.S. could get richer without getting smarter are over. In 1970, a group of U.S. workers did not have to compete with workers in China or India. There was no container shipping. International phone calls were cripplingly expensive. Internet connected only a handful of computers. The Crash of 2008 is the first economic downturn from which the U.S. will have to dig itself out in the face of genuine international competition."

This is a great article. His ideas for changing schools to be more worthwhile are so radical they might just work.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The calorie delusion: Why food labels are wrong - health - 15 July 2009 - New Scientist

The calorie delusion: Why food labels are wrong - health - 15 July 2009 - New Scientist: "Secor fed the snakes one of four options: intact raw steak, intact cooked steak, ground raw steak or ground cooked steak. He found that cooking or grinding the meat reduced the cost of digestion by 12.7 per cent and 12.4 per cent respectively. When he fed the pythons steak that had been both ground and cooked, the combination lowered the amount of energy needed to digest the meal by 23.4 per cent."

So it boils down to a quarter pounder has as many calories available as a 5 oz steak.

I knew cooking food was powerful but this is way more then I thought. I still think a raw food diet would be undesirable in the long term, but as a weight loss strategy it might be a very good way to go.

I hadn't thought of hamburger as a "processed" food like a Twinkie, but it looks as though that might be the case.

The UN is too lazy to fix this problem, thinking it will cost too much for the benefit. First that tells just how important they think nutrition actually is to them. and Second, of course, it would be too hard for them to do, they are a governement type agency.

Stone-age innovation explains ancient population boom - life - 21 July 2009 - New Scientist

Stone-age innovation explains ancient population boom - life - 21 July 2009 - New Scientist: "Petraglia and his colleagues contend that the beginnings of a global ice age pushed ancient populations of Indians into closer contact – and competition – with one another. 'They need to develop new strategies to produce new resources. They invent microlithic technology and it spreads very rapidly.'"

Something as simple as a good and easy to manufacture stone knife may have allowed India to support the population it now has.

Oh, and it was because of global cooling. lol.

Monday, July 20, 2009

PRESS KIT - From Sand to Silicon: the Making of a Chip

PRESS KIT - From Sand to Silicon: the Making of a Chip: "View this graphic presentation offering a high-level demonstration of the process for manufacturing a central processing unit (CPU), which operates in every PC today. Here you can catch a glimpse of some of the amazingly sophisticated work going on daily inside Intel's cutting-edge silicon manufacturing fabs."

It looks pretty easy, but it is way hard. Rebuilding this capability would be hard.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

NASA - LRO Sees Apollo Landing Sites

LRO Sees Apollo Landing Sites
: "NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has returned its first imagery of the Apollo moon landing sites. The pictures show the Apollo missions' lunar module descent stages sitting on the moon's surface, as long shadows from a low sun angle make the modules' locations evident."

Have we forgotten how to do this yet? Not quite, but to forget that we put a man on the Moon will be one of the saddest things to forget and that must be prevented.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite, Silent Key

Walter Cronkite, Iconic Anchorman, Dies at 92 - Media Decoder Blog - "Walter Cronkite, an iconic CBS News journalist who defined the role of anchorman for a generation of television viewers, died Friday at the age of 92, his family said."

He was a Ham Radio Operator, also The Most Trusted Man in America

"1984" goes down the Memory Hole

Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others - Pogue’s Posts Blog - "This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned."

Irony, thy name is Amazon right now. Could a worse author have been chosen to do this too? The level of irony here matches the national deficit. The only other book out there that could even come close would be "Fahrenheit 451."

I am sure this kind of stuff happens semi-automatically, a publisher calls telling them that the copy they are sending out is unauthorized and they have to stop, but surely there was some person there having to pull the trigger on it, who really should have bumped it upstairs just to let them know this was a bad idea and maybe they should work something out.

First they came for the audio features, then they limited the downloads, now they yank back the books completely!? Are they trying to destroy the Kindle?
The only thing I can relate it to is Kryptonite locks, you know the ones that were impossible to defeat unless you happen to have a cheap ball point pen handy. That brand imploded hard. I bet there are lots of investors shorting right now.

Really it isn't about the book it is about trust and that has been shot to heck and a minor price drop is not going to help at all. They just showed in the most ironic way possible that you don't own the book but only lease it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

It's funny, just in a creepy way, with a slightly hysterical edge to it.

I think I'll take a harder look at the iLiad by iRex.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Microsoft hosts Feynman lecture series • The Register

Microsoft hosts Feynman lecture series • The Register: "When you are Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, you can own just about anything that you want. And as it turns out, Gates owns the rights to the seven-part lecture series given by Feynman at Cornell University in 1964."

Amazingly valuable ideas.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Abundance is powerful in unexpected ways

Why Moore’s Law does not apply to Digital Photography: "So why do I say that we are near the limit? The diffraction limit of our lenses is larger than the pixel size on some sensors"

That may well be true but that also means we can start wasting transistors and doing something else with them that can help with making a better picture.

I have no idea what but I do remember when RAM cost $1000/MB, yes thats MegaByte. Now you can get a GB or about $50. When I was at Novell they had a $1 million computer for high speed testing, the only thing special about it was the fact it had 1GB of RAM, the cost of the rest of it was inconsequential. Now computers come with at least 1 GB of RAM as standard equipment.

The main problem was yield was really low <20% so RAM was expensive because of all the testing and waste and the whole thing had to be perfect to work.

I was in engineering school at this time and then all of the sudden the price of RAM dropped and kept dropping. It turned out that some smart guy figured out that there are lots of sections of the chips that were just fine only small areas usually were damaged in some way. So they threw even more transistors at the problem to route around any damaged areas. Suddenly yields jumped to 80+% and so the prices cratered.

When you have a lot of something you can waste some of it to create something far more valuable. That is the big effect of the Agricultural Revolution extra calories that was could waste on things like seeing what happens to this rock if you put it into a really hot fire or what is beyond that sea or desert. If making food doesn't take up so much time then you can begin philosophizing or making something new out of the other things you have a lot of.

There was a story of a family that was in trouble in the Midwest but they had some land and after a big wind a huge pile of tumble weeds so they created a website and started selling them. Now there are 182,000 hits for "tumbleweed for sale."

Works and Days Print The War Against the Producers

Works and Days Print The War Against the Producers: "So our electrician senses that despite his newfound, sizable contribution to the public good, he will a) not be thanked but only further ridiculed;b) see his money diverted from his own wise use of it, to anonymous agencies’ liberal expenditures of it: the money will not be just lost, but invested in things that will make things worse, not better, through subsidies of failed programs and the destruction of incentives; c) see that the world under Obama is now unfair in Orwellian fashion: the Citibanks and AIGs, in Robert Rubin fashion, are so well connected to both parties that they will suffer little for their mistakes; the Ivy-League and Washington technocratic class that is to run all this is happy with its government perks and does not think new taxes and compliance apply to themselves (cf. Dodd, Rangel, Geithner, Daschle, Murtha, etc.)."

And the road to hell is paved with what?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire.� - By Christine Kenneally - Slate Magazine

Richard Wrangham's Catching Fire.� - By Christine Kenneally - Slate Magazine: "Similarly, the more cooked food we ate, the less industrial-strength digestion we had to do, and the smaller our guts became. In the same way that our bodies evolved to better walk on two legs, our bellies changed to better handle well-done over rare. This had two enormous payoffs. First, as our guts got smaller, this freed up energy for our brains to operate on a larger and larger scale. (Leslie Aiello and Peter Wheeler first discovered the relationship between gut size and brain size, dubbing it the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis.) Second, as we spent less time eating, we had more time to do other things with those rapidly expanding brains."

Food production and cooking are foundational to our civilization. I am getting more and more annoyed at those who seek to restrain and control this more basic cornerstone of our humanness.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Raph’s Website Embed virtual worlds anywhere

Raph’s Website Embed virtual worlds anywhere: "We’ve released a feature that I personally think is highly significant for both Metaplace and for virtual worlds in general. As of now, you can embed a virtual world on pretty much any webpage, just like any other widget."

I had the craziest thought, or may just a little bit crazier then normal. While reading this I remembered one of my sister's in law is currently addicted to FarmTown, but that sounds so much like work I am not sure why anyone would do it for fun.

Then I remembered the there are lots of other of these kinds of games that people are making the same complaints about.

Then 1984 and Brave New World popped up into the mix as well.

So are we actually playing out these warnings? It sure looks like it though they missed on some of the minor specifics.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The quality of abundance

It looks like the Toaster project is done and not everyone likes it which is kind of sad to think that they don't get the fact that modern life is only possible by the interactions of millions of people.
This is not the first time something like this was attempted either, Wired has a good article on the 100 mile suit. Again tough but possible.

But you have to combine it with Free! reviewed by Wired.
As much as we complain about how expensive things are getting, we're surrounded by forces that are making them cheaper. Forty years ago, the principal nutritional problem in America was hunger; now it's obesity, for which we have the Green Revolution to thank. Forty years ago, charity was dominated by clothing drives for the poor. Now you can get a T-shirt for less than the price of a cup of coffee, thanks to China and global sourcing. So too for toys, gadgets, and commodities of every sort.

Doing anything the first time is very, very hard and very, very expensive. But if it is worth doing once, it might be worth doing again, and again and again. And if you focus on refining the process of doing it again making it cheaper, faster and better.

Nowadays I don't really recommend a specific computer to people, if it has a processor faster then 1GHz and 1GHz of RAM it will be fine for most uses, unless you are doing high-end photo, graphics or video work.

It comes down to when you have an abundance of something you have the freedom to get creative with it and not feel bad when it doesn't work out. Quantity has a quality of it own, If we are working with something we don't have a lot of like a steak we'll be far more careful and less tolerant of mistakes. We have given our daughter some things in plenty: Legos, construction paper, tape, crayons, Al foil and the like. She comes up with great things. Then again she occasionally does something completely wacky, like give herself a makeover using a green marker (washable markers FTW)

Driving through Kansas we saw a sign that said that 1 Kansas farmer feeds 120 people. For the longest time farmers could just feed themselves, but once crop yields improved all kinds of things got better. Leaving time for philosophy, science and the arts. Which make a different difference in our lives.

ht Marginal Revolution
ht Daring Fireball

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obama Tells American Businesses to Drop Dead: Kevin Hassett -

Obama Tells American Businesses to Drop Dead: Kevin Hassett - "I’ve finally figured out the Obama economic strategy. President Barack Obama and his team have been having so much fun wielding dictatorial power while rescuing “failed” firms, that they have developed a scheme to gain the same power over every business. The plan is to enact policies that are so anticompetitive that every firm needs a bailout."

I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not.

I GAVE UP FOR A DAY: 19 Unintentional Discoveries That Changed The World

I GAVE UP FOR A DAY: 19 Unintentional Discoveries That Changed The World

Very useful.

Books are the ultimate shortcut

A Manifesto for Scholarly Publishing - "In 1948, the University of Illinois Press published Claude Shannon's brief and profoundly influential book The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Shannon's work, which explained how words, sounds, and images could be converted into blips and sent electronically, presaged the digital revolution in communications."

Books are the ultimate shortcut. A book no matter how it is printed will contain a years or a decades or a lifetimes of someone else's learning and mistakes. And you can absorb all that in a matter of hours.

It's not about the media you print books on that is important but the ideas that are set down. Printing on paper in the traditional manner is pretty wasteful. Printing on Demand is way better about waste, but electronic books are the best with respect to waste you keep one copy on the server and you can make an infinite number of perfect copies. The only problem with ebooks is the memory hole problem: electronic copies can be altered without your knowledge, fixing spelling errors are one thing altering the past is something else.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


NYC 7TH GRADERS RECEIVE CASH REWARDS FOR HIGH GRADES ON STANDARDIZED TESTS - New York Post: "About two-thirds of the 59 high-poverty schools in the Sparks program -- which pays seventh-graders up to $500 and fourth-graders as much as $250 for their performance on a total of 10 assessments -- improved their scores since last year's state tests by margins above the citywide average."

Why is the only solution to school problems more money?

via slashdot

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unreasonable Rocket: Business ethics and cuts by a thousand lawyers.

Unreasonable Rocket: Business ethics and cuts by a thousand lawyers.: "Others have “friend companies” buy it for them etc.. My personal business ethics don’t feel comfortable with that. As a result of being honest and upfront about what I’m doing the door is closed."

It is good to see that people are still trying to get into space. But do the lawyers/politicians have to make it this hard. Too much nanny statism.

Washington's Blog

Washington's Blog

You know I thought I was pretty crazy to think that there was a chance that the planet could (slip is the word I want to use but that implies an accident, this feels more like a push) bellyflop into another dark ages.
I may be crazy but it certainly looks like some others share the delusion.

Buried Code -

Buried Code - "The bill would give the federal government power over local building codes. It requires that by 2012 codes must require that new buildings be 30 percent more efficient than they would have been under current regulations. By 2016, that figure rises to 50 percent, with increases scheduled for years after that."

Oh, do you mind.
While I certainly agree with making more efficient housing, burying it in some leviathan energy bill is wrong. This way will practically guarantee that things will be worse instead of better.

People keep saying the ends justify the means, but it just isn't that way in the long run, the means justify the ends, mainly because you don't get to choose the unintended consequences and you have to take responsibility for them as well.

Freeman Dyson Takes On
The Climate Establishment by Michael D. Lemonick: Yale Environment 360

Freeman Dyson Takes On <br/>The Climate Establishment by Michael D. Lemonick: Yale Environment 360: "My objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have. I think that’s what upsets me."

The moral equivalent of war perhaps.

Sensemaking: How intellectual pollution has crippled America's children

Sensemaking: How intellectual pollution has crippled America's children: "I don't know why it is that certain countries seem so incapable of setting rational and coherent policy. I'm sure there are dozens of reasons. But I suspect a good percentage of the problem stems from a series of specific parenting flaws largely attributable to parents raising their children with intuition acquired in the workplace."

This could be a problem as it would be extremely insidious. There is short-term gain, but long-term loss. Actually, when I put it that way it sounds a lot like drug abuse.

With the bulk of news being low-value drivel about celebrities and sports stars and what they are doing and who they are doing it to you have to wonder. Information overload is a newish term that dovetails perfectly with "Brave New World" we need to worry more about finding truth then ever before.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Power of Paper for Everyday Life - Dumb Little Man

The Power of Paper for Everyday Life - Dumb Little Man: "There are many more benefits to writing things down so if you're someone who tries to remember everything or you just simply store ideas on your computer then give it a shot. If you can adopt the habit of 'offloading' your thoughts and ideas onto paper you can constantly free up room for new insights and never be lost for inspiration."

I've been noticing lately that paper and a word processor are not the same. I wonder if it is the difference in how we use our bodies. I do a lot of typing and so my handwriting has deteriorated but I wonder if I should work on it again.

91 Things Every 18-Year-Old Should Know |

91 Things Every 18-Year-Old Should Know |

A really good list. Most people should remember more of these things.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Some things are obviously broken

Current View: "The mystery is why, given that the US spends more on education than anyone else, and increasingly more every year, the results are from poor to mediocre. The essay says without exception, but that's wrong. There are some good school, but generally they are so despite the national system, not because of it."

The educational system is broken. see above.

The financial system is broken. It is too hard to tell who owns what now. Some people have stopped paying their mortgages and they can;t be foreclosed on since no one seems to have the title.

The patent system is broken. When companies made up of only lawyers go around buying up patents and then go around suing manufacturers, there is a problem.

The copyright system is broken. When the only way to access a particular work is to pirate it, there is a problem.

Government is broken. Professional politicians running car companies. Need I say more.

All of these things just need to fail so something better can replace them. But in the past 40+ years our schools have taught that the worst thing in the world is to fail, now it is coming bak to bite us.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Books of The Times - ‘Catching Fire’ by Richard Wrangham - Humans, the Cooking Apes - Review -

Books of The Times - ‘Catching Fire’ by Richard Wrangham - Humans, the Cooking Apes - Review - "Meat eating “has had less impact on our bodies than cooked food,” he writes. “Even vegetarians thrive on cooked diets. We are cooks more than carnivores.”"

Good thing I like to cook :)

“Cooked food does many familiar things,” he observes. “It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut or mash tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from food.”

That is what it comes down to maximum energy extraction from the foods we eat. The more energy you have the other things you can do to save energy. Like make machines.

Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen - Lens Blog -

Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen - Lens Blog - "Few images are more recognizable or more evocative. Known simply as “tank man,” it is one of the most famous photographs in recent history."

Do you have it?

Monday, June 1, 2009

American capitalism gone with a whimper - Pravda.Ru

American capitalism gone with a whimper - Pravda.Ru: "It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people."

This is Pravda!?!?

We're Doomed!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Current Chaos Manor mail

Current Chaos Manor mail: "Allen argues that a combination of factors led to the industrial revolution, among them international trade associated with the British Empire, an educated and wealthy populace which created a demand for the fruits of technology as well as the skills necessary to produce them, and, crucially, cheap energy. Allen provides the following graph, showing a comparison of energy costs across Europe in the early 1700s."

There are several impressive links there. The IR was more complex then we are led to believe in school.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hybrid cutlery

Hybrid cutlery: "A Venn diagram showing the relationships between hybrid cutlery like the spork, spife, knork, and the little known splayd. See also forkchops."

Whoa, cool.

Cool Tools: SunRun PPA

Cool Tools: SunRun PPA: "The cool tool here is creative solar financing. Solar-electric panels are pretty much a commodity, but still high priced. What's new is an innovative way for a homeowner to afford an expensive solar set up."

You know I wondered why something like this was taking so long. You can buy lots of things on financing. That concept alone made a huge jump in the standard of living around the world. If your customers can't afford to buy your product all at once thee usually is a way they can do it over time. Houses, cars, home appliances are all major examples about that. Why should this be any different?

It seems to me that banking and financing are a major part of civilization and that I have got to learn more.

From Stone tools to Silicon Chips

How sand is transformed into silicon chips | News | TechRadar UK: "Sand is composed of silica (also known as silicon dioxide), and is the starting point for making a processor. Sand used in the building industry is often yellow, orange or red due to impurities, but the type chosen in the manufacture of silicon is a purer form known as silica sand, which is usually recovered by quarrying."

This is a very important process but in the end is just another metal to master. And the culmination of a process started by shaping stone tools to mine ore for simple copper tools, to bronze (which is copper and tin) then iron and cement, to the steam engine and aluminum to finally silicon and titanium.

The very first tools are usually sticks and stones found near where you needed to use them that were about the shape you needed. Then you found that some rocks like flint could be shaped pretty easily, but not so easily like sandstone to be useless.

So you send out scouts to find more food to hunt or gather and good rocks that can be useful. Maybe you build a fire ring and after a big bonfire you notice a rock that had melted and re-solidified, some good copper ore. Eventually you find some other rocks like tin that make copper stronger which is bronze. Then you start digging up all kinds of rocks to see if you can make an even better alloy. Coal doesn't do much for the copper but it burns really well.

You find iron works better then copper on its own and adding other rocks to it can make it better or worse. But on the whole it makes really good tools.

You keep trying different rocks in the fire. Burning limestone doesn't seem to be worthwhile until it rains and the powder hardens in a rock that doesn't get soft again. You've discovered cement. Now you can shape stone and connect stone and make your own stones much harder and stronger then clay and straw can provide, and its water proof too. This is great for aqueducts and dams.

Good food, clean water, strong tools you can do a lot with that, but you also need a free people and a system of government to keep the people free and you have it made.

Memorial Day

For all those soldiers past and present.
Good job.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gizmodo - What Is This? - Rosetta Disk

Gizmodo - What Is This? - Rosetta Disk: "Looks like a billion gazillion television screens, thundering their nonsense and babbling at the same time in some gigantic art installation."

Actually this would be really rather useful. But you would want to leave a 500x microscope with it or it would be ignored. At the very least you need to put instructions on making a 500x microscope on the back so people know there is something to read on the front.

I'd rather go with something that can be read without more then a little magnification, but as small as possible.

Monday, May 18, 2009

We are at a cusp, but where from here.

I ran across a couple of very insightful posts this weekend.

What If the Singularity Does NOT Happen?

How the Mighty Fall: A Primer on the Warning Signs

They just seem to go together. Both present different ideas on where we might be in our present development and it can be turned around but we are at a cusp.

We have choices to make and deeds to do and tasks to tend. The question is are we doing the right ones.

Capitalism: It really is simple.

Our system, or more accurately our former system of economy worked very simply. Even the government had a roll to play, making sure that the snake oil people were selling actually had snake oil in it and that it provided the listed benefits and if you became so big that you impeded competition you weren't too big to be fail and would be broken up.

Now it is pretty much the opposite. Just a year ago the big worry was Big Biz owning government now it is Big Gov owning big biz. Ah the irony.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Better Bankruptcy Bureau - Megan McArdle

The Better Bankruptcy Bureau - Megan McArdle: "Most people underestimate just how economically valuable the rule of law is. A roughly stable investment environment that doesn't maximize social justice is undoubtedly better than an unpredictible one that tries to--just as the billions of poor people who live in states that have tried to exchange the former for the latter. The winners were not the dispossessed."

This is something to ponder.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Aristotle's Choice Of Money Revisited" by John Lee. FSO Editorial 05/01/2009

"Aristotle's Choice Of Money Revisited" by John Lee. FSO Editorial 05/01/2009: "Money is anything that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts. The main uses of money are as a medium of exchange, a unit of account, and a store of value."

he has a graphic that shows the relative merits of gold, paper money, land, a business and oil and later other things. Gold gets the nod here but then I think what about other things.

What are some valuable but overlooked items.
Water, clean potable water may not be quite as portable but is close enough. It isn't as rare as gold but definitely qualifies as having intrinsic value.

Electricity could count as well. It isn't as durable as gold but can be stored in batteries and can be converted into just anything.

Actually electricity is a lot like money it is a medium of exchange for doing work. Electricity can be converted to motion, light, heat, cold, communications, and chemical reactions like batteries and electrolysis it can even be used to enhance your own mind with computers and the Web. Amazing stuff really.

ht lewrockwell

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Marginal Revolution: What I've been reading

Marginal Revolution: What I've been reading: "I also really recommend The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World by Larry Zuckerman although a further treatise on the tuber is probably one chip too many."

There are a few histories on the potato. Must remember that.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Great Pharaoh Cheops at the 7-Eleven Store - Winds of Change.NET

The Great Pharaoh Cheops at the 7-Eleven Store - Winds of Change.NET: "Grab a frozen lasagna and hand it to the Great King. Frozen, like a brick, and like a brick he gnaws on it. Delicious! Then across the room to a small black box, which opens with the same magic lantern that lights this palace of wonder day and night. A moment of conversation passes, and Ding! What was frozen is now steaming hot! Without fire, and in an instant!"

This is what it's all about. The humble 7-11. Imagine that.

Hit & Run > Your Yard Sale Is Illegal - Reason Magazine

Hit & Run > Your Yard Sale Is Illegal - Reason Magazine: "Selling old kids books, anything with metal, paint, or plastic that a kid might use, old clothes or shoes with metal components that a kid might wear? You know, any of the stuff people routinely sell at yard sales? Technically, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of fines. Obviously, it's unlikely the CPSA goons are going to bust up your yard sale. But putting out a detailed booklet that reserves the right to do so is hardly encouraging about where the implementation of this legislation is heading."

How bad does it have to get before you people wake up!?!?!

The comments are golden for once, though.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Another Swine Bug Raises Scientists’ Concerns | Wired Science

Another Swine Bug Raises Scientists’ Concerns | Wired Science: "The disease strikes North American pigs, but American humans were assumed to be safe. Only two human cases have been reported in the United States, where farmers keep a greater distance from their livestock, and dispose of meat known to come from sick animals."

Important rules: Don't live with the animals, and don't eat the sick ones.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Invention of the Sewing Machine

The Volokh Conspiracy -: "With respect to the mechanical issue, the invention of a practical and commercially successful sewing machine comprised ten complementary elements. These ten elements were first explicitly identified by Andrew Jack in an oft-cited 1958 article: (1) the sewing of a lockstitch, (2) the use of an eye-pointed needle, (3) a shuttle carrying a second thread, (4) a continuous source of thread (spools), (5) a horizontal table, (6) an arm overhanging the table that contained a vertically positioned eye-pointed needle, (7) a continuous feed of the clothe (synchronized with the needle motion), (8) tension controls for the thread that give slack as needed, (9) a presser foot to hold the clothe in place with each stitch, and (10) the ability to sew in either straight or curved lines. The first sewing machine to incorporate all ten of these elements was the famous “Singer Sewing Machine,” which was first sold to the public in the fall of 1850. But Singer was neither the first person to invent all ten elements nor was he the first to patent them."

Well, you also need good metallurgy, some basic mass production skills, consistent thread creation and of course lots of relatively inexpensive fabric. Then don't forget a social and political structure that allows you to do all the work and make a profit.

The essential part of the sewing machine is the needle, that is where all the action happens, you need to make consistent and strong needles and consistent and smooth thread, if the hole is he wrong size the thread won't go through and if the thread isn't consistent it will either bind or break.

If there was a sudden collapse of civilization, it would be smarter to loot a craft store for pins, needles, cloth and thread then a grocery store for food, mainly because they would be really hard to start making again locally and wouldn't be a priority.

We have a very old sewing machine we got from my wife's mother, who got it for a wedding present. It is so old that it has an external electric motor bolted on. That is one piece of kit that we want to hang on to because it is very easy to convert that to some other form of power like a treadle pedal which my Oma in East Germany had so I have a good idea of how to make one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Guns, Germs and Steel review

After a very exciting beginning, the middle of it goes into the important but somewhat tedious comparison of all the different regions, and to keep it to a reasonable length, paints with a broad brush. There are a few major parts that are vital to read. The prologue talks about Yali's quesiton why do westerners have so much cargo? Which started this whole investigation. Chapter 3 which describes the conquest of the Americas by the Spanish.
But then you get to the afterward of the 2003 edition and I was blown away. Apparently many business leaders read GGS and noticed similarities with the business world. So people looked into it and reports published and so on. And it boils down to just a few things:
The more food you can produce and store the more people you can have innovating.
The more freedom people have to adopt innovation the more productive they can be.
The more controlled the people are the less innovative they are and the worse the productivity.

China pretty much started a the same time as the Fertile Crescent yet due to government interference threw it away.
Boston used to be the major technology hub of the world but it turned controlling and secretive and now Silicon Valley reigns supreme, but that is decaying due to out-of-control state government spending which increased taxes and the entrepreneurs are leaving for cheaper climes. Paul Graham talks about how to buy your own Silicon Valley I think many communities can do it too, SV was founded by a quirk of fate and so it can be created many other places too if you are willing to give up control.

This also makes me worry about what is happening in our country. There has been a breathtaking seizure of control at the federal level, whatever else it may mean to people there is one thing it means for sure, a general loss of freedom and subsequently innovation. Unless things change we will be a poorer country then we should be. I am reminded of East Germany. We would visit family there as often as we could and it was like they were stuck in time. Flying into Frankfort there were always big changes and lots of construction. but once across the border it was as if time stood still, and considering how some of the buildings still had battle damage from WWII that was saying something.

Well this is my lame attempt to help stave that off or at least allow for a reboot.

I would call this a classic book, well worth reading at least twice. This is an introductory world history book, it covers from the end of the last Ice Age to mainly the 15th Century, not to say there isn't more modern material but most of the action for him occurred before then, the rest is just consequences of geography, botany, animal husbandry and politics that happened thousands of years ago.

History of Invention infopic

This is a really good summary of the 23 major inventions you need to build a modern civilization. Notice how most of them are in just that last few centuries. Inventing something is hard, really hard, because no one has ever done it before. You often need to completely change you way of thinking to pull it off. Why is it that it took until the 18th Century to invent the steam engine when all the principles have been around since before the first century AD. Hero of Alexandria had all of the parts to a steam engine sitting in his lab, he was using pistons, even a simple form of binary logic to build an entertainment device. He had the aeolipile, a very simple steam engine but he never hooked the two together even if he did hook and organ up to a windmill.

Ah, well. We'll do better next time, that is the point of this.

from Nesta c/o Herd

io9 - A History of Uranium, the Rock That Nuked the World - Uranium

io9 - A History of Uranium, the Rock That Nuked the World - Uranium: "Uranium was considered a useless material until very recently in human history, when it quite literally exploded into the public consciousness. Tom Zoellner's engaging new book Uranium reveals how this once-humble element transformed human civilization."

This might be useful to read a bit later. Nuclear power is very Green. If it were legal to reprocess the waste there would be a lot less of it.

NPR: Power Hungry: Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid

NPR: Power Hungry: Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid: "The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation's electrical systems."

The proposal is really a mostly good idea, the only question is how well it handles an outage. I remember a few years ago a couple of major blackouts that took down whole regions of the country. In one case we had power because our town was not hooked up to the rest of the grid. It better have more resilience then that.

Via lifehacker

NPR: Power Hungry: Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid

NPR: Power Hungry: Visualizing The U.S. Electric Grid: "The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation's electrical systems."

The proposal is really a mostly good idea, the only question is how well it handles an outage. I remember a few years ago a couple of major blackouts that took down whole regions of the country. In one case we had power because our town was not hooked up to the rest of the grid. It better have more resilience then that.

Via lifehacker

Monday, April 27, 2009

SANS Technology Institute: Pandemic Watch April 2009

SANS Technology Institute: Pandemic Watch April 2009: "How can I avoid getting sick?
The most effective way to lower the risk of transmission is for people with symptoms to stay home. Take pandemic preparation sites with a grain of salt this one seems reasonable. The virus spreads easily from person to person through direct contact and possibly through the air, if it can spread through the air we have a very serious situation. It can cause serious illness and death.Please cover your mouth when you cough and take the additional precautions:

Wash your hands often with soap and water. Antibacterial soaps may not be more effective than pure soap to prevent virus infections. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are more effective go for 60% alcohol. [CDC Hands Together video]
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.
If you have ever laughed at people using a paper towel to open the door of a public bathroom after washing their hands, quit laughing and join them, the virus can remain active for several hours especially if moist and not exposed to direct sunlight.
Try not to rub your eyes or touch your hands to your mouth
Try to get enough sleep, avoid stress ( not always easy in a pandemic) and treat your body right"

Good advice. Some really good ideas for your business as well.


There are only a few shows that I miss without TV Nova is one of them. Not all of them are worthwhile but this one is great. Thank goodness for Hulu.

It comes down to this, we eat and live better because of refrigeration. If you are going to rebuild civilization learning to harness cold and not just fire is crucial.

I was amazed at how many names I remembered from college were involved with cold.

Growing up in New York I had heard about the Ice King, even if it was before my time, they had tried to demolish the last of the old ice warehouses but it was built so well of concrete that after breaking several wrecking balls and exploding lots of TNT they ended up having to go at it with jackhammers. The Ice Kinds made the same mistake lots of businesses made. They thought they were selling ice but really they were selling cold a very different product so when Carrier came out with the air conditioner and someone else the home sized electric refrigerator they were caught flat footed and died off quickly. But I didn't know that they had shipped ice all the way to India and China , that is awesome.

Thermodynamics, great stuff.

That reminds me plastics for safety devices is really important, too.

H1N1 Swine Flu - Google Maps

H1N1 Swine Flu - Google Maps: ",-110.390625&spn=19.992224,33.134766&z=5"

This is probably one of the better uses of mapping technology. It will help a lot for everyone. I noticed that Drudge has been doing the best job updating information over the weekend. While I realize that the President can do nothing about this epidemic, going golfing seems tacky. We still don't have a Health and Human Services director or a Surgeon General. He needs to be making a few more calls.

Since it is obvious that we survived the last few pandemics this one likely won't bring down civilization. However it is one of those things in combination with two or more other things could be a problem.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu - Google Maps

H1N1 Swine Flu - Google Maps

This is cool.

U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency in Wake of Swine Flu - First 100 Days of Presidency - Politics

U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency in Wake of Swine Flu - First 100 Days of Presidency - Politics "Hand-washing, mask-wearing and other measures will help prevent the spread, Napolitano said explaining how the public can help slow potential contaminations.

'If you are sick, stay home,' Napolitano said. 'Take all of those reasonable measures that will help us mitigate and contain' the illness.

People who are ill should not go on airplanes, to school or other places, added Dr. Richard Besser, the acting head of the CDC."

This could be annoying.
As disasters go pandemics are a shelter in place and the lights stay on kind. So if you are prepared with a couple of weeks of food on hand and limit exposure to others it should be okay.

Some hand sanitizer would definitely be in order and some spray disinfectant for the bottom of your shoes would be a good idea. At the moment this looks like a contact spreader rather then an airborne spreader so that limits it a bit more.

Now we just have to wonder how this won't be wasted.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Singularity 101 with Vernor Vinge | h Magazine

Singularity 101 with Vernor Vinge | h Magazine: "Lots of people have definitions for the Singularity that may differ in various ways. My personal definition for the Singularity — I think that in the relatively near historical future, humans, using technology, will be able to create, or become, creatures of superhuman intelligence."

Well, aren't we already? WIth access to the Internet we can get an answer to virtually any question within minutes if not seconds. But then answers to questions isn't really intelligence is it.

There is an old story about Henry Ford. Some intellectuals couldn't really believe someone who wasn't as smart as they were could create such a successful company. so they gave him what amounted to an IQ test and he did poorly. At the end he said something along the lines of, In my office I have a phone that connects me to my staff who do know that answers to those questions. I have to find answers to the questions they don't have answers for.

It is interesting to think that technology is limited by population. It may be that the singularity might not be possible without ~500M people to support it in the US plus however many in Europe, China and India. Actually it might be much less but the restraints because of politics seem to be the major limiting force. We have infinite imagination and sufficient food, energy and people.

Look at the iPhone, it has been out for only a couple of years and has one of the fastest adoption rates ever seen. And it isn't even in a number of countries mainly because of political reasons.

I think that unless there is a skynet type of startup, it will be like every other creation a slow start, popularity by early adopters, and final mass acceptance once it becomes inexpensive enough for most people, but not everyone will want it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

American Stonehenge: Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse

American Stonehenge: Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse: "Approaching the edifice, it's hard not to think immediately of England's Stonehenge or possibly the ominous monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Built in 1980, these pale gray rocks are quietly awaiting the end of the world as we know it."

These are certainly durable but I don't see how the inscriptions would be of any use in rebuilding civilization. It is also obvious that those "guides" are hard to understand now, if they are hard to understand now, how easy would they be to understand in a post-apocalypse world?

Right now it feels like we are oscillating between a New Golden Age and a New Dark Age. I don't know which we'll choose, for all I know we may end up with oscillating for quite some time; maybe even dampening out to some kind of steady state. This project is to help out in case we choose poorly.

Since I don't know where we'll end up I'll assume we'll have to start at the beginning: gathering wild foods and hunting with found tools.
Then you can start shaping your tools and planting food deliberately and producing fire on demand. You can also make windmills and waterwheels for energy sources. Building a reliable and abundant source of food is the first major step in rebuilding civilization.
Then you can start making charcoal and smelting metals for tools.
With metal tools you have made another major step. Once you can shape metal you can make stoves which make food production much easier. With a little bit of chemistry you can also make refrigeration and engines and finally electricity.

I really think electricity is the best sign of civilization because it is a lot like cash. Cash is good for practically everything and much more efficient then barter. The same goes for electricity. With it you can create light, heat, cold, movement, very complex patterns quickly or repetitively. You can use electricity to convert one thing into practically anything you need, just like cash.

State Water Rights - The Law Behind Collecting Rainwater - Popular Mechanics

State Water Rights - The Law Behind Collecting Rainwater - Popular Mechanics: "While laws about rainwater collection are often murky, Colorado's are quite clear: Homeowners do not own the rain that falls on their property. The Rocky Mountain state uses a convoluted mix of first-come, first-serve water rights, some of which date back to the 1850s, and riparian rights that belong to the owners of land lying adjacent to water."

Yeah, it's crazy like that out here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Solar System Day - Transterrestrial Musings

Solar System Day - Transterrestrial Musings: "Back in the seventies, many of the L-5ers were hippies who recognized the peaceful potential of space colonization to gently depopulate the earth and make it into a giant natural park, with the vast bulk of humanity living and producing off planet the wealth, via industrial-intensive processes, that would make such a thing affordable. I wasn’t a hippy, but I thought then, and still think, that a wonderful ultimate goal."

This is a wonderful ultimate goal. The earth isn't fragile but humans as a species are if we let ourselves be. The earth has survived several large asteroid hits but it has been the dominate lifeforms that have had the problems with it not the planet.

Lightbulb Moment in Food History - Freakonomics Blog -

Lightbulb Moment in Food History - Freakonomics Blog - "Last week’s post talked about early-20th-century “egg gamblers” who bought eggs cheap in spring in order to sell dear in winter. Their kind of speculation proved not just controversial but also pretty risky, and ultimately doomed. Why?"

Egg farming, good to know, a great source of protein and other good things.

Opening Skinner's Box: ten psych experiments that remade the world - Boing Boing

Opening Skinner's Box: ten psych experiments that remade the world - Boing Boing: "Lauren Slater's Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century is one of those popular science books that leaves you feeling a lot smarter after you finish it. Specifically, it makes you feel smart enough to feel kind of dumb and humble -- to feel like your received wisdom about the world and your place in it needs to be rethought."

Should this stuff be added? I'm not sure except maybe in a general sense.

Yielding to Ideology Over Science : Why don't environmentalists celebrate modern farming on Earth Day? - Reason Magazine

Yielding to Ideology Over Science : Why don't environmentalists celebrate modern farming on Earth Day? - Reason Magazine: "If farmers were still producing food at 1960 levels of productivity, agriculture would have had to expand from 38 percent of the earth's land to 82 percent to feed the world's current population."

More food is more energy is more people is more time to think.

The knowledgeable public >> Beltway Confidential - The knowledgeable public: "We’re used to assuming that most Americans don’t know a whole lot about government and public policy. Over the years I’ve been inclined to think that those of us in the commentariat tend to be overly cynical about this. Voters often can’t explain their opinions very clearly and often have a hard time getting the answers to quiz questions right, but they operate off a higher level of knowledge than we often give them credit for."

This seems a classic mismanage what you mismeasure problem, the problem comes when you are measuring the wrong thing. Knowing answers to questions that you know don't matter, aren't going to stay in your brain for very long.

Reporters spend a lot of time with other reporter and they tend to be eloquent, might it be because their jobs depend on it. They have cut themselves off from The People in their own little echo chamber. It's been very obvious for the past several years that they have a bias, so people have not been renewing subscriptions, last year they even stopped pretending, so what is the smart thing to do: stop listening.

Findings - Use Energy, Get Rich and Save the Planet -

Findings - Use Energy, Get Rich and Save the Planet - "1. There will be no green revolution in energy or anything else. No leader or law or treaty will radically change the energy sources for people and industries in the United States or other countries. No recession or depression will make a lasting change in consumers’ passions to use energy, make money and buy new technology — and that, believe it or not, is good news, because...

2. The richer everyone gets, the greener the planet will be in the long run."

This is no great surprise. Just look at the former Soviet Union. After they became free they started cleaning up a lot of their pollution. Under totalitarianism there was no incentive to keep it clean, just do it cheap. Once you have a business horizon that reaches past next quarters numbers things change very rapidly.

It is one of those (un)intended consequences things that nuclear, one of the cleanest forms of power we have, is actually dirtier now then it was planned on because of laws to keep it clean. A spent fuel rod still has 90% good fuel it just needs to be reprocessed and then used in a different style reactor. We could recycle the fuel we already have for the next century but it is illegal.

People want clean air and water, but there are other tradeoffs as well but when they are rich enough they opt to buy it by making buying decisions that support that, not when they are forced to.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gizmodo - How Long Will Our World Last? (Yes, We Are Screwed) - Technology

Gizmodo - How Long Will Our World Last? (Yes, We Are Screwed) - Technology: "Most people get worried about how much energy reserves we have left, but as this graphic shows, that's the least of our problems. The real problem is the materials we use to make things."

Cool graphic, stupid eco-nazi idea. We have so much valuable material in our landfills that I am surprised that no one has started mining them yet. Oh wait, I know why, those stupid eco-nazis have made it too expensive to bother. So what does that mean, more exploitation of the earth and less actual recycling.

I know our economy has been deeply distorted by various policies for various sources. Wasn't it last week that there was a story about a paper plant that started adding fossil fuel to its process just to get some stimulus money. Ahh, here it is, good ol' Google news FTW.

It also doesn't help that the stock market has reduced companies view of the future to just next quarter, few companies see beyond that in any real sense.

Then again a truly unrestricted market gets us the hedge fund industry, but even that was influenced by the subprime mortgage market as they tried to sell things that had no value but had to or face government displeasure.

I am thinking that the best roll of government in the market would be a verifier of claims. If you want to sell snake oil go ahead but the government will be testing to make sure that it contains at least some actual oil from snakes.

Human nature being what it is some people will take advantage of others, that needs to be limited but not at the expense of too many people not even trying to get into business.

There just needs to be a mechanism to keep businesses from gaining power in government to limit new entries into the marketplace, which seems to be the only role government fulfills at the moment.

We can and should do better.

Better Times sustainabile living printable flyers

Better Times sustainabile living printable flyers

This is a good list of things to do.

Dr. Helen: What could you and 25 "friends" accomplish?

Dr. Helen: What could you and 25 "friends" accomplish?: "I remember a while back, I read in a women's magazine about political activists who were out 'saving the world.' What struck me was something one of the activist's said: 'I found out that me and 25 friends could make a difference in changing politics.' I never forgot that. We often think it takes a big majority of people or a huge group to make a change. I think that's wrong. Most people don't care about politics and the truth is you and 25 friends can make a difference."

Inch by inch life's a cinch.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Time Travel Essentials — TopatoCo: We Sell T-shirts by the e-Shore

Time Travel Essentials — TopatoCo: We Sell T-shirts by the e-Shore: "Sure this means that some of those bums like Copernicus and the Wright brothers will end up having to get real jobs, but it’s gonna be your name in the history books, and that’s what what matters."

LOL. This is pretty cheeky but it would be better than nothing and is along the right idea but I would like some more detail.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Death & Taxes A Visual Guide to where your Federal Tax Dollars Go

WallStatsDATlarge.jpg 3500�2334 pixels

No idea how accurate this is, but it is a really cool infographic.

Denver Tea Party


The Denver Tea Party was very well attended, estimates of 5000 people.

It is also painfully obvious that no one knows how to frame this.

The GOP think we are for them but since they are spending like wild we lump them into the bad government group.

The media think we are against taxes and are wondering why since taxes haven't gone up. Yet. We are not total sheep and are looking into the future and trying to do something while we can still do something about it. Spending is completely out of control Obama and Congress (BOTH sides) have spend more in the last 60 days as all the other presidents and congresses combined (that goes from George Bush to George Washington)

Some people are wondering where we were when Bush was spending, we've been emailing, calling and mailing. That didn't work and now with spending accelerating and on one seems to be listening, it is time to take to the streets.

It isn't about Obama because Bush started it. It isn't about the Democrats in Congress as the Republicans started it there too. It isn't even about the spending. It is about a government that has stopped listening to the people. 53% of the 57% ( or about a quarter ) of the people who are eligible to vote voted for change. I somehow don't thing more of the same, only more counts as change.

In simple terms. We owe $12n, we make $13n. That doesn't leave much for rent, car, food, gas and clothes. Stacking on more spending isn't going to work. Putting the Visa on the MasterCard (what the Fed and Treasury did a couple of weeks ago) and continuing to spending also doesn't work either. Getting loans from the payday loan shop (China) doesn't work so well either.

Anyone who is planning for a future further then a week away is concerned and is doing something. Food storage: check, garden: check, home defense: check, getting out of the stock market: better late then never. Tea Party: Oh yeah.

The liberals are wondering where the money is coming from because we have to be doing it just like they do and need a big sponsor. We don't need big money when you have a lot of little money.

They may also want to take a deeper look at the people there today. Lots of middle aged white people, mostly couples. We are people with something on the line here: homes, children, good jobs. Not like college students racking up student loan debt.

Oh, by the way, the is not a subversive document, that would be the Declaration of Independence.

Spotlight: Harald Hauswald, the images of others, and the Stasi (Conscientious)

Spotlight: Harald Hauswald, the images of others, and the Stasi (Conscientious): "In 1987, East German photographer Harald Hauswald published a book called 'Ost-Berlin' (East Berlin) - in West Germany. An East German artist publishing in the West had to rub the leadership of East Germany, a Communist dictatorship, the wrong way. To make matters even worse, that same year, Berlin's 750th anniversary was to be celebrated. Kurt Hager, the minister of culture in the East German politburo, thus wrote a letter to Erich Mielke, head of the infamous Ministry of State Security (known as 'Stasi' and 'widely regarded as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies in the world' at that time [source]), to sic the Stasi on the photographer. Harald thus became an enemy of the state."

Never forget.

Sensemaking: Is College Obsolete?

Sensemaking: Is College Obsolete?: "Many people say that our education system is broken. It's not. Our system of education is obsolete. What may have made sense one hundred years ago no longer makes sense today."

That sums it up.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

FuturePundit: Review Finds Predictable Set Of Healthy Foods

FuturePundit: Review Finds Predictable Set Of Healthy Foods: "A review of previously published studies suggests that vegetable and nut intake and a Mediterranean dietary pattern appear to be associated with a lower risk for heart disease, according to a report published in the April 13 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. However, intake of trans-fatty acids and foods with a high glycemic index may be harmful to heart health."

This is not a surprise at all.
If you remember yesterday's post it is obvious that of course we would be well suited to that diet.
The original human domesticated food diet is the Mediterranean diet aka the Fertile Crescent diet. It is near 10,000 years old depending which particular species you might be talking about.
That said it only really applies to people with genetic heritages going back to that region. The Native American, Far Eastern and sub-Saharan African would not because there were barriers to the agricultural package getting to them.

Something to think about. 10,000 years is not very long in evolutionary adaption terms But then it would be no surprise that the Fertile Crescent peoples would have lactose tolerance since they had cows to milk.

Interesting how this comes together so easily sometimes.