Monday, July 27, 2009

Busy Weekend

What a busy weekend.

On Saturday my father and I went up the annual Gunmakers Fair put on by Dixon's Muzzleloading Shop.  I had not gone to the Fair in several years and it's gotten quite a bit larger.  Chuck Dixon has been holding the Fair since 1980 and draws many big names in the black powder world.  For example, the which the hand made rifle built by the House brothers that the Contemporary Longrifle Association is raffling off was present.  As much as I wanted to come home with one of the many fine flintlock rifles I saw, I contented myself with some ammo for my Colt 1851 Navy.

Yesterday I attended the Philly Blogmeet organized by Bitter.  I rode up with The Geek With A .45, meeting up with Bitter, Sebastian, and several other local members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy^TM at Cheeseburger in Paradise in Langhorne, PA.

Monday, July 20, 2009

$23.7 Trillion????????

And just where exactly is this money supposed to come from?

WASHINGTON -- Government support aimed at cushioning the effects of the financial crisis in the U.S. could reach $23.7 trillion, a special inspector general overseeing U.S. bailout efforts said in a report to Congress.

In prepared testimony for Tuesday's hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky writes the figure includes spending and commitments for several agencies that have implemented programs aimed at supporting the economy and the U.S. financial system.

"TARP does not function in a vacuum," he wrote, referring to the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program -- its most visible effort to counter the financial meltdown.
Link at the Wall Street Journal.

That's something like twice our GDP.  The thought that this amount can actually be paid without sticking a knife into the heart of our economy is, frankly, insane.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pietta 1858 Remington Range Report

Continuing my run of range trips in which I burn black powder and thereby conserve my modern ammo, tonight I went and shot my Pietta 1858 Remington.  We went to my father's club which has an indoor range that's open late.  He shot a couple of his new fangled cartridge guns, Smith & Wesson Model 67s, one with a heavy barrel and the other with a lightweight barrel.

I got the Pietta a couple of years ago from Cabela's.  It's the 5.5" barrel model, .44 caliber.  Compared with my Euroarms 1858 which has a more historically correct 8" barrel, the Pietta is a bit better balanced.

Shooting one handed at 7 yards my groups were one hole, except for a shot which I yanked towards five o'clock.  Of the 30 shots I fired, 24 were loaded with 28 grains of FFFg black powder, a Dixie felt wad, and a Hornady .457 ball.  CCI #10 caps fit the nipples on the Pietta snugly, although I need to sand two of them down because they are too snug.  One cylinderful I loaded with 35 grains FFFg and tried CCI #11 caps.  This is a full load in Remingtons, but still pleasant to shoot.  The #11 caps are too loose on the Pietta nipples and a couple of them fell off, even though I pinched them a bit.

Last night I'd done a little bit of work with a file to see if I could get the loading lever catch to seat more fully, because sometimes the lever drops under recoil.  I still had this problem tonight, so I'm thinking a stronger spring might be in order.  Or I could do a period correct rawhide loop around the lever and the barrel.  ;-)

This afternoon I constructed a stand to hold the gun upright while I'm loading it.  I haven't painted it yet and it's fugly, but it was very helpful and it's an accessory I recommend for shooting cap and ball revolvers.  I made mine from some scrap wood I had around, but pre-made ones are available for those who aren't handy.

The Pietta 1858s available from Cabela's are nicely made guns which shoot well.  The model I shot tonight is currently selling for $239.99.  A stainless steel version, which would simplify maintenance and be more weather resistant, is on sale for $329.99 ($60 off regular price).  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Light Blogging This Week

I am attending a Solaris administration course this week, so blogging will be light.

Friday, July 10, 2009



Upgrade Complete

The hard disk and enclosure which I ordered on Wednsday for my laptop from NewEgg arrive yesterday.  (NewEgg has a warehouse in NJ so when I order from them I frequently get my stuff the next day, even when I select UPS Ground shipping.)

Rather than installing Leopard on the new disk then importing all my apps and data, or doing a restore from Time Machine, I cloned the original disk using SuperDuper.  It worked fine and the machine now has plenty of free drive space.  Cloning the original disk over a FireWire 400 connection took about 2 hours, then it took me another hour or so to take apart and reassemble the machine.

One of the things I noticed immediately about the Western Digital disk is how quiet it is.  The original drive, a Hitachi, wasn't loud, but it was audible.  The new disk is virtually silent.  It's also a bit faster than the Hitachi, but it remains to be seen if or how it'll affect battery life.

This morning I took advantage of my now-mostly empty disk by upgrading VirtualBox to v3.0.0, and creating VMs with Solaris 10 and XP Pro SP3.   Even with my Win7RC VM, I still have about 358 GB free.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dems Looking to Tax Rich to Pay For Healthcare

More class warfare bullshit from the Demcrats:

WASHINGTON – House Democrats at work on health legislation are narrowing in on an income tax surcharge on the highest-paid wage earners to help pay the cost of subsidizing insurance for the 50 million who lack it.


As discussed in the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, the surtax would apply to individuals with adjusted gross income of more than $200,000 and couples over $250,000, according to officials involved in the discussion. Most spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

In addition, key lawmakers are expected to call for a tax or fee equal to a percentage of a worker's salary on employers who do not offer health benefits.

Rich people don't get that way by being unmotivated or stupid.  The motivation to earn large incomes presupposes that they will be able to reap the benefit.  Take away that and you reduce the incentive to earn that income.  Further, this sort of plundering will only encourage people to shelter their incomes in ways hidden from the Feds greedy maw, or give up on earning that "excessive" income altogether.

Don't think that Atlas will shrug if this passes?  Bet on it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Upgrading the Hard Disk in Rohan

This afternoon I bit the bullet and ordered a new hard disk for Rohan, the MacBook Pro which I bought in January 2007.

Rohan came with a 120 GB hard disk and I'm currently down to about 10.5 GB free space.  This leaves me little room to experiment with virtual machines, plus as I take more high resolution pictures with the Nikon S560 I bought back in May, that space is dwindling.

So, I went to the online geek toy Mecca, AKA NewEgg, and ordered a Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000BEVT 500 GB disk, which should last me until Rohan eventually gets replaced in a couple of years.  I also ordered a MacAlly external FireWire/USB enclosure for the old disk.

There are a few ways I can do the disk swap and get my system back:

  1. Make a backup in Time Machine, swap the disks, then do a restore.
  2. Install the new disk in the enclosure, clone it using SuperDuper!, then swap them.
  3. Install the new disk in Rohan, install the old disk in the enclosure, then with the enclosure connected to Rohan, install Leopard on the new drive and use OS X's Migration Assistant to import all my apps, data, and settings from the old disk.
When I upgraded the drive in my old G4 iBook I used option #2.  When I upgraded the drive in my parents' MacBook, I did #3.   I'm leaning towards using SuperDuper!, since it avoids the whole backup and restore thing, and it worked fine the first time I used it.  Doing so should result in a perfect clone of my existing system, but with more disk space.

To do the physical swap, I will follow the excellent instructions available from iFixit.

Obama's Iceberg

From the Washington Post:

Around midnight on April 15, 1912, there were a few minutes when Capt. Edward Smith of the Titanic realized his ship was going down -- six watertight compartments breached, less than two hours to float -- yet his passengers slept in happy ignorance. A historical fate hardened while most of the participants dreamed on.

The jobs report last week opened a long gash beneath the waterline of President Obama's legislative agenda. Few realize it, but a scramble for lifeboats is about to begin.

On closer inspection, the economic news, which seemed bad, is even worse. Not only did unemployment rise to 9.5 percent but wages fell, undermining the consumption needed to revive a consumption-driven economy. Unemployment increased among "breadwinners" -- married men and women who head households -- also making major family purchases more difficult. Recent increases in unemployment benefits and food stamps have helped many Americans pay for food and rent. Jobs, however, are what lead to the purchase of furniture, cars and homes. Paired with a decline in business investment, these trends make a second-half recovery less likely.

The stimulus package hasn't been very stimulating -- as many economists predicted. Pouring money into the economy through a thirsty sponge of federal programs -- the preferred method of Congress -- is slow and inefficient. In retrospect, all of the stimulus funds should have been given to individuals directly from the tap. 


The idea of a "jobless recovery," which I've seen floated around, is a farce.  Even if we didn't have a consumer-driven economy, the theory that you can have a solid economy in which a large percentage of the workforce is sitting idle is ludicrous on its face.  Unless your vision of an ideal society is one in which the people are dependents of the state.

We wouldn't know anyone like that, would we?

Big Banks Don't Want CA IOUs

From the Wall Street Journal:

A group of the biggest U.S. banks said they would stop accepting California's IOUs on Friday, adding pressure on the state to close its $26.3 billion annual budget gap.
The group of banks included Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., among others. The banks had previously committed to accepting state IOUs as payment. California plans to issue more than $3 billion of IOUs in July. (Emphasis added.)


Of course, if you or I were to send the government an IOU in lieu of taxes, we'd have out assets seized and/or get tossed in jail.

With Federal tax receipts dropping and investors starting to look askance at buying Treasury Bonds, how long until the Feds start issuing IOUs?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

California's Chickens Coming Home To Roost

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings has downgraded the state of California's (the state) long-term general obligation (GO) bond rating to 'BBB' from 'A-'. The bonds remain on Rating Watch Negative. The rating action affects the state's GOs and lease appropriation and related bonds as detailed at the end of this release.

The downgrade to 'BBB' is based on the state's continued inability to achieve timely agreement on budgetary and cash flow solutions to its severe fiscal crisis. Since no agreement was reached by the June 30, 2009 fiscal year (FY) end, the state's controller has now begun issuing registered warrants (IOUs) for certain non-priority payments to preserve cash, and the budget gap to be addressed has increased to $26.3 billion from $24.3 billion. The use of IOUs for non-priority payments would offset cash shortfalls into September 2009 as now currently projected.


I'm not gloating.  Wanna bet that taxpayers in the rest of the US get socked with the bill?  But in the interim, maybe California could start exercising a modicum of fiscal responsibility.  A good first step would be to stop giving free education and healthcare to illegal immigrants.

America's Fiscal Train Wreck

Via Morgan Stanley:

America's long-awaited fiscal train wreck is now underway.  Depending on policy actions taken now and over the next few years, federal deficits will likely average as much as 6% of GDP through 2019, contributing to a jump in debt held by the public to as high as 82% of GDP by then - a doubling over the next decade.  Worse, barring aggressive policy actions, deficits and debt will rise even more sharply thereafter as entitlement spending accelerates relative to GDP.  Keeping entitlement promises would require unsustainable borrowing, taxes or both, severely testing the credibility of our policies and hurting our long-term ability to finance investment and sustain growth.  And soaring debt will force up real interest rates, reducing capital and productivity and boosting debt service.  Not only will those factors steadily lower our standard of living, but they will imperil economic and financial stability. 

Go read the whole thing.  And this is worth posting again:

Projected Debt Under Obama

Just where is the money to pay for all of this government spending supposed to come from?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dinner With Obama -- A Parable

Received via email, not my original work.

Once upon a time, I was invited to the White House for a private dinner with the President. I am a respected businessman, with a factory that produces memory chips for computers and portable electronics. There was some talk that my industry was being scrutinized by the administration, but I paid it no mind. I live in a free country. There's nothing that the government can do to me if I've broken no laws. My wealth was earned honestly, and an invitation to dinner with an American President is an honor.

I checked my coat, was greeted by the Chief of Staff, and joined the President in a yellow dining room. We sat across from each other at a table draped in white linen. The Great Seal was embossed on the china. Uniformed staff served our dinner.

The meal was served, and I was startled when my waiter suddenly reached out, plucked a dinner roll off my plate, and began nibbling it as he walked back to the kitchen.

"Sorry about that," said the President. "Andrew is very hungry."

"I don't appreciate..." I began, but as I looked into the calm brown eyes across from me, I felt immediately guilty and petty. It was just a dinner roll. "Of course," I concluded, and reached for my glass. Before I could, however, another waiter reached forward, took the glass away and swallowed the wine in a single gulp.

"And his brother Eric is very thirsty." said the President.

I didn't say anything. The President is testing my compassion, I thought I will play along. I don't want to seem unkind.

My plate was whisked away before I had tasted a bite.

"Eric's children are also quite hungry."

With a lurch, I crashed to the floor. My chair had been pulled out from under me. I stood, brushing myself off angrily, and watched as it was carried from the room.

"And their grandmother can't stand for long."

I excused myself, smiling outwardly, but inside feeling like a fool. Obviously I had been invited to the White House to be sport for some game. I reached for my coat, to find that it had been taken. I turned back to the President.

"Their grandfather doesn't like the cold."

I wanted to shout, 'that was my coat!' But again, I looked at the placid smiling face of my host and decided I was being a poor sport. I spread my hands helplessly and chuckled. Then I felt my hip pocket and realized my wallet was gone. I excused myself and walked to a phone on an elegant side table. I learned shortly that my credit cards had been maxed out, my bank accounts emptied, my retirement and equity portfolios had vanished, and my wife had been thrown out of our home. Apparently, the waiters and their families were moving in. The President hadn't moved or spoken as I learned all this, but finally I lowered the phone into its cradle and turned to face him.

"Andrew's whole family has made bad financial decisions. They haven't planned for retirement, and they need a house. They recently defaulted on a sub-prime mortgage. I told them they could have your home. They need it more than you do."

My hands were shaking. I felt faint. I stumbled back to the table and knelt on the floor. The President cheerfully cut his meat, ate his steak and drank his wine. I lowered my eyes and stared at the small gray circles on the tablecloth that were water drops.

"By the way," He added, "I have just signed an Executive Order nationalizing your factories. I'm firing you as head of your business. I'll be operating the firm now for the benefit of all mankind. There's a whole bunch of Eric's and Andrews out there and they can't come to you for jobs groveling like beggars."

I looked up. The President dropped his spoon into the empty ramekin which had contained his creme brulee. He drained the last drops of his wine. As the table was cleared, he lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. He stared at me. I clung to the edge of the table as if were a ledge and I were a man hanging over an abyss. I thought of the years behind me, of the life I had lived. The life I had earned with a lifetime of work, risk and struggle. Why was I being punished? How had I allowed everything to be taken? What game had I played and lost? I looked across the table and noticed with some surprise that there was no game board between us.

What had I done wrong?

As if answering the unspoken thought, the President suddenly cocked his head, locked his empty eyes to mine, and bared a million teeth, chuckling wryly as he folded his hands.

"You should have stopped me at the dinner roll," he said.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

CBO: Long Term Budget Unsustainable

I am posting this summary of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's June 2009 report in toto:

CBO Summary CBO Congressional Budget Office JUNE 2009 The Long-Term Budget Outlook

Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path—meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run. Although great uncertainty surrounds long- term fiscal projections, rising costs for health care and the aging of the U.S. population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly under any plausible scenario for cur- rent law. Unless revenues increase just as rapidly, the rise in spending will produce growing budget deficits and accumulating debt. Keeping deficits and debt from reaching levels that would cause substantial harm to the economy would require increasing revenues significantly as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), decreasing projected spending sharply, or some combina- tion of the two.

For decades, spending on the federal government’s major health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid, has been growing faster than the economy (as has health care spending in the private sector). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that if current laws do not change, federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid combined will grow from roughly 5 percent of GDP today to almost 10 percent by 2035 (what this report describes as the intermediate term) and to more than 17 percent by 2080 (what this report considers to be the long term). That projection means that in 2080, without changes in policy, the federal government would be spending almost as much, as a share of the economy, on just its two major health care programs as it has spent on all of its programs and services in recent years. (For a description of CBO’s projection methodology, see the June 2009 background paper CBO’s Long-Term Model: An Overview.)

Under current law, spending on Social Security is also projected to rise over time as a share of GDP, albeit much less dramatically. CBO projects that Social Security spending will increase from less than 5 percent of GDP today to about 6 percent in 2035 and then roughly stabi- lize at that level through 2080. Under the assumptions used for CBO’s long-term projections, government spending on activities other than Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest on federal debt—activities such as national defense and a wide variety of domestic programs—is projected to decline or stay roughly stable as a share of GDP in future decades.

Almost all of the projected growth in federal spending other than interest payments on the debt comes from growth in spending on the three largest entitlement pro- grams—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. By CBO’s estimates, the increase in spending for Medicare and Medicaid as a share of GDP will account for 80percent of spending increases for the three entitlement programs between now and 2035 and 90 percent of spending growth between now and 2080. Thus, reducing overall government spending relative to what would occur under current fiscal policy would require funda- mental changes in the trajectory of federal health spend- ing. Slowing the growth rate of outlays for Medicare and Medicaid is the central long-term challenge for federal fiscal policy.

Federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will grow relative to the economy both because health care spending per beneficiary is projected to increase and because the population is aging. Spending on Medicare and Medicaid will be driven by both factors, while Social Security spending will rise because of the population’s aging. Between now and 2035, aging is pro- jected to make the larger contribution to the growth of spending for those three programs as a share of GDP. After 2035, continued increases in health care spending per beneficiary are projected to dominate the growth in spending for the three programs.

The current recession has little effect on long-term pro- jections of noninterest spending and revenues. But CBO estimates that in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the federal government will record its largest budget deficits as a share of GDP since shortly after World War II.  As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public will soar from 41 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2008 to 60 percent at the end of fiscal year 2010. Higher debt results in permanently higher spending to pay interest on that debt (unless the debt is later paid off). Federal inter- est payments already amount to more than 1 percent of GDP; unless current law changes, that share would rise to 2.5 percent by 2020.

CBO’s long-term budget projections raise fundamental questions about economic sustainability. If outlays grew as projected and revenues did not rise at a corresponding rate, annual deficits would climb and federal debt would grow significantly. Large budget deficits would reduce national saving, leading to more borrowing from abroad and less domestic investment, which in turn would depress income growth in the United States. Over time, the accumulation of debt would seriously harm the economy. Alternatively, if spending grew as projected and taxes were raised in tandem, tax rates would have to reach levels never seen in the United States. High tax rates would slow the growth of the economy, making the spending burden harder to bear. Policymakers could miti- gate the economic damage from rapidly rising debt by putting the nation on a sustainable fiscal course, which would require some combination of lower spending and higher revenues than the amounts now projected. Making such changes sooner rather than later would lessen the risks that current fiscal policy poses to the economy.
(Emphases added.)

The full report and supporting data are here.

The Federal government is off the reservation and has been for some time (TARP, passed under GWB, started the current insanity), but its rampage has accelerated since Obama took office.  If they don't come to their senses, and soon, the US stands a good chance of economic collapse.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wolfram Alpha

Neat idea, haven't played around with it much yet.

Wolfram Alpha