Thursday, August 27, 2009


This is not from some tinfoiler:

The real US unemployment rate is 16 percent if persons who have dropped out of the labor pool and those working less than they would like are counted, a Federal Reserve official said Wednesday.
"If one considers the people who would like a job but have stopped looking -- so-called discouraged workers -- and those who are working fewer hours than they want, the unemployment rate would move from the official 9.4 percent to 16 percent, said Atlanta Fed chief Dennis Lockhart. (Emphasis added.)

Full story.

Green shoots, my ass.

Chromium on Mac

This morning I installed the latest build of Chromium for Mac.  This is the port of Google's Chrome browser to OS X.  It's still considered alpha code.  It appeared to stall when trying to import my Firefox bookmarks.  However, after I killed it and relaunched, it's been running OK for a little while.  So far the only pages I've used it for have been Google, Google Reader and links therefrom, Facebook, and now Blogger.  No issues yet. Strike that. It had problems processing things when I hit the "Publish Post" button for this post.  I.e., nothing happened.

Like Chrome on Windows, Chromium is very fast.  If anything weird pops up I'll make a note of it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Denninger Knocks One Out of the Park

Will It All Come Tumbling Down?

A couple key points from the piece:

So let me see if I get this right.  
At 5% of non-performing loans a bank is at risk of being insolvent.
But the entire banking system in The United States had its non-performing loan ratio increase from 5.58% in the first quarter to 6.49% in the second, a record, and higher than the 5% level at which the survival of a bank(ing system) is threatened with collapse.
Here's reality folks: 
The system still has too much non-performing debt in it, and that percentage is going up, not down.  
It is getting worse, not better.
But there is a mathematical limit to this sort of papering over of control frauds.  It cannot go on forever; we do not have the ability to tax or borrow an infinite amount of money.  Unemployment will not ease and true production and consumption cannot resume at a normal level when a trillion dollars or more is being stolen every year to cover up these scams.
The entire piece is worth reading.

Even Nat Hentoff is Scared of Obama

Nat Hentoff, not exactly a member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, is scared of the Obama Administration.  He is right to be.

I was not intimidated during J. Edgar Hoover's FBI hunt for reporters like me who criticized him. I railed against the Bush-Cheney war on the Bill of Rights without blinking. But now I am finally scared of a White House administration. President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive. Watch for that life-decider in the final bill. It's already in the stimulus bill signed into law.

The members of that ultimate federal board will themselves not have examined or seen the patient in question. For another example of the growing, tumultuous resistance to "Dr. Obama," particularly among seniors, there is a July 29 Washington Times editorial citing a line from a report written by a key adviser to Obama on cost-efficient health care, prominent bioethicist Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel). 

 Go read the whole thing.

Pocket Computers

On one of the mailing lists where I participate, we were talking about pocket computers.   Jerry Pournelle has referred to his iPhone as approacing the pocket computers that he and Larry Niven wrote about in The Mote in God's Eye.
Similarly, my Blackberry 8330 approaches being a pocket computer, although there's no way to hook up an external mouse, monitor, and keyboard.  But it's a phone, still camera, video camera, GPS, and more.  Specs here.

An example of the usefulness of these capabilities occurred last weekend while my family was on an overnight getaway.  I have the Google Mobile apps installed.  I was able to use Google Maps to get a real-time traffic report for Marshall's Creek, PA, which is in the Poconos, well outside where you can get traffic reports on the radio.  I was also able to use the Google Maps search feature to find a place to stop for lunch.  (Note that while Verizon doesn't allow Google Maps to talk to the internal GPS, the app can give you a rough idea of your location by triangulating from cell towers.  If I need the GPS, I need to use the OEM Blackberry Maps application.  I am hoping this handicap is not present in my next phone.)

To heck with tablet PCs.  I've tried them and they are neither fish nor fowl.  They are too big to use comfortably without a keyboard.  If someone introduces a smart phone device to which you can connect a docking station with a mouse, keyboard, monitor, and Ethernet adapter, it'll be game changing.  You'll be able to take all of your data (or a large subset) with you, yet still be able to use a comfortable user interface when in the office.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


"J" in this case refers to Jefferson, not Joke.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

–– Thomas Jefferson

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Astroturfing From the Left

First, we have a black man who created a fake Facebook account, posing as a white supremacist threatening to kill black people because Obama got elected.

Second, we have White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass basically admitting that they've reached a deal with Big Pharma to pimp Obamacare.

Third and Fourth, we have an Obama supporter falsely stating she's a doctor in support of Obamacare at a town hall meeting held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), while at the same meeting Obama campaign activists share the front row with Dr. Fake.

So much for the transparency and high level of ethics the Democrats were supposed to bring to D.C.

"Keep your laws off my body!"

Obviously, the title of this post is a well known pro-choice slogan, which conveniently ignores the presence of a second person, i.e., the unborn child.

On the other hand, "Keep your laws off my body!" sums up my sentiment about the Federal government sticking its nose somewhere it doesn't belong: healthcare.

Have you ever danced?

An old prospector shuffled into town leading an old tired mule. The old man headed straight for the only saloon in town to clear his parched throat.

He walked up to the saloon and tied his old mule to the hitch rail. As he stood there brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old man and lau ghed, saying, 'Hey old man, have you ever danced?'

The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, 'No, I never did dance, -- just never wanted to.'

A crowd had gathered quickly and the gunslinger grinned and said, 'Well, you old fool, you're gonna' dance now,' and started shooting at the old man's feet.

The old prospector, in order to not get a toe blown off or his boots perforated, was soon hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet and everybody was laughing fit to be tied.

When the last bullet had been fired the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back in to the saloon.

The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers back. The loud, audible double clicks carried clearly through the desert air.

The crowd stopped laughing immediately. The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly. The quiet was almost deafening.

The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the old timer and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.

He found it hard to swallow. The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man's hands.

The old man said, 'Son, did you ever kiss a mule's butt?'

The boy bully swallowed hard and said, 'No, sir. But I've always wanted to.'

There are two lessons for us all:

Don't waste ammunition.

Don't mess with old people.

Shipping Industry Circling the Drain?

From Speigel Online:

[T]he global financial and economic crisis has stifled the boom in container shipping, and it has happened almost overnight. For the first time in its history, the industry has stopped growing and, in fact, is shrinking. In the first six months of this year alone, the shipping industry declined by close to 16 percent.

Accompanying the article is this telling graph:

Decline in Shipping

The Obama Administration and its supporters in the media are fond of saying the economy is showing signs of recovery.  Shipping figures are a reflection of global demand for good, and those numbers continue to point to declining demand.  In a consumer-driven global economy, declining consumption is not a sign of recovery.  Quite the contrary, in fact.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Who's Astroturfing?

I would like to see a documented case of opponents of Obamacare engaging in astroturfing.  The Obama administration and the leftist press are quick to slime their opponents as pawns of right wing interest groups or of the GOP.  Actually, the GOP lacks the ability to generate this kind of grassroots outrage.  But ramming socialism down the throat of the American public has resulted in many people gagging on it, and the outbursts we've seen in the past few weeks are the result of when you push people beyond a certain point.

In contrast to the inept/nonexistent grassroots by the Republicans, the Democrats are very good at rabble rousing.  Take this Craigslist ad for example:

Craigslist Ad for Agitators

(Click the pic for full size.)

That's a screen capture I took today of an ad placed on the Washington, DC Craiglist, titled, "DEFEND President Obama's Health Care Plan over August Recess! $500+/wk (Capitol Hill)." Link. (Which will probably expire sometime this month.)

Even better, the ad was placed by The Fund for Public Interest, a non-profit to which various left-wing causes  outsource their fundraising.  The FFPI has a bad history of poorly treating their workers.  Link 1Link 2. Link 3.

Isn't exploiting the workers a tactic of the capitalist bourgeousie? {/sarcasm}

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obamacare is going to SUCK if you're old or disabled

As quoted by the former mayor of NYC, Ed Koch, who is an Obama supporter:

Most alarming for people like me, who at 84 years of age recently needed a quadruple bypass and aortic valve replacement, are the pronouncements of President Obama's appointee, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who, according to a New York Post op ed article by Betsy McCauley, former Lt. Governor of the State of New York, stated, "Savings, he writes, will require changing how doctors think about their patients: Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath too seriously, 'as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of the cost or effects on others' (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 18, 2008)." He also stated, "...communitarianism' should guide decisions on who gets care. He says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those 'who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens...An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.' (Hastings Center Report, Nov.-Dec. '96). " (Emphasis added.)


If this doesn't sound to you like the early 20th Century's eugenicists, who had a great deal of influence on the Nazis and Communists, you need to turn off American Idol and go crack open a history book.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Refurbed Panasonic Toughbooks is selling refurbished Panasonic Toughbooks for $385. LINK. The specs are modest by current standards but one would make a good secondary machine for keeping vital info on in the event of an emergency and you must evacuate, especially if your primary computer is a desktop. (See ShaneS's Listening to Katrina for why you want to do this.) You'll probably want to add more RAM and a WiFi card, but those are cheap.

Note: I have no relationship with although I have bought a couple things from them with no complaints.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Little Flintlock Smithing

The weather today was crummy -- hot, humid, and scattered thunderstorms.  So, instead of going to the range as I'd planned, I stayed home and did a bit of 'smithing on my flintlocks.

First up was my Middlesex Village Trading Company Tulle Fusil de Chasse 20 gauge.  (Note, MVTC's website still shows the prototype only.  I bought one off the shelf last month at Dixon's.)  It came with a rather thin, whippy ramrod made of some Indian mystery wood.  The ramrod thimbles are large enough to accept a 3/8" rod but the channel in the stock needed to be sanded out.  I did this using some sandpaper wrapped around a short section of 3/8" ramrod, after removing the thimbles.  However, the hole in the forearm which the ramrod goes into needs to be drilled out.  I need to get a ramrod hole drill, basically a 48" long drill bit.  Track of the Wolf has the appropriate size for $37, so I'll probably add one to my next order with them.

Setting the fusil aside I decided to try smoothing out the lock on my MVTC French M1717 musket.  The locks on the Indian guns imported by MVTC are made from forged parts but in some places they are a bit rough.  Also, the springs are very strong, especially the sear spring.  This results in truly atrocious trigger pulls.

To properly disassemble a lock from a muzzleloading gun you need a mainspring vice.  After removing the lock place it on half cock, and then place the vise over the mainspring.  Then, pull the hammer back a bit more and tighten the vise.  At this point you should be able to pull the hammer back a bit then press on the sear lever, and gently let the hammer forward.  Once the hammer is down you can pull the mainspring off the lock plate.

With the M1717's lock disassembled I used some 600 grit emery paper to polish all the parts.  You need to be very careful when polishing the sear engagement, i.e., the tip of the sear and the notches in the tumbler.  You just want to smooth them.  Go slowly. Remember, it's very easy to remove metal but it's hard to replace it.

Much of the MVTC guns' heavy trigger pulls is due to the very strong sear springs.  When you're pulling the trigger to fire, not only are you working against the mainspring, but also the sear spring.  So, after polishing the spring, I put it in a bench vise and using a sanding drum and gringing wheel in a Dremel tool, I carefully thinned and slightly shortened the tip of the spring.  I went slowly making sure that I did not overheat the spring.  Anytime the spring got too hot to touch with my finger I let it cool down.

With the lock back together and the gun reassembled I snapped the hammer a couple of times.  The trigger pull is probably half of what it was before, and the lock feels much smoother.  Since the musket lock came out well I did the same thing to the fusil's lock.  Neither gun has a trigger I'd find acceptable on a rifle, but they are much, much better now, which should result in better shooting.  I'm hoping to be able to try one of them on Friday.

Monday, August 03, 2009

New MacBook

Another item of note over the past week was my purchase of a new MacBook for Judith.  She's been using a G4 iBook which she's had since 2005.  It's been a great machine but it's feeling its age.  Aside from the fact that the battery is mostly shot, it really bogs down on Web 2.0 sites like Facebook.  So, I've been looking at replacements.

Last week Microcenter was advertising last-generation MacBooks for $849.  The specs of the machine include a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, 2 GB of RAM, and a 120 GB hard disk.  Judith's primary uses of the machine involves web-based apps and some light word processing.  So, the specs of this machine should be just fine for a few years.

One very nice feature of the Intel Apple laptops is the built-in iSight webcam.  Judith's brother lives overseas and our main means of communication is Skype.  We also use Skype or iChatAV when I'm away on business.  I'd bought and installed a Macally Icecam for her iBook, but it was always flaky so she eventually stopped using it.  (Even when it worked the picture quality was rather bad.)  In contrast, the iSights pretty much just work, in my experience, and the quality is image quite good.

The iBook was issued to her by her school, so when she goes back in the Fall she'll take it back and keep it in her classroom, providing another machine for her students to use. The MacBook will stay at home.

Another Busy Weekend

Actually, it was a four day weekend, since I took Thursday and Friday off so Judith, the girls and I could take an overnight getaway down to Baltimore.

We drove down Thursday morning after Judith confirmed that the Hampton Inn on East Redwood Street would be able to accomodate an early check in.  We arrived shortly after noon, then after settling into our room, we walked down to the Inner Harbor.  Our plan was to visit the National Aquarium on Friday morning, but we had "will-call" tickets and wanted to see if we could get in on Thursday.

We lucked out and were able to get tickets for 14:30 on Thursday.  That left us with some time to kill, so we went to McCormick & Schmick's Grill for lunch.  Their crab soup and crab cakes are very good.  The marinara sauce they put on spaghetti is rather spicy, too spicy for a kid, so we had to send Amanda's lunch back and get another plate, this time with just butter on the pasta.

After lunch we walked back to the aquarium and went through.  I hadn't been there since some time in the '80s and there was quite a few new exhibits.  Compared with the Mystic Aqaurium in CT that we visited back in May, the National Aquarium is much larger.  Highly recommended, especially if you have kids.

For dinner we wanted to get Maryland style steamed blue crabs, but surprisingly, there is nowhere within walking distance of the Inner Harbor to get them.  As a Baltimore native I was quite annoyed.  We wound up having dinner at Phillip's in the Inner Harbor, which was OK.

On Friday we had hoped to tour the USS Constellation Historic Ships Museum, weather permitting.  Unfortunately, the forecast for the day included thunderstorms and we did not want to be walking around in that, so we came home early.

Yesterday we had a 40th birthday party for Judith.  The original plan was to have a barbecue, but the weather was horrendous during the morning and early afternoon.  The last time I saw it rain so hard was during the last hurricane which blew through.  Several roads in our vicinity were closed due to flooding.  Luckily, we didn't get any water in the house, unlike some of my neighbors.  Rather than using the grill, I would up cooking burgers and sausage in skillets on the stove.  I added beer to the skillets so that the sausage was being boiled as much as fried, and they came out quite good.  This probably also helped with later cleanup.