Wednesday, 21 November 2012

08:33 – The EU finance ministers met all night, but couldn’t agree on giving any more money to Greece. It might help if they stopped referring to these disbursements as “loans” and started referring to them as what they really are. Gifts. Meanwhile, there’s another EU summit starting, this one concerning the EU budget. As you might expect, this one is also divided along the norther-tier/southern-tier line, with the northern tier wanting to economize and the southern tier, lead by France, chanting gimme, gimme, gimme.

The euro is already toast, of course, but what we’re seeing here is the EU itself beginning to fracture. Cameron is trying desperately to keep the UK in the EU while appeasing the euroskeptics among his own Tories and in the rapidly-growing UKIP. But a majority of Brits already favor leaving the EU, and a referendum on continued EU membership can’t be far in the future. Cameron’s efforts are misguided anyway. The only part of the EU that benefits the UK is the common market, and the UK needn’t be in the EU to remain in the common market. And even if the EU were foolish enough to refuse Britain membership in the common market without membership in the EU, the economic impact on the UK would be minimal. Reduced trade with the EU might be a percentage point or two, but no more. And without the taxes associated with EU membership, nor the ridiculous level of regulation that goes with EU membership, nor the social welfare costs incurred because of EU-mandated open borders, the UK would actually be much better off. And the UK is by no means the only northern-tier EU nation that is beginning to realize that the math for EU membership doesn’t add up.

It’s about time. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has formally recommended that birth control pills be made available over-the-counter, something that should have been done 20 years ago, if not 30. Now they need to get to work on approving other drugs for OTC availability, including marijuana, oxycodone, heroin, and cocaine. Everything, in fact, except antibiotics. And while they’re at it, they should consider placing acetaminophen on Schedule I in recognition of the fact that it’s the most dangerous drug in common usage.

Work continues on building chemistry kits and biology kits for inventory. I’m also putting together a small initial run of two new kits, maybe half a dozen or so of each. I’d build more of the new kits now, but one of the components common to both is on backorder. I’m supposed to be getting a case of a hundred of those in a couple weeks.

13:10 – I just got email from WSU saying that Colin is homozygous normal with respect to the MDR1 gene. That means we don’t have to worry about giving him ivermectin-based heartworm medications, as well as a slew of other medications. We’re very relieved.

14:46 – Greece is pissed. It says it’s met all the requirements for the next aid tranche. (It hasn’t, of course; it hasn’t even come close to meeting all the requirements it agreed to before the first bailout a couple of years ago. In fact, it hasn’t even tried to do what it agreed to do.) The EU knows that Greece hasn’t met all of the requirements. Greece will promise anything to get more money and then simply not do what it promised. But EU spokesmen have had very nice things to say about how hard Greece is trying. Not that that’s bought Greece anything. Even if the tranche is approved, none of it will actually benefit Greece. It won’t even be under Greek control. The Troika controls disbursements from the bail-out funds, and all of those disbursements go to pay off creditors, mostly other eurozone governments and banks.

What I don’t understand is why Greece continues to participate in this charade. If I were the Greek government, I’d tell the eurocrats to get stuffed. I’d default on all outstanding debts and return to the drachma. Yes, that means that no one will lend any money to Greece in the forseeable future. So what? No one is lending them any money now. And, yes, it means that Greece will be doomed to at least a decade of absolute poverty and suffering, and probably two decades. Again, so what? They’re doomed now no matter what they do. And continuing as they are will simply make that suffering last longer. At least if they were free of the euro they’d be able to recover, albeit very slowly. Greece will never be a wealthy country. In fact, it will never be even a middle-class country. But this single-minded focus on staying in the EU and euro is foolish and against Greece’s own interests.

So if I were Greece, my goal would be not just a complete default, but a disorderly complete default. If I were going down, I’d want to take the entire EU with me, most particularly Germany. And, even more particularly, Angela Merkel, whom the Greeks almost universally hate. Hate with a passion. Their comparing her to Hitler was not exaggerating how they feel. And defaulting would doom Merkel politically.

34 thoughts on “Wednesday, 21 November 2012”

  1. Yo, I’m still here! Everyone must be racing around for the coming gigantic Hallmark holiday, and then of course we see that Black Friday is now extended through the weekend into so-called Cyber Monday and away we go! Wheeeeee! More outta-control spending and Happy Motoring! The fun just never ends!

    But it will. We’re gonna see the current southern Euro tier situations and events metastasize somewhat, eventually, into the northern tier and the UK. Things here could just muddle along for a while longer with more can-kicking, or they could get extremely ugly real fast, who knows. I do know, however, that if there is anywhere in the world to be during these times, it is North America, and particularly its northern states away from the coastal fever swamps and Megalopolis. I like it just fine in Retroville, northern Vermont, home of four diners locally and a drive-in movie theater, and you can still get the vile olive loaf at the market, along with Old English cheese spread, Moxie, and salt cod. While most bakery and pastry is done locally. I should mention that dairy products are plentiful, as is maple syrup and apples.

    ‘Sposed to hit 50 today here and 60 tomorrow, rather unusual, but this is NOT an Indian Summer, which occurs only after weeks of solid hard frost and then you gotta have at least four or five days of nice warm sunny weather to qualify. People here get mostly naked for those times. Mostly people you don’t wanna see mostly naked.

  2. I am playing with a $200 Linux laptop I received Monday. Google sells the Acer Chromebook C7 for $200 (plus shipping). Best Buy is also supposed to sell it. It has a dual core Intel Celeron Sandy Bridge architecture processor, 2 gb of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive, both wired and wireless Ethernet, 3 USB ports, an HDMI port, a VGA port, an SD Card reader and an 11.6″ screen. Not bad hardware specs for $200. There is already a Linux distribution tailored for it, Chrubuntu. (see Chrubuntu installs over the wire.

    The hardware is nice, especially for the price. It is light (about 3 lbs) and its battery is smaller than I’d like, but, all in all, a bargain.

  3. Yeah, I’d thought about ordering one of those. Let me know what you think.

  4. The Chromebook C7 is at

    Best Buy will supposedly sell it, but they don’t show it in stock. Right now they show free shipping, which would make it cheaper than buying from Google, but any sales tax might make a difference. (No sales tax here in Oregon) I ordered mine from Google on November 12, the day it was announced, and it arrived on November 19. Google charged about $14 for second day shipping.

    I have little use for Chrome OS. Too much Google, too few applications, too little privacy. ChrUbuntu looks like a pretty standard Ubuntu. It has the Ubuntu Software Center, so there is a huge selection of software. It comes with Libre Office. It is acceptably fast.

    I’m impressed for $200. Sure I wouldn’t mind an SSD instead of a mechanical hard drive, but it already had better hardware than I’d expect at that price. I was able to stream video over Wi-Fi and that worked nicely. The sound is a little soft, but headphones or amplified speakers will fix that.


  5. I just ordered one for Barbara for her birthday. Or I may keep it for myself.

  6. Chromebook available only in the US and UK. No Canada? We’re like a blend of the US and the UK!

  7. Eh? I’d say you’re about 99.9% US and 0.1% UK. Well, other than Quebec, of course.

  8. I just ordered one for Barbara for her birthday. Or I may keep it for myself.

    Hmmph. I have the opposite situation. Repeatedly. Most recently, I ordered a nice laptop for myself, nothing fancy but adequate to my needs. (Emphasis on “needs”, not “desires”. This was intended for paying work.) And, of course, Kid#2’s computer died right then, and he really needs a computer for school, so I got back online and changed the shipping address.

    Sort of on that topic, it annoys me quite a bit that the schools pretty well require home computers for all students. It’s not required, per se, but a lot of teachers won’t accept hand-written homework, assignments are “handed out” only over the internet, and so on. In theory the kids can use the computers in the school, but they’re available only certain hours and there are always more kids than computers. Even more annoying, about half of the high school teachers I talked to told me it’s impossible to teach without computers and projectors hooked up to the teacher’s computer and internet access and all the rest. Y’know, back when I was in school, not a single one of us died because we didn’t have personal computers and most of us received a better education than the current generation — and that was in a substandard school district.

  9. What SteveF said about pooters in skools. To hell with that. And to hell with publik skools anyway.

    Socrates did alright with just himself yakking with a few other dudes. Somehow Eddy de Vere cranked out the most astounding literature and imagery in human history without a fucking pooter.

    Vermeer managed.

    Tommy Jefferson whipped out all kinds of neat stuff even with Sally under his desk.

  10. Ah, Vermeer. My favorite painter, in the same way that Bach is my favorite composer. And Tom Jefferson is my favorite Founder.

  11. Ditto on all counts–scary. But I trend more toward Patrick Henry and Francis Marion & Co. these days.

  12. I believe the Greek government’s attitude reflects that of the majority of the population. Michael Portillo some month’s ago travelled Europe and interviewed people on the street for UK TV. It was very instructive. The Greeks did very well financially with the cheap European money after joining the Euro – halcyon days. Many therefore still believe Euro = good times, and cannot see that they need to see the truth and look forward and to reality. Thus in recent elections, they have voted for 1) staying in the EURO and 2) not having to take any cuts!!! Exactly what the politicians are trying to achieve. It is only when all Greeks both voters and politicians face reality that they will be able make the big decision – get out and make a future for themselves, or accept a third world standard of living.

  13. RBT wrote: “Eh? I’d say you’re about 99.9% US and 0.1% UK. Well, other than Quebec, of course.”

    We spell cheque, labour and honour funny, and say oot and aboot the hoose (though I’ve only ever heard that particular dialect on documentaries about how Canadians talk).

    Maybe 75/25%?

    Still, why no Chrome Love for Canada? As a nation we’re better connected to the internet.

  14. Ditto on all counts–scary. But I trend more toward Patrick Henry and Francis Marion & Co. these days.

    You need people like Henry and Marion when things start to fall apart, but you need guys like Jefferson to put things together again in a way worth having.

    Speaking of Vermeer, have you ever read about van Meegeren? He forged Vermeers and did it well enough that he was almost charged after WWII with helping the Nazis loot art. He told the investigators that he’d painted them himself. Yeah, right. So he demonstrated by painting another fake Vermeer in his cell while they watched.

  15. Sorry, I should have said “faked”. As far as I know, he never forged a Vermeer. I’m not usually that sloppy with the language.

  16. I’m not here! I’m in Colorado at least for a few years then on to a “Red” state.

    To all Americans, Happy Thanksgiving Day!

    (Not SteveF)

  17. Agreed on the timely need for Henry and Marion and Sam Adams and Revere when things “start” to fall apart; I know despair is a sin but I despair of us ever having another Jefferson at the present rate of decay.

    Yep, we’ve heard of and seen examples of van Meegeren:

    Happiest of Thanksgivings to Steve out in the great state of Colorado as well! And to all here; Mrs. OFD is forcing me to run old “Star Trek: Next Generation” episodes from Netflix; boring, except for ‘Q.’

  18. You mentioned the Rizzoli & Isles book series yesterday. I watched the first couple of episodes on cable and they were pretty good. How are the books?

    I’ve enjoyed some of Cornwell’s Scarpetta series, FWIW. (The middle books are not as good, IMHO. Of course, Cornwell had a pretty messy personal life at the time……)

  19. Steve in Colorado wrote:

    “I’m not here! I’m in Colorado at least for a few years then on to a “Red” state.”

    I thought you must have eloped with Nancy and/or Hillary… 🙂

    I know you’re not SteveF. You’re far too sane to be him.

  20. SteveF wrote:

    “Y’know, back when I was in school, not a single one of us died because we didn’t have personal computers and most of us received a better education than the current generation — and that was in a substandard school district.”

    When I was at uni in the late Seventies I had a *real* computer, something like this:

  21. I’m mostly in lurker mode, due to an excess of work. Lovely stuff: I have an urgent project with a verbal “go ahead” from the customer, where I’m investing lots of time. The customer’s upper management keeps putting off signing the written contract. Starting to make me nervous…

    Speaking of computers, somehow I missed this amazing mechanical calculator (he “Curta”) until my younger son sent me the link. Apparently some 100,000 of the beasties were made and sold in the 1950s and 1960s, and I never ran across one…

    Lastly, regarding Greece, Paul has it exactly right: the entire country is in total denial, and the politicians are happy to let it stay that way as long as the rest of Europe can be blackmailed into keeping them marginally afloat. Why? Because when reality finally hits, it is going to be ugly, real ugly, and any politicians trapped within their own country may find themselves dangling from lampposts like overripe fruit.

  22. Yep. And eventually it’ll be the same here, when people finally realize that the politicians have stolen pretty much everything from them and the cupboard is bare. Or at least I hope they’ll rightly blame the politicians rather than expecting the government to take care of them.

  23. “Speaking of computers, somehow I missed this amazing mechanical calculator (he “Curta”) until my younger son sent me the link.”

    I have two Mark I’s and two Mark II’s. They usually go on ebay for between $500 and $5,000. I collected them years ago. All still functional.

  24. When I was at uni in the late Seventies I had a *real* computer, something like this:

    You had a small system. The system I worked on was on three floors with rooms about twice that size. CPU cabinets and operator console on one floor, I/O on another floor, disk storage on another floor. Entire building was wrapped copper mesh for security from RF emissions. Two turbine generators for emergency power with massive racks of batteries to stand in until the turbines spun up.

    Now I think I have more power in my IPAD except for I/O capability. I know I have more memory. My IPAD cannot keep 200 disk drives, 70 tape drives, 8 printers, 6 card readers, 6 card punches and a couple tape reader/punches busy.

  25. Maybe not your iPAD, but at 6 Gbps the eSATA3 on current PC motherboards makes the I/O on our old mainframes look pretty pathetic.

  26. It is not so much the thruput of the I/O, but the architecture of the system. A PC CPU is very much involved in the process issuing a command, waiting, providing the data, waiting for completion. Mainframes issued the I/O, provided a memory address for the data and then the CPU went on to other tasks with the I/O subsystem to complete the task, completion marked and the CPU got back to the task when possible. Higher priority I/O got attention first. PC’s are mostly serial in that entire process. Ever try to lunch a program on a PC when insert a blank DVD? You wait.

  27. Mainframes actually still process things that way today. They have not yet gone away and are far more cost/effective than servers in many situations as well as far more secure.
    Channels (I/O connection “buses” between mainframe and I/O subsystems- like disk, tape, comms, etc- intelligent device controllers), at least with Fujitsu mainframes, are still comparatively slow though.

    Sorry for the nested writing. 🙂

  28. The mainframes of heaven (i.e. Control Data Cybers) had helper processors called Peripheral Processors. 4096 x 12 bit words. Tiny by today’s standards but they took the housekeeping and IO load off the CPUs, so they could go at full tilt without having to wait much for data to come in/go out.

    Long Live Seymour Cray!

  29. rick says: …a $200 Linux laptop… the Acer Chromebook C7 for $200…”

    Rick, I took the liberty of quoting your Chrome book posts on another board. It’s generally one whose owner and RBT have had to agree to disagree, but if you want to see what I did it’s at

  30. I saw the opening run of a play about the inventor of the Curta calculator, Curt Herzstark, Intelligence-Slave. He was a concentration camp prisoner in WW II, held at Buchenwald, and was kept alive to finish the design of his calculator.

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