Monday, 10 December 2012

09:49 – Costco run and dinner yesterday with Mary and Paul.

For a short time back in the 60’s, I was a ham radio operator. One of the informal awards was WAS, worked-all-states. We’re nearing that now with our science kits. We just shipped a biology kit, a chemistry kit, and a slide set to Hawaii, which makes it 47 states so far. The only ones still missing are Wyoming, Rhode Island, and Idaho. We’ve also shipped kits to six of the Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. By this time next year, I suspect we’ll have shipped to all states and all provinces.


12:36 – What I really want to be doing right now is designing, running, and writing up lab sessions for the LK01 Life Science Kit. What I’m doing instead is building chemistry kits, which are selling at a good clip. We’re currently down to only seven of the CK01A chemistry kits in inventory, so I’m spending today building subassemblies for another couple of dozen.

70 thoughts on “Monday, 10 December 2012”

  1. Mucho congrats, Robert and Barbara! You are doing good works and making this world a better place!

    So did you ever get back into amateur radio? I’ve been futzing around off and on with shortwave and antenna stuff and looking to get into the ham end of things. I see it as a valuable skill in the coming times and had that reinforced again last night as I watched the first three episodes of “Jericho,” none of which I’d previously seen; yeah, I know it’s six years old now. So fah I have one or two minor plausibility and continuity issues but the story and characters seem to be holding up. Any other reviewers out here on this series?

    Sleet and freezing rain and black ice overnight and this morning up here; and the usual idiots off the road as a result of going too damn fast, esp. in their invulnerable SUVs and suchlike. Cretins. But endangering the rest of us; I will look into truck-mounted rocket systems forthwith accordingly.

  2. I watched Jericho and liked it when it first started. The last season story lines are a little goofy and then it was cancelled without any satisfying ending. I thought it was good scifi.

  3. Thanks for the kind words. One of my ongoing concerns for the last 20 years or more has been that when we run out of scientists and engineers, civilization begins winding down. Too high a percentage of our scientists and engineers are guys my age. We’re not producing enough young scientists and engineers to replace the cohort that were born in the 50’s and 60’s, let alone expand the base. Too many of our brightest kids are going into finance and business rather than STEM. That’s because the financial rewards are grossly distorted in favor of finance/business/law/politics. There’s not much we can do to change that, but what we can do is try to ensure that those young people who are interested in science have the tools they need to pursue that interest.

    As to Jericho, Barbara and I enjoyed it, mostly. The part where they had the guy who’d been exposed to radiation drink a bottle of iodine tincture was a bit much, but with the exception of that and a few other really jarring incidents it wasn’t too bad.

  4. Oh, amateur radio. No, I was really interested only in the technology aspect rather than communicating with other hams. Back then, there was a very heavy emphasis on CW rather than phone, and I topped out at 17 or 18 WPM. I probably would have been able to do better with a bug, but I couldn’t afford one and the one I tried to build never did work very well.

    If you want emergency com, I’d recommend picking up some 5W marine band portables and maybe a 25W console. There are some severe penalties for using them on land, but if/when you need them, the FCC won’t be prosecuting anyone.

  5. Agreed on the growing need for more STEM graduates and the foolishness of those going for the quick buck in the biz and finance worlds, which we’ve seen become the haven of charlatans, thieves, pirates, and assorted other scumbags who continue to rob us blind, enabled by the very State officials and agencies and departments allegedly set up to protect us. If we end up in a situation like those characters in “Jericho”, an IRS auditor or financial stock market genius are gonna be patently worthless, but a STEM kid would be worth his or her weight in gold, literally.

    The guy drinking iodine was a laff-and-a-half, and I hope that people don’t get the idea that they can quickly finagle a tracheotomy with a coupe of sippy-cup straws and a razor with zero sanitation on-site and have it work out real well. Back in my old cop days, we were shown a demo of having that done with the tube from a ball-point pen, but so fah as I know, none of us has been faced with that situation.

    I wondered also about the plausibility of contemporary-sized nukes blowing away large cities as close as Denver, Chicago, etc., and all the folks in that town gotta worry about is a rainstorm a day or two later. I’d imagine that if those cities got hit, then Wichita, KC, Dallas-Houston, etc., would also be targets. Then there was the bus ride back to town with all them kids and the bus was running outta gas and he was about to detail at least one kid, the one who looked like Peter Billingsley in “A Christmas Story,” to run along and get help on foot. Next thing ya know, the bus is rolling into town and Jake the bus driver and super paramedic is a hero. Of course I might have missed something when I ran to the kitchen or upstairs for a second and left it running.

    As for ham radio; the heavy emphasis on code is long gone; and I have a current FCC two-way radio license so fah. Advice on the marine boxes is good, too; we of course live on land but about a hundred feet from the Lake which gets plenty of marine traffic and may well get even more in the future, hopefully of a commercial nature again as was the case 150-200 years ago. We also plan to be out on the Lake more often in future and the marine radios will fit right in.

  6. And “coupe” should be “couple.”

    I see that the flick “A Christmas Story,” based on the writing by the late, great Jean Shepherd, is now an annual Xmas staple, possibly edging out “It’s A Wonderful Life,” finally, a rather dark view beloved of media libruls, naturally. Mrs. OFD met Shepherd once while she was a freshman student at Brown back in Ancient Times.

  7. I despise It’s a Wonderful Life, but more than that I despise eternal copyright, and even more than that I despise our bought-and-paid-for Congress.

  8. There it is.

    And that comes on top of Fred Reed’s latest piece, which even I found a tad harsh; he’s absolutely right but does not mention that the vast majority of soldiers and sailors and marines are in support roles and never see combat and the killing fields.

    As we enter this season of Advent, Xmas, Saturnalia, the New Year, etc., etc., and after seeing that and then one brutual account after another by veterans of one sort or another in the late Paul Fussell’s edition of “Modern War,” I am ready for some decidedly pleasant news, stories, whatever, something positive, something that the likes of me, SteveF and others here do NOT despise and actually enjoy.

    And I will go way out on a limb here; I despise the Incumbent and his ilk and most of his policies, actions, speech and behavior, but by Jiminy, I like that he has so fah stood up to Bibi and the Likud war hawks over there and not got us into yet another damn Sandbox clusterfuck. I realize this could change in a nanosecond, esp. with Lady MacBeth of Little Rock and Susan Rice still running around loose, but there it is.

    I also dig living in Retroville, northern Vermont, after our 15-year-sentence served in the state capital here, admittedly on its nethermost outskirts, but still…People up here actually talk to ya and are friendly and are regular, normal working- and middle-class American citizens.

  9. Joke from the Saturday Houston Chronicle:
    A physicist, an engineer, and a statistician go hunting and in the distance see an bear. The physicist takes aim and fires, but misses three feet to the left. The engineer takes aim and fires, but misses three feet to the right. The statistician starts jumping up and down yelling: “We got him! We got him!”

  10. It would take more than one nuke to take out Dallas – Houston. There are 200 miles of farm land between the two of them. Used to be 250 miles, but, suburban sprawl.

  11. We are getting the left eye of our 17 year old cat removed today. $400. She walked into something sharp and put it right through her eyeball. We’ve been putting drops into it but it is now swelling and looks horrible. She has not been able to close that eye for weeks but she could not see out of it anyway.

    Getting animals health care is getting dadgum expensive also. Everything is going up in price!

  12. I bet that kid from “Jericho” would know what to do; a razor blade and a straw. Yeah, just having a female cat spayed is outrageous now. Again, let’s call in that kid.

    OK, I am not a scientist and do not play one on tee-vee, but wouldn’t just one of our current nukes do the job on Dallas-Houston, despite the 200 miles of farmland? The initial blast plus waves of fire plus radiation? I’d actually prefer to be at Ground Zero, of course.

  13. but wouldn’t just one of our current nukes do the job on Dallas-Houston

    Only the city center would be affected. Both Houston and Dallas have no gravity, they just suck. Thereby confining the explosion.

  14. I’d actually prefer to be at Ground Zero, of course.

    I cannot comprehend that statement. I understand what you mean of course, but I cannot imagine applying it to myself. I’m not afraid of hard work and discomfort and I do the best I can to prepare for various contingencies, so the notion of “better to die quickly” is simply incomprehensible.

  15. Finally got a chance to read Fred Reed’s latest. I pretty much agree with OFD (big surprise). Fred is unrighteously harsh on most of the poor schmucks in uniform, especially the draftees of yesteryear. I agree with Fred and OFD in condemning the chickenhawks and the profiteers. (Fuller screed elsewhere; no point in repeating myself.)

  16. OK, I am not a scientist and do not play one on tee-vee, but wouldn’t just one of our current nukes do the job on Dallas-Houston, despite the 200 miles of farmland?

    No way. First, consider air burst versus surface or subsurface burst. To destroy cities, you use air bursts, which produce very, very little local fallout. The ideal altitude for an air burst differs with the yield of the weapon, the terrain (topology), and other factors, but generally speaking the goal is to maximize the area over which a 5 PSI overpressure occurs, that overpressure being sufficient to destroy typical residential and business buildings. The only time you use surface or subsurface bursts is to dig out a hard buried target like a missile silo. Or if you want to produce a shedload of fallout, which is great for area denial and causing casualties but otherwise a waste of yield. For details, check out Glasstone’s The Effects of Nuclear Weapons.

    Destroying (flattening) cities the size of Dallas or Houston even with optimized air bursts would require probably at least a dozen each of the largest nukes in anyone’s current inventory. The fallout would be largely limited to the downwind plume. At 200 miles downwind from either, I’d want to spend at least a couple of weeks in a shelter with 3 feet of dirt or equivalent mass between me and the fallout. The radioisotopes produced by an air burst vary according to weapon design, but the vast majority of the total radiation produced is in the form of very short-lived species (microseconds to minutes). These produce a lot of REMs, but for a very short time. Remember that after 10 half lives the count is down to 1/1,000th of original and after 20 half lives it’s down to 1/1,000,000th.

    Fallout is a complex mixture of species with half-lives ranging from microseconds to millenia, and the exact shape of the decay curve differs according to the makeup of that mixture, but in general the count should be way down after a few hours and pretty tolerable for unprotected people after a couple of weeks. Tolerable in the sense that no radiation sickness would occur. You’d still want to keep children and men and women of childbearing age sheltered as long as possible, but the count after two weeks would probably not have much significant effect on guys our age. It might reduce our life expectancies slightly, and cancers might be more common, but effects on health would not be catastrophic.

  17. What, you don’t want to wander the ruins in the outer extremities of the nuclear blast zone, blind and deaf and just trying to find some non poisoned water that you can drink?

  18. So if one had to extrapolate a little bit from all this data, it is fairly unlikely that any of the nation-states currently possessing war-capable nukes could or would have the means to knock us out entirely via the nukes alone. They’d have to somehow get their warheads over here through our defenses and drop a dozen or more on EACH major city, probably, what, a dozen or more cities? A couple of dozen?

    But our food and water and goods distribution would be gone, our economy shattered to pieces and most infrastructure likewise, with tens of millions of people dead or dying and tens of millions more thrust into Apocalypse, via poisoned air, land and water, and Hobbes’s state of nature writ large.

    I suspect a one-off deal is much more likely and probably in the next five to ten years; one of the non-state entities is bound to get a dirty nuke lit off in a major metro area, and my guess would be they’ll hit the usual targets: NYC and DC. This will still, in and of itself, blow our economy all to hell and destroy millions of people and countless square miles of land, air and water. And we may not even know against whom to retaliate.

    I should have clarified; if I’m already within a major metro area that gets hit, and did not have the chance to spend my claustrophobic self underground for two or three weeks, I’d just as soon get incinerated instantly at Ground Zero. Rather than enact Lynn’s scenario above.

  19. In case you want to simulate blowing up your favorite city here is an effects calculator tied to a map. It does not include fall out.

    http://meyerweb.com/eric/tools/gmap/hydesim.html

    Of course if I wanted to have the widest effects, I would set a weapon off in the stratosphere and let the EMP pulse take out most if not all of the electronics in the USA. With out power, including generators, cites quickly become uninhabitable. Even in more rural areas the lack of things like refrigeration take a large toll.

  20. Interesting link, based on the text recommended by our host. I centered it on our house here and was gladdened to know that the local country club escapes damage. Also an island not too fah offshore that is also a state pahk.

    And it may not take a nuke or nukes to knock out our Grid; I suspect that we are gonna staht seeing more power brownouts and blackouts, some already done deliberately for civil disorder/civil defense testing purposes by The Authorities. I am glad we do not live in a city, and while somewhat rural now, we can manage without refrigeration as it is currently known. We’d simply be back in the year 1900 or so, and saving ice blocks in icehouses, stored in straw and sawdust, etc., for one example. Life would be hahd, but not as hahd as in the cities, ‘burbs and exurbs, where it would fairly quickly peter out.

  21. I thought lots of STEM grads couldn’t get jobs. My priorities if I was choosing a course at uni was to do something (1) I liked and (2) that would have a hope of paying the bills later on. That’s why I studied computer science, although I wouldn’t recommend it now – too bureaucratic.

    Haven’t you said before that science PhDs are waiting on tables?

  22. Dave, did you ever see Damnation Alley? It was supposed to be the big hit of 1977 but Star Wars got in the way. Kinda cool, really.

  23. SteveF wrote:

    “I’m not afraid of hard work and discomfort and I do the best I can to prepare for various contingencies, so the notion of “better to die quickly” is simply incomprehensible.”

    If I was going to die I’d rather it be quick than slow, but if I had a real chance at survival in good health I’d prefer that.

  24. Thanks for that tip, Greg; looks interesting, in that just a few years before it was made, I stood a very good chance of being shipped to one of the ICMB sites for security and had already served a stint guarding a nuke weapons storage area in Bangor, Maine. One of our fun bon mots at the time was “Why Not Minot,” an ICBM base in the middle of Nowhere, North Dakota, or maybe it was South Dakota, whatever, it woulda sucked real bad.

    “…a band of crazed, savage shotgun-toting mountain men…”

    I would probably be in this particular group.

    “…reaching their destination, a surprisingly intact Albany…”

    SteveF will be on the outskirts, in excellent health, and welcoming the challenge of providing for himself and his family. What a guy! Just down the street, Lady MacBeth of Little Rock and her concubine, Larry Klinton, will be enjoying their new digs, gotten from the proceeds of endlessly chiseling state and Fed taxpayers for many decades and bloviating a lot about saving Humanity.

  25. I thought lots of STEM grads couldn’t get jobs. My priorities if I was choosing a course at uni was to do something (1) I liked and (2) that would have a hope of paying the bills later on. That’s why I studied computer science, although I wouldn’t recommend it now – too bureaucratic.

    Haven’t you said before that science PhDs are waiting on tables?

    Yeah, there are a lot of science Ph.D.’s that are un- or underemployed, but the simple fact is that having a science degree, whether undergrad or grad, makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to get and keep a decent job. STEM majors are by far the highest percentage of recent graduates who’ve gotten jobs. Good luck to someone coming out of college with a worthless degree in something like history or sociology or women’s studies.

  26. If I was going to die I’d rather it be quick than slow, but if I had a real chance at survival in good health I’d prefer that.

    The first half of that is just as foreign as OFD’s statement, above. Unless you’ve got some inside track to the Fates, you don’t know you’re going to die. The thing a man does is fight every step of the way. If you’ve got determination, brains, and skill, and awful lot of “I was going to die” turns into shitty times to live through but good stories years later.

    The second half is just cowardice. “Oh, I don’t want to live if it means being sick or losing an arm.” Bah. Suck it up and deal with the discomfort for the sake of your family or the comrades you’ve accepted, or just for life’s ornery preference to stay alive.

  27. If we end up in a situation like those characters in “Jericho”, an IRS auditor or financial stock market genius are gonna be patently worthless, but a STEM kid would be worth his or her weight in gold, literally.

    I wonder if that makes someone like me worth his weight in diamonds, kind of like Dan Forrester in Lucifer’s Hammer.

  28. Ah, Minot. Surely in the running for the most boring town in the world. (Yes, it was in ND, and surrounded by Targets. Same with Grand Forks. Two ICBM bases in ND. What did they do to deserve that? Well, GF has been closed down but Minot still has its birds.

  29. “Yeah, there are a lot of science Ph.D.’s that are un- or underemployed, but the simple fact is that having a science degree, whether undergrad or grad, makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to get and keep a decent job. STEM majors are by far the highest percentage of recent graduates who’ve gotten jobs. Good luck to someone coming out of college with a worthless degree in something like history or sociology or women’s studies.”

    Hey! I have a BA in history. (And a BSc in computer science.) I know it isn’t worth a lot but at least it taught me how to research and write better, and I enjoyed it.

    I love science, especially physics, but I’d advise anyone who asked to do engineering, dentistry or medicine. They seem most likely to lead to rewarding employment that would also be interesting.

  30. “… with a worthless degree in something like history or sociology or women’s studies.”

    Or a BA in the Sociological History of Womens’ Studies. Coming to a uni near U, after they get rid of the STEM departments, of course. My PhD was gonna be in Medieval Studies, just the sort of thing for the Coming Times. Too old to be a knight/warrior, or more likely a simple-ass pikeman, and not being of royal blood in the last thousand years or so, I’d have to become a scholar/monk or priest. And convert the heathen pagan bastards all around us on this board.

    “…“Oh, I don’t want to live if it means being sick or losing an arm.” Bah. Suck it up and deal with the discomfort for the sake of your family or the comrades you’ve accepted, or just for life’s ornery preference to stay alive.”

    It would suck being sick or losing an arm and I would try to manage for a while like that, but dying of radiation sickness and being blind and just wandering in the blighted wasteland is a waste of bandwidth and I’d just as soon not be a burden to any poor benighted altruistic fools who thought they had some kind of obligation to take care of me. I’d try to go out like a champ, though.

    “I wonder if that makes someone like me worth his weight in diamonds…”

    Yeah, you would be; but if you shoot yer mouth off too much about not believing in whatever and suchlike, fanatic types may waste you as being not worth the aggravation. And these fanatic types would most likely be fundie Prods, that you’re already used to seeing and hearing down in your neck of the woods.

    Dogs driving cahs. Pretty funny; just the other night in the store pahking lot I saw a black Lab sitting upright in the driver’s seat while his owner was inside the building. I was thinking of asking to see his operator’s license and proof of insurance, registration, etc. Cats don’t waste time on such foolishness when they have their humans driving for them.

    The Landmaster: “…the truck does actually exist and is currently ongoing a restoration.” Excellent! Let’s have it up here! And we can use the Alley Crawler if we have to go into the big city (Burlington, ha, ha) for anything.

    And screw that ICBM trailer; I went straight to the Starcrash one of the scantily clad females running around in space somewhere. Very cheesy and sleazy.

    George Peppard with a Hitler moustache? Wow.

    Oh man, feral cats in Oz; the place that already has dingoes, platypusses, sea snakes, saltwater crocs, and men who stay up all night playing games over the net. Yeah, the semi-feral cats I live with also endanger the native animals, mostly rodents. I’m working them up to dragging a cow home.

  31. Yeah, you would be; but if you shoot yer mouth off too much about not believing in whatever and suchlike, fanatic types may waste you as being not worth the aggravation.

    Nah, we wizards always get a pass. People are afraid to offend us. We might turn ’em into frogs.

  32. OFD wrote:

    “My PhD was gonna be in Medieval Studies…”

    Same here, and I still might do it. My all time favourite unit at uni, even better that pure maths and computer science units, was The Medieval Church, in 1987. I simply loved it, everything was perfect about it. The lecturer was a Pom who had done extensive research on the topic in England and elsewhere. When I was traveling to the UK and Europe in 1990 I went and saw him and we worked out a must-see list of places. He also taught a unit in 1989 called The Decline of the Middle Ages: England 1300-1485, which was pretty good. The best thing was I didn’t have to worry about getting a job at the end of my BA – I already had one… 🙂

    One of my mum’s pals from the WRAAF in WWII got a PhD in history in her seventies. She finished it off even though she knew she would soon die of cancer.

  33. Bob the wizard would get hung, like one of them during the Salem Witch trials in Maffachufetts. I think they called him a warlock, though, but don’t feel like looking it up right now; gotta visit the Land of Nod.

    I wouldn’t try again for a PhD in Medieval Studies; dunno about Oz but all the humanities and history departments here in North American, or almost all, have become badly politicized and taken over by hard Left Stalinists and Maoists; only consolation I’ve had is that they will all soon be retired or dead but so will I. I continue to read heavily in it on my own, anyway. And working on recovering my Latin and Old English and Old Norse just to keep the brain cells hopping and bopping.

  34. The History Department at ANU got taken over by the PC/wimmins studies crowd too, so there’s hardly any topics there that interest me. Don’t know about Adelaide Uni.

    They used to teach Icelandic and many other wonderful languages at ANU, not any more though… 🙂

    I don’t think I have a STEM PhD in me, so it’ll be history or nothing.

  35. Hey, I just wondered, do any of you really know what OFD stands for?

    I mean, This is supposed to be a family-friendly forum, right?
    And he comes right out with the balled statement of his initials.
    “O” is “Old”, as in shrivelled, wrinkled, OK? You can see where this is going, can’t you?
    “D” is “Davey”, as in “Tell us a story, Davey. We always like your stories so much. Can I sit on your lap again, Davey, while you tell us your stories? You’re such a big cuddley man.
    …And right in the middle, dead-set central, “F” stands for “Fxxxer”, of course. I bet you can guess what “Fxxxer” is, can’t you? “Filthy”, you say? Well, close! It stands for something that has become totally unacceptable to the authorities of this day. Tax them, torture them, convict them and take their goods and livelihood from them.
    Yes, that’s right: “Fxxxer” stands for “Farmer”.
    For shame! Oh, the horror!

  36. Got a bit of a shock on Monday morning. One of the guys I work with died on Saturday after heart surgery. He was quite a fit looking guy, and a vegetarian. I’m not good at guessing ages, but he only looked late 50s to me.

  37. Hmm. Daughter in-law’s father is a heart doctor in Germany. He refuses to take patients who are vegetarian, as he says they won’t live long and he wants no part of that. Vegans take such a hard opposite stance, but when something like you mention happens, it makes one wonder.

  38. Interesting comments about advanced degree education. Krugman had an article yesterday

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/opinion/krugman-robots-and-robber-barons.html

    that touched on some of the issues. His reference links indicate that wage growth among college graduates has not only been flat since before the Great Recession began in 2007, entry wages for graduates have declined markedly since 2007—even though company profits have almost universally soared. Other recent figures that I have seen indicate that it is equally as hard for graduates to get jobs, no matter their discipline, but if they get jobs in science and have advanced degrees, they will earn significantly more than their peers who chose non-science degrees.

    Two decades ago, Krugman used to spend most of his time trying to reduce economics to problems of math formulas, but nowadays, he is tackling the political questions involved. Much more useful analysis, IMO.

    Although he and Dean Baker often disagree, they are united in their agreement that the spoils of increased profits have gone strictly to management and owners, while labor has not only *not* had wages increased as the company profits grow, but they are actually seeing their earnings decrease. Part of that decrease is defacto, as OFD has described: workers are being given the work of others to do, in addition to their own, with no increase in pay to accommodate the increased workload.

    Personally, I think we are much more likely to see unruly discontent from this changing aspect of society, than from dirty bomb attacks by foreigners. The fact is that even for kids who do get jobs, 2 wage-earners in young families no longer bring in enough to live on. That cannot continue when business is actually more profitable today than 3 years ago, but is rewarding management and ownership with the increasing profits, while actually squeezing the labor force into lower wages. Krugman makes the case that consolidation into monopolies makes this possible.

  39. Good analysis of the ‘deadlock’ on the fiscal cliff by Baker

    http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/can-anyone-tame-the-washington-posts-deficit-hysteria

    Baker has long indicated that the fiscal cliff is a ruse, as the elements do not kick in all at once, nor would the effects arise simultaneously, but it would take the whole year and maybe more before the effects actually occur. Resolution of some issues could be deferred until June without harming anything in the economy, Baker has claimed, and he has discussed that at length.

    Today, he sums up the urgency issue: “It is worth noting in this context that President Obama’s bargaining position would be substantially improved after January 1. For this reason it is understandable that Republicans and people who want to see large cuts to Social Security and Medicare would want to force a deal before the end of the year.”

    I agree 110%. Not only has the electorate spoken, but it would be reprehensible for a lame duck Congress to act before 1 Jan. The wishes of the electorate do not take effect until 1 January, and any changes to important tax policy now, would not reflect the changes the recent election mandated.

  40. Bob’s friend Mary is a vegetarian and quite fit, I wonder if there are any statistics on this.

    I love vegetables but could never become a vegetarian. I’d rather enjoy what I eat than live a bit later by conforming to some exotic diet.

  41. I guess I long for the days when families could live quite nicely on one lower middle class income. Mum never worked at paid employment after she married and we had everything we needed, and more, if not every thing we wanted. I asked for a piano when I was about eight, and I think my parents seriously considered it before not getting one. I could have been the next Bach!

    I think people should stop playing The System’s game by refusing harsh working conditions. Start your own business if necessary. I know that in places like NY (hi Steve!) that can be a royal PITA but if we learn to live frugally it can be done. When my mum, as a widow, was living in the family home she got by on a pension that would hardly buy my lunch, but she was happy and had what she needed. I also regret that we’re more isolated than we used to be. My parents knew most people for about 500 meters in any direction, but I only know the names of a few of my neighbors.

    I used to think Krugman was nuts, now I’m liking what he says more and more – but not the tax and spend stuff he sometimes advocates.

  42. You mean OFD doesn’t stand for Old Flatulent Dave, or perhaps Original Flatulent Dave?

  43. Bob’s friend Mary is a vegetarian and quite fit, I wonder if there are any statistics on this.

    Mary is vegetarian by preference rather than for ethical reasons. She simply doesn’t like the taste of meat, fowl, and fish. Fit is an understatement. She’s a Marathon runner, and at age 44 I suspect she could run most Marine DIs into the ground.

    The subject came up when we went to Costco last weekend. We’d been watching series seven of Bones (which really, Really sucks; I mean REALLY sucks). Emily Deschanel, the actress who plays the lead character, is a vegan, and she (and her character) are pregnant. I asked Mary how vegans, who can barely get enough nutrition to survive under normal circumstances, could possibly carry a baby. She agreed with me that it sounds very dangerous to mother and fetus. Mary said she has to take iron supplements, and she’s vegetarian rather than vegan.

  44. “You’re such a big cuddley man.”

    Yuck. Rest assured no one from this board will ever be sitting on my lap. Yuck.

    Well, we’ve established that the “O” stands for “Old.” That is for shit sure. 60 next year, although we’re told that 60 is the new 40 or some such drivel. As systems begin to fail, I seem to recall that all systems were “GO” at 40.

    Overcast, rain, drizzle, fog, etc. up here this morning so fah. I probably have a normal work day today but tomorrow we have a team coming up from the East Fishkill area to work on their CentOS cluster and this always means for me a very long day and well into the night. Great, more OT to be ruthlessly taxed while the Authorities and financial pundits bitch at me for not saving more. Or am I supposed to be spending it all like a drunken sailor now, I forget; it changes as often as the climate global warming people do.

  45. I used to be able to sit cross legged on the floor and stand straight up without using my hands to push myself up, or even for balance. Those days are long past.

    Getting Old Is Hell ™.

  46. I used to be able to twist off the tops of those easy-open cans.

    This morning, I actually had to use the cap snaffler to get the cap off a 2-liter Coke bottle.

  47. We’re falling apart and will soon be ashes to ashes and dust to dust…

    …well, hopefully not THAT soon.

    Lots of little things gone wrong with ol’ OFD in the last several years; one I find kind of annoying is that I somehow got a pinched nerve somewhere in my neck or back or whatever I dunno how long ago, and I sometimes get intermittent numbness down my left arm and fingers on my left hand. But constant now is how I have trouble holding onto stuff with those fingers, invariably dropping it if I don’t pay attention.

    I can foresee this as a problem should I be holding a revolver in that hand and loading rounds into the cylinder with my right hand, ferinstance.

  48. Or holding a grenade in your left hand while you pull the pin with the right.

  49. I asked Mary how vegans, who can barely get enough nutrition to survive under normal circumstances, could possibly carry a baby. She agreed with me that it sounds very dangerous to mother and fetus. Mary said she has to take iron supplements, and she’s vegetarian rather than vegan.

    I’m not sure it’s dangerous… and it’s not some massive challenge to survive as a vegan. I eat three or four square meals a day, and that’s enough for me. I’m a 6’1″ young male. I’m not in tremendous shape, but I’m in better shape than I ever was as an eater of meat and frequent eater of milk/eggs. I looked into vitamins/minerals when I changed my diet and found that I had no need to supplement with pills — I already got B12 from things like Marmite and fortified cereals. Women, for obvious reasons, might wish to supplement their iron intake. They might want to supplement other nutrients, although I confess I’ve not looked into the nutritional requirements of pregnancy.

  50. “Or holding a grenade in your left hand while you pull the pin with the right.”

    True, that. But actually when I threw grenades I had them in my right hand and pulled the pins with my left and then threw them right-handed, just like a baseball. So it wouldn’t matter now if I drop the pin.

    Speaking of vegans and vegetarians; two of my brothers are that way and seem to somehow maintain weight and function OK and they are big bruisers, one of them a Masters Class Bench Press Champion of New England. Daughter has been one her whole life so fah and also has the height and weight accordingly like my brothers. All big tall people who somehow get by on just that stuff, but I like a nice triple bacon cheeseburger once in a while and bacon-and-eggs and meatloaf and turkey, etc., etc., still probably only eat meat a couple of times a week, tops.

    And if we get kicked back to the year 1900 we’ll have to raise and slaughter our meat animals locally, I reckon, and there are certainly enough folks around up here who do that already and could learn us how to do it ourselves. We also live on a 100-mile-long inland sea and there are loads of fish out there, too.

  51. “company profits have almost universally soared”

    I think the truth is probably that big company profits have soared. Small and mid-size companies don’t seem t be doing as well, because they just don’t have the capacity to deal with the huge and rapidly growing regulatory burden.

    Obamacare seems to currently be a big piece of that. I haven’t read the rules, nor do I care to, but apparently there are good reasons to keep as few full-time employees as possible. According to the blogosphere, many companies will be changing largely to part-time staff, which means that people will have to hold down two jobs to keep their previous standard of living. And likely neither of those jobs will provide health-care.

    This has been going on in the UK for a long-time now. There, the trick is to hire “temporary staff”. You can have practically an entire company consisting entirely of temporary staff. They may work for you for years, but because they are officially “temporary” you don’t have to provide health care, pension, sick leave, or indeed anything at all beyond a basic wage. This tends to happen in the same companies where next quarter’s numbers are more important that long-term customer satisfactions. Unfortunately, those are the same big companies (or subsidiaries thereof) that now have the playing field tilted in their direction – making it difficult for the competition to take advantage of this idiocy.

    Getting Old Is Hell ™

    Can I take out a lease on that trademark? The last few months have definitely sucked – more weird aches and pains than I want to count. Finally called the doc, but can’t get in until January. The medical industry is screwed up here just as bad as anywhere else, only different: your standard GP can’t makes ends meet – only the specialists make good money – so most of the GPs still practicing are either either incompetent or have only a few years left until retirement. There are exceptions, and our local GP is one of them – with the result that appointments are hard to get.

  52. @brad: yeah, the trend is mos def in the direction of hiring as few full-timers as possible and bringing in part-timers, contractors, temps, consultants, whatever and get as much work as possible out of them while paying as little as possible, in either fiat currency or bennies. Soon we’ll all be serfs and subjects again, the mercy of vassals hired out to do the lords’ and ladies’ bidding whatever the cost in blood and time and treasure to us. As it is, they barely acknowledge our existence at all, and when they do, it is with profound loathing, disdain, distaste, contempt, etc. I can’t wait for the gladiator combat to the death, the return of actual slavery, and serfs (us) being hunted for sport.

    As for the aches and pains, I have found that some of them simply come, and then go again, in a few days, weeks or months. A couple of issues have lingered but a lot of the little ones have eventually just gone away. YMMV.

  53. Well, I have zero employees and don’t plan to change that any time soon. However, if I do use paid help, it’ll be on a contractor basis, at least at first.

    However, I don’t think of myself as someone who would abuse anyone working for me. I try to treat everyone, including workers and customers, as I’d want to be treated in their place. I don’t think my attitude is unusual, at least among small business owners.

    I’ve never been able to understand this “pay them as little as possible” idea. What I’d want to do is get maximum bang for my buck. In my experience paying people as little as possible doesn’t provide that, for the same reason that the institution of slavery would have fallen of its own weight if the War Between the States had never occurred. Slaves do as little work as they can get by with, and poorly paid people aren’t much better in terms of productivity. Paying people more than you absolutely have to engenders loyalty, flexibility, and both harder and more efficient and effective work.

    Wal*Mart versus Costco is illustrative. Wal*Mart employees have little loyalty, which is why they have such large turnover. Costco employees, on the other hand, are fiercely loyal to Costco. They’re well paid, and Costco goes out of its way to treat them right.

    Years ago, when we first joined Costco, I was standing at the membership counter talking to one of their employees about what it was like to work there. She couldn’t do enough to sing their praises. She was a single mom and when she’d gone to work for Costco her child had been ill and she had no medical coverage. I can’t remember all the details, but I think it had to do with extending medical coverage to her child while she was in her probationary period or something similar. As she said, “They didn’t have to do that, but they did.” She said she’d never want to work anywhere else.

  54. I’ve heard the same stories about Costco and Walmart and we try to do our bulk shopping stuff at Costco, the local co-ops, farmers’ markets, etc. Haven’t been in Walmart in quite a while although they’ve now broken ground on a Walmart SuperStore or whatever they’re called, here in Retroville. It will fit right in with the strip up Route 7 North that already includes PriceChopper, Hannafords, the burger joints, Tractor Supply, etc., etc. All that is about six or seven miles north of us and we avoid it as much as possible.

  55. BTW, one of my buddies at Chevron told me last week that they are hiring new engineers (Mechanical or Chemical) at $80K/year. Plus bennies of which Chevron and Exxon have the best in the world. At least the USA. They even still have defined benefit retirement plans. That is for fresh college grads, gentlemen.

    Petroleum Engineers are starting at $130K/year. Texas A&M graduates 20 of them per year and they are spoken for already.

    Of course, they are going to ship your butt to the wilds of South Texas, South Dakota or the awesome Gulf of Mexico. 3 weeks on, 3 weeks off with 80 other sweaty guys sharing the 3 living floors of the rig. That is assuming that you do pass the underwater evacuation drill for the helicopter.

  56. Well, I have not seen figures for big vs. small business, but I can report anecdotally that the people I know who have small businesses are doing quite well this year, after several very, very down years, and they are looking forward to continued improvement. In fact, people without sufficient backup cash, went out of business, and in Tiny Town, that included 2 coin-operated laundries that succumbed in 2010. Who woudda thunk those could not survive? One re-opened earlier this year with new equipment and new ownership, and looks busy all the time.

    As an example of improvement, the car would not start (not battery related) and had to be towed to my one-mechanic shop. He’s the best in town, but tells me he is so backed up that he cannot get to it for several days. He has had that shop for just over 10 years and says he has never had more business than he does now. Normally, I have to schedule work with him a couple weeks in advance, but this time I have no choice except to wait however long it takes, when the darned thing will not start.

    There is a lot of stuff I just do not believe, and this bit about Nobamacare killing businesses is just PR subterfuge by the anti-Nobama camp, IMO. I will believe it if I see it. Not that I favor Nobamacare, but I am not going to go off the deep end about the future, as I did in the ‘70’s, which we clearly survived. Hopefully, I learned something from that non-debacle. Yeah, there is going to be some adjustment, but that is life—always. I got rid of all my survivalist books back when my mom died, otherwise I would have something to offer y’all.

    Regarding vegetarianism, I wish I had asked more questions while I was in Germany, but I never imagined I would be gone from Deutschland and back here in the States. When I first heard he would not take people who did not eat meat, I was astounded, but daughter in-law quickly confirmed. The only other thing I know is what she told me on a separate occasion—that humans need red meat. Not a lot, but some. There is some chemical (she told me, but I cannot even remember the names of the drugs I am on, let alone chemicals in red meat) that humans only get by eating red meat, and it is crucial to good health. Some animals, like cats, can synthesize this chemical, but people cannot.

    Anyway, I have no objections to meat, but I am not a meat lover, like some in my family. My wife had to have beef every day—my craving is for chocolate every day. Back when I was a kid, large steaks were common—8 to 12 oz were normal servings and barbeque grilling was a time to splurge with anywhere from 10 to 20 oz. But the last time I looked, Mayo Clinic now recommends only 2.5 oz as an acceptable portion of meat; that is down from a normal sustaining diet my dad was given by them back in the ‘70’s, which called for 4 oz of meat as a ‘normal’ meal portion. If I get the chance, I will ask more questions about the vegetarian diet. Meanwhile, I eat a broad variety of foods, not excluding anything, which is what several of my doctors over the years have said I should be doing, while eating more vegetables than meat and potato-like carbohydrates.

    I have never opposed Walmart on the grounds some have, but I have had several recent unacceptable experiences. Among them, I was prescribed a certain dosage of a certain brand of aspirin. I am pretty sure that would be covered under the prescription insurance I have, but they flatly refused to check for me, and told me to get it off the shelf as over-the-counter, just like they would have to. Problem with going elsewhere is, for the medication I take, two of them are $4/mo drugs at Walmart, and the other places in Tiny Town do not match that price. Nearest Costco is over an hour away, and when I have been given a trial there, they do not sell sizes I can use. I don’t need things like an institutional-size mayonnaise jar (which was all they sold last time I was there), which will go bad before I eat a quarter of it, aside from the refrigerator space it occupies. I have been trying to shop more at Meijer (Michigan outfit that is all over the Midwest), but the nearest is Muncie, and often I do not get up to Muncie more than once every 6 weeks. There are not many useful options when you live in a tiny town, and worse yet, they gouge you on price, knowing that there are no other options. Walmart in Indy sells nearly everything significantly cheapter than the one in Tiny Town.

  57. “Princess is a vegetarian? Or a vegan?”

    Uber-vegan. Only veggies, fruit, tofu, rice, stuff like that. Except when she’s clearly starving and scarfs down entire boxes of cereal, boxes of cookies, bags of candy, etc., which is the only way one can get over 200 pounds when otherwise just eating the foregoing. I’m not supposed to know about that or say anything even if I do know. Must be blown off, ignored, excused, rationalized, forgotten, like other behavior over the past fifteen years.

    Businesses which will prosper, esp. in Tiny Town, Retroville, etc. will be ones that make stuff or fix stuff or provide an essential service. Vehicle and small-engine repair/mechanics, laundries, barbers, gunsmiths, etc. Financial wizards and gurus and lawyers not so much anymore. Maybe tutors in certain subjects, but I don’t fool myself that anyone gives two shits about the language we all speak, read and write. Except maybe STEM graduates, ironically.

  58. Women are so insecure about their weight… 🙁

    A young woman I knew complained that she’d put on two kilos. I made a show of looking her up and down, front and back, then asked incredulously “Where?” She thought I was being really sweet and sensitive for ignoring the obvious, but she looked just fine to me. That was replayed with another young woman who said she’d put on five kilos on a recent visit to Canada. I said I couldn’t see it and again she thought I was being really sweet.

    I don’t get this stuff. Both of them looked very attractive/pretty/beautiful/cute/gorgeous but were really down on themselves.

  59. My sister doesn’t particularly like red meat but her doctor ordered her to have it. No excuses.

    I like red meat but prefer chicken and fish. No particular reason for that. And I’m not going to either extreme. I’ve read about American steakhouses offering 24 oz porterhouses for one person, plus sides. I’m thinking of going out to lunch soon, and may have a 300-350 g (12-14 oz) steak, which I’ll only just barely be able to get through. Then there’s the American delis that have pastrami “sandwiches” with enough pastrami to feed a small African nation. Just nuts. If a doctor tells me I can add five years to my life expectancy by only eating 2.5 oz of meat at a time I’m simply not interested. I’d rather enjoy life, which means not going to either extreme.

    I agree with the sentiments expressed that good employees are a valuable resource and shouldn’t be screwed. I think driving wages and benefits down as far as you can is just a power/dominance game, and I’d hate it if it was being done to me. I think it’s obscene that people at the top are getting outrageous remuneration, whether their company does well or tanks, while people at the bottom are getting short changed. I liked our host’s sentiments on the subject, which was similar to the thoughts of someone he says never existed: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

  60. Oh that saying predates the accounts of that fictional guy Jesus by a long shot. Chinese philosophers had one: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” Even ancient Greeks had a similar one: “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.”

  61. “…that fictional guy Jesus…”

    ROFLMAO!

    Maybe He thinks YOU’RE the fictional guy.

    And can make it so.

    This is one American who doesn’t go to extremes with the food thang, Greg. I like a nice fat pastrami sammich wid provolone and spicy mustard once in a while, and also the occasional steak tips smothered with onions, shrooms and gravy over rice or wid a side of pommes de terre au gratin. We might have something along those lines maybe once a month, if that. Rest of time it’s rice and beans and fish and poultry and veggies and fruit. Occasional Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. My days of going to extremes on anything are long over.
    I think it’s obscene that people at the top are getting outrageous remuneration, whether their company does well or tanks, while people at the bottom are getting short changed.”

    Agreed. Those days are coming to an end. Not tomorrow, not next week and not next year. But they’re coming.

  62. Well, looks my cut-and-paste quote operation tanked up there, don’t it. Site is also wicked slow posting the posts tonight. I recommend a dose of whatever Google gave its servers yesterday morning.

  63. Oh that saying predates the accounts of that fictional guy Jesus by a long shot. Chinese philosophers had one: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” Even ancient Greeks had a similar one: “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.”
    Interesting, if you can look at it dispassionately. All the alternatives anyone can quote are negative – “DO NOT”. Jesus was the only one I know of who stated it positively – “DO UNTO OTHERS”.

  64. Wow, Don, you sure convinced me. Jesus (at least as translated through about three languages) (and to the extent that you believe that everything in the new testament is a true account of events and conversations) must be Teh One Tru God!

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