Thursday, 31 October 2013

07:57 – I hate Halloween. I’ll have to spend time today hanging garlic sprigs over all the doors and windows and taking other steps to keep the zombies, vampires, and ghosts outside, where they belong.

Whatever happened to the concept of a secured/senior creditor? Detroit proposes to pay its (unsecured/junior) retirees 16 cents on the dollar while defaulting on bonds and other senior obligations. That 16 cents on the dollar is being stolen from senior creditors, just as the Obama administration stole from senior creditors during the GM/Chrysler bankruptcies. Detroit should be paying retirees zero cents on the dollar.

10:49 – I built my first computer back in about 1976 using an 8080A processor, 256 bytes (not KB) of discrete memory chips, toggle switches for input, and LEDs for output. When I was in business school (1983 – 85), a lot of my fellow students were surprised that I hadn’t bought a PC yet. I told them that I was waiting until I could afford to buy a desktop PC that was at least as powerful as the DEC VAX 11/780 I used at work. They told me I’d be waiting a long, long time. They were wrong, obviously.

Although no one has asked me why I haven’t bought a 3D printer yet, the same principle applies. Affordable consumer models are currently itneresting toys rather than serious tools. No slam on them; they’re capable of doing some amazing things. But I want better, faster, more capable, larger, and cheaper. And consumer-grade 3D printers are, of course, getting better, faster, more capable, larger, and cheaper every year. It won’t be long now.

Okay, I’ll admit that I actually did buy an IBM PC/XT back in the day, mainly because I wanted to get some experience with personal computing while I waited for the PC I really wanted. And I may do the same with 3D printers, but I don’t think they’re to the PC/XT stage quite yet.

I suspect that 3D printing is going to be the next “intellectual property” battleground, and those IP owners are going to lose to FOSS and Pirate Bay, just as they have with music, movies, and increasingly ebooks. I’d guess that five years from now there’ll be freely-downloable templates for millions upon millions of items. The next time I need to replace the plastic dogs in the washing machine agitator, instead of ordering them from a website I’ll just print them. And millions of other people will be printing millions of other items every day. The cat is already out of the bag.

37 thoughts on “Thursday, 31 October 2013”

  1. Detroit may not have a choice right now. As I understand it, there is a Michigan constitutional amendment that requires pension obligations to be met. Of course, the federal courts could use supremacy clause rulings to vacate that and apply federal law.

    The most infuriating element of the whole bankruptcy is that the pension funds were found to have been making extras “Christmas Bonus” payments when returns exceeded expectations. See

  2. Why is it the Red Sox couldn’t even get to the Series during the 18 years I lived there, and now they have won it 3 times in the last 8 years? This is the first time since Babe Ruth played that they have won it at a home game.

    Meanwhile, trick or treating has been postponed until Friday all over this part of the country, due to heavy rain and high winds forecasts. At the moment, it is raining cats and dogs outside Tiny House, and wind gusts are pushing 30 mph.

  3. “Military Families Who Want to Home-School Their Children Find Support”

    I’m sure Mullah Obummer will stop that ASAP! You know, it’s his military.

  4. There were quite a few kids ToTing in my street tonight, first time in years.

    We didn’t have it ’till eight years ago, it started up for a few years then died completely for a few years. This year I had a note in my letterbox from a local mum that she’d be bringing the kids around. Sure enough there were kids (and parents) everywhere this evening, all dressed up.

  5. “II told them that I was waiting until I could afford to buy a desktop PC that was at least as powerful as the DEC VAX 11/780 I used at work. They told me I’d be waiting a long, long time.”

    We must be twins separated at birth. In 1983 I told my boss that VAX powered computers would be available on the desktop in the not too distant future. He thought I was nuts but I knew the trends. I can run NOS/BE, an old Cyber mainframe operating system on my PC if I want.

  6. I still have the IBM PC/XT sitting in the basement, Hercules graphics card and all. I bet it’d fire up even after all these years.

    I’ve kept it because I always had in the back of my mind that I’d gut it and install a supercomputer in the old case. Well, not a supercomputer, perhaps, but something five or six orders of magnitude faster than that 4.77 MHz 8086.

  7. Meanwhile, trick or treating has been postponed until Friday

    That never works out well. I grew up in Eastern Nebraska and when I was trick-or-treating age there was one year we got almost a foot of snow on Halloween and we went trick-or-treating anyway. I can remember trick-or-treating in heavy winter coats with hat and gloves and I can remember doing it in short-sleeved shirts. It probably wasn’t until the late 1980s or early 1990s that postponing trick-or-treating for weather became common. They did it one year, when I was still young enough to be trick-or-treating, because of an ice storm. It was rescheduled for the following Friday and was a total flop. It’s almost always a failure when they reschedule as not nearly as many houses participate on the rescheduled night and fewer kids go out. Not to mention all the kids that don’t get the message or don’t care and go out trick-or-treating in the inclement weather and cause all sorts of confusion with everyone. There is a trend in some areas for a Beggars Night which is always on whatever Friday or Saturday night is closest to Halloween. That way trick-or-treating is always on a non-school night. I’m a traditionalist with such things, so I don’t care for the concept, but I do understand the logic behind it.

    Ever notice that in the 1966 It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown short that they call it “tricks or treats” instead of “trick-or-treat?” Does anyone who was old enough to trick-or-treat in the late 1960s remember it being called anything other than “trick-or-treating?”

    Also, since I just read her Facebook rant on the topic. Nothing irritates my sister more than parents who don’t take their kids trick-or-treating because of fear of poisoned or otherwise dangerous candy being handed out. Apparantly, if you Google it up, there has never been a confirmed case of that ever happening. It’s basically an urban legend. So, if you hear that crap from somebody, then please smack them. 🙂

    There has been a decline in door-to-door everything. Girl Scouts mostly opt to sell their cookies from a table at a local grocery store than by knocking on neighbors doors. I cannot remember the last time a Boy Scout knocked on my door trying to sell popcorn. Trick-or-Treaters get fewer and fewer every year. The world is rapidly becoming scared of its own shadow. That’s the result of the MSM bombarding us with every crime where a child is victim until it seems like there is a 100% chance of your child being victimized if they ever leave your sight.

  8. “Meanwhile, trick or treating has been postponed”

    They’ve long since ruined the holiday. Parents scared of razor blades in apples (which never happened), sending kids around before it’s even dark (how scary is that?), and now they think they can just change the day on which it happens? Halloween was a great tradition, but “It’s dead, Jim.”

    Did anyone else watch the Star Trek fan episode, done in the style of TOS? Here’s their Kickstarter link – scroll down to the second video. It’s a 51 minute show. Once you get over the different faces and voices, they did an absolutely incredible job. The sounds, sets and effects are indistinguishable; the plot is just as cheesy as TOS. If you have an hour to kill, I found it genuinely enjoyable.

  9. Well, this is only a one-day delay. Many cities around us have repeatedly moved the official day for ToT’ing to an ‘official’ day that pleases the mayor and police departments—usually a Friday. There is kind of a struggle around central Indiana between those who want the kids off the street, and those who want the traditional experience. Many of the malls have instituted ToT’ing with the stores giving out the candy, instead of houses, and municipal officials are all behind that. Have not heard much about it this year, though. No question my experience is that ToT’ing is coming back after decades of unwarranted parental fright.

    The whole region around Indiana has changed the day because of weather this year. Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, virtually every city in Indiana, Louisville, Cincinnati, and most of western Ohio.

    We are getting heavy rain here, and radar shows more is on the way—right through the night. The high wind is what really motivated the change, though. Wind in some areas is forecast to be as high as 50 mph by nightfall. It is quite warm, though; temps around Tiny Town are in the low 60’s F.

  10. “The Walking Dead” episode last Sunday night illustrated why you drive heavy four wheel drive vehicles in the post apocalyptic world. When one is driving a Charger for speed and then runs over a couple of dozen walkers at the edge of the 6,000 walker herd, one really needs four wheel drive. And need it badly.

  11. I have never heard “tricks or treats” in the US. However, some languages other than English use the plural form of a noun to represent the collective. Even British English treats collective nouns as plural—such as “the Board of Directors are meeting” rather than the more accurate American English, “the Board of Directors is meeting”. A Board of Directors is a singular concept. Boards of Directors is the idea in plural.

  12. I have to ask, what exactly did you DO with a 256 byte computer with toggle input and LED output? Were there other output methods to get more usable data? I’m showing my age, I guess. I’m 47 and had my first computer in 1980 (TRS-80, 4K, cassette storage, BASIC in ROM).

  13. I didn’t do anything with it other than move toggle switches and watch LEDs go on and off. You know. Stuff like having it add 2 + 2. Doing useful work wasn’t the point, which was my point about the current status of 3D printing: neat to watch, but of limited usefulness.

    Now, when it gets to the point where it can spit out finished items as fast as my printer spits out finished pages, then we’ll be talking about useful.

  14. Heck, I get that. My first job was helping program an automation system for a sewage plant. This was around 1980. Even though we programmed in Ratfor (structured Fortran dialect), the computer had front panel switches that you could use to modify memory locations, change the registers, and such like. I spent a few evenings after hours toggling in machine language programs just for the hell of it.

    By the way, the sewage plant we installed the system in stank. But not half as much as the sugar refinery across the street, Gawd, what a stench – when the wind blew the wrong way, you were happy to escape into the sewage plant.

  15. We’re having the same weather Chuck’s having out in Tiny Town; here in Retroville it’s spitting big rain drops and it’s windy as hell; whitecaps on the Bay/Lake and surf, but temps are up in the 50s. This should knock down the remaining leaves, I guess.

  16. We’ve had some leaves fall, but most of the leaves haven’t even started to change colors.

  17. We have had about a foot of rain so far today in the Land of Sugar. My office ponds are doing some serious catchup. The swimming pool at the house is level with the decking now.

    Sigh, got new glasses today. The left eye is better, the right eye sucks in a different way. Those dozen or so floaters in the right eye are getting worse and worse.

  18. Hi Bob,
    I seem to recall that the Constitution requires “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.”

    As far as weather goes, Indian Summer is in full swing here in New England. It’s currently 53 and raining, and is supposed to be in the mid 60s tomorrow and Saturday…

    Cheers, Rod

  19. Apparantly, if you Google it up, there has never been a confirmed case of that ever happening.

    It happened once, here in Houston. Halloween of 1974. A father laced his kids’ Pixie Stix with cyanide. Killed his son – he did it for insurance money. He, in turn, was poisoned by the state 10 years later after his appeals were finished.

    But it has never been done by a stranger.

    Details at

  20. OK, never shoot at a female former USMC cop:

    I am amazed that all three guys survived being arrested. Usually around here, they handcuff them and throw them in the nearest bayou.

    BTW, can I submit that a person shooting a cop should get an expedited death penalty?

    And I like this comment:

    “”Both men are Honduran nationals believed to be in the country without documentation.””

    “What a surprise.”

  21. We’ve had some leaves fall, but most of the leaves haven’t even started to change colors.

    I’ve heard that the leaves changing is triggered by the reduced sunlight of winter months and not be temperature. That said, a hard freeze might kill the leaves on a tree before they have a chance to turn.

    But it has never been done by a stranger.

    Exactly my point. While there are many cases of poisoning, there have never been any confirmed cases of trick-or-treaters being given poisoned candy as they go door to door. What you have in the example you mentioned is an evil father that thought he could poison his son’s candy and the authorities would think the kid got from some random stranger while trick-or-treating.

  22. BTW, can I submit that a person shooting a cop should get an expedited death penalty?

    What a great idea! We definitely need to establish that some classes of people are to be treated differently than others under the law. It’ll be convenient to have a term to refer to the special classes. “Nobility” should do the trick. And the non-special people can be called “serfs”.

  23. Oh man, I remember using CDC’s Non Operative System. 🙂 The coolest feature was typing ‘Hello’ to log off, just to watch a newbie’s face. I also remember Trash 80s with the cassette drive. IBM PCs also had them, I don’t remember about my Apple II.

    And I give out cans of Coca Cola or bottles of water for Samhain. It’s different, it gives the kids something to wash down all that candy, and mom & dad don’t have to worry about poisoning, razor blades, etc.

  24. “Indian Summer is in full swing here in New England.”

    Nope. I beg to differ. We have to get a full hard frost for at least a few days or a week first, and then a few days to a week sometime after that of unseasonably warm temperatures and sunny days. Sometimes happens in late November or December but not every year. We haven’t had a frost yet up here in northwestern Vermont, let alone a hard frost for days or weeks. We know Indian Summuh by the shock it provides after we’ve just started getting used to frigid nights and brisk days.

  25. We had several days of hard frost here in the mid-Hudson Valley earlier this week, as well as fluctuating temperatures before that. Could your private lake be moderating your temperature that much?

  26. Ah, New England autumn, I’m jealous. I used to live near the Mass/NH border, and the show was really something. Here, we don’t have any maple trees, so the colors are boring by comparison: green and pale yellow, then it’s all over.

    That said, we’re having an unusually warm autumn; haven’t had the first frost yet, and it’s not coming in the next week either. The weather is going to collapse into rain and sog on the weekend, but stay above freezing. Likely it will freeze the following week. I suppose this warm weather is the compensation for the bloody freezing June that we had. That screwed up all sorts of things: lots of fruit trees no longer knew which way was up. For example, our apple trees produced tiny apples, and the flavor just wasn’t there.

    Apple ][, being my first computer, I remember it well. It had floppy disks. I had a stack of three of the things. Had lots of fun with that machine, and was able to do some surprising things with it.

  27. In Berlin, we had these trees that had what looked like huge (and I mean as big as 2 hands side-by-side) maple leaves. It wasn’t a maple, and I only got the German name, which I now forget. They always provided great color by turning bright yellow. I would have loved to have had those leaves to press in a book back in grade school.

    The bad weather and wind has passed and ToT’ing is tonight (Fri). I myself would not have gone out last night for love nor money, but I do not think any parent would have had to force their child into that weather, if the authorities had not banned it. Many empty houses on the Tiny House street, which is only 3 blocks long, so if I were a kid serious about stockpiling candy, I would just skip this street. I was home last night, but won’t be tonight, due to longtime plans, so essentially I add another empty house.

  28. I wrote my first program on an Apple IIe in 1987. BASIC was such an easy language for a kid to look at and self-teach himself to program. It’s probably one of the reasons I went into IT as an adult.

  29. “Could your private lake be moderating your temperature that much?”


    It’s generally ten degrees cooler here than inland in the summuh and ten degrees warmer in the wintuh. It’s a microclimate; a village on a bay of a 130-mile-long lake (15 miles wide at widest point, and over 400 feet deep in some places) with many square miles of flat farmland behind us. Right now it’s 65 degrees and the wind is still producing 40- and 50-mile gusts and spitting rain. Been like this for two days now.

  30. “In Berlin, we had these trees that had what looked like huge (and I mean as big as 2 hands side-by-side) maple leaves.”

    Did these trees have flaky bark that leaves their trunks looking like they have mange? If so, we have a bunch of those here around the local school. Really cool leaves – here’s one we dried last fall. Lousy picture, but that’s a 12 inch scale on the ruler. Dunno what the trees are called either – I’d have to ask my wife, as she’s the plant expert…

  31. If I’d just seen that image, I’d have guessed Acer macrophyllum, but it’s native to the US northwest. In Berlin, I don’t know, unless they’ve imported them. It may be A. platanoides, which does have pretty large leaves, but isn’t known for shaggy bark. Another possibility is A. campestre, but its leaves are not nearly that large.

  32. That looks a lot like the size of the leaf, but the trees themselves did not have mangy trunks as I remember. They were relatively slender trees, however—compared to the maples around here and in my next door neighbor’s backyard.

    I was told the tree in question was not a maple, but after looking at the Acer, I am not so sure. There were not a lot of them around Berlin, but just enough to be impressive to someone like me, who is very familiar with the maple leaf.

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