Thursday, 6 March 2014

08:03 – This is getting old. The forecast is for freezing rain this evening and overnight.

From the news reports, it appears that Bitcoin is imploding, with exchanges collapsing and questionable deaths and disappearances among those running the exchanges. Given how much governments, all governments, hate the idea of a monetary system that is outside their control, I have to wonder how much of the trouble is a result of governments working behind the scenes to destroy Bitcoin. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but this all does seem a bit convenient for governments, who are now trumpeting “we told you so”.

Science kit sales continue to be slow, given the time of year, but are still running at double last year’s rate. I’m still building subassemblies for inventory.


11:37 – I was just on eBay looking for a rather obscure chemical that my regular vendors are out of stock on. While I was there, I realized that I’m getting low on iodine, so I searched for iodine acs crystals. I ended up ordering 250 grams of ACS reagent iodine crystals for $39.99 plus $5.99 shipping. That was a pleasant surprise. I went back and looked for the last iodine PO, and found that I’d paid nearly $100 including shipping for 250 grams. We don’t use all that much iodine–maybe 500 grams per year–but nearly every kit we ship includes a 30 mL bottle of dilute Lugol’s iodine, and several of the other solutions in various kits also require iodine. Given that iodine is a DEA List I chemical, I’m always concerned I’ll have trouble getting it. So far, I haven’t, but I like to keep a reasonable amount in stock.

A couple of years ago, I would have hesitated to order from that vendor, who is shipping the product from China. Nowadays, I don’t worry about it at all. I’ve ordered scores of things from Chinese vendors over the last couple years, both on eBay and on Amazon.com. Every order has arrived–although some of them took a couple of months–and every shipment has been correct.

43 thoughts on “Thursday, 6 March 2014”

  1. Bitcoin is an interesting experiment. Given that there is a 21 million Bitcoin limit, and that electric power required to generate a new Bitcoin already costs more than the cost of a Bitcoin, I am confident in saying that Bitcoin is not the future medium of exchange. It may well be prototype for the future medium of exchange.

  2. We have rain, wind (20 mph gusting to 30 mph) and temperatures in the low 50’s. I’ll take that over freezing rain.

    Rick in Portland

  3. …electric power required to generate a new Bitcoin already costs more than the cost of a Bitcoin

    How much energy is used to product a US penny from ore to metal to coin?

  4. How much energy is used to product a US penny from ore to metal to coin?

    At least with a penny you have something to show for the effort. With bitcoins you have nothing. And in a pinch the penny can be used to replace a fuse. Try that with a bitcoin.

  5. A couple of years ago, I would have hesitated to order from that vendor, who is shipping the product from China. Nowadays, I don’t worry about it at

    I currently work for a company that imports tens of millions of dollars of Chinese goods every year (most cheap plastic crap). They’re pretty reliable. I’d be leery about ordering anything you would put in your mouth (toddler toys, food stuffs, etc.) as their standards on such things are always lacking and they are regularly dinged by US testing of such goods. Outside of that, most everything is good. Granted, our orders arrive by Conex containers via railcars, so it’s a bit different. We do occasionally find dead rodents and insects in the containers and then they have to quarantine them and fog them with insecticides and whatnot. Sometimes it’s something more extreme like a Chinese vendor stuffing something with shredded refuse instead of polyfill. For the most part, they’re pretty reliable.

  6. Yeah, but our pennies are going to be made with wind generated electricity with only one dead Golden Eagle per roll.

    (Realize that the “yeah, but….” does not connote agreement. It is a minimally polite form of “no, you stupid idiot and here is why…”.)

  7. 57 F here in the Land of Sugar and heading for 60 F today. Clear as a bell.

    My swimming pool was up to 68 F. It is back down to 42 F after that little ice age.

  8. no, you stupid idiot and here is why

    Thanks Stu for the vote of confidence.

  9. We don’t have pennies in Canada anymore as the cost is higher than the goods. It doesn’t make sense to make cents.

  10. Aiming to start a small discusion…

    Anybody have experience with commercial magazine archives? My wife saves a lot of sewing and crafts related magazines, and has been enticed by their offers of collections on DVD. She would like to reduce storage volume and gain search capability.

    I have looked into a few, but these didn’t seem worthwhile. Haven’t bought any because all require some sort of installation with Digital Restrictions Management. The main problem is that, even though we might own the physical media, the content might not be available in the future if the DRM scheme is no longer supported. Just ask some of the early ebook adopters!

    Some more digging also found that some of these don’t even have full text search, one of the other hoped-for benefits. Publishers are still in the nineteenth century. Oh, and none I have found so far will apparently work with Linux, other than using Wine, and even then, iffy.

  11. I’d be surprised if there’s a DRM scheme that hasn’t been cracked.

  12. DRM

    Try to find a torrent of one of the mags to see how they look. Kickass or PB have tons of craft mags. If you own the media, why not download an e-copy somebody has already de-DRM-d as a backup.

  13. Obummer did an interview on Telemundo. He “promised” not to use ObummerCare info to deport illegals. He then blamed Congress for deportations. Isn’t it the job of the Executive Branch to enforce the law. How can Congress deport illegals? Maybe millions of illegals will sign up and the next President will actually deport them all.

  14. Anybody have experience with commercial magazine archives?

    I don’t have any experience with magazine collections on DVD yet. There are two or three of them I want to buy, but I haven’t yet parted with the money. I have the same concerns you do, except I’m still using Windows 7. I’m tempted to write the publisher and point out that if they cut the price from $200 to $100 they’d get a lot more sales. I would argue that they’d sell more than twice as many at the lower price. I am sure the cost of digitizing the content is the big cost involved in the project. How much does it cost to make two or three DVDs and a case?

    I also hope this provokes a discussion.

  15. High costs and small market = DRM

    Your estimate may be spot on, or it may be miles off. It may be that they’d sell no more copies at $100 than they are at $200. It may even be that they’d actually sell fewer at $100. Getting valid numbers for price elasticity of demand on small-volume niche products is non-trivial, to say the least.

  16. Getting valid numbers for price elasticity of demand on small-volume niche products is non-trivial, to say the least.

    You can say that again (I write and sell a small volume niche product each day). Figuring out how to maximize our income is dadgum nigh unto impossible.

  17. 12 here in the Bay right now and dropping, but it was a gorgeous blue skies day and no wind; and we’re heading into the 30s starting Friday, at long last.

    We are heading to Montreal Saturday to bring linguist scholar daughter back to school and staying overnight, after which we’ll hit mass here:

    http://www.basiliquenddm.org/en/

    And Monday we have another two cords of seasoned hardwood arriving on-site here; we figure four cords for the wintuh, at $220 per. Round it off to a thousand for added human labor stacking it and hauling it into the house. Still bettuh than the five or six oil tank fill-ups at $700 each, for nearly $4k. And this was for a substantially colder and longer wintuh than usual for here on the Bay.

  18. I am sure the cost of digitizing the content is the big cost involved in the project.

    Not as much as you think, as the magazine is already digital when they send it to the presses. All they need to do is convert to pdf. I got the archives of Fine Cooking on DVD and they are searchable pdfs with a custom front end – exception being that the ads are not searchable.

  19. Magazine ads are usually TIF files. Just fancy bitmaps and definitely not searchable. Too bad.

  20. And Monday we have another two cords of seasoned hardwood arriving on-site here; we figure four cords for the wintuh, at $220 per. Round it off to a thousand for added human labor stacking it and hauling it into the house. Still bettuh than the five or six oil tank fill-ups at $700 each, for nearly $4k. And this was for a substantially colder and longer wintuh than usual for here on the Bay.

    Heating oil is bad news except that it can be easily controlled and automated. If your tank is higher than the burner then you do not even need a pump. But the expense of heating oil is just going to go higher and higher since heating oil, jet fuel and diesel are all the same crude oil cut (almost). So you are competing against jet planes and diesel rigs in the world for your heating oil. You need natural gas in your area, real bad.

    I don’t even want to think about how sore your back is going to be tonight. You may be crawling up those stairs.

    So when is winter over for you? I’m figuring on July.

    Where is the stove at and how do you distribute the heat?

    And how often do you have to feed and stoke that bad boy? I remember you getting a new wood burner recently.

    And, can you hardly wait to vote Bernie for Pres?
    http://washingtonexaminer.com/vermonts-bernie-sanders-readies-2016-run-blasts-clinton-type-of-politics/article/2545239

  21. We ain’t gettin’ natural gas up here anytime soon. And the enviro-dipsticks think wind and solar is the way to go; maybe so for a small ‘hood/cluster of homes and businesses, but it ain’t gonna run the coastal and central metropoles, is it?

    Our oil tank is indeed slightly uphill from the burner and we don’t need a pump for it. But as you surmise, human labor comes into it heavily with the wood heating enterprise; we get it delivered and already cut to 16″ lengths. But we still have to stack it and carry it in; I’m building racks for it, with one on the back porch near the kitchen door. My back will be screaming for mercy on Monday post-delivery and for the weeks thereafter that it will take me to stack it and haul it. Shoulda had four or five sons. Too late now.

    The woodstove we have has a soapstone exterior; it takes a while to heat up, and we keep it stoked for a few hours and then it continues to give off heat throughout the house overnight, pretty much. Stoke it up again in the AM. A huge improvement over the mostly useless and noisy pellet stove, which relied on electricity, of course.

    Winter kinda segues into Mud Season here, normally, but there ain’t been much normal about the weather lately. And one year we ran the fireplace at our previous house during the three-day July 4th holiday because it was kinda cool those nights and we had overnight guests. Leaves will start turning in the hills again in late July.

    But just think: we laugh at you poor babies down in the tropics. And the peeps up in Alberta, the NWT and Siberia laugh at us. My contacts in the Calgary area have been reporting weeks of way-below-zero temps and permafrost and a very long and punishing wintuh. Ranchers and farmers especially.

  22. I just now saw the Bernie nooz at another site; it should be entertaining again to watch the circus. I am hoping that the Mooch and HILLARY! run together and I will mos def rush out to vote for them, too. Anything to accelerate what will have to be done in this country. Putting in someone actually honest, reliable and useful will only prolong the agony. Let’s get down to it.

  23. Nope, I is dead serious. If those two run, or even one of them, I’ll run out and vote for her/them. Let’s speed up the chit and get down to it. Anybody but another sad-sack RINO clown who can’t tie his shoes and will only shovel remaining liberty and money out to his corporate bosses, pretty much like the current Bolshevik does anyway. Someone freakish like the Mooch or The Heroine of Tripoli and Benghazi is what is needed now. Someone bad enough that even jaded, bored, and brain-dead Murkans will finally wake the fuck up.

  24. On the DRM front, I had an interesting experience this week. My Roadmaster is in the shop for a week, and work is hot and heavy, so I am renting a Ford Focus. One of my projects is experimenting with developing a different music format. The Focus accepts CD’s and USB sticks.

    I had been using CD’s to subject myself to listening tests in the car, because that is all the older Roadmaster has. But this morning, I decided to review the latest revision on USB stick during the drive over to Indy and back. Stuck it into the receptacle, and Siri’s voice (I think she’s doing all female voices now) came on telling me that the USB stick contained ‘material that is not copy-protected, and Ford SYNC will not play those files.’ Really? Not only did they screw me out of over $800+ on a $3,200 car 30 years ago, but now they won’t let me play stuff from my own computer because it is not marked as copy-protected? Leo Laporte has been touting the Ford SYNC system on his show for some time now, and drives a Ford himself. I must say, the Roadmaster has allowed me to test quite a few rental cars during the last year, and the Ford electronics ARE clearly superior, just as Leo says. But this little episode insures that I will not even look at Ford during my new car search that starts next week.

  25. “…not copy protected.”

    Jerry Pournelle once wrote that he asked an office store to copy something. The drone said he couldn’t copy the material because it looked like it was copyrighted. Jerry said it was, but he was the copyright owner. You know the rest.

  26. Not as much as you think, as the magazine is already digital when they send it to the presses. All they need to do is convert to pdf. I got the archives of Fine Cooking on DVD and they are searchable pdfs with a custom front end – exception being that the ads are not searchable.

    The two magazines archives on DVD that I am interested in are the one’s from Model Railroader and Trains magazines. Both go back to the 1930s. Yes, I’m well into my forties, and I still play with trains.

  27. Somewhat along those lines:

    Almost 20 years ago, when C++ was still the hot language for software development, I interviewed for a job. They handed me a typed “programming skills test”. Long story short,

    1. It was more of test a knowledge of some of C++’s new or tricky features, like several I’d seen before and since.
    2. This particular one looked familiar. Turns out it was just typed up from one of the trade magazines I subscribed to, from an issue a few months before.
    3. In fact, I wrote the article, as a list of interview questions a non-technical HR or whatever person could ask a programmer.
    4. But the published article had several mistakes in the questions or answers.*
    5. And the retyped list had several more mistakes in the questions.
    6. When I mentioned all of the above to the interviewers, who were some of the senior software people at the company, they didn’t believe me about the errors and didn’t have a copy of the magazine handy so I could point to the byline or the printed questions and answers to show that what I’d just written was correct and their answer key was wrong.

    I didn’t get a job offer from them; whether because of my low technical knowledge or my disputatious nature, I don’t know. I do know it’s just as well. Not only did they rip off my content without attribution, but their “senior tech people” didn’t have the skills to properly evaluate my skills, which is a bad portent.

    * Because the copy editor, a young woman with an English degree and no knowledge at all of programming, edited them to have “proper English” rather than yucky technical jargon. And she re-“fixed” my corrections after I sent back the non-approved final draft, and that’s what went to print.

    This pattern was repeated at all of the trade magazines I wrote for, back in the 1990s up to 2001-ish: every single copy editor was a young woman with a degree in English or something like it, with no technical knowledge and with firm ideas of how technical articles should be written. All of the senior editors allegedly had technical backgrounds, and did have a decent understanding of overall issues, but were at the least well out of date in terms of doing any coding themselves. The one male senior editor never got back to me when I complained about some bad copy-editing and the female senior editors always backed the copy editors’ decisions, even when one robotic he-to-he-or-she change turned Donald Knuth into a “he or she”.

    I eventually stopped writing for any of the programming trade mags. Viewed as a contract gig, the hourly pay was pretty good, but the aggravation was just too much.

    And later I found that the same goes, even moreso, in the fiction biz, at least with the big publishing houses. But that is a tale for another time.

  28. The drone said he couldn’t copy the material because it looked like it was copyrighted. Jerry said it was, but he was the copyright owner. You know the rest.

    I face that issue all the time when I have pictures printed. I tend to use local sources and every time I get the same response. “We can’t print this because it is professional and is copyrighted.” My response is always, “Yes, I know. I took the image and I own the copyright. I can have my own work printed.” Then a manager has to be summoned. I explain it all over again. Eventually I have to provide a business card and sign a form absolving the print facility of all liability.

    When I take pictures for people I give them a signed print release to have the images printed. They have no issues. I think I am going to create my own signed release so that I can print my own pictures.

    every single copy editor was a young woman with a degree in English or something like it

    I had just the opposite problem. I wrote articles for Unisys World for several years about the Unisys Medium Systems (really nice machines in my not so humble opinion). Anyway Sylvia Wysocki my copy editor made few if any changes to what I submitted. When reading the printed publication I would come across a small mistake sometimes, especially in grammar. You know I speak and write English very goodly. Anyway I asked her why she never corrected my English. She said “you write like you talk and in this technical journal that was more understandable then proper English”. I guess I speak English very goodly also.

    Not only did they rip off my content without attribution

    When I changed jobs to work in Oak Ridge one of the workers they said they had heard of me. I asked where. He showed me copies of my articles. I asked where he got the copies and he said he got them from a training class he attended. The instructor handed them out and used them in the training. Yikes!

    So I contacted the training company, in writing, certified and demanded compensation for using my material without my permission where the company received financial gain. I was told to go pound sand or get a lawyer. Obviously a lawyer was an expense I could not afford and they knew it.

    So I contacted Sylvia. This was at 4:30P eastern and it was 3:30P in Austin where the publisher was located, 1:30P in California where the company was located. I don’t know what the publisher told the training company but it apparently worked. The next morning at 8:30A FEDEX delivered an envelope with a check for a non-trivial amount of money.

    I saw the instructor at the next semi-annual conference (Unisys World). He had been fired and was pissed off at me. I said that had he asked for permission it would have been gladly given. But to use my material without my permission or the permission of the publisher was his problem, not mine.

  29. I have no problem with anyone using any of my copyrighted material for personal, non-commercial use, and neither does O’Reilly/MAKE. In fact, for years I’ve licensed my books and other publications under a Creative Commons license for just that reason.

    I (and O’Reilly/MAKE) do draw the line at commercial use of my material without my permission. I make exceptions to that on a case-by-case basis. For example, I sometimes get requests from teachers in third-world countries asking for permission to duplicate my materials. Obviously, they’re trying to teach kids under very challenging conditions, often with essentially no budget. I normally grant permission freely and send them a copy of the materials in question in PDF format with permission to print it as needed.

  30. neither does O’Reilly

    I generally like O’Reilly books and that is what I purchase for reference. Primary reason aside from the content is that the material is DRM free. I can load the product on my iPad and also have a PDF copy to use on my computer. If I purchase through the Apple store I can pay $4.95 to get access to all the electronic stuff. I would rather support that model than others.

    I have no problem with anyone using any of my copyrighted material for personal, non-commercial use

    I don’t either. I draw the line at commercial use, especially for a company that makes money providing training and then is using my material in their training classes.

    My articles were fairly well known in the Unisys Medium Systems world and fairly well received. It was nice to go to the semi-annual conference and be recognized for the material. Of course there were always those that disagreed when I wrote about configuration or system issues that were a matter of personal preference. Having been involved in the B-3500 class machines for 20+ years I knew my around the system even to the point of creating my own custom patches for the MCP (Operating System) to fix a problem.

  31. Copyright is a one-way street to the bank account for big corporates in my opinion. Even though I am supposed to get royalties for every sale or use of the programs I have made over the years that fall outside of being broadcast by the company I was working for, I have received a grand total of about $350. And I have seen my programs for sale all over the Internet, especially some produced on native American life in Minnesota.

    In the heydays days of the record industry during the ’50’s and ’60’s artists like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Tommy James had rightful royalties withheld completely, and in James’ case, that amounted to millions.

    I decided I was not going to be bitter over the issue like Berry and Richard Penneman, but the number of people who get screwed by others stealing what is rightfully not theirs, — right into the present, — is not small.

    Back when I was living in Germany, I mentioned here that it is considered normal and quite acceptable to copy whole books for educational uses — even though that use is not exempted from copyright by German law. I would judge that about 90% of material students get from school are photocopied pages from books. Schools will buy one book, have the binding cut off, then use the loose pages as ‘masters’ for the Xerox machine. In fact, I got a great deal of that kind of material from my Volkshochschule classes. The school recommended that we buy the book in question, but the photocopying precluded the need for that. I was about the only one in class to actually buy the books — and books are not cheap in Germany.

  32. Well, as I’ve said repeatedly, copyright should be severely limited if not eliminated entirely. I’d settle for one year, but I think even that is too much. Same thing on patents. Give the writer/inventor one year to make his money, and then it all goes into the public domain. And I see absolutely no Constitutional basis for issuing copyrights on music and videos. Those should be public domain from the first time they’re broadcast.

  33. Well, as I’ve said repeatedly, copyright should be severely limited if not eliminated entirely.

    Do you have copyrights on your books?

  34. Yes, but as I’ve said they’re released from day one under a CC license that allows free reproduction and distribution for non-commercial purposes. Nor are the ebook versions DRM’d.

  35. Agreed on allowing non-commercial use of my creative properties, except I also don’t want any government organization using it.

    That came up about six years ago, when some medium-high incompetent government manager suckup gave a presentation at some conference using material I’d produced. His presentation wasn’t inspired by my work, which would have been perfectly fine, or even based on my work, which would have been sleazy but probably ok. No, his presentation was my work, except with my name and such stripped off and his name and the NYS Department of Transportation logo put on.

    The best part? I found out about it from the douchebag himself. He wanted to brag about how well “his” presentation was received and to thank me for my “help”. I pointed out copyright issues and he pointed out that, in practice, the government can do whatever it wants. That’s probably true, so all I can do is besmirch the douchebag thief’s name when practical. (Which I’m not doing here because it’s not my blog and there is a chance, however slight, of the douchebag going after RBT for allowing defamation.)

  36. I’m on board for serious reduction or elimination of copyright and patents, but totally opposed to the people who are collecting money from my works and not paying me, while copyright laws are still in effect. I have already discussed with legal counsel, but it is not like my programs out there for sale were the equivalent of a #1 record. After all, how many people would actually buy a program on the plight of AmerIndians in Minnesota in the ’70’s? It is out there, though.

  37. My pet peeve about copyright concerns an Australian television series made in the Seventies, called Rush. It concerned the relationships between people in and around a gold mining town called Turon Springs in the mid 1800s. The “talent” was only paid on the basis that the show would be aired on free-to-air TV, so there has never been an official VHS cassette, DVD or anything. It was such a great series and it’s too bad a way can’t be found around the copyright problem. I don’t object to patents and copyright in principle, so long as they’re kept to short terms, like 5-10 years tops.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rush_(1970s_TV_series)

  38. The problem with shows involving acting professionals and musicians, is that the royalty and copyright framework favors one-time — or limited time — plays. When we started SoundStage in Chicago back in the late ’70’s, we could easily get the musicians to sign up to the standard PBS contract at that time, which was 4 plays in 3 years. Anything beyond that requires renegotiating with EVERYONE for an extension or new contract. I can tell you that is impossible to get. A lot of programs are locked in vaults, never to be seen again, unless copyrights are removed entirely.

    Thus the advent of ‘reality’ shows, in which non-union performers signed away rights in perpetuity, and the production companies had productions with real shelf life — not that such has turned out to be any advantage.

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