Monday, February 23, 2009

The disappearance of Hitchcock's San Francisco

Former San Francisco resident Takuan Seiyo talks about the San Francisco of the late 50's and early sixties, when Hitchcock made movies there. He compares it then to what it has become now, and how and why it got there:

From Meccania to Atlantis - Part 7: The True Horror in Hitchcock Films
I used to live in San Francisco. The San Francisco that despite having been roiled by hippies, beatniks, anti-this-and-that, still had the feel of the charming, civilized town that it had been when Alfred Hitchcock was shooting his masterpieces there.

Observe the setting of Davidson’s Pet Shop in The Birds. It’s a staged scene, but this is San Francisco’s Union Square in 1962-3 and that is the way middle class people looked and dressed in San Francisco. Tippi Hedren is an upper class society girl in this movie, so perhaps her suit has a finer cut and her clutch purse a higher price tag – but watch the other people milling about (and don’t miss Hitch himself).

Union Square was where middle class San Franciscans, dressed in suits, white shirts and ties for men, and high heels, ankle-length dresses, gloves and often hats for women, shopped.


Union Square now reeks of urine and reverberates with the shrieks of lunatics who use its sidewalks and benches as their bedroom, kitchen and toilet. It’s no longer politically acceptable to call them crazy or to put them in institutions. Besides, California doesn’t have the money. It has given the bounty robbed from its taxpayers to Mexican and other “Hispanic” legal and illegal immigrants (now 37% of California’s residents), and to public employees’ unions who thrive from dispensing the ransom to the colonizing aliens.

Put Tippi Hedren, dressed so that only her calves are exposed, next to a 2009 spoiled rich girl, say Paris Hilton, whose body hundreds of millions of people know virtually in its entirety, save for a crevice or two. Which figure is charged with more female sexuality, not to use such no-longer-comprehensible terms as class and elegance?


San Francisco had its upper crust, mainly of the demographic known as WASP, but it was also a town of immigrants and ethnics: primarily Irish and Italian, some White Russians, some Jews, some Chinese, some Californios harking back to the 19th century, and some blacks whom the currents of the U.S. military effort in World War 2 had deposited in Northern California. Its people had manners, and its working class had a touch of the contentment that comes from being able to support a large family decently on one blue-collar salary.

It was a town of peaceful ethnic neighborhoods and eateries, and exotic, for America, churches like the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral. It was charming, beautiful and diverse. But not “diverse.”

San Francisco is “diverse” now. And this is what it means: [...]

He goes on to describe the disappearance of the city he knew, and what it's been replaced by, and the how and why of it. I've seen a lot of what he talks about; I lived there for 24 years, and left for many of the reasons of which he speaks.

I enjoy reading Seiyo's writing because of his sharp wit and politically incorrect bluntness, even if I don't always agree with all of his conclusions. He's great at identifying causes of problems, but the solutions, if there are any, are much harder to come by. There's fragments, suggestions, but no whole answers.

The entire world is changing in ways I don't care for. It's a lament that every generation goes through as they age. In the end, one does one's best to save what is best of the past and to bring it into the future. I don't know that we CAN do anything more. The older you get, the less future you have, and the more you see that the future belongs to you less and less. For the sake of peace of mind, a certain amount of acceptance of that fact is required. And yet, we don't just let go of what we value. Like so much of life, it's a continuous balancing act.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How I passed the Ham Radio Technician's Test

[2011 UPDATE: the current test book does NOT look like the one pictured here. If you buy a test book, make sure it's the most recent version.]

I took the test last Thursday. Andy went with me and also took it. I had been discussing some of the technical stuff with him, because of the training he had in the Navy. Eventually I said "You know half of this stuff already. Why don't you study a bit and take the test too?" So he did.

We both passed the test, and both scored 100% correct answers.

I couldn't have been more pleased. I'd been doing practice exams on-line for weeks, and often did well but seldom got 100%.

Andy had less study time than me, but he also got the highest score. How did we do that?

Well, when I determined that I wanted to get a Ham License, I decided to study for the Technician's license. I started off by buying the ARRL's Technician's Training manual:

ARRL Ham Radio License Manual: All You Need to Become an Amateur Radio Operator (Arrl Ham Radio License Manual) (Arrl Ham Radio License Manual) (Paperback)
Product Description

Get your FIRST ham radio license! Easy-to-understand bite-sized sections. Use this book, and pass the 35-question license test. Includes the latest question pool with answer key, for use beginning July 1, 2006. Designed for self-study and for classroom use. Intended for all newcomers, instructors and schoolteachers. This is the most popular introduction to Amateur Radio!

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual is your ticket to joining the ranks of amateur radio operators. Use this book to discover the appeal of ham radio. The Amateur Radio Service offers a unique mix of technology, public service, convenience and fun. Some hams enjoy communicating across the country and around the globe, making new friends over the airwaves. Others like to build and experiment with electronics, experiencing cutting edge technologies.

Some use their radios and skills during emergencies or disasters when all else fails. And, today's ham radio gear offers possibilities for getting started at any level. Your first radio station might be at home, in the car, or small enough to take with you on the go.

I enjoyed this book a lot, I thought it was a great introduction to Ham Radio for anyone who doesn't know much about it. Andy, on the other hand, thought it was poorly written and badly organized. But then he knew a lot of the stuff already, so I think he was impatient to get through it. I was familiar with some of the content, like basic electronics, but I hadn't used that knowledge for many years, so I needed the refresher that the book provided.

I read through the book, completing the questions for each chapter as I went along. I tried to do one chapter a day each evening, but for the longer chapters I sometimes took two days. When I finished the book, I passed it on to Andy.

Then I began taking practice exams, on-line. The site I started with was at Ham Exams

It's presented in a format much like the actual exam you take. You have to answer all 35 multiple choice questions, before you can check the answers. You need a score of 74% or higher to pass.

I did fairly well with it, when I consistently got a passing score, I figured I was ready.

Andy found a testing site he liked better, at

QRZ's Practice Amateur Radio Exams

This site presents questions one at a time, and tells you right away if the answer you choose is right or wrong. If it's wrong, you can go back and tackle the question again till you get it right. Here is what the question box looks like:

Your score is kept at the top of the page for each test question. Wrong answers still count against your score for that session, but at least you can find out what the right answer is without waiting till the end of the test. Like Andy, I came to prefer this test site too.

Due to several events at work that came up and cut into our time, Andy wasn't able to finish the Technician's Manual before the test. He needed something faster to study, so I gave him a copy of a study guide that summarized the material: AH0A Technician Class Exam Study Notes, which I was able to download and print up from AH0A.ORG.

So between the book, the summary study guide, and the on-line testing, it was pretty easy to prepare for the test. It just required making time to read the materials, and to keep taking the on-line tests until we consistently got passing scores.

One of the secrets to getting high scores is to take advantage of the simple math "formulas" the study materials give you for calculating things like Watts, Voltage, Current, Ohms, Amperage and Resistance.

One of the things that was hanging me up was identifying band frequencies. Andy pointed out that I had overlooked the formula for calculating the frequencies to find which meter band they belonged to (300 divided by the frequency in MGz will give you the antenna in meters). Once I understood that, everything was easy, and my scores improved. All these things combined helped us to ace the test.

Now we are just waiting for our call signs to be assigned and appear in the FCC data base. Then the real fun will begin... applying what we have learned!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The GOP's credibility issue about spending

Does the GOP lack credibility in their spending complaints? There is a good case for that made in the following article by Edward Lotterman:

GOP late to the party in condemning deficit spending
Republicans opposed to the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus bill fretted noisily about 'spending money we don't have' and 'passing a burden on to our grandchildren.'

Their concern for fiscal prudence is laudable, but not credible, given the past 60 years. While Republicans had a deserved reputation for fiscal probity from Lincoln through Nixon, their contempt for balanced budgets since 1981 is at the root of our national debt problems.

In response to questions from readers about the size and history of the national debt, I made some simple tabulations. I took the gross federal debt listed in the 2009 Economic Report of the President, the last one prepared by the George W. Bush administration. To its data for 1940 through 2008, I added the Bureau of Public Debt's estimate of the debt as of Feb. 15.

I then adjusted it for inflation, using the consumer price index. (Using a different, broader index, the GDP deflator, would be slightly better, but it does not go back to 1940.) To make comparisons with current legislation simple, I converted all the figures to December 2008 dollar equivalents. [...]

It's worth reading the whole article. As much as I would like to argue against it, I can't. If the shoe fits... and I'm afraid that it does. I think it's also one of the big reasons that the Republicans were voted out.

So I have to wonder, if many of the Americans who voted Democrat this time, were hoping that we would see more fiscal responsibility, things like a balanced budget, that we had under Bill Clinton? Because if that was their expectation, then they are bound to be disappointed by current fiscal policy.

The thing is, even with Bill Clinton, he only balanced the budget because he had a Republican majority in congress opposing his spending plans. He had to compromise. The Democrat majority we have now is under no such pressure.

The lesson to be found in this graph? I think it's that if we want a balanced budget, we need to have a balanced government too. Maybe we can get one in two years time. Maybe. But how we are going to climb out of the hole that's being created now, I don't know.

Related Links:

Deep Impact: The Federal Deficit

Is Obama compounding Bush's mistakes?

Sound bites: Obama's Entertaining Audio Book

I knew this Presidency would have some entertaining moments.

Barack Obama is tired of your motherf*cking sh*t

You can follow the link for the audio clips, there's no "beeps"; it's the real deal. Your chuckle for the day.

If a Republican did this, they would be toast. But Democrats get a pass on these things; that's the way it is. Yet keeping it in proportion, I have to admit, compared to what Ted Kennedy did at Chappaquiddick, this is nothing.

I know some people will say "it diminishes the presidency, blah blah blah". But the fact is, Obama was quoting another author; foul language has become common place and doesn't shock like it used to, and is even being called literature now. And let's face it, most of the young people today don't care about this kind of thing at all. They are the future. Welcome to our Brave New World. Won't you come on in? :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Deep Impact: The Federal Deficit

From Maynard at The Federal Deficit
This graph, taken from this Wall Street Journal article, shows what we're up against. It's a crime beyond imagination against the American people.

This monster is not of Obama's creation. It's a product of long-term rot and corruption; the consequence of fools and demagogues pandering to the lowest common denominator, promising ever-more goodies to an ever-needier mob.

For a brief moment, I hoped the shock of the current crisis would bring an element of reality to the debate in Washington. Certainly Obama would do the right thing. Not because he wanted to, you understand, but because he had no choice. I thought the nation had reached that late stage of addiction where the addict has hit bottom, and finally faces his issues head-on.

I stand corrected. We haven't hit bottom yet, but Obama is working on that. His "stimulus" package may become our final binge. What Reagan did to the Soviet Union, Obama is now arranging for us.

This is only the beginning. [...]

He goes on to say that as the baby boomer generation continues to age, demands on Social Security and Medicare will increase, consuming a greater portion of the GNP than the entire current Federal budget.

And hardly anyone is talking about the compounded interest on all the debt. What do you think will happen if interest rates rise? We just keep printing more money? Can you say "Currency collapse"?

This isn't about partisan politics. It's just simple math. Does anyone in the Federal government know how to do that anymore?

Related Links:

Is Obama compounding Bush's mistakes?

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?

Washington really is broken. See how it "runs"

See "The 8 Most Terrifying Holes on Earth "

This sink-hole in Guatemala, that swallowed 12 homes is truly scary:

The 8 Most Terrifying Holes on Earth

Follow the link to see them all. The one at the end of the list is perhaps the most horrible of all, because of it's size, location, and seemingly endless capacity.

Green Energy, Blackouts, California and France

Pat's latest post, Nuke the damn windmills!, has excerpts from William Tucker at the American Spectator. Tucker talks about how California poured huge amounts of money into "green" technologies that did not pay off, and how that lead to California's engery crisis (the brown-outs and rolling-blackout of the '90's), and it's current high energy costs and floundering economy. It was one of the big reasons we left California.

Now, the Democrat's Stimulus plan is taking the entire nation down the same path that California has gone. Aarrgh!

It's worth reading the article just for that, but there was also this tidbit about France, which I found fascinating:
[...] Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that France, unlike the rest of the world, has not yet fallen into a recession. The reporter attributed this to France's high level of government employment, but a much more likely explanation is France's complete conversion to nuclear energy. With 80 percent of its electricity coming from nuclear and the rest from hydro, France pays the lowest electrical rates in Europe -- and has the lowest carbon emissions on top of that. [...]

I can be quite critical of the French sometimes, but when they do something right, it's worth taking notice of it and learning from their worthy example.

Authentic American environmentalists would be advocating following France's example in this. Instead, I fear the leaders of the American Environmental Movement are really just "watermellons": green on the outside, red on the inside. They don't want to see us solve our energy problems, they just want to sabotage our current economy and system of government, making it unworkable, so they can then replace it with something else.

On energy matters, I would take the French way over the California way any day. The French way is demonstrably workable; it has a track record of success. The California way is Pie in the Sky; we've seen the results of that.

How long will it be before our government in Washington D.C. gets a clue?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Are We All Fascists Now? I'm talking about Economically, not Politically

And if we are, just what does that mean? Pat has done an excellent post about this: "We're all Facists now"

He has some excerpts from Michael Ledeen's two part article, where Ledeen comments on a piece published by Newsweek with the headline "We Are All Socialist's Now". Ledeen maintains we're not, and says that even the Newsweek article shows us that something else is going on:
[...] Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock: the abolition of private property. I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now–and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article–is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.

It’s fascism. Nobody calls it by its proper name, for two basic reasons: first, because “fascism” has long since lost its actual, historical, content; it’s been a pure epithet for many decades. Lots of the people writing about current events like what Obama et. al. are doing, and wouldn’t want to stigmatize it with that “f” epithet.

Second, not one person in a thousand knows what fascist political economy was. Yet during the great economic crisis of the 1930s, fascism was widely regarded as a possible solution, indeed as the only acceptable solution to a spasm that had shaken the entire First World, and beyond. It was hailed as a “third way” between two failed systems (communism and capitalism), retaining the best of each. Private property was preserved, as the role of the state was expanded. This was necessary because the Great Depression was defined as a crisis “of the system,” not just a glitch “in the system.” And so Mussolini created the “Corporate State,” in which, in theory at least, the big national enterprises were entrusted to state ownership (or substantial state ownership) and of course state management. [...]

Fascism is such a loaded word. But what we are talking about here is fascist economics, not fascist politics. It's an important distinction. However, such a situation contains unique dangers of it's own:
[...] The economics of the current expansion of state power in America are, as I said, “fascist,” but the politics are not. We are not witnessing “American Fascism on the march.” Fascism was a war ideology and grew out of the terrible slaughter of the First World War. Fascism hailed the men who fought and prevailed on the battlefield, and wrapped itself in the well-established rhetoric of European nationalism, which does not exist in America and never has. Our liberties are indeed threatened, but by a tyranny of a very different sort.

Most of us imagine the transformation of a free society to a tyrannical state in Hollywood terms, as a melodramatic act of violence like a military coup or an armed insurrection. Tocqueville knows better. He foresees a slow death of freedom. The power of the centralized government will gradually expand, meddling in every area of our lives until, like a lobster in a slowly heated pot, we are cooked without ever realizing what has happened. The ultimate horror of Tocqueville’s vision is that we will welcome it, and even convince ourselves that we control it. [...]

It often seems like we take freedom so for granted, that we don't even recognize it anymore, and therefore don't value it. So it's easily sacrificed in the name of security. But are we destined to find out that those who sacrifice freedom for security end up with neither? Must we rediscover what freedom is by losing it?

Ledeen goes on to compare Roosevelt’s New Deal and Mussolini’s Third Way, and the failures of both. We can learn from the mistakes of the past, instead of repeating them. Read the whole thing, it's your "must read" for the day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Computer Voices and the song "Daisy Bell"

I've been reading about artificial intelligence and computer voices lately, and I came across these videos on Youtube. The first video involves a clip from Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey". Remember the scene where Hal is deactivated? As his memory cards are being pulled, Hal's personality regresses to his "childhood" days in the computer Lab in Urbana Illinois. He sings a song he leaned there. The song was "Daisy Bell".

It seems that song was used for an historical reason:

The video (1 minute and 39 seconds) claims that a computer in the 1950's was the first computer ever to sing a song. The song was "Daisy Bell".

But another video gets more specific. It says that the first computer to sing a song was in 1961. It was an IBM 7094. The video (1 minute and 51 seconds) gives a sample of the song, with computerized musical accompaniment too, and also gives the names of the programmers who created it:

Another video (with no embedded option) shows a photo of the computer (?) with and audio track of it's voice and singing repertoire:

Listening to all this reminds me of my Commodore 64 days. Does anyone remember "The Write Stuff", a Commodore 64 word processor released in 1987 by Busy Bee Software? It could read documents with a computer voice that was very similar to the one in these videos. My Busy Bee software could even sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". It was both funny and painful to listen to.

Nowadays, computer voice technology is so much more advanced. There are a growing number of realistic sounding computer voices, and an abundance of free or inexpensive TTS (Text-T0-Speech) programs to go with them. And Hal-like computer programs to go with those voices are fast approaching, too.

Oh Brave New World, with such people (and artificial-people) in it!

Related Links:

Artificial voice synthesis, 1939 to the present

Ultra HAL, your personal computer assistant

The history and lyrics of the song "Daisy Bell"

A car of the future... for sale this October!

Exclusive: Aptera 2e
I'm accelerating and cornering — hard — on three wheels, little wisps of tire smoke curling out of the slender front wheel pants as steering is cranked in and "throttle" applied. And no, I'm not in an early Volkswagen GTI that hikes up its inside rear tire. Rather, I've been given a drive in the Aptera 2e, a soon-to-be-produced electric vehicle whose shape is slipperier than a Teflon-coated salmon on glare ice, and whose composite construction offers both light weight and impressive structural integrity. Better yet, the 2e is scheduled to begin rolling off the Vista, California, assembly line this October for an as-yet-to-be-determined price between $25,000 and $40,000. Charge it overnight from your 110-volt home outlet, and it's claimed to have a range of 100 the carpool lane, if you wish.

Pie in the sky? Nope. The business model looks sound; nearly 4000 deposits have been placed (Robin Williams among the clientele), enthusiastic investors are locked in, and co-founders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony have assembled a team that balances Detroit low-volume niche-production experience with California "anything is possible" attitude. [...]

This car is amazing in many ways, a clever, graceful design with carefully selected materials.

I've read that three wheel cars are quite stable if the third wheel is in the back,, and the majority of the weight is on the two front wheels. This car beautifully merges form and function. And it's not some far-off Sci-fi prototype, it's going to be available for sale this year. The future is here.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Washington really is broken. See how it "runs"

The American people supposedly voted for change in Washington, but in so many ways it continues to be business as usual. A broken system that continues to be broken:

Short-Circuiting Bipartisanship Is Nothing New for Congress
[...] it was hardly novel this week when Republicans protested vigorously that their legislative rights had been violated as the Democratic-led Congress pushed through the $787 billion economic stimulus bill with just three Republican votes in the Senate. Only the party labels had changed.

In truth, regular order — as following the Congressional rule book is known on Capitol Hill — has not been occurring very regularly in the House and Senate for years. And both parties are to blame.

Intense partisanship, a reluctance to work across the aisle, procedural game-playing and thin margins in the House and Senate have led both parties to short-circuit the legislative process, skipping over committees, blocking the right to propose amendments and generally strong-arming legislation through by relying on their own majorities.

“Bad process leads to bad policy,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, who has been on both sides of the closed negotiating room door over the years.

It has gotten so bad that Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is the majority leader, noted that almost half of the 58 Democratic senators have never participated in an official House-Senate conference committee, a form of negotiation that was once a staple of Congressional legislative life.

Some Democrats say such irregular times for the nation do not allow for regular order. But they did convene a conference committee on the stimulus bill, though it was not much of one. Negotiators met after Senate Democrats and three Republicans had already cut a deal on the plan. Democrats, who had a firm parliamentary grip on the negotiations, were not about to let the carefully calibrated agreement fall apart. [...]

Bold emphasis mine. This NYT's article goes on with their usual spin for the Democrats, claiming that the Democrats now want to get back to old procedures, especially since there have been complaints about it within their own party. But where is their actual incentive to do so? As a majority party, they can just keep pushing through whatever they want.

I would like to think that if Republican's gain more seats in the House and Senate, that things would improve, that there would be more balance and therefore, more bi-partisan cooperation. But I'm not so sure. If established procedures and order in conducting government business are not respected and followed, they can't be expected to "work" under any circumstances.

It's worth reading the whole article. It just shows how our lawmakers in D.C. have been ignoring established protocals and rules for a long time now. Is it any wonder that Washington doesn't "work" anymore? How can it, when our lawmakers just do what they want to do?

And this isn't just a problem in Washington. I've seen it in the state governments of California and Oregon. State politicians take an Oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the state, then when they get into office, they DON'T. They just do what they want. The result; massive debt and chaos, making our system of government unworkable.

When laws, rules and procedures are ignored by those who are supposed to follow and uphold them, they cease to have any meaning. Lawmakers can keep passing new laws to make themselves look busy, but without respect for the law and the procedures established for the creation of the laws that are supposed to govern us, what good can come of it?

Our system of government is literally breaking down. It served us well for over 200 years, but it can't continue to function when it is simply ignored and disregarded at will. There are people who want to replace it with something else, and I can't say I like what I see coming.

We can't turn back the clock, but we may have to fight to keep what is best from our past, to hold it and bring it forward into our future. That's why I insist it's important to respect our current form of government; it's a case of use it or lose it. Our politicians seem to use it less and less. How long before we lose it?

Related Links:

Our Tax Cheat Treasurer has No Plan

Is Obama compounding Bush's mistakes?

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our Tax Cheat Treasurer has No Plan

Isn't that special? From Neal Boortz:

Yesterday we were supposed to get the grand financial plan from Obama's tax-cheating whiz-kid Tim Geithner. And what we got was a bunch of grandstanding, but not a lot of details. Here's one good line: "We're will have to try things we've never tried before." Wait! Isn't that what brung us to this hideous dance with all these ugly partners in the first place?

Let's see ... we'll start out by making millions of home loans to people who have no credit, no steady job history, and certainly not enough income to pay the loan back. We'll make these loans to people who should be renters. We've never tried that before on such a large scale .. let's see how that works out for us.

Here's something else we haven't tried before. Let's pass a law - we'll call it the Community Reinvestment Act. This will be a really nifty way for the government to interfere in the free marketplace. We'll set up some urban gangs who can make sure local banks make bad loans to favored minority groups .. or they'll get spanked by the federal government. Let's see how THAT one works out for us.

Once we have those two programs we haven't tried before in place, we'll keep interest rates artificially and illogically low for far too long. Yeah, let's follow this monetary policy that virtually every sane economist not working for the government thinks is a grave mistake because voters like low interest rates. That ought to work out really well.

So now our tax-cheat Treasury secretary wants to try some more things we haven't tried before? Well, you may think that this message brings great hope, but it would seem that the stock market didn't like that one bit.

If you want to see just how this gang of leftist statists want to change this country some new details can be found here.

The reason we don't have more details has to be because they really don't know how the hell they're going to pull this off. It's just going to be stuff we haven't tried before. No chance for letting people work, thrive and then spend their own money.

Bold emphasis mine. After the Berlin Wall fell, Leftists around the world had to face the fact that prosperous and free people would never willingly vote for a hardcore Leftist agenda. Their solution? Make the current system of government unworkable, so it can be replaced with... "something else". I've been hearing people on the far Left saying this for many years. And the parts I've highlighted in Neal's text above shows the ways in which they are doing this.

I don't claim that Obama or even most of the Democrats are consciously doing this, that sabotaging our government is their deliberate agenda. But I believe it is the deliberate agenda of the movers and shakers in the Democrat party, like George Soros. They pull the stings, and they get people elected who will advance their agenda, whether those people deliberately mean to or not.

The financial crisis we are in could have been avoided, by being more conservative with our taxpayer's money, and using traditional common sense in financial matters. Yet overspending Republican's like George Bush also have their share of blame in this too.

I heard Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer on NPR the other day. She was complaining about Republicans opposing the stimulus bill. She said something to the effect of, "Where were they when George Bush was putting us 7 Trillion Dollars over budget?".

Of course she has a point. Yet the fact is, many Republicans DID complain, were very put off by that, and the Republican base has shrunk as a result.

I could be more sympathetic to Senator Boxer if she was truly upset by Bush's overspending. But her attitude seems more along the lines of, "Bush overspent by Trillions, now it's OUR turn to do the same".

I remember when I lived in California, and Boxer was my senator. She couldn't even balance her own checkbook, she was overdrawn HUNDREDS of times.

Where is the Change We Can Believe In? Where is the accountability for our tax dollars? This is Change? I just see the same old Democrat overspending crap, compounding Bush's Republican overspending crap. Our government is SPENDING MONEY WE DO NOT HAVE. Further more, we are having to pay interest on this growing debt.

Just look a California, teetering on the verge of financial collapse. That is the nations future. California is hoping the Feds will bail them out. Who is going to bail the United States of America out? No One, that's who.

I see a major tax payer's revolt in our future. It can't happen soon enough, IMO.

No Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

It was taken with a cell phone. And they say experts say it isn't photo shopped:

Rare photo of the “end” of the rainbow
[...] Several readers have said in the Comments section that they think this image was PhotoShopped. Nick: But it appears that this image is genuine. I have now had it reviewed by 7 people — 3 veteran photographers, a top-notch graphic designer who specializes in PhotoShop,m and 3 meteorologists at the National Weather Service. We also uploaded the image to Flickr and checked the lat/long of the image, which was taken with an iPhone. The info box says the photo was taken where the reader said it was taken. And the info text says the photo was not manipulated. [...]

This is big news. It's proof that leprechauns lie! I guess they will have to get new jobs, perhaps promoting Global Warming for Al Gore.

Monday, February 09, 2009 releases the Next Generation of it's Kindle ebook reader, the slim "Kindle 2"

Kindle 2: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device
(Latest Generation)

Say Hello to The New Kindle

Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines

Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback

Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots

Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required

Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images

Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging

More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books

Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns

Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you

Large Selection: Over 230,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available

Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise

It looks quite impressive, it's amazingly thin. The screen is sharp and clear and readable even in sunlight. Kinda pricy at $359.00, but nice if you can afford it. No doubt it will get cheaper over time as they become more mass produced. Follow the link for lots more photos, videos and information.

I suspect that this is going to be the future of books.

Of course, I want one... but only when they get cheaper!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Is Obama compounding Bush's mistakes?

I'm talking about financial mistakes, such as inflating our currency by spending money we do not have. It makes no difference what the money is used for; the end result will be the same: inflation, and all the dangers that entails. From George Melloan at the WSJ:

Why 'Stimulus' Will Mean Inflation
In a global downturn the Fed will have to print money to meet our obligations.
As Congress blithely ushers its trillion dollar "stimulus" package toward law and the U.S. Treasury prepares to begin writing checks on this vast new appropriation, it might be wise to ask a simple question: Who's going to finance it?

That might seem like a no-brainer, which perhaps explains why no one has bothered to ask. Treasury securities are selling at high prices and finding buyers even though yields are low, hovering below 3% for 10-year notes. Congress is able to assure itself that it will finance the stimulus with cheap credit. But how long will credit be cheap? Will it still be when the Treasury is scrounging around in the international credit markets six months or a year from now? That seems highly unlikely.

Let's have a look at the credit market. [...]

He goes into detail about out trade relationships with China and Japan, who hold the majority of U.S. Treasury securities that are held by foreign owners. But our financial relationship with them is changing. The dynamics will not continue as they have, and the results to us will be dramatic.
[...] The Congressional Budget Office is predicting the federal deficit will reach $1.2 trillion this fiscal year. That's more than double the $455 billion deficit posted for fiscal 2008, and some private estimates put the likely outcome even higher. That will drive up interest costs in the federal budget even if Treasury yields stay low. But if a drop in world market demand for Treasurys sends borrowing costs upward, there could be a ballooning of the interest cost line in the budget that will worsen an already frightening outlook. Credit for the rest of the economy will become more dear as well, worsening the recession. Treasury's Wednesday announcement that it will sell a record $67 billion in notes and bonds next week and $493 billion in this quarter weakened Treasury prices, revealing market sensitivity to heavy financing.

So what is the outlook? The stimulus package is rolling through Congress like an express train packed with goodies, so an enormous deficit seems to be a given. Entitlements will go up instead of being brought under better control, auguring big future deficits. Where will the Treasury find all those trillions in a depressed world economy?

There is only one answer. The Obama administration and Congress will call on Ben Bernanke at the Fed to demand that he create more dollars -- lots and lots of them. The Fed already is talking of buying longer-term Treasurys to support the market, so it will be more of the same -- much more.

And what will be the result? Well, the product of this sort of thing is called inflation. The Fed's outpouring of dollar liquidity after the September crash replaced the liquidity lost by the financial sector and has so far caused no significant uptick in consumer prices. But the worry lies in what will happen next. [...]

Remember the late 1970's? Something like that is coming, only potentially even worse. The chickens will come home to roost. Then what? stagflation? Look what we have done already:

And we are going to compound this mistake further? And when that fails, then what? Print up even more money? What goes up must come down. The higher that blue line goes, the sharper it will fall. It's already taken a sharp turn straight upward. Now we are going to push it up even further? Has everyone gone mad?

At the very least, it's making our currency fragile. A large terrorist attack or some other event that disrupts our economy could cause a run on our banks. Because of FDIC, the Feds would be required by law to print up even more money. Then what... Hyper-inflation, like Zimbabwe? What ARE we doing?

Our current National Debt is $10.7 Trillion!

Related Links:

Commentary: Stimulate the economy, not government

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Artificial voice synthesis, 1939 to the present

This is a neat AT&T commercial, which shows the evolution of artificial voices, intermixed with some Sci-Fi robot characters:

And just for fun, here's two more videos. First, Puppy V.S. The Robot:

The puppy had it easy. Here is a future with Robots that we definitely don't want:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Best Dog Training Book I've Ever Read

And believe me, over the years I've read plenty of them. If I could only recommend one, this one, my favorite, would certainly be it:

The Dog Listener: Learn How to Communicate with Your Dog for Willing Cooperation
From Publishers Weekly
Standard dog training has long advocated the use of force choke collars, sharp smacks, harsh language. Fennell, a dog trainer in England for 30 years, wants to change all that. Expanding upon the theories of horse trainer Monty Roberts (the basis for The Horse Whisperer), Fennell believes one can best train dogs by emulating natural behaviors, that is, by treating them as they would treat each other in the wild. Her intelligent, straightforward and humane method has engendered controversy and increasing enthusiasm.

After Fennel's dog Purdey went manic, injured Fennell's young children and had to be euthanized, she was fearful of owning a dog again. Lured back into it by the pleasure of showing spaniels, she adopted a high-strung young shepherd, Sasha, and investigated alternative training methods. Fennell's simple and succinct method posits that domesticated dogs are confused, believing themselves to be the pack leaders, and humans their subordinates.

Fennell retrains dogs to accept a human as their alpha leader. She spurns the use of force, even in training language, employing instead a system of Pavlovian rewards. Those wanting true canine companionship will find Fennell's commonsense approach attractive and easy to apply with puppies as well as with older dogs. She addresses common problems, from separation anxiety to barking at guests to the mistrust of strangers that rescued dogs often harbor. Her knowledge and love of dogs is expansive and her concern for their well-being balances kindness and appropriate discipline. (Aug.)

I've found that dog training books tend to be dry at best; boring at worst. I wasn't looking forward to reading yet another one. But this one was different. The foreword in the book starts off with the dramatic and tragic story of "Purdey", the dog mentioned in the description above. She wanted to save her dog, but didn't know what to do.

We were facing just such a situation with our new dog, "Tippy".

Tippy's Tale

Tippy, a Border Collie-Labrador mix, had come with our new house; the original owners of the house were moving to a small apartment, and asked us if we would keep the dog. We already had three dogs; being dog lovers, we figured we could easily handle one more. We agreed.

At first I was thrilled; he seemed to be just the kind of dog I always wanted when I was a kid. But he was the first large male dog I had ever owned. He had been fixed, but he lacked the most basic training. He jumped up on people. He would frantically lick your hands whenever you tried to pet him. His former owners taught him to lick, because they thought it was cute. But worse still, they taught him other bad habits.

It seems his former owners didn't like our neighbors, and encouraged Tippy to bark at them whenever he saw them. Worse still, if he saw or heard the neighbors walking their own dogs on their own property, he would run onto their property and attack their dogs. I discovered this the hard way.

Worse still, no amount of shouting or yelling would get him to stop. I never had a dog before that would not stay when I told it, or not come back to me when I called it.

I worked extensively with Tippy, to get him to lay down and stay, and to come when I called him. But no matter how much progress I seemed to make, when he would see or hear the neighbors, it all went out the window; he would run and attack.

I didn't understand it. He wasn't a mean dog. He never injured the other dogs (two friendly golden retrievers), but it was a terrible drama every time. Our neighbors had every right to not be accosted by our dog on their own property.

Because I could not control Tippy, it seemed that he would always have to be kept locked up or tied up. That is no kind of life for a dog. I also wanted to get chickens, ducks and guinea fowls, and let them roam free-range. Having such a dog as this loose among them was out of the question.

I considered turning him in to the pound, but how could they adopt out such a problem dog? It looked like he would have to be euthanized.

By now I had become attached to him, despite the problems, and the idea of destroying him was heartbreaking. I searched the internet for an answer, an alternative, and found nothing very helpful. Then I found the above description of "The Dog Whisperer". I read the reviews posted by people who had read the book. It sounded like just the thing we needed!

I talked to Pat and Andy about it. They agreed it was worth trying, so I ordered the book. It was to be Tippy's last chance.

The book is an easy and enjoyable read. Author Jan Fennell tells the story of how she became involved in dog training, and how she eventually became the "dog whisperer", after understanding how to get dogs to obey her of their own free-will. She explains her methods in an easy and natural way; you understand why the methods work, as well as how to implement them.

At the time, we also had a female Aussie Shepard-Border Collie mix, a female chihuahua-pug mix, and a male chihuahua mix. I put them and Tippy through the Dog Listener's methods, and the results were quick and dramatic.

Basically Fennell's methods teach YOU how to be an Alpha Dog to your dogs. Once they acknowledge you as the Alpha, they are happy to let you take the lead, and willingly follow you and what you tell them.

I was so thrilled (and amazed!) the first time it happened. Tippy saw the neighbors on their property and went charging and barking after them, as usual. I called him back... and he did it! He deferred to me. And things only got better after that.

We've changed his name from "Tippy" to "Digby", and he's now a great, obedient, happy dog!

We also now have our barnyard fowls running free-range, and Digby gets along with them just fine. We have a dog run that I keep the dogs in when we are not outside with them or when we are away from home. Our big dogs had a nasty encounter with a porcupine once, which taught us to keep them locked up when they aren't supervised. I have left Digby outside alone with fowls for brief periods though, with no problems. He often waits on the porch for me until I come back outside. He likes to be told what to do.

The methods Fennell teaches are easy and they really work, if you apply them consistently. It's such a pleasure to have a dog that willingly obeys you.

Read the comments left on the Amazon website, from people who have used the book. Many people have had success with these methods. For obedience problems big or small, I highly recommend this book. It literally saved our dog.

Related Links:

The Greatest Threat the World Faces

The Dogs of War... [need good homes]

"It's a dog's life" And it looks pretty good

A Bagdad Puppy Rescue for a Soldier's Dog