Sun, 30 Apr 2006

Go away, Elliot 2

Elliot Spitzer proposes to save us from "gouging" gas stations. The trouble is that he is interfering in markets with NO CLUE about economics. Here we have a case of the blind leading the deaf. The deaf person can see perfectly fine the automobile heading towards them, but the blind person, thinking the deaf person doesn't understand that the blind person is leading him, grasps all the harder.

The problem can be clearly seen in this quote (also here): "Spitzer said the stations increased their at-the-pump prices by 25 to 75 percent for gas already in their holding facilities." Once you've purchased something, do you really care how much it cost? If you've purchased it for use value, you only care if you are considering buying another, at which point you decide if the value you've gotten is worth the price of the new one (not the first one you bought). If you've purchased it for resale, you only care how much the next tanker will cost.

Let me repeat that, since it's central: Gasoline retailers really don't care how much they paid for gasoline. They'd like to make a profit, but even more than that, they want to stay in business. That means that no matter how much they paid, they're going to charge enough to cover the next delivery. That's why gasoline prices tend to shoot up, and drop slowly.

So, Elliot Spitzer is being purely evil when he pursues a case like this. Why? Because he is doing so not because winning the case will make NY a better place to live. He is bringing this lawsuit to pander to the base instincts of the voting public. He wants to be seen as "Having Done Something About High Gas Prices."

If Elliot were truly a leader, he would publicly refuse to enforce this law. He would take the time to educate all New Yorkers of the foolishness of a law like this. If that be political suicide, better to die an honorable death. "I regret that I have but one political career to give to my country." is a sentiment that more politicians should express.

I encourage you to vote against Elliot Spitzer in the New York State Governor's race.

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Wed, 26 Apr 2006

DORS/CLUC 2006

I was an invited speaker at DORS/CLUC (Open Source group / Linux Users group) in Zagreb, Croatia last week. I was speaking on "Why are there so many open source licenses?" I think I did a good job on the talk. I noticed a few people yawning with ten minutes to go, but that's more likely due to the subject matter than my presentation of it. Left ten minutes for questions and went out to sixteen minutes with three questioners, so clearly there was some enthusiasm.

Went geocaching in Mirogoj Cemetary. It's a really big cemetary. This wall traverses the length of it:
Mirogoj Cemetary (Thumbnail) .

Found the Norwegian Embassy while wandering around:
Norwegian Embassy (Thumbnail) .

Tuesday night on the way back from dinner we walked past the nicely lit Cathedral of Marijina Uznesenja. Took a three-second time exposure of it:
Cathedral of Marijina Uznesenja (Thumbnail) .
During the day: Cathedral of Marijina Uznesenja (Thumbnail) .

Wednesday night we ate the penguin. It was a little creepy to be eating the body of our mascot. Too much symbolism there for me, particularly in a Catholic country. Kristijan:
Kristijan Zimmer eating Tux (Thumbnail) .

They served animal crackers shaped like letters at the breaks. I noticed that there were enough letters to spell out the name of the conference (Vlatka suggested the upside-down 7 as an L, and the totally forged 6):
DORS/CLUB 2006 (Thumbnail) .

You can buy Open Office off the shelf at FER:
Open Office (Thumbnail) .

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Mon, 24 Apr 2006

The Price of Freedom

The cost of freedom is, as the song says, buried in the ground. But what is the price of freedom? The price of something is what someone else is willing to pay for it. Thus, the price of freedom is what you're willing to give up your freedom for. Yet who would give up their freedom? What could be so valuable that it's worth your freedom?

Security, in the face of overwhelming banditry, is one thing that people will buy with their freedom. If the probability of your death at the hand of bandits is so high that your life itself is not worth much, neither will be your freedom. That is where the serfs of the Middle Ages, bound to the land, came from. They were so desperate not to die that they were willing to give up their freedom.

Travel to the New World is another thing that people would give up their freedom for. The cost of travel to the New World was so high, and yet so valuable, that the only arrangement people could make was to bond themselves into indentures servitude. They agreed to labor for a number of years upon reaching the new world. Call them temporary slaves if you wish. And yes, some blacks did own these (white) temporary slaves. It wasn't later until slavery became associated with race.

Daily employment is another thing that people give up their freedom for. In exchange for giving up your freedom to go lie in the daisies, you agree to do what your boss tells you in exchange for mere money. It doesn't seem like a good deal, does it? And yet what is freedom without the resources to enjoy it? If you are so poor that you cannot rub two sticks together, then your freedom is worth little to you. You will trade your freedom for those two sticks. Call work part-time slavery.

It is clear that freedom is not a good of infinite value. It has a cost and a price, which some people are and some are not willing to pay. What is important, however, is that people be free to decide what they'll pay for freedom, and what their freedom is worth. If you decide that for them, then it is you who is enslaving them.

(Yes, I'm being poetical and allegorical and ambiguous and not at all clear here. Deal with it. If you have trouble figuring out what I'm talking about, look at the category this is posted in, and think about who has the most to say about freedom in the open source community.)

Amol Hatwar thinks Freedom is Priceless. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, he relies on incorrect facts. He doesn't realize that people travelled to the New World after agreeing to indentured servitude for some number of years.

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Sun, 16 Apr 2006

Rutland Puddles

Been spending a few evenings this past week working on the Rutland Trail. There's a few sections which are perennially wet. Not just damp wet, or even soft wet. We're talking "standing water" wet. The worst puddle is about 30' long, and 12" deep. Threatens to overwhelm my boots.

The primary cause of these puddles is blocked drainage ditches. Sometimes the people who cleared the ties were careless, and allowed the tie to lie in the bottom of the ditch. Sometimes trees have grown up in the ditches, and their roots collect leaves, twigs, and dirt. Sometimes people have created farm crossings without regard of the need for drainage.

The problem with ATVs is the same problem that hikers face. Once a trail stays even a little bit wet, the soil gets soft and sticky. It sticks to the bottom of hiker's boots (or ATV tires) and gets carried away. As the wet soil is removed, a lower spot is created. This accumulates more water and the process goes around again. There are only two solutions: stay off the trails when they're wet, or dry out the trail.

Hiking trails tend to be sloped, and so removing water from the trail is a simple matter of inserting a water bar. This acts as a dam to channel the water off the trail. Where hiking trails are flat, it's hard to dry them out. There is no natural mechanism for removing the water. Not so on a railbed converted to a trail. A railroad also needed to keep the railbed dry, so they put ditches on the sides of the track, to remove water. Drying out a rail-trail is simply a matter of maintaining these existing ditches.

So I dug lots of leaves and sticks out of ditches this week. Found a tie in one, which I was able to pry out with a prybar (as one would expect a prybar to be used). Once I could get a hand-hold, I was able to shift it. Not so for another tie. It had been used as a farm crossing, and had gotten quite a covering of dirt. Even after I shoveled the dirt off, I couldn't shift it. Got the chain with a grab hook, and a slip hook, and the come-along, and moved that puppy out of the way. So now four puddles are draining into the ditch, instead of accumulating water and eroding the trail as one puddle drained into another.

Next puddle to go is the worst one. It'll be a supreme pleasure to dry that one out.

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Fri, 14 Apr 2006

Brooklyn Cooperage at Everton

Went for a hike exploring the Brooklyn Cooperage logging railroad line into Everton. They pulled the tracks up in the 1920's, so it hasn't been so very many years. I found the location of the curve at Everton. The railroad is drawn as crossing the St. Regis River and recrossing it a short distance thereafter. That's certainly possible. There's not too much room between the road and the river at that point. Neither, though, did I see any sign of bridge abutments. If it was a wooden trestle bridge, it may not have had abutments.

Also found evidence of a side track north from the curve. Tie impressions, and grading. If it existed at all, it was probably just for one year, while they were logging in the area. Some time in the late 1980's I saw evidence of ties.

Further out on the rail line, it crosses Mile Brook. You can still see some remains in the wetland here: line through wetland (Thumbnail) .

I hiked north along the railbed, and found another branch crossing Mile Brook. The line to the left continues northwards. The line to the right is still used as a path across the wetland: branch line (Thumbnail) .

The best part, though, is that I found rails!. I have no idea why a pair of rails would have been left behind: rails (Thumbnail) . This wasn't the last place that Brooklyn Cooperage had a logging railroad, so something must have prevented them from removing those rails.

Kept walking out on the railbed. Except for a few muddy places where some vehicle dug nasty holes at some time in the past, the railbed is still in reasonable condition. I think I found the end of the northwest branch, because there's no sign of the railbed past that point.

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Tue, 11 Apr 2006

Ride starting Tue Apr 11 16:47:13 2006

20.68 km 67851.78 feet 12.85 mi 4772.00 seconds 79.53 minutes 1.33 hours 9.69 mi/hr

Went for my first ride on the Rutland. Rode on the worst possible section in the springtime -- the one with all the puddles. Came back later and drained one of them. I noticed why this section is so muddy. There are two ATV entrances blocking the drainage ditches, and one farm crossing. I'm going to pull them out. The only question is whether I can do it by hand, or if I need a backhoe. I'm gonna see if I can borrow one of my neighbor's.

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