Thu, 27 Sep 2007


Rationing is a completely irrational response to a shortage. Rationing is predicated on the assumption that it's fair for everyone to have the same allocation of a resource. Nations typically behave towards each other like toddlers. Within a nation, the politicians seem to treat citizens like children, where every child gets an equal sized piece of cake.

I'm not a child. Neither are you. None of us are (except our children, of course). Giving each of us identicaly sized pieces of cake ignores all sorts of issues. For example, we are carbon-based lifeforms. Some of us are bigger than others, are comprised of more carbon, and need more carbon to live. Or for example, some of us use our carbon to reduce our carbon emissions. I own 225 acres of land. It has a growing forest which is pulling carbon out of the air. I'm a hero -- shouldn't I get a higher carbon allowance? What if I can consume (emit) carbon dioxide (in the form of fossil fuels) to optimize my carbon consumption (in the form of woody growth)? How does the carbon ration account for this? Particularly in the UK where land ownership is far more class-based than in the US.

An equal share is not obviously fair; not at all.

Posted [01:21] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Bob Frankston

If you know Bob Frankston, you will agree with my comments to him:

You are an extremely perceptive individual, Bob. You can look at something and immediately cut through all the crap. The rest of us can't do that. You need to spend more time leading the rest of us past the crap. Otherwise, in your lightning path to the correct solution, the rest of us get scraped off in the crap. And let me tell you, sitting in crap is no fun.

Posted [00:58] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Game Theory

I'm dubious of the value of game theory to economics. Games have winners and losers. Markets have participants. Free market only have winners; the would-be or potential losers choose not to play.

I'm simplying, of course, glossing over the existance of human error. People who think they're going to win will lose, but they do so only because they've made a mistake. Perfect markets are not an option, as any economist will readily acknowledge.

So where does the idea of "perfect markets" come from? Economists must use thought experiments to create theories about how markets work. One of these experiments is the perfect market; one without human error, without transaction costs, and where every participant has equal knowledge. Another experiment is the unchanging market; one without growth, decay, decisions, or any other number of human values. Within these simplifications, you can say what a market will do.

Of what value is that in the real world? It helps economists to say what will tend to happen at the margin. If transaction costs are lowered, markets will behave more like perfect markets. If human error can be reduced (hey, at great cost, we did it for the Apollo missions), markets will behave more perfectly. If real markets then turn out to behave differently, the theory is wrong, and the economist goes back to the drawing board.

Unfortunately, undergraduates have been imperfectly taught about perfect markets, and you can see the results.

Posted [00:54] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Government vs. Monopolies

If you're looking to governments to save you from monopolies, you're asking the devil for salvation. A government is itself a monopoly on the creation of violence. Why would you expect one monopoly to be hostile a priori to other monopolies?

The theory is that a government is controlled by its citizens. However, control over the government is a public good. Like all public goods, it is underproduced.

Posted [00:50] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Mon, 24 Sep 2007

Nevermind the Bleating

Nevermind the bleating of the leftists. Americans are doing much better than 30 years ago. Can anybody deny it? Just look at Clarkson University. They've doubled the size of the Quad parking lot, and the Pit parking lot. Now they're building another parking lot in the useless curvey space between the Pit and the Quad. The cars they're parking in that lot all have cruise control, power windows, power brakes, radials, and rack-and-pinion steering. Back when I was in Clarkson 30 years ago, cars with those features were considered luxury cars. Now? Meh, those features are all standard.

Yet the Krugmans of the world think we're no better off. Does anybody honestly think he's an economist? Can't we get MIT to say "Oops, sorry, Paul, can we have that PhD back?"

Posted [17:42] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Ride starting Sun Sep 23 17:35:56 2007

4.90 km 16063.54 feet 3.04 mi 1961.00 seconds 32.68 minutes 0.54 hours 5.59 mi/hr

Went for a short proof of concept ride. I had earlier tried to enter the railbed straight from NY Route 3. There's a nice entrance there, with a culvert and reflectors, but it was too weedy, so I turned back (not recorded on this map). I went around to the dirt road and rode along it to see if it got less weedy. Indeed, after a ways I found that the railbed was very open and ridable. At least, the western end of this ride was open. It got gradually less and less open, until I ran into a beaver dam. Gave up and bushwhacked back to the dirt road. Gonna come back some day and try riding it west of the west end of this ride.

Posted [00:21] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Ride starting Sun Sep 23 15:45:25 2007

8.10 km 26568.68 feet 5.03 mi 4771.00 seconds 79.52 minutes 1.33 hours 3.80 mi/hr

This ride was on a branch of the Grasse River Railroad. It's a logging railroad in the northwest Adirondacks, with many side branch tracks. This one has been reused as NY Route 3 from the Grasse River crossing to the curve just east of the northern end of my bike ride. At that point, the railbed has been reused as a bicycle / hiking / snowmobile trail. I was able to ride the railbed to the very end, or as near as I could tell. It forks, and the east-heading fork is very obvious, but the south-facing fork is very NOT obvious.

The NYS DEC calls this trail the Burntbridge Pond Snowmobile Trail.

Posted [00:21] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Ride starting Sun Sep 23 11:05:43 2007

35.30 km 115806.97 feet 21.93 mi 11192.00 seconds 186.53 minutes 3.11 hours 7.05 mi/hr

Went exploring old railroads. This one went from Childwold Station through Conifer and almost up to Pierrepont. Portions of it are still being used as roads, in particular the portion that I rode today, from Conifer to the Grasse River crossing. The bridge is out over the Grasse River, so the railbed is completely overgrown between there and NY Route 3.

Also explored several branch lines. Immediately to the west of Conifer is a branch line to the south. It's overgrown and hard to follow, but there are obvious rotted ties. Much further to the west I went about a mile south on a branch line. It has old ties buried in the road. I also found a branch just past that heading north. It isn't listed in Railroads of the Adirondacks, so I sent Michael Kudish a note about it.

I also explored the continuation of that line where it branches three ways at NY Route 3. One branch follows NY3 (or vice versa) and then heads away south. I was able to ride to the end of that branch. The north branch goes through a huge logging landing, and becomes a lightly used logging road. I went down it a little ways, and turned back when it started to get brushy, but it wasn't worth making a map. The middle is the main line, continued west of NY3.

Posted [00:21] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Thu, 20 Sep 2007

Ride starting Thu Sep 20 13:21:09 2007

19.12 km 62743.97 feet 11.88 mi 5844.00 seconds 97.40 minutes 1.62 hours 7.32 mi/hr

Two rides today, sort-of. Drove down to Barstow's to get the car's check engine light looked at. Went for a bike ride up on Clarkson's hill campus. They have some nice single-track trails. Got back 1/2 hour after they were supposed to have looked at the car. Unfortunately, they hadn't even gotten to it. So I bicycled home.

Ride starting Thu Sep 20 16:06:12 2007

7.32 km 24001.46 feet 4.55 mi 1353.00 seconds 22.55 minutes 0.38 hours 12.10 mi/hr

Called them at 4PM to see if they were done. Yep. One code: Evap, which means that somebody didn't tighten the gas cap. Doh! $11 later and everything is fixed. Rode into town to pick up the car. Nice speed. Not windy per se, but it was upwind, even.

Posted [16:52] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Ride starting Wed Sep 19 14:29:24 2007

41.97 km 137694.37 feet 26.08 mi 10805.00 seconds 180.08 minutes 3.00 hours 8.69 mi/hr

Went for a ride on the old NYC Carthage branch. The trail starts right in downtown Carthage, one block from the existing railroad. It heads northwest, and crosses route 3 after about two miles. Unfortunately, it runs into a railroad bridge which has no deck, and which has been reused to carry a National Grid gas pipeline across the river. I had to backtrack and cross the river to West Carthage.

Went down to the next road and got onto the railbed. Except for a short section east of Felts Mills, and west of Great Bend, where the railbed is grown over, the trail follows the railbed. Previously, I rode from just east of Watertown to Felts Mills.

Posted [01:22] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Mon, 17 Sep 2007

Ride starting Sun Sep 16 15:01:36 2007

52.73 km 172988.66 feet 32.76 mi 14147.00 seconds 235.78 minutes 3.93 hours 8.34 mi/hr

Went for a nice long ride today. Bit sore on the knee at the end. And the butt. And the hands. Clearly my endurance has suffered from my two-month hiatus. Went on the Lost Nation Forest road north of Brookdale. Loking for the eastern end of Trudell Road. Earlier I had gone down Trudell Road until it ran into wetland. Clearly the road used to go all the way through to 420, but there's little sign that it did.

Cut over in the direction of Brasher Center, but ducked down a dirt road because I'd never gone that way before. I'll have to try that ride again, to see if it's possible to walk across the old bridge across the St. Regis River at Brasher Center.

Came back through Brasher Falls. Stopped for some ice cream at the Stewart's in Winthrop. Hit the Rutland Trail after Winthrop. Wasn't too muddy after yesterday's pouring rains. I think if we can get fill into the deepest puddles, we can keep the ATVs feet dry so they won't pick up the fill and carry it away.

Posted [00:59] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Thu, 13 Sep 2007

The Dying of Elephants

Doc Searls laments the dying:

This is why I've lamented the dying not only of local newspapers, but of full-service local radio in most smaller U.S. cities, and the failure thus far of everybody (bloggers, public radio, you name it) to fill the void. Old acts are failing and new acts are not fully together.

Anybody who hopes to benefit from the dying of elephants definitely wants to not be there during the death, because there can be much thrashing around and crushing of smaller beings.

Remember: good things happen slowly, bad things happen quickly.

Posted [02:59] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Wed, 12 Sep 2007

Ride starting Wed Sep 12 15:05:55 2007

17.79 km 58367.20 feet 11.05 mi 10040.00 seconds 167.33 minutes 2.79 hours 3.96 mi/hr

This ride is split into several sections. I wanted to ride as much of the DeKalb Branch of the NYC as was still ridable. The rails were removed about twenty-five years ago. Unfortunately, they also sold off the railbed into individual parcels. Nobody, even in 1982, was thinking "linear park". Fortunately, they left the steel bridges in place. Unfortunately, some of the people who now own the railbed have opinions about how it should be used.

The biggest problems, as I see them, are (from north to south):

I found a 1918 80lb rail used as part of a barrier on the trail.
80LB 12 1918 (Thumbnail) O.H.Lackawanna (Thumbnail)

I found mile marker 19 earlier on the paved Maple City Trail portion. Mile marker 18 has been moved to somebody's front yard on McIntyre Rd. Here are Mile markers 13 and 10:
mm13 (Thumbnail) mm10 (Thumbnail) Whistle Post (Thumbnail)

Posted [22:00] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Tue, 11 Sep 2007

IRS and Emperor Palpatine

We pay quarterly estimated taxes because I work for myself. The September 15th payment is due shortly. My clever wife put the Emperor Palpatine stamp from the USPS Star Wars Series on the envelope the IRS provides. In spite of the First Amendment, the IRS punishes you if you write political speech on either the envelope or enclosed form. I can't see, however, how they could stop us from choosing a stamp with a motive of political protest!

Posted [12:01] [Filed in: politics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Why a unibutton?

Why does the N800 have a unibutton and a hidden button on the top? The 770 had three separate buttons on the top. The left button is now in the middle on the N800. The rocker switch (press left, press right) is now split into two buttons, on left and right. The power menu button on the 770 was arguably too easy to press, so I count the hidden button on the N800 an improvement.

But to merge the two buttons into one unibutton which is practically impossible to distinguish?? Why? The only way to distinguish between the buttons is to slide your finger back and forth a few times, trying to feel the subtle slope from the left to the middle and back down on the right. Only then can you take a guess at which button your finger is on.

Going back to the 770's buttons would be an improvement. Let's hope that the N830 (or whatever) makes that change.

Posted [00:22] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Thu, 06 Sep 2007

Ride starting Thu Sep 6 18:38:54 2007

18.88 km 61956.20 feet 11.73 mi 3534.00 seconds 58.90 minutes 0.98 hours 11.95 mi/hr

Went into town to drop something off at Lauren's. Knee feels really good, as long as I don't push it.

Posted [20:53] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Chordite vs. Twiddler

Johan Helsingius suggests that I compare the Chordite and the Twiddler. There are two possible comparisons: between concepts and between implementations. So, the concept first.

The Twiddler uses several three keys for each finger, and two keys for your thumb. Various combinations of these keys generate keystrokes. The Chordite uses the thumb to hold the keyboard. Since the Chordite keys are pressed by the knuckles rather than fingertip, each finger may press one or two keys.

In both systems, each finger can generate two bits of information. Twiddler can press Left, Middle, Right, or no key. Chordite can press Distal, Medial, Distal and Medial, or no keys. However, the Twiddler includes two buttons for the thumb, so that makes the chordspace four times as large. The Chordite makes up for that by providing for sticky shift, control, and alt prefixes.

The implementations differ because the Twiddler 2 is a USB keyboard, and my Chordite is bluetooth. Since the Twiddler 3 will be bluetooth, there's no obvious benefit to the Chordite.

Posted [16:31] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Wed, 05 Sep 2007

Never use a warning

Aza Raskin writes Never Use a Warning, in which I count him as agreeing with my assessment of the Connection Manager's warnings.

Posted [00:53] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Tue, 04 Sep 2007

Unions and Free Riders

Unions are in a hard place. On the one hand, they need people to actually be union members and pay union dues. On the other hand, they want non-union members support the ability of unions to keep them from working in a union job. So they walk the fine line between bragging about how unions help labor in general, without mentioning that people who gain those benefits are free riding off unions.

Posted [14:23] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Why is there no IP address on the connection menu?

IT2007 has added the signal strength to the connection menu (underneath the 'world' icon on the applets). Yay! But why isn't the IP address listed there as well? Why do I need to bring up the Connection Manager, and then use its "IP Address" entry to tell me the IP address? It's not like the connection menu is full or anything. It's not even a variable-length menu.

Posted [11:34] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Mon, 03 Sep 2007

Gold Bugs

I know that some people are gold bugs; I am not one of them. A chief advantage of gold is that it limits the supply of money, making for a constant predictable mild deflation. In a free market society, as each person trades, they increase the total valuable of the tradable items. If you have a fixed amount of gold, and your money is gold receipts, then you will have a small value of deflation, as the same money chases goods worth more and more.

For some reason, people think that deflation -- any deflation -- is bad. They say that when money is deflating, people will hold their money because they know that it will always be worth more the next day. Thus, the economy shuts down because nobody wants to spend their money. That's a great theory, but it neglects the fact that people can get used to anything, including deflation. So yes, their money will be worth more the next day, but so will their money if they invest it. The same incentives apply: don't spend now because you'll have more to spend later.

Yet a fiat currency can work exactly the same way. Keep the amount of the currency fixed, and you'll have a small amount of deflation. Or, you can inflate the currency at the same rate of growth as the economy. The money-maker (the person who prints money and turns bills into money through their promotion of the currency) can earn money at the growth of the economy (which is a tolerable income) by constantly inflating money to keep prices constant. That is one way that a private money-maker could earn a profit on turning pretty pictures into money.

Note, though, that issuers of fiat currency have the weight of law behind them forcing people to accept fiat currency as if valid. Gresham's law applies, and a fiat currency will drive all more valuable money out of the market.

Posted [22:58] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Ride starting Mon Sep 3 15:58:53 2007

34.42 km 112923.97 feet 21.39 mi 8224.00 seconds 137.07 minutes 2.28 hours 9.36 mi/hr

Went out on the Rutland Trail today. Knee felt pretty good yesterday on that short three mile ride. Thought I'd push it for distance today. Weather was beautiful. On the warm side, but not so very. Average speed still pretty low. Babying the knee. I want to stress it a little, so the recovering tendon is strong, but I don't want to risk tearing it again.

Posted [18:31] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Regulation of Commerce

Dave Rogers makes a few oopsies in his Competing Messages: Commerce and Sociality posting (Hat tip to Doc Searls). He asks "What presses back against competitive commerce?" and then answers his own question saying "Very little, it turns out." Oops! He misses one thing, which causes the rest of his argument to tumble to the ground. All this commerce, all this competition exists for one purpose: to maximize cooperation. Who decides when the level of cooperation is sufficient? Consumers. Consumers are what pushes back against commerce. Consumers regulate commerce, continuously in time and space. If you disagee, try selling something people don't want. Try selling something when people want something else more.

Dave also thinks that government is not a competitive enterprise. Oh, no, how wrong! The state governments in the United States are competitive. There are no legal barriers to prevent you from moving from one state to another. You can subscribe to any state government you want, simply by changing your residence. No permits, no forms, no fees, nothing but the cost of moving your butt from one place to another. In this manner, the states must compete for citizens and tax dollars by enacting the most sensible laws.

Of course, we have allowed the federal government to interfere in this process. We have allowed it to take on tasks it was never intended to perform, tasks that the Constitution gives it no permission to perform. For example, the Department of Energy. Or the Department of Education. Mentioned nowhere in the Constitution. Completely illegal organizations.

And as for Dave's final point -- that commerce corrupts society -- I'd be happy to socialize with him over a beer at the corner pub -- and I'd even buy -- but that would be that awful corrupting commerce, wouldn't it?

One last point: "This just in...". Yes, Upstate New York is a beautiful place.

Posted [15:23] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Sun, 02 Sep 2007

Unions are not completely wrong

Richard C. Iannuzzi, president of the NYSUT (teacher's union) is not completely wrong when he says: After all, it's not because of the kindness, generosity and benevolence of employers that many workers enjoy benefits such as Saturdays and Sundays off, 40-hour work weeks, health benefits, paid vacations, a dignified retirement, and safety rules that protect us on the job..

It's true that employers don't do these things for those reasons. They do them because they have to. In order to get the employees they want, they have to pay them more. Worse than that, they have to pay the employee more than they might be paid in any other industry. They're not just competing for employees within their own industry, they're competing for them in every industry. That's how it is that productivity increases in one industry result in every other industry having to pay more for labor.

Like everyone else, they have to compete in a free market for labor. But oh, the point of a union is to not have a free market. The point is to force employers to employ union members regardless of their qualifications for the job. So the reality is that unions cause employers to have a less productive labor component. This can only result in lower benefits. So rather than praising unions for getting workers those benefits, we should be damning unions for getting in the way of workers having even larger benefits.

Posted [23:24] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Chordite versus CyKey

MJ Ray suggested that I explain how the Chordite differs or is similar to the CyKey. Well enough! Under "similar" I would put: chording, unfamiliar, pocketable, one handed, wireless, battery operated. Under "different", I would say that the CyKey must be used against a surface whereas the Chordite can be used in mid-air. The CyKey works well for either hand, whereas the Chordite is handed. The CyKey uses infrared, which restricts the positioning of the device, and which restricts the devices that may be used, whereas the Chordite uses Bluetooth, which is widely supported and doesn't require any special positioning. The CyKey's infrared is cheaper than bluetooth if you already have infrared, but is more expensive if you lack it. With the CyKey, you type with your fingertips, whereas with the Chordite, you type with your knuckles. With the CyKey your thumb moves from one key to another, whereas with the Chordite, your thumb holds the keyboard and the other fingers simply move up and down; no hunting for keys. Finally, the CyKey is an off-the-shelf product whereas a Chordite (currently) must be custom ordered to fit your hand.

Posted [18:56] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , , ] [digg this]

Ride starting Sun Sep 2 14:30:32 2007

4.91 km 16120.40 feet 3.05 mi 1597.00 seconds 26.62 minutes 0.44 hours 6.88 mi/hr

Very, very, very short ride today, just for completion. I had never ridden on the Maple City Trail in Ogdensburg. It only goes up to the first bridge over the Oswegatchie River, which is too bad, because the steel is still there. It's lacking only a deck to allow the trail to continue. Oh, and possibly legal access, since the !@#%$!$%!$ Lighthouse Point Corporation sold off the railbed as individual parcels to adjoining landowners.

Posted [18:18] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Sat, 01 Sep 2007

Free Chordites!

I need more experience building my Chordite keyboard. So, I will build two custom keyboards for two Nokia Internet Tablet users who send me a letter with a photocopy of their hand along with an explanation of why they should get a free keyboard. Note that this keyboard only supports Linux, and it's only been tested for the Nokia N800. Send the letter to:

Free Chordite Offer
Crynwr Software
521 Pleasant Valley Rd.
Potsdam, NY 13676

Include your return shipping address, and email address so that I may notify you of your acceptance. This offer closes September 10th, so if your letter may take that long to get to me, send it now. I considered doing this on a time priority basis, but I want to get the keyboard to the people who want it the most, not the people who happen to read it first. Plus, I need the hand scan no matter what.

Posted [12:36] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]

Mark XII keyboard

This keyboard is finally salable. It has worthy electronics which will give you a nice long battery life. It's sturdy. It's replicable on a reasonable basis. Right now I'm still building it on a custom basis, but I have some ideas for how to fit people with different size hands.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get past the custom firmware hurdle. I'm using a driver on the Linux side which pulls in seven different keys and implements the chording algorithm. It works well enough, but it's restrictive to need a driver. Can't sell into the Windows or Mac market without modified firmware. Blue Packet has offered to modify the firmware for a stiff price. Unfortunately, that requires a larger committment than I can put forth given my current lack of understanding about how to fit multiple people.

Plus, not only is the fit a problem, but everybody (everybody, everybody) thinks it's hard to learn how to use. It isn't, because the most common keystrokes are also the easiest ones to make. Given the cheatsheet, you can type your name within five minutes. It's really not that hard, but it's so unfamiliar to people that it looks hard.

Here's the front of the keyboard, folded for pocketing. Notice the classy 1/4" plywood and ground-off wood screws. This is for strength. Relative to the stresses on the keyboard, the 1/4" plywood is quite strong, and the hinges ensure that the wood meets up with a hard stop at the limit of its extension.
front, folded for pocketing (Thumbnail)

With the keyboard unfolded for use, you can see the whole wood and brass steampunk thing going on here. The previous keyboard fell apart in several ways. This one won't, not even if you throw it into a soft suitcase and take it on an international trip.
front, unfolded (Thumbnail)

You can see how the upper piece of wood hangs off the knuckle of your first finger, and how your thumb rests on the top of the AAA battery box. The piece of wood at the bottom rests against the base of your palm, and provides one end of the lever that allows your finger knuckles to reliably press against the keys.
back, unfolded (Thumbnail)

Here's how you grip the keyboard. The thumb only holds the keyboard. You press the keys with the knuckles of your four fingers.
underside, gripping (Thumbnail)

Here's how it looks from the edge, or top, of your grip.
top, as you grip it (Thumbnail)

Posted [12:27] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]