Fri, 28 Dec 2007

Market Failure 2

I pondered earlier why an economist would use the term market failure. A fellow wrote in to tell me that he uses it as a short-hand to describe a "situation in which we would expect the free market to fail to meet the Pareto optimality criterion." He allows as how a better term might be "intractable situation" since it may not be possible to achieve an optimal solution. He is still of the opinion that regulation can come closer to the optimum in most cases of market failure.

I'm less convinced than him for the same reason that people will drive their car in a situation where the total cost is cheaper to use mass transit. A car is effectively a sunk cost. You can sell your current car, but that is almost always followed by the purchase of a new car. Well, a government is a sunk cost. Markets have a problem with sunk costs, because over time a commodity ends up being sold at the marginal cost (the cost to produce the last item sold). But the last item sold doesn't account for the sunk cost.

In the market for services, government services are over-provided.

Sunk Costs

Traditionally, not all of a car's price is considered a sunk cost. Only that which cannot be recovered is "sunk". And yet, in most parts of North America, you need a car to do everything you'd like to do. In some very small parts of America, you can reasonably do without a car: villages where you can walk, or cities which have mass transit. Thus, deciding to live anywhere else requires that you sink the cost of owning a car.

I fear that I'm being too succinct, and waving my hands at things you may not understand. Please send email if I've outrun you.

Posted [10:03] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Thu, 27 Dec 2007

Subsidies are bad for you

John Woolman was a Quaker who counselled other Quakers not to keep Negroes. If you read the wikipedia page, there's no hint that Woolman was concerned about slave owners. If you read his journal, however, you will see a continual appeal to the welfare of the slave owner. "How could you do this, if the circumstances were exchanged?" That's not a concern for the fate of the slave. That's a concern for the fate of the slave owner.

Similarly, I do not believe that subsidies are good for the recipient. Everyone knows that when you build a cost structure into the operation of a business, it's extremely hard to reduce those costs should business conditions change. During the Dot-com boom, companies were renovating offices with frivolities. For example, Xoom.com's network wiring was colored, not for purposes of identification, but because it matched the NBC Peacock, owner of Xoom.

Well, a subsidy is just a profit structure. A subsidy is the equivalent of a single customer. If your business's profitability is dependent upon a single customer, then you aren't running your business. That customer is running your business.

Posted [16:57] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Best Blog Comment Ever

Your use of the ad-hominem argument in your criticism of $NAME is proof positive that you are a doo-doo head.

Posted [11:12] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 22 Dec 2007

Market Failure?

I can understand why enemies of free markets use the term "market failure" because it presumes that "regulation success" will shortly follow. I don't understand why an economist would use that term, however. Markets don't "fail". Markets sometimes generate results we neither understand nor like. It is an act of hubris, however, to call that a "failure". Do we call an "earthquake" a "geology failure"? Do we call a hurricane a "weather failure"? Of course not -- the idea is ridiculous.

Posted [03:09] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Thu, 20 Dec 2007

No solution here

Okay, whenever somebody criticizes "the free market" I always have to wonder how much of the market is free, and how much is ruled by legislation. Leonhardt points out in the article that doctors overtreat because of malpractice laws. So ... how free is that market?

And the second thing to consider is that in a free market, by definition, people are getting their money's worth, otherwise they wouldn't enter into the trade. If they enter into trades which can be predicted to be bad, then they need more information. Where's the Medical Consumer Reports? Could it be that liability laws prevent such a thing from existing?

And the third thing is that for the most part, medicine in the US is NOT fee-for-service. In New York State, if you try to buy medical treatment on a fee-for-service basis, the state government imposes a surcharge on you! Most medicine is done like automobile repair. The mechanic (doctor) tells the owner (insurance company) what repairs the car (person) needs, and the owner decides whether it will pay for the repair or not.

Fee-for-service would require a free market in health care, which is something we have too little of, and too much criticism of.

Posted [02:56] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Tue, 18 Dec 2007

Government from our rights

I refer you to this Non Sequitur cartoon:

Note the wry observation: "government keeping us safe from our rights." I love it! I've never heard it put that way before, but it's perfectly right. We are born with rights, and only a government (or other band of thugs capable of greater violence) can take them away.

Posted [16:59] [Filed in: politics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Sun, 16 Dec 2007

Money is not a sign of poverty

Iain M. Banks wrote, in his science fiction book _Consider Phlebas_, "The Culture is an abundant society, with no scarcity economy. One Culture adage is, Money is a sign of poverty, meaning that money only has a function in a scarcity economy, and therefore its existence betrays a pre-abundant (poor) society."

All science fiction works as a story-telling milieu by changing a very small number of constants from our current society. If it changes none, then it's not science fiction, it's just fiction. Cryptonomicon is science fiction because of the Root's magical life-restoring cigars. If it changes more constants, then it's fantasy. If it changes too many constants, it's unreadable garbage because people can't relate to it.

One of the constants that Banks changes in his book is the idea that people are satiable. In his story, people in The Culture are satisfied with a certain amount of possessions, with a certain amount of experiences. This amount is presumably very large because of the abundance of goods and services. We can relate to this because in our experience, we think we would be satisfied with some amount of stuff and fun.

Back in the real world, that doesn't happen. I have a friend who would love to buy a $22,000,000 dive boat. He can't afford it. I mean, he could afford it in the sense that his net worth is greater than $22M. But what he means is that it would consume too large a percentage of his net worth. I have trouble relating to even considering the purchase of something so expensive. But what if we were members of Banks' Culture? All of us could afford such a thing, because it's a culture of abundance.

Human desire is insatiable. Now, some think this is a bad thing, blaming it on greed and consumerism. But think about Mother Theresa -- a saint if ever there was one. Was she greedy? Insatiable? Well, yes, she was. If she could have helped one more person, she would have.

Human desire is no more or less the ability to dream of accomplishing something currently undone. Everyone but everyone counsels people to dream big. Once you've achieved your dream, to what end do you put your efforts? To avoid ennui, you can only find another dream. I sat next to Danny Snider in high school choir. His deep-seated dream was to become a rock star. As Dee Snider, he has. He shows no sign of slowing down, and you can see from visiting his website that he still dreams big.

So, no, money is not a sign of poverty. Money is a sign of humanity. At least, outside of science fiction books it is.

Posted [19:18] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Sat, 15 Dec 2007

Democracy is not the goal

Democracy is not what people want. Democracy is not the cause of prosperity. Freedom (of speech, religion, the press, and yes, TRADE) is the cause of prosperity and frankly, prosperity and freedom is what people want.

Democracy is not freedom; democracy is the tyranny of the majority. When the majority is free to oppress the minority, nobody is free, because in some aspect of their life, everybody is a minority.

Posted [14:15] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Fri, 14 Dec 2007

Long Term View?

A correspondant writes in to say "I worry that free markets do not generally take a long-term view into account,...". I've often heard this view expressed. I wish we could suggest this to Mythbusters, but I think that Bullshit! would be a better show to tackle it.

Just as my correspondant worries about free markets, I worry that governments do not generally take a long-term view into account. What politician thinks beyond his next election? How *could* a politician think beyond their next election? Obviously taking a long-term view means doing things which hurt in the short run. If it didn't -- if taking a long-term view were free -- then everybody would do it. So, the politician who takes a long-term view at a short-term cost will be excoriated by his opposition.

That leaves individuals to take a long-term view. If individuals do it, then free markets will do it just as reliably as governments.

Posted [01:26] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Wed, 12 Dec 2007

Kyoto will be the death of them

The problem with Kyoto is simple: global warming is caused by a combination of higher solar activity in this century plus the burning of fossil fuels. See this page on global warming, written by a Quaker.

There is a limited amount of fossil fuels. The problem of global warming will go away when the competing uses for fossil fuels and competing sources of energy out-bid the burning of them.

Kyoto leaves out China and India, who have greatly stepped up their burning of fossil fuels. Basically, the fossil fuels WILL be burned until it's not economic for anyone; the only question is whether we will burn them or if they will burn them. Kyoto will have NO EFFECT ON GLOBAL WARMING. It will, on the other hand, make the industrialized countries much poorer, making it harder for them to help mitigate the INEVITABLE effects of global warming on third-world countries.

This is completely independent of the fact that Kyoto doesn't stop the burning of fossil fuels. It doesn't decrease the burning of fossil fuels. It only slows down the INCREASE (at huge cost) by three years. If we implement Kyoto, then 50 years from now we will have the same amount of warming we would have had in 47 years.

When you stack up global warming against all the other problems in the world, there's a dozen problems more serious. For example, solving global sanitation would save MANY MORE LIVES than solving global warming, at a hundredth the cost -- yes, people are still drinking water contaminated with shit in the year 2007.

We are being led into a hysterical overreaction to a problem which is simply not all that serious. Back in the 1600's we would have gone looking for a witch to burn. We laugh at their foolishness now; in four hundred years they will laugh at our foolishness now.

I would laugh at Gore, except that what he's doing is killing people. There are a limited amount of resources in the world. If you do one thing, you give up doing another. By addressing global warming as a higher priority, we are condemning people to preventable deaths. And as ludicrous as Al Gore's campaign is, it's not at all funny.

Posted [14:28] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 09 Dec 2007

Beads not Teeth

This is my first reprap post. I've established a new category for reprap posts, so expect further posts there. I plan to build a reprap, in spite of their foolish motto: "Wealth without Money". Wealth has nothing to do with money, so a motto of "Wealth without Money" is as meaningful as "A Fish Without a Bicycle". Money facilitates trade, not wealth, so if you don't like money, it's trade you don't like. And yet trade is 100% responsible for our standard of living exceeding that of a subsistance farmer.

Each of the three axes that make up the reprap 3D printer require a tooth belt, in the current reprap design. I gather that they are expensive. I grabbed 14 feet of Christmas bead garland at the dollar store. The beads are 8mm in diameter, and are spaced 2.3mm apart. That's big enough that the gear which drives them could be fabbed. In the meantime, we could use a technique like Vik's to create a gear.

The cord that holds the beads is quite inelastic. Over a 15cm section, a 5kg load only stretches it by 1mm.

Using polycapralone (capa for short), I fashioned a drive gear, to see if it could drive the beads. Glued up a circle of beads. I buried the beads about halfway (up to the string) in the capa. That turned out to be too deep. The beads need to cam in and out of their holes. When they're too deep they can't do that. I also learned how to make it into a proper pulley. Use a hole saw on some plastic. That leaves you with a small hole centered around a bigger hole. Then use the capa as the rim of the gear, burying the beads only slightly.

I'll try driving one shaft from another next.

Oops, I forgot to include the photos, so I'll let this get re-posted with the photos:

Beads forming the gear (Thumbnail) The empty gear (Thumbnail) Beads in the gear (Thumbnail)

Posted [19:02] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Wed, 28 Nov 2007

Voting on what's for lunch

You may have heard that "Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch." (It's not from Ben Franklin.) I don't think that's quite accurate. I prefer this one: "Democracy is one wolf and two sheep voting on what to have for lunch -- and lamb still ends up as the entree."

You don't change the nature of things merely by voting.

Posted [15:59] [Filed in: politics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Mon, 26 Nov 2007

Fractional Reserve Banking

I'm trying to figure out whether derivatives have the potential to create inflation. In order for them to do that, they would need to be able to create new money where none exists. A lot of people agree with the Wikipedia article on Fractional-reserve Banking. That article says that new money is created when a bank makes out a loan. They're allowed to loan out a large fraction of a new deposit, as long as they keep a fraction on reserve. They make this loan by creating a new account with the loan. That loan can itself be loaned as, as it's considered to be a deposit. And so on and so on until the loan has been multiplied several times.

The problem with that theory is that when somebody takes out a loan, they do so for a reason. Since banks want to be paid more than they pay out, nobody makes money by taking out a loan and leaving it in the bank. No, people spend that money by withdrawing it from the bank. This fellow agrees with me.

So, fractional reserve banking cannot persistently create new money -- no more than can kiting a check create persistent new money. Within a few days, the kite falls to the ground, and what looked like new money was seen to be no money.

So my question is whether a complex derivative can cause money to be in two places at the same time, for a long period of time? I still don't know.

Posted [02:19] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Sun, 18 Nov 2007

Ride starting Sat Nov 17 15:26:37 2007

20.81 km 68265.48 feet 12.93 mi 6306.00 seconds 105.10 minutes 1.75 hours 7.38 mi/hr

Rode up to Norwood today for two purposes. First, to check out an old race track, visible on the DOQ aerial photo. On the ground? Nothing. It is completely grown over, and what isn't grown over is flooded. Thank you, Mr. Beaver. Ran into Mr. Franklin Pierce. No, not the 14th President of the United States, but somebody who lives in the area. Like me, he also has been improving the Rutland Trail.

Second purpose was to see if somebody was logging on the road behind our house. Indeed, yes! And one of the things they've done has been to clear out the brush from the old road going across the wetland. I was able to bicycle down to the level of the wetland, and there's a path wending its way to the creek that runs through the wetland. Unfortunately, the bridge is missing, and it was way too cold to consider going through the water.

Posted [00:55] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sat, 17 Nov 2007

Why we trade

Russell Roberts attempts to explain why we trade in 1000 words. Let me try to be much more succinct:

We trade because buyers and sellers agree on a price which is respectively lower and higher than the value of the thing being traded.

That may sounds like a Zen koan, in that a price is usually denominated in a value of currency, e.g. dollars and cents. So how can a price be higher and lower? The answer is that the price is the same number. It is the value of the thing being traded which varies. In the eye of the buyer, the value of the thing is greater than the price. In the eye of the seller, the value of the thing is less than the price.

That is why we trade.

Posted [22:09] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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IPv4 Routing Market

John Curran (which is unfortunately just a stub, and I can't even remember all the stuff John has done, so I can't improve it) read my earlier posting No IPv4 Address Exhaustion, and writes to remind me that an IPv4 address is only as useful as its route, and that a bare IPv4 address is as useful as knowing that I live at number 521.

IPv4 Routing

If you know what an IPv4 route is, skip this section. You know how to get to my house not because you know my house number, 521. You know how to get to it because you know how to get to New York State, and then Potsdam, and then Pleasant Valley Rd. An IP address is split up in a similar manner, using a network number, and then one or more subnets. If you're in Canada, you know New York is to the south or east. If you're in Georgia you may have only a vague idea that New York is Yankee-land up north. That's the start of your route. IP packets travel the same way. Once they get closer to their destination, the subnet is used for more exact routing.

Hosts on the Internet are reachable by other hosts because every host has a route to every other host. The vast majority of hosts are on a network with only one connection to the Internet, so they have a "default route". The router they route to may have its own default route. For example, your PC has a route to your wireless router, which is only connected to your DSL or cablemodem so it also has a default route. Larger routers may have multiple connections. They know which hosts lie in one direction, and which in another and they route packets out the appropriate connection.

The trouble with IP routes is that ultimately, you need to reach a machine which has no default route -- which contains a route to every machine on the Internet. It needs to be able to look up this route in less than a millisecond. Thus, the route table needs to be able to fit into memory. Routers with large amounts of memory and high speed interfaces are not commodity items and are thus expensive.

A market for IPv4 routes

In an economically rational world, everything that has a cost also has a price. We don't live in that world. The people who own the core routers (there are many, owned by different companies) don't get to control the size of the routing table. That gets set by the number of routing announcements. The people who get to make routing announcements run ISPs. So, rather than having a market, everyone involved understands that the routing table needs to be kept small. Nobody wants to be the party that broke "the Internet", so everyone is cooperative. Community norms regulate the size of the routing table.

John's fear is that a market for IPv4 addresses will cause networks to be split up and sold in increasingly smaller chunks. In order to route them, each chunk will need a routing table entry. I accept John's fear as rational. So, I say that any market for IPv4 addresses must include a market for IPv4 routes as well. This makes things more complicated. Let's take an example: Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam. They each have a class B, of which they're using approximately 1/10th of the capacity. They could easily sell 3/5ths of their addresses, but how to get them routed?

Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam have the same network provider (or if I'm wrong about that then in principle, they could, since they're only a mile apart). One way for them to sell their IP addresses is for one of them to renumber to the other's network, share a routing announcement, and then collectively sell the other network along with its routing announcement, the renumberer taking the greater portion for their extra effort.

John's fear is that the community norms will not force this kind of behavior. Once there's a lot of money to be made, some parties may feel free to add "just one more" routing announcement. If the norms are not strong enough to stop this, then nobody will bother to abide by the norms, and the Internet will quickly become unreliable as routes fall off the end of the routing table.

But since routing announcements are 1) public information, and 2) blockable, I think that community norms will suffice to ensure that trade in IP addresses will not result in more routing announcements.

Posted [15:07] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Thu, 15 Nov 2007

Adify test

Just testing to see how the adify ads will look. This one is wide: This one is tall: This one is more square:
Posted [17:41] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 14 Nov 2007

Autoconf brokenness

I believe that autoconf is broken. Autoconf creates a configuration script for a package from a template file that lists the operating system features that the package can use.

The trouble with autoconf is in the configure script it creates. There are several problems with configure. First is that it does standard tests about the operating system, but it doesn't save the result of those tests anywhere. In other words, if you are compiling package A and package B, and they both use autoconf, then both of their completely re-do their configuration tests. If you re-run configure, it remembers the expensive results it got the last time you ran it. But results are not shared across packages.

configure is also used to pass in configuration parameters for the package. These parameters can point to system libraries, or define optional features, or allow for cross-compilation.

configure is also used to detect the presence or absence of necessary system libraries. I've seen it cache that information, and not notice that the library has been installed between runs. I haven't seen that happen lately. Maybe that bug has been fixed?

In all of these cases, the problem is that even the least change invalidates every bit of compilation. Configuration changes aren't tracked between configure and make. When you run configure, it creates a completely new Makefile, so the wise person always runs make clean after running configure.

That's dumb. It's just plain dumb.

The purpose of make is to track dependencies between files. You give it a makefile, and when something is older than something it depends upon, it gets re-built. OR, if something depends on something that will be re-built, it also gets re-built. And so on.

Put configuration changes in individual files, each with its own timestamp. In the makefile, record each configuration's dependency tree. When a configuration entry is changed, that change ripples through everything which uses that configuration, but only those things which use that configuration.

If you object to this, then let me ask you: if you had this, then when would you ever use make clean? make clean is in essence a reboot of the make system. It's an acknowledgement of a bug. So why does every autoconf package support make clean? Simple: because autoconf is buggy.

Posted [18:46] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Dying for Pleasure

While I was on a bike ride along the Black River Trail, I heard various loud noises coming from the direction of Fort Drum, just across the river from the old railbed, now a paved trail. Well, it's a paved trail part-way. The pavement and indeed, the trail itself, just stops in the middle of nowhere. The reason for that is that a state employee was killed operating a front-end loader while constructing the trail. They basically walked away from the trail at that point. UPDATE 8/08: The trail will be paved soon

I got to thinking about the contrast. On the one side of the river, we have people training to fight a war. Of course they don't mean to give up their life for their country, but that's a risk. On the other side of the river, you have (in essence) a memorial to a person who did give up his life for his county, building a trail for people's pleasure.

Is the one sacrifice to be compared to the other? We all respect the soldier's sacrifice as "the cost of freedom, buried in the ground." And yet should we respect the worker's sacrifice any less? The concept is less grandiose, dying to build a trail. And yet the trail is used for good benefit on a daily basis by the people of the worker's community.

I'm thinking that taking a risk so that you may please the people around you is a risk worth taking. So it just annoys me when I don't get to see the pictures of Chicago that Doc Searls was going to take. In return for what? An immeasureably lowered risk of dying that morning? Fortunately for you, now, nobody tried to stop me when I took this photo of Central Park.

We should take our pleasure when and where we get it and not worry that life is short and people are fragile.

Posted [01:53] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Sun, 11 Nov 2007

No IPv4 Address Exhaustion

In a previous posting about IPv6 economic nonsense, I attacked nonsense as nonsense. But actually, the economics of the article are worse than that. At the end of Iljitsch's article on IPv4 Address Consumption, he suggests creating an anti-market. In order to create a predictable destruction of the IPv4 Internet (which he hopes will be supplanted by the IPv6 Internet), he suggests that address trading should be artificially limited. The purpose of this is to create IPv4 pain so that IPv6 will be seen as less painful.

Economists are shaking their heads at this point. "Use a market!" they cry, "Markets are great at allocating scarce goods!". The problem with Iljitsch's suggestion is that it creates pain everywhere. Not everyone will be ready to switch to an IPv6 Internet at the same time. There will need to be a transition period, where some people will need IPv4 addresses, and some can use IPv6 addresses. How to decide who gets and who goes without? You could do some kind of "desperation" metric, where the people who need them more badly get them, and those who don't, don't.

The problem with trying to centrally control the allocation of IP addresses is that the information necessary to do so is not available centrally. And even if it can be gathered centrally, there is no reason to believe that the metric will allocate the addresses according to the wishes of the authors of the metric. And there is no reason to believe that their wishes correspond to the interests of society at large.

An anti-market throws sand into the gears. If there was, instead, a market for IPv4 addresses, then anyone willing to pay the going price could get an address. At some point, the disadvantages of an IPv6 address in an IPv4 world would be overcome by the price of an IPv4 address. At what point? Nobody can say. The information necessary to predict an end to the IPv4 Internet is inside people's heads. The only way to get it out is to create a market and let individuals decide for themselves.

You see, we will never run out of IPv4 addresses. If there's a market, there will always be somebody willing to sell for some price. We will know that we have achieved an IPv6 Internet when the price of an IPv4 address drops back to zero. The way to get there from here is not to artificially create a scarcity of IPv4 addresses. Because, after all, that is the problem, right? How do you make a problem better by making it worse? Shades of medieval doctors' bleeding of patients! Shades of the Vietnam era "We had to destroy the village to save it"! We laugh at these ideas now -- so save time and laugh at Iljitsch's idea -- quickly, before somebody takes him seriously and implements it!

UPDATE: IPv4 routing needs to be part of what gets traded in the market.

Posted [12:48] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Sat, 10 Nov 2007

Legislation and Legislation

Perry Metzger points out in an email to me (feel free to email your comments to me; spammers certainly do, and I already hate them; I'm not likely to hate you any more, so don't be shy) that there's legislation and there's legislation. I had written that legislation is an act of man and a law is a fact of nature. Perry's point is that legislation can work against a law, or legislation can work with a law.

Consider that nobody but nobody wants an airplane flying a hundred feet over their house. Not even the most crazed airplane fanatic wants that. Thus your property right includes the ability to control the use of the air above your house. And yet it's ridiculous to claim that that right to airspace extends up to orbital level, giving you the ability to control the flight of satellites you can't even see with the naked eye. Somewhere the law stops.

A society could establish the limit through court cases, allowing people who object to go head to head against people who have a need to use the airspace. That would result in a fairly arbitrary number. But why not pass legislation to decide this number? Whether the legislation chooses 500 or 600 feet is a fairly arbitrary number. However, by passing the law, it allows everyone to enjoy their property without having to establish the number by legal action.

Posted [16:51] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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IPv6 economic nonsense

Geoff Huston writes about ipv6, in the Internet Protocol Journal, "So far the business case for IPv6 has not been compelling, and it appears to be far easier for ISPs and their customers to continue along the path of IPv6 and NATs". This is true, because the magic moment for IPv6 has not yet been achieved. When people want to buy Internet access, they want the whole Internet, not just the part reachable by IPv6. Until an IPv6 address can reach the entire IPv4 internet, it will have zero economic value.

But the real nonsense is in the next article by Iljitsch van Beijnum. He's talking about the current consumption of the IPv4 address space. This is the driving consideration behind IPv6. There's nothing in the IPv6 protocol we need, particularly, besides its 128-bit addresses. They could simply have expanded IPv4 with 64-bit addresses, preserving all the existing algorithms and code with simple changes. Instead of holding an IP address in a 32-bit int, an IPv4-64 could have held it in a 64-bit long. Phil Karn argued for that change, but in the end, lost.

Iljitsch acknowledges that free markets have a role to play in the extension of the IPv4 address space. He objects to this, saying

This scenario has several [two -russ] problems. First, when supply is limited and demand is high, prices rise and hoarding becomes lucrative. So the effect of making address space tradeable could be a reduction of available address space rather than an increase. And certainly, as trading IPv4 space becomes more likely, holders of large address blocks will be less inclined to return them. Finally [Secondly, as there are only two objections -russ], more than half of the IPv4 address space in use is held by organizations in the United States, whereas the developing world has comparatively little address space. The prospect of having to buy address space from American companies that got the space for free is not likely to be popular in the rest of the world.
Emphasis mine.

The first emphasized text, "hoarding becomes lucrative" is complete nonsense. How is something lucrative when you hoard it?? How is that even logically possible? Lucrative derives from the word lucre, defined as monetary gain. To hoard something is to accumulate for future use. You can't both use something and sell it for monetary gain! You either get the use or you get the gain; not both.

He goes on to predict that a market for tradeable IPv4 address space will result in ... no market at all. Well, I'm sorry, but you can't both predict that there will be a market for something, and that nobody will use it. If nobody uses it, then there is no market. That's like Yogi Berra's unintentional quip that "Nobody goes to So-and-so's nightclub anymore because it's so crowded."

The second emphasized text is also complete nonsense. Why object simply because American companies got the space for free? Would Iljitsch also object if American companies had gotten the space for a penny an address? What about a dime an address? What about a dollar an address? Would he also object if the American companies were going to end up losing money? To be fair, he is not obviously objecting himself, but is instead saying that other people will object.

Clearly his objection is not to the price that American companies paid, but to the fact that they can sell them for more than they paid. That's called profit, and it's why companies exist. Yes, most of them aren't in the IPv4 address farming business, but they're also not in the real estate business even though some of them own property much more valuable than the business transacted thereon. Nobody suggests that it's unfair for them to sell their property at the appreciated value.

Sometimes companies acquire something which becomes much more valuable through no action of their own. They are just lucky. In this case, however, these companies acquired IPv4 addresses, and by their use of them, created value in those addresses. So, while Iljitsch thinks he's raising an issue of fairness (rich American companies selling IPv4 addresses at a vast profit to poor third-world ISPs who would otherwise be forced to employ homeless people to beg for IPv4 addresses on streetcorners), he's actually ignoring an issue of fairness. If you own something and make it more valuable, then it's only fair for you to sell it for a higher price.

Posted [14:24] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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300,000 Meters per Second

Anil Dash says "Laws are ours, people -- they're not carved on stone tablets.".

Sort-of. What he says is 90 degrees out of phase with the problem. There is law, and there is legislation. They aren't the same thing. The law is the real thing. You know, like "300 million meters per second -- not just a good idea, it's the law". Laws are discovered, not made. A law might be "people won't produce some kinds of content unless you pretend that it remains their property even after they sell a copy." Legislation is just an attempt to write down a law.

So, we can decide what the legislation should be. When the legislation doesn't follow the law, we can change it, but changing laws (300,000 m/s) is a little harder.

Posted [12:24] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Fri, 09 Nov 2007

War on Drugs

A local person, Heather Thomas, wrote a plaintive letter to the editor a week or two ago. She complains that the person who robbed her with a weapon was only getting probation. Why is this person getting probation? Well, the county jail is full, and if we want to put anybody else in jail, we have to pay another county to jail them. So, somebody has to get probation, and we can't be letting the non-violent drug offenders get probation. So criminals walk the streets while druggies whose only crime is trying to change their mental state (or help somebody else do that) are getting a free vacation in jail.

Attempting to put all the drug dealers in jail is simply not possible. There is a demand for their job function, so the only effect of jailing somebody who has taken on that job is to create a job opening at a higher pay rate.

The War on Drugs is a War on Economics. You can ignore economics if you want. You can even fight economics. But economics is going to win every time.

Posted [01:43] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , , ] [digg this]
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Hospitals forced to close?

So, people think that our health care system would be improved if we only got rid of all that nasty profit by having the government run it all. Maybe, but the way it would be "improved" is by having less health care available. Case in point (for anybody who actually thought that they were buying their health care in a free market): New York State has a Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century (which is such an unwieldy name that everybody calls it the Berger Commission). You know, "Commission" like in "commision of a crime". But I editorialize too early.

The purpose of this commission is to reduce the amount of health care available to YOU, the buying consumer, by closing hospitals.

Feh on faux free market health care. This is a socialized system ... which of course I do not defend because it is obviously socialized badly.

And if anybody still thinks that health care operates in a free market, try going to a doctor and buying health care. You know, just like you go to McDonald's. You get your treatment (hamburger and fries) and you pay your bill. Only, you can't just pay your bill, you also have to pay a New York State surcharge. Why are you paying this surcharge? Because ... you are ACTUALLY PAYING FOR YOUR HEALTHCARE. You must be some sort of rich person! If you were truly deserving, you would be on medicare like any sane poor person is, so NYS charges you extra for paying in cash.

Posted [01:38] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Mon, 05 Nov 2007

Status report

Status report on the free chordites over in my '770' category. Readers of the main blog may be confused, but pyblosxom allows me to create multiple rss feeds. The 770 category gets syndicated on Planet Maemo. But if you only ever look in the Chordite category, you won't see it.

Posted [16:38] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Free Chordite status

I thought I'd report on the status of my offer of two free keyboards. Curiously, I only received three keyboard requests. I meant to impose a barrier to entry, but maybe not that high a barrier!

I decided not to choose, but instead to make three keyboards. I have ordered and received the electronic parts. I've decided that while I might be able to produce keyboards from the hand photocopies the winners sent in, it's too uncertain a process. Still tinkering with the design, but I think I've settled more on a "kit" for a keyboard.

The trouble with the Chordite is that it really needs to fit your hand. And yet, as a portable device, it needs to be sturdy. Adjustable yet fixed. Malleable yet unchanging. This is not a new problem for people to have faced. Screws, nuts and bolts, glue, clay, plaster, wood, plastic, metal, and rock are all substances which can be changed and yet which are sturdy.

Hands are variable in two ways that matter: in finger length and spacing and in palm width. The chordite needs to be stretchy in both those dimensions, and yet, if you drop it, it shouldn't fall into pieces. It needs to be lightweight so that you can carry it. In order to make all this work, I think that I'll put the switches on little PC boards interconnected with 18 gauge copper wires, covered with a layer of polycapralone. The copper for stiffness, and the polycapralone for sturdiness.

I've done some testing, and an ordinary hair dryer puts out enough heat to soften a fairly thick layer of polycapralone. Once softened, the keys can be moved around, with the copper wire keeping the keys in position while the polycapralone is soft.

Once I've made the PC board with the bluetooth module at the heart of this keyboard, I'll ship these to the lucky winners. We'll see what they have to say. If it's not good, then back to the drawing board.

Posted [16:34] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Chuck Norris

My contribution to the Chuck Norris never/always meme:

Chuck Norris is never wrong, even when he changes his mind.

Posted [15:47] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Wed, 31 Oct 2007

USPTO Failure

The USPTO fails to protect US citizens against theft by unethical patentors of existing or obvious ideas.

People who don't like markets love to talk about "market failure". I wish they were as quick to recognize government failures. If the government isn't supposed to protect us from crooks, what are they supposed to do? In this case, the government is enabling crimes rather than preventing them. An absence of a patent system would be better than what we have now.

Posted [16:01] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Advice to New Parents

Everyone -- friends, relative, acquaintances, and total strangers on the street -- will offer you advice on how to raise your child. Listen to everyone, because you never know what advice may be helpful, but remember that it's you who has to stay up with the kid, not the advisor, so only take the advice your heart tells you to.

Naturally, you are required to take this advice; it doesn't apply to itself.

Posted [10:14] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Tue, 30 Oct 2007

When Salt Was Money

Here's an interesting article found by my friend and railroad historian Richard Palmer, entitled When Salt Was A Substitute for Money. Of course, as I've written earlier, money isn't necessarily coins and bills. Money is always that commodity which people freely trade, knowing that other people will accept it in further trade. People will fluidly switch their idea of "money" from coins and bills to salt, or cigarettes, or stones, or beads, or whatever commodity is most widely accepted. So contrary to the title of the article, salt wasn't a substitute for money. Salt was, for a time, money.

Posted [16:41] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Keycoding system

Several people have asked me what coding system is used for the Chordite. There is no standard chording system for chording keyboards, because they're all different. Some use two hands for chording. For example, Douglas Englebart's Augment used a chord keyboard and mouse combination. Hold a combination of buttons on the chord keyboard (five switches, one for each finger) and press one, two, or three mouse buttons. Or for example, the Twiddler uses a large set of buttons, three for each finger. Or I saw a fellow at a Linux World Expo who had a wrist-mounted keyboard that had four buttons under each fingertip and three under the thumb.

The Chordite has at least two possible codings. The one proposed by the inventor, John McKown, involves pressing buttons until you've gotten the correct combination of buttons, then releasing at least one button to generate that key. Another one is to use only combinations of two buttons, let's say A and B. The two of them generate four keys by changing the order in which you press and release A and B. I haven't (yet) experimented with both to see which works better.

Posted [15:23] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Mon, 29 Oct 2007

Economics versus Finance and Business

Three people walk into a bar: a financier, a businessman and an economist. The businessman says that a minimum wage hike is bad because they couldn't afford to pay their workers any more and stay in business. The financier says that it distorts the market and causes them to move investments to socially-disoptimal areas. The economist disagrees with them both because they're arguing for their own interests. The economist says the hike is bad because a minimum wage only makes low-wage workers better-off if the demand curve is vertical -- as unlikely as a frictionless surface or a universal solvent.

No joke.

Posted [14:23] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Sun, 28 Oct 2007

WF360

So on fairly short notice, I got invited to a WF360 event called the "360 Summit", held on the trading floor of the NYSE. I thought "hmmm... interesting people, interesting place, good food, how can you go wrong?" There was a bit of uncertainty over the security vetting ... something about being unexpectedly a person short. But all was settled and my invitation was approved.

So I drove down on Wednesday night and stayed with my buddy Eli Dow aka aim://judas0riley (a reference to a Smashing Pumpkins album) in Poughkeepsie, NY. That's significantly the northern end of Metro North, which has an hourly 97 minute run into New York City. Since I can sleep on Eli's floor for the stunning price of "free", the $25.50 fare into the city seems cheap by comparison.

The 360 Summit didn't start until 6PM (be there at 5:45 to get through security the infosheet said, but more on that later), so no hurry to get into the city. I went for a ride on the future Dutchess Rail Trail. It's the former Maybrook line, and connected to the bridge over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie. Finished that about noon, missed the 12:10 train, got the 13:10 train and with a little delay got into the city by 3PM.

Wandered around Chinatown and up Canal Street to Broadway, then down Broadway to Wall Street. You know, Heere, at the Wall, right outside Trinity Church. Went down Wall Street to Broad Street, which is the actual location of the NYSE. At 5:30 they said I was a little early, but come back in 15 and I could get in. Went down to see the Charging Bull, which was moved from Wall Street to Broadway shortly after its unauthorized placement (but I wonder where is the sculpture of the Crashing Bear). Came back at 5:45 and was asked to wait with the others. We all waited, and waited and finally self-organized into an outdoor 360 Summit, chatting each other up. Why wait? So I met Thomas Carroll and Rich, of whose last name I do not remember. Thomas works for RR Donnelley, so I told him my father's RB Donnelly story.

Shortly we had our photo ids checked against the guest list, and we went through security. At least, most people sailed through security. I had brought my Chordite keyboard which looks a little homemade because it is homemade. Even Isabel got tired of waiting for me, and she's the one who arranged for my invitation! So I sent her on to the trading floor and the waiting cocktails.

Met Linda Bolliger, CEO of BoardroomBound, which does corporate board training. Also met Tom Guarriello, Chief Idea Officer of True Talk (a blogger like myself). He was wandering around eyeing all the screens with amazement, as was I. We ended up at the same table after being called to dinner.

My table, the Bon Mot Masters, consisted of myself, Candace Kendle, Tom Guarriello, Laura Scott, Joanna Lau, Lorraine Segil, Mark Morris, Hamed Al-Hamdan, and a woman whose name I failed to record. The tragedy of an event like this is "so many interesting people, so little time." I got to speak at length with Candace, Laura, and Joanna because they were seated close to me, but with Lorraine, Mark and Hamed I only shared a few words.

Candace was interested in why I blog. It's mostly to share interesting things, like my Chordite design, bicycling, railroads, and open source. I also vent about people's lack of understanding of economics. This isn't the economics about which economists disagree -- of which many jokes have been made. No, this is the economics on which economists agree strongly and yet the general population is ignorant of. Things like free trade, and minimum wages (there should be none).

Joanna was fascinated by the Chordite. We ended up passing it around the table so everyone could see how it works. It has the usual problem of really only fitting one person's hand well. It's a problem, but I'm going to try a new solution for the next two keyboards I make.

We listened to three presentations as we ate some excellent steak -- or in the case of the vegetarians, pasta. Afterwards it was chocolate cheesecake, and some parting gifts: a girl bear, some girly lotions, and Godiva chocolates fit for a queen (are you sensing a theme here?) My wife cleaned up, but then again, she had to do my chores while I was off gallivanting.

Took the train back to Poughkeepsie without incident, arriving at 1AM. On Friday, I rode on three more rail-trails on the way home, making a total of 68 miles between the two days. Stopped by my mother-in-law's in Glens Falls for dinner, and headed home.

A good time was had by all. Especially me.

Other people's impressions of the event: Don Dodge, Howard Greenstein, Tom Guarriello, Dorian Benkoil, Christina Kerley aka CK, and Tom Steinthal posted twice.

Posted [14:15] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , , , ] [digg this]
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Ride starting Thu Oct 25 09:16:24 2007

41.00 km 134512.90 feet 25.48 mi 9900.00 seconds 165.00 minutes 2.75 hours 9.26 mi/hr

On Thursday, I went for a ride on the future Dutchess Rail Trail. I noticed two interesting things. First was the abutments of an old road bridge crossing the railroad. On the west side was a hill, so on the east side they built an abutment raising that side of the road up above the tracks. Second was part of a wye that I didn't have on my list of NY railroad routes. Oh, and there's also a siding, the tracks of which they didn't remove.

Posted [02:48] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Racism is Prejudice

Cast of Characters

Board our cast of characters in Poughkeepsie (all names are invented (except Poughkeepsie (nobody would invent that, even in a work of fiction))):

Act One

Flores and Juan strike up a conversation in Spanish. No problem with that, except that, Flores being by one window and Juan by the other, it's a pretty loud conversation. For me, it was moderately annoying because I only understand about half the words in the conversation because of my limited Spanish. Equally for me, it was something that I tolerated because of course there are jerks everywhere and you can't correct everybody's rudeness.

Obviously Adam didn't feel the same way. He stood up and loudly asked Flores and Juan "If you're going to keep talking, why don't you sit next to each other". Flores, who seems like a real loud-mouth no matter what, immediately instructed Adam to mind his own business. She loudly claimed that he was only objecting to their loud conversation because it was in Spanish. Then, in a fit of thoughtlessness, she accused Adam of being a racist. Heated words followed and she announced that she didn't want to talk to him anymore. Poor Juan followed her down the rathole, saying something like "You're only so mad because you only speak one language"

Act Two

The issue seemed to be settled, when Flores got to her stop. Obviously she felt she had to put Adam in his place, so she started things again as she was walking off. Adam pretty much didn't give a crap, until Chica, walking right behind Flores, spat at Adam. At that point he demanded a policeman. I don't know what happened to whom, but the upshot was that the doors of the train stayed shut for about ten minutes, and when we rolled away, Flores and Chica were still talking to the police.

The Denouement

So .... you now have all the evidence I have (or can remember; of course eyewitnesses often disagree on exactly what happened). I stewed about this for a while, and finally decided that the racist on the train was .... Flores. Adam didn't say anything to her and Juan, a hispanic pair, that he wouldn't have said to a pair of white people. It was simply counter-factual to accuse him of racism. It was prejudicial of her to interpret as racism his request, no matter how boldly and perhaps even rudely stated.

So what's a racist? A racist is somebody whose prejudice is based on race, just like a sexist is somebody whose prejudice is based on gender. Racism knows no racial bounds, because prejudice is prejudice no matter who is prejudiced against whom.

So what's the problem here? Is Flores only giving as good as she's gotten from white folks? Maybe she's bringing emotional baggage to this play in two acts? Maybe so, but that doesn't stop her from being wrong. Where she's most wrong is in imputing racism to non-racially motivated criticism. What she's effectively asking for is a racist world. One in which everybody stops to consider race before criticizing somebody. One where people only criticize people of their own race.

Which brings us to Carlita. When Flores launched into Adam again, Carlita jumped up and started to give Flores what-for. If f-bombs were paintballs, Flores would have been black and blue and green and red all over. "You're the reason why people don't like Mexicans." Etc. Criticism from somebody of her own race she got in spades.

Nope, Flores didn't want to hear criticism from somebody of her own race, either.

Posted [00:49] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]
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Sat, 27 Oct 2007

Ride starting Fri Oct 26 09:46:24 2007

Rode on three different rail-trails today. w00t w00t. The first is the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Second is the Ballston Lake Rail Trail. Third is the Jim Tedisco Fitness Trail.

49.57 km 162618.26 feet 30.80 mi 11914.00 seconds 198.57 minutes 3.31 hours 9.31 mi/hr

The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail follows a portion of the Wallkill Valley Branch. It's about fifteen miles long. I started in the middle, at New Paltz, headed up north to Rosendale, went all the way south to Gardiner, and back up to New Palz. It's a pretty ride, with a few cuts and fills. The north end at Rosendale is curious, because the fellow who owns the bridge and that portion of the trail has decked it at his own expense, but only partially. You go out halfway across the bridge, and the decking just stops.


Ride starting Fri Oct 26 15:04:07 2007

15.00 km 49200.22 feet 9.32 mi 3041.00 seconds 50.68 minutes 0.84 hours 11.03 mi/hr

The second ride was on the Ballston Lake Rail Trail. It follows the old trolley line from Schenectady to Saratoga Springs. It's only 3.5 miles long, but the ATVers keep it open to the north of the official end of the trail. Unfortunately, it runs into a bridge which is out. The abutments look in fine shape, and a little steel and wood would restore the bridge. Hopefully they're considering doing that.


Ride starting Fri Oct 26 16:11:32 2007

3.96 km 12996.06 feet 2.46 mi 1424.00 seconds 23.73 minutes 0.40 hours 6.22 mi/hr

The third ride was on the Jim Tedisco Fitness Trail, which is pitifully short (1/2 mile). It dead-ends on both ends in missing bridges. Better something than nothing, I guess. So, I extended the ride by tracing the route of the railbed south from the missing bridge. Eventually I found tracks!

Posted [00:11] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Wed, 24 Oct 2007

test, test

Is this mic on? Testing the blogging software on my n800 ....
Posted [01:30] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 22 Oct 2007

Ride starting Mon Oct 22 14:51:06 2007

46.09 km 151227.72 feet 28.64 mi 9014.00 seconds 150.23 minutes 2.50 hours 11.44 mi/hr

Went for a ride up to Parishville today, or very nearly. Cut over past Allen's Falls, then down to the Pumpkin Hill Road into Hannawa Falls. Took in a small section of the Red Sandstone Trail. Then on the Back Hannawa Road to Potsdam.

Posted [17:39] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sat, 20 Oct 2007

Microsoft Patent FUD 2

The Microsoft FUD is laughable, while the patents are a serious problem. But the fact that they're trying to gain currency from it -- without actually naming any of the patents -- is a joke. We need to treat it as such.

Think about it this way: what if they said "We have 235 nuclear bombs?" If they actually thought that they were all functional bombs, they would say "... and we'd be happy to demonstrate one." They haven't done that, so it's reasonable to conclude that they're of wildly varying quality.

The problem with Microsoft's threat is that they really don't know which of the 235 bombs work, and which don't. Do they show us their best bomb? If they do, and we defuse it, they've given it up for nothing and haven't proven anything except that they're foolish. Do they show us their bomb least likely to work? What would that accomplish? We'd just laugh at it when it fizzled.

Microsoft is the one with the problem here, not us.

Posted [22:54] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Thu, 18 Oct 2007

Led Zeppelin's Kashmir

Led Zeppelin's Kashmir.

It can be done on handbells.

It must be done on handbells.

Posted [19:48] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Tue, 16 Oct 2007

Little Old Ladies

If asked to think of the defenders of democracy, you might think of Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the flag on Mount Suribachi. It's a very stirring image, but no, you'd be wrong. Think, instead, of the little old ladies who are present when you vote. They are the true bastions of liberty, the heros who save our elections from corruption.

How do they do this? Well, understand first that they aren't buddy-buddies. They're poll watchers; present to ensure that the vote is accurately recorded. They're Democrats and they're Republicans. Their loyalties are not to each other, or to their knitting. They're making sure that neither of the major parties corrupts the vote.

They do this by understanding how the votes are recorded in the voting machines, and by how the voting machines count the votes, and how the counts are removed from the machines and recorded and reported. They have sufficient experience with the machines and the process to be able to recognize when things don't work right.

This isn't true with electronic voting machines. The ways that they can be corrupted are too foreign to them. They don't have years of experience with the $FOOBAR model of electronic voting machine. And I'm not sure that open source software running on the machines is all that much of a help. Maybe after the women graduating from MIT and Harvard and CMU become little old ladies, open source will be a source of trust for them.

The solution is in the poll watcher system, not in the software. Software is too blind and uncertain, too soft. We need a machine which works a certain way, and which always works that same way. We need software without bugs, so it doesn't need to be changed. Ever. Once we have that, then the poll watcher system can learn to trust the operation of the machines.

Posted [15:31] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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OSI Approves Microsoft Licenses

In a board meeting held October 10th, and announced today, the Open Source Initiative approved two of Microsoft's software licenses: the Microsoft Reciprocal License and the Microsoft Public License. These licenses are refreshingly short and clean, compared to, say, the GPLv3 and the Sun CDDL. Like Larry Rosen's pair of licenses (the Academic Free License and Open Software License), they share a patent peace clause, a no-trademark-license clause, and they differ between each other only in the essential clause of reciprocation.

Of course, Microsoft is not widely trusted in the Open Source world, and their motives have been called into question during the approval discussions. How can they be attacking Open Source projects on one hand, and seeking not only to use open source methods, but use of the OSI Approved Open Source trademark? Nobody knows for sure except for Microsoft. But if you are confident that Open Source is the best way to develop software (as we at the Open Source Initiative are), then you can see why Microsoft would both attack Open Source and seek to use it at the same time. It is both their salvation and their enemy.

Posted [12:06] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Power for Sale

The more influence politicans have to sell, the higher a price they are able to command.

The only solution to this problem is to take power away from politicians. The way you do that is to keep the federal government powerless so that everything not listed in the Constitution is done on the state level. People can pay more attention to more local government, and if it gets really bad, they have the option of switching to a different state's government (by moving).

Politicians will always try to sell their influence. You keep it down to a dull roar by keeping them as powerless as possible.

That means doing less through politics and more through markets. This is good for markets, too, because it forces corporations to look more to their customers and less to politicians.

Posted [00:02] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Mon, 15 Oct 2007

Immigration vs. the Constitution.

Conservatives who are opposed to immigration need to think about why there is nothing in the Constitution which permits the Federal Government to keep foreigners out of the U.S.

Posted [02:25] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 11 Oct 2007

The Invisible Fist of the Market

Free markets avoid a whole world of hurt. The invisible fist of freedom does it for us. When you can't coerce people into buying your product, or selling you theirs, many bad outcomes simply never happen.

Isn't it great having a big invisible buddy on your side? Unfortunately, he's easily offended by well-meaning acts of coercion. If you're not careful, he can invisibly slip away and you won't realize he's gone until you need him. Just a cautionary note. Don't assume that free markets will protect you if you've allowed them to become state-controlled markets.

Posted [14:54] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Tue, 09 Oct 2007

Ride starting Tue Oct 9 10:35:04 2007

21.87 km 71741.12 feet 13.59 mi 5951.00 seconds 99.18 minutes 1.65 hours 8.22 mi/hr

Went out on the Rutland Trail to do maintenance on the Rutland Trail #2 geocache. The original container that I used was simply inappropriate for a geocache. I thought it would be watertight, but it wasn't.

Posted [17:24] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Fri, 05 Oct 2007

N800 External Battery

The internal N800 battery is pretty studly, but there are contexts in which I don't want to have to swap out the battery for a spare. Have to reboot the machine to do that and if you're trying to run a program for a long time or continuously, that's not acceptable. Plus you have to notice that the battery has run low and replace it.

So, I have made myself an external battery holder. It's an "External Li-ion Battery Pack". Input is 5V, 500ma. Output is 5V, 6.8Wh. By way of comparison, the internal BP-5L battery is 1.5Wh, so this battery has four times the power. Cost me $26 bucks postpaid from CaBattery. Comes with a power adapter with a standard-size Nokia coax connector, a USB to coax connector (which can also be used to charge the battery from any USB port), and a set of coax to (whatever) adapters including an N-series coax.

I scavenged an old USB cable connector and got an N-series coaxial power adapter from a local electronics store. Cut the plastic off both of them and greatly shortened the cables, being careful to check and double-check the polarity (center positive for the coax). Both cables were marked red (postive) and black (negative) so it was no trouble.

I have a supply of polycaprolactone (capa for short) which I purchased from Shape-Lock also sold as Polymorph or Friendly Plastic. I covered the N800 and external battery with aluminum foil because the capa will stick to plastic. The cable needed to be covered with plastic, so being careful not to short out the cable to the aluminum foil, I opened two holes for either end of the cable and plugged it in.

The capa is soft like modeling clay and hardens like nylon when cool. Thin pieces cool off pretty quickly, so you don't get much work time. I wrapped the capa sheet around the back of the N800, covering the external battery and wrapping around to the front. I purposefully made the right-hand wraps thicker to hold the cable and connectors in place. The left-hand wraps are thinner, so I could bend them to fetch the N800 from its embrace.

As it turns out, I didn't use enough capa, so quickly heated up another batch and made the corner fingers and covered the battery a little better. It will stick to itself if both surfaces are reasonably warm.

I still need to cut some holes for the external battery charger and power monitor. Also need a hole to fetch out the stylus and connect the headset. Capa cuts pretty easily as long as you don't heat it up. It softens then and melts rather than cuts.

I've run it on the battery mostly idling but wifi-connected for nearly two days before the external battery ran out and I noticed the internal battery start to lose its charge. I'm sure I could have gotten a full two days out of it. I expect to get ten hours of solid use out of the combination.

UPDATE 8/20/2008: Note that the N800 and N810's power supply must be within certain limits. See Nokia's charging interface specification.

Hover for a caption or click on the thumbnail for a larger picture:
front view (Thumbnail) top botton view (Thumbnail)
coax power connector lump (Thumbnail) removing the N800 (Thumbnail)
coax power connector (Thumbnail) USB power connector (Thumbnail)
battery coax in and USB out (Thumbnail) cable (Thumbnail)

Posted [22:14] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Ride starting Fri Oct 5 16:13:00 2007

15.70 km 51513.09 feet 9.76 mi 2970.00 seconds 49.50 minutes 0.82 hours 11.83 mi/hr

Track is short by two miles because it took that long to synch up. The ride was more like 11.7 miles and an hour long.

Posted [17:07] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Ride starting Thu Oct 4 16:08:59 2007

19.96 km 65489.75 feet 12.40 mi 3900.00 seconds 65.00 minutes 1.08 hours 11.45 mi/hr

More or less a standard ride for me. Go up to Knapp's Station (labelled on this map as North Stockholm), ride on the Rutland Trail into Norwood, take a back road to the Dry Bridge, cross the CSX tracks, and head home.

Posted [12:59] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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SCHIPS

All these words, and not one mention of the fact that the Constitution doesn't authorize ANY federal medical funding. Not one dollar. This is a problem for the states to solve. Clearly the states want to solve it differently. Fine. Let them. They can tax their own citizens as they feel appropriate to pay for it.

That's how our government is supposed to work. It creates a free market in government. Don't like your government? There is no legal restriction on moving to another state, because you're a citizen of all of them. No state can stop you from moving in, no state can stop you from leaving. No franchise possible. Let the best state government compete for citizens.

Posted [02:56] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Economics and Math

Economics needs math like a fish needs a bicycle. If you understand economics, you don't need math. If you don't understand economics, all the math in the world won't help you.

Example: you don't need a calculator, or calculus, to understand the economic calculation problem.

Posted [01:48] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Thu, 27 Sep 2007

Rationing

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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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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]
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Thu, 30 Aug 2007

Who Should Plan Immigration?

In a letter to the editor in the June 2007 _The Freeman_, Norman Henry asks several questions:
  1. How many of the six-and-a-half billion people in the world should be able to enter the United States to "live and work peacefully" under an "open borders" policy?
  2. Who decides a number limit if literal "open borders" is deemed impractical?
  3. What should the limited number be?
  4. Should national, or continental, origin of new immigrants be considered in the immigration process? If so, what should be the basis for the blaance?
  5. Should immigrants from Mexico or Canada who can "walk in" be made equal "somehow" with People from Europe, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, who cannot "walk in"?
  6. Should these new immigrants be "non-preference" immigrants as was the case before 1965? That is, can anyone immigrate to the U.S. regardless of skill or immediate relatives or refugee status or any other limiting "preference" criteria?
  7. If it is decided that the United States needs to limit immigration to a billion or two ibllion or some other number of immigrants in some period of time, what should be done about the subsequent illegal immigration problem that would remain?

Of course, Henry gives away his preferences by the questions he asks. If you think, as I do, that everyone who wants to immigrate to the United States has the "United States Nature" and we should welcome them, then you'll disagree with the premise behind the questions. Norman's assumption is that some level of immigration creates problems in excess of the benefits. He doesn't suggest why his assumption is correct.

So, to answer his first question, I say "All of them". From that, the rest of his answers become obvious. No restrictions on whom may immigrate.

Posted [21:54] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Ride starting Thu Aug 30 18:18:48 2007

13.52 km 44347.29 feet 8.40 mi 3263.00 seconds 54.38 minutes 0.91 hours 9.27 mi/hr

First ride in almost two months. I hurt my knee on the last set of rides and had to lay off. Knee wasn't too bad. I was VERY gentle with it.

Posted [19:25] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Wed, 29 Aug 2007

Top 100 Economics Blogs

CurrencyTrading.net has listed the Angry Economist as one of the top 100 economics blogs. w00t w00t.

Posted [23:51] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 26 Aug 2007

Missing August

Hi, I'm missing my August ... has anyone seen it? I've been travelling so much in August that I hardly remember where I live anymore. Been to Mumbai, Boston, Storrs CT. I find it difficult to blog remotely. Maybe if I had blogging software on my N800, which is always with me. Unfortunately, the blogging software which knows how to post on pyblosxom is also massively unreliable, and the blogging software that works doesn't know how to post on pyblosxom. Sounds like a job for Super Open Source Man! Yeah, one of these days, one of these days.

Lots to write about, like the skin infection on my leg, which looks like ... well, go look at the photos on flickr, which I got on my trip to Goa, which really is quite beautiful, sun, sand, and surf, if you can ignore the River Princess. But ... it's 3:30AM and I need to get on to EST rather than IST.

Posted [03:29] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 30 Jul 2007

Flying home without id

And now that I have returned home from my id-less trip, I have shown that it is possible to fly home without picture identification.

Posted [02:06] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 25 Jul 2007

Flying without id

Contra John Gilmore, it is possible to fly without picture identification. I am sitting in Burlington airport waiting for my flight having presented no id.

Posted [15:19] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 18 Jul 2007

Destructionist

Can we please call it "destructionist", being on the whole a more accurate term for the activities commonly called "protectionist"?

Posted [01:52] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Deep Links

In an earlier posting I deep-linked to several Radio Shack(tm) products. I then observed that RadioShack.com's Terms and Conditions for use of their website prohibits any linking to their website without their permission:

6. Linking to this Web Site. Creating or maintaining any link from another Web site to any page on this Web Site without our prior written permission is prohibited. Running or displaying this Web Site or any information or material displayed on this Web Site in frames or through similar means on another Web site without our prior written permission is prohibited. Any permitted links to this Web Site must comply will all applicable laws, rule and regulations.

Note to Radio Shack lawyers: NUTS!. There is nothing you can do to stop me from linking to your website. Nothing. There is no legal theory which permits you to stop me. On the contrary, there is likely to never be such a theory because of the nature of the web. Every request is accompanied by an indication of the link that prompted the request. You have complete control over how your website responds to a request issued from a user's browser in the context of a link that came from my website. What you choose to do with such a request is entirely your concern and none of mine.

Posted [01:40] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tue, 17 Jul 2007

TSA Divide By Zero

I made myself an external battery set for my Compaq iPAQ. I took a Radio Shack(tm) battery case, attached a Radio Shack(tm) coaxial power connector to some Radio Shack(tm) speaker wire, insulated it with some Radio Shack(tm) black electrical wire, and filled it with Radio Shack(tm) Nickle-Metal-Hydride batteries.

Tried to take it (back) through the Portland Oregon airport after OSCON three years ago. Frigging moron bottom-of-her-class TSA inspector #1 decided it looked like a bomb. I foolishly said that I was uncomfortable watching her handle my possessions as if they might explode. She called the cops on me because I said the E-word. Frigging moron nearly-bottom-of-her-class TSA inspector #1 swabbed it and claimed that the spectrometer said that it had traces of C-4 explosive. I helpfully pointed out that the energy density of a modern battery was the equal of any plastic explosive. Not to be sexist, but a male TSA inspector came by and said "this is all stuff from Radio Shack(tm), what's the problem here?"

So the Portland cops came and bitched me out for having a bad attitude and making threats potentially subject to a $500 fine. I explained EXACTLY what I had said, offered to apologize and that was accepted. The airline representative had to be asked if he would allow me on his airplane. He was like WTF, and piss off a customer, oh, yeah, right "Yes, of course you're welcome to fly."

Posted [23:43] [Filed in: politics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Bad Policy, Bad Investment

One of the problems with inflation is that it causes people to think they have more wealth (as expressed in money) than they really do. Thus, they invest in things which they soon won't value so highly. They then have to liquidate those investments. This can be an expensive process. The only thing that can be done is to continue to inflate, so that people don't realize that their investments are worthless .... during your administration.

There are many ways for bad policy to create bad investments. Inflation, as discussed above, is one. Another is subsidies. Another is tariffs. Another is price controls. We need to be clear, though, that these effects are caused by a bad policy. The sooner we stop the bad policy, the sooner the bad investment will be noticed and corrected.

CDarklock writes in response to a posting of mine about misbegotten criticisms of libertarianism. He points out that (for example) public schooling has sucked up uncountable amounts of investment in "the system", and goes on to name some of the unseen effects of doing away with public schools. I believe that his analysis is correct. While a plan for dealing with the bad investments would be good, I believe that it's more important to 1) stop the bad policy, and 2) recognize the bad investments sooner rather than later. In this manner, people would stop making the bad investments.

Posted [02:49] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 12 Jul 2007

Thoughtless Progressives

I normally avoid reading the Daily Kos, simply because of the lack of in-depth consideration of the issues. I saw a "Ron Paul" tag on Technorati and wondered about it. Found a Daily Kos diary entry. Ewwww, yuck! The comments reflected not little thought, but instead no thought at all. Here's a few representative comments:

But...no FDA, no public hospitals, no public education, etc. Hard-liner Libertarians are dumber than Communists.
Not a moment of thought put into why libertarians don't want the FDA? Don't want public hospitals? Don't want public education?

for instance, i consider myself a libertarian, but simply don't believe that corporations are persons entitled to the same rights as you and me. that takes out much of the big-L lunacy right there. i also strongly support socialized medicine...
A "libertarian" who supports socialized medicine? There's a name for people like that: socialists.

Libertarians as a breed tend to be extremely greedy and materialistic assholes who favor an utterly dehumanized concept of freedom weighted like lead toward property rights over the every day walking around liberty most of us want and need.
Okay, "greedy" and "materialistic"? No. Libertarians want people to be as wealthy as they can be, so that they will have the resources to fix the problems they see. Libertarians believe that most people are good, and if they aren't struggling themselves, will be happy to help others, voluntarily and peacefully. The reason libertarians want strong property rights is because "every day walking around liberty" depends on being able to leave your property and know that when you come back, it will still be there.

The standard of living is tied to two things: use of technology and population size. To get a higher standard of living you have to increase the availability of technology or decrease population or both.
Somehow this person thinks that more people makes us worse off. That flies in the face of logic. We have more people in the world than we've ever had before, and most people are better off than they've ever been. Not everyone; most people.

Just as hardcore communism ignores the individualistic aspect of human nature, hardcore libertarianism ignores the societal aspect of human nature.
That's a completely baseless charge. It would only be true if the societal aspect of human nature involved forcing people to assocate against their will.

Libertarianism is code for every man for himself. Yes, every man. And fuck everyone else.
Again, libertarians want free association, not forced association. You'd think that people would bother to learn more about something they have such strong feelings about.

There's more, but it's so disappointing to see progressives be so thoughtless.

Posted [00:47] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Wed, 11 Jul 2007

Soviet Union

At the Quaker Gathering last week, I was talking economics with a fellow whom I shall call "Fred". So Fred says that Keynes got it right, not Friedman. And then he says, when I allude to the impossibility of simulating markets using computers, and mentioned that the Soviet Union failed at it, he said (get this, now): "The Soviet Union didn't last long enough." by which he meant that he thought that a market really wasn't necessary, and that the Soviet Union just needed a little more computing power to be able to simulate markets.

Scary, truly scary. As if murdering millions of their own citizens didn't matter. Some pacifist, that "Fred".

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

Thank God for Saint Charles "Chuck" Schumer! Just as St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, Chuck is going to drive out the nasty "rogue mortgage lenders". How will he do this? Of course by interfering in the market for subprime mortgages.You see, those nasty people have been able to operate with "little oversight from federal regulators". Nevermind the fact that the Constitution (Hey St. Chuck, remember the Constitution? You swore an oath to obey it.) denies federal regulators the power to do anything about mortgages.

It's almost as if Chuck never read the Constitution. It's almost as if Chuck doesn't realize that the state whom he represents is the responsible party here. Hey Chuck, remember New York? You're supposed to be representing us, not taking away the power from our state legislators (we voted for them, too). But I guess that a guy who needs to get re-elected doesn't need to care about the little nicities like the Constitution.

Posted [02:46] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Mon, 09 Jul 2007

Ride starting Fri Jul 6 10:20:00 2007

32.77 km 107512.93 feet 20.36 mi 9391.00 seconds 156.52 minutes 2.61 hours 7.81 mi/hr

Friday's ride was supposed to be a repeat of Wednesday's ride, except that we made a wrong turn. Stayed on Quarry and missed the turn to River. This necessitated a mid-ride change in plans, so we went north on Glover to Highwaya FF, went a little west, and came south on Townsvalley. Crossed the old railroad grade three times, but only the first was obviously a railroad grade.

I went about 93.5 miles during the Gathering, and if you add in the informal riding, I'm sure I went over 100 miles.

Posted [02:58] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Ride starting Thu Jul 5 10:09:53 2007

38.11 km 125018.16 feet 23.68 mi 11958.00 seconds 199.30 minutes 3.32 hours 7.13 mi/hr

Again, this track is way too long because I didn't turn it off when I got back to campus. So, you can see me head down to South Fork, back to the UC, wander around in front of the UC, etc. The most important part -- Thursday's ride -- is all there. Yes, including the wrong turn northeast on 29 halfway back to campus, sigh. You can also see where we rode out through Glen Park on the Swinging Bridge, but on the way back, failed to make a left turn and ended up on 29 anyway.

Posted [02:53] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Ride starting Wed Jul 4 10:39:53 2007

24.17 km 79287.20 feet 15.02 mi 7568.00 seconds 126.13 minutes 2.10 hours 7.14 mi/hr

This track is a bit botched, since it doesn't pick up until we were well out of town, and continues after we got back to campus. Don't feel like editing it any further. In the upper-right corner, we met in worship at an old church, now a historical society.

Posted [02:47] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Ride starting Tue Jul 3 10:35:30 2007

28.91 km 94858.89 feet 17.97 mi 8973.00 seconds 149.55 minutes 2.49 hours 7.21 mi/hr

Tuesday's FGC ride. Notice the little leg off the south end of the westmost leg? That's where we buzzed right past the turn. That happened on every ride. It was a little annoying that people kept getting lost, except that I did it too, and the consequences were slight. People just got back to campus a little later than we wanted -- but nobody actually got back late.

Posted [02:47] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Ride starting Mon Jul 2 10:42:37 2007

18.14 km 59518.70 feet 11.27 mi 4410.00 seconds 73.50 minutes 1.23 hours 9.20 mi/hr

Been away for a week, at the FGC Gathering. Ran the bicycling workshop. Took the attenders on several rides. I had long and short rides planned. I rode the short rides because I was on a rented tricycle. This one went to the east. The long ride went a little further north, and farther east.

Posted [02:46] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Mon, 25 Jun 2007

New product announcement: NFSper

[ I don't know why I posted this on October 14th 1990, when the product was really available on April 1st of that year. -russ ]

FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION OCT 14, 1990

ESP Software
11 Grant St.
Potsdam, NY 13676

ESP Software would like to announce their newest product, NFSper. NFSper is a NFS server with an order of magnitude better performance than any existing NFS server. NFSper uses a proprietary technique to cache NFS requests on the client before they are transmitted to the server. Lab tests have shown that the NFS packet are available on the client an average of 100 microseconds before the client sends the request. Under test conditions, we have observed packets a full 250 uSec before the request transmission!

NFSper avoids paradoxical effects by caching the packet rather than actually upcalling it. If the request packet falls on the floor, or the client fails to carry out its intent to send the request, then the client will never request the packet from the cache. Of course, in the case of high network loads or indecisive software, NFSper will rapidly fill your cache, removing any performance advantage.

NFSper comes with programmers guidlines for stern, decisive coding. The sooner a decision is made to request a packet, the sooner NFSper can start sending the reply. We have found that most software makes this decision soon enough, but new software should of course take advantage of this new technology.

We are currently working on TelePathWay, "All the Network without all the wiring." TelePathWay does away with the need to run coax or twisted pair. TelePathWay plugs into the AUI port found on most Ethernet equipment. You must supply your own telepath. Deliveries are expected by 4Q91.

Direct all inquiries to:

Russell N. Nelson, President
ESP Software
11 Grant St.
Potsdam, NY 13696
(315)265-5655

Posted [15:44] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tue, 19 Jun 2007

Deflation 2

I tried to explain my lack of understanding of people's dislike of deflation earlier, but with little success. Two people wrote saying, roughly, "huh??" So, I try again. We are used to prices constantly rising in America. That's because the Federal Government metaphorically prints up new dollar bills. With more money chasing the same goods, prices rise. That's inflation. If the Feds were to destroy old bills and not print replacements, you'd have less money chasing the same goods, prices would fall, and that would be deflation. Everybody's clear on that, right?

Now, stop printing up new dollars. Keep the amount of currency constant.

Note that we don't actually have the same goods. In a free market society, with people constantly trading for things that make them more content, value is constantly being created. With every trade, people value the new thing they have more than the thing they traded it for. They won't be willing to immediately trade again except for a higher price.

So if you have a fixed amount of money chasing higher priced goods, the price of money has to rise to match. That's deflation. Exact same situation as inflation, only mirrored. Excepting, of course, that the price of money can't go up; "price" is what we call the amount of money you need to trade for something.

The natural course of money is to become more valuable over time because there are more and better things you can spend it on. That points the way towards private currencies which could seek price stability by purposefully printing enough new currency to match the increase in total value in the economy. After printing the new currency, they pay for the printing and earn a profit by spending this new currency. They created the value that that currency represents by keeping away forgers and by recruiting new entrants into the marketplace for that money.

In this manner we could return to a system of private currency.

Posted [16:51] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Endianness

In general, a computer architecture will be able to access the same data in multiple sizes. E.g. by the byte (8), word(16), integer(32), or long integer(64). Usually, but not always, bytes are the smallest component, and the address space of the machine maps one-to-one and onto every byte. Typically a word is found at every other byte. However, big-endian architectures treat the byte with the lower address as the most significant byte of the word, and the next byte is the least significant byte. They take the big end first. Little-endian architectures are the most common, and put the least significant byte first, at the lower address.

Clearly this has implications for converting data into values. If you get data (a stream of bytes) from a file or over the network, you need to know how to convert those data into values. You need to know if the values were stored big-endian or little-endian. This problem has caused much grief among programmer, because they have tried to take shortcuts like:

void t(unsigned char *ptr) {
    unsigned int i = *(int *)ptr;
}
which is completely unportable code, whereas:
void t(unsigned char *ptr) {
    unsigned int i = ptr[0] | (ptr[1] << 8);
}
is completely portable code, is explicit about byte order, and any reasonable peephole optimizer will generate the same code as the first.

Endianness is completely separate from file/network byte order. The first is a characteristic of the architecture. The second is a serialization method.

Posted [14:25] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 17 Jun 2007

Ride starting Sun Jun 17 18:39:35 2007

25.33 km 83099.16 feet 15.74 mi 5270.00 seconds 87.83 minutes 1.46 hours 10.75 mi/hr

I like this ride even though both long legs are pretty darned straight. The leg to the right of "Southville State Forest" is actually an abandoned dirt road. In the windy weather of a couple of weeks ago, a tree fell down, and is blocking the northern end of the road. Garnet will have to come with his chainsaw and cut it up.

Posted [22:14] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Metric Century

I just noticed that my most recent ride on the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway is a metric century! 108km! And thinking about all the other long rides I've taken, I'm pretty sure that this ride is my longest ride ever. Back in high school, I rode from Shohola to Honesdale, about 50 miles round trip. More recently in July 2005, I rode 11.5 miles in the morning, and 51.7 miles in the afternoon. That's not as long as Friday's ride, but was technically a metric century because I rode 101.8 km in one day even though it wasn't in one contiguous ride.

Posted [15:27] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 16 Jun 2007

Ride starting Fri Jun 15 10:11:06 2007

108.78 km 356883.86 feet 67.59 mi 24246.00 seconds 404.10 minutes 6.74 hours 10.04 mi/hr

Longest ride I've been on in a long time. In September 2004 I went for a 57 mile ride. I want to work my way up to a century ride later this summer. I'm 2/3rds of the way there! Unfortunately, I was pretty darned sore by the end of this ride. Not tired, just sore hands, a sore elbow, and mostly a sore butt.

Went from Latham to Dunsbach Ferry to Cohoes, then backtracked. The railbed used to go across I-89 at grade, from 1959 to 1963. Now, you detour down to the Thaddeus Kosciousco bridge and cross under it on the road. Shortly on the other side is a ramp heading back up to the railbed. You stay on the railbed until the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna. They don't want people wandering around on their property, so they have the railbed gated off, and the railbed is routed up the hill, and around that facility, and the GE facility to the west of it. Then it's a fast ride down a steep hill with a 90-degree turn at the end to get back on the railbed.

More railbed riding until you get to the far (west) side of Union College. The bicycle trail seems to disappear at that point. If you ask a few locals, you'll find out that the bicycle trail continues near the community college. It's not following any railbed at that time, but fairly soon you connect up with the old Erie Canal towpath. There's the ruins of a pair of locks. More straight, flat riding until you get to Lower Rotterdam Junction, where the path is closed and re-routed up to the highway. A bit of highway riding gets you back to the trail, but your happiness is limited. A short distance after Rotterdam Junction the bicycle trail disappears. I asked inside a shop, and the shopkeeper said that it continued "a little" further on. I rode a little and didn't find anything, so turned back.

Posted [01:08] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Fri, 15 Jun 2007

Ride starting Thu Jun 14 18:41:18 2007

27.22 km 89309.79 feet 16.91 mi 7036.00 seconds 117.27 minutes 1.95 hours 8.65 mi/hr

This ride was an out and back on the Airline Trail. As they say on the website, the North portion of the trail, from Willilmantic to the MA border, is less well developed. It's paved for a while on the northeast side of Willimantic, then it turns to rock dust, then it's completely undeveloped. In this particular case, that means that the drainage ditches have not been repaired, and so the water runs down the middle of the trail. As it does so, it sifts out the fines from the fill. You end up with some very sandy sections interspersed with very rocky sections. I turned back when it started getting dark and when the trail started getting too undeveloped.

By the time I got back to Willimantic, it wasn't quite as dark as I had feared and I wasn't as tired either. So I headed west to the Eastern Connecticut Railroad Museum. Looks like a very nice small museum. They've got a six bay roundhouse, a turntable, a selection of buildings moved there, and some track and rolling stock.

Posted [23:34] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Thu, 14 Jun 2007

Ride starting Wed Jun 13 15:50:59 2007

29.06 km 95327.05 feet 18.05 mi 7299.00 seconds 121.65 minutes 2.03 hours 8.90 mi/hr

Went out on the Rutland for three reasons. First, to go for a nice quiet ride. Next, to check for fallen trees (yes, several). Last, to replace the Rutland Trail #2 geocache. Unfortunately for the latter, I couldn't find it! I suspect that the last person to find it hid it far too well, as if somebody might be casually walking through eel-infested waters.

Posted [00:05] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Wed, 13 Jun 2007

The Free Market cannot solve all the world's problems

I don't know where the idea came from that anybody thinks that the free market can solve all the world's problems. Apparently somebody does, because this Slashdot poster felt that he had to deny that it does. I think this is a strawman, however. I don't know anybody who thinks that the free market can solve all the world's problems. I'm quite sure that opponents of free markets think that proponents of free markets think that they can solve all the world's problems.

Some problems are simply hard to solve. There is no magic wand. A free market can't solve them. Neither can a market constrained by the violence of the state -- although it will arrive at a different solution. Constraining markets isn't free of cost, so while it may appear that constrained markets work better, you also have to count the cost of the constraint. Also, the constraint serves to eliminate creativity, so that a free market solution which might arrive over time, will never appear.

Nobody can solve all the world's problems, because as soon as you solve the worst problem, things which weren't perceived as problems before, are now problems.

Posted [12:57] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 11 Jun 2007

Ownership issue...

Nils Faerber is throwing mudballs in his blog entry entitled Trademark issue.... First, we need to be clear here that trademarks are not the problem. Trademarks are intended to be the solution. The problem is that both LinuxToGo (in the person of Nils) and Handhelds.org (in the person of George) think they have exclusive rights to the project named "GPE". Not the code, of course, because open source code can always be forked. This is a fight over the name. Nils puts forth his own case. I'll put forth the Handhelds.org case here:

The case for Handhelds.org ownership

Yes, Nils chose the name GPE, and yes, he contributed the first stubs of code to Handhelds.org. Yet he clearly handed the project over to Handhelds.org in his introductory email. He even called it a "community project". He was eager to have it based at handhelds.org. Why? Because he wanted handhelds.org to own it. Why else would he have behaved that way? He already had kernelconcepts.de. He could have hosted it there, except ... he wanted it to be owned by the community.

If he owned GPE, then he would simply have moved it without bothering to ask if anyone objected to moving it. Yet he did ask. That says that he thinks it's a community project. A handhelds.org project. And people objected to him moving it, but he moved it anyway.

Handhelds.org was never a hosting site ala Sourceforge, Savannah (nongnu), or Berlios. All of the projects there were started by members of the handhelds.org community to be owned by the handhelds.org community, more like Savannah (gnu). There are no projects there unrelated to Linux on handheld computers. Nils seems to believe that he can convince people (he has already convinced himself) that hh.org was just a hosting site, so moving a project was not forking. Unsurprisingly, the people at hh.org disagree and think he should fork and rename.

The Conundrum

The problem is that both parties believe that they own the name, and can put forth a reasonable argument by community norms. For better or worse, Handhelds.org was the first to use the name in trade, which in the U.S. gives it the trademark. George is only seeking a trademark (which he plans to assign to Handhelds.org, Inc.) to enforce a claim on the project that he believes, by community norms, is legitimate. For his part, Nils is trying to sway public opinion against George by making his actions seem illegitimate, as if Nils owned the project without dispute, and as if George was trying to steal it.

In other words, neither party can resolve their claims by community norms and both are seeking other means of enforcing their claim to GPE.

So what are we, as a community, to do? Who owns the project named 'GPE'? It's not clear, by the rules we've always followed. We need to make new rules.

There's a hint, in trademark law. If two parties are using the same name in conflict (e.g. Snyder's of Hanover, and Snyder's of Berlin, both of whom make pretzels in Pennsylvania), then both must take steps to ensure that they are not confused with the other. We may choose to accept or reject that hint. If we choose to accept it, then I propose settlement terms as follows:

A GPE Settlement

Whereas:

Be it resolved that:

Obviously this settlement goes nowhere unless both Nils and George agree to it. But having it written out is better than the mudballs that Nils and LinuxToGo associates are throwing at George.

UPDATE 6/16: Nil refuses to even consider the settlement as the least bad solution. He doesn't think the hh.org community has any ownership stake. He doesn't think he's done George any wrong. He continues to maintain that he didn't fork GPE. Nil believes that he would prevail in a trademark infringement suit and sees no reason to settle. Nil refuses even to spel my name correctly. Consequently, I have put his email address back on my "do not mail" list. Call it petty if you want, but I insist upon a minimum of respect.

Posted [21:48] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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The Shangri-La Diet 3

Been on the diet for about four months. Have lost one notch on the belt. The single most important thing on the diet is to not eat when you're not hungry.

Switched to sugar when I was in India, but I also ate something which disagreed with me that prevented me from digesting anything about about a day. So I don't know how sugar works for me.

Posted [02:20] [Filed in: food] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 09 Jun 2007

Ride starting Sat Jun 9 15:24:36 2007

7.71 km 25286.33 feet 4.79 mi 1500.00 seconds 25.00 minutes 0.42 hours 11.49 mi/hr

dang. Broke a spoke. Short ride today.

Posted [16:00] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Fri, 08 Jun 2007

XML Challenge #1

Here's my challenge #1 for XML partisans: Given the information in a record stored in an XML file which consists of an array of these records, append that record to the file. Extra points if you can do it without having to rewrite the file from scratch.

Now do the same thing using NSDFS, and weep at your choice of XML.

Posted [17:23] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Ride starting Fri Jun 8 11:48:06 2007

14.17 km 46476.85 feet 8.80 mi 2700.00 seconds 45.00 minutes 0.75 hours 11.74 mi/hr

Out and back ride, to Mom's Schoolhouse Diner for lunch. Above was out, below is back. The mileage differs because my Garmin Foretrex samples between every five and ten seconds. Depending on how many turns you take, this can introduce significant variability even in identical routes.

14.34 km 47045.21 feet 8.91 mi 2667.00 seconds 44.45 minutes 0.74 hours 12.03 mi/hr

Interestingly, even though one direction was upwind and the other down, both legs took the same amount of time, within 33 seconds.

Posted [17:22] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sun, 03 Jun 2007

Ride starting Sun Jun 3 11:33:06 2007

12.11 km 39727.72 feet 7.52 mi 1950.00 seconds 32.50 minutes 0.54 hours 13.89 mi/hr

Then I visited the Borderline Quilters semiannual show with my wife, and continued on my ride:

29.48 km 96732.01 feet 18.32 mi 6985.00 seconds 116.42 minutes 1.94 hours 9.44 mi/hr

Beautiful day after a crazy weather day yesterday. We had 3/4" diameter hail, measured. There was so much of it, and it cooled the day down so much that it was still on the ground at 2AM. All sorts of shredded leaves near our house, but none 1/2 mile away. So, ignoring the predictions of afternoon thunderstorms, I went for a bike ride. Found Nature's Course geocache, then continued down to Hannawa Falls. Rode the last bit of the way into town on the Red Sandstone Trail.

Posted [15:04] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Fri, 01 Jun 2007

Ride starting Fri Jun 1 15:57:12 2007

31.61 km 103710.81 feet 19.64 mi 5541.00 seconds 92.35 minutes 1.54 hours 12.76 mi/hr

Went for a little ride of exploration today. Straight down to Southville, north on Benton Rd., south on Needham Road, a little side trip down Brothers Road, west on 11B, and north on Heath Rd. to West Stockholm and back home. I've been on all these roads before, just not in this combination and not recently.

Posted [17:47] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Multiple Procedure code for Freemed

My chiropractor is a victim of proprietary EHR software. I'm trying to get him moved over to Open Source, but FreeMED is missing a few things that he's used to. For example, chiropractors use multiple CPT codes in the same procedure. FreeMED requires you to jump through the procedure entry code multiple times. Robert Meyer wrote a module to add multiple procedures. He graciously shared it with me, and I updated it to 0.8.4.. Download it and drop it into your .../modules directory and then enable the Multiple Procedures module under Patient/Configure

Posted [12:54] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tue, 29 May 2007

Ride starting Tue May 29 16:14:05 2007

16.87 km 55358.80 feet 10.48 mi 2967.00 seconds 49.45 minutes 0.82 hours 12.72 mi/hr

Had to run into town to sign a check.

Posted [18:03] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sun, 27 May 2007

Ride starting Sat May 26 17:27:25 2007

42.14 km 138240.77 feet 26.18 mi 8402.00 seconds 140.03 minutes 2.33 hours 11.22 mi/hr

Went for a long lazy ride to Parishville. Hard work going up, fun / fast ride going down. Stopped by to see Day Waterbury, but nobody was home.

Posted [02:23] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sat, 26 May 2007

Ride starting Wed May 23 12:32:06 2007

44.26 km 145217.41 feet 27.50 mi 12668.00 seconds 211.13 minutes 3.52 hours 7.82 mi/hr

Went looking for the railroad that went from Benson Mines to Clifton Mines. Found it! It was a very nice ride. Beautiful lakes, woods, and streams the whole way.

12 pictures up on Flickr.

Posted [02:11] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Tue, 22 May 2007

Ride starting Tue May 22 14:41:00 2007

37.71 km 123728.24 feet 23.43 mi 8852.00 seconds 147.53 minutes 2.46 hours 9.53 mi/hr

Out on the Rutland, back on Pickle Street (mostly). Beautiful day. Gentle wind. Couldn't ask for better weather.

Posted [17:44] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Mon, 21 May 2007

The nature of things

People complain about the nature of one thing, while ignoring the nature of another thing. They say that capitalism is self-contradictory, enabling profligacy and indulgence while requiring thrift and self-denial. They say that greedy capitalists buy legislators. What is to do about it? Why, pass a law to deny the nature of capitalists. But that denies the nature of politicians, which is to sell their protection -- and if that's not enough, perhaps burn a few stores to show that the protection is needed.

Posted [11:15] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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The Happy Graduates

My daughter Rebecca and her fiance Adam Jacobs graduated from SUNY Potsdam yesterday. Here's a picture of the happy grads and their collection of academic honor cords and pendants:

The Happy Graduates (Thumbnail)

Posted [00:42] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 20 May 2007

It's a bargain, not a right

Ya never know what the NYT is going to print these days. A recent op-ed from Mark Helprin proposes that Congress extend copyright forever. I don't know if he is insane or merely crafty, trying to gain negative attention (say what you want, but spell my name correctly). He seems to think that property rights covers intellectual property. If it's improper to confiscate someone's car, house, or land after a period of time, why, then, it should be improper to confiscate someone's intellectual property. He has his rights wrong.

You have the right to anything you can defend, e.g. your person, your real property, your car, the things you carry around with you. You don't have a right to control something I own, e.g. a CD with music on it. You have to bargain with me to get that right. In exchange for being allowed to control copying for a limited time (that's what the Constitution says, "limited time"), I allow you to control certain uses of my property (a CD or book that I own).

Mark would revise that bargain. He would give up nothing, and I would give up control over those certain uses for an unlimited length of time. Why would he ever, even on a good day, think I would agree to that bargain? I propose a different bargain: until copyright starts expiring again (and nothing copyrighted since World War II has gone into the public domain so I don't understand why Mark is asking for what he's already getting) Mark gives up everything, and I can do anything I want with a CD or book, including rip it and post it to the Internet.

Posted [23:21] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]
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Sat, 19 May 2007

Economists and Politicians

The difference between an economist and a politician is that the economist is sure that he doesn't understand economics, and a politician is sure that he does.

Posted [20:00] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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About the poor

Someone recently said "the poor need moral education". Besides being a <gasp!> thing to say, it introduces a logical problem. The best time to give the poor this moral education is before they become poor. You know, when they're still rich, or when they're middle class.

Posted [01:01] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Ride starting Fri May 18 18:52:25 2007

24.44 km 80190.76 feet 15.19 mi 5463.00 seconds 91.05 minutes 1.52 hours 10.01 mi/hr

Ahhhh, that was a nice ride. From my house to Norwood (about 8 miles) I averaged 15.1 mph. That's a nice pace for me. I'm starting to think seriously of actually doing a century ride this summer. Or, maybe spring (like now) would be better, because it was quite cool today. Maybe 60 degrees F. Didn't sweat much, didn't get very thirsty.

Posted [00:28] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Thu, 17 May 2007

Patent Law is Insane

UPDATE 6/1: Eric has a response that makes me happy. Phwew!

If my friend Eric Hutchins is right in his analysis, the law is an ass. First he says that willful infringement presumes that everyone has gotten actual notice of the existance of a patent merely by the USPTO's having published the patent. That is insane given the rate at which they're granting new patents. That is insane given the bombastic manner in which patent claims are written. Everyone cautions you that only an expert can properly interpret patent claims. Very well then, non-experts cannot have gotten actual notice.

As an aside, he says that trespass is strictly defined. Perhaps, but in New York State, you cannot be charged with trespass until you have gotten notice. That notice may be in several forms. First, the land upon which you pass may show evidence of use by the owners. Second, the land may be posted in a specified manner by the owners. Third, the owner may have walked up to you and told you that you are trespassing. Fourth, the owner may have written a letter to you informing you that your passage is trespass. Any of those conditions are sufficient to charge you with trespass.

Eric also cites the statute without reference to the case law. Under the English system of law, statute and case law interact with each other to form a whole. My understanding (and I am not a lawyer) is that case law provides for remedies in the case of innocent infringement. If you did not and could not have knowledge of a patent, you are an innocent infringer. Once informed of your infringement, you must stop infringing, and you may be liable for past infringement. If continued infringement would cause irreparable harm (e.g. not repairable by compensation for past infringement), then a judge may (and often will) grant an injunction against the infringing activity.

That the law grants a monopoly on purely mental steps is also insane.

Hey software patent holders! I'm infringing your patent in my head!
We have freedom of speech, but not freedom of thought?? How can that be?

Posted [02:30] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 16 May 2007

What if Microsoft had the bomb?

Microsoft's FUD is laughable. Their patents are a serious problem. But the fact that they're trying to gain currency from it -- without actually naming any of the patents -- is a joke. We need to treat it as such.

Think about it this way: what if they said "We have 235 nuclear bombs?" If they actually thought that they were all functional bombs, they would say "... and we'd be happy to demonstrate one." They haven't done that, so it's reasonable to conclude that they're of wildly varying quality.

The problem with Microsoft's threat is that they really don't know which of the 235 bombs work, and which don't. Do they show us their best bomb? If they do, and we defuse it, they've given it up for nothing and haven't proven anything except that they're foolish. Do they show us their bomb least likely to work? What would that accomplish? We'd just laugh at it when it fizzled.

Microsoft is the one with the problem here, not us.

Posted [17:09] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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(Nat) Torkington of the Dead

With a hat tip to Shaun of the Dead, I present my submission to LOL! Geeks! herein:
Nat Torkington of the Dead (Thumbnail)

Posted [13:40] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 14 May 2007

Ride starting Mon May 14 15:54:55 2007

23.31 km 76460.44 feet 14.48 mi 5007.00 seconds 83.45 minutes 1.39 hours 10.41 mi/hr

Went on an out-and-back ride along the Rutland. The "out" was on the north side of the tracks, and the "back" was on the trail itself. Mostly wanted to see what the trail conditions were like. The worst part is (still) the part I've been working on close to the road. Still needs a bunch of work to dry it up. The bridge to the west could use replacement as well. Have to get out there and measure the opening. Come back with some pressure-treated wood and make a bridge.

Posted [18:02] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Microsoft Patent FUD

Microsoft is spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) with their latest anti-Linux patent campaign. If they had an actual, solid case of patent infringement, they would go to a judge, get an injunction against the distribution of Linux, and sell patent licenses for FreeBSD. The fact that they don't, but are willing to sell patent licenses for an unnamed set of infringed patents, says that they have no legal case.

Their claims of infringement are just claims. Unless and until they name the patents, nobody can tell if their claims are valid. Maybe they are? Maybe they aren't? Nobody but them can say, and they have a huge incentive not to say.

Microsoft's Horacio Gutierrez has been quoted as saying, "This is not a case of some accidental, unknowing infringement." In fact, yes, it is -- and until Microsoft names the patents, it will continue to be. Open Source developers want their intellectual property to be respected, and are willing to respect other people's property. If you look at real property law, you can see emblazoned all over it the principle that you must be effectively INFORMED of your trespass. The property must be posted, or if it not posted, you must be told verbally or in writing "you are trespassing". Without that specific notice, there is no trespass. Without Microsoft identifying specific patents, there is no infringement.

The real patent, one which wouldn't give Microsoft pause, is a patent on something which is basic to the industry, and which cannot be challenged as obvious or prior art. It can't be worked around (usually) and is very solid. If such a patent existed, Microsoft would do something like take a copy of FreeBSD (which doesn't use the GPL), and sell it with a license for this magical patent. That they don't do the obvious, makes it obvious that they can't, so they won't.

The only thing we have to fear is FUD itself.

Posted [15:14] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Sat, 12 May 2007

India, Productivity, and Capital

I originally wrote this on 06 Jan 2007. On my eighth trip to India in April, I saw a cleaner using a v-shaped push broom which could collapse on itself to become narrower. Hooray, Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport! Good for you! Doesn't mean that the whole country has learned their lesson, but drop by drop a flood is born.


This is my seventh trip to India. Between them all, I've spent at least two months in India, starting in 1999. That doesn't make me an expert on India, but I have noticed a few things which are true regardless of the country.

Indians seem afraid of improvements in productivity. They very much seem to have the idea that there is a fixed amount of work. Improvements in productivity would destroy some of that work, and make the country poorer. Or perhaps more accurately, it would destroy the employment of enough voters that they resist change.

Some Indians see this perfectly. The Times of India is running an India Poised campaign for 2007. They printed that as a full-page ad in the January 2nd issue.

Intellectually, it's easy to see that improvements in productivity don't destroy work. Instead, they create the wealth that allows people to pay for more work. After all, there is always an infinite amount of work -- what is lacking is the wealth to pay for it. Emotionally, this is harder to feel, particularly when you are employed in a field in which productivity improvements destroy your job.

All over Mumbai, I have observed cleaners using these wimpy little brooms. In the USA, they would hardly even count as being a whisk broom, and yet in India, they are used to sweep vast areas. A very small capital investment in a push broom would enable them to clean in much less time. This would allow them to clean more often, or more likely, cause some of the cleaners to lose their jobs.

So where do these improvements in productivity come from? They come from investments. Capitalists spend their money on something to help people do their jobs better, and expect to receive a fraction of the improvement in productivity.

Historically, the risk-free rate of return on capital has been 5% per year. This is the compensation that capitalists demand in return for spending their money on you, not them. Naturally, some capitalists are willing to take greater risks and get a much higher return. The successful ones get lauded, while the losers are forgotten. This has the unpleasant effect of making capitalists appear to earn money from doing nothing. They're not. They're suspending their desire to spend their money (which is worth compensating them), and they're taking a chance on not getting their money back (also worth compensating them.)

India tried going without capital during their Soviet Socialist fanboy days. They're not likely to make that mistake again. Fifty years of development (more than two generations) of wealth building lost. And since wealth is correlated with longer lifespan, this has a very human face on it.

Posted [11:16] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Drug Price Controls

Patrick writes, asking:

I got drawn into an online debate concerning price controls. Among other things, other posters claimed that price controls in other countries would not or could not affect prices here in America. I found his arguments convincing, but part of my mind could not accept it. Somehow, I cannot help but feel that's incorrect.

After a while, I thought about it, and decided that (a) it ignored the factor of time, as price increases again and again, as fewer and fewer economies pay back the prioce of drug development. Simply put, peole get used to paying higher prices. And, (b) companies might actually make more profit with lower prices. If the costs (of drug development) are evened all around, then the drug might cost less that manufacturers can sell more but retain more as profit for th next business cycle.

Still, I admit the issue is very complex. A lack of price controls elsewhere might mean lower prices here, or not, depending on other economic issues. And prices being as high as they are, they probably won't drop immediately, if they do drop. In some ways, an issue like the eternal New York housing crisis is just plain easier.

Without getting into price/demand curves, you can see that there will be a price at which every customer will generate the most profit for a seller. This price is different for every customer. But how to determine the right price (a hard problem in itself) and how do you get that customer to pay that price (a harder problem, since they'd prefer to pay somebody else's lower price). This is called price discrimination.

For books, you get the hardcover first, and then later you get the unabridged paperback. The hardcover is more profitable even beyond the extra cost of the hard cover. They differentiate over time. For movie theatres, the food is wildly more expensive than the food they prohibit you from bringing into the theatre. The ticket is one source of profit and the food is another, so those people who want the full popcorn-cum-movie experience pay the higher price.

For drugs, you have brand names (brands are a form of price discrimination), and you have markets split by countries. It's an imprecise version of price discrimination, but it's better than nothing. Drug companies will set their prices on a per-country basis to try to maximize their profits. This may sound anti-consumer, but profits give them the most incentive to create new drugs.

Price controls have no effect if they're set on the other side of the prices. If a legislator sets the price control at or above what anybody is paying, then they haven't hurt anybody. Only when a legislator sets the price below the natural market-clearing price do they create harm. If they set the price so low that there are no profits, the drug company won't bother selling. If they happen set the price controls such that the profits are sufficient for the drug company to continue selling, then the specific harm will be to cause the drug company to have a lessened interest in any specialized needs of that country. The general harm is that the next generation of drugs is paid-for by the profits from the current generation of drugs. Cut the profits and you eat your seed corn.

Posted [11:07] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 10 May 2007

Ride starting Thu May 10 10:51:56 2007

16.81 km 55147.67 feet 10.44 mi 3338.00 seconds 55.63 minutes 0.93 hours 11.26 mi/hr

Just went into town to pick up a new bicycle tube from Ted.

Posted [14:19] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Wed, 09 May 2007

Legislation vs. Law

Never confuse legislation with law. A law is something timeless, which has always existed, and which will always exist regardless of whatever legislation exists. For example, the law is that trespassing on railroad tracks when a train is present carries the death penalty and trespassing when a train is not present has no penalty at all. Wise legislation puts a penalty on trespassing on railroad tracks at all times, with the goal of averaging out the penalty.

The law is that most people will be dissatisfied from time to time with their mental state, and they will seek to change it using psychoactive substances. That's the law. No legislation can change that. Foolish legislation tries. You can tell that it's foolish because it doesn't change the law at all.

The law is that people cannot accurately estimate the magnitude of the effects of alcohol on their brain. Legislation recognizes that law by establishing a limit on the level of alcohol in the blood as evidence of impairment.

There are many more examples of laws, and legislation which complements or opposes the law. Go find your own.

Posted [01:44] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 05 May 2007

Ride starting Sat May 5 13:56:07 2007

39.63 km 130004.42 feet 24.62 mi 6913.00 seconds 115.22 minutes 1.92 hours 12.82 mi/hr

Went for a ride out to Hopkinton, to visit Steve Spence. Alas, he was not in, but the ride was enjoyable. A little cool, and fairly windy, but a good ride nonetheless.

Posted [16:13] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Fri, 04 May 2007

Ride starting Thu May 3 17:51:05 2007

23.54 km 77240.62 feet 14.63 mi 5310.00 seconds 88.50 minutes 1.48 hours 9.92 mi/hr

Couldn't take the frustration of work anymore, so I bagged it and went for a ride. My moving average speed was way higher, because I stopped three times: once to drop off a laptop battery at my daughter's dorm room, once to visit the new Kinney's, and once to visit Brent.

Posted [00:45] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Thu, 03 May 2007

That number

09 F9 11 02 9D 74
E3 5B D8 41 56 C5
63 56 88 C0 00 00

Oh, I suppose I need to post it too.

Posted [02:00] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 02 May 2007

Ride starting Wed May 2 17:45:30 2007

35.54 km 116613.59 feet 22.09 mi 8190.00 seconds 136.50 minutes 2.27 hours 9.71 mi/hr

Went out on the Rutland Trail today. I had worked on the trail earlier. Pulled three humongo rocks out of the trail with come-along and chain. Drained some more puddles. All in a day's work. The ride was pretty regular. Stopped a few times to throw sticks and such off the trail, but didn't want to spend any more time on trail maintenance.

Posted [23:41] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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"Competition ensures optimal?" NOT!

Over on Cafe Hayek, Russell Roberts posts about The Power of Competition and quotes K. Williams from an earlier post:

Why is it, again, that we're supposed to believe that competition ensures that people will make optimal decisions?

What a stupid thing to say! We are not supposed to believe that because it's not true! Clearly this guy has a strawman kit, because he's built a whopper.

The answer is that competition does not ensure that people will make optimal decisions. It just ensures that people will make better decisions than anybody else in their situation. That's the same reason why it's doubtful that a J. Random will make better decisions than a CEO of a firm. Competition doesn't ensure perfection. It doesn't even ensure wisdom. It just ensures that the most foolish decision-makers will have their resources taken away from them.

Posted [03:16] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 29 Apr 2007

Hot Fuzz as a Libertarian movie

I just saw Hot Fuzz (I'd link to their website, but it requires Flash 9). It seems like a rather libertarian movie to me. First is the emphasis on the intrinsic value of the individual, and explicit rejection of "For the Common Good". Second is the respect for the exemplary individual and denigration of the idea of "the curve buster" -- the person who does so well that they make everybody else look bad. Third is the reluctance to rely on violence to get one's way. Fourth is the respect for the Rule of Law.

Posted [01:34] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Thu, 26 Apr 2007

Ride starting Thu Apr 26 17:35:00 2007

23.47 km 76989.56 feet 14.58 mi 3989.00 seconds 66.48 minutes 1.11 hours 13.16 mi/hr

A bit cool today. Supposed to rain tonight and through the weekend. But cool is good when you're emitting lots of energy, which I was. Decent speed. Of course, this ride was entirely on pavement.

Posted [19:04] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Mark XII Electronics, part 2

Thanks to advice from Mitch Sun of Blue Packet, I fixed the problem with the Mark XII electronics! I didn't realize that a pull-down on a diagnostic serial input was required. Soldered an additional 10K resistor onto the board, and it's working fine. "hcitool scan" prints this:
00:12:A1:61:0E:21 BluePacket Bluetooth Wireless Keyboard

Now to design a PC board appropriate for the product!

Posted [01:28] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Is Robert Samuelson an economist?

Boy, after reading Samuelson's April 30 Newsweek column, I have to question his right to the name "economist". First, he pursues the common wisdom that inflation is caused by higher prices. It isn't. Inflation is everywhere and always caused by an increase in the supply of money. Money is just a thing that people are always willing to trade for because people are always willing to accept it. There's a supply and demand for money, and, yes, a price of money.

But here's the thing you need to remember: the only reason there is sustained inflation is because the government is always creating more money. It does so because it gets to spend the money first. It's a tax that nobody notices, if they even understand it. So Samuelson's discussion of oil prices, food prices, and core CPI is pretty much a waste of time, space, and print.

Second, he talks about recession. It's clear to any real economist that the Fed causes these recessions through its manipulation of the supply of money. When it inflates the money more than people expect, they think they have more cash, so they go spending. Business owners see a higher supply of money, and they think that they should invest. Unfortunately, both of them are wrong, and they need to adjust their spending downwards when the Fed reduces the rate of inflation.

I'm talking about the rate of inflation, because people get used to a certain rate of inflation. If you want to get the higher employment effects of inflation, you need to continue to raise the rate of inflation. Not just inflate, but inflate more and more. That's what von Mises called the crack-up boom". Eventuall the transaction cost due to the rate of increase exceeds the value of most transactions, so the economy stops in its tracks and falls over, dead.

Third, he worries about the U.S. trade deficit. "Trade deficit" is a misnomer (and although he's talking about terminology problems in this article, he doesn't catch this one.) There is no such thing as a trade deficit. All free trade is balanced; deficit is not possible. The term "trade deficit" really means that we're selling people things inside the US more than we're selling things to be delivered to people. As such, it's not much cause for worry.

Posted [01:04] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 23 Apr 2007

NYC Rent Control

There's an AP article out today which I quote below:

Survey Reveals Holes in City's Real Estate Market

NEW YORK, NY (1010 WINS) -- Even in a city where a closet-sized apartment can fetch a mint in rent, where so-so condos sell for over $1 million, and where real estate speculators salivate over the very air, there is property that lays fallow.

An informal survey released Saturday revealed there are at least 505 undeveloped lots in Manhattan, and another 1,723 that appear to be vacant, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer said.

``These results show that, contrary to popular belief, there are thousands of properties lying vacant in this borough,'' Stringer said. ``Now the task is to find out why and to do everything we can to make them productive properties.''

Stringer said there is enough space on these lots to create nearly 24,000 housing units that could help meet the city's future population growth.

According to the survey, 50 percent of the vacant properties are privately owned. More than 71 percent were found north of 96th Street, a traditional dividing line between the poorer neighborhoods of Upper Manhattan, and the ultra-wealthy Upper East and Upper West sides.

At least $104.8 million in property taxes is lost annually the survey found, Stringer said.

The article doesn't attempt any explanation at why so much property is going unused. A moment's economic analysis, however, will tell you that it can only be caused by rent control. No sane property owner will bother to build a building if he cannot make a profit. The specter of rent control looms over every potential landlord in NYC, whether their property is afflicted or not. As long as people in NYC think rent control is a good thing, any building might be subjected to rent control, even if some are currently exempted. See Walter Block for more information.

This is yet another example of how price floors and price ceilings cause surplusses and shortages respectively. When the government fixes prices, you get the same bad effects as when any other monopoly fixes prices. I don't understand why people see private monopolies as good, and public monopolies as bad. I suppose their theory is that they control their government, but, really, when was the last time you wrote to your legislator asking him to do something, and he actually did what you asked? Usually I get a letter back explaining how my legislator will be doing the exact opposite.

Posted [01:29] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sun, 22 Apr 2007

Ubuntu Documentation wiki

The Ubuntu Documentation folks have decided to change the license on their wiki. I hereby abandon copyright on any contributions I've made to their wiki. See their page on the change for more information.

Posted [19:47] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Ride starting Sun Apr 22 12:32:30 2007

18.45 km 60530.91 feet 11.46 mi 4626.00 seconds 77.10 minutes 1.28 hours 8.92 mi/hr

Just went for a little ride into town to buy stuff.

Posted [15:38] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Fri, 20 Apr 2007

Ride starting Fri Apr 20 15:37:47 2007

27.14 km 89030.29 feet 16.86 mi 6300.00 seconds 105.00 minutes 1.75 hours 9.64 mi/hr

Went for my first ride on the Rutland Trail today. Lots of puddles. Lots and LOTS of puddles. Fortunately, the surface of the trail itself is pretty hard, so if you don't mind getting wet feet, you can just ride through the puddles. I did, today, a little. Need to go out with a shovel and clear some of the drainage ditches I cleared last year, sigh.

The construction elves have been busy. They rebuilt the bridge near the Crane Road intersection. I expect this is the Tri-Town ATV riders, not actual North Country wee folk. If I seriously believed that the wee folk were at work, I would go to the worst of the mudpits and leave some libation as an offering. Also, Nils Petersen's group went out and removed an old fridge from a drainage ditch, and did a lot of clearing work. They dug through a huge mound of earth blocking the drainage ditch, forcing the water to run down the trail. It will still need a pile of fill, but at least the water is running the correct way now.

I often say that I'm the loudest thing out on the trail, but this time of the year, the peepers are much louder than me.

Posted [19:06] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Gun Control

I'd like to point out that the VT Massacre is a failure of gun control. If anybody attempts to misuse the Massacre to call for more gun control, they should first explain why the gun control already in place didn't work. Then they should watch Penn and Teller's Gun Control is Bullshit.

Posted [13:31] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 19 Apr 2007

Connection Manager UI issues

The Nokia Internet Tablet Connection Manager has UI issues. Since they're all separately fixable, I'll give each one its own paragraph.

When I want to go online away from home, I frankly couldn't give a darn which access point I associate with. Thus, I want to have an option in the "Select connection" dialog which says "Any working connection". It should go through the available connections, one by one, until it finds one which returns DHCP information that successfully lets it ping the default router, and resolve some standard name like "testconnection.nokia.com".

The previous paragraph's issue, if fixed, would make this one go away, but I'm treating them independently. When I select a connection, if it isn't listed in the Connections, I am immediately offered the opportunity to save the connection. Well, what if it doesn't work? That's an extra interaction with negative value to me. Put "Save connection" on the menu for the "World" icon.

The speaker volume is immediately apprehensible from the number of bars. The backlight intensity is immediately apprehensible from the number of bars. A Nokia cellphone gives me the signal strength in the number of bars right on the main screen, all the time. So why is the wifi signal strength not visible in the icon?? It's nice in IT2007 that it's there underneath the menu, as well as the AP name. But that's not half good enough.

The Connections dialog has a sillyness which is endemic to Internet Tablet dialogs. If you pick a connection, and then Delete it, it asks you if you want to delete it! Stupid computer! I just told you exactly what I want you to do! Weren't you paying attention?? Yes, I know that this is an attempt to save people from deleting connections that they actually wanted. So the UI designers put a two-step process to protect people from accidents. That's what's wrong. Next paragraph explains the fix.

The Connections dialog problem should be fixed. When you click on "Delete", it marks that connection for deletion by drawing its name with strikeout. It's not deleted until you click "Done". That's the two-step needed to actually delete. If you select a deleted connection, the Edit button is greyed-out, and the Delete button becomes "Undelete". Or maybe that's wrong, and the Edit button causes undelete?

Posted [10:37] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 16 Apr 2007

Ferromancy

A quick google search shows some people with their own definition of "Ferromancy", but the way I heard it used this weekend was "an almost magical ability to detect the presence of a former railroad." I was down in the Beacon, NY area for a bus trip exploring the remains of a Central New England railroad, specifically the Newburg, Dutchess & Connecticut. There were some portions of the railroad which required Ferromancy to detect. It went through people's front yards and they mostly plowed it into nothingness. But next to a bank, we saw a culvert at 90 degrees to the bank's road, and parallel to the direction of the railroad.

Posted [12:04] [Filed in: railroads] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 15 Apr 2007

Kyle Smith

So I was down in Pok visiting Eli Dow and his grilfiend Jessie, going out to dinner, stopping by Best Buy, and who should we run into in Target but Kyle Smith!

Posted [19:36] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Ride starting Fri Apr 13 15:40:06 2007

39.80 km 130586.60 feet 24.73 mi 10780.00 seconds 179.67 minutes 2.99 hours 8.26 mi/hr

Woo hoo! That was a great ride last Friday. Hopped on the NYO&W trail in Kingston. It's a little wet at first, and the trail has some erosion issues. Only after going through that section did I notice that it was temporarily closed. Rode along a grassy section, then it opened up into a paved section right next to the highway. Left the highway, and started to go on the NYO&W's standard cuts and fills. The NYO&W is a railroad that should never have been built. They relied on the towns to put up bonding, so they skipped any towns that wouldn't pay. This included some of the biggest markets, e.g. Syracuse. Thus, it went through the hills and avoided the valleys. It eventually did connect Lake Ontario at Oswego to the New York City harbor, and it picked up the Scranton coal region as well, but with all the hills it had to traverse it wasn't the cheapest carrier. But, that makes it a very picturesque rail-trail.

I didn't realize that I was going to get as far as High Falls, but when I saw it coming up I simply had to go visit the D&H canal ruins there. They had five locks in town, a canal slip, and an aquaduct over the Rondout Creek. The aquaduct is long gone, but it was built using the same technology (wire ropes) as the Brooklyn Bridge.

Then, on the way back, I saw the high bridge in Rosendale. Silly me, but I didn't think of hopping on that railroad grade for the trip back. I believe that it is open for travel. It certainly is going underneath I-87 as I saw this morning. Oh well; next time.

Posted [19:22] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Wed, 11 Apr 2007

Marx's Grave

I spit on Marx's grave today. I had a 10 hour layover in Heathrow on the way back from Mumbai. Walked around Hampstead Heath, and wound up in Highgate Cemetary (East). Interestingly, his grave is immediately opposite Herbert Spencer's grave. That's nearly as amusing as it would have been to bury Marx next to Adam Smith. Maybe they put Spencer across from Marx to keep a wary eye on him?

Herbert Spencer's grave (Thumbnail)

Posted [02:05] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 07 Apr 2007

Disappointed by Google

I've finally been disappointed by Google. I tried a search for "morse ... -- ..." and all I got was a page on morse code, rather than the decoded morse code.

Posted [00:54] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 04 Apr 2007

Environmentalists

Someone quipped, on one of the blogs that I read:

We have more to fear from environmentalists than the environment
Preach it, brother!

Posted [10:35] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 31 Mar 2007

Thuban

Thuban is an Interactive Geographic Data Viewer. I've contributed some small bits of code to it. They're considering assigning copyright. This serves as notice that I abandon any copyright claim to my contributions.

Posted [11:17] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Fri, 30 Mar 2007

The Shangri-La Diet 2

Been on the diet for about a month. I don't feel like I'm losing weight very quickly, but of course, that's a benefit, not a feature. Good things happen slowly, bad things happen quickly. I noticed that I've been really hungry the last few days. Then I realized how much bicycling I've been doing. Of course the diet predicts that I'll be more hungry. Eat to maintain setpoint. Exercise and you'll just get hungrier

Going to India for a week. I'll have to switch to hot sugar water, but in the land of tea, that shouldn't be a problem. I'll also try eating as many strange (to me) foods as I can.

Posted [22:48] [Filed in: food] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Ride starting Fri Mar 30 18:30:06 2007

15.88 km 52094.51 feet 9.87 mi 2730.00 seconds 45.50 minutes 0.76 hours 13.01 mi/hr

Just a bit on the cool side today. In the thick of maple sugar season. Freezy nights, melty days. Just what the sap run needs, but it makes bicycling a bit cool. Saw a gazillion deer, all of them bold enough to just look at me, even when I talked to them. They're like "What? Does he think he's scary just because he's a human??" I was disappointed that they didn't even care to look at me.

Posted [22:32] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Mark XII Electronics

The Mark XII keyboard is as yet unbuilt. I'm happy enough with the Mark XI physical design. With a little bit more work, it's manufacturable, except for the electronics. For that, I need something which consumes less power, is smaller, can implement chording, and implements the HID profile. That perfectly describes the Broadcom BCM2042 bluetooth keyboard controller.

Unfortunately, that chip is a BGA chip, which is hard to work with. Fortunately, several companies implement Broadcom's 92042 bluetooth keyboard module. Blue Packet is one of them. They sell the 2042 on their BP20422 bluetooth keyboard module (to which I can't link directly, but it's off the drop box.) They haven't (yet) committed to modifying 8051 firmware with the necessary chording algorithm, but I'm confident that I can talk them into it. Talk, yes, and money. Unfortunately, the module on the PC board isn't working. I suspect that I toasted it while soldering it to the PC board.

Speaking of the PC board, my friend DJ Delorie very graciously answered my questions about how to use PCB, the Open Source PCB package. Then, he even volunteered to make the board for me. Ahhh, it's to nice to have college buddies. They make your life so much easier. This first cut at a board is just a footprint adapter. I wanted something from which to hang discretes, as well as have good access to the pins. Plus, Blue Packet hadn't yet sent me the schematics.

I have ordered another ten modules from Blue Packet. That should be enough to get a good prototype working, even without the chording firmware. I'll only be able to type 7 keys without chording, but I'll have all the electronics in order at that point.

Blue Packet (Thumbnail)
Posted [17:50] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]
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Mark XI keyboard

Been sitting on this version of the keyboard, but I want to get it out there. This one is much smaller and stealthier. It also puts the keys on a flexible PC board. That's much more manufacturable than the previous versions which used the key's mounting straps. The keys flex a little along with the PC board, but that's not a big problem. Because the keyboard is cupped, that gives it much more strength than if it were flat. And the pressure from the fingers is always directed against the direction of the cupping, so physics is my friend here.

This version is just the flexible PC board, mounted in a chunk of shapelock. It doesn't pocket as well as the Mark X keyboard, whose thumb rest folded. But, it's sturdier, lighter and fits well in my hand. The back view shows how the big ugly electronics (hopefully the Mark XII electronics will be smaller), the palm support, and the way the thumb rests on the battery box. You can see the PC board just a bit here. In the back of the hand view, not much shows beyond the fingers.

back view (Thumbnail) back of the hand view. (Thumbnail) side of the hand view (Thumbnail) top of the keyboard (Thumbnail)

Posted [17:34] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tai Chi Power Training

So, after tonight's Tai Chi power training session, I was stoking up the furnace with some scrap wood. I had a too-long piece of 5/4" square hardwood. Not something easily broken. I tapped it on the door of the furnace and said "You're not going to break that with your arms".

Thought about what we learned today about compressive and expansive force and remembered Dragon's Back. Not exactly part of the form, but we practice it as much. It's a Chi Kung movement which slowly whips the back forward and backward like a snake, while the arms follow the whipping motion out in front of the head. So I generated power from the legs, through the Dragon's Back, and out into my arms, moved it down about 6" and snapped it clean in half.

Now that's the way to break a piece of wood. None of this karate breaking of pine boards with the grain for me. :-)

Posted [02:27] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 28 Mar 2007

Ride starting Wed Mar 28 16:12:30 2007

19.24 km 63111.34 feet 11.95 mi 3637.00 seconds 60.62 minutes 1.01 hours 11.83 mi/hr

Second ride of the year, this one on a clearer but cooler day. Brrrrrisk!

Posted [17:51] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Tue, 27 Mar 2007

Ride starting Tue Mar 27 18:20:05 2007

12.95 km 42500.63 feet 8.05 mi 2165.00 seconds 36.08 minutes 0.60 hours 13.38 mi/hr

Not a bad pace for the first ride of the season! Helps that I've stayed in reasonably good shape with Tai Chi training. Nice warmish day, 56 degrees and mostly overcast. First day that I felt I could ride without a good chance of being rained on. No peepers yet. I expect them within the week, though.

Posted [19:07] [Filed in: bicycling] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]
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Sun, 25 Mar 2007

Linux

Linux is the name of the operating system consisting of the Linux kernel, the GNU tools, the X Window System, the Mozilla browser, the Evolution email client, the Open Office.Org productivity suite, and everything else. "Linux" is a far better name than GNU/Linux/X/Mozilla/Evolution/OpenOffice/Etc. -- and not only because everybody already calls it Linux.

Posted [00:14] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 15 Mar 2007

GPLv3 Root Password

The "current" draft (which is nearly 9 months out of date) of the GPLv3 specifies:

The Corresponding Source also includes any encryption or authorization keys necessary to install and/or execute modified versions from source code in the recommended or principal context of use, such that they can implement all the same functionality in the same range of circumstances.

which seems to require you to give the root password so that users can execute modified versions of setuid programs. One hopes that the current-current draft of the GPL has removed this section, or at least makes it clear that the owner of the machine gets to protect themselves from mere users of the machine.

Posted [13:12] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tue, 06 Mar 2007

Decision Making

I learned a long time ago how to make painless decisions. Gather your facts together, evaluate them, and decide. "Oh, but it's not that easy!" I agree. Sometimes, after you've gathered your facts together, you still can't decide. That means that the impact of the decision exceeds your confidence level. That means that you need more facts. "Oh, but it's too hard to get more facts!" Sure, that can happen. If the cost of getting more facts exceeds the impact of the decision, and you cannot choose given the facts available, then you should choose arbitrarily.

Posted [15:39] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 03 Mar 2007

Transportation Subsidies

I was noticing the other day that all widely used transportation technologies are OVER 100 years old. Why should that be? I think I know: they're all subsidized. Canals, railroads, airports, and roads. None of them bear the full freight of their passage. Now, invent some new technology, e.g. a dual-mode monorail like the RUF. How can it possibly gain a foothold against the subsidized modes of transportation? It can't. It has to get a subsidy of its own. Politicians are bad at picking new technologies because most of them fail, and no politician wants to be seen as having backed a failure.

That is the cost of transportation subsidies: no innovations can come to market.

Posted [17:10] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 01 Mar 2007

Community-led Eminent Domain

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, who writes articles for the Economic Times and The Times of India under the name "Swaminomics" (which is just a great name), has an interesting suggestion. He calls it community-led land acquisition. He means it to be applied to India, which has its own set of land acquisition problems, but it would work for our eminent domain ( Kelo v. City of New London (04-0108)) problem as well.

Here is the gist of his proposal as it applies to us: Governments should negotiate acquisition proposals with landowners, and then let the landowners vote on the deal. If a large majority--it could be two-thirds or three-quarters--vote in favour of selling, this should be binding on the minority.

The biggest advantage of this rule is that it prevents under-valuation of the property. The Constitution states "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Right now, the government decides what is just compensation, and then the government pays the price. Clearly there is vast potential for injustice there, and when you look at the history of eminent domain acquisitions, you will find plenty of charges of unjust forced sales. But by ensuring that a supermajority of landowners agrees that the price is "just compensation", that will ensure that the price really is fair.

UPDATE 3/1: Marvin writes in to point me to an article published in the Utah Daily Herald. Seems that the Utah Legislature had completely revoked the power of eminent domain. They have now replaced it with a scheme very much like the Swami describes above.

Posted [22:53] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 28 Feb 2007

My position on attribution

I'm starting to be settled on a position on attribution:

An Approved Open Source license may name an Original Author, and may require that a majority of users be able to name the Original Author. The license may not dictate the means through which that goal is accomplished. The license may not impose this requirement if less than one-third of the software is present in a derived work.

It's testable, and scales because at most three Original Authors need to be acknowledged. It is also congruent with OSD#10. It also rules against the SugarCRM license which is currently annoying so many open source developers.

I could be talked out of this if you have a sufficiently good argument. Send me email.

Posted [17:32] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thanks, Hillary!

In an AP article, we are informed that Hillary Clinton is going to take $60 BILLION dollars from "big oil", and then spend it on "clean-energy research and development." Where does she think "big oil" gets its money from? What is "big oil" going to do when its costs increase by $60 BILLION dollars? Does she think there are going to be no negative effects on the American public?

Obviously, she is appealing to the greed of the American public. "These are the kinds of things that I will do if you vote for me for President."

Posted [17:04] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 26 Feb 2007

100% Open Source

These folks: http://www.phpfox.com/ use 'open source' as a selling feature, where the open only refers to 'non-encrypted source code' rather than distribution rights. Here's what I told them via their Contact web form:

Hi. Your claim that your software is 100% Open Source, and yet you do not use an OSI approved Open Source license. At the very least, this will confuse your customers. Confused customers tend to avoid your business. At some level of misunderstanding, somebody might think that your software is actually Open Source and redistribute your software infringing your copyright. If you attempt to sue them, they could claim innocent infringement, saying that they were relying on your assertion that the software is Open Source. At the very worst, you might be engaging in fraudulent business practices. Most people know what Open Source means, and using a definition intended to mislead is fraud.

May I suggest that you use the term "Source Available" instead?

Posted [12:08] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 24 Feb 2007

The Shangri-La Diet

I weigh too much. The weight itself isn't the problem. It's more that the pad of fat in my belly interferes with proper taiji breathing. Have tried various dieting schemes and of course none of them worked over the long-run. Hope springs eternal, of course. What makes the Shangri-La Diet more likely to succeed is that it has a theory for why diets fail based on evoluntionary biology.

So, I'm gonna give it a try. First dose of ELOO last night. Not so hungry for breakfast, but of course that's probably me fooling myself.

Posted [11:53] [Filed in: food] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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FreeER Markets

A the end of 2006 (literally) I posted on "Faith in Free Markets". Through the (free market) miracle that is Google, I found a blog posting by Jeremy Hunsinger objecting to the possibility of saying anything about free markets, since all markets have interventions, saying:

I'd love to know where they found a free market to have faith in. I've never seen one that wasn't structured, biased or otherwise guaranteed by governmental or corporate structures.

Unfortunately, this idea exhibits a profound lack of understanding of economics. Jeremy isn't the only person to make this claim. A quick Google search for "no such thing as a free market" finds this and this and this which agree 100% with Jeremy, and are equally wrong. Economists rarely study anything by itself. Economics isn't the study of one thing; it is the study of one thing versus another. Economists try to figure out what you'll give up of one thing in order to get another, and why.

There's no point to objecting to advocacy for free markets by pointing out there is no pure free market, free of any coercive influence. We can compare more-free markets to less free markets, and decide which ones we like. If we like more-free markets, then we advocate for free markets, all the while realizing that the people who like less free markets will prevent us from having a completely free market.

It's not about free markets. It's about free-er markets.

Posted [11:35] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 11 Feb 2007

Unfinished Railroads of New York State

I've started a page for the Unfinished Railroads of New York State. These are railroads which got past the design state into the building stage, but not to the operational stage. In other words, a hump of dirt in the woods, or a set of abutments bracketing a stream which don't necessarily have a railroad on either side of them.

Posted [01:07] [Filed in: railroads] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Was Archy ever alive?

Was Archy ever a live project? Of course Jef Raskin is dead now, so if Archy was ever alive, it is less alive now. But my thesis is instead that Archy was stillborn.

Archy, as a project, is radically different. In order to use it, you need to invest quite a bit of effort. As a proprietary, commercial system, it would have needed a huge amount of investment. The system needed to be programmed from the bottom up. It's so different from most other software that very little could be reused. Then, the company would have had to pay staff for a good twenty years before the software got enough sales to support its staff. That level of funding is nowhere to be found.

The only way, in my opinion, Archy could ever have succeeded is if it were an Open Source project. It isn't. The investment needed is no less simply because it's open source. What is different about open source versus proprietary development is that the investors are investing their own time, for their own reasons, for their own purposes. And yet the license they chose for Archy makes it clear that anybody contributing code does so for the benefit of the Raskin Center, since they and only they can license the code for commercial use.

So if you look at various Raskin Center pages, you'll see that no bug reports have been acted on in the last 14 months. Basically, the last person with permission to change Archy left then, and never turned the lights out. At this point, the Raskin Center should throw the existing code under a BSD-style license and see what happens to it.

Posted [01:03] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 10 Feb 2007

Blind Faith in Free Markets

I will tell you why I have blind faith in free trade. It's because any alternative to free trade requires coercion. Coercion requires threats and acts of violence. I am a pacifist. I believe that all violence which is not directly engaged in reducing even worse violence (that is, I believe that a police are necessary) is evil, and counter to God's will. I think that violence is the worst injustice. Thus, I think that violence cannot be used to counter injustice. Thus, I am philosophically opposed to most laws which interfere with trade, e.g. a minimum wage law.

You can see that my faith isn't so blind as some would say. There's a train of logic which only requires one assumption: that violence is the worst injustice. I would say instead that some people close their eyes when it comes to regulations.

Posted [12:43] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Fri, 09 Feb 2007

The Knack

"Will he live a normal life?"
"No. He'll be an engineer."

Posted [12:28] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 08 Feb 2007

Governments vs. Contractors

Matt Yglesias writes a somewhat confused blog posting about "The Trouble With Contracting." He opines that governments are less efficient than the private sector. He lays the blame on just one aspect of the private sector: that badly run companies go out of business. Then he notes that when governments buy their services through badly run companies, they don't necessarily go out of business.

He is totally missing the reason why badly run companies go out of business. They fail because other companies out-compete them. Competition is what you get when multiple vendors try to cooperate with the customer more than anyone else.

If, as Matt suggests, companies are not chosen to maximize cooperation, then buying services through contractors is not likely to be any more efficient. He's quite right even though he doesn't understand why he's right.

But the real problem is not whether governments hire employees, or hire contractors. The real problem is when governments hire anybody. Governments don't have the flexibility to provide many different levels of service to different groups.

Compare, for example, restaurants to schools. Restaurants are subject to very little government control. They have to find an acceptable location if the community restricts business locations via zoning. They have to maintain certain standards of cleanliness and food preparation. Other than that, they can sell anything anytime anywhere in any quantity and combination to any customers. Schools have one curriculum for all students in a single grade. All students are expected to learn all material at the same rate at the same age at the same time of day. A tiny bit of flexibility is provided for special education students -- but even then the goal would be for them to learn the standard curriculum (aka mainstreaming).

School choice will have very little affect on any of this (or so I predict). "He who pays the piper calls the tune." Initially parents will be able to choose from a substantial range of schooling. Over time, taxpayers will rebel against, say, pagan schooling, or math-only schooling, or athletic schooling, and more and more restrictions will be placed on them.

That, in a nutshell, is the case against government provision of services. The private sector might be more efficient, but efficiency isn't really the goal. The goal is for everyone to get what they want, not for everyone to get what everyone wants. A free market provides the first; governments provide the second.

Posted [01:47] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Marketolatry

From time to time you will see people accuse free marketeers of "marketolatry". You'll see one here. The implication of that term is to say that we are worse than ideologues: that we worship free markets as our God. Thanks, no, I already have a God; don't need one so imperfect as markets, free or otherwise.

The problem with this accusation is it implies that we wouldn't change our minds in the face of contrary facts. The speaker usually believes that they have irrefutable contrary facts. Since we aren't convinced by their facts, we must be ideologues, or worse, marketolatrators.

Consider that they might be wrong. Certainly they don't.

Posted [01:10] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Tue, 30 Jan 2007

N800 ordering from NokiaUSA.com

Got my discount code (thanks, Nokia!) and immediately ordered it from Nokia USA. I gather that some people had trouble entering the discount code, but I didn't. Order went through, credit card got charged, everything looked fine. However, on the trackit page they gave me in the confirmation email, I had "Order status:" followed by whitespace. I was patient, but to no avail. The order got stuck somewhere in the process. I had to call NokiaUSA at 1-866-596-6542 option 5. The call center staff gave it a "kill -HUP" and now it's been shipped. Just FYI in case this happens to you.

Posted [13:41] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Fri, 26 Jan 2007

French Military Victories

Fair or not, French Military Victories is funny. For the maximum effect, type it into a Google search box and hit "I'm feeling lucky".

Then again, the funniest jokes are never fair.

Posted [13:04] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 25 Jan 2007

Minimum Wage as a cause of injustice

Nearly everyone in the USA agrees with the 5th Amendment's prohibition on the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. Yet a very large percentage of people in the USA want a higher minimum wage. What about the people whose private jobs are taken for public use? Where is their compensation?

Nobody seriously believes that you can raise the price of something, and everybody will buy just as much as before. Nothing is completely insensitive to price. So what of the people whose labor is worth less than the minimum wage? Of course the minimum wage helps people who remain employed. It harms people who lose their jobs. Some people say "Well, the people who are helped are helped much more than those who are harmed, so it's okay." You could say the same thing if the government was to simply confiscate property in the way of a road. Yet nobody in the USA speaks in favor of that. Why do they speak in favor of confiscating somebody's job so that others may be paid more?

Posted [02:29] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 22 Jan 2007

Deflation

UPDATE: followup at Deflation 2.

I keep seeing this fear of deflation everywhere. I don't know where it comes from. Deflation is the natural consequence of free trade with a fixed amount of currency. Consider this: If you have eggs to sell, and want to buy plums, let's sake that you'll take an even trade. A dozen plums for a dozen eggs. Of course, you want the plums more than the eggs, so once you get the dozen plums, you would only be willing to give up 11 plums to get back the dozen eggs.

Now imagine that your country uses plums as money. You're willing to pay 12 plums for a dozen eggs. You like those plums, so you'll only pay 11 for the dozen eggs. The plums are the same, and so are the eggs. What's the difference? Why have the plums deflated? The answer is that the trade has pleased you. You are wealthier, so you value your money more.

As long as the number of plums is fixed, this process will go on forever. Plums will become more and more valuable, as each trade makes people more content. If you see deflation as a reflection of increasing contentment, then you, like me, will wonder why people don't like deflation.

Posted [03:05] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 21 Jan 2007

Hireling priests

In my religion (Quakerism), we have no hired professional priests. The problem with hired priests is that their job gets mutated from one of helping the flock struggle with the burden of discerning Gods will, into one of keeping their job. The fire gets lost.

I think that Nokia has a similar problem with the 770. When you have a large full-time staff, they lose their fire. And yet, what else is Nokia to do? If they are going to build hardware, it needs software, and they surely cannot rely on the goodness of strangers for their software, can they? And that is exactly what they are already doing, by using the Linux kernel.

So lets explore this fantasy, wherein Nokia builds hardware and the rest of us write the software. I am firmly of the opinion that open source solves some problems poorly. The work that Tigert does (art and design) is not done well by the ordinary developer. If left to their own devices, they will also neglect usability.

There is definitely room for a paid staff. But I think that if you want to write the best software, most of it has to be written by the people who will be using it. Of course, that leaves Nokia with a chicken and egg problem. With a new product like the 770, how do they have users without any initial software?

Like all open source projects, you need to prime the pump. That is best done through contractors. Pay them to write the initial build, and then get out of the way. If the spec that they build to is fux0red in the usual way that most software designs are, it will get fixed. But in the meantime, users will at least have something which is minimally usable.

Nokia can get developer attention just as they did -- through subsidised hardware. They would also have gotten developers involved sooner, just as the OLPC has done. If you are building a really cool product, people will be lining up for early hardware. And, if they do not, then maybe the product is not as wonderful as initially conceived?

Nokia will probably not take this advice, but if they do not, I fear that they will continue to publish software that sucks.

Posted [15:08] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Fortification

I dislike the use of war metaphors in economic thinking, because economic exchange is not warlike; it is peaceful. In this case, however, I think it's apt. The principle is simple: when you build a fort, it can be taken from you, and used against you. Thus, when people think that government legislation protects them against corporations, they are sadly misguided. Some might .... but it's not a given. Posted [15:04] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Wed, 10 Jan 2007

N800 Speakers

The N800 has stereo speakers, in comparison to the N770's mono speaker. That alone should make them sound better. But Nokia has done something even more clever. If you look at the position of the speakers, you can see that they're at the bottom of the device, unlike the N770's speaker at the top. A speaker works by moving air. If you can reduce the amount of air that needs to be moved, you'll get better bass response from your speakers. With the integral stand on the N800, and speakers at the bottom, when you place it on any hard surface, you reduce the amount of air by half, and double the bass response.

You can see this for yourself now if you have a N770. Play some music and hold the 770 in free space with the button end down. Now lower it until it's sitting on your desk. Instant big-boy speakers! Well, okay, I exaggerate, but the bass sounds better, doesn't it?

Posted [08:19] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 08 Jan 2007

N800 is out!

The blogosphere has been ringing with the news. The question in my head is: "Will there be developer discounts?"

UPDATE: The answer seems to be yes, but there are not details on how to apply yet. UPDATE: no applying needed. My guess is that Nokia feels comfortable enough with the developer community to do their own selection now.

Posted [00:59] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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