Thursday, June 30, 2011


Josh started a class at Old Dominion University, which means he's driving into Norfolk four mornings a week. "Norfolk is a hell designed especially for drivers. The roads are bad, drivers are terrible, their stoplights are weird, they don't have any highway access in the majority of the city, the pattern of doing roadwork is bad, and did I mention the roads are ridiculously bad, like driving on cobblestones?." He sat at a single stoplight for ten minutes. "Parts of Norfolk look like the Dominican Republic--not downtown Norfolk itself, but the area around it, old shabby houses that aren't being taken care of", and also "I saw three people walking through the central business district in Norfolk; in the cities in Australia it was hundreds of people walking in all directions all the time."

Why the Political Class Needs a Greek Bailout

An interesting discussion at Armed and Dangerous. Snippets:
[R]aising taxes won’t help. The amount of private wealth available to be taxed is insufficient, even if taxation could be raised to 100% without suppressing all economic activity. In practice, raising taxes leads to increases in spending which more than consume the increased revenue (by a ratio of 1.17:1 in the U.S. since the 1940s).
Cutting military or any other form of discretionary spending won’t work either. If you zero all that stuff out, public pensions and other entitlement commitments still require revenues larger than the taxable private economy can generate.
Our political class, like the aristocrats of the French ancien regime, believes in nothing so firmly as its own indispensability.Après moi le déluge; but when the bond-investor flight happens – and it is now a matter of when, not if – the teetering Ponzi scheme that funds their self-importance will collapse.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Asking enough questions

Sometimes what the customer wants, isn't what the customer wants. You have to ask more questions and then make the decision that he would have made if he knew what he was doing.

Back when I was selling plastics, someone called me to see if we had six pieces of 3/8" Teflon sheet in stock. We had it and Teflon was relatively expensive; I could have taken his order right then and it would have been a respectable sale, and I'd have gotten a decent commission from it. What I did instead was ask the Magic Question: "John, what are you doing with this?"

He told me, and his application didn't really need Teflon; he could have been using UHMW, which was much cheaper. So I told him "I know you usually get this from someone else, and the only reason you're calling me right now is because he's out of stock. So I tell you what I'm going to do. I'm only going to sell you one piece of Teflon, not six--and the only reason I'm selling you that one is so you'll be comfortable, you won't ever actually need to use it. And I'm going to send you six pieces of UHMW for the same price as one piece of Teflon.

"Now, let me ask you for a favor. Once you try it, I want you to make a phone call. If it turns out that I've steered you wrong, I want you to call my boss and tell him all about it. And if you try it and it works--which it will--then I want you to call your current supplier and ask him why he's never bothered to find out what you're doing with this, and why he's been selling you something that costs you six times what it should. Is that fair?"

Needless to say, we had a new customer from then on.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cuchulainn's Lament

Now listening to Caoineadh cu Chulainn. Cuchulainn was Irish, the castle Eilean Donan is Scottish, but the poetry fits well despite that.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


When Josh first met Gwen, he asked what she was reading, and they got to talking about science fiction books. She said her favorite was a classic, Jyoon.
And Josh thought, but didn't say: "Jyoon? Not ringing any kind of bell. Jewen? Juen? June? Nothing. What the hell is Jyoon? I am a Big Time Science Fiction Nerd. If it was a classic, I'd have heard of it. And I've never heard of a book called Jyoon. She must think I'm a poser who's just chatting her up. Is this some obscure Australian author? Is this...oh."

The Lost World

Watched the 1992 version of The Lost World, based on the Conan Doyle novel. Definitely not a high budget film, but fun. It's a classic pulp story, including romance between the Native Princess and the Intrepid Hero, and John-Rhys Davies does a good job as Professor Challenger.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Kayak and Jellyfish

Went out for an hour near sunset, and the jellies have started to arrive. These are not fish made of strawberry jelly. These are translucent white, three to six inches across, the big ones streaming tentacles that reach eighteen inches long or more. They're hard to take photos of--the camera wants to focus at the light reflecting from the water's surface, so the jellyfish shows up as a ghostly blob.  Right now there are relatively few of them, but soon it'll be about three jellyfish per cubic foot of water.
Also saw an osprey, some gulls, and some little birds, white and black with sharp wings, who pulled up into a hover and then dropped straight down into the water. And a heron who was rather annoyed when I slipped in view around some marsh grass only ten yards away from him; he hopped into the air and flew off, croaking.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

George Mason econ

Josh has occasionally made mention of his plan to become President for Life of a small third world country. Well someone else from the GMU Economics department is showing that it can be done. Abdiweli Ali, a professor at Niagara University with a PhD in Economics from George Mason, has been appointed Prime Minister of Somalia. Josh, of course, is wondering when he can follow Dr Ali's footsteps; everyone else is wondering how Dr Ali can make Somalia more libertarian.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Being a Knife Fighter

Here's an interesting article on how to use a knife (or, by extension, other weapon, including firearms) successfully in a serious situation. It's not about technique, it's about attitude. Not "Look at me, I'm a tough guy, aren't you scared?", not "see my flashy moves", just go ahead and put him down. If you read some of Miyomoto Musashi's duels, you'll see the same thing. The usual procedure was that the duelists would square off, recite their lineage, announce their challenge, and posture. Musashi would run right up and attack on the run. Often one blow was enough to finish the opponent.
Or to put it another way: when the bad guy get the drop on someone, he doesn't just shoot; instead, he holds the ambushee at gunpoint while he makes a speech. Don't be a bad guy.

By the way, an amusing bit from that article: "Lesson number one...if, in a physical confrontation, an old fat man ever asks you if you are ready, you are going to learn a very unpleasant lesson."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Spending a million

I spent a million dollars today.
Our condo association is re-siding and repairing eleven buildings, and the board voted on the bids today. The total was a bit over a million, and I voted, so...actually, they had a quorum without me, and everyone else voted a different way than I did, so I suppose I didn't actually spend a million, but "not spending a million" is only noteworthy if you're a government.
Incidentally, our Federal FY2011 spending was $3.8 trillion, or $3,818,800 million, which means a million dollars every eight seconds, all day, every day. I didn't vote in favor of that either.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day: Nemesis Liberator Mkl III

Josh came into my room at midnight last night because he just couldn't wait till morning to hand me my Father's Day gift. It's a heavy box, marked "Fragile: Ossotronic Valve Guages" and "Handle with Care: Photons in Transit", and with a label that proclaims a Nemesis Liberator.

Inside was the latest in ossotronic weapons technology, a Liberator hand cannon:

Nemesis Liberator Mk III, left side

Nemesis Liberator Mk III, right side
We are now fully prepared to fight off any zombies or sky pirate incursions.
On display beside the rapier

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Plaza Azteca

I had an urge for something Mexican, and Josh has always liked Mex food, so he took me to Plaza Azteca as a pre-Father's Day dinner. I had an enchilada and chile rellenos, which I'd never had before. Wasn't as spicy as I'd been anticipating from a stuffed pepper. It was good, although not good enough that I'd fight my way through a horde of zombies to get it again. Still, it was something new, which was the point. Can't know if you're going to love it, if you don't try it.

From the Silk Road

Gwen sent us silk place mats and table runner, along with chopsticks, from her trip to China. Not just Chinese silk, but the right colors for our living/dining room. Plus a handmade card, which scored yet more extra bonus points. Josh knew the package was coming, but it was a complete surprise to us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gobekli Tepe

This site in southern Turkey is " the oldest known example of monumental architecture—the first structure human beings put together that was bigger and more complicated than a hut. When these pillars were erected, so far as we know, nothing of comparable scale existed in the world."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mini Ice Age ?

The next sunspot cycle has been unable to obtain a government waiver and may be cancelled. This in turns means we may really be in for climate change...but of the Mini Ice Age sort rather than the Global Warming sort, which is obviously a Bad Thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Game reviews

From Armed and Dangerous, a review of ZMan Games Merchants and Marauders and Yggdrasil. After reading this review, I'm particularly interested in Yggdrasil, both because it's cooperative and because it can be played solo.

A Good Girlfriend

Josh: Guess what Gwen has done?
Me (pre-caffeine): Ur?
Josh: She has found a dive expert in Maryland who will take me diving on a German U boat and a Confederate schooner, and basically all I have to do is drive up to Maryland to him. That is the Coolest. Thing. Ever.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The real GDP

If you measure GDP by income instead of spending, the economy isn't as good as we thought. The downturn happened about the time the Dems got control of Congress, but I'm sure that's a coincidence.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Invading New Zealand

"There's a day off in it for you"
Hat tip (or blame) to Zoe Brain

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Alan Parsons

Now listening to Alan Parsons Project, The Ace of Swords

Sun blows up

Watch the video, think about how big the Sun is (about 860,000 miles across, more than 100 times the size of Earth), and think about how big that explosion is.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Antimatter containment

Last year, CERN announced that they'd captured 38 antimatter atoms for 172 milliseconds. They've just announced that they have now captured and kept antimatter for 1000 seconds.

June 6

On this day, 155,000 Allied soldiers--primarily Canadian, American, English--landed on the Normandy beaches in 1944.

Also, in 1674, Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire, was crowned. And in 2002, an asteroid entered the atmosphere over the eastern Mediterranean, and exploded with force similar to a small nuclear weapon.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Australia's a Good Role Model

One advantage of not having a One World Government is that different countries can try different things and see what actually works, as opposed to what ivory tower academics and inexperienced community organizers say will work.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Casa de la Garza

I spent a couple of hours in the kayak a little bit upstream from our house, harassing herons.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Bought a ticket today for my vacation to Arizona, scheduled for the end of August.
"Arizona in August? Won't that be hot?"
Yes....that's the point.