What’s Next?

January 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Posted in Economics, Off the Wall, Workplace | Leave a comment

As I have written beofre, I am quite interested (and a bit amused) at watching modern industrial countries try to come to grips with their plummeting fertility rates.  Here is an interesting article that I just stumbled across.

One wonders:  If the government is going to go this far, what will come next?  Given the writing on the wall plus envoronmental concerns like this, we could see some interesting social upheavals in the near future.

Appropriate Quote

January 5, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

Democracy, an ideal which is simple to excess, was vainly applied to a society which was complex to the point of craziness.

G. K Chesterton, in an essay “On Industrialism”, speaking about American government in the early twentieth century.

Move Your Money

December 30, 2009 at 2:39 pm | Posted in Economics, Personal | Leave a comment

There have been all sorts of ideas, most unworkable, about how to get the country’s economy back on its feet.  This is probably the best I’ve seen.  Get your money out of the global economy and invest it locally.

Disclaimer:  I have had my money in my local credit union ever since I was ten years old or so.  I recently closed my BB&T account and strictly work through my local credit union, except for my mortgage.

And, being that I’m a sucker for George Bailey, I ask that you sit back and watch this:

Coming Soon….

December 30, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Posted in Economics, Technology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

There’s so much bad news on the upcoming decade that I can’t even get myself to blog about it.  It seems to me that the US of A is quickly headed towards one of those “Lost Decades” that we smugly assumed could never happen here.  But unless a gamechanger arises quickly to redistribute economic power in the world, there doesn’t seem to be much hope of escaping it.

So, I’m holding onto 3D printing as one of the possible gamechangers.  I really don’t think people appreciate how much DIY manufacturing would affect our pipelined economy.  And to really put a futuristic spin on it, check this out.

[photo of cool 3D medical printer goes here when I can get WordPress to insert it]

Nifty, huh?  Think of the possibilities:  theoretically, any human organ could be manufactured and microsurgically attached with no fear of rejection.  Bones, joints, blood vessels — maybe even entire limbs could one day be replaced!  There’s a gamechanger for you….

And act now, and you can have your own (non-medical) 3D printer for under ten thousand dollars….

At Last!

November 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Economics | Leave a comment

Here is an article in The Atlantic that carefully outlines all the problems in our health care system in words that just about anyone can understand.  At last, I’ve found a resource that analyses the problem from the proper economic viewpoint!

Note that the solution that the author recommends is the exact opposite of the bloated behemoth that was passed by the House the other day….


Learning Linkstation Linux

October 6, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Posted in Personal, Technology | 1 Comment

The hard drive on my Tivo Companion seems to be having issues, so I took it offline before I lost all our media.  I’ve been looking at bumping things to the next level, anyway.   I mean, a Windows server is cool, but nothing is as l33t as a Linux server appliance!  So, when I found a great deal on a Buffalo Linkstation on eBay (natch), I just had to take the plunge.

So, after we cracked the case to verify that it was in good working order, my Padawan and I set it up on its own subnet and flashed it to a Freelink distro of Debian Linux.  Then, it was time to put it on the network, roll up the sleeves, fire up a terminal emulator, and wade in.  Of course, none of the detailed instructions that we had found on line panned out, so I’ve been making up a lot of steps via trial and error.  So far, we’ve managed to get Java loaded and a Samba share visible on the network.  I was trying to load VNC when the root partition ran out of space.  Now, I’m trying to figure out how to repartition a remote server … way cool!

Getting the new Tivo Server up and running may take a bit longer than I had hoped, but the result will be worth it.  So, in the meantime, let me leave you with four Lessons Learned:

  1. GUIs are for wimps.
  2. apt is the coolest thing since sliced bread.
  3. The World Wide Web is really just an extended man page for Linux.
  4. vi is a practical joke on the rest of the world that Bill Joy is still chuckling about.  

And, I still haven’t hit upon the right name for the server yet.  Suggestions?

A Country For Old Men

October 6, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Economics, Workplace | Leave a comment

As the few long-term readers of this blog know, I continue to be fascinated by the effect of demographics on a nations economy.  I find this topic especially interesting, because, unlike other factors, demographics are a long-term and long-lasting factor in a nation’s development.  It takes nine months just to create a new citizen, plus a decade or two to develop him or her into a truly productive member.  One cannot turn that ship around overnight.  So, a trend in birth rates now must shape the nation decades hence.

One of the biggest effects that are commonly brought to attention is  the “dependency ratio”, or how many citizens the average working-age member must support by his or her labor.  As the population ages, the dependency ratio goes up and becomes more burdensome on the economy, especially for more socialist states with a high level of guaranteed welfare.  But as a recent article points out, the effect of an aging population can be felt even earlier in terms of a nation’s savings rate and trade deficit. 

To summarize, a middle-age population tends to save more than they consume, as they enter their high-wage years and the expense of raising their children comes to an end.   This leads to greater exports (see Germany, China, and Russia).  However, as their wage-earning years tail off, they begin to consume more and save less.  To avoid a crippling trade imbalance, they must find a way to increase their exports.  But without a sizeable younger population to employ, how can they increase production?  Watch invesment capital start to flee China and Russia in the near future as it becomes apparent that they no longer have the workforce to exploit any increase in production capacity….

Read “A Country for Old Men and a Bit of Sambahere.

Trek Talk and the DOE

September 25, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Posted in Arts, Science, Technology | 3 Comments

Remember the wonderful tech-talk that the writers were so fond of on Star Trek?  Just reflect on the melodious qualities of this line:   “We’ll be retuning phasers to higher EM base emitting frequencies to try to disrupt their subspace field.”  Ah, music.  And who among us has not slipped into an aesthetic trance mulling over the metaphysical implications of  the Transporter’s Heisenberg Compensators?

So, when I stumbled across this one on an electronics trade mag website, I just had to post it for you all to enjoy. 

Sandia National Laboratories’ project, “Semi-polar GaN Materials Technology for High IQE Green LEDs,” seeks to improve the internal quantum efficiency (IQE) in green nitride-based LED structures by using semi-polar GaN planar orientations for InGaN multiple quantum well (MQW) growth. The DOE said that these semi-polar orientations have the advantage of significantly reducing the piezoelectric fields that distort the quantum well band structure and decrease electron-hole overlap. At the end of this program, Sandia National Laboratories expects MQW active regions at 540 nm with an IQE of 50%, which with an 80% light extraction efficiency should produce LEDs with an external quantum efficiency of 40%, or twice the estimated current state-of-the-art.

Now that’s poetry.

My Life According To…

September 14, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Arts, Off the Wall, Personal | Leave a comment

I got this “meme” from Rudy Mueller on Facebook.  He did his Life According to Led Zepplin.  So, in keeping with 11th grade English class, I had to try to do him one better….


Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to 10 people and include me. You can’t use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It’s a lot harder than you think! Repost as “my life according to (band name)

Pick your Artist:
Weird Al Yankovic

Are you a male or female:
Such a Groovy Guy

Describe yourself:
White and Nerdy

How do you feel:
I Want a New Duck

Describe where you currently live:
Fun Zone

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

Your favorite form of transportation:

Your best friend is:
Gandhi II

You and your best friends are:
Six Words Long

What’s the weather like:
One Of Those Days

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
The Saga Begins

What is life to you:
This Is The Life

Your current relationship:
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch / She Never Told Me She Was A Mime

Your fear:
Nature Trail to Hell

What is the best advice you have to give:
Everything You Know Is Wrong

Thought for the Day:
It’s All About The Pentiums

How I would like to die:
Trapped In The Drive-Thru

My soul’s present condition:
The Check’s In The Mail

My motto:
I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead

The Jobless Recovery

September 11, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Economics, Workplace | 1 Comment

 There’s been a lot of talk about the growing suspicion that our economic recovery will not be accompanied by an increase in jobs, and our employment picture will begin to resemble that of FranceClick here for an interesting piece in Time magazine, which I will discuss briefly below.

First, the sardonic quote:

We’re a long way from Hoovervilles, of course. But it’s not hard to imagine, if we’re not careful, a country sprouting listless Obamavilles: idled workers minivanning aimlessly through overleveraged cul-de-sacs with no way to pay their mortgages, no health care, little hope of meaningful work and only the hot comfort of angry politics.

Next, the “get a dictionary” quote:

Hysteresis is a word that you (and the rest of us) should hope we don’t hear too much of in the coming months. It comes from the Greek husteros, which means late. It refers to what happens when something snaps in such a way that it can never be put back together. Bend a plastic ruler too far, drop that lightbulb — that cracking sound you hear is the marker of hysteresis. There’s no way to restore what has just been smashed.

And now, the scary quote:

The funding for job creation in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was based on an assumed 8.9% unemployment rate. Now 15% is a realistic possibility. And yet we’re hearing few interesting ideas about how to enhance America’s already groaning unemployment support system as millions of Americans sit idle. Tangled in the debate over health care — and bleeding political capital — the White House may find itself too weak and distracted to deal with the danger of joblessness.

Finally, the insightful quote:

The painful fact is that the 1930s option, to have the government directly employ millions of people in labor fronts, is not an option today. “There’s no way to create real jobs using this approach,” says Harvard professor Roberto Mangabeira Unger. In the 1930s, you could throw 10,000 people with shovels at dam or road projects. Today the work of 10,000 shovels is done by a few machines — and it was a lot easier to persuade farmers to switch to ditchdigging than it would be to get laid-off hedge-fund traders to switch to sewer repair, appealing as such an idea might be.

In essence, the much vaunted productivity gains that have boosted the American worker over his foreign rivals are now coming back to bite him.  It’s not enough that the productivity multipliers (computers, robots, machines, and processes) can now be exported around the world, but that in a recession, it’s cheaper to squeeze more productivity out of the remaining workforce than to hire new workers.  Adding additional labor increases capacity by so much now that employers can meet increased demand by only marginal increases in headcount.  So, the virtuous cycle of increased demand -> more hiring -> more consumer spending -> increased demand is short-circuited — increased demand leads to minimal hiring which leads to little incremental demand, and the cycle fizzles.

I suppose that, taking things to rediculous extremes, given infinite productivity one guy could meet all the needs of everyone in the entire country.  Would this one guy get to pocket all the GNP, leaving everyone else to starve?  Or would he be forced to do all the work for everybody … and then why would he bother?  Yes, it’s an extreme example, but it does send conventional labor theory for a loop.  How do we adjust our economy for these huge productivity gains?  Who gets to reap the benefits, without removing incentive from the system?  Interesting questions….

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