census recommendations

Dear President Omaba;

I know you and the Congress are currently struggling with small ways we can reduce the national debt that won’t greatly impact everyone. As I was reviewing my mail this evening I saw a letter from the US Department of Commerce with the words 2010 Census on the envelope. Thinking that this was in-fact the census I opened the envelope to find it contained a letter stating that I would be receiving a letter containing the actual census in one week.

What is this? The Works Progress Administration (WPA) at work here? Did we need to bail out the Postal Service by mailing millions of letters saying “LOOK OUT, a letter is coming!” How many millions did that cost the tax payer?

I realize these are already sunk costs, however I’d like to make an early recommendation for the 2020 Census. Let’s stick to just sending out one letter with the form inside.

Sincerely,
Everyone

P.S. We are also in the 21st century. Perhaps next time we can try conducting the actual census virtually for those of us with Social Security Numbers and drivers licenses?

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price discrimination in action

I came across something during my Sunday shopping routine that really bothered me today. Recently I have been drinking those V8 Splash, vegetable juice hidden in fruit juice, things. I noticed they make a “light” version which has half the calories and sugar content as the regular version. Upon closer inspection I determined that the actual juice content of the “light” version was 42% juice while the regular version was 100% juice. Could this be? V8 is cutting down on the calories and sugar by simply adding more water to the regular product and selling it at the same price? So simple! So genius!

I noticed the same thing with Tropicana Orange Juice. New “light” version where the only decernable difference in the two products is the fact that the light version is only 50% juice!

It is so, companies have found a way to get consumers to self-select even in the juice aisle. For those of you who are price conscious, my recommendation is to simply buy the regular version and add your own water. (It’ll last longer that way!)

Posted in economics, food, insanity | Leave a comment

under the dome

Under the Dome Under the Dome by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ok. At just shy of 1100 pages, this was one monster of a book.

This was my first Stephen King novel and as such was not very familiar with his writing. I have seen a lot of his movies and thoroughly enjoyed them and I thought the premise for this book sounded great. Small town gets cut off from the rest of the world via a large dome? What’s not to like?

The novel explores the dark, unsettling side of human nature. It brings to light the things we have down in our past of which we are not quite proud of and which we can never truly atone for. The main characters struggle with these things throughout the novel ultimately learning that you just have to move on, do your best and learn something. It also explores fundamental Christianity and the use of fear as a political device.

Personally, I thought this book had a real “made-for-tv” movie quality about it. I’m not a huge fan of the reader knowing things that the main characters do not drive you to know. King frequently informs the reader of certain things which are in place or certain people who are going to die chapters before.

Foreshadowing is one thing, outright telling people what is going to happen is another. I can almost see a conversation happening between two unsuspecting people as the camera pans away so the viewer can see the bomb set to go off.

I gave this novel three stars because it was entertaining and the story did keep moving forward, however I’m not sure I am going to run out and buy another of King’s novels just yet.

View all my reviews >>

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clear philadelphia

A few months back Clear, the WiMax 4G Joint-Venture between Sprint, Comcast and a host of other companies launched in the Philadelphia area claiming broadband speeds up to 4X faster than the cell phone companies. Given that neither Comcast High-speed, nor Verizon FiOS was available in my Center City condo, I decided to give it a try.

Ordering:

I signed up for the “Pick-2″ promotion with both Mobile and Home Internet. Sign-up was easy and the order without a 2-year contract was completed in less than five minutes.

The next-business day I had two packages waiting for me. The packages arrived covered in “hazardous materials” stickers. This completely threw me off from the fact that this was the order I had placed the day before. I’m not sure if the goal here was to scare would be criminals from stealing my order, or if I am now in-fact slowly dying of radiation poisoning.

The “Home” package contained a shark-fin Motorola WiMax modem, Ethernet cable, power cable and installation manual. The “Mobile” package contained a Motorola WiMax USB modem, USB flash drive containing installation software and a USB adapter allowing you to rotate the modem perpendicularly.

Installation and use:

Installation was about as simple as could be. For the Home modem all I did was plug it into the wall and my WiFi router. In about 30 seconds it found a signal and obtained an IP-address. After loading up my computer I was redirected to the Clear registration page where I could sign up for Clear email and set up the remainder of my billing information. The hardest part of the whole set-up was trying to find the best signal in my home. The top of the modem has five bars, much like a cell phone. You obviously want as many bars as possible to light up. Unfortunately I could only achieve three bars. This means speeds in the home were anything but “super-fast.” In my informal tests during peak hours (9pm) I was able to achieve between 1 – 1.5mbps downstream.

Mobile installation required me to install the software contained on the USB flash drive first. After that was installed a little green and white icon was placed on my desktop. Once you load the Clear software and plug in the USB modem, Clear attempts to find a signal and offers to connect to the network for you. Instead of five bars, the Clear Connection Manager has ten which show you your current signal strength. Once connected and stationary I was able to achieve roughly 3.2mbps down with bursts to 4mbps and 82kbps up. (These speeds were obtained just outside of Center City, near Overbrook Station.) Consistently, within my home, the speeds obtained by my mobile USB device were faster than the speeds obtained by the larger device. Even moving the position of my in-home device did not help.

I mainly signed up for the mobile package so that I could use my computer on my commute to and from work. I ride the R5-Throndale train which is well-within Clear’s mobile coverage area. Unfortunately the signal on that line is not exactly consistent. Frequently as the train gets up to speed my connection is dropped. Once you get to stations further down the mainline, Villanova, Radnor, etc, it becomes impossible to connect. Perhaps they should take down their ads in the train cars which only serve to frustrate and taunt me as I wait for a reconnection.

Major cons:

- The IP Address assigned by clear is in the 192.168.x.x range which is not publicly addressable. If you run dyndns or some other dynamic DNS service for reaching your home network, you will be out of luck with Clear.
- This thing does not work on fast(er) moving vehicles (defying the laws of physics.) Be sure to take Clear for a test drive on your normal route if you plan to rely on it for a connection while moving. (Clear does have another option for 3G/4G connections. This option has a high $250 up-front cost, but can serve to smooth out dead-spots within the 4G coverage area.)

Bottom line:

Clear isn’t exactly the “super-fast” mobile Internet they claim to be. Especially in areas outside of Center City and along the main-line. If Clear or DSL are your only options in the home, Clear is definitely better than DSL or dial-up. If you can get FiOS or Cable, stick with those. For the mobile option, the speeds are definitely faster than 4G, but only if you are in a fixed location. Travel around the coverage area and you are likely to get spotty speeds.

Clear Philadelphia Review
————-

A few months back Clear, the WiMax 4G Joint-Venture between Sprint, Comcast and a

host of other companies launched in the Philadelphia area claiming broadband speeds

up to 4X faster than the cell phone companies. Given that neither Comcast High-speed,

nor Verizon FiOS was available in my Center City condo, I decided to give it a try. I

signed up for the “Pick-2″ promotion with both Mobile and Home Internet. Sign-up was

easy and the order without a 2-year contract was completed in less than five minutes.

The next-business day I had two packages waiting for me. The packages arrived covered

in “hazardous materials” stickers. This completely threw me off from the fact that

this was the order I had placed the day before. I’m not sure if the goal here was to

scare would be criminals from stealing my order, or if I am now in-fact slowly dying

of radiation poisoning.

The “Home” package contained a shark-fin Motorola WiMax modem, Ethernet cable, power

cable and installation manual. The “Mobile” package contained a Motorola WiMax USB

modem, USB flash drive containing installation software and a USB adapter allowing

you to rotate the modem perpendicularly.

Installation was about as simple as could be. For the Home modem all I did was plug

it into the wall and my WiFi router. In about 30 seconds it found a signal and

obtained an IP-address. After loading up my computer I was redirected to the Clear

registration page where I could sign up for Clear email and set up the remainder of

my billing information. The hardest part of the whole set-up was trying to find the

best signal in my home. The top of the modem has five bars, much like a cell phone.

You obviously want as many bars as possible to light up. Unfortunately I could only

achieve three bars. This means speeds in the home were anything but “super-fast.” In

my informal tests during peak hours (9pm) I was able to achieve between 1 – 1.5mbps

downstream.

Mobile installation required me to install the software contained on the USB flash

drive first. After that was installed a little green and white icon was placed on my

desktop. Once you load the Clear software and plug in the USB modem, Clear attempts

to find a signal and offers to connect to the network for you. Instead of five bars,

the Clear Connection Manager has ten which show you your current signal strength.

Once connected and stationary I was able to achieve roughly 3.2mbps down with bursts

to 4mbps and 82kbps up. (These speeds were obtained just outside of Center City, near

Overbrook Station.) Consistently, within my home, the speeds obtained by my mobile

USB device were faster than the speeds obtained by the larger device. Even moving the

position of my in-home device did not help.

I mainly signed up for the mobile package so that I could use my computer on my

commute to and from work. I ride the R5-Throndale train which is well-within Clear’s

mobile coverage area (http://www.clear.com/coverage). Unfortunately the signal on

that line is not exactly consistent. Frequently as the train gets up to speed my

connection is dropped. Once you get to stations further down the mainline, Villanova,

Radnor, etc, it becomes impossible to connect. Perhaps they should take down their

ads in the train cars which only serve to frustrate and taunt me as I wait for a

reconnection.

Big Cons:

- The IP Address assigned by clear is in the 192.168.x.x range which is not

publically addressable. If you run dyndns or some other dynamic DNS service for

reaching your home network, you will be out of luck with Clear.
- This thing does not work on fast(er) moving vehicles (defying the laws of

physics.) Be sure to take Clear for a test drive on your normal route if you plan to

rely on it for a connection while moving. (Clear does have another option for 3G/4G

connections. This option has a high $250 up-front cost, but can serve to smooth out

dead-spots within the 4G coverage area.)

Bottom line: Clear isn’t exactly the “super-fast” mobile Internet they claim to be.

Especially in areas outside of Center City and along the main-line. If Clear or DSL

are your only options in the home, Clear is definitely better than DSL or dial-up. If

you can get FiOS or Cable, stick with those. For the mobile option, the speeds are

definitely faster than 4G, but only if you are in a fixed location. Travel around the

coverage area and you are likely to get spotty speeds.

Posted in computers, philly, review | 1 Comment

well-intentioned government-created waste

This is a tremendous example of well-meaning government creating inefficients and waste. Take a look at the article from across the pond:

Twelve million low-energy light bulbs were posted to households over Christmas by an energy company as part of its legal obligation to cut carbon emissions, despite government advice that many would never be used.

A survey in July by the Energy Saving Trust found that the average home had six unused ones lying in drawers and cupboards.

In 2008 the Government ordered the big energy companies to invest in measures for improving energy efficiency and cutting fuel poverty.

Companies can choose how to meet their obligations.

Companies were allowed to register immediate carbon savings from every bulb issued on the assumption that all recipients instantly installed them in some of their most intensively used light sockets. In reality, many people either stored the bulbs or threw them away, often because they were the wrong fitting or wattage.

The companies can also meet their obligations by paying for homes to be insulated. This guarantees energy savings but is much more expensive.

Companies can pass on all the costs of the scheme to their customers. Over three years it is expected to add more than £100 to the average household’s energy bills.

This is a wonderful example of a well intentioned goal, reducing carbon emissions, turning into an inefficient, inexcusable and costly piece of waste. Companies, much like indivduals, respond to positive and negative incentives. When governments create a market distortion (e.g., provide an incentive) two things will happen 1) the distortion will lead to disequilibrium and very likely unintended consequences; and 2) the companies will follow the path of least resistance, which also happens to be the path of least cost. In this situation, resulting in 12m light bulbs sent to everyone in the country creating countless waste, not to mention the environmental impact of the shipping and packaging materials used. Oh, and the fact that the customers will eventually have to pay for these bulbs, you see nothing is really free.

These politicians were moronic to think that the companies would, out of the goodness of their hearts, pay for an expensive home insulation program and eat the full cost.

Original Article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6973577.ece

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great quote

Fantastic article, as always, by Bruce:

A terrorist attack cannot possibly destroy a country’s way of life; it’s only our reaction to that attack that can do that kind of damage. The more we undermine our own laws, the more we convert our buildings into fortresses, the more we reduce the freedoms and liberties at the foundation of our societies, the more we’re doing the terrorists’ job for them.

Is aviation security mostly for show? CNN.com

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kudos al-queda

Dear Al-Queda,

Congratulations! Look’s like once again you have struck a victory even in the face of what looks like defeat. Don’t get me wrong, your plans were not foiled in any way. The security measures in place absolutely failed to notice anything suspicious. The only thing that went wrong was your man screwed up. So, good job on accomplishing that first victory. Now, your second victory wasn’t even something you had to do in order to irreparably harm the lives of millions. The Dutch government has decided that it will shove millimeter wave scanning on all individuals traveling to the United States. Won’t be long before we have the same scanners installed on domestic flights.

You can thank the reactionary fear-mongering governments of the world for doing what you never could, which is erode the freedoms and personal liberties of the democratic and civilized world.

So once again, congratulations on your two victories. I’m sure your leadership is so proud.

Now America, ask yourself: Could we have caught this person using full body scanners? Most likely. Could we have also caught him by profiling individuals from Muslim nations with shady backgrounds and banking transactions? Statistics point to yes. Could the attack have been prevented by following a non-interventionist foreign policy? almost assuredly.

This is surely going to be unpopular. I am in no-way justifying the attempted attack, but think about how our actions around the world drive individuals and organizations to extreme (and seemingly unprovoked) re-actions. There are two options to address this concern; the first is that you hunt down every suspected organization and individual who might pose even the slightest threat to the United States. This option is surely expensive, looks bad to the rest of the world, is very bloody, is only going to further the nanny-state and will ultimately be impossible. The other option is to stop doing the things around the world which drive people mad enough to blow themselves up and kill innocent people. (Like say, overthrowing governments only to have a more oppressive one take it’s place.)  Whichever option is ultimately chosen by the powers that be, just be prepared for the costs, monetary and otherwise.

Continue to give up liberty for a little security, just don’t come crying when you have neither.

Posted in government, insanity, privacy | Leave a comment