Sunday, December 28, 2008

Par2 Backups <- Note the second video

So I wanted to find a program that could make a parity for files. I already have most of my stuff on multiple hard drives, but I like to burn it to dvd every once in a while. My first thought was to do something like RAID 1 on dvd where I'd burn it to 2 dvds and any errors be fixed with the other. There turned out to be no easy way to do this, so instead I found a program called par2 which can build parities for files. At first I found it rather confusing, but now I rather like it. It claims to support multiple files, but I can't figure out how to make it work on a whole directory at once, it seems to want me to list every file indivdually, there must be some way to do it. Either way I found it easy to just compress everything first as a .7z archive, then build the parity for that. Here's how it works, you give it a command like par2 create test.mpg, and you get:
test.mpg.par2 - This is an index file for verification only
test.mpg.vol00+01.par2 - Recovery file with 1 recovery block
test.mpg.vol01+02.par2 - Recovery file with 2 recovery blocks
test.mpg.vol03+04.par2 - Recovery file with 4 recovery blocks
test.mpg.vol07+08.par2 - Recovery file with 8 recovery blocks
test.mpg.vol15+16.par2 - Recovery file with 16 recovery blocks
test.mpg.vol31+32.par2 - Recovery file with 32 recovery blocks
test.mpg.vol63+37.par2 - Recovery file with 37 recovery blocks

At first I didn't get this block concept, but as it turns out a block is just 1/1000th of a file. So if you had 1 block of parity data you could repair a file that was up to .1% corrupt. The blocks are interchangable, so if you only needed 1 block of parity data you could use any of the above files. If you needed 15 blocks worth you could use the first 4 files togethor (1 + 2 + 4 + 8 = 15 blocks), or you could use any of the last 3 by them selves each of which would have more parity then you needed. As one last example if you needed 25 blocks worth but were missing all but files 2-5 that would work (2 + 4 + 8 + 16 = 30 > 25).

The index file is always about 40kb, and is only useful to verify the file is ok, and I think you need it to rebuild the file. To rebuild you'll need at least 1 block, and the program will tell you exactly how many you'll need. By default it only does 5% (50 blocks) worth of parity, but I went ahead and ran it at 100%. My backup .7z file is about 500megs, so I'll be able to burn it plus all the parity data to a dvd, and then store it somewhere safe. The neat thing is I'll also be able to email myself the first couple parity files so that if there is mild corruption I'll be able to recover with just them.

I tested to make sure it worked, opened the file in a hex editor and deleted about half the file. I then delted a coupld of the parity data files, leave more than half it should need, it rebuilt the file fine. I then deleted the entire orginal file, and left all the parity files, and it complety rebuilt the file from scratch. It took a little over an hour to build the 100% parity on my 500meg file.

In fact, they are. In a remarkable experiment, Margaret Shin, Todd Pittinsky, and Nalini Ambady asked Asian- American women to take an objective math exam. But first they divided the women into two groups. The women in one group were asked questions related to their gender. For example, they were asked about their opinions and preferences regarding coed dorms, thereby priming their thoughts for gender-related issues. The women in the second group were asked questions related to their race. These questions referred to the languages they knew, the languages they spoke at home, and their family's history in the United States, thereby prim­ing the women's thoughts for race-related issues.

The performance of the two groups differed in a way that matched the stereotypes of both women and Asian- Americans. Those who had been reminded that they were women performed worse than those who had been reminded that they were Asian-American. These results show that even our own behavior can be influenced by our stereotypes, and that activation of stereotypes can depend on our current state of mind and how we view ourselves at the moment.

A second experiment tested the same general idea by priming the concept of the elderly, using words such as Florida, bingo, and ancient. After the participants in this experiment completed the scrambled-sentence task, they left the room, thinking that they had finished the experiment—but in fact the crux of the study was just beginning. What truly interested the researchers was how long it would take the participants to walk down the hallway as they left the building. Sure enough, the participants in the experimental group were affected by the "elderly" words: their walking speed was considerably slower than that of a control group who had not been primed. And remember, the primed participants were not themselves elderly people being reminded of their frailty—they were undergraduate students at NYU.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ariely and Shin conducted an experiment on MIT students. They devised a computer game which offered players three doors: Red, Blue, and Green. You started with 100 clicks. You clicked to enter a room. Once in a room, each click netted you between 1-10 cents. You could also switch rooms (at the cost of a click). The rooms were programmed to provide different levels of rewards (there was variation within each room's payoffs, but it was pretty easy to tell which one provided the best payout).

  • Players tended to try all three rooms, figure out which one had the highest payout, and then spend all their time there. (These are MIT students we're talking about).
  • Then, however, Ariely introduced a new wrinkle: Any door left unvisited for 12 clicks would disappear forever. With each click, the unclicked doors shrank by 1/12th.
    • Players jumped from door to door, trying to keep their options open
    • They made 15% less money; in fact, by choosing any of the doors and sticking with it, they could have made more money
  • Ariely increased the cost of opening a door to 3 cents; no change--players still seemed compelled to keeping their options open.
  • Ariely told participants the exact monetary payoff of each door; no change.
  • Ariely allowed participants as many practice runs as they wanted before the actual experiment; no change
  • Ariely changed the rules so that any door could be "reincarnated" with a single click; no change.
  • "Players just couldn't tolerate the idea of the loss, and so they did whatever was necessary to prevent their doors from closing, even though disappearance had no real consequences and could be easily reversed."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wall Street Kid and Daylight

So I've been obsessed with actually beating Wall Street Kid. I started keeping track of the prices on paper, and then switched over to a spreadsheet. After 3 games I finally bought the house (I probably would have got it in the second game but I accidentally agreed to buy it early). Turns out, there are 4 different types of stock and each week 2 of those types are doing well, and all the member stocks will tend to go up. There is no penalty for buying and selling so you want to buy and sell every day if needed. To make a long story short, after about 3 hours of logging data I used the strategy of buying whatever stock did best that day, usually the same stock does best all week. Buying the house is only the first level, but once you have it you can get loans, and it makes it pretty easy so I stopped playing. Note that I was getting about 20-25% a week by buying the best stocks. If you bought all the stocks in the types doing well you'll average about 15%. You have 4 weeks to turn 500k into 1000k so you need at least 19% a week, or 3.75% a day.

So I was reading something that mentioned that due to the Earth elliptical orbit the summer is longer than the winter. This meant that contrary to my long held belief the year did not have exactly equal amounts of day and night. So I put the sunrise/sunset data for a year into a spreadsheet and figured out exactly how much extra daylight we were stealing from the southern hemisphere (since they had extra night for our extra day). Turns out there are 4,644 hours 43 minutes of daylight per year, while you'd only expect 4,380 hours given 12 hour average daylight. Meaning we get an extra 264:43 of daylight every year, or 1:26 per day.

I've been wanting to start a new thread here for a while. I've been doing a lot of research about astronomy, so I was going to start with a email about that, but surprisingly I've been to lazy. But I am reading the first book I've read in months, and I like it a lot, so this email will be about that. It's called Predictably Irrational, and it's about how people behave irrational, but in a predictable manner, I'm not sure where they got the title from. Here's the review where I learned about it:

From the review I immediately compared it to Freakonomics, which I liked a lot, but if I remember you read and didn't really care about. Well I've attached it, so you can read it if you want. If you do you may want to not read my thoughts on it, as it'll be sort of like spoilers.

It starts with an example I've seen before, possibly on Slashdot, and that I may have written about in a past email. It is a supscription scheme for some economics journal. They had 3 options:
1. Internet-only subscription for $59.
2. Print-only subscription for $125.
3. Print-and-Internet subscription for $125.

When I gave these options to 100 students at MIT' s Sloan School of Management, they opted as follows:
1. Internet-only subscription for $59—16 students
2. Print-only subscription for $125—zero students
3. Print-and-Internet subscription for $125—84 students

However when he removed the middle option, the one no one picked, he got different results:
Au contraire! This time, 68 of the students chose the Internet-only option for $59, up from 16 before. And only 32 chose the combination subscription for $125, down from 84 before.

What could have possibly changed their minds? Nothing rational, I assure you. It was the mere presence of the decoy that sent 84 of them to the print-and-Internet option (and 16 to the Internet-only option). And the absence of the decoy had them choosing differently, with 32 for print-and-Internet and 68 for Internet-only.

And then there's this:
An ironic aspect of this story is that in 1993, federal secu­rities regulators forced companies, for the first time, to reveal details about the pay and perks of their top executives. The idea was that once pay was in the open, boards would be re­luctant to give executives outrageous salaries and benefits. This, it was hoped, would stop the rise in executive compen­sation, which neither regulation, legislation, nor shareholder pressure had been able to stop. And indeed, it needed to stop: in 1976 the average CEO was paid 36 times as much as the average worker. By 1993, the average CEO was paid 131 times as much.

But guess what happened. Once salaries became public information, the media regularly ran special stories ranking CEOs by pay. Rather than suppressing the executive perks, the publicity had CEOs in America comparing their pay with that of everyone else. In response, executives' salaries sky­rocketed. The trend was further "helped" by compensation consulting firms (scathingly dubbed "Ratchet, Ratchet, and Bingo" by the investor Warren Buffett) that advised their CEO clients to demand outrageous raises. The result? Now the average CEO makes about 369 times as much as the aver­age worker—about three times the salary before executive compensation went public.

Sunday, December 14, 2008,_its_all_about_Gnomes

"Mr. Somsel, in an interview Thursday, said he had done further research and was concerned that the radio signal — or the Internet instructions that would be sent, in an emergency, from utilities' central control stations to the broadcasters sending the FM signal — could be hacked into.

That is not possible, said Nicole Tam, a spokeswoman for P.G.& E. who works with the pilot program in Stockton. Radio pages "are encrypted and encoded," Ms. Tam said."

not possible = will be done in days.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I've sent this idea before, but this one is better because it includes estimates for the times where the exact number isn't specified, and brief descriptions of the offenses.
"For complaining about the lack of food and water, God sent fiery serpents to bite the people, and many of them died"

Saturday, November 29, 2008
"We have exclusive rights to the software for measuring fish"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I remember seeing this before, but it's interesting for a few reasons. First if you remember our wondering about how the south (or rural areas in general) seemed to tax much less, (and my reasoning being that farms are able to provide are large amount of taxes while only requiring a small amount of government services). This seems to directly oppose that, still one cannot deny that there were less taxes in the south. First I'd like to know just how they determine which state to say got federally spent dollars. Does FL get credit for all the money spent by NASA at Cape Carnaval? Secondly I'd like to know what the bulk of the money the south is getting goes towards. Farm subsidaries? Money being spent on military bases and other federal government opperated organizations since they have so much free land? Third it occures to me that the more rural states probably pay and receive a lot less in absolute terms (as in less actual dollars), since they have less people. There could be a base cost of providing for a state which becomes more signifigant as the population decreases (and with it the per person cost). Lastly it's worth noting that NJ gives the most and receives the least.

Well conveintly there's a lot more interesting data on the subject is available.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

For a while now it's been bothering me (and I'm sure you too) that while I consider myself familiar with the US Constitution, I have never read the NJ Constitution. I was surprised to learn we've had 3 constitutions, the current one being adopted in 1947. Here's a fun fact about our first and second ones:
"Among other provisions, [the first constitution] granted unmarried women and blacks who met property requirements the right to vote."
"The succeeding constitution, adopted on June 29, 1844, restricted suffrage to white males."

Interestingly enough Hangout NJ "the state's Web site for kids!" interprets this as:
"In the mid-1800s New Jersey citizens wanted a more democratic state government."

A lot of god stuff:
"We, the people of the State of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for the civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution."

"No person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience;"

Also around Article IV Section VII I started to remember why I never bothered with state constitutions:
"It shall be lawful for bona fide veterans, charitable, educational, religious or fraternal organizations, civic and service clubs, senior citizen associations or clubs, volunteer fire companies and first-aid or rescue squads to conduct, under such restrictions and control as shall from time to time be prescribed by the Legislature by law, games of chance of, and restricted to, the selling of rights to participate, the awarding of prizes, in the specific kind of game of chance sometimes known as bingo or lotto, played with cards bearing numbers or other designations, 5 or more in one line, the holder covering numbers as objects, similarly numbered, are drawn from a receptacle and the game being won by the person who first covers a previously designated arrangement of numbers on such a card, when the entire net proceeds of such games of chance are to be devoted to educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public-spirited uses, and in the case of senior citizen associations or clubs to the support of such organizations, in any municipality, in which a majority of the qualified voters, voting thereon, at a general or special election as the submission thereof shall be prescribed by the Legislature by law, shall authorize the conduct of such games of chance therein;"

Yes this is a paragraph that allows old people to play Bingo. <- It's pretty much a wall of text all the way down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A thought just accurred to me, the stimulus check was $600 per person. A pizza costs about $10, $600/$10 = 60, 52 weeks in the year = free weekly pizzas and a massive pizza party to start it. Politicians are fools.

The McCain campaign reported paying $13,200 in September to celebrity makeup artist Amy Strozzi, who works on the reality show "So You Think You Can Dance." She was paid $22,800 for the first two weeks of October, nearly double what the campaign paid McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, according to a filing report.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"According to Chinese Restaurant News, there are now more Chinese restaurants in America than there are McDonald's franchises—nearly three times as many in fact." About 13k McDonalds in US, 30k worldwide.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Population: 320,169
Wyoming (least populated state) - 522,830

Area: 103,000 km²
Kentucky - 104,659 km², New Jersey - 22,587 km²

Density: 3.1 per km²
Canada - 3.2, Australia - 2.6, North Dakota - 3.6, Alaska - 0.5

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Computer Ethics

Ok, so I have like 30 Slashdot tabs open, with potential subjects. I'll limit them down to the best. I'll admit I don't really know what computer ethics really covers, so some of my subjects may be fringe.

First let me say that if you want to find potential subjects on Slashdot, they have a section your rights online, which this falls into:

As we talked about on the phone, one subject would be software patents. I can think of a number of sub subjects that relate to patents. First let me review patents and copyrights. Patents are for 22 years, and the length pretty much hasn't changed. The purpose of a patent is to explain how your invention works so that after your 22 year monopoly on it others can copy it. This is to prevent people from inventing things then trying to hide how it works and make it difficult to reverse engineer. And also to promote progress when the patent expires. For the most part I think the patent system is fine, perhaps a bit too long, at least for some types (software, drugs). But the largest problem by far is silly patents on everything, this is a big problem in software area.

Copyright on the other hand is something like authors life + 75 years, or 95 years for a corporate copyright. It keeps getting 20 year extensions every time the length is being reached, and most people assume it'll get extended again when it begins to expire some time in 2010's. It's worth noting that the Constitution specifically says congress has the power to grant patents and copyrights to further science and the arts for a limited time, thus unlimited lengths are unconstitutional. It's hard not to go off on a rant about copyrights, but they don't have much to do with computer ethics, so I'll restrain myself.

So first software patents on everything. A common problem in software is that companies patent things that are obvious or that have existed for years, and because the patent office is swamped, and judges are old and don't understand technology a lot of these patents stick. I think one of the most well known cases is "Amazon One-Click Shopping". Note they didn't patent any crazy backend database solution to do this, merely the concept of having a single button a user could click to buy something (once they've previously signed in and filled in their information). The patent was granted in 1999, and it still stands. One of the good things in all this is that it hurts other companies, and thus companies are pushing for patent reform. Problem with that is that it's likely the industry giants will get reform that best suits them. An example is a program the patent office recently tried where they allowed software patents to be reviewed by companies to see if they thought it was good or not. The problems with that should be obvious.

I wouldn't do the Amazon patent specifically, because it's probably been done to death. I'd either do the whole idea of software patents, or pick a different more recent patent. Another patent subject is an idea I've had that perhaps software should be patented instead of copyrighted. With this I don't mean patenting end user interactions, but rather the source code. If you think about it source code should fall under patents not copyright. There is no creative effort in source code, it's not an art. On the other had source code is a blueprint for how something will work, it's more like a recipe, and blueprints and recipes are both patents not copyrights (although a trend lately is for companies to try to get everything copyrighted because of the absurd length of time it has). Also it's silly that source code is being protected for 95 years, even 22 years is long enough where it's all but useless when it does expire, but 95 years is long enough where it won't even be usable when it expires (Windows 95 in 2090).

Spam is a classic subject, and I won't go into too much detail. Just note that there have been recently been some convictions in spam related cases. Some think that anti spam laws are rather silly, as they will likely have no effect.

The DMCA is a computer ethics subject that could probably have several full books written about it, and still not be fully covered. To review the DMCA is a law which outlaws anything which helps circumvent DRM. As judged have no idea what DRM is or how computers work, you can imagine this can be interpreted quite widely. One of the most laughable examples is the "AACS encryption key controversy", which is when the key to AACS, which protected both HD-DVD, and Blu Ray was broken. The key was a 128 bit number, which could be represented as 16 hex pairs, or in any number system. In other words it could be represented as a regular base ten number (13,256,278,887,989,457,651,018,865,901,401,704,640). The MPAA issued DMCA take down notices to sites that had this number. Which sparked it being debated if a number could be made illegal, as well as many attempts to disguise the number as legitimize data as many different ways as possible.

I mentioned DMCA take down notices, which are perhaps the most seen effect of the DMCA. The DMCA allows anyone to issue a take down notice to anyone else, telling them they have to take down something they don't like. The classic example is Time Warner (or whoever) telling Youtube to take down videos. When ever this happens almost without fail the company receiving the take down will just take down whatever is in question. Only when there is a outcry do they seem to review it and see if it really is copyrighted. As you can imagine this is abused. One case was where some guy created a video (from scratch), posted it to Youtube, some show used the video (without permission) then the company owning that show issued a take down notice to Youtube for the guy's original video, and they took it down. They put it back up, after public outcry, but it just shows the flaws in the system. One of the most interesting things about how the law is written is that there are stiff penalties for ignoring a take down notice (if it's legit), and it's purgery only to say you represent someone you don't. In other words if you issued a take down notice to Youtube for something that the MPAA held a copyright to, you'd be committing purgery. However, if a company issues a take down notice for something it has no legal right to, there is no penalty. The law was written this way by design by the copyright lobbies.

Another issue coming up recently is that US border agents can seize and search your laptop at the borders, for no real reason. Since they can search anything you have when you cross the border, and since laptops can take quite a while to search thoroughly, this means they can seize your laptop for a long time (all warrantless of course). As this actually effects people it seems people may complain enough about it to stop it.

Other good stories, I encourage you to look at the story summeries, as some of them are quite good, I just didn't feel like writing them all up:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ok, so this is arguably the single greatest themed mountain climbing blog on the internet. Anyone can do it, and submit the story, so looks like from now on I'll be eating a cheeseburger at every summit. I can't believe someone had this idea before me. The list of completed summits is pretty long, but a couple upcoming summits not on there:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Sun, Dec 18, 2005 at 5:36 AM, Dale Swanson wrote:
After I read that last email about the selling the tech to the kings thing I started thinking a lot this weekend. First off obviously you would sell weapons and tech and not some crazy elevator system, I think that is assumed. But this is what I started to think about. What if you went back intime and had to live, what kind of things would you be able to do with your modern knowledge. Now I can think a few possible scenrios. You wake up and its the past, you had no prior knowledge that you were going to go back, so you are only armed with whatever you know off the top of your head. You have time to prepair, lets say a whole year. And last you had time to prepair and you could also take luggage. With the last one the luggage has to be small or else it really starts to take the fun out of it all. At first I said a carryon sized bag, but I decided on a cubic foot. It's an actual cubic foot, can't be 12"x6"x24", must be 1'x1'x1'. You are going back to the year 0 or so, and you are going to be the emporer of Rome, so you would have plently of resources and such.

First thing I'd do is post the situation on every forum in the world. Obviously as a hypothetical so people would post ideas and not just say yeah right dumb ass. You may doubt forums but I'm always supprised no matter how long I think about something as soon as a search it I find there are a million other ways of going about it that I didn't think about. It would be good just to read what people suggested first.

Next I would have to decide if I would be able to make power. I pretty much couldn't bring anything that would actually generate it back with me. At first I thought about flexible solar, but that would waste a lot of room, then maybe thought of something where I could provide a was to spin the turbine and it would make power. I could make a windmill or a water mill to spin it. But that would still be a pretty big waste of space. I think I could make a generator using tech of the time. Converting it to 60Hz AC would be the hard part. But I think I could figure it out. Then I'd bring a laptop and a 500 GB external HDD. Obviously that would greatly help things out. From there I think I could make some serious advancements and probably take over the world.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I can't remember if I already sent you one of these Georgia questions, but this time since it linked to the actual question and not just a screenshot I decided to see if this was fake or not. I know people are clueless, but to honestly think Russia invaded a US state, and there is little news about it seems pretty far fetched. Anyway, I found this gem of a question, which seems to also answer the question of who the people downloading that sweet XP keygen were:;_ylt=AnBhR8tx80FRCw12dskMWCnty6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20080907142130AAz1hrU

Thursday, September 11, 2008 <- SpaceX is moving into a launch pad in Cape Canaveral. Notice the oversized load sign, without which people would have no idea he had an abnormally large object.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So I'm sure you've seen these lists of dumb laws, which are mainly just old or out of context laws. But I stumbled upon this list and there's a lot of Indian related ones, which are always good. I won't bother with the states, if you want to know you can go to the link.

Shotguns are required to be taken to church in the event of a Native American attack.

Seven or more Indians are considered a raiding or war party and it is legal to shoot them.

It is legal to shoot an Indian on horseback, provided you are in a covered wagon.

If there are more than 5 Native Americans on your property you may shoot them.

No animal may be hunted for on Sunday with the exception of raccoons, which may be hunted until 2:00 AM. <- Oh how I wish I had been involved in this to skew the results.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Well since I wanted to start a new thread, and you were virtually begging me to make another speadsheet/chart about some random nonsense here goes. I went to and got the average and record highs and lows for every day of the year. This data seems to range from about 1926 to about 2005 and is for West Berlin (probably for somewhere near here, but they don't tell you where).

In sundata you can see the sunrise and sunset times for the year, as well as the length of the day. Nothing to interesting here, just that it's not perfectly symmetrical.

Next in tempavg you can see all the averages/records for the year. Some interesting things here, first late January is the colder time of year, late July the hottest. Nothing shocking, the records though show something that surprised me. The difference between the coldest record low in January, and the warmest record low in July is about 75 degrees, compare that to the difference in the two extreme highs of only 40 degrees. In case you were wondering that huge cold spike is -25 on Feb 9th 1934. As you look at the lines for the records the two things that stick out are that the low has a sudden drop in mid January to mid February. Second is that the record high doesn't vary that much. This seems mainly because there seems to be something stopping it from rising much above 100. The best I could come up with for this would be because we have a large mass of cold area (Canada) near us, but we don't really have any large hot area.

Last we come to temprec, which list how many days in a given year hold the current record low or high. This chart doesn't have a lot of data and there is some chance that they moved the place where these records are recorded at some point, but I still think it shows some interesting things. First I notice that there are almost always more record lows than highs. Most of the spikes of highs have a larger spike of colds in the same year, or in the next year. The two times when there were more highs than lows is the first decade and last two decades of data. I think the first group can be explained because we know the high doesn't go that high ever, thus in the first few years they were recording the data most of the highs just haven't been beaten. However, I'd bet if you had 50 years more data into the past you'd see that group move to the start of that data. The recent data also shows some interesting trends. You can see there are very few lows, however, there are also either few highs or many highs. In other words it seems as though the last 20 or so years have been more mild, with occasional increased wild spikes of heat.

I'm not sure what any of this means, but I am certain it's ground breaking, and will be expecting the grant money any day now.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I was doing some thinking about voting. During presidential election years we generally have 50% - 60% turnouts. Some people don't like this, and wish it were closer to 100%. I don't think it's a problem though. A lot of studies have been done and most find that the voting population and the non voting population are similar, in other words even if 100% voted the winner would generally be the same. Really if you think about it, even 1% of the total population is considered great for statistical sampling, over half is almost guaranteed to be an accurate sample.

There are a few ways to increase turnout. Australia has mandatory voting, and has the highest turnouts in the world (>95%). However, I think freedom not to vote is important. Not only that but whenever you force someone to do something, you get a poor job (remember this for whenever you become a manager, forced weekend inventories = unreliable counts that need to be redone).

Another idea, which I found interesting is a million dollar lottery awarded to one voter at random. Arizona considered this about 2 years ago, and while I can find a lot of stuff about it dated from then, I can't find anything that would indicate if it actually passed or not.

While I was driving to Wendy's just now, I was thinking about this, and guessed that as intelligence or education increased likelihood to vote would increase too. Now this may seem fairly obvious, especially now that I know it's true. One thing I did think is that more intelligent people may become frustrated with the system. It was rather hard to find any good results. Almost everything I found had to do with comparing how smart people are to which party they vote for (most of which took the form obvious propaganda for whichever party the writer liked). However, I ended up finding a perfect answer in Wikipedia. It was from some book about India, and it actually shows some interesting things about India (voting peeks in the middle income and education), but for America it's quite clear that both high income and high education equate to being more likely to vote. It's probably worth noting that while there may be more higher educated people voting as a percentage of their group, there are a higher absolute number of less educated people in general, and voting.

Education Effect On 1988 USA Election
38% No High School
43% Some High School
57% High School Graduate
66% Some College
79% College Grad
84% Post-Graduate

I was surprised at how strong the correlation between higher education and voting was. However, it is always important to distinguish between correlation and causation. Higher education may cause likelihood to vote, but then again maybe the people who tend to be predisposed to pursue higher education may also be predisposed to vote. That being said I still believe that higher education increases likelihood to vote, and if not makes those who do vote better voters.

I think this is generally good. Less educated people are more likely not to vote, and they are more likely to vote for arbitrary reasons if they do. I've said this before (and you disagree with me), but probably the best return of an investment we can get as a country is to pay for education. A better educated populace is more likely to vote, and more likely to vote based on solid reasons if they do. It's easier to fool more ignorant people into voting for you, which is why we'll never see any real move to provide more education.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I don't know why it's taken this long to search Youtube for Manowar: <- make sure you hit more info and read the tags <- Best part = guy playing log <- Hail and Kill live

Sunday, July 27, 2008 <-geohashing
Story about people stealing manhole covers, I like this line, "They used to say the streets around here will swallow you up, but they were talking about drugs and guns." Because drugs and guns no big deal, but big rare holes in the street now we've got a problem.

"In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a man stole a statue valued at half a million dollars, cut it up and sold it for scrap in Camden. Total scrap value: $ 4,000."

What the hell are we doing with our spare time?
Crazy deals on tons of stuff. They have so much crap for less than $2 shipped (everything is free shipping).

Thursday, July 24, 2008
I thought this was pretty interesting. It shows the spread of Walmart across the country. Some things I noted, first how there were no colonies or stores that were far away from an area that was already covered, it just spread. Also you can notice some definite borders it resisted crossing for whatever reason. NC has one, and there is a SE diagonal line before the mid Atlantic. Also how late it was before any showed up here (I can barely remember the Walmart on 73 opening).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

So as I stood in my kitchen, in the dark, eating a can of pringles (nutritious, delicious, etc) I couldn't help but think about who pays for the street light out side my house. I mean what purpose does it really serve? Is it there for safety or security or just our continued display of dominance of nature (it'll be light whenever we goddamned please)? I won't bother to look up how much one of those bulbs consume and give estimates of the cost, as I'm sure it's not that much for a single one, but for the system as a whole it's probably quite a bit. According to the internet whoever maintains the street pays for street lights (makes sense). Thus I can only assume Berlin Twp pays for all those street lights (on all but the numbered roads). I know we had this same discussion, but it really puzzles me at what levels income goes to, and at what levels things are provided for. I found something that broke down that for New York City. Now some would claim there are a few minor differences between Berlin Twp and NYC, but in theory it would be similar. Pretty much it leads me to belief the town gets at least half it's income from property tax. But really mostly everything is provided by the town. I found something that says Berlin Twp pays $20k per kid a year, that seem crazy high. Also I discovered two members of the Berlin Twp Board of Education arrived late for a meeting on March 19th, shocking.

"This meeting has been advertised in accordance with the regulation of the New Jersey Sunshine Laws. Public notice of these meetings will be placed in the Courier Post and Record Breeze posted at the Huster Administrative Building, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School, John F. Kennedy Elementary School, and the Berlin Township Municipal Building. Unless otherwise advertised, the meetings are held in the Huster Administration Building, 225 Grove Avenue, West Berlin. They begin at 6:45 PM with an Executive Session, which is closed to the public, and reconvene at 7:30 PM, during which public input is permitted and encouraged."

I need to start going to stuff like this, it would be fun. I could probably stand up and demand a lot of random (Odin related) things, and they'd just have to put up with it (and record it in the minutes). Actually upon reading these minutes and seeing that they do in fact record what people say, I'm laughing at the thought of: "Dale Swanson asked what was being done to appease Odin, to ensure glorious victories in battle. He then went on to state that if you did not in fact like metal you were not his friend. He refused to leave when asked."

Well, Berlin Twp has a Myspace page. I can't tell if it's official, although I can't believe that it is (ok I found it says it's not).

Apparently there was one murder in 2005, and six rapes. <- Hilarious Ms. Hessel apperently made $68,740 in 2005, compared to Ms. Weinberger at $49,765. The internet is great.

This seems to say NJ gave Berlin Twp 1.6 million in 2006:

On the bright side while doing research I found this great quote right off the NJ ballot:
Shall the amendment of Article II, Section I, paragraph 6
of the Constitution, agreed to by the Legislature, revising
the current constitutional language concerning denial of the
right to vote by deleting the phrase "idiot or insane person"
and providing instead that a "person who has been adjudi-
cated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the
capacity to understand the act of voting" shall not enjoy
the right of suffrage, be adopted?,%25202008%2520Budget%2520Mtg%2520Minutes.pdf+berlin+township+revenue&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=16&gl=us&client=firefox-a <- my crazy going back in time thing

Friday, June 13, 2008

Constitutional Amendment: Sunsets

So it's been a while since I've drunkenly rambled on about some issue. This will also serve to replace the current email thread.

Today I'd like to propose a constitutional amendment that would automatically sunset all Federal laws. In case you don't know sunsetting is when a law expires if it's not renewed after a certain period of time. Here is my rough draft for what the amendment might look like:

1. All laws enacted by the Federal Government, with the exception of the Constitution and it's amendments, would be subject to a time limit, after which they would either have to be renewed or become null and void.

2. The time limit would be as follows. Any law which is passed for the first time would be a subject to a 5 year limit from the date it is enacted into law, after which it would need to be renewed. The time limit of laws which are being renewed would be determined by taking the percentage of which ever house's majority was less, and subtracting 50 from it, with a minimum of 5 years and maximum of 50 years. Any law which is currently in effect at the time of ratification of this article would have to be repassed and subject to the initial 5 year limit, after which they would need to be renewed and subject to the same provisions as any other law. Any law currently in effect at the time of ratification of this article will have to be repassed within 20 years from the date of ratification of this article.

3. The procedure for renewal and repassing of laws will be the same as laid out for their initial passing.

4. Laws may not be renewed until they are less than one year from the date they would become null and void. All limits would start from the date the law is enacted into law or date renewed in the case of laws being renewed.

5. Laws may still have limits of less than those provided by this article in addition to those provided by this article.

6. This article shall not be be construed to impose a limit of less than 5 years, or greater than 50 years.

7. Any law which fails to be properly renewed shall be considered null and void.

In summery every new law would have a 5 year limit, after which it would need to be renewed. When a law is being renewed the limit is determined by p - 50, where p is the percentage of which ever house had a lower majority. So if the senate passed it 98-2 and the house did 357 - 66, it would be 98% and 82% (house has 435, not all always vote), we'd use 82 - 50 = 32 years. Also note the percentage should be of the total, not just those present, I don't feel like wording that in. This is the part I consider the most confusing and least elegant, and would consider just setting a hard number for renewals. The problem is I'd like the ability to have a high limit for obvious laws, yet I don't want to set something like 50 for all renewals. Maybe 15 years would be good. Any current law would need to be repassed within 20 years, when it was repassed it would have a 5 year limit. I picked 5 years because almost all of government would have went through at least one reelection by then (senators are 6 years, but they are staggered by 2 years, so every 2 years 1/3 is elected, so in 5 years 2/3rds would have been through an election). Also the reason for the first limit being short is to prevent panic laws from starting with crazy limits (the example votes of 98% and 82% are from the USA PATRIOT act, which means without the initial limit they'd not sunset until 2033 (although that's probably better than now, when they'll never sunset).

Most things I see talking about this deal with only sunsetting agencies or programs, and setting the sunsetting up as a law, not at the constitutional level. I think that is the wrong way to do it. Everything should be subject to it (save for the constitution itself), if something is really that important it should always pass with a high majority, which means it'll seldom be renewed. Another thing I thought about was automatically pardoning anyway convicted of a law which sunsetted. The problem with that would be how to handle cases were the penalty involved the destruction of something, or fines. I think the prospect of releasing criminals plus refunding fines would tend to promote renewal to avoid that.

Well that's it, please revise this draft and then submit it to congress for approval.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fun Facts About Tractor Trailers*

Fun Facts about tractor trailers*:

The trailer is a 'semi-trailer' (semi because it doesn't have wheels in the front), and the truck is a tractor. I never knew 'semis' were the same as tractor trailers.

Max weight is 80,000lbs, about 10k -15k each for tractor and trailer, so 60k max in cargo.

About 6mpg, although newer models up to 10mpg, also highly dependent on terrain.

2 150 tanks, 300 gallon capacity $1,425 to fill at $4.75 a gallon. 1,800 mile range at 6 mpg.

This works out to $13.19 to send 1000lbs 1000 miles, or $21.53 if you add $0.50 a mile for driver costs and maintenance (probably a low estimate). Also keep in mind there are base costs, you are still pulling 20k worth of truck even if it's empty, thus this price only works on the large scale.

The flat front tractors (cab over engine) are European.

The brakes use air pressure to push the spring loaded pads off the rotors. Which prevents brake fad due to boiling fluid, prevents brake loss due to a leak (fails safe to brakes on), and is why the parking brakes always make that air rushing sound (air being released from the system).

They also have an engine brake known as a Jake Brake. They use the engine to provide constant slowing, which prevents overheating on down grades. They also make a loud chattering or machine gun noise, which is why if you remember there were signs banning their use in some places.

Weigh stations are pretty much just to make sure the trucks are with in safety regulations.

*Note: "Fun Facts" may not actually be either fun or facts.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


I've long been against water conservation. Largely I just enjoy saying 'it falls from the sky', but also water is one of the cheapest things you can buy (it's less than a penny a gallon I addressed this more in the heating water thing above). If there is a need to conserve it the price should go up, and that should cause natural conservation. Anyway I've read before about how the midwest water table is being used faster than it's being replenished by rain. I decided to look into how much water we get from rain, and how much we use. I couldn't find a nation wide average, but I looked at a few averages for cities in this area and 40 inches a year seems fair. NJ has 1134 people per sq mile, or 3,540,114 sq inches per person. Each of those gets about 40 inches of rain per year, meaning each person gets about 141,604,571 cu inches or 613,007 gallons a year. I found a site that claims per capita water usage including industry is 5000 liters a day, that works out to 482,114 gallons a year. I'm still thinking about how the fact that the same water is evaporating and falling over and over through out the year effects this. At first I assumed that it'd be better to use a shorter time scale, but the numbers still scale down to the same thing. I don't think it matter that it's the same water, if you think about it as a single drop that we just use over and over, you can only use it once for every time it falls from the sky, and each time it does it's counted as rain. Then there is the problem I just thought of while typing that last sentence which is we treat and reuse water without having it go through the natural water cycle. Although certainly some of the water we treat then goes through the water cycle, so you can't just add the amount of water we treat. Whatever, my original idea still holds, which is if we are running out of something the price will rise and usage will lower.

That brings me to the real reason for this email. NJ is thinking about a new water tax to go towards parks and stuff. Now I don't understand what the bill would really do, (what the hell are open space purchases) and more taxes and more government owned land is very anti libertarian. However, I'm really only libertarian at the federal level, states can do whatever the hell they want, and as I live in NJ I suppose this is where my personal wants should matter. Plus the government already provides water, so I don't see any problem in them taxing it. So unlike most political things I discuss I don't feel this is the absolute only right way things should be done, but rather what I'd like to see, and if the majority of people agree it should be done.

I support this because it's so cheap ($0.40 per 1,000 gallons, 100 gallons/day is a high estimate for personal usage, that works out to $15 a year), and it promotes parks (Friday I drove up to and hiked in a park and noticed a green acre sign, which is the program this will apparently help). I do have some devil's advocate cons too though. First it mentions farms and I'm against helping farmers in anyway ever (I just hate them so). Next is the fact that taxes that go to one thing mean the government doesn't have to spend normal tax on that thing, and thus have more money for other crap (in other words this new tax by proxy will go towards random crap). Also there seems to be a lot of hate towards something called the highlands projects, which has something to do with this, but as I can only assume that has to do with north jersey I support anything that they don't like on principle alone.

At the end of the day I'm pretty indifferent to this, I'd have to do more research before I really supported it, and it's not like I'm voting on anything anytime soon anyway. What I really want to mention is how crazy the comments are. Out of 19 comments all of them are strongly negative. One compares NJ to Rome (and while I must admit PA does resist our rule much as Britain did Rome's, it's still probably a bit of a stretch), although the same guy starts talking about the white house and Iraq so I'll assume he's one of the many that like to lump all forms of government, from school board to Galactic Emperor Palpatine into one monolithic entity known as 'the government'. Most bitch about how they can't afford it (less than $20 a year on average). <- 2nd result, I've finally made it