Thursday, December 31, 2009


The Anarchangel has posted clips of a talk Newt Gingritch gave recently:


Newt is always worth listening to. My favorite quote so far:

"These are people of stunningly limited capacity. They get up every morning and they know the answer is government, they just don't know what the question is yet."

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Parable of the $600 Toilet Seat

The great failing of the liberal mind is the inability to deal with, or even comprehend, the concept of unintended consequences. All actions have unintended consequences. This should be reasonably self evident. This I why the left is constantly reduced to whining "But that's not what we meant to happen."

Example: back in the early 90's the most popular handgun was the so-called high-capacity 9mm, holding anywhere from 15-18 rounds of 9x19mm. When the Clinton administration managed to get their "high capacity" magazine ban passed, people scrambled for a while to get pre-ban mags, but it didn't take long for the market to shift. Very rapidly the market became dominated by pistols which held 8-10 rounds. The difference being that these were in the good old .45 acp. Because if you are going to be limited to only 10 rounds, they might as well be BIG ones.

This brings us to what I like to call The parable of the $600 Toilet Seat. You see, Liberals hate profit, but what they hate more than anything else is unseemly high profits. Why that's unfair, that's gouging. Thus they have passed laws limiting the amount of profit that the defense contractors can make. Anyone with just a wee bit of foresight could see where this is going to lead. You see, you can't just take a $20 toilet seat and sell it to the government for $40. I mean, 100% markup? That's unseemly. That's gouging! No, what you do is you take the toilet seat plans to your machinists, and they make you the finest machined butt seat that money can buy. They machine that piece of oak down to the nearest thousandth of an inch. And it doesn't matter that the craftsmanship far exceeds the tolerance on the human rear end, because that seat actually costs a whopping $560 to make.

So when you sell it for $600, you only made 7.1% profit. Yes the government could have saved $560/seat by buying a Commercial Off the Shelf seat for $40, but that would have been gouging.

This is what is known as cost plus. It's how the government buys everything from file cabinets to nuclear capable bombers. It's why everything from File Cabinets to nuclear bombers costs so bloody much.

You see, back in the old days, a company would design an airplane, and if the Air Force liked it, they would negotiate a price with the company, and either buy it or not depending on whether the two parties could come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Since the company paid for the development out of their pocket, if they had a bad aircraft (or even a good aircraft nobody wanted), they suffered the consequences. On the other hand, if it was a great aircraft, like the F-104 Starfighter, the company made a pretty tidy profit. But a tidy profit is bad, remember?

So under the new system, the government pays for the entire cost of the aircraft, plus 5%-6%. Cost Plus, remember? And everything is accounted for from the airframe components down to the paperclips in the supply room. As a result, aircraft cost 10 times what they should, and development times are measured in decades, but at least we aren't being gouged. Right???

Seriously, anyone who knows anything about the defense industry thinks we need to dump cost plus and go back to real competition. The only real problem is that cost plus also drives mergers and acquisitions. We have a lot fewer defense companies than we used to.

The Liberals? They want to do the same damn thing to health care.

No, I mean it. Because cost plus is inevitably the end result if they ever achieve their left wing fantasy of a single payer system. Any time you have a monopsony (go ahead Google it, I'll wait) it will distort the market just as badly as a monopoly situation. Cost plus is inevitably the way a bureaucracy will attempt to control costs in such a situation.

So that $40 blood test that costs $20 and makes $20 in profit, well in the future, they will just run 6 times as many tests to make the same net profit, but it won't be gouging you see, because they will only make a couple of bucks per test.

Hope you have a good vein.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fruit Trees

Home Depot Has bare root trees in stock as of today (probably yesterday actually) Lowes likely does as well.

It is very frustrating for it to be tree planting season and not have a place to plant them. 10 weeks since we put the offer on the acre property and no response yet.

One thing is for certain, if The Bank comes back and wants more than I am offering I am going to tell them to take their most kind counter-offer, fold it until it is all sharp corners, and...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reform you can believe in

Everyone wants reform. Everyone.
The left, the right, and even the muddled middle.

This is not a reform bill however, it's basically a complete takeover of the health care system. The worst part is the federal mandate that you have to have insurance or be fined. I'd love to see the constitutional justification of THAT ONE. Put it this way, the Federal Government couldn't even run a whorehouse and make a profit, you think they can run medicine?

Reform would look like this:

1) Allow large employers to pool employees across state lines.

2) Allow individuals and small companies to purchase insurance across state lines.

3) Some kind of Tort Reform. Yes people need to be able to sue to recover actual damages, but a plaintiff should not be allowed to collect the punitive damages, throw those in the general fund.

I know doctors who have had ZERO claims against them, and their medical malpractice still costs them over a quarter million a year. Think that doesn't make your premiums go up?

The biggest cost driver is that we no longer have "insurance" as much as managed care plans. This insulates the customer from the cost (they only see their copay), moving folks to a traditional high deductible plan with an MSA type savings account is what we should be trying to get. This forces the customer to look at the costs of procedures and puts them in the loop of deciding what is and is not worth the cost. It also empowers self responsibility, which is something we all should want.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rain - Real rain

Actually got 0.75" of rain last night. Real rain not "it's rain because all the little dots connect but the rain gauge still indicates a big fat nothing".

Also some wind. Big wind. My shade over the hot tub is no more. One of the neighbor's sunscreens wound up in my back yard, and a couple of the neighbors trees are down.

Still. It's RAIN. I'll take it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Filk Wiki

Lady Lavender's Filk Wiki is back.

Get thee to editing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Belly FULL

Blarg. Belly full. Pics later, maybe/.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Global Warming Fraud exposed

Everyone else is talking about this, e.g. The Smallest Minority, Aretae, Jerry Pournelle...

Details HERE

Apparently some hackers have liberated data and emails from Hadley Climate Centre, and it appears incontrovertible that the good folks pushing global warming have been, shall we say, faking the data and suppressing data that conflicts with their agenda.

Let me be perfectly clear: Anthropogenic Global Warming is a FRAUD . Always has been. Always will be.

Science deals with facts.

Fact - The majority of the observed global warming (which is slight) occurred in the early part of the 20th century, prior to WWII and global industrialization

Fact - accurate satellite data shows global cooling over the past 10 years, not warming.

Fact - There is 100% correlation between measured global mean temperature and the solar activity cycle.

Any single one of these indisputable facts completely falsifies the idea of AGW.

Folks believe in AGW with a religious fervor, not a scientific rational. There is also, of course, the ever present issue of federal funding.

Q: Why is everyone worried about "global warming"
A: You can't get federal funding to study "global cooling"

Notwithstanding the fact that historically speaking every single global warm period (all of which were warmer than now) was a time of relative prosperity, not economic decline. The height of the Roman Empire corresponded to the Roman Warm Period. The European Renaissance corresponded to another warm period, etc. Thus the whole "people are going to die" hysteria is 180 degrees off base. Warmer temperatures mean longer crop growing cycles and general property, not decline.

It is not surprising that the AGW supporters would fake the data; it would be inconceivable for them to do otherwise. But what do I know, I'm a Scientist, not a Gaia worshiping eco-terrorist kook.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Marks Guide to California

A friend of mine offhandedly mentioned maybe moving to Sacramento. Marks one sentence description of California:

California: where the Anarchists sound like Libertarians, the Libertarians sound like Republicans, the Republicans sound like Democrats and the Democrats sound like Leon Trotsky, and about the only saving grace is that the do not actually get all the government they pay for.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Songbook Updated

I went through and updated the .doc and .pdf versions of my songbook, which is now up to 72 songs, assuming I counted correctly.

If you are someone who should have a copy let me know.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Center Square

Today is Veterans day, aka Remembrance Day, aka Armistice Day.

Everyone else is posting a copy of In Flanders Fields. I shall therefore be different.

Center Square
by Martha Keller (1940)

Though every town has a marble stone
Or musketry for a monument,
Where are the names of the dead and gone?
Where is a sign of the way they went?

A list of name of a plaque of brass,
Or post, or pillar or palisade,
Are all that is left but a grave and grass
And a flag where even the colors fade.

We mark the center of every square
With a cannon ball or a nest of guns.
But where are the men who fired them? Where
Are They? And their sons? And their children's sons?

A sailor handling a coil of rope,
A horseman holding a saber high,
In any town, on a sunny slope,
Are all they now are remembered by.

When prayers are spoken, and tears are dried,
And grief give over, and hummocks heal-
What is there left of the men who died?
Sign and signature? Hand and seal.

Except in the habit of being free,
Except in the manner of life we know,
There's no reminder to hear or see
Of those determined to have it so.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Zwanzig Jahre

Twenty years. I wrote this ten years ago
I stripped out the chord notation since blogger has issues with multiple spaces.

"Hier ende die Frieheit".
That's what the graffito said.
Written on a wall that's rubble Now.
And thought that wall is history
The challenge still remains
For governments will do as we allow.

Remember when the president
Traveled to Berlin?.
And gave a speech, standing so proud and tall.
No one thought it'd come to pass
When he demanded of the East,
"Mr. Gorbachav, Tear Down this wall."

So many people died
Fighting for freedom's crown
And the world cheered when that wall came down at last
There's little left but memory
Some stones set in the street
Strange how quickly we forget the past.

And no wall lasts forever
Tyrants always fall
We're casting off out fetters
and tearing down the walls.

Heir ende die Frieheit
A message to the world
A chilling warning to us one and all
Though we cheer our victory,
We must not forget the past
Do not forget the words writ on the Wall.

Never forget the words writ on the Wall.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Take 'em down.

People in AZ are somewhat disgruntled about the photo-radar cameras. Since the polititions won't remove them... they're on the payroll duh.

There are three, count them three, separate initiative petitions being circulated right now.

One of them would outlaw the damn things altogether.
One of them would only allow them to ticket you if you were 20 over.
One would only allow them in School Zones.

I'm going for #1

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CD Review - Legends & Literature

So what is Mark listening to these days? Legends & Literature by Margaret Middleton.

Legends & Literature, henceforth L&L, is I believe Margaret Middleton's first album. This one is self published through Middleton's M-cubed Ventures, with Oasis as the press. Oasis does a good job (which is why I used them for my album.)

First impressions:
Top notch cover art, rear art nonexistent, CD art very nice.

19 songs = WIN. I am so sick and tired of folks putting out a 10-12 song 40 minute album and wanting to sell it for the same price as a full album.

Nice clean liner notes. No liner note art, but that's ok. It's hard to get your liner note art light enough that the text is visible.

The folks at Studio Joe did a great job of mastering the album. Middleton's vocals are strong, and you can hear the lyrics above her guitar work, which is important in any album, but especially in a folk album.

The Songs:
All 19 songs appear to be covers, which means that this was a pretty expensive album to produce, since royalties add up quickly. Several of the songs I have on other albums, many I've heard once or twice and am glad to have a copy of.

Most of the songs are very well done, some are quite excellent. Middleton does a yeoman's job on Leslie's "Fellowship going South", likewise on "Puck's Song", Don Simpson's "Laughter from the Loch", and Ecklar's "Roxane".

She also does a very nice rendition of "Quest" by Martha Keller, page 32 of Brady's Bend And Other Ballads, and yes I have a copy. Music by Longcor, whom I've never met.

There are some fun songs as well. "The White Whale", my Gary McGath (aka The M'Gath) is a great song about the obvious which I'd never heard before, and Gallagher's "Monsters in the Night" is likewise another fun song I'd only heard once or twice.

The indifferent:
The chords she uses for "Song from the Pig's side" are not quite the right ones. I suspect she is using the chords Bob Kanefsky has on his songworm website which are not correct. Also this tune normally has a very recognizable base run, the absence of which I find rather lacking. It's not a tricky run to play, but you have to know how to do it. Joe Bethancourt showed me years ago how to play this song right, so while there is nothing really wrong with the way Middleton does it, it's not the way I do it, so it seems a bit off.

Every album has one or two songs that are not up to the rest of the album, and L&L is no exception. Julia Eklar's "Daddy's Little Girl" is a very popular filk song, based on Steven King's Firestarter. I've heard it played in very different ways. Most people play it straight the way Julia wrote it, although I heard Seanan McGuire do it as a rock song once, and it's been done slow and somewhat creepy as well. Middleton plays it straight, but she simply does not have the range that Ecklar has, and struggles a bit with the high parts. In fairness, most people don't have the range Julia does.

On the other hand, she has no trouble at all with "The Miracle Worker", which is a bit lower in register.

The other song that sounds a bit off is Tom Smiths "Operation Desert Storm" which is a hilarious take on the Coyote vs. Roadrunner cartoons from the Coyote's point of view. This song is a fairly hard song to play, as it's a bit syncopated, and Middleton's playing sounds a bit flat with her simple strumming pattern. I've been at cons where the whole room has sung the song together, and it's a lot of fun.

All in all a very nice album. I understand it's a limited 500 piece run, so get yours now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Mother of Invention

Y-man (who lives in Nigeria) has posted an excellent description of how to convert birdshot loads into slugs.


Note he is using European style shotshells with a roll crimp, but recrimping fold crimp shells is easy enough with the proper tools.

You 'da man, Y-man

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blind Pigs and Eric Holder

As the old saying goes, Even a Blind Pig finds an acorn now and again.

Now Eric Holder is quite possibly one of the most evil men alive today. Remember he is the one directly responsible for murdering the folks at Waco, and the one who ordered the pre-dawn raid on Elian Gonzalas.

see: my earlier post

Unfortunately for all of us he is currently the US Attorney General.

Nevertheless, credit where credit is due and I must point out that Holder in an unprecedented display of common sense is ordering the US Justice Department to:

Stop Prosecuting sick people using marijuana and go after the Mexican drug cartels


Yes shocking isn't it. I mean your Granny smoking pot to help her with her appetite loss due to her chemotherapy is clearly the greater threat here, at least it was under the Bush administration and the first 9 months of the Obama administration.

Now the only real difference between the Mexican Mafia and the US Dept of Justice is that one has badges. Both are criminal gangs, and this is clearly a case of one gang wanting a bigger piece of the action.

Still, it's encouraging... Even if it's for the wrong reasons.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Physicists Working

Yeah, it's really like that:

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beautiful 80-something day for a walk in the desert

Must have walked for 3-4 miles yesterday morning. Beautiful day.

Technically we were quail hunting. Quail hunting is different. It's like a combination of pheasant hunting and trying to jump shoot dove.

We were somewhere southeast of Florence. Lots of growth. In Arizona pretty much all of the undergrowth is "pokey", so wear good boots. Much like pheasant hunting you can be walking or standing and all of a sudden a bird or two will fly up from around 20 feet away, more or less heading away from you. They make a whirring sound when they fly, much like pheasant as well.

The big difference? Quail are a little bigger than a dove, while a pheasant is the size of a chicken. My partner and I hit 4 birds total, and recovered two. I HATE losing birds. Quail might be even harder to find than dove believe it or not. There was so much cactus that taking a dog would have been cruel to the dog, so we were without canine companions.

It's been a dry summer, so the quail numbers are really low this year. Still, a bad day hunting beats most things...

And besides, how many places can you go hunting in mid October and then drive home with the top down on the convertible?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great Power

Snarf. Oh man, xkcd is funny today:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Live 365

So I was listening to Live365 radio last night, specifically's feed. I hear the beginning of a guitar intro and think, "sounds interesting, I ought to pay attention". Takes me a bit of time to realise that it's one of my songs from Space & Freedom.

Heh, how cool is that?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Color Blind

Great quote over on one of my forums:

It's not the color of his
It's the color of his

Monday, September 14, 2009

Doves have to Eat as well

Now we home school, which means that everything is a learning experience. So I asked my middle daughter if looking at the seeds the doves were eating was educational or icky. She said it was educational, so I cut open the crop of each bird to see what they were eating.

4 birds had empty crops consistent with the 4 birds I shot early on.

Of the others, 2 had these little brown seeds
Pic is one seed pile per bird, after I had cleaned 5 birds.
Another 3 had these large mahogany colored seeds. The smaller darker red seeds are actually two piles.

The last one (not shown) had eaten a mix of the two.

Pic should be clickable.


As a scientist, I find this terribly interesting. As a Physicist, I have no clue what these seeds actually are.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Desert Thoughts

I don't do mornings well. Nonetheless I got up at 03:45 this morning for a rendezvous across town. The message on our local board was succinct. Meet at the Sportsmans Warehouse at 5 am, we leave by 5:30.

It is actually possible to drive all the way across the Phoenix metro area in less than an hour, and to do so while following the artificially low (ridiculously low) speed limit. At 4-am, Phoenix roads are a barren waste, bereft of cars or trucks.

We met in the parking lot. Tired before the day began. Metting friends you've never met before. We waited, then at 5:30 a mighty convoy of 7 pickups headed north.

Arizona. High desert. September. It looks like this:


A beautiful Arizona day. You can see the storm clouds coming in from the southeast. Just enough breeze to cool the sweat on your face. One could not ask for a nicer day for this:


Dove Season.

Because sometimes you just need to go out and get into nature.
Enjoy it. Revel in it.

Then kill it and bring it home for supper.

Several folks from our local shooting board decided to get together for a dove hunt. Most of us had never actually met before, but that's ok. Dove hunting has always been a social activity, so it was an excellent excuse to get together.

According to Arizona Game and Fish (yeah Game and Fish, not Fish and Game) on average 5 shells are expended for every dove collected. Considering how many shells we expended trying to take the ones we saw, we must have been making up the average for that old guy everyone talks about, but never actually knows, who can kill one bird with one shot every time.

Early in the hunt. The Mossberg Silver Reserve handles quickly, perfect for quail, or maybe chukar. Great for close in shots at dove, though another couple of inches would be better for the high fliers.


End of the day. 7 doves. Not too shabby. Two members of our party limited out.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sky Water

We got over an inch of rain in around an hour tonight. Power went out for around 40 minutes, so I dragged out the guitar and we sang some songs, then told stories by candle light.

The awning over the hot tub took quite a bit more damage, but I can probably lash it together with some zip ties and a chunk of PVC pipe.

It's good to finally get some rain:

The rain won't fall and the land bakes dry,
The sun burns red in the dust-thick sky.
Before the life of the Earth can die...
---Go walking on Thunderbird Road.
(Leslie Fish)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dove Season

1 September, and everywhere in the nation people are out killing small but highly maneuverable (and sometimes seemingly bulletproof) winged targets to partake of their juicy flesh.

Except me. Just to damn tired to get up before dawn and try to find a place to go hunting. Possibly next Saturday, as some of the AZ shooters are planning a group hunt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If you can't say something nice...

Somewhere in hell a lava filled lake with a floating Olds Delmont 88 has a new occupant. (cars float on lava even if they don't float on water after all). The lake has been waiting a long time now.

Thus, since I can't say anything nice about the man, I simply note his passing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Leave Us Allone

Mel does not post often, but she knocks this one out of the park.

This is the frustration level of the liberty minded. LINK

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quote of the Week

Now, I've never shopped at Whole Foods, but this quote from the CEO might be enough to change my mind:

The union is like having herpes. It doesn't kill you, but it's unpleasant and inconvenient, and it stops a lot of people from becoming your lover. -- John Mackey

If you've ever had the displeasure of working in a Union Shop you know exactly what he means.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

OOP Filk on Youtube

There is a fellow who has taken several old Filk tapes, way, way, way out of print, digitized them and put the songs up on Youtube.

Way cool

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August Housefilk

August housfilk tonight at Chris and Patrick's.

See ya there.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

5 out of 8 - Hugo Winners

Well let's see how I did

Best Novel: Graveyard Book, Gaiman (check)
Novela: "The Erdmann Nexus", Nancy Kress (swing and a miss)
Novelette: "Shoggoths in Bloom", Elizabeth Bear (check)
Short Story: "Exhalation", Ted Chiang (strike)

Best Related Book: Hate Mail Will Be Graded, John Scalzi ((miss)
Best Dramatic Long: Wall-E (check)
Best Dramatic Short: Dr. Horrible (check)
Best Graphic Story: Phoglio for Girl Genius (ckeck)

Woohoo, batting .625, for 5 of 8.

Now where's that bacon?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Hugo Time

It's that time of year, when Sci Fi fen feel the pull of a distant land, where they will gather and fight to the death until there is only one... No wait, that's Highlander.

Ok, it's the time of year when Sci Fi fen gather at WorldCon, which is in Toronto this year. The highlight of the convention is the Hugo awards. These awards are a popular award that are voted on by those members of the worldcon who actually bother to vote, and are intended to honor the "best" of the genre. Winning the Hugo means you get to stand among the august ranks of folks like Lary Niven, and Robert A. Heinlein, and say, hey I got a shiny rocket ship trophy.

Actually, there has been a bit of a brouhaha surrounding the fact that this year the field seems a bit week. I can't comment on that since I haven't actually read any of the novels myself. So here is Mark's predictions of who will win which category. Predictions based on fan psychology.

Nominees can be found HERE.

2009 Hugo Award Predictions:

Best Novel: I’m predicting Gaiman for the win not because it’s the “best” as I generally don’t like Gaiman’s style, but because he is a) popular, and b) the Guest of Honor (GoH). Obviously I’m in the minority as lots of folks like Gaiman. Regardles, the hugo voters don’t like to snub the GoH. Also, there is at least a segment of attendies that will go to a con specifically due to the GoH, so the GoH has a built in fanbase advantage.

The shot fiction categories are much harder to predict, since lots of Hugo voters just skip the category on their ballots, which is fair enough, as trying to keep up with the short fiction is a bit of a task.

Best Novella: “True Names” wins best Novella simply because it has Doctorow’s name on it. (yeah I’m cynical). Doctorow has a huge following, and he's Canadian.

Best Novelette: Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear. She's a popular writer, and her name is reasonably well known.

Best Short Story: Toss up between "26 Monkeys into the Abyss" and "From Babel's Fall'n Glory we Fled." Both were published in Assimov's, and hardly anyone has even heard of the other publications. I'm picking Babel for the win.

Related book: Considering how huge a following the Vorkosigan saga thing has, The Vorkosigan Companion is probably a shoe-in. (long odds on Scalzi's your Hate Mail will be graded) But I'm picking TVC for the win.

Graphic Story? (I’m not even sure this should be a Hugo category). Coin flip between Phil Foglio and Howard Taylor. Smart money is on Foglio, he's well known in fanish circles. I recall meeting him at a WorldCon once.

Dramatic Long: Wall-E. Personally hate it’s pro eco-facist message, but folks like cartoons.

Dramatic Short: Dr. Horible FTW. Brilliant, simply Briliant. Also Wheden has the sort of fan base that will actually bother to vote. Besides Steve Moffet already has 3 Hugos. (at least 2 he deserved, and they should have made a supersized 2-meter tall one for Blink) BSG is over, (it's inthe past for most people), so even though Revelations was a very strong episode it's going to end up at the bottom of the pile.

I'm going to ignore all of the awards for editing and stuff, also I'm ignoring hte best artist award. It used to be the best ART, not artist.

So, thats 8 predictuons. Random chance says I should get two right. If I get 3 or more someone owes me bacon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

OK CDBaby actually does love me now

I think CDBaby's relaunch is taking more resources than they anticipated.

Regardless, things are working (mostly).

Type Mark Horning into their search function, and you get 15 hits, with me at the top. (need to fix the picture still).
Type Space & Freedom into the search and it just searches on the word "space" so that's a no-go. Apparently the ampersand causes the search term to truncate.
Try space and freedom, and it's the top hit.

Sound files appear to be working(ish) I think the issue is lag on CDBaby's side.

Not perfect, but I'll take it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Potlatch writ Large

Potlatch - the custom of intentionally destroying goods and wealth in a public manner to enhance ones status.

The media has been reporting that the fedgov's CARS program is out of money. Actually they keep referring to the program by the utterly inaccurate sobriquet Cash for Clunkers, despite the fact that the actual program details actually rule out anything that most folks would consider a "clunker".

The rules say the car has to be less than 25 years old, so that 78 Ford LTD that spews black smoke and needs an oil fillup with every tank of gas doesn't qualify. A 2006 Toyota Tacoma on the other hand, does qualify. (of course it's worth well more than the $4500 voucher.)

And in one week the program is out of money... Lets look at the Math.

In any given month 60,000 to 70,000 vehicles are traded in that would qualify (and be worth less than $4500 trade value) under this program. And remember, ANY vehicle that is less than 25 years old and gets 18 mpg or less (per the EPA) qualifies. The question is whether it is worth more as a trade, or more under the .gov program.

So every month, consumers trade in 60-70,000 of these vehicles. Due to the press coverage, approximately 100,000 people postponed purchasing a new car until the program went into effect. Due to rumors of funds running out approximately 60-70,000 people accelerated their new car purchase by a month or two.

And that is how you sell 4 months worth of cars in one weekend. I suspect when this all shakes out, we will see that the vast majority of these purchases were simply time shifted by consumers to take advantage of the program. Then again, we can't expect our congresscritters to actually think about the consequences of their actions now can we?

As for how things work, Edmund's has a nice chart:

Thus in a hypothetical example, if you were thinking of trading in your Explorer, you could get $3500 for it if you bought another Explorer that got 2 mpg better than your existing one, or $4500 if it got 5 mpg better. (again, it's the window sticker "combined" mileage that matters, not the true real-world mileage) If you wanted to trade it for a passenger car it would need to get 10 mpg better to qualify for the full payment. The Fusion is a very nice car that may qualify in this case.

Of course, any Explorer that is less than 10 years old is worth at least $4000 on the open market, so the only real point in trading it in under this program would be to avoid the hassle of selling it yourself. Becasuse lets face it, the dealership would only give you $1500-$2000 on a $4000 car anyway right?

I use the Explorer as an example because Ford dealers are reporting that the #1 vehicle turned in under this program are Explorers.

Oh, and the dealership is required to disclose to the customer the "scrap" value of the vehicle, and deduct the scrap value from the price of the new car as well.

Remember that 18mpg figure I mentioned earlier. Well, it's interesting. Turns out that a whole bunch of Toyotas and Hondas are rated at 19mpg by the fedgov. Brand loyalty is very strong. If you own a Ford it's good odds that your next car will be a Ford, same for a Honda. GM buyers tend to stick with GM as well, although since the bailout GM and Crysler have both been loosing market share to Ford.

Thus the big winners here are the domestics, as people trade their old Ford for a new Ford, or an old Chevy for a new Chevy. Hundai is also a big winner since their primary target is folks buying their first "new" car. They have several models priced right at $10K. Add in $4500 from your "trade" and we are talking a brand new car for under six grand. And before you go dismissing the Korean automaker their quality is very much improved over the old self-disassembling death traps they made in the 80's. (and their primary buyer isn't old enough to remember the eighties anyway)

Regardless, the vast majority of viehicles destroyed under this program are going to be newer models that don't really pollute anyway. Any car newer than 1995 sold in the US is equiped with an ODB II computer that monitors your tailpipe emmisions such that a 96 Accord pollutes about the same as the 2010 version. (Yes Virginia, the computer in your car is spying on you and reporting whether your car pollutes or not).

Thus, I do tend to see this whole thing as some sort of giant national exercise in potlatch. Destroying perfectly serviceable vehicles, most of them newer models that do not pollute much anyway, but just happen to be worth less than $4500 at trade in, is hardly an example of our finest hour as a nation or a people.

Nonetheless, I'm certain it will gain us much prestige throughout the 3rd world. "Look, the Americans are so rich they can intentionally destroy perfectly good cars and trucks on purpose..."

CD Baby Loves Me - Sort of

CDBaby is in the midst of a giant relaunch. In the process they have manages to slow down their site and have completely screwed up their search function.

For example, put Seanan McGuire in their search box, and you get zero hits. Put Seanan in the search box and you get seven (7) hits, the top one being Seanan McGuire. WTF?

That is some seriously BAD database coding right there. Anyway, if you put Mark Horning in the search box you get 13 hits, none of which is me or my album. However, if you know the URL, you can type it in directly

Oh, and BTW, the sound clips appear to be either missing or broken depending on which browser you are using.

The good news, you can now order my album direct from CDBaby. (note, I get to keep more money if you order it directly from me)

Monday, July 20, 2009

40 Years ago today

Forty years ago... Lt. Col Michael Collins was privileged to be the sole man in orbit about the Moon. Meanwhile two other blokes got to cavort about on old Luna's surface. I always though he got the raw end of the deal there.

Fortunately for him, some top not piloting and a "hatful of fuel" kept the LEM from landing on a huge boulder that was inconveniently placed where the Eagle was supposed to land.

Thus General Collins is the "forgotten Apollo Astronaut" rather than the guy who came back from the moon while the other guys died. Putting a man on the moon, that's easy. It's the whole "return him safely to Earth" part that's hard.

So I could give you one of my Appolo/Moon songs, but I won't. Instead I give you Hope Eyrie. No one said it better than Leslie.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sign this, and this, and initial and again and...

Just put an offer in on a property in way NorthEast Mesa. Actually it's almost exactly 2 miles straight north of us.

House itself is no bigger than our current place, (technically it's 150 sq ft bigger) but mostly that's because it has bigger closets.

Only real advantage is that it is a one-acre lot, and is therefore horse property.

If we get it, I'm going to have to dig a LOT of post holes to put in fencing...

The Gig Guitar

Having a guitar with onboard electronics is very, very, handy when playing out. It's a heck of a lot easier to simply plug in your guitar with a standard guitar cable than it is to mic a guitar. It also gives the performer some options at his fingertips, such as volume, and usually some minor equalizer controls.

My Larrivee OM-03R has an onboard Fishman Prefix Plus unit. This is a pretty nice guitar, all solid wood, rosewood back and sided, Engelman spruce top. This is the guitar I normally use for concerts, and is the guitar used for 14 of the 16 tracks on Space & Freedom.

I bought it years ago, when the US/Canadian exchange rate was somewhat more favorable. MSRP on a new one is $1857, retail is about $1400. Also, the new ones have a rather ugly pick guard which I rather dislike. Thus I really do not like to travel with this guitar. See post below on "United Breaks Guitars" for reasons why.

The Fishman Prefix is a nice unit, and I was thinking about buying one and having it installed in one of my lesser guitars. I have an old Tacoma Roadking that I bought years ago for around $350, that I figured would be a perfect candidate. Only two problems.

1) The Fishman Prefix sells for between $300-350 (ouch).
2) Replacement Roadkings, especially pre-Fender buyout ones, seem to cost somewhere around $1200 these days.

Oh, and since Fender can't seem to manage their way out of a paper sack, they have discontinued the entire Tacoma line. That takes some pretty bad management. When Fender bought Tacoma in 2004, they were the 3rd largest US guitar manufacturer.

Regardless, that really does not meet the criterion for a guitar that is inexpensive enough that I don't mind risking it with the baggage manglers.

So, what are our options?

While perusing E-bay I found some Olympia guitars. Olympia was Tacoma's import line. Basically Fender had liscensed copies of Tacoma's designes made in southeast Asia. Some were made in Indoneasia, some in China, and one or two other countries.

One can buy an OMC11CE6 (basicly a plywood copy of Tacoma's Chief) for $379 on E-bay. These came with either a Fishman Classic or L.R. Baggs electronics package depending on when and where they were made. That's not too bad really if you think about it. True, plywood does not have the rich sound that you get with real wood. On the other hand, it doesn't crack, and you don't have to worry about low humidity damaging your instrument. And in ARIDzona, that is a real concern. Considering that just the electronics unit is a couple hundred bucks, all in all, i figured it was worth considering.

Then I found one for $295. Better. Local, so I'd have to pay sales tax. *bleah*. Of course, if it's local I can always go by the store and dicker.

Guitar was located at The Bass Place in Tempe. They sell bases. Electric Bases, base guitars, stand up bases, and they even had an electric stand up base. (way cool, trust me). The guitar I was interested in was listed on their web site for $195, or $100 less than their e-bay price.

I can't even buy the electronics for that.

Dave, the guy who runs the place, let me have the instrument for $200 out the door.

Olympia OMC11CE6

Yes. It's blue. Very, very, BLUE.

So, though I never thought I would do so, I now own a Chinese made, laminate guitar. Actually sounds fairly decent, and since it has an L.R. Baggs pickup and preamp, it's absolutely perfect for playing gigs or traveling.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Traveling with Guitars

I hate the airline industry. Now, I've always loved aircraft mind you, and I work on airplanes, which is cool and all, but I've never liked the airline industry.

Remember, it's the Government that keeps the airlines from properly competing.

Found this over on, looks like some poor sucker flied United and the baggage monkeys were less than gentle with his beloved Taylor. While I'm not a big Taylor fan myself, note that these are rather expensive instruments. After a year of fighting the airline he took his beef public. Do me right, I tell a few friends, do me wrong I tell over 2 million as of the last count...

Yup YouTube.

For the record, I prefer to fly Soutwest (they hand-carried my guitar last time), or even better in a small privately owned aircraft.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lock & Load Review

Since I have been on the subject of CDs recently, how about a review?

Leslie Fish has finally released Lock & Load, her album of pro 2nd Amendment songs. It's only been in the works for about 10 years. I managed to pick up a copy at last weekends WesterCon.

First Impressions:
Incredible artwork by non other than the inestimable Oleg Volk.
Good mix of songs. Style ranges from folk, to folk-rock, to an actual barbershop quartet. Nonetheless, Gerry Tyra did a great job of mastering and it all flows together well.

All in all, it's a great album, from the title track Lock & Load to the rather haunting We did it to Ourselves, to the inspiring Flight 93. Leslie plays her 12-string guitar throughout, and has an absolutely amazing number of backing musicians playing electric guitar, flute, harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, mandola, plus a bunch of others I can't think of right now.

Honestly about the only song I don't like is Vigilante. Not due to the content mind you; it's one of my favorite songs. This version is very fastpaced, and not what I'm used to, and I think it does a bit of a disservice to the song. Then again, I've known Leslie for years, so I've heard the song before, and one tends to like what one is used to.

All in all, worth buying.
Get it here

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So you want to buy my Shiny New CD?

In the somewhat near future, I will have my CD listed with cdbaby, this take a little time though, and I have been busy. Several music dealers alreay have it in stock, including Random Factors, Tales from the White Hart, and Southern Fried Filk.

The best way is of course to buy it directly from me. After all, when you purchase direct from the artist the artist gets most of the money.

email mhorning (at) to order.

Retail cost is $16, and shipping is roughly $2, so call it $18 for a single CD.
Wholesale can ship book (media) rate. If you are a reseller (music store, independent bookseller, etc.) and are interested in obtaining stock for resale, please e-mail for wholesale prices.


Sunday, July 5, 2009


Just got back from WesterCon. Thoughts later. I ended up doing 3 panels, a concert, and a CD release party. Kept me pretty busy, so I didn't get to go see that much of the con.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Big Boxes, many boxes

UPS dropped off 12 boxes. *bounce*

I'll get a pick up later.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On a truck somewhere

Or an airplane. I have a tracking number.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dr. Horrible

Yesterday was the spousal unit's birthday. I have given unto her a copy of the DVD of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog.

heh heh heh.

Everyone's a Hero in their own way...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CD Update

Oasis allows you to track your project status on line. The interface is clumsy and somewhat anti-intuitive, but once you get used to it you can glean some info from it.

Currently my CD's have been pressed, and the artwork has been printed. The CDs are not yet silk screened, and the package still needs to be assembled, shrink wrapped and shipped.

All and all, this is progress.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Comparative Mythology

Something I've never really understood:

In standard Christian mythology, the serpent is the bad guy.

I mean, the serpent is the fellow responsible for giving the human race the knowledge of good and evil. And this is bad? Later in John 8: 32 it says "and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Seems a bit inconsistent no?

Now in Greek mythology on the other hand, Prometheus is clearly the good guy. He gives mortals fire, and the knowledge that comes with it. Same role. Same job really. Only to the Greeks, he's the good guy in the story.

Note Lucifer also means "Light bringer"

This is why Prometheus is more or less the patron saint of Libertarians and assorted Objectivist types, notwithstanding that most Objectivists are either Atheist or your classic Militant Agnostic (i.e. I don't know and you don't either)

I mean, we are not exactly that keen on authority figures if you know what I mean.

Go up to a random group of libertarians and say "hey we have this goat we need to sacrifice next Tuesday. No, don't ask why, has to be done. Pick a god so we can get on with the party."

Libertarians, liking a good party as much as the next guy, or even more depending, will most likely pick either Athena (being the god of Wisdom) or Prometheus (being the god of Knowledge), notwithstanding the fact that technically speaking Prometheus is a Titan, and not a god.

A handful will probably pick Dionysus (aka Baccus), but they are probably just hedonists posing as libertarians anyway.

Now where's a goat when I need one?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cover Proof

Long day today, here is the cover art proof to keep ya all happy.
(there might be an artifact, but it's in the bleed space)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Space & Freedom Artwork

Oasis e-mailed me the proofs for the artwork this afternoon.

The cover, liner notes, and back traycard look outstanding. The disc silkscreen itself could be nicer, but it's ok. I told them to go with a jet black disk with title and name taken from the cover. If I had a bit more time on both ends we could have done something nicer, the disc is difficult though, as it is a silk screen, and not a color printing process.

Low resolution version of the back cover with publisher's layout grid for bleed and crop:

And for good measure, here are the inside liner notes, I really like how the background turned out:

Physics Dept

So I got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago from the Director of Graduate studies. It was one of these vaguely threatening messages that basically said "We want you to explain to us how you can possibly finish up your dissertation within our arbitrary time limit while holding a full time job"

I therefore ignored it.

I got another e-mail a couple days ago that said "You never responded, would you care to comment" and copied the original.

Note this is from a person who has basically NEVER responded to any of my communication or concerns over the past several years. So maybe, just maybe, I got a wee might snarky.

I sent an e-mail back that said:

Dr Doak,

I'm sorry, I was under the impression that ignoring e-mails was a fine time honored tradition in the Physics Department.

Hmmn, what's that burning smell? Couldn't be a bridge could it?

Well I got a response, and oh boy did I mannage to press his buttons. This time he sent a far more threatening letter.

I told him that he could tell the Chair to expect a letter directly from me that evening, and as for his recommendations...

(no I didn't say THAT, though I was tempted)

I said that as for his recommendations I didn't see how I had any control over those, he would do what he chose to do.

I then sent the Chair a nice letter telling him exactly why I had no interest in returning to the Department next semester. By my math, it would take a minimum of another 46 units to finish up the Ph.D, and it would be impossible to finish within their arbetrary time limit. And since they have never seen fit to understand that some of their students might possibly have JOBS.

And since they still stubornly refuse to give the students any (and I mean ANY) feedback regarding the comprehensive exams...

Well... Screw 'em.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Master of Physics

ASU finally posted grades to the Recorders office. As of COB yesterday, my transcript indicates that I was conferred a Master of Science in Physics as of 13 May.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Album Update

Oasis sent me a copy of my quote in a nice readable .pdf format. Interestingly it said:
12 day turn time from art approval.


I sent them a most kindly worded e-mail explaining that I was somewhat disappointed, as their web site clearly stated that the day the package arrived was day zero. I then asked if I should go ahead and cancel my CD release party.

My customer rep e-mailed back and said, no that wasn't the package I had ordered, but she had checked the website and agreed that it would have been easy to misinterpret, and that she was having their web folks look into fixing it, but they would give me a complementary upgrade to an 8-day turn, which would put me back on schedule.

So, counting working days on the calender, we should just make it for WesterCon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Package arived

The package arrived at Oasis this morning at 10:17. We've already had one issue, in that the CD artwork (that goes on the actual disc) is supposed to be three color, and we sent in full color art.

How exactly am I supposed to do 3-colour art? Convert to 3-color Pantone?
I'm not spending an extra $99 for full color art on the disc itself.

I told them to either print the text in yellow and the background using blue and black, or to simply print the text onto a jet black background. (their choice)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Big Shiney

Iacta alea est.

It is done, and out of my hands. I just sent the Audio Master and associated artwork and paperwork to Oasis. (and paid the bill)

So at this point the CD is a go.

Oasis promises a 12-day-turn. Let's see if they can deliver in time.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Land of the Lost - Crash and Burn

So the weekend numbers are in, and the latest Will Ferrel crapfest bombed at the box office.


A remake of Land of the Lost (LotL) could have been something great, instead we get Will Ferrell and dinosaur poop jokes.

As a 36 year old with 8 and 6 year old daughters, I’m smack in the middle of where the target demographic for a LotL movie ought to be.

1) They are making a Land of the Lost movie – sweet

2) It’s going to be a comedy – aw crap

3) It’s going to star Will Ferrell – *sigh*, double crap, never mind then.

LotL was a campy, low budget SF/Adventure show, but it was never a comedy. It certainly was never a toilet humor comedy. Trying to make LotL a comedy is akin to trying to make “The Prisoner” a comedy. It does not work on the face of it.

See ABC’s reimagining of the classic Gen X series “V” – not a comedy. (oh this one looks pretty good)

Reimagined BSG -not a comedy.

All right you Hollywood folks without a dimes worth of creativity amongst the lot of you, let me make this easy for you: Want to make a comedy? Make a movie out of Barney Miller or WKRP, not an SF/Adventure show.

Or sit down and watch “The Big Bang Theory” and learn what makes a show funny.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chords and Lyrics

I always said that if I put together an album, it would have a full 15-16 songs on it. As a public service (and free advertizing) I have the Chords and lyrics for all 16 songs put together in a .pdf.


Link to Songbook

Hopefully I have this permalinked in the sidebar as well

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Four Stars

How about a new song?

So I was thinking that I should write a nice pro-ecology song. You know to "do my part" *cough*
Um, ok, well the problem being of course that, well I wrote it. So it ended up being a song about light polution. These things happen.

Four Stars

Words and Music © Mark E. Horning

April 2009

She grew up in the city. It's the only life she knows,

Surrounded by glass buildings, and the neon city's glow.

And the only stars she's ever seen were on the picture show...

But there's four stars out tonight...

there's four stars out tonight

four stars puttin' up a fight

four stars, shinin' with a light

yes there's four stars out tonight.

Light posts at every corner to keep the night at bay

She glances at the heavens as she stumbles on her way

And wonders 'bout those points of light, shinin' through The Gray

At those, four stars out tonight...

Because we fear the dark, we have cast the night away,

But the light that's shining in her eyes won't keep her safe today.

In fact they only make her safer, better, easy prey,

Beneath four stars out tonight.

We've cast away our heritage, we've cast away the night

And trapped the very stars themselves in prisons made of light

She'll never see the majesty, or wonder at the sight,

Just, four stars in the night.

We can regain out legacy, the vault of all heaven

Turn off the lights, take back the night, restore the stars again,

I know that we can do it, though I don't know how or when.

Free the billions of stars out tonight.

Yes there's billions of stars out tonight

Billion of stars trapped by city lights

and one fine day we may regain the sight,

Of all those starts out tonight,

but there's just four stars out tonight

four stars puttin' up a fight

four stars burning oh so bright

just four stars out tonight

yes just four stars out tonight

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Album Art

Preliminary artwork for the ever illusive album.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

ASU Graduation

President Teleprompter (photo azcentral)

Longest, Hottest, Graduation EVER.


Graduates had to be there by 15:00. Long line in the parking lot, heck, long line to get to the parking lot. I actually got onto the field by 15:30. They ran out of water by 17:30. (good planning guys) The field was still in the sun until almost 18:00.

My parents and oldest daughter, had seats on the west side of the stadium. They finally had shade about 18:30.

Typical ASU lack of planning all around.

Now at no point did ASU ever get around to publishing a program or schedule, so even the grads didn't know if the ceremony was supposed to start at 17:00 or 19:00. We were just told that President Obama was supposed to speak at 19:00.

Around 17:00 there was a pre-game show. We got japanese drumers, the ASU gospel choior, some Navaho dancers, and other miscilanious 2-bit acts. The final act was Dash Cooper and his band, plaing old 80's rock covers. For the last song Alice Cooper came out. WOOT. Sang "School's Out" duh.

One of the graduating music majors sang the National Anthem. Holly cow we he good. Deep, Deep base, opereticly trained. Best singer I have ever heard sing the Star Spangled Banner. I even saw the president singing along, and after the anthem stop the singer to shake his hand.

Obama spoke around 20:00 for about a half hour. In all honesty, it was a pretty good speech. He started really strong and ended well. Somewhat week in the middle, and I wanted to throw up when he talked about fiscal responsibility. (Talk about pot meet kettle)

The theme of his adress: Your life's work is never done.

He also stuck arround and shoot the hand of everyone who graduated with a Ph.D, which I thought was actually pretty nice of him. Several of the female doctorate graduates huged President Obama when they walked across the stage, although I didn't see anyone hug President Crow. (wonder why)

At 21:00 Crow bestowed (en mass) the degrees uppon the Master's students, and I hightailled it to the parking lot. Fortunately my dad figured I would do so, and I only had to wait 15 minutes or so for him to show up. By this time it was WAY past my reservation time for Fogo e Brasa, so I thought I might have supper over at Bass Pro, as the seafood resturaunt there is actuaklly supposed to be pretty good.

No dice.

Rural road was blocked off for the presedential motorcade, so we had to go west on Rio Solado all the way to Ash.

Ended up at the Outback on McClintock and Southern 10 minutes before closing time.
I swear, this Outback has the bestg service of just about any of them. They cherefully served several parties that were refugees from ASU's graduation. (this location has always had great service BTW)

So in theory, I should be getting my Masters in Science in Physics. With ASU, there is of course, no way to actually verrify this or not. I guess we'll see if a diploma shows up in 10-12 weeks...

Friday, May 8, 2009

It's Good to Feel Welcome

Second business trip in three weeks.
I hate traveling. I especially hate airports. (though I love airplanes)

So myself and a coworker have several hours to kill before we actually have to show up to work. Since time is available, and the rental car is paid for, we decide to get in a little sightseeing. So here are a couple of pics. Guess where mark went. (looking at the picture URL is cheating)

Fist pic, weather was uncooperative


Second pic, next day, me and Nicola


Third pic, Have you guessed by now?


Now we happen to be a couple miles from the border, we both have our Birth Certificates with us, since that's required now. (note on 1 June a passport or passport card is required)

Going across- about 9:00 am - zero wait
Canadian Official: Good morning, where are you going today,
Oh, we're just going to go across, hand a left and see things from the other side. I doubt we'll see much in this weather though.
Yeah, it is pretty foggy, do you have any tobacco or alcohol?
No mam,
Ok, do you carry any guns, pepper spray, or large pocket knives.
No mam,
All right then, have a nice time and thanks for visiting.

Returning - about 11:00 am -20 minute wait
Me: Good morning, (handing her our Driver's licenses), American citizens nothing to declare.
Official: Where you going?
Me: Our Hotel.
Where you staying?
Um, the Best Western in Niagara Falls
What were you doing in Canida?
Trying to see the Falls from the Canadian side, can't see anything in this weather though.
How long were you there?
Uh, about two hours.
(she gives me the dirtiest look when I said that)
Buy anything?
Plants, fruits, vegetables.
Um, US. (I tactfully avoid telling her that I'd already told her as much)
Have your birth certificats with you?
Yes mam, here you go.
Grumble grumble, all right, you can go.

Man, it sure is NICE to feel Welcomed by your own DAMN GOVERNMENT now isn't it?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Specter Analysis

So Arlen Specter has finally decided to jump ship and is going to become a Democrat. The obvious reason being of course that the odds of him staying a Senator (i.e. surviving the Republican Primary) are pretty freakin' slim. It's over a year out and and the oposition was already polling ahead of poor Arlen by 3:1.

Well, good riddance to bad rubbish as they say.

Commitee assignments become interesting. Specter is the Ranking Member of the Judiciary committee, but Sen Kyl is the next ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. Thus there is no real change on Judiciary, as Kyl has always been the same sort of backstabing weasel as Specter. (backstabing weasel being defined as any Republican who voted FOR Eric Holder)

Short term this is a pretty big win for the Dems, no doubt about it. However, in the mid-term this is actually good news for the Republicans, as it means that they are finally (after 8 years in the wilderness) finding their fiscal conservative roots.

Admitedly, after Bush, the R’s trying to claim the mantle of fiscal conservatism is going to wear pretty thin. Some of them (The Jeff Flake wing) really are serious about it though. It remains to be seen whether the American public will believe “we really mean it this time” or not.

On the other hand, the Obama/Pelosi/Reid multi-trillion dollar deficits are going to make it a much easier sell. And since Obama is really just Jimmy Carter with a better suit, fiscal discipline is about the only way the R's are going to get back in power.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No one writes quite like The Register

In case you were wondering what Jordin Kare was up to...

And yes it involves LASERS.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ann Coulter on Guns

Coulter nails this one

Oh yeah, when she's good, she's good.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Learning Experience

So, just to remind everyone,

1. I have failed the Physics Oral Comprehensive exam twice.
2. Dept. policy is "we don't give freedback"
3. I have no freaking clue what I need to do to pass.

So I finally managed to track down the director of graduate studies (Physics Dept) in his office today. Now I freely admit I did not really expect this to be a a productive meeting, but I didn't expect it to be inflammatory. After all Dr. Doak is known to have the personality of an inanimate carbon rod.

So my first point was that I was concerned that we would not have a solution to the problem of the oral exams. Doak deferred to bureaucratic procedure. The Graduate collage has guidelines that say you can not repeat the exam within three months, oh, and by the way, the physics dept has decided that the day of the "exam" is the day they deign to tell you the result, not the day you actually did the exam. Ok, so that would put things out another three weeks to the right. *grumble*. Oh,a nd it's not his responsibility to schedual these things, that's a different comitee.

My second concern is that the students are not recieving any feedback. Doak replied that they have never provided feedback. I asked how you can expect the students to improve if they don't know what they did wrong. His response: "It's not intended to be a learning experience"

Yeah, verbatim. It's not intended to be a learning experience.

WTF Over? Seriously. WTF?

Ok, I get his point, the exam itself is not intended to teach, but to test. But if I measure a system, intentionaly make certain no input goes into the system, and measure it again. I damn well ought to expect the same result.

Ok I have "checked the box". I can honestly say I tried talking to the head of the Graduate Program.

By hapensatance my advisor was in his office. He was torqued off about how the department was treating him, and his response to my situation was basically "well I've raised my objections and no one listens to me." Yeah, Funny. I know how that feels. I told him I didn't see the point of waiting untill next year to do this again and wait 3-4 weeks to see if the coin ended up heads or tails. He thought that that was an unfair comparison. Yeah, well it may not be a coin flip, but it's a classic black box. It may or may not be deterministic, but you sure can't tell from the outside.

After class I actually managed to get ahold of Dr. Menendez, who is in charge of the graduate committe (not to be confused with the graduate program). He was vaguely unaware that he was supposed to schedual the graduate exams, but opined that they would probably just do them in August like always. He actually seemed very personable, if somewhat befuddled. No real help though. He did however agree that the students ought to get some feedback.

Box number two.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong here, but what the hell is the point?

Somebody give me one good reason (that is not a sunk cost fallacy) why I should spend one more single dime at ASU or spend a single minute doing any research or taking any classes until I know I can get past this barrier?

So, whatever you do. DO NOT GO TO ASU.
Do not allow your children to go to ASU.
Nor their children, or cousins, or well, anyone you actually give a rat's rear end about...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Disturbing Rush/Rand moment

The smallest minority on Earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. -Ayn Rand

So I was listening to Rush Limbaugh on the way back to work after my Quantum midterm. Honestly he is a much better/entertaining person when he has a Democrat in the White House. Regardless...

What was disturbing, was that Rush was channeling Ayn Rand. Yeah. Rand. Not that I disagree one iota, it's just odd. I don;t expect objectivist philosophy from Limbaugh. To Quote:

The smallest minority on earth is the individual. We are all different. We are all individuals. We are being told to sacrifice our individuality. We're being told we must assemble in other groups of victims. Well, not all of us because some of us are the victimizers. The smallest minority on earth is the individual and thus those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

This is not the Rush I'm used to.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Too Big to Fail

Apparently some companies are "Too big to Fail", whatever that means. Apparently it means that the company is so large/employs so many people that it would be a disaster to the entire nation were the company to go under. Thus, "Too big to Fail"

Dr. Jerry E Pournelle has been bandying about a thesis for several months now. Now Jerry is a old school conservative, not a Libertarian, and is thus prone to solutions that are pragmatic. Us libertarians are naturally someone suspicious of pragmatic solutions to problems. We tend towards principled solutions and damn the consequences as it were.

They're Failing.
Let them Fail. (To paraphrase James T Kirk)

Pournelle's postulate is a simple one. No one is "Too big to Fail". If somehow you are TBTF, then you are "too big not to break up", using the various anti-trust acts.

One one hand, I have to admit it is appealing, though it does seem to go against all Libertarian principles.

On the other hand, there is a vague threat, never spoken out loud of course, that goes something along the lines of "Nice little economy you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it."

Well, if there is one thing that Libertarians and Conservatives should be able to agree on it is this: We do NOT negotiate with terrorists. Ever. Period, Dot, End of Story.

So certainly the "Too big to Fail" = "Big enough to break up" postulate is an appealing one. But a Libertarian instantly cringes at the thought, or does he?

The truth is Libertarians or Objectivists don't really like or trust corporations any more than they do the government. Oh certainly corporations haven't killed 200,000,000 of their own people over the last hundred years as governments have, but they do share one feature of government that Libertarians absolutely despise.

They are a way of abrogating individual responsibility to the collective.

Our heroes have names like "Rearden Steel" or Taggart Transcontinental, not ABC Holdings company Limited.

And that's the problem with these giant alphabet soup companies like AIG. There is nobody home. No one to say, this is my company, my problem, my responsibility. Instead responsibility is abrogated to the collective, and if everyone is responsible then, as we well know, nobody is responsible. And if no one is home, no one is harmed by breaking the company up either.

Yeah, it's pragmatic. Pragmatic at a Hobbesian level even. But I can live with that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Debt Star

From arfcom via The Smallest Minority


Monday, February 16, 2009

Sometimes you have to Pay it Forward

Because even on a holiday, Monday is still Monday.

My wife has a fair synopsis here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Iron Council - China MiƩville

All right, I picked this book up because it had been nominated for the 2005 Hugo. Iron Sunrise, also nominated for the 2005 Hugo was brilliant.

Iron Council is not. Actually, it's just plain awful. It's impossible to figure out what is going on, who the different factions are, or why we should care about them. Worse, there is no explanation for the rules of how the planet works. It's a bad mishmash of fantasy and steampunk rather than science fiction.

I'm on page 110 or so, and only because it was the only book I had on a business trip.

Don't waste your time with this one.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

1968 by Joe Haldeman

Joe Haldeman is well known as a science fiction writer. The Forever War, remains an SF classic, having won the Hugo award, and serves as a fascinating counterpoint to Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

1968 is not a science fiction novel. It's a mainstream novel that, per the title, takes place in 1968.

I'd been looking for a copy for a while, and managed to pick up a used library copy on Amazon for all of $5 (with SuperSaver Shipping)

This is Spider's story. Spider is a young draftee in "The 'Nam", assigned to a combat engineering squadron. The story also follows the life of Beverly, Spider's girfriend, but it's Spider's story.

It's very tightly written, many "chapters" are a half page or less. While Spider is the protagonist, he's not a "hero" in the normal sense; things happen TO Spider, not because of him.

And in case you didn't figure it out reading The Forever War, Vietnam was NOT a fun place in 1968. Then again, neither was Chicago.

Ultimately, it's a slice of life story, and a rather sad one.

I recommend it if you get the chance to read it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009



There are three major schools of thought when it comes to Economics.

The Keynesians
The Chicago School (Friedman)
The Austrian School (Hayek)

They Keynesians think that government spending can be an economic stimulus. One stimulates the economy by getting money moving again. The phrase “velocity of money” comes from the Keynesians. The argument against this is that it is simply robbing “Peter to pay Paul”, it can appear to help in the short run, but it makes things worse in the long term. - (Many Democrats appear to be either devout Keynesians or Keynesian with Chicago leanings)

The Chicago school will say that government spending destroys just as many jobs as it creates. Paying 10,000 people to build roads means you have to generate enough taxes to put 10,000 other people out of work. If however, you pay those folks to build actual infrastructure, then you create jobs in the long term, as the infrastructure creates new opportunities and efficiencies.

The Chicago school basically says that building the Interstate Freeway system created zero net jobs directly. Remember, if you create a job through government spending you have to remove enough money from the private sector to destroy a job to pay for it. On the other hand, it did create jobs in the trucking industry, because the infrastructure left over afterward provides new opportunities and efficiencies. (Many Republicans, and a few Democrats follow this school)

The Austrians (think Ron Paul) say that basically all government spending makes the economy worse. Economic growth can only be caused when capital is accumulated so that it can be invested in either new business ventures or in capital equipment, since government spending must be paid for either through taxes or inflation, it prevents the accumulation of capitol, thus hurting the economy. (Libertarians, and a handful of Republicans follow this school)

So if one “knows” the stimulus will fail, then one should vote against it. It's not a matter of "wanting" or "not wanting" it to work. To an adherent of either the Chicago or Austrian school there is no “risk that they Keynesian approach might work”. To them, it is self evident that it has to fail, it can do nothing but fail.

It’s almost like the three schools form an orthogonal basis set. They can’t overlap by definition. Thus a person is either in one state or another, but can't be in two at the same time.

Now any sufficiently large system (and 3-million people counts as large) will display behavior that is a combination of basis states, so real economic behavior is bound to be a combination of all three schools of thought. Though I think history has shown that the Austrians are right on a lot of things.

I just realized that I have now written a quantum mechanical approach to economic theory. This probably means I need more sleep.

Friday, January 30, 2009


So let me get this straight.

Despite having a 4.00 GPA, and having completed 36+ units towards my Ph.D in physics...
Despite having endured the Physics Oral Exam, not once, but twice...

I have absolutely no freaking clue what it is they want, what is expected, or how to pass.


I suppose I shall have to file some sort of protest. But to whom, and how?

Monday, January 19, 2009

The H&R Model 926 Revolver


Back in December my buddy Scott and I went to what is one of the largest gunshows in the country, the Phoenix December Crossroads of the West/ Small Arms Review West show. That's a total of seven State Fair pavilion halls full of boom sticks and accessories, plus more vendors in the tents between some of the halls. I've never actually managed to see the whole show.

So amongst all of the $450 AR lowers and $1200 AKs there were actually a few neat things. You had to look hard though.

My buddy Scott picked up a High Standard .22 target pistol for $173 (Model B I think). It had been freshly re-parked, which brings it's value down a bit, but certainly a more than fair price.

I picked up a sweet little H&R top break in .38 S&W. Model 926. Bluing is easily 98-99%, still has it's original diamond checkered H&R grips. (Lots of minor scratches all over) Date code places it at 1971. Got it for 2-bills even, (came with a 1/2 box of Remington ammo) Based on prices on Gunbroker and Gunsamerica I got it for a fair to good price.

(It Turns out there was an intermittent problem with the action due to a broken part. I suspect the seller knew this. While it usually worked fine, it sometimes would not cock all the way. A quick perusal of, and 2 days later I had it returned to perfect working order)

Now here is what is interesting (to me at least)

This is a quintessentially American revolver. Look at it. It's not the weapon of a a policeman, or a gunfighter; they would favor a swing out cylinder, for speed and capacity. It's certainly not that of a cowboy or drover, they would require a heavy bullet of at least .429 caliber. It's not even really the weapon of a firearms aficionado, after all, the .38 S&W was made obsolete by the .38 Special in 1902. While small enough to conceal, it's certainly not optimized for it.

No this is the weapon of a shopkeep or a grocer. Perhaps that of a workman who kept it at home, just in case. There is almost no holster wear, but there are fine scratches, indicating it was kept in a drawer, or under the counter, ready, in case of need. As I said, quintessentially American.

H&R started business in 1871. Their primary business was what I will call "working class" firearms. No high polish, no fancy engraving, just function. They also made M1 Garands, M14s and M16's for the US military. They finally gave up in the 1980s (in the era of the cheap autoloader) and are now part of the Marlin/NEF/H&R conglomerate.

As you can see, it's functional and straightforward. Five shots, with a manual ejector. Target sights, and magna-type grips are rather nice upgrades. She still shoots ok as well.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Oral Comprehensive Exams - Unce more unto the Breach

Well as they say, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy...

So I get there early, and after several minutes manage to get my computer talking to the overhead projector. The ROE (rules of engagement) say I'm supposed to give the same talk as last time.

I am prepared. I have my talk ready, and I have added two slides to clarify a few points. I have a second talk prepared, discussing the research done this Fall as a backup.

The professors show up.

Dr Smith: We've seen this presentation before haven't we.

Me: Well yes sir, the rules say I;m supposed to give the same talk.

Dr. Smith: Well that's rather silly, we've heard it before. I think we all agreed that Mark did fine on the talk portion didn't we.

Dr. Sankey: Well, yes we did.

Me: Well, this was the research we did last Spring, I have another talk prepared discussing the research we did last semester if you are interested.

Dr. Sankey: No , that's fine, we know you can give a competent presentation. Let's just skip ahead to the Question Portion. Unless the Student Objects..

Me: No sir, it really is essentially the same presentation. I've only added two slide to clarify a few points that were not necessarily the most clear last time.

All right then, go ahead and turn off the projector..

Sankey: Now, why don;t you go ahead and write down Maxwell's equations.

Me: Um ok, it's been a while. I write down Del dot E equals rho over epsilon naught.
I write down Del dot B equals zero. I hem and haw a bit and eventually I managed to write down d/dt B = -Del X E and d/dt E = J + Del X B (technically wrong since there is should be a minus sign in front of J)

Sankey: Ok number those from one to four. Now, what is the physics behind the first one.

Me: Um well is says this (I forget what I said)

Sankey: no that's not what I'm after.

Me: Um, are you after Coulomb's law?

Sankey: Ok, yeah, sure. How do you get Coulomb's law out of that. (it's actually Gauss's law, but we can get Coulomb's law out of it)

Me: well, coulombs law says this, I start writing Coulomb's law, Um, do you want the electric field or the potential version... I end up writing the E-field version.

Sankey: ok, so how do you get from here to there.

Me: well...

Sankey: how about Gauss's law.. Do you remember that.

Me: well Gauss's law states that you can convert a volume integral to a surface integral. (according to Wikipedia this is actually Gauss's theorem, not law)

We then spend several unpleasant minutes, working out a derivation, in which I keep insisting I need a 4Pi, and Sankey insists I do not. We eventually find our missing 4Pi

Dr Bauer: can you tell us about the chemistry of the LEDs you used for this other project.

Me: well, sure. Does everyone know what Dr Bauer is talking about? Ok, well then let me give you a little background so we are all on the same page. I then manage to spend several minutes discussing the research from last semester, thus killing around 5 minutes.

Me: So, for the Blue, Green, and white LEDs I'm certain the chemistry was InGaN, because that is the usual composition for those LEDs, I;m not certain what the che3mestry for the amber LED was.

Bauer: yes but, what do you know about the electron bands of an LED.

Me: well a modern high brightness LED builds in a quantum well structure to trap the electrons, thus increasing the output. (I'm more than happy to draw the electron band structure for the quantum well)

Bauer: No, I mean E vs. k.

Me: Um ok. I draw a generic E vs k diagram for a direct bandgap semiconductor. I proced to discuss that for a substance with an even number of valence electrons the valence band will be completely full and the conduction band completely empty, I discuss why we might dope the semiconductor, and then I draw an E vs density of states diagram. (take that)

Dr Bauer says something about electrons and photons, so I then discuss the difference between direct bandgap semiconductors and direct band gap semiconductors, and that optical semiconductors need to be of the direct type.

Bauer: why?

Me: because this is an E vs. k diagram, so in this case over here, a photon can make a direct transition, in the indirect case, the electron has to interact with a phonon, because there is a momentum shift.

Bauer: but doesn't the photon have momentum?

Me: Well yes.

Bauer: well what is the momentum of the electron?

Me: well the momentum of the electron is inversely proportional to... Wait, let me be clear here, the effective mass of the electron is inversely proportional to the curvature of the band.

Bauer: Yes that is correct.

Me: That is why here, at the top of the band, you can't add any energy to the electron, it's effective mass is infinite. you cant just kick it a little and have it move, you have to provide a large quanta of energy, in the form of a photon, then the electron makes a vertical transition.

Bauer: why vertical?

Me. Because a vertical transition involves zero change in momentum. Over here (points to indirect bandgap sketch) you need to interact with a phonon. That means in order to make the transition, you have to either add or subtract a vibratory more to the entire lattice. That, interaction os far less favorable than in the direct case.

(At this point, I swear Dr. Bauer actually similes at me)

Dr Sankey to Bauer: You happy with that answer?

Bauer: Oh yes.

Bauer: now, you mentioned black body radiation in your paper, can you tell us about that?

Me: well, any material object that is heated, such as a tungsten filament, gives off radiation the spectrum of which is known as black body. The traditional example is you take a metal box, punch a hole in it to let the photons out, and then heat up the box. The spectrum that comes out is known as black body or Plankian radiation.

Bauer: can you write the formula for the distribution:

Me: well, not from memory. I can derive it though.

Bauer: well what does it look like?

Me: (I write down the thermodynamic distribution formula for a Bose gas)

Bauer: what's that?

Well, this is the Bose-Einstein distribution. If I solve it for energy, that will give you your answer.

Bauer: no we don't have time for that. Just draw a picture.

(I draw a graph showing spectral power vs. lambda for several temperatures.

Bauer: Do you like lambda?

Me: Generally, yes I prefer to work with wavelength. (either wavelength or frequency is ok actually)

Me: So, these lines would represent different temperatures, the key here is that as the temp increases, this curve gets higher, and the peak shifts this way, towards the visible. The problem with a tungsten lamp at the VATT, or at your house even, is that the visible spectrum, (I draw a line) ends here, so only 10, 15 percent of the energy given off is energy your eye can use, the rest is near and mid IR.

Bauer: You have written power up there, how does the power relate to the photons that exit? I mean their electric and magnetic fields.

Me: well the power is given by the Poynting Vector, (I write S = 1/mu-naught times E X B) um, I may have this constant wrong, I think it's one over, but it could be the other way..

Bauer: we are not interested in the constants... (I had it right by the way)

DR Smith: Ok, well as I recall last time you had a little problem with some derivatives, sankey asked you to solve the wave equation.

Me: actually Dr Sankey asked me if I could prove the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Which, actually I can. It's a rather interesting derivation.

Smith: could you sole the Wave equation for us.

Me: sure. I write down Schrodinger's equation.

Smith: Well, that's one Wave equation, how about the generic wave equation.

Me: Um, you mean Laplace's equation equation. I write down Laplace's eqation.


Sankey: how about the vibration of a string.

I finally write down Del squared Psi + k squared Psi = zero.

Sankey: ok solve that.

I write down a "proposed solution" take the derivative, and successfully solve the equation.

Sankey: Ok so what kind of wave is that?

Me: it's a standing wave. Wait, technically it's only a standing wave if the two constants A-1 and A-2 are the same.

The professors: Hey yeah, he's right.

Me: smile

Sankey: so what's the solution then.

Me: well it's either a series of sines or cosines depending on where you set your zero.

Sankey: look at the equation, that equals 2 Cosine.

Me: (look at the equation.) Oh, yes it is. but we can shift our coordinates to get either sines or cosines.

Sankey: draw a string.

I draw 2 points label them zero and "L", and draw an arc between them.

Sankey: Make it look more like a cosine.

Me: This is correct for the fundamental mode, but ok. (I draw the 2nd harmonic, which looks like a Cosine)

Sankey: so what are we missing from our solution?

Me: we are missing the boundry conditions. by applying periodic boundry conditions we get a solution that is a sum of cosines.

Sankey says something...

Me (forging ahead) no, the wave has to go to zero at the endpoints so the solution is

k^2 Cos (n Pi/L)

Sankey: you forgot the x.

Me: oops, yeah we kind of need an x. (I add the x)

The point I am trying to make is that the cosines form an orthonormal basis set, Sankey is after something else entirely.

I don't see any time dependence in here, how does the string vibrate.

Well, we can add a time dependent term, I ad a minus omega tee to each exponential.

Eventually we get to where we need to replace the K-squared with an omega squared. Sankey asks what that is.

Me: well it's the dispersion relation in the material.

Sankey: explain

Me: Well, the dispersion relation tells you the relation between the material, the velocity of the wave in the material, and the wave vector.

Sankey: Just write down f = 2Pi omega.

(I comply)

Sankey: so...

Me: well f = v/lambda

Sankey: where'd that come from?

Me: Um, I know it.

Sankey: laughs, but that's what I wanted you to prove!

Me: oh, well, lets go backward then
(I work the algebra backward to get where he wanted)

Smith: so write down the proper wave equation then.

Me getting frustrated: (I write down the wave equation for Minkowski space: which looks like Square Psi = zero, The square is the De'Lambertian operator)

Sankey: Oh come on.

Me: no, that's correct. Ok fine, I'll expand it out. I write 1/v^2 d^2/dt^2 Psi - Del-squared Psi = zero)

Sankey: make it one dimension.

Me: (I write an x subscript on the Laplacian operator)

Sankey gives me "a look"

Me: ok fine 1 v^2 d^2/dt^2 Psi = d^2/dx^2 Psi

Sankey: you lost a minus sign.

Me: no I didn't, I moved this over to the other side of the equation.

Sankley: oh, you're right.

Sankey to the rest of the group: I think we're done?

(general agreement)

at this point there is discussion of whether I need to leave the room, or if they should decamp and discuss stuff elsewhere.

I propose that they leave, so that I can clean up, since the room is supposed to be used for another exam in a few minutes, and that I should erase the board, and get he room ready for the next student.


So, general impression...

I did better this time. First, I was expecting an ambush, so I wasn't thrown for a loop when they asked off the wall questions. Second, I pounded Bauer's question about bandgap materials out of the park, if it's one think I do know, it's bandgaps and semiconductors.

We should know the results in around 2 weeks. I think I passed, barely. Certainly I feel better about round two than round one.