Thursday, January 31, 2013

Anti-Debt Clock

"Pay Your Damn Taxes"

Cartoon | Fix the debt is a trojan horse for corporaye tax cuts
 ~ The US Debt Clock, which tracks total US national debt, is the passive voice of fiscal alarm—it doesn't name the subject who inflates that debt. Debt happens! The Anti-Debt Clock is the active voice—it names the wealthy and corporations as major contributors, and quantifies their influence in real-time.

Washington State leads the nation in regressive taxes—the gulf between the heavy tax rates on the less well-off and the wispy rates on the wealthy. Yet we are told by the austerity caucus that we must redress our fiscal problems on the backs of those least able to afford it. That's not fixing the debt; it's fixing the system.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Where's It Wednesday—CXVIII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fracking Radiation

Where Does It Go?

Radiation warning sign
 ~ Hazardous waste requires proper disposal so the hazard doesn't do damage, but what happens when no one is paying attention to the waste?

The Marcellus shale has a lot of radioactive uranium and radium-226 in it. As a result, the large volume of wastewater created by fracking is highly radioactive.
[U.S. Geological Survey research geologist Mark] Engle co-authored a USGS report that found that millions of barrels of wastewater from unconventional (fracked) wells in Pennsylvania and vertical wells in New York were 3,609 times more radioactive than the federal limit for drinking water and 300 times more radioactive than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for industrial discharges to water.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Internet Safety

8 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet

 ~ Great summary and solid advice from my one-time Microsoft colleague , (© 2013) Reprinted with permission. Any typos or formatting screw-ups are mine.

Ask Leo Notenboom
Internet Safety is difficult. yet critical. Here are the eight key steps to internet safety - steps to keep your computer safe on the internet.

Viruses & Spyware & Worms ... oh my!

The very concept of "Internet Safety" is almost an oxymoron these days.

It seems like not a day goes by where we don't hear about some new kind of threat aimed at wreaking havoc across machines connected to the internet.

Anti-Microsoft sentiment coupled with the massive installed base make Microsoft products, and particularly Microsoft Windows, an irresistible target for hackers and "script kiddies". In recent years, products like Adobe Reader, Java, Flash, Firefox and more have come under attack as their popularity has increased.

Even the Macintosh is no longer invulnerable.

Here are some things you can, and should, do to stay safe.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Never Give Up

The Entrepreneur Credo

 ~ I like this infographic:

Infographic for entrepreneurs on never gicing up

The dip, as in the graphic, looks, and especially when you are in it, feels, more like a yawning chasm, even an abyss. True to the optimism of entrepreneurs, however, when you are there, things are looking up!

And it's still better than working for the Man.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Breaking the Grade Barrier

Food is Food

Imperfect apples
 ~ Food is still nutritious even if it doesn't look like the food in a carefully staged advertisement. How picky are we as consumers?
Maybe we’d be willing to buy a slightly smaller apple that only has 37 percent red coverage instead of the requisite 40 percent needed to qualify as the “fancy” grade that stores usually buy (yes, it’s actually measured). Maybe we consumers would even consider it a score to get a bag of Pink Lady apples for just 69 cents per pound.
Since I'm a home gardener and grow (some of) my own food, I'm already less focused on impossibly picture-perfect produce anyway. When you grow your own, it's often smaller (zucchini excepted) and sometimes not as beautifully colored or proportioned. It might even have pest damage! Horrors!

But it's still tasty, nutritious, maybe even organic! If you've ever worked in or patronized a food bank, you've seen food like this all the time. And if you care about sustainability, minimizing waste, and living more closely in tune with your environment, it's easy to take that first bite.

Friday, January 25, 2013


IRS Forms Only Your Grandpa Could Love

Remington typewriter
 ~ I expect some of my readers may not even know what carbon paper is, or its somewhat more modern, but still ancient relative, carbonless copy paper. If you have received a W-2 or a 1099-MISC income statement from a small business, however, you may have received it printed on one of these papers.

It is bizarrely retro.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More Regulatory Evils

Gun Control Stands Alone

 ~ Where else do we choose to have our civilization out of control?

Selection of things more geavily regulated than guns

Even though we regulate all of these things, we neither ban them, nor confiscate them from those owning and using them responsibly.

Control is not confiscation. Regulation is not a ban.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where's It Wednesday—CXVII

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Are College Degrees Worth It?

For Most? No

College has become too expensive
 ~ We always hear about the importance of getting a college degree, and how it correlates with much higher lifetime earnings. But, as the financial people are always quick to say, the past is no guarantee of future performance, and the current performance of college degrees is dismal indeed.

At left is an excerpt from an infographic from Frugal Dad on college costs. (The original is quite large, but worth looking at it; click to see in its native habitat.) Increasingly, a college education only has direct financial value if one treats it specifically as vocational training. Want to be an engineer? Got get a degree in computer science or EE. Want to study art? You're better off organizing your own reading and gallery tours, perhaps with a trip to the great museums of New York and Europe. Want to go into business? Become an entrepreneur.

College has other benefits to be sure, but the ballooning costs and the crushing debt load are not worth it for most future workers. It is no longer a ticket to the top rungs of the economic ladder. There is a bubble forming in college attendance, rising costs, and rising educational debt, which is unique in that it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

I'm not sure when it will pop, but like any bubble, it eventually must.

Monday, January 21, 2013

When Trees Grow to the Sky

Milan's Vertical Forest

Bosco Verticale | Vertical Forest building in Milan, Italy
 ~ A novel take on a green-walled building is under construction in Milan.

The Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) places trees on custom-designed ledges all the way up the outside walls of the two apartment towers.
Each apartment balcony will have trees (900 plantings are planned for the two buildings) that will provide shade in the summer and drop their leaves in winter to allow in winter sunlight. Plant irrigation is provided via a grey-water filtration. Additionally, photovoltaic power generation will help provide sustainable power to the building.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Everyday Gun Appreciation

Out of Control

US has loosest gun laws and highest rate of gun deaths
 ~ Appreciate this:
As thousands of pro-gun activists held rallies across the United States on Saturday, accidental shootings at three different guns shows illustrated the obvious: Being around lots of people carrying firearms can be a tad dangerous...

In Raleigh, a shotgun went off when the owner was taking it out of its case at a security checkpoint, injuring three people. In Indianapolis, a 54-year-old man appears to have accidentally shot himself in the hand as he was leaving a gun show. And in Ohio, a dealer was checking out a purchase when he pulled the trigger by accident and injured his friend. Although he had removed the magazine from the weapon, a round remained in the chamber.
Where else in our civilization do so many strenuously argue that things should be out of control?

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Infrastructure Fairy

Where Does Infrastructure Come From?

Golden Gate bridge
 ~ Is economic infrastructure necessary?

Of course it is, but like air to breathe, many only realize its indispensability by its unexpected and unwelcome absence.

Imagine any of the many things you or most other Americans do every day—take a hot shower in the morning. Hop in the car and go to the store. Turn on the TV to watch a show. Take your dog to the park.

In any of these activities, and countless others, we rely on infrastructure—roads, bridges, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications—to make them possible. Water from your tap, heat, powering electronics, paved streets, safe bridges, public security, readily available food and many other things don't happen without the infrastructure that enables it. Private enterprise may grow and deliver food to a market, investor-owned utilities may generate electricity, and companies may produce the cars we drive and the media we consume, but they don't build and maintain the infrastructure that enables their accessibility to us all.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

US Gun Laws

An Interactive Guide

Peanuts comic | Licenses for dogs, fishing, driving, and guns
 ~ The Guardian has created an excellent state-by-state summary of US gun laws.

The regional differences are stark, but as the accompanying notes point out, the patchwork nature of gun laws and regulations descends down to a very local level. If you want to get around restrictions, and are willing to shop for a venue, you can find one to suit.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where's It Wednesday—CXVI

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guns and Arms

Unanswered Questions

Backwards pointing gun
 ~ Could we as a nation, at long last, really be taking a hard look at our gun laws? It's long overdue.

Perhaps at some later point I'll write at greater length on the subject, but for now I have just three questions.

First, here is the text of the Second Amendment, as ratified by the states:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Questions, only partly rhetorical:
  1. Why do gun advocates frequently only mention the part after the comma, and ignore the first part of the sentence?
  2. The amendment itself states that regulating well is necessary, so why is there such an hysterical response to the common-sense notion of regulating guns?
  3. Anti-aircraft missiles, tanks and nuclear weapons are all "arms" yet no one squawks about restrictions on their ownership. Why then the apoplexy about regulating assault weapons or such things as high-capacity magazines?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Welfare Incentives—III


 ~ No question there are those who rely on handouts for their very survival. That said, there is equally no doubt that some at street corners and freeway off-ramps sporting "God bless" signs aren't begging, but are earning a living, or even supplementing one.

Cartoon | Corporate beggars

Legions of corporate persons engage in a similar exercise, infesting the off-ramps (and on-ramps) of Capitol Hill, making lofty (if vague and unprovable) claims about jobs as they buttonhole lawmakers in search of hand-outs. God bless!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Debt Favors

The Method of Impoverishment

Banana, slightly brown, turned like a frown
 ~ We will soon suffer the endless Kabuki of sham fiscal cliff politics. It will be frustrating and feckless in appearance to most of us, but the wealthy and powerful will be well-served. We are in the midst of an economic struggle for survival which Warren Buffet famously characterized so:
There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning.
And how are they doing that?
Load economies (governments, companies and families) with debt, siphon off their income as debt service and then foreclose when debtors lack the means to pay. Indebting government gives creditors a lever to pry away land, public infrastructure and other property in the public domain... The aim of financial warfare is not merely to acquire land, natural resources and key infrastructure rents as in military warfare; it is to centralize creditor control over society.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Nuke Waste, Guns & Plastic Bags

Digital Mosaics

Chris Jordan | Titanic mushroom clouds
 ~ There's more here than initially meets the eye.

Click on the image to go to artist Chris Jordan's site to find that the image is composed of 67,000 photos of mushroom clouds.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Renewable Energy Using Biomimicry

 ~ My friend Wally Kempkey has been working very hard on this for many years.

Not only is it incredibly cool and creative, the concept is very well-suited to slow currents. Faster currents can be harnessed by conventional turbines like those made by Hydrovolts and others, but such currents are comparatively rare. Slower currents can be found all over the world in watercourses both natural and man-made. While the power generated can be small, the Pterofin device would provide huge value in off-grid developing world locations for water pumping or trickle-charging batteries.

Want a scale model for your desk? Give some love on Kickstarter.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Bipartisan Cooperation

 ~ Is there a will to solve problems, or only endlessly to defer them?

Tom Toles | the birpartisan preparations for the next crisis

It's hard to raise campaign cash from lobbyists when there are no big policy matters at stake.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Where's It Wednesday—CXV

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Things I Learned from my Mum—V

Celebrate the Day

 ~ I've lived in Washington for 30 years. My Mum lived in Toronto, with summers in PEI. Although she only traveled out west a few times, she kept in close touch the whole time. She called and she wrote. A lot. She sent cards to her grandkids for Easter, for Halloween, for no reason at all. She wrote letters at least every couple of months, and always on birthdays, and for Christmas. (I've saved every one.)

She never forgot a birthday, although she was eager to let hers pass without fanfare. Nonetheless, we celebrated her birthdays whether near or far, and despite her protests about being "too old for birthdays" she always enjoyed herself.

Toasting with family
My Mum with 2 of her kids and their partners on her 60th birthday
So what did I learn? Stay in touch, and hoist a glass together whenever you can.

Thank you Mum.

Mary Ellen Leyerle
1/8/29 - 6/8/09

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Get Stuff Done

Making It As Simple As ABC

 ~ I've multi-tasked for many years, even though I've heard it argued that true multi-tasking is impossible. We can really only do one thing at a time, and trying to do several things at once simply results in doing several things not very well, and perhaps completing none of them. It leads to all quantity and no quality.

The argument is both true and irrelevant.

It's true inasmuch as we can't really focus on more than one thing at a time. It's irrelevant because it's not only unnecessary, but detrimental, and it's not really what people mean by multi-taasking.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How Green is Your Bailout?

I'm All Right, Jack

Tom Toles | Subprime mortgage mess

 ~ Who will get the bailouts in the next crisis? Or in the sausage that comes out of the Congressional factory in the next ledge down the fiscal cliff?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Road Subsidies

Who Pays to Maintain Our Roads?

Odometer rolling over
 ~ Washington, like many other states, imposes a fee on owners of automobiles when they relicense their cars. The amount of the fee varies. It can be a flat fee, or it can depend on such things as the weight of the vehicle, its value, or its age. As a usage fee, however, none of these well correspond to the actual cost of suffering that vehicle's wear and tear on roads, the purpose to which those fees are generally put. The fee for operating the car does not correspond to the actual expense to repair and maintain that infrastructure.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tracking Consequences

Let's Get Empirical

The job creators throw a fit about not having enough money
 ~ The inaptly named fiscal cliff has been (temporarily) averted in a deal that, in part, raises taxes on the so-called job creators.

We've been hearing for years—decades even—that higher taxes on the rich would cause them to stop hiring and investment.

Now that their taxes have gone up, let's all pay attention to see whether they actually throw that petulant fit they've been threatening for so long. I'm guessing not.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ice Follies—II

The Joy of Skating

 ~ Last week, when my daughter and I went ice-skating, I meant to include in the post a picture of this piece of her art:

The joy of skating | autism art

It is a self-portrait of course.

This picture, along with several others, have been made into greeting/Christmas cards. As the text ("About the artist") on the back reads in part:
[She] is a young adult with autism whose
drawings have been described as primitive, imaginative, and whimsical
with an amazing eye to proportion and detail.
The cards are available at finer stores. However, we have altogether too many big box monstrosities and not nearly enough finer stores, so contact me if you want to get some.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Where's It Wednesday—CXIV

Where in Seattle is this?

Somewhere in Seattle... but where?

Answer next week.

Details on the weekly Where's It Wednesday puzzle here.
Other weeks' puzzles here.
Answer to last week's puzzle, after the jump.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Carbon Footprints

The Footfall of Countries Compared

 ~ I love this infographic.

Carbon footprint of countries (infographic)

The most surprising one to me is Brazil. All that BRIC attention, all that deforestation of the Amazon, and still their footprint is smaller than Canada, South Africa, Mexico or Iran?

Central America as a region has the smallest footprint; smaller than the Caribbean even.

Once again, one has to admire Bhutan—happy with a small footprint.

Which ones do you find remarkable?