Saturday, April 19, 2014

Speaking of the Post Office...

Speaking of the Post Office...  I received a very official-looking letter from the Post Office (photo at right, with my address obscured), with a big banner saying “Verification Required” and “Do Not Discard.”  This immediately triggered my junk mail detector – that's exactly the sort of thing they do to get you to open the envelope.

I flipped it over, and it tells you right there that you're about to be subjected to direct mail marketing (aka “junk mail”).  Note that nothing listed on the back indicates any action is required on my part.

So I opened it up.  Inside were a number of coupons and advertising circulars, and the confirmation letter (see below) – which required no action on my part.  After pawing through all the coupons, I found exactly one coupon that we might use: 10% off at Lowe's, on up to $5,000 worth of merchandise.  The rest were all junk.

The Post Office – which my tax dollars subsidize – has become a junk mailer.

Can we just outsource the Post Office, please?  

Through a Google Glass, darkly...

Through a Google Glass, darkly...  Matt Labash on Google's wearable computer...


Success!  SpaceX's F9R just had its first test flight - and it was completely successful.  Make it full screen...

Elon Musk and his SpaceX team is making a very visible demonstration of the innovation and nimbleness of free enterprise, as compared to the government-run space programs that used to be the only way to get into space.  If I worked for NASA, I'd be aching to get a job at SpaceX – a place where they actually, like, make things happen...

You're not really surprised, are you?

You're not really surprised, are you?  The Obama administration has delayed a decision on the Keystone pipeline, again.

It really doesn't matter that most Americans want the pipeline built.  The technical arguments for and against it are also irrelevant.  Realistically Obama only has one option: to kick this can down the road by making no decision at all.  Why?  It's simple: his most generous liberal supporters are almost evenly split between being adamantly opposed to building it (that's the environmentalist wacko wing of the Democratic party) and fervently for it (that's the union wing of the party).  The majority of Democrats – who are in neither of those wings – support building the pipeline.  But their support comes with very little in the way of campaign contributions, so their voice is heavily discounted.

Kick the can, Barack.  It's what a Big Government politician does when faced with the need to make a controversial decision.  Nobody who knows you at all would expect anything else – and certainly nothing that required bedrock beliefs, courage, or even common sense...

Some very sweet photos...

Some very sweet photos ... of Primo the dog, and a Primo-adoring little girl.  As my wife would say: so sweet you'll get a cavity!  Via blogress Rachel Lucas...

An unexpectedly interesting read...

An unexpectedly interesting read...  Harry Reid's Facebook page, that is.  It's a surreal collection of hard-left propaganda (from Reid) and angry constituents.  There's very little support for him there.  Kind of sad, actually. 

Here's one example of a constituent's commentary.  Many of them I'd be reluctant to republish.  Suffice it to say that they're not happy:
Russ Wilcox Mr Reid (sorry you don't deserve the respect of the title Senator) why do you belittle people who oppose your views? If you ask me you are the terrorist, you are the one who is UN-AMERICAN!!! You should be ashamed of yourself for acting like a child throwing a tantrum calling people names. I for one am a PROUD AMERICAN, but I am ASHAMED OF MY GOVERNMENT. Try doing your job and represent those in your district NOT those in your party. It's easy to do just do whats RIGHT!!!

Watch out!

Watch out!  Antarctic ice is now at an all-time high.  Global warming is really starting to have an impact!

Open source seeds...

Open source seeds...  The “open source” movement started with software, but seems to be spreading to all sorts of things in a generalized push-back against intellectual property (patents and copyrights) laws.  I've been watching open source electronic and mechanical hardware, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, music, and now plant seeds.  If these non-software open source movements follow the software path, we'll soon see the large companies joining in as they realize the economic benefits of shared development.  It's far from clear to me that this actually works outside of software – and even inside the software industry, so far it only works in limited areas (generally for software that is used by a great many companies)...

British Pathe documentaries are all online...

British Pathe documentaries are all online...  Awesome.  Free.  Like the one at right, showing a dog jumping that makes our agility dogs look like rank amateurs...

Dragon Lady...

Dragon Lady...  Ran across this on the intertubes: the best photo I've ever seen of the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, affectionately known as “Dragon Lady”.  Click to embiggen. 

Hummers in the Delphinium luteum...

Hummers in the Delphinium luteum...  You may know this as yellow larkspur.  The hummer is a female Anna's (Calypte anna).  Via BPOD, of course...

Great truths...

Great truths...  Reader Jim M. lists 25 great truths that are well worth reading and thinking about.  One thing that struck me is just how old some of these are – the great battle between liberalism and freedom has been going on for a very long time...
In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.
   -- John Adams

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.
  -- Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.
  -- Mark Twain

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
  --Winston Churchill

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
  -- George Bernard Shaw

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.
  -- G. Gordon Liddy

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
  --James Bovard (1994)

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
  -- Douglas Case

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
   -- P.J. O'Rourke

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
  -- Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:  If it moves, tax it.  If it keeps moving, regulate it.  And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
  --Ronald Reagan (1986)

I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
  -- Will Rogers

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!
  -- P. J. O'Rourke

In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
  --Voltaire (1764)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!
  -- Pericles (430 B.C.)

No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
  -- Mark Twain (1866)

Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it.
  -- Anonymous, though often attributed to Will Rogers

The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
  -- Ronald Reagan

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.  The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
  -- Winston Churchill

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.
   -- Mark Twain

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
   -- Herbert Spencer

There is no distinctly Native American criminal class, save Congress.
  -- Mark Twain

What this country needs are more unemployed politicians
   -- Edward Langley

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
  -- Thomas Jefferson

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
  -- Aesop

Jumping, jumping, jumping...

Jumping, jumping, jumping...  A former colleague from ServiceNow sent me this video, with the comment “We’ve jumped the shark...”

I know some of the people in the video.  Despite being a technology geek (and a blogger!), I'm still amazed how easy it is today for ordinary people to be very public through web publication of text, photos, and video.  The latter is especially powerful in that regard, and it's so simple – and free – today for anyone to use that.  When I was 20 years old, in 1972, that kind of exposure would have been quite difficult, so expensive that only wealthy people could afford it, and time-consuming to produce and broadcast.  Now it's simple, free, and instantaneous.  That's quite a transition in just a few decades...

Grumpy cat calls it...

Grumpy cat calls it...  From a collection my mom sent out, my favorite:

Green dot illusion...

Green dot illusion...  Reader Simi L. sends along this great optical illusion.  The first effect (the green dot) I saw immediately.  The second effect (the disappearing pink dots) took longer – it requires steady focus on the black cross to see it:
If your eyes follow the movement of the rotating pink dot, the dots will remain only one color, pink.

However if you stare at the black '+' in the centre, the moving dot turns to green. Now concentrate on the black '+' in the centre of the picture. After a short period all the pink dots will slowly disappear and you will see only a single green dot rotating.

It's amazing how our brain works. There is no green dot, and the pink ones don't disappear. This should be proof enough, we don't always see what we think we see.

One surprise for me on the second effect was that I sometimes saw some of the pink dots, but not others – they'd disappear and reappear seemingly at random.  The brain is a funny thing!

US Post Service – Big Data supplier?

US Post Service – Big Data supplier?  Friend, former colleague, and reader Larry E. sends this along, saying it's another reason to get rid of the USPS.  I have several reactions to that:
  1. We needed more reasons to get rid of them?
  2. What are the chances that they could actually pull this off?  We're talking about the Post Office, folks...
  3. If we privatized the delivery of first class mail, the data would be mined immediately – exactly as UPS, Fedex, and other private carriers are already doing...