Mimsy Were the Borogoves

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at and repair. — Douglas Adams (Mostly Harmless)

Two weeks, and the madness of experts—Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
Altar of Feynman

There’s an old saying about people who say one thing, and act like they believe the opposite. They obviously don’t believe their own words. They might be lying, but they might also merely believe that only other people ought to follow the rules they make.

They might even believe that everyone, including themselves, should follow the rules—but only in the abstract. Everyone else is always abstract, but they easily come up with specific reasons why they, themselves, should be exempt in this particular case. They have Reasons for not following their own rules, while not recognizing that everyone else will also have Reasons.

This blindness is not uncommon among people in general; the problem with government administrators and government experts is that they actually get to make rules that only other people have to follow. Government “experts” are still trying to bring back the 55 mph speed limit, and repeal the 85th percentile rule1, despite all of the hard evidence about how many lives were lost the last time we tried that. Of course, when they’re on the road, they’ll have good Reasons for exceeding those limits, just like they did the last time around.

All of the media talking heads and politicians who say that masks help, act like they believe the opposite. If they took masks seriously, they wouldn’t take their masks off as soon as they thought the camera was off. They wouldn’t require people to wear the same old contaminated mask they’ve been wearing all day—or all week or all month. They’d require a new mask for every establishment and every event, and require new masks at regular intervals during each event.

They’d also require new masks whenever someone touches their mask.

That’s what people who take masks seriously do. If you know any surgeons, ask them how often they use the mask from one surgery during a different surgery. Ask them how they dispose of their masks. They never re-use them. Disposal is a serious business. Ideally, they’re changing masks every two hours or less. And they don’t take the mask out to their car, take it off with their bare hands, and lay it aside on the seat next to the groceries until their next surgery.

Deadly complications of government bureaucracy—Wednesday, April 28th, 2021
West Texas Oil Pumpjack

One of the most durable and reliable machines ever constructed. Their biggest vulnerability: government bureaucracy.

The Permian Basin fiasco reminds me of the other major power crisis I’ve been through, when I did lose power—and the hospital that had kept me in power during the regular California rolling blackouts lost power too. In the 2011 Southwest Blackout Event, power was knocked out in “parts of Arizona, southern California, and Baja California, Mexico” including “all of the San Diego area”.

That’s a huge area. The outage started a little before 3:30 in the afternoon on a Thursday. At the time, power used to go out somewhat regularly for the university where I worked so I decided to head home. There wasn’t much point in waiting for power to come back up. The University had backup generators for servers, so they were fine—but not for offices, so I couldn’t do anything. And my workday ended around four anyway.

I was a little surprised to see that the power was also out to the traffic signal at the bottom of the hill. This outage apparently wasn’t limited to the university.

And then the power was also out at the traffic signal at Fashion Valley, and again all around Hotel Circle. Traffic was badly backed up. I got off of my bicycle and walked it the rest of the way to my apartment.

It took a little longer for the battery backups in cell towers to go out, so I was able to discover how widespread the outage was. Knowing that an outage that large would have a correspondingly long restoration time, a bunch of us at my apartment got food out to the grill at the pool, and drinks of course, and we made a party of it.

I remember going to sleep with the power still out. I didn’t have air conditioning at my apartment—it was San Diego—but I did rely on fans for evaporative cooling, and of course those were all electric. The power outage covered everything that ran on electricity. Besides traffic lights, sewage pumping stations were out of power. The dangers cascaded far beyond no air conditioning on a hot day, though that also was dangerous inland—it reached 115 degrees in El Centro.

The reason for the blackout? A technician was going through a checklist of steps, and at the same time talking to people helping him go through this checklist of steps to prepare for future items on it.

The reincarnation of the B6000C bread machine—Wednesday, April 14th, 2021
Baked loaf from West Bend Hi-Rise

A very nice loaf of white chocolate macadamia bread, if slightly overdone.

Those of you who are, with me, fans of the Black & Decker B6000C bread machine should take a look at the West Bend model 47413 on sale at QVC right now.

I received a Black & Decker B6000C All-in-One Automatic Bread Maker for Christmas in 2014. I immediately liked it a lot, but it was my first bread maker, so I had nothing to compare it to. I didn’t realize how special it was until I tried to replace it after semi-accidentally screwing it up (more later). The B6000C itself and its parts were discontinued and, unsurprisingly, expensive from third parties. But there didn’t seem to be anything to replace it with. Most other bread machines only have one paddle. They make vertical loaves of bread. They make tiny loaves of bread.

I continued to make do with a degraded bread machine for another year because there was no replacement.1 It still continued to make bread fine. But it finally died two weeks ago. This time around, when I did a search for a three-pound breadmaker, I found the West Bend 47413 on QVC.

Black & Decker and West Bend breadmakers

The old Black & Decker B6000C and the new West Bend 47413 Hi-Rise side-by-side. They are clearly very similar bread machines. A closer look, and they’re very likely the same bread machines, with some improvements in the West Bend.

The 47413 is for almost all practical purposes the same machine. In fact, it’s so similar I suspect that they literally are the same machine, with minor changes to either improve it or to keep them from using interchangeable parts.

The West Bend has changed a few settings.

Ace of Spades HQ—Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Irreverant, insightful, and often even informative, I suggest putting Ace of Spades HQ on your regular reading list. “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

Ace is always a necessary read, but he has been on fire lately. Or in pudding.

The TRS-80 Color Computer 2—Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

My second computer, sometime around 1987, was Radio Shack’s Color Computer 3. It was an amazing computer, and, combined with Microware’s OS-91 operating system, well ahead of its time. A very inexpensive computer with a Unix-like operating system and true multitasking, shared graphics libraries, protected memory, and modern programming tools. I continued using that computer into the nineties. When I gave it up, I didn’t replace it. There was nothing to replace it with. It was a phenomenal computer/software combination that soured me on either Windows or Macintosh for at least a year, and which I continued to miss until Mac OS X.

So when I started researching the history of the personal computer for a novel I’m writing, the predecessors to the CoCo 3 were especially interesting to me.

I acquired an “untested” Tandy Color Computer 2 at the end of July 2019 and happily it works great. This is a late version of the model, which I was interested in mainly because it includes the ability to use lowercase as an accidental upgrade. It still fascinates me how lowercase was such a rare feature on early computers. No lowercase made word processing difficult at best. Lowercase mods were probably the most common aftermarket mod for any home computer that didn’t already have it.

Extended Color BASIC does not support the lowercase built in to the late model video display generator, but it is there if you know where to look for it. This was the last version of the Color Computer 1 and 22 before the Color Computer 3 came out.

One thing using this old computer does is reinforce the prejudice I held against computers that used unmodified television sets for video displays. I used the TRS-80 Model 1—a 1978 computer that I purchased used in 1980—until a house fire in 1987 melted it. I used it for nearly ten years because it came with a monitor that provided crisp (for the time, at least) text at 64 characters per line.

Even at only 32 characters per line, the Color Computer 2’s RF output to a modern television is far from crisp. I would never want to use this computer for word processing, or even for programming anything longer than a few lines of BASIC. That’s part of why I wrote superBASIC and the various tools I use for verifying old Rainbow magazine code on the Macintosh.

Fraud is a constant—Friday, March 19th, 2021

“We have technologies that can identify dead voters the moment they cast a ballot. We can identify people who are out-of-state, voted twice, are underage, live in a vacant lot or a UPS or FedEx postal box. We can even show a photo of that vacant lot so you can see where your fake neighbor claims to live. Literally, the second their ballot is counted, they can be flagged as a likely fraud. Yes, we can deploy that technology today. We have done it in the insurance industry for decades.”

“We can deploy technologies to identify likely fraud within seconds of when it happens.”

I can’t speak to the first part of this article, but the ending is absolutely true. It is completely crazy that when we vote we are not employing the techniques—most of them simple—that have been used for decades in other industries—insurance, banking, and other forms of accounting—to identify fraud in time to stop it.

The media is the scorpion—Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

“The Washington Post was busted for publishing fabricated quotes from an anonymous source, attributing them to a sitting president, and using those quotes as a basis to speculate the president committed a crime. The invented Donald Trump quotes, which related to a fight over election integrity in Georgia, were cited in Democrats’ impeachment brief and during the Senate impeachment trial.

“The fake quotes, bad as they were, are just one of many ways the media have done a horrible job of covering election disputes in the state.”

Remember this, when you hear in the news that Trump did this, or Trump did that, that the election was litigated and no fraud was found. The media lies. They lie about everything. They lied about the quotes and thought they wouldn’t get caught; they lied about the court cases and didn’t care if they got caught or not. Like the scorpion in the river, it’s what they do. Even if, like the scorpion, they destroy themselves as they destroy America.

The PUC had no authority to hike electricity prices—Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

“At the heart of the PUC’s decision seems to be a belief in market theory over actual markets. When the decision was made as prices were trading as low as $1,200, D’Andrea stated, ‘I think we all expected that when we were in load shed we would be at $9,000.’ In other words, the commissioners did not care what market prices actually were. They were going to impose their vision on the market, regardless…

“The PUC’s renegade action should not surprise us. For much of the last decade, seemingly no regulation, no subsidy was beyond the PUC’s consideration for what once had been the most competitive and successful electricity market in the world.”

Why is it that whenever we’re told “markets failed”, we find a bureaucracy behind the scenes pretending they know the market better than the consumers actually using it?

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