Coping: Time Change Adventures

A tale about prepping – with a large order of woo-woo this morning.  Lots of background to the prepping point, as well – which is our agenda – plus a ton of woo-woo.

As long-term readers know, Elaine and I went with friends (Robin and Judy) to see Johnny Mathis at the “world’s largest casino” this weekend. Winstar in Thackerville, OK.   Show was great and on Sunday morning, I cashed in a $507 chit and a $206 chit.  In my odd approach to gambling, I go in with three or four hundred dollar bills and when they have been through the machines, I print the chit and walk away.  One of the few gambling techniques that works:  Find the high payout machines, then play until you get a statistical outlier, then cash out and walk away.

In the process, I figure we got gipped out of an hour of sleep by the hotel, though – what with the Daylight time changel.  I don’t know why hotels don’t change check out to 11:30 for that one weekend a year when it time change works against the customer.

(Continues below)


That’s the short version of the trip.  With all the walking around the world’s biggest casino, I actually came home 2-pounds lighter than when I left.  Which is something of a miracle given the high-end food.  Saturday night, for example, was a filet (7 oz) with shrimp scampi.  That’s after a warm-up on cold (massive) shrimp in a one-off sauce that is the best yet in my life.  Going on 70, that’s one hell of a compliment.  I’ve had shrimp all over the country and in a dozen foreign spots and this was amazing.

A Prepping Story from “The Realms”

From my birthday – in mid February – until sometime in May is my “hot time of the year” for dreaming.  This is when I have amazing, and sometimes precognitive, dreams about the world.  Things like detours while traveling – in advance.  The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster – 18-hours in advance.  And there was the strange case of the Melbourne bus accident.

Not all dreams are precognitive, but there is usually a message to them.

So “REAL” are these dreams that I often remark it’s like waking up in another life – living that for a while, and then reawakening on this side of the dream boundary.  More sense of how it works in my novel DreamOver: A David Shannon Adventure.  Which, I might add, is based on more than half a dozen such other-worldly dream-life adventures.

Now to this one:

In last night’s dream adventure, Elaine and I had gone to a capitol city which was on the coast to look around.

Directions tend to be 90-degrees off in my dreams (something usefully learnt from the Melbourne bus case), but I will give you the “sense” of direction as we go.

We parked the car just to the north and a few miles west of the downtown waterfront district.  We walked downhill toward the water looking for…not sure what.

But, as we came to the waterfront of the city, we were amazed to see nuclear missiles being erected and readied for launch among the buildings.  The buildings were not very tall.  I’d say no more than five or six stories tall.  And the missile warheads were distinctly built with large domes on the tops, not the “pointy end” type missiles.

We got the sense that time was running out.  There would be nuclear war, but we didn’t know when, but soon.  Like in the next few days.

Realizing this, we went into a myriad of building types, trying to find something that would be survivable.

In the upper part of the downtown area, there were a lot of two and three story buildings.  But these were made in a very heavy way that would be blown over immediately in the vicinity of the target area.

We worked our way south, and up a number of rolling hills, stopping at one deli that looked promising.

A two story building, it was built stoutly and we figured it would survive.  But it lacked the basement I was looking for.  As we left through a side door, I noticed another door that opened into a chicken-raising area.  Most strange.

Continuing up, and south, there were a number of old churches/religious buildings.  these seemed to meet my search criteria; they had basements and they were heavily-built and all.  But, on talking to a priest (who was in a side yard to the church rescuing a small dog with a broken leg) we began to understand that in the coming war, this building, too, would topple.  And the heavy (dark granite) stones would be impossible to escape from.

So, we kept walking.

We stayed to what was emerging as a main highway that at one point went under a kind of earthen embankment.  It was too short to be a tunnel, really, but the building (through which the road and pedestrian walkway went) was of huge timber construction.

The way it had be built seemed like a civil defense project in a sense:  The heavy timbers had been set up as a massive frame and then tin roofing had been applied between the beams to keep dirt from drifting down into the traffic area below.

The whole thing couldn’t have been more than a block, or two, long.  A few shops were inside.  We kept walking, though, because there were no blast doors on the (capitol-facing) north side, from which we’d come.

What we did learn, though, was that if we walked a long ways further, there were some stock yards outside the city – about 20-miles on.  Once past those, we learned there was a river we could follow inland.

The name of this river didn’t survive the transit back onto this side of The Realms but its name began with an O and there was a ch, an e, and and r in it best I can remember.

When we learned it was such a distance, we decided to return to the northwest part of the capitol city and try to find the car so we could make better time traveling.

As we came into the city again, Elaine walked east, down the hill into the most populated part, looking for a major road to left which would take us back to the northwest area where our vehicle was.

Neither one of us had bothered to note the “car” location when we departed on foot for the downtown area east (and down hill).

Now, there was a rising sense of urgency that we find our way quickly and get the hell out of there.  It wouldn’t be long before the missiles flew and we wanted to be south of the stock yards and near the river before things went bad.

How does one analyze such a dream?

Much of it is a mish-mash of an old newsman’s brain.  It’s likely the rounded nose-cone missiles were an archetype processor output of “Iron Dome.”

The layout of the capitol was more difficult.  I don’t know of any where there are stockyards 20-miles from the city and a river beyond that going inland.  Anyone with map ideas, please let me know.  And remember from the Melbourne dream, which was 90-120 degrees counterclockwise on this side of the Realms, that I don’t know what my recent Cartesian ordinates are.

Language provides no insights, either.  That is because in The Realms people communicate ideas directly.  What we, as a species, are going through right now with iconography in computers is a start.  We still “attach” verbose words to things (empty Recycle bin?) or “Find?:_____” but these are half-measures.

I get the sense that past high civilizations operated more in the “ideasphere” than present world inhabitants.  Perhaps, in the intermarriage of the Neanderthals and the Cro Magnons with the Homo Sapiens, some of our native genius was bred out (deliberately so?) in order that the survival skills of more aggressive species, less thoughtful and reflective compared with Sapiens, could be integrated.

Or, perhaps the co-breeding was the result of animal needs to recover from one of the great planetary catastrophes… we will never know.

An “accidental detour” on our trip this weekend also figured into things.

Because of traffic, and picking the wrong lane, I ended up taking I30 east from Dallas a few miles.  This put us on surface streets through southeast Dallas and I remember thinking how much the apartments and condos in this area looked like “chicken coups.”

Understand that while we live in a modest (wildly decorated and customized) mobile home, people who live in “coups” have a special problem:  They are “captives of the City.”

I spent a few minutes while we were driving (back on the 635 West and taking the 175/Kaufman exit to head down our way) thinking about this notion of how and why large-scale civilian populations are  in the (supposedly) “modern world” held hostage for geopolitical purposes.

Why do people put up with it?

Is it the money?

We happen to live in an area that is so dispersed and spread out that it’s almost unthinkable that anyone would waste a nuke on us.  Rural and “independent living” mean much the same thing.

Yet, people in cities like Bremerton, Washington, Long Beach, Oakland, Honolulu, and so on, by simply choosing to live where they do, have essentially placed their “necks in the noose” of geopolitics.

And that, my friend, is (far as I can tell) the point of the dream.

In order for global geopolitical conflict to occur, all you need are targets of convenience.  The Big Cities?  They’ll do fine.

Back in the “dream port” (bed, this side of The Realms), Elaine and I talked about the holding of civilian populations hostage, as they are.  “Why do people allow it?” she wondered.

Honestly, I didn’t have an answer.  Maybe they just don’t see it.  I mean, sure, I understand the reasons from past Ages.  When cities sprang-forth at river junctions, where downstream travel was easy.  I totally get that.

But, in an era where we’ll be upgrading our internet connection here in the Outback to 25 MB this week…why THEN do people allow themselves to be held hostage in geopolitics at the macro-level or higher sales taxes at the local level?

That’s our prepping ponder:  People – when thinking of prepping – place far too much emphasis on “The Job.”  They go “where the money is.”  But is that the wisest choice?

My tromping around this (dreamscape) capitol in the midst of preparing for nuclear conflict with its entire population at risk, was deeply disturbing.  It echoed off the “chicken coups” of we saw in suburban Dallas & Mesquite, Texas.

This is a fulfilling life?” I kept asking myself?  How do people in coups keep from going nuts?  Where’s the meaning?

In a country with so much land, requiring only commitment and a vision, why haven’t huge population centers emptied out -dispersed- already? Is it the Urban Real Estate Mega-bubble?

Or, is it something about the BUZZ of a city that entrains people?  The economic GLUE that hypnotizes people into trading their own self-determination for a comfort of living a life of the well-fed hostage?

Perhaps we need a word for it:  Urbanosis: (n)  “A state of unquestioning participation in a pseudo-life.”

Thus, countries of hostages, cities of hostages, all competing for more paper in order to…what, exactly?

Superficially, as a past master of the balance sheet – I once lived it.  Not like we don’t grok the deal.  Far from it.

Maybe it was the casino that set off the thought.  People all looking for the same statistical outlier.  Missing the Miracle Money Technique, just like chickens working over a handful of scratch tossed out by the farmer.

It’s nice to be back from the dream port, but some deep questions came with me this visit.  And no simple answers.

Just damn tough questions about modern values, such as they are.

Write when you get rich,

Coping: Economic Crashes & Contexing “Universal Income”

The unilateral imposition of “smart tariffs” on aluminum and steel imports is both a very good thing, and a bad thing.  Plus, it reveals what we expected about the nature and thinking style of Donald Trump; it is far from reassuring.

This is an almost style of report (sans links and data sources).  It’s the kind of thing that results from getting up at 2:30AM to see how much damage is being wrought around the world by the tariff move of Thursday.  U.S. futures are down another 200 Dow points.

In Japan overnight, the Nikki 225 index (roughly, their Dow analog) dropped 2 -1/2%.  That is echoing around the world this morning as Europe is seeing sizeable declines and we expect (pending data later on) for the US market to drop a good bit further after the open.  But the problems ahead are only now coming into focus, so as an “I can’t sleep, so let me explain a few things…” effort, let’s put some of the major impacts into context.  Because the MainStream Media in largely incapable of doing that.

(Continues below)


A word of confession up front:  My thinking (over almost 50-years of writing about business and economics) has evolved from neo-classical, to wholly exploratory “heterodox economics“, then distinctly Austrian, and now it’s more along the lines of the ICAPE effort.  Learning economics is – as this demonstrates – an evolving life-long pursuit.

Since you have likely never heard of the ICAPE (or economic pluralism) before, a quick Wikipedia cite’s in order:

“Critics of mainstream economics have called for a reform of the discipline in the past. The movement for pluralism can therefore be traced to wider movements for progressive change in the 1960s and 1970s, with economists like Frank Stilwell and Steve Keen campaigning for pluralist and critical economics teaching at the University of Sydney in 1971.[6] In 1992, a petition organised by Geoffrey Hodgson, Uskali Mäki, and Deirdre McCloskey was published as a paid advertisement in The American Economic Review.[7] The petition described itself as a “plea for a pluralistic and rigorous economics” and was preceded by a commission of the American Economic Association entitled “Report by the Commission on Graduate Education”.[8][9] Many critics of mainstream economics began to describe themselves as proponents of pluralism and formed groups or organizations such as The International Confederation of Associations for Reform in Economics (ICARE).[10] In 2000, students at the École Normale Supérieure protested and announced the creation of the post-autistic economics movement.[11][12] Similarly, students at the University of Cambridge and University of Missouri-Kansas City organised petitions in 2001 and in 2011 the Cambridge Society for Economic Pluralism was formed to promote pluralist thinking and pushing for curriculum reform within the university.[13] In 2009, the Foundation for European Economic Development (FEED) organised a plea for economic pluralism with over 2,000 signatures in the first month.[14] In addition, the first Volume of the International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education was founded and published along with the Handbook for Pluralist Economics Education.[15]

In 2011, Harvard University students organized a walkout from their Economic Principles class, objecting to the one-sided presentations of their professor Greg Mankiw.[16] Paul Krugman and Richard Layard organised a “Manifesto For Economic Sense” in 2012.[17] The Post-Crash Economics Society Manchester published a petition in November 2013 and was involved in setting up Rethinking Economics.[18] They also devised a course entitled “Bubbles, Panics and Crashes: an Introduction to Alternative Theories of Crisis”, which the economic department rejected.[19] Student groups in the United Kingdom published a draft manifesto in April 2014.[20] On May 5, 2014, economics students from nineteen countries published an international student letter and formed the International Student Initiative for Pluralist Economics.[21] The students called for pluralism of theories and methods to provide economics students with an understanding of the broader social and moral implications of economic decisions.[22] In 2016, Promoting Economic Pluralism was formed to launch a dialogue on creating an accreditation system for pluralist economics courses”

My own take on economic pluralism is rather simplistic:  It comes down to acknowledging that everyone studying the field is bound to come up with a piece of the whole Truth, once in a while.

My own “truth” of the sport (it is, after all competitive) is that neoclassical has put far too much emphasis on math and not enough on common sense.

I’ll give you a simple example:

In Peoplenomics this week, we discussed the matter of Machine-Human Overlap.  The idea is big (no question!) but it’s also profoundly important.  Oh…and completely ignored by most convention (peer-review) driven thinking in the field.

To be sure, there are some very bright people who are cognizant of the critical nature of this overlap as a possible driver of macro-economic events.  Take Andrew Odlyzko’s plentiful works (a few of which are here with still more here).  All of which make tasty reading!

The problem in economics (and why pluralism) is so important, is that when an event like the steel/aluminum tariffs pops out of headlines, few grasp it’s multiplicity of implications.

Each “school”  (i.e. herd) in economics has a turf-defending view.  A pluralist approach (like spices and cooking) is more inclined to “a little this, a little that” to get to what really works.

This morning I’d like to run through a few thoughts because (truth being well dispersed in plain sight!) a few of these ideas may be of long-term significance and use to you.

  1. Donald Trump has revealed himself to be very much more like Herbert Clark Hoover – who was at the helm when the US fell into the Great Depression –  than we feared.

I have covered the parallels between Trump and Hoover more extensively both here and on Peoplenomics.  The steel/aluminum tariff decision is not likely to be the end of “Trump Trade Monkeying” because it is just too damn tempting.

What I see being revealed in Trump is a man who, while brilliant in tactical implementations, may fall short in longer-term strategic thinking.

The basis for that is observing Trump’s parallels NOT with Smoot-Hawley (which came after the 1929 debacle (Smoot-Hawley was passed in 1930), but rather in how Hoover was working with labor (the Unions and Steel) in the lead-in to the big market break of ’29.

Rothbard makes the (Austrian, Mises) claim that booms and busts are inevitable consequences of financial interventionism.  He then documents how Hoover (with promises from big Unions and Business) was striving to maintain the huge bubble of growth in the wake of the lesser-appreciated 1920-1921 Depression, which in our work lines up well with the US Housing Bubble Collapse circa 2009-2010.  We’re “in that zone.”

Where the Austrians miss the boat (a bit) is that there was also a huge period of Machine-Man-Overlap in the period.  The overlap back then was transitory in the evolution of autos.  The cars of the day were not going to be able to survive 200,000 mile service lives.  But its where jobs were…but at the same time, autos (and tractors) killed small farms.  Massive tech-shift.

Fortunately (or not) the job losses implicit in the evolution of the traction motors (tractors) that had displaced farmers en masse created a huge new industry we can lump-together as heavy equipment, automotive, and (eventually under Eisenhauer) the national highway system.

The specific problem Hoover had (in trade) was similar to what Trump will have to deal in coming months and years given the continuation of present global trends.

As I wrote in Peoplenomics in 2016, the problem comes down to one of egalitarianism.  Liberals swallow this concept up.  Core idea is that the work of a Mexican, a Japanese, or a Chinese worker ought to be similarly valued as an American worker.

Sounds fine…don’t get me wrong (we’re all about equality)…but it’s a lie and specious bullshit.

You see globalism totally hinges on this Big Lie because while, on the one hand, Globalists claim to be “free traders” they are distinctly not.  Consumer  shit is made in China because they make less than we do.

The Globalistas set up the job-jacking and offshoring of American manufacturing in order to take advantage of lower “purchasing power partity” (PPP) labor rates in (to be Trumperian) “third world shitholes.”

As the Austrians worry, financial interventionism is a bit like pregnancy.  Once you’re on  that road, you’re committed.  Thus, when Hoover faced the prospect of falling wage pressures, he did what the combination of Bush, Obama, Trump, and the Federal Reserve of today have done:  They have (inadvertently we assume) conspired to artificially maintained higher prices and employment as evident in any number of data sets.  Job of the Fed dual-mandate and such.

This week, for example, Home prices were up 6.3% year-on-year nationally in the Case-Shiller data and single-month inflation of import prices totaled a full 1%. That pushes out to 12.58 percent annualized inflation.

What has led to this has been (as correctly warned-of by the Austrians) the continuous watering down of the purchasing power of money.

It’s axiomatic that prices do not “rise” (the great lie of the Keynesians!).  Rather, most of the time, money simply becomes worth less.  Sure, the next effect is that you need more of “worth-less” money to buy things. So, sure, it SEEMS like prices went up. But the Austrians – sporting a keen sense of first causes –  point out this would not be the case if a country followed a responsible monetary regimen.

Sorry, that ship has sailed.  President Kennedy was the last hope and conspiracy theorists hold Johnson accountable.

As of this morning, the US Debt to the Penny (reported by the Treasury Department) was $20.885-trillion dollars.  And we just learned this week that US Gross Domestic Product was running $19-trillion and change in Q4 2017.  This means, essentially, that the Fed has had to “make up” the difference and then some.

And the problem does not cure itself.  We are presently inflating in order to prevent deflation from becoming obvious.

As I reported (Peoplenomics, 2016) I would not be surprised to see the populist Trump – now revealed to be tactical, rather than strategic in economic matters – to be driven toward the liberal-sponsored notion of purchasing power parity (PPP) adjustments to steal-back the least-cost wage benefits presently pocketed by Globalists:

“Now, consider the case of the USA with an average PPP of $58,714 versus a country like Mexico where the wages are $14,867 PPP.  The (simple) PPP import adjustment (we won’t call it a Tariff because those have been hounded by the globalists…) would be 25.3%.

This means when Ford builds a car in Mexico and brings it into the USA, some portion of the car’s labor, say 10%, would be subject to a PPP adjustment of 20%.   Let me give you an example how such a calculation could be made:

    • Car Made in Mexico:  $40,000
    • Car Made in USA:  $50,000.
    • Labor component each:  15%.
    • Mexico Labor Component:  $6,000
    • USA Labor component:  $7,500
    • PPP Differential:  $1,500 payable prior to entry.”

This is how I envision a future “son of Smoot-Hawley Act”  being implemented once we get past the immediate prospect of a crashing economy and the falling market.

2.  The Trump administration  and Congress (what’s left and hasn’t resigned, having seen economic projections of what’s coming) will be left holding the “hot potato” of the massive and sudden pulling-in of consumer spending.  This is even-now beginning to appear on the horizon.

Thus, we expect short-term trends will accelerate in areas like “work-fare” in lieu of welfare.  We will likely see systemic reductions in “entitlements” and reductions in real Social Security incomes.  (Yes, this is why I have been preaching for years the philosophy of personal debt-elimination!)

At the same time government will (again) be faced with the recurring battle over whether to artificially hold wages high (which just made the previous Depression worse and more sudden and severe in its onset), we are also hearing the “next chorus” of “This Time It’s Different!”

It’s not.  Trump is likely (as a tactician) to respond (much as Hoover) rather than anticipate and run ahead of the problems.

You will likely hear a familiar refrain about a concept called ” Universal Income” and, as described by one of our Peoplenomics subscribers, it sounds pretty darned good – on the surface:

“The interesting thing about universal income is that there are no disincentives to productivity, but also, it allows creativity to flourish.

And let’s assume the amount would be small. Presumably this would drive many to small towns and rural situations, where their meager incomes would go further. Maker culture thrives in such settings. And group living would clearly take-off, for the same reasons as in Seattle. And talk about velocity of circulation.

How to pay?

Slash social (engineering) programs, cuz people get direct payments. Slash defense. Print money without borrowing it. Pay interest off with the printed money. Tax all transactions at point of sale, which renders imports less profitable. Tax pollution, slave labor and environmental destruction on products made below civilized standards. Enforce environmental and health regulations on imports. HEB uses farms in Mexico for produce. They do random tests for banned chemicals. One strike and the farm gets a lifetime ban. The Chinese et al. Should get the same treatment.

There is a strong correlation between surplus labor and depression, and technological advances, as you say, cause such surpluses. I have been in the publishing business for over 40 years. For half of that time, we employed typesetters with Linotype machines. As many as 10 or 12 people worked on rush jobs.

Now publishing has been in a depression for 20 years. The typesetters are dead or gone. Linotypes went to South America 20 years ago. Real incomes are down for most. Humans really are at a crossroad. Historically, for true reform to happen, there must be a crash and burn. But out of the embers, technology COULD help build a paradise. And this time we have internet to help. Or hurt. Example. Josh Rogan and Alex Jones each have 2 million YouTube subscribers (GU note: YouTube Terminates Account of InfoWars Bureau Chief).

As they are shoved out, something not censored will give them a platform. Open source and diy videos are everywhere. Want to replace the bumper on a 2005 Accord? There are several videos that walk you through that.  Want to make a world class Caesar salad? You’ll find an embarrassment of riches. Need heavy equipment? There are open source plans for tractors, backhoes, etc. that use trees for structural components. Most villages could collectively afford the motors, pumps, etc.

And blockchain will change many casino games, too. Making them illegal will work as well as making cocaine has. Or weapons bans to South Africa, N. Korea and Iran have. One simple use would be the equivalent of the scrip issued by cities in the Depression. Self organizing collectives could use internal blockchain for internal commerce. One handy feature is that open source code allows the creation of a crypto that is inherently limited in supply, unlike government schemes. And they can be backed by things other than their utility and lack need for trust of trading partners.

I just reread Gatto’s Psychopathology of Public School’s essay. And I realized why the kids 19 and under are so different from their older siblings. They have always had YouTube, Google, complex video games, email, Whole Foods, etc. They naturally do what Gatto says kids should, when not in class.  So many are reverting to the better, earlier models of humans in a technological society. And many more were homeschooled, at least some of the time, breastfed, given clean food and free ranged on the internet.  My 18 year old has lifelong friends in Europe, New Zealand, Russia, etc. whom he met playing group video games, as a boy. Some of them now have huge YouTube followings.  He knows and exchanges emails with heavy hitters in the video game industry. Ironically, it turns out that several of them now live in our neighborhood.  He is a certified welder, makes jewelry and other crafts which he sells. Welds things like broken truck frames. He is going into engineering school next, planning to do robotics and related stuff. He chose UT because they just put in a multistory maker space, free to be used by engineering students, with state of the art machines of every description. He has a plan to use one special printer, plus a lathe to make and sell jewelry. Should net $100 per hour. Maybe more.

I have a feeling this generation will fulfill Strauss and Howe’s prediction that they will be a Hero generation.”

Ah, it sounds so idyllic!  But the Devil is always in the Details.

The notion of “just printing up money” to pay off the debt doesn’t work because it destroys savings and capital.  The free lunch has a hidden price and it is exorbitant!

Let’s say that you decided (before the economy cratered) to buy U.S. government bonds.  Let’s further say that you had $1-million worth of such bonds.

In an amazing example of economic hutzpah, we envision a future Congress ending the Federal Reserve’s franchise to “manage the US money system.”

With the banksters out of the way, the political class would then print up as much money as they want…which they promptly do.  As they do so, a sudden (and massive) hyperinflation occurs that would dwarf the war reparations-repayment renunciation of debt by the Weimar Republic  post World War I.

What results is a likely replay of exactly what Robert Mugabe did in the Zimbabwean hyperinflation:

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe was a period of currency instability that began in the late 1990s shortly after the confiscation of private farms from landowners, towards the end of Zimbabwean involvement in the Second Congo War. During the height of inflation from 2008 to 2009, it was difficult to measure Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation because the government of Zimbabwe stopped filing official inflation statistics. However, Zimbabwe’s peak month of inflation is estimated at 79.6 billion percent in mid-November 2008.[1]

In 2009, Zimbabwe stopped printing its currency, with currencies from other countries being used.[2] In mid-2015, Zimbabwe announced plans to have completely switched to the United States dollar by the end of 2015.”

At its core, then we see that Universal Income is not a panacea.  As a practical matter it would end up being little more than food rationing under the guise of monetary benefit.

It is clear the US government has known for some time that American mass (over) consumption would lead to collapse.  It’s for this reason that Americorp and the Corporation for National Service bears such an uncanny similarity to the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration during the previous Depression.

It’s also probably why a lot of House and Senate types are resigning and choosing not to run again.  If they knew something was coming – and didn’t speak up about it, wouldn’t that be treason?

(The earlier version of this article listed places you don’t want to go trying to hide from economic collapse – but that didn’t print first time around, so here’s that list again…)

A quick review of this list will reveal places that have historically gone through revolutions under similar global conditions and it may be some of that same real estate may not be where you’ll want to hang your hat during any coming badness in America.

Sometimes, the only way through bad times is to revert to what worked last time similar problems arose.

We know that includes “lost values” like thrift, hard work, sharing, and debt elimination at the personal level.  Lots of lost values.

Oh well…

On to the day’s stream of stuff…

Write when you get rich,

Making: A $20 Parts-Meter & How to Use It

If you’re into robotics, computers, electronic circuit design, fiddling, or you’re a ham radio hobbyist wanting to spend more time on the boss end of a soldering iron, my friend Jeff at the local ham club turned me on to something called an “M-Meter, parts meter and assorted other names.”

What makes this a useful tool is it answers one of the more troubling problems face by newcomers to electronics;  which is “Just what it this damn part I’m looking at?

Pretty cool, too,” I was assured. Just plug a part in and it will tell you what you’ve got!”  Given the number of eye operations I’ve been through, anything that lightens the load on the eyes is “all good.”  Besides, the Parts or M-Meters are dirt cheap – about $11-bucks on eBay for the working board and I splurged for an $8 acrylic specially-made box to put it in.

(*Continues below)


The first step in assembly is to lay out the case parts to get an idea of how things to together.  There’s a QR code on some of the packaging.  But, while the Chinese may believe all American’s own iPhones, there are those of us on slow circuits and out of cell-range in the woods.  I already warned you some tablets – like my new Kindle HD 10 will not focus close on small QR’s, right?  Still, it’s an enclosure for crying out loud — how tough could it be?

Essentially, you get two big pieces of clear acrylic.  The one with the plentiful screw holes is the bottom, while the one with the cutout for the component test-bed goes on top.  Not hard stuff.

Just remember that on the two long side pieces, there’s one with a cut-out and this is placed adjacent to the top where the test socket (and lever) are located.  The side cut-out lets the lever move to the locked position.

There are four long screws and nuts;  also four screws that are short with nuts.  The short one are used with small plastic stand-offs to hold the CPU/ display board off the case.  Eventually (since rocket science is what we do around here, yeah?) I figured the four long screws with nuts would clamp the case together.

After using those untrimmed fingernails (no one who actually makes things trims their nails, I tell yah) the paper is off the plastic parts (they look water-jetted) and you’re ready to, er, screw.

The standoffs go under the printed circuit board (PCB) and they will only fit one way with the holes lined up…

If you look closely, you will see that Ure’s truly has spread out a micro fiber cloth to work on.  Several reasons for this:  Acrylic scratches if you so much as look at it crooked.  I buy large packs of the micro fiber towels from Amazon.

Micro fiber clothes are cheap:  $10-bucks for 25: S&T Bulk Microfiber Kitchen, House, & Car Cleaning Cloths – 25 Pack, 11.5″ x 11.5″. These come in multiple colors.  Which I use for different projects.  Yellow and green are for electronics, other colors are for automotive and milling and metals.  Adds to my delusion that my shop is orderly and organized…

While getting fingerprints of hot vacuum tubes (which can cause hot-spots on high power tubes) these micro fiber god-sends are perfect finger-print getter-offer for all things plastic.  A quirt of Plexus Plastic cleaner ($19, but great to have on hand for all things plastic) and it will look like new.

Did I mention that the dropped tiny screws are easier to find when you drop them on a yellow micro-f shop towel? (Gotta do something about my floor, lol.)

Just before the top cover goes on the parts meter, don’t forget to toss in a really fresh 9-volt battery.  Although the unit is simple enough to hold together (after you’ve gone through the dropping curve to hold the case together while putting in screws and nuts one-handed because you’re too lazy to get the masking tape to help…) this is not something you want to plan as a centerpiece when entertaining.  Repeat after me: PITA. Get the masking tape to hold things together and then remove.

How Does It Work?


In Ure’s Lab, all the pill bottles I’ve ever handled live in some semblance of order.  So, I was able to quickly pick some difficult projects for the parts meter.  I wanted to see just how good it with do with this and that:

Can we bring out our first candidate, please?

If you squint at the lower corner of the meter, you will see it is 10.13 nano farads which is what the part is labeled in my (surprisingly neat) parts collection.

You just need to remember on capacitors there are conversions to get from micro farads to nano farads, to pico farads, which is newspeak for micro-micro farads which is redundant redundant!

It’s just that there are three ways to state something like capacitor value on older schematics of radios, robots, and whatever:  In this case, the choices are 0.01uF / MFD,  the 10nF nano farads, or the 10000pF (MMFD) where MMFD really means uuf (now pico farads) if you’re a grown up.

Doe it work on all values tried?  No.

Had something of an issue with small capacitors like 47 uuf,  (47 pf).  BUT it got the small chokes (inductors) about right – and that’s what it will be used for.  Inductors, also called “coils” or “chokes” have a color coding system 300-feet past stupid when your eyes are sub-Optimus Prime.

Come to think of it, lots of components are little Decepticons.  What the hell is a capacitor vale (disk ceramic) of “103???”

A dandy article over at Robotoid here goes into this occult other-earthly capacitor language.  Or, you plug the part into the meter like this just-assembled parts meter  and out pops the answer.

Is it the be-all, end-all?

Far from it, eventually you will end up with a sizeable meter collection that will eat up most of your bench space if you don’t keep them locked up and prevented from reproducing.

Left to right:

The first meter is the new parts meter.  This will take a stab at playing “Name that component.

Second one is an Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR) meter.  This will take a whack at capacitors including (with a dozen asterisks) in-circuit caps with 50 asterisks.  One of which is that table on the front of it which requires a magnifier for older techs like, uh…you know!.

Meter #3 is used when you don’t believe the ESR meter.  It’s a pure capacitor meter, BUT it will go wonky on some capacitors (big broadcast silver-micas don’t read well, for example).  Unsolder one end of the capacitor you’re wondering about because it doesn’t do in-circuit well..

The last meter is a simple transistor and IC checker.

“How Many Meters Do You Need?”

Dang!  That is a toughie.  If you are doing “simple” robotics, then a “grown-up” meter with a current clamp, probes, holster, and all that makes sense.  Take out $235 and get a Fluke 117/323 KIT Multimeter and Clamp Meter Combo Kit.  But, what about inductance?  Try the on-sale for $11 Digital Multimeter, HOLDPEAK 4070L Manual-Ranging Multi Tester for Measuring Resistance?Capacitance, Inductance, Transistor, hFE of 2000 Count (Blue).

When people ask me “why so many” I use the water analogy to electricity.  Voltage is like the water pressure.  Current is like the cubic volume of water flowing.    The “pressure” (volts) times the “amount of current flow” (amps) gives you the amount of “work being done” (in Watts).

Ergo, voltmeters, ammeters, and watt-meters.  This “parts meter” is really an inexpensive subset of LCR (inductance, capacitance, resistance) meters.  There are lots of them available with the main feature change being whether the unit is auto-ranging or if you have to spin a switch to find a reasonable reading.

Measuring Alternating Current (AC) Voltages

When messing about making things, we have Alternating Current (AC) as well as Direct Current (DC).

It’s not so simple as you’d think:  Alternating current (AC) has two major ways of being measured:  One way is “peak-to-peak.”  This is from the top of one cycle to the bottom of it.  Assuming symmetry…another longish debate,  Peak-to-Peak reading.

Unfortunately, while it’s true that Peak Volts and Peak Amps will multiply into a number giving Watts (instantaneous work done), the REAL number in the power world is called RMS – stands for root-mean-square).  You use RMS to get to average work done,.

DON’T USE THE PARTS-METER in today’s project to test AC lines!!!  Use a real meter – Fluke 117.  Insulation matters!

So, if you (CAREFULLY WITH EXPERIENCED SUPERVISION) stick a peak-reading AC volt meter into a dryer plug you might find peak to peak is 339 volts.  To convert this to RMS, you multiply times 0.707 and THAT is what the power company will bill you on.

EXCEPT even THAT refined number is not really a pure one.  Because of something called “power factor.

Regulators (does the term “lying lazy pieces of crap” come to mind here?) have been sold the idea that utilities should bill everyone on the basis of a power factor of 1.

What this means, without going into the engineering side too deeply, is that it the power company is allowed to ASSUME that peak current and peak voltage arrive at your appliances at the same time.

They don’t – not in the real world.  When the peak current shows up at a different time than peak voltage, you may pay for one kilowatt-hour of work and only really get 0.80 kilowatt hours!

Think about this closely. If the current and voltage are totally out of phase:  Peak voltage arrives when there is ZERO current, so no work will be done.  Since 240 volts times ZERO amps in this worst case nightmare is zero amps, the dryer won’t dry clothes well.

Same thing other way around:  If peak current arrives with zero volts….

Back to the robotics angle:  This power-factor discussion is not academic.  Because in robotics the easiest way to control power is using pulse width modulation.  PWM.

Instead of nice, smooth sine waves like come out of your wall, PWM robotics controllers slice or chop Direct Current on and off.  For light loads, it’s a paper thin slice of voltage.  For a heavy loads a bigger ‘slice of power’ is used.  Think of PWM as different thicknesses of sliced breads.  Thin slices give you less energy..

For complex power (PWM) you won’t use a parts meter or even an LCR (unless looking for a faulty component).  the right tool for complex wave forms is an oscilloscope.

That’s beyond the discussion in this week’s making oof stuff, but the point is, you need as many meters as you’re planning to mess about with.

If you cover from DC to AC daylight?  OMG.  Not only will you need volt and current (and capacitor and component) (LCR) meters, but you will need precision voltage sources to test and calibrate things. And an oscilloscope.

At the end of the day only simple questions remain:  How much precision and over what kind of range?

The ultimate limiting factor – though seldom stated – is “How much are you willing to afford?“”  There’s always like any other hobby, if you have the money, someone’s got something really cool to sell you.

Test equipment for messing about is no different.

Now, off to play with the ham radio: Computer: turn on the tunafish!”  (See the Coping section on voice automation hell this week….got it worked out, lol.)

Write when you get rich,

Coping: With the Voice-Controlled Home

[Adult language alert!] So, you think this is funny, do yah? A few months back, I posted a rather negative review on the whole notion of the “smart home” as embodied by the app-crazed marketers of the world.

The product involved was TP-Link HS100 Smart Plug (2-Pack), No Hub Required, Wi-Fi, Works with Alexa and Google Assistant, Control Your Devices from anywhere (HS100 KIT) – basically 2 “smart switches” that cost your $45.

As much as I worry about unauthorized access to anything, this may seem a confusing and contradictory move.  But, since the Post Office is dropping scans of everything in my FedFile – that master database on each of us that the Provos and such now track (see Total Information Awareness) that there was relatively little personal risk from riding this new (and odd) wave of tech.

(Continues below)


How It Works

This is a hoot:  So you have either an Amazon Dot ($39) or that Google thing (next on my install list if time permits).

Learning the basics of Alexa voice commands is simple:  “Alexa play iHeart Radio WOAI” will bring up Charlie Parker and the morning crew down in San Antonio over breakfast, for example.  The streaming is OK and considering we live out of range of all but local religious and country stations, we get our money’s worth from that.

But that’s ONLY the voice of Amazon.  When you get an Alexa (I have the small “Dot” in my office) there’s half a dozen steps of monkey-motion to dance through, but eventually it works.

Since I also bought one of the All-New Fire HD 10 Tablet with Alexa Hands-Free, 10.1″ 1080p Full HD Display, 64 GB, Marine Blue – with Special Offers ($190) – and I have no idea what the “special offers” are – I now had a way to FINALLY program the “smart switches.”  Birthday gift to me.

If you remember our last go-round:  I could not set-up the “smart switch”p from the Alexa app (voice side) and the PC side didn’t do it either.  I had to download something called TP-Link KASA.  Go figure.

Seemed easy enough.  Well, was it?  Hell no!  It was a major PITA.

The theory is you flash the QR card on the TP-Link set up doc.  No.

Fire 10 HD doesn’t auto-focus that close.  Looks good at arm’s length – sucksabunch up close.  Get the cam close enough to read the QR and everything is fuzzy-out all to shit and it won’t read.

Hmmm…next idea, genius?

Well, I will just flip over to Google Play and download TP-Link Kasa from there, right?

Hell no.

This time the Google software didn’t want to install.  After a one-hour session of joyful longshoreman-talk, I finally get Google Play working.

NO.  No…strike that…

It won’t download the Kasa app I need because my new Kindle 10 is not “linked” to my Google account.  Never did get that to work.  (shit)

Finally gave up on Google and since I don’t like their lefterly politics that much, oh well.

I still had one more option:  I could look (Bing) for the KASA .apk.  Which, if you’ve never tapped your way into this part of the digital asylum, means the ready to install compressed application.

Which eventually I get downloaded (100 MB so there goes part of my resource) and at last…does it load?


It TRIED to load, but due to the security settings on the Fire 10, here comes three minutes looking for “How safe to use this properly sourced .APK?

Turns out, there is a drop-down on the Kindle settings that let’s you hold off the security gestapo long enough to install the app.

Done?  Well no.

Now I had KASA downloaded.  BUT, it would not let me go search for the damn devices until I first “SET UP AN ACCOUNT.”

Do I need an account to control a “smart switch?” I’m staring at in my hand and there’s a soft voice between my ears saying “What kind of bullshit is tech leading us into?”

FMTT – I set up the stupid account.

But NOW it STILL won’t let me log in without first answering a confirming email.

Ure shitting me right?  I’ve been goring through imap hell this week.  Email working?

NO.  Thinks my verification is a phish.

I had to whitelist the source on my first filtering mail server because I use staged forwarders.  (This means if you send an email to, it  goes through one set of filters and then forwards to the next route here and other filters  are applied and then it forwards to another ISP (more filters) and if everything is working well, all is peace and harmony.

No crap, now spam, no fish.  Until this week when it turned into no mail.

BUT I solved that one.

See: ever since the earth station for Exede/Viasat  changed (part of the time) to Phoenix or out in BFE or wherever (from Virginia) I had been through a different two-hour adventure with some very patient Amazon support folks on THAT adventure.  As it turned out, fixing THAT left me with a recent memory of how to turn off the front-end email server’s forward and use it’s webmail face to get that dam “verification code” from TP-Link,

With me on this so far?  You get a Microsoft gold star if you follow.

OK, I get the KASA app running and it seems to work.  I name one switch “Printer” and the other one “Radio.”  Radio turns on the tube type ham radio gear (from another Echo box in the house) so the tube gear can warm up while I’m having coffee and visiting the throne room on Sunday morning.  Yeah.,..diss is dah digital life, bro.

I get everything working and then come into the office yesterday morning.

“Alexa, turn printer on!”

“OK” and the printer comes on at the other end of the room.

“Alexa: turn printer off.”

Another soft click and she says “OK.”

God this was cool…as the fits of sweating and swearing and tears of the previous day rode into the sunset of memories…

“Alexa: Ham radio on.”

“Getting 103 Rock Station from iHeart Radio…”

WTF floody buck?????   @#$%^&*()_(*&^%!!!  It worked two hours earlier!

Oh, I forgot to mention that the Kindle Fire 10 has Alexa voice built in.  BUT until the software is updated, it will not let me change the wake-up word on the Fire.  (I think Amazon should let us use the word Fire as a wake-up word, but then my sense of humor at the prospect of hearing people in a crowded office yelling “Fire! Fire!” may be different than the sense of human (if any) enjoyed by Amazon’s legal department,

Because of this name-game, whenever I tried to do something on the Dot, both the Dot and the Kindle 10 would answer.  Both being named Alexa.

I was wandering around cursing a blue streak – and I’m convinced it keeps me from stroking out and then the answer came to me:

The Dot now answers to “Computer” for its wake-up call.  And later on this morning I’ll make  a pass at naming the radio power switch something else.

How does “Computer: Tunafish!” sound?  (Turns out this is not a skill yet…by I’m sure I’ll be sued by some IP shysters anyway.  It’s how this sick planet works now.)

I was approaching things like a logical human might — but it’s becoming clear to me that human’s no longer really develop computers.

Like Zeus the Cat, the smart office is now training us.

As the Zeus the Cat explained it:  “See stupid upright ape?  They are able to call it a Smart Home because it’s obviously smarter than you…”

Tunafish, cat?

Write when you get rich.  “Computer Publish!”

Coping: Prepping Paranoid – the Short Course

I assume by now you know that every single piece of mail that is delivered to your home is photographed by the US Postal Service and is shoved into a database which features an entry for every American, right? You did know that, right?

What you are looking at in the photograph is the email sent to me yesterday by the Postal Service, which contained a photograph of every piece of mail that I would receive later in the day from my local carrier. They do not get all the packages properly scanned, but all of the envelopes are.

Obviously this is not a bad thing: because people from far away, foreign places, who may indeed mean harm to the United States, leave a written and photographic copy of their foreign correspondence on file ready for any bureaucrat to discover.

(Continues below)


This is not designed to make you paranoid, although it may, but it is worth knowing that every single piece of mail delivered to your home is being photographed by the Postal Service and is being placed in a database (accessible by Homeland Security and whoever else!),  So that if you are somehow out of line, or one of your neighbors is piston calls in a falsified report about you, there is a paper trail that can force additional information from you.

this was brought to my attention by our consigliere recently.  He is a very upstanding, loyal officer of the court.  But, he was quite appalled to find out that he and his law firm could sign up in advance (free) to see what mail would be delivered to the firm later in the day. He suggested that we sign up for the service as well.

It did not take him long to piece together that this is why there is a huge NSA installation in Provo, Utah: this information is all placed in your personal record.

Now I have to ask you the simple question:  If you are a law abiding private citizen, should you be worried about this kind of unannounced and unobtrusive surveillance by your government of activities in your private life?

There is an old concept in American jurisprudence, suggesting that people have a reasonable right to expect privacy in their “personal papers and letters.”  But this has been screwed up horribly by the courts.  They have held that your cell phone contents, including your call history, is not as sacrosanct as you might have otherwise believed.

Which sort of flies in the face of the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Naturlich, the Stasi Lite would argue that they are not intruding into your letters specifically; only taking a photograph of the letters exterior, much as anybody getting into your mailbox could find the same information.

I am not particularly worried about personal loss of liberty due to the mail arriving an hour mailbox, but upon reflection I am a bit concerned that some of my eBay purchases might look a bit strange to people who do not understand Mr. Ure’s ham radio hobby.

For example, I recently obtained some “doorknob capacitors” from Bulgaria.  This is a very normal transaction among ham radio enthusiasts because in Bulgaria, many of the parts that cost 3 to 4 times as much in America today are still available on the surplus market since the former Soviet Union was not especially efficient at paring down production for unneeded parts.

And, what about power overseas people subscribers?  It may surprise you to know that some of the actual financial gnomes of Switzerland read our modest financial outlooks

Mail is not the only thing wrong in America today.

Few people realize that there are military tanks tanks in the American South that are still subject to massive purchases of parts even though they have been removed from service before the outbreak of World War II.  This is because America’s governmental acquisition system is not any more efficient than the former Soviet Union’s.  Welcome to  E. Germany.

But, I need to say for the record that despite my receiving envelopes from Bulgaria.  I am not an agent of the Communist Party and, more to the point, my only sins against humanity is usually committed at the idiot end of a soldering iron or keyboard.

Honestly, I do not think this will help.  We live in a crazy world where one can be a left-wing educator and be protected by the full power of the government while polluting the minds of America’s young, while simply buying parts from an area once dominated by the former Soviet Union might make make someone a suspect in whatever the government wants to imagine.

Psst!  Want some 4700 pF capacitors?

If you would like to sign up for this latest marvel of the police state/nanny state/ultrahigh tech mail delivery service, please visit the following website:

I have found so far that it has relieved some of the midday urgency to run out to the mailbox.  Is this a great country or what?him

Dashing Through the Snow

A couple of items from a conversation with my son this week will be of interest to anyone who has studied the fine art of escape and evasion under winter conditions.

It seems that my son recently found himself in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state going on a late night/early morning hike through the wilderness some miles from a friend’s cabin.

After walking around for several hours in the very, very dark.  My son and his companion decided they were not 100% sure of their location.

In order not to make a bad situation worse, my son suggested they take out their survival gear, scoop up some snow, melt it, and have a cup of tea and think about their situation.  Which they did.

A couple of options came were reviewed: one of them was to use the GPS facility in their cell phones to get a fix on where the home cabin was, but that that was not an especially good choice because they had no cell signals in this rather remote area.  It is a fair distance from Leavenworth, Washington.

After the tea settled in, they decided the smartest course of action would be to walk back up the ridge that they had descended and see if they could either get cell phone coverage from that vantage point or if they could see faraway lights such as the freeway (US-2) or any buildings or cabins in the area.

As it turned out, they were indeed able to see something upon cresting the ridge: my son had earlier had the presence of mind to lay out chem lights every thousand feet or so. Just in case, blizzard conditions and what-not.

Not only did he lay them out in alternating colors (red and green), but he took pains to ensure that they were oriented pointing back to the point of origin for this hike.

Dude! That is some serious outdoorsmanship,” George’s friend told him after picking up the sightlines on the lights.  Within a thousand feet feet of the cabin, they transitions to dark.  Sneak-ups are fun.

Still,  my son got a thorough but chewing-out from his old man because he had failed one of the main rules of back-country survival: failure to adequately prepare.

He made it back okay and there was no need to call in search and rescue at 0200 hrs.  However, given that he had a cell phone with GPS, part of dad’s lecture was about “trusting your instruments.”  Along with never leaving sight of those “stars you steer by.”

Those of course being the buildings with lights on in the ski resort area.

He did not need to fire up his iridium sat phone, but I am sure the thought crossed his mind while they were having tea.

A lot of people think that they are well-versed in survival skills, and yet when taken outside at night and given an assortment of night operations equipment, there is a natural tendency to light up 1000 lm of daylight white.  Fortunately, George II had the good sense to turn off the high powered white light and switch to the more trail – friendly low-level red lights.

All’s well that ends well, except if you are going to be thoroughly prepared to bug-out under all conditions, there is no substitute for running practice jaunts at night so that you can find your way, not break a leg, and navigate with greater confidence.

Anything else is the stuff of storybook websites.  There’s Walter Mitty and then there’s us.

By the way:  Back country woo-woo in this item?

Skier Lost in New York Has No Idea How He Ended Up in California.

Small side wager:  Alien abduction.

Right when you get rich,

Coping: With 10-Year News Futures

There’s a report this morning that a leading voice in the newspapering business figures print will be dead in just 10-years. The problem with the forecast? That’s not all that will be vastly different. This morning, how to think like a prepper at the detail level.

A good start is to read the article about the future of the New York Times which is already 60% online-dependent.

The interesting part of this – from the standpoint of being an “old-time radio news reporter – is to observe the hidden aspects of this story.

(Continues below)


One of the “hiddens” is that the NY Times and other media outfits have laid some of the groundwork for their own demise.  For example (going from memory here) wasn’t it the Times that was one of the early-adopters of automated news “re-writing software?”

If you’re outside the field, you may not appreciate the depth of this change and its impact on journalism, but let’s go back to the Association Press Bureau in Seattle in 1975.

It was there that a dear friend “Big Al, the broadcaster’s pal” was on the radio / Northwest desk most mornings taking impossibly long A.P. newspaper stories and cutting ’em down to size.  Handling called in reports from stringer (like me) and always having a ready quip and a twinkle in his writing. Great writer.

But Al would not likely survive as a great writer in today’s world, at least at the levels he reached.  Because, not unlike me, he was what I call a “production writer” – a label I wear myself.

It’s not a slur by any stretch.  It means that you can crank out great ‘copy’  with blazing speed and impossible deadlines.  To be sure, that’s not the stuff of Pulitzers.  The latter are handed out mainly for ‘big stories’ and generally to the first reporters either one the scene or with the inclination to go really deep into something.  Woodward and Bernstein types.

But the production writer is measured as much  by their volume of copy which holds nearly equal weight with the quality of it.

When you can crank out 20,000 (and more) words per week, you enter the real of Production Writing.  It’s a familiar haunt to me and I learned a great deal from Al.

By the mid 1980’s the changing demand for production writers was beginning to change.  Al left “news” and went off to head-hunt.  Another honorable trade but again, one with a “limited shelf life ahead.”

One has only to look at onliners like to consider that machine-hiring is the pending future.

The end of “production writing” in media  is being driven by content rewriting software.  Take a look at and you will begin to get a sense of it.  A further glimpse may be seen at which promises as follows:

“WordAi uses artificial intelligence to understand text and is able to automatically rewrite your article with the same readability as a human writer! Sign up now and get unlimited human quality content at your fingertips!”

Now let me flip back to the moans from the NYT CEO:  I seem to recall that the NY Times Wire – which resold (and may still resell) rewritten NYT content to regional newspapers.

The path into our communications future is therefore a big bleak, even if the Times story doesn’t get that deep.   I have some colleagues in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists who write only 5,000 words per week.  They are either gifted, or they are holdovers from the “good old days” which ended a dozen, or so, years back when auto-rewrite came along.

How “The Future” Kills the Future

There’s much to be learned in this past 60-years from watching evolutionary change.

As a boy, my father was always taking me on field trips. I had forgotten them mostly, until just now.  Even by class in junior high school went on field trips.  One of the most memorable class adventures was going to the Weyerhaeuser mill in Everett, WA. where we saw high-pressure water rip the bark off massive old-growth trees.

It was a taste of the future, though.  Today, what few old-growth trees are left are most likely to be on conservancy lands, or so impossibly remote so as to be uneconomic to exploit.  Oh, and that high-pressure bark removal?  That likely has something to do with the roots of what is today the high pressure “water-jet” cutting industry.

What?  You think it’s a coincidence that Flow Waterjet Systems is in Kent, Washington?

On one of our father-son adventures, pappy took me down to visit a Linotype setting operation of South Dearborn Street in Seattle.  This was when steam engines will still transiting the King Street station.

I could have stood there for hours:  Hot lead being turned into type and set so as to be press-ready.  Bet you’ve never heard of:

The Mergenthaler Linotype Company is a corporation founded in the United States in 1886 to market the Linotype machine (/?la?n??ta?p, -no?-/), a system to cast metal type in lines (linecaster) invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler. It became the world’s leading manufacturer of book and newspaper typesetting equipment; outside North America, its only serious challenger for book production was the Anglo-American Monotype Corporation. It also offered phototypesetting and digital products before being taken over by Monotype Imaging in 2006.”

Yes, even on the typesetting side of newspapers, change was in the air.  The Seattle Times run a Sunday section in those days called the “rotogravure” section.  It was a special printing process that enabled color printing on a mass circulation basis:

“Rotogravure (roto or gravure for short) is a type of intaglio printing process, which involves engraving the image onto an image carrier. In gravure printing, the image is engraved onto a cylinder because, like offset printing and flexography, it uses a rotary printing press. Once a staple of newspaper photo features, the rotogravure process is still used for commercial printing of magazines, postcards, and corrugated (cardboard) and other product packaging.”

Passed through several colors (CMYK sound familiar?) the Seattle Times pictorials allowed us to see stunning black and while as well as a few color pictures that were inspiring.  This was in an age prior to GoPro’s and YouTube…but less than a lifetime ago.

The humans are coming out of the loop in the information world.  Even our small “news and comment” operation here in East Texas enjoys access to most of the leading news sources.  Whether it’s the President’s Twitter remarks, press releases on economic affairs from government agencies, or highly organized press release distribution channels.  It has all served to kill the once lofty power positions once enjoyed by the (liberal) Northeast media.

Change is not coming in 10-years.  It is already here.

We have no illusions, though:  We know that with most news going “news-source direct to the public” that it will be only a matter of time before “The Citizen Video Network” – that’s our private code for an internet-based, anyone can contribute – video processing website.

YouTube of “breaking news” here is stepping in that direction.

Will there still be a place for an “old-style production writer?”  Yes, I think so, but only with contexting and historical references for those are much harder to reduce to rewriting algorithms.

For now, then, we will persist; happy to understand the changing information topology that spans from the newsroom to the printing floor to distribution and even tree-farming.

I would have though the Times would have it a little more clearly understood by now.

Oh well.


VD is tomorrow.  Valentines Day (not venereal disease, unless you are uselessly careless!).

Get something for someone.

For, it is written in the Great Book of Ure:

It is better to get the wrong gift, than no gift at all.

Write when you get rich,

Coping: Is Life an “Escape Room?”

Woo-Woo: A reader was wondering what I thought of this idea.  Of course, you need to know what an “escape room” is, if you don’t already know.

“An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy to complete the objectives at hand. Players are given a set time limit to unveil the secret plot which is hidden within the rooms. Escape rooms are inspired by “escape-the-room“–style video games. Games are set in a variety of fictional locations, such as prison cells, dungeons and space stations, and usually the various puzzles and riddles themselves follow the theme of the room.”

Here lately, escape rooms are evolving into interesting “mixed rooms” – some of which include a murder mystery as well as food, drinks, and who knows where the evolution will end.

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But, the point is, the “escape room” is a neat metaphor for where the world is.

Think of it this way:  We are all “in the room” – that’s clear since the furthest we have gotten so far (if you believe the escape room narrative) is “the moon.”

Even those few who escaped that far had to return to the “room” here on Earth to get fresh food, water, and air.  Side of gravity with that, too, please.

Like the “escape room” there’s something – likely in plain sight – that most people miss.

Moreover, it is likely something cultural because when you study escape rooms, you’ll find there are certain mindsets, ways of seeing, thinking, and following logical pathing that work better than others.

In fact, the logical pathing most of the civilized world is trained in now involves looking at a screen 20-inches from your nose and doing things like swipe this and tap that.

Here’s a shocker (and seriously, this isn’t apparent to a lot of people- impossible as it sounds):  Tapping and Swiping is NOT going to get us out of the present Room (Earth).  It probably won’t even HELP.

That’s because whether you call it Great Evil, the Nahkash, Devil, Azazel, dungeon master, PTB, Elites, Banksters, or Rothschilds…everyone has a model… it’s NOT IN A PHONE OR DROID.

This isn’t a HUGE thought for this hour on a Monday, but it’s something better to think about today than the same-old same-o.

Organizing a Search Party

If you’;; acquiesce to the idea  “OK, so Earth is an Escape Room…” the next step is to come up with “How to Solve for an Exit” before game time is up.

(Game time is up when you die, and to keep the room exciting, everyone’s time’s up will happen at unpredictable moments.)

Since I’ve been reading on mudras again – the Indian discipline of finger power signing, which purports to be Reality slightly through hand signals –  the topic came up around 3 AM Saturday morning as either one of us could sleep.

Do you think it’s possible that some big breakthrough is just waiting to be found – hidden on some part of our bodies?

I mean think of it!  What if you could touch the little toe of your left foot to your right elbow!  That’s something that would almost certainly never happen, right?  But maybe – and this is just a far out idea sure – maybe when that Religious Fellow was off wandering around the desert for 40-days a couple of thousand years ago he got bored and connected two unlike parts of his body!  Can you see how that could complete a circuit at some cosmic level and then bring forth this outpouring of all that followed in his life after that?  Amazing thought, huh?”

“…go back to sleep…”

Then think of all the breakthroughs that could happen between humans.  I’ve been thinking about that, too.

Take you and me.  We’re simpatico…so what keeps us from doing something like the Vulcan mind-meld from StarTrek?  What is it about the nervous system that let’s consciousness level the brain – travel down your arm to – let’s say your hand – and then back up to the brain again?  Hit your hand with a hammer…and you’ll feel it…your CONSCIOUSNESS moves to the pain.  So why can’t it move further?

Is it possible that there are different body parts – ones that aren’t usually connected, even between consenting adults – which are build so that consciousness can flow from one person – into another and back again?

Think how long we’ve been alive – almost 150 years between the two of us – and never in all that time have I heard a word of research on this.  Not one!

Maybe it’s hidden in some non-obvious way.  Like the little toe to the right elbow…you know…statistically improbable, right?

When was the last time, for example, that you put your left kneecap behind my left earlobe, for example?  Or, have I ever placed you big toe on my L-4/L-5 spinal segment?  See what I mean?

Why, telepathy could be right there waiting to be discovered!”

Would telepathy wake me up?…Leave me out of this.  Go back to sleep…”

OK, so the conversation was maybe a bit onesided.  But, and this is weird, like the book I just wrote on the lack of continuous broad-spectrum wave interaction research from DC to daylight, is it possible that because of curious cultural blinders we have missed actually doing a computer-generated COMPLETE inter-human connectivity study?

The idea is, if nothing else, novel.

And given how we will all be watching the silly numbers run our net worth up and down this week, it seems like it’s a useful question to keep handy in case some mental-processor clicks come up free, with nothing to keep them busy.

I’ll get to work on the algorithm for this right away.

Hmmm…Test #739:  Place right ring finger in left nostril.  Test #740:  Place right pinky finger in left nostril.

This could take a while.  But if I get swept up in a cloud and get tempted, I’ll try and get some pictures.

Meanwhile, enjoy your time in the other escape room (work) today and…

Write when you get rich,

OOPS.  Almost forgot.  Time for Test #741:  Remove tongue from cheek.