Late Breaking News

So, in an attempt to distract myself from the horror show of politics and the economy, I present you with news you can use. This is opposed to what I've recently been subjected to, aka "news you'll get screwed by".

Anyhow, a comparison on blanket product alternatives. I'd just like to point out to the pinheads over at Gizmodo that perhaps the time to do this is in September or October, not the end of freakin' March. Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, spring has arrived. Unless you live in some godforsaken hellhole like, I dunno, Canadia, blanket season is pretty much over. Thanks for the review. Maybe I'll even remember it when fall rolls around.

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GM Bankruptcy

The n00b has finally figured out that GM may require bankruptcy, but some super-special different kind of bankruptcy rather than the normal, stodgy, old-fashioned kind.

Let's quickly review some pertinent numbers and basic accounting, shall we? GM's most recent balance sheet is here. GM has negative equity, a fairly impressive achievement in and of itself for a company with $91 Billion in assets. However, this pales in comparison to GM's liabilities of $177 Billion.

So, in simple terms, GM owes $177 Billion on $91 Billion worth of stuff. You would have to have a 200% loan-to-value ratio on your house to be this far upside down. That's okay, though. You can have a balance sheet this fundmentally lopsided, even in your personal life, if you've got enough income to cover the notes and maybe pay off some principal.

So, what's GM's income look like? GM had a gross profit last year of -$332 Million. Plus, they're bring in 35% less money now than they were last year. GM doesn't have the income to do anything about the catastrophe that is their balance sheet. The numbers may have varied slightly in the details over the past several months while everybody dithered about what to do.

Short answer: GM is losing money every minute, and owes twice what the company is worth. There is no restructuring plan on earth that can save them that does not involve bankruptcy court. Pouring more tax money into GM cannot fix the numbers above, unless you just want the feds to write a check for $177 Billion so GM can be debt-free.

It's taken this long for the chattering imbeciles in DC to figure this out. Smart people we have serving in Congress and the Executive.

This sucks, too, because I really did want a new car this year.

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People Suck

Some inconvenient little scumbag came by and stole my gargoyle and my moai out of my front yard on Saturday night.

I hate people.

Update: My traveling statuary has returned. I am slightly less upset than I was earlier, but I'm still rather peeved.

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Fiat Lux, Bitches

I'll be out taking my lovely wife to dinner, but I'm tempted to turn on every light in my house while we're gone.

Grandstanding, attention-grabbing, hair-shirt, idiotic nonsense that accomplishes nothing but making a bunch of over-privileged whiners feel good about themselves. And really, isn't that what's important?

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Many Call It Conspiracy

The CFR comes and goes as a conspiratorial organization. Yesterday, Timmy the Tax Cheat was speaking to them and apparently endorsed a one world currency approach. Oh noes! The Obamanauts will sell us out to the UN! Novus Ordo Seclorum! FEMA Takeover! Internment Camps! National Sovereignty loss in 3... 2... 1...

Well, maybe not so much. Here's the transcript. As an aside, it's hard to be conspiratorial when you're posting transcripts on the web. As I read this, somebody is asking a question about the Chinese central bank's proposal for... something. I lack the background to know exactly WTF is being discussed. Geithner, not wanting to piss off the guy who's holding the largest amount of US debt, says there may be something useful in the proposal, but I haven't read it. Strangely, this statement triggered the buttons of the paranoids. Nobody seems to give a damn about his multiple statements that the government is going to do whatever it takes for however long it takes to get us out of this crisis. Which one worries you more? The thought that the Chinese may have some thoughts on the current crisis which may contain some utility, or the thought that the government is going to fix this crisis by any means necessary?

I know which one disturbs me more, and the Chinese are by far not my biggest concern.

For another take on the effectiveness of the bailout, try here.

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Say It Loud

Shorter Jake DeSantis: Screw all y'all backstabbin' bitches, I'm out.

Honestly, can you blame him?

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Not No, But...

I'm going to gnash my teeth and pull my hair out if this craptacular excrescence manages to pass the Senate. Others have done the heavy lifting on this one to point out how vile this piece of legislation is.

Once again, I have the problem that my representative didn't vote for it. Some of you, however, need to beat your congresscritter up.

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Go read.

h/t to LabRat.



Lunacy, with Bonuses!

So, the n00b woke up and realized that he looked like a fool and decided to speechify and remove all doubt.

Let me sum up the current AIG mess in my own inimitable fashion. We have here a collection of ignuts who managed to take one of the largest insurance companies in the world and drive it into the ground like a fucking tent peg. The head ignut was swapped out twice within the past year because of said contact with the earth. In an attempt to forestall the cascade of poo that would have resulted from AIG going tits up, your federal government handed them a staggering amount of money. Because the Congress (of whom the n00b was a member at the time) didn't want to engage in some sober, considered reflection on how to disburse $150 billion dollars, they basically gave it to the ignuts and said "Don't go broke again!" Strangely, this did not result in the kind of results Congress expected. Instead, the ignuts in charge of AIG handed out bonuses. Congress, in a valiant and so-far successful attempt to distract the public from their complicity in the bonus payments, pitched a wobbler.

Now, I neither know or care whether these guys deserve their bonuses. I do know it is not the business of the Congress to intervene in my relationship with my employer because a bunch of ignuts in DC do not like my pay structure. By extension, they shouldn't be doing it to AIG. Some on the idiot side of the debate have been squalling and screaming that it's the taxpayer's money and shouldn't be going to bonuses. News flash: once AIG took the money, it ain't the taxpayer's anymore. Here's another news flash: the time to extract conditions on the use of the money is before you hand it over, not after. Third news flash: when you enable poor behavior, you like like a hypocritical, sanctimonious imbecile for complaining about the very behavior you enabled. Given that trifecta of newsiness, Congress, Timmy the Tax Cheat, and the n00b all need to STFU about the issue. But I'm betting they won't

I am informed the Congress will be holding hearings on why the Tooth Fairy has failed in her obligation to prop up the economy next. It'll be at least as useful as anything they're currently doing. I also feel compelled to point out the proper solution for all this was to let AIG go bankrupt, cascade of poo notwithstanding. However, your elected representatives did not agree with me, which comes as a great surprise to us all, doesn't it?

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No Wonder There's So Many Tourists

Today, in odd news, I learn that bestiality is not illegal in Florida. The previous statute was struck down for being overbroad. Wait, what? Somehow, I suspect I don't really want to know.

I also learned at least one Florida senator is a certifiable moron.

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Amateur Hijinks

Once again, it's one of the holidays I've been referring to for years as Amateur Night. Every jackass in America is going to go out today, drink too much green beer, and act like a moron. Since I am growing increasingly old and bitter, I have no patience for the kind of people who are going to go out tonight, drink 3 pints of colored Bud, and act like fools. Repeat after me, boys and girls: Drunkenness is no excuse for poor behavior. It may be a reason, but it's not an excuse, and won't absolve you of any of the consequences of your inebriated behavior. This ties into the whole concept, apparently lost in America today, of holding your liquor. Of course, since this also ties into personal responsibility and knowing your limits, I'm not surprised it's dead.

Anyhow, today is the day when St. Patrick drove the shamrocks out of Ireland and used snakes to explain the Trinity. I think that's it, anyway. I'm a bit confused on details. I will, instead, be hoisting a glass to Oisín. I think he deserves a little notice on a day like today.

In any event, hoist a glass and enjoy the day.

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Cheap Sous Vide, Part 2

So, I’ve been contemplating this fine piece of gadgetry know as a thermal circulator. All the popular chefs are using them for sous vide. They, are, as I mentioned earlier, ludicrously expensive for an apparatus which may not be useful to me. The obvious answer is to see if one is available cheaper used. The cheapest used one I could find was about $600, which is still prohibitively expensive.

So, let’s use some of this high-powered engineering education and experience I’ve spent all these years acquiring. Our desired device has one singular function in life: maintain a water bath at a precise temperature. So, we need some way to heat the water and some way to control the heat. If we control the heat, we control the temperature.

So, how do the bright boys who make these things do it? A quick look at an existing model reveals an immersion heating element, some kind of control system, and a pump to smooth out any gradients. All right, that looks pretty straightforward.

Hmm. Let’s cruise some odd back corners of the Internet. A 2500 watt immersion heater element for $2.95! That just might work. If I do some back of the envelope calculations*, I figure I need about 200W to maintain a temperature of 140°F compensating for convective and radiative heat loss. I’m ignoring conduction since we shouldn’t be touching much with our pot. Hmm what do I get from a 277V element if I run it at 120V? Damn, now I have to remember my sparky equations, or at least look them up. So, scribbling furiously on the same envelope after consulting references, I get about 470 watts from my chosen element.** A little bit more math and the heater should get 10 liters of water hot enough in about 50 minutes. Screw that, I’m impatient. We’ll run two in parallel and heat the water up twice as fast. Oh, wait, how much current is that gonna draw, anyway? 8 amps? Fine, we can easily pull 8A on a household circuit.

Right. That’s the heating. Let’s see what is available for a control system. Now, those of you unacquainted with industrial process controls may be unaware of a device known as a temperature controller. It’s a pretty little pre-engineered box that requires a power source and a temperature sensor to work. You hook everything up and enter a desired temperature in your controller. The controller then checks the temperature sensor against your desired temperature and based on the result either switches something on, or switches something off. In our case, we want the switch to come on when the sensor temp reads low, and go off when the temperature sensor reads high. This is the default configuration for most controllers. So, where do we find a temperature controller? I started off at Omega, since they make everything under the sun for temperature measurement and control. But, as befits many industrial suppliers, they are expensive. So, screw it. We’re off to eBay. Look at that! Temperature controllers out the wazoo! Hmm. We are trying to do this cheaply, but with some assurances it’ll actually work. Let’s skip used equipment and focus on new parts. I can get a temperature controller with included thermocouple for $31.95 plus shipping. Hell, yeah.

Okay, here’s a snag. The max current we can pull with the relay circuit in the controller is 3A. As we know from doing our quick and dubious math, we need about 8 amps. So the included relay ain’t gonna work. Shit. However, our controller also has a DC trigger out. The controller puts out some voltage for the on state and drops to nothing for the off state. Let’s see, 8V out. That will drive a solid state relay quite nicely, won’t it? Well, hell, we’re already at eBay in another window. How much for an SSR? $8.99 for a 25A relay that triggers off 3-32 VDC. The price even includes shipping from some Chinese factory town. Sweet!

Now, we need a box to hold our controller, relay, and associated wiring in. I found yet another score on eBay: a PVC enclosure with aluminum back plate already installed for $25. Slightly used, but since it’s just a box to hold parts, I can live with that. Since we’ve got the back plate in the enclosure, we can dispense with a separate heat sink for the SSR.

So let’s see, we’ve got the heating elements, a way to control them, and a box to hold stuff. Are we missing anything? Oh, yeah, a pump. Well, I’ve got to go by the pet store and pick up some turtle supplies. I’ll see what’s available in the way of a pump and get back to you guys when the parts get here.

* Actually done in MathCad. If anybody wants to see the math, let me know.

**I did all the electrical calcs as straight DC, since an immersion heater is as close to a purely resistive load as uou're going to find in an AC circuit. Sloppy, yes, but I'm not an EE.

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A Brief Tour of Selected Portions of This H’yar Internet

Should the need ever arise, here's how to get to Rikers Island, besides the obvious and inconvenient method.

Are you reading Girl Genius? No? Why the hell not?

Everything goes better with bacon.

Art! Money! Myth! Whatever it is, it's interesting and very well done.

And it's Friday, so I'm out. Have a good weekend, y'all.

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Cheap Sous Vide, Part 1

So, I mentioned I got Under Pressure recently. I have been reading it, and I will freely admit I'm both intrigued and intimidated. The intimidation comes from two somewhat related issues. This is a book for foodies and professional chefs. The recipes are technically demanding, have absurd ingredient lists, almost requires a brigade de cuisine, and some specialized equipment. I'm fine with the first two. I can either do it, or I'll take a swing at it and fail spectacularly. Ingredients are readily available in a town with 4 million people. The last two are more an issue.

This is what I refer to as sous-chef cooking at it's finest. WTF does Keller care that it takes 200 steps and 7 people to do it? He's got staff. Me? I have J and a dog, only one of whom actually wants to be in the kitchen when I'm doing serious cooking. The dog has figured out I'm clumsy and drop things that are occasionally tasty. J has figured out out other people get in my way and make even more peevish and irascible than normal. Needless to say, this cuts down on the amount of prep work that can be done for any single recipe if it's all going to be eaten at the same time. I have learned to accept this limitation and work around it. I do a fair amount of mise en place and bastardize recipes to get where I need to go.

The specialized equipment, however, would appear to be a deal breaker. Sous vide needs a vacuum packer and an immersion circulator. I'm thinking my cheap FoodSaver will work for the vacuum packing aspect, even though Keller insists they aren't adequate. Maybe not for what he's doing, but I figure it'll work for me. The immersion circulator, though? That's kind of a bitch. A cheap one runs about $900 new, and you don't get much of a discount for buying used. That strikes me as a little much for experimentation. What to do, what to do?

Hey, wait a minute. I'm an engineer. I can figure this out...

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2nd Place Is The First...

Conviction, apparently. While a number of people are reporting that Bernie Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme in US history, this is obviously incorrect. As my lovely, talented, and absent coblogger pointed out in conversation this morning, Social Security is still the undisputed heavyweight champion in the Ponzi scheme standings.

Let's review. Sucker people into giving you their money for a Ponzi scheme, go to jail. Extract money from people at gunpoint to prop up your already existing and demographically unsunstainable Ponzi scheme, nobody cares. File this one in the folder marked "Only okay if the gummint does it" and call it good.

In the meantime, how's your retirement looking? Mine is looking less and less likely, thanks.

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For your entertainment, a history of the prophesied end of civilization. We're all still here, so obviously they've been wrong up until now.



Not Yours?

So, I'm given to understand the n00b wants to sign the omnibus spending bill while refusing to take any blame for it. Hmm. Interesting.

Here's how it works in my professional world. I'm an engineer. At the end of the day, when I sign the documents, they're mine. It doesn't matter if I sign a purchase request, a drawing, a work order, or a calculation. If I sign the bottom of the document next to "Approved By", I own it forever. Nobody cares if I didn't do the math, prepare the drawing, or pull the part numbers from the catalog. I signed it, so it's my problem. I am the guy who is going to take the heat for whatever is on the piece of paper. Generally, this means I double check what's on the paper and make sure it's right.

Now, keep in mind, I'm just a project engineer in a manufacturing plant. I didn't sign up to be the leader of the richest, most powerful nation to ever exist on planet Earth. You wanted the job, fucktard, sack up and take the responsibility that goes with it. Don't pawn it off on the last guy. He ain't around anymore, and your signature is going on the bottom of the page. This means you are the guy, n00b, and nobody else but you. You can't point fingers at 60 of your colleagues and say "They voted for it too!" You're the man now, and if you can't even own the decisions you make, you aren't fit to be in the chair.

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Not By Choice

So, over at the trainwreck that is recovery.gov, I find a few curious tidbits.
We are asking the American people to trust their government with an unprecedented level of funding to address the economic emergency.
Really? I don't recall being asked. I seem to recall it went down more along the lines of "Here's what we're gonna do, suck it up and pay for it." Good thing they didn't ask, since I don't trust the government to handle the problem at all, much less responsibly.

Another funny from the same site:
This is your money. You have a right to know where's it going and how it's being spent.
How nice. I have a right to know what my money is doing, but not the right to decide where it's going or the right to, I dunno, keep it. Interesting how that works, isn't it?

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Get Some Shoes

I don't care how much your feet hurt. It might be that your feet hurt because you're packing around 300 pounds on a 5'6" frame. In any event, Crocs are not appropriate work footwear out here in white collar land, mmkay? Butch up and put on some real shoes.

Similarly, just because some Chinese peon glued some sequins to a pair of flip-flops does not magically make them sandals. They're still fucking flip-flops. Consider this: you're 37 years old and wearing flip-flops to work. Get a clue and put some shoes on, you twunt.

I'm having issues with my coworkers today, can you tell?



Weekend Fun

So, in my slovenly and slothful blogging habits, I have neglected some recent events. Most recent was the Friday night ruckus at the new, improved, statelier YPS Manor. Dog V2.0 came nose to nose with one of these. Yes, a 1 pound snake versus a 20 pound dog. This ended in a draw. Had the referees allowed the match to continue, I'm not sure who would have taken the title. Dog is bigger and theoretically more capable, but has no concept of actual physical agression. He is completely baffled when other canines respond to him agressively, so I'm sure the snake confused him as well. Instead, we separated the combatants and relocated the snake with the help of a pair of welding gloves, a plastic box, and a short trip to the vacant lot behind the new subdivision.

I picked up Thomas Keller's Under Pressure a week or two ago. It has a somewhat singular distinction of being the only cookbook I've purchased recently that has made me feel dumb. I don't have any formal culinary training, but I read a lot of cookbooks. Keller's book is the only one where on average, once a recipe, I find myself going "WTF is that?" in regard to some ingredient, technique, or equipment. I don't know how quickly I will be able to utilize any of the techniques for sous-vide in the book, but it's fascinating nonetheless.

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Hell And All That

So, one of the other people in Dallas had a great idea: show up to a gun buy back and offer more money, in cash, than the city was offering. He also posted follow-up video here. Nicely played, sir. If Houston ever gets dumb like that, I'll certainly consider doing the same.

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