The supreme court needs competition.

February 8th, 2015

I will admit I know very little about the goings on of the supreme court. I only hear little tidbits here and there about how they presided over this case or refused to hear that case because of a technicality or something.

The supreme court doesn’t scale. There are 9 justices on the supreme court and that’s it. Every year there are more people, more businesses, more technology, more progress, more activities, more things in life that create grey areas that require decision making by our judicial leaders. But there will always only be 9 supreme court judges.

Maybe I misunderstand, but if the supreme court can choose not to see a case there is little recourse.
But imagine if there were 2 supreme courts. They would have to compete. One court by itself might choose to not take a case, but if there were another court able to do so, the first might compete to get the case so as to be the ones to try the case and make the decision that sets important precedent, or at least keep the other court from being able to do so if they think they wouldn’t like the result of the other court’s precedent.

Of course this idea is fraught with problems, and it would require a change in the constitution so it is unlikely to happen. The goal of the court would no longer be solely to provide justice but their motives might now include keeping the other court from providing their version of justice. Which sounds an awful like politics which is something our government needs less of, not more.

But it is an interesting and very american idea.

Past the peak of smartphones.

December 6th, 2014

The motorola droid 3 is probably the best machine we will see for a while.

I think the phone was only available for 6 months or something like that, and that’s probably when motorola and/or google figured out their mistake.

For a while there was a race to the top, the most stuff in the most phone for the most money. Reasonable business plan. You cram a lot of features into a device and then charge a lot of money for it. This pays for the R&D for the next round.

Except somewhere along the way, somebody figured out that giving the end user lots of cool hardware was probably not in their best long term interest. Apple makes the example obvious. No apple device (phone, tablet) has ever had an SD card slot. Why? Well, why would you ever need to take any content off your phone? Especially without Apple’s ok. If you want more storage, then buy a gizmo with more memory, but allowing you to add removable storage is just bad news for the ecosystem.

I think motorola or google eventually joined that bandwagon, because I notice that the newer the device, the less crazy over the top hardware it has.

The newer devices don’t seem to have HDMI ports on them. Or SD card slots.

I noticed that the droid 4 comes with 8 gig of internal storage whereas the droid 3 came with 16 gig.

So I figure the droid 3 was near the pinnacle of the best hardware that anybody’s ever going to make for the mass market.

And since they can be had on ebay for $30 now, it seems like an incredibly good deal, until they make interfacing with them impossible.

What I mean by that is that I have a samsung captivate glide, it’s only 2 years old, but since it runs android 2.3.something I can no longer download the latest google calendar app, so I can no longer sync the calendar on my phone with my google calendar.

I figure we’ll be seeing more and more of google moving towards their walled garden ecosystem like the one apple as created for themselves.

After all, that’s where the money is.


Buying a lottery ticket isn’t such a bad idea.

December 6th, 2014

Buying a lottery ticket is a tax on people who can’t do math.
So they saying goes. And it makes sense to some degree. I have a friend who is a genius math guy and he says you have about as much chance of winning the lottery as you have of having the winning lottery ticket fall in your pocket.
He’s a smart guy, I believe him, but I recently started buying the occasional lottery ticket anyway, and here’s why.

Some of the money that collects in the new york state lottery pool ends up going towards schools. It’s not half like I thought, but I looked it up and it’s a good chunk. Billions of dollars a year are spent on schools that come from the money spent on lottery tickets. It doesn’t amount to a whole lot from the school’s point of view (4% of the revenue per school district said one article), but it’s better than nothing.

Of course this is a big joke in one sense, because the money spent on schools from the lottery is money that doesn’t have to come out of any other budget, and I’m sure whoever owns those other budgets happily pisses away the money on thing’s I’d rather they not.

But here’s the point: Some of the money spent on lottery tickets goes towards schools and it’s one of the very few ways you get to decide how your tax money is spent.

Yes, you could give money directly to your school and will have more of an effect but this way… I have a chance of willing a million dollars. :-)


The inversion of entropy.

December 3rd, 2014

I have a pile of electronics and wires from things I’ve taken apart over the years. Adapters and plugs, and cables for all sorts of things.

Any time I go near the pile invariably the wires are all tangled up.

Numerous times I have gone through the pile and wrapped up each cord individually so that it would not tangle with anything else.

Some of the wires stay wrapped, but some will eventually unravel and then start to tangle with other wires.

I figure at some point there is a limit to how tangled the wires will get, because they never seem to wrangle into a solid mass. So there must be some universal tangle constant to which wires will naturally tangle to, no more no less.

Given a pile of wires, they will tangle together to some natural pressure and then modulate between more tangling and less tangling so they stay tangled at or near the tangle constant.

I notice that wires never ever untangle themselves, but left to their own devices, they will naturally start to get wrapped up in each other.

This has been my experience, what do I know.

Despite all this, for some reason, my shoes always untie.

It would seem to make sense to make shoelaces out of wires and cables.


I think I’ve solved the college tuition problem.

June 18th, 2014

Actually, I didn’t solve it, I think it’s going to solve itself.
Follow this absurd rationale…

Right now if you wanted to go to college it would cost a lot of money, pretty much no matter where you went.

You can pay out of pocket, you can acquire loans or you can press your kid to do good in school so they can get a scholarship.

If you ask me, free money is the way to go.

Recently I’ve heard that one great way to get a kickback is to take up the bagpipes. There’s lots of money in bagpipes.

There’s lots of money in other bizarre things too. There’s also money in foundations and memorials. Hell I’ve even given money to them so some kid can go to school, though that wasn’t my intention.

So I figure as more people find esoteric things to put up money for and as more people die and have foundations or memorials created in their name, eventually there will be enough free money lying around in these financial instruments that everybody will get at least a little kickback and when the tide turns eventually, college will become free.

Hows that for rationale.

A story about a lottery that nobody wins.

March 20th, 2014

I just had this idea about a lottery that nobody wins.

Imagine what would happen. In the first few weeks people would pile into it because nobody won and the jackpot was getting large even by historic record measures.

Then a few more weeks would go by and the immediate frenzy would wear off but people would still be piling in, because SOMEBODY would eventually have to win.

After a few months, the pot would accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars if not a few billion.

Then the lawsuits would start.

People would start investigating the lottery system as being unfair and the assumption would be that somebody was cheating. Meanwhile the pot would grow bigger and the investment income on the pile of waiting winnings would start to accumulate even more.

At this point the lottery officials would probably put an end to it somehow. They can’t give the money back, so maybe they’d make the game easier so somebody could win. Or maybe they’d keep the money. But let’s play along and imagine that they let the game keep going and still nobody won.

A few more months people would probably stop throwing into the game anymore having given up any chance of winning, but some people would still put in, but more people would go broke trying to play hoping for the big win.

Occasionally there would be a frenzy of activity on rumors of “this is the week!” and people would line up to pile more money into it, and the pot would keep growing in fits and starts.

And yet still nobody would win. Remember folks, it’s entirely possible. Statistics never guarantees anything, only probabilities. It could happen that nobody wins for years and years and years.

So now let’s get a little silly and say that the pot of money is so large, has in hundreds of billions of dollars or maybe even a few trillion, people start suggesting we pay off the national debt with it.

Of course we can’t do that… a) nobody wants to pay off the debt, and b) it would throw the world economy into a terrible fit of something, and whatever it was probably wouldn’t be good.

So what happens? Eventually the economy fails. The lottery pot has grown so big it is stifling all the available liquid money. The return on the investments of the lottery pot grows larger and larger just making the problem worse.

Meanwhile people on the street are losing their jobs and being kicked out of their houses, because there’s no money to pay people or to spend so the economy drowns in a downward spiral.

And eventually society collapses because nobody ever won the lottery.

Just a funny idea I had.

I like to buy things with money.

November 21st, 2013

That probably sounds a little antiquated at this day and age.
In the good old days after money was invented but before credit and contracts were, if you wanted something, you went to somebody selling what you wanted, and you gave them some money and they gave you some stuff. A thing. Something tangible.
Then you went to work where you performed some service or provided use of a skill or something like that and you got paid money for your effort. You then took this money and went to the store and you bought more things.
So the cycle goes. Or went.

Nowadays, it’s harder to buy things with money. And I don’t mean cash versus credit and debit cards, I mean COD. Cash On Delivery. You pay money, you get something, that’s it. Remember that? You provide money and the other party in the exchange provides a service or goods.

There’s less and less of that nowadays, and more and more of the subscription service or contract, or leasing going on.
And it’s gotten to the point where it’s difficult to just plain buy something.

The most obvious common example is the ubiquitous cell phone.
They’ll give it to you for a dollar if you sign a contract promising them X amount of future dollars over the next N years. In the short run, you get a phone for almost nothing
out of pocket, and in the long run, the phone company makes a profit off of all the money you promised them, including a clause saying if you bail early, you basically have to pay for the phone.

Sure you can still buy a phone outright without a contract, but is far less common, and there are less good deals to be had this way because there’s so little turnover with this type of transaction, thus little competition, so no deals. You can only get a deal if you sign the contract.

Another one I mentioned recently is domain names. You can’t even buy a domain name. You can only rent it. They say you’re buying the domain name, but you’re only buying it for a year or two at a time, they take it back if you don’t pay the protection money.

Internet service and cell phone service are much the same way, you don’t pay for what you use, you pay a flat monthly fee for some limited-all-you-can-eat-up-to-a-certain-point service. Again, there are some pay as you go plans, but I find they’re getting less and less worthwhile as they keep raising the prices to make them comparable with or more expensive than the flat contract fee.

But all that is piddly in comparison to my next example. The one that really gets my goat is home heating oil boiler service contracts.

I simply can not get somebody to come to my house any time day or night to fix my boiler unless I have an oil delivery contract AND a boiler service contract.
There are some places that will sell me oil COD which is nice. But any place that offers service requires that you have an oil delivery contract with them.
Why? Because they lose money on the service contract.
Well here’s a dumb idea: don’t sell something that loses you money. It’s bad for business.
I know, you have to compete with everybody else who is racing to the bottom of the service pool.

It’s amazing to me that everybody’s gotten so caught up in this make a deal via contract to lock you in
so that it’s hard to switch to the competition, that it’s actually becoming hard not to do it that way.


Another thought on ipv6

November 15th, 2013

So about 2 years ago I went on some rant about how unneccesary ipv6 is.

I still think everything I said flies now as well as it did 2 years ago.

But I thought of something else.

You can’t nat forever because of port exhaustion on the internet facing machine.

I concede the point.

But, I also don’t know anybody who has only 1 ip address.

You write some fancy software, put your network card in promiscuous mode and now you can nat out from 64k ports times the number of ip addresses you have, all with one computer.

There are lots and lots and lots of unused ports on those existing 4 billion ip addresses out there.

We really don’t need ipv6 yet, and won’t for a long long time.



Speaking of protection money…

November 15th, 2013

I don’t know why it took me so long to think of this, but I realized today that paying for domain names is like paying protection money.

Maybe I’m having a slow day, but I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head, that you own, but you pay repeatedly for as if you were renting.

Maybe you don’t actually own domain names, I failed to read the fine print, forgive me.

Domain names are somewhat unique in the world of purchasable goods in that they are by definition world unique. You can’t go somewhere else and get the same thing for less money. There’s only one domain name and it’s mine.

Except it’s not mine. It’s my registrars, and every year I have to pay them not to take it away from me.

Sounds like protection money.

So I was trying to think of other things like that. Diamonds are world unique. No two are the same. They’re pretty expensive but once you own one, it’s yours. And you don’t have to pay anything once you’ve bought it. Except insurance. Read back a few to see my latest rant on insurance.

What else is world unique that has some value to people. Land. That’s a good one. Once you buy land, it’s yours. You have to pay property tax, unless you manage to buy your own country, but still, you actually own the land and don’t have to pay anybody repeatedly not to take it away from you. Tax notwithstanding.

But I’m not paying tax on my domain name. I’m paying to own it for a year.

So there’s a market there, becoming a registrar that let’s you own your domain name forever.

Maybe what you’re really buying is the registrar’s service. After all they’re really just hosting the resolution (resolvation?) of the domain name for you.

I suppose if I could run my own dns server and become a registrar, I wouldn’t have to pay anybody to keep my domain.

But then I expect I’d probably have to keep paying somebody to keep being a registrar.

I think I get it, but something sounds a bit fishy.

Copper pipe heater without fire.

November 15th, 2013

So I had this brilliant idea.

I recently became an unlicensed master plumber. I can plumb anything in my house.

I’ve done it the harder way with copper, and the simpler way with pex.

Sure there’s black iron and probably other sorts of materials I don’t even know about, but I know enough to run copper and pex. That will solve any problem I will ever have.

Copper is obviously better than pex. It’s more expensive, it’s harder to work with, it lets you play with fire. It’s a MAN’s materal. GRRRRRRRR! METAL! FIRE!

Once you get over yourself however, you realize what a pain in the ass it is to have to worry about setting various parts of your house on fire by blowing a torch near flammable things like insulation and wood joists  when you’re trying to solder pipes resting on those joists, or near that insulation.

So they invented pex. And crimps and sharkbites that take all the effort out of plumbing. If there’s any question that it’s simpler easier and cheaper, just check out any discussion board where real plumbers talk to each other and by their inherent fear and poo-pooing of pex and sharkbites, you know it’s gotta be good.

But there is value in copper. You can pull it out of your house and sell it and retire.

But let’s say you still wanted to work with copper. The torch is the problem. I know there’s something manly about playing with open flame, I get that, I like setting things on fire more than most people. But in all the decades people have been using copper pipes, I don’t see why nobody’s come up with a less risky solution.

I only wonder this because it took me about a day to come up with something better.

Imagine an electrically powered hand held tool much like a soldering iron who’s electrically resistant tip (the part that gets hot) is a semicircle of the size that would fit around a 1/2″ 3/8″ 3/4″ pipe or whatever you want to solder.

If you could press a stick against the pipe you want to solder, you could press this thing.

You cup the heating element of this tool around the pipe, wait for it to heat up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit, apply solder, and voila. Plumbing.

No open flame, it contains the mess, no singeing any nearby wood, no need for tin to protect behind whatever pipe you’re working on.

Yeah it may draw a lot of amperage, but it would make it so much easier and safer.

Well. It seems it already exists. Google is truly amazing. Gotta get me one of those.