A long time ago I had a book by John Dvorak. It was on shareware telecomms programs and was about 800 pages. If if I hit you in the face with it, it would have broken your jaw.
Dvorak was a legend in computer trade publishing and, in my mind, not in a good way. He was one of a common breed, someone who turned out trade books eiither written by machine or a small number of office
Anyway, today Dvorak’s name rose to the top of the Google pile for a PC Mag piece he authored on the set-yer-HP-laser-printer-on-fire story.
Many have covered that news responsibly so I won’t get into the details here.
However, there’s one bit from Dvorak, worth pulling out, just to show things never change. He’s an empty machine who phones it in.
This reminded me of the other recent hack whereby a hacker got some code into a power plant or some such thing. The hacker began to turn the pumps on and off so fast that the mechanisms overheated and either stopped working or caught on fire.
John C. Dvorak — today’s example of someone so spent, fat, lazy and full of himself he can’t do the most elementary checking. This made worse by copy editors at PC Mag too cowed to do their job and save the man from himself.
Fuglemen and women for the arms manufacturers are common on news casts. And they will become moreso as the pleas to stave off defense cuts rise to the heaven. It will cost many thousands of jobs, they have said and will say.
This short video explains how their function is in the realm of duplicity. Arms manufacturing spending isn’t jobs rich when compared with equivalent dollars spent on non-military domestic needs, like teaching or infrastructure.
The private sector companies pushing defense spending invest in high end hardware, not people.
This is the plutocracy manufacturing model, more for the small percentage of wealthy, nothing or very little for everyone else. It is the same as General Electric’s domestic manufacturing of giant jet engines and high end whole body medical imaging machines. (Both of which the company is currently pushing in a public relations tv ad campaign.)
These items cost a lot but the making of them, relatively speaking, doesn’t employ that many people. Which is why investing in teachers or infrastructure repair produces so many more hires.
In addition, when you hear that arms manufacturers, or companies like Boeing or GE or Northrop Grumman want the government to invest in scholarship money and training for more engineers and science people, it’s for the development of big ticket items and expensive weapons applications. In this we are talking really small numbers in the national big picture, a few thousand to ten thousand or so, as contrasted with the many millions out of work or chronically underemployed.
In the description to the above YouTube-posted video:
“Now that the deficit committee failed, war profiteer CEOs are launching an all-out propaganda campaign to protect their profit margins. They and their allies in Washington are working to protect the massive, corruption-filled war budget by slashing social safety nets that help create jobs. This would be a disaster for our economy.”
Paradoxically, the sports garment industry in this country was destroyed and moved to China. Which is where all the real stuff (and its counterfeits) come from now.
So Americans saw their jobs making such garments go bye-bye. And now, some Americans — trying to make a living selling counterfeits from the same place their jobs went, get to have their domains seized, too.
Oklahoma legislators want castor beans to be outlawed
Fast cut to the link and the first thing seen is the standard chubbish white guys in suits. Minor empirical proof the US began rewarding the useless and nasty decades ago.
The piece reads (it’s almost too intelligence insulting to believe):
Castor beans do not immediately leap to mind when one considers the state’s most serious problems.
And yet bills outlawing the production and transportation of castor beans were among the first filed in anticipation of next year’s legislative session.
Castor beans, being 50 percent or more oil, are the among the most promising biofuel crops.
They are also the source of one of nature’s deadliest poisons …
But state Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, and Rep. Dale DeWitt, R-Braman, did not have terrorism or espionage in mind when they filed their castor bean bills this fall. They were concerned about a more direct threat – inadvertent contamination of the food supply.
“Prohibiting castor beans may not be something we want for the long-range,” DeWitt said. “But until we have more research into ways of lowering the ricin levels, we have to be very careful with it.”
Although castor plants are fairly common as ornamentals, their commercial production is virtually unknown in Oklahoma. With growing interest in them for biofuels, however, wheat growers and other crop producers became concerned about a burst of speculative cultivation spreading castor and ricin residue into fields, planting and harvesting equipment, storage bins and trucks and railroad cars used for transporting grain.
This is intellectual failure on so many levels it is difficult to know where to begin in explaining the stupidity of it.
At some time in the nation’s past — a few decades back — castor was a crop in the US. I have written about this before. None of it sticks. Journalists, politicians, and American alleged terror experts pay no attention to historical precedent or fact. If there are agricultural history and science books in libraries or old newspaper articles and stories to be consulted, they are all discounted and discarded for the apparent reason that people are now too lazy and crippled to be bothered to read them.
As an agricultural resource castor posed no real problem. It does not in those places around the world where it still is a crop. And castor mills in the United States were not poison dumps. People were not felled by wandering castor seeds in their morning cereal.
Over the course of a decade, from 1959 until 1970, Plainview was considered the hub of domestic castor bean production with the local office of Baker Castor Oil ultimately contracting for 70,000 acres of production annually.
However, the crop’s success ultimately worked against it with practically no significant domestic production recorded after 1972. Since that time, the United States has been forced to turn to producers in India and Brazil to supply the majority of its needs.
Plainview Mayor John C. Anderson has a unique perspective on the local castor industry, having served as general manager of Baker Castor Oil’s local operations from August 1959 until December 1970.
“During most of that time Baker was the dominant player in the United States with about 75 percent of the castor oil production,” Anderson recalled last week, “and the Plainview facilities accounted for virtually all of that.”
The oil derived from castor beans is used in a vast array of products, ranging from paints, varnishes and lacquers to lipstick, hair tonic and shampoo. Since it does not become stiff with cold nor unduly thin with heat, castor oil is an important component in plastics, soaps, waxes, hydraulic fluids and ink. It also is used to make special lubricants for jet engines and racing cars, and during World War I, World War II and the Korean War it was stockpiled by the federal government as a strategic material.
Bayonne, N.J.-based Baker Castor Oil Company already was a major importer and processor when it embarked on a plant breeding program in the late 1950s centered in Plainview in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Baker needed a dependable domestic supply of castor beans since the government was building up its strategic reserve,” Anderson explained. “Baker at the time was having to primarily rely on what was being harvested by hand in Brazil and India from plants growing wild.”
Not only were there concerns about production and price volatility, the imported oil had a tendency to turn rancid during transport, Anderson said. A domestic source would reduce transportation costs while substantially improving quality. And, Plainview was a logical choice since the harvested crop could be shipped to crushing facilities on both East and West Coasts.
Amazing. Harvested castor seeds were crushed daily. And nobody died!
Obviously, in Oklahoma you can be … I don’t even wanna get into it.
But think back to 2000. Many Democrats and journalists alike, feeling grouchy, were dismissive of Al Gore and magnified his shortcomings. We forgot the context, prided ourselves on our disdainful superiority — and won eight years of George W. Bush.
This time, let’s do a better job of retaining perspective. If we turn Obama out of office a year from now, let’s make sure it is because the Republican nominee is preferable, not just out of grumpiness toward the incumbent during a difficult time.
“I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground … Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos,made for me by various footmen and follow me on Twitter along with the other 1,194,973,” reads his usual tagline.
Living proof the wrong people are getting pepper spray.
An interesting news piece at Science magazine briefly examines the state of science employment in the US.
If you read the idiot musings of the mainstream press, where stories about science are always written by people without any science background (or worse, weird liberal arts journo-degrees like science & journalism or history of science custom made for a variety of sissies and intellectual weaklings), you have read, many times, that we suffer a science shortage. Or will. Soon. (Sadly, the link is to my old alma mater where they apparently patronize the desire to be ‘into’ science without actually having to do anything that would dangerously expose you to the real thing. Kind of like the George Plimpton Paper Lion approach to pro football — only more pathetic and personally insulting.)
Scientists are like vitamins — that’s the gist of what you read from the good boys. We are always in danger of suffering a deficiency and can’t get enough of them. Except for the Republican Party. The GOP has had enough of scientists. Reality doesn’t adhere to either view.
The author of the brief at Science examines some of the conclusions from two studies — one arguing that there’s, indeed, a shortage of science workers, the other arguing there’s a glut.
The conclusion reached by the writer is that both have some truth to the them but the one arguing that there’s a glut is more true.
And I agree. When DD left Lehigh University there was a surplus of Ph.D scientists in the US. And the people I knew faced it.
The report from FAIR argues that scientists are forced out of STEM fields because there aren’t enough jobs. “There is no evidence that there is, or will exist in the foreseeable future, a shortage of qualified native-born scientists and engineers in the United States,” the authors write. “The glut of science and engineering [S&E] degree holders in the United States has caused many S&E graduates to seek work in other fields.”
[Keep in mind STEM is acronym jargon for “science and engineering majors.” It didn’t exist when I earned a Ph.D. at a science and engineering school. It was invented by education officials and
other nuisances opposed to clear language that can’t be used as a professional advancement.]
While the United States seems to be producing enough STEM workers to fill traditional STEM jobs, the Georgetown authors write, the migration of people with STEM-related competencies into non-STEM occupations leads to STEM-worker shortages. “Even when the numbers indicate that we are producing enough STEM graduates for STEM occupations, we do face STEM scarcity in some occupations because STEM-capable workers divert from STEM into non-STEM occupations.”
“The perceptions about a lack of skilled workers are pervasive,” Cappelli writes. “But the problem is an illusion.” Employers perceive a worker shortage, he writes, because they “want prospective workers to be able to fill a role right away, without any training or ramp-up time.” Employers “need to drop the idea of finding perfect candidates and look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice,” he writes. “Unfortunately, American companies don’t seem to do training anymore.”
A second reason for the perception of a shortage, Cappelli says, boils “down to the fact that employers can’t get candidates to accept jobs at the wages offered. That’s an affordability problem, not a skills shortage. We can buy all we want at the prevailing prices.”
If companies would stop seeking exact skill matches and seek the help they need among the many workers currently available — including, I would argue, the nation’s 100,000 or so science postdocs — they would “vastly expand the supply of talent” available, “making it both cheaper and easier to fill jobs.” This is a case where “company self-interest and societal interest just happen to collide.”
From personal experience, I agree.
Postdoctoral positions paid very poorly in the mid-Eighties. I’m assuming they still do, in spades. The work was hard and, unless you were fortunate, generally sucked. Everyone (and I do mean everyone from technicians to grad students to post docs) eventually left the lab I was in at the Penn State School of Medicine in Hershey because the work was so unrewarding and dead-end.
You could hang around in them until something opened up or you were deemed experienced or connected enough for a position in the private sector. Or you could try for great publishing and grant proposal acquisition and a stab at a university position, much harder to land.
Both tracks revealed gluts of highly trained people, most of whom wouldn’t get the jobs they applied for.
This was made worse by the bottom line practice, adopted nationwide at universities, of using Ph.D’s as cheap no-hope-of-tenure-track labor for the teaching of undergraduate and low-level graduate courses, all in order to free the older tenured professorial class from pedagogy while in the pursuit of more illustrious full-time research.
And in terms of corporate America, it has always been a case of unchangeable but unrealistic desires on the part of the employer: the requirements in personnel departments for “exact skills” matches and people who require no “on-ramp” time.
Yeah, as it turns out, corporate America does hate you. Always has.
Extra points to the story for rubbishing the idea that perhaps many scientists leave the field, not finding jobs because they are socially distasteful. We’re talking about the notion among many run of the mill idiots that science attracts a disproportionate number of physically crippled smelly mentally ill four-eyes types incapable of being near someone without farting, stuttering and acting like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor.
“[Anyone] who has spent time around aspiring scientists will find the suggestion that they’re unemployable ludicrous; socially inept scientists do exist, but most are earnest, personable, and very smart,” writes Jim Austin for Science.
Last weeks story on an alleged cyberattack on US infrastructure has been turned off like a drip from the faucet.
That story — mentioned in this post — went viral in the news media and involved an anecdotal report on a hack attack said to have burned out a water pump in Springfield, Illinois.
A Dept. of Homeland Security statement, widely distributed to various news agencies, reads:
“After detailed analysis, DHS and the FBI have found no evidence of a cyber intrusion into the SCADA system of the Curran-Gardner Public Water District in Springfield, Illinois …There is no evidence to support claims made in initial reports–which were based on raw, unconfirmed data and subsequently leaked to the media–that any credentials were stolen, or that the vendor was involved in any malicious activity that led to a pump failure at the water plant. In addition, DHS and FBI have concluded that there was no malicious traffic from Russia or any foreign entities, as previously reported. Analysis of the incident is ongoing and additional relevant information will be released as it becomes available.”
Joined the singer/songwriter contest sponsored by Guitar Center today thinking it might not be run by machines.
It’s here and works off something called Whooznxt.
Whooznxt and its “people” or, more accurately, robots simply connect to all the social networks and counts up how many followers you have. It doesn’t even seem to matter that you have any original music, just the most number of growth in followers when the contest ends on November 30.
So if you join like, say, today, and you’re Nick Kristof — my favorite good boy — or anyone in this category of net “counting” popularity, as long as you could put a tune on YouTube or somewhere, you go right to the top of the list for consideration. (Incidentally, to bag on Kristof some more. If he could pry fifty cents a week out of even a quarter of his Internet legion of followers he’d actually be able to be the philanthropic idea man he poses as on Sundays without jetting to the world’s misery places on the Times dime.)
Of course, it was stupid of me to even think that a mass call for entrants would be culled by anything but software counting.
On YouTube, only teenagers subscribe to video accounts. “Friends” don’t count. Friends are meaningless on YouTube. They’re a sham to get a back link to the “friend” on your Channel page. The people who “friend” you never want to be the only metric that YouTube and Google counts, which is subscribers.
So what you find after a couple months is that people who are trying to game the system regularly send you “friend” requests.
Twitter is much the same. Outside of celebrity, Twitter is gamed by people who send out mass follow requests, gambling on the idea that quite a few people will reciprocate with a follow request of their own.
Then they quickly unfollow all the people they’ve gamed. In case you were wondering why that “girl” from somewhere in Russia with a profile about looking for romance just attached to you.
Anyway, I have eight fans. I am lousy at gaming the systems.
[Stars and Stripes reporterd] “nearly $88 million worth of food stamps were used at commissaries nationwide in 2011, up from $31 million in 2008.”
The Defense Department doesn’t track commissary sales, so it’s unclear which military personnel seek benefits.
Analysts believe, however, that recent vets are the demographic most likely to need help: 860,000 sought unemployment benefits in October.
Statisticians consider some 25 percent of these men and women to be “young veterans.”
Food stamp usage in the military is generally not banner news. You have to look around for it.
In October I posted a summary of food stamp use. It included an item from a southern newspaper citing the use within the military.
Again, it points out that while the US spends lavishly on its defense budget, the soldiers do not do so well. The defense establishment believes in defense contractors and armaments, not people.
You can also view food stamp subsidies as a way in which you can pay soldiers less in a kind of rip off, one in which they’re actually entitled to more but forced to apply for more of the taxpayer’s money through the means test SNAP program applicants go through.
From 2008 to 2009 military families were using food stamps at twice the rate as civilians, 25 percent to 13 percent. About $31 million of food stamps were used in nationwide commissaries.
From July 2009 to March 2011 in Oklahoma, where there are four military bases — Fort Sill, Tinker AFB, Vance AFB, Altus AFB — $1.8 million in food stamps was spent.
You can bet nobody at General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics Land Systems ever needs to present their monthly budget and bank account statistics at the local welfare center.
It’s a good demonstration of a systemic immorality and just another hidden national disgrace. It’s the stealing of the riskiest patriotic labor so we can suck out a few dollars more for the gadgets of killing.
Now that Newt Gingrich is enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame atop the heap of horrid GOP presidential hopefuls I can use it as an excuse to show him back when he was basically the famous person for a group of relative nobodies (but persistent nobodies) in the Cult of Electromagnetic Pulse Crazy.
Gingrich has been called a a whore/”rental politician” (most recently by George Will) for anyone who’ll pay him to show up or provide “strategic consulting.” And one of the lobbies that loved him most was the pulsers/bomb Iran group — famous for using EMP doom to push ballistic missile defense.
Here are three videos of Newt on Youtube, doing his EMP doom tap dance. Two of them are for the lobbying group, EMPAct America.
The third is for Fox News where he advocated for starting a war with North Korea back in 2009.
The long version.
If he was President…
So far Newt hasn’t dropped “permanent continental shutdown” and the end of US civilization in the debates.
Update, from the evening debate: Gingrich worked electromagnetic pulse doom into it for a minute. And everyone ignored him. No love for EMPAct America.
Sampling from the wires:
He said the biggest undiagnosed danger to national security was an EMP pulse.
It makes more sense than Rick Santorum’s claim that the unspotted danger was Hezbollah in South America.
— BBC North America
Gingrich rattles through a doomsday list: electromagnetic pulses, weapons of mass destruction in an American city and cyber attacks.
— The Daily Telegraph
New Gingrich says he worries about nuclear/WMD attack; electro-magnetic pulse attack, and cyber attack.