Monthly Archives: November 2013

The New Grow Op

bitcoin mining rig

Bitcoin Mining Rig

This is a rather low end version of a Bitcoin mining rig.

The reality is that really fast bitcoin miners can be had for around $3000.00. I can’t imagine that this fact has gone unnoticed by the criminal money laundry industry.

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Of Conspiracies

One of the climate hysterics favorite tropes is that realists are a denialist conspiracy in the pay of big oil.

Like many of the other loony things the hysterics maintain, this is principally a reflection of their own behaviour. Which is confirmed by the remarks made on the open Skeptical Science Web Forum. Steve McIntyre, one of the identified targets, has a selection of the remarks on that forum.

It is pretty “inside baseball” for anyone who has not been paying close attention to the climate debate…but fascinating if you have been.

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Black is the New Green

As the UN/IPCC climate circus continues to collapse in Poland it is interesting to note that King Coal is coming back.

Which makes this graph from NoTricksZone all the more amusing.

coal versus temperature
Global temperature (green) compared to global coal consumption (black). While coal consumption has soared 70% since 2000, global temperatures have eased since 2002.

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Ford not Shunned…

Ford donned a Toronto Argonauts jersey and even posed for pictures with fans before heading inside to watch the team get beaten by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a berth in the Nov. 24 Grey Cup in Regina.

Fans gathered around the controversial mayor as he took his seat, shaking his hand and giving him high-fives while those sitting behind him looked angry at having their view blocked by the commotion.

He was mobbed by people who mostly seemed supportive as he left the game — some people were giving high-fives through the open window of his car as he drove away. macleans

If Ford keeps doing this sort of thing and ignores the dimwitted, Toronto lefty political establishment, he can run and win in the next election.

The majority of non-Annex, non-media, Canadians are very forgiving. And, Lord knows, at least he’s not banning doorknobs.

UPDATE: A more accurate headline from the Vancouver Sun:

“Mayor Rob Ford mobbed by fans after ignoring suggestion to stay away from CFL East Final”

Thanks Kitty!

UPPITY DATE: Another Rob Ford video emerges

Thanks Kitty!


Vancouver bans Doorknobs

They could start with the bike lane mayor and maybe bar David Suzuki’s re-entry. Justin Trudeau would not be allowed to campaign…I love it.

But, wait, the Vancouver geniuses are banning actual doorknobs…no, really.

For some, the humble round doorknob is unremarkable and utilitarian, a simple tool, a means to an end. For others, it is a piece of art, an object of beauty, an architecturally significant adornment on the welcoming portal to a building. For others, it is so synonymous with ordinariness that a “knob” is a pejorative word for being dull or stupid.

In Vancouver, the doorknob is heading into a setting sun. Its future has been date-marked, legislated out of existence in all future construction, a tip to society’s quest for universal design and the easier-to-use lever handle. vancouver sun

There are, no doubt, good an valid reasons to prefer levers to knobs – but is it the business of the state to ban one and “privilege”, indeed mandate the other. The whole idea of the state being involved in our choice of door opening options shows just how far we have traveled down the authoritarian road.

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Where, oh where is the Heat

Those following along at home will know that the warmists have been having a terrible time figuring out where “the heat” predicted by their models could possibly be. Surface temperature is at a standstill but CO2 is still going up.

One good place for the heat to be hiding is at the bottom of the deep blue sea. The great advantage of this hiding place for the warmists is that we have very bad instrumental coverage of the oceans and virtually none below 2000 meters. Perfect place for the heat to hide until it jumps out and says “Boo” in fifty years.

Except there is one way of measuring the heat content of the oceans and that is as a matter of the rise in ocean levels. The oceans rise for two basic reasons: melt water from land held ice (ocean ice makes no difference to sea level because it is already displacing as much water as a melt would produce) and thermal expansion. As water gets warmer it expands.

Well, sadly for my warmist friends sea level rise, while still rising slightly, has slowed down since 2004 and sea level rise from thermic expansion has actually been negative since 2007. Peer reviewed and everything.

Time to look somewhere else for the hidden heat.

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Form Factor Future


Tackle Box Robot

A lot of the substantive content with my homeschooled boys is looking at interesting things and then discussing them and digging a bit deeper.

For no particular reason this past couple of weeks we’ve been discussing:

  • pallets and containers
  • delivery drones
  • 3D printing
  • autonomous and electric cars
  • economic aspects thereof

Now the fun part of this is that we can find useful things on the internet like Captain Capitalism’s thought provoking post on “Post Scarcity Economics” or Walter Russell Mead’s post on “Is Downton Abbey the Future of the US Economy?”.

While the economics are interesting, the actual history of things like containers can be riveting for boys and their father. (Susan decamps with a good book.) An article about the humble pallet gives the boys a fair bit of insight into everything from the global economy to the logistics of Ikea cup design.

One of the recurring themes which has emerged is how standardization improves efficiency. Containers have to be the same size, pallets – in an ideal world – would be the same size. A decision would be made about metric vs. imperial. Merchandise packaging would be optimized to max out pallet efficiency. There’s room for a bit of math and some basic geometry.

Once you start talking about pallets and containers you can also consider the “last mile” problem. How do you get the goods to the customer? Amazon uses the mail and UPS. Walmart wants you to actually go to their store. Nothing is more fun than thinking about how that last mile can be crossed without a trip to the mall or the UPS guy finding you are not at home.

In Australia there is a company set to deliver text books by helicopter drone. (And, yes, we did discuss this quaint idea of a paper “textbook” in a Kindle world.) No question that for things like pizza, prescriptions and drycleaning the flying delivery drone makes sense.

But, for my money, the autonomous vehicle is a better bet for the day to day business of getting stuff to people. (3D printing is still a distance away for every day use.) The excitement and hype in the autonomous car world has been about passengers – essentially moving people rather than things. But moving things is a huge business and it could get much bigger if an easy, inexpensive, means to get your groceries to your house could be devised.

We already have automated warehousing. (Worth looking at this video at Amazon’s Kiva systems site. However those robots merely pack the boxes with the customer’s order. Now what?

The last mile problem is going to get a lot of attention in the next few years. Autonomous delivery vehicles are one part of the solution; but the other part is actually delivering to the customer. Canadian start-up Buffer Box (recently bought by Google) has a fairly elegant partial solution. Your stuff is delivered to a Buffer Box kiosk which has electronic lockers you can open with a passcode from your phone. Nice for your online kite purchase, not too brilliant for the chicken you want to cook tonight.

There are lots of ways to attack the last mile problem. Each family gets a personal box and deliveries are made right to your box. Or, if price can be brought down, a person or family would have one or more “boxes on wheels” which would travel on some sort of schedule to the various places the family needs to have stuff picked up.

Part of the educational process here is that these are not questions which, at present, have answers. But they are not abstract issues: even a partial solution to the last mile problem is a billion dollar business. And it is a business which will occur very, very quickly. The horse was replaced by the internal combustion engine in less than 20 years.

Marrying a GPS/internet/Google Map aware computer to the rather well understood technology of the golf cart or electric scooter and you have an autonomous delivery vehicle prototype. With a secure storage capacity – think trunk of a car – you could probably build such things for $1000. They don’t have to go fast and, with good logistics design, they would not likely have to go far.

Now, think about what the introduction of such personal pick up and delivery ‘bots would change, especially in cities. Just one example: at the moment even if the Lady of the House is hyper aware of which items are on sale at which grocery stores this particular week, she is not particularly willing to make five stops and go through five checkout lines to save a total of, say, $10-20. But her pick up agent would be delighted to make those stops. (And, of course, now the supermarkets – if they are smart – are going to want to attract the pick-up agents so the scope for price matching and agent loyalty programs is huge.) On the other hand, think of the congestion these pick-up agents might cause. How to solve that problem. (Two hints – first, the number of car trips to get stuff would go down as would the number of manned delivery vehicles, second, it should be possible to build anti-congestion imperative right into the software which runs the pick up agents.

As I have pointed out to the boys, one interesting thing about robotic pick up agents is that they can operate continuously and therefore quite slowly. If your agent has to make four pick ups all within a one mile radius of your home over the course of, say, three hours it can accomplish that at a walking pace even allowing a ten minute stop at each pick up location. While I am not all that thrilled with the prospect of driverless semi-trailer trucks running at 60 miles an hour (which is an irrational fear but there it is), box toting pick-up agents sauntering on the sidewalk or in designated road lanes seems pretty manageable.

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Saudi nukes

While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.

Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.

Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”

Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions. bbc news

The Saudis are obviously fed up with the Americans under Obama screwing the pooch on pretty much everything Middle East related. They don’t believe for a minute that the Americans, Russians and Europeans will do SFA about Iran’s nuclear weapons so now they are quite happy to call the marker from Pakistan and get their own bombs.

Now, there is no doubt at all that Israel can selectively hit Iran with tactical nukes. The Pakistani bombs, made 300% better with tritium, would not be as discrete. And the Saudis not only see Iran as a threat, they also see Shi’ites as apostates and really, really hate them.

I don’t want to see any bombs going off in Iran; but if I was Iranian I would much prefer the threat of an Israeli strike on nuclear production facilities than a Saudi eruption against population centers using strategic rather than tactical weapons.

I have little time for the Saudis but their intelligence chief, Bandar bin Sultan, is well aware of the utter dysfunction Obama and Kerry and Clinton and Powers and their like have brought to US Foreign policy. And so, without too much hoo-hoo he is acting for the Kingdom.

It will be interesting if Saudi Arabia turns out to be a better Israeli ally than the US; but that is how it is looking at the moment.

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Keeping up with the Fords

Obviously, Rob Ford, his brother, his sister and his mother are doing a stealth reality show.

The Kardashians have nothing on the Fords when it comes to getting international media attention.

Episodes will include:

“Rob finds out that he and Jack were seeing the same rub and tug girl.”

“Justin and Rob smoke a fattie.”

“Doug Ford discovers that brother Rob actually, sorta, well, kinda, killed a guy, but by mistake.”

“Mother Ford finds Rob’s forty year old BBW porn stash.”

“Estonian Day celebration turns into food fight with Rob and Doug competing to see who can scarf the most strudel.”

“Rob skates naked at Nathan Philips Square. Not even the Star is willing to print the pics.”

“Kim Kardashian comes to Toronto – Rob grabs half her ass, Doug does wingman duties on the other half”

“Olivia Chow waives her pointy finger.”

“A bit drunk, Rob accidentally knocks the Queen Street streetcar off its tracks.”

“Toronto City Council passes a resolution saying it will collectively hold its breath until Jon Stewart stops being “so mean” to Toronto.”

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Canadians owe Toronto and its Mayor Rob Ford a tremendous debt of gratitude.

It’s grey and rainy in Victoria, snowing and freezing in Saskatchewan, miserable in Manitoba but Mayor Ford and the Media Party are lighting up the Eastern sky.

Getting blind drunk with people who have crack and video cameras might, in a lesser man, suggest a want of judgement; but Mayor Ford is putting it all behind him. No resignation, no rehab, just a dogged determination to push forward.

Which will provide Canada with entertainment well through the Christmas Season. Ford himself is not the star; rather it is the lefty great and good climbing on their high horses and demanding his resignation if not his arrest. The Toronto left and their handmaidens in the Media Party hate Ford. They hate who he is, what he believes in and, worst of all, his refusal to accept their judgement as to what is appropriate. So long as Ford does not resign they will sputter and yell and explain in pious tones how a world class city like Toronto can’t possibly be taken seriously with a cracker for a mayor.

If Mayor Ford is well advised – and there is no reason to think he is – today will be the last words he says about his stumble from grace. Not another word. At that point the Media and the lefties and the self anointed great and good will be left huffing and puffing in the face of a stubborn, elected, Mayor.

And the rest of Canada will have a little comic relief to ease the rigours of a Canadian winter.

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