Dud's blog

Wed, 31 Jan 2024

Life advice from an old person

Financial advice

  1. If your company offers a retirement savings program, and especially if they offer funds matching, then join the program and contribute the maximum. The matching is free money. There is no downside. In the worst case, you leave the company before the vesting kicks in, and you get your own money back.
  2. Save money every month. Accumulate it in a high interest savings account, like that offered by Credit Karma as of this writing (2024-January).
  3. Open an account at Vanguard and invest in an index fund. Periodically move money from the high interest savings account into this investment. Don’t touch it until you retire. Ask an accountant what you should do to defer income taxes on this money until retirement.
  4. If you have a spouse/partner and can afford it, buy long term care insurance. This insurance pays out if you are incapacitated and need either home nursing or nursing at a facility. Think “late stage Alzheimers”. Without this insurance, the cost of this care will bankrupt most households, leaving your spouse/partner penniless. If you don’t get sick enough to ever need the benefit, you (or your estate) can get the money back, with interest. This insurance must be purchased before you are “old” (70 in the case of my insurance company). It’s also cheaper if purchased earlier (more benefits/premium dollar).
With luck, if you do all of the above, you won’t have to live in a cardboard box when you’re 70. Note that Social Security alone is not enough to live on.

Personal life advice

  1. If your spouse suggests you do something with them, that you wouldn’t ordinarily do on your own (go camping, or go dancing, or travel, etc), try to agree and do the thing. Your marriage will be stronger for it, and you’ll both be happier.
  2. Unless you’re stupid wealthy, vote for Democrats. The Republicans are not your friends, and the only thing they do is give tax breaks to the rich.
  3. Take all your vacation time from work. Not taking vacation is leaving money on the table. Your company has no loyalty to you or any employee. If business conditions change, or a manager get promoted, or the CEO has a bad meal, you can be laid off “in a New York minute”. You owe them nothing more than your job description, and in return, they give you money. The relationship is entirely transactional. Of course, if you like doing your job, you can certainly spend overtime on it, but don’t expect the company to take note of this or reward you (except for OT pay for you non-exempt workers).
  4. If you can afford to, travel. See how others live. Be open-minded. Try not to be the ugly American, complaining about the food (because it isn’t like “at home”), or the local culture. People eat dinner at 10PM in Spain. A “full English breakfast” is a lot different from standard American fare. They drive on the “wrong” side of the road in the U.K, Australia, and Japan.

More here as I think of it.

Bill Dudley
January 2024

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Sun, 31 Dec 2023

Trumpism has destroyed not only national politics, but all governance.

Trumpism (or MAGA) has taught people that if they don’t like a
democratic outcome, they can just ignore it, call it corrupt,
manipulated, bogus, etc. If the result of an election isn’t the
“right” one, it must have been manipulated by the other side.

This attitude has trickled down to where even small organizations
are seeing this. A club I belong to, with about 2000 members,
has a significant demographic who believe the Board of Directors
are corrupt, are “making decisions in secret”, are stealing from
the treasury, and more.

The people making these claims don’t have any SPECIFIC claim, just
undifferentiated kvetching. Basically, whining for whining’s sake.

I don’t have an answer, except perhaps mandatory civics classes for
all citizens every 10 years until they die.

Bill Dudley
December, 2023

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Fri, 24 Apr 2020

The Anti-Science Party

We already know that the Republican Party is anti-science. Given a choice between following the data and doing the wrong thing, they will choose the wrong thing every single time. Because their paymasters, the fossil fuel industry, don’t want to pivot to renewable fuels, we are heading to our inevitable demise as the planet heats up. None of this is news in 2020.

Something occurred to me recently, however, as I watched the Republican Party embrace every wrong idea possible with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are getting to see the disaster that is the pandemic as a preview of the disaster of global warming, but this will transpire in a year or two, not fifty to one hundered years.

Easily 50 years ago, people recognized that pouring CO2 into the atmosphere was going to cause problems with the climate. For decades, we’ve had people who know nothing about the climate claim that global warming is a hoax, a plot to ruin something or other, etc. Now, in 2020, we can clearly see the writing on the wall, and it’s not at all clear if civilization will survive global warming, even if a miracle occurs and the people of Earth get serious about CO2 emissions.

The parallel is this: about 5 months ago, people recognized that there was a potential for a pandemic as a highly contagious disease spread through Wuhan province in China. For most of that time, we’ve had people who know nothing about medicine or epidemiology claim that the virus is a hoax, a plot to ruin the economy or hurt Trump or the Chinese Communist Party or whatever. Now, in late April 2020, we can clearly see that the pandemic is real, and that if we’re extremely lucky, we may survive it, only to die when civilization collapses from global warming.

We will be able to see, in a year to 18 months, the entire arc of a disaster unfold. It will be a disaster because of the Anti-Science Party. Had qualified people been in charge of the problem (pandemic, global warming), it wouldn’t have risen to the level of “disaster”.

Bill Dudley
April 24, 2020
New Jersey

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Thu, 23 Aug 2018

Current state of the Union

It doesn’t matter what crackpot theories the Right has about the investigation. It doesn’t matter if some FBI agent’s wife’s cousin worked for the Clinton campaign. It doesn’t matter if the Right likes the Steele Dossier or not, it exists and nothing in it has been proven incorrect. Mostly, it has proven to be accurate. Further, despite the claims of the Right, that isn’t the sole reason there’s been an investigation of Trump and the election.

Here are the undisputed facts:

Several people in Trump’s campaign, and his lawyer, have turned state’s evidence
and told the Feds everything they know.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is majority Republican and chaired by a Republican, agrees that Russia attacked our election. Our security services (FBI, etc) are also unanimous on this point.

One or more Russians have given evidence of this, and one (Maria Butina) is in a jail somewhere.

The head of the National Enquirer has turned state’s evidence because he doesn’t want to do prison time for his role in throwing the election. This is related to the Cohen/payments to women story. There are now multiple women with the same story. I don’t care about the extramarital affairs, and neither does the government. The crime is paying the women off to keep them from talking during the election.

Trump confessed on Fox News (broadcast this morning) to making at least one of these payoffs. This is a felony that he just confessed to. On national TV. And of course, Cohen, during his plea deal, specifically said “the candidate ordered me to make these payoffs”. This is not some Democrat who worked on the Clinton campaign — this is Cohen, Trump’s “fixer”. Trumps confession on live TV agrees with Cohen’s statement before the judge.

So they’re all going to jail. All of Trump’s family (except Barron), and many other people who contributed to the stealing of the election.

Remember, there is real evidence. Testimony of multiple people (Cohen, National Enquirer guy, Michael Flynn, George Papadapolous, Maria Butina, etc. etc.), emails, and even videos (of Trump and Rudy confessing to various crimes on TV). Just because some of the people in the FBI are Democrats doesn’t mean they’re just creating this evidence out of thin air. The evidence is real, and there’s an overwhelming amount of it.

Oh, and the Russians are everywhere in this. They’re tied to the NRA, they’re hacking the DNC’s computers, they’re hacking state election systems, they’re having meetings with the Trump campaign before the election to get promises that the sanctions will be lifted, and they’re “loaning” money to the Trump organization at a furious rate. The meeting at Trump Tower, where the Russians offered the hacked DNC emails, will be another source of felonies. I’m not even going to get into the constantly changing story on that meeting (“didn’t happen” → “it was about adoption” → “Trump didn’t know about it” → “Trump knew but it wasn’t a crime”).

Addendum: August 24 2018

To quote the Palmer Report, because they say it so succintly: Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in exchange for his testimony before the Michael Cohen grand jury… .Weisselberg will have to … give up all of Donald Trump’s … financial secrets.

Bill Dudley
August 23, 2018
New Jersey

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Thu, 09 Mar 2017

We’ll never have our “Star Trek” utopia

Science fiction, and specifically Star Trek, has proposed a future “free from want”, where technology has given us free energy, and replicators and synthesizers that can create any material, including food, from energy (or magic). As a result, man does not need to work; the struggle for survival is ended, and man can concentrate on exploring space.

Sadly, we will never see this utopia.

We will see unlimited free energy, of course; that’s nearly here. Between solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and hydro electricity, we’re on steady course to have as much energy as we want. Sure, it’ll take time and money to build all the infrastructure, but that’s happening.

Coal as an energy source in the US is just about dead, and I think oil will be right behind it. Natural gas will take longer to replace, as it’s cheap and burns “relatively” cleanly. On the other hand, once (or if) people wake up to the danger of fracking, natural gas may suddenly find itself with coal, relegated to museums.
(Yes, oil and gasoline will continue to be fuel for autos for a while longer, but battery breakthroughs will eventually fix that, as well.)

With unlimited energy, you can grow as much food as you want, if you’re willing to stop eating beef (except lab-grown beef) and grow your vegetables and chicken feed in hydroponic farms. Machines can certainly handle most farming tasks if you’re growing things in tanks indoors. So farm labor will become “program the robots” instead of “plow the field”.

So why won’t we have our utopia?

Because everything will be owned by 6 guys, and they will continue to insist that we all have “jobs” so we can make money to pay for food and energy. Of course, as now, there will not be enough jobs. Hell, there may not be ANY jobs, once the the solar cells are installed and robots are all programmed.

We are already well on our way to being an oligarchy, and there is no sign that the trend will change. As long as the super rich can get people to vote against their own interests by getting them excited about trans people using the “wrong” bathroom, we are only going to see an increase in income inequality, until everything is owned by a handful of people.

Bill Dudley
March 9, 2017
New Jersey

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Fri, 01 Jul 2016

No Surprises; Avoiding “Accidents” on the Road

The reader is excused for thinking it ironic that “Crash Dudley” is writing a safety article, but who better to write about crashes than one who has had a few?

There is one thing that I can remember from each time I’ve had a motor vehicle accident. I was surprised; shocked, even, that a good day was about to become a very bad day. One minute, I’m riding (or driving; doesn’t matter) along, thinking about “things”, and the next, I find myself going sideways, or head over heels.

Afterwards, (could be seconds, could be longer), I realize, with a shock, that I was sharing the road with something of which I was completely unaware. Usually another vehicle where I didn’t expect there to be one; sometimes a non-vehicle, like, to pick something completely at random, a wheel barrow.

Sometimes I have had this surprise moment without everything going pear-shaped. I get the surprise, but not the crash. (I may need to change my undies, however.) At those times, I realize how lucky I was; had I taken a slightly different path, that surprise could have put me on the ground, but I lucked out and “dodged the bullet.” These are also moments when I re-evaluate whether or not I should be riding, whether or not I should be carrying my wife as passenger.

The advice here is obvious. Avoid surprises. Like the training stresses, keep your “head on a swivel”. Check your mirrors regularly. ALWAYS do a head check before a lane change or pulling out onto a road. Don’t assume that the lane next to you is clear, just because you don’t think someone has caught up to you in the last 10 minutes. Try to assume the worst; not only that “they” are out to kill you, but that “they” are randomly creating threats when you aren’t looking.

If you can avoid surprises, then I believe that you can avoid “accidents”. Even a loss of traction is a surprise; you assumed you had more of it then you did. You gambled with physics, and physics won. Surprise!

I hope you all have totally unsurprising rides from here on.

Bill Dudley
July 1, 2016
New Jersey

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Thu, 30 Jun 2016

Taking better photos with a “cheap” camera

I’m not much of a photographer, and I’ve mostly shied away from buying and using a “real” camera. I use my (smart) phone now, but I used to use a point and shoot. My photos have tended to be “documentation” rather than “art”.

However, in the last few years I have stumbled upon some small things that have improved my photos to the point where about every 20th one is almost worth printing and framing.

The simplest change you can make is to stop framing the photo with the object of interest front and center, filling the frame, as if you’re documenting a crime scene. Instead, try to make your photos assymetrical; the interesting waterfall on the left, with smaller, less important features filling the right two thirds of the frame.

example of poorly framed photo

example of better framed photo

example of even better framed photo

Those of you who have just said to themselves “hah- rule of thirds” are excused from further homework on this topic. The rest of you should read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds.

There’s a second interesting thing you can do to make “good” photos, but first, a bit of theory.

The human visual system is a lot more mysterious and sophisticated than most people know. What you think is happening is that your eyes act like little video cameras, the “video” goes to your brain, and your brain analyses that “video” feed.

The reality is much more complex. Your brain is actually creating a “virtual reality” that is what it thinks is “out there”. The eyes are commanded to move about, collecting small snap shots in various directions, and these snapshots are stitched together inside your brain to create this “virtual picture” of what’s “out there”. Your brain makes assumptions on what is important, what is likely to change, what is likely to remain static, and most importantly, what is likely to be a threat.

This is the reason for “S.M.I.D.S.Y” (Sorry, Mate, I Didn’t See Ya) accidents. The car driver turns left in front of you because his brain didn’t register your motorcycle as “interesting” or “threatening”, so it didn’t get “painted” into the virtual image in the driver’s brain. So he “didn’t see you”. His eyes may have scanned over you, but his brain didn’t record the information because the driver didn’t make “look for motorcycles” a priority.

For a (probably better) explanation of the above, read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_perception

How does this apply to photographs? Imagine you are standing at a scenic overlook, being amazed at the grand scene before you. Your focus moves around over the entire panorama, settling on each interesting detail, then moving on to the next one. You whip out your camera and press the shutter. Later, you get home, and look at the picture. Bleah. Boring. What happened to the wonderful panorama?

My “theory” is that when you are standing at the overlook, taking in the scene, the fact that you can focus on smaller “sub-sections” of the entire scene is what makes the scene interesting. In other words, it’s not the entire panorama that grabs your attention; it’s small details in the greater scene that make it interesting.

My “solution” to this is to use the “zoom” function on my camera to limit the scope of my photo to some interesting detail. Even the “digital zoom” on smart phones will work here; sure, it throws away the pixels outside of the zoomed area, thus reducing the number of pixels in the photo, but with today’s cameras taking pictures that are well over 10Mbit, that no longer matters as much.

example “entire panorama” picture

example “zoomed for interest” picture

Experiment with these methods. “Film” is cheap; take lots of shots.

But don’t forget to enjoy your trip. Don’t see everything through the viewfinder.

Bill Dudley
June 30, 2016
New Jersey

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Sun, 13 Mar 2016

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

In New Jersey, municipalities cannot raise money except via property
taxes. All other taxes are reserved for the State: Sales, Gasoline,
Income are all State taxes.

Republican state legislators and our Republican governor will not raise
ANY taxes, lest they contribute to having a functional government. As a result,
municipalities are forced to use property taxes to fund most local services.
As costs increase (pension funds, increasing cost of health insurance,
inflation), municipalities must raise property taxes ever higher just to
make a show of “keeping up”.

They aren’t really keeping up. The roads steadily deteriorate and are just
patched endlessly. Dams aren’t fixed, so that eventually ponds are just
drained because it’s cheaper. Portions of my town have no city water and
sewer; we’re on well water and septic systems. One would think that
eventually, city water and sewer would be expaneded to every resident, but
there is no money for such an expansion.

If the town raises property taxes enough to keep up with the maintenence,
people on a small fixed income (like Social Security) will lose their homes,
or be forced to move to a cheaper state.

I remember when the people in this country understood that one has to pay
taxes in order to have things like roads and parks (and armies). Now it
seems that the idea of paying taxes in order to support all the things we
need in common has been replaced by “every man for himself”. I
wonder if people even wonder why the roads are so crappy, or why bridges
fall down. Do they think at all, or are they just Trump voters?

Apropos: D.C. Metro Shuts Down for Unprecedented Safety Inspections

Bill Dudley
March 13, 2016
New Jersey

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Fri, 04 Mar 2016

The End of Compromise

The first time I noticed that compromise was finished was when I became aware
of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Years ago, the NRA was only “uncompromising”, as opposed to “the party of gun insanity” that it is now. The NRA opposed any form of “gun” legislation; regulating armor piercing (“cop killer”) bullets, regulation of magazine sizes, regulation of gun types (“assault rifles”). The idea, as I understand it, is that any regulation will be the first law that will ultimately result in the total banning of all firearms.

Of course, rational people will realize that this is silly; banning teflon coated bullets does not necessarily lead to a total ban on firearms.

Today’s example is The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) claiming that the American Library Association is “pro-porn” and “pro-obscenity” because the ALA has fought against mandatory internet filters in libraries. In other words, if you’re not 100% in agreement with NCOSE about every nuance of their every position, you’re the enemy. Never mind free speech, the Bill of Rights, etc.

Bill Dudley
March 4, 2016
New Jersey

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Mon, 08 Feb 2016

Own Your Hatred

At Christmas time, about a year ago, I was listening to the annual radio play presentation of “A Christmas Carol” on my local PBS station. I was struck by the similarity of Scrooge’s speech about contributing to the poor with current right-wing rhetoric about helping the poor. This was my Facebook post from December 21, 2013:

Compare this quote from Dicken’s “A Christmas Story”:

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?” “Nothing!” Scrooge replied. “You wish to be anonymous?” “I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.” “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.” “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
with Republican/Tea Party statements about food stamps, welfare, SNAP, and other programs to benefit the poor. Merry Christmas!

So, that’s it. The quote from “A Christmas Carol”, and a suggestion that the reader compare Scrooge’s speech with “Republican/Tea Party statements about food stamps, etc”. Oh, and a “Merry Christmas”, to keep it festive.

I didn’t think this very controversial. I didn’t call out anyone, nor did I even accuse “Republican/Tea Party” types of being heartless, even though they are.

Imagine my surprise when an acquaintance (of many years) of mine messaged me to tell me that his and his father’s (also a Facebook “friend”) feelings were hurt by my post. I quote (in part): “Your post was deeply offensive to me and my dad… . This country, myself included, has descended into the kind of hateful broad brush insult speech that prevents any kind of actual discourse. I hate to see it but this faceless means of hurling vitriol encourages it. Many people truly need the assistance they receive. But many, especially in big cities, have never worked and never will.”

To mis-quote Carly Simon: “You probably think this post is about you.”

I was surprised by my friend’s message, and also mystified. “Vitriol” ? I merely suggested that the reader compare Scrooge’s speech with “Republican/Tea Party statements” about the needy. I didn’t even say they said the same thing, although this is what I believe.

So, this “friend”, “un-friended” me. Not a great loss, we weren’t all that close. But I still reflect back on this event, even two years later.

… And I had an epiphany. I think, that if you’re going to advocate starving the needy, destroying Planned Parenthood, repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), keeping the minimum wage low so workers at the bottom can never ever get ahead, and all the other things designed to punish those less fortunate than yourself, then you should just own it. Stop trying to convince others of your Christian values. Own your hatred of the poor.

Before you start writing me angry letters: yes, I know, there are bad people collecting benefits and milking the system. But not everbody on public assistance, nor even the majority of those people, are doing this. The laws and regulations designed to “keep people off welfare” affect everybody. Friends of mine who are legimately disabled, are constantly being asked to prove, over and over and over again, that they are disabled. They’re constantly having their benefits taken away, until they can once more, prove disability, as if it’s not a hellish enough existance just being sick and in pain all the time.

So, spare me the stories of people living the life of Riley on public assistance. You can never prevent all fraud. Making the lives of those who need assistance more miserable will not stop fraud. It just makes people miserable.

Bill Dudley
February 8, 2016
New Jersey

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Wed, 03 Feb 2016

What’s wrong with new motorcycles, Part I

I have subscribed to (Rider,Motorcyclist) magazines for a long time — 20 or more years, if the amount of shelf space with back issues is any indication. During that time, I’ve been happy to read about new bikes, retro bikes, gear reviews, the occasional odd-ball feature, even the advertising.

I have let my subscription lapse, and I thought you should know why.
There are several reasons, and all are beyond your control.

One reason is that I’ve retired, and now find myself busier than ever, doing all the things I never had time for when I was working. I’m doing way more riding (16,000+ miles this year), plus participating more in local clubs (president of one, webmaster for another, etc).

The main reason I let my subscription lapse is that I find myself skipping over large portions of the magazine. I just don’t care about new bikes anymore. At the risk of sounding like “you kids get off my lawn”, I find most new bikes to be horrifically ugly. I’m not sure why all designers find the need to operate in lock-step, but when one manufacturer adopts a design aesthetic, all the rest quickly follow.

(I know why they’re in lock-step. A new design idea sells, and everybody else copies it, hoping they’ll sell, too.)

(My comments are about non-cruisers. There isn’t anything I like about cruisers, so I’ve always ignored them.)

The current design aesthetic, which for a better name I call “many pointy facets”, makes all of the current crop of bikes look like robots from Japanese anime. The bikes have lots of spiky projections, to the point that I cannot look at a bike and see its shape. It’s too “busy” for me to find the outline of the bike.

See the images below for an example.

I realize that retro bikes (and genuine vintage bikes) are my “market”. The Royal Enfield, Triumph Bonneville family, etc etc are just fine. But the announcement of yet another small tweak to the Enfield isn’t much of a story, so most of the content is about new bikes, and rightly so. I just don’t want to read about them anymore.

Thanks for 25 years of good reading.

Bill Dudley
December 17, 2015
New Jersey

Update 2016 02 03

Oh, irony of ironies. This letter to the editor of Motorcyclist was chosen as their “letter of the month” for the April 2016 issue.
Pity I don’t get the magazine any more. I guess I’ll have to find a “news-stand”, if such a thing exists anymore.

More of my thoughts on the subject of “what’s wrong with new bikes” here.

2015 BMW GS

Japanese Anime Robot

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What’s wrong with new motorcycles, Part II

After being notified of my “letter of the month” accolade for my previous rant on this subject, I was relating the story to my wife, when I realized another strong design “theme” (I’m not sure what word to use) that describes the modern motorcycle design esthetic. But first, some history.

Around World War I, people were experimenting with ways to camouflage ocean going war ships: dreadnaughts, destroyers, etc. How do you hide a really big floating metal boat?

If you try to paint it “sky colored”, you still have the problem of the shadow, the paint not matching “the sky”, so just painting it one color (or two, split at the horizon) isn’t very effective.

One solution that became hugely popular during World War I is called dazzle. The idea is to paint “crazy” black and white stripes, triangles, etc. all over the ship. Up close, it looks insane; how will this ever be “camouflage” ?

However, when viewed from afar, a funny thing happens. The black and white shapes “break up” the “boat shape” so that the human eye can no longer see “a boat”. Since the (presumed enemy) lookout is looking for a boat (ship, whatever), but their brain cannot see “boat”, the dazzle camouflaged ship is rendered invisible.

This brings me back to motorcycles. The modern design aesthetic breaks up the surface of the motorcycle into many facets, shapes and colors. At least in my case, I can no longer “see” the shape of the motorcycle. I see the two tires; I see the place that my ass goes, and where I hold on; but the rest of it is just noise. I cannot figure out where the bodywork ends and the front fender begins.

For me, this ruins the motorcycle. How can I sit in a lawn chair at a rally and enjoy looking at my bike if I can’t even see my bike?

It also occurs to me that when motorcyclists are constantly struggling for better visibility (so as not to get run over by inattentive car and truck drivers), the last thing we want to be riding is a vehicle that is designed to be invisible. As it is, car drivers are looking for “cars and trucks”, not “all possible vehicles”, but designing the bike to not even look like a bike can’t be helping matters.

See the images below for an example.

Bill Dudley
February 3, 2016
New Jersey

2010 BMW S1000RR

HMS Kildangan (1917)

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Wed, 06 Jan 2016

Political Mind Control

I have evidence that the powers in Washington, DC are under some
kind of “mind control” device. No, I’m not off my meds, stay with
me here. Let me present my evidence, and you can decide if I’m out
of my mind.

When was the last time that the Republicans in Congress agreed with President
Obama on anything? Yes, I know, they managed to pass a budget, and ban
micro beads, which the soap manufacturers didn’t oppose much, but aside
from that, could you ever imagine the Republicans in Congress actually
giving up a Constitutionally specified power to President Obama, in
the Executive branch? They threaten lawsuits and impeachment over
perfectly valid Executive Orders, right? So giving Obama a power
reserved for Congress should be impossible.

And yet, that is exactly what has happened, after the mind-control device
was turned on Congress. Miraculously, Congress voted to approve a
thing called Fast Track Authority. What is that? The context is the
“trade” deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP. The
Constitution says that Congress shall be in charge of trade regulation.
So the TPP should be debated by and voted upon by Congress before the
United States can “sign” the agreement.

President Obama, however, asked Congress for “Fast Track Authority”, which
means that he wants Congress to do a simple up or down vote on the TPP,
and then the President will sign it, and that will be that. Congress
doesn’t get any say in what is in the “trade” deal, and the assumption
is, since they approved Fast Track, that they will also vote to approve
the deal.

Why would they give up power to President Obama? Why would they ever
agree to a trade deal that Hillary said was “the gold standard of trade
agreements” (before she changed her mind and opposed it.) My answer is
“mind control”.

I know how it works, too. The name of the mind control device is “money”.
We were sold out long ago by most of Washington, and we are now owned
by big corporations. The TPP has lots of nice protections for corporate
interests, at our expense.

Do you like the meat you buy in the supermarket to be labeled with what
country produced it? Sorry, illegal. Congress explicitly passed a law
preventing such labeling just recently. This is them getting ahead of
the TPP requirement that they prevent such labeling. We wouldn’t want to
upset beef producers in China, would we?

The TPP says that if your government passes a law, that, for example,
outlaws cigarette advertising on TV, the tobacco companies and use what’s
called “Investor State Dispute System” (ISDS) to sue your government
for lost profits! Uruguay is being sued right now because it wants
to force tobacco products to have plain packaging. Germany is being sued
because it wants to shut down all it’s nuclear plants.

Bill Dudley
January 6, 2016
New Jersey

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Sun, 04 Apr 2010

Software Patents: Threat or Menace?

Excerpt from an email exchange with a friend on patents:

> patent, trademark, and copyright protection are in the Constitution. The
> Founders’ reasoning behind this is that, unless the “creator” can earn a
> living from his creation, he can’t spend the time doing it.

Yes, and it’s a two-way street. In return for a limited time monopoly
right, the inventor must disclose the invention. This works very well
for hardware, and works terribly for “software” and “business methods”,
because, mostly, the things patented that way are “obvious to one skilled
in the art”, but which reason the patent office never cites for rejection.

This means it becomes impossible to write software that doesn’t “infringe”.
There are thousands of software patents, many on the most obvious things,
so now any jerk can buy up a bunch of those patents and then sue big
companies, and basically play “stick-em-up”. These patent trolls don’t
MAKE anything, don’t USE the patents, except as a method of extortion.
And the bargain, “disclose the invention in return for a monopoly” is
meaningless, because the disclosure is worthless, as most of the
patented “secrets” are bloody obvious.
> You don’t have a patent until you apply for it. I’m not sure that protection
> is from application-day, or from the day it is granted. This is the same
> principle behind copyright for works of “intellectual property,” although
> these are protected from the date of mailing of the application.

They changed the rule, now it’s from approval. It used to be from
application, which led to “submarine” patents, those that had been
in the approval process for years and years, but were considered valid,
which allowed patent trolls to have much longer than the 20 year run.

For more on this, read http://www.techdirt.org

Bill Dudley
April 2010

posted at: 00:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 30 Sep 2009

> I wonder what Bill thinks (about John Stossel’s show about global warming) ?

You will probably regret asking that. And, as usual, I’m probably wasting
my “breath” (or time, in this case). But rise to the bait I must.

I will not respond point by point to John’s discussion on Global Warming
but I will say that the MAJORITY of climate scientists think that global
warming is a real problem, and that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are
a cause. THERE IS NO DOUBT that the Earth is warming. The only possible
question is “how much of this is natural”?

Since the penalty for being wrong is extinction, I am willing to pay
(say) 10% more for energy if it means that my son will have a planet
to live on. (Remember: you can’t grow wheat on thawed “perma-frost”.)

Those of you who are childless can, I guess, continue with business
as usual. Remember, vilifying Al Gore will bring back the ice caps
if you just believe.

I would think that EVERYBODY would want to stop using “foreign oil”, but
Nooooooooo, the Republicans apparently want us to drive gas hogs burning
Saudi oil for ever and ever, because God forbid the price of gas
goes above $2.50/gal. Selfish fucks. “Drill baby, drill” indeed.
The US doesn’t HAVE any real oil reserves worth speaking of.

Moving the country/world to green energy isn’t a plot to make Al Gore
rich, or whatever the Republican geniuses claim, it’s just the RIGHT
THING to do. We can’t just keep crapping up the planet with various
forms of pollution and expect things to keep humming along forever.

From here on is a totally undignified and barely edited rant, i.e. this
gets worse:

I don’t give a rats ass what John Stossel, or every single Republican on
Earth says about global warming. They don’t want anything to
change, ever ever and want to drive huge SUVs forever and ever.
Fine, I get that. They also don’t like Queers (don’t ask, don’t tell),
or Latinos/illegal immigrants (except when it comes time to vote)
and they don’t much like Blacks (Obama’s a terrorist) either. They
don’t believe in evolution, or physics, or any science for that
matter, or any damn thing but the “invisible hand of the market”
which brilliance has currently reduced OUR retirement savings worth
to squat. They got us into a pointless war (Iraq) that has cost us
hundreds of billions and over 4300 American lives. They care about
our military (in that they are willing to put “support our troops”
magnets and American flags on their SUVs) but
they let the VA hospitals become run-down wrecks and it took a
DEMOCRATIC administration to pass a new GI bill. They’re all for “buy
American” but it took a DEMOCRATIC admin to pass the “cash for clunkers”
bill, that has been a screaming success and is helping car dealers
AND car manufacturers (incl Detroit) to stay in business. They’re
against health care reform, and they may be successfull again in
killing it, because, hell, why should a laid off Chrysler worker
have health insurance for his family? Fuck him, he’s a freeloading
loser! Republicans fight every single thing by LYING about it — Obama
doesn’t have a birth cert; McCain has a black baby out of wedlock
(yes, Repubs fighting McCain’s candidacy in 2000 election said this);
Health Care reform will force the elderly to have a euthenasia conference
with their doctor every 5 years (yes, this was claimed by a so-called
Repub expert on health care reform - ON TELEVISION), the list of lies
just goes on and on and on.

And they insult my intelligence by nominating Palin for VP, on the
theory that any woman, no matter how stupid, is equivalent to Hillary
OR Obama to get that crucial “minority vote”.

Fuck the Republican Party. Fuck their “ideas”. I’ve had it with them.
They are the party of “wrongness”. They are against any kind of
progress. They will lie and say anything in order to win.

I don’t ever again want to get another email about global warming, from
anybody. Ever. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK about it. I also don’t
want to hear about how the Democrats kill and eat babies, raise taxes,

Oh yeah, this (in a private email) caught my eye:
> running out of space for trash which is BS

Well, NYC closed the huge dump in Staten Island because it was full. If
neighboring counties/states/countries don’t want NYC’s trash, then WHERE
DO YOU PUT IT? Every county/state/country certainly has the right to
decide to NOT accept trash, don’t they? So where do you put it after
you’ve filled up your own dump sites? You can’t just make it all go
away by burning it, there’s toxic shit in there, things that won’t
burn, etc. I have no idea where NYC is putting their trash, they’re
probably paying to ship it to a dump in western PA or something, but
once that fills up …

Yes, I know, right now we ship garbage to third world countries, too.
How long do you think that will last? Eventually they will get tired
of our TOXIC SHIT and stop taking it. Then what? Put it in the oceans?

John Stossel is an idiot, or he has no morals. In either case, I never
want to hear his name again, either.


P.S. I’m NOT a socialist, but on ecology issues, compared to you guys, I
guess I’m the fucking head of Greenpeace.

posted at: 10:56 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 01 Jan 2009


That’s how one feels when you’ve had something stolen. Some low-life
stole Kate’s car (a 1995 Civic with 200,000+ miles on it, for heaven’s
sake). Right before Christmas, too.

Manayunk is really turning into a crappy neighborhood. I won’t park
my car there anymore, certainly not overnight.

posted at: 09:16 | path: | permanent link to this entry

We did it!

Finally. A President that is smarter than most of us. Better educated,
and he speaks English like a native, not like a remedial ESL student.

posted at: 09:10 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 04 Feb 2008

Compact fluorescent bulbs and mercury

I see that the “pro-global-warming” contingent is now complaining
that compact fluorescent bulbs have mercury in them, which is toxic
waste, yada yada.

All fluorescent bulbs have some mercury in them. A Google search
and wikipedia read suggests the amount is under 6 milligrams per CF bulb.

What’s more interesting is that the amount of mercury emitted by
the power plant when it burns coal to make electricity over the
life of a CF bulb works out to be 10 milligrams. The Hg in the CF
bulb plus the mercury emitted by that same power plant to power
that CF bulb is under 10 milligrams, so running a CF bulb with
mercury in it is still a net win on mercury pollution.

When the bulbs die, they end up in a landfill.

Landfills are filled with terrible things that you don’t
want to eat, mostly.

If the mercury is in a landfill, and the people who
run landfills don’t put them where the “leachate” goes into
our drinking water, then I don’t see the harm. The mercury
will probably form Mercury Oxide or something, which is also
probably the form it was in when they dug it out of the earth
originally to make the bulb.

Sure, landfills suck and all that, but I think we have bigger
environmental problems than the existance of landfills.

I have no problem with minute amounts of mercury in a landfill.

If people avoid licking the inside of the dead bulbs,
and don’t use them to store baby food in, they’ll be OK.

Anyway, LED bulbs will eventually overtake CF bulbs, I predict, and
they won’t have any mercury in them. Maybe some lead, for the solder
joints, but you can’t have everything, can you?

posted at: 10:54 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 30 Dec 2007

The attraction of being a Republican

I was listening to “man in the street” interviews about Pataki’s plan
to authorize issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. I
was struck by the idea that so many wrong decisions can be attributed
to acting based on “what should be true” instead of “what is true”.

In the case of the NY drivers license debate, that works out this way:
The “what is true” view (Pataki’s) is that we already have MILLIONS of
immigrants driving cars, and when they’re in an accident, they flee the
scene (hit and run) because they have no legal right to drive. If you
issue them licenses (and make them buy insurance) then there will be fewer
hit and runs, and fewer uninsured motorists, so everybody ELSE will fare
better, in that insurance rates will go down, illegals will be more likely
to take drivers education, etc.

The people that have the “what should be true” view just say that the
illegals should not be here, and should not be allowed to drive. But

And I think a lot of the attraction of being Republican is that it
fits in perfectly with the “what should be true” mind-set. People
grow weary of hearing about how we’re destroying the planet, and there
are scary people who want to kill us. If we act on “what should be
true” (there is no global warming) we can just keep driving our
gas guzzlers with no ill effects. If we choose to believe in
“mission accomplished” and “our troops are well supported by our
government” then Iraq has been a big success, and we’ve showed
those terrorists not to mess with us. (Please ignore the problems
with Walter Reed Army Hospital, the non-existance of any kind of
GI-Bill for returning troops, insufficient facilities to treat
returning soldiers for PTSD, 3000+ dead Americans, many more dead
Iraqis, etc. etc.)

posted at: 10:04 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 17 Oct 2007

“Voters unhappy with Bush and Congress” - Reuters

Well, about bleedin’ time, innit? Pity it’s about 7 years too late.

posted at: 11:30 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 04 Jul 2007

British PM Gordon Brown just announced that he wanted to

limit the powers of the Prime Minister, and to create
a Bill of Rights for Great Britain.

Can you imagine our current administration acting in this way?

Gordon Brown for President.

posted at: 09:07 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 21 May 2007

Hacking the iKEY-plus, part two.

I just picked up this wonderful new toy: the iKEY, that is a
little computer you hook between a turntable and a USB “key” (flash
drive) and then the iKEY will record what comes out of the turntable
on the flash drive as either a wav file or an mp3 file.

The iKEY-plus also has a microphone input and built in mic preamp.
The included stereo electret microphone works fine for recording
a rock concert, but there isn’t just enough gain/sensitivity for
recording a lecture or a string quartet.

I’ve built an outboard preamp that has 20dB gain. Now the noise in
the built-in electret microphone is the limiting factor. I found that
the microphone that comes with a Sony tape recorder is noticably lower
noise, so we’ll be using that for recording lectures.

The amplifier circuit is just a straight non-inverting op-amp circuit,
like this one or this one. I used 100K for the feedback resistor, 10K
for the gain-setting resistor, and 20pF across the 100K to limit the
high frequency gain.

I used a 5532 op-amp because it will run down to 3V, so it’ll be quite
happy on the approx 5v that the batteries in the iKEY-plus can supply.

One problem is that the iKEY-plus generates some noise when its
computer is running, which manifests as a hum (not 60Hz) audible in
headphones. I filtered this by putting a small 200mH choke in series
and a 500uF cap across the Vcc line from the batteries.

To avoid a power switch, I only run the battery plus wire to the circuitry.
When you plug the cable from the preamp output into the iKEY-plus input,
the ground is completed by the cable ground, powering up the preamp.

I plan on building the circuit into a box made out of copper clad board
material, built to replace the iKEY-plus’ aluminum lid.

Pictures to follow.

posted at: 12:51 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Hacking the iKEY-plus, part one.

I just picked up this wonderful new toy: the iKEY, that is a
little computer you hook between a turntable and a USB “key” (flash
drive) and then the iKEY will record what comes out of the turntable
on the flash drive as either a wav file or an mp3 file.

One problem is that all the LED indicators on the iKEY-plus are red,
so in a dark room, you cannot tell the record indicator from the -12dB
level LED, so you tell with a glance that the unit is in record mode.

Also, it would be nice to see if the 0dB LED is flashing, warning of
impending clipping.

To remedy this, I bought some high-efficiency green and yellow LEDs
and replaced the VU meter LEDS with those: -12dB through -3dB are
now green, and the 0dB is yellow. Unfortunately, the green and yellow
LEDs are not as efficient as the original red LEDs, so they are hard
to see in bright light. Good thing I don’t record outdoors much.

I don’t recommend this change unless you can either find brigher LEDs
or are willing to live with the decreased visibility in bright light.

The change itself is pretty simple, assuming you’ve got a decent soldering
iron, a solder sucker, and know what you are doing.

1. unscrew the 4 philips screws on the back of the unit.

2. carefully separate the case halves, and remove the bottom and put it

3. the electronics module is attached to the top case/battery box by four
or five small connectors, which can be carefully unplugged by using a small
screwdriver and needle-nose pliers to separate the connectors.

4. unsolder the wire that attaches the copper shield to the bottom of
the circuit board.

5. identify the pads that the 5 LEDs are soldered to. One or more of
the pads may be obscured by black goop that has been poured over one
of the circuits on the board, either to hide it to prevent reverse
engineering, or to protect a chip-on-board (COB) device. You can remove
this stuff from the LED pads pretty easily, however.

6. Carefully desolder the LEDs, taking to care not to pull the plated
through hole out of the board along with the LED lead. Mind the direction
the LEDs are soldered — you can see the cathode of the LED inside the
clear plastic envelope if you look carefully. All the LEDs are oriented
the same way.

7. Replace the LEDs with your new ones, careful to match the direction
(polarity) against the way the old ones were installed.

8. Re-assembly of the box, is, as they say, the reverse procedure.
Mind you don’t strip out the screws that hold the plastic bottom of
the unit on. They’re only threaded into plastic. Also, don’t forget
to replace the little felt masks that fit over the slide switch
handles, as these tend to fall off as you’re flipping the circuit board
over again and again.

9. pictures to follow if I take mine apart again.

Parts list:

Here’s what I bought, from www.superbrightleds.com:

  1. each RL3-G4518 Green 3mm LED @ $ 0.63
  2. each RL3-Y4545 Yellow @ 3mm LED $ 0.60

posted at: 12:51 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 16 May 2007

Bush vs Hitler

“The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected.”
— Kurt Vonnegut

posted at: 12:16 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 09 May 2007

History Repeats Itself

I’m listening to Steve Miller, the Kinks, the Who, even the Doors,
fer cris’sake.

Driving around with an “End This War” sticker on the back of my car.

Has dud lost his mind? Is he wearing bell bottoms too? Well, no,
though I still have my long (grey) hair and wire rim glasses.

The “End This War” sticker is courtesy moveon.org. The net has done
so much for activism, it is truly a wonderful thing.

And the 60’s music? Well … I never threw my records out. Nor
my turntable — the first really good one I bought in college (A
Dual 1019 for you equipment buffs). I’ve got quite a few records,
actually, probably a thousand of them. I missed playing them, but
really, who has the time anymore to put on a record, and actually
sit down and listen to it for twenty minutes, and then get up
to flip the record over. Sooooo twentieth century, that. I’d
rather let my computer/media center play my music all day as I work
in my home office.

I’d ripped all my CDs a long time ago, so I already have quite a
bit of music available to the “media center” computer. But still, I
missed my records. I knew from listening to random tracks from my
CD collection that nice moment of “wow, I haven’t heard that in
a while”.

So I’ve been “ripping” my LP collection. If I can find a re-release
of one of my LPs on CD in a bargain bin, I’ll buy it, because ripping
a CD is so much easier than ripping an LP. But some of this stuff
is not going to be re-issued, ever. And I’m not paying $20 for a
CD just to avoid ripping the LP. So I just picked up this wonderful
new toy: the iKEY, that is a little tiny computer you hook between
a turntable and a USB “key” (flash drive) and then the iKEY will
record what comes out of the turntable on the flash drive as either
a wav file or an mp3 file. And unlike using my computer to rip
records, there’s almost no hum or other interference in the recording.

Those old recordings are as good as ever. Most of them still hold up,
even 40 years later.

Sorta like me, I guess.

posted at: 09:09 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Thu, 12 Apr 2007

Enviro Rant

I wrote this rant in response to yet another “conservative” whining
about Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”.

1. I DON’T CARE that the temperature rise we are experiencing MAY
BE PARTIALLY the result of natural processes. If we continue to
FUCK UP the EARTH, we will BREAK it. We have already caused many
species to go extinct, with more to follow; the oceans are becoming
empty of fish, because we’re EATING them all; etc. etc. etc. WHY
have a backup planet all ready to go when this one is no longer
habitable? Would it KILL PEOPLE to drive more efficient cars? To
insulate their houses? To use CF bulbs? WHAT THE HELL IS THEIR
BIG PROBLEM with the ecology ?

I HAVE A SON. He will have to survive, somehow, in whatever passes
for life 50 years from now. I’d like to say that my generation
didn’t make the problem WORSE once we realized there WAS A POTENTIALLY
SERIOUS PROBLEM. It doesn’t get more SERIOUS than the planet
becoming un-inhabitable, does it? Or is having to pay $1000 more
for a car NOW a bigger problem than all of the next generation
perishing of starvation? People can afford $30000 AND UP SUV’s
that they think they need because they have little bitty cocktail
sausage dicks, but they don’t want to pay more for fuel efficiency?

2. Would it really be so bad if we stopped sending fucking Muslem
terrorists all of our money for oil, and instead we used less of
if the stuff was FREE of all cost, both $$$ and environmental ?
Did I miss that part of Catechism class where they teach that your
place in Heaven assured if you burn enought oil ?

3. So to sum up: “So fucking what” if Al Gore and hundreds of
environmental scientists are wrong? Would it kill us to pollute
less? Yes, it might cost more to cut our oil/energy use. But to
do NOTHING AT ALL is stupid and immoral. We’re a rich country. We
should suck it up and do the right thing.

posted at: 09:50 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 04 Apr 2007

3230 Americans dead in Iraq

Newsweek reports over 3230 dead American service personnel as a result
of Bush’s Iraq war.

posted at: 12:32 | path: | permanent link to this entry

EPA slapdown

From slashdot: In a 5-4 decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, saying that the EPA’s reasons for not doing so in the past were ‘arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.’ The ruling does not require the EPA to regulate carbon. But concerns about global climate change and its ties to human activity did appear to be deciding factors in the case.

About bloody time the EPA started Protecting the Enviroment. What a concept, eh?

posted at: 00:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mexico’s Poverty

I just got back from Mexico, and this one story illustrates just how
poor the people of Mexico are.

I walked into a 7-11 (a real 7-11, not some generic bodega/convenience store) in
Mexico City around 11AM on a Saturday, and got a drink from the
cooler (it’s 90F out in March). I walked up to the counter. The
drink costs 8 Pesos (a peso is about 9 cents US, so the drink costs
about $0.72 US). I offered the clerk a 20 Peso note (worth $1.80 US).

He didn’t have change. For a $0.75 cent drink out of a $2 bill.


posted at: 00:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry