December 29, 2009

Life Maintenance

Just noticed that the grandfather clock has the wrong time and the pendulum isn't swinging. I've long since learned to ignore the chimes on the hour and the half. As I get up to wind it, 945 email messages are flowing from my main Internet provider's mailbox into Outlook to be sorted, categorized and, for the most part, ignored.

Life has its maintenance tasks, and during the holidays and vacations, we tend not to keep up with them. I have no idea what day the clock stopped or when the family server went down. Someone must have hit the switch before we left on vacation because I couldn't connect to it remotely while I was away. The majority of the email is SPAM anyway, or something that interested me for a while and I want to make time for, but haven't the time to make.

My grandfather clock is now back tick-tocking, and my Bayesian filters are busily sorting the month's email I haven't read. Glancing at the bill box, I have some more maintenance to do this weekend. I know I've paid many of them, but I know of at least 2 that I've neglected to take care of over the holiday.

Well, back to life and its doldrums...

December 19, 2009


I've been blogging for almost ten years now. I started out hyperlinking just about every topic in my blog because I believed in the hypertext possibility of the web. Back ten years ago, my posts would have 5 or six links in each post, linking to people, companies, anything I was talking about. Nowadays I just write. Over the years, I've become even more self-conscious about what I write, too. Sitting locked up in the snow house today I was looking at some of my old blog posts. Some of them are just inane now. Some of the postings are like looking at the Internet Dead Pool, covering tech ideas that just never went anywhere...

I don't want to delete the whole thing and start over - but primarily because I'm not sure I would replace it with anything better. The historical significance of a running online diary isn't lost on me either.

November 25, 2009

Driving to Work

Begrudgingly, I may have to start driving to work. Even with a wreck on 495 this morning delaying traffic near the interchange, I was still in to work 15 minutes early, and I even stopped at the McDonald's drivethrough for a cup of hot chocolate on my way in. In the rain and the dark and I still shaved a half hour off my commute by driving to work, who'd have thunk? Getting off base yesterday was no big deal either, even though it looks bad as a pedestrian, it added maybe 10 minutes in reality.

Got home and went to the gym yesterday to do my cardio....I'm up to about 370 calories per 30 minutes - working myself a bit harder each week. It's a shame the gym I go to doesn't have punching bags or something besides the leg-based cardio machines. I'd like to mix up the workout a bit - maybe burn some big calories for jumping around. Somewhere in my garage there's a racquetball racquet I should dig out.

I think I may have figured out what I want for Christmas, a Glock 17C. I fired the 19 over the weekend and I wasn't as happy with it as the 17 from the week before. I definitely like feel of firing the 9mm rounds, but the smaller pistol doesn't fill my hands as well. I just need to buy a gun safe for the house, and then I'll probably buy it - even if I decide not to keep it in the long run - the resale value should allow me to save some money at the range on ammunition over the next year.

November 16, 2009

Virtual Labs and Virtual PC

I had Virtual PC 2007 up and running for my lab PC at home, and it's been quite a while since I've used it. Over the weekend, I logged onto Microsoft's site and see that the current version of Virtual PC is only supported for Windows 7 installs. Sigh, where does the time go? It was only yesterday when I upgraded the family server to WinXP Pro. Of course, my mutifunction printer probably won't have compatible drivers again, leading me down the whole equipment upgrade path.

I've considered using VirtualBox instead but recall some networking issue from the last time. I also have to find a distro to play with, as Im pretty sure I havent kept the lab VM up to date. There's about 10 different projects I want to work on, some graphical, some not.

Well, just rambling on..nothing to read here.

November 14, 2009

SPAM and Email Addresses

Every now and again I have to go and create a new email address. My old addresses get overrun with SPAM, because I'm not good about keeping my private life separated from my online life. These marketers just sell your email address to anybody, who then resell your address to someone else, and so on and so on.

It makes email a pointless way to try to contact anyone for anything important, because your message will just be lost in a sea of hopeless JU$T BUY C14LIS!! crap that's flooding the person's box.

I even have fairly effective anti-spam software that does a fairly good job of separating the wheat from the chaff...but I fear having to pick up my mail after a week of not reading it. I just downloaded 746 email messages, of which I want to read maybe 2. I'll have to filter through about 50 that the filters don't pick up either.

I'm going to change the way that I deal with email. I'm going to create a whitelist for the email that I want to get, and create a filter that dumps it into one folder, and then ignore the Inbox. Email needs to go more the way of how Facebook and other social networks work where you have to befriend someone to send them a message.

Fun Day with Junior

We started off at the small arms range. We rented a 9mm and fired off 100 rounds of ammo at 15 and 22 yards. Only one silhouette miss in the 2 boxes of ammo. At 22 yards, I don't see how or why I would be using a pistol to shoot someone at that range. If someone is that far away from me, I'd be more interested in breaking off contact than trying to hit them with a pistol round. Although I haven't made a decision on whether I want to break down and buy a pistol, it was a great deal of fun hitting the targets today. If I do want to keep shooting, it might be less expensive to have my own firearm, though - at $10 for the rental and having to buy ammo from the gunshop at $20.+ a box, I could probably save some bucks if I'm going to make a habit of the range. Of course, then I also need a gun safe for the house....but I could get a gun I like - pros/cons, etc...

Then off to lunch at Johnny Rockets, where I had a burger and fries - and my son had a big old double. The waitress drew little smiley faces in the ketchup trays she handed to us, and lunch was very filling and came in under $20 for both of us. We stopped at the movie theater, but there really was nothing that we 'had' to see enough to justify the price of the ticket.

From there we went shopping for some simple consumer goods at a local conglomerate. I bought some cheap DVDs and a new belt.

Then we went to my FAVORITE place - the bookstore. We bought some books and a magazine (with a DVD in it) and one of those Entertainment coupon books. I'm looking forward to reading Hakin9 magazine, as I've never seen it before and it looks interesting. One of the books we got was a history of guns, one of those big books that are always on sale. My son is upstairs devouring that one and a big Astronomy book. On the way home he told me he wants to take Astronomy instead of Physics for his senior year - even after I told him he'd still be learning physics, he still seemed genuinely interested in taking the alternative course. I'm actually pretty happy about him being interested in a hard science.

My New Body

Those of you who know me know that since the end of July, I have been working out, going to the gym on an almost daily basis (6 times a week most weeks) and have been burning down some serious calories. However, most of the people that I know don't see me very often, if at all. I'd like to make the change a little more real to them. I have lost 5 inches on my waist. I have lost close to 30 pounds. My body shape has turned upside down from a beer bellied old man to a triangle-shaped middle-aged guy. I was just looking in the mirror, and I am having a hard time getting over myself.

For those of you who don't know me - this is a big deal. I haven't been under 200 pounds since 17 years ago. I intend to tip the scale at under 200 this week. How did I do it? I'll tell you my secret. No, it's not acai berries. No, it's not Scardsdale, Atkins or South Beach. It was just that I DECIDED TO DO IT. I COMMITTED TO IT AND I STUCK WITH IT. You can do it too. A good buddy of mine told me that there's three ways to lose weight - eat less, move more or both. Am I eating less? Yes - but not how you'd think. I've had three slices of pumpkin pie this week. I've snacked on M&Ms. In fact, I am eating less, but only because I'm paying attention to what I'm putting in my mouth. I don't sit and idly eat a canister of cashews while I'm at work. I've replaced mindless snacking with conscious eating. When I eat, I pay attention to what I'm doing.

Am I moving more? You betcha - I joined a gym, and I track my workouts and my calories burned on the treadmill. I burn down about 20 ice-cream sundaes a month according to my logs. 30 minutes a day of cardio, and then another 30 or more of weight lifting.

If you REALLY want to lose weight - here's a free diet plan for you. EAT LESS, MOVE MORE - 3500 calories per pound - the math isn't that hard, and the first 10 pounds are easy as hell. Drink lots of water...and enjoy a new you.

November 11, 2009

More About the Crime and Punishment Museum

They had two police simulators there - one was a driving simulator where you get to pull someone over, and end up crashing your patrol cruiser into their car instead. Making turns at high speeds, it's easy to get out of control. The simulator gives you this wierd feeling of vertigo as it has three big screens, and when you brake, the screen dips with the slowing of the car, so you feel like you're moving, but your inner ear is saying 'what the hell?' the whole time.

The other simulator was more interesting. It was a simulator of a police tactical raid on a residence, where you're part of a tactical team and you need to watch out for the bad guy with the weapon trained on you, and take them out. As the raid proceeds on this wall-sized projection, your body starts to believe the simulation. The lighting is just right and the camera movement is very natural as you get into the move and clear rhythm of the tactical team. As I held the pistol out, I could physically feel my body beginning to pump out extra adrenaline. It was a very tense minute or two until the ending, when my wife and I took out the bad guy at the end. Both of us tagged the bad guy with a double-tap, but I guess I squeezed off a third round that I missed with. I honestly don't remember pulling that trigger a third time - the adrenaline was definitely messing with my perceptions.

Crime and Punishment

My wife and I went to the Crime and Punishment museum in Washington, DC today. I had seen the museum ad on the back of a bus in the city, and it's been bugging me to go there. I wanted to see the forensics exhibits at the museum and the visit turned out to be educational. They had an exhibit discussing reality vs. TV in forensics, which I thought was pretty cool because I know that Hollywood is always fucking up the computer field when they dramatize it for TV. It was nice to know that my career field isn't the only one with its mouth agape staring at the TV thinking 'What the HELL are they doing?' while watching NCIS or Law and Order.

I probably shouldn't rag on NCIS. They try to get the tech right, but it's definitely dramatized for the viewer. Other shows are much worse, and movies are just outrageous. It turns out that forensics is a very sensitive science and that evidence examination isn't quite as expedient as they would lead you to believe. DNA testing, for example, can take days just for a preliminary match and even longer to be sure.

Afterwards, we hit up the District Chophouse and Brewery which is next door to the museum. The calamari appetizer was a meal in and of itself. I had a sirloin tips salad that was probably healthier for me, but ended up eating almost half of my wife's calamari to help her with it...yum. They have the brew vats upstairs, but I didn't take the time to go check out the brewery as we had to get back home.

All in all, it was nice having a day off work to go into town. I find that we're doing more things together without the child. I hope this is a good, slow adjustment back into life together as a couple as he grows wings and leaves the nest over the next few years.

November 10, 2009

Why PowerPoint sucks

Well, maybe it's not the software product itself. In fact, for presentation software it's pretty good at what it does. The problem is how people use it. I had some introductory briefings today, and there was some serious PowerPoint abuse going on. Let's go with my two favorite pet peeves for Powerpointers.

First is the guy who shows PPT slides and then proceeds to read them to the audience, word for word. The whole speech, I'm thinking to myself that it'd be a hell of a lot faster if he just flipped up the slides and said, "Here, read this", the gave us a minute. In fact, I'd have been much happier, since I appear to have better reading skills than him. As he mispronounced half of his slides, I got the impression he was giving someone else's briefing. The was no expansion of the ideas on the slides...none. Why waste my time with 30 minutes of this? I was so distracted, I can't remember what his brief was about...something about how to report sexual assault incidents.

This brings about pet peeve #2. Several of the slides in the many briefs today presented important numbers, hyperlinks, pin codes. But the slides weren't handouts. Why would you present information-rich vital data in presentation form on screen without handing the info out? For important take-aways, like the question list for bomb threats, there should be a handout - maybe a 3x5 card..not an onscreen slide. Even if I am taking notes, copying your slide is going to slow down your briefing.

PowerPoint presentations should be a tool in a presenters toolkit that helps cement concepts in the audience's mind. The briefing belongs on your notecards, not on the screen. If you have no audio-visual aids that add to or punctuate your talk, turn off the projector and engage your the last briefer in today's slides, just engaging talk.

All day orientation

It's going to be a long day at work today. I have an all day Orientation briefing. With the sleep debt built up from Sunday, I'm going to have a hard time staying awake. It might take some caffeine, or even standing in the back of the room. I'm not sure of the benefits of 4 hour briefings to cover material that has already been learned though being on the job. Different people learn in different ways, and long meetings just chew up productive time to attempt to teach at a slow pace. I much prefer high-speed information delivery at a pace I can control, like CBTs. The only use for in-person training is when we have a two-way street with the instructor.

November 09, 2009

Commuting Sucks

Did I mention that commuting sucks? I leave the house and get to work an hour and a half later. Part of my commute is on the metro which, while cleaner than some other cities, is sometimes a pretty smelly endeavour. Most of the time is spent on the train, but I still 'slug' a ride into the city as an HOV extra. This has saved me a good deal of gas money, and makes the commute shorter than it could be. Still, 3 hours of my life just to get to/from work. I've had to cut down on my gym workout just to fit it into my day. And commuting isn't just time, it's boring. If it was at least just one mode of transport, I could sleep..but that's a bad idea when you could miss your stop.

Of course, I've plenty to fill the time with. This blog post is a good example, written on the third leg of today's journey, and posted to my blog via email once we get to a cell coverage metro stop. I also have my CISSP credits to catch up on. At this rate, I'll be ahead of the curve for next year.

November 08, 2009

Worked on Sunday

It's been a while since I did a weekend system maintenance thing - It's interesting working technical stuff again - I had prepared a script and some patches for a VMWare patch set (VMWare ESX 3.5) to run this weekend, and put them in the /tmp directory on the host. So, I logged in to run the script and 'WTF!!!', the patches and my script were gone....who would have deleted my stuff? I questioned the two suspects that I work with ("Little Red" and "Mr. Laid Back"), but neither of them were the culprit. I had to go and download the patches again and go through and make sure I installed them in the right order (only to mess up the file names while I was doing that, which Red caught for me).

Later I went online and found this post [cached from Google]. For all the things that we know, there is so much in IT that we don't, and it's the details that will get you. Not a big deal this time - just some added time but I'll be changing where I put that script in the future.

November 07, 2009

Firing Line

Went to the range today..It was fun teaching my wife and son to shoot. We fired a rental pistol, .22 caliber - just to get familiar with the weapon and the feel of firing a pistol. I'm not bad with a rifle, and this weapon is not much different. The pistol sights were badly off. I had fairly good grouping, even out at 20 yards, but the left-right sight adjustment needed to be tuned, A LOT! Rather than adjust it, we lived with it and just aimed left, but at 20 yards, I was aiming completely off-target just to hit the center of mass.

I also shake badly. With a pistol, and firing at the range, I'm not familiar with more stable positions, so we were firing double-arms up, cross-body or straight on. The shake made it nigh impossible for me to have any kind of sight alignment. :wiggle:wiggle:wiggle:

But, we had fun. I shot off probably 150 rounds today and my wife and son about 50 and 100 each. I took them each separately to keep my sanity. It's nice that the range is so close by.

September 25, 2009

4 NAND Gate design of an XOR Gate

I bought a few books lately on Amazon - one of them is The Elements of Computing Systems: Building a Modern Computer from First Principles - at the end of Chapter 1 it asks you to design all the gates you're going to use starting with primitive NAND gates (but you can use gates you've already designed). I started reading the book because I wanted to more deeply understand assembly language, which I'm trying to pick up again.
In designing the gates, I think I'm taking the wrong approaches, because my designs are not as minimalist as they could be first out of the box. When I designed my OR gate, my first design used 3 NOT gates (basically one NAND gate with the inputs tied to one pin) and an AND gate (2 NAND gates). That design, when I drew it out - it was immediately obvious that I had two redundant NOT gates (as the AND gate ends with a NOT gate), showing me that the correct design is 3 NAND gates for OR.
The doubts are starting to creep in - my first attempt at XOR design came up with a non-symmetrical drawing of 6 NAND gates (based on the logic of using one OR and one NAND and ANDing the result). Looking on the web, though, 4 NAND gates are needed, not 6, and looking at my design, I still can't SEE the redundancy. I'm hoping that something will click and I'll keep staring the problem down until I really GROK where that redundancy is...perhaps I'll go redraw my original circuit symmetrically and that will help.

September 10, 2009

Stop Assuming Security

Let's all just stop pretending that our connected applications and networks are secure. I mean, it, just stop it already. I don't care if you're PCI Compliant, use SSL with AES encryption and SHA-2 hashing algorithms. You can have IDS in place, and a 24-hour monitoring system with armed guards and Predators with hellfires ready to rain down fire on anyone that dares ping your DMZ. You're not secure....and you never will be.

Instead of approaching system security from the system side, we need to look at why the security is in place and begin architecting one-way data funnels into our connected systems. Once I've processed your credit card transaction, why do I have to continue storing your card on a connected data system (or store it all - but that's a different discussion). If I need to store vital information about my customers, the data system I do this on shouldn't be connected to anything, and it certainly shouldn't be accessible to any system connected to the Internet. System architects need to take much of the blame for system vulnerabilities because of the system design itself. Data is stored too close to the Internet, and easy and cheap interfaces like ODBC connections to our internal databases are too often shortcuts taken for saving money on development of single-use one-way data connectors.

In fact, system developers need to be woken up to the need for development of low-capability software, and how this software can play a vital role in secure system design. Why don't we see write-only database connectors on the market? How about packaged systems that have limited functionality (no-database read-only web server systems)?

We need to automatically assume that whatever multi-use software we are using is insecure and start limiting our exposure to vulnerabilities by removing capabilities that we don't want from our designed systems. When (not IF!) those vulnerabilities are discovered in our systems, the exposure risk will be limited to the capabilities of the software (and maybe the hardware!?!) that we use in designing the system. If the system is incapable of writing to the disk system at all, then when it gets hacked, the vulnerability won't expose the risk of writing data. If our customer service page gets hacked, if the page has no capability for querying the database through the one-way 'deposit-only' data connector, then the exposure will just be that they can write junk to our database. If our database is incapable of running shelled commands, they won't be able to do so.

Perhaps it's time for security analysts and software security architects to get religion...Luddism

August 26, 2009

Something that always bugged me about Statistics/Odds

Let's say that your odds of winning the lottery are something like: 1 in 23,000,000 - There seems to be a view that if you buy two tickets that your odds are now 1 in 11,500,000. But here's what bugs me about this.....and leads me to think that reducing odds fractions (2 in 23 million) is nothing more than a lie when it comes to talking about odds.

A random sample of 11,500,000 tickets has a 50% chance of containing one of your two tickets. Independently for each one. Your odds in that random sample of 11.5million tickets may be one of the following:
0 in 11.5mil (25% chance)
1 in 11.5mil (50% chance)
2 in 11.5mil (25% chance)

If you buy 11.5million tickets, your odds reduce to 50%, or 1 in 2 - but there's still a chance that if you pick 2 tickets from the 23 million tickets that one of them isn't yours....
0 in 2 (25% chance)
1 in 2 (50% chance)
2 in 2 (25% chance)

And once you've picked the two tickets - and then pick the winner.....
100%*25% (2 in 2)
+50%*50% (1 in 2)
+0%*25% (0 in 2)
Totals to 50% overall for the drawing, but the majority of that remaining 25% is when the '2' in your 1 in 2 chances don't contain any chance of you winning whatsoever.

Reducing odds from 2 in 23million to 1 in 11.5million seems to me to be a form of self-delusion...

August 21, 2009

Unfinished Posts, Random Thoughts and Life

Time - the one thing that I cannot obtain more of - as I fill my life with pursuits, time quickly runs out. Working out every day feels great, but it soaks up a full hour and a half each day. Of course, if it adds years to my life, I can imagine that it's worth it. I'll have to go and do the math on that....Let's see - a year of working out is about 365*1.5 = 547.5 hours - would need to extend my life by 23 days to be worth it. Yeah - I can see that working out in the end. Of course, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I'll just leave a prettier corpse.

July 21, 2009

Random Thought: Is the equal sign ruining our science curriculum

(This is the unfinished post - some day I'll get back to it)
1...2...3...4, 4 sheep, mwa-hahaha! We all remember the Count from Sesame Street. From him, many of us learned the set of natural numbers up to about 12. From there, we entered the public education system. Around about 2nd or 3rd grade we learned that numbers go higher than 20. Soon after, we learned about more integers, including negative numbers, and so on, being introduced to rational numbers as we learned about division and complex operations such as square roots (or, if you were really lucky to have a good schooling, logarithms). Perhaps you were even introduced to different base numbering systems. In all of this, we were conditioned that the right way to count things was to use integers and rational numbers. And we learned mathematical operations using the = sign to denote equivalency.

But, does the universe really work like that? Are we spending any time on mathematics as it applies to irrational numbers, and should we? (As an aside, I also hate writing with questions that I don't intend to answer - but it's the easiest way to throw down thoughts.)

I've been giving thought lately, probably due to some of my recent reading (The Drunkard's Walk by Leonard Mlodinow) and some of my work over the past year with basic statistics and metrics, to how the world is put together and operates. I've always been peripherally interested in the sciences (specifically physics but with chemical and electro-mechanical applications), and of course the debate over universal law. The thought here is that the world doesn't really operate using rational numbers at all.

Think about it, Pi isn't rational. We use pi in engineering to calculate structural ratios, but we don't really use the whole thing because after a while, an approximation is close enough for us.

May 07, 2009

Dear Jeff Bezos - Why Didn't You Say So?

Why didn't you tell us this the first time? I bought a Kindle 1 and I love it. I take it with me on my commute and read the daily news on the way in while listening to some 'wake up' music. Why, just this morning I was trying to download my newspaper from a website that kept failing and eventually locked up my Kindle 1. I was so happy to be able to pop out my battery to reset the device (Had I had a Kindle 2, what would I have done?) . Sure, I've never had to reset a book - but a book didn't download my news over the air for free every morning.

So, yesterday I'm reading on my Kindle that the one thing my device is missing is coming to a new device, the Kindle DX. What is that feature? Why, native PDF support, of course! Had I known that my device didn't REALLY support PDF, but a lousy conversion service that does a sucky job at best, I would have waited. Why didn't you just say so in the ad for the Kindle 1? Why didn't you write 'Not Really Supported PDF, but you could wait for the next version which really will support it'. I wouldn't have had a problem with the extra $100, really. I got mine at a discount thanks to MSN, anyways. After saving $85, I could afford the extra dough.

So now I sit here with my Kindle 1 and my $85, and I'm trying to figure out just how I'm going to sell it for enough to trade it in for the Kindle DX. Hey Jeff, how about a trade in program?

April 24, 2009

The Electromagnetic Sphere

I propose a hypothesis that IT workers are surrounded by an electro-magnetic sphere of influence that changes the behaviour in computers. It seems to me that somewhere between 25% and 50% of the time that someone calls me to their desk to help them with their computer, the problem is irreproducable. The business worker will step through the motions of what they did, not a moment before, and then say something along the lines of "And then an error popped up, but it's not doing it now. It must be you. The computer only likes you."
While I'm not superstitious (I don't believe in ghosts or spirits or ESP), perhaps there is some quantum universal force that IT workers have become attuned to that follows them around, much like an aura. If we could just have some way of bottling this force, we could perhaps sell little pieces of it in the form of trouble-tickets. You would buy them in small packets from Best Buy or NewEgg. Each packet would contain just enough aura to be used for one trouble call. And with a 25% - 50% success rate (I need to keep better track), I think the packets would do even better than some junior IT personnel.
Of course, the real mechanism behind the aura is almost definitely related to the same force that works in Rubber Duck Debugging. Rubber Duck Debugging as defined by Network Dictionary:

As found at

We called it the Rubber Duck method of debugging. It goes like this:

1) Beg, borrow, steal, buy, fabricate or otherwise obtain a rubber duck (bathtub variety)
2) Place rubber duck on desk and inform it you are just going to go over some code with it, if that's all right.
3) Explain to the duck what you code is supposed to do, and then go into detail and explain things line by line
4) At some point you will tell the duck what you are doing next and then realise that that is not in fact what you are actually doing. The duck will sit there serenely, happy in the knowledge that it has helped you on your way.

Works every time. Actually, if you don't have a rubber duck you could at a pinch ask a fellow programmer or engineer to sit in.

And don't you feel foolish......
when, after hours or days of banging away and being completely stumped by something. Then you walk someone else through a problem, and you facepalm and realise EXACTLY WHERE the freaking problem was.

You blush, you mutter and say, thanks for the help. They look at you like you are an idiot and walk away grumbling.



You see, we humans are stubborn believers in the infallibility of our own minds, and it isn't until we share our thoughts with others that we see how rife they are with innacuracies and false memories. But this is what makes things like magnet medical therapy devices and ear candles sell so well. It's time for us IT workers to get our share of that pie. I'm off to design some product packaging....and think up some ways to sell 'New, Improved' versions of IT Aura.

April 23, 2009

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April 15, 2009

Proof That the World Has Gone Mad

Just seen on Digg,Spokane parks to detonate squirrels. Go ahead, go to the link and read it. Yes, they're blowing up ground squirrels to control their population. As in 'Blown Up, Sir!'. Bill Murray would be proud. The world, it has gone mad, and there is no turning back.

April 01, 2009

Why Lowering Transaction Costs is the Best Thing You Can Do

Just some quick math/thinking -

I was just thinking about wealth distribution, wealthy people and fair capitalism. By fair capitalism, I mean that it should be fair for someone to create something that everyone wanted, and receive fair compensation for the item when distributed to thousands and/or millions of customers. You get strange thoughts when you try to mix ideas of fairness (socialism) with capitalist distribution methods.

There are a great many problems that arise from industrialism and globalization in a capitalist society. A few that apply are the cost of distribution to a mass market, the costs of marketing to that market, and the cost of doing business along the way. The Internet has helped immensely with these things. Marketing to millions has a cost as low as $4.95 a month for a hosting account, $4.95 a year for a domain name and a few hours of someone's time to make a web page. With electronic property, or intelectual property that can be easily digitally distributed and created, the costs again are quite low.

The remaining problem is the cost of doing business. Let's say that I created some intellectual property(IP) that I wanted to sell on the Internet today. What is fair value for something that takes me 40 hours to create? Is it $2,000? After all, at that rate, I'm making $100,000 a year if I can keep up that pace. Let's say that a fair value of my IP is $10,000 - that should be a rather non-arguable round number for both artists and socialists. To keep a good standard of living in the middle of the country as such an artist, I would have to work very hard for 5 weeks per year until I die (inflation notwithstanding). If I wanted things like retirement savings or luxury items, I'd have to work more weeks per year during my working years.

Ok, so with a base value of $10,000 - if distribution and marketing are essentially free (due to uniqueness and desirability of the IP), how many people can I sell the item to? The global marketplace gives me reach to BILLIONS of people worldwide. If I could leverage desirability vs. cost in such a way that .1% of the people on the planet bought my item, I would only need to collect 1 penny from each of my customers. If the value of the item was 99 cents (say a song) - and I sold it for a penny to 10 million people, I would have $9.9 Million. By selling it for a penny, it would help me get the 10 million customers (globally!).

Herein lies the crux...there's no cost of doing business that would allow me to collect a penny from you. You may have a penny in your pocket, but if you want to send it to me, it's going to cost me transaction fees that will make it disappear. If there were a way, some way, for me to pay a flat fee of, say, $1,000 a year, to collect pennies from people without further transaction costs...I would become one of a myriad of people selling stuff for a penny on the Internet.

Dear Paypal - make it happen....

March 12, 2009

Finished Book: Crime and Punishment

I have just finished "Crime and Punishment" (Dostoyevsky - Project Gutenberg published translation) on my Kindle (version 1). This is probably the first 'classic' that I have read in a very, very long while. I must say that I am even perhaps a little bit impressed with myself at having stuck it out and finished it, but much of that credit certainly belongs to Dostoyevsky himself. I found the book to be engaging, the dialogue and story line intriguing, the characters believable, varied and interesting. Not being a very deep person, I enjoyed the story as just that, and I was not overly burdened with being forced to buy in or be preached to about the protagonist's theology/psychology.

With that said, I'm not sure what I'm on to next, but at least I have completely read one novel in 2009, so I can feel good about all the screwing off I'm going to do for the rest of the year.