Friday, October 31, 2008

Hate to say I told you so... But I DID!

See today's Wall Street Journal:

On September 30 I asked, * Whom shall we be bailing out? and suggested that the answer is
Shareholders, stock brokers, corporate magnates, money people, that's who.

The article then goes on to tot up the bill at just the first three banks, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley, to some 31 B-B-B-Billion. So some five percent of the 700 billion bailout is going to disappear into the bankers pockets the minute it hits.

Good grief!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

'WAY Cool PDF Writer

'WAY cool. Just like the old free Adobe PDF writer of 1998 vintage. It lets you simply print directly to a PDF instead of first to a PS and then translating it with ps2pdf.

The details are at

The article is a little confusing, it talks about both the lpadmin command line approach and the CUPS GUI. ITOT you do all the work at the command line and then check it with the GUI.

So, to install this, all from the command line as root:
  • Install CUPS with the normal software installer (duh)...
  • Create a script file /usr/lib/cups/backend/pdf-writer per the provided text or our own now installed version, doing a chmod 755 in the process.
  • Unzip the designated Postscript Printer Description (PPD::
 cd /usr/share/cups/model
gunzip -d Postscript-level2.ppd.gz

* Download the free AdobeTM Distiller ppd file here:
* Unzip it and copy it to the target directory:Link
unzip -d
cp Adobe/ADIST5.PPD /usr/share/cups/model/Acrobat-Distiller.ppd
  • Add the printer with:
  mkdir -p /export/share/pdf
chmod -R 777 /export
lpadmin -p CUPS-PDF -v pdf-writer:/export/share/pdf/ -E -P \
/usr/share/cups/model/Postscript-level2.ppd -D "PDF Writer for CUPS" \ -L "PDF Backend /usr/lib/backend/pdf-writer"

lpadmin -p CUPS-PDF -v pdf-writer:/export/share/pdf/ -E -P \
/usr/share/cups/model/Acrobat-Distiller.ppd -D "PDF Writer for CUPS" \ -L "PDF Backend /usr/lib/backend/pdf-writer"
  • Then and only then, launch the 'way cool CUPS GUI:

and play with your new virtual printer.
  • When you print test pages from this interface the results are stored in /export/share/pdf
Very very good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Game face

As long as we are breaking glass, what is the world view on makeup: lipstick, eye liner, eye shadow?

I know there are a lot of cosmetics firms that do not want to hear this.

But here it is, anyhow.

The issue is whether you have a limbic or neocortical kind of connection in your relationship. For me both demand that you wash your face.

If a limbic connection you just close your eyes, sigh, and enjoy what follows. But if neocortical you relate with eyes open. And therein lies the problem.

Makeup, by definition, is synthetic. I have never seen a person for whom makeup added anything, especially lipstick, eye liner, or eye shadow.

If the person is naturally beautiful then makeup hides their beauty and distracts you to the makeup, which renders the natural beauty invisible.

If the person is not naturally beautiful then the makeup accentuates their lack of beauty and makes them look rather needy, desperate, and pathetic.

These effects are especially pronounced on people of fair complexions since they create such a marked contrast.

So why do they do it?

One possibility is that it is their game face. Tight skirts, spike heels, and a painted face is their equivalent of going out on an NFL field in face masks and body armor.

Fine, go for it, but don't ask me to be your friend...

Needless to say, I have engaged very very few ladies in this sort of discourse, but perhaps this posting will spark a kindly debate from which all can win.

So folks, please wash your face.

It is what it is. If it is naturally beautiful it will shine through. If it is not, then your soul will shine through. In either case, your honesty and willingness to deal with reality will shine through, and show you to be a person worthy of friendship, kindness, and engagement. Being painted up just shows you to be pretending...
Of course, there is a counter-attack. What about all these dudes with Titan pickup trucks that will never see a trail path, the cowboys with boots and big hats who never have and never will leave New England, the boaters with flag belts and Docksides who have never left shore, let alone Narragansett Bay? And so on and so forth.

We all adopt affectations. The offense occurs when the affectation distorts reality.

If you are an actor or actress then makeup is a tool of the trade. It is, after all, a trade of make believe.

If you are a boat skipper or a ship captain then Docksides make sense to help you stay on your feet in a tossing sea, as do all the other accoutrements of Henri Lloyd jackets, baggy pants, and light shirts.

The belts work if you are real in a sort of "If you have it flaunt it" kind of mode.

But if you are not in the trades, then why?

Maybe for fun. Colorful belts of what you'd rather be spending your time doing are fun. LaCoste shirts are reminders of exotic trips you have taken and wonderworlds you have visited, so fun.

Maybe for defense, as the game face approach above.

But once it gets past either being who you are, doing it for fun, or doing it for defense then it starts to fall on deaf ears.

I for one do not understand it.

So let's all wash our faces and examine our affectations.

If it is not true it is false.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Life is so simple, and so complex

We have had a tumultuous week this week, with the Dow diving southward and other things.

But it offers a view of what really matters.

You need someone else in your life whom you love and who makes you smile every time you see them.

You need them to be able and willing to spend time with you, doing stuff. Whatever: weeding, doing laundry, preferably biking, swimming, traveling, but regardless, doing stuff, fun stuff, together.

Besides your going to work to earn money to be able to do these things, nothing much else matters.

Life at its essence.

It would be nice if this other person were a pretty person of the opposite gender, but if that is not possible then a nice Siamese cat will do.

Regardless, we need someone else in our lives.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

OK, how we can make the bailout actually work... Needs and Wants

OK, OK, yes, I had some fun with numbers in the previous post. Sorry if I offended anyone.

Except the money people. They deserve to be offended.

But it is true and the Congress is admitting as much: they are bailing out the money people.

But they say it is for a good cause.

What they are proposing is to buy all the bad debt, putting money back in the pockets of the money people and then trusting them to do the right thing!

Good grief. How naive!!

The alligator just ate your first-born. You are now going to toss your second-born into the pond and trust the alligator to do the right thing? Reminds me of the joke about software engineers...

Give me a freaking break.

Oh yeh, and along the way are the inevitable plugins of perks, pork, and earmarks...

Good grief.


OK, enough complaining, how can we make it actually work?

I understand the following:

+ We want (not need) a viable long-term credit market to fund long term customer purchases.

(Please do not use the term "consumer" in my presence. I am not a consumer. A hog is a consumer. I am a customer, who chooses, based on quality of service, where to place my custom. If you are not kind, courteous, fair, and trustworthy then I will not place it with you.)

As customers we want (not need) to buy things like houses, cars, and even boats. Having credit means we can have them sooner than later (um, greed, but we can live with it).

If the credit is not available for these things then many fewer of these things shall be sold, so a whole bunch of people working in these industries may end up out of work, perhaps through no fault of their own. So maybe we should avoid that.

(OTOH, if they are following my previous suggestion of investing in real and durable goods they wouldn't be so bad off. And of course the whole credit system is a pyramid scheme, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. If we could convert credit to planning then people would have the money to pay cash for such things and the same number of builders and sellers could still be employed at the same levels. Of course that would then put the bank loan departments out of work... But I won't go there tonight.)

+ We also want (not need) a viable short-term credit market to provide liquidity to small businesses who have short term liabilities (payroll, for example) with rather longer term billing cycles. So they need to get the money to pay short-term liabilities until the longer term revenues accrue.

(OTOH, if they were saving and not using credit but rather creating enterprise funds to save up in advance for these easily predictable expenses then they wouldn't need credit. Hmmm. It is sounding more and more like this is a bailout for bank loan departments! But I won't go there tonight either.)

+ What we DO need (not want) is a safe place (other than under the mattress) for people to put their hard-earned money until they are ready to spend it on the preceding wants. But, with the FDIC and some controls, we may already have that.

+ What we NEITHER need NOR want is yet another license for the same money people to eat our lunch, again.

So what is to be done?


Before I answer that, let me put in a plug for frugality: the people of Netherlands are notoriously (and wonderfully) frugal. They also run the industrial world.

(If you doubt that then start looking closely at all the major players in all the markets: Shell, Phillips, shipping companies, freight companies, industrial machinery companies, van this and van that... Of course, they are actually building stuff, not just inventing pyramid schemes...)

We are starting to see that here as well. What happens there and with enterprise funds here is that you allocate money on a regular basis to targeted savings funds to prepare in advance for fully expectable expenses, like rent, electricity, and (duh) payroll. And you do not use or allow credit for such things. Period, full stop. No cashee, no purchasee. Even for food.

In short, these practices demonstrate restraint, foresight, planning, and, of course, personal discipline and responsibility.

How quaint.

Of course, that is foreign to our normal yahoo cowboy mentality and political correctness so cannot be foisted on the populace. It needs to be learned (since we seem to have forgotten it) and we haven't time for that right now.

But it does work, wonderfully.


OK, so here is what the Congress can do in the short term to 1) provide the short- and long-term credit markets we want and at the same time 2) prevent paying money back to the same yahoos who squandered our future with stupid and dangerous investments and are laughing all the way to their bank in the Turks and Caicos:

1. Establish a set of credit guidelines on how much money can be lent for how long at what rate for a person with how much income. This is a number cruncher's dream and ultimately doable. I remember my father reciting guidelines for how much house you could buy with a 25 year mortgage if you made $12,000 a year. That sort of thing. Give me a couple of hours of Googling and I'll bet I'll come up with a pretty good list.

2. Tell every bank in the world that has FDIC protection that they must adhere to those guidelines if they don't want to lose their FDIC protection. Make it effective immediately.

3. Revise Fannie/Freddie and all their cousins to start making short- and long-term loans to the public following those guidelines. In other words, start up a public sector honest broker competitor to commercial banks. That will get the money people up on their toes.

4. If that is too hard, then invest in the zillions of Federal Credit Unions and Federal Savings Banks, either with direct investment or higher insurance coverage and lower taxes, to have them provide the short- and long-term credit. Firms like Navy Federal Credit Union - or USAA Federal Savings Bank - These organizations are, by charter, customer-oriented and -controlled and essentially non-profit organizations; they have Federal regulations and rulesets that require that excess profit is returned to the account holders, the shareholders, who regularly vote on by-laws and board member selections. They are responsive, responsible, and highly functional.

And non-predatory.

5. Now it gets harder, but we also need (not just want) some form of personal accountability for irresponsible speculation and exploitation. I'll think on this and let you know.

Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, but it does feel good when you get a chunk of it yourself. Cutting off their ears or other body parts prolly won't pass muster with UN human rights commissions, but it would feel good.

In the meantime, measures such as the previous four will meet the needs (and wants) and avoid paying money to the perpetrators of the crisis by buying bad debts.


How far can 700 BILLION go? A very very long way, if it is spent carefully, responsibly, prudently, and conservatively.

And not simply turned over to the same dude that just did you.