Thursday, October 30, 2014

Easy Strawberry Yogurt Drink

As an alternative to paying $3.17 for a quart of El Mexicano Drinkable Yogurt...

32 oz container of Strawberry Yogurt (Wal Mart brand - $2.47)
1 1/2 cups milk ($0.33)
1 tbsp sugar ($0.04)

Mix thoroughly. You can drop the sugar if you do not need it to be as sweet as El Mexicano.

You save 33 cents over the bottle of El Mexicano, but you actually save more since you end up with 44 oz of drink. So you actually save $1.51 over the same amount.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Oil Price as a Weapon: The Game is Afoot

The current drop in oil prices is due to increased production from Saudi Arabia. What does this mean? It means that Saudi Arabia has not peaked in oil production, but that is all that it means. It does not mean that we are not facing depletion, nor does it mean that the oil market can handle low prices over the long term and remain stable. Remember that the North American shale oil boom, as well as other unconventional projects worldwide, need a specific level of price support to remain economically worthwhile.
Additionally, producing nations that depend on oil exports for national wealth and well-being (much of the Middle East, and Russia) have their own specific price support needs. These levels vary depending on the economic makeup of the country in question. It is fairly settled that below a specific price point, and oil-export dependent nation will begin to face significant socioeconomic and even political challenges.
So in the face of the higher prices required by new unconventional sources and the higher prices required by such nations, why is Saudi Arabia allowing oil to sink to $75/barrel? More to the point, Saudi Arabia's production is intentionally driving down the price of oil. It is a form of suicide.
I agree with others that this is a political favor to the US. Yes, the US economy benefits from lower oil prices. However, the bigger and more important benefit (at least to the current administration) to place economic pressure on Russia and Putin. The US has supported Saudi Arabia for a long time and this is just returning the favor. This is a cunning geopolitical move designed to destabilize Russia. AND - our administration is willing to put domestic oil shale production under the gun to do it!
The last thing we need is for our economy to get used to lower oil prices just to have them snap back up once the US has completed its dirty deed, allowing our economy to grow then shoving it back into recession. Also, lower oil prices will have a destabilizing effect on nations OTHER than Russia. We are playing with fire, here.

Turnover, and how HR is a corporate tool.

Think companies care about turnover? Think again.
Turnover, as a corporate strategy, has both its costs and its benefits. Benefits you say? Yes, benefits! If you are prepared for a high turnover rate, you can get away with treating your employees how you want. More to the point, though, employers commonly see employees as widgets to be replaced if they quit or "malfunction." They can get away with this because of extended high unemployment. You see, the official government unemployment rate was redefined in 1994 (from U5 to U3). So despite the official (U3) 5.7% number that suggests near full employment, the classic measure (U5) stands at 7.1%. Even during the recession of the early 2000s, U5 never rose above 7.2%. So by the true classic economic measurement, we are a fair ways off from full employment.
It's not just continued high unemployment that has contributed to the "widgetization" of employees, but the "commoditization" of labor. For all but the executives and the most creative professions, employers are taking a "Hamburger Helper" approach to labor: engineer the division of labor within the organization to provide each employee with a static set of tasks and the routine training and reference tools to complete them, and then just add warm bodies! Enforce compliance within this prearranged set of affairs with draconian attendance policies and quick punishment for not staying strictly within the established policy and procedure.
The result is that there are enough acceptably qualified warm bodies that need a job that the job will always be filled. Experience and skill are devalued in favor of compliance, so a new employee that can follow the rules is just as good as a 10-year veteran, actually better since he has not developed an opinion and can be paid less. In this paradigm, who cares about turnover? Just treat employees well enough so they don't walk out the door their first year and you're set.
Even technical jobs can be commoditized. Consider the hapless level one technical support rep who reads from a script and always has at least three pat answers to your problem. That's just the start. Sony Corporation of America eventually disbanded all US-based high-level technical support operations for its VAIO line of computers because they felt they had developed a knowledge base sufficient for Philippine outsourcers to handle all support needs.
As the classic paradigm of unending capitalist growth increasing collides with a world with shrinking cheap energy sources, companies are just going to get more cunning and brutal in their quest for profitability and maximizing shareholder value. As the end of cheap oil restricts growth, companies will find their profits not so much through innovation, but through financial games like reducing costs and stock buybacks.
So when I hear HR professionals on LinkedIn talk about "talent" and "retention," the disconnect is striking to me. The game has changed. Outside of headhunters for executive, creative, and programming professionals, HR is really all about paperwork and job postings and compliance. It just is. The worth of an HR department is the worth of the company's workforce, and companies are valuing their workforce less and less. I dare say that most HR these days is no more vibrant and innovative than Accounts Payable.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Prosperity and Global Warming

I am most of the way through "Waking the Frog" by Tom Rand. In it, he argues for strong, immediate, and concerted action to limit greenhouse gas levels with the goal of limiting global warming. His discussion of economics and carbon pricing is intriguing and he makes his case well.
I tend to agree with him that cap-and-trade would be an ideal solution to control carbon dioxide emissions. It is a market-based solution that requires relatively little government intervention. What most people who oppose cap-and-trade don't know is that it has already worked spectacularly in the case of sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain. In the 20 years since the start of the SO2 cap-and-trade system, SO2 levels have plummeted to next to nothing. Another place cap-and-trade is working is in Europe, where it was begun in 2005.
You don't have to be an expert on the climate science to understand that mitigating the risk of global warming by controlling CO2 emissions is a good insurance policy. It's an uncertain risk with a horrific downside, so we ought to extra careful to hedge against it. An apt analogy would be that of the cold war. One could have made the argument that the US and the USSR would never use their nuclear weapons because of ABM, or mutually assured destruction. That did not stop anybody from being concerned about the prospect of nuclear war, nor should it have. It did not stop the push to stop nuclear proliferation and international treaties continued to be signed for arms control and reduction. Why? Because as illustrated in movies like "Threads" or "The Day After," the potential downside of maintaining the status quo was too horrific to ignore.
So it is with global warming. However, getting global warming under control is a little different than stepping back from a nuclear arms race. It is different because it hits people in the pocketbook. When you price carbon into the market, prices rise. This more than anything is one of the major problems people have with cap-and-trade. The reaction to any government initiative that will raise prices has only intensified since the Great Recession. Yes America is in recovery and the unemployment rate has gone down, but housing and groceries have gone up and the low unemployment rate hides the vast number of low wage jobs and the hordes who have dropped out of the workforce entirely. There are core fundamental weaknesses in our economy that have led many economic commentators to conclude that the "recovery" is only due to continued Fed intervention.
So the ethical argument that NOT pricing carbon is like dumping trash where you like instead of paying for proper disposal doesn't mean much when people struggle to pay for life's necessities. As a matter of fact, I've known a number of people who have had to move because of economic pressure and actually dump their unwanted stuff on the side of the road because they had neither the time nor the money to deal with it. The environment takes second place to personal needs. Perhaps this is why cap-and-trade could pass in countries with a strong safety net but fail in the US. If I remember correctly, the years leading up to the Great Recession in the US were characterized by increasing public awareness and concern for environmental issues. But then everyone lost their shirts.
Enter Peak Oil. The US peaked in March of 1971 when the Railroad Commission of Texas lifted production caps for the last time. Incidentally (and I believe consequently), real wages in the US have been on a long-term downtrend since right around that time. The volatility of oil prices since then is a consequence of our needing to source oil internationally.
Consider also that for most of history, mankind has never been able to combine the accumulation of wealth with systemic care for the environment. The fact that we have had the resources to turn around and pay attention to environmental issues at all is due to the massive amount of wealth and technology that has been made possible by oil: an incredibly dense, powerful, high EROEI fuel, until now.
EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested, also EROI) translates directly into economic growth, profits, and general standard of living. We are already challenged on all three fronts in the US; reducing the EROEI of fossil fuels through cap-and-trade is a hard sell. We could have done it in the 1990s. Now... I am not so sure. We have waited a bit too long as our combined EROEI continues to drop.
Back to the book, Tom Rand advocates for three baseline electric sources: next-gen nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, and geothermal. Geothermal is a poor choice from an EROEI standpoint, and nuclear is off the table after Fukushima. It's no wonder the market prefers to power on with coal with CCS.
As a matter of fact, moving to more coal with CCS generation will bring unexpected benefits to global warming. As our CCS technologies get better and cheaper, we can use CCS to sink CO2 in the atmosphere and bring down CO2 concentrations.
Our population will not stand for any more across-the-board reduction in EROEI. Although the average person does not know the term, they know the effect: a reduced standard of living. Since the Great Recession, there is no more tolerance for this. (Europe's cap-and-trade started before the Great Recession.) Geothermal has low EROEI and nuclear is off the table. Oil's EROEI continues to fall. The best solution in this case is exactly what the market has been doing: electrify everything and increase electric generation from coal with CCS. Obama has been able to implement the kind of EPA regulation to push CCS in the right direction with his so-call "War on Coal."
Although I still support cap-and-trade, this is going to have to wait until people have something to give again.

I just had to add these quotes from this article:

"The transition to renewable energy can’t be achieved without massive fossil fuel expenditure and carbon emissions along the way. 'What we forget,' says Miller, 'is that the process of bringing renewable energy to mass scale requires huge fossil fuel inputs for extraction, manufacturing, and transport.'

"My friendly Cassandras have a point: The ecological and economic breakdown is already under way for most of the planet. For the economically secure in the wealthier nations, we can periodically wake up to the breakdown, but still ignore its systemic nature.  But if you’re a Bangladeshi farmer, you’re already trying to survive climate change and you’ve possibly become a climate refugee. If you’re a farmer in the Central Valley of California, you are wondering if your unprecedented drought is part of a 'new normal' with weather."

"The radical insistence on limits to growth seems the choice of privileged people who volunteer for a simpler lifestyle and then inflict it on others with far fewer choices."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Present Distress or Present Crisis of 1 Cor 7

"I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are."
1 Cor 7:26 (NRSV)

The Apostle Paul gives this advice to the unmarried at the early church in Corinth. He admits he has no hard and fast rule from God on whether single people should get married. So he basically says that, in his opinion, it is better for single people to remain single. Reason being is that there is an "impending crisis."
What is/was this impending crisis? Interpretation of this verse has long been guided by the KJV rendering, which uses the phrase "present distress". Specifically, it has traditionally been interpreted one of two ways. The first claims that because of the persecution in the early church, life would be easier for those who were unmarried. The second claims that, because the Christian life promises trials and tribulations, it is easier to remain unmarried.
While the persecution of the early church is well understood, with the exception of Nero, systematic persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire did not begin until 250 AD. The book of 1 Corinthians was written in the 50s AD, even before the actions of Nero. So then it is very unlikely that it is referring to persecution.
The second traditional interpretation is guided by the concept of "present" distress. While there are no major textual variations here, the Greek itself has been translated quite a few different ways into English. The Greek word translated "present" is not quite so specific, and actually carries the broader idea of immanency, as if to say that the "distress" is right at the door. In other words, "present distress" is better understood as "the distress we are presently faced with". Other versions translate this as "present crisis" (NIV, NLT), "impending crisis" (NET, NRSV), or a similar variation.
The concept of "immanency" is familiar to modern followers of theology as an eschatological buzzword. It is understood in that context as the concept that Christ could return at any time. The point here is, that the early church expected the return of Christ in their lifetimes. Understood in this way, "present distress" refers to "imminent trouble," the great shaking and cleansing of the earth that will occur near or upon Christ's return. If true, apparently the Apostle Paul expected it soon enough to warn off single people from getting married!
Another (probably better) interpretation is the identification of the crisis as a famine. There is plenty of historical evidence to suggest that there was a famine in the eastern Mediterranean area roughly around 60AD, which would have led to the collection for the Jerusalem saints in 2 Cor, as well as the Jewish uprising in 66 AD. In the mid-to-late 50s such a famine would at least be in its early stages. This understanding also helps to counter the poor interpretations of the Jerusalem collection as a failure of communalism, the decision by the Jerusalem Christians to pool and share their wealth.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mount error 12 Cannot allocate memory when connecting SMB share

Problem: When mounting a Windows network share from Linux (such as Clonezilla), the mount command fails with error 12 cannot allocate memory.

On the Windows server, set
HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache
to "1"

and set
to "3"

Then reboot.

I found the solution HERE.

Windows 7 Won't Boot After Installing Intel HD Graphics

Problem: After installing the Intel HD Graphics driver and rebooting, Windows 7 will not boot, and ask you to run startup repair.

Resolution: Use F8 to boot into Safe Mode. Uninstall the driver, then reboot normally. Install SP1 for Windows 7; or, install the hotfix from KB979903 and reboot. Then reinstall the driver.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

USB Multiboot Heaven

Here I will list all of the tools that make creating a multiboot USB drive easy and fun.

1. YUMI. This program does all the hard lifting. Choose the utility or Linux distribution you want to add to your boot menu and it will do the rest. The built in format function is great for drives up to 32GB.

2. GUIFormat. When you have a USB stick greater than 32GB, it will not format in a bootable manner with most utilities. GUIFormat handles large drives with ease. So you would format, say, a 64GB USB drive with GUIFormat and then proceed to use YUMI to add your tools.
[I'm going to save you 15 minutes and point out that the download link for the 32bit version of the program is the screenshot itself!]

3. BOOTICE. This is a low-level utility for tweaking your USB drive. In several clicks you can wipe, repartition and format the drive. BOOTICE will default to exFAT format on large drives over 32GB. One important use for BOOTICE is to correct a wrong drive type. For most situations, you will want the drive to show up as USB-HDD removable with a single partition. Sometimes the drive comes up as a fixed drive or maybe even a floppy. When repartitioning the drive, BOOTICE will allow you to select the correct setting. Then you can proceed to reformat with GUIFormat if you need to.

Several tools I have loaded on my own USB multiboot drive:

1. Clonezilla. Indispensible at work, since that is what we use for imaging. Good for other places as well.

2. Ultimate Boot CD. Tons of diagnostics for PCs, now even better on a USB drive!

3. Hiren's Boot CD. Loads into a stripped down version of Windows XP. Lots of utilities to help your Windows install come back to life. I have used it many times to correct a no boot situation just by running a chkdsk on the boot and/or main partitions of the hard drive.

4. AVG Rescue CD. For when you are seriously infested.

And of course, don't forget to add your own utilities to the USB drive to use from within Windows.

Friday, August 01, 2014

"Unable to access computer" error when accessing Device Manager remotely

Problem: "Unable to access computer" error when accessing Device Manager remotely from Computer Management (compmgmt.msc)

(You can do this from your workstation instead of the remote workstation in question)

1. Run "gpedit.msc /gpcomputer: computername" where "computername" is the name of the remote computer.

2. Go to Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Device Installation.

3. Enable "Allow remote access to the PnP interface"

4. Close gpedit

6. Run "services.msc"

7. Right-click "Services (Local)" and choose "Connect to another computer"

8. Choose "Another computer" and enter the computer name, then click OK.

9. Set "Plug and Play" and "Remote Registry" services to Automatic.

10. Start the "Plug and Play" and "Remote Registry" services.

11. You may need to force the group policy update. You can either restart the remote computer, or run "gpupdate /force" at the remote computer. If you are sure no one will be interrupted, you can do "shutdown /r /m \\computername /f /t 00" where "computername" is the name of the remote computer for an immediate remote restart.