Friday, October 31, 2008

Something woke me up and then I read in the paper today

Two minor earthquakes shake Dallas-Fort Worth area 09:05 AM CDT on Friday, October 31, 2008
By ARLINDA ARRIAGA / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas-Fort Worth residents received a pre-Halloween scare as two minor earthquakes shook the area overnight.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a 2.5-magnitude earthquake centered in the Grand Prairie area was reported at 11:25 p.m. Thursday. A slightly stronger 3.0-magnitude quake centered in the Irving area occurred 36 minutes later.

Law enforcement agencies across northern Texas said they received some 911 calls from concerned residents but no reports of damage.

Irving police spokesman David Tull said his agency received about 25 calls around midnight from people inquiring about the vibrations, which set off car and building alarms.
Grand Prairie and Fort Worth officials also reported no damage. "We just learned about it on the news this morning,” said Dawn Atkins, a Grand Prairie emergency dispatcher.

USGS geophysicist Randy Baldwin said the quakes, which lasted only a few seconds, most likely felt "like a lightly loaded truck passing by, kind of a sharp jerk and then a rapid vibration."
Irving resident Christine Laughland said she was sleeping when the earthquake woke her up. She's from California and wasn't too shocked by the vibrations. But she couldn't say the same thing for her dogs.
“They were barking hysterically because it was their first one,” she said.
Randy Owens, a Starbucks employee in Grand Prairie, said he didn't feel it but that it was the buzz among his customers this morning. "Many were saying they were surprised they didn't feel anything," he said.
Reports of the quake also came from Dallas, Euless and Hurst and Fort Worth, Mr. Baldwin said. Aftershocks could last several days. There is also a possibility of more smaller quakes in the coming days that no one would likely feel.
Texas occasionally has earthquakes.
An April 7 earthquake in southern Texas had a 3.7 magnitude.
A minor earthquake was felt by some people in Amarillo on March 30, 2002. The Amarillo area also recorded seven minor earthquakes in 2000.

FD: If this keeps up, we can start saying, "Did you feel that?" like they do in California. BTW, there was a great Life show with that same title -

Water 4 Gas ... I am still looking for the solution to powering the OLD FORD....

Finally, there is a Car Talk Show on the Topic!

Publisher's Summary
Husband John plans to convert his wife Tanis' minivan to hydrogen power. With nowhere else to turn, she looks to Tom and Ray to talk some sense into him. Bad idea. Is John headed for a three-alarm inferno, divorce court, and a plaque in the Car Talk Wacko Hall of Fame, all with one click of the ignition? Or, could he be on the cusp of becoming this century's tinkerer-extraordinaire?

Also, from the Department of Eternal Love, Sven's found the car of his dreams: a '62 Austin that's been dormant for decades in his neighbor's garage. Can our hosts help him dust it off and craft an offer his neighbor can't refuse?

Plus, the sad sound of a transmission "kaputing", creative windshield-wiper management, and an apology for one car fire our hosts didn't cause. All this, a puzzler from the Billionaire-and-His-Trees Series, and lots more, this week on Car Talk.

[Broadcast Date: May 16, 2008]

©2008 Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe

lleffler: 17 May 2008 Hi C&C, Your show today was excellent as always. I have a puzzler ans cummin up right after -- you post the puzzler. BUT, the reason for this post is the recent talk about Brown gas or HHO gas or WHATEVER! Now look, I am really interested in conservation, I believe in the peak oil concept, I believe we need to get off oil for security, and I believe global warming is real. But, we need to be real, watch out for the hype; I THINK (being cautious here) that the HHO idea is not real. Two concerns come immediately to mind. One: you need to separate the hydrogen gas from the water (ok, I know, electrolosis is NOT new, but, I doubt Brown [the so-called inventor of HHO] really has a new idea). The separation takes significant energy, so what's the balance? Two: safety. I understand the hydrogen gas is not stored; but, is mixed with a thing called - duh - oxygen. Now if hydrogen and oxygen mix at the right temperature; well, bad things can happen. So, you two MITers, give it your research and let us know. Really, your input would be very helpful. Say, if it IS real, then we gotta go for it, but it's more likely Blue Smoke! Thanks for everything! Favorite moment:See all other reviews by lleffler
: I listened with amusement turning to horror as you treated a major pseudo scientific crock with seriousness today. "Hydroxy" in his gas? What is hydroxy? There is a hydroxyl group in organic chemistry, and an hydroxide ion in solution, but hydroxy? Didn't you hear the guy tell you this magic device was going to put HHO into his gas? The last time I checked, this was water; but I only have an MS in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin. You guys know better than this; you cant put mystical substances into your gas...he never mentioned hydrogen. We have enough problems with lack of scientific knowledge without you car gurus adding to it. BTW,just before writing this, a local news show had a story about pills you can put in your tank to get 20% more mileage. Thank god they debunked it I do enjoy your show, and am a regular listener.Favorite moment:See all other reviews by

HankLay: Da Boys approached, but did not address the REAL question: Why would this scheme NOT fit the category, Perpetual Motion Machines? How can one use alternator/battery energy to create hydroxy to save fuel energy?! NO WAY, even at 100% conversion efficiency!Favorite moment:Tanis' name.See all other reviews by HankLay

: Your best ever show was you answer to the 7 year old boy on advertising.Favorite moment:noneSee all other reviews by

: Your best ever show was you answer to the 7 year old boy on advertising.Favorite moment:noneSee all other reviews by

red: Favorite moment:See all other reviews by red
: Regarding Tanis' husband's scheme to gain extra mileage by generating and reintroducing hydrogen into the car's engine: I don't think this can work. According to my understanding of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, you cannot extract more energy from a system than you put into it in the first place. He is asking the car's engine to do additional work to break water into its elements. He cannot get any more enery from recombining (burning) the hydrogen in the engine than what was used to generate the hydrogen in the first place. If he could get his contraption to work, he would be inventing the world's first perpetual motion machine! If he really wants to increase his car's efficiency, he could concentrate on how to convert all the energy the engine wastes as heat into useful work. Kudos for trying though!

Great show as always.Favorite moment:See all other reviews by
Se7enLC: Take a closer look into this issue - Subaru increased the warranty on the head gasket on those models to 8 years/100,000 miles for just that reason. Your problem should be covered under that warranty extension. I would say call up subaru and ask them about it to see, and bring that information to the dealer.Favorite moment:See all other reviews by Se7enLC
: I am very interesting to see some one has finally bringing this topic up to you guys, but I am a bit disappointed not to see more discussion on the subject. With all the "water 4 gas" or the convention of water to get "brown gas" and therefore increase gas mileage from WWW, I think you should have a dedicated program time to discuss more inside of it.Favorite moment:Bring up "outside box" thinking See all other reviews by
maltmann: Sorry but this one needs debunking. The HHO thing is not going to work. The process needs more energy than it will generate, and it is impossible to change that (see previous ref to 1st thermo law). It's not out of the box thinking, it's just junk science. Why, oh why, didn't you call him on it?Favorite moment:See all other reviews by maltmann

FD: Hope you have better luck down loading it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What will be the FINAL October Surprise this Halloween?

Cover This! Inside Nastiest '08 Rumors

When John McCain and Barack Obama started running for president in 2007, they were two of the most universally liked and respected politicians in America — men who even members of the opposite party saw as decent, unifying characters — and neither of them inspired much loathing.

Well, that was then. Now, as the campaign enters its last week, partisans have deluged reporters with e-mails and vented on blogs about why the media is suppressing stories about one candidate or the other.

The unwritten Obama stories supposedly concern his Americanness: They raise doubts about his birth, his citizenship and his patriotism.

The un-penned anti-McCain stories go to the quality he's made central to his career: honor. They suggest he's used foul language to his wife and that his military record isn't what it seems.

So why hasn't Politico and the rest of the press reported on these stories? Well, some of them we're working on. But in many other cases, the stories were debunked, or there simply was no evidence for the claims.

These should be distinguished from partisan reporting that partisans wish had more political bite: National Review's attacks on the educational philosophy behind the Annenberg Challenge, for instance, or The Nation's reporting on McCain's ties to a Russian oligarch.

The demands that the Los Angeles Times release a video that it wrote about several months ago also come in a different category, though the underlying theory — that the Times missed, or concealed, some explosive element when it broke the story of the tape — is driven by some of the same longing for political kryptonite.

And the e-mails keep coming in, under headings such as: "Please research this;" "A tip for you," and "WHY ISN'T POLITICO COVERING THIS STORY???"

Obama is the subject of a far greater volume of these e-mails — as many as 20-to-1 concern the Democratic nominee, said Brooks Jackson, the director of the nonpartisan Annenberg Political
Fact Check.

And they come in waves.
"Whenever Obama builds a lead — that's when you hear a new one," said Reason Magazine writer David Weigel, the journalist who labored most in the vineyards of the fringe this cycle. "The calmest period for this stuff was the two weeks when McCain was ahead in the polls."
The stories, he said, capture "a fear of the other that is given form in ways that most terrify the people who make this stuff up."

And whichever candidate wins, these campaign trail rumors will haunt his presidency — just ask Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

In times gone by, the press could have chosen to ignore these stories, comfortable in the knowledge that most readers would never learn of them. Now they're widespread, despite having been ignored by the press — or, perhaps, because of it.
"It's an outdated conceit to think that by not talking about things, we can keep them outside the public discourse," said Fact Check's Jackson, whose site has delved into some of these rumors. "That used to be true back when there were gates to keep and fences, too, but now, golly, these things can be so powerful."
And so here, without further ado, is a roundup of some of the best-known stories we haven't written, and why:

Probably the most widely e-mailed Obama "tip" at the moment alleges that he isn't a natural-born American citizen and thus isn't eligible to run for president. This began in the die-hard pro-Hillary section of the blogosphere, which spent part of the summer discussing laws that deal with the citizenship of a child with one American parent born abroad. When it emerged that this challenge wouldn't hold water if Obama had been born in the United States, the focus shifted to the allegation that he had been born outside the United States.
In August, a Pennsylvania lawyer, Philip Berg, filed suit in federal court in Philadelphia. Berg, who also has been active in arguing that there was "government complicity" in the attack on the World Trade Center, demanded that the court force Obama to produce his original birth certificate. The court dismissed the lawsuit.
So why isn't this getting wide coverage? Well, first, there's lots of evidence that Obama was born in the United States, and none that he wasn't. The campaign handed over an official copy of his short-form birth certificate — the standard document produced by the Hawaii Department of Health — to And Poliltico has confirmed the authenticity of a contemporaneous announcement of his birth in the Honolulu Advertiser.
Berg fights on, though, on a website with supporters known as ChileMan, ChileWoman and MommaERadioRebels. He recently told conservative talk radio host Michael Savage that he has an audiotape of Obama's Kenyan grandmother recalling the candidate's birth in a Kenyan hospital.
"l'll release it in a day or two," he said six days ago.
A spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Health, Janice Okubo, said she's forbidden by state law from releasing birth certificates, but directed a reporter to the item dismissing the rumors.

Perhaps the most widely-circulated and persistent anti-McCain story asserts that, in 1992, he directed a particularly taboo slur at his wife, Cindy. The story made it into publications from Vanity Fair to Huffington Post, but — to the frustration of Obama partisans — it has never been reported as fact.
The story has its origin in a book, "The Real McCain," by Cliff Schecter, a Democratic political consultant. He cites as sources three Arizona reporters who heard the exchange on the campaign trail in 1992, all of them quoted anonymously. Schecter, in an interview, suggested that news outlets refused to deal with the story because of their reluctance to use the crude anatomical term — a notion that was satirized in a YouTube comedy that has been seen by 600,000 people .
There is, however, another, more basic problem: Reporters have been unable to replicate Schecter's sourcing.
"They're all very scared," Schecter said of his sources.
And in the absence of confirmation, a story told by an opposing-party operative, without backup, isn't likely to make the mainstream — no matter what word it uses.

Obama's grandmother isn't the only relative beset by a phantom tape. The most famous of these is the "whitey tape," which some Clinton aides thought would save her campaign and which remains alive in the imaginations of Obama-haters. According to a rumor driven hardest by former CIA operative Larry Johnson, the tape featured Obama's wife, Michelle, saying nasty things about white people and using the word "whitey."
The story was essentially debunked in June, when Reason’s Weigel noticed that Johnson kept changing the description of his sources. But the rumors grew so noisy that later that month, Michelle Obama denied directly to the New York Times that she'd ever used the word.

Did that — or the fact that the tape simply hasn't materialized — end the controversy? Not really, says this reporter's e-mail inbox. A blog identifying itself as an African news agency run from Norway has reported, repeatedly, that it is in negotiations with Fox News to air the tape "imminently."
A Fox spokeswoman, Diana Rocco, forwarded a statement from the network calling the claim "absolutely false."
More recently, the blog attributed delays in airing the tape to threats and bribes, and asserted that it was in contact with the U.S. Embassy in Oslo to sort things out.
"The Embassy is not involved in any activity or investigation as described in this article and has no further information on the matter," an embassy official, Marit Andersen, said in an e-mail.

The volume of McCain rumors is lower, but another entire genre has to do with his military service, the core of his biography. These unwritten stories key on an article in the Los Angeles Times finding that McCain, a self-described "daredevil," was blamed by the Navy for causing a crash that he'd attributed elsewhere to engine failure.
But liberal partisans have blamed McCain for crashing as many as five planes, including one that supposedly led to the 1967 disaster on the U.S. Forrestal, where an explosion killed 134 sailors. McCain's plane was among those consumed by flames, and a historian of the crash wrote that he "narrowly escaped death."
According to the claim, publicized on the liberal site, McCain could have started the fire by engaging in a risky maneuver called a "wet start," in which a pilot leaves fuel on the deck to flame behind him when he takes off., which examined the story in great detail, found otherwise. None of the contemporaneous investigations even suggested that McCain could have played a role, and diagrams showed his plane pointing in the wrong direction to have caused the disaster.

Ever wonder what other people are reading on the Internet?

Someone sent me this to read.


UPDATE on Mars Phoenix

Winter on Mars Closes the Mission

NASA's Phoenix Mars lander is slowly dying on the red planet, after the US space agency shut off one of the craft's heaters in a bid to save energy.
The move was designed to briefly extend the life of the craft, but as NASA gradually turns off three other heaters to keep Phoenix running, the probe will cease to function as exposure to the harsh atmosphere increases.
Phoenix uncovered water ice on Mars while examining soil samples, but also found a toxin in the soil that could make the existence of life on the planet less likely.
The spacecraft reached Mars on May 26 and was originally set to function for 90 days, but the mission was extended - now into a fifth month - after it became clear that the power source could continue to operate longer that scheduled.


The Star-Telegram recommends Barack Obama for president of the United States.

Rare is the moment when it’s clear that, regardless of the outcome of an election, you are living history.
Yet with all that is unique and unprecedented about the 2008 presidential election, students of U.S. history can’t shake the undeniable feeling that America has been here before.
In 1932, and 1960. 1980. 1992.
Each of those years marked a crucial turning point in the direction the nation took, a turning point triggered by the choice the American people made when they went to the polls.
In 1932, during a crippling economic disaster, the familiar was rejected when the people elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In 1960, youth, vitality and enthusiastic optimism took the day when the people elected John F. Kennedy over a dour, humorless Richard Nixon.
In 1980, after a humiliating hostage-siege by student radicals inside a U.S. embassy in a place so foreign that most Americans couldn’t find it on a map, the populace embraced an actor-turned-governor who promised to restore the country to world respect and prominence. The people elected Ronald Reagan.
In 1992, the nation faced many of the same challenges besetting us now. A teetering economy rocked by layoffs and rising prices had Americans clamoring for job creation, reforms in savings and investment, and less disparity between worker and CEO pay. America needed a new mindset and fresh leadership to move forward. The people elected Bill Clinton.
Today, the American people aren’t just asking for change; they are demanding it.
The economic inequities are no longer tolerable. As remarkable as it is to say during a time when U.S. troops are actively engaged in wars on two fronts, Americans are looking for a visionary leader who will focus first on the daunting domestic financial crisis that has upended so many lives.
The nation has experienced the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression, an enormous stock-market plunge among the worst in history, record-high energy prices, and an ongoing war in Iraq that has exacted an agonizing cost in lives, dollars and international prestige.
Americans need new leadership.
For many of the same reasons that the Star-Telegram recommended Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, it is recommending Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.
Obama provides the prescription for America’s ills at this moment: a fine, inquisitive intellect, paired with an eloquence that allows him to articulate a message with clarity and substance; an ability to inspire people of all ages, races and ethnicities who never before were engaged in the political process; and an unflappable temperament that allows him to weather a barrage of withering personal attacks.
Under his leadership, the Obama campaign has been amazingly disciplined, efficient and effective. Those same talents will be essential for the difficult work ahead to rebuild the nation’s faltering economic institutions and restore citizen confidence.
We could fill this page and then some with side-by-side comparisons of the specifics in each candidate’s platform, but history makes clear those will likely change as soon as the gavel hits wood at the start of the 111th U.S. Congress. Ours is a representative democracy, not a monarchy. Federal lawmakers, themselves duly elected representatives of the people, have their own lists of priorities. And changing events, both domestic and elsewhere in the world, have a way of shifting the direction in which our national leaders must focus their energies.
Just remember President George H.W. Bush’s ill-fated "Read my lips: No new taxes" pledge for painful evidence of how economic reality can derail campaign promises.
Obama’s tax policy, which calls for restoring higher tax brackets that affect people earning more than $250,000 a year, could crater when it collides with the reality of Republican lawmakers.
Since the political parties’ national conventions, much has been made of the candidates’ vice presidential picks. While it is Obama and McCain who are competing for the highest honor that the American people can bestow on a fellow citizen, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are relevant as measures of the candidates’ judgment.
Obama picked a seasoned veteran, a Delaware senator who has distinguished himself as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees. A moderate on foreign policy, Biden brings experience and an extensive network of international contacts, a definite boost in an arena where the Illinois senator needs an assist. Biden often been a leader on issues, from aid to former Soviet states in the early 1990s to U.S. involvement in the Balkans.
On the domestic front, Biden, 65, has worked extensively on crime and domestic violence issues, authoring the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act of 1994 and the Violence Against Women Act in 2000.
Obama’s "cautious and safe" selection of Biden may not have moved the polling needle, but it reflects Obama’s recognition that his own candidacy was daring enough in a nation so deeply divided.
McCain, 71, selected a woman who, without question, energized a Republican base that was underwhelmed with the man at the top of the ticket. Many conservatives, in their desire to back the Republican Party’s nominee, choose to forget that McCain was not their early favorite.
He was hammered in the early primaries for his support of humane immigration reform; his campaign-finance initiatives were vilified by those who consider the freedom to financially support political candidates a First Amendment right; and his commitment to balanced budgets meant he initially opposed extending President Bush’s tax cuts — a commitment McCain put aside when it became necessary to adopt the GOP’s tax-cut mantra as his own.
The Arizona senator quieted many of his early Republican critics by naming Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, 44, as his running mate. She ignited the base with "drill, baby, drill" speeches and unapologetic social conservatism, as evidenced by her pro-life, teach-creationism stands.
But that brilliant short-term tactic has proved a flawed long-term strategy. Palin’s once-captivating newness and tough-gal persona have given way to serious questions about her understanding of checks-and-balances governing on a national level. While she may be an entertaining master of the politician’s fine art of the memorable one-liner, she inspires little confidence in her readiness to be commander in chief.
Had McCain, whom we chose as the best Republican nominee in the primaries, selected a woman with more political and governing experience — someone like Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or U.S. Rep. Kay Granger — it would have demonstrated better judgment and put more credence in his oft-repeated slogan of "Country first."
Of course, the 47-year-old Obama is often criticized for his own lack of experience, and it’s a fact that his governing résumé is not as long as we’d like for a new president.
But he has surrounded himself with talented and knowledgeable advisers from whom he draws counsel and historical context, people such as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett.
And U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, a nationally recognized veterans champion with strong military support and deep connections in the U.S. Army and at the Pentagon, was vetted as an Obama VP possibility.
Even Obama’s toughest detractors on the experience front must admit he has inspired thousands through his public speaking. At his best, he impresses with his clarity, intelligence and the ability to plainly explain sometimes-complicated policy proposals. His critics call it "airy-fairy silly rhetoric" and liken his appeal to "celebrity" fascination. But there’s substance there, and it goes beyond his ideas.
Fear drives domestic and foreign markets. Fear can ignite people and politicians to overreact — or paralyze them from acting.
Sadly, fear drives otherwise rational people to make irrational, even hurtful statements.
Obama isn’t afraid to articulate people’s fears and acknowledge their anxieties and then try to help them move beyond them. That was most evident in his speech on race, in which he spoke plainly about frustrations and resentments of both black and white Americans and called on them to look instead to common hopes in order to solve collective problems.
Those thinking and speaking skills, coupled with an unflappable demeanor, are the hallmarks of a deft diplomat who can not only stand on the world stage for the photo-op but also sit backstage, in close quarters, where the hard work takes place.
Good leaders know how to listen, negotiate and collaborate, and those only happen when people speak with each other. Obama offers a fresh approach to U.S. diplomacy after eight years of too much silence or, worse, verbal non-engagement.
John McCain’s love of country and passion for public service are indisputable. He can never be thanked enough for the suffering and sacrifice he endured on behalf of his fellow soldiers during his honorable and heroic military service.
In a different time and under different circumstances, he likely would have been our choice for president.
But 2008 is not his time.
There is no perfect presidential candidate. If fully funded, the policy proposals put forward by both candidates, with their unaffordable promises, would exacerbate the country’s already-outrageous budget deficits. Obama’s position on free trade is troubling, but what he’s saying on the stump in an attempt to garner labor votes in swing states is harsher than what has been articulated in his books. In a right-to-work-state like Texas, which plays a vital role in NAFTA’s economic space, political and business leaders are not interested in changing the free-trade agreement.
We remain unconvinced by the harsh and often hateful criticisms of Obama’s character and his motivation for seeking the White House. That’s fear talking, and it is unbecoming in a nation that professes to believe every child can achieve the dream of serving our country through elected office.
Barack Obama’s performance throughout this two-year presidential campaign has been extraordinary. He has never blown his cool under enormous pressure and vicious attacks. He has continued to speak of bringing our nation together to work for the "more perfect union" that our forefathers envisioned.
That is indicative of what Americans can and should expect of a commander in chief when the unexpected occurs — and it will occur.
The Star-Telegram recommends Barack Obama for president of the United States.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just in Case you were wondering about what happened to Joe "The Plumber"....

Joe the Plumber Endorses McCain, Mongers Fear
By Tommy ChristopherOct 28th 2008 7:09PM
Filed Under:eRepublicans, John McCain, 2008 President, Gaffes
In the most surprising move since every episode of "Three's Company," Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher endorsed John McCain today, and hit the campaign trail on the GOP Presidential wishful's behalf.

Fox News reports that the pipesmith gave his blessing to some pretty extreme statements out on the stump:
The questioner said he was "concerned" with Barack Obama's associations and "It's my belief that a vote for Obama is a vote for the death to Israel." Wurzelbacher responded: "I do know that." The questioner then complained about Obama's tax policies and reiterated his Israel comment. "Well, you know what, I'll actually go ahead and agree with you on that one," Wurzelbacher said. "You know ... no, I agree with ya.'" He went on to say that he is "honestly scared for America," and that Obama would end Democracy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Whatever happened to USa's Pioneering, Risk Taking Nature?

Mars pioneers should stay there permanently, says Buzz Aldrin
1 day ago
PARIS (AFP) — The first astronauts sent to Mars should be prepared to spend the rest of their lives there, in the same way that European pioneers headed to America knowing they would not return home, says moonwalker Buzz Aldrin.
In an interview with AFP, the second man to set foot on the Moon said the Red Planet offered far greater potential than Earth's satellite as a place for habitation.
With what appears to be vast reserves of frozen water, Mars "is nearer terrestrial conditions, much better than the Moon and any other place," Aldrin, 78, said in a visit to Paris on Tuesday.
"It is easier to subsist, to provide the support needed for people there than on the Moon."
It took Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins eight days to go to the Moon -- 380,000 kilometres (238,000 miles) from Earth -- and return in July 1969, aboard Apollo 11.
Going to Mars, though, is a different prospect.
The distance between the Red Planet and Earth varies between 55 million (34 million miles) and more than 400 million kms (250 million miles).
Even at the most favourable planetary conjunction, this means a round trip to Mars would take around a year and a half.
"That's why you [should] send people there permanently," said Aldrin. "If we are not willing to do that, then I don't think we should just go once and have the expense of doing that and then stop."
He asked: "If we are going to put a few people down there and ensure their appropriate safety, would you then go through all that trouble and then bring them back immediately, after a year, a year and a half?"
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are sketching tentative plans for a manned mission to Mars that would take place around 2030 or 2040.
Based on experience culled from a planned return to the Moon, the mission would entail about half a dozen people, with life-support systems and other gear pre-positioned for them on the Martian surface.
Aldrin said the vanguard could be joined by others, making a colony around 30 people.
"They need to go there more with the psychology of knowing that you are a pioneering settler and you don't look forward to go back home again after a couple a years," he said.
"At age 30, they are given an opportunity. If they accept, then we train them, at age 35, we send them. At age 65, who knows what advances have taken place. They can retire there, or maybe we can bring them back."
Many scientists argue that sending humans to Mars is a waste of money compared with unmanned missions that deliver more science and point out the risks from psychological stress and damage to DNA from fast-moving sub-atomic particles called cosmic rays.
Aldrin, though, argued that given the time lag in communications between Earth and Mars, it made sense to have human explorers who could make decisions swiftly and on the spot.
And, he said, going to Mars provided a rationale for manned flights, which were designed to "do things that are innovative, new, pioneering."
On that score, Aldrin said the US space shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) were a disappointment.
The shuttle "has not lived up to its expectations, neither has the space station," said Aldrin.
The United States will be without manned flight capability for around five years after the problem-plagued shuttle is withdrawn in 2010, while the ISS, still under construction, may cost as much as 100 billion dollars, according to some estimates.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just in case you don't like cartoons on your indexes...

A Dog does not live long... but in the long run of a human...

This Campaign has gotten spirited enough ... next time she will just use the "O" in Obama.

Police: Campaign Volunteer Lied, Injured Self

Ashley Todd told investigators today she "just wanted to tell the truth" -- and was not robbed or attacked

Todd, 20, is now facing charges for filing a false report to police
MORE: KDKA Online Voters Guide Campaign '08 NewsPITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― Police say a campaign volunteer confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter B in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker; now she's facing charges. At a news conference this afternoon, officials said they believe that Ashley Todd's injuries were self-inflicted. Todd, 20, of Texas, is now facing charges for filing a false report to police. Todd initially told police that she was robbed at an ATM in Bloomfield and that the suspect began beating her after seeing her GOP sticker on her car. Police investigating the alleged attack, however, began to notice some inconsistencies in her story and administered a polygraph test. Investigators asked Todd to return to the police station today for more questioning and to help them release a composite sketch of the suspect. When she did, police say she admitted that she made the whole thing up and that it snowballed out of control. Todd told investigators today that she "just wanted to tell the truth" – adding that she was neither robbed, nor attacked. She said he believed she may have scratched the backward "B" on her own face because she was the only one in the car at the time. Todd told police that when saw was the "B" in her rearview mirror, she thought of Barack Obama. Officials say they do not believe any other people were involved; and Todd's friends believed the story about the attack – encouraging her to call police.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some things just don't change ....

African chimps decline 'alarming'
The population of the endangered West African chimpanzees in Ivory Coast has fallen by about 90% in less than 20 years, a study has suggested.
Researchers found 90% fewer nests than a similar audit carried out in 1990, which suggested the chimp population had crashed from 12,000 to about 1,200.
Increased levels of deforestation and poaching were likely to be main factors for the decline, they added.
Details of the survey's findings appear in the journal Current Biology.
Ivory Coast, thought to be one of the last strongholds for the species ( Pan troglodytes verus ), was believed to be home to between 8,000 and 12,000 individuals.
This estimate was primarily based on a nationwide survey carried out in 1989 and 1990.
Dramatic decline
When scientists carried out the most recent count in 2007, using the same techniques as the 1990 audit, they discovered a very different situation.
If we want to be serious about conservation, the international community needs to invest in conservation and has to invest in a sustainable way Christophe Boesch, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
"Our results show that there has been an alarming decline in chimpanzee numbers, and that urgent action is required to prevent them disappearing entirely," the team wrote.
The researchers revisited 11 sites that had been surveyed 17 years earlier.
"The dramatic result was that in most areas where we had found chimpanzees (in 1990), there were now none left," said co-author Christophe Boesch, who was also involved in the earlier survey.
"We were expecting a decrease but not such a dramatic one," he told the BBC.
Professor Boesch, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, said poaching and deforestation were on the increase as a result of the nation's rapidly growing human population.
The number of people living in Ivory Coast is now estimated to be 18m, up from 12m in 1990.
"The forest has been cut back in order to grow cash crops and other things," he explained.
"Also, chimpanzees, like many other species, are hunted for their meat. In some regions, including West Africa, something called 'empty forest syndrome' has been recorded.
"This is where the forest itself is still intact but it has been emptied by hunting."
The researchers said that there was a link between increases in human populations and higher rates of poaching and deforestation.
They added that the civil unrest in the nation since 2002 was likely to have exacerbated the problems.
But Professor Boesch said that there was one glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak findings.
One of the sites was located within the boundaries of Tai National Park, where the local population of chimps had fared much better.
"What differentiated this population from the others is that it is located within a national park, which means it is fully protected from poaching," he explained.
"Secondly, during the country's period of civil unrest, the park was supported by international conservation projects."
He added that the combination of the two pointed to a potential way to protect the long-term survival of the species.
"If we want to be serious about conservation, the international community needs to invest in conservation and has to invest in a sustainable way."
But he added that if a global conservation effort was not forthcoming, then the prognosis was grim.
"Our closest living relative will not survive, and I ask myself about what this means for the future of humans if we let this species disappear."
Story from BBC NEWS:

Meet the Swing States that will Decide this Election

New Hampshire,
New Mexico,
and Virginia

FD: These Swing States are not exactly the ones shown on the projected Electorial Map button in the LEFT column of this blog page.

So, I would say that this election is going to be close, which is what we have known since the beginning.

and do it TODAY!

Negative Ads Work and Stereotypes do too.

Presidential Race Tightens, AP Poll Says
WASHINGTON (Oct. 22) - The presidential race tightened after the final debate, with John McCain gaining among whites and people earning less than $50,000, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows McCain and Barack Obama essentially running even among likely voters in the election homestretch.
The poll, which found Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent, supports what some Republicans and Democrats privately have said in recent days: that the race narrowed after the third debate as GOP-leaning voters drifted home to their party and McCain's "Joe the plumber" analogy struck a chord.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

October Surprises...

From an article was first published on on Tuesday 21 October 2008.
Fighting for airtime
Maybe McCain could buy a half hour of time for a big speech that realigns his campaign.

Osama Bin Laden's 2004 video influenced the presidential election
The problem is, any sudden readjustments now would play into the narrative that McCain is erratic and unpresidential.
And the Obama campaign has bought up most of the remaining available time across the country, anyway.
In fact, the earliest McCain can launch any kind of new offensive is Saturday, when Obama returns to the mainland.
Otherwise it looks like he's beating up on a guy for visiting his grandma.
But something else is going to happen.

My money is on Osama Bin Laden popping back up with a hate video, just as he did the weekend before the 2004 election.

That tape reminded the public that the country was still at risk from this sickening terrorist and that President Bush had kept us safe for the three years since the 11 September 2001 attacks.
In that close campaign, it was this video - not the Swift Boat tactics that got all the ink - that made the difference.
John Kerry, who led in several polls that weekend, saw his margin melt away.
In 2005, Kerry himself said that 9/11 was the "central deciding thing" of the 2004 election and that the bin Laden video ended any chance he had of being elected.
Just because it was convenient for him to say that doesn't make it untrue.
Why did the Bin Laden tape do so much damage?
The 9/11 attack was still fresh in Americans' memories, and the possibility of another one was on our minds.
While sophisticated analysts could explain that bin Laden released the tape just before the election because he hoped Bush would win (Bush was a better recruiting tool for Al Qaeda than a President Kerry would have been), none of that got through.
Instead of making him look like another weak Democrat, a new tape would give Obama a chance to seem muscular on national security
The tape had the effect of freezing the 2004 campaign in place.
Kerry couldn't criticize Bush at all for a pivotal 24 hours.
This was partly Kerry's own fault.
After his 2003 speech attacking Bush for letting Bin Laden escape at Tora Bora, Kerry dropped most Bin Laden references from his speeches.
Internal polling by the Kerry campaign showed that voters didn't respond well to his talking points about Bush's failure to catch bin Laden, so he gave the whole subject a rest.
This was a terrible mistake. Had Kerry kept the heat on, bin Laden's re-emergence would have reinforced the message that he had not been caught.
Attacks on Bush
That's what would happen this time if Bin Laden tried to intervene in another American election.
Seven years after 9/11, the country is in a different place, and the Obama campaign would respond to a Bin Laden tape in a different way.
For two years, Obama has been reminding audiences that the Bush administration has failed to catch Bin Laden.
First with Hillary Clinton, then with McCain, Obama has made a point in debates of saying he would risk destabilizing Pakistan by bombing the border with Afghanistan if he had actionable intelligence that Al Qaeda targets had been identified.
In the second debate, on 7 October, Obama brought up Bin Laden again, making a point of stressing that he would "kill him" if possible.
McCain's position on Bin Laden has opened him up to attack in a way that Obama failed to exploit.
In the second debate, McCain said, "I know how" to find Bin Laden.
This should have led Obama to respond that if he knows how to catch him, he should have told his friend George Bush.
Obama missed a chance for that riposte in the debate, but he may yet have another opportunity.
New dynamic
All of this sets up a quite different dynamic should Bin Laden release another tape.
After condemning the new tape, Obama could launch right into renewed criticism of the failure to catch Al Qaeda's mastermind seven years after 9/11.
Instead of making him look like another weak Democrat, a new tape would give Obama a chance to seem muscular on national security.
McCain would try to argue that the country would be safer with him, but it probably wouldn't have the potency of Bush's similar claim in 2004.
Should there be, God forbid, an actual terrorist attack between now and the election, all bets are off.
But it's instructive that only three days after the 2004 terrorist attack in Madrid that killed 193 people, the most deadly act of Islamic terrorism in European history, the Spanish socialists won national elections.
We aren't Spain, but we're also not a country that can have a whole election thrown into disarray by terrorists.
At least I hope we aren't any more, though we won't know for sure unless it happens.

Polls, Anyone read a good one lately.....
If you believe in Polls:
This year, one candidate can win by more than 50 million votes, and still lose the election because of the winner-take all system in the electoral college. 48 states (all except Nebraska and Maine) allocate votes in the “winner take all” system. This means that all votes for the losing candidate – whether the candidate loses by a single vote, less than 100 votes, or millions of votes – are discarded at the state level and are NOT counted toward the final tally of electoral college votes. If you are going to blog anything about the election, please let it be this.

Numbers... McCain got me thinking about numbers today.

Where you can get the facts!

In 2006, the median income in the USa was $44,000 about. 50% made more, 50% made less.

How to create wealth?

How about this for a start: I literally found this on the Internet. It needs editing... Wish I could send Obama and McCain a copy.

If you wanted to get rich, how would you do it? I think your best bet would be to start or join a startup. That's been a reliable way to get rich for hundreds of years. The word "startup" dates from the 1960s, but what happens in one is very similar to the venture-backed trading voyages of the Middle Ages.

Startups usually involve technology, so much so that the phrase "high-tech startup" is almost redundant. A startup is a small company that takes on a hard technical problem.Lots of people get rich knowing nothing more than that. You don't have to know physics to be a good pitcher. But I think it could give you an edge to understand the underlying principles.

Why do startups have to be small? Will a startup inevitably stop being a startup as it grows larger? And why do they so often work on developing new technology? Why are there so many startups selling new drugs or computer software, and none selling corn oil or laundry detergent?

The PropositionEconomically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instead of working at a low intensity for forty years, you work as hard as you possibly can for four. This pays especially well in technology, where you earn a premium for working fast.

Here is a brief sketch of the economic proposition. If you're a good hacker in your mid twenties, you can get a job paying about $80,000 per year. So on average such a hacker must be able to do at least $80,000 worth of work per year for the company just to break even. You could probably work twice as many hours as a corporate employee, and if you focus you can probably get three times as much done in an hour. [1]

You should get another multiple of two, at least, by eliminating the drag of the pointy-haired middle manager who would be your boss in a big company. Then there is one more multiple: how much smarter are you than your job description expects you to be? Suppose another multiple of three. Combine all these multipliers, and I'm claiming you could be 36 times more productive than you're expected to be in a random corporate job. [2]

If a fairly good hacker is worth $80,000 a year at a big company, then a smart hacker working very hard without any corporate bullshit to slow him down should be able to do work worth about $3 million a year.Like all back-of-the-envelope calculations, this one has a lot of wiggle room. I wouldn't try to defend the actual numbers. But I stand by the structure of the calculation. I'm not claiming the multiplier is precisely 36, but it is certainly more than 10, and probably rarely as high as 100.If $3 million a year seems high, remember that we're talking about the limit case: the case where you not only have zero leisure time but indeed work so hard that you endanger your health.

Startups are not magic. They don't change the laws of wealth creation. They just represent a point at the far end of the curve. There is a conservation law at work here: if you want to make a million dollars, you have to endure a million dollars' worth of pain. For example, one way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years.

In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can't evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it.Millions, not BillionsIf $3 million a year seems high to some people, it will seem low to others. Three million? How do I get to be a billionaire, like Bill Gates?So let's get Bill Gates out of the way right now. It's not a good idea to use famous rich people as examples, because the press only write about the very richest, and these tend to be outliers. Bill Gates is a smart, determined, and hardworking man, but you need more than that to make as much money as he has. You also need to be very lucky.There is a large random factor in the success of any company. So the guys you end up reading about in the papers are the ones who are very smart, totally dedicated, and win the lottery. Certainly Bill is smart and dedicated, but Microsoft also happens to have been the beneficiary of one of the most spectacular blunders in the history of business: the licensing deal for DOS.

No doubt Bill did everything he could to steer IBM into making that blunder, and he has done an excellent job of exploiting it, but if there had been one person with a brain on IBM's side, Microsoft's future would have been very different. Microsoft at that stage had little leverage over IBM. They were effectively a component supplier. If IBM had required an exclusive license, as they should have, Microsoft would still have signed the deal. It would still have meant a lot of money for them, and IBM could easily have gotten an operating system elsewhere.Instead IBM ended up using all its power in the market to give Microsoft control of the PC standard.

From that point, all Microsoft had to do was execute. They never had to bet the company on a bold decision. All they had to do was play hardball with licensees and copy more innovative products reasonably promptly.If IBM hadn't made this mistake, Microsoft would still have been a successful company, but it could not have grown so big so fast. Bill Gates would be rich, but he'd be somewhere near the bottom of the Forbes 400 with the other guys his age.There are a lot of ways to get rich, and this essay is about only one of them.

This essay is about how to make money by creating wealth and getting paid for it. There are plenty of other ways to get money, including chance, speculation, marriage, inheritance, theft, extortion, fraud, monopoly, graft, lobbying, counterfeiting, and prospecting. Most of the greatest fortunes have probably involved several of these.The advantage of creating wealth, as a way to get rich, is not just that it's more legitimate (many of the other methods are now illegal) but that it's more straightforward. You just have to do something people want.

Money Is Not WealthIf you want to create wealth, it will help to understand what it is. Wealth is not the same thing as money. [3]

Wealth is as old as human history. Far older, in fact; ants have wealth. Money is a comparatively recent invention.Wealth is the fundamental thing. Wealth is stuff we want: food, clothes, houses, cars, gadgets, travel to interesting places, and so on. You can have wealth without having money.

If you had a magic machine that could on command make you a car or cook you dinner or do your laundry, or do anything else you wanted, you wouldn't need money. Whereas if you were in the middle of Antarctica, where there is nothing to buy, it wouldn't matter how much money you had.Wealth is what you want, not money.

But if wealth is the important thing, why does everyone talk about making money? It is a kind of shorthand: money is a way of moving wealth, and in practice they are usually interchangeable. But they are not the same thing, and unless you plan to get rich by counterfeiting, talking about making money can make it harder to understand how to make money.Money is a side effect of specialization. In a specialized society, most of the things you need, you can't make for yourself.

If you want a potato or a pencil or a place to live, you have to get it from someone else.How do you get the person who grows the potatoes to give you some? By giving him something he wants in return. But you can't get very far by trading things directly with the people who need them. If you make violins, and none of the local farmers wants one, how will you eat?

The solution societies find, as they get more specialized, is to make the trade into a two-step process. Instead of trading violins directly for potatoes, you trade violins for, say, silver, which you can then trade again for anything else you need.

The intermediate stuff-- the medium of exchange-- can be anything that's rare and portable. Historically metals have been the most common, but recently we've been using a medium of exchange, called the dollar, that doesn't physically exist. It works as a medium of exchange, however, because its rarity is guaranteed by the U.S. Government.The advantage of a medium of exchange is that it makes trade work.

The disadvantage is that it tends to obscure what trade really means. People think that what a business does is make money. But money is just the intermediate stage-- just a shorthand-- for whatever people want. What most businesses really do is make wealth. They do something people want. [4]

The Pie FallacyA surprising number of people retain from childhood the idea that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world. There is, in any normal family, a fixed amount of money at any moment. But that's not the same thing.When wealth is talked about in this context, it is often described as a pie. "You can't make the pie larger," say politicians. When you're talking about the amount of money in one family's bank account, or the amount available to a government from one year's tax revenue, this is true.

If one person gets more, someone else has to get less.I can remember believing, as a child, that if a few rich people had all the money, it left less for everyone else. Many people seem to continue to believe something like this well into adulthood. This fallacy is usually there in the background when you hear someone talking about how x percent of the population have y percent of the wealth.

If you plan to start a startup, then whether you realize it or not, you're planning to disprove the Pie Fallacy.What leads people astray here is the abstraction of money. Money is not wealth. It's just something we use to move wealth around. So although there may be, in certain specific moments (like your family, this month) a fixed amount of money available to trade with other people for things you want, there is not a fixed amount of wealth in the world. You can make more wealth.

Wealth has been getting created and destroyed (but on balance, created) for all of human history.Suppose you own a beat-up old car. Instead of sitting on your butt next summer, you could spend the time restoring your car to pristine condition. In doing so you create wealth. The world is-- and you specifically are-- one pristine old car the richer. And not just in some metaphorical way. If you sell your car, you'll get more for it.In restoring your old car you have made yourself richer. You haven't made anyone else poorer.

So there is obviously not a fixed pie. And in fact, when you look at it this way, you wonder why anyone would think there was. [5]

Kids know, without knowing they know, that they can create wealth. If you need to give someone a present and don't have any money, you make one. But kids are so bad at making things that they consider home-made presents to be a distinct, inferior, sort of thing to store-bought ones-- a mere expression of the proverbial thought that counts. And indeed, the lumpy ashtrays we made for our parents did not have much of a resale market.

CraftsmenThe people most likely to grasp that wealth can be created are the ones who are good at making things, the craftsmen. Their hand-made objects become store-bought ones. But with the rise of industrialization there are fewer and fewer craftsmen. One of the biggest remaining groups is computer programmers.A programmer can sit down in front of a computer and create wealth. A good piece of software is, in itself, a valuable thing. There is no manufacturing to confuse the issue. Those characters you type are a complete, finished product. If someone sat down and wrote a web browser that didn't suck (a fine idea, by the way), the world would be that much richer. [5b]

Everyone in a company works together to create wealth, in the sense of making more things people want. Many of the employees (e.g. the people in the mailroom or the personnel department) work at one remove from the actual making of stuff. Not the programmers. They literally think the product, one line at a time. And so it's clearer to programmers that wealth is something that's made, rather than being distributed, like slices of a pie, by some imaginary Daddy.It's also obvious to programmers that there are huge variations in the rate at which wealth is created.

At Viaweb we had one programmer who was a sort of monster of productivity. I remember watching what he did one long day and estimating that he had added several hundred thousand dollars to the market value of the company. A great programmer, on a roll, could create a million dollars worth of wealth in a couple weeks. A mediocre programmer over the same period will generate zero or even negative wealth (e.g. by introducing bugs).This is why so many of the best programmers are libertarians.

In our world, you sink or swim, and there are no excuses. When those far removed from the creation of wealth-- undergraduates, reporters, politicians-- hear that the richest 5% of the people have half the total wealth, they tend to think injustice! An experienced programmer would be more likely to think is that all? The top 5% of programmers probably write 99% of the good software.Wealth can be created without being sold.

Scientists, till recently at least, effectively donated the wealth they created. We are all richer for knowing about penicillin, because we're less likely to die from infections. Wealth is whatever people want, and not dying is certainly something we want. Hackers often donate their work by writing open source software that anyone can use for free. I am much the richer for the operating system FreeBSD, which I'm running on the computer I'm using now, and so is Yahoo, which runs it on all their servers.

What a Job IsIn industrialized countries, people belong to one institution or another at least until their twenties. After all those years you get used to the idea of belonging to a group of people who all get up in the morning, go to some set of buildings, and do things that they do not, ordinarily, enjoy doing. Belonging to such a group becomes part of your identity: name, age, role, institution.

If you have to introduce yourself, or someone else describes you, it will be as something like, John Smith, age 10, a student at such and such elementary school, or John Smith, age 20, a student at such and such college.When John Smith finishes school he is expected to get a job. And what getting a job seems to mean is joining another institution. Superficially it's a lot like college. You pick the companies you want to work for and apply to join them. If one likes you, you become a member of this new group. You get up in the morning and go to a new set of buildings, and do things that you do not, ordinarily, enjoy doing. There are a few differences: life is not as much fun, and you get paid, instead of paying, as you did in college. But the similarities feel greater than the differences. John Smith is now John Smith, 22, a software developer at such and such corporation.In fact John Smith's life has changed more than he realizes. Socially, a company looks much like college, but the deeper you go into the underlying reality, the more different it gets.

What a company does, and has to do if it wants to continue to exist, is earn money. And the way most companies make money is by creating wealth. Companies can be so specialized that this similarity is concealed, but it is not only manufacturing companies that create wealth. A big component of wealth is location. Remember that magic machine that could make you cars and cook you dinner and so on? It would not be so useful if it delivered your dinner to a random location in central Asia. If wealth means what people want, companies that move things also create wealth. Ditto for many other kinds of companies that don't make anything physical.

Nearly all companies exist to do something people want.And that's what you do, as well, when you go to work for a company. But here there is another layer that tends to obscure the underlying reality. In a company, the work you do is averaged together with a lot of other people's. You may not even be aware you're doing something people want. Your contribution may be indirect. But the company as a whole must be giving people something they want, or they won't make any money. And if they are paying you x dollars a year, then on average you must be contributing at least x dollars a year worth of work, or the company will be spending more than it makes, and will go out of business.

Someone graduating from college thinks, and is told, that he needs to get a job, as if the important thing were becoming a member of an institution. A more direct way to put it would be: you need to start doing something people want. You don't need to join a company to do that.

All a company is is a group of people working together to do something people want. It's doing something people want that matters, not joining the group. [6]

For most people the best plan probably is to go to work for some existing company. But it is a good idea to understand what's happening when you do this. A job means doing something people want, averaged together with everyone else in that company.Working HarderThat averaging gets to be a problem. I think the single biggest problem afflicting large companies is the difficulty of assigning a value to each person's work. For the most part they punt. In a big company you get paid a fairly predictable salary for working fairly hard. You're expected not to be obviously incompetent or lazy, but you're not expected to devote your whole life to your work.It turns out, though, that there are economies of scale in how much of your life you devote to your work. In the right kind of business, someone who really devoted himself to work could generate ten or even a hundred times as much wealth as an average employee.

A programmer, for example, instead of chugging along maintaining and updating an existing piece of software, could write a whole new piece of software, and with it create a new source of revenue.Companies are not set up to reward people who want to do this. You can't go to your boss and say, I'd like to start working ten times as hard, so will you please pay me ten times as much? For one thing, the official fiction is that you are already working as hard as you can. But a more serious problem is that the company has no way of measuring the value of your work.Salesmen are an exception. It's easy to measure how much revenue they generate, and they're usually paid a percentage of it.

If a salesman wants to work harder, he can just start doing it, and he will automatically get paid proportionally more.There is one other job besides sales where big companies can hire first-rate people: in the top management jobs. And for the same reason: their performance can be measured.

The top managers are held responsible for the performance of the entire company. Because an ordinary employee's performance can't usually be measured, he is not expected to do more than put in a solid effort. Whereas top management, like salespeople, have to actually come up with the numbers. The CEO of a company that tanks cannot plead that he put in a solid effort. If the company does badly, he's done badly.A company that could pay all its employees so straightforwardly would be enormously successful. Many employees would work harder if they could get paid for it. More importantly, such a company would attract people who wanted to work especially hard. It would crush its competitors.

Unfortunately, companies can't pay everyone like salesmen. Salesmen work alone. Most employees' work is tangled together. Suppose a company makes some kind of consumer gadget. The engineers build a reliable gadget with all kinds of new features; the industrial designers design a beautiful case for it; and then the marketing people convince everyone that it's something they've got to have. How do you know how much of the gadget's sales are due to each group's efforts? Or, for that matter, how much is due to the creators of past gadgets that gave the company a reputation for quality? There's no way to untangle all their contributions.

Even if you could read the minds of the consumers, you'd find these factors were all blurred together.If you want to go faster, it's a problem to have your work tangled together with a large number of other people's. In a large group, your performance is not separately measurable-- and the rest of the group slows you down.

Measurement and LeverageTo get rich you need to get yourself in a situation with two things, measurement and leverage. You need to be in a position where your performance can be measured, or there is no way to get paid more by doing more. And you have to have leverage, in the sense that the decisions you make have a big effect.Measurement alone is not enough. An example of a job with measurement but not leverage is doing piecework in a sweatshop. Your performance is measured and you get paid accordingly, but you have no scope for decisions. The only decision you get to make is how fast you work, and that can probably only increase your earnings by a factor of two or three.

An example of a job with both measurement and leverage would be lead actor in a movie. Your performance can be measured in the gross of the movie. And you have leverage in the sense that your performance can make or break it.CEOs also have both measurement and leverage. They're measured, in that the performance of the company is their performance. And they have leverage in that their decisions set the whole company moving in one direction or another.I think everyone who gets rich by their own efforts will be found to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. Everyone I can think of does: CEOs, movie stars, hedge fund managers, professional athletes.

A good hint to the presence of leverage is the possibility of failure. Upside must be balanced by downside, so if there is big potential for gain there must also be a terrifying possibility of loss. CEOs, stars, fund managers, and athletes all live with the sword hanging over their heads; the moment they start to suck, they're out. If you're in a job that feels safe, you are not going to get rich, because if there is no danger there is almost certainly no leverage.But you don't have to become a CEO or a movie star to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. All you need to do is be part of a small group working on a hard problem.Smallness = MeasurementIf you can't measure the value of the work done by individual employees, you can get close. You can measure the value of the work done by small groups.One level at which you can accurately measure the revenue generated by employees is at the level of the whole company. When the company is small, you are thereby fairly close to measuring the contributions of individual employees. A viable startup might only have ten employees, which puts you within a factor of ten of measuring individual effort.Starting or joining a startup is thus as close as most people can get to saying to one's boss, I want to work ten times as hard, so please pay me ten times as much.

There are two differences: you're not saying it to your boss, but directly to the customers (for whom your boss is only a proxy after all), and you're not doing it individually, but along with a small group of other ambitious people.It will, ordinarily, be a group. Except in a few unusual kinds of work, like acting or writing books, you can't be a company of one person. And the people you work with had better be good, because it's their work that yours is going to be averaged with.A big company is like a giant galley driven by a thousand rowers. Two things keep the speed of the galley down. One is that individual rowers don't see any result from working harder.

The other is that, in a group of a thousand people, the average rower is likely to be pretty average.If you took ten people at random out of the big galley and put them in a boat by themselves, they could probably go faster. They would have both carrot and stick to motivate them. An energetic rower would be encouraged by the thought that he could have a visible effect on the speed of the boat. And if someone was lazy, the others would be more likely to notice and complain.But the real advantage of the ten-man boat shows when you take the ten best rowers out of the big galley and put them in a boat together. They will have all the extra motivation that comes from being in a small group. But more importantly, by selecting that small a group you can get the best rowers. Each one will be in the top 1%. It's a much better deal for them to average their work together with a small group of their peers than to average it with everyone.That's the real point of startups. Ideally, you are getting together with a group of other people who also want to work a lot harder, and get paid a lot more, than they would in a big company. And because startups tend to get founded by self-selecting groups of ambitious people who already know one another (at least by reputation), the level of measurement is more precise than you get from smallness alone.

A startup is not merely ten people, but ten people like you.Steve Jobs once said that the success or failure of a startup depends on the first ten employees. I agree. If anything, it's more like the first five. Being small is not, in itself, what makes startups kick butt, but rather that small groups can be select. You don't want small in the sense of a village, but small in the sense of an all-star team.The larger a group, the closer its average member will be to the average for the population as a whole. So all other things being equal, a very able person in a big company is probably getting a bad deal, because his performance is dragged down by the overall lower performance of the others. Of course, all other things often are not equal: the able person may not care about money, or may prefer the stability of a large company. But a very able person who does care about money will ordinarily do better to go off and work with a small group of peers.Technology = LeverageStartups offer anyone a way to be in a situation with measurement and leverage. They allow measurement because they're small, and they offer leverage because they make money by inventing new technology.What is technology? It's technique. It's the way we all do things. And when you discover a new way to do things, its value is multiplied by all the people who use it. It is the proverbial fishing rod, rather than the fish. That's the difference between a startup and a restaurant or a barber shop. You fry eggs or cut hair one customer at a time. Whereas if you solve a technical problem that a lot of people care about, you help everyone who uses your solution. That's leverage.If you look at history, it seems that most people who got rich by creating wealth did it by developing new technology. You just can't fry eggs or cut hair fast enough. What made the Florentines rich in 1200 was the discovery of new techniques for making the high-tech product of the time, fine woven cloth. What made the Dutch rich in 1600 was the discovery of shipbuilding and navigation techniques that enabled them to dominate the seas of the Far East.Fortunately there is a natural fit between smallness and solving hard problems. The leading edge of technology moves fast. Technology that's valuable today could be worthless in a couple years.

Small companies are more at home in this world, because they don't have layers of bureaucracy to slow them down. Also, technical advances tend to come from unorthodox approaches, and small companies are less constrained by convention.Big companies can develop technology. They just can't do it quickly. Their size makes them slow and prevents them from rewarding employees for the extraordinary effort required. So in practice big companies only get to develop technology in fields where large capital requirements prevent startups from competing with them, like microprocessors, power plants, or passenger aircraft. And even in those fields they depend heavily on startups for components and ideas.It's obvious that biotech or software startups exist to solve hard technical problems, but I think it will also be found to be true in businesses that don't seem to be about technology. McDonald's, for example, grew big by designing a system, the McDonald's franchise, that could then be reproduced at will all over the face of the earth. A McDonald's franchise is controlled by rules so precise that it is practically a piece of software. Write once, run everywhere. Ditto for Wal-Mart. Sam Walton got rich not by being a retailer, but by designing a new kind of store.Use difficulty as a guide not just in selecting the overall aim of your company, but also at decision points along the way. At Viaweb one of our rules of thumb was run upstairs. Suppose you are a little, nimble guy being chased by a big, fat, bully. You open a door and find yourself in a staircase. Do you go up or down? I say up. The bully can probably run downstairs as fast as you can. Going upstairs his bulk will be more of a disadvantage. Running upstairs is hard for you but even harder for him.What this meant in practice was that we deliberately sought hard problems. If there were two features we could add to our software, both equally valuable in proportion to their difficulty, we'd always take the harder one. Not just because it was more valuable, but because it was harder. We delighted in forcing bigger, slower competitors to follow us over difficult ground. Like guerillas, startups prefer the difficult terrain of the mountains, where the troops of the central government can't follow. I can remember times when we were just exhausted after wrestling all day with some horrible technical problem. And I'd be delighted, because something that was hard for us would be impossible for our competitors.This is not just a good way to run a startup. It's what a startup is. Venture capitalists know about this and have a phrase for it: barriers to entry. If you go to a VC with a new idea and ask him to invest in it, one of the first things he'll ask is, how hard would this be for someone else to develop? That is, how much difficult ground have you put between yourself and potential pursuers? [7] And you had better have a convincing explanation of why your technology would be hard to duplicate. Otherwise as soon as some big company becomes aware of it, they'll make their own, and with their brand name, capital, and distribution clout, they'll take away your market overnight. You'd be like guerillas caught in the open field by regular army forces.One way to put up barriers to entry is through patents. But patents may not provide much protection. Competitors commonly find ways to work around a patent. And if they can't, they may simply violate it and invite you to sue them. A big company is not afraid to be sued; it's an everyday thing for them. They'll make sure that suing them is expensive and takes a long time. Ever heard of Philo Farnsworth? He invented television. The reason you've never heard of him is that his company was not the one to make money from it. [8]

The company that did was RCA, and Farnsworth's reward for his efforts was a decade of patent litigation.Here, as so often, the best defense is a good offense. If you can develop technology that's simply too hard for competitors to duplicate, you don't need to rely on other defenses. Start by picking a hard problem, and then at every decision point, take the harder choice. [9]The Catch(es)If it were simply a matter of working harder than an ordinary employee and getting paid proportionately, it would obviously be a good deal to start a startup. Up to a point it would be more fun. I don't think many people like the slow pace of big companies, the interminable meetings, the water-cooler conversations, the clueless middle managers, and so on.Unfortunately there are a couple catches. One is that you can't choose the point on the curve that you want to inhabit. You can't decide, for example, that you'd like to work just two or three times as hard, and get paid that much more. When you're running a startup, your competitors decide how hard you work. And they pretty much all make the same decision: as hard as you possibly can.The other catch is that the payoff is only on average proportionate to your productivity. There is, as I said before, a large random multiplier in the success of any company. So in practice the deal is not that you're 30 times as productive and get paid 30 times as much. It is that you're 30 times as productive, and get paid between zero and a thousand times as much. If the mean is 30x, the median is probably zero. Most startups tank, and not just the dogfood portals we all heard about during the Internet Bubble. It's common for a startup to be developing a genuinely good product, take slightly too long to do it, run out of money, and have to shut down.A startup is like a mosquito. A bear can absorb a hit and a crab is armored against one, but a mosquito is designed for one thing: to score. No energy is wasted on defense. The defense of mosquitos, as a species, is that there are a lot of them, but this is little consolation to the individual mosquito.Startups, like mosquitos, tend to be an all-or-nothing proposition. And you don't generally know which of the two you're going to get till the last minute. Viaweb came close to tanking several times. Our trajectory was like a sine wave. Fortunately we got bought at the top of the cycle, but it was damned close. While we were visiting Yahoo in California to talk about selling the company to them, we had to borrow a conference room to reassure an investor who was about to back out of a new round of funding that we needed to stay alive.The all-or-nothing aspect of startups was not something we wanted. Viaweb's hackers were all extremely risk-averse. If there had been some way just to work super hard and get paid for it, without having a lottery mixed in, we would have been delighted. We would have much preferred a 100% chance of $1 million to a 20% chance of $10 million, even though theoretically the second is worth twice as much. Unfortunately, there is not currently any space in the business world where you can get the first deal.The closest you can get is by selling your startup in the early stages, giving up upside (and risk) for a smaller but guaranteed payoff. We had a chance to do this, and stupidly, as we then thought, let it slip by. After that we became comically eager to sell. For the next year or so, if anyone expressed the slightest curiousity about Viaweb we would try to sell them the company. But there were no takers, so we had to keep going.It would have been a bargain to buy us at an early stage, but companies doing acquisitions are not looking for bargains. A company big enough to acquire startups will be big enough to be fairly conservative, and within the company the people in charge of acquisitions will be among the more conservative, because they are likely to be business school types who joined the company late. They would rather overpay for a safe choice. So it is easier to sell an established startup, even at a large premium, than an early-stage one.Get UsersI think it's a good idea to get bought, if you can. Running a business is different from growing one. It is just as well to let a big company take over once you reach cruising altitude. It's also financially wiser, because selling allows you to diversify. What would you think of a financial advisor who put all his client's assets into one volatile stock?How do you get bought? Mostly by doing the same things you'd do if you didn't intend to sell the company. Being profitable, for example. But getting bought is also an art in its own right, and one that we spent a lot of time trying to master.Potential buyers will always delay if they can. The hard part about getting bought is getting them to act. For most people, the most powerful motivator is not the hope of gain, but the fear of loss. For potential acquirers, the most powerful motivator is the prospect that one of their competitors will buy you. This, as we found, causes CEOs to take red-eyes. The second biggest is the worry that, if they don't buy you now, you'll continue to grow rapidly and will cost more to acquire later, or even become a competitor.In both cases, what it all comes down to is users. You'd think that a company about to buy you would do a lot of research and decide for themselves how valuable your technology was. Not at all. What they go by is the number of users you have.In effect, acquirers assume the customers know who has the best technology. And this is not as stupid as it sounds. Users are the only real proof that you've created wealth. Wealth is what people want, and if people aren't using your software, maybe it's not just because you're bad at marketing. Maybe it's because you haven't made what they want.Venture capitalists have a list of danger signs to watch out for. Near the top is the company run by techno-weenies who are obsessed with solving interesting technical problems, instead of making users happy. In a startup, you're not just trying to solve problems. You're trying to solve problems that users care about.So I think you should make users the test, just as acquirers do. Treat a startup as an optimization problem in which performance is measured by number of users. As anyone who has tried to optimize software knows, the key is measurement. When you try to guess where your program is slow, and what would make it faster, you almost always guess wrong.Number of users may not be the perfect test, but it will be very close. It's what acquirers care about. It's what revenues depend on. It's what makes competitors unhappy. It's what impresses reporters, and potential new users. Certainly it's a better test than your a priori notions of what problems are important to solve, no matter how technically adept you are.Among other things, treating a startup as an optimization problem will help you avoid another pitfall that VCs worry about, and rightly-- taking a long time to develop a product. Now we can recognize this as something hackers already know to avoid: premature optimization. Get a version 1.0 out there as soon as you can. Until you have some users to measure, you're optimizing based on guesses.The ball you need to keep your eye on here is the underlying principle that wealth is what people want. If you plan to get rich by creating wealth, you have to know what people want. So few businesses really pay attention to making customers happy. How often do you walk into a store, or call a company on the phone, with a feeling of dread in the back of your mind? When you hear "your call is important to us, please stay on the line," do you think, oh good, now everything will be all right?A restaurant can afford to serve the occasional burnt dinner. But in technology, you cook one thing and that's what everyone eats. So any difference between what people want and what you deliver is multiplied. You please or annoy customers wholesale. The closer you can get to what they want, the more wealth you generate.Wealth and PowerMaking wealth is not the only way to get rich. For most of human history it has not even been the most common. Until a few centuries ago, the main sources of wealth were mines, slaves and serfs, land, and cattle, and the only ways to acquire these rapidly were by inheritance, marriage, conquest, or confiscation. Naturally wealth had a bad reputation.Two things changed. The first was the rule of law. For most of the world's history, if you did somehow accumulate a fortune, the ruler or his henchmen would find a way to steal it. But in medieval Europe something new happened. A new class of merchants and manufacturers began to collect in towns. [10] Together they were able to withstand the local feudal lord. So for the first time in our history, the bullies stopped stealing the nerds' lunch money. This was naturally a great incentive, and possibly indeed the main cause of the second big change, industrialization.A great deal has been written about the causes of the Industrial Revolution. But surely a necessary, if not sufficient, condition was that people who made fortunes be able to enjoy them in peace. [11] One piece of evidence is what happened to countries that tried to return to the old model, like the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent Britain under the labor governments of the 1960s and early 1970s. Take away the incentive of wealth, and technical innovation grinds to a halt.Remember what a startup is, economically: a way of saying, I want to work faster. Instead of accumulating money slowly by being paid a regular wage for fifty years, I want to get it over with as soon as possible. So governments that forbid you to accumulate wealth are in effect decreeing that you work slowly. They're willing to let you earn $3 million over fifty years, but they're not willing to let you work so hard that you can do it in two. They are like the corporate boss that you can't go to and say, I want to work ten times as hard, so please pay me ten times a much. Except this is not a boss you can escape by starting your own company.The problem with working slowly is not just that technical innovation happens slowly. It's that it tends not to happen at all. It's only when you're deliberately looking for hard problems, as a way to use speed to the greatest advantage, that you take on this kind of project. Developing new technology is a pain in the ass. It is, as Edison said, one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Without the incentive of wealth, no one wants to do it. Engineers will work on sexy projects like fighter planes and moon rockets for ordinary salaries, but more mundane technologies like light bulbs or semiconductors have to be developed by entrepreneurs.Startups are not just something that happened in Silicon Valley in the last couple decades. Since it became possible to get rich by creating wealth, everyone who has done it has used essentially the same recipe: measurement and leverage, where measurement comes from working with a small group, and leverage from developing new techniques. The recipe was the same in Florence in 1200 as it is in Santa Clara today.Understanding this may help to answer an important question: why Europe grew so powerful. Was it something about the geography of Europe? Was it that Europeans are somehow racially superior? Was it their religion? The answer (or at least the proximate cause) may be that the Europeans rode on the crest of a powerful new idea: allowing those who made a lot of money to keep it.Once you're allowed to do that, people who want to get rich can do it by generating wealth instead of stealing it. The resulting technological growth translates not only into wealth but into military power. The theory that led to the stealth plane was developed by a Soviet mathematician. But because the Soviet Union didn't have a computer industry, it remained for them a theory; they didn't have hardware capable of executing the calculations fast enough to design an actual airplane.In that respect the Cold War teaches the same lesson as World War II and, for that matter, most wars in recent history. Don't let a ruling class of warriors and politicians squash the entrepreneurs. The same recipe that makes individuals rich makes countries powerful. Let the nerds keep their lunch money, and you rule the world.Notes[1] One valuable thing you tend to get only in startups is uninterruptability. Different kinds of work have different time quanta. Someone proofreading a manuscript could probably be interrupted every fifteen minutes with little loss of productivity. But the time quantum for hacking is very long: it might take an hour just to load a problem into your head. So the cost of having someone from personnel call you about a form you forgot to fill out can be huge.This is why hackers give you such a baleful stare as they turn from their screen to answer your question. Inside their heads a giant house of cards is tottering.The mere possibility of being interrupted deters hackers from starting hard projects. This is why they tend to work late at night, and why it's next to impossible to write great software in a cubicle (except late at night).One great advantage of startups is that they don't yet have any of the people who interrupt you. There is no personnel department, and thus no form nor anyone to call you about it.[2] Faced with the idea that people working for startups might be 20 or 30 times as productive as those working for large companies, executives at large companies will naturally wonder, how could I get the people working for me to do that? The answer is simple: pay them to.Internally most companies are run like Communist states. If you believe in free markets, why not turn your company into one?Hypothesis: A company will be maximally profitable when each employee is paid in proportion to the wealth they generate.[3] Until recently even governments sometimes didn't grasp the distinction between money and wealth. Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations, v:i) mentions several that tried to preserve their "wealth" by forbidding the export of gold or silver. But having more of the medium of exchange would not make a country richer; if you have more money chasing the same amount of material wealth, the only result is higher prices.[4] There are many senses of the word "wealth," not all of them material. I'm not trying to make a deep philosophical point here about which is the true kind. I'm writing about one specific, rather technical sense of the word "wealth." What people will give you money for. This is an interesting sort of wealth to study, because it is the kind that prevents you from starving. And what people will give you money for depends on them, not you.When you're starting a business, it's easy to slide into thinking that customers want what you do. During the Internet Bubble I talked to a woman who, because she liked the outdoors, was starting an "outdoor portal." You know what kind of business you should start if you like the outdoors? One to recover data from crashed hard disks.What's the connection? None at all. Which is precisely my point. If you want to create wealth (in the narrow technical sense of not starving) then you should be especially skeptical about any plan that centers on things you like doing. That is where your idea of what's valuable is least likely to coincide with other people's.[5] In the average car restoration you probably do make everyone else microscopically poorer, by doing a small amount of damage to the environment. While environmental costs should be taken into account, they don't make wealth a zero-sum game. For example, if you repair a machine that's broken because a part has come unscrewed, you create wealth with no environmental cost.[5b] This essay was written before Firefox.[6] Many people feel confused and depressed in their early twenties. Life seemed so much more fun in college. Well, of course it was. Don't be fooled by the surface similarities. You've gone from guest to servant. It's possible to have fun in this new world. Among other things, you now get to go behind the doors that say "authorized personnel only." But the change is a shock at first, and all the worse if you're not consciously aware of it.[7] When VCs asked us how long it would take another startup to duplicate our software, we used to reply that they probably wouldn't be able to at all. I think this made us seem naive, or liars.[8] Few technologies have one clear inventor. So as a rule, if you know the "inventor" of something (the telephone, the assembly line, the airplane, the light bulb, the transistor) it is because their company made money from it, and the company's PR people worked hard to spread the story. If you don't know who invented something (the automobile, the television, the computer, the jet engine, the laser), it's because other companies made all the money.[9] This is a good plan for life in general. If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you're trying to decide whether to go out running or sit home and watch TV, go running. Probably the reason this trick works so well is that when you have two choices and one is harder, the only reason you're even considering the other is laziness. You know in the back of your mind what's the right thing to do, and this trick merely forces you to acknowledge it.[10] It is probably no accident that the middle class first appeared in northern Italy and the low countries, where there were no strong central governments. These two regions were the richest of their time and became the twin centers from which Renaissance civilization radiated. If they no longer play that role, it is because other places, like the United States, have been truer to the principles they discovered.[11] It may indeed be a sufficient condition. But if so, why didn't the Industrial Revolution happen earlier? Two possible (and not incompatible) answers: (a) It did. The Industrial Revolution was one in a series. (b) Because in medieval towns, monopolies and guild regulations initially slowed the development of new means of production.