Thursday, April 30, 2009

Never Forget

Seventy-six years ago today:
By virtue Of the authority vested in me by Section 5 (b) of the Act of October 6, 1917, as amended by Section 2 of the Act of March 9, 1933, entitled "An Act to provide relief in the existing national emergency in banking, and for other purposes," in which amendatory Act Congress declared that a serious emergency exists, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do declare that said national emergency still continues to exist and pursuant to said section do hereby prohibit the hoarding of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates within the continental United States by individuals, partnerships, associations and corporations and hereby prescribe the following regulations for carrying out the purposes of this order:

Section 1. For the purposes of this regulation, the term "hoarding" means the withdrawal and withholding of gold coin, gold bullion or gold certificates from the recognized and customary channels of trade. The term "person" means any individual, partnership, association or corporation.

Section 2. All persons are hereby required to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, to a Federal Reserve Bank or a branch or agency thereof or to any member bank of the Federal Reserve System all gold coin, gold bullion and gold certificates now owned by them...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arnold Tea Party *DONE*

Dana's not happy with Washington. She's not happy about people flipping off her kids either.

The Gateway Pundit rallies the crowd.

Stay-at-home mom inadvertently provides make-shift child-care.

This colorful character had on a pig snout. He must be a fan of Pork Busters.

This woman is an Iraqi Christian who has been living here in the US for the past eight years. I have an interview that I'll be uploading to YouTube (it's near the beginning of this), but her English is not very good—she had a lot of trouble understanding my questions. Nonetheless, it was great to see her there trying to raise awareness about the plight of Assyrian Christians in Iraq.

Video Coverage
I've written my own star rankings under each video to give you an idea of how good I think each segment is. Some of this stuff is pretty boring, but it will give you an idea of what to expect if you're thinking about getting involved. I've kept the videos in chronological order here. If you're wondering about the crying baby in some of the videos, that's my four month old sharing her thoughts about the debt.

(2 stars) There was no parking... Here I am walking across the full parking lot.

(3.5 stars) Game day decision making about where to setup camp. Discussions about getting some distance from the radical anti-abortion protestors with Dana Loesch and Jim Hoft, the Gateway Pundit.

(2.5 stars) Dana herds the cats across the street.

(3.5 stars) This begins with the interview mentioned above with an Assyrian Christan from Iraq. She expresses her gratitude to America. See me stump Jim Hoft's (Gateway Pundit's) twin brother and Dana rally the crowd.

(4.5 stars) In some ways this one's a hash: it starts slow, the four-month old adds her $0.02, there are vehicles with flashing lights distracting Dana, and I pull out my still camera half-way through an interview with her, but it's got my favorite line of all the videos. That line's around the one minute mark (start around 00:45 for context and listen for the faint voice of Dana's son around 00:54). The interview with Dana is about plans for the Fourth and there's a last question after the chants of "U. S. A.". It's around the four minute mark.

(4.5 stars) Dana explains fiscal responsibility, the point of the Tea Party Movement, to the drive-by media. She emphasizes that fiscal responsibility is non-partisan.

(2.5 stars) This one opens with some chanting. I try to get a sense of the crowd, but I'm just too short to get a good crowd shot.

(3 stars) The president enters Fox High School by the backdoor.

(3.5 stars) Chants of "No More Pork" followed by Jim Hoft rallying the crowd and then a mom and her children with their signs.

That's a wrap!

Note: Today's my anniversary, so updates will be light this evening. (We went to Monarch for dinner and liked it a lot. I'm sure we'll go back sometime.)

Cross Cover:
See Also:

Monday, April 27, 2009

My First Gig as a Reporter (pt4)

100 Days Coverage

Bill Hennessy and GatewayPundit are organizing a Tea Party near the site of Obama's teleprompter reading to commemorate his first hundred days in office, Fox High School in Arnold. I'm planning to be there. With luck, I'll get a picture of the voice talent... maybe even TOTUS himself. The crumb crunchers will be with me. I'll be the guy with the video camera wearing a four month old accompanied by the babe's Gadsden flag wielding sister (assuming the girls do not thwart my efforts).

If you went to one of the outlying Tax Day Tea Parties (Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, Lee’s Summit, etc.), I want to talk with you. If you helped lead one of those tea parties, I *really* want to talk with you. I know it's hard to have your voice heard and I want to help as much as I can. Email me: dsm012 -at- gmail -d0t- com

If you're with a broadcaster and would like to use my footage, please email me (dsm012 -at- gmail -d0t- com). You will need to 1) create an account with and 2) add me as a contact. I will need to add you as a contact, so I will need your email address—presumably the one you used to contact me. Here's a rough sketch of my plans for Wednesday. Please make suggestions in the comments!
  1. Conduct interviews and gather other footage (9AM to noon-ish Central Time)
  2. RIP the tape (hopefully done by 2PM)
  3. Create low-res version for logging and upload to YouTube (3-ish)
  4. Email broadcasters (4PM)
  5. Create hi-res version of what I think is the best material and upload to (my goal is to keep this under 500M... probably not available until Thursday morning... bandwidth is still a problem)
  6. Go out to dinner to celebrate nine years of marital bliss
  7. Email broadcasters (TBD)
If there are specific cuts from the low-res version you want, then email me and I'll do what I can to get them on for you. Recognize that until I have a real bandwidth solution, fast turn around will be hard. Oh, and I've got two girls to look after as part of my stay-at-home dad duties.

Business Opportunities

For part four of this series, I was planning to review some business opportunities I thought of during my adventures. It's getting late, so I'm just going to cover one of them: moving hi-res video.

I found a new enthusiasm for video after getting involved in the Tea Party movement, so I ripped all of my 1080i tapes to disk (including an air show with about fifteen minutes of the Blue Angels). Each is about an hour long and occupies from 10 to 14 gigabytes. It took me about 15 hours to upload 2G over my DSL connection, so that's a non-starter.

What I would really like is a kiosk: I give them an HD tape or an external hard drive and they put the goods in my account. This model is very similar to one that already exists. If you want to get a print of one of your digital pictures, you can go to a CVS or Target or where ever, put your flash drive in one of their kiosks, and walk out of the store with your prints fifteen minutes later.

Retail stores do not have the kind of bandwidth I need, so they're not (yet) an option and probably never will be. I thought FedEx/Kinkos might be, so I asked at my local one and they told me that they didn't have great bandwidth. This seems like an obvious growth opportunity for them, but they will probably want to continue to sneaker-net my content to PJTV.

I want the kind of bandwidth computer datacenters have. I haven't contacted any yet. I doubt that they would sell bandwidth like that, but who knows. If you can think of other solutions to this problem, please mention them in the comments!

I could upgrade my DSL. While Charter's Ultra60 looks awesome, they're in bankruptcy proceedings. An incremental improvement to my DSL would help, but it wont be enough.

I have no idea when my posts about being a reporter will end... there will be several more as time permits.

Related Posts:

Data Security with Faraday Cages during an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)

Glenn Reynolds has blogged a good bit about the risks of an EMP attack. He's also mentioned the Carrington Event. I've seen some similar links at Slashdot.

One risk mitigation step you can take, is to electrically isolate your computers and external drives in a Faraday cage. Electrically isolated means unplugged from both power and wired networks. A car struck by lightning acts like a Faraday cage—the electricity stays on the outside. If you're on battery power, using wireless to access the Internet, while you drive around, your computer equipment should be safe from lightning strikes, but the non-directed energy of an EMP would pass through the windows damaging that same computer hardware. A Faraday cage should also protect against coronal mass ejections of the Carrington sort too, but I'm not certain.

Pictured below are some common things that act like Faraday Cages. The flash drives and hard disk in the picture are in ziplock bags to make sure that they're electrically isolated when stored in a cookie tin or other metal box. I'm sure a stockpot would be fine for a netbook and smaller laptops. Large tool chests, fire safes, microwave ovens, and gun safes are some other common Faraday Cages that you probably have around the house. The Wikipedia page lists several more. It also implies that grounding the exterior of the cage is a good idea. Here's the Wikipedia quote about that:
If the cage is grounded the excess charges will go to the ground instead of the outer face, so the inner face and the inner charge will cancel each other out and the rest of the cage would remain neutral. A Faraday cage is capable of almost completely stopping an attack using electromagnetism such as an EMP. It cannot protect against a[n] electromagnetic attack using a static or slowly changing magnetic field.
Bottom line: save those cookie tins; put your backups in a firesafe (which you should be doing anyway); if you have an old laptop around, wrap it in plastic and put it in a metal box; and have a plan to put your laptop, cell phone, digital camera, GPS, and 52" flat screen TV in, say, your microwave if you know an electromagnetic pulse is imminent!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thouhgts on China

I read a few stories about China and the US debt...

Any country, especially countries that have foreign policy interests that conflict with our own, that is still buying US debt is not doing so as a financial investment. Instead, they are purchasing future foreign policy concessions. In China’s case, we will recognize their sovereign claims to Taiwan, Tibet, and various south sea islands. Perhaps we’ll help make sure that the Dalai Lama is brought to “justice” in China. Despicable.

The US need not default to precipitate these foreign policy concessions. We’ll need debt forgiveness long before we default. Third world China is going to be playing IMF/World Bank to first world America.

We owe China, in one form or another, about two trillion dollars. Interestingly, it costs about $22 billion to build a modern American aircraft carrier. If you're not shipping stuff overseas, doesn't it make sense to sell it to someone that is? What if the repo man (aka: China) asks for it? It would be nice to see someone finally call out our betters in Washington for their reckless spending, but this would be shamefully embarrassing.

Then there's the issue of servicing the US debt. Right now, that's 8% of every tax dollar sent to Washington. If we double the debt, then roughly 16 cents of every dollar going to DC will go to interest payments on the debt. I think this will contribute to a brain-drain from the US to creditor nations, but I'm not sure that such a brain-drain will be significant.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My First Gig as a Reporter (pt3)

This is my third "lessons learned" post about covering the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party as a PJTV Citizen Reporter. My first post focused on my audio reporting. The second discusses my video work with an emphasis on the expectations of content creators and broadcasters and the architecture of a distribution model. This post will extend my thoughts about web based edit decision lists (EDLs)... As commenter JayDee pointed out on my second post, what I'm really talking about is a combination of video logging (not vlogging) and EDLs.

I'd like to see or a similar site provide tools for annotating video. What I'm looking for is a way to markup source video so that it can be easily found. Not just found in the sense of going to the three minutes you want to see in a one hour piece. I mean found in the sense that you googled "Saint Louis Tea Party crowd size" and get links to Dana Loesch's thirty second bit as well as Bill Hennessy's comments at the event. I used Dana's remarks in this one minute spot:

Could the Google results look something like the image below? This is sort of like the links I discussed in pt2; however, unlike there are two highlighted clips. I'd want controls to play the segments, change the in-out times, give a star rating to the content, add or change an annotation, and remix the clip.
The image above is a modified version of's trim interface. In other words, they already have a tool for doing basic edits. I've used it a little. It's good for what it does. Now lets see a web-based video logging tool. Public annotations will be indexed by Google and other search engines bringing source video, in its original context, to their search results.

There will be a part 4. Look for it Monday or Tuesday.

Related Posts:

My First Gig as a Reporter (pt2)

This is my second "lessons learned" post about covering the Tax Day Tea Party here in Saint Louis as a PJTV Citizen Reporter. My first post focused on my audio reporting. This post will review my video work.

The seven part YouTube playlist at the top of this post is the whole enchilada. Mostly. All the copyrighted material (music) has been cut from the beginning and I dropped about 15 seconds of Dana (between parts 6 and 7) to avoid having an eight part playlist. Sorry Dana! Note to self, plan your edits better so you don't have to do that in the future.


I only did one video interview at the tea party and it came after the event when I spoke with Rich from Circle of Concern. Circle of Concern is a local food bank. They provided a van to pickup donations of non-perishables. Operation Food Search also participated in the tea party food drive. They had a 26' to 28' foot truck, like the big ones UHaul has.

I don't think I did very well. My questions were sorta ok, but there are three points in the clip where I just can't remember the name of "Operation Food Search". The audio's not very good. I'm too loud and you can barely hear Rich. Perhaps I should've used my MP3 recorder to get a better recording of Rich and then edited the two together. A microphone is probably a better option since I could point that at whoever is currently speaking. The video is blurry, in part, because of the hardware I used. I plan to use a better camera in the future, but that will mean that I'm recording to tape. I hate tape...


It's my experience that conservative voices don't get much airtime. Grainy videos with bad audio are not going to change that. If you're seriously pursuing citizen journalism, then quality has to be a priority. This not only includes quality content (e.g.: an engaging and informative interview, a newsworthy event), but it also includes technical quality (e.g.: 1080i or 1080p video, crisp focus, stereo sound, good levels, etc.)

TV newsrooms across the country have made huge investments so that they can broadcast in high-def. They don't want bouncy cell phone footage except when there's no alternative. They want high quality content: an engaging and informative subject, a sharp picture, and clear audio.

Content is still king. With the economic downturn and the pressures imposed on broadcast news by their competition on radio and the Internet, newsrooms are going to be looking for less expensive sources for their footage. They're going to be looking for open content. Content they can use at little or no cost. Content that you gather with your HD video camera and then make available to them on the Internet.

Open Video Content

Here are my first thoughts on a concise list of parameters that content creators (citizen journalists) are agreeing to when they offer their work as open content:
  1. The content creator must be credited by the content user (TV station, website, etc.)
  2. A link to the complete source material must be provided in the show notes on the content user's website
  3. The content user may edit the content as long as the meaning is not inverted
Obviously, these are my priorities. Editing a video will cause some distortions, if only by omission. The link back to the original should mitigate minor distortions. #3 seems reasonable, but I'm not sure how to put teeth in it. Should a lawyer draft a simple open content license? Perhaps the Creative Commons License would suffice... Please put your thoughts in a comment below!

Video Distribution

Source audio and video content is only the beginning. After the video is shot, it has to be made available online. YouTube is one option, but it has significant drawbacks. Video uploads to YouTube must not exceed 1G and they cannot be longer than 10 minutes. Those factors limit quality and increase the workload for providing video content online.

For the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party, I took the time to enter the metadata for each part of my seven part video. That metadata includes name, description, tags, location, etc. Copy and paste helps a lot, but it's still a pain. offers a much better solution. Since you are not limited either by duration or file size, there's less administrative overhead because you don't have to dice-up your video and duct-tape it back together with a YouTube "playlist".

Before I figured out, I exchanged emails with some folks at PJTV. They were helpful, but they really couldn't fix the bottleneck: I did not have enough bandwidth. I discovered this problem before tax day when I tried to upload my interview with Bill Hennessy. It took 12 to 15 hours to upload that interview to PJTV. That's just too long to be useful and it invites data corruption problems and other weirdness. has a tool that manages the upload process. Even though the upload takes just as long, their upload app tool allows you to queue multiple videos. You can also pause all uploads with the app. The pause feature is very helpful when your wife starts complaining that the Internet is slow.

I still don't know if PJTV used any of my footage. I know some of it uploaded successfully. I know that they received a DVD via FedEx Tuesday (4/21) with all of it. This is another reason for #1 and #2 in my list of open content expectations—I'd have a way to find out what they used. Of course, by Tuesday my video footage was, to put it charitably, starting to ripen. News is time critical.

Crowdsourcing the coverage of an event that has over 500 locations on a single day was bound to be messy. If there were other videographers that weren't able to get their content uploaded, I would not be surprised. My conclusion here is that the videographer needs to be responsible for getting their video online. I think that's the view PJTV took. I also think videographers should be independent. It doesn't matter to me who broadcasts my work; I just want it broadcast. If PJTV or someone else, is willing to guarantee that X minutes of my footage will be broadcast or that they're willing to pay me, then that's another story.

If content creators are independent and responsible for getting their footage online, then is the linchpin. It took awhile for me to upload my recording of the tea party to The video was online for a couple of days when it was shutdown for bandwidth/cost. That's not a slight on I love their service! Their prompt and helpful email support was excellent. They offered me the option of keeping the video live by upgrading my account from Premium to Pro, but I was concerned about cost. Their Pro accounts are charged per gigabyte for bandwidth (at a competitive rate)... here's the thing, I couldn't figure out how, in two days, a video of the St Louis Tax Day Tea Party had been viewed 600+ times. Paying for each of those was a scary prospect.

With a Premium account on there's a limit to the number of views/downloads your videos can have. There's no limit to the quality, file size, or duration, so is a nexus between content creators and broadcasters. I grant access to my video content to PJTV, C-SPAN, NPR, Fox, whoever and they download the original hi-def content for broadcast.

What would happen if PJTV (or any outfit, really) had video content from hudreds of locations? If those are live feeds, it's going to be a brutal day herding cats. If it's recorded video like mine, then video editors are going to be working day and night reviewing the content. They might just pitch some of the video, but then they're alienating the people that shot that video for them. The most labor intensive component of video editing is annotating the video, marking the start and end points of various segments, and identifying who or what is on the reel.

Edit Decision List (EDL)

The annotations of a source video are often in edit decision list format or EDL. EDL was originally developed to keep track of all of the edits on multiple source video tapes so that they could be assembled into a movie or show. It's the lingua franca of video editing. It can be the basis of a library of metadata that allows a video editor to quickly find the clip they need.

If you still don't get what EDL is, here's an edit from a recent diavlog between Peter Singer and Tyler Cowen. The edit link captures the "in" (start time) of 48:41 and "out" (end time) of 51:04. You need me to annotate it by telling you that Tyler asks Peter whether it's moral to eat fish and I'd give the clip four out of five stars. has already implemented part of the annotation process: defining the in-out points. Now we need someone to incorporate the other metadata: who, what, where, why, and how good is the clip. The nice thing about that work is that it scales—you can crowdsource it. Here's how that might have been done for the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party:
  1. Bill Hennessy announces a phone number and asks for volunteers to text it from their phones
  2. People who texted the number are sent a weblink to access the next day from home
  3. When they follow the link, they're given a ten minute block of the footage to review
  4. They enter in-out points, annotations, and star ratings for the edits in their ten minutes
"Whoa!" you think. "You'll get tons of hits on that account and go over your limit." Yes. If the link is to, but if the source is diced into ten minute blocks and put on YouTube, then there isn't a problem. YouTube versions are used for review and is used for the hi-def version. Ideally, I'd like to see offer some sort of journalism package. I'd want a way for people to annotate the video content. To reduce bandwidth costs, they could provide a low resolution version of the video for annotation.

I think I'll do a third lessons learned post... This doesn't feel done, but I need some sleep.

Related Posts:
Update: Thanks for the Instalanche, Glenn! Part 3 will be up some time Sunday so please check back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What's the Carbon Footprint of a Dollar?

This Earth Day I've been wondering what the carbon footprint of a dollar bill is. We certainly have a lot more of our carbon-based currency in circulation. I suppose that on net it's a good thing since it represents sequestered carbon. Still, the average life span of a dollar is less than two years where upon it's shredded. I wonder what they do with all that confetti money? Isn't that bad for the environment?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My First Gig as a Reporter (pt1)

I signed up to be a PJTV Citizen Reporter. I did so for many reasons, but one of the most compelling is that our constitutionally guaranteed press freedom is increasingly an individual right. That individual right has largely been realized on the Internet in the form of blogs; however, audio (e.g.: radio) and video are also protected by that right. I want to explore that freedom to discover its current technological limits. I was thinking along these lines for the February 27th Tea Party (see: here, here, here, and sorta here).

This post is about my experience reporting on the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party. I've already written several posts about it (Bill Hennessy Interview, my Video Odyssy getting that interview posted, a brief post about the Tea Party, and the Finally post). This is a summary of my audio reporting.

First, I'm pretty sympathetic to what PJTV was trying to do with Citizen Reporters. They attempted to crowdsource their coverage of an event that occurred over the course of a day in five hundred plus locations. They got a lot of still photos, but I'm not sure how much video they got. I know Saint Louis did not have a live feed. I hope I can help change that for the 4th of July.

I've looked around the PJTV's state level coverage a little. There was only one video in all the coverage of NJ. I didn't see any videos in MA—not even a grainy cellphone video from Boston, nothin'. Perhaps there's something on YouTube that someone could link. tells a similar story, but first let me tell you what it is. The basic idea behind Cellecast is that everyone with a cellphone is a journalist. You dial a number and leave a voice message. You get unlimitted redos on the message and I very nearly used them all up ;-) You push a couple buttons and your voicemail is available as an MP3 on the web. They'll even push out a tweet on your behalf about it. Others can listen to your cellecast on their cellphone, so the tweet helps notify them when you submit a new report.

The night before the Tea Parties, I saw that PJTV was excitedly claiming "over a dozen cellphone reporters signed up!" Realizing we would be seeing the audio equivalent of tumble weed blow by, I emailed a half dozen friends in Beantown to ask them to help out... All I can say: slackers. Here are all of my audio reports (warning: audio plays on all of these after the jump):
That's six reports. There were a total of thirty-five cellecasts. There were, according to current PJTV estimates, over 700,000 attendees at tea parties across the country. Success? You make the call. No, scratch that. Make the call on Independence Day.

What I think this underscores is the overwhelming need to train tea partiers in these new technologies. I'm not sure what form that training will take. Perhaps it should be integrated into the 4th of July events.

Look for part 2 (video) on Thursday.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finally! *UPDATED*

There it is. The whole Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party. It's two gigs and a little over an hour long. Download and remix it if you want. When I recover, I'll do an annotated post with my full coverage of the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party. I may do a separate post with lessons learned or just tuck those into the coverage post... I'm not sure. Give me a day or three to get to that. FWIW, the choke point for me was uploading the video.

I make a few introductory comments at the beginning, but I'm silent for the vast majority of the show. rocks! Sometimes $30/year is less expensive than free ( It's kinda like one of the signs I saw on tax day: "You think health care is expensive now, wait until its free!"

I've cross posted this at PJTV.

Update 4/20/2009: I didn't get an email explaining why the video was taken down. You'd think they'd at least tell you that... Perhaps the background music at the beginning is the problem? I've contacted to find out more... And I FedEx'd a DVD with the source to PJTV. Perhaps they can help. I'll trim the music and re-submit as soon as possible. It takes at least 15 hours to upload, so don't hit reload hoping to see it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party Crowd Estimate: 7,000 *UPDATED*

Before the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party, Bill Hennessy said we might see 5,000 people or more at the event. PJTV is reporting the attendance at 5,000. I think that's low.

The clip above includes Dana's comment during the event that a park ranger said there were between 6,000 and 7,000. While not included in the clip, Bill said the attendance was closer to 10,000 in his closing remarks. That could be padding the statistics, so I'm going with the lower 7k. As I mentioned before, it's a tough venue for an accurate crowd count. Nonetheless, PJTV should up there estimate to 7,000—it was at least that.

See Also: Gateway Pundit puts it at 10k, Michael Williams,, and 24thState.

Update 4/18/2009: Saint Louis Tea Party is calling it 8,000. Here's the money quote:
Various media have given estimates ranging from 5,000 on the low end ( to 8,000 on the high end. KTVI Fox 2 news director compared the crowd to other events, saying, “That’s the most people I’ve ever seen in Kiener Plaza–except, maybe, before a Cardinals World Series game.”
Update 4/19/2009: According to this estimate, there were 12,000 people at the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party. That sounds... um... "generous;" however, there were people in one of the fountains:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party

Wow. Just wow. It was fun covering it. I've got a lot of video from the event. I'll be putting it on YouTube in the coming days.

Kiener Plaza... Brutal venue. Fountains everywhere. Street noise. Trees block the overhead shots obscuring the crowd size. Concrete pillars all around the stage. And the sun... it was great to see it after a few days of rain, but it made a lot of shots near impossible.

You can listen to my reports here. I really liked their setup, but I've got a complaint and some suggestions for them. The complaint is that they "lost" my close-out report. I've reconstructed the URL for that one so you can listen to it now. The suggestions will be in another post.

There's much more on the PJTV page for the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party.

Check back in the coming days for more videos from the Saint Louis Tax Day Tea Party!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The First Shoe has Fallen (UPDATED)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has expressed his support for a bill in the state house reaffirming the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution. In part, the governor said:
I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state. That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.
The second shoe, if it comes at all, will be a threat to split into five states counter balancing the strength of the great state of New England in the US Senate. There will probably be some Texan wing-nuts calling for secession, too.

Update 4/15/9: Wow. It didn't take long for the other shoe to drop. Rick Perry audio here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Video Odyssey

I had this brilliant idea. After watching people with Flip video cameras and cell phones trying to conduct an interview, I realized that there had to be a better way. A tripod mounted camera pointed at the interviewee felt more like an interrogation, to my mind, so I kept thinking about ways to mount two cameras on a tripod.

In hindsight, I don't know why I limited myself to a single tripod. Perhaps it was because I only had one. Regardless, as I thought about ways to mount two small video cameras on one tripod, I remembered my friend L. One of his hobbies is stereo photography. I sent him an email and he said he had what I was looking for and I could borrow it for a little while. It's a custom piece of machined aluminum about a foot long with mount points for two cameras (see picture above).

There are a couple of other hurdles that I had to address. First, what to do if I'm interviewing someone taller than myself (like my PJTV Citizen Reporter interview of Bill Hennessy)? And how do you keep you and your interviewee in the video frame? The simple solution to both of these problems is to sit down for the interview. That worked well for Bill and I. Still, if you're conducting standing interviews, I'd strongly recommend using two tripods to address the first problem, though even that may not work since many tripods are only 5' to 5' 6" tall. For the second problem, I'd get a couple of interlocking foam mats—one for the interviewer and one for the interviewee. Just having a place to stand should do the trick.

I think this is a pretty good hardware setup for conducting interviews. I'm not sure if it will catch on, but one place it might is There's something about the cybernetic headgear commonly seen on that I find distracting, but I think the bigger gain would be the face-to-face exchange that this sort of setup facilitates. I recognize that in many cases, interviews are conducted over large distances. Also, there may be technical reasons for their setup.

Before I talk about the nightmare that video editting can be, I'll mention that you should check your video camera's focal distance. That's the distance at which your camera is in focus. I had not paid attention to this detail and, at 2m (6.5') my cameras are dismal in this regard. Keep in mind, you want to be relatively close to the camera for good audio recording, so I'd look for something at or under 1m. If I were looking to buy, I'd go with the Flip Ultra.

Video editing is still a mystery to me. I've dabbled in it for about fifteen years and I'm always surprised at what a frustrating time sync it is. Once I had recorded my interview with Bill, the process forward seemed simple. Take the two source videos, line 'em up based on the audio, and then dissolve back and forth depending on who's speaking. This is about as simple as video editing gets.

I don't know how many times I rendered/exported the movie from Adobe Premiere. I certainly don't understand why it took two input sources of about 0.5G and created output anywhere from 2.5G to 6G. The 16 minutes of black screen with audio that weighed in at 3.5G... what in the world? How did I solve the black screen and the still image video problems? Simple, I stopped using my Vista box and went to my XP machine. Unfortunately, that did not help with the size of the rendered movies.

The size problem was largely solved with ArcSoft's MediaConverter. Once I got my final render out of Premiere (weighing in at 2.5G), I put it through MediaConverter and got a 70M version. That's the one I put on Facebook, but at 16 minutes it was over YouTube's 10 minute limit. I used Windows Movie Maker to split it into the two parts that are now on YouTube (pt1 and pt2). Splitting the video definitely reduced the quality.

Bill Hennessy Interview

This past weekend I went down to The Arch and Kiener Plaza. I was hoping to find the protest led by A New Way Forward and get some video interviews with the protesters. I got there about 1:20PM and the protest was scheduled for 1:00, so I think I missed their smallish event. I did get the sweet picture above—it was a goregous day. My next stop was Kiener Plaza for an interview with the leader of the Saint Louis Tea Party movement, Bill Hennessy.

When I got to Kiener Plaza, I wandered around a bit taking pictures including the one above. The water in the fountain was orange for National Caution Cone Week or some-such. I noticed a similarly orange fountain at the botanical gardens earlier in the week. Your tax dollars at work. I also took some video:

Bill was gracious enough to consent to an interview. Since I've never done an interview before, it's a little rough in places. Feel free to offer your constructive criticisms! Due to YouTube limitations, I had to split the interview in half. (I'm working on another post about the hardware and software I used and what I learned.) With that, here's part 1 of the interview:

And here's part 2:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

FBI Datacenter Raid

Glenn links to a Wired story about an FBI raid of datacenter. First, if you don't know what a datacenter is take a look at the picture atop the Wired story. Those look like 42u racks each of which can hold, in theory, 42 x 1u rackmount servers. In practice you'll have some 2u, 3u, 4u and maybe a few 6u blade servers, as well as rackmount UPSs and networking equipment. Their are eight racks in each aisle and there are eight visible aisles, so we're talking about the potential for a lot of hardware. The article indicates that about 220 computers were taken.

I've been to a couple of datacenters. They're basically warehouses with aisle upon aisle of these computer racks. I know of a couple of companies that have space in datacenters—smallish consulting companies with twenty to thirty employees. They rent half racks. Larger companies will need more space and, obviously, business needs will drive the space requirement, too.

For the FBI to waltz in and take the business critical computers of so many companies because of a couple of bad apples, well, that is a really bad precedent. Looting the bank accounts of the owner of the datacenter is appalling. This is going to force companies around the country to waste time updating their disaster recovery plans to address the recently introduced problem of FBI raids and it's going to driveup the cost of using datacenters.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hacking the US

Breitbart tells us that the Pentagon is shoveling money at cyber attacks to the tune of $100 million in half a year. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the US electric grid has been infiltrated by both the Chinese and the Russians.

I don't understand this. Why don't these organizations simply block all traffic originating from IPs assigned to non-friendly nations? That's pretty simple with iptables. Is there some compelling reason to allow that traffic in? Yeah, attackers could get around that by spoofing their IP or with US-based proxies, but I still think this is an 80% solution.

You might be wondering: "maybe people in the organization want to go to websites in those non-friendly nations." The way that iptables (and I presume other firewalls) works is that it can be configured to allow connections that are originated locally while denying remotely originated connections.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Coming Second World

We think of the nations of the world as falling into one of two categories on the development axis: First World and Third World. I believe that one of the side effects of the current global economic turmoil will be a convergence towards a more uniform level of development around the world. The first world countries will come down a peg due to mountains of debt, unaffordable government bureaucracies, falling populations, and civil unrest. The third world will rise by largely dodging the economic problems of the first world, collecting interest payments (China in particular), and maintaining stable population growth.

The most important factor leading to this convergence will be the Internet and the various technologies that it has spawned. The global economic crisis is not the driver of this change, it is merely the catalyst. The Internet and technology will facilitate our evolution.

Government corruption will hamper progress of both First and Third World countries. The surprising thing is how rife the First World is with graft. This gives well governed Third World countries time to advance while the First Worlders are spinning their wheels. Of course, that doesn't mean they'll do so—I don't expect any meaningful improvement in Zimbabwe for another generation.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Unemployment Later this Year

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that unemployment had reached 8.5%. The Department of Labor has a helpful chart on their website that indicates that the "minimum wage" will go up to $7.25 on July 24th. That will be the third annual increase since the Democrats retook Congress in the 2006 midterm election. It represents an 11% increase from last year and a 40% increase over the $5.15 rate of early 2006.

Here's my prediction. Companies and businesses that purchase minimum wage labor will accelerate those purchases as much as possible prior to July 24th. This implies that they will avoid labor purchases after July 24th. In other words, I expect unemployment to remain steady or even drop slightly before August and to increase after August. Sadly, I think we'll see double digit unemployment late this year.

Note: The minimum wage has always been, is now, and forever will be $0, that is why I put "minimum wage" in scare quotes.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Instapundit links to an article about the predictions of Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Russ Roberts first introduced me to Bueno de Mesquita a few years ago in this EconTalk podcast interview: The Political Economy of Power. It's a long interview with Bueno de Mesquita at an hour-and-a-half, but I've listened to that one interview three or four times. Bueno de Mesquita has participated in several other EconTalk podcasts. The first one is still my favorite.
I started reading Bueno de Mesquita's book, The Logic of Political Survival. It's a dense read with a health serving of mathematics. I've set it aside for now, but will return to it when I can put more time into reading it. Here it is:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

China Responds to Obama's Auto Bailout

President Obama's speech on Monday, inspired the leader of the People's Republic of China to offer his thoughts on the American economy. Here are Hu Jintoa's redacted remarks (emphasis added to indicate change from Obama's original text):

One of the challenges we have confronted from the beginning of the Obama administration is what to do about the state of China's struggling American economy. In recent months, my economic task force has been reviewing requests by the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury for additional Chinese assistance as well as plans developed by each of these bureaucracies to restructure, modernize, and make the United States more competitive. Our evaluation is now complete. But before I lay out what needs to be done going forward, I want to say a few words about where we are, and what led us to this point.

It will come as a surprise to no one that some of the Americans who have suffered most during this recession have been those in publicly traded firms and those working for companies that support them. Over the past year, the US economy has shed over 5,000,000 jobs, not only at the firms that create American products but at the businesses here in China that produce the parts that go into them. More than one in 20 Shanghai residents is out of work. And towns and cities across the Peoples Republic of China have watched unemployment climb higher than it's been in decades.

The pain being felt in places that rely on our export industry is not the fault of our workers, who labor tirelessly and desperately want to see their companies succeed. And it is not the fault of all the families and communities that supported manufacturing plants throughout the generations. Rather, it is a failure of leadership -- in Washington -- that led our companies to this point.

We cannot, we must not, and we will not let our export industry simply vanish. This industry is, like no other, an emblem of the Chinese spirit; a once and future symbol of China's success. It is what helped build the middle class and sustained it throughout the 20th century. It is a source of deep pride for the generations of Chinese workers whose hard work and imagination led to some of the finest plastic products the world has ever known. It is a pillar of our economy that has held up the dreams of millions of our people. But we also cannot continue to excuse poor decisions. And we cannot make the survival of our export industry dependent on an unending flow from American printing presses. These American federal agencies -- and their government -- must ultimately stand on their own, not as wards of China.

That is why China provided the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury with emergency loans to prevent the sudden collapse of the US economy -- only on the condition that they would develop plans to restructure. In keeping with that agreement, each bureaucracy has submitted a plan to restructure. But after careful analysis, we have determined that neither goes far enough to warrant the substantial new investments that these American government agencies are requesting. And so today, I am announcing that China will offer the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury a limited period of time to work with creditors, unions, and other stakeholders to fundamentally restructure in a way that would justify an additional loan; a period during which they must produce plans that would give the Chinese people confidence in their long-term prospects for success.

What we are asking is difficult. It will require hard choices. It will require public sector unions and workers who have already made painful concessions to make even more. It will require Washington to recognize that they cannot hold out for the prospect of monthly Chinese bailouts. Only then can we ask American taxpayers who have already put up so much of their hard-earned money to finally repay their countries debts. But I am confident that if we are each willing to do our part, then this restructuring, as painful as it will be for the US, will mark not an end, but a new beginning for a great American economy; reconstituted as a Chinese subsidiary that is once more out-competing the world; a 21st century vassal that is creating new jobs and unleashing new prosperity. I am absolutely committed to working with Congress, the Fed, and the US Treasury to meet one goal: the United States of America will lead the world back to sound money.

But the US economy is not moving in the right direction fast enough to succeed. So let me discuss what measures need to be taken starting with the US Treasury. While Treasury has made a good faith effort to sell bonds over the past several months, the plan they have put forward is, in its current form, not strong enough. However, after broad consultations with a range of experts and financial advisors, I'm confident that Treasury can rise again, provided that it undergoes a fundamental restructuring. As an initial step, Treasury is announcing today that Timothy Geithner is stepping aside as Secretary. This is not meant as a condemnation of Mr. Geithner, who has devoted his life to tax evasion; rather, it's a recognition that it will take a new vision and new direction to create the Treasury of the future.

The situation at the Federal Reserve is more challenging. It is with deep reluctance but also a clear-eyed recognition of the facts that we have determined, after a careful review, that the Fed needs a partner to remain viable. Recently, the Fed reached out and found what could be a potential partner -- the international car company Fiat… er… a return to the gold standard!