Build a Wall? Part Uno

(Originally posted on 2017-01-18.)

Politics is a football game, where winning is everything, and there are no stable values. What about the religious right? In the south, they used to vote for Democrats. What about free market capitalism?

By Michael Vadon [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The GOP was free-market right up until this election. Now there are Republicans that say, “We want protectionist economic policies. Build a wall!”

Protectionist economic policies will increase the cost of every item that comes from Mexico and China. (Whether that increase takes money away from the manufacturer, the import company, or the end-consumer, depends on the elasticity-of-demand.) Every person’s dollar will buy less, and Americans will be that much poorer, but the next president will still be able to afford a $650 iPhone.

People said that your future president was lying about getting Mexico to pay for the wall, but he actually did mention tariffs during the campaign.

Here’s the thing about tariffs: if you raise the price of imports, then people will buy them from some other place, and then the tariffs won’t generate money to build the wall. In that case, you won’t have a wall, and you won’t have inexpensive goods either.

Mexico and China are in an industrial revolution. At the end of an industrial revolution, you end up with a large middle class. Large middle-class people generally want the option of desk jobs. The USA is in between industrial revolutions.

But there’s a completely different way of looking at trade deficits, and it’s simply this: the trade imbalance just means that the US dollar buys more, and that means that people in the US, on average, are better off, than people in other countries, and USA-first people like trump shouldn’t want to mess with that.

Me? I think that people are people, and I don’t care whether they live in China, the USA, or most other places, but that’s a “Paul opinion”. It’s not liberal, and it’s not conservative.

By Crossswords (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Cumulative current account balance per capita 1980–2008 based on International Monetary Fund data. Emilfaro [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The two charts above show that the USA currently has the greatest trade imbalance, while simultaneously making more protectionist policies. Here are a few possible explanations:

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So that’s what a tank slapper is…

(Originally posted on 2007-06-21 as /archives/22)

I experienced my first tank slapper on 2007-06-20.  That’s when a harmonic instability causes the handlebars to swap from side-to-side as far as they can go (AKA full lock).  I purchased a Suzuki SV650SA7 one month earlier (2007-05-19), and I already have over 1200 miles on it.   Anyway, I was coming out of the parking lot on the NE corner of Iowa and 23rd in Lawrence, KS after lunch.  These cars were coming at me pretty fast so I wanted to accelerate out-of-there.  I gunned it while I was leaned over.  First the rear wheel starts spinning, or I hit a false neutral, or who knows what (VROOOOOOM), and then the handlebars are doing a high speed dance (JIGGY-JIGGY-JIGGY), and left foot comes of the peg.  Afraid?  HAH!  Danger is my middle name!  Embarrassed?  You bet.

Here is a video of a tank slapper that looked like mine:

Here is a much-worse-ending one:

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Star Wars: Harmy’s Despecialized Editions Rock

(Originally posted on 2017-01-18.)


There are different routes to seeing the original Star Wars, but they each have their limitations. I am intrigued by Harmy’s Despecialized Editions for all the reasons listed in the documentary above. Here is a review, instructions, and comparisons.

Caveat Emptor

In principle, I agree that it is ethical to view these if you have actually purchased copies of the movies, however, what’s ethical, and what’s legal are not always the same thing. I have not assembled or viewed these videos, so I cannot review them at this time, but I will link to a review below.


HanDuet’s The Ultimate Introductory Guide to Harmy’s Star Wars Trilogy Despecialized Editions is the best guide to getting access to these movies.

Here is the Star Wars Trilogy Despecialized Edition Facebook page.



In cases where there was footage added, the editions that don’t have it will just show black, but just for this comparison, not in the movies:

Han Shot First

Cloud City Escape

The Emperor’s Message

The End

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Ballooning with National Champion Pat Cannon

(Originally posted on 2012-02-24 as /archives/7634)

I rode with pilot Pat Cannon during part of the 2001 Highland Village Balloon Festival. Mr. Cannon won the Balloon Federation of America National Championship a number of times, so this was an incredible opportunity to see just how precise balloon piloting can be.


The challenge was to fly a minimum distance, and put a bean bag on a target.

We met at the event’s location for the pre-flight pilot meeting. Balloons are best-piloted during early morning or early evening (the Trey Ratcliff hours), so this was very early in the day.

We participated in the First Flight Ceremony. In my case this involved the pilot saying some words, and pouring champagne on my hair, but I observed other folks participating in another “secret version”. 1%-ers have nothing on balloonists.

We drove to the location, unfolded the balloon, and filled it with hot air (see image above). A number of other pilots followed our chase vehicle, and began their flights from nearby (see image below), but there was nothing special about that location piloting-accuracy-wise. Mr. Cannon chose that location because that’s where he wanted to land at the end of the event. The location chosen was a new development that was under-construction. The roads where there, and were free of debris, but construction had not yet begun on any of the homes. We used one of the roads like a heliport.


Before preparing to take off, he launched a small black helium balloon called a pie-ball (short for pilot-balloon). He used a sextant to follow the pie-ball, and estimated the wind’s speed and direction at various altitudes.

The pilot steers the balloon by choosing a direction, and then going to the altitude who’s wind is blowing in that direction. The balloon requires a certain amount of time to get to any chosen altitude, so the pilot needs to plan for that, and the intervening wind vectors, at each step.

Before leaving the pilot told me that we were going to:

  1. Fly over Lake Lewisville
  2. Make a 90-degree direction-change over the lake
  3. Fly to the target, which was here, and then
  4. Fly back to our starting place.

That’s exactly what he did:

  1. We flew a right-triangle
  2. Mr. Pat Cannon tossed his bean bag within 2-feet of the target’s center and then
  3. We then returned to the chase vehicle. No chasing required.

My legs were shaking during the first half of the trip. I have a fear of heights. Motorcycle riding in bad weather has helped me cure much of that since then.

One amazing thing about ballooning is that you can hear everything on the ground. Your vehicle is travelling at exactly the speed of the wind. Sound is as clear as if their were no wind at all.

People run out of their houses to see the balloon. This is early morning, so they are half-dressed. They notice that the pilot can see them in their nightwear and then run back into their houses.

Boaters were also on the lake to see the balloons. Pat Cannon brought his basket down to visit some boaters. He was able to have the bottom of the basket skim the water, but our feet never got wet, and I never saw any water on the basket floor. Another balloonist attempted to do that too, and his basket immediately laid-down on its side in the water; he, and his passengers got wet.

Are angry landowners a risk when landing? Yes. Pat Cannon told me about a landowner that started shooting his balloon as he flew over the shooter’s property. He was not even trying to land there. Mr. Cannon was well-prepared with the two-way radios that pilot’s use, a GPS, and even a mobile phone. The shooter was surprised when the police arrived at the scene. (Robert Munafo told me that people like to shoot trains too.)

Pilot Pat Cannon is an extremely skilled pilot. He has most of the existing pilot endorsements. He flew helicopters for the US Army during the Vietnam War. He is a FAA safety examiner, and he regularly flies Mitsubishi MU-2s for Turbine Aircraft Services, Inc. where he is a Principal.

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Roland MT-32 Resources

How to install munt:

Other Related Synth Stuff

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