Bill Gates to Head New Department of Technology

31 Mar

From today’s news wire, Washington, D.C.:

President Barack Obama today submitted his nomination of Bill Gates as Secretary for the soon to be announced Department of Technology. Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, made the announcement this morning at an impromptu press conference in the East Room of the White House.

Mr. Gates, co-founder and current Chairman of Microsoft, has amassed much criticism from those that consider his business tactics at Microsoft to be anti-competitive. However, few will argue that his success in business has been anything less than spectacular since he and his co-founder, Paul Allen, founded the software giant 38 years ago this month.

The conditions for his appointment as Secretary of Technology include him divesting himself of all interest in Microsoft and resigning his position of non-executive Chairman of that corporation. He has also pledged to personally donate all the computer hardware and software for the initial administrative set-up of the new department. The operation will temporarily be housed in leased space in Langley, VA, until its new facilities have been constructed at a yet to be determined Virginia location.

McDonough outlined the unique position of the department, in which it will take over all technology-related functions in Washington, with the exception of the NSA and CIA, which will manage their own technology divisions. The department will also take over immediate control of DARPA (Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency) from the Dept. of Defense, a move which has surprised many in Washington.

When asked what the specific functions of the new department are to be, McDonough responded “Recent developments on the international front have illustrated that staying at the forefront of technology is essential in order to defend the nation against cyber-attacks and other forms of digital hostility. Secretary Gates’ first priorities will be to mount effective defenses against such activities and develop decisive countermeasures, first within the greater national infrastructure, then trickling down to the Internet, in general.

“He will also dedicate a large portion of his efforts to creating programs conducive to establishing and maintaining significant design and development of hi-tech industry here in the United States. In this, he’ll be assisted by the Department of Commerce and the NSA,” added McDonough.

Asked whether the Administration anticipated any significant resistance in Congress for the formation of the new department, with the present economic situation in the country, the Chief of Staff reported that the all the activities of the Dept. of Technology were already funded elsewhere and would simply be moved to reflect the new hierarchy. Construction of the new buildings won’t begin until 2014, at which time the President’s budget will be amended to accommodate the construction. He also disclosed that Mr. Gates would be deferring any salary while serving as Secretary.

“This is a crucial mission that both the President and Secretary Gates feel is of the utmost urgency, as is reflected by the Secretary’s refusal of a salary and his donation of computer hardware and software that is expected to exceed 80 million dollars.” said the Chief of Staff. “We’re confident that the House and Senate, once they’ve seen the numbers, will agree that this is a win-win situation for the nation and will serve critical national security interests.”

The question of how acceptable, as a candidate, Mr. Gates will be seen by Congress remains to be seen. Many Republican members have expressed displeasure with his recent statements to the BBC, in which he said he feels that taxes must go up, and they should be higher for the rich. Additionally, many on the other side of the aisle find his success as a capitalist inherently troubling.

Mr. Gates’ net worth was reported by Forbes to be 67 billion dollars at this writing, making him the wealthiest man in the United States and the second wealthiest in the world. Moreover, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donates a minimum of 1.5 billion dollars each year to a broad array of health and education causes, which has garnered much respect for the Secretarial candidate.

Mr. Gates was unavailable for comment, but we’ll update as soon as he responds.

Now go have a great April Fool’s Day! But first, ask yourself this… if you saw this spoof on any other day of the year (and on a more credible site), exactly what part of this would be unbelievable? 

Don’t Get Too Close to the Bubble, Lest you Get Caught in the Burst

16 May

When I graduated high school in 1970, nearly 40% of H.S. grads continued on to college. It was considered a necessity to finish high school, probably justifiably, and there was already a good bit of propaganda circulating about a college degree being necessary if one hoped to land a “good” job. That 40% is now over 70%. Is that a sign of a more educated society? You be the judge.


The last three years of my public school, I was working for $1.00 an hour, and glad to get it. I worked an average of 50 hours per week, and gas was only about 36 cents per gallon, so I was feeling fairly flush.

Unfortunately (depending upon your point of view), it was the sixties, and free love and Timothy O’Leary got a lot more of my attention than my textbooks. I wasn’t terribly motivated during my senior year, and my grades fell dramatically. Any hopes I (my parents, actually) might have had of a scholarship went up in smoke, so to speak.

Still, after getting an extraordinary education, courtesy of the U.S. Navy, I was able to get a decent job after my discharge, and worked my way up to a nearly $250K annual income. Many times, I chuckled about my high school counselors singing their doom and gloom song about my future, if I didn’t knuckle down and get that sheepskin.

Finally, though, in the mid-80s, I did hit a wall, and was told that the company just couldn’t have a vice-president of marketing with only a H.S. diploma. So I left, and went back to school. Let me tell you, being the only 30-some year old in a college classroom leaves a lot to be desired. I think most of my professors were younger than I was.

That time around, I thoroughly enjoyed the studying, though. So much so, that once I got my BS in engineering, I decided that I’d get a short-term job and go back for my MBA. Surprising everyone, including myself, I did just that.

Most of my bachelor’s degree studies were funded by my G.I. Bill, thanks to my eleven years in the Navy. My costs consisted of only living expenses. When it came time to return for my business degree, however, everything was out of pocket, as I’d long since exhausted my G.I. benefits.

Before finishing business school, I already had an offer, starting at $200K, so I felt like I’d wasted a lot of years. If only I’d gone to college right out of high school, instead of a couple of years of vacation in Southeast Asia. 😉

But my perspective changed, once I found myself in a management role. Young college grads brought nothing to the table but buzzwords and stylish haircuts. Their lack of experience left the majority of them severely lacking the bare essentials for survival in business. And amazingly, when discussing basics with them that I had studied at my university, I found that most of them had been exposed to almost nothing of practical value. Statistical analysis is critical for some positions, but not for those I was trying to fill. Hell, most of those kids STILL hadn’t ever learned how to balance their checkbook!

I also found that the majority of them had been forced to take out student loans, usually with their parents as co-signers, in amounts that seemed to me to be intimidating for someone just starting a career. $25K was a typical number, as I recall, and around 5 years to pay it back. Five or six hundred dollars a month was enough to keep most of them in a shared apartment.

I thought then how fortunate I was that between the Navy and my savings, I’d been able to pay my own way, and not be saddled with that sort of debt. In those days, $25K could buy a decent house. In fact, that’s exactly what I paid for my first home.

Shoot forward a few years… about twenty. Last year a client asked me to write a feature article on higher education in the U.S. A little research left me reeling in shock.

One resource I stumbled across during that process was the National Inflation Association. I signed up for their newsletter then and still get it regularly. A couple of weeks ago, they announced that they were releasing a documentary entitled “College Conspiracy”, and offered a preview. That preview sparked my interest, as it delved deeply into some bits of “common knowledge” that I had long suspected of being fallacies.

Today, I got to view the entire film, and I can’t begin to paint the picture as well as their film does, but I will share just a few verifiable statistics with you.

  • Today, a public 4 year college charges an in-state student an average of $7,020 per year in tuition and fees.
  • For out-of-state enrollees, add an average of $11,528 surcharge per year.
  • A private 4-year college charges an average of $26,293 per year in tuition and fees.
  • In any of those cases, you can figure on spending around $200 per textbook. That’s triple what it was a decade ago.
  • The typical 4-year degree in the U.S. has a total cost of more than $460K. That doesn’t include textbooks or living expenses. I know –  that doesn’t match the numbers above – watch the film to understand the difference.

I could go on and on, but if you trust my recommendations at all, then please do yourself a favor and watch this movie…. especially if you or someone in your family is planning to attend college. It may be the most educational hour you have spent in a long time.

View “College Conspiracy” now.

I Remember… do you?

13 Apr

A good friend of mine was reminiscing about the technological changes over the last 30 years, on the v7N Tech Blog. It got me thinking, which isn’t always a good thing.

Now I’m feelin’ just plain OLD!

I remember when only very rich people could get anything BUT a party line telephone, and even Early telephoneTHAT was only available in the inner cities. Many suburban areas just didn’t even have telephone service available to private residences yet. And the phone didn’t have a dial… you just jiggled the hook a few times and the operator came on so you could tell her who you wanted to ring. She dialed it for you.

B&W TV SetI remember when we were the second family in our neighborhood to buy a television set… a huge cabinet with a tiny black and white screen in the middle. Color wasn’t even thought of until years later.

We mailed our letters with a three cent stamp. One cent for postcards.

Drive-In TheaterI remember when the neighboring town got the first drive-in movie theater in our state… everyone was convinced it would never catch on. They were wrong!

I remember a nation howling with glee when John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.

And a nation crying when our President was shot in his car from a grassy knoll in Dallas.

Cassius Clay/Muhammad AliI remember a young kid named Cassius Clay having the audacity to think he could challenge the Champ.

And not understanding why he would later change his name.

I remember how odd I thought it was for cars to start having the starter connected to the key. That button on the floor had worked just fine.

Then they moved the dimmer switch to the turn signal!

4-track playerI remember 4-track tapes… I even had one in my pickup.

Then they came out with 8-tracks, and made ’em obsolete.

Princess PhoneI remember my sister just “dying” to have a Princess phone. They didn’t just come in black like a “regular” phone. First they added white, and then with the Princess, came various colors.

I remember an entire country on the edge of its seat, while our President mobilized troops in a face-off with the Kremlin over some missile launchers in Cuba.

VP Nixon, 1959Believe it or not, I even remember an earlier President, a former 5-star General, who had the misfortune of picking a Vice President that would go on to sponsor the Watergate embarrassment.

Some of those things I remember vividly, some of them are more vague. But I remember all of ’em, regardless.

Hippie demonstratorsI remember taking a break from a demonstration on the SDSU campus to chat with an old guy that changed my life with a simple question: “Why?” When I realized I couldn’t really give him a decent answer, I headed to the library to find out. What I learned there sent me to get a haircut and then to the recruiter’s office.

I remember some other things, too. Some things that aren’t as pleasant.

Troop casualties, homeward boundI remember my government sending hundreds of thousands of us into a combat situation, first without adequate arms or training, then with the shackles of political concerns, while they sent us more body bags than bullets.

I remember being amongst the last few hundred providing cover for the rest to evacuate, as 30,000 VC swarmed through Saigon to try to stop them.

I remember being spat on and called a murderer of babies in the San Francisco airport by punks that were just as clueless as I had been that day at SDSU.

Homeless VeteranI remember listening to years of lies and misinformation, while I saw other vets panhandling on corners, many candidates for mental institutions.

US FlagAnd I remember the pride I felt, every single time I watched our flag raise to the strains of the Star Spangled Banner, whether it was at a baseball game, a rodeo or a military ceremony.

All in all, not bad memories. Especially from a guy that often forgets to put water in the coffee pot!

I remember…. do you?

Are you a Carnivore?

9 Apr
Beef cuts at the market


First of all, let me be perfectly clear about something. I am a confirmed carnivore. Sure, I enjoy vegetables, too… provided they’re to one side of a nice juicy steak. I like chicken and fish, too, but to be honest, I barely consider them to be meat. Meat is red, and generally comes from a creature larger than me. Pork and beef are my preferred poison.

I used to raise our own beef and slaughter one or two every year. I’ve done more than a fair amount of hunting, and butchered deer, wild boar, turkeys and even one bear. Aside from one childhood incident where I killed a squirrel just because I could (the shame of which I was immediately made to feel by my father, and which has stayed with me to this day), I have never killed any animal that didn’t find its way to my table. And I have never killed in order to hang a trophy on my wall.

I’ve slaughtered hogs, goats, and various fowl, cleaned and gutted enough fish to feed a small town for a month and I have NEVER failed to exercise compassion when doing so. When “doctoring” my animals (translation: castration, de-horning, or treating serious wounds), I always used anesthetic and antibiotics, and the most humane method I could.

I consider animals to be creatures that deserve at least as much compassion and respect as living beings as I do, even if they are headed for my table.

I’ve been a meat-eater all my life, and I have no intention of changing that now.

HOWEVER… I do know that industrialization of the meat industry has given rise to many barbaric practices in order to increase productivity (and of course, profits). I don’t know if all of those practices can be eradicated, while maintaining the necessary productivity. But I do believe we have to TRY!

The video below is not for the weak of heart or stomach. If you have a weak stomach, you probably won’t be able to watch it. I do, though, encourage you to at least listen to it. Punch the play button, and listen while you check your email or something, and you may find you’ll be enlightened.

I am certainly not trying to convince anyone to give up meat and become a vegan… I won’t be, I assure you. I simply encourage you to be aware of how hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of animals are deliberately and viciously treated every single month in this country. I encourage you to stay away from genetically modified food of all kinds, because nobody really knows what the long-term effects of ingesting such food may be.

And most of all, I encourage you to do anything you can to teach your children, nephews and nieces or grandchildren how important it is for them to remain humane when dealing with other creatures.

Don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning. This video is graphic. It’s appalling. It’s shameful. It’s something we all need to change.

Edit: 5/16/11 I see that this video has been removed. I’ll try to locate it elsewhere and put it back up.

Edit: 5/21/11 I couldn’t locate another copy of that video anywhere, unfortunately. However, I did find another one that is somewhat related and should be of interest to many of you. Food, Inc. can’t be embedded here, but here’s a link to the first of seven parts on YouTube. The remaining parts are present on the same channel.

Edit: 9-23-2013 Food, Inc. is back up on YouTube again… hopefully it’ll stay this time.

Front-end Conversion

5 Apr

Getting ready to make the conversion from leaf springs to coil, and manual steering to power, we ordered the conversion kit today for the pick-up. The picture below is a manual job, but otherwise, very similar to the one we’re supposed to receive in two weeks. (Click to enlarge)

Front suspension  conversion kit

$1,500 worth, with the power add-on

Tomorrow, I’m heading over to do some grinding and welding on the chassis, and take some dimensions. Gerardo is getting impatient to get things moving again, and I’m trying to hold him back so we don’t get ahead of ourselves. Making him understand that dropping a Chevy engine into a Ford pick-up is no big thing, but when you toss in a front end conversion, change from standard to automatic, and all the other “minor” mods we’re doing, it pays to measure twice and cut once.

The chop-job on the cabin is turning out to be a challenge, and it looks like four inches is about all we’re going to be able to manage. Turns out I’m going to have to fabricate the flip-hood conversion too, as we couldn’t determine exactly which kit would fit properly. I decided it was safer to just build it and send it out for chrome work, since they won’t accept a return if it doesn’t fit.

Gerardo went to the Good Guys show and took some great pics, so I thought I’d throw in a few of those to show you what we have in mind.

Flip-hood conversion

This is the type of flip-hood conversion I'll build

And a closer look…

Another view

A typical chop-job

This is a 4-1/2″ chop, but the weld-line shows, so we’re thinking to  limit ourselves to 4″.





This is what the hood will look like, opened all the way (my sister-in-law and niece in the foreground)


After the hood conversion is done


And except for the color scheme, the interior will be pretty similar to this


The interior

We’re starting to get down to the rough details now, so it’s getting interesting. Funny, though… it’s not getting any cheaper!


Waiting for the Paint and Body Work to be Done

15 Mar

The engine being basically done, except for accessories, we’re now waiting for the paint and body man to catch up with us. So we decided to pay him a visit and see how the work is going on his end.  Here’s a couple of shots of the chassis, after sandblast and preliminary priming. (click photos to enlarge)
'54 Ford chassis

'54 Ford Chassis2

And here’s the front of the cab. It’s been blasted and primed, but he hasn’t done the chop yet. The roof will be lowered a total of 4 inches all the way around. That alone is a good bit of work, and when that’s done, we have to find the replacement glass all the way around.

'54 Ford cabin

'54 Ford cabin

The hood and fenders have been blasted and primed, but still have some body work coming. Part of that will involve installing the reverse tilt hood opening hardware.

'54 Ford body parts

'54 Ford body parts

The bed needed a good bit of work, as truck beds often do. The front panel was pretty beaten up, but he managed to do a great job of straightening it out. Some welding took care of a few extra holes that had been drilled over the years. We’ve ordered polished stainless steel runners, and new oaken boards, as well as the cross members and isolation pads that go beneath. He’ll need all that to align and square up the bed. The tailgate is going to be a custom job.

'54 Ford body parts

'54 Ford body parts

All in all, it’s coming along nicely. We figure we’ll have a little over $10k in her, before we get done. We’ve already got nearly $2k in the engine. The interior is still under discussion. I’m pushing for all digital in stock framework, and Gerardo seems to like the idea of full stock. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, we still have to rebuild this bench seat, and decide on upholstery colors. Since we’re now thinking of a dark brown and copper two-tone paint scheme, I’m thinking that copper upholstery would look best.

'54 Ford bench seat

Once we get the chassis back and we can weld in the new motor mounts, transmission cross-member and new front-end suspension, we’ll send the chassis back for mounting of the body. When that’s done, we’ll bring it back and set the engine and transmission.

Stay tuned… it’s starting to get interesting!

Getting 500 HP out of a 350 cid Ain’t Cheap!

7 Mar

I suppose one of these days, I’ll have to just put all these pics in a scrapbook portfolio, rather than making you all scroll through a bunch of posts. For the time being, though, this seems like the best way to go about sharing our progress.

We received the Weiand intake manifold, the Edelbrock valve covers and the chrome housing for the alternator, along with a few other tidbits. So yesterday, I was verifying, fitting and adjusting stuff, along with a little more painting. The monster looked so good with the valve covers and manifold on it, that I decided to hang the headers just to grab a couple of pics. (click to enlarge)

350 cid, taking shape

They do dress it up a little!

350 cid, on the stand, with Hookers

Yeah! That helps!

Left side, 350 cid on stand, with Hooker headers

T'other side

350 cid top view, Weiand manifold, Edelbrock V/C and Hooker headers

Comin' right along!

Next week, I’ll order the Edelbrock Thunder AVS 650 cfm carburetor, which’ll really top her off nicely. Still a lot of little details to work out, like whether we go with something dressy on the accessory mounts (pricey, for sure, but for a show vehicle, a good addition), and start doing some of the plumbing work.

All the body work is done, and primer has been applied. The chassis is being sandblasted and primed this week, so we can start running cables and brake lines. We still haven’t made a decision on the front-end suspension… retrofit a Volare front-end, or go with a new one. Again, pricey, but we’re having a hard time finding a Volare front end, so we may be forced to go that route.