Sacramento Trip Updates

14 June 2017

street sign in everett

13 June: (I had written this part up earlier, but the draft is on another computer.) I rode Northwest Trailways from Pullman to Seattle. It takes the northern route, through Leavenworth and Stevens Pass. It’s prettier than the Greyhound route, but takes longer. I arrived in the late afternoon and stayed in a place called the Panama Hotel. This place is a lightly-restored hotel built in 1910 for immigrants from Asia. Jan Johnson operates it and she puts a lot of effort into it. It’s different than a “modern” hotel, but was fine for me. She sees it as a kind of museum.

14 June: The Amtrak Coast Starlight pulled out of King Street Station around 9:30 in the morning. That meant we could see the sites all the way to the California border. After an uneventful morning, I stayed in the observation car after lunch, and some interesting people got on somewhere early in our trip through Oregon. One guy had a guitar and sat down and started playing. Later he had an intense political discussion about the absence of wisdom in modern society.

leaving train station salem oregon

15 June: The train pulled into Sacramento just a little after sunrise. I started walking. I found a breakfast place open early and had some fresh fruit and a muffin. Then I walked east until I got to Sutter’s Fort (1839-1848) and photographed an egret sitting in a pool outside, looking a bit dejected. There are lots of shops in “Midtown” but most don’t open until 10 or so. I slowly made my way back downtown, where I visited my church and made a donation.

heron in pond by sutter's fort

Then I went out to the Econolodge and signed in. My 25-day stay broke my debit card, but I called BECU’s 1-800 number and got it fixed. My realtor came by a little later and took me to the one mobile home park that agreed to look at my application. We planned to prepare the paperwork the next morning and then turn it in.

After that I went across the freeway to Fry’s and got the computer I’m typing this on, as my little Linux-based netbook would not connect properly.

16 June: Took all morning to prepare the paperwork, but my realtor was happy with it and the lady at the park liked it, too. After I got back from that, I finally managed to connect to the internet. This motel uses an unsecured Wi-Fi network with a browser “landing page” that prompts you for a password. This is supposed to happen automatically, but with some computers you might have to type in the URL of the landing page.

It has turned VERY hot in Sacramento, so I waited as long as I could to go out to shop at Foodsco. This is one of those BIG grocery stores, in this case run by Kroger. It is one of four stores in the Sacramento area. They don’t always show up when you search for “grocery stores.” Poorer people come to shop there, as the prices are pretty good. The selection, however, is heavy on the processed foods side. I found the produce decent, and located some good yogurt, too.

17 June: We are expecting above 100F during the daytime for at least a week if not longer. I am staying inside mostly, though did go out for lunch and more groceries. I downloaded and watched Courtney Brown’s latest remove viewing project which was on Area 51 (officially, the Groom Lake facility). It was pretty good and confirmed what others have reported about it: MagLev trains, multi-story underground research complexes, ET involvement and genetic experimentation. When one of Courtney’s remote viewers sees something, you have to take it seriously. So a lot of the Area 51 scuttlebutt is the real deal. I suggest David Adair’s stories for more data about what it was like there maybe 30-40 years ago.

18 June: I got up “early” and took the 86 bus downtown. The ride only took about 15 minutes. I stayed on and went back out to Discovery Park by the American River where I walked around for a while. Then I caught the next bus back to Northgate Blvd, and a short walk up to the motel. They are expecting the hottest 18 June on record today – above 105F – so I didn’t want to stay outside too long.

19-20 June: Another visit to my church, another donation. Then today I went to a “coworking” place near downtown to get a more reliable (and secure) internet connection than is available at the motel. Internet cafes are starting to drift out of fashion, what with internet connection via mobile phone becoming so common. So now some are beefing up their infrastructure a bit and offering it to “serious” computer users, usually at a price. I, however, got in on a “free day pass” plus a muffin and two iced herb teas.

Thoughts from yesterday:
Met a woman who owned a house in Reno, was planning to move to Sac, but keep the house in Reno and rent it out. This follows the modern pattern of the financially better-enabled of somehow creating an asset pool, then living off the income from it. The trick is to acquire the asset in the first place. If you get a really good-paying job and save a lot, you can do it. But to me there seems something wrong in it…

Today watched an interview with Niara Isley, an ex-airman who got used as slave labor on the moon. She came out at least 6 years ago, and has been telling the same story the whole time, and also wrote a book. Like Corey Goode, she has turned to the New Age movement for solace and support. This is apparently allowable for people who are trying to blow the whistle on the secret space program.

21-22 June: Have been travelling around a lot on the light rail. Went to both ends of the blue line; still have to do that with the two other lines. I stopped off at some different places, such as the Broadway part of the Oak Park neighborhood. Went out and visited the house where I will be staying when I move here. It is located in a part of the city where they didn’t have to put in sidewalks when they were building the houses there. Very strange.

Packed

8 June 2017

homemade packing crates all piled up

This is what 90% packed looks like at my place.

I had mostly homemade “erector set” style furniture, now all turned into packing crates and trunks.

Everything counted so far adds up to about 183 cubic feet. At 25 pounds per cubic foot that would be about two tons. It probably weighs a little less than that.

Another view:

manufactured trunks piled up for inventory

Road cases are my first choice for equipment storage.

How to Write a Constitution

29 May 2017

The title is a bit ostentatious, but it’s the best I could think of. Though I don’t really have the resources to give this topic justice, I was thinking about it, so decided to write a post on my Memorial Day time off.

I take for my reference the US Constitution of 1787. I hope the copy I have is accurate.

Talking about ostentatious: It starts, “We the People of the United States…” That’s nice, but probably a little broad. It should certainly mention who agreed to it, if not who actually wrote it. It is basically a piece of literature, so it could have an author.

Purpose

The preamble lists the things this government is to carry out:
Form a more perfect union;
Establish justice;
Insure domestic tranquility;
Provide for the common defense;
Promote the general welfare;
Secure the blessings of liberty…to our posterity.

This is important. These are the long-term and continuing goals and purposes of this government; they are its job. A group needs goals and purposes, and must sometimes be reminded of them. “General welfare” is a bit vague, but we’ll leave it that way for now.

Legislative Powers

I find it a little odd to bring this up first, rather than giving a more general overview of how the system was supposed to work. Too many incorrect assumptions could be made here; we need to spell this out better.

Article 0.

We propose that this nation take the form of a constitutional Republic. This gives us a layered approach to both policy-making and action. There are individuals at each level who represent, or preside over, a group of individuals at the next lower level. Every member of the system is not normally expected to interact with anyone above their level or below the level they supervise or represent in matters of official business, except under special circumstances. Every group at every level has the right to operate as it sees fit, and this right can only be overridden as described below. The assumption is that most people already know what to do or can figure it out.

Legislation:

The purpose of legislation is to set guidelines (policy, laws) that bind those at that level to act within certain limitations or restrictions. This document specifically covers the national, or federal, level, but is also meant to serve as a guide, or pattern, for lower levels.

I will not cover the details of Article 1 here, however, we cannot move on before inspecting Section 8.

Areas of legislative authority / responsibility:

  • Taxes, duties, imposts and excises (to be uniform across all states).
  • Specify outlay to pay debts.
  • Specify outlay to provide for the common defense.
  • Specify outlay to provide for the general welfare.
  • Borrow money.
  • Regulate commerce beyond state boundaries or responsibilities.
  • Regulate immigration.
  • Regulate bankruptcies.
  • Coin money, regulate its value, and establish standard weight and measures.
  • Establish Post Offices and post roads (ensure free flow of communications between citizens).
  • Offer limited patent and copyright protection to authors and inventors.
  • Establish lower-level judicial bodies (tribunals) as needed.
  • Protect the nation from piracy at sea.
  • Declare war, and similar war powers.
  • Raise temporary armies while maintaining a permanent navy.
  • Organizing and activating the Militia for certain purposes.
  • Rule over the seat of government.
  • There are more points, but these are the main ones…

Executive Power

Traditionally, the executives of history (kings, emperors, etc.) got to make their own rules. This was not just a matter of egotism. They had things to get done and they needed to be able to act. One of their favorite pastimes seems to have been making war. This had to change. The chief executive of a nation does have the “power” to make war, as the military is under his/her command. However, it was considered that war should be a matter of policy and not executive action, and this still seems the wiser route.

To further discourage executive policy-making, the Founders proposed putting the matter up for a vote every four years. This seems rather arbitrary to me; why not whenever a majority or some higher ratio of legislators found it needful, but not more often than every four (or three?) years. But we shall leave this be for the time being. The point is: You can’t get policy continuity in the Executive Branch if the senior person is changing all the time, and that’s the way we want it.

Judicial Power

“Judges” have traditionally served a wide variety of functions. At their best, they act themselves, or by guiding a jury (or similar group of peers) to determine who the real criminal is when something goes wrong. As far as I can tell, they do not have a particularly high reputation in this regard. Like anyone else faced with a real criminal, the judge can be threatened when faced with a “hard decision” and forced to back down.

If judges cannot be depended upon to uphold the ethics standards of the group, then who can be? If a group is that far gone, there is little hope for it. But for now, let’s move on to Article 4.

States

This section (Article 4) goes over certain matters of equal treatment across state lines. After all, these states are all part of a Republic, and are supposed to cooperate with each other. You can’t have the police forces of two states in battle because their laws are different.

But I feel this whole subject of states is not taken far enough in this document.

Article 4.

The full and globally-recognized territory of this nation has been – and shall continue to be – divided into geographical regions known as “states” or “territories” based on a combination of historical and geographical factors. States have the right of sovereign rule within their boundaries, assuming the restrictions imposed by this document are respected. Territories have not yet attained the full rights of states, but may petition Congress to be granted these.

All policy (legislative), executive and judicial actions originating at the federal level of this republic shall not extend any further than the states, except under most extraordinary circumstances. Certainly, no federal law, federal action through any of its agents, or federal judicial decision shall apply to or be binding on any individual citizen (that being understood to include only real persons, not “private” entities created through legal means) unless that citizen has specifically requested such a bypass.

It is further expected that state governments will, in turn, deal only with county governments, and those only with municipal governments and those only with neighborhood governments (where that may apply), as this has proven to be more acceptable to citizens and more conducive to individual initiative and thus, the general welfare.

Private Enterprise. This does not mean that a private enterprise, operating across state boundaries and employing numbers comparable to numbers of citizens in a state, or producing things of value on a similar order to that of the combined production of all smaller enterprises within a state, should expect to be favored by the rights and protections afforded smaller enterprises by a state, simply by virtue of the location of their headquarters. Indeed, if any enterprise should grow to the extent outlined above, it can expect to be required to deal directly with the federal government in all matters where it must be treated as a whole, as in the matter of taxation.

The above summarizes the points that I think are important in the game of operating a nation. Though using the context of the US Constitution has limited my comments in some ways, the points I have mentioned are some of the most important. We have erred by overlooking them.

Second Warm Period on the Palouse

21 May 2017

The plants are popping out very strongly on our warmer days.

They seem proud this year. The weather was rough, and the warmth came late. They suffered this Spring, but came through it OK.

I hope we can do the same!

flowering apple tree

“I’m the best apple tree on the Palouse.”

quail on pullman trail

Quail like sunny days, too.

And That Is Banking

18 May 2017

INFLATION IS DETERMINED BY THE RATIO BETWEEN THE DEPOSITED GOODS AND THE NUMBER OF RECEIPTS (money) ISSUED.

…real banking, can all by itself, increase production.

– L. Ron Hubbard
HCO Policy Letter of 2 September 1982
AND THAT IS BANKING

The implication of the above reference is that poor banking practices can cause runaway price increases, while sound banking practices can increase the prosperity of all.

I wanted to write something about this subject because I have been studying about how home loans work, and it helped me realize some things that others have been pointing out for a long time.

Note that on 19 May I rewrote this post to try to make it more accurate; see more about that below.

Financial people tend to speak in terms that are not easily understood, and to assume you know about something that you don’t actually know about. However, most people have heard of the term “balancing the books” and this is a basic concept worth going over.

I suppose the idea that the books have to “stay in balance” is similar to the idea that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In the physical universe, this is true by observation. However, money and finance are conceptual universes, or you could say a kind of mathematical model of the physical universe. If a car exists, it is assumed that someone was paid to make it, whether that’s really what happened or not. So if I buy a car, I basically convert some of my cash into a vehicle. In my books (if I kept books), the price paid moves out of the Cash asset category and into the Vehicles asset category, and they stay balanced. What if someone gave me the car? I basically have to create a special category for gifts, which in a commercial business would be similar to something called “retained earnings”.

Debt

Now, say I’m a bank, and I have some deposits from my customers, and loan a portion of these to someone. This decreases my cash – the pool I make loans from. How do I replenish that pool (other than by getting more deposits)? In normal banking I would have to use part of my income (payments on loans I had already made to other people) and put that back into my cash. In mortgage banking I could do something called “selling the loan.” Basically, the loan turns into a security (essentially a document that can be bought and sold) that I can sell to a company that buys those types of securities.

Where do those companies get their money? They also create and sell securities – stock, basically – to investors. The investors include a lot of firms that help people save for retirement, as well as other investment firms. Those firms buy all sorts of stocks and other securities with that money.

The ultimate source of money for buying debt (making loans) in the U.S. is the Federal Reserve. The “Fed” is part of a network of “Central Banks.” Central Banks get charters from governments to control the money supply for them. They regulate banks, and they buy debt (or make loans, however you want to look at it). The Central Banks deal mostly with the large commercial banks, which are all international corporations. Smaller local institutions deal mostly with the big banks. The chain of purchasing debt works its way down until you get to the borrowers, who are expected to keep up their flow of payments. Governments are also large borrowers. To borrow money, they issue “bonds,” which come with a promise to pay dividends, and the full amount borrowed at the time of maturity. So in the case of government borrowing, the taxpayers, have to pay all that through their taxes. That’s why “bond initiatives” have to be approved by voters. In the end, a lot of what we make at our jobs goes to make profits for the owners of “debt.”

Making Money

Before my recent studies, I hadn’t really heard about this practice of “selling debt.” But debt is a receivable on the bank’s books, so it is worth something. It never occurred to me that you could somehow sell that to another company to get more cash (stay liquid, as the financial people call it). But this is really just another way of saying that the bank borrowed some cash. I’ve heard of companies borrowing to make payrolls, or buy new equipment. I’d just never heard of banks borrowing so they could make more loans. Of course, assuming they continue to service (collect payments) on the loans they sell, they have to forward most of those payments to the new owners of the loans, so that portion of their income is no longer available for lending.

As I wrote this, I came to see that “selling debt” could also be given another meaning. It could also be seen as selling people – governments in particular – on the idea that they should borrow money in order to do things. They shouldn’t save, they should borrow. You shouldn’t “wait until you can afford it,” you should buy it right now, do it right now. With governments, this is particularly pushed as a way to finance wars. Every major war I am aware of was financed with debt – the taxpayers (via the government) borrowed money from banks, then had to pay it all back afterwards. It is a potent way to “make money” in a short amount of time. I don’t know, however, if it really accomplishes anything over longer periods, especially if it involves making war.

Fractional Reserve Banking

Some people believe that this is a new idea. But it is really just a newer term for an old idea. According to Google’s Ngram viewer, the phrase first appeared in literature around the turn of the last century.
As long as banks have been loaning money, they have been using deposited funds (or other assets) to do so. The idea of “Central Banks” was pushed into place after it seemed that unregulated banks had an inclination to dig too deep into their cash. Now Central Banks police what fraction of a bank’s deposits (or cash, to use a simpler term) must be held in reserve so that their depositors will be happy with the illusion that their full deposited balance could be withdrawn at any time. Depositors get to account for their full deposited amounts as “cash,” when in reality only a fraction of that amount is actually available to be paid out from the bank’s reserves.

No one likes “reserves” because they just sit there and don’t do anything. It’s kind of like a having a Fire Department in your town. In a perfect world, they would never have a fire to fight, or even a cat to get out of a tree. In this real world, you need to have one because “stuff happens.” Same goes for reserves.

Some would argue that amounts held is reserve should be quite substantial. It gives stability to an economy, and breeds a certain level of confidence, even a certain willingness to take risks. I think there is validity to those arguments. But that does not mean banks need to keep 100% of their “on demand” cash deposits as reserves. This is discussed more below.

The beauty of a cashless system (in the eye of the banker)

In the “old days” money meant gold coins, or ingots of silver, or other precious metals, or gems. Today it can be reduced to a code in a bank’s database. Money (currency, really) had to be manufactured, transported and stored when not in use. Meanwhile, businessmen had grown used to account books, and moving larger sums around using bank drafts instead of currency. This began the move away from “hard” money. The “softer” the money, the easier it was to handle and move about. Banks and their major customers really liked these benefits. And so, national currencies were pushed into place, the use of paper money was greatly expanded, and finally computer systems were developed that just require an ID card to access account records.

Global-scale electronic funds transfer systems now exist, and are very widely used. All accounts at all modern banks are computerized. Banks are now relieved of the problem of having to store precious metals in their vaults, though “modern” money can still be stolen. To the extent that the world goes cashless, banks and stores are relieved of the problem of securing their on-hand currency, and only have to worry about their computers, which can be locked away in their now-empty vaults.

So, what’s so good about cash?

However, the credit or debit card holder now has to worry about the security of his electronic transactions. I once had a bank make a $2,500 error in my favor. They never bothered to correct it, though I told them about it more than once. For them it was insignificant, but that’s a huge amount for me. What if my account suddenly one day had $2,500 less in it? They better be able to correct that!

In a secure and honest world, using a card instead of cash (currency) would be a great way to go. In the world as it really exists, I want to be able to fall back on coins and paper money. If a store’s electronic payment system goes down, I want them to accept my cash. If I need some water out of an old-style vending machine, I need some coins or I go thirsty. If I want to tip a waiter, it’s easier for me to think with using a couple of extra bills.

When money is a commodity, then you can’t have some unless you earn it or physically steal it from somebody. When money is only a number in a database, what happens if I can’t get access to that database? And what happens if someone can get illegal access to it? Or in some other way fiddle with accounts just by making some entries in a computer program? It gives the tech-savvy an advantage I’m not sure they’ve earned. The cashless ideal includes a reliance on technology that is not necessarily as reliable as I need it to be. At the business level, if a transaction gets fouled up, it can be fixed later. At a personal level, it could mean the difference between staying fed or going hungry.

I’m not advocating a return to cash necessarily, though we might be forced into it should the electronic funds transfer systems stop working. But I am pointing out that our turn away from cash did not handle the most important problems we have always had: dishonesty, thievery and avoidance of real productive work.

Reality Check

My original concept of how this scam works was simple, but incorrect:

The bank has my $100. I thought this meant it could loan out $1000. That’s not exactly right. It is only allowed to loan, maybe, $90. Except, that loaned money is going to end up in another bank account, and then about $80 of that could be loaned back out. That whole cycle can be imagined to repeat maybe 5 or ten times. Now a lot more than my $100 has been loaned – deposited – and re-loaned. That’s what people call “creating money.” I discuss this more below.

The other part of my perception of what was wrong with this system was the cashless nature of modern transactions. This possibly provides more opportunity to “fiddle” the system. If you have to provide a borrower with real currency to complete a loan, then if you run out of currency, you can’t make any more loans. If you only have to credit an account on a computer, then you don’t need the currency. So, who’s to stop you from just pumping out loans? Your accountant, if he’s honest. Or a regulator, the next time you get audited. So the real point here is that the removal of hard currency from the system, reducing it all to numbers in databases, has a tendency to degrade the underlying concepts of what money is and represents. It should represent real value, real productive work. You should not be able to “fiddle” it into existence when you have done nothing to earn it.

Interest

I originally linked this trend towards a cashless system to the decline of interest rates, close to their total disappearance. I have a problem with interest because I don’t think most of the explanations for it are correct. It is often described as a payment to the lender based on the risk he takes by loaning money. But what about the risk the borrower takes in borrowing money? And what about loans between friends or relatives? I think the banks just decided to shift the paradigm because they had the power to do so. Look at interest rates on savings accounts, for instance. It used to be recognized that the depositor was actually making the bank a loan, and should earn interest on his unused balance. But depositors had no way to enforce that idea on bankers, so gradually interest payments on savings accounts have reduced to almost nothing.

The abandonment of the use of interest rates to control inflation in certain markets, and the subsequent increase in the supply of money in those markets, are bits of history not totally explained by the factors discussed above. Though the smaller banks that overextended themselves before the Great Depression could be blamed for what happened, I think that blame would be misplaced. They, however, felt the brunt of new banking regulations, while at the same time, what was to become a huge boom in the mortgage markets can be traced back to those times. I think there remains an untold story (at least it hasn’t been told to me) about how that all came about and about what is unfolding today. My concern is that we will strike out at the wrong targets (called misidentifying root cause where I work) and simply prolong our agony as a result. Benefiting from the suffering of others has never been an honorable way to gain status in a society. Yet suffering continues while a few grow unbelievably rich. Until we begin to apply more effective solutions to problems of finance, the economy, and politics, we will continue on our slide towards a non-sustainable system that will eventually totally break down.

Credit:

I relied heavily on an article written my Kenneth Ballard here:
http://www.kennethballard.com/?p=2322
to get an explanation of how banks account for the loans they make.
I don’t know much about this guy, but he seems to know what he’s talking about…I wish the subject were easier to understand. I have had a terrible time trying to do so…
Wow! Mr. Ballard has responded with corrections here:
http://www.kennethballard.com/?p=4120

Follow-up notes for those interested

According to the Federal Reserve’s own website:
“Reserve requirements are the amount of funds that a depository institution must hold in reserve against specified deposit liabilities. … Depository institutions must hold reserves in the form of vault cash or deposits with Federal Reserve Banks.”

Notice that this says nothing about loaning money. The “reserve requirement” is a fraction of total monies on deposit. So, that means the rest of the monies on deposit are available to loan out. I think the first stumbling block here is the term “deposit liabilities.” Who, who isn’t accounting trained, knows what this really refers to? It’s like two conflicting ideas in the same term. This goes back to the fact that there are two balancing sides to every transaction. When a bank receives money from a depositor, it’s not a gift, but on the other hand, the depositor gets nothing in return, except a receipt. As the reference I cited at the beginning states, in the “old days” that receipt acted as money. Nowadays, the fact that a person has money “on account” gives them the right – or ability – to buy things with it.

The depositor counts his bank balance as cash – as a liquid asset. He can do this because there is an implied promise (perhaps written somewhere) that the bank will pay him back “on demand.” More realistically, the depositor has loaned the bank some money for its use. But there is no formal loan contract, as would be the case if the depositor had purchased a CD or a bond. So the depositor is encouraged to not think of his deposits as “on loan” to the bank. However, that is closer to the actual situation. I think this difference between perception and reality is what some people object to. Yet, if the banks do a good job, no one will ever know the difference.

It could be argued that banks should be more honest about what they are doing. It would probably better reflect how they actually operate if they sold bonds or CDs to anyone who wanted to maintain a significant balance with them. Or to make them a “member” like the Credit Unions do.

Private individuals are never going to fully realize that a portion of their deposited funds is being loaned to others unless the way their account at the bank works actually makes that clear. In the past it has been a workable system in spite of this. But since interest rates collapsed, more and more people are questioning it. The “multiplier effect” would still work, but perhaps the banks should be made more responsible for both the positive and negative aspects of it. Having to “insure” bank accounts is not something that should be necessary. If the banking system were more honest with the public about how it actually operates, I think the public would support it – especially if it resulted in real economic growth at the local level. Right now something is suppressing that growth. Questionable ethics levels in the banking community does not help matters any. The banking system has a lot of power to do good in society. Or harm. It is not currently demonstrating the good side of that power.

A Miracle!

3 May 2017

First warm day of the new year!

pullman weather for Wednesday 3 May 2017

With a “scorcher” scheduled for tomorrow!

On Saturday, back to what it’s been like most of Spring, then a steady (I hope) climb towards Summer.

Links to Scientology Official Sites

23 April 2017

I give you this comment from “José” as a brief post to provide you with good links to vital information:

Hello and thank you for the information.

I would suggest that, if you are going to mention isolated pieces of information from Scientology to the general public, please refer your public to the source materials where they can find the information in sequence with examples, to avoid causing misunderstandings to people that never heard the subject of Scientology.

1.- Please, always refer first to What is Scientology, here the official link:
http://www.scientology.org/what-is-scientology.html#slide7

2.- Second, the subject you are mentioning in your respective blog entry, in this case the Tone Scale, in my opinion this is a good entry point:
http://www.scientologyhandbook.org/tone-scale/sh4_1.htm

3.- Please use references to the Scientology Manual which it is a good introduction to Scientology fundamentals for daily use in every part of life.
http://www.scientologyhandbook.org/

Best regards
José

My favorite site, which I should probably include a link to in every post I make, is the Volunteer Ministers training pages: http://www.volunteerministers.org/training.html

Legacy Pan-Tilt for Video Camera

22 April 2017

pan-tilt for video camera

pan-tilt side cover removed

This piece of “legacy” tech isn’t much to look at. It was the first item I photographed but the last I am making a post about.

I got it from my brother when his company upgraded all their video equipment to more modern stuff.

This was possibly made to sit on a pole and hold one of those large surveillance cameras that you still see some places. But this unit was being used inside to hold a camera much smaller than it is (though heavier than modern cameras that are fully electronic).

pan-tilt with main cover removed

It originally had a long control cable so it could be moved around from a remote location. The controller (shown underneath) simply switched the motor drive voltage (about 24 volts AC) between four different drive windings on two different motors – forward and reverse for each motor. There are little switches installed in the housing to turn the motor off if it tries to move beyond the mechanical limits of the housing. And that’s all there is to it.

With the advent of much smaller cameras, pan-tilt units no longer need to be this large and heavy.

Symbols for Body, Mind and Spirit

15 April 2017

body-mind-spirit sketch

I was going through all the files accumulating on my desktop today to sort them into where they are supposed to go in my file system, and I ran across a few that I had pulled together to make a post that I never got around to making.

I didn’t write it at the time because the idea I had didn’t lead anywhere. But I will proceed to write about the general idea anyway.

Did you know that there are sites you can go to on the internet that allow you to make a drawing and then save it? I hate computer drawing programs because they are almost all mouse-based and a mouse is really not a very fun thing to draw with. I’ve preferred a pen, preferably black ink, for many years now. And though sometimes brushes and colors are nice, too, the real appeal of digital drawing is that you don’t have to scan it in from paper after you draw it. The above sketch is pretty pathetic, don’t you think? But it illustrates the idea I had. Is a point radiating some lines a symbol for a body, and is a big circle a symbol for the mind or the spirit?

I couldn’t get a good answer to my question. We all know that the traditional “stick figure” has been used to represent a human being since cave man times. But the information I found did not suggest that any consistent symbology has ever been used for non-material concepts like “mind” or “spirit.” And lookups are filled with modern artistic renditions that have little relation to ancient history.

oriental circle character

The simple unclosed circle was developed in Japan to convey several overlapping Zen ideas concerning human consciousness, or the human essence. Though a certain cyclic meaning is conveyed, the fact that the circle is open suggests that these cycles could be escaped from.

sketch of traditional depiction of buddha

However, as this modern sketch of a traditional depiction of the Buddha indicates, a circle placed behind the head in paintings or statuary has a special significance that is shared widely across the planet. This symbol is used both in the West and in the East to indicate a “holy” being.

It is of esoteric significance, perhaps, that if circles or balls of energy are perceived that seem to be alive, this would be a mental manifestation of the being creating it, as the being itself is entirely immaterial. Thus, the circle or sphere of light, according to esoteric findings as well as actual reported observations, is a very valid symbol for the being and its mind together, body absent or elsewhere, as this is how they actually tend to appear.

The symbol of rays radiating from a center has no similar homogeneous meaning that I could find. As a cross or “X” it is a letter and/or number in several languages and symbol systems. To include a head and four appendages you have to go to the five-pointed star or pentagram, which is rare or missing as a normal writing symbol but otherwise used abundantly in heraldry and design. The pentagram is so easy to draw, so regular, and there are so many things in life that come in fives, that it has been known to symbolize all sorts of things, including the body, or the body as a manifestation of a divine intention.

sketch representaing a turtle or body

I will end with another of my sketches, as it is more colorful than the more carefully-drawn symbols I could find. It was meant to imitate a Native American symbol I found of a turtle, so it has a little tail. However, unlike the stylized turtle I found, it has all five digits drawn in, indicating the fractal or repetitive nature of so many biological designs.

Voltage Divider Assembly

10 April 2017

voltage divider assembly inside
A few years ago I purchased a pair of differential voltmeters because I was looking for aluminum equipment cabinets and thought these might work. The front panels were actually a full 1/4-inch think, which was a little more than I bargained for. These were military-grade equipment, and I think both of these items had been in use by the Army.

I got them from Fair Radio Sales “as-is.” The shipping cost almost as much as the equipment did. These meters were made by John Fluke Mfg Co, Inc, of Seattle in the early 1960s. They used mostly vacuum tubes and various other technologies now considered Legacy. The idea behind a differential voltmeter is that you compare a known voltage with an unknown one, and use a meter to tell when they are equal. The settings you used to get the known voltage are then equal to the voltage you wanted to measure. Ponderous. Today’s digital voltmeters do the same thing, except they “turn the dials” for you and present the result on a readout screen.

voltage selection dials

Marked dials function as an old-school digital readout.

This assembly is just the voltage divider for the known voltage. It consists of a set of switches and precision resistors arranged so that when you put in a reference voltage, the output equals the voltage you dial in. For accuracy, the resistors used have to be high-precision. These ones have a tolerance of +/- .02% which these days is unheard of. I saw a refurbished working version of this equipment for sale for over $1,000. It’s considered an ultra-precise laboratory-grade device.

inside the voltage divider

From what I can tell this equipment was entirely hand-assembled. That was how it was done in the “old days” of electronics. The colors involved are kind of pretty but they also served to help the assembler be sure he or she had the right part or was sticking the right wire in the right place. All the resistors were made of lengths of fine wire wound onto forms then glued in place with clear paint. Fluke may have constructed the rectangular ones themselves. The yellow cylindrical ones were made by an outside firm.

voltage divider back side

I couldn’t get over the workmanship put into these components, so I kept one of them. But this one is now extra and is destined for the recycling center.