Forced Labor in Wisconsin

Not quite sure what to make of this one. Some medical professionals in Wisconsin took better offers from a competing hospital. Their employer is trying to block their move and forcing them to keep working in their current positions. And doesn’t seem to be looking to match their new offers. I suppose the American medical system is abusive and predatory, but it seems to be turning on it’s doctors and nurses.

What to know about the battle over Wisconsin health care workers now playing out in court

Cryptocurrency Is a Giant Ponzi Scheme

Ive been a critic of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies from the start. My main complaints are two. First, crypto doesn’t solve any problem I have. I am quite happy to use other traditional electronic transactions, like, uh, credit cards. Secondly, I have no idea how to value a bitcoin or other currency. I can value stocks, bonds, options and other realiity-based assets, including government currencies. This all seems well established and mostly on the up and up. It is also policed, which I suppose some people consider a negative.

I am less informed perhaps on the details of how all the crypto financial plumbing works. A good article in Jacobin goes into detail about the necessary mechanisms for converting to and from crypto to traditional currency. If this doesn’t worry you, then I suppose nothing will.

Cryptocurrency Is a Giant Ponzi Scheme

The Quarterback

My father was a photographer. When I was growing up his bread and butter was school pictures. Part of his business was all sorts of freebies for the schools. Desk calendars printed with his company name were popular with the teachers and secretaries. He also made name plates for doors and desks. I spent many summers over a sort of engraving machine that made name plates from blank pieces of plastic.

Another thing that became popular was photo ID cards. To make things simpler, he began to use instant film which was popular at the time. It was expensive, but it mostly went to waste, with a single small head shot in the middle of the photo that had to be cut out and glued to the card. My father imagined a way to save some costs by putting multiple photos on a piece of instant film. He has a family friend build a prototype and he began to use it. He also had a lawyer friend file a patent on the idea.

This was probably in the very early 1970s. I remember it almost 50 years later because I have been in the process of scanning in old family photos. A few weeks ago I ran across photos of the prototype.

I was very young, but I remember my father licensed the patent to the maker of the instant film. They also made instant film cameras and I recall my father bragging to a friend that he was getting $5 for every camera they made that put multiple photos on a piece of instant film. It wasn’t long before these camera turned up at the !ocal drivers license bureau, and I’m assume at other similar places around the country and around the world.

I also remember some phone conversations later on, where my father complained that he had stopped receiving royalty checks, then him telling a friend that the Big Instant Film Company told him he would have to sue them. I remember him telling a friend that he made lots of money and wasn’t going to pursue it. I was just a kid and I remember it made me mad. I remember telling myself that one day I was going to make enough money to go after the Big Instant Film and Camera Company and make them pay my father whatever they owed him.

Over the years I mostly forgot about this little piece of family history. Except every few years when I went into the DMV for a new driver’s licence and saw their cameras. But the Instant Film and Camera Company went broke in what is even today considered a specular downfall. They did not see digital cameras coming and almost over night film and instant film companies disappeared. There wouldn’t be anyone left for me to sue, even if I wanted to.

I became an engineer and had some patents of my own. One day doing an on line search on my last name I realized I didn’t see my father’s camera patent out there. Maybe the patent never went through. I didn’t give it much thought. Perhaps there never was a patent. A few years ago I did another search and it did turn up. I suppose it took a while to backfill the old patents. There is was, US3772977A. Titled Camera with Multiple Exposure Feature.

I still can’t help but wonder about the Famous Instant Film and Camera Company and what they were thinking when they decided to stiff a small business man like that. I like to think it led straight to their downfall, a technology company mistreating the people who create their technology.

Chiefs vs Bills

Wasn’t going to watch this one, but I like Mahomes and Allen is a rising star. Even the Guardian (UK) picked up this story. I have to agree, perhaps the best two minutes of football ever. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers out, and Allen and Mahomes are now the ones to watch. I’ll call this the official generational changing of the guard. And look at this win / lose probability chart.

Chiefs v Bills: did we just witness the greatest two minutes in NFL history?

Texas Grid Failure

We are coming up on the one year anniversary of what I call the Big Freeze. There seems to have been little done to fix the root of the problem, freezing gas pipelines. From the Texas Monthly article:

You might think that the natural gas industry, having scored a multibillion-dollar windfall at the expense of other Texans, might show some magnanimity in victory and agree to take steps to ensure against future blackouts. But you would be wrong. The gas industry continues to fight ferociously to avoid the kinds of regulations that are commonplace in other states. It has boosted by millions of dollars its campaign contributions to friendly politicians, including the three officials leading the Railroad Commission.

The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up

Texas Gas Pipeline Failure, Again

Heard about this and had to go to an industry magazine (“Energy”) to get the story. Seems the folks in the gas pipeline business, who brought you last years disaster, are at it again. Remember this was very profitable for the energy industry, even as homes and businesses were destryoyed and lives lost. Here we go again.

Vistra Claims ‘Extortion’ by Pipeline Company, Says Natural Gas Supply to Texas Power Plants Threatened