Monday, November 26, 2012

New Speakers

One of the downsides to driving an 18 year old car is that stuff starts to wear out. I know, you're shocked. Today's particular example is the front door speakers.

You know how when the speaker has worn out you get that humming sound when deep tones are playing? That was pretty much happening all the time with both the front door speakers. They are 5-1/4" speakers with paper cones and the paper had pretty much deteriorated. So I took the door panel off to get at the speaker so I could measure and start shopping for new ones. Then I found a hitch.

The factory speakers have this special configuration for extra shallow mounting depth. I have never seen a speaker that thin and the ensuing search revealed that this is a most rare situation. Of course, when it comes to cars, another word for rare is expensive. My options were pretty simple: buy new factory speakers from the dealer (~$200 for the pair according to or try to find something close and make it work. I decided on the latter option.

I found some entry level pioneer speakers (TS-G1344R if you care) for around $30. It was nice that the speakers with the shallowest mounting depth were also the cheapest. But, despite being the shallowest I could find, they were still far too deep to just bolt in. I had to make some kind of adapter for them to fit in the existing space.

The strategy I settled on was to use 1.8" thick MDF sheet (~$3.99), cut into appropriate size rings. I would need to stack three rings under each speaker to provide the necessary space (3/8" total depth). This is what the rings look like:

Cutting circles turns out to be tricky business, though. I was using my Dremel (like I do for almost all my little projects) and I tried using a string tied around the Dremel and a screw to get the circle but that didn't work well. Dremel has this cool attachment specifically for cutting circles. Check it out.

But there were two significant downsides to this. One is the cost, about $15, which I wanted to avoid at this time, and the other was time. Nobody in town had this thing so I would have had to order it. I was interested in getting this job done now so I decided to make my own.

Mine's not as fancy as the Dremel brand one, but it only cost me $0.50 worth of aluminum stock which they had on hand at Ace Hardware (I love Ace Hardware). I already had the part that attaches to the Dremel, so all I needed was the metal piece. Easy. (I also used the Dremel to make the circle cutter—a very versatile tool.)

Here's how the install ended up. Of course, nobody will see that since the interior door panel will cover it up. I like coming up with a $40 solution for a $200 problem.

Passenger Door
Driver Door

Here one last picture for curiosity sake.

Here's the MDF sheet with holes cut into it.

Tags: 1994 Landcruiser speaker install, Pioneer TS-G1344R, home made Dremel circle cutter

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: How An Economy Grows and Why It Crashes

If you would like to learn about economics without having to read economics books, the this one is for you. Peter Schiff wrote out an elaborate allegory, that was originally told to him as a boy by his father, which helps those of us who are not experienced in economics to understand our current fiscal situation as a country. 

The setting is a small island called Usonia where the people there survive by eating fish that are caught by hand. Technological innovations allow these guys to catch more fish with less effort over time and an economy develops around the increased capacity. As this economy develops, the citizens of Usonia begin to learn important lessons about the role of savings, banking, and lending. 

They also soon start to develop trade relations with neighboring islands, Sinopia, Bongobia and Dervishia. Since everybody wants fish, they are used as the currency for this story. Soon, though, the senate of Usonia decides to begin using paper currency which can at any time be redeemed for real fish. Through generations of governmental monkeying, the amount of fish represented by one note begins to dwindle. Of course, you have to do whatever you can to fight off inflation-at any cost. 

He uses a cast of characters that seems strangely familiar: Ben Barnacle, George W. Bass, Ally Greenfin, Slippery Dickson and Barry Ocuda to name a few. Some other key players aren't people at all such as Finnie Mae and Fishy Mac. 

Take a read, and learn something about our economy. 

Here's a parting quote (p. 160): "Although economists talk like they have seen it all before, the truth is humanity simply has not long-term precedent for universal economic activity based on irredeemable paper money. 

History can show us many episodes in which individual governments, out of fiscal desperation, hitched their wagons to worthless currencies. Those experiments always ended in grief, especially for the citizens of the offending country. 

That's because it is impossible for one country to sustain a worthless currency while its neighbors continue to issue real money. Naturally, foreigners would refuse to take the worthless currency, and eventually a black market for real money would arise in the country itself. 

But now we are in a "through the looking glass" world where, for the past 40 years, no country issues real money. This is the biggest monetary experiment ever conducted. No ones know how or when it will end. But rest assured, it will."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Social Security as Explained by Peter Schiff

So recently I've been reading this book called "The Real Crash" by Peter Schiff. It's one of the many economics titles I've read recently that is full of all sorts of gloom and doom about where are country will be financially in the coming years. It also has solutions (like most of the other books), too. 

I just read a part of it about Social Security that I wanted to share. Check it out. (Pages 158-160.)

     Many people do not realize that Social Security was actually declared unconstitutional by the First Circuit Court of Appeals back in 1937. In two related cases, Davis v. Boston & Mane R. Co. (89F.2d 368) and Davis v. Edison Electric Illuminating Co. of Boston et al. (89 F.2d 393), the Court ruled the Social Security Act unconstitutional. According to the court, the act, which contained numerous titles establishing benefits for the aged, unemployed, and dependent children, and imposed two new taxes, an excise tax on employers and a special income tax on employees, was unconstitutional on a variety of grounds.  

     One in particular was that the Social Security Act violated the "general welfare" clause of the Constitution, in that Social Security taxes were paid by some for the specific benefit of others. In so doing, the Act did not promote the general welfare of all, but the specific welfare of some.     To counter this claim, the government argued that the tax and benefit provisions of the Social Security Act were in no way related. The taxes were true taxes, paid unrestricted into the U.S. Treasury for the general support of government. The government claimed that Social Security taxes were enacted for the sole purpose of raising revenue and were not earmarked for any particular purpose.  

     Actually, if you look carefully at the formula used to calculate Social Security benefits, you'll see that benefits are determined not by the amount you pay in taxes-as an insurance plan would-but by how much you earn in wages. So in truth, Social Security was two separate programs-one a determined benefit pension and the other a payroll tax (excise tax on employers, income tax on employees)-that coincidentally just happened to be passed at the same time and share the same name.     This was the exact opposite of what the government was telling the public, and the First Circuit Court saw right through the ploy. It correctly observed, "Congress has not an unlimited power of taxation; but it is limited to specific objects-the payment of the public debts, and the providing for the common defense and general welfare. A tax, therefore, laid by Congress for neither of these objects, would be unconstitutional, as an excess of it legitimate authority.

The court went on to state:      

     A tax, in the general understanding of the term, and as used in the Constitution, signifies and exaction for the support of government. The word has never been thought to connote the expropriation of money from one group for the benefit of another. The exaction cannot be wrested out of its setting, denominated an excise for raising revenue and legalized by ignoring its purpose as a mere instrument for bringing about a desired end. To do this would be to shut our eyes to what all others than we can see and understand. 

It further observed: 

     If the act is carried out as planned by amounts, in effect, to taking the property of every employer for the benefit of a certain class of employees. The entire plan, viewed as a whole, is an attempt to do indirectly what Congress cannot do directly, and to assume national control over a subject clearly within the jurisdiction of the state. 

The Court also remarked: 

     The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible states. Every journey to a forbidden end begins with a first step; and the danger of such a step by the federal government in the direction of taking over the powers of the states is that the end of the journey may find the states so despoiled of their powers, or what may amount to the same thing-so relieved of the responsibilities which possession of the powers necessarily enjoins, as to reduce them to little more than geographical subdivision of the national domain. It is safe to say that it, when the Constitution was under consideration, it had been thought that any such danger lurked behind its plain words, it never would have been ratified. 

The ruling looked prophetic in this section: 

     That this amounts to coercion of the states and control by Congress of a matter clearly within the province of the states can not be denied. If valid, it marks the end of responsible state government in any field in which the Unites States chooses to take control by the use of its taxing power. If the United States can take control of unemployment insurance and old age assistance by the coercive use of taxation, it can equally take control of education and local health conditions by levying a heavy tax and remitting it in the states which conform their educational system or their health laws to the dictates of the federal board 

It's amazing how right they were.

Food for thought. Pick up Schiff's book and have a read for yourself.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day

Every election the political stakes get higher. In fact, this is the first time I can remember that I actually had a presidential candidate that I thought could do some good.

I hoped Governor Romney would be able to help the economy. I believe the key to a strong economy is creating a good environment for small business. I don't think they should receive federal (or state) aid or grants. I also don't think they should receive federally backed loans. I just think the tax and regulatory environment is very stifling for startups and that hurts everybody.

This election there were many issues I really had an opinion on. I was on the losing side of all of them.

Here are the races/initiatives that I voted on the losing side (in the order they appear on the ballot):
74 (Marriage Redefinition)*
502 (Legalizing Marijuana)*
President *
House of Representatives District 6
Lt. Gov
Commissioner of Public Lands
Insurance Commissioner
Legislative District 26, Position 2
County Commissioner Dist 1
County Commissioner Dist 2

Not all of those I really cared about (* = I cared about it). The ones I didn't, I pretty much voted on the republican party line. Very few republicans won here. It surprised me how democratic the county leaned. Everybody I talked to at work seemed very republican. I guess they all live down in Mason County.