One Million Monkeys

…because 999,999 just isn't enough.

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Forum on Missouri Economic Prosperity


My wife is a member of the St. Charles County Liberty Project. The group is sponsoring an event today to address issues related to sound monetary policy. I expect the forum to be pretty informative. They have several members of the Missouri legislature present to speak, along with economist Tom Woods.


So with all the hubbub lately about the “fiscal cliff,” sequestration, gun control, pot legalization, and gay marriage, it seems like our ideas on how the country should operate are pretty varied, to say the least. While ruminating on these issues and wondering how we will last with all of this discord in our political system, I have some suggestions for how we can all get along.

What if, instead of a centralized government calling all the shots for everyone, we divided the US up into smaller geographic areas, and allowed each of these areas to govern themselves? Each of these areas, let’s call them “states,” could decide for themselves whether they wanted to allow people to smoke pot or marry someone the same gender as themselves. They could also decide if they wanted to subsidize farmers or punish people for being rich, or whatever the people of that state thought was best. Suppose we had maybe 50 of these states. Imagine the variety we could have in government. And if you didn’t like the laws and rules in one state, you would be free to move to another state. One state might tax everyone and everything so they can give free money away (until the obvious limit is reached when there’s no one left actually earning anything to tax) and tell hapless residents what they can and cannot eat, drink, or smoke–we could call this state “Illinois,” which means “land of incarcerated governors.” Another state might allow people to pretty much live however they like and trust people to make their own decisions and live with the rewards or consequences. This one would be called…well, we’ll think of a name for this one.

However, we would still need some sort of limited national government to see to national level functions like international diplomacy and defense. We could draft some sort of overarching document that would define the structure, responsibilities, and limitations of this central government. We would state explicitly in this document that any power not specifically assigned to the central government would remain a power of the states, or even the people themselves. We should also clearly define the natural rights that we each have, and commit the central government to protecting those rights from encroachment.

The more I think about it, the more brilliant this whole idea seems. I don’t know why no one thought of this before.

Raspberry Pi Laser Tripwire

So I’ve been playing around with my Raspberry Pi computer, especially with the general purpose input/output pins available for controlling external hardware. Before getting my Raspberry Pi, I had exactly no experience with electronics, but thanks to the various forums at the Raspberry Pi website, and especially the excellent tutorials provided by Adafruit, I am finding my way around both the Raspberry Pi as well as Arduino microcontrollers.

My latest project has involved setting up a laser tripwire that will do something when the laser beam is broken. Ultimately, I plan to wire up a motorized Nerf dart gun to fire a couple of darts when the beam is broken. For now, though, it sounds a buzzer. Here’s how it works:


Laser diode powered by 2 AA batteries. Beam is adjusted to shine on the LDR on the other side of the doorway.


Breadboard layout of LDR connected to Pi with MCP3008 ADC. The buzzer is connected to Pi pin 22.

The basic principle is straightforward. The laser beam, which is powered by two AA batteries, is adjusted so that it shines on a CdS light-dependent resistor (LDR). If the voltage across the LDR falls below some threshold value, determined by experimentation, then some action is initiated, in this case a buzzer is powered on for two seconds.

One small complication is that the Raspberry Pi only has digital IO pins, and reading the voltage on the LDR requires an analog input. The way I have dealt with this is to use an MCP3008 analog-to-digital converter. Adafruit sells these for $3.75, and has a good tutorial on using it with an analog temperature sensor. In this case just remove the temperature sensor, and connect one lead from the LDR to an ADC input pin, and the other LDR lead to the Pi’s 3.3 volt power. I also put a 10K Ohm pull-down resistor on the ADC input pin. I connected my LDR to two of the four wires inside an old telephone cable to give some extra space, and mounted the business end of the LDR inside a hole I drilled in a small block of wood. This helps block out some of the ambient light that might otherwise mask the breaking of the laser beam.

I’m also a big fan of Adafruit’s Pi Cobbler for connecting things on the breadboard to the Pi’s GPIO pins. If you don’t have one of these, do yourself a favor and spend the 8 bucks. For me, it had the added benefit of making me learn how to solder.

At this point the only consequence to breaking the laser beam is a small buzzer that sounds for two seconds. It’s a garden variety piezoelectric buzzer with a positive lead connected to one of the Pi’s digital pins, set as an output, and the ground lead connected to the Pi’s ground. The output pin is set to low, unless the LDR voltage falls below the threshold, at which point the buzzer output pin is set to high for two seconds, and then returned to low. The code is Python, and can be downloaded here:

git clone

The file is used to read the data from the ADC, and is modified from Adafruit’s MCP3008 tutorial code.

Let me know in the comments if you have any problems or questions. Enjoy!

Update: In response to a comment, here’s a couple of photos of the the LDR mounted in a small block of wood. The phone cable has four wires in it. Two are as soldered to the leads on the LDR. At the other end, I soldered a couple of male header pins for plugging into the breadboard.


A Little Help For My Liberal Friends

I’ve been hearing a lot of noise lately from my left-leaning acquaintances about how conservatives are mean and selfish and would rather give tax breaks to the wealthy than help the poor and needy. The liberal ethos, being enamored of the prospect of taking other people’s money to assuage their guilt, can’t grasp the possibility that there are other, usually better, means of expressing charity. In fact, there is compelling evidence that conservatives as a group are more generous that their liberal counterparts.

Never fear, though–I, your friendly neighborhood libertarian, have great news for you: the Treasury Department has made donating to the U.S. government as easy as wagging a self-righteous finger in the general direction of some vague “1%.” Let me know how the site works for you.

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