Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mount Washington Cog Railway

Mt. Washington, at 6288 feet, is the highest mountain in the East.  Way back in 1869 an enterpreneur raised the money to run a steam railroad all the way to the summit.  A fairly impressive feat of engineering, especially for 1869.  It's still running today.  The grades are so steep that they ran a rack up between the rails, and the locomotives have a big cogwheel that mates with the rack and pushes the train up the hill. Which is why we call it The Cog today. 
   Up until 2000, the old time fleet of tiny steam engines did the work.  Then they started building smallish diesel locomotives to do most of the work.  They still run steam on the first train of the day, but every thing else is pulled by the 21st century putt-putts.  So we (me and youngest son) got up at 0'dark thirty this morning to catch the steam run.
  It's cool.  The cars are pure wood, in nice condition.  Takes an hour to climb to the summit.  Speed is walking pace.  Weather was good, sun, and some clouds scudding over the summit.  It was summer weather in the parking lot, but there was frost at the summit.  Great views would open up as a cloud blew by, and fade into whiteness as the next cloud blew in.
   A fun trip.  A bit pricey ($69 a ticket) but worth it, just once.   

Friday, September 23, 2016

Win 10 Megapatch

Windows Update got to work on Win update 1607 this morning.  It took 6 hours to download the patch. That's as long as it took to download all of Win 10 a few months ago.  This patch must amount to changing all the code in Win 10.  After the download it spend another couple hours "installing" itself.  Massive.  Hope it works. 

Flushing Greece down the drain.

Way back when, Greece was a bumbling, but no more so than many places, small country.  It had allowed far too many people to hold government jobs, it promised fat pensions to all sorts of people, and it allowed massive tax evasion. 
  Each year the government found it was paying out far more than it was taking in with taxes.  And back in those carefree days before the Euro,  Greece made payroll by simply printing Drachmas as needed.  This caused the Drachma to sink on the foreign exchanges, but no body really cared much.
   Then Brussels invented the Euro.  International currency, run by the Germans, and solid as the US dollar.  Lots of prestige for countries allowed onto the Euro.  And, the Greeks wanted to go on the Euro for the coolness and the prestige of it.  They begged and pleaded and cooked their books to look more solvent than they really were.  And the Europeans let the Greeks into the  Euro, mostly 'cause they all felt sorry for the struggling Greeks and didn't want to slam the Euro door on them.  
   Well, now when the payments exceeded tax revenues, Greece could no longer print the necessary money.  Now they had to borrow the shortfall from banks.  And Europe was full of sucker banks, who would loan money to Greece, thinking that a Euro country was good for it, and even if they weren't, the IMF or the ECB, or someone would guarantee the loans.  Whereas any one of any sense would see that the Greeks were never gonna make enough money to pay the loans off.  Sucker banks have no sense. 
  Sure enough, a few years go by, and Greece cannot make payments on the loans.  And for no good reason the IMF bailed them out in 2010, and again in 2015.  Each bailout came with firm instructions to cut expenses  ("austerity").  Each time the Greeks failed to cut much.  And now the Greeks are broke, business is terrible, unemployment is way up, things are bad, and the Greeks are blaming it all on the lenders. 
   What should have happened, back in 2010, instead of a bailout, the Europeans should have just let Greece sink.  That would have caused Greece to default on her loans.  And after a default, even sucker banks are not going to make new loans.  The money would have gone away, and the Greek government would have had to lay off a lot of government workers, and start collecting its taxes.  And the Europeans would have saved them selves a lot of grief and ill will, not to say a lot of money. 

Words of the Weasel Part 45

Weasels say "faith based organizations"  just to avoid saying the word "church" 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Twitter bans Glenn Instapundit Reynolds

Wow.  Glenn, a law professor at University of Tennessee, and publisher of the popular blog Instapundit, had his Twitter account closed.  Reynolds is a helova nice guy, knows a lot of things, and writes interesting stuff that gets widely read.  His politics are middle of the road to conservative, but perfectly rational and well supported. 
   For Twitter to ban such a man speaks VERY poorly for Twitter.

The Donald's robo callers are working hard

They been calling me once, sometimes twice, a day for weeks now.  At least it shows the Donald cares about the upcountry.   Me, I 'm going to vote for Trump, so calling me doesn't help him much, but it doesn't hurt either.   I wonder what the robocaller costs compared to the TV advertising that Trump isn't doing much of.  Least ways I haven't seen much Trumpery on my TV. 
   These come on my land line.  Wonder how it works on the cell phone only millenials.  Like none of my three children have a land line.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Federal deficit. The undertable tax

The federal deficit is easy to understand.  The feds have a lot of expenses, paying the bureaucrats, paying the troops, paying social security, paying medicare, paying for the armed forces, and on and on.  Last year outgo was like $15 trillion.  Income from taxes was a lot less.  Say $12 trillion.  To keep the checks from bouncing, Uncle Sam borrowed $3 trillion.   
   Actually, Uncle doesn't borrow the money, he prints it.  Works like this.  Uncle sells US Treasury bonds (soundest investment on the planet).  Bond buyers give Uncle money in exchange for bonds.  Thing is, T-bills are near as good as money.  Granted bonds aren't accepted down at Walmart, but, the bondholder can turn bonds into cash with a simple phone call to his broker.  There is a market, open every business day, and a sell (or buy) goes thru within hours.  So, a man with a big wad of T-bills in his safe deposit box feels as wealthy as a man with the same amount of cash.  My college economics course called bonds "near money".  And printing near money is really the same thing as printing cash (real money). 
   So,  what's wrong with printing money?  As more and more money is printed, the value of the money goes down.  US money today is only worth 10% of what it was worth when I was a kid.  Gasoline used to be 28 cents a gallon.  It's nearly ten times that today.  Comic books used to be 10 cents.  Last time I bought a child a comic book it set me back $4.  Ice cream cones used to be 5 cents.  More like $2.50 this summer. 
   What this means, is anything saved over my life time is only worth a tenth of what it ought to be. 
 That's the undertable tax.  It nails us all. 
    And neither The Donald nor Hillary are talking about cutting the deficit.  Hillary is talking about increasing it a lot.  Vote for Trump.  Don't get fleeced.