Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Random road impressions



Drove down to Washington DC to visit new born grandson.  Weather was poor.  Ran into rain around White River Junction and drove thru on and off rain showers the rest of the way.  Spring is working on it.  Trees around my place are still bare.  By the time I got south to Brattleboro they were all leafing.  In DC they are in full leaf. 
    NJ turnpike seems to have misplace their toll booths.  Got off GW bridge, and onto the Jersey pike.  No toll booth, could not get a ticket.   Drove to the end of pike at Delaware Mem bridge and paid full toll.  Which is OK since I had driven the pike from end to end, but  beware if you are getting off early, say Philadelphia. 
    Coming thru Connecticut I took the old road, Merritt Parkway.  Conn had done some work on it, fresh black asphalt, brightly painted lines, no potholes.   New York, not so much.  Inside New York, the Cross Bronx expressway was it's usual shabby self.  I notice that most of the calls for "infrastructure" spending come from New Yorkers like Trump. Hoping the feds will bail their roads out of decades of neglect.  The other states keep their roads in fine shape, what's wrong with New York?
   Got on the infamous DC beltway by 3 PM.  Traffic was heavy heavy.  By 5 PM it was a lot lighter.  I guess the civil servants all quit work by 3 PM.  My tax money at work.



Monday, April 24, 2017

The NORKs are getting us hot and bothered.

Trump has invited all 100 senators to the White House for a classified briefing on the NORK situation.  That's some kind of a first.  I never heard of that happening before.
   The NORKs have threatened to sink the USS Carl Vincent. And to nuke the US mainland.  As for the carrier, they could get lucky with a diesel-electric sub, of which they have some.  They would have to be pretty lucky to avoid detection and destruction by the carrier's escort destroyers, and they would have to get several torpedo hits, but it might happen.  If they actually sank the carrier, as opposed to just launching on it, they could expect retaliation, probably air strikes.   If the NORKs have a working nuclear warhead for a missile, that they have never tested, they might be able to nuke the western US.  That ought to buy them wall to wall airstrikes, with nukes.
   Going up against the NORKs with ground forces amounts to starting up the Korean War all over again.  The NORKs have strengthened their army since the 1950s.  The South Koreans have a large army, probably more motivated, better trained, and better equipped, but probably not enough to bring a quick and easy victory.
   Our best bet is to convince the Chinese to cut off the NORKs imports of food and fuel.  The Chinese may or may not go along with this.  They want to keep the NORKs around for all the grief they can give the Americans and the South Koreans.  And to keep a unified Korean, which would be run by the South Koreans, off their border.
   If the Chinese option doesn't work (pretty likely) then the only other option I can see amounts to assassinating Kim Jong whats-his-face.  That would bring the regime down in a welter of back biting and attempts to seize power.  This might be our best option if we want to put the NORKs out of the nuclear business.  The current NORK regime is dead set on getting nukes and the missiles to launch them.  We will need to do regime change on North Korea to change that. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

That march for science.

I wonder how many of the marchers had a minimum of scientific education.  I strongly feel that all high school students should take chemistry, physics, and biology.  In the 21th century when so many policies and issues have science (or claim to have science) at their base, all citizens ought to have some science at the high school level in order to understand the arguments pro and con.  Simple concepts, conservation of energy, the difference between compounds and elements, conservation of mass-energy, the difference between acid and alkali, specific heat and the heat of fusion, invariance of the speed of light, and more, are essential to real understanding.  This isn't happening right now.  Kids can coast thru high school with no science what so ever.  A lot of 'em come out of high school unable to read an ordinary ruler. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tax Cuts bring prosperity? Heard on Fox News this morning.

They cited the prosperity that followed the Kennedy tax cuts (early 1960's) and the Reagan tax cuts (1980's)  However back in those days the Feds mostly paid their bills with tax receipts, rather than by selling T-bills.  Now a days taxes are not paying for the Feds, they are selling nearly $1 trillion worth of T-bills to keep those US treasury checks from bouncing.  That's a scary amount of money.  GNP is about $17 trillion, so the $1 trillion yearly deficit is about  6% of GNP.  That's a bunch more than the deficit back in the Kennedy or Reagan years.  It's one of the reasons GNP growth was 1% under Obama. 
   If we just cut taxes, we will have to run a bigger deficit.  Sooner or later, people will stop buying T-bills and then things get dicey.  Do we stop paying social security and medicare?  Do we stop paying the troops?  Do we just let the checks bounce?  I don't want to go there. 
   Plus, selling T-bills is very close to just printing fresh dollar bills to meet our expenses.  Look at it from the T-bill buyer's point of view.  He gives Uncle cash, Uncle gives him a nicely printed bond, green ink and everything, just like a dollar bill.  There is a market for T-bills, runs 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, and should our bondholder need cash, he picks up his phone, orders his broker to sell, and he will have cash in his account in a day or so.  Does our bondholder feel any poorer after buying that T-bill?  No, he figures the money is still his, he just put it into a T-bill which does pay a small amount of interest.  As opposed to bank accounts which pay no interest at all these days.  
   And we all know that just printing more money causes inflation, the price of goods goes up, and we all agree that is not good. 
   So before tax cuts can bring prosperity, we will have to cut some spending.  There are a lot of things that could be cut right down to zero.
   Start with farm subsidies.  There aren't that many farmers any more.  I worked in industry for fifty years and we never got a penny of federal subsidies.  Why should farmers get free money?
   Then we could eliminate block grants to the states.  If the states want to spend money they ought to have to raise it themselves.  When you have to raise the money you will be more frugal in spending it.  When you get free money from Uncle, it will be spent, every penny of it, whether the project is worthwhile or not. 
   Then we could shut down the federal dept of education.  Education is controlled and funded at the city, town, and state level.  We ought to leave it that way.  The federal funds the ed dept hands out are really bribes to get the staties to do things Washington's way.  We would be better off dropping the bribes and letting the locals do things their way. 
   And there are other things which will come to me as I think things other. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dodd-Frank. Welfare for big banks

The Dodd-Frank bill, passed in the depths of Great Depression 2.0,  essentially promises US taxpayer support for big US bank, should they screw up and go broke.  It makes a list of "systemically important" banks, adds unwilling banks to the list now and then.  These favored banks are required to file a ton of paperwork, including a financial last will and testament,  supposedly to guide the Feds in a bailout, should they go over the cliff.
  Bad idea all around.  The bank managers are encouraged to make stupid loans, because they know the feds will bail them out should the stupid loans go bad.  The rest of the world is reassured that US banks will live up to their commitments,no matter how stupid, using money from us long suffering taxpayers.
  Better idea.  Use the ancient Sherman Anti Trust act to break up any bank so big as to pose a threat to the financial system should it go broke.  The justice department still has an entire office full of anti-trust lawyers, who haven't done squat in the last 20 years, other than draw their pay.  They ought to be out earning their pay by breaking up banks "too big to fail".   

Budget of only $609 Million.

That's the 2016 budget for the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That's a lot of money.  Figure you can hire a bean counter for $100K, that budget will hire 6000 bean counters.  Erica Groshen, former BLS commissioner, writing an op-ed in today's Wall St Journal, thinks BLS needs more money to fulfill it's duties.
  These duties include publishing the monthly jobs report.  Crucial work that is, especially as ADP, the big payroll agency, publishes it's own jobs report, a week ahead of the BLS report, based on very credible data. Funding for BLS got so tight last year that they dropped the "International Labor Comparisons" program, and the "Mass Layoff Statistics" program.  Awful that is.  Of course I have never heard of either program before, and from the titles I gotta wonder if they were worth a plugged nickel. 
   The most important thing BLS can do, is compute the numbers the same way, every month, every year, so that changes in the number indicates changes in the real economy and not merely changes in book keeping.  Only if you forbid book keeping changes can you tell if things are actually getting better or worse.  Which is why we care about the numbers.
   Today, they ought to get the jobs report out by putting the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.  Use the same spread sheet every year.  I don't see why we need a staff of 6000 bean counters to get this done.  I'd think 60 would be plenty.
  $609 million isn't "real money" in Everett Dirksen's phrase (A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money).  But it is getting close to a billion, when I think it ought to be $6 million.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Farewell Bill O'Reilly

Fox News announced Bill's "retirement" on air last night.   Too bad.  I'm not a super great O'Reilly fan, I watched him when there was nothing better on (often) and I had nothing better to do (not so often).  He had an attitude, and expressed it on the air, frequently.  Mostly his attitude was OK by me, sometimes I found him a bit simplistic and jingoistic, but never as bad as lefties like Rachel Maddow.  Most of the time Bill seemed to have his head screwed on, nose to the front. 
  Tucker Carlson gets O'Reilly's 8 o'clock time slot, "The Five" moves from 5 o'clock to 9 o'clock.  Tucker is pretty good, The Five is merely OK. 
  Message to everyone.  Keep it zipped. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dominating the news cycle

Mother of all Bombs soaked up fantastic amounts of TV coverage for days on end.  Some video showing the Mother getting dropped.  Not so much bomb damage assessment (BDA) video.  But as a publicity stunt, this one ranks right up there with things like the Doolittle raid. 
   Not quite sure why it got so much press coverage.  It was 21000 pounds, big, but the British had a 20000 pound bomb (Grand Slam) in service back in WWII.  So a ten ton bomb in 1944, a 10.5 ton bomb in 2017, this is  astounding progress? 
   Lets assume this one bomb hit did our side some good.  But you don't win guerrilla wars with air power.  You gotta sap the guerrilla's morale with effective propaganda, and astute political moves.  And you have to have ground troops to provide security to your civilians and kill the guerillas.  More MOAB strikes might get us more good press, but it isn't gonna win a guerilla war for us. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Republicans gotta get something done.

First they have to deal with Obamacare.  Nobody has ever figured out just what Obamacare is doing and what it is gonna cost.  The health insurers are dropping Obamacare as fast as the can after loosing barrels of money.  Right now it looks like Obamacare promises taxpayer funded health insurance for everyone who doesn't have health insurance from their employer or is 65 years old and hence eligible for Medicare.  Nobody has ever published an estimate of what Obamacare is gonna cost.  A reasonable guess is it will cost as much as Medicare.  There are more people without employer health insurance than there are people over 65.  Since they are younger than 65 they ought to be in better health.   Any way you slice it, Obamacare is a black hole down which we toss money.  A lot of money.
  To do tax reform, we have to get a handle on Obamacare costs.  Unless we at least know what the taxpayers have to fund, you cannot do any tax cutting.  And every one agrees that taxes are too damn complicated, too damn high,  and too unfair.  If tax reform doesn't happen, there will be a LOT of unhappy campers for the 2018 by election.  Might be enough for the Republicans to loose control of the house or the Senate, or both.
   It's do or die time for the Republicans.  They have to reform Obamacare.  They have to do tax reform.  If they don't,  they are gonna get clobbered in 2018.  

Do I care about President Trump's tax returns?

No.  Those returns are being audited by the IRS.  For us ordinary taxpayers, there is nothing worse than getting audited.  I dare say it causes Trump less pain and he has tax lawyers to handle it.  But still.  And I think they have audited him every year now.  The IRS, whose bureaucrats are all Democrats, who would love to get something, anything, on Trump.  If there is anything bad, flaky, or off color in Trump's 2016 tax return, the IRS will let us know.  Never fear.
  The newsies would love to get a hold of those returns.  There is always plenty of stuff that can be made to look bad, with just a gentle slanting.  Not enough charitable donations, donations to politically incorrect causes, capital losses, too much alimony or not enough alimony.  Lots of stuff. 
   And talking and demonstrating against Trump's tax returns diverts public attention from serious stuff, like Obamacare reform, tax reform, international trade, real stuff, not fake news. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dealing with the NORKs.

The NORKs have an army, stronger than what they had for the Korean War.  South Korea's major city and capital is so close to the NORK border as to be withing artillery range.  The place is run by a pudgy dictator who appears to be a crazy man.  They are building nukes and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.  They are so cold stony broke that they are having trouble feeding their people.  They have little to no international trade, travel, or connections. 
   We want them to drop their nuclear program.  They are dead set on getting nukes for the international respect (outright fear) that a nuclear weapons state commands.  Their nuclear facilities are well dispersed and underground, probably proof against airstrikes. 
    We would like the Chinese to cut off their crucial imports of food and fuel to force them to drop the nuclear program.  The Chinese could do this, they are the only source of supply for the NORKs.  Trouble is, the Chinese don't want to squeeze the NORKs that hard, for fear the regime might collapse.  If or when that happens, enormous attractive political forces will try to pull North and South Korea back together.  A lot of South Koreans still have kin in North Korea who they would insist on saving.  If that happens, South Korea, with an economy so advanced it can export automobiles to North America and make state of the art semiconductors, plus an educated population, will run the show, just like West Germany ran the show when East and West Germany reunited.  The result would be a capitalist, successful, pushy, Korea running right up to the Chinese border at the Yalu river.  The Chinese hate this idea.  Especially as the Koreans are so tight with the Americans. I doubt that the Chinese will push the NORKs very hard, certainly not hard enough to gt them out of the nuke business.
  Maybe we could get the Chinese to repatriate North Korean refugees to South Korea instead of handing them back to the tender mercies of Kim whats-his face Number 3.  Give this a few years to work, and the population loss would hurt the NORKs.  
  So what's left?   We could assassinate Kim whats-his-face  Number 3.  He deserves it, and the NORK regime would probably collapse into chaos as the various survivors and number two men struggle to take over.  And it would probably stop the NORKs from shelling Seoul into rubble.   On the other  hand, collapsing the NORK regime is scary all around.
   We could start up the Korean War again.  Nobody likes this idea. For good reasons.
   We could shoot down, or shoot up, any more NORK missile launches.  There is already newsie speculation that we caused yesterday's launch failure by computer hacking or black magic.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Watched PBS show "The Great War" last night

Disappointing is the best I can say.  WWI was the greatest catastrophy of the 20th century.  It wrecked Europe.  Before the war, Europe was the center of civilization.  All the great powers were European powers.  The Great Powers had colonized most of the rest of the world and ran it to suit themselves.  Production of coal, iron, steel, steam railroads, steam ships, electric telegraph and telephone, airplanes and airships, electric light, and modern weapons, was all done in Europe.  Scientific advances were all in Europe. 
   WWI wrecked all this.  It destroyed the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the Ottoman empire.  And it created Communist Russia, a menace that would last seventy years. 
   The  pity of it, is no one in Europe could explain why their country was at war.  The Americans, led by Wilson, asked the major combatants, the British, the French, and the Germans, what their war aims might be, thinking that if you know what everyone wanted, and you could get them to a table, you might be able to work out a deal.  None of the Europeans has an answer the the question "What are your war aims?"  Either they didn't know, or they feared that they would sound so petty, squabbles over colonies and the like, that revealing them would subject them to ridicule.  Wilson had to create the famous 14 points as a rational, before he could get the US to join the war in 1917. 
   So what did the PBS show talk about?  A lotta footage about US racism, and the anti German feeling whipped up by the  Wilson administration.  Good deal of footage on the  black 15th New York regiment, little to nothing about any other American unit.  You'd think the 15th New York won the war single handedly.  Nothing about war production, the Navy, British and French leaders, or any other topic.   Too bad, Ken Burns showed PBS how to do a war mini series years ago with the Civil War.   Judging by this bit of politically correct anti-American propaganda,  PBS has totally forgotten how to do things right.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer forgets Godwin's Law

Godwin's law is a widely known Internet adage.  "After any discussion goes on long enough, somebody will compare someone or something to Hitler.  And the first to mention Hitler looses the argument"
 Sean Spicer forgot about this the other day when he compared Syria's Basher Assad to Hitler.  The press room has been ragging him about it for days now. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 51

Used to be they talked about military action, meaning engaging the enemy on land or sea or air.  Now they talk about "kinetic action" or "kinetic military action"   Kinetic is a word dragged in from physics, where it means "motion"  A moving body carries kinetic energy (1/2 mv**2).  A textbook titled "kinetics" will talk about motion, acceleration, collisions, orbits, and that sort of stuff. 
Dunno why the newsies have taken to adding the word in front of "action".   There is probably some good left leaning reason, but I have no clue as to what it might be. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Doing my taxes. Adventures with Turbotax

The thing about Turbo Tax is that it is a black box.  You key in all the numbers on your tax forms, and it thinks about it and then issues a dozen totally incomprehensible error messages and asks you to correct them.  After a couple of day of screwing around I got it down to just ONE error message that didn't make any sense. 
   I used to do the taxes by hand and with Excel.  That way I had a fair to middling idea what was going on.  When I started with Turbotax, it saved me about $1000 over doing taxes with Excel.  So I have stuck with it for the last few years.  But I no longer understand what's going on.  You plug your numbers into TurboTax, and it prints your tax form, but I no longer know diddly about it. 

 So I ignored it and pressed on to print the 1040.  I don't like to efile, it makes things too easy for the IRS.  Efiled returns go right into the IRS computers, and their audit software looks things over and decides to zap you.  Send 'em paper and they have to scan it, page by page, and the scanning software often makes mistakes that have to be corrected by hand, slowing things down.  To really slow things down, hand scribe your 1040, that will baffle the scanning software even worse. 
   So,  I took the laptap over to the printer to get some hard copy.  Plugged in the USB cable from the HP D4260 Deskjet.  Clicked on print in Adobe reader.  This opened a weird window that " registered" my printer with HP.  Opening me up to a flood of spam.   But, it would not print.  This used to work back before I upgraded to Win 10 last year.  Far as I can see, Win 10 broke the printer driver[s].  Win none, loose one.
   So,  Lets burn the tax returns to a CD, I always do that anyhow for backup.  Then copy the return onto Trusty Desktop, running XP, and get on with it.  Clicked on VLC media player, which used to burn CD's just fine on laptop.  Damn,  Win 10  broke VLC too.  Then I noticed that Win 10 offered to burn CD's all by itself.  That's new,  XP never did that.  So I put in blank CD and drag and drop the tax returns and some back up data (check books) onto the CD icon, and things happen.  CD drive spins, a green progress bar crawls across the screen,  the drive makes seeking noises.   I hit eject, and Win 10 does the CD close burn.  Groovy, but when I stick the freshly burned CD into Trusty Desktop, it shows up as blank.  I finally have  to copy the tax form to a thumb drive to move them over. 
   Anyhow, if you are doing your taxes on Win 10, you might want to make sure the printer still works before April 15 or 18 rolls around. 
   Thank you Bill Gates.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

$15 billion slush fund. From the Wall St. Journal

Friday's Journal had a piece about an attempt to sweeten the Obamacare replacement bill.  A $15 billion fund will be established to pay insurers for the extra costs of insuring "previous condition" patients.  This would somehow keep premiums down for the regular customers.  Groovy.  I love insurance companies, and of course we need to give them an extra $15 billion. 
  The Journal neglected to tell us taxpayers just how the money would be doled out.  Would it be on a per patient with previous conditions basis?  Or just sliced up between insurers?  Is $15 billion enough to cover all the patients with previous conditions?  Or will it grow much bigger in a few months.  What might premiums look like  after this $15 billion fund is created? 
   To run a real democracy, us voters need to know about the issues.  The Journal piece skipped a lot of stuff we need to know.  The Journal used to be better than this. 

Words of the Weasel Part 50

"Exit strategy" is a weasel phrase with a true meaning of "cut and run".  
The only decent exit strategy in any war engaged in for the United States is victory.  If we are unwilling to expend the necessary blood and treasure to obtain victory, we should stay out of it.
   The best sort of victory is to defeat the enemy's armed forces, occupy their land and capital, do regime change upon them.  We achieved this after WWII and turned two deadly enemies into friends and powerful allies.  And it has lasted for 70 years. 
   There are lesser forms of victory, such as the Korean War.  We didn't occupy the North, and there was plenty of criticism about that back in the day.  But 60 years later South Korean is a major economy, able to export new cars to North America, something few countries manage, where as North Korean is a pesthole. 
   And there is defeat, most notably in the Viet Nam war.  We had an exit strategy, involving fleeing by helicopter from the roof the our embassy in Saigon. 
   And now we have Syria.  We could produce victory there.  It would require landing a sizable armored force in Syria, driving to Baghdad,  catching Bashar Assad and executing him as a war criminal, establishing a new Syrian constitution and government, cleaning out ISIS, enforcing the peace, creating a trustworthy Syrian army.  All this might take 10 years and a LOT of money. 
   And at best it would get us a low speed and flaky Middle East ally, not worth very much. But it would ease the destabilizing flow of refugees into Europe. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 49

"Weapons of Mass Destruction"  or "Chemical Weapons".   That sounds nicer than "poison gas".   I haven't heard a newsie use the phrase "poison gas" in connection with the Syrian incident.  They stick with the innocuous sounding weasel words.

$44 million worth of Tomahawks.

We launched 59 Tomahawk missiles onto a Syrian airbase last night.  Those missiles cost $750000 apiece last time I looked.  So that's $44 million, just for ordinance.   It appears to have taken effect.  Fox  News approves, the Russians haven't declared war, and we didn't loose any pilots.  All good things.
   We could have done an airstrike with 1000 pound smart bombs.  Plain iron bomb costs about $1000, the smart bomb guidance kit probably doubles that.  Jet fighter bombers cost about  $10000  an hour to operate.  Call it a four hour mission, and dispatch 30 aircraft, two smart bombs per plane.  Comes to $1,260,000 for the mission.  It does risk loosing pilots, which has a terrible political fallout.  
   Time will tell how things turn out in Syria.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How we ought to deal with Syrias gassing civilians

Step one.  Put a smart bomb thru Assad's bedroom window.
Step two.  Move one or more aircraft carriers into range of Syria.
Step three .  Land a strong armored force, a brigade or stronger, in Syria. Navy provides air superiority. Advance to the gas storage site[s].  Confiscate all stores of gas for destruction in our facilities. 
Step four.  Install our choice as new president of Syria.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Income tax reform

Doing my taxes.  PITA.  I'm ready for tax reform.   Here what we ought to get in a tax reform.

  1.   Income is income, no matter where from.  Right now you gotta split your income up into ordinary income, interest, capital gains, foreign income, dividends, qualified dividends, rent, royalty, and who knows what else.  Income should be income, and it's all taxed the same way.
2.   No more crappy little work sheets in the 1040.  It's loaded with them.  They give 20-30 step instructions to calculate stuff.  By the time you reach the end of the 30 instructions you have no idea what you did, and what it means, or have any idea if you did it right.  IRS shall be required to state in ONE, English language sentence, how to calculate EACH box on the 1040.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Don't weep for the Senate Filibuster

Senate rules, most notably the filibuster, may get nuked this week.  Senators and newsies wax nostalgic over the looming loss of the good ole filibuster. 
   They shouldn't.  Senate rules, the filibuster foremost, have been used for ignoble purposes since before the Civil War.  Before the Civil War they were used by Democrats to defend slavery and block abolitionist legislation.  After WWII Democrats used the filibuster to block civil rights legislation.  Now they want to use it to block Republican judge appointments. 
   Weep not.  The republic will be in better shape without the Senate filibuster. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tweakhound.com

Just revisited good ole Tweakhound.  He has a whole up to date section on Windows 10, lists of RAM hogs and CPU hogs that can be shut down to make Win 10 more lively.  Also  Tweakhound has a good description of Microsoft's "telemetry", where by your computer reports all sorts of stuff back to Microsoft, and instructions for shutting much of it down.  Microsoft has sworn up and down that "telemetry" is only used for bug fixing, and all data is anonymous, and data will never be sold on the open market.  You can believe as much of that as you like.   I shut as much telemetry down as I dare, thinking to free up RAM and CPU cycles for my purposes rather than Microsoft's.
   I am not a gamer, I just use the machine for email, photo storage, web surfing, some writing, nothing demanding compared to games.  I find Win 10 slow.  Running on a fairly new HP laptop, WIN 10 is no faster, in fact somewhat slower, than XP running on my ancient desktop.   The new laptop has double the speed, both CPU and RAM, 8 gigs of RAM, and yet the software load of Win 10 slows it down to worse than a ten year old machine. 
   Out of the box, Win 10 was a good deal faster than Win 8 from which I upgraded the laptop.  And after a bit of tweaking here and there, it is now noticeably livelier than it was out of the box. 
   Some of the stuff Tweakhound recommends is pretty drastic.  He strongly recommends you do a full disk backup before proceeding.  I agree with him.  My laptop has some 60 Gigs of hard drive used, which would take  maybe 15 DVD's to back up, which is just too much work for me.  So,  I didn't do the drastic stuff, and stuck with the tamer stuff, going thru Settings, or Services.  No register editing, and no massive deleting of stuff.  Works for me. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Wall St Journal calls Internet Privacy bill phoney panic

That was the title of a Saturday WSJ editorial.  I assume they were discussing a bill that has made the news in the last couple of days.  So I read the  editorial, hoping to understand just what the bill was and what it would do.  Especially what it would do to me. 
   No luck.  The Journal's standards are slipping.  The editorial was unreadable.  And it made at least one big whopper.  The Journal said " The crew pushing the rule say cable companies deserve scrutiny because it is easy to change websites but hard to change internet service providers.  The reality is the reverse:"  Many of us live out of town and we don't get a choice of ISPs.  Up here Time Warner is the ONLY ISP offering broadband.  It is not hard the change ISP, it's impossible, there is only Time Warner. 
   The rest of the editorial jumped around, issued blame, with out ever getting down to the real issue, how much privacy are we giving up and to who. 
   There isn't much privacy left.  I figure my browsing history, all my email, all my purchases on the net, all my facebook posts, every app installed on my laptop, and probably some other stuff, is on the net, and anyone (cops, political opponents, nosy snoopers, the Russians, anyone) can see it.  I only post harmless stuff, photos of local scenery, cat pictures, cute kid pictures.  I don't visit porn sites and I don't visit music share sites.  I don't do Internet banking, I pay the bills with paper checks.   Since I am retired, out of the job market, and the children are grown up, I don't worry much.  Those of you still in the job market and still raising children need to do the worrying. 

Hillary wearing black leather?

She was on TV, behind a podium, campaigning again.  They didn't say what she was campaigning for.  And she had given up on the brightly colored pants suits she wore in the presidential campaign.  Now she is wearing a slick black leather coat, not quite motorcycle leathers, but close.  I wonder what voters she thought might find leather attractive.  Her former colorful pants suits outfits at least fit in with who she is, a little dowdy, fully mature (let's not say old), lady politician.  Her choices are limited, she lacks the figure and the looks to do the Jackie Kennedy or Melania Trump fashion look.  She doesn't want to do the Barbara Bush grandmother look.  But the black leather look?  At her age? 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Russians are coming the Russians are Coming

This screwball topic has sucked up all the newsies for a week now.  Democrats are trying to smear the Trump administration with sucking up to commies.  For which zip for evidence has been forthcoming.  And what could the Russians offer Donald Trump either before or after the election of any value.  Hell Trump is probably richer than Russian intelligence, they aren't going to have enough money to buy him.
  And the newsies been all bouncing off the ceiling about a Republican Congressman paying a visit to the White House.  He is a Congressman after all.  He is perfectly entitled to visit the White House, any time, to have a cup of coffee, to talk things over with friends, to receive classified information, anything at all.  What's the big deal?
   Anyhow that's all the news from the TV this week.  You'd think there would be something more, but there isn't.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sean Spicer's daily dog & pony show

Living alone, I like some noise in the house, so I have the TV on.  And set to Fox news.  Around lunchtime every day they carry the president's news conference, Sean Spicer, press secretary, presiding, live.  For an hour or more.   Spicer is fairly good,  he is seldom at a loss for words, he is glib, he forth rightly defends the administration.  He even occasionally says "Gee I don't know, can I get back to you?"
   The newsies are less impressive.  Their questions are mostly worthless, of the "what does so-and-so think about thus and such?" sort.  I don't care much about what people think, I want to know what happened.  What, Where, When, Who, and Why are news questions, the five big W's.  What  someone thinks ain't news, it's gossip.  And the newsies all wear big "Lefty Greenie" buttons on their lapels.  I think less of newsies who announce which side they have taken.  Makes me doubt their impartiality and their honesty.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

4 out of 5 heroin addicts started with presciptions

  Dr. Marc Siegel, in an op-ed in today's Wall St Journal, and on Fox news where he is the medical expert,  states that 4 our 5 heroin addicts got started on their addiction with opioids prescribed by their doctor.  Things like Percoset, Oxycontin, Vicodin, prescribed for pain, often back pain.  The Oxycontin situation is so bad that many pharmacies refuse to stock it, citing the risk of robberies by addicts.
   There has been a lot of talk about the opioid crisis, the over dose deaths from heroin and fentanyl and the need for "programs" (what ever that might mean) to "do something" about it.
   Maybe we need the medical profession to tight up their prescribing habits.  I haven't heard any talk about that.  
  

Monday, March 27, 2017

200 US paratroopers to Iraq.

That's maybe two companies of soldiers.  The TV news has been talking about it all day.  To listen to the TV will make you think a couple of hundred US troops is like D-Day in 1944.  Our troops are good, everyone agrees on that, but I don't think a mere 200 troops, no matter how good,  is going to turn the war around. 

The hunt for Win 10 crapware

Take a look at Task Manager in Win 10.   Good old XP used to run with 25-30 processes active.  Win 10 has nearly 100, at least out of the box.  A lot of 'em are un necessary and can be shut down for good, freeing up RAM and CPU time.  The trick is to tell the useless ones from the essential windows-will-crash-without-them processes.  Win 10 Task Manager has a "search on-line" feature that googles on the  process name and serves you up 10 or more opinions off the Internet about the process.  A lot of 'em are worthless boiler plate, but sometimes you catch a post by Black Viper or Bleeping Computer, or even Wikipedia which are very useful useful.
   Many, perhaps even most are "services" which Windows loads and runs behind your back.  There is a services manager program, buried only medium deep in the Win 10 menu scheme.  Right click on the Windows Logo button in the screen.  Pick "Settings" which will show a zillion options.  Click on "Administrative Services" which comes up at the beginning since it begins with "A".  Slide down and click on "Services".  This will display every service known to Win 10 whether it's running or not.  Find the service you want to kill.  If it is running, click to stop it, just the see if the service manager is working and nothing drastic happens to Windows when you stop it.
   Then to make the kill permanent, you want of modify the "start up option".  Automatic means start it at boot time every time.  Manual means don't start it until some program asks for it.  Setting to manual is usually enough to prevent the service from running.  And it's safe.  Stronger is disable which means never run the service no matter how badly programs whine and cry for it.  Disable can be dangerous if you disable one of those windows-will-die-without-it  services.
 

USAF wants to upgrade both B52s AND KC-135s

Both aircraft were built during the Eisenhower administration, which makes them both fifty years old.  USAF was talking about flying them another fifty years to justify the expense of the upgrades.  For the KC135 tankers, they want to replace the entire cockpit instrument panel with a new liquid crystal display.  Then they want to add defensive systems, jammers, flare dispensers, maybe even defensive air-to-air missile systems, to allow the KC-135's to enter defended enemy airspace, or at least get closer to it.  Somehow this doesn't seem worthwhile.  A great big four engine tanker makes a fine radar or IR target, and it is never going to outrun a missile or a fighter.   I don't see how jammers or IR lures, or missiles are going to help much when SAM is closing on you at Mach 3.  To say nothing of liquid crystal displays which are probably not sunlight readable. 
  For the B52s, USAF is still talking about new engines.  They are thinking about staying with 8 engines, just to avoid the paperwork hassle of new pylons to hold just 4 engines.  Pratt & Whitney, makers of the existing B52 engines, is talking up an upgrade to the existing engines.  New hot section parts, made from higher temperature alloys, would allow the engines to run hotter, which improves both thrust and fuel burn.  On the other hand, with the B52 fleet down to 76 aircraft, all of which are fifty years old, I think we ought to fly 'em as they are and replace them with something newer ASAP.  B52 is a good airplane, but a fifty year service life is plenty. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

NASA missions

In a country that plays "Star Trek" on TV for fifty years, and flocks to "Star Wars" movies, there are probably votes to be had from space exploration.  Perhaps as many votes as the greenies have for shutting stuff down.  As long as we are funding NASA we ought to ask them to do something for the money.  The last eight years under Obama have been uninspiring.  NASA got it's funding every year and produced little to nothing.  They did manage to spend all the money though.
 Four NASA missions for the future occur to me. 
1.  The Obama mission, draw your pay and do nothing.
2.  The return to the Moon mission.  This is clearly doable, we did it back in the '70s.  Question:  What could we accomplish?  Setting up a permanent moonbase is surely possible, but what would it do?  Mining, manufacturing, hydroponic farming?  Astronomical observatory?  I read as much science fiction as anyone, but I think a permanent moonbase might turn out like the International Space Station, cool, but what does it do? 
3.  The Mars mission.  This could be a toughie.  The flight to the Moon is a matter of days, round trip to Mars is a couple of years.  The lunar mission can carry enough air, water, food, and fuel to last the trip.  A two year Mars mission would have to recycle air and everything else, and grow food in flight.  This means a bigger ship, more equipment and gear,  much higher standards of air tightness.  Plus make a jet landing on Mars, a blastoff back to orbit, and have enough fuel for the return to earth.  None of this is impossible, but it's harder.  The payoff?  It's a first, it will go down in the history books, and we might discover life on Mars.  Even some fossil bacteria would be exciting. 
4.   The asteroid mission.  Fly to the asteroid belt and match orbits with a medium size asteroid.  This is actually easier than the Mars mission.  It doesn't have to land and blast off again which simplifies things a lot.  The time to fly out and back is a little longer than going to Mars, but not that much longer.  Scientific payoff might be high, examination of the asteroid might give important clues to the origin of the Solar system.  And it would be a first, go into the history books. 
   It would pay Trump politically to pick one and get cracking on it.  Long as we are funding NASA we might as well have 'em do something to earn their pay.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

So what does Trump and the GOP do now?

Should they try another Obamacare repeal and replace?  Maybe this time telling us who gets gov'mint subsidies and how much?  What will it take to get the "Freedom Caucus" on board?  Are they actually responsible legislators or do they just enjoy gumming things up?  We never did hear just what they wanted that they were not getting.
Should they press on to a tax reform bill?  And just what will get reformed?  Lower top bracket rates? Lower all rates, close some loopholes? Simplify the 1040 so it doesn't take a week to fill out?  Make health insurance payments deductible?  Some thing else?  Is there anything  the Republicans can agree on? 
   How about a federal law to allow any insurance company, located in any state, to sell health insurance policies in every state, without requiring they file paperwork with the state regulators.  Could they even get some Democrats on board with this one?
   How about a law allowing duty free import of medicine from any reasonable first world country, e.g. Canada.  Big Pharma hates the idea, but it would lower medicine prices, a lot. 
   How about a law limiting FDA medicine approval to a safety check only.  Any medicine that doesn't harm patients gets approved.  Let the doctors and the insurance companies decide if the medicine is effective.  Insurance companies can refuse to pay for quack remedies, and doctors will refuse to prescribe them.  We don't need years and years of FDA paperwork proving whether the medicine works or not. 
   How about a law declaring that manufacture, sale, or prescription of and FDA approved medicine is NEVER malpractice.  The lawyers hate this, but it would do a small bit to reduce the malpractice problem. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

RINO's rule

The RINO's like Obamacare.  After a whole bunch of happy talk about repeal and replace, the RINO's had the votes to retain Obamacare, and they used them, successfully so far.  The Ryan bill to replace Obamacare was withdrawn from the floor of the house today, presumably 'cause they lacked the votes to pass it.
 Thanks RINOs.   We need to publish the names of House RINOs and find better people to fill their seats in 2018. 
  And we need to know the names of all the members of the "Freedom Caucus"  aka RINO headquarters.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Should health insurance pay for...

Used to be, you could buy low cost but effective health insurance.  "Major medical" or "Hospitalization only" coverage.  You paid the ordinary stuff, yearly physicals, colonoscopies, prescription drugs, children's doctor visits, etc, yourself.  The insurance paid for the biggies, operations and the like.  Such a policy was cheap, $3000 a year.  Compared to the covers-everything family policy that cost $12000 a year.  If you and your family were in decent health (the usual case) you could cover the ordinary stuff and still have a lot of money left over at the end of the year. 
   Obamacare outlawed major medical policies.  The medics loved that.  They could proceed with all sorts of expensive procedures without patients objecting to them, because "it's all paid for".  The insurance companies sent Harry and Louise on vacation.  Chiropractors loved this.  Obamacare policies have to have pregnancy coverage even for men, let alone women past child bearing age.  No wonder heath insurance premiums have soared under Obamacare. 
   Now that the heat is on, and the MSM is finally talking about the contents of Ryan's health insurance bill, we find that Ryan's bill does nothing to drop all the cost enhancing " essential health benefits" from Obamacare.  At first the excuse was "Senate rules".   "Reconciliation" a Senate rule that Harry Reid slipped in to get the budget approved some years ago, allows a bill to pass the Senate on simple majority (51 votes) but "reconciliation" could only be used for "budget matters".  No reduction of "essential health benefits", that's not budgetary.  Or is it? Today the Wall St Journal is suggesting that they could indeed repeal the costly "essential health benefits" in the Ryan bill and still get itl thru the Senate on "reconciliation".
   Let's hear it for "Senate Rules".  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Advertisers object to Google and Facebook content

According to the Wall St Journal, HSBC Holdings and L'Oreal reduced spending with Google because Google was serving their ads on controversial websites, or worse, on U-tube videos made by terrorist groups such as Islamic State and a violent pro-Nazi group.  This made the Journal's front page.  Google promises to move the ads away from the objectionable content.  But Pivotal Research Group stock guru
Brian Wieser has downgraded Google stock from buy to hold.
   Question for Google:  Why are you allowing posts so raunchy, and from crazy extremist groups, on your platform at all?  No newspaper or commercial radio or TV station would carry slime like this, why should Google?  If it's offending advertisers, it's gotta be really bad.  Advertisers are happy to snuggle up to all sorts of repulsive things and people if only it gets their ads out.  The stuff has to be really bad before advertisers care.
   All those "self radicalized" terrorists, (Pulse nightclub shooter in Miami, Nidal Hassan, and plenty more) claim they joined ISIS or Al Quada and went on to real terrorism after watching extremist rants and videos on the internet.  Google should not be aiding and abetting Islamist terrorists. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Windows 10 weirdnesses

All of a sudden I found a new program that called itself TiWorker, which I had never heard of before, was active and sucking up 24% of CPU time.  Arrgh.
   So I Googled on it and found quite a bit of discussion.  Not all of it consistent.  The least harmful suggestion was to bring up Windows Control Panel, select "Troubleshooting"  Then select "System and Security" and under that, Run Maintenance Tasks".   The only task that showed was "System Maintenance.  I ran it, and TiWorker disappeared, back to where ever it came from.  System Maintenance didn't brag about what it was doing, but it ran fast and whatever it did made TiWorker go away and stop eating 24% of my CPU.
   Your mileage may vary.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Water Vapor is a bigger deal than Carbon Dioxide

The greenies have been crying for years about the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.  They say that CO2 is a "greenhouse gas" which absorbs the infrared heat the earth is trying to radiate into space, thus warming the earth and the root cause of GLOBAL WARMING.  Analysis of ancient air bubbles trapped in arctic icecaps shows the CO2 content in ancient times was around 300 parts per million (PPM)  Analysis of modern air shows a CO2 level of 400 PPM.  A 25% increase, which the greenies say will lead to the heat death of the earth day after tomorrow.  Or sooner. 
   The greenies claim that the CO2 increase comes from burning coal starting with the industrial revolution (1750 or so) and burning oil starting with the development of the automobile (1900 or so).  To halt the CO2 growth the greenies want to put us all back in to a Hiawatha lifestyle,  no cars, no oil furnaces, no electricity after dark, and a bunch of other uncomfortable ideas.  Gotta save the world you know.
   In actual fact, the air is also full of water vapor.  Which is as strong a greenhouse gas as CO2.  And there is a lot of it.  About 11,000 PPM give or take a scosh.   It varies from time to time as we all know, some days are very humid others are bone dry.  Take 50% relative humidity at 20 C as representative.  An increase of 100 PPM of CO2  compared with 11,000 PPM of H2O isn't going to matter for world temperature. 
  The greenies are getting all hot a bothered by a 1% increase in greenhouse gas in the air. 
Relax people, we can drive our cars, travel by air, light our furnaces, and generate electricity and the planet will be just fine. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Putting a nuclear warhead on a missile

Pundits have been on TV claiming that making a nuke small and light enough to go on a missile is very difficult and it will take the NORKs years to accomplish it.
   I doubt it.  The first nuke, the one we used on Hiroshima was so big and heavy that it was all a B29 could do to get off the ground with one on board.  By the 1950's we had one small enough to fire out of an 8 inch cannon.  Which is small enough to fit on any missile.  At least any missile bigger that a 4th of July skyrocket.
The NORKs probably have a little work yet to do before they can nuke the western US, but not much.  Secretary Tillerson is saying the right stuff about the NORKs and their nukes. 

54.5 MPG. No way

That was Obambi's fuel economy regulation.  Trouble is, nobody will buy the resulting automobile.  Heck you cannot get 54.5 MPG out of motorcycle, let alone any sort of decent car.  Gasoline engine technology was well understood by the 1950's.  We had cars that could do 20 mpg back then.  Fifty years later the average car is not doing much better, maybe 24 mpg.  No way will the technology get to 54.5 mpg for anything more than a motorcycle. 
  Especially as the Environmental Pollution Agency limits what they call "NOx" emissions.   Air is 20% oxygen and 80% nitrogen.  Heat air hot enough, say in an engine combustion chamber, and the oxygen and nitrogen go together forming various nitrogen oxides, nitrates,  NO, NO2, N2O4, and a bunch more.  Old style LA smog formed when the nitrates mixed with oily vapors and sunlight formed that yellow cloud we used to see over city skies.  So, rather than clamp down on oily vapors from leaked fuel, the EPA decided to clamp down on NOx emissions.  The only way you do that is lower the combustion temperate in the engine cylinders.  Which ruins fuel economy and power.  Car engines are heat engines, the hotter you can run them, the better they perform.  If we dropped the NOx limit we would get a 10% maybe 20% performance improvement right then and there. 
   Or we could convert to battery powered cars.  Trouble is, the best battery powered cars can barely get you to work and back.   And they cost twice what a real car costs.  No way could a battery car get you to a ski resort for a weekend, or even to grandmother's house unless grandmother lives right next door.  The battery is the most expensive part of a battery car.  Nobody dares say what battery life might be, but battery replacement is so expensive that you might as well scrap the whole car and buy another one, new.   Plain old lead acid car batteries only last 4 winters.  How long will your Tesla battery last? 
   So, Trump is telling Detroit that he is going to "review" (drop) the 54.5 MPG regulation which allows Detroit to keep making cars that people will buy.  Good oh.  Right on Donald.
   Market pressure is there to get fuel economy up and keep it up,  all things being equal, customers will buy the car with better fuel mileage and everyone in Detroit knows it.
   And, don't fault people for buying SUV's  You need an SUV to get Mom, Dad, the kids, and the luggage onboard.  The little econo-boxes are horrible on a long trip with kids.  Trust me on this.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Woe to the Republic!

Turbo tax won't run on XP any more.  I will have to do my taxes on FlatBeast, my HP laptop running Win 10. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

So was Trump wiretapped or not?

Who knows?  Certainly his first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was wiretapped.  And Trump's phone call with the president of Mexico was tapped and passed to the media.  And probably more that we don't know about.  So, when Trump says he was wiretapped, I'm inclined to believe him. 
   So who dunnit?  Again, nobody knows.  But loosely speaking, I'd say Obambi did it.  Not that I think Obambi himself put on lineman's climbing spikes and went up pole and popped the alligator clips over the right telephone pair.  He has a slew of federal employees to do that.  And with modern technology you may not have to stir from in front of your computer screen to tap phones and read email.  All the 17 Federal intelligence shops worked for him up to the inauguration and perhaps some of them still do.  Most federal civil servants are Democrats.  It was reported that the rubberstamp FISA court did issue a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower.  Media has kinda stopped talking about that, although they haven't claimed it didn't happen, yet. 
   We did have a couple of Congresscritters claim that they found no evidence of a tap, but they did NOT say it never happened. They just said that they didn't have written evidence in their hands.  Doesn't mean it didn't happen.
   The newsies love this kind of stuff, it's simple enough that they can understand it.  More so than understanding just what the Obamacare replacement bill will actually do.  I haven't figured that out yet, and I am smarter than the average newsie. And so they burn up their airtime talking about wiretaps. 

Note to Congressional Republicans

You gotta pass the Obamacare replacement act.  If you don't, your party is toast in 2018.  We voters have been watching Congressional Republicans fail to do squat after winning the house in 2012 and the Senate in 2014.  Republicans funded all of Obambi's socialist schemes, they approved his appointments (TWO Supreme court justices!), they failed to pass departmental appropriation bills, and they stood still while Obambi issued outrageous executive orders. 
   Which convinced many of us that the Republicans have back trouble, namely a big yellow stripe.  Lack of stones.  Or, they are just RINO's.  The electorate is made up of 40% Democrats, 40% Republicans and the remainder 20% Independents who will vote for either party depending upon how well they like them.  The Independents voted for Trump this time 'cause the alternate was worse, but there is little love between Trump and the independents. If the Republicans cannot get their act together to pass something, anything, then the Independents won't vote Republican next time.  Bye bye Congressional majorities, bye bye White House in 2020. 
    Time will tell.  Do Republicans have any guts?  Or are they just RINO's in league with the Democrats?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hard power vs Soft power

The MSM is trashing the Trump budget for cutting money for the State Dept and foreign aid.  The implication is that State Dept cookie pushers somehow increase the power and influence of the United States.  Not true.  State Dept personnel draw their salaries.  Few of them actually do anything constructive.  US power and influence comes from our robust economy, Hollywood, pop music, superb universities, the internet, our inventors and entrepreneurs, our amusing and vibrant domestic politics, our rock solid currency, our ideals as set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the warm and generous welcome we offer to foreign immigrants and tourists.   These things, and some others I have missed,  create US soft power.  The State Dept has little to do with it. 
   We pay some 15000 bureaucrats at State to handle relations with less than 200 countries worldwide.  That is some 85 bureaucrats per country.  That's far too many.  All they have to do is take care of US citizens in trouble abroad, operate an embassy, and do some straight forward legal intelligence gathering.  I think State could manage with a lot fewer useless mouths.
   Foreign aid is harder to assess.  Clearly a few Yankee dollars passed to the right person can accomplish wonders overseas.  Just how many dollars, and who we give them to, are matters of pure judgement.  Loyal and experienced US diplomats can get the balance right, some of the time, perhaps even more often than not.  We should leave the foreign aid debate to the very few people, like Henry Kissinger, who really know what's going on. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

There was NO Mrs Bilbo Baggins.

Tolkien even mentioned this in the trilogy itself.  "Bilbo and Frodo as bachelors were very exceptional."  I'm reading an Op-Ed in the Wall St Journal, a book review of "Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve" by Ben Blatt.  It's about what can be done with computers to count up every word an author uses, and the patience to wade thru the resulting mountains of histograms.  Apparently they were able to resolve who wrote which of the Federalist Papers by looking at the frequency of the word "whilst" versus that of "while".  Hamilton always wrote "while" where Madison always wrote "whilst.  Good interesting stuff but I would never have the patience to sort all this out.
   Then the reviewer mentions that Tolkien used "he" 1900 times and the word "she" just once when he refers to Mrs. Bilbo Baggins.  The first part I can believe, Tolkien's protagonists were all guys, no chicks in the fellowship of the ring.  But Mrs Bilbo Baggins?  No way, Bilbo never married,  Frodo was NOT Bilbo's son, he was a nephew. 
   Talk about blowing your credibility in one short sentence. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The vanishing supermarket chicken

Used to be, the butcher's shelf in the supermarket would have plenty of whole chickens, fryers, broilers, and roasters.  Must be some kinda plague killed them all off.  Now a days all the market has are chicken thighs (second joint) drumsticks, breasts (skinless and boneless) and chicken fingers (breasts sliced thin).  The whole bird seems to be extinct.  Must be global warming...
   Wonder why.  There is less labor to prepare a whole chicken, than to prepare a whole chicken and then butcher it up into parts and wrap it.  Is there customer demand for chicken parts over whole chickens?  If so why?  With a whole chicken all you have to do is pop it in the oven for 20 minutes to the pound and out it comes and looks festive and tastes good.  No great culinary skills here.  Serve it forth with a few side dishes and you have a party grade feast.  I guess people just send out for pizza now rather than cooking. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Free Enterprise and CAFE

The modern US economy manages to supply a humongous variety of products to us citizens.  Groceries, auto parts, gasoline, new cars, clothing, housing, toys, smart phones, building materials, books, computer games, new movies, freeways, air travel, you name it, the US economy provides it. And provides the right amount.  When something is in short supply, the price goes up, which encourages more supply.  When we have too much of something, the price drops, and people stop making it and turn to other products.  Works beautifully and we produce just the right amount of  a zillion different things. 
   The old line Soviets didn't believe in the free market.  They set up a central planning bureau in Moscow to issue production quotas to all Soviet producers.  Central planning never got it right. Sometimes the producers could not produce as much as Central Planning demanded.  Many times Central Planning demanded more than the market could absorb. Result was constant shortages and surpluses. Clearly the free market worked better than the Soviet command economy.
   So then we invented the Corporate Average Fuel Economy program.  Auto makers are required by law to manufacture a fleet of cars that meet crazy fuel economy targets (54.5 mpg last time I looked) So they manufacture a vast number of tiny econoboxes that nobody will buy, but they get credit for on the fuel economy average, so that can produce the vehicles that customers will actually buy, mostly pickups and SUV's.  The greenies believe that virtue comes from reducing gasoline consumption no matter what.
   Me, I think people ought to be able to buy the car they want to buy.  If it uses a bit more fuel than the greenies approve of, too bad.  The frackers have increased US fuel production enormously, to the point that we will be independent of middle east oil producers in a few years. You want an SUV to haul your family around? Go for it.  It's free country, or at least it used to be.
   We (Congress) ought to repeal the entire CAFE law.  It would reduce the price of the cars we actually7 buy.  I don't know what Detroit does with the hordes of fuel efficient econoboxes they churn out to meet CAFE requirements.  I don't think even the rental car companies will take them.  It would mean cheaper cars for all if  Detroit didn't have to produce a horde of econoboxes that nobody wants to buy. 
 
  

Costing the Ryan "replace" bill

Congressional Budget Office released their study of the effects of the Ryan bill, costs, loss of insurance and other things.  According to CBO the Ryan bill would reduce the federal deficit by $370 billion at the cost of 24 million people losing their insurance.
   Lets be simple about it,  $370 billion divided by 24 million people yields $15416 in savings per person losing insurance coverage.  That's a lot.  Used to be full house family plan company insurance ( the best you can get) ran $12000 a year.  Hospitalization only insurance ran $3000 a year.  So the Ryan bill reduces costs to us taxpayers by MORE than it would cost us taxpayers to buy outright, a full house family insurance plan for each person loosing their insurance policies. 
  Sounds like a deal to me.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The US Flag still means something in the Middle East

TV has been showing a video of a small convoy of military vehicles moving into some obscure town in Iraq. Some hummers, some trucks, a Styker armored car, but no tanks and no Bradleys. Every vehicle is flying a decent sized US flag on a pole above the vehicle. 
   The troops driving must figure that showing the flag won't draw fire and might help establish useful relations with the locals.
   Not bad for Old Glory. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's dump ALL the Senate rules and start over with clean slate

All we ever hear about Senate rules, is how some obscure rule is holding up something good.  Senate rules were started by Southern Democrats looking for ways to block abolitionist legislation before the Civil War.   Southern democrats carried on this disgraceful tradition in the 1950's looking for ways to block civil rights legislation.   Then the "rules" were expanded to block Supreme Court appointments, all federal judge appointments, and pretty much anything.  It got so bad that they couldn't muster the votes to pass the federal budget.  Harry Reid (former Democrat Senate majority leader) had to create a new "rule" called reconciliation to allow the budget to pass on a simple majority, rather getting hung up going for 60 votes.   Today the Republicans are trying to use "reconciliation" to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority.   Which is why they didn't put interstate sale of insurance in it.  "Reconciliation" can only be used for budget matters Later Harry created another rule allowing appointments ( except Supreme Court) to pass on a simple majority.  And the Senate has "rules" requiring 60 votes in order to bring a bill to the floor, and then 60 votes to pass it.  In short the Senate spends half it's votes, voting to have a  vote.  Senators can vote one way on one vote, the other way on the other vote, and tell their constituents that he voted their way, for or against, what ever the voter wants to hear.  And there are secret "blackball" rules that allow a single Senator to blackball a nomination to anything.  They keep Senator Blackball's name secret too. 
   Let's scrap all the existing Senate rules.  Every Senator gets to submit one (or maybe more) bills, that will come to the floor for debate and a vote.  All votes are simple majority.   Every nomination comes to the floor for a vote within 14 days of the nomination.  Senator's may no longer talk on the floor as long as they please.
  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

NHPR calls president Trump crazy.

Just this morning I heard this.  On FM radio.  To cloak their position, NHPR  said they were  quoting a Democratic Congressman from California.  "California" is a land of fruits and nuts, "Democratic" is a party of lefty greenies, neither adjective lends credence to the Congressman's words. They did mention the Congressman's name (once) but I didn't catch it. 
   Congressman didn't right out call the president crazy, instead he spoke in psycho-babble, but I have been hearing psycho-babble for years and years and know how to understand it.  He was calling president Trump crazy.
   Which is an extreme thing to say about an elected US president. 
   It's also pretty extreme for NHPR to carry the story.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

NHPR quoting UNH. There is no electricity shortage in NH

Heard on my clock radio this morning.  A UNH study claims that we don't need to bring down the NH electric rate in order to grow business.  They made the further claim that NH electric rates were no worse than the national average.  And we didn't need more pipelines to bring in natural gas.
  The greenies love this kind of "stuff". 
  Pure poppycock.  My residential electric rate is 25 cents a kilowatt-hour, the nation average is 10 cents a kilowatt hour.  Lack of gas pipeline capacity causes radical prices spikes in the cost of natural gas.  Which in addition to ripping off those who heat with natural gas, causes price spikes in electric rates, because most electricity is generated by natural gas. When natural gas prices go crazy in a cold January, the electric rates do the same.
   Did UNH actually run this study?  Or did NHPR misquote them?  Who knows? Both groups have enough greenies in them, to support any amount of  greenie propaganda.  
   But that was this morning's news on FM radio.   

I taped over the camera on my laptop

I did it a year ago or more.  After seeing posts about some PA school that was spying the their students, via school supplied laptops, I put a square of masking tape on the camera lens of my laptop.  If I was really serious about it, I would find the microphone and tape that over too.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The "replace" plan is out this morning.

It's ONLY 120 pages, which makes it possible to read, unlike the thousand pages of Obamacare.  I haven't read it myself, so what I am writing here I get off the TV.  The bill keeps the ban on preexisting conditions, and kids up to 26 years old can stay on there parents insurance. 
  It offers "Tax Credits", presumably for buying insurance, possibly for paying medical bills.  If I remember my IRS form 1040, tax credits are better than deductions.  A deduction reduces your taxable income (adjusted gross income) whereas a credit reduces your tax.  For example, a $100 deduction reduces your tax bill by your tax rate times the deduction, usually amounting to $20-$30.  A $100 credit reduces your tax bill by $100.  This is a good idea.  It levels the playing field between most of us, who get our health insurance tax free thru our employers, and the self employed who get no kind of tax break at all. 
   On the other hand, half the population of the country is so low on the economic ladder that they owe no income tax at all.  Tax credits don't do you any good if you don't owe any income tax.  
   The plan fails to allow sale of health insurance across state lines, a measure that would increase competition
 and lower costs.  Everybody except the insurance companies is in favor of interstate sale.  Failing to put it in is a squishy soft cave in to the insurance companies.   Insurance companies don't vote, nobody likes them much, but they have a lot of money to buy Congressmen with.  Looks like they bought themselves a lot of Congressmen on this one.  Congressmen go for cheap this year.
   The bill also fails to require Medicare and Medicaid to bargain with big pharma over drug prices.  Again everybody (even insurance companies)  thinks this is a good idea.  Nobody likes big pharma much and they don't have the vote.  But big pharma  does have money, same general amount as the insurance companies, and they have bought themselves plenty of low priced Congressmen. 
  The bill fails to do anything to reduce the cost of health care, like clamping down on malpractice suits (lawyers like malpractice and nearly all Congressmen are lawyers). It doesn't allow duty free import of drugs from any reasonable first world country, which would do a lot to lower drug prices.  It doesn't rein in the ever growing FDA requirements for more and more testing of new drugs.  It does nothing to rein in the outrageous marketing expenditures by big pharma. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The buck stops here

So Obama is claiming that HE never authorized a tap on Trump's phone.  He failed to say that Trump's phone was never tapped, he just said he didn't do it.  Old Harry Truman would not have seen it that way.  If any government agency tapped Trump's phone, then Obambi is responsible, at least as long as he was in office.  There is a report out on TV saying that the rubber stamp FISA court DID issue a warrant to tap Trump's phone.  Nobody has denied that report, yet.  If the report is true, then Trump's charge of wiretapping is true. And Obambi is doing a weasel.    As usual. 
   TV is doing a long song and dance about the FISA court and what it can or cannot do, aimed to showing that the court won't do a wiretap on just the president's sayso.  Since the court meets in secret, the justices are secret, and the records are secret, it can do anything it wants. And probably has.  

Why the Republicans haven't announced a "replace" plan.

It's due out this morning according to the TV.  Democrats have been sniping at it, claiming that the Republicans should have a replace plan already.
   I'm pretty sure that actually the Republicans have a plan.  In fact they must have a dozen plans.  Problem is, they cannot get everyone (or even 51%) to agree on WHICH plan they are going to support.  Health care is a gravy train for patients, doctors, big pharma, insurance companies, hospitals, medical device makers, ambulance drivers, ambulance chasers, state governments.  Health care is 19% of the US GNP, that's a huge amount of money.  With that much gravy the spread around, no wonder everyone wants their fair share, and more if they can get it. 
  To pass anything at all, the Republicans need nearly every single Republican vote.  The Republican margin is thin, and in the Senate, a mere three defectors could sink anything.  I'm thinking that they won't keep their party in line, or even attract a few Democratic defectors, without president Trump getting behind ONE replace option and pushing it hard.  Which he hasn't done yet.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Who knows what a Gryf is?

Good question.  The Economist compared the EU to a triceratops, a big, extinct, dinosaur, generally believed to be a plant eater along the lines of the dinosaurian rhinoceros. Only with more horns up front.  Then they went on to call for conversion of the triceratops into a gryf. 
   So what's a gryf?  Tarzan, on one of his adventures into darkest unexplored Africa, encountered them, and they looked like triceratops (Tarzan even recognize them as such in the book) but they were ferocious man eaters instead of herbivores.  I happened to have read that very Tarzan book as a child.  My summer camp library had a copy.  The book (Tarzan the Terrible) was published back in the 1920's and I never saw it for sale anywhere. It's like really out of print.   
   Anyhow, an Economist writer read the long out of print Tarzan book, and  thought the Edgar Rice Burroughs fictional monster would make a good simile or metaphor in 2017.  Groovy.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Drain the Pentagon Procurement Swamp

Disneyland East we used to call it.  That humongous five sided office building from WWII times, filled with civilian bureaucrats, who soak up a good slice of the military budget themselves, and spend the rest of it.  With a giant 100,000 page set of "procurement regs", containing paragraphs tailored to jack up the price of everything the services buy. 
   We could save a lot of money, at least 10%, maybe 50% of the cost of military procurement, by burning ALL those procurement regulations.  And then fire all the civilian bureaucrats.  For a military budget,of some $600 billion, we are talking saving anywhere between $60 billion and $300 billion.
    Replace those 100,000 pages of cost jackup regs with just a few simple ones.
1.  Always obtain THREE bids for anything, even super high tech weapons systems.  If you cannot get three bidders, do without.
2.  Never do "cost plus" contracts.  Always push for "firm fixed fee" contracts.   Settle for "cost plus fixed fee" contracts only when the product is badly needed and you cannot get firm fixed fee contracts..
3.  Avoid gold plating the specifications.  In all possible cases, procure standard commercial items, using the commercial specifications common to industry.  Make the specifications public for review by possible bidders, bloggers, and the press.  Make the requirements testable features of the completed product, not directives to use over priced mil-spec parts in manufacture. 
 4. And on the subjective side, qualify all bidders.  For instance on an aircraft contract, clearly Lockheed, Boeing, Northrup, and Grumman,  are qualified, they have track records of building aircraft going back to before WWII.  Whereas AC/DC Power Supply and Storm Door Company is not qualified, they have never built so much as a toy aircraft, and nobody has ever heard of them.  You cannot give a contract to an unqualified bidder, they will be unlikely to actually deliver the product, but they will most certainly, spend all the money.
  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

You gotta call 'em something.

You gotta name the enemy before you can fight him effectively.  Obambi refused to name them and they took over Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and other places.  The Trump administration is calling them radical Islamic terrorists. 
   Democrats and even some Republicans object that the word Islamist makes Muslims worldwide feel we are persecuting them.  Which has some truth to it.  But what else to call them?  In the past, we called enemies by their ideology (Nazi, Commie, Fascist).  Far as I can see, this enemy's ideology IS Islam and so calling them Islamic is fair enough. 
  I suppose we could call them Jehadis.  Except that word doesn't carry enough  juice to be a biting epithet.  Using acronyms, ISIS, ISIL, AQAG, also doesn't seem to cut it.  Using their own names like Al Quaeda suffers when they stop using the name themselves. 
   Perhaps we could call them scumbagies? 

Jeff Sessions schmoozing with the Russians??

The New York Times, a sleezy rag that's been spreading disinformation for 70 years that I know of, quotes an unnamed Justice Dept official the the effect that Jeff Session had two contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.  Sessions has denied the reports.  The TV newsies are going full bore with this story, this morning's Fox News has talked about little else today.
   I got some questions.  1.  When did these alleged contacts occur?  2.  What's wrong with a US Senator talking to anybody, including the Russians?  3.  Sessions was a US Senator until very recently.  How does a Justice Dept official know anything about what a Senator is/was doing?  4. Who is this mysterious Justice Dept official that the Times hangs the story on?  5. Are there any other sources?  Named or anonymous?  6.  Sessions has a pretty good rep for honesty, why should I not believe him over an unnamed source? 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Can we cut the State Department?

Good question.  State has 13000 employees.  It has missions in 172 countries.  That's 75 employees per country.  While 75 employees might be reasonable for a major county like Russia, it is overkill for minor countries like Luxembourg, or Bermuda. 
   In the 21st century, State has two missions that make sense to me.  First to gather intelligence.  There is a lotta useful stuff we can pick up by just reading the local newspapers.  Like who is who in their government, and in the government's opposition.  What are the important industries and businesses?  And who runs them? How does the general population feel about things? Geography, good maps are important, and they remain useful for years.  During WWII North African operations relied on maps made by the US marines fighting the Barbary pirates of old.  All this stuff is important, and gathering it and filing it, is legal. 
  Second is to give aid and succor to US citizens abroad.  Lost or stolen passports, arrest by local authorities, kidnappings,  and Lord knows what else.  As a mid to lower class American, I like to hope that if I get into trouble in a foreign land I can call on the US consul or ambassador for help. 
   And, in this day and age of air travel and world wide instantaneous communications, heavy duty international negotiations are handled out of Washington DC, not by US ambassadors abroad.  In fact president Eisenhower created the National Security Counsel to bypass a State Department that he considered inefficient, and infiltrated by communist agents like Alger Hiss.
  So, if we allowed 20 state department employees per country, that yields a headcount of 5120, a helova lot less than the 13000 bodies they have warming chairs today.  If we figure each state department bureaucrat costs $100K a year,  than laying off 7840 of 'em would save $784 million a year.  That's not quite real money in DC speak, but it's still a useful piece of change.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Game of Thrones, Season 6

I'm three DVDs into it and it loosing its cool for me.   The TV miniseries has run off the end of the George R.R. Martin books, which are decent and I have read them all.  Now that the TV is running it's own course, independent of the books, I am loosing track of what's going on.  The show's habit of never calling anyone by name makes things tougher.  An actor will appear on screen, I will say to myself "This guy was in the show a while ago, but I cannot remember his/her name or what he did."  Not knowing frustrates this viewer of the show.
   Then things don't seem to ever get anywhere.  Denarys is still leading the Dothraki toward invading Westeros.  In six whole seasons she hasn't been able to get her Dothraki to the seashore, let alone boarding ship for Westeros.  Arya is still wandering around looking for something to do.  Brendan is still a paraplegic having visions that don't lead anywhere. 
   Then they killed off so many characters over the past seasons that they have decided to bring some back to life, by witchcraft and magic.  Running out of talent I suppose.  They bring Jon Snow back to life in an early scene, but they never spoke his name.  The episode was half over before I decided it was Jon Snow and not his half brother Rob Stark.
    And the camera man is still refusing to turn on the lights.  Pure black scene follows pure black scene.  Arya has gotten her self into a strange place where another girl her size takes some pleasure in beating the stuffing out of Arya with a quarterstaff.  In the fight scenes both Arya and the other unnamed girl wear identical black ankle length dresses.  The scenes are so dark, I can't tell Arya from her opponent.  
   Continuity is weak.  The show has at least six story lines (Denarys and the Dothraki, Brenden, Sam Tarly and his wildling wife, Jaime and Cersei Lannister,  and Tommin the new teenage king)  They cut from one to story line another so fast there is no time to get anything accomplished, and we viewers get confused as to where we are.  And if the rapid story line shifts don't confuse the viewers, they do flashbacks and dream sequences.
   Anyone know if they will do a season 7?

Monday, February 27, 2017

The news, All Trump, all the time

Fox News and the Wall St Journal cover Trump every day, all day.  Nothing else in the whole wide world gets any coverage.  And most of the Trump coverage is repetitive and negative.  I've heard every kind of anti-Trump trash talk there is.  I don't need to hear more of the same.
  I propose the newsies cut back the Trump coverage to maybe 10% and go out and cover some other stories.  For instance the Iraqi Army, backed by USAF and US special forces has taken half of Mosul and is planning to assault the other half.  All the coverage I have seen is from independents like ITV.  No American newsies are on scene, talking to the troops and the locals, and using a Mosul byline. 
   How about some coverage from the South China sea, maybe some close up video of Chinese gun and missile emplacement from a drone? 
   How about some live coverage from the Ukraine?  Or Poland where we deployed a US Army tank brigade last month? 
    I'm tired of the all Trump, all the time news coverage.  I want to see/hear what is going on in the rest of the country and the rest of the world. 

Words of the Weasel Part 48

"Substance" as in "substance abuse".  Used by snowflakes who shrink from calling them druggies or drunkards.  If you cannot name the problem, you cannot deal with it.  And a good strong dose of social disapproval helps druggies kick their habit. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

What's with all this Russia talk by TV newsies?

First they make a big deal about the Russians hacking the DNC and releasing some embarrassing emails to WikiLeaks.  Then they have a field day over the Mike Flynn affair.  Meet the Press spent a lotta time yakking about Russians this morning.   They were clearly trying to sell the idea that the Russians tipped the election to Trump AND that talking to the Russians before the inauguration is treason. 
   Does anyone in the real world believe either idea?

How long do curly bulbs last, really?

The traditional incandescent bulbs claim a 800-1000 hour life.  That's the best compromise between light per watt hour and bulb life.  They sell long life incandescent bulbs, and they do last longer, but they don't give much light.  A 60 watt conventional bulb throws as much light as a 100 watt long life bulb.  800-1000 hours for say a living room lamp that goes on at sundown and burns til bedtime, is 200-300 days, call it a year. 
  The curly bulbs claim 8000 hour life, ten times the life of an incandescent.  That ought to mean ten years service life. 
   And I suppose some curly bulbs do last that long.  A lot of 'em don't.  I have had at least four, die in place after only a year or two of service.  That's out of a total of 8 curly bulbs in my house.  Half the population of curly bulbs dies young.  Mostly the dead ones come out of the fixture with a burn mark on the base, suggesting that some electronic part inside the solid state ballast has failed, rather than the glowing curly tube.  Let's guess that the marketeers who pushed for the 8000 hour life claim  were thinking that the only part that could fail was the curly tube, analogous to the filament in an incandescent bulb.  Solid state ballast failures were ignored.
   On the other hand, as a homeowner, I don't care why the curly bulb died, I gotta replace it for $5 or live in the dark.  But I do think anyone computing lifetime costs of incandescent vs curly bulbs ought to call the curly bulb life as 4000 hours rather than the 8000 hours marked on the package. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Clean Energy's Dirty Secret

Cover story of this week's Economist magazine.  Comes with a cute graphic cover.   The secret?  Between heavy subsidies and falling costs, a lot of solar cells and windmills have been installed.  Once installed, this equipment runs whenever the sun is up or the wind is blowing.  So on a sunny breezy day there is plenty of juice, and cheap juice at that,  and the expensive central power plants have to shut down until sundown.  The Economist is halfway wised up, they do understand that we need those central power plants to keep the lights on after sundown.  The problem as they see it is to find away to pay for the necessary central power plants when they only get to run and make money for half a day.  The "alternate energy" is supplying power for the daylight hours. 
   There are a few unmentionables with the Economist.  Not once does the phrase "nuclear power" appear in the multipage article. The Economist is virtuously anti-nuclear.   They do briefly mention batteries, suggesting that eventually they will be able to carry the load after dark.  Not likely, anytime soon.  We have been fiddling around with battery technology for better than 200 years.  Best we have now (Lithium Ion) is only maybe twice as good as Alexander Volta's first copper zinc cell of 200 years ago.  We need an improvement of ten times to get a battery good enough to carry the electric grid thru the night. 
   Another unmentionable was "fracking"  In North America, the frackers are producing so much cheap natural gas that the electric companies have given up on nuclear and coal because natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than coal. But the Economist can't breath a word about that because fracking is a dirty word in Europe.  
    The Economist wants, but doesn't quite say so, is government subsidies for central power plants to keep them on line for backup when the sun is down and the wind stops blowing.
   Simpler and cheaper would be to drop subsidies for "alternate energy" and drop "net-metering" which forces power companies to pay "alternate energy" producers for juice they don't need.   But the greenies would freak.. 
  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Combat Readiness

No military unit is ever 100% combat ready.  Troops will be taking leave, some weapons will be out of commission, there are always some shortages in compliment, authorized slots unfilled, some gear worn or obsolete.  So,  something less than 100% is as good as you can do. 
   Back when I was pounding a flight line in USAF, the standard was 71% of squadron aircraft ready to fly every day.  We had to report our percent in commission every morning at 4 AM.  That gave maintenance most of the night to fix the planes that the pilots had broke flying them the previous day.  We had 20 fighters and to make 71% operationally ready, we had to have 15 aircraft in commission, every single morning.  We usually had one aircraft in periodic inspection which took days to complete.  Or undergoing engine change, which took a day and a half.  So we could only afford to have four aircraft down for maintenance after the witching hour of 4 AM.
  Aviation Week ran an article this week about readiness rates.  Somehow USAF was still making 71%, but just barely.  Army, Marines and Navy were only doing 50%.  Back in my day, a USAF squadron commander who failed to make 71% got relieved of duty.  Dunno how the other services feel about the issue, nowadays. 
   Distorting the numbers is the huge amount of aircraft out for depot level maintenance (DLM we used to call it).  At squadron level we only had to report on squadron aircraft.  If we sent an aircraft off for DLM, it no longer counted as assigned to our squadron.  About once a year we would send a plane off to depot, and it would take depot a matter of months to get it back to us.  So something like 2.5% to 5% of the force was in DLM.  That was then
   Now, the Marines are reporting 171 F/A18 fighters assigned to squadrons and 109 F/A18 fighters in DLM.  That's 38% of the fleet out of commission for DLM.  That's bad. Really bad. 
   Aviation Week (staunch industry supporter that they are) is calling for more funding for aircraft maintenance. 
    I wonder how you rate the combat readiness of infantry or tank units. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Harbor Freight comes to town

They took up half the space in a small deserted strip mall, giving them a big store, about the size of a Staples.  They remodeled, and opened for business the other day.  I stopped in to browse this morning.  They have a lot of stuff in there, hand tools, power tools, ladders, jackstands, welding rigs, a neat little metal working lathe ($569) just about anything you might want. 
  I hope they prosper.  They have to overcome a terrible reputation for quality, actually lack of quality.  I looked hard at the stuff on display trying to judge the quality.  The stuff looks OK, the socket wrenches are nicely polished and bright chrome.  With sockets the only way to tell quality is put the socket on a two foot breaker bar and give it the old heave ho on a stuck nut.  Low quality sockets will break under this stress test, good ones will survive.  Their prices are right, rock bottom low, and for Harry Homeowner who doesn't use his tools nearly as hard as the professionals do,  Harbor Freight can be a deal. 
  I did like that little metal working lathe for $569.  Didn't buy it though. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mosul, Iraq

The TV has been talking up the battle of Mosul.  They claim to have taken the half of the city on the west bank of the Tigris river, and are now talking about taking the half the city on the other bank of the river. 
   The TV does not say if allied/Iraqi forces have surrounded Mosul and cut it off from food and supplies.  Since the TV doesn't talk about it, I guess that the surviving ISIS half of Mosul is still in contact with the rest of the ISIS lands.  Which is not encouraging.
   Thruout all history, the way to conquer a city has been to surround it and starve it out.  It's been true since the Greeks besieged Troy.  The Germans tried to take Stalingrad by frontal assault rather than surrounding it.  Did not work out for them.  Cities are man made defensive works.  Fighting from house to house with grenades and assault rifles is the toughest kind of fighting anywhere.  If you have the combat power to push into a defended city, you have plenty of combat power to surround it and then just wait for the defender to get hungry. 
   So what are we doing in Mosul anyhow?  Do we have any US newsies with our forces at the front?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Whither the retail business

I went shopping with youngest son on Saturday.  We went to the North Shore Mall on Rte 128.  I worked on the north shore for ten years, back before I retired.  Used to stop into the North Shore Mall  regularly.  This was the first time back there in ten years.  It was a nice Saturday, no snow, temperature in the 50's, sunny, a nice day.
   And the place, a truly big mall, was far from crowded.  There were some shoppers, but not all that many, compared to what they used to have.  And the shops were women's clothing, cosmetics, GMC herbs, new age crystals.  Nothing much to attract a guy. No Radio Shack, no men's wear, no hardware. The North Slope didn't have ski gear or snowshoes, or ice fishing stuff, or winter camping gear.  They only had two colors of parkas, black and International Orange. I don't like either color.   We did find a Lego store, and a Brookstone, but that was about it as far as stores selling guy stuff. 
   Any how, I'm glad I don't have to make a living in retail.   Let's guess, Amazon and Walmart and Target, and Home Despot have taken the North Shore Mall customers. 

How to tell fake news from real news

Graph department that is.  The Internet is awash in graphs claiming to show the growth, or shrinkage of all sorts of things.  Net Worth, employment, GNP growth, income inequality, and on and on.  The graphs typically show a bunch of colored lines, rising dramatically, and implying that something is getting bigger, or better, or worse, or something.
   Lies, damn lies, and statistics.  How can you tell a real and true graph from fake data trying to convince you of something that isn't true?
   These tricks may not work all the time, but they will weed out a lot of fake data graphs.
1.  Are both axes labeled?  With what they represent and what the units are (gallons, pounds, feet, furlongs per fortnight, dollars, whatever).
2.  Are the scale divisions of the axes uniform?  A graph with scale divisions every 10% except for a few on the end scaled out to 2%,1%, and 0.1% is attempting to bend the plotted curve somewhere.  Any graph with non-uniform scale divisions is trying to lie to you.
3.   Does the vertical axis go all the way down to zero?  I can take a straight line and turn it into a jagged mountain range if I expand the vertical scale enough.  If the vertical scale doesn't go down to zero, the graph is trying to make bumpiness bigger than it really is.
4.  If its a graph of something versus time, does the time axis go back before 2007?   Great Depression 2.0 started in 2007 and just about everything went down the drain that year.  A graph that starts in 2009 will show a steady increase as we pulled out of Great Depression 2.0  Same graph restarted in 1997 will likely show a great dropoff in 2007 and may show that things have not recovered to where they were in 2006.  Two different messages.  
5. Do the numbers at the extremes of t he graph make sense?   For instance I saw a graph claiming that of the top 0.1% income individuals in the country, 40% of them had not completed college and were out of work.  Somehow I just don't believe that. When I find one unbelievable data point, then I figure there are more that I don't find.  Put that graph into the damn lies category.

    I'm picky.  If a graph fails any one of these tests, I put in into the "damn lies" category.