Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wow! Trump immigration policy makes big waves

As I get the story, Trump announced the ban on immigrants/visitors from seven African and Middle East countries Friday night.  By Saturday, someone[s] had organized sizable demos at the big airports, LAX in particular.  That's quick work.  How did they do that? and who is they?  Did "they" put the word out on social media?  If so, what media?   I'd join up with that media just to keep in touch with what's going on.  Did "they" use a telephone tree to call all "their" members?  Did "they" take out ads in the newspapers?  Is it possible to get a newpaper ad out that quickly? 
   Or did "they" have foreknowledge, from a leak somewhere in the Trump administration, so they could have more time to get the demo's rolling?
    And, are all those demonstrators going out with their signs just because they still hate Trump? Does anyone actually favor immigrants from pest holes like Somalia?
    The noble MSM are missing a lot of angles to this story. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

$2107 each for a handgun?

Seems very pricey.  But that is the price the government is willing to pay for the new Sig Saur handgun that will replace the current unloved M9 Beretta.  The Sig will be made in New Hampshire, a good thing as far as this NH resident is concerned.  It will be chambered for 9mm Luger which is standard world wide, despite a lot of shooters feeling that anything less than .45 ain't enough for serious work. 

Microsoft Update stopped working

Microsoft Update had been working happily on my aging XP desktop for some years.  I have trusty desktop set to notify me of updates rather than just zap them in automatically.  Now and then I run Microsoft update by hand from Internet Exploder.  Today Microsoft Updates started and then choked up with an error message about how it could not access the internet.  Hmm.  And it popped up a network diagnostic button which I pushed figuring it wouldn't do any harm.  Network Diags trundled for a while and then reported that my firewall was blocking ports 80 (http) 443 (https) and 21 (FTP).
  So, hit "Settings" and then Microsoft Firewall.  And punch a button marked port.  And type in the three port numbers (80, 443, and 21).  Firewall complained about port 80 claiming it was already present.  But it accepted the other two ports.  And then Microsoft update started to work. 
  For all this hacking, Microsoft update did not find any serious updates for me.  I browsed the non serious updates and decided than none of them would do my any good. 
   Still wondering what happened.  Did Microsoft tighten up Update so that it needed the HTTPS port? Did some passing virus turn the ports off by way of defending itself?  Should I get a better firewall? 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

New Hampshire GOP holds its annual meeting

I'm a delegate so I went.  Had to get up at 5:45 to get down to Derry by 8 AM.  It was snowing lightly in the Notch.  I managed to get up my driveway and out on the road just before the town plow plowed me in.  I93 was a tad slippery up in the Notch but dried out nicely by the time I got to N. Woodstock. 
   It being the annual meeting, many of us, yours truly included, wore coat and tie.  It being New Hampshire, a lot of people showed up in blue jeans and hunting shirts.  Meeting was called to order at 9.  The only real business to address was election of the State Chairman.  Somehow this took all day, we didn't get adjourned until 2:30.  Lot of people got tired and left early. 
   There was the usual opening exercises, Governor Sununu gave a short speech, all the reports (treasurer, bylaw committee, etc) were read.  This lasted til 10, and then trouble decended.  Somebody got 9 or 10 changes to the party bylaws onto the agenda.  The changes were poorly written, few of us delegates could understand what the bylaw changes meant and they started out with a confusing voting system were a yes vote was actually a no vote.  They gave up on that after first amendment sucked up a half an hour before getting voted down.  Another couple of hours was consumed voting down the rest of 'em, all except one, which authorized paying a salary to the state chairman.  That passed cause most of the delegates could see that state chairman is a full time job, and few people can do a full time job without a salary.  Real people have bills to pay. 
   Then we got to voting in new officers, treasurer, asst treasurer, secretary, asst secretary, vice chair, area chairs, and finally, we voted in Jeane Forester as state party chairman.  That got us up to a little after 2PM and then we called it a day and adjourned.  I got back home just around 5PM.  Stupid Beast was glad to see me. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Legend of Tarzan 2016

This flick hit the theaters back in July 2016.  Publicity work must have been pretty bad, I never heard of it until I did a search for "Tarzan" on Netflix.  I'm an old Tarzan fan, got started reading my father's collection of Tarzan novels in grade school.  I have seen most, perhaps all, of the Tarzan movies and TV shows going all the way back to the Johnny Weissmuller movies.  This was a medium speed Tarzan movie, not great, but watchable. 
   The cast were names I had never heard of, but they did a reasonable job working against a faint to flaky plot and really terrible continuity situation.  The movie starts up with a very British lord John Clayton in London, does flashbacks to a boy Tarzan being raised by Kala the she-ape deep in the jungle, pops back to the present (1890) flashes back to a young Tarzan whipping Kerchak hand to paw, pops forward to the same young Tarzan meeting Jane, and so it goes.  The flashback scenes are cute and all, but the constant flashing back and forth is confusing, and when laid on top of a weak plot yields a confusing movie. 
   The soundman was only fair to poor, a lot of Jane's lines were unintelligible to me.  The cameraman is still  turning the lights off, yielding a pure black scene with just a hint of  someone's white face floating around in the blackness.  They have a lot of pretty nicely done CGI animals, lions, great apes, wild buffalo, elephants and suchlike.  They have a stern wheel river steamer that looks pretty good although it is almost certainly CGI.
   Tarzan is properly ripped, has a good six pack abs. He looks a little too skinny for the part, I expect Tarzan to be built like Schwarzenegger.  This Tarzan doesn't really look strong enough to rassle with great apes and live to tell about it.  We don't see Tarzan without his shirt until halfway thru the movie, and he never does get down to the traditional loincloth,  he is wearing pants right up the the end of the flick. 
   Jane is nicely played, young, beautiful and tough.  She spits in the bad guy's face, and later escapes from the bad guy's river steamer by diving over the side into crocodile infested waters, while still wearing the ankle length white dress she was wearing when captured.  We never learn just how she avoided or dealt with the crocs.  We see her climbing out of the  muddy river with the white dress now stained river-mud-color.  A few scenes later the dress goes back to being white, and still later back to river-mud-color.
   Overall, not too bad, at least for us dyed in the wool Tarzan fans.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Waterboard 'em enough and they will say anything you want

Interrogating prisoners is something of an art.  Coercion, whether the 3rd degree methods of modern police to real old fashioned medieval torture,  is a deal between the interrogators and the subject.  Talk and it will stop hurting.  Most subjects understand this.  And, most subjects want it to stop hurting, and so they talk.  They will lie their heads off and say anything the interrogators want them to say.
   For criminal police work, where all they have to do is make the subject say " I confess" this probably works.  For military intelligence work where we want the location of enemy troops, supplies, other assets, or operational plans,  or names of leaders and agents, targets for airstrikes, success of past attacks, or size of military units, it's not so effective.  The subject, under duress, will invent answers to the questions.  This defeats the purpose of interrogation, by filling the intelligence files with nonsense.  
    So I am not in sympathy with president Trump's call to waterboard more subjects.  I don't think you get useful intelligence this way.  CIA used to have some pretty good interrogators.  They got Khalid Sheik Mohammad to sing like a canary.  Then came the great CIA shakeup over black sites, waterboarding, VHS tapes of interrogation. I wonder if CIA has anyone left who can interrogate effectively.  Or would dare to do so from fear of prosecution.
   What we ought to do is take more prisoners.  Obama liked killing 'em rather than taking 'em alive, probably to try to empty out Gitmo.  Seal Team Six had Bin Laden at their mercy, they had plenty of airlift, they should have cuffed him and flown him out.  Rather than calling in an airstrike, send troops in by helicopter to capture alive as many as possible.  Take the prisoners to Gitmo and grill 'em medium rare.  Do fancy televised trials for the higher ups like Bin Laden.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

God Speed Mary Tyler Moore

The TV is carrying news of her death at age 80.  She put on a lot of really good TV in her day.  I watched a lot of it.  There isn't anything nearly as good on TV these days.  God Speed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

DACA is an Obama executive order to the immigration folks to ease off deportment of young illegal aliens who were brought into the US by their parents when they were small children.  The Wall St Journal runs two letters to the editor today, one advocating that president Trump continue the policy, and one advocating ending it. 
   Cool and all.  But isn't this a matter for Congress?  Someone ought to submit a bill to Congress to make DACA the law of the land.  I'd expect it to have a good chance of passage.  And then the argument would be over. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Chuckie the Schumer wants 6 hours of "debate" about Mike Pompeo

Debate used to mean a contest of ideas between two opposing parties, for example Lincoln and Douglas.  What Chuckie wants is six hours on national TV to trash Mike Pompeo in the hopes of weakening President Trump.  And Chuckie found some obscure and anti democratic Senate rule (the Senate has a load of 'em) to force the Senate into giving him six hours. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mortgage backed securities in the news again

You would think after they caused Great Depression 2.0 that we would have clamped down on mortgage backed securities.  Apparently not.  Top item on the Friday Wall St Journal.  "Bonds backed by certain risky single family mortgages topped $1 trillion for the first time in November amid warnings about that corner of the housing market." 
$1 trillion is very serious money.  The US GNP is only $17 trillion. 
And mortgage backed securities are just flat dangerous to the world economy.  The "backed" part is pure moonshine.  All the seller of mortgage backed securities promise is that the mortgage payments will be used to pay off the bonds.  But, if the mortgages stop paying, the bonds go bust.  That's what took down the entire world financial system in 2007-2008.  A disaster which we still haven't recovered from.  Before Great Depression 2.0  our GNP grew at 3.5% a year.  Since Great Depression 2.0 GNP growth has been 1% a year.  That's eight years of poverty. 
   To sell a mortgage backed security a financial  house has to buy up a batch of mortgages from the likes of Countrywide and Freedom Mortgages.  Who are happy to sell, turning mortgages  (promise to back in the future) into cash right now.  And, they are happy to write subprime and NINJA (no income, no job, no assets) mortgages, so long as they can find suckers to buy them before they default. 
   Basically we should not allow the sale of mortgages.  If the mortgage lender know they are stuck with the mortgage forever, they will be more careful about who they write mortgages for, since they will own them.  And as a homeowner,  I am not happy with the idea of my mortgage falling into the hands of God knows who, who can stick it to me in a dozen different ways. 
   Mortgages are good deals for the lender.  They are backed (really backed, not moonshine backed) by real property, if the borrower defaults, the lender gets the house.  The borrowers are strongly motivated to keep up the payments lest they find themselves out on the street.  It's simply to assess the risks involved at the time you write the mortgage.  You inspect the property to see if the property is worth more than you are gonna lend on it.  You interview the borrowers and check their credit history, and see how much they are earning.  You don't write a mortgage when the monthly payments are more than 25% of the borrowers income.  Pretty simply stuff. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Donald Trump vs the MSM. Who will win?

President Trump understands that the MSM is out to get him.  They have a giant megaphone, and with only a few honorable exceptions, they all speak with one voice.  They don't like Donald Trump, and they plan to make his term as president as miserable as they can. 
   President Trump has been pretty vigorous in trashing the MSM for dishonesty and slanted stories.  He understands publicity and public relations as well as they do. The presidency is still a bully pulpit.   He understands that mud sticks.  When they smear you, you have to say something, the public isn't going to forget the smear.  If they don't hear the target defend himself, they assume he is guilty.  They assume that an innocent man will defend himself against the smears, no defense, and the guy is probably guilty.  Trump understands this, and had defended himself vigorously, and so far, it has worked for him.  His twitter account is smoking hot, and it puts President Trump's views in front of the entire nation, and the MSM does' get a chance to slant or edit his views.  The MSM has been bitching about Trump's tweets because they cut the MSM out of the game.  It's like FDR's famous fireside chats in the 1930's.  Roosevelt's words went nationwide unedited and unslanted. 
    And the MSM has damaged it's credibility during last year's campaign.  Now, few Americans believe what they see on TV or read in the papers.  When Trump slams the MSM, the voters are inclined to believe him.
   I don't see a truce coming.  I think we are going see a head on collision between the President and the MSM.  There is a fair chance the MSM will loose. 

Do you love your plastic?

Every one gives it out.  Political parties, veterans aide groups, charities, the NRA, everyone.  Make a contribution, and you will get a membership card. Sometimes high grade plastic, like a credit card, sometimes cheaper cardboard.  Same size and shape as a credit card. The one from Judicial Watch was transparent plastic, a cute touch. 
  Why do we care?  Perhaps Walter Mitty rides again.  A vision of striding up to a closed and guarded door, flashing our membership card, the guards saluting and opening the door.  Right.  Happens all the time. 
   Do we think down deep that since they look like credit cards they might actually be credit cards?  With money on them?  Dream on.
   Dunno why, but before attending a party function I often stick the party member ship card in my wallet.  And, I don't chuck these things, I put them in my desk drawer against some future need.  Right now the stack of 'em is an inch thick. 
   And, come the next dear-member-please-send-money letter, I am just a tad more inclined to write out a check if I have a membership card in that one inch stack. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The TV is on, and the Inaugural is the only thing happening in the whole wide world

Early this morning the Fox crew was getting some "man in the crowd" shots.  Big crowd, all enthusiastic, lotta red Trump hats, some NRA hats, rain gear.  Everyone one in the crowd was happy the chant USA. USA, or Trump, Trump.  I'd call it solid support. 
   The parade didn't get off until nearly 4 PM, it will be dark before the last marchers get past the reviewing stand.  They had a platoon of Redcoats, Brown Bess muskets and all, march by.  Melania Trump showed up in a stunning blue suit that made her look like a million dollars. 
  Other than the drizzling rain that lasted on and off all day, it was a good show. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I'm getting sentimental in my old age

I watched today's before the inagural festivites, laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier followed by a concert at the Lincoln memorial.  After some good Nashville country music the choir sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and fireworks burst in the sky, I found tears in my eyes. 
   It's a good thing to have a big national celebration every four years, just to make all us citizens feel good about our country. And those 60 odd democratic Congressmen who are not coming to the inaugural are missing something good.

So are these guys politicians or what?

As of last night we have 50-60 democratic Congressmen saying they will not attend the inauguration tomorrow.  Trump is going to see this as a slight or even a slap in the face.  And Trump is president for the next four years, maybe more.  And to get anything to happen in the US of A, the president has to get behind it.  At least to speak well of it on TV.
  These 50-60 democrats must have things they want to get done.  They are all serving for another two years, and they have decided to start off by irritating Trump.  Which is going to make it harder for them to get Trump to do anything, OK anything, say nice things about something they care about, appoint their friends to federal office. 
   The job of a politician is to cut a deal between opposing sides.  Part of cutting a deal is not insulting one side.  These Congressmen seem to have forgotten that, they are doing insults before Trump is even inaugurated.  Good luck getting Trump to help you out on anything, even just renaming a Post Office in your district.
   We shall see.  Maybe in two years a lot of these guys will be replaced with Republicans.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

So I watched Obama's last press conference on Fox News

Obama spoke for an hour.  H managed not to say anything of substance in all that time.  Obama is a master of the modern political speak, smooth words, motherhood and apple pie, nothing anyone can disagree with, but never a number, never a fact, never a promise of real action.  Pablum, meaningless pablum.  And that is all we have gotten out him for the last eight years. 
   Politicians spoke better in the old days.  "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." " The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."   "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  "We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds... We shall never surrender."  In eight years Obama never said anything in that class.  
   Trump is a better public speaker than Obama.  He can stir the emotions of the crowd, and talk about concrete things, a wall, a tariff, taxes.  After listening to Trump, there is no question in anyone's mind where Trump is coming from and where he wants to go.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What Seventeen Intelligence Agencies?

Several times this month, the MSM has stated that all seventeen US intelligence agencies support this or that.  Seventeen? Do we really have seventeen different intelligence agencies?  I know of CIA and NSA and DIA.  And I guess the National Reconnaissance Office (surveillance satellite operators) counts.  But does the FBI count as intelligence? They are supposed to be police.  What about Secret Service?  They are supposed to be presidential bodyguards and federal anti counterfeiting police. 
   Anyone know of the other thirteen intelligence agencies? Like what their names are and what they are supposed to be doing with my tax money? 
   Somehow I feel that we could shut down  five or six such agencies, and save money and improve our knowledge of what's going on in the world.  Certainly CIA's record over the years has been so bad as to make me doubt anything coming out of CIA. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Victoria on Masterpiece Theater

It was on PBS at 9PM last night.  A beautiful costume drama.  The costumes were really good, upper class Brits all dressed up for court.  The story picked up with Victoria's accession to the throne at age 18.  She has very firm ideas about who is in charge, she doesn't defer to her mother, her mother's boyfriend, prime ministers, and other members of the aristocracy.  Nice acting, a good watch.  It ran for two hours which is a little long for me, one hour episodes are more to my taste.  Anyhow I plan to watch it again next Sunday.

Replace Obamacare with What?

So what does the Trump administration do to replace Obamacare?  Remember that the country was doing just fine up until Obamacare was rammed down our throats.  Most Americans get health insurance thru their employer.  That's a strong incentive to get a job, which is not a bad thing.  I , and my family, enjoyed company health insurance for nearly 50 years.  It's decent healthcare and the government ought to encourage it any way they can.  And when you turn 65, you are eligible for Medicare which is also pretty decent.
   So the Obamacare thing was only of interest to the self employed, the unemployed, and such.  I don't understand Obamacare, I doubt that anyone does truly.  I think Obamacare offered to pay part of private health insurance premiums for low income people.  And for various reasons the premiums have skyrocketed and the deductibles are so high that the insurance is mostly worthless unless you are hospitalized. 
   So what to replace Obamacare with?  I can think of the following possibilities.
1.  Uncle takes care of everything, like Medicaid or Medicare.  Doctors and hospitals just send all the bills to Uncle Sam.  Tempting but VERY expensive. 
2.   Uncle subsidizes low income people to purchase private health insurance.  Subsidies might range from just making health insurance premiums deductible on income tax, up to  cash payments from the US treasury to either the insurance company or the patient.
3.  We pass a law requiring health insurance companies to sell the same insurance they offer to large corporation employess to the general public, at the same price charged to corporations.
4.  We make a real effort to bring down medical costs, which are outrageous.  Allow duty free import of medicines from any reasonable first world country (Canada, Germany, Japan, and company).  Clamp down on malpractice suits.  If we cut medical costs in HALF, our medical costs would be the same as every other country in the world.  America spends twice as much on medical care as any other first world country.  And our citizens health is no better than other countries.
5.  Something else?

The Republicans need to put their heads together and decide which of these options they will take.  Right now, I think every Republican has his own ideas and none of them agree on much. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Routine Healthcare is pricey

The insurance company sent a summary of my healthcare expenses for 2016.  Grand total for the year, $1338.  All I did this year was two routine doctor's office visits, and one visit to the eye doctor.  That's $446 per visit, each visit taking about an hour of my time and half an hour of the doctor's time.  That's $14.86 per minute, $223 per hour.  Anyone remember Brer Rabbit bragging that he was making a dollar a minute?  That's cheap compared to medical care these days. 
   Totally routine visits, just checking up.  I had no complaints, the doctor's scheduled the visits, twice a year for my general practitioner, once a year for my eye doctor.
   God only knows what it would cost if there was actually anything wrong with me. 

US Army deployment to Poland

The US Army has deployed a brigade (3500 men) to Poland to deter Russian agression/invasion of Poland.  The MSM have been talking this up as a big deal. 
   I'm not impressed.  Back in WWII the Germans and the Russians fought it out in this part of the world, deploying armies of a million men, or better.  Somehow I don't find a mere 3500 man brigade all that imposing.  A 15000 man division would be more like it.  Do we have a division that we could deploy, or is 3500 men our utmost?

Friday, January 13, 2017

F35 Program, Progress and Problems

Aviation Week had a two page article on where the F35 program stands now.   For openers, Lockheed and the Air Force after lots of negotiation, were unable to agree on the terms of the contract for the next batch of aircraft (Low Rate Initial Production lots 9 and 10) .  The Air Force finally issued a contract, without Lockheed's approval, on a take it or leave it basis.  The F35 A model, the Air Force model is now down to $100 million each.  The first ones built way back in 2007 cost $250 million each.  That's not too bad, although the last F22's procured were only $80 million.  The two other variants of the F35 cost more.
   And the ground based software is late.  The Automatic Logistics Information System (ALIS) software isn't ready yet.  We didn't have anything like ALIS back when I was pounding a flight line.  It apparently handles the paperwork, recording each maintenance action, what failed, what was done to fix it.  We flew combat in Viet Nam and did all that stuff with pencil and paper.
   And the on board software crashes.  Maybe every ten hours the pilot gets a blue screen of death and has to reset the system.  Aviation Week claims this is not a safety of flight issue, the plane still flies with the computer crashed, but in combat to have to reset the computer to make the missiles launch or the gun fire could ruin your whole day.  Software is up to block 3F, which is supposed to have code to launch all sorts of different missiles and bombs.  Except the 3F software is having trouble handling the AIM 9X Sidewinder missile.  Which is strange, Sidewinder worked off the Korean War era F86 Sabrejet.  You would think if the pre computer vacuum tube F86 could handle Sidewinder, the all solid state and heavily computerized F35 could too. 
   The article said nothing about the F35 gun, which a year ago was inoperative due to lack of software support.  Let's guess that the block 3F software was successful in getting the gun to fire.  They also said nothing about the 5.6 G limitation imposed by the engines.  Last year it was found that more than 5.6 Gs caused the rotating parts of the engine to bend enough to let the compressor blades hit the engine casing.  This caused an engine fire resulting in the loss of an aircraft last year. Since they didn't say anything about an engine fix, I think the services are living with the 5.6 G limitation, hoping that air to air missiles will pull the necessary G's to nail the enemy fighter.  The ancient F106 could pull 8 G's any old time. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Teaching reading. Phonics vs Whole Word

Language at the Speed of Sight by Mark Seidenberg.  Book review in the Wall St Journal.  Unofficial subtitle, Why Johnny Still Can't Read. 
   In today's public schools the debate is over teaching phonics, or teaching the "whole word method".  Surprisingly Seidenberg attribute the "whole word" method to Horace Mann in the 1800s, and phonics to professors of education in the 1900s.  By the late 1900s, when I was parent of three small children, the "whole word" method  was winning.  Granted, whole word is how adults read.  The eye sees a whole word, and by some mysterious, miraculous, and poorly understood power of mind, the word is recognized and everything you need to know about that word, how it is pronounced, what it means, what it suggests,  pops up instantaneously. The eye moves on to the next word.  That's how I read, and how anyone good at reading reads.  Trouble is, the process is poorly understood and cannot be taught.  They never taught it to me, it just came to me after I had been reading for a while.
   Phonics teaches the sounds of each letter, the rules for long and short vowels, and the sounds of common letter combinations like 'th'.  The student is taught to sound out words, letter by letter, sounding them aloud if necessary.  I was taught phonics, and fortunately St. Mary's elementary school  still taught phonics in the early 90s, when my children attended.
   My older two children both learned to read without strain, and went on to successful school careers.  Youngest son had a terrible time learning to read.  I spent a lot of time reading to him, reading with him, coaching and encouraging.  Youngest son lacked that mysterious ability to recognize whole words.  Words were just little black squiggles on the page, all alike.  The only thing that carried him thru was very strong phonics, stronger than I ever had at his age.  He could strike a new word, sound it out, get it (the really hard part of phonics) and press on.  Then he would strike the SAME word, on the SAME page, a couple of lines down, and not recognize it.  He would have to go thru the whole sound it out drill again.  Obviously that whole word recognizer was not working for youngest son.  Happy ending, by sixth grade, things got better for youngest son and his teacher told me "Reads at grade level".  But it was a tough first six years of grade school for him.  
    The point is, children need both phonics, for when they strike a new word, a common occurance at early ages, and the whole word method to become skillful readers.  Whole word cannot be taught, it comes to children after they have been reading for a while.  And to become good readers, children have to read.  Back in my childhood, we had comic books, ten cents, and a trememdous incentive to read.  You wanted to know what Superman was saying to Batman.  All the text was juicy dialog, no boring exposition.   Every kid had a stash, well thumbed, well read, swapped with buddies. Teachers and parents generally disapproved of comics, but we kids loved them. And read them, a lot.  Too bad comics are $5 and up today.  And the Sunday funnies are gone too.
   Another incentive to children's reading is the bed time story.  I read a lot of 'em aloud over the years.  A.A. Milne, L. Frank Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Kipling, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and many others.  In addition to exposing children to vocabulary and literary conventions,  reading aloud shows the children that Mom and Dad read, and that's incentive for any child to learn how to do it too.    

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

So I watched the Sen Jeff Sessions hearings on TV

It went on and on.  Sessions came across as a decent guy.  Three or four bunches of demonstrators were "escourted" out of the room for yelling and waving signs.  They apparently got into the hearing room as spectators.  I wonder how that happened.  You would think the limited number of tickets to these hearings would go to newsies, politicians, and important citizens. How there were tickets left for scruffy looking demonstrators?   Who knows.
    A number of questions about policy were asked.  I would have answered them thusly, "The attorney general enforces the laws on the books.  If you don't like the current law, and judging by your questions you don't like current law, then pass another law.  But as attorney general I must enforce the laws on the books, not laws you wish were on the books."   Sessions didn't use this reply, which is one reason he is up for attorney general and I am not.  . 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Everything gets more expensive, Children and Pets

Two items from the Wall St Journal today. 
1. They figure it costs $230,000 to raise a child today.  That's without allowing for college tuition.  Wow!  I raised three children, all the way to adulthood.  I didn't keep records so I don't know just what I spent, but somehow I don't think it was as bad $230K per child.  Hell, I had to pay $160K per child for college educations.  We didn't scrimp, we sent two of them to Westtown School, and one to Buckingham Brown and Nicholls, we took 'em skiing, sent 'em to summer camp.  Worth every penny,  they all turned out fine, and are a great comfort in my old age.
2.  A graph showing US spending on pets, going from just under $30 billion back in 2001 to just over $60 billion today.  Again  Wow!  A second graph broke down 2016 pet spending as $16 billion on vet bills, $24 billion on pet food, and $16 billion on pet medicines and stuff.  I have a cat, very nice beast, and I feed it the $3.50 a bag cheapo dry cat food rather than the $12 a bag fancy dry cat food.  Cat doesn't seem to care.

I have to wonder if either of those numbers is real. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

About that Florida Airport shooter

Apparently the lawyers don't charge anyone with murder anymore.  The Florida shooter was arranged in court today and charged with a laundry list of obscure crimes that I had never heard of, not not murder.  To my way of thinking, shooting five people dead in baggage claim is five counts of murder.  Lawyers of course live in their own little world.  They didn't charge Dylan Roof with murder either. 
  And this perp walked into an FBI office in Alaska and said he was hearing voices in his head.  Now that's gotta be a tip off to even the dumbest cop that this suspect has a screw loose.  So our valiant FBI, instead of dealing with the matter themselves, passes the buck to the local cops, who take the nut case to a mental hospital.  Where some shrink, confronted with a real live homicidal maniac who hears voices in his head, decides he is harmless and turns him loose.  They ever give him his gun back.  I wonder who that highly trained and experienced shrink was.  And why the shrink was unable to recognize a homicidal nut case when presented with one.  If we learned the name of this shrink, maybe the next time the shrink will commit the nut case rather than turning him loose.  It also would be nice to learn the name of the mental hospital involved.  There was a serious screwup here and the society would be better off for castigating those derelict in their duty.
   And a final observation.  If the passengers at Florida have been allowed to carry heat, they would have saved some lives, maybe not all, but enough.  

The paperwork isn't done

So Congressional democrats are saying on TV this morning, regarding the men and women Trump has picked for his administration.  And who need "advice and consent" of the Senate. 
   Of course, the paperwork is never done.  Bureaucrats and Congresscritters  always invent more paperwork.  Was I a democrat, I'd be inventing new paperwork to slow things down and new hoops to jump thru. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The reproducibility crisis in science

American scientists pour forth a formidable Niagara of scientific papers every year.  Generous federal research money, grants, and the pressure on university professors to publish or perish, help to increase the flow of papers.
  Unfortunately, a high percentage of this flood of papers, cannot be reproduced.  When other scientists attempt to obtain the same results in their lab,  they cannot do it.  The results claimed in the paper simply cannot be reproduced by others. In science, if  the results cannot be reproduced, they must be considered quackery. Not science but B***S***. 
   I experienced the reproducibility problem myself some years ago.  Working on a new medical device product, I consulted the literature looking for ways to do what we needed to do.  I found one, it did what we needed, and I coded it up.  And it worked.  It's just that it didn't work as well as the author claimed.  In fact my realization of the process was exactly 50% low.  The author had claimed twice the performance I was able to obtain in our lab.  Eventually I telephoned the author to ask him for advice.  After a few minutes of conversation, the author somewhat sheepishly admitted that he had left out a factor in his computations, and yes, the algorithm only worked at half the claimed performance.  Damn.  After wasting a good deal of time, I would have done better using the standard Huffman coding algorithm. 
    And, just the other day, the Wall St Journal ran an op ed claiming that all the important medical advances have been made by privately funded research at the big drug companies.  National Institute of Health funding, although ample, had not produced anything of clinical use. 
   Somebody ought to do a study of the effectiveness of federally funded research.  Go back a lot of years.  Tot up the amount of money spent, the number of papers published, and the number of products based on one of the papers that actually made it to market. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 50

"Anti-Zionism".  Lefties use this word to describe their feelings about Israel.  But in the real world, it means the same as antisemitism.  Nobody wants to admit to antisemitism in this day and age, so they thunk up a new word that they hope isn't as offensive, while still meaning antisemitism. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Shed a tear for Sears Roebuck

The Wall St Journal reports that Sears is selling its Craftsman brand of tools to Stanley/Black & Decker.  And Sears is selling off a bunch of stores, both Kmart and Sears, and borrowing wads of money.  Sounds like poor old Sears Roebuck is not long for this world.  Too bad.  Way back when, (1950's) Sears was the biggest US retailer, with good big stores in every town and every mall.  Back in the day, Sears was best known  as a hardware store, Craftsman tools and Kenmore kitchen appliances.  As a young hot rodder in the the 50's,  when I had a  1/2" drive Craftsman socket set and sets of Craftsman wrenches (open end, box end and combination) I was set in the tool department.  Craftsman was a good as you could get, with the famous "You break it and we will replace it free" guarantee.  In my home shop today, most of my tools, hand and power, are still Craftsman, many of them still running happily  and going on 50 years old.
  Dunno what happened to Sears to sink it so deep.  I suppose a lot of Walmart's and Target's  and Lowes' and Home Depot's growth has been at Sears expense.  Sears used to sell nothing but house brands, Craftsman,m Diehard, and Kenmore being as well regarded as anything on the market, with J.C. Higgins, Silvertone,  Homart, and Dunlap being not so great.  Sears used to give a lot of floor space to clothing, but I never remember Sears clothing being all that cool. 
   Somewhere I suppose there is a business book describing how Sears went down the drain, but I  haven't seen it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cyber Hacking Congressional Hearing.

It was carried live on Fox News.  We had Sen John McCain, Whatshisface Director of National Intelligence and a cast of 1000's.  After three hours, nobody had said anything important, or even in real English.  They all agreed that we need more cyber security without ever mentioning Windows, the OS with  a big "Hack Me" sign taped on its back.  Thanks Micro$oft. 
   And we have Obamacare forcing doctors to computerize patient's medical records so that they can be hacked more easily.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Right to Work will bring jobs to NH

Now that NH has a Republican governor to sign a right-to-work law, maybe we could pass one.  Why do we care?  Simple.  No Right to Work, no corporate investment.  No factories, warehouses, ternimals, help centers, nothing.  If the state isn't right to work, companies go elsewhere.  NH needs investment to create jobs.  Every June, we see all our new high school and college graduates leave the state to find decent paying work.   I'll grant that NH has a low unemployment rate, but that's largely because the unemployed, being hard working New Hampsters, leave the state to find work, rather that drawing welfare.
    To create jobs, we need someone, corporations mostly, to build factories and other facilities.  And we need to attract corporations to expand in NH.  If we passed right to work, we would be the ONLY right to work state for 500 miles in every direction.  There has got to be companies that need a facility in the Northeast.  If NH was right to work, all those facilities would be built in NH. 

Disappointment: Museum of the American Indian

The Smithsonian opened this one a while ago, but it's still pretty new in my book.  The building architecture is strange, no style known to me, does not suggest any sort of Indian architecture, an odd colored yellow stone facing, a fine location right on the Mall. 
   Collections were mediocre to poor.  The Inca floor had only a few nondescript earth colored pots.  A lot of stuff from the twentieth century.  Dating was vague.  The older things were all dated 1432-1547.  The modern stuff was mostly dated 1960-2000.  You would think they could date things more closely than +/- fifty years.  And the curators flunk spelling.  They spell Inca with a K.  Consistently.
   And it's pretty political for a museum.  As everyone knows, there are a lot of Indian groups with grievances against the white man.  A lot of such groups had posters or even whole displays supporting their points of view.  Your tax dollars at work. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Shoot down the NORK missile launch?

Pudgy NORK dictator Kim Jung whats-his-face is threatening an ICBM test launch of a missile that could reach the US with a nuclear warhead in a few days. 
   Today's Wall St Journal suggests that we ought to shoot it down.  The Journal would have a Navy Aegius cruiser standing off shore put a SAM thru the NORK missile as it boosts up. 
   Not a bad idea.
   If I was doing it, I would have an Air Force AC-130 gunship orbit the launch pad and ventilate the NORK missile with 20mm Vulcan cannon fire.  This would need some fighter escort against NORK fighters, and some Wild Weasel support against NORK SAMs, but it's doable.  The strike force could assemble out to sea, over international waters, and fly into NORK airspace only after intelligence positively located the missile standing on the pad.  North Korea isn't all that big and a strike force flying at 400 knots can be anywhere inside North Korea in no time at all. 

What to do about Obamacare?

Obamacare is a disaster.  The costs it lays on business has stalled hiring, stalled expansion, and generally slowed the economy.  Obamacare is one of the reasons for the miserable 1% growth of GNP in the Obama years.  GNP growth used to be 3.5% back before Obama.  Obamacare along with some other misguided Obama policies knocked it down to 1%.  That's not enough growth to offer employment to match our population growth let along reduce unemployment and raise wages.
   And, the US spends too darn much on healthcare.  We spend 19% of GNP on healthcare, where as all the other countries in the world only spend half that.  And US health is no better than many other countries who spend much much less.  This means that US exports have to be priced 19% higher than direct manufacturing cost, just to pay for the workers healthcare.  Whereas our international competitors, places like Japan, the EU, South Korea, even Canada, only have to mark their products up 9.5%   That's a crippling price disadvantage in the marketplace.  And it drives US companies to move operations overseas to avoid US healthcare costs. 
    The Obamacare law is some 10,000 pages long.  Nobody can read 10,000 pages of legal gobble-de-gook and understand it, even if it doesn't drive them mad.  Trump needs to repeal all 10,000 pages just to eliminate surprise clauses springing to life and doing badness.  Modifications or amendments are a slippery slope that open the door to all sorts of crookedness.  Trump needs to kill the whole thing, root and branch.  If there are parts of Obamacare that people want to keep,  pass them as new laws and Trump will sign them.
   Most Americans (say 80%)get their healthcare insurance thru their employers, or from Medicare after they retire.  Obamacare only helped the self-employed, and the medium poor, the extremely poor get Medicaid.  First thing to do is to increase competition by allowing interstate sale of health insurance.  Any insurance company, based in any state, should have the right to sell insurance in all 50 states, WITHOUT doing any paperwork anywhere except in their home state.  Right now, to sell insurance in any state, the insurance company is required to do a couple of tons of paperwork for the state "regulators".  For small rural states (like NH) most insurers just don't bother, the market ain't that worthwhile.  Which is why we only have two companies offering insurance up here.  Allow interstate sales and we would get more choices and better prices.
   Then to curb drug price ripoffs, $800 Epipens and $100 pills,  we need to allow duty free import of drugs from any first world country, Canada, the EU, Japan and places like that.  Any drug the authorities of a first world country have approved can be imported, even if the US FDA hasn't approved them yet.  FDA will scream and cry, and so will big Pharma, but too bad. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Did Snowden have a "Need to Know"?

You gotta blame NSA for first of all, not checking Snowden's background before issuing him a security clearance.  You would think a simple background check would have turned up evidence of flakiness.  Back when I got a Top Secret clearance, the FBI followed up and interviewed my references.  I do remember going back to my high school reunion and running into old Fred Swan, teacher of physics, swim team coach, and all around decent man.  Fred says to me, "Did you know the FBI has been around asking about you?"   I wonder if they did the same for Snowden.
   Second of all, for granting him access to so much stuff.  We used to have a doctrine of "Need-to-Know".  You didn't get to see classified material unless you had a clearance, AND, a need to know the information. 
   Seems like NSA gave Snowden free run over all their classified.  And I never did hear just what Snowden was supposed to be doing on the job.  Other than passing every thing to the Russians. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Obama tries to delegitimize Trump with Russians

Obama is making this big Russian hacking fuss to make Trump's election win seem illegitimate.  He is saying that Trump would not have won with out help from Russian scumbags.  Obama came out on TV and blamed the Russians for the Democratic National Committee hacks and claimed they tipped the election to Trump.  Trump went on TV and pooh-poohed the Russians-did-the-hack theory.  And surprise, surprise,  the voters believed Trump's story rather than Obama's.  Even when Obama claimed the CIA and 17 other intelligence agencies support the Russians-did-it story, the public has real doubts about the intelligence and honesty of CIA and 17 other faceless intelligence agencies.
   So Obama declared 35 Russian "diplomats" to be persons non grata and must leave the country ASAP.  I'm thinking Obama did that to support the Russians-did-it story rather than to make the Russians smart.
    And for a side effect, it might make President Trump's dealing with the Russians harder in the future. That makes it a twofer.
    I will grant that the DNC hacks and the Podesta email hack didn't help Hillary, but I won't think they were decisive.  The Hillary private server, which was outed by the New York Times, hurt Hillary more.   

Happy New Year

Things to be thankful for.  The endless election is finally OVER.  Maybe in a few more weeks the MSM will figure that out too.   And the Republicans won.  Hallelujah.   And old 2016 may be the year the MSM finally blew it and people no longer believe what they say.  And I'm gonna miss Carrie Fisher.  She put a lot of life into the Star Wars movies. 
   Things to hope for.  Economic recovery in the US.  1% GNP growth is miserable and just this side of Great Depression.  Let's do better in 2017.