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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Got a call from my old Alma Mater

It was a young female student, a senior, getting in some work for the alumni office, calling to thank me for a contribution I made a few weeks ago.  We got to chatting, about majors and the job market and how things were back when I graduated better than 40 years ago.  She thought things must have been better back then, especially after I mentioned that I had a job offer before I graduated.  I asked here what shw was majoring in.  "International relations" she said.  I refrained from saying anything while I thought to myself, "A real dead end major unless you want to join the State Dept or the CIA."  So I asked her if she had taken a course in computer programming.  "No, but I wish I had" was the reply. 
   After the phone call was over, I thought to myself, "There goes a nice young woman who is graduating with a major that won't help her get a job.  Let's hope she can marry the right guy."
   Lesson: if you are a student, or a parent of a student, you need to do some serious thinking about your college major.   The right major will get you a job upon graduation.  The wrong major and you are out of luck.  Decide now what you want to do for a living when you graduate.  Pick your major to make you employable in your chosen field.   Engineering (real engineering, chemical, electrical, mechanical, or civil) worked for me,  is fun to do, plenty of jobs, and decent pay.  The sciences, computer programming, business administration, and mathematics are also good bets.   
   Avoid the talky-talk "sciences" (sociology, anthropology, psychology, ecology) and anything with "studies" in its name (ethic studies, gender studies and so on). 
   If you just cannot stomach a STEM major, learn to write.  There is a tremendous demand for good English writing in business, industry, and government.  An English major or a history major will teach you how to write. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 46

"What did he know and when did he know it".  The old Watergate cry.  Congressional Democrats are in full cry on TV this morning.  This is an accusation of thought crime.  And I don't believe in thought crime.  Liberty means the right to think anything you please.  Crime has to be action of some sort. 
  The proper questions  are "What did he do?  When did he do it?  Where did he do it? And what evidence do you have? "  To be a crime it has to be an action.  Thought (or knowledge) is never a crime.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

$3000 health insurance vs $12000 health insurance

Used to be, before Obamacare, you could purchase health insurance for your and your family for about $3000 a year.  It was "hospitalization only" insurance, it only paid if you got really sick and got put into the hospital.  Routine stuff, yearly physicals, taking the kids to the doctor for earaches and such, you paid for out of pocket.   The savings, $9000 a year, paid for a lot of trips to the doctor and a lot of yearly physicals.  If you had some money in your checking account to handle the routine stuff, hospitalization only made a lot of sense.  You were protected against catastrophe, at a price you could afford.
   The medical community detested hospitalization only.  It led to patients asking how much that recommended CAT scan might cost, and checking prices on pills and getting prescriptions changed over to cheaper drugs. 
   When they slipped Obamacare over on us, they remembered  how opposition from the medical community had killed Hillarycare.  They remembered those Harry and Louise radio commercials, and decided to get the medical community on board by giving them everything they ever wanted in Obamacare.
  And so, Obamacare outlawed hospitalization only insurance.  No more would medical providers have to explain how much treatments would cost to patients.  Since every thing was all paid for, patients didn't care what stuff cost.  While they were at it, Obamacare made all kinds of weird and wonderful medical scams mandatory and all paid for, like osteopathy.  The practitioners love it.   

In like Flynn

Some things I don't understand.   It's perfectly reasonable for Trump's national security advisor to talk to some Russians.  Flynn is an old intelligence guy, knows some Russians, and contacting our biggest international problem is a good idea.  Let 'em know that we won't nuke 'em, that we could make a deal, pass on a bit of sweetness and light, is always a good idea.  We aren't at war with the Russians, reaching out and schmoozing them is a good thing.  Far better than calling them names. 
   How did Flynn manage to get himself cross threaded with Mike Pence?  Just what was it that he failed to say, or "misspoke" ?  And why would a senior retired Army general officer not live up to the code of the services and tell the truth? 
   And, who in the intelligence world leaked the phone taps on Flynn?  And leaked them to the press, not just Congressional Democrats?  You tap a senior guy's phone and that's serious business.  When the senior guy finds out, he will retaliate.  Clearly Trump has a heavy duty leaker on the loose.  He needs to call a plumber ASAP.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Words of the Weasel Part 45

"Border Tax".  A euphemism for tariff.  I listened to some talking head on Fox News spend five minutes explaining why Trump's proposed "border tax" was not a tariff.  Tariffs have been a hot subject thru out American history.  And the history books all use the word tariff.  We are doing our children a disservice to introduce a new  buzz phrase for an old old concept.
   Could it be that a century of free trade agitation has made people think that tariff's are bad for them?
   In real life, tariffs are good for domestic makers of stuff, for obvious reasons.  Tariffs are bad for everyone else because they have to pay more for stuff.  Everyone else is more people than the makers (both labor and company) of any one kind of stuff.  Since this is a democracy, it is reasonable to support free trade since more people benefit from a free trade regime. 

Father of Dodge Viper says it died because it ran out of reasons to live

Bob Lutz, product champion of the Viper, back some years ago, said the idea of the Viper was to have more power and go faster than anything else.  When Chevy put out some Corvettes that were even faster than Viper the car lost its reason for being.
   Piffle I say.  When the competition comes out with a product hotter than yours, it's time to soup up your product.  Chrysler just didn't want to spend the money. Or didn't have the money.
   If some car maker was looking for a new product, how about a sporty car that can handle driving in snow? I've driven Camaros and Mustangs, a lotta fun on a dry road but totally worthless after the first flake hits the road.  Up here in NH, people laugh at you if they see you driving a sporty car in winter.  Which cuts into the market for sporty cars.
  What someone ought to make is a sporty car that works in winter.  Fifty fifty front rear weight distribution is a good starting place.  Then it needs four wheel drive, with limit slip differentials fore and aft.  Maybe a built in ski rack that doesn't whistle at 65 mph.  Decent tires with rubber that sticks in snow.  They make 'em.  Plenty of defroster heat.  Good strong windshield washer to cope with the salt spray.  Bleed some engine heat to the washer bottle to keep it from freezing.  Outside thermometer so you can tell if that glittery black stuff up ahead is ice or just wet asphalt.   Give it some decent styling and I'd buy one. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ivanka Trump and her clothing line.

All I know about Ivanka Trump is what I see on TV.  She sure looks like a nice, good looking, pleasant, mother of three.  The sort of young woman any father would be proud to call his daughter.  And so, when Nordstroms and some other retailers drop her clothing line,  her doting father says a few words.  What does anyone expect him to say?  And Kellyanne Conway says a few more words, good for her. 
   The newsies are making a federal case out of this.  Which is one reason why polls show president Trump has more credibility than the newsies do. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Can I trust US courts anymore?

Good question.  Seattle district court judge James Robart certainly doesn't believe in following the written law.  The 1952 law says the president has total authority to ban any immigrant or class of immigrants from entry to the United States.  Judge Robart ignored this and forbade the president from barring immigration from seven Middle East countries.  In short, the judge ruled in accordance with his personal political ideology and not in accordance with the law on the books.  Plus the two plaintiff states clearly lacked standing to sue the federal government. 
  What's worse, the 9th Circuit court of appeals backed him up.  So, we have the federal courts in the western part of the country making judgements based on personal prejudice rather than written law.  I wonder what they were teaching in law school back when these so called judges were doing law school.  Scary.
   So much for the procedural argument.  The substance of the issue is of only medium importance.  We don't get all that many immigrants from the seven middle east countries in Trump's executive order.  On the other hand, these seven countries are so screwed up from civil war or just plain collapse into failed states, that we cannot believe anything they tell us.  We ought to be vetting immigrants to weed out criminals and select for people who will become loyal and productive members of American society.  Vetting means contacting the authorities in the immigrant's home country to verify his name and home address, see how much schooling he has, see his police record, and so forth.  This only works if the home country has authorities in charge.  The seven countries on Trump's executive order are all  so war torn that we cannot find the authorities, and even if we find someone who claims to be an authority in an enemy country like Iran or Syria, we suspect that they would lie to us.  Surely an Iranian mullah who wanted to infiltrate an agent into the US would have no problem telling US authorities that "Yes Omar is a good boy, never been in trouble, good marks in school. Yada-Yada." 
   So, it's a twofer, the so called judges are wrong on the issues as well as procedures.  Very scary.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How much should that wall cost?

I'm not a great wall fan myself.  New Hampshire is about as far away from the Mexican border as you can get.  But ABC was just claiming that the border wall would cost $25 billion.  Which is rediculous.
The US Mexican border is 2000 miles long.  At 5280 feet to the mile, that comes out to 10 million feet in round numbers.  Chain link fence material, the chain link, fence posts, ties, and everything is about $5 a foot.  I looked it up on the internet. Let's assume installation is about the same as the cost of materials, so make it  $10 a foot, or $100 million to do the whole border.  That's a far cry from ABC's $25 billion.
    Actually, there is a bit more to doing it right.  To prevent people from digging under it,  we ought to put a solid concrete footing under the fence, all the way across.  That might cost another $100 million.  Then we need an access road on our side of the fence to allow the border patrol to get men to the site of an illegal crossing in a hurry.  It can be a dirt road, just good enough for a jeep.  And we ought to fly air patrols in Cessnas (not $1 millon UAVs) daily.  The real purpose of the fence is to stop vehicles from crossing, or at least to leave an unmistakable hole where someone crashes thru.   You need air patrols to spot the big  holes in time to get the border patrol in pursuit of the fence crasher before he gets away.
   Even with all this stuff  I'm thinking we could do the wall for less than $1 billion.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Adventures in Router Land

The virii and trojans and  ransomware are getting aggressive this year.  I decided to upgrade the firmware in my router.  Router is a $40 plastic box that plugs into the cable modem and offers WIFI and four internet connectors.  The router faces the raw internet, and needs to reject incoming messages that would take over the router and do evil.  The router acts as a firewall, and if it should be penetrated, the hacker has direct access to the Windows machines plugged into the router.  And Windows is like Swiss cheese, fully of holes.  If the tougher software in the router is compromised, the Windows machines are toast. 
   My router is a NetGear N300 purchased a couple of years ago.  I Googled the router maker name, model number and "firmware".  This gave me an offer to download new firmware.  On this particular router you can talk to it using your web browser.  You put in a special URL and the router picks up and displays a groovy little user interface.  From this I learned that my current firmware was v18 while the new downloaded firmware was v42.  Hmm, been a lot of patching of router code over the last couple of years.   The router offered an "upload firmware" function, which was sorta flaky.  I had to run it two or three times before the upload "took". 
   So, me router firmware is all up to date, which is the best I can do against the swarm of malware running around the internet.  Upgrading the firmware did not mess up any of my computer connections to the router.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wall St Journal Pushes a Carbon Tax???

Yesterday's Journal Op-Ed had a piece authored by James Baker and George Schultz.  Both of these guys have been Secretary of the Treasury AND Secretary of State.  So they have some experience.  They may not have any common sense, but they have lots of experience.  They claim that a $40 a ton carbon tax will clear our air and improve the economy.  They propose the revenues from the carbon tax be paid out to all citizens rather than going to reduce the deficit and pay the government's bills.  They think this payout will avoid the downturn that just socking everyone with a hefty tax hike will.   They make it sound kinda sweet, mentioning a $2000 a year refund to the average family. 
   What they don't mention, is that everyone will have to hike their prices to pay their carbon tax.  To put it in perspective, each time I fill my 275 gallon furnace oil tank, I'd get hit for $40 in carbon tax.  Call it $200 a winter.  
    And surely, avoiding a $40 a ton carbon tax would be a strong incentive for business to expand overseas, or anywhere outside the US just to avoid the tax.  That carbon tax will undo all the good work of frackers in getting the price of oil down. 
   And, they want to impose all this pain to reduce global warming.  We haven't had any global warming that you could measure with a thermometer for the last 19 years, and they want to sock it to me for global warming?  As I write this it is 14F outside with snow swirling in front of my windows. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

That $500 billion foreign trade deficit

According to today's Wall St Journal  that's how deep in the hole we are.  Our imports were $500 billion more than our exports.  In short, the rest of the world shipped $500 billion worth of goods into America and America shipped them zilch.  Since people don't like to ship goods and not get paid, presumably we sent $500 billion in cash to pay for this stuff. 
   $500 billion is a lot, even for a US GNP of $17 trillion.  And we have been doing this for at least 20 years, maybe more.  How does it work? 
   Do we merely print an extra $500 billion dollars?  The US greenback is desired all over the world, and we can probably get away with printing a whole lot of 'em before foreigners wise up and stop accepting them.
   Do we have some invisible export that earns us $500 billion a year?  Does tuition paid by foreign students to US colleges count as exports?  What about royalties for Hollywood movies, video games, pop music, Superman comic books, and other stuff? Does all that count as exports?   Do foreign stock purchases on the NYSE or NASDAQ count?
    Something else?
    The point is, we have been running humongous trade deficits for many many years and it keeps on running.  Somehow the international books get balanced and we don't run out of money.  It would be nice to know how this really works 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Jungle Book, Disney 2016

I missed this when it was in the theater in town some months ago.  So I Netflixed it this week.  It's a live action kinda remake of the old Disney animated one.  Neel Sethi plays Mowgli and does it well.  He is young,  cute, he delivers his lines well, he looks good.  He is about the only real live action actor,  the rest of the cast are CGI animals, all well done, nice fur, good voices, very huggable.  It is an enjoyable flick.  They manage to do a couple of scary scenes that I found scary even at my age.  They borrowed some songs from the earlier animated version.  Baloo and Baghera and Kaa are nicely done.  I liked it.  Any child over the age of six ought to love it. 

Shed another tear for poor old Sears Roebuck

Sears troubles are so bad that banks are leery of lending to Sears.  According to the Wall St Journal Sears investors had to pay $4.62 million in bond insurance (a credit default swap) to insure a Sears $10 million for five years bond.  That' $924,000 a year, or 9.24% a year.  That's pure usury.  Or, the investors view Sears as so likely to default that they don't want to risk their money. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Trump Adminstration leaks

The TV is talking about them.  They believe the number of leaks from the new born Trump administration is excessive.  The imply (they don't have the stones to come out and say it) that the leaks are coming from Trump appointees jostling for position inside the new administrative. 
  I wonder about that.  The vast US civil service are Democrats to a man (or a woman)  They are fire proof.  We could not fire low level civil servants even after we caught them stealing stuff out the base warehouse.  I'll bet you cannot fire them for leaking, even if you could catch them at it.  Not when they can put gigabytes of data onto a single easily concealable thumb drive.  And they all have broadband internet at home.
   Judging from the hysterical response of Democrats to Trump, being shown on TV hour after hour, I bet a lot of those Democratic civil servants are just as rabidly anti-Trump.  And they plan on leaking to damage the Trump administration.  
   Dunno what Trump can do about that.  Civil servants are everywhere in the US government.  They are the typists, the IT guys, the administrators, the janitorial staff, the receptionists, and every sort of paper pusher.  And  they can see everything, especially if someone has it typed up.
   We may be in for the most transparent administration in history, where everything gets leaked, to the media, to the Congress, to the homeless in the streets.
   Transparency may be OK, but American allies are already reluctant to share intelligence with the Americans for fear it will turn up on the front page and the New York Times,  burning agents and undoing years of careful intel work.

Superbowl LI

First TV in months that wasn't all about Trump and the election.  Refreshing I call it.  Cliff hanger ending.  Go Pats. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Are cats trainable?

Perhaps, and with great difficulty.  I have a closet, full of exciting smells from leather boots and shoes, small and dark.  Stupid Beast loves that closet.  Last week she nipped inside when I wasn't looking.  I closed the closet door on her.  I didn't miss her for half a day.  When I did notice a lack-a-cat I checked her favorite nap places and then opened the closet just to check.  Out she popped.  Clearly happy to escape the closet.
   This morning, I open same magic closet to get out a pair of pants.  Stupid Beast slipped right in when I wasn't looking, and so I closed the closet door.  But, I opened it again to get something else a few minutes later.  And Stupid Beast popped right out.  I believe she had learned that spending half a day in the closet was hungry and thirsty work. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Are the Senate rules democratic?

We have been hearing a lot of talk lately about Senate rules.  One that I never heard of before surfaced last week.  In attempting  to block "advise and consent" of president Trump's cabinet, the Democrats walked out of the committee meeting and claimed that the committee could not vote on the cabinet appointee unless there were some Democrats present.  That's a new one on me.  The next day the Republicans dredged up some rule that said they could too vote.  And so a couple of cabinet appointees made it thru the committee votes to stand before the entire Senate, sometime now.
   Then there is an older Senate practice, which allows any single senator to "place a hold"  (a veto) on any judicial appointment.  Somehow, letting a single senator veto any judge strikes me a profoundly undemocratic.
   Then we have the filibuster.  This practice was started in the 1950's by Democrats.  It came from a Senate rule that allowed unlimited debate.  Once a senator has the floor he can keep on talking as long as he can draw breath.  Democrats would filibuster to block civil rights legislation in the bad old days.  For the really big cases they used to bring in cots to give exhausted senators a bit of rest. Filibusters became so notorious that sometime in the early 1960's the Senate created the "cloture rule".  Under cloture rule, a supermajority (60 votes) sufficed to take the floor away from a windbag filibusterer and move on with Senate business.  As time went on, to avoid the tedium of waiting for Senator Windbag to become obnoxious, they dispensed with th need for Senator Windbag to actually take the floor and keep on babbling.  Now any senator can merely declare he wants to filibuster something, and that something is blocked unless and until they dredge up 60 votes to impose "cloture".  The effect is to require a supermajority to pass anything of substance thru the Senate.
   And then the Senate gives the majority leader the right to personally veto anything.  The majority leader sets the Senate agenda.  Any bill he dislikes, just never appears on the agenda.  Poof and it's gonzo.
    I'm thinking it's time for a housecleaning on Senate rules.  

Friday, February 3, 2017

$130 million a year to UC Berkeley? A third of Berkeley's budget?

I heard these numbers on TV yesterday.  US taxpayers give UC Berkeley $130 million a year.  This is one third of Berkeley's yearly budget.
If true, this is appalling.   It makes UC into a US government college, run by the Feds, indoctrinating the students with whatever party line the Feds want.
   Someone will say that the $130 million is support for research.   When they do, I would ask to see the results of all this research.  What new products are on the market incorporating UC Berkeley research results?  What textbooks have UC Berkeley research results printed in them?  In short, what has all that research money produced?  Other than salaries for tenured professors?
   I doubt that Berkeley can match the results of the old Bell Labs, who invented the transistor, discovered the cosmic background radiation, performed the Davidson Germer experiment showing that electrons had a wavelength like photons.  These are just the few things I remember from a long ago physics course.  There are doubtless more successes to Bell Labs credit.  Too bad the anti-trust people killed off Bell Labs in the 1970's.  

Update:   This morning's Wall St Journal says Berkeley receives a lot more money, like $400 million in research grants and $200 million in student loans.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The UC Berkeley riots.

Some good TV video of "protesters" dressed in black and wearing masks, smashing plate glass shop windows.  This has got to be off-campus, no college campus I know of has shops with plate glass windows. The cops report NO arrests were made.  Translation: The cops were egging them on. 
   Maybe 'cause the cops are afraid of getting in trouble if a "protester" resists arrest? 
   Maybe 'cause the cops are as anti Trump as the students?  Does anyone believe that?? 
   Maybe 'cause their superiors told the cops to cool it?  And who might those superiors be?? 
   Maybe the cops feared the "protesters" would kick the s**t out of them if they interfered?? 
   Maybe something else? 
   Who knows?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

President Trump picks a new Supreme

Honestly, I had never heard of this guy Gorsuch before.  All I know about Judge Gorsuch comes from president Trump's fulsome introduction last night on TV and some kind words from Bill O'Reilly and Charles Krauthammer later in the evening. 
   Let's hope Judge Gorsuch sticks to his word, given on TV last night, to judge according to the written law, as understood by those who wrote it at the time they wrote it.  The liberal notion of a "living constitution" is just propaganda advocating the courts to make up new law from the bench.  It's a totally undemocratic notion.  In a democracy, new law comes from the elected legislature, not appointed judges.  Over the years, liberals have used the courts to pass laws that never would have passed a legislature.  Some of them were disasters or disgraces.  Dred Scott started the Civil War.  Plessy vs Ferguson was a disgrace for a half century.  Roe vs Wade touched off a culture war that lasts until this very day.  
   Getting Judge Gorsuch approved by the Senate looks to be real circus.  I'm gonna get me some popcorn and watch the clowns.