Thursday, April 16, 2015

Big Cats Are Smart

If there is a mountain lion in the crawl space underneath your house, how do you get rid of it? Well, it turns out your best plan is to leave it the hell alone and it will leave during the night, because it doesn't want to be there just as much as you don't want it to be there.

Firefighters, animal control and the police department tried all day the persuade the beast out, with no success whatever. They used sticks, poles (which looked pretty much like sticks to me), and even air-powered cannons firing tennis balls. The mountain lion was unimpressed and stayed right where it was. They were wise enough that no one volunteered to go in and get it; there being no one willing to personally confront the visibly pissed off mountain lion.

They finally gave up and everybody went home. When they came back the next morning to try again, the mauntain lion was gone.

Blogging Ethics

There is a blogger I have been reading for some years who used to write interesting and thought provocative pieces. He has lately become somewhat enamored of his own intellect and has begun an annual fund drive, which I have been ignoring.

This fund drive was interesting, though, because in addition to becoming more and more pedantic, his pieces had also become more and more infrequent. His fund drive proposed that the more money that was donated the more frequently he would write and post pieces. He even set specific goals, with one amount of “donations” for three articles per week, another for four per week, etc. It was the first time I had seen such a thing and I had mixed feelings. It seemed a bit arrogant, and I wondered why he didn’t demand we pay him by the word.

On the other hand, there is a certain logic to, “the more money I’m making the more I will do.”  But for blogging? Most fund drives say that it is to “cover the cost of running the blog.”  In my case, don’t give me any money, because the Google blogging platform is free. Many of those who are “covering their costs”  are on the same platform I am, but

Anyway, the guy’s fund drive garnered enough money for five posts per week, and he was thrilled; thanked his readers profusely. For the following year, however, not once did he produce five articles in any one week. He seldom produced as many as three and some weeks he posted nothing. I figured that his readers had probably learned the same lesson I had, and waited to see how his next fund drive would go.

Oddly, his next fund drive has also netted an amount sufficient to gain a promise of five articles per week. Not from me, of course. In weeks subsequent to the close of that drive there has been close to five posts per week, but half of them are reprints of articles he published as far back as 2008, which he re-posts along with the comments which were made by readers at that time.

So, the title of this piece was made in jest. There is no such thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Even More Inanity

I told you about the article that taught us how to divide a recipe in half. Now Huffington Post offers us an article on how to start a conversation with someone you just met for the first time at a party. "My tried and true method is to start with an intriguing fact or little-known story,"  the author tells us, and goes on to say that this is the basis for his "Webby Award-nominated book."  He does not point out that the book did not win the award, and I'm thinking that he probably made the nomination himself.

He lists some of the "nuggets of trivia gold"  which he says will "ensure better conversations, a cure for any awkward silence, and maybe a new best friend or two."  I have to ask, though, what kind of conversation is started by remarking to a stranger that, "There are more cell phones in the world than toothbrushes."  If I'm holding a cell phone when when someone says that to me I'm likely to think that he just accused me of having bad breath, and that certainly is not a conversation starter.

Definitely on par with "if the recipe calls for two cups, use one cup."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday Tidbits

Paul Krugman addresses the Apple watch. "I have no special expertise here,"  he says, and goes on to say, "But what the heck; I might as well put my own thoughts out there."  Don't we all, Paul, don't we all.

Danica Patrick was on the show Chopped the other day. She was the winner, and by the time she won I wanted her to. She made three very attractive dishes, and she was charming and fun for the entire show. Nothing like the personality she presents in the stock car racing venue.

Words of Wisdom

John Kerry is continuing to be a real font of wisdom these days, and I cannot resist commenting on a couple more of his recent witty remarks. The unfortunate part is that I’m sure he did not intend them to be witty, but that is beside the point.

He justified our assistance to Saudi Arabia in bombing Yemen by saying that we were “not going to stand by while the region is destabilized.”  When one comes upon a raging bonfire and throws gasoline on it, one is not “standing by,”  so I think Mr. Kerry’s statement is entirely accurate, but not with the meaning that he intended.

He then assured Israel that the United States can walk and chew gum at the same time. (He said “do two things at the same time.”) The two things we could do simultaneously, it turned out, were to “push back against Iranian attempts to project its influence in the area”  and “reward Tehran for providing guarantees that it was not building nuclear weapons.”

Aside from the fact that Iran has already provided that guarantee by signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Israel has not done, the “reward”  to which Mr. Kerry refers is lifting sanctions that we have imposed on Iran for decades. So by that standard, one person could reward another by no longer beating him over the head with a brick. It takes a rather weird mentality to consider that a reward, but American foreign policy is certainly based on some rather weird forms of thinking.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Just a Tidbit

CBS Evening News said this evening that an upcoming progran would feature "presidential contender, Rand Paul."   I don't think so.  Presidential candidate; yes. Presidential contender; no.

Hello Kettle, This Is Pot

Self awareness is not an American national trait, and most certainly is not something commonly displayed by American leaders in foreign affairs. I often wonder what the people of other nations think when they hear, for instance, our president declare that Venezuela presents a “grave and immediate existential threat” to the US.

Or when they hear Secretary of State John Kerry advise us in a PBS interview that “Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries.” We do, however, expect that the rest of the world will stand by while we do all of that, as it has done for us for the past couple of decades.

And then there is Obama’s recent complaint that China “is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.” Fortunately, I was not drinking coffee when I read that, or I would have had to buy another new keyboard. His remark was made as part of a complaint that China is building bases on islands, that is to say, outside of their own national borders. How dare they?

Just because we have built over 700 such bases doesn’t mean that it’s okay for China to build five or six of them. In the China Sea. The irony of that location apparently escaped Obama completely. We have bases in the Indian Ocean, but…

Thursday, April 09, 2015

La Jolla Money vs Nature

La Jolla Cove is a scenic treasure, downtown, with a nice park. People go there to shop in the trendy stores, eat trendy food in the trendy restaurants, cruise around for hours looking for a parking place… If they succeed in the latter, they sit in the park with bottles of Cabernet and Pinot Noir and watch the sun go down, unless the marine layer hides that event, which it usually does.

You may get the idea I’m not a big fan of La Jolla, which has partly to do with its average income which rivals the national debt.

La Jollans are presently outraged by an invasion of seals, which are defecating on the rocks at La Jolla Cove. They are doing so in great quantity, and it may not surprise you to know that seal shit stinks. Badly. La Jollans are not happy about the stink, and they want the city government to do something about it. This is serious stuff. Who wants to eat trendy dinners, watch a sunset or stare at the marine layer in an area that smells like an overflowing sewage treatment plant?

The La Jolla Cove Business Association, I believe it was, hired a company to pressure wash the poop off of the rocks, but that didn’t turn out to be very effective. In order for it to work they had to use detergent, but the Coastal Commission vetoed that due to the pollution it caused, and blasting it with plain sea water didn’t remove it. All it did was piss off the seals, which is illegal.

Then they proposed hiring an animal behaviorist to train the seals to do their business somewhere else. I thought that was a joke when I read of it, and was trying to envision the size of the litter box that would be required, but it turned out they were actually getting bids from supposedly legitimate companies. Very high bids, as it turned out, so that idea was dropped.

Then they simply sued the city to force it to do a cleanup, not specifying how the cleanup was supposed to be done or what measures were to be taken to prevent the mess from recurring. The judge apparently noted the flaws in their filings, and ruled that cleaning seal shit from rocks was not a municipal responsibility in any case.

So that’s where it stands. La Jolla Cove still stinks, proving that no matter how much money you have, nature still rules.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Sauce For The Goose?

I am sometimes a bit baffled by the things that the American public chooses to become outraged about.

(And my mother just spun in her grave because I ended that sentence with a preposition. But Mom was rather easily outraged over trivia much of her life, so I’m not going to worry about it.)

Most recently, without taking a position either pro or con on the issue, is the Indiana law thing. There was essentially no outcry when the courts decided that it was entirely permissible for a business to discriminate against its employees based on its religious beliefs. Even President Obama just shrugged his shoulders.

But when Indiana declared that it might be okay for a business to discriminate against its customers based on its religious beliefs, the grits hit the fan, President Obama is flinging grits with as much enthusiasm as anyone.

I realize that the principles involved are not precisely the same, but they are sufficiently similar to make me wonder why we care so much about customers and so little about employees. Customers, after all, can go elsewhere (voting with their feet) a lot more easily than employees can.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Daily Dosing

sleeping catMolly is a sweet cat, and mostly pretty smart, but she hasn’t quite mastered this “fleeing for your life” thing yet. Usually, when my wife goes to administer her twice-daily medication, Molly is either hanging out in my lap or is curled up in one of her many resting places throughout the house. Sometimes, however, she sees the medication coming and decides that terror is the order of the day, but she doesn’t bring it off very well. She runs off about eight feet or so and then stops to see if her tactic worked; which, of course, it didn’t since she stopped in the middle of the dining room.

Yesterday she fled to the top of my desk. Um, news flash, Molly; we can see you there.

Once caught, or snuck up on as the case may be, her resistance to taking the two pills and the shot in the back of her neck is precisely zero. Well, “taking” the pills is not really the right word, since cats don’t “take” pills. At any rate, she does not need to be held down or anything, and giving the meds is a one-person task since she passively allows my wife to pry her mouth open and shove the pills down her throat, never threatening to use any of those teeth and claws.

Sort of makes one wonder why she decided to flee, no matter how ineffectively, but she’s a cat.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Clarifying The Deal

Democrats are idolizing Obama for working out a deal with Iran which prevents them from developing a nuclear weapon. That’s sort of like working out a deal with the US Air Force to prevent them from bombing Kansas City, because Iran has no more intention of building a nuclear weapon than does the USAF of bombing Kansas City.

Obama’s big problem has been to get Iran to quit denying that they have any remote desire to build a nuclear weapon and, instead, to agree not to build one. Sort of like our hoa getting me to agree not to paint my house purple with green trim.

Republicans hate the deal because they are afraid it will allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon which, they claim, would “start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” No one excels at being afraid more than Republicans, of course, but they are really reaching with this one. Israel already has nuclear weapons, quite a few of them, so if Iran is, as they claim, trying to develop a nuclear weapon, then there already is a nuclear arms race ongoing in the Middle East.

Republicans don’t care much for facts, though, so in their fantasy world Israel doesn’t have nuclear weapons and if Iran is successful at building nuclear weapons that it isn't trying to build, it would start something which is actually already happening. Keep reading that repeatedly until you understand it. It will sink in eventually.

Iran, on the other hand, is delirious because we are rewarding them for agreeing not to do something that they weren’t doing in the first place. Much as I would be if someone paid me $10,000 not to beat my wife.

Welcome to the twilight zone of American politics.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Paul Krugman Is An Idiot, Chapter 3,645

Paul Krugman uses a comparison today between Walmart, citing its “low wages, low morale, and very high turnover,” and Costco, which he points out “offers higher wages and better benefits,” to claim that employers can raise the pay scale of workers without any actual net cost because Costco “makes up the difference with better productivity and worker loyalty.” This is an example of why economists should never talk about business practices. They have truly idiotic ideas about what a business is and how it works.

Krugman does admit that “the two retailers serve different markets,” and that, “Costco’s merchandise is higher-end and its customers more affluent,” but he goes on to say that his comparison is valid despite that. That’s sort of like admitting that one vehicle is hauling 80,000 pounds of freight and the other merely contains two human passengers, but that my mileage comparison remains legitimate.

And it isn't just a difference in market and affluence of customer base. Costco sells vastly fewer items and markets them in an entirely different manner than Walmart. For the most part they do not even remove items from boxes, but merely cut the box open and stick it on the shelving in the store. That creates a difference in productivity which is not a result of being paid better, it’s a result of a structural difference in the way the stores do business, and it’s only one example out of many.

Not to mention that Costco is selling a significantly different type of item, there being only a nominal crossover in the nature of goods which they sell, and they are selling them in bulk, with a vastly larger unit purchase than Walmart enjoys. Krugman is saying, in effect, that apples and oranges are both fruit and should therefor taste the same. Idiot.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Distraction? What Distraction?

Like much of America, I am a regular reader of Dear Abby, and I usually agree with her responses although I consider some of them to be pretty weak and/or Pallyanna-ish. She descended to new depths of “weak tea syndrome” with her advice today to the woman who admits to being an alcoholic and complains about her husband’s criticism of her drinking despite what the writer considers to be his own eating and drinking problems.

She responds that “The more your husband draws attention to your alcohol problem, the less he is forced to confront his own addictions to food and tobacco, and it also serves as a distraction,” and suggests that a “mental health professional may be able to help you understand why you tolerate your husband's behavior.” (emphasis mine) Seriously. She actually said that.

How about, “The way to get your husband to stop criticizing you for your drinking is to stop drinking.” Or maybe, “The reason you husband is critical of you for having a drinking problem is because you have a drinking problem, and his eating and smoking is irrelevant to that issue.” It is not the husband who is using distraction, Abby dear, it is the alcoholic wife. Jeez.

Your problem, dear "Humiliated in Texas," and what is causing you to be humiliated is not your husband's eating and smoking, nor is it your husband's criticism of you; your problem is your drinking.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Wow, Amazing!

To tell you how erudite and useful The Huffington Post is, I came across an "Indispensible Guide For Cutting A Recpe In Half." It tells me, for instance, that if the recipe calls for four cups of something, to cut the recipe in half I should use two cups. That is awesome. I have been cooking meals larger than needed for years because I could not figure out things like that. It suggests, no less, that I print the article and tape it to my refrigerator, assuming that I can figure out how to use a computer printer and a tape dispenser.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Varsity Hot Dogs Rule

NASCAR is racing this week at Martinsville, where there is more talk about the hot dogs than about racing. Martinsville Speedway is, for some reason, famous for its hot dogs. I’ve been there, and of course I ate one. Okay, more than one.

They are monstrous things, and I don’t want to talk about what color they are. Actually, I can’t talk about their color because it is indescribable, but the word “neon” would be part of that description. Unless you tell them to leave it off they put chili on it, and if you do that they look at you weird, sort of like they suspect you of being a Yankee. Not that I would do that, since every good race track hot dog deserves chili.

It is claimed that Martinsville sells the best hot dog in NASCAR land, but that claim is wrong. That honor belongs to the Varsity Drive-In in Atlanta. Yes, of course it has chili on it. You think there are a whole bunch of Yankees in Atlanta or something?

The Varsity is right next to the Georgia Tech campus in downtown Atlanta, and it sells something like five tons of hot dogs every day. They have an express line, and if you get in it you better have your mind made up when you reach the order point. The order taker is a huge guy wearing a torn tee shirt, and if you hesitate he will bellow insults at you, wanting to know what the hell you were doing while standing in line if it was not deciding what you wanted, and asking you if you are feeble minded and wanting to know why you are holding up all of those nice people behind you.

I was hospitalized after an industrial accident, multiple fractures of both legs, and when my friends were taking me home from the hospital I told them I wanted to stop at the Varsity on the way home for hot dogs. They were embarrassed that they had not thought of that idea themselves.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Memorable Chopped

I’ve been sort of binge watching Chopped, and am beginning to think it should be renamed “Pity Party,” since the contestants seem to be talking more about themselves than about the food they are preparing. “I grew up homeless. My mother died last month. I’m a single mom. I wasted my life with drugs and alcohol.” Boohoo. It’s sort of like they think they can win by tugging on the judges’ heart strings, but it doesn’t seem to be all that effective. The biggest whiner doesn’t win very often.

The one time it did seems to get to the judges was when one of the two finalists was a young woman with a French accent. She wanted the winner’s money so that she could go to France to visit her grandmother, who was very elderly and in failing health. She wanted to see the lady, who had raised her as a young child, one more time before she passed away.

The other finalist was a young man who was the chef for a Christian organization. He was competing to create publicity for his employer, because he thought they were a fine ministry and that people should know about them

Both were truly likeable people, and the decision was close. The young woman was chopped and as she was turning to leave the winner said, “Wait.” There was a pause and then he said, “I will buy you the ticket.” He went on to say that he had no need for the money and that he would use whatever amount was needed to allow her to go visit her grandmother in France.

There was not a dry eye in the house. Including my house. It was a very pleasant moment.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Path of Least Resistance

In speaking about closing Guantanamo, President Obama said a couple of days ago that he should have closed it in his first year in office, which I think is rather a statement of the obvious. He went on to say that the reason he didn’t was that “we had a bipartisan agreement that it should be closed,” and that, “I thought that we had enough consensus there that we could do it in a more deliberate fashion.”

He wasn’t through yet, adding that then “the politics of it got tough,” and going on to say that, “the path of least resistance was just to leave it open, even though it's not who we are as a country.”

That sort of sums up his presidency. The laughable delusion of “bipartisanship” and "political consensus," accompanied by that when things “got tough” he followed “the path of least resistance.” Pathetic.

The Big Dance

I do not know who those guys were in the Aztec uniforms last night. They scored 76 points and shot 47%, no less than 41% on 3-pointers. They had 13 offensive rebounds, 10 of them in the first half.

On the other hand, their opponent scored 64 points and shot 45%. What?

They play Duke on Sunday and, strange as it may sound, they need to step up their defense.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A couple of Comments

Ashley Judd still has a smile that could stop a speeding freight train. She's the only Kentucky fan at whom I would not throw rotten fruit. If she ran for President I would vote for her, which would be utterly stupid; but I would do it anyway. In fact, I rather hope she does.

A critic made the comment that "Arizona and Hawaii do not save daylight." News flash: neither do any of the other 48 states. They just change their clocks twice a year. The amount of daylight is unaffected.

Oh, yes; 33 years today since my last drink/drunk.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Accusers Who Can't Read

Oh, this is hilarious. Accusers of Hillary Clinton are saying that this email thing is a violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and that her violation of it is particularly heinous because she herself voted for the bill. The passage in the legislation which they claim she violated reads,

Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

They obviously don’t see the flaw in their reasoning, but do you? Right. Of course you do, because your IQ is higher than room temperature. She didn’t “alter, destroy, mutilate, conceal, cover up, falsify, or make a false entry” in any record because she made entries in her own server rather than in the official servers. She did not make entries in any official record, false or otherwise.

Mrs. Clinton is not accused of corrupting or entering false data into any public record; the accusation is that se simply didn’t use the public record at all. That may or may not be a problem; I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t really care. There are issues far more important about which we should be concerned.

Sarbanes-Oxley, in any case, is a piece of legislation passed in 2002 which set standards for public accounting firms, and dealt primarily with accounting standards, so it had nothing whatever to do with the government or with correspondence procedures for anyone, government or otherwise.

I'm no fan of Hillary Clinton, but this is not only a tempest in a teapot; it’s not even a real tempest, and the teapot seems to be missing.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Some Things Cannot Be Unseen

Molly decided she wanted to groom her tail this afternoon, but first she had to catch it, which involved circling in diminishing circles of increasing speed until I was beginning to think she might disappear up her own rectum. Having finally caught it, she was undecided between licking it and biting it, so she did both, which creathed another frenzy of tail chasing and, finally, a high speed exit from the living room. My impression was that she was fleeing from her own tail, but I may have gotten that part wrong.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Simple Journey

I may have seen an example of why the US Postal Service is losing money. I was sent a package and a link by which I could track that package on USPS. The tracking notations tell me that the package was “Accepted by the Postal Service” at San Diego CA 92199 on March 11 at 8:38pm. That location is in Poway, a contiguous suburb of San Diego.

The package’s next step was to be “Accepted at USPS Origin Sort Facility,” also at zip code 92199, at 4:04am the next day, March 12.

It was then “Arrived at USPS Origin Facility” in Moreno Valley CA 92553 at 5:19am that same day, March 12. That’s pretty fast, actually, since that zip code is in Riverside, about 100 miles north of San Diego. They processed the package and moved it 100 miles in the wrong direction in barely more than an hour.

That’s after taking more than seven hours to process it within one single zip code.

The latest notation is that the package was “Arrived at USPS Origin Facility” in San Diego CA 92199 on March 13 at 10:48am. Does that look familiar? Well it should; that’s where it was two days earlier at 8:38am before it was trucked some 200 miles round trip.

Not that it’s of any significance, but northbound, the trip took barely more than an hour. The same trip southbound required more than seventeen hours. No way of knowing how much of that time was processing, but why did the package need to go to Riverside at all?

The tracking information now says, “Expected Delivery Day: Saturday, March 14, 2015,” but cautions that the exact delivery day is not guaranteed. I paid extra for overnight delivery, but the shipper has agreed to refund that charge for obvious reasons.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Not Just Irony

The fact that the stock market is dropping "because the economy is improving" is not merely ironic. The rationale is that with "the economy improving" the Fed is likely to increase interest rates, which is why investors are selling off stocks.

Think about that for a moment, and think what that means in terms of what the stock market has become. It is no longer a vehicle for investment in business prosperity, because signs of business prosperity are a negative influence on the stock market's value. The stock market today is a casino; a vehicle for gambling on the value of the dollar. It is an off track betting parlor, fostered by the nation's government despite the government's passion for outlawing interstate gambling and punishing those who engage in it.

For years the improving economy was enjoyed only by those whose investment portfolios were enhanced by asset inflation, and the middle class was left out. Now the investment portfolios and joining the middle class in getting screwed.

Monday, March 09, 2015

What's In A Name?

I don’t listen to Obama’s speeches any more, but I enjoyed watching him walk across the Edmund Pettus bridge. It was a moment of important historic symbolism.

Some idiot was shocked and dismayed when he found out that Edmund Pettus was a general for the Army of the South during the Civil War and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. I don’t know what other kind of person he thought bridges were being named after in Alabama in 1940.
At any rate, he began circulating a petition to have the bridge renamed. I certainly hope that petition fails.

For one thing, in renaming that bridge we would be renaming a very significant historic event, and that should not happen. Think about references to “the battle of Smithfield, formerly known as Gettysburg.” Forget it. Those marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge, not a bridge of some other name.

We should, actually, appreciate having the man’s name on that bridge and should draw some measure of hope from it. Here was a man who advocated hatred and division and instead of being remembered for that, his name is connected throughout history with a seminal event in progress toward racial equality.

The people who marched across that bridge turned the name Edmund Pettus from a remembrance of what is wrong with our social fabric to a symbol of what is right. We should not erase that.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Nine Rules

Huffington Post has an article on “9 Simple Rules” for sleeping featuring a pictures of a cat, which we all know to be world class sleepers. I know, I know, but it isn’t written by Arianna. It’s written by one Lindsay Holmes, whose qualifications are not given, and it does not say whether or not she lives with any cats.

Rule 1: Take a shower or bath. I’ve never seen a cat take a shower, of course, but cats very often bathe vigorously before curling up and going to sleep. I have, however, had my cat jump into my lap, curl up, and promptly give the appearance of being a dead cat with no preliminaries at all so we’ll give her, at best, a “maybe” on this one.

Rule 2: Wear actual pajamas. Oh, I don’t think so. Ever try to put silk pajamas on a cat? Don’t. Maybe she thinks that cats sleep so much that their fur coat can be considered pajamas and that they are “leisure class” beings who eat, hang out, and watch TV in their pajamas, but… No on this one.

Rule 3: Turn your bed into a haven. Well, clearly not. A cat will sleep anywhere, including on top of your toaster oven and, if you give it a chance to do so, inside your microwave. Neither of those could be considered a “haven,” although one could claim that the cat turned them into havens by sleeping there. That’s stretching it, though, so no.

Rule 4: Create realistic limits. Give me a break. Cats have no realistic limits about anything, and certainly not about sleeping. Total no on this one.

Rule 5: Set sleep alarm. Well, maybe. My cat will give every appearance of being comatose and suddenly her head will pop up like a jack-in-the-box. She will give me a blank stare, stand up and stretch with her back arched, and stroll into the kitchen for a snack. There better be a snack available at that point, or I will get yelled at. Some sort of alarm went off, although it may not have been a sleep alarm per se. We’ll have to give this one some more thought.

Rule 6: Don’t go to bed hungry. I think I’ll give her this one. My cat has only one mode when she’s hungry, and that consists of harassing me to correct the condition from which she is suffering at that time.

Rule 7: Write everything down. On the face of it, no, but if my cat finds where I dropped a potato chip, she will go back there every time she comes in that room for the next several weeks to see if I dropped another potato chip. She may have written down where that chip was. That does not, however, have anything to do with her sleeping, so we’ll stay with the no.

Rule 8: Tap into your inner child. Well, okay, cats are very, very good at tapping into their inner children. Cats are inextricably bound to their inner children. That’s why the internet is full of cat videos. This one is a no brainier.

Rule 9: No phones. I’m not sure how to score this one. Certainly cats don’t sleep with phones, but then they don’t care much for them when awake either. My cat tends to freak out and flee the room whenever the phone rings, so sleeping with a phone would definitely be counterproductive. Cats and phones just don’t belong in the same conversation, so we’ll just score this one a swing and a miss.

If you’re waiting for a conclusion, sorry, I have none. A conclusion would imply that all of this has some degree of significance, and it’s pretty obvious that it does not.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Cosby Thing

I have no real opinion about his morals. Facts are required to form such an opinion, and all I have are accusations. There are a sufficient number of them to lend some credibility to the issue and to create a faint distaste, but...

However, I watched a Bill Cosby special on television recently, and I have no idea why any venue is still presenting him as entertainment. He is inarticulate, misogynistic and utterly boring. I have watched a special on sewage treatment that was funnier.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lip Service Again

President Obama is trumpeting a “progressive agenda for the middle class” which consists of taxing the rich, raising the minimum wage, and providing free community college education. Other than the last, which has some tangible potential but is small and only a temporary fix, the agenda is his usual empty rhetoric.

There’s nothing wrong with taxing the rich but it should not be part of an "agenda for the middle class," since it does nothing to improve the their status. It does not raise their wages, provide them with better jobs, improve their access to truly affordable health care, or improve the conditions under which they work and live. In any case, Obama is talking about one or two percentage points of increase, and a truly progressive tax policy would raise the upper tax rates by twenty points or more.

Leadership should not be talking about minimum wage. Leadership should be demanding that no one in this great nation who is supporting himself, let alone a family, should ever work for minimum wage, regardless of what that minimum wage is. To insist that minimum wage should be sufficient to constitute a living wage is to have given up on restoring the middle class, to have surrendered the whole concept of general prosperity. We are not a minimum wage nation, and we should not be accepting, which we are beginning to do, that minimum wage is our standard of living.

In third world countries people live on minimum wage. In this nation we do not. We live better than that. We probably have to live differently than we do to assure a sustainable planet, but that’s a different issue. The point is that “minimum” is not in our vocabulary.

Free community college is a worthy concept provided that the community college is providing training in trades which constitute preparation for productive career jobs, not four year degrees that cater to the modern life goal of accumulation of wealth. There are job openings right now for welders, millwrights, pipefitters and other “skilled trades,” and providing access to training for those jobs is applaudable.

But more needs to be done to create more such jobs in the future, because the market for those jobs is temporary, caused by retirement of baby boomers and not by market growth. There is growth, but it is not sufficient to keep up with the population, and we cannot settle for the status quo. Once the current job openings are filled employment growth stalls again unless we have done something to create economic growth that is based on real production instead of being merely the manipulation of numbers in financial institutions.

We need, specifically to re-empower the working class so that paid sick leave, vacation and employer-provided health care are not issues mandated by government, but are benefits negotiated by workers because the workers have to power to do so as they once did.

We need to bring back production which has been offshored, so that this nation makes what it needs and wants, and so that the prosperity generated by our consumption is for the benefit of our own people and not squandered abroad.

Instead we get more lip service from our leaders, and we don’t need lip service and platitudes. We need real solutions offered by leaders who have vision and courage. Anybody?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Suing Over $7.91

A Washington state Attorney General filed suit against a florist for refusing to provide flowers to a same sex wedding, based on the state’s law prohibiting discrimination against “protected classes” (minorities). On first read I found the item unremarkable, but then I read “the rest of the story.”

It turns out the wedding involved a long time customer, Robert Ingersoll, who the florist knew very well was gay because he had been buying flowers for his partner at the florist for more than a decade. When he asked the florist to provide flowers for his wedding, she told him, apparently with regret, that her religion did not permit her to participate in same sex marriage. He responded by “giving her a hug,” and then suing her, “claiming $7.91 in out-of-pocket expenses, or the cost of driving to find a new florist.”

My first reaction is that Ingersoll seems to place great value on his freedom to practice his own beliefs, but he apparently does not think that the florist should have the freedom to comply with her own religious beliefs. This odd position is one which is, I think, altogether too common in today’s society. One certainly does not sue purely for damages when those damages are $7.91.

There appear to be two lawsuits ongoing, although the article is not real clear on that. There seems to be one by the couple for “economic damages to be determined at a later date,” which will probably be whatever “punitive damage” windfall the lawyers can persuade a jury to award, and another by the state for violation of the civil code against discrimination, in which the florist is accused of discriminating against a customer she served for more than ten years.

The law is, as was once famously said however, “an ass” and frequently does put law enforcement into positions where they do have to engage in such practice, so Attorneys General filing cases which on their face seem to deny an individual’s freedom for the sake of society’s greater good is not a big deal. If Ingersoll had not been a long time customer of the florist, I would have no bone to pick with the Attorney General.

He is quoted as saying by example that, “If an African American couple walked into a restaurant But that does not reflect what happened here, because the florist never refused to serve Robert Ingersoll because he was gay. She had been selling flowers to him, and presumably to other gay people, for many years. It was specifically the gay marriage that was her issue.

Since she did not refuse to serve gay people, as a juror I would disagree with her position, would tend to argue that selling flowers for a wedding does not constitute “participating in” that wedding. I would strongly suspect that she is a zealot proselytizing against the institution of gay marriage, but I’m not sure I would find her guilty of breaking any law.

The likely outcome, regardless of the rights or wrongs involved, is that the florist will be ruined, the couple will be enriched and the Attorney General will be reelected, all of which is what these trials are really about anyway.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Subron 8: Comms Etiquette

I had not been in the forward torpedo room for a week or so, even though I normally tended to hang out there when
I was off duty. The torpedomen kept a high stakes pinochle game going much of the time, and I was one of the few other crew members who was a player of sufficient caliber to join it. My presence there was not universally celebrated.

The torpedomen did not much appreciate me taking their money, which I tended to do, but that generated nothing more than a certain amount of banter. Ill feelings were prevented by buying rounds of drinks periodically.

Somewhat more serious was that tubes forward is separated from my duty area by five compartments and no fewer than six watertight doors, all of which are only three feet tall. What with me being well over six feet tall, those doors presented a certain impediment to me arriving at my duty station in anything like a rapid manner when I was sent for, which sometimes annoyed my division officer. He would make snide remarks like having had to send for a sandwich so as to avoid starving to death while waiting for me to arrive.

The next time he sent for me I brought a sandwich with me, which he did not think was as funny as I thought it was. It created a small problem for the Chief Electrician, because he had trouble concealing that he thought it was funny as hell, but all of that is a different story.

Even more serious was that when any kind of alarm sounded all of those doors would be shut and locked down. And they would be shut very fast; so fast that they sort of made one prolonged bang. I would go flying through as many of them as I could before they were shut, but there was no way I was ever going to make it to my station in maneuvering room, especially since other people, some of them officers, were also using the doors.

To gain my station, then, I would have to call the Captain and ask for permission to open a single watertight door. Having gone through it, I would call him again, report the door secured and ask permission to open the next door. I then had to repeat this process as many times as needed to reach my station in maneuvering room. If I spent my spare time in the crew’s area in after battery I might have to do it once, at most, but coming from tubes forward I sometimes had to do it four or five times, and to say that it annoyed the Captain would be a considerable understatement.

The Captain, however, was a very understanding guy, and he could never bring himself to tell me that I was not permitted to play pinochle with the torpedomen in tubes forward in my free time. He finally reached the point where he would tell me, “Go to maneuvering and call me back to tell me that all of the watertight doors are secured.” My division officer dropped a few hints about where I should spend my free time, but I was real good at being very dense when I wanted to be, and his hints sailed right over my head.

So anyway, I decided to see if the torpedomen had a pinochle game going, so I went to a communications device called the “growler” to call up and find out. Using the growler is pretty simple; pick up the handset, set the dial to the compartment you want to talk to, then turn the crank to make it ring at the other end. First, however you listen to be sure no one is on the circuit, because if someone is, then turning the crank causes a loud and horrendously annoying buzzing in their ear. This was, unfortunately, a step which I had omitted.

I belatedly stuck the headset to my ear and heard a voice say, “Who did that?” Sadly, I recognized the voice. It was, without question, the Captain himself.

“You mean you don’t know?” I asked. There was a brief pause, and then the Captain replied, “No.”

“Ain’t I lucky.” I responded and quickly hung up.

About half an hour later, having found out that a game was starting, I was passing through the control room on my way to tubes forward. Speaking to someone, officer or enlisted, as you pass them is considered good form but is optional with the exception of the Captain; you do not pass him without acknowledgement. Under the circumstances I was tempted to break protocol, but told him good morning and he returned it, and then he spoke my last name. He said nothing further, so I stopped and looked at him. He was sort of half smiling. “You’re not that lucky,” he said,

I waited a moment to see if he was going to say anything else, which he did not, mumbled a hasty “Aye sir” and got the hell out of the control room as fast as I could.

I found out later that he was only guessing.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Well, This Sucks

Our weather has turned cold, with highs only around 68, and people are having to wear long sleeves. Not long pants, though; nothing will get San Diegans to wear anything other than short pants and flip flops.

That does not include me, however; blue jeans and western boots regardless of weather. I do not own any short pants or flip flops.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tortured Logic

Jared Turner, of Fox Sports, indulges his fantasies of Danica Patrick stardom by giving us “3 reasons Danica can nab career win No. 1 in the Daytona 500.” His reasons are, to say the least, a sterling example of tortured logic.

Reason number one, he says, is, “her past Daytona success.” The facts rather contradict his starry-eyed thinking, because Danica has run the Daytona 500 three times, finishing 40th, 8th and 38th, for an average finish of 27th. That does not actually suggest high odds on her winning the race this year.

Reason number two is, according to him, that “Daytona loves Cinderellas.” He goes on to cite the number of times that rookies and underfunded teams have won at Daytona, but Danica has run the race three times and is therefor not a rookie, and her team, sponsored by GoDaddy and backed by Hendrick Motorsports, is one of the best funded and technically advanced teams in NASCAR. She hardly qualifies as a “Cinderella.”

The third reason he gives is that restrictor plates make the race an absolute crap shoot with all cars being equal, and means that any car in the race might win. That would mean that her chances are one in 43 of winning, which is hardly the best odds she will have all year. They are, in fact, the same odds she will have in the entire season.

Since this Danica fan wrote this piece of hyperbole, Danica crashed in practice, destroying her car completely, and will be going to a backup car for today’s qualifying race. Awesome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Well, They Whiffed On That One

CBS Evening News did a segment last night on the report from Kaspersky, and to say that it was a swing and a miss would be a horrendous understatement. They missed the point of that report so badly that one would have to say that they swung the bat before the ball even left the pitcher’s hand, and would have to add that they did the classic spin themselves around and fall down at the plate. I think the pitcher balked and fell down laughing.

CBS went on at great length about the millions of dollars that were stolen, how balances were changed on accounts, and how the “hackers” would have ATMs spit out money at certain times and have people standing by to grab the $20 bills as they came flying out of the slot. Seriously.

Do you know how many man-hours would be involved in stealing the $1 billion that CBS claimed by changing individual balances, transferring amounts from those individual accounts and, for God’s sake, having bike messengers standing at ATMs collecting $20 bills? That would be a very lengthy ongoing enterprise, and they did that for all that time without getting caught? Nobody noticed the dudes hanging around the ATMs waiting for them to start spitting out money?

They actually said that “the hackers would program ATMs to spit out money at certain times, and then have someone there to collect the money.” Really. If they had claimed that they programed the ATM in a manner that would allow an accomplice to enter a code and withdraw unlimited funds, I might believe that, but to have it “spit out money” at a fixed time without assurance that it would, in fact, be collected is absurd, and ATMs do not hold all that much money in any case. Stealing money from ATMs is strictly small time stuff.

Now you can read an article in Reuters, another one in PC World and yet another one in Times of India, all of which are about the Kaspersky report and none of which mention monetary theft at all. What they do say is that Kaspersky discovered spyware in the hard drives of millions of computers which was undoubtedly placed there by NSA for the purpose of spying on behalf of the US government. The monetary theft, if it even happened at all, was a trivial sideline. The actual story was the ability of the NSA to plant spyware in the hard drive operating software of so many computers.

CBS forgot to mention that. They never mentioned NSA or the US government at all, but rather came up with this buffoonery about a $1 billion theft consisting of ATMs spitting out $20 bills. “Bonnie and Clyde would have been so proud,” Scott Pelley closed. Yeah, and Harpo Marx would have been embarrassed by Scott Pelley.

Update, (PS) 9:55am: The content of the piece struck me as bogus even as I was watching it last evening, but then when I went online and read the more objective articles today and realized the degree to which CBS was engaging in puffery and propaganda, I had to laugh out loud. And they are actually critical of Brian Williams.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Neoliberalism is our Frankenstein"

Patrick Smith writes a delightful takedown of today’s neoliberalism which, make no mistake, is the religion of modern Democrats including Barack Obama. He missed an opportunity to draw a parallel to between it and the equally odious and idiotic neoconservatism, leaving a gap which I will endeavor to fill here.

He relates the issue specifically to the crises in Ukraine and Greece, but don’t doubt for a moment that it is not at the center of this nation’s inability to meaningfully recover from the economic crash of 2008; the reason that Wall Street and corporations have actually gained from that crash while the working class has been left on the tailings dump of an elitist economic policy.

Smith points out that neoliberals draw their logic from the English liberal economists Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, which puts them even further from current reality than neoconservatives. Neocons draw from Ayn Rand, who was at least an American and lived in the twentieth century. (She was also a notorious drunk and “woman of loose morals,” but that’s a different issue.) Neolibs are drawing from Englishmen who lived in the 17th and 18th century, and whose thinking was about as relevant to today’s economic conditions as Richard Lionheart’s might be.

He goes on to note that neoliberals sort of “cherry pick” from the writings of people such as Adam Smith, quoting his words only when they bolster their case for the kind of chaos they wish to create. Sort of like fundamentalists do with the bible when condemning certain lives of which they disapprove.

Which is actually a rather apt comparison, since Smith goes on to point out that neoliberalism, “denotes not thought but belief, ideological conviction,” a point which I have noticed often in discussion. They do not tolerate other points of view and take the position that their minds are made up so they therefor do not want to be confused by any facts. Today’s neoliberal finds it very difficult to describe that for which he stands and spends most of any discussion ranting about the evils of the “other side.”

It’s hard to argue against his conclusion that neoliberalism “is the ideology of radical deregulation, radical corporatization, radical privatization … maximal profit without regard to consequences, and the radical devaluation of any serious consciousness of the communities in which all individuals are suspended.”

You might want to argue the first point, citing Dodd-Frank, until you examine the reality of that bill and give thought to what happens if, as Congress certainly intended, it is not adequately enforced. Where are the provisions that assure that it will be enforced, and where are the penalties for institutions which are found to be in breach? What happens if Congress fails to act as specified? The answers to all of that lie in the bills that were passed following the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s.

The relentlessness of privatization can be illustrated by Obama’s trip to California to “enlist the help of major IT corporations in securing the safety of the nation’s communication systems.” Need I say more?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The King Is Dead

The “liberals” at Salon and Huffinton Post are aghast at the announcement that Jon Steward is leaving the Daily Show, a show that they seem to forget is on the Comedy Channel. They are raving about the way that he “revolutionized the manner in which news is delivered,” and worrying about who will replace him. Replace him on the Comedy Channel.

Many are distraught because they claim that the public will no longer have a reliable source of “real news” with Jon Stewart gone, again I remind you, gone from the Comedy Channel. How seriously should we take people who rely on the Comedy Channel as their main source of news? Given that most of them are desperate for Elizabeth Warren to make a run for president, I would say the answer to that is, "not very seriously." And their concern seems to me to be misplaced in more ways than merely with respect to the venue of the show.

As best I can determine Stewart drew a nightly audience of 2 million people, which amounts to about 0.6% of the population. So these writers are not concerned about where “the public” will go for “reliable news,” they are concerned about where less than one percent of the public will go. Of every 157 people in this country, 1 person watches Jon Stewart.

The one time they never listened to Jon Stewart was when he told them, repeatedly, “I am a comedian, not a newsman.”