Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Little Bit On Leviticus

An anon commenter on a previous post tried to ensnare me with a snippet of scripture from Leviticus, assuming that I had to take it literally. Apparently, the passage said we all needed to buy insurance from State Farm, devour ten pimentos a day or wear pink on Thursdays, I can't remember which. I replied that as a Christian, Leviticus didn't really affect me.

In the Acts of the Apostles, there's a relevant passage about converting the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). James has this to say:
It is my judgment, therefore, that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles who turn to God, but tell them by letter to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage, the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
All of the legalisms of Judaism are replaced by a few, simple rules* so that the Church can concentrate on what's important. Had they not done this, they would have first had to convert the Gentiles to Judaism and then from there to Christianity. Judaism would have been the undergraduate degree and Christianity the graduate degree. Clearly, that's not what they did, that's not what we do and not what we preach.

Ergo, the Old Testament verses flung thither and yon are not the snares some make them out to be.

* - We don't worry so much about strangled animals or blood any more.

Monday, March 30, 2015

From The Spam Mailbag

One of my email accounts is quite old and has been splattered across the Interweb Tubes. It gives me endless hours of fun (?) reviewing emails with subject lines like these. Enjoy.

Grow your own bananas for pennies. Is this safe for work?

Create an email masterpiece. Email and masterpiece aren't two words that can go together in the same sentence. I'm pretty sure the rules of English grammar forbid it.

Don't look away from the road again. Maps are overrated.

Are you tired of flimsy food storage containers? Not since I started using ammunition boxes from the Marine Corps!

Discover the 3 simple secrets that complete the Law of Attraction. Lots of money, a cute rumpus and lots more money.

Blow out sale on printer ink. An ink blowout? Sounds wretched. I'll pass.

Do this every morning with coconut oil. We already do. ;-)

Let us help protect your family. Guido and Nunzio will be by later today to collect the monthly premium.

Master self protection in 3 minutes. Use both hands and squeeze the trigger, don't pull. Also, buy a Bengal tiger as a pet.

Walk-in bathtubs are designed for comfort and safety. But they're not as much fun as two-person showers.

Instant mind control. Instant mind control.

Mom turns $97 into $7397. By adding a 7 and a 3 to the beginning of the numbers.

We get rid of your unwanted timeshare!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Mob Is In The Streets

So Indiana seems to have passed some law protecting what should have been protected all along by the constitution - freedom of religion. Apparently, it means that a baker who doesn't think two guys who live together should be called man and wife can refuse to make them a wedding cake. A firestorm of unidentifiable size has come from this.

For the life of me, I can't figure out what the big deal is here. Why can't Ted and Bob just go to another baker? Since gay marriage is as often as not ratified by judges over the will of the people, why can't some of those people live the way they want to live without further interference from the courts? Wasn't that the whole idea - the rest of us, no mater how much we vote or how we word our state constitutional amendments - couldn't tell Ted and Bob what does and doesn't constitute a marriage? If Ted and Bob are free to choose the definition of marriage for themselves, why aren't the rest of us?

Further, up until about ten years ago, none of this was in question. Ted and Bob couldn't get married anywhere and that was that. Why all the screaming about some of us not moving at the same speed as the libertines? Where's the understanding and compassion for those who doubt the wisdom of declaring all family structures equal?

This isn't rational or legal, it's simply a rioting mob, convinced that it's engaged in a righteous crusade. Since the mob has the entertainment industry, tech tycoons and academia on its side, it seems much larger than it really is. From the polls I've seen, the gay marriage question isn't a landslide in either direction, but most of the noise is coming from the side of the rioters.

I suspect this latest libertine, all-families-are-equal rage-fest will end the way most riots end.
Lots of things smashed to bits and no reflection on the consequences 10-20 years from now.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Blue Skies

... and pink flowers. I left it big, so it might be worth a click. Enjoy!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Central Banks Buying Stocks

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) has decided that printing money and buying every bond issued by the Japanese government isn't enough. Now it needs to print money and buy Japanese stocks. I don't have link in front of me, but according to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the BoJ is going to buy $3T Yen worth of Nikkei 225 stock funds this year. Let's use the US as a comparison to see what effect this will have on the market.

$3T Yen is $30B. The Japanese economy is 1/4 our size, so that's the same as the Fed buying $120B worth of, say, S&P 500 stocks. The S&P 500 daily volume is on the order of $94B. $120B of investment in a year would be buying $1B of stock every 3 days. Taking account of weekends, if you bought S&P 500, you'd bump $94B to $95B every other market trading day. That doesn't sound like it would have much of an effect on the market. It might not be a good thing for a central bank to have billions of dollars in volatile assets in its portfolio, but that's another story.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Go To War With You Army You've Got

... and in our case, it's the Iranian Army in Iraq and ISIS allies in Yemen.

That's the whole problem with not having boots on the ground. You don't get a say in what happens on the ground unless it's blowing things up. You can't capture, hold and pacify territory with an F-16. Consequently, in Iraq, we're providing air support for whoever is willing to take on ISIS. That turns out to be Iran. If it turns out that we don't like the results once the whole thing is over and Iran has annexed all or most of Iraq, what do we do then?

Be all that you can be in the (Iranian) Army!
Update: I might have been too harsh. The structure of our alliances is actually quite sensible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Getting Out Of Prison

... you're given back whatever you came in with and are given a trolley ticket so you get away from the front door of the jail. At least that's how it works here in San Diego. I've got friends in the prison ministry who talk about inmates who are about to get out and want to escape the ghetto life.

Escaping is really hard if you have no contacts other than your old friends and you've got no money to get away. I've met some of the recently released inmates while working at Catholic Charities where they've come in for food, but it wasn't until I heard the stories from my friends that I understood how hard it is for these poor souls to get on the right track.

Other friends have started a business called Rise Up Industries designed to help ex-cons and gang members go straight. Here's a little more about Rise Up.


Monday, March 23, 2015

All For One!

... and that one is our Maximum Leader!

Whatever's in her dishes are hers. Whatever's in the Catican Guards' dishes are hers, too.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tax Cuts Are Irrelevant

Arguing politics on Facebook is usually a very bad idea, but I have one old friend who is an avowed socialist (probably more of a Peronist fascist in reality) with whom I engage. He recently posted some twaddle by Krugman about tax cuts for the wealthy and blah blah blah. I responded with this.
Guys, tax cuts are nothing compared to interest rates when it comes to enriching the wealthy. The Fed is holding rates low, allowing the 1% to borrow $$ at trivial rates and invest in the market where they make plenty. Borrow at 1%, invest at 10%. It's free money for wealthy people. Tax cuts may bring them a few million, but the low rates bring them tens or hundreds of millions.

The Fed has to keep rates low because the government has so much debt that they can't service it if rates were at historic levels, say 5% or so for long-term debt. If the government had to pay 5% on our treasuries, it would blow multi-hundred-billion-dollar holes in the budget. We've spent ourselves into a corner and now have no choice but to follow economic policies that serve the ultra-rich.

Hilariously, it's the fascist economics of people like Reich and Krugman that got us here. No surprise there as this is where fascist economics always leads. The government grows and grows and the wealthy and powerful take advantage of it. Then the lapdogs of the ultra-rich like Reich and Krugman weave fairy tales about how the massive government that they support (at great personal profit) is going to protect you, the little guy, so you keep voting the right way.
It reminded me of The Rise and Fall of Bear Stearns about which I previously said this.
Throughout the book, Greenberg proudly talks about his trading strategies. It's all about avoiding losses so he can maximize profits. He rarely talks about his investments in real terms. That is, the investments are just financial transactions where he scrapes off his fee, they aren't vehicles for helping companies build homes, factories, or consumer goods. It's all just a pile of poker chips and he'll dump you as fast as he picked you up.
Alan Greenberg, the author of that hideous tome, never sweats things as trivial as tax cuts. Making gobs and gobs of money is all about interest rates, leveraging and rates of return.

While they mattered in the past when government wasn't the leviathan it is today, right now, tax cuts and tax increases are just a ruse to keep voters in line while the government and the ultra-rich loot our children. That's true from Japan to Germany to France to the US as we've all borrowed and spent our way into having to do what makes the Alan Greenbergs of the world rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Yellow Flowers And Camera Quality

Over at Tim's excellent blog, I mentioned that the camera on my Galaxy S5 phone has, in some ways, surpassed my Nikon D60 artillery piece. Yesterday, I was visiting my parents where my mom's typically outstanding garden had yielded these beauties.

I left this quite large, so I think it's worth a click. Enjoy!
While the S5's camera gives more pixels in its shots, there's no question that the focusing, zoom and white balance on the Nikon are vastly superior. I took about 20 photos of my mom's flowers and many of them suffered from incorrect focal length or were overexposed.

The solution, of course, is to buy a new Nikon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's The Central Bankers' World, We Just Live In It

A 1-year chart of the Nikkei (Japan) and the DAX (Germany).
It would be hard to find two first-world countries going in such different directions as Germany and Japan. Germany has relatively low debt and decent prospects. Japan is a currency crisis waiting to happen and a demographic basket case. Thanks to crazed money printing at their central banks, their stock markets are marching ever upwards, almost in lockstep.

Over at the perpetually gloomy Zerohedge, there's this post with this tidbit.
"This is not investing," exclaims Ed Yardeni in this brief clip, "it is all about central bankers... these markets are all rigged." That is not a criticism he notes, "I just say that factually... I love these central bankers, they've been very good to the stock market."
I don't think I'd use the term "rigged" as I see this as more of an unintended consequence of progressive social spending. With debts as high as we've got - Japan (gross debt is 238% of GDP), US (107%), Germany (82%), central banks have no choice but to keep interest rates low by printing money. If interest rates were at historic norms, our governments would go bankrupt trying to make the payments on our loans.

All that money has to go somewhere and since there's no point in building factories or even digging oil wells these days, it goes into the stock markets. Investors get richer, but jobs aren't created. The fabled 1% make out like bandits and the 99% go wanting, except for what happens to their 401(k) plans.

Oh well. At least we all get that temporary glow from feeling compassionate as we vote for more and more government handouts funded by borrowed money. In the meantime, stock markets around the world all rise together.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Some Francesca Battistelli For A Friday

I found her on my Newsboys Pandora station and I really like her music. The videos are cute, too.

Enjoy.

Monday, March 16, 2015

On Re-Wiring An MGB Cockpit

My project car, the old Time Eater, a 1973 MGB, still sits in my garage with the wiring incomplete. When I pulled the thing out of storage, I found that the old wiring harness had rotted away and needed to be completely replaced. Instead of buying a wiring harness, I decided to rewire the car from scratch myself so I could make some improvements to the system.

It turned out that getting the Chronovore back on the road wasn't as nearly as important to me as I had thought and weeks turned into months which turned into years. Confronted daily with the little guy in the garage, I tweeted this.
This weekend, I rewrote my goals (I try to do this every 6 months, but it's really more of an annual thing) and I put dates to the stages of my MGB restoration. For example, I'd like to have the cockpit done by this Sunday.

The issue here is that the wiring in the cockpit is complicated, the most complicated part of the car. Actually, now that I write this, it's only complicated where it comes out of the ignition, wiper and blinker switches on the steering wheel column. The rest is relatively straightforward. For example, coming off the ignition is the auxiliary power feed that goes to the wiper motor, the fan blower switch, the windshield washer pump and so on. Each individual light or instrument is fairly simple.

The problem comes in wrapping the wires. I've got most of the wiring in, running behind the dash and into the engine compartment where needed, but when I'm done, I'll need to pull it all out and wrap it with electrical tape. Further, feeding the lines behind the dash is quite a chore, something you can't do when the instruments are in the dash.

The magical piece here is sequencing the installation. What goes in first and what goes in next and so on? As I hinted above, I've not been very serious about this project, but now, since I've put a deadline on this, things just got real as the kids say.

I'm going to take a spiral notebook and make a single page for each switch and instrument. I'll draw out the lines for that device. Once that's finished, I'll have a complete list of the wires that go from the cockpit into the engine compartment. I'll run and wrap those, leaving plenty of slack for the instruments and switches with the wires dangling out of the dash where the devices go. I'll then attach the wires in the steering column since those can't be moved. Finally, I'll attach the instruments and switches, one at a time, from left to right in the cockpit because the exit into the engine compartment is on the right hand side.

That ought to do it. Making a single page for each circuit will also allow me to double-check my current loads. I've been using 18ga wire in most places, but I'm a little concerned about that. Every time I check amperage ratings, it looks good, but it just feels like I should be using larger wire.

There. A plan and a deadline. And now, on to victory!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How Much Water Is One Inch Of Rain?

It's a real broiler out here in San Diego today. Dry as a bone, with temperatures in the 90s where I live. Our potted plants on the patio are going to take a real beating. As I watered them this morning in preparation for the day's desiccation, I wondered how much I should be giving them. What if I was trying to simulate an inch of rain?

Well, the calculation is actually pretty simple. The volume of a 1" cylinder is Pi times the pot diamter squared, divided by 4. (Remember Pi R Squared is the area of a circle and the diameter is twice the radius, R.) This equation gives the result in cubic inches and each gallon is 231 of them. Here's a table of the results.

Pot Diameter in Inches Volume in Cubic Inches Quarts, Rounded to 1/2
6 28.27 0.5
9 63.62 1.0
12 113.10 2.0
15 176.71 3.0

The surprising thing to me is that other than our really big pots, most would do just fine with a half gallon of water.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Fantastic Bathroom Scale

A bohemian at heart, I typically wear aloha shirts to work. I had an occasion recently where I had to wear a sport coat. I've got a lovely one, but this time when I donned it, I discovered the buttons had moved. They no longer reached their button holes!

"Hmm. It looks," I thought to myself, "like it's time for a diet."

I've never dieted in my life. Being a goals freak, I decided to create a spreadsheet and measure progress daily. I figured I could increase activity and reduce intake to the tune of 500 calories a day, giving me a one pound per week weight loss glide path to success. I pulled out our trusty bathroom scale to get a starting point.

I couldn't read the thing. With my glasses or without them, I couldn't read the dial. I went to Target and picked out a digital scale with big numbers, brought it home and stood on it. I got a number. I stood on it again. I got a different number. And again. The scale readout was good to 0.2 pounds, but the sensor looked to be accurate to plus or minus 3 pounds. That was totally unsatisfactory for my daily data collection. I'd have no idea at all if I was heading in the right direction for weeks.

Googling the issue, I came across the scale below. It's totally awesome. It gives you the same result every time. It may not be perfectly accurate, but it's perfectly consistent, which is the most important feature of all. It's the delta that matters, not the actual values. So long as I see I'm on my glide path, or close enough to it, I'm good.

If you need a reliable scale, you could do a lot worse than this one.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Beating Father Junipero Serra With His Own Stick

A while back, I snarked about a PBS hatchet job on Father Junipero Serra which found him guilty of all manner of crimes against the Indians. The central theme of the criticism is that he forced Spanish Catholicism on the Indians. Their culture was swept away and their lives were dictated by the Spanish. Why is this "bad"? Consider:
  • The Romans would have killed many Indians, enslaved more and kidnapped others as hostages and then forced the remainder to pay taxes to the Empire.
  • The Nazis and Soviets would have shot many and shipped the rest to forced labor camps.
  • The Apache and Sioux would have shoved them off their land, whereupon the survivors might well have died in the desert to the east.
  • The Aztecs would have captured them and slain them in a religious ritual.
  • African tribes of the time would have enslaved them and sold them to Arabs.
How is it, then, that Father Serra is fair game for criticism? It seems to me that the critics are picking up Christian morality like it was a club and beating Father Serra with it. Why not apply Soviet morality instead? In that case, Father Serra would be criticized for allowing any of them to live and for allowing any of them to retain any of the fruits of their labors.

Applying Khmer Rouge morality, Father Serra is weak and a tool of the capitalists for not killing them all. To the Aztecs, he's a fool for letting them keep their internal organs internal. The Africans would have been amazed at all the profit he left on the table by not selling them to other tribes.

The criticism is based on the very culture that Father Serra sought to give to the Indians.

Here, Father Serra is ordering the Indians out of their homes and force-marching them into the wilderness where they will be shot.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Libertarians Support Sagging

It's late and I haven't blogged today for a variety of good and bad reasons. Still, there's something to be said as there is every day, whether I've got time to type or not.

Driving past my daughter's school before the first bell, I saw students walking in. Many were sagging or exhibiting other forms of dress less-than-suitable for success.

So what? Why shouldn't they?

What if the majority of the country decided that our fascination with material success was misplaced or undesirable and what mattered most in life was smoking weed and satisfying our basic, organic needs? Who should object?

Curmudgeons like me, that's who. But not for the reasons you might expect.

As the national debt clock says, we all owe about $60,000 in government debt. It's worse than that as the elderly, infirm, incompetent and addicted will never pay. Let's round it up to $120,000 and leave it at that.

With a debt burden like that, we don't have the freedom to dress like idiots. Each one of us has to be deliberately industrious, striving to earn as much money as possible so we can pay our share of the debt. The alternative is an Argentina-style currency crisis, as Japan will experience any day now.

In retrospect, the title of this blog pot is backwards. Saggers should be libertarian. Anyone who wants to dress and behave in a counter-culture, express-yourself, conventions-be-darned* fashion ought to be fanatical libertarians, doing everything they can to shrink the government and pay off the debt.

Once we do that, we can all smoke weed and wear our pants around our thighs. Victory!

Err, victory of some kind. Not mine, mind you, but at least we'd be free again. Debt makes you a slave.

* - I'm such a prude, I won't even swear here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

55,000 Pages

... must have taken forever to print.

Hillary says she handed over all relevant emails to Congress. By printing them out. All 55,000 pages of them.

wuzhhhuurrrrr ... wuzhhhuurrrrr ... wuzhhhuurrrrr ... wuzhhhuurrrrr ... 

No staffer can search those with a ctrl-f without scanning them in. All of them.

wuzhhhuurrrrr ... wuzhhhuurrrrr ... wuzhhhuurrrrr ... wuzhhhuurrrrr ... 

As someone (probably lots of someones) on the Internet said, "The Clinton circus is back in town!"

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Cultural Erasure

... is a term used in this PBS hit piece on Father Junipero Serra. After a long list of crimes that are heinous today, but were pretty common for the 1700s, there's this histrionic paragraph.
Serra's mission project resulted in more than individual suffering; it also effected a kind of cultural erasure. The missions upended Tongva social organization and discarded traditional Tongva religion and lifestyle. "The Spanish mission was insensitive and antagonistic to the cultural traditions of the California Indians," writes William McCawley in "The First Angelinos." "Although some priests may have cared deeply about the welfare of the Indians, cultural conflict was implicit in the goals of missionization...acculturation was seen as flowing in one direction only, that is, from the missionaries to the Indians."
Let's see if we can rewrite this, substituting the secular progressives of the sexual freedom movement for Junipero Serra and the Spaniards and American blacks for the Tongva.
The progressives' counter-culture project resulted in more than individual suffering; it also effected a kind of cultural erasure. The pressure to accept all family structures as equal upended blacks' social organization and discarded traditional black religion and lifestyle, particularly with respect to the traditional, nuclear family. "The progressives' mission was insensitive and antagonistic to the cultural traditions of the blacks," writes KT Cat on "The Scratching Post." "Although some progressives may have cared deeply about the welfare of the blacks, cultural conflict was implicit in the goals of counter-culture movement...acculturation was seen as flowing in one direction only, that is, from the progressives to the blacks."
Works for me.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Plum Flowers

For the first time since we got it, we pruned and fertilized our plum tree this year. For the first time since we got it, it's giving us a ton of flowers. I wonder, is there a correlation between the two events?

I left the images below quite large, so I think they're worth a click. Enjoy!


Friday, March 06, 2015

You Know You'e In Trouble When

... the people defending you in public during a scandal look like they're out of their minds.

David Brock, imitating a troll doll while defending Hillary Clinton.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

About That "Reset" Button

Remember this lovely image?


The label on the button, in Russian, was supposed to say, "Reset," but instead it said, "Overcharged." I'm not sure that was a mistake so much as a double entendre. Hillary as Secretary of State ran an email server inside of her house and did all of her business from there where no one could monitor what she was doing. While Secretary of State, foreign governments poured millions of dollars into the Clinton Foundation. After she left office, she's pulled in 6-figure payouts for canned speeches all across the country while her inexperienced and semi-skilled daughter was similarly paid by a major news organization.

That button was a symbolic start to her career.

Her career as a Russian-style mafia queen.

High government officials and well-connected, cooperative industrialists becoming rich beyond the dreams of avarice is the end state of fascist countries that don't go in for world domination.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Leadership Secrets Of The SEALs

... may not apply to everyone.

I heard a talk today given by a SEAL team commander on leadership. It didn't resonate with me at all and I tried to put my finger on just why that was. I wondered if it was my normal contrariness until I finally hit upon it.

SEALs are effectively professional athletes. Their ability to carry out their missions are closely tied to their physical prowess. After a while, age takes it's toll and they can no longer do the job.

Contrast that with a professional - engineer, scientist, accountant, what have you. You can continue to develop within your profession until your mental faculties give out which is a substantially longer time frame. In fact, most of the superstar engineers and scientists I know are 40 years old at least. You need to fail in lots of different ways to gain wisdom as a professional. When SEALs fail, they can die or be severely injured.

Leadership in the professional world has a lot to do with recognizing and grooming talented youngsters and helping them manage their careers over a decade or more. I'm not sure what the lifespan of a SEAL is, but it's got to be pretty short in comparison. It was great to hear the chap's perspective on leadership and listen to his sea stories, but it wasn't my world at all.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

About That Private Email Address For Hillary

So it turns out that under Hillary Clinton, the IT department was a server in someone's garage. No? Well, it might as well have been. She never used a government email address. The Secretary of State used her own, private email address for everything.

Lots of people have focused on the transparency issue - how can anyone ever get copies of her emails for audit and investigation purposes. That's not a big deal to me. At least not nearly as big as the threat of espionage, blackmail and massive breaches of security.

What do you think happened the first time someone in the Kremlin got an email from her home address? My bet is that an 8-figure bribe was prepared and various owners of Hillary's email chain approached. China, Iran and plenty of others had reasons to get in on the act.

Network security and network management is not there to hinder a Secretary of State. It's there to protect them.

Why was it that Hillary valued that protection less than the ability to keep all of her own records?

Monday, March 02, 2015

Why Net Neutrality?

It could be to increase political donations. Our good buddy DDE suggested it in a comment on this post.
Lets not forget that more and more people are watching Netflix and popcornTime...cancelling their cable television service...

That is a lot of lost political contributions from companies under FCC control.
Great point. An unregulated industry has no need for political contributions. For companies in a regulated one, political contributions are a necessity.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Question, Answered

From Twitter, a statement.
From Twitter, an objection.
From a UK newspaper, a response from a lady involved in the online dating scene.
It’s been a week of gloomy thoughts about what one applicant called “the packaging”. In fact, he wasn’t an applicant. He wrote specifically to tell me he wasn’t. “It’s a shame I don’t fancy you,” he said, “because otherwise you tick all the boxes.” Another said I sounded nice, but added: “Though unfortunately I have stringent physical criteria.”

There seems to be a gender imbalance, vis-a-vis the packaging thing. All the women I know are tolerant of middle age showing itself in a chap. We quite like a late flowering, in fact: the silvering, the smile lines, the coming of bodily sturdiness. We read these as signs that life has been lived and enjoyed. We read them as indicators of substance, of being substantial. In general, men don’t seem to grant us the same courtesy, at least not the men I meet online. They are highly focused on the packaging. It’s disheartening.
Biology is sexist and favors marriage in your 20s.