Monday, March 23, 2015

Stephen King: (Choose Your Adjective)

As I skimmed through this Stephen King piece in the Daily Beast, I struggled with which word best described the things he was saying: Dishonest, unhinged, illogical, I couldn't pick one and so will do a abbreviated Fisking.

I pointed out that I was paying taxes of roughly 28 percent on my income. My question was, “How come I’m not paying 50?"

You want to pay more, but if the above is true, you are not even paying what is required by law: The current top Federal Income Tax Bracket is 39.6%

He quotes the Governor of NJ as saying:

"I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he’s got the ability to write a check—go ahead and write it.”

Good point Gov! The point is never really addressed because of the dishonesty of his premise. He doesn't want to be taxed more, he wants other rich people taxed more.

There is a kind of incoherence at work in the piece: He makes the claim to speak for "rich people" since he is one of them, but he clearly loathes them and perhaps himself in some way. If rich people were to elect a spokesperson, they would probably choose somebody who likes them. Unless they are all self-hating rich people too.

Why pay more tax?

The rich people he praises, including himself--though excluding by name, Mitt Romney (who gives far more to charity than King)--he praises because they donate money to good causes. None of them, including King, donates to the Federal Treasury. Why? That is where the money would go if taxes were increased. If it is such a wonderful place to send money to, why are you sending your money to a bunch of places that are not the Federal Treasury?

A tribune for the working man

Maybe he cares about the little guy, but what I am betting on is that he needs us to get at his enemy, other rich people. Stephen King cannot get tax rates raised by himself, he needs us voters to do it. So here is a guy who is worth an estimated $400 million, who earns as much in one month as most of us will see in a lifetime of work, trying to act like he is on our side. He is on his own side and wants to use us to punish his enemies.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Let's Not Rule This Out So Quickly

Hillary Clinton likes the idea of "...camps for adults," according to Newsday.

Her idea is that it would be a way to force people to listen to each other. I think a better idea would be to use it as a way to help us all focus a bit better. With our hectic life-styles and so many issues competing for our limited attention, we need a camp to help us gain the patience to really think for a long time on one issue at a time.

I'm just throwing names out, but how does "Concentration Camp" sound?

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Chutzpah Of Hope

1. Oppose a thing, claiming it will make the situation worse.
2. The thing is done anyway and the situation improves.
3. Claim credit for the improvement.
4. Do something that makes things worse.
5. Claim you had nothing to do with the thing that made things worse.

In Foreign Affairs:

Then-Senator Obama opposed the Iraq surge, claiming

"I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse,"

There is some debate about whether the surge worked or not, but certainly the situation improved rather than worsened. The state of affairs in Iraq by 2011 was so good that the President could claim victory.

Back in 2012, Obama took credit for removing all troops from Iraq,

"With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement," Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. "That’s not true," Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn't want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”

Now that Iraq is in chaos, not so much,

On Thursday, Obama addressed reporters in the White House Briefing Room about Iraq’s latest crisis. “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?” a reporter asked. “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama said. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”

Both quotes from the WP

In Domestic Affairs:

“They’ve said no to extending unemployment insurance for more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole,”
From Roll Call

This effort seems to be the main reason (besides the ongoing decline in labor participation rate) for the recent decline in unemployment.

The Impact of Unemployment Benefit Extensions on Employment: The 2014 Employment Miracle?

It is not clear-cut that he is taking credit, but he sure is't claiming that it is in spite of his efforts.

"Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999," Obama said to applause. "Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis."
CNS News (Quotes are also available in the transcript from the 2015 State of the union address.)

Interesting side note: from Wikipedia

The cognate of chutzpah in Classical Arabic, ḥaṣāfah (حصافة), does not mean "impudence" or "cheekiness" or anything similar, but rather "sound judgment".[3]

Friday, March 06, 2015

Unnecessary Violence Problem Solved

According to President Obama:

“As long as you can go in some neighborhoods and it is easier for you to buy a firearm than it is for you to buy a book, there are neighborhoods where it is easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable, as long as that’s the case, we’re going to continue to see unnecessary violence,”
The Blaze

Since there are no neighborhoods where it is easier to buy a firearm than a book or vegetable, I guess we will not continue to see unnecessary violence.

Unnecessary? I guess we will only see the necessary violence that we really need.

Clips? I think he means a magazine. I never saw ammunition on a clip outside of the Marine Corps. That was rifle ammunition, is pistol ammo on a clip even a thing?

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


We made a trip to NYC two weeks ago and engaged in some ad hoc activities and some events that were planned well in advance.

The first day was free and we came to find out from our dog sitter (who was also the breeder of our pet) that the Westminster Dog Show would be happening the week we were there. We went to the Monday session down at the Chelsea Piers and found out from the fact that everyone knows our breeder, that she is pretty famous and well-regarded in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels circles. The nice thing about the show at the pier is that you can get right up close to the animals and really appreciate how fine they are. Also, the breeders were very friendly and happy to talk about their dog's temperament, upkeep & etc.

Having gone to the show, we were following the competition during our stay by watching the happenings at Madison Square Garden on the hotel room TV. We even set a recording on our home DVR since we would be driving back on that day and might miss the show.

The final full day in NYC we went to a show: Matilda. Miss Trenchbull was scary and funny. The children were spunky and cute. The kind adults very humane as the bad adults entertainingly vacuous.

The trip came full circle once we were home, watching the dog show on TV. They opened the show with the cast of Matilda singing the national anthem or America The Beautiful.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

This Is How You Retract A Story (and this is how not to do it)

First: The Good. From The Daily Beast.

ON WISCONSIN? 02.27.15

Walker Unfairly Attacked on College Rape - ORIGINAL STORY RETRACTED
Scott Walker’s budget proposal to delete the requirement that universities report sexual assault cases has been incorrectly reported by the Beast and others.

Here is how not to do it, from the original source, which got it wrong:

Scott Walker Wants Colleges to Stop Reporting Sexual Assaults [UPDATE 2]
Natasha Vargas-Cooper

Update? Your headline still implies something that isn't true and update could be added information, not necessarily a fundamental change. Look! You screwed-up, this kind of half-assed correction only makes you look worse.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Misc. MoMA pictures

Klimt-Abstract and Concrete

If there wasn't the figure of a woman at the top of this one, it would be an entirely abstract piece.

this is a fairly concrete scene...

But a detail of the foliage could easily be an abstract painting of its own.

MoMA portraits

We worked ourselves from the bottom floor upwards and the art got progressively better as we went: One final bit were portraits and I liked them a lot.

"Self-Portrait with a Cigarette"  by Max Beckmann 

Another self portrait of the artist as he paints a portrait of a model.

Scenes from MoMA

Below are some phone pictures I took at the MoMA but first, an original composition of my own made from coasters acquired at the gift shop:

Wife and green swirly picture

Eldest daughter evaluating Jack the Dripper.

The first one was made of some 40,000 squares and the artist drew in red or blue based on if consecutive numbers in a phone book were even or odd. Tedious but anyone could do it. The other one seems almost impossible to execute: I couldn't even look at it very long, yet the artist had to make perfectly regular lines of even curve and continuous change to the thickness of the lines.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

MSM And A Tale of Two Stories

Mattress Girl Story:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

UVa Rape article in Rolling stone:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

Both stories debunked:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

Rape, both on and off campus have been declining for decades:
MSM--Let's talk about the problem of campus rape.

Rudy Giuliani suggests that Obama does not love the United states:
MSM--Let's talk about why this idea is pretty believable to many if not most Americans.


MSM--Let's attack the former mayor of NYC.
MSM--Let's attack any Republican that fails to disavow Mr. Giuliani's claims.

It is a lot like your run of the mill progressive: They will happily defend socialists, vote for them and support socialist governments around the world. If you call one of their politicians one, they will act like you are the reincarnation of McCarthy!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Validation: Very Late And Randomly Discovered

Some years ago, when we lived in Vermont, I got it into my head to swim across Lake Champlain. It seemed easy; there was New York just a couple of miles away. But it turned out to be pretty complicated:

--One needs to train, this wasn't hard. I swam at the UVM pool the Winter before and I got a beach pass and swam at North Beach every day after work through the Summer. By late Summer I was ready.
--One needs to find a place to start and a place to end and they need to be roughly across from each other and neither too far apart nor too close.

This second one was very hard. There were not a lot of public beaches or other access points across from each other. I found only one route that I thought would work: Essex NY to Charlotte VT.

Now 16 years later, I was searching for information on current ice conditions for Lake Champlain and found an article from last Summer in the Burlington Free Press where a group of 14 swam the lake. Their route: Exactly the same as mine--except they went in the opposite direction. This was very gratifying. I thought that my choice was systematic and rational but I had nothing to compare it against. Seeing that somebody with no connection to me came up with the same solution makes me think it was a pretty good solution.

I believe that my direction was better though. From the NY side, you cannot easily tell where the Charlotte beach is located. From the VT side, you can easily see the buildings of Essex. So my route makes navigation much easier.

Added: Images from the event (I took digital pictures of the photographic prints in an album)

Here I am with my mom and oldest girl (the other two children were not born yet).

Here I am with Andy. We swam "together" which means we started together but he was much faster and so was dressed by the time I came to shore. He was a monster and probably would have finished an hour ahead of me even without his wet suit. I went the Speedo route.

A shot just as I prepared to get out of the water. My daughter on the shore, nonplussed at me showing up and asking why I was swimming.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Do Non-Handy People Do?

We received about 33 inches of snow in the blizzard of 2015 and I waited until the snow was done falling before clearing our driveway.

Early into the task, I noticed that the snowblower was not working as well as usual. One side of the first stage was dead.

The shear bolt on that side had, sheared. I have a lot of odds and ends around and felt confident that I could find something to fit. What I found was an actual shear bolt that was from a batch I bought ten years ago, the last time this happened.

It was somewhat tricky getting the remainder of the bolt out and the repair took about half an hour. This effort got me thinking, lots of people are not very handy. They certainly could effect the repair as I did, but they just wouldn't. They would not even consider trying.

The problem is that the snow machine is too heavy to pick-up and put into a vehicle, so it is not easy to take to a repair shop. Are there repair services that will come and fix your machine on-site? I suspect that people who cannot fix their own machines just hire people to clear their driveways.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Limits To Self-Trickery

Last Wednesday, I lifted 145 lbs for the first time in a long while. Now it was Saturday and I knew, just knew that I was strong enough to do it again. But would I let myself even try?

The clean and jerk is a hard lift to do: It takes strength, of course. But it also takes a fair amount of nerve and coordination too. It is not dangerous--you can easily push the weight away if things don't go right. But it feels like it is dangerous and the result are half-hearted attempts at a lift, which leads to failed lifts.

I thought of this trick I had read about: You tell yourself that a task is easy, or you have done it before, etc. and even though you know it is untrue, some part of you believes it and you are given a boost. Often what I will do when I have failed on a lift, is to take 5 lbs off and lift again. So, without taking any weight off, I told myself that I took weight off the bar and then did the lift at 145. Even as I was doing the lift I could not believe it worked.

It has its limits though:

Yesterday this same trick failed to work. I think I know why though. On Saturday I had not done anything tiring and had not lifted since the Wed before. Yesterday I was fasting all day, ran 4 miles AND had run 11 miles on Sunday. I was pretty weak and all the trickery in the world couldn't change that.

I did lift 140 twice though.

Update: The next Wed, Sat, Mon and Saturday after that featured 145 lb lifts. The Monday was at the hotel and I was amazed that they had a barbell that was not locked into a cage. I had to move some things around to have room to lift and felt a little rushed as well. In that session I made 145 on the clean but did not put it over my head. The rest were complete. I am (hopefully) getting into the habit of making this weight.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Sophie's Choice

It has been a while since I saw the 1982 film but was reminded of my thoughts on it by NEO-NEOCON's post on "Coco".

Spoiler Alert! (Is this really needed for a 30 year old film?)

Sophie arrives at a concentration camp with her two young children (a boy and a girl) and the camp doctor tells her that she can only bring one with her, the other will go to the gas chamber.

I won't say what she does, but here is what I thought she ought to have done:

Sophie: Why should I trust a man who will order a child to be killed?

Officer: I do not understand...

Sophie: You tell me that I can choose which one will live and you will honor that choice. Why should I believe you? It is in your power to kill none of us, all of us or some of us. Perhaps I would say, "Save the boy"! and out of perverse pleasure, you will kill him first.

Officer: I will kill both children if you do not pick one.

Sophie: I will not be complicit in your evil. You can choose to kill one, both or neither. This is your choice. I have no reason to believe anything you say and will not cooperate. Even if I did trust you, I think that you may believe that my playing along will dilute your guilt. I will not allow this! You are responsible for our fate.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

5,000 Years

Note to Reader: I have been noodling around with an analogy for some time but just couldn't quite get a grip on the scope. Finally I just decided to write it out and let the chips fall where they may.

In my lifetime there have been two major genocides which I would like to make a note of: Cambodia back in the mid 1970's, where something like 1/4 of the total population was killed and Rwanda in the mid to late 1990's where about 1/5 of the population was murdered.

To get some perspective, those who would like to ban the private ownership of firearms like to trumpet the US murder rate*, which is something like 12,000/year. At this rate, it would take 5,000 years for murderers to equal what was done in Rwanda in 100 days.

Now for the analogy: It seems like one could think of murder by criminals as analogous to side effects from vaccines. Each is tragic but far more lives are saved than lost. Could either of these genocides (or any genocide, ever) have been carried out in a well-armed society?

*The anti-gun folks are not even close to this honest. They will talk about "gun deaths" and never mention that 2/3 of these are suicide. Nor will they mention that in gun-free Japan, the suicide rate is twice that of the US.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year in Running 2014

For the 2nd year in a row I have made my goal of 30 miles per week. This year I decided to include the extra day as well--52 weeks times 7 days is 364 days, so there is an extra 1/7 of a week to account for.

I did a total of 1582 1/2 miles in 208 hours, 40 minutes and 37 seconds; for an overall pace of 7:55

1136 was with shoes at a pace of 7:58 and 446 was barefoot at a pace of 7:47.

I was faster this year than last and ran a few more miles as well, but ran about 100 miles fewer in the barefoot mode. A little surprising that I was faster since barefoot runs are much faster than runs with shoes.

Monday, December 29, 2014

I Already Liked The Lego Movie but this sealed the deal

[in slow dreamy voice]
Lucy: ... blah, blah, blah. Proper name. Place name. Backstory stuff...
Emmet: Mmm-hmmm
Lucy: [in normal voice] ... is the Special. The Special...
[in slow dreamy voice]
Lucy: ... I'm so pretty. I like you. But I'm angry with you for some reason...
Emmet: Mmm-hmmm
Lucy: [in normal voice] ... put the Piece of Resistance onto the Kragl and disarm it forever!
Emmet: Great. I think I got it. But just in case... tell me the whole thing again, I wasn't listening.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wed Off--Little things that became large and things which could have been small, that also got large.

I had high hopes for my day off but they went down the drain quickly:

Wife was doing some early morning vacuuming (I know, right?) and jammed the machine. I thought it would be easy to remove the agitator and shake-out whatever piece of FOD she managed to suck up. No. Whatever it was, was up in the impeller and would not come loose. There were a bunch of screws on the bottom of the vac that were down long tunnels. One of the tunnels was slightly narrower than the rest. Why? What engineering problem could only be solved by making one hole a little narrower? My screwdriver would not fit down the hole. I went through some desultory efforts at grinding a makeshift screwdriver, but it was a Phillips and can be somewhat challenging.

It was off to Lowe's.

I checked-out the Christmas trees first and they had some nice ones, but nobody was back in the garden center so I put that off till later. The store was crawling with associates but I suppose none of them wanted to camp-out in the unheated part of the store. I got a set of screwdrivers and it was tough deciding which one to get--there were sets of 9, 14, 24 and a bunch of others, maybe 10 combinations in all. What you really need are long ones and short ones in Phillips and straight slot, so four will do. There were no kits of four. I also obtained a metal tool box. I had settled for a plastic one when I had been at Walmart since all they had were different plastic ones, but it was not up to the challenge of holding its shape under the task of having metal things (tools) in it. It might be good for housing a collection of small stuffed animals though.

While I was checking out, I asked the cashier if the garden center would be manned or would I need to haul a Christmas tree through the store to buy it? She picked up her phone and did some paging, so all set! I put my things in the truck and went to the garden center. Still very like a morgue, cold and no living people there--or dead ones (as far as I could tell). I carried the tree through the store to the checkout, a bit amazed that I didn't cause any end cap slides. I had parked down by the garden center just to avoid a long walk punctuated by balsam fir needles sticking into my neck--God laughs at people who plan.

Once home and equipped with a screwdriver that was the right size, it took a mere 5 minutes to fix the vacuum cleaner. Later at dinner, I was regaling the family with my day's travails and our eldest daughter opined that she would have just bought a new vacuum cleaner. I pointed out that it would have taken just as long to buy a new one as it took to fix the old one, plus I saved the $200 it would have cost. As she disinterestedly left the room, I called out after her, "If it took me 15 minutes to save $200, then I earned $800/hour"! She still thinks I am an idiot.

After that, I roasted coffee and worked on wife's treadmill: I removed the motor with the idea that the motor could be removed from the frame and flywheel, which would not come with a new motor. While at it, I realized that the brushes were shot. I ordered some and realized that I could have done this with out removing the motor or cutting any of the wires. Hopefully when the brushes come in, this will fix the problem and I will be able to reassemble the machine.

Since it was pouring rain, I decided to bag running and have lunch. While I ate, it cleared-up. Or rather, while I over-ate massively, it cleared-up. I did some small tasks, like setting up the tree and cleaning the kitchen, to buy my stomach a little time. Then I want for a run. A very painful run.

I did not get a chance to work on the cherry coffee table project but did pick up some sanding belts for the belt sander and these might come in handy for that work.