Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Concerning "Third Rate Politicians"

That's supposedly what President Trump called Nancy Pelosi during a meeting today.

Trump has been elected to office a grand total of one time, by a margin of about 80,000 votes in three states, getting fewer votes than his Democratic opponent nationwide from a population of about 320 million.

Pelosi has been elected to Congress 17 times. She beat her last Republican opponent by more than 230,000 votes -- not in three states, not nationwide, but in one of 435 US House districts with a population, according to the 2010 census, of approximately 700,000. She's also managed to remain at the head of her party's congressional delegation for more than a decade and a half.

Whatever else she may be, Pelosi is a successful politician. If she's "third rate" as a politician, Trump is at best sixth or seventh rate. Just sayin' ...

Monday, October 14, 2019

Polling: "Generic" Doesn't Tell Us Much

A new poll (h/t Taegan Goddard) has Donald Trump running behind a generic Democrat 48%-47%  -- and 51%-37% among independent voters -- for re-election in Ohio.

But after a certain point, Trump won't be running against a generic Democrat, he'll be running against a particular Democrat.

That's important.

Of the voters who are thinking "don't like Trump much, a Democrat might be better next time," some of them already have "as long as that Democrat is or isn't [insert name here]" floating around in the backs of their minds.

Also, once there's a nominee apparent, Trump and Co. will be able to focus their campaign strategy on that particular Democrat. They're already doing that to a degree (Biden is their main bugaboo of choice at the moment), but whichever Democrat they're attacking at any given moment is really more of a proxy for Democrats in general -- a "generic" target, one might say.

Finally there's the question of just how motivated the voters being polled are. It's one thing to say you prefer a generic Democrat when asked. It's another thing entirely to get off your ass cast a vote for a specific Democrat. It's gonna be a little while before we see how good the two major party campaigns' Get Out The Vote games are.

Trump won Ohio by 8.13% in 2016 after a cycle of zig-zagging poll numbers. Third party, independent, and write-in candidates grabbed 4.75% of the vote. As of this moment, it looks to me like he's reasonably well-positioned to win it again, albeit likely by a lower margin.

Is Alan Dershowitz on Trump's Impeachment Response Team?

Dershowitz's supposed version of an old saw:

If the facts are your side, pound the facts into the table. If the law is on your side, pound the law into the table. If neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the table.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Golden Age of Streaming is Over

I didn't wake up this morning with a powerful urge to watch A Fistful of Dollars, but I did arrive at such an urge via a rambling route that began with news of Robert Forster's death.

I'm sure that I watched it no longer than two years ago on one of the streaming services (I'm pretty sure it was Amazon Prime Video). Wherever it was that I watched it, I know that I didn't pay a premium above and beyond my subscription fee at whatever service I watched it on.

Now if I want to watch it, I have to pay out extra -- rent it, buy it, or add a subscription to STARZ on top of my Amazon Prime. Ditto The Magnificent Seven (the original, not the recent remake), which I last watched "free" a few years ago as well.

That seems to be happening a lot lately.

"That" being: Content formerly available via single-subscription-payment "all you can eat" streaming services moving back behind various "additional payment" walls.

I have some notions as to why that's happening.

Back when Netflix started their streaming service, it was speculative. The owners of older intellectual "property" were happy to license their stuff for peanuts. It's not like VHS/DVD sales of older westerns were bringing in fat stacks. This streaming fad was found money.

Then streaming got popular, as did "no added cost" on-demand video via cable networks.

And since each streaming service (two new big ones now out or coming soon -- Disney and Apple) and cable network wants to be able to offer stuff that can't be found anywhere else, they're bidding up the prices to license all that old stuff and moving it either onto their own services as "exclusives" or completely behind "additional payment" walls.

The same thing happened with cable. First there was basic cable. Then here came HBO for a little more per month. Then "want to watch X? Only on Showtime. Or Cinemax. Etc." With every new entrant, one of two things happened -- you forked over a little more, or you got a little less.

Looks like we're getting back to that way of doing things.

Netflix and Amazon saw it coming. That's why they started producing their own content and working out the "add channels" deals. The value proposition for subscription-based streaming is changing from "bazillions of movies and TV shows you remember and would like to see again for one flat price" to "you can only see Bill Burr's latest stand-up special on Netflix, and Bosch is just for Amazon Prime subscribers."

Personally, I have no intention of adding any more streaming services, or buying any premium channel add-ons to the ones I have. I've got Netflix and Amazon Prime, and occasionally consider dropping the former (Prime has the advantage of offering other benefits). My household also has Hulu, which I'm not interested in and which my wife pays for because I won't.

I suppose I might change out one of those services for another if one of the old ones starts sucking and a new one looks better. But I never really fell for the cable TV version of this trend, and don't plan to fall for the streaming version either. The few times over the last few decades when I've taken an "add HBO free or for only $X/month for Y months" (basically when I've moved and changed cable providers), I canceled when the free or cheap deal ended because the added value seemed like a fraction of the added price.

I guess I'll either go back to not watching as many different things on a whim, or buy a DVD player (my last one died years ago) and let my whims be driven by 50 cent garage sale / thrift store finds.

Friday, October 11, 2019

My 2020 Presidential Election Projection as of October 11, 2019

Not that anything's changed lately. I'm waiting to see what the impeachment show does to the polling over time before making any major changes. Here's the electoral map as I see it at this moment:

And here's Taegan Goddard's current projection (see the original page for the sources he's relying on):

One reason for this post is to remind myself to use that interactive map function from now on.

The differences between Goddard's projection and mine:

  • He has Arizona, Iowa, and North Carolina as toss-ups. I still have them going to Trump as they did in 2016.
  • He has Wisconsin and Michigan as toss-ups. I have them going to the Democratic candidate rather than to Trump as they did in 2016, and my confidence in that prediction is in excess of 99% for Wisconsin and in excess of 90% for Michigan.
As to where I think I might just be wrong:

  • Arizona made my initial "watch this state" cut several months ago as a prime state for change on both of two criteria: Trump won the state by less than 5% and third party/independent candidates polled more than 5% in 2016. Also (not among my "watch this state" criteria), in the 2018 midterms Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat Republican Martha McSally to replace Republican Jeff Flake in the US Senate, and Democrats picked up a US House seat as well. My gut feeling is that Arizona still goes for Trump again, but I might move it into toss-up territory soon.
  • North Carolina only met one of my two "watch this state" criteria -- Trump won by less than 5% (3.66%), but third party/independent candidates only hit about 4%. That more than covered "the balance of power" but  there's a "base" third party vote that isn't up for grabs. Net in-migration (mostly from from "bluer" states -- advantage Democrats) also seems to be decreasing and I suspect that culture war considerations (advantage Trump) will keep the state red.
  • I'm not married to the idea of Iowa staying red. It might make the "toss-up" list next time around, especially if Trump keeps screwing the farmers with his trade wars.

Monday, October 07, 2019

File Under "It Can't Be Both"

From the dust-up over Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's Hong Kong tweet ...

"Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable," [Brooklyn Nets owner and Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai] said as he outlined the problem with supporting what he described as a "separatist movement" in Hong Kong.

If Chinese citizens stand united on territorial integrity/sovereignty (if that's defined as including Hong Kong), there's not a separatist movement.

If there's a separatist movement, Chinese citizens don't stand united on territorial integrity/sovereignty (if that's defined as including Hong Kong).

Pick one, Joe.

Oh, Come ON

After one story popped up in my RSS feed this morning, I went to do a search and take a count. No fewer than 12 stories total.

Everyone's outraged. Everyone's upset.

OK, well, not everyone. Just everyone without, you know, a life or anything like that.

What are they upset about?

A song. In a movie.

The song's been used in movies before. And in video games. And to rile crowds at large sporting events.

But now the guy's in prison in Vietnam for raping kids, so a song of his from nearly half a century ago must go down the memory hole.

It's only Monday, but that's an instant front-runner for Dumbest Thing KN@PPSTER Will Read This Week.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

A Couple of Brief Notes on the "Why Hasn't There Been a Vote Yet? Gotcha!" Impeachment Stuff

I'm seeing, in various places, a claim (implicit or explicit) and a supposed "gotcha" question about impeachment.

The claim: The House has to vote to "open an impeachment inquiry" in order to have one.

That claim is incorrect.

Article I, Section 5 of the US Constitution specifies that "Each House [of Congress] may determine the rules of its proceedings."

There's neither any constitutional provision, nor any statute, nor any House rule requiring a vote of the House to "open an impeachment inquiry." It's been done before, but as a practical matter if the Speaker of the House announces an impeachment inquiry and the relevant committees (all of them controlled by, and chaired by, the Speaker's party) start, um, inquiring,  the inquiry is a fact.

The only way I can see around that is if a majority of the House supported some kind of parliamentary appeal to require a vote to make it official.

The supposed "gotcha" question relates to congressional votes either of the "open an inquiry" sort or of the "the SOB is hereby impeached" sort, and amounts to "well, if Pelosi has the votes, why haven't the votes been taken yet?

Pelosi announced the "inquiry" on September 24.  Congress has only been in session for three days since then, and won't be back until October 15. There are committees doing stuff, but the House as a whole has "district work periods" (i.e. "go home and campaign") until October 12, plus weekends and a federal holiday on October 14.

They aren't voting on anything right now because they're not there to vote on anything. And presumably there's at least some lag time between announcement of an "inquiry" and the production of actual articles of impeachment to vote on.

And Then There Was One

Ginger Baker has died.


I Just Don't Get the Value Proposition

Herewith, an anonymized and truncated version of a recent conversation:

FRIEND: My computer is f*cking up again.


FRIEND: Yeah, after years of you saying that, I think I may just go that way.

ME: Here's a link to one for like $65 on NewEgg that's probably the same one I'm using as my laptop. My two work computers together, both Chromebooks (I rigged up a Chromebook the screen went out on to use as my desktop machine) came to, I think, less than $200 altogether.

FRIEND: I'm going to buy mine from Best Buy. That way it's covered under my Geek Squad subscription. [Note: My read is that a Geek Squad subscription covers machines not bought from Best Buy]

Yes, I've heard of Geek Squad, seen their vehicles driving around town, had a vague idea of what they do, etc. But this made me go have a look at what they offer.

Basically, they charge, every year, about the price of a budget Windows PC (or a pretty good Chromebook) to talk you through un-f*cking your machine, or remotely unf*ck your machine, when Windows/MacOS and/or proprietary Windows/MacOS software f*cks your machine up.

I guess they would do the same thing for Chromebooks/Chromeboxes if Chromebooks/Chromeboxes had such problems, but I've never experienced such problems with a Chromebook/Chromebox.

Non-remote stuff, where they have to come out to your house and get on the machine, costs extra (and ain't cheap). Hardware repairs/replacements not included so far as I can tell (and that makes sense -- you're paying for time/expertise, not physical stuff).

I don't see how that kind of offering makes any financial sense for the average consumer who's even remotely computer-literate.

I also don't see how a Windows or MacOS machine makes any sense versus a Chromebook/Chromebox for the average consumer, computer-literate or not.

In fact, I'd say that Windows/MacOS = injury, and Geek Squad = added insult.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Good TV Times ...

My 18-year-old has never been much for parking in front of a screen he doesn't have control over for any period of time. It's not an attention deficit disorder. He's quite capable of focusing intently and for hours at a time on a coding problem or a game. But as for TV, his life-long engagement level has mostly been walking through the room, pausing for a minute or two, coming up with a creative insult regarding the writers/actors/cinematographers, and going back to something else.

Which, overall, doesn't strike me as entirely unhealthy.

But recently he got sucked in to Tamara and I binge-watching House, MD. One, two, or three episodes nearly every night.

We watched the series finale last week, then Tamara traveled and we did some emailing back and forth on what we might offer him next. It's not TV as such, but the idea of him actually spending an hour or two a day hanging with us, that's the goal.

But TV it is: Breaking Bad. After the quality of insults he came up with the first time we watched the series, I was doubtful that it would capture his interest. But we watched the first two episodes last night and he would have watched a third if I hadn't needed to go to bed.


What if Trump WANTS to be Removed?

If Donald Trump is impeached, he will be the 13th president subjected to US House impeachment probes and/or the introduction of articles of impeachment in the House, and the third to actually be impeached. If he resigns before the House votes on impeachment, he'll be the second president to have done that.

My impression is that Trump doesn't like being second, third, or 13th at anything. He likes to be -- or at least appear to be -- first at everything.

In this situation, the only thing he could possibly place first in is "convicted by the US Senate after impeachment by the US House."

What if that's what he's angling for?

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Thanks For Asking! -- 10/01/19

I'm really, really, really trying to get in the habit of posting an AMA thread once a month, and the first day of the month seems like the best day to do that. So, thanks to our sponsor, Free Pony Express ...

... ask me anything. I'll answer either in the comment thread below this post or somewhere else (if somewhere else, I'll point you to the answer via comment).

Let'er rip.

A Modest Proposal for Reform of Post-Impeachment Trials

On one hand, the impeachment process is not a "criminal prosecution."

On the other hand, it shares certain features with the US "justice" system. When considering impeachment, the House of Representatives acts, pretty much, as a grand jury. And after impeachment, a "trial" is held with the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court presiding and the Senate acting as a "jury."

If I hear that a grand jury is considering indicting someone for (for example) murder, and I run around yelling (or even just telling my friends) that the guy is guilty or innocent and should or shouldn't be indicted, I think it's reasonable to not seat me on the jury if he is indicted.

So I think the Constitution should be amended to add two features to the Senate "trial" --

  1. Conviction on a 2/3 vote of Senators actually voting, not of the whole Senate; and
  2. A "voir dire" process in which any Senator who can be shown to have expressed an opinion in favor of or against the impeachment is excused/excluded from the "jury duty."

Platform Committe: There's an App for That

You heard it here first:

On January 14, I announced my candidacy for the Libertarian Party's 2020 platform committee.

This morning, I received an email informing me that the Libertarian National Committee is seeking applicants for that committee. My application as filed (with one typo correction -- I left an "s" out of "accessible" and feel really bad about it) appears at the very bottom of this post.

How You Can Help:
  • If you believe I belong on the committee, contact your LNC officers, at-large representatives, and regional representatives to recommend me.
  • If I'm selected, I'll be back to ask for your help getting to the in-person meetings and the national convention ... and regardless of what amount or form (I've slept on couches before and am willing to again), I'll do what I have to do to show up for those things.

And now, the aforementioned application ...

How long have you been a dues paying member of National?
I don't remember -- since at least 2015, but also at times for 20 years before that
Are you involved with your state or local party? How so?

When I lived in Missouri (until 2012), I served as a local party committee member (and sometimes officer, up to and including county chair), served on the state committee, and on the state executive committee, and ran for city council, school board, state legislature, and Congress as a Libertarian, and was appointed to a federal position (draft board) as a Missouri Libertarian.

These days, living in Florida, I am older, fatter, poorer, busier, and not as physically outgoing. I served on the Libertarian Party of Florida's rules committee in 2016, but since then haven't done much in terms of activism (I am also a dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania).
Have you ever served on a similar committee before? Do you have any reports or finished products you can refer the LNC to? What are your specific qualifications to serve on this particular committee?
I served on the national platform committee (as appointed by the Libertarian Party of Florida) in 2018, so I'll refer the LNC to that committee's report.

I'll also boast that I initially drafted, proposed, helped hone, and advocated for the first amendment to the platform that the 2018 national convention considered and passed (to section 3.4, Free Trade and Migration).

As for specific qualifications, there's that past committee service, a term on the Judicial Committee in the early 2000s, and more than 20 years of party activism including seven national conventions as a delegate. I'm also, by occupation, immersed in the political news cycle with an ear toward issues that are trending such that they deserve attention in the party's biennial reconsideration of its platform.
What changes, if any, are you interested in proposing (please submit a sample proposed change).
2.11 Labor Markets

Delete the phrase "and these contracts should not be encumbered by government-mandated benefits or social engineering" in the first sentence of the plank.

As a platform committee member, my emphasis has been and will continue to be on making the platform continually more clear, understandable and concise rather than proposing substantive changes. This does not mean I OPPOSE substantive changes as such (I don't), just that I mostly look for ways to make the platform more readable/understandable/accessible to the voting public.
Have you read the Statement of Principles? Do you agree with it?
Yes, I've read it many times and I agree with it completely.
Will you commit to show up and actively participate in committee email discussions and any in-person meetings?
Yes (I attended all online meetings and in-person meetings of the 2018 platform committee).
Which national conventions have you attended?
2000, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2016, 2018
Please give a brief (a few sentences) summary of your understanding of Libertarian philosophy.
I understand Libertarian philosophy as rooted in the constraint of non-aggression. That is, no one (including government actors) has a right to initiate the use of force against another, and those against whom force is initiated are entitled by right to defend themselves. Society and politics, under libertarian philosophy, must be governed by consensual relations and personal responsibility in every area.
(optional) What is your position on committee transparency (should all meetings and emails be open to observation by Party members or should there be limitations)?
I support 100% transparency. Committee email lists should be archived in viewable form online, and committee meetings (online or in person) should be open for viewing/attendance by party members.
(optional) What are some of your most important accomplishments?
My most important personal accomplishments are my kids :)

Occupationally, I'm inordinately proud of things I accomplished in the Marine Corps, of the fact that mainstream newspapers and non-libertarian political publications publish my libertarian op-eds more than 1,000 times per year, and that I'm the publisher of the oldest daily libertarian news/commentary roundup on the Internet (founded in 1991).

Vis a vis the Libertarian Party, I am proud of my own campaigns for public office and my appointment by President George W. Bush to the Selective Service System in 2004, but more so of the party work I've done at all levels and of the campaigns I've worked on (to name two, the WINNING campaign of my wife, Tamara Millay, for local office in 2004 and serving as media coordinator for Michael Badnarik's post-nomination 2004 presidential campaign).
(optional) What kind of people annoy you the most, and how do you deal with them?
Parliamentarians. I fight them when I think they're wrong and work within the strictures of their rulings when I lose.

Also, Yankees fans.

Facebook: Is it Just Me, or ...

... could it be my machine or my browser?

For the last couple of weeks, Facebook has loaded/operated like a snail with a stomach ache. The time from pointing my browser at it to the page being fully loaded (including whatever "dynamic content" it pulls up) has gone from a few seconds to more than half a minute on a good day.

It's not my connection (other sites load fine and I've messed with e.g. DNS, switching from my usual Cloudflare to Google servers and "automatic" to see if anything changes).

So far as I can tell, that leaves three possibilities.

One is my machine. I switched from an aging Chromebox to a newer Chromebook as my desktop machine a few weeks ago. But the Chromebook should be, and so far as I can tell is, faster than the old Chromebox, and the problems did not start at the same time as the switch.

Another is my browser. There have been at least a couple of recent ChromeOS updates. But if that's the problem, it doesn't seem to be affecting anything but Facebook. I haven't added any new browser extensions recently either.

The final one is Facebook itself. I don't watch the site closely enough to have noticed if they'pre adding a bunch of crap to it that might slow down site loading.

Anyone else having (recently discovered) problems with Facebook? Anyone else have a clue as to what's causing them?

I've resisted giving up Facebook because I happen to like a lot of its features and since my privacy went in the shitter as soon as I joined the Google ecosystem anyway. But I'm at the point of giving up on it because it's getting hard to use.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Is it Cheating ...

... to devote a blog post to statistics showing that I'm behind my goal for number of blog posts (average one per day)?

Not for the month (this will be post #33 for September), but for the year to date (this will be post #243). I should be at about 270 for the year right now.

I'll try to get caught up. And I'll try to do so with mostly substantive posts rather than too many bon mot things.

Let's Talk About "Context"

I'm driving down a county road at 35 miles per hour.

The speed limit is 25 miles per hour.

The county sheriff pulls me over. We discuss it.

I admit that I was driving 35 miles per hour.

I also hand over surveillance footage, complete with known-distance markers in view and timer watermarks on the footage, from a camera I set up to film myself.

He tells me he plans to write me a speeding ticket.

I object!

First of all, the place is a speed trap where the sheriff or a deputy is always waiting to catch someone speeding. He's been after me for years, that guy.

Secondly, I have it on good authority that he's sped through there himself. Hypocrite!

Thirdly, I used to be a deputy sheriff and I've announced that I plan to run against him for the position of sheriff in the next election. What a witch hunt!

Question: Did I or did I not drive 35 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour speed zone?

Your Honor, I Object

To the use of the term "Baker Act" as a verb.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Thirty Years is More Than Long Enough

It's time for Commissioner Rob Manfred to remove Pete Rose from Major League Baseball's ineligible list.

The Commissioner who declared him ineligible in 1989, A. Bartlett Giamatti, referred to Rose's actions as a "stain" on baseball. They weren't a stain on baseball. They were a stain on Rose.

The stain on baseball is his continued exclusion from consideration for the Hall of Fame after all this time.

That he belongs there simply beyond doubt. A non-monstrous baseball establishment would put him there while he's still alive, so that he can know it and so that his fans can hear from him about it.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

I Think People are Misunderstanding Pelosi's Motives

I see quite a few people acting like they think that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just been waiting to pounce with impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump ever since he was elected, and that her announcement of a formal impeachment probe is her finally acting on her true wishes.

I don't think that's true at all. For the last two years and change, Pelosi has worked as hard as she can to fend off the prospect of impeachment. That hasn't been an act. It's been her genuine intent.

Why? Well, certainly not because she likes Donald Trump, or even because she believes the evidence isn't there to justify impeachment proceedings.

What Nancy Pelosi likes is being the leader of the Democratic Party's contingent in the US House of Representatives, as she has been since 2003.

Pelosi likes that position better when it comes with the title "Speaker of the House" than when the title is "House Minority Leader."

Pelosi didn't, and probably still doesn't, believe that impeachment serves the twin goals of

  1. Maximizing the number of Democrats in the House; and
  2. Keeping her in the top position among Democrats in the House.
So, why did she change her position, if not her mind?

Because she knows how to count votes in the House, that's why.

She calculates that impeachment is going to happen now, whether she likes it or not and despite her previous efforts to stop it.

Impeachment may be The Charge of the Light Brigade, politically speaking, but into the valley of death the 235 shall ride --  whether she's out front leading or in her headquarters tent pouting about it.

Impeachment may hurt the Democrats.

Not being the leader of whatever the Democrats decide to do hurts Pelosi.

So she's saddling up.

Woke Up This Morning ...

... and found that my 33 cent "yes" shares of "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" are up by 50% to 51 cents on PredictIt.

"Yes" shares of "Will Donald Trump be impeached in his first term?" are at 65 cents, up from 31 cents a week ago.

Personally I think that "yes" on "Will the Senate convict Donald Trump on impeachment in his first term?" is over-priced at its current 22 cents, though.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Is Cognitive Dissonance an Inherent Characteristic of Youth?

Looking back to my late teens and early 20s, I realize that I simultaneously:

  • Couldn't believe I would live to see 30; and
  • Couldn't believe I wouldn't live forever
Is that how it is for most people, or is it specific to Gen X?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

An Interesting Point on the Ukraine Call "Transcript"

It's not a verbatim transcript. It's a memorandum "developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with experts and note takers listening."

I agree with FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, who assumes a non-verbatim memorandum crafted by the White House "represents the best-case scenario for Trump."

On the other hand, I doubt even a verbatim transcript would include a direct "nice military ya got there, be a shame if it didn't get those Javelin anti-tank missiles it was expecting ..." from Trump.

And on the third hand, I also agree with Silver that the Trump spin machine may be incorrect in presuming "that the public actually cares about the quid pro quo, rather than viewing Trump telling a foreign leader to investigate a political rival as a prima facie abuse of presidential powers."

For the last two years and then some, Trump and Company have (with, in my opinion, quite a bit of justification) argued that the Obama administration, on behalf of Hillary Clinton, did pretty much exactly the same thing to him that he openly admits to doing to Biden, only using domestic government resources (DOJ, FBI) rather than outsourcing the work to a foreign power. Whether the foreign power angle makes it worse is an interesting question, but I don't see how it isn't at least as bad.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I Don't Bet Money in the Prediction Markets Very Often ...

But I just bought 29 shares of "yes" to the question "Will Donald Trump be impeached by year-end 2019?" at 33 cents per share on PredictIt.

The shares will pay $1 each if:

By 11:59:59 p.m. (ET) on December 31, 2019, the full U.S. House of Representatives shall, by simple majority vote, approve or pass one or more articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump. Neither trial nor conviction by the U.S. Senate, nor removal from office, is necessary to cause this market to resolve as Yes.

The shares are actually down from a high of 42 cents on September 23. But I'm convinced they'll go up over the next few days. I might even sell out before the market resolves, depending on the circumstances.

The market for impeachment by the end of Trump's first term is up to 59 cents from a close of 50 cents yesterday. The question is when the impeachment vote passes the House.

As I mention in a previous post, I expect the House to fast-track impeachment and get it done before the end of the year. I then expect the Senate to slow-walk the actual trial.

A Theological Question

If the God of the Bible is really all-powerful, why did he need to rest on the seventh day?

Two Opinions on Trump

Opinion One: "No more abusive of power than his predecessors, just less slick about it." -- Steve Trinward, from an editor's note on an upcoming link in the newsletter we put out together each morning

Opinion Two: "A little more abusive of power than his predecessors, but that's natural -- the disease of the imperial presidency is systemic and progressive ." -- me, op. cit.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Few Thoughts on Impeachment and the 2020 Democratic Ticket

  1. OK, impeachment is probably unstoppable at this point. The question is time frame. The House and Senate will both "slow-walk" or "fast-track" proceedings based on factors they believe help them more or hurt them less next November.
  2. My guess is that the House will fast-track, because Joe Biden is done. The more quickly that's made clear and the more quickly he drops out, the less damage to the eventual Democratic ticket. He's a scab that has to be torn off in time for the wound to heal over some. And the Republicans are only going to turn up the volume of their "but your guy did it too, and first" howling when impeachment gets real.
  3. My guess is that the Senate will slow-walk because their nomination is a coronation and they think having Trump in the dock toward the peak of the Democrats' primary race (or heck, even as late as their national convention) will benefit him, not them.
  4. It will take more than what's already out there to shame the Republican Senate into convicting. It may not be possible for that to happen under any circumstances. Then again, it may.
Up to now, my (very tentative) prediction for the Democratic nomination has been "Biden, or Warren, or a Biden/Warren ticket."

Now that (still tentative, but less so than before) prediction is "Warren."

Running mate? Probably male. Probably midwestern or southern. Probably a person of color. Buttigieg and Booker each punch two of those categories on the scorecard; Castro hits on all three. But it could be someone who isn't even running for president.

Pretty Miserable Year for Baseball ...

Not that I usually pay much attention to it. I'm a team loyalist. I get interested when the Royals are doing well, and occasionally when the Cardinals or Cubs are looking good for post-season play.

I'm watching Ken Burns's documentary on the sport, and figured I'd go have a look at the standings.

In the American League, there are only two teams (the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers) doing worse than the Royals this year.  The only bright spot is that the Boston Red Sox are in a distant third place in the Eastern Division (behind the damn Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, a team I may go watch play next year and maybe even fall in love with) and seventh league-wide. So hopefully I won't have to avoid watching them in October.

The Cards are in better position -- first in the National League's Central Division, third league-wide, so it could happen.

But yeah, it looks like we're probably going to get a damn Yankees / friggin' Dodgers World Series. Boooooorrrrrrring.

My baseball loyalties are informed by my childhood. My first live game was in the nosebleed seats at Busch Stadium. My second was behind first base for the Royals. Then I bet a crap ton of money (some of which I didn't actually have) on the Royals in the 1985 series, and despite the umpires being completely in the tank for the Cards, won. I'll root for the Cards against anyone except the Royals or, when I'm feeling rebellious, the Cubs. I'll root for the Royals against anyone, period, and for anyone against the damn Yankees.

I've got a mild -- very mild -- weakness for the Mets, because that was my Little League team my second year, the year I made the "majors" (entirely from work ethic and not a bit from ability -- I showed up for every practice, several better players didn't; I played as competently as I could, but my best outing was a "bounce over the fence" double and I can't say I was a great asset to the team).

I Got Two White Horses Following me, Waiting on my Burial Ground

Blind Lemon Jefferson would turn 126 years old today if he'd lived. He died in 1929 of acute myocarditis. Or poison. Or dog attack. Or during a robbery.

I noticed the birthday courtesy of one of the many email newsletters I subscribe to, Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac.

Monday, September 23, 2019

@GovBillWeld is an Idiot


[Donald Trump] has now acknowledged that in a single phone call, right after he suspended 250 million dollars of military aid to Ukraine, he called up the president of Ukraine and pressed him eight times to investigate Joe Biden, who the president thinks is going to be running against him. Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. It couldn’t be clearer, and that’s not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It’s treason and pure and simple and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death. That's the only penalty.

If the allegation is true (and it may be), no, it's not treason under either the US Code or the constitutional provision upon which the US Code provision (18 USC § 2381) is based.

Nor is death "the only penalty" or treason under the US Code.

Apparently Bill Weld was just too busy covering up for the Iran-Contra conspirators and Whitey Bulger's Winter Hill Gang to bother acquainting himself with the laws he was supposedly enforcing as a US Attorney back when.

I'm Kind of on Both Sides Here ...

If Joe Biden was involved in any kind of corrupt scheme to get the Ukrainian government to buy influence through his son, that's not something I want in a president.

If Donald Trump dangled a foreign aid carrot/stick proposition to get a foreign government to investigate one of his political opponents, that's not something I want in a president either.

I'm perfectly willing to believe both things if the evidence for them is convincing.

Of course, there are two big down sides to both of these things potentially being true and potentially having politically fatal consequences:

  1. Unfortunately, we'd still likely end up with a 46th president of the United States; and
  2. That president would likely either be Mike Pence (if Trump got impeached/convicted/removed before next November) or Elizabeth Warren.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Happy 49th Birthday ...

... to one of my favorite workplaces, the op-ed page.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Thanks For Asking! -- 09/19/19

I just realized that's been something like 2 1/2 months since the last AMA thread. So, courtesy of Free Pony Express ...

Ask me anything (yes, anything) in the comment thread below this post and I'll answer. Maybe in comments, maybe in a stand-alone post, maybe in some kind of non-text medium.

Why? Because when The Almighty talks, I listen.

I'm Trying a Different Mass Market Vape Product

Convenience stores in my area are selling the Vuse Alto (not an affiliate link) for 99 cents. A pack of two pods, which according to various reviews I've read lasts about as long as four packs of cigarettes, was $13.xx, so competitively priced. Got mine yesterday.

First impressions:

  • A better vaping experience than the Juul. For some reason, Juul vapor (of any flavor) tends to induce a cough with any significant inhalation. This, not so much (I'm using the menthol). Decent "throat hit," etc.
  • The pods also seem larger than the Juul -- if the reviews are right, about twice the size in terms of how long they last, meaning fewer changes.
  • The device can be used while charging. No "pass-thru" is a major down side of the Juul, IMO.
I might do a more expansive review at some point. Right now, I'm giving it a few days to see if I can stand to replace tobacco cigarettes partially and then fully with it.

I Gotta Admit, @Netanyahu Has Some Balls on Him

Benjamin Netanyahu pulled out all stops to win the latest Israeli election.

He approved new illegal Israeli squats ("settlements") in the occupied West Bank and even promised to annex substantial portions of it.

He made new unsupported assertions about Iranian nuclear activity.

He launched military attacks in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, hoping to provoke a war that might save his bacon.

He even got his friend Donald Trump to publicly muse about a US/Israel "mutual defense" treaty.

Then, despite all that, he and his Likud party lost the election.

So now he's magnanimously offering to share the country's prime ministership with Benny Gantz -- the guy whose Blue and White party just whipped his and his party's asses.

And all of this only a couple of weeks before his pre-indictment hearing on corruption charges.

Chutzpah doesn't even come close to describing that kind of brass.

Elizabeth Warren is a Reactionary, Not a "Progressive"

Every chance she gets, Warren touts the way she grew up and how great that was and how we need to get back there.

She was born in 1949.

She hit college just as LBJ was on his way out but also just as his "Great Society" welfare state hit full bloom. She got to go straight from subsidized college to government employment. She seems to think that her experience was 1) typical and 2) the bee's knees.

I barely remember the LBJ era (my first real political memory is Captain Kangaroo getting preempted by Nixon's resignation), but so far as I can tell it was at least materially a pretty shitty era compared to today. That is, most "middle class" Americans didn't live nearly as well back then as most "poor" Americans do now.

If we must have a president, how about one who faces the future instead of promising to bring back the past?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Michelle Obama for VICE-President?

It honestly hadn't occurred to me, nor had I noticed anyone else suggesting it until yesterday.

My brother and I were talking about likely Democratic tickets.

I said that at the moment it looks like the ticket will be Biden-Warren (although that could change). He said he doesn't think Warren brings anything to a Biden ticket that Biden really needs, and that Michelle Obama would be the smartest pick.

I think he's right (he's not a Democrat, btw, and at this point really doesn't give a tinker's damn who's in the White House anymore).

There's been some chatter about her running for president, but that seems unlikely. We've already seen what happens to former first ladies who get the top slot, and she doesn't have a resume full of political or CEO qualifications.

On the other hand, in the VP slot, she would very much be helpful in getting two important Democratic demographics (African-American voters and female voters) off their asses and to the polls, and probably especially so in Wisconsin and Michigan, two swing states where a few thousand votes would have made the difference last time.

Then there's the dynasty/Cinderalla story angle: Obama-Biden 2009-2017; Biden-Obama 2021-2029; Obama-? 2037-2045? Heads would be exploding on all sides in both good and bad ways on that.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

I Am Convinced ...

... that the John Wick movies take place in the Matrix universe (no, I'm not the first one to think that). I'm just not sure where they fit in the Matrix timeline. Some possibilities:

  1. John Wick's story is a dream Thomas Anderson has before the events of The Matrix. It is through these dreams that Morpheus (the god of dreams/sleep) begins trying to contact him, in the persona of the Bowery King.
  2. The John Wick universe is a highly immersive training program, a mini-Matrix in which the memory of the trainee of an outside existence is blocked, used by Zion to toughen up its operatives.  John Wick's story takes place on Neo's first day of training aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, probably somewhere between "I'm gonna learn jiu jitsu?" and "I know kung fu."
  3. At times, the Matrix films heavily imply that The One is actually an intelligent program himself, like the Oracle, the Keymaster, the Merovingian (who may even be a previous iteration of Neo), et al. (but apparently running in a "real" human body a la Agent Smith in the second and third films). The John Wick universe is an agent training program in which The One learns to believe itself human and accept a human personal history, as well to excel at human combat without as much permitted deviation from the rules of the Matrix.
  4. The John Wick universe is a milieu into which the Source inserts Neo after his final battle with Smith. In this universe, Neo is allowed to work out his rage over the death of Trinity, and possibly other emotional issues, without having to actually remember them, while awaiting the restoration of his real physical body to health.
There might be others. But I'm convinced there's a relationship for several reasons, among them:

  1. While I haven't cataloged the changes, it seems to me that (at least in the third John Wick film) there's a similar blue tint/green tint shift to that which takes place in the Matrix films between "real world" and "in-Matrix."
  2. The role of The Bowery King vis a vis John Wick increasingly implies a relationship not dissimilar to that of Morpheus vis a vis Neo.
  3. Winston's ability to stop motion/time in the John Wick universe.
  4. The final scene of John Wick 2 in which "normal" people seem to transform into near-future enemies as Wick walks away from the meeting with Winston in which he learns he will become excommunicado in an hour.
  5. The first scene of John Wick 3 in which a homeless man (who appears later, but I won't spoil that) instantaneously goes from schizophrenic raving mode to knowledgeable message delivery mode.
  6. I haven't carefully re-watched all three movies for line overlap between the franchises, but obviously "guns ... lots of guns" isn't accidental. Yeah, it could have been thrown in just for fun, but it could also be a nod to the relationship.

Yes, I watched John Wick 3 last night and went to sleep thinking about this shit. As if you hadn't figured that out by the end of the first sentence or two.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Oh, I See. Do You?

Since 2015, I've ordered several pairs of glasses from EyeBuyDirect (yes, that's an "affiliate link," I'll explain more at the very bottom of this post) for myself or family members.

The most expensive pair came to $50.90, including shipping. That was for a pair of bifocals with anti-reflective coating and upgraded lenses (lighter-weight ones).

The average cost for a pair of glasses for me -- single-vision, usually no extras -- has been less than $20, including shipping. I got a little fancy more than a year ago and spent ~$25 per pair on one pair of regular glasses with a blue light filter and a pair of prescription sunglasses. 

That first pair did just break on me. Not catastrophically. It's just that the area where the right ear piece meets the main frame is starting to break around the screw. Not surprising. I take my glasses off quite a bit (I'm near-sighted and instead of getting bifocals I just remove my glasses when I sit down in front of my computer, which I probably do 15-20 times a day). And when I take them off, the way I grab them seems to put most of the stress on that particular area.

Got a new pair arriving today. $22.82 including shipping. Single-vision, anti-glare filter (it occurred to me that since most of my screen time is "glasses off," the blue filter didn't make much sense, but glare is often an annoyance when out and about).

If I said there haven't been any problems with glasses from EyeBuyDirect, I'd be lying. One pair of Tamara's just felt flimsy and cheap to her. My 18-year-old has managed to break two pairs in six months; the jury is out on whether that's really EyeBuyDirect's fault or whether he's just hard on glasses.

I've been happy with my EyeBuyDirect glasses. Our vision insurance has an allowance of up to (IIRC) $150 for frames and lenses, and I have yet to find a pair (let alone two pairs) I like at one of the approved providers that would end up costing me less out of pocket than I pay by just buying them from EyeBuyDirect. Also, that may be a whole family allowance, I'm not sure.

So here's the thing -- if you buy from EyeBuyDirect using my referral link, you get $10 off your first purchase, and I get $10 credit toward my next pair of glasses.

Unless you need bifocals or want something fancy, that $10 is probably going to bring your cost down to well below $20 for a pair of glasses. Which seems like it might be worth trying, even if you just want a spare pair to keep in a drawer for emergencies, or some prescription sunglasses for when you're going out.

Mondale v. Warren

Walter Mondale, 1984: "Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He will not tell you. I just did."

Elizabeth Warren, 2019: "I will raise your taxes. I will not tell you, but if you listen closely I just did."

If Warren wants to argue that savings on health care would exceed increases in taxes for the "middle class" she claims to care so much about under her version of "Medicare For All," she should have the guts to actually make that case instead of ducking under the podium every time the t-word gets brought up.

Warren in particular likes to pretend that all of her grand schemes can be paid for by scrounging around behind the couch cushions of "the rich" for a little spare change. But the countries whose systems she seeks to emulate tend to have a higher overall tax burden (as a percentage of GDP), with that burden distributed more broadly and falling more heavily on the "middle class," than the US.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Search Engine Frustration

I've been trying out various versions of the following search on several engines:

automatically generate new forum topics from an RSS feed

The results (at least the first few pages of results) invariably go the other way (how to generate an RSS feed of forum topics).

I've also manually browsed quite a few Wordpress plug-ins from both ends (forum plug-ins and RSS handling plug-ins) and haven't found what I'm looking for.

Does anyone know of a pre-fab script or plug-in that works with this or that forum software to automatically generate new forum topics based on periodic checks of an RSS feed?

It sounds like a relatively simple problem to solve for someone who, you know, actually writes scripts and plug-ins. Cron job to check the feed every X minutes. New item? Create a forum topic with the item's title and a link to the item.

By "relatively simple," I mean beyond my capabilities without quite a bit of study. I have to re-"learn" PHP every time I want to do weird shit with a Wordpress theme. Any heavier lifting than that would be a major investment of time and skull sweat.

Morpheus is Fighting Neo ... er, Rogan is Interviewing Bostrom!

The interview isn't completely about the Simulation Hypothesis, but a lot of it is, and some areas I've thought about but never heard Bostrom discuss are included. A favorite topic of mine, and a great show.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

They Really Do Think We're Stupid

And maybe they're right.

I got a fundraising email from a Democratic Party outfit yesterday:

We wish we had better news.

But Democrats are about to lose our shot at winning the North Carolina Special Election.

And almost no one -- seriously NO ONE -- is donating.

The numbers don’t lie: if we don’t hit our mid-day fundraising goals, Trump will CRUSH us.

The implication was that a donation before noon on election day could affect the outcome of the election being held that day. Which, of course, is BS. The only situation in which it might do so would be a recount situation, which couldn't be predicted in advance. There's almost no way that a donation sent at, say, 10am could have been received and deployed on anything that would have impacted the outcome at the ballot box.

Yes, it was weasel-worded so that if called on it they could say "oh, no, what we really meant was that if we don't raise money now, we'll lose future elections, including the 2020 presidential race." But there's no doubt what impression they were trying to convey.

I wonder how many recipients pulled out their debit cards, honestly believing that their dollars might make a difference yesterday in North Carolina. I have to assume that at least some did. These guys aren't new at this stuff. They monitor which kinds of emails do well and what kinds don't, and they wouldn't have sent this one if they didn't expect it to bring in money.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Just Because There's a Bad Guy ...

... it doesn't follow that there's a good guy.

In any given US foreign policy situation, I run into people who notice the US government is one of the "bad guys" and therefore assume that that makes, say, the Syrian government or the Iranian government or the Chinese government "the good guys." I'm sometimes amazed at how far they'll go to hold firm to that assumption.

When we're talking about states, it's pretty much bad guys all the way down.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Probably the Dumbest Thing I've Read So Far This Week

In the New York Times, Max Fisher bemoans the excesses of "populism" and lauds the resilience of British "democracy" -- by way of cheering the UK House of Commons's moves to extend its veto tantrums over the result of the largest democratic referendum in UK history and prevent an election that might force them to do what that democratic referendum told them to do.

I Can't Believe I Shaved My Legs For This

At the end, Gainesville was supposed to get some wind and thunderstorms off the edge of Dorian. It got a breeze and periodic sprinkles. Not even the usual afternoon shower!

Tom Woods, who lives somewhere closer to the coast down by Orlando, told his email list that his total hurricane damage amounted to a couple of fake plants getting knocked over.

On the one hand, yay. I don't cheer hurricane damage and the possible associated injury or death. I hope Georgia and the Carolinas don't fare badly either.

On the other hand, I suspect there's a "boy who cried storm" problem. That is, the more times we get warned it's gonna be bad and it ends up not being bad, the more people get less prepared the next time. Which will end up with some of those people getting hurt or killed. 

Hopefully over time we'll get more accurate forecasts, and get them earlier.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Dorian is getting weaker, but it's also getting wider.

Last I checked (a few hours ago), Gainesville looked likely to get 25-30 mph winds and a couple of inches of rain starting tomorrow afternoon. No biggie. A bit of a blow, but not "seek alternative shelter" weather. More like "get as much work as possible done in the morning because it's reasonable to expect power outages lasting up to a day or more starting in the afternoon" weather.

But if the storm veers even a little to the west, or gets even 20-30 miles wider, that could increase to tropical storm, or even category 1 or 2 hurricane, conditions.

Tornadoes are scarier -- for a few minutes or maybe a few hours. After which, assuming you survive, the power is still on, and the stores are still open 20 miles down the road, and you can get out to drive to them, even if the funnel came right over your house.

This 5-10 day sphincter-clenching stuff sucks.

Monday, September 02, 2019

I Disagree

Harley-Davidson just showed off a coming set of electric bicycles. Writing at The Motley Fool, Rich Duprey muses:

The biggest problem for the company may be the Harley name itself. There are already plenty of e-bikes on the market manufactured by companies that have more street credibility in the space than a motorcycle specialist that has built its brand around gears, grease, oil, and leather.

I think he's got it exactly backward.

The electric bicycle space is still pretty small. Most people who are eventually going to have them aren't even thinking about them yet. And most people who start thinking about them for the first time will have heard of Harley-Davidson, but not necessarily of those existing e-bike manufacturers.

Harley has a distinctive brand and decades of positive name recognition in the larger transportation space. That gives it an advantage both in growing the e-bike space and in benefiting from the growth of that space.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Amazon Both Unpleasantly and Pleasantly Surprises Me

Hurricane prep is an ongoing thing. We try to keep various "the power is out for a few days" items around the house, but there's always something we think of, or that we have some of but want more of.

On Friday, early enough that Tamara was still at work and there was no question of heading to the store, fighting crowds, facing shortages, etc., I looked up a couple of those last-minute ideas on Amazon.

Both items -- a little solid-fuel camp stove for heating up water for coffee, and an extra power bank to keep phones charged for a while longer -- advertised delivery by Sunday (today, September 1) for Prime members (c'est moi).

Since Amazon normally says "expect delays during time frame X" when they need to because there's an impending or ongoing natural disaster, I took them at their word, ordered the items, and went about my business.

Then when I got back that night from fighting crowds, facing shortages, etc. for other things, I saw the "your order has shipped" notice in my inbox. Items scheduled to arrive ... September  9.

So I griped.

Nope, nothing they can do about it, the items will be there as soon as possible, so sorry and here's a $5 credit by way of apology.

Which is about a third of my money back, and whaddayagonnado?

So, it's now Sunday, September 1.

One of the items has already arrived in Gainesville and the other left Jacksonville for Gainesville early this morning. I will probably get at least one of them, possibly both of them, today, and almost certainly get both of them by tomorrow. Cool.

Amazon was being unduly pessimistic. It's just that they got unduly pessimistic after I ordered instead of before I ordered. Otherwise I wouldn't have complained and got part of my money back.

And that kind of response seems to be the usual with Amazon.

I think I've probably griped at them three or four times in more than 20 years as a customer and over the course of hundreds, maybe more than a thousand, orders (started slow -- I ordered one thing, a used paperback, from them in their first year in business -- but these days it's a strange week when there's not at least one Amazon order from my household).

All three or four times, they've either made it right or comped me some kind of apology gift. A free month of Prime once, and this time a $5 credit. The third time I can think of, they sent a replacement for a defective $2.99 item and told me not to bother sending the original back; if there was a fourth gripe, it escapes me what it was but there's something tickling my memory.

Not that I like everything Amazon is or does, but as a customer I have to say I've received damn good service.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

France ...

... is the Florida of Europe.

The Latest on Dorian ...

"Hurricane Dorian threat to Carolinas grows as likelihood of direct hit on Florida decreases."

Not out of the woods, exactly ... at the moment it looks like the eye of the thing will probably head north off the Florida coast, probably producing severe storms even as far inland as I am. But probably doesn't mean very much. I'm still well within the predictive "cone."

The difference I'm seeing at the moment is a slightly higher probability of one or two, versus four or five, days without electricity, a slightly lower probability of various trees crushing my trailer like a bug, etc. So we're still planning for living without electricity, possibly bugging out to safer shelter, etc.

This is actually the part I hate worst when thinking of hurricanes versus tornadoes or earthquakes. With the latter two, you don't have a week to prepare, but you also don't have a week to worry and ponder uncertainties. The latter two are over in seconds, minutes, or hours and if they do hit you chances are everything's just fine 20 miles away, instead of everything for 100 miles being dark.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Scott Horton Debates Dr. Strangelove ...

... just down the street from Dr. Strange's place!

Wish I could be there, but I probably can't. Maybe you can, though.

Could NPCs be self-aware/sentient?

These days, I tend to analyze my own existence on the untestable, but plausible, assumption that we live in a simulation.

I sort of naturally also assume I'm a "player character" who's immersed in that simulation to such a degree or in such a way that I can't know for sure that it's a simulation and have no way of exiting the simulation into the "real" world (which could itself be a simulation) other than (possibly) death within the simulation.

A third assumption is that at least some of the people around me are "non-player characters" -- existing wholly within the simulation.

But suppose I'm a "non-player character" myself?

It's not obvious to me that a technology capable of creating simulated realities couldn't also create self-aware/sentient NPCs.

Hell, maybe we're ALL NPCs and this simulation is a much more interesting version of an aquarium screensaver with all of us as the tropical fish.

I don't think it's a safe assumption that an NPC's only exit from the simulation would be the creation, within the simulation, of new simulations. Perhaps the reality or "higher" simulation with the technology to create this one also has the technology to pluck self-aware/sentient NPCs out of it and plug them into bodies in its own reality.

Hell, maybe it's simulations all the way down (or up).

So I guess my best bet is just to treat this likely simulation as the only reality I'm ever going to experience, and try to play by its rules as best I understand them. If I have any choice in the matter, that is. Could an NPC be self-aware/sentient, but also pre-destined?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Battening Down ...

As of the last time I checked (a couple of hours ago), we're at the center of Dorian's storm cone. That is, the percentages say that it's going to hit about 80 miles east of us and then head right for us. Earlier, it was going to do that as a Category 3 hurricane on Sunday evening or Monday morning. Now it's going to do that as a Category 4 hurricane on Monday evening or Tuesday morning.

All of which means nobody really knows what it's actually going to do, but things could get interesting. More importantly as the blog goes, things could get powerless and Internet-less for several days. We'll be seeking a hidey-hole (a mobile home on a wooded acre is not ideal storm shelter), and I'll probably have another post or three before that happens, but if I'm incommunicado for a few days next week you'll know why.


Camera One: "Trump looked to the sky and proclaimed himself The Chosen One while talking to reporters at the White House."

Camera Two: "Hurricane Dorian to strengthen, slam Florida as major Category 3 storm on Labor Day"

Well, yes, coincidence ... but anyone dumb enough to believe the first one is probably also dumb enough to believe the second one could be related.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Well, That Doesn't Look Too Good

Sunday evening's forecast for my neck of the woods:

Irma brought trees down right into my kitchen a couple of years ago. Looks like Dorian could be worse. Fortunately, I think most of the trees within falling range of the house that are likely to come down already have come down. But I expect I'll find somewhere else to be that night.

Monday, August 26, 2019

An Explanation of the Facts for Those Continuing to Treat Kamala Harris as a Viable Democratic Presidential Primary Candidate

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Weekends Like This ...

... are why I try to blog a lot earlier in the month. Never know what's going to come up and I do want to manage 30 or more posts per month on average.

I was planning to get quite a bit of writing done this weekend -- a couple of blog posts, Monday's column, some work on another project I'll be telling you about eventually. I also expected to have time to bike 10 miles on Saturday and maybe even finally get to the theater to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Then things just started drifting south in a big way.

First the neighbor's dog died.

Good dog, Pepper. About a year ago, the neighbor took her to the vet with a swelling in her right jaw. Cancer. Incurable. No point in operating, it will just come back. Here's some anti-biotics for a related infection and some anti-inflammatories for the pain and swelling.

I've been visiting next door twice a day for months to help get pills down her gullet, etc. And she seemed to have a pretty good quality of life until late this last week, when she started to have trouble getting up and walking. Yesterday, Tamara and I dropped by. Pepper gave her usual greeting bark, wagged her tail, and headed for the back door (her owner has trouble getting around, so Pepper would wait for one of us to come by before asking to be let outside).

Maybe 15 minutes later she was dead. Went outside, did her business, lay down on the grass. I went out to see if she needed help getting up. She couldn't get up at all. I carried her inside, and by the time we got there she wasn't breathing.

So, I buried her, got a nap (it was hot and I was tired), and then Tamara and I went out to do some household shopping. During which time we got the call: My daughter's 1998 Volvo S-90 had been rear-ended by a pickup truck at a red light. No major apparent injuries, but a few hours at the ER awaiting examination, CAT scan, etc.

I'm glad she was driving a Volvo. The car is basically gone from its rear end to its rear axle, but both occupants walked away with minor visible scratches.

So, how was your weekend?

Friday, August 23, 2019

So I'm Doing This Thing ...

I've walked and biked hundreds (heck, maybe thousands by now -- I got my "500 Mile Club" t-shirt a long time ago) of miles to raise money for charity using the Charity Miles phone app. Every time I log a walk or cycling session, a sponsor donates.

Now there's an additional "pledge tool." My friends pledge some amount per mile, and if I make the goal by the deadline, they contribute that amount to Habitat For Humanity.

My goal is to bike 500 miles before the end of the year. I'm at 32 miles at the moment, and starting to pick up the pace (I need to average around five miles per day by the end of the year to make the goal; my exercise goal is to work back up to 10 miles per day, five days a week; so if I make the latter, I'll certainly make the former).

If you support Habitat For Humanity's mission -- building homes for the poor, more than 800,000 of them so far -- you can help with that commission AND motivate me to exercise more by pledging a few cents per mile (a five cent per mile pledge would come to $25 total).

Here's where you go to pledge.

Thanks in advance.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Nuance ...

... may be pleasing in art, but when applied to politics or policy proposals is either a catastrophic flaw or a mendacious dodge.


Friday, August 16, 2019

How You Know Most Americans Have Surrendered to the Terrorists (and the Establishment's Panic-Mongering)

New York Post:

Police are questioning a man who was allegedly seen leaving at least two rice cookers in a subway station, and sparking an evacuation in Lower Manhattan Friday morning, law enforcement sources told The Post.

spark, v. put in motion or move to act

Even the cops admit they don't know "whether it was to breed fear and alarm the public, or whether he was discarding items he was no longer interested in."

But they're already blaming him for the panic and police response.

People see a rice cooker lying around and lose their minds, and it's someone else's fault?

It's Alive!

I'd been mulling the possibility of converting my busted-screen Lenovo Chromebook into a desktop machine for a little while, but the "Your Chromebook has received its last software update in accordance with the Auto Update Policy" situation with my Asus Chromebox pushed me over the edge.

The problem: The Chromebook only has one video out port, and I must run dual monitors.

The solution: Either get a USB monitor, or find a way to hook another video type to USB.

Hello, eBay: "USB 3.0 to DVI Video Adapter."

And it works. HDMI out to my HDMI monitor, USB out to my DVI monitor, lid shut so it isn't trying to display on the broken screen. I'm in business.

I do need to grab a USB hub, because I don't have any ports left (one for the video out, one for a wireless keyboard/mouse dongle), but now I'm running a newer ChromeOS hardware platform (this one supports Android apps -- last time I checked, it didn't handle native Linux apps like some newer Chromebooks, but I haven't checked recently and there have been several OS updates) on the same amount of RAM (4Gb) and IIRC similar CPU type and  speed (Intel Celeron @ 1.x where x > 5 -- GHz).

But I'm still thinking about that Pi 4. The Chromebook takes up more space than I like and I haven't set my mind to figuring out a better place to put it where all the cables will still reach and so forth.

UPDATE SHORTLY AFTER POSTING: Bam! It does support a Linux virtual machine now! I'm rusty on my command line skills, but plan to try a few things.

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