Friday, May 31, 2019

Have You Ever Noticed?

If regular people want to directly change a law, it's usually expensive and difficult to put a voter initiative on the ballot (if it's even possible at all; in many places it isn't). And if voters don't approve that initiative, it's either over for good or it takes years to raise the money, gather the signatures, etc., to do the whole thing over again.

But if it's something government officials want that requires voter approval -- like a sales or property tax increase for this or that purpose -- they just put the thing up for a vote over and over again (with scarier stories about the consequences of not giving them their way each time) until they get the result they want (after which, see the first paragraph for what it takes to undo that result).

I'm not necessarily sure it should be easier than it is to do "voter initiatives." But it should certainly be harder than it is to do "government officials' initiatives."

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Ah, a Clue to my Exercise-Related Knee Pain ...

One of my assumptions about why my knees go to shit when I bicycle daily or near-daily for very long has been that it's related to an accident in boot camp.

My platoon was moving out for infantry basic training at Camp Pendleton. We were carrying heavy packs. The column came to a halt in front of me. I came to a halt too. Several people behind me kept going, and I was knocked down -- onto my knees -- on pavement with a lot of weight on my back. No biggie.

Two weeks later, back at MCRD San Diego, I ran my best three miles ever (a little over 20 minutes -- I'm not the fastest man on Earth). As I crossed the finish line there was a sudden sound like a rifle shot from one of my knees and I went down on the ground again, then immediately to sick bay (with assistance). I had hairline cracks in both my kneecaps and spent a couple of weeks on crutches, on "light duty," with the worse leg in a brace.

So I figured my knees were just screwed up from that and that it was starting to show with age. Which may in fact be part of the problem.  But then I saw a link that led to this article at WebMD:

Ahhh ... it lists five tendon-related problems that tend to come with diabetes, three of which I've had (rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, and Dupuytren's contracture). It doesn't mention the knees, but adding patellar tendinitis to the list doesn't seem like a stretch (pun intended).

Some Things I Need (and am Willing to Earn)

I've really got some nerve, don't I? This is only my 10th blog post for the month when it should be (at least) my 29th. Yes, I've got all kinds of excuses.* Yes, I intend to do better. Yes, as I occasionally do, I'm coming to my readers and supporters about some things I need ("want" if you insist, but I consider them reasonably necessary), in the hope that some of you might feel like helping out (either as a contribution or by throwing some work my way).

Two of the three things I'm looking for are on my Amazon Wish List, but if you have something similar lying around, want to use a vendor rather than Amazon, etc., that's fine too. Just hit the contact form and we can figure out how to get it done.

Thing #1: Nakto 26" City Adult Electric Bicycle

How necessary? Well, bicycling is my preferred mode of transportation, but my knees are shot and I can't pedal like I used to (in fact, I used to be able to pedal quite a bit, for a couple of months, after which my knees would be swollen and painful all the time until I stopped cycling).

This or something like this is the difference between going where I want, when I want, and going where I want if my wife or daughter happen to feel like driving me there. I find it preferable to getting a driver's license and paying as much or more for a gas-engine scooter that I'd also have to insure.

If you hit the wish list link, you'll see that I've selected the "women's" version of the Nakto City bike. I don't consider myself a sissy, but I think a step-through makes more sense, especially in town where there are frequent stops. I like the idea of being able to step forward off the seat and put my feet on the ground without crushing my testicles.

I selected the Nakto based on price, reviews, battery size and configuration. I looked at another brand's "mountain bike" priced $15 cheaper including shipping, but:

1) The other bike had an 8-amp-hour battery while the Nakto has a 10-amp-hour battery (both 36 volts, both pushing a 250-watt motor);

2) The other bike was a "men's" model with that testicle-crushing top bar;

3) The other bike had the battery placed on the front diagonal bar, right below said testicles, while the Nakto's battery is mounted behind the upright below the seat post. If a battery explodes, I'd rather have it pointing slightly away from my ass than directly toward my balls when it does so; and

4) The other bike is sold by numerous vendors and reviews indicated poor (in fact, non-existent) customer service from those vendors; the Nakto comes directly from Nakto itself, and I was able to find a fairly thorough YouTube review that made it look like a pretty solid bike.

BUT: If someone has an electric bike that doesn't get used, or a conversion kit that never got used, that could work too.

Thing 2: ASUS Chromebook C523NA-DH02

My last Chromebook shit the bed (bad screen). I need a laptop for when I travel (in fact, that's one of my "light blogging" excuses, see the TL;DR at the bottom of this post), and I prefer a Chromebook. They're cheap, they're reliable, and no matter how many times you tell me (or I think) I should extricate myself from the Google ecosystem, I'm still in it and preferring it.

This Chromebook was the best machine I could find at a reasonable price that met my minimum specifications (at least a 14" screen -- this is a 15.6" screen -- an Intel or AMD processor, at least 4Gb of RAM, and not an Acer -- I've had bad experiences with Acer computers, while ASUS is my my preferred hardware brand).

BUT: If someone has a reasonably modern Chromebook (or another laptop that I could put Chromium on) lying around, that could work too.

Thing 3: Money

I've been saving up for a trip "home" -- Springfield, Missouri, to visit my mom who moved into a nursing home about six months ago. I figure the trip is going to come to $500, give or take. My Trip Home Travel Fund is at about $350.

So ... every little bit helps, and if you have a writing job or something of the sort that you're willing to trade or pay for, I'm up for that. Or if it's a goodness of your heart kind of thing, that works too.

* My 74-year-old neighbor has been through a rough couple of years -- two kinds of cancer and circulation problems requiring two surgeries. This last month included one of those surgeries and an extended period of being near-completely unable to get around. For the last few weeks, I've probably averaged eight hours a day at her house assisting with various things. And without a laptop, I can't plop down and whip out a blog post when there's a break. When I get home, my priorities are the Garrison Center and Rational Review News Digest. That situation is improving now (she's finally able to get up and down and tend to her own household chores without constant assistance), so regular blogging should resume starting today.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Notice to @USAttorneys G. Zachary Terwilliger (@USATerwilliger) and John Demers (of @EDVAnews), and as Yet Unknown/Un-Named Co-Conspirators

Re: Julian Assange

18 U.S. Code § 241. Conspiracy against rights

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or

If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured --

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

You are conspiring to kidnap Julian Assange for the purpose of injuring/oppression him in the free exercise and enjoyment of the constitutionally secured rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

That makes you criminals.

It's probably not the first such incident, either. It just happens to be the first one to come to my attention.

You may or may not ever be legally held to account for your open and flagrant violations of the law cited above, but all decent human beings can and should shun you, decline you service at their places of business, deny you communion or other religious rites intended for the upstanding and/or penitent, urge your significant others to separate from and/or divorce you and seek honest, non-abusive partners (and custody of any children, to cut off your ability to corrupt them), etc., until and unless you give up the thug life and make restitution to your victims.

Consider this a call on you to do the latter and, until and unless you do, all decent human beings to do the former.

That is all.

Well, the Damage is Done

The US government "blacklisted" Huawei Technologies, a Chinese company selling products and services in more than 170 countries and to 45 of the world's 50 largest telecom operators, with networks used by 1/3 of the world's population, last week. The excuse: "National security." The real reason: Economic protectionism.

Obviously the "blacklisting" hurts Huawei. But it hurts US companies worse, and even if it was reversed today the damage would already be done and at least partially irreversible.

Google revoked Huawei's access to Android software (and Google-provided hardware). That decision was reversed after the US regime gave Huawei 90 days to do, well, something (no matter what Huawei does, the regime will likely say that it didn't get done).

Qualcomm stopped selling chips to Huawei. So did Intel. And Arm.

Panasonic and Vodafone and EE and Microsoft are dumping Huawei as well.

(Above list from Business Insider)

OK, so let's assume the matter gets "resolved."

If you ran Huawei, would you just blithely return to doing business with the companies above and hope this doesn't happen again?

Hell, no.  Huawei has been working on its own phone OS for some time, and certainly cultivating, or at least keeping an eye on, potential alternative hardware suppliers and such. Even if the US regime says "OK, just kidding, you can go back to doing business with all the companies we just bullied into dumping you," Huawei is going amp up its efforts to make itself immune to this kind of thing.

Which means that even if Huawei is only temporarily cut off from the US market, US companies are probably going to be permanently cut off from Huawei. They're going to become entirely its competitor instead of it remaining one of their biggest customers.

And every other non-US company (and consumer) in the world is watching this happen. Are they going to trust Google, Qualcomm, Intel, Arm et al. to fill their future needs? Or are they going to assume that this could happen to them next and act accordingly by dealing with companies in countries whose governments they think they can trust not to screw them in this way?

How much of the future global technology/telecom market did the US just cost American companies?

Donald Trump, and whoever advised him to pull this bullshit caper, are fucking idiots.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Reducing the Increase in the Thing Isn't Reducing the Thing, Regulation Edition

You're familiar with the usual legerdemain:

One party brags that it's cutting spending on X.

The other party screams about the draconian cuts to X.

The first party then "defends" itself by admitting that it's not really cutting spending on X, just cutting previously projected future increases in spending on X.

I suspected that the same would be the case with Donald Trump's executive order on regulatory measures:

Unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency (agency) publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.

Emphases mine. The order doesn't require actual repeal of two regulations for each new regulation. It merely requires regulatory agencies to point to two regulations and say "OK, those" any time a new regulation is added. What happens after that is anyone's guess, and the best guess is that most of "those" will quickly be forgotten about and remain in place.

A piece by Craig Eyermann today at the Independent Institute, which discusses "President Trump’s initiative to reduce the burden of federal regulations on Americans," includes this chart from the Mercatus Center:

That federal regulatory burden, at least along the metrics measured by Mercatus, continued to rise after he issued the order, and is only just now back down to about where it was when he was inaugurated.

It will be interesting to see if the burden continues to decrease to pre-Trump levels, or if we'll end up with bragging about "a reduction of the increase we would otherwise have seen" when it's all said and done. If I had to bet, I'd bet on the latter outcome.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What I've Been Watching ...

... and why I haven't been blogging much:

Roderick Long recommended The Expanse in a recent blog post.

Shortly thereafter, I ran into a personal situation that required me to spend considerable time away from my computer* (hence the minimal blogging -- I got home to write columns and edit RRND, but not much time beyond that), in a place where I could use my Amazon Fire TV Stick to stream stuff, so I binged all three seasons.

That happens to have been a fortunate situation in terms of being able and willing to stick through two or three episodes before the show really started making sense. After which, it became a great ride. Thanks for that recommendation, Dr. Long!

The end of the third season is a pretty satisfying series finale -- but Amazon picked up the show when Syfy dropped it, and there's at least one more season coming. I'll be interested to see where they take a story line with lots of options created by the previous finale.

Rumor has it that Amazon's pickup of the show was specifically related to Jeff Bezos himself liking it. You know, the guy who runs another company (Blue Origin) focused on human space travel and who recently talked at length about his personal vision of a future featuring O'Neill cylinders, etc.

* I recently took out my Chromebook to use while away from home and the screen is f**ked. I don't know if it "went bad" in some way, or if someone in the household stomped on it, or what. Gonna have to get a new laptop, probably another Chromebook. Having a new screen put in this one would cost half as much as the machine itself did. I may turn it into a "headless" machine and run it as a desktop or something. It's  a step up from my current desktop Chromebox in terms of specs.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Oh, How Cute -- They're Trying to Humanize the Tyrant

Jacinta Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, hopped right on the Christchurch mosque shootings as an excuse to jump-start her regime's victim disarmament and censorship/political imprisonment agenda.

Cue charm offensive.

She'd been with her partner for six years and had a kid with him, but hey, better announce an engagement.

And make a big to-do about returning a schoolgirl's "bribe" with a cute note about research on dragons and telepathy.

And so on and so forth.

Oh, look, cute, cuddly, friendly Aunt Jacinda. Just give your guns to Jacinda and shut the fuck up when Jacinda tells you to and everything will be just fine.

If she doesn't want to be seen as New Zealand's version of Stalin, wouldn't it be easier to just, you know, quit acting like New Zealand's version of Stalin?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Thinking About Going Electric ...

Not electric guitar, or electric car. Electric bicycle.

I loved cycling for both exercise and transportation, but my knees just can't take it for more than a few weeks (yes, I've tried glucosamine supplements, etc., and they didn't help much -- I think it probably has something to do with having broken both of my kneecaps in the distant past).

I don't really need a car. Or, rather, if I did, I could just share one with Tamara. Transport-wise, I'm interested in having something to get around town on when she and/or the car aren't available, and it doesn't need to have huge cargo capacity.

I thought about a motorcycle, but I'd probably kill myself on one of those. A scooter is more attractive ...

... but either one would mean getting a driver's license (I think my last one expired in 2004 and I haven't bothered since because I stopped driving around that time due to a hand tremor which has long since disappeared) and paying for insurance, which seems like it's going overboard to dispose of an inconvenience rather than fill a dire need.

An electric bicycle wouldn't entail a driver's license or insurance payments.

It looks like the current "reasonable price" crop (if you consider $500-600 "reasonable") can hit 20 miles per hour and have about a 20-mile range on one battery if you're not doing any pedaling at all.

My plan would be to carry an extra battery. A 40-mile battery range would presumably be plenty to get me all over the Gainesville area and around the parts of the countryside I like to visit, even if I didn't want to do some actual pedaling myself (and I would want to do as much as I could, just not so much that I start having knee problems again).

When there's substantial traffic, that 20mph will stand me in better stead in bike lanes and on bike trails than a car will on the street. I've biked from my rural digs into town and found myself seeing the same car at each stoplight, until that car stopped catching up with me. And IN town, a bike ride is often a straight shot with few stops while a car ride is almost always bunch of detours with lights at each intersection.

So: Cheaper to buy than even an old beater of a car, especially since I wouldn't be making monthly insurance payments. Faster transportation than a car to many of the places I go. Maintenance, probably mostly stuff I could do myself rather than having to hire a mechanic for.

Other than it kind of sucking to bike in the rain (I can deal with that), seems like the winning solution. So now I just have to locate an extra $600 or so and I'm off to the (20 mph or less) races.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Some Thoughts on Comedic "Originality"

Conan O'Brien just settled a lawsuit with a fellow who claims that O'Brien's writers "stole" several jokes from his Twitter feed. Here's his explanation of why he settled. I kind of wish he hadn't, because he was pretty clearly in the right.

I'm enjoying the process of writing stand-up bits. I've done two short public sets now, and both of them got laughs from the audience (the first one more so than the second one, possibly because I inadvertently over-did the booze just a little before the second one -- hey, it was Tankard Night at The Midnight! -- and may have slurred a bit, etc.).

Every time I think I have a bit starting to get into shape, I Google some of my text to see if I'm doing something that's been done before.

I've yet to find a word-for-word match of any substantial bit of content, but if I did I'd make changes or abandon the bit, even though I would know that I came up with the joke independently.


While I don't consider "intellectual property" to be a valid concept, I understand why comics (and audiences) disdain a copycat.

When I tell a joke, the first and most important goal is to get a laugh (or multiple laughs out of a longer bit). The second goal is to do so in a way that the audience finds unique or close to unique -- that makes them consider the joke mine, something I brought them.

As with other types of stories, there are really only so many possible joke plots. Joke plotting works a little differently than most story plotting, but there are still only so many interesting topics and so many takes the basic formulas for jokes lead to on those topics. But you still need to find a way to be "original." That's what I'm working on now.

Songs are stories, too, and the same plot constraints apply, but there's still a difference between "covers" and "originals," and between cover bands and bands doing their own things. One of those differences is audience expectation. If you pay a five dollar cover charge to see a local cover band doing a bunch of Lynyrd Skynrd songs at the local bar, you're probably going to be OK with the deal. If you pay 20 times as much to see an "original" arena act, and that act isn't Lynyrd Skynyrd, you're probably gonna be pissed if the whole show is Skynyrd covers.

So I'm doing my best to make sure that the great bit I came up with isn't something uncomfortably close to something Bill Hicks did in 1992, or Bill Burr did last week, or someone else named Bill did some other time. And if I don't think I get over that bar, you're not going to see or hear me performing it.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Debate Proposition

Resolved, that there is no difference in principle between sticking a needle in someone's body without his or her permission and sticking a penis in someone's body without his or her permission.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Thanks For Asking!, 05/07/19

Yes, I dropped the ball on daily blogging in late April and early May. And yes, it's been quite some time since an AMA thread. By way of fixing both -- and of keeping my horsewhip-bearing sponsor, Free Pony Express, happy, let's do this!

Ask me anything -- yes, anything -- in the comment thread below this post. I'll answer in comments, in a stand-alone post, on a podcast, or in some other way.