Friday, December 31, 2021

You Know, Screw It, I Give Up ...

 ... on 2021. I'm just not going to launch any major efforts to get anything done until next year. See you then.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

I Really Should Hit the Search Engines Instead of Just Impulse Buying Online

I was putting together an Instacart (affiliate link -- use code TKNAPP19A1AE if that's not automagically filled in for you!) order today. Mostly because my neighbor needed eggs, but with the rest of the family traveling I was also running low on a couple of things, and didn't feel like biking to the store.

On an impulse, I typed "steak" into the search bar and discovered that the store was running a sale on something called "mock tender steaks."

I guess the "mock" should have given me pause, but I decided to take a chance on it. I mean, they're tender, anyway, right?

Well, no.  It's called "mock tender" because the cut is similar in shape to the tenderloin. It's actually chuck, and may just be the toughest cut of meat I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

And now for one of my favorite film clips, with material apropos of this post near the end.

The Mask Cultists are Changing Their Story Again ...

... but they just can't bring themselves to admit error, hubris, or falsehood.

Flashback to March of 2020. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask …. wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet. But it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is.

Then the politics of "do something, anything, so long as it shows we're in charge and decisive" hit hard. I a matter of weeks, the "the science" no longer meant what it has always said and still says (that there's a dearth of evidence for the proposition that masking, at least with anything less robust than a KN95, reduces the spread of viral disease) and we all just need to do as we're told.

Now they're finally saying that cloth masks don't work, but instead of just admitting they were wrong and/or lying, they're pretending there's something different and special bout the omicron variant to justify the change of story.

Technocrats' ability to admit error is markedly sub-Fonzie in quality.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Old Biological Clock Ticks Oddly

No, not that one. I think I've done my reproductive duty to the species and then some, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

More kind of related to, but not exactly the same as, circadian rhythm.

I normally consider myself a fairly clock-bound person. I was brought up on the maxim "if you're not 15 minutes early, you're late," and I normally try to keep a fairly tight grip on time. I have a bedtime that I don't always stick strictly to, and a getting-up time that I do stick strictly to, even if I don't mean to (if I don't set my alarm, I usually wake up within a few minutes either way of when I would have had my alarm set for). And so on and so forth.

But when I'm alone (except for the pets) for days at a time, as now (Tamara and the kids are up north for a funeral and related activities), I realize how much of my day seems to rely on routine, expected cues. When is Tamara leaving for work? When is she returning? What time should there be a consultation on what's for dinner tonight, and when will that dinner be eaten? Etc., etc.

With all of those cues missing, I'm often shocked when I look at a clock. It may be hours earlier or later than I "feel" like it is. That's kind of screwing with my sleep and other schedule items.

It has not, however, kept me from meeting my goal of averaging one post per day or more. This is the 365th post of 2021.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free Review -- The Matrix: Resurrections

OK, I made it out this afternoon for the first of what I expect to be several big-screen viewings of The Matrix: Resurrections. The fact that I intend to see it several times on the big screen is an obvious indicator of my likely opinion.

TL;DR: If you are a fan of the Matrix franchise (and I am), I don't see any way you don't love this movie.  Even if you are disappointed with plot elements, etc., it's just great to be back in that universe.

The longer version, starting with context and a theater incident:

When I say I'm a fan of the Matrix franchise, let me put it this way: You know those people who say "yeah, I've seen [insert film here] a hundred times," and it really means they saw it once at the theater, got the DVD and watched it two or three times the first week, then have watched it every year or two since?

I've seen The Matrix more than a hundred times, and I am not kidding or exaggerating. I saw it the day it came out on the big screen. And the next day. When the DVD came out, I watched it every day for a couple of weeks. When the other two films came out, I saw the first one on the big screen again. I've watched it at least five times a year for the last 20+ years. If I feel like watching a movie and nothing sounds good, I watch The Matrix. I've only see the other two on the big screen once each, and have seen each of those perhaps ten times. I like them, but they don't do as much for me as the original. Of course, I've also watched Animatrix a number of times. And the only reason I didn't play the MMORPG when it came out was that I knew I'd get hooked (I did buy Enter The Matrix for the Nintendo GameCube -- meh, but I did spend several hours playing it).

So I hope we can all stipulate that I'm a freaking fan.

This movie is also well-targeted at the demographic one might expect to be franchise fans. That is, people who were around and watching movies 20+ years ago and got into it at the beginning. Or, to put it a different way, the middle-age crowd. Like me. The main characters are older; time has passed. So it's not like a reboot where Neo is in his twenties again or anything like that. They've aged with us and we can identify with them.

OK, enough context, theater incident time: I was informed by a gentleman sitting behind me that we're about to see some real-life Matrix-y stuff (yes, that's the word he used). It turns out that JFK Jr. is not really dead and will be returning to take down the global conspiracy, along with Kobe Bryant (who faked his own death because Hillary Clinton was about to have him rubbed out), John Lennon, John Denver, et al. Thought you'd want to know.

Yes, I know we're getting beyond fairly short length here. I'll move on with not-spoilerish (you've read about it from me and others already) stuff. Not much, because much would be spoilerish).

It's a story about The Matrix, which in this movie is a trilogy of games written two decades ago by programmer Thomas Anderson and his partner/boss, Mr. Smith. Warner Brothers wants a fourth installment and is going to have one whether Anderson and Smith are involved or not. Meanwhile, Anderson is in therapy because he keeps experiencing the game as memory/dream/hallucination. Is Mr. Anderson whack-a-doodle in the real world, or is Mr. Anderson Neo trapped in a new, improved Matrix? Watch the movie to find out.

Two more brief notes: The ending is kind of schmaltzy, but in a good way IMO. There's an after-credit scene that's just demographically opportunistic, but fun.

OK, I'm off to bed so that I'll be well-rested for at least one viewing (perhaps along with The King's Man before, after, or in between) tomorrow.

How to Sell Something to a (Likely) Capitol Riot Supporter Without Trying, or Even Knowing You're Doing It

Step One: Set up a Zazzle store.

Step Two: Design a shirt that seems kind of clever at the time, years before January 6, 2021.

Step Three: Get busy with other things, completely forgetting about the shirt, and the store.

Step Four: Get an email notifying you that you finally made a sale (and $1.12 in royalties!).

On Monday, December 23, 2002 ...

... the first edition of Rational Review News Digest went out to a handful of subscribers we'd reached/recruited since the previous Thursday, when Freedom News Daily ceased publication (the Henry Hazlitt Foundation's board decided to declare bankruptcy and promptly ceased all operations -- I found out the next morning when I tried to log in for work as the publication's managing editor).

Since then, we've taken over publication of a reborn Freedom News Daily (in 2004, on behalf of the International Society for Individual Liberty, which bought it in the bankruptcy sale; ISIL is now Liberty International) and reach probably (this is a guesstimate, since there are overlaps) 5,000 readers each day with our web, email, and social media editions.

RRND/FND actually go back to 1991 (when Libernet, later taken over by FND, started). We're the Internet's oldest daily email news/commentary roundup for libertarians. Happy anniversary to us.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

From What I am Hearing About the New Matrix Movie ...

... I expect to like it even better than I expected to expect to like it.

I don't THINK what I'm about to write is really "spoiler" material, but if you're afraid it might be, stop reading. I'll skip a few lines to save you from shock and disappointment.

OK, so apparently the premise is this: Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, is a well-known game creator who, 20 years or so ago, wrote a well-received trilogy of games known as The Matrix. He's called in by his boss, one Mr. Smith, and told that the game company's over-arching owner, Warner Brothers, wants a sequel to the trilogy, and that if Anderson and Company don't want to undertake the project they'll just have someone else do it, but it will still get done.

Meanwhile, Anderson has mental health problems. He's hung up on that old game trilogy, apparently experiencing the game not as game, but as realistic dream/memory, and in therapy over the whole thing.

Then, in some way not specified in great detail in the reviews I've read (I'm trying to avoid spoilers -- I'm 24-36 hours away from seeing it for myself), shit starts getting weird.

All of this appeals to me. And makes me wonder if maybe this film happened because Warner Brothers gave the Wachowskys some kind of ultimatum about a "reboot" of The Matrix Cinematic Universe.

One complaint I've read that just doesn't ring with me is along these lines: Yeah, there's some good Matrixy action and fight stuff in there, but nothing that tops the original trilogy in terms of OMG WOW THAT HAS NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE.

The reason that doesn't ring with me is simply that I don't think Lana Wachowsky needs to prove anything on that count. When it comes to action/fight/effects stuff, movie fans have been living for two decades in the house the Wachowskys built. She has no obligation to build us another fucking house. If she'd rather just tell us another story in that same, well-constructed house, I'm game to be told that story.

Here's the "new" (actually a couple of weeks old) trailer for Matrix: Resurrections. Even better than the first, IMO.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Contra Furedi

spiked's Frank Furedi finds it "truly disturbing" that someone was able to take a photograph of UK prime minister Boris Johnson and his staff violating the policies they imposed on everyone else, using COVID-19 as the excuse.

"[W]hat happens," he asks, "when a government cannot keep its proceedings confidential? ... think about the implications of this story for national security. ... Once official contingency plans become fodder for feeding the news cycle, a government’s capacity to implement them effectively is undermined. ... If ministers cannot deliberate securely, safe in the knowledge that their decisions and plans will not be made public, the government loses its integrity."

Bullshit. All government employees should be required to wear live-streaming body cams at all times when on the job, if not 24/7, as a condition of that employment. They claim to work for us. In what universe does the employee get to hide what he's doing from the employer?

Why is a supposedly "radical, democratic, pro-freedom" publication running garbage like this?

Just How "Global" is it, Really?

Google returns 1.75 million results on a search for the phrase "global chip shortage." The latest: Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger predicts the "global chip shortage" will continue into 2023.

Meanwhile, Chinese chip makers set a production record in 2021. As of August, Chinese chip production was up 47.3% year-over-year.

Yes, there's a demand component to the "global chip shortage" too.

But it's almost as if declaring a protectionist trade war on Chinese companies, using "national security" as an excuse to restrain technology trade, etc. might actually have had the foreseeable consequence of making the chip shortage somewhat less "global" than one would otherwise expect.

Seems Like Bringing Coals to Newcastle

Politico reports on an apparent "uptick in calls," of a negative variety, to Spanish-language talk radio shows in Florida on the topic of vice president Kamala Harris:

[A] Miami-based Democratic pollster took to social media to warn that he’s been hearing arguments against the vice president from talk-show callers that he felt appeared scripted. ... The on-air critiques, he and others said, range from claims that Harris is ineffective and ill-prepared to serve as president to outwardly sexist and racist suggestions, including that her own Jamaican and Indian heritage cause her to prioritize the issues of Black Americans over the concerns of Latinos.

Are these calls part of an "astroturf effort to diminish Harris'[s] standing among key Latino constituencies?"

Well, I suppose they could be. But I see three problems with the notion:

  1. Such an effort would be completely unnecessary. People don't like Kamala Harris anyway. Her miserable poll performance in her abortive 2020 presidential campaign established that. She probably cost Joe Biden a percent or two in the general election just by being on the Democratic ticket.
  2. She does a fine job of making herself look bad every time she opens her yap, which is why nobody likes her, and which explains why people would call in to talk radio shows to say so.
  3. "Astroturf" campaigns aren't really that necessary these days. The reason those "NPC" memes are so popular is that in the age of social media, particular phrases and talking points tend to go viral on their own without the need to set up and fund fake organizations to push them. A large number of individuals from any given political "base" tend to sound exactly like each other. They've all heard, and all adopt and repeat, the same bullet points, ultra-simplistic substitutes for arguments, and cutesy expressions.
Democrats are "sounding the alarm," and they should be. But the alarm should be about the fact that nobody likes Kamala Harris, not about some hypothetical campaign to get them to say so. In fact, such a campaign would be something for Democrats to celebrate, because it would mean Republicans were wasting time and money promoting something that doesn't need to be promoted, rather than putting that time and money into things that might actually make a difference.

Monday, December 20, 2021


Several years ago, I saw an article or two (I can't find them now) along the lines of "Google knew I was pregnant before I did." The upshot being that a woman or women suddenly started getting served Google ads for strollers, disposable diapers, etc., and then a week or two later had occasion to pee on a stick and see a plus sign.

In its right sidebar, Twitter suggests accounts to follow. Some of them are organic (people who follow, or are followed by, some of the same people as you, for example). Some are "promoted," meaning they're ads.

So anyway, I just saw this in my Twitter sidebar:

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Part Of The ... er, My ... Problem with Dave Smith's Libertarian Party Strategy Recommendations

Back when I was a union factory worker, my fellow union members laughed it up when I pointed out that unions supporting a government "social safety net" is pretty much the definition of being anti-union.

Here's the trick that labor unions are playing on themselves -- intentionally or not -- when they support minimum wage/overtime laws, government unemployment "insurance," Social Security, etc.:

Suppose I work at McDonald's and am thinking about supporting unionization. What birds are in the bush?

Well, higher wages, better overtime pay, a benefit package that provides income during layoffs, and a better pension plan are all things that a union could bargain for.

But trying to unionize is risky (the boss just might lock you out and hire workers who aren't interested in unionizing) ... and the government already provides bare minimums on all that. Those bare minimums -- the birds in my hand -- are a disincentive to taking the risks involved in unionizing. At least in theory, they keep things less bad than they might otherwise be. If I risk getting fired or laid off over unionization, I'm risking more than I'd be risking if I didn't already have inferior versions of all that stuff I want. The signal is "yeah, settle for what you already have." Why would unions support such a thing?

Well, that's a question for a different post. I just bring it up because what brought it to mind this morning was listening to Dave Smith ("Part Of The Problem" podcast embed at the end of this post) prove himself to political strategy as Saddam Hussein was to military strategy.

Smith opines that "we" -- by which he means the Libertarian Party, which he seems to think is some kind of centrally organized monolith, as opposed to 50-odd state organizations consisting of very independent cats who decline to be herded -- shouldn't "primary" certain "good" Republicans and Democrats when contesting elections.

Two of the examples he cited were Tulsi Gabbard (Republicans' favorite Democratic hawk until she realized that antiwar donors were naive enough that she could milk them for money while still being fully in favor of killing Muslims just as long as it's done with drone strikes instead of risking American troops' lives) and Ron DeSantis, (one of what Smith called the "best" governors on COVID-19 despite the fact that he placed state troopers at the state's borders to flag down travelers and force them to quarantine, and has ordered private businesses to "bake the cake" for the unvaccinated/unmasked, their freedom of association be damned).

But let's just roll for a moment with pretending that Gabbard or DeSantis have anything significant to offer from a libertarian standpoint -- that they're not "as bad as," say, Tom Cotton or Gavin Newsom.

Standing aside for "not quite as bad" candidates so that "worse" candidates may not win is pretty much the equivalent of wanting a good pension plan but supporting Social Security until that better pension plan just magically appears out of thin air with no effort or risk on your part. You're not going to get what you want. At best, you're going to get a pale, unsatisfactory substitute. Because why the hell would anyone give you what you want when you've already cheerfully agreed to settle for less rather than risk anything at all?

As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both."

Deciding not to run libertarian candidates against "not quite as bad" authoritarian candidates is, in four words, quietly submitting to authoritarianism (unless the strategy involves ignoring electoral politics altogether and making our demands in some different venue than elections, for which there are some good arguments). It's accepting the occasional bone thrown our way rather than taking the risks involved in getting what we actually want.

Libertarians may or may not ever get what we demand -- but not even bothering to demand it is a fuck-silly strategy for getting it.

And getting back to the cat-herding practicalities mentioned above, in many if not most states "the Libertarian Party" has almost no control over whether there's a Libertarian candidate on the ballot for a particular office or not.

If you want to run for, say, Congress as a Libertarian, you pay a filing fee or gather signatures from voters, and you're on the ballot. If more than one person seeks the Libertarian Party's nomination, there's a primary; if not, you pass Go, collect your $200, and proceed to the general election as the Libertarian candidate for that office. There is no "we" in the party apparatus that gets to wave a magic wand and decide not to run a Libertarian candidate against a "less bad" Republican or Democrat.

Smith's strategy recommendations make no sense whatsoever from either an ideological or practical perspective.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Finally, an All-Out Battery Test on the Electric Bike

I've been meaning to do this for quite some time, but various things kept me from it. The goal: To find out how far my Nakto Camel F electric bicycle will go on battery alone.

The answer, given the conditions of the ride, is: 14.8 miles before the battery taps out.

Those conditions:

I rode from my house to a grocery store about 5.5 miles away, over slightly rolling terrain -- no major hills, this is Florida, but IIRC a net elevation change one way of about ten feet.

At the grocery store, the bike rested, battery disconnected, for 10-15 minutes.

Then I rode back, but instead of stopping at home, I rode around the neighborhood until the battery gave up the ghost.

The only pedaling I did was to get up to reasonable speed at the beginning and after stops.

For most of the trip, I kept it mostly at full throttle, probably averaging 17-18 miles per hour (as low as 15 on an uphill grade, as high as 21 on a downhill grade). For obvious reasons I slowed down when approaching street crossings or approaching turns.

I've made 30-mile trips, probably doing far more work than I've had to. My guess is I could get 35-40 miles out of a battery doing anything resembling a reasonable amount of pedaling, using the throttle or "assist" mode mostly on uphill grades. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that with two batteries, I could do 100 miles without killing myself. Maybe more -- keeping the battery discharging constantly like that probably drains it faster.

Now I'm just waiting for Bitcoin to hit $70k, at which point I'll probably buy that second battery.

My Christmas Shopping Just Got a LOT Easier ...

... thanks to a tip from Corianna Baier of the Show-Me Institute:

[I]f lawmakers are looking for the perfect gift for their constituents, I can think of (at least) one thing that everyone would find extremely useful: an income tax cut. Stay with me here -- this really is a great gift. An income tax cut is basically the gift of money. Taxpayers would get to keep more of their hard-earned money to spend or save in any way that they want.

What a great idea! Now I know what to give all my friends and acquaintances for Christmas (or whatever winter holidays you celebrate)!

I was going to come knocking on your doors, stick a pistol in your faces, and take all your cash on hand.

But now I've decided not to do that.

This clever gift idea is going to save me a lot of travel time (and significantly reduce my chances of getting my ass shot). But, more importantly, how generous of me!

Yes, I know I've occasionally honked out the same kind of polemic brain fart myself (in fact, this year, I suggested that Congress make a Christmas present to the public of ceasing to throw people in jail for growing / selling / possessing / consuming a common plant). It's a lot easier to notice the problem with that logic when someone else does it, though. Ms. Baier's present to me is creating a resolve on my part to not fall into that mental trap in the future.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Good Buy?


How the Democrats Could Actually Get Something Done

Not that I particularly want Congress to get anything done, mind you. I'm just interested in the nuts and bolts.

The "Build Back Better Plan" -- Biden's Big Basket of Boondoggles -- hath crashed and burned until at least next year. Good. While it's hard to find a good comprehensive breakdown of what's in there, I've seen enough bad stuff highlighted, even setting aside the insane amount of total spending, to not like it at all.

But there are probably a few good -- or at least popular -- things in there.

By "popular" I mean  popular enough to get ten Republican votes in the Senate to at least bring them to the floor for a full vote (at which point the Democrats have the 51 votes to pass them).

Maybe the Democrats should stop trying to cram the kitchen sink into this "omnibus" bill and put those popular items in single-issue bills, then fast-track them.

The whole "omnibus" thing is contrived to create pressure -- Congresswoman X doesn't get what she wants unless she votes for a bill that also has why Congressman Y wants, and vice versa. So everyone throws their priorities into a bill (which they usually dub a "must-pass" bill, even though there is no bill that "must" be passed, or else voting on bills wouldn't be a thing).

Thing is, the pressure runs in both directions. Maybe Congresswoman X is so opposed to what Congressman Y wants that she's willing to give up what she wants rather than vote for it.

I don't support the "child tax credit," but I bet ten Republican Senators could be found to vote for (or at least for cloture on, anyway)  a bill containing some version of it, as long as that bill didn't also include half a billion bucks for Planned Parenthood and a mandate that all lawnmowers be battery powered by 2023.

At the moment, the Democrats have to plausible plays for votes in the mid-term:

  1. Look at how much we got done! Wow! We really knocked it out of the park! Keep us in control and give us even more power!
  2. We couldn't get anything done because of those mean ol' obstructionist Republicans! Give us more seats so we can sweep them out of the way!
Breaking some popular stuff into single-issue bills (which is the way everything should be done anyway) would let them combine the two into a more palatable talking point -- "hey, we got some stuff done despite significant obstacles -- and we could do more if we kept the House and had 60 votes in the Senate."

Update: Instead of doing one of my regular mass-submission Garrison Center columns today, I expanded the thoughts above into an exclusive submission to The Hill. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Training to Lose

The NPR Politics Podcast reports that "Gun Control Activists Are Training To Run For Office."

Of course, by "gun control" and "ending gun violence," the show's hosts mean "passing victim disarmament laws."

There's a problem with that strategy.

Suppose that these terribly confused and/or deeply malevolent people win big -- for example, the presidency and veto-proof pro-victim-disarmament majorities in Congress.

Then what?

The best stats I've seen say there are more than 125 million gun owners in the United States, and more than 400 million guns.

No matter how many elections these malcontents win, the matter will remain non-negotiable to millions of those gun owners.

Non-negotiable as in "come try to take them and see what happens." In which case, if they're smarter than they appear to be, we'll find out later that they went long on shares in body bag companies.

But hey, if they want to waste their time and money fantasizing that all they have to do is win some elections to implement their victim disarmament policies, maybe pursuing those fantasies will keep them to busy to actually get other stupid and evil things actually done.

I've Seen Two ...

... of Esquire's 65 "Best Movies of 2021."

There are a few others on my "already wanted to see" list, and several additions to my "hadn't heard of until now but yeah, I'd like to see" list, but the only ones I've actually seen are Dune and A Glitch in the Matrix.


Seems Like a Win-Win-Win Situation to Me

Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have refused the COVID-19 vaccine, the Pentagon said Thursday, potentially setting the stage for thousands of Army personnel to be pushed out of the service in the coming weeks. ... The Air Force and Navy already have begun to discharge service members who refuse the vaccine. Other services are expected to do the same.

The insanely bloated US armed forces will be shedding a few workfare clients. Good deal.

The people they're losing are people who either weren't literate enough to read the contracts they signed, or or else couldn't be trusted to fulfill obligations they'd freely undertaken. Again, good deal.

Finally, if the vaccines do reduce the incidence and/or severity of COVID-19, dumping those people is a reasonably sound matter of "force protection," given that many armed forces personnel live and/or work in close quarters with others. Splendid!

I'm frankly not seeing anything not to like here, although it would be preferable to issue discharges of an other than honorable variety so that the discharged people don't continue to soak up  tax-funded benefits once they depart for the productive sector.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

That Just Ain't Right, @Dominos

The first time it happened, I thought I had messed up something, not tagged stuff into the coupon correctly, etc. And I was in a hurry, so I didn't worry about it.

This time, I was very, very careful, and it happened again.

On its web site menu, Domino's Pizza offers a "mix and match" deal: Order two or more items off a list, and they're $5.99 each rather than regular price. The items available include two-topping medium pizzas, 8-piece orders of  wings, sandwiches, pasta dishes and cheese bread. It's a pretty good deal, and generally that's what my family does when it orders from Domino's.

So, I selected the deal and entered the order, making sure that I was "adding an item to this coupon" each time -- a two-topping medium pizza, an 8-piece order of buffalo wings, a Philly cheese steak sandwich, and an order of chicken carbonara. That's a fairly typical order.

No special instructions, no extra toppings, nothing but the straight "this is $5.99, I'll take it."

But when I got to the checkout page, I saw that the $5.99 pizza was priced $6.39, and that the $5.99 wings were priced at $7.99, with a little question-mark mouse-hover thingy informing me that this was "the best price available."

Well, if $6.39 and $7.99 are the best prices available, why are those items advertised at $5.99?

Yes, I understand that supply chain disruptions, inflation, etc. may necessitate temporary or even permanent price increases. So remove those items from the $5.99 menu instead of telling me they're $5.99 then hitting me for $2.40 extra after I accept a clear and unambiguous offer.

If I knew the prices up front, I'd probably go for $6.39 on the pizza, and might go for $7.99 on the wings. But I don't like being subjected to false bait and switch advertising, and they should really knock that sh*t off before more litigious people than me take notice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

NFL Picks Update

Talk about a bad streak. In FiveThirtyEight's NFL Forecasting Game, I came out negative on points in week 6 (-2.5), week 7 (-23.5),  week 8 (-46.5), week 9 (-60.4),  week 10 (-114.4), and week 11 (-52.2). At one point I was in something like the 27th percentile of players.

But then ...

Modestly so in week 12 (10 of 16 games correct for 40.2 points) and week 13 (8 of  14 games correct for 33.2 points).

But in week 14 (ending last night with Monday Night Football), I went 12 for 14 games (my bad picks were the Cardinals to beat the Rams and the Panthers to beat the Falcons), racking up 149.5 points and getting back into the top third of all players for the season so far.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Stuff They Didn't Cover in High School History Class

It's been decades, but for the life of me I can't remember learning about the massive federal program circa 1789 to ensure that every town in the 13 former colonies didn't lack for hitching posts and water troughs.

Or the massive federal program circa 1910 (after the introduction of Ford's Model T) to ensure sufficient gas stations to keep Henry's horseless carriages running.

You know, like this:

The White House and Vice President Kamala Harris rolled out a plan on Monday for building out an electric vehicle charging network.

A fact sheet the White House released on the plan relies heavily on the bipartisan infrastructure law and existing actions it has taken, but there are some new announcements as well. 

Those include the creation of a Joint Office of Energy and Transportation between the Energy and Transportation departments, which will be tasked with implementing the charging network and other electrification provisions in the law.

Personally, I think electric vehicles are pretty cool.

So cool that the last thing I want is government involved in "encouraging" or "investing in" their success.

Having the government decide where these charging stations will be located and what kind of service they'll provide will end up with one-size-fits-all standards -- from battery size/capacity, to the plug types accommodated, etc., that will probably not be as good as, and will delay adoption of, the standards the market would develop without such "assistance."

My guess is that if this was left to the market, de facto standards would emerge over time based on the most popular models. Sort of like how most cars take the same kinds of tires and similar batteries with the same kinds of terminals (round, not square, of a specific size).

Personally, I also think the future is more likely to result in "hot swap stations" than in "charging stations."

With current battery/charging technology, charging takes significant time.

That's probably fine if you're driving/commuting locally and the car sits plugged in overnight (or at work -- some workplaces already have charging stations).

But if you want to hop in your Tesla and drive from New York to LA, you're going to have to fill'er up nine or ten times on the way, and it's not a five-minute (plus the time you spend grabbing coffee and taking a leak) affair.

If you can find a facility with a Tesla "SuperCharger," and if that SuperCharger isn't busy and you can plug right in, it's going to take 40 minutes to get your battery up to 80%, and then it's going to charge more slowly to get it to 100%. So figure an hour per stop, bare minimum.

Absent some technological leap in charging, the only way to get this thing down to typical gas station times is to have some kind of pull-thru facility (probably looking like a car wash or Jiffy Lube) where an attendant or robot replaces your low battery with a fully charged one.

"Battery as a service" is already being done with electric scooters, btw.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

There's Certainly Something to be Said for HODLing

I was just looking through some past transactions.

In December of 2015, I bought a kind of fancy litter box (you clean it by rolling it over and back, depositing the filth in a removable tray) for the cats, using Bitcoin. It came to $28.19.

As of a few minutes ago, the amount of Bitcoin I paid for it was worth $3,563.98.

If I had spent the Bitcoin at the price I bought it at, that would be a missed ROI of 12,542.71% in six years -- an annualized ROI of 123.73%. Of course, I actually spent it at a higher price than I bought it at. And I did OK. But if I had to choose, I guess I would rather have $3.5k than the damn litter box.

Potato Weirdness

A little while back, I planted six potatoes. They were all from the same bag, they were all roughly the same size, they all had about the same number of "eyes," they were all planted at the same time and in the same patch of soil within a couple of feet of each other, and they all received the same water, plant food, etc. at the same times.

Two of them never came up. One is large and in full bloom. Two others are about 2/3 the size of the large one and the flowers are about to bloom. The final one is about 2/3 the size of those and hasn't shown signs of flowering yet. Very strange.

Somewhat later, I planted some shallots and some winter romaine. The shallots just sprouted. The Romaine hasn't yet.

Today, I put in two hills of canteloupe seeds with three seeds each.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Addendum to My Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free (Partial) Review -- Ghostbusters: Afterlife




So, about a week ago, I went to see Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and was thoroughly enjoying it when the power went out in the theater (and in the rest of the shopping center where the theater is located). You can read my Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free (Partial) Review here.

Today, I biked down to the theater intending to try and catch the movie beginning roughly where I left off. Somehow, even though I made a point of arriving late, and even though I ended up waiting for 15 minutes for a drink at the concession stand before going in, the trailers, etc. were just finishing up and the movie starting when I walked it.

Let's make that a negative side note: The theater lists a starting time. The theater also lists a running time. So why not start the movie at the starting time, so that it's possible, using the running time, to calculate when the movie will end? I mean, I tried to be late. And in addition to trying to be late, I was delayed ... and ended up being almost exactly on time. Run the trailers and ads and "turn off your phone" bits before the starting time, and start the movie at the starting time, pretty please with sugar on top.

OK, I guess I've included enough filler to keep people who don't want spoilers from being accidentally exposed to them.

Here's the big spoiler:

They get the band back together. For real. Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, even Annie Potts (in the main body) and Sigourney Weaver (in a mid-credits breakout). Yes, using CGI, even Harold Ramis. The only really major cast member missing from the first Ghostbusters flick is Rick Moranis, who's been pretty much retired for what, 20 years or something?

For the most part, I don't like CGI-ing dead people into movies, but Ramis is a special case. He was one of the original Ghostbusters writer and had been working toward a new Ghostbusters film when he died.

This film is in many ways a tribute to him. He's the main character, even though he dies at the beginning and is invisible (but present) for most of the plot. McKenna Grace (a great young actor) plays his grand-daughter, and is wholly convincing as a chip off the old grand-dad block. There's a scene where she finds grandpop's old glasses, holds them up in front of her own, and they're an exact match. Which sounds trite when writing it, but when watching it it's very effective.

Now that I've finished watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I still have no complaints. It was just plain fun, in the way that a Ghostbusters film is supposed to be.

Side note: Paul Rudd, in his turn as a summer school teacher / mom's love interest (another spoiler: That works out much the same way as the Rick Moranis / Sigourney Weaver combo in the original), reminds me of comedian Andrew Heaton (you can catch him in a bunch of fun Reason magazine videos), and in a good way. If the casting director had wanted to save some money, he could have cast Heaton in the role with similar results. Just sayin' ...

Friday, December 10, 2021

If This Be Sedition, Make The Most Of It

When I see this:

I think of this:
"I am quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think vainly, flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done." -- John Brown

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

PSA on Meaning

 When I say, regarding a political or legal situation, "this is how X works," I'm not making:

  1. a moral claim ("this is how X SHOULD work");
  2. an historical claim ("this is how X has ALWAYS worked"); or
  3. a prediction ("this is how X WILL always work").

I'm just claiming that this is how X works at this time and in this place.

I could be incorrect, of course, but I'm neither correct nor incorrect on any of the numbered points because I wasn't addressing those points.

That is all.

It Wouldn't Be Much of a Living

I'm thinking about submitting an article to something called the Strategic Culture Foundation. My bottom line price: $0.02 US.

If they accept it and pay me, that could end up as a net loss to me of  $311,561.98.

Well, theoretically, anyway. Good luck to anyone trying to get 300 grand out of all my seizable/saleable assets.

Click here for the details.

Bottom line: The US government doesn't get to decide who I write for.

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Who do the Democrats Have for 2024?

Once Joe Biden actually withdrew from Afghanistan, and didn't try to take his personal stamp off of the withdrawal even when it kind of went to shit (as all withdrawals by losing forces in war do), I started assuming he wasn't planning to run for election in 2024.

He says differently, but I still think it's a safe assumption (Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus agree with me).

He'll be 81 in 2024, and he's doing (the Afghan withdrawal) and trying to do (the ginormous "infrastructure" boondoggles) the kinds of "burnish my legacy with things that may not be as popular as they are controversial right now, but that I predict, correctly or not, will look pretty wise 20 years from now") stuff that a guy not worried about the next election might try to do, while a guy worried about the next election probably wouldn't.

So, who do the Democrats nominate in 2024?

Kamala Harris is right out. Nobody liked her when she briefly ran for president in 2020, she probably cost the Democratic ticket votes in the general election, nobody likes her now, and nobody's going to start liking her. Being the sitting vice-president might give her some advantage in the primaries, but probably not enough to win it if she has any credible opponents -- and if she did she'd crash and burn against any credible Republican candidate in the general election.

There's some buzz around Pete Buttigieg, but I'm just not seeing it. He's not, as Erick Erickson would have us believe, "spectacularly unaccomplished," but he doesn't tick the usual "accomplishment" boxes -- sitting vice-president, sitting or former governor, sitting or former US Senator, or former victorious general -- that garner presidential nominations and general presidential election victories these days (Donald Trump excepted).

So, again, who?

If I was a Democratic strategist looking for a good horse to put in the race, I'd look for a Democratic governor who's won that office in either a usually fairly solid Republican state, or a "swing" state. 

Specifically, I'd look at, in descending order of shininess:

  1. Jared Polis of Colorado. There's some debate over whether Colorado is still a "swing" state, but it's at least arguable, and Polis has a lot going from him. He's got a net worth in excess of $100 million, meaning he could self-finance early campaign work. He's got a back trail of political "accomplishments" besides his governorship to advertise, including five terms in Congress. He has cross-partisan appeal (he was the only Democratic member of the congressional "Liberty Caucus"). He has identity politics appeal if he wants to use it (he's gay and Jewish).
  2. Laura Kelly of Kansas. In a dark red state, she spent 14 years in the state Senate, and was then elected governor, as a Democrat.
  3. Andy Beshear of Kentucky. The state that routinely elects Mitch McConnell to the US Senate also elected Beshear as state attorney general, then as governor.
"Governor" is the most usual resume item for becoming "president." And these three governors have proven they can beat Republicans in competitive races.

Am I predicting that one of these three will be the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee? No. I'm pretty damn good at predicting presidential general election outcomes and terrible at predicting nominations. But if I was a Democrat who was interested in winning, I think I'd be begging Polis to run.

Confession and Pro Tip: The (Pay)Wall (Often) Comes Tumbling Down

Yes, I'm a hypocrite. And I guess letting one moral holding slip leads to overall decay.

That is, I used to hold, and still generally believe, that there's an implicit contract between web content providers and readers such that if one uses an ad blocker, one is not entitled to the content. Entertaining the ads is the "price" of "free" content.

Nonetheless, I use an ad blocker. It used to be uBlock Origin, but now it's the built in ad/tracker blocking in the Vivaldi browser.

Why? Well, because I want to see the fucking content, that's why. I don't have a problem with ads in principle, but these days a lot of sites stack them so thick, and display them using such resource-intensive scripts, that if I don't block the ads I end up not seeing the page at all, or having a single page slow my whole computer to a crawl.

Morally, that's not an excuse. There's a price on the content, and I'm taking that content without paying. Mea culpa.

And now I find myself getting more serious about avoiding paywalls, which is a different specimen of the same moral failing.

If a publication puts up a paywall, it's because they're selling the content, not giving it away. Avoiding the paywall is pretty much the moral equivalent of shoplifting.

Of course, a lot of sites make it very easy -- delete cookies and refresh the page and you're in, that kind of thing. It's like a store that keeps a stack of expensive electronics near the front door, with no security scanners at the door, no personnel checking receipts, and a big sign that says "$99.99 ... unless you just pick it up and walk out with it, in which case we'll do nothing."

Other sites don't make it as easy, or at least are working on making it harder. I used to just give up.

Now -- this is the pro tip part of the post -- I use 12ft Ladder. It exploits Google crawler cache results to display full versions of paywalled content.

It doesn't work 100% of the time (the New York Times, National Review, and Foreign Policy seem immune to it, for example), but it does work on a lot of content at a lot of sites.

I guess I'm a bad, bad man.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free (Partial) Review -- Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Yes, it's a partial review ... I didn't see the entire movie. I think I saw about 2/3 of it before the theater (and, it seems, the whole shopping center and perhaps some significant part of Gainesville) lost electrical power, after which all the techno-gadgets (including e.g. computerized digital movie projectors set to automatic showtimes, etc.) remained screwed up even when the lights came on.

I have the "unlimited" plan -- all the movies I care to watch -- but I still got a free ticket out of the deal, so I may take Tamara to see West Side Story. Maybe I'll go see Ghostbusters: Afterlife (all of it this time) while she's at work one day and have her meet me for a second show when she's done for the day.

So, the partial review: It's a fun movie, full stop.

The main protagonists are in the 12-18 range and I'd say it's somewhat aimed at that demographic, but there's also a whole "single mother / teacher who's easy on the eyes and appreciates the precocious 12-year-old" love angle going.

And then there's the mystery of what Egon Spengler was up to before he died, and of course there are Ghostbusters-style ghosts, and quite a few perfectly done "jump in your seat" moments, some expected and some not.

I dunno -- Ghostbusters meets Goonies meets The Parent Trap might be the vibe I'm getting. And I like it. I'd probably go see it again even if I didn't have to see it again to finish it.

I Can See Where This Will Lead

For various reasons, I'm thinking about getting a driver's license. I've been able to get by without one for ... lessee, 15 or 16 years? ... and the electric bike gets me around town just fine, but it still may be in the cards.

If I get a driver's license, then instead of investing in a better electric bike, I'll spend half as much on a used 49cc scooter (but also get saddled with vehicle insurance payments ... which, if I have a driver's license, will be necessary anyway since there's a car in my household).

And after a few months of enjoying that added mobility and range -- assuming I don't get run over by a logging truck or something -- I'll start thinking that I'd really rather have something that goes faster and that's legal to drive on the interstate highway.

Probably a motorcycle.

And if I make it for a few months without a tragic outcome on that, I'll start doing things like waking up on a Friday morning and deciding to have dinner in New Orleans, or finally see Seattle or whatever.

Which could be cool, but which would also entail down sides like "where's Tom? It's important. Oh, he decided he wanted to see Seattle? F&*!"

So I'm definitely still in thinking about it mode.

Thursday, December 02, 2021

What an Odd thing for This Guy in Particular to Say ...

"Pete Buttigieg is spectacularly unaccomplished. He was the [two-term] mayor of a midsize town and is now one of the leading candidates for Democrats ahead of 2024."

-- From an email from Erick Erickson, who resigned part of the way through his first term as city councilman in a midsize town and is now a pundit

The Term "Branch Covidians" is Insulting ...

 ... to the Branch Davidians, not to the COVID-19 cultists.

All the Branch Davidians wanted was to be left alone to practice their religion, and the government burned them alive over it.

The COVID-19 cultists want to inflict their religion on all of us, 24/7/365/forever, and many of them seem like they'd be more than happy to have jackbooted government thugs do the same thing to non-converts that those same thugs did to the Branch Davidians.

And Just Like That, An Interesting Constitutional Question Comes Up

In this month's Thanks For Asking! AMA, SleepDeprivedBerserker asks:

I seem to recall you self-identifying as an anarchist. If that's the case, why do you sometimes use Jefferson and the Constitution as apparent sources of legitimacy for the sake of arguments?

I answered that question inline ... and mere hours later I heard about something interesting ... and mere hours after that, having slept on what I heard, I woke up with, hey, a constitutional angle on that thing.

Disclosure: I have both ideological and constitutional opinions on what I heard about, and an indirect financial interest in what I heard about.

What I heard about: A University of Florida official has been notified that he is forbidden to sign off on any federal research grants that include mask mandates, presumably pursuant to recent Florida legislation and/or executive orders.

My ideological opinion (as an anarchist) is that whether anyone wears or doesn't wear a mask is none of the government's business. Not the federal government's, not the Florida government's in general, not the University of Florida's in particular.

My constitutional opinion is that government mask mandates, not being backed by science, constitute a state establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment when imposed by any level of government, and also constitute an unconstitutional seizure of non-delegated powers in violation of the Tenth Amendment when imposed by the Federal government.

But here's my constitutional question:

Do federal government research grants from (for example) the National Institutes of Health (which is located in Maryland) to government researchers at (for example) the University of Florida (which is located, obviously, in Florida) constitute interstate commerce?

It seems to me that they do. They are, after all, an exchange of money across state lines for a product/service (research).

If that's so, well, regulating interstate commerce is a federal, not state, prerogative under Article I, Section 8.

I don't see how that prerogative would trump the First or Tenth Amendments, but it's still an interesting question.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Thanks For Asking! -- 12/01/21

I don't have all the answers.

Well, at least not all the right answers.

But in the monthly AMA thread, you get to ask me anything -- yes, anything -- and get some kind of answer.

Ask in comments. I'll reply, either in comments, or in some place linked from comments.

OK, go.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Kindle, Like Mike

"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked. 
"Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly." 
--The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

I mentioned a little while back that my Kindle Paperwhite seemed to be losing on the battery end, and that I was considering replacing it.

Yesterday, I decided on an intermediate strategy: Do a factory reset. I wasn't sure that would help with the battery drain, but if nothing else I figured having fewer books actually downloaded from my cloud library to the device might speed it up (subjectively, it seemed to be running slower).

What happened instead is that it doesn't seem to want to connect to, and register with, Amazon. I've gone through some troubleshooting FAQs with no joy.

And of course I messed around and missed the Black Friday / Cyber Monday deal on a new basic Kindle for $49.99.

I suspect that sale will come back around for Christmas, so I guess I'll wait until it does, unless someone takes pity on me via my Amazon Wish List (or unless I find my previous garage sale Kindle, which is lying around somewhere in my house or storage unit) first.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

One Thing I Find Surprising About Amazon's Alexa ...

... is that that Amazon doesn't do more "push advertising" through it.

I get email and text message alerts when, for example, an author I "follow" on Amazon puts out a new book.

But my Alexa speaker usually only throws purchase proposals at me when I've actually asked for something.

For example, I have Amazon Music Unlimited on one of my Echo Dot speakers (got a steep discount offer on it years ago, for one speaker only). Occasionally, when I ask a speaker in a different room to play a song that's not included with Prime Music, it will tell me that song is only available via Unlimited, and ask if I would like to upgrade my Unlimited plan to the family plan.

But it doesn't come at me with "we're running a special on electric dog polishers today, would you like to buy one?" It only does something like that if I ask it a question which might plausibly be interpreted as asking if Amazon sells electric dog polishers.

Given the price point of the Echo line of products (at the moment, the previous -- third -- generation Echo Dot is on sale for $19.95, and I think the new one is $30 or $35), I'd expect a lot of "special offers" advertising. In all the years I've used Alexa, I've probably used it to buy something two or three times; I think all of those were from when I've asked it to tell me about Prime Day deals.

By contrast, my Amazon Kindle (sold at a discount if one allows "special offers") tries to sell me something via a splash screen whenever I open the cover, and with banner ads at the bottom of various non-in-book screens, and with related/recommended plugs on the home screen and at the end of every book.

I suppose one reason might be that, while Echo/Alexa will work without purchasing a Prime membership, it's a lot more useful with that membership, and therefore Amazon may see the incentive to keep paying for Prime as the main revenue center for the product.

But, then, I confess to not being sure how Amazon is making money on Prime itself, if my family is typical. Prime easily pays for itself several times over in shipping cost savings, and that's before the included video streaming, music streaming, no-cost-added Kindle e-books, etc. I suppose we probably order more stuff from Amazon now than we did when we paid shipping, but not that much more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Something I Don't Recall Hearing Much Back in the Old Days

"What? You disagree with me? Who's paying you to do that? The Kochs? Soros? The Israelis?"

I mean, there's always been the question of where, say, a think tank's funding comes from and whether that affects its positions. And some less reality-moored anti-Zionists seem to assume that anyone not completely on board with all their more conspiratorial theories is a paid Israeli "hasbara" operative sent to turn their already self-turning cranks. 

But I'm talking about things like discussions between individuals on Facebook.

I actually had some guy last night theorizing that George Soros, or maybe the CIA, was paying me to disrupt discussions of anarcho-capitalism by disagreeing with him about labor unions in a discussion on a Libertarian Party Facebook group.

As if external interference would be required to disrupt a discussion on anarcho-capitalism, even if that had been what the discussion was about (it was about Democrats).

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

"Ready Or Not" -- One Necessary Criminal Justice Reform

I can understand the granting of "continuances" -- that is, putting off trial dates -- in criminal cases when requested, on reasonable grounds, by the defense. After all, the defendant presumably didn't know he or she was going to be arrested and charged, and needs time to prepare for the trial.

The prosecution, however, should be entitled to a grand total of zero continuances. If they didn't have their case put together before they charged the defendant, they shouldn't have charged the defendant.

When a defendant gets charged, and there's a probable cause hearing in which a judge agrees that there's sufficient evidence for a trial, the clock should start ticking on the "speedy trial" requirement, and the prosecution should have no ability whatsoever to stop that clock. Ready or not, here it comes -- try the case, or dismiss the case.

Only One-and-a-Half of These Things is Correct

"The bail amount is supposed to consider a person's prior record, their character, whether they might flee, and whether they might commit a crime while out on bail."

This, in the context of whether Waukeasha defendant Darrell Brooks's bail on a previous incident was "inappropriately low."

The purpose of bail is to incentivize appearance at trial, full stop. Not to penalize him for having had prior legal problems, or being a bad person, or for the possibility that he might commit a crime in the future.

Of the factors listed, one is obvious: Is the amount high enough that the defendant will show up for court rather than forfeit it?

The other is partially relevant: Has the defendant skipped on bail before? In Brooks's case, the answer appears to be "yes," and it would be reasonable to consider whether the bail should be higher (since the previous amount wasn't enough), or perhaps even denied entirely.

No other consideration has any place in setting bail. Not because the defendant is innocent or probably innocent, but because that's what the trial decides. Until the trial, the defendant is supposed to be presumed innocent.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Personally, I Find Calendars More and More Necessary Lately

The maniac who ran down several people in Waukesha, Wisconsin yesterday did so at a Christmas parade -- the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

I started seeing Christmas decorations and stuff in stores as soon as Halloween was over. In a few cases, before Halloween.

And for the last week, I've been getting emails with subject lines like "Black Friday starts TODAY!" and "Black Friday is here NOW!" No, Black Friday is four days away, on Friday.

Not That I Really Need It, But It Does look Like a Reasonably Good Deal

 My Raspberry Pi 4B "Extreme" CanKit PC came with 8Gb of RAM and a 128Gb SD card for storage. It sports a 1.5GHz 64-bit quad-core Arm CPU, four USB ports, and Ethernet port, and two HDMI ports. I run Raspbian (a Debian-based Linux distro) on it. I paid $141.99 for it, but I see that it currently goes for $159 (not an affiliate link).

The Pantera Pico PC (not an affiliate link) runs $159 for the 4Gb model or $189 with 8Gb as "super early bird" support perks on IndieGoGo. Positive differences (I'm looking at the 8Gb model):

  • An Intel Celeron J4125 Quad Core 2.7Ghz CPU -- faster, and x86 instead of Arm
  • A 256Gb SSD instead of just SD card storage (it does have an SD slot too, though)
Negative differences:

  • Only one HDMI out port instead of two (I run dual monitors and dual ports means I don't have to figure out a workaround, like a USB-to-HDMI adapter or whatever)
  • No Ethernet port (both machines have dual-band wi-fi, but I'm like two feet away from my router so I just plug in)
Other than that, pretty similar -- small form factor, four USB ports (I also use a hub), etc.

I feel no need to "upgrade" personally. I don't store much on board so that big SD card is plenty, and the slower CPU doesn't drag much given the things I do. But if you're looking for something that will run Windoze and supports bigger storage (you CAN put up to a terabtyte SSD in there), it looks like a pretty good deal.

Friday, November 19, 2021

My Project Proposal: Stop the Steal!

I attended my second Gainesville-Alachua County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board meeting last night (what should have been the second and third were canceled, one due to some kind of "multiple moving parts scheduling anomaly," one for lack of quorum). Made it just in time, as I found out 90 minutes before the meeting that instead of riding in a car as expected I'd be pedaling a bicycle. Made it there and back (20 miles or so) with battery power to spare even though I used "pedal assist" most of the way there and battery power alone much of the way home (I did bring my charger to top off the battery during the meeting).

What happened at the meeting? Nothing of direct consequence.

The board's job is to advise the City of Gainesville Commission, the Alachua County Commission, and the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization "on all matters concerning planning, implementation, and maintenance of policies, programs, and facilities for the safe and efficient integration of bicycle and pedestrian transportation into the Gainesville Metropolitan Area and Alachua County transportation systems."

That generally takes the form of looking at proposals from MTPO and recommending or not recommending them to the other two bodies mentioned. MTPO's decks are apparently cleared of pending proposals at the moment, for the reason that it recently got funding for a large backlog of previous proposals and is busy doing things instead of proposing things.

The main agenda item had to do with proposals from board members for projects, and I offered one that, I think, will be followed up on. It doesn't get into "mandate" or "condition" territory. For one thing I didn't intend it that way. For another, the board is advisory and has no such powers.

It may verge on Cass Sunstein "nudge" territory, which I'm not terribly comfortable with, but I don't really think so. And so far as I know it uses existing funding for one thing rather than for something else, rather than dipping into the taxpayer till for more.

The problem it addresses: Bicycle theft.

There seems to be a lot of that around here. I had a bicycle stripped within a few feet of a major roadway during a high traffic period a few years ago. When I asked, virtually everyone on the board agreed that they'd had bikes, or parts of bikes, stolen. Yesterday, my neighbor mentioned a local TV news story (which I'll be looking for today) on a large upswing in thefts of, specifically, electric bikes (unsurprising, since they're expensive, especially the batteries).

One solution, in my view, is encouraging business owners to provide sturdy, well-lit, bicycle parking in high-traffic areas of their establishments. Some of them do, some of them don't.

One exemplar of "do" is my local Walmart. The bicycle parking is near front doors, in a spot that their private security vehicle seems to drive by every few minutes.

One exemplar of "don't" is a shopping center where a business I used to patronize -- a gym -- is located. When I inquired as to why a gym, for the love of Pete had no bike parking, the manager told me they'd been waiting for months for the shopping center owners to approve a bike rack (I don't know if other businesses in the center had ever asked, but there was a LOT of bike traffic there, and the bikes were locked to trees, traffic signs, etc.).

How to implement the solution? Dekova Batey, the BPAB staff liason, suggested that a bit of the existing "outreach" budget might be used to throw a card or brochure into the packets that builders/developers receive when they start the tortuous process of getting permission to build something -- government planning, zoning, permitting, etc.

The card or brochure would just point out that Gainesville is a big bicycle town and that making bike owners feel comfortable that they can shop without coming out of the store a good deal poorer than they went in because they're minus their bikes, might make business sense.

To be 100% clear -- BPAB wouldn't be recommending that any rule or requirement be added to the gummint permission process. Just a suggestion that, to my mind, is as innocuous as would be a card mentioning that the University of Florida's colors are blue and orange and that signage in those colors might attract Gators fans as customers.

What do you think?

Guest Post

Whatever one's sentiments concerning the topic, a fine piece of writing in my opinion:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

Sunday, November 14, 2021

BTC Prediction: $70k by Wednesday

Disclaimer: I am not an investment advisor, and if you take this as investment advice you're stupid.

Why do I expect Bitcoin proper to go up by 10% or so over the next three days? Two reasons:

  1. The general outlook from people more knowledgeable than me is positive. They expect it to gain between now and the end of the year. It's been kind of lazing along in the $63-$65k range since the middle of the week after hitting its most recent record of ~$69k. I expect the next big move to be upward and substantial.
  2. The "Taproot" upgrade to Bitcoin's core code took effect yesterday. I've not seen any reports of problems with/from the upgrade, so I expect the Monday-Friday 9-5 institutional crowd to come to work in a bullish mood tomorrow.
Of course, it could be wishful thinking on my part, because I've set $70k as a tripwire for action of my own: Buying a second battery for my electric bike. I've been mulling the choice of buying a new battery, buying a new bike, or building a new bike from an old frame and new kit/gear, and finally came down on "new battery" (especially after it occurred to me that I could strip the motor, etc. from the existing bike and move them to another frame, rather than buying that stuff new).

My Opinion of an Opinion

The Libertarian Party's Judicial Committee voted 4 to 2 to 1 to affirm the suspension (thereby resulting in the removal) of now-former Libertarian National Committee secretary Caryn Ann Harlos.

In my estimation, the Judicial Committee ruled correctly.

No, not because I wanted Ms. Harlos removed. She seemed to leave the LNC a narrow binary choice of either removing her from office or ceasing to operate as a going concern, but I'd rather it hadn't come to that in the first place than ending the way it did.

The Judicial Committee's ruling was correct because the question in its purview boiled down to whether the LNC followed the party's bylaws or not. It did, making affirmation the Judicial Committee's only course consistent with its duty to the party.

If anything good comes out of this, it's the Judicial Committee's ruling that yes, the party's bylaws supersede Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised where the latter conflict with the former. Ms. Harlos's appeal was largely based on the opposite claim, which has enjoyed a great deal of currency in the party over the last decade or so.

The entire ruling of Judicial Committee, including concurrences and dissents, is worth a read. And I must say that it's kind of an ego stroke to see myself, and this blog, cited in the majority opinion written by Mr. Moulton.

As to what comes next, I consider it likely that unless she falls out with her supporters in the Libertarian Party Mises Caucus, or some other sea change takes place in the party, she will be elected back to her position as secretary at the next national convention as part of that caucus's ongoing takeover and liquidation of the party.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Recommendation: APMEX

Disclaimer: This is not investment advice, yada yada yada.

I love me some cryptocurrency, but I also like putting back some metal.

Specifically, silver.

Nothing against gold, but I prefer keeping my metal in "small change" quantities (silver spot price at the moment is $24.25 per ounce and my holdings are in one-ounce and five-ounce increments) to something that goes for (as of today) $1,833 per ounce. That's more flexible both in terms of liquidating a portion for fiat if I want some, but not a lot, of "money," and in terms of using as money for everyday needs if, as some are always predicting, the economy collapses and fiat becomes worthless.

Not, mind you, that I've got a half-ton of the stuff. We're talking three figures as expressed in Federal Reserve Notes, much of that bought in one or two ounce increments over the years, across vendor tables at conventions, etc.

But anyway, I recently received my first order from APMEX (not an affiliate link) and have since placed a second order. Good selection, good service, fast delivery, and reasonable prices (obviously you're going to pay a premium over spot; on the other hand, shipping is free for orders of $200 or more worth of metal), and they accept cryptocurrency (via BitPay). So if you're looking for an online, crypto-accepting metals source, take a look there.

One interesting find: A silver version of the gold coin that appears in the John Wick film franchise (yes, they sell the gold version too):

It costs more than a generic one-ounce round, but it's cool. And if you buy 20, they come in a sealed tube with the franchise/studio branding. I wouldn't count on getting extra value as a collectible out of the coin, but then I don't know much about that kind of thing.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Asked & Answered: Why Are the Media Treating "Let's Go Brandon" Like Criminal Hate Speech?

Asked by Robby Soave at Reason.

Answered by me here:

Because once the absurd concept of "criminal hate speech" wormed its way into popular acceptance, the next step -- applying the concept to any speech disliked by those who accept the concept -- became inevitable.

Friday, November 05, 2021

To The Movies? Perhaps Not Today

The big box office draw this weekend will presumably be Eternals, latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I'm not particularly excited by it, and wasn't even before the negative reviews (Peter Suderman's at Reason, based on actually seeing it, matches my own advance impression from trailers and so forth), but it was my likely pick (with Last Night in Soho as a possible alternate or second show).

BUT! Today's weather forecast calls for rain and a high of 62 degrees.

I don't mind riding the bicycle when the temperature is in the 50s or higher. Cooler than that is, well, cold when you're bopping down the road at 20mph or so with no windshield.

I also don't mind riding the bicycle when it's rainy but the temperature is, at a minimum, in the high 70s ... although getting to the movie theater wet is problematic because they keep those auditoriums pretty cool.

The combination of cool and wet has me strongly considering either sitting the day out where the big screen is concerned, or hitching a ride with my eldest if she's going into town, or waiting for the evening and seeing if I can get Tamara interested (which would probably mean my third big-screen viewing of No Time to Die rather than one of those others; I could live with that).

Sitting out is the only one of those three alternatives that's entirely up to me, so it's the most likely.

Anyway, here's the Eternals trailer for your enjoyment.

Kindle Reconsiderations

My first Kindle was a $3 garage sale device. Pretty nice, but pretty old as these devices go (I got it just in time to install the final support update for that model). It worked OK. Eventually I misplaced it. Found it again later, after I got my second Kindle. It's around here somewhere.

My second Kindle is a used Paperwhite, bought from Goodwill via eBay for $20 plus shipping about ten months ago. Not a bad deal. But it's the second generation of the Paperwhite (released eight years ago), and the last couple of weeks it's become obvious that the battery is going. Where I once got days of active use and weeks of standby without needing to recharge, now it's more like day singular, two at most, of active use.

The newest generation of the Paperwhite costs $140. That's about as much as I spent on my current low-end desktop PC, and not much less than I spent on my pretty high-performance tower.

A new battery for my eight-year-old Paperwhite runs $15-20, and at eight years old, I'm not confident that the Goodwill/eBay device won't start developing other problems as well.

Meanwhile, the latest generation of the "base" Kindle is on sale for $49.99.

Unlike old "base" Kindle versions, it has a lit screen, like the old Paperwhite.

It has as much storage space as the old Paperwhite (and I've never had storage problems on any Kindle anyway).

The only obvious difference is resolution -- the Paperwhite sports 300 dpi "e-ink," while the "base" model only offers 167 dpi. While I do notice the difference in appearance, I can't say it bugs me terribly.

So: $49.99 for a brand-new device that's in the same league as my old one, or $20 for a battery for the old device, or wait and see what happens?

I'm vacillating between the first and last options. I'm not going to pop $20 for a battery, and install it, and hope for the best.

But I'm also planning to hit a garage sale or three tomorrow. Maybe I'll find another good deal!

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

A Belated Book Recommendation

Googling back through the blog, I see that I've mentioned a particular work numerous times, by way of comparing non-fiction books I particularly like to it, without ever explicitly recommending that work itself.

Over the course of several decades, I've gone through several paper copies of Shelby Foote's three-volume (Fort Sumter to Perryville; Fredericksburg to Meridian; and Red River to Appomattox) The Civil War: A Narrative (not an affiliate link). I've read them, given them away, or loaned them out and not had them returned, lost track of them in moves, etc.

I grew up reading a lot on the war, especially Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac and Centennial History trilogies, as well as books on particular battles and people (I highly recommend Steven W. Sears's Chancellorsville and Douglas S. Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants,  but I've personally found no better, detailed, and especially enjoyable general history of the Civil War than Foote's. At nearly 3,400 pages all told, it's quite comprehensive, but never boring. Nor, though Foote was a Mississippian whose love of the South was obvious in his appearances in Ken Burns's film on the war, do I detect much bias in it.

The link, you'll notice, is to the Kindle edition. I've been thinking about buying it for several years, but couldn't force myself over my own objection to paying more than $5.99 for a digital book. Recently, however, events combined to get me that price.

The first volume went on sale for $10.99 (normal price $14.99), and I had a $5 "digital credit" to spend from past "no hurry shipping" bonuses, bringing the price to $5.99.

The remaining volumes came to $20.98 ... but then I got an unexpected $10 Amazon gift card, reducing my out of expense to $10.98 -- $5.99 per volume. So, not being able to locate even a used paperback edition for anything close to that $17.97 total, I pulled the trigger.

I'm glad I did. I am doubly re-reading it. When I have time during the day, I read it on my Kindle. At night, I have Alexa continue where I left off, then the next day go back to some point prior to my falling asleep to it. I'm into the second volume at the moment.

If you find that particular era of American history at all interesting, you'll find it more interesting (and know a lot more about it) after reading The Civil War: A Narrative.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

I Don't Know If It's Just Me ...

... or if it's one of those things like the menstrual cycles of women who live around each other synchronizing.

When I'm in an op-ed writing slump -- not necessarily writer's block, but a cycle where not that much seems interesting and I don't feel like I'm finding the most important things to say -- it almost always looks to me like that's going around.

That is, when I start hitting the many, many commentary sites I cover for Rational Review News Digest each day, the opinion columns at those sites seem to not be as good as usual, as if those writers are also bored and not doing their best work.

It could be that my own boredom / decreased facility with words is causing me to find their stuff boring and not as well written as usual.

Or it could be that there's just not really a hot news cycle at the moment and that the lack of engaging things to write about is affecting them.

Or maybe we're just all in a slump for some reason (perhaps the Muses are on strike?).

Or something else. But this  last couple of weeks isn't the first time I've noticed it.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Thanks For Asking! -- 11/01/21

 I don't remember asking you a ...

Oh, wait -- Thanks For Asking isn't about me asking you things. It's about you asking me anything (yes, anything) in comments and me answering in comments. So go for it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Is the Term "Socialism" Even Useful Anymore?

Conservatives (and way too many libertarians) refer to anything they don't like as "socialism," whether it even remotely resembles actual socialist doctrine or not.

Avowed socialists refer to anything that sounds like what they advocate, but turns into a totalitarian shit-show as having not been "real" socialism.

And many supposed, or even avowed, socialists in actual power oppose anything that sounds like what they claim to advocate, and actually works well, if it gets in the way of logrolling with allied constituencies. For example, their response to "gig economy" workers who actually own/control the means of production (the fundamental definition of socialism) is "shut up and get your ass back to the capitalist 'employee'/company 'union' plantation."

Potentially Useful

I think it may have been Justin O'Donnell who tweeted something about Cointree, a site that makes it easy for people to send you cryptocurrency -- you put in your wallet addresses and when people visit your profile they can get a QR code, clickable link for opening their native wallet, or just plain address. You can change your addresses at will, but the profile link always remains the same, which is nice.

I've set up a Cointree profile for Rational Review News Digest, since we're running our year-end fundraiser (see the web edition for a pinned post on that). I haven't hit the cryptocurrency angle during the fundraiser yet, but when I do I'll flog the Cointree link.

An aside: Yes, I'm behind on my "at least one post a day" goal for this month, although I remain ahead of it for the year. I've been unusually busy, although I don't know why. I don't feel like I'm really doing any more than usual; I just feel like everything's taking longer than it should. I go through phases like that.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free Review: Dune


My disappointment isn't immeasurable, and my day is not ruined. Stunning cinematography, impressive effects, and a great score. But if you're looking for the story, this version of Dune isn't worth a 12-mile round-trip bicycle ride to see on the big screen. I'll be blunt: I caught myself checking the time. Twice.

Longer version:

David Lynch's 1984 version -- the initial theatrical cut, which I saw on opening night, before it was shortened to 90 minutes, as I saw it a month later -- is a superior rendering of the novel. Yes, it's got circa-1984 effects. Yes, it's got David Lynch weirdness built in (that's a feature, not a bug, at least when it comes to the portrayal of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, btw). But it tells the whole story, and does so comprehensibly, and does so reasonably faithfully, in (per Wikipedia) 137 minutes. I re-watched it last month, and while movies from the '80s tend not to age very well, it still works for me.

Denis Villeneuve's version runs 156 minutes, only covers the first half of the story, glosses over significant plot elements, key players (the Spacing Guild is barely mentioned, for example; the two mentats from the novel appear but there's no explanation of what the hell they are; etc.), and character motivations (Yueh gets the brief motivational explanation, nothing moving about it), presumably so that he can resolutely focus on lead character Paul Atreides.

I don't object to spending 156 minutes on the first half of the story.

I do object to boring me nearly to sleep by not making the characters and what happens to them seem worth caring about.

I don't think that any of the actors did a poor job. It felt more like most of them were given some lines and some marks to hit, then shoved into the background once they'd managed to shoehorn some bit of needed explanation into the plot. The real exception to that rule is Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, who is magnificent.

Sharon Duncan-Brewster also does a fine job as Liet-Kynes ... fine enough that I only grumbled to myself a little bit about the recent film-maker habit of changing up the sex/gender of well-known fictional characters for no apparent reason.

I'm sure I'll watch the movie again. Maybe even on the big screen, since my family wants to see it and my tickets are paid for by the month, not the movie. Perhaps on a second viewing I'll find more to like about it.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free Review: Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings

Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings never crept onto my "must see on the big screen" list. In fact, it barely appeared my radar at all. I went and saw it yesterday for two reasons:

  1. Now that I'm paying $22.xx per month for "all you can eat movies" at Regal Cinemas, I'm by God going to get my money's worth, so I hopped on the electric bicycle and hit the theater early yesterday afternoon for a double feature; and
  2. Free Guy was no longer playing. That one wasn't on my "must see on the big screen list" either, but it was next on my "might as well watch a movie since I'm not paying by the ticket anymore" list. And dammit, I just missed it.
That said, I'm glad I sat down in a real movie theater for this one.

TL;DR: Captain Obvious notes that Marvel Comics Universe completionists don't get to miss this one, but it's also just a pretty fun flick to pass a couple of hours with whether you're big into the MCU or not. Also, I'm in love.

Longer version:

Yeah, it's MCU, and there are the inevitable hints (references to Thanos's making half the population disappear and the Avengers undoing that; brief appearances by Wong; and a fun call-back to Iron Man 3) as well as a post-credit scene to tie the film's kinda-sorta maguffin into the bigger picture.

I'm not a huge MCU aficionado. I mean, I've seen most of the films and enjoyed most of the ones I've seen, but I don't usually catch them on the big screen and enjoy some (Doctor Strange; Thor: Ragnarok) more than others (the Iron Man flicks, even though I love Robert Downey, Jr.), and as far as MCU goes, I'm just way more an X-Men type than an Avengers type.

But as MCU films go, this one's a reasonably solid entry. Great fight scenes, great effects, story line that's pure Disney (yes, Mom died and now the orphans have to fend for themselves in the big wide world), funny funniness. Obviously it's an Asian-themed, martial-arts-heavy deal, and that's all the plot I'm going to hand you. I don't expect to find myself lying awake at night pondering any heavy implications. It was just a good time.

One big reason for it being such a good time is a gal named Nora. She's attractive. She's funny. She's smart. I want to have her babies. And I'm ashamed to say that I've barely noticed, and paid absolutely no attention to, her before because who the hell stage-names herself after a brand of bottled water? I didn't even know she was in this movie, and I didn't know it was her until the end credits.

Side note: The second half of my double feature day was a second viewing of No Time to Die. At least as good the second time as the first.