Monday, December 30, 2013

Breadmaker and bread making

Our daughter gave us a bread maker for Xmas.  Actually, we stopped exchanging Xmas gifts almost a decade ago, so technically she did not.  What happened was that while she was visiting over Xmas I casually mentioned that I was thinking about buying one and the next day she told me that she needed to buy sneakers.  I told her where the mall is and a few hours later she came back without sneakers but with a bread maker.

Yes,  I know that she lied to me.  I let it pass and set up the machine.

The first loaf I tried should have come out very badly.  I used too much flour (didn't know to weigh rather than measure) and set the machine to the wrong program - one for a "sweet bread" rather than the whole what I was making.  In spite of that, the result was decent - a bit malformed, but decent tasting.


When I tried again a few days later, I thought the machine was broken because it did not start kneading immediately.   Needing bread (no pun intended) and being too stubborn to go to the store, I used this "no knead" recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/no-knead-100-whole-wheat-bread-recipe .

I screwed that up because I didn't have a dough hook.  After gumming up the regular beaters, I mixed that by hand and expected disaster, but it actually turned out quite nicely.

Investigating my apparently broken bread machine, I found that I had made a mistake:  wheat recipes delay the kneading for some time - I simply hadn't been patient enough ("How unlike you!", my wife commented, snarkily but accurately.   I therefore tried again,  but in my excitement I screwed up the flour in the other direction: the recipe called for almost 20 ounces (4 and 2/3 cups) and I somehow used only a little more than 15 because I'm an idiot (there is no other reasonable reason).

Nevertheless, the bread once again turned out decently; a little more airy, but good tasting.  Apparently it's not that easy to really screw up bread!

My wife doesn't like whole wheat - she thinks it's bitter.  The "no knead" recipe mentions adding orange juice for that problem - I'll try that next time and also want to try mixing in some oat flour.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick and simple almond butter cookies

My wife gets invited to a neighborhood "cookie swap" every year.  She doesn't like to bake, so usually she buys cookies to bring.  This year I asked if she'd let me bake some instead.

I looked up some recipes on line, got the general idea of what might work, and came up with a simple and (for cookies) reasonably healthy recipe and ran it by her for approval.

Honestly, she was a a bit hesitant, but I made up a trial batch and although she would prefer even less sugar, I pointed out that most recipes and certainly all store bought cookies would contain far more sugar than I used - probably twice as much!

Comforted slightly by that, she agreed to let me make a full batch.

I used a full jar of organic chunky almond butter to get about 24 cookies.   There's not much to this: the hardest part is stirring the glop together and cleaning the bowl after, and although the stirring does require some strength, the cleanup is just hot water, soap and a paper towel.

1 jar chunky almond butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup egg beaters

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir well with a good sized spoon.

Bake teaspoon sized dollops (these spread!) on parchment paper at 350 degrees, middle rack, 15-17 minutes.  They come out soft, but harden up as they cool.   Quick and simple.  I had to do two batches of 12 each on my 17 x 11 inch cookie pan.

You could probably get away with even less sugar, although this is half (or less!) of the recipes I typically found on-line.   I think they are sweet enough as I made them.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bitcoin fever

Believe whatever you want to believe but know this:  

The meek will NOT inherit the earth.  Some people will make money with Bitcoins, but most will become poorer.  This is the underlying reality of wealth. 

Until all Bitcoins are mined, the maximum value Bitcoins can reach is dampened by the computing cost needed to mine them.  Speculation drives prices upward, but the cost of electricity to run your computer stays (relatively) constant.   When your cost to generate a Bitcoin is less than its value, the price stops rising.   That should be obvious to anyone who stops to think about it at all.

Right now, even for an off the shelf, consumer level computer like the iMac I am sitting at right now, a $5,000 price is break even.   That is, it costs approximately $5,000 to mine a Bitcoin with my home computer.  


Obviously more powerful equipment (and not particularly expensive equipment) drives that price even lower.    I haven't researched the capabilities and power draws of dedicated Bitcoin mining hardware, but it is a slam dunk that they are far more efficient than my iMac, so stupid speculation may have already driven the price past its maximum reasonable point.  If that's true, the crash won't be long in coming.

But what about when all the Bitcoins are mined, the proponents shout?  Nothing to stop Bitcoins from climbing to any height then, right?  Sure -and nothing to stop diamonds, gold, Apple stock and Ngwee's or the Pound  from doing the same.  Bitcoin is just like gold, diamonds, Dutch tulip bulbs, the U.S. Dollar itself and Bernie Madoff's mutual fund.    It can have value and it can lose value.  It can be stolen, manipulated and perverted.  That's reality.


Bitcoin has advantages and disadvantages - like everything else.   Some people are going to get rich with Bitcoins - but that's only a small number and millions upon millions of others will become poorer for their efforts.  

If you were lucky or prescient enough to buy or mine Bitcoins before the hype, you've made some profit. If I were you (I'm not - I thought about buying Bitcoins years ago but never did), I'd take that profit and invest it in stocks. Unlike Bitcoins, gold, diamonds and Dutch Tulips, stocks have real intrinsic value - at least while the company is still in business!

See Let’s Cut Through the Bitcoin Hype: A Hacker-Entrepreneur’s Take also.

Update:  I found Bitcoin's Mining Hardware page and can now make some better estimates of Bitcoin's maximum price.  Based on the power consumption vs. Mhash/s figures given there, there is hardware that is 100 times faster than my iMac at a power cost of 4 times or so.    That means that the price of a Bitcoin should be around $200 at most  ($5,000 / 100 * 4).     Other hardware listed there has even more impressive factors.

You can take the figures there and plug them into a calculator.   I took the figures for the most powerful and expensive machine there : a $14,500 rig capable of 7,500,000 Mhash/s at a power cost of 2,250 Watts.   Even assuming 10 cents per KWH (which few of us can get),  that rig would pay for itself in 90 days AT A BITCOIN PRICE OF JUST $35.00!

If I let the calculator extend this for 8 years, scaling for expected difficulty over time, that falls to about $7.00.  

If you think that Bitcoin can trade at $1,000 when anyone with $15,000 to spare can generate them for $35.00 or less, you are an idiot.

I'm NOT against electronic currency.  Every form of money has its own advantages and disadvantages and perhaps we can eventually come up with something closer to ideal.  What I'm talking about here is ridiculous speculation.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cocoa and coffee yogurt chocolate muffins

These are very good with a cake like texture because of the yogurt.   Start to finish, about an hour.

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cocoa (I used Equal Exchange, which is a bit pricey)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda  (the little extra is to combat the yogurt's  acidity)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar
2 squares unsweetened chocolate chopped coarse
(these are just to add some chocolate chunks to the muffins)

Mix above thoroughly.

Liquid ingredients: 


1/3 cup grape seed oil or unsweetened apple sauce

1  four ounce cup non-fat coffee yogurt (NO MILK! -doesn't need it!)
1/8 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Mix this up and add to dry ingredients, spoon mix.

Directions:

350 degree oven, lower rack.

Spoon into a lightly oiled muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Makes 12.    

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pistachio Muffins

I made these pistachio muffins this morning.   Pistachios are a very delicate flavor, so I used a lot and left good sized chunks - after shelling, I cut the smaller ones in half and the larger in thirds.   I added the almonds and almond extract as accent flavor.

I use less sugar than most recipes - we don't care for excess sugar.


1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup instant oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup chopped almonds

1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios




Mix above thoroughly.  

Liquid ingredients: 


1/3 cup grape seed oil or unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup skim milk or 
4 ounces non-fat  vanilla yogurt and 1/4 cup skim milk

Mix this up and add to dry ingredients, spoon mix.

Directions:

375 degree oven, middle rack.

Spoon into a lightly oiled muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Makes 12.    As you can see, we ate up three before I could even get a picture!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Oatmeal, Apple and Almond Muffins


I whipped these up this morning before breakfast - quick, easy and very good.

1 1/3 cups  (5.66 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup instant oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar (though I use 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts


Mix above thoroughly

1 small chopped apple
1/3 cup grape seed oil or unsweetened apple sauce
1/8 cup egg substitute
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2/3 cup skim milk or 4 ounces non-fat  vanilla yogurt (I use coffee yogurt) and 1/4 cup skim milk.

Mix this up and add to dry ingredients, spoon mix.

Directions:

350 degree oven, middle rack.

Spoon into a lightly oiled muffin tin (or silicone, no oil needed) and bake for 20 minutes.

Appx. 122 calories per muffin.

Friday, November 1, 2013

If I were a dishonest person

I had ordered a couple of things from Amazon recently.  One was a new keyboard for my wife's computer and the other was a Garmin 3597 GPS.    They were not ordered at the same time and I got two UPS tracking numbers.

The keyboard arrived Wednesday.    I opened the box and took it out.  Because I wasn't sure we'd be keeping it, I left the box it came in in my office.

The Garmin should have come the same day, but didn't, so I checked on the tracking later.

The UPS tracking said the Garmin was delivered on Wednesday at 10:23 AM and "Package was left in or near the front door".   Huh?  No, no, that was the keyboard.  I checked tracking for the keyboard and it showed exactly the same information  - 10:23 AM, left at front door.

Actually I had met the UPS guy at the front door and he had handed me ONE package.  So where was my GPS?  I called UPS.  They said I had to contact Amazon and I did, where I was told that I had to contact UPS.

Yeah, right.  I called UPS again and told them that.  They agreed to help and started with the "Are your sure a neighbor didn't take it?". I explained that a different package had been delivered supposedly at the very same time and that I had met the driver at the door, so no, unless the driver was really confused, a neighbor did not have it.

"Are you sure you only got one package?".

Well, gee.  Yes, it is easy to be handed two packages at the door and think that it is one.   Sure it is.  I was annoyed and I kicked the empty box the keyboard had come in.  Something more than packing material moved inside it.

What the hell?  I looked closer - ayup, there was the GPS.  Two separate tracking numbers, one box - which only had one of the tracking numbers on its label.  I told UPS what had happened and that it was a good thing I hadn't tossed out the "empty" box.




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Splash Shopper Desktop

Splash Shopper Shopping Desktop is better than what I'm willing to spend the time to create but not as good as I'd like.

On the plus side:  it synchronizes to and from my IOS devices.   It is generally easy to use and not confusing.  Handles multiple prices at multiple stores.

Minuses:

Printing is lousy - no control of size or fonts.  Not necessary if you are carrying your IOS/Android device, but I like a printed list for backup.

Synchronization sometimes shuts off my iPad wireless - causing confusion until I notice it.

Should be harder to Mark/Unmark an item as completed.    Just a longer click hold would do it.





Apple day

I''ll be buying a new iPad later today or tomorrow.  I have no idea what - will it be whatever Apple announces today,  last year's model, refurbished?  I don't know yet.  We'll see.

My wife also needs a new computer - probably a Mac Mini, but that might depend on what happens today.

Who knows?  Maybe Apple is going to surprise me and make me want an Apple TV box too.

About that.  One thing I do not understand about Roku or Apple is why they don't offer the option of using a bluetooth keyboard instead of using those awful cursor controlled menus.  A mouse or trackpad would help a lot too.

Along with that, why don't they offer a browser?  Apple has Youtube; why not a browser?  Yeah, it would be awful without a keyboard and mouse, but so what?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Walkabout

It has been such perfect weather for walking - I logged 26.27 miles this week, much of it aerobic (defined by my pedometer as being 10 or more minutes of continuous walking).

Now that I have sold the golf cart, I'll probably be doubling that mileage most weeks, at least until bad weather comes and I have to take it indoor.  Walking inside at the clubhouse is more boring and also more apt to be interrupted by someone who wants to talk.

The only place where I will miss the cart is for going down to the community garden plots.  I'd like to get a three wheeled bike for that - three wheeled because that allows for a large basket in the back to carry things I need for gardening and to bring veggies back.   However, my wife is afraid that I'll get hit by a car.

I think the trike is safer than a bicycle in that regard - it's more visible and especially so with a bike flag and a big basket.  But I don't want to worry her unnecessarily, so I might just see if I can find a small garden cart I can push or pull as I walk.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I don't want your stupid "mobile" site!

My pet peeve is sites that switch me to a mobile version because I'm using my iPad.

Listen up:  that MIGHT make sense on an iPhone, but on a 10 inch tablet, I'm usually much happier if you'd just let me use my browser and not try to "optimize" my experience.

You aren't optimizing it, you are usually making it worse - and in any case, it should be MY choice to switch, not yours!

Yes, I know:  I can use a different browser that would allow me to change the User-Agent string.  Yes, I know that half the people who complain about this blame Apple for not letting us control that in Safari.

There's also this possibility:  http://www.technipages.com/ios-change-the-user-agent-in-safari.html

But I blame the jackass web designers who don't understand that people should have a choice.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nine months of Spanish

I think that I started with Duolingo.com  in February of 2013, so it's roughly nine months of learning now.

Sometime along the way I also started doing Coffee Break Spanish. Because I was well along in Duolingo, I let that slide for a few months while I caught up to it.  I'm now roughly even in both places so can go forward equally.

That lapse of Duolingo turned out to have a benefit.  I was starting to feel a bit discouraged with my progress.  It wasn't that I hadn't learned anything, but I didn't feel that I had learned all that much and was annoyed that I am still struggling along, usually unable to follow a spoken conversation at all and not doing much better with written text.

I just didn't feel like I had gained much.

But when you stay away from Duolingo, it wants you to refresh your skills.  I was so long in catching up that it took me right back to the beginning for review and practice.  That's where I was able to truly appreciate how much I have learned:  the review was easy.  I am still working through the levels to catch up, but I have been clipping right along, snapping off translations in either direction with ease and (this surprised me) having no problem with the listening exercises too!

If this had been a graded test, I think I would have easily had an A.  Even the mistakes I made were mostly from carelessness and haste rather than lack of understanding, so I feel pretty good about that.  So, yes, I'm a long, long way from the fluency I would like to have, but I also have learned much more than I thought.

I'm happy :-)


Friday, October 18, 2013

Poker videos - when is playing badly good?

I was watching some videos at Split Suit Poker this morning and was amused by how seldom any of the strategy discussed has any application in the games I play.

A video that reflected reality at my games would have the voice over saying something like this:

"Jim is on the button and while he has no hand at all, he is really forced to call the Big Blind's over-bet because everyone else has folded.  Jim is the chip leader now, but calling this bet could change that.  I'm not sure how much money is in that pot, but it sure looks like a lot!"

And later:

"Jim is out of position here holding 8-9 off on a rainbow flop of A-K-Q.  I don't remember who, but someone raised pre-flop, so there could be some strong hands here.   Possibly Jim will push all-in to represent strength, but I can tell you this much: he's unlikely to check!"

Yeah, it can be that bad.  There are good players at these games, but the bad ones do stand out brightly. More important in respect to strategy videos is that it is impossible to guess at a weak player's hand - they could be playing anything.  Their bets tell you very little - they are blissfully unaware of how the size of their bet should affect other players and, in fact, it often will NOT,  simply because almost nobody is thinking about any of that.

The biggest mistake I can make is to loosen up too much in response to their play.  While I know they will enter almost any pot with K-4 off, that doesn't mean that I should, although very late in the game it does give me more confidence with that sort of risk.

Let's imagine that you somehow found yourself in a situation where Negreanu and all the other big names are at your table and you had to play - your life or your financial future is at stake.  How do you play?

Obviously even my best game wouldn't help.  I'd be slaughtered.  My best chance might be to play like the fictional "Jim" above.    I'm still likely to get killed, but bad play at least keeps them off base and with a tremendous amount of luck, I might just suck out this one time and walk away whole.  Not likely, it's like buying a lottery ticket in hopes of paying your mortgage, but it could happen and trying to outplay them would be like hoping to earn the mortgage money selling pencils from a cup.

Make sense?

Update:  Lost $7.00 today.  First hand I flopped a full house, 7's full.   After river, the remaining Blind raised, position 4 called, I raised half my stack.  Blind folded, other guy called, turned over a full house, Kings full.   He didn't raise because he wanted a shot at high hand.

Later I put in my last 240 chips on the last hand to buy in with.  Flopped Aces and Fours, beaten by Aces and sixes.  Bought in, dribbled away blinds, went all in for 300 with pocket Aces, knocked out by two pair.

Just not a good day.  Probably should have hung in longer rather than trying the Aces, but I don't feel bad about the other hands.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Death of a golf cart

I drove down to get the mail yesterday, but when I hopped in for the return trip, no go.   It's something electrical, but I don't see what it is immediately and honestly I don't have much interest in finding out.  I have the owners manual which gives me all the diagnostics, but I just don't care any more. Too much trouble.  I can debug electrical circuitry, but I'm not good at taking things apart to get at what I'd need to get at.

So I just want to get rid of it.

The batteries are charged, but they are five or six years old, which means they will need replacement in the next few years and that's a large expense.   I just don't want to deal with it any more.  I don't want to deal with putting it away for the winter, don't want to deal with replacing cables next Spring; I'm just tired of maintaining it.



It has mirrors and an aluminum cargo bay, so it's worth a few hundred just for that.  It's a 96 EZ-GO, so it isn't worth a whole lot otherwise.

Simple case:  loose wire to the key switch.  Worst case, a few hundred bucks plus labor for a new controller board.  


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Learning Spanish - dormir vs. dormirse

I've been studying Spanish for a few months now, using two main resources:  the free Duolingo site (reviewed here) and also with the paid podcasts from Coffee Break Spanish  (there are free podcasts also; the paid  offers extra material).

I have recently reached reflexive verbs.  As it happens, "me duermo" was one of the first examples presented and that immediately confused me because I remembered "yo duermo" from earlier.  Those of you who already know Spanish know that this is simply the difference between "I go to sleep" and "I sleep", but for a struggling student like me, pointing that out would have helped greatly.

That's one reason why I like Duolingo -  little misunderstandings like that often come up in the comments and are usually quickly straightened out by someone with more skill.  In this case I found what I needed to know at 123 Teach Me's verb conjugation for "dormir", which helpfully noted "For to go to sleep, use the reflexive form of this verb, dormirse", but at other times someone else's confusion has helped me a great deal.

However, Coffee Break Spanish is much more conversational, so I enjoy that too.

At some point Duolingo starts putting up little signposts as you complete a lesson. Mine has been saying that I can "now read 55.6% of all real Spanish articles".  I find that highly amusing.  I might recognize 55.6%  of the words, but I most definitely do not have even 15% comprehension yet.

Someday..

How cutting off the leeches will make us stronger and please God

I have been reading that both food stamps and EBT funding will be cut off unless the viciously evil Democrats agree to the virtuously reasonable demands of our Grand Old Party.

At first I was saddened.  Certainly collateral damage is expected in a war for the very soul of our Nation, but God does not want children to go hungry even if their parents are blood sucking leeches of little worth.

Then I realized that I was wrong.  These children will feel hunger pains not because of us, but because of the welfare dependency caused by that socialist muslim interloper who listens in on our telephone conversations.   This is tough love - by cutting the apron strings, these lazy loafers will be forced to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and learn the value of hard work.

Then I felt pangs of doubt, pangs much worse than any hunger pangs those children might feel. Are there any jobs that these ill-educated, barely human creatures can attain?  Thanks to the munificent Federal minimum wage and the outrageous demands of Obamacare on small business, our ability to offer gainful employment has been destroyed.  Perhaps I was wrong?

But no, I am not.  I have seen American ingenuity triumph over socialism before and it will triumph again.  All that is required is for American business leaders to hire quietly, under the table, offering cash or perhaps even barter for work.  Yes, this is "illegal", but do we really need to concern ourselves with following those foolishly enacted laws when so much is at stake?

I say no.  In that spirit, I am prepared to offer one large turnip or half a box of Cheerios to any God fearing EBT card holder who is willing to give me just four hours of work cleaning my house.

Assuming you speak English and have proper documentation and at least three community references, of course.

Wooly bears and litter

I was waiting at the train station for my wife to return from a doctor's appointment in Boston.  A teenaged girl was sitting on the platform waiting for the same train to go back in.

Everything about her was an anachronism.  Her hair, her clothes, her jacket and backpack all seemed to be from another time. If I had snapped a picture and told you that I took it in 1974, you would have no reason to doubt me.

She was eating something that came wrapped in small pieces of paper that were now scattered around her on the platform.  I watched as she unwrapped another bit and casually tossed the wrapper to the ground.

I was annoyed and tempted to say something sharp, but I decided against the chance of a verbal altercation.  I'd just ask my wife to wait in the car and pick up the mess myself after the train headed back out.

The train pulled in and the young girl shrugged her backpack into position.   Then she carefully gathered up every bit of paper, stood up, and deposited it all in the nearby trash barrel.  I was too astonished to be pleased.  If she had noticed me at all, she might have wondered why my jaw had dropped slightly open, but she simply walked toward the train and was gone, along with my "this generation doesn't give a damn" rant.

I was reminded of that last night as I was talking to my almost but not quite 40 year old daughter.  She was telling me of rescuing a wooly bear caterpillar that had chosen the heavily traveled street near her train station as a place to cross into another copse of woods.  My daughter had picked up the intrepid traveler and carried it to a quieter side street where she released it into a place she hoped it would find suitable for wintering.  She told me that it remained quietly curled up in her hand for five minutes of her walk and then, deciding that it wasn't going to be eaten, began moving around again.  She hoped that it would be safe, or at least safer than it had been on that busy street.

I asked her why she was at the train station mid day.  Was she meeting her husband home early from work?  No, she explained, she was just on her trash walk, picking up the litter that uncaring commuters leave on that same street where she rescued the wooly bear.

I wondered if she had volunteered for some community project in that regard?  No, she had just become personally annoyed at the carelessness of her follow townspeople.  She knows she cannot stem the tide, but she says what she does is noticeable.  

I told her that I am proud of her, but she already knew that.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

We help our neighbors, they say

Quote from Shutdown Hinders S.D. Post-Blizzard Cleanup

"Some of these guys that we were helping today, I don't even know 'em. And they were helping me move my cows and I was helping them move theirs. You can get along. You don't have to sit there like [those] guys in Washington and squabble," Collins says.

I think it's a pretty reasonable bet that a lot of the people who would look and sound very like Mr. Collins voted for South Dakota's Kristi Noem, who (according to Wikipedia) ran on a campaign promise to defund Obamacare and supports cuts to Medicaid funding.  Among other targets, she wants to cut the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Veterans AffairsMedicaid, and high-speed rail projects.

That's all in the spirit of helping people you don't know, in case you were wondering.

This is the hypocrisy of the Republican Right.  Mr. Collins may not know the people he helped or those who helped him, but he knows they are gawd-fearin' folks who think very much as he does.  They are farmers as he is and they have morals and opinions like his.  That's why he's willing to help.

But moochers in some other state?  No.  Cut off the funding, turn your back.  Leeches, good for nothings, a drain on society - our tax dollars cannot help strangers!

That's the reality of what "helping" means to GOP supporters.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Our "crushing" national debt

Tea Party members and even the less radical GOP folks get red faced when talking about our national debt.  It's a very large number - $16,753,925,891,000 when I looked this morning and increasing steadily.

But let's look at it per taxpayer.  I couldn't find all the numbers I needed later for than 2009, so I'll use that. It's inaccurate, of course, but it does tell the tale.

There were 137,982,203 taxpayers that year, so each of them is responsible for $121,420.00 of that debt.   While that may still be a "crushing" figure to some taxpayers, it's less than the mortgages that many others carry and, unlike a mortgage, doesn't have to be paid off in 20 or 30 years.  A lifetime of work is a more reasonable figure, so let's look at it as though we all had 50 years to pay it off - that's less than $2,500.00 per year per taxpayer.

Is that fair?  I think so - after all the GOP says we are passing this debt to our children and unless we increase taxes radically, we will be.  I don't know why we shouldn't - this debt came from wars that were not funded.  It's hardly unreasonable to expect that future generations pay for wars that protected their future.

Yes, I'm pretending that our wars were necessary and useful. Whether they were or not has nothing to do with paying for them.

These calculations ignore interest on our debt and also assume that we won't spend more money on more wars.  On the other hand, they also ignore inflation:  that $2,500 per year figure might be a day or two's wages in a few decades.

But there's another important thing that I ignored:  we have plenty of poor people who may pay some taxes but honestly cannot afford anything close to $2,500 per year.  That increases the burden on the rest of us, so  many of us will have to pay more.

I agree.  So let's again use figures from 2009 and apportion the debt where it belongs.  Or if not where it belongs, at least where it will fall based on the income taxes we each pay. Fair?

The top 1% of taxpayers paid 36.73% of all taxes that year, so they should get 37.63% of the debt.  I think they should pay for more of it, but let's leave it there.  Here is what it looks like:


Percentage Number of taxpayers Adjusted Yearly Gross Income Percent of all Taxes Paid Amount of debt
(trillion)
Amount of debt each  Amount of debt over 50 years
Top 1% 1,379,822 over $343,927 36.73 $6.16 $4,464,344 $89,286
Next 4% 5,519,288 over $154,643 21.93 $3.68 $666,752 $13,335
Next 5% 6,899,110 over $112,124 11.81 $1.98 $286,993 $5,740
Next 15% 20,697,331 over $66,193 16.83 $2.82 $136,249 $2,725
Next 25% 34,495,551 over $32,936 10.45 $1.68 $48,702 $974
Bottom 50% 68,991,102 under $32,936 2.25 $0.37 $5,363 $107

Now, I don't know where you fall in that table, but I can tell you that I do not feel "crushed" by my share.  I'd like it to be lower, but if all those stupid (in my opinion) wars must be paid for, that's what it is.

Of course each bracket also covers a range.  Some people who are in in the top 90%, but not in the bottom 75%,  will pay more than the $2,725.00 per year shown here and some will pay less, but it all works out somewhat fairly.

Also note that for most of us, that' would require only an extra 3% or so off the top.  We could start paying this off immediately if we raised taxes just that much.

I can afford my share.  So can you.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

In search of pumpkin pancakes

It's that time of year.  The frost is on the punkin  and the fodder's in the shock and my wife and I want pumpkin pancakes.  I simply cannot imagine why James Whitcomb Riley didn't mention pumpkin pancakes; I find his poem inferior for that lack.  

When my wife got up this morning, I cornered her in the bathroom and spoke just two words,  "Pumpkin pancakes", daring her with my eyes to contradict me.  She replied "I was just thinking that", once again confirming that I married well.

We both knew that meant going out.  I could make our own pumpkin pancakes, but they are never quite as good.  Of course that's because the restaurants load their batter up with sugar and fat, which I can't bring myself to do.  Funny, isn't it: we'll go out to eat things that contain ingredients we will flatly shun at home.  

So, we called one of our favorite breakfast places in Plymouth - yes, they do make pumpkin pancakes, but not today.  Not today?  When?  Up to the cook, they said.  That doesn't help.

We tried Dave's Diner here in Middleboro next.  Nope - same answer, not today, it's up to the chef.

I've seen a sign at Persy's, but the one and only time we went there we sat at a window and noticed dead flies in the sill.  Dead flies from last winter or sprayed dead from this season?  Who knows? Either way, leaving them there doesn't say much for their cleanliness.  We won't eat at Persy's again.

That leaves IHOP, which is not our favorite place.  We would happily stop there on a trip for the sake of consistency, but to go there when there are better choices?  We hesitate.

Illogical, says the Spock inside me.  Too much salt, too much fat, too much sugar.  Make your own.  

Yes, I know it is illogical, I answer, but we are going to IHOP just the same.  Pumpkin pancakes!







A really bad book for some of us

A friend sent me "Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet". I gave up when I was barely three chapters in.  I was annoyed, bored and uninterested.   Annoyed because it amazes me that a "correspondent at Wired magazine" is so technically inept.  Bored and annoyed because the same correspondent can't even make what he hasn't misunderstood sound interesting.  Uninterested, because, duh, yes,  much of the physical Internet is wires and cables and routers, duh!

I'm sorry.  Non-technical people may be interested in this.  From reading the positive reviews at Amazon, I see that some people think they gained insight from reading it.  That they gained incomplete, muddled and confused insight may be unimportant: that may be more than enough for their purposes.

Perhaps one reviewer who gave it 5 stars sums it up: "This book took the mystery out of the Internet for me."

What mystery, I wonder?

That's probably the best gauge.  Is the Internet mysterious to you?  If so, you might be able to read this book without annoyance and might actually find it useful.  If not, you''ll be tempted to stop right when he first talks about a squirrel chewing through wires that magically repaired themselves.   I did not make it much farther.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

I don't care who mowed the grass, explain the zombie scratches to me!

I confess to liking The Walking Dead.  Aside from the constant gore, the plots are interesting and so are the human interactions.  If you can get by the gore, it's a good show.

People argue about the manicured lawns that appear in some scenes, joking about bored zombies mowing grass or zombie goats and so on.

Yeah, there is that.  But what bothers me is the "Is she scratched?" paranoia.  Apparently, if you get bitten or scratched, well that's it unless it's a limb that can be immediately amputated.  You are as good as dead.   Nobody takes any chance that you might be naturally immune, either: they bash in your brains immediately.

In the process of doing that bashing, they might spatter blood and gore all over their normal contingent of microscopic cuts, or in their mouth or their eyes and ears.  There's no danger at all from that.  Even tearing open a whole torso while on your back and having a steaming pile of zombie guts land on you is of no concern.  But a zombie scratch?  Deadly!

And then there is "We're already infected - all of us".  If so, what is the danger from scratches?

I'm not the first person to ask this, of course.  I haven't heard any answers yet?

Gambling in Massachusetts

I had to run to the store for milk and bananas.  A man outside the door was collecting signatures to ban casinos from Massachusetts.

I refused to sign.  Honestly, that makes me angry.  Not because he's protesting the evils of gambling.  I understand that gambling can ruin lives and entire families.  I understand and agree, but I also understand that people trying to stop casinos are fighting the tide.

They aren't  shoveling shit against that tide, they are trying to hold the tide back with their fingers, and they will lose.

I've said this to people like this man before and I'll say it again here:  don't fight casinos.  Fight what they can do.

For example, try to eliminate alcohol in the casino itself if you feel that contributes to bad decisions.   The casinos wouldn't like it and some might not even apply with that limitation, but so what?  Someone will do it.  Limit the hours they can be open.  Put any limits you want!

I think more useful would be to limit losses.  Require people to purchase cards (as many casinos do now anyway) and limit the amount of money that can be put on that card in an hour or a day or a month.  Require strict identification and  audit the casinos regularly.  Put stiff fines in place for non-compliance.

What figure?  I don't know.  If you make it $5.00 a day the casinos couldn't make any money at all, but limiting to $100 a month isn't so bad.  The casinos of course would want more, but again, so what?

I've heard the argument that the casinos could not operate that way. Of course they could - there are plenty of low margin businesses that thrive.  The owners don't make millions, but they make a living.  I don't know what the figure needs to be, but I believe that it could be low enough to help protect against ruination and still offer a profit to operators.

Stop trying to stop the tide with your bare hands.




Poker thoughts

I play in a small time limit tournament.  There are a few oddities that require adjustments.

First, the game pays only first and second place, not third.  It also pays something for highest hand, which is a wrinkle l will mention later.  Re-buys are possible only when busted and stop an hour and fifteen minutes before the tournament ends.  

Strategy adjustments:

Some of the players are sharp,  some are not.  The general strategy is to play tight to begin with, loosen up in the middle phase and then carefully assess the final stage.  Second place does not pay much: for example it paid $10 in last weeks nine player game. I had one re-buy so my take was only $3 ($4 buy-in, one $3 re-buy).

The extra dollar on the first buy is the prize for highest hand, so in that game it was $9.  Your hand MUST be called to qualify; if you go all-in with a straight flush and everyone folds, that hand does not qualify.

The final stage is interesting. Because the game ends at 2:30 (the last hand is played out, though), you need to know how many chips other players have.  As not everybody stacks their chips neatly and doesn't always color up (exchange lower value chips for larger as the blinds increase), that can be challenging.

It's important because it affects your last few hands. If you are in third place, you have nothing.  Obviously you'd call an all-in bet to try to get to second if it was made by the second place person.  

But if you are sitting in second place, you might want to just fold.  Or you might want to take a stab at first place.  It gets very confused if there are three or four weak stacks still playing - if they all go in, the combined pot might be enough to push you out of second place!

If you are in first place but do not have more than 50% of the chips, you might be forced in because having the pot go elsewhere might push you to second place.

You might want to play just because you have a chance at the high hand money.  If you can't possibly make second place, you still likely have a shot at that - you might as well be in the hand!

But how can you make those other decisions if you can't accurately see how much others have?

The answer is to know how many chips are in the game.  Keep track of the re-buys so that you always know.  Subtract what you have and that's what is against you. If you can count or at least guesstimate the low stacks, you have a pretty good idea of your competition.  Then you can decide to play or not - the cards you hold may not matter one bit, because third place pays just as much as tenth - that is, it pays nothing.



Sometimes I wonder about my (alleged) brain

I had just about finished up configuring the firewall that is on the floor in this picture.  I unplugged the wire and replugged it to my own firewall so that I could send an email to the customer saying that I'd be shipping soon and just asking a few final details.

Finishing that, I changed my machine's IP so that I could get back into the customer's firewall to shut it down properly.   I plugged the wire in but no lights came in.

I've seen this before.  Sometimes a replug or moving to a different port will wake it up; sometimes resetting the IP at my computer might do it, or maybe that's all just voodoo and it wakes up on its own, but whatever: it wasn't waking up this time.

Sighing heavily, I turned off the power switch.  I doubt that it hurts a thing;  I've never looked, but it's probably configured to shutdown on power loss and if not it probably can't hurt anything anyway. Still, my intention had been to login and turn it off through software, so I sighed.

And then I turned it back on, waited for it to boot, logged in, and powered  it off through software.

Yeah, I know.  Even as I selected the option I felt like an idiot.

But that's a goal oriented brain at work.  I wanted to shut the damn thing off from that menu and that's what I was going to do, dammit!  Once set on a path, it takes a lot more than rationality to stop me.

3120 Firewall upgrade part II

The upgrade issue I mentioned at a previous post turns out to be "expected behavior" according to Kerio.

To save you the time of reading that, what happens when you import from another export is that you do NOT get the interfaces set correctly at all.

Well, I'm a bit disappointed in that.  Yes, I understand it's difficult to know what interfaces should belong to what.  That's a given - I would not expect that ports on a 3120 hardware appliance would match up with the NIC cards on a Windows export, but I do think they could do better than just ignore everything.

That's what happens - no IP address information is imported.  OK, no big deal, you just have to do that part manually.   But why?

The interfaces have names.  WAN, LAN, maybe WAN2, maybe LAN2 or whatever.  Why not just bring those names in with their IP info and attach them to ports arbitrarily?  Then all you'd need to do is adjust the port assignments.

So in this section of winroute.cfg, obviously the "Id" can't be accepted on import - but Name can and so can the IP information - why throw it away?

    <variable name="Id">\DEVICE\{FE8BB26F-4D42-46AE-AC60-25487EF37DD1}</variable>
    <variable name="EthId">/device/eth/{00-0c-29-a9-f3-c4}</variable>
    <variable name="RasId">/device/ppp/101</variable>
    <variable name="Name">LAN</variable>
    <variable name="Medium">0</variable>
    <variable name="Group">Trusted</variable>
    <variable name="Enabled">1</variable>
    <variable name="Stp">0</variable>
    <variable name="MtuOverride">0</variable>
    <variable name="Encapsulation">Native</variable>
    <variable name="IPv4Enabled">1</variable>
    <variable name="Mode">Manual</variable>
    <variable name="IPAddress">172.16.102.160</variable>
    <variable name="Mask">255.255.255.0</variable>

Oh, well, that explains my confusion though.  I though the import was broken and I was right, except they expect it to break!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why I am writing here instead of HubPages or Bubblews?


Let's get the money out of the way first.  I keep telling people I don't care about money, but nobody believes me.

At HubPages, I'd expect to make about $50.00 a month, but I wouldn't be able to write  just anything I want to write.

At Bubblews, I was pulling over $8.00 a day when I quit and I expect it would have gone higher over time.  I could write anything I wanted.

Here, I expect to make a few pennies per day - if that.  Again, I can write whatever I wish.

Here, I expect very little interaction with anyone.  Most of the comments will be from spammers and I will have to delete them.  Annoying, yes.

So why come here?

Because the money grubbing deceit and game playing by a LOT of Bubblews members angers me.  I spoke to the CEO in email and while he agreed that they should not be doing that, he says he is powerless to stop it.  I don't entirely agree (they could at least issue strong statements condemning the connection farming, the indiscriminate "Liking" and so on), but there it is.

My choice is to write there and be angry every day or write here and be happy.  I choose happy.

So, this is where you will find me babbling away to an empty room.  Well, mostly empty :-)


Thank a Republican Voter Month


I think that October 2013 should be National Thank a Republican Voter month.

Seriously - you guys have done so much to help the rich stay rich and drive our economy downward - you deserve a heart felt round of applause from the rest of us.

Now, I know some of you feel undeserving.  Maybe you weren't lucky enough to have a crazed Tea Party idiot to vote for.  Don't feel ashamed!  You did your part by voting in your more moderate guy and he marches lock-step with the crazies because that's the way GOP group-think works!  You did help, you really did and we want you to know that we know that and appreciate it.

We can't all live in Texas.  Wouldn't it be great if we did, but some of us have to live elsewhere and thanks to the wonderful obstructionism and bat-shit insanity of the GOP, we ALL get to share the results.  We thank you for that.

When I see someone who I know voted Republican, I just want to salute them and then shake their hand.  I want to give them a great big hug.  I want to squeeze and squeeze and squeeze..

Thank a Republican voter.   You know you want to!

Poker day

It is Poker day for me.  About a month ago I joined a weekly Texas Holdem tournament here and have been loving it.

We play from 11:00 to 2:30.  It's a $4.00 buy-in with $3.00 re-buys allowed until 1:15, so nobody can get badly hurt, but there is enough money going in that I took home $46.00 last week when I won - with no re-buys, so a nice profit.   We pay something for highest hand of the game, and won I that the week before when I also took second place, going home with $16.00 after putting $7.00 in (one re-buy).

But I also had a week where I did two re-buys and won nothing.  I'm well ahead right now, but we'll see what happens in the long run.  There are some very good players and as I don't know all of their habits well yet, I'm being cautious.

My initial impression is that most of them play too loosely.  With 8 or 9 players, you won't find me even calling the blind with K-2 off, but I see that a lot from them.  I've been playing fairly tight because of that observation - I might call a small bet with K-8 off, for example, but nothing worse and I wouldn't do that very often.

But that impression could be wrong.  I won't know until I've played many more hands.

I like the time, too.  I used to play in a game (not Holdem) that ran from 5:00 to 10:00 PM.  That left my wife sitting home alone.  When I go to this game, she has gone out to the malls and doesn't miss my company.  She also gets to pretend that I'm winning every week and can buy whatever she wants :-)

Recap:

Bad first half, had to re-buy.   Started doing better 2d part.  On last hand, Jimmy had over 4,000 chips, I had a bit over 2,000 and the one remaining player had a bit over 1,000.

I could have just folded for pretty well guaranteed second place, as Jimmy would be unlikely to risk first place if the other guy went all-in.   I went all-in after the flop.

The low stack called as he should have - nothing to lose, everything to gain.  Jimmy folded, because be felt he was safe and after i won, he still was.    So, I won $10 for a $3 take over what I had put in.  If Jimmy had a few less chips or the third place guy had a few more, Jimmy might have been forced to call and I would have taken first.

Of course you can't always count on rational decisions.  The low stack told me that he almost didn't call.

That's why I love poker.   You can win with logic, but you can't count on it!










Next fight - Rent Control

At the retirement community I live in, we own our homes but rent the land.  Our monthly fee includes that rent plus amenities like lawn mowing, shrub trimming, snow plowing and shoveling, as well as use of the clubhouse facilities, gym, pools etc.

When you join the community, you start out at a set monthly amount which increases every year based on a cost of living indicator - I forget which figure is used but it doesn't matter - it's the same percentage for everyone.

That doesn't mean everyone's rent is the same.  Someone who came here in 2000 is paying more now than then, but they are still paying less than I am because we came in 2005.   There are people who came after us who are also paying less because starting rents were lowered to encourage sales during the economic recession.

I'm not unhappy about that.   I made an agreement in 2005 just as some other people made in 2000 and still others made last year.   My rent has only changed in accordance with the inflation indicator set out in that agreement.  I have nothing to complain about.

Some residents see it differently and would like to even the rents out - bring up the lower rents and lower the higher to an equal amount.  Apparently they have asked the town to intervene in this matter.

 I am not a lawyer, but I can't see how that is possible - I have a contract that sets my base rent and so does the person who bought in 2000.  I don't see how the town has any right to break our contracts.

These petitioners also want the town to impose rent control, which would eliminate the inflation clause in our contracts.  Again, I can't see how the town can do that, but there is a hearing scheduled next month on that, so somebody must see it differently.

I do NOT want rent control. 

This community is not low priced.   It's not "millionaires row", but it's not a low end trailer park.  Our homes are "manufactured" homes and did not cost millions of dollars, but they weren't cheap either.  

There is nothing cheap about the amenities we also enjoy here.   I may complain about the quality of the yard maintenance and how well my driveway and walkway were cleared off snow and again how neatly the bushes were trimmed, but those things are being done.   I may want to see a 55 inch TV instead of the 42 inch that is in the room we use for our computer club meetings, but we do have a room and we do have that TV.   We have a  gym, a basketball court, two outdoor pools, one indoor and much more - this is a nice place and it takes money to keep it nice.  My fear is that rent control that limited the profits of the owners would endanger those amenities and services.

I'll be going to that meeting and intend to speak against interference.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I see lawsuits

I live in an over 55 community.  Tonight I went to a zoning board meeting where someone wanted a variance to move into our community with their 40 year old developmentally challenged son.

It's quite a mess. Apparently some salesperson at our community said that they could bring their son. Based on that, the applicant made an offer on a resale home here and accepted an offer on their existing home.

Most residents here were strongly against granting the variance.  We feel sorry for this family, but if they were misled, they should sue whoever misled them.  No doubt the person who wants to buy their house will be unhappy and so will the owner of the house they wanted to buy, but that is all their respective problems to sort out. Perhaps they have reasons to sue also, I do not know.

The chairman of the board pointed out that he was aware of other families who secretly had adult children living at our community.  We are aware of that also, but the point is that it is secret.  The adult children are not joining in our community activities, which is something this applicant said his son would want to do.   Those people keep a very low profile because they are here illegally.  We may be willing to look the other way at temporary violations like that, but we don't want to make a legal variance allowing it.

I personally don't consider this a hardship.  If someone living here suddenly found themselves unexpectedly required to take in such a child, I might have felt differently, but not for this.  The applicant should have consulted a lawyer before entering into these agreements.

The applicant was asked what would happen when they themselves become too old or sick to care for their son.  They said his brother could take him.

A nurse also pointed out that they should consider a group home for their son. She pointed out that someday he could have nowhere else to go.  Why not do that now when they could take him home for visits, sleepovers and so on?  That would be an easier adjustment for the child.

Some board members felt that the community management is at fault for not providing accurate information.  That may or may not be true, but again I don't see that as a reason to grant a variance.

The board voted 3-2 against granting the variance.   I do feel sorry for this family, but I agree with the decision.

Aereo and cable TV


While waiting for Kerio support to fix that 3120 glitch, I've been thinking more about Aereo and cable TV.   I wrote about that at http://www.bubblews.com/news/1259183-unbundled-cable  and http://aplawrence.com/Misc/aereo_tv.html but this morning I came across this http://www.techhive.com/article/2052185/pay-tv-as-we-know-it-will-be-dead-by-2025-and-this-is-how-it-will-happen.html  which says that TV as we know it will be gone within ten years.

I can see that.  I can see it faster than that.  If the big Networks don't wake up and put their shows on Netflix, Google Chromecast and Apple TV (with ads is fine), then those two will simply kill them by going direct as they have already started to do.

As to cable bundles, they are dead whether or not they are forced to unbundle.  There are only a very few channels keeping them alive now and when those flip to Netflix and Apple and Chromecast, they are toast.

Can't happen too quickly for me!  I'd LOVE to dump Verizon TV!

3120 Firewall Install

Today I am configuring a Kerio Control 3120 Firewall for a customer.

I've done plenty of these in the past, but never where I was importing a configuration from an older version running on Windows.  Still, that shouldn't be an issue:  load the new license file, import the config, set the interfaces if necessary and that should be it.

Unfortunately, this one is fighting me.  After loading the old config, it  won't let me back in - won't give me a DHCP address and won't respond if I set my address to its range manually.

Kerio Support is great, though.  I sent them the old config and they will load it up on one of their boxes to see what happens. When they figure it out , they'll export THAT configuration and send it to me.

I'll load that and then I should be ready to ship this puppy.