Monday, July 24, 2017

OK2P

At the Olomana Golf Course, I piddled before I pitched.
A $2,000 penalty would have hampered my swing.
In a story from Honolulu that I missed last February,
A State Representative wants to impose fines for people who relieve themselves in public. Representative Gene Ward will introduce a measure this month to fine repeat offenders up to $2,000 who relieve themselves in certain spots. Ward issued a news release Friday calling for "urine-free zones."
How will one know that an area is a urine-free zone? Is it marked(!)?

In the absence of a sign may one infer that urination is permitted, i.e., OK2P?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Good Enough

Usually the congregation sits for Bible readings, but for the Gospel everyone stands and faces the reader:
Other Scriptures may be meditated on and thought about, but the Gospel demands that we act, and standing up and facing the reader attentively is a way to indicate that we realize that.
Your humble blogger absorbs information visually throughout the week but for one or two hours on Sunday consciously puts down the program (unlike everyone in the picture) and listens. Hearing exercises a different part of the brain and is how most Christians received the Word for over a millennium. If it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Always a Borrower Be

Our books have been on the shelves for years but were
newer and in better shape than others that were donated.
Only a small sliver of the population engages in extreme hoarding, but there's a much larger group who are hoarders of a category---for example, clothes or computer equipment---that alone can clutter the living space.

My own weakness is books; parting with one is psychologically like forever closing the door to the book's discoveries. I began sorting through a tall bookcase last week and found that there were many books that I didn't care about, i.e., old non-fiction texts, children's stories, and suspense novels that no longer had mystery. We boxed them and took them to the San Mateo Public Library, which is having a book sale in September.

I renewed my library card and borrowed On the Road, which I had always meant to read. I now intend to borrow most books instead of buying them: 1) The groaning bookshelves can barely handle more weight; 2) The existence of a due-date forces me to buckle down and read books that enter the home. We'll see.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Good News, So Not About Russia

WSJ: Low-Income Earners See Weekly Pay Gain Faster Than Other Groups:[bold added]
Weekly pay for earners at the lowest 10th percentile of the wage scale rose at a faster rate last quarter, from a year earlier, than any other group measured by the Labor Department—including those at the top of the income scales who earn five times as much.

The shift for low-income workers—including restaurant workers and retail cashiers—who make about $10.75 an hour, is a sign that a tightening labor market is delivering better pay to workers who largely haven’t shared in gains since the recession ended eight years ago, according to economists and government data. Last quarter marked the first time since late 2010 that this earning group’s gains outpaced all others.....

The recent improvement for low earners coincides with a downward trend in the unemployment rate, which stood at 4.4% last month, versus 4.9% a year earlier. The unemployment rate for those with less than a high-school education—who make up much of the low-wage workforce—fell even more sharply, to 6.4% last month from 7.5% a year earlier. Tighter labor supply in theory should push up wages.
Rising pay for the lowest-paid without a government mandate on the minimum wage---how is that possible?

We'll wait for the analytics. The factors behind higher pay packets could be business growth from reduced regulation, fewer immigrants in the labor pool, less "unfair" trade competition against domestic employers, the wealth effect from a booming stock market, higher consumer confidence, or any combination of the above.

Rasmussen: Americans Are Happier Than They Have Been In Years
Americans are feeling better about their own lives than they have in over a decade.
People are happier now than any time during President Obama's two terms....That's hard to believe with Russian collusion happening and Republicans trying to kill 40,000 people a year under their health care bill. And we're not even talking about the millions (billions?) of people who will perish because President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accords.

The people are happy in their ignorance, and the media needs to try harder to set them straight.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Baby, Light My Fire" --- Not to be Taken Literally

(Telegraph graphic)
Another sign that Chinese innovation is overtaking America's: 'Anti-pervert' flame-throwers for sale in China.[bold added]
A flame-thrower that can hurl a stream of fire half a metre long is being marketed in China to help women fend off unwanted advances...

Some are shaped like a cigarette lighter and emit small flames, while others hurl fire for 50cm with temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees Celsius (3,300 Fahrenheit).
Yes, Lotharios, at 3,300 degrees F. it will leave a mark.

This device would also be a good conversation- and fire-starter when lighting candles on a birthday cake. I checked, but it's not available on Amazon. Sad!

Hat tip: Tyler Cowen

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Obamacare: Let the Situation Ripen

Yesterday I made the following statement about Obamacare: "government spending is rising much faster than originally projected while revenues are falling short."

These days one should not just throw out a statement like that without a link or two. Here is Investor's Business Daily, on the signs of collapse:
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports that the number of insurers applying to participate in ObamaCare exchanges next year plunged by 38% compared with last year, and is half what it was in 2016.
  • CMS also reported that 40 counties in Indiana, Ohio and Nevada are at risk of having zero insurance companies in their ObamaCare exchanges next year. The Kaiser Family Foundation put the number of at-risk counties at 38.
  • In addition, CMS reported that 2.4 million enrollees in 40% of the nation's counties will have just one insurance company in their area.
  • The average increase in premiums next year for a Silver plan in eight states will be 18%, according to Avalere. One of the last ObamaCare insurers in Iowa has put in for a 43.5% hike. In Washington state, the average boost is 22%. In Tennessee, the proposed rate hikes range from 21% to 42%. And so on.
  • As we noted before in this space, these insurance defections and gargantuan rate hikes have nothing to do with the Republican's repeal effort, but with the continued deterioration of the ObamaCare markets.
  • States are also starting to struggle with the costs of ObamaCare's "free" Medicaid expansion. A report from the National Association of State Budget Offices said that the expansion will cost states nearly $9 billion next year, more than twice what it cost in 2016.
  • CMS reports that the per capita costs of the Medicaid expansion are 50% higher than expected.
  • Arkansas scaled back its Medicaid expansion in May, and Ohio lawmakers voted in June to freeze the expansion in that state. Oregon's Medicaid expansion contributed a $1.6 billion gap in the state's budget. In California, the Medicaid expansion will cost the state $1.3 billion this year, putting additional strain on the state's budget.
  • Today President Trump repeated his call to the Senate to continue working on a health care bill. It's my belief---hold on to your hats---that he thinks it's the right thing to do despite the fact (not a probability) that he and the Republicans will be vilified no matter what they come up with. As a person with life experience, he knows that trying to help people who don't wish to be helped not only is unappreciated but resented.

    He should just call off his effort, declare Obamacare to be the law of the land until the people overwhelmingly want something different, agree to provide funding according to the 2009 CBO projections, and let the Obamacare advocates tell us how to fix it as long as they stay within the budgetary guidelines (plus 10% because he's a reasonable guy). Let the situation ripen, as the saying goes.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

    Let's See Who Was Right

    What I wrote in March about the House's original failure to repeal Obamacare ("It Would Have Been a Catastrophic Victory") applies to yesterday's Senate "failure" as well.

    The Republican Senators couldn't overturn Obamacare because it was a great system (it's not--government spending is rising much faster than originally projected while revenues are falling short); the Senators didn't want to be blamed at the ballot box for the pain of the transition---just as the Democrats were blamed from 2010 to 2016.
    One doesn't go changing a system where hundreds of billions of dollars are spent without some good, innocent people being harmed. In 2017 we would have been treated to stories about people who lost due to Obamacare's repeal. The difference was that in 2013 we didn't hear about people who lost their doctor and/or their insurance plan because of Obamacare. Unfair, but that's the media landscape.
    The next order of business is to decide how much to fund the health care system that so many Republicans disagree with. Frankly, I'd start with the 2009 CBO projections that were used to pass the bill, perhaps adding 5-10% for overages.

    Opponents at the time said that Obamacare advocates were lowballing the costs in a classic get-it-passed-so-we're-stuck-with-it move. Let's see who was right.

    Monday, July 17, 2017

    Evelyn Waugh Was Born 100 Years Too Soon

    Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) (Biography.com)
    I long thought "he" was a woman because
    dust jackets never had photos.
    The majority of book-readers are women, and they want to read woman writers:
    A 2014 Goodreads survey of 20,000 male and 20,000 female participants on the site found that of the 50 books published that year that were most read by women, 46 were written by women.
    One growing genre is the psychological suspense novel with a female protagonist. Because of a common belief that only a woman can truly get into such a character's mind, female readers favor woman authors.

    Male writers are adapting ambiguous pseudonyms (e.g., Jordan, Stacy) or just abbreviations (e.g., J.K. Rowling, who is, of course, a real woman) so as not to be rejected out of hand.

    These days men aren't reading a lot of books, especially fiction. It's a woman-readers' world, and male suspense writers must adapt accordingly.

    Sunday, July 16, 2017

    Little Lost Church

    Unlike outsiders who believe that the Episcopal Church is near collapse--partly in my view due to wish fulfillment--I don't think its condition is that dire, but there's no doubt that the Church has severe problems.

    The drop in attendance is unquestioned, but the decline appears to have leveled off:
    Among the old mainstream denominations reporting to the National Council of Churches, the Episcopal Church suffered the worst loss of membership from 1992-2002 — plunging from 3.4 million members to 2.3 million for a 32 percent loss. In the NCC’s 2012 yearbook, the Episcopal Church admitted another 2.71 percent annual membership loss.
    For the past quarter-century, the Church's leaders have embraced coastal values (same-sex marriage, gender fluidity, climate-change environmentalism, social-justice redistributionism) without doing much outreach to the more conservative lay population and a few clergy dissenters.

    Recalcitrant Dioceses have tried to break away while retaining their Anglicanism, but the Episcopal Church has responded with lawsuits that assert its legal claim to the properties (generally the Church has won in court). However, suing fellow Anglicans who have paid for the maintenance and usually the purchase of the properties that they have worshipped in for generations is not a good look.

    As for the coastal Dioceses themselves, high property values raise the temptation to sell off real estate in order to cope with cash shortages. But that course of action meets with resistance from parishes (financially independent churches, unlike missions) that thought they owned the property because they paid for it. Generally title does not reside at the local level.

     St. James, Newport Beach (OC Register)
    Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles tried to sell a Newport Beach property to a developer, but was stopped by the National Church. Bishop Bruno has been threatened with removal of his collar:
    an attorney for the national Church has recommended he be defrocked.

    Bruno’s misconduct allegations were over his move to sell the prime piece of real estate on Via Lido back in June 2015 for $15 million to a developer who wanted to build luxury condominiums there. Though that sale fell through, the congregation was evicted and remains locked out, forced to hold services in a community room at the Newport Beach Civic Center.
    The church's dwindling resources are increasingly tied up in the courts and politics that are only tangentially related to the Christian mission. The Episcopal Church is not collapsing, but it has definitely lost its way.

    Saturday, July 15, 2017

    Seams Puzzling

    (WSJ photo)
    I will never understand how values are assigned to art or wine or fashion. An example of the latter is the new Raf Simons sweater (pictured) that retails for $487.
    The drop-shouldered knits, made in partnership with Woolmark, the Australian company that promotes merino wool, are drapier and softer than Mr. Simons’s previous slightly itchy, stiffer shetland designs.
    Comments:

    Drapy and soft, not itchy or stiff---that must explain the price.

    The description made me look up what "drop shoulder" (seam is on the upper arm, not the shoulder) means, so there's that.

    It sure looks like the sweater doesn't go all the way down to the waist. Is this now a thing?

    "I ❤️ NY" is available on $5 T-shirts. If we are to appreciate the expensive merino-wool medium, we should lose the cheap message, IMHO. But that's why I'll never understand fashion.

    Friday, July 14, 2017

    This Conspiracy Makes Sense.

    Nearly everyone knows the adjective, how about the noun form?

    Donald J. Trump, Jr., naïf:
    Donald Jr and Fredo (John Cazale) (Vox juxtaposition)
    when the Obama administration couldn’t get permission from the FISA court to surveil Trump, they allowed Veselnitskaya back into the country to take part in those Washington activities aside from whatever legal work she supposedly would be doing, and in the meantime the administration’s pals at Fusion tasked Goldstone with attempting to hook Trump Junior, whose performance makes him not a terrible analog for Fredo Corleone, into a meeting at Trump Tower to pass along “opposition research.”

    And once that meeting — which on its surface was a waste of everyone’s time — was had, the Obama administration now had something to sell to the FISA court to get that warrant — from which they snagged Mike Flynn and gave the Democrat party and the media a mechanism to shroud the Trump administration in what can best be described as a rather dubious scandal. Remember how Hillary Clinton was accusing Trump of being a Putin’s puppet at the October 19 debate?
    The hypothesis, at its essence: The Obama Administration ensnared the Trump campaign by allowing visa-already-denied Natalia into the U.S. just in time for a meeting with Donald Junior. Aha! Junior is meeting with Russians! FISA warrant approved.

    Even liberals will admit that this "conspiracy" makes more sense. The much smarter Democratic operatives played chess while the Trump rubes thought the game was checkers. Yet, somehow, the naïfs won when it counted.

    Not Miracle Whip, Just a Miracle

    Homeroom's mac-and-cheese waffles (SF Gate)
    Skipping National Mac and Cheese Day is the price one pays for middle-onset lactose intolerance.

    I will never darken the doors of Oakland's Homeroom Restaurant, whose entire entrée menu consists of variations on the popular comfort food.

    I will never again dine on the sliced hot dogs and Kraft mac-and-cheese that I loved as a child. Perhaps it's just as well, because boxed M&C contains "phthalates — which have been linked to genital birth defects in baby boys and behavior problems in older kids."

    I played baseball in the streets with the neighborhood kids and climbed six-foot-high jungle gyms, falling once onto a hard asphalt surface and never making that mistake again. I walked a mile to and from school with busy urban traffic whizzing by. And now it turns out that phthalates were in the mac and cheese.

    It's a miracle I'm still alive.

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    Diversity in Pedagogy

    (Photo from eljay.org)
    Mills College of Oakland has fired five tenured professors in a cost-cutting move [bold added].
    Mills, one of only 36 women’s colleges remaining in the United States, is again deep in the hole. But unlike dozens of other women’s schools that have voted in recent decades to admit men to solve financial woes, Mills trustees made a controversial decision of a different kind this summer: They fired tenured professors, a move rare in academia and unprecedented at Mills.
    With 1,400 students--about two-thirds undergraduates--Mills has long been known as an excellent private college. Wikipedia: [bold added]
    In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked Mills sixth overall among colleges and universities in the Western U.S. (regional universities) and one of the top colleges and universities in the Western U.S. in "Great Schools, Great Prices," which evaluated the quality of institutions' academics against the cost of attendance. The Princeton Review ranks Mills as one of the Best 380 Colleges and one of the top "green" colleges in the U.S. Washington Monthly ranks Mills as one of the top 10 master's universities in the U.S.
    I attended college in the 1970's, after men's universities, including mine, had gone co-ed. I wondered why the arguments that applied to admitting women to men's schools (enriched educational experience, diversity of opinion, enhanced preparation for "real life," social benefits, etc.) weren't relevant to men attending women's schools. The double standard was one of the reasons that I became disenchanted with the progressive agenda.

    Today I'm glad that Mills has chosen to remain the way it is. Women's colleges are disappearing, now that the main reason for their existence has vanished:
  • The earliest women’s colleges were founded in the mid-19th century to give women access to higher education. This was a time when many people believed that it was unnecessary to educate women whose place was in the home, and that rigorous study could be unhealthy for women.
  • In 1960 there were about 230 women’s colleges.
  • In 2014, there were 47 women’s colleges in the U.S. and Canada.
  • There's a sameness to university education across the country: high costs, racially diverse student populations, women in the majority, leftist politics, and poor job prospects for non-STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) majors.

    Schools that once catered to specific groups--blacks, women, military, Christian--have become rare. It's important to preserve them, not just for students who wish to learn in a different environment but also because innovation springs from a diversity in pedagogy. Two cheers for Mills.

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    Prime Day Savings

    I didn't know I needed a combined corkscrew and bottle opener until I saw it on Amazon's website during Prime Day. The same can be said of a stainless steel chips-and-dip bowl, a pet-hair cordless vacuum, and three--count 'em, three, no less--accordion files to file all the papers that I've been meaning to scan electronically.
    Add caption
    My bicycle cover has some holes in it, so I'll take one of those. Of course, one can use another pair of inexpensive earbuds.
    They're always getting lost or broken. Sure, I don't "need" any of this stuff, but look at all the money I've saved.

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017

    Because They Can

    When a business struggles, it has to find a way to keep up with the competition--for example, retail stores vs. Amazon---else it fails. When a monopolist struggles--for example, electric utilities vs. homeowners' solar panels--it makes some effort to change, then petitions for rate increases that are usually granted. When a government monopolist struggles, it always raises rates.

    Four years ago the Golden Gate Bridge District, which at $6 charged the highest toll in the Bay Area, eliminated human toll takers under the guise of cost reduction. We griped:
    I'm all for government operating more efficiently, even if that means some jobs will be lost. In this case, however, efficiency means a significantly degraded service, a service which everyone must use because there are no feasible alternatives. Drivers who don't wish to open an account, prepay a toll, or mail in a check have no choice. It's the bureaucrats' bridge, not ours.
    We threw in the towel and obtained a FasTrak reader though we cross a toll bridge about once a month. (There's a surcharge if the District takes a picture of your license plate and bills you; there's also a chance you could be caught in red-tape hell.) We keep a $25-$50 credit on FasTrak, which means the authorities have a permanent, interest-free loan from us and hundreds of thousands of drivers.

    Of course, none of these actions stopped toll increases: [bold added]
    Starting Monday [July 3, 2017], the majority of bridge traffic — two-axle cars — will be charged the increased rate to cross one of the world’s most famous bridges, according to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

    A discount will remain on FasTrak electronic passes as an incentive for Bay Area motorists to use them. Under the new rates, FasTrak users will pay $6.75 per crossing.

    For those without FasTrak, the bridge’s automatic license plate scanner — which snaps a photo of license plates and mails an invoice, even to out-of-state motorists — will go from $7.50 to $7.75. The toll gates are cashless. The toll hikes were initially approved in February 2014 by the bridge agency’s directors, who said they needed the additional funding to recover from a budget deficit.

    Bridge overseers have enacted regular, similarly sized toll increases since then, with annual rate rises scheduled through 2018.
    They do it because they can.