Wednesday, October 19, 2016 isn't just for girls anymore

I've really gotten into this Pinterest thing.  So far here are my favorites by category:

 America's Cup

 Small Houses 



House Boats


 Cool Cars




 Girls and Guns

 Mountain Drives

 James Bond



  Cool Airplanes







Do you have any Pinterest favorites?  Share them, please?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Geeks to the rescue!

I just read in Popular Mechanics that scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction that will turn carbon dioxide into ethanol.  As best as I can understand it this is a legitimate report taken from the journal ChemistrySelect. 

They were hoping to find a method to turn CO2 into a useful fuel, but they thought it would be a very complex process that might (or might not) have a practical application.  Instead they found that by simply arranging copper and carbon into "nano-spikes" (some sort of "hocus pocus" geek speak) on a silicon surface the desired chemical reaction would take place.  They say it is fairly simple, uses common materials, can be done at room temperature (not requiring any massive refining process), and can quickly be scaled up to enable the removal of CO2 in large quantities from the atmosphere (the evil airborne stuff responsible for global warming).  At the same time the process can produce lots of ethanol, already used as a fuel for generators and vehicles.

Now lets watch and see if the commercial interests that have $$$Billions to gain trying to solve the global warming problem, and keeping the world hooked on fossil fuels, will somehow get this new technology squashed.

Is this what Merle Haggard was singing about when he said the day would come when "We'll all be drinkin' that free bubble up, and eatin' that rainbow stew"?


Monday, October 17, 2016

Mama, she stole my ballot. Make her give it back, mama!

Donald Trump is saying the upcoming Presidential election is rigged, that there will be massive fraud at the polling places, and that the Party of the Donkey has conspired with the media to defraud him of his rightful victory.  'Cause, you know, The Donald is a winner, never a loser.  Sounds to me like he's preparing his excuse when/if he loses  does not win  comes in second...DOH!  Truth be told, though, he's sorta right.

No, I don't think there will be hearse's lined up at the polling places bringing the dead back to vote one last time.  That's not how the system is rigged these days.  Today the two...2...lemme say it again...TWO political parties who have any chance of winning (they've conspired to make sure a Third Party will be stillborn) have rigged elections by insuring only one of their Good 'Ol Boys / Girls gets nominated in the first place.  (Or as a last ditch nuclear option, withhold their allowance.)  If you're not "in", you're out.

Here's the deal:  Both parties are beholden to their Sugar Daddy special interests.  They took their (campaign) money, so now they must deliver the goods (favors).  If their candidate can't make a strong showing, their benefactors will jump ship in a New York minute.  Who would have ever thought the banks and health insurers and pharmaceutical companies, etc would be lined up behind Hillary Clinton?  But that's what they do when their preferred party's candidate is in freefall. 

After several of their Presidential candidates (Mondale / Dukakis) crashed and burned badly back in the '80's, the Democrats perfected their system of "pledged super-delegates" to make sure no renegade / hopeless candidate ever became their standard bearer again.  

The People might have wanted Bernie Sanders, but the Party wasn't sure they could control him if he won, so they took him out with the big hook (aka pledged super-delegates), and crowned Hillary instead.  Pledged super-delegates = veto power.

"But wait" you say.  "Didn't Hillary get more popular votes during the primaries?"  True, but with the ever-present pledged super-delegates making the outcome clear from day one, how many voters just succumbed to the inevitable?  We'll never know.

And just to make double / triple / quadruple sure, the Democratic National Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her staff threw roadblocks in front of Sanders at every opportunity.  We know this because her leaked emails said so.  Busted!

So how then did renegade Donald Trump walk away with the Republican Presidential nomination?  Where was their hook?  Ahhh....they didn't have one because their candidates didn't crash and burn back in the '80's.  They never thought they needed one.  But you can bet the farm that when election season 2020 rolls around they WILL have some sort of fail-safe system in place to insure only one of their Chosen Few will ever be on the final ballot.  No more Trump's for the GOP!

But for now the Republicans are stuck with him.  Most will pay Trump lip service, but little more than that.  Without their active foot soldiers or $$$$, The Donald is finished.  THAT is how you rig elections today.

Oh, and the media is biased towards the Democrats.  As a voter who will NOT be voting for either major party candidate this year I can give you a unique, un-biased view of reality.  Hillary's leaked emails and other assorted scandals don't get anywhere near as much negative press as The Donald's philandering.   Of course, more people like reading "Fifty Shades Of Gray" than "The Complete Unabridged History of ZZzzzz", too.  :)


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Opposition research

Ever hear of "opposition research"?  No?  Apparently neither has Donald Trump.  Actually he has, but he vetoed the idea when his two previous campaign managers brought the idea up to him.

Opposition research is the common practice of having the past history of a political opponent investigated.  It's always helpful to know if they have a mistress, have any DUI's or a criminal record, have any mental health issues, who they've stiffed in business, what their tax return looks like, who they've donated to, if they are on the payroll of some underworld character, etc.

It's also common practice for candidates to have the same investigation done on themselves so they'll know what the opposition will find and might make public in the heat of the campaign.  That way they can have wet-wipes at the ready regardless of the mud that's slung their way.

Opposition research was suggested to Donald Trump early-on by his professional political managers and he nixed the idea.  He must have known his tax returns would show contributions to special interests that he no longer wished to associate with, or to hot button groups like Planned Parenthood, the NRA (unlikely) and others, or that he hadn't paid taxes in years.  Maybe there were building trades he finally paid at less than the contracted price, or deals made with foreign "undesirables" who just happened to own properties with magnificent views.  Or women he found inappropriately appealing.

That's his problem today.  Donald Trump either honestly thought his bank account made him Teflon coated, or that he had properly covered his tracks and no one could ever find anything on him.  Or maybe in his mind he was pure as the driven snow.  I dunno.  Regardless, he grossly underestimated Washington politics.

Lesson learned:  When you try and keep your past hidden, everyone ASSUMES the worst about you, whether you're guilty or not.  "You can run, but you can't hide" applies to politics, too.  Especially politics.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Things we should be thanking Donald Trump for....

....besides some of the best Saturday Night Live skits ever!

Yes, The Donald has had much ridicule heaped on him this election season for his....umm....unusual ideas.  But he has also brought into the light some issues that had been largely underground for years.  You might have to look deep, but he's done us all a service and maybe secured for himself a worthwhile legacy in the process.  To wit:

TRADE AGREEMENTS  Most Americans don't understand trade deals.  We give a little, they give a little, we both get what we, right?  Hardly!

Trade deals are driven by what's in the best interest of business, and not necessarily (rarely, actually) in the best interest of the American workers.  Why do you think millions of well-paying American jobs have have moved beyond our borders, and too much of what we've gotten in return are much-lower-paying warehousing and delivery jobs?  Because businesses can make more $$$$ doing business that way.  Screw US!

American businesses used to have America's interests at heart, but for decades now all they've cared about is making money for themselves, however/wherever they can.  If Carrier Corp hands out 1,000 pink slips in Indiana and hires a like number in Mexico, or Indonesia, etc, they don't care There's rarely even a passing thought of good 'ol America's best interest.  Their quarterly profits are up, their executive bonuses are up, their shareholders (many of them foreign investors) are happy, the job-gaining country is happy....the big losers are the 1,000 laid-off American workers.  

We need trade.  We can produce much more than we can consume ourselves.  I'm all for trade, if done fairly, but what we've negotiated recently are simply BAD DEALS!

OUR F___KED UP TAX CODE  Most of us only know "we" pay too much, and "the rich" pay too little.  That's all we ever hear.  It's hard to wrap our arms around that opaque concept.  Donald Trump put a real-world number on it.  How many of us had ever heard of a "loss carry forward" before Donald Trump's $936,000,000 business boo-boo?  That sweetheart tax deal has helped him (and many other of his uber-rich buddies) to avoid paying hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars in taxes.  

That has led us to take a deeper look at our ridiculously complex 75,000 page +/- tax code, a code that got that way due to special favors granted by lawmakers to wealthy special interests in exchange for.....?
The rich usually deserve to be rich....they work hard, they work smart, they take risks....more power to them.  But when they can take their hard-earned gains and, with the signing of a piece of tax legislation, see their wealth explode with little additional effort on their part, that's just WRONG!  That's what "income inequality" is all about.  That, more than anything else, is what is killing our middle class! 

You're likely to ride off into the sunset next month, Donald, to take up company with Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, John Kerry, and all those other historical footnotes, but if your spotlight can somehow enable us to fix our tax code and trade policies, you'll at least have that as a legacy you can be proud of.


Friday, October 7, 2016

More emergency preparation stuff....second try

I tried posting this a couple of days ago, but for some reason Blogger reduced the print size to "microscopic" and wouldn't let me change it, so here's my second try:

My Aussie friend Maggie Justasiam posted on her blog recently that a huge storm knocked out electric power to an entire state in Australia for an extended period of time.  She wondered how she would cope if it happened to her where she lives?  No electric cooking or lights or refrigerator, no heating or air conditioning, no building elevators....nothing.  And now we're having hurricane Matthew pounding Florida as I write this and they're saying some there might be without power for several weeks.  Are YOU prepared for something like this?

To follow on my previous preparation posts of September 11, 12, and 13 (you can still read them by clicking on "blog archive" at the bottom of the column on the right), here are some more things I've gleaned on the subject: 

First, even if you have a supply of emergency food, how do you cook it?  If you have a portable generator you can fire up a hotplate, but most of us don't have a generator, and generators require gasoline that can be tricky and even dangerous to store.  You could cook over an open firepit or over your home's fireplace, but again, that requires special tools, too.

For me a simple solution is the propane version of the tried-and-true camping stove.  You can buy either the small 14 oz propane bottles or the larger 15 lb ones at the large box hardware stores.  (Just don't use propane in an un-ventilated area.)  And if you have a barbecue grill, you can cook with pots and pans on top of that, too.

An emergency radio is a must.  There are many different brands/models available for under $50.  Even if the power is out, civil authorities will still be able to broadcast thanks to their generators, but it is up to you to be able to receive it.  From them you will be able to know what is going on in your area, when power might be restored, where/when emergency supplies might be available, etc.  These small radios are usually powered by AA batteries, but also have a small built-in solar panel to recharge the radio and any other devices that might meed charging, too.  A hand crank for recharging is good to have, too, for those cloudy days.

You should also have a good first aid kit available.  And by "good" I don't mean a box of band aids or one of those little pouches that you keep in you car's glove compartment. You'll need blood clotting pads, a tourniquet, antibiotics, allergy meds, etc, AND ANY MAINTENANCE MEDICATIONS YOU TAKE ON A DAILY BASIS.  And don't forget a medical kit for your pets, too.

Assuming you still have shelter, you can still get life-threateningly cold in the winter.  You should have a good quality (NOT one with Hello Kitty on the cover!) down or synthetic sleeping bag per person.  

In addition I suggest you have some "space blankets" on hand, too.  These are thin, light, and inexpensive aluminum foil-like sheets that reflect your body heat back towards you.  I've used them while backpacking and they really do work.  And just a tip, invite your dogs to lie next to you whenever possible.  Their normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees, considerably warmer than yours.

You'll need some cash and some barter materials to replenish any things you are out of or simply forgot.  Having $100 on hand they say isn't nearly enough for a prolonged  period without power.  If you can afford it, have $1000-$2000 safely put away.  Barter materials might include alcohol, cigarettes, toilet paper, soap, batteries....anything you need, your neighbors will need, too.  Stock up with extras.

Batteries....try to buy devices (flashlights, radios, etc) that use the same size batteries.  AA and AAA seem the most common.  By standardizing you can buy giant sleeves of batteries (36 or more) from the box hardware stores MUCH cheaper than at the grocery store.  Regardless of the size, just make sure you have plenty.  Fortunately today batteries have very good long-term shelf lives.

And of course there are all those necessary-but-mundane things that you need and probably already have:  candles, matches, toilet paper, soap, laundry detergent for hand washing, paracord (durable all-purpose rope-like material), some reading/writing materials (so you don't go nuts), some 5-gallon buckets and very heavy plastic bags for sanitary needs, feminine supplies (guys, you DON'T want your family to run short of Midol, trust me!)....really the list of things that will be useful is just too numerous to mention.  Fortunately the topic is all over the internet, so you can do your own research.

And finally, on to a touchy subject for many:  weapons.  You know the old saying, "desperate people do desperate things".  You might need to defend yourself if someone tries to harm you or your family out of their desperation.  You won't need a whole won't be fighting WWIII....but a good handgun, perhaps a rifle/shotgun, and a supply of ammunition would be wise to have on hand.  It is IMPERATIVE that if you have a gun, you know how to safely store and use it.  If you're not willing to do that, then do everyone a favor and just take your chances unarmed.  As an alternative to violence, why not just stock some extra supplies and share with those less fortunate / unprepared.

My point is, this prepping thing is no longer just discussed among the tin-foil-hat crowd.  This is likely going to become more and more necessary considering the world we live in these days.  Don't be scared, but do be prepared.

Hope this helps.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

OK, I've got nuthin'

Watching the Vice-Presidential debate last night I had an epiphany:  the Democrats and Republicans have both made jobs and the economy the number one issue this election year.  The Democrats want to do this by raising taxes on the wealthy, then using that additional revenue to hire new workers to build/repair new roads and bridges, subsidize a solar power initiative, etc, making our economy more competitive and efficient.

The Republicans want to cut taxes, mostly to the wealthy (who I'll call the "investor class") so they can then start new businesses and fund the expansion of existing ones.  They say these tax cuts would create millions of new workers who would then pay taxes themselves, more than making up for the tax cut that "primed the pump" to begin the process.  This is what is commonly known as "trickle down" economics.

Here's the problem:  Trump's running mate Mike Pence pointed out this tax cut theme worked well for JFK back in the 1960's, and for Ronald Reagan in the 1980's, and it will work for us now in 2016, too.  Call me a skeptic....

First of all, for this to work today you would have to assume there was a shortage of capital available to start/expand new businesses.  All of the worthy, cash-starved entrepreneurs desperate for funding would benefit from this "investor class" infusion of new capital due to a tax cut.

But that simply isn't the reality of today.  There is no shortage of investment capital.  With just a little research you can see for yourself there is approximately $1.7 TRILLION (one source: WSJ) of wealth in the hands of individuals and corporations available for investment....if they could find a safe, lucrative place to invest it.  A lack of money to invest is NOT our problem today!

Think about it....interest rates are still at/near record lows.  If there was ample loan demand, and a shortage of money to loan, interest rates would be HIGH.  It's the classic supply/demand conundrum:  too much supply, not enough (worthy) demand.  A tax cut won't change that at all.

The housing bubble that burst catastrophically back in '08 was the result of the investor class trying to create demand where there wasn't any.  They were desperately looking for a safe place to invest their wealth and they thought housing would be it.  They guessed wrong.

Wealthy individuals and companies today are actually flush with cash.  In fact they're using their excess $$$ to buy/merge with competitors, or just buy back their own stock.   Look at Delta/Northwest Airlines, United/Continental Airlines, the pharmaceutical giants buying up each other, the health insurance giants merging, and all the buying up of new innovative technology by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, etc.  We're swimming in liquidity!

And it's likely to get worse, too.  For several decades the investor class was enamored with the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) as places to put their money.  Get in on the ground floor as these countries began to rapidly develop, the theory went, and then ride the wave to HUGE profits.  Never mind they were helping to create new jobs there, not here.

Now the BRICS are stalled or at least slowing considerably, so the investor class is once again looking for a safe, lucrative place to invest their cash.  Giving them a tax cut today would just give them a larger pile of cash to park somewhere, and that might turn out to be somewhere outside the USAnd now those from many other parts of the world are depositing their money here, too, because we're seen as a safe, if not terribly lucrative, haven.  It seems we have an embarrassment of riches. 

In Ronald Reagan's time we were on the cusp of an incredible new (internet based) technological revolution, and a tax cut then probably helped to fund it.  We'll have another radical technology revolution some day, too, but it's not here now.  A tax cut to the well-to-do now will likely just exacerbate the current "income inequality", possibly leading to the wrong kind of "revolution".  *yikes*

So then the Democrats are right, right?  The government should raise taxes, and then wisely spend that money on new projects that will create jobs, and we'll all live happily ever after.  WRONG!  Modern history has shown us that you can't use "government" and "spend money wisely" in the same sentence.  It's the ultimate oxymoron.

Just something for you to think about.  Rebuttals welcome.