Tuesday, February 28, 2017

For ZippyPinHead....

Zippy, best I can tell, the recommended way to reduce the level of radon gas in a house is to run pipes underneath the slab foundation and then via fans suck the radon gas out  from the soil underneath (depressurization).  It should be vented to a place well away from the house, definitely away from windows, where it can be disbursed into the atmosphere.  This is not a one time thing, but needs to be running permanently.  Just sucking it out from the soil underneath once and then sealing holes in the slab, such as around plumbing pipes, has NOT proven to be effective as the gas comes right back.  This will need to be an ongoing effort. 

For your reading pleasure:

According to the EPA's "A Citizen's Guide to Radon",[11] the method to reduce radon "primarily used is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside", which is also called sub-slab depressurization, active soil depressurization, or soil suction. Generally indoor radon can be mitigated by sub-slab depressurization and exhausting such radon-laden air to the outdoors, away from windows and other building openings.[12] "EPA generally recommends methods which prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the home and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the home where it is quickly diluted" and "EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon because, by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently" according to the EPA's "Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction: How to fix your home"

Something else to consider:  This problem, even if mitigated, will need to be disclosed at time of re-sale, and will likely have a very negative effect on value.  Your friend might check with the homebuilders association there in AL to see what experience they've had with this issue and what remediation they might recommend, and maybe even ask if they might be able to recommend an experienced contractor.

If I find anything else that might help I'll pass it on here as an edit.  

Good luck.


Also check here:




Monday, February 27, 2017

New math

We seem to have become a "math challenged" society.  I saw it many times during my 40+ years as a custom homebuilder.  A client would come to me and say they had a hard budget of $    X     .  After learning what they wanted in terms of their amenities, I would advise them they should expect approx    Y    square feet in order to stay within budget.

Then we would all sit down with the architect and they would tell him to cap the footage at    Y    feet, and that they were willing to accept smaller secondary bedrooms, say 100 square feet each...."so make them 12 feet x 12 feet."

That's pretty much how our government has worked for decades.  A succession of congresses and presidents have wanted more than they could pay for.  That's how we got our $19,000,000,000,000 deficit.  We got away with it because no matter how badly we f__ked things up here in America, we were still less f__ked up than the rest of the world.  Smart money "over there" would invest their money here (read:  finance our deficit) because we were still considered a safe, stable country.  It was  all relative.

Tomorrow Prez Trump is going to give Congress his new budget outline.  He's said he was going to dramatically boost defense spending and infrastructure improvement, while not touching Social Security or Medicare.  Oh, and he wants a BIG tax cut, too.  I'm sure the Tea Party is sweating bullets right now!  Their whole reason for being is to cut spending and the deficit, and here a fellow Republican is proposing an increase in both.

"Not to worry" they'll say.  "We're going to increase income by growing the economy by 4% (thereby increasing tax revenues) and by cutting 'waste, fraud, and inefficiency'".

Have you ever heard a competent financial adviser say, "Sure, go ahead and buy that big new vacation house.  You're bound to get a substantial raise any day now.  I hope." And hasn't every president since Calvin Coolidge promised to save money by cutting waste, fraud, and inefficiency?  *still waiting*

The truth is, there are too many powerful constituencies (read: voters, special interests, and campaign contributors) who would scream bloody murder if Congress cut anything that affected them, and if there's anything every congressman loves it's happy voters and campaign contributors, so....

What will eventually happen is there will be, out of absolute dire necessity, a substantial tax increase on the wealthy.  "But how is that fair", the rich will ask?  My answer:  It isn't, but it's sorta like the answer John Dillinger gave when asked why he robbed banks:  "Because that's where the money is."



Saturday, February 25, 2017

America's Chief Incoherence Officer

"So today I'll be up here, but then tomorrow I'll be over there.  Everybody got that?"....said President Donald Trump at his first Cabinet meeting. 

You know how most organizations have a Chief Executive Officer, a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Technical Officer, etc?  Our government apparently doesn't work like that.  Instead we have a Chief Incoherence Officer, and then a bunch of confused underlings running around the world wondering what the boss is going to say next

This week was a good example of that with VP Pence, Sec Defense Mattis, and Sec State Tillerson all in Europe to reassure our allies there, and NATO, that we are solidly with them, just like we have been since we all kicked Hitler to the curb back in '45.   But....DOH!....then our Chief Incoherence Officer (CIO), aka President Donald Trump, piped in by saying they'd better pay up or we're outta there.

And just yesterday our CIO told a room full of influential conservatives that he was going to whip up on those %^&^* errant Muslims, and hours later his National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. McMaster, came along behind him and said the boss was....ummm.... just having a bad day.  *ahem*

Our CIO also told the crowd our program to expel Mexican illegals was a "military operation", but then his Sec of Homeland Security, a 4-Star Marine General (Ret), had to step up and say no, it was NOT a military operation.  Wha....what?

The only person who seems to be operating on the same wave length as the President is his Senior White House Adviser, Steve Bannon.  Not long ago I wondered aloud if Bannon was Trump's Rasputin?  (Grigori Rasputin was the glassy-eyed mystic/healer who became a favored adviser of the last Russian Czar after convincing him he could heal his seriously hemophiliac son.  He didn't, and his political advice reeked, too.)

Wanna hear an eerie coincidence?  I heard someone on TV recently say Steve Bannon's style was straight out of the playbook of Aleksandr Dugin, so I looked Dugin up and this is what I found:

Aleksandr Dugin
Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin is a Russian political scientist known for his fascist views who calls to hasten the "end of times" with all out war.  Wikipedia

Essentially Dugin says push, coerce, intimidate, and if it takes a war in order to prevail, so be it.  A nuclear war isn't unthinkable.

And speaking of Russia, what's the deal with Trump's bro-mance with Russia / Putin?  When all our intel guys say they caught the Rooskies red handed meddling in our election, why does Trump just shuffle his feet and yell SQUIRREL 

Why did Trump's man Flynn tell the Russian Ambassador to not worry about the sanctions we've placed on them?  First Flynn said he didn't say it, then admitted he did and was fired for it.  Now that's a scandal all by itself.  Why have Republicans so far tip-toed around investigating any of this?  (One Congressman lamely said an investigation would take up too much congressional "band width".  HUH?)  Why did Reince Priebus (Trump's Chief of Staff) ask the FBI to say it was no big deal?  Maybe it wasn't, we don't know, but there sure is a lot of smoke.  Something smells!

And just coincidentally, still speaking of Mother Russia, here are a few interesting facts:  Russians are seriously underperforming thinkers.  Russian's share of international patent applications is just two-tenth's of 1%, despite having 2% of the world's population and 5% of the world's college graduates.

Also, due to widespread excessive smoking and drinking, the life expectancy of the average Russian today is just 64, with a 15-year-old Russian boy having a life expectancy 3 years less than his counterpart in Haiti.   Haiti!  (Source: Forbes)

Yeah boy....we really should pal around more with those cool Russians.  Good guys to suck up to, Mr. Bannon.  *NOT*


Thursday, February 23, 2017

So, you enjoying your $16 Big Mac?

I've been watching with interest our rapidly accelerating efforts to find and deport the illegals here among us.  President Trump seems to be deadly serious about building a Maginot Line*....er....wall and throwing every illegal he can find over it.  Problem is, I don't think he understands the unintended consequences of his plan.  In his view illegals are just here to rip off American taxpayers, sop up free welfare benefits, medical care, commit violent crimes, etc, and are a huge drag on our economy.  The bigger picture says something very different, however.

Statistics show they commit no more crimes than native born Americans.  They commit less, actually.  Investigations have shown that if you stay at a Trump hotel, you're staying somewhere built at least partially (and cheaply) by illegal Hispanic labor.  That new roof put on your home last year after our devastating hail storms was probably done with (some) illegal Hispanic labor.  

That last restaurant you visited probably had illegal Hispanic dishwashers, busboys, and maybe even cooks.  Did you enjoy your salad?  Who do you think picked it?  Whenever I  drive by a new subdivision being developed I wonder how many of those Hispanic guys pouring concrete are illegal?  And those Hispanic day laborers you picked up to plant those big trees in your yard were almost surely illegal. 

The overwhelming majority just want to live here in peace, far from the crime and gangs they fled, and make a modest living for their families.  Truth is, we need and depend on their labor

Prez Trump seems to think illegals don't pay taxes.  Not true.  Look at all the Hispanics shopping the next time you're in Walmart.  They're paying sales taxes.  And their landlords pay taxes on their properties, and charge a prorated amount of those taxes to each apartment they rent out to illegals.  Those tax revenues are shared by the cities, counties and states to fund street maintenance, police and fire departments, schools, etc.

Do some take advantage of our generosity?  Do some sell drugs, pimp their prostitutes, and rob us?  Yes!  So let's round them up and throw THEM back over Trump's wall!  Oops....there's even a kink in that plan.  In recent years the Hispanics coming here are more likely to be Ecuadoran, Guatemalan, or El Salvadoran than Mexican.  When our bus shows up in Matamoros and says "Here ya' go Mexico", they're gonna reply, "Nope, sorry, not ours.  They're your problem.  U-turn Gringo."  Getting even the undesirables out will be much more difficult than we seem to think.

So should we just look the other way and pretend no one is here illegally?  Should we just all meet up on the town square and sing Kumbaya?  No, of course not!  But there are options besides just what FOX News and MSNBC spout at the extremes.  Just remember, you can't always play the poker hand you want....you have to play the hand you're dealt.

We need some courageous politicians (yeah, oxymoron, I know) to step up and codify a realistic plan to have illegals who have been here for a while register, without fear of deportation IF they have proven to be good residents.  Criminals, cheats and bums need not apply.  Then we'll know who's here, who's working and paying taxes, who's contributing, etc, and they can come out of the shadows (and yes, learn English, just like previous immigrants from Italy, Poland, and elsewhere did).  In the meantime let's seriously protect our borders with aggressive, smart, flexible measures that won't piss off half our hemisphere.

We can make this a win / win situation.  Right now we're rushing headlong towards a colossal lose / lose mess.


The Maginot Line, a long line of concrete-and-steel reinforced gun emplacements, no more protected France from Germany than Trump's wall IMO will protect America from Mexico.  

Just watch....right behind the construction crews will come the tunnel diggers and the pole vaulters.  Wanna make a fortune?  Sell 20' ladders in Mexico!  We need to be smart and flexible, and not waste our money building a wall likely to be obsolete before the concrete cures.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone's connected to....

Yesterday, in the aftermath of a police shooting in Whittier, CA, the police chief said something that really stuck with me.  He said, "Police work has changed so much in just the past four years.  People today don't want to follow rules....people don't care for each other anymore."

There is so much going on in our society today that is interrelated.  The Whittier gunman had just been released from prison and was a known gang member.  Why do people join gangs?  I've heard it's because they want to belong....belong to a group, a family of sorts.  So where is their birth family?  Are they having to work multiple jobs to pay their bills and not have time to look after their kids?  Has dad (or mom) just disappeared?  Are the parent(s) trying to escape their own troubles by turning to drugs or alcohol?

Now let's connect some dots:  For many decades government statistics have proudly reported the increase in productivity for the last quarter or the last year.  This means the same number of people can now produce more with the help of new technology, or the same amount can be produced using less people.  What used to take 10 workers to do can now be done with robots being operated by just 2 workers.  So where did those 8 displaced workers go?  Unemployment statistics say they have jobs somewhere, but they're probably working for dramatically less than they were before.

To make up for the pay cut, and to be able to maintain the standard of living they were used to, many take on a second job.  Meanwhile they're being bombarded by TV, the internet, etc, urging them to buy even more stuff.  It's a viscous circle, everyone looking out for themselves, wanting more and more, while not even having time to love and care for their own kids.

Is our system of "capitalism on steroids" partially to blame for this decline in our values?  Investors, usually operating through their 401K-fueled mutual funds, and hedge fund managers, don't give a damn about the laid off workers.  They don't care about the product being produced by the companies they invest in, whether it's a quality product or not, whether rules have to be "bent" in order to squeeze out another $.50, or anything else.  All they want is maximum profits, no excuses.  If American workers can't come through for them, others somewhere else can.

What has happened to us?  Capitalism is a great system, fact, but somewhere we stopped working for the common good and started looking out only for #1.  One extreme wants others to give them something, while at the other end they yell "I've got mine, screw you!"

Rarely do we need much more stuff.  A coffee maker is a coffee maker.  If you can't see your 65" TV, you don't need a 75" TV....you need glasses!  There's no need to trade in your 3-year-old car with 40,000 miles for a new, shinier model.  We're being suckered by marketing.  We want our friends to look at us and think we're really "cool".  We've become narcissists to one degree or another.  "Look at me, look at me!"

Here's the final conundrum:  We can live very comfortably with less, giving us more time to care for our kids, hopefully keeping them out of gangs and off drugs.  But if we don't buy more and more stuff, more people will lose their jobs, and we begin the cycle all over again.  Productivity is good....to a point.  Then we must face the unintended consequence of being too productive for our own good.  That productivity sweet spot is elusive.

Problems are easy to identify.  Answers are hard to find.  *sigh*


Monday, February 20, 2017

Are stereotypes EVER accurate?

I recently received an email from a gun club in Frisco that I frequent inviting me to attend a presentation regarding a bill now pending in our legislature that would do away with any restrictions* on carrying a gun in Texas.  No more classroom training, no familiarization with Texas liability laws, no proficiency exam, nothing.  Just buy a gun and strap it on.  YeeHaw!

It was that knee-jerk "YeeHaw" that got me to thinking.  When most of us think of people carrying guns we often imagine some toothless bubba with a beer in one hand and a gun in the other.  I don't fit that profile, but am I the rule or the exception?  I checked.... 

If you were to look under the jackets of many businessmen in just my zipcode, for example, you might find a high quality, well maintained firearm.  The statistics say it isn't uncommon.

And inside the purses of a surprising number of well coiffed ladies you'll likely find a nice 9mm handgun in its own little pocket.  Women handgun owners are a fast growing market.

In fact, my zipcode in Collin County, just north of Dallas, has about 85,000 residents (including children), and 3,853 of them are licensed to carry.  In fact we're the 6th most heavily armed zipcode in the state.  And by "armed" I mean licensed to carry a concealed handgun.  There is NO restriction* on keeping any kind of handgun, rifle, or shotgun in your home or your car.  Factoring that in I can only imagine how heavily armed we might be.

I went on to check the other top 25 Texas zipcodes with the highest number of concealed carry handgun license holders and found that they, too, were from areas with a fair demographic mix of all income groups, races, genders, etc.  I've visited many and don't remember seeing any toothless, knuckledragging, beer swilling bubbas stumbling down the streets.  They were just average looking people driving average cars, going about their business.

My point is, stereotypes of gun owners are no more accurate than that of all Mexicans being murderers, all Blacks being on welfare, or all politicians being crooks.  Umm...well...3 out of 4 ain't bad.  *wink*


*Unless you're a felon, have a restraining order against you, and a few other specific disqualifiers.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

So is it the message, or the messenger?

There seems to be a disconnect in America today between what some of our politicians are saying and how they are saying it.  I think in many cases the ideas they espouse might be acceptable to many of us, but for one reason or another it's the person conveying the message that is unacceptable.  Example

President Donald Trump is reviled by many because of his caustic, misogynistic style.  In general, though, his ideas of securing our borders, renegotiating our many trade agreements, working overtime to keep our companies here vs closing shop and moving overseas, etc, are not out of line with what most Americans want.  I think Trump was elected President in spite of himself, not because of himself.  He keeps saying, to borrow from Muhammad Ali, "I am the greatest!" when in fact 60% of us can't stand the guy.

Likewise, Bernie Sanders seemed to gain traction when he talked about health care for all, free college education, an end to corporate manipulation of our political process, out-of-control banks, etc.  To many these concepts, or maybe slightly scaled back versions of these concepts, had great appeal.  But when they heard it coming from an old school, firebrand, avowed socialist democrat, with the key word being SOCIALIST, they walked away.

I personally feel all these ideas have merit.  Our borders need to be secure, of course.  A literal $15Billion wall might be ill conceived, but aggressive patrolling, high-tech security measures, etc, are reasonable.  

In-depth vetting of refugees and immigrants is not unreasonable, especially those from dysfunctional, violent countries, which today by default usually means Mid-East countries who are majority Muslim.  The key is them being scrutinized because they are from dysfunctional, violent countries, not because they are Muslim.

Why are we giving tax subsidies (write-offs) to companies to help them offset their costs of laying off American workers and moving overseas?  If they want to move, let 'em, but the costs of their move, including the retraining of their laid-off workers etc, should be paid by them, and not just dumped off on the American taxpayers.

Our trade agreements today are heavily skewed in favor of everyone in those agreements except the US.  I don't think we need any preferential treatment, but the playing field does need to be leveled.

A highly educated and healthy workforce is essential to our security and prosperity.  Funding these goals, even if they mean higher taxes, would be in our NATIONAL INTEREST.  We shouldn't pick and choose who we want to be healthy and who we want to keep sickly.  A vibrant economy needs everyone to be healthy and contributing to the maximum.  

And we need workers equipped with today's skills, not with yesterday's high school level rudimentary skills.   We should properly subsidize education to keep pace with the 21st Century, especially in certain critical disciplines.

Corporations, especially banks, will by their nature look out first and foremost for their best interests, screw the rest of us.  They are too nearsighted to realize their greed will eventually "kill the goose that laid the golden egg."  Corporate manipulation of our political system by their PAC's and campaign contributions should be forbidden. 

So you see, many of the ideas that came from both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders are IMO not out of line with what most Americans are thinking.  We just need to have them presented by candidates who come with less negative baggage.