Thursday, June 30, 2016

Greenpeace and Golden Rice

USA Today has an op-ed about Greenpeace and its opposition to golden rice--at the cost of hundreds of thousands of blind children a year across the planet.

Good on USA Today for publishing that piece; I just want to point out that I've been writing about golden rice since 2005.

Only Liberals Will Be Surprised By This

It's not like this wasn't predicted, loudly and often:
Insurers helped cheerlead the creation of Obamacare, with plenty of encouragement – and pressure – from Democrats and the Obama administration. As long as the Affordable Care Act included an individual mandate that forced Americans to buy its product, insurers offered political cover for the government takeover of the individual-plan marketplaces. With the prospect of tens of millions of new customers forced into the market for comprehensive health-insurance plans, whether they needed that coverage or not, underwriters saw potential for a massive windfall of profits.

Six years later, those dreams have failed to materialize. Now some insurers want taxpayers to provide them the profits to which they feel entitled -- not through superior products and services, but through lawsuits.
Earlier this month, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina joined a growing list of insurers suing the Department of Health and Human Services for more subsidies from the risk-corridor program. Congress set up the program to indemnify insurers who took losses in the first three years of Obamacare with funds generated from taxes on “excess profits” from some insurers. The point of the program was to allow insurers to use the first few years to grasp the utilization cycle and to scale premiums accordingly.

As with most of the ACA’s plans, this soon went awry. Utilization rates went off the charts, in large part because younger and healthier consumers balked at buying comprehensive coverage with deductibles so high as to guarantee that they would see no benefit from them. The predicted large windfall from “excess profit” taxes never materialized, but the losses requiring indemnification went far beyond expectations.
It's almost as if there are two types of people in the world--those who understand economics, and those who are leftists.

Who Will Take This Warning Seriously?

You would hope that even lefties would look at this pronouncement from our governmental nanny and say, "you've got to be kidding me":
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is no longer safe to eat raw cookie dough or batter — even if you're using a recipe that doesn't use raw eggs.

In fact, the administration said in a new consumer update posted Tuesday, it's not safe to eat raw flour in any form. Not homemade "play dough," not licking the spoon of brownie batter. Nothing.

Here's the deal: You know that raw eggs can carry salmonella, which is no good, but it turns out flour can harbor E. Coli, which also is nasty. The FDA says dozens have been sickened by the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 after they ate raw flour. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38 people were infected in 20 states with illnesses starting in December.
In over 50 years on this planet I've never met a person who got salmonella or e. coli, whether from licking the cake beaters or from licking a petri dish containing those two yuckies.  I doubt I've ever met someone who didn't lick the beaters, or eat cookie dough or cake batter, or any similar thing.  This is among the most ridiculous pronouncements ever.

Another way of looking at it is as a failure of the FDA to keep nasties out of the food supply.

"You Have To Change With The Times"

My nana used to tell me that her "gran"(dmother) in England used to tell them when they were children, "You have to change with the times."  Obviously that advice is better some times than others, but in general I'd say it's not far off--you at least need to acknowledge the changes in the times and decide the best way for you to react to those changes.

The article quoted below reminded me of a discussion I was once in about 19th century railroads in the United States.  At the time they were enormously powerful, very rich, and influential companies, but they didn't change with the times--and today I'd venture a guess that very few Americans could name a single extant railroad company besides Amtrak.  They lost their influence and power because they saw themselves as railroad companies and not freight companies or transportation companies.  They didn't adapt to steamships and later to big rigs, they stayed mired in rail.  They didn't change with the times.

It seems that some of our automobile companies today are trying to change with the times:
But most important from a business perspective, driverless vehicles are poised to threaten the $570 billion that Americans spend each year on new cars. For 125 years U.S. auto companies made their money on the manufacture of motor vehicles. Now they must be in the business of ride-hailing apps, shuttle buses, 3D maps, and computers on wheels that drive themselves. They’re no longer automotive companies either—they’re now calling themselves “mobility” companies, just in case all those predictions about the end of car ownership come true. At stake is a transportation services market that Ford believes is worth $5.4 trillion, a sum that makes you wonder why it took the auto industry so long to go after it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Doing More Before 9am Than Most People Do All Day

Remember those great Army slogans from the 80s, "Be all that you can be" and "We do more before 9 am than most people do all day"?  I really felt like I was living those this morning.

Yesterday it was obvious that my water heater wasn't working.  No amount of cajoling could get that pilot light back on, either.  I figured I'd need a new one; after all, it was a Montgomery Ward water heater, and how long have they been out of business?

My dad's memory is going a little, but if he remembers only 1/50 of what he ever knew about building or fixing things, he'll remember more than I'll ever know on such topics.  He was not a jack-of-all-trades, he was a master-of-all-trades.  There wasn't a vehicle or appliance built that he couldn't repair back in his day.  He designed and built his own house when he was 33.  He wasn't book-smart, but he sure knew a lot about a lot of things.  And when I told him about my water heater problem, he said he'd be over in the morning and we'd replace it.

As he usually does when he says he'll be here at a certain time in the morning, he called and said he'd be much earlier.  I was prepared for that this morning.  He got here before 8 am and we got right to work disconnecting and removing the old one.  When it was out we went to Home Depot, where I'd already checked online for exactly the heater I wanted and knew it was in stock.  We got back home and started installing.

Installation needs to be done well, but it isn't rocket science.  Things went very smoothly for us, and by 11 am or so the heater was fully operational.  By the time I got back from taking my dad to A&W for a root beer float, I had 40 gallons of hot water just waiting to be used in the shower.

It cost me several hundred dollars and a root beer float.  That seems a good deal to me for a water heater and some fix-it knowledge.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reading Material

Before I left on my cruise I finished reading Pirahna, the 10th book in The Oregon Files series by Clive Cussler.  I took Harry Turtledove's alternative history novel The Great War: American Front on the cruise but didn't finish it until last night.  I now have several days to completely read The Emperor's Revenge, the 11th Oregon Files book, before I head up to Canada.

I won't take any books with me.  I've already put 2 audiobooks on my phone and can play them while I drive; the first is Maze Runner (excellent movie) and the other is the 2nd in a sci fi series.  I should probably get one more, just in case.

I found what appears to be a very interesting Star Trek series on audiobook--and let's not forget my reason for traveling to Canada--but the second book in the series doesn't come out until the end of July, and the third until August!  Doesn't do me a lot of good now.

It's nice to be able to do so much recreational "reading" over the summer.

Update, 7/1/16:  Just finished The Emperor's Revenge, and I leave for Canada first thing in the morning on the 5th.  I didn't download a new audiobook, but rather re-downloaded two that I listened to quite some time ago, one pertaining to military history and the other to Western civilization.

The Logical Route to Vulcan

Having just gotten back from my cruise to the Mexican Riviera I'm now working on the rest of my NAFTA tour--planning the most logical route to Vulcan, Alberta, Canada, for next week.  Why Vulcan, you ask?  Why, indeed?

So I broke out the road atlas and considered a few different routes.  I finally settled on one that takes me on the most horrid stretch of real estate in the US, I-80 across north-central Nevada.  From home I'll follow 80 east to Wells, NV, and take US-93 north to Twin Falls, ID.  At Twin Falls, I'll take I-84 east to Pocatello, where I'll pick up I-15 North through Idaho and Montana to the Canadian border. I chose this route because it looks like that will be the easiest across mountains.  And why, you might ask, is that important?

I'll be towing my trailer (see a pic of it here), which means I'm pretty much limited to 55 mph; that'll be 24 hours of driving.  If I leave the morning of the 5th I should have plenty of time to enjoy the trip and get to Vulcan in time for registration on the 8th.  I might also score a good camping spot there (first come, first served) before others show up.

Having determined what *I* think is the best route, I thought I'd give Google Maps a try.  It plotted the exact same route.

I'll come home via Calgary, Banff, Vancouver, and I-5.  Should be a great trip.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Turn Up The Heat

With a security gate, a pit bull, as well as other surprises, I enjoy sleeping with my front door and bedroom windows open.  The house gets aired out with nice cool nighttime air and I sleep like a baby.  My usual procedure is to close the house up by 9 or 10 am, when the house temp is in the low 70s, and wait for the a/c to come on when it hits 75.

This morning I was up at the god-forsaken hour of 7:48, and the house didn't seem cool.  It wasn't, at least it wasn't as cool as it usually is.  It was already 75 inside.

Looks like it's gonna be a hot one today.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pictures From the Mexico Cruise

click to enlarge pics
Leaving the dock in Long Beach, with the Queen Mary and what was formerly the hangar for the Spruce Goose:

The view from my cabin, as we were passing (what I think was) Catalina Island:

This 20-something kid and I were both going to do the 80s Music Trivia contest alone, so we joined forces.  Most teams had a lot more than 2 people; still, he and I managed to score every single point and win!  Since the kid earned all our "bonus points", usually by dancing to the songs after each answer was read off, I let him keep the "ship on a stick" trophy--but I got this picture and bragging rights!

Docked in Puerto Vallarta:

View south from a pier in Puerto Vallarta, 3+ miles from the ship:

View north from the same pier:

Eli, one of our shore excursion guides, explaining the ~2700 year old petroglyphs:

At the Vallarta Botanical Garden:

The marina in Cabo San Lucas:

The Arch, probably the most photographed hole-in-a-rock in the world:

More of the Marina area in Cabo:

Communism/Socialism and Academia

I saw the following two articles juxtaposed at Instapundit with no explicit relationship drawn between them:
Professor rejects Marxism after traveling the globe: ‘Socialism doesn’t work’
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Professor Jack Stauder says his political and ideological conversion away from socialism and Marxism occurred when he actually witnessed these systems in action.

After traveling to more than 110 countries to pursue various forms of research, notably cultural anthropology, Stauder described his conversion from Marxism as a process of disillusionment.
“I gradually became disenchanted with Marxism by visiting many of the countries that had tried to shape their societies to conform to its doctrines. I was disillusioned by the realities I saw in … socialist countries – the USSR, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, etc,” Stauder told The College Fix via email.

“I came to recognize that socialism doesn’t work, and that its ‘revolutionary’ imposition inevitably leads to cruelty, injustice and the loss of freedom,” the professor continued.

“I could see the same pattern in the many failed left-wing revolutions of Latin America and elsewhere. By combining actual travel with the historical study of socialism and revolution, I succeeded in disabusing myself of the utopian notions that fatally attract people to leftist ideas.”
I commend his intellectual honesty.

Professor raised under communism explains academics’ love of socialism – and why they’re wrong
He hasn’t looked back. Discovering academic and personal freedom unlike anything he could have in post-Communist Romania, Curta permanently relocated to America.

“There’s a certain atmosphere in which scholarly thinking can grow in the United States that it cannot grow in any European country,” Curta said. “I left after communism collapsed, but it was a regime that left a deep, deep imprint on people’s minds. Even though there was no official communism in the government, a lot of people continued to think in communist ways, specifically in the academic world"...

I think that there’s an idealism that most people in academia, specifically in the humanities, share. We live in an era of ideological morass, especially with the collapse of communism that has left no room for those idealists in the academic world. No matter how you can prove that system doesn’t work, with an inclination to go that way perhaps because most people associate socialism with social justice, while the former is an ideology with concrete ideas and concrete historical experiences, while social justice is a very vague abstract notion.

You have to understand, the difference between ideas and facts is what is of major concern here. As my father used to say, it is so much easier to be a Marxist when you sip your coffee in Rive Gauche, left-bank Paris, than when living in an apartment under Ceaușescu, especially in the 1980s.
No ordinary citizen who lived under communism wants to see it returned.  There might be a reason for that.  Heck, I doubt there are many Venezuelans happy with their extreme socialism right now.  The Cubans, stuck on that island as they are, aren't too thrilled with their government, either.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Quote of the Day

"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the same sense and to the extent that we respect the theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."
--Henry L. Mencken

Friday, June 24, 2016

Quote of the Day

“The fastest way to achieve peace is to surrender.”

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

“Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
--Daniel Webster

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Quote of the Day

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-front for the urge to rule it.”
--H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Quote of the Day

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.”
--George Washington