Dave's Journal, April 2011
April Fool's day played us a cruel "welcome-to-Springtime" joke on us. Happily it melted away the next day.
Went out hiking in a new (to me) Audubon wildlife refuge yesterday and popped some photos, the least boring of which was a reflection image in a waterfall.
It was a nice place (for a swamp) and will be pretty (photographically) when Spring truly gets here and the place blossoms and the animals wake up.
I'm toying with the concept of a telephoto lens, which has been against my artistic philosophy for about 20 years now . . . . but maybe , just maybe . . .
Cousin Lucia sent us a link to a wonderful web page on
Old Brooklyn. Brings back lots of feeling.
Been thinking about this photo for days, and since it's raining, I spent some time setting it up (torching the new copper to age it, painting the background, setting the one light and reflectors). Finally got happy with it and posted it in Gallery #2.
Then I got on my inter-galactic radio and summoned my old friend Gort for a cup and a chat . . .
01001011 01101100 01100001 01100001 01110100 01110101 00100000 01100010 01100001 01110010 01100001 01100100 01100001 00100000 01101110 01101001 01101011 01110100 01101111 00001101 00001010 00001101 00001010 00001101 00001010
The story behind the Gort photo is that I had to post an image of something "shiny" on the Leica forum, and who, I ask you, is more shiny than Gort ? . . . now I have the Leica-heads writing in binary! !
Federal Budget "Entitlements"
Of course, Washington is in a buzz about reducing federal spending and cutting the waste out of porkbarrel entitlement programs, and I think cutting wasteful spending is a wonderful concept.
So . . . I get a call from the Soc Sec people today to tell me they are reviewing their cases for opportunities to reduce wasteful spending of taxpayer money. And . . . they are saying that they made a mistake when they allowed me early retirement disability benefits because I am legally deaf. I told them that it was their idea (not mine) to put me on their disablity payroll at age 62, that I had given them tons of my financial data, weekly paystubs, tax returns, etc. and that their doctor certified me as legally deaf . . . .
. . . .
She said they have all of that but the new committee is feeling like the previous two committees who reviewed my case made "errors in judgement" (has a nice ring to it, doesn't it ?). And I said . . . ."So ? " and she spewed out a ton of horrid options (none of which are within my control and every one of which will have a negative impact on my life).
Thus . . . I am waiting for some committee to decide if I am now classified as a wasteful federal expense, after faithfully pouring my paychecks into the system for 45 years and taking early retirement because their $$$ numbers said it was okay.
I have a new favorite slogan today:
Useful Binary Translations
Using a neat binary translator, I can offer some choice phrases when you need to be geeky-cool, say in a coded e-mail or text message:
01010011 01101111 01110010 01110010 01111001 00101100 00100000 01001001 00100000 01101101 01101001 01110011 01110100 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100110 01101111 01110010 00100000 01101000 01110101 01101101 01100001 01101110 00101110 =
01010100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110011 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01110011 01100001 01110010 01100011 01100001 01110011 01101101 00101110 00100000 01010100 01101000 01100001 01110100 00100000 01110111 01100001 01110011 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01101000 01101111 01101110 01100101 01110011 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110000 01101001 01101110 01101001 01101111 01101110 00101110 =
01011001 01101111 01110101 00100111 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101011 01101001 01100100 01100100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00101110 =
01001001 00100000 01100100 01101111 01101110 00100111 01110100 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110110 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110011 01101000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01101110 01101111 00100000 01110011 01110100 01101001 01101110 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01100010 01100001 01100100 01100111 01100101 01110011 00101110 =
Coded Messages for Kids
okay. . . . I'm on a roll here regarding coded messages, so . . .
Back when I was working after-hours at the local middle school, I showed the kids how to make coded messages. The simplest idea is A = 1, B = 2, etc etc., and I had them write "secret messages" that we all had to decode.
For example 126.96.36.199.15 = "hello".
Then I suggested that they slip a digit in the decode sequence so that now
Then of course they could invert the alphabet-number relation, so now
That was one of the classes that the kids did not want to leave . . . it was a ball . . although I had to intercept and censor some of the messages they put on the board . . . too much fun and we all learned something.
Unfortunately these public school kids are mostly (I said "mostly") doomed to Walmart jobs because that's how their world works . . and who, honestly gives a sh#t , right ??
Which actually brings me to another topic. . . the movie "The Blind Side". Here's a movie that made me re-think my prejudices against well-to-do people. I don't trust comfortably well-to-do snobs. This movie put a dent in my prejudices.
So . . . despite what I said above, some people do care. (but not enough to do much good)
American Politics Today
No one asked, but so what. There are two things on my political mind today.
1. The people whom we elected to run our country are so incompetent that tonight they will start to slowdown-to-a-shutdown of the US government. I am not picking a political side on this - that sad lot at the helm of the ship are just pathetic. I won't say that "we deserve better" because we don't - we elected them and we elected them to fight one another and to win for "our" side, not to compromise and not to keep things smoothly in the middle of the road, but we elected them to win and beat the "other guys". We, the People deserve this incompetence, we voted for it.
(Addendum to #1: this is a fairly middle-of-the-road editorial that I liked.)
2. (This has nothing to do with the previous topic, I mean this). The Republican Party has allowed itself to degenerate into an embarrassment to true "conservatives" and has sold itself to the masses who eat up media sh#t as if it were baby food. The R's need to dump their alignment to media clowns like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, The Tea People, Bill O'reilly, Jesse Ventura , Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh etc etc etc and re-align itself with the great R's of history (you know, before TV and the internet made a laughing stock of "the right wing").
An Italian Photo
Aficianodos of a finer lifestyle know Italia magazine as an important monthly life-enhancing publication. The quality of Italia transcends the humble label of "magazine" and creates a new, almost spiritual, niche of must-have monthly enlightment for those few who recognize, appreciate and expect the wonders of timeless beauty in their day-to-day lives.
The May2011 winner of the Finest Photo of Italy Ever Taken Since the Dawn of Photography is show on Page 9.
If you click the image there, you will see a web-sized version for your (I am sure) artistic delight. I can display the image here, as I own the original (taken under the influence of several liters of Italian wine and 12 hours of walking around Rome with Mike.)
Here is (are ?) Me and Mike (Mike and I ? ) out in the uncharted wilderness this morning before breakfast. We talked about hunting wild animals for breakfast, but opted for the bagel shop back in town.
After M dropped me off, I went out for milk and coffee and saw this piece of sugarcane in the fruit bin and one thing led to another and its portrait is now immortalized in CafePhotos Gallery #1.
Coffee (the numbers don't lie)
We have 4 coffee makers sitting on our kitchen countertop, and we use them all the time. Some psychotherapist would have a field day with that fact, but that is not my point. (I won't open the topic of our 6 - that is six - vacuum cleaners.)
The most cool coffee maker is the Keurig one-cup job, and it makes a fine cup of Java, for sure. But it ain't cheap ( I never thought it would be ) and today I took the data and I ran the numbers and now I know how much it ain't cheap by.
Typically we can get 12 k-cups at the supermarket for $8. And we can also buy 1 pound of ground (or whole bean) coffee for anywhere between $4 and $10 / pound, so let's call that $8 / pound also.
I use one rounded tablespoon of coffee per cup and today I measured that one pound of coffee will make me about 50 (that is fifty) cups of good strong coffee.
So, using the one-cup coffee brewer costs me 4X (four times) what a cup of coffee out of my regular brew pot costs me. The one-cup = 67¢ / cup, and the regular brewer coffee cost about 15 ¢ / cup.
Well . . the world can rest easy tonight, knowing the price we pay for brewing one cup of coffee at a time.
The Hypocrisy of the National debt
In the US, Democrats in federal power spend money and raise taxes to cover those expenses, so they are lableled the "spend and tax" party. They might rather be called the "pay as you go" party, because they tend not to go into debt to cover expenses. (The current administration is the one exception to this in many decades - see the pie chart below. It's argument is that it inherited a collapsed economy and two un-winable wars.)
Republicans in federal power spend money but do not raise taxes ("Read my lips.") . . . they pay for their spending by raising the national debt. Checking the statistics, in my lifetime (66 years) the extreme increases in the US national debt have always been during Republican goverments, so I am not making this up. The public's perception that Republican governments are financially "conservative" is simply dumb and misinformed. Republican administrations are financially very liberal and have brilliantly borrowed us into a massive debt, while keeping the public (1) happy by not raising taxes and (2) stupid by passing the national debt off on the subsequent (usually Democratic) administrations.
This is not a partisan rant . . . it's simple fact, and I bring it up because of the endless partisan BS that comes out of Washington and the media. The current national debt was generated by the Republican "spend and borrow" mentality, and We, the People haven't figured that out yet.
It is not my desire to get people to switch politcal teams, but to get people to wake up and look at the hard data (from credible sources ! ) and stop listening to the media BS coming out of the two parties.
"The Numbers Don't Lie"
Here is an excellent example of what I am talking about. (Thanks, Mike for the numbers.) With all the fighting and BS about shutting down the federal government over spending, you would think that our leaders (on both sides) were debating major chunks of the budget. Of course, each side plays it up to the public (through the media) that they are fighting the good battle for what best for America blah blah blah yada yada yada.
Below is the proposed 2012 federal budget. The whole pie is the total budget. I have shown the Income slice (taxes) and the Debt slice (added federal debt from borrowing). Also shown (those two microscopic red and blue slivers) are the pieces of spending that the D's and the R's are nitpicking about. The difference between those little slivers is less than 1% of the whole budget. That is what they are fighting over ! ! They make themselves look like heroes by saying "We want to cut $40Billion dollars", but they know that the average Joe out there has no clue that $40B is a pitiful drop in the bucket.
Of course, the real behind-the-scenes fight was not about the budget or the proposed spending cuts at all, but about abortion. But average Joe never had a clue (too busy watching TV). The politicians were doing their smokey back room stuff while feeding the TV media the BS they wanted the public to swallow (which of course, we did).
The 2012 Budget (Approximately)
I threw aside a mind-numbing interactive chart of the budget (NYTimes) and went for the following simple charts.
The proposed 2012 federal expenditures are shown in This Figure. If you ask me what it is that I would cut from this budget, believe it or not, I don't think that the federal government should be spending much money on education. I consider that a state issue.
The sources of federal revenue for this budget are shown in This Figure. At first it looks like the 12.5% corporation tax is way too low, but look at the 35.2% payroll security tax - that really comes out of corporation gross income and goes into unemployment benefits, etc.
A very interesting chart is this one:
I feel the point we are at now is that we should raise federal taxes to cover present spending, and then every new proposed expense must be met with a new increase in taxes (the public would love that, huh?). That should pretty much slow down the Washington cash flow machine.
(Of course, what I am proposing is an annually balanced budget, which simply stops increasing the national debt . . . I have given up all hope of ever paying down the national debt.)
Without any fanfare, Mike has restarted his web page (go to leotree) to keep us up to date on his and Chrissy's (alleged) life . Good read . . . worth your time . . . much better than Hogan's Heroes / Season 13 re-runs on TV.
Mike Being Silly in Cambridge
Cooperstown & The Baseball Hall of Fame
Well, we made it there and back this weekend. Good trip in general. Here's the trip report.
My Buddy, the Tea Party and Politics
My buddy Al (name changed to protect the innocent - the conversation is real, I promise) is a Tea Party guy. He's against taxes and he's against deficit spending. For the record, I'm against deficit spending and for pay-as-you-go by raising taxes to cover expenses. (Like Ronald Reagan said "Spending should hurt." - but see the footnote below.)
Me: So, Al, if we eliminate taxes and borrowing, the only way the federal government can get income is to print more money. Is that the plan?
Take-away: I think that every politician (from the President on down) who makes a speech on the budget should do the Ross Perot thing . . . show me your little charts . . . put your numbers on the table . . . exactly what is it you want to cut spending on and by how much? And . . . how will you pay for what you will be spending - (a) Increase taxes? or (b) Increase the national debt? or (c) Print more money?
Footnote on Reagan: Unfortunately Reagan spoke with a forked tongue. He was (verbally) against government spending and (truly) against raising taxes. But he actually spent incredible amounts of money without raising taxes and financed his spending by driving the national debt up through the roof (as did his equally "conservative" successor ). See the data here. His spending did "hurt", but it hurt the generation that followed who had to face the debt he created.
But Reagan was the best public speaker we ever had. For example . . . "Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in'." . . . Ronald Reagan
For all the investors out there whose retirement funds are now cinders in the fireplace, take note. In 1971, gold = $35 / oz (that's = $193.12 in today's money). This morning, gold traded for $1500 / oz. Do the math . . that is a rock solid 5.2% growth (in constant dollars) every year for 40 years. Imagine . . . imagine how rich you would be if you simply bought gold throughout your investment career. Instead, you invested in businesses that no longer exist and whose retired CEO's now live on their private islands in the Caribbean.
But, take care: The analysis of log-linear oscillations in the gold price dynamics for 2003 - 2010 conducted recently by Askar Akayev's research group has allowed them to forecast a collapse in gold prices in April - June 2011.
". . . . Gold is going up because people are buying it, and people are buying it because it's going up," said Leonard Kaplan, president of Prospector Asset Management in Evanston, Ill., and a longtime gold trader.
A neat CPI inflation calculator is here: inflation calculator.
Battle Road, Lexington, MA
Interesting too, as there are little display boards explaining what happened in spots along the trail, leading up to the "Shot Heard 'Round the World".
My "take-away" is that the colonists may have been simple farmer / woodsmen folk, but they were fabulous guerilla-style fighters.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
In recent years, they dropped $50M to add a wing called "Art of the Americas", and I promised myself a tour. Today was the day. Though I had a buddy warn me that the lighting over the paintings sucked and sucked. (He was right.)
First I had lunch with Mike in Cambridge at the Souper Rollup Cafe, which seats 12 comfortably. Lunch was good. I had trained in half the way (the Red Line), so I trained in the rest of the way (the Green Line) to the MFA.
Then I Green-Lined it into Boston's version of Central Park, and was again amazed at how many people are out there having fun during a weekday. I used to see this when I worked and it pissed me off enormously that there was a whole world of people doing fun stuff while I was getting my head crushed in a vise to produce more sh#t faster and what a lazy bum I was to go home at night and sleep. (Okay . . . don't get me started . . . that's behind me now . . today was a blessing, thank You.)
Solar Energy Development and Production
Today, China manufactures more solar panels than anyone, and they are aggressively (sp ?) developing their manufacturing capabilities in that area. More and more US based solar companies are moving their factories to China. Additionally, the Chinese are developing solar technology to extract more Watts/squarefoot of panel, to increase solar panel efficiency and profitability. (Government-funded research !) We here in the USA don't go down that path because it is not profitable yet, given the price of oil and the power generation machines and "infrastructure" that is established here. And who wants the US government doing research anyway, when all we have to do is buy stock in the Chinese companies once they figure it all out ?
This is good for the Chinese people, hard-working people who well deserve their "China's Century" (it's coming, kids) and bad for the American people who "sold out for cheap sneakers and cheeseburgers" (George Carlin).
It's years too late to fix this. Like we could not put a man on the moon today, we cannot fix what is wrong with our country. Simply, we threw away the passion, the intelligence, the nobility of being who we are are . . . sorry . . . who we were.
But, hey, like (Once) Great Britain, we had our day in the sun. Now the Brits have their "royal weddings" and we have that singing program on TV, and those media/political pundits who mold our soft, clay-like brains as they desire, to the delight of their product sponsors.
(whew ! . . . I wasn't too sure where that rant was going, but I'm thinking what a great op/ed writer I could be for the New Yorker, huh?)
Being The Best Isn't Good Enough
Well, we survived Easter dinner here, without too much scar tissue. Of course, as the alcohol flowed (and flowed and flowed) the political conversation verged on the edge of throwing food and small kitchen appliances at each other.
I will spare you the details (for the most part because the actual details are lost forever in the spirits of Argentinian wines and Canadian beers). But, as you might expect, I was critical of US politics and was told a bunch of times "If you don't like it here, move to some other country. Move to Italy ! "
And my reply was always "Italy is a political disaster. Much worse than the US." And so I heard "So stop complaining." And so I said "Bullsh#t I will stop . . . Stop complaining about your government and you may as well jump off a bridge."
Look at history . . . the USA today is the best country there ever was for the "common" working man.
But, in my opinion, being the best simply isn't good enough. And it's certainly not good enough to allow people with massive political power to abuse people who have only the power of one vote (and even that gets diminished if you look at the numbers).
It's not good enough to diminish the education of the mass of people to the point that they think what they see on TV is honest, accurate, objective, unbiased "news". Or to diminish their education so they believe "The choice is simple . . . it's a no-brainer . . . it's so simple . . . . just vote for our team on the issues and we'll protect you, we'll take care of things for you, our team will make your life better."
It's simply not good enough. And the fact that it's the "best" deal that I can get at the moment will not stop me from demanding a better deal for my money.
Oxbow Wildlife Refuge
I found a new swampish area today to wander around in. The only wildlife that I saw was a turtle, two frogs and some robins. Then I spotted an old rusted bridge, and photographed my shadow in the water, for lack of anything better to do.
Photo Society ShowEvery April and October, the old (really old !) photographic stuff (you name it) gets displayed and traded at this show. I hadn't been there in a few years, so today I went. These are not young kids. I am probably the average age of the people there.
Not everything is historical - I had a sit-down demonstration of the very latest in 3D imaging via computer and special "shutter" glasses. Very fascinating technology. Also had a hands-on with some 100+ year old stereographic viewers. Interesting comparison there.
Lots of folks are into buying and trading vintage photos. Anything that is very old. Boxes and boxes and boxes of ancient photos. Some people are also into matting their own photos (as I do for the CafePhotos) and selling them ($75 - $100 each , unframed).
Of course, I had to buy something, and I dropped a dime (actually $20) on an old 8mm movie projector that is in beautiful condition (bot smells of mold for being boxed for the last 50 years! I am cleaning it up for a photo session at some point.
page written by Dave Leo