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Showing posts from 2013

Careful what you click for

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I don't consider myself a crotchety old man (well... maybe a tad bit, but whatevs). Am I the only one that gets really tripped up when companies go and significantly change their avatar or icons after years and years with one we have all become familiar with? I never thought of myself as a "visual keyer" but I really noticed it when Microsoft changed their Outlook 2013 icon from a yellow/orange-themed O-clock-design to a blue envelope-thing with a flying 5 1/4" floppy that looks more like a Word icon than Outlook.

Here's the deal. I'm sitting at my PC. I want to use Outlook. I have Outlook open, I glance down to my task bar, I see the yellow/orange blur, I click on it and voila! TweetDeck opens up. I swear it has taken 6 months for my memory muscle to forget orange and look for a blue envelope-thingy. That is one reason I haven't changed my Twitter or FB avatar in a very long time. When we are on our iPad, iPhone or in a hurry on our PC, I think most of …

The Department of Renouning

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From the federal Department of Renouning, "It isn't a cancellation notification, it is a non-renewal notification."

For more detail, check out this USA Today article entitled, "Q&A: Insurance cancellation controversy explained."

Yes, it is true. People have purchased crappy health insurance policies and some of those folks thought that they were good policies until they actually had to use them. But, think about it, people make crappy decisions all the time. They have crappy cars, crappy houses and crappy spouses. They send their crappy children to crappy government schools where they hang out with their crappy friends. They buy crappy cell phone plans and drink crappy beer. They live in crappy neighborhoods and listen to crappy music on their totally awesome iPhones. They make crappy decisions about what to eat and how to stay in shape and when a huge storm hits, they don't have even crappy insurance to help pay for the damage.

So, now, when they get s…

The Bullying Pulpit

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There has been a lot of talk recently about bullying. Because of the 24/7 news cycle and the need to fill air time on so many TV and radio talk shows, one or two incidents suddenly become a national epidemic. Now there is talk in Virginia about making bullying because of one’s sexual preference a crime.
Well, what about bullying because one is short? Or because someone is super smart, but frail? Or because one is mentally challenged, or fat, or the worst possible sin of all… because someone is really ugly. Yes, it happens to ugly people, too, and it is relentless.
Bullying takes many forms. When I was in school in the 60s and early 70s, bullying was mainly verbal harassment, being shoved while walking down the hall, occasional wedgies, but the most painful form was attempted alienation of your friends. At the heart of the problem is that the ones who bully are trying to show their strength and prowess in front of their friends. It is all about being the top dog and setting up defenses …

Not getting a good vibe from the upcoming election

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Just saw an ad on my Facebook screen that Ken Cuccinelli doesn't trust women to make their own decisions. So, that is the only reason to vote for McAuliffe? C'mon, Virginia voters. Don't let these people play you like a cheap Walkman! Think for yourself. Think about what would be best for the state as a whole. Gov. McDonnell has left the state in pretty good shape. Did McDonnell take away anyone's rights?

Our governors are not emperors or kings and cannot change law with the wave of a hand. Let's not screw up our state by electing a professional fund raiser. We don't want Virginia to be run like Washington and it will be if Terry McAuliffe is elected governor.

Sorry to be overtly political (who, me?) but I fear the results of this election like I feared the night that Carter was elected and I feared when hope and change took over DC. Neither one worked out so well.

Cuccinelli is not my perfect candidate and neither was Romney, but rarely do we get to elect th…

Open Letter to the GOP - Government Shutdown edition

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As I write this blog post, we are less than three hours away from "shutting down the government". As you know, the Republicans in the House, led philosophically by the "Tea Party" caucus, want to de-fund or delay the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). I am among those who believe that Obamacare will cause much more grief from unintended consequences than any good it will do.

As I have stated in previous postings, our health insurance market in the US was badly broken. High annual premium increases, Nazi-like intimidation concerning pre-existing conditions (even if you had unbroken coverage from your previous policy), illogical groupings and rating experience based upon a small cohort of employees on a plan, little competition and huge profits made for an all-around distrust of the insurance companies.

Even though I don't think that the Congressional Democrats were smart enough to craft legislation to do this, I feel that President Obama and many …

I Have A Dream...

I have a dream…
Over the past several days I have listened to bits and pieces of speeches from all manner of “civil rights personalities” as well as numerous politicians and three Democrat Presidents during the memorial services up to and including the 50th Anniversary Celebration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. While a few of their words expressed a bit of honest self-reflection on why some in the black minority have not achieved the “big dream”, most of the rhetoric was a screeching litany of programs and cures that would magically fix everything if there was just enough money thrown at it.
I actually felt repulsed listening to it all, realizing that Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech was about giving the “Negro” a level playing field and an equal shot at whatever they wanted to pursue compared to anyone else. No, I take that back… it was not about “giving” them a level playing field, but removing the barriers thereto. I think that an honest assessment of the past 50 years would…

Google Lat Long: A new Google Maps app for smartphone and tablets

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Google is releasing a new map program for tablets. Since the demise of the original mapping program that came stock with Apple iPads and iPhones until iOS 5, I have felt that neither the Apple replacement nor the Google free-standing app have been as good as the original. I look forward to trying the new Lat Long out.

For the record (and I hope Google reads my blog!) there are a few peculiarities that I wish they would fix. Don't get me wrong, all of these popups for great restaurants and flags showing where your friends are sounds really cool, but I just don't need those features as much as I need features for great driving and getting un-lost experiences.

Here are a few of my suggestions:

When the big blue line covers a proposed route, don't let the line obscure the street names or route numbers. VERY annoying when driving. Very annoying.Allow the "traffic" view to be your default (I mean, why wouldn't it be?)When you zoom in to get a better view it sometime…

From Vetted List, Iranians Pick a President

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From Vetted List, Iranians Pick a President. That was the headline in the dead-tree version of the Wall Street Journal on June 15, 2013. The sub-head read "Voters in Increasingly Isolated Nation Seek Economic Boost From Slate of Candidates Approved by Clerical Council"

As I read that, I kind of snorted to myself "Yeah, they get to pick the best from the worst", but then it hit me like a two ton heavy thing, that this is virtually the same situation that we have in the United States. 
No, we don't have our prospective President picked by a Council of Elders from an established religion, but we certainly have our choices for President narrowed down by a very small group of activists, on both sides, who subscribe to the religion of the Left or of the Right. Between straw polls and conventions, only a rare few of "the folks" get to be involved in the sausage-making process of picking the party's nominee. Most people who might make great Presidents hav…

Replacing the headlamp in your 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

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Having broken through the 100,000 mile barrier several months ago, it was inevitable that things would start needing to be replaced on my 2009 Toyota Highlander. My last state inspection and oil change in May prompted a replacement of the 12v battery (no, not the hybrid battery, that would be disastrous...)

Yesterday, while backing out of the driveway, I noticed in the reflection from the windows in the front of my home, that I had a burned out headlamp. The last time that I had replaced a headlamp (in my Isuzu Trooper), the experience had caused me to question the intelligence of Japanese engineering. So, I headed down to Pep Boys where a helpful parts desk lady showed me which bulb I needed and took me over to the rack where they were displayed.

The proper lamp is the 9003. I purchased a pair of 9003/HB2 lamps which cost me around $25. These lamps are up to 30% brighter than OEM and since one had already burned out, it only made sense to replace both of them at the same time. I was …

What's going on with the NSA?

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What a week for a government entity who's initials not that long ago stood for "No Such Agency".

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a part of the Department of Defense, not a part of the Justice Department like the FBI, nor is it an independent agency like the CIA. As such, its purpose is military intelligence gathering, not law enforcement and not explicit spying. Recently it has gotten into hot water because of leaks from former Booz Allen contractor, Edward Snowden. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported Snowden claiming that US intelligence had been hacking Chinese computers since 2009.

Well, I certainly hope they did!

C'mon, folks... spies spy, right? Haven't we been all up in a tizzy about the Chinese hacking everything we Americans do? Well, we should be hacking their stuff, too. The difference is what we do with the intelligence we gather. There is evidence that the Chinese use information gathered by spying on us to further their commercial inter…

Death of the Instant Background Check Amendment

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As readers of this blog know, I hang, shall we say, to the right of center. In the past several months, I have tried to give the political discourse a rest, but after today's defeat of the National Instant Background Check Amendment, better known as the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, and hearing President Obama's impassioned comments about its defeat in the Rose Garden, I had to speak up.

I just read the contents of the Amendment to see what the buzz was all about. Basically, in my not-so-legal opinion, this Amendment wasn't too onerous. It made specific points to disallow a national gun registry and to allow kin-folk to buy and swap guns without background checks. It mandated that all sales in and around a gun show, on internet commerce sites and (loosely speaking) advertised in print media, must be subjected to an instant background check. It also went into detail about how criminal convictions and mental conditions would be entered and maintained in a national registry.

In m…

Is our air too clean?

I am not a scientist, but neither are our politicians, pundits and eco-terrorists. After this past, crazy-cold winter and predictions of a blazing summer, has anyone considered the fact that our atmosphere might be TOO CLEAN? Think about it. In the middle of the winter, a greenhouse is usually a lot warmer than it is outside. In the summer, it is hot as well, but the temperature is moderated between the highs and the lows. Also, there is not a lot of turbulence inside a greenhouse.

So, if they are claiming that increased CO2 in our atmosphere causes a "greenhouse effect", then the Chicken Littles had better get their metaphors straight.

Consider this: if the air was devoid of smoke, smog, dust and other particulate matter, the sun's immense heat would have nothing to stop it from warming up the earth. And the opposite might be true as well... nothing to stop the radiant heat from dispersing when there is no sun (at night and in the winter.)

Another phenomenon of weather…

Money, Money, Monetary

I consider myself a fairly intelligent chap in spite of my lack of graduate and post-graduate degrees. I can hold my own in many discussions both on and off the political field, but when it comes to monetary policy theory, well, that is where I punch out of the debate. We might as well talk about quantum physics as far as I am concerned.

I understand the fact that if a nation floods their system with new currency, inflation should soon follow (see the Bernanke Anomaly) because more money (buying power) is chasing fewer goods, but the mechanics and minutiae behind it is something that I have never been able to wrap my head around.

Terms like M3, M4, quantitative easing, discount window, multiplier effect, and concepts like the role of the Federal Reserve, balance of trade vs. currency trading, currency manipulation, and how the gold standard keeps things in balance make sense on the surface, but digging in deep to understand how it all works together makes my head spin. And, I don'…

Fixing the Republican Message Machine

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No, I am not talking about the Republican answering machine that repeats the same tired message over and over and over. Well... maybe I am.

Republicans are always talking process, Democrats are always talking about how great things will be.

Which goes over better: "No, you can't have a candy bar and besides, it is right before dinner and you are already too fat"? Or this: "Sure, you can have another Snickers. We are having kale for dinner, and since you won't eat kale, the candy won't spoil your dinner"?

The face of the right is Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan (pushing Granny over the cliff.) The impressionable 'yoots' of America see Ann Coulter as a caricature of herself and Sarah Palin has been rendered a into holographic cartoon character. Is anyone on our side even the least bit cool? Even the highly respected Clint Eastwood was reduced to wacky curmudgeon status after a one stand-up bit at the Republican National Con…

Let's Change The Law So That Work Does Not Get Taxed Much

If you go back 40 years and follow the progression of taxes, rates, brackets, loopholes, dodges, etc., it becomes readily apparent that people don't like to pay taxes and will do just about anything to avoid them. It also is true that the middle and lower classes (i.e. the famous 50%) pay very little income taxes. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, everyone paid around a 20% effective tax rate regardless of what bracket they were in.

Jealousy and greed kicked in when Congress decided to make the wealthy pay more for wages over $1 Million. Corporations pushed back by capping wages at $1 Million and providing deferred compensation to make up the difference. Thus began the fulfillment of the law of unintended consequences to where today we have CEOs and other corporate leaders making hundreds of millions of dollars, and the same group of people is still jealous.
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I personally think that everyone should pay some taxes so that they have at least a little skin in the game of funding our coun…

Quick Recipe for Fluffy Omelette

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I'm no Alton Brown, but I have a quick and easy recipe for a fluffy omelette that I kinda, sorta made up. It is really tasty and not hard to cook, which is a prerequisite for any kitchen adventure on which I embark.

First, the ingredients:

Eggs

Optional ingredients:

Cheese
Tomatoes
Lobster (or other meat)

So here's the deal. I use one of those non-stick skillets that has a curved side so that I can flip the omelette. This is the skillet that I use (and no, I didn't pay that much for it. It was part of a set.)
You take your eggs (my omelette today had 5 eggs) and separate the whites from the yolks. The yolks can go into a small bowl, but the whites need to go into a mixing bowl. Since we used cheddar cheese this morning, I dumped some shredded cheddar onto a cutting surface and just chopped the cheese up until it was in small little pieces which makes it better for quick melting.

I then poured the cheese into the yolks and mixed them together into a thick, yellow goo. When …

The Democrat Two-Step

Watching the Sunday morning news shows today, it amazes me the perspective of Dems vs Republicans. Rep. Chris Van Holling (D-MD) was on Fox News Sunday with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH). The juxtaposition between the left and the right could not have been clearer, nor could it have been more stark.

Van Holling shook his head in disgust at Jordan's assertions on the budget as well as gun control. "Balanced" this, and "comprehensive" that... everything to him is a compromise. They all pine for a bi-partisan resolution to disagreements. That is how progress is made, isn't it? It is only fair to give a little for the American people, right?

What we are really seeing is the math of the Democrat Two-Step. It is a variation of the famous "one step forward and two steps back" but in this case it is "two steps forward and one step back" with a twist.

While Republicans are pragmatic and are quite happy to leave most things as they are, the Democrats alway…