Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What are we going to do?...

...That's my thought quite often these days. Especially when I consider that we have 4 years of his presidency to live through. What will my world look like in 2020?

The power of the independent voter continues to grow, but will it be enough to make a difference in 2020? I can't imagine coming back to the Democratic Party; I left them some years ago because I thought they had abandoned liberalism by a constant shifting to the center. To be effective, they have to be the 'Opposition' party. The Republicans have been proving that for the last 8 years.

Consider Bernie Sanders. I had mixed feelings about him and still do. I'm an independent liberal that leans very much towards socialism. And if we had a real socialist party I would have been all with their candidate. I also think Bernie would have dropped his Democrat label long ago and have been a strong contender for the socialist party candidate. In a dream world, there would be a third party and it would be a socialist party. I think the socialists would be strong, and as the Democrats slowly make their way into obsolescence, the socialists would gather up even more strength. That's when I cast my dream vote for Bernie.

In 2020, Bernie will be too old to be President. So will Trump. Being president is a young man's game. Look at what it did too Obama. Since Trump declined to give us a valid health report, we really don't know if the behavior we are seeing in him is dementia or mania. I'm betting on both.

Speaking of 2020; I'm really irritated by Trump's campaign for a second term. He is blatantly ripping off the public by traveling in Air Force One to these rallies of his. As usual, the Trumpeters see nothing wrong with that but are very eager to see a cutoff of any budget money going to the arts. I know that the money he is wasting is just a tiny dot compared to other budget items, such as the bloated defence budget. But so is the money for the arts. Just a dot. I think he is cutting them off to make a statement to his base. He is telling them that he is no highbrow intellectual. He is one of them! And they don't listen to any classical music or podcasts about some science stuff.

For some reason I was just reminded of an incident at a local county supervisors meeting. It took place in 2008 when we lived in the county on the other side of river and I was a member of the Friends of the Library. The supervisors were being asked for more money for the local library budget. They needed to buy more books. A supervisor stated that he was pretty sure that everyone had enough books at home and they could always read those if they needed to read. The extra budget money was denied.

No thanks

I just got back from the doctor and now I'm convinced that growing old has no real benefits. Yes, you do see more beautiful sunsets. And there are the grandchildren. But they grow older and move on with their lives; marry and have great-grandchildren. And have less time for you. Most of the friends are gone as well. Your closest friend, next to your wife, is your doctor. I'm not being bitter, just realistic. There will be a sunset tonight and I'm counting on  a sunrise tomorrow.

I try to avoid joining organizations. When you join a club or group, the mantle of that organization falls upon your shoulder and you become known by it. Did they do something questionable in 1974? That becomes part of your own history and you may have to explain away your involvement. I find it simpler to just avoid joining. I do belong to a church and I have belonged to the ACLU for about 15 years. I have never been embarrassed by either one of them. Well, I'm a little disappointed in the church. We recently sought a new pastor and the search committee came up with a capable minister; a young man with a wife that is an MD and they haves 3 children. He fits the demographics of this very white community quite well. But I was hoping, I was praying for a black woman as our new pastor. Oh, well...maybe next time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

After sundown

It's just after 8:30 and we just finished watching television. We'll watch one or two shows a night, chosen from Netflix or Amazon. We had spent a good part of the day looking at the news on the net. To be honest, a 'good part' was just a few hours. Tuesday is my day to spend time with friends at the Art Center, not waste time collecting old photos. Anyway, we were both somewhat incensed after reading the current news regarding our would-be president. I asked my wife if she would like to see a show that would take our minds off of that news. I picked another episode of Inspector Morse from Amazon. Yes, it worked out well and now we can go to sleep with our minds cleared of the angry thoughts that were dominating our brains.

We watched the show on a new service via Amazon, Acorn TV. Acorn specializes in British shows  and those are the ones that already had us as fans. Now we can see hundreds of them. I was not an early fan of Acorn though...Amazon was offering the shows and then when you decided to watch, the message would pop up that you needed Acorn to watch it. Idle curiosity led me to Acorn's website and I found that I could see all of the shows for $5 a month. I thought it was a bargain, especially since our TV bill is just $12 a month, plus a small portion of Amazon Prime membership, plus some portion of our high speed internet bill. I only know that it's a much lower bill than when we were using a satellite service for TV. It was up to $135, plus or minus.

Honest, I don't get anything from Acorn. I just happened to be somewhat relaxed after 90 minutes of Inspector Morse and thought I would share that

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Something from the Times

It's our 54th anniversary today and we have not surprised ourselves with a mutual gift of some new cookware for the two of us. We had agreed that we didn't enjoy cooking with some of the old pans; she didn't like to cook eggs with one of the pans we owned and I needed a skillet with tall sides and a fitting lid. So we shopped together and found what we wanted. Plus, we agreed to remove the old pans from our inventory.

3 or 4 times a week I use my Twitter account to see what our so-called leaders are saying. This gives me a chance to be snarky as I tweet to them. Truly, I hope to be downright insulting when I do it. Alas, I know that the intended recipient will never see my bitter words. I usually see that 2.5k tweeters have beat me to first place. I'm not worried about my behavior; I know for a fact that I can insult the so-called president as many times as I feel the need to.  And it is a need. I feel so much better after a tweeting session that includes trump, pence, ryan and mcconnell.    

I know that I have called our so so-called president a sociopath. A narcissist and worse. I'm wrong. I just found this letter to the editor of the NY Times, dated Feb 14th 2017. I do like his conclusions and must agree with him. This does not mean that I will stop tweeting. I tweet for my own mental health!

To the Editor:
Fevered media speculation about Donald Trump’s psychological motivations and psychiatric diagnosis has recently encouraged mental health professionals to disregard the usual ethical constraints against diagnosing public figures at a distance. They have sponsored several petitions and a Feb. 14 letter to The New York Times suggesting that Mr. Trump is incapable, on psychiatric grounds, of serving as president.
Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them. He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.
Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy. It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).
Bad behavior is rarely a sign of mental illness, and the mentally ill behave badly only rarely. Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy. He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.
His psychological motivations are too obvious to be interesting, and analyzing them will not halt his headlong power grab. The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.
Coronado, Calif.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Things are happening!

I think most people in the US of A now know where Oroville CA is. It's the town with the broken down dam and a lot of people evacuated. We are located about 20 miles north of Oroville and are not in the flood zone so we weren't impacted in any way, or so we thought. Then we found out that our Church, Bidwell Presbyterian, was one of the evacuation centers. Church members have are soliciting supplies for the families that will be, or are, sleeping in our Fellowship hall. I'm really pleased with this reaction on the part of the church. They have been practicing; The end of January ended our participation in providing overnight shelter for homeless and their pets.

I've read that the water is no longer going over the emergency spill. And I've seen the size and location of the hole that is so dangerously close to the emergency spillway. The plan, as I understand it, is to drop rocks into this hole via helicopters. They already have the rocks ready and bagged up for transit.and the engineers are on site, able to see all of the way down into the pit.

I just finished reading the second book I've read about the San Francisquito Canyon Dam that William Mulholland built. Floodpath by Jon Wilkman.  This author carefully details the anatomy of the collapse of that dam (1928) and the subsequent loss of lives. As I looked at the pictures of Oroville Dam, I couldn't help but remember the arrogant attitude of the engineers of that time and then after the collapse, the behavior of the Metropolitan Water District when it came time to pay damages. Now it looks like the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) figures in the damage of this dam. The state of California owns this dam and the water. MWD is one of the biggest customers, or "shareholders" of this dam and it's water. It's already come up that when it was suggested to armor the spillway and use concrete to channel the water safely away from it's base. MWD and the San Diego authorities convinced the FERC (Federal Energy Resources Commision) that the spillway met all of the prevailing standards (when it was built) and the expense was not warranted. This was the 2nd time that MWD has used its financial muscle to block this safety project.

There is more rain coming, starting late Wednesday night and continuing for 4 or more days and that means heavy stream flow into the lake. There are just two short days left to fix that hole.They are releasing as much water as they can out of the lake via the main spillway and it has its own problem; a large hole in the concrete channel, about a third of the way down the slope.

This drama is just in it's infancy and it will end in a courtroom or many courtrooms. Just as the story of the San Francisquito ended, years after the event.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Repeat or not?

One of the frustrating byproducts of aging is memory failure. Not all memories are lost as you age, just the memory that you are currently trying to recall. But, take hope, you will recall that memory just as soon as it is not needed.

And since I wish to tell a story on these pages, I now have a nagging suspicion that I have told it once before. But when? Did I really do it or am I just worried over nothing at all? I do know that I am at a point in my life where I need to preface all of my conversations with "Stop me if you have heard this before". In this case, stop reading if you have read this before...

I got out of the Navy in 1962. I still had my Naval Reserve duty to fulfill but that was one weekend a month. I was attached to a Naval electronics unit in Hawthorne California and since I was a Hospitalman 3rd Class Petty Officer, they really had no place for me. But, they had to take me; I would come in on a Saturday morning and check the men's files to see if there were any discrepancies in their medical records and then I was through until next month, where I would repeat this same exercise.

Back in the civilian world I was at a loss as to what I should do. I could go back to working at the Texaco station so that I could make a little money. I had tried to get into the brand new EMT program with the Los Angeles city fire department. I qualified without even testing because of my role as a Navy Hospital Corpsman. But, and there always is a 'but', I wore glasses. I couldn't join the fire department in any capacity unless I had better eyesight.  

So, what to do? I think I saw an ad in the paper for help wanted at Space Technology Laboratories, or STL. I knew that STL had built a large complex on the eastern border of Manhattan Beach and that made it close by for me. I went there and applied; finding that there was an opening as a warehouseman and it paid? I don't remember but I know it was more than I would make at the Texaco station. I was accepted and would start as soon as the FBI conducted a background check on me. What? I found out that STL did a lot of government work and most of it was SECRET. That meant that everyone that worked for STL had to have a SECRET clearance. Even the gardeners had to have a SECRET clearance.

After a few weeks had gone by I received a call and was told to report to a warehouse in Hawthorne. I was there bright and early the next day and received my assignment. I was going to work in the government bonded section of the warehouse and I would work with a federal QC inspector. The bonded area was a small section of the warehouse with an 8' high chain link fence around it. Inside was a small desk, for the QC inspector, and a couple of rows of 12' high shelving for pallets. On the pallets were large cardboard boxes with cryptic notes written on them.   My job was to retrieve the boxes as ordered and then help the inspector sort through the contents. All of the boxes contained surplus items and the inspector was to determine, one; that they contained what they were supposed to contain, and two; what was the value and disposition of those items in the boxes.

The inspector was a nice guy with very low stress work habits. I arrived every day promptly at 8 and then I would wait until 9 or so before he made his appearance; carrying a cup of coffee and a ream of IBM printer printouts. He wore sandals most day and would stroll through the warehouse, saying hello to all before opening the gate to our little "kingdom". I would retrieve our electric forklift and stand ready to pull down the box he wanted. But first he would ask me to look at the print out and see which one I thought might be the easiest for us to begin with. I would suggest and he would agree. Then I would find the box and bring it over close to his desk. Then we would open it.

Each item in the box had a metal tag affixed to it and the tag had source and contract numbers on it. He would look up the numbers on his sheets of paper and then we would verify that, indeed, we were looking at the item described and then he would determine it's fate. If it was useable (rarely) we would return it to the box. Usually it would be termed 'surplus' and put aside. Most of the things we were looking at were experimental electronics and neither one of us knew anything about them. He was just guessing most of the time. I did learn to recognize waveguides and stepper motors  and half a dozen other items. He soon depended on me to tell him what an item was and what we should do with it

Since the inspector was so relaxed, he would take an hour and a half for lunch and then knock off at 3.  I would spend the next 90 minutes working out in the real warehouse and doing real work. What a relief!

After four months of this I was ready to quit, but I was rescued by a neighbor who had heard about my being ready to quit and he directed me into the career that I loved and that I retired from...43 years later.

a footnote...STL was soon acquired by Thompson-Ramo-Woodridge  or TRW.

Friday, February 3, 2017

I feel like I am repeating myself

The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings.

I can't remember when I first discovered the wonderful words of Lewis Carroll. In my mind I can see that book; I can see the illustrations. But how old was I? Who gave me the book and why don't I have it still? I'm pretty sure it was my Nana, my grandmother that gave it to me. Since I couldn't read until I was in the third grade, I must have been 8 or 9 years old when I received the book. 

In the last few months of the third grade a switch was turned on in my brain and suddenly I could read. And I read everything! I read our Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Zymurgy. And then read them again. I read the dictionary from front to back. When we went for a drive I would read every sign that I saw; out loud and driving my family crazy. My mother had the collected works of Rudyard Kipling and I read those...I was desperate! 

The oddest things come into my mind these days. I could see that third grade classroom as clear as day. And the teacher who had been trying so hard to help me. Enough of that...this morning I was reading an article about the reversal of global trade and what it means. No, it was not caused by the blatherings of Trump. It has been happening over the past four years or more as the need for it has begun to shrink. And profits declined. China was once the source of cheap labor and the giant container ships sailed back and forth between the USA and China. But China has a middle class now and labor costs are rising. These days, China doesn't need all the things we sell and the prices for what we buy from them have risen. It's happening in Vietnam and in India. With trade shrinking, the multinational corporations are looking at coming 'home'.

But, the multinationals have stacks of cash located offshore and don't want to bring that home with them to be taxed at what Trump calls an outrageous amount. I suppose it (35%) might be properly called outrageous if that is what they actually paid. But corporations pay only 15% to 20% because of the loopholes in the tax laws. This is the Effective tax rate. Trump wants to cut the corporate tax to 15% and eliminate the what's the incentive there? It makes for a great speech for the base to hear, but that's all it is; words.

And there's more. Here, from the Economist: ...if American multinationals shifted a quarter of their foreign jobs home, at American wage rates, and paid the same tax rate abroad as they did at home, their profits would fall by another 12%. This excludes the cost of building the new plants in America.

The dynamics of world trade are not as easily managed as selling real estate. I think Trump has some lessons to learn, but when has he ever wanted to learn anything? He's already the world's smartest guy.

After all of these years of cheap goods, I can't see Americans being calm when they see the price for t-shirts going up to $10 when they used to buy a 3-pack for $12. Will American labor remain calm when they are asked to take a cut in pay so that the company can become competitive? When labor balks at the cuts, the company begins investing in robotics. These are definitely interesting times.