Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sustainable and Improving

So, for those who don't know... My wife has been posting a bunch of stuff on facebook about thyroid, pituitary and adrenal stuff, medications, diet, how I could have died etc...

Here's why:

A few weeks ago, after months of getting sicker and sicker without realizing that was what was going on (we thought it was just cumulative  exhaustion and burnout from overwork, overstress, traveling,  not sleeping for months, and having had severe pneumonia for six weeks)...

...I spent about a week and a half going in and out of a shallow coma.

It turns out this was because the medications which are supposed to keep my hormones regulated post endocrine cancer, were not working at all (and were in fact having adverse effects and interactions).

I became acutely and critically deficient in several substances necessary to regulate my metabolism and brain function, and my body basically started to shut itself down for 18 to 20 hours at a time.

Because I was on these medications... Very large doses of them in fact.. The cause of the problem, and thus the treatment, were unclear. It seemed impossible that the cause of the problem could be what we eventually found it to be.

I came very close to going into systemic shock, a deeper coma, possibly even brain damage or death.

The thing is, with endocrine issues, sometimes, for some people, the medications that work for everyone else, don't work for them...

Worse, the tests don't necessarily show that the meds aren't working until you reach a critical state.

This is complicated in that endocrine illnesses often present similarly to other problems, or present symptoms which mask real problems, as was happening here.

In fact, in my condition, the primary medication I was taking such a high dosage of, was actually making the problem worse.

Eventually, symptomology made it clear that my medications could not be working, no matter the dosage or what the tests might say.

We have temporarily switched to another primary medication, which has helped immensely. I am no longer close to a coma, and after an initial big improvement, I am recovering gradually.

However, this other medication is very difficult to dose consistently, and has some unpleasant side effects (which is why it is largely no longer used).

Essentially, I roller coaster from moderately too little, to moderately too much of the hormones I need, plus a big dose of stuff I don't want or need (and the somewhat to severely unpleasant side effects thereof), just to ensure that I have at least the minimum amount no matter what, while not having far too much (which can kill me just as easy as not having enough).

There are other options which we will be investigating as we are able to do so, but right now we have no medical insurance and can't afford the extensive testing necessary to find the right drugs and the right dosages; nor can we afford those drugs (they are much more expensive than those I was taking, or have now switched to).

For now... I'm OK but not great... I'm in a sustainable and improving, not deteriorating state. And that's better than I have been for quite some time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Granular Victimhood

Liberalism is an ideology in which individuals are ignored, and every person is either a victim or a victimizer; oppressed or oppressor; with the "victims" having perpetual moral ascendency over the victimizers.

As a result, it has become nothing more than a continual process of dividing all people into ever more granular groups of victims and victimizers, so that they may claim greater or lesser degrees of moral ascendancy.

Call it what you will... Privileged or unprivileged, advantaged or disadvantaged... In every question, the individual does not matter, only their group identity and its relative position of advantage.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Would have been...



Today would have been my brother Rob's 35th birthday.

I miss you man.

I love you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Helluva First Year

Today is Christopher Byrne V's first birthday.

It's been a helluva a year.

He's gone from 6 lbs, 15.8 oz and 18 inches long to 25 lbs and 34 inches long. He can now reach the kitchen table, kitchen counters, pretty much half of everything in the house.

He's extremely social, generally happy (there's a reason we call him Happy Boy), and crawling. He's almost standing and could walk if he wanted to, but he finds crawling to be faster. He can also climb though. He's become a master of getting on and off of the couch. He also has a fascination with crawling out the doggie door and exploring the outdoors.

He's got engineer brain. Toys aren't near as interesting as normal everyday adult items, which he tries to figure out how to manipulate constantly. His curiosity is endless. He's turning his mother's hair gray with his adventures and lack of fear.

He's already showing a distinct personality. Happy-go-lucky, intent, determined, generally calm. He already has his own taste in music (metal, old school hip hop, classic rock) and a favorite movie (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

He's extremely easy to feed. He took to feeding himself very early and will try anything... provided it comes off of an adult's plate or a serving platter. He's tried everything from the standard hamburgers and pasta to prime rib, fried clam bellies, Japanese, Thai, Italian, Mexican, New Mexican, and barbecue (in Memphis no less).

This child has lived in 3 different states, traveled to and through 25 more, and logged over 10k miles of road time. He's traveled more and tried more cuisines than many adults I know.

He's met countless family members, spent holidays with both grandfathers and two great-grandmothers, and spent tons of time with family friends. He's also pick up a surrogate grandmother (since both genetic grandmothers have passed) and is about to pick up a step-grandmother.

This kid's been around and been busy his entire life. He's brought joy to everyone around him and delighted people we know and strangers alike.

We're extremely lucky to have him.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chris's grandmother passed away early this morning

Theresa Byrne passed away at 3:15 am EST after a series of major strokes.

Please keep the family in your prayers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bad owners make for bad outcomes, but so do bad caregivers

Today Jennifer posted about a tough case concerning euthanizing a pit bull.

The details of the issue are over there. I happen to agree with her that yes, that particularly pit bull should be put down because of the extreme aggression he showed towards that boy. A dog who mauls the face of a 4-year-old is probably not going to be rehabilitated and in the mean time is a threat to those who would even attempt.

Is it the dog's fault? No. Does it still need to happen? Yes.

That being said... let's go into exactly WHO is at fault here.

It's certainly not the boy, who is too young to fully understand why what he did was dangerous.

It's not the dog, who followed a mixture of instincts and training.

Everyone KNOWS by now to blame the owner for lack of training, bad socialization, being a horrible human being, etc. They're certainly to blame for the dog's behavior.

However, in this particular instance there is someone else who is at fault.

There's the parents, for not at least somewhat teaching the child how to deal with pets, though given how little he was who knows how much of it would stick yet. However, their fault pales in comparison to...

WHAT THE HELL KIND OF MORON TAKES A CHILD SHE'S BABYSITTING INTO A YARD WITH A DOG (CHAINED OR NO) WHO KILLED ONE OF HER DOGS THE WEEK BEFORE?!?!?!?!

This is obviously a rather extreme example of negligence but I see a much more subtle form of her assumptions on a continuing basis.

There is no such thing as a completely child-safe dog.

Let me repeat that:

There is no such thing as a completely child-safe dog.

I don't care how wonderful Muffin is with children. Muffin has a bad day, is in pain, is exhausted, or someone finds her particular button to push and Muffin is just as capable of biting a child as any other dog.

Let me give you an example.

The Boy is now crawling around the house. We still have two dogs, Jayne and Zoe. Jayne is 130 lbs of Staffordshire/ Rottweiler mix and Zoe is 55 lbs of Rottweiler/ Coonhound mix. Both of them are generally good with kids, our kids, other people's kids, doesn't matter. They've repeatedly shown the ability to handle everything from toddler on up.

Zoe spoils the boy. She lets him crawl on her, hug her, pull her tail, treat her like an obstacle course... she takes all of it. Unless he pulls her ears. Then it's game over. She runs off.

Jayne, having figured out early that baby hands mean poking and prodding, generally avoids the boy. He's not mean about it, he'd just rather not be within reach of those hands. He either moves, or, if he's on his doggie bed, will give a nice loud single bark which never fails to make the baby stop his forward progress (and also ends in screaming on the baby's part, but that just means it's effective).

Sometimes though when either dog tries to escape the kiddo gets it in his head to follow and continue his pestering. This is where things get hairy.

Half the time the dogs will run to me for protection. The other half is when the growling starts.

It's my job as the caregiver to make sure the growling never happens. The dogs have already clearly defined their boundaries for the boy, it's my job to make sure he respects them. Why?

Because I'm the adult damnit.

I'm slowly teaching the kiddo what not to do around dogs, but he's little and doesn't have experience or impulse control. Every moment he spends around the dogs needs to be supervised. That will last until he's old enough to have gotten enough experience with THESE dogs to understand what is okay and what isn't okay.

Notice I make a differentiation between these dogs and other dogs. That's because I don't know anyone else's dogs well enough to leave my child anywhere near unsupervised while he's around them.

It's also my responsibility to teach my children enough about how to deal with strange animals so they don't do something stupid that gets them injured.

Over the summer I heard Jayne barking really intensely in the back yard. I went out to see what was happening.

I found a group of boys throwing rocks at him from the other side of the fence.

It's a testament to Jayne's extreme laziness and inability to jump even a 4 foot fence that these boys were unscathed. Well, that's before I lit into them about how dangerous and cruel what they were doing was, and how with any other dog it might get them killed.

Jayne was still wagging his tail, God bless 'em. If he'd been another dog with a lower pain tolerance and capable of jumping the fence he'd already have been put down.

(I never caught them doing it again, and I watched for it to happen.)

So what could have prevented this mauling in the first place?

1. Training and socializing the dog properly.
2. Training the child properly to deal with unfamiliar animals, i.e. don't approach dogs you don't know without the owner handling the introduction.
3. Properly supervising the child in case their impulse control and judgment skills are not adequate.

If any one of these had happened no one would be debating whether or not to euthanize the dog, and that poor boy wouldn't be scarred for life at 4 years old.

It's not the dog's fault or the boy's fault, but they're both suffering for the stupidity of those in charge of them.

Mel

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A little computer advice

Being an IT professional, I get asked for computer advice a lot. The most frequent questions I'm asked by the "average user" are "why is windows 8 so horrible", "how do I fix this virus I've got on my computer" and "what computer should I buy".

I have lots of answers to why Windows 8 is awful, but none of them will help most folks, except my one suggestion: Download a program called Classic Shell. It's free, it's a 30 second download, and it makes Windows 8 suck FAR less.

The virus thing... 

Well... I'll illustrate the issue with an anecdote...

I took a family friend on as an emergency client. They home school, and the system they use for homeschooling was well hosed up, to the point where it was completely unusable. It would boot, but applications and web pages wouldn't load, it would reboot randomly etc...

I looked at it... No exaggeration, there were over 6,000 individual pieces of malware, spyware, adware... and that's with 4 different AV/adware/spyware/anti-malware packages running, including the commercial and updated norton 360. They also had 4 different "system optimizer" or "system cleaner" packages running, and god knows how much other "helpful" garbage.

He asked what I charged and I said "I'm doing this as a family friend, because to clean this up... Labor alone would be more than you make in two weeks. It's going to take me at least two full days. It'd be faster to wipe it and start over but you don't have backups or install disks for a bunch of this stuff. Even then, I really recommend wiping it when you get the chance, because I might have missed something.

And yes, it did take two full days... actually more than. I actually put over 20 hours into cleaning the system up, then rebuilding it to a consistent and usable state, then locking it down and putting tools in place to... I wish I could say prevent, but it's a windows machine so I can only say reduce the likelihood... of that sort of thing ever happening again.

Just so he would understand and appreciate the amount of work involved, and what that kind of work costs, I printed him up an invoice, with a 100% discount. Yes, it was more than he made in two weeks. He just about crapped his pants.

So, my advice on the virus thing is this... Wipe the machine completely, and install from scratch. If you can't do that yourself, donate the machine or give it to a smart kid who can, and buy a new one. It'll be cheaper and easier for you.

Oh and NEVER EVER EVER EVER buy or install norton, or mcaffee, or frankly any of the major vendors anti-virus, "security suite" or software "firewall" packages, and never buy or install a "system cleaner" (except piriforms ccleaner aka crap cleaner, which I install on every windows machine automatically). If they come on your computer from the factory, clean them off completely before you try to run anything. They are actively harmful.

For anti-malware, use windows security essentials, and comodo, AVG, Avast, or malwarebytes as a secondary scanner, and run Winpatrol to keep control of your computers settings and startup programs etc...

In general, don't be an idiot. Don't download anything, or open attachments or web pages, you don't know, or are not well known and trusted sources etc... etc... Virus scan everything before you open it, and turn on live virus scanning in your security software.

Oh and NEVER load or use a browser toolbar of any kind, unless you are absolutely sure you want to use it, exactly what it does and who it came from.

Most importantly, always live behind a physical firewall. Never expose a windows machine to the bare internet, no matter what kind of software "firewall" you have running (software firewalls don't protect you worth a damn. Also they shouldn't be called firewalls, because they aren't). You WILL be compromised, within minutes, without question.

That just leaves buying a computer...

This is where things get more interesting.

Now, if you're looking for a desktop, the answer is pretty simple: if you plan on keeping it more than a year, buy the second best CPU, most ram, and best monitor you can afford.

If you can change out your own hardware when it breaks, brand doesn't matter. If you can't, buy an HP (seriously, don't even think about buying other brands of desktop unless you can support them yourself).

For a laptop... it's a hell of a lot more complicated and involved. Of course, most people only buy laptops these days, leaving a lot of folks having no idea what to buy or how to decide, and no resources available to them to help.

So mostly, they end up buying on price, and buzzwords, and mostly they end up unhappy. There are some very good reasons why laptop shipments have been trending way down the last couple years, and the much simpler and more user friendly tablet has been taking over as peoples casual computing device.

As it happens, in the last few weeks, I've had about a dozen people ask for my advice on buying a laptop. Also, I've ended up buying (as presents, as replacements, for projects etc...) six laptops in the last four months.

Since it IS one of my most frequently asked questions, I've given all of this advice many times before... in fact so many times I went through writing it all down to send to folks or post on forums, but I'd never bothered to post it here. Someone asked again tonight, so I decided to post my little guide on the blog.

Ok, here's my basic question list:

  1. How portable/light/small do you need/want it to be? Will you be travelling with it more than a couple times a year?
  2.  How long do you plan on keeping/using the machine
  3.  How big a screen do you want?
  4.  Do you want an optical drive? If so, DVD or BluRay drive? Is an external drive acceptable?
  5.  Since you can run MacOs, Windows, and Linux on one, is a Mac acceptable?
  6.  Are you going to be doing any non-casual gaming on the system
  7.  Are you going to run any engineering graphics or calculation packages
  8.  Will you be running any large spreadsheets, desktop publishing, design etc...
  9.  Will this be your primary computer
  10.  Will this be your primary digital device for consuming rich media (music, video etc...)

Prioritize the following for me:

- Performance
- Cost
- Ruggedness and durability
- Portability and light weight

The answers to these questions, along with some general guidelines (below) pretty much determine what machine to buy.

A word on Mac's

If you don't mind the cost, MacBook Pros are simply physically better machines than all but the highest end windows machines (which actually cost as much or more), and they can run MacOS, Linux, and Windows natively. I HIGHLY recommend them for anyone who intends to keep a laptop for more than a year or two.

I live in the world of high end IT consultants, and high end security professionals, and unless our employers ban us from using them, almost all of us use MacbookPro's (whether we run OSX on them or not). I personally run OSX, several versions of windows, and several linux distros on mine, in both multiboot mode, and as virtual machines.

Really, they are just PHYSICALLY, so much better than all but the highest end windows machines, as to be in a class almost by themselves.

Let me illustrate what I mean...

A typical windows laptop might last me a year... I've had them die in just a few months. I've NEVER had one last more than two years of hard use. They just get loose and creaky, get unreliable, lose performance no matter how clean you keep them software wise... or they just plain die, with hard use.

My macbook pros?

Well, I've been running my current 15" MBP for almost exactly 3 years, it's still in 100% shape, it's still faster than most machines out there (quad i7, 1gb discrete graphics, 500gb SSD and 16gb ram). I really have no need, and no desire to upgrade.

So please, take my advice here... if you use your laptop seriously, and do any kind of travel with it more than a couple times a year, consider an MBP, even if you aren't a mac user.

These are my general recommendations:

As of right now, I wouldn't buy anything less than a core i5 in a general purpose laptop, unless I was looking to minimize power consumption to the extreme, or looking to spend under $400 (which means a machine only good for facebook and email). The miniscule price difference isn't worth the major performance hit.

I will not use a current AMD CPU/APU for anything other than the cheapest possible facebook and web browsing machine. Multi-GHZ Quad core machines shouldn't be at 100% cpu just watching youtube. They're garbage now, as general purpose systems and graphics processors (their high end GPUs are still great, and they do some interesting things in distributed computing, low power computing, and other specialized tasks).

If you don't want an optical drive, or don't care if your optical drive is external, and don't need a 17" display, get an ultrabook (preferably an aluminum or composite one, unless your budget won't cover it).

I always recommend SSD's highly, for everyone, even if they don't care about performance. If you need more than 400-600gb in your machine and SSD prices for this size range are prohibitive for you, I strongly recommend a hybrid SSD ($95 for a 1tb hybrid drive).

Let me be clear: Once you have more than the absolute minimum amount of RAM necessary to perform well, the single biggest thing you can do to improve your machines performance is to use an SSD. The difference is night and day, such that I will never willingly use anything other than an SSD or at the very least a hybrid drive, ever again.

I STRONGLY recommend a minimum of 8gb of RAM for windows 8, for any heavy work, or for lots of multitasking. 4gb is barely livable for Windows 8 and what I consider the real minimum for windows 7. 16gb is preferable for any kind of heavy use, multitasking, or running virtual machines. 32gb is WAY overpriced and most machines don't physically support anyway.

If you plan on keeping it more than 2 years, if a metal or composite chassis model is available within reasonable reach of your budget, make that reach. Even if you have to go down in spec a bit to do it. You would not BELIEVE the difference in toughness, and just quality feel, you get from a stronger chassis based machine rather than a plastic clamshell.

As of right now, my primary vendor recommendations are as follows, in three tiers:

Tier 1

HP
Apple
Dell (high end, particularly high end business models)

Tier 2

Dell (mid/low end models)
Lenovo (used to be tier 1, not I consider them tier 2)
Samsung
Panasonic
Toshiba

Tier 3

ASUS
MSI

The tiers I've grouped the vendors into correspond roughly to what I consider their "utility vector". A combination of design, features, quality, durability, CONSISTENCY, warranty, technical support, and customer service.

I wouldn't ever even consider laptops from other brands at this point.

If you're comfortable with handling your own support, and doing your own minor repairs, then feel free to buy from any of the brands I listed.

If you are going to need to use the vendor to make minor repairs though, I STRONGLY suggest you go with a Tier 1 vendor, and consider buying the 2 year full hardware replacement warranty (at least if you plan on keeping the machine that long; and presuming it costs no more than 25% the replacement cost of the machine of course).

HP, Apple, and Dell just handle this stuff better, IN GENERAL (there are always breakdowns and horror stories), than the other vendors.

The reason I rate MSI and ASUS as tier 3 (and why I downgraded Lenovo from Tier 1 to Tier 2), is because their overall experience is inconsistent. I've had great stuff from them, I've had garbage. I've had great experiences with their support, and I've had awful ones. Overall, I'd prefer to avoid them, unless they have a spectacular machine at a spectacular price.

If you plan on keeping it more than a year or two, I STRONGLY recommend buying a "business" line laptop, rather than a consumer laptop. They're generally better designed, and better put together, with slightly higher quality components. Also, they're almost always a lot easier to service when things DO go wrong.

At this point I only buy computers from Amazon, Costco, WalMart (for the really cheap low end semi-disposable machines), Frys Electronics (sometimes they have spectacular deals on discontinued models or refurbs), Newegg, or direct from the manufacturers website.

No matter how great you think a deal is, always check the manufacturers web site, because they often run pretty spectacular specials.

... And that's about it really. The market changes so quickly that I can't make any more specific recommendations than that.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lessons baby boy has been learning from the doggies

Evidently the boy thinks he's a puppy.

To be fair, he and the doggies move on all fours instead of two legs, so he might have a point.

Lessons the boy has picked up from the doggies:
1. An uncovered toilet bowl is for playing and, ideally, for splashing water onto the formerly clean and dry bathroom floor.
2. If the doggies congregate at the door Grandpa is home. Paying attention to you is Grandpa's only purpose; make sure to remind him as loudly as possible should he neglect to pay attention to you the minute he walks through the door.
3. An open door is an opportunity to escape. Never miss an opportunity to go through the open door for dirt and wonderful things to roll in are on the other side.
4. The fridge is a magic place where food comes from. Should a two-legged open the fridge door, make sure you hurry so you can take a peek inside and possibly claim something for yourself.
5. Food found on the floor is the best food.
6. Packaged food left on the table is just waiting for you to grab it and breach its packaging. This applies to both foods you are normally given (crackers) and food Mommy keeps away from you (bouillon cubes). Wait until Mommy's back is turned for maximum impact.
7. Bathroom doors are never to be closed. Ever. Someone attempting to use the bathroom by themselves is clearly rejecting you.
8. If it's not edible, it's chewable or bite-able. No exceptions.
9. If your food does not come from Mommy or Daddy's plate, you're being denied adequate nourishment. Complain loudly. Conversely...
10. If it's in the dog feeder, it's clearly edible and tasty. After all, the other four-leggeds eat it and they're fine.
11. If a two-legged should eat at the table without you, make sure you go beg with the other four-leggeds.
12. Dirty pots, dishes, and leftovers left on the floor are up for grabs. Make sure you hurry so you can attempt to push the other four-leggeds away from whatever they're eating.

 And yes, the fact that he hasn't been bitten for attempting all of the above is proof that we have the most awesome dogs ever.

Mel

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Problem With Freedom

Here's the problem with supporting liberty and freedom... You have to support peoples liberty and freedom to be assholes and idiots.

I think discriminating against gays or blacks or anyone else for some arbitrary characteristic that doesn't harm you is fucking idiotic, and proof that you are a total asshole.

However, I think you should be free to associate with, or exclude, anyone you want to from your private property, or private business.

Why?

Because that's what freedom of conscience, and true property rights are.

The  right to associate with those you wish, and not associate with those you do not, is inherent to freedom of conscience.

The right of exclusion IS one of the three fundamental rights of private property (the others being the rights to use and dispose of the property as you see fit, and the right to the outputs, proceeds, and benefits accrued on or by the property).

Arbitrary discrimination by private businesses is wrong, stupid, offensive, and just bad business.

But it shouldn't be illegal.
Note: At least not for truly private businesses. 
There is an argument to be made that public corporations, because of the legal protections they receive from the government, and their "public ownership" through equities; should not be allowed to discriminate. Some even argue that by obtaining a business license, a business can be prohibited from discrimination. 
Unless such prohibition is written into the laws for licensure of these businesses, or for the foundation and governance of corporations, I disagree with this argument (and I have issues with the concept of making anti-discrimination part of the law, again on the grounds above), but there is at least a basis for it.
Oh and for those of you who think this is just about gays... it applies equally to guns. I think that businesses that exclude lawful bearers of arms from their premises are idiots, and that it's bad business... but its THEIR property, and they have the right to exclude me if they want to.

The GOVERNMENT should NEVER be allowed to discriminate, nor should any public utility, or any organization with a lawful monopoly. Any organization with which interaction is mandatory, or their power over you is involuntary, can never be allowed to discriminate.

Private individuals, and their private property though, can never be prohibited from doing so... at least if we value and wish to preserve freedom and liberty (and in this country, frequently and unfortunately, we do not).

Freedom of conscience though, is a wonderful thing... They get to discriminate. Guess what, so do you. You can choose not to patronize their business. You can organize all your friends... and the entire world if everyone else is so inclined... to not patronize that business.

That's freedom for ya...
Oh and by the by, these laws currently proceeding in several states explicitly legally authorizing business to refuse to serve people on the basis of their sexual orientation, are part of the blowback I predicted would result from the current strategy many in the gay rights movement have of "suing our way to normalcy"... 
"Dammit, if they don't want to make my same sex wedding cake, I'll SUE".
Or worse "We'll get married in Massachusetts, and then move to Kansas and sue for them to recognize our marriage".
 
Many lied saying that would never happen. Many more well intentioned supporters honestly believed the lie, and repeated it. 
When I raise this issue with my liberal friends, they often say that I am being ridiculous.  
It HAS been happening, from the first legally recognized same sex marriages in this country. 
It's a bad strategy, and it has and will continue to backfire.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A bad analogy can be dangerous, a purity test, deadly

I've written at rather great length about the debt ceiling, and the political idiocy surrounding it, several times, most recently during the LAST "debt ceiling showdown and government shutdown traveling vaudeville show" here:

"Defunding, Debt Limits, Shutdowns, Oh My!"

"A not so brief explanation and history of U.S. federal government debt"

As noted when the "fix" was passed last time, it wasn't actually a "fix", it just pushed the next "crisis" a few months down the road.

Welcome to a few months down the road... 

The debt ceiling increase was voted up last week (this time for 12 months instead of 3), as everyone knew it would be, as it absolutely had to be (see the posts above for more on why that is true).

The Republican leadership used a procedural trick to make it seem like they were actually opposing it... entirely for PR purposes, and entirely because of these geniuses who either don't understand; or rather  those who do, but take advantage of the ignorance and misunderstand of those who don't.

This time, the Republicans... or at least most of them... were slightly less stupid than the last couple times. MOST republicans seem to have finally come to understand that playing chicken with the debt ceiling is NOT a winning strategy.

...Well, it isn't a winning strategy for Republicans, but when they do, it IS a GREAT strategy for Democrats.

Of course, that hasn't stopped much of the self identified "conservative" public from going absolutely insane, again... sadly, quite predictably.

It seems they believe, with absolutely unshakable conviction, that somehow, attacking a supermajority of the house and senate for not doing the impossible, will make things better. That somehow, doing what absolutely must be done to avoid disaster, is "betrayal".

Really, all they are doing is highlighting their complete lack of understanding of both politics, and the mechanics of how our government functions; oh and that they completely failed to learn anything from the last few times they pulled this crap.

In fact, many of them are PROUDLY ignorant of reality. They will loudly proclaim that "it's a matter of principle dammit", and that anyone who actually understand what reality is, and understands the necessity to work within the bounds of reality is just "caught up in the system".

... and of course, there are always politicians in a position to use this sentiment. They have been doing so quite aggressively this past week.

This REALLY does not help

The only Republicans (or conservatives, or even libertarians) this sort of idiocy helps, are the ones who have no chance of losing to a Democrat (it helps them raise money), and the ones mounting a challenge to a safe Republican seat from the right.

Republicans being attacked from the right may make some "conservatives" feel better, but it doesn't actually make anything better, because rhetoric isn't legislation. It certainly doesn't do anything good for the Republican legislative agenda.

In the long run, this stupidity (and yes, it is emotionally indulgent stupidity, and attention seeking) weakens congressional Republicans, and doesn't actually HELP achieve the desires of the "conservatives" who like the IDEA of "fighting at all costs", "never compromising" etc... etc... (most of whom aren't actually conservative even if they think they are. Mostly, they're populists, or reactionaries, or both)

Simply put, you can't legislate if you don't win elections. The elections that are going to be won by senators and house members who are "real conservatives", as defined by these geniuses, are already in Republican hands. Maybe 1 or 2 seats can be won from the right, but that's it.

The geniuses forget two major things:


  1. You don't win majorities from the edges: The far right and the far left are only about 20% of the electorate on either side. 40% total. 60% of the electorate are somewhere "in the middle", and they will VOTE somewhere "in the middle".
  2. All politics is local: Senators, and particularly house members, are elected on LOCAL issues, or at least on LOCAL attitudes, ideas, preferences etc... "Real conservative" ideas may be vote winners where YOU live, but not for where the majority of voters live. Yes, they're "better" and "right" and all that, but it doesn't matter because most people don't agree with them.


To gain vetoproof legislative majorities in both houses, which is the only way they can legislate now, Republicans need to take seats away from "centrist" democrats.

Let's leave aside the entire issue of "centrists" (whether they actually exist, what the definition is etc...) and just accept there is an electoral reality here.

Republicans who are "real conservatives" are not going to win seats in the urban northeast. A republican who believes in small government, personal and economic liberty, low taxes etc, but who is also socially moderate or liberal (pro choice, pro gay marriage for example), just might (in fact, they have).

If you say that someone who believes those things isn't really conservative, or isn't a Republican, or is a RINO... YOU are part of the problem.

Shutting down the government may FEEL like a great "moral victory" to those on the right, but it will NEVER win elections in centrist districts. In fact, it will COST the Republicans seats they've already won in those districts.

These are seats that will NOT be made up by the phantom hoards of "real conservative" voters that will magically appear when "real conservative" candidates show up. Those seats are the ones that Republican already control.

There are a few senate seats in the south and west that the "real conservatives" might be able to win with their rhetoric... but honestly, if they were going to do so, why didn't they over the last three elections?

The people who don't understand this, have since 2012 been doing their best to turn the Republicans, into the democratic party circa 1968. They are the Republican equivalent of McGovern democrats.
Note: At the moment, there is a very strange dichotomy going on with presidential politics, largely as a function of the differences between local and national media and their influence in elections. 
Mitt Romney likely would have beaten Obama in 2012 if a large number of conservatives hadn't stayed home, because he wasn't conservative enough. He also likely would have won, if the media hadn't been so effective at portraying Romney as an ultra-right wing super-conservative. 
Both happened. Romney lost. 
Do you see the problem here? 
Anyone not left wing (or otherwise a media darling... which tends to last just until that person threatens a "progressive" with defeat) can reliably count on the media to portray them as insanely far right. Witness McCain in 2008. He went from being the anti-Bush media darling, to, you guessed it, "right wing lunatic who want to control womens bodies" etc... etc... 
The only way to combat that, is to DIRECTLY (with irrefutable evidence) show "centrists" that you are a "centrist", or at least someone they can vote for. 
2012 was a matter of purity tests screwing conservatives and Republicans. If the "McGovern Democrats" have their way, so will 2016.
So... why don't they understand?

Part of the problem here, is that most people (including most of the "conservatives" above) don't really understand the debt ceiling. They don't actually understand what it is, how it works, and why we can't just decide not to raise the limit once we've reached... or more often actually exceeded... it.

No, really, we can't do that. If we did, very bad things would happen.

They feel that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would mean the federal government would have to spend less.

That is an intuitive idea. It makes sense... 

... It's also dangerously wrong.

The problem, is that people intuitively think of the debt ceiling as analogous to the credit limit on a credit card. In fact, that is the rhetoric most politicians and much of the media use when they talk about the subject; and the rhetoric of much of the "conservative" commentariat.

With a credit card, when you hit your credit limit, you have to stop spending. Then, you have to pay down your debt before you can spend again.

Many people, probably most people, seem to think that government spending and debt work like this; or at least is should, and would if we didn't keep raising the debt ceiling.

It's an easy and relatable analogy. It feels correct, and it suggests a simple solution to a very difficult problem.

Unfortunately, feelings are not reality.

There are rarely simple solutions to complicated and difficult problems.

A friend wrote this:
"I think the problem with the debt ceiling comes mainly from the fact that people think it's a credit limit, when it's more like a kind of a line you set yourself when drawing up a budget for the year"
That analogy is better than what most people seem to have in their mind, but it's still not quite right. It's simple, and quick, but it's still misleading as an analogy.

There is really no one sentence explanation for how this works, unless you have a background in business or finance.

Trying to relate it to something that a lot of people are familiar with, though not as many as a credit card... hmmm...

Ok, this is one of those "I have to explain this thing, so I can explain this other thing" situations.

Here goes...

Say you run a company that only gets paid every three months, at the end of each quarter (this is more common than you might think).

In order to run the company, you need to pay all your suppliers and contractors. So, you get terms from them. Your suppliers and contractors will provide you goods and services, and you will pay them within 90 days of invoicing.

At the end of the 90 days, you HAVE to pay these bills.

Remember, you've already used the goods and services. If you don't pay the bills, your vendors sue you, put a lien on your business and property etc... If you want to try to keep running, you can't get anyone else to give you terms. Everything goes to prepay or COD.

You REALLY want to avoid that if at all possible.

Now... it's possible that your receivables won't come in until after your payables are due. It's possible that there will be delays in processing and funds clearance. It's possible your business might have a bad quarter, and your receivables won't be enough to pay your outstanding payables. Maybe most of your billables are paid quarterly, but there a couple big ones that are only paid yearly.

Oh and of course, you need to pay the day to day costs and expenses (which are two different things, and the difference is important, but would make this explanation even longer) of running your business. Weekly salaries, payables without credit terms, fees etc...

So, in order to operate, you get a line of credit from a commercial lender (hopefully at a favorable interest rate). That lets you pay your day to day costs and expenses, and pay your bills as they come due, without worrying about your receivables current account.

Then, as your revenues come in, you pay down your credit line. The amount of your credit line you use, is, reasonably, called your utilization.

The lender doesn't make you pay ALL of your utilization off every month, or every year, or for that matter EVER.

So long as you don't use ALL of your credit (creditors consider that a bad sign), and you keep making your mandated payments (on time), your lenders will probably keep extending you credit (since they make money on it).

Pretty much every medium and large business (and a lot of small businesses) operate on this basis. Whether you know it or not, if they've got more than 20 employees, or they own or lease a building, it's almost certainly how your employer operates. It's how most of the businesses you interact with operate.

It's also how the federal government operates.

The government has day to day costs, and they consume goods and services (and transfer funds to other entities), as directed by legislation and regulation. They pay these costs from their current accounts, which are debt financed, and they pay on the debt out of their revenues.

So... that's the background and baseline.

Now, a business with a lot of revenue, can still have a year, even several years (in some cases even MANY years) where their expenditures exceed their revenues.

Maybe they had an off year, maybe a major customer went bankrupt and didn't pay them, maybe they expanded a lot, maybe they made a lot of investment; maybe their revenues were increasing, but their expenses increased faster...

There are plenty of reasons why a viable business might have their expenditures exceed their revenues. Many companies go on that way for many years in fact. Some businesses have more years with losses than profits.

This is where most peoples level of understanding becomes problematic. Most people know that a company can lose money and still continue operating, but they don't really understand the details of how or why.

So long as a company has substantial ongoing revenue, and a solid history of making their payments on time; even if the company isn't profitable, they will likely be able to obtain operating credit.

Major companies maintain lines of credit in the billions, so that they can manage manage their liquidity. When they need it, and presuming creditors have confidence in their ability to repay, they will get additional credit.

If a company would like to raise a fixed amount of capital, that they would like to repay over a longer (or at least a fixed) period of time, typically at a lower interest rate than cash/credit financing, they may elect to issue debt in the form of bonds.

The proceeds of the sale of bonds accrue directly to the issuer. The purchasers are then free to sell these bonds to others as they see fit.

So long as investors believe in the viability of the bond issuer, they will buy new bond issues.

Again, this is how the federal government operates.

The FedGov's 2013 accounts receivable (2.8 trillion) were lower than their 2013 expenditures (3.5 trillion). This 700 billion deficit was covered by issuing bonds, which were purchased by investors (primarily large institutional investors, foreign governments, and foreign banks).

However, this debt isn't issued in real time, to pay the governments bills. The government floats a balance at all times, paying it down with revenues and the proceeds of debt issuance.

The government can't just shut down in between tax payments and bond auctions. It has bills to pay and payments to make every day.

Depending on the time of year, and the particular year, the government spends about 90 days ahead of its revenues.

The debt ceiling isn't actually a credit limit, it's the terms of the debt we've already incurred.

An important difference between the government and private businesses of course, is that they don't have a choice about most of their spending, as their board of directors (congress) has incurred these obligations, and written them into law.

The federal government can't just stop spending, even if they don't have any money. They are not allowed to stop spending until congress tells them to.

Congress tells them to spend, and it tells them not to spend.

The problem isn't the debt ceiling... and the debt ceiling isn't actually a restraint on government spending.

The problem is congress.

You can't stop government spending by refusing to increase the debt limit. That just shuts the government down, and really, that isn't good for anyone...

...but in actuality it doesn't shut the government down, because the law doesn't allow it to.

It just shuts down the stuff that isn't explicitly required by law.

Even if the government is "shut down", they are still required to make payments on debt.

If they don't, the U.S. defaults on our sovereign debt.

If the U.S. Federal Government were to default on our sovereign debt, the entire world would be plunged into a massive depression. Pretty much every economy in the world would collapse.

That's really bad. We really don't want that.

But guess what, even that wouldn't stop the government from spending.

The many laws requiring government spending don't allow it to stop just because the bank accounts are empty. They do not contemplate the notion of an empty bank account.

When governments don't have enough money to pay their bills, they just print more.

So, what happens then, is hyperinflation. The government keeps spending dollars, by printing money... or rather electronically creating it out of nothing. This devalues the currency.

When the currency enters a devaluation cycle, people decide to stop taking it.

This of course makes the global depression a thousand times worse.

Repeat after me:

NOTHING CAN STOP THE GOVERNMENT FROM SPENDING BUT ACTS OF CONGRESS

Ok, so then, how do we make them stop spending?

Win elections.

So long as the democrats have control of the presidency and one house of congress, they can keep spending nearly as much as they want.

AFTER you win elections, you have to pass legislation cutting spending. To do that, you need veto-proof majorities, and/or a Republican president.

Now... if the Republicans prove to be no better than democrats on spending (or worse, as Bush was), THEN you attack them from the right.





Friday, February 14, 2014

3287 days? Damn, that's like, a million in internet years

Today was my 9 year blogiversary.

Damn.

Seriously that's like, a million in blog years.

Doncha know, blogs are dead now... it's all about the instagram, and the snapchat, and the tweets.

And I admit, this blog has been damn near dead for the last couple years.

Once I was heavily into the cancer treatment...

Well, you blog about what bugs you, and what's going on in your life... and what was going on in my life was kinda depressing.

Lately, I've mostly been doing short posts on facebook... mostly because that's where I see the stuff that irritates me most ;-)

But I'm still here. And I'm still writing... every once in a while.

Thanks for sticking around.

We Are A Musical People

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Better, but not Recovered

Robb Allen posted something yesterday about his father in laws last chemo treatment. He notes how he's come to understand that once the docs are done treating the cancer, you aren't exactly "cured"

You're better because you aren't dying any more, but you aren't recovered.

Your cancer goes into remission, but you're not cured.

 I've officially been cancer free for 1 year, 1 month, and 21 days (my doc declared me cancer free Dec. 22nd 2012).

The last six weeks or so, have been a very vivid reminder that while my cancer may be gone, I am by no means recovered.

I had multi-endocrine cancer, which had metastasized into my blood stream (there was extreme vascular invasion, but thankfully it had not gone lymphocytic).

The cancer presented as a primary thyroid tumor (which eventually grew to over 4" in diameter), with secondary lesions throughout my endocrine system, which caused my body to go haywire in many strange ways (this is called paraneoplastic syndrome).

We treated the cancer with surgery, and high dose radiation. No chemo thankfully.

Between the cancer itself, and the radiation, my endocrine system is permanently damaged. I no longer have a thyroid, and my other endocrine glands and regulating systems are shot.

They'll recover somewhat over the next 3 or so years, but will never work properly again. I'll be on hormones and endocrine medication for the rest of my life, and even then my bodies regulation will be erratic at best.

I am immunocompromised, even more than a year later. Over time it will improve somewhat, but I will likely always have some level of immunodeficiency.

Because of the radiation, I'm now infertile (most likely permanently, though there is a small possibility some slight fertility may return over time. It's also possible that doctors could harvest viable sperm from me, and we could conceive with IVF).

I now bruise easier, and don't heal as well. I have less energy overall, and I'm fatigued easier. My inflammatory response is completely out of whack...

There are mental side effects as well. It significantly impacted my memory, both short and long term, both retention and recall. I have far less focus, mental energy, and mental drive than I used to. My attention span, and depth, are both worse. I can't concentrate like I used to, nor can I split my attention like I used to. I've become absent minded, and now have difficulty remembering names, dates, addresses and phone numbers. I often can't recall words, names for things, technical terms etc... even for areas in which I'm an expert.

I've always been an insomniac, but its FAR worse now than it has been at any time in my life except my early teens (another time when hormone regulation is out of whack).

There's all sorts of relatively little things... but they add up.

Most of them should get somewhat better over time, though there's no way to know how much.

I the mean time though... at times it FEELS like I'm recovered, until I try to do things like I used to.

Then I get smacked pretty hard in the face with just how NOT recovered I am.

It's very... discouraging, disorienting... it's almost an alienated feeling; when you know this is something you should know, or be able to do, or were good at... and it's just not working.

Robb also talks about how some cancer patients, when their cancers come out of remission, decide to live and die as it comes, rather than go through more chemo or radiation.

I can understand that. I dont think that would be my choice, but I can respect it...

It's the choice my own brother made.

When he was 30, doctors found that Rob had developed a rare type of bone cancer, with lesions in his pelvis and femur.

When they found it, it was treatable.

The treatment would have involved cutting muscle away from bone, and excising the lesions in the bone (literally burning then grinding them out), followed by chemotherapy, and possibly radiation.

Even if the treatment were successful, it would have left him unable to walk, and either confined to a wheelchair, or at best using crutches; most likely permanently. No matter what, it would have been incredibly painful, with literally years of recovery time, to a life far more constrained than the one he had before.

And after all that, there was a high likelihood the cancer would recurr anyway.

Rather than go through that, my brother chose not to treat his cancer.

Rob died a few months before his 32nd birthday, from a combination of the effects of the cancer,  a septic infection which weakened his body dramatically, and an accidental overdose of the several different kinds of opiates he was taking (for the pain from the cancer and the infection).

There's no such thing as a good way to die from cancer, but my brother died as he chose to. That's better than nothing.

I am sick of the last six weeks

The last six weeks have been double plus ungood.

This is a long story, but I really need to get it all out, at least to vent.

Ok... here goes.

So, just before we left New Hampshire, after a month of looking for a house and being repeatedly disappointed (a couple were sold out from under us, a couple weren't available 'til March or April etc... etc...), we managed to sign a lease on a house in Laconia.

Laconia is the biggest town in the New Hampshire lakes region, and largely the center of activities for the area. It's a nice place, an old mill town, and it still has a lot of the original 19th century architecture.

If you're a biker, Laconia has additional meaning, because it's the home of the third largest motorcyclist gathering in the country (after Daytona and Sturgis); Laconia bike week, held the week of fathers day every year.

The house wasn't exactly what we wanted (we wanted rural, or at least private, on some land if possible), but it was near the big lake (less than a mile from Winnepesaukee), pretty big (5 bedrooms, over 3000 square feet including the partially finished basement), in a nice quiet neighborhood but still close to everything, and it had a big fenced yard (important for the dogs). It even had a good sized pool off the rear deck.

So yay, new house.

Now all we had to do was drive back to Arizona, get our stuff and our dogs, then haul all of it, and us, back to New Hampshire.

How hard could that be, right?
**No, I wasn't silly enough to actually say, or even think, "how hard could that be" or "what could go wrong". After DECADES of extremely painful experience, I most certainly know better. Ask those questions, and they WILL be answered, THOROUGHLY.
Yeah... So that's when the REAL unfun started 

Actually, to be fair, the prelude to the unfun started on Christmas day, when Mels 93 year old grandmother (who lives with Mels dad) had a stroke, falling and breaking her hip in the process.

Now, our original plan was to drive back to Arizona over new years, spend less than two weeks with Mels dad (one week of which I was supposed to be at a clients site in Seattle), hook up the trailer, pack up the dogs, and head straight back to New Hampshire.

The second part of that got screwed up just before we left.

Mels grandmothers injury put her in the hospital for a week, after which she was transferred to a rehab clinic. The plan to deal with Grandmas injury was to have her come home from the rehab clinic the following week, and get a live in home care aide.

From a practical standpoint, what that meant to us, was that we couldn't stay with Mel's dad, because the spare bedroom would be in use by the home care aide.

So then, the plan was to stay with Mel's best friend (none of my friends in the area were in a position to put us up for a couple weeks). Unfortunately, her housemate (who is also her brother) objected to living with a two extra adults and a teething baby for a few weeks (understandably. It's a small house, and there's not a lot of noise isolation).

What we ended up having to do, was stay in a hotel; which should have been fine, since it was only supposed to be for a couple weeks anyway.

Sure, it's not cheap even in a room with a kitchen (it ended up being about $450 a week at an Extended Stay America. You pay more for the kitchen, but spend a LOT less on food and drink), but it's certainly tolerable.

So... then we actually set off...

The trip itself was pretty nice actually, minus the repeated ice storms. We got to hang out with friends and family we haven't seen for a while, and I got to meet family I hadn't met before; always good things.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the drive, I started coming down with something.

From about January 4th (when we checked into our hotel), I had a full blown flu. From the symptoms, likely H1N1 aka "Swine Flu", which has been widespread this flu season.

Meanwhile... 

...actually, while we were driving from NH to AZ...

...the client changed their schedule.

So, instead of being onsite the week of the 6th, I was supposed to be onsite the week of the 13th.

From one perspective that was a good thing, since I ended up being sick the week of the 6th and wouldn't have been able to fly out there anyway.

Unfortunately, we were planning on LEAVING Arizona the week of the 13th (we were supposed to take possession of the house on the 15th). Moving the onsite a week later, also also meant staying in AZ until at least the 20th, and for logistical reasons the 25th.

So, we changed our plans again, and extended our hotel stay to the 25th.

Then, the Friday before I was to leave, the client cancelled the onsite week entirely. So, yay, I didn't have to fly while I'm still sick, but we'd already prepaid for a hotel through the 25th (had to prepay or it was 20% more expensive), and rejiggered everything else to make the 25th work. We couldn't change it all back.

Turns out that the later date would have been necessary anyway however, for four reasons:

First: At the same time as my client was being fickle, our new house in New Hampshire had a pipe burst. A large portion of the house flooded, with significant water damage; and the house wouldn't be ready for us to take possession until at least the 1st of February, possibly later.

We planned on, and agreed with the owners to take possession of the house on the 5th of February (that way we could leave the Friday before, and drive over the weekend, giving us plenty of time to get there).

Second: The next week, the steering on our truck failed while Mel was driving it.

Thankfully no-one was hurt, but the entire steering mechanism and part of the suspension were badly damaged, and needed replacement (with a newer design, heavier duty setup from the factory).

The failure was due to defective tie-rod ends (which it turns out were subject to a recall). The tie-rods were covered under the recall, but the parts that were damaged or destroyed because of them (and the associated labor) were not. The repairs, all up, including a rental car for five days, ended up costing about $3,000.

Third: Money...

By January 31st, between repairs, hotel bills, additional meals, additional travel expenses, and unreimbursed expenses from work (they're being paid on my check this Friday), we had to lay out a HUGE amount over our planned and budgeted expenses for the month.

Then there's the AMEX bill, covering all the previous travel and expenses, and purchases from December (moving is EXPENSIVE).

Then there's the actual BUDGETED travel expenses, and all our regular bills and expenses (truck payment, fuel, food, insurance, phones, medications etc... also budgeted).

Combined, our total outlay Jan-1 to Jan-31 (which, to be fair, included paying most of the bills and expenses from December) was somewhere around $17,000 (and no, I don't make NEARLY that much a month. In part it was covered by expense reimbursement, combined with pretty much all of what I took home in January, and part of what I took home in December).

That's nearly double the outlay we had planned for the month.

That $17,000 meant we wouldn't actually have enough cash to complete the move ($4,200 in rent and security deposit on the house, and $2,500 in travel expenses for the drive. Hauling a trailer, 3 people, and 2 dogs 3000 miles is EXPENSIVE) before February anyway.

Fourth: At that point I was still sick, and getting sicker.

The flu seemed to subside around the 14th or so, which was good. Unfortunately, the flu led to a sinus infection and bronchitis, which was not.

The sinusitis and bronchitis hung on for a while, but I was managing the symptoms fairly effectively with medication (I take adderall, and a very strong anti-inflammatory anyway, and it just so happens that the combination makes a pretty effective treatment for the symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis).

Unfortunately, I take those medications because I need them to function properly. When their effects are being taken up relieving symptoms, they aren't actually making me functional.

Worse, the medications also masked the fact that I wasn't actually getting better. I was just staggering along being propped up by the wonder of modern medicine.

Some time around Friday the 24th, I started getting sicker again.

MUCH sicker.

For the first week I thought it was just a combination of sleep deprivation, and a relapse of the flu.

Meanwhile...

We couldn't extend our stay at the Extended Stay America past the 25th, as they were fully booked. Unfortunately, this is the time that peak golf travel season hits Arizona, and rates at any of the extended stay/kitchen suite places went from $450 a week, to $700 a week, basically overnight.

Thankfully, rather than find a place for a week at a ridiculous rate, a friend agreed to let us stay with him 'til the end of the month (when we planned to leave for NH).

Unfortunately, he got sick that week as well (though not from me. I was past the contagious stage then, and it turned out to just be a bad cold or maybe a light flu for him).

And I kept getting sicker...

By Sunday the 26th, I was pretty much in bed 24/7. In fact, from the 26th until today (February 13th. 19ish days ), I've pretty much been sick in bed, minus changing the actual location of said bed.

A couple times I've felt better for a day or two, only to be slammed back down even worse afterwards.

Anyway, our friend was sick, and he needed his place free of a teething baby and two houseguests in order to rest.

So, we ended up transferring from our friends place to another hotel a couple days early, and swallowing the $700 for a week (six nights actually). At least it was a much nicer place than the ESA (a Hilton garden inn, with a 2 room suite. Funny thing was, it was actually only $40 more than the ESA would have been).

Unfortunately, I couldn't enjoy the nicer surroundings, because I was pretty much out of my head sick. By that point, it was clear that my Bronchitis had developed into pneumonia.

And then life got more complicated...

At that point it was ALSO very clear we wouldn't be leaving AZ until WELL after the fifth. So, we asked our new landlords if we could take possession on the 15th.

Initially they agreed. Unfortunately, a few days later, they insisted that we take possession on the fifth, and pay a full months rent for February, plus the deposit etc... and that they wanted the full amount by the 5th.

Apparently the husband (who had initially agreed to our request) was fine with what we wanted to do, but the wife wasn't, and she was making the decisions.

After I told them this was unacceptable to us, they agreed to prorate the rent from the 5th, but no further.

I told them I was perfectly willing to pay from the 15th, ON the 15th, whether we were there to take possession or not; but that we weren't going to pay a full months rent for a half months occupancy (or likely less, given that we wouldn't even be able to LEAVE AZ until at least the 15th... frankly I doubted whether we could get to NH before the end of February). I thought it was kind of silly to lose tenants over a matter of 10 days rent, and that if they agreed to the 15th I would be willing to send them half the security deposit immediately.

Well, that wasn't acceptable to them.

So as of February 1st, we were stuck in Arizona, no longer having a new house to bring our stuff and our selves back to.

We started looking for a new place immediately of course.

And we had to change venues again...

By the 1st, it was clear that Mels grandmother wouldn't be coming home. Between her injuries, the stroke, and her dementia, she can no longer be cared for at home, even with an aide. She's still in the rehab facility, but when they release her, we're transferring her to a 24 hour care facility.

This is really for the best. She needs 24 hour care that she can't get here.

That also meant that the spare room in my father in laws house would be available to us again (of course, it ended up being available the whole month, and we could have avoided wasting $2,000 for a months worth of hotel charges, and god knows how much more on a bunch of takeout/restaurant meals for when we didn't want to use the kitchenette... but we didn't know that at the time).

So, not knowing how long it would take to find a new place to live in NH, and rather than pay for more hotel rooms, on the 5th we transferred our operation back to Mels fathers house.

And I kept getting sicker...

The day we moved over my father in laws house, I basically collapsed into the bed, and I've barely left it since.

The last eight days have been really bad, with low to medium fevers, sweats and chills, lots of pain (particularly joint pain, and stomach pain), a nasty cough, myalgia, stomach and intestinal issues, sinus problems, photophobia... it's just sucked frankly.

Actually, yesterday (the 12th) was the first day since the 24th that I didn't have a fever.

The only compensation has been that for most of the past week, the pneumonia has knocked me out for 10 or 12 hours a day. For the first few weeks of this crud, it was bad enough to keep me from sleeping, but NOT bad enough to knock me out.

Oh and by the by, my wife, and my 10 month old son have ALSO been sick for the last three weeks (since the week with our friend), though thankfully it's just been a mild flu or bad cold (it can be hard to tell) and a touch of bronchitis for them.

...Of course, it's also kept THEM from sleeping  until the past few days as well.

Combined with the boys MASSIVE teething issue the past month or so... (he's cried more in the last six weeks than he did in the entire previous 9 months)... I pretty much hadn't slept the entire month of January.

Basically I was averaging about 2 hours of not particularly restful sleep out of every 24.

And then of course there's been the stress issue. The money, the mad rush, the uncertainty, the not having a place to live... You could say it's been a LITTLE bit stressful.

Between being sick, and not sleeping, I was pretty much a zombie for most of January (unless I was taking plenty of adderall, nasal spray, and anti-inflammatories, which you can't do all day every day).

Oh and of course, stress, sleep deprivation and exhaustion make illnesses worse, and make healing much harder. Frankly, it was probably the sleep deprivation and exhaustion that made it progress to pneumonia in the first place.

The bad news...

I just spent most of my second month (and half my third month) with a new employer, dead sick. For two weeks of that, I've been damn near useless.

I've been so sick, I've barely done any useful work in the last two weeks (I've been doing a lot of reading and research, and a little bit of writing), and I haven't been on anything billable for four weeks.

Also, I'm still in Arizona, a month after I was supposed to be back in New England, with at least a few more weeks to go before I actually make it back.

They're somewhat less than thrilled with me at the moment.

The good news...

I've got two pieces of good news actually.

First, the pneumonia seems to have broken. I haven't had a fever in over 24 hours, my coughing is greatly diminished... the only major thing really left is a particularly nasty sinus problem... and I think that's really a leftover, not a new sinus infection.

Second, we found a new house... and it's damn near exactly what we were looking for, at about half the price the Laconia place was (though it is MUCH more remote... which is both good and bad). Even better the owners are going to work with us on a lease to buy option. We're in the process of signing on it now (more on this house in a later post).

Ok, vent over... 



Thursday, February 06, 2014

CVS Drops Tobacco Products, Walgreens Considering it

Washington Post: "Why CVS thinks it can win big by ending cigarette sales"

Don't mistake this for altruism... this is forward thinking, and getting ahead of the trend, in order to milk some good PR out of it.

They're losing 2.4% of their gross revenue and 3% of their profit, in exchange for lots of good press, and avoiding a lot of hassle.

Walgreens is apparently "considering dropping tobacco products" as well.

Mark my words, the next target of the tobacco lawsuit industry will be retailers (just like the gun lawsuit industry has gone after gun stores). Never mind what will happen to tobacco producers and sellers if Obamacare proceeds.

Dropping tobacco means, lower insurance and legal bills, fewer hassles from state regulators, and less risk in general.

The smoking population in america is now below 20% (2013 estimate is 19% of adults). Unless a store is a "first choice" retailer for tobacco products, or can sell them at a large markup (gas stations are both for example) it no longer makes sense to sell tobacco products.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Franchise limitation isn't the solution to illegal immigration

A few days ago, Roger L. Simon of PJ Media posted "A Modest Proposal for Immigration Reform".
"So here’s my simple — call it simple-minded, if you want — solution, my modest proposal.  Illegal immigrants, assuming they have lived here for a decent period of time and have not committed a felony, can have amnesty, but they can NEVER be allowed to vote.  They can do anything else that is legal, but if they want to vote — or run for office or practice law in our country, as just happened in California — they must return home and go through the normal immigrant application process, however long that may take until they have citizenship."
Now, Simon is a smart and well read man, and by invoking Swift in his title, it's possible that he is cueing the reader that the piece is satire... but it reads as straight to me.

...Unfortunately.

Oh, on its face it sounds like a decent, practical idea, as Simon writes:
"This takes political motivations off the table in immigration policy and allows it to be about the lives of the people themselves, not the advancement of politicians and their parties.  If our Democratic friends mean what they say about their “compassion,” they should have no objection. If they do, they simply expose themselves as political opportunists with no real interest in the welfare of what they euphemistically choose to call “undocumented workers,” only in creating a voting bloc."
That would be nice... and overall, denying the franchise to illegals given amnesty citizenship seems like an OK idea... better than nothing, better than most legislation ideas being bandied about, and addressing one of the biggest problems with mass amnesty.

Except that passing such a law would, in fact, be disastrous.

Sebastian of PAGunBlog referred to the idea as "Amnesty Light", which isn't a bad way of putting it. More accurate though, would be to call it "Citizenship light"... which is a problem in several ways.

First of all, purely from a practical standpoint, the franchise limitation provision would fail in its intended goal.

The core issue, is that if such a law passed, it would effectively create multi-tiered citizenship: "Amnesty Citizens" and "Full Citizens"

In addition to the MANY other areas where this could be legally problematic; this would almost certainly be ruled, by just about any court, to be a 14th amendment violation (a privileges and immunities clause violation at the least, and possibly an equal protection violation).

Of course, it is not necessarily unconstitutional to limit the franchise by legislation (though based on court rulings over the past 60 years, that has some pretty strict, if ill defined, limits). For example, federally, we limit the franchise to those over 18. In most states they limit the franchise of felons, to some degree or another.

It is almost certainly unconstitutional however, to permanently deny franchise en-bloc, based on arbitrary characteristics, or on acts that were committed prior to passage of such a law.

It may even simply be ruled to be a fundamental violation of our system of citizenship as a whole; and that congress does not have the power to create a limited class of citizenship through legislation.

... I actually think that's likely. I don't believe congress has the power to create a limited citizenship by legislation.

I'd say that was absolutely the case, but there is a little wiggle room in the constitution, the 14th amendment, and the body of citizenship law; which potentially leaves it open to interpretation by a judge.

In that case, creating a limited citizenship would require a constitutional amendment... which will NEVER happen.
Oh an important aside... Some may suggest that the legal problems could be circumvented by requiring amnesty seekers to voluntarily agree to give up the franchise as part of their citizenship agreement. Effectively, each amnesty seeker would sign a consent decree voluntarily surrendering the franchise.
Normally, a consent decree can be used to enforce conditions that the government otherwise would not have the power to enforce, but there here are a few major exceptions.
This country has a body of anti-slavery and anti-abuse jurisprudence, which has enshrined a basic principle of law and contracts: American citizens cannot voluntarily give up their basic rights, privileges, and immunities. They can agree to reasonable restrictions such as non-disclosure agreements, but they can't contract themselves into slavery for example.
There may be some ways to make it work legislatively of course. For example, in order to get citizenship via the amnesty, each illegal immigrant would have to plead guilty to a felony (don't get me started on felonies), but that could get very messy very quickly.

Really though, which specific issue the franchise restriction was struck down for is unimportant. There are enough issues here that eventually (likely very quickly), there would be a successful challenge.

Given that any law passed would almost certainly have a severability clause, and that the supreme court would almost certainly strike down such a broad restriction on the franchise (certainly, many groups would litigate the issue constantly, and until they got the result they desired); effectively there would be no compromise. A few years after the law passed... possibly even a few months.... the voting provision would be struck down, and the amnesty citizens would be voters.

And let's just ignore fact that this would inevitably become an incredibly nasty race issue...

It's not just impracticable though. As a matter of principle, such a law would be morally and ethically wrong, and corrosive to our liberty.

Citizenship is, and must be, absolute. It's an all or nothing thing. The United States cannot create multiple classes of citizenship, de jure or de facto, and survive in any recognizable form.

Simply put, that way lies tyranny.

This is not to say that all people should be treated the same at all times.

Individuals may, through their own actions and choices, cause the PRIVILEGES* society grants them to change. A society can restrict certain privileges to certain individuals, who qualify by their own actions and choices; or deny them to others, disqualified by their actions and choices.

... so long as all have equal status under law, and the law is applied equally.

*The franchise is a privilege, not a right; as for that matter, is citizenship. They can be granted or denied by society, as society defines; so long as the law is applied equally to all, and not arbitrary or capricious.

Citizenship though, is absolute in this country. With one single and extremely limited exception, a citizen is a citizen, with equal rights, privileges, and immunities.

In this country, you can't say "you're a citizen EXCEPT...". It just goes against the nature of what we are... or at least what we're supposed to be.

There's a reason why there is only one office in this country that a naturalized citizen can't hold (Ok, technically two, since you have to be qualified to the the president in order to be the VP... but it's entirely likely that part of the constitution will eventually either be changed, or that the supremes will decide the 14th amendment moots it). There's a very big reason why it's explicitly called out in the constitution, as the sole exception to the rule that citizenship is citizenship, no matter what.

When the constitution specifies very broad rights and principles, and very narrow restrictions and exceptions to them, that's not an accident.

I'm not denying that giving somewhere between 10 and 20 million (and no matter what the propaganda says, largely unassimilated. I've lived in Arizona, California, Texas, Florida) illegal immigrants the franchise all at once could be a major problem. No matter what, it would be incredibly destabilizing, and we almost certainly shouldn't do that.

Neither though, should we weaken the essential protections our rights, privileges, and immunities have against an overreaching state, in order to attempt to address that problem.

It's a matter of the camels nose... or if you prefer, perhaps the slippery slope (slippery slopes may be a formal logical fallacy, but they do in fact exist. That's how incrementalism works).

Today, it's former illegal immigrants having the franchise restricted. If we allow that though, in principle, it could be acceptable to remove the franchise from any group. You'd simply need to come up with "compelling justification".

If you try to say "oh, that can't happen here"... it already has. In the civil war, WW1, WW2... The internment of the Japanese is the best known example, but far from the only one.

The fact is, several times in our not so distant past, the government has arbitrarily decided, based on "compelling interest"; that some people weren't "real" citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereof. That it was acceptable to simply ignore these peoples fundamental rights as human beings, never mind as citizens.

... and each time, the supreme court ruled it constitutional.

The principle of absolute citizenship should be just that, absolute. You either have citizenship, and all the privileges and immunities thereof... or you don't. That's it. there is no "in between"

Of course and unfortunately, these are principles that we rarely manage to uphold. The "real world" has more examples of inequitable treatment under law, than you could ever count.

That this is true, despite what are in theory our best efforts, should not make us discard the principle however.

On the contrary... That this is true, should make it incredibly clear, that we should avoid deliberately writing inequality into law; no matter how compelling the cause, no matter how limited the scope.

Oh... There's one thing I agree with Simon on in the entire:

"Our country lives by the rule of law — at least we should.  Immigration policy has been a farce."

You know what's not fun?

Two adults, living out of a suitcase for a month, in one room, with a 10 month old teething baby with growing pains.

And trying to work during that time.

And when all three of us manage to get sick twice.

And the sleep deprivation that comes along with all that.

We haven't been writing much, because... all of the above.

I'm sick as hell... can't think, can barely breathe... and I've had about 20 hours total sleep, no more than 2 hours at a time, in the last week.

Such joy.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

10 Months Old Today

And if you're wondering why there's a lack of baby photos (or content in general) on this blog, and a lack from the female half in particular well...

Mini-Chris is now mobile. He figured out the whole crawling thing and now he picks his own destinations... At speed.

He also has no fear response to speak of, a naturally high curiosity level, and enough intelligence to get himself in trouble.

He also adores power cables and has left some very recognizable teeth marks in Daddy's laptop cable.

He sleeps (maybe) 10 hours a day total. He's also sprouting teeth (usually in pairs) and has massive growing pains because he's now 33" tall.

He's a big, active, trouble-making, smiling, happy baby boy who somehow survives on 10 hours of sleep a day.

He's also a master at bending the laws of physics and the space-time continuum. There are days I want to call him Jack-Jack.

His existence, however, does not erase the need for food, clean clothes, or various other realities of life for the rest of the family, nor does it erase my need for sleep.

So content is kind of the last thing on my mind, way lower than keeping the kidlet from killing himself with his own curiosity.

There will be video proof of the above sometime this century, as soon as I get some actual sleep.

Mel

(And lest anyone think I'm letting Chris off the hook for his portion of kidlet duties, Chris has been handling this thing called work and giving me sanity time .)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Haven't seen THAT face in a while...



It's been about seven years since I've both shaved, and been at or below this weight.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Satisfying Design, Unsatisfactory Solution

I broke my phone yesterday. The screen I cracked back in July (a few weeks after I got the thing) cracked all the way through the LCD this time.

I AM going to have it fixed. The phone is functional except for the screen and it's $200 to replace that. No sense in NOT fixing a $700 phone.

Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of moving and business travel, and it's going to be a couple weeks to get my old phone fixed. I can't go a couple weeks without a phone.

When I'm working, I can't go two DAYS without a smartphone frankly. It's not only my telephone, it's also my organizer, my email client, my internet connection etc...

So, I had to rush out and get a new one.

Since I've already got multiple android devices (between us, I think Mel and I have seven or eight devices of some type, which run android in some fashion), and my iDevices are all several years old, I decided to grab an iPhone 5s (64gb black ).

Given my job, I need to have a working iDevice around for testing purposes if nothing else. My old iPhones are VERY old at this point. Having been purchased in 2009 makes them dinosaurs, which can't run the latest iOs, and thus no longer useful for testing. I was planning on picking up an iPad mini at some point soon... but what the heck, here's an opportunity to get a new iDevice while filling another need.

Verizon has a pay by installment plan that lets you keep your existing service plan (I'm well beyond my contract period, and have grandfathered unlimited data), so I DIDN'T have to lay out $800 all at once yesterday for a new phone, which is rather useful.

In fact, because I have a discount plan, I ended up getting the phone, and a great accessory bundle worth about $200 (including a mophie Juice pack power station pro ), for a grand total of $200 up front.

Unfortunately, I don't like the phone at all. In fact, I rather hate it both as a phone, and as a computing device.

Oh, it's pretty... it's just stupid and broken, by design.

I just don't care for iDevices. I need to have at least one around for testing purposes, and because there are still an unfortunate number of iDevice exclusive apps; so I don't regret buying it, and I'm not going to take it back...

I just don't like it.

I don't like how limited and simplistic iDevices are, even once jailbroken. I don't like being forced into Steve Jobs and Jony Ive's personal vision of "perfection". I like things the way I want them, not how Apple tells me I should want them.

I WANT options. I WANT complexity, when complexity is appropriate. I want to be able to do with my device what I wish, when I wish, how I wish...

Even jailbroken, iDevices just don't do that.

A perfect example: tethering

Even jailbroken, tethering is pathetic with an iPhone. You can't configure ANY options of any kind other than your WPA password. You can't even configure your SSID, as it's set automatically and unchangeably, to the host name of the phone.

Worse, when you are using the iDevice as a hotspot, it doesn't participate in the hotspot network. It can act as a gateway, but you can't be tethered to it, and communicate with it directly at the same time.

That is... universally, phenomenally, stupid and broken.

... but its "simple" and "elegant"... after all "users shouldn't have to think about those sorts of details and techy stuff, they just want it to work when they hit the button".

Yeah... I want it to work... and I want it to work in situations OTHER than what apple thinks will be common.

So, when I get my android phone fixed, I'm switching back... and I will have a very nice media streaming, game playing, and testing device.



Totaling up the ENTIRE round trip


We left Arizona for New Hampshire on November 22nd 2013, and returned to Arizona January 4th, 2014

We ran an awful lot of miles in those six-ish weeks.

We started the trip at 31209.5 miles... I took a pic of it, but apparently deleted it.

We ran a rather unusual route, attempting to avoid ice storms, and instead ended up driving in them the whole way:

Kearny, AZ - Departure point
Tucson, AZ
Las Cruces, NM
El Paso, TX - Stopped for the zero night (5 hours after leaving Kearny)
Pecos, TX - Stopped for the first full day, with an ice storm closing the highway
Dallas, TX
Little Rock, AR
Memphis, TN
Nashville, TN
Knoxville, TN
Johnson City, TN - Overnight for day 2-3, Mels Birthday, spent with her aunt and uncle
Waynesboro, VA - Overnight for day four (short day, left J.City late)
Harrisburg, PA
New York, NY
New Haven, CT
Providence, RI
Braintree, MA - Overnight day five
Weymouth, MA - Thanksgiving, spent with my dad
New Hampton, NH - Destination, my aunt Helen

We hit New Hampton New Hampshire six days later, having driven 3151.5 miles:


Then, we spent the next month driving to hell and gone over New England, from Northern New Hampshire to Connecticut and most points in between.

By the time we started the trip back to Arizona:



We had managed to drive 2677 miles.

Our trip back to Arizona was once again fraught with unexpected ice storms most of the way, and complicated with both Mel and I having the flu, so this time we deliberately decided to take it easy. We also chose to avoid the interstate where possible, routing like this:

New Hampton, NH: Depart 12am day zero
Rochester, NY: arrive 7am day one, sleep til 4pm, dinner with friends, depart 11pm
Cleveland, OH: stopped early in nasty ice storm, overnight day 1, departed late, in snow
McComb, IL: Arrive late in nasty ice storm, overnight day 2, departed late in snow
Topeka, KS: Arrive early to avoid new years lunatics, overnight day 3, departed late, in snow
Hays, KS: Stopped for lunch in Blizzard, waited 2 hours, had lunch and departed late in blizzard
Colorado Springs, CO: Arrived 8pm for dinner, overnight day 4, left late after visiting with family
Santa Fe, NM: Arrived 7pm for dinner, overnight day 5, left late after working
Mesa, AZ: Arrive after full day 6, with timezone change, exactly 6 days to the minute after we left NH

Total milage, 3071, total time 6 days, 8 family members and 11 friends visited.

Finally, after picking up our truck from Kearny, we dropped the rental off:

Having driven 9083.6 miles total, using 458.55 gallons of gasoline (an overall average of 19.8mpg, though we generally got around 20-22 on the highway. The lowest price we saw, $2.92. Highest, $3.79). According to my expense calculations, we paid an average of $3.20 per gallon, so we spend about $1500 in fuel alone.

... and THAT is a major reason why we didn't want to take our own truck for the housefinding trip.

Another 9k in mileage and maintenance aside, we would have averaged 16-17mpg of diesel (we avg over 20mpg highway, but city and idling with the heater on aren't great for diesel mileage), which is $0.50-$0.60 percent more expensive per gallon. 535 gallons of diesel at $3.80, that's more than $500 extra in fuel alone.