We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Monday, December 29. 2014
The post I was writing was specific to the riots in Ferguson. Then Eric Garner's Grand Jury results came in and it morphed. Then my ultra-liberal sister posted an article about how white people simply can't understand the black narrative and we need to be sensitive to why they feel the way they do about cops. This was followed by a discussion over a post by my friend which supported the #crimingwhilewhite tweeters. Then I picked up my son from college and heard about how 'white privilege' is now a hot topic among his classmates. Finally, two cops were shot and buried in the last week. I spent time trying to decide whether this was a post about race, cops, or something else altogether. In the end, I realized it's probably a number of things, because there wasn't just one narrative here. Brown and Garner were not about race, no matter how much people wanted them to be. Nor were they only about how bad cops are, or can be. Nor was any of this about how poorly the media handles these topics, or how those who consider themselves the intellectual elite manage the discussion. It's really about all of these items, but none of them, either. Ultimately, in the end, it's about each of us and how we individually think about unconnected events which we try to connect through some kind of hive mentality. It's about whether we really care about these events, and how we care about them.
At first, I planned to discuss how far we'd come in race relations. We have come very far. It's impossible to look at how we deal with race today and say we are in the same place we were in any year from 1880-2000. My friend said that improvement is relative, that we have further to go. Perhaps we do. But I'm not benchmarking myself against an unclear ideal which no group of people fully agree on. What will represent the final 'best' format of race in our nation? Nobody knows. All we can do is be aware of ourselves, individually, and try to be better about how we treat people when it comes to race, gender, nationality and religion. I include all of these together because as a society we have issues in every single one of these categories. We need to stop letting one word, used out of place or out of context, produce rage. We need to ignore things like "trigger words", which are nothing more than words which certain people have designated for censorship because they lack the courage to accept that language is malleable and can sometimes offend even slightly. As a nation, we need a real dialogue. Not about race, in particular. We need a dialogue about values and what is truly important. Race may be part of that value structure, but it's only a small part. Individual responsibility is really the larger value structure we need to focus on. Responsibility for our own health, our own minds, our own speech and our own education. We can't let small parts of the 'society' value chain derail us from the goal of crafting a nation which is unified entirely by how different each person is.
Continue reading "I Do Care about race relations"
Wednesday, December 17. 2014
Today I had to discuss business with him at a designated time and arrived as the last biscuit was handed out.
A group of people entered just after me, and were told the last one had be served. One fellow responded "Well, good, because I was conflicted."
"Conflicted about what?" I asked.
"I hate that company and everything it stands for. So I wasn't sure I wanted a biscuit. I'm glad they are gone so I don't have any moral qualms."
I started laughing and said "They make a damn good chicken sandwich, and that's all I care about. I can't stand many Hollywood actors and their politics, but I'll still see their movies because I want to be entertained."
He replied, "Well, that's not an issue for me. I like most Hollywood actors."
I could hear my point whistling past his ears.
There aren't many purchases I make while considering the politics of those things. If I did, I probably wouldn't spend much money. I'd have a hard time buying clothes, food, and putting gas in my tank. I'm a fan of Pink Floyd, went to see Roger Waters perform in concert, with all his political nonsense, and simply told my boys "Enjoy the show and the music, pay no attention to the political diatribes and imagery. We didn't ask for that, he's just decided to force it on his fans, many of whom don't think for themselves, anyway. We are here for the art and the entertainment."
I loves me my Chick-fil-A. I don't agree with their stance on homosexuality. But I'm not convinced my not enjoying chicken will alter their stance. To be honest, I'm not sure what one has to do with the other.
Wednesday, December 10. 2014
Sometime in 1996, I was scuba diving off the Outer Banks. Between dives, the boat captain and I had a conversation. His view was that in 20 years, water would be big business. I found that humorous, but as time passed, it struck me it has become a major industry. Or has it?
We spend little time considering something so basic, so essential, to life. It seems like something we don't really have to think about. Water is, after all, plentiful. But it takes considerable work to make it as plentiful as it is.
While water is handled as a public utility, the reality is there is a huge market for it and it is, as the captain suggested, big business. But it's always been big business, we just don't pay much attention to it because it's always available.
I had no idea the NY Public Library was built on the remains of the Croton Reservoir...
Walsh: Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.
Monday, December 8. 2014
Last year, we were at a friend's and I was introduced to the Coquito. This is, basically, a Puerto Rican eggnog.
Very tasty, but also very fattening. Probably 10,000 calories per glass. Delicious as can be. After that party, I made some and brought them to our family Christmas party, where they were a hit. We all had to run marathons to burn off the calories, but it was worth it.
I decided to make them again this year and found another recipe to work with. Most of the recipes are similar, though there are minor variations which make it an interesting drink. This year's recipe called for egg yolks, last year's did not. Last year I added nutmeg and vanilla. This year I didn't.
I pour it into resealable bottles, and keep it cold. It needs to be shaken prior to pouring, and sometimes you have to warm the neck of the bottle a bit to loosen it up.
I don't usually like distilled liquors, but during the winter I'll have some whiskey or add rum to my drinks. Particularly when the temperature dips as it has lately.
Continue reading "Coquitos for holiday season"
Thursday, December 4. 2014
He then took each to the side for a personal word.
Perhaps not as meaningful as his farewell speech to the troops, but the depth of his relationships which grew from the war followed him for years to come. Many continued to visit him at Mount Vernon. For obvious reasons, he will remain the only US President elected unanimously by the Electoral College.
Wednesday, December 3. 2014
When we hear how terrible politics are today, we fail to understand just awful they were in the early 1800's. It's not so much that things are bad today, but we should consider as a nation we went through a period of relatively limited political differentiation for quite some time from the Depression until about 1980. The political turmoil we are experiencing today isn't too different from our early years as a nation, much of which was mimicked at the turn of the 19th century. Adams held office at a time of massive partisanship, bickering and outright slander, at times.
John Quincy's years in the White House were spent trying to find things to do to keep himself occupied, since nothing he would propose could ever make it through Congress, such was Andrew Jackson's chokehold on the legislative branch. He was often ridiculed in the press, and often the butt of jokes during his tenure. Yet he persevered and was the only president to ever return to the House of Representatives (Andrew Johnson returned to the Senate).
John Quincy accomplished more before, and after, his presidency than most individuals of any stripe are capable of achieving. He was a master negotiator, a magnificent statesman, and a strong believer in the rights of man. He campaigned relentlessly to free the slaves upon his return to Congress, which led to the famous "Gag Rule," named after one of his comments. Despite being gagged, Adams was an expert Parliamentarian and found ways to have his voice heard.
He was the first US ambassador to Russia, and well liked there due to his role as secretary, at the age of 14, to Francis Dana from 1780 to 1783 in St. Petersburg. He worked hard, along with his father, to gain independence from Britain.
Adams was a promoter of education and science. We can thank him for the development of the Smithsonian Institute. Adams prevented Smithson's funds from being divided for political spoils and putting them to work for the country and education.
He was the first president ever photographed (the first sitting president to be photographed was William Henry Harrison in 1841, Adams' original picture was destroyed and he had new ones taken in 1843).
We often overlook many of our presidents, for obvious reasons. Some are larger than life. It's possible John Quincy was larger than our imagination, mainly because his term in office left him as an asterisk for many schoolchildren. "The son of a founding father and first child of a president to attain that office" is how I learned about him. His lack of effectiveness in office may have led to him being overlooked after years had passed, but it doesn't diminish his impact on our nation. We owe quite a bit to him.
Thursday, November 20. 2014
Here is a recent article from Ephemeral New York on Five Points.
Monday, November 17. 2014
Relaxed and enjoyed the sound of waves, played dominoes with the in-laws, ate fish every day, did some surf-casting (caught plenty, but nothing big enough), read my book (The War That Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan), and today I'm going kayaking or paddle-boarding. If I can, paddle-boarding, it's better for your core. But either is a good workout.
I had blackened lane snapper last night at a restaurant that didn't appear to be more than a hole in the wall, probably the best I've had. Sometimes it's best not to judge based on the superficial appearance. We had breaded hogfish the night before, at the in-laws'.
Flight home tomorrow in the early morning. This is the second year I took a mid-November vacation. It's a good time to go south. Not only do you stay warm when the rest of the country is chilling, but you get two shortened workweeks heading into Thanksgiving. Then you roll right into the Christmas holiday season.
Wednesday, November 12. 2014
Our urban hike just won't go away. Yesterday, Bird Dog posted pics of Trinity Church. Today I'm posting one location we didn't happen to visit. It was on the original agenda, by the time we got to Washington Square, taking a swing west would have added too much time to the walk. Spirits were high, but it seemed too much to ask. There's always next year.
As a young arrival in New York, I was single and had small amounts of cash to spend on entertainment. There were plenty of ways to find that entertainment at South Street Seaport, midtown in some of the (much more expensive) watering holes, Greenwich Village, and even portions of the West Village. In particular, The White Horse Tavern (warning - the full article, if you wish to read it, requires joining the site, but there is plenty in the portion I've linked to) was one of my favorite places to go after work on Thursday and Friday. For some reason, I never stopped in on the weekends.
Continue reading "The White Horse Tavern"
Saturday, November 8. 2014
Earlier this year, my son came home from school and asked me how hard it was to brew beer. This was not a surprising question from a boy who is 17. I still asked him why he wanted to know. His response was related to school (shocking). He said his Chemistry teacher brewed beer. I thought for a moment, and pointed out that cooking was a form of chemistry, so brewing seemed a natural extension.
At that point I mentioned a brew kit my brother had purchased for my birthday many years ago. It languished in an apartment closet until we moved to our house, and I never utilized it It was gone, but I asked would he be interested in learning to brew?
The answer was robustly affirmative, and we began to look into the purchase of a brew kit.
If you have the desire, you can build your own brew kit for about $35. Two 6 gallon Home Depot buckets, a siphon, an airlock, some washers and a small plastic spigot and you're all set to build the kit on your own. The spigot, washers and airlock can all be purchased online. You'll need lids for the Home Depot buckets. You'll need drills to attach the spigot and the airlock. It will take a little time and effort, but would save a little cash. The alternative is to spend about $100, buy the kit ready made along with all the ingredients for your first batch of brew. I opted for the expensive, easier, route.
You'll also want to read up on brewing first, too.
Continue reading "Oktober Brew for November - reposted"
Thursday, November 6. 2014
How to Lie With Statistics was the first book I was required to read when I was studying for my Master's in Economics. The book wasn't designed to show us how to lie, but to make a point. It's easy to lie with statistics. 100% of the time. 60% of the time, lying works all the time. It's all about positioning. Al Franken cut his teeth by showing how Republicans lied using tricky graphing techniques, then started using his own special brand of lying to continue to hoodwink his constituents.
The book was really designed to get students to think about context. When I present data, I never present just data, I present context. It's not enough to say that Man-Made Global Warming correlates with the reduction in pirate activity. We all know correlation is not causation, the context of why the lack of piracy is causing Global Warming is critical.
I recently posted about why interest rates won't rise. Part of that discussion continued on in the comments section, regarding inflation and savings. Normally, interest rates are slightly higher than inflation (positive real interest rates), and typically fall below the rate of inflation when the economy is in a rut (negative real interest rates, when people spend more than they save, driving up inflation but eventually causing interest rates to rise in order to attract savings). Yet we have not seen a general rise in inflation or interest rates in the last few years. There are many reasons for this, and those reasons are helping to keep real interest rates negative and low. If we knew the truth, we'd probably see more consumers behave differently, and it's likely the Fed couldn't continue engaging its policy of printing more money. But hiding inflation is exceedingly easy to do. Especially if you utilize hedonic adjustments, which is one of many methods used to delude the populace.
Hedonic adjustments can be justifiable. For example, if a regular banana costs $1, but a banana that keeps you full all day and meets your minimum daily health needs is only $5, it would appear the 'cost' of a banana is 400% higher than it should be, if you want to live. However, if it takes 10 regular bananas to match what you can get from 1 $5 banana, then you've actually realized a 50% decrease in price! Hedonics DO make sense,when in the realm of productivity gains for the consumer.
However, as the linked article from Zero Hedge points out, you can use 'enjoyment quality' to make a 400% increase actually appear to be a 7.1% decrease. You get no real additional value out of a 42 inch plasma TV that you didn't get from a 27 inch LCD. But the government can quantify and justify that the price you paid was actually LESS for the big screen plasma, even if it wasn't. Voila! You've saved money by spending more! Looking at the list of areas where hedonic adjustments are applied show a variety of useless of price decreases, simply so the government can imply regularly that you are spending less than you really are. It helps our politicians maintain "the money illusion." This benefits them, allowing them to engage Keynes' famous quote, “Lenin (the founder of the former communist Soviet Union) was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose”.
So yes, technically our inflation rate has been far higher than you realize, and the Fed has been making your savings worth less and less each year. No, it probably won't end well, so enjoy it while you can, and remember to try and find the contextual support for any government data. There usually isn't any.
Tuesday, November 4. 2014
It's not uncommon to hear Fed officials and politicians deny that we are monetizing debt. Technically, we are not. We issue debt, the debt gets purchased, and the Fed (which is essentially a private institution, though it's really a quasi-governmental institution) buys it back. Normally government debt is held by the public, which is why economic analysis of the old "crowding out" problem was so prevalent.
By keeping interest rates low, and repurchasing debt, the appearance of private ownership is maintained, but it is a roundabout method of monetizing debt. Allowing rates to rise to any meaningful degree will have severe negative impacts, in the short term. Since we are in a politically driven economy, this cannot be allowed to occur, so interest rates must remain artificially low.
Of course, the long term ramifications of monetizing debt are inflation (followed by deflation) and severe misallocation of economic resources. In other words, bankruptcies, unemployment and a financial morass. Not to mention the end of an expectation of comfortable retirement (how can you retire on a fixed income if interest rates are below 1%?).
Don't expect interest rates to move up any time soon, and don't expect any reporting of realistic inflation. Just vote for the guy/gal who will shovel the most tax money toward you.
Tuesday, October 28. 2014
Tonight I watched the Kansas City Symphony play the national anthem at Game 6 of the World Series. I began to wonder, if you're a trained musician and you don't make a major orchestra, do you begin trying out for smaller city orchestras? I had no idea. I suppose you begin looking for seats in various cities until you can find one. Then I wondered whether it's lucrative work.
These are extremely difficult jobs. While I may not be deeply involved in the symphony, I am well aware how hard it is to be good enough to be asked to join one, especially the best (Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc.). That said, how much could it pay?
I was rather surprised. I didn't expect them to live on subsistence wages, but it makes me wish I'd had a greater appreciation for music (and the talent to go along with it) in my youth.
Monday, October 27. 2014
Henri was a founder and one of the better known members of the Ashcan School, along with several others who were known as the "Philadelphia Four." Among these four artists was Everett Shinn. Everett felt one of our tour stops, Washington Square, was the "most beautiful place in New York."
It certainly is a wonderful place, vibrant and active on nice days. Shinn caught its beauty on a wet and windy night, as well.
Tuesday, October 21. 2014
This is a 4 year old story discussing why reconciliation is "good", in particular as it applied to the ACA.
It is a certainty, as Lord Acton once said, that power corrupts. In many cases of political activity, that corruption isn't just apparent in bribes, graft or other rackets that take place. It's visibly evident in the hypocrisy of power. In reality, reconciliation is probably bad every time it is used. I say this because it was mainly designed to overcome filibusters. Filibusters exist in order to extend debate on contentious issues on which neither side can claim a clear and overwhelming majority agreement (read as "bipartisan" - a term I despise since I view it as a means to push a slow growing Progressive agenda, but which many people think is a "good").
If a system's success depends on having the 'right people' in place, there's probably something wrong with the system. As our republic is aging, it seems there is a distinct and overwhelming stench coming from Washington because both parties are putting people in place who are perceived to be the 'right people'. Yet things just keep getting worse.
Monday, October 20. 2014
Saturday, October 18. 2014
All in all, the trip was a success. We stuck to the agenda, with a few extra stops baked in, up through to Chinatown. After that, minor adjustments were made to accommodate individual needs and schedules. But we made great time and managed to take in a good portion of the city's major sites and neighborhoods.
I hope everyone had a great time, I know Mrs. Bulldog and myself did. We enjoyed the company immensely. It was great to meet so many people and enjoy one of the world's great cities on such a personal level. From Fraunces Tavern to Cooper Union and McSorley's (where one member of the group was proud to announce he'd celebrated his 21st birthday recently - lucky young man!), we managed to soak in the flavors of New York. I think the one thing that surprised me most was that Stanford White designed the arch in Washington Square Park. In addition, one of the statues on the arch was designed by Alexander Calder's father.
I'd like to personally thank BD and Mrs. BD for introducing us to the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central. One of the coolest drinking establishments in NYC that I've ever been in. I will return with friends and family...and maybe even a few clients.
Tuesday, October 14. 2014
Yesterday, I paid $2.92. Not surprisingly, prices vary from place to place. I'm in New Jersey and we tend to have lower prices. On my way home from Syracuse on Sunday, I paid $3.47 only 5 miles north of the Pennsylvania border. Had I taken the risk to go 10 miles further (my indicator said I had 30 miles left, and that is not very accurate), I could have paid $3.25 simply by crossing the state border.
Recently, there was an article about falling prices in the morning news links here on Maggie's. The suggestion was that US drilling was the driver. I wasn't sure this was accurate, because the numbers didn't add up. Here is a short article on what the other factors may be.
For conspiracy theorists, there's always the political manipulation angle: "Oil has fallen to $60 a barrel. Experts predict it will continue to fall until exactly one minute after the polls close on November 7th." --Jay Leno (election is the 4th this year....but it's all in the delivery).
With a slight shift in visitation points, the current map of the walk seems to add up to 9 miles or 3 1/2 hours of walking time. With stops, a beer or sandwich here and there, we should hit the 5 hour mark, but 9 miles is significantly less than the original 11. Funny how many steps you can save just by altering the path you choose.
So, for the time being, this is the current path chosen. We welcome additions, suggestions and ideas from attendees and online spectators alike. Perhaps we'll do a 5 hour webcast chronicling the adventures. Not sure my iPhone would last that long, though.
Saturday, October 4. 2014
While the concept of taking regular pictures of a subject is not new, the ease with which it can be done (particularly on an individual level) has improved. As a project for an artist, however, it can yield intriguing results. Nicholas Nixon's study of the Brown Sisters provides a tremendous view of how a subject group, in this case a family, progresses through time. I am not sensitive enough to be moved to tears, though others have been.
My wife and I had very different reactions to the pictures. She focused on the items mentioned in the article, all of which are intriguing. I looked at the individual pictures, seeking to find indications of change and age. While each picture shows differences, I was of the opinion noticeable changes started appearing somewhere around the 16-20 year mark.
Wednesday, October 1. 2014
The author, Eduardo Porto, makes the claim "Elected governments are certainly imperfect. But to address our most intractable ills, they are the better tool." I wonder if this is something he'd have written if Bush were in the White House? Doubtful. More importantly, it's worth noting 'government as a tool to fix ills' is a common Progressive claim. It's also one which is completely misguided since it relies on having 'the right people' in office. If the wrong person or people are in charge, Progressives (and Conservatives) who believe government is a 'good' claim "government is broken" or "the wrong people are in charge." The first claim is most likely true regardless of who is in office. But if these claims are true, does government suddenly get fixed when the 'right' people are in charge? Certainly not!
If your system of righting perceived ills requires having 'the right people in charge', you have devised an awful system of governance. It's unlikely the right people can ever be in charge.
What really galls is his belief that an imperfect elected government is the best resource for fixing any perceived ills. Porto seems to have no problem with the 'right' politicians getting wealthy as long as they strike a stance which he support - opposition to businessmen getting wealthy because they provide consumers with beneficial products. It's easy to ignore that, for the last 6 years, with people I'm sure he considers 'right' being in place, Porto's perceived societal ills caused by business have gotten worse. After 6 years of His Wonderfulness being in charge, this journalist is still writing diatribes about how awful things are, or how awful they are becoming. Why has he not stopped to consider the complete and utter uselessness of our Empty-Suit-In-Chief? The 'fix' he voted for has failed him miserably, and he is miserable because he knows it, so he's complaining that the 'fix' was improperly applied. In fact, it was applied properly and it's just plain unworkable. Government is an ineffective method of generating social change, regardless of the 'right people'.
Continue reading "Capitalists are Socially Aware"
Tuesday, September 30. 2014
2 years of unemployment over a 20 year period isn't too bad when you consider how many people are still looking for steady work since 2008. I have a number of friends who have left this industry and entered new careers. It's tough to start over when you're past the age of 45. Which is why I'm glad I'm working and complain very little about my job. I make less than others with similar experience to mine, mainly because each bout of unemployment forced me to rearrange my salary needs and alter spending patterns. This is unfortunate, now that I have 2 kids in college, but it's good, too. I'm less likely to face the ax again since my experience comes cheap.
But I haven't been around Maggie's lately, and it's because I've had issues I'd classify as "First World Problems" over the past few months, which are better than the alternative "Big Problems". But it's worth sharing one in particular because it may help others with perspective, and it sure helps me with dealing with it.
Continue reading "Work: It's All About Attitude"
Saturday, August 9. 2014
-Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
-The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
Friday, July 25. 2014
Reason TV didn't wait for this to go viral before they provided a smackdown to both Kristin and Funny or Die:
It's doubtful Remy's exposure of the hypocrisy of Kristin's work will get as much exposure.
While Funny or Die, or Kristin Bell, may start lobbying to make other people do what they want via government diktat, it would behoove them to start living up to their own sense of moral superiority. Minimum Wage Laws are a primary reason so many teens are unemployed, as are the vast array of other restrictions preventing them from working. I held my first job at 13. Today, you can't get a job at 13 and it's just as difficult to find one at 15. Neither of my sons worked before the age of 16, not for lack of trying.
More importantly, studies have shown very few people actually 'live' on a minimum wage. Most minimum wage earners are under the age of 25 and are the second or third wage earner in a home.
What happens when automation pushes all these low wage earners out the door? I don't know. Perhaps we should ask the blacksmiths, since they all lost their jobs with the advent of the automobile. Why wasn't their union looking out for them so we could all be riding horses today? To be honest, I have a friend who is blacksmith. He does quite well for himself today, since there are few people with his skill set. Maybe Mike Rowe is on to something.
Thursday, July 24. 2014
A few reasons. First, my younger son loves sports and sports analysis. Statistics were something he followed from an early age. My older son did not. Secondly, my older son had different teachers and slightly different math programs. These programs mimicked the comedian's schtick:
I had an extremely difficult time helping him learn his math based on the program offered by his school. I was unable to learn the principles they were making him learn, how could I provide any assistance?
My younger son's experience, on the other hand, engaged a teaching method similar to that mentioned in the first four paragraphs of the article. He was using life experience and discussion with friends to learn the basics. The math program he was taught was significantly different from his brother's, the methods similar to those I from which I learned (I know the way I learned math was different from public school kids - my Catholic school was outperforming other local schools on standardized tests for years).
Ultimately, it's important to realize math is the basis of logic and reason. A deficiency in math skills may go a long way to explaining why so many Americans think they can get something for nothing from the government. Common Core may have fine intentions, but its implementation is a disaster, and is heavily politicized. It is unlikely to solve the issues it is designed to fix.