Thursday, March 28, 2013

God is so, so, so, so, good.

Not only did He die on the Cross for us, but He takes care of our other needs in a delightful, dare I say miraculous, way.  How so?

Read this article about the benefits of chocolate.  I think I'll get some medication today.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another fine product from Microsoft?

Apparently, Bill Gates is sponsoring efforts to develop a better condom, and apart from the obvious "Microsoft" jokes and the points about the reliability of anything coming from Gates' company in a place so critical, let's ask some more basic questions.  Questions about whether it even makes sense, of course.

This is apart from questions over how effective they are today, or whether they can be improved to be better.  As we'll see, that's really beside the point.

For condoms to be needed, we must assume that a large group of people do not have the self-control to refuse to "go to bed" when they're not ready to have a child, or when they're not sure that their partner is STD-free.

For condoms to be useful, we must assume that this same group of people will have the self-control to carry condoms, use them properly, and refuse sex to those who refuse to use condoms.

In other words, the two assumptions are mutually contradictory, and thus, for the purposes of preventing STDs and pregnancy, condoms, no matter how good they are, are a dead end.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bending the cost curve.... appparently exactly what Obamacare is doing, just like they promised, but with one big exception.

It's going up, not down, with average insurance rate hikes of 32% nationally, and even the CBO (bound by the assumptions of the politicians) notes that the ten year cost is already $1.8 trillion.

However, it gets worse; a lot worse.  When you ferret out the double-counting of items and the like, estimates of the ten year cost are as high as six trillion dollars, and the mean estimate is $2.6 trillion.  To put it in liberal terms, far more expensive per year than the war in Iraq, and far more devastating as well.  Just ask senior citizens, who will face a lack of care due to Obamacare's target of a 25% reimbursement rate for Medicare.

What happened to the promise that it would save money?  Well, keep in mind that the guys who made that promise are the same guys who added up six years of costs and ten years of taxes to arrive at their original number.  It's the kind of accounting that puts anyone not in government into the graybar hotel.

Remember in 2014.  We might not be able to arrange for a term at Alcatraz, but we just might be able to finagle "no term in DC" for the perpetrators.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Your government at work

In less than ten years, the government is mandating that about 21 billion gallons of "cellulosistic ethanol" be produced and consumed.  Total gallons of cellulosistic ethanol produced for market so far: 0.

Elections matter.  Make sure that your representatives and senators understand physics and chemistry better than the guys controlling Congress in 2007, and the guys controlling the Senate and White House today.  Otherwise there will be a huge price to pay every time you need to fill up.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A picture of our discipleship

And not a pretty one, sad to say.  One student in a class at Florida Atlantic University refuses to stomp on a piece of paper with the name "Jesus" on it.  Now kudos to the student for refusing to do this, but are we to believe that there was only one student in a classroom at a university just south of the Bible Belt who grew up in church and ought to be repulsed at this idea? 

For that matter, what of non-religious students and the administration?  Should not they be pointing out that if your goal is to teach tolerance, stomping the name of a religious figure is a rather odd way of going about it?

So if Professor Poole is reading this, I've got a suggestion.  Do the same thing with the name "Mohammed" or a few verses from the Qu'ran, and invite the press so you can tell the world exactly how this sort of nonsense helps "tolerance."

Or, don't, for obvious reasons. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to deal with critics

Paul Greenberg shows us.  Now I cannot presume to attain to the disdain of being compared to H.L. Mencken, as Greenberg recently was, but if I can obtain the censure of being "an eensy weensy bit like that hillbilly editor from Arkansas", I'll be grateful.  Pile on!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Your government at work

The University of Minnesota has done, apparently, what no Big 10 alumnus would think could ever be done--lose money selling liquor to Big 10 football fans.  How did they do it?

Well, let's work out the math.  At $7.25 per 16 ounce glass of beer, they sold about 125,000 glasses of liquor.  Revenue is $900k, cost of the liquor was $180k, about $450k went to the vendor, $30k for ATMs and plants, and $47k for security. 

OK, so the other costs--setting up tents and labor--appear to be about $205k in all for them to lose money.   What went wrong here?

Well, their wholesale price per drink (about $1.40 or so) is higher than the retail price of the beers they serve, their labor cost equates (even with generous wages of $20/hour) to each worker serving a drink every five minutes, and Aramark is getting an incredible amount of money for setting up a few beer tents.

In other words, it's the same old story of the fiscal habits of those who are spending other peoples' money, not to mention a nasty indictment of the Carlson School of Management.

Right foods in, health out?

Not so fast, according to a new study which indicates that the correlation between drinking low-fat milk and obesity is slightly negative.  There is the obvious question of whether it's simply an issue of chubby parents choosing skim milk for their chubby kids, but there are also other questions to be addressed.  First of all, is it possible that whole milk provides satiation absent in skim, and hence skim milk tends to be accompanied by more foods than does whole milk?  Second, is it possible that parents allocate more food to their children when the milk they drink is skim--something of a "sin allocation"?

What I know in my own family is that my own children are porkers as babies, but slim down despite whole milk when they start walking.  This leads to a third possibility; drinking of skim milk correlates well to kids in situations where they spend hours each day parked in front of the idiot box. 

What is certain is that for diatetics to advance, they've got to get beyond the equation of food in, health out.  Hopefully this study helps.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Honor Harry Weathersby Stamps

Write your Congress-critters and ask that Daylight Savings Time be repealed.  Let's get back to honest time, and maybe half a bacon and tomato sandwich in his honor as well.

RIP, Harry.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fightin' words from the Department of Labor

Apparently, former Hostess/Wonder workers have gotten "Trade Adjustment Act" benefits from the Department of Labor, an act which would indicate that other nations are exporting mass volumes of cheap snack foods to the United States. 

Now, I've had a few imported snacks, mostly of the "ethnically specific" variety, but I'm quite frankly skeptical of the idea that we're importing large amounts of American-style snack foods, unless Hostess' competition has figured out that Canada has access to inexpensive grain products and Cuban sugar.  Even in that case, the nation-wide network of bakeries (?) Hostess had is testament to the fact that transportation costs can quickly overwhelm any advantage in raw materials costs.

The upshot?  It's a good thing that the decision didn't mention specific exporters of junk-rate snack foods by name, or else this decision could become a major headache for John Kerry.  Accusing the Swiss of exporting Ding-Dongs could, after all, very well be the casus belli that has evaded that nation since the 1600s.

Friday, March 15, 2013

More Dept. of Energy Failures, coming right up

About a month back I posted on why Department of Energy grants don't work; more or less, because they're operating under the idea that what's lacking with alternative sources of energy is a simple matter of scale.  Subsidize windmills or ethanol for a while, and it's bound to produce some good results, right?

Well, not if the problem is not economies of scale, but rather chemistry and physics. If electric cars actually create more carbon dioxide than standard cars, or if hybrid cars involve a large carbon dioxide "debt," , or achieving 30mpg in a Volt requires premium gasoline, or luxury hybrids coming in a distinct second in perfomance to a Chevy Traverse, or if light rail and buses are generally actually dirtier than driving (and can not be made more efficient), you're going to simply be throwing money down the toilet.

Well, brace yourself for more of the same, because President Obama has apparently learned nothing from a 35% loss ratio on his loans to solar companies or the 19 solar companies that went bankrupt after receiving loans and grants from Obama's "spendumore" plan.  He wants two billion dollars more, and he's going to pour it into the same failed ideas as before.

Let your Congressman know that 40 years of failure is enough.  It's time to defund Department of Energy and Department of Transportation subsidies for alternative energy and alternative transportation.

Only as good as your people

.....are your reliability projections, apparently, as Carnival (AKA King David's Cruise Line) has yet another difficulty with their ships.  Now it could be that they're getting hit with the "perfect storm," but more likely in my opinion is that they've got a culture of skipping required maintenance on their ships, and they'd do well to replace their VPs for safety and quality, as that's where the culture comes from.

For that matter, maybe a little look at whatever agencies inspect maritime vessels might be in order, too.   They also appear to have a culture of half-inspecting critical systems.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Our culture and revivalist gimmickry

Last night at church, I was asked if my wife and I might be chaperones for the teens at a "walk for life" event, more or less an "all nighter" spent walking around a track to see how many miles they can complete, whereupon their sponsors will pay a certain amount per mile completed to benefit cancer research.

Driving home, the family got to thinking about this.  Suffice it to say that we've seen our kids (and ourselves) after no sleep, and we know all too well that we'd be making ourselves utterly worthless for the next few days, and all for the sake of contributing $100 or less to cancer research.

And so it came to us.  Have we, as a society, just confessed that we can't pull out a few bucks every once in a while to reduce the chances that someone we love will end their earthly days on a morphine drip?  What ever happened to the original March of Dimes efforts to end polio, where the very presence of a donation jar would be all the reminder needed for many to make a small--or large--sacrifice with the goal of seeing fewer children (and adults) in leg braces and wheelchairs?

It seems that to a great degree, that's exactly what's happened to our society as a whole, and it's even more sadly being reflected in our churches.  The beauty of the Gospel apparently has not been communicated in such a way as to spur action, and therefore we are driven to more and more bizaare ways of getting attention.

Maybe it's time to slow down and remember what our Lord said.  We should pray in secret (Matthew 6:6), avoid oaths and let our yes be yes and our no, no (Matthew 5:37), fast in secret (Matthew 6:17), and to the point of the Walk for Life, not let the right hand know what the left is doing (Matthew 6:3).  In doing so, we will only then "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16). 

We might just see about finding another way of reducing the likelihood of people on that morphine drip.  Real life is too much fun to build around gimmicks.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No cuts possible?

In discussing the "sequester", one consistent theme from the White House is the idea (mirrored by some in Congress) that apart from national defense, there really isn't much to cut from federal spending.

Well, let's take a look at one appropriation: $5.5 billion for a 175 mile rail line to Las Vegas from Los Angeles Victorville (suburban Barstow, out in the desert).   The promoters are expecting two million families (let's say about four million people annually) to take the train when they're already ignoring $98 tickets from LAX to "Lost Wages".  Assuming a required ROI of about 20%, the overall subsidy would be $300 per passenger.  It would be cheaper by far to pay for an airline ticket and parking expenses for every Angelino who wants to go gambling and watch a show.

And the technological benefits?  There are none, as they're using the Japanese bullet train model developed in 1964, which even in Japan requires subsidies to operate.  It's a complete technological and economic dead end here. 

So here you go, Mr. President.  A quick $5.5 billion to cut from the budget--and hey, what about the other subsidies being given to rail and air transportation, too?   Why, after all, should "stay at home Sam" be subsidizing the fun for "Jet Set Jimmy"?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Trucks and marriage

Per a commenter's wise note, it occurred to me that a pickup without a bed makes as much sense as a marriage without a bed.  I'll leave further thoughts and comments to my legion of readers.  :^)

Monday, March 11, 2013

How to plug in hybrids match up environmentally?

Not too well, according to Bjorn Lomborg.    (h/t Cold Fusion Guy)  More or less, the price reflects the time, effort, and energy used in making the motors, chassis, and battery of hybrids and plug-in electrics results in a huge release in carbon dioxide that really makes it less environmentally sound than a typical gasoline powered car.

And yes, I've gone a step further and said "less environmentally sound" for three reasons.  First of all, batteries will need to be replaced as they wear out, which is another huge carbon hit.  Second, the typical use of a hybrid or electric car is as a supplementary vehicle, not a primary vehicle.  So your environmental cost starts with a baseline of not one, but two vehicles.  So it's not 30,000 lbs of carbon dioxide that are required for an electric vehicle, but really somewhere around 44,000 lbs. 

(update: if the usage profile of a hybrid/electric vehicle is as stated, part of the ecological cost would also be the third garage stall--four yards/four tons of concrete with an additional ecological cost of 8-15 tons of carbon dioxide, plus the wood, shingles, etc...So the overall "carbon dioxide investment" is probably actually 60-80,000 lbs of carbon dioxide--and a likely "break even point" of about 70,000 miles use when compared with a half ton V-8 powered pickup)

The final reason that electrics are worse for the environment is when we consider what could be done with that public money (OK, borrowed money) if we weren't putting it into electric cars, windmills, and the like.

One possibility is to use the savings to swap out the child care tax credit and child tax credits for a big increase in the standard exemption, and see how many moms (or dads) would realize that it makes more financial sense to stay home and not drive to work at all.  

Friday, March 08, 2013

Why bills are paid so slowly these days

No, not the ones you receive directly from your creditors.  Those still need to be paid in a month or less, as you are most likely one of the little people.  I'm referring to the very common practice of companies shifting payment of bills from the previously common "net 30" (pay balance in 30 days) to "net 60", "net 90" and (my favorite) "fifth third" (pays on the fifth day of the third month after receipt of product). 

The typical reason given for such arrangements is optimizing cash flow and reducing the cost of inventory, but let's take a look at real life.  GE is competing with Emerson for shelf space at Wal-Mart or Target.  Will either Emerson or GE eliminate their chances for Wal-Mart shelf space by insisting on net 30?  Of course not.

So what we have here is manufacturers paying for, and getting paid, on about the same basis; let's assume it's net 90 for everything but wages, or about half of your costs.  So the end result is that with the extended payment plans, the company ends up carrying about a month's expenses on credit, or carries an extra month's worth of cash on hand. 

Now this isn't a complete loss, as typical inventory turns can be as low as four or lower, but it is a nice little subsidy for the bankers.  So why do companies do it?  They don't like paying interest any more than you do, after all.

Enter Sarbanes-Oxley, which requires accurate quarterly financial reports and provides for jail time for executives who file false reports--and indirectly provides an incentive for those same executives to have a good idea exactly what revenue and expenses will be before the quarter ever starts.

Which is exactly what net 90 financing does, and "fifth third" comes close.  By pushing bills out three months, these tools give accountants the tools to get it right and avoid ruinous SEC investigations.

So if you own a small business, and you're wondering why you're not getting paid in a timely manner, yes, it is the government's fault.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Jimmy Carter logic

Apparently, President Carter (new motto: "Not as bad as Obama!") is mourning the death of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez by claiming Chavez did a lot for the poor of Venezuela.  Well, if stealing two billion dollars from them while creating an economic recession in a nation selling petroleum for about a hundred bucks per barrel counts as "helping the poor", then I guess yes, but if I were a poor person in Venezuela, I'd be hoping for a different kind of help.  Hopefully the next leader of Venezuela can be a little bit more like the governors of Texas, North Dakota, or Alaska, where they understand a little bit about how to transform oil wealth into prosperity.

For that matter, I'm kinda hoping that our next President will be someone who understands a bit about how to create prosperity, come to think of it.  This silliness about making the sequester "as painful as possible for all but the President" needs to end.

Update: there is some indication--and regrettably the sources are not named--that the death of Hugo Chavez may have been more or less caused by his Cuban doctors at the direction of the Cuban government, who understand that without an oil lifeline from a sympathetic Venezuelan government, their economy is toast.  The article further points to Cuban manipulation of the electoral processes in Venezuela, and the possibility/likelihood of a civil war coming out of this.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Pickup of the future?

If Mitsubishi's concept "pickup of the future" becomes the norm, apparently pickup trucks of the future will no longer have a bed

Or, perhaps more accurately, apparently nobody at Mitsubishi remembers the definition of a pickup.   The rest makes sense--turbodiesel for towing and efficiency, hybrid could give you simple four wheel drive and  power for your tools at the worksite without lugging around your extension cords, and unibody construction increases strength while reducing weight.  But please, please, please--don't pretend you can have a pickup without a box.  It just ain't right.

The Jungle, Modern Revision

Gino inspired this one.  Unless you're blessedly ignorant of recent news, there has been a spate of cases where DNA testing has revealed horseflesh in meats labeled as pork or beef in Europe.  In some cases, it's a large portion of the meat--up to 60%--and in others, trace amounts have been found. 

What does this mean, you ask your ASQ-certified host?  Well, first of all, it means that government inspectors, far from abolishing the horrific conditions that Jurgus Rudkus was said to have endured in Sinclair's classic, apparently are incapable of even determining that the slaughterhouses they "police" aren't even slaughtering the right species.  Who knew that USDA/European inspectors were drawn from the ranks of hung-over Midwestern deer hunters?

Then the "trace" amounts indicate that those same "crack" inspectors (as in "smoking crack", evidently) aren't figuring out that the abbatoirs aren't even bothering to clean their equipment.  If you wonder why we have periodic e coli scares here, this would be it.

Seems to me that if you like to eat meat, you'll do well to find an independent you trust, rather than trusting regulators.   Here is a video of some of those European regulators on a team-building exercise.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Advice and concent on appointments

If this linked article can be trusted, the fiasco of President Obama's illegal recess appointments illustrates exactly why advice and consent is so critical a function of the Senate.  Among the decisions of his crack team (as in "smoking crack") for labor relations:

1.  That sandwich-makers have the right to (falsely it appears) post fliers suggesting that Jimmy-Johns will serve them a sandwich laced with influenza.  (in the middle of a union organizing campaign)

2.  That those who report workplace violations (like medical personnel sleeping on the job) can have their names reported to their union.

3.  That an employer rule requiring courtesy on the part of employees was illegal.

4.  Requiring employers to pay the income tax on back pay.

It's worth noting, by the way, that cases 1 and 2 tell you all you need to know about unions--the truth is all too often optional, and they don't care whether their lies get you fired. 

Also, #1 and #3 hit on a central part of most severance agreements, which is that the employee leaving not bad-mouth the company.   It's a very good thing that the courts stopped Obama on this, because otherwise the precedent being set is that one can insult one's employer at will--truly or falsely--and the govenrment will protect that behavior.

Good luck running a company with that precedent!  And as I noted earlier today, now more than ever, we need leaders who understand how business works.

Leadership we could have had

Now I never was 100% in the Mitt Romney camp--his previous support of gun control and prenatal infanticide prevented that--but the dignity he displays in this interview would be a welcome change from the "blame everyone but myself" guy we've got now.  Plus, it would be really nice to have someone in the White House who understood a balance sheet enough to know "oh boy, I'm in trouble here."

And if you're watching the sequester theater, there is only one thing you need to know.  In 2011, the President and Democrats agreed that spending cuts were necessary.  Now they are trying to shift the bar.  So if you vote for or otherwise support Democrats, you are supporting people who simply do not negotiate in good faith.

No matter what your political perspective, you can't trust the Democrats. 

Saturday, March 02, 2013

On the sequesters......

A hint of hope for our country as the President has signed the executive orders for $85 billion in spending cuts (a full 2% of spending!  Ooohhhh!), making sure to try and blame innocent parties for the mess he created while calling the cuts "dumb".

Well, yes, it is dumb to cut only $85 billion from Obama's bloated spending, and it is dumb that it's across the board instead of, say, a cut of 100% of funding to the NEA, NEH, Department of Energy, and Department of Education.  That said, it's the dummy in the White House that demanded these dumb and insufficient cuts, and the barrier to getting smarter and more extensive cuts is, again, the dummy in the White House.

Send him a note.  Let him know that we're on to him.

Friday, March 01, 2013

You learn something new every day.....

I had believed that the steel guitar was something of the province of country music, and today I learned that it's also a staple in black churches, and that the steel guitar originated in, of all places, Hawaii.

Here's a sample of pedal steel in an arrangement decidedly unsuited for the honky-tonk. 

And of course, those who know of and love this tradition are heartily encouraged to laugh at my (slightly lesser now) ignorance.  :^)