27 October 2019

Paradise Hill

Back in the late 50s and early 60s, there occurred a resurgence of folk music, but mostly antithetical to the Commie tinged version of Guthrie, The Weavers and such. Best known, and most commercial so far as I recall, were The Kingston Trio. Squeaky clean, very young, all boys, and all white. They did one song, though, that isn't in the mainstream of the mainstream Chamber of Commerce version of folk music.
Stubble and stone make a hard row to how. What little will grow, the drought will kill.
The summer folks call it Paradise Mountain but we call it Poverty Hill.
-- Fred Hellerman/Fran Minkoff

The title of the ditty is, no surprise, 'Poverty Hill'. But, of course, they didn't write it. Hellerman was a Weaver and Minkoff collaborated (he he) with him often.

Now, we pilgrimage to Block Island most every year for some years. This year we went twice: Memorial Day week and the past one. Interestingly, each trip has shed some light on what it means to live in God's Own Small Town America. Accommodation on the Island runs from Saturday to Saturday, and the island's weekly newspaper does too. So, on the ferry Memorial Day Saturday we read up the new issue with the screaming (2 inch type) headline that the medical center doctor had quit. Yes, an island with ~900 residents (but, it is widely said, 10,000 visitors per day during High Season) has just one medical facility and one doctor. Over the next few weeks, reading the on-line version of the paper, one found that the doctor: first, extended his last date; second, stated he would remain "indefinitely'; and third, rescinded said resignation. Letters to the editor of said paper, and subsequent chats with islanders, led to the belief that the doctor had merely extorted more remuneration. In this time frame it was reported that the town had increased its payment to the medical center by $40,000 over the previous year. Post hoc ergo propter hoc? Or dots that must be connected? So, that was the state of the island as we journeyed last week.

Last week, weather was mostly pleasant, and mostly fisherman from the mainland as visitors. Restaurants were closing earlier this year than previously, but luckily some remained open through our week. Phew! It's just one week after Columbus Day, for crying out loud!!

We got our trip back on Saturday, and, of course, read the island paper on the boat back to the mainland. Didn't get 2 inch headline, but this time it was the recently hired town manager who resigned. Lasted about a year and a half. He had been chosen in late 2017, but didn't start up in earnest until into 2018, since he couldn't find a place to live. Not that there aren't places to live on the island, but if you read the real estate section of the paper, much of what is up for sale is $1.5+ million summer cottages. In fact, during our week, the latest affordable housing lottery was done. Five winners were announced; from merely 12 pre-approved applications (mostly, applicants have to prove permanent residence on the island and accept re-sale covenants). The houses are 2 and 3 bedroom prefabs. The 2 bedroom goes for $250,000. Talking with the staff at Bethany's Airport Diner (best breakfast on earth), it turns out that the housing issue has been recognized for some time. One had won her home some 27 years ago. And, I'll bet, you thought only big cities like San Francisco had a 'housing problem', didn't you?

Will the town manager be persuaded to stay? Find him some baksheesh? Only time will tell.

Much of prime time TeeVee sit-coms has over the decades has been set in GOSTA, as if nothing could be finer. Very against type, "Cheers", set in not small-town Boston, has "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" as its theme song.

But consider the import of that idea. Block Island is an exemplar of GOSTA. Those ~900, with the obligatory 2.2 kids leads to about 400 adult voters, and a known handful of families owning most of the commercial establishments and membership in town government. IOW, those growing up in small town America are enured to living in autocracy. Now you know why some folks accept The Manchurian President as legitimate. Just their GOSTA writ large. While pleasant to visit, and not usually involved in the machinations of the medical center or town government, what would it be like to live under the boot heels of a handful of doges? No thanks. Give me the anarchy and polyglot of cities.

18 October 2019

Boeing Boeing - part the ninth [update]

OK, yet another hint that The Worst Case Scenario is right around the corner.
Sources told Reuters the Boeing internal messages raised questions about the performance of the so-called MCAS anti-stall system that has been tied to the two fatal crashes in five months. Boeing declined to immediately comment.

Let's see??? Could it be that some engineers finally admitted, to one another, that LEAP engines mounted so high on that 1960s wing couldn't reliably be compensated by software. And that the real fix is to extend the landing gear so that the engines are under the wing and off the damn tarmac? Ya think?
The FAA said it found the messages "concerning" and "is reviewing this information to determine what action is appropriate."

How much lying has been going on??? I guess we'll find out soon.

Yet more reporting.
"This is the smoking gun," Representative Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, said in an interview. "This is no longer just a regulatory failure and a culture failure. It's starting to look like criminal misconduct."

So, was the plane fine and the simulator broken? Or the simulator worked as designed, and showed the plane was unstable?

Yeah think Boeing's gonna get a break?

Boeing Boeing - part the eighth

Well, David Gelles, et al are at it again. More perfidy from Boeing. What a surprise!

But I didn't come here to bury Caesar. I came here to remind folks that MCAS continues to be misrepresented with regard to the two climb-out crashes. It's important to understand this.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said "[MCAS] has been reported or described as an anti-stall system, which it is not. It's a system that's designed to provide handling qualities for the pilot that meet pilot preferences."[4] The wiki. This is the ref.

IOW, MCAS was originally designed to provide a 'backstop' to AoA issues in normal flight at 30,000+ feet. It was only later that MCAS was modified to activate at climb out.

Some more
[MCAS] would trim the airplane in modest increments for up to nine seconds at a time until it detected that the airplane had returned to a normal AoA and ended its steep climb. It seems simple enough — on paper, that is.

And, do you like aggression?
On paper, MCAS was only supposed to move the horizontal stabilizer 0.6 degrees at a time. In reality, it could move the stabilizer as much as 2.5 degrees at a time, making it significantly more powerful when forcing the nose of the airplane down.

Not all of the reporting makes clear that MCAS's initial task was to compensate the MAX's handling during cruise flight back to 'classic' 737 behavior. This one does
MCAS is "activated without pilot input" and "commands nose down stabilizer to enhance pitch characteristics during step turns with elevated load factors and during flaps up flight at airspeeds approaching stall."
[my emphasis]

16 October 2019

Falling Off A Log

Gentle reader, I direct your attention the subtitle of this endeavor -- Blockchain: A translog missing its database

Well, I woke up to find this piece linked from the O'Reilly Newsletter. In the Newsletter, it's titled 'What happens when we collect too much data?'

Much of the text doesn't deal with RDBMS, but still manages, if you look really close, to make the argument that 'olde fashioned' transactional databases are smarter than simple minded translog datastores.
There's two threads I want to mention here as a starting point, and explore a lot further in future newsletters: the art of sampling, and the art of deleting and obscuring user data.

First, sampling. In an amazing, very underrated article all the way back from 2000, Jakob Nielsen talks about why you only need five users to perform tests. At first glance, this seems insane. How can you possibly extrapolate what all one billion users of Facebook, with their geographic, economic, and ethnic diversity, are going to do on the site?

And, of course, the Gallup's of this world have been doing sampling for many decades, and pretty much know how to predict the herd from observing a properly designate individual. Or
once you grow past a certain number of users, the data that you collect is just additional noise

IOW, yet again, may be state is more useful than all the baby steps taken to get there.

13 October 2019

I Love My Brazilian, Don't You?

The Brazil problem has been mentioned here in the past, as it relates to racial mixing and the loss of many fish-belly white populations. If this race-mixing doesn't stop, everybody will look like a Brazilian. But there is another aspect to Brazil that bears repeating.

Lo those many years ago, when I toiled for CSC, there came the announcement that one of the major data centers (perhaps the main one?) would be decamped to Australia. Now, since at least my undergraduate days, I've known that Australia is (and always has been in human times) the driest piece of real estate with people on it. I was astonished, of course.

For about as long, I've also been aware that Brazil's agriculture has been of the slash and burn variety. Bolsonaro, being a rightwing idiot, has promoted it even more. Exactly how long Brazil has used slash and burn, I haven't found, but
Available literature indicates that deforestation rates in the Amazon Basin of Brazil increased after the early 1960s due in large part to national policies supporting road building, tax and credit incentives to large corporations and ranches, and colonization projects for the rural poor.

So, at least half a century.

Back to Australis. Comes new reporting that climate change deniers are in full throat rampage, even as the effects diminishes their lifestyle.
In few places is the challenge of adapting to climate change more immediate than in Australia, where 80 percent of the population lives within a few dozen miles of a coastline susceptible to rising seas and more punishing storms, and where the arid interior bakes under record temperatures.

I guess conditions haven't gotten much better since I left CSC?

In sum, then, from an ecological point of view, we're already all Brazilians. We treat the environment as a short term impediment to instant needs, not giving a shit what we'll leave to our kids and grandkids. All this from 'conservative' politicians. Obviously, they don't admit what the word they use to self-describe actually means.

12 October 2019

Pill Popping Pin Heads

Some stereotypes are based in actual (if limited) experience. One such is that 'the drug problem' is an urban and brown problem. It's never been such, but once the white ring around the city started getting ever more loopy to an extent that not even the most racist old white guy could deny, 'the drug problem' was no longer a police problem, but a health problem. Go figure.

Thanks to r-bloggers, we have some more data exploring the state of drugs. Here's the punchline:
The more white a county is, the higher the rate of controlled substance prescription there. The more Hispanic a county is, the lower the rate of controlled substance prescription there. Effects with Black and Asian race are not clear in Texas.

I guess there aren't all that many drug addicts coming in wet back. Ya think?

08 October 2019

Dee Feat is in Dee Flation -- part the thirty eighth

September Core PPI -0.3% vs Briefing.com consensus of 0.2%; August was 0.3%
The key takeaway from the report is that the price declines were broad based, and not just energy-related, which is indicative of an environment characterized by weaker demand.
-- briefing.com/8 October 2019

Makes me Laffer all the way to the asylum.

04 October 2019

Sin Ergy

Every now and again, there'll be reporting on Sutter Health, which dominates northern California. Today's NYT report is one of many. Letting my fingers do the walking through the Yellow Googles finds allegations of bad behavior going back to at least 2016.

The long-time justification by American Capitalists for their ever-increasing M&A swallowing of competition is that 'synergies will lower cost and price'. Well, the former by rarely the latter.
Sutter Health, long accused of abusing its market power in California, is squaring off against major U.S. employers in a closely watched legal fight over health care competition and high prices.

From today's NYT report
In 2010, about a quarter of physicians, both specialists and primary care doctors, worked in groups owned by hospitals, according to the researchers, who were funded by the California Health Care Foundation, a nonprofit group. By 2018, 52 percent of specialists and 42 percent of primary care doctors were employed by practices owned by a hospital or hospital group.

The researchers point to that "market concentration" as a critical factor spurring "the fast growth of prices in California." They describe the gap in health care costs between the northern and southern parts of California, which lead to higher insurance prices paid by employers and individuals.

As that olde saying goes, "Give 'em an inch, and they'll take a mile." The banks were decreed to be too big to fail, as well.

Hunting the Russian Bear

So, I guess you want to know whether Hunter Biden was paid exorbitantly? Yes? Well not so much:
The median director pay at the largest U.S. companies was above $250,000 in 2015. This means that half of the directors of major corporations earned more and half earned less.

Yes, above the median. But no, not corrupt.

Now, look at USA Today's table.

Again, above median, but not out of the league.

03 October 2019


The California law signed yesterday has the NCAA, and its blessed brethren, up in arms: you're ruining the student-athlete!!! Well, as all this conflagration has gone on the last few years, each new event prodded my lower brain stem memories. Which memories were that in the 1800s, and perhaps into the early 1900s, colleges regularly paid their teams. It took my fingers more than a quick stroll through the Yellow Googles to find a paper discussing this. I guess none to few want to admit that college athletics was for a long time a professional enterprise.
Chicago, of course, was not the only school driven to excess in promoting its football team. The payment of athletes, many of whom had little pretense of being students, was widespread. A 1906 article by Charles Deming, a former Yale athlete, detailed the findings of a Yale faculty investigation into the school's athletic practices. It uncovered a $100,000 trust fund that had been used to tutor athletes, give expensive gifts to athletes, purchase entertainment for coaches, and pay for trips to the Caribbean.

Another report:
Athletes during the early and mid-1900's were routinely recruited and paid to play; and there were several instances where individuals representing the schools were not enrolled as students. For example, there is one report of a Midwestern university using seven members of its team that included the town blacksmith, a lawyer, a livery man, and four railroad employees(5). the ref: Bronson, A. G. (1958). Clark W. Hetherington-Scientist and philosopher. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.

The reactionaries so want the USofA to go back to the future of the 1800s. Here's another chance. Pay 'em.

Towering Inferno

Sedition: incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government. here

I've kept my tongue longer, perhaps, than warranted, but yesterday's paranoid raving was the end of the road. The mainstream pundits keep wondering why The Manchurian President continues to cover both his and Russia's ass over 2016 and now 2020. They all, for what I can see, are ignoring the core of The Manchurian President: money. It was, is, and always will be about his money. Or money he believes is his due. He desperately wants that Trump Tower Moscow, and is quite willing to sell off any and all things American to get it. Follow the money, folks.

01 October 2019

Empty Spaces

The truly lying tweet from The Manchurian President compelled me to respond. But I saw it on my CNN homepage, and it was just the intro to some reporting. I can't say it much better, so I'll let it go at that. Well, almost.

Trump - 62,984,828
Not Trump - 73,684,448