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Bob Seger!!


Bob Seger was in Tampa as part of his farewell tour. He may be pushing 80, but he still knows how to put on a show. One of Debbie's brothers was there with his wife and son, and one of my cousins came with us as well. We were laughing that it was a good thing Debbie's nephew came along so we wouldn't be the youngest people in the crowd. We had a great time and it was good to see some family we don't get to see very often. One thing with a crowd made up of old people is that everyone was pretty mellow. Not a lot of pushing and shoving, nobody puking, no fights, etc. The layout of the Amalie Arena makes it easy to get around in and find your seats. We were a little surprised by the lax security: we never had to show anyone that we had tickets. I put my ticket in my pocket when we got out of the car and never took it out until we got home. I used to work for the company that provides security; we checked tickets at the screening area, again when you went into the door, then again when you got to your section. It kinda pissed me off a little; I paid $125 for a ticket that never saw the light of day. But bottom line; awesome show. As always.


Tax season is in full swing and boy is it swingin'. I've already done more returns that I did last year and just with the returns I know are coming my way, I will be doing at least that many more. The phone is ringing off the hook and there is a steady line of people walking up on our porch. We always laugh about how nobody ever comes back to our out-of-the-way corner of the park, but we sure are getting company this year.


In medical news, I've gone from having no insurance to having two different insurances. I need to go through the foot-thick file of bills that have been sitting in the file cabinet since January and try to get some of these people off our backs. My pitch to them will be simple: No job, no money, whatever Florida Medicaid is willing to give you is all that you are ever going to get, so take it and be happy. Anyone want to take bets that will work? Heh.


In our continuing series documenting TEOTWAWKI:


The whole Russiagate thing started with Russian hackers supposedly breaking into the DNC's e-mail server, revealing that the entire Democratic Party apparatus conspired to ensure Hillary Clinton was the Democrat's 2016 presidential candidate. At the time I and many others said that it was complete BS; the e-mails had been copied onto a flash drive by someone working at the DNC who was probably sickened by their chosen party. Well, we were right:



We veteran intelligence professionals (VIPS) have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

The article goes on at length showing how that conclusion was arrived at. It is written by geeks, but in non-geek plain English. Long but worth the time if you care at all about that little thing called "truth".


David Holmgren is a permaculture guy from Australia. He recently published an apology from the Baby Boomers to the Millennials and whatever we end up calling GenZ. The entire thing is loaded with good stuff, but this bit caught my eye:



While our parents’ generation experienced the risks of youth through adversity and war we used our privilege to tackle challenges of our own choosing. Although some of us had to struggle to free ourselves from the cloying cocoon of middle class upbringing, we were the generation that flew like the birds and hitchhiked around the country and the world. How strange that on becoming parents (many of us in middle age) we believed the propaganda that the world was too dangerous for our children to do the same around the local neighbourhood. Instead we coddled them, got into the chauffeuring business, and in doing so encouraged their disconnection from both nature and community. As we see our grandchildren’s generation raised in a way that makes them an even more handicapped generation, we must be truly sorry for the path we took and the disease we created.

Gen Handicapped. I like it; has a certain ring to it.


One of the indications of a nation in decline is loss of faith in its institutions. For example, every nation in the world has always accepted that any plane deemed airworthy by the FAA did not need to go through whatever equivalent system that country has in place. Now, thanks to the 737 MAX debacle, that will surely change:


With the 737 Max 8 grounded worldwide, the MCAS system is now under scrutiny. A Boeing spokesman said on Sunday that the system met all of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) certification requirements, but a group of anonymous Boeing and FAA engineers told the Seattle Times that the FAA delegated much of the safety analysis to the company itself, which cut corners to deliver the plane on time.

Typical corporate short-term thinking; rather than risk being "late to market" and lose sales, rush the process, kill customers, and lose even more sales than you ever would have had you just taken the time to do it right. It's the Flaming Pinto all over again, only this time, both a major corporation and a federal regulatory agency will be gettin' an ass whoopin'.


Last but certainly not least, we have a Matt Taibbi two-fer. I knew he had something big brewing when he went into radio silence for nearly three weeks. It was worth the wait. By now, everyone has heard that the Pentagon failed its first-ever audit. The problem is that they really didn't fail so much as make such a hash of their books, teams of accountants were unable to even offer an opinion:



At the tail end of last year, the Department of Defense finally completed an audit. At a cost of $400 million, some 1,200 auditors charged into the jungle of military finance, but returned in defeat. They were unable to pass the Pentagon or flunk it. They could only offer no opinion, explaining the military’s empire of hundreds of acronymic accounting silos was too illogical to penetrate.

When I was a kid, Senator Everett Dirksen allegedly said, "A million here, a million there; pretty soon, you're talking real money" in reference to federal spending. This was later inflated to "A billion here, a billion there...". What Taibbi dug up goes far beyond that:



...the Defense Department a few years ago found about $125 billion in administrative waste, a wart that by itself was just under twice the size of that $74 billion Enron bankruptcy. Inspectors found “at least” $6 billion to $8 billion in waste in the Iraq campaign, and said $15 billion of waste found in the Afghan theater was probably “only a portion” of the total lost.

My favorite bit of the entire article:



Meanwhile, the Air Force, which has a $156 billion annual budget, still doesn’t always use serial numbers. It has no idea how much of almost anything it has at any given time. Nuclear weapons are the exception, and it started electronically tagging those only after two extraordinary mistakes, in 2006 and 2007. In the first, the Air Force accidentally loaded six nuclear weapons in a B-52 and flew them across the country, unbeknownst to the crew. In the other, the services sent nuclear nose cones by mistake to Taiwan, which had asked for helicopter batteries.

When I read that, the first thing that popped into my head was an episode of M*A*S*H with some high-ranking dude explaining that, no the unit could not have some badly needed piece of medical equipment, but they could have a popcorn machine. Just use form blah-blah-blah-stroke-J, cross out "Machine Gun" and write in "Popcorn Machine". I guess whoever wrote that bit was closer to the mark than they knew, only it was form blah-blah-blah-stoke-H, and you cross out "Helicopter Batteries" and write in "Nuclear Missile".


And we trust these people with essentially unlimited firepower. And a trillion dollars a year.


Speaking of a trillion dollars, some people are trying to say Sanders is full of it when he talks about the big banks getting a trillion dollars in bail-outs after nearly wreaking the entire world economy. And it's true that the number is probably no where near a trillion dollars. Taibbi shows that more likely, it's somewhere between $7.7 trillion and $29 trillion. As he points out in the article, the bail-out went far beyond just TARP. There was TAF, TALF, TSLF, TOP, PDCF, Maiden Lanes, interest on Fed Reserve balances, and much more.


Meanwhile, we got the shaft. And the bill.


I think that I posted this before, but I figure that if you made it this far, you could use some suicide prevention. I thought of this video because Debbie is training for her new job, which comes with the possibility of getting a phone call from someone famous. The trainer was talking about treating them like anyone else and not squee-ing in their ear. Sort of the opposite of this:





I think what makes me laugh about that clip more than anything is that in a poll of the 7.7 billion people on planet earth, more would likely recognize Mayim Bialik than Mark Hamill.


And I will close with Dr. Jerry Pournelle's admonition: Remember that despair is a sin.


More Messing About


I'm still poking around in the settings for this thing to see if I can make it look how I want it to look. First, an apology: I hate blogs that have big ugly ads right at the top of the screen. I thought I had gotten rid of that by paying money, but alas, paying money only means thatI don't see the ads (or maybe Adblock+ is killing them). Anyone else visiting the site will still see them unless they also have paid money (or possibly if they are running Adblock+). Not sure I understand the reasoning. I believe there is a way to get the ad off the very top of the screen, but I haven't got that to work yet. Or maybe I have. I'm not real sure. The whole setup seems odd.


[Aside: I don't mind the pay-vs.-ads model. I understand that whoever is hosting this thing needs to make money, and I would rather work with someone who is upfront about it rather than do the Google/Facebook trick and secretly collect data on everyone and sell it to the highest bidder. But it should be either/or. If I'm paying, ads should not be inserted into my blog.]


I also don't like how the headers work. I've always had a primary header (Ric & Debbie's Place) followed by a quote. There is a place for a second header line, but it is limited to 20 or 30 characters, and it doesn't allow any formatting. For now, I stuck the quote on the top of the sidebar, but the whole thing is so small, it may as well not even exist. Worse, on mobile devices, the sidebar gets cut off the side and shoved to the bottom of the page.


I'm getting used to the old LiveJournal online editor, but the new one is too limiting unless you are just posting tweet-like entries. If you need to do any sort of serious formatting or [gasp!!!] edit the actual HTML, you are forced to use the old editor. [Update: I just spent an hour I don't have hand editing the HTML for this post because some asshat at LiveJournal has decided that instead of using the standard HTML paragraphing, they will insert dozens of div's and span's in some lame attempt to improve on the standard p-/p paragraph marks. Grrrrr.] I hope the new one is just something added on to make it easier to do quick and dirty posts from a mobile device and not a replacement for the full-on editor.


So yea, the bloom is off the rose and I am once again looking for a blog host that a) doesn't care what I say in my own damn blog posts, b) doesn't require me to run a full-blown mirror server on my machine just to make blog posts, and c) gives me a reasonable level of control over the format of the thing. In other words, I'm looking for Google's Blogger system without the evil.


Speaking of evil, has anyone else noticed how cable news has turned into Orwell's Two Minutes Hate, with the image of Emmanuel Goldstein replaced with Donald Trump's face and Big Brother's replaced with Nancy Pelosi's? The primary difference is that even in Orwell's dystopian nightmares, the Two Minutes Hate only lasted two minutes each day rather than the 24/7 seen on CNN and Friends. I don't know if that many people realize just how deep in the shit we are at this point.


I figure now that the 2020 Presidential Campaign Season (tm) is in full swing, I will try my hand at some predictions. If they fail to come about, I'm sure no one will remember anyway. However, if they come true, please know you read it here first.


Here we go:


If the Democrats run a Standard Democratic Candidate from central casting (Kamala Harris, Joe Biden), Trump will do a Bush-the-Younger and win in a near-landslide after squeaking into his first term with a minority of the popular vote. However, if the actual voters in the Democratic Party can pry the apparatchiks' cold dead fingers off the wheel and put up Bernie Sanders or someone very much like him, Trump will be booted out the back door. What could queer things is if the economy does a 2009/1929 swan dive. In that case, the DNC could literally run a yellow dog, and Trump will still be out.


In any case, whether Trump exits stage left in 2020 or 2024, he will be replaced with a Democrat. That Democrat will be granted exactly four years to fix everything. They will of course, fail. Completely. Utterly. In every detail (see Jimmy Carter). Also, if the economy hasn't already imploded under Trump, it almost certainly will at this point.


In my opinion, whoever/whatever rides in next (2024 or 2028) singing in an exaggerated operatic voice, "Here I come to save the day!!", we will be in for interesting times in the sense of the ancient Chinese Curse If we are very lucky, we get a Vladimir Putin. I don't think we're going to be lucky. I certainly hope I'm wrong, but we've dug ourselves way too deep in a hole. We seemed determined to burn every last shred of good will we have with every nation on the planet. As Elrond said, "Our list of allies grows thin." In fact, I can't think of a single country that can be considered a true ally of the US at this point. A few parasites like Great Britain or frenemies like House of Saud. But allies? Phbtttt. Furthermore, we have completely destroyed our political and social institutions at home. No one has any moral authority. It's all about who can scream the loudest into a bullhorn. That never ends well. The incessant looting of the working and middle class by the elites is just the rotten cherry on the shit sunday.


And no, I don't have a solution. I don't have a plan. I don't even have a vague notion of a hint of a thought about a hypothesis concerning anything that could be done. Other than the old school duck-and-cover


Lettuce Prey

We pause to express our gratitude to you, oh Flying Spaghetti Monster, for sharing your bountiful Noodly Goodness with us.


[sluuuuuuuuuuurp slurp slurp sluuuuuuuuurp slurp slurp smack smack]


Ahhhhhhhhh!


Ramen

Guess What Day It Is!!

Any day can be Hump Day....

The US in Decline

So I'm tooling around the internet, minding my own business, when this pops up:


As numerous US states introduce bills that would require or encourage ‘Bible literacy’ classes in public schools, President Trump has given the proposals the thumbs-up, calling the idea “great!”


Lawmakers in six states have introduced ‘Bible literacy’ bills, aimed at encouraging high schoolers to brush up on the Old and New Testaments alongside their regular subjects.


Um, didn't we already go through all this, like, fifteen years ago or so? Of course Florida is one of the six states, natch, so I guess its time to dust off my copy of The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and get serious about my Pastafarianism. I must admit I've been neglectful of worshiping His Noodly Goodness lately, but I just remedied that by polishing off an entire package of ramen.


Speaking of which, am I the only one who cannot eat ramen without thinking of this movie? Right? Guys? Hello? (sigh....)


Anybody remember when Google's motto was "Don't be evil"? I realize that we all now know that was never anything but a lie, but this is completely over the top:


Google and other online ad companies use intimate personal information like political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, and even diseases and disabilities to target users for advertising


...


In response to a TechCrunch article republishing the category lists, Google released a statement claiming they prohibit advertisers from targeting based on “sensitive categories such as race, sexual orientation, health conditions, pregnancy status, etc.” They do not explain why multiple categories under each of those headers can be found on their “Publisher Verticals” list.


This is all passed around to internet advertisers through something called "real-time bidding" where basically anyone with the cash can get a list of people who did Google searches for information on AIDS or local drug treatment centers. The US government could care less, of course. Whatever the multi-nationals want to do is perfectly legal, even when it isn't. However, more civilized places like Europe are at least starting to push back. We'll see how far they get before the Great Orange Gollum tries to do a Venezuela on them.


And then we have the whole shit-storm over some Catholic kids in DC wearing MAGA hats. The original "narrative" (a word that is now synonymous with "damned lies") was that a bunch of over-entitled white male punks surrounded a Native American medicine man/chief and proceeded to mock and threaten him. The response of the Tolerance Brigade was the typical intolerance we've all come to know and love, with so-called adults declaring that 16-year-old kids should be punched in the face and thrown into a wood chipper. The entire narrative was shown to truly be a damned lie by the simple act of watching, in their entirety, any of the dozens of videos of the sad-ass episode that were posted within minutes of the actual event. Every word out of Mr. Native American's mouth is a lie; he is no kind of medicine man, chief, leader or anything else. He's some homeless vagrant who also claims to be a Vietnam Vet while never having stepped foot in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the real instigators of the entire dust-up, a bunch of loons who call themselves the Black Hebrew Israelites (think Westboro Baptist Church in blackface), have been... er... white-washed out of the entire "incident" by the MSM. But no matter; the Tolerance Brigade is also psychic! They know exactly what those little MAGA-ty shits were thinking! Even though they did absolutely nothing other than act with a maturity far beyond their years by refusing to be provoked, they still deserve to be punched and thrown into a wood chipper.


So get comfy on the couch, kids and grab some popcorn because the US decline is entering the bat-shit crazy phase.

Medical (Mal)Practice in Pasco County

So one of the things I was supposed to do after getting out of the hospital was to "immediately" make follow-up appointments with all 27 doctors who allegedly were involved in my care while I was an inpatient. Obviously, the word "immediately" means something very different in the medical industry than it does in the rest of the universe, because I've been out of the hospital for two weeks and I'm still trying to get see some of the doctors.


But the real treat was when I tried to make a follow-up with my cardiologist, which was "VERY important!" according to the hospital staff. Well, it may have been VERY important, but it was also impossible. We called both of the cardio practices affiliated with Adventist Healthcare (owners of the the local hospital) and were told the same thing: "We don't take self-pay patients. Our fees and test are just too expensive for someone like you to pay." We tried to explain that no, we don't have insurance, but we have somehow managed to pay all of our bills in full for the last eight years. No joy. Cardiologists are different than every other specialty.


Uh huh. Right.


So we tried another tact; we explained we were in the process of getting me on Medicaid as part of the whole disability thing. "That doesn't matter. We don't take Medicaid either."


What?!?!?


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Good Riddance 2018

This is late getting posted because 2018 decided to suck right to the very end (and beyond). I have been physically going downhill fast since around the middle of October. I nearly died Christmas Eve trying to take a shower. I probably should have gone to the ER then, but there was no way I was going to force my parents to spend Christmas Day in the damn hospital. I had to do Medical Stuff (tm) the day after Christmas anyway, so while we were in the general area, we tried to get something resolved. The whole thing spiraled out of control until I ended up in the ER. Unlike previous times in the ER, there wasn't any messing around; I was admitted and in a room within an hour of walking in the door.


Long story short: Congestive Heart Failure and Kidney Failure. After nine days in the hospital with endless blood tests, CT's, X-rays, ultrasounds, etc., no definitive answer why everything crapped out. The leading suspect at this point is the chemo pill I've been on for the last 18 months or so for my Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, but we won't know for sure until the results of the needle biopsy they did on my kidney Wednesday come back in a week or so. I could hardly breath with all the fluid on my lungs, so when diuretics didn't really help, the lung doctor did a Thoracentesis on my right lung on Sunday, then my left lung on Monday. Between the two, they sucked 5.7 liters of fluid out of my chest. No wonder I got winded walking from the couch to the front door.


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Merry Christmas!!

As has been tradition here for many years (but apparently not last year), I give you some Youtube Christmas Cheer (tm):



And just because 2018 was the Year of Total Suck:


Christmas plans are minimal; we'll start at my parents place in the morning with a few gifts, have lunch at the clubhouse, then crash back here and try to escape in mindless TV or books. We really just ain't in the mood....

Ticketmaster and Other Scams

Well, nothing horrible happened the last time I tried this, so why not try it again?

One thing using Evernote to write drafts did that I didn't notice right away is change the font size on the post. I wouldn't have expected that to copy over, but it did and I think it makes things a bit more readable. [So of course this time it didn't.] Why everything on the web has to be in 8 point type (and usually light grey text on a white background) has always baffled me since some dweeb started that crap back in 2003. It's even bleeding into real-world printed material. The last channel line-up we got from Spectrum was in maybe 6 point non-sarif text. Really guys?

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Off line Editor Testing

Trying something different; instead of doing my rough draft in the on-line editor; I'm trying out writing at least the first draft on my computer, then copy over to LiveJournal. That way, no matter what happens, I at least have a draft. I've been using Evernote pretty much since the day it was first released for any and everything. I like the editor and it does most everything I would ever need it to do for a blog post. I noticed that LiveJournal has some "off-line" editing tools, but I figured why go to all the trouble of installing and learning yet-another piece of software when I already had something that will probably do the trick. What will be interesting is to see how formatting copies over to the LiveJournal editor. I assume at this point, everything uses some form of HTML for text formatting, but these things never seem to work 100%. Excuse some testing:
This is bold.
This is Italics.
This is just some regular text:
And then a quoted text block. (Oops; can't seem to do that in Evernote.)
Let's give this a shot.

Not horrible. There may be some clean-up, and I'll have to do some poking around on the block quote deal, but I think we have a winner!