March 2018

'Tis the Season, A-Proxy-mately

Every year, corporations hold shareholder meetings to elect directors, renew contracts with outside financial auditing firms, and vote on stupid proposals from shareholders who think a corporation's reason for being isn't to make money.

As sure as March begins, the proxy-vote notifications turn up in my email. Mostly I approve the recommended slate of directors on the assumption that they've been making us money and will continue to do so, but this year there have been two notifications that were especially noteworthy.

This year a company called Broadcom is attempting a hostile takeover of Qualcomm, and I've been receiving competing slate ballots from both sides. I didn't know how sleazy Broadcom was when I first learned of their effort, but there was enough of a funk coming off their materials that I voted against them -- only to have my reflexive rejection confirmed by later information.

And then there was the Coca-Cola slate. It read like a Who's Who of the Obama-and-Hillary-supporting, you-should-be-thanking-us-for-ruining-your-country elite class. I voted against a few of the obvious members and abstained on the rest. Ironically, the PepsiCo slate, on which I just submitted my proxy votes this morning, bore no such obvious tilt. I think maybe next year, if Coke still recommends those Ruining Class bluenoses, I'll vote No on the whole slate and monkey-wrench as much as I can whatever else is on the ballot.

To be honest, I'm actually surprised more corporations don't go groveling after those kinds of people -- though who knows what the unfamiliar names represent. I suppose I could cyberstalk them all and amass dossiers on hundreds or even thousands of corporate directors so I'll know what I'm voting on, but I do have a life. Unlike the idiots who come up with those "social responsibility" proposals that keep turning up on these agendas. Even Coca-Cola's board recommended against the proposals on their ballot, so they may be power-mad, but at least they're also greedy.

It might do me some good, though, to research which companies have been failing to make money for us these last few months, and when their proxy notifications turn up...

© Wednesday,  March 21, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Where's the Fun in That?

Issued: 9:08 PM Mar. 19, 2018 – National Weather Service


How are we supposed to watch a tornado when it's going to be dark outside the whole time?

Seriously, though: stay safe everyone. Set your weather radios to make a LOUD noise in the event a warning is issued for your area.

Update, Tuesday morning: no damage on the home acres.

© Monday,  March 19, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Subtotal Recall

Well, one of our vehicles has had its outstanding recall issue dealt with.

Mrs. McG and I took her car to the nearest Honda dealership this morning, and the ticking timebomb that was a Takata airbag has been replaced with something less likely to jump out and start shooting innocent bystanders without warning. Or am I getting that confused with how the media portrays AR-15 rifles? It's hard to tell sometimes.

So now I just have to worry about my car erupting into a fireball that vaporizes everything for miles around and renders the entire North American continent uninhabitable for 500 years.

No, wait -- that's the Yellowstone supervolcano. Silly me.

© Monday,  March 19, 2018  Kevin McGehee

To Paraphrase Dashiell Robert Parr

If everyone is Irish, then no one is.

My surname may be Scottish, but my most recent previous two generations include two Irish surnames from distaff ancestral lines.

Go ahead and wear green, and say "Erin go bra" -- even most Irish-Americans don't pronounce bragh correctly -- and drink green beer. But don't pretend it makes you Irish.

Although, I suppose just being drunk will get you close enough. Sláinte.

© Saturday,  March 17, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Lamb, Slaughter, Some Assembly Required

So, everyone is studying the chicken entrails to ascertain what Democrat Conor Lamb's victory in a Pennsylvania congressional special election means for this November. I'd like to know if this had any bearing on the outcome.

Shortly after the new year, Rep. Steve Stivers, the House GOP campaign chief, delivered a stern message to Rick Saccone, the party's special election candidate in Pennsylvania.

You need to start pulling your weight, Stivers implored Saccone, the mustachioed 60-year-old state legislator who is carrying the weight of the Republican Party in a crucial contest next week.

Stivers’ warning, described by two people familiar with the discussion, was intended to put the candidate on notice. The national GOP would be helping him out substantially, Stivers said. But if Saccone didn’t start upping his fundraising game and getting his sluggish campaign in order, he could lose a race that should be a gimme for the party.

I remember wondering when I saw this piece, how did the party let such a bump on a log become its nominee in this special election?

I'm less curious why this fact about Lamb's opponent has suddenly vanished down the memory hole after the votes have been counted. Saccone, despite being a lousy candidate, still managed to almost win -- but Teh Narrative leading up to this fall's midterm elections has been decreed to be OMG BLUE WAVE GOP IZ DOOOOOOOOMD!!!!1!!

Every damn time. No matter what part of the Republican Party they belong to, no matter what sector of the media, legacy or new, they dwell in, they fall for it every damn time.

© Friday,  March 16, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Toward a More Winnless Dixie

Charles notes that the Winn-Dixie supermarket chain's parent company is about to contract again.

Southeastern Grocers, which owns grocery store chain Winn-Dixie, announced plans to file for bankruptcy and close nearly 100 stores.

The Florida-based company issued a statement Thursday announcing plans to implement a "prepackaged restructuring agreement" including the decision to close 94 "underperforming stores."

"This course of action enables us to continue writing the story for our company and our iconic, heritage banners in the Southeast," president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers Anthony Hucker said.

The store closures will take place in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.

When Mrs. McG and I first arrived in Georgia 18½ years ago, there was a single Winn-Dixie store in our area, across from a somewhat newer Kroger supermarket. Soon after, Publix built the second of what is now three stores in the county, catty-cornered from our Winn-Dixie, and the latter eventually was rebranded to one of the parent company's other then-chains, a discount grocery. After a few years, even that store was closed, and the building -- after an extended vacancy -- is now a Goodwill training center.

I'm less sure of the time frame for the opening of a Winn-Dixie in Chattanooga near where Mrs. McG's mother was living at the time, but it was new construction, which made its inclusion in that same wave of closures more of a surprise than its non-rebranding (given the neighborhood). Southeastern Grocers also owns the Bi-Lo chain that was also present in Chattanooga, but an existing Bi-Lo was already in place fairly close by and in fact became the in-laws' regular store after the Winn-Dixie closure.

Some years later, though, the vacant Chattanooga Winn-Dixie reopened as a Publix at around the same time that another Bi-Lo opened some miles in the opposite direction from the in-laws' home.

We haven't seen Winn-Dixie growing back in either market, and over the years a number of other Winn-Dixie stores in west Georgia have closed. One is now a bowling alley.

As Charles notes, of course, the article doesn't specify that Winn-Dixie will bear the full brunt, nor even much of it. Besides W-D and Bi-Lo, Southeastern also owns the Harvey's and Fresco y Mas chains. They're looking to restructure and get free of half a billion dollars of debt, which makes shedding underperforming stores, wherever they may be, imperative. Other recent corporate bankruptcy restructurings haven't fared well -- Radio Shack was ultimately done in by a sea change in buyer behavior, but Toys 'Я' Us failed because of poor strategic decisions. Still, everyone needs groceries, and will continue to need groceries for the foreseeable future.

© Friday,  March 16, 2018  Kevin McGehee

The Master Race

So, this happened. Repeatedly.

Neanderthal genes supply between 1 percent and 4 percent of the genome in people from homelands on several continents, from Britain to Japan to Colombia.

DNA from another human-like primate, the Denisovans, lurks in modern genomes, too. A molar and a chip of pinkie bone found in a Siberian cave provide what little information we have about this species. DNA extracted from the fragments previously revealed cross-species breeding. Yet a new study in the journal Cell shows the ancient hanky-panky did not stop in Siberia: Humans who traveled across South Asia mated with a separate group of Denisovans as well.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists might as well pack it in, since this proves the notion of "white racial purity" is a joke. A very, very, very old and (ahem) off-color joke. The only people walking around on earth today with pure Homo sapiens blood are those whose ancestors never left Africa.

But I still want to remind everyone: the origins of agriculture, of civilization, and of philosophy occurred in lands occupied by those with Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA in their genome. Clearly "racial purity" is not all it's cracked up to be.

© Friday,  March 16, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Remember When Coders Had to Be Detail-Oriented?

For a while I've been using apps from the Microsoft Store on my laptops to handle email and text messages. The default Windows 10 Mail app has worked acceptably well, and the multi-device SMS service I use has an app in the store for use on desktop systems in place of the web browser interface.

I've been pretty well satisfied with them, but lately I've noticed the email and texting apps on my phone haven't been notifying me of new messages like they're supposed to. It finally occurred to me what the common thread might be: these Metro apps on Windows 10 for some reason preempt the Android apps if either of the laptops is left running when I'm away from the keyboard.

The Windows apps notify just fine -- in fact Windows 10's notification center is a tad on the naggy side -- but it's on my phone that I actually need notifications. So, on Windows I'm back to the web interfaces for both mail and SMS. The coders ought to have prevented these kinds of detrimental interactions, but apparently app development is no longer a team effort. Solo coders don't get the pre-release, "sanity check" feedback that used to come from team members.

Unrelated: I became disenchanted with the javascript searchbox service I initially tried. DuckDuckGo doesn't charge, as Google now does, to have its site search box on the site (plus, it's not Google) so that's what I'm using here now.

© Thursday,  March 15, 2018  Kevin McGehee

R.I.P. Stephen Hawking

It's not how I would have hoped he'd be freed from his chair.

Godspeed, Stephen. I hope you dance.

© Wednesday,  March 14, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Twice a Year, Like (ahem) Clockwork

...I complain about Daylight Saving Time. Or more accurately, about the 52-year-old twice-yearly ritual of changing clocks.

As suggested here, I'm of the opinion that we could shift the time zone boundaries 7½ degrees west and do away with daylight saving time altogether. In this I dissent from those who would rather go permanently to DST across the country, because doing so would, in some places, have sunrise occurring well into the work day. I had enough of that in Fairbanks even without wintertime DST; not looking forward to it here in Georgia.

After all, the Tally Book is published less than an hour's drive by diagonal interstate from Alabama, which is in the Central Time Zone; if I could do 70 on two-lane state highways I could get there in under half an hour. We're about as far west as you can be in the Eastern Time Zone at this latitude, which means winter sunrise is already quite late enough, thank you very much.

Under my proposal, nothing would actually change here where I live. We'd be on Eastern Standard Time all year round because of where we are in the time zone. Our summertime sunrises and sunsets would both be an hour earlier, by the clock, than they are under the current system. The beneficiaries -- in summer -- would be those in the eastern parts of the existing zones, who would find themselves in the western parts of the new zones. The thing about time zones is, there are always western parts with later sunrises and sunsets than the eastern parts. Shifting the boundaries less than the full 15-degree width westward would have the same effect domestically as going to a nationwide plus-30 (something I'd previously espoused), without the downside of having the U.S. permanently a half-hour off from most of the rest of the world.

Now, when I say shift the zones 7½ degrees west, the actual shift would be approximate. The current boundaries jump all over the place to follow state boundaries as much as possible, and then adding fiddly bits to help keep certain stateline-straddling metro areas on the same time. New fiddly bits would no doubt appear with the new boundaries. But the end result would be to make Central time more central, and to limit Pacific time more to the coastal states. Southwest Oregon's Boise-adjacent fiddly bit could be joined by all of trans-Cascadian Oregon and Washington, and Idaho itself would no longer be divided, north from south. El Paso could be brought into time conformity with Austin and Dallas.

Best of all, though: we'd finally be able to absolve Alaska and Hawaii from the necessity of a time-change ritual that has no rational basis at their respective latitudes.

© Friday,  March 9, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Not everything I have to say gets said here. Even though I'm not on any social media, I do have other outlets. Maybe it's time I repatriated some of that commentary.

Stacy McCain is like a lot of bloggers, having certain focal topics that tend to dominate his blog, among them the pickup artist, or "PUA" culture, such as with today's post, "The Attitude", where the pickup artist's version of "winning" is deconstructed. Below, my comment.

I guess it depends on how one defines "winning."

There were no online dating sites when Mrs. McG and I met, but it was a correspondence thing -- a "special-interest group" or "SIG" in Mensa for singles to present themselves and maybe draw notice from a fellow single Mensan.

Mrs. McG tells me that she was still working up the nerve to contact me when my initial letter to her showed up in her mailbox. She says she almost skipped back to her apartment that day.

Unlike seemingly every other male in the SIG, I had merely described myself, as honestly as I could, and somehow that was enough to get the attention of someone to whom I have now been married for almost 23½ years.

The PUA thing? I was not a winner at that. Fine with me.

At Instapundit, on a post about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' lecture to California about its efforts to block federal immigration enforcement (remember when the Obama Administration sued Arizona for trying to enforce federal immigration law?), Professor Glenn Reynolds quotes Sessions on secession, "I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled." I disagree:

You can establish a lot of things by force of arms, but legal precedent isn't one of them. The Civil War didn't "settle" the legality of secession, only its practicality -- and arguably, only in the 1860s.

I really wish people would look elsewhere for their arguments on that matter, it would make for a much more substantive discussion.

The Trump Administration is well within its authority in suing California on this; substantively it's no different from segregationists' attempts to obstruct enforcement of federal desegregation law during the 1950s and 1960s. It's ironic that Democrat politicians, who are always so ardent about expanding federal power beyond constitutional limits when they're in charge, somehow always manage to be the ones trying to stop the federal government from fulfilling its constitutional mandates when the other party holds Washington.

Moving on. Another Instapundit post links a Bearing Arms piece linking an op-ed by a pollster who explains why cherry-picked poll numbers seeming to support new gun restrictions somehow don't translate into such restrictions being enacted. And no, he's not saying it's because the NRA "owns" Republican officeholders. Mainly my comment is something of a distillation of his points:

The poll that matters is the one on election day. If people are sufficiently motivated to elect gun-grabbers, gun-grabbers will control Congress and the laws they want will be introduced and likely passed.

However, if the gun-grabbers are also people who want to force stores to let men use the women's restroom, and force Christian bakers to cater same-sex weddings, and throw open the borders to let drug runners, gun runners, human traffickers, and terrorists enter unchecked, there's a very strong likelihood that no amount of voter support for gun restrictions will get gun-grabbers elected.

Then, going back to the Stacy McCain post about pickup artists, my contribution to a side-colloquy about Catcher in the Rye.

I couldn't finish it -- and fortunately the class I had to read it for needed to cover so many books that I didn't need to finish it.

I'm one of those people for whom characters are essential in fiction, and when I'm trying to read a book or watch a movie or TV show where absolutely no one is relatable (or even respectable), it isn't that I check out, it's that I never manage to check in.

A good writer always manages to include at least one character that a typical reader can relate to. Just being able to write a good story simply isn't enough.

So, what do you think? Is it worth it for me to do this kind of thing once in a while? A very, very great while?

© Thursday,  March 8, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Die in a Fire

Some outfit called "Allatra TV" -- the third search hit for it on Google is in Russia's Cyrillic alphabet -- just sent me an unsolicited text touting some program about how the Earth is in danger and I can do something to help.

So, I'm going to tell Trump to bomb Allatra TV's headquarters. It's a start.

© Wednesday,  March 7, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Thoughts My Brain Made

If a man can shower, towel off, comb his hair, and get dressed -- and his hair still isn't dry, either his hair is too long, or he's forgotten to put on his pants.

© Wednesday,  March 7, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Politics of Emotion

I suppose one of the earliest personal manifesti I ever voiced could be called "emotional autonomy." No one would ever be permitted to tell me how I "should" feel about anything.

I'm not sure where it came from, but it was a firm conviction on which I have never wavered. One of the reasons Mrs. McG and I seem perfect for one another is that neither of us seeks emotional hegemony over the other. We try to help each other when feelings become counterproductive to any intended purpose, but that's more about finding ways to modulate our responses to emotions, rather than about changing how either of us feels.

Emotions are almost entirely a result -- either directly or indirectly -- of hormones. In our blood, in the air we breathe, something chemical happens that affects how our brains react to what's happening in the world around us. This is something we can't control. What we can and should control is how much we allow our thought processes to be surrendered to an ephemeral hormone soup.

Emotions are extremely personal. On principle, no intelligent person can let such a personal response to events dictate their political positions, because politics is about determining the direction of an entire society, of hundreds of millions of people who all have their own, intensely personal emotional lives.

You will never be permitted to tell me how I "should" feel about any event. And even if you and I feel exactly the same about it, you will never succeed in coercing me to support a political response that is based on those feelings.

I have too much compassion for all those hundreds of millions who may feel differently about it, to try to steamroll them.

© Friday,  March 2, 2018  Kevin McGehee

"It might not have been done with malicious intent."

Other than, you know, espionage.

A technical report from the University of Michigan offers a stunningly simple theory for the source of the Cuban “sonic attack”: a pair of eavesdropping devices too close to each other and tripping the ultrasound that ironically was supposed to make their presence quiet.

More importantly, it might not have been done with malicious intent.

I suppose I can see this as an explanation for what's happening.

I just have a problem with the notion that illicit listening devices installed in our embassy are somehow not "malicious." Especially when a few grand spent on ineffectual Facebook ads by a baker's dozen of incompetent Russian meddlers is considered an existential threat to American democracy.

© Friday,  March 2, 2018  Kevin McGehee

Nightmare Fuel

Imagine a science fiction story with the following plot:

A project to fully harness the interplay of time and space to enable a ship to traverse the universe in an instant, with neither the passengers nor anyone else perceiving any passage of time -- except in terms of how long it might take to get a return signal from the arrived ship. The project starts as a germ of an idea, perhaps by some blogger nobody reads, but elements of the idea are also developed independently by a hundred other minds over the subsequent decades, gradually coalescing as thought experiments, then as practical ones. Over time the project consumes more and more of the attention not only of human scientists, but counterparts on a thousand other worlds.

Eventually these disperse teams combine ideas and resources, and eventually the ship is designed and built. It's an experimental drone, but sufficient to serve as proof of concept. The ship makes its first jump, a huge success.

No one notices afterward that the unread blogger, originally a middle-aged American writing in 2018, has instead become a young Canadian, writing in 1992.

The project continues with a second test flight, and again succeeds beyond anyone's wildest expectations. But now one of the alien theorists, a male from a race of sauroids, has become a gestator from a three-sexed race of beings with decentralized nervous systems. And an ancestor of one of the human engineers that designed the first test drone has changed from Catholic to Baptist.

These changes in the past eventually become noticed, but only by a member of the crew of two consecutive manned test flights. When he's not picked for a third flight, his memory of the changes vanishes. Only after the test flights become operational flights, with a large and mostly permanent crew, does the phenomenon finally become an issue. One of the crew does a complete comparison of historical records that were aboard the ship with records kept on-planet. The on-planet records all match one another, but the shipboard records have discrepancies reaching back more than a thousand years, long before the elderly eccentric in Singapore bought his first electric typewriter in 1987 and began formulating the idea for a ship that really did warp time as well as space.

Eventually it works out that ships using this drive must be breaking loose from the timelines in which they departed on their flights, and becoming embedded in adjacent timelines. The similarity among the timelines is seen as proof of the parallel universe theory, and proof that this time-warp drive must be a successful technology because every timeline the ships have crossed to have had all the necessary causality in place to recognize ship and crew, and pick up development exactly where the crew remembered it having left off.

Naturally a new line of inquiry seeks to find ways to detect and try to communicate with one of these parallel timelines. One of the first efforts involves placing one of a pair of quantum-entangled communicators on the next ship to use the drive, while leaving the other behind on the departure timeline. The flight takes place... and when the crew seeks to call the timeline they had just departed, there's no answer. Not even from the q-linked communicator in the arrival timeline.

Long story short, the time-warp drive is a causality virus. When a ship using one fires it up, the entire causality roots of the drive are torn loose from the departure timeline and become grafted on the arrival timeline. Before the ship arrived the arrival timeline had no such project. The causality roots superimpose themselves on whatever differences had existed in the departure timeline, but as extensive as they are they are yet finite. Small details still remain -- including the quantum entanglements of objects. The q-linked communicator found in the arrival timeline was linked to a communicator that didn't, and wouldn't exist. As for the one in the departure timeline...

So pervasive had the time-warp drive become to the universe in which it originated that when the causality was uprooted to graft onto a different timeline, there wasn't enough left in the original for it to continue to exist. And each time the drive was subsequently engaged, whatever timeline it departed from suffered the same fate.

Before the scientists who realized all this can act, an entire fleet of time-warp ships is launched.

At the very least, I know that the phrase "causality virus," in this context, seems to be original. That's actually scary.

Update, Saturday: Welcome Dustbury readers. There's more.

Now that the virus has evolved to be able to spread itself to more than one arrival timeline per launch, each time-warp ship is an independent vector for the infection. In each arrival timeline the vector timeship is the first to arrive, but all of the rest of the fleet turn up as well. In addition to being vectors in their own arrival timelines, they're also consequences of the causality that each of the other vector ships has brought to its arrival timeline. Thus, even if no more time-warp ships are built in any subsequent arrival timeline, the number of infected timelines will grow exponentially with each new round of launches. Even though the "latecomer" timeships weren't vectors when they "arrived," they will be when they depart.

Only the crew on the first-arriving, vector ship will have memories and records that differ from those in the arrival timeline. The later, consequence ships' crews and records will match the arrival timeline perfectly. This -- when noticed -- may more realistically be the first sign of what's really going on than as described above.

© Thursday,  March 1, 2018  Kevin McGehee

The Mustache Abides


The Other McCain

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