Coping: Public Employees Want It ALL

They’re coming for your sick leave, next. Then, they want your home equity. People living in the media bubble like to insist that there is no Deep State.  Yet, there’s an emerging case in Texas that proves the point we’ve been making for years – namely that nowadays, the Government Rules – not We the People. Worse? It reduces to a dollars and cents buy-off of the division Deep State.

First, some basics.  Wage reports comparing public workers and private sector don’t usually include big benefit packages.

Absolute Krappe to borrow a contributor’s phrase.  When you read some basic laws and policy books in Texas, for example, what comes into view is that while the Republican majority talks tough and pro-business- they hand out Big Benefits to government workers.  Because, when comes to government workers, they are reliable voters and voting blocks.  And they get politicians reelected.

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Here’s how this has come up:  In Texas, there is no such thing as legally required sick leave. holidays, or vacation in the private sector.

As WOAI (San Antonio) reported Monday, Texans for Paid Sick Leave is circulating a petition to require private employers contribute paid sick leave as a benefit.  Employers are fighting it because right now the laws only require  non-discrimination and minimum wage.

Why, the private employers spew, if they have to paid minimum wage and paid sick leave, why that would force them to effectively pay more than minimum wage.  And that’s dough out of the fat cat wallets.

Frankly, I don’t have a problem with the GOP being greedy pricks…they do that extremely well.

But a Constitutional Republican (like me) sees this lack of paid sick leave as a violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection concept.  Public employers get to load up on bennies.

No equality to it.

Let’s see how Texas opens the till for state employees, in comparison, shall we?

The WOAI story has this summary:

“While many employers offer a certain amount of paid sick leave to workers as a job benefit, there is no local, state, or federal law that requires that they do so.  In fact, no employee benefits, other than the minimum wage and anti-discrimination protections, are required by law, although the Obamacare law requires all companies with fifty or more employees to offer health insurance or pay a tax penalty.”

Hold it!

Notice, please:  No sick leave.  No paid vacation, no paid holidays off…you following along, here?

NOW, let’s flip over to the Texas Start Auditor’s office and see how the golden geese (Public employees) get treated:  It’s like reading about royalty in comparison:

SICK LEAVE GUIDE 

Who Is Eligible?

State employees at agencies and higher education institutions are entitled to sick leave without a deduction in salary for the following:

? When sickness, injury, or pregnancy and confinement prevent an employee from performing his or her job;

? When the employee needs to care for and assist a member of the employee’s immediate family who is sick; or

? To attend educational activities such as parent-teacher conference sessions and other school functions for the employee’s children.

Employees of higher education institutions must be employed to work at least 20 hours per week for a period of at least 4.5 months to be eligible for sick leave. In addition, students employed in positions that require student status as a condition of employment are not eligible for sick leave. “

And how much – under State law?

Full-time employees accrue sick leave at a rate of eight hours for each month of state employment. Part-time employees accrue sick leave on a proportionate basis.

An employee is entitled to be credited for one month’s sick leave for each month of employment with the State beginning on the first day of employment and on the first calendar day of each succeeding month of state employment. An employee who is on leave on the first day of a month may not use sick leave that is accrued for that month until after the employee physically returns to work.

An employee who is employed during any part of a calendar month accrues sick leave for the entire month. “

If the State wants to be this generous with out TAX DOLLARS, seems to me that Texas private-sector employers ought to be held to the same basic level..

While private employees don’t have to get holidays, check out how the State works.

As the State Auditor’s schedule for State Employees reveals there are 10-paid holidays and another additional 4 “skeleton crew” days for a total of 14-days a state worker.

All of this state largess will come back to haunt Texas.  Just like it’s already haunting Illinois.

Up there, because of similar, earlier, public employee largess, the state is looking at options (this proposed by the Chicago Fed as a solution) like a one-percent annual special assessment on all property in the state.  On a $350,000 home, this would tack on $3,500 per year on top of all the taxes now being paid.  For 30-YEARS.  And even this theft of homeowner equity won’t pay the coming bills.

Read: “How Should the State of Illinois Pay for its Unfunded Pension Liability? The Case for a Statewide Residential Property Tax.”

WHAT?

Even this huge TAX GRAB OF HOMEOWNER EQUITY wouldn’t fund MANY Chicago pensions…they’ll want event more.  Remember: This is just Illinois, the state. Den of liberal thieves that it is, the fuse is lit most everywhere else..

Texas has a chance to do things right, but the window will close.  Public employment has become a kind of golden goose – and if you want a great job and money for life, consider government employment.

I don’t like to get up on the high-horse about this stuff, but if all people’s labor has intrinsically equal value, WTF is with the class of Super Citizens called government workers?

In a country based on the notion of hard work and equality, we have made great strides in recent years in the direction of less work and less equality between public and private sector workers.

Unless you really love to pay more taxes, you might want to rethink worker inequality.

Honestly, the ONLY workable answer is to have a single, uniform, national system (like Social Security) and put everyone in it – even Congress.

Don’t mean to go off into a Peoplenomics kind of projection here, but if/when the time for Elaine and I to move comes along in our 70’s and time to live next to a hospital in the city, or at least where there’s 3-minute fire response, we will go shopping for our next city, county, and state based on current and projected public employee pension and benefit debt.

God forbid you live in Illinois and have leftists in the legislation who want to steal your home equity so the public workers can  get more than you.

Last time I checked, that wasn’t the American Way.  A damn fine reason to always refer to “America” in past tense.

Those not lucky enough to be anointed as public workers shouldn’t be forced to pay for public workers and services twice.  Once when rendered and later on to pay the retirement.

Government funding should always be on a strict, pay-as-you-go basis.  No getting back in line for a second bite of the taxpayer’s butt.  That’s the road to damnation…and we’re on it.

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

Coping: With Buying By the Pound

I don’t think anywhere is the contrast between the “old ways” and the new more apparent than the massive shift in “cost-per-pound” thinking.

Which is?

When you go to the grocery store, for example, and you have two nearly-identical products and you don’t want to buy randomly.  This is when those “unit pricing” figures are useful.  If one item is .28 cents per ounce and the other is 0.19 cents per ounce, it’s an easy call.  Or, is it?  (This is how I find rotgut booze.

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Back in the 50’s when Ure was coming up, there was a much broader use of “per pound purchasing.”

Take cars, for example:  When my first car came along (a 1966 Ford Falcon Futura) my dad pointed out that it was actually a more expensive car than something full-sized.  Fairlaines and Galaxie Ford products, for example.

A quick search of the web found the weight and price to be 2,739 pounds for $2,598.  This was the “sports” edition, and being a sport, driving a car 10-pounds lighter than the more staid sedan seemed to be cool.  Pappy pointed out that was just under 95-cents a pound.

For comparison, a Galaxie 500 four-door with the in-line six-banger (and three on the tree) weighed in 3,604 pounds.  It went fir about $2,800 with the “Mileage Maker 6” which was the same engine we had in our ’59 Ford.

Point is (or was) that those old road hogs were considerably cheaper on a cost-per pound basis.

Of course today things are different.  Light-weight is equivalent to higher tech, higher gas mileage, and so forth.

Cars are only one example.

Look at computers!  Moore’s Law and all that.

Just like steel prices per pound, this is an update to “modern thinking” where the “number of transistors on a chip” is counted.

Today, although you can process a lot more on a desktop weighing about 15-pounds (with monitor) that costs $600 for a reasonable refurb (with DDR4 ram, if you’re lucky) which works out to $40 per pound.

Now, look at the specs for the latest and greatest iPhone.  Amazon would be glad to sell you a new Apple iPhone X, Fully Unlocked 5.8″, 64 GB – Silver for $1,140.

Weight is so inconsequential in electronics that I couldn’t find it on the Amazon page.  People just don’t buy phones based on weight, anymore…  What I found said “6.14 ounces.”

Heavy-duty math now:  That’s 0.3837 pounds.

I can already see the headlines in the Sunday paper ad sections:

iPhones:  On Sale Today-Only for $2,971 per pound!

See how our thinking has changed?  I bet you didn’t think about that before today!

Now that you have, we can move forward with a further dose of retro-think which is actually useful for contexting the world gone mad.

The Cost of Nothing Index

Going from memory here (a dangerous thing at my age) the original “Cost of Nothing Index” was compiled by Richard Buck.

Who?

You may not be familiar with him, but he co-wrote a book with Paul Merriman, one of the Northwest’s better financial advisors.  Still available, too.  See “Financial Fitness Forever: 5 Steps to More Money, Less Risk, and More Peace of Mind.” Have your credit card ready…

Before writing with Merriman, I believe this is the Richard Buck who – as an enterprising Seattle Times business reporter in the days before instant press releases – wrote this concept up as a column.  It’s still a good idea today.

You start by looking at your bills.  Then you look at any charges that accrue before you use any product at all.

I’ll give you an example:  The local water company is the only bill that we don’t write an old-fashioned check for.  Know why?  Because a water bill is one of the few things that can place a lien on property until satisfied.  I digress.  Here’s what the bill looks like:

See the VFD Donation?  Hopefully that will stay a “cost for nothing” but as we age, it’s yet-another casino-like bet we make every month.  Life being a gamble, this is one we hope to keep losing!

Point is:  Except for a one-time leak resulting in us putting in new lines on the house side of the meter (shifting land will do that) we’ve never gone over the 3,600 whatever units.

In other words, if we didn’t drink any water or flush for an entire month, this bill would unflinchingly remain $37.86.

That’s a “cost of nothing.”

This is popular with power companies, too, which seem to be attracted to something called “customer charges.”  The idea that not only do you have to buy the goods, but now (in corporate hypnotized and drugged America) it is de rigueur that hapless sheep pay for the privilege of spending their money. FMTT.

Even if you have basic telephone service, and an old-style land line, you will have to pay not only the line charges, but local, state, 9-1-1 taxes and all that other stuff.

Even if you don’t make – or get – a single call.

Same thing with cable:  If you have a cable bill, even if you don’t watch a single TV show, you still get billed.

It’s a racket – and a very profitable one for a lot of corporations.

People just don’t think as critically about nothing, anymore.  They will sign up for stuff and not really use it.

There’s a “mental fitness” training program that Elaine wanted to use.  So I signed us up…and guess what?  She got too busy to use it.  We bought the “family plan” – and there was a 2-day of flurry of interest.  Then kaput!  But since we had paid…it turned into another “cost of nothing.”

When you begin looking really hard at your personal finances. you might be able to find several ways to get out of “customer” and “basic service” charges.  But, like I said, it’s become so de rigueur that you may not have any choice.

We certainly didn’t with the water supplier.

But, since we don’t hit the threshold, maybe another pot of coffee is in order.

Serious Market Time

A couple of readers wondered why I wasn’t reviewing comments most often during the day.  We’ve had some great ones, by the way.  Up 7 percent in the last couple of weeks.  But it does take focus.  A solid decline today would put us up 10 percent for two weeks.

The short answer for less review time is busy!  When I’m not watching the market minutely and trading using the principles outlined on Peoplenomics, I’ve been spending a lot of time working around the house on things like the bathroom (which looks dandy now) and getting ready for next Big Projects.

Weather is starting to close-in on use in East Texas.  We have four months when the devil itself would be comfortable and during that time, the shop gets sprayed down with rust inhibitor and we work on inside projects.  Like retooling this website which is on the agenda.  Assuming no plumbing failures…

Kind of the opposite of an Antarctic research outpost.  They have a cold, we have a hot…about the same time.

I will try to be a little more diligent. But at a price:  Bryce is limited to no more than 3-posts per day.  And he must include punctuation, too, or its into the punctuation penalty box.

After all, we do have our standards.

Typos?  Here?  Well, we picked up a fresh load of them just the other day for 0.06-cents a ton.  We by seconds from social media.   Hope you enjoy them.

Some wise-acre suggested we close our remarks with “Rot when you get rich,” and while it may turn out that way, we’ll stick for now with…

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

Coping: “Re-Neighboring”

A remarkable thing happened the other day in our discussion section:  A seniorly reader had a massive car failure and it was of the scale that wasn’t “recoverable.”

Amazingly, another reader, upon reading this, offered a free replacement car.  It’s no Escalade, but it’s the thought that counts.  Because, as we sink into the End of Everything, it’s important to remain connected to our core human values.

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I was pleased to provide a meeting ground for such an event.

To be sure there are others, including a whole collection of “go fun me” and “kick-starting” sites.  But, what made this unique was it wasn’t a money thing.  It was a human thing.  Hard to beat that.


A friend and co-worker from “back in the day” of rock & roll radio, Lan Roberts, came up with a dandy name for a non-judgmental, curious, ready-to-do good organization.

He called it P.R.O.N.E.  Short for Private Responsible Organization Bringing Effect.

His domain of interest was (*as was Lan’s style), a bit quirky:  He wanted to use PROBE to look into (among other things) the flurries of UFO reports in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1970’s.  You remember the Ken Arnold sighting that kicked off the term UFO was just over the Cascade Mountains in 1947?

As far as I know, PROBE never got properly organized, but it was his thinking-style that was so keen.

Given a question, he would think about all possible “citizen, direct-science” that could be brought to bear on a problem.

One morning, before I worked with him at KOL, he was at KJR (the other rock & roll powerhouse in Seattle, at the time) and he told listeners that perhaps UFO occupants might be listening to his morning show.

Taking this concept, he asked all of his listeners (a 30-share – meaning huge/dominant audience in Seattle) to turn up their car radios as loud at they could.

At 8:00 AM sharp, he turned off KJR’s transmitter.

I don’t remember how long exactly, but it was on the order of five minutes.

Anyone who has exposure to media (and money from ads) knows you don’t just “sign-off” the highest-rated morning radio show in Seattle during the peak of morning drive time.  But, that’s exactly what he did.


PROBE – and a ballsy curiosity of that type – has always been attractive to me.  It’s a better way of thinking.

For a host of reasons, not the least of which are divide and conquer social viruses – like #MeeToo’ers – people are cocooning today more than ever.

The problem isn’t so much knowing your neighbors.  It’s that IF THEY KNOW ANYTHING about you, it can and probably will be used against you.

A story in the headlines out of the overnight scans popped up as very much on point.  A Robert Frank column over on CNBC headlines “800,000 people are about to flee New York and California because of taxes, say economists.”

Earlier this year, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho were ranked the fastest-growing in the country per USA Today.

Idaho in Nation's Fastest-Growing State[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

QON: Quality of Neighbors

In a roundabout way, this circles me to this morning’s thought:  While we have found plenty of ways to monetize climate, sex, gender, age, race, religions, and most-everything else, we haven’t done an especially good jobs of neighboring.

When I lived in one of those “big houses in the suburbs” – which I did for more than a decade – I didn’t even know the people whose home was right out my front door, across the street and down half a lot.

The previous owner has been a Seattle Seahawk, but when his career moved him – after eight seasons in Seattle – I just somehow never got around to meeting the new owners.

As I’ve gotten older (lots older, come to think of it!), there are nagging little questions that pop up as you contemplate life.  “Who were those people?

Even here in rural East Texas, being “right neighborly” is something of a myth.

We don’t even know all the people who’s land abuts ours…and we’ve been in this ‘ol woods for  15-years, now.

I know how it happens, though.

Folks who owned the land out behind us promised to let us know when it came on the market.  But, when push came to shove, that didn’t happen, so away went our chance to expand to nearly 50-acres.

I was pissed (and still am) about that.

There’s an old joke about “soured neighbors.”

How mad are you at the neighbor?  Well, let’s just say that if they were away and I noticed their home was on fire, I’d be sure to send the Fire Department a letter, mentioning that fact.”

Just joking.  When comes down to cases, I did call the power company when their power lines were brought down by deadfall from a tree in a storm a while back.

Point is, though, that there are good neighbors – and not so much.

Up the hill from us is the nicest young couple in the world…part of a well-respected long-term family in the area.

Even so, well-respected long-term families don’t have a lot of time.  In Texas, even at the 15-year mark, we’re still eyed with some suspicion by locals.  We don’t get into town much, don’t have time for frou-frou, and since we came up with this “workstation” concept for our hobbies, there’s always more than enough to do.

When, less so than if, the economy hits the skids in a major way, I expect re-neighboring will begin.

We can produce tomatoes and squash brilliantly – or, at least, Elaine can.  Plants tend to wither and die in my presence.

But, some of our neighbors have grand corn fields.  And up the road a piece, there are some peach orchards that are amazing.

In the city?  Not sure how re-neighboring will work out.

Tools to make repairs are another thing that drove neighbors to connect during the last Depression.  There were plenty of Fix-It shops around.  If one person didn’t have a tool to fix something around the house, sometimes an obliging neighbor would have the tool…

This is where a lot of the good neighbor / bad neighbor stuff comes from.  My dad, having worked delivering papers in the Depression, and in the latter part, as a clerk in a cigar store, figured he would “test” neighbors.

Someone would come over an “borrow a tool” and pappy would extract a promise of when it would be returned.  If the tool wasn’t back in his shop on the appointed day, that was the end of it.  No more tools would be lent to that family.  In the end, he ended up not sharing much.  Not out of meanness on his part; irresponsibility on the part of others.

I’ve been penciling some ideas around for a National Association of Responsible Neighbors.  Not to make money, but just to make life a little easier.

The rules of membership would be simple and it would be cheap.  $5-bucks a year.

You’d have to know everyone (and have their phone numbers) on  each side of your home and talk to them six times per year.  Even if there’s nothing to say but “Howdy!

And you’ve have to have a simple (printable) “Neighbor Chit.”

This way, if a person failed to return a borrowed tool (or anything else) you could petition to have them designed a “bad neighbor.”

Seems harsh, but for the good of the tribe of responsible humans.

NARN is not something government can (or should) do.  But, in the spirit of Lan’s PROBE, it would be a useful thing to have.

Especially useful if a neighbor happened to see smoke coming from your place, and there was no one home.

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

Coping: Prepping/Contingency Planning

That?  We are in an interesting space – or will be in coming weeks.

We have an outlook for the market suggesting it’s possible, in late May, we may begin a nice rally.  From lower levels than now.  Problem is that the rally will end.  In fact, Zeus the Cat has a pool going for where it might stop late this summer.

While he expects the Dow to fall below 20,000 in the fall decline (Dow 19.855, write it down and remember this forecast is from a cat), the summer rally from the May lows, around Dow 22,870 should be enjoyable for bulls.  But that just “opens the box” on the pending American decline.  Globalism is ending.

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This won’t be the first reference we’ve made to Richard Heinberg’s book Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, and I expect it won’t be the last.

But there is an evolving case in our financial models around here (not touched by feline paws) that says, in so many words) that “If we drop under 20,000 on the Dow this Fall, it could just be an uber-macro Wave 1 down.

I know that’s hard to fathom.  Just imagine what the Elliott wave implications are, for a moment.

For the sake of discussion, let’s say the cat is right about the projected fall lows.

That allows us to run an Elliott wave model that says “What if uber-wave 1 down (from 26,616.71) down to the low forecast by the cat were used as wave 1 down bounds?”

That would put the bottom of the Fifth Macro Down as high case  at 11,387.09 (like the .09 would matter?) and the mostly likely landing zone Dow 8,006.23.

People who insist on “buying the dips” on the way down will lose not only their shirts, but a lot more.

We kick around cheery outlooks like this generally on the Peoplenomics side.  Because to speak of such things publicly could scare a large number of sheep. Makes us look alarmist, too.

But, one of the ideas that peeks out from a rescan of Heinberg’s book is there may be no place to hide.

For example, he gets into the problems ahead for fisheries resource a bit (pg 91-92) and it’s remarkable for a nearly 10-year old book to be so useful in present-times.

The theme End of the Line is rattling around in my head a lot, here lately.  Try The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat,  a 2006 book that is equally prescient (and this was before Fukushima!

Then load up on Barry C. Lynn’s tomb End of the Line: The Rise and Coming Fall of the Global Corporation.

What our models are suggesting is that the “new decline” – one that will be the super-grand-daddy of ’em all – may not come as a one-day affair.

The “Peak Everything” process is slow.

I brought up fishing because it’s easy to track the stairsteps down to into financial oblivion.

Imagine that on our next trip to Seattle, Elaine and I eat that last (or final tipping-point) order of fish & chips.

The following years would be marked with declines in the cod harvest (my order) and halibut (Elaine’s order).

Two or three bad years on the fishing grounds and the world begins to change.

High energy-consumption commercial fishing boat prices begin to fall.  Which no licensing is required on the “high seas” at the moment, we expect that international negotiations will be started in places like the UN.

Desperate global interests will duke it out, but with no “international navies” it will become a Super Powers issue.  China, having a serious interest will expand it’s influence – and that’s why they are island-building.

Ignoring the run for fish and chips, another year goes by with poor results.  The marine suppliers who have served the fleets will begin to close up shop and blow away.  The process has been slow, but unrelenting.

After that, maybe as little as two years, there will be layoffs by the gear makers.  Everything from foul weather gear to hydraulic winches to marine diesel engines and gear boxes.  Electronics will dwindle and more boats will be put on the market.

Noting the collapse, regulators will step in, though too late.  There’s no way to make enough fish for 8-billion people, which we’ll be sooner than later.

As the fisheries peak rolls forward and downhill, the nature of America’s waterfronts will begin to change.  You can already see it in places like Seattle.

Old-school restaurants, like Ivar’s Acres of Clams, will be among the few to survival.  North along the waterfront from there, all that will remain will be a nostalgic motif of imagery – more than substance.

You can count the fishing boats at Fisherman’s Wharf, too.  All around, the “monetizers” have sprung up, anxious to capitalize on people’s interest in health, good-eating fish.  But the appetite is more than that.  In fact, it’s about selling a memory as much as a meal.

And this is only one small segment of society.  The crews will decline, and their ranks will shrink.  With smaller crews, the Coast Guard might eventually have to lay off seaman licensing staff…you see how it propagates.

The main thing to keep in mind is that while Depressions have been fast-onset events in the past, much of that volatility has been the direct result of information asymmetry.

The Internet, it will turn out, is not likely to save us for any human economic folly.  But, because the information is so widely-spread and so quickly, people will react more quickly.  Paradoxically, this evens out the rate of decline.

Lynn and Heinberg are like touchstones around the office.  I look at the macro picture and the only question is “Will there be a sudden collapse, or does the world just ‘bleed out?'”

As it does, what it the right/proper roll of heads of families?

I think it’s to be putting together an “all hands” survival plan for the slow collapse scenario.

It’s one thing to have an earthquake, social disorder, EMP kind of plan, but the slow collapse model really seems to make the most sense.

A couple of articles I haven’t mentioned: “Robots could take over 38% of U.S. jobs within about 15 years, report says.”  Please note that this was a 2017 report, so down to 14-years.

Whack38% off the U.S. workforce and we have less than 100-million working to support services for 335-million.  Only way to do that is tax the bejezus out of everything.

Sure, we like tax cuts as much as the next family. But it will come at the horrible cost of eroding the Nation’s money, even more.  Prices will go up, a version of Weimar  “Hyperinflation Lite” becomes likely.  With that?  The gulf between the 1% and 99% will become even more stark.  And contentious.

This is likely to leave in much the same way as fishery declines have worked to decimate small coastal communities. A few big machines, then the downsizing that leads to increased “excess workers.”

You know, it’s hard to demand a higher wage when robotics and AI begin to move in.  There will be a definite deflationary impact as robots replace humans.

Done slowly?  I will save some of that for the subscriber side.  But please, think about the last fish and chips and then begin thinking about how to save your family if we really are on the edge of a century-long decline which will include a large population reduction.

It’s not a happy thought, but do kick it around. Then  ponder deeply the ramifications of what happens to “profit-based economics” when there’s none to be made.  Which is why the headlong rush is on right now to monetize everything.

It’s why gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, weather, and even rain water run-off are being seized-upon for control and dominance of others.

The simple fact is, when the End of Expansion-Only Economics arrives, it will be a time of mass devastation.  Not just at the personal level, but for families, cities, states, and even whole nations.

Hell on Earth.

Heinberg and Lynn fall into that rarified class of “look-ahead” books that were seriously ahead of the times.  (I think of my own efforts in Broken Web).

It’s fairly common to be way right, but also way early.  1979 THE COMING REAL ESTATE CRASH Hardcover Book by CARDIFF & ENGLISH, for example, came how long ahead of the 2007-2009 event?

While it wasn’t a perfect outlook – in that they didn’t see the role of the serial-bubble Fed, and looked more at the eventual collapse of suburbs as unsupportable (and unaffordable) due to costs of things like energy and the intergenerational decline in purchasing power) they nevertheless got the Big Picture elements right.

Spend some time, now and then, reading books that look ahead a decade, or longer.  In them, you will find some very useful information on structuring your life (and those of the ones you love) to be Urban Survivors in the longer-term.

(Cheery today, huh?)

Ham Radio Note

Best ham radio operating guide I’ve seen in a while and one that most hams have somewhere on their to-do list, but somehow you never take take (or have) the time to actually ‘git’er done.’

It’s a list of all the two meter and 440 repeaters around the area – up to two counties away, or so.

I’m pretty sure that it will show up on the http://www.pacarc.org/ website. (It may be there and I’m  just half-blind…)  But, in the meantime, if you have a local ham club, local member Tom’s project is one of the most useful yet that can be cloned with local data everywhere.

It gives 10 counties worth of popular repeater frequencies.  In an emergency, it’d be a godsend.  Especially which printed and laminated so it would be useful in an emergency communications setting.

Also great to have in the car and for programming a new radio.  Fine job, and a sincere  “Atta-boy” to Tom for all the work on it.

There are far more detailed resources (like the ARRL National Repeater Directory) but the print in that is pretty small and as for outdoor use in the rain with heavy weather?  Uh…no thanks!

Great club project if your club doesn’t have a lot of useful information on it’s website.

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

Coping: Prepping Adventure in the Bathroom

Prepping lessons from a bath remodel?  Yessir.  There’s a gaping 24-square foot hole in the Ure master bath this morning.  Elaine had a sleepless night thinking about it.  “Gives me the heebie jee-geebie’s” is her description of things.  Something about fear of insects coming into the house…

As reported Thursday, a hidden water leak is the cause of this misery, but having all the tools in the world and a Lowes half an hour away makes it really a matter of attitude and project management.

This morning, around 9, we will frame out and deck-over.  Which will be followed by a liberal application of Bondo all-purpose putty. This weekend Elaine and I will refinish all the walls and the flooring man will be here Wednesday to lay the sheet goods.  I always build in a couple of days of “slip time” — even for a simple 1-hour task — because that’s how life works…

(Continues below)

 

For example, I have a number of 3×21″ belts for the belt sander that haven’t been used in 10-years, or so.  Brand new, I pulled a 60-grit open-coat and put it on the sander ready to take off some residual glue from the top of the floor joists.

As it was sitting on the bench, there was a “tick” noise. The belt failed sitting still.  A real first!

I ran out of 60-grit. Got to looking at the grades others on-hand.. Turns out the belt is joined by a thin strip of heavy paper, glued to both halves of the belt…like so:

This failed because after 10-years in a hot Texas shop, the adhesive loses its grippy and flexy….

This gets me to a point of prepping for Armageddon I doubt anyone has ever gone through: When one moves out of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapon release areas, there is still no getting around the impact of time.

I never figured that sanding belts would be in short supply in the End of Days.  But we were stocked-up, just in case.

Another one that’s highly perishable is PVC glue.  Oatey makes really good glue, but there’s no getting around solvent penetration over long, long periods…up around 10-years.

Fresh PVC glue is clear, but then it begins to take on a milky look…and that’s when we pick up fresh glue.  No use taking chances.

Don’t know if you’ve checked on paint storage.  But, we recently got rid of about a dozen, or so, one gallon paint cans because the contents had “skinned over” and were no good.

Super glues have the same problem.  Hard tubes are  junk.

The two-part epoxies that come in “dual mixing squirters” seem to fare better, but I don’t know if the bond is as good as fresh.  I’ll research this and get back to you in a column 10-years from now.

Those paper tubes of construction adhesives, also tend to dry out in 2-4 years, rendering them useless, as well.  Ditto the caulking that’s in the gun-ready foil/paper tubes.  2-5 years on those.

(Warm caulk and glue is easier to squeeze than cold tubes, if you’re a newbie to home rebuilding…)

An option is to get everything in hand squeeze tubes made of plastic, but remember even with these you may be looking at 6-10 years of life.  The effects of plastic degradation over time are painful.  Squeeze tubes are way faster to install.

PVC plastic pipe seems to be OK to the 10-15 year range, and may go 20-25.  But the trick here is to remember it depends on the material.  Brittles-up over time.

If you’re talking about raw 20-foot joints of pipe (a joint is 20-feet in liquid piping land), it begins to harden noticeably in 10-years, but it probably won’t crack while being worked for 20-25-years.

Once installed, it might go 30-40 years, but something I’ve never seen mentioned is that pipe doesn’t like to move when it gets old.  Sort of like people, that way.

Our local rural water purveyors have that problem in spades.  Down on the main county road, they have to replace a couple of joints-worth of pipe about once a year.

We’re on what passes for a “mountain” in this part of East Texas.  Elevation, base to top, is on the order or 300 feet.

Still, erosion and both a rock quarry and oil fields to the south of us (down hill side a 1/2 mile) may account for the hillside moving a bit.

It doesn’t take much…maybe a 1/16th to a quarter inch per year.  But on early PVC?  The stuff cracks and breaks…water spews everywhere…and the pipe fixers have jobs-for-life.

Which is why we have a back-up well, but there’s no more certainty to that, either.  Takes energy and…

I did mention that solar panels also degrade over time, too?

After 25-years,. it’s common for solar cells to lose anywhere from 10% (good cells) to 25% (or more on cheap cells) of their output?  The sun is brutally hot, ice is plenty cold, and the flexing…well you get the idea.

Again, like the human aging process.  Hot and cold are less appealing with age, lol…

Material Changes , Too

If it’s been a while since you’ve shopped a flooring job, things have changed.  As “value engineering” continues a lot of the sheet goods have become thinner.

The people who sell flooring will go out of their way to convince you that this is an “improvement” but not to my way of thinking.

For one, if you have screws in your decking, you need to fill all the screw heads.

You see, in the “old days” (10-years ago, or longer) the vinyl flooring was thick enough so that you could lay it right up to the walls, and then seal around it with long-life silicone caulking.

Today, the installers insist that all sheet goods should be “floating” – in other words, not edge-bound.  “This allows the floor to flex a bit, expand and contract a bit...”  so goes the professional pitch.  “We get a nice edge by putting in quarter-round.”

Sounds like a crooked sermon, to me.  Sounds like an excuse to sell thin sheet goods…lacking dimensional stability.

Frankly, I’m none-too-pleased with this version of “progress.” I like the glued down (*with caulk) edges because it is a very clean looking wall joint.  The baseboards and quarter-round are just another thing to get dirty, and if anything ever happened to Scooter, (our bug service fellow) that area behind quarter-round would be the first place any self-respecting bug would set up housekeeping.

There are some limitations to rebuilding modular homes.  Again, we’re into manufacturer’s ideas on “value engineering.”

These days, it’s common to be able to order the “northern insulation option” which calls for sidewall framing with 2-by-6’s.  But manufacturers  continue to go cheap on the floors with 2-by 6’s set on I-beams of steel.

If you build a stick-built home, you can use 2-by-8’s for the joists, and if you put these on 16-inch centers, a 12-foot span is a piece of cake.  You would have enough strength to lay ceramic tile, which would be our first choice.

On the other hand, 2-by-6’s on 24-inch centers?  Too much flex, too much weight, and it’s a bad engineering call.  Maybe the I-beams would work, but color me skeptical.

Things to think about…

Some day, we will sell this place and the 20-park-like acres to move to a city (and a conventional built house).  For now, we’re into the “art of the chop saw” which is really the fun of such a place.  There are no rules, no permits to pull, no inspectors, no bullshit.  Just good common sense and super-strong construction practice.

Which is where my weekend will go.

And update  should be forthcoming Monday, but that’s how life goes on the business-end of power tools…

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net

How-To: Do Your Own Self DNA Study

A good while back, we made the decision to have our DNA run by 23andme.com.  It was $99 a person.

Took a while.  Sequencing DNA is not a fast technology, but it’s a cool technology.  Like 3D printing in a sense:  cool but not yet fast.

Eventually – a month back, or so – we received the basic summary of results.  But, that’s just where the real fun begins…

(Continues below)

 

Your DNA is huge.  The text file of each of our data is on the order of 5.7 megabytes.  There’s no way on earth this makes any sense, either….without computational help.

There are lots of approaches, but to begin sorting things out, we decided to go light on the budget and pay $10 bucks each to toss our data into www.promethease.com.

It’s important to understand the process here, so let me run through it.

You select an organization to actually do the sequencing.  23andme.com and ancestry.com are popular.

Now you wait for the DNA “spit kit” to show up.  About a week, here.

When it does, you will need to spit what seems like gallons of spit (let’s about a tablespoon, or less, but you’ll get dry-mouth so take your time and think of lemons and pickles…).  Mail in the kit.

In 4-7 weeks, you will get the email saying your results have been run.

Now you go to the website and download your DNA as a standard text file laid out in a standard way.

Next, you select whose report you want.  We did Promethease (cheap) but there are lots to chose from (Self-DeCode and more) but from what I figured, most of the report generators were basing their reports on the content of www.snpedia.com.

Their website describes their mission as:

“SNPedia is a wiki investigating human genetics. We share information about the effects of variations in DNA, citing peer-reviewed scientific publications. It is used by Promethease to create a personal report linking your DNA variations to the information published about them. Please see the SNPedia:FAQ for answers to common questions.”

SNPedia is interesting as hell, but they don’t process your file.

Which is why the Self-DeCode and Prometheus and….sites exit.

Going to the Promethease site, you agree to a bunch of checkmarks and then pop in a credit card ($10) and upload (*from your computer where you downloaded the 23andme results) to your local computer.

Then you wait because it can in some cases take 20 minutes for your DNA file to upload, look at that file, and pull out the proper results from the huge (and still growing) library of conditions connected with specific DNA types.

Finally, you download the Promethease results onto your computer, and extract the zip file.

What’s in the zip?  The way the data is arranged, you are able to get a “quickie/highlights” view (mine was 10-20 pages) and at the bottom of that it says 2X – which gets into more details.

And when you do that, you can 2X again – several times in fact – until you have around a hundred pages of details.

The basic report, though is a good starting point.  The results tell you (in descending order of importance) what the sample and the report figure your most significant health risks are.

For example, I already knew that I had an elevated chance of getting Alzheimer’s (because my father died of it at age 87) and yes, that is why we’re into the Alzheimer’s dietary, supplement, and lifestyle changes that seem to minimize the advancement of the disease.  Missing starches, already!

2x risk of Alzheimer’s disease You carry one APOE-?3 allele and one APOE-?4 allele. This results in 2x increased relative risk of Alzheimer’s disease. For non-caucasians the risk is increased, but SNPedia has not yet seen any reliable estimates. This is based on
• rs429358(C;T)
• rs7412(C;C)

Not a particularly happy report, but that’s my “worst risk” from the DNA perspective.  Besides, with word this morning of progress on attacking the apoE4 gene in the body to neutralize its effects, there is reason to continue following the End of Alzheimer’s recommendations  (KetoFlex 12/3 a “flexarian” diet) and wait for science to issue what in software would be a “hot-fix” or “patch” for my DNA.  Meat as a condiment, though? Down on starches and up on veggies…

Note to self: Remain cogent enough to realize when the patch is available!

My next major genome findings were OK with me:  I’m a slow metabolizer of NSAIDS and I’ve got a 7X higher risk of male pattern baldness.  From there we go into a hundred pages of details.

It’s important to understand the statistics a bit.

For example, when I read that I have a 2X risk, I’m guided by first knowing (from separate web research) that “One in ten people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s disease. About one-third of people age 85 and older (32 percent) have Alzheimer’s disease.”

In my case, that sort of implies that my odds of Alzheimer’s 15-years out, would be on the order of 64%.  But in 15-years, will there be a pill to neutralize the gene?  And what about those coronary artery diseases?  Big progress there, too.

BUT that’s why we ran our DNA’s.  It confirms what I already knew (since dad had it, I might) and it underscores the lifestyle and eating changes to reduce risks.

The bonus points:  Running your body in the Alzheimer’s-reducing light-ketosis envelope is also how to lose significant weight.

All that said, the data is somewhat contradictory in that I have 112 markers that relate to Alzheimer’s – and some of them are good….really, really good.  Like this one:

“rs5882(A;G)
Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Higher good cholesterol. One copy of a longevity gene. This seems to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Which gets me down to the bottom line personally:  My odds of making it to 100 are low –  less than 20% if I’m following the report correctly.  Since there’s still nuclear war on the timeline out in 2022-2024, hell, I’m in the home stretch.

BUT, knowing what’s in the report has helped me to clarify my relationship with the bag of skin and bones that the “MOG” (mind of George) currently inhabits:

You see, the DNA is like having your own “internal baseball team.”  You’ve got some very good players  (anything in the report with a green margin around it, or saying things like “rs3851179(A;G) — 0.85x decreased risk for Alzheimer’s disease” is good)..

But, you also have (on your DNA team) some players who are very bad.  Those are the DNA sequences with the red borders around them.

Every morning when your feet hit the floor, the World Series of Life (inside, at the DNA level) begins.

This morning, I’ll have bacon, eggs, and fried potatoes (in coconut oil!).

One of our bad DNA players comes to bat:

“rs1333049(C;G)
1.5x increased risk for CAD 1.5x higher risk for coronary artery disease”

It’s a swing and a miss!  Next batter?  Ah, one of our good ones…

“rs1746048(C;T)
0.94 decreased risk for coronary heart disease”

Waffle for dessert?

As it turns out, there are more “bad players” on the coronary artery disease team than there are good ones…welcome to being a northern European male, huh?

This may all sound silly, but it’s how your food, nutrition, rest – and in the case of Alzheimer’s prevention – even the time you load on B vitamins and melatonin that matters.

So is it worth $110 bucks?  Oh yeah, I think so because there’s more to the report.  For example, you get (up to) several pages of how you genetically are expected to react to various medications:

There are several pages which will be printed off for my doctor to ponder.  Since my doctor is younger than me, I expect my medication reactions ought to be something he’d want to have in file.

That way, at age 93, or so, when I’m wheeled into the hospital with coronary issues, my doc will be able to say to the cardiologist “Yes, we expected something like this…”

To which, the cardiologist would ask “What did he eat today?”

Said something about bacon and eggs and DNA Baseball that didn’t make sense.  May have Alzheimer’s…”

Or, an oncoming car on a county road with a drunk driver at the wheel could take me out.  Or, lightning while I’m cranking down the ham radio tower…. High voltage shock from a linear amplifier when not “fully present” mentally while working on one?

Risks are everywhere.  And one day, one of them, will get me. So far, I’ve beaten auto risks, flying/pilot risks, motorcycle risks, offshore sailing risks…see the point?

Yes, it was worth the $110 bucks.  It doesn’t change the fact we’re all going to die.  But, it does narrow our “medical suspect list” a bit and helps make informed lifestyle decisions.

OK, so DNA Baseball is about to get underway over at the house.  Time to park the keyboard.  Someone out in rural east Texas is probably already drunk.  Trade war becomes depression becomes war with China by 2024….so, uh, yeah….let’s keep this all in context.

Strip of bacon?

Write when you get rich<

George@ure.net

Making: A One-Hour Shoeshine Box

Saturday – Peoplenomics done.  Good week in the market.  Time to make something.

My eye has come to rest on the Hangerworld Premium Cedar Wood Shoe Shine Care Box Kit with Foot Rest while cruising shoe polish boxes on Amazon.

Fine unit.  But, at $29.95, I wondered “What could I make in under an hour from scrap materials on hand?  My times gotta be worth $30 an hour, even on weekends….”

(Continues below)

 

Off to the well-appointed (but occasionally messy) shop.

As long-time readers know, there is very little to actually “making” anything.

That’s because in our process-oriented view of the World, there are only a few simple operations involved.  Namely?

PLAN:  

This part was spread out over a day, or so.  Started when I wrote up how good Lincoln shoe polish was and how people today have mostly become absolute slobs.

But then the plan evolved.  This is what treadmill and weight machine time is good for.

It’s my observation that you can learn a tremendous amount about someone’s likelihood of success in life by going to the gym with ’em.   If they get on the machines and start talking “gossip and filler” (which includes anything having to do with social media) the person is a loser who will never amount to much.

On the other hand, if the person gets on the machine and has a definite purpose to their workout, that is the mark of a person who will be successful, no matter what obstacles are ahead.

On a business trip, some years back (I was in my early 60’s) the COO suggested we begin the day’s work at the hotel workout center.

I arrived a few minutes after him…he was already into his half-hour of 3.5 mile per hour walking.   Point:  He was watching an assortment of news channels – flipping through the ones he was interested in for the headlines and then  the financial channels for anything he felt was near worthy of his time.

As I got on the machine, I had my yellow pad at the ready.  Over the next 20 minutes of walking we mapped out our approach to a client sales meeting.  By the time we were done with the buffet, I had started to modify the PowerPoint and supporting linked spreadsheets to drive the meeting, just so….

That’s a prime example of how many people waste their lives.

RATHER than get on a machine with some goal in mind, they wander off into useless.

Nowadays, out of corporate life, I have given up the yellow pad and use the Alexa app ion the Echo Dots (2nd Generation) – Black, that have sprung up around the home, office, shop, and gym.  I use the note-tasking, list-making, and reminder functions.

Not to dig in too deeply here, except to pass on a point.

If you get on a machine with the idea “What do I want to do today to really move my life forward?” it will dramatically improve the quality of your work-out.  Those muscles will work all by themselves (magic!) but the brain doesn’t have enough to do.

And when you run out of planning?  I’ve got Brian Tracy’s CD series on “The Luck Factor” tee’d up in case there’s nothing worth spending “PPC’s”  (personal processor clicks) on for that session.  (Afternoon workouts after 8-10 hours in the office tend to be more input-oriented.)

To wrap up, plans of Ure are often hatched as in-gym “out of body experiences.”

In the end, the “plan” would kill many birds:  Save money, get my shoe polish box essentially free, enjoy using the shop tools, and oh, yeah…write an article.”  A “four-fer.”

MEASURE:

Stack up what I wanted in the box and measure it.  This is how big the box oughta be…

You know, this being a home handy-bastard-stuff isn’t so hard, after all.

The truly retentive would have spreadsheets indicating volume of the box in cubic inches at this point, but me?  Hell no, this is a one-hour project.

CUT:

Go to the home scrap lumber assortment:

“Victim Boards”  (cellulose offerings to the saws) are then walked thru the various machines processes.

  1. Cut to length on chop saw.
  2. Turn on air compressor for nailer in a minute.
  3. Sand everything to taste on the belt/disk sander

Assemble

  1. Assemble with glue and nailer
  2. Turn off compressor.

Done with the hard part.

Put wood filler in seams and nail holes to seal well.

Set aside to dry.  30 minutes gone by.

I’ll get back to it Sunday.

FINISH:

  1. A bit of touch-up on the belt sander (for the filler).
  2. A few spots with the palm orbital sander.
  3. Cover dusty bench with paint paper.
  4. Wipe down with turpentine rag as a tack cloth.
  5. Apply whatever’s old and aging as a finish. Cabot’s Spar Varnish, gloss, gives a nice warm look to it.

Behold the one-hour shoeshine box!

After a day and overnight of drying, I will invade Elaine’s collection of stick-on furniture pads stickies for its feet and it will be complete.

For my 75th birthday, I made a note in Outlook to hit it with the palm sander and lay two or three more coats of spare varnish on it.  Want it to cure good and six years ought to about do it.  Now let’s see if Outlook still works…

For the 80th birthday, I will add a name plate.  That’s in case by that age my memory is that bad.

Project’s done.   Local materials, fun doing it, and (effectively) made $37 per hour – which is what I’d need to make pre-tax to net what the Amazon product would cost.

And both would get here in two-days.

Now, if only everything else in Life ran this smoothly, it would be a much happier world.

The Box is a Metaphor

About here, some of our readers will be saying “Gee, George, was a simple (verging on dumb) project – why even bother?”

Because, you dolt, it’s a metaphor.  Everything we set off to accomplish in life runs by the same set of rules.

Plan, measure, cut, assemble. finish….the box only ended up with 15 parts.  (4 feet, 4 top inserts, bottom, 4 sides, top, and handle.)  For a computer or ham radio, just add more parts to the count.  This is really about the process – that’s what people don’t fully appreciate.

One of these days, a more complicated project…but today’s point?

Process rules.

Software Quest

I have a particular economic modeling problem I’m thinking on that would be much easier to deal with in an antiquated product called Javelin.  If you have a copy of Javelin Plus 3.5, and are willing to part with it, please let me know how and how much.  I found Javelin Plus 1.0…and Plus 3.1

The product was only around a short while in the 1987-1988 period.  If your memory of the Halt & Catch Fire days is dim…

Unlike models in a spreadsheet, Javelin models are built on objects called variables, not on data in cells of a report. For example, a time series, or any variable, is an object in itself, not a collection of cells which happen to appear in a row or column. Variables have many attributes, including complete awareness of their connections to all other variables, data references, and text and image notes. Calculations are performed on these objects, as opposed to a range of cells, so adding two time series automatically aligns them in calendar time, or in a user-defined time frame.

A version of the product was sold through about 1994…  You could also draw a curve and Javelin would “make-up” the data for you.  That’s what I want it for.  I draw the curve, Javelin would back-fill with data, and then I can extract the functions necessary without breaking a sweat.  Only got so many processor clicks left in the old brain, right?  (No, but go with me on this…)

This is an oddity on the side…Immediately upon realizing this was really the “right tool” for my problem, it brought back memories of the John Titor story.  He’s the supposed time traveler who posted for a while on the net after coming back to this timeline to get a specific IBM computer (or part of one).

Like Boeing Calc – which pre-dated the multisheet linking in Excel, there was some software from “back in the day” that is still better at general problem-solving that the head-down, stuck in stupid social mode we’ve descended to as a culture.

The Titor post only had so much credibility with me…until I figured I could use Javelin most effectively and then?  Well, maybe that John Titor/IBM parts story ain’t so “out there” after all…

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net