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I had to order checks that I can fill out by hand from the bank. It got to be embarrassing that I could not pay the gardener with a check. So now, we have a lifetime supply of checks. But then, I didn’t have a checkbook cover. You can’t just have a pad of checks floating around. They’ll get all dog-eared in no time. So I went on Amazon and purchased a checkbook cover. There was a surprising amount of variety available, in all price ranges. I got one of the cheapest. Vinyl.

Today it arrived. And, more prominently than anything else, inside the little Ziplock bag that the cover came in, was this label:

WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

So what do you think I’ll do now? Not hold my checkbook close to my reproductive organs? It’s a piece of plastic! Our whole house is full of plastic. My car is practically made out of plastic. And then there is my iPhone, plastic and radiation poison of all kinds, and it’s always, always within a couple of feet of my body. Oh, the damage!

Really, seriously, is there a single person in the world who will receive this package of a checkbook cover, read this label, and change his mind and send the product back to the evil manufacturer? What else could the point of this label be?

Go to any restaurant in California, and somewhere near the entrance there will be a similar sign. “This facility is using products and chemicals known to the State of California…”

Do you want to know about really shocking labels? Go to Germany.

Recently I had visitors from Germany who – no surprise there – smoked. Comically, they found it somewhat difficult to engage in their passion, since in the hotels where they stayed they had to invariably stand at the edge of the parking lot to smoke. Many properties do not allow any smoking on the hotel grounds, even outside.

But I digress. There is a picture of a German cigarette box:

The label on the side states “Rauchen ist tödlich” or “smoking is deadly.”

Look at the top of the box where it states “Kinder von Rauchern werden oft selbst zu Rauchern.” This means “children of smokers often become smokers themselves.”

Sometimes they show pictures of horrible deformations in faces or extremities caused by smoking, right outside on the packaging. The boxes look like poison products with the name of the brand, in this case “Parisienne,” a cigarette targeted at female customers, almost seemingly an afterthought.

I can’t say I haven’t been warned. So if I ever die of cancer, I will think about that checkbook cover I bought just so I can pay the gardener in 2017.

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Yesterday I received a slip from the U.S. Postal Service at my door. It indicated they had tried to deliver a registered package. I didn’t expect any registered mail, so I was curious.

I went to the post office, stood in line, and eventually got this package:

Odd. I didn’t order anything from Mumbai, India. I don’t know anyone at the American School Of Bombay. And especially not anything that would require registered mail.

Then I checked the back:

This didn’t help either. The description said it was a Vector. It was checked as a gift. And the postage to mail it was Rs 131. When I looked that up it was 131 Indian rupees. A rupee is about $0.015. So mailing the package cost him about $1.96.

I didn’t want to open this. All I could think of was anthrax or a bomb or something else nefarious. I had just moved to this address. Who would even know what it was. And particularly Scott Amitron in Mumbai. I decided to let this sit there unopened until I figured it out.

Then it dawned on me. I checked my Amazon account:

Sure enough, the last time I was on Amazon it showed me a razor handle. Like men are wont to do, I am stuck with the type of razor and blades that I used 30 years ago. I won’t upgrade to the fancy razors of today, with five blades and twenty-dollar handles. I just like my old Atra Plus double blades that have worked for me for decades, even though the blades are hard to find and my one remaining handle is getting pretty rusty and sketchy. So when I saw this replacement handle, I clicked on it and ordered it for $4.90, free shipping.

Not in my wildest dreams did I think that somebody in Mumbai in India would then fulfil my order and send me a razor blade using registered mail and pay 131 rupees, packaging and handling not included.

I could have gone to the local drug store and bought a razor and spent a lot less time than I did waiting in line at the post office to sign for a registered package from India.

Oh, the mysterious ways of Amazon and global commerce.

I can’t wait to try my brand new Mumbai razor tomorrow morning.

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Here is what Mike Pence posted today:

I left today’s Colts game because President Donald J. Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem. At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem. I stand with President Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem.

Image may contain: 9 people, people standing, crowd and stadium

According to a staffer, Pence had planned on leaving the game early all along. It turns out he had diverted his west coast swing just to attend the game and leave early. Trump admits he told Pence to do just that. The whole thing, including the picture above, was a publicity stunt.

So much for our government, the reality show.

Now my take on this NFL protest and all the fuss about it:

I agree, we should rally around our country and unify it. That starts with leadership. Our leaders should show us how it is done. We’re getting the opposite of such leadership with this administration.

When an NFL player kneels for the National Anthem, he is openly showing his protest and making a statement — free speech.

I do not believe for a minute that those players actually “disrespect the flag or the anthem.” The flag and the anthem are symbols of our nation, just like kneeling is a symbol of protest. The players are protesting exactly BECAUSE they feel there is something wrong with the unity in our nation. Trump and Pence have it backwards.

And then, let me rant about disrespecting the flag. This is disrespecting the flag:

  • Wearing a flag bikini
  • Wearing any flag clothing
  • Wrapping yourself in the flag at any public event
  • Flying the flag on a pickup truck next to the Confederate Flag
  • Using the flag as a costume of any type
  • Flying the Confederate Flag

The showmen running our country are using cheap propaganda techniques to distract us from their self-enrichment schemes by vilifying sports figures and appealing to our sense of patriotism using twisted messages and outright lies.

That, my friends, is the disgrace here.

I ask our so-called leaders to show us what it means to respect our country, its laws, its citizens, their rights, and the country’s symbols.

 

 

 

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New Words – Take Two

Some time ago I listed a number of new words brought into the common vocabulary directly or indirectly by our highly educated and articulate president. Now I am pleased to add a new one:

Dotard – a person in a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness

This was the word the Korean dictator used to describe the U.S. president in a recent exchange of barbs. I always considered my own English vocabulary fairly large, but I must admit that I didn’t know the word dotard until a Korean brought it to my attention. I am adding it to my list of new words.

  • Dotard
  • Gaslighting
  • Narcissism
  • Bigly
  • Emoluments
  • Terrific
  • Nepotism
  • Alternative Facts
  • Breitbart
  • Deplorable

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Last Sunday Trisha and I got married. Our guests were close family and friends. The instructions for gifts were “the four As:”

  • Art
  • Alcohol
  • Adventure
  • Activity

Soon they turned into five As, when some friends asked us about our favorite charity they could donate to on our behalf. So officially, it was now the five As:

  • Art
  • Alcohol
  • Adventure
  • Activity
  • Africa

For Art: We both love art. Our house is full of original art I made, and people have given us, to the point where there are dozens of unframed paintings stacked in storage. Art, and anything related to art, is always an exciting gift for us.

For Alcohol: We are not drinkers at all. Trisha loves her wine, and she’ll go to a local winery for a tasting, but I suspect more for the social adventure with a friend than for the wine itself. As my daughter pointed out in her wedding speech, “Dad used to drink one beer a year…” and it made it sound like it’s a lot more now. But not really. I have a rule that I can have one drink a day. I do enjoy some exotic stuff, like Cognac, or Absinthe. One friend asked in advance if coffee fit under alcohol, and I said Yes!

For Adventure: We like to do things out of the ordinary. We recently took a ride around San Diego in a biplane. Your get the idea.

For Activity: Take us out to dinner, get us to eat something, do something, or learn something.

For Africa: Send money to Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia. Trisha recently was in Botswana and connected with many good people who work for the conservation of endangered wildlife.

I must say that the five As ( Art-Alcohol-Adventure-Activity-Africa ) was a resounding success. But one fried (JW) took it over the top and I could not help feature his gift here:

He said that since the gift had to start with A, it was a pretty easy choice:

  • Absinthe
  • Applejack
  • Aquavit
  • Arak Sannine
  • Armagnac
  • Amontillado

…where the latter came with the book by Edgar Allan Poe, the Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales, where the inscription by JW pointed us to page 162, where the story The Cask of Amontillado started.

Try to even find a place where they sell all these exotic examples of fire water!

Now I have a lifetime to spend, one glass a day, working my way through the As.

Then come the Bs.

Oh, married life!

 

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Here is the moment when Senator John McCain voted “No” on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Mitch McConnell, standing by with crossed arms, watching every senator vote, walked away defeated moments later. He knew he didn’t have the votes.

It has been incomprehensible to me how a government, by the people, for the people, would want to take action that takes insurance coverage away from a significant percentage of its people.

There are 243 million people in the U.S. over age 16, so let’s call them the adult population. Taking health care coverage away from 26 million people would affect 10% of the population.

Picture yourself being one of those 26 million. You may have had a pre-existing condition like diabetes, and now, by the stroke of a pen by your president, that coverage is gone and gone forever. You have diabetes, and you can’t get insurance that you can afford anymore.

Why? Because evil Obama made it so that wealthier Americans pay more taxes to fund shortfalls. Because insurance and pharma executives make millions of dollars a year and their companies are wildly profitable because their non-competitive practices are sanctioned by our laws and regulations. And because a significant percentage of our government is bought off by those individuals and organizations and they have a president who can’t think beyond soundbites on Fox News and will sign anything as long as it serves his aggrandizement.

This entire initiative to kill the Affordable Care Act is motivated not by making things right for the American people, but by political ambitions. The president has said that the Affordable Care Act is a disaster for the American people, and – by golly – many of the dumbed-down American people believe him.

Congress Republicans wanted to score a point, with the president, and with their paymasters. Now we have a White House that not only appears to have been put in place by the aid of an adversarial power, but it also actively sabotages one of the laws of the land – the Affordable Care Act. Rather than upholding the laws, the government is sabotaging the laws.

Trump says he wants to make America great again. By throwing 10% of the adult population off their healthcare? What kind of problem-solving is that? It’s oligarchy. It’s making himself and those in his orbit in debt rich. I do not understand how he can have 37% of the population is his support. A significant percentage of his own supporters would lose their healthcare coverage. Really? That’s a lot of people supporting Trump with no healthcare. Somebody help me understand that.

McCain understood that, and he listened to his constituents. Unlike dozens of his colleagues in the Senate, who also must know deep down how wrong all this is, he showed backbone and he did what is right for the American people. Too bad there isn’t going to be another opportunity to vote for McCain for president.

For more reading on McCain:

See my open letter, also sent to him in hardcopy: Here.

My book review on Faith of my Fathers. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand the man John McCain and the experiences of a prisoner of war. If you only read one chapter, read the one about “John McCain’s Towel.”

Here is an article about McCain and torture.

 

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Ok, let me get this straight:

You get yourself elected, make sure you have both houses of Congress in your party’s control, and then you can do anything you want, profit from the presidency, sell out the country to the highest bidder, launder money for the Russian mob, install your unqualified and unelected kids into high government positions, appoint cronies who are not qualified for their positions, and then commit crimes – say shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue – and then pardon yourself – over and over again.

Trump, with his infinite power, could revoke the 22nd Amendment (Hitler playbook), gerrymander the districts and make sure he gets reelected. If any strong opponents surface, he just has them whacked (Putin playbook).

When he dies, he installs Donald Jr., so we start a dynasty of Trumps for the next 75 years (Kim Il-sung playbook).

That’s what happens when a president can just pardon everyone, including himself.

Meanwhile, America, its values and its institutions, are rapidly going down the tubes. The United States of America is becoming an oligarchy at an alarming rate.

Trump supporters seem to not mind that. Don’t they see this guy is completely corrupt? How is that good for America?

Trump, eight months after winning the election, looks increasingly illegitimate with every day that more information trickles out. Whenever bad news surface, he deflects and questions why we’re not going after Hillary and her emails. Because Hillary is now a private citizen, she isn’t mucking with our country, she isn’t dismantling our environmental protections, she isn’t selling favors to the highest bidders, she isn’t undermining our health insurance system, and she isn’t systematically dumbing down our country.

Go ahead, investigate Hillary all you want. It has no meaning to the county! Hillary has ridden off into the sunset.

It’s Trump that’s doing damage to our country that will take decades to clean up. That’s why we’re interested in his apparently criminal career and current obvious abuses of power.

Don’t even tell me I am just mad that Hillary didn’t win. I am way over Hillary. But I, for one, want my country back.

Now!

 

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If I had dealings with Russia, or Iran, or North Korea, and I got caught, the FBI would arrest me and I’d be charged with treason.

Republicans have dismissed Trump Jr.’s email smoking gun with “he made a rookie mistake, no big deal.”

It’s still a crime, folks, when you collude with a foreign government to attack the United States.

If I got caught with my dealing with Russia, or Iran, or North Korea, I’d be going to prison, and if I told the judge or the jury “sorry, I didn’t know what I was doing, it was a rookie mistake,” they’d simply laugh.

And I’d rot in prison.

 

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China has a government that makes up its mind to do something, and boom, it gets it done.

For instance, China has more high speed rail than the entire rest of the world combined. China is currently building almost twice as much high speed rail as the entire rest of the world combined. The United States is ranked along with tiny countries like Belgium, Austria, Taiwan and Uzbekistan in its installed base. Greece, yes, Greece is building more high speed rail than the United States (see more details here).

Another example is quantum research. Here is an example of China’s advance in teleportation. They succeeded in teleporting an object from earth to orbit.

In the United States, we are vilifying scientists in many areas of study for reasons that are incomprehensible to me. For instance, our government is squelching research in stem cell technology because of a religiously guided notion of what an embryo is. Our government is systematically shutting down climate research because some members of that government are financially supported by corporations that might lose some of their profits if the public realized the damage they are doing. The White House let all its people in the science office go.

China has an active space program. The last time the United States launched humans into space was July 8, 2011. That’s over SIX YEARS ago. We rely on Russia to launch our astronauts. On October 17, 2016, China launched its sixth manned space mission. They are rapidly becoming a space superpower all on their own. They don’t need the Russians to launch their astronauts.

I am not a friend of China, its policies, and its government. I am just an observer. 50 years from now, China will be the undisputed superpower in the world. The U.S. will look like a crumbling nation, with shoddy infrastructure (we already have that, I agree with Trump on that). We will have to import all technology from other countries. All goods sold at Walmart and Amazon will be made in China. We will be busy praying to hold the waters back in Florida, Louisiana, Boston and New York City.

China is moving ahead of us rapidly and we don’t even notice. Our leaders are on a reverse course, ceding scientific, political, moral and ethical leadership to other nations. We’re supposedly busy making our nation great again, while we apparently are fixated on building useless walls (which the Chinese did many centuries ago), keeping out immigrants because we’re afraid they might kill us, and spending enormous money ($700 billion) on weapons so other countries can’t come and take our stuff.

The way I see it, if we keep going like this – and not very long – there won’t be much here that others will want to come and get. We’re sending our money overseas, for oil, for cars, for TVs and for food, and the countries overseas like it that way.

Never in the history of this country has our leadership been on such a wrong, misguided and self-destructive course.

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There are 42 immigrants on the Forbes 400 list of 2016. That’s just over 10%. Most of them have a very high “self-made score.”

For instance, Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp, is 40 years old and worth over $8.8 billion. That’s more than twice the net worth of Donald Trump, at $3.7 billion.

Koum immigrated from the Ukraine with his mother in 1992 due to the political and anti-Semitic environment there. His mom worked as a babysitter. Koum was 16 years old and he got a job as a cleaner in a grocery store. They got an apartment through government assistance, and bought groceries with food stamps. Then Koum went to San Jose State, definitely not ivy league, and then got a job at Yahoo! where he worked for nine years before he started WhatsApp.

The American system has supported this immigrant in the beginning, yes. Cynics will lament that our tax dollars paid for penniless immigrants. They did. However, Koum created American jobs and American wealth, for himself, and for many others. He made many people millionaires.

The fact that 10% of the Forbes 400 are immigrants, and that many of them came to this country with a single suitcase, no money, two hands to work menial jobs, and an indomitable belief in themselves and the American Dream, attests to the value of immigrants in America.

Nothing can be more misguided than the nonsense we’re hearing spouted every day now. Go get the Forbes 400 edition of 2016. It provides many inspiring stories.

Steve Jobs’ biological father was an immigrant from Syria.

Andy Grove, the founder of Intel, was an immigrant from Hungary. He escaped from communist control at the age of 20.

Sergey Brin immigrated to the United States with his family from the Soviet Union at the age of 6. He studied mathematics and computer science as an undergraduate and then enrolled in Stanford University to acquire a PhD in computer science. That’s when he co-founded Google.

Albert Einstein escaped the Nazi regime in Germany before the war.

Elon Musk grew up in a middle-class family in South Africa, before he moved to Canada, alone, with just a few dollars in his pocket. He started working doing menial jobs, like shoveling out sewer tanks, just to survive. He then put himself through school, co-founded PayPal, and finally created Tesla and SpaceX – and he is just getting started.

The entire story of America is studded with sparkles supplied by immigrants, many from very underprivileged countries and environments.

In comparison to Musk, Brin, Grove, Einstein, Jobs and Koum, Tucker Carlson looks silly and small-minded as he panders to the followers of a misguided idea. He is contributing not to making America great, but making America dumb again.

What an asinine tweet that is!

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It’s 5:53pm Pacific time here in San Diego.

http://www.flightradar24.com – click to enlarge

I just checked the flight radar site (amazing, check it out by clicking here) and saw not a single plane over North Korea. What a strange country!

Here is an image of North Korea from space:

click for image credit

Perhaps they are keeping the lights out so the Great Leader Kim Jong-un can get a good night’s rest.

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I recently rented a brand-new Toyota Corolla. It had 1 mile on the odometer when I drove it out of the lot.

Since I have Southern California driving habits, which results in 80 mph speeds, I usually apply the cruise control in other states to avoid running into speed traps. New York State Troopers do no look kindly upon California speeders on their roads. So while going down the New York Thruway, I turned it on cruise control and set the speed to 72 mph.

I quickly noticed that it automatically adjusted down its speed when the car in front of me was going slower, and then sped up again when things cleared up. It also warned me with a gentle beep when I got too near the left or right lane markers, unless I indicated a lane change using my turn signal ahead of time. The slowing down went all the way to a full brake and stop when I was on a one lane road and the car in front of me had stopped for a left turn.

What surprised me was how quickly I adjusted my own driving habits to this feature. I would drive with the cruise control on and let the car do its driving. I simply took care of the steering.

Then I remembered that this was a rental car, and in a few days I’d be back to driving my 2011 Prius, which does not have these features. I thought I’d better not get used to the car slowing down automatically, lest I have some surprises rear-ending other cars.

I liked these advancements in this car, and I was surprised that I found them in a lowly car like the Toyota Corolla. I have to admit, though, as much as I liked the driver-assist features, I did not like its steering. The wheel seemed loose and not responsive. It drove a bit like a boat, albeit a small one, and as a result, I would not want to buy this car.

The driver-assist features were great, though.

 

 

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We have all seen it when someone pretends they have done something, or experienced something, but they really haven’t. You might remember the scene in the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin, where he talked about feeling a woman’s breasts. After a few descriptive comments, he says “two bags of sand” and the other guys all stop and frown. “Two bags of sand???”

I am a computer software professional. I may not know all the details of the current new programming languages, but I have done many years of programming. When somebody’s nephew at a backyard BBQ starts talking about his vast experience with computers, and how he is such an expert, it usually takes me about 10 or 15 seconds of listening before I know whether the guy knows what he is talking about, or whether he is faking it.

I am not unique in this. Anyone with special expertise in a given field has had this experience of running into an impostor who is trying to impress all the girls at the party by exaggerating his skills or expertise. To the expert, he just looks ridiculous.

When Trump traveled overseas a couple of weeks ago he met with the heads of state of the G7. Every one of those individuals, whether Trump realizes it or not, is at the very top of their profession and careers. They made it to the pinnacle of power in their own country. They are expert diplomats, savvy politicians and often have advanced degrees. Angela Merkel holds a Ph.D. in Physics, and is in her third term in office as chancellor.

What do you surmise the heads of state of the G7 think of Donald Trump?

 

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