The Incredible World of Gadgetry

I needed a voltmeter to check why the dome light in my Jeep isn’t working. Is it because the light is bad, or is it because the wires going there are dead?

Last night I went on Amazon and found this device:

Less than 18 hours after I ordered it, today, on a Sunday afternoon, I had it delivered to my door. The entire bill was $12.90. That includes tax, delivery (I’m on Prime, so I don’t pay delivery separately), and the device.

It measures not only AC and DC voltage, it measures current, resistance and temperature, it can be used to test transistors and diodes, and you can test continuity.

This device was made in China.

How on earth can somebody design a complex device like this, manufacture it, ship it all the way from China, sell it on Amazon and give Amazon a profit, ship it to me in less than 18 hours, pay tax, all on $12.90.

That to me is magic.

Now to test my dome light.

Texas Mayor

Here is a post by Tim Boyd, the now former mayor of Colorado City, Texas, population 3,920 as of 2019. You can click on the image and enlarge it for better reading.

Before I get too far I should mention that the mayor resigned yesterday as a result of this post.

I put red boxes around obvious spelling or grammar errors. We all make spelling and grammar mistakes. I do too from time to time. But to have six of them in one post either means the mayor is not very educated, or he does not pay much attention to detail. The first can be excused. The second not. The mayor is addressing, or rather – assailing – his constituents, but he does not care enough to read his post one more time before hitting the Publish button.

It appears to me that the mayor fundamentally does not understand the role and responsibilities of a municipal government. He was elected to a position that has as its primary function and purpose providing for the safety, health and welfare of the citizens. That’s all we have municipal government for, that’s why it exists.

That’s why we pay taxes.

The mayor insults his constituents. He acts like we live in an agrarian society where we live off the land. In a municipal neighborhood, we do not have goats and cows in the backyard to supply milk, chickens for eggs, a well for water, and a rack of firewood. We do not have wood stoves to heat the house and boil water.

Instead, we have a contract with the water company to supply water, and another with the power company to get electricity, so we can leave our houses safe for our families while we go to work. We pay our electricity and water bills with the expectation that we continue to receive reliable services.

Getting services we contract for by ordering them from the power company is not “looking for a handout” as the mayor calls it. The power company only exists because there are enough citizens that sign up to buy power on a subscription service. When the power company all of a sudden stops delivering, it’s breaking its contract, it’s not fulfilling its responsibility. Asking the power company to live up to what it signed up for is not socialism, and it’s definitely not asking for a handout.

Calling citizens lazy when they are upset about the broken promises of the vendors and the government is an insult on top of injury.

The mayor actually says:

I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves!


So the mayor decides that some able-bodied citizens somehow magically go to the power company and turn the heat back on? The mayor decides who is elderly and can’t help themselves? He calls for people to stop being part of the problem, as if the people brought on the bitter cold in Texas. He calls for people to start taking care of their own families, without any practical suggestions as to how to do that.

Finally, he claims that the whole issue sadly is a product of a socialist government.

I just wonder what government he is talking about. Obviously, he has been the leader of that government in Colorado City for some time. And the Republican governor of Texas has been in power for several years. And the Republican president just finished his four years in office. So as far as I am concerned, Republicans have been in charge in Texas for a long time. What socialist government is the mayor referring to?

This is not 1880 in a Texas homestead. This is 2021 in a modern society where we rely on critical infrastructure to work.

What exactly is the mayor’s job then, if it’s not representing the community, and keeping people safe, healthy and protected?

Well, the mayor has resigned, and hopefully the people of Colorado City get a chance to elect somebody who at least has a rudimentary understanding of the responsibilities and duties of municipal government.

I wish them luck, and I hope that the cold breaks soon and they get relief.

Prison for Critics of Thai Monarchy

Source: Time Magazine, Feb 1, 2021, page 11.

I have been openly critical of the Thai monarchy. Heck, am critical of all monarchies, and I am fortunate to live in a country that does not support a monarchy.

However, I have previously posted about the Thai monarchy, and it was not flattering, here and here.

Given that people who don’t agree with the monarchy get 43-year prison sentences, I had better be careful and not accidentally travel to Thailand and get arrested. I am not sure I want to see the inside of a Thai prison.

It makes me wonder about the solidity of the values of the monarchies and the characters of the monarchs themselves when they can’t handle public criticism and are so afraid of it that they have to look dissenters up for life.

It does not buy my respect.

This makes me doubly grateful that I live in the United States, a democratic republic, where opposition to the leadership is settled by going to the ballot box, a system recently tested to its foundations, and a system worthy of protecting.

My freedom to write this without getting prosecuted depends on it.

Pandemic Gardening

During the pandemic, we have spent more time in the yard, and one of the fruits of our labor were bell peppers.

To put this in perspective:

The two peppers on the left we bought at the market for 99 cents.

The two peppers on the right we grew ourselves. Given the cost of the plants, the planter, the irrigation, they probably cost 99 dollars, and it took at least 3 months to grow them.

Time and money well-spent.

I won’t talk about our carrots. Not a single one succeeded. I think we planted too late, and we have to start again in the spring. Good thing we’re not dependent on living off the land.

COVID à la Sesame Street

Here is Elmo with an umbrella.

When it rains outside, we can use an umbrella to stay dry.

If you don’t use an umbrella, and you go out in the rain, you get all wet.

Getting wet is not good.

Staying dry is good.

That’s why we use an umbrella in the rain.

Elmo is smart.

He uses an umbrella.



Voting by Mail in California

I have voted.

I have voted by mail for at least the last 20 years.

This year, it’s more controlled than ever. I signed up for tracking of my ballot, and I am getting texts every step of the way. I received a text when my ballot was mailed to me. I filled it out on Tuesday and dropped it into the mailbox down the street.

Today I got this text:

I am not sure it could get any better than that. California can do it. Why can’t all states do this?

We are registered by our driver’s licenses, passports, social security numbers, and all out banking methods. We have a registry of voters in every state, it’s called the “Registrar of Voters.” A simple ballot tracking system would make voting safe, speedy and efficient, and every vote can be counted.

But then again, the NRA does not want a national registry of gun ownership. I wonder why.

And it appears the GOP does not want safe, expeditious and effective ballot tracking. I wonder why.

Alice Cooper – I Wanna Be Elected

Alice Cooper is known as the “godfather of shock rock.” Here is a performance of his hit Elected, done in 2016 over 44 years after the song first came out, just before the showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the fateful election of the two most unfortunate choices in American history.

I was 16 when Elected came out and it influenced my taste for Rock ‘n’ Roll. Alice Cooper was never a rock hero to me, but he still was involved in building the memory foundations of my youth. His music brings back that time of my life.

In 2013 Alice Cooper did an insightful AMA (“ask me anything” session) on Reddit that is very much worth reading. Contrary to what his stage personality portrays, he seems to be a smart, level-headed, articulate and sensitive person with a lot of history and deep insight into show business.

And of course – School’s Out for Summer, School’s Out for Ever is all too true in the age of the Coronavirus.


What’s the Definition of Liberals?

A friend forwarded to me the commentary below, which I printed here verbatim.

The question remains for me then: In order to hate liberals, you have to know how to recognize one. What is a liberal, versus, for the sake of argument, a conservative? Or a non-liberal?

I consider myself fairly conservative, but I am usually labeled a liberal. I don’t own a single firearm. Does that make me a liberal? I do not believe in corruption in government. Does that make me a liberal?

I wonder if there is a definition.

The question was posed, “Why do people continue supporting Trump no matter what he does?” A lady named Bev answered it this way:

“You all don’t get it. I live in Trump country, in the Ozarks in southern Missouri, one of the last places where the KKK still has a relatively strong established presence. They don’t give a shit what he does. He’s just something to rally around and hate liberals, that’s it, period.

He absolutely realizes that and plays it up. They love it. He knows they love it.

The fact that people act like it’s anything other than that proves to them that liberals are idiots, all the more reason for high fives all around.

If you keep getting caught up in “why do they not realize this problem” and “how can they still back Trump after this scandal,” then you do not understand what the underlying motivating factor of his support is. It’s fuck liberals, that’s pretty much it.

Have you noticed he can do pretty much anything imaginable, and they’ll explain some way that rationalizes it that makes zero logical sense?

Because they’re not even keeping track of any coherent narrative, it’s irrelevant. Fuck liberals is the only relevant thing.

Trust me; I know firsthand what I’m talking about.

That’s why they just laugh at it all because you all don’t even realize they truly don’t give a fuck about whatever the conversation is about.

It’s just a side mission story that doesn’t matter anyway.

That’s all just trivial details – the economy, health care, whatever.

Fuck liberals.

Look at the issue with not wearing the masks.

I can tell you what that’s about. It’s about exposing fear. They’re playing chicken with nature, and whoever flinches just moved down their internal pecking order, one step closer to being a liberal.

You’ve got to understand the one core value that they hold above all others is hatred for what they consider weakness because that’s what they believe strength is, hatred of weakness.

And I mean passionate, sadistic hatred.

And I’m not exaggerating. Believe me.

Sadistic, passionate hatred, and that’s what proves they’re strong, their passionate hatred for weakness.

Sometimes they will lump vulnerability in with weakness.

They do that because people tend to start humbling themselves when they’re in some compromising or overwhelming circumstance, and to them, that’s an obvious sign of weakness.

Kindness = weakness. Honesty = weakness.

Compromise = weakness.

They consider their very existence to be superior in every way to anyone who doesn’t hate weakness as much as they do.

They consider liberals to be weak people that are inferior, almost a different species, and the fact that liberals are so weak is why they have to unite in large numbers, which they find disgusting, but it’s that disgust that is a true expression of their natural superiority.

Go ahead and try to have a logical, rational conversation with them. Just keep in mind what I said here and be forewarned.”

The Cover of Time – An American Failure

So many deaths. We have the most deaths of all countries. Some of these people were great people, terrific people – on both sides. We have a 9/11 every four or five days now. Horrific numbers. In America, we like big numbers, tremendous numbers. No country has numbers like we do. Of course, people tell me that not all of these deaths are virus deaths. Some of these people were old and would have died anyway. That makes them fake deaths. It’s not our fault that they died, some of them. Nobody could have expected this. It’s not our fault.

Pacifica – Let’s Create a New Nation

In the age of Trump, where the federal government continuously slams and attacks California and Oregon, I think we Californians should take a different approach.

Trump acts like California is a burden to the United States. Far from it. California pays far more to the federal government than it gets back.

But be that as it may, we don’t want to be a burden, do we?  I think we should form a new nation, called Pacifica. Some people have called the California secession the Calexit. We should invite Oregon and Washington to join us.

Then, for good measure, we should also invite Baja California and British Columbia to join us too. There is a good chance they might be interested. This would be the map of the new nation Pacifica:


We would have six states, named from north to south:

  • Columbia – we would drop the “British” part.
  • Washington – the current Washington State
  • Oregon –
  • Jefferson – that would be what is now California north of the Bay Area
  • California – Bay Area to the Mexican border
  • Baja – current Baja California and Baja California Sur.

Our capital should be Portland, Oregon, since it’s centrally located.

We would be the most diverse people in the world, with significant Asian and Latino populations.

To make the economic case, this is a chart of the current population and GDP of the component states:

Pacifica would be the 4th largest economy in the world, according to the chart below, with a $4 trillion economy.

Not only that, Pacifica would have the highest GDP per capita (see yellow cell above) in the world. We would be by far the richest nation of all the large economies.

All of the leading tech companies, and the largest and most valuable companies in the world would be in Pacifica, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Tesla, SpaceX and Boeing.

SpaceX would no longer fly out of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Since Pacifica does not have an ocean to its east, we’d go back to Kwajalein Island, an atoll between Guam and Hawaii, where SpaceX flew its very first rockets back starting in 2005. We would invite Kwajalein Island, a U.S. Territory, to join us, or we’d rent part of the island for a space port.

Alaska and Hawaii would always be welcome to join Pacifica if they so chose.

We would have great forests in the north in Columbia, thousands of miles of pristine beachfront property in Baja to fuel a real estate boom on the peninsula never seen before. Tourists from all over the world would flock to Pacifica’s southern peninsula for vacations in the sun.

Given our massive economy, great weather, and enormous natural resources, we would have an unprecedented economic boom, and with a population of only 60 million in our large country, we would welcome immigration.

We would not build any walls. Refugees coming into Pacifica through the deserts of the Southwest from Idaho, Nevada, Arizona and Mexico, would always be welcome, and we’d issue guest worker visas for them if they wanted to get jobs in Pacifica. We’d have a guest worker program that would provide a path to citizenship within five years of residency.

I am ready to start drafting the constitution.

Let’s get started!

If We Had a Real Leader – by David Brooks in the New York Times

Of course, right now we don’t have a real leader. We have Donald Trump, a man who can’t fathom empathy or express empathy, who can’t laugh or cry, love or be loved — a damaged narcissist who is unable to see the true existence of other human beings except insofar as they are good or bad for himself.

David Brooks in the New York Times

Tired of All This Winning

40 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last three months.

1.7 million Americans are infected with the Covid-19 virus, and over 103,000 Americans have died of it.

There has been racial rioting in all the major cities in the country during the past week.

There is no end in sight to the violence, destruction, and the curve of the disease.

Is this the America that is “great again” that we were all promised?

Has anybody noticed that it’s not working? It looks more like dystopia to me.

I am tired of all this winning.

America’s Return to the Manned Space Program

Next Wednesday, May 27, 2020, is a big day. For the first time since July 8, 2011, American astronauts will be launched on an American spaceship from American soil.

When NASA grounded the space shuttle fleet in 2011, I didn’t think it was a good idea, and I never would have thought that for almost 10 years America would not have the capacity to launch humans into space. Of course, I also didn’t think in 1973 that we would not return to the moon for another at least 50 years.

On May 6, 2002, a 29-year-old South African immigrant named Elon Musk started a little company called SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. He wanted to make space travel cheaper so Mars could be colonized. I was a businessman in 2002, and if you had asked me if it was a good idea to start a rocket company I would have said you were insane. If you then had asked me if it was a good idea a year later to also start a car manufacturer in the United States, I would have said you’re insane squared. Musk did both of those things in 2002 and 2003 respectively, and has run both of those companies in parallel ever since. If you want to read a good biography of Musk, I can highly recommend Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk.

The rocket and the spaceship that will launch two American veteran astronauts next Wednesday are built by SpaceX. This will be the first time ever a private company launches humans into orbit. I would not have thought this was possible in 2002. If told it was, I would have bet that the company doing it would be Boeing, or McDonnell Douglas, or Lockheed, but certainly not a startup.

I have been a businessman all my life myself. I have had many product launches, and deployments of new things for the first time. I know what it’s like to bet your company on a single product or a single project, and then succeed. I also know what it’s like that last night before “go live” when a thousand things can go wrong and make the whole project come crashing down. I know that the CEO can’t sleep the night before an important launch. I know how it feels when the pulse races, and the circular thinking at 2:30am does not let you calm down. I know what it feels like when all is at stake.

But even knowing all this, I cannot imagine what it must be like in Elon Musk’s life right now, for the next few days, when all is at stake and all the world watches as two American astronauts sit on top of a stack of highly explosive fuel to go to orbit, something no private company has ever done before. If something goes wrong, people die.

The pressure must be enormous.

I will be watching, and I am rooting for SpaceX and Musk.

Woes of the United States Postal Service

Trump is messing with the postal service. There is a push to privatize it.

Germans started privatizing their “Deutsche Bundespost” in 1998, and went through several transactions. It’s generally considered a success.

I am not advocating that the United States Postal Service be privatized per se, but I have to criticize it.

In today’s world, and by that I mean the world in the last 15 years, there is no reason why the postal service is not wildly successful. We’re shipping more than ever. With the pandemic, that is even more accentuated.

Any organization in the business of shipping goods should be flourishing. The postal service is not. And it is not for the lack of a dedicated and experienced workforce. It’s because of mismanagement.

The postal service needs commercial leadership, not politicians or bureaucrats, to lead it. Do I sound like a privatization hawk? Yes, I do.

The postal service needs help and work. But now is not the time. We have enough problems on our hands. We need to unplug 2020, wait 10 seconds, and then plug it back in. Right now is not the time to mess with the United States Postal Service. That’s for another year.

I am going to the post office this week to buy a couple of rolls of stamps to boost its revenue.