Wednesday, October 21, 2015

It's Back To The Future Day!

And at exactly 4:29 PM (Pacific Time) later today, Marty and Doc will appear in what is now present day Hill Valley, California where kids zip about on rad hover-boards, wear rainbow luminescent clothing and are enjoying "Jaws 19" in the local theater.

But, of course, Hill Valley and its futuristic, albeit present-day, inhabitants don't really exist. Neither do Marty and Doc for that matter.

Of course this is all about the '80s movie "Back to the Future II" in which Marty and Doc travel to the future to right a wrong caused by their time traveling.

Above is a mock-up of the LED display panel in Doc's Delorean except the current time displayed is right now (or was when I screen captured it) instead of 1985.

In honor of the day, the film is actually playing in several theaters. Nostalgia, hype about a great classic film or savvy marketing gimmick? Who cares? We may not yet have cars that can fly and be powered by garbage in a mini fusion reactor but what the heck...we can always look to the future.

Edit: We don't have flying cars yet but we do apparently have self-driving cars!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thanks, Punk!

But really: Continue to gouge quietly, will ya!
So this is the punk that stole over three grand from me.

It's Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. He's the guy everybody is targeting as the brainchild of that 5000% price hike on a drug that treats an opportunistic rare illness that is usually only seen in AIDS patients. That's right, he's gouging dying people. Nice guy. He looks too young to be a CEO if you ask me. Wonder who his daddy is?

From what I learned a couple weeks ago during an HIV/AIDS in-service we had here at work, medications needed for AIDS treatment are heavily subsidized for qualified individuals (which includes most any AIDS patient who is not independently wealthy) by a federal grant through the Ryan White Foundation. So the gouge really affects everyone since the Foundation is funded by Congress with taxpayer money.

And here is how it's affected me in another way. Because of the public backlash after the news story of this price jump was diseminated by the media, public outrage has affected the stock of almost all the pharmaceticals in the US. And what was my until recently portfolio chock full of in my retirement 403b fund? That's right, pharmaceuticals. This is why I've lost so much potential earnings over the past few weeks and as you can see below, it forced me to shift the majority of my holdings into my other fund which is in more blue chip standard industries. Still profitable, but far less dynamically so than the previously heavily invested fund.

I did keep just under a thousand in that pharma fund just in case the turmoil settles and the fund regains its wildly sharp upturn again. Now of course we know the real reason for that steep rise. If it goes back to that model, I may play Sargent Shultz and faux-blindly shift funds back to ride the white horse, sweeping up some crumbs from the one percenters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Too Easy?

So I was taking a breather from the ongoing critter war today (and considering the toxic fumes of the mass spraying of insecticides, a breather is the correct choice of words) I stumbled in a mindless internet search across the federal website that assists in citizenship naturalization for the US.

I decided to take the civics portion of a sample test. If this were a real test it would need to be passed with a 60% score or better. Whatsmore, the real test is verbal so no multiple choice like those offered in the sample.

Well, perhaps I'm just a good citizen or something but even if the following questions didn't have multiple choice options as answers, I would have aced it nevertheless. Is it just me, or are these questions just too easy?

Here they are. By the way, I got a perfect score of 100% correct. (Answers on the bottom of this post)

1. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?

2. Who is the "Father of Our Country"?

3. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.

4. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

5. What is the name of the national anthem?

6. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?

7. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

8. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one power of the federal government?

9. Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.

10. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?

11. Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.

12. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.

13. What does the Constitution do?

14. When must all men register for the Selective Service?

15. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?

16. What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?

17. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?

18. What is freedom of religion?

19. We elect a President for how many years?

20. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

I think most of these questions are too easy because the events they point to are just too well known around the world, right? And the rest could easily be garnered by watching American movies or TV I'd guess.

Maybe it seems too easy 'cause I was brought up American. So for shits and giggles, I decided to take the citizenship test for another country to see how it compared. I chose Canada 'cause, well, my heritage is Canadian-American and I figure a lot of Canada's history is intertwined with the US, right? Should be easy-peasy!

Um, well, here's the test and the choices I made in blue for correct and red incorrect with the correct answers in green, (no prior studying):

1. What is the name of the Royal Anthem of Canada?
a. O Canada.
b. God Save the Queen (or King).
c. Bud the Spud.
d. The Star-Spangled Banner.

2. When did the British North America Act come into effect?
a. 1871.
b. 1898.
c. 1867.
d. 1905.

3. Which province has the most bilingual Canadians?
a. British Columbia.
b. Prince Edward Island.
c. Nova Scotia.
d. Quebec.

4. Which animal is an official symbol of Canada?
a. The moose.
b. The hawk.
c. The beaver.
d. The deer.

5. On what date did Nunavut become a territory?
a. July 1st, 1867
b. April 1st, 1999
c. June 24th, 1995
d. March 31st, 1949

6. Name two responsibilities of the federal government.
a. National defence and firefighting.
b. National defence and foreign policy.
c. Citizenship and highways.
d. Recycling and education.

7. What do you mark on a federal election ballot?
a. The candidate's name.
b. The number for the candidate.
c. An "X".
d. The voter's name.

8. What is the largest religious affiliation in Canada?
a. Roman Catholic.
b. Muslim.
c. Jewish.
d. Hindu.

9. Which Act granted, for the first time in Canada, legislative assemblies elected by the people?
a. The Constitutional Act of 1867.
b. The Constitutional Act of 1791.
c. The Constitutional Act of 1982.
d. The Constitutional Act of 2010.

10. Who was the first leader of a responsible government in the Canadas in 1849?
a. Sir John A. Macdonald.
b. Robert Baldwin.
c. Louis Riel.
d. Sir Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine.

11. Who was Sir Sam Steele?
a. A great frontier hero, Mounted Policeman and soldier of the Queen.
b. A military leader of the M├ętis in the 19th century.
c. The first Prime Minister of Canada.
d. The Father of Manitoba.

12. Which of the following is NOT a feature of Canada's system of government?
a. A federal state.
b. Parliamentary democracy.
c. Constitutional Monarchy.
d. Dictatorship.

13. Who have major responsibilities on First Nations reserves?
a. Band chiefs and councillors.
b. Municipal governments.
c. Provincial and territorial governments.
d. Federal government.

14. What did the Canadian Pacific Railway symbolize?
a. Easy access to the West Coast.
b. What can be achieved by working together.
c. Unity.
d. Ribbons of steel.

15. What is the highest military honour a Canadian can receive?
a. Purple Cross.
b. Badge of Courage.
c. Order of Merit.
d. Victoria Cross.

16. What is the role of the courts in Canada?
a. To enforce the law.
b. To guide people in our society.
c. To settle disputes.
d. To express values and beliefs of Canadians.

17. What is the difference between the role of the Sovereign and that of the Prime Minister?
a. The Sovereign is Head of State, the Prime Minister oversees provincial policies.
b. The Sovereign is the guardian of Constitutional freedoms, the Prime Minister selects the Cabinet ministers and is responsible for operations and policy of government.
c. The Sovereign links Canada to 52 other nations and the Prime Minister is the guardian of Constitutional freedoms.
d. The Sovereign is the symbol of Canadian sovereignty and the Prime Minister is her aide.

18. What is the name of the leader of the Opposition in Ontario?
a. Jim Watson
b. Tim Hudak
c. Jim Wilson
d. Dalton McGuinty
Question about your region

19. What was the significance of June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy?
a. It led to the establishment of the Juno Awards.
b. It liberated North Africa from Nazi occupation.
c. Canadians made a significant contribution to the defeat of Nazism and Fascism in Europe during the Second World War.
d. It resulted in the forcible relocation of Canadians of Japanese origin.

20. Which province is the main producer of pulp and paper and hydro-electricity?
a. Quebec
b. Ontario
c. British Columbia
d. Manitoba

I read the first one wrong and thought it meant the National Anthem of Canada. #18 was a total lucky guess!

65% on the Canadian test. One needs a 75% or better to pass. So I would have failed. Still, not that bad, I figure, for someone who didn't prepare one bit, eh? (Get it? Eh? Ha ha!)

By contrast here are the super easy correct answers for the United States test:

1. because of the state's population
2. George Washington
3. Mexican-American War
4. John G. Roberts, Jr.
5. The Star-Spangled Banner
6. the President
7. the President
8. to declare war
9. Mississippi River
10. eighteen (18) and older
11. Cherokee (the other choices weren't even native tribes of any other nation)
12. slavery
13. all of these answers (the other 3 were protection of rights, setting up the government and such)
14. between eighteen (18) and twenty-six (26)
15. freed slaves in most Southern states
16. give up loyalty to other countries
17. Atlantic Ocean
18. You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.
19. four (4)
20. Thomas Jefferson

A New Critter War

Unlike my last two apartments, I've been very fortunate in my current one to have had no bug problems at all. That is, until now. They are crawling into view on the computer monitor in front of me and every now and then, I can feel them crawling on me.

Thankfully, they're not roaches. Especially in the numbers and persistence I'm currently dealing with, a roach infestation like this would be shades of Cypress Springs 2004, or maybe worse. No, they're ants. Little, itty-bitty black ants. They're faster than many ant species I've had to deal with in the past and other very weird problems have sprung up as an obvious result of their adoption of my home as theirs.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to turn on the ceiling fan in my bedroom by flipping the wall switch. The fan didn't move. I flipped the switch down and up again. Nothing. I tried to turn the torchiere light near the far side of my bed on since it's the switch right next to the ceiling fan. It did nothing. The lamp remained dark. What the fuck? I checked the circuit breaker box to see if some power surge had occurred causing a circuit to be flipped. Nothing. All circuits normal.

Perplexed, I looked again at the light switch and I noticed about three tiny ants crawling on the switch plate and as I watched, a fourth popped out of the tiny space between the switch and the plate to join his brothers. Could ants have caused a problem with the electrical connection inside the switch? I shuddered to think how many ants it would take to cause that. Sure enough, as I unscrewed the switch plate and focused my small LED flashlight in there, I saw many more ants crawling all around. Oh shit. The wiring seemed to be intact and I expected that to be the case since these ants are so tiny, there'd be no way they could "eat through" the insulation of the wires. But there were, like any electrical switch box, some parts of the wire where it is screwed up under the contacts that are exposed. Did the ants get electrocuted by forming a connection with their bodies as they cluttered up the switch box? Again, there weren't THAT many as I looked at the wires right now, but maybe earlier?

I called maintenance and let them know I need them to come out for the dead light switch and to have pest control come out for the ants. I know from experience that apartment complexes rarely "hop to it" when summoned to do maintenance so I didn't really expect them within the few hours that remained of the normal work hours so after I got tired at my usual bedtime, I did stay up a little bit later "just in case" but eventually went to bed around 5:30 pm.

I really had needed a good sleep so I slept past the normal wake up time of around 10 pm and was awoken by the blast of my smoke detector going off. I jumped out of bed and noticed it was 1:30 am. I quickly made my way into the kitchen thinking that I may have left the oven on and it was creating smoke causing the alarm. No, it was off. When I went back to my bedroom, I looked at the light switch and it was covered with ants. The ants formed jagged lines running all up the lintels of the bedroom door and along the junction of the wall and ceiling all along the west side of the bedroom. Oh Hell No!

The next few hours I sprayed, scrubbed and generally made my entire apartment as clean as possible. These fuckers are looking for food! They're not gonna get it here.

So now, hours later my apartment is spotless, especially the wall around the light switch since I tried to eliminate their trails. There's a slight dusting of what looks like black mold along the baseboards, but I know it's the hundreds of dead ants fallen there after my repeated spraying. I'm almost out of RAID though and I really want to wait for professional pest control since I've read here on the internet that I should know what I'm trying to kill and to target the queen and her minions rather than just wipe out the foragers. They're expendable and will be replaced quickly, or worse, I could cause the colony to scatter creating more of a problem elsewhere in the apartment.

So far they're restricted to this immediate bedroom west wall area, except for some stragglers that got out of the bedroom. like the ones marching into my smoke detector setting it off about four times throughout the night before I unscrewed it, sprayed it and let it dangle from the ceiling. It's hard wired so I can't disconnect it but they haven't tripped it yet since I did that a few hours ago.

I will win this war but it's just so frustrating. I guess there really is no safe haven from bugs in Florida. Part of the price we pay to live in an environment of endless summer.

I read these fuckers might be what's called "crazy ants" and they've been known to cause electrical problems like the one I've had. And now I think they might have been the cause of the multiple power surges I've had to this northwest corner of my bedroom...where my computer is. Maybe they even got into the Dell that was in place before the current one and caused its power supply failure?

Another reason I think they are in here is that right outside the northwall of the bedroom, on the porch, there are a mass number (maybe a dozen or so?) of Daddy Longleg spiders and their webs up in the eaves and corners. Are they causing havoc with the ants who probably have that area as their main outdoor/indoor access point? I mean, if the spiders are eating the ants as they go out to forage for food from that entrance, once they start to not return the colony has to find alternate routes, right? And my eating at this desk probably doesn't help either.

Well, the sun is up so I can see them. I think I'll declare war on the spiders too in order to ease up the stress they're putting on the ants. I think when fighting what could be many thousands of ants, it's probably better to have them find a way out of your home so they can move on to greener pastures. At least that's what I'm hoping. Otherwise, it's nuke time for them.

We are man. We have the technology. We have the horrific insecticides and baits. We will prevail. The only good bug, is a dead bug, Rico! Remember Buenos Aires! Become a Citizen and Join Today!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Greetings Professor Chausse, It's Been A Long Time

This was basically the message that I got today after activating my newest credit card.

Yes I know, I'm supposed to be in what credit card obsessed myFICO forum members call "gardening." I'm letting the current cards age with tender loving care in order to up my FICO score due to the very important calculation of the average age of accounts. If you keep applying and receiving new cards, it can lower your average and keep you bogged down score-wise.

But the offer was too good to pass on. American Express (The ACTUAL American Express card issuers, not the AMEX provided under another bank like I have had for a while.) offered their AMEX Blue Cash Everyday card with the promise to earn a bonus of $150 if the card is used to charge over $500 in the next three months. Well, that's just too easy. It's like free money! It comes with the usual 0% APR for a year, then it goes to a decent 12.99%. With no annual fee and a $4000 credit limit right off the bat, I really was given the Godfather offer.

But here's the REAL kicker. It seems that the slight ding the new card would have done to my overall age of credit accounts is a totally mute point. In fact, from what the myFICO forum gurus indicate, I'm far better off now that I accepted this offer.

It seems that the computer system at the American Express Company is like the one depicted in the movie "Wargames" and, like the title quotation alludes to, their memory, like the W.O.P.R., is long-lived indeed. As you can see by the screenshot below, despite the fact that in 1986 some rep from AMEX harassed me while I was going through tough times after I defaulted on payments, despite the fact that they were named in my 1992 bankruptcy, despite all that, they are crediting me as being a cardmember since the original year I got my first American Express green card. That was 30 fucking years ago, way back in 1985!

American Express was the first major credit card I ever got. And it was the most painful to lose during my first financial crisis.

Like the Stones croon: Time really is on my side!

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Best Space Travel Movie Ever?

Well despite the immense hype that the new movie "The Martian" has gotten over the past few months I wouldn't give it this accolade. In my opinion, it's not even in the top 5. It wasn't bad by any means. Matt Damon did a fairly competent job and I liked the supporting cast. (Though I suppose he can blame it on the writing or directing, Jeff Daniel's NASA Director character seemed a bit too power-comfortable. It's like he was playing the President or something. IRL I don't think the NASA chief could, or would, deign to be so cavalier with orders and omnipotent over the entire space program.)

My main issues with the movie include:

Pacing. Okay, I know, he's stuck on Mars and it's not a quick fix to rescue him but it just seemed so drawn out.

The foolish "ah ha" moment. So we're supposed to believe some lowly astrophysicist in the bowels of some JPL cube farm just gets a Eureka moment one night and realizes that the mothership can slingshot around Earth and zoom back to Mars to save Matt Damon. Um, I thought of this waaaaaay before he did and I'm no astrophysicist.

NASA is the sole manager of these Ares Missions? We get this reference because the Chinese decide matter-of-factly to do the honorable thing and help the Americans out by using their booster whatever despite it setting them back in their own space goals. Well wasn't that mighty white of them.

The reason I find the idea of a solely American funded and coordinated program is, as the movie indicates, the program consists or consisted of at least five manned missions to Mars utilizing an enormous mothership, several lander rockets, habitat bases and rovers and such. The movie never informs us what year this is in the future but based on inferences of style and technology, it seems relatively near future (like maybe 2030s or so). Without any factoring in of inflation, this cumulative mission has to be measured well over a half trillion dollars. I mean really, let's do the math. Here are my present-day dollar estimates:

The Hermes Mothership as depicted in the film: $500 billion
Orion Propulsion Fuel for the 5 missions: $100 billion
Mars lander rockets, one for each mission, totaling: $100 billion
Habitat bases, rovers and other equipment: $50 billion
Astronaut training: $10 billion

Well golly, NASA sure must have lucked out with some incredibly generous members of Congress in the future! 'Cause with their current budget, it ain't gonna cut it.

Matt Damon oversaturation in similar roles. Hmm, Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded alone on a harsh planet...where have I seen this before? Oh yea, "Interstellar" only then he was a whiny evil bastard.

Kristin Whig. I'm sorry, I know she must want to follow in Tina Fey's footsteps but I still see Kristin Whig as too much of a comedic actor for dramatic roles yet. And in fact, I thought she played it a bit too glib.

But these flaws aside, the film was okay. The 3-D (which is how I saw it) was done nicely and not at all schlocky. I actually wouldn't have minded a little bit of schlockiness though like say that tethering belt Damon and Jessica Chastain get tangled in (just like Clooney and Sandra Bullock in "Gravity" hmmmm.) getting "in our face" 3-D wise.

Speaking of "Interstellar" and "Gravity" though, here are some other rippoffs homages in the film:

Astronauts running through a fierce sandstorm to get to the escape ship: "Prometheus"
Astronaut marooned on Mars having to grow food in a makeshift greenhouse for a long time: "Mission to Mars"
Recovering and using electronics from many decades old abandoned Mars rover: "Red Planet" Oh, and BTW, it's the same rover in both films: Pathfinder.
Traveling to and using a rocket-powered vehicle, after stripping it down in order to get into orbit: "Red Planet"

Pointing out all these flaws and ripoffs make me think that the movie wasn't that great after all. Certainly nothing that holds up to all the hyper-hype. I mean read any review and it's like they're all doing an impression that my friend Michelle and I used to do back in the eighties of Roger Ebert orgasmically screaming out the name of his then favorite film "Ran" by Kurasawa.

Rethinking it, maybe the best space travel sci-fi movie was actually this:

Or maybe not.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Busting My reddit Cherry

Last night I posted my first comment on reddit. This is a noteworthy event to many in the reddit community. No, not specifically my comment, but any reddit member's first comment is usually remembered and commemorated each year as a memorable milestone. The day they became one with the community.

My comment was to a Front Page post concerning the OP's interpretation of iconographic signs indicating restroom facilities. His or her picture depicted the typical iconographic representation of a Man for Men's Room, a Woman for Woman's Room and a man holding what was obviously meant to depict a baby to indicate a Changing Room but the OP humorously pointed out that, indeed, the simple graphic did actually look like a man cradling an enormous penis...if you deigned to look at it in a certain way.

My comment came as a continuation of a running thread "train of thought" style (as is common in reddit comments). Here's the thread as it appears up to now

Click to enlarge

Mine is under the username CapnBloetox. It says:

And the scrotal veins were hung by the fire with care.

For this I got 1 link karma and 44 comment karma. Whatever that means.

Meh. Maybe it'll add up to something someday.