The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

By the way... there's a crossword at the bottom of this page

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cell Phone Confusion


We (Faye and I) purchased a Lincoln  last week, as I told you last week. But, of course, that wasn't the end of the story. With a new car purchase (as with any major purchase) there are things that happen afterward. Things like learning the idiosyncrasies of the new vehicle and dealing with communication needs. The Lucerne had OnStar, which Faye used to make the occasional phone call. Fords and Lincolns do not use OnStar and, therefore, we (meaning "I") needed to come up with some kind of replacement system.

In my Focus, I simply used the Bluetooth connection my cell phone and the Focus supported. That seemed like the ideal way to deal with the communication issue I had with the Lincoln. So I ambled to the local Walmart and purchased a "GoPhone." Not a smartphone, just what they call a feature phone. They are cheap and work well for this purpose. You see, all Faye needed was a way to make hands-free phone calls. She did not need apps or anything fancy like that.

I worked for AT&T for 34 years... you would think I would know something about phones. And I do... but not what I needed to know about Bluetooth and phones that use it.

The phone I bought had Bluetooth capability but it did not have it turned on. I found that and enabled it. Then I learned that I needed to turn something called "visibility" on because that, too, was disabled by default. These two things made the phone discoverable by the vehicle. But it still didn't work right. It would find the phone but then the phone would ask if I wanted to "sync" with the system in the car. And, after answering that in the affirmative, it wanted to know if it should share the addressbook with the system. It took me a few days to figure out how to make that automatic. It turned out that I needed to look under "Devices", find "SYNC" and then configure an option that said "Always connect."

That made it work the same as my other cell phone which only needed to be told to "Auto-sync."

I hate it when phones are smarter than me. And I really hate that the terminology they use is not standardized.


And, in addition, the door from the house to the garage decided to act up, prompting me to have to call a locksmith to fix it. Of course, no locksmith could come out until Monday so it was two days of using the handheld garage door openers and the front door.

I did not have a good weekend.

 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We're All Going To Die!


And, of course, it's all our fault. It isn't clear in this article if humans will be wiped out in this "mass extinction" but perhaps...

The article, at one point, states:
The planet's current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.

In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet's sixth mass biological extinction event.

Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.


I have to wonder... just how are we doing this? Or, in other words, just what is causing this reduction in populations?

The article says:
Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

The article says the large vertebrates show the greatest decline. It attributes this to humans basically crowding them out. That is, we are expanding rapidly and, in so doing, are shrinking their available habitats. That's understandable. But it could blow back on us... for example...

"Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission," said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle."

Most of the mass extinctions in history have come from huge meteors or the eruptions of super-volcanos. But, this time, it's US (human beings) at fault. I disagree... a little.

While I agree that our encroachment on the habitats of animals is an important, even major, factor in the reduction of many species I do not agree that we are in the beginning stages of a Mass Extinction. I think we are a part of nature, part of the fauna on the planet, and are just doing what any species does; expanding our habitat. We are the "dominant species" now.  We have always done this... and likely always will. No other species cares whether its actions impacts its fellow species (and we once didn't) but they have impacted other species. Nature, for the most part, kept that impact down. A species which grows too large in number displaces others... which sometimes affects its own ability to expand and which can then cause their own species to contract. We are doing that (expanding our habitat) and have been for millions of years.

We started as a small population in a very large world. We have grown enormously over the ages. This naturally displaces other species and probably caused numerous species extinctions. It is only recently that the idea that this is bad has become mainstream. Maybe only recently have we even bothered to notice.

But don't worry, our own actions may prove to be the regulation factor in our population size. The article talks about an increase in rodent population, for example, which could increase the number of pathogens which could, naturally, kill a large number of us off. Science, however, will try to combat these pathogens and reduce the impact. This could result in our maintaining (or even increasing) our numbers.

Seems to me that perhaps science ought to consider that it is at the heart of our problems and stop doing what they have been doing. Let us dwindle in size as we once did through plagues (mostly) and natural disasters.

Join me! Become a Neo-Luddite and save the planet!



Monday, July 28, 2014

Bubbles


I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
 
We've seen "bubbles" a few times. Few of us notice them when they are growing, only when they "pop." I am speaking of economic bubbles here. They are useful economic devices, these bubbles, but very dangerous. Creating, or expanding (by encouraging), a bubble can bring an economy back from a recession or out of a doldrum.  Those that recognize a bubble can benefit financially from it. Most of us don't. Most of us eventually get hurt by the collapse of one. 


Take the real estate bubble of a few years ago. I took advantage of it when it inflated the price of my home in West Palm Beach. It paid for my house here in Paradise when I sold it. The false equity did, that is. What is "false equity?" That would be the amount of equity above what a "normal" market price would offer. Let's say you bought a house in 1993 for $120,000 (as I did), that home would be worth $161500 in 2005 in a "normal" market. Except we were in a real estate bubble in 2005 and the home was worth more than twice that amount. After we bought our home here, of course, its value dropped quite a bit  when the real estate bubble "popped" but that would only matter if we tried to sell the house... something we did not  (and do not) plan to do.



Timing is everything. While I was still in West Palm Beach, a co-worker told me how he was making money on the side... by being part of a group of people who speculated in real estate. It was a great idea... as long as the bubble was growing in size. But all bubbles eventually burst, just as they did when we were little kids. And when this bubble broke, this co-worker and his group  saw their fortunes dwindle.... rapidly.

Like all things in a market; it's buy low, sell high to make money. The time to get out is before the bubble deflates. The big problem is recognizing just when that is. I got lucky with real estate, many others did not. 



Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Goofed!


I made a mistake the other day, I had Faye follow me to the local Ford dealership where I had an appointment to get an oil change (a free one). I shouldn't have. I should have just gone there and called her to pick me up when I dropped off the Focus.

But, I didn't. And she pulled up in front of the dealership, a salesman chatted her up and started showing her a Lincoln MKS. For those of you who are not up on these things, the MKS is a gussied up Ford Taurus which has a Lincoln logo emblem and nicer (and more expensive) options available.

Of course she fell in love with it. And, of course, we ended up buying it. I knew this was coming. So it is really my fault.

Still, I like the car and am glad we bought it. It has all the "bells and whistles", including remote start and rain sensor windshield wipers and air-conditioned (
and heated) seats in front.   There's the back up camera, the parking sensors, Blind Spot Warning, and much more. I hate buying cars because of what has to be done afterward. Not to mention it takes hours to finish the paperwork. Just getting my Sunpass account configured for the new car was a pain. Her Lucerne used a barcode windshield sticker for that purpose but I bought a new device to replace it. Activating that wasn't hard but I found that my two cars were not on the same account (even though I had requested the Sunpass people do that many months ago... when I purchased my Focus). They promised that would be done this time... in 5-7 business days...but I am not holding my breath. I have no faith, I suppose. But, this time, getting the insurance transferred was simple. And then I worked up a sweat (not hard to do here in July) configuring the built-in garage door opener. I still have to pick up a bluetooth enabled phone to replace her old OnStar setup and get that established on the system.

I came home from golf yesterday to hear complaints about the car not "remembering" her seat position. I got her straightened out on that. She thought just having the "magic" key (it's one of those push button start things) with her would somehow make that happen. I explained, and demonstrated, how it actually worked. All she had to do was push the start button and the seat would adjust to her pre-sets. Then she could easily step on the brake and press the start button again to start the car. You have to step on the brake before the car will start. Otherwise the car just turns on accessory power.

The next few months will be a learning experience for both of us. With me doing the most learning, I figure.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Aren't Ads Annoying?


Not just the ads you see on TV (the number 1 reason I DVR everything... so I can fast forward through them) but internet ads as well. Extremely annoying. And they use data collected from each of us to tailor the ads to suit our "profiles." Which explains why I see so many ads for golf instruction and equipment.

But they have gone too far. One of my favorite sites is jigzone, a site that offers a daily jigsaw puzzle. It's useless now because of ads. Ads that I cannot block with the ad blocking app that I use on Firefox. I do not know how they are getting around the adblocker but they are doing it. Here are the filters I have added to combat them:

http://cdnx.tribalfusion.com/*.swf
https://a248.e.akamai.net/*
https://a248.e.akamai.net/*
http://cdnx.tribalfusion.com/media/*
https://a248.e.akamai.net/img.atdmt.com/*
http://cdnx.tribalfusion.com/media/*

You will, no doubt, notice that there are repetitions. This is because what works one day does not work the next. And the ads interfere with the usability of the puzzle. At times I cannot even move a puzzle piece and must close the browser and re-access the page. The fault may lie with Java or Flash, whichever is used, but I no longer care. And the page owners are concerned with their privacy. So much so that I could not learn who owns the site. Apparently, they had a company that specializes in keeping site owners secret register the site for them. So I cannot write to them and complain.


It's too bad. I will miss going to that site.


Or would have... Wouldn't you know that the day this is to be posted that I take one more look at the page and, voila, no ads pop up?


And now they are back. So, it's into the "junk pile" of unwanted web sites, Jigzone goes! And stays!