Google Contributor

November 21st, 2014

Really? Google, the company built on advertising, might design a way to browse the ole web without being pestered? They’re calling it “Contributor”, or  “an experiment in additional ways to fund the web.” For a low monthly fee, you will be spared the incessant begging for your money. Right now, it’s invite only and blocks ads on only a handful of sites, but imagine how cool this could be.

What’s App

November 6th, 2014

It’s not all that popular in the US because by the time SMS texting really caught on here, it had become fairly cheap and currently mostly included for free, but in Europe “What’s App” is very very common. Of its 16.8 million citizens, about 9 million are customers in Holland and a little change in the software has set off a shit storm of privacy concerns there: you can now tell if and even precisely when the recipient ‘read’ your message. The upset ones call it a ‘breach of privacy’! My question is: how insecure have we become? My goodness, this is just silly, isn’t it? Is the extra social pressure that results from this really that bad?

As we learn to use all these new methods of communication, we starting to lose a lot I’m afraid. I’ve already encountered many examples of misunderstanding, sometimes serious, that resulted from misinterpretation; is that really unexpected when we limit ourselves to 160 characters of written text? No facial expressions other than the precious few emoticons we have, no subtleties like the ones hidden in the tone of your voice. It has lead to a level of insecurity that’s really bad: “Why isn’t she getting back to me! She has read my message………” The two check marks that turn blue when the message has been read don’t tell the whole story: did the recipient truly read the thing? Under what circumstances? It’s pretty much meaningless, except perhaps to the most insecure. We are turning into teens permanently…..

Electorate

November 2nd, 2014

Made the mistake of reading the comment-section of a political article on the LA Times website again today….phewwwwwwwwwww…the polarization is really, REALLY frightening, isn’t it? The same rhetoric, over and over and over again: Obama is leading us into a socialist hell, illegals are bankrupting California, the rich don’t care about anyone but themselves….you can just hear the propaganda being mindlessly repeated. Of course it’s not completely representative of everybody, but unfortunately, I find that there are fewer and fewer people I meet who are in the middle. Exceedingly rare is the Liberal who’ll admit we do have a problem with dependency on federal handouts, or a Conservative who’ll concede that raising taxes or the minimum wage may not always be bad for the economy. Instead, there are endless numbers of people who can’t even manage their personal finances, yet feel they can have valid opinions about how to run the country’s!

Let’s look at one thing always talked about, but so badly understood: the national public debt. According to Wikipedia: Except for about a year during 1835–1836, the United States has continuously had a fluctuating public debt since its Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789.” Do you know when it was highest in the US as related to how much we make? After World War II, when it stood at 112% of GDP, or 1.12 times the total wealth created in one year. War is expensive and that one was a biggie. Afterwards though, in 1953 after eight years of democratic presidencies it was down to 71.4%, then in 1961 after 8 years of Republican rule it stood at 55.2%  and in 1969 after 8 more years of Blue it had been reduced to 38.6%. You see, when everybody is on board so to speak, a country can move mountains! The ‘problem’ was solved by hard work and unprecedented growth, something that is obviously NOT exclusive to a Republican frame of mind.

By the end of Carter’s time in 1981, the debt was at 32.5% of GDP, but then an interesting thing happened! You see, the GOP is always talking about fiscal responsibility, blasting the left for supposed overspending, but the next 30 years paint a completely different picture: 8 years of Reagan and 4 of Bush Sr. left us at 66.1% a doubling of the relative debt!  Clinton brought it back down to 56.4 in two terms, only to let Bush Jr. crank it back up to 84.2 in the same length of time and more importantly leave us in a really deep pickle with a government running enormous deficits every year!

Federal_Debt_Held_by_the_Public_1790-2013

Right now, it’s important to discuss some of the nuts and bolts of the Federal budget which are least understood, like how deficits are reported. Again from Wiki: “The annual change in debt is not equal to the “total deficit.” Social Security payroll taxes and benefit payments, along with the net balance of the U.S. Postal Service, are considered “off-budget”, while most other expenditure and receipt categories are considered “on-budget.” The total federal deficit is the sum of the on-budget deficit (or surplus) and the off-budget deficit (or surplus).” And: “In large part because of Social Security surpluses, the total deficit is smaller than the on-budget deficit.

You see, as I’ve written about on the pages before, contrary to popular belief, right now Social Security is taking more money in than it’s paying out, and some of the money is used to pay for other things the government does. One last important thing to note: “Contrary to popular belief, reducing the debt burden (i.e., lowering the ratio of debt relative to GDP) is almost always accomplished without running budget surpluses. The U.S. has only run surpluses in four of the past 40 years (1998-2001) but had several periods where the debt to GDP ratio was lowered. This was accomplished by growing GDP (in real terms and via inflation) relatively faster than the increase in debt.”

So where are we now? The fact is that the combination of modest growth and serious military spending has put us in a position similar to the one we were in in 1945. I suggest everyone do some research and see how we got out of that one, before advocating policy! Let me just mention that, in my opinion, the fact that wealth inequality fell and fell at the same time our debt was, all the way to the 1970s, only to rise in tandem since then is not a coincidence…..food for thought, as much as the history of Roosevelt’s “New Deal”.

Man Man part deux

October 30th, 2014

Got my bicycle back today! I ended up taking an Uber to the shop, for the amazingly low price of $4.86, or probably not much more than it would have been to drive my gas guzzler and sure enough it was ready. Back brake pads were good, new ones in the front, brakes feel good as new, new tires and tubes, lubing of the chain and new grips for the handle bar. Total bill: $66! Full disclosure: the derailleur is not properly adjusted, because when I select 7th(1?!?!?) gear it goes into 6th, but since that’s the only one I use anyway, I’ll live with it. Maybe one day it might be a fun project to adjust it myself…..

“That’s the way it had to of went down.”

October 29th, 2014

The commenter meant “….it had to have gone down.” But without saying it out loud, it might be quite confusing! This title was literally the last sentence of a very wordy comment on the “poked my heart” video on Youtube. Would you put any trust in anything else this person wrote?

Full comment:

“WOW! She made this account 5 days ago (24/09/14), uploaded her very first video, she’s got 2,450 subscribers. Me, i made my account 11 months ago and i only have 25 subscribers. I’ve not really been trying though. I’ve just uploaded 23 videos of some stuff that some people might like to see. This is a 2 minute video. It’s funny as hell, but it just makes you think. All the effort it took was to take out your camera for 2 minutes and record some children. My god. Effortless as hell.

This really goes to show how talented you have to be to get subscribers. I haven’t subscribed. I don’t hate the person who made the video or anything, i just think it’s stupid to subscribe when they only made one 2 minute video. Maby she’ll never upload again, who knows.

I know why everyone is subscribing though. They hope that this channel will become really famous and have millions of subs so they can tell their friends that they were the first people to subscribe. Imagine the first person to of clicked subscribe. What an idiot. Imagine him thinking this. “Alright! I found a channel with no subscribers, 1 video, 1 view. Alright! I’m subscribing” Hahahaha…. That’s the way it had to of went down.”

eVite

October 29th, 2014

Something strange happened to me; it bothered me, but maybe I’m crazy. A friend of mine invited me to a Halloween party via eVite, the ubiquitous invite-systems on the web. That in itself is fine, I get them once in a while, but I never repsond on the service; it just doesn’t feel right to give a commercial company that much insight in my life. Especially with all the ‘promotion’ we have to do these days as artists, I just don’t feel like publicizing yet another part of my life. I emailed my friend and told her I’d be there after my gig.

So much to my surprise, the next day I received another email from eVite explaining my RSVP had changed to ‘maybe’! Huh, I never did that! So, I went on there and changed it to ‘no’. Within minutes I get an email from my friend saying she’s “so sad I won’t make the party”, explaining she had changed the RSVP, “I just wanted to update the list for myself, I hope that didn’t bother you!” Am I crazy? I’m not mad or anything, but I do find this a pretty odd….. this culture of promotion is getting out of hand as far as I’m concerned ;-)

Alicia Keys

October 29th, 2014

Last week’s “Battle Rounds”, as bizarre as the premise they’re based on is namely making people who are on the same team fight each other, has showed us that this year’s talent pool on the Voice is pretty deep actually! So much so, that while watching I could not stop wondering where in the world we are gonna find enough songs for all of them once they start making albums!

The most powerful part of the show for me though, is when the contestants really learn something, about the craft or about themselves. This year Alicia Keys has been the most helpful so far, showing a few of them how one takes command of a stage! She’s a superstar, but her confidence comes not from being ‘hot’, as she’s gained quite a bit of weight again, but from knowing she’s got talent and abilities. In addition, quite a few hopefuls learned quite a bit about ‘feeling’ what you’re singing. There was some incredible progress, truly inspiring…..

You can say what you want, but most of the contestants are significantly better singers than ALL of the coaches, especially now that Aguilera is gone, but the assistants they bring in are top notch, and the whole machine is working. Again, becoming a true star is going to mean original songs and going forward that will be harder and harder. In Holland there has been a competition for songwriters on TV for a couple of seasons, with success I think. It’s probably time to start doing the same here…

Mad man

October 28th, 2014

After countless miles, my beloved bicycle’s year tire literally exploded a week ago and it was time: new bike, or refurbish this one…..as time has gone by, I bought some tires, a new seat which is worn out again, all at pretty high prices. If you add in new grips, truing the rims, oiling, tuning, most bike shops would probably charge $200 I figures and I only paid $220 for the thing new. Still, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and spend the money on a local shop, instead of Target. The frame of my bike is excellent, the pedals, the welding, even the derailleur and the wheels are solid. Damn it, even if it costs a little more than getting a new one, discarding the old one just doesn’t make ANY sense.

So where do I take it? The obvious choice is the place on Ventura, but they laugh at me and my Giant. Wait, there’s always the crazy guy on Woodman! His shop is so full of stuff, it looks like an episode of hoarders; not kidding. I check his ratings on Google: excellent, even though almost every review mentions how crazy he is, and how insanely packed his store.  To the Bike Factory it is!

When the man in his wheel chair finally figured out the required turns to back out because there simply wasn’t room to turn around, and I could respond to the grunting questions (?) the owner had directed at me over the wheel chair, I explained I needed all new tires in and out, new handle bar grips, new brake pads, full adjustment and lube, plus truing of the rear wheel, he quoted me $92! That’s excellent! According to the reviews, the man knows what he’s doing and my ride should be smoof az new.

Falli

October 28th, 2014

How about this one: an Icelander, married by the way, sets out to collect one of every mammalian species’ penises; there are between five and six thousand different ones, and he’s got every single one, from a giant whale cock to a tiny bumble bee bat bat……..there is only one mammal missing………Homo Sapiens of course! It’s the premise of a documentary called “The Final Member” which showed up on Netflix. I’m not gonna give it away except to warn you there is footage of Elmo, a very proud American’s penis, having been freshly tattooed with full color “Stars & Stripes”……yeah, no kidding! Not sure if the guy is an actor, but if you can handle it, it’s a very, very entertaining watch!

Unbundle

October 15th, 2014

As none other than Neil Young, who I just watched on Colbert this morning, sits tables behind me at Starbucks, I want to talk about some good news of the day, a show of progress if you will: HBO has announced it will start an online streaming service of some kind that does NOT require a cable subscription of any kind! Hallelujah! It certainly took long enough, but this is just excellent and I will be one of the first to put his money where his mouth is! It’ll probably be more than the $15 add-on it is now, but hopefully not much; I’m saving $25 by not patronizing Time Warner anymore, and would gladly pay that for perhaps Showtime and HBO on my computers. Now let’s hope that other talented content providers get on-board and we can shake this thing up a little….

BTW, Neil Young was promoting some music player device that gives you “100%” where an MP3 player gives you “5%”. He is of course strictly speaking correct, simply because the bitrate of the latter is normally a tenth of hat a CD has, and the former probably uses 96Khz, 24Bit audio. Of course our brains are so easily fooled, and I bet you 99% of all people would not be able to distinguish between the two formats, especially with the sonically limited material we listen to today.

Well, I decided to look it up: the device is called the PonoPlayer and costs $400. The corresponding Ponomusic service promises to always provide the highest resolution file-formats available for any particular content, with 44 Khz 16-bit as the lowest. The player does many formats up to 192Khz 24-bit….there you have it!