Monday, January 16, 2017

The Bright Winter Stars

Earth/ Sky News explains why stars seem brighter in the winter time. It has to do with us facing neighboring galaxies and them being closer. I figured it had something to do with atmospheric conditions such as colder air but no mention of that, unless I missed it.

The Future of Obamacare

Someone commented here earlier on that I should be worried over Republican threats to repeal Obamacare. That's a valid concern since my Anthem/Blue Cross health policy comes through Obamacare and, yes, I was concerned. For good reason since I have a chronic and serious illness requiring frequent medical consultation and considerable cost.

This Time magazine article explains the likely Republican moves with Obamacare and, as they've pointed out, it's not a complete shutdown of OC but "repeal and replace" or "repeal and delay". In either case it doesn't appear changes would take place immediately. As the article explains:

"The repeal-and-delay approach would repeal Obamacare as soon as possible, giving Republicans a symbolic victory. But it would delay the effective dates of key aspects of the repeal for a number of years. That way, consumers would not lose coverage abruptly, and lawmakers would not bear the political fallout of constituents’ outrage before the 2018 Congressional midterm elections. Under this scenario, the current system would continue largely as-is for a few years until a replacement plan is passed."

 " The repeal-and-replace route, by contrast, would see Congress repeal Obamacare and pass a replacement bill soon thereafter. At his news conference on Wednesday, Trump spoke in favor of this approach, saying that an Obamacare replacement would come nearly simultaneously with repeal."

What would those replacements look like?

" The proposals would generally favor younger consumers over older consumers—the former would likely pay less for coverage than they currently do, while the latter would pay more. Insurers would also be able to charge women more than men for coverage, a practice that the Affordable Care Act banned. Replacement plans would generally be less friendly toward people with pre-existing conditions."

So, it might be a little worse for people like me. I'll likely pay more, but my premiums have been going up anyway. My main concern is how much costs go up. But it's better than nothing and does put my mind at ease a bit. It looks like for now I just stay the course:

Consumers should take the [incoming] administration at its word that there will be no interruption, and go about their business,” says Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a health-care consulting firm based in Washington."

I've been fairly content with my Obamacare plan. Even if I wasn't, some libertarians, like to poke fun at those of us on government subsidized health insurance. I have no beef with it, my own case aside. You do what you have to do, and I've reminded my fellow libertarians that LP Presidential candidate, the late Harry Browne, recommended subsidized accounts of private health insurance- which is what Obamacare is- as a way deal with the health insurance issue. Regardless, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Chinese Smog

NBC News looks at China's horrific smog problem, including pictures that try to tell the story. I've been in Los Angeles back in the '60s on a bad smog day and that seems to pale in comparison to China today. Last time I was in L.A. was during the riots and the air seemed quite clear in comparison to the '60s.

What I don't get is all the Chinese in the pictures wearing dust masks. I don't see how that would help as smog is more chemical based than anything else. I could see it if it was more along the lines of dust. In that case a dust mask might help.

I've also always wondered about authorities telling people to stay inside during severe smog alerts. It would seem to me the air inside comes from outside so what's the difference? Then again, I remember L.A. back in the day with my eyes stinging from smog and it being sometimes hard to breath. But once inside a house, it seemed better. I've since come to think it was the air conditioners that cleaned the air in the homes. The air is run through cooling coils and it condenses the air to water. the pollution going into the condensed water. Makes for a nice air filter. Seemed to work back then, anyway.

The Chinese are going to have to do something to clean their air. They're killing themselves. I'm surprised their government hadn't taken stronger measures as their government has the power to do it. Look how far we've gone in this country cleaning up smog. Wouldn't it be easier with a slightly more authoritarian government than ours?

Then again, that could be easier said than done. I recall reading that something like 6 weeks before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government pretty much shut down every factory within 100 or so miles of Beijing in order to reduce smog for the Olympics. It didn't seem to do much good.

Life Lock

A commercial on TV last night piqued my interest. Life Lock supposedly monitors your credit card use for illegitimate charges, but also actually helps you out if someone steals your identity. As much as I use my credit and debit cards, I figured it might be prudent to sign up for something like that. It's only $9.99 a month for their cheapest plan.

I was all set to sign up this morning but the wife walked in and complained Life Lock might well be a scam in itself, since you're giving them all the sensitive information about yourself. I'd thought of that, but it still seemed fairly legit. At her request, though, I tried to find some reviews of Life Lock from people that might have used them before. I tried Yelp but came up blank. Then I tried Google and came up with this site that seems pretty informative. They seem to think it's legit but question whether it's worth paying for. That's what I wanted to know.

They point out your chances of being a victim of identity theft are 1 in 15. They then go on to point out Life Lock has had its own share of trouble:

"Yet the company got in trouble about 5 years ago for deceptive advertising and having done, ironically enough, a poor job protecting the info they had on you. They entered into a settlement with the states and the feds and restitution followed.

 Recently, they reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission that will see them pay up to $116 million in fines and penalties."

That doesn't look good. They point out you can also do a "credit freeze" which , "... will shut a criminal down cold when they try to apply for new lines of credit in your name." That sounds as if it could be useful. They also seem to recommend Credit Karma which also advertises on TV. I added their app to my cell phone some time ago but haven't used it yet. I think I'll go there now and see how that works and how lousy our credit is now.

Addendum: Just tried CreditKarma and it says my credit is excellent. Kinda strange, though, as they asked who I owed money to and the options I was given for answers weren't any business I was aware of.

Any of you had any experiences, good or bad, with these credit protection outfits?

Beach Hazard Today

Here's the link to the Weather Channel's beach hazard alert for today. Stay away from the water please.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Exorcist Priest Dead

This is the fist I've heard that the real life priest that the movie The Exorcist was based on had died...under peculiar circumstances according to the Daily Mail. That was back in 1999, so nothing really new. I'm just surprised I hadn't heard of it earlier. Looks like a documentary will be coming out over this, available on Sunday.

Find Anyone?

The Sacramento Bee asks if this site, Family Tree Now, makes it too easy to find someone. It does seem to work and, unlike similar sites, didn't ask me for money to complete the search. Searching for myself, it listed places I've lived all the way back to when I lived on Beechwood Drive in Cutten. Also had the wife listed as a relative, but didn't have my brother and sister. Might be a fun thing to play around with but many seem concerned, such as the girl quoted:

“I have a stalker, and my ... address and phone number are listed on this site,” one wrote. “It is a danger to many in society. As if i didn’t have difficulty sleeping before! Doors double locked. Thanks family tree ... this might be the last thing i ever say.

I appreciate her concerns but am not sure what to say to those who might want such sites made illegal. It does seem to me in this day and age if someone wants to find you, there's more than enough ways to do it. One web site might make it easier, but I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference. After all, all these sites do is compile information that's available elsewhere.

Read more here:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Galt's Gulch Online

I stumbled on to this Galt's Gulch Online site via Facebook. I've added it to my blog so I can check it out and see if it's somewhere I want to hang out. The Libertarian Party Facebook pages drive me nuts, but this doesn't look too bad from what I've seen.

For those that don't know, Galt's Gulch was the place where all the wise and rich men hid out when society collapsed after Altas Shrugged. An old Ayn Rand thing you'll mostly hear about from libertarians, and in negative terms from the progressives, of course.

Watch This Year's Second Space Walk

Earth/ Sky News tells us this year's second space walk outside the International Space Station is taking place from 7 to 11am Eastern Time today. That means now, if I have the times right- Pacific Time being four hours earlier than Eastern (or is it three hours earlier?). You can watch it online on NASA TV here. I can't since I keep getting some message I need an update to my Adobe player, or whatever it is, and I can't seem to update successfully. 

Addendum: Silly me; I mentioned this to the wife when she got up and she suggested maybe we could watch it on our regular television since we have the NASA channel. Yep, that works, and the spacewalk is on our TV as I type this.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Story About Seal Team 6

I found this story linked to at yesterday something I just couldn't put down, to put it in conventional reading terms. The Crimes of Seal Team 6, by its title, certainly has the intent of putting members of the team in a bad light- those crimes generally having to do with mutilation of enemy corpses. I didn't have a problem with that, though, even if true. It covers many of their more widely known operations, including first hand accounts of Bin Laden's killing.

I suppose you'd have to have interest in military history and stories of war as I do to find this interesting, or maybe not? A fun story for me, regardless. I wish there was more of it to read. 

Addendum: In the Ozy mail today is a story about a SEAL who is working as a technical consultant for the new TV series Six. Short read.

Sacbee: Drought Over For Northern CA

The Sacramento Bee reports that most of Northern California seems to be over its drought:

"The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday that 42 percent of California is now considered out of drought conditions. That includes practically all of Northern California, including the Sacramento region."

Congrats to everyone who has been driving their cars. We likely owe this to you. Now, if it would just warm up...

Read more here:

Our Overreaching Adult Protective Services

The North Coast Journal reports on an appalling local case where our county's Adult Protective Services is accused of interfering with the End of Life directive of a dying man. Apparently the man, feeling his end of life was near, filled out a directive he didn't want medical care that wouldn't cure him if it only continued to just to keep him alive.

His wife and everyone in the family seemed happy with that, but Adult Protective Services got involved somehow and then seems to have made up claims the man had been, and was being abused. As the article points out, Adult Protective Services seemed the odd man out in the situation: 

"Everybody here is on board except an outside third party, and they're not even family members,"

The man in question has since died. The APS workers just walked away and are thus likely to do this again. They deserve more sanction than simply being berated by courts. They shouldn't be able to just walk away.

I'm approached by hospital staff to complete an End of Life Declarations, or whatever it's called, every time I'm anywhere close to the hospital. This story encourages me to actually fill one out next time, although it also shows those declarations don't mean much when government rears its ugly head and gets involved.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Signs of Trees Getting Ready To Fall

I suppose this would seem common sense to most of us, but some of the warning signs might not be noticeable on a forest floor. With falling trees in the news recently, The Sacramento Bee warns us of some things to look for when trees are going to fall:

There are warning signs (before a fall),”. “We’ll see cracks in the soil around the base of the tree; that means something’s happening (with the roots below). Or the tree will have a little lean to its trunk, and it starts leaning more.
“You may see the ground raise up around the base of the tree,” he added. “When the wind is blowing, you can see the ground actually move. That’s scary.”

Fortunately, we just have one chestnut tree on the south side of our house to worry about, but I remember a big windstorm back around '76 when I was living on a ranch out in Maple Creek. My cabin had big pine trees right next to it. I could hear trees snapping and falling up and down the mountain and was of the mind it wasn't if the trees near my cabin fell, but when. I was scared to death, but the big trees I was worried about never fell. The tips the Bee gives us wouldn't have helped as the trees I saw next day that had fallen had snapped off a few feet above the ground and fell over. No roots involved.

As is obvious, I survived with only a story to tell.

Read more here:

Hospital Grades

Stumbled on to this hospital grading web site on another libertarian oriented blog. Here's the results for the hospitals within 50 miles of zip code 95501. For some reason that hospital in Fortuna is left out.

I suppose such things are nice to know, but I'm not sure I put that much value on ratings like this. If a certain hospital regularly got Fs, that might be cause for concern. I just seems to me, shit happens in hospitals and you can't always cover all the bases.

I spent some time last year in St. Joseph's. My personal annoyance with some things at St. Joes aside, it seemed a fine hospital to me.

That Obama Speech

President Obama gave his farewell speech last night. Believe it or not, I watched. Heck, nothing else on TV. I thought he did a nice job and have always felt him a good public speaker- I'll give credit where credit is due. 

I do wonder how some others fared with the speech? I knew Bill, over at Dreaming Up Daily, would be watching as he's idolized Obama from the get- go. No doubt in my mind he was likely bawling his eyes out over the whole thing. But, no evidence of it on his blog.  How about the rest of you? Any of you have to run to the store for a new box of Kleenex?

Anyway, that's the end of Obama's presidential activities, but we haven't seen the last of him.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Should There Be "Stupid Fines"

Some in Sonoma County are expressing discontent over careless actions by those who have been warned yet still driving across flooded roads and end up having to be rescued by authorities, including local fire departments and the Sheriff's helicopter. Some say those careless folks should be fined to pay for their rescue. I'm not so sure, although I agree, at least in part, but where do you draw the line?

We see time and again instances of people disregarding warnings and getting into situations where rescuers end up putting their lives on the line to save them. One that comes to mind for me is high surf warnings on our jetties, yet we see people out there romping around in front of large waves. Granted, I can't recall any recent rescues out there but there have been some in the past, one being some college students who drove a car out on the south jetty during high surf and had their car washed into the channel. One of those kids drowned. Another managed to make it back onto the rocks.

So, no fines in that case since nobody had to rescue them. Plus, I don't think warnings had been posted in that instance, either. Maybe common sense should have sufficed as a warning but, for legal purposes, it would seem a sign warning of dangerous conditions should be available.

I'd like to see the Coast Guard post signs on access points to the north jetty when we have high surf warnings. I'm almost of the mind that if someone goes past the signs designating a dangerous area, they should be ticketed for that alone. But while that might save people from getting washed into the sea, it seems a bit too nannyish for me. If they get washed into the channel and survive after being pulled out of the water, a fine seems appropriate since they had fair warning.

There's any number of other situations in which fines are appropriate. I was surprised to read in the comments to the Press- Democrat article that there's insurance that can be bought to help pay for those who require helicopter rescue from situations they've gotten themselves into in the outback.

My main concern is if those fines end up considered a source of revenue for agencies and end up being raised simply to bring in more money. That, and the tendency to increase restrictions once we have them in place. Then we might see signs everywhere warning us about the danger we face in driving and having to pay when we get in what might seem an unavoidable accident.

Am I being paranoid about that? I don't think so, because when you give the government a hammer, it doesn't take long for everything to look like a nail.

State Replaces Parents In California

Many parents are rightfully concerned about a bill introduced recently in the California legislature. SB18 by Doctor Richard Pan requires "all children have "“parents, guardians, or caregivers who act in their best interest” and to “form healthy attachments with adults responsible for their care and well-being." Does that really need to be said? That might not sound too ominous to Democrats who have total faith in The State, but it's a real concern when that State wants to let itself decide which basic parental decisions are right and good for the child. Never mind we already have laws of that regard to a great extent.

Other parts of the bill seem of even more concern:

It also stipulates that the child is to “live in a safe and healthy environment

We can just imagine what will be deemed a safe environment by The State. After all, we know progressives think eating red meat is unhealthy and contributes to global warming. Will children be taken from homes where red meat is eaten since it's deemed unhealthy? What about homes when parents smoke tobacco or pot? Will kids be removed?

It's frightening to think about the slippery slope this law leads to. Perhaps even more frightening that the Democrats think they can easily introduce such a bill and no one will resist. 

Seem far fetched? I don't think so. It's not unlike every other stupid law Democrats make into law. They pass it, figuring they'll deal with the fallout later. Bad law introduced by bad people. No question about it.