Saturday, May 28, 2016

Is marijuana good for old people?

Election 2016


A man in Thailand made his bathroom toilet stop the other day and was totally shocked to have his penis bitten by a 10-foot python. He needed the help of his wife and neighbors to get free. Both he and the snake survived. He lost a lot of blood, but not his penis. He is recovering in the hospital.

Snake in toilet

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tony winner 2017?

The Hartford Stage won a Tony in 2014 for "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder". I think it has another winner on its hands in "Anastasia". It is a musical based on the old Anastasia story of her being (or not being) a member of the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, who were assassinated by the Communists in 1917. The musical was written by Terrence McNally, with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. While the story and the music are pretty good (B, B+) it is the combination of these with an excellent cast (A) and superb production (A+) that bring it into the Tony class. 

Unlike many regional productions, the cast is made up of Actors Equity members only, all of whom are not only good actors but can sing and dance at a high level. Two of the cast are under 10 years old. In my limited experience (5 years) with the Hartford Stage, I have been most impressed with the production aspects of the plays. The production of "Anastasia" is the best I've seen here. In fact, I can't remember any other play that I've seen anywhere that has higher production values.

Maximizing ROI

That's the question today when, courtesy of Sparrow Chat, I read a GAO report on the federal government's legacy systems. The fed spends more than $80 billion on IT annually. 75% of this went to operating and maintaining legacy systems in 2015; 25% to developing new systems or modernizing the legacy systems.  In dollars, this number for maintenance has increased by $7.3 billion since 2010. 

Some of these legacy systems are over 50 years old. One would think that the government has gotten a good return on its initial investment in those systems. But, like everything in life, systems do become obsolete. Heck, these systems are using devices and languages that I used in the 1960, such as 8-inch floppy disks in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces. That's right, nuclear forces. Some are still using Assembler, which I loved, and Cobol, which took over from Assembler in the 1970s.

Human Error once more

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Occupy redux?

Another attempt to weaken Wall Street's hold over the government is being formally launched today. More than 20 progressive organizations have united in the Take On Wall Street campaign. They have five goals:

  • Close the carried interest loophole
  • End the CEO bonus loophole
  • End “too big to fail"
  • Enact a Wall Street speculation tax 
  • End predatory lending and offer alternatives for the “unbanked.”

Earth and where it stands today

The United Nations Environment Programme does not think it stands too well. In its latest report it finds that, overall, damage to the planet is happening more rapidly than before, through slights ranging from air pollution, to the proliferation of human and toxic waste, to water scarcity and climate change. Why? A changing climate and an intense trend toward greater urbanization. 

DNA doesn't solve all crimes

But it does result in many false convictions largely because the analysis of DNA is subject to human error. Some of these errors are rather basic, such as a sample not matching the DNA collected. Some can be caused in situations such as that in North Carolina, where state and local law-enforcement agencies operating crime labs are compensated $600 for DNA analysis that results in a conviction. There is also the fact that it is unlikely that DNA typing passes the Frye Test, a legal standard that requires scientific evidence to have earned widespread acceptance in its field.

As with so much of life today, there are computer programs whose authors claim do a better job than people. Two problems here: the programs are written by people and the authors are unwilling to reveal the basic algorithms they use.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Your friendly crocodile

This is a Nile crocodile. It normally stays in sub-Saharan Africa, but four have been found in Florida over the past few years. It can grow to 21 feet long and weigh one and a half tons. It eats just about anything — including humans. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Another comment on Netanyahu

Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s defense minister, resigned from the government. His reason: "The State of Israel is patient and tolerant toward the weak among it and minorities ... But to my great regret extremist and dangerous elements have overrun Israel as well as the Likud party, shaking up the national home and threatening harm to those in it."

Looking at China's population

Howard French thinks China is in for some tough times as its population ages. According to his numbers, by 2040 the ratio of workers to retirees will go from 5:1 to 1.6:1. The number of Chinese older than 65 is expected to rise from roughly 100 million in 2005 to more than 329 million in 2050. The median age will go from under 30 to about 46, making China one of the older societies in the world. And they don't have any sort of a modern national pension system. So, they have a choice: "allow growing levels of poverty within an exploding elderly population, or provide the resources necessary to avoid this situation." 

French is much more optimistic about us, primarily because of immigration. He thinks that our workforce will increase by 31 percent from 2010 to 2050. According to the Pew Research Center, immigrants and their children and grandchildren will account for 88 percent of U.S. population growth over the next 50 years.

Who pays the money?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Adjusting reality

In the 1930s the SEC and accounting leaders established Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and for many years these principles were followed by the corporate world. But in the 21st century many companies announce both reported earnings and GAAP earnings. These reported earnings are always greater than GAAP earnings and are typically the earnings highlighted in the media. 

This practice is becoming used more. 19 of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones average reported both “adjusted” and GAAP earnings; naturally the adjusted earnings were highlighted in the press releases as they were 28.9% higher than GAAP earnings. And the reporting by companies is getting worse. Last year, only 16 of the 30 companies in the DJIA resorted to this beautification strategy. And they inflated earnings by only 19.7% on average.

It's not only DJIA companies that feature adjusted earnings. Twitter lost $80 million in Q1 under GAAP. But reported a non-GAAP profit of $103 million. Tesla inflated its revenues as well. Its Q1 “non-GAAP” revenues were $1.6 billion, up “over 45%” year-over-year. But its GAAP revenues were only $1.15 billion.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Products of the Middle East

From The Big Picture

Stay off Facebook in Thailand

Patnaree Chankij's son is a leading activist against the military junta that rules Thailand. She has been arrested for posting the words "I see" on Facebook as a comment on a posting by a political activist. The police think that she should have condemned the comments as they insulted the monarchy, a crime that can lead to a lot of time in jail; last year another woman was given a sentence of 56 years for comments she made on Facebook.

More than 60 people have been charged with this crime. Apparently, the government wants to keep this secret as most of the cases are now heard in secret and in military courts, which restrict the rights of defense.

Is the junta trying to silence her son?