Unemployment is down and stocks say “meh”

Headlines like this are head scratchers.

You’d think this was great news, right? I suppose the logic is (a) there are more jobs than employable people, so (b) wages will go up, costing companies more to produce goods and services, then (c) higher costs mean lower profits, therefore the stock market says “no thanks”.

But intuitively, I think this is a good thing: “The unemployment rate fell to 3.4% from 3.5%, hitting a level not seen since before Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon.” Low unemployment…yay, we’ve all got jobs.

Wall Street seems to like a 4% unemployment rate. The government’s measurement of that rate is famously messy, even unreliable. I wonder how they classify me? In my 60s, not employed full time but still making money doing work for companies on a 1099 basis. Still paying lots of taxes. Am I even in the calculation?

Ruh roh

Ruh roh. Republicans have just received a gift for the 2024 Presidential election – a very electable, qualified female candidate. Nikki Haley will run, and she’s very capable of getting votes from folks who voted for Biden or just didn’t vote because they couldn’t stand Trump. Conservative, telegenic, smart, not MAGA-crazed, not already smeared in a national campaign…she could be a formidable candidate.

So who is her equivalent on the Democratic side? Sadly, I can’t think of anyone who is a shoe-in. Gavin Newsome? Hakeem Jeffries?

This may be the election in which America finally decides to elect a woman. If Haley can appeal to the conservative rural women across the Midwest…watch out. That’ll be a power base. And if Democrats decide to run a man against her, Haley may just peel off a lot of votes from moderate Democrat women.

Sins of the past

The reparation discussions in San Francisco have become crazy. The latest discussion point of $5M per CA person who identifies as black is being described as “inadequate”. The whole thing is nuts.

I’m as liberal as anyone you might meet. I will be the first to agree that there is racial and social injustice in America. I look for and vote for justice, but this “remedy” isn’t right. Here’s my take.

Many of my ancestors and your ancestors did bad things. Horrible things. Many Germans are descended from Nazis. Many Americans are descended from slave owners. Many African natives are also descended from slave owners – slavery was normal hundreds of years ago, on multiple continents. The Spanish and Portugese committed mass genocides throughout the Americas. As you go back through history, almost every nation/tribe/ethnic group has some horrible transgression to regret in their past. Our histories are savage and cruel.

My take is that those of us alive today should acknowledge those sins and strive to do better (much better, hopefully) in our lives, but I cannot be liable for the sins of my predecessors. I am accountable for myself, for my actions, and that’s it. Same for you. Any attempt to place the blame for sins of the past on current populations is illogical, unjust, and a ridiculously slippery slope. Where does it end?

Be aware of the sins of the past, learn from them, and be the best person you can be while you’re here. That’s all that makes sense to me.

Big fish

Back to Cabo and some great fishing next week. Here’s the biggest fish I’ve ever caught, just a few hundred yards offshore at Cabo. Small marlin, about 130 pounds and over eight feet long nose to tail. I intended to catch and release but the poor guy swallowed the bait and hooks, so there was no way to save him.

He was *very* tasty. We ate like kings for a few days. I gave all the fish we didn’t keep to the boat captain and some of the locals.

JC needs to go

I don’t have the patience for writing about anything of substance today (politics, mass shootings, CA climate, etc.), so I’ll write about my trivial passion – UK basketball.

It’s another frustrating season as a UK fan. So much talent, so much potential, and a weak, inconsistent result. In past decades opponents feared and respected Kentucky basketball teams, but no more. This decade we’re an also-ran in a tough SEC conference. And out of the conference, against good teams? A few random wins (beat Kansas at home last year), but generally 50-50 or worse outside the SEC. Meh.

We Kentuckians take great pride in our team and its historical success, even domination of the game. It’s fun to be part of a winning tradition. Lately…not so much. The big question is why.

The answer has to start with the coach. I’ve been a huge John Calipari fan for years, but he isn’t getting it done anymore. It’s not about this year, it’s about the last decade. Let’s take an objective look at JC’s UK record. From Wikipedia:

I mean, looking at the totals, it’s a great record. Who wouldn’t want a 78% win rate? But year after year, we fall short of the big prize and the meaningful wins under JC. Let’s work our way backwards, using the latter half of the season’s year as our marker. From Wikipedia, of course.

2022 – A great team that was expected to be in the Final Four, and we took a terrible loss in the first round (!!) of the NCAA tournament. That’s still an open wound around my house.

2021 – The worst year in UK hoops history. Just an awful, awful season.

2020 – Covid. ‘Nuff said.

2016 – 2019 – Good teams, decent runs into the NCAA tourney, but no Final Fours or championships.

2015 – The team that should have gone down in history as undefeated, but didn’t. The team with Tyler Ulis, the Harrison twins, Devon Booker, Karl Anthony Towns, Willy Cauley-Stein, and Alex Poythress. lost to Wisconsin in the first game of the Final Four. Lost in UK’s most hated arena in Indianapolis (we *never* play well in that place). This game was really the beginning of JC’s slow decline. Read about it all here.

2010-2014 – A great run, other than the shitty year in 2013 when we slummed it in the NIT and got bounced in the first round by Robert Morris (?!?!?). That was embarrassing. But this period saw us in three FF’s and one National Championship, so 2013 was mostly forgiven.

Looking at the big picture, we have four seasons where JC and the team achieved what is expected – a Final Four appearance. Four of thirteen (throwing out 2020 when there was no NCAA tourney and including this year, in which I predict we won’t make the FF), or 31%. Big picture, that’s not bad. Pretty much any school would take that, a 31% rate of getting to The Big Dance.

But the problem is that all those appearances were in the first half of JC’s tenure. Since 2015, nothing. No FF appearances and a string of bad losses in big games for eight years, including the Covid year and this year. Eight years is a long time for a fan base used to winning to be patient.

For some reason, JC has lost the ability to coach teams through the big games. Last week’s Kansas game was a great example. We had them – I could have coached that win, fergawdsake. For some inexplicable reason JC disrupted a winning lineup, took out his power forward freshman Chris Livingston, who was having a breakout game, and inserted Wheeler for most of the game. It wasn’t foul trouble; there was simply no explanation. Everyone who follows the game can see the trend – we’re a better team with Wheeler as a part-time role player off the bench. Calipari insists on playing him for long stretches, over and over. It’s maddening.

This kind of coach-inflicted loss is now the norm, so JC has to go. Love the guy as a human being, he’s a good person, but he’s not what we need right now to get UK back to being respected by opponents.

More informative than a 404 message

I’m playing with ChatGPT and actually using it for some technical writing. I guess I’m not alone – I just got this error message. Pretty clever.

Write an acrostic poem about the status of ChatGPT.

C: ChatGPT is currently down

H: Huge demand has caused the site to crash

A: All users will have to wait

T: Time is needed for the servers to catch up

G: Go grab a coffee and check back soon

P: Patience is key in this situation

T: Trust that the team is working hard to fix it up

90 seconds to midnight

The Dogs of War are barking pretty loud lately. In the Russia-Ukraine war, US and allies have gone from sending “undefined support” (money, food, ammo, small arms), then to sending HIMARS rockets, then to sending all sorts of modern tanks, and now the US is talking about sending F-16s. We all knew this was a proxy war, but F-16s? We might as well send the full might of our Army and AF and push Russia back hard, somewhere deep into their original borders. Great idea, but…nukes. They get their butts kicked, you just know they’re going to trot out a nuke or two and show the west that they’re still a Player. It’s no wonder that the Doomsday Clock shows very little time left.

Another dog barking at a different threat – a four-star USAF General has gone on record saying that he thinks we will be in a shooting war with China by 2025. That’s helpful. And stupid. I admit that his opinion is probably better-informed than most, but it’s still just an opinion.

“I hope I am wrong,” General Mike Minihan, who heads the Air Mobility Command, wrote to the leadership of its roughly 110,000 members. “My gut tells me will fight in 2025.”

His gut tells him, huh? Sounds a little Dr. Strangelove to me.

He should keep his gut-driven fears to himself. The Pentagon should fire him, unless he’s being used to send a message. If that’s true, it’s even closer to midnight than we thought.

Great day

What a great day! After 4+ days of keto-induced digestive hell, I feel normal again. Never again shall I eat only meat and cheese. I had a perfectly great digestive system and broke it. And today the menu is pizza! with a UK game. #fuketo.

***

McSweeney’s accurately describes my prospects of being A Professional Writer.

***

The Tyre Nichols tragedy (no known relation, but possible somewhere back in the family tree) in Memphis is beyond sad. What possesses a group of people, of policemen, to beat on someone like that? Something very wrong there. I won’t paint all of law enforcement with the same brush, but…something’s gotta change. This wasn’t a drugged up dude or a gang-banger, not that they would deserve what happened. Check out Tyre’s photography website. Basically that traffic stop could have been any of us.

***

Well, well, well. Turns out that Casey Handmer is now a business partner with my old company, Sempra Energy (SoCalGas is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy). Handmer’s startup company Terraform producing natural gas from atmospheric C02 is the intersection. I hope their prototype system does well. From Casey’s blog post:

Our completed system includes:

  • An industrial-scale 1 MW (5 acre) solar array to concentrate solar energy into usable electricity.
  • An electrolyzer to convert solar electricity directly into hydrogen without inverters or transmission.
  • A CO2 absorption bed to process large volumes of air and filter out the CO2, which can also produce water as a byproduct.
  • A Sabatier reactor to convert locally produced CO2 and hydrogen into pipeline-ready natural gas without intermediate compression or transport. 

The system embodies the essence of cheap solar electrons, consumed at the source. Capital efficiency is favored over electrical efficiency, in service of a cheap and scalable product.

Our waste products are oxygen and water.

Sounds pretty great to me.

A good walk spoiled

Yesterday’s visit to Torrey Pines was great, as usual. First class in every way. We did have some strong Santa Ana winds, but they bothered the golfers more than the fans. Today I get to enjoy the view from my living room. Here are a couple of shots from yesterday, Round 2. Firs, above the first tee.

Next, a group including Harry Higgs getting ready for their second shot on #14.

We definitely had a postcard-quality day in Socal. I got my 10,000 steps in around Torrey, plus a few more. I’ll respectfully disagree with the old saying about golf being “a good walk spoiled”.

Quick take

More bad news today about the health of a close friend. I suppose I’m at the age where this will now be a regular occurrence.

Not much time to write today, as I’m off to Torrey Pines to spend a day watching the pros hit golf balls the way I can only dream of. Perfect weather and perfect venue, so I’m expecting a nice walk around the best bit of real estate in San Diego.

Here’s another nice bit of real estate 6000 miles away. In Bruges.

Grateful

I don’t write much at night, but KY is playing such a great game against Vandy tonight. It’s a thing of beauty, the way it should be. For the first time in a long while the Cats look like the better athletes I think they are. I’m grateful.

And the refs only called 5 fouls on Vandy the entire game (?!?!). Impossible. But we won anyway.