Making money

When your Republican friends start whining about the national debt, send them to this little note by Dave Winer. Dave lays it out clearly – the national debt simply isn’t the kind of problem you think it is. As the apex predator in the world’s economy, the US has a uniquely advantaged position that we’ve squandered over the last 20-30 years. From the article:

One of the biggest misperceptions about how money works, even among educated people, is that we have to pay for projects by raising taxes. The fact they’re missing is that the Federal Reserve creates money. So we don’t have to raise taxes to provide relief to victims of disasters.

When they say the debt is something our children and grandchildren will have to pay off, that’s not true either. We can pay the debt by printing money. If we owe you $100 who’s to say if we got that money by taxing Americans or simply by giving you new money we created for that purpose?

Money has to start somewhere, and unlike a household budget, the US government has an infinite supply of it. Basically the only country with the power to create new money that can be spent everywhere is the United States. 

The United States is unique because our dollar is the reserve currency for the world. So if say Egypt owes money to India, they pay them in dollars. If a small country is reserving some money for a future project, they store it in dollars. Our currency, unlike all others, is in demand all around the world. Which means we can give them dollars we just printed and they will send us goods that cost real money, because of course when we printed the money, it was real, simply because we printed it. 

If people really understood how we’ve squandered this advantage and allowed our social support system to decay, they’d be enraged. It’s completely and sadly ironic – the very same working-class people who identify as Republican are the ones who have been most harmed by this conservative gaslighting.

A pretty fine day

We began spring 2021 with our first dinner party out with friends in a very long time. It was great to be back out in the world. Three couples, all fully-vaxxed, getting together for a dinner and conversation. And what a dinner – wagyu steaks (!!), my roasted gnocchi and vegetables recipe, some traditional pasta aglio y olio, a wedge salad and all the fine Italian wine we could stand. Oh yeah, and dining at a table with a pretty spectacular view (above, taken with iPhone). The host couple’s home is right on the bluff above the Pacific.

The meal and wine didn’t do anything helpful for my need to lose some weight, but it was worth it. It felt like old times, and is hopefully a harbinger of more good times with friends and family to come.

Spring

The last couple of days have been glorious. Great weather and golf outings with good friends. Days like these are why we pay the high cost of living for Socal.

I’m only a week away from heading east to see the grandkids, kids and my Dad. Three generations to check in with…it’s been too long. And KY in early spring can be beautiful. I hope the redbud is in bloom.

It’s the middle of March already?

I’m not loving Daylight Savings Time so far. Three straight nights of “meh” sleep.

One year ago I had this to say in a post called “Hunkered Down”. It’s probably good that I didn’t know how bad it would get…would’ve been too depressing. But there IS light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m pretty sure it’s not an oncoming train. We have a lot of travel queued up starting next month. I imagine we’re not alone in that.

For the first time in memory, I have no interest in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. None. With KY out of it, my usual March Madness happiness is twisted into extreme apathy. Or March Sadness. I’ll wait until November to do a reboot on UK hoops and hope for a better result in the 21-22 season. Though I have to say I am happy for the San Diego State team, finally getting a little love after two exceptional seasons.

I’m either off my game or out of touch. The new nominations for SF’s Nebula Awards are out, and I’ve read exactly zero of the books nominated. Congrats to these novelists:

2020 Nebula Award Finalists

Novel

  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)
  • The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk (Erewhon)
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)
  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom Publishing)

Things I learned during the pandemic

A lot of bloggers and essayists are taking the opportunity to tell the story of their year in isolation since the beginning of the pandemic. I won’t try to tell the whole story of The Great Isolation, but here are a few things I learned.

  • I’m pretty good at just sitting around reading and writing. For days and days. And days.
  • No matter how I load the dishwasher, it’s wrong.
  • There aren’t enough really good movies.
  • Writing a good novel is hard work. Writing is rewriting.
  • Air travel is a modern miracle, no matter how uncomfortable airlines and the TSA try to make it. I’ll never take it for granted again.
  • Internet access is a top-tier-important utility service, right up there with electricity and water. It made isolation less…isolated.
  • Biology and medical science is just as miraculous to me as digital systems are to non-engineers. I don’t have the education to understand how it actually works (e.g. mRNA), but I’m sure glad it does.
  • I have a helluva lot more things I want to learn and do. There’s not going to be enough time.
  • I miss the grandkids more than I could have imagined.

Re-retirement

I’m coming to the end of my short unretirement. For several months now I’ve had the equivalent of a full-time job, including two board positions, one interim executive gig, and a part-time project manager position in a cool quantum-tech company.

Given that I was spending all my time at home in front of a computer anyway, taking on this work made some sense. I could spend my time usefully (no online poker or day drinking) and put away some money for re-retirement and travel. And that’s pretty much how it has turned out. Plus I got to learn a lot about quantum computing from a pioneer in the technology and contribute a little to their company’s success.

But they’ve now hired my full-time replacement, so next week I’ll start a month of transition and winding down. (I take some satisfaction in knowing that they’re replacing my part-time effort with a full-time person. One thing that experience does for you is that you learn how to be very productive.) The timing is good and I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to take another shot at finishing my novel and starting another.

I plan to continue to help the two Board-position companies as long as I can, or as long as they need me. That will give me enough time to travel, write, get better at photography, play a little golf and spend more time with the grandkids. In the post-COVID world, that sounds perfect.

Miscellanea

It’s raining today, a good thing. We’re still at about 50% of our normal rainfall in Socal, so bring it on.

The UK Wildcats men’s basketball team start their one-game-at-a-time season tomorrow. Win, you move on, lose and the season is over. This is their last chance to salvage something out of the Worst Season EverTM, so I’ll be watching as usual, hoping for a miracle.

Perhaps just in time for my generation, the Israelis have proof that aging can be reversed. Using hyperbaric therapy, they’ve lengthened telomeres and purged bodies of other cellular deterioration. I have to admit, this is counterintuitive for me – we take antioxidants to get healthier, and in this study we’re exposing the body to high levels of pure oxygen…go figure. The article describes this contradictory effect like this:

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) utilizes 100% oxygen in an environmental pressure higher than one absolute atmospheres (ATA) to enhance the amount of oxygen dissolved in body’s tissues. Repeated intermittent hyperoxic exposures, using certain HBOT protocols, can induce physiological effects which normally occur during hypoxia in a hyperoxic environment, the so called hyperoxic-hypoxic paradox.”

I’ll check back in with the Israelis in a few months to see what else they’ve figured out. I will say that I’m not sure it’s a great idea to extend the life of my baby boomer generation by any great amount – we haven’t done so well as stewards of the environment or justice.

This guy (Michael Osterholm) was right about how bad the pandemic would be, way back in April 2020. He predicted things pretty much as they’ve turned out. Let’s hope he’s wrong this time. If he’s right, it’ll be another shitty summer with a lot more death.

Big day

Big day today:

  • Getting second Pfizer vaccine shot – woo hoo!
  • UK men’s hoops play their last regular season game against S. Carolina. I don’t know whether to be sad or relieved. What a miserable season.
  • Started the process of filing my first-ever lawsuit. The company that installed our outdoor fire protection system has disappeared again and I’ve had it. We’ll sue via small claims court to get some of our money back.
  • Countdown started – three weeks until I see the grandkids again – woo hoo two!

Lots to look forward to. That’s some positive thinking…


Update. UK won by 30 – where have those guys been all year? And the COVID relief bill passed. Not a bad start to the day.

The thing about books…*

Toward the goal of writing about more positive things, I’ve started reading the 8th book of The Expanse series, Tiamat’s Wrath. I’ve been holding on to that one for months, not wanting to run out of Expanse reading – just like I’m holding off watching Season 5 on Amazon. I’m usually no good at delayed gratification, but I’m making an exception for The Expanse.

Tiamat’s Wrath is not a disappointment – it’s great science fiction and character-driven storytelling. It’s all I can do not to just read it in one sitting. I dole it out to myself a few pages or chapters at a time. I will say that halfway through there’s a huge change in the Expanse-verse of The Gates, and one of the central characters dies, a cause for mourning. I have no idea how the two writers of The Expanse will choose to end the saga, but I’m sure it will be dramatic.

There’s a lot of fan speculation about the exact meaning of the title, but the details are likely to be found here, in the story of a Babylonian goddess. Only the authors know for sure.

*“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” – Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesake

Dr. StrangeGov

El Jefe, one of my favorite contributors over at Juanita Jean’s Beauty Salon, has a great take on TX Gov Greg Abbott’s idiotic proclamation that TX is open for business, full capacity indoors and no masks required.

I should be clear about this – I think opening businesses under responsible, controlled conditions is great. All for it. But it’s not time to stop wearing masks and distancing. We still have 2,000 people dying of COVID in the US every single day. Most people would consider that unacceptable and do what they could to reduce the body count. But not Greg Abbott.

From the article:

Everyone needs to brace for the next big wave that is certain to come, extending the misery in Texas even longer. Texas’ response to the pandemic has been nothing more than piss-poor.  For comparison, let’s look at a country with similar populations with much better results: Taiwan.  Texas has 29 million people.  Taiwan, 24 million.  Deaths in Texas? 44,000.  Taiwan? 9.  That’s right, 9.  Taiwan did it right.  They never locked down, but implemented strong quarantine rules, contact tracing, and most important, PAID their people to stay home.  Like most of Europe, Taiwan took the financial stress out of the equation.  By contrast, Abbott and the idiots in the legislature added to people’s misery by providing little to no assistance.  Add that to Trump’s incompetence, and you get some of the worst COVID response on the planet.  Thanks for nothing.

Mississippi is also opening with no restrictions. Florida probably next. The usual suspects.

I realize my last couple of posts have been negative, kind of whiny. Having a hard time staying positive the last few days and not sure why. Another ugly loss by UK last night didn’t help. It’s probably time to take a step back, take stock of all the good things in life and refocus on those.

You win some, you lose some

On one hand, the Biden administration is doing exactly what any sane, responsible government should do – helping its citizens in a tough time. Thank you!

Biden to announce Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. The agreement between the two major pharmaceutical companies could help speed up vaccinations across the country.

On the other hand, not so much.

Biden removes mention of Dr. Seuss from Read Across America Day.

Huh? Political correctness is out of control. Lincoln statues are being defaced, some educational institutions are removing Lincoln’s and Washington’s names from their buildings. From the article on the evil Dr. Seuss, “The move comes as Dr. Seuss’ work has generated controversy following a study highlighting a lack of diversity among the author’s characters.”

Seriously? This is what people are worried about? A lack of diversity among The Grinch, The Whos, The Cat in the Hat? Little Jessica Who? Maybe I’m having an old man’s “get off my lawn” moment, but this is ridiculous. Get a life, folks. Worry about something that matters; there’s plenty to choose from. Democracy under attack. Voter’s rights. Climate change. Mass animal extinctions. Human trafficking. Hungry kids in America and across the planet. Just pick one.

Said in a calmer way, the current inane trend toward judging historical figures by our moral standards and then removing them from history records is dumb and dangerous. Those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.