2016-12-02

On the failure of democracy

Democracy cannot succeed if people and politicians set up government policies along the idea of majority rule.  Instead, you have to go back to the guts of it all: happiness for the people.

With a concept like Brexit, where roughly half the population of the UK want to leave the EU, and the other half do not, compromise is in order.  Brexit shouldn't mean Brexit, and to run with that conclusion is to blindly follow a nascent and unrefined buzzword.   Is Brexit going to hurt the UK?  Then just maybe you need to REFINE the theme.

"Oh, but a majority voted for Brexit".  Bullshit!  They voted for all different things, and for all different reasons.

Brexit SHOULD mean fucking fixing the problem so that WAY MORE than 50% of the population is better off, and the few others should at least not be harmed.

That's what democracy is SUPPOSED to be about: compromise, make the imperfect world a little better, and repeat forever.

The US has the same problem.  The gun lobby can't even begin to compromise on obvious ideas like "risky unstable nuts shouldn't be given guns".  Politicians, who are real humans, actually support this idiotic position despite the realities of a complex world and a well-oiled legal system.  Instead of these politicians being fucking idiots, why don't they work to fix the fucking problem in a way that is achievable and makes reasonable sense?  Oh no, that's too hard?  You're unwilling to compromise?  You're a politician, you idiot!  It is what you signed up for!







2016-11-27

Tracking Spending - and a Strategy

I don't like spending good money on stupid crap.  And so I have a new strategy that I've developed to help me keep it in control:

Basically, I keep track of my monthly recurring expenses across a ton of categories, such as:
  • Cable TV
  • Internet
  • Insurance
  • Electricity
  • Netflix
  • Mortgage
  • etc. 
If prices go up, I make a note of it.  If prices go down, I make a note of it too.  My goals?
  • Financially respond to every price increase
  • Reduce at least one recurring cost every month
So earlier this month, I knocked down my cell phone costs from $70 to $40 a month (win!).  I also eliminated my iTunes Music subscription, which I didn't use much, from $15 a month to $0.  Another win!

Earlier this year, I changed from my old employers healthcare plan (a "COBRA" plan) to a healthcare market place plan, saving me $260 a month (!).  And some people complain about Obamacare.

I also updated my auto/property insurance, which increased by $14 a month, but which gives me about 5x the coverage.

So with these changes, I'm saving $3500 a year.  But there is still a lot more to do!


2016-11-23

My Ugly, Old MacBook

I have an ugly MacBook.  I like it.

I bought my current MacBook for a mere $40, cleaned it up, and then upgraded its RAM and stuck in a 1 TB SSD drive.

But it's still ugly.

The prior owner sold it to me as broken.  He was a heavy smoker of something, and the machine was a disgusting disgrace.  It had scrapes and stickers on the back of the display and on the case.  Everything was covered in a thick grime.  And the keyboard.  Ouch!  It smelled bad.

The only things to repair was the magsafe connector and the battery, and while doing that I cleaned out a lot of the disgusting.  The tough sticker adhesive, burn marks, and scrapes are still there, but I put a cheesy case on it to cover up most of that.    And it has a dead (always red) pixel square in the middle of the display.

But it's a good computer.  It is reliable, and it's reasonably fast.  The whole working setup was under about $300, and that includes the SSD which was about half of that cost.

Why dump it?  A new, non-upgradable low-end MacBook Pro, with 1/4 of the storage, would cost me more than four times more money.  I plan to keep this going with this beauty for at least 2 more years.

2016-11-19

New Car versus Old Car

As I said before, I'm a car guy.  I love cars.  They are awesome fun, and many are beautiful works of art and engineering.

My car is beautiful.  My car is reliable, and it costs very little to own it.  I'm going to keep it that way.

Many years ago I bought a new car.  I put 168,244 miles on it, and then I sold it to a friend.  Then I bought a used car.  I kept it for four years.  Then I bought another used car.  I still have that one, 17 years later.  And I have no plans to replace it.

Some day it may suffer a catastrophic failure, or get wrecked.  It may get to the point where repair is an economic impossibility.  Then I'll replace it.  Until then, it's my car.  And I'm keeping it.

Yes, I do have to have my car maintained, and that costs money.  Hoses, belts, brake, tires, alternators, water pumps, and so-on can cost $1000 a year.  But the fact is that $1000 a year is a hell of a lot less money than the cost of a $30,000+ car.

Furthermore, I'd like the majority of my $1000 of maintenance costs to go to the local mechanic, versus spending $30,000 that mostly goes to an overseas conglomerate and its sales team.  Even so-called "American" cars are mostly built elsewhere.  And that doesn't even consider the car loan interest, used exclusively to line the pockets of billion dollar banks.

So why do people buy new cars?  It isn't reliability - a good properly maintained car is just as reliable as a new car, and is much cheaper to own.

I guess people buy new cars because they want something fancier to drive around.  Maybe they want new features, or want a new hip style.  There's nothing wrong with that.  I don't need it.  And I'd rather have my money go to something good.







The Smartphone Industry Isn't Green.

Google and Apple.  They're doing us wrong.  They don't build things to last.

Let me take that back.  They -do- build things to last.  But they withdraw security patching from their products way too early, making older devices a literal danger to use.

I love my iPhone 4.  But it is stuck at iOS 7, and who knows if it has dangerous vulnerabilities.  It is unclear if Apple is watching over iOS7, and it is a safe bet that Apple will never release a security patch for their older devices even if dangerous vulnerabilities are known to exist.

Don't get me wrong: I think Apple is right to leave the iPhone 4 at iOS 7.  After all, the iPhone 4 was designed and developed long ago.  Technology has moved forward, and no one in their right mind can expect an old device to run the latest and greatest operating system.

But I'm not talking about that.  I'm talking about security patches for over a million useful, active devices that are "stuck" at iOS7.  The security of a million+ people are at risk.  Certainly Apple won't say that they want them to all go in the recycle bin (or, just as likely, the garbage bin).  But certainly nobody wants to use an insecure device.

I don't mind if Apple charges a nominal fee for such support.  $5 a device per year?  No problem.   That way Apple could cover its costs of a team to work and address issues.  And clearly there should be an end-point - for instance, the vintage iPhone/3G/3GS models are pretty obsolete.  Maybe there should be some kind of OS software switch that just turns old smartphones into a dumbphone, and disables all the stuff that has a higher potential for a security failure.

Now Google's Android platform is just as bad, if not worse.  Many Android phones currently in retail have major security flaws, and it seems like no one - not the manufacturers, not the retailers, nor Google seem to give a crap.

The auto industry is actually better at fixing dangerous cars after their release.  Smartphone makers should take it upon themselves to at least rise to the level of the auto industry.


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