Siri? Cortana is Flirting With Us!

The best technical information I have heard recently is that Microsoft will port Cortana voice assist to the Apple environment.

I know nothing about Cortana, but Siri is one of my few bête noires — Siri is often unavailable, usually obtuse, even dense! Yesterday, Siri found the upholstery shop I was seeking, but would not read it to me and told me to look at my screen. 

At California lane one freeway speeds? Gimme’ a break, Siri!

It is particularly galling when I am on the freeway at 82 MPH, When all I can do is scream at an un-hearing Siri. Cortana cannot be worse!

Siri was a marvel when first introduced, but it has not progressed into anything approximating artificial intelligence — it is, as I have described my writing the Navy’s first AI program, all artificial and no intelligence.

Welcome Cortana!

Quick Hits

A tragic story in San Diego of a woman who ran down a Navy Chief Petty officer driving a motorcycle in her automobile, during a road rage event.

The woman, in her 20s, had her license returned to her just two months ago after a two year suspension. She had her license suspended by the State of California for “lack of knowledge or skill.”!

The sentences for motor vehicle deaths in California is terribly low, but this would be a murder charge in my book! 

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On the subject of stupid California sentencing laws, a 14 year old girl has been sentenced to probation for a crime she perpetrated when she was 13.

She started a fire in her back yard. Then the next day she started another fire that got away, burned down 35 homes, and caused $28 million damage. 

She didn’t get off Scott-free…she has to pay restitution of $6 million — as if she will ever repay any substantial amount. She has to do 400 hours of “community service” but she is seen in the neighborhood riding her yellow bike.

If it was up to me, she would forfeit any possession, such as her bike, her cell phone, her computer, and she would not be permitted Facebook or ANY social messaging until age 18!

Stupid state law precludes time in Juvenile Hall, but the sentence was not even a slap on the wrist.

Only the 35 homeowners whose homes burned to the ground were punished!

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The Republican field is getting like a clown car — but many of the candidates are first class.

Cruz is the smartest, by far, but not the brightest. 

Walker is the brightest but not the smartest. 

Cruz picks unnecessary fights. Good lawyering, not good politics!

Rubio probably has the best chance — or possibly Walker — because they have made the fewest mistakes, and in this race, making few mistakes is a decided plus.

Bush can raise the most money, but he is a Bush. 

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ABC National News tonight covered something my wife and I did for more than a quarter century — swapping houses for vacations.

All in all we swapped houses to go to Kauai –twice — and to Tahoe for Skied and we skied Whistler for several weeks as well. The Kauai exchanges turned into 17 more trips to the same home in Kauai with the now friends traveling around the world without coming to our home.

It works!

A friend and his wife who came with us many times is in the midst of a six months exchange to Kauai.

I have been offered a houseboat in the Bahamas, an apartment in Paris, and an exchange to the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand for a year!

I have an 18 page guide to Home Exchanging at http://allenhemphill.com/newpage22.h

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The Greenman column in the Vancouver Sun had an interesting title,”Garden Hacks” so as an inveterate gardener who has Spring fever, and in the garden daily looking for easier ways, 

I immediately turned to the column.

Noting really new or particularly interesting, until I got to:

“In Urban Homesteading, Rachel Kaplan suggest quitting your job to live a simpler life urban homesteadingbenefits the environment and your physical and mental health…She says full-time work is a “trap” in which we earn as much as possible yet don’t live a sensible life.”

You know if all the people at the Vancouver Sun quit and went home, as she recommends, no one would be able to read the column! Dumb people should have stronger editors!

Caution: Genius at Work

SpaceX is on a roll — two huge wins recently without even launching a rocket!For years a consortium of Big Corporations (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) have had a monopoly on making military space launches for satellites. last April tiny SpaceX — an Elon Musk corporation — sued the government to permit SpaceX to compete for those lucrative and frequent launches. (Nothing like suing the people who could pay you!)

The suit must have resulted in an agreement because SpaceX dropped the suit and SpaceX will be allowed to compete next month for a future satellite launch. Boeing and Lockheed Martin use reworked old Russian engines in their rockets, and Congress has already banned them after 2019, but the newly approved SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is much cheaper and very reliable. The “Consortium”. (Read “Monopoly”) had better start squeezing the fat out of their program, because there is a new kid on the block. I have the feeling that that Elon Musk — the brain behind PayPal and Tesla automobiles, is about to eat their lunch. 

The other SpaceX victory is the approval of their Astronaut capsule, to be used in future, taking Astronauts to the Space Station — and those human replacement rocket shots are currently a Russian monopoly. That will soon end, also.

Musk is an American disruptive engine, and he has set his sights on Mars colonization — don’t bet against him!   

Socialist Brains(sic)

Before I joined a media group for a tour of the Russia of the Soviet Union, I listened to a Russian lawyer’s opinion of the disadvantages of the United States, in a Rancho Bernardo living room:
“You have too many cars, you should walk more — it is healthier. (Right! So why do Russian “walkers” die on average 20+ years before average Americans?) And products like tooth paste…you must have 20 brands on the shelf whey you only need one or two!”

I correctly put those comments down the comments as the lawyer making excuses for what we knew to be a scarcity of everything in Russia, trying to make a virtue of necessity. It reminded me of a Milton Friedman quote: 

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” 

Cuba and Venezuela are great examples of the accuracy of that. Venezuela is suffering from a shortage of toilet paper. Toilet Paper!

Why do I bring this up? Because Bernie Sanders, Socialist turned Democrat-Socialist who caucuses with the Democratic Party, and is running for president as a Democrat, says:

“You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.”

There is something in the brains of socialists that does not compute.

Quick Hits

About 1,500 of the usual suspects rallied today in San Diego against the Monsanto Corporation and Genetically Modified Foods. 

(I say the usual suspects because they are the base of every nut bag leftist group — women in floppy hats and huge glasses and guys wearing red bandanas beating drums. The general message appears to be the Monsanto is “poisoning us.” 

I am not certain how they explain the average age of death rises every year, and I guess the guy with the drum is designed to drown out any person asking the question. 

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The City of San Bernardino is trying to get out of bankruptcy, and must submit their exit plan to the the Federal Judge by May 30. (I have taken a computer company out of bankruptcy and it isn’t easy.)

The City has made major efforts but there are several sticking points, including city salaries:Every city union has agreed to a salary cut of 10% EXCEPT firemen and police. (There are six firemen who made more money last year than did the City Manager!)

Not only did the Fire Union refuse pay cuts, but the union has sued the city multiple times in the past two years, costing the city money it didn’t have.

The result of the fire union recalcitrance is that the city has put out fire and medical contracts out for bid to surrounding cities, CalFire, and most interestingly, out to a private fire company. 

The city is serious about getting out of bankruptcy, even taking away medical care from all retirees, but the insertion of a private fire company into the mix has made the fire Union particularly nervous. So nervous, in fact that they have raised the specter of nearby union fire departments refusing to offer mutual protection contracts in case of soon to be expected wild land fires.

That should tell you everything you need to know about unions.

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I’m sorry if I can’t rise or kneel in the presence of David Letterman, whose exit appears to dominate even the national evening news shows. Just never warmed up to him, or his show. I’m glad others think we’ll of him, but even at that his exit should only be fodder for Entertainment Tonight, not actual news shows.

I have the distinct feeling that Obama treats ISIL with the same sort of disdain that I treat Letterman — but Obama’s disdain is much worse. 

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The Gallup Poll finds that Americans vastly overestimate the size of the LBGT population. In a poll conducted by Gallup, fewer than 4 % self-identify as Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay or Transgender combined.

They certainly have power far beyond their numbers.

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TV manufacturers are doing cartwheels to get people to buy new TVs, primarily because most people are really satisfied with their current flat-screen TVs. The 3D trial has not caught on and 4K is really good if you have a ginormous set and sit really close. 
The TV manufacturers seem to have produced themselves into the box that desktop computers have been for years — desktop computers are vastly more powerful than all but 1% of enthusiasts could possibly use. Asked by a lady in COSTCO several years if I knew anything about computers and what should she buy, I replied, accurately, that all computers are way beyond her capacity to use so she might just as well pick on the color she liked. The new eight core i7– 5960x chip alone is a cool $1,000 or so — but who (except Gamers) really needs that much power?

TV manufacturers are getting in that position. 4k TV sets have just been standardized driving down 1080 sets into the bargain basement position, and OLED sets — with still more vastly improved pictures are on the way at $10,000. So, 1080s are good, 4K is better and OLED is best but the differences are really only for those with perfect pitch and 16:9 aspect eyeballs!

Pavlovian Response

Politicians always think we need more laws or they are just not doing their jobs. We have so many laws there is no way to consider them all in daily living. 

It is common newspaper fodder to “reveal” that the IRS gives bad dope to callers — usually a reporter with a brain block makes three calls and gets three different answers.

Journalist always fall back in times of Writer’s Block on “revealing” the local Transit executives do not ride the bus/commuter train, or that the local politician has a particularly large/green lawn in a drought.

Similarly, politicians can be trusted to propose the raising of taxes, usually for a very good cause — politicians can be counted on saying their proposal will only cost a few cents a day.

The latest tax celeb is raising taxes on gasoline. The plea is that the tax has not been raised since the 1990s, but if that logic is to prevail all taxes would be raised periodically until there is not a dime left in taxpayers pockets, regardless of need.

Here is what the tax proponents won’t tell you:About a third of Federal Highway Trust Fund dollars are spent on non-highway projects such as mass transit, highway greenery, and sidewalks.

The Highway Fund is going broke because it is being used for items not connected with repairing highways or bridges. If our highways and bridges are in disrepair — and they are — it is not that politicians don’t have enough money.

As usual, politicians turn immediately to their first standby:Raise taxes.

Pavlovian response!

Scammers Never Stop

The Scammers just never stop when you get elderly. The three that are at least weekly on my phone are the “Hi, Grandpa, this is your favorite Grandson. I am in a Mexican jail, and I need $500 to get bailed out…”
That was the one about an hour ago. He wasn’t very good, but the first one who tried it many months ago was REALLY good. Scammers have to be good to be convincing. 
Yesterday, it was “Mr. Hemphill, this is the Windows Technical Department.” 

Here there are two variations. The one yesterday began with:

“Several years ago, you paid for Windows Technical support, and you have not used it. We want to return all of your money. If you will go out to a website I will give you…”

The other begins: “our servers at Windows Technical Support report a large number of errors from your computer. If you will go to your computer and open a website you will be given…”

Going to their website and downloading their program will encrypt your entire computer…then the next day they will call and offer to give you code to unlock your computer.

I have no idea how they select their suckers, but you can buy lists of the elderly and I would guess they do that, particularly the elderly in known retirement centers like San Diego.

I try to keep the scammers on the phone for as long as possible, so they will have less time to search for suckers, but their scam must be successful or they would not continue — or they would get new scams.

The “Poor” in America

YOU know poor? You have read about it, seen pictures about it — but you don’t KNOW poor! I have been to Africa, and Southeast Asia…I KNOW poor.

And, as you may recall from my previous blogs, I grew up in an apartment with my Grandmother, and we never owned a phone or a car. I grew up POOR.

But we do have the richest poor in the world. After trillions of dollars spent since the Great Society we have the same percentage listed as “poor”as we did before the Great Society. Now that doesn’t mean that the money hasn’t helped — it has. The Census Bureau reports that the AVERAGE “poor” owns a car, multiple flat screen TVs, a computer or X-Box, did not suffer any deprivation of food over the last year, and lives in more square feet than the average middle-class of Europe.

We here is San Diego have one of the top five homeless populations in America. I did a study almost 20 years ago on five cities of the truly poor — the homeless. In each of those cities the ratio of homeless to Christian Churches was seven homeless per church — churches used a few hours a week…while the homeless shiver in the cold and wet next Winter, just remember that the churches are warm, dry…AND EMPTY!

More importantly, Jesus ORDERED HIS followers to help the poor, and those church parishioners include Doctors, Nurses, Social Workers, Beauticians, and perhaps most importantly EMPLOYERS. Want to solve the homeless problem by 8 am tomorrow morning? I know how! They are the truly POOR!

(When I published this opinion decades ago, a Minister threatened to pull his advertising from the newspaper, another asked me to lunch to “see where your head is.” A parishioner, and friend, sent a LTE saying that I didn’t understand the problem…the homeless have lice, and besides there would be insurance problems. I replied that Jesus ministered to the Lepers so she could handle lice, and I did know that Jesus said help the poor unless there were insurance problems.)

What Jesus DIDNT do, is tell HIS followers to get the Roman government to help the poor — he ORDERED HIS followers to do so!

The president recently remarked that churches should get more involved with the poor and he was exactly right. What he didn’t say is that one of his first acts was to stop the federal funding of those churches and charitable organizations that were used as the funnel for what should be a diminishing of federal funds, until those churches and charitable organizations can build the infrastructure to assume their rightful positions.

Quick Hits

Tom Brady must have known his e-mails had incriminating information in them, and that is why — like Hillary Clinton — he refused to hand over the e-mails the could have either cleared him or incriminated him.

The news that he has been suspended for four games, a slap on the wrist for cheating in not just a game but games. His four games will probably be reduced to two — half a slap on the wrist.

That’s more than Hillary will get for refusing to submit her e-mails! 

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I would have to know more about the Doctor/Mother and Autistic child who were taken off a United Jet part way to back to their Portland, but my general attitude is that I HATE disruptive children on planes, trains, buses, cars — anywhere i am a prisoner who can’t escape! 

The fact that a child has Autism, a cold, an uncontrolled temper or just an inattentive Mother, does not diminish my pain and the “quiet enjoyment” of my trips. 

I would support child-free transportation. I wasn’t there so it is hard to comment, but personally I am tired of bratty kids on public transportation. I love smokeless flights and would welcome childless flights and child-friendly flights. 

Let the children annoy one another!

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What if you gave a party and no one came?

Well, the new Saudi King just decided not to attend an Obama called Middle-East conference!

Classic political eye-poke.

Among other things, U.S. oil production has driven down the Saudi sales, and cut the price in half, but the Iranian nuclear deal is the kicker.

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While I am following the daily horse race of candidates for president, I pay little attention — too early. 

Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to run, but she is drawing Hillary to the left. Hillary continues to stay above the fray, untouched by the Main Stream Media who give her all the space she wants. Bill is the Albatross around her neck, in spite of his popularity it may leak when one asks how he will play as the First Husband.

Among the Republicans, the jockeying is furious — right now the first jockeying is when to announce and get an advantage. There is really no advantage to get in that timing. The second jockeying is the money trail. The Repubs will need at least a billion dollars just to play the game with Hillary, but the money is still sitting on the sidelines awaiting a winnowing of the field.

All in all, it just fills air time for pundits.

Obvious Answer No One Hears

I apologize for not being as voluble as usual in my posts, but when one reaches their 80s, medical problems go from arithmetic to geometric to logarithmic. Fortunately, the Editor of the newspaper that carries my columns does not place undue requirements upon me.

But I just have to comment on a few things, including but not limited to the Baltimore riots.

As I noted in my memoirs, my earliest years were in the segregated South — Montgomery, Alabama — where I was raised by a Black “Mammy,” Virginia, often in “Colored Town” when my Mother was employed in Atlanta. (I was subsequently orphaned by age five)

I don’t remember much of being one of the few “white boys” in “Colored Town” but that says a lot in itself. Obviously I was not in danger, and I do remember Virginia, who cared for me. Upon graduation from Annapolis, and my marriage, I drove to Montgomery to find Virginia and introduce my wife. Virginia was family.

I also don’t remember any riots.

Come to think of it, there have never been many Southern riots at all. Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Baltimore, Detroit…hmmm. Perhaps that needs to be examined more thoroughly…

(The Birmingham Riots in 1963 were original Civil Rights disturbances, not reactions to poverty, police or White Power Structure.

One thing is absolutely certain, race problems are not inherently a race problem. There is nothing inherent in the Black race that causes the problems in inner cities, but there certainly is something in the post 1950 Black culture that causes the problems we see.

It is not poverty, or at least not poverty alone. The South of my youth had much more grinding poverty, and Southern cities today have Black inner-city populations in poverty without riots. 

Baltimore was certainly not the White Power Structure — Baltimore rioted with a nearly equal Black Police Force, Black Police Chief, Black District Attorney, Black U.S. Attorney General, and a Black President of the U.S. 

Half of the police charged in the Baltimore case are Black and half the arrested officers are Black.

Which leads us to the point where we have no answer provided by Talking Heads. Well, not quite no answer. What we still have is the collapse of the Black culture, post-1950, but we actually do have a great liberal thinker, writer, and Democratic politician to provide us some insight. He did so decades ago, and caught hell from his liberal friends.

His name was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He wrote  “The Negro Family: The Case For National Action” (the 1965 Moynihan Report), and in it he concluded the destruction of the Black nuclear family was responsible for the decline of Black culture.

He was prescient.