Sunday, January 29, 2017

Crisis-T: what to do about the delusions and the lies.

I’ve been using “crisis-T” as a tag for our times. I used to think it was a bit melodramatic; that maybe T would somehow veer to the fantasies of Thiel and the like.

Welcome to week two of Crisis-T. A week in which I’ve started monitoring neo-soviet propaganda for clues to what Bannon, Flynn and Putin are thinking (the troika).

Emily and I are still working out how to respond to this. I hope the March for Science happens — I’d join that one way or another. We already subscribe to the NYT, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and Talking Points — it’s essential to support journalism with hard coin. The 2018 congressional campaign has begun and we will be active (I’ll likely vote in the GOP primaries, more on that later). We’ve done our first of many ACLU and Planned Parenthood donations. Basically we more or less track what Scalzi is doing.

I write and tweet of course, but that’s more therapeutic than useful. It does mean though that I run into some of the issues that real journalists face. Like how to approach the maelstrom of lies and delusions that Bannon and Trump produce. On the one hand presidential speech is a form of action, it can’t be disregarded. On the other hand I’m beginning to worry Bannon is not a conventional idiot. He may have a real talent for strategic propaganda and effective distraction.

I wonder if we should treat the lie-stream like the weather.  Box it on the proverbial page 2 as Bannon-T lies and delusions of the day. Each lie-delusion is then listed with a contrasting statement of testable reality. Then the main pages can focus on even more important problems, like swapping the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence for Bannon on the principals committee of the National Security Council.

More as we figure this out …

Update Jan 30, 2017: Jeff Atwood has one of the best action lists I’ve seen.

Crisis-T: Subscribing to the NYT (and a few others)

The absolute minimal response to Crisis-T starts with financial support for quality journalism and donation to the ACLU. If you have a reasonable income and don’t do some of this then you aren’t even trying.

Today quality mainstream journalism means the New York Times and perhaps the Washington Post. The Economist might an option if you’re a conservative, but they don’t do much investigative journalism. Really, if you’re a conservative who opposes T then WaPo and the NYT are your options. (The WSJ is not an option.)

Outside of the mainstream I’m a fan and supporter of Talking Points Memo ($50/y). It’s avowedly liberal-dem but also conscientious journalism. Josh Marshall is a marvel. The New Yorker’s been doing great work, we support them as well.

Of these minimal responses the NYT is the most expensive. At one point their list subscriber price was somewhere north of $350 — though list was mostly for those who didn’t shop around. I still have a faculty price of $98/year for web and app access though I haven’t taught for years. It’s possible all you need to qualify is a .edu email.

Today the web/app price list price is $143. I’d pay that much, but you can do a yearly subscription through the iTunes app for $130. I couldn’t find the Android and Kindle subscription costs.

The best price is the student price - at $52 a year billed monthly.  Some schools may pay for digital access to all students, but if you opt into a school-funded free subscription you’re not supporting journalism. I don’t think the NYT does anything to block limited sharing of a student account. It appears the only test for the student rate is an educational address

I suspect I’m not the only subscriber who shares their account with a spouse. That’s a substantial, if improper, discount. (“Subscribers to All Digital Access at the college rate are not eligible to share their access with a family member.” — which implies other subscribers can share.)

So you have a wide range of ways to pay for digital access to the NYT - from list at $143/y to iTunes at $130/y to student/.edu at $52/y. Spousal sharing reduces the cost even more. Some rates are more proper than others, but all support investigative journalism. Pick one.

PS. Dear NYT: $100 a year with spousal sharing would be a great way to grow your readership.

Monday, January 09, 2017

CrossFit has invaded my dreams. You should try it.

I awoke last night sweaty and anxious.

I was dreaming about the kipping muscle up; a move that still eludes me.

Which is nuts. I am an old man. Acrobats do this stuff in their sleep. Even when I was young I didn’t aspire to being an acrobat. CrossFit is invading my dreams…

Maybe it’s because the regular workouts have become normal. I was 53 when I started 3.5 years ago, now after a few hundred workouts even handstand pushups don’t seem that exceptional. After the first year I did 70-80% of the “women’s Rx”. Now as an older guy I sometimes do the “men’s rx” — and I usually do at least the women’s. I started out going twice a week, now I do 3-4 CrossFit workouts and 2 light workouts at a typical gym while my 17yo does his Tae Kwon Do. (Plus hockey, mountain biking, inline skating, etc)

It’s hard to remember when tattoos and workout music seemed novel or when I thought big guys would notice how puny I am (that’s truly funny, but there you go).

I once thought it was kind of amazing to do CrossFit as an old man. Now it seems like something anyone with decent knees can do. It’s just a matter of scaling. Do 1/5 of the weight and half the reps. Do regular pushups instead of handstand pushups. Use bands. It can mostly be scaled. It’s hard to get around truly bad knees though.

So what sticks now are the things I suck at, skill moves like double-unders (I’m absolutely the world’s worst) and the muscle ups (bar and ring).

CrossFit is fun. It’s safer than walking around Saint Paul — our drivers are distracted dolts. Good gyms like Union Fitness - CrossFit Saint Paul will make you feel your money is well spent. Lots of slots for a flexible schedule, great peers, great coaches. Done with care CrossFit will fix your sore back (once mine was worse than yours). Exercise doesn’t control weight in clinical trials — but they’re not sending people to CrossFit. CrossFit will control weight if you have any kind of diet control. You don’t have to move to the Twin Cities (though you are welcome) either, there are good gyms in small towns and big cities now. You can find one near you.

Give it a try.

If my familial genetic arthritis holds off (big if) I now don’t see why I can’t be doing CrossFit into my 60s and 70s. Sure I won’t lift as much, and maybe I’ll never do a muscle up, but I’m good at scale. CrossFit ain’t the fountain of youth, but it’s as close as we can get.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Quicken for Mac 2017 -- $45 upgrade for nothing.

Quicken for Mac 2017 new features

Compare your income and spending year over year with custom reports
Customize your budgeting goals month-by-month (12-month budget)
Pay your bills in Quicken with Quicken Bill Pay (fees apply)
Get more power on-the-go with the improved mobile app
Enjoy a new look that’s easier to use and navigate

On the other hand …

Quicken 2017 for Mac does not have certain investment reports/views, such as Performance (IRR), or Allocation by Investment.

We’ve been using 2015 and somehow I thought the 2017 update was worth paying for. Wrong. The only change I notice is new UI to learn.

That was a real waste of money. 

Intuit sold Quicken for Mac to a private equity company. The corporate headquarters are “3760 Haven Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025”. This is the current street view (7/2016).

We can live with Quicken 2015 - or 2017. We can do our investment allocation reports by hand. So I don’t think it’s a bad buy — once.

No upgrades though. Quicken 2017 is a classic, stinky, private equity move — fire everybody, put in a little bit of work, squeeze the market.

Stick with the version you have.

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