False Dilemma

A nonprofit CEO writes in this week’s Marshfield Mail:

Unfortunately, it’s not online currently unless you want to pay a buck to get into the digital issue.

But it’s a false dilemma.

The actual article shares the anecdote of the guys who bought the 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and marked it up before Amazon put the kabosh on their entrepreneurial spirit and then goes on to tell people how you can help during this crisis.

As you know, gentle reader, I like to lay a couple things up. Which means I have a couple weeks (months, if rationed carefully) of canned goods at any given time. Because it’s only been a little over a decade since this region shut down for a week or so due to an ice storm (which was before we got here). And it just seems wise.

So does that make me a hoarder? I don’t expect to make money off selling my canned goods at some future date; as a matter of fact, I tend to rotate them out and donate them to the local food pantry as they come upon their “Best Buy Some More” date–which, as you know, is not when the food within goes bad but when it’s no longer at its peak of profitability or something.

The local food pantry has some guidelines for items past their date, so when the occasional can or case turns up that’s six months past the date stamped on the can, we give them to some of our friends who have a really large family and are not afraid to take canned goods out of season.

So we’ve laid up supplies and we’re helpers.

I dunno. I like to think I do my part. I could probably do more. But I take umbrage when someone whose paying job is to tell me that I am not doing enough tells me I am not doing enough.

Coronavirus Update: Lockdown Edition

So the county has implemented a stay at home order:

Leaders ask you to stay at home unless you are considered an essential employee, shopping for essential services for goods or exercising outside.

I’ve read the whole order which is a PDF which I cannot swipe and paste, so pardon me for embedding screenshots instead of text.

Here’s the order:

Sounds grim. You can only go to an essential business for essential activities.

Essential activities are:

Basically, you can only go to essential businesses if you need their goods or services.

What are essential businesses?

Grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies, auto garages, construction/home repair, taxis/people movers, laundromats, Lowes, banks, hotels, call centers, doctor’s offices, and vet’s offices.

You know, it might have been clearer if they said what should close.

Which is apparently schools, gyms, martial arts schools, and ABC Books.

So it’s not exactly martial law.

It is a sad commentary, though, at how few places I go that are not essential.

As I was at a doctor’s office today discussing it with the non-doctor person who was setting me up, basically this means you can go about your business, but you should probably not go about it today as everyone takes care of their essential business before the essential businesses don’t exactly close.

“Brian J., does that mean you’re going out every day?” you might ask. You know what I ask, gentle reader? Why are your questions sometimes in italics and sometimes in quotation marks. Don’t you have a style guide? But my answer to your question is of course not. We will run out once or twice a week for essentials, that is, perishables and booze and to tend to whatever my mother-in-law needs. But we’re not going to panic.

Coronavirus Update: The Metaphor for Business

Received in the mail today: The Springfield Business Journal Today in Business newsletter:

A missing image marker. What an apt metaphor for these days of “If you like your business, you can keep your business if you can keep your business when people are prohibited from using it.”

Full disclosure: I actually have my email client set to block images, so I never see the images, metaphor-made-for-blog-content or not.

A Big Part Of The Soundscape In Our Apartment in the Projects

Kenny Rogers has passed away.

I’ve seen him recently in the news as he played in Branson a couple years ago, and the review was a little harsh as he was older and couldn’t do what he’d done in better years.

The best of those years probably came in the early 1980s when he had great crossover success with songs like “Islands in the Stream”, “Lady”, and “Love Will Turn You Around” not to mention the country staples like “The Gambler”.

My favorite Kenny Rogers song was “Coward of the County”:

Mainly because I was a scrawny kid, and I hoped I would be able to lash out appropriately if needed. Apparently not, or perhaps I really never needed it.

Like “The Gambler”, this song was turned into a television movie that I probably saw back in the day. Before cable television and the Internet, gentle reader, you pretty much had to watch what was on, and we did.

I’m also a fan of the recent song “The Greatest”:

Although a little research indicates that this song is twenty-three years old. In my defense, I didn’t listen to country in the late 1990s, and I was exposed to the song as I started to mow the lawn at Nogglestead and could only pull in a “classic” country station. Which is also why I thought “Could Have Been Me” was also a recent Billy Ray Cyrus song.

At any rate, Kenny Rogers left his mark on the music, as he was part of the pop-ization wave of country in the late 1970s and early 1980s that spawned a reactionary, more country sound in the 1990s. And the cycle continues today.

From The All Journalists Are 23-Year-Olds Files

The story Someone Modified A Drone So That It Looks like Snoopy Flying Around On Top Of His Doghouse begins:

One of the most memorable scenes from The Peanuts Movie (2015) was where Snoopy imagines himself riding his flying doghouse in his quest to take down the Red Baron. Now you can have the chance to see this iconic scene in real life with this flying Snoopy doghouse. It features the figure of Snoopy sitting on top of his red doghouse. But the most amazing thing is, it actually flies.

The source, you see, is a five-year-old movie for kids. Not the comic strip that began in 1950. That’s when the Boomers were babies, man. Ancient history with Romans and stuff.

Nobody tell this kid about the 1966 Royal Kingsmen song.

I own the original single as my mother was of single-buying age in 1966.

(Link via Instapundit which only seems to be the only site on the Internet that I read.)


A public health poster you can print out and hang in your workplace:

I’m familiar with John Cage’s 4’33”, but I’ve never heard it.

Also, the question is why are so many businesses closing at the mere thought of coronovirus?

Because lawyers. Couple on Grand Princess cruise sues for over $1 million:

A Florida couple on board the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship that has begun to disembark passengers off the California coast is suing the ship’s operator for more than $1 million — claiming the company lacked proper screening protocols to protect them from the deadly bug.

Meanwhile, a pair pilloried in St. Louis for breaking quarantine to, you know, live their lives, have also lawyered up for the eventual lawsuits against them:

Family members of the 20-year-old Ladue woman who tested positive for coronavirus were not told to quarantine themselves, according to their attorney.

In a timeline of events, attorney Neil Bruntrager outlined several calls and texts between the woman’s mother and the St. Louis County health department from Thursday, when the woman first experienced symptoms, to Saturday, when county officials announced the positive test results at a news conference.

Good to know some sectors of the economy will do just fine.

Coronavirus UPDATE!

Well, not a news update; I’m only scanning the headlines of the stories of the virus as I don’t think I’ll get much information from the Internet about it now. I don’t even trust actual “authorities.” I have to assume I’ll get it at some point and will likely recover.

However, I did visit Sam’s Club this morning and laid in a couple extra boxes of frozen meals and whatnot for us if we’re under quarantine of some sort. I mean, I have beans and soup to last a little while, but about a week into it, I am sure my family will be very sick of beans and soup. So we’ve got frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets to supplement the pasta and jarred sauce.

I mentioned on Facebook:

Media coverage of the current coronavirus won’t hit its stride until it breathlessly reports people in quarantine eating each other.

I’ve seen a lot of people comparing media coverage of the current infection to the Swine Flu of 2009-2010 (see Lileks today) and making the point that the difference in political parties in power and presidents explain the difference in coverage, and this is probably true. However, consider that today’s journalist was in middle school and doesn’t really remember 2009-2010 except in terms of middle school concerns about what brands they’re wearing and whether Abby likes you.

So keep calm and carry on.

UPDATE:I guess I should have checked the New York Post first. I see we’re getting closer. People fighting over ‘rotten’ food on coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise: passenger.

Spotting the Movie Mistake

GREAT SCOTT! Back To The Future stars Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd have heartwarming reunion for ‘poker night’:

BACK to the Future stars Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd first captured imaginations on screen in Back To The Future in 1985.

And the much-loved stars – who played Marty McFly and Doc Brown respectively – were reunited 35 years later on Wednesday.

Fox, 58, and 81-year-old Lloyd posed for a picture at the annual charity poker tournament organised by Fox.

Can someone tell me what might be misleading about this photo and caption?

Continue reading “Spotting the Movie Mistake”

The Scientific Name for Brian J.’s Investment Strategery

The harbinger effect:

The study of harbingers emerged from a 2015 analysis of purchasing patterns at a national convenience store chain. (In exchange for the data, the researchers agreed not to reveal the identity of the chain.) Drawing on six years’ worth of data from the chain’s loyalty card program, a team of marketing professors led by Eric Anderson of Northwestern University classified customers according to their affinity for buying new products that were later pulled from the shelves because of weak demand. Of the roughly 130,000 customers whose purchases were logged, a sizable fraction (about 25 percent) consistently took home products that bombed.

“It was really an accident,” says the economist Catherine Tucker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the study’s authors. “We looked in the data and saw there were some customers who were really good at picking out failures” — so good, in fact, that a newly introduced product was less likely to survive if it attracted these buyers. (And if they bought it repeatedly, its chances of survival were even worse.) Professor Tucker called these people harbingers of failure because, statistically speaking, their fondness for a product heralded its demise.

The harbinger effect has since been shown to apply not just to individuals but also to geographic locales.

Also to investment portfolios.

(Link via Instapundit.)

Today In Barsoom News

NASA photo reveals mysterious hole in Mars ‘that may contain alien life’:

Alien life may be lurking within a mysterious caver under the surface of Mars, scientists claim.

An eerie crater on the dusty slopes of Mars’ Pavonis Mons volcano was picked out by two space scientists as a prime spot for extraterrestrials.

* * * *

“Analysis and follow-up images revealed the opening to be about 35 meters across,” NASA scientists Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell wrote in the post.

“The interior shadow angle indicates that the underlying cavern is roughly 20 meters deep.”

Given the size of the ‘cavern,’ I expect that they’re expecting more microbes than Dejah Thoris.

Until they see the door.

How Faddish

The world’s first VR gym is opening in San Francisco. We tried it.

Lewis set me up with an account on the Black Box app, which tracks fitness stats like rep intensity and weight, then velcroed two hands-free controllers onto my forearms. The comfortable headset didn’t weigh down my neck or shoulders, but put some pressure on my cheeks and forehead. It connects to a cable from the ceiling, ostensibly to prevent exercisers from dropping and breaking the device — or stealing it.

With the headset on, I was transported to a virtual waiting room and then catapulted into the first of 10 virtual “battle arenas.” I started in the base-level arena, which looked like a warmer version of Planet Krypton.

The high-quality graphics made the environment appear as real as an animated game could hope to look, while the detail and vastness of my virtual surroundings helped distract from some of the discomfort of the headset — and the awareness of being alone in a room with a stranger, squatting and punching with no vision of my real-world surroundings.

The game dropped me onto a field with two pink crystals, placed on opposite ends, the goal being to destroy the opponent’s crystal before he destroys mine. Here’s where the exercise comes in. To fire off an attack or defense, I had to complete a series of traditional exercises. There are six to choose from — chest press, overhead press, row, lat pulldown, squat and deadlift — with each corresponding to a different weapon. A chest press, for example, shoots off a fire beam; a shoulder press emits a meteor strike. The more reps I completed, the more damage I inflicted on the enemy.

It sounds expensive and repetitive. I don’t expect this to be a viable gym model. I expect most gym models are predicated on selling memberships that go unused for a while before cancellation and on catering to a crowd who knows a good workout, and tarting the experience up with high-cost electronics and high-overhead processes will outstrip the money spent on the novelty of it, and the cost of a membership would be noticeable if you’re not using it even in San Francisco.

I don’t like the gym so much that I bought the company. And I would totally buy a Prop Cycle game for my home gym. So maybe VR gyms are the wave of the future, and I’m a Luddite.

Its Source and Origin A Mystery

From the article Corona beer brand is impacted by the coronavirus news:

We’d like to take a moment to repeat: The coronavirus has nothing to do with Corona the beer; the virus is named after the Latin word for crown thanks to an exterior structure that features little crown-like spikes, while the beer is named for the Sun’s corona.

The sun’s corona? Named for the Latin word for crown.

Completely different etimologies there.

(Link via Instapundit.)

The Old Neighborhood

Firearm violence not far from the old homestead in Casinoport: Woman shot, killed at community center by co-worker who was ‘angry’ about being sent home from work:

More information has been released into the deadly shooting at a St. Louis County community center.

The shooting happened at the Maryland Heights Community Center Monday around 8:10 p.m. One woman was killed, and the suspected gunman was injured after he fired his gun at an officer. That officer returned fire. The officer was not injured.

My beautiful wife sang with the community choir there, and I attended one or two meetings of a writer’s group there.

So, as with many local crime stories of this ilk, I checked to see if I know anyone involved. Apparently not, but sometimes it is the case.

In the new neighborhood, I’m running with a different crowd and am more likely to recognize people who appear in the local society pages or who buy ballparks.

Moving Against One Man, One Vote, Once

Republicans want to make it harder for citizen petitions to change the constitution:

Now Republican lawmakers are pushing back, especially on citizen changes to the state constitution, which they can’t reverse without voter consent.

Among legislation floated this session are resolutions that would require petitions to get a higher percentage of votes to pass a constitutional amendment.

Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, filed one such resolution. It would ask voters to raise the bar on themselves and require a two-thirds majority to pass future constitutional amendments.

“The percentage to pass right now is 50 percent plus one,” Sater said. “I think that is entirely too low. I think if it’s such a good idea, it needs to be an overwhelming vote in favor of it.”

As you might expect, gentle reader, I agree.

Whenever I go into the library, I’m approached by petition signature gatherers, and I don’t sign any of them whether I support the cause or not. The petition method of amending the state constitution is ripe for, well, not abuse, but certainly gaming for a favorable permanent outcome. Proponents of a measure gather signatures from supporters, people who think it’s a good idea, or people who think the people should have a vote on an issue one way or another, and then the measure gets put on a ballot for a low turnout election day, wherein its supporters all turn out and normal people skip because they don’t want to miss work to vote on Fire Protection District officials and a constitutional amendment. And the item passes, and it’s part of the constitution forever.

Not to mention the impact that the Secretary of State can have on these measures; I’ve written in the old days about what Democrat Robin Carnahan used to do to ballot initiatives (Robin Carnahan: Ghostwriter and Convenient Technicalities amongst others).

So I am not a fan of this process as it is. I understand the rationale for it, but groups and, dare I say it, special interests can too easily game this system. Raising the bar for constitutional amendments would certainly stifle some of the gaming and emphasize the importance of changing the constitution, for Pete’s sake.

Remember, gentle reader, if you matriculated from school which still had a Civics class, that to change the U.S. Constitution, you have to get two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states to approve the amendment. Ever heard of the Equal Rights Amendment? It passed Congress but fell a few states short of actually amending the constitution.

The United States Constitution sees this process as a bulwark against the passions of the populace (building a better republic, natch). It would behoove the state of Missouri to have both the ballot initiative process that protects the population from the passions of focused special interest groups who game it.