A short list of the shoes yet to drop as the ACA disaster unfolds over the next year…

1) The millions who had their individual and small-group insurance cancelled will largely fail to find a substitute, and the stories of what happens to the unlucky ones who then suffer a medical catastrophe will dwarf what we have seen so far. Punishing the responsible and hard-working is several orders of magnitude more harmful politically.

2) When people try to use their new ACA plans, many will discover how limited their new provider networks are, and in many cases (especially in rural areas) the network doctors will be far away and overcrowded with new patients. More news stories.

3) Remember that health outcomes for those covered by Medicaid are not statistically better than for those who are uninsured or underinsured. But the number of doctors taking Medicaid patients will not have grown much, while the expansion will send many more patients their way -- how will this work?

4) Loss of freedom to move. In the 80s I was covered by one of the best HMOs in the country, the Harvard Community Health Plan. It and Kaiser were the models for the HMO movement, which cut costs by managing care and restricting the service networks to employed doctors and their own hospitals. In return you paid a much lower premium. But if you left the service area, you could only get emergency services covered - the model was that you would return "home" ASAP for any real treatment. *This is the ACA model* -- the HMOs were politically trashed for their restrictions, and now suddenly the HMO menu of confined geographies, limited hospitals, and gatekeepers for specialists is back, at vastly inflated premiums. As some pointed out in 2010, the public has always hated having to deal with insurance companies, and with the Feds taking on the mantle of People's Insurance, expect the public to begin to hate the Feds.

5) Now that we can see how it is going to work, it's obvious that both subsidies and costs of the new system are not especially well targeted. The well-off with pre-existing conditions get a huge subsidy even though they may not need it, while the middle class just above subsidy range may pay a huge hidden tax for their insurance despite barely having $100 a month to spare. Some people who truly needed help benefit, but that is almost an accident compared to the side-effects to everyone else.

6) Yet to come: security issues. Currently the law allows subsidies only for those using the exchanges (and there are lawsuits about the provision of subsidies to those using the Federal exchange, which is not explicitly authorized by the text of the law.) So to get a subsidy you *must* use the exchanges, yet security experts unanimously agree the Federal exchange, at least, is full of security flaws. The stories of hackers gaining access to private user data for identity theft are on the way.

7) Payment problems: the IT people now say that 40-60% of the backend work on the Federal exchange has yet to be done, with no plan to forward the subsidies to the insurers until January. No one knows how flawed the data being sent to the insurance companies is, or if insurance companies will refuse to cover those whose payments fail to arrive by the due date. More stories will come of this when people are refused service after they thought they had signed up.

We enjoyed Andrew Sullivan when he was plugging marriage equality 20 years ago. He has flip-flopped and evolved into an apologist for the powerful and his religious impulses, pontificating on economics and policy he barely understands based one whether the "right people" hold certain views. His habit of first-naming his cool-kid friends ("Ezra") is pretentious and he jumped the shark quite some time ago. Presumably when elections upend the current order he will find a new set of cool kids to suck up to.

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/11/20/a-way-forward-for-the-aca/

The next article is a pretty good roadmap of the way to go if Dems and Reps are to come together to rescue the ACA before we hear about the thousands of people who formerly had insurance but now will be bankrupted by a minor brush with a hospital:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304439804579208020624280740

This is what it looks like when the less in tune part of the population discovers they've been lied to:



The following link is about a woman who lives in WA state, which has been lauded as having the best of the state exchanges. She wrote to Obama about her new low-cost health plan, and Obama spoke about her as a success story. Now she discovers the state's exchange miscalculated her subsidy, and her correctly unsubsidized premium is so high she still won't be able to afford insurance. Yay! BTW, Oregon's $300 million exchange still has not enrolled a single person…

http://washingtonstatewire.com/blog/rude-awakening-for-federal-way-woman-who-got-shout-out-from-president-cant-afford-obamacare-policy-after-all/

Internally, Democrats are fighting over how to respond to the ACA disaster. They correctly see electoral repudiation on the horizon. Much whistling in the dark by the usual apologists, but privately they know the situation is grim.

http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/190844-obama-hits-new-low-with-dems-at-capitol

The lawlessness of trying to patch problems without getting legislative help:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-19/obama-breaks-the-health-law-to-save-it.html

Public turns against the whole idea of federal responsibility for healthcare:

http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/20/new-high-56-percent-of-americans-say-pro

The end of youth enthusiasm for Hope and Change:

http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/20/youth-in-revolt-against-obama-54-of-mill

And another swan song for the Blue Model:

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/11/20/nyt-obamacare-debacle-could-kill-big-blue/
Some really good reporting from WaPo on why the Federal exchange was such an expensive failure here. I haven't written much about it because the press is now on the case and digging into the story.

Administration spinmeisters are trying to plug the leaks when real people report their premiums have increased for less coverage. One of the half-truths is that all the cancelled policies were "junk insurance" - which certainly exists; this is insurance with very low premiums that covers very little, though it may at least get you the negotiated insurance discount at providers. But many people who carefully researched their plans and had excellent insurance covering their needs, often with high deductibles but no limits, are also finding their policies cancelled, with new plans costing 50-100% more with even higher deductibles. The Administration is sending out its spokespeople to call these people liars and stupid for not understanding how much better the new policies are, a winning strategy if you want to really make some of the smartest and most influential people angry.

The situation is especially grim since millions of people who are losing their policies 12/31/13 are going to have to find replacements in less than two months. Many will be unable to act that fast, given the broken exchanges, and many will find the new policies unaffordable and hold off hoping for something better. This means it is now more likely than not that more people will be uninsured as 2014 dawns than before the law was implemented.

Behind all this is elitist central planning bureaucrats who designed a system that can provide subsidized preventative care ("prepaid care") as well as true insurance (against unlikely and expensive medical events) to the unhealthy and poorer underinsured. The cost is partly subsidized by a large number of new taxes, which hit everyone but are most noticeable for the wealthy; and partly subsidized by increases in premiums for everyone who is unsubsidized. Many people just above the subsidy cutoff of 400% of the poverty line will be paying 40-100% more in premiums for less coverage, which is so out of line for their budgets that many of them will have to go without insurance in this new order. This is the "cross subsidy" - forced new revenue to the insurance companies to pay for community rating and must-issue.

Another misleading spin point is that only 4% of the population is effected. The Administration hopes people will buy this new lie, but by delaying employer provisions for a year they hope you won't realize that a wave of changes, cancellations, and price increases will arrive next year for the supposedly unaffected 85% of the population covered by employer plans. Since they lied to get it enacted, why would anyone believe their fallback lies? Those who are involved in HR discussions know the truth.

I have no doubt that most of the politicians supporting the ACA were told it would work well and ultimately save money. It takes awhile for those who declared their support to admit they were wrong and start to work with critics to fashion a better plan - which might look like Switzerland's, which includes compulsory catastrophic insurance for everyone at a low price (subsidized for the very poor), with an accompanying book of medicaid-like reimbursements for those who don't have additional insurance. Democrats need to eat crow and start rewriting the ACA, quickly, or the outcome will be ugly.
Breaking Bad is a classic tragedy told across 5 seasons of high-quality TV. The anti-hero, Walter White, is a Caltech-degreed chemist who mysteriously ends up teaching high school chemistry to ingrates in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which acts as a seedy and naturally-beautiful backdrop to the chains of events and moral failures that destroy his world.

Reason.com this morning ran a piece on some idiot DA's Time Magazine essay claiming Breaking Bad normalizes meth use and makes fighting it harder. The DA writes in a long tradition of belief that knowledge of evil is dangerous and freedom to ponder its meaning suspect. It probably does not help that Breaking Bad (and the even-more-complex world of Baltimore explored in The Wire) calls into question the morality and efficacy of prohibition thinking -- the black market and law enforcement cultures created have done far more damage to the normal moral life of their communities than drug use itself ever could. So our DA understandably walls himself off from that lesson to continue the belief that what he does is meaningful and right.

At first viewing, it appears that Walter's troubles are the result of bad luck (the Nemesis of his lung cancer) combined with a defensible decision to make meth to leave his family a nest egg. What makes a tragedy, of course, is the downfall of a noble person because of flaws in his character. We admire Walter for his logical mind, his creative use of chemical knowledge, and his strong will to achieve - and yet a few seasons in, the viewer begins to understand that Walter has been brought low even before the tale begins by his pride and inability to communicate with those closest to him. At every juncture when someone he cares for is in pain and he could say something about the truth or his feelings to ease their way, he is frozen and either says nothing or lies. With his wife Skyler, he dissembles unconvincingly even after she has figured out that he's lying, and even after his shady lawyer Saul comments that he has to confide in her. With his young business partner Jesse Pinkman (a slacker former student who became a small-time meth producer before the tale begins), Walter has obvious paternal feelings, but expresses them mostly in criticism of Jesse's weaknesses, and when given the opportunity say or do something to help him, fails to do so.

At the end of Season 2, Walt's small negligences, concern for Jesse, and a chain of coincidences lead to the death of Jesse's girlfriend and a midair plane collision that kills hundreds of people.

So Walt's fatal flaw is pride - the guarding of his secrets and his self-image as a logical guy who does the right thing have led to destruction of everything he supposedly valued and was trying to save by going to the Dark Side. His failing to do the right thing at the important moment for those he loves implies he is a failed human being, and his failure as a scientist, a husband, and a partner are all due to this one flaw.

Now my life resonates a bit with his fictional one - I think of myself similarly; I graduated from MIT but failed, really, at being a good team member and achieving what I might have achieved if I had been more courageous and less lazy about communicating. I had an academic chemist friend who cooked up a batch of meth to pay his bills back when the customers were primarily long-distance truckers who wanted to stay awake. One of my friends went on to achieve enormous success by sticking with a narrow field of inquiry and never understanding enough about how the world really works to be discouraged, and in turn his friends defended him and made him rich. And today I live in a Southwestern town with a colorful cast of characters, including meth addicts, porn stars, and normal middle class folks in one big stew.

So we have Lesson 1: Do the right thing and take the risk of action to help those close to you understand reality and know your feelings.

Lesson 2: Drug Prohibition, like the previous incarnation, carves out a lawless society and is itself responsible for much of the destruction of minority communities since the 50s. Millions of people live in fear of gun or police violence because of it. Drug use is destructive, but while some are crippled or killed by it, it appears safe and legal sources and viewing addiction as something to be treated and managed would reduce that harm. To minimize lawless cultures, we need to free people to be responsible for their own actions and accountable to themselves. We all must serve someone, but a free person is one who has enough productive relationships and skills with people to make their own way, threatened by no single lost relationship. Setting up a society where money comes from illicit trading (both made profitable and endangered by law enforcement) and government handouts is a recipe for corruption and loss of the skills of surviving in a healthy community.

More discussion of the show:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_Bad
http://breakingbad.wikia.com/wiki/Breaking_Bad_Wiki
Morning reading. I have tended to avoid political commentary since most people aren't ready to hear anything that doesn't agree with their morally superior, Daily Show-viewing, bien pensant groupthink, but we're reaching an interesting juncture here, with the Syrian situation possibly being the last straw that loosens the grip of the Democrat-Republican machine on federal power.

In this situation, we have a president who while a Senator railed against executive use of military force unless the US or its interests was directly threatened. The hypocrisy of his plan to use force in Syria was so obvious he crumbled and asked for Congressional authorization (which would have been a good idea if it had happened *before* he moved forces into place and stated his intentions.) His loose talk about moral red lines - as if he leads the world government - makes backing up his words a matter of US credibility. Or is it?

Stepping way way back, we see a state that got itself and its population in the habit of thinking of themselves as responsible for the entire world when we had half the world's economy and other powers were reduced by war, so that only the US could stand up to an expansionist Soviet Union. The Soviets are gone, replaced by a still-dangerous but much less threatening Russia, the Chinese have gone capitalist and cooperate in the world economy. Uncle Sam is like Wile E Coyote, legs pumping the air before realizing the long drop below. This reduction in our relative power is nothing to panic over - by helping to build a multilateral world and bringing billions of people out of poverty through free trade and our security umbrella, the US did a great good for the world. But there's no need for large numbers of obsolete ground troops to be stationed in now-wealthy places like Germany, Korea, and Japan that can afford to defend themselves. They have been free-riding on our failure to recognize how the world has changed.

But this mentally lazy habit of thinking of ourselves as world governors has to stop. The major parties are owned by vested interests, unions, defense contractors, porkbarrel spending on bases and welfare; no reform of the major sectors of healthcare, education, prisons, or defense is possible until the current power structures are reduced by younger reps and public understanding of the corruption that binds us.

The money has all been spent. Not only the obvious debt of the federal and state governments, but the pension and health obligations are so large that there is no way the smaller cohorts of young people coming can bear the costs without major restructuring. Everything must be examined, and the "programs to solve problems" approach of the last 50 years which has resulted in millions of state and federal employees shuffling papers back and forth in duplicative programs that have proven to do little for the supposed beneficiaries have to be streamlined and reduced (examples: Head Start, inner-city failing schools, defense systems boondoggles, overlapping welfare programs, militarized police and SWAT teams for every agency, huge prison populations, the ever-increasing costs of the war on drugs…)

We as citizens need to stop thinking our local representative is just great while those other guys in Congress suck. Collectively they suck, and looking for independent thought that shows some signs of being grounded in the real world of business and real defense against real threats will require lifting up people who know more than how to fundraise using the Internet. The Syrian situation exposes who the true weasels and dinosaurs are, and moving them out of their careers in "public service" (which, strangely, leaves them wealthy when they move on to private lobbying) can't happen fast enough.

http://reason.com/blog/2013/09/04/john-kerrys-morally-linguistically-and-h

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/09/05/saving-obama-from-himself/

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/09/05/the-american-people-tell-washington-a-few-things/

http://www.althouse.blogspot.com/2013/09/wheres-bruce-springsteen-he-helped.html

http://reason.com/blog/2013/09/05/rolling-stone-on-jerry-brown-best-govern

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/us/drug-agents-use-vast-phone-trove-eclipsing-nsas.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
The Hive-Mind of The Gays is again demonstrating its willingness to thoughtlessly damage others by boycotting Stoli vodka, a symbol of Russia in American minds but whose owners have already tangled with the Putin fascists and barely survived; the Stoli sold here is currently bottled in Latvia. The Russian government already expropriated the brand name inside Russia, and while I can't find any direct evidence, I suspect the owning company pays no taxes to Russia directly.

Many people hearing this reply, "I don't care. It's a symbol and the owner is rich, he could persuade Putin." These people are demonstrating the knee-jerk Piety Gene; it doesn't matter whether my actions help, what matters is it makes me feel good. It shows I am a Good Person on the Side of Justice! Others who know more about the situation inside Russia disagree.
Memorial Day came and went, with [livejournal.com profile] excessor and Gary visiting, three pool parties, and way too much socializing. Settling into the quieter season of summer. My cold has turned into weeks of coughing, not unusual but it's kept me from getting out in public much. Meanwhile, our real estate agent managed to get a little bidding war going, ultimately with three parties; the end result is a local is buying it for cash, 5 day close, no contingencies, closes tomorrow. While it's not the best price, I'm glad it's over - the listing was old and tired and the alternative would have been to take it off the market, redo the roof, paint the exterior, and have it staged again for next season. We had a lot of bad luck in the sales process….

I started watching Mad Men two months ago, and have caught up: 69 episodes taking us from 1960 to 1968. The writing is excellent, and it's addictive in the same sense Six Feet Under was, characters developed over long story arcs with the addictiveness of a soap opera but at a very high level.

One of the themes is the key question, "Is that what you want to do, or is that what you think is expected of you?" At the start of the timeline in 1960, women in the office have influence but no authority; they are treated like serfs and expected to marry out of careers as secretaries to become housewives in the suburbs. As the series progresses, the more talented women work their way up to professional status and respect, eventually becoming partners. In 1960, what you had to appear to be to succeed was reliable and conventional, and your life was expected to be "respectable" - lived in one of the few approved social models. Meanwhile, under the surface (and abetted by a lack of communications like cell phones and email) most of the men are chasing tail, the secretaries are sleeping with bosses to curry favor or bag the right husband, and hypocrisy and alcoholism run rampant. Much of what goes on is hidden, and most people aren't even close to honest with themselves.

Set against a period of rapid change in mores and shocking events like the assassinations of Kennedy and MLK, the characters get to develop in response. Story time is spent on the role of Jews and blacks, and the character who turns out to be homosexual gets fired because he fails to respond positively when a young tobacco heir (source of the majority of the agency's billings) comes onto him; a "why couldn't you take one for the team?" response, not because he is homosexual but because he fluffed the interaction with the client. The counterculture intrudes more and more, with Village bohemians / beatniks replaced by hippies and Hare Krishnas. Pot is smoked at the office, beards grow, skirts get shorter and shorter, the topic of body bags from Vietnam gets mentioned frequently.

Don Draper is not only a character but a symbol - of all those of humble rural background who created new identities for themselves in the big city and strove to enter the middle and upper classes. His facade of respectability is even thinner than most - he's actually Dick Whitman, son of a prostitute, abused by his stepfather, who joined the Army to escape then took an officer's identity when the officer is killed next to him. In this era a simple switch of dog tags let him get shipped back home from Korea immediately… to a completely artificial new life, selling products by invoking the dreams of consumers.

As the characters age and mature, they have all gone through successive changes throwing off doing what they thought was expected of them, and getting closer to what they think they really want. And sometimes they're right!

One of the delightful casting choices is Robert Morse as the elderly, eccentric founder of the agency Bertram Cooper - delightful because he became a star on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as a brilliant young lad who bluffs his way to the top in 1961. He's fabulous.

As Bert says when Don's secretary, an elderly former flame of his, dies: “She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She’s an astronaut.”
For a long time most of the public who knows anything about it has bought the propaganda (from DRAM manufacturers colluding with AMD) that Rambus went to JEDEC meetings, secretly patented what they saw there, then tried to profit by suing makers of JEDEC-standard parts. Completely false, and shown to be so in court case after court case. So the press should have fun with what's about to come out in the antitrust suit, Rambus vs. Micron, Hynix, etc.

Jury selection began today, trial actually starts in 2-3 weeks, depending on how quickly they get a jury for what promises to be a 2-3 month case. Since the defendants (Micron, Hynix, etc.) have already plead guilty to pricefixing DDR, which was part of the scheme to defeat Rambus memory and steal its component innovations, it will be hard for the defendants. Here's a bit of transcript from arguments in an earlier case which gives you the flavor of it:

Read more... )

Memory Loss

Jun. 7th, 2011 11:23 am
My 8-core Mac Pro c. early 2008 (now just 3.5 years old!) started acting flaky, crashing whenever I plugged in a cable, revving up its fan to takeoff speed, etc. Disturbing but it mostly worked. Read up online, opened it up and cleaned out (minimal) dust accumulations, reseated the memory cards. It had failed the one time I got it to run the memory diagnostic, pointing to memory FB-DIMMs in Riser A. And indeed, when I booted it up open, the red LED on that riser stayed red, and now I'm running with only the add-on 4 G from OWC.

So (as reported on the web) Apple's supplied Hynix DDR2 memory is failing in large numbers now. Thanks, Apple and others, for letting the DRAM cartel lock out Rambus memory, which had a much better record of compatibility and quality.

Now to order some new memory. My machine is sad without it.
Temperatures are rising here. I started looking at alternative methods for cooling in December -- I thought it would take a few months. After dropping one contracting team for incompetence, found a good one with JR's help -- but they have been very very slow to get going, largely because the owner doubted the newfangled two-stage evaporative cooler would work well and he was worried I'd come after him; he believed only poor people would use swamp coolers and that our house was "too nice" for them. Well, months of no progress and a bit of education later, he seems almost ready to start; Friday he came by with a carpenter (to move the screening wall on the roof) and a roofer (to fix the foam where it'd get torn up by the work.) So I am hopeful, and I'll give him a call to see what's moving. We need it!

Contracted for two enormous automatic shades for the west side of the house. Giant roller shades, tan fabric, automated, with sensors for sun and wind. The largest is 26' wide. When they are closed, all of the west windows in the Great Hall will be shaded. Remote control for operating or programming. We may then ditch the inside shades, which even when open take up too much space and view.

LEDs: finished replacing all the recessed halogen spots (except in the Great Hall) with Cree inserts. Highly satisfying, 10.5W replacing 60W. Better, more uniform lighting as well. One circuit with only three on a dimmer in a bit wobbly, so the lights flicker; otherwise all the dimmers perform well with them. Next generation will be better but it's not available yet; GE-Rambus vying with Cree and Philips for the prize.

Landscape lighting: 6 months after replacing them all with cheap Chinese LED spots, 3 of the 30 or so have already failed, which is a little high. Whether that rate will continue as they age or trail off remains to be seen. In any case, they've already paid for themselves in savings.

Solar pool heating: installed last month, rushed a bit so James could use the pool more. Does a good job keeping the pool warm much earlier in the season than would otherwise be practical. Ended up burying pipes to the main house roof, since the casita roof was a bit to small. Using up considerable main house roof space, and after the new coolers are installed, there will be just enough left for photovoltaic panels.

New art: I had hoped James would paint some things for us, but he never got focused enough to get to it. Looking at a 70s bronze sunburst sculpture, some aluminum-backed reproductions, and maybe a late entry from James. Tempted to paint some canvases myself, or go into art-on-Mac to create mockups to paint from. Many people suggest things but they have to fit with the current scheme. In other words, I don't need guidance, there are too many specific requirements, and I know what I like (hi, Paul!)

Control: so far have done little with the Z-Wave stuff. Until I install z-wave dimmers in quantity, the signal can't hop throughout the house -- a mesh network needs elements. Have 4-5 switches, a test dimmer from GE, and a test thermostat from Trane. I'll try a little toy network in one area to see if they all work.

We didn't get more than half the visitors we expected over the winter. Many people who said they'd want to visit never got around to it. There was more than enough happening here with James, though.
So I stumbled upon this reminder of Norumbega, now a little district around the shore of the Charles in Watertown and Newton, later a park and an amusement park, now what's left being a canoe rental facility...

I was doing a web search for Everett Hale, the distributor who has the CA/AZ rights for the new Air2O two-stage evaporative cooler unit. This name is a hallowed Old New England name, Edward Everett Hale being the most famous of the family, and since he grew up in Weston, he's probably a relation.

So I got hold of the Oasys people finally. The company had a promising cooler but failed in the market -- lack of capital to market the product, most likely. The Speakman company (famous for shower heads; we had one of theirs in Sunnyvale) bought them out and they're taking another run at it. They have a new unit (the Air2O) which is designed more for roof installs (see the glossy folder), and are about a year away from an integrated evap/AC/heating package which would encapsulate the control issues for residential use.

The control issues are these: air flow for evaporative cooling is from exterior, cool, blow around interior, escape through vents or windows. Air flow for AC is closed: air is returned, cooled again, and recirculated. At other times, what is wanted is simple ventilation - rapid replacement of warm indoor air with cool outdoor air, or vice-versa. The system needs to know inside and outside temp and humidity, and can do a little bit better if it has a good forecast of future numbers. There are fans, vents, and air valves to be operated.

Now the non-casita part of our house is about 5400 sq ft, and Speakman/Oasys says one unit can handle 2500 sq ft, so with AC backup we may get by with two units. Installation on the roof may not be too difficult, near the current two AC units up there. Everett says they can get a few beta units in immediately if we can find a competent installer -- they have none in the area.

Remember, the pioneers are the guys with the arrows sticking out of their backs.....
...so, the night for Paul's party finally came. The caterers arrived and set up before I was even home from the gym. Took a shower and by the time I got out, Matt-the-bartender had arrived also.

It started slow but then began to fill up a half hour in. Matt got very busy, and the servers were helpful but unobtrusive (we originally didn't plan servers, but they were there serving -- staffing error by the caterer, who seems to have little head for business but makes great food.) I made the mistake of going out to hottub with Eric and Dave just before the cakelet with the candles was served, oh well. But everyone had a great time and the caterers made life easy by cleaning up a lot. The rented glassware was picked up the next day.

Kate had some almost-as-elegant lady friends along, and they mingled nicely with the otherwise all-male crowd. There were one or two drunken propositions (and one uninvited guest wangled my phone number and sent me suggestive text messages for several days) -- par for the course. No one fell into the pool, and the hottub was only used by a few. Kind of disappointing!

Everyone else left by 11:30, so Kate and one of her friends and Matt and Paul and I talked for another half hour.

Gallery - Paul's 50th plus a little Pride


My last entry here was September 30th. Paul then left for his trip with Dad back East, while I drove down to Palm Springs with a Prius-ful of boxes. This marked the end of my life in San Francisco, though we still have to return to deal with our stuff at some point -- either David figures out how to keep the apartment (in which case we leave a lot for his use) or not (we move everything out when the lease expires.)

I had expected to lead a quiet life down here with fewer distractions, but that did not actually happen -- I realized fairly quickly that the first few months here were better spent getting to know the people, since as "new guys in town" we get some attention which won't last long, so it's better to use that to get our social lives restarted.

So I have spent some time being social, and another chunk of time doing chores related to my mother -- taxes, billpaying, service-arranging. This doesn't leave much time for online writing or socializing, thus my failure to write or comment here. I tried to keep up reading, and posted on Facebook, but many of the events went unrecorded. So I'll hit the highlights for those who aren't Facebooking or want a deeper view.

Went to a bear party thrown by Mike Mellenger, one of the guys who started Bear Films, bartended by Matt Sorrentino. We knew Mike from when he lived in Santa Clara.

Paul returned Oct 11th, then his good old friend and drinking buddy Jim dropped in for a few days. Then he left and David came for the Peel Off (naked square dancing fly-in) at All Worlds, joined by his friend Mark Ambrose. Only danced a few tips but it was fun seeing the many familiar faces. [ahem!] Made out with a minor league porn star as we were leaving, but otherwise hardly noticed we were square dancing in a bathhouse environment.

We had a big housewarming party Oct 23rd, with about 50 people (twice the last time.) I think we're done warming the house. Bartender Todd Metzger did a great job.



Halloween in Palm Springs was fun -- they close Arenas and have a mini version of what the Castro used to have. Festive. Enjoyed a brief appearance on stage of Shann Carr (who lives here) and some other local talent, but the sound system kept cutting out. My favorite costume was a couple of guys who dressed as an Alexander -- a mid-century modern house with a butterfly roof; each one had half the house and they had to stand together with the rooflines matching to create the look.

Went to a great Halloween party the night before. Our costumes were embarrassingly minimal compared to the average level of effort, but hey. A good time was had.

Paul's friend Kate and her minion Scott flew in Thursday for Paul's birthday and Pride weekend. Kate has undergone too many stressful life events recently - the near-death of her company, cancer, a breakup... well, she looked fabulous in spite of all that. We took them out to dinner then to Toucans that night, where Scott started chatting up a deaf guy and told us to leave without him -- he came back via cab the next morning after spending the night in a motel room, having forgotten our address.



Kate and Paul at Toucans

I'll wrap this post up now and continue with Paul's 50th birthday party in the next one....



Lambda Legal event Friday


J&M's party Sunday

Back in SF

Sep. 23rd, 2010 01:56 pm
We got back last night after 8 on an unusually uncrowded and on-time Alaska flight. Each time returning it's a bit of a shock how small, dingy, and crowded our place here seems after getting used to the big house down south.

Andy / [livejournal.com profile] otterpop58 has been staying here for a few days. Unfortunately, he's had some stomach bug most of the time and hasn't been able to enjoy being here much. Hopefully it clears up before Sam gets here and the festivities begin. Much note-comparing and affectionate gossip exchanged while watching Robot Chicken and the like.

Our Folsom weekend agenda includes: Friday evening at 440 for the BM-sponsored happy hour; the usual crowd of visitors at Golds SoMa; Saturday's BM tea dance at the DNA Lounge ([livejournal.com profile] jwz's space); party at Joe's Barbershop that evening. Having done the later dances before, we're happy not to this time. And of course Sunday we'll brave the zoo that is the Fair for an hour or two. David is supposed to be back sometime Saturday.

Next week I get to pack more stuff to take with me on the long drive down with the Prius, by myself. Paul heads back East for two weeks, then flies back from there to PSP.
Wednesday David drove us to SFO for our flight down, and John met us at PSP. The house was fine after being empty for almost a month, and the trick of putting mineral oil in the toilets kept all the water in the traps from evaporating. Off to dinner with John at Roscoe's, where we were in time for the early bird (senior?) special prix fixe menu, which includes dessert, which in Paul's case is his beloved carrot cake.

One minor problem: a smoke detector on the ceiling of the great room (what we call the hotel-lobby central space of the house) was chirping about a low battery. The next day I unpacked the compound ladder I had had delivered on our previous visit and got up there, which turned out to be a little scary since the highest stepladder you could make out of it left about a foot to be desired, and the smoke alarm needed two hands to screw off. 14' ceilings doesn't sound like too much, but my fear of heights (quite reasonable in this case) kicked in and made it hard. But eventually I got it loose, took out the battery and unplugged its AC power. What a stupid place to put a battery-operated thing... and everyone should know that ionization detectors give more false alarms than real ones, while the more-expensive photoelectric detectors are much better -- but very rare, since builders can save a little and still comply with the code.

Thursday our house server and 6 TB of disk drives arrived. I had wanted something like this high-end media server, but its price (upwards of $5,000) made a less developed product a better option. So we now have a Synology DS410 server to serve the same needs: media server, storage, backup, security cam support, iTunes server... etc. The irony here is that like the Vera home controller box I also have, it's a Linux-based product; in fact, with a Z-Wave dongle and software, it would make more sense to have the home control function in the server as well, but the available software solutions aren't up to snuff just yet. I once knew a Silicon Valley retiree who spent almost a decade working on custom software for controlling his house, and the more standardized the product and the higher-level the programming, the less I will fall into that trap.

The Synology people have made progress in simplifying the user interface enough to make it almost plug-and-play, but I ran into a few snags (often fixed by rebooting the server or service.) I ripped a DVD test file into a variety of different forms (the terminology of video storage in quite complex: containers versus video standard versus soundtracks, MPEG4 H.264 MKV AAIC ... quite a jumble of acronyms, codecs, and standards (that sometimes aren't all that standardized.)) The "media server" software on the DS410 can serve up streams from MKV or MOV files, for example, but not from an ISO (duplicate file structure of a DVD), while the digital streaming client I'm trying out, the Seagate FreeAgent Theater+, can read the ISO directly through another route, making for a confusing UI. I will probably standardize on ISOs since they contain DVD extras and menu structures worth preserving, though the Blu-ray ISOs are still not completely standardized. By the time I really get all this going, though, the Logitech/Google TV client will be available, so assuming it has the usual support for streaming from home network servers that all these boxes have, it may be the client.

The goal is, of course, to have HD video and high-quality sound on demand individually selectable in every room independently, while sharing the large media library and external sources.

In between fiddling with this, as Paul has posted, we went to some great parties, saw Michael McDonald of Mad TV at one of them, shopped, ate, gymmed (at Golds and World -- looks like we will join both to have travel passes and a complete set of equipment and gym buddies), and generally settled in.
Just got back yesterday from a week in KC. My mother has been in increasing trouble, and spent Saturday night at the hospital after an episode of extreme back pain; I spoke to the ER, and they couldn't find a reason for the pain, or relieve it by use of the usual painkillers, so they were looking for other causes. By the time I got there the next Saturday night, she had been home for days and said she felt fine...
My turn to take care of my mother... )
Our gym friends Rod and Roger were first in line at City Hall last week when the decision was announced -- for a few minutes they thought they were going to be married that day, then hopes were dashed by the judge's initial stay. Yesterday's news that the 9th Circuit will stay the judgment further while it takes up the appeal is a bit disappointing, in that we were considering getting a marriage license ourselves since the time finally appeared ripe; now we wait until December, or possibly until next December if the Supreme Court accepts a further appeal.

Rod and Roger were interviewed about their feelings, and like our own [livejournal.com profile] rootbeer1 and [livejournal.com profile] qbear are becoming go-to guys for the media; they've been quoted in the New York Times, etc.

I personally hope the appeal goes to the Supremes and results in a finding outlawing sex discrimination in marriage and all of its associated rights and responsibilities throughout the land. We can dream, anyway.

But for now, the Netherlands and its flowers are safe.
[Irrelevant note: my forearm started itching in the night, waking me up for half an hour until I got an icepack on it. Started itching again this morning. Annoying; no sign of skin disturbance.]

Most of my work (that paid) has been some form of global optimization, from optimizing parallel programs and schemes to automatically optimize parallel programs, to optimizing plan layouts in subdivision, to managing investments considering all tax and estate consequences and adverse events.

The new house in Palm Springs is no exception. Built in 2003, by the standards of the time it's well-insulated and efficient. At that time, electricity cost about 12 cents per kWh; currently the highest tiered rate (which we will easily reach using AC) is above 30c/kWh. The pricing scheme is hugely complicated and unpredictably micromanaged by an incompetent state legislature and regulators, and discriminates against large families as well as wasteful users. It does, however, result in such high marginal costs for larger houses that solar power, as currently subsidized, is more than competitive for the highest-tier rates.
Making the new house more comfortable without breaking the bank... )

[next: irrigation; outside lighting; music and TV distribution; security; evolution of the house computer; media servers; solar voltaic; LED lighting]


Got back from Palm Springs Monday night, with David. Paul stayed down there to continue his programme of relaxation and liquid refreshments hard work and shopping unpacking. As he mentioned, I had a frustrating two weeks struggling with things that didn't quite work (two instances of bad firmware) or I didn't have time to finish (because of other delays.) But I wanted to get back...

For what, exactly? I imagine enjoying my time here and being social with all the great guys I meet here, but it's mostly humdrum. Wake, eat, read, eat, read, eat, gym, eat, read, sleep.

A bit of excitement happened yesterday, with the release of the favorable Prop 8 appeal decision; I meant to get over to the rally at Castro and Market early, but didn't make it until 5:30, by which time it was too late to get anywhere close. So I milled around the fringes for awhile, not being able to hear anything, and eventually left -- I was hitting people with my backpack, and I hate that when other people do it. I also forgot to bring anything warmer than a t-shirt (as usual), so I was getting cold...

Got a few pictures; this one is Chuck, who I used to lust over at the gym, doing his sign-carrying bit.

There are a few more adventures I'm not going to write about, and David is around enough to make me not feel lonely, but I miss Paul. We won't be apart too often.
After not being willing to wait hours to pick up an iPhone last month, I received the one I ordered about July 13th. Worth the upgrade from a 3g foir many reasons -- about twice as fast, better WiFi and 3G reception, some ability to store an image of a suspended application in memory which greatly speeds up switching apps. When I finally used the phone as a phone, though - as we were loading up the truck to move some of our stuff to Palm Springs -- I noticed the volume was so low I could hardly hear. Didn't get a chance to check this out until today, when I discovered that the plastic screen shields it came with (which I had left on, since it seemed to work fine) were cutting both speaker and microphone volume way down. Duh....

So it was my birthday today. Spent most of the day unloading stuff from the truck so we can take it to the rental place here; I'll fly back to SFO August 2nd. Fielded the usual phone calls and best wishes. Almost 100 messages on Facebook, and I feel bad about not composing clever replies to each and every one. Maybe tomorrow...

Before leaving, we had a party at our place in the city -- both a delayed housewarming and a small birthday party for me. I'm not a big fan of celebrating birthdays, but Paul is, and he wasn't to be denied, so there was cake and everything. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and it was nice to see friends who have never met establishing contact.

A few pictures...
I posted those 100+ Convention photos on Facebook as well. I had intended to suggest people not automatically tag everyone in sight, since my failure to do so is intentional -- I think people should control what appears on their profile pages, and Facebook's allowing anyone to tag a photo of someone else is a bad idea. While the person so tagged can untag themselves, it's an imposition. So in general I only tag people in photos when I'm certain it's a really good photo of them that they'd want to present.

Oops, well, too late! My industrious friends have tagged everyone. Sorry to anyone who may be peeved to have their favorite photos of themselves displaced by a flood of snapshots.
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