Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thought for the day - Islamic history and militants

This morning I was listening to a Feb. 3 podcast of Sverige Radios "God Morgon, Världen" (Swedish Radio's "Good Morning, World).  It had a bit from a reporter in Timbuktu.  She quoted one of the residents with something like "Who are these Islamic radicals to teach us about Islam?"

Timbuktu is known for its Koranic University, madrases, and mosques.  See UNESCO's World Heritage List on Timbuktu.

The invasion of the radical Islamists seems to me akin to some militant Christian sect forcing everyone to believe Revelations to the exclusion of everything else in the Bible and church history.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Another "free marketer" avoiding "free markets", or attorneys chasing fees?

Suits have been brought against AB InBev for watering down Bud Lite.  See "Budweiser Sued for Watering Down Its Beer".

If true, this is another case of proponents of free markets not really believing in free markets.  The free market principle in question here is that both buyer and seller should have sufficient information to make a decision.  If AB InBev is indeed watering its beer to an alcohol content less than on the label, that is not only hiding information from the consumer but providing false information.

HOWEVER, in an interview by CNBC, plaintiff attorney Josh Boxer can only cite claims by former employees, not by independent testing.

Who do you believe?  Who can you believe?  All I can say is that I admire the tenacity of the CNBC on-camera journalists for trying to get a straight answer from Boxer.

Generally, one can believe that "liberal" NPR.  They had tests performed and found that the beers in question did have the alcohol level stated on the can.  See "Budweiser May Seem Watery, But It Tests At Full Strength, Lab Says".

My own guess is that Bud tastes watery is that it does not contain the amount of hops that craft beers contain.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dred Scott and the Second Amendment

What does Dred Scott have to do with the Second Amendment?  The non-permanent status of Supreme Court decisions.

Dred Scott was a slave brought to Northern States by his owner and went to a Missouri Court to gain his freedom.  The case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court where the case was decided 7-2 against Scott; he was regarded as property and not a citizen.  See "Dred Scott v. Sanford".

The case was essentially overturned by the Fourteenth Amendment, which included "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Furthermore, there was a 8-1 Supreme Court decision supporting segregation: Plessy v. Ferguson.  The lone dissenter, Justice John Marshall Harlan "wrote that the majority's opinion would 'prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case.'"

"Plessy v. Ferguson" was overturned by the Supreme Court in "Brown v. Board of Education" in 1954 unanimously 9-0!

The Second Amendment was interpreted to apply specifically to individuals in "District of Columbia v. Heller".  The case was decided 5-4 with the expected votes each way.

This is a case of "activist judges" interpreting the Constitution to match their political beliefs.     From the "District of Columbia v. Heller" Wikipedia page we have:

Richard Posner, judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, compares Heller to Roe v. Wade, stating that it created a federal constitutional right that did not previously exist, and he asserts that the originalist method – to which Justice Antonin Scalia claims to adhere – would have yielded the opposite result of the majority opinion.

The text of the amendment, whether viewed alone or in light of the concerns that actuated its adoption, creates no right to the private possession of guns for hunting or other sport, or for the defense of person or property. It is doubtful that the amendment could even be thought to require that members of state militias be allowed to keep weapons in their homes, since that would reduce the militias' effectiveness. Suppose part of a state's militia was engaged in combat and needed additional weaponry. Would the militia's commander have to collect the weapons from the homes of militiamen who had not been mobilized, as opposed to obtaining them from a storage facility? Since the purpose of the Second Amendment, judging from its language and background, was to assure the effectiveness of state militias, an interpretation that undermined their effectiveness by preventing states from making efficient arrangements for the storage and distribution of military weapons would not make sense.[64]

End of extract.

Wikipedia has a good entry on the Second Amendment at

So, how do these cases tie together?  The decisions of the Supreme Court are no more permanent than the terms of office of politicians or the "to and fro" of public opinion.  Some years for now, "District of Columbia v. Heller" may be overturned by a different court or another Constitutional Amendment.

Pondering while wandering led to floundering

As I returned from a University for Seniors class this morning at UMD, walking on snow-packed and icy sidewalks, I thought of how parental advice can be problematic in these situations: "Stand up straight" and "Watch where you're walking!"

If you stand up straight, by looking farther ahead, you might not see a slippery spot at your feet.

If you watch where you're walking, you'll get a sore back and might walk into an overhanging tree branch or protruding shrubbery.

As I pondered these profound thoughts, I stepped off a curb at an alley, my boot skidded on some ice, and I went down on one knee and then to one forearm.  I didn't damage anything, but I soaked a knee of my jeans and my gloves.

Nobody saw me that I know of.  I picked myself up and continued the couple hundred feet to my house without any soreness.

I don't remember which advice I was following - "Stand up straight" or "watch where you're walking!"  Whatever, one of them didn't serve me well.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spotting a non-Italian playing an Italian

Tonight we watched "Inspector Morse 23: The Death of the Self".  Chief Inspector Morse and Sgt. Lewis go to Italy to check on a suspicious death.  They work with an Italian detective who spoke Italian now and then to other Italians.  His Italian seemed to be Italian.

Then he answered a phone.  The Italian custom is to say "Pronto", that is "Ready".  However, he said, "Prahntoh", like we say it in the U. S.  We learned it as "Prohntoh" in Italy.

It could be that they say the former in Vicenza were the movie took place, but …

Well, I checked the cast and found Georges Corraface as the detective.  He is French and

"A classically trained and versatile actor, his gift for languages and his multi-cultural background has enabled him to work in eight languages and an even wider variety of accents."

Is "Prahntoh" used in Vicenza or did his extensive use of English make him lapse into the English pronunciation? Non so! (I don't know!)

Less tax for little work

I've started doing our income taxes for the year and had a pleasant surprise.  If I calculate the tax in a straightforward way, we will owe a few hundred dollars.  If I calculate the tax with the worksheet for capital gains and dividends, we will get a refund of a few hundred dollars!

This is surprising because our income consists of Social Security, IRA withdrawals, two teensy-weensy pensions, and capital gains and dividends.  Capital gains and dividends are less than a quarter of our total income.  Social Security is about half, but it isn't all taxable.

An interesting thought: Social Security is considered an entitlement, but the capital gains and dividends are considered our due.

We worked for decades paying Social Security withholding; we buy and sell stocks with a click of the mouse.  The capital gains are a form of gambling and really don't contribute to the economy other than providing liquidity for the market and fees for the brokerages.  The dividends are based on the profits created by thousands and thousands of workers providing goods and services.  And again, we didn't provide the capital for these companies; we bought it from someone else.  For providing market liquidity, we supposedly are "makers".  As Social Security recipients we are "takers".

Medical care: Free market or fee racket?

Today I found some links to stories about those who have no insurance pay for medical care many times what Medicare would pay.  A trite example is charging more for a single over-the-counter pill than the hospital's own pharmacy would charge for a whole bottle.

If you have a few hours to gnash your teeth, read

"Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us", Steven Brill, Time, 2013-02-20

"Healthcare Isn't a Free Market, It's a Giant Economic Scam", Mike Masnick, tech dirt, 2013-02-22

More fun with English orthography

The sow could not be a farmer because she cannot sow seeds.
The sow could not be a homemaker because she cannot sew beads.

As long as Robin Hood had his bow, he would bow before no man.
The Viking stood in the bow with his bow.

Fun with English orthography

Though he went through the trough...

For my readers around the world who might only read English but not listen to it, the above could be written (not officially)

Tho he went thru the troff…

Quote of the day - the Suzuki method

"Though the Suziki method has shown amazing musical achievements, Dr. Suzuki's primary purpose is not to produce professional musicians, but to develop every child to his or her highest potential, giving each individual a sense of self worth and sensitivity to others."

From the program for the Senior Benefit Concert presented by the Lake Superior Suzuki Talent Education Program, UMD Fine Arts Academy, 2013-02-03.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bring on the sequester

I really would rather not say so, but I think the sequester might be a good idea in the long term.  It might really put an end to the arguments about smaller government.

Think about it.  If the number of air traffic controllers and checkin security people are cut back, it might make air travel by business people even longer.  If the amount of money allocated to states to clear the Interstate system of snow was reduced, it might make shipping by truck more expensive.  If the number of FDA inspectors were cut back, it might cut into the sales and profits of food processing companies.  If the number of customs agents were cut back, it would reduce the volume of imported goods that so many merchants depend on.  If the number of patent examiners were cut back, it would take even longer for companies to get patents.  If the number of Federal court employees were cut back, it would take even longer for companies to make their billion-dollar suits against their competitors.

Too many people ignore all the important services that government provides for people and corporations alike.  A sequester might lead to rude awakening that we can't do without government.

Solitary Confinement - George Will a Liberal?

I often disagree with George Will, but he generally shows a reasonableness in his writing and doesn't take an automatic dogmatic position on many issues.  He did so with his column "The Torture of Solitary Confinement", Washington Post, 2013-02-20 and republished in today's Star Tribune.

Will points out how psychologically damaging solitary confinement can be.  Ironically, it was the Quakers who were influential in creating solitary confinement as a way to help prisoners gain some penance (thus, penitentiary).  The colloquial "pen" wound up being more descriptive.  Will also compares the three known water boarding cases to the tens of thousands who are put in solitary confinement.

I used to think that the conclusion of "El Secreto de sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes)" was quite appropriate for the crime.  Now I have second thoughts, especially considering the number of people sentenced for crimes they did not commit.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Reminders from George Washington

Tomorrow, if tradition is followed, a U. S. Senator will read George Washington's "Farewell Address".  Correction: the reading is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Monday, 2013-02-25.  .Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, read it last year, and so a Republican Senator will read it this year.  Click here for more about this tradition.

No matter the party of whomever reads it, from Congresses past and current actions, I feel that Congress, and many others, politicians or not, ignore some very important parts of Washington's address.  Click here for the full text from the Library of Congress.

Here are some of my selections that I feel we as a nation have ignored:

"Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which under any form of government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. "

"To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute."

"The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government pre-supposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government."

"However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism."

[The spirit of party] "serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.'

To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant…"

"…permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Synced calendars on Apple devices – the long chore is over

I don't know how many hours I put in over the last few weeks trying to get the same calendar events on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad, but it seemed one set back after another.  The latest was that iTunes gave a message that "the sync server failed to sync" a device.

I scoured the Apple discussion groups and other forums.  I finally got my final clues from one discussion and now have all my calendars with the same events (well almost, the iPhone has some extra, but that's another story).

My post when I got it working is:

I posted the following to "iTunes could not sync calendars to the iPhone "xx" because the sync server failed to sync the iPhone. What does this mean??" at

I haven't seen it mentioned but the secret [in iTunes] is to

Sync only selected calendars
Select "Remove Calendars" from the popup window
(This is ambigous: from where are the calendars removed?  From the device being synced to)
Click apply.

Oops!  My memory is already gone stale.  I think I left no calendars selected, then clicked apply.  Then I selected the calendars that I wanted, then clicked apply.

In any case, I had a blank calendar on my iPad and then I had all the updated events that I wanted on my iPad.

Thanks to all who provided some of the essential clues to resolving this problem.

Video of the day - Elizabeth Warren on prosecuting big banks

In this undated video, Elizabeth Warren asks government regulators when they last prosecuted a big bank for violating the law.  They answer by saying that they settle with the banks who pay some penalty.  I recommend that you view this to the end for her zinger comparison to other situations.

Quote of the day - Corporate political contributions

"All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law."
- Theodore Roosevelt

Posted on Facebook by the Coffee Party.

For more, see the Wikipedia article "Tillman Act of 1907".

Monday, February 18, 2013

G.O.P. – The revenge of the Confederacy

Last week I mentioned to my wife that the Republican Party has been taken over by those still fighting the Civil War.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I say Harry Welty's latest snow sculpture - an elephant holding a Confederate flag in its trunk.  Harry also wrote a blog entry about the Southern takeover of the Republican Party.

Harry Welty is a local, maverick, wannabe politician.  He was a Republican Party member for a long time, but his independent mindset couldn't take the dogmatism any longer.  He now calls himself a Lincoln Democrat.

See also "Elephants sue GOP".

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Elephants sue GOP

Elephants have sued the Republican Party for defamation of character because of its use of an elephant as its symbol.  The elephants' reason is they know it takes a village to raise their young.

Two snowflakes alike is possible...

…but how probable is it that any one person will see two snowflakes alike.

A snowflake consists of a finite number of molecules in a finite number of fractal hexagons.  A finite number times a finite number is still a finite number.  Maybe somebody has worked out just how large this number is.  Writing this at our cabin with a seemingly infinitely slow interconnection, I don't want to check it.

If we assume that there are a finite number of snowflakes, the next question is what is the probability that they will fall where one individual will see them together.  Or have photographed a large number and found two alike.

My guess is that if a person sees a snowflake today in Minnesota, maybe somebody in the Andes saw an identical snowflake over a hundred years ago.

In advertising parlance, the possibilities are endless:)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Notoriety not good for memory

It's a bit embarrassing when people say "Hi, Mel!" and I can't respond with their names.  I know I have memory lapses, and sometimes I should have known a greeter's name.  But with a little bit of hubris, I like to think that others have more reason to remember my name than I have to remember theirs.  My name is in print more often.

That doesn't mean that everybody in Duluth knows who I am.  I do know a couple of movers and shakers and they know my name, but there are probably many more movers and shakers who have no idea who I am.

I did write a column for the Reader Weekly, a regional freebie, for a few years, and once in a while I submit a letter or an opinion piece to the Duluth News Tribune.  I've led a few classes for University for Seniors.  And I do speak up in class a lot.  I think this combination makes it easier for others to remember my name than for me to remember theirs.

When people ask if I'm still writing, I hand them my card with the URL of this blog.  I think I've handed out far more cards than there are readers of this blog.  I guess most people find it easier to read the newspaper than to type a URL in their browser.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Critical thinking not practiced

"Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach 'critical thinking skills,' because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
"The Ignorance Caucus", Paul Krugman, New York Times, 2013-02-11

This sounds like something George Lakoff wrote about in "Whose Freedom? The Battle over America's Most Important Idea".  Lakoff thinks that the battle is between those who have a strict father model and those who have a nurturing parent model.

Fixed beliefs are held by too many wherever they are on the political map, but the Republicans have been ossifying into ever more fixed beliefs for over ten years.  They are even against some things they used to be for because those ideas don't fit the fixed belief structure they now have.

As for fixed beliefs, those who believe critical thinking can be taught, might read the critical thinking article linked above.  One cognitive scientist doesn't believe critical thinking can be taught.

Surprisingly, it was the last great Republican President who said, "As our case is new, so we must think anew."  New thinking does not come from fixed beliefs and parental authority.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I sang in public again

The Lake Superior Freethinkers had a Darwin Night at Beaner's Central in Duluth and had put out a call for entertainers.  I decided that, after a few years of being timid about singing public solos, I would give it a try with "Die Gedanken Sind Frei (My thoughts are free)", a centuries-old German protest song.  I have it pretty well memorized as well as "Arirang", a very popular Korean song.  So, I said yes and was put on the playbill.

Being in a house with a very good musician, it is kinda tough for a late-bloomer like me to practice.  But I did, doing two or three sessions most days.  Surprise, sometimes my wife said I did it well.

Then in the middle of last night, I forgot some of the words to "Die Gedanken".  I carefully thought through them and could recite them again.

I practiced a couple of times today and decided that was enough.  I didn't want to wear my voice out.

We arrived at the appointed time for performers and I introduced myself to the emcee.  She went over her introduction of me, we ordered some food, and waited for things to start.

I was second in the line-up.  I started getting fears about a "senior moment".  I was concerned about standing too close to the mike or too far away.  I think I forgot some words and had to go over them again in my head.

The first pair was done, both long-time musicians.

I was introduced and I climbed on to the stage.  I figured out just the right distance to speak into the mike.  I could not see the audience except as dark shapes.  I said most of what I wanted to say, and started singing: "Die Gedanken sind frei, Niemand kan sie erraten…"  My volume was good, my flow was good.  I think I faltered once.  Tah dah!  I did it and received hardy applause from the two dozen or so in the audience.

I introduced the Korean song "Arirang" with a few words and started belting it out.  Again I faltered a couple of times but recovered.  Again I received some hardy applause.  I made some more remarks about the song that I had forgotten to make before I started, got some more applause, and left the stage.

Then I got even more response.  My wife was pleased.  A choir director who I had sung with years ago said that I had come a long way.  A former professional musician was effusive in his praise.  A few other people gave me big grins and made appreciative remarks, some whom I didn't know, some whom I knew were musicians.

This has gotten me a bit more ambitious about performing, but I don't know if I'll follow through.  After all, I have all these books to read, blog entries to write, wood to cut, and software problems to figure out and correct.

Maybe if I can practice a couple of songs a day and get them memorized, maybe I'll stay up late for somebody's open mike night.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quote of the day - Education

"To succeed, students must become thinkers, not just test-takers."
– "The secret to fixing bad schools", David L. Kirp, New York Times, 2013-02-09

I posted a comment to the article with the above quote and

"That sentence should be engraved in the head of anyone who wants successful students."

As of 8:30 this morning it had received 45 recommendations!  Gosh, if I could only have that readership here!

A former teacher replied to my post that I had beat him or her to a similar post and added

"As a teacher for 27 years, I know for a fact, that exam scores are the least important indicator of how well a student is learning."

147 comments have been posted to the article.  Three included that pre–school education may be expensive, but not as expensive as prisons.

I didn't post it, but many have written elsewhere that you pay something now or pay a lot more later.  It is often considered investing, but too many people don't think of government spending as investment, as they cruise down the interstate built with government money, as they enjoy a game in a tax-supported stadium, or as they have no concern about food-safety because of government inspections.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Across-the-board cuts are always a bad idea

To avoid making decisions, politicians and executives often talk about across-the-board cuts.  Not only are the cuts a bad idea because they rarely include politicians' and executives' salaries and perks, but because the cuts often include both the essential and the frivolous.

Let's take a family example.  Dad gets a wage cut because the execs decide there should be across-the-board cuts.  Now should Dad decide his family should have across-the-board cuts?  Is he going to cut the mortgage payment?  Is he going to take the bus instead of driving?  Probably neither.  Is he going to cut the kids' milk budget and his beer budget by the same percentage?  If he wants to invest in his kids' futures, he better cut his beer budget a lot and leave their milk budget the same.

Looks can be deceiving

When I see a picture in the newspaper of Christopher Jordan Dorner, I think of someone who one could swap lots of funny stories with.  It's hard to believe that he is a former LAPD officer who has gone on a rampage, killing at least three people and wounding others.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Apple's stock may go up

A few days ago I attributed the drop in the price of Apple stock to a problem that many iPhone and iPad users are having.  See "Why Apple's stock price went down".

Thanks to Candy in Apple Support I have the solution.

Candy listened patiently to my tale of woe about not being able to access some feature because of password problems.  She then walked me through the steps to resolve it.  What she pointed out was not in any of the published Apple solutions and was not even visible on my screen without scrolling down.  In 15 minutes or so, I had the problem fixed on my iPad and iPhone.

I thought I could fix the problem the same way on my Mac, but the applications and screens were not anywhere near the same as on the iPad and iPhone screens.  Fortunately, there was another discussion on the Apple forum that had the solution for the Mac.

If you need these solutions, see

Support people like Candy are probably worth twice as much they are paid.  Too many companies have support people who use flowery language ("my pleasure to serve you") and too often have no real solution other than pointing you to a document that doesn't have the solution either.  People like Candy make a customer very glad they chose a particular company's product, and it is very difficult to measure their value.  I know her value to me was saving me more hours of frustration.

So if you are an Apple shareholder, I hope the news of Candy's help and the resolution of many people's problem makes the value of your stock go up.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Lobbyists trump common cents

The Star Tribune had an interesting article on Canada phasing out its one-cent coin: "Canada phasing out its penny; deems it a costly nuisance", Bob Gillies, Associated Press.  The U.S. has tried twice to do the same, but it never gets far in the House of Representatives.  "The U.S. zinc lobby has been a major opponent to suggestions that the penny be eliminated."

See also "Immigration and High-Tech Integration" for what Adam Smith has to say about special interests.

Just who is "The Media"?

I was in a University for Senior class on Social Justice this morning.  In one discussion, several people complained about "the media" not reporting many aspects of the news, for example, the number of civilian deaths in Iraq.

From my iPad, I searched the New York Times for "iraq civilian death" and received a list of over 31,000 articles.  I told the class this number and read the five headlines that appeared on my screen:

"A Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths in Iraq", 2010-10-22
"W.H.O. Says Iraq Civilian Death Toll Higher Than Cited", 2008-01-10
"Civilian Death Toll Reaches New High in Iraq, U.N. Says", 2008-11-23
"Civilian toll in Iraq increased in November"
"Civilian deaths in Iraq decrease significantly in one month"

The text shown for the last gives the lower figure as 922!

I did the same search for the Duluth News Tribune; nothing was shown from its entire archive.  If I searched for "Iraq death" I received 17 items.  One of these from 2006-11-10 gave an Iraqi Health Ministry estimate of 150,000 civilian war deaths.

But we shouldn't fault the DNT too much for this lack; it is not a national paper like the NYT and focuses more of its news on local and state events.

Many of these critics probably watch TV news a lot.  TV news has the burden of limited time; the news given on a half-hour broadcast (oops!  22 minutes excluding commercials) is about as much as you can read in a newspaper in five minutes or less.  If your "the media" is TV; is it any wonder that you miss a lot of in-depth coverage?

Monday, February 04, 2013

My nationality is American

A favorite conversational item of many Americans is "What nationality are you?"  This happens often because we are a nation of immigrants from elsewhere or the descendants of immigrants.  But how is it that the nationality of someone from Canada is Canadian and from Australia is Australian?

One of my favorite comebacks is "What nationality is the King of Sweden?"  Following the male line back, he's French; he's descended from Marechal Bernadotte, one of Napoleon's marshals.

As for me, my paternal grandmother is the only immigrant among my grandparents; she was born in Silesia, at that time part of Germany.  The other three were all born in the United States.  As I hardly knew my grandmother, I didn't have much German influence.

Of my great-grandparents, four were born in Germany, three were born in England, and one supposedly was born in Brooklyn.  More about him later.  I never knew my German great-grandparents, and we never had any German traditions in our house.  I only knew my mother's paternal grandmother, and the only thing English I experienced from her was tea, with Carnation milk!

As for the supposedly Brooklyn-born great-grandfather, I've found some indications that he probably was born in Liverpool, England.  Most of the records for him give his name as John J.R. Magree, but Brooklyn has no birth certificate for him.  I did find two Liverpool records for the child John James Robert Magree.  His mother may have been Irish or English, but his father was John Cornelius Magree, probably the John C. Magree who was the master of the Ship Ivanhoe bringing immigrants from Liverpool to New York in Jan 1851.  There was no John J.R. Magree in the passenger list.  Interestingly, on his marriage record, John C.'s father was Vinsent Magree [sic], Vincent Magree was in Baltimore in the 1830 Census.

Other than possibly John C.s marriage in Liverpool, I have found no ancestor that I can link to Ireland.

My only Irish link to the name Magree is from Magree's I contacted in Australia.  They can trace their Magree ancestors to Kilkenny, Ireland, and even to some specific pieces of land.

Interestingly, on one St. Patrick's Day, my mother said "We are Orange Irish".  Other than her in-laws, she knew nothing of my father's grandparents.

Having lived in Italy for two years and in Sweden for four years, I like to kid that I am more Italian than many Americans that call themselves Italian and likewise for "Swedes".

Friday, February 01, 2013

Why Apple's stock price went down

Many attribute the big drop in the price of Apple's stock to iPhone 5 sales not being higher.  Could it be that it really is that Apple is not paying attention to the problems of its existing customers.  With the introduction of iOS 6 for the iPad and iPhone, many people are having trouble using passwords that had been working fine.  This has been going on since at least September, 2012, and nobody from Apple seems to respond to the problems addressed in the "Apple Community" forums.

As I said in "Why Facebook's stock price went down", "it's software is too buggy."

I posted the following today at

I think that this Apple ID/password mess is just too much bother.  I don't know how many hours I've spent researching the problem and trying some of the solutions.

Like many of you, I've wound up with multiple Apple IDs; let's call them A, B, and C.  If I remember correctly, I got into this because I forgot a password.  At the time, I remember that the only solution seemed to be to create another Apple ID.  So now I can get into iTunes with ID A, but almost everything on my iPhone, iPod, and iCloud are for ID B.  I know that a month ago ID B had a password in a short list.

With the upgrade to iOS 6.1 and maybe before, none of the recent passwords for ID B are acceptable.  If I ask to change the password for ID B, it will not accept my birthdate as the first security question and it will not always send me email.

Even though ID B is in the list of email addresses for ID A, there is no way I can use the ID A change page to change the password for ID B.

I think this whole situation violates the Human Interface Principles for iOS of consistency and user control.  See

I've resigned myself to living without access to iCloud, with consistently clicking "ignore" or whatever when iCal and others ask for my ID B password, and a host of other annoyances.  I've already sent feedback to Apple.  I suggest you do the same at, selecting iPad, iPhone, or iPod.  Maybe if a few hundred of us do this, Apple will come up with a better solution than the varied advice here that works in some situations and not others.

UPDATE: See "Apple's stock may go up" for the resolution of this problem.

"Makers" are takers and "takers" are makers

The "masters", in Adam Smith's parlance, claim they are the makers, the one's who get things done.  Or are they the "takers" who depend upon other people's work but take credit for it?

Adam Smith did write, "It is the stock that is employed for the sake of profit, which puts into motion the greater part of the useful labour of every society. The plans and projects of the employers of stock regulate and direct all the most important operation of labour, and profit is the end proposed by all those plans and projects."

In other words, if someone doesn't invest the capital, lots of things won't be done.  Would you be reading this on your computer if there hadn't been the capital to start a company that made a lot of computers?

Smith also wrote, "The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences [sic] of life…" and "The liberal reward of labour, therefore, as it is the necessary effect, so it is the natural symptom of increasing national wealth. The scanty maintenance of the labouring poor, on the other hand, is the natural symptom that things are at a stand, and their starving condition, that they are going fast backwards."

If there are no laborers, then there is no one to carry out the "plans and projects of the employers of stock".  Michael Dell may have been able to assemble computers in his dorm room, but he needed others to make the parts.  As his business grew, he needed others to assemble and ship the computers.

But how many CEOs started the companies that they head?  Very few. Most either came up through the ranks of management or were hired from outside.  They weren't the ones who put "into motion the greater part of the useful labour".  Thus, they are not the ones who make, but are the ones who take the work of others.  In fact, they often consider the actual makers as taking from the company and as such are disposable.

How many restaurant chain CEOs are cooking the hamburgers?  Where would the CEOs be if there were no hamburger cooks, no cashiers, and no clean-up crew?  If their companies have a good year, how much of their bonus are they willing to pass on to the people who made those profits possible?

We have at least one good example of the effects of treating well-paid employees as expenses rather than assets.  I saw Circuit City's demise coming when they fired all the high-paid experienced clerks.  These clerks made the sales; the executives took the profits of those sales.  See "Labor is not a commodity".