[update] We just go back at 11pm. What a fantastic evening of musicianship and entertainment was put on by Paul and friends for an appreciative crowd of locals that filled the Nevada Theater. Thank you Paul.
[This is the transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 8 November 2013.]
All of us swim in social circles where we meet people who look down at anything that has an obvious political tinge to it. They consider being informed about or getting involved in politics as somehow sullying their higher sensibilities – they are above such base concerns. These individuals will also let you know that while politics is a necessary undertaking, its place as an occupation is actually somewhere between pimping for prostitutes and rendering horse carcasses. Others hold absolutely no value in politics, seeing it as the preventable disease of governance that could be cured with Rodney King’s simple ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’
[Nevada County Supervisor Ed Scofield represents what we here call ‘south county’. In his district there is a laudable yet long-suffering development called Rincon Del Rio that has jumped through every conceivable governmental and activist-opposed hoop imaginable. And yet its proprietors have prevailed, and may yet build the Continuing Care Retirement Community on a riverside agricultural parcel that is well suited for its intended purpose.
One of the three economic pillars of the county is the community of retirees who move here from large urban areas for our country and small community lifestyle in a scenic setting that is home to many cultural and recreational venues. The retirees are a major cash importer in the county whose presence treads softly on the county’s infrastructure and public services. These folks are well-to-do and ensconce themselves in appropriate real estate (acreage and/or town homes) when they arrive.
But as they age, sooner or later most of them will find their first homes here to become a bit too much effort to keep up or even to enjoy. Their schedules become filled with activities that are more cerebral, involve community service, and extended travel. They are still in the prime of their intellectual abilities and not yet ready for a ‘waiting for God’ type rest home. These people want to move into a secure community of like-minded people wherein they may purchase a high-end apartment or connected housing that is designed for supporting the next stage of their lives - a community that lets them continue their activities and relationships built up during their previous home maker years.
There currently exists no such community in Nevada County, and this causes most of these cash importing retirees to seek such a lifestyle elsewhere. Rincon Del Rio is designed to fill exactly that niche for county retirees reaching this stage of life. Supervisor Scofield sent me the following piece in which he weighs in on his support for Rincon Del Rio. gjr]
I recently was chastised by a good friend for my stand on Rincon Del Rio. Her comment was that I campaigned for keeping South Nevada County rural and yet supported a project with more of a traditional urban setting.
Without getting into the economic benefits to the County and the fact that we are one of California’s most advanced aged populations, here are my thoughts on justification of this project.
I am a strong supporter of agriculture in Nevada County. I support the Williamson act for legitimate agricultural use of property. I also recognize that ranching and farming can be a difficult way of making a living and agricultural families can end up land rich and cash poor. This often means selling of the land; and typically, this means housing developments. Perfect examples are Lake of the Pines and most recently Darkhorse and Cascade Crossing.
Now we have property that is wonderful range land and has ideal soil for produce, crops, orchards and vineyards. Sadly, it’s not likely a buyer for the property is going to develop this property for its agricultural potential. So what is the zoning? It does have a Special Project zoning, while at the same time allowing the potential of approximately seventy single dwelling homes. Yes, it remains rural, and it is similar to surrounding neighborhoods; but, is it the most appealing option for our South County?
We had another option. The owners of these 225 acres of land presented the County with a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) instead of the more likely housing development. Why would a developer of a CCRC be proposed on the Bear River instead of within Grass Valley or Nevada City? I believe it is precisely for the rural environment. As a senior about to retire, you now have many options for living in Nevada County. One of the most unique options will be a retirement community overlooking the Bear River complete with open space for walking, boating, and even a community garden. Many of your basic services will be available within the community and there will be transportation available for trips into the nearest towns.
I believe in some ways this project will have less of an impact on the rural quality of life than the more common option of housing. I also believe that upon completion, Rincon Del Rio will be a project that South County will take pride.
As a Supervisor serving his fifth year representing our South area, you begin to see my thinking more clearly than the new guy just making campaign promises. Some of you won’t agree with me on my decisions. Not all agreed with my support of the Higgins Market Place project. This project has been held up in court challenging our approval. As of early October, the project won the court case and hopefully we’ll see construction begin soon.
Whether we agree or not, I’ll always listen and try to do what’s best for our wonderful County.
In a private communication an RR reader brought up Noam Chomsky and his views on the Singularity. It appears that the world famous linguist does not believe that the Singularity is possible. I was not aware of that, since in his 60 years at MIT he has been credited with making contributions to computer science. The reader included the link (here) to an extremely revealing interview that Dr Chomsky gave to an interviewer who operates a website that belongs to the halo of sites that report on the doings in the Singularity community and comment on these pre-Singularity years (perhaps even RR is one of those sites).
For me, as a former worker in the fields of machine intelligence, the interview revealed a chasm in the knowledge base of an individual who has been in daily elbow rubbing distance from some of the world class AI researchers. I comment on this chasm here to illustrate its ‘black swanness’ and shudder to think how pervasive such chasms are throughout the fields of technology and science. The most telling example of that is the deep ignorance of the tools of systems science evinced by so many scientists established in fields such as climatology and meteorology when they attempt to understand the modeling and behavior of large scale dynamic systems in the context of manmade global warming. (RR readers will recall that I have been the first to admit that no one today can be an expert familiar with all of the long and convoluted shoreline of Man’s expanding island of knowledge.)
But getting back to the good Professor Chomsky and the Singularity (see also RR's Singularity Signposts). I do hope that the reader will take the twenty some minutes to view the video. There he will discover that Chomsky still believes that machine intelligence is being pursued through “brute force” programming, and therefore peer or superior to human AI is “beyond the limits of contemporary science” or even a fool's errand.
Sustainability, especially of government programs such as healthcare, has been a constant topic of debate on RR since its inception. Our friends on the Left have trouble understanding that a program is sustainable only to the extent that its cost doesn't crowd out other programs and consume the country's GDP in toto. And that is doubly true if more than one government program develops an expanding appetite for GDP.
To make this clear to those who are still numerate enough to remember their first semester algebra, consider the following. In the base year let AH be the amount spent on a program, say, healthcare. In that year this consumes a fraction fH = AH/AGDP of the country's total output of goods and services. Assume that during the next year we witness growth rates of rH and rGDP in their respective sectors.
At the end of that year we will have spent (1+rH)AH for healthcare out of a GDP that has grown to (1+rGDP)AGDP. This says that our healthcare spending as a fraction of GDP is now fH+= [(1+rH)AH]/[(1+rGDP)AGDP].
For sustainability, this year's healthcare fraction must be no larger than last year's. That means that fH+/fH ≤ 1, or substituing from above we must have (1+rH)/(1+rGDP) ≤ 1. This requires that the numerator be no larger than the denominator, or that 1+rH ≤ 1+rGDP. Subtracting one from both sides yields the final requirement,rGDP ≥ rH . This simply says that the GDP's growth rate must be at least as large as that of the sustainable program in question; in this case, healthcare.
Since the first comparison of any government program is always to its fraction of the budget, with similar argument we see that the government's budget must also grow at least as fast as GDP. With a healthy GDP growth rate such budget increases are not a problem. However, with an anemic growth rate, taxes must be increased to grow the government's budget sufficiently to sustain all its spending programs. Unfortunately, we then run into the Laffer Curve. (The astute reader may also offer that some other programs be cut to accomodate more desirable programs in a sputtering economy. But that may be hoping for too much.)
[9oct13 update] And now for the real budget problem (and solution).
Readers have noticed that RR has again become a target for spam comments; they appear to be mostly ads from different services/vendors. In an attempt to fight this intrusive nuisance I have limited comments to a thirty day period following the date of my post.
Several readers have suggested that I leave TypePad for a more capable blog server (e.g. Wordpress), and I’m prepared to do that. But, given other ongoing projects, I have not found a sufficiently easy way to make the switch. Since RR is a substantial body of work over a seven year period (almost 2,000 posts and over 37,000 comments), my plan would be to leave the TypePad blog intact and simply shut off the commenting. From the new blog I will still want to link to TypePad entries, and give my readers the ability to do the same.
In any event, things would probably move faster in this direction if I could find a service to scrape RR of its contents and put it on a DVD in a searchable format. I would even make this material available on/from the new blog. Ideas/thoughts?
Finally, I take this opportunity to thank all RR readers for frequenting these pages, commenting and contending, and putting up with the inconveniences. It’s the readership and their use of this forum that keeps my putting the hours into this enterprise, hours that, no doubt, could be more productively used elsewhere. Again, thank you.
This afternoon I discovered that somehow a piece of malware called Delta Search took over my computer. I'm working to get rid of this piece of crap, but it is still doing stuff like inserting extra links (the green ones) into my posts and also some comments. I will not post again until my PC is clean. Thanks for your patience. :(
[16aug13 update] Apparently the green links only appear on my browser and are added by the malware as the displayed page is composed. All other computers (PCs and Apples) appear to be clean. Would appreciate reports of any anomalous behavior readers experience.
[later] Well, it looks like my little box is clean again. What finally cured it is resetting both (Firefox and IE) browsers. That took a tromp through a part of the jungle I was unfamiliar with, and in certain places the malware fought back, it didn't want to be ripped out. Thanks for your patience, and on with the show ;-)
There has been a good deal of moralizing and high dudgeon about how those storefronts that make payday loans are ripping off poor people who are denied loans elsewhere. It is claimed that the interest charged by these establishments is beyond usurious. Now regulators are beginning to hyperventilate in a similar vein at banks (more here).
I have a very simple solution to this problem of people with no skin in the game making rules for those to whom fate(?) has consigned such a depressed lifestyle. We start with the most acceptable presumptions that everyone should be able to borrow money in a free society that operates (more or less) free markets. And everyone should be free to lend money at terms that they consider acceptable.
My simple solution is that all such regulators and legislators seeking to inhibit the poor from obtaining payday loans be required to remit a goodly portion (say, one third) of their investment portfolios into the capital asset pool(s) of payday lenders who will now lend under the newly prescribed, and presumably more favorable, terms that are deemed fair for that cohort of borrowers. The regulators will then have skin in the game, and obtain a fair return for their lent dollars. This will guarantee the most equitable terms to all concerned, and no further guidance or considerations of fairness would then be necessary in the evaluation of the new regulations.
(Hmmm..., does this approach have wider applications in the making of sausages?)
Years ago when graphic displays were first coming into shipboard combat systems, as a developer of such systems we had to ask ‘what’s the best way to work with on-screen information – nominating and manipulating display elements?’ The main contending graphic input device alternatives were wired pens and trackballs, the touch screen was still in the future. Long story short – a lot of human factors studies and experiments were done, and the trackball came out to be the best performer. It wasn’t the cheapest solution, but just the best performer in a command and control environment during minutes tense and demanding, and during hours long and boring.
The reason was simple, the fingers are the most dexterous parts of what is called the set of human manipulanda. And fingers at the end of a stationary and supported hand/arm can do wonders in accurately flitting the cursor around a large screen for hours on end. Trackballs were rapidly incorporated into combat and sensor systems from the early 1970s onward.
But for commercial apps cost was a major factor, and when the cheaper mouse came along (in the mid-70s) , and PC apps finally started requiring a graphic input device for moving a cursor around on a screen, the mouse was the natural solution. Touchscreens were expensive in the early 80s, and we used them on the new videodisc-based public information kiosks which we introduced through Disney’s EPCOT Center in 1983. (I even designed and built a ‘peck screen’ for a pigeon-based security system in the late 70s, but that’s another story.)
So over the years the mouse has been standard equipment on PCs and other computers requiring graphic input from humans. Touch screens got cheaper and were introduced into ‘personal digital assistants’ in the late 90s. And now they are ubiquitous in all smart phones and handheld pad computers. Somewhere along the way Microsoft decided to gain the march on Apple and developed touch screen functionality into the new version of their PC operating system called Windows 8, which was finally available in 2012 after many many delays.
Well, it appears that the market has said that they shouldn’t have bothered. W8 was supposed to the cavalry coming to save the PC sales wagon train, and, instead, last quarter’s PC sales have dropped 14% as the surging iPad replaces the desktop (and even laptop) versions of the PC (more here and here). And it looks like this trend is going to be pretty well baked in as new UI (user interface) devices like speech understanding and Google glasses (retinal projection) gain traction. Of course, the whole UI technology is heading toward implants with direct neural connections, but that’s still a few years away.
Nevada County poet Molly Fisk, who is also a regular essayist on KVMR and a fine lady of the liberal persuasion, and I were asked to trade our commentaries for today. The idea was to have listeners maybe raise an eyebrow or two in fun as they heard familiar voices deliver unfamiliar monologues. Each of us wrote a piece to be read by the other which was broadcast today.
Here is the piece that I wrote on Calvin Coolidge for Molly to read.