Monday, September 11, 2017

Protect Our Private Information

I'm sure that you've heard about the Equifax breach.  I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the haphazard, lazy securing of our private data.  Corporate America has proven that self-policing doesn't work, so it's time to get the Government involved.  I will be writing a letter to my legislators at the state and national level, and I encourage you to do the same.  For your convenience, I am including the text that I will be sending in.  Feel free to copy and paste, and send to your own elected officials.

I am writing to express my anger and dismay over the Equifax data breach.  I am tired of not having my personal, private data properly secured.  Government and private entities have repeatedly demonstrated a lack of convern over my financial data and proven that self-policing is not a sufficient deterrant.  With this in mind, I am asking for legislation designed to provide intentives to keep personal data personal, and to punish those who fail to do so.  My proposed legislation is two-pronged.

First and foremost, there must be a real, tangible financial penalty for those who fail to protect customer data.  Companies who fail to protect such data should be prohibited from forcing customers into arbitration. This will allow victims of sloppy security the opportunity to be better compensated for lost time and money.  Companies who fail to protect private data will also be forced to provide lifetime credit monitoring and fraud assistance for anyone whose data was compromised, whether or not an actual loss occurred.  The idea is that it should be the company's responsibility to make things right when a data breach occurs, not the consumer's.  This means that if a company fails to keep my data secure, they are on the hook for all expenses incurred as a result, permanently.  Attorney fees, lost time, damage to credit, damage to reputation, and direct or indirect financial loss should all be subject to this law.  If, when you consider the wording of this legislation, you need to choose between erring on the side of the company, or err on the side of the consumer, you must err on the side of the consumer.

My second proposal is aimed at the Credit Reporting Agencies.  I propose legislation that requires Credit Reporting Agencies to allow all consumers to lock and unlock their private credit information at will, at no cost to the individual.  While consumers have a choice whether or not to carry credit cards, and when to use credit, we do not have a choice regarding whether or not our data is submitted to the Credit Reporting Agencies.  We have neither the right, nor the choice to opt out.  Adding insult to injury, we are usually required to pay for the privilege of preventing third parties from accessing our data, and if we do choose to pay to keep our data private, we need to pay again so that potential creditors and employers can access this data.  This is OUR private information, and the Credit Reporting Agencies are charging us to keep it private.

Thank you for your consideration in this important matter.

For your convenience, I am also including a link that will help you find your elected officials.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Questions for Libertarians

Those of you who know me realize that I consider myself a liberal-leaning Libertarian.  In general, I believe that the government is too large, too intrusive, and too wasteful.  At the same time, I see just as many signs of capitalism running amok, taking advantage of the little guy to the same extent as government.  Trusting the market is well and good, as long as you realize that market efficiency and human compassion are often-times mutually exclusive.  I'd like to bring up a couple of points here, and ask my fellow Libertarians how they see these issues, and how they would solve them.

Let me start with the topic of income inequality.  I'm fairly confident that we can all agree that income inequality exists in America.  We most certainly agree that income inequality drives economic productivity, because people desire to get ahead in life.  The thing is, the deck is heavily stacked against the little guy.  Statistics show that the wealthiest 1% of America holds approximately 40% of all wealth.  Conversely, the bottom 20% holds less than 1% of the wealth, and statistics indicate that this income inequality is only accelerating.  The middle class, which historians and economists consider critical to a prosperous, stable society, is rapidly shrinking.  I suspect that my Libertarian friends will blame this inequality on the government, but that answer is far too simplistic, and not entirely accurate.  The result of labor relations before government involvement was the 1900's, which was the only time in American history where the distribution of wealth was more skewed than it is today.  We know that income inequality has been the downfall of many societies, and given our current course, I see that happening in America in the not-too-distant future.  My first question:  How does Libertarianism address the problem of extreme income inequality?

The second topic is environmental.  Time and again, I hear Libertarians effectively say that they want to get rid of the government.  Heck, a lot of Libertarians want to privatize roads.  The thing is, capitalism does an abysmal job of considering environmental impact when calculating costs.  If we get the government out of environmental enforcement, how do we ensure that future generations will have clean air to breathe and water to drink?  I cannot believe that business will voluntarily do the right thing.  I'm convinced that if left to its own devices, business will take us back to the 1970's environmentally, and then go downhill.  I suspect that you will say that consumers can demand XYZ, and business will make it happen.  However, that assumes that the consumer has realistic alternatives, it assumes that the consumer is always rational, and it assumes that the consumer has the financial means to vote with his dollar.  All of these are inaccurate assumptions.  So... how do Libertarians handle the problem of pollution?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please sound off.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Just When I Think it's All Good...

Dammit Greg,

I made it through your birthday this year.  I was even happily recalling some of our hi-jinks without getting all wistful.  I've recently been able to talk about your death much more matter-of-factly.  But this morning I was browsing online for a new tent, and it made me think back to all of our Boys' Trips, and now I'm missing you again.

That's the thing I don't believe you understood when you checked out.  You had no idea how intertwined you were with our existence... our happiness.  You had no idea how many people you would hurt, and how long that ache would last.  Like I said to you earlier, your suicide left a special kind of pain.  It's like herpes, man... the gift that keeps on giving.

I guess I need to be clear about something, and I'll explain it in terms you'll understand, because you've always loved the water.  The grief is kind of like ripples in a pond.  That initial splash, when you actually died, was like throwing a huge rock into a perfectly calm pong, and it threatened to drown us.  Now time has passed.  The center is calm again; the ripples are smaller as they're spreading further away from that initial violent splash.  This isn't a perfect analogy though, because I'm starting to see that those ripples will probably never completely go away.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Not Quite a Bust

Well, today is the big day... the solar eclipse.  I had been hoping to take my grandson out to see the spectacle, making a full science day out of it.  I'd hoped to show him how to cook nachos in a solar oven, teach him how to burn stuff with a magnifying glass, and a few other science activities.  Unfortunately, mother nature isn't cooperating in my neck of the woods.  It's been raining most of the morning, and the sky is overcast to the point that we can't see the sun.  The closest we will come to experiencing the eclipse is that it will become quite dark outside.

It hasn't been a total loss though.  Being a Marine, I adapted, improvised and overcame, and we've spent the entire morning doing indoor science experiments.  Here's what we did...

-We did the vinegar and baking soda experiment.  I added a little personal flare by mixing some food coloring in with the vinegar.

-We made magic mud with cornstarch and water.  We had a lot of fun with this one.

-We made a mason jar ocean by filling the mason jar about halfway with blue-dyed water, and then topping it off with vegetable oil.  He said this was his favorite... probably because he gets to keep it as a souvenir.

-We shined up tarnished pennies by putting them in a glass with vinegar.

-We put part of a bar of Ivory soap into the microwave and watched it expand like a marshmallow.

-We did some tie-dye art on paper.  We started with milk in a large casserole dish.   We added some dish soap, and then added food coloring.  We then placed a couple of pieces of paper on top of the solution.  The result (which is still drying) is tie-dyed sheets of paper.

-We put a raw egg into vinegar, and are watching the vinegar dissolve the egg shell.

We had a lot of fun doing science stuff.  Definitely a day well spent.  It was nowhere near the bust it could have been.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Getting Loesst

The second to last day we rode through the Loess Hills, and once again, Iowa's scenery gave me a pleasant surprise.  I had heard that the scenery and riding out there was really cool, but after the previous days' rides, I knew that somewhere, sometime, I'd be let down.  I was once again wowed by what Iowa had to offer.

We spent the early part of the day on Loess Hills Scenic Byways, winding our way north through hills, valleys, woods, farmland and over rivers.  We went over 50 miles at a time without seeing a town large enough to have a gas station.  The ride was beautiful, relaxing, rustic and invigorating.

The Loess Hills portion of the ride ended in Sioux City, where we darted into South Dakota for a while. which completed our quest to hit every state surrounding Iowa during this journey.  Another cool thing about South Dakota is that they have an 80 MPH speed limit on their freeways.  This gave us an opportunity to (legally) open the throttle on our respective rides and see what they could do.  Interestingly enough, I saw a LOT of vehicles (including us) that tended to cruise at speeds between 70 and 80 MPH.  I didn't see much speeding.

We continued north until we hit US Highway 18, at which point we turned eastward, ending in Algona.  We were within 50 miles of our destination and saw rain on the horizon.  We geared up and headed into the rain.  In very short order, rain was falling so hard that we had a difficult time seeing the road, so we turned on the flashers and slowed down.  That's when the hail started.  In all fairness though, the hail stones were just large enough for me to say that we were caught in a hail storm.  Regardless, it continued raining harder, and we responded by slowing our pace.  Just about the time I wondered how I (we) could continue safely, we entered the next town.  The first building in town was a car wash, so I led us into bay of the car wash, where we waited out the storm, which passed in just a few more minutes.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Take on Father's Day

I jumped on Facebook this morning and saw a post from not one, but two of my male friends which essentially said Women, quit trying to steal our day... this isn't Mother's Day, it's Father's Day.  In one case, a female friend responded by saying If a mom is pulling double duty (by playing mother and father) then she should get both holidays.  I've got two thoughts on this, and basically I'm going to piss off everyone.  If you're easily offended, you may as well quit reading now.  Otherwise, read on...

To you single moms who want to claim Father's Day:  Nope.  Today is designed for dads.  You didn't have what you consider proper support (whether it's financial, physical, emotional or whatever) in raising your kid?  Bummer.  I'm proud of you for stepping up, but it's a little self-centered and conceited to expect that you deserve an extra day of credit.  Parenting isn't about credit.  It's about doing what's right for your kid(s).

To you dads who are pissed off that single moms want to horn in on Father's Day:  Man up and grow a pair!  It's a freaking Hallmark holiday.  The true measure of fatherhood is not how well your kids treat you once or twice a year.  Fatherhood is measured in the character of your children, and the effort that you personally contributed toward that outcome.

To both sides:  This is a First World problem.  We have mothers and fathers who can't feed their kids... who lost babies to preventable childhood illnesses... who saw their children maimed or killed by despots and terrorists.  Keep your shit in perspective, and quit getting your respective panties in a bunch over a fucking made up holiday!

Westward, Ho!

The next leg of our journey took us across the entire southern strip of Iowa.  It was also a four-state day.  Recall that Keokuk is in the southeastern most portion of Iowa.  We crossed the Mississippi into Illinois and turned around back into Iowa.  We then headed south into Missouri and turned west for a bit, popping back into Iowa as soon as circumstances allowed.

Once back in Iowa, we hit Iowa Highway 2, which took us across the southern-most part of the state.  The best way to explain this leg of the trip is "relaxing."  The roads were relatively straight, with the occasional gentle bend.  The pace was easy.  The landscape was relatively flat.  Lots of farmland and countryside.  I was once again pleasantly surprised.  I expected that this part of the trip would bore me, but it didn't.  I enjoyed cruising through the tiny towns that dotted the road.  I appreciated the sunshine and countryside.  It was a full day, but it didn't seem that way.

We hit the western-most point in Iowa before we knew it, and decided to continue into Nebraska, again, just so that we could say we hit four states in a single day.  I think we covered a bit over 300 miles that day, but again, it didn't seem like that big of a deal.

Another thing I noticed on that day... people in Southern Iowa have accents that are distinct from those in Northern Iowa.  Those in Northern Iowa have an accent similar to those in Minnesota or Wisconsin... a bit of a Norse accent.  Those in Southern Iowa are starting to pick up a bit of a southern twang.  And these accents are both more pronounced in the Eastern part of Iowa than they are to the west.