Trumped Up

I’m sure that I speak for millions of people when I say “Thank God* that’s over”.

Of course, I am referring to the ridiculous spectacle that is the Impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, which joins the Russia Collusion farce, The Mueller report disaster, the Kavanaugh hearings debacle and various other attempts to discredit the President, on the ash-heap of history.

I am not saying that President Trump is perfect – not even he would say that – but this blatant attempt to re-write the history books by changing the result of the 2016 election has gotten far more attention that it deserved. Here are my observations on this comedy of errors.

  • The campaign to impeach this president began on the day that he was inauguratedbefore he had even had a chance to do anything impeachable.
  • From the day that the Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives, it has been obvious that they have been looking for something, anything, that they could use to impeach the president, and, hopefully, remove him from office.
  • This has been only the third presidential impeachment in history, and the first to be brought strictly along party lines. It is known that there were closed-door hearings to which Republican representatives were not invited. How is this “fair and impartial”?
  • There were two charges of the article of impeachment – “Abuse of Power”, and “Obstruction of Congress”. The first charge alleges that the President used his office to start an investigation into corruption, in an attempt to smear a political rival. The question is which of those was the real reason, which goes to intention. It is wrong to impeach a president based on what you believe that he was thinking.
  • The second charge – “Obstruction of Congress” – is a far ore nebulous charge that attempts to criminalize the President’s use of Executive privilege to prevent people from Testifying to Congress. This is a legitimate component of separation of powers; the Executive should never be at the behest of Congress. The correct response of Congress should have been to petition to the courts to override Executive privilege. The fact that they did not do this is telling.
  • When President Trump threatens to deny financial assistance, to force a corruption investigation in a foreign country – and it is not explicitly clear that he did – that is a case of “Abuse of Power”, but when Vice-president Biden threatened to deny financial assistance to prevent a corruption investigation in the same country – which he openly admits that he did – it was a case of “Nothing to see here, move along”. Make that make sense.
  • The call for “witnesses and documents”, while reasonable-sounding, is actually a Red Herring, as this evidence should have been presented with the impeachment. It is not for the Senate to do the house’s dirty-work for them.
  • In addition, the people who were calling for witnesses were also telling us that Hunter Biden’s testimony is unnecessary and irrelevant, even though it is central as to whether there was corruption to investigate in the first place. All witnesses or none; neither side should get to cherry-pick which witnesses should be heard and which should not.
  • Rep. Schiff should be called to account for his fictional, sensationalized, and possibly slanderous rendering of President Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President.

In the end, Justice was done. The President’s actions may have exceeded his legitimate powers, but even if this is the case, they were hardly grounds for removing him from office. A partisan impeachment was countered with a partisan acquittal. If the House Democrats’ intention was to create a public spectacle, they have achieved their goal, but I suspect that their actions will have dire consequences.

Thanks to their frantic floundering, The President, now emboldened and angered, has emerged stronger than ever in an election year, and is on course to be the first president in U.S. History to be both impeached and then re-elected. As if that was not enough, they have also weaponized impeachment, which can henceforth be used by a future Republican-controlled house against a Democrat president.

And we will all be left poorer as a result.

*Or insert the Deity of your choice

Kroger is at it again

Some years ago, I wrote a post on how Kroger’s have a nasty habit of putting yellow tags on items that are not being discounted. They’re still doing it, but now they have kicked things up a notch.

First of all, They have installed new card-readers on their POS terminals that do not give you a choice of credit or debit. When you swipe a card, they check if your card is a debit card. If so, they force you to process the transaction as a debit. This is almost understandable; debit has much lower transaction fees than credit, as well as having different legal ramifications. Personally, I would have liked to have been given a choice.

But Wait! There’s More!

That alone is not a major issue, more of a minor annoyance that I can live with. What really ticks me off is that they are now trying to con us out of a few pennies more by charging us transaction fees on Cash Back.

Stupid Tax

At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then I realized that they were actually trying to make a little money off of something that we have been getting for free. This flies in the face of Wizard Prangs Law of Freebies:

Once someone becomes used to getting something for free, they will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it.

Thanks but no thanks. None of the other stores are doing this; so in future I will remember to hit an ATM, or shop somewhere else that does not charge for this service.

When Health Insurers Practice Medicine

2019 was not the best year for me

In the middle of the year, I had to change employers, which meant new health insurance. I have a family member who has some health issues which require expensive medications, so we normally meet our deductible a few months in, finish up our copay a few months after that, and pay nothing at all during the last few  months of the year.

However, in 2019, getting new insurance meant that my deductible reset to zero in the middle of the year, and I had to start paying full price all over again, which cost me thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs. As if that was not bad enough, the new health insurance was not only about twice as costly as the old one.

This new insurer was truly horrible. To save money, they kept refusing to cover the brand-name medications that has been prescribed , and replaced them with cheap generics that were often ineffective. One such medication is Singulair, a Brand-name asthma medication that is seriously expensive. The generic did not work, so I had to pay full price for the brand-name medication. This had never been a problem with the old insurance company, but the new one kept refusing to cover medications that we had been using for years, and generally giving us the run-around. To add insult to injury, they insisted switching to three-month prescriptions in the middle of December, knowing that we would be on a new plan on January 1st. And they wanted $600 for a three -month supply of Singulair. It was cheaper for me to pay out about $250 for a one-month supply of Singulair that was not covered by Insurance at all. As they say in England, “Merry Bleedin’ Christmas”.

On one of the many occasions that I was forced to call them, I was told that several different generic versions were available and that we should try them and find one that works. I am reluctant to do this; my family is not a beta-testing lab for an insurance company looking for ways to save money. If they want us to do their quality assurance testing for them, they should be paying us for the privilege, or at the least, providing us with free samples. For those who believe that generics are just as good as brand-name medications, I recommend that you do some research; at the very least, check out a book called: “Bottle of Lies”

I keep getting phone calls and junk mail informing me about various telemedicine and telehealth services, in which I can get in touch with Doctors and nurses via the telephone or Internet 24/7. While this is a wonderful idea that will become more and more prevalent over time, I am not comforted by the fact that this service is provided, not by healthcare providers, but by my Health Insurance company. In my opinion, this is a conflict of interest, as their primary goal is not to provide better healthcare service (which is not their job; they are an an insurance company, remember?), but to reduce, minimize and eliminate claims.

Bottom line: Health Insurance Companies should not be practicing medicine; they should stick to paying claims.

Vega Conflict: From Zero to Hero

I’ve been playing this game for some years now. My base is mature; nothing needs upgrading or refitting, I have all ships and tech. Things have gotten a little slow; I am sort of in maintenance mode, except for the acquisition of new technology.

So, in the small hours of October 23rd , 2019, I created a second account – an “Alt”, in game parlance – to see how the game has changed for beginners in the past four years. To show my derision for the publishers, along with my talent for punnery, I gave this account the imaginative name of “KixArse”.

One thing that I did not see the first time round was that new players get a massive “Startup Bonus” for the first fifteen days:

The first couple of hours were spent playing tutorials and introductory missions. I had not intended to spend any money, but an introductory offer for 500 coins for $2 was too good to pass up. One thing to note here is that this offer is not available for long; this offer could be redeemed twice, but when I looked back a day later, it was gone, replaced by different offers. That’s a shame, as the second one would have given me a Commerce Module, which produces coins. Ah well…

The other big mistake that I made was to redeem the rewards for the initial missions, which included ship build, refit and repair tokens. These expired before I could use them, since the starting bonus made most of these operations instantaneous. Nevertheless, it was annoying to watch as scores of time tokens vanished in a puff of logic. Lesson learned…

Campaigns:

To help with the massive effort required to reach the higher tech in the game, Kixeye have designed a series of Campaigns.

  • Each Campaign introduces the player to a new Faction: Rebel, Vega, VSec, Iron Star, Demon Corps, and Xeno Division.
  • Each Campaign consists of four missions, which must be completed within 24 hours.
  • Mission 1 gives you a resource fill-up, so it is best to start when you are low on resources. Sometimes it upgrades various modules in your base.
  • Mission 2 gives you access to all of the ships in that faction.
  • Mission 3 gives you a pre-built fleet of ships from that faction.
  • Mission 4 gives you access to all of the tech in that faction.
  • Missions 1-3 are relatively easy. Mission 4 is much harder than the other 3, but can be handily done with the fleet you got at the end of Mission 3.

Two months on, I have the following advice:

  • Purchase both of the $2 introductory offers right away. They may not be there later. The coins will allow you to fill up storage which will save you farming times, along with unlocking the commerce module. This is probably the best value you will ever get for $4.
  • Do the missions, but do NOT redeem the ones that reward you with Time Tokens until you need them. This will be after the introductory speed-up bonus wears off.
  • Research basic Genesis Cruiser, Cargo V, Rancor Battleship, and Revelation Cruiser as soon as possible.
  • Set up a farming fleet. A fleet of Ospreys with 3xCargo V can haul away 8M at a time. A fleet of Exterminators with 3x Armored Cargo Hold III can haul 40.4M. A “Cargo Peg” Pegasus with 5x Armored Cargo Hold III
  • DO THE CAMPAIGNS! You will get massive rewards and shortcuts that will save you MONTHS of grinding.
  • Be careful what ships you research and build. Because the campaigns catapult you all the way to Xeno Division, a lot of the lower-end ships will become obsolete very quickly indeed.

I was luckier than most; from time to time Kixeye gives away free ships, and I was fortunate enough to receive Five Manticore Battlecruisers, Five Trojan Cruisers, and one Gargoyle Carrier (all pre-fitted) which helped massively.

To coin, or not to coin?

In gaming parlance, a “coiner” is a player who has amassed a large number of coins from in-game purchases (or cheating), and uses those coins to dominate over by other players by instant-repairing their fleets and returning to battle. This is generally looked down upon by “free” players and, as a result, “coiner” is something of a derogatory term.

Having said that, game developers cannot survive without money, and any game that cannot attract dollars from the player community will ultimately fail. So my philosophy is to slip the developers of good games a few dollars when they offer good value, but don’t use coins to dominate over other players. My in-game purchases thus far have been as follows:

  • Introductory $2 purchase of 600 coins (good value)
  • $5 purchase of a ship upgrade (a mistake, as I could easily have farmed it)
  • $10 “max-out” upgrade which saved me months of farming and upgrading, as well as giving me a fleet of six Bastion cruisers, which came in *very* useful for farming.

  • 10 for a pre-fitted Manticore Mk III Battlecruiser (not really necessary, but a nice-to-have for completing my free fleet of five Mk I Manticores)
  • $10 for a pre-fitted sovereign (Definitely worth the money in terms of time saved, as you only need one and do not need to farm to unlock the ship)
  • $10 for two pre-fitted Paragons (useful but not necessary)
  • $10 to upgrade the free Gargoyle to Mk V. (saves me having to build out a fleet of Ogres and upgrade them to Mk IV+, then farm the parts) — definitely worthwhile, though I wish they had included the Elite upgrade in this offer

Recommended ships:

It is not recommend that you build any Rebel, Vega, VSec, Iron Star, or Demon Corps ships, unless you need to build them to complete missions. The reason for this is because you are progressing through the game so fast that these ships will become obsolescent within a matter of days as better ships and tech are becoming available every couple of days. Even Xeno ships are of limited use once you have unlocked the equivalent AXIS hull. The one exception to this is the suppressor, which retains its usefulness as an anti-swarm/carrier-defense ship. Another is a fleet or two of Exterminators, but for combat they are outclassed by Liberators.

  • Altairian: Get Bastions, Zeuses and a Sovereign Carrier. Not sure about Ajax.
  • Umbra: You need Valrayvn, Ogres, Medusa, Wraiths, Gargoyle Carrier.
  • Pharmakon: This is still in the air, as Pharmakon recently got nerfed, but I would recommend Operator, Daemon Battleships, Plexus Carrier and Omega.

The good news is that you can get deep into the game very very quickly. In a few short weeks I have been able to gain access to ships and tech that took years on my first account. The bad news is that you miss out on a lot of the enjoyment that came with taking the scenic route, such as Frigate fun (before the Great Rebalance™) and Co-op missions against Aliens using Manifold Missiles.

The future?

This account is for low-end fun; I do not see myself getting any dreadnoughts on this account; the amount of farming necessary to get one is prohibitive, let alone upgrading them to the point where they become useful. But who can tell?

See you out there in the Big Black™

Nancy, are you listening?

Let’s start with a joke:

  • Knock knock!
  • Who’s there?
  • Jeremy Corbyn
  • Jeremy Corbyn who?
  • A week’s a long time in Politics…

It has been a week since the United Kingdom Parliamentary Election returned the Conservative Party to Westminster with a stunning victory, and handed the Labor party the most crushing defeat in nearly a century. While I am delighted, I cannot say that I am surprised; the commentary that I have heard from British voters has been less about “keeping BoJo in” than it has been about “Keeping Corbyn out“.

Following the awful news, Mr. Corbyn said “I will not lead the Labor party into another general election”. That’s a typically English understatement; barring unforeseen circumstances, the next election is five years away. After the pasting he has taken, I would be surprised if he is still leading the party in five weeks. After all, Margaret Thatcher was ousted by her own party for far less.

Large swathes of lifelong labor voters have held their noses and voted Conservative; many for the first time in their lives. But why did they do it?

Reason #1: Corbyn: Jeremy Corbyn has a documented history as a Marxist. Under him, Labor has embraced such socialist stalwarts as re-nationalizing everything, free education, tax increases (but only for those evil wealthy people, honest!), etc. Many labor supporters, and almost all Conservatives, are aghast at this.

Reason #2; Brexit: Boris Johnson has campaigned on a “Let’s Get Brexit Done” platform. In the past, Corbyn has tried to push for a second referendum, a stance which is highly anti-democratic — if you need a second referendum, then the first was not enough. If one referendum was enough to get us into Europe in the first place, why is it not enough to get us out? And that is the crux of the matter; too many folks are trying to re-write history and overturn the expressed will of the people, with repeated calls for vote after vote until they get the result they wanted in the first place. This isn’t Democracy, it is fascism.

What is interesting is that Scotland moved away from Labour to vote overwhelmingly for the Scottish Nationalist Party, which is pro-remain. So north of the border, at least, it wasn’t about Brexit, it was about Corbyn.

The moral of this cautionary tale? If you allow your party to become hijacked by the hard left, you run the risk of being destroyed at the polls as moderates turn their backs on their party en masse. You have been warned.

Watch This!

All together now: “Smartwatch! HOOH!. What is it good for? Absolutely…” quite a lot, really.

Ever since I was a boy, I have always had a watch. My first was a Timex that I received as a Christmas present at the age of seven. For most of my life I have always sported one on my wrist. One of my most prized possessions is a gold watch that belonged to my father, who passed away some years ago. I wear it on special occasions.

A few years ago, When my last watch — an Accurist — died of old age, I stopped wearing a watch on a daily basis… coincidentally, just around the time when the first Apple Watch came out. I did not care much for the Apple Watch. It was big, it was bulky, it was expensive, and they seemed to be bringing out a new version every year, which was not very encouraging to those who had splashed out hundreds of dollars on something that became obsolescent before its first birthday. Besides, I have always had Android phones, and had no wish to mix devices that were designed to operate in different ecosystems.

One day I found someone selling a Gear S2 online. Turned out that this person was switching from Android to Apple and was thinking the same thing. Long story short, I picked up a gently-used Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch for a very reasonable price ($60, in case you were wondering). Since they were selling for more than 100, I figured that I could sell it if I didn’t like it and make a little profit. As it turned out, i needn’t have worried, as the device has found a place in my heart and my life.

Pass the Remote: The best way I can describe a smartwatch is as a write-mounted remote control for your phone. This particular one talks to an app that runs on the phone that allows you to load add-on apps and faces to the phone, as well as transferring screenshots and pictures to and from the phone. But it is so much more than that…

It’s a watch! It has taken me a while to get used to looking at my wrist when I want to know the time; to this day, I still occasionally pull out my phone. However, the watch has a huge variety of faces. Many can be installed to the watch, and a few of my favorites are shown below:

Some of the watch faces are even customizable, as you can see from the following examples:


It’s a Fitness Band!
I’ve never been much of a fan of FitBits. Not because of anything inherently wrong with them, but because of the kind of people who tend to wear them. Like Starbucks Coffee, I have always associated them with the Trendy Hipster lifestyle. However, this watch allows me to track workouts (such as the occasional bike ride and even-more-occasional run). Which helps me explore the abyss between how much walking I think I did and how much I actually did.

It’s a sleep monitor! If worn all night, the phone can monitor your heart-rate and movement, and hence determine whether or not you are asleep, and whether your sleep is deep, light, or restless.

It’s an Egg Timer!

Yes, really. One of the built-in apps is a countdown timer that I have found useful on all sorts of occasions, from brewing tea to… timing eggs. This is perhaps my most-used feature as I am notoriously forgetful. It comes in especially useful when I am brewing tea.

It’s a Heart Rate Monitor! Of course, as part of its fitness tracking capabilities, it can also continuously monitor your heart rate.

It’s a text tickler! Another neat feature is that you can receive and reply to texts using the watch. This is particularly useful when in meetings, driving, or out and about in inclement weather where you cannot or do not want to take out your phone. The interface is too limited for complicated replies, but most of the time a simple reply is all you need.

Bottom line: perhaps the best sixty dollars I have ever spent.

The Hate is swelling

“Hate” is one of the most overused, misused and abused words in our language. Triggered folks use the term “Hate Speech” to dismiss anything that they disagree with, or makes them feel bad.

  • Disagreement is not hate.
  • Speaking the truth is not hate.
  • Telling someon an unpleasant or inconvenient truth is not hate.
  • Telling someone that they are mistaken, in error, or just plain wrong is not hate

Don’t be lazy. Stop using the word “Hate”, when you actually mean something else.

No Good Deed…

Here’s a story from the Land Down Under.

Kenan Basic, a 36-year-old carpenter, stopped to help a nineteen-year-old woman by the name of Caitlyn Gray, whose car had broken down. He repaired her car, they hugged each other, and she went on her way.

She then went to the police and swore out a complaint accusing him of stalking her, asking her for sex, and groping her.

Mr Basic was then arrested and and charged with indecent assault, and jailed. He was denied bail. He was in jail for a week. He lost his job, and his wife filed for divorce.

Who is this paragon of pulchritude that Mr Basic risked his very liberty to proposition and grope? What does she look like?

When the police could not find any surveillance video or any other corroborating evidence to support her story, they became skeptical. Finally, she admitted that she had made the whole story up.

He was vindicated and released. She was found guilty of “knowingly making a false statement.

She has been jailed for nine months, five of which are mandatory before parole… but unlike him, she was immediately granted bail.

Apparently the presumption of innocence only applies if you are female.

He plans to sue. And he should.

Just Believe

Just believe that Christine Ford was raped! sexually assaulted by Brett Cavanaugh. Even though:

  • She can’t remember where it was…
  • …or when it was…
  • …or how she got there…
  • …or how she got home afterwards…
  • …and she can’t produce one single witness to corroborate her account of what happened…
  • …or answer any of the above questions.

Just believe her.


Just believe Jussie Smollet when he says that he was set upon by white supremacists wearing MAGA hats who beat him, put a “noose” around his neck and poured bleach on him. Even though:

  • No surveillance video in the area showed the crime…
  • …or the perpetrators approaching or leaving…
  • …but they found a pair of Nigerian bodybuilders…
  • …who were associates of Mr Smollet…
  • …who were paid by him (by check) for “personal training”…
  • …and were caught on video buying bleach and rope.

Just believe him.


Just believe the authorities who say that that Jeffery Epstein committed suicide. Even though:

  • He was supposedly in a “suicide-proof” cell…
  • …while on suicide watch…
  • …which had been rescinded less than a week after he last attempted suicide…
  • …with no working cameras in the cell…
  • …and a pair of sleeping guards…
  • …who subsequently falsified the records…
  • …shortly after he agreed to a plea deal where he would agree to name prominent pedophiles.

Just believe them.


Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.

Parental Controls Done Wrong

Or: Why Nintendo is not your friend

I have a Godson. He spends his summers with Her Ladyship and I. He is thirteen, and this year he arrived with a Nintendo Switch clutched lovingly in his hands. Hand-held gaming devices like this seem to come as factory standard equipment with every teen-aged boy (the girls all seem to want an iPhone and a boyfriend… but that’s another story).

Over the first few days he was here, he spent his every waking hour either playing Fortnite on his switch, or watching other people playing Fortnite on YouTube (oh, the ads! But that’s another story), while the switch was recharging.

I did a little research and found that a parental controls app was available for the switch, so I installed and set it up. And that’s where this cautionary tale begins.

First up, the philosophy of the app is all wrong. Instead of allowing parents to allocate screen time for good behavior, the app allows the parent to grant a daily limit that is fully available at the start of the day.

The practical application of this is that if you give your little “angel” three hours a day, then left to his own devices, he will burn through those three hours by 10AM… and be in an abominably foul mood for the rest of the day as he suffers from withdrawal symptoms. And this is precisely what happened until we discovered the “Suspend Software” option.

The “Suspend Software” setting is what actually allows the app to actually stop the Switch in its tracks. The default option for this setting is “OFF”, and this is just plain wrong, as this setting means that it does not disable the switch when the time is up. This is the equivalent of a “STOP” sign but with no cops around to enforce it; most of us will not stop… and neither will he, as he blows straight through the stop sign on his way to however many hours a day he wants. And he did. One day he racked up nearly nine hours before we realized what was happening. The default setting is effectively “Parental Advisement” or “Parental Control without control“. So make sure that you familiarize yourself with the “Suspend Software” setting and turn it ON.

For me, the real problem with this app is with its design philosophy: instead of rationing time out throughout the day, the this app is designed to deliver the whole allotment up front. This is analogous to the two models for “pocket money”: allowance, or commission.

  • An allowance is given to a child irrespective of behavior, and leads to entitlement thinking.
  • A commission is given dependent on behavior, demeanor and helpfulness.

Nintendo have gone with the “Allowance” model.,

The only way to implement the “commission” model of game time is to reset the time allowance to zero every morning. If you forget, there is nothing to prevent him from taking advantageous your forgetfulness, and that’s on you.

But there is another, more serious problem here:

You cannot set the daily allowance to zero!

The lowest amount is fifteen minutes. This means that there is no effective way to use this app to “ground” a rebellious or misbehaving child.

Another issue is that the communication between the parental control app is done through WiFi. This means that if a switch is out of the range of WiFi, parental control updates cannot be pushed to the device. It is my understanding that the switch features a version of Bluetooth that is deliberately made incompatible with open standards (to prevent non-Nintendo wireless products from being used); perhaps this should be extended to the app to prevent kids from avoiding updates.

I strongly suspect that Nintendo designed this app based on a focus group comprised of fifteen children and one adult.

Here’s a list of the changes I would make:

  1. Allow the starting allotment to be set to zero.
  2. Add a big red “You’re Grounded” button, which immediately stops a switch dead in its tracks.
  3. Add buttons for “Add Time”, with 15/30/45/60 minute buttons to allocate time.
  4. Implement a “please-please-please-please-five-minutes-more” button.

Until they do these things, or something like then, I have to assume that Nintendo is not your friend.