Take A Rude Gesture, Trump…

“U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday railed against Mexico and Canada’s efforts in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying both neighbours have been “very difficult.”
“NAFTA is very difficult. Mexico has been very difficult to deal with. Canada has been very difficult to deal with … but I will tell you that in the end we win,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We will win, and we’ll win big.”
See Trump blasts ‘spoiled’ Canada and Mexico over NAFTA talks
Trump is a hateful/spoiled/bully who constantly lies. During the campaign he told anyone who would listen what a great negotiator he was compared to those “stupid” previous presidents. He said negotiating trade deals was “easy”. Now he finds it difficult because other nations do object to Trump and USA “winning”, whatever that means.

Trump just doesn’t get it. Trade imbalances are the natural forces pressing economies to adapt, not theft. He can’t do maths either. The deficits and debts his policies and his Congress have foisted on following generations are an actual theft from the children of our children. Why is it that Trump promised only he could do these things but now he has one excuse after another why he can’t get things done?

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Plant More Trees

“American cities and their surrounding areas have been losing as many as 36 million trees a year. That might not sound like a lot when you think about the number of trees in our nation’s forests, but those trees have a powerful impact on health and well-being — and on climate change.”
See US Cities Are Losing Millions Of Trees Each Year
I just don’t get it. USA thinks it is the most advanced society on the planet yet they can’t do simple things like respecting, valuing and preserving trees. Just walk from a hot dry grassland in the heat of summer into the cool, shady, moist, perfumed space of a nearby forest and tell me you don’t get the point. Whatever someone thinks of climate change or the environment, it’s as obvious as the nose on your face, the ears on your head and your skin that trees are desirable living things and they give their blessings to us freely. Value them, preserve them, increase their numbers and vigour. It’s the right thing to do.

Where I live, elms used to be the “go to” shade tree but Dutch Elm Disease is decimating them. I recommend Hackberry as a replacement. They grow wild in these parts in the southeast corner of Manitoba and at the south end of Lake Manitoba. The reason for that is they require a bit longer growing season so that they can reproduce themselves from the fruit they produce. The lakes moderate the climate to help them reproduce. They will still grow here very well and look just like elms with huge crowns of green leaves and roots and branches that resist our winters and summers. One can buy the seeds for pennies each and get all the trees your yard may require for a few dollars. They are a bargain. They grow about a foot each year and they are beautiful.

Need food? Plant fruit trees like sour cherry, Nanking cherry, various apples and plums and pears and berry bushes. What you don’t pick will feed wild critters. Need to block the wind? Hackberry will do that too but for a faster barrier use willow or poplar or cedar or virginia creeper. They’re all good.

The point is there’s no reason to do away with many trees and there are plenty of reasons to have more, so, get with the programme, USA, despite what Trump and Pruitt say. They are just plain nuts. Nuts? we can grow some hazelnuts and acorns here too… Just saying…

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POOF! There Goes Coal

“the Netherlands’ Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate, Eric Wiebes, announced last week that his country was moving to ban coal in all electricity generation from 2030 onwards. More specifically, all coal-fired power plants will be closed by 2030 at the latest, and the two oldest plants — the Hemweg and Amer coal-fired power plants — must shutter their doors by the end of 2024.”
See The Netherlands Announces Ban On Coal, Plans Close Of 2 Power Plants By 2024
While Trump promises to “bring back” coal, other parts of the world are planning to bury it or at least keep it buried…

For a number of reasons, coal is the worst fossil fuel: 9x% CO2 yield, particulates, carcinogens like radioactive stuff in amongst those particulates, and it is dirty stuff. Now, it’s costing more than renewable energy. Now, people want to keep the planet green for subsequent generations and breathe clean air in the process. So, good-bye coal.

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Getting With The Plan

“Plans for mitigating the effects of climate change are generally straightforward: they look at ways to increase efficiency, transition to clean energy and improve heating, insulation and transport. In doing so, they are likely to result in financial savings or health benefits for the municipality, and the public. For example, more low-emission vehicles on the road doesn’t just mean less carbon emissions – it also means better air quality for the city’s residents.”
See We Examined 885 European Cities’ Plans To Tackle Climate Change — Here’s What We Found
OK, a plan for what you know is coming makes sense. What are my local cities’ plans?

  • Winnipeg – Thousands have participated in a consultative approach to making a plan. There’s no actual plan yet, but it’s happening
  • Selkirk – Just words so far…

This just shows that whatever the plans and initiatives of government it’s easier to get things started locally, like in your yard. Do you have an EV yet? Do you have solar panels up? How many trees have you planted? Are bees, birds and butterflies getting what they need in your yard? You can take care of most of those with or without support from local politicians but the more citizens you get interested in dealing with climate change, the easier it will be to get your politicians at any level to fall in line. For what are you waiting?

Some of my initiatives:

  • I’ve made a deposit on a Solo EV.
  • I’ve found suppliers of tree seeds (Schumacher, and TreeSeeds) to keep my costs down while my number of trees goes up. It’s best to grow trees in pots for a couple of years at least to increase survival. My caraganas are beginning to bloom. Lilacs, apples and cherries maybe next year (UPDATE: two cherries were badly chewed by hares but the one they missed is in FLOWER!!!). We are using tough trees to break the winter wind for more delicate species and provide shade and a windbreak for our home. You can have too many trees but we are not close to that limit yet…
  • My wife shops at end-of-season sales of garden-centres to buy nice trees at little more than the cost of the pots. These are often root-bound and need lots of care to survive.
  • I have made three bird-houses. Demand exceeds supply.
  • Our home uses passive solar and geothermal heating to cut the cost of heating a large house to about what a small house costs.

Trees I recommend for my area just north of Winnipeg:

  • Hackberry – If you like Winnipeg’s elms which are being decimated by Dutch Elm Disease, you’ll love hackberry. It looks and grows much the same but when it matures it grows berries instead of winged seeds. It’s very tough. The one I have growing in my yard is just now swelling its buds unlike those foolish other trees risking late frosts. It grows slowly so start soon.
  • Nanking Cherry and other sour cherries – These are very tough but yield edible fruit after a few years growing. Protect them from rabbits who love the bark when food is scarce in winter.
  • Lilac and caragana – These will grow on just about anything but soggy ground and bees love the flowers and so do I.
  • Many kinds of apple and plums – Even Macintosh apples will grow here but lose top growth over the winter. Get a few from a garden centre to keep you fed and make pies and applesauce. Stock up on cinnamon.
  • Grapes – need several years to get going but the fruit and juice are worth it. They are very productive even on rather limestone-filled soil. I have some growing on the edge of the backfilled gravel near my house.
  • Cedars, like Thuja occidentalis – beautiful and functional. They need adequate water especially to cover dry spells. Protect from sun and wind in winter if in an exposed area.
  • Red maple and some sugar maples – give brilliant red colour in the fall and sweet sap in spring.
  • Dogwoods, especially Cornus sibirica, provide bright red stems to contrast with the snow in winter and provide food for grouse. Amen.
  • Virginia creeper – Covers and shades just about anything and can survive even exposed to winter winds.
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Damned Ads!!!

I’ve been having no end of problems with FireFox locking up my GUI in Debian GNU/Linux. “top” always shows a process called Web Content sucking up huge CPU-time and RAM. That sucker would demand gigabytes of resident RAM and after swapping started I had only a few seconds to kill the process. FF could not regain control even after issuing “A web-page is slowing down your computer Wait? Stop it?”. No choice worked. The process took total control.

After much research and tweaking everything I added an “ad-blocker”. Problem solved…

This is ridiculous. I don’t mind advertisers paying for my browsing experience but killing the browser to do it? What’s with that? You advertisers better get your act together or you’re going to kill the web as we know it. I feel sorry for the noble websites funded by ads. They plead with us not to block ads. I don’t want the overhead of sorting advertisers out between the good, the bad and the ugly. I just don’t want to know. My life is too complicated for an old retired guy. Weeds I understand. They’re just doing their thing. I don’t understand advertisers driving markets away.

See also How to Stop Web Browsers from Slowing Down Your Computer

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You Know EVs Have Arrived When The Royals Depart In One

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex depart Windsor Castle for a reception hosted by The Prince of Wales at Frogmore House, in a silver blue Jaguar E-Type Concept Zero. This vehicle was originally manufactured in 1968, and has since been converted to electric power”
See Royal Couple Takes Their First Drive In A Jaguar E-Type Zero
Yes, EVs are quiet, clean, efficient and perform well. That’s just what royal newlyweds want, apparently. They have excellent taste.

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Taxing The Poor

“One broad measure of business spending, real nonresidential fixed investment, rose by 6.1% during the first quarter. That’s solid growth signaling a strong economy. However, it was roughly in-line with the past several quarters. It even marked a slight deceleration from the final three months of 2017.
That means companies have not significantly boosted spending on equipment, factories and other investments that create jobs and boost wages.
Some economists aren’t surprised that the early windfall of the tax cuts is going to Wall Street, instead of Main Street. They note that companies have long had access to tons of cash.”
If they had plenty of cash, you shouldn’t really expect having access to more would lead them to invest,” said Alan Auerbach, director of Berkeley’s Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance.”
See Tax cut sparks record-setting $178 billion buyback boom
For a “Liar in Chief” who told the poor working stiffs he would give them a tax-cut, it must be pretty neat that Trump and his friends are making out like bandits with huge tax-cuts, dividends through the roof and stock buy-backs pumping up the portfolios. Trump also told people growth would cover the monstrous deficits all this “generosity” would cause the government treasury, debts that have to be paid back by the children of the poor and probably their children’s children too.

Trump also is making big deals for Trumpworld everywhere now that folks want to butter him up to gain benefits denied ordinary folk and their whole countries. Trump has created the greatest kleptocracy ever seen. He’s making Nigeria seem amateurish in the level of greed and corruption. May he and all his friends end up rotting in federal penitentiaries, maybe Gitmo… Instead of pussyfooting around obstruction of justice, Mueller should go straight to RICO and recover the ill-gotten gains for the tax-payers.

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Thinking About Networked Storage

“block devices exported via AoE cannot be accessed by IP. Without this additional overhead, network performance does improve when accessing the exported block device(s). This non-routability also adds to the security of the technology. In order to access the volumes, you need to be physically plugged in to the Ethernet switch hosting them.
As for how data is transferred across the line, AoE encapsulates traditional ATA commands inside Ethernet frames and sends them across an Ethernet network as opposed to a SATA or 40-pin ribbon cable.”
See Mastering ATA over Ethernet
One of the problems I’ve been facing with replacing my AMD64 server, Beast, with small cheap ARMed systems is that the small cheap ones have very limited support for SATA and gigabit/s Ethernet. What’s the point of hanging a few hard drives on a cheap board if the network connectivity is just 100mbits/s or even 1X 1000mbits/s? That connectivity is a bottleneck. I still need a server that can access large storage quickly for web-applications/file-serving.

One possible solution is just to hang one hard drive on each of several small cheap ARMed SBCs (Single Board Computer) and have a server access the drives using AoE, ATA over Ethernet, in Linux. So, my server could be something a little more robust with multiple Ethernet ports and the smaller cheaper SBCs would just be interfaces to the drives. The server could see a total bandwidth like N x 1gbit/s to storage and serve 1gbit/s to clients. The server could also do the big I/O intensive jobs like building kernels or running databases. Some suitable small cheap boards are ~$50 and a more robust server board would be ~$200.

I could also use drives in USB3 enclosures and connect them to the server via USB3.

An advantage of this solution would be that I would not be limited to 1 or 2 SATA storage devices as many small boards allow. I could have 4-6 and add more as the need arises. I could add Ethernet ports to the server instead of SATA ports. That could be done via PCI-e or USB3 if the bigger board doesn’t have enough ports. Another advantage is that I could easily have some redundant interfaces in case one should die. More channels is a better situation than few. Total cost would be ~$200 + N x $50, perhaps half what one of the huge boards cost for N=4. This solution might also justify using a 10gbE port or two and a 10gbE switch. That’s unlikely as I only have 2-3 clients active normally.

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Garbage Published Against Electric Vehicles

“50% of EV drivers have been found to also have rooftop solar panels in report after report. Anyhow, even if they didn’t, charging an electric car on the grid mix today is already cleaner than driving a new gas car (even a Prius) essentially everywhere in the United States. Since renewable energy’s share of the electricity mix has been growing fast in recent years and will continue to grow fast for years to come, the split in emissions between an electric car and a Prius will only get wider as time moves on.”
See Oh, POLITICO, Please Don’t Publish Garbage — Reality Check For Electric Vehicle Hit Job
The article quoted to the right defends EVs against the stupid, silly, plainly wrong notion that EVs are magically less green than gas-guzzlers. That one’s been laid to rest before but ideologues just keep repeating it rather than accepting reality. The huge efficiencies in EV operation dwarf the cost of production whether measured in money or tonnes of CO2.

I would not be buying an electric car if it were a major polluter. Every time I walk into my garage I’m offended by the stench of my gas-guzzlers and that’s just sitting there bathed in heat, ready to consume more petroleum and requiring constant maintenance to keep doing that. It’s just the wrong way to transport people and it’s unnecessary for >90% of what we do, like TLW going to a wedding yesterday or me visiting my doctor last week. An EV would have done both tasks in style, at a fraction of the cost both in money and pollution. The gas-guzzler works, sometimes, but it’s a constant drag on all that I value in life.

The chief argument of the idiots out there is that EVs pollute a lot as they are built and use electricity generated from petroleum. Both are dwarfed by the usage of renewable electricity which these days is able to run our EVs. I plan on having a small steerable solar array tracking Sun. My public utility uses hydroelectric power and wind for >90% of our power. So, over a decade or so an EV is a clear winner for the environment. Gas-guzzlers are not even close. My gas-guzzler, BTW, burns more than its weight in petroleum every few years. My EV won’t burn any. End of story.

PSPolitico got an earful from readers who were similarly offended by the original biased/wrong/stupid story.

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Iraq At A Crossroad

“Al-Sadr, who made his name leading two violent uprisings against US occupation troops, was sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.
His bloc’s performance represented a rebuke to a political elite that some voters blame for widespread corruption and dysfunctional governance.
Al-Sadr’s alliance – an unconventional one with communists and secular Iraqis – has announced it is fiercely opposed to any foreign interference in Iraq – whether Tehran’s or Washington’s.”
See Iraq elections final results: Sadr’s bloc wins parliamentary poll
We live in interesting times. At the moment when Trump tries to sabotage the Iranian nuclear deal and Russia and Iran are trying to control Syria with mayhem and ethnic cleansing, Iraq is being forced to coalesce towards sanity. It’s not that I see Al-Sadr as a guiding light but he’s a bit older than when he went toe to toe with the invading USAians. USA broke down society in Iraq resulting in decades of chaos and Al-Sadr has seen it all and possibly grown in wisdom. Iraq needs to fix its own problems and getting USA and Iran out are probably necessary steps. Improved relations with the Kurds could only be a sign of sanity.

Let’s hope that sanity does prevail in Iraq. Everyone must be tired of war by now and should get on with building a healthy society in Iraq. Accepting diversity and taking charge of government for the good of the people can happen if people talk more and shoot less.

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Fox In The Hen House

“In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”
See An “Ashamed” Fox News Commentator Just Quit The “Propaganda Machine” NB This is an old story from March. I must have missed it but it still rings true today.
Amen. TLW and I often argue over the CNN/Fox/Trump fracture of USAian society. It’s an unholy mess. While CNN occasionally jumps the gun or gets things wrong, Fox only fractionally functions as an outlet for news. Much of their programming is merely echoing lies from Trump or cheering him on in his headlong charge into disaster. Remember fiscal responsibility and burdening the children with government’s debt? Remember family values? Remember religious values? They’re absent from Fox these days. What the Hell are they conserving these days? Trump’s income?

It’s good to see a few at Fox still fighting for the right things to do even if it’s just as they head out the door. It shows humanity is not quite dead over there but it looks too far gone to survive much longer. What will the world, USA, Fox look like after Trump? Will they need to anoint a relative as next in line to the throne? Will some young turk need to be appointed dictator for life to keep things rolling along to disaster? What will the GOP do for an encore after lying for years out loud and in public? Will they ever be the party of women/non-whites/immigrants/poor? What violence will they commit to remain in power after the ballot box renounces their nonsense? Stay tuned. Watch CNN to see how this ends.

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People And Their Preferences

“The Pew poll found that large majorities of Americans favor expanding at least two types of renewable sources to provide energy: 89% favor solar panels and 85% favor wind turbines. 80% of Republicans want to see more solar energy resources and 71% want more wind power installations. Among Democrats, those numbers are very close to 100%.”
See Pew Research Finds Broad Bi-Partisan Support For Solar Power In US
When it comes to peoples’ preferences things range from the sublime (wind power exceeding nuclear output in UK and support for solar power) to the ridiculous (folks not using their cars but wanting to keep their parking spaces).

Wake up people! Change can be good for you. If you are not using your car, maybe you should not have one. Maybe you should not reserve space for it. If the cost of energy matters maybe you should accept and welcome renewable energy that can cost much less than methods used in the 19th century, you know, burning stuff… Maybe if clean air and water matter you should be careful not to dump waste products willy nilly around the planet. Just put some thought into where you live, where you work and how you should live and work and we all could breathe better air, drink better water and leave the planet more suitable for our offspring. Give it a thought.

My thoughts are that although I need a personal car less than when my family was at its peak I still need a car but a smaller electric one will do just fine, cost less and carry me farther for $1 (~1/km versus ~25/km for the gas-guzzler). What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Change will be good for me. I’m also going to set up solar panels to charge the battery of my car. Oh, and I’m planting trees like mad despite the rabbits and winter killing many. The ones that survive will absorb CO2 and provide shade, shelter from wind, oxygen, fruit and nuts. What’s wrong with that? It just takes a little effort to change how we live and work. If I, an old over the hill guy, can do it, so can you. If what you prefer isn’t optimal prefer something else.

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