A Trip to Richmond and Jamestown, Virginia

Mary and I passed a week in Richmond and Jamestown, Virginia. The galleon pictured below is a replica of the ship that landed in 1608 from Britain. The colonial houses and Jefferson Davis statue are from Monument Avenue in Richmond.

A small drone in the top of the picture is taking a picture of the Jefferson Davis statue in Richmond, capital of the Confederacy.

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The Giant Sequoias of Calaveras

Mary and I drove from Southern California north to the small town of Angel’s Camp, between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, at the end of October, and visited groves of giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

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Fall Vacation in Southern Utah and California

Mary and I passed October in Southern Utah, near St. George next to the Nevada border, Palm Springs, and Tehachapi, a small town in the mountains above the Mojave Desert in Southern California. Some of the pictures below are from a tramway that ascends 5000 feet from hot desert floor of Palm Springs to the much cooler mountains. The tramway is twice as long as a ski lift and the ascent is the second steepest in the world. The soil is sandy so the pine trees grow wide trunks and deep strong roots. The temperature the day we went was 95 at the bottom and 70 at the top. The locals take their kids to the mountaintop in winter to introduce them to snow. We visited a horse rescue ranch and farms that raise alpaca and ostritch in Tehachapi.

These bull elk sparred to establish mating rights next to a parking lot in Tehachapi, California.

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Composing Amazing Music on an Android in Your Living Room

The Amazing Randi stars in the popular video below where he laments that everything is amazing and nobody is happy. I find it amazing that $20 buys software that allows any patient person to easily compose music on an Android, FL Studio Mobile while sitting on a couch in the living room. The developer sells a PC version for $100.

I composed a song featuring harp, bass, and percussion in 5-10 hours. Do you think it’s any good? Should I quit my day job and compose music for a living?

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A Trip to Zion National Park

Mary and I visited Zion National Park a couple of weeks ago. It was stunning because you can go right into the rock formations rather than viewing them from across a canyon. Someday we’ll return to St. George, Utah and visit Bryce Canyon, too.










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Businesses Solving Trivial Problems

In a recent survey asking people to identify the biggest problems in Silicon Valley, Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director, Code for America, replied:

New York magazine recently reported that there are no fewer than a dozen venture-funded start-ups trying to make doing your laundry easier. That’s the problem the ‘innovators’ in our country feel is most important to solve? Try to solve overcrowding in jails or climate change—or avoiding the next HealthCare.gov—and I think those minds will find themselves pushing for more-innovative solutions.

Pahlka says in her talk, “Government is about doing together what we can’t do alone.” This is true in a utopian state but not in the real world. Unfortunately, she is wrong because mostly government is about “redistribution” and “transfer” payments, stealing money from one group of people to benefit another. Government can only be fixed after citizens renounce theft as a means to increase wealth. People aren’t angels so I don’t expect government to be fixed.

It would be better to abolish areas of government and replace them with private businesses. PayPal and Bitcoin were started to abolish the dollar. Uber’s wants to abolish municipal taxi regulations and plans to persuade their customers to lobby politicians. Maybe other businesses will attack government.

Jennifer Pahlka believes that many new profitable technology businesses could be created that serve governments. The problem is that government employees aren’t as responsive to fear and greed as the rest of society. Government employees usually can’t get rich by doing a good job so greed doesn’t work, and they hardly ever get fired no matter how badly they do their job, so fear of being fired doesn’t work, either. Governments can never work well but they can sometimes defeat other governments in wars. Governments are best at perpetuating power, preventing Scots and others from separating from existing countries.

Startups are trying to solve trivial problems because the government is printing too much money, inflating an investment bubble. The economy will not prosper until government contracts, providing space for services that are currently poorly provided or subsidized by governments such as education, health care, and energy production and distribution. There is an election being conducted in the USA but no candidates are discussing the question of which government services should be discontinued. We can’t expect progress in the near future.

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Peter Thiel’s Flawed Analysis of Hewlett-Packard

Stanford computer science students aren’t very bright. Famed investor Peter Thiel taught a course there, CS183, Startup Engineering, where he explained his theory of how to create a successful business. Unfortunately, not a single one of the many students in the class decided to check Thiel’s work when he claimed one side of a boardroom dispute was to blame for the crash of a Silicon Valley icon.

In the class and in his book based on the class, Zero to One, Peter Thiel argues that Hewlett-Packard (HP) was grossly mismanaged from late 1999 until late 2012 under the leadership of chairwoman of the board Patricia Dunn. However, from 11/1/99 until the day that Patricia Dunn resigned, 9/26/2006, HP stock fell 3%, decisively outperforming the NASDAQ index, which fell 25%. HP continued to outperform the index for 4 years during the period 11/1/99-9/26/2010, by a 25% margin. HP stock crashed in 2011, long after Patricia Dunn had left the HP board.

Stanford students should take nothing for granted; everything should be verified, even the assertions of a prominent successful investor.

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A Day in Estes Park, Colorado

I rode my bike and visited a few shops in Estes Park last week. I haven’t been there in a few years so it was a pleasant diversion. Someday I’ll visit Rocky Mountain National Park again.

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Animals on Bike Paths

It pays to be alert when biking or walking on bike trails. This week I encountered a bull elk in Estes Park on the Lake Estes trail and a 5 foot snake on the Spring Creek Trail in Fort Collins. I thought at first that the elk was a statue because it wasn’t moving.

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Black Child Beatings in the South and North

Former professional basketball player Charles Barkley grew up in the southern USA.

The Minnesota Vikings football team suspended a player because he beat his child, so former professional basketball player Charles Barkley defended the father, stating that most black parents in the southern USA beat their children, and that it is impractical to incarcerate all of them. This raises the question of whether most black parents in the northern half of the country beat their children, too. I haven’t seen this discussed but the speech below of President Obama, given to the NAACP on the 100th anniversary of the group, suggests that northern blacks raise their children similarly to southern blacks. In the middle of the video, President Obama, discussing being a good parent with a smile on his face, describes how much fun it would be to beat neighborhood children, and the black audience responds with thunderous applause.

Meanwhile, black politician Jesse Jackson is lobbying Apple, Google, Facebook, and other technology companies to hire more blacks. It hasn’t occurred to him that while the kind of people that beat children, and/or were beaten as children, often excel as professional athletes in violent sports like football, they might not excel as often in developing technology products where violence isn’t as useful. People who have trouble controlling their temper and emotions when they are frustrated and angry make poor engineers and scientists. Developing software is often very frustrating.

Companies are most often motivated to earn profits rather than advance social agendas of racial or other political groups.

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