Saturday, August 31, 2013

It's easier to illegally buy an assault rifle than it is to legally vote

"But a great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon." - Bill Clinton, Aug. 28.

Contrast that to this news item: A white supremacist felon arrested for selling counterfeit NFL jerseys was found to have 18 guns, including assault rifles, and 45,000 rounds of ammunition that the investigators had no idea that he had. Of course, as a convicted felon, he is not allowed to own firearms but there is no way to stop him from buying them. This story is from The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio).

The title: I have to show a driver's license to register to vote and every time I actually vote (even though my signature matches the signature printed in the registration book) but I don't need any identification to buy an assault rifle from a private party.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

When you're running for Cincinnati City Council, who cares where you park the RV?

When you're running for Cincinnati City Council, you should make sure your staffers know to obey the law. What you are seeing is Wendell Young's campaign RV not only illegally parked in a bike lane, set up by the City of Cincinnati, but also illegally parked at a bus stop. Soon after I took this picture, a 43 bus came roaring by but fortunately didn't need to stop here. What does this mean about Young's position on bicycles and busses? I'll let you decide.

This picture was taken about noon today on Mitchell between Vine and Reading. I sent an email to Young's campaign email address asking for a response but have not received one at this time.

Update Nov. 9: Mr. Young did win re-election to Cincinnati City Council.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Steve Ballmer: Dragging MSFT down by $20 billion

We knew that Steve Ballmer was dragging down Microsoft, but now we have a value on it. He announced his retirement today and MSFT went up $2.37 per share today. With 8.33 billion shares outstanding, he's been dragging the stock down by almost $20 billion.

Sorry, Steve, about the dissing by Wall Street but at least your stock and options will have appreciated too.

When someone posts a chart showing the performance of Microsoft's stock under Ballmer's tenure, I'll link to it. I'm not expecting much gain, if any. Bloomberg has given us some numbers: "An investment of $1,000 when Ballmer took over is now worth 13 percent less, including dividend returns, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Since Microsoft’s 1986 initial public offering through the end of the Gates era, $1,000 turned into $554,464."

Here's a Fortune article on this, written before the market closed: Steve Ballmer: The $16 billion drag on Microsoft.

Updated Aug. 24: Added quote from Bloomberg.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Using counterfeit or knockoff chargers

Using a third-party or counterfeit charger for your iPod, iPhone or iPad can be dangerous. Recently, there have been reports from China of one person being electrocuted and one being shocked and now in a coma by counterfeit or third-party chargers.

In response, Apple will now sell you one new, genuine charger for your Apple device for $10 (or the local equivalent outside the U.S.) in replacement for an existing charger, genuine or not, that you turn into them for disposal. (Apple is not going to make any attempt at the store to determine if your existing charger is a genuine Apple device, a counterfeit Apple device or a third-party device.)

For more information, click on this link.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bob Evans: Does this breakfast come with insulin?

Three problems with this coupon offer: I'm a working man and, if I eat out for breakfast, I eat by myself. Second, this is way too many carbohydrates. Third, show me the protein! I try to limit my carbs to 60 per meal and include some protein (typically, eggs or cottage cheese for breakfast). Sorry, your offer doesn't work for me.

Bob Evans' BOGO deal sans coupon

Friday, August 9, 2013

Math problem one solution: The Time Clock Problem

On July 24, I posed a math problem based on a real-life situation. In summary, here is the problem: If you have a group of 200 employees, what is the probability that two or more employees have the same last four digits in their Social Security numbers? When my son heard this problem, he immediately said, "That sounds like the birthday problem!" He's right. The birthday problem can be stated this way: If you have 23 people in a room, none of them was born on February 29 and you assume that birthdays are evenly distributed throughout the year (which we know is not true) what is the chance that two of the people share the same birthday? The answer turns out to be about one out of two, or 50.7%.

The birthday problem and the solution to it is discussed in Wikipedia. They point out that it is actually easier to solve the opposite problem. What is the probability that the 23 people have unique birthdays? Once you calculate that, you can take one minus that probability to get the change that at least two of the 23 people have the same birthday (as there could be more than two).

The solution to our problem actually is more accurate than the solution to the birthday problem because the last four digits of a person's Social Security Number are more likely to be randomly distributed among the 9,999 possibilities (0000 is not used).

Using the Wikipedia article, here is a solution. We are also going to figure the probability that all 200 employees have a unique combination of the last four digits of their Social Security Numbers. That probability is

P(200') = 9999/9999 * 9998/9999 * 9997/9999 * ... * 9802/9999 * 9801/9999 * 9800/9999

where ... indicates many more terms in the equation. I calculated this number using a spreadsheet with 15 digits of precision and got this result:

P(200') = .134853157876989 or about 13.5%.

This means that there is only a 13.5% probability that all 200 employees have different values for the last four digits of their Social Security Numbers. Taking 

P(200) = 1 - P(200')

means that there is a 86.5% probability that two or more employees have the same four digits. So the answer to the math problem is about 86.5%.

With that high of a probability, the employer must have a way of assigning alternate numbers to a few employees.

Updated Aug. 23: I renamed this post from "A solution to the math problem" to "Math problem one solution: The Time Clock Problem." Does this mean that there will be additional problems? You bet! But the next one is complicated enough that I'm going to solve it before I post it. That way, I can post the solution the next day. The common theme of these problems: These are problems that occur in real life.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The tipping policy in Bruce's world

Here are my tipping policies. For some reason, I almost always get good service in restaurants. It may be because they have some way of sensing that I'm a good tipper or that I go to the same restaurants and they recognize me. I sense that some restaurants are especially nice to people they haven't seen before because they want the people to come back.

I take the total before tax, round up to the nearest $5 and take 20% of that (an easy calculation). At buffet restaurants, I typically tip 10%.

The minimum tip is $2 per person. Many restaurants are trying to keep lunch costs down and I can eat lunch for $6 at a restaurant (trick: get water to drink; soft drink prices are outrageous and iced tea is ever worse).

I don't drink so I don't know what the rule is for alcoholic beverages. When I'm paying for other's drinks, I believe I have kept the 20% rule but trimmed the amount a bit.

Sometimes I order carryout for another person along with my meal. If I do this, I tip on the carryout amount as well. The servers I have worked with go overboard to make sure that the carryout meal is correct and brought to the table at the right time.

If I use a gift card or receive a major discount, I disregard that when paying the tip (i.e. I tip on the full amount before the gift card or discount). This would also apply to a meal purchased with a Groupon deal.

I don't mind if my server has to share tips with the busboy but if a restaurant has tip pooling or a similar system and I hear about it, I will no longer patronize that restaurant. My tip is intended to be a payment to my specific server.

If I receive bad food or service, most of the time it isn't the server's fault. I sometimes reduce the tip but usually I will avoid patronizing that restaurant for a while. I rarely complain to the manager; I just move on.

I saw a post on Facebook recently about the sad life of a server and why she really needed tips. This is not my concern and I really don't want to know about my server's personal life. My tip is not done out of sympathy, it is a reward for good service. I tip the same whether my server is a millionaire or on food stamps.

If you can't afford the tip, don't patronize the restaurant. Go to a less expensive restaurant or to a fast-food place. Or, radical idea, go to a grocery store and fix your own meal. I remember paying a $30 tip at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse but the service, food and view were impeccable. I was happy to pay it.

Riverboat cruise with dinner
I usually tip 10% of the meal cost (buffet rule). If there is a live piano player, I usually tip him a dollar or two.

Hotels and motels
My room rate is typically less than $100 per night. I tip $3 per day including the last day to the cleaning folks. I have found that I need to put a note next to the tip; one day, I just left $3 on the table and it was still there that night.

Valet parking
I avoid valet parking like the plague. It's just a habit of the rich that I prefer to avoid. If I did use valet parking, I would tip $2. Many years ago, I would have tipped a dollar, but I like to adjust for inflation.

Ballpark or Football Stadium
If I get an usher who insists on wiping down my already clean seat, I tip a dollar. I put the dollar in my side pocket ahead of time so it's not so obvious that I'm tipping.

On a recent move that took two hours, I tipped $5 per person. I made sure each person got his $5; I didn't want the driver pocketing everyone's tip.

Mechanic or Tow Truck Driver
I don't tip these folks. I wonder if the tow truck driver is already ripping me off so I'm not going to tip him. Usually, the driver is just happy that I'm not yelling at him; you would not believe the abuse they get when they're just trying to help you.

Taxi Cab
I took a taxi a couple of years ago in Chicago with three other people for just a few blocks. There is a charge on the meter for extra people but the driver put in four instead of the correct three. He only cheated himself as I had already planned to pay him $10. I don't take cabs much so I'm not an expert here.

I have been going to the same barber for over 20 years. When I first started with him, he was less expensive than my previous barber, so I tipped him $2. I have tipped him $2 ever since and now he is even less expensive than Great Clips. He also owns the shop and supposedly you're not supposed to tip the owner, but I don't care.

In the South, I have used restrooms with attendants. Sorry, I don't tip to pee.

Anything I've missed?

Comparison shopping: Meijer vs. PetSmart

Our household has four cats and, of course, they eat, pee and poop. So every few weeks, I make a run for cat food and kitty litter. General grocery stores, like Meijer® and Kroger®, are going after this pet business in competition with traditional pet stores, such as PetSmart® and Petco®. Today, I'm going to do some direct comparison shopping with a PetSmart $5 coupon in hand. Normally, I only buy one bag of food and two buckets of litter but today I went for the higher quantity. The clumping litter uses more litter per week but it keeps the litter box fresher; I only change the litter boxes about twice per year.

ProductSizeUPC Code
Purina Naturals Cat Chow13 lb. bag0 17800 14500 8
Purina Tidy Cats Scoop Instant Action35 lb. bucket0 70230 10785 5

ProductQuantityMeijer PriceMeijer CostPetSmart PricePetSmart Cost
Cat Chow2 bags$12.99$25.98$17.58$35.16
Cat Scoop4 buckets$12.99$51.96$13.99 or $11.99 with PetPerks card$47.96
PetSmart coupon$5.00
Total before tax$77.94$78.12

With the coupon, PetSmart would have been less expensive had I bought the normal quantity of one bag of food and two buckets of litter. By doubling the quantity, Meijer is actually less expensive but I bought the food and litter at PetSmart anyway and used the coupon.

Update Aug. 18: I improved the wording of the last paragraph.

Remove the links to articles behind a paywall

To the Team Stream app team:

The Cincinnati Reds articles in the Dayton Daily News that Hal McCoy is tweeting about are behind a paywall and need to be removed. I have mentioned this before to no avail. This is the last notice. If this is not fixed by Monday, Aug. 19, I will remove Team Stream from my phone.

Bruce Hobbs
Norwood, Ohio, USA

Sent from my iPhone 4S.

(Edited to show that the source is Hal McCoy's tweets. They need to either tell Hal McCoy to not tweet about articles behind the paywall or remove Hal's tweets altogether. It's Team Stream's app, not mine, and it's not my job to check the content. No, I'm not going to pay for the Dayton Daily News. It's a fine newspaper, but I'm just not going to pay for it.)

Update Aug. 18: It appears that they've listened to us users. The one reference today to the Dayton Daily News has public access. I will be keeping the Team Stream app on my phone. Success!

Update Aug. 20: I celebrated too soon. The tweets from "Hal" (probably done by someone else under his name) are back linking to stories behind the paywall. But instead of removing Team Stream from my phone, I've just unselected the Cincinnati Reds from Team Stream. I will get my Reds information other ways.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I'm tired of "sex with pit bull"

Fox 19's web site, like many news sites, has suggested articles at the bottom of their news pages. However, someone at Fox 19 is apparently obsessed with having sex with pit bulls. A reference to that story has been running for over a month now.

Fox 19, can you find a more appropriate selection of local stories to highlight or are you going for the sleazy viewers on the Internet?

Update Aug. 8: Good news, bad news. The story about the pit bull is gone, but the replacements are no better than the originals:

Do I really want to read about a teenager being raped in June? (Note that this screen snippet is from August.)

Update Aug. 9: It looks like I updated too soon. The woman and her friendly pit bull are back along with a father and daughter in an incestuous relationship:

At least now it's clear that this is provided by a service.

Update Aug. 18: I have won this battle. I installed AdBlock for Chrome, Safari and Opera on my Safari browser and below is the current result. AdBlock has two modes, which are combined by default: You can use a list of advertising web sites that should be blocked or you can train it to block specific ads. I turned off the lists and am just using the training. That way the normal, reasonable ads show up while I can block the ads mentioning sex with pit bulls in Las Vegas. (Whatever happened to "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?")