Friday, November 23, 2018

Ignoring mental health crisis leads to tragedy — Guest blog

This guest blog is a Letter to the Editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune, published November 19 (on page B5 in the print edition). This letter, along with the earlier Letters to the Editor, were prompted by a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California on November 7, leaving 13 people dead.

Re “Another mass shooting has readers looking for answers” (Nov. 8): This California tragedy is another sad example of what can happen when parents, who know their son and can see he needs medication or treatment, call the police for help to get their child taken to a hospital on a 5150 evaluation hold and are subsequently told by the police crisis team that he doesn’t meet the criteria of “a threat to himself or others” or is “gravely disabled.”

When will our country change the laws and definitions of when persons with a neurological disorder can be involuntarily medicated and treated until they are returned to rational thought? This untreated state, coupled with our weak gun ownership laws, is the crux of why these shootings are occurring.

A doctor on NPR responded to a reporter’s question, “What we can do to stop this from happening?” His response: “If you see something, say something.” Exactly what his parents did.

Linda Mimms, Poway

Linda shared this Letter to the Editor on Facebook on November 19 with this comment:

When will our society's inhumane laws change in the treatment of neurological brain disorders? When the efforts of thousands of advocates for change—including families, doctors, legislators, and anyone who cares about improving the broken system now in place—force the issue and produce positive results.

Linda Mimms lives in Poway, California.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

When are people going to think about risks?

Houses in Paradise, California are not designed to resist forest fires.

Houses in Oklahoma are not designed to resist tornadoes.

Houses in the Florida panhandle are not designed to resist hurricanes.

Houses in Memphis, Tennessee are not designed to resist earthquakes.

In most of the country, power, phone and cable wires are placed on poles, which are subject to all of these Disasters, except for earthquakes

These are areas known for natural risks. Why do so many people die and so many others have their lives ruined due to society ignoring these risks?

Edited November 23 to fix errors and add labels.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mining Bitcoins takes four times the energy of mining gold

I knew that "mining" Bitcoins took a lot of energy, increasing global warming and climate change. In fact, it takes so much energy that it is unsustainable as a currency.

According to this analysis, the energy cost of "mining" $1 worth of Bitcoin is 19 Mega Joules, which is almost four times the energy cost of $1 of gold, 5 Mega Joules.

Other metals, such as platinum and copper, have similar energy requirements to gold, but aluminum does stand out with the requirement of 122 Mega Joules per $1 of aluminum produced. Of course, that is why aluminum recycling is so common.


I am an annual subscriber to The Guardian to support its journalism. Although based in England, it does a great job covering stories in the United States that other media sometimes miss. If you wish to support it, start by downloading their app to your cell phone or tablet.

Lindsay Olives: Thinner steel in your cans?

Message to Lindsay Olives (Bell-Carter Foods, Inc.) today:


When I've eaten your olives (Lindsay Naturals Large Black Ripe Pitted Olives; UPC Code 0-53800-95000-6), I recycle the cans. To keep the lids from cutting anyone at the recycling plant, I crush the can so that the lid doesn't fall out.

In crushing the cans, I have noticed that the steel in your cans is considerably thicker than the steel in other food cans, say Kroger Tomato Sauce. If you can reduce the thickness of the steel, you can save on the cost of the cans plus the cost of shipping without compromising food quality or the risk of damage.

By the way, I love the "brown" (natural) olives over the "black" olives (due to the added ferrous gluconate). I wish restaurants would switch.

Let me know what you think.

Bruce Hobbs

I'll update this post when I get feedback.

Updated November 11 with email received November 6:

Dear Mr. Hobbs,

Thanks for your thoughts – we’re always delighted to hear from olive lovers! We are delighted that you enjoy our Lindsay Naturals Black Ripe Olives.

We appreciate your taking the time to share your suggestions with us. They have been shared with our Quality Assurance and Marketing departments. Our customer’s opinions are very important to us! At Lindsay, we constantly strive for perfection and honest feedback from people like yourself helps us monitor our products and continually improve our processes.

Thank you for your feedback. If you would like to provide your mailing address, we would love to send you coupons to enjoy towards your next can or jar of Lindsay Olives as a gesture of our appreciation for your support.


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Facebook: You need more servers!

Is it just me, or has Facebook been having server problems since Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed? Comments are slow to load; I have posts in my News Feed with no story, just comments; and I’m missing stories from friends marked “See First.” C’mon, Facebook, let’s get it together! Brett’s confirmation has invigorated your user!

(This was originally posted on Facebook on November 1. There was no response.)

Guns: One area where the U.S. is different

A note about mass shootings. My son noticed one thing different between the U.S. and other countries with strict gun laws: In the U.S., when there is a shooting, there is an immediate, overwhelming response by trained and armed police officers. In Cincinnati, the September 6 mass shooting on Fountain Square is a perfect example.

By the way, until there’s an official determination, my opinion is that the Fountain Square shooting was a suicide-by-cop situation. It’s sad that innocent bystanders also died.

Click here for stories about the Fountain Square shooting.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sometimes, innocent people have to die

All too often, innocent people have to die before action is taken. Here’s another sad example. In this case, both a limousine company and a highway department are at fault.

"The crash about 170 miles north of New York City came three years after another deadly stretch-limo wreck in New York state spurred calls for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to examine such vehicles’ safety. There is no evidence the state took any steps to do so."

Headline: Cuomo says limo shouldn’t have been on road

Saturday, September 29, 2018

To Pope Francis: There is no "Devil"

Pope Francis believes that people need to pray daily to protect the Roman Catholic Church from the Devil. We can argue whether there's is a God or not, but it's clear to me that "The Devil" does not exist except as a bogeyman cooked up by Catholics and other religions. When something bad happens to the Pope, maybe he should look at the decisions he made and not blame the Devil for it.

AP Story here.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

When will the next stock market crash occur?

We are going to have a stock market crash, and possibly a recession, during President Donald Trump's first term. That is inevitable; the question is when. With this blog post, I’m going to try to let you know when far enough in advance that you can take action if you wish. I will update this page as I get more information.

I’m using the stock market crash on October 19, 1987 (United States) and subsequent recession (from July 1990 to March 1991) as my model. Note that anybody younger than 50 is unlikely to know much about these events. Note that I did not own any stock in October 1987 so I wasn't directly affected.

I successfully predicted the July 1990 recession in March 1990. I didn't think of it until September 1990 when a colleague reminded me that I had told him in March that there would be a recession. One of the problems with recessions is that you don't know when they start because it takes several months for the government economists to determine that a recession did indeed take place.

I do not expect the next crash to be as severe as the one in 1987. The stock market did eventually recover to where it was before the crash so people who had invested before the crash and then ignored it were made whole. I will discuss this in further updates: How long will it be before the stock market recovers from the crash?

July 19, 2018 At this point, my best guess is the 4th quarter of 2019 for the stock market crash.

Before making any investment decisions based on my advice, please read my Investment advice disclaimer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

There is no underlying value to Bitcoin and many other cyber currencies. If I own gold, Nvidia stock or a U.S. Treasury Note, there is an underlying asset that will always have value. The value of Bitcoin is determined by the Greater Fool Theory. In this case, the theory says that the value of Bitcoin will only rise if there is someone more foolish than you are buying it.

I saw this in the '80s with farmland in Illinois. The only way farmland was a good investment then was if the value continued to increase. Eventually, the bubble burst and many people lost a lot of money. Bitcoin is no different. Anyone who bought Bitcoin at $19,000 each realizes that.

When I posted this on LinkedIn, someone asked, "But what about cash, specifically, United States dollars?" This isn't about cash, this is about investments. If you consider Bitcoin an alternative investment, then why are you calling it a currency?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Air-powered cars? Not energy efficient enough (Update)

Three years ago, I wrote a post saying that air-powered cards are not energy efficient enough to be used for most transportation uses. Three years later, only one thing has changed: Guy Nègre, the inventor of the air-powered car, died on June 24, 2016 (75 years old) without seeing his invention reach commercial success.

Zero Pollution Motors, a U.S. licensee of the technology, promises that you can buy a car next year (2019). It's always next year; in 2019, I expect that it will be 2020. I hope that anyone who made a deposit on a new car in 2015 has gotten their money back.

There is talk about Tata in India selling an air-powered car in 2020. However, the video I saw showed both three-wheeled and four-wheeled cars, indicating that the design isn't far along yet. (In the United States, a three-wheeled car is considered a motorcycle for regulatory purposes, which have much weaker security requirements than four-wheeled cars do.)

One thing the YouTube videos mention is that the cars are as light as possible. If these light cars were powered by a gasoline engine or an electric battery, they would have good gas mileage or range on a charge. Comparing these light cars to a conventional sedan is preposterous. I am getting 45+ miles per gallon in my 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid and it's a good sized car.

Scam alert: Do not make any investment in a company developing an air-powered car or give them a deposit on a new car. Likely, you will never see a return for your money. Shiva Vencat, CEO of Zero Pollution Motors, LLC has at least two funding sites trying to raise money.

I stand by my claim three years ago: Air-powered cars are not energy efficient enough for everyday use by Americans or Indians. I hope that, now that Mr. Nègre has died, this concept will fade into oblivion.

Monday, April 30, 2018

iPhone bug alert: No notice when voicemail full

With an Apple iPhone running iOS version 11.3, there is no notice if your voicemail fills up. Callers will get this notice: "The mailbox is full and cannot accept any messages at this time. Goodbye."

A previous version of iOS would tell you when your voicemail was full, but only if you actually went into your voicemail (i.e. just opening the Phone app was not sufficient to get the notification).

To reduce your voicemail so that your phone can accept new messages, you must delete some messages then scroll to the bottom and clear the Deleted Messages. You may also want to check Blocked Messages and delete them as well. I believe that deleted Blocked Messages will go into Deleted Messages.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

"IRS": "After 45 minutes, you will be arrested" — Guest blog

I got a call one day from the "IRS" telling me to call a certain number to prevent everything I own from being taken away from me. I thought it would be fun to call the number, so I did. Here's a transcript of the call. (I recorded it, but can't get the recording to work now.) The guy's accent was heavy. Where the idioms look like typos, they're not.
Irs1: Thank you for calling the Internal Revenue Service. How may I help you?
Me: Hi, I just got a call saying that I was going to be sued by the Internal Revenue Service.
Irs1: Hold on, ma’am. You’ll be provided all the information. 
Me: Okay.
Irs1: Ma’am, verify your home phone number.
Me: [Give them number they called me on (at 34 to 37 seconds in)]
Irs1: And to whom I’m speaking with right now?
Me: Julie Johnson
Irs1: Miss Johnson, are you still residing at [:48 through 1:09]? Miss Johnson, we called you to [unintelligible] you to [unintelligible] information. That there is a legal allegation and a law suit has been filed against you by the Internal Revenue Service. Are you aware about the situation?
Me: No, I’m not.
Irs1: So, I’ll let you know and I’m going to provide you all the information, but before that, do you have a pen and a piece of paper handy? I want you to write down some information.
Me: Yes, I do. I’m ready.
Irs1: Well, Miss Johnson, my name is Officer Derrick Brown. 
Me: Okay.
Irs1: And my [unintelligible] is IRC636660.
Me: Okay.
Irs1: And your case i.d. is DC8192. 
Me: ’Kay. 
Irs1: Thank you, Miss Johnson. Now I’m going to provide you with all the information, but before I do that I would like to tell you that we both are on federal marshals’ recorded lines, by the Internal Revenue Service and the Police of Washington, DC. So make sure you speak on the lines, it can also be used in favor of you...
Me: Okay.
Irs1: Or against you in the court, okay?
Me: So we are being recorded.
Irs1: Yes.
Me: Okay.
Irs1: Miss Johnson, I’ll just go ahead and read out the legal charges against your name now, but before I do that — don’t not interrupt me — I give you a fair time to speak. Now as for the documents, we conducted an audit on your taxes filed for the years 2009 through ’13, and we found that there was a miscalculation in error for the taxes that you filed does not match the tax record that we have. According to Section 7201, the amount still outstanding on your name which you have not paid yet, and for that reason, the local authorities have an arrest warrant to come to your place. Your driver license will be cancelled, and everything under your name. Your property, your back account will be seized. You will also face federal imprisonment for up to five years. Now the total amount outstanding on your name is $8,562, which includes your pending taxes, legal charges, and late fees. Now, may I ask you, Miss Johnson, did you do this intentionally or it was by mistake?
Me: By mistake.
Irs: On the phone this time, Miss Johnson let me tell you, Miss Johnson, [unintelligible] legal notices to the mailing address. We sent two legal notices in the months of September and October of 2015, but both letters have bounced back to us, so we assume that you are trying to run away from the situation, as well you are trying to defraud with the government. 
Me: I never got ’em. 
Irs1: It’s not our duty, ma’am. We did our job, you didn’t [unintelligible]. On the phone this time ma’am, we have two alternatives. First option is: If you think there is nothing wrong with your taxes, you can simply fly to Washington DC with a criminal attorney, and you can file down your case against the IRS, but make sure if your criminal attorney feels guilty inside the courthouse, then you have to pay a fine to the Internal Revenue Service — 25 to 30 thousand dollars. Otherwise, there’s going to be have a federal imprisonment by your name for five years. And the second option is: You can resolve the case outside of the courthouse by paying the outstanding amount to the Internal Revenue Service, and you can stop the arrest warrant by your name. So on the phone this time, Miss Johnson, we want to know what your last intention, because in the moment we get disconnected, I’ll be [unintelligible].
Me. Okay. Okay, that’ll be fine. I’ll go ahead and fight it.
Irs1: You’ll go ahead and fight? 
Me: Yeah. 
Irs1: No problem.
Me: I don’t have $8,000, so I got no choice.
Irs1: Ma’am, we are not talking about that you have to [unintelligible] the amount. If you want to resolve the case, but I can give you monthly payments [unintelligible]. 
Me: Oh, how much would my monthly payments be?
Irs1: If you have good intentions to resolve the case, I can transfer the call to my account department. They’ll guide you up, okay?
Me: Okay.
Irs1: But before transferring, before transferring the call, situation for you. The situation is how much you could come upcoming to resolve the case and to freeze the arrest warrant by your name? I mean maximum level. 
Me: Oh, I could probably get $5,000.
Irs1: Okay, ma’am. And the second question was what I have for you. The line that we are talking right now, this is your home phone number or your cell phone number. 
Me: It’s a cell phone number. [6:03]
Irs1: Cell phone number. So ma’am, I’m transferring the call to my account department. They will guide you up, okay? Hold the line while I transfer the call to my account department. Thank you.
Me: [Here I’m on hold from 6:20 to 7:22, but I can talk to you, the listener. You can’t hear it, but Rod Stewart is singing Maggie Mae in the background. I say, “I’m eating. I shouldn’t be doing that. This ought to be good... Right now, he’s probably telling him, ‘Hey, we got a live one. She’s willing to give $5,000.' Crazy people... I wonder if he hung up on me. Nah!”]
Irs2: Yes, this call is transferred to me. This is Paul Anderson from the Head of the Accounts Department. To whom I’m talking to right now?
Me: Julie Johnson
Irs2: Okay, and my bailor officer, he already explained to you what it is all about and what’s going on. So, I believe you got all the information, right?
Me: Well, I don’t understand why I would owe the IRS $8,562 from 2013,’cause I did my taxes that year, and we typically owe about $3,000. And that’s what we owed and that’s what we paid. So what was different that year, do you know?
Irs2: Our arbitrator already explained to you, okay? 
Me: It wasn’t explained to me why I owed so much money. 
Irs2: Okay, I’ll [unintelligible] again. Here we are talking about 2009 to the year 2013. There was some kind of miscalculation over there, [unintelligible] numerals, mistake in your taxes, so that’s why [unintelligible] amount. So see I’m not talking about one year, okay.
Me: Oh, so it was over several years, okay. 
Irs2: Okay, I’m not talking about one year, okay?
Me: Yeah, okay, and what is your name?
Irs2: So, my name is Paul Anderson. You can write it down. My name is Paul Anderson. Badge i.d. number for the Internal Revenue Service is IRC3137.
Me: Uh hm. Okay.
Irs2: Okay. So, I need your intention. What are you willing to do at [unintelligible] time? You will enter resolve this case outside of court or you can try this case inside the court. 
Me: Well, I’ll probably end up fighting it, I think, ‘cause I can’t come up with $8,562. 
Irs2: So, are looking for the payment plan, right?
Me: Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll do the payment plan. 
Irs2: Okay, but you can pay some the amount today, still, and rest of the amount, I can give it to you based premium plan. So, can I know how much you can come up with today, so that I can stop the lawsuit and cancel the arrest warrant? 
Me: Yeah. I’ll come up with $5,000 today. 
Irs2: Okay, so where do you have this $5,000? That means do you have sums of cash? In your debit card, in your credit card? Where do you have this money? 
Me: Well, I’ll call back this afternoon, and I’ll just go through your web site. You’re at, right?
Irs2: But, ma’am, if you hang up this line, but then I’m sorry I’m not help you out. I’m simply take this case legally inside the court. You can pay this amount right now, okay?
Me: Well, I’ll go to your web site right now and pay it.
Irs2: No problem. So I’m simply take this case legally inside the court, okay?
Me: Say what?
Irs2: I’m simply take this case legally inside the court. After 45 minutes, you will be arrested. Okay, you don’t have any other [unintelligible] option, okay?
Me: So, someone’s going to come to my door within 45 minutes? 
Irs2: Yes, the police officer will be coming at the place and they gonna arrest you.
Me: Wow! Okay. Well, if I get it paid, though, they won’t. I mean, when they come, I can just show ’em where I paid it on line. ’Cause I’m sure, you guys’ll give me a receipt, right? 
Irs2: It’s easier. There’s a new procedure. It’s called EFTPS. It stands for electronic federal tax payment system, okay? That is a reason you can call in a different procedure, because as the original lawsuit has been filed under your name and arrest warrant will be at you at your name. So you can use this procedure and you can resolve [unintelligible], okay?
Me: So, I go to EFTPS to pay this? 
Irs2: Yes.
Me: Will I go to Is that how it works?
Irs2: No, it’s not possible. Do you have the delivery amount in terms of cash in your hand? If not, I’m going to provide your bank account information to the federal attorney, who has been appointed by the state attorney to represent your state, so you can direct the deposit in this account. 
Me: Oh, I see. This is a separate thing. Separate from the IRS? 
Irs2: What do you mean by that?
Me: Well, I want to go through the web site when I pay this, so, I’ll do it that way.
Irs2: No problem. No problem. Thank you.
Me. Uh huh. Bye-bye.

I read on the IRS web site that, since October 2013, over 10,000 people have fallen victim to this scam and paid over $54 million.

Julie Johnson is an editor living in Marietta, Georgia. This was originally posted on Facebook on April 6.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Marching for Social Security and Medicare: A parable for today

A parable for today:

They marched for women's rights, but I didn't march, because I'm not a woman.

They marched for high-quality public education, but I didn't march, because my child is an adult.

They marched for Black Lives Matter, but I didn't march, because I'm not Black.

They marched for equal rights for those who are LGBTQ, but I didn't march because I'm straight.

But then they wanted to privatize my Social Security and Medicare, so I organized a march. And I thought, nobody's going to show up for my march because I didn't show up for their marches. But there they were, women and men, teenagers and adults, Blacks, Whites and even LGBTQ folks. I was pleasantly surprised. I asked one of the young marchers, "Why are you here? You're not going to get Social Security for many years." She replied, "You don't understand. We don't march just to help our situation, we march for everyone!"

(This was originally posted on my Facebook page January 24, 2017. Yes, I wrote it.)