Saturday, June 30, 2018

The price of auto insurance in Michigan

A new report says Michigan’s auto insurance rates are still the highest in the nation.

The ZEBRA is a company that tracks auto insurance rates across the country.
Zebra’s Alyssa Connelly says the average annual auto premium in Michigan is about $2600, which is nearly twice the national average.  According to the report, North Carolina motorists pay the lowest annual premiums ($865). 

The 2018 State of Auto Insurance Report finds motorists in Detroit pay $5,414, on average.


Currently, Michigan's no-fault policy means insurance companies pay for all reasonably necessary medical care and treatment for as long as you need it (i.e. lifetime) along with up to three years' wage loss after you’re involved in an accident

...vehicle-theft rates in Detroit, for instance, that are almost seven times the national rate.

What could go wrong? 

Active shooter, Part II

Another thought on disgruntled, active shooters:

"Margin retreat"

Margin retreat is a marketing term used to describe a phenomena in the market place.

Institutions get older, more complicated, slower and less profitable.

Those institutions react by dropping simpler products as their internal cost structure makes it unprofitable to produce and sell those simpler, less expensive products.
1968 Toyota Corona DELUX

For example:  Ford used to be "every man's" car but they got larger and more bells and whistles were added.  Then VW, Datsun and Toyota entered the vacuum created by Ford's upward migration.  In time they also moved up-market and now Kia, gators and golf carts are filling the void.

You see it to a lesser degree in fast foods.  The earliest fast food restaurants produced very simple offerings but then moved upscale with super-double-lettuce-guacomole-bacon-tomato on sour-dough sandwiches.  That created a vacuum which was filled by Hot-n-Now type restaurants with their simple menus and streamlined production processes.

The legal system
"Disgruntled" shooters are motivated by a grievance.

The traditional legal system for redressing grievances evolved into Kabuki theater, a slow, expensive, stylized dance that seems little connected to real life.  I think that created a vacuum.

Perhaps it is time to discuss a greater role for "ombudsmen" or other types of arbitrators.  If nothing else it gives sane people a good, long look at potential crazies.  In the best case scenario, the crazy might feel listened to and validated even if their injury is not 100% redressed the way they wish.

Grossman's thoughts on active shooters

Pointing around the room as he spoke, Grossman continued, “But you’ve still got those fire sprinklers, those fire exit signs, fire hydrants outside, and fire trucks nearby! Are these fire guys crazy? Are these fire guys paranoid? No! This fire guy is our A+ student! Because this fire guy has redundant, overlapping layers of protection, not a single kid has been killed by school fire in the last 50 years!
Source...the enemy is denial This article by Grossman is a 'must read' article.

Davis added, “Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees.

Source...Jarrod Ramos: 5 facts...

If you recently took a Concealed Weapons class you might have received a book published by the NRA.  That book goes to great pains to discuss "hardening" your home against invasions.

The exterior doors in the ERJ mansion are half glass.
Particular attention is paid to points-of-entry.  After taking the class, I modified the windows in our exterior doors.

Security or "hurricane" film comes in different thicknesses and visibility options.  You can buy clear, tinted, mirrored, spangled or frosted security film.  It is made from PET, the same plastic used in pop bottles.
The perp would not have been able to gain easy access to the Capital Gazette newsroom if the business had invested $200 in an appropriate door or $20 in security film.  Very likely he would have been noticed loitering in front of the door waiting to piggy-back his way in and the shooting would not have happened.

Installment 8.2: A visit from the Deep State

Chaz Bona-Brown was annoyed as Xiaopei (aka, Charlie) Liu droned on-and-on.  Bona-Brown's attention span had never been his strongest trait.

Bona-Brown had only the vaguest of ideas as to what Liu did.  Bona-Brown was offended when Liu suggest that he attend a dinner meeting in the Bay Area.  The last thing Bona-Brown wanted to do was to listen to a bunch of old duffers at a Rotary Club.

Bona-Brown countered by having his administrative assistant say that Liu could be squeezed into an early morning appointment in Sacramento.  Much to Bona-Brown's surprise Liu showed up at 7:30 AM.  That was a bit awkward as Bona-Brown was still in bed and Liu was left waiting in the un-air conditioned waiting room for an hour and twenty minutes.  Bona-Brown thought it was all to the good; nothing more clearly demonstrates how busy one is and how important than to have others wait for them.

It took Bona-Brown twenty minutes of Liu's presentation to deduce that Liu wanted a loan.  Money flowing the other direction was so foreign to Bona-Brown's world view that he interrupted.

“You mean you need a loan?” Bona-Brown ask, brows furrowed.

“Not just a loan.  We need access to Cali's reserves of hard currency.” Liu corrected.

“No fucking way.” Bona-Brown exclaimed.

“Beg your pardon?” Liu asked, surprised.

“No fucking way.  That just is not the way it works.”  Bona-Brown said.  “I need those reserves to rebuild my military.  Not only can you not have access, you need to double the taxes you are paying.”

Being a technical weenie to his very marrow, Liu felt compelled to correct what he saw as a technical misunderstanding.  “Well, actually, it is done.  Spirochete traded $75 billion, US dollars, for stock options.”

“Why the hell would he have done that?” raged Bona-Brown.  He was finding that running the government single-handedly was more than he could handle.

Liu sighed.  He was going to have to try to explain international economics to a moron.  “Analysts across Cali made some good investments that unexpectedly turn sour.  Collectively, we had 30 days to generate the equivalent of $100 Billion USD.  Spirochete facilitated that fund raising.”

“You still didn't answer the question.  You guys are worth trillions of callors.  Why didn't put on your big-boy pants and pay your debts.?” Bona-Brown challenged.

“The problem is that our net worth is calculated in callors.  The only ways we have to raise that kind of hard currency in that time-frame would tank all of our foreign operations.  As you know, our foreign generated business is a major source of Cali foreign reserves.  'Putting on our big-boy pants' as you called it would kill the goose that lays golden least that is the way that Spirochete saw it.” Liu explained.

“Ok, that is water over the road.” Bona-Brown said.  “Why are you back wanting more?”

Liu grimaced.  “After we had to cover the first wave of derivatives we reviewed the contracts we have on the books and found we had continued exposure to rising Cali bonds.  A second wave of options triggered earlier this week when interest rates closed above 12%.  The third wave triggers at 16% and that one is a potential tsunami due to the enormous payouts.”

“We still have the problem of generating the hard currency with this wave and I wanted to get with you to confirm that you are taking appropriate steps to build the world's confidence in the callor.” Liu said.

Bona-Brown bristled.  He always felt like he was back in elementary school and getting sternly lectured when he heard 'appropriate steps.'  Suddenly belligerent, he asked “What do you mean, 'appropriate steps'?”

“Mostly it means not spending money you don't have.  Stop burning through foreign reserves by buying weapons systems.” Charlie said.

“The rebel military activity shattered our infrastructure and the market knows we will have to go into hock to fix that.  They are hyper-sensitive about any signs of us using ‘borrowed’ money for luxuries like beefing up the military.” Liu continued.

"Not fixing the infrastructure is not an option.  Commutes and delivery routes that used to take thirty minutes now take four hours...or more.  We don't have the trucks, the fuel or the drivers to sustain that kind of non-value-added time-sink." Liu said.

“Make a show of negotiating with the Southern Cali rebels.  You don't have to give them anything but give the appearance of moving toward some kind of peace.  Stay off TV and look like you are doing your job.” Liu said.  He thought everything he requested was perfectly reasonable.  Unfortunately, it was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

“Wait one fucking minute you pencil-necked eunuch.” Bona-Brown had just learned what a ‘eunuch’ was and was delighted to have a chance to show it off. “That money is mine to spend.  You work for me, not the other way around.” Bona-Brown said. 

Charlie Liu was a virtual god in his own domain.  Universities competed to give him honorary degrees.  Professors bowed to his wisdom and vision.  He was revered by his employees.  The consortium that he was the mouthpiece for was populated by titans of industry who were virtual clones of Xiaopei Liu.  They were educated, accomplished, professional, successful and as proud as Lucifer.

Liu had not been humiliated like this since he was eleven years old and his father had publicly chastised him for braking window panes in a neighbor's greenhouse.

Liu bit his lip as Bona-Brown ranted for a full fifteen minutes.

“You made your own messes.  You are going to clean up your own messes.  Not only that, but you are going to buckle down and start paying your fair share and support my war.” Bona-Brown said, winding down. “Have I made myself clear?”

"That won't work." Liu said, manfully trying to bring this meeting to a successful conclusion.  "Our economy is like a gas turbine.  Thousands of parts moving faster than the speed of sound.  Tens of thousands of clearances finer than a human hair.  You cannot just yank, and hack and hammer precision equipment into a higher level of performance.  It does not work that way." Liu explained.

"Listen, you son-of-a-bitch," Bona-Brown shouted, his face a brilliant red, "I just gave you your fucking marching orders.  IS. THAT. CLEAR."

“As clear as crystal, sir.” Liu bit out.

“Rest assured,” Charlie said “that I will do whatever needs to be done and I will now do it willingly and gladly.”

“You may go.” Bona-Brown said with a causal wave of his hand.  The rant had been cathartic, almost orgasmic for him.  Mercurial mood-shifts were a Bona-Brown character trait.

Friday, June 29, 2018


Growing degree days are a way horticulturists attempt to wash-out year-to-year and location-to-location variation.  For example, a viticulturist might say that Verona grape is properly ripened at 2700 GDDs and you can look at data from your site and estimate the date it will ripen.
I spotted these chestnut trees while scouting out my walking route.  900 GDD (base 50) is a fine time to find chestnut trees because they are in flower.

Same picture with zoom.  They are very distinctive once you know what you are looking for.
Each individual "feather" is up to 8" long.
Honeybees find these flowers attractive due to their abundant pollen.
Respectable sized trees.  You can see the owner's tree stand just below the knot on the closest trunk.

Deer prefer chestnuts to acorns and apples.
What do you do if you don't have easy access to GDD charts?

The common, orange daylilies start blooming at about the same time as the chestnuts.  Time to start scanning tree-lines when you see the first daylilies blooming in the ditches.  These daylilies bloom much longer than the chestnuts so you have to trigger on the first have about a ten day window for chestnuts.
Elderberry bush in blossom.  Image from HERE
Elderberry bushes are another plant that blooms at the same time as, or slightly before chestnut trees.

Wailing and beating of breasts

Progressives are looking for somebody to blame for Trump's Triumph, that is, the conservatives being able to name at least two Supreme Court Justices.

I have a nominee.

And if the conservatives name the third Justice, they can blame Ginsburg who could have retired when Obama was president but wanted the privilege of having her successor chosen by the first woman president.

Installment 8.1: Marie Spirochete

Even at seventy-eight years of age, Marie Spirochete was the iron fisted matriarch of the Spirochete wine empire.

The Spirochetes were one of hundreds of Italian families that clung to a nucleus of wine grapes through the Prohibition.  Then they survived the grim poverty of the Depression, the loss of their young men during WWII.  The nineteen-fifties and sixties was a time of growth for the Spirochete holdings as they supplied bulk wine grapes to the major vintners who made “jug” wines.

Marie, as a young bride, sensed a change in the wind.  She hired a boutique enologist and vintner to make potent, concentrated wines from the ancient Zinfandel vines that grew outside their headquarters.  It was a fortuitous intersection of timing, grapes, climate and merchandizing.  Ten years later she was taking those bottles of wine to fairs across the United States and winning gold medals.

Then the internet allowed the Spirochete empire to sell wine across the world.  Less fortunate neighbors waggishly noted that they were selling twenty times more “Estate Bottled, Caliche Canyon, Old Vine Zinfandel” than could be made from the Zinfandel they grew.  Even if they  muttered such things, other vintners were more egregious in their fraud and the Spirochetes were both generous and vindictive.  The mutterings were made in private.

Marie ran a tight ship and was ferociously protective of Spirochete Estates financial reputation.  Economic downturns resulted in waves of bankruptcies in the grape industry.  For reasons that are opaque to some, the grape industry is permeated with romance and bewitches investors.  Large swaths of the industry regularly go into receivership during downturns...and Marie was always there to pick up the prime cuts for pennies on the dollar.  Marie loved grapes but she never allowed that love to blind her to the economics.

The legalization of cannabis catapulted Marie from a local power to an international one.  She foresaw the legalization a full decade before it happened.  She originally saw it as a threat to the wine business.  Unlike wine, prime cannabis has a 70 day turn around and can be grown in basements and warehouses anywhere in the country.

Ever the practical person, she decided to prepare for that eventuality.  She hired 20 recent graduates with Masters in Marketing.  All of the new hires had three things in common.  They had all graduated at the very top of their class.  The University that they graduated from was considered "second" or "third" tier.  And they all habitually slept less than four hours a night.

She set them up as marketing managers for 20 "boutique brands" of vodka and let Darwin take the reins.  Vodka is pure distilled spirits and tap water.  The boutique vodka were chemically identical to $7-a-fifth vodka but sold for four times the price.  The difference; unmitigated bullshit and a 300% mark-up that fell to the bottom line as pure profit.

After three years she fired the ten lowest performing brand managers, reorganized the country into three zones (East Coast, West Coast, Texas and everything else).  She gave the remaining brand managers a tune-up.  She coached them to ruthlessly hammer anybody dared infringe on their brands.  She encouraged them to lavish donations on elections, especially for judges, and to track the effectiveness of hired legal services with clinical precision. 

Then  she awaited developments.

The day before the Senate passed legislation legalizing weed at the Federal level, she divested the vodka business but kept the business structure. 

She called in favors and was able to delay the POTUS signing the bill into law for sixty days.

She told her 10 hot-shot brand managers that they had two months to dominate the marketing channels for pot.  She gave them an unlimited budget to purchase trademarks and brand names and otherwise gain possession of the choke-points that create the perception of "quality".  The brand managers unleashed the legal hounds-of-hell they had spent a decade feeding.

The second the POTUS signed the law legalizing pot the servers at the United States Patent office went to their knees in an apparent denial-of-service attack.  Even the back-up servers appeared to puke.  It was the collective results of hundreds of attorneys across the United States simultaneously submitting applications for Trade Marks.

Within a year the Spirochete empire was collecting 10% of the retail price on every gram of Mimosa, Hindu Kush, Purple-Haze, etc sold in the United States. She also owned the trademarks for "Doobies", "Blunz", "Squibs", "Whale Turds" and hundreds of other "street" names for finished goods.

You could still buy "generic" weed, but it was not the name-brand stuff that set one apart as a connoisseur of the finer things in life. One's guests were never impressed by generic.


She raised her children in her own image and likeness even as she turned a blind eye to her husbands philandering.  He might wander but she always knew where he was spending the night and divorce was never an option.

Frank was the apple of her eye.  She sent him to University of Southern California to cultivate connections in high places.  When he asked to live in luxury condominiums she did not bat an eye.  She had already researched the condominiums and knew that is where the movers-and-shakers sent their children.  That is where Frank met Bona-Brown.  BB had celebrity name recognition.  Frank brought a healthy war-chest and the portfolio of people skills he had acquired at his mother's side.  Together, Frank and BB were unstoppable.

When Frank received word that his mother had violent dysentery with blood in the stool, he feared the worst.  Bona-Brown released him to visit his mother, a woman who BB was closer to than his own mother.

Frank flew in a two helo convoy that left Sacramento at 11:30 PM local time.  After all, there was a civil war going on and the Spirochete Estates were on the leeward side of the coastal mountains east of Salinas.

The main hacienda was tucked into a flat bottomed valley that inserted itself into the spine of the mountains.  Cali Highway 152 ran up a pass that threaded through the mountains to the east.  Helicopters invariably followed 152 to avoid the inevitable turbulence that tumbled off the jagged, sun-baked mountains.

Miguel and Bonita received word that two helos had taken off from Sacramento and flown in the direction of Salinas.  They had ten minutes to leave their hide and set up.

The two helos were in close formation with the rear chopper to the right and above the leading chopper.  The choppers had been been farther apart but the lead chopper had slowed as they neared their destination and the trailing chopper had not adjusted

Spirochete was in the lead chopper because the prime targeting for a heat seeking missile is from the rear where the IR (infrared) seeking head can see the engine exhaust and the tail-boom which has been heated by the exhaust downwash.  The trailing copper is in a “blocking” position;  it is the designated decoy 

The night was ideal for IR guided weapons.  The sky was crystal clear and the IR background was cold and uncluttered.

The pilots were expecting the possibility of a ground attack as they crested the ridge.  The lead chopper instinctively flared to the right and pitched into a dive as the missile Miguel launched lit off the alarms on left side.  The pilot's goal is to deny the missiles a hot juicy target by putting the engine exhaust on the far side of the helo's body.  The pilot was confident that the rear chopper was matching his maneuvers as he punched out the decoy flares.

What the lead chopper pilot did not know is that Miguel had timed his launch so the rear chopper's view of Miguel was blocked by the lead chopper's fuselage.  The trailing chopper never saw the rocket's exhaust flare nor could his sensors alarm on the IR/UV signature from the solid rocket fuel.

Bonita was a half mile north of Miguel and they used laser communication to coordinate.  She launched a half-second after Miguel.  A half second was optimal for "getting inside" the opposing side's OODA loop.  She was targeting the rear chopper.  The rear chopper flared down and to the left, into space that had been vacant seconds before but now contained the lead chopper.  The main rotor of the  trailing chopper cleanly removed the vertical stabilizer and rear rotor of Spirochete's helicopter.

The trailing helo lost lift as half of its rotor shttered.  The helo fell from the sky, sunfishing like a brahma bull.  The missile launched by Bonita's ignored the flares.  It had a smart head and recognized the light profile of the flares as non-targets.  However, it missed the helo as the flight pattern did not match any target profiles.  It sped past the helo and detonated five miles out.

It was a moot point to the crew of the helo.  It hit the ground at 150 mph and the remaining fuel exploded.

The leading chopper, the one carrying Spirochete took longer to die.  The pilot backed off the blade's pitch to reduce the torque and vectored the exhaust to attempt to counteract the yaw.  It was not enough.  The chopper was slowly winding up when Miguel's missile blew the tailboom off.  Then the chopper went nose down and the rate of yaw increased exponentially as Spirochete's chopper corkscrewed itself into the ground at a high rate of speed.

There were no survivors.

Bonita and Miguel executed their bug-out plan.  That involved using night vision goggles to hike for three hours north on one of the innumerable hiking trails that laced the area.  Then, they moved a quarter mile off the trail and hunkered down in chamise chaparral (Adenostoma fasciculatum)* for four days. 

A deer can hide in a patch of cover the size of a dining room table.  Hunters almost always ignor those tiny patches of cover because they are sincerely convinced that the cover is too small to hide a rabbit, and too dense to comfortably search.  Miguel and Bonita were cold-camping, they left a heat signature no larger than two deer.

Most campers would have been extremely aggravated by the need to comb each other’s naked bodies for ticks on an inch-by-inch basis several times a day. But in their case it was more of a feature than an aggravation, given the other activity that they were using to pass the time.

* A tip of the fedora to Lars Rosengreen the Curator of the Carl W. Sharsmith Herbarium for his assistance in helping me understand chaparral ecology.

Next Installment