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Coleman Dark Room Tent Review


Park of the magic of EAA AirVenture (“Oshkosh”) is camping out next to the light aircraft in which one flew in. We figured that we’d get some good sleep between 8 pm when the airport officially closes via NOTAM (for the event; ordinarily this is a 24-hour airport) and 7 am when it opens again. It turns out that the warbirds go on “dawn patrol” at around 6:00 am, however, and earplugs are no match for the sound of 50 T-6 and P-51 Mustangs departing from a runway that is 500′ away.

Here’s a review of the Coleman Dark Room 6-man tent that we used…

Plus: There was a thunderstorm one night with 40 mph winds and heavy rain. The high profile of the tent makes it vulnerable to the wind, but we stayed inside and braced ourselves against the corners so the tent did not collapse. Only a bit of rain came through the door seams. Exceeded expectations for a $99 Costco purchase ($155 at Amazon).

Minus: there are plastic rings at the four corners of the tent that are critical to pitching. One of these broke in half during the first pitch. They are about 1/5th as strong as they should be (my last tent was LL Bean and lasted for 15+ years). We managed to get things working (sort of) with an extra stake.

Additional minus: Coleman was not easy to reach by phone for support. After 15 minutes of hold time and a 5-minute conversation, they sent an email demanding various photos, including one of the receipt (but who keeps paper receipts from Costco when the Costco computer stores them?). I responded to this asking “Do you really need a receipt?” and they didn’t reply. So I contacted them again via chat. They actually do demand the receipt before sending out any components. So now it is time to take the entire mess and dump it at Costco because it is basically useless without the 25-cent ring that broke and that Coleman won’t replace.

Angelina Jolie, non-black single mom and child support plaintiff


In the comments to “Who will pay to see a movie about black guys being attacked in the family court system?” I responded to a reader who suggested that single parenthood was a particularly black or uniquely black phenomenon. I pointed out

Whites seem to be at least as eager as non-whites to profit from having children, regardless of their income level. Angelina Jolie had a net worth of $275 million when she became a child support plaintiff (see “Cash value of Angelina Jolie’s children: roughly $50 million tax-free“)

As it happens, Ms. Jolie is in the news today: “Angelina Jolie accuses Brad Pitt of shirking child support in new court filing” (NBC). The single-mom-by-choice previously won primary parent status (see Bravo) and now apparently is passionate about turning a profit on her time with the kids (or her time having the nannies watch the kids play on their iPads?). I have not seen anything to indicate that Ms. Jolie identifies as black.

[How would this be adjudicated in neighboring Nevada? Absent an agreement to the contrary, Jolie and Pitt would share parenting on a 50/50 basis. Legal fees regarding custody would be $1,000 instead of $10 million. Max child support profits would be $13,380 per child per year. It is tough to understand why more Hollywood starts don’t live in Vegas and take a Pilatus into Santa Monica as necessary for their work. Maybe not for the first marriage, but after being sued once in California courts they don’t learn?]

Readers: Let’s look in the mirror before we throw rocks at various subgroups of our fellow Americans!

[My full comment:

That joke is mostly on white people. They laughed when their black neighbors availed themselves of the “marry the government” option in the 1960s. Then whites blew up their own nuclear families starting in the 1970s with the no-fault divorce revolution and plenty of whites also found the “marry the government” strategy. It is still true that the percentage is higher in the black community, but the majority of Americans who were raised outside of a two-parent household are whites (highest percentage among wealthy nations; see http://www.realworlddivorce.com/InOurEconomy )

Whites seem to be at least as eager as non-whites to profit from having children, regardless of their income level. Angelina Jolie had a net worth of $275 million when she became a child support and alimony plaintiff (see http://blogs.harvard.edu/philg/2016/09/21/cash-value-of-angelina-jolies-children-roughly-50-million-tax-free/ ).

The abortion sales that we learned about (see http://www.realworlddivorce.com/ChildSupportLitigationWithoutMarriage for how this works in the states that don’t have caps on child support) were by white Americans represented by white American attorneys.

So… it may be fun for white Americans to feel superior to black Americans, but if you choose single parenthood as a yardstick with “more single” as the “worse” end, white Americans are inferior to nearly every other group of humans on Planet Earth.



Why I never get invited to anything


I was recently invited to “a unique evening contributing towards uplifting women and children” and the keynote speaker works “for greater diversity in tech”. Tickets were $300 per person. Due to our resolution to stay home every evening until our youngest child turns 18, I wouldn’t have been able to go. However, I couldn’t resist a question:

If the mission is “uplifting women and children,” why invite men? If women and children need to be “uplifted” then presumably it is men who have kept them down? Why have members of an oppressive class at a meeting devoted to ending oppression?

The organizer’s response:

Because sadly those oppressors still make 20 cents more on the dollar than the women…..

(This reminded me of the guy in the documentary who said “women may be seen as ‘sex objects,’ but men are often seen as ‘success objects'”. Would it be okay if someone ran an event devoted to “uplifting men” after noting how many are destined to come up short in our polygamous society? Also okay if the organizers decided to invite selected women on the grounds that “sadly these (female) oppressors are a lot more attractive and fun to look at than most guys”?)

Is it possible to build an app whose job is to use another app?


EAA AirVenture (“Oshkosh”) includes four hangars full of vendor booths. Quite a few were populated by makers of Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs). ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot are the market leaders here, but there are roughly an additional dozen apps that offer to do the basics of providing electronic charts and approach plates as well as flight planning.

A physical flight bag contains paper charts (maps) and notebooks full of approach plates, instructions for landing at various airports when clouds are low and/or visibility is poor. Before the era of GPS there would also be a slide rule calculator for determining the time required to reach the next waypoint. In this analog world, the pilot reaches into the flight bag and selects the correct tool for the situation: chart, plate, E6B calculator, pencil and paper.

The analog world has been faithfully replicated by the software engineers behind the EFBs. Garmin Pilot, for example, has 21 top-level options available from the Home screen. Examples:

  • map
  • flight plan
  • documents
  • airport info
  • charts
  • trip planning
  • wx [weather] text
  • terrain
  • weight and balance

Just as with the physical flight bag, it is the pilot’s job to reach into this suitcase and select which of these 21 options is most relevant in a given situation. With every Oshkosh the various EFB vendors introduce additional features and the result is additional user interface complexity (none of these folks seem to have developed a simplified in-flight interface; the complexity delivered to the user sitting on a coach hours before flight is the same as the complexity delivered to the user sitting in an airplane trying to determine whether it is necessary to divert to an alternate airport).

In fairness, Garmin calls this “Pilot” and not “Co-Pilot” so perhaps it isn’t reasonable to expect that the software would respond with the intelligence of a human co-pilot, dispatcher, or weather briefer. But would it be possible to build a “Co-Pilot” app on top of “Garmin Pilot” that did have some intelligence?

For example, the Co-Pilot app would start by asking the user (“pilot”) what was the goal, e.g.,

  1. I want to see if it makes sense to do a local training flight
  2. I want to see if I can do a day trip today from KBED to KMVY and back
  3. I want to see if there is reasonable VFR weather forecast for going KBED to KGAI this weekend

For Goal #1 it would be the layered Co-Pilot app’s job to push the roughly 50 buttons necessary in ForeFlight or Garmin Pilot to get current and forecast weather for nearby airports and to check NOTAMs for runway closures, temporary flight restrictions (El Presidente playing golf, e.g.), etc. If it was towards the end of the day the Co-Pilot app would also press the buttons necessary to determine sunset time.

Readers: How tough it is to build an app for Android or iOS whose job is to drive an already-installed app? The above example is obviously a small market niche, but given how software tends to become bloatware and interfaces designed by 25-year-olds in Silicon Valley tend not to be usable for non-technical and/or older Americans I think that this kind of software could be useful in a lot of areas. Even figuring out which app to install! If the goal is to book a hotel for tonight, for example, the meta-app could figure out which of the 100 hotel-booking apps to install and then download and use one. After all, the phone owner’s goal is not to enjoy Hipmunk or the Expedia app, but rather to sleep comfortably at a reasonable price.

Who will pay to see a movie about black guys being attacked in the family court system?


A BU-affiliated friend on Facebook highlighted “Where’s Daddy? Examines Interplay of Race and a Flawed Child Support System” (BU Today):

Parents who have no reported income and those who make less than $10,000 a year account for 70 percent of the total child support debt owed, according to a study by the Urban Institute. Parents in child support default often face strained family relations, financial ruin, and in extreme cases, jail time. In his new feature-length documentary Where’s Daddy? BU alum Rel Dowdell tackles the dysfunctional child support system, which he argues is especially hard on African American fathers.

Take the case of Walter L. Scott, who was $18,000 in child support default when he was pulled over by police in 2015 and fatally shot in the back as he fled on foot. Scott’s brother said it was the threat of jail time and the loss of his job, two consequences he had suffered previously, that compelled him to run.

Where’s Daddy can be seen on Vimeo and rented or purchased on Amazon.com.

Is the premise of the movie flawed? Family court is set up to benefit children, right? Therefore adult suffering shouldn’t matter, even if the hardship falls hardest on black American men. From the “Children, Mothers, and Fathers” chapter,

“Child Support and Young Children’s Development” (Nepomnyaschy, et al, 2012; Social Science Review 86:1), a Rutgers and University of Wisconsin study of children of lower income unmarried parents, found that any kind of court involvement was associated with harm to children: “We also find that provision of formal [court-ordered] child support is associated with worse withdrawn and aggressive behaviors.” The authors found that informal (voluntary) support from fathers could be helpful to children living with single mothers but court-ordered support, even when the cash was actually transferred, was on balance harmful.

In other words, the suffering of the adult black men ends up making their biological children worse off, not better off. In terms of spending power within the mother’s household, at the lower end of the income scale there is no difference whether the father is successfully tapped for child support. Mom is entitled to a free house, free health care, free food, and a free smartphone. If the defendant pays something, the welfare state will pay a little less (but still pretty close to the full $60,000+/year cost for a welfare family). If the defendant doesn’t pay, the welfare state has to provide anyway. At higher income levels, economists have found that mothers use child support to cut their working hours more or less dollar for dollar. So if the defendant pays, the mom has more leisure time. Spending power and standard of living within the mother’s household remains constant.

Thus the psychologists and economists suggest that the movie’s premise is not flawed. Yet will anyone pay to see this? Righteous Americans say that “Black Lives Matter” and even hang the banners outside their homes and (all-white) churches. But do they act as though the lives of black low-income men actually do matter? In our post-divorce litigation chapter we quote a legislator who actually does care:

Maryland State Assembly Delegate Jill Carter explained how it worked for her constituents: “A lot of men fall into arrearages and have to live in the shadows. They can’t drive, can’t work without their entire paycheck being garnished, and are sometimes imprisoned. Even if a man is well-intentioned, unless he wins the lottery he can’t get out of it.”

(If Carter cares, why isn’t she able to do something? The bills that she introduces to address the suffering of her black male constituents in Maryland’s family courts are voted down by white legislators, for example:

Carter has sponsored a bill for a rebuttable presumption of 50/50 shared parenting. What are its chances? “The Women’s Caucus staged a walk-off the last time the bill got out of committee.” Why does Carter keep introducing this kind of legislation? “I’m not married and I don’t have kids,” she responded. “I don’t have a dog in this fight. But from working with my constituents and clients in my law practice I can see how unfair the current system is.” Who benefits from leaving things the way they are? “Wealthy lawyers who represent people in Montgomery County,” she responded.


I wonder who funds a movie like this in a country where people are most passionate about the lives of the Marvel superheroes.


Battles of the Sexes film


Tennis fans and children of the 1960s will appreciate the movie Battles of the Sexes. The dialog is anachronistic, with the female tennis players of the day using 2017 gender warrior terminology, but it is still fun to see all of the 1970s cars and styles.

I wonder if the commercial failure of this movie is related to the roughly 50 percent devoted to a same-sex love story between Billie Jean King and hairdresser Marilyn Barnett. Even folks who are passionate advocates of marriage equality on Facebook don’t want to see an hour of two women in love on screen?

We have “Scarlett Johansson Withdraws From Transgender Role After Backlash” (nytimes).  A cisgender actor is not allowed to play a transgender character. But in Battle of the Sexes, without any public protest, two heterosexual cisgender female actors (at least if a quick search for gossip is any guide) play two lesbian characters. Why is that okay? Or is just a difference between 2017 and 2018?

In the dialog and in the roll-out text following the movie, the march of progress in gay rights is celebrated. We learn a lot about the post-1973 lives of the characters with the exception of Ms. Barnett, who had occupied a tremendous amount of on-screen time. Why not follow Ms. Barnett? Wikipedia provides a clue:

King acknowledged the relationship when it became public in a May 1981 “palimony” lawsuit filed by Barnett

The filmmakers apparently did not want to reveal that the sweet lover of the movie turned into a family court predator.

One thing that the movie shows is how much more money our society devotes to spectactor sports in general and tennis in particular. The prize money offered even to the best men at the time was laughable by today’s standards. The nytimes article on the Barnett v. King lawsuit says “Women now compete for about $10 million annually in prize money in tournaments around the world” (compare to $25+ million in women’s prize money for the U.S. Open alone). Is it that we are crazy richer than we were in 1973? That more people spend more time watching TV so that the value of a tennis show is higher? That air travel has gotten cheaper and more comfortable so that the value of a ticket to a live match is higher and therefore there is a lot more revenue from those attending live? What?

The movie is streaming on HBO. I’d be curious to know what readers think of it.




Homelessnomics in San Francisco


I’ve wondered here why there isn’t a massive migration of homeless Americans to Santa Monica and other warm beach-side California towns. What do the economics look like in comparatively cold and rainy San Francisco? From NBC, Bay Area:

San Francisco is slated to spend nearly $280 million this year on housing and services for the homeless — a roughly 40 percent increase compared to just five years ago. Over that same span, however, the number of homeless in the city has largely remained the same at about 7,500 people, according to city counts.

So they’re spending $37,333 per homeless person. In other words, if San Francisco simply gave each officially “homeless” person this money, instead of shoveling out the cash to the official do-gooders and bureaucrats, those who are homeless would be receiving, on an after-tax basis, roughly the same as the median full-time American worker (Wikipedia says $44,980 is the median for pre-tax earnings). I think that this is not counting whatever the state and Federal governments spend on these folks, e.g., for Medicaid, SNAP, and Obamaphones. Thus, if they could convert all of their welfare benefits into cash, they would presumably be above-median earners.

“Beautiful eyes” still a code phrase for “fat”?


My parents told me that in the 1950s to describe someone as having “beautiful eyes” was code for “fat”. “‘I love you but hate feeling like a booty call’: Harvey Weinstein rape accuser gushes about his ‘beautiful eyes’ and says ‘no one understands her like him’ in newly released emails sent after her alleged assault” (Daily Mail) suggests that the practice continues! (whatever one thinks of Harvey, presumably we can all agree that he is fat)


Women, Minorities, and the Donald Trump Presidency


On the joys of working in a modern tech company, from a friend via Facebook Messenger:

[Rosalie] has been hiring whoever is best for the job. She was spoken to and told that she cannot hire any more men until they have a lot more women at the company. One of the other people in charge is a “big proponent of getting women into the workforce.”

This woman also spent the last several months on building a webpage of the “company values” and is making other employees write up what they think the company values should be.

Before Donald Trump was elected, Hillary and the media warned us that the U.S. would enter a dark cruel age for women and minorities. It has been 1.5 years since Trump took office. Yet at my friend’s wife’s company, there is now more opportunity for women than ever.

What about at the biggest and best employers? Here’s an article on Google’s 2017 diversity initiatives:

The civil complaint explains that Arne Wilberg, who is described as a 40-year-old white man by The Wall Street Journal, worked as a recruiter for YouTube for seven years. In his job, Wilberg was tasked with helping to select engineering and tech talent for YouTube and Google.

According to the lawsuit, Wilberg received high marks for his performance as a recruiter until he began pushing back against Google’s efforts to hire a more diverse workforce in 2017. His manager, Allison Alogna, informed Wilberg and his colleagues that they were to “only accept” a certain rank of engineers (“Level 3”) if they were diverse.

[excerpt from Complaint] In April of 2017, Google’s Technology Staffing Management team was instructed by Alogna to immediately cancel all Level 3 (0-5 years experience) software engineering interviews with every single applicant who was not either female, Black, or Hispanic and to purge entirely any applications by non-diverse employees from the hiring pipeline. Plaintiff refused to comply with this request.

If we are to believe the facts as alleged, it seems that the opposite of what was predicted actually happened. Shortly after Donald Trump took office, Google reduced employment opportunities for white males and increased them for women and desirable minorities.

How about the #MeToo movement? Wikipedia dates it to 2017. It is tough to see how white males have been the primary beneficiaries of the #MeToo movement.

What are the concrete disadvantages that women and minorities have actually suffered as a consequence of Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton?


More drinks because we are fatter?


“Why Americans—Especially Women—Are Drinking More Alcohol” (TIME, 2017) was recently highlighted by a Facebook friend because of this passage:

Added stress is another factor that might drive anyone, regardless of their sex, to drink more. High-risk drinking was higher among minority groups, and the authors argue that wealth inequality between minorities and whites has widened during and after the 2008 recession, which may have led to “increased stress and demoralization.” Income and educational disparities, as well as “unemployment, residential segregation, discrimination, decreased access to health care, and increased stigma associated with drinking,” may also play a role, the authors write.

In other words, some Americans are so poor now that they have no choice but to spend gobs of money on beer, wine, and mixed drinks.

I wonder how much of the extra drinking could be accounted for by heavier weights. Americans today can be 50 lbs. heavier than their counterparts from the 1950s. A person with 50 lbs. of extra weight will need additional alcohol to feel the same effect, no?

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