Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Short Note on Coffee

I’ve just finished reading “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” the first two novels in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium-series trilogy about Lisbeth Salander.

Assuming that Larsson’s picture of daily life in Sweden is true, the Swedes are close to the world’s champion coffee drinkers. Of course it may be that a world filled with journalists, cops, and a quirky little girl hacker...the fascinating Lisbeth Salander...isn’t perfectly reflective of the quotidian life of the average Swede. But I don’t think so.

I’ve always thought that Americans were the most devoted coffee drinkers, but the United States annually consumes 4.2 kilograms of coffee per capita; the Swedes top out at 8.2 kilograms per capita. (Incidentally the Finns seem to be the champs, at 12 Kilograms per person...I wonder why.)

Still, we undoubtedly do a lot coffee drinking and that makes me wonder why so much of it is so bad. It’s heresy, I know, but we drink an awful lot of bad coffee...a kind of watery brown fluid which you might not recognize as coffee blindfolded. A decent cup of restaurant coffee is rare.

One reason may be that we make our coffee too weak, which might explain why Swedes apparently use twice as much coffee in their cup of Joe as we do. And why devoted coffee drinkers go to specialty coffee houses.

Fun coffee statistics here

Read about Stieg Larsson here.

Cross Posted from Tucson Citizen

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Protests at Giffords’ District 8 Office

The folks who are absolutely enchanted with their current health care plans are out in force jamming the phone lines, honking horns and demanding that things remain exactly as they are.

God help any member of Congress who tampers with the wonderfulness of things as they are! I’m sure they believe that such rational arguments as horn honks and sign waving are going to change someone’s mind.

I know it’s small-minded of me, but I’d like to know exactly what it is about the current state of health insurance that they love.

Is it being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions? Is it having insurance arbitrarily cancelled? Oh, I bet it’s the “donut hole” in their drug coverage. You know, the time you have to pay full-pop for your drugs.

If they’re self-employed, or don’t have insurance with their jobs, I guess they don’t want to have tax credits for the health insurance they buy for themselves. Having tax credits ‘forced down their throats’ would be simply dreadful. And of course it would be terrible to be able to keep their kids on their health insurance until the kids were out in the job market and getting their own insurance.

Cross-posted to Tucson Citizen.

Blogging Thru A Glass Darkly

In my own case, thru vision changes following cataract surgery, which gave with one hand while it took away with the other. It meant that for a while my computer keyboard looked like it was being viewed trough the bottom of a Coca Cola bottle. That, and not boredom, explains a light writing schedule here at the Data Port.

Happily things are on the mend.

House keeping note: The Data Port is cross-posted from the Tucson Citizen.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Democrats and Republicans: Living in Different Universes

In today’s NY Times column Paul Krugman takes a quick look back at the Jim Bunning (R-Kentucky) delay of the extension of unemployment benefits; and to our own Jon Kyl’s well-reported case of foot-in-mouth disease.

His conclusion is that the gap between the intellectual and moral universes of the two parties, however it has come about, is so great that it puts paid to the possibility of bi-partisanship.

Once again Kyl illustrates the difference. Krugman writes:

Consider, in particular, the position that Mr. Kyl has taken on a proposed bill that would extend unemployment benefits and health insurance subsidies for the jobless for the rest of the year. Republicans will block that bill, said Mr. Kyl, unless they get a “path forward fairly soon” on the estate tax.

Now, the House has already passed a bill that, by exempting the assets of couples up to $7 million, would leave 99.75 percent of estates tax-free. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for Mr. Kyl; he’s willing to hold up desperately needed aid to the unemployed on behalf of the remaining 0.25 percent. That’s a very clear statement of priorities.

Read Krugman Here


Meanwhile, up at the state legislature, the Solons have struck another blow for the well to do. They have rejected the idea of limiting tax-credited gifts to private and parochial schools to poor and middle income families.

Well, hey, that’s fair isn’t it? Just because we can afford to give a thousand bucks to the grandkids’ private school why should we be denied our thousand buck credit against state income taxes?

As the law now stands I can “recommend” that my gift be for the benefit of a particular child. Lawmakers rejected a proposal to outlaw this practice.

This whole tax-credit hustle steals funding from the state budget that ought go to the improvement of public education.

This subtle shift from public to private education simply means that we are moving toward a two-tiered education system: Education for the rich and education for the poor.

(Cross-posted from TucsonCitizen.com)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Arizona Senate Votes to Lease State Parks

As a strategy to avoid closing state parks the Senate has okayed a bill to lease state parks to private concessionaires.

In addition to enabling the leasing of state parks the bill outlines what may be in the proposals submitted by potential vendors:

Requests for proposals shall be broadly construed to allow for:

1. One hundred per cent privately funded parks through contributions, fees or corporate sponsorships.

2. Facility enhancements, including lodging facilities, retail facilities, equipment rentals and amusement facilities.

3. The management of multiple park facilities.

4. Changing the purpose or function of an existing state park.

5. Any other innovation that facilitates the mission of a

publicly-owned park.

Note that there is no requirement that current entrance fees remain the same...and who would expect it? It was expensive building that hotel and amusement facility. Need to change the purpose or function of an existing state park? Make us an offer we can’t refuse.

Now that the beast is dying we can lop off its more attractive parts and lease them to corporate America.

Text of Senate Bill 1349.

(Cross-Posted from TucsonCitizen.com)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pandora Founder To Be in Tucson Sunday

Tim Westergren (left) will be holding free a meet-up at the Rialto Theater on Sunday, March 7th, starting at 5:00 pm.

According to his e-mailed press release: "It'll be a very informal gathering. I'll share some Pandora history, some background on the Music Genome Project and talk about what's ahead for Pandora. 2010 is already shaping up to be quite a year, so there's a lot to talk about!"

Last month I wrote an enthusiastic note about Pandora, the internet radio service, and about the Music Genome Project that is its heart. I was hardly ahead of the curve, since there were something like 2.5 million Pandora fans ahead of me.

Well, very much better late than never since Pandora is now a constant musical companion while I’m at the keyboard.

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the notion of a live promotional tour for a web-based business. Seems very “Apple” to me.

Recap: Pandora’s Tim Westergren

Sunday, March 7, at 5:00 PM

Rialto Theatre, 318 East Congress Street, Tucson


One request is made. If you are planning to attend please drop an e-mail RSVP to this address: Tour@Pandora.com

Here are some links you might be interested in.

Data Port Column on Pandora: click

Wiki on he Genome Project: click

Westergren on the project: click

(Re-posted from TucsonCitizen.com)

Jon Kyl On The Unemployed

Gotta love our Senator’s understanding of what it is to be unemployed and poor. During a Senate debate Kyl explained why unemployment insurance and other benefits ought not be extended: They discourage people from looking for work "because people are being paid even though they're not working."

The same is true of extending COBRA. Nothing puts the hustle in a job hunter like being denied health insurance.

During the debate Senator Max Baucus (D- Mont.) pointed out that “There are five unemployed Americans for every job opening in the economy. People are looking for work. They're not unemployed because of choice."

Baucus gave our guy a chance to rethink his claim; maybe modify his remarks. Kyl stuck to his guns.

Good Grief!

(Cross-posted from Tucson Citizen.)

Monday, March 01, 2010

Vehicle Tag Surcharge to Keep Parks Open?

A plan to keep Arizona’s parks and roadside rest stops open surfaced last Thursday up at the state legislature. The suggestion is to add a $12 surcharge to each non-commercial Arizona vehicle license fee.

Any driver of a vehicle with an Arizona license would then have free access to state parks. 75% of the money raised would go to a fund to manage, maintain, and improve the parks. The remaining 25% would go to the Department of Transportation to set up the fee system. Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, estimates that there would be enough enough funding to re-open rest areas now closed or slated to be closed.

As always, the devil is in the details and complaints are being raised that people who own more that one vehicle may be disproportionately taxed. To judge the likelihood of passage of this legislation by the voters in November you might explore the comments on this story over at the Star.

Details of HCR 2040 can be read here.

Cross-posted from http://tucsoncitizen.com/dataport.

Updated Comment: It's interesting to note how common the "I don't use it, why should I pay for it?" objection is. Good Grief, we're a tourist state! Not a smart idea to close down our major tourist attractions.