Sunday, December 25, 2016


Earlier this year I recommended the web based free computer Go program, Cosumi.  Leela is another free computer Go program.  Unlike Cosumi it runs on your computer.  I downloaded version 0.7.0 (the current version is 0.8.0) a few months ago.  I have played both programs quite a bit, mostly 9x9 games.

The programs have distinct styles.  Cosumi apparently plays to maximize its score.  This reduces its winning percentage because it doesn't play safe when ahead or take more risks when behind.  I have won many lost games because Cosumi loses a live group (or allows me to revive a dead group or both) while trying for 1 or 2 more points and misreading something.  Cosumi doesn't resign and will play games out to the end.  I like this as it allows me to practice my endgame and counting skills even if the game isn't close.

Leela on the other hand appears (like other Monte Carlo tree search programs such as Alpha Go) to play to maximize its winning percentage. This has some weird effects when Leela doesn't think the game is close as a bad move which loses some points may be hard to distinguish from a good move in terms of winning percentage.  So when Leela is ahead it will often chuck away points and end up winning by half a point although the game wasn't actually close.  And when Leela is behind at some point it will start making unsound moves in a desperate attempt to catch up.  If you keep your head and reply correctly Leela will then soon resign.  I don't like this behavior as I like to know what the margin of victory (or defeat) was.  Leela does have a "no resign" option which I haven't tried. By itself it won't help much as Leela still won't always be playing good moves if it doesn't think the game is close and the margin of victory may not be an accurate reflection of how close the game was.

Leela is the stronger program especially on the full 19x19 board.  Cosumi is competitive on the 9x9 board.  I matched the programs against each other in a 10 game 9x9 match and Leela only won 6-4. But when I tried a couple of 19x19 games Leela crushed Cosumi.  This is consistent with my experience.  I usually lose to Cosumi on 9x9 but easily won the two 19x19 games I tried against it. Cosumi seems to have trouble evaluating the safety of large groups and sometimes loses them because it fails to adequately secure them.  It's hard to win if you keep losing large groups.

Leela is a pretty simple program but it does have more options than Cosumi.  It has a rated game option in which it tries to adjust its strength to match yours.  And it has an analysis feature in which you can go over a game and see how Leela evaluates each position.  There isn't much documentation and there are additional features I would like to see but I can't complain too much about a free program.

Another difference between the programs is Cosumi uses Japanese (territorial) scoring while Leela uses Chinese (area) scoring.  This usually doesn't matter (it didn't come up in the games I had them play each other) but it can make a point or two difference which could change the result of a close game so it is something to be aware of.  There are also some slight differences in the rules which usually don't matter but sometimes do.

So in summary I would also recommend the Leela program if you are looking for a free computer Go opponent.  I found it easy to download and install on my Windows laptop (there also seems to be a Apple macOS version).  Leela is stronger especially on 19x19 and has more features but Cosumi also has things to recommend it.  And the different styles mean you can vary your experience by playing both.  It is said that constantly playing the same computer opponent can teach you bad habits as a computer program may consistently let you get away with certain bad moves.  Hopefully playing two quite different programs will lessen this problem.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mercury Dime

A few days ago I noticed a strange dime sized silver coin in my change purse.  When I had a chance I looked at it more carefully.  It was very worn and I didn't immediately realize it was American.   However I eventually figured out it was a Mercury dime.  These were minted from 1916 to 1945.  My coin is dated 192?, perhaps 1920 with only the top left curve of the 0 still apparent.  It looks something like this but even more worn.  I must have received it in change fairly recently.  This is unusual as although the coin is too worn to have much value to collectors it has a silver value of about $1.15 and most such coins were removed from circulation long ago.  It is interesting to speculate on its history.  It obviously has been circulated heavily but presumably not recently or someone would have recognized it (as I did) and set it aside.  So my guess is it was out of circulation for a long time and then recently found and spent by someone who didn't recognize it as rare.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tax Loss Sale

Monday was Columbus Day.  This is a federal holiday which my employer observed but the stock market was open.  I took the opportunity to sell my position in ConocoPhillips (COP), a large American oil producer.  This was another of my ill-fated bets on peak oil so I realized a loss.  This will save me some money on my 2016 taxes. When I made a similar tax sale last year I estimated I would recover 25% of my loss.  This turned out to be low, according to TurboTax my actual recovery was about 32%.  I am unsure why the savings were in excess of the nominal statutory rates, perhaps my marginal rate is actually higher because I am subject to some phase outs of exemptions or credits. In any case this makes tax loss selling an even better idea.  I still find it painful however and had been putting it off.

I didn't reinvest the sale proceeds.  I had considered buying some more VDE (Vanguard's energy sector ETF) waiting 35 days (to avoid the wash sale rule) and then selling my current position in VDE (which also has an unrealized loss) and repurchasing the COP so as to maintain my current exposure to the energy sector (more or less) while realizing both losses. However I decided to just take the money out of the market for the moment.  My short term timing was okay as the COP is currently down some since I sold.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Vin Scully

Last Sunday Vin Scully worked the final regular season Dodgers game (against the Giants in San Francisco) and then retired as the Dodgers play-by-play announcer.  He had started in 1950, before I was born and when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.  So a pretty remarkable career.

I can't say I listened to a lot of his broadcasts.  Growing up in Livermore, California I started following the Giants after they made the World Series in 1962.  Scully already had a reputation as a good announcer back then and some Giants fans preferred to tune in to the Dodgers broadcast when the two rivals played.  I don't recall being one of them but I certainly knew who he was and must have heard him at least a few times on the radio.  So his retirement brings back thoughts of times gone by.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Corrupt user profile

One annoying thing that can happen to you on a Windows computer is your user profile can get corrupted in a way that prevents you from logging into your account.  Instead you get the error message "The User Profile Service failed the logon.  User profile cannot be loaded."  Last weekend this happened to me for the second time on my Windows Vista machine.  I am unsure of the cause, perhaps a power glitch at just the wrong time (I also got an error message about Windows not having shut down properly).  Fortunately this time the fix proved relatively simple once I figured out what to do.

This is apparently a fairly common problem with lots of advice on the web about what to do. Unfortunately some of this advice seems flawed. For example this Microsoft page has several suggestions but they have drawbacks.  For this reason once rebooting the system fails the next thing you should try is using the System Restore function to return your computer to an earlier working state.  When this succeeds as it did in my case it solves the problem with little effort.  However the Microsoft web page does not suggest this and instead offers some (in my view) inferior alternatives.

The first suggestion is to "fix" your user account profile by editing the registry.  However as best I can tell this doesn't actually fix your profile, instead it replaces it with the default profile you get when you first set up your account.  This will allow you to logon but you won't have your accustomed environment.  I am not sure how serious the differences are as I didn't pursue this further.

The second suggestion is to create a new account and then copy most of your files from your old account to your new account.  This is what I ended up having to do the first time I had this problem and it worked more or less.  But it was quite a lot of trouble, things didn't end up exactly the same as before and I found the involuntary account name change annoying.

The earlier instance of this problem was a delayed effect of a malware infection.  This was made worse by the fact that I (due to laziness) had not created separate user and administrator accounts. This is a bad idea which made fixing things harder as in order to create a new user account I first had to create an administrator account without being able to login normally which fortunately is possible but a bit complicated.  This time my now separate administrator account was unaffected.

Be patient when using System Restore, I initially thought it was failing to launch but it was just taking its time (several minutes or so it seemed) to come up.    

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Social Security Update

In my last post I complained about the government recently making it impossible to access your Social Security Statement online if you don't have a cell phone.  This managed to annoy me enough that I sent a complaint (via email) in late August to my US Congresswoman, something I don't recall ever doing before (I did once email my state representatives when I lived in New York).  As if by magic on September 1, I got another email from Social Security stating they were making the new security features optional (at least for now).  And in fact I was able to log in and download my statement.  Which was in English instead of Spanish and had some different numbers as well (apparently because the Spanish statement assumed my future income would be zero while the English statement made the more reasonable assumption that I would continue to earn at the same rate which is what the earlier statements I received had always done).  So I could have saved myself some trouble if I had just waited a month for the government to come to its senses.

The response was too quick for it to be a result of my email and in fact I later received a pro forma reply from my Congresswoman's office which was unaware of the reversal in policy.  However it seems to be a pretty safe assumption that I wasn't the only person complaining.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Social Security Statements

Back in 2013 I noted that although the government had stopped mailing out annual Social Security Statements it was possible to obtain your statement by setting up an online account.  Unfortunately the government has recently made changes that make it impossible for me to use my online account. Near the end of July I received an email from the government stating that starting in August they were upgrading their security by requiring you to enter a code which they would send as a text message to your cell phone whenever you logged on.  Since I don't have a cell phone this means I can no longer use my online account.  And my attempt to get a statement before the changes took effect was unsuccessful as apparently they actually started sometime in July.

I found this rather annoying.  I have several online accounts with financial institutions which I can use without owning a cell phone.  So I think the government could provide acceptable security without requiring me to be able to receive text messages.  Furthermore they could at least allow you to request a mailed statement online.  Instead to be mailed a statement you have to fill out and mail in a form.  I was annoyed enough to do this and finally received my statement Saturday. My mood was not improved by the fact that it was all in Spanish. Although since the format is similar to previous statements in English it was not too hard to decipher.

My earnings for 2013-2015 seem to be correctly recorded.  I was a bit surprised that my Medicare earnings for my new job are still well under those for my final years with IBM since I had thought several years of regular (albeit small) raises had largely recovered the pay cut I took in changing jobs. There seem to be several factors that explain this.  At IBM in addition to my base salary I regularly received a small bonus (perhaps 4% or so) which I was not accounting for while comparing salaries. And my new job has a mandatory 5% 403b contribution which is exempt from Medicare tax.  As is the 1% or so I contribute my health insurance (IBM paid the entire cost).  And I won't have received my current salary for an entire year until some time in 2017.

Taking all this into account my current salary is about the same as my final salary with IBM.  Of course since 2008 the annual Social Security earnings limit (which is derived from average wage index) has increased from $102,000  to $118,500 so in a sense I am still behind.  On the other hand I have also been collecting a pension from IBM while working at my new job so I didn't really suffer a loss of income.

Added 9/8/2016:  As of September 1, 2016 the new security feature has been made optional (at least for now).  See next post.

Monday, August 8, 2016


The stock market has done pretty well this year.  The S&P 500 Index closed at a record high on several days in July and last Friday, August 5, 2016, closed at 2182.87 up 6.8% for the year and at another record high.  This was of interest to me because as a result my investment in the Vanguard S&P Index ETF (VOO) passed a personal milestone as the fund closed above 200 (at 200.17) for the first time.  I bought this fund at the end of 2012 with some of the proceeds from the forced sale of most of my IBM stock.  This has worked out well for me as the fund is up over 50% while IBM has struggled.  Even with its recent recovery IBM (currently at 163.50) remains well below my selling price (around 190).  Good luck doesn't hurt.

Speaking of luck, the cancer drug, Opdivo, made by Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS) recently failed a clinical trial.  Opdivo is a rival to Merck's cancer drug, Keytruda.  As a result BMS fell almost 16% on Friday while MRK was up over 10%.  There is some reason to doubt whether this is really good news for Merck as the drugs are similar and the Opdivo trial probably failed (while a recent Keytruda trial succeeded) because Bristol-Meyers Squibb had aggressively enrolled a diverse group of patients while Merck had prudently limited its trial to the patients most likely to be helped.  So Keytruda may gain share against Opdivo but in a smaller market.  Nevertheless I am glad I own Merck stock and not Bristol-Meyers Squibb stock.    

Saturday, August 6, 2016

PNC Bank

My customer relationship with the PNC Bank recently ended on a negative note.

Things started out well enough.  When I moved from New York to New Jersey a few years ago I didn't have to change banks because Chase also has branches in New Jersey.   However none of the local branches had safe deposit boxes.  So I looked around for a local bank with boxes.  Conveniently the PNC branch in the Princeton Shopping Center (where I often buy lunch) was willing to rent me a box (without having me open an account).

I had no major problems (although their inability to accept a box payment prior to the last minute was a bit annoying) until this year.  The Princeton Shopping Center is being renovated and among other changes the PNC branch is moving to a new location within the center.  Unfortunately the new location won't offer boxes.  I initially planned to just to move to another PNC branch but found the bank less than helpful in arranging this.  I eventually figured out the problem was I just had a box and no other relationship with the bank.  Apparently bank policy had changed and they no longer wanted box only customers.  Nor did they want customers to open an account (which I was willing to do) just to get a box.  I found this all quite annoying but fortunately another nearby bank (TD Bank which is part of one of the big Canadian banks) was willing to rent me a box (although I did have to open an account).

This didn't end my troubles with PNC bank.  First when I went in to empty my box the clerk got confused about which slot she had just unlocked and handed me the box from a nearby slot.  This box was empty (emptied boxes were being left in unlocked slots) which gave me a bit of a scare until she figured out what she had done.  Second I was of course entitled to a refund since I just paid for a year's box rental which the bank was failing to provide.  I was initially told I would be mailed a check.  When I went in a few weeks later to ask where my check was I was told to be patient.  After another few weeks with no check I went again last Thursday.  At this point they give me my refund in cash which they could just as well have done the day I closed my box.  Additionally they didn't give me any accounting of how the refund was computed or have me sign a receipt.  I think I was shorted a few dollars (I didn't realize this immediately because I had forgotten they had raised the box rental fee this year) but it isn't worth it to me to pursue this further.

On the one hand this is all fairly trivial but on the other hand if my experience is representative you would not want to depend on PNC bank for something important like obtaining a mortgage while buying a house.  Based on my experience I would recommend looking elsewhere for a bank.

Hopefully my experience with TD Bank will be better.  On the plus side their box rental fee is less than PNC's and they pay higher interest than Chase.  And they are open on Sundays which I find amazing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


I recently upgraded my laptop to Windows 10.  One disadvantage is the classic minesweeper game has gone away.  Fortunately I can still play it on an older desktop running Windows Vista.  I recently had to create a new account on this machine because a malware infection had rendered my previous account unusable.  This meant my minesweeper win rate statistics were reset and I could easily track my recent performance.  I have since played 100 games on the difficult (16x30) board of which I won 43.  Most of the losses were due to unavoidable guesses but I sometimes trigger a bomb unexpectedly due to flagging a square as a bomb incorrectly.  These errors are most commonly caused by failing to notice a diagonal adjacency.  Taking this into account I estimate the win rate with optimal play is around 50%.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Windows 10

As you may have heard Microsoft is offering a free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10.  The offer is currently set to expire on July 29, 2016.  One of my home computers, a cheap Dell Inspiron laptop running Windows 8 which I bought in 2010, was eligible for the offer.  Due to laziness and paranoia I had delayed accepting but with the deadline approaching I upgraded on July 4th.  So far despite some minor annoyances I haven't regretted doing so.  Hopefully this will extend the useful life of the laptop with which I have been generally pleased.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Quicken Workaround

I have been using the 2010 Quicken Premier program since 2009 (like cars new versions of the program come out the year before) to track my personal finances. Recently the update stock prices function (which downloaded current price quotes and other information for securities in your portfolio) stopped working. According to Quicken it should have stopped working as of April 20, 2013.  This is because of a Quicken policy to discontinue online services after about 3 years to encourage upgrading to the current version of the program.  I briefly considered upgrading but according to reviews on Amazon the current versions of the program don't work unless you are on the internet and have logged into a Quicken server.  I find this utterly unacceptable.

Fortunately there is a workaround.  The program provides a way to update stock prices from a list of quotes in a comma-separated values (CSV) file.  Each line of this file should contain the ticker symbol, price (and optionally date) separated by commas.  This file could be produced in a text editor but since I have 49 prices to update this would be a lot of work.  An easier way to produce such a file is to set up a Google Finance portfolio with the securities you are interested in and then use the download to spreadsheet function.  This produces a CSV file.  It isn't quite in the format Quicken wants but I found it fairly easy to write a little Fortran program to adjust each line.

A few hints for people wishing to do something similar.  I will assume you are running under a Microsoft Windows operating system.  Quicken seems to like each line to end in a space and the file to end in a blank line.  The information you want (ticker and price) is the second and third fields of each line in the file (named "My Portfolio.csv") Google saves (in your downloads directory).  Which means you usually want to copy the information between the first and third commas.  However sometimes the first field (company name) contains a comma.  In that case the name is enclosed in quotes.  So if the line starts with a quote symbol you want to extract the portion of the line between the second and fourth commas.  For some of the index quotes Google starts the symbol with a '.' so for example the S&P 500 has symbol '.INX'.  Quicken doesn't like the initial '.' so it should be deleted.  Quicken looks for the CSV file on your desktop so if you create the file there you can avoid entering the full path name. Google won't overwrite an existing "My Portfolio" file in your downloads directory so this file should be deleted before you try to download a new set of prices.

One issue I haven't resolved is that sometimes the prices in the CSV file Google downloads seem to be stale (outdated) compared to the prices you see on your screen.

I believe Yahoo Finance has a similar portfolio function which might also work but since for some unknown reason Yahoo is currently not allowing me to create an account I can't test this.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Car Talk

My previous car was a Toyota Solara. This was a pretty good car but it had an annoying flaw. There was some problem with way the tires were sealed to the rims and they tended to develop slow leaks. So I had to keep topping off the air pressure. When it got too bad I would take it to a tire place and they would do something that fixed the problem for a while but eventually it would recur. Also the car was high mileage and required expensive repairs from time to time. Finally in 2013 (at 216,000 miles) it had a serious engine problem for which I received a $4000 repair estimate. So I replaced it with a Toyota Camry my current car.

The Solara was a variant of the Camry so there isn't too much difference between them. The Camry had about 34000 miles on it when I bought it (it is now approaching 72000 miles). This is the only car I have owned with less than 100,000 miles on it and it has been pretty trouble free which is nice. The Camry also gets better highway mileage than the Solara. The gas tank is the same size so the range is greater. The longest distance on one tank of gas I managed with the Solara was 536.5 miles (Salt Lake City to Denver) in 2011. I soon exceeded this with the Camry (541.7 miles in November 2013) and while on vacation last month set a new personal record by going 626.2 miles on one tank. 

The miles per gallon (mpg) achieved between fill ups seems to vary quite a bit even when I am driving almost exclusively on highways. On my vacation last month my mpg varied between 33.3 and 44.8. Measurement error could be part of this, I fill the tank until the pump shuts itself off and I expect there is some variation in how much gas is in a full tank. Elevation change is clearly a factor, my record distance was aided by a 5000 foot elevation drop which I estimate saved about .8 gallons (compared to no net elevation change). Running the AC will reduce mpg as will traffic tie ups. Average speed affects mileage and when driving long distances in the same direction it seems plausible that you could have a substantial average head wind or tail wind which would also affect mileage. Anyway enough things lined up right for a new record.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

2015 taxes

My taxes got off to a bad start this year when the DVD drive in my computer died while reading the TurboTax disc.  Fortunately external DVD drives (which plug into a USB port) aren't very expensive.  I ordered one from Amazon and it was able to read the disc.  So I guess I can't blame this on TurboTax. 

Last year Intuit annoyed a lot of people by removing longstanding features from the Deluxe version of TurboTax (in order to force people to buy a more expensive version).  The ensuing outcry eventually caused Intuit to reverse course and the deleted features (or at least most of them) were restored for 2015.  One positive difference is Intuit now appears to provide unlimited state returns as part of the base program (previously if you needed to file more than one state return you had to purchase upgrades for each additional state).  This saved me some money as I spent the summer working at my employer's California location.

In addition to again encountering some problems with TurboTax that I have complained about in previous years I found a new issue.  When entering items from Box 14 on your W2 TurboTax says something like don't worry if you can't find the item in their drop down menu of common deductions.  But you should worry because if TurboTax doesn't recognize the abbreviation it won't treat it as a deductible state tax potentially costing you money.  In my case I had a deduction labeled "UI/HC/WD" which it turns out is the same as "UI/WF/SWF" which is deductible.  The program actually knows this but only lists "UI/WF/SWF" in the main menu.  If I recall correctly you have to consult a help page to get a list of alternative names which includes "UI/HC/WD" which I had not done until this year.  I don't think this actually cost me money in previous years because I am subject to the alternative minimum tax which doesn't allow the deduction.  However anyone who just pays the regular tax is potentially overpaying if they overlook this which TurboTax makes it easy to do.

I also found I had been making another error in my New Jersey returns.  States generally do not tax interest on directly held federal bonds.  So you can exclude this interest from income on your state return.  But if you own a mutual fund that in turn owns federal bonds state tax treatment varies.  In New York this interest is taxable unless it is a substantial fraction of the mutual fund dividends (over half by some test if I recall correctly) but in New Jersey it appears you can prorate and exclude the portion of dividends attributable to interest on federal bonds from your income even when it is only a small fraction of the dividends.  Having lived in New York for many years I was used to the New York rule (which my mutual funds never came close to satisfying).  When I moved to New Jersey I assumed the rule was the same.  This oversight cost me a small amount of money in previous years but not enough to make filing amended returns worth the hassle.

I filed my federal return electronically April 10 and mailed the state returns April 12.  My refunds were reasonably timely.  I received (by direct deposit to my bank account) my federal refund on April 20 and my New Jersey refund on June 3.   I was not due a refund from California.

Over the years I have had various issues with TurboTax but there don't appear to be any obviously superior alternatives so I will probably stick with the devil I know.

Added 7/19/2016:  Actually I received my New Jersey refund May 3 not June 3.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Defensive Indifference

I listened to the end of the Yankee's game this afternoon.  The Yankees were trailing the Seattle Mariners 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth but they had runners on first and third.  At this point the runner on first stole second.  However the Yankee's announcer, John Stirling, started claiming it wasn't a steal because of defensive indifference (since apparently the Mariners had not defended against the steal).  However a play should only be ruled defensive indifference  if  the run doesn't matter.  Here the potential winning run was moving into scoring position so defensive indifference does not apply.  And indeed when I checked later the play was properly scored a steal.  I knew the rule because Bill James in one of his books had discussed a similar play that had been scored incorrectly.  Stirling has been announcing Yankee's games since 1989, you would think he would know the rules by now.  Btw the next batter grounded out so the Yankees lost and the steal didn't make a difference.

Computer Go

Last month the computer Go program AlphaGo beat a top human player, Lee Sedol, 4-1 in a 5 game match. Long ago I studied Go some but never played enough to become very good. However I know the basics and was able to follow the match with some interest (despite the live games being at an inconvenient time). Go is a harder game for computers to play than chess and 20 years ago when IBM's computer chess program, Deep Blue, was playing Garry Kasparov, computer Go programs were pretty bad. So there has been a lot of progress. I see three big contributors to this milestone. First a new algorithm, Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS), developed about 10 years ago, proved to work very well for Go. Second there has been continuous progress in machine learning, in particular deep learning for artificial neural networks. Third computer technology continues to advance rapidly. Modern graphics processing units (GPUs) provide incredible computational power for suitable problems and this has contributed to recent advances in deep learning.

If you are interested in playing an online computer Go program check out the Cosumi site. It provides a variety of skill levels and board sizes (standard Go is played on a 19x19 grid but smaller sizes make for a faster game and are easier for computers to handle). I have played some 9x9 games against it. I find it an entertaining opponent. At level 5 (the highest level provided) it still moves quickly but can beat me most of the time despite the occasional weird blunder.  I recommend the 2-click setting to avoid frustrating unintended moves.  Unfortunately the FAQ is in Japanese so I don't know anything about the underlying program. Apparently it has been around for a while but I didn't discover it until the match got me interested in Go again.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Portfolio Review 2015

My brokerage account again underperformed in 2015. The S&P 500 (as represented by the ETF VOO) was up slightly, 1.31% (capital return of -.78% plus dividends of 2.08%) but my account was off slightly, -1.77% (capital return of -4.35% plus dividends of 2.58%). Since almost half of my account is in VOO my other picks lagged by even more. I only had one stock up double digits (AET +22.84%) but eight down double digits (IBM -11.11%, CM -11.73%, XOM -12.57%, ESV -17.96%, VDE -23.17%, BNS -25.38%, COP -28.13% and BBL -38.13%). During the year I bought VPU, ALL, NSC and CM and I sold ESV dropping my cash position from 6.59% to 4.54%.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


The billion dollar Powerball jackpot lured me into buying a lotto ticket for the first time in my life. This proved pretty easy. There is a NJ lottery vendor near where I usually buy lunch. The tickets are sold by a machine. Despite the record jackpot there were no lines to speak of but it did take me a few minutes to figure out the process. I didn't win of course but I figure I easily got $2 worth of entertainment out of my ticket.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Kevin Drum praises the rise of "they" as a third person singular gender neutral pronoun which is fine but he seems to think it should replace all uses of "he" or "she" which is bizarre. "They" is for use in cases where you don't wish to specify a gender. For a (purely hypothetical) example "one of my co-workers is cheating on their timesheets".