Thursday, October 18, 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

MFP and Farmers.gov

Got a tweet announcing the latest figures on MFP applications and payments.  I now can't find the tweet, not sure what's the matter. 

Two things I'd like farmers.gov to do:

  1. provide online access to FSA data, like the applications and payments.  It seems to me that FSA administrators at each level should be watching the data.  (That was true when I worked for them, but we never did. But with the centralization of the payment process it should be easy to do, and there's no privacy concerns that I can see.)
  2. provide a user-friendly interface to the USDA data silos.  Does anyone outside USDA understand which data ERS has and which data NASS has?  Damned few, is my guess.  It shouldn't be too hard to present the data without regard to the organizational parents.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

New Terms: Adult Orphans and Family Tree Completists

Learned two new terms today from reading Post and Times:

"Adult orphans".  This refers to those of us, including me and my wife, who are getting old with no children, no parents, and essentially no support network.  Applying a label makes the problem seem more concrete.  Personally, on the one hand I'm tempted to say: "you made your bed, now lie in it." On the other hand, which I almost always have available, it's a real problem for us, and we need to figure out how to deal with it, most likely by moving to an assisted living complex which includes nursing care.  BTW, googling the term results in 45,000  hits, so it's not that new.

"Family tree completists" is unique to the Times article on the ability of a site called "GEDmatch" to help identify suspects in a crime from their DNA by analyzing DNA matches from a database of relationships created by genealogical enthusiasts.  For a while I was one of these--deriving great pleasure from adding another set of (remote) cousins to my genealogy.  I still maintain an ancestry.com account, with a number of trees which someday I may return to

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sen. Warren--An Honest Reconsideration

I tweeted today that I was surprised by how much difference the DNA results on Sen. Warren made to me.

I'll expand here. 

When Warren was coming into prominence, Megan McArdle had a blog post challenging the validity of her research on bankruptcy caused by ill health and lack of insurance. I think there was some counter from Warren's supporters.  The specifics have long since vanished from memory, but it cast a shadow on my opinion of her.

Then there was the flap about whether her claim of Indian ancestry was correct and what part it played in her academic career.  Again I've seen some back and forth on it.

Then she ran for the Senate and won, 

So early in her political career I had formed an assessment of her as ambitious, smart, more liberal than me.  And, mostly importantly, so ambitious she might have pushed the boundaries of academic research and made unfounded claims to advance in academia. I must also admit to possible chauvinism, though I'd state it as saying her personality struck me as unlikely to appeal to moderate and male voters (so it's their prejudice, I remain innocent. :-0) Taken altogether it made a package I was reluctant to support for the presidency.

But now I know Warren had a solid basis for claiming Native American ancestry.  Somehow that makes me more comfortable with the idea, supported I think by Boston Globe reporting, that she never used the claim to advance in her career.  (Though her employers may have used it in their EEO reporting.) That makes her less ambitious, or at least not breaking rules in her ambition, which makes me more comfortable in supporting her in the future.  (It's possible, even likely, my standards are different for male versus female politicians.)  And there may be a cascading effect--I'm now thinking about her senatorial career and positions more.  And that helps her.

I've tried to be honest with the above.  I don't know enough about Bayesian analysis to apply it to my changing position.

So, my preferred Dem nominee for 2020 is still Klobuchar/Hickenlooper, but if Warren runs and shows up well in trial runs against Trump in the polls, I'll be a more enthusiastic supporter. 

But my bottomline is still: we must win in 2020.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

My Preferences for 2020

There's a poll out on Democratic preferences for their presidential candidate for 2020--Biden leads.

He's not my preference.  Based on what I know now, I'd prefer Sen. Klobuchar or Gov. Hickenlooper, who fit a pattern of moderate left, which is my sweet spot.  It's not that I necessarily object to some of the more radical proposals on the left, but my priority is always the need to win the election.  I usually feel that the very partisan people on the left, as on the right, overestimate the popularity of their ideas and that slow and steady beats fast and flashy.

So my bottom line for 2020--I want some one to win the nomination who looks likely to beat President Trump.  IMHO it should be easy, but I've no confidence it will be.  See this NYTimes piece on suburban white men rallying to his support, even though they recognize his personal failings.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Uniformity and Diversity--Amazon's Kindle

I've mentioned my cousin's book, Dueling Dragons. As part of my help to her I've gotten a fair amount of exposure to Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing operation.  (The book was published iby CreateSpace, which Amazon bought years ago and now has dropped in favor of KDP.) 

With the paperback version out, we now have to worry about the ebook version.   This leads me into some thoughts about the whole publishing process.  In the old world of publishing, say circa 1960, each hardcover book was handcrafted with lots of choices in its design and packaging.  The paperbacks were a bit different with less variety, especially in the cases where a publisher had a series going.  (I remember Ballantine's series of World War II histories as one example, or a series of John D. MacDonald's novels.)

I paid very limited attention to self-publishing.  It was around, and advertised in the pages of the NY York Times Book Review.  I think it required a rather hefty payment to get a batch of your book printed and available for sale.

These days with Amazon ebook publishing you have very limited choices in font and design.  But what this standardization does, along with the support of software and the internet, is enable a much greater variety in the content of books, partially because the costs of publishing in ebook format are so low.  Because the entry cost is low as long as you can live the with limited choices everyone and her brother can publish that book they've dreamed of.

This interplay of uniformity and diversity fascinates me, and I think you can find similar patterns in other areas.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Promises Kept and Victories Won?

Marc Thiessen has an oped in the Post claiming that President Trump has kept his promises, kept them better than any other president.  His second sentence is "He lies all the time."  That's a fitting description for Trump.

After reading Thiessen I ran across another piece, the url for which I've now lost.  The thesis was this:
in many House districts, particularly those won by Clinton and by a Republican representative in 2016, Trump's "wins" are unlikely to appeal to the centrist voters the Republican nominee in 2018 needs to win.  In many cases, perhaps most recently with judge Kavanaugh, a "win" may increase the odds of a Republican defeat in the House.

We'll see.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Farmers.gov Shows Promise

I've probably been skeptical of some FSA automation efforts, but I am impressed by a brief trip through the farmers.gov disaster app.  I got there from this tweet, plugged in some fake data for a hurricane in Buncombe County, NC, and got a reasonable result. (Only NAP available--I'd suspect county employees would like to see some qualifications--like the limitations on NAP coverage.  Otherwise the farmer may be overly optimistic when coming through the door.)

There's lots of room to improve, but it's a good start.  The question will be whether they can get enough traffic to the site to get good feedback.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Dentists and the Healthcare System

Went to the dentist today.  Not my favorite way to spend the afternoon.  Growing up I think I saw a dentist once or twice--it wasn't a thing for my family.  Consequently I've some irregular teeth, which is appropriate since I'm an irregular person.  A couple appointments ago my dentist asked about braces.  I barely restrained my laughter--not at my age.

Anyway I had a couple fillings while in the Army, then mostly avoided dentists again until my first wisdom tooth decayed and needed to be extracted.  I eventually hooked up with my wife's dentist--he was a monosyllabic single practitioner who did all his own work, perfectly fitted my preferences.  But then he retired and I had to find a new one, which I eventually did in Reston.

For the first time I started looking to my healthcare insurance to pay part of the dental costs.  It's strange because Kaiser, my health insurance company with which I'm very satisfied, doesn't do dentistry as it does other health issues, by employing its own dentists.  Instead they contract with a dental insurance company.

So the bottomline is there's three parties involved, four when you count my teeth.  Ordinarly I think of myself as an informed consumer, but not now, not with these players.  Instead when my dentist speaks, I salute and say "yes, ma'am", take my medicine and pay whatever bill is presented.  (A slight exaggeration--I just vetoed a separate appointment for a small filling in favor of combining it with my next 3-month (3-month!!) appointment.  But it turns out the three parties have their own problems in keeping their paperwork straight.  My dentist tried to explain the confusion to me (she didn't have a receptionist--hard to get help these days) but failed--I just paid the bill.

My bottom line: as with my sister years ago, I'm amazed by the administrative dysfunction of our healthcare system.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

ACRSI Comments

FSA has ACRSI data collection out for comment in the Federal Register:

Need and Use of the Information: This initiative is being conducted in phases by geographical area and additional commodities. Counties are selected based on their commonality of historical crop reporting, high percentage of producers participating in both RMA and FSA programs and the high level of interest of the private agricultural service industry (precision-ag and farm management) in the pilot phases. It will reengineer the procedures, processes, and standards to simplify commodity, acreage and production reporting by producers, eliminate or minimize duplication of information collection by multiple agencies and reduce the burden on producers, insurance agents and AIPs. Information being collected will consist of, but not be limited to: Producer name, location state, commodity name, commodity type or variety, location county, date planted, land location (legal description, FSA farm number, FSA track number, FSA field number), intended use, prevented planting acres, acres planted but failed, planted acres, and production of commodity produced. Failure to collect the applicable information could result in unearned Federal benefits being issued or producers being denied eligibility to program benefits.
Description of Respondents: Individuals and households.
Number of Respondents: 501,012.
Frequency of Responses: Reporting: One time.