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Lionel Mandrake

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: The Left Coast
Home country: USA
Current location: electrical wires
Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2007, 06:47 PM
Number of posts: 3,584

About Me

I study, play the piano, play chess and go, and enjoy the company of my wife, children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends. I am a perennial student at a local university, where they let me take classes and use the library for free (because I'm old). My serious reading includes math, science, history, and biography. I enjoy science fiction and mysteries, which my wife and I refer to as "mind rot". And now on to politics. I hated Nixon and Reagan. I think W is a war criminal and was easily the worst president in US history. Thank Darwin he's gone. I will support any candidate who is a "dove". I support "plan B" without prescription for girls of all ages. I support free abortion on demand, without delay, and without the requirement to notify anyone, for all women and girls who want it. I think it's time to repeal the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the very rich. I think other damage done by conservative Supreme Court Justices rivals that done by the monster they put in the White House.

Journal Archives

Income Inequality

By now it's common knowledge that inequality in wealth and income has been increasing it the US over recent decades. While wealth inequality is hard to measure, income inequality is relatively easy to measure by such statistics as the percentage of income going to the top or bottom X percentage of households.

A problem with this sort of statistic is that X is arbitrary. We often hear about the bottom 10% and the top 1% or 0.1% or 0.01%, etc. No single value of X captures the whole economic picture.

There's a better way: the Gini index is familiar to people who study income inequality, but not to the general public. The Gini index is obscure because its definition is too mathematical for most people to understand. But for those who know a little calculus, it's simple and it's something well worth knowing about. If this is new to you, please take a look at


While the Gini index is generally considered the best single measure of inequality, various refinements have been considered to describe other aspects of inequality. For example, here is an article about a way to define separate Gini indices for the poor and the rich:

Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sat May 23, 2015, 08:51 PM (7 replies)

Which of our wars were justified?

In other words, in which of our many wars was our participation justified? (where "our" means involving the USA).

A strict pacifist would answer "none", but most of us wouldn't agree. Sometimes, the Friends slogan notwithstanding, war IS the answer. I would list the following as justified: the Revolutionary War (and it's continuation, the War of 1812, but not our invasion of Canada), the Civil War (on the Union side), World War 2, Operation Desert Shield, and our seemingly endless war against al-Qaeda.

I'm not so sure about World War 1, the Korean War, and Operation Desert Storm (at least Bush the Elder had the good sense to stop short of Baghdad).

I view the following as completely unjustified: the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, the Vietnam War, and the Second Gulf War (which was the epitome of Bush the Younger's immorality and stupidity).

Any comments?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Mon May 18, 2015, 07:25 PM (12 replies)

A simple way to save water.

Most of the rest rooms at Calif. State U. Long Beach (where I spend a lot of time) have automatic-flush toilets. The damn things seldom work properly. Either they don't flush when they need to, or they flush when they don't need to. So water is wasted, and some toilets are effectively unavailable, including those in stalls designed for people in wheelchairs. The same problem occurs in many other public restrooms in California.

The remedy for this problem is obvious.

Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun May 10, 2015, 05:07 PM (6 replies)

Rock/Blues/Jazz Fusion by Steely Dan

Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sat May 9, 2015, 11:55 AM (19 replies)

Puzzle From Singapore

This puzzle was presented to some high school students in Singapore:

Albert and Bernard just met Cheryl. “When’s your birthday?” Albert asked Cheryl.

Cheryl thought a second and said, “I’m not going to tell you, but I’ll give you some clues.” She wrote down a list of 10 dates:

May 15, May 16, May 19, June 17, June 18, July 14, July 16, August 14, August 15, August 17

“My birthday is one of these,” she said.

Then Cheryl whispered in Albert’s ear the month — and only the month — of her birthday. To Bernard, she whispered the day, and only the day.

“Can you figure it out now?” she asked Albert.

Albert: I don’t know when your birthday is, but I know Bernard doesn't know, either.

Bernard: I didn't know originally, but now I do.

Albert: Well, now I know, too!

When is Cheryl’s birthday?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sat Apr 25, 2015, 01:22 PM (4 replies)

Have you ever heard of Charles Avison?

Neither had I until I heard this on the radio:

Wikipedia says:

"Charles Avison (1709 – 1770) was an English composer during the Baroque and Classical periods. He was a church organist at St John The Baptist Church in Newcastle and at St. Nicholas's Church (later Cathedral). He is most known for his 12 Concerti Grossi after Scarlatti ..."
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Tue Apr 14, 2015, 02:18 PM (5 replies)

RIP Stan Freberg

A gifted comic has died. Old farts like me will remember him.


For the youngsters, let me explain that a phonograph used a needle to play a record. If the needle was dull, it would damage the record.

Also: "Dragnet" was a TV police procedural in the 1950s. Its reruns were called "Badge 714". In the movie "LA Confidential", it became "Badge of Honor".
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Apr 8, 2015, 02:31 PM (9 replies)

Salary trends at the California State University.

CSU Students and faculty have suffered, but administrators (who call themselves "managers") have done very well over the last ten years, according to Parts 1 and 2 of "Race to the Bottom: CSU's 10-year Failure to Fund its Core Mission", published by the California Faculty Association (CFA).

Here is an excerpt from Part 1:
When compared to other university systems around the country, and to every education segment in California, the CSU stands out for its unparalleled failure to improve faculty salaries or even to protect them from the ravages of inflation. As this paper details, administrators at other colleges and universities inside and outside California dealt with similar circumstances, made different decisions, and produced different outcomes.

Case in point: Over the past 10 years, while the average CSU faculty salary on every campus lost purchasing power, the average University of California faculty salary on each UC campus increased in real dollars. At UC San Francisco, the average faculty salary from 2004 and 2013 (adjusted for inflation) rose $16,138, while at San Francisco State, the average faculty salary lost $9,748.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2:
over at least the last decade, CSU administrators, like many corporate executives, have consistently and vigorously prioritized those at the top of the organizational hierarchy, while others in the CSU have been left to languish. At the same time that faculty salaries have plummeted in terms of purchasing power and student fees and student debt have skyrocketed, those at the top have done very well.

Read more:

And stay tuned for Parts 3 and 4 of this series.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Mar 25, 2015, 11:35 PM (2 replies)

Asinine antivax action by California chiroquacktors

Here's an excerpt from Melanie Mason's article in today's LA Times:

The California Chiropractic Assn. visited with lawmakers this week to discuss their legislative agenda this year -- and opposing the vaccine bill, by state Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Los Angeles) was on the top of their list.

"Chiropractors themselves choose to become chiropractors because they like to live a more natural lifestyle, free of drugs and surgery when possible," said Brian Stenzler, president of the 2,700-member association.

The idea of "forced medical procedures goes against a lot of chiropractors' own personal values," he added. "When we see our patients, the people we take care of, we like to pass those values on as well."

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-vaccine-bill-chiropractors-20150305-story.html
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sat Mar 7, 2015, 12:23 PM (17 replies)

A recent jazz recording

Mike LeDonne on piano,
John Webber on bass, and
Joe Farnsworth on drums
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Fri Feb 27, 2015, 02:06 PM (5 replies)
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