Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Run, Run, Run

December is our traditional crazy month with a bunch of stuff all happening at once, and not just Christmas/New Years. This is supposed to be Debbie's slow time, but she just set a new personal and office-wide record for the most cabins sold in a pay period (and week, and day, and probably hour). [Correction: I've been informed that this was not a record for a pay period; Debbie sold 80 cabins in a pay period back in February while this time it was "only" 72. It was, however, a new record for one week: 52.] I've been doing more security gigs, plus taking on more up at the Moose Lodge, plus cranking out CPE and trying to get ready for tax season.

Then because we're not already having enough fun, our crazy neighbor decides to go off her meds and start harassing Debbie every chance she gets. She always been nuts, but up to this point it was the harmless kind of nuts. Then she decided she was going to screw with Debbie, and, well, that ain't going to fly. I called the park manager, which as usual accomplished nothing. So I unloaded a whole truck-load of my kind of crazy on her wrinkled ass and it's been relatively quiet ever since. (I don't think it will come as any surprise that the only person in the park who doesn't think she's batty is a certain other "person" who decided my parents were fair game last spring. If you're thinking of involving yourself in my business again Dickhead, I seriously suggest you re-think.) Have I mentioned lately how much I hate Carefree?

Anyway, the other project this week is Christmas cards. Debbie has made four dozen or so cards, which ought to cover us for this year. We're only sending to close family and a few people here in the park. We just don't have the cash this year for card stock, envelopes and postage to do all 200+ names on our mailing list. Sorry. Maybe we should do a Kickstarter campaign. Debbie is mostly done with her part (making the cards), so now everything is waiting on me to clean up the address list with all the changes/additions since last year, print labels, and prep and stuff envelopes. I should be able to get step one completed today. Maybe. It's another Moose night, and I'm doing this instead of that, so....


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Big Five-Oh.

Yep. Half a century. Got my AARP card in the mail. More years behind me than in front. Hit the local CVS for a walker and some Geritol. Blah, blah, blah.

The reality is, of course, that I am exactly one day older than I was yesterday. But Western Civilization loves its anniversary dates almost as much as it loves its "old people talk" about pills and pains and procedures, so here we are.

In more important news, it's cold. The "polar vortex" (which is, in fact, nothing new but gets people all worked up thanks to a rather silly movie from a few years back) is knocking our temps out of the 70's and 80's for the next few days. I'll probably move our plants that are in pots into the shed or up onto the porch snuggled up against the trailer. The stuff planted in the ground is on its own. If this plays out like it usually does, our little micro-climate we have back here in the corner will stay up close to forty and it will be no big deal. By Friday we'll be back into 70's territory, and everyone will be talking about how we survived the Great Polar Vortex of November 2014. Ya know, it used to be that people were too busy surviving for real to waste time blowing perfectly normal weather events into an endless series of apocalypses that we "survived" by the brave expedient of putting on a sweater....

We were busy last weekend making more changes to the trailer. We installed some shelves in the Florida room that will also serve as a partition between the "living" area and the spot for the laundry, hot water heater and a small, upright freezer. We put twelve-inch shelves facing front to replace the monster book shelf we currently have taking up one entire wall, and sixteen-inch shelves facing the back that will hold the vacuum, folding chairs, laundry and cleaning supplies, etc. The long-term plan is to move Debbie's work space into the Florida room, and move the TV and my computer into the actual living room in the trailer itself so we can seat more than one guest at a time. We will also be able to set up a better space for Debbie's card-making operation out in the Florida room once we've shifted everything from the Monster Bookcase to the new built-in, and ditched ol' MB someplace. We'll probably donate it to the park library or some such. That's all a bit further down the road. I want to get the paneling up in the Florida room before we get too anxious shifting things around.

Anyway, some pictures:

The "before" shot.

A view of the rats nest we had to relocate.

Sorting through the boards. Typical of the Crapification of Everything, lots of damage and defects to hide.

The back of the first shelf unit in its place.

The front of the deep shelf unit.

And the finished project before it gets filled up with shelves and books.

I still need to cut the shelf boards to fit, which will likely wait until the weekend, then we can check another thing off the to-do list. While adding three more. But we don't talk about that.

We inherited a couple rose bushes that someone else was killing. I'm not sure how it happened, but we've become the park Plant Doctors. We've been receiving a steady stream of dying plants from people who hear that we can "fix" them. Our "miracle cure" generally involves re-potting in an appropriate-sized container and placing the plant out of full sun. (Almost nothing, including plants sold as "full sun" plants can survive Florida full sun.) Not sure how that makes us plant whisperers, but apparently it does around here. Anyway, the rose bushes. We got our first blooms. Just in time for them to be knocked off by the cold tonight. But there will be more:

I was going to say something about economics again, but with the gloomy weather, it seemed like piling on. So instead, here's a few links for those readers who aren't depressed enough by the cold and the rain/snow:

The Crapified Magic of the Obamacare Marketplace

It’s the crapification that gets me: We’ve got, on the very same continent as our own, a single payer system that covers everybody for a boatload less money — those wacky Canadians call it “Medicare” — and the best we can do in this exceptionally great country, this shining city on a hill, is normalize a program that still leaves 41 million uninsured, that has gross defects in its construction, and that is a full of traps for the unwary that will cost you bucks to some unholy number or needed treatment for a vital organ, whenever you look at it sideways or put your foot down in the wrong place. Because markets.

Japan Is Dying and We Still Don't Get It

What is it with us? Don’t we WANT to understand? Japan announced on Monday that its economy is in hopeless trouble and back in recession (as if it was ever out). And what do we see? ‘Experts’ and reporters clamoring for more stimulus. But if Japan has shown us anything over the past years, and you’re free to pick any number between 2 and 20 years, it’s that the QE-based kind of stimulus doesn’t work. Not for the real economy, that is....

Japan’s stimulus has achieved the following: banks get to pretend they’re healthy and stocks rise to heights that are fundamentally disconnected from underlying real values. On the flipside of that, citizens are being increasingly squeezed and ‘decide’ not to spend (not much of a decision if you have nothing to spend). Since Japan’s ‘consumer’ spending makes up about 60% of GDP, things can only possibly get worse as time passes. If ‘consumers’ don’t spend, deflation is the inevitable result – and that has nothing to do with the much discussed sales tax, it’s been going on for decades.

The Instability Express

Plummeting oil prices are a symptom of terrible mounting instabilities in the world. After years of stagnation, complacency, and official pretense, the linked matrix of systems we depend on for running our techno-industrial society is shaking itself to pieces. American officials either don’t understand what they’re seeing, or don’t want you to know what they see. The tensions between energy, money, and economy have entered a new phase of destructive unwind.

Two Detroits, Separate and Unequal

That Detroit is a more than 80% African American metropolis makes the idea of its rise from bankruptcy with second-class status all the more problematic. As Hammer explains, the plan for Detroit bears an eerie back-to-the-future resemblance to the famed Kerner Commission report of 1968, issued by a presidentially appointed panel in the wake of the urban rebellions that were then sweeping the country. Its findings were that the nation was moving toward two societies: black and white, separate and unequal.

“That was viewed as a call to action, as unacceptable in 1968,” comments Hammer. Nearly a half-century later, he adds, it’s portrayed as progress. The vision of a future Detroit as a sprawling second-class black city with a small, wealthy downtown and a few elite neighborhoods surrounded by thriving white suburbs will, he projects, bring the 1968 finding to life. “The truth is, what [bankruptcy] Judge Rhodes will do when he approves the bankruptcy plan of adjustment is ratify that conclusion as prophecy.”

If anyone needs me, I'll be curled up in my blanket escaping reality by reading about fictional murder and mayhem.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Porch Project

Now that the weather-gods have decided that we may have 72 hours in a row without rain, we decided it was time to do my mom and dad's porch. We scrubbed it all down with deck cleaner, let it dry for 24 hours, then started slapping on the stain.

Started with the outside edge.

Edge and steps all done; time to start really putting down some stain.

Lunch break.

Missed it by THAT much. We had to open a full gallon of stain to do this little bit.

The more-or-less finished product. I'm over on the left still trying to pry the plastic ring off the new can of stain. I'd forgotten what a royal pain those things are.
That took up Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I decided to pressure-wash the patio up around the porch before cleaning and staining the deck. That way, the first thing my parents do when they get here won't be to blow black gunk all over the freshly finished deck.

I'm still kicking out the occasional security gig. This Sunday I get to work the local America's Got Talent thingy down at the convention center. It will be one of the longer jobs I've done so far: 6am til 8pm. Feet will be aching by the end of that shift for sure. Debbie is still cranking out cruises, but she's hitting her annual slow season. She's still getting enough cabins sold to bonus, but not by much. I'll need to try to pick up more security work during November to make up the difference. Initially, her bonus money was just extra, but thanks to the rent going up 5% every year for no other reason than the bastards who own this place want to, Debbie's bonuses are no longer... well... bonuses.

Speaking of money, I haven't written much about the economy lately. But recently, I'm starting to get the same queasy feeling I had back in late 2008. That didn't turn out well for a lot of people, including us. This time around, it may be worse given that most of us schlubs are still digging ourselves out of the manure pile. Normally I just keep those sort of feelings to myself, but it looks like other people are coming out of the woodwork that make me look like an optimist:

The bear market is here, and a 30% decline is highly probable. So be defensive, raise your awareness, and get help from professionals who survived and thrived in the previous three crashes. Those who ignore history are doomed to experience the worst.

That'll hurt, especially given all the retirees that were forced into the stock market after the Fed cut real interest rates down to negative territory. But given the nose-bleed level the stock market is at currently, even a 30% drop is hardly Armageddon. Of course, last time around, it was the bursting of a nice big real estate bubble that turned a normal economic event into The Great Recession. So this time, what part of the economy suffers from constant hype from analysts and our government?

-By 2040, production rates from the Bakken Shale and Eagle Ford Shale will be less than a tenth of that projected by the Energy Department.

-The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60-percent to 91-percent.

-Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity....

-The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale gas basins measured for the report ranges between 74-percent to 82-percent.

And all of it paid for with borrowed money. Yea. Nothing can go wrong there.

And we have some sort of election coming up. The only thing about it I'm looking forward to is an end to the non-stop political ads everywhere. I know I say this every election cycle, but I cannot fathom in what universe there exist people so stupid that their vote would be influenced by the barrage of crap that pours out of our TV to do anything other than stay home on November 4th and declare a pox on all their houses. That's exactly what I'll be doing. I'm done. Throwing in the towel. The pricks (and sorry; they're all pricks) will do whatever they want regardless of how anyone votes, so I'll be watching this circus from the sidelines.

Not that voting has any meaning whatsoever in the age of touch-screen voting and the registration of illegal aliens. Sure, there has always been a certain level of shenanigans when it comes to voting in this country, as evidenced by the Chicago ballets still sitting on the bottom of Lake Michigan. But at least with a physical ballot, you have to work at it (hanging chads not withstanding). When everything is a ghost in the machine, a reasonably bright four-year-old can rig an election.

And enough of that. I'm off to do some dishes so we have something clean to eat dinner off of.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

More Standing on the Box

At this point, I've survived four events while wearing a shirt that has the word "Security" splashed across the back of it. The first two times, I was at the main gate for the last couple Rays games. So I was standing in the full Florida sun for several hours wand-ing down people and repeatedly yelling to the crowd to "Please take everything out of your pockets. Everything means EVERYTHING. Cellphone, keys, change, wallets, small furry mammals. Everything needs to come out of your pockets. Please" Then the first person I wand gets a beep. "Do you have something in your back pocket?" "Just my cellphone. I need to take that out too? You want me to take my shoes off? This is worse than going to the airport..." Blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, there are 20,000 very hot, very sweaty, very impatient people behind said person. Fun stuff. I didn't actually lose my voice, but by the second or third hour, I was starting to sound a lot like Darth Vader. But other than being hot and hectic, it really wasn't anything I'd call hard work. One thing I really like about the company I work for: they do the laundry. You're handed a clean shirt at the beginning of your shift, then seven sunny, Florida hours later, leave the sweat-soaked toxic mess for someone else to deal with. Sweet. The downside was the drive. The stadium is waaaaay down in St. Petersburg, so the cost of gas takes a serious chunk out of my take-home pay.

The second pair of gigs were concerts. The first was a real pain in the ear; 65,000-plus screaming, prepubescent girls and yet-another, record-label-created boy band. (Four Directions? One Dimension? Ah, here it is: One Direction.) I started out at one of the gates doing bag checks. (Primary things we were looking for: weapons, sex toys, lewd or profane language on signs and/or clothing. Simply wearing lewd clothing was not a problem.) Once the warm-up act was done, my gate was closed and I was "redeployed" (yea, some of these guys are seriously into their military jargon) to the main floor. My job was to keep the aisle clear and make sure that no purple wristbands tried to get up to the stage. I expected it to be a nightmare, but it only took me making one pass down the aisle before things got rolling, making sure everyone knew the drill. After that, all I mostly had to do was start walking towards someone or even just wave them back into their row. The only real problem children were not, in fact, children. They were the cougar moms trying to get to the stage. I'm not sure on what planet any self-respecting 20-something guy would give these wrinkled crones a tumble. When said 20-something is an international celebrity, its a safe bet the odds are effectively zero. And for Cthulhu's sake, put some clothes on. Anyway, it was a fairly easy gig, although we did have to do the human line thing when everyone on the floor tried to rush the stage during the final encore. No one tried to scratch my eyes out, so I guess that makes it a good day.

The second concert was a road trip. We all jumped on a big tour bus and headed north to Archer, Florida. Well, to be precise, we were bused to a cow pasture somewhere in the general vicinity of Archer, Florida to help beef up the local security presence at one of Luke Bryan's Farm Tour stops. I got a major cush gig in the VIP area, checking credentials of people trying to get on the roof of the lounge they had set up. It was kind of a cool little deal; a semi-trailer that expanded out into a 1,000 square-foot lounge and bar, complete with restrooms and four flat screens connected to a satellite dish. (We'll leave aside the question why someone would pay hundreds of dollars to get into the VIP area, then sit indoors and watch a ball game....) People with VIP passes could pay an extra $500 to go up a ladder onto the top of the trailer for a better view and all the free beer, soda, water and Five-Hour Energy they wanted. My job was to make sure the people up there had actually paid and that they didn't try to jump off the roof. It was the easiest money I've made in a long time. It did get a little intense when all fifty people started bouncing in unison. Me and the other security guy both had two fistfuls of railing trying not to get thrown clean off the roof. I swear a couple times I had a good foot of air under me. But we made it through, then did our usual herd-everyone-out-the-gate routine and got back on our bus. The only bummer with the whole thing was the five hours on the road. I came crawling into the trailer around 3am Sunday morning.

Anyway, so far, so good on the whole security thing. I can pick what events I want to work, and they don't mind that I'm going to disappear for tax season. This weekend coming up, I'm doing a couple football games. We'll see if my luck holds out, or if some drunk tries to knock my teeth out.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Native American Powwow

Debbie happen to be reading through one of those free ad papers and found a blurb for a Native American Powwow not too far from here. We both had Saturday off, and we didn't feel like more yard work, so off we went:

These three girls had been named princesses at other powwows for work they do in the Native American community.

Some of the regalia. Love the blending of western and Native American.

More regalia.

This little guy was having a blast running around behind his dad.

The only time we could get a pic of this guy that wasn't blurry was during a break between songs.

The Head Woman Dancer and the Head Man Dancer and his son.

The guy in the shorts on the left was still going strong after a couple hours of dancing; the Native American version of Tony and Leo Boris?

The regalia was awesome, but I can't imagine wearing all that in Florida, never mind dancing around in it for hours.
This little guy just stole the show. You could hear the Awe's and OMG's follow him around the circle:


I could have sat and listened to the music all day. Unfortunately, the weather seemed to have other ideas. Everyone shrugged off the first couple rain showers, but when the lightening started, the organizers pulled the plug. By then we were pretty well drenched anyway, so we called it a day.