Friday, April 29, 2016

Prince, RIP

Another icon from my high school days is gone. Not that I'm all torn up and taking a week off work to deal or anything. I (sorta) liked a few of his songs, never saw him perform, never saw the movie Purple Rain, and pretty much never knowingly listened to any music he recorded after 1984. Jeff Kay had a nice bit on the new fake-grieving-for-celebrities-we've-never-met phenomenon:

I blame Facebook. In fact, I blame Facebook for a lot of things. I believe it’s ruined the world in certain ways. Everybody’s a show-off now, doing some kind of weird and pathetic performance art. The same thing happened when David Bowie died. Everybody was in a race to out-grieve each other:

“When I heard Bowie died, I couldn’t stop crying for a solid hour…”

“That’s nothing. When I heard Bowie died I cried for three days.”

“Well, you must not be as big a fan as I am. ‘Cause when I heard Bowie died I had to take a leave of absence from my job, and check into a mental institution in upstate New York.”

Heh. Even without having been on FB for over six months, I could probably come up with a list of people who are, even as I type this, boohoo-ing all over the place about losing a genius like Prince and who are unable to name a single song he recorded other than Purple Rain.

Anyway.

The political farce of our presidential "election season" continues on its merry way. It now looks like Bernie is up in smoke. Anyone with a greater-than-room-temperature IQ knew that was the preordained outcome. Really, it's quite remarkable that he hung on as long as he did. There's probably a message in there for the Democratic Party establishment, but I doubt very much that they are listening. Meanwhile, the Queen of Toads is busy putting the finishing touches on her inauguration speech, confident she can sweep past whoever ends up as the Republican Party candidate.

Meanwhile, the country club Republicans are openly stating they would rather destroy what's left of the Republican Party than have The Donald as their candidate. Not that Trump really needs the Republican Party to run a presidential campaign, but he can't run a winning presidential campaign without it. Personally, I figured he would have died in some sort of "accident" by now. The country clubbers likely already tried that and botched it like they've screw up everything else they touch.

Whatever happens, nothing substantive is going to change. The oligarchs will continue to strip the place to the bare walls. If we're real lucky, we'll get someone like Putin to really shake things up in 2020 or 2024, but I ain't holding my breath.

I don't know who is in charge over at Hulu, but they need to be fired. ASAP. They took a relatively simple, straight-forward website and turned it into a complete piece of crap. As usual. Ya know what would be nice, Hulu? Instead of spending wads of money on geeks who do nothing but wreck your site and frustrate customers who have stuck by you since day one, why don't you use some of that money to free 20-year-old shows from behind your iron curtain? If I'm going to pay to watch old TV shows, I certainly won't be paying someone who is going to force me to watch commercials as well. Screw that.

Better yet, I'll just read a book.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Another Implementation

The go-live I talked about a few weeks ago was only for the lodge bar staff. The wait staff were still using the old "system" (which wasn't really much more than slips of paper and a spreadsheet that I fill out every morning). That changes on May 1st. So the next couple weeks will be filled with training people whose attitudes range from positive thru indifferent to openly hostile. That's OK; business is slowing dramatically now that the snow birds are heading back north and we have more people than we have shifts. If someone feels strongly enough to quit, both I and the kitchen managers are in agreement: let 'em.

Of course that means all sorts of crazy hours for yours truly, with the first of May being another hell week of long days and little sleep. What will save us this time around is that we only serve food until 7pm, so at least the administrator and myself won't have to take turns being up all night.

We still don't know what is going on with my mom and if my parents will be going back to Michigan anytime soon. It's just endless tests and doctor appointments with no meaningful information coming back to us. In other words, business as usual for the medical/industrial complex. As I'm the one tasked with driving them back, that leaves me and my job hanging in limbo while all these clowns are maximizing their Medicare billing.

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate these guys? Anyway.

One of the things I like about the web pages I routinely read (that list over there on the right) is how people coming from radically different starting points can all end up more or less at the same place. (That place would be "We're completely screwed" by the way.) First up, we have John Michael Greer, fresh back from vacation and already busting American taboos:

...the word “racist” in the mouths of the pundits and politicians who have been applying it so liberally to the Trump campaign is a dog whistle for something they don’t want to talk about in so many words. What they mean by it, of course, is “wage class American.”

That’s extremely common. Consider the recent standoff in Oregon between militia members and federal officials. While that was ongoing, wags in the blogosphere and the hip end of the media started referring to the militia members as “Y’all-Qaeda.” Attentive readers may have noted that none of the militia members came from the South—the only part of the United States where “y’all” is the usual second person plural pronoun. To the best of my knowledge, all of them came from the dryland West, where “y’all” is no more common than it is on the streets of Manhattan or Vancouver. Why, then, did the label catch on so quickly and get the predictable sneering laughter of the salary class?

It spread so quickly and got that laugh because most members of the salary class in the United States love to apply a specific stereotype to the entire American wage class. You know that stereotype as well as I do, dear reader. It’s a fat, pink-faced, gap-toothed Southern good ol’ boy in jeans and a greasy T-shirt, watching a NASCAR race on television from a broken-down sofa, with one hand stuffed elbow deep into a bag of Cheez Doodles, the other fondling a shotgun, a Confederate flag patch on his baseball cap and a Klan outfit in the bedroom closet. As a description of wage-earning Americans in general, that stereotype is as crass, as bigoted, and as politically motivated as any of the racial and sexual stereotypes that so many people these days are ready to denounce—but if you mention this, the kind of affluent white liberals who would sooner impale themselves on their own designer corkscrews than mention African-Americans and watermelons in the same paragraph will insist at the top of their lungs that it’s not a stereotype, it’s the way “those people” really are.

I see this a lot here in Florida. While "nigger" is as verboten here as it is most other places, "cracker" is fine because, ya know, all poor whites from Florida are a bunch of crackers. Therefore, is isn't racist/classist to point that out. Thems just facts.

Speaking of dog whistles, Counterpunch (which, as a relative pointed out to me, is an extreme liberal, probably socialist, maybe even communist web site) steps up to the plate with a beautiful example of exactly what John Michael was talking about with an article entitled Why Bill Clinton is Full of Shit. As much as I agree with the sentiment expressed in the title, I have to take exception to the article's insistence that drug laws are exclusively aimed at blacks. Plenty of poor whites have had their lives destroyed by our War on (some) Drugs. This article doesn't mention my favorite example (but plenty others on the site do); the difference in sentencing guidelines for powder vs. crack cocaine. This is always presented in terms of racist suburban whites beating down poor urban blacks. Again, I'm quite certain that substantial numbers of poor urban (and rural) whites did a nickel in the state pen for being busted with a couple rocks of crack while Wall Street types were getting slaps on their wrists for equivalent amounts of powder cocaine.

Then today over at Taki's Magazine (which, as a friend pointed out to me, is an extreme right-wing, probably fascist, maybe even neo-Nazi web site (it's so nice having all these people looking out for my mental/emotional well-being; like being a well-cared-for child)), there is this bit on what the author calls The Bubbafly Effect:

This need to surveil and control isn’t applied just to white people in power, but to any white person, male or female (though more commonly male). Why? Why does it matter so damn much to the members of racial, ethnic, and gender victim groups what average white folks are saying and doing?

Well, that’s where the Bubbafly Effect comes in. This is the belief that the words and actions of any white person, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can have ripple effects that will eventually harm a member of an officially sanctioned victim group. The words of the lowliest random white person—an average “bubba” from a hick county—can, like the seemingly inconsequential wind generated by a butterfly’s wings, grow in strength until some poor innocent nonwhite non-cis non-male is swept off “thems” feet (to use the proper PC pronoun) by a hurricane of hatred.

If Bootless Clem in Owsley County says “nigger,” it could create a ripple effect that leads to a proud young African-American genius being barred from admission to a prestigious Ivy League university. If Fartmaster Chad at Kegger House wears a tiny sombrero on his head during his frat’s “tequila sunrise” party, the ripple effects might lead to a brilliant Latino tech wizard being passed up for a job at a major Silicon Valley firm.

“Progressives” really believe this; they’ve just never given their operating theory a name. You’re welcome, lefties.

Again, all things must be seen through the lens of racism. Unless you happen to be John Michael Greer, who posted a follow-up to his post previously quoted from called American Naratives: The Rescue Game:

Here’s how it works. Each group of players is assigned one of three roles: Victim, Persecutor, or Rescuer. The first two roles are allowed one move each: the Victim’s move is to suffer, and the Persecutor’s move is to make the Victim suffer. The Rescuer is allowed two moves: to sympathize with the Victim and to punish the Persecutor. No other moves are allowed, and no player is allowed to make a move that belongs to a different role.
....
There’s one other rule: the game must go on forever. The Victim must continue to suffer, the Persecutor must continue to persecute, and the Rescuer must continue to sympathize and punish. Anything that might end the game—for example, any actual change in the condition of the Victim, or any actual change in the behavior of the Persecutor—is therefore out of bounds. The Rescuer also functions as a referee, and so it’s primarily his or her job to see that nothing gets in the way of the continuation of the game, but all players are expected to help out if that should be necessary.
....
A variant of that game still goes on in the pseudoconservative end of American politics. When Hillary Clinton went out of her way to characterize African-American youth as “superpredators” not that many years ago, she was playing a version of that same game, in which law-abiding white citizens were the Victims, black youth were the Persecutors, and white politicians were the Rescuers. On the other end of the political spectrum, of course, the roles are reversed; in games played on that field, people of color are the Victims, working class white people are the Persecutors, and affluent white liberals are the Rescuers. The players have changed places but the game’s otherwise identical.
....
It’s only fair to note that each of the three roles gets certain benefits, though these are distributed in a very unequal fashion. The only thing the people who are assigned the role of Persecutor get out of it is plenty of negative attention. Sometimes that’s enough—it’s a curious fact that hating and being hated can function as an intoxicant for some people—but this is rarely enough of an incentive to keep those assigned the Persecutor’s role willing to play the game for long.

The benefits that go to people who are assigned the role of Victim are somewhat more substantial. Victims get to air their grievances in public, which is a rare event for the underprivileged, and they also get to engage in socially sanctioned bullying of people they don’t like, which is an equally rare treat. That’s all they get, though. In particular, despite reams of the usual rhetoric about redressing injustices and the like, the Victims are not supposed to do anything, or to expect the Rescuers to do anything, to change the conditions under which they live. The opportunities to air grievances and bully others are substitutes for substantive change, not—as they’re usually billed—steps toward substantive change.

The vast majority of the benefits of the game, rather, go to the Rescuers. They’re the ones who decide which team of Victims will get enough attention from Rescuers to be able to start a game.  They’re the ones who enforce the rules, and thus see to it that Victims keep on being victimized and Persecutors keep on persecuting.  Nor is it accidental that in every Rescue Game, the people who get the role of Rescuers are considerably higher on the ladder of social privilege than the people who get given the roles of Victims and Persecutors.

All of which goes a long way in explaining the Bubbafly Effect.

OK; I'm going to quit before this gets as long as War and Peace. As always, follow the links and read the quoted articles in their entirety.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Summer Arrives

Typical of Florida, we went to bed during the middle of winter and woke up in the middle of summer. I don't think we've ever lived anyplace where you can have a frost/freeze warning one night, then 48 hours later it's getting up into the high 80's during the day and only down into the low 70's at night.

Which means the grass has grown about a foot since Sunday, so I should really be outside doing that instead of doing this. But this involves less sweat.

A nice little bit about Millennials in the workplace:




Anyone who happens to have the "pleasure" of working with 20-somethings probably won't find it all that humorous. We don't have many as members at the lodge, but we do have a fairly steady stream of them coming to us to do their community service for various legal infractions, like shoplifting (the preferred shopping method of Millennials). "You want me to clean? I have a bad back/asthma/fibro/sensitive skin! Is there something else you have for me to do?" Oh, sure snooky. Tell ya what; set your thieving ass down at my desk and count all the cash that came in yesterday, and I'll go clean up spilled beer.

Not that Boomers (who used to refer to themselves as the Me Generation) are much better. Of all the personality types that don't age well, it's hard to top narcissism. Trust me on that; I'm surrounded by it all day every day. "Ugly" is the most polite term I can come up with.

I had to laugh this morning at a headline on Yahoo Finance: Trader: Listen to Yellen, ignore fundamentals. It ends with this bit of day-trader wisdom:

I suppose that fundamentals and the cash flow of a company will once again reign supreme in valuations, but until the market sheds all the outside influence that has been baked in over the last 7 years, I will continue to look at the market influences that have little to do with the operations of a company.

The author of this drivel is none other than Keith Bliss (no, seriously; you can't make this stuff up), Director of Sales and Marketing for cuttone & company. (The mis-capitalization of the company name is from their website. Um, guys? The all-lower-case-cuz-we're-so-cool thing stopped being cool about two decades ago.) What Keith (keith?) is saying is that price discovery has been completely shattered by the Fed attempting to prop up the stock markets. But that's OK; all retail investors have to do is keep chasing yield while racking up lots of brokerage fees for Keith and his buddies at c&c.

We're so screwed.

And this post is now a week old. I forgot to hit publish.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Survival

So I survived my first go-live in about a decade. Everything is more-or-less up and running and the bartenders are getting comfortable with the system. We still have some back-end issues to work out, but we are already getting some good information that we've never had before. Like just how much free alcohol we give away. And how much just goes missing. I predict the next bartender meeting will be rather... um... lively.

In other news, Debbie is back to work after another bout of whatever it is that is wrong with her neck/arm/wrist/whatever. This is the third time she's been through this. The first two times, she just took a few days off and it got better. This time was far worse and is still hanging on over a month later. We spent a few bajillion dollars on bone guys and nerve guys and x-rays and the consensus is that there isn't anything wrong. Nothing, that is, other than the debilitating numbness, tingling and pain that goes from the side of her face, down her neck, across her back and down her arm to her fingers. But other than that, everything looks good. We could spend another bajillion or so dollars on still more tests that may or may not reveal anything more useful than the universal shrug she's gotten so far. Or we could spend a few tens of dollars on the only person in Pasco county that is actually doing something to alleviate her symptoms: The Frank Clinic of Chiropractic & Natural Health Care. So much for the medical/industrial complex accomplishing anything useful with the 20% of GDP they consume every year.

Speaking of which, my doctor down at the ghetto clinic was concerned about a spot on my foot and referred me to a local podiatrist. I went a couple weeks ago and of course the only solution was to drive down to Tampa so I could hand over $3K for them to chop on my feet. Oh, and I wouldn't be able to work for a couple weeks. No big deal, right? I flat out told them, "No." From their expressions, you would have thought I had farted in their faces. Debbie's been off completely or on a reduced schedule since the first part of February, and money has been flowing out of our bank account like water from a fire hose trying to get some answers. We don't have an extra $3K just lying around, nor can I take two weeks off work during the absolutely crazy-busiest month at the lodge. Not. Gonna. Happen.

After a lot of arm waving and dire warnings that they might have to chop off my entire foot if I delayed surgery, they agreed to monitor my foot for now and do the surgery later. After two weeks, my foot is essentially healed up and the podiatrist was forced to admit that surgery was not, in fact, immediately necessary, and told me to call when I was ready for the surgery or if my foot started oozing anything.

And the secret ingredient in the secret ingredient noodle soup? Honey. Did it actually help? Who knows? All I do know is that instead of $3K+2 weeks lost wages for a foot surgery, we spent five bucks on big Band-Aids and used a few drops of honey we already had in the pantry. So don't expect the medical/industrial complex to jump all over that.

So I hear there's this whole Trump thing still going on. Last time I saw his bad toupee, he was making excuses for the implosion of yet-another of his "brilliant" ideas that made him millions while wiping out the fools who invested in whatever boondoggle he had cooked up. On the one hand, I just don't see how anyone can take this ass clown seriously. He obviously doesn't take himself seriously, with all the insanity and lies he spews every time a TV camera gets within a half-mile. On the other hand, given the endless failures of... well... pretty much everything the US has attempted in the last couple decades, Trump's string of failures, loose grip on reality and inability to tell the truth may make him the most qualified candidate we've seen in a long time. Especially when the alternatives are complete nut-jobs like Cruz. Not that the Democrats have anything better to offer; there it's either Ms It's-My-Turn staring down an indictment for numerous breaches of national security, or some fossilized socialist who hasn't said anything relevant since I was in elementary school. One reason why I'm just staying home. Again.

And my home town is back in the news:


If no one ends up in prison for this, we owe Charles Manson an apology.

Well, I was able to escape from work a little early today, so I should do something productive, like get our tax return filed. Or maybe just take a nap. One of those things.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Twas the Night Before Go Live

'Twas the night before go live and all through the house,
   Not a program was working, not a keyboard or mouse.
The programmers stared at their tubes in despair,
   With hopes that a miracle soon would be there.
The users were nestled all snug in their beds,
   While visions of QIOs danced in their heads.
When out of the basement there arose such a clatter,
   I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
   But a super programmer (with a six-pack of beer).
His resume glowed with experience so rare,
   He turned out great code with a bit-pusher's flair.
More rapid than eagles, his programs they came,
   And he cursed and muttered and called them by name,
On Update/ On Transfer/ On Build/ On Delete/
   On Batch Jobs/ On Closings/ On Functions Complete/
His eyes were glazed over, fingers nimble and lean,
   From weekends and nights in front of a screen.
A wink of his eye and a twitch of his head,
   Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
   Turning specs into code; then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger upon the "ENTER" key,
   The system came up and worked perfectly.
The updates updated; the deletes, they deleted;
   The transfers transferred, and the closings completed.
He tested each whistle, and tested each bell,
   With nary a bomb, and all had gone well.
The system was finished, the tests were concluded,
   The users' last changes were even included.
And the user exclaimed with a snarl and a taunt,
   "It's just what I asked for, but not what I want!"

So yea. Today is likely the last day I will see the sun for a couple weeks. The lodge is going live on their new Point of Sale system tomorrow morning, which means I will likely be living at work for the next several days, at least.

I think we are ready, but something like this you never really know. I do know there is going to be push back from some employees as well as some of the patrons. The pricing of certain items has been, shall we say, flexible to the point that many of the members shop around to find who will sell them what they want the cheapest. Or give it to them for free. There is a lot of that as well. The system won't fix that completely, but it will make it much easier to spot and to put an end to it one way or another.

So that will consume my life for the next week or so. It's going to be worth it in the long run, but getting there is going to be interesting.

In other news, Debbie is back at work half-time after a three-week hiatus due to pain, numbness and tingling all down her right arm. The current theory is that there is some sort of nerve issue going on in her neck, but of course just confirming that means endless visits to multiple doctors and money pouring out in every direction like water. The worst part is we already know there won't be any real solution; once again the pain will subside on its own with no help from the Medical-Industrial Complex until the next time it flares up for no apparent reason. (This the third time this has happened since we moved to Florida. Each time it's a little worse and lasts a little longer.)

Assholes. Have I mentioned lately how much I loath healthcare?

In any case, she will be back to full-time work on Monday. The only place she has been that has any idea what to do or seems to help is The Frank Clinic of Chiropractic & Natural Health Care. Each visit costs us a fraction of what any of the "mainstream" "health providers" charge, and they actually do something rather than just talk about endless tests and visits to talk about the tests. Or if we are talking about the local ghetto clinic, charge for the tests then never give the results until we've nagged them for a couple weeks.

Shifting gears over to solar electricity for a bit: Back in January, John Michael Greer predicted that grid-tied utility-scale photovoltaics would be the new fracking now that the air is whooshing out of that particular bubble. He posted a follow-up last week. It seems things are moving even faster than he expected:

Climate activist Naomi Oreskes helped launch that new tone with a diatribe in the mass media insisting that questioning whether renewable energy sources can power industrial society amounts to “a new form of climate denialism.” The same sort of rhetoric has begun to percolate all through the greenward end of things: an increasingly angry insistence that renewable energy sources are by definition the planet’s only hope, that of course the necessary buildout can be accomplished fast enough and on a large enough scale to matter, and that no one ought to be allowed to question these articles of faith.

You really need to hit the link and read the entire article. Once again, here is my take on solar in general and photovoltaics in particular from the perspective of someone who has actually lived off-grid. It can be done. It is impossible. Depends on what "It" is. If "It" means living in less than 500 square feet and making modest amounts of electricity to run a laptop, a couple lights, a small high-efficiency 'fridge and a small TV used only on sunny days, then yea. It can be done. If instead you define "It" in the same way that the typical environmentalist does, meaning a 3,000 square foot McMansion lit up like an airport runway, with central air, a half-dozen 100" TV's, at least one computer, gaming system, tablet and smart phone per resident all running flat out 24/7, with enough juice left over to charge up a couple electric minivans, then no. It is impossible. Not even if you covered every square inch of the state of New Mexico with PV panels bought with money waved into existence with the Fed's magic QE wand.

Not that solar is useless. Some people use renewables for their entire energy budget. But they don't live anything like a typical middle-class American lifestyle. The idea that utility companies can just take their coal-fired plants offline and slap up a few solar panels and no one will ever know the difference is completely absurd. There is a Duke Energy ad that runs every once in a while down here in Florida. The basic message is that there are all these smart, hard-working people with all the latest high-tech gear that keep the power on so I don't have to even think when I reach for a light switch. First, anyone who has ever lived off-grid will never again take for granted flipping a light switch and having a light come on. Trust me on that. There is no colder cold or darker dark than the cold and dark when the batteries run out of juice at 3am when it is -20F, and you are outside trying desperately to get a cranky generator to start so the water pipes don't freeze. Been there, done that, ain't goin' back.

But more importantly, that unthinking switch flipping attitude does not work when your power is being supplied by intermittent renewables like wind and solar. Electricity from fossil fuels is essentially unlimited. (OK; not really, as a hundred or so households find out every Christmas when they plug in too many lights and burn their house down. But so abundant that it takes real effort to hit the limits.) It doesn't matter what time of day, or what the weather is like, or the time of year. If you want to plug something in and turn it on, you just do it. Renewables don't work that way.

And that's leaving aside the insane notion that the massive amounts of money needed to build out significant solar and wind electrical generation will just fall from the sky. For many years, there has been a large (taxpayer-subsidized, of course) build-out of windmills with the average year-over-year increase in capacity running more than 25% for a decade, and yet wind accounts for a measly 4.5% of electricity generated in the United States. Photovoltaics, at less than on-half of one percent, are a rounding error. Boosting those number up to a significant fraction of current electrical generation would involve an unimaginable increase in manufacturing and installation capacity over anything that exists today.

None of which will make any difference. After all, if there is anything left of your pension after the fracking bubble gets done with it, it will need to be invested in something, so why not put the last of your life savings in some nice, safe debt used to build out a bunch of solar farms so Jamie Diamond and the boys over at Goldman Sachs can make a few more billions while you take yet-another hit to your net worth when it all goes spiraling down the drain in a few years?