Friday, May 28, 2010

A Little Break

After we both take care of some work-related stuff tomorrow, we are heading down to party-crash at Debbie's brother's place in the afternoon. We plan on being back here sometime late on Monday because I need to do some work Tuesday to make up for my slackerlyness this week. Debbie doesn't have to be back to work until Wednesday and I probably could take an extra day off, but with Concord/Boston looking for any reason to fire people, the extra day isn't worth losing however much more I can milk out of this job.

The weather has cooled down a bit after a pretty fierce line of thunderstorms rolled through here. A good chunk of our county had the power knocked out, but ours never flickered. That's amazing because our power usually goes out for a couple hours if a bunny farts. In any case, it was sure nice to be out walking around without sweat pouring down my face like earlier this week. I didn't think a few years in Arizona would make us so maladapted to high humidity, but the first part of the week nearly killed us both.

Did I mention we plan to move to Florida?

At least we won't be anywhere near the Gulf coast. I looks like the latest attempt is failing to even slow down the oil pouring into the Gulf. But damn if our President doesn't look so presidential standing there on the beach all Johnny-on-the-Spot. I know I feel better. Don't you feel better? I'll bet all those Louisiana shrimpers feel better. Maybe a red cape to go with his dress shirt with the sleeves all rolled up like he mean bidness.

Enough. It's a holiday. Everyone have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Heat Wave

Summer got here in a big way this week; three days of sun, humidity and high 80's and 90's. We figure it's good training for Florida, especially with me working outside. Not that I've been working all that much the last couple days. I can't seem to get motivated, probably because I know that I'll have completely sweated out my clothes about an hour after I walk out the door. And because I work for amoral bastards, but that's a whole 'nother story.

It looks like we will be spending Memorial Weekend with some of Debbie's family. We're really hoping the weather holds; we haven't really spent any time at the ocean here in New England since we got here, so we're looking forward to seeing what it's like this far north. It's also a chance to just get away from here for a couple days, which will certainly be a nice change of pace. The worst part of working out of the house is that it's like I'm at work 7x24. Just walking away from the pile on the dining room table is going to feel so good.

Yet another attempt is being made to plug the massive geyser of oil pouring into the Gulf. It's pretty much a coin-toss if it will work or make things worse. But never fear, a tax increase will fix everything. If I had any hint of a suggestion that this money would go to the oil-spill equivalent of a fire department (who spend the 99.9% of their time that they are not fighting fires drilling, testing new equipment and methods, and working on prevention), I'd be all for it. But it is obvious that the existing tax did no such thing, so what tripling that tax will accomplish other than joining the existing revenue down a rat hole isn't clear to me.

Hope-n-Change still thinks he's in Chicago where dead people routinely vote and government positions are auctioned off like cattle. This guy is a real piece of work; the King of the Nuts.

The shuttle program took another step towards winding down. By the end of this year, the United States will no longer have a man-rated launch vehicle and will be reduced to begging rides from Russia. For now, the private sector is going full-out to pick up the slack. Godspeed Falcon 9.

Well, it's probably time to try to get some sleep so I'll wrap it up for the night.

Granny J, RIP

I just discovered that Granny J, author of the Walking Prescott blog and organizer of the informal Prescott Bloggers meetings, died Monday. Julie was one of the many people who made us feel at home during our time in Prescott.

May you rest in peace, Julie.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Just Checking In

It's been awhile since I made a trip around the internet, so after finishing The Long Descent by John M. Greer, I thought I'd see what's new in the world:

Oil still pouring into the Gulf? Check.
Everyone still pointing fingers and covering asses instead of working the problem? Check.
Morally defective politicians using a major disaster for personal gain? Check.
Hope-n-Change still a shameless whore? Check.
Al Sharpton still a racist media whore? Check.
Socialism proves to be an utterly bankrupt economic system for the bajillionth time? Check.
The US still looking at $1 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see? Check.
The real economy still sucking up the place? Check.
Politicians still morally-defective liars? Check and Check.

Guess I didn't miss much.

Working for the census is proving all the worst things you ever heard about federal employees to be grossly understated. Over the last few days, a number of things have come up that pretty much makes the whole mess a waste of time even for its most basic function of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. But as federal fiascoes go, it's a fairly cheap one in both blood and treasure compared to other recent foreign and domestic adventures. I get paid $15/hour and $.50/mile to waste a great deal of time while not accomplishing much; the upside is that money will likely do a great deal more for the local economy than TARP ever will, and it doesn't feel as pointless as being paid to dig holes then fill them in, even if it likely is.

Today, the weather was perfect, so I blew off census for a day and we drove out to a local cemetery and took a bunch of pictures. We mostly focused on the old monuments towards the front from the late 19th century and early 20th century, but we did take a few shots of some of the fancy new ones. We didn't spend much time in the new part; with Memorial Day next weekend, there were a lot of people out dressing things up, putting out flags, etc. For some reason, a couple people wandering around taking photos seemed to make them a bit suspicious. I know! Some people, right? So we wandered back down to the old part before someone decided to make a scene.

OK; enough of this internet stuff; The Ecotechnic Future awaits!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sleepless in Swanzey

Morning All!

Not sure why, but I've been up since around 2am and still not really tired enough to try to go back to bed.

We've done more bike riding this past week. Sunday we did two separate rides, missed a couple days due to rain, but got at least a short bike ride in every other day this week. Last night we did a short ride and then walked over again to the ball park next to our complex to watch a ladies' softball game.

Memorial weekend after I get out of work on Saturday, we are heading down to Steve/Tammy's place. This is so cool to be close to them. Not so cool that I have to work every other weekend, so we can't go all the time. (Not that they may want us EVERY weekend! LOL)

My Mom is flying out in June to visit and come for Madison's graduation. I can't wait to see her again when she is NOT in a hospital bed. She is doing better --- still having problems with the foot, but the heart is doing great. I hope to have her spirit, determination and support group if/when I ever have to go through major surgery. She is such an inspiration!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer at Last

I'm almost afraid to utter the "S" word, but the last couple of days actually feel like summer: warm and sunny. Which lets me work on my "census tan" that I'm sure will be a big hit at the beach this summer. We took advantage of the nice weather yesterday to put some miles on the bikes. Near as we can figure, we rode somewhere between 4 and 5 miles (not all at once; we're not like nuts or anything). That may not sound impressive, but that was more miles in one day than we've ridden in the rest of 2010 combined. We keep saying we're going to ride every day, but it ends up being more like once a month. Maybe we'll do better now that we don't have to bundle up in parkas.

Both of our jobs continue pretty much as they have been going. I was talking to the crew leader today about how long it looked like we were going to take to wrap the census thing up. He said the head office had figured the whole thing would take three weeks. We've completed 10% of the work in the first two weeks. I'm certain we will be kicking out more work now that everyone has a better idea of what we are doing, but I seriously doubt we will complete everything in a week. Meanwhile, Debbie's work is slowing down now that the busy season is wrapping up. Nothing unusual or unexpected, but it does mean the end of monthly bonuses, which were helping us a bit. Ah well; looks like less steak and more Hamburger Helper for a while.

Of course, nothing has changed with the undersea oil fountain in the Gulf, but BP was confident in their latest attempt to slow down the amount of oil pouring into the ocean. Management always is. And they are almost always wrong. Work continues on a permanent solution, but it will take months to complete. Meanwhile, 5,000 (or 50,000 or [insert random large number here]) barrels of oil gushes into the ocean.

Air travel in Europe may be permanently altered thanks to Iceland's collection of volcanoes. Given that most airlines are operating right at the ragged edge of solvency (or somewhere below that edge), I'm not real clear how they can absorb a decade or more of constant disruption.

One of the biggest dangers in giving a person or group of persons nearly unlimited power is that they will inevitably abuse it, whether that means using full-body scanners to check a co-workers pecker size or doing a little snooping around in the private lives of completely innocent people. After all, what sense is there in having power if you can't use/abuse it?

Well, lunch break is over and I need to go pick up Debbie from work and do some more census work.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Slog, Slog

Still working census, although yesterday was a close call; damn near told someone higher up the food chain where they could put their forms after folding them until they were all points. But I just walked out of the room instead and later got a not-really apology via phone. Otherwise, the thing continues. I'm taking most of today off so I have time over the weekend to try to hit the last of the vacation houses I have left, then another binder is done. Onward!

I mentioned in the last post how it was starting to get summer-ish. I take it back. Night-time temps have been down in the 30's and 40's and the highest daytime temp for the last week was in the low 60's. And rain. But it's May, so rain isn't entirely unexpected. And at least it isn't snow. So there's that. This weekend is supposed to be nice, so I'm going to be out banging on the last of the doors and maybe doing some photography around the lake where I've been working census.

Best quote I've seem all week:

He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. "They were just assuming home prices would keep going up."

The full context of the quote is a review of the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Another book for the to-be-read pile. And never forget; these douche nozzles think they are the smartest people in the world. A coffee can buried in the back yard looks better by the minute.

Many of the stories today seem to involve a certain lack of math skills:

Health care will cost double the original estimate.
Oil pouring into the Gulf at far higher rate that original estimate.
Governor gives out huge pay raises as part of budget cuts.

I know our schools suck dead bunnies, but is there anyone that can at least add?

I should go do some laundry and work on finishing up my book today. I may do a bit of census phone work later this afternoon, but mostly just hide inside on a cold, wet day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Change of Emphasis

If anyone is still reading this, you will notice a lighter posting schedule as of late. We finally found a local library that didn't want to charge us $50/yr for a library card. It's small, but they do have a nice shelf of classics which I'm working my way through. That means a lot less time on-line, which translates into fewer posts here. Besides that, summer is somewhat here (it's still rather cold most of the time), and we plan to spend it outside with the camera. Or maybe I'm just bored with the whole internet thing right now. I feel like I keep reading the same news stories over and over: Europe is Bankrupt! Oil Still Pouring into the Gulf! Politicians Point Fingers! Billions Supposed to be Spent on Preparing Weren't! Europe is Still Bankrupt! Big Banks Still Don't Get Why We're Pissed at Them! The US Economy Sucks! The US Economy Sucks Part II! The US Economy Sucks Slightly Less! President Appoints Unqualified Friend from Chicago! People Paid to Not Work Don't!

Facebook. I continue my tolerate-hate relationship with FB. When FB Purity is working and I have the time, it's not the worst way to spend a half-hour. The rest of the time, it's just more pain than it is worth. I haven't been on in a few days now mostly because of that whole reading flat dead trees thing. I'm not saying I'm on hiatus like I did a few months back, but I definitely won't be making any special effort to get on or to read everything I missed. In any case, the most popular status updates seem to be "I didn't send everyone those porno videos! Honest!" and "I got a virus from [fill in the blank] application!" so maybe FB has become as much of a tar pit as e-mail. And the computer-generated status updates. That's special on so many levels....

The census job continues. I finally finished up my first binder yesterday. The whole process took way longer that it should have, mostly due to me not really knowing what I was doing, plus losing a couple days because I was feeling... not really sick, just icky. And the apartment block turned out to be a significant challenge. The new binder I started yesterday doesn't have any apartment complexes, but around 20% of the houses are summer cottages on a lake, which again is something that I haven't had to deal with before. I expect this will take some time. The initial circuit took me nine hours just to find all the buildings.

Because people aren't suspicious enough of census workers, someone posing as one has murdered someone. If they don't have a badge, don't open the door.

A senior center in Georgia has told the seniors they can no longer pray out loud before they eat their federally-subsidized food due to first amendment concerns. A little stupid, in my opinion, and this particular interpretation would shock the people who wrote our constitution (as would federal tax money being used to put on subsidized lunches for old people). But the answer is pretty simple for the "outraged" Mayor Jones: don't take federal tax money and you can pretty much do as you damn well please.

I've been saying for years that excluding people strictly on the basis of their race is, by definition, racism. It doesn't matter what color is being excluded. That this happened in an elementary school in the most loony-lefty-liberal city in Michigan tells you pretty much all you need to know about the hole that neo-liberalism has dug itself into. If liberals want race to stop being an issue, then maybe they should stop making race an issue even when there is absolutely no reason for it to be an issue. It was a field trip for the gods sake. But of course if race were to ever not be an issue, what would we need the loony-left for?

Well, I need to take Debbie to work and get going on more census stuff.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Settling In

I'm starting to settle into a routine of sorts with this whole census thing, although yesterday was extremely frustrating. I put in the closest thing to a full day so far and ended up with less to show for it. I'm going to try something different today and maybe get productivity up. And a note to the "foreign born": the census is something we do here in the US; if you don't like it, go back to where ever it is you came from.

Not much else happening with us personally other than hunkering down and making as much money as possible before we start heading south. We still don't have anything like a firm time line, but we will not be renewing our lease, which runs out the first part of November. I doubt we will be allowed out of our lease given the high vacancy rate here, so we most likely won't be leaving significantly before that. But if someone in Florida makes the right offer, we'll be jumping and damn the lease.

The author of the Archdruid Report has been making reference to various "smoke plumes" around the world. Some are literal like the renewed ash cloud being pumped out of one of Iceland's smaller volcanoes. Some are metaphorical, like the recent gyrations on Wall Street, which may or may not be the result of human error, compounded (or not) by computerized trading. Nobody is really sure and the stock exchanges are arbitrarily canceling out trades. Butterfly Effect, anyone?  And then we have Greece where we see the perfect example of a metaphorical smoke plume turning into a literal one. Meanwhile, as Greece and the other PIIGS consume Europe's attention, we have the UK spiraling into the debt hole while their political system continues to break down.

Oh, in case anyone cares, Freddie Mac just slipped a little note to Congress asking for another $10 billion or so. Because our federal government has piles of cash layin' around just waiting for someone to need it, unlike all those silly, debt-ridden European countries.

America's funniest unintentional comedian, Al Sharpton, is spouting his usual line of Marxist nonsense. All I can say is, you first Al. There is nothing in this world stopping you from donating all your millions to whomever you like, and moving into a Detroit slum. Or are you more equal than the rest of your people?

A TSA worker was arrested after beating a coworker with a nightstick. It seems that after being subjected to one of those fancy new virtual strip-searches during a training exercise, he went a little nuts due to all the jokes about his dick size. Aside from the basic story once-again revealing that the full-body scanners are a public strip search (and a violation of not only the Constitution but basic human dignity), there are lots of juicy little tidbits. Like the fact that it was a supervisor that started the penis jokes. And that the TSA employs people who not only resort to beating someone with a nightstick to force them to get on their knees and apologize, but then simply show up to work the next day like nothing happened. These are the people who are keeping us safe from terrorists.

I'm sure everyone has seen the world's most horrifying Powerpoint slide by now. The linked article talks about the military's "obsession" with Powerpoint like they are the only ones who suffer from Powerpoint-itis. Anyone who has worked in any company with more than five employees knows it's far more wide-spread than that. General McMaster nails the real problem: “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control.” Listening Wall Street? Hello? (shrug)

I was hoping that all the typing would make me tired, but I guess I'm up for the day at 4:30am. Looks like I'm back on my no-sleep schedule. I thought being outside walking around all day would fix that, but after a few "normal" days, I'm back to five hours of sleep a night. On the bright side, I'll have loads of time to write long, rambling blog posts.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Peak Loo-Roll

We've all heard about peak oil and peak coal; now it's peak toilet paper:

The reason? Quite simply, that the disappearance of newsprint and magazines, the replacement of letters by e-mail and other forms of digital comms, the continual shift of records off paper and into databases - all these mean that there is less and less high-quality paper available for recycling every year.

What that means to you personally is a bleak future of scratchy, abrasive, fiercely painful lavatory paper - probably strictly rationed, to boot....

This means that the only hope for the Western lifestyle is increasingly advanced bumwad chemicals technology, enabling paper to be recycled more and more times. But achieving this is by no means certain. It may well be that the Western lavatory paper of today represents a pinnacle of human achievement that will never be seen again: future generations, nether regions rendered tough and horny by brutally coarse hygiene products or implements yet unknown, will look back on the early 21st century as a long-lost golden age of restroom comfort.

You gotta love a place where you can read terms like "bumwad" and "cleftwipe" in the daily paper. May there always be an England. (Prediction: someone will land on this page after Google-ing one of those terms.)

Latest word on my census job is that there is a limited amount of materials ready for us to tackle. I have a meeting at 1pm today to pick up what I need to keep busy for at least a couple days. We've heard through the grape vine that the offices are in chaos due to computer problems. Now the GAO has made it official that the 2010 Census will likely be a fiasco. And contrary to rumors, the enumerators that will be knocking on doors will not have hand-held computers; we will have paper forms and #2 pencils.

When is zero not actually zero? When it's a zero-energy house:

We are not including the use of natural gas or water into our "Zero Energy" calculations.

The "Zero Energy" refers to electrical use only.

So the way to build a zero-energy house is to ignore the energy used for heating, hot water and cooking, which is the vast bulk of a house's energy budget. Got it. I didn't realize that I had a zero-energy car; it uses exactly the same amount of electricity as it generates. I just solved the world's energy problems. Go me.

Speaking of energy, there is a lot of talk about smart meters and smart grids. What most people don't realize is that these not only allow the power company to remotely cut off all power to your house for any reason or no reason at all, but when combined with smart appliances, it will allow the utility to alter thermostat settings and what not if you are determined to be using more than your fair share. Our future's so bright I gotta wear shades....

(I just realized that I've linked to the the UK Register three times today; given the tabloid-ish nature of nearly all UK print media, that's probably not a good habit.)

BP is attempting to stop the gusher blowing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Lets all cross our fingers and hope this works because if not, the back-up plan will take months while oil continues to pour into the Gulf at 5,000 barrels a day. The finger-pointing and lawsuits are also starting in earnest. Again, if you want to know who's really at fault, go look in a mirror.

Just when you thought it was safe to fly to Europe, our friendly volcano lets out another belch. You may want to consider vacationing within driving distance as this will continue on-and-off for the next year or so.

We need to go for a bike ride and I have to get all the accounting stuff caught up before my 1pm meeting, so time to get off the computer.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Ric is making WAFFLES for breakfast!

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I'm stuck in census limbo. It's now a certainty that I won't be starting work on Monday, and maybe not on Tuesday. Last word had our supply boxes in Concord and no vehicle large enough to distribute them to the field. So they sit in Concord. Which really doesn't matter because all the maps and address lists that tell us which doors to bang on are no where to be seen. All of which is fine as it stretches the completion date closer to when we will be bugging out of this gods-forsaken place and I won't need to bother with finding another job until we get to Florida.

Having Monday off will come in handy, so the census chaos isn't all bad. I finally got word back from the IRS, and I am the proud owner of an ERO number, meaning I can now file your tax return electronically directly with the IRS (and any state) without having to pay to use an intermediary. I need to make some phone calls to Intuit regarding their two tax products and nail down pricing so I can decide which one I'll be using next tax season. I also need to arrange for sending through some test returns and other such minutia. I also need to look into what Intuit has been up to lately with the client write-up version of Quickbooks. I haven't taken a serious look at it since the version that ran on Win3.1 and have no real knowledge of it. I heard a rumor that a local CPA teaches classes on using it, but I don't know who or when. Maybe I can find that out on my day off as well.

So maybe "day off" isn't the correct term.

The world is ending. Glendale, AZ has laid off ten, TEN people. Of course, they are also leaving 22 police and fire positions unfilled. Of course. But TEN WHOLE PEOPLE. Gods have mercy.

Christians have been trying to de-gayify people for a long time. A guy in my school was sent off to one of these de-gayification camps in the 1970's to get "cured." A reporter recently spent some time undercover, so to speak, at one of these in Arizona. The story wanders back and forth between weird and disturbing. But his conversation with a fellow camper after it was all over is a key take-away for any homosexual who may be contemplating plunking down cash to be de-gayified (or any parent bent on de-gayifying a son or daughter):

“C’mon, do you really think straight men go off into the woods and hold each other?” I demand. “What about that all-night holding session you told me about? Does that sound like something straight guys do?”

Things may get weird in deer camp, but not that weird.

Next we have a school principal that may challenge my general loathing for public school officials:

Please do the following: sit down with your child (and they are just children still) and tell them that they are not allowed to be a member of any social networking site. Today!

Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online! You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.

Let them know that you will be installing Parental Control Software so you can tell every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend. Don't install it behind their back, but install it!"

Wow. Parents being asked, asked, by a school official to act like parents. No cops handcuffing 6-year-olds or demanding new laws or social services intervention. The world really is ending.

(And why exactly does an 8th-grader have a fracking iPhone in the first place?)

In case anyone was wondering how General Motors, which is still losing billions, paid back their government loans, the short answer is, they didn't:

GM is using government money to pay back government money to get more government money. And at a 2% lower interest rate at that. This is a nifty scheme to refinance GM's government debt--not pay it back!

How can you tell when the politician-appointed head of a government-owned corporation is lying? His lips are moving.

More on the new law in Arizona that insists that law enforcement enforce the law. As most articles do, this one simply glosses over the distinction between legal and illegal immigration, as well as displaying the typical lack of comprehension east-coasters have of the Southwest. As I said before, this is a bad law, especially in the hands of a corrupt, power-mad sheriffs department. But people in Arizona are simply fed up waiting for the Imperial City to act.

And then add a bit of gasoline on the fire. It could turn out to be a long, hot summer in Arizona.

Oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, and it looks to continue for some time:

BP PLC, the oil giant that leased the rig whose sinking last week caused the disaster, has failed in efforts using unmanned submarines to activate a shutoff device on the undersea well.

A stopgap solution BP is planning—covering the well with containers and pumping the oil out—will take weeks to roll out and is untested at the one-mile depth of this well, however. BP said it would begin working this weekend on a permanent solution to the crisis, drilling a new hole to cut off the damaged well, but industry scientists said that could take months.

The blowout preventer, immersed in mile-deep near-freezing water, failed to prevent a blowout. It's backup system is also non-functioning. Neither of the alternative measures have been tried at this depth and it is an open question whether either will work, and even if they do work, the best case scenario is several weeks of oil pouring into the ocean at 5,000 (or maybe 25,000) barrels a day.

And while the oil slick will have huge repercussions on fisheries, never forget that 11 people died (quickly, if they were lucky), and their families will likely never have a body to bury. Their deaths will certainly be blamed on corporate greed and faulty preventers, but in truth, we are all to blame.

Well, I'm off to spread some good cheer elsewhere.

April by the Numbers

Between wrapping up tax season and starting the census training, we didn't do a lot of posting in April and it showed in the number of visits: only 215. The time of year may have a lot to do with it as well; I'm sure the nice weather has been tempting people away from their keyboards. A least until the bugs, heat and humidity drives everyone back inside.

Anyway. Numbers. In terms of operating systems, at least among our readers, nothing may as well exist outside of Microsoft. Uncle Bill accounted for nearly 92% of visits. Two-thirds of those were still running XP and most of the rest were on Vista. Win7 was nearly tied by WinNT. That's gotta hurt. I keep hearing about all the millions of new PC's with Win7, but they ain't readin' this place. I'll repeat; if you are running Vista, you owe it to yourself to get Win7. If you're running XP, the upgrade is more difficult and your hardware may not support it, but you really should look into it. It's that good.

Browsers were a bit more of a mixed bag with Internet Explorer just below the 50% line, Firefox holding at a touch over 30% and Chrome at 14%. The story in that data is the success Microsoft has had in getting everyone up to IE8; there were only a handful of visits from any of the older versions of IE while Firefox users were twice as likely to be running an older version.

Search terms continue to be intriguing. The top term was "Paolo Soleri" combined with other terms, not always flattering. For example, "scam" was frequently paired with it. Interest continues in rainbow-farting unicorns. A lot of interest. A disturbing level of interest. As for the most unusual search term, I'm sure it's probably one of the most common search strings entered into Google; what makes it unusual is that it brought the person here: "sucking huge tits."

Which is as good a place to wrap this as any.