Monday, June 28, 2010

Wish me Luck

Two weeks from today, I will be interviewing for a new job in Florida.

More Photos

Forgot to link to the latest batch of photos: Touring around New England.

Speaking of photos and hard drives, this is what 5MB looked like in 1956:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stimulatin' the Economy

We spent the entire morning spending money from the comfort of our apartment; Debbie was putting in her quarterly Stampin' Up order and I was going crazy on Amazon buying geek stuff. The bulk of my order was a second Drobo and a pair of 2TB drives to plop into it, plus some new drives to use for backup now that I've blown way past what will fit on my existing external backup drive. When it's all set up, I should have around 3.5TB of on-line drive space (not including whatever is in the computer; I only use that for software). Which should last me for a bit. Anyone remember when a 1GB drive seemed like retched excess? When a 1TB drive was essentially infinite? It's mostly video files taking up the current 1.5TB of space; everything else totals less than 100GB. And by "everything else" I mean every single computer file I have ever created including those where the software capable of reading those files is long gone. (Ya never know when you might need to look back at some COBOL code you wrote in the 1980's.) But it is sooooo convenient to have everything in on-line storage. And much smaller as well; we'd need a couple hundred feet of shelf space for all the movies and music we have as digital files. When you're an apartment-dweller that moves every couple years, that becomes a prime consideration.

As Debbie mentioned in her post, we're still in hurry-up-and-wait mode on the what-state-will-we-live-in-this-year front. Tomorrow will firm up some decisions; everyone keep fingers and toes crossed. We want to make sure we have enough time to really look around for a place to live this time. We ended up being rushed when we came out here looking for an apartment. Not that it would have made much difference in terms of us staying here, but we're hoping to make this move stick for a little while longer than the last three or four, so we want to spend at least a week on the apartment shopping gig.

Hulu is starting a test of its subscription service. I cannot imagine that the local affiliates are going to be excited about being cut out of the loop again, but $10/month sound about right assuming that that covers all shows on the various networks that are part of this deal and the ads go away. Of course, the same amount of money gets you the orders-of-magnitude larger Netflix catalog of movies and TV shows. (With a longer delay for TV shows, but does that really matter to anyone over the age of 18?) I don't expect this to be anywhere near the big deal the article's author thinks it will be, but it is certainly yet-another step in the direction that content has been heading in for a long time.

Another article about census scofflaws complete with a sexual innuendo embedded in the URL. The interesting part isn't the yet-another incompetent doing everything they can think of to hide their incompetence storyline, but the attitude of the bureaucrats:

The Census bureau was not able to estimate how much it will cost to redo all the work, but a spokesman said it was not an issue because the bureau was under budget on the massive project.

[Emphasis mine.]

First of all, the final tally for the 2010 census is expected to be nearly four times the cost of the 2000 census, so saying you're still "under budget" isn't really big points in your favor. Second, waste and fraud is always "an issue" Mr. Census Spokesman.

Police in El Reno, Oklahoma tasered a bed-ridden, 86-year-old, schizophrenic woman for an "aggressive" gesture with a kitchen knife. Twice, because they were too incompetent to be able to properly taze a bed-ridden person in one shot. There were at least 10 cops present, but this was the only response they could think of to deal with a frail, nutty old woman. Are police departments now recruiting in federal prisons? Of course, there was no wrong-doing and all procedures were followed.

An old women on oxygen died not too far from here because the power company shut off her power. Again, note the defense: All the proper procedures were followed. All the paperwork was in order. It must have been the old couple's fault; it seems their medical notice to the power company stating that the power could not be shut off may have lapsed.

Well, off to do research on our likely destination: Lake Mary, Florida.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Early Morning Ramblings from Debbie

I've been awake since 3am and it is time for some ramblings here since I don't want to call and wake anyone at this time of the morning.

Monday is when I will be calling down to Florida to arrange the interview. (wish me luck!)

Then it is decision time. Neither of us want to stay in New Hampshire and Ric would rather be in a state closer to where he believes his parents will probably end up full time in a few years since his Dad has had some issues last year. We recently heard that Ric's sister and brother in law will probably be moving from Alabama up to Arkansas to be near Gary's Dad to help out. It is pretty expensive to live up here (I think Ric said he found someplace that NH is in the top 5 of expensive states!)

I don't want to "cut my nose off to spite my face", but I think I want some time off to visit again with Michigan family and friends before starting the moving process again.

I am feeling very confident about getting this new job in Florida, no "sick to the stomach feeling" about it.

I found an extended stay hotel that sounds perfect in the area where I will be interviewing. For the monthly rate that I can book it at (as a travel agent) it is less than what we are paying here in NH for our apartment. Plus no utilities to pay. It has a kitchen to boot. Just no place to put all our stuff. If we can't find an apartment right away, we may be living in the hotel and storing our stuff again for awhile.

Hmmm...some thoughts that I can't write here and not hurt some feelings.....

I just might have to call that special friend and unload --- get her insight into what I am feeling/thinking.

Aunt Mary has been moved to the PT unit at the hospital after a fall and break. I"m sure she is as much of a trooper as my Mom and will be up and dancing circles around everyone sooner than later.

The beginning of August is time for the Wiklanski reunion again. I can't wait to see everyone.

Well...getting hungry...time to go find some breakfast and maybe read some to see if I will get sleepy again and can get another hour or two in of sleep before having to get ready for work.

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers about the job interview and decisions I have to make soon.

and my last rambling thought for now .... unicorns, rainbows and SMILES :-)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shakin' and Bakin'

Our apartment did a funny little jig Wednesday afternoon. One minute I'm just minding my own business being a couch potato, the next my couch feels like it's surfing across the living room, the blinds are waving around, stuff on the shelves is wobbling. And then it stops. I wondered if I had completely gone 'round the bend. I asked Debbie when she came home if she had felt anything at work. She just looked at me as if I had finally gone completely 'round the bend. Thursday, I finally stumbled across an article about an earthquake in Canada. So I'm not nuts. At least not completely. About this one thing.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

And Murphy seems to be having a field day with every possible thing going wrong. And oil will continue to pour into the Gulf for at least another six weeks.

Another 2,000-page bill that not one Congresscritter has bothered to read, and that will have massive unintended economic consequences while failing to achieve its goals. Just another day in DC.

The Wimbledon is seeing all sorts of records falling. The most-obvious is the 11+ hour match over three days between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut which was not only by far the longest match ever, but saw pretty much every other record broken including both players hitting a record number of aces. About the only record they didn't break was broken earlier in the week with Taylor Dent's 148mph serve. Holy. Crap.

Latest genius move by our government: The EPA thinks the fat in cow milk is the same as petroleum. The purpose of government is to hire and pay government workers. If, in the attempt to appear useful, those workers do something incredibly stupid, expect the hiring of more government workers to investigate the stupidity. Not stop it, mind you. Just investigate it. Forever.

The global warming hysterics can't win on the science, so now they are compiling black lists of their enemies. And Muslim teenagers are stoning Jews. And the judge who blocked the across-the-board ban on offshore drilling is receiving death threats. And French unions are going on strike to protest the increase in retirement age above 60. And the US is slipping into a funk.

In happier news, banks are hiring thousands of employees. In less-happy news, they are all being hired to work in "default management."

And despair is a sin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lazy Week

For some reason, I'm having a hard time getting things done lately. I feel like I've become a potted plant. Hopefully, it's a temporary thing because we have a lot to do in the next few weeks.

I checked our weather to see if there was any break in the heat or humidity (nope) and thought I should probably see what the weather is like where we are (maybe) planning to move to in Florida. As expected, the high temps for the next ten days are warmer than here (mid-90's instead of mid-80's) and humid. No surprise there. What I didn't expect was the thunderstorms predicted for every single day. I know it rains a lot in Florida, but that's nuts. We're going to need Dr. Megavolt suits:

In family news, for anyone who hasn't heard, Debbie's Aunt Mary fell yesterday and fractured her hip. She is in St. Mary's and is supposed to be going into surgery later today. You can send her an e-card through the St. Mary's web site, or if you want to do things the old fashioned way via phone or the paleolithic way via snail mail, contact us for how to do that. The family hasn't mentioned this yet, but it would probably be best to keep phone calls to a minimum for now.

I bumped into an interesting series of articles about something called the Anosognosic’s Dilemma. In short, it is the problem of "unknown unknowns." This is very closely related to Taleb's Black Swans; information that is not merely unknown, but unknowable because we don't know that we don't know it. It is a five-part series with Part One, Two and Three already posted. Probably important stuff in there that relates to many of the problems we currently face as individuals and as nations. [Updated later to add link to Part Four.] [Updated the update to add link to Part Five.]

More proof that we are over-lawyered: Pork board lawyers issue a cease-and-desist letter to the authors of a joke ad for canned unicorn meat because they referred to it as "the new white meat." Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.

The Obamessiah has his infinite authority over every aspect of American life clipped by a federal judge. Note the resentment from Obama's inner circle:

"We see clear evidence every day, as oil spills from BP’s well, of the need for a pause on deepwater drilling,” Salazar said. “Based on this ever-growing evidence, I will issue a new order in the coming days that eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities."

Yes, yes. I'm certain that you think everything to be  within your "authorities" including the butchering of the English language. I guess Obama better haul ass down to Louisiana to put his feet on Judge Feldman's throat. continues to prove itself to be a source of wisdom in these troubled times with The Ten Most Important Things They Didn't Teach You In School. I'd like to add Number 11: the proper way to capitalize a title. But that's a quibble; if you have recently graduated high school, you need to read this.

The desperation of California politicians facing huge cash shortfalls for as far as the eye can see is well known, but now it has been made official: The government of California will try anything.

In case anyone has forgotten with all the unemployment and foreclosures and oil pouring into the Gulf, we are still trying to win a war. Trying and failing, it seems.

Politics, and especially political elections, are never pretty, but this takes the cake:

State Sen. "Jakie" Knotts, who became infamous this month for referring to Haley as a "raghead," asked this question in a local television interview: "Have you ever asked her if she believes in Jesus Christ as her lord and savior, and that he died on the cross for her sins? Have you ever asked her that?"

It seems "raghead" is the new nigger down south. WWJD indeed.

Enough. I need to get something done before Debbie gets home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Back to the Grind

Our weekend travels are over and Debbie's mom is safely back in Michigan. Today we are back to normal-ish. It was great to do something different for a few days and the weather cooperated the entire time. It was fun showing off the little corner of New Hampshire that we live in (at least for the next 60 days or so). I plan on working on photos tonight and maybe getting them uploaded tomorrow. I think we got some good stuff.

I got on to Facebook for the first time in over a month. I found out some news that I probably would never have known otherwise, so it was probably worth the hour or so invested. I still have a hard time getting excited about the whole "social networking" thing, probably due to being anti-social and having to deal with people at various jobs who used terms like "networking" to mean being a parasite looking to take credit for other people's work. I'm not doing anything extreme like getting rid of my FB account, but once a month will most likely be all I will make time for.

I've added a new link over on the right. Be warned about a couple things: First, the name of the blog will likely trigger filters if you are reading this at your place of employment. And the "colorful metaphors" are liberally sprinkled through his posts as well. Second, have some Prozac or alcohol (or both) if you dive into the archives. What he says needs to be said, and he is probably not far off in his predictions, but it's tough to process if you still buy into the American Dream.

States are starting to see the reality of their situation: If nothing is done, pension obligations will wipe out all but a couple states' budgets in the next few years. In some cases, they already have. As drastic as these changes may seem, they are just a bit of trimming around the edges compared to what needs to happen.

Fanny and Freddie continue to eat tax money, and everything they do just makes the housing situation worse. Keeping foreclosed properties in inventory ratchets up the losses, but unloading that same inventory forces down property values causing losses elsewhere. The bottom line is that there are more houses than households, many of the houses are in the wrong place, and nearly all are still grossly overpriced.

Green shoot!! Unemployment falls! Woohoo! What? Oh. It only went down because the current method of calculating unemployment doesn't count people who have "given up" looking for work, not because employment actually went up. That and hiring for the census where we pay people $15/hour and $.50/mile to have conversations like this:

which is almost too close to reality to be funny. Trust me. In any case, all those people are supposed to be done by the end of June, although the office here in Concord, New Hampshire seems to be doing everything they can to drag the jobs out into the fall.

In other unemployment news, Michigan has been bumped from its top spot as the worst possible place to look for a job by Nevada. Is Vegas about to crap out?

Bank failures are running double what they were this time last year, hitting 83 on Friday. Commercial real estate failures are starting to bite big time. Not that residential real estate loans are any less in the soup. The wheels are certainly coming off the bus.

And because we refuse to ever learn anything, you can now purchase ETF's containing the same crap that blew up the world economy. The managers, who make money no matter what happens to your investment, are using the same line of bullshit to sell these ETF's as they used to sell the underlying assets right up to the day they all turned into a giant steaming turd. Why? Because they know people will be stupid enough to do it all over again in a vain attempt to "make up lost ground."

Well, it's off to do something more productive than blogging.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Tour Guide

We had fun yesterday playing tour guide for Debbie's mom. Today, we're headed up to an area of New Hampshire that is new to us as well, so we won't be so much guides as fellow tourists. I'll work on getting the photos from the two days of traipsing around edited and uploaded next week.

I don't want to jinx anything, so this is going to be a bit vague. We received an e-mail yesterday that may set the date for our move to Florida. It's going to take a couple weeks to firm up some of the details, and probably until somewhere in mid-July to get answers to the rest. But then we should have an actual date, probably sometime in August. Next week, I need to set down with the manager here and find out just how screwed we are on the lease (assuming all the details do that firming thing) if we bail a couple months early. There has been a recent wave of move-ins, so maybe we'll get lucky. Heh.

Here's a great idea: put up a windmill so you can Think Green and stuff, then floodlight it so everyone can see how Green you Think, even at night. I don't think "clueless" even gets into the general neighborhood of this one.

The Supreme Court again upholds the he-who-pays-the-piper doctrine: if your employer provides you with a computer, pager, crackberry, cellphone, or any other device, you cannot claim a right to privacy when you use it for personal use. Whether personal use is allowed by company policy, or even, as in this case, you reimburse your employer for your personal use, is irrelevant. If you want to send perverted text messages and not have your boss reading them, get your own cell phone to do it with.

More chaos in the Gulf as the Coast Guard is now preventing oil clean-up efforts. I'm not sure why we even bother with state government anymore. Federalism is dead-dead.

Obama's (and by extension, lefty-liberals') solution to drugs and illegals pouring into the US from Mexico: give up de facto control of US territory. I guess one could argue the southwest was an illegal taking and we are just righting an old wrong. I doubt the Americans living in the Territories see it that way, but who cares; it's not like Arizona or New Mexico actually matter in presidential elections.

A concept that seems to evade people: in spite of a horribly misguided Supreme Court decision, corporations are not people. A corporation is a fictional entity with no real-world existence. You cannot punish a fictional entity. Demanding $20 billion from "BP" will only hurt real people who had nothing to do with spilled oil. But who gives a damn about some old Brits; it's not like they vote in presidential elections.

We're supposedly in a recovery, yet layoffs continue. So far, the only people who seem to be benefiting from the "recovery" are bank CEO's and Goldman Sachs executives. OK, maybe not all bank CEO's; just the well-connected ones.

That's it for today; I need to jump in the shower and get ready for another day of touring New Hampshire!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Command Decision

We've decided not to drive down to Madison today. For us to be at the graduation would have made a great deal of work for people who already have a hundred things going all at once regardless of what the weather does. When we found that out yesterday evening, we figured it would be easier for everyone if we just planned on being down there tomorrow afternoon to pick up Debbie's mom and bring her back here in the evening. Meanwhile, all the foul weather for our area has been canceled, and it's just sunny and 80's for as far as the eye can see. Sweet. [About ten minutes after typing that, it started raining and the temperature dropped into the 60's. sigh.]

Scott Adams:

Q. What is the new definition of "Taliban"?
A. Anyone who lives above a lithium deposit

...If you're wondering when the U.S. will withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, you now have your answer: Never. Our worst case scenario is peace.

If you haven't heard, Afghanistan went from "worthless rat hole into which the US pours blood and treasure" to "source of unimaginable wealth" overnight when immense mineral deposits, including the all-important lithium, were discovered. Now if we could just play the part of competent empire long enough to benefit....

We may have heard the last from the Spirit rover. It could survive the winter and begin transmitting when it gets a bit more sun, but I have a feeling that it will die peacefully in its sleep. Regardless; we got nearly six years from a very complicated bit of equipment that was expected to last around 90 days.

As soon as the government stopped paying people to buy houses, housing starts went off a cliff. Big surprise. All a short-term credit (or rebate or whatever you want to call it) does is cause people who were going to buy a new car or build a new house to move the deal date into the time frame of the credit. This causes a steep drop immediately prior and following the time the credit is in effect, and an increase during the time the credit is running. In other words, the result is little or no net increase in new car sales or first-time home purchases, but instead yet-another transfer payment to the middle class.

The taxpayer-subsidized train wrecks called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will no longer be traded on the NYSE because they can't keep the share price above $1 even with all the billions of tax dollars that has been poured into them. I'm sure similar sorts of public-private "partnerships" (health care, GM, Amtrak, etc., etc.) will work much better, right? Maybe if we close our eyes and wish real hard?

It easy to forget that not long ago (as in my lifetime), many European countries had very different governments than they do now. Economic hardship has a way of making people nostalgic for the "good ol' days." The next decade may prove to be interesting indeed. We like to think of representative democracy as inevitable and stable. It is neither.

Here is an interesting concept: if the outcome of local elections don't turn out the way some federal bureaucrat thinks they ought to, keep changing the rules until the desired outcome is achieved no matter how ridiculous the rules become. Wouldn't it just be easier to give up the pretext and have federal judges appoint people to local office according to whatever racial formula they think appropriate? Keep in mind that we are not talking about ballot cans from Hispanic neighborhoods being found at the bottom of a lake or dead people voting. Rather, the federal government decided that the results of free and fair elections were not to its liking, and is dictating the rules under which elections can be conducted for the expressed purpose of altering what the outcome of a free and fair election would otherwise be. Again, representative democracy is neither inevitable nor is it stable.

Well, we need to finish up the cleaning and I should start thinking about what we are going to do for dinner. Enough of this internet stuff.

Geek Music

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Plans They Are A-Changin'

With humble apologies to Bob Dylan. We are keeping an eye on the weather and it isn't looking good for us to be able to do Debbie's niece's graduation. It is planned to be outside, but will be moved inside with a limit of three guests per graduate if there is lightning. Somehow we don't think that with three grandparents, two parents and a sibling we have much of a chance at scoring an indoor seat. If the outlook doesn't change in the next 24 hours, we most likely will not be driving down on Wednesday and spending the night; we'll just day-trip down Thursday to pick up Debbie's mom. Everything looks good for the weekend with something more like summer making a reappearance.

We've been doing some thinking about The Move of 2010 trying to plan things out a bit better than we did with The Move of 2009 that landed us in New Hampshire. Unless something drastic happens, the move will be sooner rather than later: most likely late August or early September. I need to drag out the lease and see how bad we are going to get killed for leaving ahead of the end of the contract. But we are both at the point now that we just don't care and want to get out of this place. I may go scouting by myself at the end of June or first part of July, or we will both go down after our time in Michigan in August. Either way, we're outta here sometime around Labor Day. Unless something drastic happens. Like, we change our minds. Again.

One of the gifts of the internet is the ability to watch politicians implode their careers. All politicians are, by definition, moral defectives. But imagine the roles reversed: Mr. College Student would have been cooling his heels in a cell in a matter of minutes facing a list of felonies a mile long. In contrast, Mr. Moral Defective is holding press conferences to issue a lame apology.

The 48-hour deadline for BP to do something about all that oil has come and gone with about the results you would expect:

The White House is ratcheting up pressure on BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill....

In other words, more words and not a damn thing more. And this is rich:

Although BP has pledged to pay clean-up costs and damages, "history has taught us that corporations often fail to live up to their initial promises", the lawmakers wrote. They demanded a response by Friday.

Fortunately, I wasn't taking a drink when I read that or I'd be out a keyboard. Pardon me while I ROTFLMA at politicians bitching because someone else breaks a promise:


OK; I'm back. (giggle, snert). Maybe that statement is true because corporations are taking their moral cues from morally defective lawmakers. And I'll make sure to tune in over the weekend so I can listen to another "deadline" make that funny whoosh-ing sound as it goes flying by with zero real-world consequences. It'll be just like working in IT again!

Speaking of multinational corporations that can ignore governments, Bilderburg 2010 has wrapped up. I remember when the mere mention of the Bilderburg would make everyone in the room check you for a tinfoil hat and start edging for the door. The writer makes some good observations and asks some important questions. I'm not going to cover all of them primarily because I'm lazy, but I'll touch on a couple points:

There's an awful lot of unelected 'advising' in the world...

If you think about it, most any government is largely unelected and runs on its own agenda that takes no account of that nation's electorate. Think of the entire alphabet soup of federal agencies here in the US. How many of those legions of bureaucrats are elected? None. And I would argue that the FDA has a much bigger influence on what I eat than the "world food problem" item on the on the Bilderburg 2010 agenda.

The day that Peter Voser, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, sits around a table with the express concern of making the world a better, more beautiful place for all of us, is the day that my arse grows teeth and eats my hat.

Allow me to make a minor edit to that sentence:

The day that my pizza delivery guy sits around a table with the express concern of making the world a better, more beautiful place for all of us, is the day that my arse grows teeth and eats my hat.

The difference is that my pizza delivery guy's ability to screw up my life is limited to delivering cold pizza, while the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell can... er... royally screw up not just my life, but the lives of millions of people all over the planet. But both are acting in their own selfish interest; the scale of the impact doesn't make one person more evil than another. The problem is two generations raised to believe that the very concept of a moral compass is contemptible.

And for the record, I'm sure Peter Voser thinks that he is "making the world a better, more beautiful place for all of us." That his definition of "better" and "beautiful" may not align well with mine or yours or the author's is beside the point.

Moving on to people with too much time on their hands and/or cash in their pockets: For a mere $400, you can buy a manual typewriter that outputs to your iPad. A green shoot if I ever saw one.

And with that, I need to get off my butt and make dinner before Debbie gets home.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rain and Clouds

The weather all this weekend was wet and cold, so we more or less stayed in the apartment. We needed to stay in anyway; I had a month of bookkeeping to catch up on, we had picked up a few movies on the cheap from the local Blockbuster that is going bust, and we both have books due back at the library in a couple days. So bookkeeping, reading and movies; that was our exciting Sunday. Try to control your envy.

Next week, the plan is to be in Madison, CT for Debbie's niece's high school graduation on Wednesday evening (congrats, Madison!!), then come back with Debbie's mom sometime Thursday. We'll be out showing her the sights here in southern New Hampshire on Friday and Saturday, then driving her to the airport Sunday morning. As of right now, the weather still looks sketchy for all of it. A few years in Arizona really spoiled us weather-wise. How can you plan anything when every single day has at least a 30% chance of rain? In any case, we'll likely snap off a bunch of pictures and I will try to get them loaded into our Flickr account in a semi-timely fashion.

And of course, oil is still gushing into the Gulf. No one is sure how much other than a lot, but now the Coast Guard has issued a 48-hour ultimatum. Or what? Everyone who knows anything is already working the problem. Is the Coast Guard going to pull them off the job? Do they plan to sit on the shore and order the oil back in the ground? I'm no fan of BP and when all the events leading up to this are carefully laid out, I don't expect them to come off looking too good. But when it is all said and done, there better be at least as many politicians hanging on crosses as there are BP managers.

The immigration kettle is still boiling in Arizona, with Sheriff Joe doing his best to keep the fire kindled. Once again, I can see two sides to the story. As someone who was responsible for checking employee documents, I can tell you that I never checked all that close. It would take someone about ten minutes to whip up a fake Social Security card that would be good enough to fool me. Driver's licenses are harder, but then again, I probably couldn't spot even a bad fake. First, I have no idea what the real deal is supposed to look like. Because of where the office was located, I was dealing with four different states with no clue about what anti-forgery features I should have been checking for on any of them. Second, the turn-over was so high, people were hired, fired or quit, and had moved to another state before anything made it to the state or federal government. It's not like I could go to some SSA or DMV web site and check if what information I was being given was legit.

On the other hand, every city and town in Arizona has at least one street corner where contractors go to pick up day laborers who work off the books. I'm pretty sure anyone stopping by those places has strong reason to suspect that he is hiring illegals. If Sheriff Joe wants to bust their chops, I have a hard time arguing against it. Of course, Sheriff Joe, being the king of douche nozzles and all, will go too far and give more ammunition to the believers in open borders and amnesty.

How to be a public school bureaucrat in three easy steps: 1) Offer teachers money if their students do well on standardized tests. 2) Do everything in your power to prevent teachers from teaching students what they need to know to accomplish that. 3) Act shocked and appalled that teachers actively participate in cheating on said standardized tests. People respond to the incentives you give them. Who knew?

Obama is begging for $50 billion on behalf of state and local governments. And why not? It's all a hallucination anyway. Why not $500 billion? Why not $1 trillion? It's not like it will make any difference given that state and local governments are on the hook for between $3 trillion and $5 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities alone. So, sure! Go for it! I also love the politics:

President Obama urged reluctant lawmakers Saturday to quickly approve nearly $50 billion in emergency aid to state and local governments, saying the money is needed to avoid "massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters"....

Why is it always teachers, police and firefighters? Why is it never the governor's massage therapist/whore? Why is it never any of the 50%+ public school employees who don't teach? Why is it never the secretary to the four-times-removed assistant to the Director of Paper Clip Acquisition? Always with the teachers, police and firefighters. Are there people out there stupid enough to buy this and who can remember to breathe?

Remember the old joke about how to tell if a politician is lying? Well, remember when we were told that health care reform wouldn't affect employer-provided health plans? I guess their lips were moving.

OK, then! Off to enjoy some more unemployment!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No More Census

I turned in my census badge this morning. I had already made the decision last night simply because there wasn't anything for me to really work on, but it was made much easier by the fresh load of bullshit from the Concord office dumped on my head when I showed up for the daily meeting this morning. The details aren't important; it was just more of the same continuous stream of steaming shit that has been flowing from the Concord census office since day one. The goal seems to be to make this the most expensive and least accurate census on record. In my opinion, they have succeeded. In any case, I'm out of it and could care less other than getting my last couple checks.

New England must have even shorter summers than Michigan. All week it has ranged from cool to down-right cold with lots of rain rolling around the area. We're supposed to get some sunny, warm-ish days for a bit. We have an outdoor graduation next week and Debbie's mom is coming over for a few days to get the quickie New Hampshire tour, so we have all our fingers and toes crossed hoping the weather gods hold off on the rain.

We have some new photos up that I keep forgetting to link to:

A set of photos from the town cemetery in Winchester (the next town down the highway from where we live). I don't know why I'm drawn to cemeteries, but I haven't been able to resist old tombstones since I got semi-serious into photography back in the mid-1980's.

We also have a set of photos from the Memorial Weekend we spent with Debbie's brother and family in Madison, CT. No tombstones in that batch; just pictures normal people would take.

More tension on the US/Mexico border after the US Border Patrol killed a 15-year-old Mexican. The border agent is, of course, automatically guilty because everyone knows that a 15-year-old is nothing but sweetness and light. Even one that is known on both sides of the border as a drug mule who makes routine illegal crossings and throws rocks at armed men for sport. Another example of the unbiased press telling stories rather than reporting the news. And yes, I'm ignoring the larger picture of our grotesque drug and border policies that pretty much make this sort of thing inevitable.

More good news on the financial front:

“The collapse of the financial system as we know it is real, and the crisis is far from over,” Soros said today at a conference in Vienna. “Indeed, we have just entered Act II of the drama.” 

But hey! The Dow closed back up over 10,000! Green shoots! Once again, the problem is too much debt. Moving the debt around while simultaneously increasing it exponentially isn't solving the problem. We are on a road. The end of that road is well known. And painful.

On a related note, Cracked has a list of six companies that charge people for nothing. The existence of these companies (and hundreds like them) is baffling to me. That "adults" pay for their services with borrowed money is proof that America is the land of over-aged children. That a comedy web site is the only one with the balls to point it out is... well....

Here is an investment strategy that will likely do as well as any other. Keep in mind that it has been shown repeatedly that picking stocks by throwing darts at the WSJ stock page consistently out-performs most investment strategies including those used by professional investors. And the article was written by someone who draws comics for a living. Still, it is an interesting theory.

Yet-another article is laying out the argument that Obama is an incompetent executive. This will probably be the last of these I bother to link to. It's so obvious that Obama has no significant real-world experience necessary for the office that it's like shooting fish in a barrel. There just isn't any sport in it.

And oil is still pouring into the Gulf, but all the head cheese is getting together for a meeting. That will fix everything.

And off to bed. I want to get up early so I can fully enjoy my unemployment.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010


When I got up this morning (at 4am; after a week of normal sleep, I'm back on vampire mode), I realized that I hadn't posted May's numbers. Unsurprisingly, given that we only posted about half our normal posts, we had around half the normal visits (168). The mix of operating systems remains unchanged with Windows XP dominating at over 70%, Vista at a touch over 15% and Win7 at 3%. Mac and Linux made up nearly all the remainder with a few crumbs going to various mobile devices. On the browser side of things, the latest versions of IE (38.4%), Firefox (20.1%), Chrome (12.8%) and Safari (6.7%) are used by the bulk of our readers. IE6 seems to have made a long-overdue exit and IE7 (12.2%) will hopefully follow it into the dustbin. The remaining 9.8% of visitors are running old versions of Firefox or whatever is on their smart phone.

The search terms that people used to find us in May indicates a great deal of interest in de-gayification camps and the census, as well as a continuing (and disturbing) level of fascination with unicorns who fart rainbows. The most entertaining search phrase wasn't technically in May as it popped in during the wee hours of June 1st, but it will likely be the Search Phrase of the Month for May and June: "unicorns humping on a bed of roses".

I... I... I don't even want to know. But wait! There's more! The IP address belongs to a major, multinational corporation. Yep. Somewhere in some dank cubical, a faceless, third-shift drone was surfing for unicorn porn. The next time you complain about what something costs, remember that some fraction of a percent of the price is going towards paying this guy.

I will definitely be done with census this week, unless I get stuck cleaning up after someone else again. I seriously hope not. By the end of today, I should have everything done except for two tenements run by local slum lords who refuse to cooperate. I will call them every couple hours from 8am to 8pm for the rest of the week (while being paid taxpayer money to do so), then turn them over to the census office in Boston. If there were any justice, these fine folks would be stripped naked and put in stocks wearing a sign bearing the word "wastrel". I expect instead that they will receive a strongly-worded letter in about five years, if ever.

BP seems to be having some success with the latest attempt to stop oil from pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. No one can say for sure what level of success because no one is sure to an order of magnitude how much oil is flowing out of the pipe in the first place. We are seven weeks into this, with a minimum of seven more weeks of more or less the same. Or seven months if you don't buy into BP management's happy-clappy expectations for drilling the relief well. It's bad and will only get worse. Obama, in his... er... unique management style has declared a complete stop to all off-shore drilling after just declaring that oil companies could stick pipes anywhere including into dolphins as long as they pumped oil. Gulf state politicians are beginning to understand the implications of whipsawing an industry that has numerous other options where to do business.

The stock market seems to have developed a bad case of the wobblies over the last couple weeks. Yesterday, the Dow closed below 10,000 twice in two days and the S&P is edging down to 1,000. Usually, after a couple bad days there is a bit of a bounce, but the overall trend is certainly in the negative direction. The big question that no one can answer is, how long will that trend continue? Here is the view of people who make a living by being mostly right:

I'll reiterate that from our perspective, the essential difficulty of the market here is not Greece, it is not the Euro, it is not Hungary, and it is really not even the slow pace of job growth in the latest report. The fundamental problem is that we have not, as a global economy, accepted the word "restructuring" into our dialogue. Instead, we have allowed our policy makers to borrow and print extraordinarily large band-aids to temporarily cover an open wound that will not heal until we close the gap. That gap is the difference between the face value of debt securities and the actual cash flows available to service them. The way to close the gap is to restructure the debt. This will require those who made the bad loans to accept the associated losses. By failing to do that, we have failed to address the essential problem faced by the world, which is that we have created more debt than we are able to service.

Emphasis is mine. You can't say it more clearly than that. Oh, and by the way, by 2012 we will be Greece. Not in fifty years or twenty years or even ten years. In two years. Less if there is a double-dip.

To end on a positive note, Bigelow is showing off his version of a space station. Using inflatables allows a much larger space to be shipped up while still being able to fit in the cargo space of existing launchers. And just in time for Bigelow to start the first private space station, we now have a private launch vehicle to send it up.

Enough messing around here, it's time to start another day.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Dreary Day

It is a totally dreary day out --- cloudy, rainy and cool.

We ran out to Michael's to look for a Father's Day stamp (no luck) and stopped by grocery store for milk, bread, pizzas and popsicles. I've gotten tired of the couple masculine stamps I have to do guy cards. I came up with another design today that I liked using one of my new stamp sets. I used it for Don's Father's Day card and Ashton's belated birthday card. (Sorry - Ashton -- trying to come up with something different than last year's or your brother's) I did another version for a new baby card (again -- late -- sorry Nicole!)

After lunch and more reading -- I may work on some more cards. July isn't too bad for what I need, but August is a busy month with birthdays and anniversaries. I also like to stock up on sympathy and get well cards. I should start thinking about Christmas cards too. I may wait until I get the new Stampin' Up catalog and see what new stamp sets they have.

I put a couple feelers out to Florida and Texas about jobs again. Ric's Census job sounds like it should be wrapping up in the next week or so and we want to get some type of game plan ready. I don't want to mess up us going to Michigan for the Wiklanski reunion, so have to consider that. Might work out to go to Florida after the reunion for my interview if they are still looking for somebody. I'm sure we'll keep you posted......

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hot and Humid

We've had a week of good training for living in Florida: hot and humid with random thunderstorms rolling in about every other day. I thought I was going to get wet out running my last couple census routes today, but I was able to duck and dodge and avoid getting dumped on.

Not much else going on here. After last weekend's doin's we're just sort of sitting around. There is an airshow at the little local airport a couple miles from our apartment, but I'll likely be working all weekend in a mostly-vain attempt to get a big chunk of census work completed. At this point, all that is left are the problems, so it's painfully slow. I spend four hours yesterday trying (unsuccessfully) to locate one person. He's one of a couple dozen or so that will be equally difficult to track down. Fun times. The census thing is rather quickly wrapping up and none too soon. Everyone is ready for this to be over.

All last fall I had this gut feeling that the whole H1N1 panic was being manufactured. Yes, the fact that some of the early fatalities were precisely the people who are generally the least likely to die from the flu was disconcerting. But even when it seemed obvious to everyone that H1N1 was just another variant of the seasonal flu that should be taken no more or less seriously than any other, the WHO just kept whipping up more and more panic. I never did figure out what the big deal was, but then again, it isn't my field. Maybe it was a big deal somewhere other than where I happen to be. Well, it seems others who are more qualified are asking the same thing. Not that it will make any difference. By design, the WHO is immune to criticism. To me, the whole thing is like déjà vu all over again.

"I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" has been a bad running joke for the entire history of human government. Now we have the FTC wanting to "help" the news industry. The fact that the "help" will give the FTC the potential to veto any story it disapproves of is, I'm certain, far from the enlightened minds of those proposing yet-another expansion of government control over yet-another sector of the economy.

Anyway. I feels like nap time.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Anxious for Change

I almost cleared up one of the two census binders I have left last night, so of course I was handed someone else's half-finished (meaning all the easy work is done) binder because they were taking off on a cruise or something. I really wanted this week to be my last, but that won't be happening now. At least there will be one more check than I expected, but I just really want to be done so I can go off and do something else for the last few weeks/months before we blow this popsicle stand.

Speaking of which, we still don't know what the exact timing will be. We know we will be in Michigan the first part of August, but we don't know if that will be the month we move and damn the lease or if we wait or if we extend the August vacation to give us time to buzz down to Florida for an exploratory trip or if I will be doing that on my own in July or maybe September. Yep. We have this all planned out.

Almost everything that caught my attention today is in some way related to oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. The first was just an update to say that so far, every attempt to find a quick solution, even a partial solution, has completely failed. It looks like we have to wait for the relief well to be completed, which will take until sometime in August if everything goes perfectly. If things go less than perfectly (and BP's track record so far makes this the safer bet), it will take until the end of 2010.

The second shiny thing that grabbed my ADD eye is a refutation of the comparison between Deepwater Horizon and Apollo 13 written by Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and a hero to geeks everywhere. He nails it in one:

“Failure was not an option” for Gene Kranz and his Apollo 13 flight controllers and engineers. In contrast, failure clearly has been an option for President Obama and those claiming to have been on top of this situation “from day one” in his White House and in the Departments of Interior, Energy and Homeland Security. With no single, competent, courageous and knowledgeable leader in charge of a comparably competent, courageous and knowledgeable team as we had with Apollo 13, the Administration has been doomed to failure from the start. The President, without any experience in real-world management of anything, much less a crisis, has no idea how to deal with a situation as technically complex as the Gulf oil spill.

Emphasis is mine. This is what happens when you elect a token to do a serious job. Failure. Failure at war. Failure at diplomacy. Failure at economics. Failure at crisis management. Failure as a president. Failure as a nation.

Next stop is the Archdruid Report where John Michael Greer has a great essay on how the oil spill demonstrates that in spite of our alleged rationality, we still think that magic wands and incantations can fix complex, real-world problems. Maybe we should send Daniel Radcliffe to the Gulf. It couldn't be any more useless of a gesture than James Cameron throwing in his two cents.

And finally, a tangentially related article on how the rest of the world wants to be like us just as we are figuring out that we, not alone them, can't. I want to be a fly on the wall at the UN meeting where the heads of the Western World with Obama front and center explain to the rest of the world that we already used everything up. Why do I think we won't look too good in the history books?

Enough of this internet stuff. Think I'll read for a bit, then off to bed.

Fun Stuff

A 2-gauge black-powder shotgun.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

And We're Back

We had a great weekend down in Madison, CT; lots of sun, lots of food, met a bunch of people, sat around most of Sunday just vegging out (which we both needed badly), saw a parade and, of course, took a bunch of pictures which I'll get to Real Soon Now. We had a lot of fun and huge thanks to Debbie's fam for giving us a place to stay and all their friends for letting us party-crash. We managed to not get completely toasted being in the sun for three days; just slightly crispy which will turn into tan on me and freckles on Debbie.

Being back, of course, means being back on census duty. I found out today that all the binders are out so all I have left to do is wrap up the two I have sitting here in the apartment and it's all over. Unless I get selected for the next phase, then I will have employment until some time in July. I can honestly say I pray the gods they don't call me. I've had about all the stupidity I can handle.

Speaking of stupid, we have Hulu screwing with set-top boxes like Boxee and Kylo. When I first saw the headline, I thought it had something to do with blocking Hulu ads. Instead:

Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, in an interview with The New York Times last year, said the reason the site cuts off access to services like Boxee is because cable networks want to "keep their shows from living-room environments that promote themselves as substitutes to their analog cable TV business."

News flash, ass-clown. The computer has been in the living room for five years. And Hulu has always been a substitute to the analog cable TV business. For that matter, so has Netflix, for anyone willing to wait for a series to come out on DVD.

Oil is still pouring into the Gulf. The only sure way to stop it is drilling relief wells which will take at least until August. There isn't much to say other than this is bad.

Speaking of disasters, the economy is still bouncing along the bottom. Not even the massive injection of cash from the Fed and the federal government has been able to re-inflate the bubble. The hallucination of wealth that we have been living is winding down like a bad LSD trip. If you want some happy thoughts, you probably don't want to talk to this guy:

According to the Federal Reserve’s most recent report on wealth, America’s private net worth was $53.4 trillion as of September, 2009. But at the same time, America’s debt and unfunded liabilities totaled at least $120,000,000,000,000.00 ($120 trillion), or 225% of the citizens’ net worth. Even if the government expropriated every dollar of private wealth in the nation, it would still have a deficit of $66,600,000,000,000.00 ($66.6 trillion), equal to $214,286.00 for every man, woman and child in America and roughly 500% of GDP.

You can quibble over the author's numbers, but he's probably got the order of magnitude correct. After all, does it make any difference whether the "true" number is $10 trillion or $20 trillion more or less? Given the hallucinatory nature of US currency, does it really matter? Understand that I don't necessarily buy into the conclusion; all I'm pointing out is that our entire economy is pure make-believe.

In case anyone missed it, socialism does not, and has never, worked. Except when the enlightened US neo-liberals want to do it. Then it is a flawless thing of beauty.

And I need to toddle off to bed.