Tinderbox?

I have the weirdest dreams! Had a sequence of them that included standard, if in some cases rare, settings of a mall, an old amusement park, my great-grandmother’s house, and my grandmother’s house. Not so standard: North Korea. In one sequence I was in a mall with two other people. The only clear part is when we each bought a slice of bread with butter for a dollar from a storefront Chinese restaurant. I was last and ended up lagging behind them. To my rational mind, it was weird, but in the dream it was completely usual to buy this thing from this type of seller as a cheap snack. The other thing I recall is a sense of urgency, and that perhaps things weren’t what they could have been, for all the mall looked fairly busy.

Another sequence involved going into a broken down amusement park, small, which morphed into more of a playground, with adjacent Soviet-looking run down buildings. There was a downpour and we all sought shelter under playground structures, tables, or wherever we could, if we weren’t already prepared. I tried to get under something and found the side wall went to close to the ground, and was one of the last left standing.

That morphed into a similar looking “park” or square that was in North Korea, though it seemed a bit prosperous for that, in retrospect. I was meeting people there or something, and passed along a tote bag that I hadn’t even looked in to a contact. I saw when he looked into it that it was shrinkwrapped bundles of magazines, Playboy and something else. Contraband. The clearest thing about that dream segment was an oppressive fear, similar in a way to the pervasive fear of nuclear holocaust that some of us grew up with, but not as low-key. I remember terror that we might have been seen as doing something wrong or being with the wrong person, and the need to get out of there.

Next I was in a house that was the one my great-grandmother owned, and was in the family until my great uncle died. I regretted not having the money at the time. They sold it for very little, but it needed work. My grandmother’s 1/3 of the proceeds in part paid for her new septic system, still so new that the builder who bought the property finagled things to ensure he could use it for one of the new houses being built. But I digress. Near as I can tell, I lived there. And while it was not in North Korea, there was almost the same fear of the government and being spied upon in place. There was just a pretense of freedom over it. Someone else was there. I don’t know or remember who, now, and there were other people I saw who didn’t live there. In the sky there were balloons, more like zeppelins, but small, that were a show of presence by the government. After they passed by, a more zealously revolutionary friend stopped to let me know that the revolution was starting. Apparently the main thing we were going to do was show we simply didn’t take the powers that be seriously, mocking them rather than battling them. He drove off with big balloons trailing behind his car, mockeries of their observation balloon things I had seen just before. That put me into full alert, because all hell was going to break loose and he’d made the mistake of not spreading the word as thoroughly as could be. I grabbed a few provisions and went with whoever the woman was in the same house to what in real life was my grandmother’s house, driving in what I am sure was an old Dodge Dart. Green.

At the other house was a woman I did not know, a little girl who was her daughter, and someone who may or may not have been my mother and/or grandmother. They were surprised to learn the revolution had started, which was when I knew word had spread poorly, or too many people just had no idea or interest. I agreed to take the unknown mother and daughter with us after the woman said “I don’t drive” when asked about driving. I started looking for provisions, mainly food, and putting some into a cloth bag. But not much, weirdly, being selective with no apparent rhyme or reason. To my shock, my grandfather was sitting at a table in the kitchen, not dead, but so feeble he may as well have been. I had to decide on the spot that he wasn’t going to go with us and would be left to his fate. If he wasn’t simply an apparition. Going through cabinets that weren’t where they really were (they were by the porch door, on the wall where the original kitchen sink had been, where the table was in later years), there were a huge number of cans of beans. I found one on the bottom that was bulging top and bottom, and on the bottom edge had actually sprung a leak. I was completely disgusting when I got spoiled beans on my hand. Looking in an upper cabinet, I found it almost completely full of boxes of matches. Wondered why they’d have stockpiled THAT many matches, but knew I wanted some. While grabbing a couple boxes and trying to decide whether to take more, I noticed that most of them had been made in North Korea. I went back into the dining room and living room one more time to talk to people, but after that I woke up.

As for what it means, well, not that odd to be nervous of the government, concerned about spying, the economy, the need to be prepared for trouble, and generally feeling that things aren’t what they once were or could be. North Korea could be indicative of that, if you take it as a direction we don’t want to be going but seemingly are, however far we may appear to have to go. On the other hand, it’s not that odd to dream something that suggests North Korea as a tenderbox or danger to world stability, despite its size.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts! Yes, Massachusetts gave you Scott Brown to defeat Obamacare, President Obama, Harry Reid, et al. It was a clear indicator from a state often called “the bluest of blue” (which I might contest) that people Did Not Want the so-called “Affordable” Care Act.

Instead of “passing” the law as was, in a manner that at least bordered on fraudulent, don’t you wish now, Dems, that you had gone for that “oh man, we BARELY lost by ONE vote, maybe next time” loss?

Massachusetts Did Not Want the law passed, enough to muster the people’s votes against it then. Massachusetts! And you blew it.

Collected Links

I have been bookmarking things on the idea I would post about them. You’d think posting, say, five days a week would be easy, right? The set is huge, some are probably quite stale, and I am not sure I’ll get to them all with meaningful treatment. Therefore, I will collect several in one post, with minimal commentary.

When law is no longer a safe bet and more about economic change, automation, job security and “the good old days.”

The Roman Army Knife beat the Swiss by 1800 years and looks remarkably clever for the time.

Agile: The Once and Future Methodology explores how what some might think of as new software development practices go way back. A favorite topic of mine, for all my experience in software development is modest.

NSA: The Decision Problem is a discussion of the state of and history of sigint and surveillance, and how modern big data and such affect it.

Superfast internet over old-fashioned copper phone wires?

The Dick Durbin Debit Card Fiasco bears shouting from the rooftops, much the way Barney Frank’s role in the financial crash does.

I waited so long to post this, it’s obsolete! The tax was subsequently repealed, but here’s Why We’re So Frustrated About The Massachusetts Software Tax.

That ought to do it for now.

Thinking

I was getting ready to start this post and happened upon this one, in which Julie says one of the things I have been thinking, but in fewer words than I might have achieved. I have worried about authenticity. Not merely in expressing myself online, but in living my days, pursuing my works.

So. I have been job hunting, in response to Deb going on disability, on the idea that I both need to at least make up the shortfall, and that I am free to pursue such a thing. I love my part-time job that had more or less perfect SAHD hours around her schedule, but it was all I generally felt I could do, besides herding kids and being a crappy housekeeper and an awesome cook. Yeah, I kept thinking “write, dude” and similar things, since when would I have even that much of an opening. Yet I didn’t even keep blogging up well. Whenever the question of what I really want comes up, though, writing is way at the top. Even if it’s blogging.

That was a great thing about my job in outsourced Microsoft support years ago. While in one product, during an annual review I expressed how much I would love doing work centered around writing. That was part of a career growth kind of thing, as I recall. The manager, who was fantastic, didn’t see much chance of that happening, yet under my next manager it did. I had more to do with that than management did, apart from tolerance, initially, and doing what Microsoft wanted, when one of my counterparts there effectively appointed me to full time “web response” support of the product. This was a new thing. It had only been done by escalation level people at Microsoft itself, by our primary weekend guy, and ad hoc by me and a colleague, in any available time we could find between calls. The weekend guy would handle the cases he got as far as he could, then escalate them, even if they were easy. One Monday, Microsoft assigned them all to me and that was it for phone support. I was writing from then on, with rare exceptions, and was one of the pioneers.

Things that make me think.

I’ve been doing a web site migration for an extended family member who had some sort of falling out with his original designer and host. There was more to fix than I might have expected; ways in which they were sloppy. I figure it’s because of a graphics person going into web development, versus someone with a programming background. It’s been a blast. I could do this a lot, but I’d need to farm out graphics to build sites for people that needed new/nice ones. I can do simple, though I lack the tools I once had, and the money to buy nice ones.

I got a call from an unsolicited prospective employer. On the phone I said I was interested, but the guy was skeptical due to the commute. He had read my town wrong. Off the phone, I found it’d be at least 110 miles a day round trip, an hour minimum each way. I did math. They pay over the amount I must make net of added costs for things like commuting and tax considerations, but not enough even to pay for gas at a charitable price. Then there is the opportunity cost of the hours driving, other car costs, the fact it starts out temp, albeit long term, and that I would loathe working in the industry. Which, near as I can tell, is closely involved with making Obamacare fly. That and the type of work is the secondary type I seek, the “or I could do this.” I got an effective rate of pay for the hours added to what I spend on my PT job that is well below my PT job’s hourly rate (which is just $5 below what they pay before doing the math).

There wouldn’t be enough money to move nearer the job and support me in a room or small apartment plus send enough here to keep things rolling. Since we apparently are separating again but for real this time, moving out is actually a goal, but isn’t going to happen until and unless it’s viable. We have a good arrangement and set of roles, and that would shake things up far beyond money. With her home, we have changed roles, so I am no longer the main crappy housekeeper, laundress and dishwasher, but I am still the primary cook. In job hunting, I have had a low key “I can relocate” aspect that I hadn’t before. At a price and within reason, though what’s reasonable depends on price, as always.

That made me think about what do I want to do, or particularly not do. Do I even want a job job? The bottom line for making up Deb’s shortfall is to nearly double what I make from the PT job. We once had ads on sites and peaked at almost 2/3 of that number. From blogging. Or more accurately, from residual value of having blogged and run a blog carnival. I had some resentments that led me to mostly stop blogging, and to keep starting new sites that’d be mine alone. In fact, I have a conundrum that was going to be another post. We decided to return to AV, which I’d never loved the idea of leaving, the act of which lost us most of our audience and momentum. We were staying together. We would have a joint blog again. Happy days are here again. I had actually made a bit of progress with a solo blog, settling on one to build. Albeit not as I’d originally planned. The site in question was going to be a portal to posts at various blogs on various topics (more blogs, topical ones, easier to get ads), while also having original content, and importantly, promoting myself as a “help you create/maintain a blog or web site” service for side money. When we were really screwed financially, Deb did a brilliant job of building multiple income streams that by themselves might not support us, but contributed, and in some cases bordered on being “yawn money.”

Yawn money is a term a friend and former colleague introduced me to (not sure if he coined it) for things that bring in money while you sleep. Anything that gives you residuals or royalties would be like that. Ditto for ads. Once you get past the initial work. Selling something like crochet patterns isn’t far removed, where you do a fair bit of work, but then it’s a download with automated sales, or worst case, sending e-mail with them to buyers. My ideas for that have extended to reviving the blogging enough to generate revenue again. That’s not so much yawn money as it is getting paid indirectly for writing. It becomes yawn money in that you can coast for a while before it goes away. And to writing a book I have had in mind, though I could blog the story serially as well. It’s a business experiences thing.

Now, I should pursue some of this regardless of whether I search for full time work, even if I am going to set my standards low for what I accept. Especially if I set them low. I keep thinking there is something I am missing. A way to make lightning strike. Like it’s a game and I need to learn to play it.

One of the things that kept me from blogging was the fact too many of the wrong people read me, and I had to watch what I said. It’s not so bad as the Facebook account where you’d barely know I had a political opinion, due to the diversity among friends, and especially the vocalness of the leftier, sometimes almost to the point of commie, people there. I sometimes want to throw all caution to the wind and be myself. Which also applies when I am looking for work, blogging on my real name site that is oriented mainly to that end.

In fact, I have developed mixed feelings about this identity. Too many people know the real one, or could figure it out. At the same time, if what I am selling is that I write, that I know something about business and economics, that I managed/edited a thing on those topics that was in its day a big deal, then how am I to deal with the fact that I can’t admit to those things without revealing my pen name, and revealing all my opinions and maybe the less [adjective chain here] things I might have written along the way.

I am also thinking that I am at a juncture like the one when I job hunted following college. I sought accounting work because that was my degree, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t know what else to look for, though, and I stubbornly resisted taking just any job anywhere and seeing what happened. That is the correct tactic. You explore, learn an industry, make contacts, get work experience cred in general, and avoid having zero income or doing something that can’t lead anywhere. Because I kept adding tech stuff, in the form of software I’d used, to my resume, on the idea accounting needed computer skills and especially knowledge of Lotus 1-2-3, eventually I landed in tech support. Hiring people saw an opportunity I had no idea existed. One that was ideal for me.

Now I feel somewhat the same about support, at least in the call center sense, if not about tech generally. Thus I had focused more on “analyst” as a job title, be it called business, systems, data, or something else that still means you’re in the same continuum. Aspects of this harken back to my business background and experience, go along with my ability to cross-communicate between geeks and ordinary people, the times I’ve worked on determining business needs, and my ability to hold a big flow in my head while also handling detail and accuracy.

Obviously, I have an idea of something I could do and might enjoy, but I am not sure anyone will hire me at it, or that I’d be comfortable starting at a high level version. Yet I keep thinking that I am missing something, and that an astute hiring person might say “aha, you could do…” some cool thing I had never considered.

I’ve done self-employment a lot. I’d have done more over the past few years, but for tax complications and SAHD duties. Working on a web site for someone is ideal as a do at home task, for all I am not obliged to do things that way any more. Though it is actually more possible, given the presence of another parent and more viable age of the kids. The tax complications are gone. My weird reticence about charging adequately still needs work. It was another factor in making me not care whether I did business.

Any conclusions? Well, I am going to work on some of the side money angles, and on associating some stuff with my real name without necessarily shouting out my pen name to the world. There is a business blog can be revived easily, and that was the single most successful ad vehicale we ever had, the one that generated most of the money over time. It might still be, had it not lain fallow. I’ll personal blog, and it’ll probably be here, despite my mixed feelings about the joint versus sole blogs. I’d been meaning to post here more than has happened, and to migrate posts from the old version that was in Expression Engine, which doesn’t port over in a friendly, convenient way. Personal blogs weren’t a big seller for ads, but hey. The only blog with an ad is a tech blog I never post at, and that is a candidate for revival. That and the business one go with skills I am emphasizing for Real Job potential. I also had a site that was going to be my next business. It never went away, but I have it blank right now because the content, including what I did for services, pricing and all, was stale. I mean to do something with that, even if I do limited business. That is because I added that as a position on my resume, as well as because, well, any work I can get is much needed income. If it actually flies, I can see a tiny office in my future, which would be a nice supplement to a tiny apartment or room rental I also see in my future, eventually. I’m going to emphasize more the web stuff than I did before. I’m going to stop failing to play with technology. It was exhilarating recently to make a laptop work, including tearing it apart more than necessary and seeing how it ticked. I have computer carcasses and parts to go through and mostly purge, but in the process I can get my groove back. Funds are an issue, obviously, but I learned the hard way you can’t build or even keep a business running without spending on it in ways that get you and keep you current. I used to be angry that everything I took in at the old business went to home expense and I felt unable to put money into anything “extraneous.” The office rent got paid, though sometimes that was an eventuality rather than a given, but the technology I worked with got older and older, internally and not just with the client. If I couldn’t pay me enough to live on (and I felt like I couldn’t trim things as much as I needed – funny what necessity changes) and keep both the taxes and medical insurance/expenses paid, I certainly couldn’t buy new computers, devices, software, training, whatever. And that is part of the problem with my weird reticence about pricing adequately. Which back then wasn’t a problem, long as I charged the clients for everything I did. Too few clients and too much restriction by one on my ability to service others was a problem, but the hourly rate was at least close to where it should have been.

That job prospect I mentioned saved me turning them down by simply not calling me back or e-mailing as promised. I was prepared to say no. That’s something I am learning! I can say no. I don’t have to take work that pays too little or has demands that are all wrong. Obviously there needs to be some work being had, and it can be a matter of marginal revenue in a storm, but the abuse can be limited.

I figure as I blog, as I muck out my room and work through the old computers, I might have ideas. I am feeling hopeful and my brain feels like it’s funtioning fully now, so I am more likely to have a clever, creative idea and be able to follow it.

If the economy were better, I might be focused purely on jobs, but I have already been turned down for no-brainer opportunities. That’s an element I forgot above: The need to piece a living together, to be a rennaisance man, perhaps.

Better Than The Nolan Chart

My first thought was that this makes glaring the limited difference between typical republicans (conservatives) and typical democrats (liberals).

SocialStructures

This is from Liberty’s Torch.

My second thoughts involved the naming of the categories, and volunteerism being much less scary-sounding than anarchism, which is what the only truly safe section is. Minarchism may not sound less scary than libertarianism, which is what that part of the chart describes, in strict, traditional terms. Since “classical liberal” is a term I learned meant “libertarian,” I am intrigued by having that matched with “paleo-conservatism,” the next step up, and… mmm… acceptable. I always figure that it matters first what you choose to have government do, then, having decided, doing it right. Towns will run schools? OK, let’s not make them money sinks that do a lousy job, and for goodness sake let’s not let the federal government take de facto control. That kind of thing.

I’m glad the next loop up is modified with “modern,” because it is so not conservatism. Except now it is. Deb sat down as I was working on this and we talked about the names and categories. I came to libertarianism in the seventies, and was heavy into it into the eighties. I learned it as what’s called minarchism here, as I noted. She learned it, later, as what’s called paleo-conservatism here. I learned that as more of a next level, just as shown, where you can’t quite get everyone to agree that, really, these things can be done at least as effectively by the market or private cooperation.

And there’s another thing. It seems to me that this looks at any and all activities at any and all levels of government. In my town, we have a classic example of volunteerism/anarchism, whereby the community runs a gas and electric utility, to benefit the community and keep it tight to the people it serves. Local action. So when we talk roads, are we talking that, yeah, way more efficient for the community to build and maintain them, while maybe a highway that goes long distances and has controlled access, yeah, that could work better or as well done as a privately built road you pay to use.

Which is really just a step up from that decision to assign the right to use force on behalf of everyone to a government entity. Trouble is, another thought I had right away, it’s the very fact you are giving government that power to use force on your behalf that makes it easy for it to use power to coerce you. The idea is projecting it outward. It’s so easy to turn it inward.

And arguably the dangerous transition point is that fifth item up: education. Once the government can not on coerce, but control what is learned, influence attitudes from the beginning, power is well entrenched. Which is why education cannot be controlled by higher levels, but must remain controlled by lower levels of government or community, or be in the hands of the people, or be privately operated and paid.

Homelessness

Back when it was a huge issue, more for bashing Reagan than for real, but it’s always real to some degree, and had been exacerbated by the recent release of mentally ill to the streets, I became aware of how government causes the problem of homelessness and people over their heads in housing costs.

Zoning. Regulation. Rules, largely but not exclusively local in nature.

Can we go back?

Worse, I always thought the tiny sleeping cubes in Japan, or airports wherever, were a cool idea. Never thought of them being restricted into impossibility here.

Additionally, as I am sure I have mentioned before in ten years of blogging, I have thought housing suffered from preconceived notions and from lack of new inventions. As long as a house is a single family, made generally of wood, on a lot of at least a certain size, constructed a certain way, generally by professionals working at a certain pay and pace, then the cost will be higher rather than lower. I’ve always thought there had to be a better way.

Entitlement

I’ve been thinking about entitlement as a personal and moral trait that can overlap political beliefs, and relate to the government plural of the same word.

Whether you have been raised to it or come to it otherwise, a strong enough sense of entitlement without moral brakes on it can lead you to steal, which is really just a direct form of seeing that money not yours is spent to your benefit. It can lead you to something like insurance fraud, where you feel entitled to take the insurer for enough money not merely to repair insured damage to your house, but also to rebuild it extensively, shiny and like new. It can make you the person who is demanding beyond all reason at a retailer, or who gives the pharmacy hell for the limits of your prescription coverage that they can’t control. It can make you the person who has an unrealistic concept of what Social Security and Medicare are/should be, and of how far the money you paid in actually extends, even if you are logical and not otherwise mathematically impaired.

You see this as a generality in generations, like the Lucky Few, even when individually they might have political leanings ostensibly disparaging of “entitlements.” I had not been aware there was indeed a distinction until recently, despite it seeming like there was a gap before the Boomers. You see it more specifically in families or how people are raised, and in social classes. A sufficiently strong sense of entitlement is a lopsided thing, where you see only that you want, you deserve, you need. You don’t see where the money is coming from, who you are affecting, or even ethical, legal or philosophical ramifications. Come to think of it, it’s the extreme opposite of feeling entitled to nothing via a low self-esteem or “dog that’s been beat too much” problem, but that strikes me as a digression into another topic.

A gentler form of it is indeed strongly optimistic expectations. Of course you can get a job at the proverbial IBM and retire comfortably after thirty years! Isn’t that what everyone does? Sorry, Lucky Few, it’s 2013. Or 1980, as the case may be.

Anyway, where I am going with this is to cross it over to political leanings or expectations. It seems to me that the same outlook could give make your overriding conviction to be milking the system for what you want for you and yours, without regard or even awareness of consequences or costs. Just as you can ruin your life if you let an inhibition-free sense of entitlement veer into illegal ground, you can ruin the country by voting or promulgating institutionalized theft. There are times when the overhead of entitlement can be absorbed for an extended or even indefinite time. For instance, unionized industries that add cost out of proportion to value. There are times when the party ends. Real estate won’t always go up and up artificially. You were never entitled to an automatic windfall. Government won’t always be able to pay benefits it does now. Not even pensions, if the money wasn’t actually put aside and kept safe and actuarially appropriate.

You are not entitled to whatever you want, any way you can get it. There isn’t an endless trough. It has to come from somewhere. If you’re not creating value for value, if you just want it so you should get it, you’re doing it wrong.

Talking About Basic Nonsense

The often sensible if excessively socially conservative John Hawkins has a bizarre piece at Townhall.com that I just can’t resist going through. It’s long, twenty points, and that may be part of its problem. When you’re trying to come up with that much in the face of a deadline…

(Update: I will update this when I have a chance, to show the gist of each original point, so it will not be imperative to read the original to make sense of this. OK, paraphrase, condensed version or copy of point being addressed is indented above each numbered response.)

People who wish to change sexes should see a shrink. Apparently rather than being allowed to, on a reread of the source.

1. People who wish to change genders were not, last I knew, allowed to do so without the advice of a psychologist. That doesn’t mean it’s good advice. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an industry of enablers, as might also be the case with convincing people they have conditions that allow them not to work, or never to grow up, or to live as professionally needful whiners. “OMG I am crazy and always wanted to be a girl” is no excuse for not having a life and taking some responsibility. Nor is it anyone’s business if you want to invert or extend your parts, even if you will never look feminine, or masculine, so long as you are not a societal leech. You have the right to do it. Others have the right to mock it. Nobody but you has any obligation to pay for it, or your general support.

“Most people who remain poor over the long haul in America stay that way because of their own poor life choices.”

2. That sounds like something one of the Lucky Few Generation might believe, having hit everything just right. It sure helps to make good decisions, but conservatives who dismiss timing and luck as factors and are holier than thou just come acorss as low-credibility cretins. It also helps to learn the skills and principles associated with success and good decisions, which makes parenting a rather overlooked factor.

“Most black Americans are good and decent people, but percentage wise there are more black Americans in jail because percentage wise, black Americans commit a lot more crimes than white Americans.”

3. Maybe. Or maybe the pointless drug war goes after them disproportionately. Driving while black? How about toking while black. In any event, most blacks are good and decent people, some of the best, so no disagreement there. It is unfortunate that the fascist left since FDR has used them as a permanent underclass to gain and maintain power, though I perceive that to be eroding. For that matter, referring back to item 2, poor is the new black.

“As often as not in America, the people claiming to be “victims” are the real bullies and they don’t deserve anyone’s sympathy.”

4. No real comment here, since it only purports to be common, not absolute, and strikes me as true enough. There is an element of bludgeoning the rest of us with need, with a claim to being maligned if the sense of entitlement is denied.

Politicians are shameless liars because people vote what they want to hear, not truths.

5. An actual truth, as I perceive it, though given enough chance and impetus, voters might just surprise you.

We owe less to illegal aliens even than to foreign nationals, because they broke the law.

6. Essentially correct, if you operate on the basis of closed borders, and even if you subscribe to the “two hands, one mouth” theory of what immigrants, legal or not, bring. Since Mexico has an economy and we don’t, these days, it’s less of an issue, and it’s not an inverse issue, since Americans are less inclined to leave their family and walk a thousand miles in search of work most people wouldn’t want to do, out of desparation. Or they could stay home and make good life choices!

“Life begins at conception and having an abortion is no morally different than strangling your baby in the crib.”

7. Do we really want to go there? Having kids made me both more willing to accept abortion, and more appreciative of the little parasites developing to the point of intelligence and personality at some point while still in the womb. Until they are viably separate enough to be raised by someone not the biological mother, though, they are indeed parasites, and about as welcome as illegal aliens are to some folks.

“Most liberals aren’t patriotic and they don’t love their country.”

8. Maybe. Not all, but I certainly know some. Yet they would be first to have the schools use instilled patriotism as doublespeak indoctrination and a mind control tool. (Added thoughts…) It is far more important to love freedom than a given country. The same might be said of hardcore libertarians, who are loyal to positive principles more than to place or political status quo.

Avoid civilian casualties but ultimately lives of our soldiers rank higher.

9. Damn straight. Except we should not be involved in conflicts that make civilian foreign casualties a factor without incredibly good reason, none of which currently exist, even if they did in the last dozen years.

Ignorant, ill-informed rabble shouldn’t vote.

10. Arguably, perhaps, but the same sort of class superiority that makes you look down on the poor, and gives you more in common with the left than with real people. This statement is up there with “if you didn’t vote, you lost the right to complain,” which is one of the most shallowly ignorant sentiments I’ve seen. It never fails to make me see red. So are you going to be the one to decide, Mr. Dictator-in-Waiting? That’s where the sentiment leads.

“The only practical way to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is for the Israelis to transfer the Palestinians and take their land.”

11. Ah, Israel. Land that leftist American Jews refuse to support, at least as indicated by voting patterns, if not universally otherwise. Israel, and its annexed lands that the owning countries gave up on and didn’t want the residents back from. The ones who are Jordanians or whatever, but call themselves “Palestinians.” Yeah, keep the land. Evict the people. Even though Arabs live peacefully in Israel proper, and it’s probably the best place for them to be in the greater Middle East and Persia. A friend once told me, probably about 1978, that the solution would be for Israel to become an American state. Never happen, but amusing idea that’s never lost its charm for me.

This is a christian nation dammit!

12. This is a nation of religious freedom and open arms, which has something of a Judeo-Christian tone without being overtly religious. I wouldn’t say that makes it a “Christian nation” with “Christian principles.” I consider those who keep harping otherwise to be somewhere between looney and dangerous. Nor is the presence of “in God we trust” or a national Christmas tree worthy of concern to your average atheist, agnositic or pagan. Especially the latter to the latter, since it’s pagan borrowing.

“Men are just generally better at some things than women, just as women are just generally better at some things than men are.”

13. The most accurate thing yet. Men and women. We are not the same. Nobody is saying women should stay barefoot and pregnant, simply by observing reality. Duh.

Racism was once big deal, now a tool of phonies et al.

14. Another accurate item! “Racism” of late has become a cudgel, even as it’s fading away to nothing in reality.

“Long term, the only way our country can pay its bills is by asking everyone who’s not dirt poor to pay as much in taxes to the government as they’re given in services if they want to continue to receive those services.”

15. And hey, why not make the dirt poor pay and pay too, since that’ll teach ‘em not to make bad decisions. But seriously, this is too brief to be analyzed well, though it’s on the right track. Except… at this point, even that is not going to be enough to pay the bills, assuming we’re not talking about repudiating some or all the national debt that cannot ever be repaid without an explosion of productivity and fiscal sanity. Which, yes, would include people paying for services or not getting them. The more of them privately provided and not within the government sphere at all, the better.

Mother and father better at raising children than singles, gradparents or gay parents.

16. Two parental units are always better than one, unless that “village” is awfully responsive, and not too busy helping with someone else’s much older kids who are far more able to take care of themselves than yours. But… they can’t be gay parents? Seriously? Are you a fucktard? An asshat? Or grandparents?! What’s this, ageism? Does this apply to parents who are old enough to be grandparents? Why mess with the point of “single parents have it harder and are less likely to have great results” by bringing in extraneous prejudices?

Boy Scouts can’t survuve gay scoutmasters because lust trumps all, gay male to young male just as straight to young female.

17. But it’s OK to have a lesbian Girl Scout leader alone with your daughter? I know! Let’s make all Boy Scout leaders lesbians, and all Girl Scout leaders gay men. Problem solved! Or we could try our best simply to have responsible, trustworthy adults who are good examples and would protect and defend but never harm their charges. Naw, never work.

Homeless = mentally ill. Contain or help them in spite of themselves.

18. I missed this one on my original reading, perhaps because my head was spinning with WTF by this point. Not actually out of line, since the homeless problem originated with Reagan’s well-intentioned reduction of the former system for handling the mentally ill. On the other hand, where do we stop with the involuntary “help,” and ho decides “mentally ill”? Didn’t the Soviets used to lock up their “mentally ill”? When I was a kid, this was the stuff of nightmares for me.

“If you have good character, you should feel ashamed of taking food stamps, taking welfare, or being on a school lunch program.”

19. I daresay most people are, but it’s bad when that deters you from bothering at all. Further, what is meant by “school lunch program”? In our town, school lunches are $2.50 and do not serve $2.50 worth of food, and yet it has always been my understanding that even this is subsidized, which is why the feds exert so much control over it and have made it so kids throw so much away as unpalatable. If you are poor for your family size, actually the same guideline as SNAP (food stamps), school lunch is 40 cents, while milk alone is 50 cents either way. That is actually a worthwhile discount, since it costs us somewhat more than that to make a lunch. However, we make lunches half or more of the time, since so much of it is food the kids won’t eat, or can’t due to allergies. As far as I have ever been able to determine, free lunch only goes to kids whose parents are on food stamps. Ironic, since we would qualify, and could use the little bit it would provide, but I gave up on applying after the local food stamp office blacklisted me for rudely expecting them to respond to a renewal application after the one year we received benefits. Luckily, the year we most needed it. Of course, we probably made bad decisions that made us poor, which probably means we have bad character, so why would we have any shame? Glad you feel so superior.

Most immigrants should be well-educated Europeans, not losers from rest of world.

20. Racist! Well, maybe not, but think about it… doesn’t that sound like it? Except it’s not that so much as classism, which has been what much of the list was about.

Fascinating Map

Showing the numbers and proportions of secession petitioners by state. Found via Jeff Soyer.

I laughed when I saw California with the lowest proportion of the population. Massachusetts was tied for second with Maryland, with Illinois third and, it appears, Minnesota fourth. No surprises there, or with Alaska having the highest percentage and Texas the highest total.

Of course, the question of secession was settled by force over a century ago, but that makes it neither less appealing nor less of a political statement to agitate lip service toward it.

Oh Megan

Good points, but…

Four pound sugar bags have been an option for at least four years. I first encountered them in Stop & Shop, the company that brought you Peapod. At times, they were lower per pound so I’d buy them.

People aren’t stupid. We do notice size changes. It is frustrating, but you have to be a relatively monied, inattentive shopper not to notice 16 oz cans becoming 14, and so forth. Cranberry sauce. Tuna. I’ve even noticed smaller kielbasa for the same price as a pound. At least sugar had 4 lbs as an option, with 5 lbs remaining standard. That may have been an early instance of trying to give people on a tight budget a smaller size at an easier to take price, though there have always been one pound sugars for that.

Size changes aren’t new. It’s been happening with candy bars since I was a kid, decades ago.

Another size reduction? Potatoes in 4 lb bags. Not universal, but they exist, and are marketed at what would be a decent or sale price for five pounds, making it easy to be fooled into grabbing a bag, thinking it’s a deal. Very important to pay attention to those unit prices.

Elections Have Consequences

I knew there were tax changes coming, barring anything done to avert them, and I just discovered one aspect I’d not know of before in the chart here. Child tax credit is going from $1000 back to $500 in 2013. That may not suddenly mean we owe more, or even that we get less back in earned income credit, but it may be a close thing, or may matter in a couple years.

Not that the child tax credit should even exist, but since it does, and it potentially affects our finances, why would we approve of an arbitrary drop? As such things go, it seems least worst, in the manner of the EIC if you’re really into evening things out. The trouble with the EIC is the donut hole dropoff, which we start to approach, in which your effective tax rate is staggering. Even now, I figured out last tax year that each dollar of self-employment income I might add means 47 cents in additional tax. If I charge you $40 to fix your computer because I figure that’s all you can afford, or all the market will bear, I make a tad over $20 of it in reality, and no matter that I spent three hours, for which I should have charged between $120 and $300. But this is not about pricing and marketing and even the effects of self-esteem on same.

Also, the more direct impact on us is the end of the payroll tax reduction, which arguably should never have been enacted anyway. But since it was, the end of it represents a substantial tax increase on people of modest income. We’re talking about eliminating what we saved by canceling our landline, to put it in real terms, or enough to get McDonald’s 2-3 times a month… except we don’t do that, because the money isn’t there! If it’s not there for things we want or need, how is it there for a tax increase? It’s not. Nor is it there to be a portion of the additional we’d need to spend on groceries in order to change my diet to comply with what the cardiologist wants to see to maximize my lifespan and minimize my chance of additional stents or worse. Not. There. For. Health. So it’s not there for taxes, either, and if you think Obamacare is going to help me afford to eat healthier, you’re delusional.

The thing is, again, the tax shouldn’t have been cut in the first place, so nobody would be able to miss it. Or it should have been eliminated 100% in a massive overhaul of everything. As long as you pay lip service to it being a retirement account, or even if you don’t, and instead recognize it as a wobbly pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme, cutting that tax makes no sense, as it affects if either way.

The child tax credit, though… As a matter of social policy, what is it? It recognizes that people with children could use an added tax advantage because OMG expensive. By extension, it makes having children a prioriy of the government. New subjects citizens to help keep the social security Ponzi scheme economy going in the future, replacing older workers as the retire, and some so the whole scheme economy doesn’t collapse.

Back to the donut hole. It’s more than the taxes. My 47% assumes self-employment, and would be lower otherwise, but if it’s employment or business income, if it takes time away from home, it means daycare. If I were to trade in my part-time job for full time, there would be an immediate daycare “tax” of $270 a week. Not even guessing at how much more that might be in summer or school vacation weeks. I have to account for that, elimination of the EIC, even though for us that has been on paper and being taken to cover old tax debt each year, incurring income tax on income that had none before as well as the added income, insurance costs that will change, and costs associated with commuting and having less “free” time. Working from home or doing business from home and flexibly/less than full time modifies that, but doesn’t avoid it entirely. For a specific potential job, I estimated needed $40,000 a year above the income I make part time just to stay even. Not compensating me at all for taking my time. That’s basically $43 an hour for each extra hour above what I work part time.

No wonder I still keep thinking what I have to do is make a living at self-employment and/or writing and/or part-time work from home.

Things have to change, in any event. My reaction to the election was a coldly furious resolution to be prepared to survive whatever happens. Ironically, that means improving my income. Expenses have nowhere to go but up, since we are about as to the bone as possible. I figure on being better able to cover living expenses, while continuing to keep them as low as possible, while preparing against disaster, disruption, lack of income in the future… all the things that can happen “unexpectedly” (if you have blinders on). It’s great to hope things go well and change for the better, but in reality it could take decades to recover from this depression and from four more years of fundamental transformation. If it happens at all. In the long view, the tax blip coming up is nothing, and could help things turn toward the saner sooner rather than later.

Yeah

Picking through the rubble.

 

Yeah, I feel like an ass for not voting Gary Johnson. Especially in Massachusetts, where it doesn’t matter either way. I had a notion that the vote for Romney would be closer in this state than anyone would expect, and thought I’d contribute to that end. Especially since Gary Johnson was arguably the best Liberarian candidate ever.

The candidate we really needed was Bill Weld.

He got no traction with the Republican party, though, because he was a libertarian. He was what I think of it meaning to be a Republican. After him, Cellucci was close, but not quite. Jane Swift was kind of a joke by comparison, but more in an in over her head competence thing. I still thought it was rude the way Romney shoved her out of the way to start his presidential run in the form of being a governor. I disliked that before I disliked RomneyCare. Then he became presidential and outshone all the others this time. There is probably nobody who has run for President who would be a viable future candidate. Not sure who is a viable candidate. It’s possible Ryan is too socially conservative, and that part must go. But I digress.

I Compose the Best Posts in My Head at Work

I just don’t remember them later!

I was wrong, obviously. I forgot Wizard’s First Rule: People are stupid. Thought of that at work, while my thoughts churned.

I can’t go Galt now, or I would. Planned or not, I’ve de facto been going Galt for the past four years. I said things would get better regardless who won. I didn’t say they’d stay better, let alone get as much better, and as I conceded to a leftist acquaintance, we would crash either way. Just why sooner rather than later?

No, I have to change my life to what will seem to be better and wealthier, because I can’t go unprovisioned into the darkness, and provisioning takes money, while it still buys things.

Republicans will have to change. Mitt ran a good race, as a better candidate than I’d have imagined. Cerainly none of the crew were better, which is a sad statement. Sure, there were some near misses and some excitement, but they all were flawed. He didn’t emphasize social conservatism, yet the party has saddled itself with that to the point people assume. From what I could see, that was what people feared. While they didn’t need to fear it, republicans need to be more overt in recognizing and acknowledging it’s over, that there’s a new normal. Better to focus on the economics that will no go out of style, and improve foreign policy while keeping the general tenor of strength and world leadership.

The sad thing is, before Bush hit his second term and went crazy, or perhaps showed what was always there, when Bush was running, it seemed like republicans has overtly become the big tent party. It’s better, or at least no worse, to be gay or a minority and go republican. (Note that I am leaving out libertarians here, though I did have thoughts on that and Gary Johnson as well.) If there are loudmouths who sound like they’ll take away your right to early term abortions or stand fast in the way of marrying whoever you want, well, they are loudmouths, not representative. Sadly, democrats project. They project fraud onto republicans, while being the primary home of it. They project racism onto republicans, while being the current and historic home of it.

It was always discomforting that Mitt was the grandfather of Obamacare.

He was also too nice, too non-specific economically, and too easily associated in people’s minds with Bush, who remains poisonous. In some ways, I’d call this a referendum on Bush versus Obama. If I had to make a choice of having Bush back or keeping Obama, I’d go for Bush, but it would be a razor thin thing, holding my nose and hoping he didn’t screw it up. Mitt is no Bush, but it took me a while to get enthusiastic rather than resigned to him.

It’s just an election, at least. Hugo Chavez was elected, so how bad could it be?

On the plus side, I was not looking forward to blogging critically of the Romney administration, given the morass it faced. Oh, I would have. I may have more fun going all out on the clown who’ll inherit his own (and yes, GWB’s) mess.

As for the voters, you own it. You voted for it, and oh won’t you get it. Thanks for taking me along. Appreciate it. Especially you single issue voters (see above, and also delusions like that there’d cuts to school funding enough to matter – as if that’s a federal issue anyway) and people who grew up financially privileged as children of rent-seekers or workers of angles and influence or thuggery however polished, who seem yet to have learned of the real world. Good luck with that, eventually.

And yes, I voted, so even to you pathetic morons who spout the witless line about not having the right to complain if I didn’t vote, I sure as fuck will complain. Boy will I complain. If that were all you reaped from what you’ve sown, you’d be lucky, and I’d be thrilled. Are you ready for what’s coming?

Cooking, Blogging and Tech, Oh My

Or: Pay attention to your sites, dude.

Once upon a time, Jeff Soyer started a food blog called Single Guy Cook, which I hough was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it ran out of steam quickly, given limited funds and repertoire.

That inspired me to start one called Married Guy Cook, since I used to post frequently about what I’d cook, and I’d gotten deeply into cooking since getting married. Unfortunately, it hobbled along, given limited funds and repertoire, and I trailed off due to that and other issues. However, it was a popular and lucrative site, for a time, for earning money.

That and being even more broke than ever (I’d never realized while I was self-employed just how low my income was, though I did know that it was incredibly rocky – impossible, technically – to live on it) were part of the inspiration for starting Frugal Guy Cook, to which I ported the posts from Married Guy Cook.

Then I all but abandoned it, despite all my plans to make money from it, and to expand the focus to being frugal in this ridiculous economy and to handling our son’s multiple allergies and sensitivities. That meant it didn’t build much content or garner page rank, and never became a potential source of income. Granted, that was partly the reperoire thing, and the money thing goes without saying, but that was part of the schtick. Only so many things you can tout doing with dried pinto beans, cheap burger on sale (OK, that’s an oxymoron these days; burger that is sometimes on sale for less epensive enough to justify its purchase, if only because we have to eat), cheap beef on sale, cheap chicken on sale, rice, and what vegetables we can afford, or buy regardless. I never buy fish, for instance, because $5/lb and up is “rich people food.” Indeed, my current conundrum is that since my stents, I am supposed to eat healthier, and while there have been steps in that direction, going whole hog means money. And if I do spend more on food, it ceases to be “frugal,” at least by my standards. The next couple weeks will test my frugality. We have a freezer relatively full of meat, which helps, and are well stocked in other things, but I expect to have maybe $60 or so to spend through November 9th (maybe more, but there’s also gas, and I have to plan low rather than optimistic). Bread alone is $6-7 a week. Anyway, I digress.

I slacked off on that site so badly that I have yet to fix the weirdness that porting from the old one caused, or adjust the theme to look less funny as a result (or replace the theme).

On my last big shopping trip, I got a sugar pumpkin on sale for 29ยข a pound. Cheap and I love making pumpkin bread or other things from the source, though canned is easier. Yesterday I went looking for a pumpkin bread recipe. I may have had one saved on my computer, but my computer, and the spare one into which I put the till working drive from the dead one, is dead. I thought I might have written about making pumpkin bread, and if so, it might have made it onto the food blog. Otherwise it’s a matter of finding a likely looking recipe and trying it, rather than using one I knew was good from past use. Not that there’s much you can do to mess up pumkin bread. Besides, I can always make pumpkin cake, which is a matter of using pumpkin as the liquid in the egg and dairy-free cake recipe and adding appropriate seasoning.

In the course of checking whether I’d ever posted it, I found that every picture in every post I looked at had been replaced by a square graphic saying “SHOPWIKI.” Clicking the picture, rather than bringing up a larger version, took me to a site not my own.

“How was I hacked,” I wondered.

Well, I wasn’t. I allowed the old domain to expire, an unusual thing for me, but sometimes there’s reason to let go. The posts I had ported still pointed to graphics (and sometimes internal links) on the old domain. Which now belongs to someone else. My experience with lapsed domains, even if they have no page rank, is that someone snaps them up and makes them page full of ad links, such that they will generate at least something over the cost of registering and hosting the domain. It’s what my old business partner would have called “yawn money.” Make money while you sleep. Even if it’s a little, even if it’s some tiny form of arbitrage, it will add up and be something you wouldn’t make otherwise. I could go for some of that.

I still had all the graphics, mind you. The folder the old domain had been in was totally intact. So I copied it to the new location and modified each wrong URL directly in the database. Easy, but a bit embarrassing, given that it should have been done at the time of the port.

The moral of the story, I’d say, is pay attention. If you’re going to have a blog empire, mind your blog empire. If you’re going to write, write. If you’re going to maintain places to write, maintain them. Don’t be surprised if neglect leads to decay.

At the moment, I am only posting here, trying to do it regularly, building back up a blog we should never have left fallow in the first place. If it weren’t for the difficulty in porting Expression Engine to WordPress, the entire original content would be here, rather than archived. The conundrum is that topical blogs are lucrative. That was part of the reason for Frugal Guy Cook in the first place. I’ll probably post food-related stuff here now, but it’s an opportunity missed. Same for tech blogging and business blogging. I fell out of both, tech in paricular, since I all but stopped doing it for a living, and I lacked the money to keep myself up to date, which feeds the no doing it for a living and vice-versa. We’ll see what happens. For the time being, writing and maintaining this stuff is de facto a job for me, so all the more reason it should get caught up and get done routinely. Income, however speculative and lacking in direct connection to the effort, won’t be possible at all otherwise.

RIP George McGovern

We remember him best for the 1972 blowout to a crookedly leftist republican, but George McGovern increasingly became a Libertarian Hero. Read it if you haven’t; it’s a great appreciation, and includes details you may not have known.

I remember the 1972 election well, because I already followed politics to some degree, and favored Nixon. When we held a class election between the two candidates, I was almost the only one who voted Nixon, foreshadowing how our parents would vote in Massachusetts, but not in other states.

Odd, too, that I favored Nixon after his imposition of wage and price controls, which infuriated my father. I couldn’t believe the government had the right to do such a thing. We make fun of the hapless Carter, and it is well-deserved, for all he was far better than Obama, but Nixon piled on Johnson to create the basis for economic conditions Carter (and Ford, and Reagan initially) faced. But I digress.

It is a good man who can observe, inerpret and accept reality, admitting he was once wrong in some regards. Without ceasing to be right in others. Well done.