Links and a memo to the lawnmower boy

First, some relevant links, because my stranger essays (like the one below) are an acquired taste.

At Are We Lost Yet? I finally posted a Behind the Hike on Sterling Pass and the Vultee Arch north of Sedona.

At Curious Continuity, we expanded a little on the Robots and AI’s vs your crappy job.

I have a new blog, Brazen Wonk, which will become my outlet for political posts. I am not shy about my politics, but as this thing transitions towards an author blog, I did not want my wonkish rantings cluttering up a blog about life’s lessons learned, and writing announcements. Just as importantly, I’m trying to build an overall narrative about the importance of moderation in a democracy, and I do not want to clutter that up with random musings on lawncare, or the antics of octopi.

The latest is about the Gorsuch confirmation battle.

Bored? Sober? Penny has updated Wine Hobo with profile of Pillsbury Wine Company in Cottonwood, and their invaluable listing of wine related events.

If wine’s not strong enough, Total Wine and More will teach you about whisky.

Finally, an octopus has eaten all of a jellyfish except the part it wants to wear.

You’re welcome.

Now this:

Open Memo to the kids who mowed my lawn

Let’s start by saying you did a decent job of it, despite a number of challenges that you mostly brought upon yourselves.  So this is not (for the most part) to complain about your work. The thing is that I have a lot of experience both in mowing my lawn in particular, and making a good effort at an inherently unprofitable job in general. Here then, is some unsolicited advice.

Some background, since we are sharing this with the rest of the internet: My wife hired you, the twenty something male whose name I did not catch (so “Guy”) to mow our front lawn when you came to the door to solicit that work. Front yard and trim around our wall for $25. Only, we didn’t have cash that day, so she told you to come back in a few days. Then we both forgot about that, thinking that you were not likely to come back.

So you know, knocking on doors looking for odd jobs is tweeker behavior, particularly in this neighborhood. Now, we don’t think anything of the kind now, but that’s the starting assumption you’re going to fight when approaching middle-aged white homeowners.

Tweekers don’t come back. You did. There ends that debate.

You woke me up when you knocked on the door. Ok. It was like 10am, that’s fine. You had another twenty something woman with you, whose relationship to you I could not determine (so “Gal”), and your girlfriend, because you referred to her as such, and an infant child. Also, an electric lawnmower and a gas powered weed-eater of varying functionality.

With that scene set, here’s what I should have pulled you aside to tell you:

  • Bring your own water. Not all homeowners are as nice as I am.
  • If you’re going to mow strangers’ lawns, you need a gas powered lawnmower. Your day went better than it would have normally because I have an electric mower too, and have the exterior outlet and the pile of extension cords to support it.
    • A gas mower means not having to worry about any of that.
    • But if you’re going to stick with an electric mower, learn to over/under the cable. It’s an obscure show biz skill, but it halves the difficulty of feeding an extension cord across a given distance, such as the lawn you are mowing.
    • Star at the coil, and go out from that direction as if vacuuming a rug. The concentric circle method is for gas mowers.
  • I was happy to lend you my trimmer when yours died ( or simply outwitted you – it was hard to tell), but I was not happy to see how it was returned. With middle-aged men, the problem is as much the surprise as the damage. Hiding it essentially doubles your jeopardy. If you break something, tell us about it.
    • It cost just shy of $9 and a half hour of my time to fix it – but it took a week to get the part.
    • Even so, when (if) you come back, be prepared to use your own trimmer.
    • KIMG0128

      No good deed goes unpunished.

 

  • You paid twenty dollars for that diaper.

Let me explain that last. I offered another $25 to do the backyard as well, and you accepted. That work was well done, except I could see where progress stopped. The infant, whom your girlfriend had been struggling to deal with all morning, had filled her diaper, and you had no spares. So you and Gal worked furiously to get it mostly done, so you could go home and change the diaper. I had another twenty dollars of bonus work which would not have taken you long (trimming that bush spilling over the top of my wall – essentially a disguised tip). As it was, I had to wait for my part to come in to finish trimming my backyard.

This brings up a couple of broader lessons.

Leave the family home. They gain nothing by loitering on the sidewalk while you mow the lawn, and you lose revenue you can’t afford (more on that below) when those specious logistics fall apart.  It’s not just you. I have told many young stagehands that leaving early to give their significant others a ride or whatever costs them a half-day’s hourly wage. Is that really cheaper than a cab ride? Young people in love don’t always do that math.

A note for your girlfriend, and all the other SO’s who view their partner going off to work as some sort of threat to the relationship.  We pay you to do the work in part so that you will take it seriously. Bringing your SO to the jobsite gives the opposite impression. Also, useful people will always be in demand. If your boyfriend has nothing better to do with his time than hang out with you, there is likely an unpleasant reason for that.

Here’s your real problem, though. You made a total of $50 for about three hours of work. Split between the two adults, that’s just over $8/hour. That’s not going to get it done. I’ve spent time being twenty something and desperate, and I get that some money is better than no money, but you will starve to death doing lawns like this. There is no upward price pressure. At $60 or more, I’ll do the lawn myself. I am your real competition, and I am really good at mowing my own lawn.

But, as I said, you did a respectable job, and I asked you to come back in few weeks, and you said yes. And if you do, I’m going to ask if you have a working cel phone. If you have one, I’m going to refer you (both of you) to Rhino Staging, because their lowest rate represents a 50% increase in your hourly wage. But you gotta be able to just answer the phone, and you can’t bring your girlfriend.

Truth be told, though, I actually hoping you won’t come back. I’m actually hoping you find something better on your own.

 

Now you know.

 

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The More Things Change…

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

First, some rumor control. There has been a rash of stories about border guards detaining people for no good reason, and as much as I would like to attribute that to the Trumpster – this is not new. [Watts ended up convicted of a felony, is barred from traveling in or though the US and paid a fine.]

My wife has given notice at Rhino, and I will miss working with her very much, not only because I (obviously) enjoy her company, but because she was also good at her job.I don’t get into Rhino politics online, but from my perspective – which is abnormally well informed – this situation was 100% avoidable had anyone in charge been inclined to take action.

This is neither the first nor last good employee who has had this experience.

March 7th is her last day at Rhino. She took a new job which starts March 8th.

I have started going back to writer’s groups. I go to Central Phoenix one on Monday nights at Grand Central Coffee Company (where I’m work-shopping the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond). and an independent one on Thursday Night at the Armadillo Grill – which seems really familiar.  (My old group met there for years, on Thursday night). Join us if your are inclined, and I will try not to spill beer on my copy of your first or second draft. [Links above are to the Meet-up sites which may require registration]

At Are We Lost Yet?  I report on outdoor retailers vs the Utah GOP.

The twice annual Outdoor Retailers Show has announced that it will pull out of its long time home in Salt Lake City Utah in protest of Utah officials support of eliminating federal lands by transferring them to the states.

At Fantastical History, we continue on with giants, exploring my strange (made-up) theory about the Muans and how they became Asuras.

Muans ( a term made up well after the fact) are a race of supernatural immortals native to southeast Asia. Their lost history informs the legends and myths behind the Asura and Devas and Jinn and Oni of more recent human cultures.

At Curious Continuity, I report both facts and wild conjecture about TRAPPIST-1 and its seven dwarves.

Unless we are captured by alien slavers and dragged there, we are not going to be around when (if) human starships reach the seven rocky dwarf planets orbiting tightly around TRAPPIST-1.  Why wait for that – when we can just make stuff up. Come on – NASA wants you to!

And I updated my writer’s resume to try and land a gig writing for Outer Places. So if they made it this far down checking me out – hi guys! The links were sparse because a lot of what I’ve written for the web has since evaporated in 404 unknown host country.

The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Now you know.

 

MORE ON PETER WATTS:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guardhttp://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guard

https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2009/12/12/us_border_guards_arrest_author_peter_watts.html

http://www.tor.com/2010/04/27/sometimes-we-win/

 

 

Q&A about uncalled fouls and Russian hacking

Somewhere in the 1990’s Alonzo Mourning’s Charlotte Hornets lost a play-off game to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Mourning complained afterwards that Jordan had fouled him on his last shot (which might have tied the game), but it was not called.

Jordan responded (I’m paraphrasing a little here – it was a long time ago):

“Did I foul him on the hand? Hell. I probably got his whole arm. Should they have called that? Sure. But if he thinks that’s why he lost the game, he’s going to lose the next one.”

I don’t remember if the Bulls swept the Hornets in those playoffs, but I know they prevailed. [update: the Bulls won 3-1 of a best of five]

This is where we’re at with the Russian hacking thing.

Is the Russian hacking thing a real scandal?  Yes – in that laws were broken. Even though the material stolen in the Watergate break-in was a non-factor in the 1972 election, no one disputed that the break-in was a crime.

Should the DNC have had better system security? Obviously.

Is this all the DNC’s fault? No. If you leave your car unlocked, it’s still a crime for someone to steal stuff out of your trunk

Does that excuse anything else that happened? No.

Is it as bad as Watergate? No – in that no-one in either Trump’s camp or the Republican Party had anything to do with it.

Did Vladimir Putin order the hack in an attempt to put Donald Trump in the White House? Not really.

Russian hackers who may or may not have been under contract with the Russian government hacked the RNC server as part of a wider effort to hack any political database. This data appeared, somehow, in the hands of Russian intelligence. Putin, it seems, saw it personally and after he stopped laughing, authorized its release to Wikileaks.

It is not so much that Putin likes Trump. It is that he really hates Hillary Clinton. Really. Hate.

Did this cost Clinton the election? No.

First, James Comey did far more damage with his November surprise press conference about nothing. If anyone should be called for a foul – it’s him.

That said, you know in your heart that Hillary Clinton cost herself the election, the way George McGovern was his own worst enemy in 1972. She was unable to present to voters any compelling reason to vote FOR her. Yeah- point to her position papers buried on her website all you want. This is Presidential politics. You have to find a way to deliver your message – deliver, and get them to listen to it.  The message she delivered was “Trump is worse” which isn’t enough in the fly-over states, as we have seen.

Should we, as a country, be concerned that Russia behaved badly? Sure.

BUT –BUT-BUT this is way down the list of the things that worry me about the upcoming Trump administration. While clearly self-serving, Trump’s admonition that we should all move on actually has some merit. That game is over. Look at the replays all you want – the score is going to stand.

BUT again, at least Jordan admitted that there was probably a foul.

 

 

Post Election Memos to my friends left and right

OK – Let’s get this over with. I am done trying to predict anything our presumed President Elect, Donald J Trump, might say, do or accomplish. I have been wrong at every turn. Now, I have not been alone in this, but at some point you have to stop touching the stove.

So I have been largely ignoring all the social media, bliggidy-blog pronouncements about what the future holds in store for our dear republic, because the only person who knows what Trump might do is Trump, and I can’t say with confidence that even he knows. This is a man who will contradict himself on policy within the same press conference, and then later, when asked to clarify, will offer a third, completely different policy, none of which will square with known facts.

I raise my hands and walk away.

A Memo to my friends standing to my left:

Protesting almost never works. How much did the Occupy movement really change anything? How much better is the Middle East after the Arab Spring? You have every right to do this, of course. But you do not have a right to be taken seriously, and no one who isn’t marching with you is taking you seriously.

(Before you start: MLK and his whole movement persevered for nearly a decade, organized politically, and did most of their real damage through strikes. You guys are nowhere near that level.)

If you want to influence the outcome of the game, you must actually play the game – and I mean politics. Right now, you’re just a bunch of rowdy fans in the cheap seats.

(Also before you start: Clinton beat Sanders by too many votes for that to be all DNC shenanigans. By the time Sanders realized he could win he was already too far behind, which sounds like nonsense, but that’s what happened.)

A Memo to my friends standing to my right:

What I can report with some confidence is that those who were hoping that our New Orange Overlord would wipe away all pretense of political correctness have it exactly backwards. If you are or have been a vocal Trumpster, the presumption is that you’re a racist, or are at least more willing to tolerate racism than the rest of society at large. If you don’t care, stop reading here.

But if you do, if you prefer to be thought of as civil , perhaps even tolerant, you were warned, even if you couldn’t recognize, that Trump has presented himself as the most openly bigoted serious candidate we’ve had since George Wallace ran on Segregation Forever in the 60’s. And you have approved that message – even if you voted for him for some other reason.

Now that doesn’t make you necessarily a bigot until … you post that one slightly bigotted thing on Facebook. You may have noticed, then, that anyone who is not also a True Trumpster reacted quickly and harshly, right?

If Trump actually carries through with his most extreme threats policies, it will become increasingly difficult to carry out a normal, peaceful existence unless you are a straight, white Christian male, ideally older than 40. For the rest of your friends – anywhere – these policies represent an existential threat to their ability to participate in society, if not life and limb.

That is a very different level of anxiety and discomfort than name-calling, which is what calling you a racist or homophobe, or islamophobe, or a general bigot amounts to.  And if you’re doing this on purpose, knowing that it will upset people, the name we use is asshole.

So if you openly endorsed Trump, and you don’t want to be considered a bigot by the majority of us who did not, then it is upon you to not be an asshole.

And so we’re clear, “Why do you say Trump is racist?” or “White lives matter too…” or “I don’t think I bigoted by my definition” or any of that tired, old crap will not work with anyone who does not agree with you already. (And if you’re claiming he didn’t mean any of that, I refer you to the top of the post)  The rest of us are exhausted in explaining this to you, and if you try to make us do it one more time, you’re being an asshole.

You live Trump down by being super cool – just as Jesus would want you to do anyway. There is no other path.

Nader’s warning

Normally, I would have forecast the presidential election months ago, and I have a pretty good record at that. I warned my tea-party friends sometime last March that if John Kasisch was not the Republican nominee, they need to get used to the idea of President Clinton again. But I never got around to writing that down. So you might take my word for it, but you don’t have to.

There’s who I think will win, and there’s who I want to win.

I’m kinda of fond of Ralph Nader’s  answer to BBC when they asked him who he would vote for. He didn’t answer the question directly, but insisted that the two major candidates were equally dangerous. The incredulous BBC guy pressed him, and he claimed that Hillary being clearly more competent made her even more dangerous. “Trump is so erratic that the Republicans will have to resist his policies to save their brand,” He said (I think – I’m paraphrasing a little) “At least until they find an excuse to impeach him.”

Clinton, meanwhile could do a lot more damage, by Nader’s reasoning, in small, reasonable increments. I hope he’s wrong, because she’s almost certainly our next president.

For the Trumpsters grinding their teeth about that, you can take some tiny comfort at this: history has not been kind to the same party successors of transformational presidents. That’s a tradition that goes all the way back to John Adams, and includes Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson,  William Taft, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, and Poppy Bush.

Maybe we should cut Johnson and Ford from that list. They were never elected in their own right. Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman are the only ones to buck this trend.

There is nothing about Hillary’s performance as a candidate or as an official that makes me believe she could follow Roosevelt or Truman. She has an insular, defensive management style. She lacks both vision and real charisma. She is too business friendly to become beloved by the left, and too not Republican to become beloved by business. This does not leave her a working coalition that will survive the Never Trump movement.

Republicans are already talking about impeaching her. Absent of a dramatic changeover in congress, I don’t think Ralph Nader has much to worry about.

Then I reflect upon Richard Nixon, one of the most qualified men to ever run, who initially lost to a charismatic junior Senator, but then learned from his mistakes, and ran an exceptional campaign against an erratic demagogue that failed to capture the support of his own party. Nixon had a an insular, defensive management style. He lacked both vision and real charisma. He was too regulatory to be beloved by the business community (he was the father of the EPA) and to not-a-democrat to get any help from the left.

He was re-elected in a historic landslide.

I’m still going to vote for her. As a radical moderate, I really have no better choice. She is, really, the paragon of Reasonable Progress in Due Course. (This has been a journey for me. I voted for Nader in 2000).

But Nader’s warning haunts me. It will be up to her to prove him wrong.

 

A Few Quick Links

Hey there, you can follow either of my Tumblr blogs (separate from this one)

Notes from the Meeting

and/or

Travels with Bongo

Both are mostly about images, which WORDpress doesn’t handle without drama (as in storage space).

The origin of Geeks infographic.

I think they fail to differentiate between Geeks, Nerds and Wonks. You could make an argument that Nerds and Wonks are sub-categories of geeks, but I’d disagree.  I think they’re separate.

Inventor James Dyson is definitely a nerd, but since he recently told Time magazine, “I hated fantasy as a child and I still hate it. I don’t like science fiction either” – he is disqualified as a geek.

From the same publication, Fareed Zakaria personifies wonk (I could literally define it as anything FZ would talk about on his CNN show or website), but I really doubt he could tell you the difference between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner.

Maybe he can.

On  a more weighty subject that FZ would approve of,  the Washington Post has collected 40 Maps that Explain the world

Related: Bored Panda’s 40 Maps they didn’t teach in school. Less educational- more weird.

Now you know.

A few thoughts about politics

A quick disclaimer: I am a resident of Arizona’s 4th Congressional district, which is comprised of just about every democratic neighborhood in Phoenix, so that three other majority Republican districts could be formed from the suburbs. Congressman Ed Pastor is effectively unopposed here, and Obama will likely carry this precinct by double digits.

But, while Pastor goes back to Congress (where he is among the most liberal) Mitt Romney will still carry Arizona by a good seven points. Mormons vote reliably. Hispanics do not. There are not enough non-Hispanic Democrats left in this state to make up the difference.

Richard Carmona has an outside chance of upsetting Jeff Flake for Senate. Good for him. And I keep hope alive that some reasonably competent individual will step up and oust Joe Arpaio as sheriff. The trouble is that while it’s easy to find better police administrators than Arpaio (you would actually struggle to find worse at this budget level), few of those guys are good politicians. And while I have always believed that Nickel-bag Joe is a menace as sheriff, there is no denying that he is a competent politician.

So I am voting out of a sense of civic duty more than any real hope of affecting the outcome.

I am a recovering liberal in that I am a reflexive liberal trying to become more moderate. (In AZ – moderate is still liberal. Not kidding.) I’m going to vote for President Obama because I think he did the best he could with a bad situation.

“It could have been worse” is not a resounding re-election slogan, but there we are.

You’ll have to trust me that this is not a partisan position: if you are moderate, you really have no alternative but the Democrats. This is not because the Dem’s have moderated their views to any substantial degree, but because the Republicans have allowed the Tea Party and the evangelicals to drag them so far to the right that they only speak to their own base now.

Jeff Flake’s ads decry that Carmona supports Obamacare as if this were akin to supporting puppy murder. No follow-up reasoning. Obamacare = bad – that’s all you need to know.

Of course he supports Obamacare. He’s a Democrat (despite the fact that he was W’s Surgeon General). That’s what they do. Why should this bother me? Flake can’t be bothered to explain that. I’m not part of his base.

This is why Carmona is in the hunt when he really should be ten points down.

This is also why Mitt Romney can’t pull ahead of a mediocre President sitting on 8.3% unemployment – his party has dragged him so far from center he can’t find his way back.

Mitt Romney used to be centrist. It’s true. He was the governor of the People’s Republic of Massachusetts – as a Republican. I remember in early 2007 watching him talk on C-span about how he was able to work with Democrats to solve problems. This was early in the GOP primaries, before some campaign pollster convinced him he could not win unless he prostrated himself to the evangelicals. So he did, competing for that vote with 6 other candidates. Meanwhile, after Gulianni collapsed, McCain was able to run off with all the business Republicans, who were still a deciding force back then, and win the nomination.

When McCain lost the general election, the GOP’s response was to purge itself of all of the moderates. Their reasoning for this escapes me. But they won some seats in 2010 – and so they doubled down on this approach.

If Romney had been able to run as a centrist leaning, problem-solving business Republican,  he’s be five points up. He could distance himself from the abortion freaks, he could talk about correcting Obamacare instead of just repealing it, he could talk about global warming as if it were a real problem, he could be making the argument that budget deficits are not the end of the world, if the money goes to create jobs, he could say all kinds of things that moderates like me would at least listen to.

These were more-or-less his positions when he governed Massachusetts. But the GOP has gone so far to the right since then that he can’t even run on his own record without alienating his base.

And here’s the real trouble: the hard-right GOP base is a dwindling resource. They are old and white in a  country that is growing younger and browner. This may be the last presidential election with a caucasion majority. (So much for their dreams of repealing the 14th amendment. Seriously – they talk about this like it’s a real plan.)

More importantly, he can’t rely on his own instincts. His instincts are to move the line and get to a deal. The Tea Party sees political activity the opposite way. Romney has been pretending to be someone he’s really not, and this may be the source of all these unforced errors. But even without these errors – he can’t win. Presidential elections are decided in the middle. He can’t get there from where he’s had to go.