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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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.

 

Hillary’s Aunt A Problem

It may be that every family has an aunt or a sister or some other Type A female relation whom everyone respects and yet dreads at the same time. In my case, I have two different aunts like this, so I’ll call my composite of them Aunt A.

Aunt A, I am certain, means to come across as nice. Even so, my mother would desperately clean the house in preparation for any visit, and even with all this effort, Aunt A would still be able to passively but distinctly point out some fault. She thinks she’s helping when she does this. It does not occur to her that people can actually be happy with lower standards.

I do not know Hillary Clinton personally, but her public persona is just this: Aunt A. “Would you be interested in knowing how I get tablecloths like this to be actually clean?”*

No, we don’t give a shit. That tablecloth has not been used since the last time you were here. We actually eat on the couch while watching TV, and would be doing so now, except we’re being polite. Thus we have to listen, politely, while  Hillary  Aunt A patiently explains how you can’t just launder tablecloths as if they were bath towels. Because she thinks she’s helping.

And that – right there –  is why HRC can’t climb above 50%.

If Aunt A – either one of them – is one of the six people who read this, she might well be mortified. And while I am less bothered by this than she might hope, that’s not my intent.  I have great respect for both of them. They are both accomplished in their fields, and actually seem to be good at anything they attempt. They’ve both held local elected offices, and they are both active in their churches. I’d be comfortable with either one of them in a position of administrative responsibility, and I am even certain they are totally right about laundering tablecloths.

But everyone who sees it that way, including, I am nearly certain, both Aunt A’s, are going to vote for Hillary anyway.  We vote for the candidate we believe has the best chance at a successful administration. This cohort, added to hardened, partisan Democrats, gets you to about 40%.

And all of this cohort – so we’re clear – have already realized what a ridiculous menace Donald Trump represents. While we can well imagine how easy and fun it is to produce ad after ad damning the Trumpster with his own ignorant outbursts, surely we have squeezed all the juice that this turnip will give. Trump is not an unknown quantity, and his negatives were catastrophically low to begin with. He’s not Hillary’s problem.

What seems to baffle team Hillary is the fact that at least 40% of the country does not seem to care what DJT says or does. They are going to vote for him because he is not Hillary Clinton. Some of these folks won’t vote for Clinton because she’s a Clinton. Even more won’t vote for her because she’s a Democrat. But most of them, or at least a plurality, will not vote for her because of the pronoun “her”.

Not all of them will admit this. They have plenty of other excuses: guns, taxes, immigration, Obamacare, etc. – and there’s no profit in trying to call them out on it. History speaks to this more clearly than polls.

The right to vote was extended to all males, even, at least in theory, black ones, by 1865. Women didn’t have the right to vote in the US until 1920. We are, historically, more sexist than we are racist, and we are a country built by slavery and expanded upon by genocide.

Hillary Clinton is not going to overcome that, or even whittle away at that, by pointing out the absurd antics of her opponent. That 40% is lost to her.

So she’s left with that 20% (really less than that) in the middle, none of whom appreciate her advice on cleaning table linens – especially when it’s obviously wrong.

By table linens I mean e-mails. Yes. That’s right.

This has nothing to do with the Republican talking points about this otherwise paltry scandal. Conflating it with corruption and treason only works with people who will never vote for Her anyway. It gives them some other reason. None of which actually moves the needle.

Hillary can’t just refute the Republican talking points on this (again, both easy and fun) and then go back into her hotel room and think she’s helping because that’s not her actual problem.

Her trouble is that a big portion of that 10-20% up for grabs handle email in a professionally sensitive environment, and would have been disciplined or fired if they had run company e-mail through their private account – and from there let it slip out into public domain.

Now, that’s a gross oversimplification of what actually happened – partially made necessary because no one really knows what happened – but that is the common perception, and therefore absolutely the Problem.

This, of course, feeds into the accusations of dishonesty and corruption that still swarm around her. And the clear fact that Trump is far worse on both traits doesn’t matter, because these accusations are coming from her left; because the DNC e-mail scandal has now made a pattern.

Hillary Clinton is not an inspiring speaker. She has plenty of policy ideas, but she can’t reliably articulate Vision the way Bill or the current President could. This was a large part of how she lost in 2008.  She’s running on competence and competence alone. Aunt A for president.

But these unforced errors with emails make her seem like Aunt B, who you can also find in my family.  Aunt B wants to be Aunt A, but does not have either the discipline or frankly the smarts to pull it off. But she brings plenty of unsolicited judgement, and is correspondingly unpopular. Then, when confronted, she storms out at the first opportunity and stays away for months as if this is some sort of punishment to the rest of us.

When was the last time HRC had a real press conference? Yeah.

Aunt A has a chance to overcome the drag of shameful history. Aunt B, though, is a buzz-saw nag who could lose to a shit-throwing orangutan.

Now we know.

  • The tablecloth thing is an illustrative example. I do not know or care how to properly launder tablecloths as opposed to bath towels.

Ignorant buzz causes unrest

Real wages have fallen every year since 2001. Much as we’d like to blame the Bushco Administration, the money that could’ve been your raise actually went to insurance companies. That’s right: the decline in wages matches the inflation in health-care costs.

Except that its wrong. Look at a 2006 report, before the recession distorted all the numbers, and the truth is worse: 47% of workers do not have employer-sponsored coverage to begin with, and that class of workers – the bottom -was the most likely to see real wages fall.

So where did all that money go? In 2006 – it went straight to profit.  That sort of behavior leads to unrest.

I spent Friday in Prescott Valley watching an easy show turn into a fire drill due to some persistent hum in the audio system. See if you’ve heard this one before, veteran ME’s: the audio guy insisted it was house power causing the hum.

To his credit, he could demonstrate hwo the buzz varied with the dimmer levels. Sharing a neutral or ground with that service could indeed cause that hum. OK. I played some games with the limited feeder on ahnd, and swapped services for him.

The I sat for the better part of two hours while he traced out a “separate” buzz issue in his monitor rig. I didn’t pay much attention (I actually ahd another, though less interesting fire to attend to), but they seemed to touch every piece of gear from the board to the power distro.

And then the hum was gone.

I’ve been doing this drill for twenty years, kids. It is almost never house power causing your stupid buzz in a relatively modern building (and the venue in question is less than 5 years old). It’s somewhere in the gear that bounced a couple hundred miles in a truck last night.

But I played the feeder game for him. And he felt that solved the problem. I just nodded and smiled. All part of my 20 hour day.

BTW – best Foreigner tribute band ever!

I kid! Foreigner – the real thing – actually puts on a good show, and you will be amazed at how many songs you recognize from radio (assuming you’re older than 32).

A couple posts back I mysteriously hit 52 pageviews in a day. I still don’t know why. My normal average is 6. I know now that it wasn’t Demand Studios, and that advertising a link on the Meet-up site is worth about a dozen hits max.

But the WordPress metrics I have for this blog exceed in quality and detail any metrics for any other blog I write – including blogs that pay me by the pageview.

This post’s lame Examiner plug: I learned how to embed a Google Map into a blog post. Check out the results here!

Now You Know

The zen approach to HCR, AI, and PPV

Previously, I speculated that if Republicans are seen as squashing Health Care Reform (how long until we simply call this HCR?) they would pay a price at the polls. I still think that’s true. However, if HCR is done in by Democratic infighting, the GOP would be set up for a triumphant mid-term.

No one really likes Howard Dean. They like him less when he’s right.

I was all set, then, to tee-off on conservative blowhards and their health-denial schemes, when I came across a Ted Talk about the 5 moral matrices, and a mission statements for the Radical Moderates, among whom I, a life-long lefty, hope to someday number.

But the stupid still burns…

Meanwhile, David Brin explains how the Robot Wars are not at all invetible, beyond the usual Vista/Unix jokes.

Acute sinusitis is aggravated by fans and milk. That’s what the doctor said. I almost had it beat – but I was still running a fever yesterday, and with La Vida Rhino approaching, I felt I’d better do something more aggressive than just lying about in my bed, with two fans on me, drinking chocolate milk.

I fell better today. Thank you.

Yellowstone Pix on Flickr.

I am, in fact, the Phoenix Camping Examiner.Thos of you who have hit this site looking for tips on hammock camping should read my nice summation 0f the practice on Examiner.

You have to look at the revenue more like accumulated royalties than a by-the-word check that some wonderful publisher cuts at publication.

Camping articles are essentially “evergreen”, meaning their timeliness does not necessarily expire. So more article up for a long period of time equals more revenue.

That said, I crossed the One Whole Dollar threshold sometime last weekend – so I’m not exactly preparing for my retirement with this.

Now You Know.

From stats to polls to toilets to writing

The Phoenix Mercury are like their male cousin-club in that ordinary assumptions based on stats do not apply to them. For example, yesterday afternoon, they gave up 20 offensive rebounds and won big anyway. They did this by shooting nearly 62% from the field – which is impressive in any league.

From stats to polls:

The Republicans are painting themslves into a corner on healthcare. In the short-term, they see little to gain amongst their conservative base, and a lot to lose amoung big-pharma donors (who tend to favor the GOP) by supporting any sort of serious reform. Their problem is that the Democrats could conceivably push through meaningful reform anyway, take all the credit, and hound the Republicans as the Party of No for the next few election cycles.

And if such reform somehow benefits the citizenry in some obvious way (this could happen), the Democrats could become a permanent majority for twenty years or more. This was exactky what a cadre of Republican operatives (namely William Krystal) feared in the early 90’s, prompting them to go full guns after the Clinton Plan.

Eighteen years later, though, that approach has a couple of problems:

* The Obama Administration has learned from the Clinton’s mistakes.

* The health insurance situation is a lot worse – meaning every bit as bad as the liberals predicted it would get if the Clinton plan fell through.

* And polling data is clear that the public wants access to Medicare, but they’ll settle for some composite public option.

If, however, the moderate GOP senators throw in with the Dems, they could get actual tort reform, a slow phase in of the public option, and some say in who gets soaked to pay for it. And if it works, they share just enough credit to stay viable in the 2012 elections.

If they are seen as defeating it though, (as opposed to Democratic infighting), the Democrats won’t need Al Franken and the zombie corpse of Robert Byrd to break a fillibuster – because the Republicants will get killed on this issue in 2012.

Health care costs are starving us out. Democracies never vote to continue a famine.

From politics to toilets:

The newest charity drive: Toilet Twinning.

Where toilets go when they die.

And because bears on the only ones who shit in the woods: The Packit Toilet.

And one last thing for the writers: John C. Wright’s Rules of Writing.

Now You Know.

Panic and Pride and ignoring the circus

The circus elephants dance backstage. They’re fond of dance-pop.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to ignore the circus at the USAC this week as much as possible. It’s not that hard: if the spots work – I can go hide. So I do.

Let me now debunk the legend I heard today that bra sizes originated in the army. in the 1930’s, Maidenform was the first company to actually make bras in different sizes (small, medium and full) but Warner Brothers Brassiers (no relation to the movie conglomerate) devised the alphabetical size categories that have become industry standards.

See how the internet improves our lives?

Yes. Its true. Had the Suns held on the Shawn Marion, letting him walk at the expiration of his contract, they would have saved more money than the humiliating Shaq “trade” (neither of the players they received from Cleveland are expected to be on the roster next season). These are the wages of Panic and Pride.

We’re not even to the all-star break, and you can write off the D-backs. Hows this for historically perverse: “Can’t wait for Cardinals season, so that we can see our team win once in a while…”

For the writers: Book Marketing 101

And lost in all the Micheal Jackson Is Still Dead nonsense – the state of Arizona is either going to pass the most regressive budget in my lifetime or shut down completely by July 1st. Flat tax. Elimination of the property tax that provides the bulk of the money for the most poorly funded state education system in the nation. I am understating how bad this is. More on this later.

Now you know.