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.

 

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/

 

 

Good Advice from Direct Experience

I turned 50 not long ago, so I feel I am old enough to share a few general life lessons.

This won’t take long.

  • Own your life.
    • Do your own thinking.
    • Take responsibility for your feelings.
    • Your circumstances can be an explanation, but not an excuse.
      • My nearsightedness is more of a day-to-day problem for me than my autism, by a good margin. No one fundraises for my nearsightedness. Just saying.
    • Trust your stuff (whatever that stuff happens to be).
      • It is your job to figure out what your stuff is.

If you don’t know, choose the option that leaves the most other options open.

    • Sometimes that means stalling, and that’s OK. I mean, it’s like deliberately fouling to stop the clock, but that’s a legitimate tactic.
    • If you know – then do it. Nike is right about that.
  • Define yourself as broadly as possible. When you say stuff like “as an [x] I believe….” you are artificially narrowing your perspective, and thereby leaving out options to no gain.
    • I am a discrete entity within the time-space continuum, with a definable vector through space time and a known mass.
      • That may be carrying it a little far.

 

I have become fond of the Four Agreements of Toltec Wisdom:

  • Keep your word.
  • Take nothing personally.
  • Avoid Assumptions.
  • Do Your Best.

 

General Work advice:

  • You can get a job by knowing what you’re doing. You make a career by taking responsibility for getting it done.
  • Getting yourself into position to do the work well is never a waste of time.
    • Seriously: measure twice – cut once.
    • Just wear or use the fucking PPE.
    • Absolutely double-check that you have everything before you crawl/climb into the confined space/stupid high place.
  • Building relationships is never a waste of time.
    • Decisions aren’t made in meetings. They are made in the hallway conversation afterwards.

 

Specific to stagecraft:

The four Ks:

  • KNOW the system you are working with.
  • KEEP it in good working order.
  • KNOW what you’re doing
    • And make certain everyone else involved knows the plan as well.
  • KEEP your concentration.

 

The Three A’s

  • ATTITUDE
  • ABILITY
  • AVAILABILITY

These are all equally important in who gets scheduled.

 

Traits of a good stagehand (in order of priority):

  • Show up sober.
  • Be able to follow verbal instructions
  • Get along with strangers (because you will do this every day)
    • Don’t panic
    • Don’t be a dick.
  • Pay attention
    • This is the number one factor in sfaety
    • Also, you can learn things.
  • Remain flexible
  • Take the craft seriously.

 

With the exception of life and safety, nothing important actually happens backstage.

 

Writing Advice:

  • Show don’t tell.
  • Death to cliches.
  • Keep your ass in the chair.
    • Anyhting you write down is more productive than an empty page.
  • It is your job to figure it out.

 

Also, I dreaded writing this thing for about a week, but the answer turned out to be just sit down and write it.

 

Now you know.

Lurching towards an author blog

I’m excited to announce the upcoming releases of my newest books!

Beanstalk and Beyond is volume one of the autobiography of Jack the Giant Killer and chronicles how a young chicken thief in Arthurian Britain grows into a young hero. This is due out from New Link Publishing.

One of 64 tells the secret history of that legendary force, The 64, who would fight interstellar crime and mayhem when our nearest interstellar neighbors were still the wild frontier. This is due out from Radion Media.

Towards those ends, we are reshaping this blog to be a bit more a functional author site, although my personal blog will continue here until I have some compelling reason to stop.

Hence the new look.

News and events are announced here, on my assorted social media holes (Facebook, Twitter, etc. ) and there is an e-mail list. If you want to be included on the latter, contact me at the e-mail listed at the bottom of the About the Author page.

 

Passwords are the enemy of progress

I have a new laptop and a new cellular phone and this has forced a renewal of my electronic life.

There are many places I used to go that I am no longer welcome because of unrecoverable passwords.There are other places I am seeing anew because I can no longer rely upon encoded habits. It’s somewhat like cleaning out a storage room and finding relatively important things you forgot you had. But first, the hardware.

Let’s start with my brand new HP laptop.

THE GOOD: more capacity, bigger screen, a non proprietary HDMI port

THE BAD: The “improved” touchpad is actually less responsive (though that might be a learning curve issue).

The keyboard is smaller than it needs to be given the surface area available.

The primary purpose of Windows 10 appears to be the delivery of adware.

Oh, and memo to HP: The reason I don’t volunteer to give feedback or anything like that is your reputation for flooding any seem with adware – as demonstrated by your printer drivers. I bought the thing already. Back off.

win_20170118_22_43_17_pro

A picture from my laptop of me taking a picture of my laptop with my new phone.

I was actually happy with my trusty Kyocera Torque until I dropped it just the wrong way and shattered the face. I was eligible for an upgrade, but Sprint no longer carries the Torque or anything like it. I valued the Torque’s smaller size and relative durability – but I would have had to go all the way back to a flip phone. . Don’t despair – I have insurance.

The insurance could replace my phone with an equivalent – in this case the Torque XT, which is the same phone with more internal memory. Only we discovered they gained that memory by filling the SD slot with their own card. And the camera would launch. So I took it to the Sprint store

And they restarted it, as they do, it came back demanding a password.

I don’t assign passwords to anything if I don’t have to. This was a refurbished unit, and the encryption was left over from a previous user.

So now I have a second replacement device: a Kyocera Duraforce Pro, which is like 5x the phone it replaces. (Also larger and heavier – so it goes). I just got it activated minutes ago, so we may come back to this.

http://www.gsmarena.com/kyocera_duraforce_pro-8268.php

Not so much a review as someone reading the tech specs verbatim:

https://youtu.be/dNAd0VHvtMU

An actual review:

http://www.phonescoop.com/articles/article.php?a=18607

Cool as this is, there is the problem is getting into my various accounts from devices where those passwords have not been saved. In that regard, I am the reason your IT guy grumbles about the liberal arts.

Here’s what that guy knows that we don’t:

Password security is more about length than variety. Media Labs explains at length:

https://www.ymedialabs.com/password-security/

LifeHacker has similar advice with pictures:

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2017/01/why-your-brain-naturally-sucks-at-password-security-infographic/
Now you know.

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.

 

 

Anything but politics

Which, so you know, is a struggle.

We went to Palm Springs (actually Cathedral City, but they are separated by a sidewalk) for Thanksgiving, because family. We now know the chair lift that takes you near the top of 8000 foot San Jacinto mountain costs $27/head. I’d tell you more, but that stopped us right there.

If you want to visit Joshua Tree National Park, the best way in is the south entrance. On what a ranger told us was the busiest day of the year, we entered without wait or charge. The visitor center was jacked, but the entrance was unencumbered.

We saw a tarantula. Joshua Tree is actually kinda sparse on huge wonders you can see from the car. It’s a hiking/climbing destination, and I had the wrong crew for that.

Stopping in Quartzsite for sustenance, we visited the Hi Jolly Memorial – so you don’t have to.

kimg0315

My Rheem gas water heater went 14 years before the bottom rusted out, so I bought another one. If you have an old house, like mine, it is worth it to hire a plumber to replace the corroded, seized valve. But replacing the tank itself can be done by anyone of average handyman competence, and a buddy.

My dog has been laying in the same spot for a third straight day with “Old dog vertibulosis” which is basically vertigo. We have medicine for it. It’s yet to really work. We shall see. The folks at Madison Animal Hospital took us in  minutes before closing on a Sunday night as we clamored in with this 70 pound senile dog that we supposed to be near death. They were very helpful.

At Curious Continuity, ghost universes aren’t the same as time travel.

At Fantastical History, I whine about how deep POV ruined my literary vision for a fairty tale.

And at The64, I announce the novel that will actually happen.

Rejoice in a manner befitting your people.

Also this:

 

Now you know.