15 July 2015

Catching up/ infodump

A Number of Posts that I Forgot To Post

The True Cost Of Weather Changing

It is as Tanker says 80 by 8. I must run the damn A/C .

I took off for a couple of days to visit the GF and I could smell the mildew when I came in. Stitching on the soles of 8 pair of (cowboy) boots completely rotted. All of my grown-up clothes (suits, jackets, slacks...everything that requires dry cleaning...) green with mold and mildew.

The boots can be rebuilt (at about $70 per pair). Some nice Noconas, Tony Lamas, a pair of Luccese. Replacement cost? About a good used truck. Repair cost? A month's rent. Got most of them at a resale shop on post-rodeo special for $5 the pair. Total investment under a C note.

The suits can be dry cleaned (.99 dry cleaning is for a shirt, not a suit. The suit is $12). Maybe 10 of them. Linen, silk tweed, Super 600 wool, Brooks Brothers, HS&M, (they do the suits for Barry O, you know). Replacement cost? '92 Honda Civic, if I include the leather trousers and the odd trousers and sport coats. (Odd in this case means not part of a suit. I do however own a pair of red blue jeans.) Repair (dry cleaning &c) once again about a month's rent. Total investment? Mebbe $150. Plus another $100 on alterations. All of it I purchased for less than the price of the dry cleaner's bill.

All this stuff was accumulated over a period of years, nay, decades. Some is vintage (40's style looks GOOD on me). Prices have not come down (thanks, Ebay), and “pickers” are winnowing what's left. Good luck, all you guys who wear a 42r. Me, I'm a 50” chest. Okay, partly gut but mostly shoulders. 38 waist, 6' tall. That works out to 50 r, sleeves shortened 1”, trews taken in 4” at the waist and 2” at the cuff. (I am not a tailor, but I do own a tape measure.) To the Vest I travel not.

I now have BRILLIANT idea. Donate them all to a local thrift that has a deal with local dry cleaners, and then buy them back!

Medical Insurance

My GF has been allowed to carry her health insurance (call it COBRA) for a few months until she gets a new job.

Roughly $1600 / month, $20k per year, call it $400/week .

That's $10/hr.

That's ok, she can use the new exchange. But it's actually more expensive ) with a new and higher copay and the deductible is now twice what it once was. Why twice a expensive? Because it was previously a deductible expense for the employer (thank you FDR and the wage and price controls for WWII) but is now an expense paid out of after-tax earnings (Multiply by a factor of 1.4 = 3380/month).

But it does cover pediatric dentistry.

But then there's a $6000 per year deductible. 2000 working hours per year equals $3 per hour.

So let's roll that in and it comes up to: $26000/year before insurance works.

And this is called “affordable”?

Missing Class

So we've now found out that our President has been calling in sick for some 40% of his Presidential Daily Briefings. “That's OK” he says, “I'll keep up with the homework. Just give me the class notes and I'll be just peachy”.

But he knows that in 2 years or so he's gonna graduate (absent a Constitutional crisis). Matter of fact, he's probably a front-runner for Secretary General of the United Nations as it is. He'll never have to work a real job in his life.

He's doing this pass/fail, and he doesn't give a good goddam what his grades are.

Face it, the only time the dude's ever been in any sort of situation where actions have consequences is at school, and all of those records are sealed (most transparent administration ever, anyone?)

Assume, arguendo, that the man is smart enough to skip over half of his classes and pass. It's possible – I once signed up for two courses at the same time, found they were both required, and there were no alternate times that I could use. But I'd already gotten a pass from the prof in Eng Comp (“I would take it a a great personal favor if you'd help me with grading this shit”) and Geo 101 (“I remember you from a field dig. Just take the tests”), I knew the profs, they knew me, und so weter.

I strongly suspect that our overall Maximum Leader thinks he's so smart that he doesn't NEED to show up for the lectures, because he never has in the past. He's just that smart. Because Law Review (zero footprint there), because U Chi Law School (zero footprint there, other than “favor for political buddies”). The man's a fucking NINJA. All these “jobs” and no-one remembers him or anything he ever did?

Has this man ever shown an ability to do anything productive?

Smiling Jimmy Carter actually did the Naval Academy, passed, and did time on fucking NUCLEAR SUBMARINES.

The Bushes, Pere et Fils, piloted military aircraft. Then one ran the CIA and served as Vice President of the United States Of Fucking America, and his son was Governor of the Great State Of TEXAS.

Billy “BJ” Clinton served as State Governor, albeit of a lesser state. Noted PUA*. (Well, shit, it's a skill set).

Ronnie “Ray Gun” Reagan was Governor of California, and for fuck's sake, Ronnie Reagan was a UNION PRESIDENT (Film Workers), rode horses well enough to cut from herd, and split his own firewood.

Our current enbuggerance? Not so much, He plays golf a lot, but I've never seen his scores listed. His every job has been a sinecure. His much-touted “eloquence” is a sham. Throws like a girl. Can't ride a bicycle for shit, Has never driven a car. Can't speak without the words on a damn prompter. Voted “present” for more than half of the votes for which he was required to vote during his partial term as a Senator.

I could go on, but I'm starting to get sick.

* PUA – Pick Up Artist

The New Wing

There’s one coming for my local museum (Houston Museum of Fine Arts). Huzzah!

But some folks think that the building that must be knocked down is , like, historic or something, and, you know, I just don't have a dog in that fight.

It's an art museum, in an area with property values that damn near require an oxygen mask, but that's not the thing. They already own the property, and the architect is the guy that designed the Astrodome, a first-class design fail if ever there was one. Go over to HAIF and follow the arguments there.

I hate to admit it, but that old socialist fart Garrison Keillor had a point. Rich folks will spend millions for a new wing, but nobody wants to endow a janitor. HMAF is well known (to people who know it well) as a well appointed hodgepodge of work by well known (to those who know them well) architects. Well, that and the well-mannered Filipino staff. Don't ask me why. They just are.

Maintenance work? Notso hotso. Drywall cracks, mortar missing, cobwebs in corners (put a ceiling up 40 feet, and that's what you get).

The last time I visited the Rothko Chapel was horrible. Black mildew following the floor-to-ceiling drywall cracks. Damn place is depressing enough with all the purple and black indications of oncoming suicide which are the touchstone of Rothko's work. (BTW, this is not a consecrated chapel for worship, although there are marriages performed there. Cue “Waiting for the End of Time”). Designed by a famous architect whose name escapes me at this time. And the building codes say “avoid catastrophic failure in a 20 year period”. So it's out of warranty

But the busy busy ants in the fundraising department distracted the donors. We need a new STUDENT CENTRE with the Brit spelling to make it seem more important. Library needs sump pumps, but what gets the donations? The rock climbing wall in the new STUDENT CENTRE, that's what. Rotting plumbing in the Chemistry Department, including the gas lines? They can take care of that, they've got Administrators for that. Rock falling out of the rock climbing wall? LOOK, over there, new Trangender Awareness Module. Shiny

If you can't take care of what you already have then you shouldn't expect new toys.

Damn, I wish I'd learned that earlier.

I have noticed a habit I have / a thing that I do. For some reason I seem to find it important, though I can't tell exactly why. I use literary (okay, scientific sometimes too) references a LOT when speaking, and I will say (e.g.) “When Shakespeare has Hamlet say...” or “When Walker Percy's Dr Thomas More has that conversation” or “When Robert Heinlein(pbuh) had his character Mannie ...”. I make a point of distinguishing a creator and his creatures.

I write this to clarify my own thoughts.

Yes, I'm vain. But I hang with people who will generally catch a quote, and eclectically. I did what I could to raise my sons on good strong meat; once past Seuss it was Swift, Carroll, Voltaire, Shakespeare. Savories came later; Elliot, Joyce, Borges. But burgers and pizza too. Correia, Butcher. I'm looking forward to turning them on to Evelyn Waugh. Foie Gras sammich,anyone?

But I find it important to distinguish between the creator and the creature. Shakespeare was not Iago, well drawn though the character is, nor was he Shylock, though there are those who claim that he was too too close to home. (Yes I'm looking at you, you Oxfordian heretics.)

They were all doctors, but Walker Percy was neither Thomas More nor Max Comeaux. Ballistic mathematicians? Robert Heinlein and Mycroft Holmes IV. Not the same person.

Somebody (Eric Flint, I think) said that author's afterwords were bad art. I have to agree. The work must stand on its own, and the words mean what the words mean. There's a lot of Elliot in Prufrock, to whom the mermaids will not (he thinks) sing. There's nothing BUT Dylan Thomas “raging against the dying of the light” , and there's a lot of Waugh in Guy Crouchback. As it comes nearer our own time and place, it becomes more difficult to distance the writer from the product. Twain and Tolkien both made the point (in interviews seriously predating publication) that they WERE NOT doing current allegories, but they are both assumed to have lied to themselves and their readers. I am informed on good authority that Huck Finn is “untranslatable”. I can dig that.

I tried, once upon a time, to translate Martìn Fierro. OK. Fail. Still haven't read it in translation. Been told that mine wasn't half bad for a few stanzas on the fly when drunk (to be clear, the translation of the few stanzas was done for a small group, on a bet, I was drunk, my friends were also drunk, it was a cold read, i.e. I had not read that bit before, and none of us were Argentines). There's a passion and a persona that I can't wear. I just can't fit into that skin, and when I try it itches.

Quixote on the other hand? Easy-Peasy. Classical music. Anyone can read the music and play it. You can't write Milongas (in this case) and have it sound real. Blues is my idiom. Yeah the notes can be written, but you might as well learn cardiovascular surgery from an Aztec priest. It loses something there, and you can't really learn from it. You've gotta have the heart, and just showing it to you on a stepped pyramid (what is it with human sacrifice and stepped pyramids, anyway?) doesn't work. But you can make your 7 year-old learn Bach, Mozart, and (let us hope) the longer parts of John Cage's (wazzit? Best guess) 10:33. You know what I mean. The silent part. You can be taught classical music. You can (marginally) be taught to play Jazz, but you're just a jukebox until you improvise. Can't teach you blues. Comes from the heartal and groinal areas. Perfectly cromulent words, as you'd know as soon as you've been kicked in one or had the other broken through more subtle methods. (ETA: both work both ways. Sorry about that, but that's life).. Won't necessarily make you a blues player, but as Shakespeare said in the Bible, “Many are kicked in the fruit, but few are chosen”

Folks say write what you know.. The flip side is “that of which we know nothing we must remain silent” Sun Tzu, or some other dead guy. Kraut, now that I think about it. Neat sheet, or something like that. Nietzsche, William Fredric. Something like that. Dead guys. Sheesh. See what I did there?

Don't do that. Inside joke, the nomenklatura will catch it, and so will the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Unless you're Larry Correia. Pronounced “Korea” and you'd damn well make it plain that you're talking about the GOOD Korea, not the naughty one and it isn’t just Santa whose Claws will be falling there if you know what I mean and I think that you do.

Did that again. Inside baseball. Joke that most folks won't catch. Sometimes you just gotta play dumb and use (horrors) cliches. There's a reason why they're cliches. People know them and they're (+/- 1 SD) reliable.

Getting toward the end here, there's still the creator and the creature, the maker and the made.

The bad Catholic, nihilist, Surreal realist Jorge Luis Borges explains:

“ There was no-one inside him; behind his face(which even in the bad paintings of the time resembles no other) and his words (which were multitudinous, and of a fantastical and agitated turn) there was no more than a slight chill, a dream someone had failed to dream...(snip) History adds that before or after he died, he discovered himself standing before God and said to Him I who have been so many men in vain, wish to be one, to be myself . God's voice answered him out of the whirlwind; I too, am not I,; I dreamed the world as you, My Shakespeare, dreamed your own work, and among the forms of my dream are you, who are many and yet no-one.
(JLB: Everything and Nothing)

A block of sulfur in a desk drawer. (JLB)... I do believe the mermaids will sing to me.(MOS asterisk).

Asterisk (My Own Self)

Watching Doctors on TV

Physician #1Pulls the stethoscope from the outside thigh pocket of the long, flowing Doctor's white coat which covers scrubs. The earpieces go into the ears the wrong way and the sensor end is cold. Then he does the exam with the patient's shirt on. Wrong.

Physician #2 appears wearing traditional short white lab coat over a tweed jacket. Is there a good reason to keep the corridors at 58 degrees f? Dr. Suave reaches into his interior jacket breast pocket to get his stethoscope. The ear bits go in the right way (pointing forwards), and the sensor end is at body temp. It is then placed on bare skin (preserving modesty on the front if needed, with shirttail lifted on back).

Physician #2 wins on all counts. Patient comfort: some practitioners keep cups of liquid nitrogen on hand just to keep the stethoscope end chilled. YOW! Signal to noise ratio: improved by skin contact. Additional data: “may be some fluid in the lung” v. “Massive hematoma ant ribcage susp fractures and poss hemothorax.”. As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot by just looking.

I ain't lying to you. When I was being treated for TB in Houston Texas I once had to clear the room, saying “Doctor (an intern), if I may, privately”, (which cleared the room, thinking that I was going to admit to shameful drug or sexual habits), “this is as embarrassing to me as it is to you, but you have your stethoscope earpieces in backwards.”

Realio trulio, this did happen. That intern was replaced by one who told me that he had great experience with TB, because where he came from most people spit blood on the handkerchief. Which gave me great confidence in his talents,. I was then moved to an isolation area behind a janitor's closet where I was isolated for 16 hours without food or drink. (I got water from the janitor's hose bib.)

Ciggy seller

Two things stand out in my mind about the death of Eric Garner in NYC.

First: Isn't this usually a ticket-type offense?

Just asking.

Second: Do NYC cops usually wear jerseys in the course of their duties? I ask this because in the footage I have seen the cops all seem to be plainclothes, wearing shorts, jerseys, anything but uniforms.

Just asking.

“Cause to me it looks like he was targeted by an undercover operation responding to a local complaint and that they went in whole hog. As a matter of fact, so far as I can discern, he didn't even have any cigarettes on him at the time.

Just asking.

Correct me if I/m wrong, but some criminal attacks start with “Freeze! We're Police”, when in fact they are not? And the jerseys, shorts, and hoodies worn by the LEOs gave him that impression? Did the Law Enforcement Officials not behave EXACTLY as many criminal predators do? How, exactly, was he to distinguish between cops dressed as hoodlums from actual hoodlums?

Just asking.

So it's not actually MURDER. They had no way of telling that a hugely obese man over 40 years old, moving like a manatee, might have trouble breathing, or indeed having his heart function, with 400 pounds of cop “holding him down to allow cuffing”. This used to be called “pressing”. Re-read the history of witchfinding if you miss the reference.

Mens Rea

Here's the distinction.

If a copper doesn't know the law, he's given the benefit of the doubt.

A citizen, on the other hand, is not extended that same privilege.

Ergo: the law need not know the law, but the citizen must.

Fucked up. (cognitive dissonance).

Takeaway: “If ignorance of the law is no defense for the citizen, then why should ignorance of the law now serve as a shield for the police? “

Easy Question

Lunchtime and I want a bacon sammich. Where in the Middle East can I get one and live through lunch?

Check your linklists!

You know, webkitties, we all love us some linklists. Makes a good sidebar, fills out the aesthetic we're going for on our webpage.

I know that when I find a good blog, I like to check out what the blogmiester/mistress thinks is cool too. Wanna be one of the cool cats, right?

Imagine my disappointment when I find a link with a neat name, in the sidebar of a blog I really like, and find that the link is dead. Or, more commonly, was last updated sometime in the past millennium.

Onst upon a time, folks sold mailing lists, AND BOUGHT BACK NULLS!

Seriously, you would sell a mailing list and buy back the returns, because that was the easiest way to keep it current.

Imma try to commodify and monetize this, but how?

A Short Note on Usage

For some reason (perhaps because I have become sensitized to it) I notice the word “refuse” being used more frequently. Exemplum Gratia: “But the wizards did not recognize that Obamacare would be so unpopular that 34 states would refuse to set up state exchanges anyway. “.

To be clear, one refuses a demand. One declines an offer or suggestion, be it made with whip in hand or carrot. One may also demur in the event of a disagreement on legal or factual principles.

When asked a question, one may decline to answer without prejudice. One may demur when the question is so loaded with presuppositions (the invidious “have you stopped beating your wife” type is but a notable example). The classic method is to not give the question the dignity of an answer.

The question noted above regarding Obama's ACA requires the response: “We decline to accept your offer. Furthermore we demur, as we do not accept your legal reasoning. When threats of retribution are made, at that point we will refuse.”


Here's a conundrum. Those visitors from Mexico to the US who are the most polite and the most rich, tend to speak English to some extent, and will go out of their way to practice and perfect their English.

I dunno. When I visit a Spanish speaking country, I try my best to polish my usage, and usually get away with it, BUT ALL THE NATIVES WANT TO PRACTICE THEIR ENGLISH ON ME.

Is there something fundamentally wrong here?

Mexico runs on tips. The bagger at the Supertienda, the kid that puts the bags in the taxi, you say “muchas gracias” and tip a peso or two. You say “Muy amable”, and you can get away with half the tip.. It's idiom, All the gringos know “Thanks” (Gracias), but “That was very kind of you” (Muy Amable) is what their Grandmothers would say. Course, G'ma would prolly tip over anyway, but YOU DO GET THE IDEA. Moving through a crowd: “Desculpeme” versus “con permiso” is another old school usage, with “con permiso” being what your g'ma said. “Scuseme” was never used by the adults It's Italian, which is fashionable in the South, but not so much in the North, and by “the South” I mean those in Argentina and thereabouts who read Vogue Internacional. Also Las Chilongas.

Remember to tip well, even though it's in an imaginary money, at least until you get your bank statement. But you will still get the most hodge-podge English this side of Calcutta. The worst part is that he's faking it. Grab him by the throat and ask in a good Dickensian fashion' :So where did your friends go with my wallet? And you will find that the words “wallet” “friends” and so on are known by the urchin, but not in any relationship to himself. The poor waif has nothing upon which to sustain himself but his experience in the historic area in which you find yourself, and he is available as a guide for quite a modest fee. Pay him a dollar a day to keep the riff-raff away. Helps if you look older. Time helps with that. Also helps if you stay the fuck away from known tourist traps, bu which I mean most of the DF, and all border towns.

Now here's where it changes. Working in a hotel, dealing with Honduran maids, I asked “Tiene ud. una quimeca que puedo usar para limpiar este refergiador?” Response: “No hablo Ingles”. Reallio Trulio, that's what I got as an answer. (For those who don't speak Spanish, it reads: “do you have a cleaning chemical that I can use to clean this fridge?” “Sorry, I don't speak English.”)

The whole staff of ESL (English as Second Language) labor had been instructed by the Housekeeping Manager to answer all questions “Sorry, no English” even when addressed in Spanish. My Spanish, BTW, is better than that of most Texans, which is better than most UnitedStatians. I'm OK on engineering and tech, I can run a restaurant kitchen, but I'm a bit light on sweet nothings to whisper into her ear. Don't need that, though. Got a girlfriend already.

So Who's Going to be the Next Sec Gen of the UN

There are only 3 continents which have not had a SG: Antarctica (very few voters), Australia, and North America.

Who's a world citizen, raised by a transsexual nanny? Hawaii's Maui Wowie, the culture of Indonesia and the song of the muezzin “the sweetest sound I remember hearing”, the updragging through the Comintern of Kansas, then refined in Chicago ward politics by the Weathermen?.

Give you one guess.

This is how far gone the French are:

They don't even call 'em French Fries.

They're Pommes Fritz! (And bring me my brown trousers)

I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

So What

John Scalzi gets 3.4 million dollars in promised advances for his next 14 novels, over, presumably, the nest 10 years (4 juveniles are included in the deal, I'm given to understand). Given his sales it seems a bit optimistic,but it's not my money.

Hillary Clinton was given a $14 million advance for her last book. Available on remainders tables everywhere. Her publisher hopes to make back half the advance. So what, exactly, are they buying with a $7 million gift to the presumptive Democratic candidate?

Tell you the truth, I have no idea.

2d Amendment

When we are told that the Founders of blessed memory meant only for Citizens to have rudimentary firearms for gamegetting purposes, I would like you to bear in mind that what they had at the time was the cutting edge of flintlock tech, and they had just pulled off a fucking REVOLUTION against what was at the time THE GREATEST MILITARY POWER ON THE FACE OF THE FUCKING PLANET.

Every rifle was an assault rifle, and every bullet was a “cop killer” bullet. As it was is the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

So I Found Some Chocolate in the Freezer

I'd gotten it a week or so before on special, and it was special chocolate. 74% probability that clothes fall off sort of stuff. Handed it off to Cute Little Middle-Aged Thing around the corner.

“Why, uh..”

“The words you're looking for are: “You BASTARD”.

Ah Springtime

Well maybe not for those of you in the caloricaly challenged areas, but across from me in the park, the Little League is starting to warm up (see what I did there). They are using aluminum bats, which make a “ping” sort of sound. Wood bats on the other hand make a “Crack” sort of sound. That's what we old farts wanna hear. Not “ping”. The aluminum bats are more “regular” more “uniform” and run op to $300 per each. Seriously. Check the Academy Sports flier. Really. $300 for a baseball bat.

This is so wrong for so many reasons. It teaches long ball. No contact hitting. . Look at the stats. More home runs, fewer hits to advance the runner. Power hitters, not place hitters.

Base running is a dying thing. The infield is no longer important.

Big bat. Long ball.


Every little bit

A year or so ago the bit of street nearest my window was scarified and set up for new hot top. The scarification (that means scratching up. Nothing to do with being scary. The word is more misused than used properly, damnit). Being a general pain in the ass, I followed the process. Rough it up, sand it, hot top. They were using beach sand. Lil' tiny almost perfectly spherical slick as oil beach sand. I asked the jefe for the phone number for the General Contractor, who showed up with alacrity and venom.

See, there's a thing about sand. You've heard about the Saudis importing sand? Realio trulio. The sand in the desert is too small and round to make decent concrete. You need big sand, with hard corners.

Same thing with beach sand. Been rolling and polishing itself for generations,.

So I called the GC, and boy did I piss him off. “I speced that job for coarse bank sand dammit! Heads are gonna fucking ROLL”

I must admit that this was not the response I was expecting. I was expecting “so who made you the God of Pavement” or maybe “If you can do the job better then maybe you should have bid on it”. He fired the whole crew.

He was getting pissed. Who was responsible for this clusterfuck. He checked his phone. Damn. A smart one. I've just lost him three days of ESL labor. Ring ring. Ring ring.

“Hidi” (that's how I answer the phone) (I can see him taking into his phone from my window)

This is (name goes here), You the guy that told me about my crew fucking up the sand?

(getting some confidence) Well yeah,

(Dood on the other end of the phone) Good call, and thanks. I'm at the corner with a sixpack of Heineken.

And we had a great time there on the group W bench, father rapers, mother stabbers...oops. Wrong song.

How I Buy Books

It's simple. I buy from used bookshops ('cause I's poor) or I buy online.

Some stuff just doesn't show up in used bookshops. I remember visiting Wells, Maine, which seems to have one used bookshop for every 2 citizens;'and looking for some Evelyn Waugh. (Begin Maine accent) “Oh we never have his stuff. Folks just keep re-reading it and then pass it down to their children” (End Maine accent).

Okay, maybe that's just a local thing, but I live in Space City, Houston Fucking Texas For God's Sake. I go into the local Barnes & Noble trolling for skiffy and find...dick. Actually, I find a lot of Dick. In trade paperback, no less. Don't get me wrong. I am a huge fan of PKD, from back when he was a nowhere man and still alive. Now he's an under-recognized literary genius. And there I was thinking that he was turning out 5 novels a year to keep up with his alimony.. Silly me. I'm not seeing Pournelle, Niven, Robinson, HEINLEIN FOR CRISSAKE. Some David Weber (although IMPO he is kinda like the band Chicago - “complete the set”), four copies of Neal Stephenson's “Zodiac” and one of the middle volume of the “Quicksilver” trilogy.

China Mielville's newest gets “cover out” (shows front cover rather than just spine, with more copies to keep it level). Larry Correia? None. “We can't keep enough in stock so we don't even try”. Lots of dragons and sparkly vampires but no rockets to Mars.

Now let's go over to the used bookshops. I went to an independently owned used book shop with the complete series of Kinky Freidman novels (well, complete at the time). Most were autographed first editions. Maybe a dozen books. Shop-owner fucked me up. Asked me what I wanted for them. I told him maybe 25 bucks. knowing that the chain used bookshop down the street would offer me 5. “$50 and not a penny less” he said much to my surprise. “You know that he's playing at just 3 blocks from here this weekend. That's this week's island display!” (an island display is first one you see on entry, a table rather than shelves, You know what I mean). This is a man who knows his customers.

For new releases, I go to Azamon Aztoroth Amazon, because the just want my money, not my approval.
I wanna buy Helmut Newton photos, they're ok with that. The new Correia or Ringo? My money's fine with them. But I can't find them at the NewBookStores. “Cause they're tired of being asked for things when there's no demand “

So I don't go to chain bookstores. I do go to indie bookshops (Murder by the Book is really good on author appearances, and so is Brazos Books, and I wish them the best) and there are a couple of used bookshops that I won't name 'cause I'm a selfish sombitch (one begins with the letter q and is just around the corner from a well known pizza place near Rockin' Robin Guitar Shop, and another is in what's called the “Bellaire Triangle”).

Now here is the great secret. Estate sales. Paperbacks one dollar, Hardcovers $5.00. Buy it then, or wait a week or so. The unsold books are gonna end up at the local library for a tax deduction and at half the price. Check the obits. An old buddy of mine was a professor of geology, His hobby? Shakespeare. Goes to show you never can tell.

So rock on.
(Insert c'est la vie chuck berry)


There's a thing going around nowadays called “Structuring Laws”. They have nothing to do with engineering, or with building codes. They have to do with theft.

See, if you make a cash deposit in excess of $9,999.99, the bank must report the transaction. (Paperwork, what a drag.) This was originally to isolate money laundries. But if a business consistently makes large cash deposits there is a thing called “structuring” whereby it is assumed that one is intentionally bypassing the bank's notification requirement. You “just happen” (heh, heh, elbow nudge) to do business that makes a certain amount of money per day and you want it out of your hands (from which it can be stolen at gunpoint and you dying in the act) and into the hands of the bank. It's not against the LAW, really, to make a cash deposit of $25k. And it's not against the LAW to make smaller deposits. BUT. That ain't money, that's evidence.

Lemme give you a hypothetical. I'm Bubba, and I own Bubba's Biker Bar – Beer, Bikes,and Burgers for Brothers.. Because of the awesome amount of awesomeness in this place, I do heap big business, mostly in cash. As a matter of fact, I have an ATM over by the Gent's operated by The Little Sisters of the Poor Savings Bank N.A. Most of my business is cash, in fact so much cash that I make about an $8500 deposit just before midnight. (I send Spike, the doorman, with Scars, the night manager, to make the deposit.)

Now the IRS and the rest of the alphabet soup show up, seize my bank accounts , and accuse me of “structuring”. Have I done anything wrong? Have I broken any law? Weeeel, no. And no. BUT until you can prove that you didn't, we'll just have to take all this nice money, because the money itself is guilty. Of something. As soon as we can figure it out. And you have to hire lawyers to acquit the money, but you can't, because we have all your money. And by the way, you need not be accused of doing anything with the money, or having done anything wrong to have the money. It's the money's fault.

A lawyerly aside: there's a thing called “mens rea”, which means roughly that one knew of a law and knowingly broke it. ProTip: It no longer applies.

It was an accepted fact in the eighties at least that any stack of bills will have a detectable amount of cocaine. Peruvian marching powder is not as popular as once it was, but if you made the stacks bigger the postulate may hold. I've also heard it told that most $100 bills have been over borders enough times to qualify for frequent flier miles. But let's go back to Bubba's. This round's on me. Jesus! Did you see that girl's tattoos?*

How do I (Bubba) prove that all the money coming into my bar and community club is as pure as the driven snow and swansdown? Well, the help are all novices at the convent next door, and Sister Mary Elephant wanders the crowd with her ruler to enforce moral standards. Sister Virginia the Chaste chaperones the powder room. I'm reasonably sure there is no hanky, or indeed panky, going on.

Drugs? Maybe, but only between customers, and not under my roof, or in my parking lot. Nothing gets into my cash register.

Can I prove it? What do you need, CCTV cameras? Universal panoptic surveillance? But those can all be gamed. Letter from my mother? Letter from the Pope? Un-indited co-conspirators.

Are we getting Kafkaesque here?

I'm Brother Harlan Davis, Order of the Cistercians. Call me Bubba. Little Sisters of the Poor run a shelter next door. (That's how we got the ATM). Local biker clubs support our “Bikers for Burgers and Beer for the Busted” program. No, it's not a 501c3, so cash is good. $25 gets you and another less fortunate a really good burger, fries, and a beer. You can eat here or take it to go. Some of our beneficiaries get actual jobs from such contacts, and can eventually afford their own Harleys, and return the favor. You don't actually have to own a Harley, of course. This is just a hypothesis. Bikers tend to be outrageously generous. Some say “I might miss a day next week” and shove a c note into the box.

*We hadn't gotten back to Bubba's at that point. You did notice that, right?
** I never said a single thing about Novices being topless dancers, now wash your dirty little mind. You missed a spot. Go back and do it again.

Concealed Costs

Power plants, be they Coal, Natural Gas or Nuke are places to go to work. You go in, you check your checklists, and the go home.

Compare and contrast with solar cells, which may be strewn over hundreds of square miles, and wind turbine generators likewise.

Which one is going to get the better maintenance and repair schedule?

“Ah, dood? Wind Turbine number 386 is showing overheating on the adjustment bearings. Wanna go and take a look?”.

Fine. All you need is a couple of electrical engineers with cross country race driving experience who love climbing totterey towers. Must be millions of 'em. And you can't hire them because they all like Jeremy Clarkson. (I was so applying for the job until I heard the Clarkson bit. Fuck them. But I wanted to do it on a motorcycle. But then I can't carry much in the way of parts.)

On the other hand...”Pete? Go and walk down the air conditioned hallway, please, and check the bearing temps on turbine 386.” “No sweat, I'm here and there's a ground fault on the sensor. Bit of e- tape and we're back in business”.

Maybe they should hire range riding cowboys. (You do know that they tend to keep a string of ponies, right? ) Ride the fences and watch the turbines, huh?

Let us put this wind or solar array in a National Park kinda area. No roads, 'cause virgin wilderness. So transit is dirtbikes or tracked vehicles. So tracked vehicles it is. You may not know this but tracked vehicles are rated for maybe 400 miles before the tracks must be replaced, and they tear the shit out of the area through which they pass. Deserts recover more slowly than other areas.

Simple fact of the matter is that solar and/or wind generation projects have a great big huge environmental footprint, just to keep them operating, The puree of raptors under the windmills is just lagniappe.

Or how about Photovoltaic? They are effectively WINDOWS over thin films of fancy chemicals. You've gotta keep those windows clean, damnit, or efficiency goes way down. Put 'em in the desert and you have what they call “greater insolation” (means more sunlight, duh, just a fancy word). Lemme hep y'all. Saudi Arabia IMPORTS sand, because the desert sand is too fine to be used in making concrete. It blows up in any kind of breeze, though. Ask anyone posted to the Sandbox – you dump sand out of your socks. There's going to be a bit of static buildup on those PV cells, drawing fine sand onto the surfaces. What to do? Electrostatic windshield wipers? Glass over the surface before building with a tactical nuke?

Some folks don't think about this kinda stuff, but I do. I've worked places with lights operated by photocells mounted below the light, with automotive sealed beam bulbs mounted 60 feet above the middle of the swimming pool (you remember those? The ones held in place by 2 phillips screws?). Building engineer's offices with no internet connection? No phone jack? No electrical outlets? 72000 square feet of sports club with 250 square feet of storage space? (3600 square feet of 2” HVAC filter medium for the RTUs (rooftop a/c units), 40 different light bulbs and ballasts, pool supplies, and anything the Manager thought “might be a good idea” ? Plus standard plumbing and electrical parts, touch-up paint and so on? Bojemoi!)

You can't just think of the price of building something. You've gotta take into account the cost of keeping it running. That's why light rail, for one example, keeps fucking up. It's assumed that once it's paid for it's paid for. No-one would buy a car like that.

An old buddy of mine fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought a Ferrari. (Hi Ramiro!) Not a new one, but one that he lusted after. He spent enough to have purchased a couple of Toyota Celicas, but he wanted that prancing pony by God and no-one would stop him. After about a year or so and spending the purchase price on repairs just to keep it running at all (not to original spec) he sold it off to a local figure (Hi, Dante!) who really wanted it and could afford the cost.

So our question is: should he have spent half the money on a Celica, or should he have spent 10 times the money on a NEW Ferrari?

I'll leave the rest as an exercise for the student.

This may seem odd

But I don't have interwebnetunnelhighwaystuffthing here at home, It costs money, of which I have very little. What I do instead is take advantage of the intertubenetweb services paid for by family, friends, the local library, and neighbors. I do this under the rubric of “dog-sitting”, or “keeping an eye on the place whilst you're out of town”.

Not wanting to wear out my welcome, my system is simple. Rightclicksavepagefolderonlinestuff. It's actually as fast if not faster than RSS feed, and I don't have to go through the mail provider's searchbots. I've got maybe 250 bookmarks in perhaps a dozen folders, plus a dedicated folder for new links. (Hit link, opens as new tab, new tab has HTTP, bookmark in “new stuff” folder, or whatever I'm calling it today).

Some stuff gets saved – bus routes and schedules, ampacity charts, NEMA plug standards, downloaded literachoor (I tend to use PDF, 'cause the Kindle Reader sucks).

But this is all by the way. I had an old buddy of mine as a sofa critter for entirely too long. He thought that I was holding out on him when I brought up a PDF of a bus route. “NO” I told him, “This is just a saved file!!” This is a guy who has been a computer programmer since the days of fucking PUNCHCARDS. (Well, I am too, but he's older than I am. I mean, like, I remember using tape cassettes and Frisbee sized disks).

This is the thing: Keep it local. Compact storage is the way to go. Don't just rad, download. Store it. There's a buttload of stuff that I have copypastaed copy pasted onto an Open Office doc. Every ISP sucks and will have down/slow times. Keep what you need on hand.

For that matter, it might not be a bad idea to have a backup. Micro SD chips. Spare laptop. Faraday cage protected. Seriously. The local transformer going boom could destroy your Great American Novel, or your grand new proof of the exceptions to the General Theory of Relativity.

I recall visiting me old buddy John as a storm blew up. He was writing code for the operation of the brand new thing called the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Sensor. (MRI, for those are more comfortable with the TLA). “Damn, John, shouldn't you save work?” Lightning hit he house next door, blacking out the neighborhood.

“Done it once and it took me 50 hours. Now I know how to do it I can do it in 3. Shit. Lights are out. Calls for Wild Turkey. Y”all got a joint? Wow, and here's some acid I had saved for a special occasion. Let's go watch the weather”.

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