Our generation will be known for nothing.
Never will anybody say,
We were the peak of mankind.
That is wrong, the truth is
Our generation was a failure.
We actually succeeded
Is a waste. And we know
Living only for money and power
Is the way to go.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
This afternoon I visited the County Recorder's office to pick up plats and legal property descriptions for the parcels of land we're buying. If you've ever done something like this in San Diego (I have), you know it's a most painful experience: city traffic, scarce (and expensive) parking, long waits, surly clerical help, expensive and slow (and probably crappy) copies, and absolutely zero chance of meeting anyone with any real authority on a walk-in visit.
Here in Cache County, I drove up to the County Administration building and discovered a vast parking lot behind it, with dozens of empty spaces. Those spaces were, of course, free. Then I went to the wrong place to pick up what I needed, and some very friendly folks gently told me where I really needed to go (the Recorder's actual office). I went there, and asked about getting the documents – and the County Recorder himself (a fellow named Mike Gleed) helped me locate and copy them. Just like every other County employee I've met (about 10 at this point), he was extremely helpful, took the time to answer all my questions, no matter how crazy or ignorant – and had a smile and a cheerful attitude throughout. Oh, and those documents cost me a whopping $3.50!
For anyone from southern California, getting quality, cheerful, friendly service from a government employee is a head-exploding experience. Feels good, though. Makes me want to go back for more...
The two that are shining here are operating power stations, and the mirrors around them have been aimed so that each of them reflects the sun onto the tower. These mirrors move all day long, as the sun moves across the sky, to keep the reflected sunlight on target. Thousands of these mirrors surround each tower, and collectively they focus enough light onto the flat black material of the tower to boil the water circulating under the skin. That generated steam powers turbines that generate electricity – enough for 70,000 homes.
The black tower is just one that's not operational at the moment I took this photo. It's mirrors are aimed so that they reflect light anywhere but on the tower.
These power stations have been in the news recently because birds have been flying near the towers. When they do so, they are killed by the intense heat, and even partially cooked by the time they hit the ground below. Environmentalists are, of course, trying to shut the power stations down. Because the power stations are in California, I'd bet that they'll succeed...
Sunday, February 23, 2014
We were manly men before we were ten.
At the tender age of six our father strapped a huge army issue back-pack jammed full of heavy camping gear onto my short little self. It felt like it weighed a ton. Was wondering if maybe my brother had a lot less weight in his backpack although it looked sort of about the same bulky size. We had a long way to walk before we could park this tortuous load which seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. At the same time though it made me feel more grown up.
Our destination for the day was Chimney Pond. The backpack frame would scrape on the ground every once in a while and I found myself leaning forward more than usual to prevent this from ruining the thing. Seemed like we almost had to run with all that weight (50-60 pounds?) to keep up with Dad's long strides. Every once in a while Dad let us stop to drink some water and have a small snack – like a few handfuls of gorp or maybe some pemmican. What a relief it was to take off the backpack for a few minutes. For a teasing brief moment in time it felt like I weighed as much as a feather.
My way of thinking was to sneak as much weight in water and food as possible into my gut so that the backpack would weigh less. Dad taught us some survival skills along the way and spoke to us about the critters that lived around there. He also joked around some. It seemed like it took forever to get to where we were going but it probably wasn't that many miles. No kid on earth knows what a perfect night of sleep feels like unless they have endured that much slavery and then experience breathing that cool clean mountain air while in la la land tucked in a warm sleeping bag.
Early next morning we were back on a trail heading for the top of Mt. Katahdin. There was a slight difference. The backpacks weighed much less than the day before. After scrambling over humungous boulders and hiking quickly up steep slopes we did make it to the top. A brass marker on a cairn let us all know that we were a mile high. Off to the south (?) maybe about 100 feet away from the cairn was a cliff that Dad wanted us to sit on top of. We did as we were told. Problem was our backpacks were now just about empty and they felt like sails on our backs with a 60 m.p.h. wind blowing hard at us. Thought for sure I was going to sail right off the top of that cliff. He instructed us to pick up rocks, throw them over the side and listen carefully for the sound of these rocks hitting bottom. “Shout when you hear them hit. I'm going to time you so I can calculate how far down it is to the bottom of that cliff.” We all decided that this was one heck of a tall cliff because it took a while before we heard those rocks hit anything.
The next cliff experience was phenomenal. The knife edge. A scary long cliff on each side of you as you ran leaping over gaps in this narrow pathway. At times it was not all that narrow, but when it was narrow it gave you thrills and chills – that's for sure.
After another heavenly night of sleep there was a treat in store for us who knew not what was next. A cool and refreshing swim for 5 minutes and not a second less. Actually this was cooler than your average cool refreshing swim. 35 degrees Fahrenheit I believe was the recorded temperature. We had no choice in the matter. We were not allowed to leave the water until the 5 minutes were up. We asked several times if the 5 minutes were up and of course they weren't. That was the longest 5 minutes I'll ever experience. When back at camp ( Long Pond, Lincoln Center, Maine ) my lips were bright blue and purple and I was still shivering from that swim. Caught a pneumonia or something about as bad and Mother Dear was pretty pissed off at Dad for almost killing me which was carrying it a little too far.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Naturally, DGCJ asserted his correctness – certified by his political persuasion (liberal), credentials (Ph.D.), and makes several assertions he apparently considers belittling and conclusive, such as:
Thanks. we both realize you were mentally outclassed from the beginning, but now you know why. It's because I was born with superior cognitive functions, as a homosexual male.and
I tow the party line, dummyDaniel uses this as a teaching moment. Go learn...
I just corrected you. Nobody toes their car, do they? They TOW it. DUH!
And, the last laugh will be on you, my friend. I don't troll. I speak the truth and conservatives hate facts. Science is not your friend.
After months of sometimes-bloody conflict, this is quite an amazingly rapid progression. So far as I can tell, it's all good news, too – but it's certainly not over yet. Yanokovych could conceivably lean on Putin to supply the muscle needed to restore himself to power. Internal forces may yet be able to do the same. I have no idea how it's going to end up, but it looks hopeful right at the moment...
Some relevant reading for you here, here, and here...
Friday, February 21, 2014
Stock up on popcorn, folks!
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
It hurt my sphincter just to watch these – imagine what it would be like to be on those planes!
Of course, the administration has gotten creative before, so don’t count it out. But if it does extend the program, it is basically confessing two things: It thinks the law is whatever it says it is, and it never really cared how much the program cost.Yup.
I used to buy slide rules (which, as my long-time readers know, I collect) from a fellow in Caracas. We had a few email conversations about the politics after Hugo took power. Then one day he stopped responding to my emails. A little later, I got a reply saying that his email address had been deleted. I sent snail mail; it was returned. His ads are no longer on eBay. I fear the worst for him, and I am afraid that his political openness on email may have contributed to his undoing...
Americans have been struggling with how to respond to human rights outrages in foreign countries ever since the U.S. was founded. There's a continuous spectrum of positions, from complete isolationism (no foreign involvement unless there's a direct threat to the U.S.) to being the world's policeman (intervening militarily every time a foreign government does something we don't like). I struggle with this myself. In this case, I don't think we should intervene militarily in Ukraine – but I do think we should be doing everything we can, covertly and overtly, to support the people fighting for their freedom. I also think we should be doing everything we can to make life difficult for the supporters of the thugocracy there – mainly Vladimir Putin and his Russian thugocracy. Unfortunately, That One's administration is doing virtually the opposite.
Well, what else would you expect from a would-be thugocrat with Hugo-envy?
Historical experience: every single time in American history that the minimum wage was raised (including it's initial establishment in 1938), employment has gone down significantly. Two major factors contribute to the reduction of employment. First, as the minimum wage rises some jobs cost more than they are worth to the employer. When I was a kid, sweepers and floor cleaners were a ubiquitous feature of retails stores. I haven't seen a floor cleaner for years; now that job is done much less often (and usually less skillfully) by other employees as an adjunct responsibility. Second, as the minimum wage rises some jobs can be economically replaced by automation. For an object lesson in this phenomenon, visit a modern warehouse (such as Amazon's) or a modern shipyard (like Newark or Los Angeles). The number of “muscle” jobs is remarkably small compared to what they were like when I was a kid.
The CBO: operating under bizarre and politically biased rules, even the CBO predicts that raising the minimum wage will cost jobs (though less than experience would suggest).
Obama: raising the minimum wage will cost zero jobs. Their main arguments seem to be that the CBO has no idea what it's talking about, and historical experience is irrelevant – it'll be different this time.
We’re at a funny point in our political culture. To have judgment is to be an elitist. To have dignity is to be yesterday. To have standards is to be a hypocrite—you won’t always meet standards even when they’re your own, so why have them?My first thought: I'm so very tired of this.
My second thought: Debbie and I just experienced government of a very different – call it old-fashioned – kind, on our recent visit to Utah. It was refreshing and invigorating, and I want more...
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
It reminds me a bit of early Arctic explorer's astonishment when Eskimos were given photos – they never bothered to turn them right side up. To them, any viewing angle worked just fine. Research discovered that our inclination to turn photos right side up was correlated with reading – as soon as Eskimos learned how to read, they turned their photos right side up too!
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Our wonderful vet, Dr. Christine Wilson (aka “Dr. C”), let us come in today (on a Sunday!) to check Boots out. She confirmed the labored breathing and the bad short-term prognosis, and added that she could go into respiratory distress (in other words, start suffocating) at any time. We decided it was time to say goodbye, before she started to suffer. Dr. C gave her some oxygen to make her breathing easier, and Boots shoved her little face into the mask to suck up that air; it clearly made her feel better. We held her and talked to her as she went, very peacefully. A little later, I buried her under our pines with some of her former companions.
It will be sad around our house for a while. Boots was the third kitty we've lost to the complications of old age in just the past six months...
Debbie and I just finished spending two weeks in a place where conservatives are the overwhelming majority (Cache Valley, Utah). We also experienced some novelties unseen in California for decades, such as efficient, competent government. Friendly, readily available, and expert civil servants. And common sense, pragmatic people as far as the eye can see. It was refreshing and invigorating. If there has to be a revolution in this country to rid ourselves of the progressive plague, it's communities like that who will supply the revolutionaries. And the guns...
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Small technology startups are generally fairly pure meritocracies – the people who do well are those who are good at their work. As companies get bigger, the “political” aspects of organizations start taking effect. In particular, it (usually) becomes possible to advance and become powerful within the organization without actually being very good at what you do. Those “political” skills can serve a person just as well – or even better – than actually being good at your job. Some people thrive in such an environment. I do not.
My friend is just starting to learn what this means. He sent me an email yesterday describing a situation that occurred at work, and made some astute observations about exactly what happened – and he's projected the political maneuverings forward and realized he's about to have others take credit for the good work that he's done. Most people, including him, really hate having other steal the credit for good work they've done.
At the end of his email, my friend said this:
I can only imagine such politics must happen all the time. It is a crafty and despicable art.It's sad when innocence is lost – but it's a valuable life lesson. I think my friend will be just fine...
Thursday, February 13, 2014
About six years ago, commentators started noticing a strange pattern of behavior among the young millennials who were pouring out of college. Eventually, the writer Ron Alsop would dub them the Trophy Kids. Despite the sound of it, this has nothing to do with “trophy wives.” Rather, it has to do with the way these kids were raised. This new generation was brought up to believe that there should be no winners and no losers, no scrubs or MVPs. Everyone, no matter how ineptly they perform, gets a trophy.Time to order that book!
As these kids have moved into the workforce, managers complain that new graduates expect the workplace to replicate the cosy, well-structured environment of school. They demand concrete, well-described tasks and constant feedback, as if they were still trying to figure out what was going to be on the exam. “It’s very hard to give them negative feedback without crushing their egos,” one employer told Bruce Tulgan, the author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy. “They walk in thinking they know more than they know.”
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Monday, February 10, 2014
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Thursday, February 6, 2014
The view out of our cabin window looks a bit like a Currier & Ives winter print. As I write this, the hillside opposite us has a small herd of deer on it, browsing the shrubs for forage.
The people here have been wonderful, like most of the rest of our Utah experiences. We're not surprised by this, but it's comforting to be able to confirm it...
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
A priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and to give a little speech at the dinner.Moral : Never, Never, Never Be Late
However, the politician was delayed, so the Priest decided to say his own few words while they waited:
'I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it. He had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his boss's wife, taken illegal drugs, and gave VD to his sister. I was appalled. But as the days went on I learned that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.'
Just as the Priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his talk:
'I'll never forget the first day our parish Priest arrived,' said the politician. 'In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession.'
Bill Clinton started jogging near his home in Chappaqua, New York.
But on each run he happened to jog past a hooker standing on the same street corner, day after day. With some apprehension he would brace himself as he approached her for what was most certainly to follow.
"Fifty dollars!" she would cry out from the curb.
"No, Five dollars!" fired back Clinton.
This ritual between Bill and the hooker continued for days.
He'd run by and she'd yell, "Fifty dollars!"
And he'd yell back, "Five dollars!"
One day however, Hillary decided that she wanted to accompany her husband on his jog. As the jogging couple neared the problematic street corner, Bill realized the "pro" would bark her $50 offer and Hillary would wonder what he'd really been doing on all his past outings. He realized he should have a darn good explanation for the former Secretary of State. As they jogged into the turn that would take them past the corner, Bill became even more apprehensive than usual.
Sure enough, there was the hooker!
Bill tried to avoid the prostitute's eyes as she watched the pair jog past.
Then, from the sidewalk, the hooker yelled: “See what you get for five bucks!?"
Saturday, February 1, 2014