Thursday, February 28, 2013

Simon Rich's Sell Out, part three of four. : The New Yorker

Simon Rich's Sell Out, part three of four. : The New Yorker: Screaming over money is what makes the market fun. Sarah used to threaten to kill the potato man whenever his prices went up. She would take out her knife and say, “I will kill you with this knife for robbing me.” He would curse her in Hungarian and then the two of them would wave their fists around. It was good times for everyone. These days, though, nobody has that kind of will. It is all please and thank you and have a nice day.
Start with Part 1. This is a great read.

Salmonella kills people but not corporations

Path to Illnesses and Deaths Began Five Years Before Salmonella Outbreak | Food Safety News: As dangerous as those conditions were, the indictment makes a strong case that what put PCA at fault was its fraudulent practices that left no space for food safety.

The indictment portrays a company that was too busy lying to its customers, pretty much day-in and day-out.

Fraud was being practiced by PCA as early as June 2003, more than five years before people started getting sick, according to information contained in the indictment. The picture U.S. attorneys paint in the indictment is one where PCA promised to deliver on food safety standards and customer specifications while putting a system in place to do neither.
I am 99% positive most of my dear readers have heard about federal charges against Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) for shipping 'tainted' (read: normal) food to its customers. I've highlighted a passage from "Food Safety News", the blog credited with the most extensive investigation yet (and by "extensive investigation" I mean someone sat down with both a copy of the indictments AND a biology textbook -imagine that!!)

I've bolded a few key terms in my quote, but I'll go long-form to get this across.

PCA's customers are NOT American consumers (people). PCA is not in trouble for poisoning people - they're in trouble for lying to Kellogg's, and by proxy, putting Kellogg's in a position of potential liability - the thing all corporations avoid by design. Kellogg's is customer #1

So go ahead - celebrate this "victory" for food safety. And by "food safety" I mean to say that corporations are safely insulated from any liability arising from their food.

Window Tint and Gun Culture

Want to tie together a couple of seemingly disparate ideas...

In California, it is technically illegal to tint your driver and passenger windows. The main rational is that it presents a danger to law enforcement. That danger being.... firearms.

The backup rational is a physics argument: interior light reflections can cause misleading visuals potentially increasing accidents.

The light problem could be solved by the application of a gradient tint that allows the driver to see their mirrors untinted, but cuts the amount of solar energy entering the vehicle's cabin. (Update: I'm informed it is legal to coat windows with a UV blocker provided it's completely opaque. Most manufacturers do this as a matter of practice.)

The arguments in support of tint reform are twofold: primary is an climate/environmental/comfort argument. Tinted cars use less energy running AC, means less air pollution.

The second is an easy one: JOBZ! (film manufacture/sale, installers, etc).

There is an aspect that will have a curious opponent: a security state apparatus that will not easily accept having its view curtailed.

I don't think there's a practical political path to simply change the Vehicle Code to allow tinted windows without increasing the regulation of firearms. So, will gun owners endure greater regulation in exchange for tinting their windows a darker shade?

It turns out there are few aftermarket manufacturers of gradient-tint films, and they tend toward egregious styles. This makes me wonder if a mandatory tinting scheme (compliance and economic incentives) would lead to development of this form of tint (think of a window that's tinted except around the area where you view your mirrors - that would remain clear, but get gradually darker the farther up and back on the window.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Nation:The Phony 'Fix the Debt' Campaign

Stacking the Deck: The Phony 'Fix the Debt' Campaign | The Nation: Meet the Campaign to Fix the Debt, the billionaire-funded project that uses Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles as figureheads for a fearmongering campaign to convince Americans that the deficits the United States has run throughout its history have suddenly metastasized into “a cancer that will destroy this country from within.” It is the latest incarnation of Wall Street mogul Pete Peterson’s long campaign to get Congress and the White House to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

Everything's Niche

"How much experience do you have?" asks the hiring manager at the yard care service.

"Experience?" I stare dumbfounded. "You mean, with yardwork? Like, raking leaves?"

He stares back.

"Ok, honestly, not much, but I think its a skill I could pick up really quick. What with it being.. y'know, raking leaves and all..."

"No," he interrupts.

"Nobody in this business "rakes leaves". Every one of my guys can install sprinklers, PVC, trenching.. all of that. They got trucks with all the tools and blowers.... shit, whatever it takes. I don't got a spot on my team for someone to just show up and do what they're told. You have to be able to do almost every job. That's my 'entry level' job."


Replace "yard care" with just about any job that you associate with manual labor. Everyone's a specialist now.

There may have been a period of time in this country's history when lots of transitional jobs existed - i.e., yard work -  but no more. Even "entry level" jobs require specialty.

This means two (bad) things:
1) there is no fallback for people who want to work but have no current skills,
2) remaining jobs tend toward permanence, or low social mobility. This creates social stress.

Friday, February 22, 2013

End of Days

What's the difference between Sacramento and a gallon of milk?

You leave milk out in the sun this long, even it develops culture....

Sad to see this go (says a guy who never booked a day in the room....)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

TanteMaries: Potato Chip Frittata

This looks delicious. Her channel is wonderful - I recommend subscribing.

Here's her recipe best I can interpret:

6-8 eggs
leftover cheese (feta), olives , leftover bacon/ham (cooked), scallions, roasted red peppers (not pickled), potato chips (BBQ flavor FTW, IMHO.)

Crush the potato chips and let them soak in the eggs for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

Add some butter or olive oil to pan and heat. Pour mixture into hot pan and cook until mix is golden brown on bottom. Finish in broiler, 1-2 minutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The End of Cats: An Interview With the New Zealand Economist Calling to Eliminate All Kitties - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic

The End of Cats: An Interview With the New Zealand Economist Calling to Eliminate All Kitties - Derek Thompson - The Atlantic: Because we have virtually no obligations on cat owners (bit like you guys with your guns) and so people own them, abandon them, and generally take no responsibility for the unintended consequences of their actions. The most oft-heard and erroneous utterance we get here from cat owners is, "Oh but my pussy only kills rats and mice, he'd never harm a native bird." As you can see this denial verges on explicit stupidity.
I believe circumstances are similar here in CA. Human activities are probably the greatest evolutionary pressure(s) ever.

Unintended consequences, indeed.

(Note: I appreciate he's making an economic proposition here, but I don't think that alone is a sufficient indictment of it.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

SocImages: The Poor Pay More Taxes

Politics, Discourse, and the Real Tax Rate on the Rich and Poor:
The current political discourse is so focused on a single form of government revenue, that the word taxes has become essentially synonymous with just one tax in particular; the federal income tax.

The non-profit, non-partisan Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy recently released its research on the taxes families in the United States paid in 2010.  These findings reveal when the focus is taken off the federal income tax and the entire tax system is examined, cumulative household taxes in nearly every state are regressive because the less money a family makes, the larger proportion they pay to the different levels of government.  As the graph below shows, the cumulative tax system is regressive because sales, excise and property taxes offset progressive income taxes at both the state, and federal levels.

Notice this was not written by anybody who's last name is "Paul."

I can only hope our next election cycle will feature more nuanced discussions about taxes, that is to say, none at all.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

YouTube: Meteor Enters Earth's Atmosphere in Russia


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fashion Film

Excellent. Love this kind of humor.

My Top Ten Posts since 2007

Looked at my extended stats for the first time in a long time. This really surprised me. Wanted to remember it.

Since 2007, my top ten posts:

2361 visits - Wedding Videography and Copyright Law
938 visits - Brain Dump: Aphids and Artichoke Plants
709 visits - Brain Dump: embedding fonts in OpenOffice PDF's
361 visits - How Salmonella contaminates tomato plants
331 visits - Not an Atheist - an Alltheist
259 visits - Jaw Drops Open: Lydia Van De Meer
239 visits - Google Plus
233 visits - Brain Dump: Lake Berryessa, California
149 visits: Brain Dump: BizAdSplash Pyramid Scam
135 visits: Music Business: What do I do now?

I realize there are so many blogs out there that get more traffic than this every day, but I have to remember: I am not a measure of my blog traffic.


[in reply to this post at Dangerousmeta]

The thing about Facebook... magnifies the tension between Change and Stasis.

Walk with me...

We all hate Change, and we all complain about Stasis. If Facebook had been designed by someone *not* autistic, it may have included built-in means for firewalling our social networks.

Y'know, like we used to. Can we even remember what that's like?

Instead, all these social networks are suddenly laid bare (to some extent.) Getting into new networks is the recipe for Change.
Many academics and career counselors observe this inertia and conclude
that the problem lies in basic human motives: We fear change, lack readiness,
are unwilling to make sacrifices, sabotage ourselves. [...]
Indeed, the conventional wisdom on how to change careers is in
fact a prescription for how to stay put. The problem lies in our methods, not
our motives. [...]
To make a break with the past, we must venture into unknown networks –
and not just for job leads. Often it is strangers who are best equipped to help
us see who we are becoming. [...]
Trigger events don’t just jolt us out of our habitual routines,they are the necessary
pegs on which to hang our reinvention stories. Arranging life events
into a coherent story is one of the subtlest, yet most demanding, challenges of
career reinvention. To reinvent oneself is to rework one’s story.
Herminia Ibarra: How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career - Harvard Business Review

Ibarra is writing about careers, but she really means "life."

Joe Rogan touches on this concept of one's story, too:

Facebook collapses all the investments we have in multiple identities to multiple groups (again look who developed the application in first place...) which means the moment we start adding friends, we have to start rewriting our story, and by proxy, reinvent ourselves.

Worse, every time we look at the site, we're confronted with others reinventing themselves more successfully than we are.

This is incredibly stressful, and if we're not equipped to perceive/discuss this phenomenon, we're carrying some invisible anxiety.

TL;DR: Some loners with Aspergers created a website that makes money by inventorying the behaviors of narcissists.


Here's an experiment: Count the number of surfaces his hands touch before he touches the lid where  your lips will be. How many times does he touch money? A doorknob? Then the lid to your coffee...

(Answer: 116.)

Prediction: Coffee lids of the near future will include a plastic "safety" wrapper that's peeled after the lid is secured to the container.

Lesson: Wash your damn hands.

via Reddit.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Free Cars

Thought experiment:

Imagine you're in the mood to buy a new car (notice I said "in the mood" and not "in the market") and you've heard about a dealer a few blocks away that's practically giving them away. Your first reaction is "Wow, that doesn't sound quite right, but I'll check it out."

As you're walking down the sidewalk to the dealer, you start to notice there are cars everywhere. "My god," you think. "Everybody's got one!" You walk past a large strip mall parking lot, full of gleaming cars, reinforcing the notion of their ubiquity.

Finally, you get to the dealer, who's got the biggest lot you've seen yet with even more cars on it. The cars are packed in so tight you can barely open the doors or drive a car off the lot. Transport trucks with even more cars are waiting at the entrance to the dealer. "So many cars!" you think.

The moment you're within sight, the sales team surrounds you, but none of them asks you about your financial condition. Instead. they simply beg you to buy your car from them, at any price. "We'll make it work!" they say.

So you reluctantly pick a young, quiet woman thinking she'll be the least of a bully.

"Follow me!" she chirps, elated to have been chosen.

"These are the cars I have today!" she beams. For some unexplainable reason, all the cars she's selling are at the farthest end of the lot. You scan the choices in front of you, but nothing seems quite right for you. None of the cars come in your favorite colors, nor do any of the trim packages appeal, but a couple of the interiors are really nice. And they probably run just fine, although long-term dependability is something that simply cannot be divined. You're just guessing, really.

"Do these have a warranty?" you ask sheepishly, already kind of knowing the answer. "Oh," the saleswoman answer casually, "all our cars are sold 'as is'."

"Well, what if I don't like the car?"

She hesitates as if the idea has simply never occurred to her. "Well, just come back and try another one! Everybody is going to have a different opinion of each car, so just keep buying one until you find five or six (or more!) that you love!"

"Wait a minute!" you interrupt indignantly. "What in the world makes you think I can afford to keep buying cars I don't like?"

She pauses, undefeated, and leans in. "Tell you what," she whispers, "I'll give you any car of mine you want. All I ask is you tell people how much you like the car and where you got it."

"Wait, WHAT?!" you gasp. "Where... where do these cars come from?"

Without a hint of irony she answers: "I build them."

You step back, stunned. You'd walked on this lot expecting to pay a reasonable price for a reasonable car only to find out not only are the salespeople giving them away, they're building them, too!

Suddenly all the cars you saw on your way here rush through your mind. The nice sports coupe, that forest-green SUV..they were practically given away in exchange for some word of mouth advertising. "So that's how they they all  bought cars!" you think.

"Ok, how long will this thing last?"

She stares again as if nobody has ever asked this question. "As long as you need it to, I guess!" she smiles back, anticipating the confused look on your face. "Look, if I promise to call you the moment a better one is available will you take one of these today?" She's pressing her game, now.

You capitulate. "Fine, I'll take..... that one. Do you need my phone number?"

"No," she says flatly. "There's a phone in the car."

A few moments after you drive off the lot, she calls with news that she'll have a couple new models for you to check out on Thursday night, 8:30 pm at some dealer you've never heard of in a part of town you haven't visited in 15 years. But this time she wants $10 up front to see the debut. She'll call you again on Thursday morning.

Your heart sinks completely.

You pull over and abandon the free car. "Maybe somebody else will find it and fall in love with it."

You start walking home. On your way, you can't help but notice there are cars everywhere...


Friday, February 1, 2013

Gotta Get It Done!