Mechanization Is A Feature Not A Bug: Part 1

The politics of minimum wage are a perpetual motion machine. On one side you’ve got folks who scream “living wage” as if jobs exist to support salaries. (Hint: they don’t. Jobs exist to get shit done; theoretically shit that has a market value.) On the other side you’ve got people who shout “you’ll put people out of work” as if politicians care about that. (Hint: they don’t. For every elected office in America, a vote from an unemployed citizen is just as good as a vote from a guy racking up 60 hours a week. Politicians blovating over unemployment figures is as much for show as anything else they do.)

I for one, have a different view. I am all for robots.

You heard me. I like robots. I’m a busy man. I’ve got shit to do and limited time to do it. I’m not looking for human interaction. I just want my stuff done so I can get back to whatever task I ought to be doing right friggin’ now. Robots serve that purpose well. God bless ‘em!

Every time labor gets more expensive, robots become relatively cheaper. I’m cool with that because they reduce the amount of bullshit in my life that’s spent on minor repetitive transactions. Neither political party seems to get this. I am the unserved Citizen that simply wants to get on with things. I neither wish to support unicorn economics nor pine for the good old days. That’s the “Adaptive” part of Curmudgeonry.

Luckily I’ll eventually get as much automation as I want. You will too; like it or not. Numbers always win. With regulation and economic tinkering, labor gets more expensive. For repetitive work, cheap robots beat expensive labor. Whining about it is useless. Also it’s silly. Unless you’re Amish, you don’t really want “the good old days” and you’d hate it if you experienced it. Accept it and move on.

Don’t feel sad. Robots are handy helpers. Many times times I’ve seen a machine replace an entry level job. Almost universally I’ve been happy with the outcome. In general, we all are or the trend would have reversed. I’ll follow with a few examples:

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Guardians Of The Galaxy

I just watched Guardians Of The Galaxy. I expected it to suck. I was wrong.

Let me start by explaining why I genuinely expected another two hour shitfest:

  1. I don’t give a crap about Marvel versus DC. (I prefer Cracked.)
  2. At some point it is possible to see too many explosions… even in space.
  3. I’ve been “superheroed” to death. See #1.
  4. I’ve been CGI’d to death. See #2.
  5. The trailer convinced me to prefer anything else; such as a root canal.

Then I read a post by someone who liked the movie even though they hated the trailer. (I can’t remember who wrote it but if it was you please send me a note.) Could there be hope?

I also bumped into several positive reviews written by actual human beings. Note; I only pay attention to “non-Hollywood” reviews. Any movie with a sufficient budget (and they’re all huge) gets good reviews by well payed hacks who, as far as I can tell, are bred in vats. Why pay attention to their orgasmic ravings after every new plotless CGI fest?

I needed a break and a reward. So I paid (too much) for tickets. To my delight, it was a damn fun movie. For the first time in years I left the theater without feeling like a chump. Your mileage may vary.

I’m not going to do a plot synopsis because fuck that, that’s why. Instead I’ll point out some good points the trailer missed.

Drax the Destroyer from Guardians Of The Galaxy

Casting real world homicidal maniac Vladimir Putin as Drax the Destroyer was a stroke of genius.

Rocket Raccoon is exactly like the raccoons that raid my chicken coop. Very realistic.

Rocket Raccoon is exactly like the raccoons that raid my chicken coop. Very realistic.

I have twice met the likes of Groot's. I vanquished both in battle... but it was a hard fought victory.

I have twice met giant murderous trees like Groot. Once in 2012 and once in 2013. I vanquished both in battle. Each time it was a hard fought victory. Well portrayed.

A slight casting misstep. Cool headgear and a leather jacket don't make up for the fact that the Starlord is a pothead from That 70's Show.

A slight casting misstep. Cool headgear and a leather jacket don’t make up for the fact that the Starlord is a dimwit from “Parks And Recreation”. Is that “pleather” on a space pirate? See what I mean? Ron Swanson should be the Starlord!

Bad choice for Starlord.

Bad choice for Starlord.

The right choice for Ron Swanson.

The right choice for Starlord.

Gamora was totally hot and uh... what was I thinking?

Gamora was totally hot and uh… what was I thinking?

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Terrorist Vegetable Seed Two Fer

There was a time when the American people fell all over themselves to insert the Government into every part of their lives. That time, the era when Americans grew the span and reach of Government, hasn’t ended. It’ll end someday. Math never loses. I’m hoping it’s peaceful and gradual but there’s no way of knowing that. The only real truth is that math never loses.

The reasons for expanded Government change. Here are a few; “for the environment”, “for the children”, “global warming”, “war on drugs”, “terrorism”. There are others. Pick your poison. Usually there’s one reason. I’m not saying the stated reason has anything to do with the actual reason, only that supporters tend to pick one reason and go with it. Sometimes they can’t pull it off with one reason so they toss out another. I call that a “two fer”

Multiple justifications for doing something you want to do are just plain amusing. It reminds me of a kid explaining why a cookie is a good idea for breakfast.

My favorite “two fer” is the craptacular 55 MPH speed limit, which terrorized my childhood almost as much as Tab and the AMC Gremlin. Maybe it was even a three-fer. They certainly threw things at the wall trying to find something that would stick. First it was “foreign dependency on oil”, then it was “55 saves lives”, finally it was “for the environment”. In the end they gave up… after they’d demonstrated the use of Federal highway monies to expand Federal control. Slick!

—–

Today I present an event that started out as a two-fer. An expansion of power which is both “for the environment” and “war on terrorism” right from the start. It’s about vegetable seeds. (And you thought gardening was boring.)

Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

A library in Pennsylvania started a seed library. You “check out seeds”, grow them (they’re obviously better gardeners than me), and at the end of the season you “return” new seeds. Try as I might, I can’t quite find a way to think that’s evil, stupid, or Satanic. Actually it seems pretty logical. Possibly a bit boring. Probably cheap too.

Did you notice the one thing I didn’t mention? The government. As far as I can tell it’s a shoestring budget deal and implemented by people who really care about tomato seeds. That’s a problem. No money means no government. Can’t have that.

“the library system received a letter from the state Department of Agriculture telling them they were in violation of the Seed Act of 2004.”

Better shut down the rebellious carrot growing hoodlums before they… before they what? Mulch?

“the agriculture department handled the investigation — sending a high-ranking official and lawyers”

Billable hours to defend against rogue turnips!

“there is also a concern about seeds that may be mislabeled (purposefully or accidentally), the growth of invasive plant species, cross-pollination and poisonous plants.”

Reason number one; “it’s for the environment”.

“commissioner Barbara Cross noted that such seed libraries on a large scale could very well pose a danger”

It’s a good one… wait for it…

“Agri-terrorism is a very, very real scenario”

Yes! Reason number two is “terrorism”. Oh man that’s awesome. I mean I’ve been fed all sorts of lines but the idea of Hamas setting down their RPG’s and coming to Pennsylvania to muck up a row of lettuce in some person’s garden is star spangled poofery.

So there you have it. You can gather seeds from your garden. You can replant them, carry them around, give them to friends, sprinkle them on your cereal, snort them, or plant them in some other state under an assumed name while wearing pantyhose at midnight. But you can never ever loan seeds in a library… if you do that, the terrorists have won and also nature will die.

One last note. As far as I can tell this is the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture? It sounds like Pennsylvania is bravely thwarting terrorist cells and defending Gaia while neighboring Ohio and New Jersey (the garden state!) are probably nothing but a smoking crater filled with corpses clutching mutant tomatoes. I think (though haven’t verified) that they’re invoking a Federal law. This means… wait for it… we need Federal oversight in that and all other 49 states. You’re not soft on terrorism are you? Bwa ha ha ha ha….

Got it? Good. There will be a test.

A.C.

P.S. In the interest of understanding I’ll admit there really are risks associated with seeds. In the interest of fairness I’ll also admit that my corn field croaked. Even so the problem is an absence of scale. All things have risk. Ebola is wandering around Africa, teenagers can vote, and old people drive RVs. A seed library is not low hanging fruit of the risks one encounters in a free world. If you see gardeners sharing seeds and think terrorist; you need to spend some time in Afghanistan. Also, when the zombie apocalypse comes I want the seed bank people on my side!

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The Expert

I have been to this meeting… repeatedly.

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Politics: The Scripted Debate

I go on periodic “news blackouts”. When bullshit becomes concentrated I take a break. I won’t take bullshit seriously.

Lately the news is particularly contrived. They say there’s a new wrinkle in the endless circular firing squad that is immigration policy. Apparently I’m supposed to hyperventilate. Really? You know what wasn’t on the news today? The NSA tapped my phone. It tapped yours too but I don’t care they tap your phone. Tapping mine is what matters and it’s a sound reason to hate Washington with a white hot incandescent loathing straight from the core of my being. Also the national debt is $17,605,582,943,943.23. The press tells me to freak about a twelve year old from Honduras while the government spends my money in numbers never before seen and reads my e-mails? Bullshit. The press is carefully avoiding eye contact with their pet administration as it runs out the clock.

It’s a good time for a break.

Better to focus on “real” problems. Real is when I’m neck deep in my truck’s engine trying to unscrew a fuel filter. The Arizona border isn’t irrelevant but a hot manifold matters right now.

I was dimly aware that herds of children are crossing the southern border and apparently hanging out in Federal facilities instead of being sent back. I’m trying to stay out of it.

Alas, I failed. In July I got dragged into three separate “conversations” about immigration. Each conversation went the same way; practically word for word. Folks are sticking to a script that was issued by their favorite party. Uniformity is worrisome. I hate to see people follow “talking points” like marionettes. Because I’m me, I deviated from the script and pissed people off. You can thank me later.

That was weeks ago. Today I’m going to mash all three discussions into one. The “script”, to me, is the real lesson. Note that you could delete “immigration” and replace it with anything and the script would stay about the same. Try it with “global warming” or “terrorism” or “bad bowling scores”. It’s a script without substance.

—–

Three Debaters Merged Into One (hereafter called TDMIO): “Have you heard about the disaster down south? This is all Bush’s fault.”

Handsome Curmudgeonly Stud (hereafter called HCS): “I just looked at my watch. My watch says it’s 2014. George Bush Jr. hasn’t been our president for six years. He’s retired. He’s nobody. Cheney is gone too. You can picture him hiding in a secret lair if you wish. Neither one is around anymore to piss in your Cheerios.”

TDMIO: “Bush messed up immigration policy and now we’ve got a million billion zillion orphans swimming the Rio Grande. Bush was an asshole.”

HCS: “Bush is an asshole who left power six years ago. If he fucked up something he fucked it up six years ago.”

TDMIO: “He made a rule that you have to treat kids crossing the border illegally in certain ways; give them certain rights and stuff. That encouraged them.”

HCS: “Hmmm… was that a response to Elian Gonzalez? Was the old method that some dude dressed like a mall ninja and holding a rifle tears the kid out of a closet? Let me guess, the new method is that you give the kid a cupcake?”

TDMIO: “That’s not what I’m talking about.”

HCS: “Maybe it’s for the best. I had my reservations about that whole seize a child like Robocop thing…”

TDMIO: “It’s not about Elian Gonzalez. Bush and those asshole Republicans are…”

HCS: “…now that I think about it, the Elian Gonzalez thing happened under Clinton. So Clinton was all ‘you’re going back to be Fidel’s pet’ and then Bush said ‘hauling a kid’s ass to Cuba is not cool ’cause I’m all flowers and joy’? Now, six years later, kids are all like ‘I’m here, where’s my cupcake’? Are you sure this is a new thing?”

TDMIO: “It’s definitely a new thing. People are fleeing poverty. Their home countries are a mess!”

HCS: “So poverty is a new thing?”

TDMIO: “They’re hiring smugglers.”

HCS: “‘People smuggling’ isn’t new. I remember a joke from Cheech and Chong back in the day…”

TDMIO: “This is different!”

HCS: “…I had this Cheech and Chong tape… what was the song? Oh yeah ‘Born in East LA’. Cheech got deported because he confused Ronald Reagan with John Wayne…”

TDMIO: “This isn’t funny. It’s a new thing and it’s a big deal.”

HCS: “Well if fleeing poverty and smugglers and illegal border crossings aren’t new then what’s special this time?”

TDMIO: “This time it’s all kids. Unaccompanied minors!”

HCS: “I’m just spitballin’ here but what did Obama promise specifically to children?”

TDMIO: “Obama didn’t cause this. Obama is trying to reform immigration. Those asshole Republicans in Congress won’t do squat.”

HCS: “If asshole Republicans in Congress haven’t done squat then they didn’t cause squat.”

TDMIO: “If the Republicans would cooperate then…”

HCS: “Then what? Then things would change? You just said things had changed. You said this new change made things suck in a new and alarming manner. Bush is retired, you said Congress hasn’t done squat, poverty isn’t new, and smugglers aren’t new. Stop tiptoeing around the obvious and tell me who made the change.”

TDMIO: “It’s the Republicans!”

HCS: “The ones in Congress that don’t do anything or the one who’s no longer President?”

TDMIO: “You just don’t get it!”

HCS: “You may be right. I haven’t watched the news for a couple weeks and talk radio makes me break out in hives.”

TDMIO: “That asshole Rush Limbaugh…”

HCS: “Yeah, yeah, Rush is an asshole. What’s new? However, we both know what’s going on without listening to his crap.”

TDMIO: “Oh yeah? Enlighten me.”

HCS: “You said Congress hasn’t done anything and I haven’t heard of the Supreme Court doing anything. That leaves the President and nobody else. Just for the record the President isn’t George Bush, it’s Barack Obama. Say it again; the president is Barack Obama. He won. He’s the man. It was in the papers and everything. If the president does something that means Barack Obama did it. If it sucks that means Barack Obama did something that sucks. He did something and it sucks…”

TDMIO: “He had to.”

HCS: “All actions are choices. Except maybe drinking coffee… I need that shit.”

TDMIO: “He couldn’t get cooperation…”

HCS: “I presume Obama used his magic executive pen of awesomeness that he wields like Excalibur. He unilaterally promised something specifically to minors.”

TDMIO: “He told the kids not to come. To go home.”

HCS: “Don’t be silly. Words are not actions and actions are not words. Our President, who is not Congress, not named Bush, and not a Republican, put cupcakes on a table and said ‘don’t come here and get these cupcakes’. The kids show up because free cupcakes are yummy. For this, I’m supposed to be mad at the dirty, rotten, teabagging, racist, Republican, Neanderthals who have done… what is it you said they did? Oh yeah, nothing.”

TDMIO: “It was unexpected.”

HCS: “Shit happens for a reason. Imagine a kid from a nation with a GDP of six bucks. His favorite toy is a dead lizard, the corrupt cops burn his house down every few years, and he lives on a diet of dirt and sorrow. His folks send him on a scary trip; ‘Good luck kid, send us a postcard if you don’t die.’ He gets to Tuscon the Feds scoop him up and then what? He gets food, housing, maybe air conditioning? Presumably he’ll get some sort of education and probably some new clothes and shit.  Maybe there will be cable TV.”

TDMIO: “So?”

HCS: “If you start out in a mud hut in Haiti but after a harrowing trip you get to sit in air conditioning watching Spongebob Squarepants? That seems to make the trip worthwhile.”

TDMIO: “We can’t stop them.”

HCS: “That’s a matter of opinion. Drop by my house unexpectedly at midnight and we’ll test your theory that things cannot be stopped at a boundary. My dog and I seem to have it figured out.”

TDMIO: “You just don’t get it! This was caused by Republicans.”

HCS: “Republicans who do nothing and are not in power sowed the seed of their own demise?”

TDMIO: “When you put it that way…”

HCS: “Actually I can see that. They’re not called the stupid party for nothing.”

TDMIO: “What?”

HCS: “I concede it’s possible, though I don’t know how. Republicans are good at screwing themselves.”

TDMIO: “It sucks talking politics with you.”

HCS: “I get that a lot. Want to hear me talk about my fuel filter? Check out this burn on my arm.”

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From The (Closeted) Grammar Nazi

I try to be a knuckle dragging Neanderthal yet I wind up doing a fair amount of editing. I rationalize that I edit at least as well as I can fell a tree and far better than I can fix a tractor so why not?

Sometimes I encounter writing that is truly awful. In that case I mark up the page with so many red marks that the writer starts to question their sanity, intellect, and role in the universe. This has gotten me a reputation as a “grammar Nazi”. I disagree. I like to think I’m either honing greatness from uncut stone or polishing turds. I humbly I leave it to the writer to suss out which one they might be.

Pages I mark up particularly harshly were particularly obtuse when written. Why should this reflect poorly on me? Sadly, it’s 2014 and everyone is trained from birth to be a delicate flower of enhanced self esteem. Things occasionally go south. When that happens I open my heart to the poor wounded soul who has come to me for external validation. I gingerly take their hand, I look into their eyes to show my earnest concern, and then I gently explain that the best way to deal with someone like me is to quit writing like an illiterate monkey. This doesn’t always go over well but it’s important to enjoy the little things in life and it always amuses me.

Then I suggest an even better option. Ignore me. Perhaps I’ve just encountered a latter day Hemingway. Maybe I simply can’t grok the mastery before me. If they think they did their best work then by all means go forth and publish. The “Nazi” part of “Grammar Nazi” has to do with coercion. I laugh but do not coerce.

The best part of writing comes later. Once one can construct a sentence; or rather, construct the coherent thought that will lead to a sentence, it’s time to bend rules. English is neither locked in iron nor the property of pointy headed academics. It’s meant to be used hard, flogged relentlessly, and crashed into the ditch after a night’s drinking. Bend it, break it, and twist it. Why not? Aside from the NSA, there is no “permanent record” and adults should express themselves to the fullest of their ability.

Hat tip to Silicon Graybeard.

 

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Makin’ Bacon: Part 10: My Names Are Vetoed

I was as happy as a Curmudgeon gets. I was driving home with a trailer. I love towing stuff. The “payload” was small critters that can squeal like demons but would eventually become bacon. Everyone loves bacon!

During the ride I decided the critters needed names. I settled on the names en route.

The “pig containment area” was large enough and well built enough to hold a rhino. It was done on time and under budget (though it was hard work). My super awesome gates worked as they should. So did my wired electric “redneck lines” for beneath the gates. I drove right in, unhitched the trailer, and drove the truck out. I love it when a plan comes together.

The trailer was parked (in the corral) next to a crappy lean to I’d made for the pig’s shelter. Constructed out of old pallets and junk I’d made the shelter for the princely sum of about 75 cents. That what I figured a handful of 3″ Torx screws cost. Yay me! (At the end of the year I’ll probably burn it down and/or haul it away. There’s always more junk to make another one next year.)

I opened the trailer door to let the pigs free. I had room for 15 pigs and only three to occupy it. This was the biggest, sunniest, grassiest place they’d ever seen. The pigs wouldn’t budge. I climbed in the trailer and booted one in the ass.

They went apeshit and flew out of the trailer in a squealing panicked eruption of motion. Whew! Apparently you gotta’ train a pig to mellow it out? (Note: Now, many weeks later, the pigs really are “trained”. They come to you and like to be pet. They’re like dogs but smarter and less likely to chase a cat. Also they eat like teenagers and practically leap for joy if they get a treat. Much more pleasant that the screaming banshees they were at the start.)

The pigs tore around in a circle and then another. They were fast! After three or four noisy chaotic orbits they hid under the trailer. I decided to leave them there. The trailer wasn’t needed for a while.

On the way out I told them their names. “You are ‘Senator Robert Byrd’.” I said to the smallest one. The next smallest was “Solyndra”. The largest, a male, I dubbed “Bridge to Nowhere”.

Smiling I trotted to the gate. Mrs. Curmudgeon was waiting at the gate. She’d been enjoying the cute critters running around in the grass. I like to think she was awed my my masculine hunky bod… but it was definitely the piglets she was watching.

“You’re wrong” she said. “The pigs already have names.”

I shrugged.

“They are Tilly, Esmeralda, and Mr. Spanks.”

Well then, I stand corrected. Now you know their names too.

A.C.

P.S. I left the trailer in there a couple weeks. One day Foxinator called and said “you know that pigs will eat trailer wiring right?” I did not know this. Now I do. I got the privilege of rewiring the old trailer. Actually I don’t mind. The old wiring was sagging and patched and rusted anyway. Classic duct tape and bailing wire hillbilly compounding repair jobs. I spent a few bucks to get a new plug and put in new super waterproofed wires and routed it all nice and clean. To me that makes the world a better place. I’m pretty sure Foxinator doesn’t care about “good” versus “bad” wiring but I like to strike back against entropy when I can.

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