altivo: From a con badge (studious)
No, I'm not talking about pool toys here.

This week I spent $13 to buy an old Versalog slide rule off EBay. I've wanted one for years, in fact since they were actually still being made. That would be around 1969 or 1970, when I was still in college. (For any readers too young to remember what a slide rule is, it's a mechanical calculating tool that works on logarithms. The slide rule was used by engineers and scientists through much of the 19th and 20th century and many of our architectural monuments and mechanical achievements were based on slide rule estimates and calculations. This includes early space flight experiments as well as things like the Empire State building and the Golden Gate bridge. Though it looks crude in comparison to a modern digital computer, the slide rule is still a useful tool. Unfortunately they aren't made any more (other than as novelty items perhaps) and no one learns to use them.

Anyway, the Versalog I acquired still has the leather protective case with the name of a former owner inscribed under the flap. The rule was very dirty, but it cleaned up well and I realigned the scales and cursor so it is usable. Then some historic research. This rule was made in April of 1962, so it is 51 years old this month. It sold new for about $29.95, which was a lot of money back then. Versalog was the "Cadillac" of slide rules according to most of the guys in my undergraduate classes. In fact it is a very good tool, well made and precise, and built to last with very little maintenance.

After a discussion with Gary about the equivalence of that $29.95 price in modern dollars, I went to an online calculator to figure the actual inflation rate. It turns out that $30 in 1962 had the same purchasing power as $231 today. Now I understand much better why my dad was so protective of his "good" slide rule that he kept in his work brief case and wouldn't let me or my brothers touch, let alone use.

Today that $231 is enough to buy groceries for Gary and myself, plus the food for our two dogs and three horses, for about two weeks. Because the inflation calculator is based on the Consumer Product Index, I assume the $30 in 1962 would have gone about as far. A professional grade slide rule was a substantial purchase back then, much more than a pocket calculator, even a scientific one, is today. In fact, you can buy a low end tablet computer for $200 now.

I do intend to use the Versalog for radio and electronics type calculations. I'll be treating it with a great deal more respect in light of this new awareness. It is a pleasant tool to handle, with a nice heft to it. The slide and cursor operate smoothly now that it has been cleaned, It is more than sufficiently accurate for analog electronics. In fact, we used slide rules in my college physics and astronomy classes to calculate much more complex equations. I could use a calculator of course, or a computer, but I like the connection to historic principles and the awareness of mathematical concepts that a slide rule engenders. And... no batteries required. No charger, no solar panel, nothing but a steady hand and a sharp eye.

90th egg

Jan. 6th, 2012 08:54 pm
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (geek)
Yes, the duck laid her 90th egg this morning. In 90 days. She did skip one day, but another time she left us two eggs in a single day. One egg was lost because it was laid with almost no shell, and one got frozen because she laid it outside in the yard when there was snow on the ground and the temperature was in the teens. All things considered, though, that's a pretty darn good record. Most have been left right in the nest box where they stay clean and are easy to find.

Gary got the fittings needed to set up the compressor for me, right at Ace Hardware. Hope to get a chance to try it out over this weekend. Guild newsletter has to come first, though.

The last (I think) N scale purchase for a while arrived today. It's a 50 ft. gondola with droppable ends. This type of car was used to transport automobile frames into the River Rouge plant when I was a kid. I remember seeing long trains of them, maybe 70 or 80 frames to a car standing on end and slanting slightly against each other. DT&I had custom braces built at the ends of the cars to support these. The car is already painted with DT&I number and logos. I just have to figure out a way to make the stack of frames and the end braces. Haven't found a photo of the real thing yet, but did find an article explaining how another modeler did it.

First paycheck of the new year today, and as I expected, it's smaller yet again. Health insurance went up once more. I think state taxes have increased as well, And when the Republican congress inevitably refuses to continue the tax break, federal taxes will go back up as well, making it shrink even farther. "There's no inflation" my ass. Bernanke should try living on an ordinary person's shrinking take home. Shrinking pay, and shrinking food packages, both constitute inflation just as much as actual price increases do. And if the price of gasoline continues to increase at the present rate, the economy is going to start sliding downward once again. The oil companies export refined gasoline and other oil products, which helps to keep prices higher here at home of course.

I will probably commit to FCN in the next few days. That will be the first con I've attended since 2008 if I do it.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
With a surfeit of detectives aboard our heroes head back to the spot where they made their unscheduled stop the day before.

Latest draft here.

Word count: 17818

It snowed this morning. Everything melted as soon as it touched the ground, but visibility was definitely restricted for about an hour. Now the temperature is hovering just above freezing with more snow showers expected tomorrow.

I guess the markets took another nosedive on news from the Eurozone. Too bad. At this point the bankers have already stolen everything we have, so the value of those "averages" just represents the unhappiness of rich people who might have to give up one of their yachts or something. I'm at the point where investment bankers jumping to their deaths wouldn't bother me a bit. In fact, I'd stand around cheering to see who makes the biggest splat.

Something has to give. Neither politics nor finance are based on reality now. It's all a bunch of hot air.
altivo: Wet Altivo (wet altivo)
Sneeze, sniffle, sneeze...

Feels like allergy mostly, not a cold, but this time of year I think allergy is unlikely. Oh well.

I will do the Nanowrimo thing again this year. Mostly because an idea did hit me this morning and i like it. More about that in a day or two after it gets rolling...

Meanwhile, here's a photo of the dog and cat sleeping together.

Red and Tikki


Oh, and some "traders" (by which I mean "dirty thieves") at CBOT dropped leaflets onto the Occupy Chicago demonstrators that clearly show just who is waging class warfare on whom, and what the arrogant and self-conceited assumptions really are.

Read it here if you can stomach it.
altivo: Rearing Clydesdale (angry rearing)
So how much more garbage are Americans going to put up with before they start burning bankers at the stake or tearing down bank buildings brick by brick?

Beleaguered Bank of America obviously doesn't yet realize that its problems are caused by its own dishonesty and mismanagement, not by its millions of small depositors. How much bonus are they paying those execs who came up with the idea of charging $5 per month for the privilege of using a debit card?

These are, of course, the same people who have been promoting debit cards relentlessly for years. Telling you that checks are passé and that a debit card is more secure and costs them less to process so they can pass the savings on to you. Now that they've finagled changes in banking regulations to take away almost every advantage of the paper check system (no more returned checks, no more security, no more guarantees, no more paper statements...) they want to start charging you for using their preferred alternative.

Note: I am not a B of A customer and never will be. However, I am, through no fault of my own, now a Chase customer. I have no better thoughts about Chase, and have already begun looking for a smaller, more honest, and less costly place to do my banking. I had an account at First National Bank of Chicago, one of so many years' standing that my account number has only seven digits. I have kept it through repeated buy-outs and mergers as the bank changed names and management nearly once a year in the 21st century. But the arrogance of the giant banks and their total lack of interest in the needs of non-millionaire customers has gone much too far and it is time for all of us to scrape the dust of their corrupt establishments from our sandals and go somewhere else.

Such an odd coincidence that Bank of America's website suddenly became unreachable the day after their unilateral announcement, isn't it? They insist that it wasn't hackers, but all descriptions of the problem have DDOS written all over them in my opinion. They deserve worse than that, but the fact is, their customers don't deserve it. Whoever you are out there, interfering with B of A's network connections, you're hurting the innocent far more than you harm the guilty. Choose a different means of attack. An organized bank run would serve them right. Take your money out of the failing and corrupt institution and put it somewhere smaller where you can actually talk to a real person. (And not get charged for the privilege.) Or put it in a sock and bury it in your back yard, where it will earn every bit as much interest as Bank of America is likely to give you. And last time I checked, there are no service charges for using an old sock.
altivo: Rearing Clydesdale (angry rearing)
Tea Party Congressman complains that his $600,000 net income isn't enough and that it costs $200,000 "just to feed his family" each year.

No wonder people like this have no understanding and no sympathy at all for those who are unemployed or lack health insurance. I'm 61 years old, have two advanced degrees, and have worked full time in advanced technical and educational fields for 39 years now. Never once in all that time have I even made a gross annual income in the six figure range. Of course, I have some ethics that you tea party guys lack. I won't steal from people in order to get more for myself, for instance, the way bankers and politicians have been doing for years now.

So, Congressman John Fleming (R-LA,) don't expect me to break out my violin for you. That is, unless you expect me to break it over your head, which is clearly full of rocks so you won't feel it anyway, and run you through with the bow. It is vampires like you who have created this miserable economic situation. You'll get no sympathy from me, and if your constituents have even half a brain, you won't be re-elected either.

Listen up, folks. Voting for these people is not doing you any good and will do you even more harm in the long run. They do NOT care about you. All they care about is their own greed. Quit electing millionaires to office, will you? It's as if the chickens voted for Col. Sanders, it really is.
altivo: Wet Altivo (wet altivo)
They're at it again. Last week wasn't enough, apparently.

So the markets drop like a ton of bricks while the radio is full of frantic advertisements trying to get you to "buy gold now" or "invest safely in bla-bla-bla." Folks, there are no such investments that are safe. All of that stuff is like pouring money into a casino. The house (in this case, the brokerages and agents) always wins, even as you lose. I think we've had quite enough of bankers walking away with millions of dollars in cash while our savings are frittered away uselessly. Just say no.

Bury your money in an old sock if you have to. It can't be any more risky than letting those guys have it.

Oh, and the latest news about inflation? Consumer prices rose half a percent in July. That's even after the government did everything they could to disguise the truth, fiddling and diddling with the figures and the way they are measured and calculated. Half a percent. Continued over the length of a year, that's an inflation rate of 6% which is NOT small and certainly is not a case of "no inflation" which is what Bernanke keeps lying to us about. There certainly is inflation, and even if it isn't enough to hurt millionaires, it is becoming quite painful for us ordinary folks.

All the answer we are getting is "Let them eat cake." Someone really is asking for very ugly things to start happening right here in the US.
altivo: Blinking Altivo (altivo blink)
I guess I shouldn't be surprised so much, as I've been predicting many of these things for some time, but events of the last few days are still coming as a bit of a shock.

The US markets, of course, did as I expected today. S&P lowered the US government's rating from AAA to AA+ on Friday after the markets closed. I expected a panic to brew over the weekend and it did, so that a massive selloff today dropped the Wall St. indexes by over 5%, or as much as they lost in the entirety of last week's madness. This goes to show that, as I've been saying for some time, the markets are no longer underpinned by rationality, but are running largely on emotional or lemming-like forces. The proof appears particularly in the fact that the interest rates on US Treasury bills, the formal instrument of federal government borrowing, actually went DOWN today. This clearly indicates a lot of buying action, generated no doubt by the shifting of large sums of money being withdrawn from the stock markets. But these "investors" (and I use the term very loosely, because I think "speculators" and "gamblers" would be more appropriate) ran from the stock market because the government credit ratings had dropped, and instead put their money right into government loan certificates, lending it to the very institution whose credit rating has just been lowered. This is not rational, it is clear stupidity or at least ignorance. Meanwhile, S&P was running around lowering the credit ratings of other corporate bodies who, the agency said, "had too much of their funds invested in T-bills." So various large insurance companies and banks had their own credit ratings lowered merely because they owned US government debt paper, even while the market itself was demonstrating INCREASED faith in that same paper. Absurd enough to make you cry, isn't it?

A couple of people have pointed out, as well, that with the departure of the US from the ranks of the AAA rated governments, ALL the remaining AAA countries have universal health care. The US was the only AAA country without it, even though we were being told by conservatives that we couldn't afford it and it would bankrupt us. Odd and ironic, no?

I am also bemused by the rioting in London. Not by the fact that it is happening, but by the way in which many UK dwellers are responding. These are people who oppose the actions taken by various Islamic states against their rebellious citizens in the last few months, yet they are calling for similar actions to be taken by the UK government against its own subjects. If you're trying to make my head explode, folks, you won't succeed. But you will make me lose some respect for you. Any riot, once it begins, quickly draws in a criminal element that has no interest in the original cause and is there just to do damage and take advantage of the situation. But that doesn't mean that there isn't validity to the underlying cause. Western governments can indeed be just as oppressive as those in the Middle East, and they do so far more often than they want to admit. The US has demonstrated the same propensities that Assad or Qaddafi have shown us, and has done so repeatedly during its history. But the pot just loves to call the kettle black, doesn't it?

Then, on a much less earth-shaking level, someone who is a reasonably promising writer and otherwise sound tells me that every English teacher he ever had insisted that the construct "John and me" was ALWAYS wrong and should be replaced by "John and I" in all cases. Holy crap, Batman! Has US education really fallen so low? A quick check of Google shows me that this is not what anyone really seems to be saying. Quite the contrary. "Mary cooked dinner for John and I" is still incorrect, just as it always has been. "John and me went to Mary's for dinner" is also incorrect. Surely nowhere in the US, even in benighted TX or KS, is this being taught in schools. Surely? *whimper*

OK, I'll go bed now and try not to think about this stuff.

Grr!

Aug. 5th, 2011 09:50 pm
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
Air conditioning is out. Probably a wire chewed by rodents again. They get into the housing of the outdoor compressor and wreak havoc. Everything we've tried for keeping them out has achieved nothing.

It becomes clear that the repeated claims that "the recession is over" have been wishful thinking. Looking at the figures for the past two years, things look just flat. Consumer prices are creeping upward, with the exception of real estate, of course. Median incomes are declining. Unemployment is at the highest it has been since the 1960s, with only 58% of US adults employed full time. The weekly and monthly dithering about unemployment claims is misleading, both because it is based on a lot of conjecture about "who is looking for work" and the reporting methods are dubious. However, looking at those figures for the past two years, the "growth" in jobs has failed to keep up the the growth in population. This is not real growth, but just wishful thinking.

The rosiest pictures are being painted by the folks who stand to gain the most if Americans start risking their money in the stock markets again: the financial bankers and the brokers. Talk about letting a fox guard the henhouse!

Ironic

Jul. 29th, 2011 10:37 pm
altivo: Wet Altivo (wet altivo)
So while Congress are making idiots and fools of themselves squabbling and refusing to make a deal over the debt ceiling, the economic analysts have come to the conclusion that I reached quite some time ago. There is no recovery after all. We remain on the brink of a serious recession, and economic growth has, if anything, just barely kept pace with population growth in the last 12 months (this amounts to no growth at all.)

Any number of experts, both conservative and progressive, in the financial industry and academia, have been announcing today that this is NOT the time to make big cuts in federal spending, at the risk of triggering another economic slide. While the deficit needs to be addressed, it cannot be done all at once, and must be approached in a long term plan.

I have said this again and again since at least 2008. Of course, why should anyone listen to me? I'm no one. I was predicting the collapse of the housing bubble more than a year before it started to become obvious too. Oh well.

Get ready for more inflation, and less income folks. This is exactly what happened in the Great Depression too. When Roosevelt gave in to the conservatives and agreed to cut federal spending, the economy collapsed for a second time.

So I did my part today. I ordered two plushies. ;p Well, it's not much, but I don't have much either.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Well, as much as we ever are here in the hinterlands. Our power mains came back on at about 4 am, between 20 and 21 hours after they went out. At the height of the outage, the power utility says that there were between 800 and 900 thousand customers without power. At the 24 hour mark, there were still 350 thousand off line, and now at the 36 hour mark, it stands at 300 thousand. They say they will not have power completely restored to all customers until Saturday or later.

Commonwealth Edison has been deferring maintenance on its lines, poles, and distribution system for many decades. They do no inspections, no preventive maintenance, and no improvements until or unless a failure occurs. Their profitability continues to rise, since after all they have a captive market. An incentive to allow customers to "choose their own provider" is a thinly veiled scam, since CE remains the physical provider who gets to charge for billing and distribution, and can raise those rates at will since the state legislature lacks the guts to say "no."

Meanwhile they lobbied the legislature into approving an arrangement to make taxpayers (who may not even be CE customers) foot most of the bill for major improvements to their distribution network. They could have done this themselves just by planning ahead and reinvesting a portion of their huge annual profits into those improvements, but why bother when they can buy a few lawmakers for cheap and get them to pay for it with tax money? Fortunately the governor announced that he will veto this legislation, at least "for now."

It's the American way, of course. Soak the taxpayer to increase corporate profits that go into the pockets of a few wealthy individuals, and pretend it is all for the common good. If anyone questions it, just wave your cigar in the air and promise that it will "create jobs" and they'll shut up. It doesn't create jobs. At least, not permanent ones with real benefits like paid time off and health insurance. Instead it ultimately helps to eliminate jobs or ship them overseas, and further lines the pockets of a few executives and wealthy shareholders. When will Americans wise up and realize that they are being eaten alive by fat cats? Most seem as impervious to this realization as H. G. Wells' Eloi were immune to the realization that the Morlocks were using them as a food crop.
altivo: Wet Altivo (wet altivo)
Y'know, I was born on a Wednesday, for all the good it did me.

Farrier was here this morning, vet late in the afternoon. Worked late shift as usual for Wednesday, boss called a meeting at 4:30 to tell us that due to a budget shortfall of 25K (decline in tax revenue due to the recession, increase in insurance costs) there will be no raises this year and staffing will continue to be paper thin. Not that the usual raises are that good. The last two years mine hasn't even covered the increases in state income tax and health care insurance. My check shrinks even when I get a raise.

The Fed once again demonstrates its incompetence and lack of vision, so the stock markets rise and so does inflation. Savings and CDs are earning rock bottom rates, but the wealthy Republicans want to take away retirement benefits and medicare as well. Then they'll tell us we aren't saving enough for retirement, since they've made it all but impossible to save anything anyway.

Obama talks Hawaii into handing over his full birth record, but of course the "Birthers" aren't satisfied and just consider it a fraud. Peabrain Trump demands that the President turn over his college transcripts as well. Is he willing to hand out copies of his own, I wonder?

Hummingbirds were still hanging around today, maybe they'll stick around and nest here.

Forecast: more rain, rain, and rain possible. There might be a moment of sunshine on Friday, if you don't blink and miss it.

Enough. I'm going to bed.
altivo: From a con badge (studious)
On this date exactly 100 years ago, a factory fire in a New York City high rise building took the lives of 146 workers. Most were young women, in their teens or early twenties, Jewish or Italian immigrants struggling to help their families. Factory work at that time was the sort of thing from which the term "sweatshop" is derived. A working day was ten or twelve hours long, and the work week was six days, though Saturday might be shortened a bit. A few places gave Jewish employees Saturday off but demanded that they work on Sunday to make up for it.

Anyway, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory was one such sweatshop. Employees operated sewing or cutting machines to make ladies' blouses ("shirtwaists") and occupied the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the building. It was a Saturday, between 4 and 5 pm, and the workers were just finishing up their day when a fire broke out. The exact cause was never determined, but it spread quickly through all three floors. In the panic, the outside fire escape collapsed, dumping many to their deaths. Two inside stairwells failed to save lives because the doors were kept locked. Ostensibly this was to keep union organizers from entering the shop, and to keep workers from leaving the area during the day. By the time a supervisor with the key was located, the stairwell thus opened was already filled with smoke and unusable. Some sought to escape the flames by jumping to their deaths from broken windows. Most suffocated or were trampled without ever getting to the roof or a window.

The city fire department arrived too late, and had no ladders to reach above the sixth floor in any case. The tragic aftermath left New York stunned and grieving for weeks, and some of the bodies were not officially identified until nearly a hundred years later, but were buried as "unknown" under a memorial to the workers who died that day.

It's a terrible story. The factory owners were fined for locking the stairwells (all of $75 or so) and ultimately a court awarded some money to the families of each identified victim, but nothing really large.

The emotional and political impact of this event, however, turned around legal attitudes toward unions and collective bargaining in the US. ILGWU, the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union, came into its own after that and was quickly followed by other worker negotiating groups and legal representative groups. Laws were passed recognizing the right of workers to join unions and to delegate negotiating rights to such unions. The courts eventually recognized the right of workers to bargain and to go on strike against an employer who violated contractual agreements or refused to negotiate in good faith.

For most of the 20th century, labor rights were accepted and recognized, though sometimes grudgingly. Workers received fair wages, profit sharing benefits, leave time with pay, and more reasonable work weeks. Yes, you can thank the labor unions for the concept of the "weekend." There was no such thing in the 19th century or earlier. (Just Sunday, which was often only a half day off to attend church.)

Now, on the hundredth anniversary of that ugly fire, we see politicians, employers, and even working voters trying to take away collective bargaining rights and void the contracts of public workers in an increasing number of states. They have forgotten the lessons of history, and seek to return to the old ways, when it was "every man for himself" and "dog eat dog" in the workplace, and employers could demand whatever they chose and kick an employee out without justification if she dared to question them. Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and New Hampshire are all trying to invalidate state employees' work agreements and bargaining rights.

OK, you assholes who voted for these tea party goons, sit there and feel smug about it. But guess what? When they're done stripping the public employees of their bargaining rights, benefits, and pensions, they won't stop there. Remember that the tea party doesn't stand for individual freedom from taxes so much as it stands for reduced regulation and taxation of corporate business. Private sector workers will be next, and no amount of union contract or representation will help. When they come for you, there will be no one left to complain. Just remember that when it happens, morons. You asked for it. You begged to be trampled into the mud and treated like manure for the benefit of capitalist profit that goes to the hyperwealthy and stays with them.

Economic recovery? There's no recovery. Sure retail sales are up. But did you check to see what's selling? Luxury goods, that's what. Nieman-Marcus is doing fine. Walmart is losing money because rich people don't shop there, and the rest of us can't afford to buy much. About 20% of the US population accounts for 70% or more of the discretionary spending. Those people are the wealthy, who have felt little pinch in this recession because they still got their million dollar bonuses and other perks, even after running their corporate asses right into the ground. These are the people the tea party really represents. They don't want to pay taxes. They don't want a government that might actually regulate their greed or business practices, or catch them in their frauds. They want to be able to rob their customers and employees with impunity. Think about this before you vote again for one of these so-called Republicans who are really nothing but carpet baggers. They haven't even as much heart as Ebenezer Scrooge had before he was visited by those three ghosts.
altivo: Rearing Clydesdale (angry rearing)
All right, America, enough is enough. You idiots who believe everything you hear from Limbaugh or Fox News frauds. You idiots who voted the "tea party" candidates into office last fall. You utter, total, fracking idiots who are so easily led around by your noses and so short-sighted that you can't see the truth. I'm talking to YOU!

The current financial disaster and economic depression, which has NOT ended, regardless of what the talking heads on the boob tube are telling you, was caused by selfish greed yes. But it wasn't caused by public employees like teachers, police officers, or firemen. It was caused by big capitalists: bankers, brokers, hedge fund scammers who took huge risks with YOUR money, built a phony bubble on their lies, and when it broke they scammed the government into bailing them out with more of YOUR money so they could keep their multi-million dollar bonuses and cushy golden parachutes. Those people are laughing at your stupidity even now, and pulling the strings of the tea party puppets they appointed to keep you fooled into supporting their continued thefts. They are parasites. They do nothing to contribute to productivity or wealth (other than their own ill-gotten gains.) No matter how much we give them, it will NOT "trickle down" to create real jobs with any kind of decent pay, or health care, or retirement security. They care only for themselves. Can't you see that? Why do you keep falling for their lies?

Why are you standing by while they try to make up the deficits they created by robbing the poor, the elderly, and the public employees who have given far more to their jobs than any crooked banker ever does? Why are you allowing them to take away pensions, health care, and the ability to bargain from the very people who work FOR you every day to keep your streets safe, your roads clear, to save those injured in collisions or other disasters, to educate your children? What are you thinking? Are you so wrapped up in your own selfishness, your own narrow-minded bigotry, your own (hopeless) wish to one day be one of those big financier crooks yourself that you don't see where this will lead?

Do you really want to live in a lawless society, run by the wealthy chiefs of laissez faire capitalism? One where everyone not only can buy all the guns he wants, but is forced to carry them for safety at all times? One where the desperate poor slave for nothing with no hope of retirement or health care (as they did in the 18th and 19th century factories and mines, or in the 13th century when they were serfs without any joy or hope in life?

You are asking to be one of those same poor serfs. You have elected people whose real plan is to put you in that position and keep you there for their own gain. How can you be so blind that you don't see this now? Look at what is going on all across the US, as state governments seek to balance their budgets by robbing the very people who keep things running and in order, rather than punishing the rich bankers who created the mess. No one, not even Congress or the Federal Courts, seems to have the guts to stand up to these robber barons.

It will come to revolutionary violence at this rate. Mark my words, and remember them. I know, I know, you can't remember what happened when Nixon or Reagan were in the Whitehouse. All you remember about the Clinton administration is the sex scandals. You don't remember how both of the Bush administrations sold our natural resources and our very lives to their corporate masters for a mere pittance (and personal favors untold, of course.) And no, I don't think Obama is much better. He's a fraud, a wimp, and has failed to keep any promise fully or even to make a serious effort to do so. But the latest crew you've put into office represent a return to the worst excesses of the past half century. Endangered wildlife slaughtered for the amusement and convenience of hunters and corporations, water polluted with poison, lands despoiled forever, schools closed, knowledge censored and stricken from educational curricula, and your privacy and rights violated again and again by your own implicit consent.

It's no wonder I'm ashamed to admit I was born in this country. It's a land of morons, willful ignoramuses, blind fools, and greed-wracked criminals.
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
More trouble than they're worth. For whatever reason, when my card was renewed this time they completely changed the card number. This means I have to go around to a dozen places that have it on file and correct the card number, etc. It also means I no longer have the number memorized and it will take me a while to correct that. It's been the same for at least eight years, now it's completely different.

I suppose next they'll insist on changing my bank account number. That one's been the same for more than 25 years, I'm sure.

Gloomy all day, still heavy overcast, thunderstorms expected again after midnight and for most of tomorrow and tomorrow night, apparently. Things could be floating here soon.

On the bright side, daffodils are popping up, six inches tall in some areas. No flowers just yet, but soon I'm sure. A few crocuses are open already. We're going to plant some peas and lettuce this week, I think.

What you expect more on a Monday? Too bad, that's all there is tonight.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
Once again the NWS overestimates the power of a storm by an order of magnitude it seems. Their dire storm that was supposed to produce 8 - 12 inches of snow overnight barely made it to three. I could have used a snow day, too.

The light coating of snow was perhaps wetter and heavier than it looked, but doesn't explain why UPS also failed to deliver a shipment that was supposed to be here today by both their own and the shipper's estimate. They had it "out for delivery" this morning from Dekalb, which usually means delivery that day. This evening it is "in transit to final destination" and still hasn't reached us.

In order to make eggplant parmesan for dinner today as promised, I needed more mozzarella so I stopped at the grocery in Harvard right after work. This is a good sized independently owned supermarket that has been in town for decades. At 5:15 in the evening their store was nearly empty. No cashiers on duty and the only operating cash register was at the customer service counter. Judging by what I see repeatedly around here, the "recession" is far from over.
altivo: Rearing Clydesdale (angry rearing)
There is nothing rational about it. Price of unleaded climbed to $2.87 in Harvard about three weeks ago and there it sits. The new station associated with the supermarket in town is selling for $2.79 but they are undoubtedly eager to attract new customers.

Friday when I left work, those were the prices. Got to Woodstock to have dinner with Gary, and the price there was $2.82 at several stations. Woodstock is often a nickel lower than Harvard, so I wasn't too surprised, though I'd hoped to see it lower still.

Today I went to Marengo for groceries, and the price at the Marathon along the way was $2.71. Too low to pass up, and I was down to a half so I stopped and filled the tank. Went to the supermarket, got my groceries, and on the way home less than an hour later, the same Marathon station had lowered its price another two cents to $2.69. I fully expect that the price in Harvard on Monday will still be $2.87, because those guys are the first to raise prices and the absolute last to lower them. That's why I don't buy gas in Harvard, even though I pass their stations every day, twice a day. Once again, that's a difference of 16 cents per gallon, over a distance of only 15 miles, and 11 cents per gallon between Marengo and Woodstock, which is only nine miles.

Thinking of going with Gary to an Irish "session" tomorrow, or what was supposed to be a session though it may not be in fact. Lots of other stuff I should be doing, but I'm in a bad mood over a couple of things I don't want to mention specifically, and having trouble keeping focus.

Fog was forming at sunset. Too dark out to tell now, but I'll bet we have heavy fog come morning.
altivo: 'Tivo as a plush toy (Miktar's plushie)
Wednesday will kill me yet. It's just tooooooo long.

One reason that I am NOT applying for my boss's job now that it's posted. She's responsible for personnel and scheduling, which means she gets to fill in when people are sick or otherwise absent and there's no one else to do it. I was never any good at late hours, even when I was 20 years old. I'm even less tolerant now. If there were a reference desk shift that started at 7 am, I'd be fine with that, but of course there isn't. (In fact, I used to get the 8 am slots at the college. No one else wanted them, and as far as I was concerned, there was no problem with the time and it was less busy as well.)

I see I may have to freeze the discussion on yesterday's entry (at least, over on LJ) because it's getting a bit too flame-ish and hostile. For the record, in my opinion all American corporations are equally bad about these things, so singling out Google or WalMart misses the point. They are all greedy, irresponsible, evasive, dishonest, and have absolutely no regard for either their customers or their employees. It's so bad that there's little point in nit-picking among them. Those that do well on one occasion do equally poorly on another. It is utterly impossible to live in the US without feeding these monsters in some way. You can't avoid it.

So I was surprised that Google claims to have second thoughts about aiding and abetting the Chinese government. Unless of course, the claim is really based on profits. If they aren't making enough money, or the expected level of money, of course they are going to pull out of China. And of course they will try to put a good face on it by spinning the truth and making it look as if the move was triggered by Chinese human rights violations. But they knew the Chinese have no respect for individual rights even before they moved into the Chinese market place and demonstrated their own lack of respect for individual freedoms by agreeing to the demand for censorship. Like the morally and mentally bankrupt political parties, Google has already demonstrated its lack of trustworthiness. Could they be censoring the results they deliver in the US as well? Yes. While I don't think they censor in the same way they do in China, what they really do here is sell the top slots on popular search terms to the highest bidder. I feel quite confident of that.
altivo: The Clydesdale Librarian (Default)
I received a mail order catalog this week from Jameco Electronics, a California-based supplier of computer parts and various electronic bits that are used by both computer and radio experimenters. I've used them for years because they accept small orders without tacking on a huge service fee, unlike many of the other companies who stock what I want. This catalog, however, looks very different on the outside. Instead of featuring some kind of parts display on the cover, it has a full page black and white photo taken by Dorothea Lange in 1933, showing a soup kitchen line on San Francisco's waterfront at the height of the Great Depression.

Sure enough, where there's usually a brief sales talk on page one pushing some new item, they credit the photo (title: "White Angel Breadline") and go on to say that like most of us, their company has felt the economic impact of this recession. The surprise, and something that seems unusual for many American corporations, is that they committed to avoiding lay offs among their employees if at all possible, and have so far succeeded. How? By cutting the salaries of top management, which certainly seems an appropriate first step to me. Those are the people who can best afford to take a major cut, and should be willing to do so to show their commitment to the company's goals and support for the employees who keep their operations going.

I have no reason to think they are just making this up. If true, then I have one more reason to continue to give them my business over others who may have slightly lower prices, but have shown less visible concern for the integrity of their operations and the security of their employees.

Alas, the opposite seems to be true of many libraries in our consortium. Most are trapped in a budget process that is controlled by their city government, and small towns are really feeling a pinch now as they lose tax revenues but still have to provide police, fire, and other services to the same size population. Unfortunately, many of them seem to be viewing their libraries as dispensible. So far, I can knock on wood for Harvard, which has not gone so far as to view the library tax funds as an unprotected source they can plunder at will.

Gloomy, drizzly weather. Supposed to be worse tomorrow, though we are still expecting a hay delivery in the morning. We hope to get it unloaded right away and send the empty wagon back. I expect about 150 bales. We will need three more loads that size before we feel secure for the winter.

May 2017

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