Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Do You Even?

Sometimes you come across situations that simply leave you scratching your head. No matter how you approach the issue you simply can't make sense of the thought process involved. Perhaps my problem is assuming that there has been any critical thought applied in the first place.

About 3-4 years ago a local company built a new facility for their operations, replete with a well-lit (read: nearly blinding for drivers after dark) stainless-steel sign and attractive landscaping. It seemed as if overnight the building was vacated and a "For Lease" sign posted by the road. Given the constant flurry of activity around the building I couldn't fathom that the business had run aground, and it wasn't long before I discovered them in a new location, just down the road in an industrial park. Apparently their business outgrew the new building and they moved to a facility that is at least five times larger (a conservative estimate, it may well be upwards of ten times larger, but it's difficult to estimate due to the location and position of the new building.) By any metric this business has flourished over the past five years or more in order to require not one, but two moves to new facilities.

So, you must scratch your head in astonishment when a local rally is announced for a Presidential campaign and they're supporting the group that insists that the current party (the one their business has flourished under) are a bunch of idiots that destroy business.

I'd really like to see a time that PT Barnum is proven wrong, but that isn't likely to happen. Until then we'll have a large segment of the population susceptible to senseless rhetoric who are thirsting for a magic potion that doesn't exist.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Borrowed Without Permission

I found this on FaceBook and wanted to post a link to the original article on daniellelaporte.com but due to the design of her site that doesn't appear to be a readily available option. So, I'm posting the entire essay here, with attribution and without explicit permission, as I found it particularly poignant from the perspective of a white male raised in the south.


The Need for Southern Heresy


“Be willing to ruin the party.” --Danielle LaPorte


I am a white woman who was born and raised in the South. I have a lot of white friends who were born and raised in the South. I haven’t witnessed them commit violent acts of racism. No one I know has been shooting black people in the streets. 

What I see and hear about is far more subtle than that.

It’s the white construction worker who will share a drinking cup with his white co-workers but not his black co-workers.

It’s the white guy who tells a woman he doesn’t want to date her if she’s been with a black man.

It’s the white housewife who won’t let non-white yard workers use the restroom inside the house.

It’s the man who ends his story about a burglary with the statement, “And of course the guy was black.”

It’s the guy who tells jokes and stories to his white buddies that he would never tell in the presence of blacks.

It’s the white woman who uses 5 exclamation points in her comment that “All lives matter” when she see a #BlackLivesMatter post on Instagram.

These are real examples from my immediate community.

These are not uneducated, hateful morons. These are people who send me Christmas cards.

They are respected in their communities. They hold advanced degrees. They donate when their friends walk for cancer research. They are church deacons. They volunteer. They adopt dogs from the shelter. They’re generous, thoughtful, respectful people.

None of their white friends would label them as “racist.”

You see, most Southern whites think that racists are "bad people." Racists throw rocks through windows, burn crosses, and hang people from trees. But that nice lady who brings donuts for the staff on Fridays? Not her. Because she dresses well, lives in a nice house, and shares photos of her wholesome family trip to Hilton Head on Facebook.

White Southerners don’t seem get that you can be wholesome AND racist. That you can be generous AND racist. That you can be a nice person AND racist.

Racism is having or acting on the belief that a particular race is superior to another. Period. That’s the entire definition.

There is no sub-clause that says “but those who shop at Dillard’s and donate to the bake sale are exempt.”

This is the point where some people are going to get all hot and tell me that making a joke about black people is not the same as shooting them. And of course it’s not.

But what these nice, kind, white Southerners do is create a culture of permissiveness.

In this culture, it’s ok for anyone to be *a little* racist, as long they’re an otherwise “good person.” Which means that it’s ok to devalue the lives of others *a little bit.* Not “try to keep them from buying the house next door” devalued, but “assume the worst about them and think of them as fundamentally ‘other’” devalued.

And that’s a problem. A big, big problem.

Because they’re not the people who are going to pull a trigger, but they are the ones who are going to turn away when they see someone else do it.

As a white woman born and raised in the South, I was taught two competing ideas:

1. To think for myself and do what I think is right.
2. To keep quiet. Don’t make a fuss. Don’t cause a scene. Don’t be difficult. Don’t make people uncomfortable. Keep it private.

Southerners prize politeness. It’s time we accept that being polite and being honorable are not the same. Staying silent in the presence of a quieter, gentler racism is still staying silent in the presence of racism. We’ve got to stop valuing Emily Post above Alton Sterling.

I’ve held my tongue when I’ve overheard racist comments because I don’t want to start a thing. I know I won’t change anyone’s mind. It would be easier to just move the conversation along. But I’m done with that. I’m not going to lecture anyone, but I’m not going to stay in tacit agreement by saying nothing.

So consider this your notice: I am willing to ruin the party.

If I witness a comment or action that degrades a human, I will absolutely speak up on your special day when it will be inconvenient and uncomfortable for you and everyone else.

This baby shower? Just got weird. Thanksgiving dinner? Totally awkward. Your birthday party? “Who invited HER?”

I’ll say things like:

“I disagree.”
“I wish you wouldn’t say that.”
“Would you say that if a black person were here?”

I’m not going to speak up because I’m the race police or want applause from my black friends. I’m going to do it because it’s the fucking decent thing to do.

And it’s going to piss some people off. Because in Southern white culture, not sweeping things under the rug with everybody else is a betrayal. Speaking up is heresy.

We need heresy. We need to be leaders in our own families and communities. We need to be willing to ruin the party.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Quick In-and-Out Referendum

Apologies to John Oliver for hijacking his line for my title.

Yesterday the citizens of the UK voted, in what is widely considered a referendum that wasn't really even needed, to leave the European Union. While the EU leadership in Brussels has never been accused of efficiency nor having exceptional long-range vision, this is quite a move. Some in the UK are extolling the virtues of not having to deal with "immagrints" [sic] while others are applauding the opportunity for self-determination. Those of us in the USA can appreciate the self-determination aspect, after all we had our own "exit" referendum back in 1776.

The significantly shortsighted aspect that I see in all of this is that the UK has not removed themselves from the trade regulations of the EU, they've only abandoned any opportunity to make changes to the trade regulations from within. If they want to sell anything to the EU they'll have to follow the EU regulations, it's that simple. Yes, the UK has been paying a significant amount to the EU as a participant, but the monies paid in have opened up markets and returned dividends over time. Immigration isn't likely to change a significant amount, as England has such deep roots all over the globe due to their prolific historic colonization activities. The immigrants that have been coming in from other EU countries have largely been skilled laborers, not pond-scum looking to survive on government benefits.

For now we watch the financial markets reel from the shock and work to dampen out the volatility created over the past 24 hours. Personally, I have my fingers crossed that the GBP doesn't recover too quickly as I've got some upcoming financial obligations to cover in England and would at least like to enjoy an advantageous exchange rate if I am able.

It will take at least two years after the UK formally notifies the EU that they intend to exit. It could be months before they issue that official notification. Over that two year period negotiations will take place as to how the UK will interact with the EU after the exit. Those terms will be largely determined by the EU members without the input of the UK. Furthermore, should two years not be long enough, the negotiating period can be lengthened by a vote of the EU members.

It's not going to be a quick fix, and I'd wager that a new referendum in a year's time would produce different results now that people in the UK have some level of understanding as to what it is they actually voted on yesterday.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Have dogs? Need chews?

A shout out to my source for the best dog chews I've found. Michigan Antler Art sells what are apparently cast-offs as chews for dogs. I have only found one article that says to avoid them, and that was due to the fact that giving them to your dog will eliminate venison as a "novel protein" should you need to investigate different food sources for your dog in the future due to allergies or skin conditions. (My personal opinion on this is that there are so many foods on the market these days with proteins ranging from beef to fish that the risk of eliminating venison from the list poses a negligible and tolerable risk for pet owners.)

Rawhide isn't digestible, pig ears are greasy an average of 3.2 seconds, hooves are smelly and bully sticks are a bit much for smaller dogs (not to mention having 4 of them laying around would create quite a scene.) Sterilized bones are an option, but size becomes an issue with them as well. We do give pig ears on occasion, usually as an in-crate treat, as the greasiness has the potential to cause stomach upset.

At first I ordered medium density split antlers. My guys cleaned them out and gnawed them down in a matter of a couple of weeks. The next batch or two I selected hard splits. They lasted about twice as long. My most recent order was a fortuitous mistake, as I wasn't paying close attention and ended up getting whole (un-split) antlers. They've been working on them for several weeks and have chewed one down about half-way and have a good start on the end of another, with two that still appear untouched.

We've noticed, and our veterinarian has commented, that their teeth are markedly cleaner. This leads to better breath and healthier gums. One of our corgis was approaching the need for a dental, but after having antlers to chew on the past several months his teeth are almost as clean as a young pup. When I balance that against the moderate (not inexpensive, but not outrageous) cost of the antlers I think they provide excellent value.

Have you seen any damning evidence against quality antler chews?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Complete Satisfaction? Not really!

I purchased a freestanding wine cooler (wine cellar, if you prefer) from Wine Enthusiast in 2011. It wasn't the top-of-the-line, it was their own brand (N'Finity) and my assumption was that if it was good enough for them to put their name on it then it myst be a reasonably solid unit.

Not so much!

Last summer (2015) it formed a block of ice on the rear wall inside the cooler. In hindsight this was the beginning of the end. Over course of the last six to eight months the unit has labored, running continuously while the internal temperature crept slowly upward to ambient. Initially I thought the coils were in need of cleaning, so I unloaded the contents of the cooler, fortunately not quite the 170 bottle capacity, thanks to the vagaries of inconsistent bottle sizing in the wine industry. After moving ~150 bottles (three and four at a time) I maneuvered the unit away from the wall and cleaned the coils thoroughly, checked the drain pan, wiped down the interior and exterior, and moved it back in position. I re-loaded all of the wine (not having enough counter space to allow 150 bottles to sit around and still have a functional kitchen) and waited a few hours to power the unit up so that the refrigerant would have plenty of time to settle in the system.

Started the unit up and let it run overnight. Internal temperatures substantially identical to ambient temperature. Thinking that there's a lot of thermal density in those 150 bottles of liquid I give it another 24 hours. No detectable change.

Cue the appliance repairman. I describe the failure mode (starting with the ice block a year ago) and he starts poking around. No refrigerant, appears to be a failed condenser. Since this is a sealed unit (read: not designed for serviceability) repairing it won't be inexpensive, but the repairs will convert it to a completely serviceable unit if/when any future issues arise.

Repairman calls Wine Enthusiast, technicians are not available so he leaves a message, tells me he will call when he hears from them.

A couple of hours later the repairman calls. Do I want the bad news or the worse news? Bad news - they no longer have parts because the systems were such pieces of crap that they discontinued that design. Worse news - I now own a large paperweight as no one has parts available.

WTF?

I have no reason to doubt the repairman, he's with a company that we've used several times over the years and they always do excellent work at fair rates, but I want to see what Wine Enthusiast has to say to a customer who has purchased a fair bit of hardware from them, this being one of two wine coolers (the other belongs to a family member) not to mention a long list of other items.

So I send an email, describing the situation, telling them what the repairman said, and asking if they can help. They reply after a couple of days with instructions to give them a call. So I call. The tech is apologetic and reiterates nearly verbatim what my repair guy told me. Nothing they can do. I ask him about their Complete Satisfaction Guarantee (so boldly posted in their website.) He says there's nothing they can do. I ask if he has any idea what they mean by "Complete Satisfaction" and he doesn't. I express my discontent over having a large, 250 pound paperweight and the fact that they are selling disposable junk instead of quality products that should last more than four or five years. He finally says that we can probably find a suitable condenser from a local refrigeration supply house and offers to send me schematics and parts lists immediately via email.

I wait, and wait, and wait, and...well, you get the idea. Nothing. Check the spam folder, still nothing.

I fill out contact forms on their website. Nothing. It's obvious that their "Complete Satisfaction" guarantee isn't worth the electrons that it takes to display on your screen and the company could really care less about customer service. This isn't to say the folks answering the phone and email don't care (current evidence to the contrary.) But whomever conceived advertising "Complete Satisfaction" is suffering from cranio-rectal inversion and needs to read the book "You Will Be Satisfied" so they can learn a thing or two.

That said, if you're looking for a wine cooler, or a corkscrew, or anything else that has to do with wine, do yourself a favor and look anywhere other than Wine Enthusiast. Their products are crap and their service is crappier.

I'm in the market for a free-standing wine cooler, capacity of around 170 bottles (no larger, as they won't fit the space I have available.) Let me know if you have any suggestions.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

American Blind Justice

An affluenza swimmer who attends Stanford gets 6 months for sexual assault (I suppose because he only managed to penetrate her with a foreign object and didn't accomplish same with his own genitals.)

Meanwhile we're sending people away for years to life for growing marijuana for their own use.

The asshat father of the sexual predator bemoans how his "20 minutes of action" shouldn't carry such harsh consequences. He obviously suffers from severe cranio-rectal inversion and hasn't stopped to consider the impact of his son's "20 minutes of action" on the young lady he assaulted.

Her sentence is for life, and she didn't break any laws.

America will be great when our laws are fair, just, and based more on logic than on the false morality of the ruling party and justice isn't for sale to the highest bidder.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Graduate

Generally speaking I don't post much here about my immediate family (the previous post notwithstanding, I see it as much a PSA about organ donation as a post about my wife.)

But a proud father has to brag a bit every once in a while.

My younger son, the middle child in the family, closes the book on his undergraduate studies tomorrow. He's graduating with a double major in German and Political Science and will be attending grad school in London this fall for a Master's in International Relations. After that he's thinking about law school, but he's keeping his options open in that regard for now.

He's never had to call me for bail money and has posted solid grades while enjoying a robust social calendar and completing his studies in four years. He even made Dean's List a couple of times. Here we are in Manhattan his Senior year of high school.