30 August 2012

Boredom, the echo chamber and me

Metaphorically and literally awesome
I owe you an apology. 

I trolled some firearm blogs late last night while I wrestled unsuccessfully with chemical- and heat-induced insomnanxiety (note to self: don't drink half a 5 hour energy at 20:00). Upside: I got all my chores done and sweated out all the toxins that weren't already purged during crossfit. Downside: I'm useless today. Anyway, during my not-so-quiet time I realized that reading politics in firearm blogs was boring and pointless at best, irritating at worst.

It's an echo chamber: a lot of people making the same noises at each other. I'll do what I can to either avoid the topic altogether or raise the level of discourse. Note that it's election season so there's a limit to how much I can tamp down the bile but I'll do my best. Don't like to tilt overmuch at the windmills of stupidity but sometimes it can't be helped. (It was the reason I started this blog in the first place. So.) Anyway, let's move on to things that find a broader audience, like dogs.

The Girl has a very sweet dog and we have a little routine in the morning where when The Girl gets up and showers for work I let Reese the Dog in the bed so we can spend a bit of time together before we start the day. This is officially called Peapod Time, because she likes to lay next to you like, well, two peas in a pod. Today she made herself comfortable between me and a pillow and I didn't pay her much mind (see comments re: insomnia and aftereffects, above). A short while later The Sweet Love of My Life returned, leaned over to give me a kiss and said, "You smell like Reese's butt!"


Reese had caught me unawares with the Buttsmear. (This is a Thing that Happens and it has a proper-noun name.) I don't want to get into details but, uhh, yeah. Buttsmear. I showered, the Girl changed the sheets and Reese just laughed. Ugh.

Still it haunts me.

28 August 2012

Progressivism, firearm ownership and the 'zombie apocalypse'

Peace = Weakness (if you have a fifth-grade education)
I own firearms and shoot them on a regular basis at local ranges. My politics are liberal and/or progressive, whichever you want to call it. Also, I am an atheist. (I tried Christianity but it didn't stick.) One of the reasons I own guns is that the shooting sports should not exclusively be restricted to people that are "EXTREMELY RIGHTWING", as LaRue Tactical and others would have you believe.*

I encourage all types of people to learn how to operate a gun safely. It's an essential skill that could save your life. There are many good reasons to learn how to handle a firearm, even if you don't plan to own or shoot a gun recreationally. The main reason is that you might be forced to handle one at some point and you're shit out of luck if you don't know what you're doing. It's like driving a stick shift car: you don't need to know how until you do, at which point you better know how or else you're stuck. Or you're at the mercy of someone that does know how, which brings me to my second point...

Why is there so much overlap between gun ownership, religion, and conservatism in the United States?  Did you notice that militant, armed Christianity has more in common with militant, armed Islam than it does with peaceful religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism (or even peaceful Christianity)? Is it that conservatives making all the noise that the most attention, and more moderate positions are cast aside? I don't get it.

Is it possible to believe in both responsible gun ownership and also social programs for the poor and disadvantaged? I think yes, so I'm doing what I can to get the word out.

/this last is shoehorned into this topic because it doesn't warrant a topic of its own/

Lately the biggest growth market for gun stuff is in anything related to the 'zombie apocalypse'. Zombie targets, zombie themed ammo cans, zombie guns, zombie gun accessories, etc. You name it and there is some kind of zombie thing attached to it and it is sold out at your local sporting goods store. A guy told me that they can't keep the stuff on the shelves because it sells out so fast. 

In my opinion the zombie stuff is popular because a lot of the nutjobs think the apocalypse already started and they're just waiting for the green light to start shooting people. I am not kidding. If you spent any time near some of these crazies then you would think so too.

* LaRue ships a copy of the US Constitution and a bumper sticker that says "EXTREMELY RIGHTWING" with every order. I like their products but their blind devotion to politics and the constitution is misguided. It would have been more accurate if they sent me a sticker that said "EXTREMELY LEFTWING". Or stuck to the business of making good products instead of political statements.

27 August 2012

For the rap fans: History of rap music (with audio)

I don't like rap music. Most of it is the opposite of music to my ears. But this history of rap, complete with DJ mixes of jams from various years is kind of fun. It's comprehensive as far as I can tell and runs through 1999 as of this writing. My favorite year on the list is 1986. Not because that was a particularly good year for me, but the mix is very strong. 1991 is good too.



23 August 2012

Sucrose Jesus it's been almost a week

Greetings from that place where that thing happens.

Not much to report. Been busy doing this and that. You know how it is. I'll be attending a wedding this weekend (not my own). Only attending in a dating capacity. I also attended a wedding last weekend in a similar capacity. That was a spectacle. It included, in no particular order: the groom falling down drunk, the groom tackling one of the groomsman, the bride shedding tears of frustration, the groom being held up while he cut the cake (I found this all a bit too much since he was cutting rug on the dancefloor shortly before - he can dance but he can't stand up without aid? doubtful), some of the grooms friends knocking down a picture and breaking it, the bride's sister giving a weird tearful speech about some random bullshit no one cared about, and the best man giving a superb speech. Highlight: "I knew you in junior high when you went through your gangster phase - rocked that tough-guy mustache and flannel. You had that job at Baskin-Robbins so you put on weight - it really completed the look."

This weekend's event will probably have some good speeches but quite a lot less drama. Probably. It's a wedding so you never know.

Music is for Bolters who is going to see Mumford and Sons this weekend. Lucky duck.

17 August 2012

Food for thought

Here's the full text and talk from a link I had posted previously, courtesy Mother Jones.
There is a counterargument to the position outlined below but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe I need to watch more Fox 'news'.

It is astounding how significantly one idea can shape a society and its policies.  Consider this one.

If taxes on the rich go up, job creation will go down.  

This idea is an article of faith for republicans and seldom challenged by democrats and has shaped much of today's economic landscape.

But sometimes the ideas that we know to be true are dead wrong. For thousands of years people were sure that earth was at the center of the universe.  It's not, and an astronomer who still believed that it was, would do some lousy astronomy.  

In the same way, a policy maker who believed that the rich and businesses are "job creators" and therefore should not be taxed, would make equally bad policy.  

I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.

That's why I can say with confidence that rich people don't create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is a "circle of life" like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring. In this sense, an ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than a capitalist like me. 

So when businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it's a little like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution. In fact, it's the other way around.

Anyone who's ever run a business knows that hiring more people is a capitalists course of last resort, something we do only when increasing customer demand requires it.  In this sense, calling ourselves job creators isn't just inaccurate, it's disingenuous.

That's why our current policies are so upside down. When you have a tax system in which most of the exemptions and the lowest rates benefit the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.

Since 1980 the share of income for the richest Americans has more than tripled while effective tax rates have declined by close to 50%.  

If it were true that lower tax rates and more wealth for the wealthy  would lead to more job creation, then today we would be drowning in jobs.  And yet unemployment and under-employment is at record highs.

Another reason this idea is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the median American, but we don't buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, we go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally.

I can't buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can't buy any new clothes or cars or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the vast majority of American families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.  
Here's an incredible fact.  If the typical American family still got today the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would earn about 25% more and have an astounding $13,000 more a year. Where would the economy be if that were the case?

Significant privileges have come to capitalists like me for being perceived as "job creators" at the center of the economic universe, and the language and metaphors we use to defend the fairness of the current social and economic arrangements is telling. For instance, it is a small step from "job creator" to "The Creator". We did not accidentally choose this language. It is only honest to admit that calling oneself a "job creator" is both an assertion about how economics works and the a claim on status and privileges. 

The extraordinary differential between a 15% tax rate on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest for capitalists, and the 35% top marginal rate on work for ordinary Americans is a privilege that is hard to justify without just a touch of deification 

We've had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don't create jobs. Rather they are a consequence of an eco-systemic  feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit. That's why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.

So here's an idea worth spreading.  

In a capitalist economy, the true job creators are consumers, the middle class.  And taxing the rich to make investments that grow the middle class, is the single smartest thing we can do for the middle class, the poor and the rich.

Thank You.

Allow me to retort (again) - polictal commentary ahead, skip if you like

Big Cheese didn't like the pump up jam I linked (and then re-linked, per feedback from the constituency - scroll down for the goods). I gave it another listen today and I still think it's a strong jam, in spite of the fact that it's all over the place.

In other news, it's election time! Mitt Romney is doing everything he can to get elected using the same bland platitudes that Obama used to get himself the big job four years ago. Specifics only invite criticism because then you have to answer actual questions and that can be challenging. The problem is that Obama would spout platitudes about the middle class but Romnyan like to talk about 'job creators' and 'broadening the base'. In other words they want to cut taxes on the richest people and raise taxes on the middle class to make up the difference. If you're wondering how it's possible that these types of people have even a glimmer of hope in a general election then you're not alone. The issue is income inequality: they want to make it worse. Why would you do that? Supposedly it's good for business. It's actually good for people who own businesses, not for people who buy goods from businesses. (If you give a rich person $100 they spend $25 and put the rest in the bank, if you give a poor person $100 they spend $80 and put $20 away. Spending is what drives the economy.) For more information review these slides and this text.

Speaking of Romney and inequality, why is he so full of himself? He was born on third base, thinks he hit a triple. The view was expressed very well in a comment on the New York Times:

How do these white men of privilege, born into prominent, wealthy families with vast connections that are pressed into service, to service their needs - a mission trip abroad to avoid the draft here, a coveted internship with a prominent senator there - come to regard themselves as self made and self reliant. In what fantasy world or which parallel universe do they live?

Romney is absurdly out of touch with the middle class because he's never had to actually do anything with people that work for a living. He's been fabulously rich and cosseted his entire life. Even so, if he had a decent plan to revitalize the country that consisted of something besides "spend more money on defense, destroy environmental regulations, national parks, and public works, make rich people richer; also, if you're poor or elderly, fuck you", then I might take him seriously. The thing is, he IS serious, which I find both scary and depressing.

13 August 2012

It was tough, but I managed

Sorting out the photos from my trip to the VI. The islands take a beautiful picture. I already mentioned that we had some issues with the local fauna (mostly the bugs) but still had a very nice time.

One of the private beach days included a nice deck and some beach chairs. They only allowed a handful of people on the beach at any given time, which was nice. You get what you pay for.

I had to take refuge from the sun but my Sweetheart (pictured) worked on her tan the whole time. I'll post the link to the whole album when I get the rest of the photos processed.

10 August 2012

Pump up Jamz

Not sure if the above will work for you, but in the event that it doesn't, you can open this link in a different tab and that will give you the scoop. 

Joined a new gym. Old gym was great until they converted the yoga studio into a barre studio. That is good for membership because barre is all the rage right now. I told them to suck it because I'm there for quality yoga and the yoga instruction has been in steady decline for about a year. Anyway, I joined a crossfit gym and it's good. Tough workouts. And I don't have to wear a shirt, which is nice.

One area where the crossfit gym is really falling down is the music. They got the stereo working but there's not much consistency in the pump up jamz. I find a wide range of pump-up jamz acceptable: rock, punk, techno, hard house, hard trance and rap all have something to offer your PUJ playlist. You know what doesn't work? Country music. I can't name a single pump-up country song and you can't either. It just doesn't work. I understand you can't please everybody but if you're playing country songs and I'm trying to lift weights then you're just making it tougher.

Here's a fun bootleg pump-up jam that claims to be 'progressive house', which I guess means that it's a hard trance track with a vocal in it. No idea. There's a lot of overlap with these things. The song is kind of confused in that it:
- Starts out with a catchy vocal (~ 50 secs)
- Hints at the superbly catchy bass line for a build (1:30)
- Goes into a nice bit of song proper with the bass line (1:45)
- Motors along for a while successfully with the vocal (1:45-3:40)
- Suddenly throws in a full on, straight up, trance-style super-synth Rank-1-Airwave-cribbed breakdown @ 3:45. Which, for the record, is very well executed.
- Then the bass drops again (4:28) and IT IS FUCKING ON until 5:30 when you better be queuing up something else because the outro is short. 

Even though this song is kind of all over the place the individual elements are so good that it doesn't matter. Turn it up and you'll see what I mean.

Not sure I'm going to bring this to Crossfit Balboa. They're not ready. Play this song on half volume during a warmup and it'll fall flat. Play it when you're in the middle of a tough workout (or a big night out) and it'll melt your face off.

09 August 2012

Smart is sexy

Not sure if you're current on the crazy awesome mission to mars and the rover landing. The short version is: it's awesome. This guy is the poster boy so far and I have to give him big props for being a) good at his job, and b) showing some individuality in the workplace. I guess it took NASA to figure out that your haircut has fuck all to do with your work performance. Weird. Maybe we could get some trickle-down into the private sector?

You can get current on more of the fandom on the tumblr.

07 August 2012

Disaster Preparedness

Been thinking about some things lately that are beyond the usual purview of the blogspace. This is going to be a survivalist / disaster preparedness tangent, so feel free to skip it if you like.

Two recent events have galvanized me into action:

1. My friend's house was burglarized during the night. He was out of town but he could just as easily have been at home. More on this shortly.

2. While putting my feet up at The Girl's house last week and I heard a series of loud bangs. Sounded a lot like gunfire to me. I wasn't completely unprepared, but I felt a bit less than prepared than I would have liked. As it turns out it was only fireworks, but it was still disturbing. And annoying.

These two events happened within 48 hours of each other. They made me re-evaluate my level of home and disaster preparedness. In short: I'm unprepared. For a long time it was not a huge issue for me personally because I can look after myself in most circumstances and I'm not a soft target. But The Girl doesn't have the same advantages; she is considerably less mean and also less heavily armed. So: What can we do to increase our chances of survivability in the event of a disaster?

Get Prepared

A lot of people, me included, used to view disaster preparedness as some kind of weird fringe activity for Idaho/Wyoming nutjobs. Then Katrina happened and the federal government showed how qualified it was to deliver you from harm in the event of a major disaster. (Hint: not qualified at all, and that was a disaster that people knew was coming. *facepalm*)

The interesting thing about this kind of preparedness is that even the most minimal efforts dramatically increase your chances of surviving a disaster. In other words you get a lot of value for the most basic efforts.

I don't believe that we will have a permanent and complete institutional breakdown in this country. I do believe that you should be prepared for a temporary breakdown of all services and the rule of law for a minimum of 72 hours. To that end, you should be prepared. The nature of your preparedness will depend a lot on where you live. Are you in a rural or urban environment? What is the climate like?

You can find thousands of lists and instructions on the internet for how to prepare for the 'zombie apocalypse' but most of them are bullshit. And they might not suit your needs. Or your budget. Make a plan. Build an urban survival bag for your house, and put a get-home bag in each of your vehicles. It might save your life.

More later.

06 August 2012

Where the h-e-double-hockey-sticks have you been?

I was out of the country for close to a couple weeks, visiting the lovely Virgin Islands. It was good, except for the part where the sweet love of my life was miserable because of the mosquitoes (she's allergic, which is a bummer when you're in the tropics) and then rupturing her eardrum when we tried to go on the scuba party.* Ouch. So she didn't have as superb an experience as she would have liked.

My own experience was good. Avoided any sunburn until the very last day. Did a lot of beachy things, like snorkeling and swimming. Saw all kinds of awesome sea creatures, such as a sea turtle and other fish (big and small) and birds and corals and stuff. Went scuba diving for the first time. Had to be supervised because I don't have a certification, and I think there was also a depth limit of about 35 feet. Whatever. I still got to wear a tank and fins and breathe air underwater. Super fun. The Girl suggested I get my dive certification when we got back but I've already got some other very expensive (and dangerous) hobbies so I tabled it until after I'm done racing motorcycles. You care.

What now? Well I dodged the 20 year high school reunion but I heard it was good. I'll see you at the 30. I've got paper to push.

I've still got a backlog of stuff to post on various topics so I'll get to those later this week. Good times.

* It wasn't really a scuba party and no one was hanging out in the nude but I couldn't help including that clip. 'Along Came Polly' is terrible but that part is superb.