Bullet points for a Saturday evening

Haven’t done one of these things where I peer into a pool of water and admire my reflection for a while so here goes.

  • There’s a lot of hand-wringing about poor, uneducated white people right now. This is, of course, because of Trump. But I think the left is unfair to poor, uneducated white folk living in their little rural nowheresvilles. We want to talk about how black folk are trapped in a cycle of reinforced poverty and isolation but we don’t want to talk about white people in the same terms. This looks bad. We shouldn’t only seek to assist those who vote our way. “White trash” are people too, in the same way that urban poor are people too. Privilege isn’t enough to get you out of the dying company town when there are so many things keeping you from leaving.
  • Libertarians don’t have a chance in the US and they never will, at least as a separate political party. They’re too ideologically pure to be effective, and too laser-focused to appeal to more than middle class white men. And if a Libertarian party candidate ever gains mass appeal it will never be because of their policies, but in spite of them. Unless of course they abandon a bunch of (frankly crazy) policies. But there’s always going to be that (frankly crazy) hardline base trying to reel them back in again. Because if you’re not a general-purpose party you can’t have general-purpose policies. It’s like… the Liberal party in Canada can have a lot of different opinions and policies and platforms that can change to suit whatever. The Libertarian party can’t. Because the Liberals are the student government and the Libertarians are the AV Club. At some point, if the AV Club is organizing fundraisers some nerd is going to get upset that they’re not AV enough.
  • Speaking of Libertarians and Anarchists and all other manner of really crazy bullshit, Libertarianism and Anarchy (which, I mean, we’re talking 1 degree of separation here really) can only function with tyranny or extreme collaboration. And the people that seem most attracted to these philosophies… well, let’s just say they’re not attracted to collaboration. And for systems that end up being built around incentives, that’s a pretty perverse incentive.
  • My furnace fan has died again. Second one in two year, between two different houses. The last one I replaced myself because it was cheaper to do so. I learned a lot about furnaces. For instance I learned that it’s probably a better idea just to pay someone else to do it.
  • We got a new mattress and I just can’t get to sleep on it. I’ve always had trouble sleeping but lately it seems a lot worse. And if I can’t get to sleep before 12 basically I won’t sleep until 3 or 4am. Combine that with a 4 year old who will get up at the crack of dawn come hell or high water, I haven’t been feeling myself lately.
  • Down the street there’s this guy. You don’t know him very well. You notice a lot of smoke coming out of his backyard so you assume he’s burning garbage or something. You go on Facebook and find out a lot of other people in your neighbourhood group are talking about this guy too. Someone says he’s burning tires. Someone else says he’s burning neighbourhood cats alive. Another guy is always calling the fire department on him but the fire department says there’s no evidence of a fire. But the smoke keeps coming. Someone on the group insinuates that he’s been paying off the fire department. One day you’re walking down the alley behind your row of houses and you see someone throw something into his backyard. You look over the fence and see… a smoke bomb. You get to know your neighbour and he’s actually a really great guy, a little nerdy, but nice. He tells you this other guy from across the road really hates him and has been trying to turn the neighbourhood against him by throwing smoke bombs into his backyard and blaming it on him. The guy from across the street created the Facebook page to feed the rumour mill. A lot of people in the neighbourhood who don’t know the guy really hate his guts but the people who do know him think he’s great. So who do you listen to?
  • The people who owned this house (we moved to Hamilton, FYI) before use basically did all their own home improvements. And they did everything wrong. When we moved in there was an exhaust fan in the basement bathroom that you could hear but not see. You could hear it but not see it. It was sucking air up through the pot lights. We have a nice big garage with a sliding garage door. Thing is, they installed the sliding door on the inside instead of the outside. So when it rains, despite a bit of weatherstripping, the rain just runs right in. And now where the water pools (I’ve started mopping it up), the concrete pad is starting to droop. They also installed new downstairs steps but instead of using proper risers they kind of jury-rigged these shelf-like things with nails… which of course are NOT screws. And while they were doing that they cut through an obviously-not-very-important beam that just happened to be holding the upstairs staircase in place, so now there’s a steel pillar there but there’s like a 5 degree angle on the floor in that area. There’s just so much to do without having to redo a bunch of crap that they didn’t do properly… it boggles the mind. This is one reason I’d rather buy a house that is in its original condition rather than a house that’s been quickly buffed up to sell. No one does their home improvements well if they’re not going to live in that space.
  • People wonder why millenials don’t have cars, sex, retirement funds, etc, etc. How about because millenials are poor? That explains it all. All the advantages our parents had are kind of just… gone. If that makes millenials selfish or whiney to you maybe you don’t appreciate what you were given.
  • Canada is a massive failure in urban infrastructure design. It’s 2016 and only just now Hamilton is doing the will-they-won’t-they dance around light rapid transit? There’s still some debate that bike lanes are a good thing? Look, the mark of good urban design isn’t when poor people have cars, but when wealthy people use transit. Let’s get the ball rolling on that.
  • One last thing. I live pretty close to downtown Hamilton (within walking distance) and everything, and I mean EVERYTHING closes up before sundown here. If you’re looking to get a meal after 6pm you’re going to be 90% shit out of luck. It’s SO weird. I mean, I kind of get it, most of the shop owners are people with lives who don’t want to commit to opening their shop when no one is around. But still, I’d love to be able to buy a taco at 1am.

Bullet points for a Wednesday evening

Sleep. The spirit is willing but the flesh is obstinately restless. I haven’t done one of these in a long time, so here goes.

  • The most important thing is to be really good. This looks different for different people. Obviously. Really good polka isn’t really good klezmer. Okay, bad example. It’s not really good pop. Which isn’t really good baroque. Which isn’t really good big band. But damn, can you ever tell Really Good from a mile away. Even if you’re not fluent in the nuances, you know?
  • Really Good usually comes from the top. If you want Really Good, you have to set the example, set the tone. If you say you want Really Good but you actually want Good Enough, trust me, people know.
  • The harder road is more impressive. It’s not for everyone. Most of the time it’s not for me. But I’m still impressed when other people take the road that means more work, more commitment, and probably more heartbreak. They’re investing a bit of their soul. You can usually tell too, because people making these kinds of efforts tend to be either extremely attractive (people want to be around them) or extremely repulsive (they killed Jesus) or both (again Jesus). You get to sweat bullets or blood or whatever. No one ever wrote a book about the guy who kind of did the thing well enough to get by.
  • Luck is important. But it’s not everything. Most turds get flushed, regardless how lucky they are.
  • The best meetings have an agenda and a time limit. That’s a hard agenda and a hard time limit. The leader (I guess they need one of those too), needs to start at the starting time regardless if everyone is there, firmly take things back to the agenda, and end at the time limit regardless of whether or not you’ve “finished”. Obviously there can be exceptions, but it needs to be the rule enough that people understand that n=n, not n+15.
  • How much time? 45 minutes. An hour. I’ve rarely (or never) been in a meeting that went over an hour long where I thought, “Yeah, I’m glad that meeting went on that long.”
  • How do get your meeting under an hour? You already know. There’s that one thing everyone does (coming in late, chatting for the first half hour, talking about stuff that isn’t on the agenda) or maybe just that one guy who does these things. You may have to be a jerk to stop this stuff from happening, but I hope that’s a cost you have to pay to keep from wasting a whole bunch of time.
  • Put a poll in the field. Gather anonymous feedback. The feedback you get from people face to face (especially in Canada) is all crap and you might as well trash it before it starts affecting your judgement. You’ll get the odd honest person, maybe. But the anonymous people will be assholes and tell you exactly what they think.

Bullet Points for a Wednesday

I haven’t done this in too long. Here goes.

  • We should have a heat map of the places that vaccination denialists live, work, and send their children. Kind of how we have sex offender maps. Then we can choose better where not to live so as to extend our and especially our children’s lifespans. And also there’s less chance of running into them at parties.
  • Facebook and Google operate under the assumption that attaching a real name to something makes it better. This may be the case. Sometimes. But not always. There’s fundamentally a bunch of my life that’s none of your business. In a way, FB and G+ are basically ubergossips, eager to pry into every detail of my life and connect it all together for easy viewing. I don’t like that. What I reveal about myself must be under my own control.
  • Is there a good way around new process drift? I mean, other than nagging or punishment. Let’s say you put a new policy in place and you notice that people are gradually starting to ignore that policy… what do you do? Short of getting up in everyone’s grill about it?
  • The US considers foods and food supplements to be entirely different things. One has stringent controls, the other doesn’t. But why? Both things go into your body. It seems like if it’s illegal for food to be 20% rat anus, supplements should be the same.
  • If you exclude accidental and workplace deaths, the US has the best life expectancy in the world. But it’s only (roughly) a few months higher than other industrialized countries, yet the healthcare costs (roughly) twice as much. Is this a case of a fundamentally broken system? Or is it just that returns diminish when keeping people alive for a long time?
  • If you can’t avoid paying a fee, or the only way to avoid a fee is to do something extraordinarily inconvenient, it’s not a fee. It’s part of the purchase price. When companies (always the worst, most awful companies) like Bell and Ticketmaster include mandatory fees on top of their listed prices, they deserve to be punished. This is the sort of crap that consumer protection legislation was designed for. I’m not saying that we should all go out and burn Bell Canada’s headquarters to the ground (though I’d shed no tears for them if that were to happen)… but…
  • Sometime in the future when Atheism is an actual established religion, Carl Sagan will be one of their arch-saints. In the meantime, can we stop talking about him all the live long day?
  • Are there any lessons we can take from the NSA spying scandals? I think so. One might be that our networks are woefully insecure and absolutely need to be hardened. Another might be that the US won’t abandon their current course easily, and they’ll prosecute and torture anyone who tries to get in the way.
  • How permissible is violence? How you answer this question is probably one of the most important things you’ve never thought of.

Bullet points for a Monday Evening.

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I can kind of hear the psychic promptings of Chris Hubbs, so here goes.

  • Laura isn’t feeling well at the moment (she was up with Audrey for a good five hours in the middle of the night), so I’m taking care of Audrey and the dogs. Audrey is eating banana bread and drinking from her bottle, while the dogs are chasing each other around the house and trying to steal Audrey’s banana bread.
  • My favourite kind of yoghurt has to be Balkan style. Swiss is too thin, Greek is too thick, Balkan is just right. I also wish there were some way to gauge the amount of live bacteria in a yoghurt sample, short of putting it under a microscope.
  • I’m currently waiting for a steak to come up to room temperature. I know, two steaks in two days. This is what comes of shopping at Costco.
  • Our coffee pot seems bound and determined to burn the coffee no matter what we do. I’m not sure if the problem is in the water heater or in the element, but either way, the coffee is coming out tasting like Starbucks.
  • I present for your consideration this fine home-made meme:

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  • ISO implementation is going apace. Document control is something I’ve wanted for a long time but never had the time or clout to actually make happen. We’re also gaining an org chart, work descriptions, and proper tooling specifications. If you’re surprised that we haven’t had any of those things until now… well, so am I.
  • The novel is at 22,000 words. That’s the third novel I’ve gotten that far on, by the way. And, predictably, I’m at the part of the story where I start not to care about finishing it. I’ve decided on a novel (heh) way of getting around this: I’m folding the apathy into the novel itself. I feel apathy? My character feels apathy. I feel like I’m in the middle of a long slog that might never end and even when it does it might lead nowhere at all? Well, that’s a useful feeling. I’ll fold these thing into the book and we’ll see how it shakes out. Also, because I know some people are asking, no, the book and the stories within are not autobiographical. Some of the feelings are based on reality, but nothing more.
  • I have now lived in Mississauga for 10 years. Before that I lived in Bolton, Brampton, Orangeville, Vaughn, Rexdale, and Toronto proper. I have lived in a lot of places but also I haven’t lived in a lot of placed.
  • I learned a trick from Charles Dickens: Take whatever you want to say, break it up into two opposite but equal sentiments, raise them both to their superlatives, and present both as co-equal facts. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Everything happened, but nothing happened. Take it to the next level by then denying your own premise. I was moving ever forward, ever backward, or perhaps I was not moving at all. Throw in a little doubt. Suddenly it means everything, though it means nothing. Or perhaps this thing we call meaning itself is flawed.
  • I keep thinking about how small is beautiful. I don’t mean just in size, but in organizational complexity. Units of decision making need to be small. Layers of management need to be small. The small survives even when the large fall. This is true for book stores, for families, for churches, for governments, for works of art, and even for airplanes.