Hey! Randy

Archive for September, 2009

Confused

Posted by heyrandy on September 30, 2009

Consumed Benjamin J. Barber W.W. Norton, 2007. 406 pgs., index, end notes.

We are inundated with advertising. This is not surprise, but it is the main theme of Barber’s book. Aside from the jeremiad about the omnipresent advertising that assaults our senses, the author doesn’t have much to say. This book is one long complaint.

To Barber, the world is run for the benefit of the producing corporations, ordinary people are helpless against the clever marketing of unnecessary products and services, and the only solution are socialist bromides.

Barber displays no understanding of economics. He fails to realize that the customer is in charge. No customers, no business. To Barber, corporations over produce and then use advertising to sell the surplus to hapless and helpless consumers. A tidy world. Was his book marketed?

It does not work this way in real life, but Barber is not a real life person. He lives is a world of pretend. Corporations must be run with a social conscience as well as with a view to profits. Really? The managers of a business have a fiduciary responsibility to the owners to make a profit with the corporate resources. Social conscience is nice, but it doesn’t pay the rent. Return on investment is not important to Barber. Jobs just magically exist. I sure hope that he returns his royalty checks.

It is true that advertising is influential, but are we really defenseless? Does targeting four year olds always (or ever) result in brand loyalty? Do we need some oversight body to protect us from someone else’s free speech? Yes, Barber avers. We are all just a bunch of mindless sheep. Thank goodness that there are wise overseers available to protect us from untoward marketing, otherwise we fools might buy the wrong thing and not learn from experience. Barber does not say how such oversight would be implemented in a free society, nor how the overseers would be overseen. Details, the bane of the idealist.

Barber does admit that his teenage daughter will be more immune to advertising that we are now seeing. She will grow up with a sense of skepticism that will do her well by allowing her to see though the duplicity of the commercial message. Too bad that we adults can’t do that. I guess that we adults are just too confused.

Advertisements

Posted in Book reviews | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Recycling Platitudes

Posted by heyrandy on September 19, 2009

There has been a lot of talk about green things. We had a green Czar. He is now an ex-Czar, but is he still green? There has been talk of green jobs. The government even owns General Motors and is going to produce green cars that no one wants. Blue ones too.

I am not a green. I am a cheap. I look at the green idea from the stand point of money. Who pays whom? That is the question.  It is seldom asked except by cranks like me. It is never answered in any real way. “It will pay for itself,” is the usual answer.”We all benefit from a better environment” is the other platitude.

Green has never paid for itself. It cannot pay for itself. Green is someone’s idea of what is good for others. That someone has political support. The politicians force you to pay for it. They force you to participate in an otherwise unworkable venture.

We have mandatory recycling where I live. I must sort my trash into groups. The recyclable items are taken by a specially equipped, dedicated truck to a central location where the recyclable items are shipped off to be reprocessed.

I cannot imagine that there is any profit to this. I wonder how green friendly is this process. Do we have a negative effect? Consider what is involved:

Trucks to move the recyclable items must be manufactured.

Special equipment must be made and installed for the truck.

Sorting and handling machinery must be made for the central collection point.

There must be machines made and operated to process the recyclable items.

There is the environmental cost of making and operating the trucks and machinery.

Has anyone done an audit to determine if we are getting a real benefit from what we are forced to do? Anyone who raises the issue faces the potential wrath of the non-thinkers. Green is sacred.

There has been little voluntary effort by any private company to deal with household items. There has been a great deal of effort to collect and recycle usable scrap items from large producers because of the potential for profit.

It is the economy of scale. It cost the scrap dealer about the same to send his truck to your curb to pick up a few empty boxes as it does for him to send the same truck to the back of a big box store to pick up several tons of boxes.

Election signs are sprouting on lawns near you. Now is a good time to question the candidates about this matter. They won’t have any answers, but you can add what they say to your collection of recycled platitudes.

Posted in Recycling | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Free 200 MPH Test Drive

Posted by heyrandy on September 14, 2009

Did you ever dream of a full throttle test drive of a race car? It is good that most of us never realize this dream. It would entail the destruction of good machinery if we did. Now you can do more than dream. Massachusetts Institute of Technology has placed on line its entire curriculum. You can now get an MIT level education free. Crash helmet not required.

On line learning is the future. Nothing short of ending the Internet will stop this. This changes everything. Every university will follow MIT’s lead. Time has always been a major consideration in pursuit of education. No longer. Neither is location. With on line learning the classroom is always in session. A computer with Internet access is all that is needed. Attire optional.

The lesser schools are doomed. Most colleges are obscure for a reason: they are mediocre. They all offer the same course material at an inflated price. The schools are filled with prosaic students getting cheap degrees and huge debts. Higher education has been immune from price competition for all of its existence. MIT has forever changed that.

Since its inception in medieval times, the university has been anchored in land and buildings. The Internet has made this obsolete. The ivy covered wall have fallen. Good riddance. Alma Mater U, stand by to change. You will not like it, but you will do it. Or else. You may do it and the else.

The state funded schools are exempt. They are funded by taxpayers. They are politically connected. Here there will be no change. Hangover U is safe. For now.

The Big Sports U’s are not safe. These schools have funnels for the professional teams. This function is not necessary for the professional teams. The teams can hire their players directly from high school. Why not? What sense does it make for a potential star player to risk a career ending injury by playing college sports? The signing bonus will by itself be more money than most people will make in two life times. The kid will sign. I would.

In a sense MIT is behind the curve. Home school families have been for years laughing at professional educators–and out performing them. Now with the Internet the home schooled have even more tools to use.

Education has always been about information. Information has been restricted by the elite to the elite. The Internet has evaded this restriction. The Internet is the greatest aid to information distribution since the invention of movable type. The only thing greater than the Internet is the invention of writing. The elite realize the danger.

The chances are slim of you getting into MIT. You can now see if you can handle the course work. You will also learn something, probably how well you handle  disappointment. If you are unable to do the work at MIT you will find out before you go to the expense, the bother, and the embarrassment of dropping out. Your failure will be your own little secret. (I did not want to go there anyway). It is a lot like the fact that I use spell check a lot. This is the reason that I will never apply to MIT. Why should I pay them money for them to tell me that I am stupid? I was smart enough to learn this long ago by myself. (I did not want to go there anyway.)

But don’t despair if you cannot get into MIT.  You can always set you sights lower and apply at the nearby Harvard University. They are not on line, yet.

Posted in education | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finding the Mispelled Werd

Posted by heyrandy on September 12, 2009

I just applied for two jobs via the University of Rochester web site. It was a strange experience. The job I was really interested in was Director of Humongously Large Gift Getting, but I did not apply for this position because I have no experience in first class air travel. I have always been a cargo class man.

The jobs for which I did apply were mail room clerk and parking attendant. These are not within my career field, but I am usually against limiting myself when it comes to getting legitimate income. As long as the job is not illegal or immoral I will consider it. I do not worry about fattening.

To apply at the University site one must supply the school with information about one’s self. Having a self, I did. In doing so, I came to the part about education. I was asked about my highest level of education. In looking though the choices, I noticed that several of the degree options had the choice of “professional or academic”. One degree choice, however, gave the option of “acedemic”.

Most people would dismiss this irony as a typographical error. I am not most people. I am only me.

A few months ago the University’s president wrote an article in our newspaper, the Daily Illuminant, about how he wants to raise the prestige of the school to the level of Johns Hopkins University. I know how he can start: by adjusting the Johns Hopkins University’s web site. This is an application the mindless mantra of equal misspellings for equal schools.

The misspelling does raise serious questions:

How did this escape spell check?

Is this the action of a malcontent with an acute sense of irony? (No, it was not me.)

Is the misspelling a subtle way to weed out the illiterate?

Are you wasting your time reading this?

Modern universities are built upon the principle of no absolute truth. Therefore, I cannot give you any answers. If I did, I might blow my chance at that tenure track job in the mail room.

Posted in college | Leave a Comment »

The Opaque Knight

Posted by heyrandy on September 11, 2009

Tuesday my wife and I watched the Dark Night. This is a movie about Batman. It stars Batman and a lot of people who are not. This is also a movie about what is wrong with movies.

The basic plot consists of the impossible being done by the ridiculous. The action of the film involves lots of shootings, car crashes, explosions and bad acting.

This movie is so bad that it makes the television series 24 look like a graduate school seminar in philosophy.

My objections to the movie are not because I do not like action films; but because this action film, like all other action films, gives action films a bad name.

The ending of the movie is the best part, but it comes too late in the film; it should come just after the opening credits.

Maybe they will fix this in the sequel.

Posted in Movies | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

They Do Not Mean Anything, But We Have A Lot Of Them

Posted by heyrandy on September 9, 2009

I am collecting political platitudes and slogans.  The type I am really interested in are those that at first sound good but are revealed as vacuous when closely examined. For example, Change You Can Believe In. I have no idea what this means. Is there a change that I cannot believe in?

The best slogans and platitudes reflect those ideas that no politician would dare oppose, e.g.,  Protect Social Security. Sayings about getting more jobs for one’s constituents are always welcome. Anything to do with government run schools is a treasure.

If you find a example that you think is interesting, send your submissions to politicalslogans@gmail.com. I will sort them into categories according to subject. Let me know if you want credit for your entries. The deadline for submissions is Halloween Day, 2009. I will post the results on Election Day, 2009.

This is an important project; I am counting on you, so remember We need to Just Say No, Put Aside Partisan Politics, Stand United for a Stronger America, and Fight Crime and the War on Drugs to get Good Paying Jobs and Affordable Housing. If they can say it, you can send it.

Posted in politics | Leave a Comment »

Never Full

Posted by heyrandy on September 5, 2009

I like spending money. When I spend my own money, my natural parsimony controls my wants. When the money is not mine, I am cautious about what I buy. This is because I must account for what I spend. Fear of exposure imposes a discipline.

The governments have no real check on their spending. Unless prohibited by law, government at all levels will spend wildly. They spend worse that  drunken sailors. Drunken sailors stop spending when they are broke. When governments run out of money they just raise taxes or borrow more. If you are the federal government you can also print more.

Governments spend for one reason: to survive. Governments are bureaucracies. The first rule of bureaucracy is to perpetuate itself. The second rule of bureaucracy is to expand itself. This requires money. Since governments do not produce a good or a service that can effectively compete with private companies (try to name one), they must get their money by force. Force is something governments are very good at using.

Governments fear exposure. Exposure causes momentary embarrassment but no real change. In reaction to the embarrassment, elected and appointed officials make all kinds of motions about this and that. Lots of blah blah blah. When the smoke clears, it is all just a temporary disturbance. Nothing will be different. If it is a egregious embarrassment some low level employee will be sacrificed to appease the press and the public. Then all is forgotten. Unlike a latrine, the memory hole is never full.

Posted in government bureaucracy | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

A Reply

Posted by heyrandy on September 5, 2009

I have just received a reply to my letter to Jackie Mendez. She gave some general answers to my questions. This does not surprise me since detailed answers are seldom forth coming.

I wrote back stressing my views on government projects. I noted that government can only get its money by taking it from those who own in. The federal government being the only entity that can print its own, California’s attempt notwithstanding.

I ended my letter by telling her that politics is the art of compromise and that she will be taking an oath of office to the contrary.

I feel a tax increase coming.

Posted in government | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

In Cold Water

Posted by heyrandy on September 1, 2009

We are now in a depression. We entered the depression on July 30, 2009 at 3:30:01 PM Eastern time. I know this is the case because that is the moment when my job ended. I am a statistic. I have joined the other 9% (the official government number. Others estimate the real number to be 16-20%. Our government would not lie, of course.).

The story began on February 17, 2009. That is the day when a bunch of vice-presidents of the company left their corporate offices in Danbury, Connecticut to come to our plant and let us know that our operations would cease by September 30, 2009. That was the first lie.

We were all gathered in the big conference room for the announcement. The Vice-president for operations made the announcement. All the other vice-presidents stood against the walls and watched. The company president remained in Danbury. He made his lieutenants bear the news. What is the point of having subordinates if you don’t abuse them? Besides, it’s a lot safer there. Not that it is danger free, he might get a paper cut.

We were told at the meeting that some of us would be getting job offers for positions in Danbury. The plan was that manufacturing would be transferred there. About 30 people got offers, many being people in my group. I did not get a job offer. I was miffed but only for ego reasons. I knew I would not move there because an engineer had the previous year accepted a transfer to Danbury. He said that he and his wife looked a long time for a house they could afford. They finally found an “OK house in an OK neighborhood” for only $200,000. Ain’t no way I could afford that on my pay.

The job offers did not include any more money. One engineer and his wife went to Danbury to see if the move was feasible for them. The real estate agent showed them a house with a leaky roof, a flooded basement, mold in the attic and basement, and a rusted out oil tank buried in the backyard. All for only $250,000.

No one was moving there. The corporate management was stunned. This is what happens when you have no concept of reality.

The Danbury hallucination team made some informal offers of a 10% pay increase to a few people to see if there was any interest. There was laughter.

During this time the management did something that stunned everyone: they sent three hourly workers home at full weekly pay. I called it leaving on the Gravy Train. The name stuck. Everyone began calling “the Gravy Train.” It upset everyone that did not get on board. All the three guys had to do was not get a full time job and weekly fill out and send in a paper stating that they were not working anywhere full time. They could get a part time job. The two guys from my group came out of the meeting smiling. One of them said that he asked the personnel manager if she wanted him to fill out all the papers right there. Any morale  still in the building left with the three guys.

Shortly after the Gravy Train left the station we were reduced to four day weeks. The only good news about that is that the New York State Department has some program that will pay one day of unemployment benefits to employees that are on reduced hours. We qualified.

Along came the annual inventory. Two of the Gravy Train riders were recalled for inventory counting. Inventory is not loved, but this year was special: no one cared either.

The shop finished the few projects we had on the floor. One was a machine we were sending to the National Plastics Exhibition. This is a major trade show. It comes only one every three years. We sent all the stuff we had built for the show of 2006. No new products for this show. Everything was a duplicate of last time.

Since production could not be moved to Connecticut, who was going to build the machines? The local management surveyed several local machine building companies and chose one. We sent a load of parts over to the place. Several of us went there to teach them how to build our machines. While there, we all put in applications for jobs. A month later this company had a layoff. So much for that.

The machine building company built the second machine without much help from us. They did a nice job. They did not need us.

One of my group’s guys got a ticket to the Gravy Train. He was told that he would be leaving on the Train soon. He was not to do any more production work. He spent most of his time playing games on the shop floor computers. This stopped when all the floor computers were removed as part of the shutdown. His mood deteriorated as the time passed without any sign of the Train. The Train never came; he left the same day I did. I asked him if I could have his parking space.

The new plan was to convert the facility into a technical applications center. About 30 people were given job offers to stay. Most accepted. I was not given an offer. No one is betting that the place will be open there in two years.

We began the process of condensing the shop. We began throwing out lots of stuff. Shop machinery was packed up and sent to Mexico. Inventory was to be reduced, so a lot of otherwise good material was thrown out. We were warned not to take any of it. There is some kind of tax law that says to write off the goods the material has to be destroyed. The company was afraid that some things might turn up for sale on Ebay or used on someone’s boat.

We were all given our official final day. I marked my calendar with a big “Yes!”. I thought about marking the next day with a big “No!”, but I didn’t.

People began leaving as their final day came. It was sad. Some beat the day by finding a new job. I did not.

The accounts payable clerk had a big picture of the Titanic nose down in the water. She put everyone’s name on a push pins and put the pins on the picture showing everyone’s individual status. People with new jobs are in the life boat; those without jobs are in the water; the rest of the people are still on the deck of the ship.

I have been registering with employment agencies, but so far nothing definite. I did get a possible maybe from one place. All the places that do the kind of work I have been doing have had layoffs. I think that the odds of finding something in my line of work is about 5%. It is dry out there, even if you are in the water.

Posted in economy | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »