Sunday, September 24, 2017

Obamacare overload

Alright, already.

Republicans trying to "fix" Obamacare is as inane as police attempting to resuscitate a suicide-by-cop shooter.

For one thing, the Affordable Care Act as implemented has so many bullet holes in it that it is likely not savable.

One dynamic that reinforces the continuance of something like the Obamacare is the increasingly dynamic workplace.  Both Republicans and Democrats are complicit in this.

If you look at a small town you will typically see that the businesses that have the greatest longevity have some source of protected income.  I am thinking about bars with a license to serve alcohol.  Licenses create an artificial scarcity which in turn creates a steady income stream.  Because licenses are difficult to transfer, they foster business longevity.

Three things overturned the apple cart.

The economy is now Globalized.  Factories and shops are not just competing with the guy down the road, they are competing with Bangladesh and China and Mumbia.

The economy deregulated.  Sectors that are protected are shrinking.  Interestingly, the most protected sector is .gov.

The last thing that killed job longevity was the Fed lowering interest rates.  Investors are anxious to find venues that create better return pour money into venture capital.  These funds provide a war chest to nascent businesses that allow them to under-price the true cost of production.  That crushes the existing competitors.

The new entrants to the market find themselves, in turn, being crushed by even more entrants, especially after the war-chest of investor capital is depleted and they must price at or above the true cost of production.  The bottom of the dog-pile are corpses.  Only the bodies on top have enough oxygen to survive.

In the old days the employee who started with a firm as a young, healthy person was subsidizing the old guy who had been there thirty-five years and it was all invisible to the new person.  Preconditions were handled internally to the Human Relations department.

No longer.  It is not uncommon for a person to find themselves looking for employment every couple of years.  In fact, many folks never stop looking for their next job because experience taught them the horse will get shot out from beneath them.

All of a sudden, preconditions become a very, very big deal.

There is a solution, at least for most of us.  And it is not a very popular solution.  The answer is to stay healthy.  Eat well.  MOVE.  Get to your ideal weight, or close to it.  Surround yourself with positive, caring people.  Ditch unhealthy habits.

Good news abounds

Our dishwasher started working again.

It was not draining reliably and the symptoms suggested that the cause was something binding up the shuttle valve.

I did not tear it apart but suspect it was a label that we put on some of the plastic ware we use for lunches and such.

Mrs ERJ receives many return address labels from charities who want her contributions.  We have been using those labels for lids and tubs.  I think a few of them washed off and bound up the valve.

How-some-ever, our dishwasher finally passed its kidney stones and is once again running like a champ.

The downside is that I bought a replacement dishwasher.  It was on Craigslist for $65.  It was two years old and the owner had just changed his kitchen appliances to stainless steel.  The good news is that the old dishwasher started working again before I busted my knuckles replacing it and the great news is that I now have a spare.

In other good news...
I don't write much about Mrs ERJ because she is entitled to living out her own life in privacy.

Three weeks ago the director of a local non-profit organization had to leave due to health reasons.  The parent organization asked (begged?) Mrs ERJ if she could fill the gap while they hunted for a new director.

Mrs ERJ threw herself on the hand grenade and went from a life of leisure to working 50 hour weeks. 

Due to the urgency of the previous director's health issues, there was not a tremendous amount of time for overlap.  Also, since the health issue arose suddenly, the previous director did not have a lot of time to render the job into documentation.

Friday, the parent organization indicated that found a new director.  The new director will start in two weeks.  The parent organization is being smart and is planning on a two week transition.  The first week will be the administrative side and the second week will be on the "people" side.

Mrs ERJ is walking with a bounce in her step this weekend.  There is an end in sight.  Life will return to normal in about four weeks.

Shamelessly stolen from Knuckledraggin

Look at the joy on her face.

Great image.  Thanks Wirecutter.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder

While I do not dwell on the fact, I am subject to periods of depression.

I take a type of antidepressant called an SSRI, that is, a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor.

Historically I do well through most of the winter, spring and summer.  Fall bites me in rearmost parts of my anatomy.  October is my undoing.

I think it is like many biological processes; it is triggered by the shortening days.  Deer and sheep start cycling for spring fawns/lambs based on decreasing day-length.  Trees drop their leaves based on day-length.  Animals in temperate and arctic regions toggle between summer and winter plumage/fur based on lengthening days or nights.

The traditional literature suggests that SAD is caused by lack of light, that it is worst in December and January and February.  Perhaps it is so for Napoleon and Hitler.  Not so much for me.  Maybe I am the outlier.

I started taking my SSRI yesterday.  One of the nice things about planning ahead is that I can avoid most of the side effects by starting with a half dose.  I simply split the pills.

People on large doses who experience SAD might consider starting on even less than half.

The typical protocol when starting a patient on an SSRI is to yank them off work for two weeks.  The purpose is two-fold.

One of the reasons is that SSRIs make you sleepy.  Not a good combination if you drive to work or if you use heavy equipment at work.  Cutting the dosage means you will sleep like a log but will, likely, be able to function at work and on the highway.

The other reason is that many SSRIs, especially the older ones like Prozac (Fluoxetine) and Zoloft (Sertalin) take three or four weeks to reach their full, therapeutic potential.  This is not necessarily a bad thing because missing a dose of the older SSRIs is not the end of the world.  These older SSRIs are great choices for patients who might not have the support structure to ensure total med-compliance.  A couple of examples are of somebody who has Attention Deficit issues and might get distracted.  Another example is of a young person who might be subject to, um, romantic distractions where they are deflected from their normal routine for a few days.

Some of the modern SSRIs kick in much, much more quickly than the old SSRIs.  Notably Escitalopram and Paroxetine.  Discontinuing them, unfortunately, results in a quick loss of antidepressant activity.

One doctor told me of an Emergency Room visit by a patient.  The patient was so debilitated by anxiety and depression that he appeared to be a boneless puddle of sobbing protoplasm.  Due to the dire situation, the attending doctor chose one of the faster acting SSRIs.  The next weekend the former patient brought a friend into the same Emergency Room for an unrelated issue.  The former patient was affective, gregarious and happy.  The former patient recognized the doctor and gave hime a double thumbs-up!  What really caught the doctor's attention was that the turn-around was much, much faster than the three-to-four weeks that is typically listed.

I figure I will run at half dose for a week and then bump it up to the full dose.  I intend to make the next transition during one of my "weekends".  Then, it will not be a big deal if I take a nap in the middle of the day.

To quote Red Green, "We are all in this together."

Not a good day for the air conditioning to stop working

Image from Accuweather
Yup, you guessed it.  The air conditioner at home is down.

I pulled a panel off the furnace which is down in the basement and am running in fan mode.

This morning the basement was a 66 degrees and the upstairs at 73.

The upstairs temperature is now at 75 degrees while it is 91 degrees outside.

Nightly lows are predicted to be in the lower 60s so we will open windows and ventilate with a fan to chill the walls.  The "cross over" when the outside temps are lower than the inside temps will be about 10 PM.

Seasonable temperatures are expected to return on Thursday.  Until then it will be good swimming weather.

If I get ambitious tomorrow I will check out the air conditioner unit.

One upmanship

A man died leaving three proud, competitive sons.

At his wake each one approached his coffin one at a time.

The first one made a big show of pulling out $10,000 in one hundred dollar bills.  "This is for you, Pops.  Have a great time up there!" as he stuck the bills in the coffin.

The second one pulled out $20,000 in one hundred dollar bills and said, "Dad, remember that I love you twice as much as Billy."

The third one approached the coffin, whipped out his checkbook and wrote a check for $130,000 and slid it into his dad's hand while scooping up the $30,000 in cash.  "Really going to miss you, Dad.  Thanks for all the life lessons."

Trucks, weather and work

Yesterday was my weekend.  I took food to my parents.  Then I picked up Kubota and we looked at used trucks.

Kubota got his license last week and is seriously in the market.  His major issue right now is that he has Dom Pérignon tastes and a tap water budget.

We looked at a clean 1996 Chevy half-ton.  Two wheel drive.  Good tires. 350 cid V8.  Air conditioning. The engine has 150K on it and the rest of the truck has 330K miles.  The asking price was $1500 and Kubota wanted nothing to do with it.

I wonder if showing him trucks is a waste of time.  It is hard to know if the disconnect between the market and his budget is getting through to him.  Or maybe he is just not ready for the responsibilities, and costs, of owning a vehicle.


Images from Accuweather.
Today is going to be a scorcher.  I expect that I will be in-and-out of the buildings with more time outside than inside.  As bad as it is for me, I am glad I do not have to wear "turn-out" gear like a firefighter or body armor like a cop.

Today is also my long day.  I figure it will be just like running a long distance.  Listen to all of the parts of my body and slow down when they start talking.  If they keep talking, slow down even more.

You know you have been working when...
Your hands are stiff and puffy.  My day off was much appreciated.  I feel better today.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fake News Friday


The real reason for the mass extinction of amphibians.  Fast forward to the forty-second mark.  Frogs watching pron star Anne Lida do her thing...nNo longer eating or mating, populations plummet.

You read it here first.  ERJ FNF

Hat-tip to BigheadRob

Small considerations

We had some power fluctuations at work.  Lights would dim.  Breakers would pop.  At least I was out of the sun.

I have been there for a little more than a week.  Yesterday I was part of a crew that performed a task that is loud.  It is not so much that the job is loud as the fact that the noise is unpleasant and the task is an all-day job. That was the same task I did the first day of work so I planned ahead.  I put some hearing protection from home into a ziplock bag and used a magnet to attach the bag to the equipment.

One of the women on the crew seems to be pretty introverted.  She likes her space and seems to be more comfortable with a small, non-verbal nods than with a big "How are you doing today?"

I got a smile and a "You bet." out of her yesterday when I asked her if she wanted some hearing protection.  I started to tell her how to roll them up before inserting them when she told me, "I know how to do this.  I participate in 'shooting sports'."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A couple of short interactions at work

Yesterday the boss gave me a list of things to do.

One of those tasks was to remove some items from storage and install them in a certain location.

I noticed that the items were pretty grubby as I pulled them out of the dark storage area so I added a task to his list; clean items.

The boss caught me sitting at a picnic table outside scrubbing the items down and sluicing them down with rinse water.

"Whatchya doing?" he asked.

I told him.

"Thanks for doing that outside." was his reply.  Then he motored off to his next "check".

Later that day
I was working with one of the "kids".  He is really quiet, is as strong as an ox and has the work-ethic of a honeybee.

I found out that he reads and likes history.  WWII is his favorite period.

He is also a conservative.  He attributes it to his study of history.  "It is different this time." does not wash with him.

He does not have any expensive hobbies or vices.  He is saving up for a used Ford Ranger.  He has a German Shepherd and does not need a lot of room.

Oh, and he was home schooled.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"Golly, I'm hot!"

Standing in line at the pharmacy to get some prescriptions filled.

Waiting.  Reading the signage. "Area under Surveillance."

I hear the slow stamp-and-jingle of a young lady wearing sandals coming in my direction from behind.  She sounds like a sleigh with eight reindeer or several pockets filled with money.

I turned as she rounded the corner.

Keys and bling.  A bare mid-rift.  Short-shorts.  And more-than-ample bosoms exploding forth like rolls from a package.

"Golly, I'm hot!" she exclaimed with a deep breath and exhalation.

What can you say?
"Not half as hot as my wife." I said in a bored, matter-of-fact voice.

Great, silvery peals of laughter from her.  She was busted!  She figured she could practice being a Richard-tease to some, poor, helpless old man...and she slipped on the banana peel.

"Wow!  Great answer." she said.

I mindful of the sign  "Area under Surveillance." and Casey, a young lady who graduated with Belladonna, simply nodded.

It was the only correct answer.

Hunting for snakes

Yup.  There is one here.  All I have to do is dig it up.
Go AWAY!!!  Its mine.
My mom LOVES snakes.  I know that because she makes squeaky sounds when she sees one.
She will be SO proud of me.

I found and dug up another one!
He carried this one a quarter mile to add to the collection.

I wish he found morel mushrooms or shed antlers or billfolds or something valuable.

Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get.

Courtesy of Accuweather.  Predictions for Eaton Rapids, Michigan.
Temps in the upper eighties with wind gusts of six miles an hour.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Call me a cynic

We are experiencing an extraordinary amount of road work in the mid-Michigan area.

We usually don't see this much publicly funded construction.  The exception is eighteen months before a presidential election.  Incumbents like road construction because the dollars fall right out of those construction worker's pockets and it quickly juices up the economy.  In the jargon of the economists, dollars poured into construction have better "velocity" than dollars funneled to people with off-shore savings accounts.

If you run with the theory that the "where" and "how much" of road construction is motivated more by politics than by traffic and physics, then you have to scratch your head and ask, "Who is being rewarded for what?"

Figure that funds were allocated two years ahead of the construction.  Contracts must be written and put out for bid.  Companies have to purchase and hire.  So one must base their analysis on what Congress was assuming twenty-four months ago.

My guess is that they figured Clinton would win the POTUS race and that she would benefit from a juiced-up economy to validate her policies.  I also speculate that everybody thought Clinton was going to win Michigan.

The supreme irony is that Trump won and is getting the benefits of the "present" that was put under the Christmas tree for Hillary.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"...everybody knows it is impossible to change culture." NOT!

You might be at a party, minding your own business when you overhear a conversation.  Somebody pontificates, often with a heavy sigh, "...and of course it is impossible to change the culture."

Let's take a minute to dissect this myth.

It is the resources, stupid
Would people continue to buy lottery tickets if the lottery commission announced "We will no longer pay winning tickets?"

Of course not.

What if the commission simply stopped paying off winners.  Would people keep buying tickets.

Of course not.  It might take a few months but people would stop buying tickets.

What if the commission cunningly "picked" numbers that nobody had bought.  Would people keep buying tickets.

Of course not.  It might take a half year but people would stop buying tickets.

Gambling is considered an addiction and is regarded as extremely recalcitrant to "fixing".  And yet any of a few simple changes would cause that addiction to abate.

Strawman argument
Our conversationalist, the one with the heavy sighs, might object, "You are presenting a 'strawman' argument.  Life is far more complicated than your lottery example."

OK, I accept that criticism.  How about a real-life example?

Picture your typical, rust-belt corporation that is scrambling to survive.  It got caught in the acronym-of-the-month trap.  Every new fad that is written up in the HBR is rolled out.  Peons on the firing line quickly became jaded.  They learned to nod-and-ignore.

Let me recap: Many, many repetitions of classical conditioning train the first line supervisors to ignore the XYZ of the month.  It created a culture of jaded cynics, the band playing on the Titanic, if you will.

What would it take to change that culture?  Decades?  Years?  How about four months?  Process Failure Modes and Effects was implemented to the marrow in four, short months in the last plant where I worked.

The change in culture penetrated to the remotest, most dimly lit, hell-hole of the plant.  It penetrated to the densest supervisor on the shift that received the least Management attention.

What did it take?

It is the resources, stupid
Maintenance was forbidden to work on anything that did not have an RPN (Severity X Frequency of occurances X Fragility of detection) reduction explicitly calculated on the work order.  As a production supervisor, you were completely abandoned by Maintenance unless you could converse intelligently in "RPN".

Within weeks the smarter supervisors were spouting "detection" and "frequency" with glib fluency.  The dumber ones took a couple of months.  It was a matter of survival.

Let's work this backwards
Suppose you are at that party and you hear that heavy sigh, "..and of course it is impossible to change the culture."

Let's follow that beam of light back through the prism.  What is that statement really telling you?

It is a pretty good bet that the person making that statement is really saying, "Changing the resource allocation would adversely impact ME!"  In other words, "I am on 'the take'."  or "My rice bowl totally depends on not changing how resources are allocated."

OK, half my readers don't buy it.

Suppose we were to decide that children of single-parent families were at much higher risk for dropping out of school, ending up in prison and a life trapped in poverty.

Further suppose that some bright person observed that one way to reduce production is to eliminate subsidies.  What if...we penalized single-parents rather than families with two parents.  That is, suppose there was a welfare bonus paid to poor dual-parent families Vis-à-vis single parent families.

I am not proposing that all supports to single-parent families be eliminated, just that they be less than what is offered to dual-parent families.

What are the odds of this happening?  Pretty close to zero because threats to the "victim-poverty" industry threaten many rice-bowls.

Key point:  Anybody who claims "...culture cannot be changed" is likely to have a vested interest in keeping culture exactly the way it is.  Even if they are complaining about "popular culture."

Wherein Eaton Rapids Joe gets pimped.

My box of donuts on the left.  Freddie's in the background.
You met Freddie on this blog several times in the past.  Most notably HERE.

Freddie takes a box of donuts up to the hospital every Monday morning.  He picks up the donuts at seven while there is still a good selection.  The nurses change shifts at eight and he delivers the donuts at 8:30 AM.

To kill time, he drinks coffee with the boys.

We tease him about stealing his donuts.  He chuckles his wheezy chuckle and always says, "You ain't gonna get them donuts.  I locked my doors."  It is a long standing joke.

Today I thought I would mess with him.  I bought a box of donuts at the same place Freddie buys donuts and went to coffee "late" to ensure that Freddie was already there.

I strolled into the restaurant carrying my box of donuts and loudly announced that I "found" a box of donuts in the parking lot...that somebody had not locked their doors.

I didn't fool Freddie for a second.  "Them ain't my donuts.  I seen ya come in and watched your reflection in the winder.  I kept my eye on you when you started poking around my truck.  You never opened no doors."

And so, today, the joke is on me and it is probably even funnier than if I had managed to pull one over on Freddie. 

What is a "contrary fact"?

"The City is disappointed in the Court’s ruling. The City believes that the Court relied on the Plaintiff’s complaint and disregarded the contrary facts that were set forth in the Defendant’s answer and reply to the Plaintiff’s motion."   Source
If facts are true, then what are "contrary facts"?

"A steady stream of customers visited the Country Mill Farms booth at the farmers market on Sunday to purchase apples, cider and donuts, at times weaving through a group of about a dozen LGBT community members and supporters holding a demonstration near the booth.Source
I was not there, but I wonder how aggressively the protesters were "blocking" the booth, trying to achieve through intimidation what they lost at the courthouse.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Southern Belle and Handsome Hombre update

Southern Belle holding a 20 gauge shotgun.
Southern Belle and Handsome Hombre returned to South Miami about 3:30 on Wednesday.  S.B. was chomping at the bit to get back to work.

They live in a 560 square foot garage that they rent.  Rent in Miami area is steep.  I think they pay about $1200 a month.  Their landlord only lost one tree and a power pole but the yard next to their landlord's lost six trees.

Satellite image of trees in Miami after Irma.  OK, I lied.  Southern Belle has too much on her plate to send me photos.
This needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  Trees down there look like something you would use to dust Venetian blinds.  Still, it makes a jumbled mess and the sticks are interlaced with power wires.

The stink of the food that had been left in the fridge and freezer drove Southern Belle out of the house.  Handsome Hombre did the manly thing and took care of that mess.

Both SB and HH are solid Christians.  HH informed me that he saw it as Jesus washing the disciple's feet.  The definition of a Christian is "Someone who is called to act as Christ did."  If so, then cleaning the dripping, putrid "chubs" out of the freezer is not much different than cleaning camel and donkey urine splatter and feces off your student's feet.

Power came on about 3:30 this afternoon.

SB reports to work tomorrow.

Things are returning to normal.

And I am guessing that they will not leave meat in the freezer the next time they invite a hurricane to Miami.

This and that

You know you drive an old truck if you find yourself looking in the rearview mirror every time you hear a strange noise.  "OK, which part fell off this time."

The boss was telling us to not let perfection get in the way of getting the job done.  He said, "Think about your first deer stand.  It was not perfect but it got the job done.  That is where I want your minds to be."  So I turned over a five gallon bucket and asked if I could get paid piece-work.  I am still employed but he was not amused.

I got to work alone today.  I was content.  The boss figured that I would not be spending half my time on my phone since it is a flip-phone and would not need adult supervision.  He was right on both accounts.

I took a gallon of water and drank most of it in the five hours I worked.  I was outside.  High of eighty-four, sunny, no breeze, 75% humidity.  Not brutal but not a picnic.  I put 3/8 of a teaspoon of salt in my gallon of water to see if that helped with salt lost during sweating.  Seemed to work OK.  The amount of salt was low enough that it did not impact palatability.  Key point, use non-iodized salt.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I am not sure I earned my pay today

If you were in the room and looking me in the eye, I am not sure I could tell you I earned my pay today.

Tomorrow is another day.  I will be better prepared.  I am charging up batteries for my battery tool.  After church tomorrow I plan on buying a sampler pack of drill bits and such.

The other thing is that I ran into a guy who worked in many of the same manufacturing plants I worked in.  We knew many of the same people although we never ran across each other.  It was a bit like a couple of people who graduated from the same high school within a year of each other meeting in Milan, Italy.  Lots of notes to compare. 

He took the time at the end of the shift to acquaint me with some of the equipment I was unfamiliar with.  I told him some of the equipment I had worked with and some tweaks that I thought would smooth up their operation.

The other thing is remembering the names.  Lots and lots of names to remember.

Another day of work

Today is another day of work.

I report to work at 8:30 and work until the boss kicks me out.

I was told to plan for a mix of indoor and outdoor work.  The other employee I talked to said that it was pretty typical to work a couple of hours at any given task before getting moved to a new one.

The temperature is expected to be 80 at noon and to keep climbing.

I am not as worried about the physical work as I am about staying hydrated.  Do I lug around a gallon of water like some of the guys?  They seem pretty creative about stashing their jug.

The other end of the hydration issue involves potty breaks.  I would hate to guzzle a bunch of water and then get moved to an inside job.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fake News Friday, Part III

College towns across the mid-West have entered into a ferocious contest to established alpha Social Justice Warrior status.

City councils are passing ordinances that prohibit businesses from doing business with, or entering into contracts with the city based on various litmus tests of "beliefs".

A sampling of those "beliefs" might include "rights" to same-sex marriages, unrestricted access to abortion, tobacco free, alcohol free...the list is potentially endless.

In several towns the businesses that sell alcohol and tobacco formed an alliance and hired a lawyer.

The lawyer concluded that paying taxes is a business activity prohibited by the water-tight language of the ordinances.  This argument is further buttressed by the fact that the Securities and Exchanges Commission and Generally Accepted Accounting Practices invariably list paying taxes as a business activity.

These businesses are paying their taxes into escrow pending legal action initiated by the cities.  The alliance directed the manager of the escrow account to invest in Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken Holding, SABMiller Plc, Kirin Holdings, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Reynolds American and Altria.  A spokesman for the group said that the cities cannot take the money because it is tainted.

Richard Lisper, the spokesperson for the cities engaged in the lawsuit says that the claim that the money is tainted is spurious.  It is a widely recognized point of law that money is fungible and bears no responsibility for the activities that caused it to accumulate in a given account.

The alliance of businesses counter-argued that the cities misunderstood their statement.  "They can't have the money because its "tainted".  Around here, it means 'taint theirs to take."

Meanwhile, bars, convenience stores and big box stores are busy securing leases outside the city limits of the most aggressive municipalities.

Remember, you read it here first!  News before its news. In fact, news before it is a fact!

3 Mile Run

The local big-box store had Casio watches on sale for $11.  I think they were discounted because of the olive-drab color.
If pressed, I would say that I run an eleven minute mile at my current state of fitness.

Fake News Friday, Part II

Giant Squid discovered on Northern Michigan shore.
Story HERE

Dr. Polotwotski also confirmed that the squid is a female and further examination of the corpse indicated that it had recently laid eggs. “Boaters and swimmers really need to exercise some caution”.  The animal was discovered by Bob Ritchie and his sister Jill, both of Romeo. “We were just, you know, taking an evening walk along the beach, heading out to the sandbar when we stumbled across it”, said Bob. “We were singing, drinking whiskey out of the bottle, not thinking about tomorrow. But something like this really does make you stop and think”, he said.
A tip of the old fedora to BigHeadRob.

Two quotes by Progressives

From  the movie Blazing Saddles.  Cleavon Little's character talks himself out of a tight situation by creating a fake hostage situation.  He pretends to have multiple personalities and holds himself hostage.
"I am appalled at the constant, obsessive attention paid to Trump.
He appears to be exactly what he wants to be: addictive.
He is a true, great master of the great game of this age, the Celebrity Game. Attention is what he lives on."   Ursla LeGuin, a Progressive 
Well, golly.  What can I say?  Who is directing all of that obsessive attention to Trump?  I guess if your primary relationship model is Victim-Perpetrator-Rescuer then you automatically make the people you disagree with the center of attention.  Progressives are doing it to themselves.

There are some progressives, note the lower case "p", who have a Serve-Others model and there is no center of attention.  You rarely hear about these people because they are seldom showy.  Maybe the Progressives should migrate to that relationship model.

Whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you..."  Diane Feinstein, a Progressive
My first observation is that religious dogma must be internally consistent.  Judges often rule when two laws seem to be in conflict.  One hopes they can discern which law should take precedence based on overall coherence with guiding principles and previous case law.  A strong background in "dogma" lends a certain instinct in exercising that discernment.

My second observation is that I would be honored to have anybody say " the dogma lives loudly within you" about me.  "Dogma" has the nuance of inflexibility about it, but so do durable structures.  Bending reeds might weather the storm with more ease, but what is their enduring value?

Fake News Friday

Columbus, Ohio will soon be renamed.

Social Justice Warriors demanded that the capitol of Ohio must longer be named after a European who proved incapable of finding the east end of the largest continent on the planet.

Inside sources claim that the new name is a random collection of letters with no particular meaning.

Those same sources leaked the new name: Spartyon.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Conflating fixed costs and variable costs

A man backed his truck into the family garage.  He had some very large boxes in the back.

He got out of the vehicle and walked into the house.

"Hey honey, I found a way to save $30,000 a year!" he said.

"Wow!  That is AWESOME.  How are we going to do that?" his wife asked.

"Easy, I bought a new washing machine, dryer and dishwasher." he replied.

"Hmmm.  I don't see how that saves us $30,000 a year."  she said thoughtfully.

"It is math, my dear, and I know that is hard for you." he said condescendingly.  "The average working woman spends 900 hours a year doing housework.  Your time costs your employer $65 an hour.  These modern appliances should cut the time you spend on housework in half.  Four-hundred, fifty hours times $65/hour is about $30,000."

A farfetched fantasy?


The manager of a factory that assembled appliances had a new summer intern.  The intern arrived a week before his summer project kicked off so the plant manager had to find him some busy work.

"Go to the Suggestions Department and pull the file on every project that was approved in the last two years.  I want you to add up the savings on a per-unit basis." he said.  The plant had an extremely strict "One Year Payback" threshold for accepting suggestions.  The Plant Manager's gut feel was that they were accepting, and paying for, too many suggestions.

The intern went to the Suggestions Department and totted up the cost savings.

Base on the cost savings "vetted" by the Suggestions Department in the last two years, the factory could tape a $20 bill to each appliance and give it away...and still be the most profitable "center" in the corporation.

As it was, the appliances were priced in the upper end of the market and the factory was barely profitable.

What happened?
The Plant Manager attributed it to increased productivity in non-bottleneck processes.  Speeding up a process that is not the metronome that paces the system adds no incremental throughput.

The labor freed up by speeding up non-bottleneck processes is very difficult to reallocate. How do you monetize 20 second slivers of time?

Urban Legend?
The owner of a small business walked around his operation first thing in the morning and chatted with each employee the Friday before the Labor Day weekend.

The weather was projected to be perfect.

He told each person the same thing.  "I am not going to hold you here for the full eight hours.  Do your work.  Do it well.  Be ready to hit the ground running on Tuesday.  Enjoy your weekend."

The operation was a ghost town by 1:30 in the afternoon.

On Tuesday, the business owner pink-slipped the bottom 20% of his work-force.

When asked why he responded, "Everybody got their job done in less than six hours.  That means I have too many people."

He was challenged, "What happens when something unexpected happens?"

He replied, "I only cut 20% when I could have easily justified 25%.  And frankly, I am releasing the under-performers.  I expect the remaining people will have no problems handling the load."

"The other thing is that being able to "clear the decks" at the end of every shift is more about our comfort zone than about the customer's.  Our customers make their purchases expecting delivery in thirty days.  Considering the amount of money I was pissing away, we can tolerate being back-ordered a few times a year.  It will be absolutely invisible to the customer."

Who does the laundry in your house?

I started my new job yesterday.  Details will be sparse because I do not have my employer's permission to share on my blog.  I have not asked nor to I intend to.

Early in my five hour shift the boss asked me, "Who does your laundry?  Do you wash your own clothes or does Mrs ERJ?"

I told him that I do my own laundry.  Then I observed, "That is an odd question.  Why are you asking?"

He responded, "Mrs ERJ is not on my payroll.  You are.  If Mrs ERJ does the laundry then I will give you jobs that will keep you cleaner.  But since you do your own laundry I have more freedom to give you jobs that might make you grubby."

I shared that with Mrs ERJ and she now thinks my boss is a very righteous man.

I don't disagree.

Amazon becomes Joe Isuzu

One of the great things about the internet is that it allows decision makers to harvest the collective smarts of our species.
Product reviews are a fabulous example of "cloud sourcing" research.
We expect sales people to say great things about their products.  Reviews (stars) tell us what regular folks think of those products.  Not just one or two people but hundreds and thousands of people who represent a broad spectrum of users.

We were naive.

According to this story at ZeroHedge Amazon deleted more than half the reviews of a newly released product.  That was over eight hundred reviews.  They were asked about the phenomena and their response was:
"We...have mechanisms in place...we remove customer reviews that violate our community guidelines."

Whose "community"?

One wonders why only negative reviews violated "community guidelines"?  Is it because it might ding Amazon's profitability?  Is it because those reviews don't support a product with the right politics?

Does the reason matter?  I think not.

Suppressing negative reviews to protect profitability is the same thing as a car salesman not telling you that a used car was underwater, in the physical sense, in Houston.  He has a bunch of junk he needs to clear off his lot and he is withholding critical information from the customer.  His bad business decisions should not become my heartache.

The political angle is no less troubling.  Do I care if a product is carbon neutral and fabricated by gender-neutral elves in a Union shop if half of the people who bought the product think it is total crap?  NO!  That product is no longer on my "consider" list.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Slaying the "Relationship based" sales model

Mark Jewell ruthlessly shredded the myth of Relationship based sales.

He proposed that relationships develop after a successful sale.  From the standpoint of a corporate minion, what is not to like about a guy who walked in and made you look like a hero?  Sure enough, that guy is now my buddy...after the project is completed and it made or exceeded its pay-back promises.  That salesperson is suddenly the font of bonuses and positive exposure.

Jewell then went on to describe how purchase decisions are really made.  Hint:  The purchasing department is about 15% of the process.  The pivot man is The Caesar.

The Caesars of the organization are shielded from information-overload and ambiguity by multiple layers of armor.  In fact, that is the sole function of much of the organization: To shield the Caesars from people like the Relationship Based Salesperson.

The way to defeat those shields is to prepare proposals that are sleek and unequivocal.  Think of them as rocket-propelled harpoons.  Harpoons are small compared to their target and they are densely constructed.  To be successful your proposal must be like that harpoon.

In this case, "dense" refers to the amount of information per letter, not "dense" in the sense of difficult to read.  Ideally, the information is embedded in minimalist, declarative sentences written with short, simple words.  Faulkner need not apply.

The proposal must present information in the order that most Caesars process information so their thought process is not forced to reverse itself. That would be the barb of the harpoon.  Once in, it does not back out. Momentum is your friend.  Exploit it.

The goal is to have the Caesar read the proposal in three or four minutes, hand it to his minion and command "Make it so."

The salesman who thinks he is working a "relationship" on the golf course is fooling himself unless his foursome include the Caesar.  Given their rarity, that seems unlikely.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Prosper others

As a retiree I can do anything I want on any given day.  I have an infinite number of choices on how to spend my time.

Today I decided to attend a class on Selling Energy Efficiency presented by Mark Jewell.

Selling efficiency
Selling energy efficiency presents a conundrum.

Energy is cheap, incredibly cheap, in North America.  In very round numbers, one US dollar of electricity buys enough energy to "bicycle" from Eaton Rapids, Michigan to South Miami, Florida...about 1200 miles.

A rough estimate of a typical company's income statement shows that energy is very small potatoes.  The cost of energy might be 0.3% of the expenses incurred by a "knowledge based" industry like banking or insurance.   The cost of energy disappears when compared to wages and salaries (30%-to-60%).

That makes "selling" energy efficiency hard.  The savings are lost in the noise and ground-clutter.

That is a pity because energy is a keystone resource.  If it were possible to chart all of the relationships between resources, energy would be a critical component of "value adding" in far more links of the value chain than the 0.3% number would indicate.

The material presented by Mark Jewell was copyrighted and he asked us to respect his intellectual property.  So the material I present is from the doodles I made in the margins of the workbooks.  These are not official "Mark Jewell" examples but are imaginings from my own, fevered imagination.

Consider that energy is the prime carrier of information.  Light...consider light:  It tells you when fruit is ripe or cheese is melted.  It can tell you when you are swallowing an aspirin or an ibuprofen or a Tylenol.  Sharp, crisp light provides depth perception so fewer people misstep on stairs.  Is there any resource more critical to competitiveness than information???

The ancillary benefits of high quality LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting extends far beyond the energy savings.  In fact, the ancillary benefits DWARF the energy savings.  Energy is cheap.  Anything times zero is still zero.

It reminds me of Peter Drucker and his distinctions between "Efficient" and "Effective".  The person selling energy efficiency must demonstrate that the buyer gets "effective" as a huge bonus.

Jewell pounded home the message "You need profound understanding of the industry you are selling to."

This next example is totally contrived and speculative.  It is extrapolated from information given on performance documented in milk cows and in academic settings.  I just want to give a flavor of what might be possible.
It has been documented, based on serotonin and cortisol levels, that people are less stressed by LED lighting than by fluorescent lighting.  Stress is simply a polite word for "tense" and "angry".

Before you call "Bullshit" consider that fluorescent lighting typically have ballasts that buzz.  Also consider that bees, wasps, yellow jackets and biting flies buzz around our heads before stinging or biting.  It is not much of a reach to conclude that classical conditioning quickly "hard-wires" our brain to be stressed in the presence of buzzing, whether we are milch cows, horses, school kids or workers in the post office.

What is it worth to de-stress a workplace or a school?  An event that results in an in-patient Mental Health event typically results in five days of lost productivity and $6000 of costs.

Sometimes those events result in fights, sabotage or loss of live-and-limb.

People who are stressed tend toward avoidance strategies.  In short, they miss school and work.  What is the value of taking your "not present" number from 9% to 8%?  It can be huge.  You might be able to find a replacement to stuff into the task but will they add value or will they merely control rioting?

Incidentally, the title of this post is from Mark Jewell's favorite business quote.  This is a saying he learned from his father, Walter Jewell, at the family dinner table:  "The best way to prosper yourself is to prosper others."

Blogging will be light the next couple of days

I am going to a class today and working tomorrow.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Dog pictures as requested by Belladonna

Rumor has it that there are a couple of dopplergangers living in New Orleans

Hey, Grandpa...I found some sign.   Beef, I think.

Zeus photobombing.

Six mile run

Sumac is showing color.
And so is Virginia Creeper.

I took off about 8:30 this morning.  It was 54 F when I started and 59 F at the finish.

Soybean field getting ready to drop leaves and dry-down.
Fall colors are just starting.
Poison Ivy climbing up Quaking Aspen
I feel pretty good except my nipples are abraded.

The numbers
I started running again about nine weeks ago.

I was really struggling to run two miles.  It would be accurate to say I was capable of running 1.5 miles without heroics.

The rule-of-thumb that is in many books on running is to increase your distance by 10% a week.  At that rate it takes about seven weeks to double your distance.

It feels grand to be ahead of the curve.  Going from being capable of running 1.5 miles to 6.0 miles in nine weeks is 16% weekly gain.  I want to get up to 9 miles but don't see much point in going past that.