Thursday, November 29, 2012

Delta Value Zero

Delta Airlines.

I keep saying I'll never fly with them. I mean it this time. They piss me off.

Imagine RyanAir, but all the crappy things with none of the redeeming low-low prices. And it's funny because their infractions are minor—at least this last time they were. But the infractions prove to me that they don't care about their customers or their employees.

Every flight I was on they changed my seat—or Ciera's. So we weren't sitting next to each other. Yt I know it wasn't an error on our end because we booked with our computers right next to each other. And Ciera made me neurotically triple check. And they never notified us. Never. We were able to change our seats by asking the attendant at the kiosk to see if they could move around seats (on a full flight) to get us to stand next to each other. The attendant was very nice but also swamped with work. Asking him to do fix a problem that should not have existed was a problem for both me and him.

Only when we printed our confirmation did we find that our seats had changed.

Oh, and they changed our flight times in both directions. The changes were 10 minutes—negligible but indicative of an inability to manage their flights—or bother to give a shit about their customers. At least this time I wasn't stuck on the runway for 2 hours like the last time I flew with them. Again with the changes no notification until 24 hours prior to take-off.

Oh, but their boarding procedure was crap. They would call up their zones but couldn't actually get anyone to line up. When that happened it was like watching a bunch of Italians try to form a line. It didn't happen. And the attendants couldn't scan my freakin' ticket because they had gotten so confused.

They said I was “eligible” for a voucher if I wanted to change my flight. But at 24 hours out, if the change were significant, there is a disproportionate burden on the consumer with little ability on my end to make alternate plans. Also, just a dick move on Thanksgiving. Thank god that the changes were insignificant.

No leg room. That happens though.

Their awesome tvs on the backs of the seats. Not awesome. Seriously not awesome. I couldn't turn it off for ads they played that I didn't want to hear that were blasting through the PA system. This happened on the tarmac and halfway through the flight. Let me take a nap dammit. I don't care about Delta's gold card where you get 1 bag free on every flight. I don't care that you can get work out gear from the front desk at Westin Hotels. And I really don't care for your crappy safety video. I will read the informational card and take a flight attendant demonstration any day. I can at least tune them out.

And believe me they made it impossible to tune out their soft rock boarding playlist. During boarding I had to endure the likes of Taylor Swift as well as other softies so bad I'm sure they all record in some golden field in the middle of suburban America. Instead of calming me down, the music disturbed my attempt to nap in a manner so irritating I really almost started trying to claw my way out of the plane. I rarely find air travel “relaxing” but this was abrasive. Sitting there listening to Tay Swift talk about running out on her abusive boyfriend caused me to clench my jaw so tight it was sore for thanksgiving dinner. Delta actually managed to decrease my enjoyment of thanksgiving dinner.

Delta's gold card. Perks? 1 free bag on every flight with Delta. That is not a perk. For no annual fee or crappy gold card that stuffs your wallet and piles up debt with interest, you can fly Southwest. 2 free bags on every flight. No ad for a credit card halfway through your flight that's main perk is to offer 50% of a competitor airline's standard operating procedure.

Delta will have to do a lot to ever ingratiate itself to me ever again. I will never fly with them or offer a recommendation for anyone I know to ever fly with them.

Symptoms

We hear it all the time. Treat the cause not the symptoms.


Dated 2009 and specifically asking about the relationship with the recession, some aspects of the article are unhelpful. But PBS is actually pretty damn good at giving numbers.

So let's start there.

Some figures quoted below:
What are the greatest causes of homelessness?

For persons in families, the three most commonly cited causes, according to a 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors study (pdf) are:
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
For singles, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Mental illness
Are veterans more likely than other populations to be homeless?

Yes. About 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34 percent of the general adult male population, according to research on veterans by the National Coalition for Homeless. On any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless.

People who are homeless frequently report health problems.
  • 38% report alcohol use problems
  • 26% report other drug use problems
  • 39% report some form of mental health problems (20-25% meet criteria for serious mental illness)
  • 66% report either substance use and/or mental health problems
  • 3% report having HIV/AIDS
  • 26% report acute health problems other than HIV/AIDS such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, or sexually transmitted diseases
  • 46% report chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer
Note: The above figures are based on 1996 data from Samhsha's National Mental Health Information Center.”
Take a close look at that. What does it say to you? To me it says that the guy asking me for change is a product of a confluence of problems we as a society have failed to address. I'll take on a couple of the numbers. How about this one, let's eliminate 40% of all male homeless. I bet a robust VA jobs bill would do something to help alleviate that.


The gist of it is that we have had a few put on the table, but they've been filibustered because it was not economically responsible. I don't want to pick too many bones about this suffice it to say that we used some accounting tricks to defer (read hide) the costs of two wars that created a huge population of veterans and cost hundreds of billions of dollars (possibly trillions), and we won't spend a meager sum (fraction of 1%) of that cost to clean up the mess we made. You buy the booze for the party and you pay for the maid to clean up the place the next morning. Or you get on your hands and knees and do it yourself.

Let me be clear, the people that vote for war should take just as much responsibility with our survivors of war. There is no excuse for leaving them out in the cold if you can at least attempt to rectify the sin of sending children to kill other children. Make no mistake—we are all children.

Ok, now, what about adequate mental health services? In a nation with 40 million uninsured and costs that are through the roof on unregulated state-by-state markets with only a few vendors, there is no such thing as competition. Health providers in a given state, due to lack of competition and dubious pricing schemes are able to keep only the healthiest patients while raising costs for procedures that are ultimately foisted back onto the customers. So, how about opening up the state markets so that companies can work across state borders? How about forcing costs to be standardized by tethering them to a tangible price schedule? How about adding 40 million Americans to the pool of insured, bringing down the cost burden on hospitals which lowers the cost of procedures overall? How about requiring this insurance on a national level? How about as part of this coverage, comprehensive mental healthcare with a focus on creating productive members of society?

Instead of say, homeless people without coverage left in the rain without the resources to deal with their mental health issues.

I wish that could happen. Too bad it's been labeled a socialist agenda that creates free loaders somehow. Oh wait, Obamacare wasn't repealed and won't be. Hmmm...maybe it will help with homelessness. Just a pipe dream perhaps, yet.

So—I don't think there's much I can say that is conclusive. What I can say is that by addressing HOW people become homeless instead of focusing on the otherness of the homeless we will be far more receptive to how the canaries in our American coal mine are really faring. Make no mistake, those most vulnerable to the woes of this country are those that are most vulnerable period. And if we do not protect them, we risk sacrificing ourselves.

Why I Hate the Holidays--Or Christmas

Why I hate the holidays...

I don't actually hate the holidays. I love the holidays. But I have a lot of problems with the consumer culture. And the holidays sort of become the time when corporations give up any pretense of being noble and just try to sell people shit.

Here's one:




Notice how the white people with the gadgets do amazing things, and the minorities in the blue shirts help white people do white people things. It's so cute.

And then there is this commercial:




Observe the bad music, the flashing lights, and the farcical announcer voice. Is this a spoof of a Nintendo product? I mean, the controller looks like you are carrying around an original gameboy—only bigger.

Don't get me wrong here but everything about this commercial realizes what I predict; that Wii U is rife with more jokes than the original Wii. Yeah, like this, what happens when I add U to my Wii? Bad pick-up lines abound.

Re-watch that commercial and pretend it's an SNL skit. Too bad the announcer is totally serious.

Here's another gem:




The gifter? Who the hell thinks this shit is funny? BTW catch the only black guy—in an unassuming sweater and with thick-framed glasses at 0:20.

The gifter is some sexually repressed MILF who spends her time buying and wrapping presents for the holidays. She makes half as much as the worn out plastic MILF down the street with the Porsche but you would never know because she shops at TJ Maxx, Home Goods (never heard of that one), and Marshalls. Buy shit, people will love you and black people will stop being threatening—maybe.

Moving on:
 



This...this...I want those thirty seconds of my life back. Some ass just made himself a skate-a-thon poster on his phone. Because it rocks and short shorts on guys are back in fashion. And guess what? There's an app that tracks your data usage because Verizon doesn't have an affordable data plan. So they had to hire a bunch of programmers to help you manage the data that you shouldn't have to manage in the first place. What a great company huh? These guys suck.

And this:




This poor girl is very attractive but she can't do a damn thing. They need a stunt girl on the bike. They have to auto-tune her talk-singing more than Ke$ha (don't even get me started on her). They can't even have her look at the camera anymore. It's weird, she's just—sigh.




Just watch this video above to see what I mean. I feel really bad for her.

And about now you are probably asking why I've seen so many commercials. I don't even have a television. No. I have Hulu. Which has now deemed 126 seconds a reasonable amount of time for a commercial break. It is not. Hulu. You are on my shit list.

Let's get back to the commercials shall we?



You know everything that is making people fat, causing skyrocketing healthcare costs, and crippling the nation's children with diabeetus? We're associating our over the counter wild berry flavor heart burn medication with it! So you can be the fat f*** everyone knows you are. Mmmm...I've already got my kids hooked on it so they can eat all the deep fried butter they want penalty free.

And I hate to break this to you but the voice of Mater is not your friend. Watch the commercial over and over again and you get the sense of how many god awful takes he had to endure while shilling a product that will never make America truly great.



And then there's Hallmark. I'm running out of steam but make your own easy analysis of why this makes me despise the holidays.

Not that I actually hate the holidays—or Christmas.



Seriously where's your Christmas cheer if all you are worried about is grinching companies about neglect to use a Christian greeting. Bill, how would you feel if you were a Jew?

Here's a list of Jews who owned, founded, or significantly contributed to retail stores. Isn't it a bit disrespectful to say they are waging War on Christmas when they are actually just adhering to their own religion?

From http://judaism.about.com/od/americanjewry/a/accomplishments.htm “Haym Solomon and Isaac Moses are responsible for creating the first modern-banking institutions.
Jews created the first department stores: The Altmans, Gimbels, Kaufmanns, Lazaruses, Magnins, Mays, and Strausses became leaders of major department stores.
Julius Rosenwald revolutionized the way Americans purchased goods by improving Sears Roebuck's mail order merchandising.
Hart, Schaffner, Marx, Kuppenheimer and Levi Strauss became household names in mens' clothing.
Isadore & Nathan Straus - "Abraham & Straus," eventually became sole owners of Macy's, the world's largest department store, in 1896.
The fortunes of English-Jewish financiers such as Isaac Goldsmid, Nathan Rothschild, David Salomons, and Moses Montefiore helped England become an empire.
Armand Hammer (Arm & Hammer) was a physician and businessman who originated the largest trade between the U.S. and Russia.
Louis Santanel was the financier who provided the funds for Columbus' voyage to America.
Levi Strauss invented durable pants first used by Forty-niners during the Gold Rush. These "wonderful pants of Levi's" were made of a heavy blue denim material called "genes" in France. The pants he created, called levis or jeans, have become an emblem of the American West and an emissary of the Western lifestyle -- egalitarian, utilitarian, independent -- around the world.”

The point I'm making is that there are a lot of jerks out there trying to exploit us. This time is for piety, reflection, family, and real love yet often we are shilled gluttony, excess, outrage, and the promise of happiness through material wealth. Lest we forget that Jesus took a vow of poverty and preached openness to all people, we are lost as consumers—sheep without a shepherd preyed, upon by selfish wolves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post Electioneering

Okey, so the election is over. Guess what? Obama won. And Republicans were stunned.

So there are a few important things to take away. First, it's not the message and people don't need a better brand. It's actually the approach. Conservatives share plenty of values with the rest of America, but that is obscured by approaches that seem (are) at times exclusionary, radical, oppressive, insensitive, divisive, and unscientific.

Second, America as we know it has not disappeared or even remotely faded. It is alive and well. That the clean-cut privileged guy lost is more testament to the illusion of 'traditional' America that has been conjured up by conservatives and less the real loss of a 'Leave it to Beaver' America. America was never like that—get over it.

Third, seceding from America is not American—it's inherently anti-American. Dissent may be the highest form of patriotism but it ain't won in a democracy through violence. The best and most America loving approach to governance is one of cooperation, tolerance, and vigorous discourse. Anything else is settling for the petty and insubstantial.

Fourth, there are a ton of problems in America right now. Enough to really get the population feeling deflated and lost. And I don't think for one second that Obama is going to fix them. I think he'll make some substantive progress. But he's not a dictator and I would never want him to be. Which brings me to the Mitt supporters out there. Hedging bets on a candidate sympathetic to one's cause is irrational without a contingency for working with the other guy. Mitt was never going to actually help you out as much as you think—no politician ever does—and drawing lines in the sand because you are butt-hurt your guy lost is childish.

Fifth, it's time to get to work. Guess what, elections are inconsequential to the majority of the workings of the country. We get our shit done when people aren't spewing platitudes and shaking hands with mouths full of empty promises. It's time to move on. And we need to work. We have post-hurricane Sandy clean-up, we have a tepid economic climate tenuously placed on the edge by a fiscal cliff and the European debt crisis, we have the highest poverty rate in ages, we have the widest class gap and smallest middle class in several generations, and we have a failing education system that needs mending. Not to mention all of our military engagements plus global warming. There's a lot and even the losers in the election have a ton to contribute. So start helping.

Sixth. Whatever, I'm done. Bronco Bama won. The pundits have lost relevance when they separate from reality. America needs collaboration not yelling knuckleheads. And it's time to get something done. Please.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kitty Fetch

Yeah, it's a cat video.  But can your cat do this?

Jasper Fforde

 
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This guy--Jasper Fforde--just wrote a pretty bomb book called The Woman Who Died a Lot. Get it.

Bro-ing out with my evil cat



Bro-ing out with my evil cat.  Didn't you read the title?
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Superstorm

Welcome to November.

No trick or treaters. I suppose it's a result of being in an alley. And it was raining and everything was normal in Seattle. But I heard that the East Coast shut down because of hurricane Sandy.

And it's not proof positive of global warming—no single point of data can represent a trend. It is proof positive that regardless of the existence of global warming, we are ill-prepared for extreme weather events. We have no ability to defend ourselves from that which we cannot control.

And the military is great for saving us from a known and identified enemy, but really the world has been at peace. We live in an unprecedented time where there are no large scale wars, and all of the world powers—despite their tensions—trade openly and speak cordially to each other. This is a time where more than any other we have the potential to create a peaceful future.

Really. Isn't that weird? Argue with me on that one, but the belligerents in the world right now are disorganized, poor, or otherwise lacking in substantive power. World tragedies are generally addressed with concerted actions to help. Look at 9/11. It started the War on Terror, but there was no single government behind it. A diverse international coalition formed to provide aid and address extremism in the world. Of course we did go to war, but the overall thrust is not to fight and defeat in any traditional sense. Our greatest successes have actually been political. Reducing extremism by encouraging political discourse.

And obviously this could all change. But like it or not, we are on the cusp of peace with the right moves in this chess game. And it could all go to hell.

But the point is that disasters now hinge largely on the natural. We provide international aid in events such as the 2005 tsunami or the Japan earthquake. Even in the face of tensions with China, we are able to put aside our differences to help the afflicted.

The whole point of this is that our biggest existential threats to this country are going to be the demons we create or the ones we choose to ignore. They won't be the Hitlers or the Stalins. They will be internal terror, indifference to our fellow man, and poor preparation for the future.

What is the number one thing that everyone seems to remember in a disaster? That we are all Americans and we will prevail. How do we forget that in an election season? How do we forget that when we try to formulate policy? How do we forget that when we launch insulting missiles across the aisle at each other?

We are absurd to make many of the claims we do and to be so unself-conscious when we hurt each other with our hubris.

The problem is that my government adviser was right, “it's all politics.” And the solution is the same, “it's all politics.” Just act like winning in the long-run is more important for a hot second. And the only way you can win in the long-term is to bring your detractors with you.

Or kill them. And that's dumb, because most of the time that's half the country. And half of all Americans can't be hell-bent on the destruction of the country. If you really believe that, then you missed it. You missed the fundamental civics lesson. Dissent is not evil or wrong—it's the core of a functioning government. And you aren't perfect or righteous.

So, I'll try to leave this issue. It's hard not to dive into the fight and defend those I believe to be on the right side. But I can't be a referee when the issues mean so much. How do we all speak to each other in a civil manner and really work together to get things done? I'm not objective, nor can I be the voice of reason more than a miniscule portion of the time. We need each other to weather the storm.