Author Archives: anachostic - Page 2

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Lots of ground to cover here, so be forewarned, and a lot of it is in the no-fucks-to-be-given-anymore realm, so be doubly forewarned.

To begin, all of this now is uncharted territory for me.  Recently I broke 50 years of age and maybe a couple years ago, you could not have convinced me otherwise I would be alive right now.  That plan had been in the works for many years prior and it was actually coming to fruition, meaning I was beginning my plans to hold down the power button on my life.  For whatever reason, I told my doctor about it and after the assistance of some significant pharmaceuticals, I remain.

You might think this is the ideal opportunity to completely reinvent myself, since these days were never planned for, they have no expectations.  But that is silly talk.  This is no "second wind".  That was maybe 15 years ago and I squeezed all the life out of it I had, after all, I had a plan for the finish line.  This is "coasting to the finish line."  This is more a period of reflection and maintenance and existence.  And some of that has been done recently and because it has no repercussions to me in this new uncharted, unplanned life, I have the willingness to jot all of it down.

Whether coincidental to my milestone birthday or not, I received an unsolicited package on my doorstep from my estranged brother.  Within were documents and photos of me and my family from the past.  Very likely, it was everything from my parents house before it was sold off, all of it crammed and scattered in a plastic tub.  Incredibly, of the picture frames loosely placed in the tub, two wooden and one metal frame were broken, and yet, no glass was broken.  The whole package carried a sentiment of "This is now out of my house and is your problem now."  So it is.

Sometimes, actually probably most times, when a new problem is thrust on me, it is pushed to the top of the stack instead of the end of the queue.  This new problem was no different.  So I right away took all the photos and documents out and sorted them on the floor.  I arranged them by photo size and put them into a new box for processing.  The processing I rather wanted to do was throw it all away.  However, my archivist instincts forced me to to evaluate the potential loss of this information, useful to only a few people, really, and of that, only of curiosity.  Since that evaluation result was greater than zero, I had to concede that at least a modicum of effort must be made to preserve it.  So, I chose to scan everything before disposal.

The next two days were spent swapping photos and pages in a flatbed scanner, hours on end, to capture everything in 300dpi.  Thinking back to my early computing days, this would be unfathomable.  The storage required for 300dpi scans of hundreds of photos would be an astronomical cost.  Each picture over 1MB in size?  Back then, things were huge if they were 300kb in size.  So, time and technology were on my side for this effort.  And personal time is also available as I don’t have much going on.  I am able to do another hobby concurrently with this task, however this did take precedence over a future pending project (maybe to be announced).

So, hundreds of photos from my past, many I’ve never seen before, suddenly fall in my lap.  How does an experience like that make you feel?  Well, it sort of forces you to reconcile your past with your present, and for me that wasn’t all that pleasant.

I did not have an unpleasant childhood.  I was extremely privileged.  I was spoiled.  However, I was also very solitary.  I never really had more than one or two friends at a time.  In ignorance of my affluence and despite the lack of socialization, I was a very fun-loving, happy child.  My parents liked taking pictures of me and while I wasn’t exactly a ham in front of the camera, I was willing and I behaved in an a non-self-conscience way that is polar opposite of the person I later became.

I’ve already hit upon one small personal demon so far, and I promised lots of ground to cover, so here’s a personal story tangent.

I’ve not done any real research on this, but I can be confident that in Psych circles there must be a topic of "survivor’s guilt" of success.  I carry that guilt.  In the current age, I feel horrible for younger generations who will never know how good things used to be.  I feel guilty that I grew up in more prosperous times, despite being through two financial crises, I’m more than holding my own.  I happened to fall into technology just as it was blooming and it has sustained me all my life.  I’m just starting to get into the age of discrimination where if I were to lose my job, I might have a more difficult time replacing it.  But still, I don’t think my time will be harder than someone just getting started who needs a BS or Masters degree for an entry-level job.

Seeing my childhood pictures reinforced all my feeling of having an unfair advantage in life.  I’m sure a therapist would say that’s not something that can be changed and I can’t feel guilt for something I had no control over, but discarding that self-awareness isn’t the ticket either.  Look at all the selfish, unreflective, unaware individuals polluting social media and the news today.  The world could use a little more humility and self-reflection.  And that was the crushing emotion of scanning my early childhood photos.  And then we continue on to later photos…

You can sort of see the change in my demeanor as I grew older, ending in the "sullen teenager" photos.  Why this happened, I can’t be entirely sure.  There are plenty of things that could contribute to it: my social isolation starting to bear fruit, my parents getting along less and starting to live independent lives, or maybe it was my brother.  I don’t want to pin all my misery in life on my brother, although we haven’t spoken in years and I have no desire to reconcile.  But to see childhood pictures of the two of us happy, then ending with me scowling at him in a picture with my prom date as he takes the pictures (compared to me beaming in pictures at my GF’s house as her dad took pictures), well, I don’t get along with his personality.  I have enough problem in my life without needing that too.

Then we get to photos after I’ve left home and am living on my own.  This should be peak life right here, young and healthy with no responsibilities, right?  But it wasn’t as good as I wanted.  I recall reading a confession by a famous person who said she wished she had a lot more sex when she was young.  And you know, that really resonates with me.  I’ve recently had some general observations that apply to me specifically, and again, at this point in my life, there’s no real shits to give about the me 30 years ago.

To sum it all up, my problem when I was in my teens and 20’s was that I was a "romantic".  That bullshit should be trotted out in your 40’s.  When you are young, sex is the thing, not love.  Growing up in a tiny, conservative town sort of limits your opportunities, but looking back, I surely could have made more happen.  While I was trying to woo girls with sincere displays of affection, they were being snatched up by more aggressive guys.  I promised stability, they promised fun.  As a 20-something, I had it all fucking wrong.  I was a 40 year old in a 20’s body.  Such a shame.  But thank god there was no social media back then.  If there was, I would publicly and ruthlessly labelled as "cringe", as the modern terminology goes.  "Cringe" has a lot of meaning, but the one I feel applies best here is, "you’re doing it really wrong and you don’t realize it."  It’s embarrassing.

The cringe factor is something that really digs at me when I think of my past.  Consider me and my competition.  For my part, I do the love letters, the poems, the flowers, all the romantic stuff.  The other guy just strikes up a conversation, gets friendly, then either pushes hard or builds a rapport until he gets laid.  His work is simple and risk free, mine requires lots of effort.  Again, this is complete bullshit when you’re young.  And when the guy has had enough of sex from her, he dumps her – no big deal whatsoever.  You might think that’s shitty behavior, but you know what, it doesn’t matter.  He’ll be remembered as "an asshole, but we had fun and he made me feel good," whereas I would be remembered as "that weird guy.  ew."  No contest.

While that’s really in the realm of MGTOW sentiment, I want to stress that if you’re pulling that 20’s shit in you’re 40’s, you are an unredeemable asshole and you deserve to die alone.  There is a time to act like you’re young and a time to act like an adult.  Unfortunately, I never had my time of acting young.

So that sums up my reflections on life from 600+ photos dropped on my doorstep, as well as my reflections on life past 50 that I never intended to have.  Life is good and it can always be worse in hindsight.

Fiction Never More Real

One of my guilty pleasures is comic strips.  I like quite a few, from the daily ones, to the political ones, to the ones that are multi-page in scope.  But, oddly, I don’t like comic books (or graphic novels as they prefer to be called).  Anyway, I have some comics that I follow pretty regularly.  The political ones bring me down and the others lift me back up, so I maintain equilibrium. 

One of the comics that I follow, though, has somewhat become like a stone in my shoe.  It just bugs me.  The strip is Adam @ Home and is about a work-at-home dad and his family.  When I came into the strip, the topic was primarily about Adam’s issues with technology.  But lately, the strips are really focused on his kids.  It’s probably obvious those two topics are the two polar extremes of my entertainment.  And while that irked me, I know that themes can come and go in a long-running strip.  When I go back to earlier strips, there are runs of other topics that take over as well.  I can deal.

But one day, I found out that the entirety of the series was online.  Highly interested, I went and started reading from the beginning.  And you know, considering themes and topics and changes and all, it was a totally different comic strip in the beginning.  It was a strip about a husband and wife and their (then smaller) family.  While Adam was still working at home, it had a lot of Mr. Mom kind of things in it as well as a lot of honest friction where Adam’s wife would come home from work exhausted and Adam didn’t do any housework.  It was turning the whole "stay-at-home mom’s don’t do anything" on the guys.  To be honest, Adam was really being a selfish asshole.  And there was more than a few mentions of his wife being too tired for sex.  Despite that, there was a strip where his wife left work early to get back home and have sex while the kids were at school.  What the fuck?  Is this the same comic strip?

I actually stopped reading the historical strips shortly after the mid-day sex strip because I couldn’t reconcile was then and what was now.  In the present, there is zero, and I mean zero affection between Adam and his wife.  They are never shown embracing or even interacting beyond discussing random, neutral topics, or their kids.  It’s almost always Adam talking to his kids or sometimes the wife talking to the kids.  If I had to read all the strips between then and now, knowing what they would become, it would be more depressing than the political strips I read on occasion.  What the hell happened to this couple?

What actually spurred me to write this post was something so outrageous it just infuriated me.  So, Adam works at home, right.  In the present, he’s a freelance writer taking small jobs here and there.  When not on a job, he’s trying to write something.  A novel, a play, a screenplay, anything.  He’s consistently unsuccessful.  His wife works at a bookstore, but I don’t exactly know what’s been going on during the pandemic, whether the store has been open or not.  I have to assume they have some steady income somehow.

So, the other day, the wife and Adam have a rare conversation together.  The wife wants to confess something to Adam and is unsure how he’ll take it.  What’s the bombshell?  She says she’s written a novel.  So, you know, Adam, being a writer by trade, and yet very unsuccessful at writing, reacts as you would expect.

My reaction is completely different.  This is your fucking wife, your life partner, and you had no idea she was writing a novel?  Do you even communicate?  Do you even pay attention to her?  From participating in NaNoWriMo myself, I was able to crank out a 50k word story in a month, but that was multiple hours night after night doing nothing but writing.  And that’s after many years of blogging and writing in general, so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch.  One of my friends is a real writer, like published and shit.  Writing is her full-time job.  For Adam’s wife to write a novel from nothing is not exactly trivial.  I’m not saying that can’t be done, I’m saying it should not have gone unnoticed by her husband and her kids.  And if it did go unnoticed, what a fucking sad sack of a family that is.

But it’s just another devastating blow to a fictional family.  You know, as a writer, of words or comics, your goal is to get people invested in the characters.  And it’s painful when your emotional investment in them is discarded for cheap.  Oh, Dilbert of old, where have you gone?  (Off to the land of Narcissism, you cuck!!)  But anyway, to wrap it up, I’m just a little hurt that a comic that started out trying to discuss real relationship issues between a working mom and stay at home dad, and the dad’s continuing difficulties in adapting, has turned into an emotionless cast of characters just moving from one day to the next with no continuity or persistence.

The More You Know

Knowledge and experience are a couple of things that unfortunately are in ever decreasing supply these days.  With so many people taking pride in their lack of intelligence and their non-willingness to seek out new information and experiences, it seems humanity is destined to be doomed.  My little story is of little to no importance, but is just one tiny example of how reading and experimenting helps put pieces of a puzzle together and displays a larger canvas than you had formally seen before.

This is about music and my music collection.  I’ve mentioned in past posts that I’ve been trying to listen to artists that are outside of my normal choices, and especially so if they are considered groundbreaking or significant artists in their time.  That isn’t a new radical concept for me.  You know at one time, I had never really listened to classical music (except for what was on cartoons).  I think I started because classical CDs were cheap and I wanted something to listen to on my new CD player.

With the exposure to classical music, you immediately understand a lot of cultural references.  You hear a snippet of a piece in a commercial or a movie and you know how the whole song goes.  You’re suddenly in the "in crowd", in a way.  And the more music you can expose yourself to, the more in-crowds you can get into.  And when you grow broad as well as deep, you start to see and understand the interconnectedness of it all.

This particular revelation came last night listening to a new album I picked up.  But the start of the revelation was quite a while ago when I picked up an album by a different band I had heard much about, but never heard their music = Kraftwerk.  I had a general idea of what they probably sounded like and it was a pretty close guess.  After listening to some of their music, I wasn’t really sold on it, but I could listen to it all the way through, if for nothing more than appreciation of what they were accomplishing in the era they were doing it.  Kraftwerk is one of those groups that is touted as a grandfather of multiple future genres.  If not the entire creator of the genre, at least heavily influential in them.  So, I’ve established that I have an appreciation of electronic music.  I find a lot of it to be very repetitive and therefore boring, but I can understand there are certain times you might want a monotonous soundtrack to your activities and it’s a good fit for that.

0n the topic of genres, there’s a fairly common sentiment people use to express their musical tastes: "I listen to anything but rap and country".  I would probably say the same thing, but it’s strange how the more you experience different music, the more restricted those qualifiers become.  "Rap" for me does not include what I believe is termed "Hip Hop", which was more dominant in the 80’s.  And "Country" does not include pre-90’s country music, which was actually closer to pop music.  Or maybe it was just that country singers began doing more pop music.

The point of all that is that I don’t listen to Rap, but I do have some Hip Hop artists in my collection, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for one example.  And I had just purchased Technotronic – Pump Up The Jam.  When I listened to it for the first time last night, I found the Technotronic album had elements that I had heard in other places in much newer albums, like those by William Orbit.  But getting past the pop-styled singles, the Technotronic album was much closer to a Kraftwerk album than a hip hop album.

And that was sort of a missing link album for me, bridging the Kraftwerk of the 70’s and early 80’s to the William Orbit of the 00’s, while also keeping the good parts from the hip hop of the 80’s.  And to be fair, it has the things that I don’t like, such as the monotony of Kraftwerk and more of the bravado and offensiveness of later rapping.  But overall it’s just more proof that music is a never-ending tapestry of styles and colors constantly backreferencing and pushing forward.  There’s always something old in something new.

Log On

Is there anything in the world that holds as much promise as a brand-new, unspoiled writing journal?  Conversely, is there anything sadder than a stack of journals with a few pages written in them, unable to be reused as much for their lack of virginity as for their obvious lack of positive energy, the evidence of their quality displayed (or rather not displayed) in the massive number of empty pages within.

I had a $5 free money coupon from Staples that I needed to spend (I never turn down free money), and initially I was going to buy some boxes so I could continue selling some of my excess CDs.  The Staples near my work didn’t have any boxes in the size I wanted, so I had some extra time to think.  During that thinking time, I had a idea for a log book and was unable to find any suitable journals in my house to accommodate the info.  Putting my idea and free money together, I purchased a new book today.  With coupon, it was essentially half-off.

And it’s a really nice journal.  I am really a sucker for clever journal designs.  I was initially considering a simple lined journal, where I would make dated entries in a linear format, nothing fancy.  But this journal had a neat calendar type design in the top margin to indicate the date, and well, that’s really all it took.  It also came with a plastic bookmark with stencils in it for drawing shapes, stored in its own pocket in the back cover.  Not only that, but the book also has ribbon bookmarks in the spine.  And not just one ribbon, but three – in two colors.  Talk about overachieving!

So I have this awesome new journal, full of potential.  What will be its duty?  Old-world scrobbling.  Scrobbling is a modern term for software that logs/records your music playing activity.  When you are listening to music in a non-networked fashion, as I do now, you use a log book.  I had once read online about people who keep a listening log book in their music room and faithfully record what they have listened to each day.  I found it interesting, but interesting for them, not for me.  Now at the time I had read these stories, I didn’t have a dedicated listening environment, not even really a stereo to speak of.  That might have been part of the missed connection. 

What brought me around to thinking I needed to do this?  There are a few reasons actually.

The first reason is that I have a lot of CDs, closing in on 2,000.  I don’t want to end up being one of those guys that listens to the same 10 albums all the time.  I need a reference log to see if I’ve listened to a particular album recently.

When I listen to an album, or when I want to relisten to an album, or when I want to choose an album, it would be helpful to have some listeners notes.  Descriptions of the sound quality, of things I noticed for the first time in the songs.  If I get a new version of a CD, does it sound better or different than my existing version?  That’s useful to me and to others that may want to hear something in particular.  I will have a reference of good or great sounding albums.

Another reason for having a log is the permanence of the log itself.  Sometimes I find that listening to music is almost a pointless activity.  It shouldn’t be.  Pointless is a bad choice of words.  It’s passive.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy listening to music, but it’s like meditation, maybe?  You’re either in the zone or not and those two worlds don’t really intersect.  By keeping a log, it’s sort of reaffirming, "yes, this happened" or "this night was not wasted".  I don’t think I’m explaining this part well enough, but the point is, there is a record of an activity so that the enjoyment of the activity is not lost or forgotten.

I had planned on beginning the log at the beginning of 2021.  Like a new year’s resolution or something like it.  But resolutions are really a dumb idea.  The best time to begin a new task is today.  Right now.  If this log ends up on the top of my unfilled journals in two months, it won’t matter which month that final entry is made.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

This is long.  This is a rant about my workplace.  While the story is specific to my employer, it’s actually more of a rant about rampant capitalism, of which my employer is highly adherent to.  It is sort of a difficult post for me to write.  I’ve been wrestling with myself for the last couple of days on the topic because I’ve felt I have no right to complain.  After all, I have a job, I’m paid quite well, the work is easy and in a field I enjoy.  There are people who do not have all, some, or even any of those.  Why should I complain?

Let’s just cut to the situation, then break it apart from there.  Friday morning we got an announcement that because of the pandemic and the resulting slowdown in business at the company, there were going to be some changes implemented.  So far, this sounds like every other company dealing with COVID fallout.  The changes include: pay cuts (15% for managers and up, 10% for everyone else), discontinuation of 401k matching, discontinuing anniversary bonuses, and discontinuation of PTO cashouts.  Earlier in the year, when COVID began, the company announced a wage freeze, so no more raises until things turn around.

How did this affect me personally?  I am considered maxed out on salary, so my raises have been trivial for the last few years.  A wage freeze doesn’t hurt me too bad.  However, a 10% pay cut, wiped out 6 years worth of raises for me.  You can also take out 4% of my salary from the loss of the 401k match.  The anniversary bonus is something nice to look forward to, and since my anniversary is in a couple of weeks, this stings a little more than usual.

I say again, why should I complain?  It’s just money and even with the changes, I’m still probably in the top 10 highest paid people in the company.  My finances are very stable.  But to not complain is to accept and encourage that mentality that is choking and killing America – I got mine. Fuck you.

This is a family-owned company, and a couple of the family members/owners "work" there.  Over the years, their involvement has dwindled as their age has also progressed.  They are all very, very wealthy and surely want to spend their lives and their money in other ways.

As spokespeople for the company, the owners have always stressed how the employees are like extended family.  However, when we have our annual layoffs, the remaining people are reassured that the company is financially strong.  I get it.  A company is not supposed to lose money; it wouldn’t survive like that.  However, when times are lean and there is a choice to reduce profit or reduce headcount, the same decision is always made.

I say again, I get it.  Money can come from a business in three ways: a salary, year-end profits, and the intrinsic value of the company itself.  I would be on board if the decision to preserve profit was because the owners only income was the corporate profit.  But it’s not.  The owners have the intrinsic value, they have the annual profit, and they also all pull a salary from the company.  They are triple-dipping and hoarding all the profits for themselves.  They sacrifice others for their own gain.

Now, here’s the straw that broke my back with this last announcement.  Two things actually.  First was the mention of layoffs.  The announcement rationalized that when volume was down, the company would lay people off.  And why not?  They’ve done it every year for at least four years.  While they didn’t explicitly say we should be happy they didn’t resort to layoffs, mentioning it at all means it was considered.

So why wasn’t that the decision?  Thanks to freedom-loving patriots out there (who I’m sure had to fight valiantly against the current administration), it is in public information that I was able to find out that our company received a PPP loan from the government in the amount of somewhere between 2 and 5 million dollars.  A provision of taking that loan is that you do not lay off any workers.  So layoffs weren’t an option, although it was still considered.  However, there’s no restriction against cutting salary or benefits (research shows that this not uncommon).

If you know the PPP loan program, you know it’s not a loan.  It’s forgivable as long as you abide by its rules.  So, it’s free government money (it’s not socialism when it’s capitalism, right!).  Our company got over 2 million dollars for free to pay for our salaries and our company instead cuts salaries.  That improves the company’s profit, which goes to… the owners, exclusively.  Hypothetically, lets say our business was down enough that we made no profit this year, we just broke even.  With the PPP loan, payroll expenses drop by $2M+, profit becomes $2M+.  And that is not enough for the owners.  Fuck you, I’m getting mine.

I know business.  I know how it can be used to fuck people.  I saw it at my last job and I see it here.  In my last job, there was a "final con" to fuck the employees and enrich the owner on his way out.  While I’m not sure my previous employer actually got to execute his plan before I left, if my prediction for this company’s "final con" is correct, it’s already a done deal.

The owners are old and not involved in the business anymore.  They want out.  Business is down and has been down for quite some time.  That is bad for the owners.  When someone wants to buy a business, they want to see what return on investment they will get from it.  If the company isn’t turning good profits, its value (the sale price) decreases.  While anyone pitching the company is going to point out the glory years as what the company is capable of and will also hype the potential of the business when COVID ends, they still need to prove short-term viability and profit.

I’ve already told you the secret a few paragraphs ago.  Reduce expenses, profit goes up.  By cutting everyone’s salary and the 401k benefits and anniversary bonuses and the cash value of PTO, the company immediately looks better financially to a buyer.  The buyer has no obligation to restore any of those things.  For all they know, it’s always been that way.  Maybe they would see in a prior year financial statement that expenses were much higher, but why should they care?  The current and future financials say they’ll make good money.

Pause for a moment and absorb all that.  Now, because I have to explicitly say this, if the company looks like it will be more profitable to a buyer, the company can be sold for more money.  That money goes to… the owners, exclusively.  The salary and benefit cuts remain.

Now, in closing.  I do get it.  This is business.  Do not ever feel like your employer give one single shit about you or your life.  Are there exceptions to this?  Sure.  But America is greed and selfishness personified.  It’s going to take generations to turn this around if it even can be turned around.  It’s not going to happen in my lifetime for sure.  I really do empathize with the younger generations and what they are facing.

Stages Part 4.75

In the last installment in this series, I had added subwoofers to my stereo system and was thinking that there wouldn’t be a stage 5, which is the replacement of my small powered monitor speakers with large tower speakers.  In the six months I’ve been using this setup, I am still enamored with it, and have not felt the need to upgrade the speakers.  However, in the other part of the system, changes have happened, mostly out of fortunate opportunity.

The biggest purchase I’ve made in my stereo system is the subwoofers, by a massive margin.  Everything else has been had for well under $100 each.  Because second-hand stereo equipment can be found cheaply, it’s good fun to just try it out to experience the differences.  I had talked about this before with my small collection of CD players.  But one day at a thrift shop, I found a new receiver/amplifier.  It was made by Nakamichi, which is a brand you don’t see or hear about very often, because it is considered a high-end brand.  Checking the back of the amp, there were preamp outputs available, so it was immediately compatible with my system configuration.  The price was fine, $25, so it came home with me the same day.

Cleaning and testing was brief and successful.  The amp was clean and had no issues.  Sound-wise, it sounded a bit brighter than my Technics, which is consistent with other online reviews I read on the product.  Their words were more like "harsh" and "highly-detailed", which sounds a little negative, but as I’m learning with everything in audio, there is no truth, no absolute.  You just have to like what you have or replace it with something else you like better.  And two people can have two totally different opinions about the same thing.

So the Nakamichi has become my new default stereo.  The Technics amp and EQ have been moved to my secondary pile of equipment in another room.  And I have been enjoying my system.

Shortly after that purchase, I came across an online auction of a recording studio.  Among some of the items being sold were two "DVD players".  Researching the players a little more, I learned they are technically called "universal players", meaning they can play multiple formats.  While you can buy most any $30 DVD player and have it play CDs as well as DVD-Audio, the format of SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc), is much harder to come by.  SACD players are usually $1000+ unless you get into a universal player that also handles that format, in which case you’re in the $800 range.  Regardless, getting into SACD is not a cheap venture at all.

I actually do own a couple SACDs that I have never been able to listen to, as well as a DTS (yet another high-end format) disc.  These players in this auction would support all of these formats.  They were Pioneer Elite 47ai units.  Long story short, I placed absentee bids on both and won both, one at a low price and one at a high price.  After commission and all, they cost $75 each.  One will eventually be sold off, but the other has been integrated into my system.

Being in a professional recording studio, clearly the devices were well taken care of.  And upon some listening tests, I have to begrudgingly admit that things do sound better on higher-end equipment.  Granted, I am comparing 30-yr old consumer CD players to a 10-yr old professional player.  There should be some improvement, right?  And finally, being able to hear what SACD sounds like was a nice experience.  Was it amazing?  Well, no.  But – and this is an important but – I have made many small improvements to my stereo in a relatively short period of time, and each one has brought with it a positive change, no matter how small.  At no time have I done an upgrade and been disappointed.  Are things absolutely perfect?  Of course not.  I have CDs that will skip in one player, but not another.  So, I do keep two players on my stereo.

And that’s where my system is right now:  The Nakamichi amp, the JVC CD player, and the Pioneer Elite universal player.

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Nobody Is Winning

As far as I can tell, this is a shit year for everyone, and I don’t mean that in a blanket sort of way.  It seems everyone is getting dinged here and there very specifically.  I mean, yeah, there’s this global thing going on that everyone is getting hit by, but some people are getting hit by it in a more direct way, or in an absolute direct way.

But that’s not everything that’s going on.  All the other things, whether minor, major, or catastrophic, are happing, too.  And some are direct and some are specific.  I certainly don’t want to classify whatever things I’ve been having happen to me as the same as someone who’s been through more than one of the, what, 30+ tropical storms this year, or wildfires, or earthquakes, or god knows what else.  But with everything that has been happening and we still have a month and half left to go in the year, I’m just out of fucks.

My gripes as of lately, as I’ve implied, are minor.  They’re just annoyances, but in a year where all you hear about is shit, it’s enough.  A flat tire here, internet going down multiple times after years and years and years of rock-solid stability.  It just seems like everything is coming to an end.  Maybe I wouldn’t have even given those issues a second thought in another year, but there is no good news to really balance it out.  Everything is bad.

And now we have half the country pissed off they can’t be as openly racist as they want and the other half is pissed that the other half exists.

I don’t even know where I was going with this post, but it’s relevant to the times.

Where It’s Going

On: https://akcaggiano.com/2020/11/10/cruel-to-be-kind/

Usually, I use the Commentary category for news stories, but when I was writing a comment on this blog post, I decided I had more to say about the situation and making my own post might be more appropriate.

To summarize: After having been verbally, emotionally, and physically abused by the former president and his followers, we’re now asked to simply forgive and forget.  The answer to both of those requests is "no."  Anyone that didn’t see a problem with what has been done over the last years has a serious problem.  Anyone that says the alternative would have be worse, or says that the president-elect is going to make it worse has a serious problem.

If we are not actually living in the "end times", which I’m not going to completely dismiss, a lot of people act as if there is nothing left to lose.  For example, a see a lot of posts about gender or sexuality rights.  And because "liberals" are coming into power, we’re all going to be homosexual now.  Hyperbolic and hysterical, yes, but here’s the point.  For some people, this is so important, that they would vote the incumbent back in solely because of that.  There are other similar reasons people have for the same action.  I’ll admit, there may be a case I would do something like that, but for a different cause.

The difference with me, and I would assume other rational people, is there is a level of risk/reward assessment.  To get what you want, how much do you have to give up?  And for these irrational people, it seems they would give up everyone’s everything for their one thing.  And they would suffer for it as well, despite the win – a Pyrrhic victory.  There’s no consideration to postpone that fight for 4 years and try again in better circumstances.  It’s tunnel vision.  Anyone who voted JoJo or Kayne, this is the one time to not be supporting 3rd party.  This one is too important.  But thank you anyway for pulling those votes.

Now, the point I really wanted to make in response to the post is: we’re nowhere near out of the woods on this.

There is a book from which I read an excerpt, and now there’s so many similar books there’s no way for me to find out which it was so I can link it, that discussed how Germany became Nazi Germany.  I distilled the information from that into a single statement to commit to memory, "Hitler comes later."

The point of that warning is that in Germany, there was a pre-Nazi leader who sparked the nationalistic views of the people.  He didn’t get very far, but the future Nazi party took note of how dedicated and passionate those supporters were.  The party then turned it up to 11 and viola, Hitler.

So while there may currently seem to be a glimmer of hope that civility can return, this is the time to be even more vigilant (and god, I hate that word).  I am certain the fanaticism has not gone unnoticed and can and will be exploited. 

If I had to hazard a guess, it will be Jr.  He’s young, charismatic, and carries the family name.  He’s got a partner from the media that has been successfully grooming him for presentation.  So far I haven’t heard of him speaking his own ideas, only parroting his father’s, but watch out if the tone changes and he starts instigating things himself.

We have 4 years to prepare for this.  Do not forgive and do not forget.

The Modern Apartment Life

I had a dream last night which gave me an idea that was very much in the spirit of the times.  It’s no secret that the world we live in is the most unfair, inequitable, selfish, and greedy in generations.  So, why not capitalize on it?  So here’s my idea.  Obviously, I couldn’t do anything like this for multiple reasons, not the least of which is morals.  But if I was of that exploitive bent, I think this might actually work.

What’s hot right now?  Renting.  Why?  Because no one can afford a house, even though rent is pretty much a house payment anyway, but for lots of other reasons, people can’t get a house.  So, being a landlord is good.  What’s even better is having high-end apartments, because even if people can’t afford to have a house, they still don’t want to have to live in, ugh, an apartment building.  Temporarily displaced millionaires and all.

My design is a high-story building.  Not like 30 stories high, just a moderate 10-12.  It has a multi-level parking garage enough to house 2.5 cars per unit.  2 cars per unit, some overflow guest parking, and renters can pay for additional spaces.  On the top floor of the building is a gym with inspiring views, and a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Obviously, there is a resort-style pool and small dog park.  Library, meeting/conference/party rooms, you know.  All the stuff.  So we’ve established this is a luxury apartment complex that’s essentially like living at a vacation resort.  The rent doesn’t have to be outrageous, just in line with the amenities.  The gatekeeping and exclusivity comes from a different source – the deposit.

To have a lease in this complex, you have to make a deposit of $20,000.  Jaw-dropping, yes.  Believable in this day and age, yes as well.  Only the first one to do this will seem weird, then when it works, it will become normal.  It’s happened over and over.  Who would have thought people would be buying $1,500 phones?

Now obviously, this is a deposit, so you’ll get it back when you leave.  I don’t know a lot about the rental industry, but I assume a rental company holds a percentage of the deposits they take in and uses the rest for working capital.  It would be unlikely that there would be a mass outflow of tenants that would result in a "run on the bank", so to say.  But that sort of working methodology just doesn’t sit right with me.  That money is never yours and it’s a one-time boost, unlike the recurring inflow of rent payments.  So in my business, the deposits are always 100% off-limits for business use.

So what do you do with that money?  120 units each with a $20k deposit is almost $2.5 million dollars.  Well, you invest it!  You put it in some safe income-bearing investment and the additional income from that investment is used to operate the business.  Investing 2.4M with a 4% return will provide almost $100k a year, without compounding.  Let’s consider what rent could be for such a high-end apartment.  $1,500/mo?  That would be $180k/mo in rental income, then an extra $8k/mo in investment income.  That’s like having an extra 5 units paying rent.

And you know, the $20k deposit is still perfectly on point with the times.  It keeps the "undesirables" out.  So you’d have to have impeccable credit as well as a large hoard of cash to get into this building.  And the exploitation of the tenants, even beyond what’s normal for rentals, is that the business gets to use the tenant’s capital for their own use.  Shit, they could even sell it as a benefit to their renters, saying, "your deposit will be held securely so when you are ready to graduate to homeownership from renting, you’ll have a great source for your house’s down payment."  Obviously ignoring the fact that the deposit is locked in a zero-interest account, while the apartment business is collecting the interest.

That just modern life in these dystopian times.

How That’s Done

I’ve kept my mouth relatively shut for the last few years on this topic, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this specific thing and I felt I should get it out and in writing before I either forget it or it becomes irrelevant.  Hopefully the latter happens first.

There’s this guy you have heard of, Donald Trump.  Without really saying how I feel about him, I just want to explain this thing he does that is so dangerous.  I know it’s way too late to change anyone’s minds for the upcoming election.  And I rather doubt anyone under his sway will actually have their eyes opened by this explanation, but it never hurts to try.

There are countless examples of people parodying a Trump response to a question.  A lot of them are spot on, usually rather funny, and also sad in their accuracy.  I think a lot of people focus on the rambling, delusional aspects of the responses, which is a mistake.  I don’t think Trump is stupid, like mentally stupid.  He does things very intentionally.

I’ve read some analysis of his verbalisms, but nothing that really focuses on what is really trying to be accomplished with them.  The best thing I have read is that he uses a long string of phrases that don’t really form a cohesive statement, but each one has a small nugget of something you want to hear and those pieces are what you focus on and ignore the rest.  That way, everyone gets something of what they want out of the spew.  That is probably accurate, but I have another observation, and I’ll provide a very simple, commonplace example.  It’s believable, for sure, and when you see that technique can be applied to just about any question, hopefully you’ll never listen to his answers the same way again.

Here’s the hypothetical journalist question and Trump’s answer:

"Meteorologists are saying it’s not going to rain tomorrow.  Do you think it’s going to rain?"

"Absolutely!  100%!  It absolutely will rain.  They say it’s not going to rain.  They went to school for years and years and have all these degrees and they say it’s not going to rain.  It should rain!  Don’t you think?  That would be beautiful.  We need the rain.  You know, all that school, all that, they don’t know.  They say it won’t rain.  Maybe it won’t.  But it should rain.  I’m sure it will.  And that will be great for everyone.  It would be a real shame if it didn’t.  It would be bad for everyone."

And what do people get out of this babble?  If it doesn’t rain, they get mad at the scientists because it should have rained.  That was the right answer even though science says it won’t happen.  The question was asking for a simple opinion and what we’re given is a statement on how we should feel about it.  "It" being one specific viewpoint.  In this case and in many cases, the viewpoint is in opposition to the scientific facts.

I have read many times that conservatives are not driven by logic, but by emotion.  Not only in political topics, but in their entire lives.  If it feels correct, it is correct.  The problem with that is it is much easier to make someone feel a certain way than it is to make them think and understand a certain way.  And that is what Trump (and many other con men) can exploit.

Let’s break down that long answer to the question.

  • "Absolutely!  100%!  It absolutely will rain." – Start off with complete confidence and speak in absolutes.  There is no place for disagreement here.
  • "They say it’s not going to rain.  They went to school for years and years and have all these degrees and they say it’s not going to rain." – Attack the opposition.  Even though they are correct, they need to be painted as the bad guys.  Vagueness – using They and Other People – is perfectly fine.  Be specific if you can, but an unknown enemy has advantages as well.
  • "It should rain!  Don’t you think?  That would be beautiful.  We need the rain." – Why should we hate the experts?  Explain it.  Exploit feelings.  You need to feel why you should be angry.
  • "You know, all that school, all that, they don’t know.  They say it won’t rain." – While people are agreeing with the good things you said, say something bad about your opponent.  Your mind is still saying "yes" and that "yes" will continue into the next statement.  This is actually a well-known sales tactic.  They get you to agree to anything ("It’s hot out today"), then carry that agreement into further conversation.
  • "Maybe it won’t." – This has two excellent benefits.  You get an out if you’re wrong, because you can say you never said absolutely, and you inject a feeling of disappointment if the experts are right.
  • "But it should rain.  I’m sure it will.  And that will be great for everyone.  It would be a real shame if it didn’t.  It would be bad for everyone." – Don’t focus on your backpedalling, focus on the benefits of your answer, despite the fact you are wrong.

To summarize: Make your claim, attack your opponent, appeal to your audience, use agreement against your opponent, suggest you might be wrong – but that would be bad, restate your claim with the benefits.

If you don’t want to absorb all of these bits, at least take this:  If you hear someone making a speech and they ask a question that sounds like it should be rhetorical, go on alert.  They are trying to create agreement between something obvious and something you need to be convinced of.