Category Archives: Commentary - Page 2

The End Of Credit Cards

It’s been a while since I’ve done an article commentary.  This one really set me off, so it’s been in the queue for a while.  I’ve said that journalism is dead many times and that many new articles you read are either opinion pieces or are sponsorship pieces to promote one thing or another or to detract from someone’s competitor.

This article is not really any of those.  It feels to me that the author had an idea and just thought up reasons as to why that idea might be true.  It’s actually not too far removed from the bullshit I post here on my blog.  I could be getting paid for this fuckery?

So let’s start, then.  The article is saying that credit cards are going to disappear and people are going to stop using them in favor of other forms of payment.  And that other form of payment isn’t cash! 

These are the reasons why:

  • Credit cards often aren’t 100% secure.  It’s going to be anticlimactic to provide the whole reason why every other payment option pitched by this article is inferior.  A credit card has consumer protections in place in case you are hacked or have your card stolen or lost.  You are not liable for fraudulent charges.  I’m going to harp on this quite a bit.
  • Credit cards have high fees.  Where the fuck are you getting your credit cards from?  There are many, many, many credit cards with no annual fee.  Any other fees you would incur would be from transactions that you couldn’t even accomplish via other methods, like cash advance or balance transfer.
  • Credit cards are rarely accepted worldwide.  Yes, they are.  Nothing else to say here.
  • Digital payments are more convenient than credit cards.  PayPal, Venmo (who?), Amazon Cash, PayTM (who?) are somehow easier to use than a credit card.  In the case of Amazon and PayTM, you have to add cash to your digital wallet using an online application.  If you want to add cash to your Amazon account, you can go to a store and they can add the balance to your account with a special barcode.  This is more convenient?  HOW?
  • It’s easier to exchange money between friends, and for an employer to pay employees digitally than using a credit card.  This isn’t even a valid scenario for a credit card, so how is that any sort of proof that credit cards are obsolete?
  • Unbanked/underbanked individuals can’t get a credit card.  So that means credit cards are obsolete?  No one else needs them?
  • You don’t need a wallet anymore, only your mobile phone.  Sounds wonderful, except for the need to carry ID cards, reward cards, and insurance cards.  Then there’s the small problem of losing your phone, which has all your eggs in one basket.  Or dropping your phone, or running out of battery, or not having cell signal in a building with a steel roof, or whatever wonderful things happen in the digital world that just never seem to happen in the physical.
  • Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies let users stay anonymous.  Yes, because when you order something online, you don’t give out any personal information.  That’s how sales transactions work.  Who fucking cares if you’re ordering a case of dildos?

Now, here’s some statements that I really want to punch in the face:

“This points to an important truth: Even for most online payments, cards simply aren’t necessary.” – Cards are absolutely necessary for online payments because of the aforementioned consumer protection.

“Since so many people already use smartphones for day-to-day payments like ordering food or hailing an Uber, ditching wallets altogether seems like the logical next step.” – The ability to do two things (neither of which I’ve done) means we should just eliminate wallets.  That’s totally logical.  Now I can hear you, “just because you don’t do it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.”  Well, just because some people do do these things, doesn’t mean that’s the eventual solution.

“[Bitcoins,] Unlike credit cards, they have low transaction fees and don’t require sales tax.” – Your payment method has zero bearing on how you are taxed for a purchase.  And what transaction fees?  Currency conversion is even free with my no-cost Capital One card.

And the summary: “After all, for consumers, the motivation to ditch the card is simple: lower fees, improved convenience, and increased financial independence.

If you are ditching a credit card because of the fees, you’re doing it wrong.  If you think any other payment form is more convenient (and safer) than a credit card, I don’t know what to tell you.  If you think you are somehow going to succeed financially by ignoring a significant source of credit history that can determine how you can afford to purchase a house, lease or buy a car, get an apartment, get utilities turned on without a hefty deposit, or get a better insurance rate, then by all means, try it.  Then complain at how difficult it is to not have a solid credit file.  Also, you can enjoy not getting any rewards for using credit cards for your daily purchases.  If you have the self-control, you can utilize credit cards to get significant cash-back rewards.

Call me old-fashioned, but the mindset set forth in this article is foolish.

Innocent Villains

It’s in the news today that Toys R Us executives are going to be granted bonuses, despite the company entering bankruptcy.  It was a little over a year ago that the same thing happened with Sports Authority.  In the case of Sports Authority, there were going to be bonuses, then a judge said no, then another judge said yes.  There was lots of public outrage.  Why should executives get bonuses for a failed company, especially when all the floor workers just lost their jobs?

I’m going to take an unpopular position and say that the bonuses should be awarded.  I can’t address the loss of employment for the rank and file workers.  I am also very sensitive to income inequality and I would hope that somehow we can curb outrageous executive pay in the future.  The only thing I am focused on is putting the blame where it belongs.  And that blame is actually not on the executives.  The fault is higher up than them.

Both Toys R Us and Sports Authority are victims of leveraged buyouts.  You can expect that Guitar Center will soon be joining them, because Guitar Center has the exact same situation stemming from its own leveraged buyout.  This article has a very succinct description of how the bought-out company is doomed after a leveraged buyout.

Private equity firms like Bain take mid-sized companies and pump them full of debt with the express intent of making them industry-dominating competitors, selling them to the stock market as a candidate for massive growth, and cashing in. To make this possible, private equity’s stake in the company is usually represented by “payment in kind” (PIK) notes, a type of bond that pays crushing interest – in this case 14.09% – but requires no cash outlay until the bond’s maturity. So that 14.09% is accruing, but it isn’t due for years, ideally after the company has been sold to what is often charmingly referred to as “the dumb money,” the retail investors who buy a stock without knowing the company’s true financial position. Before any of the company’s real problems are revealed, the private equity firm receives its payback in the form of stock, since PIK notes can be paid back in any medium of exchange. If all goes to plan, the stock price shoots up after the IPO and the PE firm makes a tidy profit – all in about three to five years.

The end result is that the company has enough money to pay the daily bills, but has no reserve cash to pay off this growing obligation.  It’s a lot like interest-only mortgages back before the last housing crisis.

But back to the executives.  These guys didn’t write up the buyout.  They weren’t able to stop it from happening.  When the buyout did go through, they kept the machine running.  They kept the company viable, if not spectacularly profitable.

So, how much at fault are they?  They did their job and fulfilled the duties in their job description to receive their full compensation package, which would include defined bonuses.  You can very easily protest, “They didn’t earn it!  The company went bankrupt!”  The company didn’t go bankrupt through their actions.  That card was cast long ago by people much higher than them.  These executive’s only fault was hitching their wagon to a falling star.

My point in taking this controversial stand is that the blame needs to go where it deserves.  It’s not with the executives, it’s with the companies that are executing leveraged buyouts and destroying perfectly valid corporations for their own gain.

The Way It Is

Recently, I was at a thrift shop, shopping for CDs, and I picked up Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is album.  I’ve heard the title track plenty of times on the radio, but I’ve never really listened to it.  When I did, I was disgusted to hear that the song has the same 4-beat drum machine pattern playing through the entire song: four and a half minutes.  No rhythm changes, no drum fills, no cymbals, nothing.  Just the same beat.  You can almost imagine Bruce playing the intro, then reaching over and pressing Start on the drum machine.  The song even fades out since there’s no programmed drum ending.

Absolutely horrible.  And that song was a hit!

But, that’s not what this post is about, even if the message of the song is somewhat relevant.  This morning, I was reading a news story about a police officer shooting an armed suspect during what may have been a standoff.  The details of the situation aren’t important.  I was struck by the reporting of the story.  When I finished reading, I had the thought, “was the guy black?”  I went back and re-read it and there was no mention of the suspect’s race.  Huh.

Well, we can probably assume he was white, then.  But that made me wonder, why do news stories always indicate the race of the people involved when they aren’t white?  The person’s race has nothing to do with the story unless it involves race, and sometimes, not even then.

This reminds me of a time I was reading a local newspaper from my hometown area.  I had moved away a long time ago and come to the understanding of how prejudiced that tiny area was.  The story was more or less, “Police are investigating a report of an assault on a white female by a black male that occurred late Friday night.”  Take out “white” and “black” and the story is still accurate, but doesn’t stir up any racial biases. 

There’s a natural tendency for people to call out differences.  Like if you give directions, you reference places that are different and easily identifiable.  I think this has something to do with the fact that we crave novelty.  But to specify a person’s race in a news story is almost saying, “this person is different and easily identifiable.”  And I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t work the other direction, too.  In black culture magazines, they probably use “white” a lot, because it’s different than the “normal”, their majority black readership.  I honestly don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised, nor would I be offended.

What I’m trying to say is what is being treated as a detail is not a detail unless it is a detail.  For example, in that news story from my old hometown, the man’s identity is known, so his race is irrelevant.  That would be different than “Police are asking for help finding a man involved in a fight yesterday at The Local bar.  The man is white and balding, and referred to himself as Chuck.”  That’s something you need to know in order to take action.

So, as an exercise for all of us, next time you read a news story, look for the race card being played, say to yourself, “that’s not necessary”, and self-censor it.  See if the story reads just as well without those details.

Hopefully I Remember When I’m Senile

After reading:

I’m actually not sure how to present this idea because in today’s hyper-sensitive world community of “activists”, anything can be construed as evil, manipulative, or exploitive.  So, I guess I will have to say that this is my idea for myself, but if anyone else thinks it’s a good idea and can run with it while dodging whatever arrows are fired by the SJW’s, have at it.

So the premise of the article is that there is an unbelievable amount of data that needs archived into some non-degradable, digital format for preservation.  I’m certainly not opposed to it, despite whatever posts I’ve made about “anchors”, “baggage”, “simplification” and so on.  And it’s something that I would like to help with, but right now, I am in a generally busy part of my life.  This is a very labor-intensive task, and it has a degree of drudgery.  Maybe 20 years ago, I would have been able to devote large chunks of time to the cause, and maybe in 20 years I will have that opportunity again, when I am retired.

That’s when it hit me.  There are a lot of people out there that are… hmm, have to be sensitive about this… underutilized.  Those people could find a purpose by contributing/donating labor to the archival project.  In the spirit of my previous post, they could do archival work.  Maybe (hopefully) they might find the work fulfilling and be driven by the same purpose.  Then they could be archivists.  For many of the people in the demographic I am envisioning, the archival process could also be a nostalgic endeavor.  This could be a potential source for metadata in the archives.

It’s a pretty well-known fact that people who end up in retirement homes fade away quicker because they lose a sense of purpose, the knowing that you are needed and the feeling that your contributions have value.  So, what if archival stations were set up in some retirement homes?  Give some of the residents training on use of the equipment, let them know the benefits their efforts are providing and let them do as much as they wish to do?

The hardware is certainly not a problem.  Hardware is cheap now.  It’s the labor that is  expensive, unless that labor is donated.  I hope I can remember to do what I can when I am too old to contribute in the fast lane of technology.  Just get me off the highway and into the rest area with a bunch of data for slow processing and I’ll do what I can.

Getting Your Due

I mentioned in a previous post about a blogger who had posted something that didn’t really sit right with me.  When I went to confirm some details in that prior post, I saw that I used this post’s title in that post.  So, I guess I still have the same issues.

In the previous post, I was saying how the entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and certainly not me.  Aside from the level of effort it takes to start it up and keep it going, I also have significant issues with a practice I have been seeing more frequently.  That practice is the monetization of information.  One blog that I follow has reviews on random products that are interesting.  Recently, that blogger started linking to those products using affiliate links so they get a slight reimbursement for their referrals.  That was never the case before.  And this other blogger recently made a post expressing the same thing, that he needs to start using affiliate links whenever he is giving advice or recommendations.

This bothers me for so many reasons.  First and foremost is the WIIFM aspect (What’s In It For Me?).  WIIFM isn’t always bad, but when the only thing you are interested in is money, I think it is.  Why should someone promote another’s website/product/service?  Well, you could because you want to see the company succeed or because you want your readers to benefit from a great product/service.  Or, somewhat selfishly, you want the company to stay in business because you use that company too and you need them to stick around.  Or, as I see these affiliate links, you don’t particularly care about the company or your readers and just want some money. 

Affiliate links are a scourge on the Internet.  Once you start down that path, it’s a very short walk until you get to entire websites that trick people who have misspelled a domain name.  What “entrepreneur” had the idea of “Oh you misspelled as  Here’s a link to the real site you were looking for.  By the way, anything you purchase after clicking on that link will give me a small payout.  It won’t affect anything you do, but it’s just a way for you to pay me back for this helpful site I created to correct your misspelling.  You’re welcome.”

Along with the WIIFM issue is the viewpoint that information is not free.  Something like “I could tell you what you want to know, but I need a small payment first.”  Some people could argue that it’s a fair exchange.  The information is there for free if you can find it, but if you want a shortcut over the bridge, you need to pay the toll operator.  It sounds like a “victim of success” complaint.  You want to be an authority, but once you are an authority, you’re in too much demand and so you have to employ discouragements.

Before I make this too long of a rant, here’s an example of linking to something just because you want to:

This Kickstarter is a book of comics.  It’s organized by Matt Bors, who is a comic writer I’ve followed for quite a while.  He went to a paid website and let his personal website die, and I didn’t follow him to his new home.  However, I try to support him when I can, and this is one of those times.  If you like to get world perspectives through visual media, like comics and illustrations, this book would suit you well.

Such Innovation

Google’s at it again.  They’ve added a feature to GMail to allow you to recall an email before it’s been sent.  But really, it’s not recalling the email, all Google is doing is holding the delivery of the email for a pre-determined timeframe.  The time of your potential regret.

I’m not a fan of webmail, never have been.  It’s related to my distrust of the cloud, but also, it also means limited functionality.  This delayed mail feature has existed forever in desktop mail applications.  You see, back when the Internet was an expensive option, people didn’t stay connected all the time.  Users were limited in minutes or they had to call long distance, or they had to use their phones for talking to people.

Email applications operated as such:  you would connect to your internet provider, download all your mail, disconnect, read and reply to all your email, then reconnect and send your replies.  So all email applications provided a way to store your emails in an Outbox for later sending.  You can use this functionality to save yourself from sender’s regret.

To enable the Outbox queue in Windows Live mail, go to Options>Send and uncheck “Send messages immediately”


In Outlook, the option is under Options>Advanced>Send and Receive


I didn’t see any way to accomplish this using the Mail app in Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.  Progress!

So, if you defer your messages in the Outbox, when do they get sent and how do you control when they get sent?  In Windows Live Mail, this is defined in Options>General.  Your Outbox messages will be sent when new messages are checked (10 minutes in this case).  Uncheck that option to make WLM wait until you click Send/Receive to explicitly send your messages.


Outlook gives you much more control over when and how messages get sent.  This is under the Send/Receive Groups, which is accessed by clicking the Send/Receive button shown in the last screenshot.


Things haven’t always gotten better, and new features aren’t always new and groundbreaking.

Get More

Many months ago, I had come across a book, The Four Hour Work Week, and I was quite unimpressed by it and its author.  Recently, a blogger that I follow read the book and was advocating for it.  Not for the processes in the book exactly, but more along the line of “getting your due.”

My personal employment situation is different than both the Four Hour author and this blogger.  I work for a company and I develop and maintain their internal software.  I’m not a consultant, so the blog author’s primary arguments about “you are paid $50/hr, but your employer gets paid $150-$300/hr for the work you do” don’t resonate with me.  Even so, I have held those jobs in the past, so I know what it’s about.

I know myself well enough to say, I’m not cut out for running a business.  I know because I’ve tried.  There’s a lot involved.  The blogger says that for the difference in what you get made vs what you could potentially make, you could hire the people that can make it happen for you.  Not a salesperson?  Hire one.  Not an accountant?  Hire one.  And I guess you could keep justifying that a lot.  After all you’re making 3-6x what you were making before.

At least you’d be making that much if you were perpetually busy.  Scott Adams recent book has a very wise observation that there is an upper bound on what you can make if your income is dependent on your labor.  And that’s the upper bound.  There is no lower bound. And when you start from scratch, you don’t have the luxury of a backlog of work and pay.

Bottom line is you have to be of the entrepreneur mold.  And there shouldn’t be anything wrong with not being of that type.  You should still be able to be successful by being the best you can be in your field.

With that position – my position – stated, I must say that I believe the teachings of the “four hour work week” are detrimental for young workers.  If you find this works for you, then you are already that type of person.  I don’t believe just anyone can become “that person”.  I know I couldn’t live with myself like that.  I’ve also learned in my time that I don’t want to be associated with people like that.

Which then brings me back to my inner conflict with a blogger I enjoy reading.  I guess I need to wish him well, because everyone has to find their own way.  My way has worked well for me.  Could I have more?  Probably.  Would I also have more stress in my life?  Probably.  Would I trade more money for more stress?  Absolutely not.

Things To Do Alone: Stop Being Alone

In the “articles that didn’t need to be written” category, as well as the “articles that make no sense” category, I came across this one.  There have been lots of articles written about introverts lately, trying to educate others as to how introverts behave and why they behave that way.  So I assumed that this article was written with the same consideration.  Nope.

Here’s a summary of the suggestions for things to do alone:

  1. Go to a bar
  2. Go to a wedding
  3. Go to a concert
  4. Do a DIY project at home
  5. Go to a restaurant or café
  6. Go to local stores
  7. Go on a vacation
  8. Go to school
  9. Go to the movies

First off, the fact that masturbation didn’t make the list is a major oversight and destroys the author’s credibility.  That would be the #1 thing to do while alone.

Jokes aside, the author doesn’t seem to know what the word “alone” means.  All but one suggestion involves going out to where people are, many times with the intention of meeting new people.  That’s not being alone.  The article title should be “10 things to do alone when you don’t want to be alone”.

This article was an easy target, but there are becoming more and more easy targets every day.  Another alarming trend I am seeing is grammatical errors in news stories.  Things like missing words or misspelled words (probably via autocorrect).  In print media, there used to be a position called “editor”, whose role it was to read and correct all stories before publishing.  The editor would do normal proofreading, but would also manage the style and tone of the story.  When you understand how involved this could be, you gain a greater respect for the editor role.

But in the modern world of self-publishing, immediate deadline, 24-hour news, the editor role seems to be obsolete.  Editors would be more suited for weekly magazines like Time or Newsweek where the articles would be a more in-depth retrospective of events.  It’s kind of sad to me.

So what’s my excuse when I have a spelling mistake or a grammatical error?  Well, I don’t have an editor.  I do a re-read of my posts usually, sometimes a couple of times.  But we know how easy the brain can skip over double words or can mysteriously fill in missing words when you know what’s coming next.

The More You Know

I guess I’ve been on a Tumblr-hating kick lately.  Actually, I guess it’s more of a social media hate-fest.  But mostly, it’s just seeing how fucked up Tumblr users are.  I was searching for articles to support my position and was surprised that it wasn’t the articles, but the comments on those articles that proved my point.

In a Forbes article (Forbes!), the author was writing about a Tumblr post that had millions of reblogs/likes (“notes” in the Tumblr world) and how cool it was.  One reader wasn’t happy that her special world had been exposed:

Dearest Jason; let alone Forbes.
If you had a heart, and knew how tumblr worked, tumblr is one big family, and if you are someone who knew how tumblr worked, before it was mainstream, you’d understand: The people of tumblr are lazy f*cks who don’t change posts because the are ignorant a-holes like you.
We respect each others posts like how we would respect each other in real life. For the fact that you even had the though of changing the title from it’s original is completely wrong of you, and that you actually did so, you have failed to be my friend.
It is also hard to rewrite a title when there are comments in the body about the original title. Again, if you delete the body, you are once again an ignorant a-hole.
So thank you for telling everyone that you do not have a heart, and try to be a smart*ss, when really, you are just destroying the rules of tumblr.
PS Treat others the way you want to be treated
PSS Romney still sucks.

I think the overriding message here is respect.  And maybe grammar.  No really, the issue here is hypocrisy, with a heaping helping of self-righteousness.  Actually, a Tumblr user would be a self-righteousness machine, oiled with hypocrisy, manufacturing indignation and outrage for a marketplace of similar machines that continue to process and refine the product until it reaches maximum absurdity.

The One Minute Manager Synopsis

After reading the book, which was an extremely quick read, maybe half an hour, I figured I ‘d make a few quick notes to keep the ideas in my head.

The three main things the technique tries to instill are: 1-minute goal settings, 1-minute praisings, and 1-minute reprimands.  Obviously, the one minute thing isn’t literal, but it is all meant to be quick and not dragged out.

Some of the details of the story stuck with me, and some raised further questions.  For example, there is a lot of stress on the idea that a worker has clear goals and it is their job to do them.  If that worker doesn’t know how to accomplish a task, who do they turn to?  I thought it would be the manager, because the manager should know everything that is going on in the department.  But the manager doesn’t want to be doing the job of his workers, that is a drain on his efficiency.  There is the weekly meeting where everyone describes their current progress and roadblocks.  That may be where issues get raised and assignments made to resolve them.

Some things don’t sit all that well with me.  It doesn’t seem very useful for a “working” manager – one who has things of their own to do in addition to managing people below them.  The book never talks about that.  The manager is always available, never has clutter, never seems to be doing anything.  But maybe that’s the trick, to delegate everything.  If one of your goals is to create a report of how successful your department is, do you assign that task to another person to do?

One part of me says that this is correct.  A manager should do nothing but manage the people and tasks and make sure the work gets done.  Another part of me says that it’s not enough and wouldn’t be very fulfilling.

The book also doesn’t discuss how much time a manager must spend in meetings.  The story always has the manager fully available, except for one team meeting.  Surely this manager must have superiors and peers at his level.  What about that time?