Category: Miscellaneous

Show Respect

All NFL Players ‘Shall Stand And Show Respect’ For Flag And Anthem – Wow! I wish I was an avid football viewer so *not* watching football would be a state change. Hopefully being permitted to stay in the locker room enables players to make their point. If two guys on a team of, what, fifty people aren’t on the sideline you’d never notice. Half only emerge once the anthem is over? That makes a statement too. And someone’s camera would end up in the locker room to cover the protest. Any takers on how long it is before players aren’t permitted to stay off the field after that protest makes news?

‘Show respect’ is a ill defined term too. I assume this is so you don’t have guys standing backwards, but how is hanging back in the locker room playing candy crush *more* respectful than kneeling during the anthem? And for the guys on the field, some dude who was kneeling last season is a little slouchy in his stance, the team still gets fined to avoid a presidential tantrum?

The whole idea of being forced to stand for the anthem seems anathema to the ideals of our country, even if the long history of private employment shows we can be forced into just about anything if we want to continue receiving a pay cheque. The same could be said for being forced to stand and pledge allegiance to the country 180 days a year for thirteen years. Or more – I was rather dismayed to learn that my daughter’s preschool class was taught the pledge of allegiance so they could recite it at their graduation ceremony. Now I’ve got a bit of an Anabaptist philosophy – I don’t much see the point in having someone repeat words or go through a ceremony without *understanding* what they are doing. I avoided children’s clothing with words on it – overkill, yeah, but a six month old baby doesn’t *mean* to say “I just did 9 months on the inside”, “Grandma’s Drinking Buddy”, or make a boob joke, no matter how many people find the messages cute or silly. Until she knew and understood what the shirt said, she got shirts with pictures. Or patterns. Or plain colours. So I asked my kid if the teacher explained what allegiance *is*, or even explained any of the historic principals of the United States. Of course not; they were just given words to recite. Now we’ve had some discussion of the country’s principals and failings – she votes with me two times a year (primaries and general, this is not some admission of voter fraud), we’ve discussed how to affect local, state, and federal laws (and the diminishing influence an individual has as you move from local to state to federal government). But the principals of the Republic for which the flag stands is pretty abstract to convey to a preschooler. And pledging allegiance to a flag? The essence of a nation is not bound up in its cloth banner.

Forced recitations of pledges and vows do nothing to impart knowledge, develop skills, or promote good citizenship. As an intimidation technique, forced declaration of faith and loyalty are not new, although they are generally the hallmark of an insecure society. People do not become more patriotic through such declarations, but being subject to coercion can have the opposite effect.

Sitting is the New Smoking

Some company official posted an internal article titled “Sitting is the New Smoking” to tell us all how bad sitting for prolonged periods of time can be for your health. While they make suggestions for using your break to do some exercises or suggest cube-exercises … frankly, they’ve designed a job that requires sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Some people have standing desks. Not all. Not most. My understanding is these things were purchased as accommodative equipment the company had to purchase based on medical need. If sitting is as bad for your health as smoking, did the company not just publish its own statement of medical need to support widespread purchase of standing desks?

Beyond near-term costs, though, the assertion brought to mind the Black Lung Benefits Act from nearly two decades ago. While mine operators may have been able to reduce exposure to coal dust, some level of exposure to coal is requisite in mining the stuff. A generally unavoidable environment based on the work being done caused a major medical problem that led to disability and death, and companies ended up shelling out disability payments and survivor benefits. It wasn’t quite the least they could possibly do to quell public outcry, but there are a lot of *’s on qualifying that let reasonable requests be denied or pushed off for years without retroactive payments. Even so, the payout is like eight grand a year per afflicted miner. And there are like 30k recipients (and something like 5k dependents, which can drastically increase the annual payout). That’s minimum two hundred forty million bucks in 2017. And it’s a LOT less now than a decade ago. There are nuances to determining the payer, but it is generally the mine operator most recently employing an affected individual. A significant portion of this money has been payed by mine operators.

Sitting at work is different from exposure to coal whilst mining coal. There’s no reason most jobs require sitting for hours on end. Historically there’s a component of elitism — a hundred plus years ago, low paying jobs were physically intensive, and it was a bit of an elite thing to be able to sit at work. Now the sign of affluence is a few spare hours a week to exercise, and sitting is just a norm no one has sought to change. If a company is aware of how bad sitting is for its employees, seems like said company would have a better defense against liability if they actively attempt to re-design their workplaces and jobs to avoid sitting. Sending out a mass mail telling you how bad something is or having a webinar to tell you how bad it is … but generally employing people to sit for hours at a time isn’t much in the way of due diligence. Routinely deploying standing desks, even in training classrooms, would reduce mandatory sitting among call centre staff. Walking meetings for one-on-one or small group sessions.

 

Those who do not know history …

Those who do not know history compound errors by using phrases with loaded meanings or abysmal histories. As the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee retires names so no one has another Katrina approaching them, I assumed politicians would retire phrases which haunt their predecessors. Then there’s this guy:

With a narrowly defined ‘mission’, sure it’s true. But GW stood in front of someone else’s sign and “mission accomplished” still hasn’t escaped the new connotative meaning.

There’s *ALWAYS* A Worse

I thought James Comey was fired in about the worst way imaginable – giving a speech at a remote office, he sees a TV with a banner announcing her termination and thinks it’s a joke. Which … I know a lot of people with that sense of humor. I remember putting an etc\hosts record to direct someone’s company home page to an internal sandbox web server, cloning over the internal home page project, and editing it to announce the company’s merger with some big competitor and the immediate closing of the HQ office. Screen grabbing CNN, throwing on a new banner, then playing the video back isn’t a stretch.

Then Rex Tillerson, who set out to prove experience negotiating mineral rights contracts is the same as negotiating international political situations where everyone isn’t getting what they want, read his boss’s tweet and learned he was terminated. This is what you get when 48% of voters want a guy whose fame, really, was firing people (in new and dramatic ways) on TV.

Side Job Accounting

Flaws in the MIT ride-share earning calculations aside, I don’t think ride-share or home-share involves a realistic accounting of expenses against income. I used to use my personal car for work quite regularly. The company reimbursed per mile at a fixed rate, and I started off thinking I scored. Paid like 20 bucks for gas and they cut me a cheque for 100 USD. Then I needed to replace my tires *way* before I expected. Turns out the reimbursement rate wasn’t a major boon. If you consider tires, oil changes, brake pads as part of your auto maintenance budget and don’t book some portion of those expenses against your Uber/Lyft income, then the gig looks artificially profitable.

At the time I looked, Lyft had a 2500 USD deductible on their comprehensive/collision insurance (and both Uber and Lyft only covered comp/collision when passengers were in the car). Drivers incur additional expense for supplemental / commercial insurance policies or live with those restrictions. But most people I know didn’t consider their insurance coverage – which means they incurred risk that would offset income. Same with house-rentals (AirBnB, HomeAway) – apart from people who rented properties as a commercial venture (i.e. people who were using the service as advertising for properties they rented anyway, not just renting out their house for a week or two when they were out of town), I don’t find many people who really understood what, say, AirBnB’s host protection insurance covered  / what their homeowners insurance covered / what was uncovered.

Drum Major Instinct

Somehow Dodge has confused the following text to mean “buy a new big truck”. One with a base price of like 26,000USD. Or this is just the logical conclusion of the post-truth alternative fact world … we can call back to some historical figure with a message that is basically the antithesis of that for which the person stood.

“Now the presence of the drum major instinct is why so many people are “joiners.” You know, there are some people who just join everything. And it’s really a quest for attention and recognition and importance. And they get names that give them that impression. So you get your groups, and they become the “Grand Patron,” and the little fellow who is henpecked at home needs a chance to be the “Most Worthy of the Most Worthy” of something. It is the drum major impulse and longing that runs the gamut of human life. And so we see it everywhere, this quest for recognition. And we join things, overjoin really, that we think that we will find that recognition in.

Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. (Make it plain) In order to be lovely to love you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff. (Yes) That’s the way the advertisers do it.”

Desuperheater

We got a desuperheater with our geothermal system. I was really excited for summer, expecting our electrical usage for heating water to drop dramatically. We even hooked up the Aeon Labs energy meters so we’d have numbers to show how much we were saving. Aaaand … we saved nothing. Usage actually went up between the non-HVAC period and the air conditioning season (more work outside, more getting muddy, more showers?). Super hot couple of days in early summer … nothing. I was really disappointed in the desuperheater. It wasn’t expensive or anything, but I thought it would do SOMETHING!

In mid-January, Scott replaced the sink faucet and noticed another plumbing problem. He threw the circuit breaker to the water heater to remind him to look into that other problem once the faucet was installed. A few weeks later, we heard an odd noise … I was walking around trying to isolate the source, and noticed the display on the water heater was off. Kind of worried that the odd noise was the water heater … I told him the display was off. And he remembered throwing the breaker a few weeks ago. Odd, since we’ve been doing silly things like showering in hot water and washing dishes. Haven’t noticed any hot water shortages.

Oooooh, the desuperheater was keeping the water hot. During the 50 degree days, but during the 5 degree days as well!?! When it didn’t manage to heat the water in summer?!? Turns out the desuperheater doesn’t do much if it’s cutoff if close to your water temperature set-point. We set the water heater to its lowest setting – hopefully we see reduced electrical draw. If not, I will probably get the “smart” control panel and write something to put it into vacation mode & only turn into “heat the water” mode when the temp drops significantly during a part of the day when we’re apt to want hot water (i.e. let the desuperheater do its thing if the water temp goes low at 3AM).

Looking at our power usage data, where the slope of the line is the rate of power consumption, there was a change in usage going into winter (odd, since the design is such that summer should have been the noticeable reduction). The slow becomes near horizontal now that there is a significant difference between the water heater’s set point and the desuperheater’s cutoff point.

Or a more telling chart – the red lines indicate times where the water heater was drawing power. It hasn’t cycled on for weeks even on 20 degree days.

Reading Your Own Meter

Most power companies provide “read your own meter” instructions along with every bill. Never thought much of it until we got a really high estimated bill this month. Now our Aeon Labs energy meters give us nice digital integers (well, probably floats but still) … and that number was significantly lower than the power company’s estimate. So we read our meter.

Their dials do not move a uniform amount as they increment — is this 60,### or 59,###? Since the third digit is certainly an 8 … there’s no way it is 60,8## (otherwise the 0 would need to move almost an entire tenth of the circle by the time our 8 rolls to 0). But it seems very odd that the 9 on the second dial literally won’t move while the 8 rolls to a 0 either. Why wouldn’t each needle move constantly over the interval?!?