Tag: random

The Santa Myth

Anya’s preschool is writing letters to Santa and otherwise celebrating the secular commercial iteration of Christmas. I just don’t get why this myth is perpetuated in any setting where you don’t know everyone’s financial situation and religious beliefs. Or even their views on commercialism and manufacturing practices.

Religious beliefs, to some degree, are obvious … it’s not a really big Sikh holiday, for instance. But even within the subset of Christian Americans … the secular version of Christmas can be offensive. And, hell, when I was a kid I thought Christmas absolutely sucked for Jesus – could you imagine how bad your birthday would be if it was celebrated by giving everyone ELSE presents?

Financial situation — the Santa story is that you won’t get what you want if you aren’t good. All the good behaviour in the world isn’t going to make a hundred bucks show up for a family with an empty bank account. Maybe their income and expenses mean the family barely subsists. Maybe an emergency sucked up the family’s spare money. If good behaviour means you get the toys you want, not getting the toys means you were bad. And that’s a terrible lesson to be conveying to young kids who are already disadvantaged due to financial circumstances.

Commercialism — this is the one that applies to me. I don’t like thing presents. Some are thoughtful and well used, but a lot of wastes of resources that take up space. I much prefer to plan a special experience for a celebration. Spend time together, do something unique, and you don’t have to find storage space for anything when you’re done. Telling my kid that presents should be tangible things — and that you can consult this toy flyer for ideas — is offensive. This isn’t to say Anya has never gotten a tangible present from us, but it’s part of an experience. Go ice skating and here are some ice skates.

Manufacturing — beyond the “be good or else”, Santa has elves that spend the year making all of the stuff that constitutes Christmas presents. Baring incredibly conscientious purchasing decisions that are not the norm … the elf is some kid in a third world country, victims of debt bondage … sure you got the toy for a pittance, but that’s because the labor didn’t even get a pittance. The image of cute elves singing and making toys in some gingerbread cottage looking room is not the reality of international manufacturing. Your kid may not be old enough to understand the socioeconomic ramifications of globalization … but that doesn’t mean you need to tell them elves make their toys.

The Red Herring

This entire story arc is is sad, but the two ostensible protagonists come off terribly – Kelly more-so than his boss, but that might be intentional. Trump is asked why the administration hasn’t spoken about military personnel KIA – a question which I interpret to mean why has the WH not addressed the situation that led to their deaths. But the malignant narcissist in chief makes the whole operation about how awesome he is (or is not) at consoling grieving military families. Red herring. But for some reason everyone grabs a pole and goes fishing. Investigations into the operation are below-the-fold side-bars, and at least two media outlets took to ringing gold star families to determine what percentage Trump has actually called. Now we’ve got a whole school of red herrings swimming around: 25k checks in the mail, people who *were* comforted by Trump’s call, percentages who have never heard from the dude.

Then Kelly – instead of saying yeah, he advised Trump to tell the family that this is what the kid wanted to be doing, explained how this knowledge was a great comfort to *him* when his son died, but conceded may have been offensive to someone else (or that the message got lost when translated to Trump word-salad) or that there is literally nothing you could say to a family driving to pick up the casket of their dead son/husband that would help. Continuing that he’s crushed to think he may have had a part in increasing the family’s pain and hopes we can all focus on helping grieving families (here are some volunteer ideas) and returning military personnel (more volunteer ideas). Oh no, Kelly has to attack a Congresswoman for hearing a phone call whilst in the car with a constituent’s family?? And for a speech she may or may not have made in 2015. Even if she was completely full of herself and usurped a building’s dedication for self-aggrandizement (a move more typical of Kelly’s boss than, ya know, halfway sentient human beings) … so what.

The worst part is that Kelly’s explanation of what he counseled Trump to say and why … for me, the whole story made sense at that point and I’d forgotten that it was a red herring that got resolved. I could totally see how a military person might find comfort in knowing how much his son *wanted* to be there and died doing exactly what he wanted to do surrounded by the closest friends you could imagine. And I could also see where someone else might hear “he got what he asked for”. Wouldn’t have thought farther on it, had Kelly stopped there. But as he kept going on about the Congresswoman, I started to think about how little effort must have gone into preparing the message for the family. Did anyone from the WH side knew the kid or his family well? Or contact his superior officer to find out anything about the kid other than the fact he is dead? Did his parents hate that he enlisted and worry about him constantly or were they thrilled that their son was defending freedom across the globe? Did he enlist out of a sense of duty or a sense that the military provided a paycheque and future he couldn’t find elsewhere?

And why wouldn’t these kind of calls be scheduled? ‘Meeting the casket’ sounds like the flight arriving from Dover, which I would expect to be a military transport. Even if it isn’t a military transport, someone in the military should have known the departing flight number and had a halfway decent guess what the bereaved family would be doing that day.

And then I remember the whole thing is a logical fallacy and wonder what the fuck happened in Niger? What was so bad that sending the nation down a week-long narrative about what does or does not console grieving families, lies about what some obscure member of Congress said in a speech a few years back, who should or should not be present when a family decides to put Trump on speakerphone, and how many gold star families Trump has actually called is the *better* play.

Equal Time

Before Trump decides to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine (mind you Reagan is the one who eliminated the thing in the first place) … maybe he should consider the practical implication. You wouldn’t have two different late-night shows where the liberal dude had even days and the conservative dude took odd days. Market demand drives what we get – and, yeah, there’s enough of a market to sustain one conservative channel (see: Fox News). What you’d get is a fairly liberal guy eviscerating conservatives for their logically inconsistent and hypocritical positions.

No one, under any circumstances {except my mistress, that’s another story} should abort a pregnancy. Now, you’re on your own paying for medical care during pregnancy. People gave birth at home all the time, so hospital care is a luxury you should not anticipate. Immunizations and checkups for your kid? You’ve got to be kidding. Fund public schools and job training programs so you kid can get a halfway decent job? Seriously?!?

OnStar Basic

We used the free OnStar that came with our Chevy Volt for the first time today. Anya had brought the snack for her preschool class today, so I had a large metal serving tray and container of apple cider along with the other phones / bags / purses / random junk I usually carry. Set stuff down on passenger seat, and she wanted food now. Conveniently, I had sent a few extra little tangerine pumpkins — so we had two left over.  So I handed her one and opened her door. “I cannot eat in the car” says the kid who has no problem eating all manner of other things whilst in the car. But I didn’t really want to get sticky juice all over the car either. Shut her door and went to open the front door again to retrieve my stuff. Except BEEP and the car locked itself. Ack!

So here’s the first problem with OnStar — you need to communicate via the Internet. And for some reason my phone has been going into emergency call only or no Internet but weak cell signal in the preschool carpark for the last week or so. D’oh. So I called Scott – three password resets later (and a whole new app, the My Chevy wasn’t letting us log in even with a reset password so he got the OnStar app. Once that was installed, logged onto, and verified … WooHoo, one click and the car is unlocked.

Back when I worked for a cellular company and cellular data was just becoming a thing, it was slow. But I remember the sales guy saying getting online and doing whatever on your super slow phone connection was going to be way quicker than driving back to the office, getting on your computer there, doing your thing, getting back out to the site … yeah, he had a point. I’m sure it won’t be a thirty minute ordeal if we get locked out again … but even if it is, it would be about the same amount of time as waiting for a locksmith to come jimmy the thing. Or for someone to drive the spare key out.

Random Trivia

Anya randomly asked how many footballers it would take to make the weight of the Earth. Well, that’s quick enough to calculate. Average footballer is just under 80 kg … rounded up because the number is going to be so huge anyway.

That would be just over 74 sextillion footballers.  74,650,000,000,000,000,000,000! Which is a lot of people. To get an idea of order of magnitude, I divided by the population of Earth. We’re talking ten trillion times more people that we’ve got today.

The moon, on the other hand, is a mere 123 billion times more people than we’ve got today.

Information Overload

Again, I hear something in one of Trump’s rambles that I think is going to get lost in the rest of the rambling. He’s speaking at a rally for some mainstream Republican dude in Alabama who he evidently endorsed. Some significant portion of people at the rally boo the dude (some interviewees literally had no clue who the dude was, they were there to see Trump … which is a lot like a memorable advertising campaign where no one remembers the product). And somewhere in the middle of Trump’s thoughts about how [minorities? professional sports players? people who disagree with Trump?] should be fired for non-violent and fairly non-disruptive protests and using the same insult toward the leader of North Korea, there’s Trump’s musing on his support for the mainstream candidate at whose rally he was speaking: “And I might have made a mistake. And I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake.”

Umm … I’m here to talk you into voting for this guy, but maybe you shouldn’t vote for him. But, hey, I’m here so heap praise on me.

And his musing on their close relationship: “I don’t know him. I met him once”. Which, yeah, since he said the same thing about Putin may indicate a deeper relationship. But I’m more included to believe he’s supporting some dude he literally met once, knows nothing about, and worse knows nothing about the guy’s beliefs. Essentially how he supports health care bills too — I didn’t read it, I have no idea what it does. But by all things holy, they need to pass it and I’m signing the thing.

Also of note – Trump could have been at home, spending the night getting ready to watch some games tomorrow. (1) He also could have been at home working on initiatives, spending time with family, or reading through his curated folder of articles fawning over him. But (2) how the hell much work is it to watch a few games? Back when Bush was constantly down in Texas clearing brush, I wondered how quickly the stuff grew … but I can at least concede that, provided brush is there, it is a time consuming task to remove it. Seriously, it isn’t like Trump has to prep snacks for the game. Clean the house. Fluff the cushions. Make a beer run. Back before we had a PVR scheduled to record the game, “prep” meant checking the TV listing to get the time and channel. Turning on the TV. Umm, keeping eyes open and in the general direction of the screen? Now that we’ve got a PVR, it’s just turning on the TV & connecting to the stream. No wonder Trump is constantly amazed at how difficult thorny political issues turn out to be — the man needs twelve hours to prepare to sit on his ass, have someone bring him food and drink, and stare at a TV. And let’s be honest, his whole life is preparation for staring at a TV.

Revisiting Court Decisions

In 2008, Miami-Dade enacted Ordinance 08-34 requiring cranes be able to withstand load from 140 mph winds. Construction companies objected — they’d need to spend more money ensuring public safety, and really how often are 140 mph winds ripping through Miami? Courts deemed the local regulation to cover worker safety and not public safety; the OSHA requirement, which is something like 90 mph, superseded the local government’s Ordinance (I think the 11th Circuit decision actually said it was a multi-purpose regulation … but since the requirement touched on workplace safety, OSHA wins). I wonder, as cranes come crashing into buildings in downtown Miami, if the court would revisit that decision.

I worked for a company that operated each regional area as an independent entity. Each had their own set of rules, regulations, processes … they just shared a common HR staff and all of the money rolled up to the same ledger. Their “sell” to this approach was that it allowed different regions with different requirements to make rules that met their customer’s needs. The unfortunate example that got cited, though, was a military base out in Virginia. *That* region had a policy where, upon being deployed overseas, a military family could have their account flagged as forward deployed. The the account would not be suspended for non-payment and no collections attempts would be made. Which is nice – but why weren’t military bases in other regions afforded the same courtesy? Or customers stationed at the base in Virginia who happened to retain their cell phone from their family’s home in Kansas? Essentially, I could never understand what about cellular service could need to be customized for a specific region where it was a completely unreasonable policy in other regions. There are areas where a single nation-wide regulation makes sense.

Construction regulations, on the other hand, seem very location specific. And a area where a nationwide minimum standard would be far more reasonable. I doubt there’s a lot of concern about coastal flooding in Denver. Snow load regulations for equipment in South Texas is silly, but I wouldn’t want to sleep next door to a crane in NYC that didn’t fall under some snow load reg. Builders in Maine don’t need to worry too much about tornado damage, but construction sites between OKC and Tulsa can reasonably be required to lash down their materials at the end of each day to avoid debris being flung all over the countryside. And, yeah, cities in Southern Florida can reasonably want large pieces of equipment to have higher wind load ratings than a crane in Seattle.

Furthermore — why is it “states rights” people only support the state’s rights to be *more* Republican? Why should Cali need a waiver to have stricter air quality and fuel efficiency rules? Why should Miami be unable to have higher standards for wind force? It isn’t like Washington needed a waiver to set their minimum wage above the federal set-point.

It’s chess *for girls*!

Sometime in the late 80’s, I saw a “Chess … For Girls!” game. It was exactly like every other chess set in the world, except it was pink and sparkly. I remember wondering how exactly that product development meeting went down. “Well, we don’t want too many people to want our product … so how can we alienate a good chunk of customers?”. No boy is going to want “Chess … For Girls!” even if they’d like a sparkly pink chess set. Some subset of parents will refuse to purchase it because it’s offensive targeting. It isn’t like derivatives of traditional chess are unique – they could have done anything with the marketing. Sets featuring Stan Lee’s superheros aren’t marketed as “Chess … For Boys!”. They could have just called it Chess. They could have made a few different versions featuring glow in the dark pieces, sparkles, and furry animals. But, no … they first imply that other chess sets aren’t for girls. And that the way you can identify a product as being “for girls” is to look for pink sparkles.

I thought we’d moved on from such marketing fails – hell, SNL made a spoof commercial with the exact premise. But today we saw https://jewelbots.com/ … so you can “code like a girl”. Umm, hi! I code just like most other programmers – with a keyboard and using a syntax appropriate for the language of choice. Like girl chess or that Google engineer’s terribly presented suggestion for diversity programs, the sexism isn’t even needed. The product is billed as 21st century friendship bracelets. Bands with what I assume are little Arduino computers in a round plastic thing that makes the whole unit look a little bit like a watch. The plastic housing has a flower design on it. Make an array of inter-changeable band options, a bunch of different plastic cases … and just call them 21st century friendship bracelets. You assign colours to registered friends, and the bracelet glows that colour when your friend is nearby. Use Bluetooth to send secret messages to friends. It’s a cool product  for either gender. And, hey parents … your kids are learning valuable programming skills too.