Tag Archives: Commentary

She Didn’t Make It

I mentioned in my “Month from Hell” post that on top of everything else, we had a really sick cat on our hands.

If you look closely, you can see she was bloated around her mid section, but insanely thin around her hips and “waist”

After Banfield passed us off immediately to a pet emergency center (after telling us for ages she was just overweight), and we got jerked around by that pet hospital for a week and $1500, we took her to another pet ER. They did surgery and cleaned out what turned out to be some sort of a massive infection in her mid section. The Internal Medicine vet and the Surgeon had never seen anything quite like it.

After a day recovering in the pet hospital, she came home with us. She seemed to be slowly getting better despite not eating or drinking much at first. We took her with us to the new house today so we could get some work done while still keeping an eye on her.

New space, so (particularly being an indoor only cat) she was a bit nervous, but seemed to be adjusting, and enjoying the attention. We packed her up in her carrier to take her back to the current (rental) house, and when we opened the carrier, she was dead. 😥😭😟

We had her ten years… adopted her probably a little earlier than she should have been put up for adoption, given how small she was. She was almost all of what got me through many of the bad days I’ve had over the years. $7000 total spent (which REALLY hurt our house repair budget) and all we got with her was two days.

I miss my baby kitty. I’ve cried off and on all night. I want to scream but nothing will come out. The worst part is I can’t stop wondering if she’d still be alive if we mistrusted Banfield sooner or at least hadn’t taken her on the trip today. 😫 I don’t know if what happened was that bounce back phenomenon where a dying person or pet seems to recover temporarily, long enough to sort of say good bye, or we did something that killed her.

I’ve been miserable to the point of not being able to post (and I’ve had numerous topics lined up ready to go) or reply much for almost two months. Now this…

Life has been nothing but one giant shit sandwich since we began the move out here.

R.I.P. Chloe. There are NO words for how much you’ll be missed…

Is My 35mm Nikon Now Obsolete?

Cellphone camera technology has officially hit the point of wowing me. I remember the EARLY days of phone cameras when the picture quality was on par with a floppy disk video game’s VGA graphics, lol

Enter the Samsung S21 Ultra:

Image via Samsung.com

One spec sneaked into that pic already; the FRONT camera is 40 Megapixels. By comparison my Nikon D3400 is a 24 Megapixel camera:

Image via Walmart.com

That’s nearly identical to the kit I got at a big box membership store before our honeymoon in Hawai’i. The camera let me take some pretty spectacular shots. Most of the ones I posted here from that trip were actually taken with my iPhone 10 simply because the file sizes were too big with the Nikon:

Suffice it to say the Nikon turned out images that were twice as good and enlarged better. We have five of them on our dining room wall. Apple is still plodding along at 12 megapixels for it’s newest camera phones. The lens quality is better with each new version, BUT the iPhone 13 is still 1/2 the base level image quality of the Nikon.

Let’s get back to the Samsung though:

Image via Samsung.com

Yes, you read that correctly… The primary ‘wide angle’ lens is 108 megapixels!

An actual pic from the camera, via Samsung,com

Samsung is also claiming a 100x “Space Zoom” on it. The folks at the local phone store said one recent customer zoomed in on a water tank on a hill in the distance (eyeballing it, it looked like about 2 miles away), and they were all able to read the print on the water tank.

What is “Space Zoom”?

I had to look this one up myself. It’s a combination of optical and digital zoom. Any true camera nut will tell you that there’s no substitute for true optical zoom. It’s real picture quality vs artificial enhancement. HOWEVER… all you have to do is look at the picture above this one to see that the camera phone definitely seems to have good lens quality also.

Test Drive Pending:

Will it replace a true 35mm DSLR camera? We shall soon find out. My spouse and I got fed up with our insanely high bill from AT&T, and switched carriers. We’re going to save over 30% monthly on our bill and get two new S21 Ultras. We’re just waiting for the phones to be delivered. After some test driving, I’ll report back on the camera quality. Maybe I’ll even do a full review.

Our Nikon D3400 is considered an “entry level” 35mm camera. There are ones out there with higher resolution capability. Most of them come with extremely high price tags also. I’m skeptical that the Samsung’s phone can compete with a professional level DSLR with a good lens kit. Lens size, and even file format makes a difference. RAW files save an incredible amount of detail that even a JPEG loses.

An Expert Explanation (AKA Don’t Believe the Hype)

In fact, I found somebody who did a quickie comparison on YouTube already:

If you don’t want to watch the 5 minute comparison… The image quality was extremely close in most cases, however, when he got back to file format / size and the ability to edit pics at a professional level, here’s what he had in the notes of the video:

“Why did I lightly edit the Canon 1DX Mark II pictures instead of the Galaxy S21 Ultra pictures? Because the highly compressed .jpg images coming out of the Galaxy S21 Ultra would probably have fallen apart if I tried to push the color as much as I did with the Canon 1DX Mark II.”

He goes on to explain that camera image sensor and lens size make a huge difference in how much light can be captured, and thus how much fine detail can be captured. A dedicated DSLR camera has 12x the lens and camera sensor size.

The fact that the newest camera phone can turn out 99% equal quality base images is due to the phone essentially photoshopping the image immediately after taking it. Settings like portrait mode use a combination of minor lens manipulation and built in filters to enhance the the clarity and color of picture.

Conclusion:

A camera phone isn’t likely to replace a true professional’s camera kit for years to come. For the rest of us who simply want our vacation photos to look as good as possible, the need for a dedicated camera may very well be drawing to an end.

Despite the above video being very credible, I will be doing my own testing and posting the results here. We’ll see for ourselves if a camera phone has finally reached the point of replacing a 35mm DSLR for the typical home photographer.

Culper Precision Makes Custom Gun That Looks Like Toy

Time for a Rant. Utah based Culper Precision (a firearms manufacturer) decided to customize what I think is a Glock 19 to look like a toy made of Legos.

Image courtesy of Newsweek and MSN

They called it the “Block 19” and that is a VERY real firearm. They were quite proud of the fact that they glued the Legos onto it, and got the gun to keep them in place for over 1500 rounds fired.

Oddly enough, they also don’t understand the outrage this has generated with people.

Stats on how many children are killed with guns are sadly twisted and politicized. Regardless of the actual numbers, children getting ahold of guns and accidentally shooting themselves, a sibling, or shooting people at school are too common, and IMO one is too many because a responsible gun owner keeps their guns properly secured.

I’ve already called for the gun owners to be tried as co-conspirators in such cases unless they can show that they did have their guns locked up. Kids are tempted by the mystique surrounding guns, and if you make it look like a harmless toy, whatever respect they may have for the weapon is going to be lost. This was just completely irresponsible on Culper’s part.

Before any of the Pro-Second Amendment crowd jumps on me here, I *am* a gun owner. I own a CZ-75 Compact 9mm pistol:

Image courtesy of CZ-USA.com

Not only do I own it, I practice regularly and I’m pretty damned good with it:

Image courtesy of me; 20 rounds at a distance of 40 feet or 12.19 meters

Point being that I’m not some extremist activist who has never held a gun nor understands how they work. I’m a responsible gun owner who keeps my gun secured, practices to be accurate so I don’t unnecessarily endanger somebody IF I’m ever forced to defend myself, AND I hope to never, ever have to point it at another human being.

Culper made a gun that looks like a child’s toy, and then defended it by saying they were doing it to protect the second amendment (I can’t make this stuff up):

What’s all the more scary is that Instagram post got 2900+ likes.

Then, when they started getting TONS of hate, they doubled down on stupid, saying the reason people didn’t like it was because they gave their children unlimited access to guns or were a bunch of ignorant anti-second amendment nuts. See the story I linked above. I’m paraphrasing but NOT exaggerating.

THIS is the kind of irresponsible idiocy that makes others question the mindset of gun owners.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

My OPINION on this; Why does it matter? First of all, as previously stated, it LOOKS like a toy. That’s going to give a child a false sense of safety with it. Ideally, children in a gun owning household are taught to respect guns, that they’re extremely dangerous, and not a toy. Even such children would likely be tempted by this however. It only has to be put down for a moment for a kid to snatch it up too.

Second, and equally important, it shows that the ADULTS are viewing guns in an irresponsible manner.

A gun can be used as sporting equipment; for competitive target shooting or hunting, as well as for lethal self defense. Regardless of use however, it is a DEADLY WEAPON and should ALWAYS be treated with the respect and caution that comes with that.

Things like this, and the stupid gun tricks videos on YouTube reflect poorly on ALL gun owners. It does NOT protect the Second Amendment. It instead shows that it’s followers are too stupid to respect that rights come with equal amounts of responsibility.

As a responsible gun owner who values the ability to defend my home as a LAST resort, I’m extremely offended here, both by the infantalizing of guns, and the gaslighting of people who had the common sense to object to this stupidity.

If you need your gun to look like a toy, or be a pretty color (ie it’s pink);

then, to be blunt, you don’t have the right mindset to own a firearm.

OK Guys, You REALLY Need to Hang It Up…

I debated writing this days ago when I read that 76 year old Harrison Ford trashed his shoulder during the filming of Indiana Jones 5, and that filming will be delayed for 3 months because of it. He was just rehearsing a fight scene also.

Picture via digitaltrends.com

We also have 59 year old Tom Cruise reprising the role of Maverick in Top Gun 2. Never mind that it’s almost unheard of for anyone older than 45 to be flying fighters for the military. In fact, the world record for oldest fighter pilot is an Isreali F-16 pilot at 60 years old.

67 Year old Bruce Willis is still knocking out action movies at a pace to outdo Steven Seagal’s string of late life B movies as well.

And as it turns out, Arnold (who was born in 1947 and is 74 years old) is also doing more action movies also, including Expendables 4 and a new Conan movie.

*Raises walker over head and snarls* “By the bones of Crom, you kids get off my damned lawn… err sand!!!”

OK, being a little more serious, most of these guys, Stallone included (since he keeps doing Rocky and Expendables movies) are in really good shape for their ages. They still look nowhere like they did in the 80s though, and are really stretching the bounds of suspension of disbelief by continuing to try to relive their movie glory days. Poor Bruce Willis looks particularly haggard anymore.

I LOVED these guys in the 80s and 90s. I thought the idea of the original expendables was awesome also; grizzled veterans showing they’ve still got the moves. After a while though it starts to remind me of Ric Flair (the wrestler). This is the guy as I remember first seeing him when I was a YOUNG kid in the 70s:

Nowadays, 40+ years later, he still trying to make himself relevant within the WWE, and it’s just sad to be honest:

Getting old sucks, I get it. I’m getting there far faster than I’d like to admit, and my spinal issue are only highlighting it. I don’t like to be told I can’t do things, and I’m sure these guys don’t either.

At some point you have to set your pride aside and retire with dignity though. Harrison Ford is a great example here. At the end of Indiana Jones, they had probably the best scene in a otherwise horrible movie when the hat blew off Indy’s head and his son picked it up. Perfect symbolic passing of the torch and Indy could still be back in the role of the wise old master, mentoring his son. NOPE, he has to take the spotlight again though.

The Expendables started to go that way with 3; Barney training the new kids. It didn’t last though as the old guard had to come bail them out. They made it clear they were sticking around at the end also.

The 20 somethings can bad mouth the WW2 generation all they want, at least the actors of that generation knew to pass the torch and move on to more mature roles.

Sleep Number Bed – How It’s Made & Review

Kind of random I know, but that’s my blog.

This post inspired by our battle with our own bed and Sleep Number’s customer non-service department.

Image from Businesswire.com

As you doubtless guessed from my opening and previous post about sleep quality, I have some real gripes here. I’m going to be fair and talk about the pluses we experienced while we owned the bed also. It’s probably easiest to work through things in a chronological order.

We started out looking for a new bed about 5 1/2 years ago when my back was probably at it’s worst, or at least during one of several truly bad points over the years. The advertised fact that the bed could adjust to conform to the needs of a sleeper, and even that sleeper’s changing sleep needs was a powerful selling point for us. You could make it firmer or softer if you had a physically demanding day, etc…

Resting on the bed at the store, it was just as comfortable as a foam mattress like a Tempur-Pedic, but seemed to adapt and support even better as our sleep numbers were dialed in. And that’s the trick; Sleep Number beds are great when you first buy them.

Purchase is where we hit our first snag or grumble though. When you see the commercials and they say “Only X Dollars”, they’re only talking about only the mattress assembly itself. The base costs more, with an adjustable base potentially more than doubling the cost of the bed. Then there’s the topper that goes on top of the air chambers. The more plush or heat dispersing you go, the price goes up, but the topper is disguised as a different model number. “Oh no, the super plush cooling top? That’s our i12 model, not this i8… It’s much more.”

To be fair, the vast majority of manufacturers of numerous products play the “different model” game. Even with other bed manufacturers though, there’s more of a difference in material construction than with a Sleep Number bed. Many of those beds won’t cost you upwards of $3000 out the door either.

Sleep Number Construction:

Let’s get into how the bed is made so that we can actually start talking about where the real problems begin.

Above is our (former) Sleep Number bed. It was a little over 5 years old when we got rid of it. That is about the shelf life for a poor to middle quality inner-coil spring traditional mattress. The reason we bought this bed though is that it came with a 20 year pro-rated warranty. We figured in the end, we’d come out ahead vs buying 3 or 4 supposedly lesser quality beds over that same time period.

If you notice above, the topper or “pillow top” already looks pretty shabby in terms of holding it’s shape, particularly on the right side. The problem is that the topper is primarily just cheap foam:

It’s got the sleep number logo all over it though, so that must make it high end, right? LOL.

Aside from that foam, there’s about 3/4 of an inch (1.9cm) of not very dense or supportive padding in the upper casing. The problem with the foam is that it loses support without you even realizing it IF you’re only judging it’s condition based on it returning to a normal shape after you get off of it.

As a side note, this is an issue I have with Tempur-Pedic; to get warranty replacement of their mattresses, the foam has to show a full 1 inch (2.4cm) of sag or indentation before they’ll replace it, per some internet sources. Foam, even high quality stuff like Tempur-Pedic uses, loses support well before it shows that kind of sag.

Same problem with our topper there. It looked OK if you unzip it, but NO support. Why does that matter? Because the rest of the bed is a glorified air mattress:

Or in the case of our Queen sized bed, two air mattresses connected via a zipper so there’s no gap in the center. This allows each side of the bed to be adjusted to varying firmness levels independent of the other side. If you’re wondering, the construction there is a combination of cloth and some vinyl-like material. Not much different from a decent quality camping air mattress that you’d buy from a department store.

Needless to say, the potential for leaks is there. Unlike those camping air mattresses, these held pressure pretty well up till our move out here from California. More on that in a minute or so.

Oh and of you’re wondering, YES, that IS just a foam block border around the air mattress, on all four sides. The outer fabric shell is primarily what holds the bed together. NOW, for the sake of being complete, here’s what’s under the air chambers:

First, we have about 3/4 of an inch of more foam to act as padding for the air chambers. THEN we have the bottom of the outer shell, secured to the adjustable base via four bolts anchoring wide plastic hold downs:

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple design overall. The air bags provide the firmness level of each side of the bed, and the topper helps the bed conform to your body and feel softer than a basic air mattress would. The hold downs keep the mattress from going anywhere while the adjustable base is in anything other than a flat position.

The air pump’s hoses hook into the head of the air mattress, and keep the mattresses at the desired setting, at least in theory.

Our Actual Problems:

Aside from the topper’s foam wearing out without us being fully aware of it (the air chamber softness can make this harder to notice than with an all foam mattress), the big problem was with air pressure. Customer (Non) Service as well, as you’re about to read.

Twice in the last 4 months we’ve had my side of the bed alternate between not holding pressure and just slowly being completely random in what it would be. I might go to bed at my ideal sleep number, wake up 2 hours later and have the pressure maxed out, and the next time I wake up, it could be nearly flat. This played hell with my back and neck as well as my already very poor sleep quality.

The first time, we called Sleep Number’s corporate customer service. We got told that we could throw parts blindly at it, OR have somebody come out and diagnose the bed. That would cost $100 though. Cheaper than just guessing and going through a pile of parts, right? We went that route.

It took a week and a half for them to get somebody out. We were stuck on our old inner spring guest bed during that time.

Two young guys that barely look out of high school show up, unzip the topper from the main body and take a quick look at the mattress, looking lost the entire time. They call the same 800 number we did, and talk to corporate. Perhaps unknown to corporate, we can hear the other end of the conversation, and they tell the kids to just label it the air chambers and get on to the next call. They sounded quite annoyed that the kids seemed to want to actually do the diagnosis we paid for.

Unsure what to do at the moment due to fatigue and not knowing how to check the other parts ourselves, we throw up our hands and say “fine”.

Here’s the kicker for this first call: Not only did we get charged $100 for a diagnosis that was nothing more than a blind guess, our 20 year pro-rated discount price for the new air chambers was another $200! Being pro-rated and only 25% of the way through our warranty, that means the parts should have been 75% off. MEANING, Sleep Number prices their air chambers at $800 MSRP.

The replacement parts order was also botched, and when we called back a day or two later, the order had never even been placed. THEN it took almost two weeks for the new air chambers to arrive. Yes, if you’re doing the math, that’s a month without the high priced bed. We also told them we’d install the new parts ourselves (it’s really pretty simple). Another three or four weeks later, Sleep Number has two new guys knocking on our door at the crack of dawn saying they were here to install the new parts we’d ordered.

SO, if we’d waited for them that would have been almost two months with no bed.

We put everything together though, and for a short while everything seemed OK. We figured that MAYBE the fluctuations in air pressure were caused by the pump trying to compensate (poorly) for a previous leak and we were good.

Three months later, we were back exactly where we were before.

THIS time, I spend a couple of days online researching things. YouTube and other review sites have several irate reviews about the pump systems on these beds being complete crap, and Sleep Number allegedly deliberately making them that way so they can sell a steady stream of replacement parts.

The crappy pump in question

Between the cost of the parts last time, realizing finally that the topper is worn out also, and feeling very burnt over the diagnostic fee, we had enough. We figured we’d be paying the same inflated prices for a replacement pump and topper, AND that we’d have NO idea how long before those parts or something else gave out again. That was when we opted to replace instead of repair.

Sleep IQ and Questions of Privacy:

Another thing to consider with a Sleep Number bed is their “Sleep IQ” phone app. First, the app is going to want access to quite a bit of your phone’s system. It’s also not just tracking your sleep via pressure sensors in the pump, it’s reporting that info back to Sleep Number’s computers. It will also pressure you to allow the app to monitor your wi-fi enabled thermostat, “to help avoid you sleeping hot or cold”.

All in all, there’s a ton of data about your sleep habits, sleep schedule, and home energy usage, along with God only knows what else from the other phone permissions, that the app data-mines and reports back to Sleep Number. I guarantee you that info is getting sold to third party marketers.

Since the app also claims to stop snoring by detecting it and elevating the upper portion of the bed, one can assume that the app is also using your phone as a listening device. How else is it going to detect snoring after all? Tossing and turning might be detectable via minor, brief changes in air pressure, but snoring??

Needless to say, we never installed the app. WAY too “Big Brother” for us.

Final Thoughts:

First, let me be fair: Our Sleep Number bed was pretty comfortable when we got it. It really helped with my back. MY big issue with the bed is the lack of long term quality and the piss-poor customer service with the company at the corporate level. When one pays a premium for a product, it’s naturally expected that performance and longevity will above average, ideally well above average.

Most fair, independent review sites will show that the Sleep Number bed is at the top of the charts for long term cost of ownership with beds. Even the custom fitted sheets designed to stay put on the unusual construction and movable base are around $250 for a queen set. Sleep Number is as much in business to sell you parts as they are an actual bed.

As you can see from the pictures above, the bed is really just an air mattress surrounded by foam as well. Nothing that justifies a nearly $4000 price tag for the newest models. In short, in my opinion, not only is the quality not there to justify the price, it’s long term costs are too high, AND the combination of foam and air mattress also make it hard to recognize when some parts are wearing out.

It’s also pretty lousy for sex as well. Too much give, and neither side is intended to support the weight of two people.

Buy ANYTHING else, but save your money here. It’s not worth the aggravation.

Fake News?

I saw a picture 5 days ago online that was part of a story how the sexist Ukranian army was making female soldiers march in high heels. MUCH outcry over it also, with the world denouncing the barbaric practices.

This story came from the Washington Examiner and was (theoretically) vetted by MSN News before they also posted the story. The Examiner even claims that the photo in question was released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

BUT, are we REALLY seeing what we are told we’re seeing? These are cadets practicing for a parade supposedly. HOWEVER… The picture immediately raised several questions for me.

First, why are they all wearing numbers like they’re entering a marathon? Hardly military.

There are also several other inconsistencies with their “uniforms”:

  1. Their stockings are all different. No Uniformity.
  2. Their T Shirts are different colors and worn differently also, with sleeves folded or rolled at the wearer’s whim.
  3. There’s no rank or any other military insignia anywhere on the uniforms
  4. Their pants are too tight, with many of the girls looking like they’re wearing stretch pants almost. Military combat uniforms are loose to allow freedom of movement.
  5. Hats are pulled down with their bills creased to varying degrees as well.

There’s a variance in posture, head position and hair styles that don’t speak to being real military cadets as well.

For comparison, I did A LITTLE scouting around the internet and quickly found several pictures to fact check. Something it SEEMS that the Examiner and MSN should have done:

image via Reddit

These are actual Ukrainian soldiers (as opposed to alleged cadets). Note that everything I pointed out as wrong in the above picture is different here.

image from UniformGirls.blogspot.com

Above is a picture of women wearing a Ukrainian army dress uniform.

image via warnewsupdates.blogspot.com

And for comparison, there’s the men’s uniforms above and the women’s’ full combat uniforms below:

MY CONCLUSION:

I’d bet that first picture that the Examiner ran with was a fake created by Russia, and wasn’t even fact checked. Russia has wanted The Ukraine back under it’s thumb for a long time, and propaganda is a favorite tactic. If they can make Ukraine’s government look evil, less people will complain when Russia rolls in to take the rest of the country after already seizing part of it’s coastal area for naval bases.

That said, I do indeed smell a rat here, AND wonder where the fact checking and named sources are. I also wonder how we’re supposed to trust the media when things like this are regularly turning up as “factual” news.

Sito Privato

OK, time for a “Things that Make You Go Hmmm” post…

Now for those who don’t speak Italian or can’t guess based on the phrase’s similarity to English, the title means Private Site. I bring it up because there’s a blog I follow that’s in Italy, and the gal who runs it has a bad habit of locking most of her followers out of some of her posts. Since just about all of her posts are romantic poetry, thoughts and songs, I assume she’s younger. I likewise assume that given the rest of her posts are about romance and sensuality that the private posts are also.

Every time I hit that private site screen, I can’t help but wonder what’s being posted that she feels the need to keep it hidden from most people.

With that in mind, I wanted to offer some advice to the young women out there: NOTHING, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on the internet is private. No matter what you do, there are people with ways around it. Anything from outright hackers to sites that index (and clone) other sites, to “social engineering” and a dozen other possibilities.

Keeping it simple, the aspect of social engineering that we’re talking about here is that whole thing your parents or friends hopefully warned you about with not sharing racy pictures of yourself with somebody you have a crush on. They’ll share with one friend, no matter what they promise, and then it gets passed around more and more until suddenly everybody in the neighborhood, at school and / or at work knows what your bare boobs look like.

My point is this; if your piece of erotica or sensual poetry is that sexual, or you don’t feel comfortable sharing that pic (nude or not), putting it behind a “private” page or site is really NO protection at all. You have two realistic choices here:

DON’T DO IT. Use discretion and common sense levels of caution and don’t post that written material or picture. You’re very likely saving yourself a good deal of drama later on down the road. Won’t happen to you? That’s what EVERY girl that ended up with nude pictures passed around school, or the star of a revenge porn video on the internet said. None of them set out to be publicly humiliated.

The other option is to accept it’s VERY likely going to happen to you also at some point. Webpage passwords are minimal protection. They might be better than just “owning it” and putting it out on display for everybody but the end result is probably going to be the same. That pic, video or story could resurface at the worst possible time too.

Hypocritical, given that I write erotica? Superficially, BUT I’m only warning you of the likely fallout. I’m also careful to disclose minimal personal information and NO pictures of myself. I’d do follow those last two steps regardless. The world has too many weird people in it.

Use wisely your power of choice.

I Got Stabbed on St Patrick’s Day!

with a vaccination needle. Nothing like a dramatic headline to get attention though. 😀 It works for the media. 😛

Being married to a diabetic with a heart murmur pushes both of us a little further up the priority list for getting the vaccine, it seems. We were told a few weeks ago that our group was now open for getting the vaccine, and we managed to snag an opening yesterday.

For the record, I’m still a bit wary about the vaccine and if it may have some long term side effects, etc… Given the high risk in the household though, I figure it’s best to play it safe and hope for the best as opposed to waiting and watching a while longer.

Thus far I have not spouted goblin ears, nor started ranting that Biden is too conservative, so it SEEMS some of the fears regarding it are unfounded, LOL

In fact, the only issues from the vaccine thus far were a bit of soreness at the injection site, and some fatigue. I’m not even sure how much of the fatigue was from the vaccine either given that I only got about 5 hours sleep the night before. I used to thrive on that level, now I’m old and get cranky without 7 or 8. 😀

We got the version from my least favorite scumbag megacorporation also:

That means, among other things, we’ll have to go back for a second shot. April 7th is the soonest we can do so, and that will probably require another appointment. I suppose the bright side is that we’re not getting as heavy a dose as the single dose versions, which theoretically means less chances of some of the body aches and other symptoms after getting the shot.

Interesting note also… We got vaccine cards showing we were vaccinated along with the vaccine manufacturer and lot number, AND expiration date. MUCH was made of how short a shelf life this vaccine has, and how the previous administration bungled so much around it (which is partially true). The lot we were given though doesn’t expire for over 3 months:

If you listened to the news, you’d easily get the impression this stuff has a shelf life of days, if not hours. There you see it though; Expires June 30, 2021.

Need I even get back on my “media bias and hysteria for ratings” soapbox? Didn’t think so. 🙂

ANYWAY… The whole vaccine site was weird. They needed an area that could serve as a LONG LONG drive through basically. They chose a hiking trail park in the hills at the edge of town:

There yah go; rednecks don’t take COVID serious. Just ask the news.

The whole park was a long narrow hairpin going back miles in one direction and then swinging back around and heading right back to the entrance. We drove so far down the road I was starting to joke they wanted a spot to hide the bodies more easily.

About 1/3 of the way back, we hit the big drive through tent and got our shots. The 20 minutes we were supposed to wait afterwards was taken up just getting to the last checkpoint before the exit. We had a 1pm appointment and got out of the park at 2:40pm.

Oh and did I mention the off and on monsoon level rain all day?

We’re going on 14 hours now and so far no real symptoms or side effects at all beyond mild annoyance at the thought of enduring that line again. So much for the doomsayers. Of course, if I start to turn into a chicken or a goat, I’ll be sure to let folks know. 😛

As you saw, the line to get a shot was crazy long also, and apparently stays that way. I see more folks than I’d like without masks, BUT people are taking it seriously. Even the “poor dumb people” down in the South.

Another Lesson in Why I Hate the Media

Some of my longer term readers may remember my posts almost a year ago where I supplied stories from multiple news services about how the Wuhan Institute of Virology was reported to be an unsafe wreck, and almost certainly responsible for the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. The main post with those links was about media bias in general, but here are the links to the actual Wuhan stories:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/14/state-department-cables-warned-safety-issues-wuhan-lab-studying-bat-coronaviruses/

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/06/asia/coronavirus-china-wuhan-lab-origins-explainer-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.thedailybeast.com/leaked-cable-shows-us-officials-flagged-safety-issues-at-wuhan-lab-years-ago

My point in the earlier post was that the media in general was more interested in discrediting the Trump Administration than reporting the truth. Wuhan was called a hoax, the lab was (not) imaginary, and we were told it was all racism and xenophobia.

Well, guess what? NOW, we have the media reporting the news of the 2018 reported unsafe conditions at the Wuhan labs as if it’s a brand new story. EVERYBODY on the Right and Left is jumping on it. Even Fox, who banged the drum pretty hard on the story while trying to defend Trump, is treating it like something new:

https://www.foxnews.com/world/top-state-official-coronavirus-bioweapon-accident

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/03/08/josh-rogin-chaos-under-heaven-wuhan-lab-book-excerpt-474322?utm_source=pocket-newtab

BTW, when every outlet from MSNBC to Fox is pushing the exact same angle, watch out! It means the entrenched swamp on both sides is all working together with the same goal. Conflict is coming.

This is NOT about Trump. The leadership (at the very least) of both sides should have known via national security briefings. Instead of doing anything before we had a global pandemic, they first chose to ignore it and then play political gamesmanship after all hell broke loose.

Was the media asking tough questions and getting to the bottom of anything? NO!

All the media did was help the bureaucracy point fingers at the other side and treat the public as idiots to be demagogued and lead around by the nose like idiots.

We the people need to start demanding better of our media; less bias and commentary, more hard facts and objective reporting. The media as it stands now is a biased, conflict driven joke. I pick usually on the “mainstream” media (as if Fox isn’t mainstream with it’s massive viewer base), but this time I’ll use an example from Fox.

THAT a headline to a story at their website.

Pig In A Blanket… REALLY. Is THAT “fair and balanced”? It’s nothing resembling proper journalism. It’s sensationalist, inflammatory red meat for the base, WWE level “color commentary“, and if Cuomo wasn’t such a creep, it’d be outright libel.

Is it REALLY so hard to just report the facts and allegations against him as they stand and give the public credit for the ability to draw it’s own conclusions on IF or how big a scumbag Cuomo is? Both sides do this all the time though, and Fox just spent FOUR YEARS bitching about how the rest of the media did to Trump EXACTLY what they’re doing here. Hypocrisy on all sides.

And the thing that irks me the most about the Wuhan story is that I successfully ignored the news for months only to see that damned story plastered EVERYWHERE.

I really hope people are getting fed enough enough to actually say “ENOUGH”.

Economics: The Reality of the Minimum Wage

As much as I try, some news topics are really hard to avoid. The recent debate over the minimum wage is one of them. Shockingly, I see the same arguments every time the topic has come up since I started working back in the 80s.

I swore off of political discussion but this is a social and economic issue that has been turned political via class warfare politics. So, let’s talk the truth.

The biggest flawed argument is that raising the minimum wage doesn’t cause inflation. You can find all manner of jury-rigged charts and stats to support that lie also.

Reality is that any good or service has two main costs associated with it; parts and labor. If you raise the labor cost of an item, one of three things is going to happen:

  1. The price of the final product has to be increased to cover it’s increased cost of production.
  2. You cut your labor pool and force more productivity out of each employee.
  3. You decrease the quality of the materials used to make the product.

If one or more of those things isn’t done, the company loses money and risks going out of business. Few people anymore seem to understand that a business has expenses of it’s own that have to be paid for out of their gross profits.

Let’s use a restaurant for example. WAY WAY WAY back in the day when I worked at Burger King, the manager and I used to talk alot. He explained that the restaurant has to charge 3 times what the food costs the store to cover all their expenses. You MAY have heard Robert Irvine say the same thing on episodes of “Restaurant Impossible” when coaching the people he’s helping turn their restaurant around.

What expenses you ask?

  1. Payroll to employees (Labor)
  2. Local State and Federal Payroll Taxes
  3. Mandatory Employer contribution to employee social security (ie more taxes)
  4. Unemployment Insurance (yes the money that you collect as unemployment is first paid to the government by your former employer)
  5. Employee Health Insurance (in some cases)
  6. Business License Fees
  7. Franchise Licensing Fees if part of a chain
  8. Property Taxes
  9. Mortgage on the building
  10. Upkeep on the Building
  11. Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Water and Sewer, Business Phone, Internet)
  12. The actual ingredients to make the food
  13. The utensils and cookware tom make the food
  14. Dishes, boxes, wrappers; however the food is served
  15. Cleaning supplies
  16. Employee uniforms

And doubtless some other things that I didn’t remember. All of that is why a hamburger that costs $1 in food costs has to be sold for $3. That amount allows the restaurant to cover expenses and make a modest amount of money. Remember the owner needs to pay himself also so he can pay his personal bills also.

The proof of inflation can actually be tracked via the that same hamburger restaurant idea. When I was first hired by right out of high school, the minimum wage was bumped from $2.85 an hour to $3.30 an hour.

What happened right after that? The price of a Burger King “Whopper” sandwich combo meal jumped slightly to $3.35. I cashiered, so the price stuck in my head.

The price of a combo meal at almost any fast food restaurant has stayed almost the exact same amount as the minimum wage also. The Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. What does anything actually worth eating in terms of a combo meal cost? About $7.

Yes, you can get cheaper stuff, like the $5 specials at the low quality fast food places (McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell), but are any of those items worth eating? Typically, the ingredients are cheapened down to the point the food is barely edible. I joke about the typical fast food chicken nugget being made from ground up beaks and claws for example, LOL. Then they drown the junk in some cheap vinegary sauce and hope you don’t notice.

Reality is most fast food and quick serve places have cheapened all their menu item ingredients because they can’t get anyone to work for under $9 an hour but still have to keep prices down. So to balance profits they’re selling $5 meals for $7 and paying the employee $9 to make it.

It’s not just restaurants though. Everybody’s wages go up, so prices go up across the board. Net result, we have inflation and the little guy has no more buying or saving power despite the increase in income.

You can’t squeeze much more productivity out of the average worker either, so cutting labor and demanding more from those who remain isn’t a viable answer.

“Real” minimum wage in the above chart I’m assuming means the legal minimum wage adjusted for inflation / actual buying power as compared to the past. Note that it’s stayed moderately consistent while productivity has soared.

Some of that productivity is automation assisting jobs (which typically means fewer hands needed to do the same amount of work), and the rest is just employers demanding more from employees. Anybody recall being expected to fill multiple roles after the housing bubble burst, if you were lucky enough to keep a job?

The irony about all of this is that even Investopedia is full of double speak here and it’s typically a decent source of info for basic economic concepts:

With regard to inflation, so-called wage push inflation is the result from a general rise in wages. According to this hypothesis, in order to maintain corporate profits after an increase in wages, employers must increase the prices they charge for the goods and services they provide. The overall increased cost of goods and services has a circular effect on the wage increase; eventually, as goods and services in the market overall increase, higher wages will be needed to compensate for the increased prices of consumer goods.

So that’s what Ive been saying. But the next paragraph down in the article, they argue against that idea and that the only alternatives are cutting workers of quality of goods, BY SAYING THAT’S THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE!!!

According to economic analyst Ed Rensi, formerly an executive at McDonald’s, a higher minimum wage would not only kill existing jobs but also result in closing a substantial number of small businesses, from 15% to 20%. In theory, raising the minimum wage forces business owners to raise the prices of their goods or services, thereby spurring inflation. In actual practice, however, it is not so simple since wages are only one part of the cost of a product or service paid for by consumers. A higher minimum wage can be offset (ie inflation avoided) by heightened productivity by workers or trimming down a company’s manpower.

Are you getting the message yet, folks? You’re being scammed in an effort to buy votes when NOTHING will truly change.

Is There a Real Answer?

This one is harder to answer than it should be. The standard conservative answer is education. However, “everybody deserves a college degree” worked out as well as “everybody deserves a house”. There was so much graft, misrepresentation and sometimes lazy students, that we’re sitting on another economic time bomb with student debt. In an ideal world, education would be the answer. The more you know, the more you make. Flipping hamburgers could be left to kids in school or robots and everybody would go on to make a living wage at a “real job” as my mother used to call them.

Aside from the problem with needing to clean up the system, things are evolving so fast that training and education are often obsolete in 5 to 10 years, even some hard science advanced degrees. How does the average person keep up with that??

Then there’s the whole issue of jobs becoming increasingly replaced by automation as well. New York City has some fast food restaurants that are completely automated now (in response to their $15 per hour minimum wage no less). There’s even efforts to replace lawyers with robots. Good riddance there, LOL

People are becoming obsolete in general. The ultimate answer may be some form of universal income. That’s scary in how much power it gives the government over the lives of it’s citizens. I’m not even sure how it works as the idea goes completely against basic economics. Government doesn’t produce anything to create the wealth it wants to distribute in a universal income situation.

No, you can’t just infinitely print money either. It destroys the value of it. Think of it this way; If everybody had FIVE, (yes five) classic Mustangs like mine:

How much would ANYBODY be able to sell one for? ZERO. Even money itself operates under the law of supply and demand. The more there is of anything, the less it’s worth.

Answers? Wish I had some good ones. Right now, all I know is the dog and pony show in Washington is nothing but smoke and mirrors intended to buy votes. It’ll sadly work too.