Friday, June 05, 2015

The Virtualization of Everything Will Not Be Televised: Hillary, Jeb, Facebook and Disorder

My first and best ex recommended "Hillary, Jeb, Facebook and Disorder" (Thomas Friendman, May 20, 2015) and asked my thoughts. It's a cogently argued article about the growth of virtual enterprises, and about why this very important topic is not debated by our political candidates.

1. The phenomenon extends to remarkable realms.
How much of the material shipped to Afghanistan in support of our adventures there were shipped in aircraft owned not by our military, but rented?
Quite a few - and this had consequences. Every time a hull shipped tons of boots or MREs to Kandahar, that craft had to get back to Dover Delaware for another load.
The military pays for the round trip - that's part of the contract - but why should the 747 fly empty? There's nothing worth shipping back from Afghanstan - flag-draped coffins fly military - but just a few hours to the East are the great manufacturing centers of our economic rivals. If you were in the business of making money leasing aircraft, wouldn't you rent out any empty space heading stateside? That's just common sense!

So when you order a laptop or a server or a bundt pan with free shipping, it's highly likely that the shipping is "free" because that air freighter coming back from the wars and the manufacturies, a four-engined Santa, was not owned by, and yet was paid for, by yous. This is not a conspiracy to keep the wars going, it's just taking fair advantage.
So enjoy the bundt pan - and be sure to protest the wars by way of those laptops!

2. How does the virtualization of everything affect the individual?
A family legend (although I no longer remember whether it is of my biological family or of one of my in-laws) explains a long-ago decision to go homestead because a great-grandfather came home one night and said, "We're ruined."
He had been a salesman for a company that made bucket-based pumps for pulling water out of mineshafts; when he saw his rival demonstrate a hydrolic pump, he know it was over.
This disaster had a happy ending, for there was still a frontier (a.k.a. land stolen from the Indians) to which he could go and feed his family by hard word.

But today?

A skilled tool maker comes home having taught his trade to someone from another country who will do the work for pennies. To what frontier can he go now?
It is not "merely" the loss of one job or of an industry; it is the loss of *work*itself* that virtualization threatens.

I state without fear of contradiction that this has consequence for every individual, and for every collection of individuals. Work is important, to self-image and to survival. If work no longer exist, the individual can choose to believe in his worthlessness (thereby preserving his illusion that the world is well-made, it's just himself that is faulty), or undergo the painful, wrenching admission that he has been played by his former employers.

I daresay more than a few will cling to their illusions. This has consequences that I'd love to have a mental health expert talk about.

3. Delaying actions can be fought. 

Skilful use of economic virtualization can enable temporary survival. Heck, that's what I have been doing since my job was destroyed (...age discrimination is a thing, but let's not go there now...).

Recently I wanted to buy some buttens for the "World Peace Through Law" section of the Washington State Bar Association, a group dedicated to Doing The Right Thing if every you heard of one. Reflexively, I checked the prices on some website-based service that promised the buttons at a reasonabe price and - hey presto! - free shipping. As a good like communitarian, I passed the proposal around the Board for comment, expecting nothing but praise. Instead, a friend asked why I was not having them made locally.

Made locally? Is that a thing anymore?

Well yes, yes it is. A 1-second internet search revealed a shop 2 miles away. I went there and actually talked with the people who would be making them; discussed the advantages of the 1-inch vs 2-inch buttons; and on the way back picked up a quality beer for enjoyment at home. Without information technology, I would be unlikely to know of this shop (?remember searching the Yellow Pages?)

The money involved was roughly the same - maybe I'd save a little by ordering on the internet, but I would not have had the discussion. More to the point, that money I spent went into the local economy so maybe I'll see it again.

However I was lucky that I could specify my city in my search. The biggest, loudest virtualizer has an advantage over rivals who can do similar work. This is not a conspiracy; this is profit maximization.

4. This is not a conspiracy... 

...and those who worry about this are not conspiracy theorists. It's a property of changes in the world due largely to the reduction in the cost of exchanging information.

In the past, an Evil Supervillain or Cabal Of Baddies might conspire for ends that, however destructive, at least had a human motive. But the motives of orgnizations empowered by the new technology is not known or, to a great extent, knowable.

Contrary to the mythology of popularizer economics, this is not designed. We do not know where it is going because it is not being directed anywhere.

Will it be stable? will it crash? will it lead to universal prosperity after a period of ajustment, or will it empower a new Dark Ages in which an economic royalty suffers surfs to toil on virtual land/

We don't know, because virtualization through information technology is a new development.

The first earthly creatures that used photosynthesis to generate energy by converting CO2 to O2 and by products had no idea what they were doing (presumably they had no brains, but even if they had, how could they have known?) Eventually they destroyed the anaerobic ecology, except for a few holdouts in ocean vents and improperly canned vegetables - the rest of the planet is now hostile to them.

Let's hope that the new power of virtualized organizations is kinder to we mere humans.

5. This Is Not To Be Discussed.

Friedman's opening point is to not that none of thie is discussed in political conversation. Can you imagine Hillary and Jeb debating this without putting their audience to sleep - or without the talking heads crying about "Class Warfare!!!". You might as well try to talk sense about global warming LOL - and yet it will affect the next generation far more than Benghazi, the Duggars and the latest bearded bogeyman put together.
I suppose you could try to make this concrete. Ask a worker where his job went - and when he says it's o.k. to be unemployed because he can buy a computer for half the cash, ask him how many computers he can buy without a good-paying job.
Faced with this, the two cultures of America have opposite reactions consistent with their culture. Red Americans get angry because you're making them feel bad. Blue Americans want to hold  a rally for the press to ignore.
Perhaps we'd be better off trying something else.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Thursday: LAMP and Gutter

Today I neatened up a few job chores not done yesterday, and attended the LAMP meeting at Ben Bridges. The featured presentation was an excellent Ethics CLE which I will recommend to the WPTL Board.
Home, I decided to work on the next highest priority home task, which was a branch that rubbed the roof. While I was up there, I cleaned out the gutter - the first step toward mending the gutter.
I don't mind being on top of that ladder - it's tall but not too tall, and feels really solid. It gives a new look at the neighborhood and at my home.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Roxbury Wednesday

I felt productive today.
I arose early, revised my resume, and submitted it to my ideal job.
I filed a question to the Veterans Pro Bono Consortium.
I organized my list of audits for today, executed them, and headed for home with a text to pick up cat food.
It was the last that put my on Roxbury in the early evening, and I passed by a spot where we had walked, hand-in-hand, so many times.
So many times, hand-in-hand we walked, observed the neighborhood as we went out for a bite and a drink. Such a cute middle-aged couple, the very picture of contentment and trouble-free.
I suppose I am more free now, without the illusion.
When I got home, I suddenly needed to rest.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Tuesday of Taxes and Turnarounds

I resolved to complete my taxes today. I don't really have to until the Extension I filed for expires, and I had no motivation to do so while I was being threatened with litigation. Moreover, a refund was the only way that this household had of accumulating savings, since Kris spent money faster than it came in. However, since all that is over (...I hope...) I may now plainly face the issue and apply for a refund to be split among us.
I copied last year's spreadsheet and grabbed this year's form and started to plink away. I had a distinct memory of assembling both my 1099's and Kris' W-2, but in the envelop of tax documents: no W-2!
I was convinced that I had mislaid it; I have had a bit of chaos in my life lately, and nothing would be more natural to misfile it. I did not want to ask Kris for another copy, so I invested a day searching. In the process I neatened things up considerably, so that was time well spent - but still no forms. Finally I had to face the fact that I was not going to find Kris' W-2 in a timely manner, and admit it.
I emailed Kris, and she replied that it was on the coffee table, and it was o.k. with her if I went into (what I think of as) the rental unit to retrieve it.
I was gobsmacked. I was not entirely surprised. This is exactly the sort of thoughtlessness that has characterized our relationship from the hormone-besotted beginning in joy to the alcohol-soaked ending (fortunately in mediation rather than litigation.)
You can't expect people to change, especially when they don't recognize that there is a problem.
That goes for me too, of course.
I had another positive conversation with Sherry via FB. It may be a dangerous private instrumentality violative of our privacy and all that, but it sure is handy! I m still uncomfortable when people point out my good qualities (...which is all the funnier because I feel inside that I am underappreciated; you'd think I would therefore like praise ...) but she made some great suggestions about where to look for work. While we were talking I checked up on the idea of working for VA as some sort of advocate and ping! there was a program about rebuilding the VA so that using its services would be as easy as ordering a book online. While I lack the technical chops anymore, I have plenty of experience evangelizing among veterans, so I put in my application. As part of the process I updated my resume and that was a cheery thing to do!
In the interim, I need to make a bit more cash so I scanned for quick audits and amassed a pile for this week. As a planned through Friday, I got a call from NSS - they needed someone right away in Bellevue. Off I went. Between one thing and another, I got home in time to turn in, taxes not yet completed but much done. This is indeed a time of turnaround.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Monday: in which I set a goal and find a writing sample

My goal for June is to line up job offers sufficient to enable me to refinance this home by June 2017.
It is tempting to go for the first thing that comes along, but I am resolved to think carefully because it's a decision with consequences.
It occurs to me that I have a good writing sample, in the form of a winning legal brief (the Biedel case.) That's something I hadn't had before; however I still have the problem of being around 60 years of age - who wants to hire someone they view as old?
Somebody does. Unemployment around here is pretty low, so I am being exceptionally fortunate! But I am going to move carefully.
I started work on the Brown case. I donated platelets today, which takes several hours out of my working day, but it feels like my duty. I enjoyed zumba as usual on Monday. I made progress on doing taxes. I am going to be ok.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Memes May 2015

I tried to cut back on Meme-Making this month, to focus on other things, but some issues just kept calling for comment:
Hastert's indictment Completed the tale of hypocrisy.
Hey, Bill Clinton may have been a horndog, but so were they all, and at least he was not hypocritical.

I understand that the quote could be parsed to be an unobjectionable comment on consensual procedures,
but the casual dismissal of valid concerns about personal freedom is noteworthy.
This meat puppet could easily be the perfect GOP candidate.

A few said it was inappropriate to mock paranoia when people died in the floods?
What they were really saying was "STFU"
I figure those floods are God's comment on the whole thing

I was beaten frequently as a child, along with my siblings,
and we learned well what happens when violent people lack accountability.

These guys!

5/6ths of these are someone else's work, oh well, I just loved the concept

Experimenting with design

The "Party Of Stupid" concept deserves its own channel

I can hardly believe I hadn't run across the "his story" pun in this context before

The stupidity of "Jade Helm 15" paranoia had no limit;
but I'll bet it will soon be forgotten.

"This Is Today's GOP" is a core concept: it's not what it used to be.
Especially when it comes to freedom - almost as if women were not people.

Experimenting with using official images
to taint them with meaning

The "Freedom Summit" was begging for parody

Experimenting with absurdity;
is there any limit to what people will believe about the Clintons?
I hope that there were enough satire-clues embedded in the story.

The contradictions in conservative fear mongery would be funny
if it were not so dangerous.
But hey these are handsome white men so: believe!

Later, someone did a cleaner version of that t-shirt.
My art suffers for being limited to MS Paint

This was inspired by a FB friend who loves every Hillary fake scandal
but at least he "liked" when I pointed out his chances
of voting for her fell from 0% to 0%

Just another member of the aristocracy

Jade Helm 15 paranoia would be funny
if it didn't have consequences

Sunday: Booking and choires

Large Wheelchairs Carry Many Books!
 I drove a load of books to the VA hospital today - mostly from Pegasus or my own culls.
I like going Sunday morning, when it's quiet and parking is not an issue.

I installed a composing bin in the far corner - with my new energy I'm getting more things done than ever!
Better Composting System
At some point I looked out my window and saw bees at work among the flowers of my herbs.
Dan came by to check out the squeak in the car and wouldn' t you know it - the squeak was gone! So we washed the car instead.