Pick a fucking number

I am not you. You are not me. If you say “It’s hot in here” and I disagree, there is only one way to properly resolve this difference – pick a fucking number.

Heating the entire house because you feel cold is not the most efficient way to handle the problem, and our winter gas bill is proof of this.

Temperature is measured in degrees and if you say “72 degrees is comfortable”, we now have something to work with. If you say “It’s too hot” or “It’s too cold”, and the thermostat says that its 72 degrees, then you are wrong. It’s not too hot or cold, it’s exactly what you said you wanted it to be.

Heat rises. It’s a matter of physics. Warm air molecules expand and become lighter. Cold air molecules condense and become heavier. This fact is easily demonstrated in a 2-story house, like the one we happen to own. The upstairs is always warmer than the downstairs. If you heat the downstairs, the upstairs will also warm up. Conversely, if you cool the upstairs, the downstairs will be cooler.

Running a ceiling fan in a room with the doors & windows closed does not cool anything off. You are simply moving the air around in a circle. It feels cooler to you because the air moving past your skin is cooled slightly.

Why we have to go through this discussion not just once, but twice a year, is beyond me. And it’s frustrating.

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A Mind is a Terrible Thing…. To Waste

My mother was a “light-duty bi-ploar”, meaning she only had 4 episodes in her life, though some of them were doosies.

Her first episode was most likely the cause of her first divorce, but that’s just an educated guess, put together decades later.

The next episode happened when I was about 16 years old. Mom worked as a legal secretary for a high-pressure law firm in Washington D.C. Her diet was supplemented with Sanka coffee, Anacin aspirin, and Salem cigarettes; so much so, that some days you’d think those were her primary food groups. My oldest sister, “M”, had visited our grandmother, who had never liked our dad. Apparently some words were said from grandmother to my sister, and then my sister sent a letter to my mom. My sister was apparently spiraling down-hill (with her husband in Fort Worth, Texas) while mom spiraled down-hill at home in Virginia. One day while at work, my dad got a call telling him to come and get mom. She stayed at home for 3 days before dad finally told her “Either you admit yourself, or I’m going to admit both of us“. Mom decided to admit herself and oddly, I knew where the closest psychiatric hospital was – 30 miles away in Leesburg, Virginia. The family all piled in our VW van, mom & dad in the middle seat, my younger sister, “J” in the back, my next older sister, “K”, riding shotgun, and yours truly driving. We arrived, mom checked in, and the doctor said they would take good care of her for us. Mom spent a total of 30 days there and when we picked her up, the entire family was walking on egg shells around mom. The doctors took care of mom, but no one took care of the rest of the family.

Many years later, after mom had retired and dad had passed away, mom ended up in the local hospital on a 72 hour hold, because she spiraled off and apparently made a bomb threat against the city mayor. Her brother happened to be the city attorney and he worked very hard at keeping mom’s name out of the paper, because he didn’t want her to be connected to him. The doctor adjusted her meds, and all seemed right in the world, at least for a while.

Her last episode was soon after that. Again she was admitted to the local hospital for a 72 hour hold and again she refused to take her meds. She would call me at my work because she knew the 1-800 phone number would work on the pay phone. One call, she was rambling on and on, all about nothing. It was tough for me to get a word in edgewise, but I was finally able to interject: “Mom! Do you trust your doctor? Because I’m thousands of miles away and I have to trust him. I need you to promise me one thing – when your evaluation comes up, if they say you are better, I want you to walk out the front door with your chin up. But if they say you need to stay and take your meds, I want you to promise me that you’re going to do just that. Will you promise me that you will do that?” She agreed and we ended the conversation. 2 days later, she called back and it was quite clear that she was spinning a thousand miles an hour. I quickly broke into her conversation and said “Mom, remember that promise you made me the other day? Well, I’m holding you to it. I love you and I have to go now.” I quickly hung up the phone. The next day, my uncle called me (something he had *NEVER* done before nor since) and he said “I don’t know what you said to your mom, but thank you; she’s taking her meds again“. I replied that I simply held her to a promise she had made me.

Some time after that last episode, Mom was attacked by a guy she had met in the hospital. Again her name was withheld from the paper, a signature move of her brother. She eventually could not live by herself, so she sold her house (for cheap, to her nephew) and moved back east, lived in an assisted living facility, and eventually passed away.

Here’s looking at you, mom!

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If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Some say that “money is the root of all evil”, and once you start examining exactly how capitalism really works, you will see exactly how true that statement really is. The rules of capitalism not just encourage, but require every participant to do everything possible to get ahead, using any and all means possible. If the money stops moving, then the game begins to slowly implode.

There are many ways to work outside this system; ways to not only minimize your exposure to capitalism, but in some respects, to eliminate it completely. Money is the prime means of measuring wealth as well as enslaving those who are chasing wealth, so if you can replace money with something else, something more tangible, then you can control your own financial future. Instead of depending on banks for your finances, you take control by becoming the bank.

When I was 9 years old, my dad needed to buy some new tires for the family car. He didn’t have the money, but he knew I had a meager savings in my piggy bank, so he asked me for a loan. I floated him $90 for the new tires, and made him pay me back (3 years later), for a total of $120 (principle & interest). Dad got a loan when he was in a bind and I got roughly 11.25% interest on my investment. It’s a small example of how family can help family, leaving banks out of the equation completely.

Back in the 1980s, muscle cars were relatively plentiful and cheap. A friend of mine approached me for a loan, to buy a car that he described as “too good to pass up on”. I loaned him $1500, we agreed on the time frame for repayment, and he inquired as to what I would want for interest. I told him that I wanted “something interesting that I could use”. He made his payments of the principle on time and then he presented me with a NOS set of 1969 426 Hemi standard bore piston rings, asking if that would be sufficient “interest” on the loan. At the time, I had a standard bore Hemi block, so I was more than happy to accept his proposal. (I later learned he had stumbled upon the box of rings sitting on a shelf at one of the dealerships that he frequented, and had bought them for about $50.)

About 20 years ago, my sister and her husband found themselves in a financial pinch. They had a parcel of land that they were considering selling and I asked what kind of a deal they might make me. We agreed on a price, monthly payments and a time frame for payment. They did not want anything more than the face value, so the loan was in fact 0% for 5 years. I got a great deal on the land, they got an additional income source to help them out of their pinch, and no banks were involved.

When a company has a debt that they can’t collect (for any number of reasons), they can package that debt up, sometimes with other debts, and sell them to other companies (for pennies on the dollar). Other companies can buy the debt, then try to collect on it; or, like Rolling Jubilee does, they can simply forgive the debt, thus releasing the debtor entirely.

There are non-profit companies that make “micro-loans” to people. Kiva is one such example.

Crowd-funding projects through the internet, such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter is another way to raise funds. Sometimes this works out great foe and up-and-coming business.

If you are looking to buy a home, beware of a small local mortgage company, because it is probably owned by the local realtor. That way he makes money on both ends of your home purchase deal. Maybe he can find you a better deal on a mortgage, or maybe you could do better with a bigger lender. Shop around before signing the papers.

Modest Needs is a charity that has a unique twist – you can be either an applicant or a donor, and if you choose to be a donor, you can choose what your money is used for.

To summarize, there are many ways to work around the bankers strangle hold, you just need to look for them.


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Look both ways

This week I’ve been working in an industrial area of Stockton, California; a city that has a rather large homeless population. This area is littered with numerous encampments, not only under bridges but also right out on the sidewalks. They are on many freeway off-ramps and the people approach you at many gas stations; asking for change. It’s easy to look the other way, ignoring the problem, hoping it just goes away.

At 11 am, I was driving from the parts store to the Subway sandwich shop that is right down the street, to get a bite to eat. The 4-lane street was unusually clear of cars, so I pulled out and headed on my way. Up ahead, I see a man (not sure if he was homeless or not) riding a bike and he is followed by 3 small dogs (larger than a Chihuahua but smaller than a boxer) running after him. I don’t think the dogs were his, because he’s pedaling rather quickly, like he’s trying to get away from them. Maybe he came down a side street and the dogs were being protective of their turf? I don’t know. But after a block, the dogs gave up the chase and slowly turned back towards the way they had come. I turned into the Subway parking lot and chuckled a little, thinking about this guy trying to escape the vicious ankle biters.

I had beat the usual lunch crowd, so it only took 5 minutes to have my sandwich made. I grabbed some chips, a soda, paid the nice lady, and was back in my truck quickly and without incident from the locals.

As I headed back up the 4-lane street, traffic had picked back up to it’s usual pace. One block away, I look to the right edge and I see the 3 dogs; but 1 is motionless and the others are walking around in circles. At first I thought the dog was resting (from the short but furious run after the bike), but then reality set in…. the dog had been hit by traffic and was dead on the side of the road. The other 2 dogs did not know what to do as they were obviously lost without the 3rd companion, but refused to leave it’s side.

I spent the afternoon wondering if the man returned home to find one of his dogs missing or if they really were just strays, missed by no one. It’s easy to not care and just go about my way. I also wondered if I’d ever be in that situation; destitute and alone, living on the streets. People don’t get in this situation overnight and it’s not going to get solved overnight.

I don’t have all the answers, but if we are going to fix society’s ills, it’s going to take everyone opening their eyes, looking both ways, and crossing the street safely.

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Capitalism is wasteful

So many people believe that all of the improvements in life are because of capitalism. They think progress would not happen if there was no profit motive. Yet how many times do people do good things just for the sake of doing good?

As a mechanic, there is something inherently wrong with throwing away ANYTHING that is brand new and/or still in perfect working condition. Today I participated in something that really irked me to my core beliefs – I helped load up a 20 yard scrap bin; 1/2 of which was new parts. My boss said we were having an audit at the beginning of the new year and we needed to clean up the shop by getting rid of everything that wasn’t on the inventory list. The warehouse guys had already taken numerous pallets & boxes down from the racks so we could all sift through them. Lots of brand new parts still in original packaging as well as new “take off” parts from other jobs, parts that we thought we might use on other (future) projects, but never did.

I tried arguing the point that these parts, especially the brand new ones, could be sold for 100% profit. The parts guy shot that idea down because it screws up his numbers for other parts that he sells. (profit margin divided by zero??) My boss said that this type of “purge” happens all the time in the business world because it’s a write-off for their books. To me, it’s completely mind-boggling to think anything new and perfectly good would be tossed aside so easily.

I asked if me & the other guys could take some parts and we were told we could, BUT if any of them appeared on Ebay, Craigslist, etc, we would be fired immediately. It’s the company’s parts and they want them gone. Period.

So I started wondering – how much time, effort & resources are required to make any particular product? Let’s take a metal panel enclosure, for example:

  • The ore has to be mined and processed into the actual metal
  • The metal has to be stamped into the proper shape
  • The newly shaped part has to be prepped, primed, and painted
  • It has to be wrapped and boxed, to be shipped to the store
  • It gets checked into their computer system, tagged and placed on a shelf; ready to sell to a customer.

Now let’s say that instead of selling that part, it sits on the shelf for some time, let’s say a few years. The company now considers this item to be unsalable; writes it off their books, and removes it from inventory. Employees are directed to dump the part into a scrap bin, and when the bin is full, it’s taken away, the company pays for this service and possibly makes a little bit of spare cash for the metal scrap.

Everything that went into making that product is now reduced to a small fraction of the total value (time, effort, money, resources) that went into making it.

How the hell can capitalism continue to “make a profit” when there is so much waste involved?


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Here’s a dose of reality

Why does it seem that humans go through the vast majority of their life trying to AVOID reality? I was reminded of this while I was hanging my usual (sparse) Christmas lights this year:

A few years ago I stumbled upon the web site Church of Reality (www.churchofreality.org) and instantly I knew I had found a home, a place where my own (religious?) thoughts were shared with other like-minded people. The web site was run by a guy named Marc Perkel, and though I’ve never met him, he seems like a kindred spirit to me. His personal blog (http://www.perkel.com/) contains many of the same thoughts that my own blog has. He has published an amazing 50,000+ pages which makes my own blogs and writings pale in comparison.

But it was soon after subscribing to his newsletter that I received an update on his health – he was battling cancer. I only got a few messages over the next 2 years, but they were upbeat. He had designed his own treatment regime and it seemed to be working! Down with big pharma! A win for the little guys! Good for Marc!

Reality should not include drug manufacturers getting rich off the sick, hypocrite priests taking advantage of children, bankers charging interest on imaginary money, corporations giving their CEOs huge bonuses while laying off thousands of workers, or corrupt politicians pimping fear through TV’s manufactured drama. But currently, reality does include these; and only We The People can cause the necessary shift in reality to get humanity back to where we should be. We fight the fight because it is right; yet so many have their eyes firmly clamped shut, ignoring the reality that takes advantage of them on a daily basis. It can be quite disheartening at times.

Then last week I got a message through the newsletter, but it was from Marc’s sister. Marc had lost his battle against cancer and had passed away.  Much like Bill Hicks, George Carlin, and Michael C. Ruppert, another hero was gone from reality. Once again my life seemed to have an empty spot, a blank piece much like others had torn before.

It’s tough to accept, but death is a natural part of life. That’s reality. And life should be lived every day, on real terms.  That’s the way Marc would want it

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How obvious does it have to be?

This post could also be titled “How oblivious are you?

Certain problems seem quite obvious to some, while not apparent to others. Take for example, myself. One time I diagnosed a broken timing belt just by hearing the engine cranking over as I walked by the car in a parking lot. Simply hearing the engine was a clear indicator because I had fixed so many in the past. I was 100% certain and I offered to help the motorists by demonstrating why I was correct in my assessment. I’m sure many mechanics would have been able to diagnose this problem the same way I had and many more could also diagnose it using tried & true methods of testing the systems that the engine relies on for proper operation. The only difference is how obvious it was.

Knowledge and skill can make all the difference and some people already have these while others don’t. Also some people actually want to improve themselves, by gaining more knowledge and skills; but some people simply don’t want to learn or improve upon themselves. They want the answers handed to them, in simple, easy to digest words.

I’ve written many posts about what is wrong with this world, and this one is going to try and summarize some of these issues (not in any particular order). Yes, I’m going to ruffle a few feathers and yes, this post is aimed at *YOU*, the reader that wants everything handed to them. Here you go…..

The federal government is completely corrupt – Whether you vote D or R, none of them give a damn about you. Our entire election cycle is designed to make you think you have a choice. You don’t. They spend millions of dollars to get elected to a job that pays (proportionally) very little. They give political favors to their friends and the corporations that pay them and in return the politicians get to pat themselves on the back, thinking they have “helped” in some way. They are not. Corruption is the norm and voting won’t change it.

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Money no longer represents anything of tangible value – Our financial system used to back its currency with precious metals, such as silver and gold. But after we were taken off “the gold standard”, what asset is in place to give money it’s (perceived) value? Nothing. Only the overall agreement between all people involved to continue accepting our currency to pay for debts gives it any potential value. And when you loan out fake money with interest added on, there is no mathematical way to ever pay off that debt.

Taxation is theft – Back when taxes were first invented, they paid for the infrastructure of a new country. Now it’s just a way to enforce servitude upon the people. Every year the federal budget allocates piles of money to all sorts of projects; most of which are futile. Did you get to vote on where your money goes? Is there any way to opt-out of the insanity? Of course not.

Your “God” is imaginary and religion does harm others – Man created the god character to try and invoke something greater than what his own brain could comprehend (at that time). There is zero tangible proof for your deity actually existing. “Faith” is a lie and perpetuating this is brainwashing other people. Making decisions based on your religious views is not always the best way to handle the situation. We are smarter now and we need to act that way.

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Some doctors are paid for their loyalty by drug companies – Much like the relationship between a politician and the corporations that give them money, some doctors push drugs because the drug manufacturers give them money. Is that pill really the best way to treat your ailment? Or are you simply a guinea pig so they can get rich?

Our military does not “protect and serve” our country – Since when did our country become the world police? Why do we have military bases all over the planet? Why does our military help protect our business interests in other countries? And the last time our military was actually needed to protect our country (the 9/11 attacks), they were purposefully called back, distracted, and told to stand down. That’s not how any of this is supposed to work.

Capitalism is not the best way to run a country’s economy – We must stop measuring how well the economy is doing by how well rich people are doing. Capitalism *depends* on people working hard and being able to buy stuff, but automation and robots are putting people out of work. If you can’t afford to buy stuff, the economy shrinks. It’s an ever tightening, downward spiral.

Knowledge is power, but cognitive dissonance is king – Whether you are a politician, a clergy member, a doctor, a military leader, an advertiser, or even a mechanic, everyone depends on the other people to NOT know sufficient, critical information about a given subject. Call it “fake news”, call it brainwashing, call it savvy marketing; sometimes people actually work to instill opposing and incorrect ideals in other people. Psychological stress caused by trying to hold 2 or more contradicting ideals makes the brain shut down and many people will make rash decisions just to avoid this stress.

 

And yet, despite all of these things, here we are. Just think where we (humanity as a whole) could actually be by now if we respected each other and worked together to improve life for all.

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