Thursday, February 26, 2009

At Night

The inside of even an empty factory is a noisy place. Oh sure it's kind of quite but there are a million little sounds from equipment that is never shut off, to wind blowing through parts of the building that are not exactly air tight, to the dripping of water at a couple of leaks, to vermin that have made a home in the plant, to the echos of your own footsteps as you walk through the building with a flashlight. Night and emptiness seem to magnify the sounds and sometimes the imagination kicks in. Sometimes you almost, but not quite, hear human voices that you just can't quite make out.

Now I know that these are "voices" are actually other sounds being altered by my imagination, which can run pretty wild at times. A real human voice would be unmistakable and I have heard them before and followed them to find a couple of stragglers, maintenance usually or management, working on something that the previous guard forgot to tell me about.

I kind of get a chuckle as I wander through the plant. I mean I can just picture one of the "psychics' from Most Haunted wandering though the plant and positively attesting "There has been a murder in this building, I tell you, a murder!" It's easy to let your imagination get carried away. I laugh as I realize that I am hearing the same kinds of sounds the scare the wits out of those "investigators".

I enjoy the guard shack. It's warm and cozy but you get to look forward to the your walks through the plant and out buildings to make sure everything is secure and nothing is wrong. Saturday evening I entered the water purification building and it was Holy Cow! as I discovered two inches of water on the floor of the subterranean level. The leak was easy to turn off but they still haven't drained all the water out. Maintenance doesn't seem too worried about it.

There are little things to keep me busy but eventually you sense the isolation of being the only human within a quarter of a mile in any direction. You step outside for a minute and let the cold air wake you up as you struggle to not nod off. You can watch TV but I'm not much of a TV watcher. Read a little. I wish I had internet access there but no. It's not a job for a person who can't handle isolation. Fortunately I can. I even kind of enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

If You Want an Inch . . .

About 16 or 17 years ago I was working for my previous employer and there was a group of four people on 3rd shift who worked totally unsupervised. Well three of them worked and the fourth would disappear every night about a half-hour after the shift started and return just in time to punch out. One of the guys in the group finally had enough and said something. The next night a supervisor followed the guy home and watched as he spent over six and half hours at home while the time clock said he was at work. He was warned and then did it again the next night. This time to production manager was following him and, understandably, fired him.

He had a friend in the maintenance department who was very upset about the firing and began watching the cleaning crew very closely. If they were a minute late coming back from break he reported them. If they went to the bathroom he reported them. If they stopped working for a minute he reported them. The engineering manager finally told him to knock it off and he was complaining about favoritism in the break room where I could hear him. Another maintenance worker told him that there was a big difference between getting 8 hours pay for going home and sleeping for six hours, and stopping for five minutes to catch your breath. He responded "Not if a friend is fired, it's all the same." I didn't say anything but I sure wanted to as I knew everyone involved and knew the fired guy was useless (another co-worker once said We had to take his pulse to see if he was still alive!) and the guy who complained was not simply a tattle-tale but a hard-working co-worker who had had enough. (The maintenance worker who was "avenging" his fired friend was fired shortly afterwards for drinking on the job after repeated warnings and repeated help given.)

It's a common thing. If you want an inch . . . be prepared to give me a mile or two. If you won't let me have a mile or two, don't ask for a single inch.

We are complaining about an out of control federal government. Does that mean we should reject every legitimate function of the federal government? Such an idea is absurd but seems to be the strawman that the left lifts every time we complain. The Constitution clearly lays out the responsibilities of the Feds and then the Tenth Amendment clearly states that everything not expressly referred to in the Constitution is the responsibility of the states and they can individually act on it as a state or let the individual citizen decide, but the Feds have to stay completely out of it. It is the responsibility of the federal government to do things like maintain highways, protect our borders and sovereignty (and they are doing that so well that we should trust them with anything else?), regulate commerce between the states (but intra-state commerce is entirely the responsibility of the state.) The feds have zero authority over education, welfare, "reproductive rights", etc. If they feel that the feds need that authority then they need to amend the Constitution to allow it. Even the Obama has admitted that the Constitution does not allow for wealth redistribution and he considers it a weakness of the Constitution, so he simply ignores it. Is he going to ignore the rest of the Constitution as well?

They are so busy interfering with the states' responsibilities that they are neglecting their own, like securing the border and keeping terrorists out (their two most important jobs at the moment).

Government is like fire. It's a useful tool but a deadly master. It must never be our master.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It's Stupid But . . .

Hot Air has a survey for the worst movie ever made and from the available list I wound up voting for Howard the Duck but the two worst movies I ever saw (Sin City and Wayne's World) aren't even listed. The list includes Xanadu which may not be a great movie but I kind of like (love Olivia's singing) and AI Artificial Intelligence could have been a good movie had it ended differently. The ending ruined it. In my entire life I have only walked out of two movies because I couldn't stand what I was seeing (Wayne's World was one of them and the other c some mercifully forgotten horror flick.) Actually some movies are so bad that their absurdity brings something to them - - Eight Legged Freaks was as stupid as a movie could be but because it was so intentionally campy that it didn't seem so bad, and the same could be said of Mars Attacks. I think it's when a stupid movie tries to take itself seriously that you wind up with something that you can't even watch, except maybe in morbid fascination. This only counts movies I have actually seen.

Unimportant, I know but . . .

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Is The World Coming To?

I never anticipated this of Vladmir Putin, a man for whom my admiration is . . . shall we say quite limited, but he has said something that I would never expect a Russian leader to say and I hope the American people hear it and take it to heart.

The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation.

In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state's role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.

Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.

And one more point: anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing.

Now if Putin would just take his own advice.


In the movie Minority Report there is a scene that kind of intrigued me when Tom Cruise enters an automobile factory and car is assembled around him but there is not a single worker in sight. It is totally automated. Now I'm not entirely against reasonable automation and I am certainly not against a business making a profit, which for most businessmen is the whole point, but I can't help but wonder what that population of that city does to earn a living. It seems to me that if the choice is between hiring people to do things for you or paying more taxes so that the government can give your money to them to live on, well it seems to be a no-brainer. Pay them to do something for you so that you at least get something for the money you are going to pass to them one way or the other.

My previous employer peaked at nearly 250 full time employees and during its last couple of years it was around 40 employees. Two years ago my current employer had close to 150 employees working full time and now it has about 45 on the payroll with only about 30 actually working. (And the plant is running at about 10% of its full three-shift capacity.) It's not going to get better anytime soon.

Sending jobs overseas made good short-term sense but was a long term problem. When jobs went overseas people could no longer afford to buy products even if they were cheaper. I see it all as part of the "live for today because there might not be a tomorrow" mindset. You only go around once in life so grab all that you possibly can right now. What can I get today? has replaced long term planning and long term consequences and it's not just corporate America. Organized labor should have known that its labor paradigm could not last forever and should have taken steps to ensure, not just a better living for its rank and file (if that was ever really its concern which I doubt) but taken steps to ensure that their employers would be able to sustain it for the future. The I want it now, to hell with tomorrow mindset was as firmly entrenched in the workers as it was in the management and Wall Street. Well tomorrow has arrived and Hell seems to be right behind it.

People mock the Protestant Work Ethic of everyone should work productively, even the very rich and the very poor. It included the idea that people should make more than just money, but that they should be involved in the production of things to fulfill their needs and desires of themselves and their community, or they should fulfill a needed role. It was the Protestant Work Ethic, along with open land and personal freedom, that caused America to rise to the heights it did and the work ethic is needed to restore it. Sadly we have lost it. We have too many people who live on the unreciprocated labor of others including the idle rich and the never-employed welfare class, whom I consider morally equivalent, at least in economic terms. Well at least the idle rich might create jobs, or at least they should.

It's not going to get better anytime soon. Our industrial base is spinning around the drain at the moment and we may simply have to start all over.

What would I do? I would create incentives for factories to manufacture here and to employ American workers. Create incentives for the rich and near-rich to create jobs and the problems will begin to fade as the workers begin to work and feel secure. If they don't work everyone suffers, including the businessman and the taxman, as they are now finding out.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Between a good strong cold (needing lotsa sleep) and work, not much time on the computer right now.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

India Is Getting Serious

I love it when nations improve their stature, not by trying to bring America down, but by improving themselves. I want to see a higher standard of living and advanced tech world wide. Sadly that may have to await the arrival of the Kingdom as man is incapable of building a just and prosperous society over the long haul. Still there are hopeful things happening.

I am pleased to see another nation preparing to launch a manned space-flight. When I was growing up India was a backwards nation of poverty and hunger and now this nation, which has largely - - though not entirely -- rejected socialism, is a technically advanced and growing power and it did properly. It improved itself rather than try to bring the big man down to its own level which is how so many nations tried to do it.

It will be a few years and India has a lot to do, but let's watch to see India launch its first manned flight soon.

The capsule is a typical three man vehicle launched by rocket and recover by parachute as every other nation has used.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Something today made me think of an old mini-series from 1987 about a Soviet occupation of America. A mini-series I hadn't thought about in years.

I am going to have to obtain, review and think about this one.

What's really sad about this movie is that so many of the stars that were in it never really listened to the speeches and words of their own characters. I wonder if that happens with movie stars where their lines go from their script to their mouth without passing through their mind.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Some "Doomed" Companies

Yahoo has an article today that includes a listing of fifteen companies that may not survive the year. First off, while it is very possible that some of them may tank, I am fairly certain that there will also be some survivors on that list.

However there were some things on that list that surprised me.

Rite Aid has twice as many employees as Chrysler. Does that mean Rite Aid going down would be a bigger disaster than Chrysler going down. Hmmmm. I think that's kind of like asking What's worse? Getting your head cut off or your torso tore in half? Don't think I'd care for either one.

A lot of them I have never dealt with, though when I was a store manager in a mall, I did love Sbarros, which we had in the place. I have kind of figured that video rental chains would be going down soon because of stuff like Netflix, . . . shades of the buggy whip companies. Our local Blockbuster closed a few months ago, which was a shame because it was my local favorite.

Six Flags kind of surprised me, but I haven't been to an amusement park in a few years.

Some are unavoidable, but still something of a heartache for those who depend on them. Some will have a chance to survive and some of them will.

One thing I noticed over and over though is that a lot of them overexpanded. I think that's a lesson they need to take with them.

The link in the article, 5 missing pieces is also interesting. What he finds missing are ways for us to measure what is happening so we can act accordingly. He and I do not see eye-to-eye but he does make a few valid points. One question he fails to ask, and he really should be asking, is Is the bailout really the best way to go? I know we're supposed to just take their word for it that the answer is Yes, but to put it simply, when choosing between big government and big business, well it's a choice between two criminal syndicates and you're going to lose either way. When it comes to government, business, education, labor, religion, media etc. small is better.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Just A Photo

After weeks of frigid cold we finally got a break over the last couple of days and the temps are well above freezing. As I was coming home around noon I crossed over a footbridge only a couple of blocks from my home and saw ice sheets crashing into and piling into each other because of the bend in the river just after the bridge. Just a bit of a sight to see.

The Stopped Clock is Right

A stopped clock is right twice a day.

Every now and then the United Nations does something that makes my lower jaw hit the floor. Usually it's because they take their astonishing stupidity to even more incredible heights, heights of stupidity which I previously thought unattainable.

Even more astonishing is when the UN actually does something right.

The UNRWA has suspended aid to Gaza after Hamas confiscated supplies meant for humanitarian aid once too often. This is astonishing. It's like Larry Flynt telling a girl to remain a virgin until she's married. It's like the UAW saying "Our pay and benefits are sufficient." It's astonishing.

It's also noteworthy that Israel was helping in the effort to feed these people and Hamas stole the food for their own people and to sell for profit.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Anniversary of a Tragedy

There was a lot of people quietly noting yesterday as the 50th Anniversary of The Day the Music Died and it is proper to remember the fine musicians who died in that tragedy, but today was the 26th anniversary of another musical tragedy.

26 years ago today a woman named Agnes Carpenter heard a noise in the room where her daughter, Karen Carpenter, had been sorting through old clothes and was now getting ready for a busy day. Karen was lying on the floor and never regained consciousness.

I did not realize the magnitude of this tragedy until several years later when I began to realize just how incredibly talented this lady was. As a human woman she had her flaws, but most of the people who knew her liked her and until anorexia nervosa had taken its toll she was full of energy and life. She could sing just about any style of music and her recordings included mellow music, 40s style swing music, old time rock and roll, country western, traditional Christmas Carols and general pop. To my knowledge she never recorded heavy metal but those who knew her said that she could sing to it as well and amongst friends sometimes did.

Not only was she unequaled as a vocalist, but she was considered an extraordinarily gifted drummer as well, and from what I understand she enjoyed playing the drums more than she enjoyed singing.

No she was not a beauty queen, but before anorexia devastated her appearance, only a fool would have said that she was not attractive, and she possessed a rare gift that no bikini model that I know of could have ever begun to even dream of. She could sing circles around almost any other singer and I could only name maybe half a dozen female vocalists who could even hold a candle to her, OK maybe 7 or 8 with the most recent one being Celine Dion with the closest being Whitney Houston or Patty Page. Such a voice comes along maybe once a decade. While her voice will not be raised on earth again until the resurrection, may she amongst us, but recordings of her voice will be heard as long as there are humans and recording devices.

Update Donald Douglas also has a tribute to Karen Carpenter and gives me a H/T which I am returning.

Monday, February 02, 2009

New Job Going Well

I started my new job and I work 2/3 of my hours over the weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) as a watchman over a factory while it's empty at night and over weekends. During most of my shifts I am the only person there. The Human Resource Manager for the company, whom I have known since 93, recommended me for the job because he and I have worked together before and he knows that I am dependable, honest, and don't need to be supervised, all of which is essential. The recently fired gentleman that I replaced was not and they finally got tired of it. Pay is modest but better than unemployment, hours are strange, and the job is fairly boring, but on the upside it is a fairly easy job and in this economy it is a job . . .period, and not a bad one.