Archive for the ‘Things that suck’ Category

R.I.P., Barbara Ehrenreich

September 2, 2022

She took what they were giving ’cause she was working for a living.

Barbara Ehrenreich, the journalist, activist, and author who never lost touch with her working-class roots, has clocked out. She was 81.

Her New York Times obit draws from the introduction to “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” in which she recounts wondering with a magazine editor how the unskilled survive on the wages paid them and then blurting out something that she “had many opportunities to regret: ‘Someone ought to do the old-fashioned kind of journalism — you know, go out there and try it for themselves.'”

Which is exactly what Ehrenreich did, of course, working and living as a waitress, hotel maid, nursing-home aide, and Walmart “associate,” among other things. Then she came back and told us all about it.

And though she would be writing it up, she wasn’t phoning it in:

People knew me as a waitress, a cleaning person, a nursing home aide, or a retail clerk not because I acted like one but because that’s what I was, at least for the time I was with them. In every job, in every place I lived, the work absorbed all my energy and much of my intellect. I wasn’t kidding around. Even though I suspected from the start that the mathematics of wages and rents were working against me, I made a mighty effort to succeed.

She was not, and is not, alone. And in her Evaluation at the end of the book, Ehrenreich proposed that those of us who live in comfort while others barely scrape by should feel not just guilt, but shame.

When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life.

What a gift was Ehrenreich’s life. Peace unto her, her family, friends, and readers.

Stormy weather

July 30, 2022

The AcuRite is wrong.

Yesterday’s power outage apparently electroshocked our weather widget into insensibility, so now come morning I have to step outside for a quick assay of the meteorological situation.

How tedious. A fella could get sunburnt, windburnt, soaked, frostbitten, lightning-struck, run over, or shot like that.

When Herself joined that long line for AcuRite’s online support chat yesterday their people proved less than supportive, shrugging their virtual shoulders and mumbling, “Hey, what could I tell you?”

However, I see from their website that AcuRite will happily give us 10 percent off purchases and keep us abreast of “exclusive offers, new products, and other useful content” if only we will sign up for their email list.

Nope. Let ’em step outside and holler if they have something to say to us. We are currently experiencing a heavy call volume. Please continue to hold (me bollocks).

Smoked out

May 17, 2022

Done and dusted until further notice.

If you think that little slice of New Mexico looks dry, even parched, maybe, well … that’s because it is.

And so, the word has come down that a forest closure order has been issued effective Thursday for the Mount Taylor, Mountainaire, and Sandia ranger districts of the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands. The entire Carson and Santa Fe national forests will follow suit.

Says the U.S. Forest Service:

“Fire danger remains extreme with record conditions only expected to worsen over the foreseeable future. The closure will be rescinded after significant moisture has been received and overall conditions improve.”

It’s a bummer, for sure. But so is getting burned the hell up.

I was just out toodling around in the Elena Gallegos Open Space, with an extra-credit lap around the Menaul trailhead area, and the Steelman Eurocross was cheeping like a nest of baby birds by the time I got home.

That ain’t dirt, it’s dust. And nobody wants a forest they can fit into an ashtray. Or so some of us would like to think, anyway. The quantity of cigarette butts I see along the roads and at trailheads suggests that this is not a unanimous opinion.

All aTwitter

April 26, 2022

My final tweet, from New Year’s Eve 2017. Didn’t cost me shit.

OK, pop quiz. if you had $44 billion lying around doing not very much you would:

  1. Feed the hungry.
  2. House the homeless.
  3. Buy Twitter.

I guess I get it, kinda, sorta. I mean, I like toys. I just bought a canister stove for my occasional camping adventures; MSR said they didn’t have the bits to modernize my Bronze Age RapidFire, then offered me 30 percent off on a new burner. So, ’ray for MSR and for me.

But Twitter? Maybe Elon has the bits to fix that hot mess, and maybe he doesn’t. He can certainly throw bales of cash at it until he tears a rotator cuff or finds some other shiny object to money-whip until boredom sets in once again.

Me, I don’t even want to use Twitter for free.

Be here when?

April 10, 2022

The Cuisinart bread warmer/scorcher.

On Saturday I was making breakfast and mulling over Ken Layne’s latest Desert Oracle podcast when I smelled something burning.

The Wirecutter boyos say you can’t buy a proper toaster anymore, whether you spend a lot or a little, and I believe them. If I don’t keep an eye on and make adjustments to this cheapo Cuisinart what I wind up with is either lightly dried bread or a blackened slab that looks like a smoking shake shingle from a lightning-fried cabin.

A little thing, to be sure. Hardly the foundation for a thumbsucker The New Yorker might buy. And never mind writing about it — simply thinking about it may be a red flag, or so posits the Desert Oracle:

If you don’t have any sense of mission or destiny, or religious faith, or really any sort of sustainable lifetime philosophy, then the small stuff is all you can think about. Because no matter where you are in life, at one time or another you are going to have all the usual problems: health, money, sorrow, disgust, anger, gum disease, athlete’s foot, too much house or none at all. Your dog either up and died or it’s neurotic and full of hate and will outlive you by decades. Everybody’s out to get you or nobody pays any attention at all. The entirety of modern technological society has brushed away and marginalized the personal practice of philosophy. So we lose the plot while we’re in it. It’s like one of those Disney “Star Wars” movies.

I’ve had all of these problems, except being outlived by dogs. And that rough beast is bound to come slouching around one of these days, because Herself wants one, even more than she wants properly toasted bread in the mornings, slathered with Irish butter and French spread.

Maybe I should relocate to one of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville-branded “active-living communities,” a paradise for Parrotheads, which is a philosophy of sorts, maybe even a religion.

I had a brief Buffett period, and still enjoy his early works, like “He Went to Paris,” “Cuban Crime of Passion,” and “Death of an Unpopular Poet.” He may have foreshadowed his future as a geezer miner with the lyrics to “I Have Found Me a Home”:

And I have found me a home

Yes, I have found me a home

And you can have the rest of everything I own

’Cause I have found me a home.

I think we’re all bohos on this bus.

That song and the rest of my best-of-Buffett list are from his 1973 breakout album, “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean,” which features, among others, Steve Goodman on acoustic lead guitar, Vassar Clements on fiddle, and Thomas McGuane on liner notes (“We are beset by the quack minstrels of a non-existent America, bayed at by the children of retired orthodontists about ‘hard times’ and just generally depleted by all the clown biographies and ersatz subject matter of the drugs-and-country insurgence that is replacing an earlier song mafia,” and if that isn’t vintage Captain Berserko I’m a Daytona Beach Realtor.).

The folks who live in Buffett’s beach-bum burgs out there in Disney country certainly seem to have a philosophy that works for them. In his New Yorker piece Nick Paumgarten quotes Stuart Schultz, Latitude Margaritaville’s head of residential community relations (and a former summer-camp director), as saying that living in a Margaritaville property is “like being in college, but with money and without having to study. You have a great dorm room, you never have to go to class, and there’s always a party.”

Hm. I dunno. An earlier version of me never went to class but took in many a party, so I feel like I’ve done my time in that dorm room. And like the toast from my Cuisinart I have the scorch marks to show for it.

It’d probably be smarter to stay put. Get a philosophy. And maybe a dog.

The old cat meows

December 19, 2021

“Someone flip me over, I’m done on this side.”

Sometimes I feel like an old cat. All I want is a sunny spot and the time to stretch out in it.

But eventually I must arise, if only to hit the litter box, grab a bite to eat, and sharpen the claws on the ol’ blogaroo.

Then comes the popping, snapping, and buzzing as levers and switches are thrown and pressed. Bent tabs lurch into ragged slots; parched bearings thirst for lubrication. Gonna have to use the kick-starter on this sumbitch today, boys. Pass the ether and that big fuckin’ hammer. No, not that one, the big one. Now stand back. Gimme room!

Which is the scenic route toward saying that the WordPress elves have been monkeying around under the hood again, making “enhancements” that I did not request and revising or disabling tools that I actually use.

And after extended consultation with support it appears that I may be compelled to arise from my sunny spot, stretch myself, and read the updated owner’s manual, even perform some hideous experiments on secondary and tertiary WP blogs long forgotten by the world at large. Don’t tell the killjoys at The Hague.

There seems to be a concerted push on to shift all WordPress users to Gutenberg, the block editor (cursed be its name, yes). The few times I have examined it, like a remnant of squashed turd upon one shoe, I have been dismayed, even appalled. I am a simple fellow, and there is nothing simpler than the original WordPress editor. It is the 22R engine, solid front axle, manual locking hubs, and five-speed stick shift of bloggery.

But time passes and things change, not always for the better (may I refer you to the modern Toyota truck, which has become nearly as preposterous as its American counterparts?).

So, if you notice anything off kilter around here in the coming weeks — which is to say, more off kilter than is usual for this joint— please remember, it’s (a) not my fault, and (2) free of charge.

Game over

December 8, 2021

“The better news is, it was an electric vehicle that killed you.”

On the way home from the grocery yesterday I managed to avoid three crashes with Burqueños who were either DWI, DUI, or HUA (Head Up Ass).

Stopping for a red light at Comanche and Tramway, a popular spot for the high-speed not stopping for red lights, I took note of the detritus from a recent collision scattered across the intersection.

And later, at home, hearing the wail of sirens and the whock-whock-whock of helicopters, I wondered idly who else had just made an unscheduled stop for a shit sammich.

Turns out a two-car crash at the next intersection up Tramway — the worst one, for my money — sent six people to the hospital, where four were listed in critical condition.

So color me unamused that Tesla is giving drivers the chance to play video games in their cars. While moving.

The New York Times notes that Elon Musk and his elves at Tesla “did not respond to several emails asking about the new video games and whether they could jeopardize safety.”

Imagine my surprise. No wonder Elon is in such a rush to get to Mars. He thinks it ain’t safe here on Earth, and he’s right.

We should pry Captain Video out of his Starship and drop him into a 1971 Ford Pinto, make him cruise around Albuquerque until he learns how to answer his emails. At a dead stop, of course.

• In other news, from our You’ve Got to be Fucking Shitting Me Department, we have the “Smart-Cockpit,” a bicycle handlebar with a touchscreen featuring Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. Is it April 1? Did I sleep through winter?

The Farce is with you

October 5, 2021

How do you “like” them apples, Obi-Wan?

“I felt a great disturbance in The Farce, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” — Mark Zuckerberg, Jedi Not

All those delicate eggs in Facebutt’s inexplicably unraveling basket. Has anybody pulled in the Easter Bunny for questioning? Just what is it he does between Easters, anyway?

In its coverage, The New York Times observes:

The Facebook outage on Monday was a planetary-scale demonstration of how essential the company’s services have become to daily life. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger have long been more than handy tools for chatting and sharing photos. They are critical platforms for doing business, arranging medical care, conducting virtual classes, carrying out political campaigns, responding to emergencies and much, much more.

Pardon my smirk, but the only reason these “services” have become “essential” is because the rubes, marks, and suckers have made them so.  Some of us limp along just fine without them.

I croaked all my social-media accounts long ago and I don’t even pop round to piss on their graves, that’s how little I think about Buttface, Twatter, and the rest of ’em. Hideous time-sucks that encourage humans to indulge their every whim, no matter how grotesque.

Convenience is not always your friend. Convenience leaves you with Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks after the mom-and-pop corner stores are gone. Anybody remember AOL? Email, messaging, browsing, website hosting, chat rooms, etc., all under the same leaky roof. O, the howling when that dog decided for one reason or another that it would not hunt when you whistled it up.

Some of us eventually built our own website(s) elsewhere, set up any number of email accounts, used Netscape for web browsing, and so on and so forth. More fiddly, but more rewarding, too.

I did use AIM for instant messaging when Netscape and AOL teamed up for that project. What the hell, it was convenient.

Wot’s all this then?

September 16, 2021

Officer Friendly is here to rifle through your Google user data.

“Probable cause? We ain’t got no probable cause. We don’t need no probable cause. I don’t have to show you any steenkeeng probable cause!”

Zachary McCoy was Just Riding Along™, not unlike thee and me, when the John Laws came calling for his Google user data. According to The Guardian:

McCoy later found out the request was part of an investigation into the burglary of a nearby home the year before. The evidence that cast him as a suspect was his location during his bike ride – information the police obtained from Google through what is called a geofence warrant. For simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, McCoy was being investigated and, as a result, his Google data was at risk of being handed over to the police.

No thank you, please, and fuck right off with that noise, Officer Friendly. How’s the song go? “Let me ride through the wide open country that I love / Don’t geofence me in.”

DUI yi yi

June 21, 2021

Imagine my surprise. The douchenozzle suspected of driving his Ford pick-’em-up into the masters race at Bike the Bluff in Arizona apparently has a history of overly happy motoring, among other things, reports The Associated Press.

Courtesy Arizona Department of Corrections.

Shawn Michael Chock, 35, has quite the rap sheet, according to Maricopa County’s online records. Some gentle soul matching his name and age has been fucking up like a champ since 2007: Aggravated assault, disorderly conduct with a weapon, three DUI-related charges, shoplifting, and violating parole, before finally doing a year and a half in the stripey hole beginning in May 2013.

Maybe he wanted to go back? Some people like it in the joint, I hear. I didn’t care for my one overnight stay in Denver City-County, but there’s no accounting for taste. Could be he’s the Aryan Brotherhood’s version of the Brown Truck Dude and got the word that his kindred needed a buttload of one thing or another.

“Just get your ass in here, Shawn, we don’t care how. Earl needs a cellphone.”

Perhaps he wanted to appeal his case to St. Peter? Didn’t quite make it to the Pearly Gates, did he? But then that Ford of his was full of bike parts and bullet holes and neither it nor Shawn was rolling all that well there at the end.

Meanwhile, we have a half-dozen cyclists in various hospitals around the Southwest who probably would like to know why the hell this had to happen to them. We’ll all know more than we care to before long, I expect.