Friday, July 31, 2020

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

If you stack yourself against the system, it only seems like the system is stacked against you.

I noted before that I grew up in a family of externalizers.   Everything was someone else's fault, preferably the fault of vague, unseen outside nefarious forces.  Even my Dad, who would otherwise seem like a rational guy, being in management and all, never owned up to his own malfeasance.  He changed jobs like most people change underwear, mostly because of his Irish temper, which he let get the better of him at times.  Each time he was fired - or quit dramatically - he would blame others for his woes.  It never occurred to him, even after he lost his fifth job, that maybe something he was doing was at least partially to blame.

My Mother and siblings were about the same way.  They would rail against the evil Republicans, or the Evil Banks or the Evil Corporations - never mind the fact that Dad worked for one such Evil Corporation, that was putting a roof over our heads, food on the table, and paying for their prep school tuition.   The system was rotten to the core!

When I set out in life, even though I was working for GM at age 18 as a salaried employee, I still harbored these sort of fantasies.   If I bounced a check, it was the bank's fault for charging me a $15 bounce fee.  Those banks were no good!

It took me quite a while to realize my attitudes were harming me and moreover were childish.  My attitude changed, I guess, when I talked with a bank President on the phone to get an investment loan to buy my office building.   They changed further when a friend of mine offered me a chance to buy founding shares in a bank he was starting.

My attitude also changed when I talked with friends who worked at banks, and they told me about the antics of some of the customers - bouncing checks one after another, which was sort of the same antics I did as stoner 20-something. My attitude changed also, I guess, when I stopped being a stoner.

Externalizing is fun and we all do it to some extent.   I still do it sometimes, blaming even inanimate objects when things go wrong.   Stupid toast!  Always landing butter-side down!   Although lately, I have become more philosophical about such things.  When some small tragedy in my life occurs, I just remember that the Westboro Baptist Church taught us: God Hates Fags.   That's why he made the toast land butter-side down!   Brilliant theology!   Seriously though, that always gives us a laugh when something goes wrong.

My blaming inanimate or even animate objects for being obstinate is something of a catharsis - a release of tension.  For example, if you've ever tried to put on a wet swimsuit, you know your feet just absolutely hate you.  "Hey guys!" the toes say, "He's going to try to put on a wet swimsuit!  Let's all get caught in the tangled folds of the wet fabric and make him fall down again!  That was so funny!"  It won't be so funny for them when I crack my skull on a table edge and their blood flow is interrupted.  Goddamn toes, always with the practical jokes!

But in a similar manner, we tend to blame unseen forces for our woes, and these sort of attitudes are self-defeating.  If you have any of the following attitudes, ask yourself why, and whether they are helping your life any:
1.  The big banks are all assholes and corrupt. 
2.  The company I work for is no good. 
3.  My boss is an asshole. 
4.  I hate my job. 
5.  The big corporations make too much money. 
6.  I would be rich, if it weren't for [the Fed, the UN, the banks, Bill Gates, whatever].
7.  The opposing political party is to blame for all our country's woes!
8.  My ex-spouse or ex-lover is a materialistic jerk. 
9. Anyone who succeeds in life has "sold out" to the man.
And so on and so forth.  Such attitudes are depressing, but comforting at the same time.  You aren't a loser!  It is all China's fault!  The President said so!

There are a lot of sites out there that claim that poverty is only a state of mind, and that success can be achieved by merely wishing for it.  Often these same sites want you to send them money, too. While most of these are a con-job there is a nugget of truth to what they are saying.  You can't "pray your way to wealth" but then again, if you have a more positive attitude about life, maybe things will start to go your way, mostly because you will have a more realistic attitude about life.

People whose perceptions of "reality" are closer to the real thing end up doing better in the world. The guy who can foresee market trends, for example, will clean up in the market.  The guy who buys into irrational exuberance, will always fail.  Thus, for example, if you "follow" some financial guru or read junk on the MSN Money page, you end up with a skewed sense of reality - and end up buying things after they have already shot up in value, and selling them when they go down.

The irrational guy was the one who bought an overpriced house with a "liar's loan" back in 2006 and held on to it when it plummeted in value in 2008.   He wanted to "get in on this real estate thing!" because everyone else was making money it seemed.  But he never did the math and overpaid for a property that had a monthly carrying cost three times the rental income.   Worse yet, he cashed in his 401(k) - paying a huge tax bill in the process - to forestall the inevitable foreclosure.

The lesson learned?   Big banks are bad!   He could have walked away in 2008 with his 401(k) intact, but instead made one bad choice after another.  Rather than learn anything from this, he externalizes the whole thing as the fault of the bank for enticing him with a liar's loan.   But he chose to sign it, rather than leave his pen at home.

You can't succeed in life with attitudes like that - period.  You can't be successful as an investor, an employee, an employer, an entrepreneur, a spouse, or whatever.

This does not mean, however, that changing your attitude will insure success - or that changing your attitude for ten minutes will change your life (and when that doesn't happen, justifies you returning to the depressed mode of living).

It means realizing that the entire world wasn't structured with the idea of thwarting you.  In fact, a lot of people want you to succeed.   But that doesn't mean they are going to hand you money or do your work for you.   They want to see you succeed - which requires effort on your part.  The bank isn't handing out free money samples today, but they aren't actually trying to impede your success, either.  Unless, of course, you want to take out some onerous loan for something you really don't need - like a fancy car.  In that case, the bank will be all-too-happy to screw you, but again, if you left your pen at home, you would not end up in financial trouble.

Sadly, it seems today we have a whole generation raised on the idea that all of our institutions are venal and vile, and that "free money" handed out by the government is the only answer to our "problems" - the problems of living in the richest country in the world, having too many electronic toys, too much booze and drugs, too overfed, and too overweight.  It is sort of obscene how people complain about life in the US.

But again, this disconnect between perception and reality.   The more clearly you perceive reality, the better off you are.   Sadly, it seems most people prefer to live in a world of delusion these days - and then wonder why their delusional world isn't working out for them.

Gee, I wonder why it isn't?

Biden VP Pick Revealed!

4-speed Joe!

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - Officials of the Biden campaign inadvertently let slip the former Vice President's choice to succeed him in that job.  After careful consideration of all the potential candidates, Biden has decided, insiders say, to select his beloved 1967 Corvette Stingray as his running mate.

Biden has owned the car since new, when it was given to him by his Father, a Chevrolet Dealer at the time, as a wedding gift.  The car is equipped with a small-block 327 Chevy V-8 producing 300 horsepower, mated to close-ratio four-speed manual transmission.

The selection took many by surprise, as Biden was known for his fondness of riding Amtrak. However, as the former VP noted, once in a while, one has a need for speed.  Selecting the jade-green convertible fulfills Biden's promise to pick a woman of color. "And she's a real lady," Biden remarked.

"Trump can't even drive a stick, much less drive!" Biden shouted.

"She's been with me from day one." Biden noted, "And we've always worked well together over the years.  We'll continue to work well together in the White House!"

While some other potential VP candidates were disappointed in Biden's choice, others were more philosophical. "The VP job is pretty meaningless, and no one knows that better than Joe!" Susan Rice was reported saying, "Besides, I'd rather be Secretary of State."

Kamala Harris opined that "While it may seem like an unconventional choice - as the VP should be ready to step into the President's shoes at any time - let's face it, a '67 Stingray would make a better President than what we have now.  Besides, I'm needed in the Senate."

No word yet from Biden's  white 1981 Trans Am, which did not make it to the final round of the selection process.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Blogger Editing Fubars - Past and Present

Blogger has a new interface!   It's probably about time.

Over the last decade or so, I have written literally thousands of blog postings (this will be #4245).   And over the years, blogger has improved, mostly.  They are rolling out a new interface this month, and next month, you will no longer be able to go back to the "legacy" mode.  For the most part, it is window dressing - changing the shape of the icons to make them look more modern.  Readers may not notice the changes at all, other than the new "look" I inadvertently clicked on, not realizing that once I did, I could not go back to the old.   Doh!

One of the weird things about blogger early on was that when you used the quotation mark (") in italics, it would push the mark on the display over the next character.   So you may notice in older postings I have not edited that there is a space _ between the first quotation mark and a word in italics.   So "italics" might appear as " italics" because under the old blogger, the latter would display as the former.

But that was not the only fubar.  As you can see, I prefer "full justification" of text, as I think it is easier to read.  left justification looks sloppy - although many "mainstream" news sites use it, because, let's face it, they're clueless.   Well, somewhere along the way, blogger allowed for full justification, and over the years, I have re-edited older postings to put in full justification.   If you see an older posting with left justification, it probably was not edited by me - yet.

But even attempts to put in full justification often fail.  The blogger interface allows you to type out a document and use icons to insert special effects like italics, underlining, or boldface or strikeout or change colors or whatnot.   The blogger editor then creates the HTML - or tries to - to create the effect you want.

When you select a block of text and hit the "full justify" icon, it will insert, generally, a "DIV" command in the text to do this.   But for some reason, if the previous paragraph was centered or italics, it will do this with a "SPAN" command, which will not "render" as full justification but instead as left justification.   The only way to change this is to go to the HTML editor and manually erase the commands and re-justify the paragraph.   Ahhh.. the mysteries of HTML - or more precisely, automated HTML editors.

In some instances, blogger just loses its mind, particularly if you cut-and-paste some HTML-heavy document into a blog posting.   There is so much "code" embedded in the text, the rendering engine just can't keep up, particularly with a slow connection and slow computer.   For example, when I tried to insert an e-mail from a Nigerian Scammer who responded to me about the fictional Casita for sale, it was so loaded with HTML codes it crashed my computer.    It was pretty amazing stuff, frankly.

The only way to deal with this is to use the "Tx" command, which instantaneously removes all HTML from the text, leaving it as bare text to be reformatted.  If I cut-and-paste from a news site, for example, it may "embed" pages of HTML code into the text, to the point where it will not render, or they have some sort of odd formatting, tables, background colors or God-knows-what-else.

It was then that I realized that it is a pretty neat trick to create HTML code from someone typing - with a few simple commands.  Oftentimes, what I intend to create doesn't quite work out as rendered.  Again, older postings may often have odd fonts or font sizes, before I figured out what the problem was.  Importing HTML from outside sources is often the problem.

I wish I had taken more courses in various coding techniques as a student.  But back then, people pooh-poohed software as mere grunt work - with no future or profit to it. Something called "hypercard" became a thing, but no one seemed to know what it was all about. The guy who created it was high on LSD at the time.   This "Hypercard" included something called "Hypertext" but no one thought that would go anywhere, either.  But of course, this lead, indirectly, to Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML, which drives the Internet today.  Every site you visit is pretty much a bunch of HTML coding, including the site you are reading right now.

I never learned to "program" HTML, although I can spot some common commands like IMG SRC to link to an image, or AHREF which links to another site.

No one likes change, of course, and the "new" Blogger will have its share of frustrations, I am sure, and some things I used to be able to do, I will no longer have access to.   But then again, given how primitive it was a decade ago, anything is an improvement!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

PC Crime Reporting

Crime reporting got Politically Correct decades ago.   Why is this?  Is it healthy?

Decades ago, when the local news would report a crime, they would report a description of the robbers - if the Police were "on the lookout" for them.  So the local newscaster or the local paper would say, "Police describe the robber as a caucasian male, approximately 5'6" with blond hair and blue eyes."   The idea being that maybe someone would recognize the person and call the police to report them.  Maybe.   I'm guessing it didn't solve a lot of crimes.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the description would read, "Black male, early 20's, 6'2", black hair, brown eyes" and this was the case because historically blacks have been over-represented in poverty statistics, and under-represented in education and employment statistics.   This is not to say that all criminals in the ghetto are robbing people to buy a loaf of bread for their kids (indeed, few criminals are, anywhere, of any race) but that raised in a economic and cultural situation like that, it is easier to gravitate toward crime.

And socioeconomically speaking, the same is true for the rural meth-head trailer park.   The news is replete with "Florida Man" crime reports, usually detailing the hilarious or horrendous antics of white trash in Florida, as they commit crimes and sometimes kill people. Of course our revulsion and amusement at "Florida Man" isn't racist, is it? Classist perhaps, but not racist. So it's OK to stereotype rural rednecks.

But some folks thought it wasn't OK to mention the race and description of criminals, particularly if they were black.    They argued (successfully) that when the evening news or the morning paper routinely described wanted suspects as "black" it would present a negative image of blacks in America, and thus reinforce stereotypes that blacks were more likely to be criminals or were dangerous or violent.   So many newspapers and television stations went along with this, and the race of the people sought was not mentioned, or their mug shots, if captured, was not shown.   And that was like in the 1970's that this happened - PC has a long history!

(One end-run on this PC reporting was to report that the robber had a "dark complexion" which was sort of a racial coding).

Of course, white folks have a secret decoder ring they use to parse these things out - and black folks gave them the secret code.   When driving in a strange city, white people know not to get off at Martin Luther King Boulevard to get gas (although I have, several times, in Jacksonville - guess what?  You're perfectly safe).  As Chris Rock put it, "We honored the King by naming the worst street in each city after him" - which may be why white city council members went along with it.  Red-lining is out, but naming a street "Malcolm X Boulevard" gets the message across.

In crime reporting, they no longer report race or even show photos of the suspects.   But white folks can figure it out pretty much by the names.  The popularity of "African-sounding" names in recent years is another secret decoder ring given to white folks by blacks.   So when you see a crime report than says that Frank Smith was mugged by Jonthany Anderson and Ta'nisha Jones, you can sort of put together the narrative.

What got me started on this was a recent crime in New York City, where Kelsey Grammer's daughter Spencer, was among those stabbed by a man in a restaurant when he was refused a drink because the restaurant was about to close and the man was already drunk.  What was odd about the story was that most media outlets did not include a description of the man, or show the surveillance photo of the man (shown above), who the police are "on the lookout" for and no doubt, someone would recognize if they saw the photo.  One outlet admonished people not to approach the man, as he may be dangerous!   But they failed to include the photo or the description of the attacker.

Some media outlets published the photo of the attacker - such as the Daily News, which of course, is a tabloid.   Other news sites published pictures of Ms. Grammer's Father instead, and had teasers on whether a "Frasier" reboot was in the works.  Meanwhile, a dangerous criminal is walking the streets, and we have no idea what he looks like.  If his photo was widely published, someone would recognize him and he would be arrested quickly - a valuable use of media airtime and bandwidth.

But we can't have that.  Not today, with all that is going on.  Some white kid from the suburbs would throw a rock through your window, shouting "Black Lives Matter!" when in fact, he doesn't know any black people and lives in a cushy white suburb.

And black people are noticing this.  The head of a local chapter of the NAACP (among others) is concerned that the entire BLM movement, being leaderless, has been hijacked by white people - these "Antifarts" who want to destroy things and do street battle with "Aryan Brotherhood" or whatever.

I guess this is not unexpected.   After all, white people have expropriated everything else from blacks - their labor, their very lives, their culture, their music, their cuisine, their style - whatever can be harvested for a profit.   So of course, "Black Lives Matter" would be taken over by whites.   We've taken everything else, why  not this?

Antifarts are the worst sort of racists - because they pretend they care when in fact, they are just taking, while claiming others are racist.  Fighting racism begins with acknowledging that everyone is a little bit racist (yes, even black folks!) and that pretending you are above the fray is just posturing of the worst sort.  Antifarts need to go back to their comfortable white suburbs and go back to playing video games in their Mother's basement and whining about their student loans on Reddit.  They have no business leading or "organizing" a BLM protest, and very little business even attending one.

The stabbing of Ms. Grammer and others was a bit unusual in that most of the victims of crime by blacks are black themselves.   Although there is much ink spilled about "white fear" of black crime, the reality is, most white people live in comfortable, crime-free neighborhoods (other than the aforementioned meth-head trailer park).  The idea that criminality is some sort of black cultural value exists mostly in the minds of suburban whites, who revel in the whiff of danger involved - and whose children mimick the antics of rap stars, who posit themselves as "playas" and gang-bangers.

Again, cultural appropriation - caricaturing blacks as criminals for the amusement of whites.  It is the new minstrel show.  Who is the largest audience for rap music? Yeah, white folks. (And thanks to Marshall Mathers, you no longer have to be black to be a rapper).  The image of blacks as criminals is promoted for profit.

The cruel reality is that crime in the ghetto affects the residents the most, and they are often the first to want a crackdown on crime.

But like clockwork, the media blandly reports yet another drive-by shooting in Chicago, and if you live there, you know from the neighborhood mentioned what the races are of the shooters and victims, even as they don't show the mugshots of the perpetrators, or a video of the crying mother of the victims.  That would be politically incorrect!   And I think, as a result, it is easier to sweep these crimes under the rug, as viewers can dismiss these crimes as something happening to "other people" and not them, in their safe and comfortable suburbs.  That's the real racism - not cracking down on crime.

Yes, it is awful when a black man is killed by a Police Officer.   But for every black man or woman who dies in custody, ten or more are gunned down by other black people.  Where is the outrage over that?   And why isn't there outrage?  It is a good question.   We want to crack down on the Police, but not on criminal gangs who make lives miserable for folks in the ghetto?  (Which is why I say, moving from bad neighborhoods is always a good idea - even if it means struggle).

Nothing every good came of Political Correctness.   If we are to treat skin color as something as innocuous as eye color and live in a truly race-blind society, we need to do just that - and stop walking around as if on eggs, whenever something comes up involving black people or people of any minority or "identity" group.  We can't become race-neutral if we establish new rules based on race.