Saturday, March 24, 2018

A thought for Palm Sunday

Now one of the two revolutionaries crucified there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  -Luke 23:39-43

This is the only time that I can remember Jesus flat out stating, "YOU are going to heaven." 

As a revolutionary the "good thief" was probably convicted of robbing and killing Jews who were collaborating with the Romans.  Those are not trivial sins.

What "bought" him salvation?

  • He defended and comforted Jesus when the "bad thief" attempted to bully him.  We don't hang with Jesus but we are surrounded by people with needs.  Matt 25:33-40.
  • He had faith.
  • He asked.
It is good for those of us who subscribe to organized religion to be mindful of that.  The trappings of religion are useful as long as they move us in the direction of those three bullets and become an impediment when they move us away.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Looking at the floor

About a million years ago I recall reading a short essay by a journalist who covered the auto industry.

Unlike most journalist, he was more than a mindless shill who amplified whatever he was fed by auto executives.

In the essay, the journalist made the observation that you can tell where a company is in its life-cycle by looking down at the floor.

He claimed that executives of companies on an upward trajectory invariably took journalist to loud, hot rooms with concrete floors and steel walls.  The furniture was invariable grossly outnumbered by greasy, broken parts littering the floor.

Companies that were about to enter, or were on, a downward trajectory invariably took journalists to mahogany  paneled rooms where the floors were covered with thick carpet.  Conversation would quickly veer from products and specs to the special at the local steakhouse and the best places in Myrtle Beach to play golf.

I have been burning brush in the orchard the last few days.  The orchard floor is a hodge-podge of leaves, wood chips, old pizza boxes and paper leaf bags.  Looking at the sod you will see tall fescue, bluegrass, red fescue, white clover, red clover and ground ivy.  The floor of my orchard is a mess, even on its best day.

I comfort myself with the thought that it is on an upward trajectory.  It is becoming a productive orchard, not a show place.

Another fearless prediction

I predict that young African-American men will appropriate the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern  Virginia (sometimes called the Confederate Flag) within the next twenty years.

Like all complex social issues, the BFANV can mean many different things depending on the focal plane one chooses.

As flown by rural, young white men it is an emblem of anti-authority.  It is a way of announcing FYATHYRIO, an acronym that has something to do with a horse and a rider.

The BFANV is a repudiation of those who presume to be our betters.  Perhaps young men are outgunned when it comes to expressing their feelings, but they are loath, as a species, to be represented by washed-up politicians milking the last juice out of their legacies or to let mealy-mouthed hustlers wearing $1500 suits speak for them.

Young men may not be articulate but they are authentic and energized.

It is perfect

Nothing is better for sticking a thumb in the eye of the controllers than the BFANV.  Their reaction is Pavlovian.  Their conditioning is so thorough that they are not capable of ignoring the flag.

It is entertaining to imagine a conversation between a school administrator and a young black man flying a BFANV.

Remember that we are now in the age of subjectivity.  An object or symbol means whatever the most "oppressed" group says it means.

One very legitimate and historically defensible  "focal plane" for the BFANV is that it is a symbol of self-determination.  It is a refusal to accept economic repression at the hands of those who would exploit the flier of the BFANV.  It is a bold proclamation that the flier refuses to stand passively while he gets screwed.

I cannot think of a better standard for young men who are minorities.

That, and it looks damned good flying behind a black truck.

Clinton in 2020: It is about Return on Investment

Clinton scheduler waiting for $250K speaking gigs.

Even though Clinton would like to run again in 2020 it seems unlikely that big investors will line up behind her.  She had her swing at the pinata and the return on the investment was a Big, Fat, Zero.

The big investors are just as likely to invest in factories to make manual typewriters as they are to support Clinton in 2020.

Just my two cents.

Installment 2.4

“The first thing I want you to do is to search through the city paper’s engagement announcements.  I want you to find every bride named “Patel” who is being wed in the next three months.”

“Then I want you to refine that list.  I want you to find me the three “Patel”s on that list whose families pay the most property tax.  Can you do that?”

“Sure boss.  Piece-of-cake.  When do you want it?” Liz said.

“I have a few errands to run and won’t be back until after lunch.” Denice said.  “If you have time, I would appreciate contact information for the families.  Oh, and by the way, put a piece of black tape over the camera lens and disconnect the microphone.  You work for me, now, and we play our cards close to our chests.”

Denice drove back to the motel where she had stayed.  Not surprisingly, Kamari was still behind the desk.

“Good morning, Kamari.” Denice said.

Kamari nodded.

“Where would I go if I wanted to buy a bracelet like yours?”  Denice asked.

Kamari said, “Is that a serious question or are you talking about costume jewelry that looks like mine?”

“Nope.  I want the real thing.  In fact, I need to know what a respectable bracelet is going to cost.” Denice said.

Kamari spun the chair around so she was facing Denice.

“Keep in mind the purpose of the bracelet.  Different brides have different lucky numbers so they would have different numbers of charms.  If you are not of our faith, then you cannot go wrong with 12 charms because there are 12 months in the year.”  Kamari said.

“A frugal bride can make five grams of gold feed a family for a month.  So a ‘respectable’ bracelet would have about 60 grams of gold.  You, being white, would have to spend about 120 thousand Callors for that bracelet.”

Denice asked, “What would you have to pay for that bracelet?”

Kamari said, “It depends on how good of a bargainer you are.  A good bargainer might beat it down to ten percent over the cost of the gold in the bracelet…say about sixty-five thousand Callors.  The price of gold fluctuates, of course.  That is what you might be able to buy it for today.” 

Kamari spun her computer screen so Denice could see it.  Kamari had the spot price of gold displayed on it:  about 995 Callors to the gram.

“So, getting back to the original question, where is the best place to buy a bracelet like yours?” Denice asked.

Kamari mentioned a block downtown near Chinatown.  There were several jewelers on that block and they competed fiercely for the Dowry-bracelet market.

While driving downtown, Denice made a detour to one of the Department of Food Security offices.  She made a small request which was immediately granted.

Entering one of the jeweler’s shops near the middle of the block Denice pulled out an index card.  She said, “Today I am going to buy a bracelet for a wedding gift.  I want a bracelet with twelve charms and I want the charms to be 22 carat gold with ten grams of gold each.  What is your best price?”

The wizened old man behind the counter said, two-hundred twenty thousand Callors.  He was sure that she did not have that kind of money.

Denice looked the man in the eye.  “I am willing to pay one-hundred twenty thousand Callors.”

The man said, “You are taking bread out of my mouth.  I cannot feed my family when customers want me to give away my merchandise.”

Denice looked thoughtful.  “I bet you have a computer around here that lists the spot price of gold, don’t you.”

The old man turned over his smart phone so the screen was up.  The numbers on the screen kept changing as the market moved.

“So let’s save ourselves some time.” Denice said.  “How much profit do you have to make today to keep your shop open?  A thousand Callors?  Two thousand?  Five thousand?”

The man shrugged.  “Five thousand Callors profit is a good day.”

Denice said, “So would have a good day if you sold me merchandise at gold-cost plus five thousand Callors, right?”

The man said, “Sure.”

“So you would have a good day if you sold me three gold bracelets with 12, 10 gram gold charms each for three-hundred sixty-five thousand Callors?  Right?”

The man tapped on his smart phone for a few seconds.  “Three bracelets?  Card or check?” he asked.

“Three.” Denice said. “Card.”

“I can’t do it.  The merchant charge is larger than my profit.” The jeweler said regretfully.

“Can you do it if it is a debit card?  The merchant fees are a lot smaller.” Denice responded.

The jeweler did not respond.

After five seconds, Denice said “Well, if three bracelets are more than you can handle I will try your competitor next door.  His shop looks larger than yours.”

“The price of gold may go up between now and then.  You would end up paying more.” the shop owner responded.

“And it might go down.” Denice replied.

Another five seconds of silence.

“I can do that if you have that much in your account.” The man said.

“Wrap them.” Denice said.  “Here is my card.  I don’t think you will find the account balance to be a problem.

The shop owner was smiling to himself.  He planned to put in a buy-order for 360 grams of gold at 990 Callors/gram and anticipated making an additional four thousand Callors on the trade.

“What a fucking rube!” a young man sitting at a computer terminal in a basement deep beneath Sacramento exclaimed.

“What are you talking about?” asked the young lady sitting at the computer stall next to him.

Bona-Brown kept a tight watch on all of the people beneath him, but most especially those who were not stationed in Sacramento.

“Delarosa just bought over a quarter million Callors of jewelry from a tourist trap near Chinatown.” the young man said.

The young woman was familiar with Denice and she grimaced.  “I cannot imagine a woman like that wearing jewelry.  It is like putting lipstick on a hog.”

“Good God!  I bet she is gonna look like a thirty Callor whore when she wears all those cheesy trinkets into the office.  She probably thinks she is elegant.” the young man said.  “I wonder how anybody will be able to not laugh at her.”

Thursday, March 22, 2018


"What are you going to do with that?"  Mrs ERJ asked as I pulled a tall, slender bottle out of a grocery bag.

"I am going to drink it for research." I declared.

Mrs ERJ looked puzzled.

"I have a scene where one of the characters has an epic hangover.  I wanted to refresh my acquaintance with that affliction...first hand."  I added.  "You know, in the book." I added helpfully.

She looked at me rather doubtfully.  "Remember that we are going to the Zydeco festival in the morning and we have been asked to judge the accordion and bagpipe sections."

"No problem!" I said.  "How bad can an itty-bitty hangover be?

As a note to the curious, it is best to avoid red wines that have been treated with sulfites and fermented with Montrachet yeast at warmish temperatures the night before going to Zydeco festivals.  Just sayin'.

Installment 2.3

Denice was met by a delegation in the lobby of the administration building.  She asked three questions.

Where is the best coffee?

Where is the lady’s room?

Where is the IT office?

After dismissing most of the delegation, Denice was guided to the bowels of the building where IT ran its shop.  Denice scanned across the bull-pen and noted the relative youth of the workers.  She told the IT head, “I need an assistant.  I am looking for somebody between thirty and thirty-five.  I am looking for somebody who does not plug into social media during work hours.  Further, I need to use a soundproof conference room to interview them.  Find me four workers who meet my requirements.  If I cannot find who I am looking for I will interview another four.”

“After you choose the four candidates but before you inform them, I want you to turn off all their computer access and authorities.”

Coffee in hand, Denice awaited the first candidate.  He was tall, his hair was meticulously styled and he wore a suit.  Appearances are important everywhere, but especially in Southern California.

Denice said, “Shut the door.”
The young man complied.

Even before he sat down, Denice commanded him, “Sing the first verse of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The man, looking baffled, said “I don’t sing.”

Denice said.  “This interview is over.  Tell the next candidate to come in.”

Only one candidate burst into song.  She was a mousy looking Hispanic woman named Liz Huerta.  Denice gave Liz the job.

Fifteen minutes after informing the head of IT that she was losing the services of Miss Huerta, the head of IT informed Denice that one of her employees had filed a complaint with Personnel.  Apparently, Liz was fifth highest seniority in the department.  The head of IT said the complaint would lock up the transfer.

After freshening up her cup of coffee, Denice said “Send the four people with higher seniority than Liz back into the conference room.  I will resolve this.”

Not surprisingly, the tall man was one of the four high seniority workers.  In fact, he was the employee with the highest seniority.

Denice said, “I need an assistant and I need that assistant today.  There is a clear, obvious solution to this problem but I am not going to put it to a vote.  I will let seniority decide.”

She looked straight at the man with the highest seniority.  “Do you want me to implement that solution?”

The man smirked.  “You bet I do.”

Denice said.  “All four of you are fired.  Mz Huerta is now the high seniority employee.”

“All four of you will exit the building.  Your personal effects will be packed and delivered to your homes.  Charges will be filed and you will be jailed if you do not turn around and immediately leave the building or if you deviate from the path to the nearest exit.”

“This decision is not subject to appeal.” Denice said.

The man started to object “You can’t do that!” he said.

“You should have read your employee manual while you were an employee.  As a former employee you are not even allowed to contact Human Resources.  Attempts to do so will result in legal consequences.”

“You have five seconds to exit this office.”  Denice said.

Denice had weaknesses but being indecisive was not one of them.

Denice said to the head of IT, “Get with Human Relations and transfer Mz Huerta.  She is my Executive Assistant.  She needs an office and all of the computer horsepower you can give her.” 

Denice looked around the conference room.  “Is there any problem giving her this room in the interim?”

The head of IT shook her head “No.”

“Then I want her computer in her in ten minutes.  We have work to do.” Denice said.

Denice would not have been surprised to learn that news of her firing four, high seniority government workers within 30 minutes of entering the lobby was spreading across the organization like wildfire.  In fact, that was part of the plan.


“Is it OK if I call you ‘Liz’?” Denice asked.  Liz was fine with being called ‘Liz’.  Denice said, “You can call me ‘Boss’”.

“One of the reasons you got this job is because you did what I asked you to do.  You did it the best you could without arguing or demanding reasons.  I am going to be asking you to do lots of things that don’t seem to make sense.  The way we have been doing things is not working very well.  SD-LA is a sick city.  The one thing I know is same-old-same-old is not going to work.”