Thursday, January 17, 2019

Birds and berries

Heyheyhey! I was sitting in the livingroom yesterday afternoon when I noticed a large-ish bird in my holly bush. Large and kind of reddish.

Then another, and then about 20 others.

At first I thought Bird One was a juvenile cardinal, because they’re regulars at the feeders. But I realized that it was bigger than the cardinals, and not quite the right configuration.


Now, you may wonder at my excitement, but—while I have seen robins out and about, even in the front of the house—this is only the second time I’ve seen them in the back. And—just like yesterday—they were here with all their buddies, absolutely denuding the holly of its berries. They flew up, snatching the berries on the hover, then dashed off to one of the conifers to eat. They pretty much picked the bush clean, except for a cluster right next to the dining room window, where I was trying to photograph them.

(Here’s a kind of crappy video—they were not cooperating, and it was late afternoon.)

The one other time was about two years ago, when I was on the horn with Comcast because their X1 was malfunctioning (again). It was around dusk and as I was talking with the tech, I looked out and saw a whole gang of them milling around the patio. Comcast Guy probably notated my account with something like Crazy Lady, because I stopped mid-sentence and screeched, “Robins! There are about fifteen robins right outside!”

The roving band did not stick around either time; they were here a maximum of 20 minutes. I guess they have places to go and berries to eat. (They certainly look well-fed.) But I’m just fascinated by their social organization. I wonder if they have scouts that scope out the feeding grounds and signal the flock where the next course of their progressive dinner is to be found?

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


I’ve marveled here many times at the completely ham-handed gambits sales/business development people deploy in an attempt to make a sale. It’s the business world equivalent of robo-calling: flinging vast amounts of emails chockers with faux bonhomie and presumptuous expectations that you’ll set up a call to buy their products or services.

Many of them are funneled through LinkedIn—the predators do keyword searches, see one they like and, without bothering to read further, they fling off an email. I don’t have my email account in my profile, but it’s not terrifically difficult to suss out possible addressing protocols and take a flyer. The results are risible, particularly when the perps are trying to be subtle.


There’s nothing like a segue from an intro from someone claiming to be a “research analyst” for a bogus company (who can't even be arsed to drop my name into the salutation) exploring “entrepreneurship opportunities” via a “market survey” to who buys office supplies in what quantities to make me want to “take a quick call”. By replying to a Gmail account.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Pedal politics

It’s a time-honored American custom to wear your political opinions on your vehicle. Usually that means bumper stickers on your car or truck.

However, here’s something a tad out of the ordinary, spotted outside Eastern Market Metro last week:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Gratitude Monday: work ethic

We here in the District They Call Columbia got more than a dusting of snow through Sunday. I don’t know what the official tally was, but in the People’s Republic, it felt like I was shoveling about a foot of the stuff off my front walks.

But in the course of that activity I found my Washington Post, right where it normally is on a Sunday morning. The cluster parking lot hadn’t been plowed and I certainly had no intention of trying to drive anywhere, but the guy who delivers the newspaper had done his job.

And I thought about all the people not getting big bucks who do their jobs come day, go day, and keep things humming for the rest of us, even when the rest of us don’t venture beyond the mailbox. The ones who stock the supermarket shelves, repair the power lines, run the cash register at the pharmacy and, yes, deliver your papers. In this day of elected officials pulling down six-figure salaries (plus whatever they snarfle up at the lobbying trough) who can’t be arsed to perform their actual Constitutional duties, I am grateful for these folks who show up and do what they’re paid for, no matter how little the amount.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Put it on my bill

I confess that I was somewhat disappointed that (as of yesterday afternoon) no one thought to post any #showustheduck offerings from PBS. Specifically, I was looking for this:

I like my culture accessible.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

What the duck!

We totally need this story, considering the week we’ve been having—and with Friday still to come.

Because last week the Museum of English Rural Life in the UK quacked out a query to its fellow cultural institutions around the, er, web, soliciting, uh, duck pix. Just for ducks, I presume.

The whole thread is here, but I’ll start ruffling feathers by giving you a few of the responses to the call.

There was quite a GIF war between the National Railway Museum and the National Army Museum; you’ll have to go to the thread to see it, all I’ve got are these.

Also, this entry from the Getty sparked a discussion that you really need to follow. (Hint, a turducken made an appearance.)

Someone tried to sneak in a slow lorris being groomed with a toothbrush. Man, there’s always one in every flock.

We’ve got a science duck (remember the study of ocean currents done via a shipload of yellow ducks?):

And a sporting duck from South America:

Musée d’Orsay chimed in:

And so did the Louvre down the street:

I expect other museums will pile on, to defend local honor. And, as far as I’m concerned this thread has got 2019 off to a quacking good start.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Hurting the wrong people

I was on my way home yesterday afternoon, gazing out the Metro window at traffic parked for a couple of miles on the Toll Road (jackknifed truck being hooked up to be hauled away), when I got a text from a friend inviting me out to dinner. Seeing as to how yesterday wasn’t too bad of a day for a Thursday, I jumped at the chance.

Because—aside from dinner with a friend—it kept me well and truly out of danger of stumbling across El Klepto’s primetime televised manufactured hysteria.

I’ve been thinking about his base lately—more than I usually do, on account of the #TrumpShutdown. Someone must have told him that, faced with a choice between building a beautiful wall intended to keep brown people out of a white country and getting tax refunds, his goobers would ditch him like last week’s catfish bait, so furloughed IRS workers are being called back to work to process tax returns, although, of course, they’re still not getting paid.

Last week someone on Twitter posted about one of his MAGAt acquaintances moaning that ordinarily he didn’t give a toss about government shutdowns, but this one is [negatively] affecting him, and he really doesn’t like that. I thought that was the epitome of the red-hatters, but it turned out someone named Crystal Minton, of Marianna, Fla., told him to hold her beer as she jumped right in.

Because lemme just leave this here—the money shot quote from a New York Times story on the double-barreled devastation (hurricane Michael and the #TrumpShutdown) of the economy of the deep-red Florida panhandle. This truly distills the entire I’ve-got-mine/I’m-supposed-to-have-got-mine Republican party down to one simple statement.

If you’d like to read the whole story—there are plenty of others in Minton’s community who are stunned that the Kleptocrat would do this to white peoplehere it is.

Dinner was great, BTW.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Period of adjustment

At time of writing, we’re closing in on 17 days of partial federal government shutdown, with more than 800,000 workers affected—either furloughed without pay or working without pay. Most of them are likely to be paid eventually, although this is not guaranteed. Additionally, tens of thousands of contract workers—from cleaning staff to software architects—are sidelined with no expectation of recouping their wages. They only get paid for hours worked; lost weeks can’t be made up.

This #TrumpShutdown is all down to the Kleptocrat’s demand for funding his cockamamie wall along the border with Mexico, and down to the Repugnants in the Senate (primarily McConnell, but also Graham and some others) who suddenly are “unable” to vote on a Continuing Resolution they’d previously approved, because they’re afraid of the big baby in the Oval Office. We’re 17 days into it, and we’re told that that baby is willing for it to go on for months until he gets his bloody, useless wall and proves his balls are bigger than Ann Coulter’s.

But here’s the thing—those hundreds of thousands of people who are either working without compensation or involuntarily idled are either dipping into their savings or moving into the red to make the mortgage, buy the groceries or pay the doctor bills that are all due now. The Office of Personnel Management advising furloughed workers to arrange with their landlords to swap repair or maintenance work for rent and Orangina breezily assuring everyone that creditors will “make adjustments—they always do” is just master level fuckwittery, although unsurprising coming from someone who’s spent decades systematically stiffing workers and contractors.

By way of demonstrating, I give two examples from financial institutions with which I have relationships.

My credit union, headquartered in Manhattan Beach, Calif., has a banner across the home page stating that if you’re affected by the shutdown, they’re ready to help. But click through and you’ll see that all the “adjustment” they’re willing to make involves a very limited no-interest 12-month loan ($2000 would not even be a month’s rent in a lot of cities), $5000 credit card limit (with “normal” interest) and two months of deferred existing loan—but interest accrues during that period. (I expect they basically repurposed the accommodation they put up for victims of the California wildfires last autumn.)

They’re still going to make a profit, and this is a credit union.

CapitalOne (where I have a credit card) didn’t have any indicator of “adjustment”, nor did Bank of America. I through no fault of my own have a mortgage with Wells Fargo. If you want to find out what “adjustment” they’re willing to make, you have to call them.

That’ll be deep joy. It’s a wonder to me that WF is even still in business and its entire management structure isn’t in prison after it’s well-documented policy of fraud against its customers that went on for decades.

We the people face another assault this evening: Kleptocrat has announced he’ll “Address the Nation” and expects all the fake media enemies of the people to give him airtime. My fear is that he’ll use the occasion to declare the “state of emergency” he’s threatened as an end run around Congress, and we’ll have something much more serious than a government shutdown.

Can you say Constitutional crisis?

Monday, January 7, 2019

Gratitude Monday: the year in pix

A friend sent me a link to a 52-week photo challenge hosted (on Facebook) by a photography studio in Durham, N.C. The deal is, each week throughout the year participants are given a theme. You consider how you want to interpret the theme, take your photos and submit one to social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest).

Not only do you learn from the pix others submit, but you also learn from their constructive criticism.

Week 1’s assignment is “Storytelling: Self-portrait”. Take a picture showing who you are without showing your face.

I thought about taking a pic of my incipient 2019 mindmap—the stickies on my patio door, but I didn’t want anyone enlarging the image and seeing what I need to work on. So I went with a photo of books.

It was actually hard to decide what books to focus on, so I went with a mashup, which pretty much describes me. Voilà:

I like the idea of a weekly assignment; it means that I have to get out and shoot to some kind of spec consistently. Some weeks will be crap; some won’t. But it’s exercising those creative muscles, which I need.

And that’s what I’m grateful for today.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Bunker mentality

Back when I was first parachuted into my current…project, my soon-to-be-former-manager (and now former colleague) told me it was a good fit, because (in his estimation), and despite their numerous PhDs, no one in the entire department had a lick of [business] sense, and my skills were desperately needed.

I thought that a wild exaggeration, but some months later (maybe around last summer) I told him that I get really nervous when I look around a meeting table and realize I’m the most organized person in the room. He looked quizzical and said, “But you’re very organized.” No, I am not. I have seen very organized people, very organized people are friends of mine. I am no very organized person.

And yet—in the land of the blind, the one-eyed astigmatic woman is empress.

Anyhow, your empress took the new year by the horns and called a meeting yesterday to “synchronize watches” on what the hell’s going on with this thing, although I was the only person to understand the military reference. Which is sad, because in this upcoming campaign, whatever troops show up on the field will be annihilated.

I slotted the meeting (meetings in this crowd are always called “huddles”, God help me. One of the crowd is actually going to create a folder on Dropbox called “huddles” for her notes. P.S. Her notetaking skills are…rudimentary; how did she get a PhD from NC State?) for 30 minutes. It ran on another 60, and at every minute mark I saw my old ex-manager’s face as he said that this team had no sense at all; “no sense” obviously includes concise communication.

I’m not going into detail, but you’ll get the drift if I tell you that major components of the service we’re meant to be offering starting a year hence have been changed (which buggers the business plan), outside entities are now taking over delivery of many services (ditto), “we have no confidence in timelines because we never get anything done on time” (tough toenails, honey), the same kind of  bullshit yakkery that we saw in Tuesday’s cabinet meeting flowed as team members basically blew business “strategy” out their butts in the expectation that I’m so stupid or ignorant that I won’t recognize it for what it is, and they are planning to manage development of a complex IT infrastructure without input from the only product manager in the company. Also, Ms. Notetaker has apparently heard the term "wheelhouse" and is proud to use it. I'm expecting at any moment to hear her refer to someone as a thought leader.

So hey, 2019—yay!