Anachostic

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Tag Archives: caste system

Simple, Unhealthy Pleasures, Made More Expensive

I read a recent announcement that a new burger place was going to be opening in my town.  You would think I would be excited about something like that because I like burgers.  But unfortunately, the burgers of my era don’t really exist anymore.  They have been improved, upcycled, and gentrified.  They are now Gourmet Burgers.  And I fucking hate them.

Remember a time when you would go and have a beer?  Well, I don’t personally, because I don’t drink.  But I remember the reputation of people who would go and have a beer and it was, well, hmmm…. blue-collar.  But then, craft beers came along and drinking beer was hip and trendy and super cool.  And they also got super expensive, and there were so many variants it seemed impossible to keep track of what you might like, if anything.  And drinking craft beers gave you a way to serious discuss the various ways you get yourself drunk, with organic hops and brew cycles and fermentation in only the highest quality drums and ABV or drunkerness-value.

Remember when cupcakes were a simple treat?  You’d buy a half-dozen from the grocery store and eat them at a party or over a week or something?  Then came along a concept of gourmet cupcakes, where you buy one super-expensive cupcake and savor the fuck out of it to get your money’s worth.  But no one just eats one cupcake, so in the end, you’re just spending a hell of a lot more money.  But you justify it because the cupcake is of a much higher quality.  And the cupcakes aren’t just something simple, it’s a mishmash of crazy ingredients and flavors just to prove to yourself and everyone else that you have such a refined palate.

Remember burgers?  A chunk of mashed beef on a bun?  Well, that’s just too simple for the hip, modern person.  A burger can be anything according to these assholes.  Sure, you can put ground beef on a sesame seed bun, but where’s the challenge in that?  What if you want chicken?  Or fish?  Or vegetables?  Or… What if you want a wheat bun?  What if you want lettuce as your bun?  Those are all burgers!  A bunch of vegetables wrapped in lettuce – look at my fucking BURGER!  Bullshit!  Sacrilege!

Oh, and toppings?  Well, let’s just go right off the rails on this.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I suppose you could potentially get a ground beef patty as a topping for your chicken burger.  Why not?  There’s no damn rules anymore!

You know the people that don’t go to Starbucks because they feel they’d be laughed out of the shop for ordering a coffee?  “Get out of here, peasant!  Go to Dunkin Donuts for your… coffee!”  Well, that’s pretty much how I feel going to these places and asking for a plain cheeseburger.  I’m offending them.  And in a way, they’re offending me, too.  I don’t see it as a place that has to elevate something simple to the point of eliminating the basics, I see it more like, we can’t do the basics well, so we’ll hide behind fancy buns and toppings and other ingredients to make up for that shortcoming.  And people eat that shit up, literally.

This problem is everywhere.  Remember when you could buy a candy bar?  Now you can’t buy one.  You have to buy two.  They call it King Size, or Sharing Size, or whatever.  Pretty soon, they’re going to start mixing different candy bars and saying it’s the new hip thing to do to when you get say, a Mounds and a Peppermint Patty together and eat them together like a fucking BURGER.

Remember when you just went and bought ice cream?  Cold Stone Creamery took care of that.  Remember when you bought a fountain drink?  Coca Cola Freestyle machines to the rescue.  Remember when you smoked cigarettes?  Vaping gives you 50,000 different flavors and buzz levels.  Remember casino slot machines with three reels?  They got SO complex they couldn’t even be mechanical anymore.  They had to be virtual reels on a touch screen.

I’m old.  There, I said it.

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The Business Life

Recently, I was given the opportunity to go on a business trip for my employer.  The event required a technical person for the upcoming work and this was supposed to be training and exposure.  I had done business trips in the past, but this gave me a whole different perspective on “the life”.

Another aspect of this meeting was that the host of the event wanted to show off their brand new building.  I didn’t really give it much thought.  An office building is like any other, right?  Nope.  And that all played into the discomfort I felt.  So let’s start at the beginning.

When I was told about the trip, I was also told that the company travel coordinator would handle everything.  So, right off the bat, I’m a little out of my comfort zone.  You know, if I was tasked to go somewhere, I would be looking for the cheapest flight anywhere.  Well, that’s not how business travel works.  I end up on a top-tier airline in what I assume is a decent seat.  As you know, you don’t get decent seats for cheap.  They cost extra.  I don’t know, my airfare was around $500.  That’s more than I would be willing to spend.  And also, there’s six of us going.  Yeah, six.

So we all get to the destination and we Uber to the hotel.  I’m not really a fan of Uber, but that’s for another post, and it’s not my decision to make anyway.  And the hotel is a Staybridge Suites hotel.  Everyone gets a suite!  Now, I don’t expect us to bunk together, but I don’t need lodgings this fancy.  No way.  It’s our first night and we all go out to dinner.  Company expense, of course.  Steakhouse?  Sure.  Longhorn?  Outback?  Fuck, no.  It’s not our money, let’s go to Perry’s.  You can’t eat there for less than $60/plate.  And of course, everyone drinks.  It was easily a $600 bill, I’m certain of it.

Day one at our host’s new office building.  This is not an office building, it is a goddamn resort.  It has a cafeteria, an exercise room, a balcony garden, another café with barista on the upper floor, a game room, and technology that would make most humans gawk in amazement.  Maybe it’s the new modern standard for a national company, but like Perry’s, it’s way out of my league.

The conference goes all day.  We get catered lunch and we get a tour of the building.  They’re quite proud of it.  At the conclusion of the tour, there is a social gathering with beer and wine and snacks too fancy and weird for me to even eat.  I’m watching all these people chatting and mingling, and the cute girls in the short skirts sitting on the bar counter with their wine, and I’m wondering, this is business?  In what world is this business?  This one, apparently.

Our group got dinner reservations for Del Friscos, another $60/plate steakhouse.  I man up and say, fuck all y’all, I’m staying in my room (no, my fucking SUITE) and ordering pizza.  It was a great pizza and only put the company out $25.  I was ordered to save the receipt for reimbursement.  It would have been fine, guys.  You know, you pay me pretty well already.

My point of this rant, which I’ve done before, is that there is this executive life that is not available to normal folk.  I’m kind of in it, right on the cusp, but I don’t agree with it.  I don’t like it.  It’s living in a fantasy, where you get to feel like you’re super rich, but you’re not.  And you only get to act and feel that way because of your employer.  The employer that is putting out gobs of money disproportionately for a select few, when it could be spent on others in the company who are nowhere near that sort of lifestyle.  And who would appreciate it more?

As Usual, All About Me

I have regrets delving into potentially politically topics, but then again, I have had posts about libertarianism and extreme ideologies before, so I’ll give it another attempt.  My regret is that it’s so easy to bitch about hot-button topics.

I follow a “news” site that sort of straddles the line between hard-right and anarchistic.  I think it’s a good idea to at least read opposing viewpoints, despite how much it might piss you off or baffle you.  This site could be considered a news aggregator, although they do have some original authors on there.  A lot of times, what you get is an opinion piece with quotes from news articles.  And this one was no different.

Typically, the postings on this site are using news articles and other sources to promote their ideology, which is free-market capitalism and very anti-government – essentially extreme libertarianism.  This particular article I found was on health care costs and how it is cheaper to go to Mexico for surgery, on the order of ten times cheaper.

Naturally, the article invokes the trigger word, “socialism” as in “socialized healthcare” and their applied synonym, “ObamaCare”.  The belief is that if we stop the subsidies, the prices will come down to reasonable levels.  And to bolster that argument, the article compares a $30k procedure in the US to the same procedure in Mexico, which cost $3k.

Let’s pause for a moment here and realize there are quite a few Americans who do not have $3,000 readily available for an emergency.

Now, let’s also consider that the exchange rate.  Today, $1 is nearly 19 pesos.  Another potential cost of living metric is that bread in the US costs $1.40, which in Mexico it costs 15 pesos.  So then, sure, things in Mexico are typically ten times less expensive and our American dollars get us much more in Mexico.  So, you could just as easily have a Mexican version of this article wondering why a medical procedure costs 57,000 pesos.

So, let’s play along and embrace the libertarian dream.  Now, there is no insurance and health care is a cash-only option.  Because the health industry can’t exploit insurance, prices drop to $3,000 for a particular procedure.  So, who’s going to have trouble paying for this?  Hint: It’s the same ones that couldn’t pay $3,000 before.

As usual, this just reinforces the standard position of not caring about anyone but yourself.

The Haves And The Have-Nots

There’s something I want to bitch about.  It’s nothing new or profound or even really interesting.  It’s the issue with income inequality in America.

The people in charge of America recently made a change to the taxes applied to corporations.  They lowered the top tier from 35% to 21%.  This was promised intended to save a lot of money for businesses and help save jobs and keep business strong and profitable.  Then, recent news says that the corporation Kimberly-Clark is going to eliminate 5k jobs.  And even more recent news say that they are using the money saved from taxes to pay for the costs of downsizing their business, including the layoffs.  That doesn’t sound like the expected result that was sold to us.

For all the bitching that could be done on that specific case, what I want to focus on is the fact that when KC announced they were cutting jobs, their stock price went up.  This is a double-insult to the working class.  I am fortunate to have a 401k plan, but I am acutely aware that many do not.  And those people are not reaping any – ANY – of the growth that has been going on in the last decade.  And that really pisses me off.

Some people, who are oblivious to the pains of the working class, would ignorantly say, “All you have to do is put some money in the stock market and you’ll get the benefits.”  Sure, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 401k, Roth IRA, or simple mutual fund.  They are correct.  But the part they ignore is “What money?!”

Wages aren’t going up for the working class.  Expenses are going up, though.  Think about that for a minute.  If there was some available money, that money could be growing.  But because there is none, there is no growth.  It has to be the most painful thing ever to see someone making only slightly more than you pull away in net worth because they have that small bit of extra income.  You either have money to invest or you do not.  And there is a world of difference between the two.

That’s my biggest sticking point is that corporations are holding back prosperity from their employees.  They are making changes that only enrich the already-established instead of considering how to enrich everyone. 

Somehow, we need to increase access for everyone to be able to take advantage of growth opportunities.  Increasing pay is the easiest, most direct way for that.  “But, the company will suffer because it’s an additional cost!  The stock price will drop!  My monies!”  But, with more people being able to put money into investments, the stock price will rise from the additional demand.  There is a common aphorism for this: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

It’s not difficult.  All it takes is is a little less greed.

How To Close

It’s in the news that Walmart has closed a bunch of Sam’s Club locations.  Just for the record, I despise Walmart for many reasons, so don’t be surprised at the stance I’m taking with this most recent news.

A while ago, a regional Walmart closed down unexpectedly for “plumbing maintenance”.  It was part of a series of closures as well.  At the time, there was a massive conspiracy swirling around that the store was shut down to quell a union organizing.  And, on schedule, the store reopened, with an all-new crew and no union considerations among them.  Who’s to say what the real reason was?  Maybe it was plumbing?

In both that case and this new case with Sam’s Club, the closures were done with no warning for either employees or customers.  This is the part that really bothers me.  It reminds me of a time when I was working for a pizza chain and there was a coordinated closing of a bunch of neighboring stores.  The manager would show up in the morning and the district manager was already there to inform him the store was closing immediately.  The other employees would find out eventually, whenever or however.  It’s a shitty way to do business.

That Walmart is operating this way says a lot.  However, I’m not sure if they are making a commentary on their customers, their employees, or both.  In all cases, including my own near-closing experience, it’s all about a lack of trust.  It’s a disdain for people and an assumption of the worst in people.  The owners believe that if a closing date was scheduled, their assets would be at risk for theft or damage.  So, to mitigate that possibility, they surprise everyone with the closure.

I say that this really bothers me, but I really do understand it.  I can easily see an employee pocketing some merchandise, because, “Why not?  I’m only here another week anyway.  What will they do, fire me?”  I can see an employee turning a blind eye to shoplifters, because “Why should I care?”  Hell, I can see this happening at Walmarts that aren’t even closing.  And that’s what makes me think differently.

Walmart has built an entire culture on worthlessness.  All their products are cheap and disposable.  They’ve created a culture of customers that think this same way.  The customers have no pride for shopping there.  The employees clearly aren’t trained to actually care about their store and take pride in their jobs.  How can they when the chain has the reputation it does and the customers reinforce that belief every day?

Is it possible to create a culture where employees will be loyal to the end?  Maybe if given a fair severance?  Maybe if treated well during their entire career?  Maybe if the corporation was respected?  Maybe if the employees and customers took a little pride in their store.

Here’s a little factoid about me.  Sometimes when I’m shopping somewhere, I’ll clean the place up.  I’ll rehang a shirt from the floor or straighten a display.  I’ll organize things (especially CDs) as best I can.  I leave the place better than I found it.  But, sometimes, I don’t.  And in the cases I don’t, it’s a gut feeling that it’s of no use, that it would never be appreciated.  And, in the extremely rare instance I’m in a Walmart, my only desire is to leave, not to try and make things better.

Because, when I’m in a store I enjoy, I want to be comfortable there.  I want it to look nice.  I want other customers to enjoy it as much as I do.  Yes, that’s a role for the employees to fulfill, but there’s no reason there can’t be a family-type feeling in the place.  And if I remove one source of disarray and the result makes another customer more cheerful at how non-disheveled the place is, then the store will succeed and I’ll get to keep coming there.

And I would hope, that on the day my favorite stores have to close, there is a nice structured ending.  Kind of a farewell parade – a little bit sad, but dignified.  And nothing like the shotgun finalities of any of Walmart’s closures.

Double Disappointment Day

Coming back from lunch, I got behind a vehicle that had me shaking my head.  Later on, I thought I should probably write about it.  Not that I had anything poignant to say, but I think I felt challenged to talk about it without being overtly offensive.

So, I’m talking about trucks.  The big full-size trucks that are the truest expression of American life.  You know… I’m not a fan.  I understand their purpose and I know some people need a truck to manifest that purpose.  I don’t think everyone needs one.  I think many people love the image of being a truck owner, which to me is a shame, because I hold truck owners in very low regard.  Why do I?  Well, part of it is what I just mentioned – you don’t need the capabilities of a truck, but you want to portray that you need it and do “truck stuff” all the time.  And part of it is a bully posture – you want to be the biggest thing on the road.  And with that personality, I immediately equate it with low intelligence and lower social… um… capabilities?

I can’t paint everyone with this paintbrush, but we all know people who have a few coats of this on already.  And I’m not below making assumptions based on outward appearances.  There’s little harm in doing so, because people are projecting the image that they want to be seen.  Right?

Back to the story.  So I saw a truck at lunch, and when I wanted to use a picture of it from my dashcam in this post, I was bummed to find out my dashcam only saves about half an hour of video.  By the time I got home, the video was long overwritten. (Mental note, buy a bigger SD card).  So that was the first disappointment.  The second was when I searched the internet for something similar and discovered it is “a thing”.

So, to anti-climatically get to the point, this is what was hanging out in front of me at a long stop light:  a dead deer mural.

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Mine wasn’t that exact one.  But I shouldn’t be surprised, there’s plenty of variations.

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So… I said something earlier about social something.  I grew up in a hunting city in a hunting county in a hunting state.  I get it.  Some people like hunting.  But, coupled with the “look at me” you naturally have with the truck, do you really need to advertise that you want to kill things 365 days a year?  Do you need to foist that desire on some (or many) people who may not share the love of your bloody hobbies? 

And you may really be a hunter.  It’s quite possible.  But let’s be truly honest here.  That mural on the back of your vehicle is a fantasy.  You wish you could bag a buck that big.  It’s a dream.  You may have done it in the past.  Maybe, just maybe.  Not everyone can get a trophy kill.

But that’s not what all truck people fantasize about.  My search for dead deers included other tailgate murals.

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And don’t worry.  There’s plenty of variations on that, too.  Just in case you wanted to be different.

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So maybe this has become a triple disappointment day.

Now I don’t mean to be really sloppy with the paintbrush here, but the paint only seems to be sticking on one type of vehicle.  There’s a certain subset of people out there that have a predilection or even a desire to offend other people.  And the go-to vehicle for those types of people is… the American full-size truck.

Just Your Everyday Millionaire

There’s rich, filthy rich, and everyday rich.  Today I faced the worst of the bunch, everyday rich.  The key indicator?  The boat.  Yeah, around here you see a lot of boats.  There are a bunch.  But there’s boats and there’s big boats.  And in the realm of big boats, there’s certain strata of features and functionality, of which people prefer or defer.

Anyway, it’s after lunch and I need to refuel my car.  WaWa is packed.  I try to drive around the pumps and I can’t because a massive truck towing a massive boat is blocking the driveway.  So I turn around and take the pump behind him.  One of the owner’s 3 teen kids/assistants comes over and say they need the room to back out when they’re done fueling.  Fucking fine. 

I drive around the gas banks and take the pump on the other side of the big-ass boat.  I get out and one of the teens says “we’ll be done in a minute.”  What?  I look up (at least 6 feet over me) and without thinking, just exclaim, “holy shit!”  They’re filling this stupid boat with TWO pumps at the same time!  One of the pumps was supposed to be mine.  True to their word, it only took about a minute to finish up with my pump and as I fueled up, they blocked off traffic, backed the whole disaster up and got the shitshow out on the road.

The whole experience to me was stupid.  A truck and boat that large should have been filled at the dock, instead of a public gas station.  But, they would argue, it’s so expensive at the dock!  Hold on, there, poor boy.  You have three teenage sons.  The truck towing your boat is at least $60k.  The boat is easily $500k.  Even the trailer it’s on is probably $20k.  You just filled it from two pumps with non-ethanol fuel.  I don’t know anything about your living situation, but I can assume you have at least a four bedroom house with room for a truck and boat and trailer.  I’m doing pretty well for myself, but I couldn’t afford any of those things.

So, when you take your massive boat to WaWa and inconvenience all the normal people for a while to save a proportionally small amount of money and waste a bunch of everyone’s time, including your own, well, that deserves a middle finger or two.  Because you’re only playing rich. 

Maybe you’re leveraged out the ass and hoping the next recession doesn’t come along for a while.  Maybe it’s 2008 all over again and you HELOC’d your house to death since home prices have recovered.  But you still haven’t found out what it’s like to be rich.  You don’t understand time is money.  If you did, you would realize the time you’ve spent fueling your own mega-boat is a net loss for you.  Leave the WaWa alone for the poor people who have to put non-ethanol fuel in gas cans for their pathetic little boats.

The Way It Is

Recently, I was at a thrift shop, shopping for CDs, and I picked up Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is album.  I’ve heard the title track plenty of times on the radio, but I’ve never really listened to it.  When I did, I was disgusted to hear that the song has the same 4-beat drum machine pattern playing through the entire song: four and a half minutes.  No rhythm changes, no drum fills, no cymbals, nothing.  Just the same beat.  You can almost imagine Bruce playing the intro, then reaching over and pressing Start on the drum machine.  The song even fades out since there’s no programmed drum ending.

Absolutely horrible.  And that song was a hit!

But, that’s not what this post is about, even if the message of the song is somewhat relevant.  This morning, I was reading a news story about a police officer shooting an armed suspect during what may have been a standoff.  The details of the situation aren’t important.  I was struck by the reporting of the story.  When I finished reading, I had the thought, “was the guy black?”  I went back and re-read it and there was no mention of the suspect’s race.  Huh.

Well, we can probably assume he was white, then.  But that made me wonder, why do news stories always indicate the race of the people involved when they aren’t white?  The person’s race has nothing to do with the story unless it involves race, and sometimes, not even then.

This reminds me of a time I was reading a local newspaper from my hometown area.  I had moved away a long time ago and come to the understanding of how prejudiced that tiny area was.  The story was more or less, “Police are investigating a report of an assault on a white female by a black male that occurred late Friday night.”  Take out “white” and “black” and the story is still accurate, but doesn’t stir up any racial biases. 

There’s a natural tendency for people to call out differences.  Like if you give directions, you reference places that are different and easily identifiable.  I think this has something to do with the fact that we crave novelty.  But to specify a person’s race in a news story is almost saying, “this person is different and easily identifiable.”  And I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t work the other direction, too.  In black culture magazines, they probably use “white” a lot, because it’s different than the “normal”, their majority black readership.  I honestly don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised, nor would I be offended.

What I’m trying to say is what is being treated as a detail is not a detail unless it is a detail.  For example, in that news story from my old hometown, the man’s identity is known, so his race is irrelevant.  That would be different than “Police are asking for help finding a man involved in a fight yesterday at The Local bar.  The man is white and balding, and referred to himself as Chuck.”  That’s something you need to know in order to take action.

So, as an exercise for all of us, next time you read a news story, look for the race card being played, say to yourself, “that’s not necessary”, and self-censor it.  See if the story reads just as well without those details.

Check, Please

There’s a recently-born phase that is cast about as an insult, “Check yourself” which is meant to convey to the target that they are essentially, out of touch.  There’s a whole deeper meaning to the phrase that involves class warfare and the modern caste system, so using this phrase is really a lot harsher than it may initially sound.

“Check yourself” infuriates me.  And when I get mad, I get very mocking.  And when I get really mocking, I go redneck.  Think of an exaggerated version of Larry the Cable Guy (if that’s possible).  I don’t do stand-up comedy, but if I did, I would totally do this routine, despite the fact that it absolutely destroys my voice when I’m doing it.

Anyway, the idea that a person must tell another to “check their privilege” is reserved for people who a) have privilege and b) know what privilege is and c) know who should have it and d) believe they know who is affected by it.  None of these apply to rednecks (in the Blue Collar comedy definition).  They’re just simple folk who don’t want to get involved in the business of telling other people what they should be doing. 

So I came up with a Blue Collar routine, in the format of “Git ‘er dun”, “Here’s your sign” and “You might be a redneck”.  The premise being, what if a redneck heard about the phrase “Check yourself” and didn’t understand it (because they don’t have that concept), but wanted to make use of it because it was hip.  Thus we get:

Check yerself!
You might have shit yourself with that fart.

Check yerself!
Your shoelaces are untied!

Check yerself!
Make sure your balls aren’t stuck to the inside of your leg.

Check yerself!
Your hat is on backwards.

Check yerself!
You’re walking where the dog likes to shit.

Check yerself!
You got boogers hangin’.

Check yerself!
Your truck ain’t high enough for that road.

And that’s all I could come up with on my drive home.  It’s enough to start with, and it’s enough to take my mind off the stupidity of people trying to shame other people for what they have, either through their own work or worse, by simply being born that way.

Welcome To The Executives

If you are a company executive, sometimes, life is really good.  Obviously there is such a broad range of what constitutes being an executive, but when I’m using the term, I’m using it as a company person who is living and leeching off the company.  Someone who is more concerned about what they are getting out of any deal than anything else.  Someone who negotiates their employment to their sole advantage, because if the company can’t afford them, they’ll just move on to the next one.  You get the idea.

So, if you are one of these persons, you want to make sure you are being taken care of and you want to be sure you are extracting the most from any business trip.  I recently booked a couple-night stay at what I would consider an expensive resort.  But if you’re an executive, that’s not a concern.  It’s a business expense, so you want to make sure you are getting the best for the company’s money. 

Naturally, you are a member of the hotel’s rewards program, so you can get extra personal benefits from the company’s money.  Now here’s where it gets a little perverse.

This particular resort has add-ons that you can make to your stay, like included breakfast, or bike rentals.  But they also have some other interesting add-ons.  You can purchase, for a per-night cost, extra rewards points.  Now, why would a normal person willingly pay more (and we’re not talking a little more, try $144/night) for the same stay, just to get reward points, which are literally a fraction of a normal dollar for redemption.  $144 per night for three nights gets you 5000 extra points.

It’s crazy.  But… what if it’s not your money you’re spending?  Hmmmm. What if it’s just another business expense listed under Travel-Lodging?  How nice would life get then?  And what if you’re an executive – pretty much anyone who has seniority over the expense person in Accounting.  Who is he or she going to complain to?  Your boss?  Your boss would pat you on the back for such an awesome idea!