Archive for the 'General' Category

Welcome to America. Sign here.

America is contract crazy.  Want to watch TV?  Sign a contract.  Want to buy a phone?  Here’s your contract.  Use a parking lot… we have a contract.  Hell tons of people are stupid enough to live in neighborhoods with a covenant agreement which is no more than a contract promising to pay monthly dues and mow your grass or a group of strangers (those people you call neighbors you’ve never talked to) can foreclose on your house.  That’s brilliant.  These are often the same people who complain about the evil government dictating their lives while they sign up for their neighbors to tell them what color their front door must be.  Then complain about it.  Here are a few more stupid American contracts people feel obligated to sign so their pride and prominence in society won’t be tarnished.

Mobile Phones

How about this level of ignorance: a cell phone contract.  Most people carrying a cell phone are truly this dumb.  Sure it’s their choice.  They chose to commit to at least $69 a month, often much more, for two years so they can enjoy $200 off the cost of an iPhone 6 or Galaxy S5.  If you don’t sign up for a AT&T, Sprint or Verizon then you must have bad credit, right… or a little mathematical competency and some fucking common sense.  $299 for an iPhone 6 and a two year commitment with AT&T for unlimited (6GB) data and voice.  That’s an easy $119 a month alone.  Probably around $79 a month on some family share plan.  What a win!  Nope… you’re a financially challenged poser who just hasn’t realized many are way ahead of you.  How many? The the majority of the planet including all other industrialized nations.

You can go to many prepaid mobile phone carriers and for $199 or less you can get a Galaxy S4 on a truly “unlimited” voice and data plan for a firm $50 a month, get this…. without a contract.  Cancel any time without penalty.  Choose another phone without paying $600 for the privilege.  The data plan is truly unlimited because Virgin uses Sprints network which I’ve found is as good or better than Verizon where we live.  My wife carry’s a white Galaxy S2 so she must live in a trailer park without any credit or she would have an iPhone 6, contract and an absurd bill right?  Prepaid phones are for two types of people:  People with bad credit and people who are smart enough to know better than to sign up for AT&T, Sprint or Verizon extortion.  I can’t include T-Mobile because they recently saw the light and dumped contracts.

TV and Internet

Unfortunately these contracts are hard to avoid.  No real way at all to avoid them if you accept the introductory pricing.  I actually do know a couple of people who have abandoned TV contracts entirely.  Instead of Time Warner, satellite or AT&T U Verse they are opting for rabbit ears.  Yep, HDTV over the air.  Combine it with a contract for internet access and a $8 a month Netflix subscription for a lot more content than we had at the dawn of cable TV.  There are even options to get the broadband internet access without a contract as well.  If you want a full lineup of premium channels so you won’t miss Game of Thrones on HBO you can get service from Time Warner without a contract but the will be giving you introductory pricing.  AT&T, Verizon and most satellite providers are still clinging to the old early termination fee model if you cancel before paying their contracted ransom.  All in the name of revenue protection and projection.

Employment Contracts

These may work great for high level executives, athletes, Hollywood and some union workers but for the typical job seeker they are usually just a contract to make someone else money.  Recruiters, headhunters, what the hell ever you want to call them have literally taken wages away from many workers by playing the HR middle man.  They are middle men on the dole too.  When someone signs up to work for them a new level of evil begins.  The headhunter gets a commission or finders fee.  The flat finders fee is not necessarily a bad thing.  The whole practice should stop right there.  Find an employee with specific skills, match to an employer for a permanent position…. done.

But no says the employment agencies. We need a model where 40% or more of what a W2 contract employee is being paid to go to the staffing agency.  So if an IT worker is getting $35 an hour the staffing agency is usually clearing about $70 an hour.  Granted they are paying a few benefits but they are typically weak compared to those offered to permanent employees.  Staffing agencies make a fortune off these middle man employment contracts.  Furthermore it states that employer believes the position the contractor is working in is worth $70+ an hour.  When a permanent offer is made they cut that rate in half “benefits” being the argument.  I’ve worked with payroll and benefit numbers.  While many companies are paying half the cost of health care plans it still does not take 50% of someones salary to cover benefits cost.  This is a perverse lie repeated by the staffing industry to justify their outrageous hourly rates.  It’s a lie told by employers to suppress wages.   No matter how you cut it the rates charged by staffing companies for contract employees is a farce wrapped in a profitable lie.

Business Contracts

These might not hurt individuals or consumers…. or do they?  Payroll…outsourced to a contracted service provider.  Everything from janitorial services to company parking lot attendants are outsourced.   These all mean more contracts.

The Small Print

More contracts means more lawyers.  Lawyers cost money.  That cost is passed on to consumers.  As more environmental laws, accounting laws, copyright, patent, tax laws are passed the more disclaimers, contracts between manufacturers and consumers, are required.  Entire industries and law firms are in business of finding risk and creating billable hours by rewriting contracts to negate these risks.  Create a problem, charge for a solution.  Then there are email and website legal disclaimers, ticket stub small print reading “the holder of this ticket agrees to…”.  What?  Don’t remember agreeing?  It’s right there in the contract sir.   Check out what Charles Green has to say about the expanding use of commercial contracts.

Less we forget many businesses today have so many contracts they actually employ contract management departments.  Would fewer contracts mean fewer jobs?

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A timid, indecisive woman drives a car. Somehow it could be my fault.

I just rear ended a woman at the top of an exit ramp.  This occurred as my passenger and I discussed how badly she was driving.

The ramp exits off I-40 on to Harrison Ave. At the top of the ramp the right hand turn lane merges into a free flowing lane of traffic, towards Cary.  A free flowing lane in which no cars were traveling or merging in to.  This woman, Anna from Chapel Hill, stopped at the top of the exit ramp and lurched forward.  Richard, my passenger, said “WTF is she doing”?

Anna crept forward again, ever so careful and hesitant.  I didn’t move my car.  The words were spoken “There’s nothing coming, why doesn’t she go”?  Finally 51 year old Anna from Chapel Hill made her turn!  Fantastic, all clear I turned.  BANG!…. Anna decided it was a good idea to HIT THE BRAKES while entering the travel lane.  In.  The.  Damn.  Lane. – Not in the intersection.  Nothing like stopping suddenly for NO DAMN REASON other than being confused and indecisive.

Anna stepped out of her car, almost into traffic.  We went around her and pulled into a parking lot.  After asking if she was okay we recommend she move her car out of the lane because she’s blocking a free flowing lane of traffic trying to get off the exit ramp.  Nope.  She’ll wait.  The smell of genius in the air was thickening.

When the officer Thompson of the Cary PD arrived his first question for Anna: “Is you car running”? “Then move it”.

Officer Thompson asked us what happened first. We explained, including our conversation about her odd driving before the impact.  As he walked over to talk to Anna the first thing we heard him say to her was “You’ve got to commit“!   I loved it.

He gave me the report and said “We don’t determine fault but I will include your statement of what happened. This happens here often, usually because of hesitant drivers. Unfortunately since you rear ended her you may be found at fault by the insurance companies”.

So my insurance might get to pay for Anna’s recognized and recorded inability to make committed decisions in traffic. The good thing is Progressive told me rear ends are not always automatically the fault of the rear driver any more. If it can be determined the driver in front performed an unexpected stop it may often be concluded as “No Fault”.  Which still sucks because Anna can’t make an unimpeded turn without freaking out so it was her fault.   Hell we prepared for her and couldn’t predict or avoid the stupid!  Richard and I told the cops the same thing: Once she made that turn we thought we were clear.   Until Anna decided at the very last second to hit the brakes because…..

Well we haven’t figured out why the hell she suddenly stopped.  Nervous reaction?  Medication?  Most likely just plain old bad, timid, indecisive driving.

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Boylan 2014

Boylan 2014

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Smooth progress on the Smoothie

Smooth progress on the Smoothie

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I hope this frame is big enough for me

I hope this frame is big enough for me

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Underemployed, poor and now colon cancer – North Carolina is an evil state.

NC is a mean state.  Evil really.  It’s no secret I despise the Affordable Care Act, primarily because of the legal mandate to participate in a very broken system.  However despite it being the worst precedence setting law in the history of the US I do like the fact that it allowed people with preexisting conditions to get insurance if they can afford it on the “exchange”.  Can’t afford those prices?  Many states now allow poor individuals to enroll in federally supplemented Medicaid, this was the “medicare expansion” heard about in the media.

Then there is NC and everything disdainful and vile about it.  NC’s beloved GOP refused to participate in the exchange and refused federal Medicaid expansion, essentially refusing any benefits of the ACA.  Why?  Because the state didn’t want to owe the federal government.  Never mind the first 5 years of fed funding were absolutely free, no payback required.  So where does this leave poor individuals without families in NC?  Out in the dirt to die, that’s where.  NC only offers Medicaid to low income families, the long term disabled, the elderly and the blind.

Any individual who cannot afford to buy private health insurance must go without.  To stick a hot knife in their misery the IRS will come to collect their tax penalty.  That’s right, impose a tax penalty on those who have the least income in the country.  Fucking brilliant.  Oh I know, the idea was to get college kids to get insurance to balance the risk for insurance companies.  It’s really just a hot poker in the eye of NC’s least fortunate.  Yep, I have a personal example:

A very close friend earned a whopping total of $14,000 last year, including money under the table.  She works approximately 35 hours a week. Her reported income was just over $7500 on her tax returns.  She pays her own rent and lives humble by anyone’s standards, still using an old prepaid flip phone that believe it or not, Obama did not give to her.  She looked into insurance during open enrollment for the ACA.  Every Blue Cross and Cigna plan was WAY too expensive.  With no family she did not qualify for Medicaid.   Monday she went to a gastroenterologist she was referred to by Raleigh’s Open Door Clinic.  They found a tumor in her sigmoid colon.

The GI referred her to a surgeon immediately.  She’s meeting with them today.  She told them on the phone she was uninsured and poor.  They said “come talk to our finance people”.  It will be interesting to hear how that turns out.  Basically medical offices want to be paid up front any deductibles and  co-pays.  Recently Amy and I were required to pay for a whole procedure up front even though we have insurance.  Then our insurance company cut us a check back but the surgeon would not perform the procedure without being paid first.

If this is any kind of payment policy the surgeons office follows where my friend is taking her colon cancer she’s screwed.  Worst case they won’t operate.  Best case they charge her full price, no pre-negotiated rates, and she pays them very little every month until they take her to court, obtain a judgement, garnish her future wages and taxes.  A lot for a survivor to look forward to.

This problem is not contained to NC.  I grew up believing America is the best country in the world.  That American’s looked out for each other.  That we are all born equal.  I will not make the same mistake of letting my kids grow up believing any such idealistic bullshit about America.  Many, many Americans now firmly hold the position that it’s every man/woman for themselves, owing nothing to anyone but their banks.  That everything boils down to personal choices and responsibility and that everyone starts on a level playing field.  In other words they believe in a farce wrapped in a fantasy sold as a lie.  The only thing they’ve gotten correct is how self centered and self serving many have become in a nation putting up a lame front of being selfless.

The America I believed in is gone.  It now belongs to greed and self serving religious hard asses who think more of themselves than they do others.   All the while riding their pretentious high horse of self grandeur, constantly judging others.   What would Jesus do?  Not one damn thing the way those who use his name as a defense are doing now.   He would help people.  Not hurt them to protect his precious personal gains.

 

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New Ride: Soma Smoothie 54

This weekend I am building the first full road bike I’ve ever owned.  After weighing the cost/benefit options of steel verses carbon, I elected to go with a steel frame on purpose:

  1. I am not going to race it.
  2. I’m not being a “weight weenie” about this bike.
  3. Steel does provide a more comfortable ride.
  4. I can’t break it easily if at all.
  5. It’s cheaper (but not much).
  6. The component geometry already matches several components I already own.
  7. I got hooked on the classic style of steel and the nostalgia factor kicked in after riding a friends All City Mr. Pink.
  8. Damn near everything else on the bike will be carbon.

Although I have 53/39 rings I will be setting this up compact 50/34 and breaking into experiences with huge gear ratios compared to my life on mountain bikes.  I’ve made it into the top 10 on several road segments riding my 1×10 cross bike with 38 and 40×11-38 gearing.  This Soma will be 50/34-11/25 and slightly heavier because of the frame weight and being a 2×10.  I can’t wait to get this thing built and on the road.  I also went ahead and ordered a new Pearl Izumi fleece bib and gloves because it’s getting cold out there now.

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Ballot Test

On today’s ballot there was a seat for one NC Court of Appeals judge.  I didn’t know anything about the 19 candidates.   I voted for Valerie Johnson Zachary since her name was last on the ballot alphabetically.

How many others will do the same?  If she wins, is it as a result of her name placement on the ballot?

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I am unaffiliated. I voted.

Unaffiliated, independent voters are the most important. Impartial and prepared to look at issues from multiple perspectives we search for those willing to negotiate and if necessary compromise. We embrace candidates who are willing to work towards solutions that benefit society, not just themselves.

Campaign attacks on the opposition candidate or their political affiliations mean little to us compared to where each candidate stands on issues. Facts matter. Those candidates willing to ignore or down play a matters of fact in the name of partisanship have no place trying to appeal to the independent voter. Worse, don’t tell lies. It doesn’t matter if you can somehow stretch it to the truth through causality or indirect relation, it’s still a lie on it’s face.

Unaffiliated voters decide elections. Partisanship produces bad, unworthy leaders who do not represent people but special interests. That is what Americans are sick of, being second to corporations and donors buying laws and policy. The unaffiliated voter is the greatest threat to the status quot in politics because politicians do not know which way to dial their propaganda machines to influence us.

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Oh my

Oh my

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