Friday, May 27, 2016

boo hoo

The original Gawker post showing a video of Hulk Hogan having sex with his ex-friend's wife (with the guy's encouragement) while spouting racist statements about his daughter dating a black man wasn't of any particular interest to me. The lawsuit and trial against Gawker was a bit more interesting but I had better things to so than follow it. When I read that Hogan won $140 million, it was more interesting.

Then things got really interesting when Peter Thiel was "outed" as the man who backed Hogan's lawsuit. Now, almost every Gawker site is running some sort of story about the how Peter Thiel is using his bags of money to suppress freedom of the press and has it in for Nick Denton. There are comparisons to Shel Adelson who bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for what seems to be the sole purpose of promoting his causes such as trying to dig up dirt on a judge who he is mad at.

While I have read many believable accounts of billionaires using their money to try to sue journalists into bankruptcy and I'm convinced that Peter Thiel despises Nick Denton, the multiple Gawker squawkers have glossed over a few pertinent facts of the case. First, it seems that the majority of lawsuits from billionaires trying to bankrupt critical journalists are merit-less and obvious in their purpose to cause financial hardship for journalists defending themselves. This case was not frivolous and Nick Denton was not in danger or going broke defending himself. It is even unlikely that Gawker and Nick Denton will go broke paying out the judgement, though the same is not true for AJ Daulerio. Gawker published videos that they knew were filmed secretly and illegally. No one seems to remember, or at least no one cares to remember that crucial fact. Of course they deserved to be sued.

Gawker is retrying the case in the court of public opinion. They are highlighting how the judgement against the editor, AJ Daulerio, would destroy his life because he has no assets. I know of someone who could help AJ Daulerio out of his predicament quite easily. The Gawker sites point out ad nauseum how Hulk Hogan is basically broke and could not afford his attorney if not for a secret backer. They appealed the verdict and were so sure of their success that they have already published an open letter from Nick Denton that baits Peter Thiel. After reading the Gawker response, I have become convinced. 

Gawker should pay, and pay a lot of money. While I wish that the recipient of the windfall wasn't Hulk Hogan, what Gawker did should not be protected by the the First Amendment or any form of journalistic privilege. Whatever Peter Thiel's motives were, they do not excuse Gawker from their crimes. And frankly, the way Nick Denton/Gawker keeps spouting off about how Hogan is broke and shouldn't have been able to afford his attorney sure seems like exactly what they are complaining about. It seems like he's salty that Hogan couldn't be litigated into the ground but instead was given resources from a billionaire so that he could fight against a similarly wealthy and powerful opponent. Boo hoo.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Time to Smoke Again

I'm going to pile onto the TSA horror story bandwagon with my own tale. While my wait was not several hours long, it took 45 minutes, which was about 25 minutes longer than I think it should have. I will be fair and blame other passengers for 10 minutes of this time because very few people in the queue actually thought that they could prepare themselves during their 45 minute waits so that the process could go more smoothly.

This is not uncommon behavior. SB is the same. When we take the bus, I will pull my wallet out of my bag as I see the bus approaching so that I can scan my card as soon as I board. SB never thinks to do this and always boards the bus, then reaches into his pocket for his wallet that is filled with five years of receipts. Then he will stand there struggling to extract the bloated wallet while everyone behind him waits. Even better is when he has the wallet in his backpack. He will board the bus, and then begin looking for where his wallet is. Everyone stands there, waiting for him to find his wallet. At some point I will growl at him to stand aside and let everyone else board while he searches. Sometimes when we arrive at the bus stop, I tell him to locate his wallet. He has no problem doing this, which means that all the other times, he just didn't think to streamline the process.

So back to the airport security queue. I understand that it isn't ideal to prepare by holding your laptop and your shoes for 25 minutes while waiting for your turn, but I also don't understand all of the people who have to go through the scanner over and over again while removing spare change, keys, rings, watches, and belts. It is not like the aren't aware of what items will set off the machine. Those 25 minutes in line could be spent locating all of those trinkets and placing them in a compartment of your bag. And then there are the people who argue that they don't think that they need to take off their 'light' jackets or sweaters. They ought to be shot. No one cares about your opinion of whether your outer layers of clothing should count as a jacket according to the TSA rules. No one will give you a medal for proving to the TSA officer how smart you think you are. There is no man to stick it to, only about a hundred men and women behind you, one of whom is plotting your demise as she stands there with her jacket already removed and folded over her arm.

As for TSA, they will bear the brunt of my rage because they are the agency responsible to managing this security line disaster and have publicly stated that passenger-idiots slow down the screening process but they somehow have no mitigation measures in place to deal with passenger-idiot time wastage. On my last trip to the US, the screening queue had about 300 people when I joined, and wove through two rooms. About 10 minutes into the wait, I noticed a TSA officer walk past me on his way to the screening area. He was notable because he absolutely reeked of cigarette smoke. I could see that only two of four lanes were open for scanning despite the cluster of TSA personnel standing around, but I was optimistic that Smoky's addition would mean that one more lane would open. No luck. Smoky took up a spot standing there next to someone who was directing traffic to the two lanes.

20 minutes later, Smoky left the screening area. Then ten minutes later he returned. When he returned, he took up standing around in another location and the person who had been standing around there left. I finally made it to the front of the queue so I don't know when that person returned but I had an idea of what was happening.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for heavy smokers. I learned from firsthand experience that the smoking addiction can dramatically affect productivity. When I used to work in a bar, the majority of my colleagues were smokers. There were three of us behind the bar. One bartender smoked around once per hour and the other smoked like a chimney, probably two or three times per hour. It was taken for granted that I would cover for them while they took breaks. I probably worked 90 to 230 minutes more than they did every night. Then there were the bar backs. More often than not, if I needed restocking or dish washing, I had to look for them out back because they were always taking smoke breaks. Several times per night I had to wash my own dishes and restock the beer because I couldn't wait for them.

I think that TSA should do an audit of employee performance. I think that they will find a lot of wasted time and productivity. It's hard to have more screening lanes open if your staff keep taking breaks and there is no one to stand in for them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

the more they stay the same

SB and I were complaining to each other about how some mutual friends dropped off the face of the earth after having a baby before coming to the realization that we haven't been much better since Tippytoes and Eloise joined our lives. We made a resolution to try to catch up with old friends.

First up was the hockey group. We had not seen most of the guys since MegaIce changed everything and gave away Thursday nights, which the league had held since Megabox opened, to someone offering lots of money, as is the way of things. We met up with several of the old teammates for drinks and were happy to note that while life has moved on, people at their core are often very much the same. Once reminded of why we liked them so much, we invited two of Will's former hockey teammates to join our dragonboat team. 

Then I remembered that they are Canadian and we all know that Canadians, while often confused for Americans, have their own distinct (weird) culture. This culture includes reverence for all things that have to do with maple leaves, including affixing them to bags, clothing, and their own skin. There were several maple leaf tattoos on display. They also worship poutine, Tim Horton's coffee, and lumberjacks. And they think that curling and board games are sports - elite, competitive sports.

Our dragonboat training was unfortunately timed to occur right after a night of fun board games. By right after, I mean a week later. D was still moaning about having played with another hockey player and his girlfriend, J, who destroyed them all. "I have never been so utterly destroyed during monopoly" he said several times, usually after my attempt to change the subject. D is a former professional player and really, really big so I didn't have the courage to tell him just how interesting it wasn't to hear the play by play retelling of how he kept stopping on J's railroads. For like the fourth retelling. 

So there I was, trapped in the middle of the ocean, still listening to him bitching about monopoly.

D: Oooohhhh, I can't believe how badly she beat us.
Me: (Oh gawd, make it end)
D: I never stopped on a good tile!
Me: (Maybe I can accidentally clock him with my paddle. How much does this thing weigh?)
D: Then I tried to offer her money at extortionate rates just to buy some property...
Me: (He's gotta be around 250lbs. This won't knock him out)
D: Blah blah blah monopoly
Me (I know! I'll just knock myself out)
D: So are we getting drinks after this?
SB: Sure!
Me (Kill. Me. Now.)

So yeah, things change but in a lot of ways, they stay the same. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

that must be it

I wonder what my profile seems to be when my news aggregator compiles articles of certain, surprising themes. The rugby and architecture articles make sense but every so often I get bombarded with religious freedom stories. Sixty percent of the religious freedom stories are actually the opposite, and if the item has a title involving "...due to Christianity" then the likeliness that this is a religious oppression story increases to ninety percent.  Most items where someone is fired for being Christian involve the person using the bible to engage in hostile or antisocial behavior. "I was fired for offering to pray with her", when scrutinized, usually ends up being "my concern for her eternal soul compelled me to stalk and harass her." 

In university, I had a well meaning classmate who struggled deeply with his grandmother's refusal to convert to Christianity and be saved. At least once a week during studio hours, I could hear him phoning the poor woman, probably in the middle of the night for her in Iran, to implore her to find God because she was going to hell. Surprisingly, grandma stopped taking his calls. He later found out that I was a Catholic and turned his attention to my conversion. Color me naive, but I made it to 21 years of age before realizing that there are a number of Christian denominations that do not believe that Catholics are Christians. It didn't matter that we referred to the same bible because the deal breaker was that I hadn't actively 'accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior' and therefore was not saved, thus I was going to hell. Imagine my surprise that I was going to hell by default because I had not truly accepted Jesus in my heart since I had not uttered those specific words. 

"So according to true Christianity, all it takes to go to heaven is to utter "I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior?" "Yes, and you will be saved." "But if I live a good, Christian life yet I don't get saved, then I go to hell?" "Yes." "And I can be a psychopathic serial killer but if I say that I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, then I get to go to heaven?" "Yes."

Well, that explains a lot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

comic competency

On of the managers for the corporation that I am subcontracted to has become increasingly unhinged, as evidenced by his multiple pages long emails that he sends out almost every half hour, accusing the various other subcontractors of a wide variety of misdeeds - all in Comic Sans using large, bright blue font, often underlined and boldfaced. In case anyone is unclear, Comic Sans is a cartoonish, unsophisticated font that was invented during 90's, a seriously questionable decade in regard to style (grunge movement, anyone?), and classified as a casual, non-connecting script. Do not use Comic Sans if you want to be taken seriously. It's only one step above writing a business letter in Elvish.

Anyway, I have stayed mostly off this man's radar, thanks to a separation of scope, but every few days, when he has run out of accusations to spout at the others, he turns his attention to me and lets loose a torrent of craziness. I have learned not to reply, no matter how contradictory or serious the accusation. I learned this the hard way when I tried to make a reasonable reply to an unreasonable demand and received a series of enraged responses from the manager, each one adding one more unrelated accusation of my competency, and copying one more level of authority until his last attack included a member of the board at my office and the highest level of management at his company. No one actually replied, in case you were wondering. Probably due to the Comic Sans.

He now complains at the design meetings that he doesn't know whether I am actually working because he never hears from me. That he isn't copied on any of my emails isn't an mistake on my part. If my work ever fell under his scope, I would probably resign.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

bull dozers in rut


If you are traveling to Northern China, please be aware that it is mating season for bull dozers and they are very aggressive when in rut.


The dozers on my site are domesticated and neutered but we have to be careful about the hydraulic crawler cranes. They are known to be unpredictable, especially when in close vicinity to the tower balance cranes, their natural enemy.

Monday, April 18, 2016

neighbor nuisance

I will feel like an a$$hole if I make a complaint but I'm not sure what else I can do...

My neighbors for the past several years have not been the easiest to live with. They are noisy and fill the shared alcove in front of our doors with racks of shoes, boxes, and suitcases that are an issue if I am leaving home with a sports bag (i.e. at least twice per week). I have avoided confrontation because I have felt sympathy for them.

Our flats are small, but face the race course, and are priced accordingly. SB and I love the view so we choke down the cost of rent compared to the tininess of the flat. The neighbors have a smaller flat, but I imagine that the rent is not reduced greatly. I'm pretty sure that they couldn't afford the rent by themselves. I often see him by a truck receiving carts full of cardboard in the morning while I walk the dogs, and I don't imagine that managing cardboard collection pays well. I have seen her reselling open suitcases of used clothing on a street corner. I don't think she is rolling in mad cash either. They have several bunk beds in their living room and I'm fairly certain from the constant comings and goings that they rent out the bunks to tourists and live-out domestic workers.

I hate stumbling over the rows of suitcases outside of my door. There are often foul smells coming from the boxes and other items in the hall. They have a friend who sells supposedly organic fruits and vegetables on another street corner and she often leaves her boxes in the hallway overnight. Two weeks ago I discovered a small cockroach strolling across the floor and had a small meltdown.

Aside from knocking on their door on three occasions, I have never made a complaint. Once I had to knock when the mess actually blocked my ability to enter my home, and the other two times were when some items in their pile smelled so foul that they fouled up the air in my flat. Other neighbors have complained and the management response has been to post warnings on our doors, to no avail. My next door neighbors simply ignore the warnings. I cringe whenever I see a warning on my door because I wonder if the other neighbors actually think that some of the mess is mine. I have thought of filing a complaint due to fire safety issues but I would feel like a jerk if I harmed their ability to earn a living wage by forcing the removal of the suitcases. I just don't know what else to do.