The Best Glue

Recently I was installing a shower curtain rod, but not the normal straight-across kind, but one that turned in the middle to enclose two sides of a space.

The kit was comprehensive, with different methods of anchoring the curtain rod based on what it needed to be secured to. I surveyed all the pieces, then turned to the instructions.

I shit you not, this is absolutely how the written instructions started:

After our experiment, we changed the glue in the non-performing installation scheme to Chinese glue, which is better and stronger than the Japanese glue we used before.

Okay, while I question the wisdom of bringing up past failures to new customers, I do have to appreciate that our Chinese friends weren’t done yet. The instructions follow:

Our factory sells 4000 bathroom poles every day in the world, which is a large amount. My colleagues and I work late every day. We work day and night to bring better products to customers, and we hope every product we sell can help everyone.

This all seems a little defensive. “Hey! We’re doing our best, man!” But this is the instruction sheet, so at any moment there might be instructions. I had to keep reading. But next comes a plea that if there are any problems with installation, that you contact them first and they will make it better. An email address is provided that is a big number and is probably unique to this exact copy of the product.

Another paragraph follows, on the same theme. If there is a problem, we will make it right. Just give us a chance.

It’s funny and I will always laugh about Chinese glue, but what we also see here is a company that is learning that in listings at Amazon and the rest, customer reviews are what separates success and failure. Some dickhead customer doesn’t apply the inferior Japanese glue properly, gets pissy about it, and it can ruin a business. So they upgrade the glue, and improve the instructions, and forge ahead in a wild-west marketplace.

Meanwhile, some other company, who is using fucking Andorran glue for crying out loud (Andorran! The fuck do they know about modern polymer chemistry?) is flat-out paying people to give them good reviews. It’s tough for an honest company out there these days.

10

DevOps and the Invisibility of Success

Some of you may have heard that some new guy owns Twitter now. You may also have head that despite the dire hand-wringing by <insert people you don’t like>, Twitter is still running. Therefore, you might be tempted to conclude, all those engineers weren’t really necessary in the first place.

There are a lot of people working around us right now whose job it is to keep bad things from happening. I worked in a very small tech company once, and the boss was constantly trying to reduce the hours of our only IT person because clearly things were running just fine. When the people are doing really well at keeping bad things from happening, we forget we need them at all.

Twitter manages gazillions of data, and they propagate that information around the world in near-realtime. So many ones, so many zeroes. And right now, all those tweets are still flying around, and we’re willing to believe for a moment that Elon Musk is not simply an idiot baby of blood emeralds, but some kind of business smart guy. Twitter is still running! But that’s a tribute to the hard-working people who don’t work there anymore.

Elon has seen things running smoothly, and has not stopped to credit the people who are responsible for that. Quite the opposite, in fact; he has sent them packing. The plane is autopilot; it is a credit to the people who built the plane that it may go quite a while before slamming into a mountainside.

5

The Big Bed

Every now and then, when it has been an emotionally draining day, we invite the dogs to hop up into the big bed with us, so the whole pack can be together.

While Gilfoyle enjoys being up there, Lady Byng lives to be snuggled with the pack. Last night was a pack night. Tonight, every time I look toward the bedroom, she tears off in maximum excitement, sure that tonight her dream of being on the Big Bed will be realized again. She has cracked the code, knows what to do, and there will be Big Bed nights forevermore.

Except nope, there is nothing she can do to change the outcome tonight. Some outcomes you don’t control, as much as you would like to think you do.

11

The Trump Premium

I’ve been going to a Web site fairly regularly to check on the movements in the price of Bitcoin and other crypto tokens. This has exposed me to a lot of advertisements to invest in precious metals.

Most of those ads are for coins that are either one ounce of silver or one ounce of gold. Not coins in the “legal tender” sort of way, but round things made of pure metal that are struck with some sort of decoration.

While silver currently shows trading at $19.86 per ounce, I can buy a handsome silver coin for $24.27. The coin will have a picture on each side. Maybe liberty or the ol’ “Don’t Tread on Me” snake. That picture is apparently worth about four and a half bucks.

Unless that is, you want your coin stamped with the image of Donald Trump. In that case, the coin will cost you $25.78. Same amount of silver. Just a bigger markup because the buyer is making a value judgement with his testicles, rather than his brain. (I used the male pronoun intentionally, which now I see is a disservice to all the idiots who identify with different pronouns. But I’m leaving it, so I can keep this parenthetical comment.)

So.

There is a significant market in which people will pay extra for any random shit if it has Trump’s picture on it. I picture running a booth in a flea market, and buying shit from all the other booths, putting a Trump sticker on all that stuff, and selling it for 30% more. (Note: this blog episode is NOT filed under get-poor-quick.)

The idea scales. GMC Tundra Trump Edition. (Note to self: research what model of truck was used to commit murder by the “good people” in Charlotte.)

But in between those extremes is where the real money is. I’m sure most of this stuff already exists: Trump beach chairs. Trump shoes. Trump lamp shades. All that shit. Doorknobs, dildos, drapes. Trump condoms that are actually morning-after pills.

As I type this, I realize that all that shit is out there already. I’m not going to think of a new place to sell Trump’s face to his idiot idolizers that hasn’t been exploited already. But that won’t stop me from trying.

Froot Loops! Now with more Trump!

4

twiliight

It seems the Twilight series is out on a new print run, with a new covers. The covers are striking and pretentious and silly, and I am here to mock them. You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

I had not planned on going to the trouble to find an actual image of this thing, relying instead on my near-mystical abilities of description, but let’s face it, images get the clicks. Here’s the cover:

They did this on purpose

Full disclosure here; I have never read twiliight (apparently) and it’s pretty unlikely I ever will. I have read and enjoyed many things similar to this, even written for a similar demographic, but this whole thing seems pretty awful.

BUT! You will find millions of readers who disagree with me, and the last time I wrote something millions of people liked was never. So my hat is off to the writer of this yarn.

Who is that again?

STEPHENIE MEYER
AUTHOR OF THE #1 BESTSELLING TWILIGHT SAGA

In other words, “Author of the book you are holding in your hands right now.” Which… I figure is kind of implied already. If you decide to read twiliight because it’s written by the person who wrote Twilight— you know what? You’re perfect for this story.

4

Tailwind

I was moving right quickly as I pedaled south this afternoon. The weather was perfect, clear but cool, the path dappled with the shadows of the trees. Just a great day.

While the wind wasn’t too fierce today, I knew that I had a tailwind, even as I felt the wind in my face.The tailwind manifests not as a push but a reduction in resistance.

It is easy to forget the extra push, to credit my skinny legs with my success. And my legs deserve a lot of credit! But on the way back north, those same skinny legs were having to work a lot harder, and I still wasn’t moving as quickly. That easy-to-ignore wind became a real burden.

Yes, this is absolutely a metaphor for privilege. Just because you face resistance, doesn’t mean you’re not getting a boost.

3

The Future of Plague

I came down with a cold yesterday, and used one of the COVID testing kits I have on my desk to make sure I wasn’t a threat to others. Yeah, that’s a thing now. And while they aren’t that common yet (I don’t think they are, anyway, but I could be wrong), it’s easy to imagine them becoming common as this whole pandemic thing drags on.

I write Science Fiction stories, but now is there any future that does not include tests like this as a part of everyday life? Will the kids born today ever know a time without ready tests for the latest plague?

1

Someone’s Messing With Me

Driving yesterday, I had the thought: “Someone has replaced New Mexico with an exact duplicate, except without orange barrels on I-25.”

1

12 Hours and One Minute Until Dawn

I looked at my watch, and that’s what it just told me. Seems like a title for a story.

1

A Very Ordinary Genocidal Sociopath

I thought I’d celebrate the day with a link to an article about Cristopher Columbus over at defector.com: Christopher Columbus And The Replacement-Level Historical Figure. If you’re not a sports fan, you might not have seen the phrase “Replacement Level” that is used in the title. In sports, as statistics become ever-more sophisticated, you come across the question “how much better (or worse) is this athlete compared to a completely average person doing the same job?”

Patrick Wyman likes to ask that same question, but not about athletes, but about political and historical figures. Was Henry VIII exceptional, or was he just another Wealthy Asshole doing Wealthy Asshole stuff? What Wyman has discovered is that it is much more informative to look at the class of person who did something big, rather than to dwell on the name of the particular member of that class who actually did it. If it wasn’t them, it would have been someone else.

Back in the 1480’s, there were dozens of Christopher Columbuses sailing around. The one we remember might have been a little dumber than most of his peers (just about everyone else was correctly certain his estimate for he size of planet Earth was way off the mark), and maybe a bit more consumed with social climbing, but in every significant way he was a perfectly ordinary sociopath getting rich off the suffering and subjugation of others.

He would hang out with other, now forgotten sea captains, trading tips on how to most efficiently destroy civilization in Africa and how best to suck up to the various navies deployed to protect their evil trade.

Chris was just dumb enough to try something his peers hadn’t yet, but it was only a matter of time.

Would anything have been different if another captain had made the voyage? About the only difference is that other captain would have been smart enough to realize he had stumbled on an unknown continent and named it after himself, and the natives in this land would not be called “Indians”.

Other than that, the replacement-level sea captain would have still have been a genocidal racist, willing to kill thousands of people if it meant he could sell dozens. He would have used disease, intimidation, and rape to get what he wanted. Back home, he would tell outrageous lies.

Yet we have a day in this country named after one slightly-below-average member of this club. We learned in school that he was a hero, now we are learning something closer to the truth. But both these narratives make Columbus someone special. He was not. There was a swarm of flies, and he just happened to be the first fly to land on the new world.

2

The Car in the Camp

There is a homeless camp near the Children’s Museum. I ride through it on my trips that start to the North. The camp is growing, as are all the tent cities along the river. We can all take credit for that.

The city does what it can to limit the harm, providing portable toilets and looking the other way when a chain of extension cords or even a hose reaches from the museum to the camp. In one of the most expensive towns in the world, it doesn’t take much to knock a family out of their home. At least some here are more concerned with protecting people and environment rather than assigning blame.

You see some pretty nice cars in the camps these days, reminders of where these people were before they lost everything. Tricked out rice rockets, European luxo-mobiles, big-ass SUV’s. The cars are memories now, tires going flat. Time, poverty, and desperation inevitably overcome all things, especially cars; decay is accelerated. The minivan parked by the tracks one day is a burned-out hulk the next.

In the camp by the children’s museum, there was a car on a trailer. I am not an expert on antique automobiles. My first guess was a 1950’s MG, but looking at pictures now, this car lacks the signature fender->running board line of the MG’s.

But it is a classic roadster of that form, and at first it was on a trailer. The trailer is gone now.

It is a negotiation I think I understand. Job is gone, home is gone, but there is one thing you hold on to. But even being homeless is expensive, especially if you want to escape it. Fees on everything. Do you keep your phone account or do you eat? The trailer is sacrificed to keep the idea alive that this is just temporary. That on the other side will be a life where the classic car means something again.

I wonder that someone down on their luck can’t find a friend with a garage to hold their car until things get better. But although this car is more conspicuous, as I said above there are many nice automobiles in this place, and the number is growing. And friends are hard to find when you have nothing.

I dread the day I ride past and the accelerated entropy has overcome this vehicle. It’s just a thing, metal and rubber and whatnot, and its only value is what we assign it. But it’s also a dream. It’s hope. It’s a lifeline someone is clinging to. I just wish I shared that hope.

3

Totally NOT a Robo-Call

I got a message on my phone from an unknown number. In a soft alto female voice the message said:

We’re sorry, an application error has occurred. Goodbye.

1

Hope It Floats

Today I rode Stevens Creek Trail for the first time, and it’s pretty cool: a tiny jungle wedged between a freeway and suburbs, with lots of engineering to overcome highways and the occasional railroad. As I approached the south end of the bay I passed Moffet field and the NASA Ames Research center. Just past that there was a pair of fancy new buildings going up.

“Huh.” I thought to myself, “I’d have thought that NASA people would know better than to create grand new structures at sea level.”

Ames Research Center and something Big and New

The hue of the image is due to smoke; this is the “new normal”, as the kids say. So – two big buildings with Major Architecture going up (only one pictured here), on land that is almost certain to be under water within the intended lifespan of the buildings.

I wondered how NASA could be so short-sighted, but it turns out they’ve worked a pretty good scam. After I got home I did some research.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to one of Google’s new flagship sites. I imagine the NASA people who leased Google the land are cackling at the prospect of getting anything at all for that doomed real estate. And maybe if Google is there, they will spend their billions to protect their investment, constructing dikes and pumping stations that not only will prolong the agony for Google but also give NASA a few more years in their own facilities next door.

The people who paid for that new fancy building must know that the ocean will soon be taking ownership of that land, right? They must know that clever geothermal piles (which sound pretty cool) will not alter the simple fact that the ocean is rising, and cares not how many dollars you have sunk into your new building.

I have many unflattering things to say about Google, but stupid was not one of them. But if the shoe fits…

A Sign of the Times

My local bike shop published a nice intro to indoor bike trainers today, breaking down the different types and the pros and cons of each. There was one section of the article addressing why one might want an indoor trainer, that included this:

You can get a great ride in regardless of rain, wind, smoke, or snow.

Smoke. A new weather condition driving us indoors. One we created all by ourselves.

Hmm…

I’m just going to leave this here.