Attention Voters

Don’t waste your vote by believing the bullshit about wasted votes.

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This is my obligatory post about the election.

It really doesn’t matter to me who you vote for, but you should understand that acting as though this is only a 2-party election is very wrong. I had something like a dozen options on my ballot.

I realize that South Park and many others have given the “wasted vote” argument, which has some rationality to it, but is also a really bad way to get people interested in the electoral process. Please, for the sake of future elections and your own piece of mind, not to mention your enjoyment of this whole thing, find the candidate you want, and tick the box next to their name, regardless of who you think will win. The only wasted vote is a vote cast for anyone other than who you want to be president.

Now go vote, get a sticker, and a free coffee.

Homunculus Weaponized

Not that you really need another reason to disagree with the NRA…

A few notes on open carry, concealed carry, and any other name given to laws allowing your average citizen to pack heat in public.

I’m going to assume that the reason anyone wants to carry a firearm along with them is for their own protection. A logical thing if, for instance, you’re camping in bear country. Or if you’re actively involved in gang violence. Police forces seem to attract bullets, so they should probably have them too, but the police don’t really fit into my category “average citizen”.

I’m talking about the person (Although I should type “man” instead of “person” because it is an overwhelmingly male thing to do.) who carries a gun because something has made this person decide that the other people around can’t be trusted. This person doesn’t feel safe, and fears for the safety of loved ones. Fine. I don’t trust everyone else, either.

Why, though, am I supposed to trust 9-mil Bill over there to make good, rational, responsible decisions, if Bill doesn’t trust me? Is Bill paranoid? Does he have a persecution complex? Is Bill just a naturally scared person? Does a non-trusting, paranoid, persecuted, scared person make sound decisions? Fuck no.

Humans make terrible decisions under stress, which is what the body translates all of the above emotions into. This is why generals don’t usually follow their soldiers into battle. If the person making the grand plan were subjected to the same sorts of stress as the rank and file, war would be even more horrible than it already is.

Our locked and loaded Bill isn’t even protected while carrying. The only thing that’s really happening is that everyone else is a little more nervous, which then further clouds their decision making. Maybe there is the occasional knowing head nod from a fellow gun-carrier, who is also nervous and spreading unease.

So, Bill: I don’t trust you to make sound judgments under stress. I don’t have any faith in your ability to select, and then hit, the correct target in a dangerous situation. Police and military do this for a living, and it’s difficult enough for them to do these things. You, Bill, are an emotional, irrational, flighty (or fighty) creature under stress, and it screws with your ability to understand the consequences of what you’re doing. I know this, because I’m this way too. It’s not your fault. It’s the same reason children shouldn’t be taught how to shoot guns. Sure, they can learn good techniques for firing a weapon, but they have nowhere near the emotional, social, or cultural intelligence to know what the hell they’re doing when they put a bullet in a living person. My argument is that under stress, most of us are the same as children with weapons: good foundations for safe shooting laid atop an absolute shambling wreck of emotions and discernment.

Displaying 2nd Amendment support doesn’t require carrying a weapon on your hip. Do what everyone else does when they believe something strongly enough to announce it in public, and buy a bumper sticker or t-shirt. I promise that the only people wearing “I DON’T DIAL 911” shirts will be firm supporters of gun-carrying rights. You can always carry a knife.

Typical Millennial Resume

America’s much-maligned generation has a resume, and it looks like mine.

A former employer of mine asked me to attend a board meeting, to introduce me to some of the industry folks who did business with us. These were railroad industry folks, where I have quite a bit of experience.

During the “introduce yourself” portion of the meeting, I got to rattling off the jobs I’ve done over the years. Because you folks would have no way of otherwise knowing this, I’ll tell you my number: eleven. Eleven in the past ten years. I’m counting as separate jobs a couple of re-hires to do the same job at the same company, which has happened twice at two different places. With a kind of resignation and familiarity, one of the industry men said, “Typical Millennial resume.”

I felt like I was slapped, understanding and having used the pejorative myself, but just sort of laughed it off as something I expected from a person who works in an industry where employees have long been known for their longevity. It’s not uncommon for railroaders to stay with their jobs for twenty, thirty, or even forty years. The insult I felt was for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was born toward the middle of the range of 1976-1983, so depending on your source, I’m either an X-er or a Millennial, but I look young enough to qualify as solidly 20-something. I can identify traits of both generations in myself. I also think I’m probably too sensitive about being called a Millennial, since I always equate that with “hipster”, which is an altogether different thing to be called, and nobody really fucking knows what that means either.
  2. The man was clearly unimpressed with his assessment, and though he may not have meant to be, was condescending.
  3. I am thoroughly sick of employers acting as though people who’ve chosen(or been forced) to change jobs are lesser humans than those who just put their noses down and grind on with one line of work.

The reality for anyone in today’s US workforce is that there are scant few jobs worth hanging around in. I don’t know if it’s always been roughly this way, and there is a genuine generational intolerance to drudgery that has arisen, or if the work has actually become crappier. It seems a subjective thing. There are, however, a few facts I can relate through my own experience:

  1. In 2001, I took an entry-level warehouse job that paid $11 per hour. Those same jobs today pay either the same, or less, than they did fifteen years ago.
  2. There are dozens of jobs advertised on my state job board that require a bachelor’s degree, and they pay anywhere from $12-$15 per hour.
  3. Health insurance plans offered by employers cost more, as inflation would predict, but cover less, as nobody in their right mind would predict. You typically need a union in this country to get anything like reasonable healthcare at realistic prices.
  4. Though every job advertises itself as an “opportunity”, “career”, or something pulled straight out of Satan’s asshole(I’m looking at you, Maverik gas stations, where a cashier at a truck stop is not an “Adventure Guide”, no matter what planet you come from.), those jobs are really about all the same from the workers perspective. As far as I can tell, they’re the same from the manager’s perspective as well, since apparently all you need to manage anything is a degree in management.

There’s nothing new here. People have been talking about wage stagnation forever, and retail jobs have always been shit. However, when someone balks at the idea of hiring a person who’s been unwilling to just molder on in a job with little opportunity or enjoyment, I get angry.

A “Millennial” resume exists because the reality of working in the US is that the majority of jobs are as interchangeable as the managers companies seek to hire: they won’t pay enough to make someone think twice about leaving; the benefits are some permutation of the package an employee will get at any job; the “opportunities for advancement” almost always include taking on considerably more responsibility and hours for a negligible pay raise and a significant stress increase; there will be enough people competing for the job that individuals don’t matter much.

So we shop around, we of the Millennial resumes. We don’t enjoy it. It’s stressful, tiring, and it causes the type of reaction I got from an industry professional. However, learning how to say “enough” to frustrating and pointless labor is a skill our resumes display. If a potential employer sees that, they may be turned off. All they should really be seeing, though, are people who are smart enough to know how expendable they are, and to know that walking away, bridges intact, is sometimes the best option.

Because Greed

There’s still a damned good reason to want a tiny house.

I want to address a criticism of tiny houses particularly, but also owner-built structures generally.

This is a criticism that’s been wielded by, well, me for one, but mainly people who think building your own tiny house and calling it green or eco-friendly is a hypocritical piece of cow pie. If you do something like construct a small house and sing its praises, you essentially spit in the face of everyone who is mortgaged up to their kidneys in something that is definitely not a small house. These people get frustrated with that, and this criticism is born from that frustration, but also a bit of common sense. They’ve just forgotten who the real enemy is.

It goes something like this: why build a brand new house, however small, when there are plenty of foreclosed-upon, or otherwise suitable structures scattered across the country, that could be fixed up and lived in with a similar amount of effort and/or money? Aren’t you just being greedy, and wasting resources building a new thing when there are already lots of lovely used things waiting to be given some love? We’ll overlook the fact that remodeling takes resources.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Mesa County Public Trustee. Here’s a list of houses being offered by public auction in a Colorado county. It’s pretty standard for an area with not all that many people. Over on the right-hand side is the money, where the action is. You’ll see a total due, which is how much the mortgage was for. The next column is how much money the owner (“Beneficiary” in this document) is trying to extract from the people who live in the house (“Grantor”). The Lender Bid column is where the public auction starts for that particular property. If you don’t bid at least one dollar over that amount, you don’t get to bid. Now, there are deals to be had here, but the auction room will be filled with builders and flippers who know their way around real estate, and who all have a bigger pile of money to bid with than you. There is always the chance that they will not bid on a place you want, however.

You cannot tour these properties before buying them, so you don’t know if grandma passed and the house went to the bank, or if Cletus blew up the bathroom making meth, went to jail, and now there’s no more drug money trickling into the coffers at Chase. It’s a gamble, and while you can certainly drive by and prowl to get an idea, it’s not like you can run an inspector through the thing. All of a sudden your 70k fixer has a 20k foundation issue and roots in the sewer lines.

These auction prices are already grossly out of proportion to the value of the place, because they were, at one time, subject to the same market forces that push home prices into the mesosphere today. The bank got what they could for the place from someone willing to pay it, and they now will try to get what they can from you, the prospective auction-goer. (I was going to type that the bank “fucked” the previous buyer, and that now they wanted to “fuck” you, but I really don’t want to give fucking a bad name. And really, how big can a bank penis be? Not to mention that some of the blame lies with realtors and real estate companies.) Real estate values are seldom based on reality in the US, and more based on what people can get away with.

I also understand that buying a house at auction isn’t the only option. You can also choose to buy a home where real estate is either at or below its typical market value. Another way to state that is “shopping in a town where most people don’t want to live”. Depending on why people aren’t wanting to live there, this is a semi-viable option. Crappy schools? Not a problem if I don’t have kids. Filthy, deserted, and dangerous industrial wasteland? Harder to get away from. You’re still subject to the whims of real estate people.

This is why you build your own bank-damned house: to live in a place you like, and get away from needing a loan of any sort from anybody. That cute bungalow with good bones on a manageable plot of land? The one with the foreclosure sign? It’s not going to be cheap. Not even close to affordable if it’s anywhere people tend to like living. Because greed. I’m just going to go ahead and recklessly declare that nothing good has ever come from a mortgage. Until the day you make the final payment, it’s the bank and not you that owns your house. You are not a home owner as long as you owe somebody money for it. If I buy a trailer, put a small house on it, and figure out where to park and live in it, I can be asked to leave the property, but not the house. That place is mine.

This of course has ramifications from property tax collection, to land ownership, zoning codes, and the like, but those are all different issues. Other essays, maybe. For the folks who sneer at tiny homes and small, mobile living solutions to the mortgage problem, this has been a response.