*It’s Unlimited, But There Are Some Limits…

May 10, 2018 11:35am
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I’ve written about this topic before, but it bears repeating because right now it’s something that I’m a little frustrated about.

Simply put, whether we’re talking cellular or fixed line, I think that Internet access should be sold as a utility, not a service.

In layman’s terms, either bill me for usage or bill me for speed, but don’t double dip and bill me for both.

This issue resurfaced in my mind because last night we got a notification from Verizon that we’re almost at our plan’s limit for data for the month, though there are still 12 days left in the billing cycle. Our plan is for 8 GB, which is usually more than enough, but we did a lot of traveling in the last month and tethering the kids’ iPad in the car always eats up a lot of data.

So I look at my options to see that they’ve eliminated the rest of the buckets of data above ours – the next step is just an Unlimited Plan, or rather two unlimited plans…

  • The first plan is an extra $50/month and adds unlimited data … but they reserve the right to throttle you down to 3G speeds due to “network congestion” (i.e. “Hi, net neutrality! Somebody else paid more, so they get to go first!!!”). Also, mobile video is limited to DVD quality (480p). Also, mobile hotspot connectivity is limited to 3G speeds as well.
  • The second plan is an extra $80/month and this time your unlimited data can only be throttled if you exceed 22 GB/line in a given month. Mobile video is limited to 720p. Mobile hotspot comes with a 15 GB allowance at LTE speeds, after which it will be throttled down to 3G.

Just so that we’re all on the same page here:

So where do we start?!

I have an iPhone 7, my wife has an iPhone 8 Plus – mine supports 720p, hers with the larger screen is 1080p, so both are getting sub-optimal video quality on the lower unlimited plan. We won’t even muddy the waters by talking about iPads here.

Throttling speeds are a HUGE difference here – Verizon cites their 3G threshold at 600 Kbps, whereas I’ve done speed tests showing anywhere from 20 – 50 Mbps for LTE. The latter will easily support streaming audio and video, whereas 600 Kbps should support streaming music over Pandora (which requires 25-50% of that) but I wouldn’t get my hopes up about video, and frankly, tethering my laptop to those speeds would be like a trip back to 2001.

And lastly, the biggest point of all – what is unlimited if it is, in fact, capped or throttled?!?!?!?!?!

I find it appalling that Verizon sold off its FiOS business a few years ago so that they could focus on “mobile as the future of broadband” if their idea of that future isn’t bright and shiny, incredible pipes but instead these hack and slash toll booths that all of the carriers swore they wouldn’t do with net neutrality, but what do you know … now they’re doing it and the current FCC chair couldn’t care less!

Maybe it’s an “undesirable business model,” but I just want access to data.

You sell me a pipe. Bill me either by how much data I use (like the electric or water company) or what capacity I have access to use (like my home broadband), and that’s it.

I shouldn’t have to consider the screen resolution of each of my devices or what tethering speeds I need to be able to do mobile work from my laptop – not when you’ve got an LTE network capable of speeds faster than the majority of residential broadband.

I spent about an hour looking into this last night and getting more and more riled up as I learned about the details, until I finally wondered if maybe I should finally consider switching to another provider, but they’re all pretty much doing the same thing!

This is exactly the kind of thing that the FCC is supposed to be protecting consumers against.

Oops – no HTTP/2 today…

April 23, 2018 4:08am
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Note to Self: DON’T MAKE SERVER CHANGES WITHOUT WRITING DOWN WHAT YOU’RE CHANGING FIRST!!!!!

So … about 11 hours ago, I thought that I’d try to upgrade my web server to use HTTP/2.

It sounded like a great idea after reading this article from Yoast, so I spun up Easy Apache and found the mod_http2 option. It mentioned that I needed to switch from one MPM to another, but I didn’t really think much of it.

To make matters worse, I also used the same time to uncheck a few random Apache and PHP modules that I didn’t think I needed.

As soon as I restarted Apache, sites already started looking hosed. 

Some wouldn’t even render their CSS, others were missing random images. But I didn’t know enough about HTTP/2 yet to realize whether I had actually screwed something up or if I just needed to make some modifications to WordPress to get everything working correctly.

At one point I thought that maybe all I needed was this HTTP/2 Server Push plugin, as I started to understand that HTTP/2 handles requests a lot faster, so was it possible that the browser was just getting the CSS file and other images too late and didn’t know what to do with them?

No, not really.

I also dug deep into caching issues, which is always a mess because I run Varnish and some of my sites use W3 Total Cache, though it’s currently disabled on my multisite install due to weird config issues. I also cleared my own browser cache and tried other browsers, but no luck.

Eventually I started to dig into the whole some images loading but others weren’t thread, and even more peculiar – I run three WordPress installs on this server … two multisites and one standalone, and only my big multisite install had issues!

This got me thinking back to some of the permissions issues I’ve had with Apache and PHP while trying to get APC working (quick summary – APC is supposed to be wicked fast, but won’t run under the SuPHP handler, only DSO … which handles permissions for running Apache different than SuPHP). What was weird was that images I had uploaded recently were missing, but the older images were fine … and note that all of the files were still present on the file system itself.

I gradually conceded that I needed to give up on HTTP/2 for now and roll back to what I had before, though this was a giant pain because I’d run Easy Apache so many times that something got corrupted in the config and I ended up making the biggest changes using YUM via SSH.

I got moved back from mod_mpm_event and mod_http2 over to mod_mpm_prefork, though that didn’t seem to make a difference.

Then on a whim I reinstalled mod_ruid2 because of this helpful explanation – Run all httpd process under user’s access right.

AND BAM – MY SITES ALL STARTED RELOADING PERFECTLY AGAIN LIKE MAGIC!!!

Well, almost like magic. I still had a lot of plugins to reactivate and other troubleshooting steps that I’d taken to reverse, but now … as far as I can tell … my WordPress network is back to the way it was 11 hours ago before I decided to try and setup HTTP/2 “on a whim!”

Clearly I need to do a lot more research into it, and also probably spin up a test site or something, before I start monkeying with that hassle all over again. 😛

Consistency is Quality

April 18, 2018 5:03pm
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I have a problem with HoneyBaked Ham.

I love their sandwiches, but the shop closest to my house isn’t very good at making them.

…sometimes…

I used to grab lunch there all the time until I finally gave up because they were constantly making mistakes that I wouldn’t discover until I got to my desk and unwrapped something that wasn’t quite what I wanted to eat.

I think the final straw was when the person forgot to take the paper off of the cheese slices … an error that I found only halfway through my sandwich!

So I had stopped going there for a while and recently decided to give them another try, however the last couple of weeks our relationship has devolved into the same old series of errors again. Omitted ingredients included, requested ingredients forgotten. A few weeks ago they decided to put horseradish on my wife’s sandwich – one of those condiments that if you didn’t specifically ask for it, you probably don’t want it.

🙁

Today when I stopped in after picking my son up from school, I noted that they’d made a bunch of mistakes last time and if they could pay better attention when making my food, I’d appreciate it. And it honestly wasn’t as well received as I would’ve liked … they did hear my complaints, though they had a few excuses along the way, but there was also some eye-rolling when they asked who had waited on me and I replied.

…because I think the guy is the manager…

Regardless, a couple of big parts about how I judge customer service are as follows:

  • How you respond to mistakes
  • What you do to improve on them
  • How you make up for the inconvenience

The first one should be easy – “I’m really sorry about that – that’s not what we like to hear.”

I never really got that, or if I did, it was overshadowed by the excuses and eye-rolling over their boss.

Next – “Let’s go over your order to make sure that we get it right this time.”

They did this.

And lastly – “How about we pay for one of your sandwiches today to make up for last time?”

Hahahahaha!

That totally didn’t happen! In fact, when I questioned the high price for so little food that I was getting (because apparently they mark up their combos like crazy – an extra $2.50 for a soda and chips?!), she just quoted everything at full price like it was no big deal.

Even their clumsy manager who’d screwed up our order last time offered me a discount from the time before…

Now I don’t want this to sound like I’m just always cruising for a discount, however I do strongly believe that if a corporation doesn’t take some sort of financial penalty for its mistakes, it’s like they never really occurred in the first place. I mean, how many times have you called your cable or cell phone company and spent half an hour on the phone, only to have them try to upsell you while all you want is for them to fix the service that’s broken that you’re already paying for?!

I get that customer service is hard, however it’s not really a stretch of the imagination to suggest that I should be able to walk into the same store week after week and get the same sandwich every time. This is not sandwich art – there’s literally a big sign right there on the wall that explains how to make each one!

But that lack of consistency makes me not want to eat lunch at HoneyBaked as often because that sandwich I really like isn’t always the sandwich that I’m going to get. And that’s bad news for a company to hear because when you have a customer who’s eager to come back again and again, the last thing you want to do is disappoint them because you don’t deliver a consistent experience every time that they walk through your door.

And as a side note – the inconsistent sandwiches are what will make me think twice the next time I’m looking to grab lunch, but not being more receptive to criticism is what will send me to Panera or Firehouse instead.

When a customer is still willing to be a customer and walk through your door, you should listen carefully to what they have to say about your service. Because not everyone will come back to tell you when they’re disappointed.

Car Buying Frustrations

April 5, 2018 12:41pm
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I know that most car salesmen are slimy and tricky and generally not to be trusted, but it’s still hard for me when I’m putting down tens of thousands of dollars for a car that we’ll likely drive for the next 5-10 years, only to then have to deal with being lied to along the way.

It happened to me not once, but twice in the last couple of days, to the point where I’m honestly just done with our current car buying expedition. I need a break from the treachery and the dishonesty.

ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS BUY A FREAKING CAR FOR THE PRICE THAT WE’D ALREADY AGREED ON!!!

We’re currently working on getting a van to replace our SUV whose lease will be up next month. It’s an upgrade that we desperately need, despite my not being crazy about driving a van, but hey, when you’ve got three kids and strollers and other miscellaneous stuff to haul around, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do…

So we decided that we want to get a Honda Odyssey. We’ve test driven a couple of different ones, and it’s far superior to other brands on the market. But the dealers are really digging in on the price, regardless of all of the research and bids that I’ve gathered around the area. I’d finally gotten one as low as I figured I was going to get, but when we packed up the entire family and went to the dealership, after moving all of the car seats over and doing another test drive…

They up and changed the price on us. By several thousand dollars.

Because apparently the “quote” I had been given didn’t account for the $1,600 worth of accessories that they’d installed on the car, nor did it account for them lowballing the hell out of our trade-in … which is admittedly a challenge because we’re over our miles on our lease, so we’re technically upside-down on its value.

Though for what it’s worth, I’m not looking for them to give me any positive equity on the thing – just looking for them to help soften the blow of the excess mileage by meeting me in the middle instead of paying the full amount back to Honda by just giving the car back.

Anyways… 😛

So dealer #1 tried to screw us – it was very much a bait and switch, and the salesman who had been super-friendly during our entire test drive pulled a two-face on us and was kind of a dick after I challenged the first set of numbers that he brought back to us.

We still haggled there for about an hour until I finally decided that they weren’t going to budge on their prices – they’d up the loan term to 84-months, but wouldn’t lower their price – so eventually I got on the phone with dealer #2 and asked if they’d honor the price that they’d given us if we came the next day.

They said, “Of course!” and agreed to follow-up in the morning…

…when they sent me a bill of sale for $1,000 more and said that the original offer was no longer valid.

W.T.F.

Just for the record, it takes a lot of nerve to tell someone, “Yeah, it’ll be $1,000 more!” and then follow up the customer’s disgust with, “So are you still coming down today?”

This is why I could never be a salesman – because if that’s the level of dishonesty required to do your day to day job, it’s just not for me. I mean, for the second guy, (allegedly) I had talked to him on the phone while he was feeding his two year-old son!

Who lies while they’re feeding a baby, for cryin’ out loud?!?!?!

So I’m done searching for now. I just don’t have the heart in me to deal with this stuff anymore right now, and I’m still getting over being sick, and we’ve got scads of family in town, and I can’t do it.

We’ll pick things up in a few weeks after I’ve had a chance to get over this garbage, and then we’ll start up all over again. I’ll put on yet another layer of thick skin and charge up my BS meter, and we’ll see if we can secure us a van to trudge this clan around Florida for the foreseeable future.

A brain dump about dollars and cents…

March 6, 2018 9:13pm
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Corporations can be a good thing, but usually they only operate in their own self-interests … which I suppose is a lot like people, but we should be striving for something more.

Workers are supposed to be happy about companies that have announced raises and bonuses on account of President Trump’s tax reform, however it was recently reported that these same companies have initiated $171 billion in stock buyback programs while spending roughly $6 billion on workers … that’s 3% for the workers, 97% for executives and investors.

And speaking of executives, why is it that employers seem eager to pay their executives top dollar “in order to attract talent” but don’t offer that same commitment to retain their rank and file employees? A C-level executive can join the company with a six-figure salary and stock options worth millions, work for 18 months or less, and then move onto the next company with a healthy severance package, while lower-level employees are supposed to be grateful for a single-digit percentage bump every few years???

Also, a 2% annual raise isn’t really a raise at all when inflation is running at the same rate.

Still, it’s hard to look down your nose at 2% when some employers give minimum wage workers a $0.25/hour raise and expect them to be grateful for it.

I watched a story today about how Walmart is decimating small towns by closing stores where years or decades ago they strong-armed themselves into – at the time they got millions in tax breaks, promising jobs and economic growth to the area, and now that they’ve put all of the smaller stores out of business, people will have to drive to the next town over for groceries or their jobs because despite making $14 billion last year, they feel they can squeeze a bit more by moving a store 45 miles east regardless of what they leave in their wake.

Low wage jobs continue to become a victim to automation, and now a new hamburger-flipping robot could put another dent in the fast food industry … which according to this story could be a good thing because apparently it would be safer than employers telling their workers “to put condiments on their burns” instead of seeking actual medical attention.

I also learned about Toys ‘R Us’s recent bankruptcy that came after a leveraged buyout back in 2005 and I don’t understand how it can even be legal for a corporate entity to use the thing that it’s buying as part of a loan. It’s not the same as your mortgage because your house isn’t expected to pay down the mortgage that you took out on it!

I don’t deny that I’m still lucky to make more than the majority in this country, however it’s always frustrating to see yourself moving backwards rather than forward. Watching a place like Disney World consistently raise their prices by 10% every year as my own family grows but my salary doesn’t keep up feels like I’m being rapidly priced out of their market. I know that a lot of Disney fans who aren’t within driving distance already feel that way.

It’s hard not to be cynical and feel like corporate greed is ruining America, particularly when it’s so easy for the people at the top to get more money when others of us struggle to make much smaller gains that would be vastly more meaningful.

Gun Violence Overload

February 17, 2018 2:26am
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My brain is completely fried from everything surrounding this week’s mass shooting at a high school in South Florida.

Yesterday I wrote an essay about my thoughts, which didn’t get the support that I had expected.

Today I spent way more time than I should commenting on threads with people who will never ever ever consider guns to be even one iota of the problem because it’s everybody else’s fault – parents, violence in the media gun-free school zones – you name it, they’ll point the finger and then make sure that we never mention their beloved guns in a negative light on their watch. It’s so apathetic and sad, it leaves me speechless.

When I went to pick Christopher up from school, I couldn’t help but notice that the flagpole out front had the American flag flying at half mast, and I paused for a second to try and figure out how to explain to a four year-old that it was a symbol of respect because a very bad person had hurt some kids at another school.

On the plus side, holding his hand as I walked back through the parking lot to our car renewed my position on this matter because I realized that I’m going to have kids in the public school system for probably the next 15 years and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and just accept that active shooter drills need to be a part of their curriculum because adults can’t get their shit in gear and figure out how to stop bad people from barging into their schools carrying guns.

I’m still VERY ANGRY about the topic, and I’m rapidly losing respect for anyone who shrugs it off and says that there’s nothing we can really do because that’s bullshit and my children deserve better.

It really disgusted me to find before I started writing this that in fact I’ve already written about mass shootings many times before…

I don’t know how we as a nation got to be so lethargic about gun violence, as if it’s just the uncomfortable side of our right to bear arms that we all have to accept in the name of freedom.

The NRA, an organization that as far as I’m concerned should be leading the charge on responsible gun ownership, spends tens of millions of dollars every single year lobbying politicians to steer clear of any legislation even remotely resembling gun control.

And gun sales spike every time there’s a shooting, just like they surged whenever a Republican talked about how Obama was trying to take away our guns when calling that statement an utter lie doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

My mind goes numb just trying to wrap my head around it, but I know that we’ve got to change. We’ve got to have open dialogues about all sorts of ways to combat mass shootings, from mental health to better background checks to more parental awareness, better security in schools, and maybe some guns even need to come off the streets, too.

I know that gun advocates consider that to be treason, but if we can’t even protect our own children in their own schools anymore, we don’t deserve to call ourselves The Land of the Free. 

Kids deserve better from us and adults need to start acting like adults.

When kids who had to hide inside of closets beg on TV for adults to do something, anything to help protect them from all of this senseless violence, every last one of us should be ashamed. 

Parents shouldn’t have to bury their teenagers because you’re too afraid to loosen your grip on the assault rifle that you cuddle with in bed every night out of this paranoid delusion that it’s the only thing protecting you from your government.

The entire world shakes its head and sighs about how pathetic it is that America can’t seem to figure out its gun problem when it has almost as many weapons as it does people and it spends more on its military than it does on taking care of its own people.

America cannot possibly be “the greatest country in the world” when we stand by and do nothing while our kids are murdered at their schools, and I’m tired of listening to people give excuses – young and old, gun owners and paid-off politicians and just crabby Republicans in general – who shrug their shoulders and say, “There’s nothing that we can do…”

Stand up and get the fuck out of the way so that those of us who still care about our kids can do something before even more schoolchildren are chalked up to statistics.

Entertainment vs Politics

September 24, 2017 4:21pm
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I’ve never quite understood the arrogance with which some people cite that celebrities should stay out of politics.

Politics affects all of us whether we’re fast food workers or policemen or teacher or multimillion dollar actors and athletes, and just because they’re lucky enough to have a larger paycheck than the everyday man shouldn’t diminish their right to voice their own political concerns and beliefs.

I think what rubs me the wrong way the most about all those currently up in arms about the football players who’ve chosen to protest by either taking a knee or simply not coming out of the locker room during our national anthem is how crude these so called fans are towards a very real fear for the very people that they idolize. You would think that if someone who you religiously follow every game day took a few minutes before each game to speak out against something as serious as racial inequality and police brutality, then the least a fan could do is take a few minutes to listen.

…and not try to follow this bizarre, Republican talking point about how it makes them unpatriotic and disrespectful to deflect attention away from the real issue at hand…

Of course, Donald Trump came out tweeting all sorts of rage about how horrible these displays are, even calling for the team owners to take a stand and fire these individuals … which is A) ironic, considering the bile and hatred that he tweets on a daily basis, not to mention B) a gross interpretation of the 1st amendment to the Constitution … you know, the thing that soldiers actually fought and died for out on the world’s battlefield.

Now I don’t really care about what the President says because eight months plus an enduring campaign in, we know that his prerogative is to chant out whatever will best get his base riled up.

What I do care about, on the other hand, is his base who stands behind and believes in this mentality that patriotism is about unwavering allegiance and even more importantly, that police brutality is mostly something that black citizens bring upon themselves … blah blah blah … Chicago, black on black violence, etc, etc…

It shows that these people don’t care so much about our actual freedoms as they do about protecting a symbol of our freedoms … one that maybe doesn’t shine quite as brightly as some of us would like to think. But it’s easier to call a professional athlete spoiled and ungrateful across the Internet than it is to accept that racial inequality is still very much alive in this world – even if the only black people you ever encounter in your own little slice of rural America is the ones throwing the pigskin around on TV every Sunday for more money than you’ll ever see in your lifetime.

It says something when no matter how a group of people choose to protest, none of them are “acceptable” to you … protests in the streets are too violent, yet a silent protest before a game is deemed disrespectful. It says that you would prefer just to not hear about their protest at all, which is crude because this is a really important issue to someone you claimed to be a fan of, but it’s also frankly disrespectful to the freedom itself – so which is a grosser crime, making a silent protest of our national anthem or disregarding the very freedom that our national anthem represents???

Not everyone has the luxury to not care about politics, but the least you can do as an American is respect other people’s rights to care about politics themselves for a few minutes before they spend the next two hours risking life and limb to entertain you.

movie thoughts … Transformers: The Last Knight

September 18, 2017 2:43pm
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I remember a time when I actually liked the Transformers movies.

The first one (2007) wasn’t bad – a good, solid action flick with plenty of humor thrown into the mix.

And even the second one (2009) was alright, though I never really cared for the name.

From there, though, is where I feel like this franchise started to go downhill – first with Megan Fox’s replacement in #3, and then with Shia LaBeouf being randomly bumped for Mark Wahlberg in #4.

Just to be absolutely, 100% clear without equivocation – Transformers 5 is a raging dumpster fire that should make every last person who appeared in the credits ashamed, as well as everyone who went to see it in the theater, and oh hell, pretty much everyone who spent their 2 hrs 34 min to watch it EVER.

Spoiler #1 – Marky Mark is “The Last Knight.” Because why have some awesome, giant robot fill that roll when … Mark Wahlberg is around?

Spoiler #2 – He’s every bit as awful as he was in Transformers 4.

I don’t even know what to say about these movies anymore. Continuity is garbage, seeing Wahlberg written as a cooler star than Optimus Freaking Prime is just mind blowing, and the plot reads like somebody just throwing darts at a board, and then remembering that they promised a role to XYZ actor every 30 minutes or so and just penciling them in wherever.

Every time the name Cade Yeager is spoken out loud makes me want to punch an Autobot in the face.

The idea that apparently every historical event ever was won only because of the Transformers reads like a Hasbro wet dream.

Megatron negotiating with lawyers is … not what I want to see a 40-foot evil robot doing in a movie, ever.

Oh yeah, and P.S. This plot about bringing Cybertron to Earth already fucking happened once in Transformers 3!!! But I guess while they needed to teleport the planet back in 2011, now it’s cool for them to just drive it across the universe like a planet-sized taxi cab?!

Also also – drones??? 

You have 40-foot tall fighting robots – why do you also need drones?!

*sigh*

So yeah, the movie is garbage … even moreso than the last one was, and yet it will probably be less garbage than Transformers 6 whenever that comes out, because when it comes to Hollywood, dumpster fires are almost impossible to put out.

On Nazis and Free Speech…

August 19, 2017 12:29am
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So today’s humor column ended up being about Nazis.

I’ve been really flaky with my writing lately for a number of reasons, and the insanity of white supremacist sympathizers across one of our political parties certainly hasn’t helped matters any.

I would’ve never believed that we as a country could become so divided that conservatives would actually side with people waving Nazi flags before they could agree with liberals about the intensity of racism still brewing in our society, and how something as simple as a statue commemorating one of the leaders of the rebellion would still be given a pass when white people carrying torches see it as a symbol worth marching around while calling out for racial purity.

…and how it isn’t painfully clear that this incident was exactly what we feared from electing Donald Trump president, as he felt inclined in his first comments to point out that there were other people doing bad things in the crowd, too, and that there were probably some fine people on both sides of the issue.

Fine people and Nazis are two terms that never belong in the same sentence together.

I’ve seen people arguing for the free speech rights of the Nazis – which doesn’t technically exist if they were inciting violence … something that semi-automatic weapons and torches tend to imply, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve seen people arguing that the girl who died got what she deserved, whether she shouldn’t have been in the way of the car or shouldn’t have been protesting in the first place … which is just asinine.

I’ve seen people crying that “they don’t know what to say anymore without getting judged” while they constantly and consistently judge and marginalize minorities every other second of their day.

It’s utter madness, and it’s had me thinking a lot about free speech and whether the way we practice it is really in our best interests. I mean, the idea behind not wanting the government to pick and choose who gets to speak seems to be rooted namely under the worry of, “What if I’m next?!” but what if by not citing that certain types of speech are unacceptable under the guise of “freedom,” we’re actually signing our own fate by cultivating the types of thoughts that would take advantage of that freedom for the worse.

For example, hate speech and truly vile thoughts are perfectly protected until one suggests any form of violence, and as a result it gives those ideas the opportunity to manifest until they build numbers strong enough to go out like they did last weekend, and between their own aggressions and those who stood up to them, somebody ended up dying from it…

…and if you watched the special report that VICE did from Charlottesville, at least one of the key players involved didn’t really feel much remorse that it happened.

My point is, by not taking a stronger stance against white supremacy – even just like Germany and some of the neighboring countries did by banning display of any Nazi propaganda in public – is that enough of an open door for them to get their foot wedged in???

And the reason this all scares me is that I know that comparisons to Hitler are very much abused online, but in this case when actual Nazis marched in the streets of an American city, I feel that it’s relevant to bring up – when we see resemblances to Adolf Hitler in Donald Trump and the Republican Party and in these Nazi thugs gathering last weekend, we’re not comparing them to Hitler in his glory days when he was executing his Final Solution and trying to conquer the world, but instead we’re seeing similarities to the years leading up to Hitler’s rise.

Remember that Hitler didn’t take over Germany by force, but very much politically – even running for president, though he didn’t win – by bringing together people with the most extreme views. In Hitler’s case, it was his fellow antisemites and those who believed German blood to be the superior race, whereas since his election we’ve seen Trump propose a ban on Muslims, hostility towards immigrants – both illegal and inadvertently not, declare war against pretty much anyone who disagrees with him – especially the media, and inherently lead his supporters to breed this hatred of other people walking among them who he’s convinced have one way or another marginalized them.

Call them what they are, though they wear it as a badge of honor – by bringing together these deplorables, Trump has groomed himself a small and fiercely loyal group of followers who see him as the last saving grace, aside from the return of Jesus Christ himself, for America. And hence we’re in this bizarre light where nothing he can do is wrong to them – racist and sexist remarks, treasonous behavior, warmongering … and that’s scary when you consider how they all fit into the bigger picture…

  • You have a group of loyal believers to do his bidding.
  • You have a much larger group of complacent followers who hope for change and are willing to look the other way.
  • And you have the rest of us, who he’s essentially cast as the enemy because we believe in facts and education and reason, all of which have no place in his agenda that is based primarily on filtering money and power up to a mighty few business elites at the top of the chain – all else be damned.

I’d have had a little more respect for Donald Trump if he had done what any sensical leader would do and fiercely condemn any mention of Nazi beliefs from the first moment that they hit the airwaves, but instead he hemmed and hawed and rubbed his toe in the earth because as much of an idiot as Trump is, he no doubt realizes that those people are also Trump voters … and he needs them.

Ultimately for what, it makes me afraid to imagine.

Today I picked up a few donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts through the drive-thru, and they messed up my order.

Even after correcting it at the window, there was still a mistake but I had already driven off and it wasn’t worth turning around to go back, yet it reminded me of that classic argument against raising the minimum wage that goes something like – “If you can’t even get my fast food order right, why in the world should you get paid $15/hour?!”

I spent some time pondering this during my drive, and here’s what I came up with…

First and foremost is simply that everyone makes mistakes at their job, with many being a lot more serious than overlooking the occasional chocolate-frosted donut. I work with databases and statistics for my day job and there are plenty of instances where a number gets transposed or a query is missing a clause that produces inaccurate results, yet the immediate reaction isn’t typically that I don’t deserve to be paid a living wage for my work because I’m just so stupid.

Because that’s what the minimum wage is intended to be – a livable standard for what employers are required to pay their workers for an honest day’s work. And while you can argue that frying donuts and the like are minimally valued skills, tell that to the corporations that make billions of dollars each year off of those workers’ efforts.

Along those same lines, though, I got to thinking about what causes people to make mistakes at work and I would bet my missing chocolate donut that understaffing plays a significant factor because anytime that I go to a fast food restaurant, the employees seem to be running around like crazy between all of the various tasks that they need to cover. In fact, never having worked fast food myself, it consistently shocks me to see that the same person taking orders is the same person filling drinks, taking money, and rounding up your order from the various stations, too.

Think about it – most fast food restaurants have a separate window first to pay at, but instead more often than not there’s just a sign posted telling you to move to the next window.

Clearly it was the original intention to have two separate roles, yet at some point in fast food land they decided to consolidate the work onto a single person … but I’ll bet they didn’t also consolidate the pay between those two jobs in turn!

It’s really the same thing we see happening in almost every industry – workers being expected to do more work with less time and resources – and yet service industry workers seem to be given a harder time over slipping up when there’s literally too many things on their plate to get every order exactly right.

So ultimately I think that the two issues here are completely separate – if an employee doesn’t consistently perform, it could be that the person just isn’t paying attention OR it could be that the work is being mismanaged and the workers aren’t being setup to succeed in the first place. In a way, is it really fair to hold the worker responsible for a wrong order when they were also being barked at to get the restroom cleaned and take care of the people at the counter and don’t forget to take their 15-minute break while they’re at it because the boss ain’t paying no overtime?!

The minimum wage angle, on the other hand, to me is really simple – if your employees can’t make ends meet on what you’re paying them, you’re not paying them enough, and if you can’t afford to pay them any more, then your business model is flawed and you shouldn’t be in business.

Separate issues, and as an aside I also tend to think that if we were a bit nicer to fast food workers in general, they might be more likely to get our orders right than shouting for their termination because our iced coffee got made with skim milk instead of 2% like we’d shouted into the unintelligible speaker box 90 seconds ago. 😛

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