Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday protests at Walmart

A splinter organization launched by the United Food and Commercial Workers union is launching a series of protests and walkouts at Walmarts across the country today, to protest the dire working conditions at Walmart.  All I have to say is, good luck with that.  I am deeply sympathetic with the many who object to the business practices of Walmart, but speaking as one who happens to work for a big box myself, these companies have made thwarting union movements into an art form.  This movement will almost certainly be crushed like a gnat by Walmart, and all it will do is make the lives of the workers who choose to participate in this even worse than they already are. 

Last year, Target had something similar happen in Valley Stream, a town in Nassau Country, not that far from the city.  The same union that is organizing the Black Friday Walmart protests, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, organized a union drive amongst Target employees in Valley Stream.  They did make significant progress, to the point where there was a formal vote on whether the store would be able to be unionized.  The vote failed, amongst accusations of intimidation by Target and threats that the store would close.  One employee that I know of was terminated who was instrumental in trying to get the union into Target.  Later, a judge ordered a new election due to proven corporate misconduct.  Target responded by closing the Valley Stream store for "renovations". 

I do recall reading somewhere that closing a Target store for renovations is pretty unprecedented; any remodeling that is done is usually done when the store is closed at night, while it stays open during the day.  Who knows if the store will even reopen at all?  This is just one example of the lengths that big-box corporations will go to avoid unionization in their stores.  I do not think the near-term prognosis for unions is good.  Since America's manufacturing base is pretty much dead, they are trying to find a foothold in the service sector and that is immensely difficult due to the very strong push back by the owners in that sector. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marijuana Legalized in Two States

In a story that was probably missed by everybody (including news outlets) because of the bigger presidential election, two states (Washington and Colorado) approved measures, voted by the people, that would allow the use of marijuana, not just for medical use, but for recreational as well. 

I wonder how long it will take the federal government to crack down on this? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

You Get to See Me in the Flesh, But Do you Want To?

Hurricane Sandy ravaged my area last week.  Some people are suffering more than others.  I never lost electric, but lost cable and internet for a few days.  Some people were not so lucky.  At the moment, we are experiencing gas shortages.  Only one gas station (as of around an hour ago) was selling gas in the immediate vicinity of where I live, with a long line.  I went out to see what was going on, and recorded some impromptu footage with my Playstation Vita.  I got to see the long line that was winding around the block for gas, and got to talk to a few nice people.  One person wasn't so nice, but it was harmless.  Please pardon my scruffy face and my speech.

Update:  As of a couple of hours ago (around 4 PM), the gas station near where I recorded this did run out, according to the Gas Buddy website.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cable Down

Spoke a little too soon.  My power never went out, but my cable/internet did on Tuesday.  As luck has it, I was able to link to an open network and am able to post this.  I hope that with this new found connection, I'll be able to post until my internet is back up.  I feel we're getting a sneak preview of the long emergency.  I have seen mile-long lines for gas.  Someone I work with has not had power since Monday. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

It is Tuesday, 9:30 AM EST in my neck of the woods, and it is a somewhat overcast day, but with more than a hint of sunshine.  Of course, it's very windy, but to be expected.  I had not been keeping up-to-the-date with the hurricane, but from what I understand, today is supposed to be worse than yesterday was, but it doesn't feel like it...yet.  Last night, parts of our gutter and an awning overlooking the porch in our backyard came down, and there is a huge tree limb that is blocking passage through our street.  But, other than that, things are going as they usually have.  Our electric worked like a champ, a few slight outages (the biggest one was for a little under a minute), but otherwise an uneventful night.  I'm sure it's a different story for many others, however. 

Did read an article that was pretty interesting.  There is going to be a pending gap in our weather coverage, thanks to the aging of crucial satellites that provide critical data to our meteorologists and news sources about these hurricanes and storms.  A replacement satellite won't be set into the air until 2017, at the earliest, due to mismanagement, lack of funding and difficulty in launching the replacement.  Yet another example of how our infrastructure has been allowed to go to shit, since nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tax breaks for the rich (excuse me, the "job creators") takes much higher priority in Washington. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Foolish Consumer Spending Can Be Meaningful

This is one of those times where I'm blogging without a clear direction of where I'm going, or what point I'm trying to make, and I'm hoping that problem is able to rectify itself by the time I'm done.  I happened upon this article in which a self-sufficient blogger is talking about the foster children she has helped raise, and that in many instances, they come from very poor families.  These families are often food-insecure and regularly decide on which of their many bills they will pay for the month, and these decisions can carry heavy consequences, such as phone service being turned off, or even electricity or heat.  But at the same time, there are certain examples of opulence and luxury in these poor families that prevail even in these dire circumstances. 

For example, some of the poor families that this woman has mentioned as having come across, have state-of-the-art cellphones, or give generous gifts to loved ones or throw lavish parties.  Now, those of you who read this will probably condemn these people in the strongest possible terms, and in a lot of ways, I'd usually agree.  However, one of the points this writer makes, and I do agree with her as well, is that our culture places enormous, almost overwhelming demands on people of every class to have these things.  Just as you may condemn them for spending money on a smartphone as opposed to keeping their house stocked with enough food to get their family through the month, if they didn't have a smartphone or a flat-screen, you'd condemn them for being backward and ask, "what kind of person doesn't have a fancy television?"  Definitely a situation in which the person is damned, no matter what they do. 

She makes other good points, and I wholeheartedly recommend the article.  But I wanted to make one more point.  It kind of reminded me of my situation.  I still live at home and do not have enough money to either move out or buy a car.  Being locked out of these two options has basically fucked any chance I have of finding a better job and obtaining the things (I don't mean material by "things") that I always assumed that I would have when I was younger.  I do have a Bachelor's degree and a postsecondary certification, so working at a low-paying service-level job is not what I had in mind at the age of 33, and it has been a very bitter pill to swallow.  But I'm digressing.  The point I wanted to make is that the one thing I do perhaps spend a bit recklessly on is gaming.  I have all the latest consoles, and regularly buy games.  Now, I don't buy the latest, 50-to-60 dollar Call of Duty game, but between buying used games and downloading games off of Xbox Live or Playstation Network, I do spend a good deal. 

And I question myself all the time, "is this the best use of my money?"  I love games, but can't help but feel that I could put my money towards a better purpose, be it by saving or something else.  When I make a particularly big purchase, I will agonize over it for days on end.  But something my mom has said to me a couple of times will make me give in and buy it.  What she has said to me, when I'm agonizing, is "Jeff, why are you working?"  And from what, I understood the gist of that article and what the writer was trying to say.  Yeah, the poor should prioritize having enough food on hand and making sure all the utility bills get paid.  But what some of us would call "bad choices", those choices being things like spending money on liquor or cigarettes or the latest gadget, can be all that stands between someone and the abyss.  A person cannot live on food alone.  In a life without stability and in which you don't know what's coming at you from one day to the next, sometimes that bad choice is the only meaningful thing you have.  We all need our escape.  For me, it's games.  It opens up a world to me that I am unable to experience in any other way. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can Our Teachers Spell?

This story comes out of Australia, but I have no doubt that this is true in a lot of the western world, including in the U.S.  Today's teachers are remarkably deficient in both spelling and grammar, according to tests performed by an Australian news program.  Three different generations were tested for spelling and grammar proficiency, and the newer the generation, the lower the average score.  To put the matter in an even starker light, the questions that teachers failed on were ones that your average 7th grader should know.

I'm troubled, but not surprised.  I find spelling and grammar mistakes all the time, that should be fairly easy to avoid, while reading articles online.  But I am by no means perfect.  An astute wordsmith can probably find at least one error with my grammar in this post alone.  But I do try my best to be coherent and to spell properly.  I do feel that today's person is a little too reliant on spell-check.  It's gotten to the point where writing something on my iPod or cell phone will be automatically corrected for me, even if I didn't solicit assistance from the AI.  But I do feel that an even bigger culprit appears to be people's reluctance to read an old-fashioned book.  In this country, people seem to be notoriously averse to reading, and I doubt that feeling changes much even if you go up the educational ladder.  The visual medium (movies, TV, games) has really taken over in a big way for the vast majority of people.  And for those who do read, it's usually some variant of pop-fiction, like Twilight, Harry Potter, or the latest James Patterson novel.  I mean, it's better than not reading at all, but I do feel that the average adult should strive for a deeper reading experience than one that a 7th grader could have no problem with reading. 

For the record, the last few books I've read were "Catcher in the Rye", and I'm about to start "The Berlin Years", a series of short stories about life in pre-WWII Germany, that was listed on the "Times 100" list of the best English-language books written in the 20th century.  But I'd also recently read the 5th installment in the Harry Potter series, so I'm not immune to a harmless, easy read.