Tag Archives: efficiency

Societal Nuts

swattingThe news is abuzz with a story about “swatting.”

What is swatting? I figured it had something to do with flies or, perhaps, it was a new street lingo euphemism for something disgusting (sexual) done in bed. I was wrong on both counts. Like everything important in life, Wikipedia provides illumination:

Swatting is the tricking of any emergency service (via such as a 9-1-1 dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an on-going critical incident.

Source: Wikipedia – Swatting

A particularly nasty version of swatting is when you hoax the police into sending a SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) response to the home of your sworn enemy and kicking in their door, possibly shooting them while they reach for their salad fork and generally ruining their day. This is the sort of thing kids consider to be trendy these days.
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Maximum Rage

monopolyThis week’s Saturday Reblog touched briefly on the minimum wage issue. In light of current events and the passing of Labor Day (that sounds about right) I wish to expound on this topic a bit more. My goal is to make a couple of points that I think are patently obvious that I haven’t quite seen before, not that I’ve looked very hard. –Ed.

The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This minimum rate of pay became effective way back on July 24, 2009, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  That was over four years ago.

Like practically all business laws in this country, the FLSA law provides plenty of exceptions and loopholes in favor of business. The standard practice is to make laws that appease the mindless masses by rendering them toothless. If the law was a ravenous tiger it wouldn’t even be able to gum anyone to death.
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The Tom B. Taker Cook Book

stir-fry-cookbookThe Pioneer Woman Blog and Shouts From The Abyss are the same. Both are blogs. She posts pictures. I post pictures. She posts stories. I post stories. She posts recipes. I post recipes.

See? Exactly the same.

“But hey, Tom! She has readers.”

Well played, voice in my head. Well played. I can’t wait to get my hands on you. You are gonna die.

I’ve posted recipes in the past. I won’t bother linking them, though. I don’t remember what they were and besides, copy and paste is too much damn work. And I’m tired from writing an entire cook book.

Sometimes my wife cooks. Sometimes I cook. And that gave me an idea. I should lock my knowledge away in a tome.

Viola! Knowledge is served.
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Don’t cross business streams

True. The tweet above had absolutely nothing to do with this post. It was actually about me going insane. (A very worthy topic.) But not, alas, the topic for today.

Instead, the word “stream” caught my fancy. Yes, I’ll admit. At first it was in a “don’t stand under this” sort of way. But then my thoughts turned to things like revenue streams and product streams. While in that place, I wrote the following little ditty (sung to the tune of The Streets of Laredo):

As I walked out with my Wall Street Journal
As I walked out with my Journal one day
I spied a rich douchebag with a bad hairpiece
A hairpiece as fake as the the caring I feigned.

I see by your outfit that you are a douchebag
I see by your hairpiece that you’re a douchebag, too
I think we should do business we’d both make a killing
There are lots of dumb marks that we can both screw.

We both love money so much that we eat it
We both use work to avoid our home lives
A partnership formed in our quest for more profits
To chase that worthy dream we’re both willing to lie.

Oh cheat and lie and gray the lies lowly
We’ll giggle and laugh as we roll along
Take it the bank and pull the wool o’er
If wealth is right we don’t ever wanna be wrong.

I’ve got greed in my chest and so I must lie.

This sad story is one about the “free market.” Yeah, that free market. You know the one, right? The one that people on the right love to ejaculate about so much? Yeah, that one. This story will provide a glimpse of insight into how that sucker really works.

It started with a phone call…

Ring. Ring.

“Hello, this is Blowhard.” (That’s my boss! And no, that’s not his real name.)

“Hi, this is Madame X with Acme-Fun-Time Distribution.”

Madame X (not her real name) is a representative with a product distribution company. Blowhard has been courting a business relationship with her for some time. It’s very important to him and he worked very hard to build it up. He milks her for information that she probably shouldn’t share. When they met at the convention in Vegas, she took him out to dinner on the company credit card. When he recently toured their plant, she arranged to have his room paid for and got him the all-you-can eat buffet for free. He was as happy as a pig in shit. His two greatest loves are free and food, and she went and gave him both.

You’d think he’d be nice to her after that, right?

“Hey, Blowhard. I need to ask you a question. Have you ever heard of a company called Decepto International?”

My boss didn’t miss a beat. When lying becomes a way of life, you get real good at it. “Nope. I’ve never heard of them.”

I love it when chickens come home to roost.

“Oh,” she said. “That’s a bit odd. You see, they have the exact same address as you.”

Liar's Paradise

Suitable shopping for bosses everywhere!

Uh oh!! The jig is up! One of our dummy companies just got busted. It turns out that the boss greedily used the dummy company to sell products on Amazon.com but forgot to use a different address. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Mom was right. When you tell lies, it gets increasingly difficult to keep things straight. Obviously, since my boss was hatched, he never had the opportunity to learn this lesson.

How do you show someone that you respect them and care about them in the world of business? Yup. You lie unabashedly right to their face. Classic.

You see, Blowhard had set up a dummy company to purchase products from Acme-Fun-Time Distribution. He did this after his main company had been blacklisted by certain product manufacturers. He was blacklisted for selling products at prices lower than manufacturers wished. Yes, this cousin of “price fixing” is alive and well here in the United States. For more about this, see my earlier post entitled “Term Stomping” and Wikipedia’s page on “resale price maintenance.”

I guess most people would feel somewhat shamed after getting caught red-handed in a lie like that. Not my boss. Not when money is involved.

I could only chuckle at how he had just taken a major shit on the relationship he had worked so hard to build. Oh, they’ll still do business with us. After all, that puts coin in their pockets. And that’s the way the game is played. You deceive me, I’ll deceive the manufacturer, and we’ll all make money.

And this “free market?” It is one where product manufacturers exert a lot of pressure to maintain prices artificially high. It’s a murky world of blacklisting, contracts, gray markets, and companies ratting each other out. And, I’m willing to bet, most of the players are just like my boss.


Minimally opening the door to my fridge

This graph documents my 2011 resolutions kept so far or blog traffic, I can't remember which

So it comes to this, my last so-called “normal” post before embarking on yet another challenge. Effective Wednesday, June 1st, I’ll be back in fighting form for the BlogShorts challenge sponsored by Blogdramedy. This time in the barrel the challenge is to write 30 short stories of exactly 30 words each for 30 days. Stick around this month and read a few. I’m sure it the experience for you, the reader*, will be different.

I pity the fool that reads my blog during the month this challenge is underway. It’s going to be the good, bad and the fugly, only without the “good” part. You have been warned.

I’m actually dreading this challenge quite a bit. I’m quivering in fear. It feels overwhelming. I’m not sure if I can do it and I have no idea what I’m going to do. This may be the challenge that finally breaks me. On the plus side, if that happens, I’ll have something fun to talk about. I love wallowing in my own misery, failures and inadequacies.

30 word limit? Hmmm. Perhaps one of them could be my unabridged autobiography? Yes, that will work!

If you blog, it’s not too late to sign up and undertake the challenge yourself. I’m living proof that no actual skill or talent is required, so click the link to sign up and you can do your part to help make me look like a fool. (Not that I need any help.)

Speaking of undertakings…

Earlier this year in an attempt to increase my P.Q. (pathetic-quotient) I published some New Year’s resolutions. These were key areas where I planned to explore new dimensions of failure. I’m proud to report that things in this regard have been proceeding swimmingly. With each one broken I feel the avoirdupois lifting from my encumbered shoulders.

Some notable examples:

  • Be a better listener – The wife reports there has been an increase of 1% in this area, with a margin of error of +/- 3 points. So this could technically be worse than before.
  • Go out to restaurants less often – Epic, supercharged and legendary fail! Time is the nemesis here! Enough said.
  • Go ovo-lacto vegetarian for the entire year – This one went quickly when I deemed myself a “flexitarian” in January. Since then, I don’t think there are many remaining major proteins I haven’t “flexed” with. My overall meat intake is still markedly down, though.
  • Commence work on my book and produce at least one publishable sentence. Nothing accomplished here, but on the plus side, the year isn’t over yet, so it still could theoretically happen.
  • Successfully complete the 2011 Shutterboo weekly photo challenge – I didn’t last long here, either, but I hold out hope I’ll find time with my camera and get caught up. Naive, I know.
  • Blog once a week on my new blog – Oops! I haven’t posted since the first week in February. Fail monkeys!

My fridge this Memorial Day after five months of minimizing - note the salsa past the date

A bit more about that last bullet item. The blog was called Minimal Fridge that was going to to be a place to document my quest to clean out our refrigerator and keep it clean. Both the blog and quest itself were failures. I closed the blog and opened a new category here in the Abyss to continue to fight the good fight. I won’t give up! Maybe. So it will be a new topic that I’ll touch on from time to time, mainly so you can all point and laugh at my efforts.

Here’s the initial post for this new category to get things going. This is a repost from the old blog.

The first rule of Minimal Fridge is, as my dad liked to say, “Don’t leave the door open. What are you trying to do? Cool the world?”

The second rule is: Keep that thing from getting so full!

When my wife and I cleaned out our refrigerator recently I estimated that we probably threw away about $400 worth of food that was unusable, either because it was past the “use by” date or rotten or both.

Wow, what a waste!

That was really a wake up call for me, and I resolved that if we were careful and applied a little bit of planning and organization we wouldn’t end up in that situation ever again.

My primary purpose here, you might call it a Prime Directive, is simple. To efficiently eat the food that we buy. I call it our “food efficiency rating.” Any food that has to be thrown away because it wasn’t used in time takes away from that rating.

So keeping the refrigerator neat and tidy, with as few as items as possible, is going to be very important. I’m not exactly sure what “minimal” will turn out to be, but that is my goal. Will it be two items per shelf? Three? And how many in the drawers, doors and freezer?

I hope you’ll find this to be an interesting idea worth of exploration. I’ll try to update this category frequently with updates on how it is going and any insights we learn along the way.

Please feel free to participate by sharing your own ideas, observations and experiences. I want to hear from you.


* In the interest of fairness and accuracy, it is the policy of this blog to refer to readers, visitors, subscribers in the singular. For Twitter this policy also applies to the follower. This is deliberate and used to indicate that one person is the upper estimate of my readership. (Hopefully not including myself.)

Buggin’ Out: Our insect future

80 percent of the world eats insects. Here in the United States, most of us find that idea … unpalatable.

In a powerful video, Marcel Dicke makes a very compelling case that we may soon have no choice. If he’s right, the refrain may very well be, “Soylent Green is insects!!!”

If you find the prospect of eating insects to be less than delicious, would it help to know that you’re already eating them? Marcel says insects are in the processed foods we eat like tomato soup, peanut butter and even chocolate.

Agriculture lands are a limited finite resource. As the population of humans grows and becomes hungrier, and the amount of land available to farming animals like cows, chicken and sheep runs out, we’re going to have to adapt to survive.

Here’s a little chart I made illustrating one of the benefits Marcel says there is to eating insects.

Input vs. output

This is a very interesting video. I hope you’ll nibble on it.