Free Markets, Free People

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An Introduction

Dear readers of QandO.

Hello.

I intended this to precede my musings on the Crimea, alas, Id10T error received by WordPress novice.

Normally you may see my…observations…in the comment section here, assuming you read the comment section, and assuming you read my comments.

After years of being ‘looker’  somehow my credibility would be increased (nay confirmed even!)  if I used my real name, at least, according to one particular person I shall not name (curse you Voldemort!).   On reflection perhaps ‘pain in the …’ would have been a better handle for me, but when I first commented, I was only  ‘looking’, hence ‘looker’.  That didn’t last long.

The proprietors have apparently had enough of my Irish whispers in the background and rather than show me the door, have decided that I should try and earn my keep instead.   So they’ve offered me the opportunity to stop merely being a wordy guest, and maybe do some actual work.

Trust me, I have now officially discovered writing allegedly coherent, if not thoughtful, pieces for presentation versus commenting ain’t the same thing.   My level of respect for those who do so daily has risen dramatically.

I would like to express my thanks to all the contributing authors, especially Dale and Bruce, for this opportunity.

As for everyone else, I am sorely tempted to warn you to flee while you may.


I don’t know what I’m doing here

I’ll level with you: I’m in a pretty negative mood about…well…everything. I’m not talking about big-picture stuff like the direction of the Republic, or the future of the economy. I’m talking about my life. I’ve gotten to the point that literally everything that happens outside the door to my house is a hateful burden. I just don’t seem to have a sense of purpose anymore.

I was looking back at the old QandO archives, and I noticed that, I used to write and post four or five different posts every day. Now, I post my little economic statistics posts, and I’m done. I just get no sense of joy or usefulness in blogging any more. It seems like it just takes up time, but offers no reward. No money, no recognition, nothing that makes blogging about politics worth my time. Sometimes, something especially interesting comes up, so once every other month or so, I write about it here, but that’s because by far the exception, rather than the rule. Blogging about politics just seems like a burden.

It’s all so pointless. We will never convince the majority of people to embrace liberty, instead of looking to government to be Mommy. At least not until government fails so badly that its incompetence is made clearly manifest. And even if that happens, I suspect that the majority of the electorate will look for a man on a white horse, rather than freedom, and the responsibility for their own lives. There’ll always be a cohort that thinks government could do everything for everyone if only the right people were running it. And, it seems, quite a lot of people will listen to them.

Arguing with progressives is pointless, too. It’s like arguing with people in a movie theater who won’t stop texting. It’s a waste of time to say anything to them, because if they had a shred of civility or decency, they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you’re a Progressive, I just assume at this point that you’re too abysmally stupid to waste time with on reason or debate.

We talked about that in the podcast tonight. A podcast that maybe 200 people or so will listen to, despite the fact that it’s one of the oldest political podcasts in existence. I enjoy talking to Bruce and Michael, but, really, it just seems like a vanity exercise. Hardly anyone will listen to it. Is it worth interrupting my Sunday afternoon for 1.5 hours to record and post a podcast that no one cares about? I don’t know.

But really, it all goes much deeper than that. I suspect the root cause of my problem is that my professional life is hateful to me.

I work full-time as a software developer for a defense contractor. I hate it. I hate programming. I never wanted to do it for a living.  I got out of the air force in August, 1993 solely to get into radio. By December, I was the main daytime line producer for a 24-hour business and financial news station in Los Angeles. By April of 1994, I was the on-air anchor for four hours a day. The station management was a bunch of money-losing incompetents, however, and when they sold off 12 hours at night to a company that ran ethnic Chinese programming, I saw the handwriting on the wall. I bailed, and took a job running the training department of a software training and consulting company in Orange County. A year later, I was running the programming department. From there, a series of decisions that made sense at the time led me to the job I have today. I’m a highly-paid senior software developer who hates developing software. I have to think of an excuse every workday to go to work instead of calling in sick.

A few months ago, things seemed to be looking up. We did a bit of a re-org, and someone in each section got promoted to be the lead contractor and liaison with our DoD customer. I was appointed the lead contractor for my department. I was just starting to get into a couple of more interesting things, when, last month, my company hired an outside guy to lead my section, and sent me back to the prgramming ghetto, while all the other guys similarly promoted internally kept their jobs. I was told my technical skills were to valuable to lose to become a manager. So, once again, I’m just a code monkey, with no prospect of moving upwards.

I also have an LLC that does web development, and has kept Chris employed full-time since 2002. We just got a $20,000 contract with a major business to develop a web site. I know exactly what has to be done to do it successfully. I’m going to do it. And I’m going to hate every minute of it.

If I never wrote another line of code again, I wouldn’t miss it. At all. I’d feel nothing but relief.

I enjoy teaching, so the job I have that I really love is being an adjunct professor at a local college. But, of course, there are no full-time academic jobs available—and even if there was, I couldn’t afford to take the massive pay cut that teaching full-time would entail. So, I’m stuck at a job I loathe because I can’t afford to leave it. I still like writing, too, if not about politics. Writing about cars and motorcycles is something that I love doing. I enjoy spending a day or two with a new car or motorcycle and playing with it, and writing it up. But, of course, there’s no money in that either, even for people who do it full-time. Auto journalism is a low-paying career. I do—and have for years, done—photography and videography. I still love that. Occasionally, I get a job to do a photo or video shoot, or video editing job, but not enough to make it pay as a full-time career. I’d love to do radio again, but broadcasting doesn’t really pay the bills, either. It’s not nearly as high-paying a career as people think it is, unless you’re at the top of the profession. And with corporate consolidation, there’s no room for doing anything original anymore. Terrestrial radio is pretty much unlistenable as a result.

In short, everything I love is more or less professionally worthless to me, and the thing I hate—absolutely hate—is what pays the bills. This wasn’t the life a planned, and it’s certainly not the life I wanted. I think the disappointment of that is coloring everything else. I’m trapped in a career I despise, working for people I dislike, and I don’t see any way out. I still have a mortgage, and a family to feed, so I can’t just go off and start over in a new career from scratch.

Chris says most people hate their jobs. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m just hitting my mid-life crisis. I just know that I feel trapped and unhappy in my professional life, and I just can’t seem to work up any enthusiasm for a lot of things I used to love doing. I just feel so drained and dissatisfied at the end of the work day, I just want to go home, and watch TV or read, staying up as late as I possibly can, because I know that sleeping will just bring the next workday that much closer.

What I really want to do is sell my house in California, and move back to Texas.  With what we would make on our current house, I could buy a house outright there, and pay off the rest of our debt, besides. That would take a huge amount of financial pressure off me, and maybe give me some space to do more things that I would enjoy as a profession. But, for a variety of reasons I can’t go into right now, that doesn’t appear to be an option.

So I feel trapped in a career that I absolutely loathe, but that I can’t escape. Every workday, I wake up, and the first thought of every single day is that all I want to do is spend the day with Chris, my dogs, my reading, and my writing, and tell the rest of the world to go to hell. Every morning, I know that literally nothing I do at work today will provide me with any positive feeling at all.  I’ll just endure it, as I always do. And if everything goes as well as it possibly can, I’ll just get another chance to endure it tomorrow.

This may not be an entirely healthy attitude.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+


Style Evolves

I dunno, I just thought I’d dial it back a notch on the text size. Swap over to a san-serif text font. Go with a more responsive web design for tablets and whatnot. Generally just monkey around with it a bit. Still keep it really simple and text-based, though.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+


Style Evolves

Once again, it’s time for a change. This time, I’m rigidly going after a reading-centric style. No graphics. No bells and whistles. Just large, readable text. The body text is done in a Google font called "Vollkorn" that I really like.  Even some of you…ahem…more mature folks should find it much more readable.

Everything about the new template is focused on reading the blog. The sidebar has been moved over to the left. The ad banners have been moved so that there is only one in the text area, while the third has been moved to the sidebar. All the sidebar text is much lighter, so that it fades into the background of the blog post text.

Still, I’m not sure I like it. In successive iterations, I’ve gone for a simpler and simpler look.  I may have gone too far with this one. This isn’t much different than a web site from 1996. It doesn’t look like progress, with flashy graphics and image sliders and what-not. It’s just…text.

Ah, well, I can always switch back to the previous one. Or the one before that.


I get email…

I get a lot of email from that link over on the left side of this site. Interesting conversations, offers to review books, and the like are welcome and worthwhile. 

But spammers are everywhere, so 98%+ of it is an amazing variety of worthless trash. Perhaps even more amazing (and frustrating) is that much of it slips right through even the best spam filters, probably because it’s about politics instead of bobbydangler enlargement.

A warning if you’re ever considering doing political blogging and exposing your email address: the CAN-SPAM act has an exemption for certain political purposes. In particular, if Senator Bigslush ever gets your email address, he is free to send you whatever he likes until the end of time, or until he gets pushed out of office, whichever comes first. He probably won’t include an opt-out link. He has about as much consideration for your time as you would expect a DC politician to have. He probably thinks you get a charge from getting an email headed with "From the Office of Senator Ben Dover Bigslush".

Many political lobbying groups construe themselves to be exempted from CAN-SPAN as well. On top of that they pass email lists around like addicts sharing needles. Like true spammers everywhere, they don’t really give a damn whether you have any interest in their message. So when the crack whore next to them passes on your email address, you’ll start getting "press releases" about "sustainable wind farms" or other science fiction, whether you like it or not.

Media sites also engage in the spamming game. Politico is one of the worst; I’ve blocked them more times than I can count, and noticed a new round from them just this week. It starts “Good Morning! Here are today’s top POLITICO stories. Thanks, Stacy”, with no unsubscribe link of course.

Fortunately, gmail allows various ways to block such messages. For the politicians, I use easily constructed filters. I have 85 of those filters at last count. The science fiction “press releases” get marked as spam.

Then there are the PR flacks. A few are borderline acceptable. I’m not interested in an interview with the Director of Mining Affairs for Outer Framistan, but I could see where others might be.

Moving further into bottom-feeding territory, there are the search engine optimization (SEO) sharks. The people running these companies are some of the most contemptible in the Internet industry.

One of their annoying techniques is to pretend they’re doing me a favor. Their usual form is offering a "guest post", which strikes me as a strange way to say "unpaid advertisement".

Many of their messages are bot-generated, which does open up some humor possibilities. The blog Popehat often takes on these parasites, and recounts some of the nonsensical results. Here’s a small sample:

I would like to inquire re: your interest in blog post submissions. My associates and I have wide range of experience in many areas. I believe we can offer you web traffic driving articles of interest to your readers, on topics such as PONY , _INSURANCE , and FIRST AMENDMENT OPPONENT. Also of interest may be PONY VICTIM COUNSELING , MENTAL HEALTH , CRAZY FUCK!NG LAWYER, and BRONY PSYCHOLOGY .

These clumsy online marketing efforts typically offer slavish, insincere praise on what a great blog we have. Well, yeah, ours really is. But they don’t know us from a blog about knitting mittens for cats, because the only reason anyone connected with them ever visited the site was to harvest our email addresses.

These link whores also have another annoying characteristic. They usually send a helpful follow up spam message a few days later to make sure I saw their first spam message.

In some respects, that makes them worse than spammers for fake embiggening pills. Those guys rarely send messages that read "I wanted to make sure you got my last message about how much you must need a bigger bobbydangler."

Another SEO ploy is offering to purchase ad space – at rates so low that the time spent on paperwork won’t be recovered until sometime in 2025. The real bottom feeding vermin offer link exchanges: "I’m sure you are eager to link your site, which attracts thousands of page views a day, to my site, which gets five views a week, all from deceptive search results on Google." I completely understand and even appreciate such a request from another political blog, but not from people with the morals of a snapping turtle.

I love political blogging and wish I had more time for it. Dealing with various sorts of spammer is a small price to pay, and good email tools handle a lot of the load.

It does bother me, though, to realize that there is an entire range of people out there, from pompous politicians to media sites like Politico to SEO con artists, who have no compunction whatsoever about wasting the time of anyone they can find to annoy.


I’m live on Medium!

The guys who created Twitter and Odeo have moved on to a new venture, which, based on their track record, may show us the way to the future of online writing and publishing. It’s called Medium.Com, and it really is a different model of online writing that aims to promote better writing to more eyes.

I’ve been following Medium from it’s beginnings, and I finally received my invitation to start writing on medium.  I’ve got two articles up. One attempts to answer the question "Is Star Trek socialist?" and the other looks at what I’m learning as I start looking for a new car. Both are a bit tongue and cheek.

The way it works is that you can recommend articles you like. The more recommendations an article gets, the more visible it becomes to readers. Good articles get promoted to the top.

It’s a fascinating idea, and the track record of the guys who created it is pretty good. It may be a glimpse into the future of online writing.

By the way, if any of you like to write, and are a car person, I’ve created a collection called The Joy of Automotion that anyone can contribute to.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed


One more time with emphasis

Please join us on Facebook.   If you spend any time there at all and enjoy QandO, we’ve put together a sort of “plus” version there that allows us to pop up things of interest that we don’t really get to cover here.  You’re welcome to comment away. 

That’s not going to take away from the blog as I, for one, have the need to blog. 

QandO will be 9 years old on the 29th of August.  The Facebook page is just a part of the evolution of the blog.  In this case, it actually improves content without cluttering the blog. It’s not exactly "micro blogging" ala Twitter (we’re on that too) but it is short-form blogging.

Our Facebook page is here.  If you haven’t seen it you’ll recognize it. 

Please come over and join us with a “like.”

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO


Style Evolves

As you can see, the blog, once again, has changed. It seems as we go along it keeps getting cleaner, less cluttered, and less graphic intensive. It’s even less banner-y now, mainly because the Ammo guys’ one-year ad buy expired 2 weeks ago, as did the CWTT fundraising drive, several months ago.

The overall trend for web design seems to be getting cleaner and plainer. It’s funny, the web started as plain pages with no graphics, got hugely over-designed, and now is trending towards a simple, more content-centric design model. At this rate, in another couple of years, everything on the web will be plain white pieces of paper.

Another thing I’ve done is changed the width to a screen percentage, rather than a fixed 1000 pixels. It should fill 90% of the screen no matter what your resolution. There are also only two font, Georgia and Verdana, so text should look exactly the same on…well…every computer that exists, since those are the two universal fonts, whether you’re on Linus, Windows, or OS Civet cat, or feline incarnation Apple is currently in.

I wasn’t going to change the template tonight, but I did something I tell my clients NEVER to do. Never upgrade WordPress. If everything’s working let it work. But, no I decided to update some plug-ins and, lo and behold, they all work with the newest version of WordPress, but not this one. And I can’t upgrade to the newest version of WordPress, because it uses a newer PHP version than is installed on this server. And I can’t move the site to a new server, because then I’d have to upgrade all the old version of QandO to the most recent version of SQL Server. Which means I’d have to go in a reprogram the data connections for the old version of the site, which runs on .Blog, the ASP.NET blogging platform I created back in 2004.

So, I just whipped out Artisteer and created a new template. That opened a whole new can of worms. Trying to edit the PHP to add back in the Google+ buttons, the author pics, Google Ads, etc., became an enormous pain. Because I had a new version of Artisteer that wrote the PHP files for the template differently, doing things the way I did them in the old template blew up this new one. So, then I had to re-learn how to edit the right PHP files, which got so frustrating that about halfway through, I said, "Screw it", and switched back to the old template. Then, I thought, there’s no way I’m going to let PHP beat me. I’m a professional software developer for cripes’ sake. So I dove back in, figured it out, and finished it.

So here we are with the new, minimalist QandO. I’m not going to say "I hope you like it", because it’s now 2:21am, and I’ve been working on this for 6 straight hours. There’s no way I’m going to change it again after putting myself through all that.

Not with what you guys are paying me, anyway.

So here it is. Like it. Or Not. I don’t care. I’m sleepy and grouchy.

~
Dale Franks
Google+ Profile
Twitter Feed

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