Cold Because Warm, plus Pathetic Denialism

I just read online that after forty hours below zero (Fahrenheit), temperatures in my region have at last risen to positive integers. Whoopee!

This event has only marginal significance, even for me. Weʼre supposed to exceed the freezing point finally on Saturday. That will mean something, as we may at last begin to melt some snow.

What stimulates me after some months to write on the blog again is a pathetic citation I noticed in my Facebook feed just now. You see, yesterday Scientific American instructed me via Twitter about the “polar vortex” that reporters in various media have been misconstruing. Supported by an interesting YouTube video, it reveals how climate change (“global warming”) has, by heating the arctic, caused us to suffer extreme “arctic” cold. No big deal, sure. Some basic climate science, really (just stuff I hadnʼt known before). But I posted the links on Facebook and tweeted the same. Another few seconds online, really. However, an old friend, of apparently dextreme opinion, felt it necessary to post a pathetic bit of deceptive rhetoric from the climate-science deniers at The Center for Research on Globalization (funded by whoever knows what excrement-load of Kochoildollars to deny deny deny at all costs whatsoever).

You should click on the link above to read the jumble of words presented as an argument now.

As poor argumentation, the page is worth deconstructing…

source — NASA

source — NASA

Faked “fact” 1 — Climate has always changed, and it always will. The assumption that prior to the industrial revolution the Earth had a “stable” climate is simply wrong. The only sensible thing to do about climate change is to prepare for it. Nonsense: no one, except delusional straw men, has ever claimed the climate never changed. What climate change science has shown is a stark rise in global temperature since the industrial revolution due to dramatically increased greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. exhaust from burring fossil fuels). I guess if you are a Koch stooge, unwilling ever to modify our energy sources, you may believe all one can do about what we have done to global climate is “prepare,” but thatʼs false, too. Deception technique = Straw man.

Faked “fact” 2 — Accurate temperature measurements made from weather balloons and satellites since the late 1950s show no atmospheric warming since 1958. In contrast, averaged ground-based thermometers record a warming of about 0.40 C over the same time period. Many scientists believe that the thermometer record is biased by the Urban Heat Island effect and other artefacts. Apples and oranges. But he is also merely reproducing a pseudofact about the weather-balloon data that I cannot find anywhere except from climate change deniers (and none of them present any source for the assertion, merely repeating in lockstep the same hot air). Is it merely a lie? I suspect so, and our “authority” proffers no evidence for us to think otherwise. His “many scientists” is just the old FoxNews “many believe” lie: who are these many? Nematodes? His “many other artefacts” is simply words without meaning — if there are “many artefacts,” name them. He doesnʼt; ergo, they donʼt exist.

Faked “fact” 3 — Despite the expenditure of more than US$50 billion dollars looking for it since 1990, no unambiguous anthropogenic (human) signal has been identified in the global temperature pattern. Invent your own terms (and moving goalposts). The denierʼs invented unfound”signal” goes undefined (and therefore unfindable, eh?) whereas science established decades ago a clear connection/parallel between human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and climate disorientation. The cost of research is irrelevant to the argument, no matter what (as it will be again later), even if his unsupported number is accurate, which we cannot tell because he offers absolutely no support to his statements ever, anywhere in the article, relying instead on the fallacy of authority (calling himself such).

Faked “fact” 4 — Without the greenhouse effect, the average surface temperature on Earth would be -180 C rather than the equable +150 C that has nurtured the development of life. Just another straw man — no one wishes there were no greenhouse effect ever on earth. The problem is how we have spiked its effects over the past 250 years (and morons who close their blind eyes and shout “No, no, no; I don’t want to hear” instead of working sensibly to do something about our greenhouse gas emissions, I suppose).

Faked “fact” 5 — On both annual (1 year) and geological (up to 100,000 year) time scales, changes in atmospheric temperature PRECEDE changes in CO2. Carbon dioxide therefore cannot be the primary forcing agent for temperature increase (though increasing CO2 does cause a diminishingly mild positive temperature feedback). Now I am getting bored, so letʼs just point out that there is no evidence presented for this assertion sequence — none whatsoever. And no one accepts what he says (well, 97% of scientists disagree).

Faked “fact” 6 — The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has acted as the main scaremonger for the global warming lobby that led to the Kyoto Protocol. Fatally, the IPCC is a political, not scientific, body. Hendrik Tennekes, a retired Director of Research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, says that “the IPCC review process is fatally flawed” and that “the IPCC wilfully ignores the paradigm shift created by the foremost meteorologist of the twentieth century, Edward Lorenz“. Cherry-picking evidence: one climate denier has a single friend who may or may not agree with him (notice we have no link to the source of these clearly partial quotations, so we have no way of knowing what the old Dutch guy actually said in toto). So what? And that “main” before “scaremonger” (nothing but name calling there) is a weasel word — the real meaning is that there are plenty more sources promoting Kyoto or there could be no “main.” Of course, the UN panel isnʼt itself a scientific body (the UN is a political body); their political work, arranging treaties and protocols, relies on the science our denier ducks (the “scaremongers” this guy fears to address and so ignores).

Faked “fact” 7 — Having introduced his single variable, our densewit denier continues to run with it (and with further unsupported nonevidence). The Kyoto Protocol is easily attacked, being a result of compromise and therefore by definition imperfect in itself alone… The Kyoto Protocol will cost many trillions of dollars and exercises a significant impost those countries that signed it, but will deliver no significant cooling (less than .020 C by 2050, assuming that all commitments are met). The Russian Academy of Sciences says that Kyoto has no scientific basis; Andre Illarianov, senior advisor to Russian president Putin, calls Kyoto-ism “one of the most agressive, intrusive, destructive ideologies since the collapse of communism and fascism“. If Kyoto was a “first step” then it was in the same wrong direction as the later “Bali roadmap”. Once again, a single voice (who may or may not even be scientific himself) expressing merely an opinion — cherry picking and substituting opinions for facts. Likewise the false flag of the cost of Kyoto, quickly substituting that ball for the real payment issue — our hothouse future.

Faked “fact” 8 — Climate change is a non-linear (chaotic) process, some parts of which are only dimly or not at all understood. No deterministic computer model will ever be able to make an accurate prediction of climate 100 years into the future. The argument avoids acknowleging the utility of statistical projections (such as those meteorologists made to warn us of the current cold snap, duh). And crystal-ball-gazing (our denierʼs flatfooted prediction of future events) is as illogical as it comes, boys and girls. I bet heʼd have claimed weather people would never predict weather patterns with any accuracy whatsoever if heʼd been writing in the 1930s. Straightforwardly, Mr. Denier doesnʼt know the future and doesnʼt even have the guidance of computer models (unlike climate science, which does have models doing just what he says they donʼt).

Faked “fact” 9 — Not surprisingly, therefore, experts in computer modelling agree also that no current (or likely near-future) climate model is able to make accurate predictions of regional climate change. This is actually just number 8 repeated, sadly, and the “experts” go unidentified and therefore unreal. The lie is substituting regional climate for the actual topic; heʼs a wonderful three-card monte sleaze artist.

Faked “fact” 10 — The biggest untruth about human global warming is the assertion that nearly all scientists agree that it is occurring, and at a dangerous rate. Actually that statement is simply false. Nearly all scientists do so agree (just less than a hundred percent).

And now having faced down his weakest (but weirdly last) pseudo-facts, my boredom limit is achieved. The guy had nothing there, just subintellectual legerdemain, and clumsy sleight-of-hand at that. Our denier also later presents some”myths,” too, and I will address those if anyone insists or is interested (almost all are simply more straw men he erects himself to wobble with his own hot air).

Oh, yeah, I am mad (at such stupid deception and those who apparently fall for it), so thus my stylistic choices above — none of which invalidate my points but merely express my limitations as a human.

http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence

http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/climatescience/greenhousegases/industrialrevolution.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=global+climate+change+since+industrial+revolution&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/monster-greenhouse-gas-levels-seen/

http://climate.nasa.gov/causes

http://www.skepticalscience.com/global-warming-scientific-consensus.htm

http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus

©2014 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Trying to Dictate (a little bit of a finished story)

This is not much of a post, but I was actually almost hard at work earlier, attempting to defy the continual and continuing issues created by Mountain Lion and the app that forced me last October to “upgrade” my system, Dragon Dictate (version 3). After I experienced one crash/forced hard restart mid-morning, I tried some dictation about 11:00 AM…

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Test. I started to dictate “Taking the Plunge” about a half an hour ago. I got the first two or three sentences done, but when I proceeded to orate into the Dictate window the remainder of the first paragraph, suddenly we were in spinning beach ball territory! Endlessly. I finally forced the computer to shut down and restarted.

Naturally, this time Spotlight began to run even before everything in the Menubar had loaded. (I just checked, and it is still grinding away. As always. Endlessly.) QuicKeys at first would not finish not loading so I force-quit it, and on the second try the (essential, for me) program did eventually load. So I moved on to try Dictate.

At first, as it did before the computer restart, Nuanceʼs program jumped straight to the Dictate text window (I am not sure if I feel altogether happy that it did retain the sentences I had uttered before the beach ball and forced quit), but this time it also tried to open the Load Profile window (which is supposed to be the first step when the program launches), and when I clicked on the JRB profile, we just got beach ball. Again? However, this time around, I was able to get Force Quit to force quit Dictate (the previous problem had been that intervention did not work, and so I had to physically forcibly shutdown the computer). I tried again. And after some stalling and closing the still-remembered Dictate window from before the crash, here we are with me successfully dictating (directly into MacJournal). Hurrah!

“Taking the Plunge” is a Tourist story, the second one completed. The first (and a segment from that story is one of the oldest posts on the blog) was set in London. “Plunge” takes place in San Francisco, written in the fall of 2009 in the first flush of freedom and getting “Underground” completed and typed (and unsuccessfully off for publication). Hereʼs how it starts:

Taking the Plunge

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

from Wikipedia — I could only find sunny days (but that fits the narratorʼs fourth day on the bay)

San Francisco sunlight, a surreal gift of certain bliss after days of fog and rain. The sun came out my fourth day in the city, my vacation having reinvigorated the old Mark Twain observation, “The coldest winter I ever endured was one summer in San Francisco.” My early experience this trip had been wet, cold and dismal.

The worst day had been Sunday, my second, when I had determined to take a ferry across to Sausalito, an excursion Marsha Kay and I had only contemplated when we were on the bay many years ago. Weʼd gone on a local tour (Dolphin Tours) to the wine country and Muir Woods, and the van in which we and five other couples were loaded had dumped us all on the highway through Sausalito to fend for ourselves for lunch. That had been one sunsparkled, bay-brilliant day — so thoroughly unlike my chillingly dismal return — and we both had discussed the pure California loveliness over lunch in a fish house on the water whose name fled from me in the hectic years since.

But I treasured the sensual bliss of my memories — yellowbright, windscoured and catarchingly warm — through the too-many midwestern winters we shared and then I suffered in weary lonesomeness since. Shoveling through eight inches of heartbreaking snow for myself alone in bitter predawn dark just to be able to get a car to struggle, swerve and skate over icy, scarcely cleared roads to work — among others only those fragments of solarkissed bliss on a July afternoon in Sausalito.

But the bleak reality of this return chilled me more thoroughly than any black midwestern morning, that well layered for the subzero darkness, I had endured in patient expectation of renewing the California sun. So I had suffered disillusionment those first days — dark, cold, drizzling — unimaginably worse weather than back at home, until that fourth morning frothed with solar effervescence in my uncurtained hotel windows, alluring me before 7:00 to awakened alertness, anticipating at last the day to come.

Showering I relived the bay crossing less than forty-eight hours previous. Icy drizzle from the moment I awoke — not quite so early on Sunday, not as early as I had intended, either — about 9:30. The boats I had explored started running at 8:45, and I had intended to cross the bay as early as possible and really explore Sausalito for most of the day. But the grey rain had soothed my mind, evidently, and the touch of frost in the air made me unconsciously snuggle deeper into bed as this most unsummerly summer day had dawned.

Noises in the hall, a family departing for the day, whining brats complaining loudly about the dank weather, stirred my consciousness again well after 9:00. I felt groggy — aware I was late to my schedule, but too dull to care much. And what did it matter? I only had myself to amuse.

So I lazily showered, shaving, dressed and prepared to leave the room for the maidʼs casual attentions in my absence, closing the door about 10:20 and heading off uphill to cross down to the ferry building, at least a twenty-minute hike. I figured Iʼd be in Sausalito for lunch by 12:30.

The ferries didn’t keep to my schedule, however. And the sea-spray, rainy crossing — me on deck, almost alone, drenched and shivering (at least, after the icy hike to the waterfront, Iʼd decided to purchase a fleece at one of the businesses in the ferry building — overpriced but warm enough, though by the time we docked it was much more than damp), brought us across the bay about 1:30. In my misery, I had even missed Alcatraz in the dreary damp. Late for the lunch I had come for, I elected with rare wisdom to forgo the nostalgic waterside deck and eat indoors, too utterly iced through already for more freezing drizzle so soon.

I got busy with other stuff after that. But apparently dictating works again (although with at least a dozen quite strange errors I had to catch while posting), and I have plenty of digitzing talking ahead of me when I donʼt choose to really write (fresh material).

Come on, computer, keep with it: do your job, finally.

What do you know? No footnotes. Almost a first in the past year or more.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

On the Other Hand… Good Stuff

While I was typing yesterdayʼs whining post about software intrusions hindering my efforts to actually use the computer, I was also eating my lunch. In yesterdayʼs case (actually right now, as I begin this new entry, intending it to auto-post itself tomorrow/today), I was consuming leftovers (a not uncommon practice, alternating with a Romaine salad). Yesterdayʼs deliciosity remained from New Yearʼs Eve* when The Lovely One made one of my favorite dinners (probably my most favorite and the subject of todayʼs post) — her own particular recipe (somewhat modified as time has passed) for Beef Stroganoff.**

Iʼll be kind and post the recipe (almost) right up front.

Janetʼs Outstanding Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound beef sirloin (cut into quarter-inch strips — bite sized)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms (I recommend 2 cans)
  • ½ cup onion (half an onion, chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or 2 or 3)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (or margarine)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ¼ cup beef stock or 10 ½ ounces concentrated beef broth
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream (we, of course, use fat-free)
  • 2 Tablespoons dry sherry (My Beloved has started using any dry white wine)
  • 6 ounces noodles (a couple cups of brown or brown-and-wild rice is better)
Procedure
The actual (ancient and much abused — therefore difficult to read) recipe card from My Belovedʼs recipe files

The actual (ancient and much abused — therefore difficult to read) recipe card from My Belovedʼs recipe files

Combine 1 T flour and salt. Coat meat with flour-and-salt mixture, then melt butter in a large skillet. When butter is liquified, add meat and brown quickly on both sides. Add mushrooms, onion and garlic. Cook 3 or 4 minutes or until onions are crisply tender. Remove meat and mushrooms, using a slotted spoon.

Then add 2 T butter to pan drippings and blend in 3 T of flour. Stir tomato paste in rapidly. Stir in cold stock/broth. Cook over medium high heat until thickened and bubbly.

Return meat and mushrooms to skillet. Stir in sour cream and wine. Cook slowly until heated through. Do not boil.

Serve over noodles (cooked, of course) or, better, brown and wild rice. [total prep time = 30-40 minutes, tops]

Lately, after our (for which read: “The Lovely Oneʼs”) tongueʼs awakening to the joys of paprika during the 2011 trip to Budapest, we spice with garlic (more than suggested above), pepper (just bought some Tellicherry black peppercorns, which we ground into the sauce) and both hot and sweet paprika. The paprika is a definite must — makes the dish wonderfully better, richer in taste, slightly more exotic. Sometimes (I donʼt recall right now what we did New Yearʼs Eve) we also add garlic powder and onion powder.

We usually have this dish only once or twice a year, almost invariably in the colder seasons. But it really is wonderful. More than well worth a try.

* Ah, with reference to yesterdayʼs justifiable criticism, the computer permitted itself to ignore the “v” I typed between the capital and lower case “e,” thus not creating “Eve.”

** And I deliberately made beef stroganoff (both above and here) a link so you could check out other, lesser recipes for this wonderful meal.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Let It Be Over. Please.

Today, at about 3:00 PM, The Lovely One and I filed our taxes, federal and state. 

This is the absolute earliest I believe we have ever filed. In the old days, teaching, I had speech contests keeping me constantly busy, large group and individual, district and state and All-State, until the beginning of April. And the spring play started about mid-February… So I never filed taxes until we got right onto the Ides of April.* One year, very early in our marriage, I faintly recall appealing for late filing (easily granted, as we always made sure, living on the edge of poverty with no spare cash to fork over whatsoever, that we received a refund**). Regardless, we never filed our taxes in February.

As of 2006, filings got both easier and harder. Janet entered into a small business enterprise on her own, selling BeautiControl products*** part-time (and according to My Beloved herself, “half-assed”). But that made our taxes more complex, and so that year I first bought a tax software program, the same one I still use, and put myself in the capable grip of Intuit Software and TurboTax… And we enjoyed the taxation benefits of Janetʼs little business taking loss after loss (and no financial juggling there — her description of her business aggressiveness combined with BeautiControlʼs decidedly pyramid structure for profitability pretty much ensured she wasnʼt getting ahead providing friends and family with make-up and whatnots).

We still use TurboTax. And as I continue to feel familiar with its interface, I feel pretty warm toward it (I think only beloved Scrivener — used as I type right now — tops my affections for software). Granted the Q&A approach the developers devised as integral to the interface in TurboTax leaves a user like me several layers of reality removed from the actual tax forms (I couldnʼt believe the nearly literal ream of paper that printed out in the first year to be mailed off to the IRS and state tax authorities). And I have grown skittish of those red (meaning money owed) and green digits (indicating refund available) that appear in the upper left corner of the TurboTax window, changing marginally or dramatically with each new piece of information entered. I still look over the final papers (actual tax forms), closely but not always intelligently, in amazement, always surprised at what digits on what novel forms my answers have churned out.

The business forms have been expanded with self-employment forms (and, surprise! extra taxation for payroll taxes not automatically withheld/paid as one expects from an ordinary employer) as I have tried to develop my own business.**** (Unfortunately with little overhead and me witless about claiming my computer use or possibly the “office” where our computers sit as a home office, everythingʼs just taxable income.) The complexities keep multiplying. And the refunds keep dwindling, smaller and smaller year by year. (But this year we again avoided paying either state or federal government any additional cash.)

More surprising, for three years now, we have taken the standard deduction! At least according to the software, that choice is our better bet (and now that we own our house outright, it even makes sense). Still, it takes some weeks of consideration and search to conglomerate all our records (and for Janet to work through, compile and total her figures for her “business”) and for me to get TurboTax up to speed (and its latest updates installed each time I fire up the software) and information filled in (this year we were waiting until, well, now for Intuit to pass on IRS Form 3800). Even retiring, I didnʼt immediately get on the ball with our annual tax calculations. In ʼ10 and last year, I didnʼt really get to it until about now.

So this year I resolved to be better, and I had most of our information input a week before Andrew Community School got around to mailing the W-2 for my subbing in 2011 (and I had those numbers pretty accurately temped in from the last paycheck). And now weʼre done (I hope, I pray, I plead, I desire… oh, donʼt audit us, Infernal Revenue Service, please donʼt — I donʼt think I actually understand any of it, nope, none of it, not at all).

* (being an old codger I really miss — not really, appreciating the extra month with that schedule I just summarized — being able to “Beware the Ides of March” for the IRS)

** Yeah, yeah, sure, I know: if weʼd kept that extra withholding, weʼd have been able to invest it or save it or somehow earn money on it… Like hell. Although the feds never grant any interest earned on what amounts to overpayment, I would rather sleep easy believing I do not need to scrape together a few hundred (or thousand — neither of which amounts would I have available) to gratify Uncle Sam at the last minute. Since Bush withholding adjustments and moreso since retirement, finances have gotten trickier, and we keep running very close to no refund.

*** Can Rick Perry, Herman Cain and everyone else out there say, “Pyramid scheme?”

**** Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A. 

Unsure if you have used the right word? Unclear about your punctuation? We can resolve every issue… in print and on the internet!

Whatever your text creation or editing needs, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A., can resolve them!

Resumes, articles, web pages, presentations — whatever you write, we can help make it perfect!

We solve your text problems!

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Sunday : Fun Day

extraordinarily up-close and ineptly impersonal: Windows XP Media Center Edition identifying itself on Janetʼs laptop

Weʼre cleaning up Janetʼs laptop today.

We have several reasons. First, the cursed thing runs like lead, with any mouse click requiring several geological æons to stir a response from within the sluggish code-bowels of WindowsXP Media Center Edition and the torpid silicon synapses of her HP Pavilion dv8301nr; and The Lovely One has harped at me (for a few years now) to get rid of several programs that I installed when that machine was our only online access at home (QuicKeys and Now Up-to-Date and Contact seem particularly worthless to her, along with the eBay toolbar daemon). Second, our special Qwest MSN software became worthlessly out of date nearly a year ago when that MSN service died. Third, she has two virus-protection packages that seem to conflict with each other in the latest updates — one of those is not very recent at all (because I allowed one package to expire this past summer), so itʼs time the Webroot software disappeared. (Fourth, the Apple updater hasnʼt worked successfully on her computer for more than a year, meaning that her version of iTunes is way out of date. But then, someone stole her old iPod at the Y anyway, and she has never even gotten the new one I bought her for her birthday a year ago out of the box.)*

I am attempting about a half-dozen uninstalls right now, and itʼs only taken about two hours… And one of the Webroot programs wonʼt uninstall, apparently, until I “close all open aspects,” which is really stupid, as I canʼt find any open Webroot applications. Isnʼt that what an uninstaller is supposed to do? Quit the program you are attempting to uninstall and delete all the various parts of the program?***

Itʼs Windows… so who knows?

“Just keep trying, Wakdjunkaga. Just keep trying…”

My Belovedʼs HP laptop on her actual (not virtual) desktop

Anyway, personally I am hoping to have her machine working in a sleek and spiffy way it hasnʼt known since five years ago, so that Livescribe can do something funky to my smartpen to permit it to register itself (it works fine, itʼs just not officially registered**). However, “Toby” of Tier 3 Technical Support tells me via e-mail that if I hook up the pen on a Windows computer, the problem can be fixed (I guess the Echo smartpen isnʼt quite as multi-platform compatible as Livescribe would like to advertise).

Anyway, with a little luck (and a lot of time) maybe She-Who-Must… will be able to get herself online on her own again (and here at home not just at work).

With Valentineʼs Day just around the corner, metaphorically, weʼre spending such richly romantic time together…

* Fifth, I would like to clone her computer as the Windows partition to run via VMWare Fusion here on my iMac (which would greatly simplify the connect-the-smartpen-through-Windows-to-fix-the-registration-issue/problem for me).

** Wouldnʼt you think they could just register it by hand at the company? They have all my information…

*** That is how it works in Apple-reality here on my Mac.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Joining the Hall of Shame

1/11/12 

Screen capture taken at 3:25 CST Thursday, 12 January 2012 — click to enlarge

Today we pay off our mortgage. $932.05. The escrow returns to us in about fifteen days, a deliberate delay by Wells Fargo that stinks of greed — sucking additional profit through interest from our 27-year loan servitude). Of which Wells Fargo only inherited the loan about five years ago, acquiring it, if I remember rightly, from Fifth Third (but they may have owned my truck loan).

The worst owner was the insurance-cum-banking scum in Des Moines to whom we were enslaved until the big hailstorm (2001?), Allied Insurance and Mortgage. You see, their insurance arm would not pay us directly for our damage, insisting the cash had to go to the mortgage holder (themselves — Allied) but only after we had made the approved repairs/improvements (kind of a classic Catch-22). The worst part was getting paid for two sides of the house, siding damage, but having to replace all four (so as not to reduce the value of the property). Tight-assed, greedy bloodsucking bastards. Pardon my honesty.

We have paid for our home (but with some “improvements” in the second mortgage we took out with our friendly, local bank, who then sold us on to larger, greedier incompetents) thrice over — probably not even counting “points,” “fees” and other financial thievery.

Wells Fargoʼs corporate greed blew its public relations, at least with me (and perhaps now with you, too, Gentle Readers), three times over since Friday. 

First, after more than half a decade of handling our payments nearly perfectly — no delays in check-cashing to force late fees, as I had suffered under other institutions — on our penultimate payment, they somehow ignored the amount for which I had made out the check and cashed it for the monthly payment only, without the additional thousand of additional principal. A mistake? The probability of driving up our final payment by a couple of bucks a day made the coincidence of this “error” seem overly convenient to me. So I called the company (with three motives in mind — to complain about their deliberate error and get it corrected; to verify the final payment procedure and, after the “error” correction to determine the appropriate timing of our payoff; and to investigate our acquisition of the funds in our [currently rather hefty] escrow account). 

Check the incomprehensible bookkeeping from yesterday

Their second PR goof occurred there — not once I got to human customer relations agents, but in their labyrinthine and totally annoying voicemail system. All corporations should realize in these web-presence internet times that no one calls a corporation to deal with a machine. No one. And these foolhardy corporate managers, who insist on erecting these voicemail barricades against providing service, are making their customer-contact workersʼ lives far worse than necessary by automatically outraging each caller with the completely unnecessary barrier and frustration of voicemail (not to mention the addition of time-wasting and annoying advertising with the endless voicemail menus). 

Obviously, four menus into my (wasted) time, when I finally could dial zero for a human, I was raging, and poor Keisha, who answered, had to accept the burden. Nor was I interested in her long waits online for me while she “brought up” my check, nor her subsequent apologies. I wanted the correct amount credited toward paying our loan on the correct, original day. She could not do it; Wells Fargo could add the thousand the day I called, a weekend after (three daysʼ of interest later) but not retroactively. I kept insisting their “mistake” was not my problem. I had paid the amount I wished already. She passed me up to a “supervisor,” Carmen Kearney, in, as it turned out, “another state.” 

Carmen and I went round and round (and round and…) as well, although she almost immediately was able to postdate (predate?) their additional draw, as per my original check, on my checking account. Carmen apologized profusely (and pointlessly), too. It really got ugly — okay, I got ugly as she stoically stonewalled — when I got to my second and third topics, paying off the mortgage (delayed, thereby forcing several daysʼ more interest, by Wells Fargoʼs little “error” with my monthly check-plus-additional-principal) and acquiring our escrow account. Nothing could be done about the payoff delay (me: “Why should your incompetence be my problem?”), nothing, but she was “facilitating” the fastest possible acquisition by Wells Fargo of my additional thousand. And Wells Fargoʼs standard policy is to retain all escrow accounts for fifteen days after receipt of final payment to ensure sufficient funds in the payerʼs account to cover the payoff — no exceptions. (Me: “Yeah, Sure. Lets you collect fifteen unearned daysʼ interest on my escrow account.” No response to my repeated assertions of fraud. Me: “So are you going to pay me the four percent daily interest I could have been earning on those escrow funds if you had transferred them to my account with actual efficiency?” No acknowledgment of that idea.) 

And third, Wells Fargoʼs insistence on me (in this circumstance) having to follow their penny-ante regulations blew any respect I might have for this bloated, incompetent, cheating and deceptive, dis-serving and abusive financial giant stomping clumsily and viciously on the lives of its victims. They had mismanaged my payment, but I had to serve and obey humbly their inflexible regulations, to my detriment after their rude error. “Third” means that they cheated me. Is it fraud? I say, “Yes.” After all, they supposedly erred. They owe me reparations, not their selfserving regulations-as-usual. 

Wells Fargo joins the ranks of corporate malfeasance with Qwest/CenturyLink, DirecTV, Fox News, Allied Mortgage/Insurance, and whatever customer-abusing companies I have already mentioned here on the blog for the Hall of Shame in business (mal)practice. 

I actually wrote this (as dated above) yesterday. Janet did overnight the check via UPS, which showed it arrived, signed for at 9:54 this morning, Thursday, 12 January 2012 (as I had verified would happen, per a Wells Fargo note on the website, 24 hours in advance with their “Quinn” yesterday about 8:40 AM).

So far, although I post late in the afternoon, nothing shows to change our account status to zero. Way to suck, Wells Fargo.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 46,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Itʼs a Guy Thing

Our production of One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest at The Grand Opera House in Dubuque is past the halfway point in its two-weekend run. The remarkable cast and crews have made us very proud (and themselves, too, I hope)  — so far (I hope I havenʼt jinxed us somehow with this observation before the run is over, but the performances and the technical efforts have been exquisite and amazing).

Although a rehearsal shot (the setʼs not even finished yet) — the moments before Ratched inflicts electroshock, attempting to control McMurphy (and Chief Bromden). I was kind of proud of our electroshock machine and the “crown” which inflicts the voltage on the patientʼs brain. The actual lighting is far better than this posed photograph reveals.

Although the run seems long (the last show in which I was involved with more than one weekend was Gypsy, just after the turn of the century, and the only other production with seven nights of performance to my record was My Fair Lady back in the early Nineties — both starring The Lovely One, coincidentally), the approach of strike after Sundayʼs final performance weighs me with a certain vague dread. However, even if itʼs just a few of us (which, by the way, cast, it will not be), and even if we end up missing the cast party because the work takes so long, it will eventually get done, and all I will have to worry about is returning the two large storage cabinets to Andrew Community School on Monday. Then this production, too, like so many hundreds before it, will be memories. And in this case, almost all will be pleasant and proud ones.

Sitting in the balcony observing the show night after night (and it was Monday through Sunday for tech week and the opening weekend — seven in a row with a break), all kinds of critical and directorial thoughts flicker through my mind. Few of them are critiques on the acting or production. Mostly I ponder the patterns that have emerged in this production, deliberately from the beginning, through one or more actorsʼ inspirations, developing from an almost random observation, or by other confluent synergy or synchronicity. Most of my emotions and intellectualizations are the appropriate consciousness-response (or intuition) to the action and the play, evaporating when I try to recapture that deep insight into the script and/or our production that a particular moment enflamed. (The depth to any work of art is what goes on within the reader/viewer/audience/participant; and the achievement of critics is to objectify and communicate that subjective experience.) So these next three nights, since (I hope and expect) my directorial suggestions or corrections will be reduced to almost nothing, I am going to try to take notes on those fleeting impressions and inspirations to see if I can assemble a set of observations on the play (and perhaps the book if I sit down to reread it fully).

If I succeed, you may have to read about my supposed insights here.

Billy pleads, in the aftermath of the big party, for Ratched not to tell his mother of his moral disgrace — also pleading, whether her no-longer-virginal victim is fully conscious of this truth or not at this moment, for her to spare his life, to rescue him from the suicide into which she has, probably deliberately, cornered him.

One realization arose from last Saturday nightʼs show, when my sister Margaret was watching, and from her responses. When asked, she observed that by far her favorite performer was Nurse Ratched (an appropriate critical stance, as Andrea is wonderful and many-toned in her performance, developing gradually a hardness to Ratched that results perhaps primarily from McMurphyʼs almost pre-adolsecent defiance). When asked to judge McMurphy (whom we all have sat back awed at Danʼs spirited and uninhibited characterization and embodiment thereof), she wondered if she were quite certain if he didnʼt belong on the ward. Both Janet and I felt she really didnʼt like McMurphy (the character here, decidedly not the actor). I think Margaretʼs preference for Ratched might have resulted partly from her response to a male-female, early-Sixties war-between-the sexes conflict in the play that I hadnʼt consciously considered since the earliest days of rehearsal.

It is a show for men, with a woman as the villain (whether Ratched deliberately means to be a bully or not) and the group identity and evolving mutual empathy of the patients revealing a kind of male-bonding (which we did strive consciously to develop) in antipathy to the Big Nurseʼs authoritarianism. But conversing with Margaret, I began to realize that One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest is also certainly (at least somewhat) misogynistic. McMurphyʼs alpha-male behavior is decidedly preferred (through the plot and the play) to Ratchedʼs antagonism to everything (male and) chaotic — gambling, noise, physical exertion, game-playing, fraternizing. If the perfect state is achieved for her in the stillness of a lobotomized patient in a post-operative coma (“Thatʼs fine,” she says. “Thatʼs just fine” — her final words in the show, over a motionless and quiescent McMurphy on a hospital gurney), it is Macʼs manic exuberance, violence, rebellion and wildness that have driven her to that extreme.

A grim mother-figureʼs quiet home versus an overgrown boyʼs testosterone-driven, no-holds-barred frat party. Iʼm glad our production (perhaps unconsciously, possibly as a result of Janet and me cooperating as directors) gives expression to both sides.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Cur•mudg•eon

(noun)  — bad-tempered or surly person

(with my most insincere apologies, of course)

Maybe this post results just because I have had time, with our production of One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest up and running — beginning its second weekend tonight — but I have been astonished and annoyed by unimportant things lately. Like commercials. And Facebook links.

Having been able to watch a little TV over the past few days,* I have again realized that commercials not merely appeal to the stupidity in us all but actively cultivate vapid witlessness (the most egregious examples being the selfdestruction-instructive “Do the Dew” series from the late Nineties and early Aughties and the interminable Hardeeʼs ads from the last few years that presented consumers at those restaurants as moronic males with severe limitations not just in taste but all matters beyond the selfishly animalistic**). Admittedly, studies have shown that it is far easier to sell stuff to folks who have shut down their higher-order thought processes, thus the historical stream of “entertaining” and/or amusing commercials over the history of TV. But do advertisers have to cultivate imbecility?

Hmmmm…

I think I may have, if blogs must discover such, found my niche for Wakdjuknagaʼs Blog… and an apparently endless stream of future posts: advertising analysis and criticism. The Old Curmudgeon rides again?

But first, for today, a really minor annoyance from Facebook (yeah, the ultimate time-waste of my mostly doltish existence), which I think results from the powerfully promoted “live stupidly”*** culture of consumer commercialism.

Lack of thought enters into many phases of ordinary life, even as television casts its dull glow into every cranny of existence. And Facebook is one of those forums**** for dim-wittedness. Just in the past few days, a supposedly cute bit of humor (check the picture, above us here, to see it) has been making the regurgitation circuit in the Newsfeed. I think I have witnessed its appearance about a dozen times from as many friends.

Ignoring the subtle antiCanadianism***** of the concept, the problem with the joke is simple geography. Mt. Rushmore is in South Dakota, kids…

“A” marks the spot, with the Canadian border near the very top of the map

Imagining the enormous length of the unseen torsos between those famous faces and that quartet of historically inaccurate asses (not to mention the lack of continuous mountain between Rushmore and wherever in Canada… unless, of course, the torsos are wormholed into some alternate universe between the two distant sites…) kind of saps the laughter.

Geography — itʼs reality.

Ah, but geographical ignorance ties in so well with (evolves so neatly from?) the Dextremeʼs Big War (of lies) on science… Doesnʼt it? Talk about the power of mindless advertising.

And while I am at it, how about this example, below, of pure non sequitur? Nonsense is nonsense, even if it suggests a political perspective some would like to feel (unconsciously perhaps, probably at the urging of corporate interests, of course) is appropriate.

And so, The Old Curmudgeon raises his grisly head to utter some grumpy commentary into the digital æther again.

* (with no rehearsals or performances to attend, we can make use of the over-priced “services” of DirecTV again)

** Probably I perceive the idiocy of those commercials as a consumer of neither product… ?

*** (Which advertisers and consumers would prefer and falsely believe to be “live stupid”)

**** It still hurts slightly to use that incorrect, unLatinate plural (which should, of course, be fora). But one can only push correctitude so far, you know… After all, data serves as both singular and plural. And donʼt get me started on the loss of medium to identify one of the mass media…

***** How many well-dulled dolts seriously have taken the South Park movie premise to heart?

Map image via Viola from GoogleMaps™

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Corporate Con Games

As our play, One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest* at The Grand Opera House in Dubuque, draws very close indeed — opening night is this coming Friday —, my life headed in a very distracting direction, for no good reason except corporate greed and intentional defrauding of customers (like me).

First about ten days back, FedEx delivered an empty box. Really, a box containing nothing but air, two shock-absorbent layers and a sheet of paper (oh, yes, and a strip of packing tape that could not be separated from the backing paper). The sheet of paper instructed us on how to package our DVR receiver(s) to return them to DirecTV.

What?!! No explanations, no cover letter, no nothing but the formulaic instruction sheet (which also mentioned how to include the remote controls in the separate plastic bag — we had no plastic bag enclosed).

Besides being typical of DirecTV (I would call them by the name by which I have come to address these sordid corporate evildoers, but it isnʼt sufficiently sanitary for these confines), this latest affront only caps a miserable summer of incorrect and devious misbilling, followed by lengthy and angry phone calls to DirecTV customer service centers (an ultimate misnomer) around the globe — all precipitated by a mandatory “upgrade” of our receivers in order to maintain reception of our local channels. Each and every month since June, I have been forced to find (not an easy task on the DirecTV website) and call the customer service number to complain, forcibly and sometimes very angrily, about what they have done to our bill following the receiver-replacement incident.

Among the bookkeeping wrongs inflicted upon us (all of which I am sure some elevated corporate coward believed we would, accidentally in our busy lives, ignore and thereby considerably overpay), was a third receiver we did not have, request nor use. Month after month.

And now an empty box to return one or more receivers. Unexplained in any way whatsoever — no cover letter, no other communication by mail, no phone call. Utterly mysterious…

Until Janet, cleaning thoroughly around the house, discovered an otherwise equally mysterious object secreted away behind our basement TV stand — a DirecTV receiver, probably the old one from down there that the installer replaced with the required new device and then forgot to take away with him.

And one little mystery was clarified (maybe, two). I concluded that… we were to return the old receiver that the negligent (but very nice and otherwise capable) installer had accidentally left behind, unbeknownst to us.

So I am doing. The receiver is boxed up according to instructions and ready to go into the mail. However, unlike the wickedly lazy and self-indulgent corporate doo-dahs who sent the box out to us, I am enclosing a cover letter. It appears below.

Dear DirecTV,

When this mystery package arrived, without benefit of explanation of anything, I was bemused, to say the very least. However, I figured out over the period of a week, that what your corporation must have in mind was sending back one of our receivers (for some unknown reason). Just about the time I was preparing to make yet another annoyed, angry phone call to your poor customer-support personnel (couldnʼt the rampant and criminal greed of the company just be reduced enough to bill accurately and honestly? Please), to demand (with difficulty, as always) some kind of coherent explanation about this terrible injustice, my wife, cleaning thoroughly by moving our television cabinet out of its accustomed place for the first time since June, discovered that your technician, when installing the company-required “upgrade,” that has caused so much grief for us and so many irate calls to your customer service centers around the globe, had left the original receiver sitting behind the cabinet, unknown to us.

In an instant of realization, I figured out the mystery of the incorrect “third receiver” charges we may still be owed money for, as well as the conundrum of this unexplained package to return a receiver (which a letter of explanation on your part, not done, could have clarified easily — how typical of DirecTV not to do the necessary and obvious step to attempt to keep customers marginally satisfied).

Next time, try explaining whatʼs going on. And I continue to figure that our records with your scheming corporation reflect our belief that DirecTV operates illegitimately and in violation of state and federal laws regulating commercial deception, dissimulation and corporate swindles of all kinds.

Enclosed is the receiver your technician unaccountably (and obviously, incorrectly) left without notification to us in our home. Thank you, DirecTV, for pretty much nothing.

Sincerely and with immense, continuing dissatisfaction,

John Randolph Burrow 

Although I am positive that I will be on the phone yet again in October, attempting yet again to correct the companyʼs deliberate mismanagement of our bill, perhaps the letter might do some good. Unless the flunky at the receiver storage facility who opens our package merely pitches my missive in the nearest garbage can, which is quite likely, I guess.**

…Now on to CenturyLink, the new antagonist on phone service and internet nonprovision. Having bought out Qwest a while back, they have deliberately used the opportunity of this corporate shuffling to pretend a “mistake” as they shucked us twice for the past monthʼs bill, once as CenturyLink and once as Qwest, even though we only recived a single bill from CenturyLink.

Furthermore, the connection failures of that worthless ISP (whether you call it Qwest or CenturyLink) remain unchanged since whenever I last complained on that issue. (I have been keeping a daily record of the repeated and dire interruptions of service, too.)

And some daft fools (and corporate shills in Congress) wonder if corporations in America need regulation. Absolutely and thoroughly! These companies are proving with every swindling, fraudulent move they make the truth of my thesis that capitalism is merely organized crime writ large…

* You have to wonder why the only link about the show is still under “Auditions” and nowhere else…

** Thus my “publication” of the letter here. (And I finally take the time to present a post again.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.