Thursday, December 12, 2013

Things That Aren't News...

The trend of taking and sharing "selfies" is nothing new.  Only the name is new.

But, this truly bizarre new trend among media types of taking and sharing pics of people taking pics of themselves makes me want to travel the country taking pics for a blog that is dedicated to taking pics of media photogs taking pics of people taking selfies. And then invite a documentary crew to follow me, so they can get footage of me taking pics of people taking pics of people taking pics of themselves... and, suggest to them, that a "making of the documentary film" film crew should also follow them to...  well, you get the idea...  

On the upside, the media is circling the drain.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Melhi's Helpful Web Tip For Today:

Have you hopped aboard the hot newish trend of darkening your website's pages when I land on them to force me to view a popup asking me to follow you on Facebook? 

You have? Well, STOP IT! Stop it, right now. You're doing the Internet backwards!!! 

Your Facebook page is supposed to be just one box of ammo in the larger arsenal you employ to drive traffic TO your website -- NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. I'm already on your site. I've already been lured in by the promise of fabulous content and the rules are the same on the net as they are in print media and television -- you have three sentences and/or three seconds to convince me to stay. 

So, what is the first thing you do? You make sure I can't see your fabulous content and you make it clear that the most important thing you have to tell me is that I'm in the wrong place. You tell me I've been tricked, that the excitement isn't on your site and your site isn't the place to be. You tell me that the place to be, the place with all the excitement and fabulous content is actually the very place THAT I JUST CAME FROM. Are you addle-brained? Because you seem addle-brained. This is like if I bought a magazine, only to discover that inside the front cover was a big two-page ad telling me to go back to the bus stop to view the ad for their magazine that I saw on the side of the bus, yesterday, that made me want to buy the magazine... and then discovering that until I tear out the page, I cannot open any other page in the magazine. You know how many magazines have ever, in the history of magazines, done that? None. Can you guess why? (Obviously, you can't or you wouldn't have pulled this boneheaded stunt with your website.) 

Your number one goal once you've successfully baited the hook on the line that reeled me up into the fishing boat that is your website is to keep me from jumping right back out into the ocean of websites that aren't yours. I'm slippery and I'm fast - you've got your work cut out for you. Good luck holding onto me. 

So, how DO you keep your grip on me? You do it exactly the same way it's been done OFF-line for centuries. Duh. 

You dazzle me with fabulous content or products that will hold my interest and make me stay of my own free will. This will keep me clicking around on your site long enough for me to see lots of the ads on your site that pay you based on views OR long enough to entice me to exit through your checkout with a cart full of goodies OR long enough to be put in a buying mood so that I'll exit through one of your commission based affiliate ads.

Right about now, you're wondering how you get me to come back again. If you've done your job with fabulous content, you're half way there - you've already made me WANT to come back again. Now, you just have to overcome the hurdle that is jogging my memory that your site exists. Surely this requires an in-my-face, content-blacking, eye-sore of a popup, right? Wrong. As soon as you do that, you jerk me right out of my love affair with your content and I'm gone, never to return. So, how do you do it? You let me think it was my idea to look for a way to be reminded to come back. In the side bar, at the bottom or at the tippy top of each of your dazzling content-rich pages, in a way that stands out, but doesn't intrude on my uninterrupted enjoyment of your fabulous content (same rules you already follow with your affiliate ads,) you offer me a choice of at least two options - one by email, one not by email - to stay in the loop or be notified when you have fabulous new content for me to devour. (examples: email alert, newletter subscription, liking your Facebook page, following you on Twitter... whatever methods you employ to drive repeat traffic so you have a chance to build long term loyalty among your audience and/or customer base.)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

It's Not A Budget Negotiation.

I keep seeing people, from both sides of the aisle,  independent from the aisles and even observing from outside the US talking about the debt ceiling and the shutdown who say things along the lines of "Why can't Congress just pass a budget" or "Congress needs to sit down and balance the budget so they can open the government."

The spending (budget) part of this two step process was already approved.  This is step two... which is basically just to approve paying the bills we've already approved and incurred.  This has nothing to do with passing or balancing a budget... and that there was no big kerfuffle over passing the spending is why so many Americans don't realize that this is a very separate step from that.

The two separate budget/spending and bill-paying steps were briefly combined into just one step under what was dubbed the "Gephardt Rule" (which began in 1979) and then when the Republicans took the house in 1985, they did away with the Gephardt Rule and it became two separate steps again.  

One of the problems with it being two separate steps, now, is that the freshmen Congressmen weren't there to vote a lot of this spending into place and the whip has no "you voted to spend it, now you have to own it and vote to pay for it" leverage with them on a clean CR... and for whatever reason, Boehner decided to go with the deal some in this frosh minority shot back "We weren't here to vote to spend that money and we won't vote to pay for those things, UNLESS we get to knock out this law we don't like that we don't have the numbers or public support to overturn. Give us that and you have our vote."  

My theory is that they thought there was no way on this Earth the Dems would let it go to a shutdown and would vote to pass ANYthing to avoid it.  I think this because they don't seem to have any plan or strategy in place now that their bluff has been called.  

Boehner has one good out -- I doubt he'll take it, but he is the one who set it up -- he said he didn't think they had the votes to pass a clean CR.  So, he could send out the whip, make sure he has the votes (he does, but Boehner tends to adhere to the so-called "Hastert rule" which is basically an unspoken rule that Republican speakers have followed where they won't call a vote on something, even if it will pass easily with bi-partisan support, unless a majority of Congressmen within just their own party will vote to pass it) and then announce that their Whip has done a tremendous job getting the votes necessary to end the shutdown, bring the clean Continuing Resolution to the floor for a vote - pass it, pay the bills and end the shut down.

 He saves face, the Republican Whip looks like a hero, some of the damage to their party is undone and will likely be forgotten by the time the next elections roll around, default is averted and the country re-opens.  Everybody wins.  Except Boehner.  It will  damage Boehner WITHIN his own party for not adhering to the Hastert Rule.  

So, Boehner has to decide which matters more to him - the country and how he's viewed by the people in general or his party and how he's viewed by those within its ranks.  Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?  Pick this great nation & public support from the people... duh!

But, it's actually a pretty tough  little corner he's backed himself into -- no amount of public support will keep him in the Speaker's chair and perhaps not even in Congress if his party turns on him.  On the other hand,  if this continues, both public and party support may fall out from under the small faction within his party who perpetrated this - Boehner may be capitulating to this faction, but he is not actually a part of that faction and he's in a very safe district he can't lose so long as he's not primaried out by his own party.  So, he likely believes (and may very well be right)  he has a better chance of surviving this if he lets it continue just long enough to destroy just that faction within his party.  Will he choose his country or his own political hide?  Which does he love more?  We will know very soon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Oops - Somebody Didn't Read Their Constitution...

Before you read my thoughts on it, go read this article first:

She said that in voting for vouchers that would force taxpayers in her state to fund other people's lifestyle choice of sending their kids to private religious schools (a practice that violates my religious AND my political beliefs,) she thought she was only supporting the religion of our founding fathers, which she wrongly assumes to have been a unanimous founding father following of today's fundamentalist Christian religions.  

Even if she was correct in that assumption, which she's not, I wonder how she missed the part of the constitution where the founding fathers intentionally protected against exactly what she thought she was doing?  

Protecting against that sort of thing was so important to them, it's listed first, along with freedom of political speech and freedom of the press.  It's really kind of hard to miss.  

 I wonder if she's aware  that separation of church and state is what protects fundamentalist Christian  students from being taught to cast spells by Wiccan teachers AND protects fundamentalist Christian teachers from having to teach kids to chant "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" just because a majority of students in the class happen to be Buddhist  OR that it protects her religion's continued existence in the event that at some distant or maybe even near point in the future, there's an attempt to outlaw her religion and/or prevent it from building places of worship because an overwhelming majority of citizens has come to think of her church of choice as just a phony tax-sheltered cover for clinic bombing, freedom  hating, bigoted paramilitary domestic terrorist cells? 

 I'm going to bet she doesn't know or appreciate any of that.  But, someday, she or her progeny might be very grateful that it does.  

 I for one, don't want my tax dollars going to fund her or anyone else's faith, so I tell myself that her tax dollars are used for that and war and other things that I want no part of and that my tax dollars go to fund things like making sure poor people can get something to eat today and that sick people can go to a doctor and other things I'm cool with that she might not be.  

But, funding aside, I am already deeply grateful that our founding fathers protected her religion - and that they protected the Islamic faiths - and that they protected Wiccans & Buddhists & Hindu & Atheists &  Scientologists & Mormons &... everyone.   

You are protected from me and my beliefs because I am protected from you and your beliefs. 

I've really gotta hand it to the founding fathers, that was some pretty forward very-long-game thinking for a bunch of wig wearing, rebel rousing, syphilis spreading, 18th century drunkards.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Competing In The Wrong Labor Market

Lately, I've seen a lot of articles about the manufacturing industry in the US needing skilled labor but finding that labor with the skill sets they need do not tend to apply for their jobs.   There is a shortage of labor in this sector... and it seems to be the "in" thing at the moment, for various reporters and bloggers to examine the situation by sitting down with employers to discover what the problem is and how to remedy it.

Occasionally, these articles will mention how much these jobs pay -- most often, in the articles I've read, the hourly wage cited comes out to  around $40k/year.  This looks pretty good compared to minimum wage stocking shelves at the local BigBox or Grocer, but it's in the same pay range that unskilled labor was earning in manufacturing 30 years ago.   And these employers will bemoan the fact that despite paying this good wage with benefits, the labor force they attract is generally unskilled and thus unqualified, leaving them with this labor shortfall.

Then they list the skill sets the modern manufacturing facility requires... and it is in this list that the reason these employers cannot seem to attract the labor force they need becomes glaringly obvious (to me. Apparently it is not so obvious to them or to the people interviewing them.)

 People with those skills command a higher salary in (pretty much all) other industries - higher by 50% or more, with similar or better benefits packages at entry level and these other industries offer ladders to climb in addition to regular raise and bonus structures.  Why would John or Suzy Skilled-Worker apply to work for $40k/year at the widget factory when Big Corp, Little Corp and even Locally Owned Business are all advertising job openings requiring the same skills that pay $60k/year?  Answer: They wouldn't.  And they aren't.

The employers in these articles have consistently  blamed the disparity between the work force that seeks them and the workforce they seek on an unchanged cultural perception of manufacturing jobs as unskilled, hard, dirty labor, when these jobs have changed to clean, smart, skilled labor.  And, to some extent, that is true. There is still an underlying cultural perception of manufacturing jobs as jobs for hard workers who lack further education and training.

 However, the employers fail to see that their own perception of what a manufacturing employee should earn in relation to his/her skills has also failed to change with the times and with their own changed needs.

Their "competitive wage" does not begin to compete in the segment of the labor market they need to tap.  It's competitive in exactly the unqualified workforce they are attracting.    The employers in several of the articles I've read urge young people to go to college to acquire these skills and to then consider jobs in manufacturing when they have completed their schooling -- and this sounds like an awesome idea at a glance, but even this shows how little these employers understand about why they're not attracting and likely will not attract the right workforce.

 A kid about to graduate from high school very well might read one of these articles, be attracted to the wage cited because it's so much higher than minimum wage and pursue further education to acquire the skills necessary to land one of those jobs.  He or she might even apply for and get one of those jobs (assuming they're not recruited straight out of college by an employer in another industry that pays more.)

 But six months later, when it's time to start paying their student loan payments,  they'll start looking for work -- because the wage these employers offer is not enough to cover the student loan payments that will result from acquiring those skills, plus rent or mortgage on a modest home, plus food, fuel, car payment, insurance & utilities.  If he/she ever wants to move out of Mommy's & Daddy's house to begin a life of their own and enjoy the fruits of their own labor, there's no choice but to look for a better job.

 If this entire generation that is coming of age, now, happens to heed the urging of these employers - acquiring the skills necessary and then seeking employment in manufacturing only to find that it doesn't pay enough to continue with it long term, these same employers will shift from complaining that the workforce lacks the skills they require to complaining about major problems with workforce retention... and, likely, they'll fail to see their own part in it and label the entire generation as "fickle" or "unreliable" or perhaps even "lazy" when in fact, this upcoming generation is no different from my generation or my parents' or grandparents' or great-grandparents' generation.   They want to make their own way in the world.

There's a similar disconnect among the reporters who've written these articles.  They have done an excellent job interviewing these employers about what they offer, what they need,  who applies for these jobs,  who doesn't apply for them, why the employers think this problem exists for them and even how someone can qualify for the jobs they offer.

 But, not one has followed up by interviewing workers in other industries, who do have those skills or by examining what it really costs to acquire those skills or what salary those skills generally command outside of the manufacturing industry.  Not one has even gone to a nearby college and inquired as to how many jobs & what those jobs are and what salaries likely await students who will be graduating from the school of business most closely associated with these required skills to verify whether the wage and benefits package offered by manufacturing is, indeed, competitive for workers with those skills seeking work in that region.

Each reporter, in the articles I've read so far,  has accepted as fact, without question, the employer's reasoning as to why they face the problems they do with attracting the workforce they require and then structured their interviews and wrote their articles based on that premise.

 I find the entire multi-layered disconnect fascinating to observe from my safe distance.  Deeply troubling, but fascinating.  

Friday, July 12, 2013



by Melhi7/12/13

Johnny's got a problem
But he does nobody harm
He rode the rails with the throttle jacked
Til the tracks ran up his arm
End of the line was straight ahead
When Johnny pulled the pin
And floated onto the rip track
(or where it should have been)
"Repairing Johnny costs too much
Let's make a buck instead
Take him down to the tie-up point"
And that's just what they did
Johnny's in the pokey, now
They put that boy to work
Earning pennies on the dollar
From a privateering jerk.
The job our harmless Johnny does
Won't hire you or me
Til slavery is legal
And we have to work for free
So, walk your unemployment line
and bitch about D.C.
Throw a rock at welfare moms
And suck your bag of tea
The job you tell that bum to get
The job you cannot find
Johnny's got the lock on those
Cuz Johnny jumped the line
Yeah, Johnny's got a problem
But he does nobody harm
He's just another captive slave
On Massa's prison farm.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Because They Can't Reproduce? Umm....

A handy list of opposite-gendered couples who cannot reproduce:

1.  One man and one woman - when one is or both are infertile

2.   One man and one post-menopausal woman.

3.  One man and one woman - when one is or both are using contraception

4. One man and one woman when one has or both have been sterilized.

5.  One man and one woman when one is or both are serving in the military overseas.

6.  One man and one woman who, for any reason, are not having sex with one another.

But you say we should deny gay couples the right to marry because they can't reproduce naturally with one another?   Until you rant, rave & work as hard to pass legislation that would forbid these couples from being married as you've done to prevent same-gendered couples from marrying,  you can STFU about reproduction when you argue against gay marriage.



Monday, June 03, 2013

Goodbye GOP

The Republicans in office refuse to do the people's business, while continuing to collect paychecks from the people. They'd rather arm infants than feed them. They want a gun in every hand and their hands in every womb. They've declared corporations people and they've declared the people parasites. They've smacked democracy in the face by establishing minority rule in our legislature. They've defined up as down, left as right and pizza as a vegetable. They have put Corporate greed ahead of our safety and our national security. They've eroded our children's education ensuring that the next generation cannot compete on the world stage. They have become toxic to freedom and to the American way. Enough is enough! November 14 is coming, GOP and we will be saying Goodbye to you and your extremist, anti American People agenda.

Goodbye GOP bumper sticker Goodbye GOP T-shirt
sheet of 20 Goodbye GOP stickersGoodbye GOP pin back button
Goodbye GOP hat Goodbye GOP key chain

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How To Disable Touchpad On A Chromebook

As some of you already know, my house and everything in it burned down on Feb 22.  Our insurance company has gone paperless, so our Adjuster's enthusiastic "and we're paperless, so you can scan things to send to us and just log on from your computer to do all the claims work"   Um... you mean with the scanners and computers that are baked and drowned in the smouldering, flooded hole where my house used to be? (Yes, I actually said that out loud to him.)  "Oh... yeah..."

He told us to go buy a permanent comparable replacement for one of our lost computers, that night at the nearest big box store.  Problem:  None of us had off the shelf machines - or want one as our permanent replacement - plus we were staying in a tiny hotel room at that time (we were moved to the Fire Victims Suite when it came available two weeks later and after 5 weeks, we finally got to move into a rental home, where we will remain until our home is rebuilt.)  No room for a real machine.   So we went for a fast and cheap way to meet our immediate needs and bought a Chromebook and a wireless mouse.

Then we had a new problem.  No setting to let us switch off the ultra sensitive touchpad so you don't cursor jump and page jump constantly.  I searched for an app to let me access the setting for nearly 7 weeks before I finally broke down and asked my FaceBook pals - Adam and Cynthia came to my rescue and their help got me the right combination of keywords to find what I needed.   It's simple and I'm going to share it with you, here, so the next person who needs it might have an easier time finding it in a Google search without having to know the magic combination of keywords necessary to find it:

1. Type:  CTRL ALT T
     (This will get you into the crosh terminal screen and you'll have a crosh prompt.)

2.  At the prompt, type:  tpcontrol status  
      (then press ENTER)

3.  A big list of stuff will scroll onto your screen.  Scroll up near the top of this and look for a line that says the device is enabled - in this line, there will be two numbers, the device's ID number and the number 1.  (The one is the binary value of the on/off switch. 0=off, 1=on.)

4.  This is the format of what you are going to type (minus enclosures):
      tpcontrol set <id> <value>

5.  For my chromebook, I type:
      tpcontrol set 129 0  (to turn off the touchpad... and...)
       tpcontrol set 129 1 (to turn the touchpad back on.)

NOTE:  Turning the touchpad off is  a non-persistent setting, meaning that it will definitely not "stick" and will definitely revert to the touchpad being switched on again, after a restart and when you log your profile out.  So, if you never want the touchpad to be switched on, you'll need to go to the terminal (step 1 above) and set the switch to off (step 4/5 above.)

Hope this helps someone -- and if that someone is you, I hope your Chromebook was purchased under less catastrophic circumstances.  :)