Feds could be coming for California’s over-budget bullet train

The biggest boondoggle in California history is now under the microscope of the U.S. Department of Transportation as costs continue to climb on a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project that routinely misses deadlines and blows through budgets.

I speak as a lover of trains, fiscal responsibility, and as a Libertarian. I do have issues with Cato and others who too-often cite the financial difficulties of Amtrak and other transit projects without giving similar exposure to highway boondoggles. And yes, it frustrates me that these same people lambast Amtrak’s relatively paltry subsidy without calling for the interstate highway system to turn a profit — which it never, ever will.

However, to pin this disaster on pressure from Libertarians, as some have, is utterly comedic. Say what you will about Fox’s credibility, but a project that starts at $33 billion balloons to nearly triple that with decades still to completion isn’t a problem of reporting or of ideology. It is a problem rooted in the statist impulse to embark on these projects to placate a constituency and enrich cronies, not to satisfy a market demand.

if government never got into the transportation business, this train would have been built 50 years ago.

— Read on www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/05/01/feds-could-be-coming-for-californias-over-budget-bullet-train.html

The bell rarely tolls for anything I care about

From Lenore Skenazy’s excellent blog, Let Grow:

Are we really so fearful of people that we can NEVER open our front door? Even to a woman holding flowers a few days after your grandmother died?This is not the first time this has happened. It’s getting harder to make floral deliveries because people are suspicious of everything. We live in a nice part of town.

I can second the sentiment that it has nothing to do with fear, and more to do with the growing legion of clipboard-carrying, tract-dispensing, service-selling people who do nothing but waste my time and patience. My 13-year-old daughter is under strict orders to never answer the door when the bell rings whether or not I am at home. If my safeguards fail me, and I do answer to one of those people, I am perfectly capable of closing the door in mid-sentence, but I’d just rather not have to. I’m a nice person, and it does not make me happy to appear otherwise, no matter the justification.

Source: Has It Really Become TOO SCARY to Answer the Door? – Let Grow

The evolution of my job search

My career today mostly involves freelancing as a website designer, developer, and consultant. While I maintain the sites of nearly 20 different clients, and I work on three to four major projects per year, I keep my toes in the employment search waters. I have my name listed with probably a half-dozen recruiters specializing in placing creative types such as myself. Unfortunately, as I wrote earlier, the technical aspect of my work dominates the creative, leaving me spending less time doing actual design.

In the past six years listed with these agencies, I’ve landed exactly one pleasant three-week gig with a small agency that went nowhere. Otherwise, I’ve interviewed with prospective employers about maybe twice a year. Back in the day, when I straddled the fence about continuing with my magazine, I often interviewed at least a dozen times per year. Clearly, the landscape has changed.

My current reality involves receiving calls from a recruiter every nine months or so — always with a new person. It seems that whenever a new hire comes on board, I get a call as they go through their predecessor’s files. We invariably have a happy, hopeful conversation, where they remark about my impressive background and experience. Most times they mention a client that is looking for someone with my skills. Then… crickets. I’ve grown so accustomed to this farce, I almost laugh during these calls.

Last week, this happened again. A fresh face from Workbridge Associates, which I first contacted five years ago but hadn’t heard much from in the past few years, called me to talk about my availability. At the end of the lively conversation, the recruiter asked me to come into the office to “meet the team”. She had a client that wanted someone with my skillset. We set a date and a time, and I waited for the promised email confirmation — which didn’t come.

Last Monday morning, I woke up and sent this recruiter a message via LinkedIn two hours before the appointed time asking for that confirmation with the agency’s address. The recruiter called me about a half hour later, blaming the bad weather for her delayed response. However, the enthusiasm on display the previous week had evaporated and turned into buyer’s remorse.

“We don’t really have an opportunity that fits your skillset.”

Someone stunned, I nevertheless pressed on. “Well, we talked about having me come in to meet with your team. I know the weather is awful, so I can come in tomorrow if you prefer. Or whatever.”

“I’m not sure that’s really necessary, but we’ll certainly keep you in mind if something comes up.”

“Yeah. Okay.”

And that was that.

With plenty of experience in the job search, I know well enough to let these setbacks roll off my my back, but this particular instance bothered me. I never sent a recruiter a “Randy-Gram”, but this time it was different.

I find what happened this morning unacceptable. When I discussed with your associate a potential opportunity, she specifically requested that I take the time to come into your office to meet with your team. We set not only the date, but also the time — 10 A.M. — for us to meet. Despite the weather, I was fully prepared to set aside what would have been two-to-three hours of my morning at your office.

Whatever signals got crossed between Friday and this morning potentially caused me a huge inconvenience, and in any setting, would have been considered unprofessional, if not disrespectful.

While I’ve received exactly zero placements from Workbridge to this date, I’ve always remained hopeful that something might match my skills. However, it’s clear to me that your team has little interest my skillset, much less understanding their depth and breadth enough to present them properly. This clearly is not only a loss for your firm, but also for your clients.

Respectfully, please remove me from your database and do not contact me in the future.

Let’s hope this is a learning experience for you.

Maybe this is the end of my employability. Maybe not.

 

Is cohabiting before marriage the right thing to do, and why?

Copied from Quora.

For what it’s worth, my experience leads to this answer:

Only if you have already made the commitment to get married or if both of you do indeed see yourselves married to each other. If you’re doing it for the promise of lots of easy sex or to save money, it is not a great idea.

I have co-habited three times. The first two ended badly. The first time lasted less than a year, but we were young and we did it not only to be together but to save money as we were both moving to a bigger city. Living as a married couple that had no immediate plans to get married just made the situation feel wrong for me. When the arrangement didn’t turn into an everyday sex-fest, I quickly became dissolusioned with the relationship. Remember — we were both in our early 20s, and now in a strange town in a new place making new friends. It didn’t feel like the right time to settle down. On an up-note, she and I are today the best of friends.

The second time we did actually announce our engagement, but I was besotted by this woman — mainly because I didn’t really know her. We moved in together, once again, in a new place for both of us. I ignored the signs that this wasn’t going to work, and despite the huge argument we had a few weeks before, we moved in together, and it went sour pretty fast.

Nevertheless, we stayed together nearly 4 years, partly because of finances and partly because on paper, we should have been perfect together. However, hardly a day went by without some acrimony. Finally, I grew a pair and asked her to leave. I haven’t seen her in 18 years, although someone who is now a good friend dated her after me and will corroborate my experience with her. Crazier than a bag of hammers, he calls her.

The third time was the charm. This time I moved to her place, again in a new location for me. I did it because every day with her brought me peace — something I greatly needed after some personal and professional tumult. I made the decision because I easily saw us married. My wild oats were sowed.

She makes life easier. We never argue, and in fact, until we had our daughter, I never once heard her raise her voice. All my friends, male and female, want their own version of her.

I moved in in September, we got engaged in February, and got married the following September.

In my mind, living with your sexual partner is in no way immoral. It is, after all, a commitment. Maybe it’s not blessed by the church or licensed by the state, but I’m an atheist and I don’t think government should have any role in marriage whatsoever.

I do have a friend that’s been cohabiting with the same woman for 30 years! They have a house, a daughter now in her twenties, and seem to be living a good life. However, if they were ever to break up, they would need a lawyer. To me, if you need a lawyer to break up, you are married.

What do old graphic designers think of young graphic designers of today? – Quora

This is the answer I posted on Quora:

While I started as a print designer, I design almost exclusively for the web today, and if you look on the internet right now, it seems like 80% of all websites launched in the last five years look like they came from the same template.

And what do you know? They have big moving hero above three columns of boxes, all optimized for mobile.

I think today that young graphic designers, the truly creative right-brained ones, are at a serious disadvantage. The merging of tech and art is nearly complete, which has given us the specter of the designer-developer. This to me is no better than having an architect-plumber or a chef-maitre-D’. Sure, you can do both, but you will not get the best possible results of having two people with complementing disciplines working in concert. Employers think they save money on labor by hiring one person, but the end result looks like everything else out there — with different colors.

The developer will not design something that exceeds his or her abilities to code for it. Developer-designers or “front-end developers” (even the word designer is going away) will argue with me, of course, but these people casually cherry pick from existing trends to “create” their designs. This leaves us with web interfaces as staid now as print design was before the advent of the Macintosh.

The dominance of WordPress, which runs about 80% of the web these days, makes matters even worse. I’d estimate that 90% of those sites are made with off-the-shelf themes, most of which are big moving hero above three columns of boxes.

The only art direction involved is the branding placement and choice of photographs. As someone who does not like to code, this actually helps me, but it turns the job into mere data entry. Building websites has become so much drudgery, and since this is all clients see out there, this is what I end up presenting them as well. I will ask a prospective client to show me what they like, and invariably they show me big moving hero above three columns of boxes.

With print dying (yes, it is dying) and desktop displays on the wain, designers have smartphones and tablets as their canvass now, but here the coder lords supreme. With such small interfaces, the opportunities to make impact just with thoughtful design has all but vanished.

User-interface design is mostly a science, not an art, and while there will always be some amazing work done by some very special true designers, the industry of design has largely been subsumed by high-tech, and never again will graphic designers ever be able to create something that casts an actual shadow.

Which is why I now spend a growing part of my day working in my wood shop making birdhouses.

Source: Randy Garbin’s answer to What do old graphic designers think of young graphic designers of today? – Quora

Brandi Carlile: I am now a fan.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to Brandi Carlile’s music. My wife brought her to my attention, but I never called myself much of a fan.

Until this song.

And today’s interview on Howard Stern just sealed the deal. This is great music and a song that will stand the test of time.

The death of bootstrapping

The husband became a foreman and made good wages. Or perhaps the store was in an advantageous location that experienced growth over time. Now they have options. Sell the store and use that money to start over but in a better situation. Add on to the store and expand your capacity. Move and rent out the store thus joining the class of people with investment income. In investment terms, this arrangement gave the family good upside potential with limited downside risk. There’s a reason these kind of buildings

Source: Bootstrapping — Strong Towns

Not everyone is cut out to start and run their own business, but this article points to how our society keeps those with talent but no access to capital or connections out of the entrepreneur class. Little businesses can grow into large ones, but not when avalanches of red tape and regulations sap the drive of even the most energetic.

Obstacles to boostrapping have lead to the stratification of our economy, and caused the growth of an ominously destabilizing underclass.

3 Facepalm Moments in Regulation 

More government regulatory theater.

the Ten Eyck family, which owns the farm, along with the staff devoted about 40 hours to serving the investigators, who visited three times before closing the books. …This is life on the farm — and at businesses of all sorts. With thick rule books laying out food safety procedures, compliance costs in the tens of thousands of dollars and ever-changing standards from the government…

Source: 3 Facepalm Moments in Regulation – Foundation for Economic Education – Working for a free and prosperous world

Utah legalizes sane parenting

The measure, sponsored by Utah state Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R), exempts from the definition of child neglect various activities children can do without supervision, permitting “a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities …”

www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/03/28/utahs-free-range-parenting-law-said-to-be-first-in-the-nation/

Time to turn down the noise again

Facebook Noise

I’m off Facebook again. My account is not fully deleted, but despite all my attempts to make adjustments to my timeline and filter out the nonsense, it still pours through.

And while it is no surprise to me that Facebook got caught with its privacy pants down again, and that I seem to be one of the relative few who understand that Facebook was specifically created to do what it is doing to us, I’m just weary of the way Facebook seems to degrade my life. So, I gotta take another break.

I’m still available via this site and by FB Messenger.