Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Playoff Sanity, Part Deux

Don't pout, Nicky - they'll let you into the playoffs no matter what.
Well, that’s inconvenient.  I wish Alabama had lost yesterday.  No, I am not a graduate of Auburn, I am not a Nick Saban hater, and I do not pronounce his last name “Satan,” nor do I think this is further justification for allowing a pedophile to win the Alabama Republican nomination for Senate last year.  It just that it would have made writing this post that much easier.

For the thrust of the post is to proclaim the need for the NCAA and the College Bowl Playoff Committee (or whatever-the-hell-it’s-called group of smug pretentious college cucks who think they understand football) to get their collective shit together and come up with a real, legit, eight or sixteen team college football playoff.  One that awards competitive spots to teams that are, y’know, actual CHAMPIONS of their leagues.

Last year I chucked (OK, guffawed) when Ohio State got blown out in the first round, courtesy of the same Clemson Tigers who ‘Bama beat.  (Full disclosure – I was born in Michigan, and ANYTIME the Buckeyes take a pounding is a good day).  OSU didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs last year for the same reason Alabama didn’t this year – they didn’t win their conference playoff.  They didn’t even PLAY in their conference playoff.  Why the hell reward mediocrity?

Oh, yeah.  Money.  Tradition.  Stupidity.

Bowl games used to be something special before there were 40 of them.  Top teams travelled to somewhere warm to put the best against the best; a reward for a great season.  Now, mediocre teams that win as many times as they lose get to go to exotic December locales like Annapolis, Detroit (inside, thankfully), New York (not inside), and…Boise?  Yeah, Boise.  I doubt Central Michigan alums made the trip to the Famous Potato Bowl this year, even though the temperature was a balmy 37°.  That’s 20 degrees warmer than last year, but I doubt many would have done this if the game was played in August.

Every other college sport has a National Championship where the winner comes from an actual tournament of participants that are not “hand-picked” by a so-called group of experts (with the help of a computer, for what that’s worth).  If you win, it’s because you beat ‘em all.  Upsets happen.  But somehow the committee feels that they only need to invite teams they feel like inviting, and they can say all they want about only taking conference champions, and then THROW THAT OUT THE WINDOW TWO YEARS IN A ROW.

I wrote about this last year when they picked Ohio State over Penn State (reminder – OSU lost the Big Ten Championship to…wait for it…Penn State).  Hell, at least then OSU played in the conference championship.  Alabama suffered a last-game defeat in the Iron Bowl to Auburn, and got bumped from the SEC Championship.  Of course, then Auburn was defeated in that championship by Georgia, a team they crushed earlier in the year 40-17.  So Georgia went on to the playoffs, and…so did the team that lost to the team they beat.  Say what?

I know Alabama has been in the last four playoffs, and they are a perennial winner.  They’ve been rewarded for those winning years by being in the playoff.  Now they’re being rewarded for when they don’t win.  Sure, they won last night because they are a quality team.  So is Ohio State.  And Penn State.  And Wisconsin.  And UCF, too.  Especially the undefeated UCF.  Let them ALL slug it out.

And the committee wonders why we complain.

When you win your conference championship, that’s supposed to be the summation of “why you play.”  When you make it “hey, win your conference, or, at least win most of your games until the end and then we’ll sneak you in because yargle bargle blah,” that just defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it?


Make it eight teams.  Make it 16.  Make it a real tournament.  It’s not like you haven’t changed crap around before.  Besides, there’s more money to be made.  You’d think that was incentive enough…

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Coming @$!*&$%!, 2018

Alternative Title:  What Good is a $1000 Bonus if you’ve Been Laid Off?

I really wasn’t sure what noun to use in place of the “@$!*&$%!” in the title.  Depression?  Collapse?  Armageddon?  Shitstorm??  I was looking for something that conveys a worrisome time – and this was when I was actually more optimistic about the upcoming year.

No, really.  I tried very hard to be optimistic, and in the short run, I suppose things are looking up.  We’re hoping 2018 is what 2017 was supposed to be – we sell the business, retire, build and then move into a new home.  And while it’s true that we’ve been looking forward to retirement for some time, recent events make it clear that once we hand off the business to a new owner, we damn well better retire because the job market ain’t lookin’ so hot.

Sure, sure, I know what you’re about to say – what about that “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” that the GOP just passed.

Do not make me laugh.

I am currently reading Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford.  It’s scary stuff about how automation is not just making many blue collar jobs disappear, but as technology improves, it’s white collar, high tech, high-end jobs that are vanishing, too.  I’ve known about how automation can reshape an industry – as a former radio DJ, I realize that damn near everything today on-air is digital, including the jock.  Live DJ’s are as rare as 45s.  Or albums.  Or hell, CDs.

And who isn’t familiar with ATM’s?  Now just for cash – many race tracks have fewer ticket windows and more self-serve betting machines.  Casinos with poker rooms are replacing live dealers with automated tables.  Vending machines nowadays dispense all kinds of foods (hot, cold, frozen), and many non-food items.  Self-serve checkouts.  Self-serve ordering kiosks.  Roombas.  No people, no jobs…just machines.

You only need pick up a newspaper (where many articles are actually written by computers) and see where many companies (including ones bragging about handing out bonuses just recently after the aforementioned “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”) are either laying off hundreds or thousands of workers, or planning to in the coming year.  There is even a website where you can learn all about new layoffs, all the time.  Layoffs in steel, healthcare, and, of course, manufacturing.   Ford, Microsoft, Boeing, GE, Kraft, AT&T, and Carrier - layoffs galore.  Not creating jobs – eliminating them.

This is nothing new.  Job creation ever since the Great Recession has been steady, but it’s mainly low-to-mid paying jobs in the service sector.  Few jobs in manufacturing.  This year, despite the self-congratulatory prose from Trump, looks to be the lowest year for new job creation since 2010.

BTW – very few products with any kind of “Trump” branding – ties, jewelry, water, vodka, suits, etc – is made in the USA.  Just sayin’ is all.

Combine automation with off-shoring, and it means fewer jobs for Americans.  And that’s the wave of the future.  Why would companies do this?  To make more money.  You can easily see that the future looks dim for everyone but the very rich, those already secure in their largess.  More and more jobs will become automated – skilled jobs, service jobs, tech jobs, white collar jobs, all sorts of jobs that can be handles by a robot or algorithm; not just the manufacturing section.  Of course, to implement more automation, corporations would need a very large infusion of cash.

Where, oh where, could they get such an infusion?  Why, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” of course.

Oooops.

Well, like I said, it’s nothing I have to worry about.  After all, I am looking forward to retirement, and as long as the GOP and Trump keep their grubby mitts off Social Security and Medicare, I am set for life.

Oooops.


Happy New Year, everyone.  Buckle up.

Friday, December 22, 2017

And Now Watch What Happens (Tax Reform Edition)

"...and they believed me when I said everyone benefits!"
This is one of those “though experiment” things that I like to do.  In this case, it’s to illustrate what’s REALLY going on with the so-called “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” a.k.a. “GOP Tax Heist.”  Trumpkins are already calling the largest tax modification in decades a, “boon to the economy” (even though it won’t take effect until 2018).  More sane Americans are calling it what it is – the scam of the Century (and remember that we’ve already had the BIG Bush tax giveaway to the rich earlier).

Corporate America is also reacting to the new tax laws – many big firms like AT&T, Comcast, Boeing, Wells Fargo, and others – are giving $1,000 bonuses and promising pay raises to their employees.  This is seen as a big deal, proof that the GOP knows what’s best for the economy.  In the case of AT&T, that’s a thousand bucks to more than 200,000 employees.  That would be a total handout of more than $200 million (200,000x1000).  Keep that in mind for a minute.

So here’s the thought experiment.  Say you’re about to come into some money.  With almost no strings attached.  It’s yours to keep, but…as you’re being given this money you are surrounded by your brother, sister, a couple of cousins, four neighbors, and a couple of school chums – ten people in total.   And that’s the only string – you have to give 10% of what you get to the others, to be divided up evenly (effectively 1% to each).  You keep 90% and give 10% to the others - or you can’t have any of it.

  • So if you get $10, you get $9 and they get $1 to split (10 cents each).  Big deal – you might just say, “forget it.”
  • If you get $1,000, you have to give them $100 ($10 each).  You still keep $900…yeah, maybe.
  • Say you get a million.  $900 grand for you, $100K for them ($10,000 each).  Sure, why not – you’ve still got life-changing money in $900,000.
  • Upping the ante one more time – you get $100 million.  Ten percent is $10 million, making everyone a millionaire, and you – you’re now part of the richest 1%.  You wouldn’t even have to think about it.  Give the 10% - hell, you could give a lot more – and you’re still rolling in more dough than 99% will ever see in a lifetime.

By the way – AT&T had a profit last year of $13 Billion.  And $200 million is just 1.5% of that. 

Oh, and did you know AT&T paid NO federal tax in 2011?  In fact, they received a refund of more than $400 million (they’ve paid modest federal taxes since then, but nowhere near their profits).  And it’s not surprising to learn that many other big firms pay little to nothing in taxes – in fact, some pay their CEO’s more than they pay in taxes.

Remind me – why are we giving these already-hugely-profitable and sitting-on-wads-of-cash corporations MORE money?  Oh, that’s right – to create jobs.

And how many CEO’s are talking about creating more jobs with their new found windfalls? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!  Unemployment is low, manufacturing jobs are going overseas (or to Mexico – see “Carrier”).   Just 14% of CEOs in a recent survey say they plan to sink money into capital investments that might create jobs.  You know damn well what the other 86% think about their government hand-out.  Even if they won’t say it.

Here’s the thing - to me, all of this bonus and pay hike talk is “nice” but it’s merely window dressing.  Public relations.  Propaganda, even.  You know right-wing groups plan to spend millions more to put lipstick on this pig put together a public relations campaign to make the new tax laws more “attractive.”  As of now, it’s one of the least popular tax CUTS in history – even more unpopular than some tax HIKES.

That sucks, bigly.

Face it - almost all that money is going to the richest corporations and the richest individuals.  Take Sheldon Adelson – please.  Seriously, with his tax SAVINGS, he could give every individual in America – every man, woman, and child – nearly fifty bucks (he’s saving more than $14 BILLION).  He and the big corporations have plenty of money to toss around like this...when J&J Plumbing and the local candy store start passing out bonuses and pay hikes, then I will believe that the tax plan is for everyone.   Until then, this is just enough chicken feed to keep people from really thinking about what a screw job this is gonna be.

PS:   Many of you know that I own a small business, and I've run my own numbers with the information that's been released on this tax plan.  There are no $1,000 bonuses planned for any of our staff, I can assure you - not because I don't want to, but the tax plan offers little incentive (and even less cash) to do this.  And I will hire more people when I need to because there are more people wanting to buy ice cream, not because I got a tax cut.  Besides, $900 will only go so far.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Re-Cued

This used to be a disc jockey's best friend.
Radio peeps will get the reference immediately (well, the ones older than 30); for those of you left wondering about the title and the pic – here’s the explanation (and how it relates to today’s post comes a bit later).  Back before everything went digital, radio jingles and commercials were recorded on these continuous loop cartridges, or “carts.”  The cart would be recorded with the ad AND a silent tone that told the cart when to stop once it played, essentially “re-cueing” itself to start all over again.

We’ve been re-cued.

Back in May I wrote about how we had a shitload of stuff going down.  Besides running the ice cream parlor for another year (that’s 17 now), we were also in the process of selling the business AND building a home on our retirement property in Warren.  The way things were supposed to play out, by now we’d have a buyer for the store and our home would be close to completion, and we’d be moving soon to start a new chapter in our lives.

Instead, we’re starting over from last year.

We did not sell the store…yet.  We’re pretty much back to where we were six months ago, except we have fewer folks interested and we’ve lost those six months (and a few dollars in legal fees).  We had a number of interested parties, and one in particular that had a keen interest, but...well, because of confidentiality rules and all, I can’t talk about it.  But nothing happened, essentially.

And that’s what happened with the new modular house…nothing.  Almost nothing, anyway.  While I can talk about this, I really don’t want to, as I still have a bad taste in my mouth.  We had drawings back in May and a schedule that tied in with our general contractor (doing work on the land, prep for the house, etc.), our solar contractor (to put rooftop solar system in place once the house was set), and the bank (which was to finance the whole shootin’ match for a bit until we sold the business to pay it all off).

What should have happened was blueprints, approval of same, loan, build, deliver, finish, solar, move in.  What did happen was…delay, delay, problem, delay, delay.  And all during the delay was the worst level of communication (or non-communication, if you will) that we’ve encountered in a professional capacity.  By August we had no faith that this project was EVER to be completed, and we’d missed all of our available windows for the contractor and the bank (the solar folks were behind so they didn’t mind the fact that we weren’t ready for them.  Or so they said.).

So we cancelled the house.  Given the fact that back in May I was already saying (in this blog) that “…deadlines come and go,” I shouldn’t be surprised that this fell apart.  Also, given that we didn’t sell the business and most likely will be running the store for at least part of 2018, I’m kinda glad this project is on hold for now.

We will build, but with a different company.  We’re doing some research now as to who and what, but we do know that the WHEN won’t be until we sell the store.  We’re moving forward with the sale – we’ve expanded our outreach (where we’re advertising it) and even though fall is the slow season for businesses like ours, we’re hopeful we’ll find a buyer.

It’s amazing that I can even use that word, “hopeful.”  September was a rough month for us – we ended our season a week early (ran out of ice cream sooner than we thought), but that was OK as we were near exhaustion and running on fumes.  THAT caught up with us – Mona got a horrible cold, as did I, and mine turned into bronchitis, so our annual clean up of the store once closed has been on hold for most of the month (we just got back into cleaning up last Friday).  We were also dealing with cutting our house contract (we lawyered up again, and he did the job), and wrapping up our dealings with the potential store buyer (and technically the lawyering is still going on a bit – one last piece of paper needed to say “sayonara” for good).

And the rest of the world seemed like it’s been re-cued, too.  We are still battling to keep the ACA from being overturned.  We’re still working in Pennsylvania and Michigan (and elsewhere) to make online gaming legal.  We’re still fighting for justice in so many damn places.  It can be terribly depressing to have to start over personally when so many other aspects of life are also ostensibly on hold, not progressing…stalled….stuck.


Nevertheless, we’re hitting “play” again.  The show must go on.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why No, I Haven’t Written Much Lately

Yes, I’ve been busy.  I’m about to be even more so, as today marks the beginning of the summer tourist season.  Traditionally, I write a final pre-season post and say goodbye for the summer, so to speak.  Once the tourists are gone in September, I return with a flourish.  Since I started this post several weeks ago, it’s now turned into that post. 

Yeah, I haven’t written much lately.  It’s certainly not from a lack of material to write about.

For example, take President Trump.  Please.  There has been so much one could discuss.  I’ve considered it several times, but, just as I start up the ol’ laptop, another bombshell hits and attention is diverted to the chaos du jour. 

There are two reasons I don’t talk about Trump – one, many others do it far better and with more vitriol than I (see: “100 Days 100 Horrors” here), and more importantly, it’s preaching to the saved.  The 36% who still see him as Making America Great Again see nothing wrong here.  Two recent quotes (from Facebook comments) are telling:

“Trump has done more in his first three months than Obama did in eight years!”

“Never, never in my lifetime seen a President be scrutinized over every word he speaks, humiliated by the public, insulted, lied to…Every other President after they got in office were left alone…”

It’s just a different reality, I guess.  Oh, BTW, the election was six months ago and yes, we’re well over that.  What we’re not over is what’s going on now.  THAT’S what is pissing us off.  Just sayin’.  See “100 Days 100 Horrors” here.

Anyway, as the “well-oiled machine” turns into a “dumpster fire” into a “train wreck” and is now in “full-blown Hindenburg,” we’ll all wait to see what happens.  I know where my money is.  Hello, President Pence (ick).

I could be writing about the ongoing battle to restore online poker to its pre-Black Friday glory.  In 2013, three states legislated legal and regulated online gaming and poker.  And we still only have three states.  We push ahead and contact legislators in the various states that show interest in moving forward (California seems like a dream to us now), but…progress here is very, very slow.  There have been signs of life lately in PA and NY, but…well, we’ll see once summer is over.  Perhaps I will return to a much different online landscape.

And speaking of slow progress…the real reason I’ve written hardly at all.

I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I was optimistic about 2017, and that was because we had a lot going on.  That’s one reason there haven’t been many words scribed to this blog – we’ve been involved.  Running the business, selling the business, building a house – all of that at the same time.  It’s kept us very busy, but, sadly, there’s been little real progress.  Like watching glaciers melt.  We wanted to get a lot of the paperwork and decision making out of the way before we started the busy part of the tourist season.

Fat chance.

I realize designers and contractors and bankers are busy people, and they have many other things on their plate.  But the thing that gets me is that I never hear back from them when I ask a question or inquire as to the status of our project.  Deadlines come and go.  “Life stuff” comes up and gets in the way (some of it has been legit, so I am only half-complaining here). Remember how email and cellphones were supposed to speed things up and make communication fast and effortless?  Apparently that’s not true if you never look at your email and never answer your phone.  Who knew?

All I know is that the next person who tells me “I’ll have something to you by Friday” gets it right between the eyes.

But here’s the best part of all this – work, house, selling the biz – I write this knowing that it’s gonna get worse (busier) before it gets better, but I also know that most likely this will be the LAST TIME we do this.


We hope.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Descent of the Locusts

I am 64 and a half, almost exactly.  And I have a target on my back.  If you’ve already 65 and been through this, feel free to chuckle, reminisce, grab a beverage and go to the next item on your list.  But you youngsters (64 and under)…pay attention.

The target I speak of is actually a bit lower than that – say, about wallet-height.  Because in just three short months, I will be able to sign up for Medicare, which means that I will be “eligible” to spend a shitload of money on “supplemental insurance” to cover the gaps in the “insurance” that I supposedly have already paid for with payroll deductions over the course of the last 53 years (I started work at age 11).

I am a hot commodity, for sure.  So far, since the golden date (exactly 6 months before my birthday), I have averaged 5.2 calls per day, and 3 mailers.  It’s only gonna get worse from here.

Now, no one is trying to sell me anything.  They all say that.  Seriously.  I know the tell-tale sign of a predictive dialer – that empty sound when you answer the phone and say, “Hello?” and hear nothing for about seven seconds and then the unmistakable sound of a phone-bank in the background while “Sharon from XXX” comes on and mangles your name.  You tell them “Sorry, no solicitors,” and they ALWAYS say, “Mr. Eckenjer we’re not selling anything we just want to be sure you have all the information you need to make an informed choice regarding your Medicare options including Part D and Medigap coverage and did you know Mr. Essenkar that millions of Americans will not have enough to pay for even the simplest medical care that Medicare doesn’t provide for and with…”

Except what it sounds like is
“Mr.Eckenjerwe’renotsellinganythingwejustwanttobesureyouhavealltheinformationyouneedtomakeaninformedchoiceregardingyourMedicareoptionsincludingPartDandMedigapcoverageanddidyouknowMr.EssenkarthatmillionsofAmericanswillnothaveenoughtopayforeventhesimplestmedicalcarethatMedicaredoesn’tprovideforandwith…”

Not selling anything.  Riiiiiiiiight.

They are persistent.  On the first day, we let messages go to the answering machine (as we were involved in the kitchen.  Making lunch…I’m 64, remember?).  One company called NINE times.  They are unflappable.  I told one guy he was the 19th caller in the last four days, and he said, “Well, let me hang up and call you right back so I can be caller number twenty.”  They are…a pain in the ass.

And when you tell them, “I’ve already taken care of this, thanks for calling,” they act like the Energizer bunny and keep…on…going.  Until you hang up, and even then, I’m not certain.

I am also pissed at the whole scheme of things, having to sign up for Part D insurance now even though I only have one very low-priced prescription. I am pissed because
(a)  Drug prices may rise (May?  Who the hell are we kidding?).
(b)  I might not only have one prescription in the future.  Mona has three, and she’s YOUNGER than I am and in better health overall.  Well, except for the drugs.
(c)  If I don’t sign up now, and decide to pick a plan later, I’ll be changed a penalty for EVERY MONTH I failed to sign up prior…for EVERY MONTH I decide to be on the plan.  If I live a long time (and I plan on it), I could pay another shitload of month just for the insurance to pay for the drugs I might take.
(d)  Marijuana isn’t covered.  Shit.


I might return to this topic at a later date.  Depends on whether the drugs kick in.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

BREAKING NEWS – CSIG is DEAD

Hey man, want some hippie lettuce?
In a shocking reveal today, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson announced the disbandment of his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.  Adelson noted the continued closing of many poker rooms in Las Vegas as a sign that poker needed new blood, and stated, “There’s no better way to attract new players than to introduce them to the electronic felt.”  Adelson said he’ll make haste to get an online presence soon.

When asked if his Sands Corporation would look to buy or merge with one of the existing players like PokerStars, or built its own online site, Adelson startled reporters by revealing that they has already designed a new Internet gaming site.  It’s ready to launch “…just as soon as my buddy Trump signs a new Executive Order legalizing online poker in 49 of the 50 states.’  It appears that Utah will be the lone state where poker is NOT allowed, though the E.O. has a unique sub-clause that allows for the development of new, much-stronger networking of Internet wi-fi systems in Idaho.

When asked if his original “concern for the children,” one of his original driving factors for creating CSIG, Adelson scoffed.  “You know, eventually some 7-year-old is gonna find Dad’s iPhone and log in and start to play, but when the little punk gets his pocket jacks snapped and loses a wad, he’ll learn a valuable lesson.  That’s life.”

In a related statement, Miriam Adelson, Sheldon’s spouse, announced the closing of the Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse in Tel Aviv, and the opening of a chain of “Uncle Shelly’s Weed ‘n’ Feed” stores in states where recreational marijuana is legal.  Adelson said he especially wants to set up shops in Nevada, where he sees a good fit with legal online poker and legal dope.  “Hey, it’s just the thing when you get your pocket jacks snapped.  Light up a doobie and rebuy.”


Adelson also noted that former right-hand man Andy Abboud is already scouting for “Weed ‘n’ Feed” locations in Las Vegas.  Adelson sent Abboud out about three weeks ago with a large bundle of cash and about 15 ½ pounds of sample product. “Strangely, Andy hasn’t checked in lately,” Adelson pondered. “Maybe he lost his cell phone again.”