atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#2538: Why am I not being allowed to sleep?

Phone rings. Cop knocks on door. Cat bothers me. Stomach growls. WTF!

Cop: apparently someone is worried about my next-door neighbor and called the police about it. The cop asked me if I knew anything, if I'd seen anything, if I had a key or the phone number of a family member, etc, etc; well, I told him what I knew--nothing at all--and suggested he might talk to the folks across the street, who are much more "plugged in" to the neighborhood gravevine than I.

*sigh* The guy next door is elderly and he lost his wife this past summer. I don't know. Right after the funeral he spent a month or so caring for his sister...somewhere, other than here. Maybe he's there again. I don't keep track of my neighbors' every movement, dang it. I have enough trouble managing my own damn affairs.

* * *

Borders is getting close to filing Chapter 11. It means they'll be closing a bunch of stores.

You know, it makes me wonder about that nonsense that pissed me off last summer, when a Borders clerk had to leave the registers because "someone came in".
I went there today in hopes of picking up some Kimi ni Todoke. To my delight, they actually had all the extant volumes, so I grabbed 'em. Went up to the cash registers and saw that there were actually two cashiers working, one customer was just finishing, and I wouldn't have to wait but a few seconds!

Oh no, because one said, "Sir, she'll take you in just a few moments," and strode off towards the back of the store.

...

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait...finally get to the cash register.

"Gee, I'm really glad my purchase didn't interfere with his busy schedule," I said; and the remaining cashier gave me a bunch of horseshit about hours and policy and blah blah blah. "I understand that hours are tight," I replied, "but he couldn't take five minutes?"

Oh no because he'd get in trouble!

...

Good! Perfect! Punish your employees for taking care of the customer. That's awesome. No wonder the fucking telephone is always ringing in that shithole.
I was less than satisfied with the explanation that was given to me; customer service should always come first and you ignore that at your peril.

The other problem I have with Borders is how little they actually carry that I want to buy: I see a vast bookstore filled with books and movies and music, yet when I go there I browse exactly two sections: manga and SF. Most of the time the manga section doesn't have what I want. They've got eight copies of various volumes of the manga series about a woman raising an autistic child--which includes at least one copy of all six volumes--but all they've got of Strawberry 100% is a desultory selection consisting of volumes 3, 7, 8, 11, and 13...when I need 12. To say nothing of the fact that it's organized badly; the customer should not have to search the entire section to find the various volumes of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels just because the first word is different in each title. It's a series; they're all about Haruhi Suzumiya--and the hardcover light novels are all grouped together, so why are the TPBs spread out?

And the SF section? Well, it's actually "Science Fiction and Fantasy" and about 90% of it is ZOMGWizardDragonElf! stuff. I can look at the entire section and not see one book I want to buy. Oh, there might be a new Dresden Files out, but it's in hardcover and I can't afford $30 for one book.

Movies: I have never looked for anime at Borders, as they charge full bore for everything; and I don't buy that many movies. Music? Mass market chains don't carry anything I like; it's a miracle if they even stock things like the better-known Kansas and Alan Parsons albums--they for damn sure don't carry the ambient dub stuff unless it's got the Hearts of Space imprimatur, and then usually it's an anthology album which is mostly crap.

"Oh, we can order it!" I know you can. So can I: Amazon.com even offers free shipping, from time to time, and I don't have to make a second freaking trip to pick it up. (This is what's killing your business.)

What Borders does not offer me is the chance to find something new and exciting. That's not going to happen, not when what they sell is dictated by sales numbers compiled by a national office 600 miles away; it ensures that the stores all stock things that 95% of the media-buying public say they want but it also ensures that the store nearest me stocks almost nothing that I want.

This is why I don't go there very often; and most of the time that I do go there, it's for something that I already know I want, and for which I don't wish to wait on UPS or FedEx.

In general I'd wager I'm not alone in this; that's probably why the big bookstores are going the way of the small ones: they're being out-competed. If I have to wait three days for an order to come in, why would I drive to a store and place the order there, and have to go back in three days to pick it up? Particularly when I have a persistent Internet connection and a debit card?

What we lose is the ability to look the book over before buying it: you can't pick it up off the shelf and flip through it and read a few passages here and there before deciding to buy it. (In the case of manga, usually I look at the artwork.)

What I miss the most is the used bookstore in Cedar Rapids. The place was stuffed to the rafters with books, and every section of the store was comprehensive. It's where I got my copies of Mika Waltari's books (The Egyptian et al) and a bunch of other good and useful books besides; but they closed in 2002, damn it all. *sigh*

* * *

Obama refers to himself as "gipper". "Take one for the gipper," he said.

...*facepalm*

* * *

There's one major difference between the federal budget and the "family pocketbook".

That difference is that--when the family pocketbook is empty--the family is out of money. Not so with the federal government:
"This budget asks Washington to live within its means, while at the same time investing in our future," the president said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. The White House plans to release his budget on Monday.
If Washington were actually to "live within its means" the next annual budget would not have a projected defict of $1,500 billion dollars.

You're not "living within your means" if you're borrowing so much money that servicing your debt is becoming a worrisome prospect. Okay, most people do borrow a lot of money (to buy, for example, a house) but they typically only do that sort of thing once in a while. They don't borrow $100,000 one year, then borrow another $200,000 the next, and then $500,000 the year after because they really need to "stimulate" their economy, and then $500,000 more in the next year, and on and on.... When a person does that, he's living beyond his means, and it inevitably comes crashing down on him.

Washington has the power to tax, and it has the power to issue bonds, and it does all those things...and so the budget for next year is supposed to be on the order of $3,800 billion, of which they have to borrow $1,500 billion. That works out to some forty percent of the federal budget.

That is not an example of Washington "living within its means". That's not even in the same hemisphere as "living within its means".

"The White House projects that the five-year freeze will save $400 billion over 10 years." Okay: so assume that a miracle occurs and that the federal budget does not increase during that decade, such that the 2021 budget is still $3,800 billion.

In that decade, then, spending $3,800 billion per year, the government would spend $38,000 billion ($38 trillion). Saving $40 billion per year over that same period means a savings of $400 billion out of $38,000 billion spent.

That's one percent.

It's why I always write the budget numbers in billions rather than trillions. $400 billion sounds like a lot of money; $1.5 trillion doesn't sound as big. Intellectually, sure, we know that "trillion" is a thousand times "billion", but there's no intuitive, guts-level grasp of the magnitude. They're too big for that. But we can intuitively grasp "four hundred" versus "one point five", and "four hundred" is intuitively a bigger number than "one point five" is.

...and when you do the subtraction, it doesn't register unless you render it in billions. $3,800 billion minus $40 billion is $3,760 billion.

Nothing I'm hearing out of Washington, D.C.--from either party--sounds like serious fiscal responsibility. None of them really wants to cut federal spending, and it's obvious, because the best offer the GOP has come up with is barely better than this latest crap from Obama. The GOP is now talking about cutting $62 billion, rather than $32, which barely creeps their budget cuts above the "rounding error" cutoff.

It's not enough.

What we need is to cut the budget to 2007 levels. That means axing the deficit to around $200 billion. Cutting $1,300 billion dollars out of the budget--that is a hell of a lot closer to Washington "living within its means".

* * *

The Egyptian military junta promises it won't attack Israel.

...once the islamic brotherood seizes power, though, all bets are off.

* * *

Man do I get grouchy when shit keeps disturbing my sleep. I'm going to go back to bed.
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