The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Spicy poké

I swear, the local poké place used three shots of chili oil instead of one today. Whew. (Not that I'm complaining, of course.)

While my mouth slowly incinerates, I'm reading these:

On that last point, comedians Jimmy Carr and Emil Wakim lay down epic burns against anti-vaxxers:

Thursday afternoon miscellany

First, continuing the thread from this morning, (Republican) columnist Jennifer Rubin neatly sums up how the Republican justices on the Supreme Court seem poised to undo Republican Party gains by over-reaching:

We are, in short, on the verge of a constitutional and political tsunami. What was settled, predictable law on which millions of people relied will likely be tossed aside. The blowback likely will be ferocious. It may not be what Republicans intended. But it is coming.

Next up, Washington Post sports columnist Barry Svrluga argues that the Major League Baseball labor dispute and the lockout announced this morning will do nothing to prevent baseball from continuing its fade into irrelevance:

What can’t happen as MLB and the players’ union negotiate, though, is the actual game they stage being forgotten. Whatever the flaws in its salary structure and the dispersal of revenue, there’s money to go around. ... What should matter more than the money, then, has to be the game itself. The game itself is wounded.

Finally, today is the 20th anniversary of Enron filing for bankruptcy. In honor of that history, I give you the Deodorant Building Enron Headquarters in downtown Houston as it appeared in June 2001:

Sure Happy It's Thursday!

Take this job and help me get out of my status-quo bias

In his subscriber-only newsletter this morning, economist Paul Krugman speculated about why so many people have left their low-wage jobs recently:

The experience of the pandemic may have led many workers to explore opportunities they wouldn’t have looked at previously.

I’d been thinking vaguely along these lines, but Arindrajit Dube, who has been one of my go-to labor economists throughout this pandemic, recently put it very clearly. As he says, there’s considerable evidence that “workers at low-wage jobs [have] historically underestimated how bad their jobs are.” When something — like, say, a deadly pandemic — forces them out of their rut, they realize what they’ve been putting up with. And because they can learn from the experience of other workers, there may be a “quits multiplier” in which the decision of some workers to quit ends up inducing other workers to follow suit.

I've got a lot of anecdotal evidence to back this up. People I know or interact with in the service industry have consistently said they don't tolerate things they used to tolerate. (You've probably heard the same thing.)

Krugman also suggests that the pandemic gave people time and space to think about other jobs they might do instead, where the phenomenon of status-quo bias might have had them in a rut beforehand.

It may take years to see, let alone explain, all the changes Covid-19 has wrought upon the world. Krugman's observations make sense as a starting point for this bit, though.

Dude, nice rocket, bro!

Apparently the rockets aren't the only colossal dicks at Blue Origin:

The company’s cultural issues came to light last month when Alexandra Abrams, the former head of Blue Origin’s employee communications, released an essay she said was written in conjunction with 20 other current and former Blue Origin employees. It said the company “turns a blind eye to sexism, is not sufficiently attuned to safety concerns and silences those who seek to correct wrongs.” The staffers were not identified in the essay, but three of them confirmed the allegations to The Post on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

[I]n 2017, [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos brought in [Bob] Smith to be the company’s first CEO, taking over from Rob Meyerson, the company’s president, who had been running its day-to-day operations.

Smith and the executives he brought in, many from legacy aerospace companies, sat in an executive suite in a new office building, isolated from the rest of the staff. While that is not unusual for many large corporations, it was off-putting for many employees at Blue Origin who had been used to their leaders sitting and mingling among them.

“That wasn’t appreciated,” one former executive said. “It was an I’m-above-you message.”

Concerned about the company’s leadership, the head of human resources brought in an outside management consultant, who interviewed Smith and the members of his team in 2019 and concluded that Smith’s micromanaging style was often ineffective, according to a former senior executive and confirmed by another person familiar with the matter.

Smith bristled at the report, which was first reported by CNBC, and refused to meet on the subject again.

Culture comes from many sources, but dickish, authoritarian behavior at the top gives people to act like authoritarian dicks below. That insight isn't exactly rocket science. But it does help explain how SpaceX keeps beating Blue Origin in every way that matters.

The last Sears store in its home state will close

Eddie Lampert, corporate murderer, has managed to drive his once-great company out if its home state:

Sears' last Illinois location, at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, is set to close in November.

The Hoffman Estates-based retailer’s parent company, Transformco, announced the decision today.

"This is part of the company's strategy to unlock the value of the real estate and pursue the highest and best use for the benefit of the local community," the company said in a statement.

Ah, yes, because under the sociopathic, finance-driven Lampert, Sears is nothing more than a series of cash flows. It has no people, no history, no relevance, no value to him, other than money.

Obviously Lampert isn't unique. Venkatesh Rao wrote a magnificent description of modern corporate thinking in 2009 based on the TV series The Office. Sears just inhabits the end stage of the "MacLeod Life Cycle," as Rao describes it. But it's a particularly tragic example.

Welcome to August

While I look out my hermetically-sealed office window at some beautiful September weather in Chicago (another argument for working from home), I have a lot of news to digest:

And finally, Jakob Nielsen explains to web designers as patiently as possible why pop-ups piss off users.

Niggling irritation at corporate hubris

Wednesday I caught a story on NPR's Morning Edition that lingered, and not in a good way. Reporter David Gura presented a story about how corporate boards have difficulty telling their top executives not to engage in risky activities. One executive Gura interviewed, former GM executive Robert Lutz, expressed his feelings thus:

ROBERT LUTZ: I will tell you, I encountered these restrictions my whole career, never took them very seriously and got away with it for 47 years.

GURA: He also liked skiing and motorcycles. And Lutz owned and flew two fighter planes. When GM wanted Lutz back for another big job in 2001, this came up, and Lutz remembers what he told the board.

LUTZ: I'm happy to rejoin the company. I'm happy to assume the post as vice chairman. But I need absolute freedom as far as my hobbies are concerned.

GURA: Lutz says he got that absolute freedom. And he flew those jets until he was 87, by the way. He had to stop two years ago when he failed an eye exam. Lutz thinks more executives should be daredevils.

LUTZ: As opposed to, you know, calm, peaceful guys who never want to put themselves at risk, always drive at the speed limit, drive a minivan as their only vehicle and so forth - who the heck wants a person like that to lead a corporation or be in a leadership position at a corporation?

Imagine that: an old, rich white guy who thinks only people like him should run corporations. No wonder America has so many problems! And that's only my first thought on why this guy pissed me off so much.

By the way, if you're 87 and have to fail an eye test to stop flying planes, that's not just putting yourself at risk; that's putting everyone at risk. No wonder GM did so well in the the early 2000s.

Did Gura not follow up on Lutz's outrageous statement because he figured the listeners would fill in the rest? Or did Gura drop the ball here? I'm tempted to ask NPR.

How much Bruce Rauner cost Illinois

In another implicit rebuke to the lump of clay that occupied the Governor's Mansion for four years, Illinois finally got a bump in its credit rating after Governor Pritzker started paying our bills again:

In upgrading Illinois’ credit by one step — to two notches above junk bond status instead of one — Wall Street ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service noted that the $42 billion spending plan for the year starting July 1 “increases pension contributions, repays emergency Federal Reserve borrowings and keeps a backlog of bills in check with only constrained use of federal aid” from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan.

Even after the upgrade, Illinois remains the lowest-rated state on Moody’s scale, two notches below the next-lowest: New Jersey. Generally, states with higher credit ratings are able to borrow money at lower interest rates, ultimately saving taxpayers money.

While the upgrade from Moody’s is welcome news, it only returns the state’s rating to where it was before the last of three downgrades during the tumultuous tenure of Pritzker’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

It still baffles me why Rauner screwed Illinois so hard and without lube. He may have qualified as a "moderate" Republican by today's standards, but he still moved to kill unions, kill the state budget, and kill working people in Illinois.

Rauner now lives in exile in—where else?—Florida.

Electronic Arts' offshore tech support wins this round

When a software company engages with an offshore technical support team, they signal to the world that they have little interest in supporting their users. Offshore teams have no incentive to actually solve problems. In fact, individual tech support reps get punished for independent thought in some organizations. So if you have a support issue that they can't find in the support manual (even if you send them a link to the exact community page that explains the issue and solution), they won't help.

Electronic Arts, the legal successor to Maxis for all things SimCity, has an offshore tech support team that has, I believe, completely given up on solving my problem. That it took as many emails as it did before they finally asked me to do something impossible only adds to the farce.

I got this message this morning:

Thank you for contacting EA Help. My name is Krishna and I would assist you with your Origin issue today.

I would suggest please contact your retailer they will help out this issue.

Krishna, the most likely case is that I am contacting the retailer. My reply:

I actually don’t remember where I bought the software, because I bought it 18 years ago. I thought it was Egghead, but they went bankrupt in 2001. So I probably bought it directly from Maxis. EA bought Maxis in 2015. So, really, I bought it directly from the company you represent.

Once more, with feeling: I have a license for SimCity 4 that I obtained in 2003. The software does not work on any Windows platform after Vista because Maxis made an engineering choice that turned out to be wrong. Flash forward to 2021, and the only way I can use the software today is through Origin. I therefore need to download the software using Origin, and then activate it, which requires a code.

Is it possible to escalate this to someone with the authority to solve this very simple problem?

I believe EA has now burned about 4-5x the value of the activation code avoiding giving me the activation code. As a 25-year veteran of software development, I can say this exactly the outcome I would predict from an offshore tech support operation.

So, I'll probably just give EA $20 for a new license, while continuing to ridicule them on social media.

End of the week or beginning of the weekend?

Today's end-of-workweek stories:

Finally, today is the 157th anniversary of the surrender of the traitors and the end of the white rebellion in America. (Sounds different these days, doesn't it?)