what's been floating my boat lately:

"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
-Albert Einstein-


1/25/23 (15:13)

  • I get a lot of requests for information from the government (and other entities) these days. The County Assessor called me today to ask about the new property we bought. "What are your plans?" "I went by today, but the gate was closed so I couldn't get a good look inside." "Did you buy it off market?" "Are you going to demolish part of the building?" I also get myriad forms from various government agencies asking me for information about how much money I make or recent projects I've worked on and what the estimated time for completion is, etc. With all of these I pretty much assume they are asking questions in order to find a way to take more of my money or screw me over somehow. This is maybe not entirely fair, but I don't think it's a paranoid assumption either. I try to be as vague as possible. I get different economic surveys and economic census questionnaires. I generally ignore these because the upside of my answering the questions is zero and the downside is that they decide that the business isn't classified correctly or something and then I owe back taxes or my property tax assessment increases or the warehouse isn't zoned properly for the way we're using it or whatever. Better to just fly under the radar than be the subject of some government official's investigation.
  • I get the same audits from my insurance companies and with them it's definitely them trying to see if I owe more money. Workers' comp audits are great fun and they find new ways of screwing me every year. They redefine who needs to be covered by workers' comp so that it's as broad as possible. California is not a great place to do business.
  • Of course it's possible that the government just wants better data so they can help businesses thrive and grow the economy or share the (anonymized) data with academics so they can study economic trends, etc. This would be a great world to live in, but I don't think it's reality so I ignore and deflect as much as possible.
  • Not sure if I mentioned this one, but our Oakland warehouse, where all the staging stuff is located, is in a pretty ghetto area. There's always dumping on the corner and the garbage guys pick up the trash regularly....which is nice, but it just feeds the perception that it's a legal dumping ground. I've stopped people from dumping and they literally think that the city condones dumping on this corner. We've talked with the city and gotten a sign to put up. We gave them permission to put up a camera, but didn't get any follow-up on that one.
  • At any rate, the newest development is that there's a guy camping right in front of the warehouse. He has a tow trailer camper and he's set up shop with traffic cones and everything. Now he has taken over about 75% of the sidewalk with an awning and his belongings. He tied the awning to our building as well. The whole thing is just hilarious. It's funny to see a society where there are fewer and fewer rules that are enforced in any meaningful way. We're either regressing to the wild west or progressing to Road Warrior. I asked him and the other camper around the corner to not tie their shit to our building and both of them complied with that, so that's good. Lately, though, the guy is acting more wacky and starting fires at night (a neighbor keeps us abreast of the happenings) so it's not a very safe situation. I've put in several requests with the city app designed for reporting this. Yesterday we spoke with a police officer about it and he said he'd have a chat with the guy. Today was street cleaning and the guy was still there (I've been ticketed there before, but I'm guessing he won't suffer the same fate).
  • All this stuff is the natural result of this cock-eyed "thinking" that we have in this city. It's not just wokeness, though that's part of it - it's also the near disregard for authority and common sense. There's an elevation of ideas like equity and other woke buzz words over the basic needs of a society like rule of law and fiscal responsibility. In the fitness community there is a saying that you don't want to "major in the minors." In that context it means the guy who is all about getting the right amino acid supplements and buying the perfect kettle bell and wearing the best gear. Meanwhile he only works out once a week and eats too much dessert. Our city has done the same thing. They have a lot of extracurricular activities that sound great to them because they check the DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion)/woke buzz word checklists, but they don't know how to keep costs under control, pave the roads, and keep their citizens (and their property) safe. You gotta do the first thing before you can do the other stuff.
  • At this point I have zero hope that Oakland will do any of the basic stuff well any time soon. There seem to be too many systemic issues. Too many entrenched interests. Too much overspending and debt for too long. And the worst part is that so few of the people in power (or even candidates to be in power) are even aware of the ball that they should be keeping their eye on. They're totally oblivious.
  • Definitely been seeing an exodus taking place. The data supposedly doesn't support the CA exodus, but there's a lot of "anecdata" to the point where I have to invoke the Grouch Marx line: "Who are you going to believe - me or your own eyes?" It's clear that this is a shitty place to be in a lot of ways and a lot of people who can choose to leave are doing so. The people who are choosing to stay are generally in very nice areas and have good security systems. That's basically where we are. 20 years ago I'd watch videos from Russia and South Africa and Brazil on liveleak.com and so often they were of crazy road rage incidents or people attempting to defraud an insurance company by getting themselves purposely hit by a car or you'd see ambushes at people's homes and they'd pull into their gated driveway only to have two guys with guns on a motorcycle follow them into their property and there would be a shoot out or whatever. The ubiquity of dash cams and security cameras (because of a lack of social trust). The ubiquity of fraud and robbery...The extent to which people had to secure themselves and their property...Those were things that I was thankful we didn't have to deal with here. At least I didn't take it for granted, I guess. Unfortunately, here in Oakland, I think we're now closer to that than we are closer to how things were when I was growing up. Sad to have regressed as a society.
  • The steel man argument against this is that I'm just seeing this stuff more and it's gotten a bit worse, but not much. I see it more because I'm older and out and about more. NextDoor and the media play it up more. Seeing notifications from the Citizen app or NextDoor just amplify the perception that things are bad, but if I had the police scanner on when I was 10, then I would have had the same feeling back then. The FBI crime numbers are actually better now than they were in the 90s. I only care more now because I have multiple properties and I'm paying taxes, so it stings more, but quality of life issues are basically the same as before. And if I were a black man then I'd realize that things are a lot better now than they were before because the BLM movement has shifted awareness for the better in so many ways. It's only because I'm a white property owner that I think things are worse. And even if things are a little worse for white property owners, isn't that worth a bit more dignity for the unhoused? Property crimes against the rich are a sort of progressive taxation that occurs when society fails to do right by its poorest (actual argument I've heard).
  • Some truth in those arguments, but overall, I think things are getting worse.

  • 1/12/23 (15:46)

  • At this point I've spent more time responding to the allegations and emails and complaints from the guy who won't pay us, than I would have spent fixing any of the problems he brought up and won't allow us to fix. As long as the problems aren't addressed, he can claim (in his head) that we don't need to be paid. Awesome.

  • 1/10/23 (20:35)

  • I'm not a climate change denier. I think that it's real and it's caused mostly by humans. That said, it's not near the top of my list when it comes to problems I'm worried about society dealing with. I think we need to consider it and take some actions towards ameliorating the problem, but I don't think it will cause half the world's population to die in the next 100 years (a prediction I've heard from smart people). I don't think it's as important an environmental issue as clean water. I don't think it's as important an issue as the threats to democracy we're seeing around the world.
  • There are a few reasons I'm not an alarmist about global warming, while being an alarmist about other issues. Firstly, the models all assume that nothing changes (and things always do) and I'm always pretty skeptical of long-term models anyway. That's pretty straightforward. Long-term predictions tend to be quite wrong and I don't think this will be an exception, especially since so many people are aware of the issue.
  • The second reason is that I think we're relatively incapable of fixing issues of a political or social nature, but we're fairly capable of fixing engineering problems. So, if a problem can be solved by technological progress, then I'm much more optimistic about the problem being solved. But, if a problem is political (not technological) in nature, then I'm more worried about it being solved. So, our ability to discern between real and fake news? Worried. Our ability to engineer a fusion power future that dramatically decreases the impact of global warming? Less worried. There's a profit motive to fix this issue so I'm even further optimistic that it will be solved. There's a profit motive to continue with the status quo also, but I think that will decrease relative to the motive for new solutions as time goes on. Either because of people worrying so much, or because of the impact of global warming increasing the cost of the old way.
  • I haven't created a list of greatest problems facing humanity, but my impression is that many in the intelligentsia would place global warming in the top 3. I'm not sure it would crack my top 10.
  • Our new house/warehouse property is still waiting for people to do their job. We were waiting on the architect, then the city, and now the engineer. After that it will be the architect again and then the city and probably the architect and then the city and back and forth a while until we get an approval. In the meantime we've done some demo to gut the main building and I plan on getting some trash out of there this week. I sent a few of the guys there this afternoon to continue with demo and they told me the locks were broken. Apparently someone broke in and stole whatever they could. Luckily I didn't leave anything of great value behind so they only got away with a few hundred bucks worth of extension cords and some hand tools. I fucking hate this place. Meryl thought it would be good to give the Alameda cops a chance so we called them and they were very responsive. That's good news. Hopefully the cops doing their job in Alameda means we're less likely to have this stuff happen at the new place, but it's still the bay area and it's just a part of living here.
  • Can't recall if I told the story of my neighbor who was a high school student and had his prized Ford Mustang stolen from outside his house a few months back. Reported it to the cops and they didn't do anything. Someone on tik-tok said they found it a couple miles away so he went there and, sure enough, there it was just sitting parked on the street. He called the cops and they said they would send a cop over. 6 hours later he called them again and said they still had 160+ calls ahead of him so he should probably just go ahead and take the car back himself. So he did that and drove it home. At 3am the next morning, the cops knocked on his door to clear the case for him. Hilarious.
  • This isn't a one of a kind incident, either. Carlos, who works for me, said the same thing happened to his brother in law. He found his truck on the street after it had been stolen - and he just stole it back himself. My electrician had two vans stolen in the same week just a few months ago. A guy I used to have install flooring for us had his truck stolen a few weeks ago. There are countless local news stories about thefts from contractors. The new wrinkle is that the thieves are doing it in broad daylight and sometimes doing it with a gun.



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