TL;DR? Maybe You Should Have Read It

StonekettleStation on Facebook
That is the most common response I get from people who think they disagree with me. "No links. Write your argument for me specifically. I don't have time to read your articles." I love the way they expect me to spend time they don't have, as if I have their time and I'm hoarding it.

Many of the people that say this appear to have crafted this counter over years of dealing with disagreement. Having been confronted with a fact-based argument they couldn't refute in the past, they simply insist on the facts being presented to them concurrently, probably knowing that most arguments are far too complex to be communicated succinctly in a comment thread. When their opponent becomes angry and ignores them, they feel vindicated. They never realize that their inability to accept facts in evidence is the real problem, not their opponent's argument. That their opponent will not spend the time to hold their hand and lead them down the path to revelation somehow proves to them that they are right.

I have tried copying and pasting entire articles to comment threads in the past, and the resultant wall of text is then dismissed as Too Long; Didn't Read (TL;DR) I dismiss long, rambling walls of text (like this one) as TL;DR myself, so I get it. But that doesn't make them (or me) right. It means the reader isn't interested in the subject or  interested in (even afraid of) changing their mind about whatever it is. I think this is the most common answer. They are bored. They really aren't interested in the subject being discussed.

Now, imagine what the response would be if the bored person typing TL;DR really needed something, let's say their air was poisoned and they didn't believe it. They'd be dead before they figured it out. Or the other way 'round. What if they needed someone else to do a completely routine thing (like click a link and read a counter-argument) and the responsible person just couldn't be bothered. "Why yes, I can see that you are bleeding out, and you need me to apply pressure to that wound. But I don't want my hands to get all icky with your blood."

If you are wasting time on the internet, reading a well-crafted counter-argument is probably the best use of your time. You learn what your opponent thinks. You learn what your arguments weaknesses are. The most frustrating thing is knowing you have the facts on your side, and the emotional believer of the contrary won't even look at the facts for fear they might have to change their mind about something. It's those kinds of people that make me despair for the future.

Politics and religion. A majority of people will not think critically about either one. Now that the Republican party has merged the two into one, becoming the party of Christianism, wanting to establish a christian nation, they think they've combined their strengths when they've actually multiplied their weaknesses. Like the person breathing poisoned air and doesn't believe it, Republicans are blind to the threats they refuse to see. Here's hoping they don't take the rest of us down with them. 

Thank You! to TWD for Ending my Cable Addiction

April 4th, 2016 - RottenTomatoes posed the question what did you think of The Walking Dead season six finale?

I am thoroughly ambivalent about The Last Day on Earth. The episode didn't fit with the tenor of the rest of the season. It smacked of torture porn and marked the end of an unknown character, probably more than one character.  I'm waiting to see what happens next, for the first time in six seasons of loyal viewing, to decide if I'm still going to watch. More torture porn will make it not watching.

One of the other commenters observed to me I'm thinking that the season 5 finale marked a good point to end the series on a high note.
I've mentioned elsewhere that the Alien sequels ended with Aliens. That's right, there are only two Alien movies in my headcanon. Hicks & Ripley settled down and adopted Newt after arriving safely back on Earth. End of story. Having already written my own endings for popular fiction in the past, albeit in my own head, writing my own end to The Walking Dead (TWD) will not be a problem. They all died. End of story. The season 5 finale was more positive, but also less definitive. I really was wondering what would happen next after watching that finale, a feeling I'm completely lacking this time around.

Someone resurrected this zombie thread (pun intended) with a spam comment today and while I was reading back through the comments I noticed that the one after mine took the time to break down how the camera perspective meant Glenn was the guy being beaten to death with a baseball bat.

Beaten to death, with a baseball bat. Let that sink in for a few, because it is a wakeup call. One of the most popular shows on television ends its sixth season with one of the most loved characters on TV of the time possibly being beaten to death with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. We've come a long way from The Andy Griffith Show, just to mention another totally random show featuring a character that has a sheriff as its lead. Even if you compare TWD to Gunsmoke, the changes in America's viewing culture is quite shocking.

It also bears noting that there is a certain amount of fatalism inherent in shows like TWD. All of the characters will die unremarked by anyone around them, because it is a story about the zombie apocalypse. No one will be left to record their last words, because there will be no one to recount the story. This is above and beyond the fatalism of TWD comic book fans who already know how your favorite characters die in their comic books. A literalism that they attempt to write onto the screen with every passing episode.

I can safely say, with not a hint of spoilers, the death wasn't Glenn's as the other commenter described. Not that Glenn didn't die anyway. As I said, no spoilers. I binge-watched season seven on Netflix this past month, prepping to binge watch the final season this fall. Seventh season's viewing numbers were so low that AMC decided to end the show on a high note and wrap it up with a second season of Negan vs. Rick.

I should thank TWD for making me finally cut the cable. Within a month of watching the season seven opener, the Wife and I decided we didn't need to spend money on cable television that we weren't going to be watching anyway. With BBC America moved to the even more expensive tier of cable subscription than the one we had, there was nothing on the TV we were overpaying for that we wanted to watch. Aside from which, it was less jarring to watch TWD on Netflix as a binge event, and not paying for cable TV has saved me a couple of thousand dollars by now.

On the subject of the eighth and final season of TWD, I'm having a real hard time believing Negan isn't dead yet, much less figuring out why anyone would follow the son of a bitch anywhere. My experience over the last two years of TWD has shown me that you can't take comic books and make videos out of the stories and characters directly (as if the DC movies are not proof of this already) it is better to let people who understand the medium of television write for that medium themselves.

TWD on G+
The promo for the mid-season opener popped up on my feed yesterday asking,
2 weeks left. Is the Kingdom ready for one last stand? #TWD
Of course, the pro and con trolls then proceeded to make hay over their various opinions on the subject of TWD in general and not the final half of the final season in particular, including one particular troll who threatened bodily harm to the naysayers. I haven't watched the first half yet, not being willing to spend actual cash on seeing it before the season is finished. But opinions? I have a few.

I started with Threatening  us with injury is a punishable crime; as is everything Negan does in the show. I don't accept that the character of Negan is realistically drawn or portrayed. I don't accept that people will simply do as they're told because they are afraid. There are too many examples of the contrary being true throughout history. The Governor was far more believable as a character, which means TWD has done the evil leader thing already in the show, and done it better previously.

Religious zealots who adopt labels like savior, groups that submerge the self, like Fight Club and Tyler Durden, they have a certain way of speaking and thinking, at least on the screen. This is important if you want your audience to come along with you for the ride. The first Negan's, the first saviors our heroes meet in TWD? They displayed this behavior in a vague sense. It was a nice teaser, as far as teasers go.

Unfortunately it was a tease that was completely lost when we meet the Negan himself. He is no Tyler Durden. He doesn't suffer to show his followers his dedication to the cause. The Negan is just another dictator. Kill him and the cult of personality dissolves because the power, the person, is lost. The problem of repercussions is negated if the saviors fall apart without him. The more complex, religiously motivated cult-like group is probably what the comic portrays (I don't know or really care) but the writers for the television show wrote something else.  Negan grooms his people to blindly follow him. Without him they are nothing. This is just basic character motivation here. It isn't hard to follow.

No, Negan would have been dead the first time he handed Rick the bat. Be honest. There wasn't enough saviors there to do anything except die. The show has been torture porn since the end of season seven. I have only continued watching out of vague curiosity as to how the writers will complete the story. I ceased caring about the characters somewhere about minute 45 of Last Day on Earth. I ceased caring out of  a sense of self-preservation. It was clear through the course of that episode that the writers were purposefully tormenting the viewers with the death of their beloved characters. I don't have time for that kind of mental illness.

If you are enjoying torture porn, you might want to ask yourself why? It's a question everyone watching should ask themselves, and at least be truthful with yourself about the answer. What the answer implies is between you and your conscience alone. After all, no one will remember why you died in the zombie apocalypse. They won't even remember that you lived.

Online comments reposted to the blog, with an addendum. "It is always now on the internet"

Evidence of Society

When was the last time you stalked prey, ran it down and then ate it? That's not a realistic question, is it? I mean silly, right? I'll skip over asking if you've crafted your own weapons with which to hunt game, I know most people have not and the creation of the most basic tools an individual can make is a skill that vanishingly few people can exhibit. When was the last time you planted seeds, watched them grow, and then harvested the crop? Well, all of us have probably tended a garden in our lifetimes. Agriculture is in just about everybody in some way. There is something real about digging in the dirt and watching plants grow. Something very zen and rewarding about the entire process. However, gardening is definitely not the same as growing everything you need to survive all by yourself year in and year out.

Why am I asking these questions? Because that is what it means to be truly self-sufficient. To be able to produce the food you require independently. To be able to create all of the tools and clothing you require to survive in any climate in any region of the world. If I were to ask you about building your own shelter, even fewer people would understand just how difficult that process and others are. They would be clueless as to just how many people are required to create the many things we take for granted. Take for granted (i.e. an entitlement) especially in the US and other developed countries.

TED, Thomas Thwaites, How I Built a Toaster from Scratch

I have heard the challenge, repeated many times over my years in libertarian circles, to prove the existence of society. It is almost a mantra to some individualists, and I know there are survivalists out there who are convinced they could live on their own indefinitely. Some of them even can do it, I'm sure, but the number of people who could do it are a vanishingly small fraction of a percentage point of the entire human population currently living on Earth.

Coming from the other direction, the number of people the Earth could support if everyone had to live a hunter-gatherer life is probably less than one billion people. I haven't seen anyone do a back of the envelope calculation on that in several years, so my number is off I'm sure. The point is that the number of people the world can support in a primitive lifestyle is smaller than the number of people our established technology can support. The systems built and maintained over centuries by people who just want to see their children have it easier than they did, to be able to survive without having to claw their way through every day wondering if they'd make it through the next day.

The nine-to-fiver who complains about the cost of his latte has no clue, none at all, just how many people who had to labor just to get him his coffee with milk in a container that he could just throw away when he's had enough caffeine to keep him alert. And he gets that tasty beverage in exchange for a promissory note, a debt instrument, money, that the retailer then passes back down the chain eventually to the field workers in a far away country that actually touch the soil and grow the coffee that he thinks he paid too much for.

All of this, the high numbers of people, the ease of access to goods and services, the ability to do some task divorced from producing sustenance for yourself directly and still be fed, clothed, sheltered? All of it is evidence of society. Money is evidence of society, all by itself. Money is a socialist system, a system that exists because there are others to trade with in the first place. Without the group's agreement, you'd still be running down prey like your ancient ancestors did, and hoping that the animal didn't injure you before you killed it.

Watching the seventh season of The Walking Dead, I was struck by the notion that the entire group still wears clothing that doesn't visibly disintegrate when they move. Seven years on, they still aren't spinning and weaving thread and cloth. Patching shirts and jackets. For that matter the vehicles still run after being essentially without maintenance on the side of the road for years. Gasoline still burns even though (as anyone who has experience with small engines can attest) you're lucky if you can get a lawn mower engine to start after it's been sitting idle through one winter. Lucky to get it started because the fuel itself is unstable and will degrade over time. Rick and Carl and the rest of the crew? They'd be walking or riding horses everywhere by now because the fuel to run modern vehicles can't be easily created without a vast infrastructure of technology that very few people understand.

That's television, you say? Of course it is. It's fantasy. And so is the notion that any of us are truly self-sufficient. None of us can replicate even the most simple of machines that we rely on daily, and yet we delude ourselves into thinking that we are capable and independent. Rational actors on a vast, mathematically predictable stage. That ability to delude oneself in that fashion? That too is evidence of society. Flat Earthers are a modern invention, and absolute proof of society's existence. You don't question that the Earth is round when you watch the people who will bring back your dinner tonight sail over the horizon to catch fish. The curvature of the Earth is as evident as the gnawing hunger in your belly.

I first thought about writing a post like this one after listening to this episode of Freakonomics,

I was inspired by the complexity of the process of creating one of the oldest tools modern man utilizes, the simple wooden pencil. As the episode goes into, the pencil is hardly simple at all. It took generations of tinkering and tweaking to create the object that you and I think of as a pencil when we say the word "pencil". This TED talk portrays the complexity of the subject more quickly,

TED Ed: Small Thing Big Ideas, Why the Pencil is Perfect

Unfortunately the video is hosted on Facebook only. I apologize for the cludgy video interface design that comes along with that; the parts that aren't directly copied from YouTube, I mean. Modern technology is so much not like the pencil. Facebook's baldly abrasive and ham-handed attempts to acquire all internet traffic for itself are a hallmark of poor design, but that is a different subject for some other day. The subject for today is how the simplest of objects that we take for granted, a toaster, a pencil, are beyond the ability of any one person to put together and have work properly. So much for the dreams of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Would you mind passing me that cup of tea, please?

A Tale of Two Cities

I remember exactly when I first noticed it: my first year in town, wandering around the heart of the city, unwittingly crossing through Red River and Sixth Street. It was an immediate shift. Property value sank, and the sidewalks were now populated entirely with black and brown faces. Casting my gaze back west and seeing all that pallid skin bumbling around in merry debauchery, participating in all those Austin promises, made me feel a little guilty. At that moment it was clear that Austin had some unfortunate secrets, because no matter how liberal or progressive your reputation might be, a history of segregation will always rear its ugly head. - Luke Winkie writing for
A house fire destroyed a boarding house just before New Years here in Austin, leaving six people homeless in some of the harshest weather this area has seen in several years. If you look at the images of the house in this news article, it is clear that hoarding was more than a problem in the house before the fire. The structure itself violates several current building codes, or would have violated them if it had not been grandfathered in under the rules that were being enforced at the time of its construction and/or annexation into the city of Austin. A filled construction dumpster in the driveway is a clear sign of unresolved problems within the structure that a devastating fire probably only makes worse for the people involved.

Not satisfied with the fact that there will soon be new construction at this once poverty-stricken address in a nearby neighborhood, one of the recent purchasers of Austin real estate took exception to the state of the house as it currently sits smoldering. This is understandable to me. It is understandable because house prices in Austin are ridiculously inflated, and I'm sure this purchaser paid far too much for his property. There was no price correction in Austin after the real estate bubble burst in the rest of the U.S. There was the briefest of pauses in price inflation, and then the prices just continued to go up, rising to levels that frankly have me thinking seriously of renovating and flipping my home so that I can retire somewhere a little quieter. Somewhere with horses, so that the Wife will have something to do with her time since no one will pay her a wage to do work in Austin anymore.

The homeowner's objections are also understandable because I have an issue with the rental house across the street from me. I've told a running joke about it over the decades that I've lived here, and the joke has only gotten darker over the years. Considering the downward spiral it has been in since starting as an owner-occupied dwelling in the early nineties, I suspect there will be cannibals living there soon. Cannibals, because there isn't much lower for it to go on the occupant quality ladder. Cannibalism is bound to occur there at some point in the near future.

However, several of my neighbors on Nextdoor insist on calling the boarding house that burned to the ground a crack house. Repeatedly. I have to say, that's just uncalled for. After all, it's not the nineteen-eighties anymore. We're well past Reagan and his cloaked racial references like crack houses. Perhaps these new property owners don't know the history of East Austin, the history of Austin in general? As a long-time resident of the neighborhood, I'd like to offer a few pointers to these new Austin residents, in the spirit of the New Year.

Austin American-Statesman
Let's start with a big picture, historically. Austin was officially racially segregated until 1963. There were specific redlined neighborhoods where people of color were allowed to buy property. Those neighborhoods are well South of the area of Austin that we live in, but if you add in the Great Wall that separates East Austin from West Austin, the distance South that the redlining occurs becomes almost inconsequential. East of Interstate 35 was long considered the dumping zone for housing projects and industrial uses, and any in-depth analysis of land use in Austin will reveal that East Austin carries the brunt of the load of poverty for the entire city to this day.

While you're calculating, don't forget to add in the depression on living standards that the Mueller airport noise levels inflicted on the surrounding areas until very recently. That is crucial to understanding the change that is occurring on the East side of Austin today. With the removal of the airport out to Bergstrom, and the removal all the airport's associated industrial businesses, there was suddenly a wealth of under-utilized property right in central Austin. The re-purposing of this property continues even eighteen years later. The old boundaries of the airport are all but erased, but you can still see the blighting effects of landing and take-off zones near the airport if you look hard enough.

The historical racism that stifled central East Austin's growth, now lifted, the industrial uses and noise pollution of a central airport, now lifted, the big picture of why the gentrification and the pushing out of old minority owners in East Austin should become obvious. The two cities that were Austin are being forced to become one city, and the new city of Austin doesn't have room for people who don't have more than a quarter million dollars to sink on a home. Especially not in central Austin neighborhoods that used to be beacons for the average American middle class lifestyle.

Just to the North of the old Mueller airport site sits some of what was the most overlooked, undervalued property in central Austin. It was overlooked and undervalued when I first started living in the area about thirty years ago but it has now been discovered and is probably overvalued. I look to see a market correction in the near future. Friends of mine in the construction industry bought in to real estate at the peak of the last boom in the eighties. They lost half their investment in the subsequent S&L collapse. I expect there is another one of those nasty surprises just waiting around the corner for most of Texas somewhere in the future. We dodged that bullet in 2008, but the growth that Texas is experiencing can't be maintained forever. Something has to give, eventually.

The house fire that started this article is in one of those quiet little neighborhoods that used to be havens from the bustling inner-city of Austin, protected by the vast bulk of Mueller from central East Austin's old redlined districts. The closest of these neighborhoods to the Eastern edge of Mueller is Pecan Springs-Springdale. This is the neighborhood where the boarding house stood.

Pecan Springs-Springdale was two neighborhoods originally, ergo the name. There are pockets of very nice houses in this neighborhood, surrounded by marginal commercial ventures and apartment houses, especially along the main arterial boulevard of Manor Road that carries the bulk of the traffic North/South through the area, between the two neighborhoods of Windsor Park and Pecan Springs-Springdale. The intersection at Rogge and Manor, near where the fire occurred, has always been problematic. That intersection marks the boundaries between three distinct areas and uses, one corner of which is a vacant lot. That property is an investment opportunity, for anyone taking notes that still wants to live here.

We rented a house in Windsor Park for about seven years before buying our current home. We rented it for less than $500 a month if you can believe that. The houses in that neighborhood are generally smaller and sit on smaller lots than surrounding neighborhoods. They were built for and bought by people with even less money than the college professors that my current neighborhood catered to. Backed up to the original Austin shopping center, Capitol Plaza, and bordered originally on the South by the main runway of Mueller and Fifty-first Street, Windsor Park was a working-man's neighborhood. It's hard to see that now since most of the property there was snatched up and renovated first, before Mueller moved.

The wife and I realized that the time to buy a home was now or never as we watched the neighborhood change around us, so we gave up renting and purchased a home in University Hills, a smaller neighborhood further East, but not so close that you could see or smell the landfill still operated by the city further out highway 290. University Hills was built to appeal to the growing number of educational professionals that needed to live near the University of Texas and the price of its real estate has ballooned significantly since we moved here.

People looking for a real estate investment should be well acquainted with this fact, that housing prices are at an all-time high in Austin, since it would be part of proper due diligence to have looked at historical prices for the area before investing. Some of the original residents still live in our neighborhood, and I bought my house from one them twenty years ago. There aren't too many left these days, but their investment of $40-60k when they bought their places back in the nineteen-sixties would not compare favorably with the investments people are laying down now to get in this neighborhood. Some of us still don't have that kind of money and we are being forced out of our neighborhoods by a growing number of people who do.

not very neighborly
Which brings us full circle back to the transplant complaining about a boarding house he has to drive by on his way to work that burned down having once been purportedly used for drug sales. The question I want to ask people like him is, how do you live with yourself? How do you ignore the underpasses in Austin littered with homeless people, even in freezing weather? Let me put it this way; I apologize to you for your neighbors, neighbors who were clearly having a hard time paying to remain in a neighborhood that has left them behind. Now that they are homeless, I'm sure the weather will get on with killing them faster so that their property can be better utilized by the next owner and not be a drag on your property in the future. That way you can flip that property you sank every penny you had into and make a profit. How does that sound?

Don't mind us long-term residents, the people who just lived and worked here over the course of a lifetime. We certainly won't notice when you are gone, any more than we noticed the last five people who owned that property before you. If you think I'm being too harsh, then I suggest you get out and help the homeless in your area, right now. Now is the time when homelessness hurts the most, when we lose the most people to exposure. If you have the quarter-million dollars to blow on an investment, then you certainly have enough scratch to make the difference in a homeless person's life. Maybe you should re-prioritize your to-do list and see if you can make the world a better place for someone else. They'll probably thank you for it and it might even be more rewarding than that profit you are lamenting you won't make.