Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Update: What I'm Reading

I probably should have done most of this yesterday, but to be honest it was a busy week, and so I sort of threw yesterday's Friday Mad Science together all at the last minute.  Eh.  At least I got it out there.  That's all you care about, right?

I have this theory that it doesn't matter what I post, as long as I post every day, traffic on the blog will keep increasing.  Fact is, I have to ingrain in you the habit of checking here to see what I've written.  But as long as there's something here to see when you check it out, the habit-forming process ought to keep working.  That's the theory, anyway.

So here goes...

I read this on the train ride home yesterday.
It was both inspiring and more than a little
This week's Economist magazine had an article in which they predict that Mexico is the new China.  Because wages are rising in China, and Mexico is closer to America, and all things being equal, American companies will probably find it a little easier to work with a Mexican manufacturing base than with one that is located on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.  'Course, this is the same magazine that also said that the Philippines is the world's next Asian economic powerhouse, so I don't know that I'm ready to necessarily drink all of the Kool-Aid on this one, but it was still an interesting article.

I told this to my boss, and he responded that he's skeptical.  Bottom line--and based on exactly zero evidence, so take it for what it's worth--his perception is that the Chinese education system is better than the one in Mexico, and the country itself certainly seems to be a little more stable than Mexico does, and so if it's a battle for the hearts and minds of corporate American manufacturing, those factors will reign supreme.  Heh.  I told my boss that I don't think corporate America cares about any of that at all.  Fact is, American workers are more productive that workers oversees, but even if (for example) they're twice as productive, they're still at least five times more expensive, making it a massive net gain to outsource one way or another.  And that's the bottom line, period.  So if moving operations to Mexico is--on balance and all costs considered--cheaper than leaving them in China, then that sound you hear will be Ross Perot's famous whoosing noise as jobs rush from China to Mexico.

Regardless, I think corporate America has proven that the actual skill of its workers is irrelevant.  If they can get a guys who's half the price but can do 3/5ths of the work, then you're ass is gonna get laid off.  Really, the only way to keep your job is to be twice as expensive but three times more talented.  See, because that helps the bottom line, and ultimately that's all that matters.  I should also perhaps point out, on a personal note, that it helps to be able to do something that we actually need domestically and which cannot be outsourced because it's a local service.

The Economist also published an article this week--I couldn't find the link--that talked about China's growth rate relative to the amount of foreign direct investment and domestic state-owned investment occurring in the country, and bottom line, what I hadn't realized is that there's a Hell of a lot of it going on--and perhaps far more than is actually warranted.  In fact, lots of observers are starting to think that the whole thing is badly overbuilt.  It ought to be interesting to see how that plays out if that is, in fact, the case.  I'd never considered the consequences of a Command Economy that continues to invest in itself beyond the needs of the international market, but I mean, that's obviously not going to end well, right?  This was why the Soviet Union could never actually move forward with its Five Year Plans.

In any event, 2013 is looking to be an interesting year.  Let's hope it's more in the way that a good movie is interesting and less in the way that a train wreck is.  The scary thing, at least to me, is that as screwed up as the U.S. is, it still looks better--much better!--than most of the rest of the world, both economically and in terms of governance.  Take a minute to wrap your head around that!

I don't understand what these Congressional Republicans are thinking on this Fiscal Cliff thing.  These guys are driving a Fiat and playing chicken with a guy who's driving a Main Battle Tank.  

This one's a classic, right?
I mean, what does Obama care if the country goes off the Cliff?  He wants to raise taxes and cut spending some without hitting entitlements too badly.  Guess what?  If the country goes off the Fiscal Cliff, that is exactly what will happen.  Plus, it's not like the guy ever has to run for re-election again.  After this, he's done one way or another.  So at this point he can pretty much do what he wants, and we're just gonna have to live with it.  That's what happens when you re-elect a strong sitting President, and his small majority in the Upper House of Congress actually increases.  

Anyway, polls show that if the talks fail, most voters seem to understand that it's going to be because only one side came to the table ready to bargain.  The other side seems to be deluding themselves because, bottom line, they're afraid of Grover Norquist.  Why are they afraid of Norquist?  Well, this is the part that I don't understand.  Norquist is an asshole who's never been elected to anything, and it doesn't look like he's some kind of super-rich guy, so...  Why can't we cut this guy loose?  I really, really do not get it.

Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and make a deal.  Because if you don't, the other guy's gonna bend you over and ram his version of the deal straight up your ass.  If you're a Republican--like I am--this is the face of the world as 2012 comes to an end.  You can hate it if you want to, but strong words, prayers, and principled stands won't change anything now.  Which means that now, finally, it's time to actually deal with what's really going on--before it's too late.

Ugh.  Why am I still not betting on reality?


Finally, if you've been following my D&D Next Playtest Feedback, and you want to play along at home, the thread for that, on the official D&D Community Forum, is right here.  Surprisingly, at least to me, the consensus view is that my experience with Clerics has been a total outlier.  Most folks, apparently, have seen more Clerics rather than less.  

Weird, right?  Well, what do I know?

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