CNET has amongst the most inept writers of the tech world but their blogger at The Digital Home is a gem. What a dork! In a recent post, he moans about his lousy experience during the last days of Circuit City — duh! as if the notoriously incompetent salesmen would all of a sudden pull out MBA skills just before their company goes bye-bye…

At the beginning of his long, rumbling, pompous, indigestible prose — even before he gets to meet one of the poor employees — a couple of a paragraphs stand out where the bore shares with us his horrid needs and anguishes and his internal conflicts:

I need a new HDTV. Usually, I buy my HDTVs from Amazon.com because I’ve found it has the best prices and delivery service. But since I knew Circuit City was going out of business, I decided to make a trek down there to see if there were any hidden gems at a good price. Signs said the TVs were 30 percent off, and when I looked around, I realized the inventory wasn’t picked over, as I had feared. There were some nice Sony LCDs on the shelves, as well as Panasonic plasmas.

I was drawn to the Panasonic TH-58pz800u, which was on sale for approximately $2,600 at the store. I own the 50-inch model of that plasma and couldn’t be more pleased with its quality. So when I saw it offered at such a discount, the wheels started turning and I was thinking about how I was going to be able to fit it into the back of my SUV.

I mean! We are on the verge of a worldwide financial collapse; employees get kicked out of their jobs without consideration; families lose their homes, and this young man tries to get us interested in how he’s going to load a $2600 58-inch plasma TV into his SUV to replace his freakin’ 50-inch?!

Who the heck is going to read that? My boss?

These are the comments I left on his column…

I have never seen such beautiful poetry. Your art lifts up our spirits in these times of need. When the world is crumbling around, you continue to hold high the best of the American values. Thank you.

- Homo Consumerus

 

Years of enjoyment. Never obsolete.
Years of enjoyment. Never obsolete.

 

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Pierre left for the office today, and 4 hours later, he walks back in through the door. Why did Pierre return early?

“I got laid off today” he says, walking through the hall, going about his busyness.

That’s just great news. Pierre, the guy who only 3 months ago moved from San Francisco to Sebastopol in order to be close to his job, no longer has a job.

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We moved for the stability, and because it’s a good place to raise kids. But most of all, we moved here because Pierre had been guaranteed one year of job security by his company. It wasn’t like we were on tenterhooks taking precautions should Pierre get the axe (like so many are these days). Then a mere three months and $12,000 in relocation expenses later, Pierre is told to pack up and leave. Bye Pierre, you’re on your own, dood!

 

“Can we buy organic with food stamps?”
“Can we buy organic with food stamps?”

 
The lay off itself does not upset me — economy changes — things happen. The one thing that does is that Pierre was laid off with only 2 weeks notice. No vacation pay. No severance package. No more insurance. Not even the computer that was given to him while on the job (not standard in the industry).

Manu & I dressed for the Women’s Shelter
Manu & I dressed for the Women’s Shelter

Okay, so we panic a little the first day and Pierre jumps on-line to research his options in creating time for us to live while he gets another job. He finds several possibilities. Yay!

 

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So, 2 weeks to find another job, insurance & doctors for the kiddos in another county, 2 weeks to move, lose $3500 in deposit, find a place to live, come up with another $6000 of move in cost out of our fairy dust butt holes.

 

On an aside and calmer note, Pierre and I aren’t too worried because we realize that we’re fortunate enough to have all the advantages that our age, education, resources and our continual good luck bring us.

Pierre is getting responses from good companies, and I’m trying to get my work in galleries. I like Sebastopol. I like being a stereotype family in a quaint little town with a little nanny, a house cleaner, babies, dog parks, and a main street that really is called “Main St”. How fucking awesome is all that? Now we might be homeless in a month.

Well then, as Kurt Vonnegut says, “Hi, Ho”.

As Edith Piaf says, “La Vie en Rose”

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My friend Daniel pointed to that chart from Time Magazine showing the unemployment figures from the past 6 recessions in the US. The current recession is in blue (click for a larger image).

Scary, eh?
Scary, eh?

 

Just today, forecasters announced that they expect the unemployment rate, currently at 7.6%, to hit a peak of 9% this year. “Even in the best-case scenario, with the recession ending sometime in the second half of this year, employment conditions will be tough.” By simply extrapolating the curve, here is what it gives.

It hurts, eh?
It hurts, eh?

 

Now, continue to read the same article and towards the bottom, they say that they expect the unemployment rate to hit 10% next year. This time, we are completely out of the charts!

Everybody for himself!
Everybody for himself!

 

My comments on Daniel’s blog to the first chart were:

If you draw the tangents to the curves, you can see how the declines (and in a large degree the recoveries also) became less and less steep over time in each one of the 5 last recessions. The growing size of the US economy and the interconnections with the rest of the world may have played a role to damp down the crises (a corollary being that modern morasses might not be as deep as they used to but we stay in it longer).

Now I find it worrisome that the current recession is plunging as steeply as the steepest one from the 1970’s, knowing that we (the US) are taking the rest of the world down with us and there isn’t anybody else to cushion the fall. We might very well still be in it in 5 years from now. Or 10. Thank you, George Bush!

After looking at the last chart, I can smell at least 5 more years of merde.
Or maybe, it’s just time to change the kids…
We’ll still be in it when they outgrow their diapers, for sure!
 

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It’s becoming worse by the day! A particularly bleak report from the San Francisco Chronicle, under such titles as “A global calamity” and “Banks are in denial“, now quotes economists warning that “Americans can expect unemployment to reach 11 or 12 percent“. 12 percent!? Let’s extrapolate some more! Here is what 12% looks like:

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Journey to the Center of the Earth

 

As a note to my European friends, you have to consider that an unemployment rate of 12% in America isn’t at all like the same rate in France or elsewhere. Here, it really is catastrophic! The unemployment benefits are extremely meager and expire after 4 months. In the San Francisco Bay Area, you can’t even pay the rent with what you get, plus you don’t have health coverage when you are jobless (or you have to pay for your own: $1000/month for a family of four + $50 per doctor visit).

A severe recession in America means that entire families are thrown to the street. It’s one of the things that still baffles me about the country and I don’t know what their God and their Jesus think about that. Sometimes I ask a Republican but their response is always the same. They sigh and say with a deeply empathetic voice: “I know… It breaks my heart so much to see these poor people… I pray to God they’ll find a solution… I’m sure they will…” but then they turn around and go vote for the same guys who maintain that the country needs to give more money to the rich in order for it to trickle down to the poor. Dupes. Heartless dupes.

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Pierre & I drive through the Castro District in SF, and often we imagine what it would be like for a young guy who has grown up in an insular town, who has had to hide his sexuality or suffer torment and violence, to arrive for the first time in SF and walk through the Castro .

Clean as a middle aged man’s bottom.
Clean as a middle aged man’s bottom.

The sidewalks and thoroughfares of the district are a stage for anyone, particularly gays, to openly show some serious affection without fear of reprisal from the intolerant. You can even use philanthropic excuses to take off all your clothes and show off your hot pelt like these guys! (photo anon.)

Like half the stores and bars cater to the gay lifestyle with names like “Does Your Mother Know?” Or the “The Lookout”, all under a giganto, rainbow flag of pride blowing huge above the district.

Equality looks good in white.
Equality looks good in white.

I was lucky enough to be driving by the court house the day after the same-sex marriage bill passed. I jumped out and headed toward these 2 men with my camera. The dominant queen bee (on the right) was yelling to the crowd to be grateful to live today in the present when minorities and alternative lifestyles are being more and more accepted. He then laid a romantic kiss on his stubbley love kitten, and they paraded across the street towards the court house to begin their constitutionally recognized life together. (Though I wonder what he’s yelling now that Prop 8 passed.)
 

Tastes like Homo.
Tastes like Homo.

It’s fantastic to see different lifestyles and belief systems being more integrated - legally and otherwise into our society. I doubt however, that the makers of this here fine milk product, available at one time throughout the US, intended on marketing the taste of an actual homosexual. “Tastes Like Homo” Is sure to leave a queer taste in the mouths of their more conservative customer’s kisser.
I want to know, What DOES ‘homo’ taste like!?

And how does this all relate to Max & Emmanuelle? Well, it doesn’t, except that I’m thankful that they made their way into the world when major discriminations are illegal or are on the table for discussion. And I hope if either are gay, that by the time they are young adults…. our lovely country will have realized that the arguments for such discrimination are from the same old mill that churned out the propaganda that women were too weak… , blacks weren’t human enough… , and non-Christian believers were all going to hell. After the gays, who will be next in line to take the torch? I think it’s going to be the Athiests!

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A kiss is a kiss is a kiss… Max&Manu 4 months.
A kiss is a kiss is a kiss… Max&Manu 4 months.
part of the “real america”
part of the “real america”

Whenever I want me some good ideas for child rearin’, I look no further than to Alabama. Them folks always have something good cookin’ in the pot that I can easily adopt into my own life. And being that money is a scad tight for me and the Mr. now, I found just what I was lookin’ for.

Alabama has the recipe on how to feed men and women for an entire day on less than the price of a Coke and a bag of Fritos!

That’ll teach em!
That’ll teach em!

Alabama prisons have a law allowing sheriffs $1.75 per day to feed inmates*. If they can feed them for less, they pocket the left over money, and you know what? some of them crafty sheriffs are turning a profit.

See, Pierre and I have been feeding ourselves and offspring at a beautiful little San Francisco market a few blocks away with organic produce and free-range meats from local farmers. We didn’t think much of paying $8/lb for broccoli salads, or $9 for their cheapest bottle of red ’cause you know, these are the goodest deals at our little market.

Cool Hand discount
Cool Hand discount

But now I see the error of my ways. Like Alabama prisons, I can be feedin’ my family with a 2 dollar bill each with cha-ching left over. I just have to figure out where them Alabamian prisons are buying their food. I have a business resale license so I’m thinkin’ that buying wholesale may save me even more.

Pierre is gonna be proud. Feedin’ the whole family for well below $10 with change to spare so he can buy more Camembert. Damn, thanks for another great idea Alabama!

~———————————————~

 
* Alabama sheriffs feed inmates on $1.75 a day:
During the days of the chain gangs, Alabama passed a law that gave sheriffs $1.75 a day to feed each prisoner in their jails. More than 80 years later, most Alabama counties still operate under this same system, with the same $1.75-a-day allowance. Read on dear reader ….
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,356436,00.html

~———————————————~

 

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Earlier this month, a sheriff in Alabama actually went to jail for having pocketed more than $200,000 out of the inmate food stipend. How long did he stay locked up for? One night! It’s not specified what he was served for dinner or even if he ate at all. Last year, he and another sheriff paid $500 for half a tractor-trailer full of hot dogs, which were served to the inmates at each meal until they had been depleted. The sheriff is now back at work but the jail’s nutritionist lost his job - boohoo. If you want to congratulate the sheriff for his cost-saving acumen, please give him a call. Here is his contact page and two articles narrating his achievements:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/01/09/alabama.sheriff.jailed/
http://www.waff.com/global/story.asp?s=9640226
 
 

Alabama has many fans
Alabama has many fans
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Le week-end dernier, nous sommes allés à Babies’R'us. J’ai capturé pour la postérité cette photo que, je sais, une certaine Maman Grooms et un tas de copains ricaneurs n’auraient jamais cru voir un jour. Nous sommes arrivés au milieu de l’après-midi et repartis à 22 heures passées, de loin les derniers clients, et plus légers de 950 dollars.

Pour ceux d’entre vous qui ne vivent pas aux États-Unis, Babies’R'us est le supermarché où vous pouvez trouver tout ce dont vous avez besoin pour un bébé, sauf le bébé lui-même. Pour le bébé, c’est simple: suivez Brad et Angelina qui ont démarré la mode et allez vous servir au Vietnam. Ils en ont littéralement des tonnes là-bas à 25.000 dollars pièce (à peu près 4000 dollars la livre ou 5500 euros le kilo: c’est un business très profitable). Ça semble un peu raide à première vue mais au moins vous êtes assurés d’obtenir le modèle que vous voulez, en pleine santé et tout, pas comme la Fécondation In-Vitro à 15.000 dollars la passe et des taux de succès douteux.

Mais bon, ne laissons pas ces petites considérations gâcher notre plaisir: nous sommes revenus avec la voiture pleine à craquer de délices et nous sommes impatients d’avoir nos deux petites merveilles avec nous.

An Authentic Mother Hen
Une vraie mère poule
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Obama a décroché la nomination aujourd’hui, j’en suis très heureux et je ne suis pas le seul. J’ai voté pour lui de la manière dont les gens votent aux Etats-Unis: si vous aimez quelqu’un, vous lui envoyez de l’argent et si suffisamment de gens l’aiment autant que vous l’aimez, il peut s’acheter une bonne campagne et il se fait élire (en supposant que les machines à voter ne sont pas pipées contre lui).

Je suis très heureux pour le pays aussi. Quelque chose me dit que si un noir est arrivé où il est, c’est parce que beaucoup de gens étaient vraiment fatigués de ces “stupides hommes blancs” qui ont mené la nation en guerre, récession et déficits records pendant les dernières 8 années. Il est grand temps de changer.

Je me sens en partie aussi joyeux et inspiré que Jesse Jackson Jr observant à travers les mots de Martin Luther King que “l’arc moral de l’univers” se “courbera vers la liberté et la justice pour tous” le 28 août, le jour où Obama acceptera officiellement la nomination, exactement 45 ans après le fameux discours “I Have A Dream” (”J’ai un rève”).

Mais une autre partie de moi note tristement avec Warren Buffet, l’homme le plus riche de la planète (que l’on ne peut que difficilement taxer d’interventionniste), qu’il n’y plus grand-chose que les gouvernements puissent encore faire. Parlant de l’économie mondiale la semaine dernière, il déclara: “C’est le problème. Vous ne pouvez plus la diriger, vous ne pouvez plus la réguler. On ne peut pas remettre le génie dans la bouteille”. En gros, nous avons tout vendu aux multinationales et nous l’avons fait de telle manière que nous ne pouvons plus le récupérer.

Sinon une pensée qui me vient à l’esprit en tant que Français expatrié aux Etats-Unis, c’est qu’il va m’être beaucoup plus facile d’expliquer aux copains et à la famille que si j’aime vivre ici, et surtout à San Francisco, c’est parce que pour tous les abus et les dysfonctionnements de la société américaine - la plupart hérités d’idéalisations naïves d’un passé extrêmement conservateur, religieux, raciste et violent - il y a une minorité fascinante et très progressive d’artistes, inventeurs, penseurs et leaders qui agit en contrepoids et continue à mener le pays de l’avant. Ce à quoi Obama contribuera…

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Deux semaines au lit: $75.000
Deux semaines au lit: $75.000

Million Dollar Babies. Non, ça n’a rien à voir avec le film de Clint Eastwood. C’est juste l’histoire d’une simple famille Américaine de classe moyenne avec deux gosses qui sont nés un peu trop tôt.

Nous avons reçu la facture de l’hôpital pour les deux premières semaines que Merritt a passé au lit: 75.000 dollars. Ça fait plus de 5300 dollars par jour - 5100 pour le lit et 200 pour trucs divers (comme le cachet de vitamines à 15 dollars pièce, ou la joyeuse Conseillère en Allaitement qui entre dans la chambre, se présente “Bonjour, je suis Sally et je vais vous expliquer comment allaiter votre bébé” puis reste 10 minutes et vous charge 85 dollars pour le service).

Mais Merritt et restée 3 semaines et demi, donc le total pour la mise au lit devrait être de 130,000 dollars. Ajoutez les coûts d’une césarienne, 30.000 dollars, et son total atteint 160.000 dollars.

Maintenant si la chambre où Merritt était vaguement suivie coûte déjà 5 plaques la journée, combien ça sera pour les bambins ? On a fait un pari et demandé à l’infirmière: le résultat (accrochez-vous bien) se monte à 10.000 dollars par jour. Chacun, bien sûr.

Max & Manu sont nés à 29 semaines et demi et on peut facilement estimer qu’ils resteront 6 semaines dans le Service de Soins Intensifs pour Nouveaux-Nés. Total: 6 semaines * 7 jours par semaine * 10.000 dollars par jour * 2 bébés = 840.000 dollars.

Donc le Grand Total pour amener nos deux précieuses petites personnes sur une planète déjà surpeuplée se trouve être de 160.000 + 840.000. Et c’est…

BINGO ! UN MILLION DE DOLLARS !
Merritt et moi avons dégoté les Bébés à un Milion de Dollars !!!
 
et je peux vous assurer que nous les aimons déjà bien plus que ça…
- - - - - - - -

 

Heureusement, tout ça sera pris en charge par l’assurance de Merritt (ce n’est que justice, ces bébés, c’est son idée après tout - vous savez, les femmes…), une assurance publique qui vient de l’État de Californie et lui permet de choisir son docteur.

Maintenant imaginez si un programmeur comme moi couvert par Kaiser (une assurance privée qui est cotée comme moyenne en termes de soins mais la meilleure en Californie pour la couverture) décidait d’étendre sa couverture à sa femme et ses gosses… Combien cela lui coûterait-il ? Entre 800 et 1000 dollars par mois plus 7000 dollars par an. Total: jusqu’à 19.000 dollars par an. Et il ne serait même pas libre d’aller voir les meilleurs docteurs en ville. Il serait coincé avec les docteurs employés par la même compagnie qui assure sa santé (un peu comme si votre société d’assurance automobile employait une armée de mécaniciens pour maximiser ses profits). Beurk !

Et qu’est qui arrive si le programmeur ne peut pas raquer 20 plaques par an pour les soins de santé ? Facile: il reçoit la facture pour un million. Pourquoi les Américains ne veulent pas d’un système de santé organisé par des médecins et géré par le public plutôt qu’exploité par les conseils directoires de sociétés privées, ça me dépasse…

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Bad night, not a lot of sleep. Yesterday night, for the first time Merritt was having some really strong and worrisome contractions and I wake up with a lousy feeling. She calls me a few minutes later but I press the wrong button and her call gets forwarded to the voicemail. Here is the message she left me. If you have never heard a pregnant woman scared shitless of losing her kids, that’s what it sounds like.

(click the icon)

Merritt is shaking in bed
Merritt is shaking in bed

I arrive at the hospital too late. Merritt is still in the Operation Room; I wait for her in Recovery. When she comes on the gurney, her whole body is shaking because of the drugs. The room is hot and stuffy. There is a heat wave today with temperatures not seen in 40 years; records are falling all around the Bay Area. I don’t understand why a hospital doesn’t have a better air-con system. I don’t understand why the doctor is blabbing so much about the anesthesia but nobody gives details about the kids. Merritt is still stiff and shaking. No sleep, no food, no air, no kids and my girlfriend straight from The Exorcist… My head spins, I need to sit down.

20 minutes later, a nurse takes me to see the kiddos. We cross two doors with access codes and enter the Intensive Care Unit. It’s a long room full of medical gear and computer screens, lined on both sides with sci-fi pods - the incubators. As soon as we step in, I see about 20 feet away a dark mauve fetus lying completely still in an open incubator. The thing seems to be about the size of the puppets that anti-abortion demonstrators love to exhibit on TV, and as life-less. Lights are off, nobody’s around. A few feet behind, a group of doctors, all masked and in surgical gowns, fuss over another pod under bright spotligths. The nurse hesitates: “Er… stay here, I’ll go check.” She talks five seconds to the doctors, comes back, grabs me by the arm and leads me back out, explaining vaguely: “They’re not done yet, we’ll come back later”. From all I see, one’s dead, the other’s a guess, but if the nurse doesn’t feel like telling, I certainly don’t feel like asking. She tries to put up a smile; it’s a bit futile but I’m grateful.

Back to Merritt. She’s still got the shakes. Her lower body is numb, she can hardly move her feet, but her upper body is shaking as if she’d just had 20 espressos. I feed her ice cubes, apply wet clothes on her neck and fan her with a cardboard sheet to keep her temperature down. Half an hour later, the docs come in: “Everything’s fine, they’re both hooked up now”. Wow! Phew!

Eraserhead
The little screams of Baby “A”

Back to the pod room, I finally get to take a peek up-close. The nurse claims they’re fine I ‘m not sure I believe her: two small fetuses strapped to the bed with velcro bracelets, struggling to breathe with pipes, wires and tubes coming out of their mouth, plugged into their umbilical cords or attached to the arms and feet. I don’t want to give them names yet. They’re not finished. Baby “A” cries weakly. Baby “B” looks like he’s not going to see the end of the day.

Manu at 2 hours
Manu at 2 hours

 

Max at 2 hours
Max at 2 hours

 

Merritt & Manu
Merritt & Manu

Two hours later, Merritt is feeling better, she can leave the Recovery Room. Of course, we are not going to take her directly to her bedroom. The nurse and I push her bed through across the hallways to the pod room and she finally gets the see the babies. “I can’t believe how tiny are these things!” I tell her. She replies sternly: “They’re not things anymore, they’re little people!” And she’s right, they’re not “A”, not “B”, not “things” anymore… Welcome Max & Manu.

I stop by the house in the afternoon. A quick check on the web shows me that the kiddos’ numbers are in fact perfectly normal, their condition is fine. 29 1/2 weeks, 1300 grams: It’s almost a no-brainer nowadays. So much relief. A bit later, Merritt calls with more good news. It’s starting to sink in now, the joy of being a dad. I check my phone at a red light on the way back to the hospital. It opens on the Yahoo News page with a big rainbow flag: “Supreme Court overturns gay marriage ban”. “Yes!!!”, I scream. I immediately turn left to go through the Castro, the gay district of San Francisco. Everybody’s out celebrating, laughing, smiling, kissing. What a symbol to have our kids born in an America where people are finally free to marry whomever they love, an America where the President might soon be a wise, thoughtful, competent, articulated and brilliant young black man. I feel waves of joy and I am immensely proud.

May 15th, 2008. The happiest day in San Francisco since 1849.
May 15th, 2008. The happiest day in San Francisco since 1849.

 

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bushplant.jpgJe suis si fier d’être Américain aujourd’hui ! Une association menée par “Chicken John”, un des bons copains de Merritt et ancien candidat pour la mairie de San Francisco, a décidé d’honorer l’héritage de notre président de la manière la plus appropriée. Si tout va bien, un référendum sera proposé pour renommer la station d’épuration des eaux de San Francisco en “Usine d’égouts George W. Bush”. Le nouveau nom prendra effet, n’en doutons pas lors de célébrations locales hautes en couleurs, le jour même où il quittera ses fonctions.

[link]

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