Postal Service shouldn’t be losing money

Posted in politics with tags on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

The news is that the United States Postal Service had a third quarter loss of $2 billion.

Many think the Post Office is simply a losing proposition. The opposite is true. Revenues for the USPS are up overall 2.2%! Package deliver revenue rose 6.6%. Standard mail revenue was up 5.1%.

So you ask, if the Post Office is doing so well, why are they doing so poorly?

The answer is Congress. They just don’t have a clue. For instance, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) said, “The Postal Service’s latest reported loss illustrates the urgent need for postal reform to prevent a taxpayer funded bailout of the Postal Service. Unfortunately, some in Congress still have not come around to the need to allow the struggling institution to right size itself. In fact, just last week, 22 senators asked for a renewed moratorium on mail processing facility consolidations, consolidations that would enable the Postal Service to save hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”

Even Issa doesn’t get it. Or he’s deliberately ignoring the truth. The Post Office should be breaking even or even making a small profit, but it isn’t.

Why? Is it because Congress won’t let them downsize?

No! Its because the Postal Service is the only government agency that has to PREFUND its retiree health benefits under a 2006 law (which coincidentally is when the USPS started losing money). The Postal Service has to prefund those benefits to the tune of about $5.8 billion a year.

No other public or private entity is affected by that law — only the Post Office. All other government and most private companies have a “pay-as-you-go” system, whereby they pay the premiums as they are billed.

Because of this burdensome law, the Postal Service has operated at a loss 21 of the past 23 quarters. And those two quarters were when Congress rescheduled the prefunding payments!

So you have to ask yourself Why? Why is the Postal Service being singled out?

And why is Congress too stupid to realize they caused this mess in the first place?

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Parker 45 Flighter or Special GT?

Posted in fountain pens, geek on Monday, August 11, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

So I’m sort of on a binge with fountain pens, having purchased several since I refurbished my vintage Esterbrook.

Recently, I picked up what was listed on eBay as a Parker 45 Flighter, made in the UK. I probably spent more than I should have. But who knows, maybe not. I’m not exactly sure what they go for, nor do I know how to age one. But it’s a nice brushed stainless steel with gold accents and a black cabochon on the cap crown (and similar looking ones on Amazon seem to go for twice what I paid).

Parker 45 Special GT Flighter

Parker 45 Special GT Flighter

The black cabochon, if my research is up to snuff, might actually make this a 45 Special GT, the last 45 update before they retired it in 2006.

The nib is partially hooded, which gives the pen a sleeker look. It’s also a gold color, but I don’t know if its actually 14K gold or just some sort of plating. My research says that when introduced in 1960 it did have a 14K gold nib, but that was then, this is now.

Black section with hooded nib

Black section with hooded nib

Close-up of nib

Close-up of nib

Unlike my Rotring which uses replaceable cartridges, this pen came with a “converter,” as they’re called. This is a cartridge-sized refillable doohickey. That’s the technical term, by the way, refillable doohickey.

Never having run across one before, I had to figure out how to fill it. So I did some more research. Parker, it seems, has made six different converters over the years. And it took me a while before I found a YouTube video on how to fill it. As you can see in the picture, there’s a little slider and guess what? You actually slide it!

Slider-type Converter

Slider-type Converter

You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh.” And now that I know how it works, it is a well, duh moment. But when I first got it, not knowing what it was, I was afraid to do something that might ruin it (and gentle pressure didn’t make it move). And I’m reading different how to fill instructions talking about twisting one part, while holding another and the slider will go up. Nothing made sense until I finally saw that video showing me that it actually does slide.

So I filled it and started writing with it. It’s not a bad writing pen, and at this point, I don’t know which pen I prefer, the Esterbrook or this Parker.

But I do know this. The Parker looks sharp in my pocket.

Parker in my pocket

Parker in my pocket

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What if?

Posted in bolognium, dreams, fantasy on Monday, August 11, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

What if God turns out to be an insect? And when we die, we go before Him for judgment, then if we mistreated insects we’re sent to Hell where flies pull off our legs or ants burn us with magnifying glasses?

It’s alive! Wherein I bring life to a dead fountain pen

Posted in fountain pens, geek on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Sunday I mentioned I wanted to fix my vintage Esterbrook fountain pen. It needed a new bladder sac. The old one had essentially disintegrated.

When I first found the pen at my mother’s house, I had tried to use it, but it wouldn’t suck up ink. At the time, I had no idea how a fountain pen worked. And when I pulled the lever, it felt like something was being crushed inside. When I shook it, these little black particles came out. At the time I thought it was dried ink. Now I know the rubber bladder sac had dried up over time and crumbled away.

I set the pen aside, bought a new Rotring Skynn fountain pen, and forgot about the other pen. But now I need to replace my Rotring, as I mentioned on Sunday. I had ordered what I needed for the repairs on my Esterbrook on Sunday and they arrived today.

My supplies arrived from Pendemonium

My supplies arrived from Pendemonium

I must say I’m very pleased with the fast service I received from Pendemonium. I ordered a bladder sac #16. A bottle of blue ink. And a bottle of orange shellac.

I had previously dismantled my pen and cleaned out all the remnants from the deteriorated bladder sac. Next, I laid everything out so I knew exactly how short to trim the new bladder. The section (the part that has the nib) should be lined up next to the barrel the way it would be if pushed together. Then the bladder is laid out so the closed end reaches to the part of the barrel where the lever is. The cut will be made at the point on the section where the sac nipple meets (yellow arrow).

Measuring where to make the cut.

Measuring where to make the cut.

Once the bladder sac was trimmed, I then folded back the top section of the bladder so it formed a cuff about 1/4 of an inch. Then I tried my best to insert the bladder over the bladder nipple on the section. This was the fun part. I was all thumbs and struggled to get the cuff over the nipple. Imagine the fun I had after I applied shellac! Now it was slippery (yet oddly sticky). I was successful twice, but because the shellac was wet, it came off. The first time, because I tried to straighten it and it just popped off. The second time it just squirted off. But three times is a charm and I went away to let it dry.

Finally! Sac meets nipple.

Finally! Sac meets nipple.

When I figured it was all dry, I reassembled everything. Then I dipped the pen in the fresh new bottle of blue Parker Quink, pulled the lever slowly three times, wiped the nib off with a tissue, then tried to write.

It's Alive!

It’s Alive!

And Voila! I now have a beautiful working vintage Esterbrook J pen!

Now to do some writing.

And thanks go out to the folks at Pendemonium for their quick turnaround of my order!

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Before my pen has gleened my teeming brain

Posted in fountain pens, geek, writing on Sunday, July 27, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Back in April 2011, I picked up my first fountain pen. I’ve been using it ever since as my primary fiction writing tool. Well, I recently noticed it was getting a little worn.

Rotring Skynn

Rotring Skynn

As you can see from the picture, the rubber is starting to tear. There’s a similar wear area on the opposite side. The wear areas sit against my fingers and are starting to distract me. So it’s time for a new fountain pen.

As much as I liked the Rotring Skynn because it ergonomically fit my gorilla handwriting grip, and as much as I’m used to using it, I wonder if it’s time to move on to something else. If I chose another exactly like this, I’ll just run into this same problem sooner or later.

Also, I’d like to try something that doesn’t use those little insert ink cartridges. First, those things are more expensive compared to a bottle of ink. Second, I’m not too thrilled where those little plastic tubes go when I throw them out. They can’t be environmentally friendly. Neither are disposable fountain pens. And third, the idea of being able to use an ink bottle and refill the pen’s reservoir excites the retro-geek in me.

So I’m looking at refillables. I have a vintage Esterbrook “J” fountain pen from the 1950s. It was either mine from grade school or my mother’s. Unfortunately, the bladder sac is gone. When I first was looking at it, I pulled up the lever to try to fill it, but nothing happened. I shook it and I could hear something rattling inside. Little black hard pieces came out from the lever’s slit. I thought at first that it was dried up ink. But I later found out that there is a rubber bladder sac inside that can dry out and needs to be replaced.

Esterbrook J

Esterbrook J

I found a place that repairs them on the Internet for around $25 or so, but I’ve since decided to try to do it myself. I researched what I needed, ordered it, and now I’m waiting for a new bladder to arrive along with a bottle of shellac to glue it in place. If I’m successful, who knows, fountain pen repair might be an interesting hobby.

In the meantime, I’ve been looking at other fountain pens, new and vintage. There are some very beautiful ones out there. If you follow my Pinterest Pen Porn page, I’ve been posting several of the more expensive ones. At the moment, I doubt very much I can afford anything that costs several grand or justify anything even around $100.

I’m frugal so I can only afford cheap pens, for now. The Rotring Skynn cost me around $30. A new one at the oldest pen shop in America, Daly’s Pen Shop, is currently selling for around $12.99.

But as I said, I’m looking for something different and on eBay I’m finding there’s a ton of Chinese manufactured pens out there that just look gorgeous, but many might perform rather poorly according to many reviews (and many are just knock-offs of popular pens such as the Parker “51,” which many regard as one of the best fountain pens ever made). Seeing how cheap they are however, I’m going to get a few just for display if they don’t write very well.

So for now, I’m on a fountain pen kick. If you’ve been paying any attention, you’ll realize I get interested in something and go on a binge devouring everything about the subject I can find.

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Who really is the worst president evah?

Posted in bolognium, life, politics, satire with tags , , , , on Thursday, July 3, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

“Obama is the worst president since WWII!” That’s the takeaway from a recently released poll, which, I’m sure, Fox News has been covering gleefully non-stop.

But lets think about that. Earlier today I showed you why you should dismiss this particular poll. Now, let’s consider each president and judge them on their merits, shall we?

Harry S Truman. Here was a man who not only couldn’t afford a middle name, for most of his life he couldn’t even afford a period after the S! That’s right. He had to borrow one from the editors of the Chicago Style Manual. And just try to forget that he dropped not just one, but two atomic bombs upon fellow human beings as the only solution to ending the war. Years later, he was overheard saying, “It never occurred to me to just say, ‘Please.'”

Dwight D. Eisenhower. Great general, bland president. I mean, does anyone have any impression of him beyond the slogan, “I like Ike”? I’m stiflingly yawns just thinking about him. Seriously though, he created the Interstate Highway System, NASA, and despite Al Gore’s claims otherwise, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which led to the Internet. And even though he created the communist domino theory that was used as justification for entering Viet Nam, he redeemed himself by being opposed to Joseph McCarthy and his communist witch hunts.

John F. Kennedy. A war hero (who hasn’t seen the movie “PT109″ starring Cliff Roberton). He had a gorgeous wife and still got to sleep with Marilyn Monroe. He was the only President to win a Pulitzer, until President Obama. He created the Peace Corps. He challenged America to put a man on the moon and we did it. He brought a youthful style and vigor to the Presidency that was definately missing from the Eisenhower years. We call his presidency Camelot, for God’s sake. JFK was everything except bulletproof. He was so charismatic the nation still mourns him a half century later.

Lyndon Johnson. The only reason JFK picked him as a running mate was to win Texas. Had he given serious consideration to “a heartbeat away” JFK would have picked someone intelligent. Only two things come to mind when people think about Johnson, if they bother to think about him at all, and that’s how he would lift his basset hounds up by their ears and how he constantly showed his appendectomy scar while saying, “Not as cool as a bullet in the head, but its all I got.”

Richard M. Nixon. The “I am not a crook” crook. Highlights of his presidency include opening communications to China and saying, “Sock it to me?” on “Rowen and Martin’s Laugh-In.” The lowlights include Watergate, 18 missing minutes of tape, and having a running mate in Spiro T. Agnew who was an even bigger crook than he was. Nixon single-handedly destroyed the nation’s faith and trust in it’s government in general and.the office of the President in particular.

Gerald R. Ford. If not for Chevy Chase falling down all the time, we never would have even noticed someone had replaced Nixon. People would say, “Who is Chevy Chase imitating?” “The President.” “No. That’s nothing like Nixon.” “Nixon resigned. He’s no longer President.” “Dude! That’s far out.” Ford’s legacy is his “WIN!” program, which stood for “Whip Inflation Now!” It was a program designed on the wish theory, that if we all wished hard enough, the economy would improve. America did wish hard enough and Ford failed to win reelection.

Jimmy Carter. Carter was a surprise victor in the 1976 election. America wanted a Washington outsider, so they elected an unknown peanut farmer. What they got was a rerun of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” featuring the zany antics of Carter’s drunk brother, which included marketing “Billy Beer,” while the President himself fended off attacks from a killer rabbit while lusting in his heart. And on a serious note, lets not forget the Iran Hostage Crisis and the rescue attempt that went horribly wrong with helicopters crashing and burning in the desert, which was no surprise since Carter had slashed the military budget and everything was held together with bubblegum and bailing wire.

Ronald Reagan. The Great Communicator to some, the Teflon President to everyone else because it seemed no matter what stupid shit spewed out of his mouth, none of it stuck to him. Here is a brief list of the bullshit that happened on his watch: Iran/Contra. Catsup named a vegetable. Nancy running things via astrology. Referring to the Soviet Union as the evil empire and the infamous announcement, “We begin bombing in 5 minutes.” The Invasion of Granada, so strategically important to America. Trying to outspend the USSR in defense, including billions wasted on a pipe dream known as Star Wars. Tripling the Federal Deficit in the process. Nearly 11% unemployment. Giving amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants (you decide if that’s a plus or minus). Funding Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan in a shadow war against the Soviet Union, and in the process creating the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Cutting the taxes on the rich from 70% to 28%, which forced him to raise taxes on the Middle Class 11 times to make up for it. Raiding the Social Security Trust Fund and leaving a note that said, “IOU $2.7 trillion, Love Ronnie.”

George Herbert Walker Bush. He was President? Seriously, who remembers this? He got us into the first Gulf War to save our free access to Kuwaiti oil, but it was measured in days, not months or years. If one thing can be said, Bush knew when to pull out (just not always soon enough as we’ll see when we get to the 43rd President.) What defined his presidency was the promise “Read my lips, no new taxes” which became a joke when he broke it.

William Jefferson Clinton. He tried his best to be like JFK, but Hillary was no Jackie-O and Monica Lewinski was no Monroe. He did outdo JFK’s sexual conquests in one regard: Clinton was the only president to ever raise taxes retroactively, thereby screwing the entire nation. Crime decreased every year of his Presidency, while the number of federal prisoners doubled. He inherited the largest budget deficit in American history and turned it around leaving a $127 billion surplus. Came up with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And redefined the definition for sexual relations.

Richard “I’m a Dick” Cheney. Um. Oh. Sorry. I guess he never officially held the office of president, did he? Nevermind.

George W. Bush. C’mon! Obama came in worst ever when this man-child was in the running? Bush II was an international embarrassment. He was a drunken frat boy who couldn’t even swallow a pretzel without choking. He even barfed on the Prime Minister of Japan. There were no WMDs. He bankrupted us fighting two wars we had no business in, one simply begun to finish what his Daddy couldn’t. If someone went to Hollywood and proposed a movie about an utter buffoon rising to hold the most powerful office in America, no one would have taken a chance on it because it was so unbelievable. But we all lived through it! Dozens of comedians became famous doing Bush II and not one of them had to write any skits, they just had to be him; they’d laugh like him, act like him, talk like him, and quote him, and audiences laughed hysterically. They had to, laughing kept everyone from crying at the realization that the joke was really on America because our leader was one big international punch-line. OK, emotions aside, the Bush II legacy is: He took more vacations than any other president in history. Used torture to interrogate prisoners. Wiretapped millions of Americans without warrants. Outsourced the war to contractors who weren’t bound to follow Iraqi or American military laws. Failed to act on an Aug. 6, 2001 White House intelligence briefing called, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.” The price of oil quadrupled under his watch. He was a Draft dodger. He took Clinton’s budget surplus and spent it like a drunken sailor, leaving Obama a $1.2 trillion hole. Poverty increased by 26.1%.

Barack H. Obama. A President whose entire presidency, even his life’s history, is nothing but lies and fabrications promulgated by right wing spin doctors, bigots, and conspiracy nuts. The opposition blames him for everything that goes wrong anywhere in the world and discredits him for anything that goes right. An obstructionist House blocked any and all legislation, including jobs bills that would actually help Americans get back to work, in a deliberate attempt to make President Obama look bad. He gets blamed for an economic collapse that was caused by his predecessor’s idiotic policies and he gets blamed because the recovery isn’t happening fast enough (again getting blamed by the Republicans as they cause obstruction to anything that might fuel the recovery). So honestly, how can the man even be judged when he hasn’t been given a fair shake? When he’s had these kinds of odds against him? When an entire political party fully admits their sole goal is to ensure Obama fails?

So now that we know their track records, which president should actually be considered the worst, or best, in the last 69 years? If you were honest in keeping score, the ones at the very top would be Eisenhower and Kennedy. The ones at the very bottom would be Nixon, Reagan, and George Dubya Bush. Obama, at this point, should come out in the middle somewhere. Probably closer to the top than the bottom, but seriously, it is far too early to be making judgments upon his legacy. History will remember him for the Affordable Care Act, eliminating Osama Bin Laden, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” creating new fuel economy standards, and investing more than any other administration in renewable technologies, while battling against unprecedented personal attacks fueled by ignorance, racism, and bigotry.

And there you have it, a brief history of American Presidents since World War II.

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Worst President Evah?

Posted in bolognium, current events, life, politics with tags , , , , , on Thursday, July 3, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

A recent poll put out by Quinippiac University questioned 1,446 registered voters, 73% of whom were white, over the phone.

The consensus of this poll? That President Barrack Obama is the worst president since World War II. At least that’s the buzz from all the news outlets.

But the news doesn’t analyze these things. They just take the AP feed and or the university’s PR release and run it as is.

In other words, they give you the results while running attention-getting (and website click-through attracting) headlines, like “Obama’s the worst!” “GW Bush better than Obama!” and nonsense like that.

Did any bother to mention that the poll queried only 13% of black voters? Probably not.

Now some news outlets might, in an effort to show fairness in the makeup of the respondents that a 73% white majority lacks, provide the claimed political demographics of Republican 26%, Democrat 31%, and Independent 35% and say, “See? That’s a fair and equitable distribution.”

And at first blush, we might agree, until we read that 45% believe Mitt Romney would be doing a better job as President.

Sorry. I should have warned you. I’ll wait while you wipe off your monitor and keyboard, but c’mon! You should know better than to read this while drinking tea.

Back? Good. Now, seriously? Romney? You have to ask yourself, “How the Hell did Romney get 19 more percentage points than the 26% of those who claimed to be Republican?” Because in all honesty, who but hard-core conservatives would admit Romney was good at anything?

The answer is people don’t align themselves with political parties like they used to. So the pollsters asked the wrong question. They instead should have asked if the respondents were Conservative, Liberal/Progressive, or Moderate.

The results would have been more informative of the philosophical breakdown. For one thing, nobody would answer “Moderate” because no one wants to be thought of as wishy-washy, which is what all Americans think of when they think of Moderate. In fact, a picture of Michael Dukakis in a tank wearing an army helmet comes to mind when we think of a Moderate. Laughable.

For another, many people who claim to be Independent really aren’t. Not in the least. Every Independent, when you listen to them or watch what they post on social media, either skews to the right or to the left, but never ever in the middle. Most Tea Party members consider themselves Independent, not Republican, as do many Libertarians, but both share many conservative beliefs with Republicans.

So combine the 73% white with the fact that 45% actually think Romney wasn’t a complete asshole, and you end up with a poll that has as much credibility as a poll asserting most Americans want genetically-altered food without any GMO labeling only to discover the majority of respondents were actually employees of Monsanto.

Remember also, polls are just a snapshot in time, so you have to ask yourself, “What was happening from June 24 to June 27, 2014?” The answer is: Obama gave a talk on working families and said women of newborns should get paid leave (Gasp! That’s socialism!) there was escalating violence in Iraq which led to discussions of sending more troops (OMG! Bush had that won, now look!) the IRS commissioner was being grilled on the Hill (Obama is giving them marching orders to investigate everyone in the Tea Party!); to name just a few news items that would skew opinion against any standing President.

Given the apparent bias in the sampling, this poll needs to be taken with a large helping of salt. If nothing else, this poll and the furor surrounding it, is worth a good laugh.

Don’t take it seriously. But how could you when it came to the conclusion that Ronald Reagan was the greatest president since 1945?

Am I right?

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