In the early stages of the holiday coal-shopping season, mine management is preparing we miners for the rush. We’re told that we have budgets to meet, that there is special high-margin coal to sell, and that there are specific techniques we should employ to mine more coal in a shift.

Our own mine boss was walking around yesterday, remarking that she had been sneaking extra coal into her customers’ sacks. I smiled at her, appearing to be hip to the subtlety of her skillz, but I was and remain horrified. If I were a coal-mine customer and saw someone placing an unsolicited package of coal into my shopping basket, I’d immediately place the basket on the floor and walk out.

No, it’s not a criminal act, or really anything close, but I find it abhorrent to think that a sales-person would seek to gain advantage (not to say access to my wallet) by means of trickery. Working for an organization that condones – nay, encourages – such behaviour makes me complicit, albeit distantly. My time here is limited.

Supply. Oh, and Demand.

Supply and demand work. With the drop in the price of gasoline, Americans ran to dealerships and “bought” more and more SUVs, light “trucks” and other assorted high-consumption pieces of junk.

In fact, no-one is buying these bloated highway blimps. They lease or borrow for what amounts to a mileage-for-dollars deal. When all of these clapped-out wrecks hit the used market in five (five! good Lord!) years the price action remains to be seen, but supply and demand will work magic then, too.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if even a small fraction of these people thought outside their narrow fat-automobile rut and bought smaller cars. As if gas prices were still $4 per gallon. If we keep consumption of gas declining (relatively and even absolutely) don’t we then keep the price going south? Is there a virtue in not responding to market signals?

In any case, money saved on gas is money saved, no matter the percentage. I’m planning to stick to that plan.

WalMart. Are you sure?

A cashier waits for customers at a Walmart Supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas June 6, 2013.

With WalMart’s problems specifically, and retail’s in general in crystalline focus, the message needs contemplation.

  1. Retail sales suck because whatever extra cash flows from lower gas prices goes to buying Obamacare or paying the rent or filling the tank of your over-priced bought on the never-never piece of shit American made junk “truck”.
  2. WalMart associates start now at $9.00 per hour, going to $10.00. It is sinking profits and that will continue.
  3. The latter, along with the fact that robot intelligence will equal that of your average WalMart person soon, mean that robots will win.
  4. Online retailers are eating physical retailers in big hunks of flesh now.

You and the labor you can provide will be too expensive. The alternative, robots and related technologies like 3-D printing, will make you redundant. If you want a job, you will have to create your own or find a skill that employers want. Really want.

How to we feel now about ever-cheaper beach-towels?

Micro Vacation


In a small step towards leaving the job, I am not at work this week. Yay me.

The plan was to ramp up my post-employment activities – nice and cryptic eh? – and grab a handful of confidence. At the beginning of next year, after our two-week holiday lay-off, I plan to be done with working for the man. And this week was to be a kind of staging towards that.

It hasn’t panned out as planned. For one thing I am sleeping a lot. For another I am gradually disposing of long-held items on my to-do list. These things take the time and energy that I just don’t have when working six nights a week.

Tomorrow I shall meet with my dentist to replace the crown I over-flossed and flipped off. Along with that is the cleaning I have avoided for months. Check, check.

But the small pleasures of time off are the best. Like wandering the aisles at Staples or Office Depot. Yesterday I passed an ambrosial hour at Staples, immersed in the hope and optimism only a full-service stationery store can offer. How I love that nose-ful of new paper and erasers.

The real secret of successful office supply store visits is to buy stuff without wrecking your budget. I needed a couple of items, but the prize was the micro binder I bought, shown above. For 50 cents, how could I go wrong?

DVD shown for scale. Ah, vacations.