November 18th, 2010



A middle-aged lady once told me a story from her first job in a retail business of some sort. By the time she was 17 she had put in enough time to qualify to be a shift leader. She asked for a promotion, and her boss demanded sex in exchange. He gave her a hotel number and a time to show up. He was there and ready in his underwear with a bottle of champagne when she knocked on the door and he opened it to see her accompanied by a police officer and the district manager. That was the end of that man's career in retail management, but that was in the days when unions were strong, the state supported workers, and business policy supported workers.

Today the young woman would be fired for insubordination and she would have no legal recourse because as a condition of first getting the job she would have needed to sign a contract stating that all legal disputes between employee and employer are to be handled by binding arbitration by a private judge that the employer selects and has already paid off.

Republicans and Libertarians say this is an acceptable arrangement. They say you don't need a job, you don't need to eat, and you don't need shelter from the elements. You can just die.

Related: California almost fixed this, but Gray Davis vetoed the bill, and that was a watered-down version of John Burton's SB1538, which Davis also vetoed.

I pulled into a 76 gas station where atop the pumps they had affixed bright LCD screens and speakers blaring advertisements at the captive audience. I pulled right out and gave my business to another gas station; too many people these days don't realize you can do that. My other thought is, where are those goddamned teenagers who knock over peoples' mailboxes when you need them?

I was feeling a bit off the other day, so I took my temperature with a mercury thermometer. It registered at 100.1 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a slight fever but not much of one. The next day I took my temperature again; I felt a bit better, but it still registered at 100.1 degrees. The next day I looked at the thermometer before taking my temperature, and it still said 100.1 degrees. How the hell does a mercury thermometer stop working?

The thermometer works by simple physics. As the temperature goes up, the mercury expands in the glass tube while the glass does not expand as much. The corollary should be that as the temperature goes down, the mercury contracts more than the glass does. This is not happening. The thermometer has not returned to room temperature after days. I put it in hot water and it went up to 105 and did not return to room temperature after an hour, then I put it in ice water and it went down to 104.7 after a couple hours, by which time all the ice had melted. So what can make quicksilver become slowsilver?