Skiing in a country where nobody wants to work and where nobody can afford to live

A friend lives in a $3 million starter home in the Vail valley. He reports having to carefully pick ski days this season due to crowding on the mountain and long lift lines. “They sold a ton of Epic passes in the spring at a discount,” he explained, “and now lifts and trails are closed because nobody wants to work. They can’t find people to drive the snowcats for grooming, so you find that a lot of trails are roped off and blocked by a big pile of snow.”

How did the labor supply change? “The cost of living, especially housing, is much higher than two years ago and the wages haven’t gone up as much,” he replied. “They’re offering a $2 per hour bonus for people who stay through March, but that’s not enough to enable someone to live where the rich people live.”

(I wonder if restrictions imposed with a COVID-19 justification are partly to blame. The last time I was at Beaver Creek I noticed that a high percentage of workers were foreigners, e.g., from Central and South America, on temporary visas. It seems that not too many Americans wanted to spend the winter in a glorious ski resort, at least not at the wages offered. Until November 2021, was it possible for foreigners to get to the U.S., except as asylum-seekers walking across the Rio Grande?)

From a February 2017 trip to Beaver Creek:


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Soviet management tips for the American executive

To celebrate having gotten through one month of winter, let’s turn our attention to things Russian (since they are the true masters of the cold).

Last year, I was invited to a family dinner in which the husband’s father is retired from managing a large Soviet enterprise (many bonuses and incentives for performance, so not actually all that different from running a bureaucratic U.S. company). The wife had recently been promoted to manage five divisions of a substantial U.S. company instead of just one. She described her frustration with workers who didn’t want to come back to the office. “Can you make it in every Wednesday?” was an unreasonable ask. Productivity was unimpressive and a lot of people had gotten comfortable with the previous manager, whose standards were low-to-mediocre.

We kicked around some ideas for motivating the workers and gradually acclimating them to the new higher standards. After 10 minutes of mostly unproductive suggestions, the father-in-law offered some advice…. “Old Russian saying: When whorehouse is losing money, you don’t change the beds. You change the whores.”

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Reminder that failure is an option

I stumbled on Closed for Storm in Amazon Prime (it is wedged into a corner of the app behind “Black voices” and “Hispanic & Latino voices” (no “Latinx voices” category?)). It covers Jazzland, which opened in 2000 and was converted into Six Flags New Orleans in 2003. Katrina hit in 2005.

I recommend this for anyone considering a business investment. It is a great reminder that failure is always an option.

Separately, it is unclear why the park couldn’t be reopened. The metro area population was about 1.34 million in 2000 and today is 1.27 million. Americans love theme parks. Why do they generate infinite money in Orlando, but are risky elsewhere?

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Coronahassle travel site?

How about this as a business idea: a travel site that answers the question “Where can I go conveniently and safely in the age of COVID-19 and restrictions imposed in the name of preventing COVID-19?”

You go to the site and say roughly what kind of trip you want to take (culture, ski, beach, etc.), where you live, what kind of vaccination papers you are willing and able to show, and whether you’re a Karen or a Deplorable. The site then comes back with proposed trips based on the following:

  • current Covid risk at the destination (map for U.S. states; CDC map for the world (don’t stay home because the U.S. is very high risk))
  • current Covid lockdown situation at the destination (will it be legal to go out and do stuff?)
  • current mask order situation at the destination (if you’re upper-middle-class and wear a mask 15 minutes/day to go into stores (or 0 minutes if you live in FL and choose not to), do you want to take a European vacation where it will be 14 hours/day of indoor and outdoor masks?)
  • quarantine requirements (Australia and some Asian countries would be excluded)
  • ease of meeting outbound and inbound required medical tests (maybe it is smarter to stay domestic depending on what Uncle Joe has ordered; if the U.S. demands an inbound negative test, how challenging is it to get one done at the destination? (Mexican resort hotels are great for this, since they’ll do them at the hotel))
  • are they checking vaccine papers at restaurants and other venues? (a plus for the Karens because #TrustVaccines and a minus for the Deplorables)

Readers: Does anything remotely like this already exist?

Note that I’m personally staying domestic because the idea of finishing up a vacation with a 14-day hotel quarantine in a foreign land (due to a false or true positive Covid test) is not appealing to me. And I won’t fly commercial for leisure anymore due to to the prison galley atmosphere (people fighting about masks, etc.). But the above-proposed site could work for people who travel by minivan and/or Cirrus. Suggest Orlando and mask-free Universal to a Deplorable in Jacksonville. For the Pennsylvania Karen, suggest injecting the 5-year-old with an experimental non-FDA-approved medicine so as to get around NYC’s new exclusion order for unvaccinated children (effective today) and head to NYC to crowd into a theater with 2,000 other people wearing bandana-grade cloth masks.

Inspiration to go to Marco Island, Florida:

(I was in a small boat and we had encounters with at least 20 friendly dolphins within minutes of leaving the dock (cut the engine to idle and the dolphins approached to within about 5′ at which point, of course, I yelled at them for not wearing surgical masks over their blowholes).)

Oh yes, speaking of Australia and the virtuous life of quarantine, at a local ice cream shop, a kid asked “What’s Australian liquorice?” I responded “That’s liquorice that gets arrested if it tries to leave the house or avoid a COVID-19 vaccine shot.”

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What can my Identity Doppelganger do with a Citi Custom Cash Mastercard in my name?

Almost time for serious Christmas shopping. Personally, I prefer to pay for everything with someone else’s credit card.

Apparently, this idea is not original because I started getting U.S. mail letters and text messages regarding a Citi Custom Cash Mastercard. This was a little confusing because I was not a Citi customer, as far as I knew.

It took about 10 phone calls and hours on hold to sort out the mystery. Citi doesn’t want to talk to anyone unless he/she/ze/they (a) enters his/her/zir/their credit card number (which I don’t have, since I never applied for a card or received one), and (b) enters his/her/zir/their Social Security Number (which I was initially unwilling to do, since I am not a customer and they shouldn’t need it, but of course I eventually had to provide it).

It requires a huge amount of diligence and time to get through to anyone at Citi to report that one’s identity has been used without authorization. The smart thing to do would have been to give up, but I managed to look at my credit report via (a much more efficient enterprise, I think!) and it showed a $9,400 credit limit card that had been opened on November 10, 2021.

The would-be smart shopper used my address and cell phone number. Presumably the physical card would have been mailed to my address, but I never got it (we’re in an apartment building with locked mailboxes so unless it was a former tenant or the management company, I don’t see how anyone could have gotten into the mailbox).

This leads to a couple of questions…

  • How did Citi create a Mastercard account without ever mailing out a physical card?
  • How did an identity thief expect to benefit from opening a credit card account if the physical card would simply be mailed to me and not him/her/zir/them?

Somehow I think that my doppelganger was able to at least attempt charges because one Citi letter says “we noticed suspicious activity on your Citi Custom Cash Mastercard account that may have been unauthorized.”

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Brexit fallout: Royal Dutch Shell moves its headquarters to London

We were informed that Brexit (January 31, 2020) would cause multinationals to move their headquarters to the EU. This week we learn, however, “Royal Dutch Shell has announced a plan to move its headquarters to the UK as part of proposals to simplify the company’s structure” (BBC):

The oil giant will ask shareholders to vote on shifting its tax residence from the Netherlands to the UK.

Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden, will relocate to the UK.

The company’s chief financial officer, Jessica Uhl, will also move, alongside seven other senior employees.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng welcomed Shell’s announcement, tweeting that it was “a clear vote of confidence in the British economy”.

The Dutch government, however, said it was “unpleasantly surprised” by Shell’s proposal.

Stef Blok, economic affairs and climate minister, said: “We are in a dialogue with the management of Shell over the consequences of this plan for jobs, crucial investment decisions and sustainability.”

Shell has been incorporated in the UK and had a Dutch tax residence – as well as the dual share structure – since 2005.

The changes also mean the company will drop “Royal Dutch” from its title and be renamed Shell. This element dates back to 1890 when the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company was formed. That company merged with the UK’s Shell Transport and Trading Company in 1907.

“Carrying the Royal designation has been a source of immense pride and honour for Shell for more than 130 years,” Shell said.

Shares in Shell rose by nearly 2% on Monday morning.

How will the Dutch enjoy their new freedom from sharing a country with the top climate destroyers in the Shell executive suite? “Netherlands imposes lockdown measures as Covid cases hit new high” (Guardian, 11/12/2021):

The Netherlands will become the first western European country to impose a partial lockdown since the summer, introducing strict new measures from Saturday in the face of record numbers of new Covid-19 infections.

Gatherings at home would be limited to a maximum of four guests, all amateur and professional sporting events must be held behind closed doors, and home working was advised except in “absolutely unavoidable” circumstances, Rutte said.

The virus is everywhere and needs to combated everywhere. I want every Dutch citizen to be asking, can I do more? Can I do better? We had hoped with the vaccines we wouldn’t have to do this, but we see the same situation all across Europe.”

Charlie is everywhere and this is his Tet Offensive. But if we put all of our resources into defense, the war is eminently winnable.

(I asked a Dutch friend about these situations. On the Shell move, in his view, it was as simple as cutting the corporation’s tax bill. Except for in Germany, which refuses to bend the rules for the politically connected, Europe is much like the U.S. in which states compete by offering special deals for the biggest companies and, in this case, Boris Johnson was offering Shell a better deal. On COVID, my friend said that the current outbreak is primarily due to immigrants in the Netherlands who were, in his view, both more likely to be infected with and less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19. His perspective is confirmed to some extent by “What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immigrants and their children?” (OECD, October 2020), in which immigrants are roughly twice as likely to show up as a “confirmed case” (meaning they actually accessed the health care system and got a test) compared to the native-born. The government had previously reduced the number of hospital rooms per capita in the Netherlands as a cost-savings measure and if the hospitals now fill up it will discredit the government’s competence. World Bank data show that the number of beds per capita in the Netherlands is down by almost half since 1990, only partly due to population growth via immigration; the U.S. also has a reduced capacity per capita since 1990 (population growth from 250 million to 333 million combined with insufficient wealth to build new hospitals can explain much of this).)

In other European news, it looks like they’re getting closer to the proposal put forward here of rounding up the unvaccinated and placing them in Protection Camps. “Austria to impose Covid lockdown for the unvaccinated age 12 and older” (CNN):

Under the measures announced on Sunday, the unvaccinated are ordered to stay home except for a few limited reasons; the rules will be policed by officers carrying out spot checks on those who are out.

The lockdown plan which was agreed in September called for unvaccinated Austrians to face a stay-at-home order once 30% of intensive-care beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients. Unvaccinated people are already excluded from entertainment venues, restaurants, hairdressers and other parts of public life in Austria.

In neighboring Germany, ministers have ramped up their rhetoric towards those who are not inoculated. Its capital Berlin announced on Wednesday it will ban people who are not vaccinated from indoor dining, bars, gyms, hairdressers and cinemas from next week.

Now wouldn’t it be simpler if everyone had an RFID chip instead of relying on the police to “spot check” folks’ papers?

Returning to the main theme… gasoline was about $3.30 per gallon at the Shell station in Indiantown, Florida (when does that name get changed?) this weekend. And we used that gasoline to go to the Stuart Air Show where we saw the AeroShell Aerobatic Team (Canon R5 body and cheap/light 800/11 lens):

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Follow-up on the Coinbase corporate version of Florida

A year ago, the CEO of Coinbase paid employees who were the most passionate about social justice and political causes to leave. See “Coinbase is a mission focused company” and also “Taking a Stand Against Social Stances” (NYT, 9/29/2020). (If he’d been a Southerner he might have said “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the butt on your way out.”)

In other words, he was trying to create something like the Florida that we’ve experienced. After nearly two months here, I have seen exactly one Black Lives Matter message (bumper sticker on a black (not “Black”) Toyota Prius as we were on an excursion to Miami (IKEA, Guitar Hotel, and Marlins baseball game)). Supposedly there are a lot of people here who voted for either Trump or Biden, but there is no evidence of that from lawn signs or bumper stickers. Bumper stickers are display at perhaps 1/200th the rate compared to in Maskachusetts and the most common type of bumper sticker is school-related.

What happens at a company without on-the-clock activism? Discrimination against those who identify as Black, according to the NYT… “‘Tokenized’: Inside Black Workers’ Struggles at the King of Crypto Start-Ups” (11/27/2020):

One by one, they left. Some quit. Others were fired. All were Black.

The 15 people worked at Coinbase, the most valuable U.S. cryptocurrency start-up, where they represented roughly three-quarters of the Black employees at the 600-person company. Before leaving in late 2018 and early 2019, at least 11 of them informed the human resources department or their managers about what they said was racist or discriminatory treatment, five people with knowledge of the situation said.

One of the employees was Alysa Butler, 25, who worked in recruiting. During her time at Coinbase, she said, she told her manager several times about how he and others excluded her from meetings and conversations, making her feel invisible.

“Most people of color working in tech know that there’s a diversity problem,” said Ms. Butler, who resigned in April 2019. “But I’ve never experienced anything like Coinbase.”

(Wikipedia says Coinbase is “remote-first”, so how do employees know anything about the race IDs of other employees? See Achieve college student skin color diversity via image processing? as well)

How did it go for Coinbase from Management’s perspective? The CEO who wanted people to fight their social justice and political battles on their own time followed up with a Twitter thread:

It’s been about a year since my mission-focused blog post. It wasn’t easy to go through at the time, but looking back, it turned out to be one of the most positive changes I’ve made at Coinbase, and I’d recommend it to others.

We have a much more aligned company now, where we can focus on getting work done toward our mission. And it has allowed us to hire some of the best talent from organizations where employees are fed up with politics, infighting, and distraction.

One of the biggest concerns around our stance was that it would impact our diversity numbers. Since my post, we’ve grown our headcount about 110%, while our diversity numbers have remained the same, or even improved on some metrics.

Several people told me this would never happen when I circulated the original draft internally. It turns out that there are people from every background who want to work at a mission focused company.

If he is putting employees into buckets based on skin color in order to get “diversity numbers”, isn’t he himself engaging in a social justice cause at work? There was no legal requirement for Coinbase to gather these data, right? (Let me guess right now that age is not one of the axes of diversity for which Mr. Armstrong is anxious to get numbers!)

In other diversity news, the guy who stirred up hatred at University of Chicago (see “Geophysical Sciences Grad Students Call on Faculty to Denounce Videos By Department Member” 12/2/2020) got literally canceled at MIT, where he had been scheduled to give a lecture. From the Daily Mail:

…. after outraging ‘totalitarian’ Twitter mob by arguing that academic evaluations should be based on merit not racial ‘equity’

Dorian Abbot was denied the opportunity to give the Carlson Lecture, which is devoted to ‘new results in climate science’ and hosted by MIT’s Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

The lecture was scheduled to be delivered on October 21, but Abbot learned over the weekend that EAPS would be canceling his talk.

In August, things took a turn when Abbot co-wrote an opinion piece for Newsweek in which he argued that the ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ (DEI) initiative embraced on many college campuses nationwide ‘violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment.’

DEI, according to Abbot and co-author Professor Ivan Marinovic, ‘treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being.’

Abbot and Marinovic instead proposed ‘an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.’

(But who decides “merit”?)

It is kind of exciting for alumni when MIT can share a newspaper with Joe Biden’s $2.5 million granddaughter.

What would Dorian Abbot have talked about? He seems to be at least a little interested in Snowball Earth, one of my favorite geology subjects ever since reading an awesome book on the subject. He’s also interested in exoplanets, which fascinate everyone far more than how their Windows 11 computer or iPhone work. Maybe if Professor Abbot can get Elon Musk to blast him off to Gliese 273b (shouldn’t take that long to go 12.2 light-years in a Plaid Edition rocket), his critics will forget about him?


  • “Tesla must pay $137 million to a Black employee who sued for racial discrimination” (NPR, 10/5/2021), in which we learn that the article doesn’t match the headline. The now-rich elevator operator worked for a contractor to Tesla and was never directly employed by Tesla. (electrek has a more accurate headline: “Tesla is ordered to pay ex-worker $137 million in racial abuse lawsuit, releases blog about verdict”: Mr. Diaz never worked for Tesla. He was a contract employee who worked for Citistaff and nextSource. Mr. Diaz worked as an elevator operator at the Fremont factory for nine months, from June 2015 to March 2016. There was no witness testimony or other evidence that anyone ever heard the n-word used toward Mr. Diaz. Even though Mr. Diaz now complains about racial harassment at Fremont, at the time he said he was being harassed, he recommended to his son and daughter – while they were all living together in the same home – that they work at Tesla with him.)
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How relevant is diversity and inclusion to AT&T?

Our Internet provider here in the Florida Free State is AT&T. I was trying to contact them about changing my name on the bill to “Greenspun” from “Greenstun” and somehow landed on Here’s what’s at the top:

If they stand for equality, should we infer that they don’t stand for equity?

As a child of the 1960s, of course I am all in favor of equality, e.g., Equality Feminism. Nonetheless, this is not why I am an AT&T customer. If I scroll down a little, I find out that the company gives equal weight to “Internet & Fiber” and “Diversity & Inclusion”.

I’m assuming that this is a profit-maximizing behavior, but I wonder why. Are American consumers equally interested in diversity and inclusion from an Internet provider as they are in the Internet service itself? Is it that regulators might stumble on this page and a lot of regulators are themselves affirmative action quota-fillers?

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Victimhood Certification Industry

Here’s a form recently received as part of getting set up to be paid by a private corporation.

Some highlights…

We embrace the minority, women, small business and LGBT businesses we partner with in the mutual goal of delivering superior quality and service to our customers while assuring future growth for both parties. We are required by a number of our customers to report our Diversity spend dollars.

The next page:

This is the part that caught my eye.

Suppliers must submit current and renewal MBE/WBE/LGBT/DOBE certificates

The victimhood certification enterprises must be engaged regularly (annually?) to renew victimhood certificates. This is an annuity!

Separately, I wonder how the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) determines that a business owner or shareholder is truly LGBTQIA+ and how their process is superior to self-certification as LGBTQIA+. Will there be a Barbra Streisand (2016: “I’ll move to Australia or Canada if Trump is president”) quiz for the would-be LGBTQIA+ person, as in the movie In & Out?

Peter: What was Barbra Streisand’s eighth album?

Howard: Color Me Barbra.

Peter: Stud!

Howard: Everybody knows that!

Peter: Everybody where? The little gay bar on the prairie?

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The one actual Black guy talks to the white diversity say-gooders

A friend is the One Black Guy at a Maskachusetts tech company. The white say-gooders in management describe their heartfelt yearning for more diversity at the company. Business is great now that so many non-online things have been rendered illegal by state governors. Thus, it is time to hire some entry-level programmers. Management described plans to recruit from elite schools such as Harvard and Yale. One Black Guy: “If we’re serious about making this company more diverse, why not hire someone from Bunker Hill [Community College] who might turn out to be great? It’s only an entry-level job and we can’t know whether someone from Harvard is actually going to do well.” This suggestion turned out not to be helpful…

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