The CEO of Soylent Is Enraging LA by Throwing Parties in a Shipping Container | MUNCHIES

The CEO of Soylent has run into trouble with the city of LA over his sustainable living experiment.

Source: The CEO of Soylent Is Enraging LA by Throwing Parties in a Shipping Container | MUNCHIES

If you aren’t familiar with Soylent and it’s more than a little irritating CEO, Rhinehart, let me give you the background.

Soylent Green was a 1973 movie starring Charlton Heston about a dystopian future where the world suffers from out of control over population, horrific environmental pollution, dying oceans and a seriously degraded climate due to climate change. Abject poverty is the norm. Housing is so bad a dozen or more people can be crammed into a single room. You know, sort of what like the “small house” movement wants to do to us, only they’re trying to make us think we want to do it.

Oh, dear, I just realized something. Horrific environmental pollution, dying oceans, seriously degraded climate, housing so bad a dozen people are crammed into a single room… Sort of like, well, what’s going on right now, isn’t it?

Never mind…

The movie was named after a food product, Soylent Green, which is the primary food source, often the only food source, for the vast majority of the population. Heston is basically a drone, an unthinking cop, an enforcer for the government/big corporations, mindlessly following orders and committing what are just flat out atrocities, all in the name of keeping the ‘peace’, including one horrific scene where they deal with a riot by bringing in huge armored garbage trucks and simply scooping up the protestors, dumping them into the back of the trucks, and presumably, well, squeezing them like garbage.

A key element in this new culture is death, and the promotion of death. Basically trying to talk people into committing suicide voluntarily in the hopes of attaining some kind of peaceful, more pleasant afterlife (I think — it’s been decades since I saw the thing).

The kicker to the whole story is that Heston’s character discovers that Soylent is made from people. Presumably the people the friendly government has been scooping up in garbage trucks and talking into offing themselves in pleasant, luxurious government operated death palaces.

Anyway, the new Soylent is all about food, as in not having to actually eat any. Seriously.

Rhinehart, well, apparently he doesn’t like to eat. (I say ‘apparently’ because I don’t really know. Never met the guy. While he’s probably a nice person, doesn’t kick stray dogs, doesn’t yell at the hired help too much and all that good stuff.) He seems to think eating, cooking and all that fun stuff that normal people like you and I enjoy, even relish, is evil. Total waste of time. He thinks everyone should just gulp down this green goo he calls Soylent a couple of times a day, and you’re good to go. This way you don’t have to cook, don’t have to go through all the hassle of, well, what he thinks are stupid things like enjoying time with your friends over dinner, and eating really tasty food.

The green goo (i.e. Soylent) is, he claims, supposed to supply everything you need to survive, all crammed into a drink a bit smaller than a Big Gulp.

Now as silly as this may sound, he apparently isn’t the only one who thinks this way. There are people, allegedly real live actual people, who actually pay allegedly real live money for this stuff, and allegedly even (down stomach, down boy…) drink it.

(Easy there, stomach. Hang in there, we don’t have much farther to go.)

And not just a few people. Him and his company are now supposedly worth about $100 million, for heaven’s sake.

Oh, and ignore the fact that there is at least one lawsuit going on at the moment over the alleged safety of this goo.

Rhinehart, not content with attempting to utterly destroy the joy of food, seems to be trying to expand his realm into also destroying our enjoyment of living in general. His solution to the world housing crisis is — shipping containers. As in shoving in a chemical toilet, cutting a few holes in the side to let in light, and living in them. And like all good ideas, he basically stole it from someone else. Using shipping containers as housing has been going on for a long time with mixed results.

And judging from the example he’s set up out in California, well, let’s just say that living in the original Soylent Green’s conditions is pleasant when compared to what he’s got set up.

The thing is, well, it’s just flat out horrific. It’s an old shipping container, a few holes cut crudely into the walls, a chemical toilet, and, well, that’s about it. Looks like there’s no insulation at all, so under the hot California sun interior temperature will… Well, let’s face it, you’re inside an uninsulated metal box. In California. You could roast a turkey in that sucker for heaven’s sake.

The photos, well, dear lord, it looks just bloody horrible, there’s no other way to put it. If this is Rhinehart’s “vision” of how he wants people to live… Well, considering what he wants us to gulp down instead of real food, trying to shovel people into what is little more than an oversized coffin with windows shouldn’t be surprising.

Rhinehart has, of course, never actually lived in the thing. No thank you. He claims that he has, true, but according to at least one source cited in the article, he’s never actually lived it in. He has a perfectly nice, luxurious real home to go to at the end of the day.

He has, however, used it for parties. Although how he got anyone to actually go there is beyond me. Now I admit that some of the frat houses from my college days were pretty much real, live, waking nightmares and you’d want to dip your entire body in sanitizer just looking at them. But this — this thing? Oh, my…

Well it seems the local government feels pretty much the same way, and is going after this pusher of green goo and his rather curious idea of what constitutes “housing”.

To get to the point, though…

Rhinehart reminds me of something my father once said about a particular Christian church with a reputation for being — irritating, shall we say. I was still a child and was curious about this bunch and asked him what in the world was going on with them

“They’re the kind of people,” he told me, “who live in constant fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun, and believe it’s their job to put a stop to it.”

Those weren’t his exact words, I’m sure, but it’s close enough.

But that’s not why I’m posting this. Oh, no.

This is a test. For the next thirty seconds, this station will be conducting…

Oh, all right, I know, really, really bad joke, but I tend to do that. Sometimes a lot, I fear. I blame my father. I think I inherited his snarky sense of humor. Which is curious because I’m not actually related to my father. Or to my mother for that matter. Or to my sister.

But that’s a different story entirely. I also tend to go off track, I fear.

Ah, now I remember!

This was a test. And a kind of shot across your bow, you poor people out there reading this. I just found the “Press This” tool! One click and bang! Up pops my editor, I drop in a few pithy comments, and instant post!

Well, okay, so I had the ‘press this’ thing for a while now, but I didn’t actually use it because the one from Tumblr is so wonky it hardly works at all and I figured this one was probably going to be wonky too.

But it works!

Oh brother, you’re in trouble now…

The Decline and Fall of Yahoo and The Death of Tumblr?

Screen Shot 2016 07 27 at 6 20 25 AM

If you follow the business news, you’ve probably heard about the problems of YaHoo, the former internet giant that has, through an extensive series of bad management decisions, questionable, high cost acquisitions and other problems, driven itself into the toilet. Once valued at over $120 billion, Yahoo ended up selling itself, or at least large parts of itself, for just $4.8 billion.

Apparently unable to come up with new products, new technology or new business models to keep itself functional, YaHoo instead tried to buy itself out of trouble. It embarked on a spending spree, snapping up high profile start up businesses, often at premium prices.

Sometimes this works. If done correctly. Microsoft, Apple and other successful companies do this frequently. They discover a new company with new technology or new business models that would fit in with their core  business plans, buy it or invest in it heavily, nurture it, foster it, and develop it into a successful part of the new parent company.

Unfortunately Yahoo didn’t seem to have either the expertise or the motivation to do that in many cases. A few were successful, but not many. Most performed poorly at best. At worst, Yahoo’s incompetent management and corporate policies quickly drove them into the dirt and many failed completely. If you scrounge around on the net and look at sources like Forbes, Bloomberg and other financial media organizations, you can find entire lists of the companies Yahoo bought, and ruined over the years for one reason or another.

How did they ruin them? Mainly through mismanagement, poor decisions, and often attempts to squeeze as much cash out of them as they possibly could while investing as close to nothing in them as possible. I know a few people who worked in ‘silicon valley’ over the years, and a lot of them were terrified about the possibility of being acquired by YaHoo because it meant they’d be looking for jobs in a very short time. An acquisition by Yahoo became regarded as sounding the death knell. It was automatically assumed, justifiably or not, that acquisition by Yahoo meant mass layoffs as it tried to squeeze as much cash out of it as possible, or being mismanaged into extinction.

But let’s talk about Tumblr… I’ve been on the service for more years than I care to think of now. By and large I’ve enjoyed it. Yes, I have other outlets if I want to blog, put photos or stories or bad jokes or whatever up for public view. This is one of them, after all. Most of those outlets are, frankly, a lot more flexible, more useful, and allow far more creative outlet than Tumblr ever did. Nor is the fact Tumblr is free much an incentive. There are, frankly, a lot better, much easier to use free services out there which allow far more creative freedom.

What Tumblr had going for it was a sense of community. It was as much a social network as it was a blogging service. A lot of the users developed friendships with other users of the service. The people reading your blog were almost certainly other Tumblr users themselves, with their own blogs, and you quickly accumulated an enormous collection of other Tumblr users you read, followed, and exchanged thoughts with. Some of us became pretty good friends. I know maybe a dozen people over there that I now consider friends because our interactions through the system. I’ve even visited some of them.

When Yahoo bought Tumblr for the utterly ridiculous price of $1.1 billion, a lot of us regular users over there saw, frankly, doom on the horizon. And not just because of Yahoo’s well deserved reputation of driving their acquisitions into the toilet.

Tumblr was a ridiculously popular service. But it had a serious problem. No one was able to figure out how to make money off it. The system that made it so popular made it very difficult to try to monetize it without destroying the very features that made it popular.

Tumblr’s main way of making money seemed to be silly things like trying to sell users stuff like ‘premium’ templates, fancy, pretty formatting for their blog’s home page. That’s fine, but I haven’t even seen my home page over there since I set up my account for the first time. Nor have I ever seen the home pages of any of the blogs I follow there. One of Tumblr’s features is that registered users have a dashboard, a more or less bare bones, distraction free system that aggregates all of the posts from the blogs you follow into a single page. Since virtually all of the readers of Tumblr blogs are also Tumblr users, we all have dashboards, and we do everything from them, reading, posting, commenting, everything. I follow a lot of blogs over there and I’ve never even seen the home pages of any of them. So why waste the time and money setting up a fancy premium template when no one’s going to see it anyway?

Tumblr survived largely by infusions of capital from outside investors. I’m not sure if it ever made a profit to be honest.

At the time Yahoo bought Tumblr, well, we figured that was going to be the end of it. Yahoo, with it’s reputation of running new businesses into the dirt, mismanagement, laying off the very people who had created the startup to begin with to save money, and above all, it’s desperate need to make money any way it could because the CEO was under pressure to resign or be fired and stockholders were up in arms, well, we figured this was going to be it. Yahoo would either utterly wreck the service, or gut it and turn it into a ghost town.

Yahoo did indeed try to do just that, but the enormous backlash from users forced them to pull back or at least make it’s attempts at monetizing the system less obnoxious. Attempts at censoring the massive amount of outright porn on the service pretty much failed as Tumblr users fought back, left in droves and otherwise forced the company to back down. They did a lot of annoying and damaging things that often made no sense at all, like completely removing the ability to comment on posts, one of the things that had turned Tumblr into a successful social network. Eventually they brought it back, but in ways that made it harder to use, more difficult to follow and extremely irritating. “Improvements” they promised either never materialized, or were completely useless, and often made the system more difficult to use.

They made a real dog’s breakfast of it, but somehow managed to keep from completely destroying it. Barely.

But now… YaHoo just sold off almost all of it’s internet businesses to Verizon. The CEO will get a $53 million buyout. I suspect she’s the only one actually making money off the deal.

As for those of us who use the service…

We just got word now that they are going to be injecting ads into blogs. In order to make this less painful, less obnoxious, they’re even offering to actually pay the bloggers. With real money! Ooo, be still my beating heart…

Well, maybe they are. They’re “still working out the details” about exactly how they’re going to pay the bloggers, how much they’re going to pay, But we all know that any amount that eventually filters down to us, the people who actually write the content, well, we will be lucky if we make enough for a cup of really, really bad coffee. All we know for sure is that they are going to start injecting advertising now, and later, maybe, they’ll figure out a payment system for the actual bloggers. Yeah, right.

The advertising can, they claim, be turned off if you wish. We’ll see how that goes. A dozen or more people I’ve talked to are claiming that as soon as they turn it off in the settings, it somehow mysteriously turns itself back on again… sigh. Mine is turned off. We’ll see if it stays that way. Or if it does any good.

Some will probably do pretty well. Like the porn blogs, the spam blogs, the scam blogs. They’ll probably do very well indeed. They have tens of thousands of followers, largely due to the use of bots that tamper with, manipulate the system. I’ve heard rumors that something like half of the “users” of Tumblr are actually bots that fish through the system, following random bloggers in the hopes that it will lure them back to follow some automated porn or spam site.

Most of us, though? We’re lucky if we have a few hundred. Any money that would filter down to the majority of us would be little compensation for putting up with the advertising, and quite possibly could prove to be an enormous headache.

I took a look at the comments attached to the announcement from Tumblr’s staff, and they were about what I expected; Lots and lots of cursing, frustration, anger, outrage, and a nearly universal impression that this was the beginning of the end. This time for real.

Is this the end of Tumblr? Well, that’s why there’s a question mark up there in the headline. I really don’t know. I suspect not, but I do know I’m not really happy with what’s going on over there. Neither are most of the other users I know.

I’m not going to leave Tumblr. I have too many friends over there. But I don’t think I’m going to be over there as much.

Tumblr is — comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. Easy to slip into, kind of ragged around the edges, but who cares, it feels good. But sometimes you have to admit that it’s time for them to go live in that great dumpster in the sky.

I don’t think Tumblr has reached that point. Yet. But it’s getting close.

I’ve often asked myself why I didn’t switch over to this forum completely. It’s easier to use, I have an excellent off-line editor that let’s me write, edit, proof-read material easily. Grouchyfarmer is easier to use, give me more creative freedom over formatting, I don’t have to deal with Tumblr degrading my photographs, don’t have my drafts mysteriously disappearing (that’s happened a dozen or more times over the past year, so often I don’t even bother to try to save anything as a draft over there any more). The commenting system here is light years better than Tumblr’s… I have wonderful tools here that let me quickly refer to outside websites and sources. Basically this system here is light years beyond anything Tumblr has to offer.

I suspect that as time passes, as the ads start to become more obtrusive over there, as the service continues to degrade as the new owners try desperately to make it profitable, I’ll be turning up over here more often than there.

We’ll see…

Farewell AES

Screen Shot 2016 07 15 at 4 44 06 PM

Amateur Electronic Supply is going to be closing it’s doors on July 27th. The Milwaukee store along with it’s other outlets are all shutting down effective on that date. A press release by HRO (Ham Radio Outlet) to the ARRL indicates that HRO is buying most, if not all of AES’s stock, and will even be hiring some of it’s employees. It will also be buying the AES building on Good Hope Road in Milwaukee, and will re-open it as an HRO facility after remodeling.

I’m going to miss AES. I’ve been buying stuff from them for three years and I never had a problem with them. Unfortunately I seem to have been the only one buying equipment from them. It was the the only retail facility for amateur radio equipment that was actually in reasonable driving distance, about an hour and a half away. When I ordered something from them online, it almost always appeared at my door in less than 24 hours.

While their prices were a tiny bit higher than some other places, AES was generally my first place to go when I needed something.

Unfortunately, things like convenience, the reliability of the retailer, satisfaction with the purchase, seem to be worth very little in the eyes of most consumers these days. Up-front cost is everything, and I know a lot of people who will endure poor service, hassles with returns and other issues just to save a few bucks, even though that savings may be entirely illusory in the long run if one adds into the mix.

The people at AES always went out of their way to make sure I was satisfied. Well, granted, I spent a lot of money there, but still, they didn’t have to bend over backwards the way they did to make sure I was happy with them.

I’ll miss them.