Thursday, March 29, 2007

Re: Your Policy Questions

All right, all right, ALL RIGHT, people. All is forgiven, and you can stop sending me the gift baskets. I'm up to my neck in chocolate-covered pretzels and shrink-wrapped peppercorn salamis. I normally wouldn't complain, but I've been overindulging these last couple days, and now I'm hurting. If you're going to send anything, dial up this red-headed Betty and send me some TUMs. In the meantime, I'll shift some of the overflow to the workers, see if I can't buy myself a few "Excellents" on the surveys they're completing for the feds..

Some of you have asked what I intend to do once I've seized Absolute Power over the Geopoliticus. "What will you change, Phutatorius? How will you make life better for us?"

These are fair questions — complicated questions, and I'm not sure it makes a great deal of sense to try to answer them now. I understand that some of you are cautious types, and you don't want to put your eggs in a basket if you don't know what lies in the bottom of it. I also appreciate that you've been watching all these early Presidential debates (at least those of you in the States, anyway); all these candidates are getting hot and bothered about how they're going to fix the health care industry and save endangered whales and protect the American flag from forest fires. I get that a lot of you have come of age under democratic regimes, and you've been lulled into thinking you're entitled to ask these questions of your Would-Be Leaders. And maybe you do have that right (to be honest, I haven't decided that question just yet), but please understand, Brothers and Sisters:

I don't think these questions are very fair to me right now. I have so much going on, so much to do. An Ascendancy is an Ascendancy; I'll give thought to how I'll use my mandate once I have it.

Now I hate to resort to clichés, Brothers and Sisters, but I really do need to take this one step at a time, and I will cross the Bridge of Setting and Implementing Policy when — and only when — I get to it.

When you're playing a high-stakes game like I am, you just can't afford to get too far ahead of yourself.

So I apologize for leaving you in suspense, and I beseech you all to show some patience with me on this point. It's not that I'm trying to be secretive. It's just that I've got a bit of a one-track mind right now. My preoccupation at this moment is to get the Power. Once I've done that, I'll take a three-week vacation, sit on a beach somewhere, and sort through how I intend to use It.

Good enough?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Loose Lips . . .

. . . I won't finish the sentence, people, because you all know what loose lips do. They suck. They suck just like the person who read my last post and went out and started blabbing all about it up and down the landscape, so that now I've got the federal government up here running an investigation into my labor practices.

These DOL people . . . arrgh! Give them a reason to get all up in your bidness, and they never let up. Sniffing around The Compound with their clipboards and Geiger counters, handing out self-help/report abuse pamphlets to all and sundry, hassling my guard dogs. It's just unbearable.

The simple fact is, Diego and Felix tried to rip me off, and in exchange they got to spend a nice couple of weeks kicked back on a couple of pristine almost-new Army issue cots, with three squares and forty-nine channels of cable television wired directly into their cells. So they couldn't come and go as they pleased. Whoop-dee-doo. Based on the on-demand charges I'm seeing on my cable bill, these hombres weren't exactly lacking for entertainment. Plus I bet if you went to these two guys' apartments, you'd find beds there that aren't as luxurious as the cots, and fewer channels on the TV set. How can it be an illegal labor practice to lock a worker into a room that, by every measurable standard, is nicer than his own house? Not to pile on, or to be snarky, but I'd wager dollars to doughnuts that the living conditions in my Detention Facility rate at least two stars higher than any veterans' hospital in the Lower 48 (I won't speak for Hawai'i: I hear it's lovely there). Get your own house in order first, U.S. Government.

It's just so frickin' absurd. And now I'm either going to have to bribe these inspectors or swallow a citation and consent decree — not a desirable result either way. All this because some Brother or Sister can't read my confidential communications and keep His or Her mouth shut about them.

A blogger's relationship with his readers, like all relationships, is built on trust. Someone's gone and wrecked that trust, and now I'm in a snit. And I won't come out of it unless some critical mass of my Loyal Readership sends me chocolate and Hickory Farms gift boxes in the mail (links provided). And at least one of those three-way cheese/butter/caramel popcorn tins you get at Christmas. In the meantime, consider this blog's Candor Level dialed down to Need To Know Only.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Construction Update

As I'm still recovering from the surgery and can't do air travel for another month or two — I've been spending most of my time hanging out in the Compound. The weather is ugly up here, and promises to remain so at least through March, so I don't have much occasion for or interest in stepping out (especially now that I'm trying to ramp down my friendship with Aldo: I can't even go to the grocery store without him cropping up). I'm becoming a bit of a homebody lately, and I figure it's high time I treated my readers to an update on the construction effort.

Work continues through the winter. These Mexican laborers moan and groan now and then about the cold weather. I throw them a bone now and then, offer them extended coffee breaks with hot apple cider and flautas. The little things mean a lot to these folks, and if the occasional refreshment will keep them from unionizing on me, it's money well-spent.

Six of the forty-one buildings on the site plan are "substantially complete," per the contract language. That may seem like minimal progress, but at least half of the planned structures are cabins, sheds, outposts — small-time buildings on the periphery of the estate, and they're slated to be the last bits built.

The Big Six currently in progress — (1) the Residence, (2) the Garage, (3) the Rec Center, (4) the Armory, (5) the Café, and (6) the Detention Facility — are really taking shape. We fast-tracked the Rec Center, since I've been stuck around the house. The home theater system is wired and fully-loaded, hot rocks are fired up in the steam room, and I've played a few hard-fought games of ping pong in the billiard room (the ping pong is just temporary: we're still waiting for the snooker table to be delivered).

The café kitchen is fully equipped — restaurant-quality, top-of-the-line appliances. I have an RFP out for restaurant services. Posted the ad in Vermont Restaurateurs Weekly. Six vendors come in next week with tasting menus, and I can't frickin' wait. No more frozen pizza turnovers for Phutatorius. Henceforward, it'll be fresh pizza turnovers.

The tunnel complex interconnecting the principal buildings is coming together, too. We had a cave-in just outside the Armory, but no one was seriously injured. I flew in a friend of mine with an MD to treat the half-dozen casualties (if you can even call them that). He set a few bones, rigged up some slings and splints, divvied up a six-pack of Bactine bottles and sent the workers home to recuperate. I've offered them double pay for the lost hours, and they've signed releases of liability and promised not to go tattling to OSHA. Not bad compensation, and when word got out about the deal a couple of the ne'er-do-wells on the work crew staged a few accidents of their own. They're now in the Detention Facility. Two weeks for each of them, sentence suspended until we finally got light and heat in the cells two days ago. (I didn't want to violate any of the Geneva Conventions.)

Everything seems to be on schedule, and I don't anticipate any serious cost overruns. For materials you always have to pay through the nose, but I'm starting to know people who know people around here. A lot of times they'll cut me a break on pricing, on account of how I'm a World-Renowned Internet Personality. Now and again I'll get frustrated with the pace of things, but all in all, a nice little Compound is taking shape up here.