Friday, 1 July 2016

Crystal Pepsi?

Back in the 1992/93 period, I was one of those people who tried Crystal Pepsi.  One single soda.

I read this week that Pepsi has decided to retry the market again for Crystal Pepsi.  It was dumped somewhere by the end of 1993.  What people say was that it really hyped up big in 1992 and they felt it had a real chance in the market.  Six months later....it dropped big-time.  And they decided to just say adios.

Why bring it back now?  Unknown.

My gut feeling was that it tasted OK, but the sweet taste....wasn't exactly the same sweet as regular Pepsi.  In the prospective of going back week after week to drink the stuff?  No.  It's like Mellow Yellow.....it's OK if there were nothing else to drink but otherwise, it's just not that great of a soda.

Why not invent another soda out of thin air?  I'm guessing some group of Pepsi engineers or lab guys....are awful attached to the Crystal drink.  They kept the recipe and kept trying to figure out some way of improving it and bringing it back.

As for this failing again?  If I were betting, I'd say better than a 75-percent chance it will fail within three years.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

One of My Air Force Stories

This is one of those oddball stories that I will relate over a life experience, and years later.....I still ponder about.

As I got ready to join the Air Force in 1977....it required the final trip up to Nashville.....to the recruiting station.  On this particular morning, there were four of us who were leaving for San Antonio and boot-camp.

One guy was some two-year community college guy from around the Murfreesboro area.  The second guy was a 18-year old guy who readily consumed alcohol (even at breakfast there at the hotel).  Then there was this nutso 18-year old gal from Hackleburg, Al.

As we wrapped up processing and boarded the van out to the airport.....the nutso gal began a 20-question and comment period, demonstrating a remarkable amount of naive and unworldly behavior.  In retrospect, I would refer to as a female version of Forest Gump.

As we neared the airport, this childish chatter was driving me nuts and I hoped that I wouldn't have to sit next to her on the airplane.  Well....I was the one given the seat next to her.

It would be best describe her as a marginally bright individual....with the mental intellect of a 12-year-old kid.  The fact that her chatter just continued on, and on, and on......was the sad part about this story.

As we boarded the plane.....which was the last few hours of 'freedom'.....my two associates both asked for whisky and coke, and the nutso immediately hyped in to the stewardess that we were going to basic training and she didn't think they ought to be drinking.  This statement worried me.....so I took the morale ground and declined my chance to partake in the this last couple of rounds of booze before bootcamp.   For roughly two hours....from Nashville to Dallas.....this chatter continued on.

She related all sixty-odd relatives from the Hamiliton, Hackleburg, and Natural Bridge area of Alabama.  Names were mentioned, marriages, divorces, etc.  Several had dogs, and the names of the dogs were mentioned.  One had done time in a Mississippi prison for some bad behavior, but she left out what exactly the bad behavior was about.

We would arrive in San Antonio that night, and get on a big bus with forty-odd people, and find ourselves separated out into various groups, and that was the last moment for five weeks that I'd see this nutso gal.

For five weeks, I didn't really think much about her and simply concentrated on getting the heck through the six-week basic training and wrap up this whole thing.

Around three or four days prior to graduation.....I was hanging out at the shopette on base and several young ladies from another boot-camp group came up.  There was a discussion from the group over so-and-so, who several folks just didn't see how they'd graduate this gal.  I was sitting there close enough to hear the discussion over someone that was not standing there.  Yeah, I was thinking.....it has to be that nutso gal.  About five minutes would pass, and here walks up the nutso gal, and the chatter immediately ends over so-and-so.  Obviously, it was the same person.

A couple of days would pass, and it was the day after graduation, and around 150 of us met at some point near the barracks to board buses to Wichita Falls, Texas.  The next day, we'd all inprocess there for the technical school, and yes.....here was the nutso gal.  She was there to attend the fine Air Force nursing school there.  Somewhere in the first four hours of inprocessing.....they give us another dose of the "I'm OK, you're OK" seminar. I'm in the group of forty which has the nutso gal.  At least three or four observations are noted by the nutso gal during this psychological seminar.....all readily demonstrate her as a fairly dim and naive individual.

My class wraps up two months later, and I end up at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany.  For two years, I was stationed there.  About two weeks before I'm supposed to rotate out.....I have to go by and pick up my records as part of out-processing.  There in the hallway is this NCO and this airman.  There's a fairly intense discussion going on and I'm about ten feet away and facing away from the female airman.  Basically, the Air Force, or the Captain over this airman.....had put a note into her records to deny her re-enlistment.

The airman was fairly upset and the NCO simply noted that she had eighteen more months to demonstrate something to have this note removed.  Otherwise, he really didn't want to discuss the matter anymore. "Why" was asked over and over, and the NCO tried to put it in simple language....she wasn't up the challenges of performance.  He avoided using the term 'maturity' but he danced around the word enough to indicate that was 99-percent of the issue.

The voice of the airman seemed familiar.  So as she turned and walked my way.....I kinda froze....it was the nutso from Hackleburg.  I kinda hid my face and avoided being noticed.

I would leave Rhein Main in January of 1980 and never see this Hackleburg gal ever again.  In some ways.....I kinda wonder what happened, or if she ended up in August of 1981 on a bus back to Hackleburg, Alabama.

What it demonstrated to me was that you end up with all kinds of characters who march off and do a couple of years in the military, with some of them really unprepared for the experience and some of them really marginally capable of handling pressure or stress.

The Problem with Referendums

After last week's episode with the BREXIT referendum.....one might sit down and ask if public referendums are a safe and reasonable measure for public government and the survival of a republic.

Americans get a bare taste of referendums every couple of years via their county and state.  There will be some minor effort to reform some law.....allowing a tax to increase, or establishing some limit on school spending, or allow teacher's salaries to increase.  It's a minimal effort type referendum and saves the state legislature from getting into the middle of some mess.  But these are all carefully worded and allows just a marginal bit of participation by the public.

For example, if you went to the public in Alabama, and asked about "drying-out" the state (forbidding all alcohol sales and consumption).....it'd actually around forty to fifty percent of the voters who would vote for "dry".  Naturally, you can't allow this type of referendum to go forward and allow the potential dry situation to occur in the state.

Another example, if you went to the public in California and asked to make meth a legal substance to sell to the public.....I'd take a guess that 35-percent of the public would vote for this.  Maybe with a bit of effort, they might even get close to 45-percent.  This should scare most people but this is one of the problems with referendums.

In the Air Force, I was at a base where they allowed some guy to perform a poll around 1979, and the poll said that Air Force members on the base preferred to have more time off.....rather than a pay-raise of 5-percent.  That shocked the leadership so much, that they recalled all the copies of the publication and poll.....because they were all pumped up for the pay-raise instead.

I suspect if you offered up a referendum across all fifty states.....to disestablish the US federal government.....down to just a Congress, with no senate and no president....there might actually be enough people to get the referendum to 50-percent.

If you offered up a referendum to all fifty states to terminate the IRS and just go with a flat-tax.....that might pass with 60-percent of the national vote.

If you offered up a referendum to ban US senators from joy-riding outside the US, that might actually get 70-percent of the national vote.

If you offered up a all-drugs-legalized (to include crack and meth) in Baltimore....it'd likely pass with 50-plus-percent of the city residents.

So, here's the honest truth.....you just can't run a republic where referendums are a major part of our government's daily process.  You could end up with five counties in the state of South Carolina who want to exit the state, and create Southwest Carolina.  Or you might end up with the city of Chicago voting overwhelmingly to make their own state out of thin air.

The Fake Monk Story

In the midst of the news today, there is this one piece from New York City....on the notice now that fake monks exist and becoming a troublesome problem.

I sat and read over the whole thing.  This are Thai-looking guys....shaved bald....great English....who go out into the NY public and chat up that they want to build a new temple in Thailand....and need cash.

Then I noticed that the fake monk routine has been used a bit in San Francisco.  A trend across the nation?  Well.....it makes you wonder.

Usually, most folks are very accepting of some shaved-head guy in a monk's uniform with flip-flops on.  I haven't figured out why such an acceptance exists except it is worldwide (even here in Germany).  I've been waiting for shaved women to appear in the outfits, but that's yet to occur.

Why this general acceptance?  I think this goes back to the 1970s show.....Kung Fu.  People remember Keye Luke offering advice and wisdom to the young David Carridine.  The bad guys always seemed to get roughed up in the end and the monk guy was always the hero who walked off into the sunset.....week after week.

After 63 episodes....you were fairly orientated toward the friendly disposition of monks.

Are there monk cards or monk ID's so we can distinguish between real and fake monks?  No.  Sadly, they aren't unionized or such.

So among the 944 things that we tend to worry about or prioritize around.....fake monks probably moved onto the list now and as we are exiting some Wal-Mart one day....there will be some fake Monk named Dalton who wants us to donate $10 toward a fine new monk temple in Thailand.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Mayberry in 2016

I've probably watched every episode of the Andy Griffith Show at least ten times each.  For the record, my most favorite one was the one where goat ate the dynamite.

People feel an attachment to Mayberry, because it was where good things happened and things got sorted out.  In today's world?  Mayberry would be in total chaos.

Barney would likely be fired on day ten of his employment because of his reckless gun-play and threats made to various residents of the town.

Andy would have some connection to a meth dealer and a corrupt mayor....leading to occasional episodes where you felt he was outside of the law.

Gomer would have been fired after three months at the gas station because of incompetence.

Goober would have gotten into women trouble....having some gal's ex-boyfriend pull a pistol on him or threaten him.

Floyd the barber would have been suspected of money-laundering.

Otis would have been sent off to some rehab in Atlanta where he spent six months drying out and later converted into some Baptist minister.

Howard Sprague would have been accused of being a right-wing Republican, and run out of town.

Ernest T. Bass would have been apprehended....sent to some mental ward in the state capital....and end up on some medication where he was suddenly squared away, and a certified rocket scientist for NASA.

Andy's chief worry in 2016 would be meth labs in town, and random nutcases.  He'd be continually asked his opinion on gun licenses, assault rifles, and asked to patrol more at night.

No one would feel safe in Mayberry, unless the police department had twelve cops and a trained assault squad.

At least once a year....Andy would have some shoot-out with gang members from Charleston or Nashville.

At least one Muslim family would be living in Mayberry, and they'd continually be getting reported to the cops for something out of the ordinary.

Twenty-percent of Mayberry would be Latino, and they'd all be on a first-name basis with Andy.

The sad thing is that there was a time when some place like Merryberry could survive.  The time has passed now.

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Small Arms Weapon Essay

Oddly, in the 22 years of Air Force duty and yearly shooting requirements.....never was the M-16 that I used....referred to as an "assault rifle".  They always referred to it as "small arms".  The instructor for the classes?  He was never an "assault instructor".....he was a "small arms instructor".

The M-16.....brother of the AR-15.....has only one single unique difference with the AR-15.  There is a little 'button' on the side which notes: 'safe', 'single', and 'auto'.  The AR-15 can only be set to 'safe' or 'single'.

The 'auto' function?  From the very first introduction episode that I can remember from boot-camp....it was the wise words of the instructor to never set the weapon to 'auto'....period.  As he said....you simply will not be able to hold with precision and ensure that the dozen-odd rounds go anywhere near the target.  Within a second or two....the rounds will be expended.  It's a wasted magazine.

Training always went the same way.  You met up around sun-up at some quiet end of the installation in some barely heated classroom.  You tended to hope that the yearly class occurred in July or August.....only because of the marginally heated rooms.

Sarge would enter the room, and give a brief introduction, and then issue out the weapons.  You'd spend roughly 90 minutes on an introduction and safety rules.  It didn't matter if you'd been around one year or twenty years.....you got the same class over, and over, and over.

There are probably twenty key things that you really needed to know about the weapon.  These were stressed over and over.  If the gun jammed.  If the gun had a bullet which fired but did not exit the barrel (really something that you worried about).  If the gun was not cleaned properly.  If the weapon was damaged.

Around noon, we'd have lunch.  After lunch, we'd return and go to fire the weapon.  In the early years.....we'd get around a hundred rounds to fire off.  Sixty usually for practice, and then forty to qualify.  By mid-90s.....ammo usage went way down and at one episode....we barely had sixty rounds to fire.  Lack of funding was the reason given for less ammo.

All this talk of assault rifle versus small arms?  The thing that sells the M-16/AR-15.....is the technology developments over the 1950s.  It's light, with a handgripe which most people readily admit.....helps in the natural handling of the rifle.  The magazine is easily filled and you can keep a dozen magazines on your person.

One of the odd things that I've come to notice from all of the mass shootings that occur....is that rarely if ever.....do they involve a guy who spent time in the Army, Air Force or Navy.  There are the PTSD folks who come up occasionally.....hoping to get a death-by-cop, but generally.....people that passed through a couple of years with the military....have some mental compass that keeps them somewhat motivated to behave in society.

Perhaps because of this yearly training thing and continued exposure to the M-16.....I'm not so easily bought off by the political discussions on the gun.  Behind all of this.....the statistics do amuse you at times.....more Americans are killed by blunt objects (hammers, bats, etc) than assault rifles (small arms).  More people generally killed in motorcycle accidents than by assault rifles (small arms) as well.

Maybe some law does take effect and limits the sale of AR-15 rifles.  But in the back of my head, I just don't see this meaning very much.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

A Musical Weekend

My wife says that at least once a year, I need culture.  This weekend....was that culture event....a trip to the musical show in Germany.....Starlight Express.

To describe Starlight Express, as a musical and show.....I'd say that some guy took an opera writer and engineer to a roller derby event in the US.....gave them both a fair amount of booze, and after two hours....they left in a daze.  Both saw something creative that they could do with roller derby.

So, this opera was written up.  Not really five-star songs or such, but a decent little rock-opera.  The engineer sat down and devised this arena area where 700-odd seats could be fitted around a stage where the roller derby members of the musical (28 of them) could shoot around them....at speeds of 30 mph.  Then he threw in some movable objects of a large size to be part of the show.

I sat a foot away from one path which circled the audience and you could hear the 'thunder' of the skates blasting away.

Over a two-hour period, I'd take a guess that every skater burned off 2,000 calories and had to sip a dozen big gulps of water to make it through one entire show.

To be honest, at least for me (a guy from Alabama).....I was more drawn to the skating ability and dangerous stunts, than the music from the 'opera'.

My recommendation?  If you are around the Bochum area of Germany (two hours north of Frankfurt) and had some wild need for culture and excitement......then you might want to check out the musical.