Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ahead in Our Future

This past weekend here in Germany, we had an interesting test-demonstration at a race-track.  Audi came up and ran one of their high-performance cars....without a driver.

Sensors were turned on....a database of the track was planned out....and it effectively ran the track with no driver in the car.  Thousands sat at the track, and watched the demonstration and were amazed at the degree of technology being demonstrated.

So, I'm to this way of thought.....these kids of today....sixteen years year....are likely to be the last hands-on trained drivers still left in twenty years.  We will reach a point by 2035, where I suspect that most cars will have a GPS unit, a driver-handling unit, and the guy sitting in the left seat.....won't be doing anything other than plugging in the destination and instructions to avoid certain towns, roads, or intersections.  Beyond that.....we will not be driving.

It's hard to imagine an entire society coming up by 2035.....youthful and daring.....and that driving talents will not be taught.  By 2060, there won't be many people left who have acquired real driving talents, and I suspect that driver exams will be rarely given and require some kind of excessive fee by the county or state.

A delivery truck pulling up to the gas station, with no driver?  A sensor-led pallet jack will unload one pallet of sodas and put them on the backdoor step of the store.  A kid sitting back at some delivery headquarters will monitor everything and ensure that the receipt is accepted, and the jack loads itself back onto the truck....which then hauls off to the next store within 216-seconds of delivery.  No chit-chat.  No breaks.  No excuses.

One guy monitoring deliveries from the county distribution point of five self-driven trucks in the county.

Driving cross country?  You will simply step into the vehicle.....lounge out comfortably and sleep for twelve hours while your vehicle quietly reads the situation, adjusts for rain and snow, and then delivers you to the final point.

A great talent lost?  Driving made you calculate and appreciate danger.  Driving taught you the art of making decisions and thinking ahead.  Driving gave you an appreciation over taking care of a vehicle and careful selection of tires to meet your driving situation.  It will be a sad day, I think.....when we get the driver-less car.

When Living in a Mansion, Don't Throw Rocks

I noticed in today's news that Louisiana Senator (currently in the running) Mary Landrieu (a Democrat) got into some verbal discussion over her house.  Folks had said it was a mansion....something that most Louisiana folks hate.  Mary came right back said her $2.5 million-dollar house was not a mansion.

So the argument is....when does a house become a mansion, and is there any relationship to money?

In Bama, a guy could spend $32,000 on a house-trailer, and say to his wife that it qualified as a mansion.  We also could buy a cabin in the deepest part of the woods, with marginal running water, rattlesnakes in the backyard, and no electricity......then refer to it as a mansion.

In Arizona, folks were particular about mansion status, and it meant you had to have a fairly decent pool, both AC and swamp-cooler, a RV-garage next to the two-car garage, and three-thousand square feet of "something".  You could actually buy a mansion for $300,000 there in Tucson in the 1990s.

Down the road from me here in Germany.....there is a upscale neighborhood on the side of a gently rolling hill.....with four-thousand square foot houses, with underground garages, and the value likely runs around $1.5 million as a minimum.  Germans would hate to refer to them as mansions, but if you walked by, you'd grant them mansion status with no questions asked.

Owning a mansion, typically gets you status.  It means you made it and have something to show for it.  Mansions usually have a fancy gate, and nifty security fence.  You typically want to throw five or six parties a year and invite folks who've been on "Friends", or the Oprah Show to be on the guest list.  You also have a fancy light fixture in the entry hallway which you want to force guests to admire, since you spent $75,000 on it and had it shipped in from France.  Somewhere in the main room, there will be some provocative artist rendition of a red pony riding against a Siberian blizzard, with pink butterflies hoovering above the pony.....which you bought at a Miami showroom for $9,000 from a artist called "Bufitofo".

I can remember in the mid-1980s....the TV show of "Homes of the Rich and Famous".  I actually watched a dozen-odd episodes.  Generally, I always sat there and wondered how you cooled or heated some 5,000 square-foot house, or how you heated an Olympic-sized pool in Nashville in the midst of winter.  Desiring one?  I really can't say that.....I guess I watched the show mostly because the two alternate choices were Charlies Angels or some comedy of a one-star marginal nature.

What does Mary Landreiu do in this case?  It's hard to eyeball some house, and come to a conclusion that you spent $2.5 million on it......but it's not a mansion.  The size of her Georgetown "mansion"?  Just over 7,000 square feet.  Bathrooms?  It's got five of them, along with four hot-water heaters, and two dish-washers.

All this discussion comes up because she decided to slam her Republican associate running for the Senate seat.....over his big-scale house outside of some Louisiana university area.  Someone quickly asked Mary about her status, and this generated a fair-sized mess to clean up.  It's one of those glass-house episodes.....where you ought not throw any rocks because some other folks might throw them back.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yeah, It's Unfair (ID for Texas Vote Discussion)

I sat this weekend and reviewed the remarkable Supreme Court episode that unfolded.....a Texas law requires an ID for you to come in and vote.  Some members of the Supreme Court tried to get into the mess and stop the law from being enforced for this November's election.  They failed.

Justice Ginsberg wrote a hefty six-pager to argue over this Texas law, and it's unfairness.

I sat and looked at this episode.  Yeah, there is unfairness.

It's unfair that when I drive a car, I need to be able to show an ID.

It's unfair when I buy booze that I have to show an ID.

It's unfair when I buy smokes and I look too young....I need to show an ID.

It's unfair when the doctor prescribed narcotic drugs to me and I go to pick them up at the pharmacy, that joker clerk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when I ask the county office for a building construction permit, and they ask me to show an ID with the paperwork.

It's unfair when I get married, that the county license clerk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when I got stupid on Friday night, drunkenly married some gal from Natchez on Saturday and realize I screwed up on Sunday....that the county clerk asks for annulment paperwork, and an ID.

It's unfair when I want a fishing license, the county clerk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when I go to Canada, and they ask me for an ID and $438 just to get a moose license.

It's unfair when I go to get registered mail over at the local post office, and the blonde gal at the front desk asks for an ID.

It's unfair when you get yanked around to be on jury duty, and show up to find that they won't accept you just saying you are James J. Jones....without an ID.

It's unfair for a college or university to require an ID....just to register for French literature classes.

It's unfair when I walk in to claim social security finally at age sixty-five, and the idiot clerk wants me to produce an ID.

It's unfair when I go up to an airport and intend to travel that the airport clerk wants an ID before they hand me a ticket, and the TSA idiot wants me to show an ID before I get past the red-line.

It's unfair when I'm eleven years old and showing up at an "R-rated" movie, then they ask for an ID.

It's unfair when I go to an upscale hotel $300-a-night hotel and use a credit card....that they ask for an ID as well.

It's unfair when I've been over into Mexico for twenty-four hours of boozing, and the US Border Patrol guy asks for me an ID before he'll let me back into the promised land.

I would openly challenge Justice Ginsberg to show me how you can survive in America today for 365 days without an ID.  You can't survive now, without some form of ID on your person.  Gone are the 1960s......when you walked into the airport and just vouched you were so-and-so, or you picked up heavy narcotic drugs at Joe's Drug Store, or you walked into Louisiana State University to say you were Joe B Gile's oldest son (that was good enough).

I'm not sure what world Justice Ginsberg lives in....but it can't be America.  A guy can't make it today without an ID.  You can't graduate high school without a social security number.  You can't travel without an ID.  You can't marry or divorce, without an ID.

This political game played here?  It's for awful naive people who don't live in the same world as the rest of us.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Inside View of the Ebola Czar

This week, the President finally decided to appoint a Ebola Czar.  Now, you'd think fine.....but isn't there already a person in charge of infectious diseases for the government?  Yes, but apparently, they aren't the person to manage Ebola.  Go figure.

The guy chosen?  A heavy-weight in science or medicine?  No.  Ron Klain.  He's the former chief of staff for Joe Biden.  A political guy.

The general reaction?  A few senators came out within hours to comment that this really wasn't a good answer.  The media reaction?  Mostly negative.  The guy has no experience with medicine, hospitals, or the science involved.  He's a political player, that's it.

What's the deal?  This is a bit complicated.

This week, the President got yanked into a meeting and forced to sit there and listen to various issues on CDC guidance which was WRONG.  They admitted this.  There appears to be a public stance, and a private stance.  There also appears to be White House staff direction going in one way....while the science guys advocate a totally different view.

I think the President just said enough, and refuses to meet in any meeting with the medical or science guys.....making his Ebola Czar do this, and thump on them as necessary.  He can blame everything that goes wrong....back on the E-Czar (my title for the guy).

 I'm also of the mind that this is more of delay tactic.  The Senate will ask to meet this guy, and he can truthfully say that he's just gotten the job and needs to get his staff together.  No meetings until after Thanksgiving will likely be the talk for a while.

By the time that early December rolls around....either the efforts of the CDC will be successful, or we will have four-hundred folks in some type of quarantine.  The science questions for the E-Czar?  Forget about him answering.....he'll have five guys hired to just answer those.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the Senate will play along with this until early January, when the majority are then Republican....and then they will start a process to make him a marginal player, or force the President to hire a real scientist or doctor.

This all leads back.....if you don't get it.....to the ban on incoming people from the five countries affected.  The President won't go this direction and the political establishment just aren't pushing it.  Why?

This goes to an odd detail of thousands of visa-carriers in America who come from the five African countries in question.....who paid political donations to get their visa for themselves and their forty closest relatives.  Go around the south today......count up various upscale houses and neighborhoods which have been bought by wealthy African businessmen.  They come here for the safety and stability....flying back to conduct business as needed.  The political donations keep coming.....the visas keep getting approved, and I would imagine that both political parties benefit off this in some fashion.

By February of next year....I anticipate the pressure will be such....that a ban will have to be pushed into place.  But by that time.....it'll be too late.