Friday, 31 December 2010

Holiday Memories

When I was a kid....the local FAA chapter got this idea of a money-maker for their high school organization in the community....fresh oranges truck up to north Bama by the case.

I remember the first time they stopped at the house and my dad signed up for a case.  It was early November, and roughly five weeks later....here came this entire case of fresh oranges from Florida.  They were in essence....the best oranges that you could peel.  Here was a case of oranges...probably sixty in the box....and we went through half of these in just the first week.  I was probably eating three of these daily for a while.

Then somewhere between Xmas and New Years.....I was 'oranged-out'.  I suspect my dad was too.  We had consumed seventy percent of the case, and frankly didn't want any more oranges.  We ended up having fresh orange juice squeezed for a week or two and wrapped up the case event eagerly.  I had no interest in eating oranges for six months.

Then the next November came....and my dad signed up for a case of oranges and a case of tangerines.  By early January.....I was sick of both oranges and tangerines.  I think my dad ended up giving away tangerines on the mail route to folks he met....just to get rid of them.

It took around four of these episodes before my dad started to cut back.  I suspect all of the local folks got to a point where the mere suggestion of an entire case of oranges scared them a bit.

I relived this memory over the past week....having tasted some of the sweetest and best tasting oranges of my life.  I'm guessing they've come in from Spain.....but these simply make your mouth water as you launch into them.  Could I handle half-a-case?  No.  These days....I can enjoy an orange or two per day for a week.....and then I'm maxed out for a month or two.  I look back and wonder how I consumed thirty oranges over two weeks as a kid.....and then toss another two or three dozen tangerines down into my system.

From the News

When I arrived in Arlington....I made a decision to subscribe to the Washington Post.  I will admit....it is a left-leaning paper.....but you typically got all the important stuff from the local region....to include METRO news and local crime.

This week....another comical moment came out of the Washington Post staff....with one of their reporters appearing on national TV and admitting that the Constitution is over a hundred years old and really not fitting into our way of life in this modern age.

I stopped and watched the clip at least twice.  I have some grasp of what he is trying to say....but the more he talks.....the less sense he makes in his point.  If I went into some agreement with him....then we'd be writing a new Constitution every ten years and trying to include protection over Snoop Doggy Dog, Lady Gaga, and WikiLeaks.

I can imagine Congress getting into the Constitution writing business and producing a 2,700 page Constitution every decade....which would thrill high school kids because they'd have to relearn the meaning and purpose behind the document.  We might even need an entire year of High School added on....just to get kids trained on their 'rights'.

The neat thing about a new Constitution every decade would be the need to bring on new guys into CNN, Fox News and CBS....to explain all the new 'rights' and then tell the woeful tale how you lost your old 'rights'.  You'd sit there and blame one party, and maybe both.....and in the end....you'd just consume more booze and alcohol as you would try to make sense out of this.

I'm debating the need I have for the Washington Post, and it's five-star reporter team.  Frankly, I'm at a point where it makes sense to dump that subscription, and get with a better team.

Spiral of a Town

I've been back in the Kaiserslautern area for almost two weeks now.  It's amazing to see the town being lesser than what it was when I left almost a year ago.

K-town used to have three major department stores in the middle of town.  They were the magnet to draw shoppers to the center part of the town and keep people interested in the smaller shops.  At some point in the mid-90s....one of the stores decided business was poor...and shut down.  A second shop by 2003 had downsized and become this minor store that most people just bypassed....and it's gone now.

So they were stuck with Karstadt.  Here was a Penny's style store with three floors....a basement....and a two-story parking garage on the roof.  It was at the entrance of the walk-platz area and was a major magnet to bring folks into town to shop.  Business went sour for Karstadt by 2007 and they finally shut down by the end of 2009.  The building was still in four-star shape and worthy of a major developer.  The problem was that the mom-and-pop stores downtown didn't want major competition coming in.  They were used to Karstadt, but nothing else was going to be acceptable.  They let the political figures know this....and the council had some control over who got the 'ok' to move into the store.  Needless to say.....since early 2010.....no one has moved in.

Business during the Christmas season downtown?  Well....just by walking around two or three times....I'd say it's a third less on people, and most of the mom-and-pop shops probably didn't do that well during the holidays.  They need the magnet to bring people downtown.  I'm guessing over the next six months....there will be some eager folks to end this mess and bring a big-name company to the old Karstadt store....to save the mom-and-pop stores while it steals part of their business empire.

For a town of 100k residents....it's hard to imagine no major department store in town....just two major stores that function like a Wal-Mart.....and thats it.  But that's Kaiserslautern.

For 2011?

What do I expect for 2011?

Well....the economy will pick up to some degree.  Don't anticipate a four-star situation but it might be decent.

Bank failures?  Yeah, there will still be more bank failures as folks just stop paying on a house mortgage which they can't afford.

GM car sales lagging?  Yeah....don't count on GM's profit margin to really pick up much.  Same for Chrysler-Fiat.

Democrats in Washington?  A number of folks are going find those remaining to be mostly a bit far left than what they were used to.  I suspect the typical Democratic guy in Mississippi or Texas reading the paper for comments....will be kinda negative about what he reads.  If you ever did have a recipe for a third party....count the Tea Party Movement folks and disenchanted local Democrats as one joint group in a year.

Fox News?  They will continue to carry the numbers.  I kinda feel sorry for MSNBC and CNN.  As their guys ask for pay raises this year....the typical answer will be no.  The Fox guy can probably ask for Italian-made coffee, fresh donuts every hour, and a fancy $1k office chair....and get them.

The President?  He probably gets a six-month period of relief and launches into campaign mode by July.  If you were wondering what the major difference is between the past twelve months and campaign mode....well....very little.

WikiLeaks?  Somehow....they will find more secret stuff from someone....maybe even Tonga, and unsettle the vast public with transparency.   Someone will eventually take a poll in 2011 and discover that eighty percent of folks don't really know much about this secret stuff or transparency.  Most folks don't care....even as journalists quote secret stuff.  Now, if the Wiki kids could ever find the UFO reports or a Bigfoot report...it'd be different.

Julian Assange from Wiki?  I think Julian will end up sitting in some Swedish jail for six to eight months.  He'll write a book and come out a fresh new man....but still angry, hostile, and determined to make the world a transparent place.

The Republican pack?  A dozen or so folks will fight it out in public and you will eventually wish that a unknown guy from Kansas would just walk out and take the lead.

Budget cuts?  Congress will talk hourly about cuts and find that there is no real agreement.  They will trim out most of the money for NPR's operation and probably cut some around the corners of international aid.  Beyond that...I don't see much agreement.

Drug wars moving across into Texas?  I'm going out on the edge here but I suspect a couple of folks will be terminated by drug cartels in Texas in 2011.  A political figure or two might end up as a target.  You might see people carrying guns in public on a hourly basis in Texas by the end of 2011.

Cam Newton?  He'll be in the NFL by the start of next season.  He just might be the one guy to turn around an losing season.

Yep, a fresh new year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Snow Business

There's been alot of commentary over New York City, Philadelphia and various airports in the region that left thousands stranded.  A number of folks are pretty hostile and upset with New York City management and think some folks in the snow removal business ought to be fired.

I sat and pondered over this....then went to Moscow news.  Same type of story....thousands stranded and the airports around Moscow are in terrible woes.

Yesterday, Putin (the only absolute leader on the face of the Earth)....finally came out and told the city and airport management folks to stop the whining and get to work.

Then Putin directed that no one in city or airport leadership ought to be planning on New Year's vacations unless this mess if 'fixed'.

There is a lesson in life that I learned long ago....when you have a mess on your hands....don't waste time blaming or explaining how you got that position.  The first and only thing on your mind ought to be to fix the problem and use every resource to do that.  At the end.....you write up a lessons learned package and make sure everyone contributes.  For every minute that you waste on explaining yourself....you could have done the same minute working on the repair plan.  In this case, Putin is right.  Get to the problem and make folks happy.

A Local Burger Joint

We have a local burger franchise (actually from Colorado)....that only features organic and grass-fed burgers.

The place?  Elevation Burger.

These guys are the ones looking for a catch to get you into their operation.  So after the healthy but fat burger....they have a total of 106 different drink options.

This list includes apparently 50-plus low-calorie options, 60 non-carbonated drinks and 70 non-caffeinated beverages along with regular Coca-Cola sodas.

I tried to imagine a place with so many choices of soda.  You don't normally go to a burger shop because of the sodas....but the mere idea that you could have 106 choices....might make you weep as you enter the door and try to pick just one soda.

This Elevation Burger operation hasn't been around that long but it is building new franchises six states.  I'm guessing it's an unusual place that would fit for the business crowd....if the prices are right.

As for organic burgers....strictly advice from a guy from Bama....it's still loaded with fat.  If it makes you feel better that the cow only ate natural grass and never had any hormone treatment...ok.  But if you go to most cattle farmers in Bama....they'd admit they don't feed their cows anything but grass, hay, and some corn.  None of them would ever waste money on hormones or such.  The cow might get some dusting treatment, but that's the worst you could expect.  So you aren't getting much for your feelings over being organic.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Things to Come in Five Years

Since spring of this year....I continue read almost weekly on different paths and steps being taken in relation to the health care law passed.

The most dramatic thing that I've noted...is a poll where 44 percent of doctors have indicated that they will retire or change their method of operation as a result of this new law.  As I read the article....I came to pause and consider that some of these folks are simply indicating that they were in the age to think retirement, and were simply going to carry it out.  They might currently be in their late 50s or maybe even in the mid-70s.  But the rest were in this younger crowd with a change in mind.

There are various scenarios that I end up seeing to occur:

 - You have Doc Jones who lives in a small community and has 850 regular patients from that area.  With the Medicare rules and fees changing....Doc Jones makes a simple change...no one from beyond the city limits.  So over the course of the next twelve months, he tells over 1,000 folks from outside of the city limits that he won't touch them.  He's happy with his take-home pay of $72k a year and doesn't care to put in another 200 man-hours a year to cover lower-cost patients.

- You have Ms Windale who retired to Florida and her regular doctor of five years has retired.  She spends two months looking for another doctor in the county to take her as a regular patient and none will do it for the Medicare fees involved.  She finally finds a doctor who lives 62 miles away.  That's the best she can do and has to accept a 90-minute drive just to have quarterly check-up on her stomach problems.

- You have Oscar who had been seeing a specialist for two years about his knee problems....and the doctor suddenly retires.  Oscar suddenly finds that while his half-way decent policy from Pepsi Bottling is ok....the new doctor insists on quick turn-arounds and is continually on Oscar when the insurance company isn't paying the fee within four weeks.  Oscar throws his anger at the Pepsi bosses who have no control at the insurance group they hired for their benefits package.  Oscar would like a new specialist but the only other guy who would take this case of his....lives around sixty minutes away from work, so that doesn't work.  Oscar is unhappy but with no options because of the new law.

In the end....whatever your senator or congressman said he'd fix....he fixed, and then he created a fresh new list of problems that you really can't stand.  Five years will pass, and then the boys will jump up to fix these problems or be fired.  The blunt truth is that you have wave after wave of fixes, and then wave after wave of screw-ups or failures.

Monday, 27 December 2010

My Neighbors, Part II

I blogged the story of my German neighbors a couple of days ago.  Huns and Sissi.  Huns is the 50-year old cop who got picked up by this 35-year old lusty and hot gal in town, and left his wife Sissi of twenty-odd years about two months ago.

Well....around the afternoon of the 23rd....Huns finally convinced Sissi that he'd screwed up and wanted her to accept him back with no questions.  She agreed (as dimwitted as it sounds).  So Huns and Sissi got back on the morning of the 24th of December....packed up and went to his relatives.  He kinda said his quick good-bye to the lusty hot gal that morning, and upset her greatly.

So they returned from this weekend trip last night around 9PM....and the phone started ringing, and ringing, and ringing.  The hot lusty gal apparently was very upset that Huns had gone back to his old wife....especially around Christmas holidays.  I can hear the phone pretty good, and it must have rung a dozen times before 11PM.

The wife is pretty upset and I'm guessing that Huns had a chat with his hot lusty gal today.....no calls yet. It's hard to say where this will go.  Once you typically walk out.....especially after two months.....it's hard on the girlfriend to turn down their lusty homelife.

Japanese Ronald McDonald

This is the Japanese version of Ronald McDonald. They ought to introduce this character to the US....but it'd probably upset some women.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

My County

The county I live in....Arlington county....has a unique prospective on rules.  Up until last winter...they didn't have a rule on snow removal.  Since the forty-odd inches we had....the county put up an ordinance....you have to clear the city-built sidewalk in front of your house, period.  No exceptions.  They actually can fine you if you don't make an effort.

The county was nice about this....they've actually spent money on snowblowers and created a loan program.  The thing is that they only bought ten blowers and they've already got requests for a minimum of fifty blowers.

For a guy with a 100 foot front space.....a four-inch overnight snowfall could be a major episode to shovel that much snow.  You could be looking at thirty minutes of work.  I suspect the little guys will be happy enough with this.  For the guy with a mega front area and 200 feet of sidewalk....he'll have to put out the money to buy a snow blower.  The curious thing is that folks around here usually had two or three snowfalls a year and this never amounted to much of anything.

The snowblower sales folks are naturally happy.  They've probably got a 1,000 percent increase in sales over the past twelve months.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

It is my 52nd Christmas.  Over the years, I've had various experiences.

The one that always comes at the top is the experience as a kid on the Christmas tree hunt.  All of the ones we ever used in the Bama home were cut.  And yes, I must admit they were from the neighbor's property who likely never knew about it.

This one hour episode always done in the afternoons and with barely an hour or two before dark.  It involved climbing over a fence and finding the right tree.

These weren't the fancy trees that you'd buy today, and I doubt that a guy would pay $5 for such a tree.  The thing was that it did have a real smell to it which most trees don't have today.

You'd lug the tree back across this field to the pick-up and then finally get it to the house.  It was a mess to get into the stand and get level, but eventually things would just work out.

So as you sit around this Christmas.....enjoy these moments.  They are worth remembering.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

From My Region: Rooftop Bars

We have this unusual thing in the DC region...rooftop bars.  I admit there's not hundreds of them....but probably more in line with dozens.

Some are designed for rich and crusty folks.  Some are just for regular folks and college kids.

Being from Bama, I kinda shake my head over this.  We would worry a bit that Barney or Karl would have six to eight beers....then want to peer over the side, and then get dizzy.  Naturally, there'd be this fall and you'd have to explain to Karl's wife what he was doing up on top of some roof while drunk. It's not like falling off the back of a pick-up....you know.

The other problem that a guy from Bama would see....is that folks tend to drink a bit, and then want to throw up (especially after eating some fancy shrimp plate or taco salad).  So they'd lean over your fancy building side and just chuck it down below....on some poor lady from Missouri who was there in DC to see some monuments.  It'd kind of spoil her evening....if you know what I mean.

The final problem that I'd see is simply temperature adjustment.  I kinda like patio situations where the temperature is forty-five degrees.  But if I were on top of a building with a fair wind in November....and the wind chill was around 30 degrees....this wouldn't be much of a thrill.  So I kinda doubt that business runs much with these outdoor sittings after mid-November.

A German Story

This is a German soap opera story of sorts....over my old neighbors (in a German town that shall be unnamed).  The couple are around 50 years old each.  They have a seventeen year old son.  The guy is a cop (actually a detective), and the wife went back to work two years ago after staying at home for fifteen years.  They are vegetarians.....which does figure into this story. 

Two months ago...."Huns" comes into the house and packs up a suitcase....then tells "Sissi" that things just aren't the same, and he's met this 35-year old hot lusty gal in town.  He leaves.  Bluntly.  Coldly.  Done.

Sissi goes into the dumps.  Depressed over Huns leaving, she's really lost her focus in life.

Huns won't talk to her at all.....just calling the seventeen year old son on the cellphone or sending e-mails to him.  The kid is the middle guy on this.

The wife has an income that barely would bring home $1200 a month after taxes.  Based on German divorce law....she'd get half the house but they still owe a fair portion on the house, so it'd be best to sell it.  The money that Huns has?  It might add up to $20k maximum.  So there's no real asset to grab onto and in a divorce.....Sissi would have to really think hard about life ahead.

Two days ago....Sissi suddenly gets this comment from the son that Huns would be willing to come back....if she would never bring up this event....ever.  Yes, it could not be discussed....ever again.  So Sissi is actually contemplating letting poor Huns come back to the house, under this circumstance.

Naturally, I don't think Huns has told his new girlfriend this deal....he's been staying at her house, eating her cookies, and enjoying the vacation of the past two months.  The girlfriend probably thinks that Huns is pretty serious on her, but frankly....she probably doesn't cook the things that he enjoys and she probably demands that he helps clean the house, which Huns would never normally participate in.

If Sissi does finally come to say "no".....Huns is screwed, in my honest opinion.  He'll have to accept this girlfriend's hospitality, lust, sex, and demands that he help around the house.  He might actually have to do things that he never did in his twenty years of marriage....just to have the hot lusty babe.  It's hard to say how this event will finally wrap up.

Oh, and the vegetarian angle?   Well....Sissi had been on this diet for over twenty years.  She'd always been a BBW-sized gal (don't ask me how it's possible eating only fruits and vegetables but she did it).  About eighteen months ago....as most vegetarians experience it eventually.....the body changes....and it starts to demand meat of some type.  Sissi didn't realize it and lost almost fifty pounds.  The doctors eventually talked her into accepting fish and turkey....so she's ok now.  Sissi today.....is around a 125-lb frame and with flaming red hair.....she is fairly attractive and could probably pick up on another guy easily....if she were to realize the situation.

 Just a twist on what would be a normal trailer-park story in Bama. 

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Just An Observation

I am on vacation....in a way....for the holidays....back in Germany. 

Two days into this....it snowed eight inches yesterday.  For this local area....they are already up to 20 inches of snow since November.  The curious thing is that from 2007 to 2009....I doubt if we ever had more than four inches in an entire year on average.  And from 2001 to 2007.....never more than six inches.  Must be that global warming stuff. 

I sat by the window yesterday....watching snow fall.  It's a comfortable feeling.  You can watch an inch fall in one hour and I think your blood pressure drops by 10 percent.  It's the most relaxing situation that I can think of. 

Monday, 20 December 2010

My Cab County

There's an interesting statisitc that I learned about from last week.  I live in Arlington county....which is 99.9 urban (if you didn't know).  Two cab companies had approached the Arlington County Board and asked to up the number of cabs they operate in the county.  The number?  75.

This was a substantial number....in my mind.  The story goes that Arlington already has 765 operating on it's streets....which I thought was a heck of a lot.

The county board came up and said no.

So here in....lies an interesting story.  The county does admit that it's population has increased over the last three years....which ought to make this increase possible.  But then they showed that taxi dispatches actually decreased over the same period by 15 percent.  There were even fewer hotel stays which goes into this situation as well.

But then the most interesting statistic came out.  Per square foot....here in Arlington county....we have more cabs than folks in Chicago or New York City.

It's an interesting comparison.  I never put Arlington county into such a elite group.

So on a typical morning...there 700 cabs running around my urban county...moving thousands of people from "A" to "B".  And it's a bigger group than New York City.  I guess I ought to be proud...in some urban sort of way.

For a Laugh

A good British commerical to make you laugh.


Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Biggest Political Episode of the Year

It's been an interesting year.  If I measured up everything....I'd have to say the health care bill passage probably ended up as the biggest news item.  It paved the way for the November elections and pretty much soured the public on how things are done in DC.  It also turned negative for Democrats even down into the states and local districts who thought they were fairly secure back in March.

The curious thing....we all sit here now and the effects of the bill have yet to occur and are at least two years from anything that could make us feel different.

Will the law stand the legal test?  I'm betting issues occur where the Supreme Court tosses out various pieces and you end up with a loser of a health support system, which we all laugh about in the end.  The curious thing is that some doctors are already drawing a line on the customer base, and refuse to add new customers to their practice.  So you could have as many great laws as you want....but if you can't find a doctor to take your case.....you might as well live in Cuba.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

My Year

I've been here in DC now a year.  I've pondered over this past twelve months, and these are my ten significant observations.

First, I had never dreamed that I'd ever live or work in DC....so this move and year has been a major thing in my life.  I've come to realize that metropolitan living is a bit different and probably not my cup of tea.  It's a nice place to visit, but I really couldn't stay here for a long period of time.

Second, crime is something that you see and watch on TV on a daily basis in DC.  There are vast areas of the District that you just don't go into....day or night.  Even in the midst of a funeral....you could be whacked for just standing in the wrong place.  You could be riding the subway, and find yourself facing some nut.

Third, there are enough foreigners around that you feel like a stranger in a strange land.  DC isn't America....in some ways.  It has become a large melting pot.

Fourth, the Pentagon is a large screwed-up place where you things turn right in the end....but the path to each success makes you wonder about the goal in the first place.  You could spend forty hours doing a eight hour project or you could spend ten minutes doing a four-hour project....you just never know.

Fifth, everything costs more.  So when these idiots come on and complain about wages for government workers....they've never lived in DC or grasp the mess that exists here.

Sixth, in the Arlington area....about seventy percent of the population is Democrat....so you typically have to be smile and laugh over their logic in life....and quiet.  To be honest, you mostly pity them, but that's another matter.

Seventh, METRO is this giant public transportation system that is a successful failure.  Your safety is at risk on a daily basis and you mostly just accept that.

Eighth, there is this enclave of Virginia which really isn't like the rest of the state.  It ought to be carved off and called "New Virginia" or something.  The rest of Virginia is kinda like Tennessee in a way.

Ninth, you'd think there'd be a Dennys just next to the Pentagon but frankly, you can't find a real breakfast joint within a mile of the building.  So you are stuck with donut shops and fast coffee joints.

Tenth, it's been a pleasant year overall.  It could have been worse.  I haven't been robbed.  I haven't really suffered or such.  I've seen a fair portion of Virginia, Gettysburg, and New York City.  A Bama guy can make it in DC.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Just Pray a Little

It is an odd report tonight....New Hampshire Democrats are now saying that a Republican “Bible Belt agenda” exists....and it's asking folks to pray to God to heal America.

Naturally, Democrats are worried about this agenda.  They'd prefer the public not get into a prayer mentality....or that we invoke God into government affairs.  The last thing that a Democrat would want in New Hampshire....is a miracle of sorts occurring, and everyone running around thanking God for fixing up the state.

So the Republicans have jumped up and feel insulted over this Democratic comment, and they want an apology. They think that this anti-God agenda and anti-prayer agenda by the Democrats....is an absolute insult.

It kinda feels like being in a dry county in Bama....with a bunch of Baptists telling you about Satan and beer....before they sit down on your back porch to sip some of your beer offerings.

The truth is....a true Democratic or Republican political figure....believes that only money can fix the woes of a situation, and they'd hate to get into invoking God to heal anything.  If a new $62 million highway extension program is the answer....then that's more effective than a bunch of guys sitting around praying.  This praying business would never bring a highly overpriced highway extension into the big picture.

Thank God for American politics.

Census Woes

There is a report by the Census folks that indicates that the sheer cost of doing the Census each decade is becoming an issue.  Things were simple up until 1970...then for some reason, the cost started to double each ten years.  So the 2010 Census ran around $15 billion, and based on this report....unless things change, the 2020 Census will cost $30 billion.

I sat there, and pondered over this.  Statistics are a passion of mine.

This would mean that the 2030 Census would be $60 billion.  Then the 2040 Census would be $120 billion.  The 2050 Census would be around $240 billion.  And the 2060 Census would be around $480 billion.  You don't even want to know about the 2070 Census or beyond.

Why the cost situation?  There simply isn't a cost-effective way of counting what exists or doesn't exist.  Yep, the numbers folks need to fill in this void when things don't fit, and they need research and various other data collections to find data to dump into their numbers.

From a historical standpoint, it was fairly simple in 1810 to walk around South Carolina and come up with a number.  You could ask the Census guy for one county.....and he'd likely admit that he'd walk through a frontier town on the western end, and just get an eye-ball number by asking the Jones family about their neighbors and then get the magic '188'-number for the local Census count.  Ms Jones would rattle off her own statistical numbers, and Mr Jones would offer up some whiskey from his stash in the barn.  After three hours, the Census guy would be all happy with whatever Ms Jones said....and be mostly drunk as he left the town without every really hitting every single house.  It was a simple method.  Things have changed.

So as we look ahead to 2060, and this idea of the nation having to pay around $480 billion possibly....I'm of the mind that we really can't afford this anymore.  The cost would outweigh the benefit.

The solution?  This void that continually exists....that needs extra research to fill in and be highly accurate?  Well...I'm of the mind to go back to the Ms Jones method, and just get some data from some local person and dump it into the mess....no matter how accurate or inaccurate it might be.  And let the Census guy have a drink or two while on duty to help him steady his hand at this counting business.  Maybe getting one and one to equal three....might work....with five sips of a good Tennessee whiskey....and we can save $470 billion in 2060 (and help a Tennessee whiskey company in bad times).

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Local Stuff

For those of you who track our local former big-wig mayor of DC.....Marion Barry.....he had his car stolen over last weekend.

Barry has recovered from his downfall in the 1980s, and now serves as a DC Councilman.  He apparently had his 2002 Jaguar near a education center in Southeast DC on Sunday morning.....with the keys still in the ignition (curious why, but we shall never know).  When he left the building....it was long gone.  Cops found it on Tuesday afternoon....in one piece.

I get the impression that someone was just joy-riding the car for an hour or two....then dumped it.  Face it.....what idiot would want a 8-year old Jag anyway?

The curious thing?  Why meet early on a Sunday morning at a education center in southeast DC?  And you leave the keys in the car?

The Seven-Minute Speech to Come

Someone sat up this week and finally asked two of the most curious questions of the year.....what does Supreme Court Judge Kennedy think of the mandated and required universal health care law, and what will President Obama say immediately upon a Supreme Court rendering of a slam against a mandated requirement attached to it?

It's pretty much going to turn into a four to four situation with the court over the universal health care law requirement that you must participate.  Justice Kennedy is the fifth vote.  In most cases....he swings to the right.  In a few cases, he has surprised folks and actually swung to the left.  This might be a curious situation with the perception of the Justice.

One has to sit though and imagine the first seven-minute comment of the President over an action against the mandated participation.  I would imagine that the speech writers of the White House are currently writing two different scripts for the President to memorize and keep in his pocket for this day in the summer of 2011.

I'm taking a guess that a slam against the requirement....would trigger a fairly negative slam against the court and how they are unable to understand the Constitution.  In a way, it would be a defining moment where some voters who are still hanging onto the support of the President would stand back and gauge his comments as possibly negative.

In a way, this seven-minute speech on the announcement of the Supreme Court verdict will define the President for years to come.  In a way....it ought be like most other verdicts where you just express your displeasure and talk about work in the congress to fix the problem.  I suspect you won't get much positive out of this seven-minute speech.  

The Peanut Explanation

Today, it was released that somewhere in the midst of the billions and billions to be given away by congress and the senate....is $413,000 for peanut research in Alabama.

Folks are a bit upset about this earmark in the midst of the spending bill.

I wanted to stand up and set the record straight on this.

First, the peanut is a critical part of American life.  Without it....peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches would not exist.  Imagine kids across America sitting there and having just a jelly sandwich.  It wouldn't be right.  Our passion and energy...comes from the peanut.

Second, let's admit here and now....Alabama is producing ten percent of the peanuts for the nation.  This is a major factor for Bama farmers.  We have some Bama folks who profit enough to go off to Aruba and Orlando....to enjoy their gains in life.  In our neighboring state of Georgia....they produce almost forty-five percent.  There is a slight difference here but lets just admit that the Bama peanut is superior to the Georgia peanut.

Third, while it's not clear who exactly is getting this earmark in the state....we can pretty much feel confident that it's going to Auburn....not those wussie guys at University of Alabama.  The Auburn peanut research department is legendary.  We probably have some of the smartest peanut scientists on the face of the Earth...at Auburn.  Denying them the chance to take the peanut to the next level of intelligence....just wouldn't be right.

Fourth, we can kinda admit that this will help fund several college students in various peanut research projects who main play football and need some extra grade points to ensure their survival with our victorious Auburn team.  Yes, we can admit that....and that a potential punter, defensive end, and maybe even a starting tackle player or two might be helped by this research grant.  The boys might even be taken by Professor "Skippy" (head dude of the peanut research department) on a grand tour of state peanut farms in search of statistics and a greater understanding of the vast peanut world in Bama.  And yes, they may get some pocket money for beer and get to hear Professor "Skippy" lecture in a drunken state about his wild theories of peanut evolution (things that would never be mentioned in Baptist company).

Fifth and final.....we admit that the money had to be spent on something.  Considering your choices were $413k on weasel research in California, $413k on turpentine research in Oregon, $413k on wild donkey research in Elko, Nevada, or $413k on the reason why people separate a Oreo cookie and eat the center part before they eat the outside cookies.....you'd have to agree that peanuts are a damn good idea to research.

You have to admit....just handing everyone in America back 12 cents by saving the $413k just wouldn't make sense....right?

The Diversity Crowd

It is a sad woeful tale.  A public school district in Oregon has stood up and decided that kids can't see a Christmas tree by itself.  It has to have various ornaments, from various religions, to appease various people.

This district, the Ashland school area.....had a group of folks up to study this terrible problem.  They finally developed some guidelines for school holiday displays.

This effort is supposed to present some type of diversity....which will thus skip out on issues with symbols with certain religious meanings (meaning the stable scene, the three wise dudes, the Star of David, Santa Joe Claus from Red Bay, and Randy the gay reindeer).

You have to appreciate the amount of time that people have these days.  Fifty years ago....dad would have put in forty to fifty hours at work, plus another twenty doing various chores, and five or six associated with the Masons or the VFW.  Mom would have wasted most of December doing real Christmas stuff....baking cookies and shopping for things that meant something from the heart.  Today, they all have extra time to think about lesser topics in life....and can spend time thinking about diversity and how it helps us feel good.

I pondered upon this for a while and wanted to offer us some diversity suggestions to help in this case.

First, there is the Corona of Coronas....a religious sect that praises the work of Mexican beer distributer.  This decoration is typically an empty bottle of Corona which is attached to the bulk of the Christmas tree itself...because of the weight.  Typically, you'd guzzle down the bottle quickly and then hang it.  There is a limit of six bottle per tree and it'd best be done with company in the house.

Then you have the fisherman's sect, which typically uses fishing lures over the top half of the tree.  The hooks are high low enough so cats can't hurt themselves on them.  You typically sing praise for trout and catfish when hanging the hooks on the tree.

Then you have the tube-top hottie sect, which hangs a simple blue tube-top (usually from an exceptionally large gal) near the top.  You can sing praise....mostly with her name and her phone number.

Then you have trailer park sect.....which typically has a tire rim kept near the bottom of the tree.  There is usually a verse or two about snowstorms or ice storms.  Folks will talk about their 'big one' and spend a few minutes going over just feeling lucky to be alive.

The sad thing is that these people who complain....usually think they are fixing something or feel proud of what they did.  Their enthusiasm in life is over how they can bring someone down to their standards.  They are mostly unhappy people and would prefer that you find that avenue to your liking as well.

If you are wondering why homeschooling is so popular now.....this is one of those reasons.  And as the years go by....you will get used to that being the best solution (sadly).

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

There's a Point Where You Retire

At some point in the last week....Barbera Walters came out with her analysis of Representative John Bohener....who is set to become head of the House in a couple of weeks for the Republicans.

Her chief comment?  It was mostly along the line of: 'I think he might have an emotional problem'.

I sat there...mostly amused.

There was a point around 2001 where I watching a Larry King interview and I realized that Larry really wasn't up to the task anymore.  Larry was just going through the motions and mostly lowering himself to lesser standards.  It was OK for CNN because folks were dopey enough to accept that and watch anyway.  In the past two or three years....they've lost numbers and things are obvious.

I have to be honest here on Barbera Walters....the last decent interview I noted with Barb....came from the 1999/2000 period with Monica Lewinsky.  I might include the Al Gore interview in 2004, but it was simply a lucky shot.  The rest?  All in a level you'd expect of Larry King over the past decade....maybe three-star at best....sometimes lower.

To be honest....you might get better interviews with Matt Lauer of the Today Show, but Matt has a certain softball pitch that really helps pitiful folks come across as terrific.  Barb's interviews rarely help anybody as far as I can see and they certainly aren't worth much for the viewer.

Barbara is one of those icons who probably had some terrific moments in the 1970s and 1980s.  We could say the same of Larry King.  You'd hope that the network would eventually realize this and look for fresh new prospectives.

My Day

This morning....I kinda got off ten minutes late, and noted on the way into the Pentagon that cop cars were pretty active.  Everyone was kind of excited.

I didn't ask any questions and just entered the building.

What apparently occurred around 7AM was some guy looking over into a trash can and noting some blinking lights.  Naturally, he got all excited and told the cops.  In the twinkle of an instant, with Santa's anxiety on their shoulders, the cops felt it might be a suspicious package.  So the whole Pentagon METRO station was shut down.

A bomb team was brought in and they spent almost an hour on the look and see over this blinking light situation in the garbage can.

Finally, they decided that this was a batter-operated blinking Christmas ornament, and gave the thumbs up.

This all-clear was given around 8:44 AM.

This is the sad situation of life around DC today.  Every single thing is a suspicious object and it's making life miserable for folks.

The train was stopped from passing the METRO site for at least thirty minutes.  And when they let it pass....they refused to let it stop at the Pentagon for another thirty minutes.  So a bunch of guys got off and had to figure alternate means of getting over to the Pentagon.  I'd estimate that over 10k folks were affected by this Christmas light episode.

Kinda sad....if you think about it.

Telework Note

I was introduced to teleworking this year.  Actually, they made me take a class so I could properly telework if necessary.  Course, I don't have a government-procured laptop, so teleworking would be mostly impossible....unless I used one the dozen-odd teleworking centers around the DC area.  Some of these are as far off as Woodbridge (20 miles to the south) and Spotslyvania (40 miles to the south).  There are a couple of these within Arlington and Alexandra...making for an alternate location.

Interesting news in that GSA came out yesterday and announced the telework locations contract will be ending in March of 2011.  So if you wanted to make use of them....you've got roughly three months left that you could do this.

I sat and often wondered why you'd want to go over to some other site rather than operating your laptop at home.  You could sit and drink your own roasted coffee....have breakfast while you work....and perform all the various actions necessary with your job.  In the summer months....you could sit on your patio and probably write some of the best summaries of your life.  I thought these telework centers were mostly bogus.  The most you might get out of this was to hang out with other folks and meet characters that you might not ever meet.

The cost savings? GSA hasn't offered the amount they pay for these centers.  I'm thinking it's a minimum of $1 million per year for each center...maybe even $3 million.  

Rest Assured

This is a sad woeful tale in a way.  Today, the Air Force finally took the step of blocking news sites that prominently feature the WikiLeaks database of US classified data.  This list of sites will include the New York Times, the British Guardian, France's Le Monde and German magazine Der Spiegel.  Altogether....twenty-five sites.

So if you were an Air Force guy browsing the internet....at your office or shop....and were to go over to one of the twenty-five sites....this screen would pop up and say "ACCESS DENIED. Internet Usage is Logged and Monitored."

The key feature to this is that if classified ever appears on your military-provided CPU, then it must undergo a wipe.  From my organization....security episodes automatically incur a $10k cost factor.  That means my boss has to ante $10k out of the organizational funds for one simple case involving a security episode.  Don't ask why it's a nice round number like $10k or why so much for the analysis or wipe involved.

I sat and paused over this.

The first publishing of secret data started on 25 July 2010....roughly six months ago.  For any Air Force CPU that had cruised to it prior to this magic moment today....you get a free ticket.  You basically have some classified on your office CPU but the 'magic Gods' of Air Force communications can't grasp that fact.

Then you have this funny fact that only the Air Force did this....not the Marines, Army, Navy or Coast Guard.   Will they follow in line with this?  It's hard to say.  Typically, they would.  The fact that this was not a consolidated effort....makes you wonder.

There is this phrase that you use for classified material....declassifying.  Typically, there is a board or an appointed individual who goes forward and reads through a thousand-odd messages and signs a document to say that these are now unclassified.  A decade ago, there were still documents from WW II and the Korean War that were classified.  Most of those have been reviewed and found to be unworthily of keeping secret.  If you asked one of these experts....most would agree that the secretness value goes downhill after a decade.  Most people laugh over the idea that some things from the 1960s are still worth keeping as a secret.  For me, this declassifying job is probably the one job I really wouldn't want because you end up stamping each document as satisfying a list of requirements.  You could spend an entire hour reading a one-page document and asking yourself ten questions.

When will the 100k-plus documents be declassified?  It won't happen anytime soon (my assumption).  In fact, it could be five to ten years before some President might appoint a commission to accomplish this.

Presently, the New York Times maintains a giant server system with US classified material on it.  No one will dare suggest wiping it.  By every measure of law in existence, it ought to be wiped clean by some government official.  No one will dare suggest that in public.

A comedy?  Yes.  A bunch of Air Force folks are sitting there and wondering what the New York Times has that threatens national security.  The comm guys are trying to explain this in a manner that everyone can understand.  People are standing there and asking if there were issues back in July, and the kid from the comm squadron just grins and says yes.  And everyone stands there laughing over the amount of effort and man-hours to protect secrets which aren't secrets anymore.  Some people will even get medals for their efforts in protecting secrets that aren't secrets anymore.

So as you go to sleep tonight....rest assured.  Someone is protecting your nation's secrets and non-secrets.

Just Avoid It

A question was made to the soccer chief of the world.....FIFA President Sepp Blatter...over the gay problem in picking Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar....if you didn't know....is really fairly anti-gay, and no, they aren't going to be changing their attitude over the next ten years.

Blatter paused over the question, and kinda suggested that the best approach would be to avoid all sexual activities during your stay in Qatar for the games (a decade away).

This naturally....upset a number of folks....who mostly hot-blooded and lusty.  So this selection of Qater upset a number of folks and this comment by Blatter also was upsetting.

The curious thing about this whole topic...is that the US military is based in Qatar, and in the months ahead....will likely toss the "don't ask-don't tell" policy....which means gays in military uniform will arrive and perform illegal acts within the country.  No one has asked the Pentagon yet about their situation with Qatar and if they had any comments.  My guess is that some Marine general is prepared to suggest avoiding sex to help make the peace in Qater, which will upset a bunch of folks.

It would be nice if you could find a nice place, with no issues, for world cup games....but after you toss out Tonga, it's pretty much a limited number of nice places.  

My guess is that a bunch of gay guys will run out on the field of the first world cup game and attempt to have sex.  The Qatar guys will be upset and demand that they just stop this foolishness, and the media will film the acts world-wide to 188 countries.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Not That It Really Matters

If you challenged a great writer to write 1,924 pages of text....it'd be a hard and difficult thing to accomplish.  If you added the requirement that it had to be a spending bill....just to spend money....it'd typically be twice as hard.  Then you suggested that 20,000 earmarks have to be tossed onto almost 2k pages of texts....and you'd just laugh and say impossible.

But in America, we have men of legendary writing ability.  And yes, they can write 1,924 pages into a spending bill that would make even Democrats happy (although Republicans aren't apparently happy).  In fact, some Republicans are saying that they just won't agree to this much money...over $1.1 trillion....being used in a wasteful way.

The folks who into the upset mode for voting back in November....probably are sitting there and wondering how exactly any idiot would just keep toss money away after the results of the election.  My suspicion is that November 2012 is barely 23 months away now.  If I were some Democrat in a standing authority of leadership....I might want to rebuild my connection back to public.  You don't have time to waste.

Bus Service

Bus service in America was supposed to be totally extinct by 2015....or at least I felt that way a decade ago.  Locally, I'm now shocked at the enterprising attitude of our local bus service.  We have a operation operating in the DC area called Mega Bus.  For years, they had one destination....New York City.  They were running a bus an hour up to DC...for roughly $25 to $30.  You could ride up one morning....shop....spend the night at a hotel....and then ride back the next day.  It made sense.

Well....Mega Bus is going to the next step with several other destinations: Richmond, Philly, Raleigh, Harrisburg, Toronto, Boston, Charlotte, Knoxville, Hampton, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh.  

I stopped over the listing for Buffalo.  Basically...a nine-hour bus ride.  Why would any idiot travel from DC to Buffalo?  That I could not understand.  Currently....you could get the ride for less than $20 as the start-up fee.  I'm guessing it'll eventually be around $50-$60 one-way.  What's in Buffalo?  Well....nothing much to brag about.

I kinda felt the same way for several of the destinations.

Buses aren't really disappearing but they are modifying themselves.  I could see a retiree group of five folks coming up and all taking a three-day trip via Mega Bus for a cheap price.  It makes sense.  Maybe this will catch on.

Test Case One

The first of the cases against universal health care law has gone turbo.  It's guaranteed now to advance to the Supreme Court.  The only question is how long it will take.

What amazed me the most over the entire nine months spent on this health care law....was that there were one hundred ways to build it and avoid the mandatory participation.  This would avoided the involvement of the Supreme Court and made it easier for people to accept.  None of these methods were acceptable in the end.

With the method of design in this case....I'd say that without this key piece of funding the law....enforced participation....then the odds are a failure at some point.  It almost makes you wonder if this was the belief on day one and the intended goal to start with.  You could naturally talk bad about the Supreme Court and then work to bring on a totally different court in the future.

For those who really needed the universal health care law....I wish you luck, but I think you better start looking for a plan B.  Your congress and senate failed you and they likely did it intentionally.

A Tourist Deal

I could never understand the idea of tourism in Iowa....or northern Bama.....or anyplace south of Jackson in Mississippi.  I admit....my idea of tourism is a bit different from most folks.

Today, the Ukraine came out and announced that they are opening up a special area in 2011....near Chernobyl.  The puropose is to let you view the sealed zone.

For those who don't remember, a short lesson in history with Chernobyl.  It was a pretty safe nuclear plant until the point where this back-up power engineer had this idea and convinced the guys in Moscow of an experiment.  The Russians are hardcore enthusiasts about bringing a plant down for maintenance on schedule. This requires a customized diesel engine which takes over the internal power functions of the plant and helps to ease to plant down to zero power.

This customized diesel engine is a huge cost item.  This back-up power engineer had this idea about using the power of the plant itself, to ease itself down to zero power....thereby eliminating the diesel generator.  He convinced the Moscow management crowd that this was ok.

So he arrives at Chernobyl and puts some defaults into places and they allow him to bring the nuke plant down.  Somewhere in the midst of this....emergency back-up processes kicked in, and the diesel generator kicked on anyway.  The experiment was a failure.

Our engineer went back and found these processes and then requested a second chance via Moscow to test his ideas.  This time....they weren't as eager but went ahead anyway.  So Joe the Engineer then pushes the throttle down....and somewhere in the middle of this mess....the plant doesn't have the power to ease itself down to the right level.  All hell breaks loose at this point.

It's safe to say that this guy has never been seen since this and no one in Moscow cares to admit that a stupid nuclear accident occurred because of an idiot back-up power engineer, and not a nuclear engineer.

So years have passed since 26 April 1986.  Tourism?  Who would come?

I thought about this for a while and must admit that I would be curious.  I'm sure that you'd get four-star hotel treatment.  You'd probably get some great food.  And the locals are probably real friendly.  The question is....what drives a guy to go tourist at a nuke plant in the Ukraine?

After a while, it occurred to me that you'd likely have some awful charming and lusty Ukrainian gals as tourist hostess gals.  And they'd probably have plenty of cheap booze.

So this trip might actually be what a Bama guy would appreciate.  The only thing is....don't be bringing back any rocks or metal rods.  They might be radioactive.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Movie Review: Shop Around the Corner

I sat and watched Shop Around the Corner today.  I'd never seen the movie before and was shocked at just how good the story was.

This is the original for You've Got Mail.

If I had to compare Tom Hanks and Jimmy Stewart....I'd probably still give Jimmy Stewart the plus-up.  He is as innocent as pure-driven snow.

Thank God for the AMC channel.

My Man of the Year?

Well...it's not a easy task.

You've got this Julian Assange-character who felt that transparency was a great thing....so he grabbed a bunch of classified and published them.  And after three days....most folks kind of forgot about everything and just went back to the sports page of the paper.

You've got the President who ran through a pretty difficult year and probably is scratching his head over the successes and failures of the year.  He's actually having now to look over his shoulder at the likes of Huck and Palin....which is kind of comical but it's the kind of year that we have.

Then you've got Cam Newton who came through some unusual trail to the University of Auburn and achieved a immortal season and picked up the Heisman Trophy.  There are likely a dozen NFL teams just begging for a chance to sign Cam up.

You've got George Bush who published a book and then came around for fifty public interviews and seems to recovered completely from his eight years of war with the media.  His public standing is probably better than the Presidents current situation.

You've got the CEO guy from BP oil  who discovered that he probably shouldn't be a public speaker.

You've got Conan who got fired, and then came back on TBS.

There are dozens of picks...but my choice is Glenn Beck.  Not that I really endorse Glenn....but in a strange way....he's motivated well over five million Americans to rally up around an agenda that really isn't that clear. When the rally occurred in DC and I stood there to view the size of the crowd....I was surprised.  These were mostly folks over forty and this was likely their first big political fight in their life.  They brought their kids and took everything serious.

The Beck enthusiasm melted into the November election and likely was half of the reason for the massive twist of results across the nation.

2010 has been an unusual year.  And now....2011 starts up.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Nickel and Dime Business

There is a New York City law that is being discussed (it hasn't been voted on by the council yet).  Basically....if you had a car accident and injuries....you'd be given a tax fee of $490.  If you had an episode where your car caught on fire, it'd be $415.  And if you just had a collision but no injuries, it'd be $365.

So I sat and pondered over this.  Basically....you could have two guys on bikes and they run into each other....and each would pay $365 if the cops came to the incident.

Basically, you'd have to immediately get organized quickly if you had an accident and just share the information between the two of you and then drive off quickly to avoid any cops getting involved or having to pay another $365.

Eventually, you could imagine that folks would do just about anything to avoid calling the cops or the ambulance....just save another couple hundred bucks.  Maybe that's the logic to this but I doubt it.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Not That It Really Matters

Reportedly....and you really have to stand back a bit and ponder on this....there is this story by a major German newspaper (Die Welt) that Iran has this master-plan and now intends to put medium-range missiles in Venezuela.   Naturally, they'd have the range to hit the US...as the story suggests.

I sat and read the article.  There are three types of missiles that Iran could offer up, with best one offer a 1500 km maximum range....and the other two a bit lesser.  You have to remember....an Iranian missile is like a Chrysler.  You pay a lot of bucks for something that works most of the time but you spend a fair amount of time crying over your relationship with the mechanic and wondering if the car will actually get you to work or not.

To analyze this...the little threat is the SCUD B, which barely gives you 280 km (figure a shot from Atlanta would barely clobber Birmingham.  The next step up is the SCUD C, which would give you a 700 km range on the maximum side (two variants of it would do a lot less)....means you could clobber New Orleans after launching from Atlanta.  Then you could to this Shahab III missile, with a maximum range of 1500 km.  From Atlanta, you could clobber Austin, Texas.  As you can see....none of these are long range.

So if you were a Venezuelan idiot with these missiles....what could you really do?  Well...you could threaten Columbia and a couple of islands in the Caribbean with your little missiles.  Would Grenada come up and ask the US for a defensive shield?  Would Barbados demand the US bring in a radar to monitor things? I kinda doubt it.

The bigger missile is the only one that would threaten the US.  It'd be able to hit Florida, southern Georgia, southern Bama, southern Mississippi, all of Louisiana, and maybe a bit of Texas.  

We know the Kennedy logic in standing on the Cuban missiles but would there even be a Obama logic on Venezuelan missiles?  It'd be hard to say.

If you wanted to really make a good impression on the guys who run the missiles....you could target everything that controls the missiles with pen-point targeting and maximum destruction....thus leaving a missile standing on a pad but everything of significance destroyed except the missile and some Muslim Mosque to support the Iranian guys running the missile because Juan-the-Venezuelan-dude just isn't smart enough to operate it.

You could go and argue for months and years to the UN....waiting for their permission.

You could send a bunch of senators down to drink booze with Venezuelan politicians in hopes of some drunken peace treaty being worked out.

I suspect that mostly nothing will occur.  The missiles will be delivered and immediately start to rust in a humid environment.  Venezuela will talk big and make constant threats but they seriously don't intend to ever do much of anything.  Their neighbors will all be irritated over this mess but after a while, it'll just be accepted.

So for you guys around southern Bama...if you ever wanted your wife to be friendly toward building a bomb shelter/party room out back of the house, this might be your golden moment.  Switch over to Fox News and show as many maps detailing the flight path to southern Bama and the various targets (the Winn-Dixie, the Stop-and-Go Quik Mart, the Ribs Shack, and the Rancho Grande Grill over at Opp, Bama).

Let the wife know that only a right-smart bomb shelter could protect the family and you could do this with your cousin Claude, your high school "Jimmy-T" and the neighbor who is retired at 36 because of mental issues and anxiety.   The shelter could also be used for tornadoes as well.  Plan for plenty of refrigerator room and a pool table.  And you need a satellite connection to carry Fox News during the missile strikes.

The wife will eventually believe all this stuff and let you waste $25k on this idea.  Years later, she'll figure out that Venezuelan missiles weren't an issue and that you stay mostly drunk out in the missile shelter with your buddies...laughing over Iranian missiles and stock-piling eighty cases of Pabst in the event of a major war.

In the end, it probably doesn't matter much.

Just Some Observations

I could probably write several blogs today over the news but I'll limit it to simple observations.

First, the WikiLeaks crowd going after Mastercard, VISA, and PayPal?  Well....they were supposed to be this transparency group that wanted the world to be a "better" place.  Secrets weren't supposed to exist.  So today, they've demonstrated that attacking people or businesses can be part of the WikiLeaks agenda as well.  So you were a group of good or honest intentions, and now you've become this group aggressive intentions and transparency is to be fought for in a vicious manner, if required.  The public won't buy this strange switch in behavior.  The New York Times would now have to put out a column to defend tactics of WikiLeaks, but I seriously doubt they want to raise a flag to their audience over this.  If Cyber Command existed to defend American businesses, then they would have stood up and taken on WikiLeaks as they attacked Mastercard, VISA or PayPal.....but strangely enough....they didn't.  Something smells awful bad here.

Second, strange issues with this Presidential-arranged deal with the Republicans.  Apparently, there are enough angry Democrats left in the house....so that nothing will move on what the President wants.  Why?  Because they bought into the White House agenda for two years, lost a vast and hurtful race, and now watch a President to sell his agenda completely....to survive the remaining two years and win re-election.  They aren't buying into this and I'm not shocked.  Gazing at the Senate and this immigration reform deal.....it's kinda of shovled off into the ditch now and I don't expect them to bring it back out in the remaining week of battle left there.

Third, there was this magic moment in the 2008 election when everyone chatted how the President could bring together a party and was a master of working out compromise.  Well....I suspect that some media guys are waking up this week and wondering about this strange ability that they bragged about but can't really cite too many examples over the past twelve months.

Fourth, total home values for 2010....dropped $1.7 trillion.  That means this money doesn't exist in America today.  It's $1.7 trillion that doesn't exist anymore.  Flushed down a toilet or just sitting on the bottom of some lake...it's a sum of ownership that we no longer can claim.  I suspect that a million Americans are sitting in a house that they bought for $400k or more, and it's lost over a third of its value.  It bothers them, and they'd like to just escape and leave....but they can't.

Fifth, oil is tipping toward $100 a barrel.  For a stalled economy, it will be an interesting moment when this happens and people start to measure every single mile again.  You guys with 14-mile per gallon results....will began to ask if you really need to travel today.  Accident rates decrease.  Fewer kids on the road because Mom has tight control gas funds.  Things change.

Sixth, word of change came from the UK today.  Tuition at a major university is now rigged at $15k a year (up from $4k a year).  The fury from students was immediate.  They went after Prince Charles car, and I don't think the authorities can grasp the full anger and hostility existing.  It won't end now....or in the spring.  By next fall, I suspect the university system will see a twenty percent drop in students.  The curious thing is that you've got students who can readily get loans from the government, and they can avoid replaying the loan until they make over $30k a year.  The idea of spending fifteen or twenty years paying their loans back....just doesn't appeal.  Strange....you gaze at American kids who borrow $100k to study English literature or French philosophy....and they don't see a problem with a massive loan and paying back.

Seventh, it's strange that a bunch of global warming folks could all meet in Cancun, Mexico, in the midst of a drug war where a hundred people are found dead each week, and everything seems "OK".  The Mexican government probably pulled out every single cop and even private security folks to make this safe.  Yet across the country....Mexicans aren't getting that level of protection.  Guess you need to appreciate global warming in the right fashion.

Just some observations from today's news.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Lost Secret

One of the great things about WikiLeaks is that we've learned that shows like Desperate Housewives...is actively viewed by Saudis.  Saudi citizens...both men and women apparently....really get into the show and the stories it provides.

I've watched around forty episodes of Desperate Housewives and find it to be mostly a hyped-up soap opera where murders occur and women entice men to do stupid things (men entice women probably just as much), and life just revolves around a simple neighborhood in America.

If I were a Saudi Mullah, I'd start to go into a fit over learning this.  Naturally, Saudi Mullahs never watch such shows and mostly sit around to debate what Muhammad would have done in this case or that case with their evening hours (kinda like debating what Superman would have done in a different case than Batman's plan).  You'd have to be worried over this American influence.

Naturally, if I were a CIA guy....I'd be thinking of various ways to bring Baywatch to the Saudis as my next step in making them wussies like us.  It'd help if they could bring the "Hoff" over and just him meet folks.  Maybe just start a backyard BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) party with the Hoff in attendance.

The problem is that the Wiki guys got this secret out now.  Our one advantage in countering the radical Muslims may have been lost.

Our Houston Problem

Redistricting is an art and science....if you didn't know.  When folks have been hired to do the statisics and they can show an unusually drawn line around four counties....comprising 2 percent of one county, 44 percent of another, 16 percent of another, and finally 80 percent of the fourth county...can equal a 55 percent vote for the Republicans....or the Democrats....you have to be impressed.

When they can sit and do the same numbers and say that a Latino voter is likely to carry 55 percent of the vote because of the population in the numbers collected....you have to be impressed.

When they can say that a over-60 dimwitted ex-car deal can carry 55 percent of the vote because of the population in the numbers collected....you have to be impressed.

So today, Mayor Annise Parker of Houston had a question thrown at her during a press conference in Houston.

There's this rumor in Houston that some smart guys have the numbers and they are carving up a new district in Houston....which will cater to a heavily gay population in that district....you have to be impressed.

The mayor....who happens to be a lesbian, was a bit disturbed that this question from the press came up, and she said "enough" after just a couple of questions, and then left the room.

I sat and pondered over the numbers.  How would you scientifically gather enough data to say that a gay population exists when carved out of a city?  Could you pick twelve city blocks and feel confident that such a population existed there?  How would you even ask the questions to get a poll that you could trust?  Would you just walk up to the arts district and assume a quarter of the folks who live in that part of town are simply gay?

Some parts of this story don't make alot of sense.  If true, then why don't the bondage guys get together and demand their city council representation?  Why not the drunk rednecks of south Houston asking for special representation?  Why not the Catholic Latinos wanting to get their own representation?  At some point, you really need to back off this concept of special districts.  Life is difficult as it is, and you are simply compounding the problem.

The NFL Story

We have this football player that plays for the Washington Redskins....Albert Haynesworth.  The guy signed up for roughly $114 million....if everything went correct for a seven-year period.  Things went ok for the first year, but this year....because of a new coach and various problems....they finally decided that Albert's attitude problem was sufficient to suspend him for the rest of this year and they are probably looking for a reason to terminate the remainder of his contract.  The chance of getting a $14 million a year deal with another team for next year?  Less than twenty percent.  

I don't normally care about football, but the business side of this and the lack of determination to fulfill a contract is a curiosity for me.

If you offered me $14 million a year to play football....I'd show up practice and even shave my head if you asked.

If you wanted me to wear 3-piece suits throughout the week to impress people as part of the $14 million a year contract...I'd do it.

If you asked me to ride a bus from Atlanta to Phoenix for the game on Sunday....I'd do it.

If you asked me to eat a strict diet and drink only water throughout the season....I'd do it.

If you asked me to avoid booze for the whole seven-year period....I'd do it.

If you asked me to sleep in a camper out back of the stadium for the whole season....I'd do it.

For most guys....it wouldn't take much for us to cooperate and fulfill a major contract with a NFL team.  So it's hard to imagine how this guy finds 99 reasons to have an attitude.  In three years....he'll likely be standing there....finished already with the NFL, and 90 percent of all the money he ever made....gone.  Then he'll ask himself why he did so many stupid things.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

For Widows and Orphans

It was an interesting quote yesterday from the Presidential news conference:

"Most Americans, they're just trying to figure out how to -- how to go about their lives and -- and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it's a big, diverse country and people have a lot of complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we're going to compromise. This is why FDR when he started Social Security it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people."

Social Security started only to help orphans and widows?  Well....no.  That was fairly clear in that it was for American workers, and had nothing to do with widows or orphans.

The White House is apparently going to brief the President and correct his understanding of the program.  He might actually be shocked, and then start to ask other questions.

What is this thing called the Constitution?

Why are Senators around anyway?

Whats the purpose of the Presidential emblem?

Do you have to have a Vice-President?  Does it have to be this Biden-character?

Wasn't this Jefferson dude who wrote the Constitution a Progressive at heart?

I'm guessing that the staff may stand there and put together a Government 101 program and introduce the President to American civics.  Meanwhile, at some sixth grade history class in January, some kid from Iowa is going to hand in a report that Social Security was designed and built for widows and orphans.....and cite the President as a source.  The teacher will think about it and remember this comment....and then give little Timmy a A-plus for his report.   Years from now....it'll continue to be cited as a fact.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Condom-Boy

There are two things of interest today on Julian Assange....the WikiLeaks dude.

First, he got called down to the police station and the charges are being explained to him from Sweden.  Basically....he had unprotected sex with a gal....against her wishes.  Yep, no condom.  Sweden has laws about this, and he probably will have to be forced into a AIDs test, and then led to the prosecution table.  Sentence?  That hasn't been spelled out.

Second.  Rumors are that Time has decided that Julian ought to be man of the year.  Yep, condom-boy made it over Obama, Jimmy Carter, Lady GaGa, and 300 other dopey folks who probably had something more noteworthy than Julian.  I'm guessing that Julian's achievements in Time won't include his condom usage or lack there of.  Time also probably explain the molestation charges in Sweden.  And they probably own't explain his James Bond-like persona which gets him all the hot lusty babes.

The Unibomber Property

Typically....if you wanted to own a 1.4 acre piece of property in the boonies of Montana....out in the vast wilderness of the state, then you'd likely pay barely $2k for that piece of property.

A few months ago, a piece of property in this described area....was marketed for $154k.  It was the former property of the Unibomber.  With no interest from the public....the real estate company in control of the property has now cut the price to $69,500.

The theme of the sale is "Own a piece of history".

If I were a betting person....I would bet on the property not being sold at $69,500.  The history of the Unibomber has come and gone.  They basically have 1.4 acres that might sell for $10k at best.  I can imagine some guy showing up from New Jersey....looking for a site to put a hunting cabin up, and doesn't have any idea who the Unibomber was but just wants a private place for a couple of sanitation advisers from Jersey to meet and discuss issues on a weekend.

Brisk and Chilled

I'm used to real winters (having spent fifteen years in Germany)....but the last twenty-four hours in Arlington have been a bit different.  The temperature currently is resting around 30 degrees, but there's a forty mph wind going on....so it's more like 18 degrees if you stand outside long.  You can bundle up as much as you want.....but it's simply not enough.  You can't wear a hat unless you've got it jammed down on your head.  And scarfs barely help.

Be Like Doctor Who

One of the chief things I like about Doctor Who...is the amount of technology suggested....which drives the rocket scientists to aim for the next generation of gadgets.

This week....the British Daily Mail announced that some smart British guys are out to develop this nifty tool.....a ultrasonic sound wave screwdriver.  Yep, the same tool that Doctor Who uses.

Course, this is a developmental project and major a decade away from actual production with some company.  But you can imagine the TV advertisement coming on for a $125 sonic screwdriver, and you rush down to Sears to buy your next toy.  You will admit to the wife and the co-workers that you really don't need it but it's such a nifty toy...you can't decline this chance.

Will people pay $125 for something like this?  I suspect they'd pay $500....just to be like Doctor Who.  Course, you'd have to have a nifty belt-holder for it so you could walk around and show the tool while in public.

A Five-Minute Speech

I sat and watched the President do his root-canal act last night.  As he wanted to come out and speak of the agreement with the Republicans and Democrats to get the tax situation under control and forge ahead....he spent a good five minutes condemning the evil Republicans, and then spoke of he'd finally agreed with the proposal.  If he'd been a Baptist....it would have been like a construction bond for a new church being agreed upon....with Satan.

Afterwards, I watched three networks try to analyze this.  The MSNBC crowd mostly sat in a daze that he'd allowed himself to be cornered by the Republicans.  The Fox News crowd were not shocked but mostly amazed that he spent five minutes talking mostly negative then announcing how he'd agreed with them.  And the CNN crowd tried to tell a neutral story but wondering how exactly things proceed from here.  If more agreements are necessary (by CNN analysis), then the President is to be hit by his liberal supporters and lose more support from them.

From the last six Presidents....all would have come out and spoken in a positive sense over what was achieved and this was in the best interest of America.  So this first five minutes kind of surprised me.  Maybe, its the best way to keep your big supporters on the bus, but I suspect some people will note the start of the speech as some major negative turn of the Presidency.  This might be a speech worth remembering....but not for a good reason.

WikiLeaks Continued

The WikiLeaks crowd woke to another problem today.  The Swiss postal guys....who operate a state-run banking system in addition to their post office job....dumped WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from using their system with his fundraising efforts.

They came out and accused him of being a liar and shut off his account.  Julian apparently sent over a form as he opened the account and claimed that he had a place of residence during the account opening episode....which was simply not true at that point in time.

The Swiss postal folks mandate that you have to show some kind of proof of being a Swiss resident (not that you have to be a citizen....but you have to live there).  He couldn't do that.

It's a curious thing how WikiLeaks operates.  They need hardware and data storage.  They need an IP and service provider.  It's not a garage operation anymore.  I would guess their needs are close to a million a year to run the "business".  Julian's pay?  For the most part....I don't think he gets paid, but they cover his expenses....which might drift up around $70k minimum a year.

Without an apparatus to bring money in via donations....it'll be difficult to maintain this network for an extended period of time.    I suspect alot of the supporters of the WikiLeaks mission are beginning to get lessons in business operations and are shocked how their goal is closely related to money and funding.  It's almost like a religious channel....with daily offerings tied to some donation at the end of the show to keep Reverend Jimmy boosted up enough to run for another week on the channel.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Just Curious

This is an odd comment.  WikiLeaks chief, Julian Assange....has noted in comments yesterday that he now has secret messages noting UFOs and aliens.  These messages are apparently from the US.

He didn't say alot, and you have to be curious what exactly he has in terms of content.  Authentic messages?  Or just some comical writings from bored Army analysts who simply dumped their fictional UFO reports into some database as a joke?  I don't know.  This might be something to worry the US government and trigger more responses than we've seen from the previous two episodes.

The Wet - Dry Vote

As most of you know from a month ago, back in my hometown area...it's a "dry" area.  For those in urban America....this means that county-by-county or city-by-city....folks vote on the right to have alcohol available and sold.  In Bama, we have a number of counties which are still dry.

The next town next over from my hometown decided to put up a ballot and had the vote on wet/dry in early November.  It was a shocker....voted down and to stay dry....219 votes to 218 votes.  As one minister had said....it was God who had put up vote number 219.

Most folks were willing to accept this vote, but a couple of guys were suspicious.  So days went by and they went to survey the list of 400-odd folks who had voted.  Strangely enough....two folks voted who were from beyond the city limits....which means....their votes should not have counted.  Naturally, this has thrown things into a bit of a discussion.

The mayor sat down and checked out the facts....and admits that there's a problem here that he can't solve....as did the city council.  They'd all like to redo the vote, if you asked (my humble opinion).  It appears that he questioned the two folks and it appears they voted wet....so maybe this isn't a big deal.  But they pushed this over to a lawyer, and it's now under review at the county seat apparently.

There's 218 folks right now who'd like a new vote and this and maybe another opportunity to drop a vote or two from the other side.  For the ministers of the town and faithful of the local churches....they'd like for this matter to just drop.

In small towns, it's soap operas like this that keep people active and chatting at morning coffee over at McDonalds or the local donut shop.  There's likely speculation of more than two illegal votes.  I'd also suggest that some folks are thinking of getting more folks registered to vote...in hopes of pursuing the wet vote the next time around.

The Shape of Things to Come

I live next door to Montgomery County, Maryland.  If you had to pick the one county in America most likely to go bankrupt in the next five years...this is the county.

This week, the county executive admits that the county is 300 million short on funding.  So they are discussing dozens of things to cut their budget.

The local newspaper finally got around to analyzing when things went wrong.  Over the past decade, their benefits package for all county employees....went up by 120 percent.  Salaries for employees....went up by fifty percent.  They gave each other raises on almost a yearly basis, and grinned each time that they accomplished it.

So there's going to be policemen and firemen cut from employment, and the unions aren't happy.  Libraries will be closed earlier.  After-school programs will be curtailed or terminated.

The curious thing is that as each cut occurs....the remaining employees will continue to receive their pay and benefits package....and likely see more increases over the next ten years.

I'm a statistics guy and I haven't exactly crunched all the numbers....but I would speculate in one hundred years....there will be eight (and only eight) employees for Montgomery county....each making $19.5 million a year in salary, and another $46 million in benefits.  We will know all eight employees by their first name and be well acquainted with their work time, work habits, and even what kind of coffee each of the eight county employees drink.

People will sit there in 2110, and wonder how we got to the point of affording only eight employees....and maybe my blog will still be in existence so that they can research this historical trend.

Changing the Story

There was an odd topic of science brought up this week...which most folks won't see or grasp.  There was a meeting of the global warming enthusiasts down in Cancun, Mexico....so lots of global warming stuff came out in the media....some pieces to hide other pieces.  Having the meeting in Cancun likely helped in this matter because they have cheap booze and the reporters and participants could drink excessively and hope that neither really grasped what the other was saying.

For a long time, scientists have been thrilling us with this idea that global warming would melt the poles and we'd all be under another ten feet of water of additional water.  In effect, New York City would be under water....as New Orleans....part of Miami and parts of Washington DC even.

Strangely enough....some smart German scientists sat down and asked the magic question....would the fresh new water from melting poles be displaced evenly?  I had wondered about that question around ten years ago when all this worry came up in the first place.  Everyone was running around and talking about the entire globe being just one big glass and we'd all suffer.

Well....after a bunch of analysis and crunching numbers....it was determined that the Earth just isn't like a glass.  It's got curves.  So the folks on the northern part of the planet would have less water than anticipated, and the folks along Africa and South America would have more.  Then the smart guys got around to discussing the effect on the Gulf Stream to a small degree.....which would radically change weather patterns completely.  They were careful at that point not to say alot because there would have to be more model studies before dumping that part of the story.

The thing that amazes me is that for a decade....a bunch of environmentalists ran around with some simplified bit of science, but the truth was that they had never really crunched the numbers or understood what they were saying in the first place.  This is the negative part of global warming and why people have lost confidence.  It's like walking into a bar and being told that anything you drink will get you drunk but the bar tender doesn't really know if beer would be better than whiskey in keeping you sober.