Monday, 31 October 2011

Our Little Political Fiasco in DC

Once upon a time....2010, to be precise....we had this run-up to the Mayor's election in the District of Columbia.

There were three Democratic contenders.  We had Mayor "X" who been in office for four years and avoided any political scandels and corruption.  He was young, and liked by the majority of folks in the western side of DC (the Georgetown crowd).  Candidate two was city councilman "Y", who was a older gentleman and generally liked on the eastern side of the District.  And down the line....along side all of the zero-players running as a potential candidate....was challenger "Z".  Challenger "Z's" job was to be a pain and blunt-instrument on the Mayor "X".

As the primary came to a close.....city councilman "Y" ended up winning....with a seven-to-eight point spread.  The truth was that Mayor "X" did great with the Georgetown crowd, but didn't really captivate the more more "black" communities of DC.  To also be honest.....challenger "Z" really hammered into Mayor "X's" reputation and made folks question the pay-back that political figures are supposed to offer various neighborhoods.

City council "Y" wins....and is sworn into office.  Days later, challenger "Z" gets offered a 6-figure job with the new Mayor.  Challenger "Z" is awful happy about his situation.  Who would have dreamed of such fortune?

Days passed.  Some folks suddenly realize that Challenger "Z" is totally unqualified for his new job, and has a criminal record.  New Mayor "Y" jumps up.....has a quick investigation, and determines that Challenger "Z" can't work for him in the new government.

Challenger "Z" is insulted.  Days pass.  He now pulls out money orders that show that the election team of Mayor "Y" actually did pay him.  He wants the feds to investigate the corruption factor.

The media starts to quiet down over this whole mess.  It's obvious that several people around Mayor "Y" are hiring up not just this guy, but relatives and personal friends.

Days pass, and challenger "Z" now produces talking points to show that his purpose in life....was strictly to be the bad guy and continually screw with the old mayor.  His efforts?  No one can speak clearly about this....but you have to imagine a five-point effort here that came into play....costing voters from the older mayor and going to the city councilman.

Congress did an check-out of this mess, and it appears that they do agree on the money-orders but nothing else is substantial enough to point at.  Charges?  Well...it's not against the law for one idiot political figure to contribute funds from his campaign to another candidate.  And it's not against the law to give talking points to any idiot....media or candidates included.

So here we are.....almost a year into this four-year mess.  The new mayor looks like an idiot.  The challenger is a goofball who should have never been allowed to run.  The media looks awful dim because they refuse to investigate anything.  And the public is simply shaking their head over the creativity of the players involved in DC politics.

Only in America.

End of the Line (Tourmobile)

This is the final day of the DC Tourmobile.  For those of you over the past forty-two years who came up to see the capital and paid the all-day ticket....you got to see jump on and jump off as you toured the city.

The folks who run Tourmobile basically admit that it just cost too much to run the buses around town.  They charged $32 a person for an all-day ticket, and were at the marginal point of profit.  They needed to charge $40 to get ahead and get new buses down the line, and that wasn't going to happen with the current economic picture of the District.

The problem is that they had 300 employees and they had offer not only wages that met the local situation....but the benefits as well.

There are five or six other localized bus groups that haul folks around....some better....some worse.  Tourmobile was the legendary group.  They were started by the Universal Studios in the beginning, and I doubt that they ever imagined that it'd be as successful as it was.  I also imagine that the owners had the tour company up for sale for at least five years, and simply couldn't find anyone to buy the tour company.

The curious thing is that Tourmobile had a pretty in-depth relationship with the National Park Service, and Arlington Cemetery (they actually ran the bus around half the cemetery).  The National Park Service crowd say that they are reviewing options but no one is sure about replacing the service or the future look.

The interesting thing about this service is that they saved folks hours and hours of walking.  If you've ever been to DC in the summer, with temperatures in the mid-90s.....you know how miserable a trip to DC can be.  So it was a great service, and it is a sad end.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Suggestions

My brother alerted me on the festive Friday that he had in the office.....Halloween-theme.....a number of folks wore costumes to work.  My brother has vowed that next year....he will participate but it's a difficult episode.  The problem is....he is an engineer.  So there has to be a great deal of thinking, calculating, and analysis done over this.  Added to this issue....like me....he grew up on the farm, and a kid's vast vision of costume in Bama.....is kinda limited to what K-Mart might offer.  So there is a problem here.

I sat and pondered over this....and in three brief minutes....it finally hit me, and I made the recommendation to him.  A Mennonite suit, with a twist.

First, there is the costume (really the suit).  You get the typical Amish-like hat....toss in a $49 cheapo jacket two sizes too large for you.....and find a decent pair of older farmer boots (preferably black, in fact, it can only be black).  You need a vest, and a plain cotton white shirt.

The twist?  Most Mennonites will tell you that technology....even coffee makers and blenders.....are evil and they can't cross the 1888 borderline.  So my suggestion Mennonite version 2.0.

As an engineer in this Mennonite version 2.0.....you basically admit that source code, engineering standards, and even Windows 97, with Office 97.....were the peak, and you as a Mennonite version 2.0 have decided to set your limits at that point.....1997.  

Then you get around to TV, and admit the 1997 season of Seinfeld was probably the peak of all comedy TV.  Toss in NYPD Blue, Touched by an Angel, and X-Files, and you've got a pretty good case.

For politics, Bill Clinton started his second term.

So part of the act for the day is your sales job of Mennonite version 2.0.  Maybe some homemade bread with fresh honey.  There's a old-fashioned milk container that you brought in, marked "fresh spring water". You lay out some Amish lilac lotion on the desk for any other engineer folks with dry skin.  Put some rock "shatter" candy on the side of the desk....from honest-to-God Amish or Mennonites.

Finishing touches?  A short stubby pencil in use when someone asks for a signature during the day.  An intense discussion on programming language from the 1980s during lunch with the guys.  You flirt with the younger engineer gals by talking up the art of homemade muffins or pie.

By the end of the day....you may have converted a dozen folks over to this new lifestyle idea....for your Halloween effort.  The key thing....don't get carried away and start thinking this was all a pretty good idea.  Bring yourself back down to reality and chill a bit after work with a Pabst or two.

The Ten Absolutes of Washington

After almost twenty-one months of living in DC....I've come to realize some absolutes in life, which don't make sense anywhere else in the world, but make perfect sense here in DC.

1.  Washington is the only place in America where you can be elected to office as Mayor or City Council....hand out jobs left and right to cousins, relatives or special friends at $100k or more salaries.....ask for four-wheel-drive SUVs.....and when finally discovered for corruption....never spend a day in jail....ever.  With the exception of former Mayor Berry, no DC political figure ever goes to jail.  If Mayor Berry hadn't been caught on camera with feds.....he would have walked away.

2.  DC has a sports franchise for just about every single sport now.  The curious thing is that each arena or field....has private viewing facilities for the rich VIP club-house guys.  These are sold or rented at huge rates and make the sports club profitable.  Who pays the huge sums of money?  Mostly lobbyists, who sit and invite senators, congressmen, and government VIPs to enjoy a fantastic sports moment....with free food and free booze.

3.  Everyday....a half-million or so locals risk their lives to ride METRO (trains or buses).  It's a shared risk.  Some days.....there's zero risk.  Some days.....there's one-percent risk.  More than half the accidents that occur with METRO....lead back to the driver or operator and their lack of training or just a bad decision on their part.

4.  On any given day in the winter....if a sudden shift in snow occurs....there's the potential to lock-down escaping traffic in DC for eight hours.  People will actually climb out of their car after three or four hours and just start walking home.....only to find their car towed away the next day when they return.

5.  There's a minimum of two hundred murders a year....if you include Arlington county, Alexandria county, Montgomery county (Maryland), Prince Georges county (Maryland), and DC into one bucket of life.  We have murders over a 75-cent difference on a taxi-cab fare.  We have murders over broom ownership.  We even have murders over accusations of in-house business thefts.

6.  DC is one of the few places left in America where a "kid" is defined as someone under the age of 21.  If you do really serious stuff and you are nineteen years old....the odds are that you will be stamped as a "ward of the state"....sit in some youth home for two years....and then be released back into public sector. Chief reason for this definition?  The locals are happy that Johnny Junior didn't get jail-time.  And if the locals are happy....they vote for you the city council dude again and again.  Makes perfect sense.

7.  There is a certain balance to cop placement in DC.  The rich folks of DC live mostly all on the western side of the District.  So naturally, there are more cops in that region, than anywhere else.  The federal cops protect the central part where the President and tourists mostly hang out. And the eastern side?  Well....they get what resources are left.

8.  Real estate in DC is flipping....in a funny way.  Rich yuppies are buying run-down houses....renovating them....and then turning entire neighborhoods into upscale.  The old locals?  Quietly, they are being pushed out.  In twenty years....most every neighborhood will be upscale.....which might shock everyone who lives in DC today.

9.  The teachers that DC tried to fire from three years ago?  They were all required by the court system to be rehired.  The reason why a hundred-plus teachers were fired?  They were absolutely noted as incompetent and in a few cases....a threat to the students.  So they are back.  As much as people would like to fix education in DC.....it's anchored down pretty well.  If you are kid in the system....tough luck.

10.  DC is the only place in America where two transsexuals could be shot on the streets of DC at 1AM, and it suddenly becomes a hate-crime.     You could go and shoot five black teenage gentlemen in one weekend, and it's not a hate-crime.  You could go and rob forty elderly rich folks in Georgetown over one month....and it's not a hate-crime.  Sense....is often nonsense.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Breakfast in Arlington

I woke up early this morning with a real winter setting....36 degrees and a fierce rain.  I had my window open in the apartment and this fresh breeze stirred me to no end.  So I got up and decided I'd do a International House of Pancakes day....and left in the midst of darkness, when no mere mortal usually stirs.

We only have two IHOPs in Arlington.....so there's not much of a choice.  In the early morning hours.....there's only five types of customers hanging out.

First, there's the locals who have relatives visiting and everyone is planning up this massive day of tourism.  There is enthusiasm at this table, with absolute excitement brewing.

Then you have the table where an older group of folks are up and about.....preparing for a flea-market run or garage sales.  There's usually talk over what they bought last month, and how they flipped that fancy drill for a $60 profit.

Over in the corner, you've got a couple of younger folks who mostly sat out all evening drinking and partying.....they've mostly run out of energy, and this is their last gasp before they fall asleep for the whole Saturday.

Then, you've got a couple of older dudes like me....mostly reading the USA Today or a Wall Street Journal.....sipping over the coffee, and thinking mostly over NCAA football for the afternoon.

Finally, you've got the doper who sits in their seat....drinking still on that first cup of coffee they bought three hours ago, and gazing at their fingers....like they just added a new finger.  It's not weed or some pain-killer.....it's likely some LSD-like drug and they've got hours to go before it finally wears off.  You pity the gal or guy....thinking that IHOP would prefer they go somewhere else, but they can't really kick them out.  Some kid will ask their dad what's wrong with the lady.....and dad will just respond that she's having a bad day.

The sad thing is that you leave the IHOP on a full stomach....feeling wise from the local news....feeling enthusiasm from the party-goers.....and feeling kinda negative over the dopers who are lost for eternity (or so they think).    You'd like this scene to be some romantic comedy.....but it's just a scene from the real world of Arlington.

My Suggestion for Ford

This week, the folks out in Vegas had a car specialty show.  This company came out and offered up this body shell....with modern welding, rust-proofing, and likely reenforced protection.  Let's be honest....it's only the body shell.....and nothing else. The design they are hinting at?  The 1965 Ford Mustang.

So the pitch is this.  You pay a fairly steep price for this body shell of the Mustang to be brought and delivered to your garage ($15k).   You still have the engine, the seats, the carpet, and 500 other odd-things to procure.  Some will be modern....some will be from an actual 1965 wrecked Mustang (my guess).  You can figure 400 man-hours of work, and at least another $12k to pick up everything you need.

So I sat and thought about this, and came to this mega-Ford idea.  Announce a new car.  Basically....it's the modern body shell mentioned above, with a modern suped-up Ford engine, and modern bucket seats.  It'll have the look and feel of a 1965 Ford Mustang.  Cost?  I'd figure in the $19k range because it really won't have any of the fantastic modern features like cruise-control or push-button windows (yes, there will be a knob to roll them up or down).

The name for this car?  "Mustang-65".  Here's the thing....as each year rolls by....there might be a safety feature here and there, but I really won't mess with this car, and I'm pretty sure I can sell eighty thousand of these per year.

Maybe there's some washed-up Ford executive sitting there now.....reading my blog....and shedding a tear because this might just be the best idea that Ford has seen in fifty years.....bringing a simple car back, with nothing added but improved safety.  No changes.  No fancy stuff.  Just a beloved classic.

Those Damn Numbers

I often talk statistics....which in most cases....don't really add up or don't matter.  Then in some cases, you get a laugh out of them.

Today, there's this polling data collected in New York City with the Occupy Wall Street crowd.  A professor sent out his fifteen collectors and talked to 301 folks amongst the protest crowd.  Now, I would have to be fair and admit that there's a bit of alcohol and a bit of weed being consumed hour-by-hour during the protest, so I have my doubts about the professor's validity on this polling data.

His end result?  He was able to get over eighty percent to admit they were between slightly liberal to extremely liberal.  Naturally, his next analysis over the Tea Party's affliction amongst the protest crowd was pretty dismal (seventy-five percent disliked them).

But then the professor came around to asking how they felt about the President....thirty-six percent said they could vote for him, and the rest kind of went in a different direction.  Heck, a quarter of them said they weren't even going to vote....which made it curious how they came to think this anti-Wall Street business really mattered.

Here's some observations.  First, network coverage isn't at the same level that it was four weeks ago.  I admit I did tune in to the Oakland riot coverage....mostly because of the "NASCAR-effect".  I suspect that they've kinda hit the peak of any national attention.

Second....winter is coming.  Frankly, I have strong doubts that this modern generation has done any true winter camping or hanging out.  We are days away from November and things are going to slip a bit on the eastern front.  They might be able to get college kids to come out on a Saturday but the bulk of the seven-day-a-week crowd are going to question this mess.

Third, the more that anyone stops these folks in a middle of a protest and just starts asking realistic questions....the more comical they appear.  I'm guessing if the Professor had asked who the VP is.....at least a quarter might have been unable to answer that.  If they'd asked about central theme of Marxism.....most folks would be unable to really make it clear....other than saying "it's Russian, you know" (truthfully, Marx was German, but who cares).

Finally, I do suspect the drug and alcohol use is probably hindering the Occupy Wall Street crowd.  If the best you can sustain in a day is four hours of sober protesting.....you've probably got an issue.  Put away the bottle of vodka, and try to go for the entire day without any weed.  You might make more sense, and you might actually be more convincing when the MSNBC dude finally shows up to do his thirty minutes of questions for the evening newscast.

Only in America.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Number Fifty-One

After living in Arlington for twenty months.....one tends to make up lists.  There is this list I have....of the fifty different ways that you can die in Washington DC (across the river, thankfully).

There's the homeless guy stabbing you.  There's the METRO bus hitting you.  There's the METRO train platform where some idiot could push you onto the tracks.  There's the various nuts hanging out near Starbucks and waiting to just shoot you.  The list goes on and on.

Today, the fifty-first way of dying in DC has been added to my list.  Death by mountain lion.

We had a serious group of reports that have come out in the past day or two of a (singular) mountain lion being seen in the city.  Yes, in the suburbs of DC itself.

Cops are looking at this and kinda shaking their head.  They admit, some idiot might have taken up a mountain lion cub and tried to raise it.....and it just got out of control.  So it might be out there.

Between me and DC....is the Potomac River.  Curtis, the mountain lion, would have to cross the bridge and traverse around the Arlington Cemetery, and walk a mile up the Pike to my bus stop....to be a threat.  The difference between DC and Arlington?  Well....in DC...most everyone has a gun.  Arlington has a high number of college elite folks and IT guys.....and I suspect our gun ratio here is one gun to every six Arlington residents.  So, it'd be a bigger problem in Arlington, than in DC.

So with all the various ways that I had to worry about getting killed in DC.....I now have to add number fifty-one.  Next week?  I'm guessing bears in DC.

The Truth About Farming

In recent days, there's been a upswing in articles covering Alabama's tough stance on illegals in the state.  Most of these are covering the farmer perception that there are serious problems ahead if the illegals don't come back in the spring.

The governor's office has been on a positive-chat about the effects of the law.  When they heard that farmers were saying that folks from Bama won't come out to pick strawberries, or do real manual labor.....they swung right back.....with the quote: "To say an Alabamian can't do this work, that is insulting to the workers of Alabama."

I'll offer this observation.  Neither the governor, his staff, or the folks who wrote up the illegal alien legislation there in the state....have any real connection to the current agriculture market of Alabama.

In the 1950s and 1960s....if you had hay season coming up in Alabama....you could always find five or six teenage boys to work for a couple bucks an hour in 95-degree heat.  You offered up lots of lemonade and a fried chicken meal at the end.  Farmers were typically appreciative of their efforts.

That manpower started to disappear in the 1980s....and moving hay became a difficult tasking.  So along came these huge round bales and farmers got around the problem of searching for non-existent labor.  Various implements have been added over the past two decades and the lack of manpower has been solved in various ways.

This time?  This wasn't really planned and there are no sudden implements that will appear on the horizon for spring of 2012.  Alabama farmers who typically hired up five to ten illegal guys for two weeks....are sitting there and contemplating the spring and summer of next year.  You have two choices.

First, you downsize and just say adios to what you used to do with the manpower.  You produce less.  The state sees a smaller pot of revenue, and the guys in Montgomery will ask why folks aren't growing more.  Obviously, they know the answer, but have to act stupid.

Second, you invite the illegals back and stand by the edge of your field with a shotgun.  When the local town cop comes over and wants to make trouble.....you smile and ask him to stand on the side of the road and respect your property.  It's not the best to position to be in....but the local town cops stand to make hundreds of thousands in 2012.....off illegal bribes as they simply look the other way.  In some ways, I suspect that some of the enthusiasm for this immigration episode....goes back to wannabe cops who want more bribes.

No matter how you look at it....the farmer ends up with a lose-lose situation in the end.  The comical thing is that some farmer on the edge of the Tennessee side of things....just a hundred feet from the Alabama state line....has a dozen illegals working his property and will deliver a bumper crop in 2012.  He ought to send a case of Pabst down to the Alabama governor helping him procure top-notch labor at such a critical time.

Tuition Assistance

This week, the Marines came out and said they were going to limit each Marine to $875 a year for tuition assistance.  They had roughly $4k a year to play with prior to this decision.  The Air Force, Navy and Army?  They are all still in the $4k to $4.5k range per year.  The typical deal is that you sign up for a class and pay twenty-five percent of the tuition, then the service meets the rest.  Most of the installations and bases push hard for colleges to keep their prices at a low rate....often inviting community colleges to be the main focus of military personnel and their ambitions.

In 1980, I was this young Air force guy who'd finally been convinced to show up and sign up for two classes.  My check?  If I remember correctly....my cost for two classes came to $80 roughly, with the local community college.  The Air Force chipped in $240.  I spent around twenty-five bucks for the two books.

I suspect over the six year period that I was taking classes....I probably spent around $4k on tuition.  You have to remember that this was 1980-1985 prices.  A quarter of everything I took was via a community college which had some pretty cheap rates.

When you look across this current mess with graduates owing $50k to $100k for student loans....you just shake your head.  No one sat there and lectured the kid about the value of a four-year degree versus a two-year degree.  No one lectured the kid about borrowing more than $50k and how you'd fit this into your $35k salary that you climb onto when you graduate.  No one lectured the kid on the concept of using a community college instead of a big-name four-year state university.

At some point in my Louisiana years....I had some guy lecture me about taking Dantes tests....to get college credit for just a simple test.  The Air Force did these free of charge.  I kind of laughed over the idea....signed up, and passed the very first one that I took.  Over a one-year period, I passed ten of these out of sixteen.  In one episode.....I watched the movie Lawrence of Arabia over a weekend, and took the Middle East test.....passing it because half the questions had something to do with the movie.

The truth is that these kids are all wasting tons of money.....getting themselves deep into debt.  And frankly, the colleges don't care.  It's like an open bar, and you can drink as much as you want....as long as you pay.   The sad thing?  In a decade....a kid could be $150k in debt over a stupid degree that may never pay off.  And then what?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Where Nothing Changes

This week....some folks started to review the Occupy Wall Street crowds....the Occupy DC crowds, and all the other Occupy groups.....then discovered that the vast majority (well over 95 percent of what was seen via the video efforts)....were mostly all white guys.

Several articles have been written up on this.  It is true that on some occasions.....there were some Latinos that appeared out of nowhere with the "right" signs and did a routine of sorts.  There's video of women appearing.....even older women, but they are always white women.

As much as the media portrayed the Tea Party folks as mostly all whites....it's virtually the same thing with the Occupy folks.

So what does this really say?  Well.....black folks just don't have the time or the reason to stand out in some crowd and generally protest.  They work for a living.  The same can be said for the vast amount of Latinos in America....legal and illegal.....they all work for a living.  So they can say....while smiling....that they appreciate their white buddies who stand around and protest because they just don't have the time to do it.

It's comical in a way.....protests from the far left and far right.....and they all involve mostly white kids or white old guys.

To be honest.....for most black guys....if you had an open Saturday or Sunday with no work required....they would never waste it on some protest.  They'd spend it with friends watching NCAA or NFL football.

So it's another day in America....where the media is left with this incredible message....white guys protesting.  To be honest....nothing much has changed in two hundred years.  I think Ben Franklin would make the same judgement.

The Education for Clunkers Program

The education for clunkers program (my title).  What the President unveiled yesterday was a pretty simple program....which would not be pushed through Congress....it'd just be stamped by the White House and approved.  He will limit the repayment of student loans (via government loan system) to ten percent of the individual's salary, and limited to twenty years.  Whatever was left to owe the government....would just be flushed away into the government pit of dissolved funding.

I pondered over what this might result in....so I found this great example over at Fox News....where they used numbers from George Washington University and a four-year degree costing $212k which was borrowed.  The kid could study French for four years, graduate, get a job paying $25k a year, and thus only pay roughly $1400 a year back.  At the end of twenty years....she'd still owe over $150k to the government.  It'd all be forgiven or disappear.

Man, what a deal!  Here's the brilliance of the deal.    You and I quit our jobs and run off to California.  We sign up at age fifty for some degree program in "Steinbeck-studies", Cowology (the study of cows), or imaginary media journalism.  We go for the PhD and borrow $300k from the government to cover books, pizza, beer, and a dorm room.  We end six great years of just sitting around a California college by graduating and then relocating to Bama where we work at some pizza delivery shop.  Our yearly payment to the government loan?  Probably less than $1500.  After twenty years of deliverying pizza and nearing seventy years old.....our obligation ends.

We have six of the best years of our life.....living in California, and wasting as much of the government money as possible.

Every single American....no matter what your age is....ought to sign up today and go to school.  Don't worry about grades.  Don't worry about cash.  Just borrow off Uncle Sam and smile.  Life never has been this good.  And you won't regret the evenings sitting around....drinking your beer paid for by government loans, eating your pizza paid by government loans, and listening to dimwitted professors explain why brown cows are better than black cows.  All paid for by dimwitted Americans via their taxes.

Only in America.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Whole Drug Testing Truth

Down in Florida...the state legislature passed this law....which basically says that if you want state welfare money....you have to provide a urine sample, if asked.   Yeah, a plain drug test, mandated by the state government.  Well....today, it got to the federal judge level and he suspended it (at least temporarily).  Most experts figure it will be halted somewhere in the process, because you just can't start this ball to rolling on mandated drug testing.  Ask yourself these questions.

What if some idiots decided that county and state judges should also provide a urine sample once or twice a year?

What if some idiots decided that county and city commissioners also needed to provide a drug sample once or twice a year?

What if some idiots decided that mayors and the governor of the state also needed to provide a drug sample once or twice a year?

What if some idiots decided that all police (city, county, and state-level) also needed to provide a drug sample once or twice a year?

What if some idiots decided that firemen from across the state (even volunteer firemen) also needed to provide a urine sample once or twice a year?

What if some idiots decided that school teachers across the state needed to provide a drug sample once or twice a year?

You can imagine this sudden rush by various special interest groups that would suddenly get worried and demand an immediate stop to this madness (yeah, reefer madness might be appropriate).   The truth is that probably thirty percent of the folks in any state are likely on some extreme prescription drug episode (more than the legal amount), or on some steroids, or on some type of recreational drug (take your pick from fifty different types).

We could even go and require county guys who mow the grass on the side of the road.....to have urine tests....and they'd likely be very vocal that this wasn't fair.

So it's best if we just forget this drug-testing frenzy...it'll just get tossed out the back of the bus as we finally hit the legal circuit.

Only in America.

Levels of Acceptance

If you've ever been to Europe.....and flown around on discount airlines....then you've flown with Ryanair (the Irish guys).  They generally offer these $40 seats from some airport way out in the middle of nowhere....to some location in Italy or Spain or England.....which is also way out in the middle of nowhere.  You know the waiting lounge because it looks like some bus stop in Topeka, Kansas.....all plastic chairs and some decorations on the wall from 1970.

This week.....Ryanair was caught by the passengers on one flight....from England to Latvia.....fixing a cockpit window, with duct tape.  It was apparently standard practice and no one from the crew acted defensive when they got caught.

I sat and pondered over this.  The truth is that most every guy in America has a roll of duct tape in his work shop, his desk drawer, his truck, and on the tractor.  We won't hestitate to pull out duct tape and use it for just about any repair.  If a guy had a knife injury to this leg....we'd likely pull out the duct tape and even wrap up the wound with it.  There's no limit to one's imagination when it comes to using duct tape.

So I sat over this idea of a plane window having issues.  Yes, I would have accepted the duct tape.  Frankly, that probably should bother folks....that I have that level of acceptance of a jerry-rigged answer or solution.  Here's the other thing that should bother you....there's probably well over one million Americans who also have that level of acceptance.  That ought to worry a whole bunch of you folks. And it says something about our society, and Ryanair.....we aren't terribly fearful of risks.

The Return of the Saga: Gold Rush

We are just days away from “Gold Rush” returning on the Discovery Channel (28 Oct).

There's only two or three reality shows on TV that I'd rate as four-star.  Gold Rush is one of those shows.  Sadly, the other side of this story is that it's probably the most fake reality show of them all.

None of the stories for the characters really ring true.  Most are half-true, with a fair amount of fabrication. Why would I watch it?  I think it's the theme of the story that interests me....a bunch of guys running off to Alaska in search of some fantasy.  Toss in 3-hour evenings, bears waltzing into camp, beans over a campfire, and nothing ever working right....and you've got a fairly dramatic but fake show.

They've promised new problems, fresh emergencies, and more bears for the new season.  Naturally, they've got my interest.

I wish I could be a script writer for the show.  I'd have some Brittney Spears gal show up and claim she was pregnant with the boss's kid.  I'd toss in some mystery guy who shows up from New York City and claiming he had a vision over where the gold is located.  I'd probably even introduce some midget wrestler from Florida who comes up and asks for a job with the crew.  There's tons of potential.

So if you've got an hour open each week.....you might want to consider Gold Rush.  Just remember....it's all bogus.

The Picture

Since the President's announcement of the Iraq War pull-out....this photo has gotten dragged out to be some visual reference as to the end of the Vietnam War and how things ended there.

I always had a fascination with this picture, but not for the obvious reasons.  For me....I was amazed that the building structure on the roof was able to sustain the helicopter.  This was Vietnamese construction and based on conversations that I had with various folks who spent time in Nam....you had version one (the French-mandated heavy concreate) and version two (the cheap local construction).  I always thought it was a miracle in itself that the roof structure didn't collapse.

The other curious thing about this shot....is that no among the guys on the roof came to realize that the chopper might hold eight folks max.

As Iraq comes to an end....there will be this one defining shot where you see some General or some Private stepping onto a chopper, and you have this image in your mind of "the end".  Some reporter is there in Iraq today....and he's trying to imagine the right moment, the right angle, the right shot, and the right message in the picture.

Just Observations

Yesterday, we finally got Rick Perry's tax solution laid out.....the twenty-percent flat tax.  I'd call it the "20-20" plan, where he wants the corporate tax and personal tax both to be set at 20 percent.  No sales tax episode, compared to Cain's 9-9-9 deal.  You'd basically fill out a postcard and send it in.....no tax forms or four hours with the fancy-pants tax consultant.  Mitt won't be going this direction....he'd rather keep the current system, with some modifications.  For some reason....folks might overlook Perry's shortcomings and agree to this flat tax idea.....and that might be enough to win thirty-odd states in the primary season.  The question is.....could he get more than half of America to vote for him because of the 20-20 deal?  I suspect folks might be interested in a flat tax, but they probably don't want Bush era 2.0 to be tossed at them.

There's this story in the Washington Post....the Obama White House is discussing this idea of applying the anthrax shots to kids.....to kind of test it and answering some lingering questions.  Even with all the bad guys mostly gone in the world.....there is still this fear of anthrax being developed as a weapon.  Insiders of the science community keep tossing this back into debate.  My personal suspicion is that they must know of some nut....maybe even from the US science side of the house....who has made a threat or two.  It's kind of like the idea that a sixteen year old kid can today build a nuclear bomb in the garage.  Maybe the same kid could build a lab and somehow develop anthrax.  Of course, you wouldn't want to admit in public that kids are that smart or that a garage lab might be this capable. It's just kinda odd that bad guys keep dying off left and right, yet we still make this vaccine a priority.

The news guys apparently discovered the brother of singer Madonna is some homeless guy who lives under a bridge up in Michigan.  I sat and read over the story.  The curious thing is that thirty thousand guys in America are living under bridges.  Most of them don't have anything special about them.....but this one guy is a brother to Madonna.  I kind of pondered over this.  From my view of homeless guys in DC....most have some kind of mental or emotional issue, and the majority would turn down an optimistic offer of real help.   The majority just want a barracks-like setting where there's a bed somewhere, three hot meals, and they get to just walk around all day.  I can't speak to this guy in Michigan.....he might be eager to get a real job and live a real life.

A number of folks are upset over the sudden demise of Col Gaddafi (just shooting him without a legal proceeding was insulting, or at least they hint that).  Then they've come to realize that he might have been sodomized in the final minutes before death (which laws tend to all prevent, if they had only been enforced).  The thing is....when you live in a unsafe neighborhood and all the bad folks have tossed the rules for decades....you just don't think about such pleasant things as decency or legalities.  For those who want to emphasize how terribly upset they are....maybe they should have lived for a year or two in Libya and experienced up close and personal.

The word is that Lindsay Lohan will pose for Playboy.  I pondered over this for ten seconds.  Out of a hundred guys between 21 and 40 today.....I doubt that you could find more than three that have picked up a Playboy magazine.  Playboy says that around ten million Americans read the magazine regularly.  I suspect it's mostly inflated numbers and it might be less than three million.  Would Lohan make things special?  No.  All you'd see is some doped up freaky Hollywood washed-up actress who is spending what little money she has left.  Frankly, they'd best offer up some four-star interview with Putin, and some fantastic advice on stereo equipment...to interest me in a one-time purchase.

Finally, there's a report going around the internet that the South Park guys were being targeted for investigation by the Scientology guys back five years ago when they did a cartoon covering the religion.  As the story goes....they dug into phone records, airline tickets, and even bank records.  Then they even tried to get some young punk "insider" intern guy to be hired by Trey and Matt.  It would appear that as much as they wasted time and money on this effort....nothing much ever came out of it.  The comical thing is that if Trey or Matt had ever realized the ongoing effort....they would have done an entire episode over Scientology again, and made them look a bit foolish.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Exotic Pets and Real People

I sat and pondered over this Ohio story of the week....where the guy committed suicide right after he released all his lions, tigers and bears.

This is the thing....generally, if you came up and had this one fascination with bears....and wanted to keep one or two bears....I'd have no issue with that.  As a neighbor, I'd expect you to respect my safety, the safety of my kids, and my other neighbors.  You'd share my expectations, and ensure a first class cage was set up for your two bears.  You'd ensure they were kept happy and fully fed.  It'd all be within your means of finance, and personal attention.

But the day that you decide that you need six bears, a dozen tigers, ten lions, and five camels....I'd start to question just how capable you really were.  I grew up on a farm, and know that a non-threatening animal requires just about zero attention.  You walk your fence once a month.  You ensure fresh hay in the winter.  But it's all a couple of hours here and there.  Once you start talking about more than ten animals of a threatening nature, and the enormous amount of security involved....things start to become difficult.  Toss in costs, and the vet bills.....and you've got yourself a five-star potential mess.

I hate making life difficult and miserable for folks like this....and I generally hate making regulations....but a lack of common sense makes these folks more of a threat than a friend.  They always love to entertain folks by showing how friendly their one bear is....or how the tiger eats from their hand.  The truth is that these are all animals who are not domesticated.  It would take a number of generations of absolute control before you could label such an animal as "friendly".

So here's my simple regulation.  You want to keep one bear, or lion or tiger?  First, you post a bond of $100k to the local county.  Second, show a insurance policy of $500k for any incident.  Suddenly, the interest in keeping such animals has a price tag attached.  If you want a dozen tigers?  The bond goes up substantially.....$1 million.  At this point....suddenly the only folks who actually end up with exotic animals are actual zoo's (waivered from this requirement or game preserves (authorized by the state legislature)).

In the months to come.....this event in Ohio will be discussed in public and private.  My guess is that a thousand oddball exotic pet owners are going to start to feel heat over their little collection....no matter what state they live.  The truth is.....they kinda deserve the heat because of their passion, and lack of common sense.          

My Barracks Story

Every guy who ever spent time in the military has at least five barracks stories to tell.  I have one.

When I finally got to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, the headquarters sent me to their barracks....the top floor of a building shared by three organizations.  With forty rooms....my organization barely had sixteen people living on the floor, and they shared out the area with ten band-member guys.  So everyone got a private room.  My hopes of moving off-base?  Zero.  I'd been in the Air Force for three years, and it was going to a long while before I moved off-post.

The barracks?  It was built in the early sixties and had never been renovated (this was 1981).  Each room was spacious, with a sink....but the bathroom and shower facility was down the hallway and an open area for all of us guys to share (yeah, no gals).

What I discovered by the end of day one....was in the midst of July....the AC unit barely kept the room at 84 degrees in the daytime, and was lucky to get it down to 80 degrees at midnight.  By December, I discovered that the heat barely kept the room temperature at 68 degrees.  As the First Sargent explained this....the whole central air unit barely functioned and the whole building was to be renovated in three years.   So they wouldn't spend any money to fix anything.

So as each summer came and went....it became this miserable experience to sit through a Louisiana summer.  As I prepared to leave for my new assignment (January 1984)....about five weeks prior to leaving....this massive cold front hit.  The evening temperature fell to minus 22 degrees.  The room temperature by the next morning was around thirty-eight.  I had a sleeping bag that I kept in reserve and ended up digging it out in the middle of the night.

Nothing could be done about the temperature deal, and it was supposed to last five days.  I drove that morning to Wal-Mart and bought a $80 space heater.  Amusingly enough....I came back and it blew my circuit breaker in the room.  I tried every outlet....it didn't matter....it simply wasn't a strong enough circuit to allow a small space heater to operate.  That evening, I drove out the gate to a hotel and paid $35 to stay in a nice toasty room.

Four weeks later, I packed up and left.  Two weeks after that....they ordered everyone out of the building and were to start their long-term renovation plan.

The other part of this story....was the cockroaches.  I discovered that once you turned the light on around midnight.....there on the sink....would be sitting five to eight cockroaches.  They would come to spray about every two months.....and it have lasted four weeks max.

I bought these roach motels and shoved one down.....to find twenty cockroaches in it by the third day.  They never decreased in number.

At some point, I bought some lighter fluid and was roasting the cockroaches in my sink as I woke up in the midst of the night.  I did this for months, until the First Sargent commented to me, and asked if I was storing gasoline in the room during a room inspection.  I denied it and kinda quit the lighter fluid treatment after that.

I would imagine that the whole building held a minimum of 2k cockroaches at any given time.  It was an infestation that simply never went away.

Finally, this was the barracks where we had the "blast".  I came home from work one day (my shift was always 4AM to noon), and took a three-hour nap.  Then I took off for afternoon and evening classes (gone for almost five hours).  When I came back....the whole building was dark, and the doors were all locked.  It made no sense.

I finally came to the rear of the building and climbed up the fire escape and was just about to enter (this was pitch dark), when some voice from the ground asked what the hell I was doing.  I responded with "just getting in".  He explained that a natural gas explosion had occurred within some guys room on the first floor....burning all hair off when he was trying to light a smoke while blow-drying his hair.  They'd shut the whole place down, gave everyone ten minutes to get a bag of clothing, and sent everyone to temporary facilities.  I was the last guy apparently.

I ended up at the billeting office where they admitted they had no more space, and then gave me the key to some VIP suite for generals.  They made a big deal out of this....some junior enlisted guy getting the general's suite.  I went to the place and classified it as a Howard Johnson-style place, which I had seen five or six in my life and this was not big deal.  This lasted four days, before they allowed us back in....but they demanded we air out our rooms for twenty-four hours in the midst of some summer heat-wave.

It was nice to have a single room to myself.....but this was a two-star place at best.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The End of An Era

At the end of December....the war in Iraq will be considered finished....with the last of the troops boarding some helicopter (my humble guess) and flying out to some US naval vessel off the coast.  My guess is that some general will be that last guy.

I was there in Gulf War I and scratched my head over how it ended....with Saddam and his sons firmly entrenched in power and Kuwait simply liberated.  It was like going to a football game where the clock was resetting at half-time and you were continuing play....over and over.  The game couldn't really end.

At some point around by 2001, before 9-11, the Saudis were actively trying to tell the American government to get the troops out of Saudi Arabia...period.  There was growing negativity with all of the fundamental Muslim dudes.....and the Saudis were jerking the chain almost weekly that this was going to lead to a very bad circumstance.  The US couldn't stay there.  The general feeling was that Kuwait was happy and maybe we'd work out some massive basing deal in Kuwait....to help the Saudis out.  Thank goodness....9-11 occurred, and we simply went into an entire new game.  And yes, the Saudis were likely correct, that their fundamentalists Muslims.....were going to encourage something.  Go ask Ossama's folks about that.

I sat and watched Army folks pull one-year tours....get fifteen months off, and then return again.  I listened to various stories of wives divorcing husbands after one tour, two tours, three tours, and even four tours.  I eventually saw Air Force guys pulled into ground tours....something that no Air Force general would have accepted in 1972 for Vietnam.

I was amazed one day when my co-worker's husband got a call....his potential quarter had arrived, and he was on the hot-list for an Iraq tour.  Being the number two fire chief on base.....his immediate feeling was that he'd be a fire chief in Iraq at some base.  The response was....no, you will go to a convoy school and spend six weeks learning how to lead a convoy from X to Y, then go to spend a year in Iraq.  He sat in disbelief....almost fourteen years in service, and highly qualified as a fireman.....now having to learn a whole new career situation....leading a convoy.  A day later....they found a guy who was a volunteer, and he got out of the whole mess.

Prior to the war starting....I worked with a web guru at Ramstein who was a contractor.  In the whole of Europe.....he was probably in the top three web-smart folks.  As the war started, he ended with a job offer from a company who was willing to pay near $180k for twelve months of work (half of that was tax-free).  So he did a year, then talked his ex-wife into coming over for a job, and he did a second year.  At the end of year two....the company told him to go back for three months, which he did, and then he returned to be a manager and likely making in the $250k range.  The last I had heard about him....at the sixth year.....he was still in Iraq and taking just thirty days a year of vacation at some resort.  I would imagine that he's cleared well over $1 million and may have a similar amount in a 401K account.

It's hard to say anything was gained from the whole thing.  Bad judgement calls were made and we could have been out in four years if we'd simply accepted some of the Iraqi military in charge of things on day one of the occupation....and Saddam's government totally kicked out.....with elections arranged for the public.  Our understanding of such simple matters was made complicated by people in the administration who probably weren't clear about their motivation or their goals.

We are left with 100k GI's who have some form of post-traumatic issue.  They've seen death and misery.  They've lived in a hostile situation for months and months.....then returned fifteen months later to repeat.  We have trained one of the most capable military organizations in the history of the world.  One hundred of our guys would have no issue in taking on a force twice their size because they simply have confidence in their weapons, their abilities, and their support (fighters, helicopters, and tanks). We have intelligence and reconnaissance abilities now that likely stun most of the developed countries in the world.

It is a curtain call that is deserved.  There's nothing else to be accomplished, and frankly.....our guys need a break....a long break.

Just Observations

As of yesterday, DC had hit 92 murders for the year.  You have to put this into prospective....it's an area of about six miles by six miles. Across the river, in Alexandria (Virginia)....up until last night....we had zero murders.  That changed with a shooting, so the county of Alexandria finally racks up one murder for the year.  Yesterday's big shooting in DC came around midnight and on some bus in the southeast section of town.  A guy got up to the front as the bus stopped, and pointed out some guy in the rear to some new guy who got onboard....the new guy shoot the guy in the rear, and pointer and his killer-buddy both walked off the bus.  Curiously, a camera got a huge close-up of both, and I imagine at least a hundred folks will identify both by the end of the week.

I was sitting and reading over entertainment news.....here was Jessica Simpson who apparently got all pregnant or at least the rumor is such, and she won't admit nothing until the bidding episode ends on which National Enquirer-like paper gets the win.  She apparently wants $500k for the interview and personal photos of her in a pregnant-pose.  Maybe it's just me.....but I can't think of anyone else in the entertainment world.....who has absolutely no talent at all....singing or comedy or acting.....and somehow still keeps herself on some front page.  And some idiot entertainment group is actually willing to give up $500k of money....just to get her to admit being pregnant.

I noted.....kinda quietly this morning....that the Navy admit they've got sixty-four guys off one aircraft carrier that they are kicking out of the service for drugs.  The amusing part to this story....is that a number of these guys are out because of "fake pot"....this "spice" stuff.

The US government came to admit yesterday that they handed out another $500-odd million....to a electric-battery type car company that had these grand plans for a US factory producing these battery cars.  Funny thing.  The company did all the research, and eventually decided two years after getting the loan.....that they just couldn't build these cars in America.  So the factory is located....in Finland.  I paused over that....thinking about this.  Something doesn't make sense.  A US government loan, where the jobs eventually appear in Finland?  Battery-run cars in Finland?  Well.....it's fairly cool or cold for six months out of the year and I just can't see that many Finns buying up these cars for winter-driving.  The company involved says that there was no manufacturing company in America....that could build their car.  There's a bunch of things about this story which don't add up.  Frankly, the idea of the US government thinking it can be part of the commercial success of America....by tossing or loaning money....makes very little sense.

I got my hometown newspaper yesterday.  The big deal this week is the grand opening of some deli in town (it's maybe 500 folks, at best).  Far as I know....it's the first deli ever to open.  We've had the "Bears Den" (a burger joint), a Piggly Wiggly, and a local grocery where they would make up sandwiches but nothing like a deli.  The plain truth is that folks will likely stop in....ask for the nice lady to make up a extra large baloney sandwich, with French's mustard, some some dill pickles, and a drop or two of smoke sauce, and that would fine enough for them.  If they knew there were thirty-five different cheeses, forty-two different cuts of meat, and sixteen styles of mustard behind the counter....they'd probably freak out.  It'll take five years....but eventually someone will come in and ask for a Reuban sandwich.....which features sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, corned beef, and thousand-island sauce....and the deli lady will faint over the fact that some local guy actually knew the ingredients.

Some California county school board gal woke up this week and realized that the local press had figured out that she wasn't divorced like she'd always claimed.  She was actually married....for more than a decade. The thing is.....she's married to some guy who spent over twenty years in prison, for murder (he recently got parole apparently).  The gal, who shall remain nameless....wanted everyone to know that this was a legal type situation....seen as a "confidential" marriage situation....so she didn't have to say a word about it.  That might have worked if the guy was just a bad Wall Street banker or some guy who had sold drugs for a living....but marrying up to a murderer gives you a different image.  Most folks I know....would not be voting for such a person on the local county board.  My guess is that she will try to continue on....but folks will show up at county board meetings and continually question her on truth issues.

Finally, there's this young teenage gal in Tennessee who is in high school.  She had joined up with the local junior-ROTC group at the high school....and progressing well. Then, there was this parade scheduled where the junior-ROTC folks would march.  This gal....being Muslim....wanted to wear her hijab (the head covering, not the face covering).  For those of you from Bama not familiar with such apparel....it's a silky-like covering which leaves folks questioning the coloring of your hair.  She felt a waiver could be granted....the school said no....mostly because the Army doesn't agree with stuff like that.  She accepted the ruling, but her parents are a bit angry over this.  They'd like to get some attention....to change the school rules and the Army rules.  I work with Army folks and I've come to realize over the past eighteen months that they are fairly bright and very capable of changing stupid rules.  But accepting the hijab probably won't be on their top 100 things to fix.  The problem would be that if they did change the rules....they'd have to write it up to reflect only women wearing the hijab, and that'd upset the delicate nature of Army guys, who might also want to wear the hijab.  Then a bunch of folks would get all disturbed of the unfairness that Army women had over Army men.....and you just can't have that.  Meanwhile, in the shadows.....the Marines are mostly snickering because if this was truly important....then the Marines would issue a hijab.

Only in America.

Just Fixing Things

Yesterday, some Senators decided that they were going to "fix" a problem in America.  They passed legislation that would allow foreigners (folks without any citizenship or visa).....to buy a $500k home or two $250k homes, and get an automatic visa for themselves and their immediate family.  In essence, some rich dude from the Philippines, Belgium, Russia, Peru, or Tonga....could help cash-strapped America recover from its economic mess by bringing in their buckets of cash.

I sat and pondered over this for a while.  You can imagine some wealthy millionaire sitting a in a third-world country and always wanting to reestablishment himself in a safer and more modern country.  This might make sense.  You can imagine some rich Chinese guy who dreamed of owning a place in Manhattan and living the good life in New York City....now having that chance.

The problem here....this was designed in a certain way.  I can also imagine a guy buying the two $250k houses, getting himself here....renting out both his cousin involved and somehow coming up with some scheme similar to this and eventually 300k Nigerian guys are sitting in Missouri, with folks there asking stupid questions to their Senator how they all bought this upscale property and figured into things.

The comical side of this is the price-tag amount.  $500k was the magic number.  I paused over this.  Where I grew up in Bama.....you might find an entire farm with a vast amount of land involved....that ran for $500k but finding a house in the county for that much?  Wouldn't happen.  Here in Arlington....about eighty percent of the houses and half-acres....would be a minimum of $500k.  Out in Hollywood.....I doubt if you could find that many homes at the $500k level.  Someone had a reason for making it $500k and not a million or $200k.

So in the years to come....if you are driving up in Montana and run into a bunch of rich Mongolian folks and just can't understand how they came to live out in the wilds of Montana.....remember, your wise Senators did this.....just to fix things.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Where to Pray

From the Occupy Wall Street crowd, there came this report from yesterday over the arrest of one protester.....Michael Donte Booth. The police report reads fairly simple. The New York cops came along and here was this guy...he was blocking traffic while he was praying. Typically, in Bama....folks would have driven around him while he was in a state of praying. I'm guessing New Yorkers aren't that friendly on guys praying in the middle of the street.

So they checked out the guy's priors while he was at the station, and there lies a bit of a story. He was wanted in Indiana for missing a court appearance for a prior arrest. The episode at that time? Well....Mike apparently was at some city park....where cops described the situation with him laying kinda nude on a blanket, with a bottle of virgin olive oil, two Miller beers, and a pack of Marboros.  I should also mention that he was reading a book...."Gay Power".  The Indiana cops would have let him go except for that nude part.....they just don't accept stuff like that in public.

His court appearance for the New York arrest for praying in the street?  Well.....it's six months down the road.  I'm guessing Mike will have moved on, and never appear.  So it'll be another line or two in a database that just keeps building.  This guy is 27, and I'm guessing that he'll have eight arrests by the time he turns forty.  Eventually, some cops will find sufficient charges to hold him.

The morale of this story?  Well.....if you mix Miller beer and Marboros.....you just might end at the wrong place at the wrong time.  And it's best to avoid any praying in the streets of New York City....if you suddenly get the urge, just step over to the sidewalk and say some prayers for Delta Airlines, the Dallas Cowboys, the NBA season, Wal-Mart's numbers for this Christmas, Hulk Hogan to stay healthy while wrestling at age sixty, VP Biden while he pretends he will still be the VP for 2012, the Today Show while it recovers from dismal numbers, and the Wall Street crowd....the suited guys, not the protest crowd.

Just another week in America.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

End of a Show?

About a month ago....the new TV season started up.  Somewhere around this time.....came Two and a Half Men.  It had fantastic numbers on opening night.....with almost 29 million folks watching it.

This past episode?  It's just under fifteen million.  Almost half the audience has stopped watching it.

I rarely offer reviews of TV shows....but on this one, I will offer this commentary.  I watched opening night and the opening fifteen minutes had to do with Charlies demise.  Then they introduced the replacement dude....who we don't even need to mention at this point.  The script and such for the remainder of the show....were fairly lame.  I watched the second week, and it got worse.  I haven't watched the show since.

Frankly, they picked the wrong guy.  In six weeks....they will admit this is the final season for show, and not say much about the pick, or the bad scripts.  It's a business....you screw up.....you toss your mistake down the toilet and just move on.

What Likely Occurred

My impression of what happened in Kansas City with the missing baby?

Mom starts drinking around 7PM.  Two glasses done by 8PM, and probably another three-to-four by 9PM.  She gets something in her mind about dumping the diaper pail into the garbage can.  She walks into the kid's room.....picks up the pail....picks up the kid....and walks through the living room to pick up the cellphones for some odd reason.

Mom walks out, and ends up walking three hundred to six hundred feet to someone else's garbage can by the street, and dumps the contents of the pail into the can, then dumps the kid into the can (remember, she's fairly drunk and can't think clear), and tosses the cellphones in.  She walks back and collapses on the couch with the lights all on.

The husband arrives six hours to find the door open and the wife laying there.....no kid around, and no explanation   Mom says oh my, the kid must have been kidnapped, but she kinda knows some part of the story.  As the dad calls the cops.....she pushes in the screen in the kids room to give some detail to the story.  She goes out and tries to find the kid.....but can't remember nothing.  So the story kinda sticks with the kidnapper.

I suspect the cops figured this whole angle out by the end of the first day, and thus the reason for looking at the local dump.  As for charges?  Forget about it unless mom confesses or the body of the kid is found.  It's a wrapped up story at this point.

How Things Naturally Work Out

This is what we know....out at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio.....a privately owned operation.....the owner was found dead and the cages were in the open position.  This was an operation that had monkeys, wolves, camels, lions, tigers, wolves and bears.  So far, the local cops are indicating that they've shot at least twenty of the animals.....but they indicate that there's still a bit of hunting to do in the local area.

So you can imagine this situation....Leo, the lion.....actually makes a direct path and heads south, away from Zanesville and the mess.  For days, he chomps on rabbits and gets by.  In three weeks, he eventually makes his way across the border into Alabama.  There, Leo meets up Uncle Buck.  Uncle Buck offers up baloney sandwiches, KFC chicken, SPAM, and tater tots.

For weeks and weeks....Leo lounges around on Uncle Buck's back porch....sleeps on the couch....and drinks from the bucket of water that Uncle Buck fetches from the spring.  Uncle Buck is taken up with the lion and everything runs along pretty good until spring comes around.

One night....browsing the internet....Uncle Buck discovers "Lion-Chow" and goes online to order up five hundred pounds.  Naturally, the Lion-Chow folks are suspicious and hand this order to the FBI and the next day....they arrive to grab Leo.

Uncle Buck explains he don't knowing about some missing lion, and Leo was just a big wussie kitty.  Folks in Bama get all upset about this, and legislation starts up a year later to ban the importation or housing of illegal lions in Bama.  It gives the state police the authority to stop cars and trucks and ask if they are transporting lions.  Naturally, most folks are agreeable to this tough action.....but some folks are a bit nervous  which leads some folks to wonder if the nervous folks are keeping illegal lions in their garage or basement.

The President gets involved....sending the Attorney General up against Alabama's tough new anti-lion legislation, and it start to get in the paper.  Folks are uneasy about the unnecessary attention and the fact that Bama is becoming a anti-lion state.  Churches side with the pro-lion side.  Hunting enthusiasts side with the anti-lion side.

CNN starts broadcasting episodes with Anderson Cooper and Uncle Buck (he's mostly weeping over the loss of Leo).  Grandmas throughout the state side with Buck.....but they secretly think he's a handsome older gentleman and worthy of marriage proposals.  Anderson Cooper starts showing up in Bama in black T-shirts every week....talking up the tough new anti-lion legislation and how it's so unfair.

Meanwhile....sitting back in some Ohio zoo.....is Leo.  He's wondering what all the mess is about.  He just wandered off toward Bama by accident.  It could have just as well been toward Michigan or New Jersey.  And no one would have said a word about lion issues.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The American Dream

I sat and watched a 30-second clip this afternoon of some "Occupy Whatever" protester....discussing the end of the American dream.  Up until the last decade, everybody got their piece of the American dream, and apparently the Bush-era led into the death of the American dream.  It was quite unfair, and just not right.

I sat and pondered over this.  The American dream is as much alive today, as it was in 1776.  The problem is that people have lost track of what it means and how it works.

Bob, who graduated forty-fourth of forty-six students from some small town in Kentucky in 1979....today drives and owns his own tractor-trailer rig.  He may not have been the brightest or the most dependable....but somewhere over the past three decades....he figured out the system....and caught onto the American dream.

Dee?  She got convinced by peers and some school counselor to sign on to some four-year arts degree, which cost her around $100k.  Two decades later, she still owes $40k and barely makes a decent living at a photography studio.  None of the skills that she paid the $100k for....did much for the photography work but this was the only steady job she would catch onto.  She missed out on the American dream.

Barney?  He figured out some special recipe for donuts and borrowed enough money to open up a coffee and donut shop next to an industrial area.  At age fifty, he works sixty hours a week....but he's clearing almost $100k in profit each year.  He's worked his butt off for his piece of the American dream.

Alexis?  She took a year of community college and studied computer security.  She got a basic start-up job with some company, and by age thirty clears $50k a year.  She owns a condo, drives a Ford, and owes $60k on credit card bills.  She could have been smarter, but she could have been dumber.

The truth is that people have lost some understanding of common sense.  A $100k degree worth $100k in costs?  Maybe, maybe not.  A guy working sixty hours a week to get ahead?  A gal who goes bankrupt and comes right back to build another business?  A guy who tosses his life savings into a marginal bar operation?  A young lady who signs up for fifteen credit cards and erases any chance of surviving the economic mess approaching?  These are all pieces of the American dream.  You can draw four aces, or lose totally on one stupid strategy that never was valid.  It's your shot.  That's the whole thing about the American dream.....it's your shot.

So for those poor folks sitting out in New York City tonight.....talking up a storm about their dismal life and the lack of an American dream.....I would suggest you pick up your feet and review where you are and where you want to be.  If your best bet was to hope on the government taking someone's wealth and passing you some piece of the American dream....then it's best to keep smoking your weed and stay put in New York City's camp-ground.  If you want your shot.....then move out of the shadows.....and make your own moves.

Anti-Wall Street Crowd and Democrats

If you lined up one hundred actual Democrats....regular people who work at Piggly Wiggly, the Holiday Inn, a state park, or Dunkin Donuts......and you introduced the anti-Wall Street folks....I think you might be shocked.

For the first week as the one hundred Democrats watched their brand of newscast....they'd watch for a minute or two, and then mostly go back to whatever they were doing.  They'd listen for a message or try to grasp what the real purpose was, and then lose interest.

Along about the third week....as the Communist Party leadership shows up....and some of the message goes pretty harsh with the actual suggestion of taking personal wealth or property from people....even rich people....around twenty of the one hundred Democrats would turn the TV off.  They wouldn't buy into this protest movement at all.

The fourth week?  The news analysts start trying to lengthen their topics and get in-depth interviews with mostly doped up dimwits.....another twenty Democrats of the one hundred would turn their TV set off.

By the sixth week....you'd have barely sixty of the original one hundred folks interested in this "adventure". About this time.....there would be an assault or two on some innocent folks, with a really harsh interview by a die-hard Communist, and another twenty Democrats would finally say enough and turn the TV off.

The problem here is that most regular people aren't about to really buy into a deep-seated Communist idea of taking property and distributing it.  I'm not talking about Republicans or Independents....I'm talking about actual Democrats.

Whichever idiot dreamed up this party strategy of invoking class warfare and the anti-Wall Street episode....really screwed up and probably hurt the President more than helped him.  Even worse?  They hurt regular Senators and Representatives.....Governors....and various political office holders throughout the US.  If this trend continues.....the Democrats might see ten to twenty percent of their regular voters either stay home next year, or vote Republican.  All in all....it might be a shocker.

The Coming of the End?

It was an oddball piece that CBS's Early Show ran yesterday morning.  Experts now say that climate change is bringing on a serious threat to coffee.  In fact, it just might bring coffee to extinction.  Naturally, that would bring great harm to Starbucks, Coke, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew.

What ended up being hyped by these so-called experts....is that coffee production might stumble.  What they didn't play out....is the fact that coffee prices would escalate to the point where a cup of coffee at Starbucks could be $12.  A Mountain Dew can could be $3.  Would you pay the increased cost?

The real question here to ponder.....will coffee go extinct?  It's a bit fictional to buy into this brief discussion that CBS ran.  In some ways, you have to wonder if Bigfoot or Nessie might go extinct at the same time when coffee runs out.  CBS could carry updates on them as well.  Perhaps aliens and UFO reports will decrease as global warming and climate change increases.

My humble opinion is that the CBS Morning Show probably had a pretty slow week scheduled....maybe the producer is on vacation in Aruba....and the boys just decided to do some oddball stuff to pump up the folks who watch.  But on the other hand, if you do take this all serious, then it's time that you buy a pallet of coffee and put it in the garage for long-term storage.....just to be on the safe side.  And don't tell your neighbors about this.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Between the Lines

Today, the rest of the story finally came out over the missing baby in Kansas City....the mom was drunk from early evening on.  This explains why the dog never barked....why the baby monitor didn't alert....and forces the cops to consider that she got up at some point in the evening and walked out the door with the kid.  Years ago, I lived in the barracks and we had a guy who'd get drunk and start walking.  He'd walk out of the TV room, out of the hallway, and out of the building.  He'd usually turn up the next morning....leaning against a tree or a building within 500 feet of our barracks.  We worried about him when winter came along, and tried to encourage him to just stay in the barracks when he was drunk.  I'm guessing the kid will turn up within the next three days and be less than a 1k feet from the house.  The rest of the story won't be pretty.

German statistics came out today.....showing 79k Germans actually applied for early retirement, because they suffered from mental disorders (depression, anxiety, etc).  Approximately sixty percent of the applications were accepted, the rest....tossed out.  It's a fair sized group.  Normally, if you want to retire early.....you get serious subtractions from your pension....so it's rare that someone gets around this rule.  What the smart guys are saying....is that the number of mental disorder applicants....are increasing year-by-year.  It's not a huge trend, but it's not decreasing.  I lived in Germany for fifteen years and I have to say....Germans tend to take their jobs and their emphasis of life at work....fairly serious.  They also chain themselves to a job, and will simply not leave a job under most conditions that an American might say are "bad".  On the positive, they are tough folks at work.....but inside, it eats them up when things aren't working right.

Finally, there's this oddball story of a Canadian mining company....out in Kershaw, SC....building up a gold mine.  The interesting thing is that they are talking about 3 million ounces of gold possibly being taken out of this mine.  I'm guessing the locals are a bit shocked, and there's going to be this group of guys sitting down and talking about various rumors.  Some guy will talk about his uncle digging up a gold nugget in 1966.  Some woman will tell the story of her mom finding seven-ounce gold nugget in the 1970s.  Eventually, everyone is going to buy metal detectors, shovels, and convince themselves of some future in gold prospecting.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Telemarketing Versus the Door-to-Door Guy

On average, I get around four calls a month, from some telemarketing guy or gal.  Over my entire life.....I've never bought anything from some guy over the phone.  In fact, I have some natural tendency....the minute the guy explains that he's selling something over the phone....to automatically decline the opportunity. He could swear on a stack of Bibles to save me $400 a year, and I still wouldn't make the deal via a telemarketing guy.

When I was a kid....about five times a year....out in the boonies of Bama....you would have some door-to-door guy come by.  The typical items were encyclopedias, painting the barn, or magazine sales.  I can't think of any guy who ever got past my dad over these sales.  The general answer was "no", or he'd ask just one question to be encouraging to the guy....before saying "I just can't do it".

The curious change over thirty years that I've observed is that very few people ever come to your door anymore.  One of the guys in my office commented yesterday about two young guys who came by and wanted to spray paint his picket fence....remarking how quick they could accomplish this....and he frowned on them because this spray paint would likely drift to his neighbor's fence, to get him into all kinds of trouble.  My associate is over sixty, and tends to think about episodes like this before signing up.

I think as the age of automation came, and cheaper telephone rates.....the sales folks realized the future was in telemarketing.  You could call two hundred people in one day.....and maybe find three weak people who were willing to buy six magazine subscriptions for fifty percent off.  It's a game of numbers now.

Around a month ago....I had the Kennedy Center telemarketing crowd call.  I had decided months ago to attend Madam Butterfly....to further my culture side.  To be kinda honest....I wouldn't advise most rural folks to attend Madam Butterfly because at some point....as you sit there in the midst of this huge Japanese scene....you grasp the whole story....and you just kinda want to get up and excuse yourself.  I guess after my one episode at the Center....they put me on a calling list.  They'd like to get me over to culturally expand myself....and spend $75.  While I'd admit I am fairly weak on culture....I'm just not that interested.

There's around a dozen jobs in the world that I just couldn't do....from TV weather man, to car salesman.  Somewhere in the middle....is telemarketing.  I just couldn't sell via the phone.  I'd be calling two hundred folks and hoping that just one was doped up on their medication or drunk from Pabst Blue-Ribbon....and that I could get them to whisk out their credit card to buy a Chinese painting of Panda bears sitting around a table and playing poker.  It's a sad way to make a living.

Then and Now

This week....ABC finally came out and said that four episodes of the new series "Charlies Angels" was enough....it was cancelled.  When the first episode came on.....I got about ten minutes into the story, and flipped to the History Channel.  The story was no better than the terrible scripts that Charlies Angels had back in the 1970s.

Some of the worst TV script writing came up with shows like Knight Rider, Charlies Angels, Mr T and Tina (they made nine episodes but only five ever aired), and The Texas Wheelers (it lasted for eight episodes).

There just isn't anything much to whip up a frenzy with folks about either Charlies Angels: 1977 or Charlies Angels: 2011.  Some bad guys.  Some hot lusty gals.  Some pistols.  Some action.  And everything ends in sixty minutes with things all fixed up.

It's kind of sad....millions set into motion to gear up for a season.  People have bought new cars and figure a five-year run.....with trips to Paris in the off-season.  Then you get this call....the show is cancelled, and you'd best start calling around for another start-up show in the spring.

The Unfairness Scale

I sat this week and got some 60-second piece from a Flea Party protester in New York City.  The jest of her commentary....she was angry that she'd been in college, borrowed a massive amount of money (she never detailed the amount, so I'm assuming it's $80k or more), and had yet to get the "big job" after graduation.  Her sign said something of the effect....blame the system...."unfair"....etc.

It bothered me for about a minute or two....then I kinda wondered how she really fitted into a anti-Wall Street protest.  She doesn't fit.

If she'd been at some college campus....complaining over cost, it would have made sense.  Basically, she was some hopeless unemployed person, with bills, and a damned future for the next two to three decades.

Imagine having a debt by age 22 of $100k.....even with a low-interest loan....years are in your future...dedicated toward repaying this loan.  The truth is, you can't be sure of what this unique experience of four years will deliver to you over the next thirty years.

Then it kind of hit me....the young lady never said what her education was in.  It would have been interesting to know if she studied French literature, South American history, or Japanese art.  She left that part of the story out.

So she got sixty seconds to tell a story that probably reached 400,000 people throughout America.  I suspect most felt sorry for her.  I didn't exactly have that compassion.  She's sitting in some flea circus operation....camping out along the streets of New York....not making an effort to find a job....and mostly whining about the terrible unfairness of life.  A year from now?  She'll probably still be frustrated....living in mom's basement....and delivering pizzas for $8 an hour.  If she's lucky....she might be some rental car manager in Provo's airport.

The truth here...life is unfair.  Some guy will finish high school this year....skip college, and end up a millionaire by age forty selling Christmas tree ornaments in Green Bay.  Another will borrow $100k, spend four years at Michigan State studying migratory bird patterns through Mexico, and still owe $10k at age 55 on their stupid college loan.  Life is truly unfair.  

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Flea Party

In the last day or two.....news commentators have finally given a name to the "Occupy-Wall Street crowd".....the "Flea Party".  The cause to this?  New York City sanitation experts have stood up and declared the park where the protesters camp out.....to be in terrible sanitary condition.  Waste has built up....human waste smell is starting to pick up.....and the locals who actually live there are complaining about the smell at this point.  The City is hoping that everyone will vacate today while the company with the contract does a professional cleaning of the park (high-pressure hoses and lots of ammonia).  Naturally, you can expect some grass to die.  The protest crowd hasn't said if they will vacate.

If you had to pick a title for your campaign effort.....flea party just doesn't work.  It's a lousy description and makes most people laugh when they hear it.

What happens if they decide against vacating for a day, with no cleaning accomplished?  My guess is that some mystery illness will start to show up around late October.  A strange cough.  Five guys with serious diarrhea.

Camera crews from the media will eventually refuse to shots at the park, and demand interviews take place at least a block away.  It'll be obvious from the angle of the shots that they don't want to admit they stopped action at the park....but you figure it out after five or six interviews.

Here's the comical side of this camping business.  If you went to some raw camping site and just stayed a week....there's zero chance of any sanitation issues.  If you went to a professional camp ground.....with fancy toilets and a staff that did maintenance everyday, there would be zero chance of any disease popping up.  When you do a unplanned camping....lasting potentially weeks and weeks....with lots of people doing their business at night because they just don't want to walk to portable toilets....things go downhill fast.

As the weeks go by and the flea party earns its name....jokes will be made and comical sketches will be acted out.  Parents will worry about Johnny Junior who should have stayed at the pizza job instead of running off to New York City.  Grandma will worry about her niece Wanda who was doing part-time work at the library after spending $100k to get her degree, and Wanda is camping with the crowd.  And Uncle Jim will be all upset over his wife jumping up and running to New York City because she overdosed on Matt Lauer's Today Show episode and thought the flea party was "cute".

It's best in the end to just pray for them and their health.    And for you tea party folks....don't worry, you still don't have much competition.

Blacksmithing and Regulation

Once upon a time, in 1880, Gus arrived in town to open a blacksmith shop.  We were a small town of two hundred people, a general store, a saloon, and a total 300 horses within the local area.  Gus erected a small building and had wood fence put around the side, and in three short weeks.....had the first blacksmith shop in operation.

A year passed, and the town incorporated, thus creating a city council, a mayor, and a sheriff.  The population had surged to 244 residents.  The first order of business, was a license fee....to cost $4 a year to run a business within the city limits.  The fee required an attorney (there was only one in town) to submit a page to prove the trustworthy character of the business.  

A month passed, and the city council passed an ordnance that settled on a limit of all business signs in town. The blacksmith shop sign was too big, and had to be removed.  A new sign cost $2 to paint and erect.

A month passed, and the mayor issued a directive that businesses had to have a hitching post erected in front of their establishment.  The blacksmith shop had one post, which failed to meet the mayor's directive....so they had to build a new one.

A month passed, and the city council passed a rule that horse manure to be removed from any and all places within public view of the street.  Gus hired a 10-year old kid to come over after school each day and remove the issue in order to meet the law.

A month passed, and the city council passed a rule that only 12-year old kids could work for businesses in town.  Gus fired the 10-year old kid and hired a 12-year old kid.

A month passed, and the city council issued a law that only hotels could rent sleeping accommodations to visitors.  The cow-hands who gave Gus ten-cents to sleep on his straw in the stable were kicked out.

A month passed, and the city council passed a rule that every business had to offer free water to horses, and it had to be refreshed every seven days.  Gus spent $3 building up a trough for the city council.

A month passed, and the city council passed a law that required all businesses to shut down completely on Sundays. Gus had to pay $1 a week to the Sheriff to overlook his business as part of the bribe scheme.

A month passed, and Gus decided that enough was enough......he'd move his blacksmith shop 500 feet outside of town and avoid the trend of regulations.  The town quickly passed a new law that extended the city limits to one-mile outside of the present border.

A month passed, and the city council passed a law that required all dead horses to be officially stamped "dead" on a certificate before being dragged out to a local town burial site for horses.  This certificate would cost 25-cents via the city clerk.

A month passed, and a fire ordnance was passed.  Gus had to spend around $50 to improve the blacksmith and stable operation.

A month passed, and Gus started to sell special salve for horse injuries.  The city passed a law that only a certified horse doctor could sell such a salve, and this yearly license would cost $5.

At some point, Gus decided that enough was enough, and shut down the blacksmith shop....and just sat around the saloon to drink booze.  Everyone was confused over why there wasn't an operational blacksmith shop, and why an honest man would just sit around and drink booze.....rather than work for a living.  Gus just grinned, and admitted he'd be regulated to non-existence.....and it felt good to finally be in a occupation where there just weren't any regulations.

In the real world of 2011.....if blacksmithing were still an actual business....controlled by towns, counties, states, and federal government.....there would likely be 22,000 pages of text over the business of blacksmithing.  Once you admit that.....it's all a joke.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Joe and the Bill

You can always expect some wisdom to come from VP Joe Biden.  Yesterday....up in Flint, Michigan, VP Joe came out and said that more rapes and murders might happen if President Obama's jobs bill is not passed.  How rapes and murders figure into a political bill....was not really explained.

I thought about this long and hard....pondering about what Joe said.

If the bill is not passed.....I would speculate that more forest fires would occur as well.

If the bill is not passed.....I would speculate that more volcanoes in Hawaii would explode.

If the bill is not passed.....I would speculate that more Baptists would up and quit their churches, to join up with the Mormons.

If the bill is not passed.....I would speculate that more Hooters might go out of business.

If the bill is not passed.....I would speculate that NASCAR might become a sport in Iran.

If the bill is not passed.....I would speculate that more Texans would pack up and move to Mexico.

If the bill is not passed.....I would speculate that VP Joe might actually get picked to VP for President Obama in 2012....mostly because no one else wants the job.

Yep, lots of things could happen.  Heck, Hee Haw might even return to CBS.

My Neighborhood

We had an odd episode yesterday.  This guy shows up in Fairfax county (just five miles from my area of Arlington) at this ladies house.  There is no known relationship between the two and the lady didn't seem to want to tell much of the story of this guy.  The thing is....when he left....he took $200 and her credit cards.  Naturally, she called the cops....the Virginia cops.  They typically get their man.

So they got on the main road and based on the car description....they found it kinda quick.  It's an odd thing....DC tags....personalized plates....with the number of "485" and a rose.  This DC low number and the rose typically equal a major player on the DC Mayor's team, or the city council members.  The car?   A newer model Mercedes and high-end (figure $60k minimum).

They chased him.  By this point, the lady let the cops know his nickname...."Boo".  She apparently started to tell more of the story.

The chase continued on.....off into Maryland eventually.  The guy just wasn't going to be stopped.  Eventually, with the help of the Maryland cops.....they stopped "Boo".  He didn't say much.  Several cop cars were damaged in this chase and none of the cops are telling much of the story.  Even stranger...only one of the local TV stations are carrying the story, and you almost get this impression that the local media are going to stay quiet on this for some odd reason.

You've got a potential big story with a DC political player who robbed some Virginia gal, and tried to make a get-away.  It's stuff you just can't make up.  And within two weeks?  All forgotten by the DC system.