Sunday, 30 September 2012

Just Observations

This whole Libya and dead ambassador thing has pretty much gone on for as much as you can stand.  There are three basic truths here.  First, a bunch of thugs showed up with RPGs and heavy machine guns to kill a guy.....not to protest some video.  Second, some idiots at the State Department never had adequate security in the country to protect the ambassador, and the ambassador in the final ten minutes of his life came to realize their stupidity.  Third....a bunch of folks would like to say some idiot out in California has caused all this trouble, with a zero-star video-production company.  If this threat from the zero-star production company is true....then God help everyone because we can produce millions of anti-Muslim video clips every single month.

Some idiot Michigan lottery winner from last year....who picked up a million in winnings....came up dead a few days ago....from an overdoes of drugs.  That's the problem with winning any real money in life....you never know how to use it or to abuse it.

Senator John Kerry has been picked to be the debate "threat" for Obama as he prepares to debate Governor Romney.  It's hard to say that John Kerry has the skills to prepare the President for this kind of situation.  Can Kerry even act Republican?  Can Kerry deliver any Mormon wit or humor?  Can Kerry act like Romney?  You just don't know.

Some newspaper writers are burning the pages with this idea that racism will defeat President Obama in the election.  In their mind....it won't be unemployment....it won't be stagnant growth in the economy....it won't be the Obama health care law....and it won't be national energy policy.  If there were a list of 100 possible reasons to vote against the President....I would admit that racism might be rated somewhere around ninety to one hundred, but it's pretty far down the chart, and doesn't amount to much.  Course, who reads newspapers these days?

Finally, somewhere in the last week....up in Massachusetts, there's an election underway for Senator.  Somehow, it's come out that the Democratic gal in the running....has been a lawyer for all these years, but she apparently didn't have a legit license to practice law within the state.  It's hard to say where this little bit of news will take the election, but every case that she provided help for....is now under question.  The state might have to redo a few cases all over again.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

My Neighborhood

This week....someone got this picture of a METRO truck in our local area....taking up three parking spots at some local deli.

Course, this stirs up folks around here....who are already negative about METRO, and it's work force.

Back about twenty years ago....for the Gulf War episode....I was deployed and forced into driving one of these four-door pickups with an extended bed.

Frankly....you don't know nothing about driving a vehicle until you've handled an extended truck like this.  You have to allow yourself an extra ten foot for a turn radius situation, and you feel like you might be driving a bus.  Pulling into just one regular parking spot?  It's not possible unless you have at least one hundred feet behind that spot to make such a wide turn.

So I kinda feel sorry for the guy.  That's the best parking you can expect.....and most folks just won't be happy with that.  As for the deli stop....well....that's a different story and best not to discuss that part.

The Drug Smiles

About six months ago, everyone started to become accustomed to the new drug trend....bath salts.  Basically, you end up taking your clothing off and acting goofy.  It was pretty easy to note these guys within the news stories.

Now, there's another new drug....smiles.  The way this works, you start to have these hallucinations, which run from hours.....to days.  At some point, when you really overdose on smiles, you start to foam at the mouth, act like the devil has possessed you, and eventually knock your head against the wall, the floor or some tree.

You can imagine this scene....you at some city park.  Some kid is acting weird....yelling about goats attacking him.  Then after a while, you notice that he's foaming at the mouth, and you start thinking this has to be rabies or such.  Then finally, he's knocking his head against some park bench until he's knocked out or dead.

A guy can get the basic materials....start a lab in his garage, and be making $20k of the stuff each week to sell.  As long as he doesn't get addicted to the stuff....he can probably retire in two years with a good amount of money.  

Friday, 28 September 2012

Real Taxes

To make some sense out of this....the French are in serious financial trouble with the government.  They finally came to this conclusion today....a new tax.  If you are "super-wealthy", that means you make one million Euro or more a year ($1.25 million dollars).  The French government says.....you need to pay a 75-percent tax....on that super wealth.  Basically, you could work as much as you want....but three-quarters of your effort would be for the government.  Why bother?

There's been a hint for weeks about this coming down.  Some British bankers have been contacted, and some indications show that rich French folks who can move out of the country....will move.  Those with business operations?  I'm guessing they will find ways to have leased cars...leased houses....leased clothing...etc, and just count it all as business expenses.

The production of movies or TV shows in France?  This might just encourage the production guys to look for other locations to film any shows or movies.  You could claim you were in Italy....thus deserving to pay only Italian taxes on this production episode.

When you reach a 75-percent scale....you might as well just stay home....drink booze....and just accept the fact that the government doesn't want you to do much of anything.

My Neighborhood

Here in the DC area....some guy got this idea and developed this private luxury taxi service.....called Uber.  The thing about this....there's a application you download and it kinda tracks on a GPS like application on the cellphone.  You hit the Uber button and it brings up some kind of request screen, and then they come for you.  You don't call anyone or stand out on the street....the cellphone just notes your position and brings a private luxury car to you.

So for around seven or eight months....they've done business in DC.  This week....they got dragged into the city council area and the DC cab commission got all over them.

The Uber guy sat there.....not really understanding what was wrong.  The commission and the council got hinted this way and that.....something needed to be fixed.

Uber, then got around to looking for all the complaints that had been turned in with the city cab commission of DC.  Typically....every cab company gets dozens per year, and this is what drags you into a city council meeting.

Well....to make a long story short....the request turned into a federal type information request, and finally the cab commission said that for this seven to eight months....NOT one complaint had been filed against Uber.  NOT one.  I think the Uber guy was shocked.  He probably figured at least one complaint per month would have come in....but nothing.

What you can figure from this mess is that the various cab companies are upset about competition and losing some business to the upper class level, which is what Uber goes after.  They figured that enough pressure from the right people....would have triggered Uber to bribe someone or maybe pull back off some of their business.  They guessed wrong.

It's an odd thing to watch business operations try to start out in DC....and face up to old-time operations which hate competition.

"New Economic Patriotism"?

There's some new political ad....from the President....discussing a "new economic patriotism".  I sat there for a minute....trying to think how you roll patriotism and economics into one idea.  It sounds nifty, and would stir up some independent voters....especially when you say the word patriotism.

So I read on.  There's some "ideas" here within the ad for the new economic patriotism.  First, there's supposed to be tax breaks for companies that create jobs in America, but not for companies which create jobs overseas.  Naturally, you'd ask how they'd get this through a Republican House, and a thin-majority Democratic Senate.  The answer for this....isn't very clear.  It might be a nice thought, but we've now seen reality of political playing, and come to realize that the President isn't really walking and talking with the dimwits of the House or the Senate.

Then you come to the second idea.  We are supposed to cut foreign oil production in half, and double up on fuel efficiency of US-made cars.  Well....this is an interesting topic.  There's that Keystone Pipeline project which is stalled because the President just won't make the decision until after the election.  That would probably help cut foreign dependency a little....but the President hasn't shown any interest.  The idea of doubling up on fuel efficiency?  Well....if you forced all vehicles to be made out of plastic instead of metal....we'd probably get eighty miles per gallon, but you wouldn't want to be inside such a vehicle when an accident occurs.  If you ask around....no one much wants to drive a two-cylinder car, that takes three minutes to get from zero to sixty.  Want to drill for oil off-coast?  Zero chance with this administration 

Then you come to the math and science idea.  The Presidents to take off and really pump out lots of math and science experts.  Part of the deal is that you'd cut tuition.  Course, he hasn't mentioned that to the universities, and I'm pretty sure they'd laugh when you ask to cut tuition.  The general game plan is two to three percent growth on tuition....each and every year.  Expanding student aid?  Who pays for that?  Well....the taxpayer.  So you'd have to expand on taxes somewhere in this mess.  The idea of training two million Americans at job skills at local community colleges?  Well....for the most part, they are already doing that.  Nothing new in that area for the past twenty years.  It might shock political figures, but the community colleges know how to deliver technical skills.

Finally, for this economic patriotism.....there's this idea....asking wealthy Americans to pay just a little bit more, and somehow....with such a little bit of extra money....we'd have this magical pot of money that would reduce the deficit by four trillion dollars over the next decade.  This is like some guy telling his wife that they can go on a seven-day beach vacation for $99, but never explain how the $99 relates to hotels, food, gas, and booze.  So, if the rich only paid a "little more"....we'd have four trillion dollars?  Is it that simple?  If this is true....lets this ask everyone to pay one or two percent more, and we'd have forty trillion dollars over a decade.  Oh, I didn't realize the Excel spreadsheet for this formula only works, if you use rich people's money to put into the columns.

New economic patriotism probably worked in 1932, and maybe into the 1960s.  But if you come around and try to sell this concept today....folks ask stupid questions.  They've accidentally read a few books, caught hundreds of hours of Fox News, and gave up their subscription to the local newspaper.  They might even ask what happened to the old economic patriotism.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Statue Story

I never was much into soccer, until the World Cup came to Germany in 2006.  I finally sat down and over several weeks....watched a number of games and gained a great appreciation of the tactics and strategy involved.  I also came to enjoy the play of a player for the French....Zidane....who was in his final year of play.  He was destined to retire, but he was probably playing the best of his entire career....for the French squad.

So the French came down to the final minutes of the game, and there had been a fair amount of physical theater going on....and Zidane was tired of all the things that the ref's had failed to call.  So in one magical moment....Zidane came up and gave a head-butt to one of the Italian players.  He got caught....he was kicked out of the game....and the French lost.

The French have remembered the act that cost them the title of champion.  They still respect Zidane greatly.  This week, they finished up a giant-sized statue of Zidane giving his classic head-butt to the Italian.  It's hard to say it's tasteful in the art sense....but most French men remember the guy and admire him.

For years and decades to come....folks will come around and admire the statue.  They probably will discuss the great moments of this final game, and how Zidane finally lost his patience did what had to be done.  For a Frenchman, it was a brutal but honest moment....something had to be done, even if it cost the game and the championship.  So in this weird way....the French are remembering a moment when they lost something, but maybe gained something in return.  That's the French way.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Real Trickle-Down Situation

Millionaire Joe owns a company and pays his taxes on the revenue.  He'd be the first to admit that he takes every single credit, and off his profit.....he pays roughly nineteen percent on taxes.  He donates money to charities and fine foundations which help kids in trouble.  Joe is happy paying the nineteen percent.

Well....time passes, and some folks decide via Congress that Joe ought to pay an additional four million dollars (figure seven percent on top of the nineteen percent).

Millionaire Joe typically paid out bonuses to his staff of six hundred employees.  They ranged from $60k to $500 (the seven security guys all got $500 each).  Joe figures up the mess, and decides the extra four million will come from the bonus deal.

The Chief Finance Officer got the $60k bonus....which he typically used half on two trips to Vegas each year.  The CFO would fly him and his girlfriend into Vegas, hire up a fancy limo, stay at a luxery five-star place and really have a great time.  The $30k spent on Vegas?  Gone.  The limo driver?  He lost two big-ticket moments from his 300-day calendar.  The hotel?  They have to hope for a replacement for the two lost weeks in the five-star hotel room.

The IT technican Bob?  He took home a $4k bonus.  He typically put it onto renovating his house.  This year?  No renovation....no upgrades....no purchases from Lowes.....no carpentry work for Bobby Joe from across the street....and no paint purchase from the fancy paint shop downtown.

The secretary Wilma?  Well....she'd take home $2200 on her bonus.  It was going to pay for a new living couch and easy-chair.  The local furniture company would have made profits off the $2200, and the local county/city would have made 5.25 percent taxation revenue off the purchase.  They all lost on their "deal".

The engineer Karl?  Karl was set to buy a $17k bass-boat, and spend $1k on his wife's new fancy washing machine.  The bass-boat company lost a purchase, and Maytag lost a easy sale.

The logistics guy Monroe?  Well.....he was set to fly out to Thailand, visit some ladies and choose one to be his next wife (number three).  The $6k would have taken care of everything.  Now?  The Thai trip is pushed off for a year, and the Thai Airways folks lost $2k because of the lost bonus.  Oh, and some Thai gal lost her golden chance to marry up with a oddball character who drinks only Schultz beer and Kool Aid.

The crazy manager from the developmental group....Teddy?  He was set to pick up a $17k bonus, which would have paid for a truckload of stolen nuts and bolts from a Missouri middle-man.  The guy who stole the truckload of nuts and bolts now has to wait a month while hunting down some other guy to buy a hot load of nuts and bolts.

The four million?  Well....it went into the government's hands and pays for some government service, which none of the guys or gals mentioned....ever see.  All they know....is that they had a bonus, and now they don't.

The truth is....when you squeeze a millionaire for more money...he has to take it from somewhere.  And typically, if it's in the government hands....it doesn't mean that real people ever get any use out of it.

Sequestration

In the last couple of days....there's been more interest building on this whole sequestration business.  Some economic experts have come out....and some political figures are hinting at various things.

The number today of concern....that 108k DOD civilians.....not contractors, but regular civilian workers....would end having to go.  It's even pointed out that you can delay this into March/April of 2013, but it just means some serious numbers have to occur quickly by May.

There's also this hint that some Republicans actually want Sequestration to occur....mostly because they see President Obama winning, and don't desire any tax increases onto the public.  The general thought by the rest is that you could cut around the edges....mandate furloughs on government employees....increase taxes to some degree....force mandatory retirement for folks with enough points, and just slide by with minimal forced layoffs for the rest.

My humble opinion is that we will see ten days of discussion after the election.  If Romney wins....the Republicans will come to the baseline and agree some basic tax increases, and then get a four-percent work-force reduction for 2013 (much better than the thirteen percent that sequestration is discussing).  You drag out some retirement papers for the older guys and offer up $25k for some guys to resign, and you somehow avoid a mess.

If President Obama wins....I think the ten days of discussion will be worthless, and then Senator McCain gets a four-month extension into the mess....taking us to the end of April 2013.  We then find almost no compromise with the Republicans and a magnificent ten thousand ton anchor is going to be released in May.  Tens of thousands of notices will go out, and by the end of May....the cuts start.  The economy will falter by ten percent, and 401k funds across America start to fall miserably beyond what people expected.

My suggestion for people if you have investments or 401k deals....and President Obama wins....I'd start to discuss the idea of bonds or just buying into some CD deal for two years.  I wouldn't expect much from the US economy until 2016.  The blame?  It'll try to stick to the President, but it's mostly the fault of those in Congress and the Senate.

Property prices around DC?  Well.... mortgage failures will show by the end of 2013, and I'd expect some great fire-sales on property by early 2014.  Guys in the DC area who get unemployed?  You'd best pack a bag, give up on any real salary deals for six months, and just head out to Wyoming or North Dakota.

I'm trying to be optimistic on sequestration.....but it's funny how you get this little hint or two that some Republicans just aren't going to sign up for nothing much.

The Communist Half-Time Show

This is what we know.

There's a high school band up in New Oxford, Pennsylvania.  This year, they got all busy and put together a show....Saint Petersburg, 1917.  The reference here....is that this was the big year where Communism showed up in Saint Petersburg, Russia....dissolving away reality in the local area....and changing Russian lifestyle.

So the band had red flags, military-style uniforms, and the hammer & sickle were the key symbol leading the band.

No one much said anything within the group.  It wasn't until they did some practice episodes for their half-time show that some parent stood there in shock and realized they were celebrating Soviet Communism within the half-time show practice.

Naturally, the school board gets involved, and eventually....this directive gets passed down.  You can play the music, call it "Music of Shostakeovich" and dump the hammer/sickle episode entirely.

So far, no one with the band will say much. The school music teacher?  I'm guessing there was some strategy at work here, and folks might be curious to hear more about his or her philosophic nature. If this had happened in Bama or Mississippi....the music director would have been suspended for a week or two....but this is Pennsylvania.  

I'm guessing if no said nothing over the entire season....it would have been easily accepted for the band to move on for the 2013 season with some Nazi-like half-time show.

For a year or two....this will be discussed around New Oxford and folks will comment on the fancy uniforms, the Russian theme, and who directed what to happen.  Eventually, it'll be forgotten for a decade or two, until some kid who was in the high school band....returns as the next music teacher and band leader.  Things tend to repeat themselves.

Thunder-Blizzard-Hurricane

I rarely comment on football. To be honest, I might watch one game a weekend during the season.  I did end up catching part of the Seattle - Green Bay game on Monday night, which ended being one of the discussed games at the office in recent history.

The NFL is apparently on this bad situation with replacement ref's because of a pay discussion going on with the "real" refs.  The replacement refs showed up at the game, and probably delivered one of the worst games in NFL history.  You could have done just as good by drafting up eight US Senators and just putting on the field to call the game.

By the next day....NFL headquarters kinda agreed, the Green Bay squad should have won....but history has been written.....Seattle won instead.

Course, this all got Green Bay folks upset.  Last night, the local weather station ran a piece with a replacement weather guy.....who promptly issued out a weather warning of a thunder-blizzard-hurricane on the way, then predicted morning temperatures at minus-200 degrees.  The real weather guy then stepped in, kicked the replacement guy out, and corrected everything.  I'm guessing some guys are probably still asking if the thunder-blizzard-hurricane warning is still in effect....if they should evacuate to Michigan....and if they ought to go ahead and put snow-chains on.

In a bad situation, it's good to have a sense of humor about things like this.  To be truthful....the minute you get into an argument, and management pulls out a replacement crew....things generally go downhill fast.  The odds of the NFL bringing back the real refs by this weekend?  I'd take a guess at fifty-fifty at this point.  There's probably some pressure building on the issue, and at least a hundred phonecalls a day coming into the commissioners office.

As for the thunder-blizzard-hurricane?  If there was such a thing, it'd be best to pick up several cases of Pabst-Blue Ribbon beer, as many packs of hot dogs as you can carry, and get a decent snow shovel.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Copier Story

I've had this Xerox copier that has broke down several times over the past month.  Finally, the technician comes out with several parts today, to fix a 14-month old copier.

So here in....lies the problem.  This is a fancy copier which doesn't use a toner cartridge...instead, Xerox went to this "slabs" like the size of a piece of soap, which slide into each tray, and melt.  It's a wax-type formula, for the four colors.  Course, it's awful hot, but this is ten times better than the old toner cartridge system.

Well....this fancy idea came from the Japanese.  So they were the ones on the hook for our orders of the fancy slabs which would arrive in a box....you shove into the side of the copier.....and in minutes, you had 90-percent of the color needed for next month or so.

So some vendor in Japan was responsible for Cyan-color.  He had the contract and nice little operation.  And he ran this out of the town affected by the earthquake and tidal wave.  Course, there was total destruction, and this vendor and his company just disappeared.

Xerox figures this out quickly, and starts looking for Cyan-color vendors to make up the slack.  Course, no one really knows the formula that this one guy had for his slab.....to melt correctly.  So Xerox finds this Japanese vendor, who steps in and figures up a similar deal.  He delivers.  Xerox ships out to the world, and life goes on.

There's a problem though.  The recipe for this slab of cyan-color....just ain't the same.  So the new slabs get tossed in (compliments of me)....melt....but they just don't melt in the right fashion.  Call it chunky melt or whatever....but things end up making the Xerox machine clog up and give an error code.

So my guy spent 90 minutes today replacing the clogged piece, and told this story.

The thing you get out of this....some Japanese guy had a great formula and decent business.  The formula was ultra secret probably.  And one day.....a tidal wave washed away him....the business...and the secret formula.

Life is a bit more complicated than you think.  The guys who hold the secret recipe for Coke, Mountain Dew and Pepsi?  Well....it gets a guy to thinking.  You'd really like to think that some disaster wouldn't destroy all knowledge of what it takes to make Pepsi....but it could happen.

Just something to pause and ponder over.

A Short Discussion over School Lunches

With the new school year in progress....I'm shocked by the number of complaints early on....with school lunches.  Apparently, a bunch of schools went into some change-status, and dreamed up a menu of healthy food items for this school year, with nutritional value, but fewer calories.  And yeah, the kids seemed to notice, and are openly hostile about this change.

I grew up in an era when they generally served a plate of roughly 1k calories (especially with the desert item on the tray), and you had the choice of accepting the plate or bringing a bag lunch to school.  Most kids ate what was on the plate.

Today?  Well....it appears that vegetables and non-fatty food has been picked up and made a major part of the meal.  It's not selling very well.

To be truthful, a plate with two baloney sandwiches, a bag of chips, an apple, and a cookie....is more than enough for any kid.  Nutritional?  No....probably not.  But you have to be realistic about these things.  If a kid won't eat carrot sticks.....you'd need to come to a second option real quick.

My humble guess is that schools will notice a fair decline on what is eaten and left on the plate.  Some parents will grumble for weeks and weeks over what the kid is eating in school.  Eventually, each kid will leave home in the morning with a bag of cookies, peanut butter crackers, beef jerky, apples, and oranges.  The school will find it's luncheon program declined for the most part.  By spring of 2013, there will be some schools asking the question if the lunch room program should continue or just be completely dismantled.  The nutritional experts?  Well....they have a dismal program on their hands which they just can't sell easily.

Math Scores

About every four months, there's some meeting somewhere in the world to discuss the math scores across the globe.  Finland always ends up in the top five....for some odd reason.  The US?  Well, this is what drives the press release....they talk on and on about the lousy US scores, and how we rated number fourteen or number eighteen on the worldwide math scores.

The next week after this....there's some meeting in the US where they bring out this article and the scores....talking up how more money would help to fix the problem.  The US needs to lead the world....as we are often told.

Well....this is reality.

Using 2011 data and tests conducted on eighth graders for math, you get this odd picture of American math scores.

In actuality, Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota are competing at the level that folks often compare to Finland or the top three countries.  New Jersey and Montana both follow....looking extremely good.

Then you come to the bottom five: Louisiana, California, DC, Alabama, and Mississippi.  The scores are thirty points less for the most part.

If we just allowed the top five states to compete on the world scale....we'd be in the top three countries in the world.  But they won't allow that.....you have to compete....country by country.

What are the top states doing that the bottom states aren't doing?  You really can't be sure of anything.  The fact that California makes the list is troublesome.  For the three southern states....it could just be local conditions where math isn't that important.  The books being used?  Maybe.  The fact is....you just don't know.

What you can predict is that this position of advertising how terrible the US is in math scores will continue, and often be used as a method of pay increases.  Someday, math teachers will be making $100k a year.  Maybe that will fix the problem, but I doubt it.

Monday, 24 September 2012

My Day

I made a trip to the Arlington Social Security office today.  Second trip in my entire life...the SS Administration.  The first one was a decade ago in Bama....fifteen minutes in to get a new card.  It was simple and quick. Today?  I stood there for eighty minutes....with two elderly American guys waiting to sign up, and twenty non-Americans (Indians, El Salvadorans, Mexicans, Egyptians, Ethiopians, Lebanese, etc).

When I finally got up to the front, I had only a simple request.  I needed a reset on my on-line ability to their database.  The guy spent two minutes and fixed me up.  Then we spent five minutes chatting over what I might expect at 62....which ends up around $1149 a month, and $1590 if I was waiting until 65.

You don't really start thinking Social Security until you get up into your mid forties, and then you have a curious thought about it.  In the mid-fifties, it's virtually every two or three months that this comes up and you think about early retirement.

The other observation I got out of this trip....was this 1980s design of the office.  All the paintings, posters, and furniture.....all felt Reagan-era.  With the exception of the computer network....everything felt old.

So my final advice.....it's best to get out to the office about thirty minutes before they open and just line up quick to get a number.

American Investor Version 1.0

Up until the last ten to fifteen years, if you were the typical average American.....you had a CD account at the bank and were using that for most of your 'savings'.

With $100k and a five-percent payout, your CD in ten years would have delivered $164k.  It was simple math, protected to some degree by FDIC, and without a risk.

Somewhere in the last fifteen years....our national interest rate game went south.  Today, if you can get two-percent....you'd be lucky on a long-term CD.  Two-percent would pay $122k after ten years.  That's a $40k difference.

Course, everyone will come back and say that car loans today are at the lowest point ever.  Some of the car companies are running their own deal and you might get down between one and two percent.  Used car loans are going for three and a quarter percent.  Yes, this is half of what you had fifteen years ago.

The problem here is that you had simplicity and a pretty good guarantee on your CD to help fix up your lifetime savings issue later in life.  Your expectations on Social Security are probably double what they were a decade ago because you now realize your savings strategy just won't pay off in the end.

So across America, its the same story.  Guys in their late fifties....thinking long and hard over what happens at 65, and how they can survive at the level they expect.  For the last forty years....the CD strategy made sense and you didn't have to calculate risk.  Now?  To make up for the mess....you might have to calculate risk into your life....at a point where it's not a good thing.

It's not simple anymore.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Simply Observations

Romney came out Friday with the 2011 tax return, and I get the impression from the media that him donating around $4 million was a bad thing....that the almost $2 million he paid from $13 million of income for the year was bad....and that he should just give up.  My humble guess is that they keep hoping for some idiot to come out of the woodwork who paid forty percent of their income in taxes.  At least count, there are zero media personalities who have released their 2011 tax return.  I checked.

The Post Office folks came out and said they are apparently going after more junk mail customers....because profits tend to be improved if they do that.  So, they will deliver more junk mail to your house.....in order to maintain a profitable enterprise.  I'm guessing at some point, they will come up to you and offer you a "subscription" to cancel out all junk mail to your house, for $9.99 a month, and probably a quarter of all houses in America will accept that deal.

CNN apparently got the dead American ambassador's notebook there in Libya....gazed over it a fair bit and wrote notes....then turned it over to the family.  Naturally, both the family and the State Department are upset about this.  CNN?  They haven't said much.  It's a bad case of ethics....but then the information that came out of the notebook was probably the same stuff that the State Department already knew and was worthless anyway (my humble opinion).

Some story came out last week from a scrap of paper left over from 2k-odd years ago, discussing Jesus and his "wife".  At best, it's four lines of a couple of words, and really is of limited value....if you ask me.  Toss onto this that there were likely 600 guys walking around the Middle East in the times who had the name Jesus....so it really might not be worth discussing.  You just don't know.

Finally, down in Foley, Bama....we've got this thirteen year old kid (Tony Heath) who will start fall college classes at the community college at Faulkner State.  The kid is smart, without argument.  He's made an interesting observation so far after a couple of weeks of college classes.  He thinks....that you basically get an entire month of "smarts" out of two college classes.....compared to an entire month of high school classes.  Most folks won't argue with that, and it's something we'd best not mention to high school teachers around Bama.  The truth is....probably 3k kids from around Bama from ages fourteen to sixteen....probably ought to be in community college instead of high school.....just my humble opinion.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Airline Food Discussion

The photo is from a guy who was onboard a Ryan Airlines flight in Europe, and it's supposed to be a hamburger of sorts...priced at $6 roughly and you had to actually pay for the meal as part of the package.

I've been flying for over thirty years of my life, and probably taken near 200 flights.  The sad truth is...with the exception of one single flight....I can't remember any meals being worth eating.

I had the pleasure once of riding Air Lux out of Luxembourg....to Paris, and they served this terrific ham and cheese sandwich with spicy mustard and some extra crunchy chips.  I could have eaten three or four of the sandwiches....they were that good.

The plain truth is that you can't get decent food on any airline, period, and we ought to just accept that.  Toss in a Snickers and a couple of oatmeal cookies....and just survive off that and a Pepsi.

Some folks would like to just spend $10 at a restaurant in the airport and get a slice of pizza and a small cup of soda.  They'd be happy with that.  But the sad truth is that most airports wouldn't dare allow a decent pizza shop to open up and deliver good but cheap pizza.

During my travels with the Air Force on cargo planes....we'd always have a box lunch.  You'd typically get a baloney sandwich, a candy bar, some chips, and a Coke.  It was the 99-cent meal that was acceptable.  A guy could be happy with that....even if it was awful simple.

I would imagine if I talked to some guy who traveled a bit on Trailways back in the 1960s....he'd probably say the same stuff about bus terminals around America.  It's probably always been this way.

My Neighborhood

Around two years ago....across the river from me in Maryland...was a murder.  A local school principal from Silver Springs, was murdered in his house.  For about a week, it was a big deal in the region....making the news every night.

In the end, the cops figure out that the guy was cruising around the internet looking for young guys to come over and have an evening of lust with him.  And one of these guys that he happened to hook up with.....ended up killing him, and bringing three friends over to rob the house.  We can say that the Maryland cops did a fine outstanding job in finding the four guys.

The problem was that a conviction situation was impossible....without making a deal or two.

So this kid....Joel Johnson....was brought to the side, and offered a deal where he basically walked off in a plea situation.  He would say enough to convict the kid who actually killed the principal.

Well....this week....Joel Johnson came up in the news.  He and an associate decided to rob some guy and his wife at their apartment in DC.  Joel and his buddy showed up and thought this would be simple.  In the midst of the robbery....the victim guy got wise and quick.....going after Joel.....and eventually a shot was fired, killing Joel.

I imagine that the first first cops on the scene ran the name....realized who the dead guy was, and just stood there in shock.  No one could really serve justice on Joel, because of the plea deal.  Joel could have wised up and gone off to do good things in life with this second chance.  He decided to screw up things....and ends up deal.

When you get second chances in life.....you usually make something out of the deal.  In this case.....Joel screwed up.

Sequestration

This week....I started to notice more people asking questions of management over the implications of sequestration.  I will admit....that probably over fifty percent of the GS worker force in DC.....has not paid any attention to the episode and has no idea what happens on 2 January.

Commentary from yesterday from several political figures indicate that they will likely whip into DC the week after the election in November, and simply put a 120-day delay onto this mess....allowing for more meetings in January and February.  They haven't yet said how they'd come to some real agreement on the budget....other than delaying the mess on 2 January.

How does it end?  My guess is that a mandated trimming of manpower will occur, with roughly three percent of the civilian work-force forced to retire or leave by the end of 2013, and repeat again in 2014 and 2015.

There's also a hint of furlough episodes coming down.  It might be....that you as a government worker....have to take an unpaid day off every month for all of 2013.  Maybe two unpaid days off.

New taxes on the public?  Maybe, but I wouldn't expect this to amount to very much.  Forget about the value of the new revenue....it'd simply go into another pot to pay the Chinese folks for being so kind to loan us a vast amount of money that we'd typically never be able to pay off.  So the extra taxes that your company pays.....will come out of some pot that they would have used to pay out bonuses to you, fix up the building, or take care of health care costs.  Only the naive believe otherwise.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Just Some Observations over Education

Do most high school kids (fifteen to eighteen) need trigonometry?  No.

Do most high school kids (fifteen to eighteen) need calculus?  No.

Do most high school kids (fifteen to eighteen) need biology?  No.

Do most high school kids (fifteen to eighteen) need chemistry?  No.

Do most high school kids (fifteen to eighteen) need geometry?  No.

Do most high school kids (fifteen to eighteen) need English literature, Shakespeare, or Hemingway?  No.

The truth is....somewhere around age fourteen....you can split off a class of twenty-five students.  Fifteen of them need maybe one more year of real education, and you'd be best to put the fifteen kids into job training type areas (carpentry, mechanics, office administration, road construction, etc) after that point.

The remaining ten?  They are the ones that need more intensive classes.  You are simply wasting teachers, man-hours, and the energy of kids....on topics of no value for the bulk of the group.

Forget these fancy summits that you hear about where four hundred educational experts meet and want to help every single student get a vast amount of education, which might be mostly worthless.  

We could release 200k teachers across the nation from their jobs.....and put them back into private jobs, if we were simply thinking about reality.

The Times

Yeah, well....it is true.

For the famous Abu Ghraib prison episode from eight years ago....the New York Times featured the story on the front page forty-seven times, and thirty-two days were consecutive days.

For the killing of the American ambassador in Libya?  Yeah, it was featured on page one....two days after the event, and has not been on the front page since that day.

Yeah, that's pretty much the whole story.  They just can't squeeze more "big" impact out of the story....unlike the Abu Ghraib prison episode.  Investigative analysis?  Well....yeah.....zero.  They can't even find some guy on the street of Libya to add commentary to the ambassador story.

Well....yeah....folks do wonder why subscriptions are lower than a decade ago and why folks just don't read newspapers much anymore.

Well....yeah....folks, if given a choice.....probably would pick up a USA Today Newspaper quicker, than the New York Times.

The Problem with TV News

Sometime around 2002, I was sitting and watching a CNN International News piece.....and started laughing.  I don't remember the topic, but the obvious angle of telling the story was as far to the left as you could possibly get.  Over the next couple of months....I started to observe more of these odd variations of stories.  As time went by.....I noted the same practices with CBS, NBC, and ABC.  It was like first-year university students running some network news organization....at least in my mind.

Over the last decade, I've become kind of settled on my news.  I'll use Fox News for the most part....blend in a bit of CNN....a small dose of MSNBC, and just a bit of the business channel.  The big-three networks?  Nothing.  I might accidentally catch five minutes here and there every six months, but it doesn't amount to anything.

I've come to the opinion that most investigative reporting by the big-three networks.....have been dismantled since 2009.  They sent their guys off with limiting factors....hit on universities, Senators, Representatives, the NCAA, TV stars, etc....you just can't go and say anything negative about the US government itself.

The logic put out on the table during on-the-air TV discussions?  It amounts to something that you'd often expect out of a 16-year old kid.  The questions?  After you've seen softball type questions thrown at one person and blazing fastballs thrown at another....you just hit the channel button and go onto another network.  The trust is gone.

It's gotten to the point now where I turn the TV on at 4:30AM and try to watch the local news.  For some odd reason....my local stations....here in the Arlington, VA area....spend about seven minutes every half an hour....on national news topics.  You can guess the lean factor here....with it mostly being a view of some half-wit first-year university student, and they try to give you this facial expression of "just believe me as I tell you this story".  So I tend to hit the mute button or switch channels a good bit at 4:30AM.

If I do stick around till 7AM.....there's the Today Show which starts up, and there's always laughs here because Matt Lauer and the gang mostly act like high school kids in an attempt to tell some news story.  Oddly enough, there could be a major story which has been going on for two days, but they've finally decided to lead off and finally mention the story for the first time.  Course, the view is somewhat slanted, and you end up with half the information being of no value in grasping the impact of the story.

The sad thing is that Paul Harvey has been gone for over three years now, and there is no absolute four-star place to get the basic news as you'd desire it.

Lately, I've come to note that most of the big-three network guys are now complaining about viewership. They've actually come to notice a loss in viewers....thus a loss in profits.  They'd like to recover those viewers.  So far.....that hasn't happened.  Even CNN has lost a vast number of viewers.  Hardly anyone watches this Piers guy do his nightly interviews, and I suspect that they could relieve him with some NFL football coach to run the show and more viewers more actually drift back to the network.

A couple of days ago....I watched the Piers dude interview Jesse Ventura....former wrestler and governor of Minnesota.  About eleven minutes into the show....I had to flip the channel. It was unbearable.  Jesse ends up saying one remarkable and insightful thing....for every six comments he makes.  The other five comments are what you'd expect from some nutcase.  It was painful to watch Jesse.  It was even more painful to watch Piers.  That was the first time in four months that I'd watched Piers, and I kinda doubt I will be back anytime soon.

So my expectations are rather low on TV news.  You might actually get a decent bit of news off the state channel in Uruguay that is better than anything that the big-three offer.  Considering how much they spent for their version......that's kinda sad.

Trying to Make Sense

It's hard to make sense in this vast world.

First, we found out today that the State Department sent some guy into Pakistan with $70k in cash.....to find open TV commerical moments, and advertise this piece where the US "agrees" that the lousy anti-Islam video produced in California offends us as well.  You can imagine Husna, a mild-mannered Pakistani gal sitting there doing the dishes....when this thirty second ad comes on.....explaining how America hates the anti-Islam video too.  How far does $70k go in the Pakistani TV world?  Well....the State Department isn't explaining that part of the deal.  I'm thinking you probably can buy forty spots in the prime-time period with that...in the midst of the Pakistani airing of Knight Rider or Baywatch.

Second, someone is reporting Monica (of Bill fame)....is trying to peddle a book on her affair with Bill.  Comments indicate that she wants the big money and is going to admit spoke greatly of threesomes, sex toys, and some really negative commentary over Hillary.  This is all supposed to be worth $12 million on the book market.  Frankly, I do't kow what idiot would care about this....and pay $15 for a Monica book.

Third, sixteen Amish guys and women were convicted today of hate-crimes.  The issue?  Forced hair and beard cuts.  This was some radical group....up in the Ohio area....that felt their brothers and sisters in the local community were straying too far from "standard".  They likely will get some jail time...the more extreme cases will go up to the ten-year period apparently.  Hard to say what happens after they get released.  I kinda doubt that the jail system has ever had a case like this and Amish guys in jail might be something of a change.

Fourth and final....."Newman" from Seinfeld (Wayne Knight) has been hired to play Santa Claus in some New York City play.  Having watched Newman so many times.....it's hard to imagine the guy being Santa. To be honest, I have him permanently etched into my mind as a postal guy, period.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Debate of Debates

Earlier in the week, I kinda noticed the announcement from Fox News that O'Reilly was going to debate Comedy Central's Jon Stewart.  It's a charity deal to some extent....roughly $5 to get the debate.  It'll be run from here in the Arlington area at the local university.

While the major debates between Obama and Romney will mean something....this Stewart versus O'Reilly debate might actually mean the movement of 500k votes in one direction or the other.  I'm guessing that a major number of college students will pay attention to the debate, and that both individuals might get a point of significance into the discussion.

The chance that O'Reilly might win the debate?  Zero.  The chance that Stewart might win?  Zero.  I expect a fair amount humor to be displayed and some serious questions to be left out for people to think about for the remaining campaign.  The truth is....probably half the college students in America could be persuaded to lean over and go a different direction in November.

So this comical debate might mean something in the end....which is sad in a way.

A Little Mullah Story

This is what we know.

There's this Iranian Muslim Mullah of a lesser degree.  He's up on all the rules, and probably up in his sixties.  He's walking down the street in this town....Shahmirzad....out in northern Iran in the past month.  Somewhere out of the corner of his eye....he spots this gal walking toward him and really not covered up in the appropriate Muslim way.  Women just aren't supposed to display nothing.....while walking in public.

Well...our guy shouts out to the gal that she needs to bundle up more....ensuring men don't see any portions of her body.  She shouts back to him that he just needs to close his eyes.

Course, you can imagine a moment like this.  He's all focused now on making sure she gets corrected like a regular Iranian woman is supposed be.

Well....this Iranian gal doesn't take "corrections".  So this encounter turns into an interesting episode.  The gal approaches him, and starts to push him back on his heels.  Course, he's an older guy and not that stable.  So he starts to fall backward and onto the ground.  The gal ain't finished with him.  Apparently, she starts to lay in on this guy with her shoes.....kicking and kicking on him.  He probably hasn't been this kind of episode in his life.  He admitted later, it was the worst day of his life.

When this was all over with....the Iranian Mullah guy was in the hospital for three days.  He's upset by this behavior.  Course, she was kinda bundled up around the face to some degree....so he isn't likely to be able to identify her, and this turns into a comical sort of situation with his reputation now in question.

Now, you'd think on this a while....since it got out in public media, and there's probably fifty thousand Iranian women who have read the story and feel pretty positive over beating up this Mullahs.

At the end of the day....it might be worth it to just avoid criticizing Iranian women, if you ask me.

The Pirate and the President

This is not a doctored photo....it was actually taken yesterday, with a public meeting between the President, and a pirate.

There's a few captions I could think of....but it's just not worth the effort.

In the heat of an election.....this is probably not a photo that you want to have taken or put into the media spotlight.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Truth about the 47 Percent

I sat and watched the Romney clip, where someone caught him making the comment over Obama "base" which is composed of people who will vote for him.....with no other possible conclusion....because they are utterly dependent on the US government, and pay no taxes.  After it ended....I sat there for five minutes.  It's a long pause, because you have to think this through.....forty-seven folks out of one hundred....are pretty settled in their lifestyle....paying no taxes, and relying in some fashion on the US government for their survival.  Why would they not vote for President Obama?

When you get dependent on someone or some thing.....you don't have much of a escape in life.  You'd like to say you are indepdent and can make it on your own.....but the truth is....between the college loan, the welfare check, Medicare, Social Security, and various other gimmicks.....you just can't be walking freely.

So then, you get this great deal.....because of the standard of living you have....you don't pay taxes.  You don't worry about it.....because rich Joe or the hubcap plant over on the other side of town.....will cover what the government spends, and cover your expenses.

Course, at some point, the guy who owns the hubcap plant finds out that he can make them cheaper.....in China.  So he up and leaves the US.....takes his hubcap designs, and has Hui and the boys build them in China.

Then, the refrigerator plant over in the next county.....that pays taxes on their "vast" revenue from profits.....come to figure out that they can make the same refrigerators over in China as well.  So they go over and hire up Hui and the boys to build cheaper refrigerators.

Then, the rich guy from your senior class who you were fairly dependent on to pay taxes to cover your cost?  Well....he finally figured a way to export his $1 million out of the US to Costa Rica and bought himself a nice house over the beach.  He pays $8k a year to the Costa Rican government now.....and is fairly happy over the tax situation in Costa Rica.

After a while, between massive debt owed to China and a bunch of guys like you on some government relief package or government substance.....life becomes kind of difficult for fancy-pants government guys.  They can't exactly pay you all the cash that you need or cover all the debt that they owe to the Chinese government on bonds.  So they have to start making decisions that make you a bit of a second-class citizen.  The truth is.....you've been a second-class citizen for a number of years, and this is simply regulating you down to a third-class citizen.

Forty-seven percent of the population will eventually....in a decade or two or three.....come to find themselves falling into a pit without much comfort.  It'd be nice if we still manufactured TVs in America....but we don't.  It'd be nice if we manufactured all our car parts in America.....but we don't.  It'd be nice if we manufactured all of our laptops and computers in America.....but we don't.

Your edge here.....your grace is life....is utterly dependent on what remaining manufacturing we perform, and keeping the wealth in America.  If those don't concrete themselves down....then your buddy who pays for all your substance in life....will eventually disappear.

It is that simple.

Just Some Sense

First, some royal princess ended up on a vacation in France and decided that she could remove her top, while on private property, do a bunch of semi-nude sunbathing, and never expect some idiot photographer to take her picture.  If your name is on some list of 1k people that photographers want lusty photos of.....you might want to think about things you do.

Second, just about everything over the killing of this ambassador in Libya indicates that it was planned down to some degree, and some insider had knowledge of things.  It doesn't matter what the President or his staff say.....you end up with a different view of things.  The comedy tape made by the idiot out in California?  If he spent $2 million on this....he basically wasted his money.  I'd also be curious where his funding came from and if he really knows the folks backing him (yeah, I'm hinting some Saudi cash is somewhere in this funding episode for the video).

Third, yeah.....the dollar is sinking back down against the Euro....thus making US goods cheaper.  A planned procedure to churn up some US business profits?  Probably.  Bush used the same tactic for eight years....so this administration is simply returning to practices that work.

Fourth, and final....all this negativity in Egypt has one serious consequence.  Roughly eleven percent of the national economy depends on dimwit visitors to arrive and have fun for two weeks in Egypt, and to see some historical stuff.  Just scaring a quarter of the visitors away....means you lost three percent of your economy with no way to make it back up.  It was a no-brainer.  Just smile at funny idiots from France, England and the US....serve them lots of cocktails.....dump them off at the Pyramid.....and ensure they safely travel around the countryside.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Just Some Advice

Sometimes, I hand out advice.

If you intend to go off to college, and want to borrow around $75k to achieve your degree....you better plan on working two jobs upon graduation for the first ten years, and forget about putting any money into a 401k until you turn 45 years old.

If you live down along the Gulf coast....within two miles of the beach....you need to ask yourself if losing your home after a hurricane is worth living that close to the coast.

If you like to drink excessively once or twice a year and drive home....could you afford to pay out $15k in legal costs and court fines if the cops pull over?  If you can't afford the $15k.....don't drink and drive.

If you live in a neighborhood where ten percent of the houses are empty because folks went bankrupt....you might want to ask if folks have a spending/saving problem.

If your doctor is hinting pretty strongly that he will limit Medicare patients he handles within the next year and you are around fifty-five.....you might ought to ask some serious questions about the stability of Medicare and how your health will be taken care of when you get up to sixty-five.

If folks around live and breathe NCAA football from early September to late November....you might want to be careful about which you attach yourself to.

If gas gets up to five bucks a gallon....what's the odds of GM, Chrysler or Ford selling big-engine vehicles?  The value of your 18-mpg Ford pick-up in such a dramatic moment?  Just something you might want to think about.

Finally....if some idiot shows up in front of you at the mall or some gas station and asks if your life is better or worse than it was four years ago.....you might want to sit and ask yourself if it's even better or worse than twenty years ago or even forty years ago.  The answer might shock most folks upon reflection.  Some folks were happier in 1987, than they are today, and that might confuse the political poll dimwits greatly.

A Good Husband

This is what we know.

Staff Sargent Judy (last name we will leave out) signed up with the Air Force and is stationed down in Shreveport, Louisiana.  Staff Sargent Judy does logistics work....mostly supply, accounting, etc.  Staff Sargent Judy got orders to go off to some location in the Middle East (unknown where) for a unknown amount of time (I'd be guessing six months, but it might have been twelve months).

Staff Sargent Judy didn't really want to go.....in a bad way.  So she talks to her husband....Staff Sargent Chris. We aren't sure who came up with the idea....but Chris eventually got his smaller caliber gun, and shot Judy in some non-vital area of her body.  Judy gets to the phone....says an intruder shot her.  Cops come.  Cops add up everything.  Cops just come to disbelieve the intruder thing.  Eventually Staff Sargent Judy admits that the husband did a favor and shot her.

Naturally, Bossier City Police aren't amused....so they arrest Staff Sargent Chris.  There's a weapons charge that they can hang on Chris, and I'm guessing a local judge would be nice enough to convict him but give him a suspended sentence.  Judy?  Well....she gave a false report, and faces charges for that.  I'm guessing the local Bossier City judge will convict her and give a suspended sentence for that.  But then, there's the Air Force folks at the back of the line.

Generally, the Air Force doesn't take this kind of foolishness as mature activity.  So I'm guessing a board will convene and discuss both Staff Sargent Judy and Chris.  Judy will likely be given a mental exam and pronounced not-fit for duty....and likely tossed out by early January 2013 (my humble guess).  It might take a month of mental tests to reach that result, but it's a pretty guaranteed result.  Chris?  Shooting your wife doesn't earn any medals, and will earn him a board to meet as well.  They might be split on letting Chris stay, but I'd be leaning to put enough paperwork into his folder and just not allow him to re-enlist as his contract runs out (it might be two or three years).

The thing is....Chris was an awful nice husband....helping his wife out and cooperating with her wishes.  It takes a lot for a guy to pull out a pistol and shoot just precisely at the right location.....and be fairly sure about the results.  Most guys would have screwed up and missed, or perhaps hit a vital organ.

I'm guessing folks around Bossier City and Shreveport are discussing the matter.  Folks don't get too excited there unless there's a flood or such.  And the Air Force?  Well....they likely will be wondering if they need to go around the entire Air Force and warn folks not shoot each other to get out of deployments.  The safer method....time-tested....would have been for Chris to get Judy pregnant, and that would have kept her off the deployment....but obviously, they just weren't interested in that method.

TV: Revolution?

I sat and watched the initial show of Revolution last night.  The new season has started and I thought this might be one of the better new shows.....I was wrong.

The premise here, is that all the electrical power in the world has been turned "off".  This includes flashlights, car engines, jets, and chainsaws.  There's no real explanation for this total blackout except some scientist rushing home.....telling the wife they've got ten minutes before the event, and then it all happens.  The scene closes with a total blackout and then a script at the bottom says fifteen years have now passed.

What then occurs is this tribal-like atmosphere that exists....with militia groups and robbers running around....while some fine outstanding folks just living off the land.

Without explaining how the blackout occurred or effected everything.....even chainsaws....I just sat there mostly in a daze.  I'll probably watch the second and third episode....in hopes of some explanations, but I frankly don't expect this show to survive more than one season.  It's a loser....mostly for an impossible story.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Way It Works

On my trip back to Germany....I ended up spending a number of days at the "new" residence....in a upscale neighborhood of Wiesbaden.  Across the street....there's a guy who is in his mid-50's and was part of a restructure effort apparently, and recently let go from a management position.

He spent several hours a day....taking care of his small lawn and the plants around the property.  He's staying busy, for the most part.

The odds of another job?  Well.....it's less than a fifty-percent chance that he'll ever be offered another job.  If he is offered a job....it'll be a severe challenge and a difficult atmosphere to move into.  I'm guessing they will run the guy through twelve months of unemployment, then offer him a training situation for six months....although there's no real training program that would fit a guy like this within the German system.  Typically, they want to push you through an Excel or Word learning program.  That doesn't help much in the management or executive department.

Around two years from now....I suspect the German unemployment office will reach a point and just say that the guy can never get another job....offer him a welfare situation (when he spends all his personal fortune), and at age 66....offer him a pension.

It's a sad end to a guy's chances in life.  It'll take at least two years for the unemployment office to admit to the guy that his chances are zero.  He'll go through the motions.....sip a cup of free coffee at the unemployment office once a week....and listen to optimistic employment counselors as they urge him to stay positive.  He knows the score....this game can't end with a victory.  But he has to go through the motions anyway.

Just Observations

First, I sat around and looked at this video episode that got a bunch of Middle-Eastern turban guys all upset.  The talk by the media is that there is a full-up movie coming out, but this 12-minute 'clip' is all you get to see....off Youtube.  Frankly, I have serious doubts that a movie does exist, and this 12-minute clip might be the one and only thing in existence.  The funny thing here is that none of this would matter unless they had internet over in twenty-odd Muslim countries.  Internet caused the episode to occur and get everyone all riled up.

Second....I came to find out that DisneyWorld is preparing to open up a new restaurant in the coming months with a huge new twist.....alcohol.  For forty-odd years, every single attraction, hotel and restaurant connected to the Disney operation....ran without any booze.  Course, Disney was very careful in saying that alcohol would only be sold during eating hours and would be part of the meal.  So you just couldn't walk in and ask for a beer only....you'd have to eat with that.  It would be interesting to see if some guy walks in and asks for a cheeseburger and beer, then guzzles the first beer down within 60 seconds and asks for a second.  I'm guessing some Disney beer-counter will be in the corner and officially monitor beer consumption.

Third and final....over the last couple of days in Guatemala....there's been heavy volcanic activity.  Yes, there's potential for a major blast from Volcan del Fuego.  Local authorities have urged folks living near the volcano to just pack up and leave.  So you'd think that'd be enough to folks away....but the local now admit that tourism has picked up and lots of dimwits want to go up close to the volcano and take pictures.  It's kinda like watching a major riot and then walking into the middle of it and thinking you are completely safe.  As the days go by....I'd bet on helicopters being brought in and carrying five or six tourists up around the volcano on a hourly basis.  I'm guessing.....somewhere in L.A., there's a tourist agency gearing up some new trip to Guatemala....complete with daily trips to the volcano, and offering up a 2-star hotel episode for $999.

Friday, 14 September 2012

My Iceland Air Experience

I spent the last eighteen days moving one old residence in Germany, to another....in an effort to put the old place up for sale.  To make this trip....I finally flew Iceland Air....which is an interesting deal to lay out to folks.

Iceland Air isn't a big airline, and they function mostly like a discount airline.  There's only around five US airports that they fly into (Dulles is one, along with Seattle, Denver, Orlando, NY City).  They fly into around twenty European cities.  Their prices?  If you plan sixty to ninety days out....they usually come out as the cheaper airline, but you have to fly out of one of these five US airports to make this all work.

So you fly for 5.5 hours from Virginia, and arrive in Iceland.  You could arrange for three days lay-over and then fly onto Europe.  In my case, I got off.....spent about 75 minutes on the ground, and then boarded the next plane for Frankfurt.....which only took 3.5 hours.  I'm not a person who likes to stay seated for hours and hours.....so this 75 minutes on the ground actually helped a good bit on this trip.

Their chief positive?  They have the most leg room of any airline I've flown in ten years.  They didn't even want to charge extra for it (like those United guys).  The seats?  Very comfortable.

The biggest negative?  This little airport in Iceland is a pretty small operation.  There's only thirty gates, with barely fifty seats in each waiting area, for the 150 passengers who are waiting to board.  The food?  Mostly what you'd expect at a Greyhound bus operation (1.5 stars on my scale), and fairly expensive.

Then there's the bathroom issue.  I went to the restroom to find two stalls and three urinals for an area with heavy traffic.  It felt like a bus station in Memphis.  On the return trip.....I went to another part of the airport, and found the same situation with the next rest room.  On the women's side.....they actually had a line at the door.  I don't know how these Iceland guys design bathrooms, but there's something not right here.

They really do push the idea of you staying over for a couple of days.  There's plenty of hotel action and rental cars.  I'm not sure of the vast tourist appeal of Iceland, but it might be worth staying a couple of days.  There's some lava fields, a glacier or two, and some whale action.  A word of warning on food.....be prepared to toss out $50 for a pizza and two beers if you are traveling as a couple.  Food just ain't cheap there unless you eat the local fish.

Finally, a word or two on Icelandic comedies.  The plane had video capabilities and offered up a number of Icelandic movies and TV shows.  Course, they only make a few each year (there's only like 300k Icelandic folks out there).  I had a chance to watch this 2007 show called "Day-Shift", which they apparently only made like fifteen-odd episodes.  I was shocked.....it was as good as the Andy Griffith Show from the 1960s.  If you get a chance to download or buy the CD collection for the show.....go for it.