Saturday, 19 May 2012

Greece, The First Month

Most folks who write up on Greece and it's Euro troubles....just talk about the demonstrations, and the bank instability.  So I'd rather be creative and lay out how things would be in the first month after they dump the Euro.

So it begins.

The military discovers on day one of the episode, that they really don't have a lot of fuel on hand....maybe enough to run two weeks at best.  When they ask for fuel allotment money from the government, they are told to ground all helicopters and aircraft.  Tanks and trucks?  Put them in the depot.  The coast guard?  Just enough fuel to run minimum operations.

The police chiefs around the county discover that their stash of fuel will last around seven days.  They ask the government to allocate a vast amount of emergency fuel, but the government admits that they just don't have enough money to do more than run a 50-percent operation for the foreseeable future.

Ambulance crews?  They are the only government service that gets a full allocation of fuel.

Airports suddenly run into an odd problem.  A tourist plane will land and expect to pay in Euro....then are told that they need to pay in newly created Drachma.  The pilot calls his headquarters in France, to discover his credit card isn't approved for such a currency yet.  The headquarters also questions the exchange rate.  Meanwhile the passengers disembark, to discover that the tourist bus to carry them off to the hotel....which was supposed to be "free"....isn't free.  The driver wants Euro....not Drachma....and he wants the equalivent of thirty bucks for each person....for a lousy forty minute drive to the hotel.

When the tourist arrives at his hotel....he finds that the contract that he signed six months ago is still valid, but the hotel has added a fee onto the tab (for all drinks and food), so that $10 meal you had.....is now $12 instead.

The cleaning lady at the hotel?  Well.....she wants only Drachma...not Euro....and she won't give you clean towels until you tip her in advance.

That fancy all-day tour-bus ride that you had advance booking on?  Well....it's still in effect but the driver encourages you strongly to tip him as you enter the bus for Euro, not Drachma.  That's the only way that he will turn on the AC unit and keep you chilled all day.

The tourist trap gift shop outside the hotel....that sold you a junk item for $10 in Euro before?  Well....it's now $8 in Drachma, but five days later....you notice it's $10....and by the end of the two weeks....it's $14 in Drachma.

The bartender at the hotel establishment?  He'll take Drachma, Rupees, Euro, Dollars, and even Russian Rubles.

The local lady shopping for groceries?  Well....on day five of the event....she finds the grocery mostly empty and the guy in charge admits that he's having to pay in advance for each item he buys to sell.  So his cash flow is slow now, and he hopes in five days to fill half the store.  Beans, by his estimation....is a guaranteed thing.  Don't be getting hope hopes for American mustard....this year, or next year.

The local bank?  They only open between 10 and 2.  There's a limit of how many Euro that they will accept each day and convert to Drachma.  You ask your Grandma to accept a bundle of Euro, and show up each day to exchange the money for you....because you just don't have time to waste with sixty people in line.

TV and radio?  Well....several of the folks have disappeared from the nightly newscast and generally, there's just on-the-air chit-chat....no remote video or conversations with people on the street.  No one wants to see video of empty store shelves or people drinking booze on the street.

Your doctor will see you, but he prefers Euro....not Drachma.  He's supposed to accept the state-run policy and you only pay a minimum fee.  He just laughs when you suggest a minimum fee situation.  He refers you to the nurse and refuses to do anything for you.

The gas for your car?  Well....it goes up by twenty percent over night, and some gas stations demand Drachma only, while others prefer Euro secretly (under the table).

Some fancy pants Greek political figures would like to go out and do speeches but find that people are confrontational.  So it's best to just hide out, drink what booze you hid away for a rainy day, and plot for another election, upon another election, upon another election.  Heck, you might gear the nation for six elections per year.

At the end of the first month....there's a bunch of angry people....and no solution in sight.  If you are twenty-two and educated.....you might as well pack a bag and agree to work in Italy or Amsterdam for minimum wage.  It puts food on the table.  These younger folks?  They probably won't ever return.  They are bound to absorb themselves into life elsewhere and give up eternally on Greece.

Somewhere in the months to come....you suddenly have a rise in Greek women advertising for American gentlemen for marriage.  American guys suddenly start to evaluate Thai, Russian, and Greek women on marriage possibilities.  Suddenly, some single guy from Ripley, Mississippi is reading up on the Greek Orthodox Church and a Greek diet of rabbit, peasant, chickens and fish, with some kind of goat yogurt that tastes kinda like buttermilk.

Life in Greece, as we know it....is about to change.

Johnny Read Good, U Kno

The political folks of Florida decided that they wanted kids to be smarter.  So they invented a fancy test and told the teachers that it was tougher, and figured that things would just trend toward kids passing a tougher test.

You know....this is like when you started to school in August, and the PE teacher said you had to be able run three miles in thirty-two minutes by May of the next year.  Oh, and he wanted you to pick up a eighty-pound bag of sand and tote it three hundred feet.  You figured he was joking....he wasn't.

So in Florida, these new standardized tests are complete.  Only 52 percent of the freshman students passed it. As for the sophomores?  50 percent passed it.

The rule is written that you have to pass this by the end of school to graduate.  So you've got roughly half the kids entering the next school year....under intense pressure.  As far as they are concerned....they ought to skip PE, lunch, and just about everything of zero value.....just to take reading classes and figure out how to pass a stupid exam.

The state board looked at the other requirement they made.....the writing test, and decided that it was best just to lower the standards because just too many failed that exam.  That result?  Only a third of the kids passed.

So you go back and look at the odds of the PE teacher suggesting you somehow get in good enough shape to run three miles in thirty-two minutes.  You'd have to get your weight down below two hundred pounds to ensure a positive chance on this.  You've got eight months to progress to the point where this might actually happen.  Instead of dodge-ball, basketball or any fun sport.....you guys all meet at PE and walk to the track, with the goal of running for thirty-five minutes.  Maybe you run six laps and then walk six laps.  Somewhere around Christmas, you actually run nine laps without stopping and feel pretty good about yourself.  Around March, you run the twelve laps in thirty-four minutes without stopping.  Around six weeks before the end of the school year, you show up for the test, and run the twelve laps in thirty-one minutes.

The neat thing about the achievement?  You never run again.  Yes, the minute that dimwit PE teacher signs you off.....you show up and refuse to do anything for PE, period.

My guess is that some reading dimwits will show up in Florida shortly, to open up reading advancement business.  Your mom....now worried about your graduation.....agrees to pay this business $200 a month for six months, which involves two evening visits per week (45 minutes), and two Saturday mornings per month (120 minutes).  Somehow, these ten visits equal $200, don't ask why.  What the idiot teaches you....is how to read a certain way, then answer questions in a certain way....NOTHING else.

So you walk in and take this test in a year, and pass to graduate. Mom and dad are all happy.  Life goes on.  Oh, and you never....ever....will pick up a book....for the rest of your life.  They've turned this experience into something you hate with passion.

Here's the truth which may hurt.  From 1776 to approximately the 1950s....most kids who graduated from high school....could read at the 6th grade level at best.  Sure, you always had thirty percent of a class that were capable of picking up Tom Sawyer, 1984, the Grapes of Wreath, and Uncle Tom's Cabin.  Does it really matter?

For some odd reason since the 1950s.....we've grown into a society that believes the vast number of folks all need to meet some pretty lofty goals.  Success in our mind....means that you can read the Call of the Wild by Jack London, then take a test where you have to name the five top characters (Perrault, Francois, Buck, Spitz, and John Thorton), but then identify which of the five are actually dogs.  The truth is....while the book is nifty and such.....I would imagine that three of ten folks would just give up on reading the book and then watch the movie.  Sadly, those three might actually remember that Buck and Spitz were the dogs.  And the results from this test....mean something?

Years ago in a high school history class....we were forced into reading Uncle Toms Cabin.  We were given roughly three months.  In those days....there were no DVDs or cable TV (yes, sadly, in Bama).  Unless you bought those stupid "notes" down at the book store which had two pages of all the important stuff from the book....you were forced into this.

So we finished the book, and then came an entire week of discussion.  I was the quiet kid in the back and kinda viewed this as a waste of time.  Obviously out of twenty-two kids in the class....I was probably one of the eight that really read the book and understood it.  Most of the kids barely touched the book.  I'm a person of few words and hated class discussion.  At some point, the teacher directed a question finally at me over my view of the book, and I simply said it was a decent piece of fiction.  It was a barbed-answer and the history teacher quickly moved on.  Obviously, I had read enough history and knew that the book had an intentional slant on it, and helped to fashion the Civil War to arrive in 1860.

Using fiction to teach a history class....doesn't really help much.

We are left now with a fair mess in Florida.  Tests to show results, which may not be the results we intended....simply makes us feel good over kids answering the questions right.  And who knows....maybe knowing that Buck and Spitz are dog characters....really matters later in life.  Your boss might be Buck-enthusiast.