Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Simply Observations

It's to say what the President was thinking.  He pushed up this idea yesterday of big-name companies paying a simple 28-percent tax (rather than the 35-percent they current are supposed to pay).  Even the manufacture guys would get a deal with a 25-percent tax.  Then he went said something odd.....that small companies ought to pay 39.6-percent on taxes.  Normally, if some dimwit White House staff had handed Bush or Reagan some cards to read off.....they'd read them ahead of time and note the stupidity of some policy that the White House was going to push, and then they'd just refuse to say it.  Why would small business get punished over large business?  It's best not to ask this question.  It might be one of those 16-minute answers that the President occasionally gives.

CNN's Piers Morgan came down to some point in a interview where he asked how we can trust Zimmerman to ever own or handle a gun again?  It's an odd question.  How can we trust Piers to ever properly interview people?  How can we trust Pepsi to properly bottle the soda?  How can we trust nitrate plants to avoid dangerous situations that lead to explosions?  How can we trust the butcher not to mix horse meat in with our regular purchase?  How can we trust Schultz Beer to manufacture the worst beer in America?  How can we trust the Republicans to lie to us?  How we trust the Democrats to screw us?  How can we trust ObamaCare to work?  How can we trust Hooters to hire the right women?  The answer here.....is that we basically are endowed with heap of trust, and it just doesn't lessen.  Americans operate with 500-percent trust.....maximum turbo, as we'd say in the south.

Oddly enough, the Oprah Channel now says it's turning a profit.  It's nothing to brag about.....just enough profit margin to be on the positive is better than negative profit.  The change?  Well.....they looked at their mistakes and fixed them....step by step.  They added two comedy shows that appealed to the Oprah viewers.  Out of the woods?  Well....here's the problem, they may have hit absolute maximum on the profit scale and not realized it.  More viewers?  Unlikely.  More teens switching over to the Oprah Channel?  Very unlikely.

Finally, this Manning kid on the Army court episode....has avoided the worst of the charges, although most everything else stuck.  Worst case deal now?  Roughly 120 years.  No time off for good behavior.  He'll live and die out of some Army prison now.  Chances of being beat up or such while in prison?  I'm betting they have to assign a full-time guard on the guy.  Most everyone associated with the Army is in agreement on the necessity of punishing the guy.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Real Pay Scale Dilemma

Across the US.....there are various one-day strikes going on....mostly in urban areas....where employees of fast-food franchises are demanding a $15 an hour pay scale.....roughly double of what they are getting today.

The cause?  Most all of them have awaken and realized the problem with the healthcare business, the real cost of living, and that fast-food job isn't going to be a lifetime job with any future.

The truth?

Fast-food operations were never a place where someone stayed twenty years and built a career unless it was as a manager.  It just wasn't designed as a business model to operate that way.

What happens if they go to a $15 an hour wage?

Well.....your simple meal of a burger, fries and ice tea goes to $8.  A Big Mac meal.....probably around $11.  Pizza Hut couldn't sell you a pizza for less than $18 (the smallest size they make).  Subway could make up the traditional six-inch sub for around $12.  Breakfast at IHOP would run around $16 for the standard plate that you pay $8 now.

But why stop there?  A can of Pepsi would have to be around $2.50 at Wal-Mart.  A beer at Hooters would have to run around $8.  A two-scoop cup of ice cream could not be sold for less than $6.  Newspapers would all run $2 a copy or more.

Inflation in full bloom?  You could say that.  It'd only take a year for everyone's pay to adjust to reality, and the $15 an hour wage would deemed as unfit for survival in the new America.

The problem is that regionally, there ought to be a mechanism where pay is shifted up three percent every eighteen months.  We've sat around for four decades now and tried to admit to ourselves that $8 an hour works pretty well, but when you look at the crowd holding the jobs....their lives aren't moving.  The old mentality of getting a job anywhere and later finding better work?  Gone.  Those manufacturing jobs that we always moved into during the 1960s and 1970s?  Gone overseas.

There's a point to the strikes, but doubling it overnight would likely destroy the business model that most fast-food franchises have built.  No one is going to walk into McDonalds to buy a burger-meal for $11.  We need to be smart but careful about screwing up these business models.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Dilemma of Global Something

If you ever why I have zero interest in global warming or global cooling....it's because of Time magazine.

You see, they acted like idiots and put fake news out and then flip-flopped.  Or maybe they put out the right news and then went onto fake the second episode.  You just don't know.

Maybe one of the two is right.  Maybe both are right.  Maybe both are wrong.

So I got to some point where I just have a permanent sense of disbelief.  If some pretender scientist were able to convince Time's wannabe journalists of something fake.....well, why test my trust a second time around?

TV Comedy

It's curious how TV networks work.  Yesterday, it came out that NBC is preparing a mini-series.....to cover Hillary Clinton.  The airing date?  Some time in the spring or summer of 2016....two years away.

The gut feeling?  It's kinda like where President Obama wrote a book on himself, then said that was his entire life history, and the media just accepted that.  In this case....the media will say whatever portrayal is done with the mini-series....is the final word.

How many people will watch it?  Well....that's a curious thing.  If they got twenty million Americans to view it....it'd likely be considered a success.  Course, it could be on a night that the Amish Mafia and Duck Dynasty are both on.....with a NBA championship game, and the  next night might be some History Channel special on Moses.  So it could get terribly bad numbers and the news folks would just be standing there with blank looks.

Do we need a mini-series on Hillary?  It's debatable.  If there were one coming out every quarter on some famous political figure of the past hundred years.....maybe.  Having it fall just a few months before the 2016 election?  It's comical in a way.

Will Whitewater be explained?  No.  Will the stock options pay-off be explained?  No.  Out of fifty questions that people would generally be interested to have the complete answer....I doubt if you get more than seven answers.

The Benghazi complete answer?  Yes, you will get the 25-second blitz where something is briefly laid out and then Hillary slides out of the room.  Enough of an answer?  For Hillary enthusiasts?  Yes, it's enough to make them happy.

I hate to suggest it....but this would almost be like one of those 1AM TV commercials that run for 30 minutes and try to sell you the "Juicer".  In this case....some six hour series that promotes someone.  Pretty sad for a democracy, if you ask me.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

False Memories?

The guys at MIT have been busy.  Usually....they come out with some amazing studies and lead the science guys off into a bold new concept or idea.  This time?  False memories.

What they say.....being only at the first few steps of a study.....is that they think they can create false memories in a person.  It could take twenty years to reach a stage where they've got the 99-percent chance of taking a guy into a room....implanting something....then feeding a couple hours of data to reshape what memory you had of some incident, accident, untimely death, bad marriage, or screw-up.

A lot of people would look at this opportunity as a bold chance to reshape their mistakes and just forget about what happened.  A soldier with PTSD, could reshape his last year and actually believe he was in Hawaii on some beach, and not watching three of his best friends get hit by a IED-bomb.  A survivor from an airplane crash could be coached into believing that he was merely fishing that day that his plane came down with forty dead passengers.

You could see a lot of positives from this.  The problem is....we used to use memories to learn from and occasionally rebuild our lives in our own fashion.  It was hit and miss....I admit.  But it was a human form of recovery.

So now, there's likely to be this team of sorts.....who sit there and measure your misery, and then calculate on the necessity of a false memory.  Then they spends hours devising the perfect and most believable false memory to fit into your mind.  You weren't on the battlefield, you were vacationing in Thailand.  You weren't on the train that derailed, you were on a lawnmower.  You weren't in a car accident, you were riding a bike and simply fell off.

At some point, the mind likely operates like a computer and has this little isolated area where hidden files are kept, and there's this one little reminder to take you to the missing chunk of memory.  Eventually, I suspect that most people will describe some missing link of their lives to the false memory crowd where they do still have a link.  Absolute erasing?  I suspect will never occur.

All of this brings me to the idea of misusing the false memory business.  You could run through a miserable five-year marriage to some crazy gal who threatened to shoot you.....burned your Johnny Cash music collection.....gave you laxative with the fancy muffins she made.....and spent $15,000 of your money on twenty-two tattoos on her body.  In a moment of desperation, after divorcing Wanda.....you run off to Dallas and get some false memory treatment....to forget the Wanda-years.

The truth is that you ought to keep those precious memories....to remind you not to do anything stupid and marry up with a nutcase gal.  The false memory solution would only invite you to repeat the episode in a year or two.....with another Wanda, with similar tendencies.   There are lessons learned in life and things that you ought to remember....as painful as it might sound.

False memories are coming.....there's no stopping of this technology.  In forty years....I suspect one out of every ten Americans will have some false memory procedure done on themselves.  TV advertisements will air each night on the local network, and Doctor So-V-So will tell you of the wondrous treatment and how it fixes all your long-suffering woes.

And somewhere down on the trailer-park, there's this guy who has this faint....ever so faint memory of some Wanda gal....with Johnny Cash tunes in the background, and a fascination of nutcases.  He'll end up paying some mental health doctor $10,000 to examine him repeatedly and tell him constantly that it's all just a dream.

Simply Observations

The US Department of Education has shown up at Queen Creek High School in Arizona for an investigation.  It's hard to say what investigative powers they have....but they have deemed that 'Redneck Days' (a student thing) might be worthy of a federal investigation.  This all comes up because some kids dressed like rednecks....well....like those guys on Duck Dynasty.  You can imagine these guys and gals in suits....sitting in a conference room....asking questions of the administrator, teachers, and students about redneckness.  It's hard to say what exactly they want out of this.  Sadly, if they'd gone to ten thousand schools around the south, they could get a pretty lecture on redneck living, a fish fry at lunch, a truck ride through Bankhead Forest, a fifty pound bag of peanuts as a gift, and a chance to pick a bushel of strawberries.  You can sense some federal law coming out of this.....no redneck behavior at any US school, and a bunch of folks getting more frustrated with the federal government.  The fear of the government?  Redneck profiling.  Yep, and you just can't go around profiling folks into this category.

The defense is rounding up its case with Private Manning (the WikiLeaks leaker from the Army).  Their key emphasis?  Private Manning is absolutely dedicated to his duty....but they couldn't really explain how he found the lack of dedication to hold secret material secret.  I doubt if the defense team really had any four-star stuff to say and this was the best he could utter.  The verdict.....early next week.

In four days, things get interesting in Bama.  The new law allowing all employees to bring their weapons to work (but not inside) will become effective.  You can imagine the morning of the first......probably over one million Bama guys and gals will tote some pistol or shotgun in the car, and talk over the weapon at lunch with co-workers.  By late afternoon.....discussions will center on recommendations and positives of their gun.  And by quitting time.....around eighty folks will go out and show their guns to co-workers....with thirty-two rounds accidentally fired in various parking lots across the state.  Cops will all react, get hyper about that many guns on the roads of Bama, and it'll turn into some state-wide discussion about the evils of having guns in public.

Some science guys have gotten enough data to say concretely....that a full-moon disturbs your sleep.  They can't explain why.....but the numbers are there.  It doesn't affect everyone, and you can predict that eventually.....some people will be identified as "moonie" (the guys affected), and it'll be some negative status tag on your life from that point on.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Vandalism at the Lincoln Memorial

Last night as you slept.....a vandal went and sprayed green paint at the Lincoln Memorial.  The park service guard came upon the situation around midnight.  So far, no one knows much of anything.  Camera tapes are being reviewed, but cops aren't saying much.

So, I'll offer some insight.

Almost all of the memorials in DC....have a significant amount of cameras and night-time lighting.  You'd have to be an idiot to walk up and do something like this.

A message?  It doesn't sound that way....just simple vandalism.

From the site, you don't dare walk toward the WW II Memorial or the Vietnam Memorial....you'd just get covered more by cameras.  You avoid the bridge leading back over to the Arlington Cemetery.  So you'd move toward Georgetown and try to get back into DC proper.

The guy?  I'm betting an inside job.....some disgruntled guard who knows the schedule and has some pains over the furlough.  He likely knew enough about the cameras to avoid really being seen as he arrived and left.  Congress will jump up and get peppy.....talking of more guards, less furlough, and the need to protect the nation.  The dimwit will have gotten them to react just like he expected.

The Mythical Magical Formula of Education

Years ago.....someone made up the idea that twelve years of high school were enough for a young person to be educated.

Down the line, someone else made up a formula for two years of university education giving you a technical background of sorts in some fields.

Then further down the line, someone else made up a formula that four years of university would make you a finely educated individual.

And then even further down the line, someone made up another formula involving six and eight years of university to define you even more so.....as bright and capable.

How did each reach this conclusion of a magical amount of days?  It's best not to ask that question.

Finishing up high school requires 4,380 days (toss in the vacation periods and holidays).  A growing number of folks will agree today that ten percent of kids would be ready to graduate from high school at the end of the tenth grade, and maybe fifty percent by the end of the twelfth grade.  Course, you'd be screwing with football, basketball, and baseball establishments, if you did this.  The whole NCAA bowl process could be in jeopardy if you wiped out the current high school formula.

Could we develop a one, two, three, and four year degree?  Yes.  Most community colleges already offer a one-year program where you come in and simply study one core area....like business, nursing, nutrition, or software usage.

A three-year degree?  Simple.  Toss out these requirements that have little to do with the core subjects.  Why force an engineer to take two history classes, a science class or two, or such?  Why force a business major to take history classes or science?

My humble guess is that we'd wake up to discover that a quarter of all kids going onto college would readily select the one-year program and get themselves into the market early-on.  Fifty percent of the four-year folks would shift to a three-year program.

Overnight, there'd be problems at every university in America....with way too many instructors and professors.  Lay-off's?  Yes, without a doubt, and this is the problem with this concept.  No university is going to agree to such changes.  It just brings on more and more issues.  You built dorms.....which suddenly will have a 30-percent hole in them.  You will have classrooms that stand empty half the time.

So we aren't exactly going to find any changes occurring, with either high schools or colleges.  More of the same...would be the future.

The Irish Solution

It's a story that won't get much attention in the US.  I doubt if CNN or any of the networks will cover it.  A few newspapers will glaze over it, and it'll quietly disappear.

This week, the Irish government is busy.  You see, after years of mounting evidence....they've finally come to the conclusion that the Senate in Ireland's government is just worthless.  In fact, so worthless, that they are trying to dissolve it entirely.  They readily admit.....it's become a talking forum, without much value.

Years ago, I went off for an Irish weekend.  I drove around the countryside, and on one evening....I stopped in a pub and decided that I'd get the full Irish treatment.....commentary and talk by the members of the pub.  After two hours, I'd come to the conclusion that it was way too much talk and mostly worthless.  I suspect that the Irish realized their Senate had become the same thing.

The current Irish Senate has an interesting deal.   You can't get elected to it.  Imagine that.

The Prime Minister gets to appoint eleven members of the sixty Senators.  The university system gets to appoint two Senators.  And five national boards of industry (don't even ask).....get to appoint the remaining members.  They meet and talk.  There's this funny rule.....if they don't like a House passed piece of legislation.....they can stall it, but they can't out-vote it.

The journalists covering this story got around to one key question....once dissolved of the sixty Senators....how much money do you save?  Twenty million bucks....approximately.  I sat there.....kinda in amazement.  How do sixty guys spend twenty million?  Well....it's best not to ask.

So this brings me around to this Bama moment of pondering.  What exactly of value are we getting via the US Senate?  A bunch of talking?  Yes.  Is there anything of value?  No.

Maybe it's best that CNN doesn't talk much about this.  If you suddenly had fifty million Americans talking up the idea of dissolving the US Senate....it'd create a terrible amount of anxiety for those hundred Senators.  What the heck would they do for the rest of their lives?  It's hard to live like a millionaire and Hollywood wannabe star.  Some would have to go back to Mississippi or Delaware, and work on their golf game or hope for interviews with the Channel Nine news staff as the highlight of their week.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Dell Story

On an average day, I probably spend twenty minutes looking over general business news from across the globe.  I admit....a guy from Bama.....probably ought to have better things to do with his time.

There are always simple business stories that I tend to spot.....which won't get explained by CNN or Fox, or by the local newspaper.

Today, Dell and it's woes.

You see Dell has stumbled around the last couple of years and would really like to put themselves in a better position.  There's a purchase deal out there....for the original developer of the company (he sold off years ago and made his millions), to step in and buy the company back.....and run it.

The stock price now?  $12.92.

Twelve years ago?  Around fifty bucks a share.  Yeah, it's stumbled a good bit since 2008.

The former owner would like to offer $13.75 to get the shares he wants.

The problem?  Well.....there hasn't been enough proof that stock-owners would accept the deal.....thinking that a sweeter deal could come along at $15 or $18 a share shortly.  Course, this frustrates the former owner when he's trying to make the deal final.

So Dell's work under the table?  Well, they've come to agree that there are three types of votes for this stuff: accept it, decline it, or abstain.

Small-time owners of stock....the guys who own 100 shares or a 1000 shares.....typically get this envelope in the mail, and half the time.....decline to vote.....meaning to abstain.

The former owner has figured out the quantity of such abstains, and he wants them tossed out.  Either you vote to accept or decline, and in such a case.....he would have just enough votes to accept his deal and that would end the mess.

Changing the abstain rule?  Well.....it's not something that you tend to do with stock operations.  Abstains usually count as abstains, end of the story.

You can smell legal trouble brewing here.  The guys who hate the former owner and the hedgefund folks.....would challenge tossing out abstain votes.

The real problem?  Thousands....if not tens of thousands of stock owners....who only own a small quantity of shares, and they just won't participate or share in the misery of the company.  They stand there with shares and act with some status symbol on their shoulder.....but the truth is.....they just don't care enough about the company to say "yes" or "no".  So they are worthless as stock-owners.

Complexity

I hate complexity.  The mere idea that it takes thirty-two steps to make a perfect home-made chocolate cake just infuriates me.  The idea that it takes twenty-two hours of my personal time to do my yearly income taxes.....infuriates me.  The idea that it takes fourteen forms to buy and license a new car....infuriates me.  The idea that I have to show a form of ID (at age 54) to buy a bottle of Japanese beer at the local grocery.....infuriates me.  The idea of my insurance guy wanting to come by and try to sell me some packaged lifestyle insurance deal, which requires two hours of talk to get me to a point of grasping the whole deal.....infuriates me.

So I come to ObamaCare, with the 2700 pages of law passed by Congress, and almost twenty thousand pages of regulation written to make this all work.

If the Bible folks had written up the book and it was 2700 pages long.....no fool would have ever read it.  Moses could have been chased ten miles down the mountainside with those tablets by a dragon, Mathew could have fallen in love with some Egyptian lusty queen who dressed in fancy green pajamas, and Revelations could have gone into detail about the Yankees winning the World Series with lowest payroll in baseball history as the end-of-all-times details, and it wouldn't matter.....no one would read it.

If Toyota told you that the owners manual for your new SUV was 2700 pages long......you'd stop the purchase and retreat back to a Buick.

If Sony said that the operators manual for that new 60-inch TV was 2700 pages long.....you'd stop the guy, return the TV, and try bring the old TV out of the garage and put it back in the living room.

If the school told that this year they are introducing 2700 pages of student regulation and rules.....you'd remove Clarence from the school and try talking to those Catholic nuns again about accepting him in their private school.

If the Yosemite National Park folks said you were OK to camp out in their camp-grounds but you'd need to read their 2700 page safety manual first.....you'd just skip the deal and camp out in the Badlands.

If the Baptist minister college said they'd accept you with free-tuition, but you'd need to read their 2700 pages of rules and regulation.....you'd give up that minister idea and go back to diesel mechanics school.

If the state updated their list of marriage rules and laws (going from 2 pages to 2700 pages) and you had to read them before applying for a license.....you'd tell your future spouse that you don't have time to waste on such foolishness.  You'd just as well stay single.

If a bunch of guys met up around Philly and determined that they'd conceive some new government, with a 2700-page Constitution.....most folks would stand and say they'd just rather stay with the king-concept and make it simple.

The single reason why ObamaCare ends up being a failure?  No one can truthfully explain in any simplicity.  They now talk of thousands of experts being hired by the government and the states....to act as some authority over your choices of health insurance.

The idea that any portion of society will be accepting of the advice given?  I'd put the numbers at less than twenty percent.  The natural tendency of Americans to disbelieve advice given is substantial.  When some guy is trying to sell you a car.....you have real doubts over his version of the truth.  The same is true for investment advice, or TV advice, or life insurance advice.

Yeah, we've take something and made it so complex.....that we are frustrated and infuriated about the situation.  We can even ask the idiots who voted for the package to explain it to us.....but they mostly just grin and start talking about tax reform, social security reform, or more road money for our state.

In the end, you will be standing there....wondering if it's easier to explain the ObamaCare program or nuclear physics.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

My NPR

I'd like to remake National Public Radio....NPR.  For the past decade, I've sat and watched a number of things with NPR management that I disagree with....but frankly....can't do nothing about their news, their music, their theme, and their brand of slant.  I pay for the network with taxes....but really have no say.

My ten changes?

1.  I'd remove all NPR offices from DC, and put the the bulk of the operation in Joplin, Missouri.  Salary decreases?  Yeah....a cut of forty to sixty percent.  If you don't like to move or the salary adjustment.....find yourself another job in DC (there's just not going to be much for a NPR journalist).

2.  I'd establish a maximum of six hours a day of news or journalism.  Period.  Two at 6AM, two at noon, and two around 5PM.

3.  I'd mandate at least an hour each of jazz, opera, classical and folk music every single day, and six hours each over the weekend.

4.  I'd require each state to produce one hour of it's own brand of interviews, state updates, and state economics....via their own university system.

5.  I'd put on a one-hour Friday sports show, with former stars, and washed-up wannabe stars.

6.  Once a week, I'd offer up a five-person interview session for an hour.....with folks selected from the entrance of a Wal-Mart, a barbershop, or some cattle-sales barn.  It'd be a real interview....asking folks what really mattered in their daily life.  It'd be a shock for most of America to find out that car maintenance issues might always be in the top ten issues, or that no one knows much of anything about Obama HealthCare.

7.  I'd require every one of the top ten journalists for NPR to take seven days of mandated and paid leave.....to some backwoods place or some dangerous neighborhood in America.....to grasp the real nation that they are broadcasting to.

8.  I'd limit international news each hour to seven minutes.  If you can cram forty minutes of worthless information about the state of French wine into seven minutes....great....if not....well....it's best to move on.

9.  I'd offer up a Greek tragic opera, or some old Roman epic at least once a week, and bring the crowd back to real history.

10.  I'd find some way to limit the political opportunist maneuvers of NPR during a political election year. If it meant forcing everyone to talk just as much about cheesecake recipes as they talk about Democrats and Republicans....ok, we'll have a lot of chat over cheesecake.

Simply Observations

The push is on to force the Pentagon to create chaplains for atheists.  It's hard to say where this will go.  Would the regular chaplains accept this?  If the Pentagon accepts it.....how do you recruit these guys?  I just don't see a bunch of atheist ministers out there.  It's like putting a dry-county enthusiast in charge of the NCO Club bar....they'd likely shift over to selling only Tab, root beer, and tap water.

The head guy over at CBS admits they just don't have much analysis or hired folks for conservative views.  You can imagine the shock of CBS viewers hearing this.  There's probably two dozen folks just sitting in disbelief over such a frank and humble announcement.  The result?  Nothing much.  Don't worry....it usually takes six years for CBS to say they'd like to change before they actually change.

A new poll says that two-thirds of all Americans believe God had a hand in evolution.....so that fixes up the explanation business completely.  Course, this leaves one-third of the crowd in the belief that evolution is just accidental and that in 6,000 years.....all guys would look like Justin Bieber....just accidentally.

Honest Tea went out and did a state by state analysis....looking for the most honest state.  It was a tie for number one....Hawaii and Alabama.  I sat there.....looking at the results.  If a guy pulls up to visit neighbors and talks up some terrible woes....the neighbors will generally say "yeah, Gus.....you got it bad off....we'll pray for you this Sunday".   Those folks in DC?  They were ranked least honest.  I can only imagine that Gus would have gotten some response....well, mostly in disbelief and no promise of a prayer later.

Of an interesting note....the University of Alabama has capped the student work hours for the university....to twenty per week.  This guarantees no issues in providing Obama HealthCare.  Yeah, they never made much to start with, but this kinda means that they really don't make much now at all.

Some scientists have now proven that skipping breakfast is a bad thing....possibly leading to heart attack.  I found this news promising.....and just adds more fuel to my idea of sausages, biscuits, a stack of pancakes, and a couple of donuts on the way into work.

From this accident in Florida where this family was at risk of dying....emerges George Zimmerman, with a fire extinguisher, and saves the family.  A Bama guy would examine this and say.....God put George at the right place and right time.....to ensure some results.  Course, we'd get into trouble for suggesting this.  On the other hand, God might not be finished in using George for other things.

Monday, 22 July 2013

My Amtrak Observations

About three weeks ago, I took my first ever Amtrak trip.  I'll offer ten observations to help those thinking of doing a Amtrak experience.

1.  There are two categories of seating: a coach seat or a private cabin.  From DC to Birmingham, it's around $130 for a coach seat.  The private cabin?  For two-person cabin, it depends on the day of the week and how things are going for Amtrak....it could be $325 for the cabin, or $475.

2.  Traveling via the coach seat?  If it's eight hours or less....the seat is acceptable but you'd best make a reservation and ensure you have a seat.  Don't just walk up and buy a ticket for today and assume you will have an empty seat.

3.  The private cabin? Cramped.  No room for more than an overnight bag.  The toilet seat is in the cabin.  Don't expect nothing but privacy.

4.  The rails are four-star and one-star.  You could run into a fifty mile stretch where you barely feel the train moving.  You could be on a 100-mile stretch where you are continually thrown against the wall.

5.  Some areas of travel are just farms and kudzu.  If you expect great landscape between DC and Birmingham.....you are fooling yourself.  Between Chicago and Seattle.....maybe great landscape.

6.  The food?  Well....the restaurant car is decent and if you go by private cabin....the meals are all free (you pay for beverages).  Steak?  Two-star at best.  Breakfast is fairly good and acceptable, at by my standards.

7.  When you get to the station, you can load two bags freely into the baggage car.  The only negative?  It's usually thirty minutes after you arrive that they open up the door and let you pick up your bags.

8.  The stations?  It's best not to discuss this matter.  If you expected any kind of scenic train station....you'd best go to London, Paris or Frankfurt.  Don't stand around outside of any station, and use the taxi to get the heck out of the neighborhood.

9.  AC works great and you won't complain about the cabin temperatures.

10.  Sleeping in the cabin car?  Well.....it's lousy sleep but maybe some folks who did time in the Air Force or Army might synchronize themselves enough to accept the sleep provided.

All in all.....most guys want to do such a trip once in their life and when it's done.....half of us never want to do such a trip again.  The plus side?  You see alot of the country that you'd never see in a car or on a plane.  You appreciate the backward scenic surroundings.  America is a curious place, if you look hard enough.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Detroit Live

With all the money problems that Detroit has....I've come up with the best idea to finance the city....making it a twenty-four hour a day channel.

The idea is this.....we hire up sixty camera guys to roam the city day and night, seven days a week.  We hang out with the fire department, the cops, the morgue, the garbage guys, the thugs, the drug guys, the city council and the ladies of the evening.

We'd do minute by minute reports live from shootings and robberies.  We cover three drunks fighting over which Tigers team was the best over the last forty years.  We discuss corruption with the city council and how it all works.  We get the thugs to do evening interviews where they pass judgement on the economy, the state of America, and the best episodes of Kung Fu.

We'd ride the city bus around and do live-cam's with the drivers grabbing riders and tossing them off the bus in the middle of a snowstorm.

We'd talk to folks who work in the city, but leave quickly and quietly every evening to get safely fifty miles away to a place safely away from the city.

We'd talk to bar owners who have a worthless bar but would never sell the operation....it's their life....living in Detroit.

We'd talk to Korean grocery owners who have an arsenal of guns just out of sight and get recommendations on the best all-purpose weapons to have in case of a problem.

We'd get frank discussions of drug kingpins on the state of marijuana in America.

We'd feature retired Detroit Lion players and how it was in the 1970s.

My humble guess is that we'd have two million folks signed up for subscription service and charge them $20 a month to get Detroit Live.  The city would turn into a Disneyland-type operation in five years....with people coming in for a weekend to live Detroit-style.  Everyone would want to live in Detroit after a while, and be part of the mess.

Yeah, only in America....could something this weird....work.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Standing Your Ground Against Dimwits

The cops down in Land O'Lakes, Florida report two guys toted off to the hospital after attempting a home invasion....with a fake pistol.  The problem is....the guy in the house?  He had a real gun.  One of the dimwits is reported to have at least four gunshot wounds, and the other guy is in pretty bad shape.

It's hard to say the mental state of both guys and why they did the home invasion, or used the fake gun.  At this point, both will be facing a court episode if they survive.  The shooter...the home-owner....gets a free pass with standing his ground.  The boys?  Well....I'd be guessing at least three charges each, and if they were smart....they'd agree to some deal with four years in prison.

The wounds?  Well.....yeah.....they might be bad enough to trigger health issues for the rest of their lives.  The cost of the medical help?  Free....on the back of some public hospital.  Don't worry, they will disperse the cost onto the backs of their real customers.  The $150,000 for the two guys will be split among all the local folks using the facility.  Call it a dimwit tax or such....it doesn't really matter.

The sad thing?  Both guys end up with some tough prisoners in jail....who have used real weapons in life, and won't give them any status for the creativity they demonstrated.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Simply Observatrions

This new twist to the Zimmerman episode is the FBI halting the local cops from handing Zimmerman's pistol back to him.....saying they are thinking of federal charges.  Course, they have yet to think of a charge, nor have they had a federal charge determine that the evidence needs to be 'grabbed'.  I suspect that the intention is to freeze this investigation....like the one into Benghazi, or the one into the IRS mess, or the gun runner episode in Mexico....until after the 2016 Presidential election.  Course, Zimmerman can walk back into another gun shop today, and buy another gun.

If this all wasn't enough, then we have Jesse Jackson saying the atmosphere in Florida is like apartheid. You have to kinda wonder what he says of the dozen or so black teens killed in Chicago on a weekly basis.  Would that be apartheid too?  I guess it's best not to ask.

The Snowden-leaker episode gets more interesting.  Now, it might be that Russia is the only place that he might be allowed to stay.....provided he meets all of Putin's requirements.  The US isn't happy over this.....and threatens to stop the planned summit with Putin.  For President Obama, if he freezes up relations with Russia.....that kills off the last piece of legacy opportunity.....the cut of nuclear missiles, and gives the President nothing much to accomplish for the remaining months of the Presidency.  As for Snowden?  Well....a year or two down the road.....he likely gets a mystery disease and dies quietly in a mysterious fashion.

Our Senator McCain looked like an idiot again.....during some interview over his immigration efforts.  For the bill pending.....there's this funny clause.....under Section 1541 "Trafficking in Passports."  It basically says that a person who forges two or less passports.....cannot be charged with a crime, while making three or more....would be charged with a crime.  It's one of the stupid comments that you could ever write into a law, but this dimwit and his staff did it.

The deputy prime minister of the UK.....admits it's now so hot....in mid-90s....that he doesn't wear shoes in the office.  He says he'd blister all up if he did wear them.  You can imagine this scene.....your boss comes into the boss and goes the entire day without any shoes.  Hopefully, he has no holes in his socks.

It's come to light now that some countries use a slightly different ingredient list to manufacture Coca-Cola.  From Mexico, they use pure cane sugar.  Well....folks have tasted the Mex-Cola, and determined it's better than regular US-Coke.....and they want to import Mex-Cola.

The Brits have come out and admitted that around 5,400 British citizens are arrested while on vacation each year (while outside of the UK).  The general comment is that they drink excessively while on holiday, and do some stupid stuff.  This is one of the reasons why vacation resorts hate having Brits visit.

Finally, CNN lost a fair number of viewers after the Zimmerman court case ended.  Folks won't say much except the numbers show a decline.  You can ask as many questions as you want.....but it all comes down to analysis and commentary that went against Zimmerman as the case ended.  Folks who watched the episode.....mostly came to the opinion that the jurors decided upon.  CNN?  Well.....they just couldn't comment in that fashion, so they angered a few folks.  There's not much you can say for CNN except it's all entertainment in nature, and nothing really in pure journalism.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A Footnote on the Zimmerman Episode

This picture came up today, and I spent twenty minutes looking at it.  It's over the Zimmerman episode.

The path in red?  The Trayvon path.  The path in yellow....Zimmerman.

Its an odd thing that I keep looking at.  This kid was three houses down, and making his way on.....having absolutely no reason to turn around, but he did.  Three apartment houses....long in length....that he had to walk past and catch back up to Zimmerman.

Its not a terribly long path, but if anyone, with any common sense....felt trouble or worry.....he'd take the walking advantage and head straight toward his house, for safety.

This kid?  He didn't seek safety, or seem to follow any path of common sense.  It's like he went back to make a point on this guy.  Maybe he thought Zimmerman was gay and making a 'wink' at him.  Maybe he felt that Zimmerman had disrespected him.  Maybe he even felt that Zimmerman was the threat.  It's hard to say.

Somewhere in my mind.....I just can't see a reasonable guy walking that distance back, three apartment houses.....to confront anyone.  Most people I know....wouldn't do that.  Not unless they were paranoid (like some folks get from smoking marijuana).  It would be an interesting side-note.....if some of these five suspensions from school were laid out and happened to demonstrate a kid who was often paranoid.  Paranoid people do stupid things, and there's not much you can do to stop that.

Ten Things that Ought to Happen But Never Will

This is my simple list of ten things that ought to happen in America, but never will:

1.  All cops, even down to the local town level.....ought to take monthly drug tests and undergo a yearly financial status check.  None of them would ever agree to such a thing though.  Fail a drug test?  You get one waiver....with the second time that this comes up.....a three-year suspension from law enforcement.

2.  All college-entry students (public) ought to undergo a simple test to enter a four-year university.  If you get less than seventy?  You get onto a list for two years which limits you to only community college. If you got less than fifty?  You just forget about higher education and concentrate on tire sales, driving a beer truck, or working in an honest profession.  Some folks just shouldn't waste time, money, or resources doing something that God didn't intend for them to do.

3.  Anyone in America who is on the illegal status and wants US citizenship.....gets a chance to earn a visa, but it's a fifteen year trail to get to US citizenship and any events (like jail) doubles the fifteen year period to thirty years.

4.  The Supreme Court members ought to be limited to a ten-year period, and then mandatory retirement.

5.  Every kid in America ought to undergo a year of economics by the time he graduates from high school.

6.  Sales tax by the hour.  All state sales tax ought to be zero after 10PM at night, until 5AM.  It'd create an interesting shift in purchasing patterns.

7.  Limit all local TV news to strictly state and local news.   No more national news on the local channel.

8.  Get Fox News to do a one-hour segment with regular people.....barbers, truckers, transmission repair guys, and bar hostess ladies....as the commentary crowd.  It might get interesting to get the opinion of real people....rather than the 'fakes'.

9.  Hand the NCAA bowl process over to some Bolivian cattle farmers to manage.  They'd do just as good of job as the regular guys we employ currently.

10.  Take court events off TV entirely.....it's not entertainment or politics.

The Spock Logic

In this new retirement house phase of life.....I was confronted with the first real 'mess'.  I have this French-made mega refrigerator....with an ice-maker (something I had dreamed about for years).   It's practically new and blessed with great ice-making ability.

So yesterday, something went wrong at some moment while delivering the ice, and while I was standing there.....my wife was in emergency mode and helped to 'fix' it.  Course, a minute later.....I'm pressing the flipper to get more ice and it won't move.  Broke?

I pulled out the manual....which surprisingly enough....is in English, and it even has a CD.  I spent an hour reading over this simple manual.

I went back to refrigerator and went through the various scenarios of being broke, and nothing made any sense.  It didn't meet any of the eighteen various scenarios that these French guys had wrote solutions for.  Over again, to the manual, I went.

I invested almost two hours working on this refrigerator and the ice-maker.  That damn flipper just wouldn't push to allow ice or water flow.

So finally, I put on my Spock hat, and went to logic.  It can't be broke.

I pulled out a mirror and looked at the flipper and there is some plastic safety notch on it, and the wife in her reaction had pulled the safety notch beyond it's protective area.....so it was stopping the flipper from activating.  I pushed the flipper back, and everything fell into place.

It worked.

It's rare I pull out that Spock logic and go to this extreme, but if you have extinguished all possible scenarios, then it can't be broke.  I would imagine that Captain Kirk would disagree, but logic is logic.  Sadly, I wasted two precious hours of retirement, working on this non-problem.  I'm hoping things improve today....maybe some really broke situation or fire or bear-attack.

Don't Be Standing Your Ground

"Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation's attention, it's time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods."

-- Attorney General Eric Holder, responding to the recent Florida court case

It was an interesting comment to hear.  He obviously wanted people to hear his opinion.  The problem with this logic is that if you dragged the attorney general into a car and dumped him off in the middle of Memphis at 11PM.....then offered him a pistol as you started to drive off....he'd take the pistol.

People who make comments about being anti-gun or anti-self defense or anti-'stand-your-ground'.....don't really live in the new America.  They still live in the America of the 1970s.  They talk of feeling safe and that cops are everywhere.  You merely need to call 911 and in 30 seconds.....some car will be there to take away your threat.

There's hardly a single neighborhood in the Baltimore, St Louis, Memphis or Atlanta area now.....that you can consider absolutely safe.....unless it's a gated community with armed guards walking around.  Some folks won't even rent at an apartment complex now, unless evening guards are present and armed.  Half the people driving into Birmingham every single day to work......likely have a pistol on them or in the car.  You have McDonalds across the nation which have been affected by crime, and quietly have added guards in the parking lot at night.

"Stand-your-ground?"

I would imagine this week that some group of attorneys working for the attorney general will be given the task to pick out one state and whack them in court.  How many own pistols or rifles?  Probably over half of them.....if they live in Maryland or DC.  None of them will be convinced of this being smart, and I imagine the head guy doing this will just pretend it's going great on screwing some state, and then walk into a four-year project.....only to leave by the summer of 2014.

The sad part about this story?   Over the past weekend....another couple of folks were killed on the streets of Chicago.  Not a word ever gets mentioned by the attorney general on the weekly killings there.  Yeah, it's like he just doesn't care.  If only the jury had convicted Zimmerman, for the good of America.....would this all turned out great and everyone would be hugging themselves in a ridiculous fashion.

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Case of an Idiot Genius

After you watch this Ed Snowden, NSA leaker, episode enough.....you get the opinion that as much as Ed may try to make you believe he's awful smart and brilliant.....he's really an idiot.

He sits now in a Moscow airport....likely spending around $300 a day on hotel, food and beverages.  Toss in Wi-Fi fees, occasional $10 for soap or shampoo from the airport shop, and maybe $40 a week to get someone to wash his clothing. That's roughly $2,500 a week.

He's stuck.

The choices of countries to accept him?  Most all are places that rest in a very undemocratic country, with limited feelings for his type of behavior.  But to get to any of them...he'd require a private jet that could avoid US airspace.  We aren't talking small Learjets.....these are all the larger bulky jets, and you can figure at least $250k required to interest any such private airline.  No one is going to toss that kind of money around just to transport one idiot out of Moscow.

Every comment that he's made?  There's just a hint of stupidity tied to you.  He's a guy with no real plan.....just some wild idea that started his little campaign but he can't explain any wise end to this mess.

The Russians?  As long as he pays his bills....they won't say much.  I suspect when he starts to run out of cash.....this episode will end.  The Russians will haul him over to the US embassy and toss him over the fence.

In the end, he just might run out of the marginal amount of genius and intelligence that he had.  

Simply Observations

After watching around a dozen hours of the Zimmerman episode.....I would have to say that if I were on the jury.....I wouldn't see enough evidence to convict the guy.  If there had been one single person there to be the witness and confirm at least half of the circumstantial evidence.....I might have gone onto a manslaughter conviction.  The prosecutor did what he had to do.....with limited evidence, and the jury just wasn't going to buy into it.  This effort noted that some civil rights accusation would next be used?  I believe that a fair number of Americans would ask what the tool of civil rights has to do with this episode?  Do we keep using the term " white-Latino" (a comical media term invented for Zimmerman)?  The bottom line?  Some black kid on the wrong path to life and enjoyed doping up.....noticed some white-Latino guy following him, and confronted him.  If Zimmerman had been unarmed.....he'd be in some hospital on life-support and a life-long concussion.....but he was armed and things ended for the kid.  End of story.

We did kinda learn that if you did get a motorcycle up to 300 mph.....you probably would kill yourself.  I could say more but this story isn't much to tell.

They ran the bulls in Pamplona, Spain this past week.  You can kinda write the general script to what happens.  Bulls run, Bulls trample or gore folks, guys drink a lot to pump up courage, and folks watch it like a NASCAR race.  The only thing different in this year's race?  An Australian gal got gored (stable but hurting a bit).  As a kid growing up on farm.....I was lucky my dad never got into horned cattle.  It was bad enough to run them up a chute or such, but I've run enough with the steers to know how dangerous an act this really is.  It'd take an awful lot of booze to make me think about going to Pamplona.

Finally, from my old stomping grounds of DC.....Wal-Mart was set to open six stores in DC over the next two or three years.  For at least a decade.....folks in the area had been talking over this and grasping that there is no retail store in all of DC.  The arrival of Wal-Mart had been on the planning block for three years now.  Well....this past week, the city council got around to a mandatory pay deal.....$12.50 an hour for any business operation that runs a billion in profit and a store has 75,000 square feet.  You see, the change in the law (the old rate was $8.50).....was done to trip up Wal-Mart (they had refused to pay bribes to the city council or their influence peddlers).  Wal-Mart has said if the mayor doesn't veto this.....they just might give up on the six stores, and walk away.  Go figure at least 2,000 jobs gone in DC.....but the city council didn't care about the jobs or such.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Riding Greyhound

I had an interesting two weeks off during this period.  For the first time since 1980....I rode Greyhound...out of the Birmingham station to Athens.

Let me start off by saying.....that all things considered....the Birmingham station is a fairly decent station and safe.  Course, there's some nuts around, and a wannabe security cop who looks like some character off Hee Haw.

As I entered the bus, there were three basic groups.  There's the Latino guys in the far back,  some older black folks in the front, and whats left.....sits in the middle of the bus, where I ended up.

So there's three folks around me.....all in their mid-30s to mid-40s.  Two guys and a gal.  Quickly, before we even take off.....they've taken up a conversation, and they are all rehab graduates (first prison, then the rehab).  And they are comparing notes.

I'm sitting there and listening to the forty-four different drugs that you can do.....from pain-killers to plain old weed.  I'm thinking.....man, I didn't need to be on this bus.

So the bus takes off.....and there's this guy (white, mid-fifties) who gets up and does the bathroom three times in twenty minutes.  Bus driver notes this, and must have called the cops.  The older guy acted weird after the third time, and must have been shooting up something.  Driver must have called the cops because five minutes later.....cop car pulls us over (imagine that on the interstate), and the guy gets pointed out.  Cop asks him to get off, and we kinda leave immediately.  

Conversation then drifts back to drug rehab and various drug options.  I'm stuck on that damn bus for another two hours.

My advice, if you can afford to travel by plane.....do so.  At least folks don't get friendly and start discussing personal drug habits.  Yeah, that's probably my last bus ride.....ever.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

On the Limb for Predictions

I generally go out on the limb for predictions.  Here are my predictions for the remainder of 2013:

1.  The Zimmerman trial will likely go to a hung-jury or declared innocent.  Riots will erupt, and at least twenty rioters will be shot either by property owners or cops.  Over night, trial lawyers will be penciling in more cases for 2014.  These shooting episodes will start to Florida into a court-TV kingdom.

2.  Some evidence will eventually by year's end that Benghazi was mostly about a White House fear of upsetting the delicate balance of new US relations with Al Qaeda.  It won't make sense, but nothing makes much sense these days.

3.  CNN's new Crossfire attempt will be dismal and negative.  Numbers by December will be begging the question of who dreamed up this idea.

4.  Snowden will be faced with the prospect that no country will accept him.  A deal will be struck with the Justice Department with a limit of no more than thirty years of prison time....although no one will know of the deal until after the court case concludes.

5.  No immigration bill is passed via both the House and Senate.  The Senate's one attempt will be talked about and bragged for the remainder of the year.

6.  Furlough is openly discussed after 1 October, for 2014.  People will be in a state of shock that they have to repeat the experience again.

7.  Two fifteen year old lesbians will attempt to get court-permission to marry in California after both their parents refuse to sign the paperwork.  Both will be interviewed on CNN with Piers Morgan.

8.  A study by the end of the year will conclude that one out of three kids graduating from college....have a degree that is worthless and not of value to get any job other than airline stewardess, tire salesman, or grocery manager.

9.  Someone will approach one state to get on the ballot for 2014....the idea of a threesome marriage.

10.  Before the end of the year, one out of six people who voted for the President in both 2008 and 2012....will admit publicly that they screwed up and shouldn't have done it.  Meanwhile....six out of ten folks who voted for Senator McCain in 2008 will admit they are very happy that he never made it.

11. Paula Deen's new book coming out....since being dropped by the publisher....goes to private self-publishing, and sells 200,000 copies within six weeks.

12.  The Discovery Channel talks up the idea of having a reality show of fake wrestlers.

13.  By year's end....a news journalist will attempt to say that Popeye, King Kong, and Lassie were all gay characters.

14.  Finally, Egypt undergoes a coup, and the military takes over for three years.