Friday, 29 November 2013

Black Friday

I generally hate 'Black Friday' shopping.  I think the last time that I did any shopping for the occasion....probably was around 2007.

There's something about the mass of crowds.....which push me off into frustration and stress.  Why would you go and drive into a parking lot of seven-hundred spaces.....when there's only six open spots?  Why would you pick up some gift items....then stand for forty minutes in line to buy your selection from a clerk who is taxed by the crowds?  Why stand in a store that can handle three hundred customers....when there are close to eight-hundred folks there?

The last time I did the shopping on Black was to a BX (Ramstein).  I remember the line episode.....close to twenty people in front of me.  Things rarely moved, and forty minutes later....I finally got to the front.  Some old guy in his sixties was running the cash register, and it seemed every second customer had some issue and the clerk had to sit and figure the way to correct matters.

I related this story two years ago to an associate at the Pentagon.  Their worst experience was some mall in Maryland where they had spent the day moving around six different stores, moving and parking on a continual basis.  That evening on the last walk back to their car....they found the trunk open, and most everything they'd bought was gone (robbed).

Ever since the internet came along....I've been leaning more toward it's use....than physically going to stores.  My dad is still the old fashioned type.....he'd have to visit a store....ask for prices, and make price comparisons.  This naturally means that he will travel around to twelve stores in the region and spent a long bit of time to find the 'right' gadget.  I'm from a different generation....I just don't have that patience.

The importance of the day on sales?  This is an argument of sorts.  Business owners will simply say that it marks a trend.  If they meet last year's sales....they feel good.  If it's ten percent's a bad note of things to come.  If it's ten percent above the's shocking and you have to be more than curious about what is driving the sales.

Germans don't have Black Friday traditions.  Typically....sales start up over the last two weeks of November, and mark the festive nature of the period.  The mark of a successful period.....usually says alot about the economic condition of the country.  There's probably five hundred 'experts' in Germany....noting hour-by-hour analysis and trends during this period.  Gimmicks are introduced and watched for influence.  Ad's fly onto display windows and beg for attention.

Today?  I end up taking two cats off to the local vet.....which is my Black Friday experience of the day.  It's their one-thousand mile check-up.  Both will remember the day for some reason.  Me?  It'll be a low stress day except for handling the cats and putting them into the tote-cages.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Ten Things I've Learned by Traveling Europe

This is a blog which has been on my mind for a couple of years.  Traveling is an educational experience.  You sit and pause by a cafe....sipping strong espresso....watching Dutch people cycle over a bridge.  You sit on a bench in Berlin and note radical choices of clothing.  You ponder upon the rules of subway riding in Rome.

1.  There are a thousand ways of serving some cake or dessert in Europe, which relate to less sugar, but better taste.  Dunkin Donuts would not survive to any safe margin in Europe.

2.  High speed driving is acceptable, and deadly.  You can open any newspaper in Germany and note some crash of a guy going 120 mph when impact occurred.  For some reason, there just isn't any cause to control things and limit speeds.

3.  Art means something, to some folks.  You can't go around any city of 50,000 people in any country....without noticing a dozen-odd statues.  Some are historic.  Some are artsy.  Some are just a round piece of granite with no meaning at all.  Art sells, for some odd reason.

4.  For some reason, you just don't see much food poisoning in most European countries.  More inspections?  More rigid conditions?  More professional standards?  I simply don't know.

5.  No matter where you go....a discussion could erupt in a pub or cafe....over wine, beer, or distilled spirits.  There could be a thousand different expressions used to note taste, flavor or texture.  Everyone.....even the village drunk....has an opinion.

6.  Educational status in Europe means an awful lot....even more than what some American guy would get by six years and a master's degree from Ball State.  Doc-so-V-so, with his doctorate degree in textiles, is always respected in his neighborhood and town.

7.  Politics....generally runs along the same lines as in the US....except folks are most hospitable about the comments and accusations.  You can only be half-as-bad in you might be in Bama.  Folks tend to wake up the day after an election....then forget everything....going back to some norm mode (like we used to do in the 1970s).

8.  A four-hour train ride in Europe brings everything up close.  You come to appreciate rolling hillsides, old churches in the distance, and crossing rivers in the midst of a forest.  It's a trance-like experience.  You'd like to ride for weeks across Europe.

9.  Some guys in Europe spend an awful lot of time thinking about things.  Then they go to building structures, bridges, roads, buildings and infrastructure....that goes way beyond anything that a US designer would come up with.  Cooks go developing beyond your imagination.  Brewers make a beer beyond your expectations.  A bridge in France....just isn't a plain old bridge.  A piece of cheesecake in Mainz....just isn't a plain piece of cheesecake.  A shot of some Italian cherry brandy....just isn't a plain shot of brandy.

10.  After a while, an American traveling around Europe....has this funny feeling that as marvelous as he sees everything....the locals are just missing it.  A thousand great sights within an hour's drive, and most of the locals might admit they've seen forty or fifty of the sights by age forty.  Sadly, we Americans on the run.....might have a better view....than locals of age sixty, who've been there for an entire generation.  In a way, that's kinda sad.

Stars and Stripes, Not Forever?

After I joined the Air Force....around January of 1978, I was sent off to Rhein Main Air Base, Germany.  There, I discovered Stars and Stripes.....the military's daily newspaper.

You had two choices of newspaper there.  The Stars and Stripes was the cheaper of the two, and had military-related gossip in it.  The Herald Tribune out of Paris?  It was expensive, and a quick read (in six minutes, you were done).

There were three things that attracted me to the Stars and Stripes.

First, it gathered up articles from across the US.  You read stuff that rarely made it into your hometown newspaper.

Second, letters were allowed.  The editors were careful, but over the years I came to realize that lots of folks really criticized the BX, the commissary, generals, bad Germans, and a thousand other things.  Some lady jumped all over the BP gas station in Ramstein village for selling hot lusty magazines at the counter, and she felt her son didn't need to see that kind of stuff in public.  Some guy complained about military guys laying around drunk on some public area in Darmstadt.

Third, some stories were laid out about things that occurred in Germany, Italy and England....that you'd never hear about in the US.  There was the Army guy who got home late, telling his wife that he'd been falsely kidnapped by German terrorists.....then got her all peppy and calling the cops.  It didn't end well for him. One Army guy had a British-made car that he'd paid big-money for, but continually put hundreds into repairs, and at some point.....upon the next breakdown on the autobahn.....he set fire to the car and watched it burn while the German cops arrested him.  The New Year's eve party at a Kapaun Air Force barracks, that ended up with German hookers as part of the party......reported on page three of the Stars and Stripes.

Over the years.....the brilliant leadership of the military made the decision to take the bookstore operations away from Stars and Stripes.  Every post and base in Europe had a four-star bookstore, which the Stripes operated.  From the profits, they subsidized the newspaper.  Few grasped that, or understood that relationship.  Once the deal was decided.....the BX folks got the bookshops.  Congress got to bigger subsidized checks to keep Stripes afloat.  The 50-cents for each issue?  Not enough.  You'd have to charge a dollar for the paper to really survive on it's own.

So the time has come.  Congress is now talking of dumping Stars and Stripes.  Some senators say no way.  The Pentagon budget guys don't see much reason to continue supporting it when the internet exist.

My humble guess is that the paper edition will disappear in the spring of 2014 entirely.  For two or three years.....a digital edition will survive to some degree.  It won't have a European slant or a Pacific slant....just a generic DC slant.

Personally, it was a great education tool for me.  I came to appreciate little stories that demonstrated the naive nature of people, lousy conditions that we accept as normal, and the strange results of putting Americans three thousand miles away from Texas.

The Stars and Stripes did a decent job, and probably served to make life a little less miserable.  It was a diversion from your job, or the two years you were going to pull in Germany.  It was....for better or worse....your hometown newspaper.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

My Observation on Trailer-Trash Gals

A couple of years ago....I ended up working with a gal that I (as a kindly Bama guy) would refer to in the nicest of pretender trailer-trash.

From fifty feet away, she dressed trailer-trash....just at the higher level than you'd expect.  She pretended to be an IT-guru....but at the time, knew enough to put on a 3x5 card.  Today, I think she's expanded her vast knowledge to twenty 3x5 cards....not to say in a negative way, but she's not not a technology geek.

She was capable of gossiping like a trailer-trash gal.  She always knew vast amounts of gossip....what was going on with this gal.....why this guy was always late.....why this other gal had a secret profile under some bondage site....which major was writing secret notes to some gal in Kansas, etc.

She'd generally drink a ton of coffee, and I always felt she was in "turbo-power" as a trailer-trash gal....mostly because of the caffeine.  I think she would die if Starbucks dissolved away one day.  She was the most determined Starbucks coffee drinker possible.  She could accept less than Starbucks, but it was to be duly noted in commentary.

The attire?  Trailer-trash gals typically let you know they fit a certain style.  They want to be noted and you they walk into the room.  Frankly, it's possible to spend fair amounts of money....pretending to be upscale trailer-trash....when the clothing is a mixture of stuff from J C Pennys or Sears.  If Pennys could ever open a gaudy line of associate would be first in line and spend hours pouring over the mix.

The accent?  Occasionally, a twinge of New Orleans would slip out....but she'd been able to keep the accent neutral.

Trailer-trash gals typically watch lots of TV, and always know the status of this star or that one....mostly by reading the one-dollar magazines at the check-out line.  They quote People Magazine....mostly like some Democrat quotes Harry Truman.

It's hard for a trailer-trash gal to be stationary.  They tend to uproot themselves....from one park to town to job to another.  They generally are looking for the right mix of things from forty-four different filters, and never find the right trailer, the right job, the right guy, the right life.  Yeah, dissatisfaction is always a trailer-trash issue.  Nothing is perfect.

The thing is....trailer-trash gals can be nice, polite, charming, and resourceful.  If you got yourself into a little problem.....they'd come like a good neighbor, and help you out.  If you needed a pick-me-up moment with a shot of enthusiasm.....they tend to have it.

I won't go out and condemn trailer-trash gals.  God probably put them on this wicked world for some reason, and we probably need them more than we think.  Anyway, we could always do worse, and we should appreciate all "God's wonders".

Traveling Man

I counted up today....a fair number of states that I've been to....and some I've just somehow missed. Maine....I basically landed via the Air Force, spent several hours in some terminal waiting, and sipped a Pepsi.

Some, like Texas....I spent weeks and weeks at some Air Force school.

I'd like to someday say I've been to all fifty, but I'm having doubts over Hawaii.

As for international travel?  I'm hoping to fill in six more countries over 2014, and maybe some day make my way into Egypt.

Yeah, Russia and it's Trans-Siberian Railway is begging me for some fourteen day trip across the country.  And I have to admit....I would like to make it to Burma one day.....maybe even Australia (although I have that no travel rule about no-snake-countries).

Peru?  If it weren't for food poisoning, the Shining Path guerrillas, and robbery stories....I'd probably like to see these ancient cities, and such.

China?  Well....the issue comes down to food and how to survive for two weeks off a Chinese diet.  Could I eat noodles for two weeks straight?  Could I eat mostly fish and boiled chicken?  Would I be influenced by Hu Wung to convert to Communism or Maoism?

The frank truth is....Bama guys weren't ever supposed to leave the state....except for NCAA football games, or big flea market shows in Texas and Mississippi....and the Grand Ole Oprey Show in Nashville.

We were given some brilliant naive gift from God....mostly to take in sights....gauge them against local corrupt Bama politics, general store operations, crazy relatives, catfish from the local grill, Amish dealings, and wisdom handed out by guys over eighty years old in overalls.

A Bama guy can't appreciate ancient ruins in Honduras like most folks.

A Bama guy can't marvel at fancy castles and fortresses in Germany like most folks.

A Bama guy can't eat a fancy French meal and feel humbled like most folks.

A Bama guy can't stand on a Chinese plateau gazing at a brick wall of sorts, and say something noble.

A Bama guy can't stand in the presence of a Swedish King and note royal gossip that they heard or noted since the fancy party began.

A Bama guy can't sip Russian vodka....tasting the essence of Russian history.....mostly because we've had better home-distilled stuff from Scottsboro.

A Bama guy lacks the manners to sit at a Swiss hotel dinner, and note the seven folks, spoons and knives around the plate.....commenting more to the fact that somehow we got by with just one of each at home.

Yeah, it would have been better to stick to Bama.  But then, that would have invited one to wonder about the big bold world around themselves.

PTSD and the German Review

I've sometimes come to appreciate the methods and analysis of Germans.  When they sit down to study a problem....they go to an intense level, and ask questions that would normally never get brought up on a problem.  It's like having Einstein sit down and be told to study the US postal system, and eventually come to say that there's no reason to have delivery more than two or three times a's wasted man-hours and money.

Well....the smart guys at Dresden's University of Technology sat down and conducted a rather unusual subject....soldiers and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). They went at the problem from a totally different view.

They came to this odd conclusion, which will trigger a vast new survey among American medical experts and the US Army.

Basically.....they found that twenty percent of German military members....were affected by depression and PTSD-related disorders....before they even went on duty.  When these guys were in high school or working at some shop.....they already displayed issues which would amount to PTSD, but it was never diagnosed or recognized.

Statistically, this lead them the group having issues....four to six times is the quote from the university study.....of guys with developing mental health issues and requiring some kind of help.

So you start to ponder upon this WW II, Vietnam, the Gulf war, the Iraq war, and the Afghanistan war.....and our present issue of PTSD among US military personnel.  You had guys who went off....accepted the stress and woes of conflict, and return with minimal issues.  They were likely the eighty-percent group.  The PTSD crowd?  The twenty-percent crew.

I kinda think that the Dresden folks have opened up a Pandora's Box of sorts.

Do you bring a kid in at the recruiting station and present a four-hour test, then determine that you can't enter the Marines....mostly because you are predetermined to have PTSD?  And if you tell that kid "no"....he returns home, what happens to him then?  As he advances at the brewery, or the tire shop.....will he react someday and have a PTSD episode....unrelated to combat....and suddenly have a "fit" of sorts?

Does a HR branch of a company start to have a two-hour test for incoming employees and determine some gal can't be offered a job because of her pre-determined stress levels relating to PTSD, where she never spent a day within the military?

Are we even looking correctly at PTSD as being a military-related stress?  Could life stress fit just as well?  Could some lose at a football game, or a relative dying from cancer, or some house fire....trigger personal PTSD?

The Dresden guys might have a five-star topic of investigation on their hands....worthy of a Nobel Prize or something.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Redistribute Is Such a Harsh Word

You could live your entire least in Bama.....and never hear the word redistribute.

The actual meaning?  To distribute AGAIN, in a different way.

In simple terms, Grandma cooked up a pecan pie and made eight slices.  For some reason, folks at the table felt that the heavy-eaters were getting too they recut the pie into sixteen pieces, but denied the heavy-eaters anything but one mini-slice, while the others at the table got two and three slices of the smaller pecan pie.  To be honest, some folks aren't partial to pecan pie and they just left one of their three pieces just half eaten.

In other terms, you cut down several trees on the property and chopped wood for five days straight to have a ton of firewood.  Your nephew Delbert....less than the favorite from all the kin...noted that you got a mighty fine house with plenty of natural gas heat.  You don't need all that firewood that you cut....and you ought to allow him to just drive up and load up a pick-up load for free.  Course, he didn't help chop the trees down, and he didn't help split a single piece.  He just wants some firewood freely....mostly because you are Christian or just stupid enough to agree.

Another way, your sister notes that you've got a new fancy refrigerator in the house, and two extra refrigerators in the garage (mostly for bulk buys at Sam's Club).  She brings up the fact that you got way too much refrigeration, and ought to just give her one of the two in the garage.  Flat $20 or a swap of some garage sale junk.

Another way?  Your cousin Marvin comes over and notes that you've got six cases of beer in the laundry room....way too much for a guy like you.  He hints that he'd like to take one case with him as he leaves the house.  Free beer.....just because he's a relative of sorts.

In the past fifty years....redistribution got to be discussed more and more.  There are a fair number of folks who pretend they ought to live beyond a bold new world.  It's a different kind of world....where the redistribution ought to make up for the false achievements of capitalism.

Basically....when any solution in life involving capitalism comes up as a possible marginal situation....redistribution is deemed the natural fix-it solution.

The environmental guys (Green Peace and the 16,000 other oddball groups).... got taken over a couple of decades ago by the redistribution crowd.

The urban-losers crowd?  They were taken over by the redistribution crowd.

The minority trending crowd?  They were taken over by the redistribution crowd.

The tax-reform crowd?  They are fighting various redistribution efforts, but mostly losing, and will eventually be fully consumed by the redistribution crowd.

It's a gimmick solution.  The guy with the big house.  The guy with the SUV.  The guy who takes the family to Aruba once a year.  The guy with a $4,000 lawn mower.  The gal with the $45,000 BMW.  The family with the cabin in the Kentucky foothills.  The rancher with 12,000 head of livestock.  They are all targets for redistribution.

Some guys sat in a class sixteen minutes of lecture by some loser professor who has never worked a day beyond the university....and suddenly the student feels empowered to fix society's ills.  Capitalism can only be a failure because it's unfair.

The natural tendency here for redistribution to to deny to yourself that this gimmick of taking something already distributed....and redistribute unfair.  Over and over, you have to repeat your idea is right and matter how stupid or unfair it really is.

The strange thing to ponder upon?  Well....all this redistribution stuff only works with things of value.  No one ever seems to want to take the loser players of the Kansas City Royals and redistribute them to Red Sox or Tigers.  No one ever seems to want to take the standard marginal lifestyle and safety of folks in Havana, and introduce that to folks in Miami.  No one seems to want to bus a bunch of trailer-trash tramps from Memphis out to Beverly Hills and resettle them there.

For some odd reason, there's a one-funnel direction on redistribution.    And the anti-capitalists don't seem to grasp that part of the great unfairness of life.

Simply Observations

There was a comment over the weekend about talks between the Fed and major US banks.  The Fed has desired to unease this gimmick Fed rate used for the past couple of years, and go back to a regular routine (real rates).  Well....the banks have countered that they can't make it under the old "norm".  The hint of a threat?  Banks actually said something about charging people....for any type of account.  You can imagine the get a letter from your bank that a savings account is $2 a month, and a checking account is $4 a month.  You'd be furious, and then the Credit Unions would step in to note they aren't going to fall into the charging scheme.  Then everyone would jump to credit unions, and the whole US banking system would collapse in six months.  It's odd how threats work and fail.

There's some report today of science-minded folks who found a way to bottle up the effects of marijuana, for their sick pets.  These folks have determined that their pet is bad off, and that the effect of the marijuana helps the pet to sustain some form of doped-up life.  They think they are doing a good thing.  Generally, if your pet is in that bad of's best to visit the vet and just let them put the animal down.  I just can't see weeding-up some dog as part of his daily life being positive.

This episode on Iran, the nukes and the agreement?'s simple.  Iran is screwed up on various economic scales.  They were bad before the nuke business came along, but marginally making it with dimwit Muslim leadership running the business sector.  If you walked into Iran today, you'd come to say that no one is talking peppy over the business sector, jobs, or the sale of anything beyond the border.  So the leadership bent over backwards to work up a fake deal.  It gets rid of the economic sanctions, and for one brief year.....brings relief to Iran.  Meanwhile?  Israel and Saudi Arabia are both about to work up some military arrangement, where the nuke sites will be bombed....sooner or later.  All this friendly happy-peppy video from the signing of the agreement?  It's mostly bogus stuff where they drink over fake agreements, and congratulate each other for being good at faking diplomacy.  Fake journalists will interview the guys, and someone will even talk of some Nobel Peace Prize.  But it's mostly all fake stuff.

Fake trends?  The Wall Street Journal put up a piece over the weekend....fake social media trends.  Guys buying up fake Twitter accounts, and massive trends being started....but all fake.  Nothing illegal.  Maybe there's an ethics issue.  But society ought to be smart enough to admit that trends are mostly fake to start with.  Maybe this is how bigfoot got to be such a big deal....just a fake social trend by some guy in Montgomery, Bama.

Someone wrote up a science piece for publication on global warming.....basically saying if we went ahead and fixed our carbon issue and did everything "right"....the effects of the damage would continue on for centuries....if not longer.  This kind of analysis....kinda leads one to ask two stupid questions.  Are we saying that if we were a perfect society....we'd just have to suffer through global warming, global cooling, and climate change anyway...for thousands of years...(the answer being this means that we'd have perpetual alarmists always amongst us)?  The second question would be....why bother (the answer being you have to do something)?  It's the kind of report that usually requires two six-packs instead of the traditional one.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Mighty Fax Machine

It's hard to imagine this.

Oregon was one of the states that decided they could go on their own, develop their health exchange program, and took around $220 million to make all of this happen.  For better or worse, they figured they were capable of running this on their own.


Well.....things have reached a pretty sad moment there in Oregon.  So far, no one has been able to make the automated system work.

So "Plan B" is in effect.

The Oregon guys went over to some electronics shop and bought dozens of fax machines.  If you want to enter the system and get affordable fill out your paper form at home, and and fax it to one of a couple dozen fax machines.

It appears in the early going of the fax-era (a week or so).....they learned that with just a couple of fax were basically limited to what you could handle in an entire day.  I would imagine after five or six PM....they probably turn the lights off and shut down the fax machines.  So it appears that an entire wall of fax machines exist.

Current limit?  Amazingly enough....1,500 faxes a day.

All of this comes from the TV news folks at KOIN.  Based on what they can see.....the state has around 30,000 applications.

Now, I'm not much into blame or jumping onto folks.  But this draws a guy into pondering.

How many of the 30,000 applications are duplicates?

How many of the 30,000 applications are bogus?

How many of the 30,000 applications are answered wrong and can't be accepted as the final product?

If this was a success by state standards....couldn't we just buy the federal government 6,500 fax machines....line them up at some bunker in Maryland.....and just have 3,000 people walking around to gather up the forms and type the answers onto some 1972 IRS server that still runs?

Yeah, I know these are stupid questions.  But the fact that they were smart enough to realize it's a mess and at least create a "Plan B", is an amazing thing.  They didn't sit around and talk about polls, or cast blame on some host of dimwits at the Administration.  They just did the best they could.

So I come to my final observation.  Two years ago, I had this guy at the my division.....who suggested that the era of fax machines were coming to a close.  Maybe by 2015....maybe 2016, but fax machines would end (his exact words) like the beta tapes.

Well, I think fax machines are going to be around for a while.  NASA will still be using fax machines in 2200.  And I hate to suggest that....but the Affordable Healthcare Act database....might be mostly updated by faxes sent by us (the consumer)....even in the year 2200.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

This Old School

In roughly seven old junior high school (Anderson, Bama) will shut down finally.

I attended there for nine years, and then passed onto another local school for the final three. The school's best years have come and gone.

It was the small school that tended to operate without any threats on the kids there. The teachers were typically level-headed (some exceptions). You got a four-star education in a small town atmosphere.

Anderson is a unique place. It's in the middle nowhere, where rural life meets up with rural expectations. Cursing wasn't allowed. Excitement could be achieved by discussing last night's episode of the Six-Million-Dollar Man. If anyone went off to the Smoky Mountains for the summer vacation....that was big time stuff to discuss. You wore five-dollar jeans from Sears, and Chuck Taylor tennis shoes that you bought for seven bucks (they are sixty to seventy now, and made in China).

As the 1920s came....the glorious era after WW came Ford and the vehicles. Farming reached a point where you made an actual income and had money left over at the end of the year. The town of Anderson survived off a couple of Mom and Pop shops, a church or two, and a sawmill. Along came the cotton gin, a real doctor, a theater, and Anderson started to boom in the 1920s and 1930s. Depression may have come to Anderson in some form after 1929, but it wasn't the same thing as you would have noticed in Chicago or New York. They made money in Anderson, and spent money in Anderson.

By the end of the 1930s.....the locals had deemed the necessity of putting up a real school....bricks and other towns in the area were achieving. Two families donated up property in what was "new" Anderson, and the county agreed to put up a five-room brick school with a gym.

It's safe to say in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.....the town was connected to the school. The Halloween carnival was a four-star affair where just about everyone showed up for at least an hour or two. The Thanksgiving meal? You'd typically see three hundred folks for that dinner at the school. The basketball games could draw a crowd of two hundred on a good night.

The school building was part of the community.....part of it's drawing card.....part of it's success.

Somewhere in the 1980s....modern culture arrived at Anderson, and it ran through an odd period. To some degree....things would never be the same. 

By the early 90's....the general store was mostly run-down. The gas station business had hit absolute maximum and bumping against new environmental regulations. Booze arrests and fines paid a bigger draw for the cop hired to keep things quiet and simple.

About a decade ago....the school board noted things were getting tight on the budget. It was the hint of things to come. Two or three years ago....they got to the decision of making Anderson's school into a six-year deal. That virtually changed the perception of parents and the school forever. Numbers decreased, and the county board made their decision that this is the final school year for Anderson. 

The property? gets interesting because there's some agreement by the county back in the 1940s era about it reverting back to original ownership if they ever shut down the school. Some judge will sort through this.

There are four basic pieces to the property. The ballfield has limits......maybe the town will buy it and keep running softball out there.

The new gym? It's got potential as a church, or as some business operation.

The property out on the road? Maybe residential property.

But the main building....the brick building of some seventy-years old? It's hard to say. Heating the old brick building costs a ton of money. Renovating it.....revolves around money and what purpose could you dream up? An antique shop?

There are five or six thousand folks who floated through Anderson Junior High School over the years and still living. Most everyone has some vivid memory. It's the kind of thing that three folks will gather on a porch....sip ice tea and chomp on gingerbread cookies....reminiscing about some teacher's explanation of 'banana juice', the boring English classes with the diagraming mess, and the Halloween carnival episode where someone sat on a cake by accident.

We were young, naive and innocent once. And it was a good feeling.

The Beer Solution

My brother has a couple of theories in life....which tend to be concreted down.  One of that we need to revert back to the 1970s hard-eight-hour-physical-jobs, where a guy wrapped up things and was just too tired to get into much trouble after work.  Today, there's all these guys who have no employment.  They start to drift around, turning into thugs, and getting themselves into trouble.

This is the same group who gets mostly wrapped around the axle on politics, NCAA football, affairs with the neighbor's wife, spending a bucket of the wife's income on some garage project, doping up, and stealing stuff from their friends and associates.

I came across this interesting Dutch article this week, which suggests a solution for such problems.

Up around Amsterdam, there's this park.....Oosterpark, where the unemployed guys....the homeless guys...and those just out to cause trouble...would meet.

They'd meet up at the park and drink heavily throughout the day.  Naturally, this led onto issues for the neighborhood, and frankly.....some folks just said 'enough'.

The solution?  Well, it's an odd one.

The city had this foundation group who stepped in.  They had some cash.  The park needed minor maintenance and cleaning.  So a deal was worked out.

The deal is simple.  You show up as just a guy on the street....around nine in the morning.  The deal starts with two beers (yeah, I know it's early but real drinkers drink this way).  Then you have to perform some clean-up work.  You can't just have to pick up a rake and do some actual work.

Around lunch....comes a warm meal, a half-pack of tobacco for rolling cigarettes, and two more free beers. Then in the mid-afternoon....comes the ten Euro ($13) and one final free beer.  The guys conclude things, and typically walk home after that.

Fights?  Well....they kinda stopped.  Arguments in the park?  They stopped.  Guys laying around the park in midday from a surge on booze?  It doesn't happen now.

It's not clear about success in this episode.  It appears that most of the guys still drink....after work.  But they tend to be more physically the frustration level is lessened.  Arguments?  The locals will say that they don't hear the big talk like they used to.

The guys's regular beer (the five-percent type), and not the heavier stuff (eight to ten percent).  Getting drunk off two beers is a bit difficult.

My brother would say this proved his philosophy on this business....hard work cures life's ills.  I'd tend to say that it proves the promise of a beer....might be a better solution in life than social programs, political gimmicks, and million-dollar homeless foundations.

Friday, 22 November 2013

My Ten Bits of Wisdom for November 2013

1.   Nothing is rocket science.....even rocket science.

2.  A dimwit in a fancy still a dimwit, just finer-dressed.

3.  If your life, your dreams, your accomplishments....are all run by polls or approval might want to think about moving into the real world.

4.  Fifty years later, we more less see that this Oswald idiot was an anti-capitalist, anti-Wall Street pretender, and would easily have fit into the Occupy-Wall Street team of today.

5.  If fatty food just tasted bad, we'd all pretty much give up the stuff, and just eat marginally-tasting nutritional food.

6.  No farmer ever got into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, earned a Nobel Prize for anything, or noted for the Presidential Medal for Freedom.  It's mostly because they've got real work to do.

7.  A hundred years ago.....the first guy to utter "bigot" usually was right about the other guy.  Today, the first person to utter "bigot" is usually the "bigot" him or herself.

8.  Any idiot could wander onto the NBC Today Show, run it for two hours, and get the same numbers of Matt and the gang.

9.  It might be easier to contact foreign alien societies, find a Big Foot, or train a Loch Nessie to do fancy tricks.....than make the Affordable Healthcare Act stuff work as advertised.

10.  The term "investigative journalist".....doesn't exist in 2013.  It went with Beta tapes, 8-track, and CB-radios.

A Procedure Killing the Republic

Harry Reid sat down and this week decided....enough was enough....with this filibuster business.  The new rule?  Fifty-one senators can shut down conversation over a topic.....not sixty.  Some folks are upset by the deal....mostly Republicans.

In 1776, if you had seen the massive degree of frustration with people and how filibusters would be would have invented some totally different method of representation.

To be honest, filibuster is simply a dynamic argument used with useless talk things to 'death'.  There is no real conclusion....other than folks being tired at the end.

I've seen the commentary on how this was an "art-form", or how it's been around for years and years.

Would filibuster work in a university?  No.  Would filibuster work in a business?  No.  Would filibuster work in a church?  No.  The plain simple truth is that we've manipulated the filibuster into some mythical beast that won't work anywhere else in society.

You can imagine some guy coming home one night, with his wife about to level some massive argument onto him or his behavior, and he launches into a filibuster.....talking for hours and hours....till the wife is fed up and just goes to bed angry.  Frustration sets in eventually.

We are wasting valuable time in Congress and the Senate.  Announce bills, give folks a week to read them, then open the floor for a day or two of speeches.  End it with a vote.  It either passes or it fails.  End of the story.  We don't need some dimwit standing there and talking for hours over nothing, then pretending that he is helping democracy or the republic.  He's just plain wasting time.

Maybe there was a time when filibusters made sense, and they were used on the rarest of occasions....mostly to entertain folks and to make a point.  We are at a point where it's more of a comic routine and not a tool of a republic.

My only issue with this episode?  It took Harry Reid to fix the problem.  That's the bad part about this that I have a problem with.

Gimmick America - 2013

A gimmick typically means something cheat, deceive, or maneuver a consumer.  Usually, gimmicks show innovation, or invent a highly modern game to move a mass of people (maybe ten to twenty, maybe eighty million).

To be honest, gimmicks tend to always be misrepresented as they are discussed and advertised.  What you mostly an illusion, but it's typically a believable image.  We used to be ready and prepared for gimmick gadgets.  These were the $50-to-$300 types that some buddy would tell us about and we'd rush to Radio Shack to buy.  A week later, we'd admit it was a waste of money.

 Politics....has become a gimmick.  Lobbyists play the public and the elected officials as fools.  Journalists either naively fall into the trap, or readily accept their part of the gimmick.  Church figures and religious salesmen are slowly becoming part of the gimmick.  University professors eagerly play their part of the gimmick.

We'd all admit....things were obscured and we just never understood the implications of the gimmick.  Things have reached a state where you can't pick up the gimmick because it's at a hundred pages or it's got economic pieces that simply don't make sense.

Yeah, we feel deceived.  Something was promoted and advertised as "X".  "X" was delivered.  "X" is talked about as a marginal success or simply a failure.  A month or year later, the same guys come back with "X-enhanced" and you fall into the same gimmick trap.  You'd like to believe some trusted soul who pretends to be your friend, and you bypass all your logical questions.  You skip your mechanism that would protect yourself, your family, your neighbors, your society, your culture, and your country.

I suspect that through the years....through all the gimmick users....we got used to it.  Your barber used the gimmick of Bangkok-oil to rub your neck after a razor cut.....but the truth is that this oil stuff was just a cheap jar of some rubbing alcohol with High-Karate aftershave added to it.

Your car dealer had the gimmick of spraying some magical and mythical anti-rust stuff on the underbody that would cost $300 more, and always advocated as the only way you could save the vehicle.  The fact that Ford, Chevy and General Motors never sprayed this stuff on at the factory....ought to make you pause and think.

Your grocery would run sales, but they'd tend to raise prices the week prior, and the new sales price wasn't that much cheaper than the original price.

COSTCO gets you into the store by advertising a sixty-pound bag of potato chips, a thousand pill bottle of vitamin C (it'd take you three years to run through the container), or a one-gallon container of syrup for your waffles.

Your Congressman tells you about his great ethics, and then he jumps on a plane paid by lobbyists and flies down to Florida to play golf with some guys from Brazil who want some favors written into legislative practice.

Your doctor gets an offer for a weekend trip to Aruba, if he can just prescribe three thousand doses of some unusual drug that rarely sells.  The drug company collects data and knows how to gimmick their pitch....skipping you the consumer, and just aiming at Doc Jones who forces you with difficult medical language to believe you have such-and-such condition.

Your minister convinces you that you really need to get into third-world country talking you into jumping on a plane and flying into Peru, where you go and paint some orphanage and school over a five-day period.  You could have sent the $1,800 for the airplane trip to some "Juan" in Peru, and he would have painted a dozen schools with that money.  Your group of ten?  Close to $18,000 flushed on travel and some life-experience for ten folks who probably could have done better things with the money and their lives.  

So we come to affordable healthcare.  Yeah, it's a gimmick.  It took three years and a whole bunch of journalists working different angles to convince you to just keep looking the other way.  At some point, affordable healthcare....isn't affordable.  Then the gimmick of the web site and the ease of signing up.....turns into a gimmick.  Then grasping it's a failed gimmick, you try to revert back to where you started....but then discover you can't even go back to square one.

Now?  You'd have to believe that the only way to get out of a maximum turbo-powered five-star to create another maximum turbo-powered five-star alternate gimmick.  That's the logical solution.

Sadly, we've reached a state where gimmicks aren't selling well, and the alternate gimmick won't be accepted.  We've got a bad taste in our mouths.

Gimmick America is in a bad situation.  We can only hope the NCAA's new bowl process with four teams working toward a championship game....isn't a gimmick.  Well, we can always hope that anyway.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Simply Observations

The Norwegian army stood up in the midst of this global warming talk, and has announced that they are going vegetarian one day week, to demonstrate their caring for the environment.  Well.....the headquarters of the Norwegian army said this.  Personally, after twenty-two years in the Air Force, it'd be hard for me to stand there in some chow hall....seeking vittles at breakfast, lunch and dinner on one day....and discover no meat.   About the only way I'd accept something like to have an all-beer Monday to make up for the no-meat Monday.  Maybe that's the strategy with the Norwegians.

I guess some Judge Judy episode popped up yesterday in the US.  It apparently set an all-time record....lasting twenty seconds.  The guy accused of taking someone's billfold accidentally admitted guilt, and Judge Judy just whacked the hammer down and pronounced "done", judgement set.  I hadn't been a big Judge Judy fan until this last trip to Bama and my dad's ritual watching of the show.  I have to admit.....she sees through the "fog" rather quickly.

The UN climate talks in Poland this week....have kinda hit full maximum turbo.....mostly spinning their wheels.  The issue came to a point where the poorer nations had this thought that the pot of money on the table for them in this redistribution game....wasn't big enough.  When you get forty-odd countries who are awful poor on the scale of life.....and you've been invited to some fancy talks where tons of money are being kinda know your number.  In this case.....after you divide up the 'loot' just isn't coming to your magic number.  Shocking.  The gimmick guys behind all of this.....can't really go forward, and it's a disaster in public perception if they falter backwards.  The Australian government....for several years came to the meetings with the best pretenders.  This year?  A change in the Australian government triggered a new crew for this climate talk meeting.....dressed in t-shirts, lounging on the side of the meeting, sipping coffee, and just plain having fun.

Finally, some guy from Palo Alto, California....a Korean War vet.....made the decision to run off to North Korea on some tourist trip.  He's eighty-five years old. The trip finished up OK at the airport, and the guy got on the plane....sitting comfortably and waiting to take off to China, and return to the US.  Then, the stewardess brings on these two North Korean security guys.....points this guy out, and he gets led off the plane.  That was four weeks ago.  So far, no one has seen or heard from this guy.  Don't know if he's dead, charged with a crime, or laying in some ditch.  Frankly, it's hard to figure guys who run off to the end's of the Earth....especially North Korea.  It'd seem like we got enough whacked up places in the get busted for something, and at least you'd kinda know the anticipated outcome.  In this case?  He just might be in trouble for thanking someone for their kindness, or buying something that he wasn't supposed to buy.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Other "Group"

Science has turned a corner once again.  This week, David Reich (Harvard Med School) put out an article in the magazine Nature.  Basically, he's laid out the evidence that not only did modern man and Neanderthals exist and likely have lots of physical relations (lusty stuff, for you guys in Bama).....but there was another third series of man walking around at the time as well.

The evidence?  There's some bones found in a cave in Siberia....which don't match up to DNA of modern man or Neanderthal.  So, a third club of folks upon the the same time as the other two.

The article in Daily News out of London is an interesting piece.

The science guys come down to this point of suggesting that there just might be a number of human-like creatures existing at this time....and they all have mingled up their DNA with the other lusty relations.

These various diseases.....HIV, cancer, hepatitis, leprosy, small pox, etc?  Each has a link to some part of the DNA process.  There's years and years of research in this area to be done....but we just might discover that some folks are more prevalent to get cancer than others....because of a lesser  Neanderthal DNA sequence in them.  Or we might be able to smoke three packs of smokes a day....simply because we have extra strong Neanderthal DNA in our sequence.

What gets to being curious here is that you can imagine yourself....handsome Bama guy walking around 30,000 years ago.  You turn the corner and there's this Wanda the Neanderthal gal standing there.  She's a bit chunky at 180 pounds....dark hair....a wicked grin....and some looks that ought to drive a normal guy in the opposite direction.

Something clicks.  You overlook your natural tendency to walk out of a honky-tonk, or note that you've got important business at the general store.  You chat a while with Neanderthal Wanda, and end up in a compromising situation.

A couple of months pass, and Wanda lets you know that she's in a family-sort-of-way.  You hook up with Wanda, moving to the third mountain range to the that your buddies don't know about this.  A year later, you run into Carl, who has done the same thing.  Months later, you run into Monty....who did the same thing.

It's all like some Hollywood guy bumping into trailer-trash from Memphis.  You just don't know the implications until thousands of years later.

Now, we have to consider the implications of a third race....mingling with the human-like folks and the Neanderthals.....creating more stress, chaos, and unknowns.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

It's a Wonderful Life Sequel?

Yesterday, I came across this entertainment piece of news....some Hollywood producer thinks that he has a decent script and is about to embark on a sequel (modern-era piece) for It's a Wonderful Life (the Jimmy Stewart classic).

Within my list of twenty-odd movies that I consider classic and of a high value.....It's a Wonderful Life makes the cut.  Simple story....four-star acting....stirring moments throughout the piece....and an ending that ties all the loose pieces of the story.

To be honest, it's hard to think of an sequel that did justice to the original.  The only exception is the modern version of True Grit, which tells the story in a slightly different way than John Wayne's version.  To watch one, you really have to pack the other version to follow, and enjoy the tale in both versions.

Taking It's a Wonderful Life and rebuilding it in the modern era?  No.  I just don't see the story working and being accepted.  Finding someone of the Jimmy Stewart magnitude?  No, that just isn't going to happen.  Finding a guy as evil as Lionel Barrymore?  No.  Finding someone like Donna Reed?  No.  Finding a modern-day Uncle Billy?  No.

There are some movies that just can't be remade.  The Philadelphia Story.  North by Northwest.  The Grapes of Wreath.  The Searchers.  My Man Godfrey.  The Shining.  Young Frankenstein.  Casablanca. The African Queen.  The Dirty Dozen.  

Producers and Hollywood never accept that logic of a movie that can't be remade.

Days, weeks and months will pass.....and we will end up with this sequel.  Sadly, it'll tempt us for a moment....we have to pay the eight bucks and see a three-star version of a classic.  And we'll wonder why we had to do it.

Old Newspaper Talk

Under the front page of the 4 August 1897 Herald and Tribune (Jonesborough, Tenn) came the start of a paragraph for Cost of Food for Forty Niners:

If life was not all “cakes and ale” among the forty niners; if among the vast majority the menu was limited to “slap jacks,” “hard tack,” “coffee and beans,” occasionally diversified by an unfortunate jack rabbit or quail, whose misplaced confidence in mankind brought them too early to the pot of the hardy miners, neither was it entirely devoid of luxuries in living for those whose appetites were at a par with the financial ability to gratify them.

It's one check it out closely.

In modern times, no editor would allow a reporter to write like this.  No college professor would accept as decent journalism.  No nightly news crew would lead into a story with this type of introduction.

Times have changed.

A front page in 1897 was a mountain of information that would be discussed far and wide in the local area.  News didn't have to concern the local town or the county, or for that matter...the state.  The woes and sorrows of a bunch of guys a thousand miles away....would have been excellent reading material.

Guys would have gathered at the local general store, or the barber shop....commenting that they'd heard about the fine food out in California or the menu selection for the Forty Niner folks.

The problem with modern simply that you don't have people who observe and report in precise words what they see.  The age of Hemingways and Steinbecks.....are long gone.  We end up with Larry who graduated from Duke with a degree in journalism, and fixated on slanting an item to fit the agenda.  Or you get Gus who graduated from Columbia University with a degree in journalism, and he spends his evenings chatting with folks who give him bits and pieces for a story next week on something.....that he knows mostly nothing about, and never questions the bit or pieces.

We are some marginal era of journalism.  And we've accepted that as normal.

The Polling of America

I hate polls.  They tell a story, but the story is only valid for that day or that week.

You see....people change their their underwear.  If you asked a guy about a certain store in town this twelve months...he might have another differing opinion.

So, here's this polling data chart to ask it right to assume that healthcare is a federal government responsibility?

Back in 2006, almost seven of every ten Americans said 'yes'.

Somewhere in 2009....that dipped to five out of ten Americans agreeing on this responsibility.

Today?  Barely four out of ten American agree it's the government's responsibility.

By the end of 2014?  I would suspect that we dip down into the 35-percent range on 'no'.

By 2024?  It'll all be forgotten and we move back up to sixty-five percent.  That's the problem with polls.  They drift, change, and slide.  It'd be hard today to convince sixty percent of the country to run off to Europe and fight the Nazis.  It'd be an issue to convince folks today of spending hundreds of billions and send four guys to Mars.  It'd be practically impossible to convince the public to accept taxes on internet sales.

We are a society that changes our minds and perception....on an hourly basis.  And frankly, we aren't agreeable to stick with an opinion.

A Good History for Reading

If you have ten minutes and enjoy a short piece of American history, then I'll suggest the WDOT story over the Narrows Bridge in Tacoma, which collapsed in 1940.

The Narrows Bridge was erected and functional in the spring of 1940.  Even from day one....the construction crews had some bits of worry over how the bridge reacted to wind.

The bridge stood for roughly 200 days, before collapsing over the stress of wind.  Interestingly human died from the collapse.....just a dog.

Six million 1940 dollars were spent on it's construction.  It was a toll-deal.....never recovering it's money, and a loss for the state.

Bogus? look at a story, and you just can't see any truth to it.  And can sense that things are about to unfold in a lousy miserable way.

The Times of Israel.....has printed up a story that the Obama Administration has been in secret talks with Iran for at least a year, over the nuke business.

The chief 'talker'?'s chief of staff Valarie Jarrett.

Some news media sites out of DC are simply avoiding the story.  Some are picking it up and asking for talk from the White House....who says mostly nothing.  Internationally, it's tossed around on page two of most newspapers, and they are asking themselves....if this is a bogus story, or another 'work of wonder' from the Obama Administration.  

Jarrett's skills for such diplomatic mission?  Zero.

Jarrett knows next to nothing on nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.  What she knows....amounts to the same knowledge that your barber has on nuke weapons.

Jarrett's vast expertise with international diplomacy?  Zero.

Jarrett's experience at dealing with Iranians?  No one can cite any insider knowledge or past accomplishments.

So, you are left with an odd story.  Would the Iranians meet with some White House staff member over the State Department folks?  Did Hillary know about this?  Does John Kerry know about this?

In some ways, I'm hoping it's a bogus story.  If we suddenly find out about some treaty being worked, and it all comes back to one much in the international community is going to buy on the legit nature of it.  It'll become joke number forty-four of the administration that the French laugh over.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Economics is Rocket Science (Not)

The truth is....economics is like the game of poker.  If you sit down, review the twenty-odd rules of poker, then cover statistical analysis, and sit through an hour or two of risk actions.....then you can sit and play a good round of poker...maybe winning on occasion.

Walk around American high schools and note that economics, financial planning, and budget analysis....rarely if ever....are taught to sixteen year-old kids.  It's a topic in the university halls, but it's taught by paper-tigers....professors who have spent years and decades teaching....never walking in the real world.

We are where we are....with the Affordable Healthcare Act...mostly because of people with no knowledge of health insurance economics.  These people may claim bits and pieces of comprehension, but overall.....they are way out in the deep end of the pool.  They were mostly guessing, and using the attitude of any college professor who has spent his career in the classroom.  These are the people who never sat in a board room to discuss profits, or the margin of a profit.

I've sat and watched episodes of stupidity for years  and years via the news sector and hostile folks who complain about the cost factor of services.  Why do transmission jobs have to cost $1,500?  Why do we have to pay $18 for a super deluxe extra-large pizza?  Why is gas $3.85 a gallon?  Why have haircuts gone from $5 to $14 over the past twenty years?  Why doesn't social security actually pay all my bills after I quit working at age sixty-five?

We are a naive crowd.  We refuse to sit and read through what already exists, to ask questions, or to accept the realities of economics in the heartland.

If I travel around the US in a car.....late in the afternoon....I'll tune to Dave Ramsey on the local FM station.  For an hour or two....I'm entertained by Dave and his economics lessons.  Some lady will call and admit she charged up $35,000 over two years on several credit cards.  There's nothing to show for it....all wasted on junk, trips to Aruba, or some beauty treatment.  Dave is patient....understanding.....but firm.  Admitting you were stupid is step one, so Dave gets through that and then walks the lady through three or four steps to recover.

I tend to feel sorry for the folks who call into Dave's show.  None would want to stand up in their church and admit they spent a hefty amount of money on a house that is way beyond their means, and fallen into debt.  No one would dare show up at a family reunion to admit they bought a farm and can't make a marginal profit....thus going quickly into bankruptcy.

Dave isn't teaching rocket science.  Most of his advice could be written on twenty 3x5 cards.  Most kids....even at the age of twelve....ought to be getting Dave's lessons and counseled on the simplicity of economics.

The problem is....we act stupid and pretend economics is beyond the comprehension of mortal man.  The forty guys who wrote up the Affordable Healthcare Act?  What they wrote was beyond their comprehension.  The ten thousand idiots who triggered the 2008 "stumble"?  They weren't very bright on economics.  The hundreds of dimwits who dreamed the ethanol episode up, and never grasped the cost implication to corn prices?  Yeah, same thing.

If for one brief summer.....we would just take Jack Junior....the mischievous thirteen year-old.....through a 12-minute seminar per day, he just might be smart enough by age eighteen to see economics as simple financial planning.

We are where we are.....simply because of our attitude.  Economics is dull, boring, and beyond our comprehension.  It is....rocket science.  

Sunday, 17 November 2013

An Appreciation

“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough. and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.”

-- Lemoney Snicket

As a kid, I had an appreciation of travel.  Being from Bama....just a one-day trip was enough to amount to a journey of sorts.  You tend to see things and rationalize them in different ways.

After fifty-five-odd years of traveling and seeing a significant part of the US, and walking over a dozen-odd lands in Europe....toss two thousand books on history, culture, and geography.....I've come to three basic observations.

First, we all have a lack of appreciation over distances.  It's only been in the last 150-years that suddenly a guy could stand up and say he'd like to travel from Nashville to the west coast, and it wasn't a miserable and risky trip.

Columbus was one of those "few of the few" existing in Europe who traveled further in one day....than the vast ninety-eight percent of society did in their entire existence at the time.

I've crossed the Atlantic around fifty times now in my life.  It's a test of patience....spending ten hours on a plane, and the worst that come out of the experience is lousy choice of movies or too much mayonnaise on the one sandwich they offered me.  Three hundred years was an acceptable fact that one person out of three hundred on such a voyage would have passed from this Earth from some ailment or issue.

Five hundred years ago in would have been rare to find few in a village of three hundred....that had been further than twenty miles from the village in their entire life.  You didn't take great journeys, explore the countryside on a whim, or set out on a hike where no road signs existed.

We have crossed over some perception that travel is an accepted thing and can't envision a society who never traveled.

Second, after roaming around Rome, London, Paris, and the isles of Greece....I've come to this observation that folks from a thousand and even two thousand years ago....were a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

You can stand in front of any aqueduct in the Rome region, and marvel at the complex nature and workmanship put into a project like this.....yet it stands still today, and capable of functioning.  Imagine telling some New Jersey crew to build a modern-day last a thousand years, and they'd laugh you out of the state.

Guys used to build bridges that were destined to last five hundred years.  Today?  We barely get to the sixty year point and folks start talking about erosion and the possibility of collapse.

This past week in Atlanta, they announced that the Brave's park will be vacated within four years (built and delivered in 1996 for the Olympics), and the Braves are building a new park ten miles up the road.....way beyond the metro region of the city.  The park will barely be used for twenty years....with comments this week that the Olympics park will be torn down once the new stadium is complete.  In Rome?  The old Coliseum is still standing, and with some minor renovation....could be put back into operation within a year or two.  Yeah, it's been two thousand years.

Third and final....after touring around Europe and reviewing history for two thousand years in the's kind of obvious that a bunch of folks have died....mostly over their religious views or lack of religious views.

It didn't take much to get on the bad side of the Catholic Church a thousand years ago, and have some crew of authority arrive and "whack" five hundred residents to make a point.

Just making one negative whine about the Pope being a dimwit.....probably would get you a twelve hour lecture on civil talk in public....before they hung you in the public square.

It's not that one guy died because of his religious situation....or dozens....or hundreds....or thousands.  You could go beyond tens of thousands, into the hundreds of thousands over the past two thousand years....who died because of a disagreement on religion.

The Pilgrims?  They left safety and all civilization....because of a disagreement on religion.

After you've been around enough sights in marvel at how we've progressed through a big significant mess, and somehow survived intact.

I've come to some sort of appreciation of travel.  There are lessons to be learned.....wisdom gleaned off some Greek philosophers.....wit gained from some British gentlemen.....and humble thoughts from architecture a thousand years old.  We've come a long way.


In the real world, there are five senses.  Folks from science and practical common sense agree on this....oddly enough, without much argument.

This week, I was doing a bit of reading and came up on a scientology article....where their founder....L. Ron Hubbard.....came to a conclusion that man actually had 57 senses.

Course, this got me curious.  It's hard to imagine a vast number beyond the common five that we all agree upon.

Well....he threw in motion of self.  It's an odd one.....although one can sense one's own motion.

He threw in heartbeat, along with internal temperature and external temperature.  How they fit into senses.....I have no idea.

Joint position?



Sound pitch?

Awareness of importance?  Awareness of unimportance?

A sense over Reality?

I got to a point by the end of the list of just laughing.  Maybe if I'd had some open mindedness or booze.....maybe I could go and think like this.

Course, I came to awareness of location.  For a Bama guy, this is a key sense and I'd agree with this one.  We tend to go off into some wooded Bankhead National Forest, and get lost.  Then after three hours, we always tell our hunting buddy Gus.....I think this road leads on out, and we just stay on it for an hour or two, and get recovered from that lost feeling.  The truth?  Maybe we have an internal sense of awareness of location, or just damn lucky.

Finally, we come to this odd sense that he suggests.....awareness of appetite.  I pondered over this a while, and came to agree.....when I'm hungry.....I'm fully aware of it, and basically, I can sense it.  It wouldn't matter if I were at some one-star diner in Red Bay, or an airport $16 hot-dog shop, or sitting on the edge of some Italian side street in Rome where nothing on the menu makes sense but I'll just wave a finger at something and take what I get.

L. Ron was probably a bit on the crazy side, but he might have some points with these 57 other senses.  Sadly, common sense isn't listed by the smart guys, or L. Ron.  Of all the senses, I tend to list common sense at number one.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Asset Worth Money

Here in Europe....the isle of Malta....a EU member and regular best described as the "poor kid on the block".

You see, there's just not that much of a upscale economy there.  They don't manufacture anything of great desire of other European countries.  They have a very limited agricultural situation.  And tourism just isn't drawing the numbers to make anyone substantially better off.

So the folks of Malta sat there and thought about what they had.....which might be sellable.  The solution?  As a member of the EU.....they were European, and thus.....citizenship was a marketable asset.

They've devised this scheme.  You got 650,000 Euro (roughly $850,000)?  You can buy citizenship from Malta.

Just forty idiots....would bring in roughly thirty million dollars a year.

You can kinda guess the attitude and view of the Germans or Dutch.  It just isn't going to be a positive thing.

What Malta that they will review the applications, and check folks out.  No criminals.  No murderers.  No crazy folks.

What this gives everyone accepted?  As part of the'd naturally be able to cross borders, and spend not just days, but weeks and months at locations throughout Europe.  No stress on limits.  No hostile customs guys asking stupid questions.  No border-entry issues.

Tens of thousands of applications expected?  No.  What Malta that there will be less than a thousand....maybe even less than three hundred people....who would be legit, and have the money to make the deal work.  

It's an amazing thing.  A nation with almost nothing of value to sell....has finally come to realize that citizenship is worth something, and they just might make it a regular business.

Government Like a Soap Opera

It's like a soap opera of sorts.

It won't be page one news, and no network will really chat much on it.  The President has recommended his pick for the ambassador's job in Hungary.  It's not final....that would come up shortly.

The pick?  Collen Bradley Bell.

Yeah, you don't really know the name.

She's the producer of the Bold and Beautiful...the soap that comes on in the afternoon, for CBS.

What can be that Ms Bell helped to round up roughly two million (the higher of estimates by various news media sources....some rate it closer to half-a-million) for the re-election campaign of President Obama.

You can imagine the big names of Hungary....getting this news.  Soap opera producer.....arriving ambassador.

The talents here?'s best not to ponder upon things like this.

Course, most folks may not realize this.....but the Bold and the Beautiful is presented on forty-odd networks around the include a network in Hungary.  Maybe it'll make sense to some Hungarians....who always enjoy the dramatic of operas.

Who knows....maybe fantastic new creative ideas suddenly pour in the mind of Ambassador Bell....she returns to Hollywood in three years, and adds a tall Hungarian stranger character to the soap opera.  Maybe she might even see the brilliance of adding a Russian dentist, a French hairdresser, an Italian pastry chef, and a Turkish mafia thug.

Some folks would ask stupid if we really need a soap opera producer for a US ambassador?  The truth is.....we could do worse, and that's pretty sad to admit.

The Plan "B" Crowd

If you have five minutes and a curious nature about American history, I would suggest this short read.  It's a short piece over the "agreement" (the compact) that the Pilgrims made, as they were on the bay and going to plan "B".

We Americans have a tendency to plan broadly, and arrive at some mess when at the final destination.  Don't ask's probably because we don't think like Germans, or anticipate failure.

The Pilgrims had more or less left Europe in a slight hurry.  Various factions were against the religious group (some might go to refer to them as "cult-like").  At any moment....either the Catholic Church, the King, or some other authority with a stance against them....would react and cause chaos by arresting or apprehending them.  So this exodus to America....was a quickly planned thought, and not a lot of research went into "where" they might make a permanent stand.

To be honest....if you were going to settle in the new world and knew a bit about'd likely have reached the conclusion that almost every bit of America along the coastal regions (by twenty miles) has a sandy soil.  It's simply not prime agricultural property.  A guy could be mildly happy, but it'd be best to run up some coastal river by two hundred miles and avoid the coast.

Few history professors ever talk about the original plan....going to the Hudson Bay around New York City.  If they had landed there...instead of Plymouth Rock?  History would have run a different course.  No friendly Indian tribe in the local area.  More chances of failure....than success.

So you had a bunch of unhappy folks on the ship....contemplating a forced plan "B", and this compact or agreement becomes the only method to force everyone to sign on and just plain accept plan "B" as OK.

Would something like this compact work today?  No.  You couldn't get forty-one out of forty-one sign such a document.  Most would ask questions.  They'd want a plan "C".  They'd ask who devised plan "B".  They'd debate this for days....maybe weeks.

Forty-one guys signed for what amounted to a mostly half-baked plan "B".  It was.....mostly a screwed up location and no alternate possibility existing.  This piece of paper that all had to sign....was the only thing to bind them.  Their word, their a simple piece of paper.

Today, for better or worse....we are the same people.  We are guided by hopeless romantics with no idea of executive management, chaos in daily life, no real plan "B", determination that runs like a raging river, and pondering that deeply worries the minds of most people.

In four hundred years.....we are mostly the same crowd, and damn proud of it.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Just a Rant

Back in October, I was on an Iceland Air plane....transiting to the US....and had a choice of forty movies to watch.  That's one of the big positives about Iceland Air....plenty of viewing and choices.
So they had Les Miserables....the newer production.  I hadn't viewed it before and had watched promos about it last year.

I punched it up, and for forty minutes....tried watching it.

Bluntly, it's a musical....with great graphics, great acting at times, and plenty of opera-style music.  But, it's not for me.  I just can't sit there and watch some scene to unfold, and then suddenly a musical tune starts up.

Maybe this worked in the 1950s, and folks enjoyed musical movies in those days.  Today?  No.

So I came to this odd vision last night.....of this entire Affordable Healthcare Act business.  It is....Les Miserables.

Yeah, I've come to view it more as a musical....than some moment of reality in American history.  And I'm tiring of it.

From the distance, it’s a great theater act.

There are thirty-five companies in America that sell health figure each one has a different view or thought on how this could or could not work.  Each has a say in some of the fifty states.  Each is practical about profits and delivery of services.

Then you have fifty insurance commissioners across the nation, and each of them have a view of how laws are read, interpreted, and enforced.  Just a mere waiver by the President...isn't usually enough.  You need law, and order.  What works in one state....won't work in another....thanks to the fifty commissioners doing their job.  

Then you have a hundred senators and 435 Congressmen, who each have a view. Some are as stupid as they come.  Some will claim to be clever, but have never done anything ever to demonstrate that.  Some will charm you with speeches, but then forget everything they said one hour later.

Toss in five thousand lobbyists....tied to various functions and groups. Each tries hard to fiddle with their favorite Senator or Congressman.  Each represents some gaming commission, some Indian tribe, some hospital chain, some group of lawsuit lawyers, some church operation, or some investment fund.

Figure at least thirty WH insiders who each have a view.  These are the folks who have direct contact to the President, and try to weasel in some different cause, favored slant, or brilliant idea.

Then you figure at least five hundred journalists or wannabe journalists, each with a different view.  Some appear as conservative commentators.  Some pretend to be neutral but they just start winking on every third sentence and it's obvious they aren't neutral.  Some will tell you forty lines of something.....which usually amount to one line of actual fact.

I would say that we have a mighty fine US version of Les Miserables.

Lots of songs, merry banter, woeful words, sorrow, charm, wit, deceit, lost morals, fleeting moments, gimmick solutions, cleverness at a marginal level, and a bit of political intrigue.

Les Miserables....just bigger, bolder, and more audience members than you can imagine.

Sadly, I can't stand musicals of this type, and am losing patience.

If only Clint Eastwood would suddenly appear, take a spit, glean hard at the camera and tell everyone to clean up their mess or prepare to be run out of town.  That's about the only way left to settle this awful musical.

Smoke Detectors

Every year in northern Sweden.....up around the region of the Arctic Circle.....there's a hotel that sends out some guys and they put together a ice-hotel.  It's built of big huge blocks of ice that they bring in and design an actual structure around.

You as a customer can drive up....check into the regular hotel....then walk across the parking lot to the ice-hotel.  You get checked into your ice-room....given a blanket.....some candles to provide light.....and you can sleep at freezing temperatures or less.

I've seen the hotel featured on German TV every year.  I'd take a guess at between twenty and forty rooms built for guests.  It's hard for me to imagine a guy driving for hours and hours.....just to have a chance to sleep on a block of ice as a bed, and having a plastic sheet of sorts below me to keep my butt from getting wet and cold from the melting ice.

This year....there's a change to the whole episode of the ice-hotel theme.  The Swedish government stepped in, and mandated more safety.

There's now a requirement for a smoke detector in each ice-room.

Naturally, a guy from Bama would pause and ponder upon this.  The need?  The ice-room is one-hundred percent ice.  No wood chairs.  The only thing that could burn is the stupid candle, your blanket, and your boots lying on the floor.

Yeah, a guy might sit there and have a smoke at night....and accidentally drop hot ashes on the blanket to set it on fire.  Maybe.

Swedes are mostly practical people.  If they only need a certain amount of space.....they only build to that level.  If they need only a certain type of bed, then they shop for only that kind of bed.  They don't generally overeat, or overdrink.

I'm guessing most Swedes who might drive up to this hotel and go through the ice-hotel experience....will sit there for hours that evening, with the candle flickering.....wondering why the heck you need a smoke detector.  It'll bother them.  Someone will call the front desk and ask if there's something special they should worry about, or if there's some gas mixed into the ice construction business.

Yeah, government regulation.....busy at work again.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Simply Observations

Perhaps it's just me....but isn't it odd that all this vast amount of investigative journalism that exists in the United States.....literally thousands of them.  And six months ago....they never came to ask any questions or deem the incoming Affordable Healthcare Act as a potentially screwed up piece of work?  CBS?  NBC?  Washington Post?  New York Times?  Were the investigative journalists just napping, or sent off to Florida to cover gas station fires?

Bowie State, a Maryland public college....woke up and kinda realized how the ACA episode affects student healthcare packages that they offered.  For decades....most American universities offered a cheap policy for students....that really didn't help students that much, and was often a 2-star policy at best.  Bowie reviewed the new rules....looked at the old price of $50 a semester, and then said for them to offer a legit policy by the'd require a payment of $900 per semester.  You can imagine some dimwit 18-year-old kid looking at this bill and asking how they'd ever pay that $900.  So, Bowie did what they had to do.....end all health insurance policies by the university, period.

Finally, last week....some idiot drove up to a Dunkin Donuts, portraying himself as law enforcement, and demanded a discount.  For whatever reason....the clerk didn't buy into this at all.  There's likely no discount for anybody.  Well....things got testy here, and the clerk called the real cops.  They show up.....things got all heated.  Cops have arrested this guy for impersonating a cop, which is an offense that might get you weeks in the county jail.  You can imagine the first day in jail.....with meth-head Bob asking you what you did, and the best you can admit is that you impersonated a cop to get discount donuts.  It's a lousy story, and meth-head Bob just isn't going to believe you.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

New York City

Back in the spring of 2010, I ended taking an entire day and walking around New York City.

Most guys from Bama have this fantasy of New York, and just wandering around.  We don't know anybody there.  We can barely name eight places to go and see.  But we tend to have this rational loss of fear when it comes walking in the midst of Manhattan.

I came to find the Battery down by the bay to be some magnet for tourists.  Vendors sweep through and have all kinds of stands to sell you cheap ice cream or sodas....which you really need on a hot day.

At some point, you wander over to the Empire State Building, and discover they charge you around $35 for the elevator ride.  You feel like a dope paying that much money, but you can't claim nothing much for such a trip, unless you've been to the top.

The view?  It's a million-dollar view, and a guy could spend hours up there and gazing off at the streets and traffic below.

A guy will glance down at the top of the roofs below and wonder who does maintenance....if any gals are sun-bathing.....and anyone ever camps out on the roofs?

It's curious from all the Seinfeld episodes....there never was an Empire State Building episode.  Course, you'd have to wonder if George met some damsel from Dallas for the day and fell deeply for her....before finding out that she was going off to some Swedish cruise ship for a year.

New York City is not for wimps.  You need to think hearty thoughts, and prepare yourself for just about anything....from a parade, to some robbery on the street.  I think this is the prime reason that most Bama guys fit in so well for short visits.

Grand Central Station is one of those things that you need to walk by.....jump in....have something to sip....and then walk out.  It's probably not the enchanted place that it was in the 1940s.

Tourist-magnet?  Well, that's one of the problems with the city now.  It's like Venice or London.....too many folks there for touring, and all dressed like some guy at a Fourth of July parade.

Food?  Well, yeah.....stick with authentic Italian pizza or pastrami sandwiches.  You can't go wrong with that.  Higher prices?  Yeah, don't say's the norm there.

Wall Street?  You need about an hour to run the bull statue, note the fancy walking area through the district, and see what needs to be seen.

Every Bama guy ought to take three days off in his life, and ride the plane up to New York City.  You don't have to tell your church minister, or admit this to the guys at the shop.  Ensure you got some extra t-shirts, decent walking shoes, a sock with fifty quarters to whack on any robber, and a hat to identify yourself as a foreigner in their midst.

Once you return, you got it out of your system, and life gets to being a bit easier.  Well....until four or five years later, and you get that thing in your mind again....running off to New York City

The Life of Ed

Reports today indicate that Ed Snowden....our NSA dude in running rapidly out of capital.  In other words....he's getting pretty close to being broke.

What the journalists will say is that Ed's lifestyle, security, and basic requirements of life cost a good bit.  What he had to start mostly finished.  He's relying a good bit off donations from oddball foundations that seek to help Ed.

The average monthly cost to Ed?

I'd take a humble guess here.  He's likely got one guy on twenty-four coverage to protect him and drive him around town.  Figure a minimum of seven thousand bucks a month for that kind of security in Moscow.  Toss in rent....maybe a thousand for a decent place with power and heat included.  Food and beverage....another thousand a month.  So Ed needs roughly nine thousand a month to get to the minimum in life.

Ed's talker seems to indicate that Ed has a job and makes some income.  They won't say the company or type of work.  I'd take a humble guess in Moscow and say he's pulling around four thousand dollars a month for that type of work.

Ed's entire system of life....revolves around the charitable efforts of dozens and hundreds of people.  They convince various well-off hardware and software enthusiasts to donate to a site, and they work to move the cash to Ed....likely in the form of debit cards and such.

How long can Ed survive like this?  It's an interesting scenario.  Ed's life isn't exactly a paved trail or leading to any type of social security situation.  Ed is thirty years old.  He might be able to get in on the Russian social system....but that'd likely amount to the equivalent of one-hundred-and-fifty bucks a month, when he turns sixty-five.

I imagine that Ed now sits around at night, grumbles about the living conditions, the food, and the lack of any real friends. Ed probably reviews how the bills will be paid, and he can ever get into a regular routine of owning a house, taking a vacation, or grilling a steak in the backyard.

Ed doesn't worry about replacing his septic tank, clearing the roof of leaves in the fall, or planning his Black-Friday shopping strategy.

Ed is likely thinking long and hard over the next step, and how it's got to be a front-page item.  Attention was something that he enjoyed...for a fleeting moment.  Now?  He's mostly a page five item, and always waiting for the CNN crew to arrive and interview him for Piers Morgan's show.

This is the life of Ed.  Money short, life on a stick, and chaotic planning accepted as normal.  It's as good as it gets.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Wannabe Clever College Graduate

Time and Newsweek are dinosaurs in the news publishing business today.  Rarely do either ever accomplish any investigative journalism or in-depth analysis.  This week, Time pulled one brief five-star article out of the bag and noted a trend in America.  We aren't hiring college-graduates at the level we were a decade ago.  There's problems brewing, and the hiring mechanism in America is looking suspiciously over at colleges being at fault.

It's a good read, if you have ten minutes.

The emphasis of the whole piece?

Kids arrive at some company after four years, and HR with the management staff discover that the kid can't write to any technical level or comprehensive level.

Then they discover that the kid after four years....can't think critically or decisively.

Then they discover creativity isn't one of the positive skills that the kid developed at some twenty-five-thousand-dollar a year university.

Solving problems?  The kid doesn't seem to grasp that talent or skill.  Whatever was mentioned in various classes to problem-solving.....was just a marginal exercise of sorts.

Then HR and the management guys get around to their favorite topic of team-play.  It was a big deal back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Guys showed up and could pick up the slack.  They saw themselves as part of the staff and team.  They wanted the team to "win".  That unique talent....isn't being noticed with the new group of university graduates.

Organizing and planning? was a great talent to have a decade ago.  A kid went though the university process....knew class timelines, schedules, and the demands of class projects.  This all translated over to success as they came into the companies.  Today?  It's not a skill seen often.

My brother, the engineer, always notes the new crowd doing interviews each spring.  Attire or lack of professional attire....usually comes up as a point of humor.  After four years of college, it seems that half the kids have no suit or professional-skirt for the interview.

I listened to a DC manager comment last year that he had to interview two dozen young graduates one day.  Each barely got ten minutes to introduce themselves and say something beyond their resume.  It was summer, hot, and most of the young ladies dressed in some gimmick dress that was acceptable for a college campus but not a job interview.  Several wore flip-flops.  He just didn't see reasoning to hire those folks.

It's hard to say what has happened to the American university system in the past decade or two.  Some individuals have taken the class requirements and turned them into clever gimmicks....pretending that the kid is gaining some great insight to Julius Caesar, philosophy by Plato, teamwork by Vince Lombardi, creativity by Thomas Edison, and determination by the Roman Empire.

Motivation?  It's mostly to move from high school to a four-year university, graduate with a critical piece of paper, and get hired on with some company that thinks you are clever and smart.  Naturally, good pay figures into this scheme.

The companies?  They review the kid, his certificate, and answers to the interview.  Rather than hire a loser and hope on mentoring him into a halfway decent employee....they just skip that kid, and the billet goes unfilled for weeks....maybe months.

Yeah, our lack of mentoring skills has disappeared from the business world as well.  Half the guys working for companies today....can't mentor.  They actually offer classes now....trying to teach guys and gals how to if it was a teachable skill.

The end result?  In a couple of years....someone will notice a fair number of college graduates working management jobs at a car-rental shop at some airport.  It was a manager's job that used to be for high school graduates, and we've cheapen it enough....with an abundance of unhirable college grad's at the door.....and just accepted it as normal.

In a decade, it'll be normal to hire college graduates to run fish-and-bait shops, write menu packages for restaurants, and manage theaters.  There's something wrong here.....but it's best not to tell the university folks they've screwed up big-time.