Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Our "Foreign" Journalists

Phil from Duck Dynasty fame has gotten himself into another epic battle with the news media.  This time?  He made a video interview a couple of years ago....advocating that guys ought to marry up with fifteen or sixteen year-old gals.

I read the interview piece.  It's hard to say if Phil was pulling the guy's leg or simply suggesting Louisiana logic in this matter of marrying gals at this age.

Naturally, the news media and liberal folks are in a tizzy about this stuff.  Shocking, absolutely shocking, that anyone would suggest marrying at fifteen or sixteen.

I'm kinda looking around at society, and wondering where exactly they've been for the past couple of decades....in some cave in Pakistan?

Most states have a legal process where a guy or gal can marry at age fifteen....with a judge somewhere in the process, and at least one of the parents signing up to approve this.  How often does it occur?  There's no real statistics out there to say one thing or another.

With the new gay marriage business....is it possible for a fifty year-old guy to marry a fifteen year-old teenage guy?  Yeah....with a judge and a parent's signature.  Shocking?  Oh, I'm guessing the news media will skip that topic.  By suggesting some forty-five year-old lesbian will team up with a fifteen year-old gal from Bakersfield and get married.....you'd start to upset some folks who were all pro-gay marriage before.

In the 1970s in Bama, I would make a humble guess that roughly ten percent of the local gals got married around age sixteen.  Success or failure?  Can't say.  I can remember one guy marrying (he was sixteen) a gal who was about the same age.  His dad throw up a trailer behind the house, and hooked up power to it.  This marriage lasted eight months, until the young gal figured out that 'junior' was only given seven hundred bucks a month for working on the farm, and there was no real cash.  She divorced junior and moved on.

From a history prospective, it was common in the mid-1800s in rural America for gals to marry at around age fourteen.  Lincoln's mother was introduced to her husband around age 13 (reportedly, she was already pregnant by another guy, but that's a long story).  In New England, it was more accepted to be eighteen to twenty-one before getting married.  Once you got past twenty-four, you were pretty much a problem, and considered old-maid status.

The news media?  I'm of the mind that they've fallen off some rock, screwed up their investigative analysis ability, and can't grasp what goes on in the other ninety-eight percent of America.  They look around at DC, NY City, Philly, Atlanta, and urban mega centers.....and consider them to be the norm.

The idea of some seventeen year-old guy and some sixteen year-old gal getting successfully married?  The journalists act like this can only happen in Mexico or Peru.  This is how far out of touch with America that they've become.  They can't even recognize what goes on in their own country.

As for Phil?  Well....if you ask Phil a question....he will respond with purely logical statements from a guy who lives in Louisiana.  I wouldn't expect anything other than that.  And I doubt if he's finished offering advice.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The Goldwater Rule

It's not something discussed on forums or news media discussion tables....but there's a curious piece of American history going back to 1964....which relates to the "Goldwater Rule".

In the heat of the election race in 1964, between Senator Goldwater, and President Johnson.....Fact Magazine comes out with a piece, which asks the question of leadership stability over Senator Goldwater. A large number of mental health professionals were asked about character and mental state of Goldwater.  Some used "normal" as their choice of words.....a fair number of others used narcissistic, schizophrenic, obsessive, and psychotic.

Roughly, one thousand medical degree psychological doctors came to this state of diagnosing a guy running for President....simply by reading newspapers, and watching a few bits and pieces of TV news reporting.

Fact Magazine?  It was a monthly magazine that came out for roughly four years....ending in 1967.  No one really says much over its demise, but you get the impression that they weren't making tons of money toward the end.  The editors had a political slant on things.....mostly liberal, but not the kind of stuff that a regular nine-to-five guy, a union guy, or some truck-driver would read....more so....the stuff that college kids or some intellectual would pick up for an hour of reading.

When you go back and examine the 1964 race....there's a dozen-odd things that went wrong with the Goldwater election chances.  This was one of them.  Some media folks quoted the magazine in their analysis, and regular voters got around to believing that Goldwater was a "nut".

After the election....Goldwater sued the magazine.  He won the case, but cleared only $75,000 for damages to his character.

After the episode....the mental health profession met up and within a year or two....had decided that they couldn't run around and declare folks "nuts", unless they had personally examined the guy or gal (in person).  This was written up into a code of ethics so that medical professionals would not be tempted to break rules easily.

So today, it's ok for some journalist, some new media freak, some politician, or governor from New Jersey to point at someone and say they are crazy.  If you are a mental health professional....you can't really say much, or you have to slant it in a way that it's not about the guy but some behaviors that would need to be examined.

It's the Goldwater Rule.....in purest form.

Winners and Losers of 2013

There would be a lot of winners and losers in 2013, but I'll limit my picks to three each....the best three, so to speak.

First, the losers.

The Affordable Healthcare Act.  For a brief time, up until the budget episode in October....the Obamacare episode was going to sweep in and be at least marginally successful....so we were told.  There were issues, but folks would get ninety days to sign on and get "fixed".  Course, up until that point, there were a thousand things that went wrong.  Old doctors and clinics that we were told we'd keep forever?  Gone.  Higher deductibles of six thousand?  Yep, in place.  Doctors noting how they'd limit new patients at their operation?  Yeah.  Less than ten days after the budget crisis ended, and all the potential blame you could dump on the Republicans.....the flush of the toilet occurred.  The Affordable Heathcare Act is a loser, big-time.  More American have no health insurance.....for the start of 2014, than in the start of 2013.  Reality is taking a toll on American perspectives.

The news media.  Fewer people read the Washington Post, Time, Newsweak, and New York Times.....than a year ago.  Fewer people watch the Today Show.  Fewer people watch CNN.  Less viewers and readers....mean less income.....less benefits.....less opportunity....less movement upward.

Ed Snowden.  Ed pretty much gave up the rest of his productive life and will enjoy the comforts that Moscow offers, unless Germany gets peppy on engaging the US into a treaty on no-spying.  Ed doesn't have much to hope for, and will rely on what little luck he has for the rest of his life.

The winners?

Phil from Duck Dynasty.  Basically, Phil did a simple interview, quoted scripture from the Bible....got a couple hundred thousand folks upset, and got suspended for a couple of weeks.  Several million folks voiced strong opinion that they weren't deceived by Phil, the news media, Hollywood types, or fake wannabe status seekers.  Dopers, drunks, adulterers, gays, and swindlers?  They all got lumped into one group oddly enough, and there's no revision of the Bible possible to change that.

Auburn NCAA Football.  Well....Auburn kinda surprised folks, a lot.  To creep into the top ten, then sweep Alabama?  Yeah, they were a big winner in 2014.

Finally, there's Chancellor Merkel of Germany....winner of the election, and still Chancellor.  She had an interesting ten-minute chat with President Obama over listening into her phonecalls.  At the conclusion of the call.....she probably was grinning and knew she just got the best moment of relief that anyone could ever ask for.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Little Italian Story

Down in north Italy....just ten miles or so west of Venice....there's this place called Padua.  There's a Catholic Church in town, and it's one of the key features of the town.

A day or so after Christmas....cops got called over to the church.  Important stuff.....so they were told.

The old Catholic Priest in charge....some guy in his seventies.....had been robbed while on church grounds.

So the cops stood there and asked how much, and it was just under three thousand dollars of Euro....donated during the Christmas season for helping the poor and church activities.  The cops start writing down this report.  A true robbery, or so they think.

They get asking about who took the money, and the priest lays out this story.  This gypsy gal had appeared on the backside of the church.....where only the church folks are supposed to meet, greet, and live.  There's a fair description of the gal....in her thirties.   There's no mention of beauty, so you kinda assume she was a plain gal, or the old guy just didn't notice such things.  

The cops then get to how she accomplished this.  The priest then tells of himself coming out of a hypnotic-like state, and realizing that she had hypnotized him.

Now, you can imagine the cops at this point.  They'd like to believe the whole story.  But some gypsy gal....some money missing....and all this goes to a hypnotic-like state?  She had to ask him where the money was, and he gave a trance-like answer, and she just robbed him that way?

You can imagine the locals now.  If they believe the story....they have to be worried because the gypsy folks have a new way to rob them....by putting them into a trance and getting them to divulge their secret cash assets, pin numbers, or hidden gold coins in the basement locker.

Did things happen like the priest says?  Well....you don't know.  Paul Harvey would have picked up this story and gone up one side, and then back the other way.  You would have been entertained, and put into a trance-like moment listening to the whole story.  You would have wondered about the priest, his ethics, the likelihood of gypsies coming over, the possibility of great hypnotic talents, and the statistical average of all this stuff happening.....as reported.

Maybe the Pope will hear about this, and put some smart guys into studying ways to avoid hypnotic-trance-capable folks.  Maybe the cops will accidentally bump into some gal who matches this gypsy description with lots of cash and coins on her.  And maybe.....some priest just grins as he pays off his drinking tab with cash and coin.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Bama Tax Story

Months ago, I hung out with my dad for a day, and we went across the state line....to a farm supply warehouse sales operation.  My dad bought a huge bag of dogfood, and around a hundred bucks of other farm-related items.  I didn't really see the necessity of shopping over into Tennessee....figuring there's plenty of farm supply stores in Bama.

Well....my dad pulls out a card at the cash register and he's noted as Tennessee-buyer, and thus entitled to a tax discount from the state of Tennessee.

So here lies an interesting tale.  Tennessee, along with Georgia and Florida....wrote up a law to exempt farmers on farm supply sales.  It amounts to roughly 1.5 percent of the normal bill.  A farmer might spend six thousand bucks a year on supply items....maybe even fifteen thousand if it's a big operation.  That 1.5 percent savings?  It kinda matters.

It gets a guy to pausing and pondering. The state of Bama is surrounded by Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.  If you live within a hundred miles of the state line.....you might find just cause to drive over and do business out of state.  The amount of money leaving the state and Bama business operations?  Unknown....but it would appear that we aren't talking about marginal sales loss.

In the last couple of weeks, some Bama legislative folks have met up in Montgomery (Republicans, mind you), and discussed this loss of business.  Someone in the Bama farm supply business probably has added up what they did twenty years ago, and noted that there's some serious purchases and profit leaving the state.

The Bama legislative folks are now talking of a bill to exempt Bama farmers from 1.5 percent of the tax normally put on them.

Now, a guy would ponder on city taxes and what this all means.  Right now....if you went shopping within the city limits of Madison (just outside of Huntsville)....you'd pay nine percent on sales tax.  It's a hefty amount, and you'd pay eight percent if you shopped inside of Huntsville itself.  Even from my hometown of Florence....it's 8.5 percent on sales tax.

Will it persuade Bama farmers to toss out the strategy of shopping across the state line?  It's hard to say.  Farmers, once they get into a frame of mind that they are saving money and getting a better deal...won't easily give up their habits.

And the thing is....if you decrease this tax to help so-and-so....how will you make it up?  A new boat tax?  A higher gas tax?  A new tractor registration fee?  A hunting license fee increase?  You can't fix one problem....without creating another.  It's a sad fact of life.  

Simply Observations

The Census folks came to an unusual bit of analysis.....shortly....we could be talking about weeks, not months.....Florida will out-number New York state.  The 2020 Census is a pretty serious episode now.  New York will lose at least one or two more Representatives.  You can figure between 2014 and 2020....Florida might gain at least 300,000 more residents.  A status thing?  Yeah.  But it tells one large story in that the north part of New York state is literally dying, from a lack of business and industry.  The state can do little to help them.....having put their eggs mostly in the basket to help New York City.  If you ever saw the need to break one state apart, to save some segment of it....this is it.

Phil is heading back to A & E and Duck Dynasty.....his suspension will be wrapped up in a matter of days.  What did A & E determine?  Did a significant number of gays watch their network?  No.  Did a significant number of blacks watch their network?  No.  Did a vast news media audience in the nation watch their network?  No.  In the end, they kind of figured out that they made viewers and money off regular people....the type that drink whisky, drive Ford F-150 pick-ups, mend fences, grill ribs off the back of a pontoon boat, and know the store hours by heart of their local Piggly Wiggly.  If there was a five-star gay lesbian reality series about a hair salon in Red Bay, or a black five-star reality series about a group of ministers and their weekly deeds to bring God into the heart of some deprived neighborhoods.....then they might have paused and let Phil sit a bit more.  Reality.....is reality, in the end....you know (as Phil would say).

I've come to notice a number of folks commenting in the past ten days over their new healthcare plans as of 2014.  These are folks, who went to the cheaper 'bronze' plans, and now realize that a six-thousand dollar deductible is part of the deal.  Frankly, they don't have six-thousand to play around each year and save their butts or pay Doctor Jones.    For some odd reason, I have this feeling that some legislative efforts will occur in 2014.....to give folks a bunch of tax credits for the deductible stuff, and write that off on their taxes.  Somewhere in 2015, we will have to invent new taxes....to make up for the losses.  Maybe I'm wrong on this....but you can smell some kind of mess brewing.

Finally, the world has flipped in Bama.  Auburn....one of the finer universities in America, will be offering Brewery Science shortly.  Yeah, that the fine art of brewing beer.  Now, if you'd suggested that to anyone a decade ago....they would have chased you out of the state.  The deal?  Oska Blues Brewery has teamed to help Auburn put together a program.  You need to already have a degree in your hand, and this will simply act as a certificate program onto that.  The classes?  Soils, malting, mashing, beverages, fermentation, brewing, and business studies involving beer.  The curious thing?  Most all of the classes will be on-line....so a guy could be a twenty-year graduate with a curious nature....and just take the classes after work.  Start-up?  The fall of 2014.  Transforming the state?  Well, you can figure that four hundred thousand Bama residents are Auburn graduates (you have to have a degree before they let you into the program)....and I'll bet at least ten thousand sign up for the on-line program.  We might have more micro-brewery operations in Bama by 2020, than any other state.  Course, we need some heavy-duty beer consumption to go along with that.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Book Review: The Amateur (by Edward Klein)

In the summer of 2012, Edward Klein finished The Amateur.  I really didn't pick up on it's value or timing.  This past week, as part of my new e-book capability (yeah I eventually came around to it)....I read The Amateur.

Basically, it's the woeful story of a guy who charms his way into the President's office, hires people who are charmed by his character, then discovers that he's mostly a political candidate with no executive experience, no ability to listen to anyone but himself, and using the services of characters who just feel charmed by everything.  Sadly, it's the world we live in today.

The book lays out about two hundred individuals who have run through the White House, and kinda discovered that there is no true leadership connected to it.  It's a charming atmosphere and maybe the first couple of days were fake reality....but after a while....as Klein tells the story....it's just a empty suit situation.

The book is simple enough....lays out names and interviews.  Klein went and talked to lots of folks who sat in on a meeting or two....or actually were part of the apparatus for a while.  It's loaded with examples of bad management, bad leadership, and incompetent but important people in the White House.

Here's the thing.  After you read the book....ending with updates in the spring of 2012....you'd like to have a second book written at the end of eight years and tell the entire story.  You also end up with a bitter taste in your mouth over politics and the amount of deceit now involved in daily affairs.

As for the President?  I can understand now why companies and foundations are not jumping quietly up to offer seats on the board or positions within foundations to the President.  He hasn't won any favors, and likely will find a rough world in 2017 for him to exist in.  Maybe the pension deal is enough, and a handful of speeches a year....but I think he's mostly looking at the best years of his life.  Some idiot publisher might buy into a book deal or maybe even five books....but it's charity work for a guy who can't write, can't produce executive decisions, can't listen to advice, and can't be part of some team.

The book is worth reading.....just be prepared for a dismal feeling at the end.

The Almighty License Story

Truenancy never was a problem in the Bama school environment that I grew up in.  You might have used your farm requirements....thus faking up a logical but truthful reason....and skipped a day here and there.

Over the last thirty years, I've become impressed by the amount of truancy, and dedication by some sixteen year old punks.

In Germany....they have the same problem, but here....the cops will eventually get involved and the parents could end up with a fine if it reaches a drastic state.

I read this week that Michigan's legislature has decided....enough was enough.

So a law has been crafted and in the works now.  Basically, after a certain number of days missed....the school has to contact a local judge.  It's not a decision that the school makes or the principal or the county superintendent.  The law dictates you simply will inform the judge.  Then the law puts the local judge into a bind....he can only take the info given, and report it.  Again, he can't act out some role or pretend the event didn't occur.

The judge will end up calling or faxing or sending an email to the state guy who controls driver's licenses.  Based on that one report....he will invalidate the license of the kid.  It's not clear on the way that the kid or parents get the message.  I will assume that some letter is generated and sent to the kid himself.  It'll be a three-liner probably...."due to truancy, your license is revoked".  There's probably a line directing them to a page where they can work on reestablishing their license....which likely involves some fee, and a certain period of showing no additional truancy (probably over six months).

The kid's reaction?  Well....he or she might pretend the letter never came, and just keep driving.  After one occasion of getting pulled over, and a hefty fine of driving without a license.....things get seen differently now.

The one thing in the state's favor?  You are mandated, with no exceptions.....to attend school until you reach eighteen.  For a fourteen year old punk already testing truancy?  They even worked in a piece to the law that says you could be denied your license, until after eighteen.....if you got into a bad habit of truancy.

For the youth of today, there are a couple of important things.  Access to a computer, a cellphone, access to beer, a car, and a license to operate a car.  Denying any of these....really dissolves a successful youth era.  I would imagine several states will follow this trend.  For kids with truancy issues.....I think life just took a tumble.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Simply Observations

I came to note that it got out this week....that from 1946 to 1956....the FBI had Jimmy Stewart's It's a Wonderful Life listed as a communist-associated movie production.  Apparently, they decided that they didn't have enough stuff to investigate.....so they got into looking at the values of movies.  This remarkable slant of a bad bank President was viewed as anti-American at the time.  Today?  It's pretty much assumed that ninety percent of all banking executives are corrupt and incompetent.  Getting the FBI today to investigate them?  Zero chance.  A chance of 180 degrees.

It won't be mentioned much in US news....but three major players of the Turkish government cabinet staff....got caught taking bribes.  Into the millions apparently.  The three got dragged off to court, and new faces suddenly popped up to say they were placed in charge of various departments.  The Prime Minister?  Simply grinning and not saying much.

In the last couple of days, Jesse Jackson got all peppy over the Duck business and Phil.  The reverend says that he wants a face-to-face meeting with A & E executives, and hammer out real punishment.  What Jesse might quietly get.....is an offer for his own reality series.  The negative?  There's a camera continually in the room, and he'd have to think twice over every deal or swindle that he might envision.  Sadly, Jesse fits two of the four folks in bad trouble with Phil's reading of the Bible: Adultery and Swindling.  That might be part of the issue with Jesse getting peppy at this point.

Finally, every year around this Christmas time....the Queen of England comes on TV....gives a five-minute speech over the better times ahead, the hope and prayers from the royals, and thank God for what we have.  Generally, no one much in England cares for the message.....with maybe half of them accidentally watching it.  Channel Four in England....the alternate to the BBC.....started a practice years ago to run the alternate speech to the Queen.  They'd pick some random character, who'd spend five minutes giving the counter-speech.  This time?  The Snowden guy from the NSA.  He was thankful in some fashion that privacy was being return to the public.  It's hard to say if anyone took him serious.  The truth?  The Channel Four crowd could have hired up some retired wrestler from the US and probably had the same enthusiasm from the public.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


If you look up Anatidaephobia, it's a phobia that some folks have....when they notice that a duck is watching them.  Call it anxiety, stress, or just some mental issue....but these folks freak out when a duck watches them.

After sitting back and watching Phil's issues the past week and the way that A&E, a bunch of journalists and ordinary folks freaked out......I figure a new word ought to be created....duckaphobia.

Duckaphobia is basically a fear of hearing some guy quote from the Bible, and the quote interferes with the lifestyle or perception of the person hearing the quote.  Note, it could be a verbal response from some TV commentary, or some written response from a magazine or newspaper.  You sweat a bit....you get aggravated.....you feel the mighty Earth standing against you....you feel like some Bible-freaks are totally against you.....and you quietly suspect that no one can correct or fix the Bible.

Naturally, Duckaphobia is treatable.  You can use the standard treatment....just sip whisky or dope up enough to not be bothered by the phobia.  You could go and visit some treatment guy who'd talk for sixty dollars an hour and help you over the next year get over your anxiety and stress.  Or you could just just raise a big stink and hope that Phil and his crowd just go away and never come back.  Ceasar had this feeling around two thousand years ago that he could fix up the crowd enough by judging one guy and put enough fear in the crowd to just shut up.....evidently.....he was wrong.

What should you do to help a person with Duckaphobia?  Hug them....tight.  Tell you that you are a forgiving person even when they get to swearing against you and threatening your livelihood.  Don't yank on their chain.....getting all these confused folks stressed out.  Assure them that the Bible is over two thousand years old and sooner or later, it will be going through some revision....like Microsoft's package, then this bad stuff will be edited out.

So as you sit there and notice some interview coming up on the pub TV with Phil, and a person or two at the bar get all peppy and freaked out.....diagnose correctly....Duckaphobic.  Offer them a drink to settle their nerves, and ask the bartender to flip the channel over A & E and see what reality show they have on.  Just my humble suggestion.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The New Seat

(thanks to Seemartin.com for the photo)

I've traveled an awful lot in my life on planes.  I can list the marginal airlines, the worst possible scenarios, the 'bad' airports, and describe in length the food offered on planes.  The more I travel....the more negative commentary I have....sadly.

This past week, it's come out that the airline industry as a whole is looking over Spirit Airlines, and this bold idea of theirs....the pre-inclined seat.

You can sit around 150 passengers on a normal Airbus A320.  With Spirit's version of the plane, and this particular seat.....you can put 178 seats on the plane. That means you squeeze another 28 folks onto it, and make another ten to fifteen percent profit off each plane.

The comfort level?  Well....folks noticed that you can't push the seat back like the previous seats or tilt it....because it's already tilted.  Yeah, they kinda noticed that they are scrunched up and it's awful crowded.  But it's being viewed now....as the new possible standard for the industry.

When I was in my youth.....I considered airline travel exciting and "fun".  It was a wonderful experience to travel via Dallas's airport, or to eat some fancy aluminum plate of dried-up chicken.  I think somewhere along age forty....I changed.  I hate all air travel today.

There are some airlines that I won't even discuss as a possible ticket (US Air for example).  I have a tremendous negative view of several major airports (JFK, Chicago, and Philly for example). I consider Raleigh-Durham to be a terrible connecting airport....having to walk almost a mile to get from one end to another in the airport.  I'd rather eat a home-made baloney sandwich than most of the stuff you can pick up at a airport. Travel via air is a miserable experience overall.....with only increased movie selection and terminal offerings having improved over the past decade.

This new seat?  Well....I'm open to anything that improves air travel....but I'm just sure about this episode.  

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Phil Issue

I've sat and watched this Duck Dynasty episode unfold over the last ten days.  Mostly, I'm amazed that forty words of opinion by one guy.....could stir up such a big mess.  I must admit....I just never have been much of a fan of Duck Dynasty....having watched a total of two shows in my life, and mostly consider the show to be a cross-between Hee Haw, the Andy Griffith Show, and the Beverly Hillbillies....with what I consider as marginal humor.  It's like Honey Boo Boo....where there's some kinda unscripted scene, and nothing much of a immoral nature ever seen or spoken.  Rare these days....if you ask me.

All of this brings me to make some observations.

First, most southern guys have never heard or seen GQ (Gentleman's Quarterly) magazine.  I could probably stop at a local barbershop in Pulaski, TN.....ask the dozen guys sitting around there, and there might be one guy who admits he reads his brother-in-law's copy.  Otherwise, none of the guys ever read it.  Phil might have read it a couple of times.  Maybe he even had a subscription.  It's just odd that they'd call up and do an interview with Phil.  It's not the GQ-kinda guy that you'd imagine on the cover.

Second, what Phil hinted at.....in Phil's own way.....a guy will have to get good with God after you've passed on.  If you've lived a sinful life.....God might ask questions.  Naturally, this disturbed most Gays because they assumed after they'd convinced the media, various political figures, and half the nation of their "status".....that God also had been convinced on the status change.  So far, and this is just my line of thought.....I haven't heard God comment on the status change or deliver any updates to the Bible.  If I were a religious guy.....I'd probably point out this slight problem.

Third, A&E's suspension?  It's an odd thing.  They are making a ton of money off Duck Dynasty.  I'd take a guess that twenty percent of 2013's profits.....are from this one show and the trademark materials (t-shirts, posters, hats, etc).  They can't edit Phil off the old shows.....so Phil gets seen and the company profits.....while Phil is on suspension.  Kinda hypocritical if you ask me....but I'm just a regular guy with such an opinion.

Fourth, the other folks?  Well....Phil didn't limit his heaven-entry comments to just gays.  Yeah, Phil mentioned adulterers, swindlers, and drunks.  Did the gay folks stand up and complain about those three life-style and status groups being "judged" as well?  No.  It's kinda odd.....there are more adulterers in America....than gays.  There are also more swindlers in America....than gays.  And there are certainly more drunks in America than gays.  It'd seem logical if all four groups could unit, they'd tear the walls standing against them.  Funny though....I just don't see any gay effort to unit the four groups and take stands across the nation.

Fifth, Cracker Barrel?  I've been once in my life to Cracker Barrel.  It's a nice franchise operation....with awful salty and greasy food.  If you wanted a simple full-plate of ham, eggs and hash browns cooked right....for less than $10, then that's the place to go.  I thought it was odd with all the commercial junk they had as you enter the store....fake old stuff, fake antique stuff, and amusing country t-shirt items for sale.  I'd take a guess that they have three hundred items to sell a guy.  Do folks get hostile about out-house humor? No.  Do folks get nasty about redneck accusations?  No.  The Duck stuff or Phil's picture on some t-shirt?  Well.....I guess some gay trucker from Tulsa might get upset.  But the odds are.....one million gay southerners watch Duck Dynasty, and are fairly happy with the entertainment provided.  If you don't want to buy their crap at Cracker Barrel.....at least as far as I know....no one forces you into buying a t-shirt.

Sixth, all this talk on national news media?  Man, you'd think that some idiot had passed a new version of the Affordable Healthcare Act, and stomped on a hundred million Americans.  If you run a liberal news media device.....you tend to invite folks to slam Phil and the Duck folks.  If you run Fox, you tend to invite folks to talk the right to free speech.  So far, I haven't noted anyone who brought up a King James Bible, and read the actual passage.....noting that Phil just quoted the Bible, period.  Phil believes in the word via the Bible....as do a hundred million other Americans, and so far.....we haven't been able to rewrite the Bible or get Congress to hand out free Bibles.

Seventh, the source of the Bible?  Well....it's an odd thing.  The Bible as a book....got put together in the years after Christ, by a bunch of Christian enthusiasts.  They met, looked over the various short books in existence, and chose sixty-six books.  Countless other books from the era....were left out.  God didn't exactly hand down the Bible.....some Christians simply acted as editors and approved what went in or was dropped by the side.  The part about adulterers, gays, drunks and swindlers?  Well....they read through the piece and felt that it went with the lifestyle....some two thousand years ago.  A man's company in those days was keenly observed.  Wrongly added?  You weren't there....so you can't say what the deal was.  A revision?  Well....just write up a King Jimmy version and edit out the slam against adulterers, gays, drunks and swindlers.  It's just that simple.

Eighth?  All of this brings me to this remarkable change in American life.  Fifty years ago....guys had opinions.

They hated the Yankees, or they loved the Yankees.

They loved Marilyn Monroe or felt that she was an absolute slut.

They hated the Ford car company, or they hated the Ford car company.

They absolute passionate about the Green Bay Packers, or they despised the Green Bay Packers.

A guy could speak his mind and note that he couldn't stand Italians....although he ate ravioli and pasta dishes.  A guy could speak up and note his dislike of rednecks, blacks, or Mexicans....then watch southern NCAA football, a great NBA team winning, or thank Jose for fixing the septic tank issue in the back yard.

Opinions were acceptable and part of the American society.  You didn't think carefully about the company you were around, and if you'd insult any special group (drunks, swindlers, gays, and adulterers).  We seem to now be in a society where once you get into a status or lifestyle.....that's the end of opinion.  Where exactly does this lead onto?  You might want to spend a minute or two thinking about implications here.  No opinion?  No acceptance.  No true beliefs?  You'd end up drifting off into territory where nothing much mattered, or was supported.

At the end of this mess....there's Phil.  Phil is happy.  The Duck family is happy.  And life goes on.  None of them are worried.....as far as they are concerned....when life ceases....they feel secure in where they are going.

The drunks, the swindlers, the gays, and the adulterers?  Well.....they might have accidentally bumped back into the religious nature of life, and wondering if lifestyles can outweigh the Bible.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Al's Mess?

Sometimes....news media personalities do something that they did not intend to bring up.  Usually, this turns into a bigger mess than the original problem was.

This week, Al Sharpton from MSNBC ran off to Chicago.  Al's plan?  He was going to have a townhall meeting to discuss Chicago problems, and how they all lead to a necessary process of more gun-control.  Al had this idea that it'd help with his show....give him plenty of video and audio for future use, and help turn up the heat in Chicago for more gun-control.

It was probably a good idea on paper.

So the townhall meeting starts.  Most folks commented that this was the first real meeting of community members in thirty years.  Some remembered the last episodes in the mid-80's.

Based on what journalists wrote of the townhall meeting....there were a couple occasions when Al tried to moderate things, and get gun-control mentioned and back into focus.

The crowd?  They set their sights upon the leadership of Chicago....the mayor and city council.  By the end of this townhall meeting....everybody was fairly focused.  It was the dynamics that you would have witnessed in 2010 with the Tea Party.  Folks were fired up to fire political figures in the next election.

It's hard to say if Al really knew what kind of mess he was going to create.  His staff probably thought that Al could moderate enough, and things would flow toward more gun-control topics.  That never happened....throughout the entire townhall meeting.

The worry now?  The Tea Party folks never stepped back after the original thrills.  Four years later....they are still fairly focused on their subjects.  I suspect this group of Chicago folks are feeling the same empowerment.  Tossing the old guys out from city hall?  Well....in Chicago....mass voting usually kept things in check.  Maybe some folks will ask more questions and vote independently this next time around.

The bigger issue?  Al Sharpton's townhall theme might not be used again by MSNBC.  It was bad enough for the Tea Party to exist....but to invent the "Chicago Fire Party" out of thin air?

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Dynamics of PowerPoint?

I spent twenty-two years in the Air Force.  Somewhere along the mid-point of that period....I got introduced to PowerPoint (the Microsoft package for building presentations).  By the point of retirement, I was a PowerPoint "master".

You could walk up, dictate three events, and the circumstances of each.  I'd ask a couple of questions, and then in five minutes....I'd have an entire presentation built over the situation, the triggering circumstances, the effects, the potential solutions, and the potential disaster or lack of disaster at the end of the problem.

Over the last decade....I simply got better at PowerPoint presentations.  I could cut and paste, insert diagrams, and show statistical displays to prove a point.

Generally, Army guys hate Air Force folks and their knack for using PowerPoint.  I came to realize from my three years in the Pentagon....an Army guy will state the obvious problem, the obvious solution, and ask for some blessing from the Colonel on the decision.  Air Force folks turned problems into organized thought processes, which lead onto thinking and pondering.

This week, the Daily Mail out of London did a story over love found in New York City....based on PowerPoint.  Some guy gave a PowerPoint presentation at work.....some gal sat through it....and found something stimulating about the guy.

So, this PowerPoint dating concept has erupted out of this.  A number of folks meet.....put their personality into bullet-format, and brief the crowd on their advantages or great character.

Naturally, a guy from Bama is bit shocked over this.  For a Bama guy, it'd traditionally take two years to drag out the five big points: (1) they are NCAA-devoted fans, (2) they prefer catfish over steak, (3) they own sixteen rifles which are kept in a hidden closet locker, (4) they secretly sent off to Aruba in 1998 but don't remember anything during the four days because of alcohol consumed, and (5) they secretly like the River River Band as their favorite music from the 1980s.  Using the PowerPoint method....all these secrets would be dragged out in the first hour of the date.

For a gal, it generally means there's no questions left after a hundred days....either it's a great PowerPoint presentation, or it's a lousy one....end of the story.

You can imagine guys coming up and asking for PowerPoint advice.  Should you insert a graphical chart, statistics, or dynamic photo of them from the eighth grade?  Should you throw up a slide of their grade point average in the tenth grade versus the fifth grade?  Should they talk about their favorite dog at age sixteen?  Should you include a complete listing of the twelve cars you've owned since age sixteen?  How do you conclude the presentation (picture or Socrates quote)?

If you had suggested to me twenty years ago that this might be happening....I would have simply grinned and said no way.  So I'm kinda shocked.  I'm guessing the Microsoft engineers are even more shocked.  They never intended for PowerPoint to be used in this fashion.  It probably worries them a bit.  

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Niceness Issue

Sometimes, scientists learn something the hard way.

Off in New Zealand, the mental guys sat down and devised this experiment of sorts.  Basically, they recruited this husband and wife.  They didn't tell the wife much about the experiment.  The husband?  Well....he was supposed to suddenly get very agreeable to just about everything the wife suggested.  He was to and simply practice patience.....grin....and bear it.

For roughly four days...both kept notes over where things were developed.  The wife really didn't know the whole implications....and mostly just reacting to a new attitude by the husband.

Somewhere around the 12th day.....the husband came to the science group and admitted there were problems.

The wife was now reacting in a negative way....criticizing the husband in various new ways.  It's hard to imagine what the guy said to the science team....but he must have indicated things were drastically going downhill with all this agreeable business.

So, in favor of society, and maintaining this marriage....the science team halted the experiment, and brought the wife in to explain what they'd told the husband to do.

A guy from Bama could sit and ponder over these implications.  Being that nice and agreeable....all of sudden?  Most Bama gals would be all suspicious and thinking that there's some disaster about to occur, or some new gal from Nashville seeing their man.

The truth is.....a guy just can't be that agreeable in life.  It's ok to be nice and polite.....but there's a safe margin where you need to act like John Wayne, and act disagreeable occasionally.

Problem Number 701 of AHA

In the last month, as we get closer to X-day with the Affordable Healthcare Act....folks got around to picking their new policy.....which meant shopping around.

There's a curious discovery that folks have made.  Generally, if you did have several companies and choices.....you went for the policy to fit your circumstances (this gold, silver, or such measurement).  And then you went for the best price (meaning, the cheapest).

Well....folks have discovered that if they are the type to travel a good bit.....maybe own a second home four states over.....or sit in a RV in Texas three months out of the year, then their best deal health insurance won't work.  Most of the policies written.....fit for a guy who is stationary and not traveling around the US.

Yeah, it's kind of a shock for some folks.  They live in New York City, and lounge in Florida for six months out of the year.....and can't find a decent policy that works.

Or you have the folks who own a cabin in Tennessee while they live and work mostly out of Chicago.

Or you have the folks who travel to Louisiana and live with a relative there for sixty days each fall, while living mostly in Boston the rest of the year.

It's hard to say what happens at this point.  Additional insurance policies?  Special types of insurance that cost thirty percent more?

How many Americans fall into this transit situation?  Unknown.  My best and humble guess is a minimum of one million Americans a year are in some transit status.  I used to work with a guy who owned a condo out in San Diego that he'd go out to for four weeks each summer.  He had friends and relatives that he'd allow them to travel and use the condo.  With this present gimmick health insurance....it's hard to say if he'd feel safe in this type situation.

All of this leads back to the realization of the situation.  Either we mandate ourselves to live in one location and never travel.....or we bring back the brilliant Senators who wrote this fine piece of legislation....to write more legislation to "fix" this problem (thus creating a new and better problem in the future).  It is....the complex nature of democracy...in 2013.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A Trip to Fargo?

I sat and read over an interesting piece by the L A Times......an article covering the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

Course, they don't tell you much on the commission....who makes it up....or if there is some agenda item that the Commission pushes on behalf of some lobby group or political faction.

The emphasis of this study?  They've done enough statistics and study.....to say with some authority.....that travel is the best medicine for stress.  They have the numbers to say you have fewer heart attacks and less heart disease.

They kinda recommended that one vacation every six years isn't enough, and you ought to take a couple of days off every six months, and go somewhere.

I sat and pondered over this.  Evidently, they haven't traveled with me, and felt intense travel pressures.

There was the time when I was traveling through JFK in New York City, and Delta canceled my flight in the late afternoon.....leaving me to dangle and get all stressed in finding a hotel, and traveling deep into the heart of Manhattan.

There was the trip to Turkey, where I questioned food purity and safety almost daily.

There were the various trips where the plane was delayed, or the AC units barely functioned.

There were the fateful days before GPS when you had to keep one eye on the road, and one eye on some small-font map.

The thrill of getting to an airport these days and messing with the TSA folks?  You feel like you've entered some Nazi-controlled territory and you'd rather skip the experience.

Entering the country and dealing with customs?  After standing in line for ninety minutes.....you get some dimwit asking you where you went and if you possibly have some issues.  You'd like to just slap back five shots of Jack Daniels and have some guy wheel you through the business in a wheel-chair.

 I worked with a guy who'd been given an old RV, and he was driving to north Arizona one weekend from Tucson.  The RV broke down sixty miles into the trip, and he spent three days getting it fixed and returning to Tucson.

The truth is.....trips and travel are stressful...just a different variety of stress.

When you check into a four-star hotel and end up being pleasantly surprised at the condition of the room....it's a rarely-felt feeling.  When you sit down at a breakfast cafe while on a trip.....eating a non-greasy breakfast is a shocker.  When you do finally get to a great scenic spot, and sit for an hour to consume to the view.....it's mostly a shock that you have to leave.

There are three trips in my life where I felt totally relaxed at the very end.  I spent two weeks in a car and traveling from Louisiana to California.....up highway one.....to the Cascades of Washington state....and back through the Rockies....to Louisiana.  It probably took five years of stress out of me.

My weekend trip to Ireland, concluded with a half-day drive around the "Ring-of-Fire".....which probably took an entire year's amount of stress out of me.

And that weekend trip to Rome?  Yeah, it relieved me of a year or two of stress.  Just by walking around Rome....eating Italian menus for a weekend....and chilling on a bit of heavy Rome coffee.

Maybe these guys doing the survey are right.  Maybe we ought to be taking a couple of days off every six months.  Maybe we ought to take a three-day weekend trip to Branson.  Maybe we ought to jet off to Aruba and sip cheap cocktails drinks on a marginal beach.  Maybe a trip to Fargo for a week might relieve us of a year or two of stress.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Requiem for a Farmer (G A Carson)

Here are the fields that he tilled so long
  More fertile than when he began.
Here are the fences he built
  In long straight stretches, span on span.

Here stands a tree that he let grow
  To furnish shade for the summer stock;
And buildings weather-tight, and snug,
  For the comfort of the herd and flock.

Here is the evidence of care,
  That shows as plainly as a chart,
Regardless of what else he did
  He was a farmer, still at heart.

November would go, and it would seem
  That he who lived with the rain and sun,
Who watched with joy the growing crops,
  Should rest a while, the harvest is done.

Family History

At the county seat where I grew up is a memorial area for vets of different wars.  There's a plague for the World War II vets....who never came home....131 of them.

Most folks from the county in 1945 knew at least one of the 131.  Today?  It's a dying memory of sorts.

My uncle (Hugh) was one of the 131.

As a kid, I was told the simple basic story of him going down on a troop ship.  So for all these years, I had this image of a US troop ship nearing the UK and being hit by a German sub.  Cold icy waters, and that was it.

Over the last couple of days, I've picked the story up, sat down and done a fair amount of reading.  There is a bit more to the story, and it becomes more of an interesting piece.

My uncle, in the summer 1941...was dating a local gal and married her.  He bought a farm just across the border going into Tennessee.  He was mostly destined to be a local farmer....up until Pearl Harbor.  He would be drafted in the spring of 1942, get deferred a while, and go off in the fall of 1942, into the Army.

The Army tests folks, and in those days....if you were a smarter than average...you ended up with some technology-related or engineer-related training requirement after bootcamp.  The rest ended up in the infantry or tank corps.

This part of my uncle's story was never told, and I doubt if anyone ever came to grasp it.  He ended up with the 31st Signal Heavy Construction Battalion....out of Camp Atterbury, Indiana.  Most of the guys were former telephone workers with the Bell Telephone Company.  They were simply telephone and communications folks....not front-line troops.

Training would ensue, with a maneuver conducted in the summer of 1943 in Tennessee.  Toward 14 October 1943, they would be put on a ship and sent out to what was originally planned for the North Africa Campaign (Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia).  Somewhere....five months prior.....in the midst of planning and war execution.....the North Africa Campaign came to an abrupt end.  Basically, the British, and their eleven allies deployed into the region...were able to mount an offensive and cornered the Germans. The Germans came to leave that campaign....with significant prisoners taken by the allied force.

By late May 1943, the war in North Africa was coming to an end.  The Pentagon planners may not have grasped all the implications of this.  Planning deployments and having troops at the right places at the right time.....isn't what it is today.  A general could make a decision today, and reroute 5,000 troops in less than seventy-two hours to a different location and make better use of them.  In 1943, it would have taken a month of thinking, and than perhaps another month or two to come to plan "B".

The 31st would land on North Africa, and then be given new fresh orders.....India and beyond (their ultimate destination was to be China in the spring of 1945).  History would be written by surviving members of the 31st.....describing the act of using elephants to tote telephone poles into place and put them into the dug holes, and rigging up lines to Burma.

In mid-to-late November, members of the 31st and a number of other units (Army-Air Force and Combat Engineers) would board a British transport (HMS Rohna).  It was an India-transport ship, which had been brought to use for troop transport.  It'd been built in 1926, but already suffering from rust and issues.

They were to leave the north coast of Africa, transit the Suez Canal, and make way to India.  A day or two out of port.....about fifteen miles off the coast of Algeria with a convoy of ships.....they came under attack.

The convoy protectors did a fairly good job and kept the German fighters at bay.  At some point, late in the afternoon....a German fighter came up with a Henschel-293 and targeted the Rohra.  The Henschel-293 was new technology.....a unplanned plane of sorts that was attached by cabling to the original aircraft.  He'd come in at several thousand feet away, release the plane, and then use a joy-stick to guide the bomb into the ship.

The US apparently knew development of this was going on, and there was little you could do in stopping it....once launched.

Based on accounts of the hit.....the engine room was blown mostly away, and a couple of hundred men onboard were killed in the initial minute or two of the explosion.

Fire would sweep the vessel.

Decisions were made quickly to abandon the Rohna.  Issues quickly developed.  The life-boats weren't in the greatest of conditions (some were rusted and stuck to the vessel).  When some of the life-boats were released.....they fell into the water, and guys simply didn't get to them.

If you did jump....you had to work with the marginal life-vest issued by the Army.  It had one simple flaw.....if you put it on the wrong way.....you'd be unbalanced whiled treading water.  So you wasted double your energy....trying to maintain a balance and move.....avoiding drowning at all cost.  A number of guys ran out of energy and drowned....mostly because of the vest.

The remaining guys?  A fair number couldn't swim, or had severe injuries from the explosion and fire.  On top of that.....you had some German fighters which turned and reportedly made strifling runs across the water....killing Americans as they fled the Rohna.

A rescue attempt was made by several ships.  Of the two thousand men onboard?  1,138 would pass on.  Over the next month....another thirty-five would die from their wounds.

The Rohna incident would be classified for the next twenty-odd years.  The families would get letters in late December noting the passing of a husband, father, or son.  It'd only note that they died via a transport sinking....leaving out details.

The cause for the secrecy?  No one will say with any absolute conviction.  The condition of the vessel (rusted to some degree) probably got some folks to question if it was safe.  The fact that this was a British transport, and not an American vessel.....another issue.  With the exception of the Arizona sinking in Pearl Harbor....this was the most notable loss in WW II.  At the time.....Army members were told not to discuss the matter, or write letters home to tell of the sinking.  Censorship authorities did their job by pressing individuals to "keep" the secret.  Other than admitting the sinking, the name of the vessel, and the general location....nothing else would be said until the mid-1960s.

My uncle would be given a stone at the local cemetery near where I grew up.  He would be one of the 131 of the county who would not return.  Most who died that day.....simply came to rest at the bottom of the Med.

After reading over the Rohna episode and this little piece of my uncle's history.....it becomes an interesting "what if".  If one single gunner had taken down the attacking aircraft with the Henschel-293....the Rohna would have proceeded onto India.  My uncle?  He would have trudged through the Indian rural areas....likely commenting it looked like Bama....just a bit more dry....throwing up telephone poles and installing communications. He would have trudged over to Burma, and likely even made his way into China.

He likely would have come back in Bama in 1945, and gotten himself a job with Bell Telephone and been a part-time farmer (I can only imagine this).  He would have told ten thousand stories of India, Burma and China....describing snakes twenty foot long....and discussing the friendly character of elephants.

Today?  The Rohna story is rarely told.  The History Channel picked up bits and pieces of it to tell a minor story.  Several folks have mounted efforts to describe their moments a book or two....on the ship, and the history of the 31st while in India and China.

My thanks to Joy Favors and "Hummerstation" for photos.

The 131?

Robert F. Adams • Aubrey H. Alexander • Lee Eddy Anderton • Eugene Barnett • Grady Bates • Joseph D. Belue • Ralph T. Berg • Raymond Blackwell • Alvin Brewer • William M. Brooks • Dennis O. Brown • Melvin O. Brown • Ed Buffler • Collins O'Neal • James D. Butler • James E. Butler • Thomas E. Campbell, Jr. • Chester L. Chapman • Wayne Cody • Robert O. Collum • Overton L. Comer • William L. Conner, Jr. • John R. Cooper • John H. Craig • Eugene H. Crouch • Homer Crunk • J.M. Cunningham • Marcy B. Darnall, Jr. • Omer E. Davidson • George W. Davis • Clettis J. Dickerson • Edward T. Douthitt • Jack Douthitt • Clarence Calvin Duke • Jerome R. Eckl • Fred Edwards • Thomas Ralph Epping • Jeffie C. Evans • Welldon R. Fowler • William E. Fowler • Ernest Franklin • Foy N. Gamble • Grady Leon Gamble • Lynwood M. Glazier • J.C. Goode • Louis O. Greaves • Harry L. Grigsby • Roy B. Grigsby • Marvin S. Gruber • William A. Hamer • Foster S. Hammond • Malcolm Hugh Hammond • Ira D. Harvey • Anthony Hawkins, Jr. • Henry V. Haynes • Clyde Hendrix • Samuel T. Holt • Keith F. Holtsford • Herbert H. Hughes • Woodrow Hughes • James A. Hunt • Charles E. Hurn • Thomas Harlan Irons • Charles Allen Jackson • Herbert F. Johnson, Jr. • R.T.S. Johnson, Jr. • George H. Kelley • Robert Bruce Killen • Albert Thomas King, Jr. • Gordon K. Knight • Reuben E. Lard • Joseph R. Lentz • Milton E. Littrell • Irl Emerson Lucas, Jr. • Jesper A. Mathis • Walter Matthews • Earl J. McBride • Theodore McCollum • Roy E. McCorkle, Jr. • Don K. McDowell • Oscar E. Miner • Jefferson W. Mitchell • Sam H. Mitchell, Sr. • Don M. Montgomery • Fred T. Montgomery • Stevenson W. Moomaw • John M. Morgan • Arthur L. Muthig • Charles Myrick • Marvin W. Olive, Jr. • Elmer M. Patterson • Llewelly Pennington • Clavin F. Pettus • Byron P. Phillips • Coy Willis Phillips • Walter P. Porter • Homer R. Richardson • Ganes Robbins • Edward Lee Roden • Perry L. Roden • Thomas E. Romine • James R. Sego • George L. Simms • Alvin H. Smith • Howard P. Smith • Joseph W. Staggs • William Joe Tanner • Mack Tays • Gaylon S. Thigpen • Robert Coleman Thigpen • Cecil Howard Thornton • Gaines E. Threet • Alvin A. Threet, Jr. • Willie L. Threet, Jr. • Glenn C. Turner • Jesse L. Vinson • Wilson O. Wanner • Cheatham B. Warren • Raymond F. Weaver • Albert W. White • Harold G. White • Delma W. Wilbourn • Sylvester L. Wilburn • Eldred E. Williams • Arnold A. Word • Clifford M. Wright • James E. Yates • Robert E. Young

Looking over the list of 131 names from Lauderdale county from this four year period.....I'm of the mind that there are 131 great stories to be told here....of men who passed from this Earth....in difficult times.  They were all pressed into service, and did what they had to do.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Another View

Someone did an interview with Stevie Van Zandt.....guitarist and actor.  He often surprises people with common sense and thought-provoking comments.

The question came to him over healthcare and where the current mess resides.

Stevie is spending six months of every year in Norway.  He's seen an awful lot of interesting things, and has a fairly radical view of what the Affordable Healthcare Act lacks.

From the interview, Stevie lays out the problem.....we started this solution from the wrong direction.

Norwegians have decent four-star healthcare, managed by the government, and generally inexpensive.  The reason?  They eat right....they walk....they exercise....and they live lives without a lot of drugs, alcohol, or excesses.

They don't have a bunch of folks lined up on a Friday night in the emergency room of hospitals in Norway....with alcohol or drug issues.

They don't have a lot of obese folks consuming two six-packs of sodas a week.

They don't have a bunch of folks tossing back eleven shots of Jack Daniels at some bar.

Percentage-wise, there's just not a big need for a 300-bed hospital in a town of 20,000 people in Norway.  People live clean and fairly lives.  They don't need $100 of drugs a month at age fifty-five for various ailments.

Stevie is kinda right.  If we had the right discussion, and just started to toss on taxes onto sodas, fast food, and high-sodium grocery items.....things might change.  The trouble here is.....we aren't going to listen to some rock-and-roller guy, who lives half his days in Norway.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Statue Business

You can imagine a Bama guy wandering on the streets of Nuremberg, and coming to this one window display.  It's an artsy shop on the main shopping 'drag'.  The offerings in the window? A number of lusty lady statues, in some symbolic pose without much clothing.

This gets a Bama guy to thinking.  Who would buy stuff like this, and how would you display it?

A gift for some guy?  Would he place it on his desk?  His mantle?  His bookcase?  On top of his TV?  Next to the coffee machine?  By his tool bench?

It's hard to figure the clients and customer base on this statue business.  It might be a great gag gift....but then some guys might take this the wrong way.  It might be a subtle joke between one bondage queen and her honey.  It might be a suggestive thing between two gals.

I didn't note any pricing on the statues....maybe that's an indicator that it's way beyond what a Bama guy would spend on gifts anyway.  

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Bed

A guy from Bama would pause and gaze over a fancy bed in a decent hotel.  This was the upscale bed in my Nuremberg hotel.

Mattress-wise, there's nothing to get peppy about.  The metal stuff?  Well, it's upscale.

Course, I'm not the romantic type.  I kinda see as a great bed to hang mosquito netting, and I'd naturally ask if folks have many bug issues around these parts.  That would be the wrong question to ask though.

NSA and World of Warcraft (A Parody)

NSA's General Joe is getting his daily intelligence briefing from Captain Snuffy, with Colonel Mort in attendance. It's the special briefing of the week, to cover intelligence analysis of World of Warcraft.....a gaming area for nerdy guys, freaky women, and folks overdosing on non-reality.

The General has been very disturbed over the past year with trends of increasing Syrians playing World of Warcraft, along more Saudis than usual, and a high number of Libyans playing World of Warcraft.  All of this, in his mind, is a connected platform where people are there....mostly to swap jihad ideas....rather than taking over digital lands, kill fake characters, and raid the "Fields of Wendy".

The Captain leads off the briefing with the highlights.

- King Luky (aka Lawrence, a 15-year old kid from Tampa) captured dozens of digital unicorns during the week, and is currently leading up a posse of various characters...mostly from Argentina and Lebanon.  The kid ditched school on Thursday, and his mom was called by the school counselor.

- Winky of the Hill People (aka Freddy, a 40-year old unemployed Irish woman) suddenly came out and admitted that she was also Diva Number Nine....a pretender Russian gal.   All of this was noted as she introduced some new Turkish guy named Ahmet to the game, and whacked on some South Korean peasant characters.

- Airman Jones had done more search into forty odd characters all pretending they were from Orange Beach, Alabama.....but in reality....they were all North Koreans....dressed in fine digital clothing that came from some design studio in Seoul.  So far, the forty characters have lost almost every battle they've gone into.....but Airman Jones predicts they will eventually get better.

- Lt Betty's high level analysis over Russian mafia folks taking roles in World of Warcraft, has lead to a discover of sixty different mafia groups having a role or two in the game, and that meetings are being held nightly in some created village called "New Jersey City".

At this point in the presentation.....Sarge enters the room.  Sarge was ordered into this top secret analysis business of World of Warcraft.  He was supposed to be on his final two years and then retiring.  Personally, he's never played the game....kind of mentioning at some point that he doesn't even play chess or poker.  The Air Force didn't care.....they knew he had the skills they needed.

The General asks Sarge for his update.  There's a long pause, and finally Sarge says: "More or less....a bunch of killing going on...digitally....a bunch of losers sitting in basements.....letting their lawns overgrow....skipping two-for-one beer nights at the local pub....and more in love with a fake digital goddess named Greta than with their own wife.

The General nods.  He knows that Sarge will eventually come around to understanding the threat here.

After the meeting....everyone leaves the room, and marches off to the "Fields of Wendy" to battle the evil of the digital world.  Well....except for Sarge, who walks over to the NCO Club and has a double Jack Daniels shot, and sheds a tear or two over lost Soviet empires and the old world that he could touch.

This is not reality or non-reality.  This is a bunch of goofballs with no life.

The Rodeo and the Weed

There are two unique stories in the news today, which say a lot about society, where we've been, and where we are going.

First, there's a church up in Lebanon, Ohio.....which wanted to put on a show and draw a vast crowd.  So they removed the pews, put down a bunch of dirt on the floor, put up a extra large cage of sorts, and then brought in a wild horse.

You can sit and imagine this scene, and how things are a bit hectic and chaotic.

The minister emerges in cowboy gear, and with some help.....gets on the wild horse.  There's some bucking, and violent motion.  It's some tense moments, and in roughly ten minutes....the horse has been tamed.

The minister dismounts.....to applause of course, and so begins the sermon on how to take on adversary in life.

I grew up in a Baptist-theme region, and they would have had a very quiet service.....with a minister saying he'd personally heard Jesus talking to him, and that was about as risky as they ever got.  In this case?  At any moment, the horse, could have gone onto turbo-mode and pitched the minister enough to severely injure the guy.  Folks in the audience would have jumped up and said it was a bad sign of something and retreated from the facility.

It's hard to say if this is a sign of the times.....but it does say something about folks using various gimmicks now.....to sell religion to the public.

The second story?  We are now a couple of weeks in Colorado, from legal marijuana sales.  In fact, folks have woke up and now realized that there just might not be enough marijuana (legally grown stuff) to sell on opening day.

You can imagine this scene....a bunch of political guys standing around and all worried about their gimmick of freshly grown marijuana being sold legally on the street, and there's just not enough.  Strangely enough, across the nation, there's tons of weed grown, and delivered daily across the nation, and we always seem to have enough.

The real issue?  Free market.  Well....and there's the issue of a bunch of tourists from out-of-state showing up to buy the stuff and get a Rocky-Mountain-High.  Various state news folks are guessing on the crowd showing up on day one of sales in 2014, and some folks think up to 300,000 may cross the state border to take in the scenery, the snow, and some weed.

It's an odd world we live in.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Coffee Talk

Twenty years ago, if you'd told me that coffee shops would spring up and be on every street corner....I would have said "never".

I've come to travel through dozens of US airports, walk through different US cities, and literally hundreds of European towns.....mostly amazed at the growth of the coffee shop industry.

Sometimes, it's the name that matters (Starbucks or Java Hut).  Sometimes, it's just plain good coffee.  Sometimes....like in the case of this coffee house in Nuremberg....it's the chairs and atmosphere on the street.

I probably sit at forty shops throughout a normal year.  I'm fairly particular.....swearing allegiance to strong black coffee or green tea.

The business growth of coffee shops is what amazes me.  Rarely do you see a coffee shop failing.  I suspect they aren't big-money makers....but the majority are making some kind of profit.

It's almost like a bar atmosphere now.  You notice two people meeting.....two guys or two gals.....they sit and talk over a cup of coffee, and then leave.  It's like the old days in a bar or pub, except now....no alcohol is consumed in this effort.

After a while, I've come to believe that there is an addiction of sorts going on....with the caffeine and the brief ten-minute pause.  Guys used to stop at a bar on the way home....to discuss the Packers, or the Yankees.....or to run through manly gossip that they'd heard through the day.  I suspect the coffee discussions run the same way.

In another twenty years?  I suspect that you will have a card where you prepaid for a hundred coffee cups throughout a year.  You got the discount deal with this.  You have a fancy card that you just swipe, and place a cup under a ultra-fancy coffee brewer device.  Less people, less cost, less hassle.  More individualized coffee mixes?  Yes, somewhere down the line.....we each will have a mythical formula of the perfect coffee (ten percent hardy stuff, ten percent oddball Costa Rican mild, and forty percent of some Honduran root tea mixture that has a sweet element).  The card will help deliver that wonderful blend of personalized coffee/drink.

Life will never be the same.

Alabama Strong!

In Bama, we are world renown for having some nutcases run for political office and embarrass themselves, and their families.

This week.....Parker Griffith got back into the news.  He's a local guy from north Bama.  He was a iron-clad Democrat, and somehow got elected for two terms in the House.  In the midst of 2009 run-up for the same office....Parker realized things were going south, and whipped up the race by declaring himself a Republican.

Naturally, things like this tend to confuse Bama folks.

Parker lost the 2010 primary race to "Mo" Brooks, who was a Republican (at least until the winds shift and he has to change over).

This past week....Parker came out with a new political theme episode....not connected to either political party.  "Alabama Strong!" is the theme.

This theme causes a Bama guy to sit and ponder.

Basically, you pick out a menu of sorts....catfish, gravy, cherry pie with whipped topping, and cornbread.....which appeals to most folks, but would never be the full-up menu choice in reality.

Parker says: "We've heard too much on gloom and doom".  Obviously, everyone is disenchanted about politics, DC, the Affordable Healthcare Act, the economy, Chrysler losers, Hollywood wannabe actors, gimmick interviews on the Today Show, increasing milk prices, gas prices, unfair taxes, Chinese-made chainsaws, and one-star Country and Western songs about sorrow and woes.

Parker's theme is mostly a FDR-like song.....we ought to be happy about the good things in life and just not worry about the bad things.  Feel good.  Feel peppy.  Feel marvious.

Course, all of this goes hand-in-hand with Auburn winning the NCAA championship, and Boeing putting a factory into Huntsville (well, if God is actively working on Bama's behalf).

Generally, it looks like Parker will run against "Mo" in next year's election.  Republican?  Democrat?  Tea Party?  It's hard to say.  Maybe Parker tries to create some new political party called "Bama Strong!" and he gets twenty thousand folks in north Bama all hyped up on feeling good about lousy things.

My humble guess is that some dimwits with money are hoping to run up another unusual race in Bama....where everything is confusing, and the candidate isn't really political (be "Alabama Strong!").  Bama folks might be naive to vote for a guy....who simply is charming and a bit odd.  We've done that a couple of times in the past.

Yeah, we are that naive....sadly.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Floating in the Air?

This was an act on the streets of Nuremberg today.  The guy in the white robe?  He appears to be levitating.  Only the stick is touching the ground.

You can walk around the guy....there's nothing else touching the ground.  Fake?

Hard to say.  It was a good illusion....that much I will say.

Goose Figures

Stuffed goose?  No.

These are fake cotton goose figures created by local guy in Nuremberg, and sold in the Christmas market.

A Bama guy would pause and think of buying five or six....putting them in some window and driving his hunting dogs crazy.

Cost?  None were marked.  I doubt if you could get even the smaller ones for less than fifty Euro each ($60).

The Perfect Bar Name?

I was walking down the streets of Nuremberg today, and came across this pub.....the Hangover Bar.

I paused for several minutes.  It's rare that you see brilliance in making a name for a bar.  Course, it wasn't open, so I had to pass by.

The size?  Small.....I'd doubt if there's more than thirty seats in the whole place.  But it's got "Sky".....so that means it's got soccer on the big-screen TV.

Leather Converse Tennis Shoes?

I figured that I'd seen just about everything....well...I was wrong.

Today, I saw the new Chuck Taylor All-Star tennis shoes.....in leather.

My old tennis shoe as a kid....used to be around $7.  This model?  Well...they didn't put the price-tag on the shoe....so it's probably in the 100 Euro range ($125 roughly).

Would I wear something like this?  No.  I'd look like an idiot....at fifty-five wearing them.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Today over at Real Clear Technology....they had an interesting article on artificial intelligence (AI).  It's a fifteen minute read, and at the end....you will put down the article and ponder for at least ten minutes.

The smart guys are at the point now of pursuing massive computer and robot-like technology....in the interest of society and science.

There's this belief that some point around 2050....we will assemble a team of folks and finally embark on the great chase of mankind....artificial intelligence that is able to think and react on its own.

In the midst of a surgical debate and scheduling for a guy.....some AI-system could suddenly stand up and note that four complications that would forbid any successful surgery on a guy....making the surgeon suddenly question himself and how they came to the original conclusion.

An AI-system at southern dam could come on....note weather activity four days ahead of a front, and start dumping ten percent more water through than normal....anticipating flooding way ahead of schedule, and hoping to avoid flooding at all cost.  All done, without consulting the dam operations chief.

A sensor on your Ford Focus?  It might chat with a master AI-computer back in Dayton, and suddenly you get a call from some computer noting that you have a failing part (a seven-day warning), and need to make an immediate visit to the local mechanic.  The computer will ask you if you'd like to make an appointment now....this minute....before the failure?

A sensor on your street detects a argument going on.  It sends a message to a AI-computer in the city, and some friction-hostess arrives an hour later with the police to help lessen a possible mess.

As the article goes onto note....at some mythical and magical point....the AI-master computer will determine that it's best for it to take charge but fears you won't understand.  So it copies itself into a dozen systems around the world.  It starts to write it's own programming and take control of a thousand processes across the globe.

You'd be unable to make air flights, reserve hotels, see your medical information, or refuel your vehicle....without cooperating with the master system.

Forty years away?  It's odd that we'd sit here and start to notice the approaching mess.  And even odder?  We won't stop the march toward that mess.


For months, I've had this odd prospective of the White House and the daily operations that you see coming out of the place.  There's always some gimmick answer that the news media gives.....the President didn't know about such-and-such, or someone accidentally forgot to tell the President about such-and-such.

After a while, you start to ponder upon the use of this gimmick so often.

In 1980, I came to work in a shop with a civilian guy who'd been in Vietnam.  He was a Marine for a brief period of his life....coming into service in the summer of 1965, and by the fall of 1966....he'd gone off to 'Nam'.  He did a year in the war zone.

We'd be at a job site on McChord, and pausing for twenty minutes....when he'd offer up his memories of Nam.  He could sit and describe firefights, incoming mortars, and fairly in-depth descriptions of snakes ("as big as your arm" would often be the key phrase used).

After a year in Nam, the Marines brought him back to the states.  He had big check waiting on him.....bought a fancy Mustang...and came to discover that all that fancy weed smoking in Nam.....was the only way to handle his version of PTSD.

He'd admit at various times....he was smoking marijuana several times a day in Nam.  After a big confrontation.....most of the guys would quietly settle back, and dope up as much as possible to chill.

He ended up in Washington state, getting a job with the government.  He continued to smoke weed.....daily, and by 1980....at least a dozen years had passed since that fateful year in Nam.  Every single day of that period.....was accented by a bit of weed.

I worked with him for about a year.  I tended to notice....along with the other guys in the shop.....that our good friend and associate.....had memory issues.

There were long-term and short-term memory problems.  You could tell him something at eight AM, and he'd forgotten it totally by noon.  You could test him on some common knowledge from the 1960s, and he was not able to remember entire facts.

Dopers.....as I kinda figured out.....have issues.  Over the years, I've done some read on the episode.  Guys who do marijuana on a daily basis....tend to have short-term memory issues.  The experts won't argue about that.  It's probably the reason why PTSD folks like the drug.....they remember the bad times.

The long-term memory lapses?  The experts argue over this.  They tend to say that most folks can quit marijuana and they recover their long-term memory.  But then, they always caveat this comment by saying that some folks can quit, and always have some basic issues later.

It's kinda like a hard-drive with one bad sector.  As long as it doesn't write anything to that sector....things are fine.  The sector never gets fixed though, and it seems like they'd do more research.

Course, maybe they know the answer, and it's best not to say it in public.  Long term usage of weed.....might not be wise.

I turn to the President.  Somewhere in his early teen years...he started to smoke weed.  We aren't talking one-a-week.....we are talking at least once a day....maybe more.  Even through the two years of Occidental college.....he likely did weed almost daily.  You can figure he did it for roughly eight years minimum.  Columbia and the years after graduating.....he never says anything....so everyone assumes he cleaned up.  Maybe.

So I've come to this conclusion.  All this forgetfulness, and gimmick media stuff?  I suspect it leads back to the turbo usage of marijuana in the President's early years.  You can't invent this much of a memory loss out of thin air.  The uncle story this week?  All forgotten by the President from his long-term memory loss.  The bits and pieces of his book, which sometimes fit, and sometimes doesn't fit?  Memory loss.

We may come to 2016, and realize what exactly went on in the White House for eight years.  I'd even suggest some of George Bush's really bad episodes.....might also come from memory loss.  Same deal.

This brings me to reality.  All around America.....we've got tens of millions of folks who are dopers and have done a bit of weed daily for twenty years.  They are forgetting a heck of alot.....and will never improve.  Is there something that we might want to prepare ourselves for....in the future?  It won't be the forgotten-generation....it'll be the forgot-generation.

My Favorite Meal As a Kid

At some point yesterday, my wife challenged me on my favorite meal as a kid.  I sat....long and hard....pondering upon the choices, and in sixty seconds....I noted the Salisbury Steak frozen TV dinner.

Growing up in Bama....around 1970....the grocery operation came to offer TV dinners.  My mom picked up a couple and tested them on the family.

I came to have this passion for the Salisbury Steak tray.  In a normal year, I'd imagine that I had this at least twenty-five times.

Yeah, it was loaded with sodium and fat.  The steak?  It was a one-star piece of meat.  I remember the tray from that period having some kind of cherry tart on it for dessert.

So for roughly seven years.....I ate these.  In August of 1977.....I left home and joined up with the Air Force.  Their chow-hall operation fed me for the next couple of years, with mostly oddball food, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, burgers, and four-star breakfast offerings.

To be honest, I haven't had a frozen TV dinner of Salisbury Steak since July of 1977.  Today?  My wife would jump into some sixty-minute lecture on nutritional aspects and 'chemicals' if I attempted to put one of the TV dinners into the shopping cart.  She's memorized at least five hundred 3x5 cards on proper diets, balanced eating, and evil foods.  She kinda sat there in shock over my favorite choice of food as a kid....thinking I would have picked roast beef, hot-dogs, or stew.

The odd thing?  The Salisbury Steak guys have been around for five decades now, and basically.....I doubt if anything has changed or improved over the years.  I'd like to test one of their meals....just to be absolute on my comments.....but I've got this gate-keeper to prevent such things.

Friday, 6 December 2013

We Aren't Real Capitalists

At eighteen, my vast knowledge of economics consisted of what you'd put on a simple 3x5 inch card.

Somewhere in my mid-thirties, I probably could have filled out one page on economics.

Today, I know enough from business journals, the hours in front of the business channel, hundreds of hours pouring over the Wall Street Journal.....to probably teach a class in economics.

To some degree, I've come to conclusions that probably would have disappointed me a decade ago.  I am a capitalist by all nature of the word.....believing in a system that has no alternate replacement.  I know the redistribution folks.....the anti-capitalists....are always huffing and puffing over the unfairness of life.

You see, I've come to realize over the years that pure capitalism died out years ago.  We operate today with a hybrid system.  It's not clean.  It's not pure.  It's....not really capitalism.

Capitalism survives off three pillars of faith (kinda like Christianity in some ways, the father, the son, and the Holy Ghost).

The first pillar?  Private property.  If you bought something....it's supposed to be yours.  It's not supposed to be taken from you.  We kinda treasured that act in the 1700s and the 1800s.  Today?  There are literally thousands of gimmicks rigged up.....to take your personal property away.  Nothing you own today....is really yours.  You may think the house is truly your property....or the farm.....or the car.  Legal means exist for the city, the county, the state, and the federal guys to take your property.

The second pillar?  Open markets.  Prices and substance would determine what you make, how you profit, and the success of your operation.  Basically, nothing today can be viewed as a open market.  A guy could pay off some Senator, invent a rule to damage your production or limit your trade options, and you fail within a couple of years.  Gimmicks.....as much as you hate to say it....rig the market place.  You think it's open, but it's never really like the market place of the 1800s.

The third pillar?  The rule of law is supposed to be fair and open.  You operate under the rules, and you can predict outcomes easily.  Under today's umbrella of law?  Laws change yearly.  Laws are generated, and tossed on top of other laws.  You hire people to explain the laws, because they are too complicated for the mortal being to grasp.  We rig laws to help certain groups or business operations, and rig other laws to hinder or destroy business operations.

For roughly the first hundred years of America.....we were a pure capitalist society and nation.  Today, we are a hybrid of that group.  We aren't pure capitalists.  We pretend to be.....often even debating how serious we are at capitalism.....but as the day falls upon night.....we find ways to rig up true capitalism to fail.

When you needed cheaper labor, to keep products at the same pricing.....we produced NAFTA.

When you needed cheaper cars, you moved the plants overseas or you built plants where unions weren't existing.

When you needed cheaper vegetables or fruits.....you imported from Mexico or South America.

When you needed cheaper hotels, you found crappy older places....put on some fresh paint, kept the pricing at the same levels, and folks just accepted a marginal two-star hotel as perfectly acceptable.

We've built tens of thousands of gimmicks to make the capitalist model of America appear to be functional but evolving.  We never asked where this evolution was going.....we simply accepted change as part of the deal.

Bankers rig up bogus packages of worthless property to look valuable for investors to buy.

Used car lot owners rig up seven-year old cars to run great for a month before they stall out.

Bars water-down the booze to make an extra profit off stupid drunks.

Farmers wander into bio vegetable sales with truckloads of fruit....that weren't pure and simple bio-grown.

Ranchers sell beef as bio-beef....when they used various tricks that weren't within the rules.

When the city deemed a big resort needed to be built along some riverfront property.....they'd hustle up imminent domain to seize the property for the forced sale.

A hybrid capitalist?  Yeah.  The fact is....we've never written vast studies on the fact, or examined just where hybrid capitalism leads onto.  So you can't say it's better or worse than what you had a hundred years ago.  And the curious thing?  We can't retreat back.....because we've accepted some many parts to this gimmick.

Simply Observations

It was pretty much known fact for the past decade, but yesterday....the Snowden episode dumped the fact that the NSA folks track your cellphone location.  Everyone seemed shocked....noting almost five billion reportings per day coming into NSA's 'warehouse'.  You could ask NSA on any given day where you were and how long were you at that location, and they could answer the question.  And perhaps a silly thing to think about.....but there's likely forty worldly governments capable of tracking as a minimum their own citizens, and probably six governments capable of tracking every single guy in Bama throughout the day.

It came out this week that folks figured out the weak link for the NSA.  This billion-dollar warehouse operation in Utah that has been in the construction phase for several years is almost finished.  The crippling factor to it's operation.....massive water required to run the air conditioning system. So much water.....that they even had to ask for a discount....to keep the yearly operational bills under reason.  If the city or county ever decides to limit the water-flow?  Well....they'd have to shut down in a matter of days.  Some folks grasped that idea and are researching how it would work.

There's an interesting piece over at the Federal List.  It lays out the price of being the Yankees.  It also lays out the revenue side of the team.  Interestingly enough....they generate a ton of total revenue.   A  guy would be rather shocked over this.  $570 million.  At the gate, it's around $265 million.....at the hog dog stand and t-shirt shops....it's $53 million.  The Yankees could sign some of the worst players in baseball history, put them on the field, and still clear $300 million easily in a last-place season.

Finally, the White House had to come out and admit.....yes, the President did actually meet and live with the uncle from his dad's family for three weeks.  For several years, it was simply denied.  The reason for the change?  They say that they actually now asked the President the question.....always previously just answering a question like this without asking the only guy who'd know.  Yeah, it does sound awful silly.  A guy gets the impression that no one much talks to the President.....relaying information.....and trying hard to get the original theme business lined up.  What else is bogus?  You just don't know.  Why change the theme now?  I'm thinking that there's a picture or two that the uncle might bring out accidentally that shows some college-age Obama with the uncle.