Sunday, 15 September 2013

My Vacation

I was on vacation this past week....to the Greek isle of Corfu.  If you were looking at a map and found the "heel" of Italy....looking to the right of it about a hundred miles...is this long island (Corfu).  It's a fair sized island....maybe around a hundred thousand citizens, and from May to September....around another hundred thousand guests or visitors on a daily basis.

Folks tend to come to Corfu for rest and relaxation.  It's not a party island....like some Greek isles.  It's not some big historic area....like some Greek isles.  It's just a quiet place with a couple of activities, a number of nice hotels, and a bunch of Greeks trying to entice you to spend money (one way or another).

There's probably fifty things I noticed over the week there and I'll eventually blog them.  Today?  I'll mention two curious episodes.

Outside the hotel compound, there's this little street that you'd have to walk to reach the main drag, where buses ran.  A few houses are on this little street....all with private gates, and a fancy driveway.

Well....there's this one guy who has umpteen statues lined up on his drive.  Yeah, you'd likely say that it looks awful cheap and it might be bad art.....but it's fancy.

It kinda reminded me of Bama where folks put up artsy stuff in their front yard, and neighbors try hard to avoid saying negative things.  Course, if you look at the narrowness of the driveway, you'd say that drinking excessively is something you need to avoid....if you were heading back home and needed to pull the pick-up into the driveway.....or knock down a dozen of your goddess statues.

The other thing I came to notice in downtown Corfu City....was the Fish Spa.  It's a storefront with tanks arranged on the floor with chairs around them.

Some gal, with a bad English accent will stand at the doorway to entire you to enter.  Basically, they have these piranha fish (the flesh-eaters), and you slip off your redwings and socks....then dip your feet in for the fish to nibble (supposedly on the dead skin, but I'd question the science of this).

Course, me....a Bama guy....I gazed at the advertisement and the storefront window for a while (maybe two minutes).  Temptation was all around this.  But I stood there and came to this realization.  If me or my brother had ever removed our red-wings and socks, and dipped our feet into this mess....it'd probably kill off the dozen fish in each tank within ten seconds.  Then we'd have to retreat out the front door with our boots, and talking about needing to buy some chainsaw lubricant.  The fish lady would have gone into some fit over the dead fish.

It's hard to say if this is ethical or an acceptable health practice.  Fish diseases?  And this ten Euro (twelve bucks).....how do you arrive at a ten-minute nibbling equaling twelve bucks?  Then there's the fish crap....who cleans the tanks and how often?  What about all these flesh-eating fish movies that I saw in the 1980s....where folks died miserable deaths after accidentally falling into a creek?

Yeah, this is the sort of thing that a Bama guy runs into....as he travels around the globe.  To be honest, we ask too many questions....make too many observations....and ought to limit ourselves to the state borders of Bama.

Tomorrow.....more Corfu observations.

The 2-Percent Reality

If you were a group of sports journalists, and three out of one-hundred-seventeen of you picked the NCAA bowl champs of the year....you'd consider that a fair statistic of sorts.

If you were a group of farmers, and only three of you....out of one-hundred-seventeen....made a profit for the year....it'd be a fairly bad thing.

If you were a group of travelers, and only three of the one-hundred-seventeen folks.....arrived on schedule without issues....it'd likely be a pretty bad statistic.

If only three owners from a group of one-hundred-seventeen folks made it an entire year without issues to the brand-new truck they bought via Chevy....it'd be utter chaos for Chevy to admit in public.

Well....some smart folks sat down and examined climate-change/global warming models that existed back in mid-1990s.  There were one-hundred-seventeen predictions made, with the same number of models....by a bunch of global warming enthusiasts.  Three of the models worked as predicted.  The other one-hundred-fourteen models?  Failure.  You could say utter failure, epic failure, gross failure, or even simple failure.  It doesn't matter....the bulk of them didn't deliver as promised.

This leads you to a moment of pondering.  Roughly fifteen years ago....a bunch of dimwits wanted your attention, your cash revenue, your tax revenue, and the ability to take control of your life via the necessity of saving the planet.  We can now truthfully say.....they were fairly wrong.

So we arrive at this moment of models and reality.  The truth is....we can make a hundred various predictions with models over the eventual national champion NCAA football team in January of 2014.  A couple of these models will accurately predict the University of Alabama as grand champion.....some will dare to challenge those models.  The truth is....you don't know nothing, until the end of the game.  The models are mostly all bogus in nature.

We are at the same point with global warming and climate change models.....they are likely bogus in nature too.

Some folks will be disappointed by this review.  But it's a good thing to be observing reality....even fifteen years later.  And three of these guys are patting themselves on the back....mostly for accidentally getting their models right.


Would Have Been, Could Have Been

When I was a kid....my dad took me over across the river....to the newly opened Champion Paper-mill.  It was a fancy grand opening.....bus to take you around the new plant....displays....drinks....etc.

Champion was to become the savior of jobs for high school kids in the local area.  A kid here.....a kid there....would go and become part of this real-pay scale that most folks just dreamed about.  A guy could walk into the plant there in 1976, and thirty years later....be making $80,000 a year in pay and overtime.

Guys ran off and bought houses....a decade later....they'd determine that they had way more money in their hands, and went upscale.  They bought tandem-wheel trucks.....fancy boats...RV trailers....and spent weekends at resorts in Nashville, and Gulf Shores.  They could send their kids off to fancy private colleges and never worry a moment about the bills.

I probably could have stayed around and played this game as well.  But the Air Force deal was more of an enticement, and I just didn't see the paper mill as some job I'd want to stay in....permanently.

Life in north Alabama for the past four decades has been great.  The 1,100-odd jobs pumped millions into the local economy....quietly and effectively.  There's probably another five thousand folks employed today.....working in some fashion off the cash-flow of the 1,100-odd folks.

Well....this past week....Champion concluded that they'd reached maximum profit with the plant and were in a declining phase.  They probably knew this for the past decade.  I would imagine they'd been trying to sell off this particular plant.  This week, they said enough....and will be going into a closing phase.

The plant says they will try to arrange transfer situations for the 1,100 employees.  It'll be hard to convince some guy who has lived fifty-five years in Alabama.....to sell off the property and move to Idaho or Oregon.

The state folks?  Well....they've kind of woken up and realized that tax revenue is screwed up once the plant closes.  We are talking about taxes via the plant, and via the employees.  They'd like to fix this....but I'm guessing they are way beyond the power curve.  They should have been involved in this mess a couple of years ago.  Now?  Other than talking about it or possibly finding somebody to walk in and buy the plant.....it's too late.

So I'm sitting and wondering.....if I had made that one simple assumption back in 1977, and stayed.....gotten on with the plant....what would I be into at age fifty-four and working for Champion?  Yeah, I would have been like the rest....throwing money at fancy rifles, a trophy wife, fancy trips to the Everglades, sipping fancy wine that I can't pronounce, spending $10,000 on a distillery package to make my own personal whisky, and owning a $40,000 Harley that I only rode six Saturdays a year.

Yeah, maybe it's a good thing I left.  I would have spent every penny that I earned over forty years with the company, and stood there in a state of shock this week.  The bigger shock?  The only way of surviving this mess?  Moving to Idaho.  Man, do they even have NCAA football up there?


Book Review: Roger Williams and The Creation of the American Soul

By John M. Barry.  Other title: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty. Almost four hundred pages.

It's a long and difficult read.  There's at least four hundred characters noted, and at least a thousand events tied into this woven story.

What Barry does....is take the period of King James in early 1600s....and tell the story of how religion became such a big mess in England....that it was exported as a chaotic mess to the shores of the new land, and became an even bigger mess there.

King James is confronted with most of the British population hating Catholics....so there's a national church created.  However, in the background.....there are dozens of Christian enthusiasts who have gone to the extent of creating their own version of Christianity.  Somewhere in this mix...are the Puritans.

King James has a hatred of the Magna Carta, and the lack of support from the Parliament.  Folks are being carried off to prison or executed on a daily basis....for just about any crime against the state or the King.  It's a lousy time to be alive and challenging your circumstances.

The Puritans will eventually decide that they are under such a threat to live their intended lifestyle.....that escaping to the new world.....is the only solution.  The Pilgrim solution?  From Barry's analysis.....they were a bunch of folks with no real survivor skills, and no extra food supplies.....dropped off onto a harsh environment, and the odds were barely fifty-fifty for surviving.

Religious dedication is the only thing in their favor.

Within a year....another ship will arrive....finding half the original group either dead or desiring to get the hell out of Plymouth.  The newer folks stay, and build on.

Within a year or two....at least a thousand of these obsessive Puritans are in what is to be called Boston and Salem.  By 1635 (five years into this 'experiment')....you could sense that massive chaos had arrived and your entire life.....twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week....revolved around religion.

Eventually, the Puritan church leadership determined that playing games of chance....including even checkers....was un-pure, and worth the punishment of a whip.  They went to the extreme of suggesting that days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc)....were pagan in nature, and thus needed to be named the first day, the second day, the third day, etc.  You can sense the frustration level building in society.

So here is Roger Williams....more of a lawyer than a religious guy.  The book will barely cover forty percent of the real story of Roger Williams....because there is a vast landscape behind him.

At one point, the Indians in North America have come to respect Roger Williams greatly and honor him to be seated at the fire with them.  He speaks with their language, and is respectful of their traditions.  There is this one discussion where all the general tribes in the region have come to the idea of uniting.....to destroy the British 'experiment'.  It's early enough that there aren't enough men with guns to defend against such a massive attack.

You can sense that this one opportunity has come.....the Indians would toss the Puritans off their land, and probably suspend any colony for at least a couple of decades.  Roger Williams speaks out and convinces them against this idea.  For this....he probably saved the lives of several thousand.

Later, with all the mess of this Puritan chaos.....Roger goes off to England and gets a charter to have his own colony.....Province (Rhode Island).  The central theme?  No dictated words or laws from the Puritans.....it is the first chance of open religion on the new land.

From the sense of the entire book.....the Puritans were a cult-like crowd and went to far extremes to establish control over just about everyone.  The Salem witch episode likely became comic relief for some....as they watched events unfold and Puritan leadership worry more about witches than crops.

As for the book....I'd say it's a tough read, and you'd best read only a chapter a day to absorb the grand story that John M. Barry lays out.  By the end, you will think greatly of Roger Williams....there ought to be statues of the guy in Washington DC.  You will also consider the Puritans and Quakers.....to be more of cults, than actual religions.  This might shock a few people, and be a turn-off.

I'd recommend the book only for history enthusiasts.  That six-line piece you read in high school explaining the Puritans and this 1620s-1630s period?  Well....you'd best just forget that, and prepare for a rough ride.

The Dead Meth Gay Guy

At the end of the 1990s.....I sat in amazement watching a very simplified and obcessive story about some gay kid out in Wyoming, who was murdered by two guys that he'd met in some bar.  The national media took the story and made it into a terrible episode....that dissolved into a political achievement.  The nation would create this law that made murder or assault on gays.....extra special.  Being dead as a gay.....was to become a bigger deal....than being dead as a non-gay.

At the time, I sat there in amazement as this story ran through the various stages, and the law would eventually be created from this one story.  What bothered me....was that the story never seemed to be complete.  Some things were never explained.

Well....time has passed.

This week, there's a national story brewing over Mathew Shepard and his demise.  You see.....the two guys in the bar?  They actually knew Mathew....and they knew he was gay.....because they were in the same type of lifestyle.

But none of this gay business really matters in this murder story.....because all three of the folks meeting at this bar....were meth-users and dealers.

You can imagine this scene.....meth user showing up....and he's got lots of freshly acquired meth.  He's on a bit of a meth high, and his two buddies show up.  They'd like to get in on this deal, and to use some of the meth.

What you generally ought to know about meth users.....is that they don't think rationally.  They make decisions on a irrational basis.  Killing someone.....is part of the business.

The Book of Matt will be out on the streets next week, and lay out this entire story.  For the national media.....it'll be difficult for them to tell it in public with a straight face.  They've given up investigative journalism, and most work cheer-leading stuff these days.  For almost fifteen years....this story just sat there.  They wouldn't touch it.....they wouldn't interview the two idiots in prison for the murder.  They just left it to be untold.

This is part of the problem in 2013.....a lousy journalism business.  The public has come to question things.

What happens now?  Well.....you'd think that some dimwit in the Senate would stand up and ask stupid questions now over this comical law.  It might take five years, but they might eventually come around to it being challenged in the courts, and dismissed by the Supreme Court.  I humbly think that the Senate will refuse to bring the topic back up and dismiss the law.

As for all the Hollywood elite who made songs over Mathew Shepard?  Basically, it glorified a meth user/salesman.  Nothing more than that.  For the first time in American history....we found a reason to feel bad about a dead meth guy, reacting to it, and making his demise worth something....ever how fake it was.