Friday, 31 January 2014

The Two Political Candidates

I sit, ponder and am often amazed at American politics.

This week....there's another Democrat who will run up in Maryland for a state-senator position.  The old guy still in the running?  Richard Madeleno.  The key thing about this guy?  He's openly gay and around twenty-percent of his platform relates to speeches on the gay issue.

The person running against Madeleno in the Democratic primary?  A transgender guy.  Yeah, it's a bit complex.

So you can imagine the debate topics and the interest around this local district.  Can one guy out-gay another gay or transgender?  Well....I would have said no way, but this invites some creative responses.

Will folks get charged up on this in Maryland?  It's hard to say.  Normally, you'd be talking about the shape of local roads, bad teachers, poor salt situations during snowstorms, and bridge replacement.  Gay stuff....would typically be topic number 494....way down on the list.

Yeah, I guess we need events like this....to keep us entertained.  That's the value of politics in America today.

The Trouble Is.......

Last night, I sat and watched the Eric Snowden (NSA) with his interview by the Channel One (ARD) news team of Germany.  It'd been on several times here in Germany since Sunday night.

Around the 30th minute of the interview....I came to realize that for the eighth time of this thirty minute period....Snowden had used the phrase "the trouble is.....".

He was attempting to act as an authority figure on policy and effect of NSA operations.  This....coming from a guy who'd never finished high school (GED), never finished his Army stint (they won't say the cause for early removal), never finished his college degree (even an associates degree), never finished his initial tour with the CIA in Switzerland, and never carried out his ethical charge required of his job in Hawaii.  So now....Snowden wants to be guy with great knowledge and let everyone know....'the trouble is such-and-such'?

At this point in the interview.....I stopped watching and paying attention.  I kinda noted for that brief 30-minute period....never did Snowden or the German interviewer ever ask themselves questions or suggest why Jihad-guys like technology.

At some point, there is the suggestion of German companies being watched.  I kept waiting for the names of such companies....like Becks Beer, or Siemens, or some concrete company in Mannheim.  But he stepped around this and simply suggested it might be happening.  That was enough for the German journalist.  For me?  It was more of a joke.

The question left for me.....what idiot manager at NSA or Booze-Allen....sat there and allowed this guy to become a half-wit expert at the American spy business?  His job....was to work at various other countries.....yet, he seems to be more of an expert on the US, than the intended target of his work.  So I'm left to assume that he spent eight hours a day.....for his entire last year on the job.....digging into his own government's research and tracking abilities.  In this type of situation.....he had to violate dozes of ethical standards.  His pay over that entire last year?  Paying the guy to spy on his own organization?

The trouble is......Snowden just isn't the kind of guy that you'd want to trust for anything.  And to now consider him an expert on this business?  There's something wrong here.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Spiraling of TV Programming

There is a rumor going around now....that the History Channel folks....are looking for the next Duck Dynasty.  The story goes....the executives have balanced the timeline and general life of such programs, and think "DD" has peaked, and might be on the last year or two of it's life.  Some folks would argue with the idea.....but this takes us to the next drawing board and replacement series.

So, as the rumor goes.....they have this weird idea of a show that would draw the DD audience and have a religious connection of sorts. But there would be a twist.

The suggestion....faith-swap.  Some minister of some church.....would be sent over to another radically different church.  Hindus, Islam, Church of Christ, Mormons, Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, rock-worship folks, Buddhists, etc.

You can sense....like Duck Dynasty....there's bound to be a fair amount of fakeness involved.  I hate suggesting a program like Amish Mafia.....but it's likely to have three fake congregations, and three fake radical ministers.....with various fake dramas built into the show.

You can imagine some snake-handling Pentecostal minister being sent over to a Methodist Church, and folks freaking out once some one-foot long non-poisonous snake is pulled out of a burlap bag.  Or some Buddhist minister has shown up at a Baptist church....getting a fair lecture by three deacons over the need for fire-and-brimstone sermons.  Or how about a Seventh-Day Adventist minister showing up at a Islam cultural center.....emphasizing clean living, devotion to family, and forgiving folks when necessary.

The problem is.....most churches won't desire any radical changes in their personal beliefs.  This gimmick of a new prospective isn't what they signed up for.

There's another issue in this creative concept.....you will likely find gay-friendly ministers somewhere in the mix, and the work of the minister to convince his new congregation that all is good, and acceptance is the Lord's work.  Course, you can imagine some old guy thumbing through his Bible, and telling the new minister that there's various texts in the Bible which note this sort of thing isn't acceptable.  He'd then turn to the new minister and ask if the Bible was wrong (it's a bad question for any minister to take on....you can only lose this discussion).

Duck Dynasty opened up a wide-door.  Christian values got put on display.  Christian ethics were routinely discussed.  Southern wisdom was always a theme on the show.

Taking the next step, and running up a fake religious show?  Well.....it's probably the way this trend will go.

Who knows.....maybe a Buddhist might step in and really challenge folks a good bit.  Maybe we need a Pentecostal minister with five rattlesnakes.  Maybe we need a Baptist minister who talks big on the evils of alcohol and lusty trailer-park women, but then gets arrested the next week for buying dope over in some seedy part of town while drunk.  Stranger things have happened.

Beginning of the End for College Football?

A couple of players for Northwestern University.....have put the paperwork up and are progressing toward forming a union.  There are steps left, and it might collapse at some point.  You can figure judges might step into the way.....a court episode with the NCAA.....and even the university itself might fight this tooth and nail.  But there's some fair odds that the union will form.....and spread.

So, you need to ask yourself.....what would be the goal of a college football union.  They'd want healthcare of a better type.....guaranteed....and likely to extend for years after they finish at the university.  They might seek some non-financial compensation....going past tuition and room & board.  They might just go after the authorities at the NCAA, and make some demands that would toss them upside down.

Strikes?  Yeah.  They could stand up on a Friday evening and indicate a twenty-four hour strike for Saturday.....where a big game might be on the line.  Networks upset over the cancellation of a scheduled game?  Probably so.  Fans upset over purchasing their tickets and arranging hotel reservations.....only to discover the game will be cancelled?  Fans might be real upset.

Expanding the union beyond just one team or one university?  I'd take a guess that it'd only take seven days after they are confirmed as a union....for at least two more football teams in the NCAA to announce they will do the same action.  You could have forty teams unionized within a year.

The folks who will suffer?  The NCAA would have to hire an entire branch of new legal guys to handle the various negotiations, and they never come cheap.  University presidents might sit and ponder over the cost of the entire program....and wisely say it's not worth the pain or financial incentive for the college....thus disbanding the whole football program.    Big name high school players avoiding unionized teams?  It's more than likely.....you'd certainly want a non-union school to display your talents.  It'd work just like car plants being established in southern states today.

The issue here......is that NCAA football has become something that is more of a business than a sport.  Coaches make millions, and state officials just grin and bear the pay requests.  Agents sneak around and work up secret deals while guys are in the first year at some college.....pushing secret money toward the kid....paying for cars....and helping the family while Johnny plays tight-end for Texas Tech.  Nothing much in NCAA football is ethical....except the rules for good conduct on the field.

For some reason, I like this idea.  Yeah, it might dissolve the NCAA in a decade, and turn college football into a business operation (which it always has been).   Yeah....tickets might go up another twelve bucks.  Yeah....strikes might occur with various teams and screw up future TV contracts.

Changes.....might be coming.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Demon Skype Stuff

Exorcism has been around for around two thousand years.  At least, that's what the Catholics tend to say.

Being a non-Catholic....I rarely pay attention to the practice or it's intended purpose.  You have to assume that there's some evil sort....bound up in some house, or some dog, or some person.  And some kinda words from a Catholic priest will chase the demon out.

This week, I've read upon this guy from Scottsdale, AZ....who does exorcism by Skype....basically a face-via-face connection via the internet.  This guy....reverend Bob....gets in contact with you.....then listens to your story.

After all the facts are straighten out....if reverend Bob thinks it's for real....he then starts a ceremony, via his connection to you with Skype.

Reverend Bob says this method tends to work....with demons running off and dumping the host or house.

I sat and pondered over this.  Basically, thanks to technology.....we can move capabilities of various types around the world in a matter of minutes.  Got a question on dairy cows?  Got problems with a 1947 Ford pick-up?  Got issues finding a Swedish gal who is liberal but heavy into Little River Band and likes bass fishing?  Looking for a weird wallpaper with chickens?

Could a guy sitting in the midst of Arizona recite some ancient text....chasing demons out of some guy's shed in Bama?  Well.....I'm just not that sure.  You'd think that Demons would demand some guy to stand in front of them.  Some internet connection exorcism?  Maybe it's just me....but I just don't buy into it.

The State of the Union Address (2014)

The State of the Union Address will be given today.  Up until the last five years.....most of these given since 1913 (President Wilson restarted the speech)....were regarded as worthless and boring.  In the 1970s....I would make a humble guess that only fifteen people out of one hundred adults....watched some part of the address.  The fact that all three networks in those days carried it....meant there was no other choice....other than calling your cousin to discuss carport renovation in the spring or working on your tax paperwork.  The State of the Union Address.....is mostly just hype, gimmick plans, and a chance to get camera time.

George Washington started this trend.  Historians are mostly split on what the original intention was.  Washington wasn't much of a politician or speech-maker.  George mainly worked up some topics to engage Congress on priorities as he saw them for the American people.  Somewhere around paragraph six, George talks up the threat of Indians, and how troops need to be prepared (meaning food, guns, ammo, and uniforms).  History does not note any reporters or journalists in the big hall when this was given.  There is a hand-written speech kept from the first speech......seven pages long.

It's an interesting speech....especially how it ends:

The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.

A free, efficient, and equal government?  We probably haven't seen this in one hundred years.

As Jefferson walked into the office....he deemed the State of the Union Address to be too much like a King's comments to his faithful subjects....so he tossed it.  For roughly one hundred years....we did well without it.  President Wilson started this back up in 1913....amid some criticism at the time.  Historians don't go into this commentary much, which leads one to wonder why details aren't told more.

Does anyone today get a thrill out of the speech?  If you voted for the guy (either Republican or Democrat)....maybe there is some faint enjoyment of the moment.  I suspect most people hit the mute button or shift the channel over to ESPN, the Travel Channel, or pick up the phone to chat with relatives.  The news media is thrilled...mostly because it gives them something to talk about.  If the President's personal toilet next to the oval office overflowed.....they'd get just as big a thrill....asking stupid questions over the plumber, his technique of repair, and the amount of spillage.

The curious thing is that over the last one hundred years.....with the speech given yearly.....in the midst of winter and flu season....no President has been laid down with the flu and prevented from giving the speech.  Most folks I know in Bama would tell you between a serious cold and flu.....there's always a ten-percent chance during this week of January....that they'd be awful damn sick.  Going a hundred years straight....without any illness preventing you from the address?  Man, that's pretty good odds.

A gimmick?  Worthless?  Boring?  Well....yeah.  But it's a free speech moment on a national audience.  Folks get all peppy and charged up....then head off into the evening....drinking whiskey and gin, and feel good for a brief time about politics in America.  The other ninety percent of us?  We would have preferred to watch a repeat of Bonanza, read through some Bible scripture, discuss the chances of the Braves in 2014, or clean our sixteen guns that we keep in the living room closet.  Luckily, we weren't forced into sitting in the hall and jumping up every six minutes to do fake applause.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Dinosaurs of the Modern Variety

I was browsing through economic news today, and it got brought up.....with a hint of this 1990 ad via Radio Shack....that virtually everything listed here on the front page.....can be done today via a Cellphone (for roughly $200).

Twenty-three years have passed, and it's a shocker of sorts to admit they are right.

So it makes a guy wonder....what happens around 2034?  Maybe I'll be around....but what exactly will we do next?

I have some doubts that ATM machines will be in much use by that point.  I kinda think cash....will be used to a lesser extent.  I suspect that groceries will be delivered by our house by some internet ordering service.  I'd like to think that things will be better....but I'm not so sure about that part.

The curious thing for me....is that Radio Shack still survives today.  If I had to pick any store to bet on....dissolving by 2034....it'd be Radio Shack.  It's a sad prediction of sorts.  I used to shop there once a month.  I used to probably spend at least a thousand a year on various gimmicks they sold.  Now?  It's been around three years since I've been in a Radio Shack, and in the last five years.....I probably spent less than eighty bucks.

A dinosaur?  Yeah.  The sad thing here is that I once paid out $1,599 for a crappy computer and monitor (B&W), and other than a game or two, with a text writer.....it was worthless.  I was even stupid to pay the $799 for a video-camera....that I probably used a total of sixteen hours over three vacations.  The only positive thing I feel good about?  I paid $40 once for a little box that does waterfall and lightning storm sounds, and a dozen times a year....I'll use it to fall asleep.  It was the best forty bucks that I ever spent at Radio Shack.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Being Reflective in Nature

Being retired Air Force (22 brief years)....I tend to go over and review once or twice a month....Air Force news and changes.  This week came a mighty big and important announcement.  The reflective belt....a requirement of sorts since the late 1970s for everyone in uniform in non-daylight hours....is deemed 'optional' for the work-out uniform.

The Air Force about a decade ago....went to a standard exercise outfit....which meant you had to buy it and keep it in somewhat clean order.  Naturally, it was sold to you with reflective material already on it.  The idea of your unit forcing you to carry the stupid reflective belt around.....on top of this....was generally deemed silly.

When you get to a unit these days....along with the first twenty things that occur on day one....is the issuance of this belt.  You can buy the belt over at the BX....typically for a couple of bucks.  Most units will give you a new belt ever twelve months.  I'd take a guess that twenty percent of folks lose their belts at least once or twice a year.  I worked with a guy from the late 90's who lost at least six belts in one year.

The sales job on this belt business?  The safety guys will harp over and over.....as darkness starts to come....your clothing doesn't outline your profile enough, and thus....you get hit by a car easily.  About once a year in the Air Force....such an accident happens, and it just gets folks all peppered up to endorse the reflective belt for the 300th time.

So you can imagine this change.  Sarge gets out of his car in civilian clothing at the gym at 6AM.  Sarge dresses in the Air Force mandated gym outfit and looks like a professional Dallas Cowboys player.  Sarge gets sweaty while playing twenty-five minutes of volleyball and lifting weights for eight minutes.  Sarge showers, and dresses in his uniform.  Sarge starts to leave the gym at 7AM....discovering it's still dark outside, and must immediately look into his gym bag for the stupid reflective belt which is still required for outside use while in uniform.  Sarge walks down the street, safely and survives....only because of the reflective belt.  All is good with Sarge, and hopefully.....he remembers the 10,000 occasions that the reflective belt saved him from dying....as he retired at twenty years.

Well.....you'd hope this.  There's six pallets of reflective belts delivered at supply each year, and at least fifteen thousand reflective belts issued for the three thousand GI's on base.  So far, no one from Congress has asked where all these belts come from, and where they go.  I'm just waiting on this to start up one day.

The Detroit Immigration Concept

Occasionally....oddball stories pop up.

This week....the governor for Michigan....Rick Snyder....came up and asked the federal government for a 'favor'.

What Governor Rick wants.....is thousands of regular work visas.....50,000 to be precise....over five years....to be reserved for Detroit, period.  Not the state of Michigan or surrounding regions....but Detroit city itself.

It's a fair-sized request.  First....you consider that the work visas....EB-2 type....there are only 40,000 of these visas issued each year, period.  So governor Rick wants 5,000 of the 40,000....just for one city.

Normally, the rules don't dictate where you go, with the EB-2 visa.  It will dictate which area of the world gets offered the visas (like India gets this number per year, and China gets this number per year).  They've never stood there and said 5,000 folks coming into the US....have to go to California, or Texas, or Orlando. So this is a fair sized request and change.

What's the intention?  Governor Rick says that it'd bring a boom economic period to Detroit.  New fresh faces.....new energy....new company growth.  Folks would be forced to relocate engineering services, or software developmental companies....into Detroit.  This is a method of capitalism that has rarely been used in the past.

Most folks from the business community ought to be a bit worried and very negative about this.  They don't want to be forced into a corner....about where they build or expand into.  Who the heck would want to establish a 700-person division in Detroit City?

The other side of this coin....what idiot in Bombay or Peking....would beg for a work visa....to come and work in Detroit?  They'd have to know the whole story (packing a pistol twenty-four hours a day, and vast neighborhoods totally deserted).

Would a guy living in a third-world community in Egypt....volunteer to come to Detroit to work?  It's a good question.  Heck, it might even be worth a History Channel series like the Duck Dynasty crowd....Me-Jung and his cousin Joe-Mung.....living and working in Detroit City.

The folks working against Governor Rick?  Well....several Detroit community leaders came out and said this would take jobs away from the long established locals.  They could be right about this....but considering that forty percent of Detroit residents probably can't pass a drug-test, and at least twenty-percent of the city's adults have some arrest record or jail-time.....there might not be much hope for this logic of defeating Governor Rick.

So finally, I come to this odd observation.  If this works in Detroit City....why not try it in Bama or west Texas?  If we come five years into the future and the gimmick of immigration visas defined for certain areas where  you must settle.....is a success, it opens up a number of questions.

Maybe the current immigration reform ideas are goofed up.  Maybe we ought to say.....you can stay, declare yourself, and become a US citizen....but there's a limit in each state, and the state legislature will determine what that number will be....not a bunch of fed guys or elected House or Senate dimwits.  We might all start looking at immigration reform in a different way.  And the national media folks would lose a major topic of discussion....as would both political parties.  We'd tend to our own backyard, and not let some guy 2,000 miles away dictate the size, shape, or slant-factor of our backyard.  Life might get simple.

On the Subject of Ambassadors

The Senate is in the midst of approving the new US ambassador to Norway.  It's a bit of a farce.  Most ambassadorships.....are given as political gifts to folks who've helped a campaign, or did a favor for the President or his friends.  It's been that way for at least a hundred years, and generally....everyone just looks the other way and accepts the comedy of sorts.

This guy heading to Norway?  George Tsunis.  His connection to the President?  He helped to get $840-odd thousand dollars to the Obama campaign for 2012, and did another favor by supporting a PAC to the tune of $300-odd thousand dollars.  He's a 'gold-star' member of sorts.  So the nifty ambassador job in Norway is the gift in return.

The US Senate....for better or worse.....has to see these guys and put them through a question process.  It's typically a couple of hours in front of some committee.  They generally ask how your family is doing, what you thought of the Dodgers last year, your personal opinion on the economy, and your background.

The guy would usually get two or three hours of prep by some government guy who represents the White House.  They will tell him....this is what to say or not to say.  They will advise on stupid opinions, and how to just avoid them.  And usually.....a guy makes it through with no issues.

This week however....Tsunis met with McCain as the meeting progressed.  Senator McCain asked several simple questions on Norway.....mostly over the government, who runs things, and life in Norway.

Well.....it's more than obvious that Tsunis knows absolutely nothing about Norway, period.  Oh, he knows they speak Norwegian, and it's bitter cold.  But in terms of stuff you ought to know....if you were ambassador....it's a big zero.

What Tsunis's occupation in real life?  He's the CEO of Chartwell Hotels.  Chartwell....the name....comes from the old family home of Winston Churchill.....so it's a historic piece of a word.....tied to a hotel chain of sorts.  A big operation?  No.  There's roughly a dozen-odd hotels of fair character attached to the company.  Nothing outside the US.....at least right now.

What's this all add up to?  Well....it's a resume-builder....pure and simple.  You go off and do two to three years at some ambassador job.  The odds of you getting fired?  Maybe once every twenty years....someone has to retire quickly because they got caught doing something stupid.  The bulk of the political appointments seem to be an accepted practice.

I'm guessing that Ambassador Tsunis will arrive in Norway.....discover things are a bit more complicated than he imagined....but he realizes that there are forty-odd people who really carry the bulk of the ambassadorship and he's free for six hours of the day to sip coffee, read newspapers, and play tennis at some private club there in Norway.  Once a week....he gets an invitation to some private party (maybe the Greek ambassador inviting him over.....maybe the Japanese ambassador sending an invite.....maybe some Norwegian shoe company CEO sending an invitation over).  He'll stay somewhat busy and eventually wrap up his one brief moment in life where he really didn't have to work.

It'd be nice to reach this stage in life, and I admit....I'd kinda like to do this ambassador stuff.  But, to me....finding and giving some million dollars to some Presidential campaign....would be such a terrible waste.  Heck, a guy could go spend a million on Arkansas farmland, or buy a shrimp boat in Mobile, or buy up a pretty decent motel in Flagstaff, Arizona, or even open your own distillery and sell your personalized brandy to the public.  Why waste money for political folks?

I guess I'm not the type of guy bound for the ambassador trade.  I'm just too practical.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Lamp Waste

I travel around a bit, and occasionally spot four-star waste.  It took me several decades to be an expert on this.....but after a while, you can point out these things with ease.

Over in Kassel, Germany.....there's the new airport, with two fairly big parking lots (maybe up to 400 parking spots for each parking lot).

The lighting is an interesting thing.  It's a high-grade steel post with a medium bulb.....about every sixty feet.  I'd guess at least twenty-five of these posts in each lot.  General cost and installation included?  I'd take a humble guess at around $5k each....not counting the layout of the electrical grid of the parking which has to connect to each post.

These are fancy posts....the type you'd put in front of a upscale building or along a upscale sidewalk area.  Normally, for a large-scale parking lot.....you'd put in the tall posts with the extra-bright bulbs.  In this parking lot....there'd likely be maybe five or six of these.

So when you figure up the $300 million they spent on this small airport (roughly two gates), with everything on the budget analysis.....there's probably close to a million spent just on the lamp posts and their installation.  A waste?  Yeah, but it's best not to say anything much.  At least these are German-made, and tend to last forty years.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

On the Topic of Bike Trails

Sometimes, on my travels.....I point out interesting things.

I spent a day or two up in Paderborn (Germany) this week.  It's an interesting town....has a university....a conference center, and 150,000-odd residents.

The curious thing that I came to note....was the walking/bicycling trails (all generally paved or four-star stone) throughout the town.

All total?  Maybe twenty-five kilometers (roughly eighteen miles).

This shot?  It's on the western end of town, near the conference center and city swimming pool area.  Double-wide paved biking road.  You could get up to 15 mph on the straight-away....at least in the summer months.  

A guy could hope on a bike on the far east side of town, and in fifteen minutes....make his way all the way across the opposite end of town.  In some cases, you might only hit four lights while on this short journey.

City planners got smart years ago, and put the trail mix into the master plan.  Houses and neighborhoods are just a minute or two from this bike "autobahns".  Older folks don't have much a reason to say walking is a negative experience.

Toss in a park or two, some woods here and there, a couple of creeks.....and you've got an interesting place to live and commute.  You could skip both the car and the bus.....and just walk  to work.

To be honest.....there aren't that many German towns planned out to this extent.  It'd be interesting to sit down with folks in the town from the 1960s and 1970s....and note how they came to make these decisions, and get public support for it.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Travel, and the Whole Story

Decades ago....Mark Twain wrote:

"Travel....is fatal for prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

It's an honest and humble quote.

Over fifty-five years....I've traveled a good bit around America, a small bit of Panama, and nearly half of Europe.  The thing is....after a few trips....you start to subject yourself to different perceptions.

Some foods are better elsewhere.

Some beer and wine have been taken to another level....making you almost beg for another sip.

Some folks build houses to last months and years.....and some build houses to last decades and centuries.

Some folks are naturally liberal but nice about it....understanding that you might be fearful of such liberal behavior.

Some are naturally perceived as honest but a pain-in-the-ass.

Some folks get a bit of whiskey in them and want to tell you of their woes and sorrows....more than some guy in Arkansas or Alabama.

Some folks think buildings and infrastructure is an art....while some tell you that a couple dabs of red paint in slanted directions is a masterpiece.

Sometimes....a day on the edge of the Rhein River....might take out a ton of stress.

Sometimes....a single hour in a London trendy store will take a month off your life.

After a while, you get to the point where you might be willing to see things differently.  It's not a terrible thing....like them forcing you to stay an extra month in Honduras, or thinking New York City is a swell place.....or getting some crazy idea that cabbage and whiskey can go together for a daily treat.

Life is....what it is.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Lack of Rocket Science in Our Lives

There's an interesting blog of sorts over at the Federalist site....entitled "The Death  of Expertise", by Tom Nichols.  If you have eight minutes....sit and ponder through it.

It's a general summary of the belief that experts are dying off.  Because of Google, the internet, Youtube, and various technology at hand....we are all becoming experts....which is challenging the fundamental idea that we used to have a limited field of real experts, who kept all of us informed and 'straight' on facts.

It's a healthy debate over information flow, how people are identifying themselves as an expert, and the trends we are now setting.  Toward the end.....he comes to an interesting commentary....the lack of 'gatekeepers'.  These were the people who generally kept us on track....focused on absolute facts.....and were absolute experts in the field.

I came to the end and sat pondering.  It's a good argument.  I don't consider myself an expert on anything.  I can tell what will happen if you do "X", or insult someone with a comment, or get yourself stuck in New York City because flights got cancelled.  I can balance a checkbook, tell when someone is stressed out, and generally pick winners more than losers in the stock market.  I can usually take apart some stupid commentary by a wannabe journalist on the Today Show, read through a page of statistics with no problem, and take apart a complex sixty page story....converting it into a twenty-four line story which Paul Harvey used to tell on Saturdays with ease.

I kinda disagree with Tom.  The fact is....life, technology, medicine, science, history, government, business, commerce, Wall Street, taxation, social practices, religion, nutrition, mechanics, engineering, and corruption....simply isn't rocket science.  It never has been.

When you go back to the 1920s and the introduction of the automobile across America....it was an odd thing. History notes that over the next ten years....most guys became mechanics of sort.  Maybe not absolute experts....but they knew the forty-odd things that could break and how to fix them.

If you grew up in the 1890s of Alabama.....the odds were that thirty percent of the male population knew a fair amount on carpentry, house-building, and roofing.

If you grew up in the Pennsylvania heartland of the 1790s....there's a fair percentage of male adults who knew a good bit on cows and horses....from various ailments....to actually telling their age by looking at the teeth.

If you grew up in the 1960s in most rural areas of America....you knew how to mount a TV antenna....twist it the right way....and connect up your TV with your cousin helping you.

We've always been experts, or developing into experts.  That's the plain blunt truth.

The big-name guys appearing as 'experts' on Fox News, MSNBC, or ABC News?  Well....after a while, you realize that your barber knows as much as they know.  The expert investor guy on the Finance Channel?  Well....if you start to read Kiplingers and the Wall Street Journal.....in a year or two....you know at least half of what this guy knows.  The fancy cook who appears on the Oprah Channel?  Well....there are seven hundred thousand regular cooks across America who likely cook as well or better than this big name cook.

The death of expertise?  No.  The bar to expertise might have been raised.  The inclusive of college might have taken us a notch or two.  The continued attempts by the news media to make simple topics complex....might have worked in the initial stages but it's failing now.  Scientists who write of absolute global warming news....hate to ever be challenged....yet all of this challenge business was acceptable business for Issac Newton, Tesla, and Einstein.

At best, expertise is simply going through a revolution.  If you ever wanted to be an expert on the French Revolution, the Depression of the 1930s, or research the great benefits of lemon usage in our diet.....you merely need to raise your hand and make an effort.  In a year or two.....you can be an expert.  I know the real experts will hate for me to note this.....but again....none of this was ever rocket science.

If there is any single problem....it's the fact that we just don't have any really true absolute rocket science which stops everyone at a brick wall.  Maybe that's a good thing.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Book Review: Amsterdam, the World's Most Liberal City

By Russell Shorto, October 2013.

If you've never been to Amsterdam, skip the book....it just won't make sense.

For those who've been there....it helps to explain an awful lot.

There are several million Americans who've been to Amsterdam.....most are former GI's from the 1950s to today....stationed in Europe, and simply took a weekend tour to the city.

I've been to Amsterdam five times.  I probably would like to spend ten days there every single year.....if given a choice.

It's not like London, New York, Berlin or Rome.  No skyscrapers.  No political chaos.  Limited number of statues or monuments.  The food is marginal for the most part.  And hotels within the city are way out of sight (I never stay in the city.....preferring Leiden, which is forty minutes away by train).

The book skips through the top hundred people who made Amsterdam what it is today.  There's a somewhat sad and tragic story told throughout the book....over the growth and development of the city.  Most of what we see in the world today....from commerce to political thought....came out out of Amsterdam.

The people in Amsterdam are fairly liberal in their lifestyles....which the author goes back to.....time and time again.  Although it's not the kind of liberal stance that you hear about via US journalists or political hacks.  Amsterdam liberal behavior.....is mostly about respecting an individual's own choices.  It's a fairly acceptable city on weed and drug sales.  The number of Dutch folks who use drugs regularly?  A quarter of what you see in the US.  You can't really explain this part of the story.

There's a curious part of Amsterdam laid out in this book....how the rich and poor generally lived in the same neighborhoods...because of the work atmosphere and canals.  A great deal of development over the past five hundred years....comes because both groups understand each other, and allowed for interaction.  People accept the rich....the rich accept the poor, and life goes on.

Throughout the book, there's also a layer of humor displayed by the folks of Amsterdam.  In the worst of times....they were fairly cynical and sarcastic.

So, if you were looking for an odd book which weaves a rich tale of history in the making.....this one is a four-star book.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Poverty War and Peace

This past week....folks have picked up the topic of poverty....noting that the American government has been "at war" with poverty for fifty years now.  LBJ signed the paperwork, and this is the anniversary of the poverty war.

Results?  Well.....it's a bit difficult to say.  A liberal would say that great success has been made and there's still more work to be made.  A conservative would say that there are some numbers to show a minor decrease, but generally....it's a failure.  The news media will say that there is just too much disparity between the haves and the have-nots. Historians will say that poverty was a lot worse in 1964 than today.  Economic experts will say that poverty is a ever-changing status...a guy spends $900 on a big-screen TV, and $1,600 on fancy rims and Goodyear tires for his car....yet he's still listed as poverty-stricken.

I'm a road-trip guy.  I enjoy road vacations because as you travel in a car....stopping for gas in small towns, and lunch in no-name cafes....you tend to see real America.

Big name journalists for CNN, Fox News, and the letter networks....don't do road trips.  They don't interview real Americans.  They don't ask the right questions.  They don't seek to broaden their world of human understanding.  The last guy who did this?  Charles Kuralt of CBS News.  He's been dead for roughly seventeen years now.

Charles Kuralt could walk into some town....ask fifty questions....and generally come to a standard of living which equaled that one single town.  That standard didn't fit anywhere else, which I generally felt was more realistic than all the statistical stuff collected by the Census folks.

A guy can pretty much survive and enjoy a decent life with a thousand bucks a month of income in Alabama. it won't be a marvelous existence or provide steaks on the table....but you can make it.  The thousand a month in California?  No.  Or least in LA....it won't work.  In New York City....you'd need at least two thousand to get to the basic level of life.

This poverty scale....I tend to find....is mostly not something you can measure across the board.  A guy who spends $1,500 on new tires and pimped-up rims for his car....really isn't in a poverty class.  He may live in a shack, and earn less than $1500 before taxes each month....but he's spending on luxury-class items.  Once you realize that....the whole gimmick of a war on poverty becomes bogus.

I worked with a married guy in the Air Force years ago....wife and one kid....who got $1,200 back on federal and state tax refunds.  He took the cash and the family on a five-day trip to some upscale ski resort in Colorado.  Here he was.....a senior airman....drawing less than $20,000 a year, and the money was flushed out into a luxury trip in a matter of a couple of days.  To me, it didn't make much sense.

My general advice to someone on poverty, or who thinks they are poverty-stricken?  Move.  Get out and find yourself a town with jobs.  Get in, impress the boss and customers, take any classes that you can afford, and move up.  Accept nothing as handcuffing you to a status in life.  If you live in Detroit....find some relative in Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas....and get the heck out of Detroit.  If your closest friends are all losers and all in a poverty class....dump them.  Join up with some church, or find new friends who have jobs and working their way up.

This gimmick war on poverty?  It sounds good.  News journalists can spin this forty-four different ways and always make you shed a tear for Jimmy who lives in East Saint Louis, and just won't leave or move.  Some political dimwit will shovel a sixteen minute speech out to you....over the poor folks in West Virginia....hyping over federal program X, Y or Z.....which is saving those poor folks.  Ten years later?  They are still in poverty.  The programs?  Just tossing money into a black hole, with no hope of payback. No company would do something that stupid....but democracy at work would.

War and Peace....the book....depending on the version....generally has 1,400 pages or more.  There's various upswings, sorrows, woes, tragic moments, great spirals upward, with doom and success generally written into each single character.

This war on poverty?  It's kinda like War and Peace....kinda thick....lotta doom and success, tragic moments, woes, sorrows....and the great thing....it just keeps adding another chapter each year.

The Test Mess

The Air Force has wrapped up it's investigation over a bunch of cheating within the nuclear officer's at several northern tier bases.  Right now.....thirty-four officers are accused of "cheating".  It's a curious episode.

From the group of thirty-four.....some of them never actually cheated with the testing business....but they knew others who did and just looked the other way.  The Air Force doesn't like that type of behavior and will punish them.....even if they didn't cheat with the tests.

The testing business?  Well....this is the other curious piece to the entire story.

Nuclear officer business....is rather complicated, filled with key-words, and not an occupation that anyone is thrilled with or desires.  The Air Force for the past fifty-odd years has invented an amusing process.  If you "volunteer" to be a nuclear officer.....they give you a leg up on your next career move in four to five years.  That might be a juicy assignment to Florida, a key job which gets you promoted early, or a masters-degree program which makes your resume extremely valuable after retirement.

I sat and watched several intelligence officers get talked into doing a four-year tour in the nuclear field.  Each questioned it, and were fairly negative.  Then came the enticements.

A guy enters the Air Force as an officer with a bachelors degree.  If you want to get after a masters or PhD.....you do it on your own time.  Well....the Air Force says....since there's only two or three hours of real work in the nuclear bunker during a shift.....you can devote the rest of your time to your educational process.  This means a guy could bring in his books....his college thesis....and spend eighty hours a month on his degree.

In two years....you could easily finish up a masters degree.  Add in another two years.....maybe even a PhD.

Beyond that, it's a long and boring job with no satisfaction.

Making it tougher?  Oh yeah.....there's all these key terms, codes, and paperwork requirements.  Naturally, you have to enter a class in the beginning to learn these, and then there's a certification test.  You do this test every year usually....to certify yourself.

Up until the late 1980s....tests were simplified and not terribly difficult to grasp the right answer.  I came to realize around 1991.....some officers were gearing various tests, for both the officer and enlisted fields.....to be substantially tougher.  Just two or three hours of studying....wouldn't work under this new concept.

I worked for an Air Force officer preparing a quiz which was part of an intelligence certification.  She had a hundred questions that were written out on paper....and I needed to input them onto a computer.  I went through the quiz, and had to admit that half of the questions were indepth and complex.  At least fifty percent of the questions were written in a way to be intentionally confusing....I even made that comment to the officer and tried to persuade them to be clearer in the statement....to no avail.

I suspect over the past two decades....these "test-masters" have wandered around the Air Force, and made it their life goal to turn simplified tasks into complex testing situations.  This episode with the nuclear officers?  I'd take a strong guess that these officers felt immense pressure, and could not see themselves failing.  So they went to plan B.  Unethical?  Yeah.....but if your choice is failure or being unethical....then you make the right choice.

What the Air Force says....is that they will force the entire lot of six hundred-odd nuclear officers to retake the certification test.  A new test, of course.  Possible failure on a fair scale?  I would anticipate it.  It'll take a number of weeks, and eventually....some general will be asked to sit in a room while a couple of officers want to explain to him that a twenty-five percent failure (my guess) has occurred with these officers.  They can't understand why.  The general will blast them.....you have to know why or you shouldn't be in front of me.

So new tests will be devised.....study groups will be mandated (then dissolved because that's cheating in a way).....and some folks will be pulling double shifts because there's not enough certified nuclear officers around.

A comical mess?  Yes.  I'm guessing Army officers kid the Air Force officers on a daily basis with this whole routine.  And I doubt that this ever ends....we will simply go into cheating version 2.0, or 3.0, and find ways to call it something else....other than cheating.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Tolerant City-State

In 610 AD....city-states were pretty common.  If you were a empire builder....then you had massive stretches of land that you and your army conquered....mostly killing a bunch of folks to instill some respect and proper attention.  City-states were different.  They survived mostly through a couple of smart guys and a common need within a group for central rules.  Typically, city-states were walled-up locations.....with a business or trade theme....and a couple dozen guards who kept peace within the city-state.  It was simple to build up a city-state.  But a highly successful city-state?  Especially in 610 AD?

At this period in world history, 610 AD.....there's only one successful commerce city....where everyone is living in harmony.  The central theme?  It's an odd thing, but the council or leadership of the city....believed in tolerance.

Tolerance was preached to such a level....that you have any religious preference at all.  You could worship cows, or the sky, or a mythical wicked female character with lust written all over her.  A guy could be a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian, or even some oddball Mediterranean religion with dolphins as a central theme.  Everything was absolutely acceptable.

The trade-off?

Well.....tolerance is a two-way street.  So the leadership of this unique city-state determined that for you to operate within your religious needs....you had to accept other folks and their religious tendencies....ever how odd they were.

Naturally, you'd say this would be harsh and difficult.  You live in your religious preferences, but you respect others for what they expect or desire.  You could trade and make a good lifestyle.....enjoying your religious worship....but you had to be absolutely tolerant of other people.  For years and decades.....this city-state made the system work.  In 610 AD....it was the ONLY city-state of this type in the world.  No one could boast of a more tolerant situation.

As part of the local custom.....the locals had a rather large black stone in the middle of town.  The black stone was part of a local religious tradition.  Supposedly, by the words of the locals....it made up roughly 360-odd religious beliefs of sorts.  So folks from far and wide in the region....would travel for days and weeks once a year....to visit this city-state, and respect the black stone.

To be honest....a guy came to the black stone for his religious, health, spiritual, and devotion needs.....as did thousands of others who did it for a totally different religious convictions.

No one today....years later....talks of how the original guy got this idea....to plow 360-odd religious figures or religious groups into one big black rock.  The guy had to be onto something in terms of tourism....thinking this would draw folks in....make some bucks for the local wine merchants, bread-makers, and street salesmen.  It was a good gimmick of sorts.

It was a great city-state.....respect, tolerance, money rolling in, and everyone in the city-state was happy.

Well.....this was the deal up until 610 AD.

This local guy showed up and decided to start his own religious community.  For thirteen years...more or less....he preached and attempted form up his "crew".  The local city-state?  They were decent about things....always tolerant in nature.  They generally just looked the other way....like they did for the dozens to hundreds of other religious groups practicing their thing.

Somewhere around 622 AD....things took a negative turn.  There's not a lot of text or written pieces over the downturn.  One piece of the local history admits they can only attribute one single death to this new guy and his religious group.....that being some older slave guy who may have gotten pushed around or stressed out from his experience with the new religious group.

The city-state made this decision.  Never before.....had they kicked any religious group or cult out of the city.  But this guy and his group....were a menace to public safety.  Tolerance?  Well.....they just weren't capable of behaving by the rules.  Intolerance was the standard he preached, and it wasn't safe for men or beast to stand against his thought process.

You'd ponder over this.  The guy was around 53 years old at the time.  He'd built up a number of followers within the city-state from day one.  A guy gets to being proud over his accomplishments....sees a bit of power and gets greedy.  Once you get kicked out of a city....it's kind like wrestling....a leave-the-state match means you leave and don't come back.  This guy was a bit upset.

The city-state was nice about this.  Down the road a piece was another town.  It's about 350 km (3.5 hours in a car today, if you were driving).  By horse or walking....it'd take around eight long days to transit over to your new town.

I'm guessing as this guy was walking around toward the new town as he was "expelled"....he was fairly angry.  Eight days is a long time on the trail.  A guy can think some awful bad things after he's been kicked out of some town for being intolerant.  The fact is....he'd likely have some very intolerant feelings brewing up.....kicking the sand and dirt as he walked along.

Payback, revenge, and a list of future despicable goals are probably the result of this eight-day march to the new city.

Folks there, in the new city....aren't as tolerant as the old place, but they seem to like this guy and his style.  Over the next couple of months....more folks sign up for his new religious group.  All he has to do....is talk....and folks buy into the theme.

For some reason, he develops this idea of robbing folks on the road to his former city-state.  Small-time robberies grow, and he gets identified as a rough character who leads a bunch of robbers.  It's not a bad deal because he claims he's robbing in the interest of his cult or religious persuasion.  Naturally, the money or loot flows back to help the followers of his group.  Kinda like the Robin Hood-theme....but more dedicated to religious feelings than helping the poor.

Roughly ten years go by while in this new chapter of his life.  Toward the last two years....he's such a menace of sorts....that the original city-state that kicked him and his crew out....decide that things have to change.  A guy is sent over and a treaty is worked out.

You can imagine the simplicity of this treaty as written....tolerance and respect probably were in paragraph one.  Religious respect might have been mentioned.  No copies of the text remain now.....fourteen hundred years later.  It'd be an interesting read....if you had a signed copy from both parties.

What happened next?  Well....around 630 AD.....roughly thirty years after he started up this whole religious episode and ten years after he got kicked out of town.....he leads his band of men onto the city of tolerance.  They establish firm control, and within weeks....had killed off a number of characters from the old days.

Anybody who'd been put on his bad-boy list....got whacked.  Simple...quick...to the point. That list probably existed from the eight-day walk, and you can imagine at least a hundred-odd characters who made it.  Interestingly enough....two slave gals who wrote up a cynical and sarcastic poem of sorts on him....made the list and were executed.

The most open and tolerant city-state on the face of the Earth?  No more.  He installed his religion as the only religion acceptable within walls of the city.  The city-state shifted in a very short time.  They became the most intolerant city-state on the face of the Earth.

The black rock experience?  Well, it's an odd thing.  This guy wasn't an idiot.  This walk that folks did....to visit the black rock with 360-odd religious meanings....simply couldn't end.  He needed new and enthusiast followers.  So he transformed the black rock deal....to simply be an extension of his own religion.  No one much fussed...otherwise, they'd be accused of being intolerant of the only religion in the city-state.  You can see the logic here.

So the black-rock continued on....with a new theme written into the text from 630 AD on.  Here in 2014, no one from this religious group is going to challenge history, or question why the black rock theme was 360-odd religions one day, and one-religion the next day.  The less history you know....the better off you are.....and no one will threaten your life over a silly little story where 359 other religions were involved in some black rock ceremony over a month long.

Times have passed, and this intolerant city-state still is around today.  Mecca.

The town where the minister got kicked into back in 622 AD?  Medina.

The guy?  Muhammad.

So, this gets you to pondering.  If there ever was a time machine developed, and one guy could be sent back to change one single element of world history....then 610 AD is the likely best time to go into....and Mecca is the town.  You'd have only one goal....to quietly eliminate this an intolerant street minister who will pose a threat to the safety of every living human....fifteen hundred years later.

It's an odd story.  Mecca....the most tolerant city-state on the face of the Earth....for a brief period.  Simple rules.....tolerance preached to everyone and expected in return.  Folks lived a good life.  And intolerance ended up being the fatal result.

Fate and history go hand-in-hand.  This is one of those classic cases.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Aliens and Such

An Iranian news agency has put out an interesting story....detailing an NSA revelation that Snowden knows about....where alien space folks, from the Nazi-era of Germany....now control the US government (through Obama and his staff).

It's a curiously worded piece.  Basically....when the US and the UK beat Nazi-Germany in 1945....we whipped the alien space guys who were supporting them, and basically brought them into the US as part of a program.  The chief point of the story is that the aliens mostly reside in Nevada, and run the US capital....through President Obama.

I'm a practical guy, and always open to factual revelations.  In this case.....there's no facts....but it's a neat story.

How did the US beat the Nazi-aliens?  Well, that's not really part of the story.  Obviously, if you accept one part of the story, then it leads to ask the other part.....we must be fairly advanced over what the aliens are.

Iranians last week week woke up and read the story.  Belief?  It's hard to say what the average Iranian guy believes in.  Bigfoot?  Sea monsters?  Aliens?  Elvis still alive?

If you believed in this alien story and the Nazis....then would it take just a step or two to say that the aliens took over the Muslim leadership and yank on the chain of the top five Mullah's of Iran?  Could Nazi-era aliens be running Islam into the ground?  Was Saddam really fighting Nazi-era aliens trying to take over Iran in the 1980s?

You could twist this story a dozen ways, and get naive folks all disturbed over the whole thing.  Imagine a Mullah having to come out and discredit aliens or bigfoot.

The sad thing is that sixty million Americans will read this Iran news media story, and actually believe it.  And, then the thought will be.....did the Nazi-aliens create the National Healthcare Act....to get everyone's personal information?  Well....it's believable.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

When Plain Old Prison Isn't Enough

In 2011, when Anders Behring Breivik finished his killing spree in Norway....he'd ended the lives of seventy-seven folks.  The vast majority under the age of seventeen.  Most folks in Norway felt that the court episode was a formal thing, and he'd just quietly rot away in prison for the rest of his life.

Well....he's been in a prison a while now, and he's become more of a problem.

He now complains in a significant way of jail-room and strip searches.  He believes it's a bit unfair.  He's sent letters off to various news media folks....including the Wall Street Journal....to note this unfairness.

His book?  Oh, that's an interesting piece.  He now says that he's just finished a one-thousand page book, and working on getting a publisher to review and publish it.  The odds of any Norwegian publisher touching it?  Zero chance.  Any publisher in Europe or the US?  There might be one or two who will examine this....but at one thousand pages....it'll be a question if it's untouchable.

I kinda think that it might go self-publish....but even the folks at Amazon will be hesitant to include it on their possible books.

His latest comments?  Well....he says that he's devised a way to turn his Playstation 2, some long screws, and several pieces of paper....into a weapon.  I would imagine the prison guards are reviewing the book on allowances, and if they can retain the Playstation 2.  He probably wasn't bright in suggesting this, and losing the Playstation might be a pretty big drag on a long prison term.

There are these guys who go off to prison, and bluntly need to be given a shovel, some sand, and two hundred sand-bags a day to fill.  They've got excess energy and think they got into prison for no real reason, and it's just unfair.

Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and New Deal

By Robert Murphy.

Historians are lousy at economics, and economic experts are lousy at history.  So this book kinda fills in the gaps and tells the story of the 1920s lead-up to the Wall Street collapse, what Hoover did, and how Roosevelt really screwed up by making the depression last longer.

It's a fair read.   Fifty percent of the book is loaded with facts and statistics, with a good read.  The other fifty percent....economic analysis which would bore most history enthusiasts to death.

As a kid growing up, the depression era took about two pages out of the high school history book, and the teacher would spend a week on the era.  Too much money spent and the evil capitalists at Wall Street, along with the term "roaring twenties" as the thing to remember. It didn't make much sense to me as a kid.

Later, in college....the episode came up in a history class taught at Louisiana Tech.  I remember the professor getting the question in the middle of the class....that these wordy explanation didn't exactly put facts on the board or make any sense.

The professor stopped the class for a minute, and simply laid in this two-minute explanation that Roosevelt was a guy who had never run a business in his life, and knew absolutely nothing about finance or business.  The dozen or so people around him....his personal staff....they were of the same variety.  So they baked up various gimmicks which looked good in a college class or on thesis paper.....but would never function right in real life or in the business world.

It was a harsh reality moment.  As the professor summed it up....the depression might have ended to some minor degree as the war starts....only because the personal staff got pushed out and business men were brought in to run America finally.....but it's only really over when Roosevelt is dead and six-feet under.

The book kinda goes in this same direction, but hundreds of details about what worked, what failed, and how lousy incompetence in the White House really made America overall suffer.

It's worth the read if you have interest in the 1930s, the depression, and the business world.  Otherwise?  I might skip it because it really goes deep into finance and economics, which isn't a topic that most folks enjoy reading over.

Friday, 10 January 2014

The You-Ought-to-Migrate Strategy

Imagine a state, where some folks introduce a simple legislative bill....that says on election day....even if you are registered in county X, that you appear in county Y and note that you've moved, and you intend to vote in county Y's election.  Imagine the voting clerk noting everything perfectly legal, then allowing you to vote with ease in county Y.

Well, in Colorado....the state legislature created such a law (House Bill 1303).

The original premise was that it'd make it real easy for new folks (hint: minorities) to just appear, register, and vote on election day.  Setting up a 30 or 60 day limit?  Well, they just didn't think that'd be necessary.  Setting up a mandatory requirement of property taxes in the new county?  Well, no....that would simply impede the minority folks and their vote.  Item after item.....which might have brought logic or ethics into the discussion....tossed out.

So, it's an odd thing.  Some guy appeared in county where a recall election was called, noting he just today....moved from county X to county Y.  The clerk had to accept the guy and allowed him to register to vote.

The guy in this episode?  From Colorado.  His intent?  He noting the most interesting tactic of voting procedure in Colorado history.  A number of counties in Colorado (voting districts).....are overwhelmingly Republican.  Folks in Colorado know the counties, and know that it's typically a seventy-thirty mix.  Ranching areas....farm districts....rural areas.

So what this guy is suggesting is that a couple thousand folks migrate, just for one day, to another county where it's typically a 53-to-47 percent Democratic majority.  With two or three thousand folks suddenly migrating in and getting voting status in just ten minutes.....you suddenly turn a easy win county for Democrats into a marginal win....and likely a Republican win (just a one-vote margin is enough in real life).

The mere suggestion of this new migration strategy is scaring the crap out of some Colorado Democrats.  They never envisioned that someone would figure out a one-day migration angle to the whole thing.   Fixing this by November of 2014?  It's likely number one on the list of things that must be done....but then you'd have to undo the marvelous device that you designed to help you with the minority vote or sudden-appearance votes.  You'd crack up a fancy strategy with "win-win-win" all over it.

Add in a thirty-day migration requirement, where you have to show evidence you moved?  I'm guessing guys are already dreaming up a simple RV address in a Democratic county, where seven guys will indicate they sleep out of the same RV trailer.  More evidence to anchor your registration?  It'd just slam the folks that you wanted to help vote in this year's election.

I'm guessing that around four thousand folks as a minimum....are going to move in this migration-vote mess for November of 2014.  Maybe even ten thousand folks.  And it's going to make a fair mess for strategy guys to figure the 2016 election in the state.

And here's the odd thing. If it works in Colorado.....there's bound to be other states and open doors to do the same thing.

So, as you sit in the barber's chair there in Walsenburg, and Joe starts talking about migrating up north....into Colorado Springs, and you start thinking he's got a screw loose or something.  Well, no.....Joe got migration on his mind for other reasons, and it's a bit devious.

Going Nowhere Fast

It won't make onto the national news, and ninety-nine percent of America doesn't care....but the Japanese have offered an odd deal for the DC/Baltimore community.  The Japanese government is willing to put around four billion dollars on the table, to help build a high-speed rail deal between DC and Baltimore (a 39-mile stretch).  Currently, with the best that Amtrak has to offer....this takes roughly fifty minutes (on a good day).

The entire project?  Well.....it's carefully woven into the bigger deal.  The Japanese want the US to buy into their standard railway, with their standard high-speed trains.  The entire route envision would be from DC to Boston (don't ask why they picked Boston instead of NY City).  But that would be several years down the line. This Baltimore to DC plan would cost roughly eight billion in today's dollars.  If you figure in incompetence, greed, and foolish behavior....it'll round off at sixteen billion (my figure).

The pay-back?  Well....this is the hard part for folks to get around to accepting.  For the line to ever pay the Japanese back....you'd have to take the standard cost of today's DC to Baltimore Amtrak ticket, and at least double....perhaps even triple....the ticket the cost.  This is the same problem with the LA to Vegas concept....where it'd cost double the current airline cost between the two cities....to ride out on a high-speed train.

How many locals from Baltimore or DC would ride it?  There's an argument over this number.  Several news folks talk of different numbers.  The best practical number is around ten thousand total residents from both communities would enjoy the deal on a daily basis.

How connected is Baltimore to DC?  After living in Arlington for three years.....I came to realize that most folks in Baltimore have zero connection to DC, and the same is true for DC folks.  Folks in both areas are particular about football and baseball traditions.  Jobs?  Well.....generally, there's not that much in Baltimore to draw a guy to live there.

So this whole thing?  Basically, you would be working to create a twenty-five minute ride from the Baltimore station to the DC station.  You can figure another thirty minutes messing around with local connections in Baltimore to get over to their train station, and another thirty minutes to get from the center of DC to your job site.

If they had said there's one single effort....to build one high-speed rail to NY City from DC....some additional interest would have been generated.  It takes roughly three hours now for a guy to make the standard run (which is a limited-stop deal).  If you said it could be done in sixty-six minutes (no stops along the way)....you'd suddenly pick up a good bit of interest.  But then you'd ask how much a one-day single ticket would run, and the $140 round-trip ticket would make this a joke.

So when you hear about this entire high-speed rail deal and how the Japanese want to help finance it.....you know the basic facts.  It's cash flushed down a toilet.....as fast as possible....on something that few would ever benefit from.

The Trouble with Tolerance

There are two definitions to the term "tolerance".

First, it could mean the ability to tolerate an issue.....regarding the existence of an opinion or attitude or practice.....that a person doesn't agree with.  In other words, after a long line of behavior modification.....you get to some point where you can accept some things happening but generally don't like and probably don't support it.

Second?  It's a machinist-type definition.....simply an allowable extent or load.....that falls within a noted quantity in a machine-produced product.  You built something to handle 2,144 pounds of weight....as long as it does not climb above that number....you are safe.  If it does climb beyond that.....you are screwed.

I'm fifty-five and have come to realize this myth of teaching or inflicting tolerance onto people.  In 1977 when I entered the Air Force.....there were at least a dozen hours of tolerance training mandated in basic training.  Some of it circled around "I'm Ok, you're Ok", and the rest around racism.

The concept is simple.  Someone works on your behavior.  They want you to generally accept A, B, and C.  It's a word game for the most part.  They start with the idea of social change, and that your peers are all doing it.  You need to realize this change, and flow with the crowd.  By the end of basic training....most everyone is geared to just accept things but be mostly still the same person.  This means that racist folks are mostly taught to hide their racism, pretend things are fine, and just keep your mouth shut.

Life in the Air Force is simple from that day on.  Everyone quietly has an opinion and rarely shares those extreme thoughts.  If you do accidentally share those thoughts....they send you back for more tolerance training.  They reinforced it by inserting tolerance training into each base-to-base transfer.  So after a while, most all folks were capable of conducting themselves in a clean and proper work atmosphere.

Well....yeah.....we had just as many racists in the Air Force in 1998, as we had in 1977 when I joined....but they were simply trained to quietly act professional and just avoid talking on this subject.

As you progress in life....you tend to notice this tolerance training scheme at work in the university system, newspapers, political world, and the nightly news.  Folks want to share their tolerance prospectives and get you to accept more and more things onto the plate.  Truthfully?  You aren't really changing much of your prospective.  You simple will see something of a disagreeable nature, and just avoid talking about it.

It was generally a pretty good trend of sorts....up until the last ten years.  On some different levels....I think tolerance has hit absolute maximum and there's some push-back now.  Folks tend to ask questions.  The naive nature of tolerance has some limits.  Once a person starts to publicly deny tolerance training, or stop accepting the believed nature of peer pressure....it's a stalled game.

The funny side to tolerance training....is that if you walked up and conveyed to an atheist that he needs to accept Christian people as 'no issue'....he's liable to say no.  If you walked up to an abortion supporter and said they need to accept the argument of the anti-abortion crowd.....he will say no.  If you sat down with some anti-capitalist folks, and suggested that they needed to accept capitalism to some degree....they'd definitely say no.  Once you realize this....then the game of tolerance is over.

Recently, folks have gotten into the topic of the Washington Redskins football team.  They say it's very racist in nature, and you are very intolerant if you accept them existing with the name.  They'd like for you to develop tolerance skills, and just accept the fact that they are right, and the team must change their name.  The fact that some Indians have stepped up and said it's not racist?  Well, that was kinda unexpected, and the tolerance crowd will have to work on the Indians....getting them to be more tolerant of their own circumstance.  You can sense....this will take a while (maybe an eternity).

Tolerance is a double-edged sword in my book.  You simply are taking a guy....whittling away on his character enough....to where he just won't say anything but he generally believes in the same stuff.  He's simply learned to keep quiet....to make folks happy.  At some point....he will get unhinged and dump a bunch of truth onto the folks in front of him....and they will react in a intolerant way.

There's an effort in one state of Germany....where the political group in charge of the state....wants a teacher-agenda in the school system where tolerance is taught to grade-school kids....over lesbians, gays, transgender, and transexual folks.  They thought that everyone in the state was prepared to accept this agenda.

They kinda guessed wrong, with widespread reactions and some political intimidation going on.  Elections are fifteen months away, and this fear of pay-back by the public is scaring some political figures who signed up for the tolerance lessons.

Would German kids accept tolerance training?  If it's more of a intellectual crowd where they could be flipped into believing all their peers have signed up....then it's a pretty simple deal.  But in a crowd of working-class kids (not bound for the university system)?  They will challenge this and turn the tolerance class into a comedy of perverse word games.  Acceptance of tolerance?  No....it'd be more of a class anarchist lesson.

I've become tolerant in nature.  Some things I will simply see and accept, with a little light bulb that pops up in my mind but I know I can see things and just quietly accept them.  It's like walking into an airport terminal and noting three guys in Arab attire with suspicious looks, and I'll just pretend they aren't Jihad-Johnny type characters.  Or I'll be entering a train station and note two or three dopers in one corner....prepared to sell the hard stuff to you, and I won't whoomp on them.  Or the rental car place only has three cars left, and they are all Chrysler vehicles.....and I'll just accept one of them as my lousy choice of a driving vehicle.

You see.....I've become tolerant on fifteen thousand possibilities.

I can sit and watch CNN, even though I regard it as the collection of two-star journalists.  I can briefly sit in a church audience and receive some minister's message....even though I question the vast amount of the message (I am not my 'Brother's Keeper', nor do I pretend to agree with the logic).  I will try hard to watch a baseball game.....but deep inside....I'm boiling over with the whole steroid era and the fake statistics created by Barry Bonds.

More tolerance training for me?  No, I've probably reached maximum capacity.  I've reached the point where I'm mostly intolerant about tolerance.  Peer pressure won't help.  Professional tolerance instructors won't help.  And even Doctor Phil's tolerance episodes won't help.

Did Jesus have that an unlimited amount of tolerance?  No.  At some point, he kinda dumped his load when the tax collector guys were operating in the temple, and just let loose on them.

So pardon me....if I don't seem to be fully and completely tolerant.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Simply Observations

Governor Christie of New Jersey has finally stepped into a self-created mess.  Back in September.....at least one of his aides (possibly several)....sat down and dreamed up a way of paying back the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey for not supporting him for the governor's election.  The pay-back? Basically shutting down two lanes over the bridge going into Fort Lee.  This added a four-hour delay into getting into the town.  The tactics used here?  Stuff you'd expect from some teenage kid.  The odds of lawsuits now coming up for damages?  There ought to be thousands.  The odds that Christie knew about the punishment?  Unknown...but you'd have to expect some state prosecutor just itching to get into this.

Gallup did a unusual poll.....detailing out the voting ID of Americans.  Twenty-five percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans, and thirty-one percent as Democrats.  The rest?  It's an all-time record of independents.  The story here?  Tea Party folks.  This ought to worry both Republicans and Democrats.

The University of Southern California has a testing project which might change America forever.  The deal?  Someone has designed a giant 3D printer....capable of building a house.  The project manager says they can pour an entire house now.....with just a robot....in twenty-four hours.  Size and look?  Unknown.....they didn't get into those kind of details.  So you can imagine this in ten years.....you want a house on a lot....contracting out some guy.  He shows up.....asks for your design....feeds this into the system, and the robot 3D printer starts working.  You come back twenty-four hours later and it's done, except for drying out.  Eventual saving?  I'd be taking a guess that fifty percent of the house cost might be gone.....although the use of wood would disappear overnight for house construction.

Some smart guys at Nottingham Trent University (UK) went and did a research project over extreme video gaming.  They've come to an odd discovery.  Extreme gamers....the guys who do more than two or three hours a day....likely hallucinate.  Yeah, they think and believe things....which aren't true or real.  They even noted folks who admitted that they don't recognize colors or lights while driving....which means that an extreme gamer is probably not capable of driving.  This brings up a lot of questions......but it's doubtful that the public grasps the big picture of this study.

Finally, the World Cup soccer guys have a problem.  Their chief running the 2022 episode (in Qatar).....has quietly admitted that the normal month that everyone anticipated the games would be played....is just too hot.  So he proposes it occur around three months later.  This sat off a blast of criticism from just about everyone.  Various European and Asian leagues are locked into their schedules and can't agree to changing the regular schedule.....even if this is seven years away.  The TV contracts?  Already written, and this really creates a big problem for courts to figure out later.  The committee that runs world soccer?  Even they got all upset that it was even suggested.  The problem here....if anyone has ever been out to Tucson in July.....is that you can't do much of anything in the summer months.  Apparently, no one woke up during the review board and approval process.....to say that temperatures are an issue.  Even in December....it's still bound to be up around ninety degrees for a day-time temp.  Playing at night in July/August?  It's likely to still be around ninety-five to a hundred degrees at ten PM.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Subject of Time-Travel

It's one of those oddball questions that a guy would ask in some pub....is there any evidence of time-travelers among us?  Usually, there'd be three folks at the bar who respond....mostly discounting the idea, or suggesting that they were themselves....time-travelers.....who had a bit too much to sip for the evening.

It came out this week....that astrophysicist Robert Nemiroff....a Michigan Technological University professor with no real projects on his plate.....took some of his students onto a project.  Could anyone use the internet and 'history' and find episodes where time-travelers might have laid down a card, or left some hint they'd been around.

The result?  Nothing.  They used phrases like "Pope Francis" to see if anyone used the term in the decade prior to him coming into the office.  They used the term "twitter" to see if someone used it before it ever took off.  Answer?  No.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Bing were the chief items used.

Course, a guy could say....none of those exist in the year 2183.  So maybe these travelers are careful about how they browse or leave trails.

The general belief?  Well....the science guys are of some belief that sooner or later....some idiot is going to crack the time-travel thing, and either accidentally or on purpose.....do it.  Government-approved?  I kinda doubt it.  Once you ship a guy back with the intent of changing one single circumstance.....it likely changes forty additional events, and maybe makes things twice as bad as they were before.

The other professors at Michigan Technical University?  Well....I'm guessing they are a bit peeved that they aren't allowed to do bigfoot studies, Loch Ness reviews, cattle mutilation studies, and UFO analysis.  The thing is.....you gotta study something and conclude some evidence on it.  Even if you studied mail-route delivery times, nutritional positives of pop tarts, or acid-reflex numbers of Dr Pepper.  So we can conclude.....no time traveler using Google or Facebook.

Course, maybe they turned up at Auburn this year, ensured that the Iron Bowl went against Alabama, and helped to get a third-rate team all the way to number two in the nation.  Well....it could have happened this way.

Great Literature Equals Great Minds?

Some smart guys down at Emory University (Atlanta) sat down and did an odd research project.

They handed the novel....Pompeii (Robert Harris)....over to almost two dozen students, who were wired up to monitor their brain activity for a couple of weeks.

Pompeii, as written by Robert Harris, is a tale of intense moments and the lead-up to the volcano blowing up around 79 AD.  Some of the basic facts are woven into the story, but the majority of the book is fictional in nature.

Thoughts, ideas, fear, and courage are all elements of the story built into the book.  To say that it's fairly dramatic....would be an accurate statement.

So, it's an odd thing.  Over this almost three-week long test, the students read the book and then completed it.  Brain activity around the left side, which notes the influence ability of the brain....was way up.  The strange thing is that even days...almost up to a week....after finishing the book, the students were all still hyping up on brain activity from this region.

The activity would eventually settle a bit....but the theme and story carried their brain on for several more days.

This all brings folks to ponder over the meaning of this.  Epic fictional story....strong characters....decisions made....lives lost.

There is some thinking that great novels or readings like this....have a big effect on us.  Short-term?  Well....that's now pretty much guaranteed.  Long-term?  Unproven.

I'm not much into the mental health science business.  But I am into history.  When you settle down and examine a dozen of the better known leaders from 1850 to the 1950's era.....they all were well-read individuals.  It wasn't so much education or university background, but they read on a intense scale.

A hundred years ago....Roman history, Greek philosophy, and great British literature were all standard for most folks who considered themselves "intelligent".  It wasn't uncommon for folks to meet up on a Sunday afternoon, and read passages of Shakespeare or Dickens.....to others in the parlor or on the front porch.

We might accidentally discover that great minds have a starting mechanism, which activates when we read.  Course, if proven.....then what?  Would it change anything in the world we live in?  I kinda doubt it.  We aren't about to reshuffle the deck and suddenly start reading a Tale of Two Cities, or discussing Socrates with the grocery clerk at Piggly Wiggly.

Monday, 6 January 2014

PTSD and Exorcisms?

I've come to some beliefs about PTSD.

First, I do believe that it is NOT a combat-created mental issue, where only guys in the military will be affected.  There's more than enough proof that any major traumatic experience....from a car accident to a plane crash....can trigger and result in PTSD.  Research is now beginning to show different levels and different triggers.

Second, concussions of some sort.....usually figure into this.

Third, some methods do work, and some don't.  This kinda leads me around to the idea of some folks having a physical ailment as part of the trigger, and some folks have strictly a mental and emotional issue as the trigger.  So the solutions that work.....aren't really working across the board.

So this brings me to this new topic.....exorcisms being used for PTSD.  The deal is $199.  Yeah, it's odd how they round it up to this amount.  You basically get a weekend with some minister (not a Catholic, mind you), food, shelter, a book by the minister, and a thirty-minute exorcism.

Some guys come out of the episode with a positive feeling.

The selling point?  Well....the minister says that demons are always looking for a way to enter your mind, and a traumatic experience is such.....that a demon just walks in and takes root.  Their exorcism drives the demon out.

I pondered over this.  The problem is that you can't define PTSD into one problem, with one solution.  So, this gimmick of sorts....might actually work on ten to twenty percent of the folks who have PTSD.

To be honest, a bunch of folks who don't even have PTSD (as defined).....might be better off with a thirty-minute exorcism session.  Whether real or imaginary....the results might be worth the expenditure of $199.

Tax-credit?  No.  Approved by the Catholic Church?  No.  Sanctioned by any medical association?  No.  Crazy?  Well....you can't say.

My advice....for any guy looking for some gimmick or solution to his PTSD, and you've tried several of the prescribed methods to find no "relief".....well.....$199 is not much and maybe there's this slight chance that it'd work for you.  I don't think I'd tell anyone of the plan, or the agenda....just go out....say "hey", and subject yourself to a three-day weekend with the minister and his wife at the trailer.

Friday, 3 January 2014

My Family History of Sorts

It was about property....the ownership and status attained with property....that my family is what it is.

I've spent a number of hours digging through family history to piece together the historical impact and stories related to the Hammond family.  So this is the basic tale.

The Hammond who made the decision to leave the "isle" (Great Britain)....was Francis Hammond, from Kirby Bedon.  Born in 1590, Francis was one of a very small number of folks living in Kirby Bedon, where ownership of the property was left to a few of the more privileged folks.  You are miles away from any real civilized area, with Kirby Bedon on the south eastern chunk of land in England.

Over the years, nothing much changed.  You were born into a status, and you stayed at that status.  In a rural village like Kirby Bedon....you were mostly nothing.  Today?  The last pub in the village has closed in the last decade, and the population of the village rests at around 186 folks (2001 local census).

Six buses a day leave Kirby Bedon today.  The most remarkable piece of local history?  A B-24 bomber crashed trying to land at the local US Army-Air Force base in WW II, and there's a memorial of sorts to the four crew members who died.

Otherwise, nothing much of a famous nature ever occurred there, except some Hammond guy left.

You can imagine Francis making this decision of sorts.  Staying just means more of the same.  No movement....no change....no possibility of anything better in life.

Francis will have a son, John Hammond....born in 1610.  John will settle in London.....a thousand times better than Kirby Bedon.  But in this remarkable period of the 1630s.....there are vast issues at hand in England.

The King has issues with Parliament.  There are religious conflicts underway since the Catholic Church got the boot.  Taxation is forever a topic on the mind of the King in dealing with Parliament and the political figures of the day.  And there's this pesky radical religious figures.....the Puritan crowd....who are making waves throughout the topics of the day in England.

John Hammond will make this decision in 1666....strangely enough...the year of the Great London Fire....to board a vessel at the age of fifty-six with his son Ambrose who is twenty years old at the time (1646 is listed for the birth-year).

The move?  Well, there are several events going on in 1666....the London Fire will occur by year's end, religious turmoil, and this plague business.  It's generally believed that John had some wealth and removed his family from London because of the plague and the continuing threat to society.  The family would arrive arrive in Virginia in 1666.  It's generally accepted that fifteen percent of the London population ceased to exist after this two-year bout of the plague....totalling near 100,000 deaths.

One has to imagine a relative or two there.  The Hammonds would have done what they typically would do....visit a while and feast on some home cooking.

John Hammond would pass on in 1700 in Cumberland County, Virginia.  He would make it to the remarkable age of ninety....which was more unusual than typical in those days.  His son, Ambrose?  He'd end up marrying some local gal from Virginia...a Miss Elizabeth King (1650 born in Virginia).  Ambrose would continue living in the Cumberland area until 1739 (dying at the remarkable age of   ninety-three).

Ambrose would have two kids.  My descendent from him is John Hammon Hammond Sr (born in 1685 in Rappahannock county, Virginia).

John lives onto age of seventy-two, dying in 1758.  John ended up with nine kids between two wives.  Yeah, he was an active guy.  His second wife was thirty-five years younger than him upon marriage.

From the nine kids, there's the youngest one that is my connection....Joseph.  Born in 1753 in Cumberland County, Virginia.

Joseph ends up pulling Revolutionary War service....as a Private. He was a member of the 14th VA Regiment, Col. Davidson, Capt. Boll's Company.  Records tend to indicate he was discharged honorably in March of 1779. He ends up passing away in April of 1829, at the age of 76, in Surry County, North Carolina.  Surry familiar?  Well, it's where Mount Airey and the Mayberry legend kinda comes from.

The marriage between Joseph Hammond and Martha Landrum?  It produces four kids.  Strangely, all four kids survive to be adults, and all leave North Carolina.  My connection? James, born  in 1784. There are couple of birth-years swapped on "Jim", so you never can be sure of absolute dates.

Jim will turn out to be an oddball character.  He will marry in 1807, to Miss Maggie Savage (born in 1788), from North Carolina.

In this time....barely twenty years after the Revolutionary War....the arrangement for ownership of property has quietly changed.

Before the war, you basically paid the royal crown some fee, and acquired property.  The thirteen colonies....functioned more as thirteen independent companies.  Each had an agreement with the king, and had to pay him a fee for property sold.  The king's ability to cover year-to-year budgets?  It really depended on property sales.  The Parliament up until the Revolutionary War....really wasn't keen on helping new taxes onto people.  While Americans in 1776 will get all hyper about taxes....what they really complained about was that they paid taxes, and didn't really see the pay-back (as we see today).

After the Revolutionary War, the US federal government came to quickly realize that there were only a couple of methods of taxing people.  Mostly around whiskey, tea, coffee, import taxes, and the sale of property.

So as 1800 rolled around, Americans are keen on avoiding any discussion of paying for property.  Why not just go and settle where there's no government ownership.  You can imagine a couple of guys....sitting around a fire in the midst of December....all hyped up on free property.  You go.....settle, and if the government comes later, you just talk of your ownership and avoid any fees or sales cost.

It is this way with Jim, and his brothers.

They will make this decision around 1810, and journey to the "new frontier" (Indiana).  Yeah, it may sound pretty silly in today's world....but Indiana was raw, pure, and complete frontier.  Yes, with Indians too.  There was probably some discussion, and some dissent prior to this move.

Commentary from various family researchers over Maggie....indicates that she really wasn't happy.  This move....a fairly dramatic moment in the mind of a young woman.....just didn't work.

There are countless stories of young women who ventured with the family out to the new frontier region (Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana), and how miserable life was.  History lays out a pretty woeful tale of how the initial years were.  Letters would be mailed back east (to Virginia and the Carolinas....telling of a pretty bad deal).

The drive up into Indiana?  Well....by wagon, pulled by oxen, you can imagine this trip taking a minimum of two months, across the hilly country of Kentucky.  Roads are non-existent, and if luck follows you....you might cover fifteen miles on a good day with creeks and streams to cross.

Jim and "the team" would spend two winters in Indiana.  History will tell the story of it being awful bad winters with a fair amount of snow.  Toss in the threat of Indians, and there just wasn't much to be thankful about.

So Jim and one brother make the decision to leave, and head south.  It's never clear about plan "A", and being a Hammond....there might not have been an exact and clear plan "A".

As they neared Lawrence County, Tennessee.....Maggie would pass from this Earth.  Some suggestions, I suspect from those who read letters from Maggie....suggest that she was at her wit's end....and committed suicide.  It's hard to say from what little facts exist.  She was buried around 13 Apr 1813.

Jim would end up stopping the trip for himself at Whitehead, Alabama....about twenty miles from Lawrence County where he buried Maggie.  One brother would continue on....to Wetumpka, Alabama and make that his home.

Jim stayed.

From what is written, Jim marries Maggies younger sister Sarah Savage around January of 1819.  Sarah was two years younger than Maggie (Sarah was born in 1790).  She would have been 29, fairly old by the standards of the time.

Sarah and Jim end up having five kids between them.

What is generally known and accepted about Jim....was that he was an awful friendly guy.  After settling up in Bama in 1813 (the region became a state in 1819)....Jim had a farm operation, and was kind of friendly with the local Indians.

What is written about Jim mostly....is his hobby....fox-hunting.  Jim ends up discovering that the local Indians enjoy the hobby as well, and they all figure out eventually that they enjoy distilled spirits....whiskey.

From 1813 to 1850....Jim lives a pretty good life....enjoys good relations with the local Indians, and probably did an awful lot of fox-hunting.

In 1850....at the age of sixty-six....Jim went off on a fox-hunt alone, with a blind-mule (or blind-horse, depending on who is telling the story).  Somewhere around Second Creek, which is just a couple of miles down the road from Whitehead...Jim and his blind-mule end up on a cliff.  Nothing much is spoken over darkness or whiskey....but Jim and the blind-mule end up going off the cliff.

Nightfall comes, and Jim's wife (Sarah)....calls upon the local Indians to help find Jim.  They find his body and the dead mule.  They recover Jim, and deliver him back to the family.

From Jim's family, my connection is Franklin, born in 4 March 1823. He would end up staying in the local area and marrying Mary Cox (born in 1831).  They would have twelve kids.  He would pass away 24 June 1889.  Other than running a farm, there's not much to note except he bought the current family farm and homestead around 1873.

From Franklin's family, there are two wives.  From the first one (Francis Howard), there were four kids born, but only two would make it to adulthood.  From the second wife (Mollie Kerbo), there would be eight kids, and my connection comes from Mister "Van" (one of the eight).

Mister Van would be born in 1887.  At some point around 1904, my grandfather follows onto an idea of going "out west" to his grandmother's (Kerbo) location in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  The chief reason?  A business college.  It was....Selvidge Business College.  It'd later change it's name to Ardmore Business College.  And even later, after 1945....it became a magnet for guys returning from WW II and using their GI bill deal to attend college.


The chief teachings of the university?  Well, I looked it up and they mostly advertised bookkeeping, stenography, and accounting.  He graduates around a year later.  Then for several years in Ardmore, he resides and works locally.  Somewhere around 1914, roughly nine years later....he returns to Bama.

It's hard to say the reasoning for returning.  He would return and marry Belle Sewell in 1914.  He would end up with....was a piece of the old Franklin Hammond's farm.  Franklin bought the farm in 1873 for $500 (500 acres).  Some deal was worked out and Mister Van ended up with roughly 200 acres of the farm.  An eight room house was built on this property shortly after the marriage.  One would assume, that he came back from Ardmore with a fair amount of money made off his work there, but it's never really told to any degree.

Miss Belle?  Well, she was a teacher of sorts (probably more knowledge than most of the time).  My grandfather was a business school educated guy....so he was fairly educated.  Up until this point, no one had ever gone off to university or such.

What is generally known from 1914 on....is my grandfather was one of the few Republicans of the region.  It's hard to say if the business school did it to him, or just plain common sense.

From their kids, one went onto a teacher's college, and another used the GI bill from WW II to attend college.

From today's circle of family....both my brother and I went off....to be educated to some degree. The 200 acre farm remains....at least in family hands....from 1873 on.  And the rest of the story is mostly local stuff.

So, a guy left some podunk village on the western coast of England and made his fortune in London, and at the height of the plague.....he left out with his family for the new world.  The later descendents often came to the same conclusion.....gotta move on, check out new places, make new friends or associates wherever we go, see a bold new world, and always accept a plan "B" somewhere in the mix.

For better or worse, we haven't changed much in four hundred years.  Maybe that says something.