Monday, 29 September 2014

Battlestar III?

I sat this weekend....reading up on entertainment news and came to this odd story.  Someone has picked up Battlestar Galactica, and decided that there might be a third series out there.

I thought.....hmmm....so this story would tell the rest of the story of version two on Earth?  No.

What the writer of the article suggested was that they'd just rebuild the entire general script and tell the story fresh....yet again.

How different was version one versus versus version two?  It was an entirely different story, with different angles that you just couldn't do in 1978.  In 2004, you had real graphics....so you could build up six minutes of every show with some dynamic battle in space.

About a year after the 2004-version started up.....I happened to catch an episode and was amazed at the storyline, and characters.  It was crisp.  It was leading you onto various mystery elements, and motivating you to come back for the next show.

How to build version three?  I'm not sure that it can be done in a different way, and lay out a totally different outcome.  It's amazing.....so much creativity around, and the best that folks can suggest.....is to just redo it once again.  Thankfully, we haven't had idiots come to do this with Gilligan's Island or Gunsmoke.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

White House Stuff

After this recent ex-Army nutcase climbed the fence and got onto the White House grounds.....the Secret Service is having another round of discussions on improving the safety of the President.

Having been to DC, and walked the entire circle around the White House....I can say that I have a better prospective about this now.  The structure itself.....is one of the most protected sites in America....yet one of the most viewed sites in America.
I'd take a guess that well over forty-thousand people will walk around the front or back on an average week-day.  In August, on a Saturday....there's probably 200,000 people who will come by tour bus or just walk by the front or back.

In essence, it just isn't an easy site to offer protection.  There's the fence, and there's roughly three-hundred feet of open ground that you have to make your way through....to find a dozen-odd guards standing there with machine-guns ready to greet you.

What I expect to eventually to occur....some Jihad group will figure some innovative way to get into the place before they are stopped.   At that point, the Secret Service will stand up and admit the location is not working.  Yeah....we might actually see them suggest moving the President to a new White House....some secluded mountain valley in central Virginia....with triple the number of security personnel and moats as part of the design.

It might be a decade away.....maybe two decades away.  But this open-access environment that exists there......will eventually prove to be a bigger problem than they are willing to accept.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

What Could Have Happened

As a kid sitting around in my last year of high school.....I had an associate who would engage me into this "job of a lifetime"....forest ranger.  We probably spent at least an hour a week discussing the idea.

All of this came from some Lassie episodes, some Sunday afternoon forest fire documentaries, and write-ups in the news of this really 'great' profession.

Even after I'd signed up with the Air Force recruiter, these sessions over the forest ranger job idea would come up.  The excitement, I came to realize....was a job where you mostly drove around in an old Ford pick-up with "US Forestry" on the side, standing in some shack 200 feet above the ground, and wearing a uniform.  Sadly, after a while, I questioned where exactly this would lead onto.

Years later, I came to realize that this was one of the lowest paid jobs in the US government, and getting that cabin on the forestry reservation was the only plus-up when you added up the salary and benefits.

I came across an article this week....a rookie US forest ranger....makes $20,908 a year.  Figure thirty-percent taken for state/fed taxes, social security.  Then figure at least $250 a month for health insurance.  You might make $1,000 a month....roughly what a kid would make if he'd gone to the Marines or Army.

The free cabin?  Well, that helps.  Course, you probably still have a 1974 Ford pick-up, and the uniform might be issued out so you don't have to pay for it.

Moving up?  If you actually had a degree, and put in a year or two....you might get up around $30,000 a year.  Course, you'd have to ask yourself....after spending four lousy years in college....is this forestry deal worth all the hassle?

For some reason, I'm kinda glad the Air Force recruiter got to me....beating out the logic of my associate in high school.  I might be sitting in Montana today....wearing some green forestry suit, driving a beat-up forestry truck, and climbing 288 steps to reach my shack above the trees.  My daily priority?  Mostly checking picnic sites, watching for bears, and calling the cops when I noticed marijuana planted in my section of the forest.  Maybe once a year, I'd notice a fire, and get a pat on the back for reacting to the emergency.

Life has a funny way of making sure you don't do something stupid.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Our American Tradition

You go to a baseball game....mostly to watch your team hopefully beat the other team.  Amongst other things....you also go for the social atmosphere.  And, you go for the greasy junk food.

The season ends for major league baseball this weekend, and folks will have to settle back for six months and wait for 2015's spring to come, and an opportunity to sit and eat through 3,000 calories in one afternoon....of awful fatty and greasy food.

I hadn't been to a major league game in almost fifteen years....when I went to a Nationals game in 2012.  It was an opportunity to reintroduce myself to all the wonders of bad food, and the escalated cost of sitting through a game in this modern era.

It's hard to walk into a stadium today, and not expect to spend anything less than $50 on food and drink.  By the time you figure a beer or two....a whooper-hot dog and fries....then some chili dog....toss in a $4 bottle of chilled water....then some twenty-ounce alcohol-slushy mix....you've easily past $40 and 1,500 calories.

Even in the shade, as I was.....it was 97 degrees, and by the 8th inning, I started to realize my hydration issue, put down a second bottle of chilled water, and a third beer.

I sat and watched some guys go through six to eight bottles of beer during a game, and at least $40 of ribs and greasy fries.

If you figure grease and fat alone....you probably did enough for an entire month...just in a four-hour period.

All of this says something about American society, our trend toward fatty food with no limits, and the ability to accept a pricing scheme of questionable nature.

I suspect if a guy were aggressive and did six baseball games a summer with his buddies...he could figure on adding at least five pounds onto his frame, if he didn't do anything extra on physical activities.

Diet or change coming?  No.  I just can't see major league baseball changing in that direction.  They might offer some vegetarian stuff, and try to put calorie/fat signs up about everything, but society now has no desire to dump the greasy food or high calories deal.  It is....what it is.

Meaning of a True Communists

Sometimes, you come and notice a picture pressed across the internet that makes you sit and ponder.  This is one of them.

We used to have a simple label for Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, liberals, Communists, etc.  You could write a 3 x 5 card's worth of information and basically say what some ideologically was all about.  Today?  You can't do it.

The problem is....we are even going this way with environmentalists, where in ten years.....what label and commentary we established for some environmentalist....won't work.

Yeah, a true Communists today....just ain't the plain old Communists that we learned about in high school.

The Astro-Turf Discussion

I was probably around thirty years old, when I first observed astro-turf....being able to stand on it and rub the stuff.  My general perception was....it's basically concrete with some weird carpeting over it, and if you fall....it's a bit different than regular grass or sod.  Personally, the last thing on earth I'd want to do....if playing baseball or football....is play on astro-turf.  This was some park that we had in Tucson....which had a big issue with limited rainfall, and they'd designed this for some local soccer league.

I noticed this week a big fiasco going on in San Francisco.  There are a number of fields around the city which are used for soccer and football.  The city admits that while people like the sod fields....maintenance on the fields to keep them in operating condition is a major problem with the budget.  So, they want to astro-turf up the whole operation.

Naturally, folks are ballistic about this.....angry...and frustrated with the way head.

What this leads to is the method of construction of the astro-turf.....being from old tires.  Yeah, there's this big worry over cancer-causing agents.

Accusations are going back and forth.....locals saying the political folks are taking pay-offs from the tire companies.  Tire companies wanting no part of this discussion because they make tires....not astro-turf.

Conspiracy talk?  Oh yeah.  Various people talking bribes, and various people defending themselves because they haven't seen a single dime of a bribe (probably wishing they were bribed in the first place).

The comical side of this?  Out of a thousand folks in San Francisco....I'd take a humble bet that less than fifteen might utilize one of these grassy fields for some sport.

Yep, this topic eats up journalism talents, political bickering, parks and recreation discussions, and expenditures of city funding (which is kinda heated these days).  All of this....to make a marginal group of people in the town happy.

Democracy is an odd thing...sometimes, it even creeps into astro-turf discussions.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A Hundred Years Ago, When Life was Big and Grand

From the newspaper.....The Review....of High Point, NC. 14 Sep 1914 (one hundred years ago this past week):
The Otis L. Adams Shows are now holding forth in Mechanicsville Ball Park and large crowds are attending nightly, even the opening night, Monday drawing a good crowd. There are a number of good shows on the ground and well worth seeing. Perhaps the best feature of all is the motor-dome wherein two motorcyclist race with death around the edges of a round enclosure, whose walls are almost perpendicular. It is a sensation worth experiencing. The educated gorilla, the “what is it” animal from southwest Texas, the diving man, snakes, Ferris wheel and other attractions are worth the price. The usual “spend-your-money-as-you-please” attractions are on the midway. We found Manager Adams a very pleasant gentleman and always ready to serve the public to the best advantage. He is the son of a Methodist minister and says he has been in the show business since a mere boy. He is highly elated over the fact that this is the first time out of nine that he has been successful in getting a date for the High Point and said he was determined to make a winning attempt this time if he lost $1000 by coming. But it looks like he going to make good out of his first venture here. 

It is the front page, and highlights one of the top thrills of the week going on in High Point.  The county fair with these traveling shows.....with the introduction of cars....became a big attraction.  People drove for an hour or two.....bringing the entire family out to a show. We dressed in finer clothing, and were on good manners with peers watching us.

Yeah, we came for the motorcycle death race.  We begged to see the diving man.  We all sat there for hours debating what really was the "what is it" creature from west Texas.  We guessed the remarkable intelligence of the guerrilla and if he'd eventually replace the teacher in our school.  We dreamed of snakes for weeks after the fair.  The Ferris Wheel was a once-in-your-lifetime thrill.

Generally, all of these shows had scantily-clad women wrestling, hidden tavern-like operations for cheap booze, and a chance to take bets on various things which tended to always go wrong.

 The Review gave it great press, and worded in a pretty classic way.  They injected a couple of key comments....the son of a Methodist minister...to peal away your curious nature.  "Serve the public to the best advantage" was a nice way to say that it's a show to dip into your pocket and spend money on some event.

The truth is.....we don't get write-ups like this anymore.  We don't have traveling shows like this anymore.  We don't delight in death-defying motorcycle races in steel cages anymore.  And we don't wonder about the mysterious creature from west Texas.  That says a little about society a hundred years later.  We are.....less, and kinda shaking our head over that.

Uber and DC

Even though I've been gone from the DC/Arlington area for 15 months....I still track local news.

This week, there's this report out about DC taxi business.  What the taxi guys say for the DC region....is that they've sat and watched business spiral downward by twenty percent.  Fewer trips....less profit....less potential for recovery.

Blame?  Well, Uber.....the online capability that connects people who need rides with private drivers (not taxi-service)....got ahead.  When faced with competition....rather than look at the Uber model and try to adapt parts of it to their system....the DC taxi system attack Uber in court and via the city council.

Uber got accepted by the public and I'd say that a quarter of the market has now been totally lost to the DC taxi system.  It won't be coming back.

The main reason?  Smart phones.  Guys took the app, grasped the method of operation, and then learned how to use it quickly and efficiently.

Over the three-year period that I used DC taxi operations....I learned three key things.  Almost none of them had a credit card capability (I've heard that most adapted in the last year)....so it meant that I had to carry cash, if I was going use a cab.  Second, every single DC cab you rode in.....had a funky smell....not just mildew or body order but something like a dead fish.  Third, few of the taxi drivers spoke English as their primary language and accents took some time to adjust to and accept.

On a hot summer day last year in late June.....I boarded a cab for my last trip out of Arlington to DC (Union Station was the request).  The lady who picked me up was from Jamaica....with an accent that was delightful to hear but difficult to get across "Union Station".  The car had no real suspension, and at times lurched a couple of inches to the left, or right.  The seat was finished.....feeling more like tractor seat than a car seat.  She offered up some free water to me....since her AC wasn't working and it was easily 95-degrees.  I shock my head....mostly over this being my last trip in DC, and just hoped that we wouldn't hit nothing to kinda screw up this remarkable trip.

I have no doubt....Uber will continue to take away business, and another quarter of the business will evaporate by the end of 2015.  Those without smart phones (the broke crowd of DC)....will stick with cabs.  Those who adapt.....will give up cabs entirely.  You can guess the business angle of this.  Cabs will survive, but their customer base will hint of their future, and how people perceive them.

School Agendas

Quietly over the past decade.....some folks have woke up and spoke out to the idea that they think American history and civics.....in high school.....have been diluted and they question what the heck is prioritized, who prioritized it, and who approved this learning agenda.

This past month....something of an unusual nature has started up in Colorado....in one particular school district.  They've got an elected group in the school board who decided to "juice-up" American history.

The new stuff?  It centers around respect for authority, patriotic material, and talks up capitalism or the free-market.  It decreases the amount of material for civil disorder, disregard for law, and social change.

So, you'd sit and think about this, and your natural comment would be.....it's not likely that any kid in the school system right now would care, or get irked by this.

Well....you guessed wrong.  It's got students all twisted around, disturbed, and frustrated with "censorship" of what they were used to.  Or, that's what they say.  Yep....actual protests are being held over this new prioritization.

The change has not taken place....it's simply being put in front of the public and the school board is debating the rational idea of rethinking what had been in place for a number of years.

Personally?  I'd hate to break it to these punk kids....but you've been getting censorship for five or six decades.  Angry about not getting your yearly amount of civil disorder material?  Would you even recognize disorder?  Big into social change?  What if some dimwit was herding like a bunch of cows toward some social change but it was going to harm you more than help you?  Would you even be smart enough to fight social change?

Fear of capitalism?  What nifty gimmick do you have to replace capitalism?  Want to rig up the market to help some idea flourish while another idea fails?  And who told you of this great trick?  Any chance they've got a front row seat and will be profiting heavily off your stupidity?

Define the free-market?  Do you even have the basic idea how it functions?

When I left high school in 1977.....I came to realize five years later that the value of my last five years of high school was marginal at best.  I knew almost nothing on economics, the free-market, or capitalism. My vast knowledge would have filled three or four 3x5 inch cards.

High school history?  It was probably thirty-percent of the big picture, and slanted.

Maybe these punk kids in Colorado should be protesting.....but they should have been protesting twenty years ago.   A high school education isn't what they think it is.  And maybe in the end....it's just s piece of paper that some idiots stamped and suggest that you are competent enough.....to barely function in life.

McWeed?

I noticed in medical news today.....there's some growing concern over marijuana-infused drinks/food being marketed now in Washington state.  Doctors have noted a couple of cases so far....involved kids with various diseases....who were supposed to benefit from the relaxed rules on medical marijuana....ending up in some hospital unit from an extreme dopey situation where a fair amount of infused food or drink was offered to them for their ailment/condition.

The issue is, which I find interesting.....the menu is kinda varied.  It includes pretzels, chocolate bars, peanut brittle, nuts, cookies, trail mix, energy-type drinks, tea, and just plain "shots".  The state started an allowance for this....but noted in the rules that there must be a THC (the power agent of marijuana) limit to each item.  One cookie, for example....ought to have just the right amount of THC.

Course, it doesn't take an idiot to figure out that you might sit there....consuming six cookies in ten minutes.  The reaction time?  That's an interesting thing.  You can figure that just one cookie consumed with the THC.....will take around one to two hours before your body will react.  So figure six cookies consumed, and you don't feel nothing.  Then 2.5 hours later, you suddenly feel yourself in a daze.  Twelve cookies?  Overloaded.

What stops the gal or guy from consuming six THC cookies?  Nothing.

The pro-marijuana crowd generally put enough rules into place to make this all appealing to the public.  The problem I see is that we have a society that is very capable of doping up on a dozen cookies in one session with a cup of coffee, and walking around in some mall for an hour....then flipping into a high-mood and doing stupid stuff for the next two or three hours.  Operating a car or farm tractor?  Same deal.

All of this leads people to get the idea that it's like a Burger King operation and you can just pick two of these, and four of those.....never really grasping what you are aiming to achieve.  

Bank Walmart?

I made a prediction about ten years ago....that Walmart would eventually get into banking.  Well....the financial news folks say that it's about to occur.

The intention is to provide a simple bank, with no fees on accounts, and no fees for bad checks or overdraft.  Personally, I think the no fee idea for bad checks will last six months before they realize it's costing them too much.  But the rest of this....particularly now when most banks will charge you for various minor actions.....makes sense.

In DC while I briefly lived there....most banks would allow you three checks a month to be written without cost, and then flip some fee into extra checks.  Same deal for ATM visits....I noticed one bank to allowed only one visit per month free, and then they flipped on a $2 per ATM visit after that one free visit.

Bank and the way we use them have rapidly changed.  I can remember in 1977....there simply weren't ATM machines in the local area of Bama where I grew up.  I noticed a year later, while at Rhein Main Air Base in Germany.....we'd gotten our first ATM on base....requiring a special card, and they wanted you to pay around $20 to get the card.  Five years later....most all banks had an ATM machine, and the card was free.

Visiting banks?  I have to admit.....in the past two years....I've probably only stepped inside a credit union or bank maybe four times.  I mail my checks for deposit now.  I check on my credit card bills online.  My pension check goes straight to the bank.

From the peak in 1978.....I probably went to the local base bank six times a month.....I'm almost down to once or twice a year.  I think it's possible to avoid the bank entirely, and go your entire life after day one of getting your account.

Walmart's game here?  They want to be the one and only bank that you ever do business with.  You start your account there.....your son or daughter comes in at age seven and gets an account that they stay with sixty years.....and their son or daughter repeats the same experience.

The fears of the competition?  I suspect some folks are uneasy in smaller towns with six banks and a Walmart in operation.  If just five percent of the regulars to the Walmart (those three-times-a-week folks) join up with Walmart....one of the banks in town will have to shut down due to limited business.  If you got half the folks into this.....you'd be lucky to have two banks open in town.

What Walmart hasn't said....is that it'll handle loans for cars or houses.  My guess is that by 2016....some car loan deal will be worked out.  And maybe ten years from now.....even a home loan deal might be possible.  To make these happen....I'd expect Walmart to step out and buy several companies with business in existence....rebrand them as Walmart-players, and just herd everyone into the Walmart operation.

Yep....someday down the line (probably 2025).....you will look around your neighborhood of sixty-odd folks, and note that three-quarters of them are Walmart bank participants.  And over in the nearby town where a dozen empty bank building sit......folks will pass and note how they went out of business.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Just a Humble Opinion on Aliens

Generally, under just about every scenario you can dream up....I have an opinion of any alien turning up on Earth....being a pretty rough and bad character.

Yeah, I've watched probably over a hundred movies where the aliens turn out somewhat friendly or neutral.....but I've sat and pondered over this to a fair degree.

You'd like to assume that Gus has grown up on a great planet, with good moral leadership, and has all the stuff that he'd require in life.  But there could be a hormone, or drug influencing Gus.....and it's all downhill from that point on.

I'm also of the opinion that if some planet got smart enough to travel this far.....it has to have something on their list to fear future planets coming after them.  Yeah, we might be 200 years away from being a threat, but sooner or later.....we might be the hostile ones.

So, on that fateful day when Gus and his party arrive and offer up some handshakes.....I won't be in line, and I'll be awful suspicious of their intentions.

Twain's Thoughts


There are probably over 1,000 quotes by Mark Twain that you ought to read and ponder over your lifetime.

Some need to be envisioned, discussed, and put into some focus of your life.

A Potential Mess

The Wall Street Journal put out an interesting commentary yesterday (Friday) over the airstrikes discussed by the Administration that would hit ISIS targets in Syria.  Basically, the word is that the President will personally approve each single strike, as the Pentagon comes up to target positions.

Hours later....the Secretary of Defense (Hagel) tried to dispute the commentary....saying that the President as more or less setting the priorities and would have over-view of the strikes.

This kinda brings back memories....oddly enough....of the Bosnia Campaign and how the Clinton Administration dragged itself into the midst of military affairs....viewing daily Air Tasking Orders (ATO) that the Air Force and Navy would hand out to units for their daily missions.

Back in WW II....the Air Force sat down and developed an entire science over bombers and daily missions.  They could line up forty B-17s....have a strategic target set for the evening of the next day....and allow everyone to prepare maps and objectives.

Over each decade since WW II.....we got the ATO process more and more process.  We built bombs that had absolute precision built into the outcome (aiming at center structure of a bridge and simply knocking out a 20-foot section instead of dropping twenty bombs and destroying the whole bridge).  The computer networks enabled mission data to move quickly out and be ready for a scheduled process.  Satellite data got fed into the planning process, and made the pilots smarter over the target and the issues on hitting it.

So, along came Bosnia.  The Clinton Administration decided that it needed to micromanage the entire war....from the White House.  The military's planning structure?  It sat in Italy.  They were on a 72-hour cycle.

The target guys would spend most of a day looking over priorities, values of targets, and then pick the twenty-five-odd targets for X-day (that was roughly two days away).  The pilot planners would then sit and look at the recommendations of the bombs or missiles to be used.  The munitions folks would look at their stock to advise if they had the right bombs or missiles on hand.  The lawyers would review the target and if there were churches or schools or ancient sites nearby. This would eat up the second day of planning.  And then the third day was when it'd hit the squadrons and they'd plan their mission....hitting the tanker at the right point to refuel (if required), and what threats were in the local area, and what pilot would fly which plane.

Once the Clinton staff said they were in the process.....the Pentagon had to build a communications bridge getting data (secure and classified), all the way back from Europe to the White House/Pentagon.  Then a couple of Pentagon big-wigs had to read over the twenty-five-odd targets and grasp the meaning and selection process, as it went to the priority process.  These guys would then walk over to the White House and stand there as the inner-circle of the Clinton Administration walked in.

As this was laid out.....the political guys standing there in the room....were fairly shocked at the science and organized data data put in front of them.  It wasn't a hap-hazard deal thrown together by a bunch of teenage kids.  Organization, science, and logic were heavily administered into this ATO process.

Naturally, questions arose in the first days of this.  Why target this bridge.....normal people will need to cross the river....and the targeting expert from the Pentagon would explain how they picked that bridge and how they'd only destroy a twenty-foot section.....allowing repair to occur when the war ended.

Then they'd go the power sub-stations.....why go after this.....regular people need electrical power.  And the Pentagon targets guy would pull out the President's own priority list, and note that disrupting their power, if it supported a military installation.....was legitimate targeting.

Getting the President's inner circle to grasp the fundamentals and convince the President to agree....became a nightmare episode on a daily basis.  Oddly enough....the ATO guys shocked the White House staff by planning these episode seven days a week.....which meant they had to show up on Saturday and Sunday.....and waste two or three hours on these continued discussions.

Along the way.....arguments eventually got back to the ATO planners, and the lawyers doubled up on their work-load.  You had to know just about every single secondary structure within several hundred feet of the target.  Were there daycare centers nearby, or TV network stations, or baby-milk factories?

So, an entire fourth day got incorporated into the cycle.  Frustrations started to dissipate around the second and third weeks of the campaign....as the White House staff started to realize that this wasn't a one-time a week discussion or chance to argue over warfare priorities.  This was a daily thing, and people just plain lost interest in messing around with what came every twenty-four hours.

Eventually, the war came to an end.  The ATO guys shut down their process.  The bridge network to the White House was kinda dismantled.  Life returned to normal.

Odd to how this micromanage deal got brought up again (as the Wall Street Journal points out)?

No.....go review the guest list from approximately a week ago for a White House function.  Sandy Berger (Clinton's chief political adviser)....attended.  He hasn't been an Obama adviser and I doubt if he's ever been invited to any reception with the President.  But he got onto that list.  My guess is that Sandy Berger advised the President and his staff to recreate this magnificent machine of the President approving targets.

The Pentagon?  They probably just sat there and shook their heads.  Half of the targets for this type of campaign will be spur-of-the-moment episodes where some US Army Sergeant will be attached to an Iraqi unit, coming under fire by 200-odd ISIS players, and he'll need a pair of Air Force fighters to drop some munitions into the middle of the ISIS folks within the next hour.  Will some idiot sitting back in some situation room get the call, and then spend two hours debating the necessity of bombing a target that is within 216 feet of a mosque?  Will the President sit, pause, ponder, and spend seventy-two minutes worried over how this might be perceived by the news media?

Yeah, this is the type of situation that you don't want some political guy trying to make minute-by-minute decisions over the situation about to occur.  The President ought to be there to settle the opening scene of an "opera"....saying what characters will be there....how much the entry fee will be....and ensure that the drama unfolding will be successful in the end.  Beyond that....he needs to stay out of the middle of the mess.

This isn't a simple job.  You have to know when to stand back and let people do what they were supposed to be hired to handle.  Otherwise.....we could fire all officers in the military and just let the President run everything....everywhere, with a bunch of NCOs and Privates.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

College Stuff

This week, I noted an odd episode that has occurred with a state-run university.....requiring training....which is all computer-based....and at some point, it asks the individual about his sexual history and habits.

The college?  Clemson, out of South Carolina.

The questions get down to asking you the frequency, the number of partners, and the general methods of sex that you do.  Fairly personal information.

What the college says....I should note they are the only college in South Carolina requiring this...is that it's all necessary because of Federal Title IX rules.

So they built a computer-based one-hour training program which is supposed to prevent you from illegal crimes of passion (as federally mandated), and these questions fall into the requirement.  Again, I will note.....this is the only South Carolina university doing this.

People answering correctly?  I'd take an amusing guess that absolutely no one is putting down factual information.  Some punk college kids are probably answer they do sexual activities at a rate of a hundred or more times a week.....and have at least three-hundred different partners (some imaginary).  All of this data is then pumped into a report, and they will try to get various government funding to examine the further sexual nature of Clemson students (a fairly hot and lusty crowd, by the nature of the answers).

You could see some dimwitted questions being added, and this thing taking five or six hours in the decades ahead.

You could ask the punks about their fishing habits, and the lures they use.  You could ask the punks about sugary drinks.....Tab, Dr Pepper, or Mountain Dew.....that they consume.  You could ask about their driving habits (if they use the parking brake).  You could ask about their consumption of moon pies or beef jerky.  You could ask about their preference of deodorant, discovering that almost no guys ever use the stuff.   You could ask about puppet preference (Ernie or Bert or Cookie Monster).  You could ask about their fetishes....noting that a quarter of the women role-play and pretend to be Xena-Warrior Princess.  You could even ask about their wiping habits....if they use one, two, three, or multiple layers of toilet paper when they do their business.

I'm guessing that Clemson recently hired someone with an agenda, and they are in charge of this mandated Title IX training deal.  If you refuse to accomplish this by November....the college can toss you out.....so they've signaled their intent to force you play along. Honest actions by the students?  No....don't anticipate anyone will answer truthfully.  So it's pretty bogus, and then you start to wonder.....if it's bogus, why bother?

Yep, we've got problems in American education....but it's getting more and more creative, if you ask me.

The "So Help Me God" Situation

For decades....DoD (Department of Defense)....Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy....had an oath requirement when you enlist or re-enlist.  At the end, there is an optional situation.....you say "so help me God" or you just affirm what you vowed and leave out the God phrase.

If you were an atheist, you could take the second option and just avoid any religious talk.  All of this worked OK, for decades.

So in 2013, someone in the Air Force....they won't say who....determined that there would be one oath, and it'd have to require you to recite the phrase "so help me God" at the end, period.  No exceptions, no waivers.

It didn't really appear in any media, and if you asked around.....barely a thousand people probably noticed the change.

But you could predict a problem would occur sooner or later....as it did in August of this year.  An NCO came up for re-enlistment, and the paperwork for the oath only allowed the God-phrase to be used.....no options....and this NCO was an atheist.

The guy took the paperwork, and did everything right....then crossed-out the phrase at the end, and did everything except that God-phrase.  It didn't work....the unit wouldn't accept the amended paperwork, and noted that if he did nothing....by September, he'd be out of the service.

Well....all of this crap hit the fan....and went to DC to the Pentagon.  They stood there kinda amazed.  Naturally, the Pentagon legal staff is involved, and days of discussion went into this.  Oddly enough, the Marines, Army and Navy were puzzled.  They hadn't done anything to change their oath requirements....they still offered two different ways of doing the oath.  So, naturally, they leaned over to ask the embarrassed Air Force legal guys....what the hell was going on here?

Silence is more or less what was noted.  

After days of internal discussion....this week, the mess was fixed.  The Pentagon told the Air Force.....there's two ways of doing the oath, and the God-phrase is optional.

When this mess started in 2013.....who was attached to the change?  I can only take a guess.  I noted back in 1993, upon arriving at Bitburg Air Base....that suddenly I had three recent graduates of the Air Force Academy in my new shop.  One of the "gentlemen" was a religious nut, to the ninth-degree.  Being a officer, I had to respect the guy for authority, but his commentary over unacceptable behavior....required me to continually note to him that people were entitled to be different.  The other two graduates....had a strong difference of opinion with him, and considered him more of an outsider.  But in conversations....both noted that there were a number of religious enthusiasts at the Academy, and it was going to be an issue in the years to come.

Well....those years have arrived, and those graduates are all now senior leaders in the Air Force.  Religious authority has finally arrived, and forcing changes that aren't part of the general Air Force culture.  This week....the Pentagon legal staff corrected their behavior.  I'm kinda of the view that there will be more corrections down the road.  It's not finished.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Republican/Democrat/Republican/Democrat Party

Out of 100 Senators who sit today in DC....roughly eighty of them (both parties) are really Republican-Democrats.  This means....they really pretend to be of one party, but could flip on any given day to help some agenda group, foundation with political money, lobbyists, or special topic culture.

You'd think that they come to DC to represent their state, or the voters who sent them there.  But that's only media gossip.

The "hype"?  Thank goodness that the networks exist, and cable news have so many potential outlets.....to allow these guys to get their Hollywood-star-status out in front and capture the imagination of dimwitted voters.

I'd take a guess that if you viewed ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News on an average day....at least thirty Senators will appear, and at least two hours of commentary will be offered up in bullet-like clips.  The news idiots are smart enough to ask a simple basic question, and try to limit the Senator to just forty words of commentary, cutting them off before they spill the beans that they really don't know much beyond the memorized piece they got this morning from the Party headquarters or the agenda group.

This sort of game of the media pumping up characters....plays out well, except the public probably has started to catch on, and is now more frustrated with politics.  A soap opera-like scenario....bogus guys appearing nightly on TV.....stupid commentary from both the news media and political figures.  All this adds up.

The fix?  It's not a positive deal....but maybe it's finally time for multiple parties.  Toss in two or three additional political parties with ten-to-fifteen percent of the nation behind each, and limit the Republicans and Democrats to sixty percent of the national vote.  Maybe then, we end up with less theater and better leaders.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The US Army to Africa's Ebola Episode

News reports indicate that the US Army will ship around 3,000 medical personnel off to Africa in the next week.....to help one of the countries in their requirements.  This is one of those deployments that will not end well.

You can figure that 2,000 of the group will be actual medical personnel.  The other 1,000?  Well....you start to get into support.  There will be some kind of communications team....maybe eight guys to ensure satellite communications are up and computers are working.  You can figure they will drag their own chow hall along with them, and twenty personnel will be keeping that running.  Logistical folks?  Figure at least fifty doing various things.  Engineering folks?  At least a hundred.

So, problem one.....the camp where they 'live' and the compound where they work, will be separated, and each will end up requiring security.  In Africa.....things tend to disappear....so you can figure a minimum of twenty guys for each camp will be on security patrol.

Concentina wire?  Yep.....they will put it up and make it look threatening.  The locals will question this and ask if this really help or creating a military presence.

Food?  You can figure they will fly in food every couple of days on a military transport.  The water supply?  No one is going to trust the local water supply....no matter how much the Colonel says it's pure and he sips each day.

In the heat of the tropics.....guys will screw up and make a mistake, and somewhere around day thirty of the deployment....one of the Army guys will come up with a fever.  Tests will take forty-eight hours, and then they confirm that Private Snuffy got himself a case of Ebola. Snuffy will thrown on some transport aircraft, and hustled off to some Army fort in Georgia where his family arrives and gets all frustrated that the Army guys won't talk over his odds or his treatment.

A week or two later....the second guy gets Ebola.  The Army tries to explain this to the Pentagon, but no one can understand how guys screwed up on the procedures and got infected.

When the unit is told to wrap up their initial six months and group two will arrive.....then someone in the Pentagon will write up an order that the first team must spend three weeks at some camp in Texas where they will be isolated and kept from everyone....before they can be released back to their regular lives.

Yeah, it's not the kind of medal or achievement that you'd want to brag much about.

Book Review: In Defense of Women

In Defense of Women, by H. L. Mencken (1918).

I will admit, I've never picked or read a single piece of Mencken's works.  After this reading, I'll probably have to pick up every single writing he did, and read all of them.

Mencken wrote the piece around the era when women got the right to vote, and it was a all-in-one essay to cover women, marriage, and the various cynical episodes that occur.  The analysis and views from 1918?  It probably works just as well in 2014.

It's roughly 130 pages....readable in one weekend, and absolutely full of wit and humor.  Some women might have some negative comments to say, but he throws just as much mud on men....along with political figures, religious freaks, and do-gooders.

I'd strongly recommend it for a college class project.  For guys about to enter into marriage.....it might be a mandatory read.

H. L. throws one very interesting observation out on a page....suggesting that you could simply row the dice in some pub or public setting, and enter into the game of matrimony with some gal that you'd never met or talked to in your life....and the chances of a successful marriage were the same as if you dated her for several years.  To this.....I agree.   Maybe people think all this relationship stuff is complicated, and requires various introductions....but you could just as well work out this stuff on day two of the marriage, at least in my humble opinion.

So, if you were looking for a great read on relationships and women....by a cynical guy from 1918....this might be an interesting book to pick.

The "35-10" Phrase

There are around a thousand acronyms that I memorized during a twenty-two year period of service with the Air Force.  Some were worthless, but the only way that you could communicate over some vivid topic deemed of highly significant priority by the Colonel or the First Sergeant.

35-10 was one of those phrases.  It was the regulation that you were introduced to in basic training.....that had to deal with uniform and appearance.

When you talked hair style or length, it was 35-10.  When you talked shoes authorized to wear, it was 35-10.  When you talked the wearing of a hat, it was 35-10.  When you noted the proper wear of a belt, it was 35-10.  And when you noted watches, bracelets, or rings (the quantity).....it was 35-10.

It was around day three of basic training when I was formerly introduced to 35-10, and they were issuing the first uniform package.  The green hat was a thirty-cent hat (by my prospective) and simply didn't fit or look anything like a professional hat.  The pants and blouse-shirt?  Ill-fitting and as cheaply made as possible (I think the shirt was $6 and the pants around $7).  Their initial t-shirt distribution was 50-cent shirts that never made it past forty washes.  The wool socks?  They made your feet sweat in the 95-degree heat of Texas.

The instructor quickly introduced you to 35-10, and you felt there were a lot of rules about clothing, which didn't make much sense.  The black wool socks would have been thrown out the first day, if they hadn't stuck it to you.....via 35-10....that they were awful important.

Around two weeks later, they issued out the blues package.  The bus-driver hat?  It looked like a bus-driver hat, and you just laughed.  The two sets of blues?  One had to be a pure-wool set for winter (it just didn't make any sense to me), and the other some type of summer blend of polyester.  They let you know real quick....there were actual dates set up for the wear of one, versus the other.  If you were spotted in August wearing the winter set.....unless you lived in Iceland.....you were in deep trouble.  The black sock issue for the blues?  They just wouldn't stay up and kept sinking down.

Over the years, I started to notice that they modified 35-10 about every two years.  Up until the late 1980s....they were mostly all minor changes.  You didn't really feel affected much.  In the early 1990s.....changes started to occur once to twice a year, and people started to get frustrated, hostile, and argumentative about the changes.

At some point, badges became important.  For half of my career....I didn't have to think much about this because neither of my professions had a badge.  When they tried to force a badge onto the one profession in the late 1980s....all heck broke loose and a massive amount of criticism came out over it......halting it in a very short period of time.  Five years later....they rammed it back down onto our profession....with no arguments allowed.  The badge deal?  Worthless, except as some boy-scout badge thrill.  It was another $8 that you had to spend for the blues, and $25 for various cloth-type for the battle-dress uniform (mostly to get it sewn on).

The arguments over wear?  I started to notice almost immediately upon my arrival at the first installation....that 35-10 arguments were almost daily, and kinda got worked up like a Baptist minister meeting where the words of Moses were heavily discussed and interpreted in various different ways.

Folks argued over hair styles, moustache lengths, braided hair on women, starch on uniforms, different blends of colors on the stupid belt, the fit of a women's skirt, and even the type of bracelets that folks wore.  On an average base, I'd take a guess that over 3,000 man-hours a year were wasted on these 35-10 discussions and arguments, between 2,500 personnel on the installation.

The cost of uniforms?  I really didn't see an issue until we got to the 1990s and the arrival of the new battle dress uniform.  Between the pants, blouse, black t-shirt, and the sewn-on elements for the blouse....it was roughly $115 (one set).  Considering the old "greens" were around $35....it was a hefty price.

The switch to the black t-shirt deal?  The uniform shop in the early days of the this switch carried a plain vanilla black t-shirt set (three) for roughly $18.  That was reasonable, but then you started to wash these, and the color started to fade after ten wash episodes. The cotton material?  Cheap.  So guys began to discover that you could get a really high-grade fancy black t-shirt, for $24 each.  Yeah, it's fairly hefty amount of money, but I'd take a guess that half of all members went out and spent at least a hundred bucks on a couple of these t-shirts.

The boots?  In basic, they issued you the plain black boots, the chuka boots, and the plain low-quarters.  All together, they probably cost maybe $75.  The low-quarters could always be replaced for around $18.....at least in the 1980s.

But by the 1990s....the newer boots had arrived, and you couldn't find anything that would fit right.....for less than $65.  By the time I reached my last eighteen months.....I'd actually gone out and spent $100 for a pair of great fitting boots (I still have them today but never wear them).

I'd take a guess that my whole bag for basic training uniforms probably cost in the range of $450....which to me in 1977 was substantial.  Today, I doubt if you could buy everything for less than $1200.

The necessity for stringent rules like 35-10?  I guess it's the fact that people will interpret rules in various ways, and start to question things just because it's stupid.  The black wool socks?  It was something out of the 1950s, and I think eighty percent of the Air Force questioned the 35-10 standing on this....but waited patiently almost thirty years to get the rule tossed out.  All the while....they violated the socks directive, and wore white socks whenever in combat boots.

I witnessed an episode around 1983 where some colonel wanted a female lieutenant in the organization to stand and have her dress length measured from her kneecap.  Two inches above the cap was max, and for the sake of the argument....I kinda noted she was pushing four inches easily and it was a fairly short skirt.  It's silly to argue over events like this, and it just starts soap-opera-like events to occur.

It's odd these episodes of life that take up unnecessary pieces of your memory.  There are probably a hundred rules over 35-10 that I retain and can cite on a moment's notice.  Worthless bits of directives......iron-clad stuck in  your mind.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

This Coming Week

This coming week on Thursday, I will have walked out of Air Force boot camp thirty-seven years ago, as a "graduate".

It's not really something I think much about except around the 2nd of August of each...remembering the bus trip to Nashville, final papers signed, my first airline trip, and arriving at Lackland sometime around 10PM.

No one had ever said anything to me about the heat in south Texas, and I suspect if they had.....I would have delayed my enlistment until November.  August and September are miserable months to do basic training.

Air Force boot camp is a cake-walk....compared to the Marines or Army.  That was another part of the deal that I didn't realize until the very end.  Any idiot who simply does what they tell you to do......can easily make it.  There were no tough physical challenges.

The recruiter told me to bring roughly $50, and that would be enough to carry you through the first two weeks, and you'd get $100 at that point.  I think I had roughly $150 in my pocket, and doubt if I spent more than $30 of that for the whole six weeks.

Going back to Lackland?  To be honest, I never had any desire to do so.  I've met others who went back to see the old barracks, or the moldy-smelling BX, or the greasy-burger bowling alley (I went there twice in six weeks and consumed some of the most grease-intensified burgers that you could imagine).

On the morning of the last day....it was a moment that just gets etched into your mind.  You went down to the chow-hall for the last time for breakfast.  You ate as much as you wanted, with as much time as you desired, with no instructor around to jump on you.  Afterwards, I walked back and sat there in some amazement....it was over.  An hour later....I got on a bus with forty other guys and went to Sheppard AFB, Texas.

Our "Lost" Civilization

“It would be very important for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate, civilization as we know it today would be in jeopardy if the Republicans win the Senate.”

-- Representative Nancy Pelosi (D, Cal)

Civilization in jeopardy?

Americans live in a remarkable period.  In any given election year (occurs every two years)....we are on the cutting edge of total collapse of our civilization.  Well....it sounds good when you say that way.

The guys who built the Nazca Lines in Peru?  They ended up being a lost civilization.  You'd like to believe some Nazca Republicans got into the mix....screwing up things for the liberal side of the Nazca folks.....but basically weather, stupid leadership from the head guy, and some bad crop years led to their downfall.

The Mayan civilization?  They kinda drifted away after the year 900.  Republicans at fault in Central America?  No....between bad weather and some violent tendencies.....crop yields went down, and folks just got discouraged and moved off.  Maybe if the EPA had been around and regulated everything, and if they had a decent Attorney General.....things would have gone differently.

The Easter Island civilization?  They kinda went into a tree-cutting frenzy and by 1200....had cut just about every tree on the island down.  Republicans at fault?  Well....if things had been regulated and trees replenished....things would have gone differently, and there'd still be stone statues put up today....maybe into the tens of thousands. Heck, they might even be selling them as quickly as they carved them up, but then some Democratic guys would stand up and claim they were sacred in some way and prevent their export.

The Cahokia civilization?  Well....they were a mighty tribe along the Mississippi river and were kings of the territory until the 1200s.   Republicans tearing them apart?  No.....mostly just a disease or two that entered the area, and with a drought.....made things kinda miserable.

The lost colony civilization at Roanoke Island, Virginia?  Republicans at fault?  Well....no.....the guys who left and promised to return....took a bit longer than expected, and I would imagine that folks got worried, and left.

Generally, it's hard to find any reasonable excuse to say that some society or culture failed to survive a Republican or Democrat-led disaster.

People that hear this type of chatter....usually just start laughing, or gulp down another sip of booze....thinking it's brand-x type political talk, and doesn't amount to much.

The sad thing here is that political folks are thrown in front of a microphone and expected to give some nifty forty-word statement to the press, and it gets thrown on the front-page of some newspaper.  You'd like to think that the political player would stand there and think about what to say, and then comment on something in a remarkable way....but it never happens like that.  So we get some lousy one-star marginal statement....that you just shake your head over, and flip the channel to some 1936 movie with Greta Garbo....trying to forget about American politics.

Oh, and in January, after the election, after the arrival of the Republicans in the Senate, and after we've lost our civilization....you might want to ask about the civilization business.  Maybe it just keeps on ticking.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Booboisie

Booboisie is a word that has virtually disappeared from the commonly-used American vocabulary.  It was invented about eighty-odd years ago by H. L. Mencken, who coined the phrase of "booboisie" as an ignorant guy from the heartland of America....who thinks he's smart enough to participate in Democracy (mostly by voting).....attempting to have bourgeoisie values (having status, money, class, or intellectual abilities beyond the lower class.

Mencken kinda had a view of most Americans being unable to comprehend the abusive nature of political figures, and their ability to promise you anything.....to get your vote.

Most people in America today....would be classified as potential members of the booboisie-class.  I think Mencken would find himself a seat in an airport, a city park, a studio audience, or a city-hall meeting.....to observe people trying to manipulate democracy to work for their agenda or goals.  Some might be for the better of mankind, and some might be only introduced to get your kid to add seven and seven.....to eventually get to the potential of equaling fifteen (by a mythical magical formula).

H. L. Mencken once said that "Democracy is the theory that people think they know what they want, and they want it good and hard."  I suspect he'd seen a great deal of democracy at work, and knew it's general results were a mixed bag.

A cynical guy?  Yeah.  Mencken had seen enough of personal relationships that he more or less branded marriage as a dead-end.  Oddly enough, he ended up meeting some Alabama gal, who had a degree in literature, and could write a wicked piece on occasion.....throwing common sense to the wind and marrying this Bama lass.

What made Mencken what he was?  I went back a while ago looking at his youth, and how he'd somehow stumbled upon Huck Finn (by Mark Twain) and fell completely for the book.    After you spend a period reading over Huck Finn.....you tend to admire simple language and the uncomplicated simplicity of life's little adventures.

So, as you might be sitting there tonight....watching ABC Nightly News, Fox's O'Reilly or CNN....with some joker trying hard to get you mentally set to some understanding of a topic or problem facing America.....deserving your time to get frustrated, angry, or hostile....thus voting a certain way, you might want to remember the word booboisie.  You might be smart enough to get their message, but it doesn't mean you really understood or grasped the big picture of what's going on, or how you got manipulated into a bogus view.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Luther and Gutenberg

I often point out little bits of American history which aren't discussed much.  Pennsylvania, in the beginning, was a melting pot of various radical religious groups which packed up and left England, Germany and the Netherlands, in search of a free place to operate and pray along their own lines.

Some of the original groups?  Schwenkfelders, Tunkers, Labadists, New Born, New Mooners, Separatists, Zion's Brueder, Ronsdorfer, Inspired, Quietists, Gichtelians, Deprellians, Mountain Men, River Brethren, Brinser Brethren, and the Society of the Women in the Wilderness.

Why this wide spread division of Christianity that divides over and over?

This generally goes back to Europe's period of history from 1525 to the mid-1700s.  With Martin Luther's standing against the Catholic Church (the dominating force of life and society up until 1525), and Gutenberg's printing press....this vast door opened for the Bible (not Christianity itself).

Once the Bible has relieved from the Catholic Church, and translated from Latin to various languages.....Gutenberg's printing press accomplished a mythical transformation.....bringing these new interpretations to every single village.  With literacy hanging around 3-percent prior to 1525.....you can watch the next two-hundred years as an impact period.....villages and towns set up schools and put mass education as a priority.

The driving force for mass education?  Gutenberg's publications.

People began reading the Bible in various translations and came to different meanings and interpretations.  Prophets appeared out of thin air, and religious movements started to become common.  All of this kinda scared the Catholic Church, which mounted various conflicts (The Thirty Years War was the last of the episode on the Continent).

The settling of America in the 1600s?  It all goes back to Martin Luther and Gutenberg.  The necessity of religious freedom being written into the Constitution?  Back to Luther and Gutenberg.  The wide arena of various religious groups in existence today in America?  Back to Luther and Gutenberg.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Consensus Against Einstein

I will occasionally point out curious pieces of history, and things are quietly forgotten.

Today?  A book written in 1931 and released, entitled Hundert Autoren Gegen Einstein (One Hundred Authors Against Einstein).

It's a curious book, published out of the University of Innsbruck in 1931. Hans Israel was the chief author, although roughly ninety-nine other "scientists" helped to contribute to the criticism of Einstein, and his theory of relativity.

Roughly twenty-nine individuals wrote brief essays over their criticism, with nineteen additional folks making a comment or two, and the rest simply signed on as agreeing.

It is still sold today, at least in paperback version.  106 total pages.  Amazon has it listed, although it doesn't appear to have any commentary or reader observations, as you'd find with most documents that Amazon sells.

The hype against Einstein and the theory of relativity?  Well....you run into roughly three areas of thought.

First, scientists usually hate been left at the curb when new concepts arrive and it disagrees with their previous understanding of things.  They've bought into concept A, and they don't like being challenged to accept some type of change.

Second, in the way that some geeky guys stand around and argue for hours about the Marvel world being better than the DC world (Spiderman versus Batman)......scientists do the same thing.  If you dragged seven male frog scientists into a room, with lots of beer, lusty women, live NFL football on the screen, and ribs on the grill.....the likely topic of conversation would be frogs, and they'd debate the finer qualities of frogs over and over, and over.

Third, scientists hate when someone really pulls a rabbit out of the hat, and leap-frogs over them with a fantastic theory and tons of evidence to support it.  Competition.....in the mind of most scientists.....is a evil thing.

So, in 1931.....a group of guys stood up against this dimwitted Einstein character, and his stupid theory of relativity.  And they were wrong.

This kinda makes a person sit and ponder.....what else might we be debating in the wrong fashion, and finding some consensus being built in a stupid fashion?  And if we recognized it.....would we even be willing to stand up and comment publicly about it?

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Olive Garden Deal

Olive Garden came out over the weekend with this odd gimmick deal.....limited number of "passes" to be sold (around 1,000)....for $100 each, which entitles you to unlimited pasta and drinks (soda or tea)....for seven weeks.  Yep, lunch and dinner.

You can figure out out.....seven days by seven weeks (49 total days).  If you ate every day.....lunch and dinner, then your deal comes out to fifty-cents total.

A loss?  Yeah....there's no doubt about that.....but you get air-time and a number of news people talking about the gimmick.

I've probably been to Olive Garden around four times in my life, and regard it as a marginal Italian restaurant.  The salad is OK......the pasta is barely two-star.....and it's a decent place for lunch (exceptionally clean).  I don't know of anyone who ever got sick going there.  As for a place that you'd take a date?  No.....it's probably not that kind of place.

Years ago....I discovered Mister Getty's.....a pizza and pasta place that ran a lunch-time buffet deal, while I lived in Louisiana.  For roughly $5.95......you got all the pizza and pasta you wanted, with a ice-tea.  At one point, I probably ventured over there four times a week for lunch, and put on twenty pounds in one summer very easily.  Everything they served....had taste enhancers, and made you want to go back for more....sadly.

Large group of people to apply for the 'pass'?  Yeah......there might be a couple of thousand.  You see, there's one issue here.....after you've been there for lunch ten days straight.....you will start to comment that you are tired of pasta.  After twenty days?  You will say you are sick of pasta.  And after thirty days?  You probably won't go back.

There might be two hundred folks who venture to buy the deal, and go twice a day for the entire 49 days.  These are people who can eat the same food....day after day.  But that's two hundred folks out of three-hundred million.

Anyway......if you did have some desire for a good deal.....look into Olive Garden.

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Fifty Things I Don't Believe In Anymore

It's my general list.....as I grow older, wiser, more cynical, and more sarcastic.

1.  Ghosts.  I'm fifty-five and have yet to ever turn a corner and find some ghost standing there.
2.  Bigfoot.  Bogus....as much as you get.
3.  Loch Ness Sea Monster.  Nice tourist attraction to a remote lake in Scotland with no gimmicks.
4.  Jonah got swallowed by a whale.  It's a nice and tidy story, but there's no whale with the capability of swallowing a guy.  So, I think it's just a fish story that got told over and over, bolder and bolder, until someone wrote it down.
5.  Religions can be non-violent.  Either Islam is a bogus deal or it's not a religion.
6.  Feeling safe in an American urban area setting.  I can't think of any major town or city in the US where I feel one-hundred percent safe.  After you watch enough crime reports, and notice the rate of assaults or robberies.....it's just not that safe.
7.  Nutritional and safe food.  After you start reading the sodium, sugar and additives listing on anything sold today.....there's just nothing that you feel is really nutritional or safe.
8. The flight getting to where you desired, on time.  I tend to arrive at airports, march through security with ill-feelings, and have this fifty-fifty feeling that we will get to the final destination on time and without issues.  Planning a back-up situation, is now mandatory in my mind.
9.  A four-star advertised hotel actually being a four-star hotel.  I'd say that roughly forty percent of all hotels saying they are four-star....aren't.
10. Universities producing real degrees and real graduates.  I tend to see four-year university programs as a Walgreens or Wal-Mart operation....money in....degree out....and a very marginal individual pretending to be smart and capable.  I'm also of the mind that a graduate in 1897 of a four-year university.....was probably twice as capable as kids graduating today.  This also relates to bogus professors pretending to be worth a $120k salary and a $75k a year pension deal.
11. Honest politicians.  It's zero chance that all one-hundred Senators could pass an ethics audit or a Constitutional quiz.  Most simply are lobbyist-Senators or agenda-Senators.....none represent their state or their peers of the state.
12.  Safe food at restaurants.  Between questionable vegetables and fruit.....sanitary habits of the employees....and marginal health inspections.....nothing is absolutely safe anymore.
13.  TV ministers being dedicated to their religion.  After you've seen enough fall from grace....you come to realize that the character and honesty of ministers go into a spiral after they hit the big-time and start staying at five-star resort hotels.
14.  Stop and frisk being a racist thing.  If you walk around a big-name city on a routine basis, and you have some worries about crime because of assaults.....you start to ask who was the general culprit of the assaults.  And after a while.....stop and frisk is the only method to keep people honest and force people to act 'human' while in public.
15.  The NCAA bowl process is fair.  No, it's not fair....nor will it ever be fair.  It's about a group trying to protect the interest of the twenty biggest university football programs in America, and ensure profitability....end of story.
16.  Oswald was part of a big conspiracy.  Lee Harvey Oswald was a nutcase....even his brother has admitted that.  Now, if you ask about Jack Ruby.....I'm of a slightly different mind....wondering what the heck Jack was thinking, and if Jack was part of the conspiracy business.
17.  CNN is neutral.  Up until around 2002.....I probably still believed in the great story of CNN being objective.  Since 2005.....I'd say they are a lousy group of journalists, with no investigative ability, and it's remarkable that they still run the network.
18.  MSNBC is neutral.  Well.....even if a earthquake was to occur on Monday afternoon in California and trigger 1,200 deaths.....by Tuesday night....they'd be right back onto some political agenda story out of DC being the number one story.
19.  Fox News is unbiased.  They pick up a hundred stories, and maybe seventy are told in an unbiased way....which leads you to question the remaining thirty which are fairly biased.  You'd like to believe them entirely, but it's just about impossible.
20.  The Bible is a pure document with historical impact.  Basically, all of the New Testiment chapters are written around 150 AD, and it's not consolidated for another 200 years (getting translated into Greek around this point)....with dozens (maybe hundreds) of individual copied documents with slightly different versions of various stories.  Then the Catholic Church picks up the Greek document....translates it again....into Latin....with more slightly different versions of various stories.  Then around eight hundred years later....it finally starts getting translated again into English, French and German.....with even more slightly different versions of various stories.  So, it's simply not anything related to copy version ONE.
21.  Republicans and Democrats working together.  Maybe at one time (up until the 1980s).....they could find fifty percent of all topics which they generally agreed upon.  Today.....it's impossible.
22.  National Parks run for their preservation.  Most all National Parks are run by agenda groups, with differing views of what is OK, and what is fouling environmental concerns.  It's almost mafia operations, with different groups fighting over funding, territory, and status.
23.  Teddy Roosevelt was a pure Republican.  You could have taken the top ten political ideologies of the time (1900) and found that Teddy had bits and pieces of all of them.
24.  Watergate was about corruption.  Watergate is an episode where some White House staffer's wife had illicit affair photos being held in the Watergate Hotel complex where a room area was rentey by the Democratic Party, and the break-in was related to getting those photos.  The rest of the Watergate affair.....about trying to deceive the public on what happened in the weeks after the event.
25.  People and companies pay their fair share of taxes.  Basically, your Senate and House folks, over the past hundred years....have written eighty-thousand pages of exceptions and credits.....and a vast number of people and companies....along with religions and charities.....are bogus tax-payers.
26.  The 2008 economic collapse was due to President Bush and his policies.  If you spend ten hours reading and examining the entire collapse.....there's roughly fifteen different causes.  Trying to simplify it all back to one person and one cause....is a pretty comical method of acceptance, and what you'd typically get from a three-minute segment of the Today Show with Matt Lauer.
27.  Sixty Minutes does great investigative journalism.  This was likely true up until the 1990s.  At that point, they became a lame group of journalists....over-paid....and lacking any pure skills for the trade they pretended to occupy.
28.  The pilgrims were prepared for their "mission".  If you had to sort through history and find the most ill-prepared and most lacking group for the job.....this was it.  One-hundred-and-two got off, and it's safe to say that they were screwed within minutes upon landing on the beach.  Landing in November....was the worst time of year, and their food supply was marginal at best.
29.  Global warming, global cooling, climate change is real.  Up through the 1990s.....I believed in the global cooling saga being told.  Once they stood up and said "stop"....we screwed up....it's a one-hundred-eighty-degree twist, and it's really global warming.....I had to ask why would you and your genius, along with the models....find such a vast difference in opinion in such a short time.  There should have thousands of the global cooling experts to stand and say the same thing.  Instead, they all just grin, and say we are version two of the whole story.  After that.....I lost total faith.  Now that we've moved onto climate change, and dumped both global warming and cooling....with no one challenging that trend....I'm pretty-well convinced.  None of this works.
30.  We must sponsor NPR across America.  Well...no, there was a time when we didn't have jazz, opera, classical music, and news networks.  I've kinda noticed over the last decade.....NPR's stations have cut back on classical, opera and jazz.....pushing news constantly.  Sadly, there are dozens of news outlets in every region now....so I question the necessity of NPR being pushed as a federal tax revenue project.  If they want it run.....dump the federal government contributions.
31.  Barry Bonds.  Barry was a decent thirty-homers-a-year player.  I think from the early 90's on....his production level was bogus, and he should have retired with five-hundred homers max.  Steroid use?  That's the problem....you just don't know.  Hall-of-Fame guy?  No.  He'll never make it and that really drives home the question of who Barry Bonds was in reality.  Sammy Sosa?  Same story.
32.  EPA is saving the environment.  In the first ten years, this might have been true.  I think their regulatory power has gone beyond anything one could imagine from the 1980s.  I think special interest groups and agenda foundations mostly do the homework and just press for regulations and rules to punish companies and private owners.....with no real representation by the little guy any more.
33.  You have no choice.  I've come to view life as a vast menu of choices, and those who feel they are bound to only one choice....are refusing to think for themselves.  There is always a choice.
34.  You need money to be happy.  Well....you need some money....just not a lot of money.
35.  We are alone in this universe.  Sadly, I'm of the mind that we will eventually come to find the other worlds with other races....and find that some are vast worst than our own, and some better.  And a few of us on Earth will feel as though we've lost much of what there was to live for.
36.  Life is fair.  Basically, life is about a continual walk, where there are some obstacles, some hazards, and some terrible things along the walk.  Some of us will make it, and some won't.  It's not about fairness....it's just a statistical thing.
37.  Jersey Governor Chris Christie ought to be president.  After this whole toll-gate episode occurred, I've come to regard Christie at the level of Tony Soprano.  He gives a good talk....but he's got a questionable character.
38.  The original Ferguson story.  After about a week, there are bits and pieces that came out....suggesting that this eighteen-year-old kid might not be so pure and clean.  Maybe the kid brought most of the mess upon himself, and maybe the cop did one stupid thing during the whole act.  The problem is.....convicting the cop is almost impossible if the autopsy shows the showing distance to be very close and the the kid over the top of the cop.
39.  Bernie Madoff was a genius.  There were obvious signs from the early stages of Bernie's fund, and dimwitted investors never questioned anything....neither did their tax accountants.....and neither did the SEC.  Bernie was an idiot, but they were as stupid or more so.....in terms of lacking investment understanding.
40.  Historians always tell the true version of history.  Generally, after a while and a vast amount of reading....you come to realize the idiots who write high school and college history books.....tend to lean toward their version of history, which fits into their dialog and big-picture.
41.  Don King is crazy.  I'm of the mind that Don King knew exactly how to get millions to pay into a pot and make one section of entertainment (boxing).....pay at a maximum rate.  Don wasn't crazy.....Don was a genius.  And today?  We've taken all the lessons Don taught us, and done the same thing with wrestling, football, and various sports.
42.  Wrestling is real.  It's the most bogus sport in existence.
43.  A top one-hundred show on roll-and-roll's greatest hits is always truthful.  No, it's not.  It's usually rigged with various gimmicks to push some folks higher than others.  Trying to compare Elvis with Madonna....doesn't work.  Trying to compare the Bee Gees with the Scorpions.....doesn't work.
44.  Small towns make their chunk of revenue off property taxes.  Well.....NO.  Most all small towns of 1,000 residents.....make their general big chunk of money....off fines that the local cops enforce.  That's why you have nine cops who mostly hand out traffic-tickets.
45.  People know better.  Around a hundred years ago....we outlawed booze consumption and sales.  It took roughly ten years for us to stand and admit.....we were pretty wrong about this.  We've proven over and over.....we aren't exactly knowing better.
46.  Cruiselines are safe.  No....they meet one group of health inspectors, and pass one marginal inspection.  After that.....you are on your own.
47.  Columbus was the first guy to land in America.  There's substantial evidence to show various Viking and Irish characters probably landed in America before Columbus.  And some evidence strongly supports the idea of Chinese discoverers being around as well.
48.  Michael Jordan was the great NBA player of all time.  Basically, I rank both Larry Bird and Magic Johnson above Jordan.  Watching Bird for two hours....was like watching a dozen fat lady opera singers belting out a torrid and epic song....weeping over frustrations and lack of play from the opposite team....and truly amazed that Larry wanted to win so badly compared to everyone else on the court.
49.  Judge Judy is fair.  No....Judge Judy listens to the story, finds either some truth or some lie, and renders a verdict.  She's not fair.....she simply applies the law, as written.  And I will admit.....she is entertaining as she reaches a verdict.
50.  Life is short.  You know....if you want it to be short....then you will feel that way.  If you want it to feel extra long and tedious.....you will feel that way.  If you want it to feel corrupted and terrible.....you will feel that way.  If you want to make it just a simple adventure, with no compass or map.....you will feel that way.  It is....what it is.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Not That It Might Matter

Next Thursday is 9-11-2014.

Normally, it might not matter much.

But I sat and pondered through an article or two today.  The big airport area of Tripoli was taken over by Muslim extremists in the past week or two.....and around eleven aircraft....passenger planes....were part of the acquired assets taken.

You take those eleven, plus the still missing Malaysian jumbo jet lost out in the Pacific, and you can write a fairly dramatic and chaotic mess.....if suddenly twelve aircraft are noted on the Thursday morning of next week in the air and going somewhere with the intent of massive destruction on someone.

The Malaysian jet?  It has the legs to reach from the South Pacific to the coast of the US.  The Libyan eleven?  All had the range to reach into the heart of Europe or into Saudi Arabia, or into regions of Africa.

It shouldn't matter, and 9-11-2014 ought to pass on with no real issues.  But ISIS has come out this year, and for some reason.....there's this random thought that they might want to make a name for themselves.  So, one has to wonder about the capability of us hitting and taking down twelve passenger jets if required to.

Yeah, it shouldn't matter....but it does.

The Best That TV Has To Offer

I've noticed over the past decade, that the TV show crowd has kinda used every decent idea that they had....and we are at a crossroads where really weird ideas for scripts are being considered.

This week, someone finally got into the idea that NBC is developing....a scripted show on demons and exorcism.  Yeah, a weekly one-hour show where some family in Eugene, Oregon is having issues with some daughter, and there's a murder or two in the local community of a mysterious nature.  Naturally, the demonized daughter (maybe some of her friends)....might be involved in the murders (or maybe not).

You'd have to blend in some Catholic priest at some point.  He'd likely take on too much....have a heart attack.....and then some handsome playboy-turned-Twitter-user-turned-priest gets involved with the demonic daughter.

It's hard to find original material that really works anymore.  The formula for Friends?  Just throw six weird folks together in a New York city scenario, and oddly enough....it worked.  The deal for Steinfeld?  Four weird folks on an average day in New York City.  The Good Wife?  Run up a soap opera saga of some gal married to a political figure and having a rough day as a lawyer.

Lost suddenly opened up some vast door where you had odd characters, a five-star script, and went in some pretty odd directions that drew viewers.

The Big Bang Theory found some of the oddest characters that could exist....gave them a powerful script.....and just blasted away at the competition.  Jim Parsons (Sheldon) is probably giving one of the best performances of the past decade as a nutty scientist.  Millions sit and ponder over the dilemma of what they'd do if they screwed up the Mars Rover mission while showing the capability to their girlfriend.

TV is an odd thing.  Americans have become accustomed to creative TV as a moment of relaxation.  We want a guy like JR to exist and be hated and despised.  We want aliens to land and take over some town.  We want some guy to exist with two wives.  We want a guy to pack up from New York City and move to Hooterville with his hot lusty Hungarian wife.  And yes, we'd like to have a cat-eating alien named Alf to land, take over a bedroom in the house, and amuse us with his perceptions of our crazy human race.

As for the demon-gal from Eugene, Oregon?   Archie Bunker would sit down....do an eye-to-eye moment....and tell her to drop the act.  Sheldon would suggest that she's been over-dosing on the Science Fiction Channel and needs to take up Physics as a hobby.  And Mister Ed would likely tell her the grass is greener if you just get back into reality, and help clean his stall once a week.  I'm pretty sure it's a one-season concept, and we will never know that both Mom and Dad were the actual demons and the young gal was just a bit crazed over doing too much sugar and smoking weed on the side.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Transgender into the Military

Last week....a DoD spokesperson for the Pentagon came up and said that they are working a project to bring transgender individuals into the "OK" rules of being in the military.  Course, this would draw the normal average guy to ask....what the heck "transgendered" really means.

Some folks would go with the quick and easy to explain deal.....a guy who wants to be a woman, or vice-versa.  In the real world.....transgendered has about a dozen different interpretations.  It could easily mean a gal who dresses and acts like a guy, but intends to maintain her female individuality (meaning she dresses like a guy, hangs out with guys, socializes like a guy, etc).

The Pentagon guy hinted that they THINK (they aren't sure and the statistical average is questionable)....there are around 15,000 total transgender individuals in the military presently.  Proof?  No....absolutely no proof....again, this is just a model with numbers.

I spent almost thirty-five years associated with the military....either as a enlisted guy, a contractor, or a GS.  What I generally think on my own numbers....across the board....there's likely forty-odd thousand individuals within the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  By my own interpretation.....it's probably five women for every guy, in this transgender category.

The first time I came across someone who fitted into this category....was at McChord Air Force Base (1980), and it was a female airman in the unit who dressed, acted, and behaved like a guy.  She wore cowboy boots whenever in civilian clothing.  She hung around guys only.  Her attire and attitude....was strictly as a guy.  Dating?  She dated only guys. She wasn't a lesbian and laughed on occasion when someone suggested that she needed to act lady-like.

Over the next decade.....I probably met a dozen enlisted and NCOs.....guys and women, who were fitting into the transgender philosophy.  Some were gay, lesbian, etc.....some were straight.

Does any of this matter when you are talking military?  Well.....there's only two issues that I see with this acceptance deal that the Pentagon is talking about.  All services have hard and concrete rules on guys wearing a men's uniform, and women wearing a female uniform.  Nobody wants that to change, period.  The first bump in the road is where some transgender guy requests to wear the women's uniform, and meets a brick wall.

The second problem here is where these individuals want to go onto the next step and get hormone treatments and surgery....compliments of the military medical care system.  That will bring up cost issues.  When you say that hormone treatment is $16,000 on the initial round and yearly maintenance of $5,000.....who will accept the idea of the Army paying for that?   Plastic surgery?  A $10,000 round of surgery and a ten-day period of recovery?  Acceptable?  I doubt it.

Everytime you open a door.....there's more questions and more problems to discuss.  Eventually, some female NCO will show up with a marriage certificate for another lady, and the Army will accept that.  Months later, they will discover that other lady and this NCO were married in the Netherlands and are lesbians.....which is OK by standard Army rules now, but they are cousins.  Naturally, you can imagine some Army Colonel standing there and debating just how far you are supposed to accept weird things, and is it even legal in the Netherlands, or any state....for cousins to marry?  Normally, Colonels have better things to do with their time, than worry about kissing-and-married cousins.

Just another day in America.

An Icelandic Story

Sometimes, I'll write out a blog over a small piece of history......to make you sit and think.

For about a decade.....until 2008....Iceland was considered this marvelous miracle of sorts when it came to the economy.  They were booming.  Sixty Minutes went and did an episode to show the success of the banking system, and how many start-up companies were succeeding.  Reykjavik, the capital, home to 118,000 residents.....had become a great place to live.

In 2008.....the US economic stumble occurred with the housing market and these "investment-bundles" that various international banks had purchased....soured.

Reykjavik had three significant banks (Kaupthing, Glitnir, and Landsbanki).  All three had bought heavily into the US housing market, then marketed themselves across Europe as investment opporutnities.  For at least a decade.....they had Germans, French, English, Dutch, etc.....buying into the "guaranteed profits" scheme.  What they could say for this entire decade....is that this bundled package deal got you more percentage points than an average savings account. It made sense.....plus no one could really explain the risk in any detail (that kinda helped).

In October of 2008.....the fall occurred, and no one in the federal government of Iceland could imagine any method to saving the three banks.  Total cash impact.....three times the GDP of Iceland.

By the spring of 2009.....most Icelanders had come to realize the massive problem left to them.  You couldn't get a loan for anything.  Most business operations were suffering because they had to import, and the whole method of trusting the banking system to deliver or pay-off was screwed up.

You could say that the entire year of 2009 left a sour taste in the mouths of most Icelandic people.....and those around the capital of Reykjavik were amazed at the mighty fall of the local economy.  Even the McDonalds in town folded up and left.  It reached a point where people started to be more sarcastic and more cynical than what you'd normally expect.

On the whole.....Icelandic people have a pretty "Mayberry-like" sense of humor.  They can tell a long-winded comic story in a serious fashion, and you the listener or viewer.....avoid grinning but you are fairly amused at the outcome.

So by the end of 2009.....there's this Icelandic comedian....Jon Knarr.  Jon is fairly well known around Iceland.  With a island population of 320,000....it's safe to say that the vast number of comedians number less than fifty, and if you make to state-run TV....virtually everyone knows your act and your gimmicks.

Jon makes this decision for the Reykjavik city mayor's election in the spring of 2010.  Six months out.....Jon puts together what is referred to as a political party (to be called "The Best Party").  Yeah, I know.....it's a hokey name but Jon didn't really want a five or six-letter party tag, and best always means something positive.

Then, Jon went out and displayed himself as a mayor candidate.  He promised various thing: free towels at the city pool, a new polar bear for the city zoo, and a sustainable transparency (yeah, folks are still pondering that meaning).

It's safe to say as Jon traveled across the city...shook hands....did presentations....and was interviewed by the state-run radio stations.....he made an impression.

Reykjavik folks, after viewing the October 2008 economic fall, and the dismal period 2009.....were pretty tired and dismal on all political parties.  Whatever they were talking about.....just wouldn't work anymore.

Jon was the bogus candidate that they needed.  They wanted to send a message across to all political parties in the city of Reykjavik.....frustration with regular BS....wasn't going to work anymore.  They wanted a comedian....spouting bogus talk....to represent them.

So the Best Party went into the May 2010 election, and got around thirty-five percent of the vote.  This translated into six seats on the fifteen member city council, and Jon was elected mayor.

To be humble about this....I personally don't think Jon expected these kind of results and I suspect he was a bit shocked.

Jon has done the four-year 'tour' as mayor and quietly said that was enough for him.  The Best Party?  They've done OK.

My favorite political promise made by this group?  They sat there and promised free city-bus rides for students and disabled folks.  Then, in the same paragraph....they admitted that they will offer more promises than any other party.....because they don't intend to follow through with it.  They readily admitted that in the same comment.  They even made the comparison of free airline flights for women or  free cars for folks way out in the boonies of Iceland.

The truth is.....a majority of people in Reykjavik have grown tired of political promises and bickering. Their frustration is obvious.

So, we gaze around the US, and find the same crowd existing in a frustrated state of mind.

All fifty states will tell you that they have enough laws in place to prevent nutcases or comedians from getting on the Presidential ballot.  Just having a thousand folks in a state to support some comedian won't amount to any placement on the ballot.

But we've done a curious thing.  State by state.....we've been busy changing the method by which electoral college votes are rendered.  We are enabling this method of "winner-take-all" votes in various states.  The original gimmick was to ensure that large urban area political candidate could take massive votes in cities like Chicago, New York, Miami and LA.....and launch a guy to get more popular votes than electoral votes.....then he'd win the race.

Well....you can sit now and imagine a race where a comedian puts himself up as a frustration-voter alternate candidate.  If the state had rules to prevent him from the ballot....fine, he'd just run as a write-in.  So, you could imagine a third-party guy suddenly taking the fifty states.....getting just enough popular votes and a limited number of  electoral college votes.....suddenly getting the "winner-take-all" vote states.

A Jon Knarr-character could suddenly be President of the United States, and shock both the Republicans and Democrats.  And he might be radical and popular enough to even win a second election.

If you had stood up a decade ago in Reykjavik and said that the city would fall apart in the economic sense, and some comedian and his political party would take over city politics.....no one would have believed you.  I think we are at the same stage in America.

We just need an American-style Best Party...promising free ice cream for minority students, water-slides in every under-developed community of America, ridding us of the designated-hitter rule in the American League, promising a tax credit for lawn mower purchases, and forcing up a law requiring all Senators to spend ninety days a year in their home state.  That's enough to get forty percent of the national vote, and force both Republicans and Democrats to some form of reality.