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.