Tuesday, 31 March 2015

That Religious Law Business

Let's say that you ran a Jewish bakery and did cakes for customers.  One day....a guy walks in and he wants a Nazi cake....with the expression "Work Makes You Free" on the top (the expression used in death camps).

You politely refuse.  He threatens with a court order, then takes you to court because you refused him as a customer.

Let's say that you ran a simple Amish cake business (note: you are Amish in this scenario, if you were wondering), and a gal comes in who wants a cake made with the comment "Happy Birthday, your loving whore" on top of the cake in icing. Your Amish tradition is such....you refuse to take the order.

You politely refuse.  She threatens with a court order, then he takes you to court because you refused her as a customer.

Let's say that you ran a simple plain bakery and a guy comes in and wants you to make a cake with the expression written in icing on top "F**K Obama".  You think about this for a minute....being a middle-of-the-road guy.....NOT a Republican or Democrat....then say no, you just don't do cakes like that....NOR do you want your reputation to get around that you do sleazy cakes like that.

You politely refuse.  He threatens with a court order, then he takes you to court because you refused him as a customer.

Up in Indiana....folks thought long and hard about where this business of pushing people around in their private business operations and the potential abuse of the court system, then started SB 101...the Religious Freedom Act....which limits what the state and it's judges can do in a case where you turn down a customer.

Fifty years ago....you could refuse anyone.  No shoes....crappy words on a t-shirt.....maggots in the hair....drunk behavior....drugged-up behavior....cursing...etc.  You could make any reason and just say no.....I won't serve you or do business with you.

That worked up until the last decade when people felt you might use sex in some way against someone special.  These days....if you asked for a bondage-like message on a wedding cake, with whips and handcuffs.....some folks might be disturbed about that and want to refuse to make the cake.  Submission of the wife to the husband?  Someone might want a cake with that scenario figured into the situation.

Yeah, we got creative, and 'stupid'.

There are guys who used to come up on a Friday afternoon with their private business and shut down everything at 5PM (two hours ahead of the normal quitting time).....so employees would have a chance to attend a kid's football game that night.  They made decisions on their own "dime".  In today's world.....folks would get all disturbed about some private business owner making his own decision and want to inflict law into the mess.

Today, I read that the Seattle folks and Washington state folks.....got all disturbed about the Indiana law and have banned state travel to Indiana.  Pretty serious.  But then you'd ask this stupid question....in twenty years....what formal meeting or business gathering in Indiana did they ever have or attend?  What.....maybe two meetings in twenty years and maybe a dozen state or city folks attending?

It's a gimmick.  You laugh over the results and figure their best punch.....was a fairly lame punch with no effect.  Indiana folks retaliating and forbidding travel to Seattle and Washington state?  Well....same results.

States act like they are some foreign third-world country....like Peru, and they can make thing happen of great consequence.  Well....no.....it's just not that way.  And all of this over gays?  Would they get tough if Nazis wanted their cakes done in a special way, or anti-American-Indian people wanted their cakes done in a special way?

All of this brings me to this final observation.  Is there anything wrong with folks getting a plain Duncan-Hines cake mix deal....and making a plain old chocolate cake....without anything on top except 'happy birthday' written in icing? A plain four-dollar cake?  Yeah.  All this political chatter....when you really don't need to get hyper about special cakes.  That's it.

Breakfast at McDonalds All Day?

There's a rumor out today of a test going on at one McDonalds in the US (in San Diego as the story goes)....where they intend to take a number of breakfast items on the menu and just keep them up all day long.

Over the past year.....McDonalds has hit some business peak and gone a step backwards.  The CEO was let go a month ago and they are in the mind to take aggressive steps to regain business.  But this gimmick of breakfast all day?

I have had breakfast at both McDonalds and Burger King over the past few years.  To be honest.....it's my absolute last choice.  Other than the sausage biscuit at both.....it's a one-star breakfast in my mind.  There's no real taste and the quality just isn't noticeable.  I might give a thumbs-up on the pancake menu but that's a marginal thumbs-up.

Making a difference? I'm guessing around some retirement communities....there might be some interest in this idea, but I doubt if you'd sell some breakfast item after noon to more than twenty people.

The other day here in Germany.....I walked by a Subway location and they had introduced a breakfast menu.....an odd selection but there were a dozen people standing there....sipping coffee and eating some kind of egg-sausage combo.

Threatening the business angle of Waffle House?  No....it's hard for McDonalds to meet the greasy quality, salty texture, and fatty nature of my favorite breakfast enterprise.  I admit....it doesn't matter....6AM, noon or 6PM.....I'd still order the breakfast menu at Waffle House.  Maybe McDonalds figures you'd eventually get addicted to their gimmick.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Fixing the Unbroken Thing and Then Fixing the Fix

Years ago, I made a simple decision (without a lot of forethought) of joining the Air Force.  There was a ten-minute video that the recruiter played of basic training....to ensure that I understood the six-week training episode.

The goal in the mid-70's for Air Force basic training was simple.  Teach the overall idea of obeying a standard of work ethic.  They structured the barracks life, the folding of t-shirts and underwear (along with socks) into part of that work ethic.  Clustered around this....was the art of marching.  The icing on the cake was physical activities which got you into fairly decent shape within a six-week period.  If you weren't in shape prior to arrival.....you were by the sixth week.  

There were around a dozen hours of training structured into mental things....like racism and sexism.  It was a basic introduction to behavior modification.

Then you left and went off to some technical training school.

To be honest....all of the folding of t-shirts, underwear and socks came to an absolute end.  Lights out or curfew basically ended.  The mental stuff on racism and sexism?  That continued on as you arrived at each new base.....you had a half-day reminder thrust upon you.

I'll be honest....it's hard to modify an eighteen-year-old kid in six weeks.  Even if you had nine weeks...it's difficult to modify someone.  Basic Training is just a brief orientation course to get you up to a certain level.

Occasionally.....roughly every decade....the generals and chiefs meet and resolve to fix a "broke" Basic Training situation for the Air Force.  Folks kinda laugh about this.  After the Vietnam War, I came into the newer structured Air Force....no push-ups, more emphasis on avoiding sexism and racism, and gentle reminders by the instructors instead of harsh 'yelling'.

In the eighties, they resolved to fix Basic Training again.  In the nineties.....another new repair job.  And a decade ago came what I'd refer to as "Strike Force" training.....making the Air Force appear slightly more Army than the previous Air Force.

To accomplish the new agenda....they needed to roughly two more weeks.  This meant more physical challenges....more compound-like scenarios....sandbags...guns....etc.

This all came after 9-11 and the Air Force slowly got drafted into handing young airman, NCOs and junior officers over to ground units in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Convoy and guard duty.  Not of the jobs fit into the previous Air Force structure or training.  So they actually had to invent another class for everyone to attend and learn how to act "Army".  I know.....it was fairly amusing.  If you wanted to be "Army"......you would have joined the Army.

The generals and chiefs took some criticism and rebuilt Air Force Basic Training into this "Strike Force" idea (my term for it, not theirs).

The odd thing with the two extra weeks added to the training schedule.....not one single extra training was added to the manpower listings.  Yeah....it was amazing that they actually accomplished this without any extra help.

Oddly, within five years.....various sandals started to erupt out of Basic Training.  Most of it was because instructors were caught doing stupid stuff.

Blame?  Well....they eventually decided that there just wasn't enough character-building in boot-camp.  So another new fix is being prepared and introduced (the next version of Air Force Basic Training), and it's all about older officers and instructors (not necessarily NCOs) instructing on character-building.  The program name?  "Capstone".

What CAN you teach in eight to nine weeks to radically change some kid out of high school? Basically, you are asking for the impossible.  This might come across to a quarter of the folks there, but the bulk probably need an entire year of character-building.....to have any measurable results. Then the odd thing is that you'd turn those young folks loose onto the corrupted Air Force world and watch them ask stupid questions of older NCOs and officers in general.

I came to a radical point in the 1990s before retiring from the Air Force....where I questioned anyone who said something was 'broke' and needed fixing.  I often had found that solutions were often the trigger of a consequence, and actually made a situation much worse than it already was.  Rather than revamping an entire program.....if you marginally made one simple change....the effect of the change solved the entire problem.  Rather than million-dollar solutions....I came to realize the nickel-solution was often more practical.

The problem with nickel-solutions is that no one gets medals for them or promotion brownie-points. Everyone wants mega changes that revolve around entire new manpower solutions or costly structural changes.

A decade from now.....the Air Force generals and chiefs will meet again....some new scandal....some newly created problem, and fix up another massive change.  In forty years....I expect Air Force boot-camp to be an entire year in length.  No one will be able to explain why, but they will discover that character-building is not a one-week phase of life introduction.  It requires something that classrooms can't deliver upon.

Just my two cents of humble observation.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Bergdahl's Defense Strategy

Late yesterday, the news folks got ahold of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl's chief defense strategy.  Apparently, he will say in court....that he was intending to get up and go out the front gate.....walking to the nearest Army post nearby.....to report his commander and unit for discipline issues and wrongdoing.  He apparently didn't trust his commander or unit, and felt that by going to the next unit down the road.....they'd take his report and actually act upon it.

Somewhere in his thinking....he felt he had sufficient survivor skills to handle this "walk" from his days of youth in Idaho.

The general problem with this defense?

Imagine this scenario with yourself.  You are married and live fifteen miles west of Memphis.  The nearest cop station is fifteen east of Memphis.  A thirty mile distance.  Your wife has clobbered you with a bat, dumped all your beer, and even stabbed your shoulder.  She took away your car keys and your gun.  Your chief priority?  Oddly, rather than just walk away or call your buddy to get you, or just apologize for your 'mistake'.....you decide to walk to the cop station thirty miles away....through the heart of Memphis, gang territory, and hoodlum activity. The closer you get to Memphis....the more stupid this idea gets.  You do all of this....without a gun in your possession.  The odds of making it?  Fifty-fifty.  Someone will rob you.....assault you.....or kill you before you get to your destination.

Bergdahl wants you to believe that this was a brilliant idea on his part and the only way to solve the situation in the unit.  How will a jury of military peers (combat-hardened gentlemen and ladies) take this strategy?  It won't work.  If he had taken his weapon with him, this suggestion of some 'walk' might come across to two or three members of the jury as possible. But he didn't take his rifle with him.  He had no intention of protecting himself once he left the confines of the compound.

By suggesting this.....there's probably another three days of court activity involved because now the whole unit will be examined for minor details and red-flags over their morale and discipline.  Rather than making the case against Bergdahl....they now have to investigate the unit itself.  The problem will be that almost every single person in the unit will come to the stand and defend the unit, the Sergeant Major, and the Commander.  It'll be impossible for Berdahl to find anyone to back-up some part of his gimmick strategy.

The better strategy?  Just say you had PTSD and weren't able to comprehend your situation.  Maybe half the jury members will buy into this episode.

I won't blame Bergdahl for this strategy....his lawyer is the one pushing on this idea....but if you were up for life in prison, this 'walk' strategy is the weakest idea possible.

Friday, 27 March 2015

A Bold New and Unsafe World

There's a point in the evolution of society where you can imagine a bunch of children being given a process....a tool....a great step in society, and they simply can't handle it.

This past weekend in Denver....a family came up to Denver (from Tulsa) and were going to have a long ski-week.  Somewhere in the midst of this....one member of the family has decided to have an experience with weed...since it's legal now in Colorado.

The young guy (23 years old from what the news folks say)....had a college education and probably was fairly smart....at least on the books.

He ended up buying around $75 of marijuana and edibles.

There are precise written instructions on the packets that you buy.  Each is packed into a box or plastic baggy that says each is one unit (10 mg of the active ingredient of marijuana).  Then it notes....you need to give it some time (like 60 to 120 minutes).  It kinda hints....don't react stupidly and try two or three edibles....expecting a bigger reaction or faster reaction.

With family members around.....the guy does one unit of edibles.  He's expecting some high. It's not coming like he expects.

So he does another edible. Nothing.  He will do five edibles (five times the normal dose of marijuana).  The family simply notes that around an hour later.....he's a bit different. Eventually, the family will leave the hotel and think he just needs some time alone.

He will pull out a pistol and end up shooting himself.

What the local doctors will say is that he 'overdosed' on the edibles.....five times the normal dose.

Toxicology results will be a month away.  The authorities will wrap up the death certificate then, and simply note an overdose leading to his own actions.

Generally, one joint is one unit, and one unit is one high.  Once we entered into this modern era with all types of possibilities and no legalized control....it was wide-open.  A dimwit could walk into a weed-shop....buy a dozen edibles and in two hours find himself in a fallen mental state and deduce the need to kill himself or others over some mental fantasy or worry.

The world is a bit less safe than we'd like to admit.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Bergdahl Story

A simple take on Bow Bergdahl....the Army guy who paid five Islamic terrorists for and some cash via the middle-guy....who yesterday was announced on the short list for court martial. Charges?  Desertion and misbehaving before the enemy.

If convicted on desertion....he gets five years max.

For misbehaving before the enemy?  This is an odd charge and rarely if ever used.  You'd basically have to have some evidence of a sort that indicates that he cooperated with the enemy and helped them in some fashion. For this....you get life in an Army prison as the max.

For those who might think this is like the OJ case and the court episode will take weeks and months....no.  This entire court case will likely wrap up in seven to ten court-session days (two weeks or less).

The prosecution merely needs to show that on X-day....Bergdahl is reported missing, and indications are that he walked out....leaving his weapon behind.  Enough bits of evidence exist (mailing his gear back to the state the week or two prior was the big hint with months left to go on the tour) to show his intention.

Around twenty members of his unit will testify and it'll go fairly negative for the defense.  There are few questions that can trip these guys up.

Then we come to the defense moments....Bergdahl was crazy.  He was crazy when the Coast Guard discharged him from boot camp.  He was crazy in high school.  He was crazy when the Army granted him a waiver to join after the mental issues were noted on the Coast Guard paperwork.  He was crazy when he deployed and he was crazy for the whole time that the Taliban guys were holding him.

The Army response will be that they have 500,000 crazy folks and none of them ran off to the Taliban.

For the jury, the crazy factor will help on the one charge of misbehavior with the enemy.  If he was nuts....he couldn't be held responsible for his actions.  The desertion thing?  Oh, that's acceptable and he'll do the five years for that.  At that point, the jury will wrap things up....convict him on one charge and he quietly does four to five years.

Upon release? Well....it's just me talking here.....but I'm of the mind he'll board a plane and make his way to the Pakistan, where he'll be captured again.  Yeah.....he IS that crazy and stupid enough to do something like that.

A movie on this?  Maybe....but it's going to be hard to make him look anyway....but plain stupid and crazy.

After Watching Breaking Bad

I'm one of those guys who generally misses big-name TV shows and catches up months and even years later.  Seinfeld, The Seventies Show, Law and Order, Friends?  Most I ended up watching three to five years after they ended.  That's mostly because of life overseas.

Today, after an entire month....I've finally watched all of Breaking Bad.  It ended around two years ago.  Yeah, it just wasn't on my must-watch list at the time.

So my five observations after turbo-viewing the sixty-two episodes?

One.  It is probably one of the best written and epic stories that TV ever produced.  I should point out....it wasn't the big three (CBS, NBC, or ABC) or the Cable thugs (Showtime or HBO).  It was an AMC production.  They didn't go over the top or hire four-star actors....they knew they could get decent actors....give them a great script....and they'd turn in four-star performances.

Two.  From the first ten episodes....I was all bought into Walt's idea and mission in life. I was all connected to Jessie maturing and getting clean one day.  By the final ten episodes....I hated Walter White immensely....his character was no longer a likable guy.  As for Jessie....somewhere along the bitter end....he wised up.  They leave you with a mystery on what happens to Jessie next.  Maybe in five years.....Jessie turns up somewhere in another show.

Three.  Breaking Bad is a great tool to lecture people on the business side of drugs.  There is a distribution system, a manufacturing system, an advertising system, a regulatory commission of sorts, a customer complaint system, and rich guys at the top who act as CEOs.

Four.  By the end...with about six exceptions....virtually every single character that you met along the way is dead.  Saul, the crappy but dependable lawyer?  He survives, and one might suspect him turning up one day....maybe in Mississippi or Jacksonville.  My favorite short-term character?  Jessie's heron girlfriend.  You could tell in the first five minutes upon introduction.....she just wasn't going to be around for more than five or six episodes.

Five.  The big three (CBS, NBC, and ABC) have a problem.  They can't produce shows like this.  The public will eventually figure this out.

After you sit and watch fifty-odd hours of this....you have a good idea of the meth world.....the characters involved...the business connection....and marginal amount of time you have to make money, then lose money.  Maybe in some way.....there's a great business side to Breaking Bad....showing the decision process and how a company can fail quickly on bad decision-making.

Worth watching?  Yeah.  Just don't get attached to any characters.....some get whacked pretty quick.

The Radio Shack Listing

As Radio Shack proceeds through bankruptcy (yeah, it's been a written goal of theirs for two decades to fail)....they've come to announce that they intend to sell their customer database as part of the proceedings.

The list?  117-million customers.

Various parties are hostile about this customer database being sold and don't think it's ethical.  Some folks have pointed out that everyone had the chance to say 'no' and just not give the information.  Some will say that the list has value and might be worth in the range of five-million dollars (on the high side, if you ask me....I'd value it at $200,000 max).

I've sat and pondered over this.  It's an odd thing.  If you really had 117-million active customers....you wouldn't be going bankrupt.

So I pondered upon this.  I can remember in 1976 walking into the Radio Shack of the town where I grew up and buying an item, and they collected the customer data even then.

I'm only suggesting this because they certainly won't admit it.....but this list of 117-million names probably is every single customer they've had since the mid-1970s.  I would even go a step further.....that twenty-percent of the listing are simply dead people.  And I'll even suggest that twenty-five percent are people who've moved in the past twenty years.

I've used Radio Shack on fifteen-to-twenty occasions since 1977 when I joined the Air Force.  They've probably got my name down, with at least six different addresses.

Actual value, if proven true?  Maybe $10,000 because you just don't know how accurate it really is.

This brings me around to the long-term strategy plan of Radio Shack.  I'm one of those people who saw the writing on the wall in the 1990s.  Whatever strategy they had....it was simple and limited to probably a three-by-five inch card.  Once we emerged into the technology era of the 1990s....they should have picked up the hint.

They could have put a new look onto the stores.  They could have been at the front of the cellphone sales era.  They could have aimed more gadgets at kids.  There should have been a Xmas gift catalog every single year with emphasis on guys.

Instead....they just stayed with the 1970s scheme...a shop for geeky guys.  It lasted fifty years and it was simple.  Lets face it....before Ebay or Amazon came along.....if you wanted some hard-to-get electronic items....Radio Shack was 'it'.  You usually couldn't find another special store like this within 300 miles of your home.  They just didn't figure out the strength of the on-line competition until it was too late to fix anything.

Amazon buying the 117-million customer list?  No.  I'd lay down a good bet that they don't have any interest.  In fact....it's hard to think of a name-brand company who'd like to lay out hundreds of thousands on this type of listing.

Bottom line?  Radio Shack spent thousands of hours collecting this stupid data, and never knew how to really utilize it. Now?  They think they have something of value?  It just doesn't make sense.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

More Than Enough Worries Already

Today in Alabama news, I noted one of these oddball medical stories.  Specialist from Morgan County, just south of Huntsville.....noted the first ever case in north Alabama of leprosy.  Yep....leprosy.

They won't say much about the guy except he's not a local guy.  One might assume he's from another country....but they were careful not to suggest that.

A big deal?  Well....if you had it and just avoided doctors throughout the stages....yeah, you'd be pretty bad off and would eventually watch your body 'crap-out'.

Naturally, Bible-thumpers would pick up on this and start talking of various chapters where leprosy was mentioned and it's a hands-on thing from God.

What is generally said is that around 6,000 cases a year usually turn up in the US.  Kinda shocking numbers and I have my doubts about this.

Treatment?  Generally, as long as you get to it in the early stages....there's treatment for it.

The thing here though...is that folks around Alabama have a list of about 1,000 things they worry about: snakes, food-poisoning, meth-heads, tornadoes, rabid dogs, mad bulls chasing you in the field, blow-outs on the interstate, vengeful red-haired ex-girlfriends, chainsaw accidents, drunk relatives with guns, tractors flipping over, bass boat sinking in the river, ministers hooking up with your wife, staying overnight in Chattanooga, Bible prophecy, snowfall of more than six inches, new neighbors moving next door who lived in California for their entire lives, gambling casinos, Alabama getting a five-year suspension from the NCAA football business, lightning striking you on the patio while a thunderstorm rolls through, Aliens kidnapping you, and your minister finding out about your big refrigerator in the garage for bulk beer purchases.

And now?  Another extra worry?  Leprosy?

Yeah, it's something we just didn't have to worry about.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Starbucks Conversation

Yesterday.....Starbucks, the coffee geeks....announced that they want to start a national chat on race relations.  The key to their idea?  They want to convince employees of Starbucks to 'just happen' to bring up the topic with customers, as they serve them their coffee.

The program?  "Race Together".

It's safe to say that it was fairly ridiculed over social media.....few people took this idea in a positive manner.

All the Starbucks folks did was put out a booklet or guide.....which suggests some ways to talk around the subject.  The executive folks of Starbucks simply think that if you started some folks to chatting.....it'd go somewhere.  No one is really saying where....just that it'd be a chat.

I sat and pondered over this.  I'm not much of a Starbucks guy.  In the Pentagon....twice a week, I'd walk over and have a big expensive cup of green tea.  To be honest.....Starbucks tea cost double and triple of what McDonalds would charge for tea.  But, Starbucks has better ice (don't ask).

When I typically walk into Dairy Queen.....I'm there for an ice cream....not conversation.

When I walk into Hardees.....I'm there for a double-grease burger and some decent fries.....not conversation.

When I walk into a ribs joint.....I'm there for real authentic ribs.....not conversation.

When I walk into IHOP.....I'm there for pancakes and hot coffee.....not conversation.

I can't think of that many places where I'd go (I am over fifty-five, so my list of places might be more limited than some folks).....where I'd arrive to chat with folks.  Usually, if the Post Office guy wants to chat with me.....I'm just not in a peppy mode to chat about weather or lost dogs or upcoming snow storms.

A couple of weeks ago....I was at the local Army post Burger King, and the guy tried to get a chat with me going while he waited on the burger to be made up in the back.  Small talk, I would assume.  To be honest.....I'd prefer just to get the burger and sit down.

If you cornered me in a bar.....I might sit there a while and discuss the best shortstop that the Yankees ever had, police corruption, historical implications of the Battle at Hastings, Nazi screw-ups, the best ways to invest, bad cars, the trouble with Baptists, beer comparisons, or bad hotel experiences.

But racial relations?  On the topic list of ten-thousand topics.....that's way down around 9,642 on my list of topics.  I'd discuss NCAA women's basketball before I got around racial relations in America.

Why?

Generally, you come to three brief conclusions on racial relations in America.

First, it's screwed-up and manipulated by various political agendas.  It's done by the media, the local government, the state folks, and by the federal folks.  You can't discuss it because they will flip the conversation into something that won't result in action of consequence.

Second, too many racists and nuts in the mix.....on all sides.

Third, history has an ugly side to this discussion....but I tend to go back to the early 1600s and dig deeper into the topic than people would like.  I'm familiar with what the French did in bringing white "slaves" into the Orleans area, and what happened in Norfolks at the beginning of English occupation. It doesn't fit well with the media message.  I also know the business side of the discussion, and how the US economy fits into this mess in the 1700s....well before the US Constitution ever came to be.  My use of history.....makes this a different kind of discussion and conclusion.

As for Starbucks?  Well....you can try this gimmick....but frankly, I'm not giving any good odds of this changing much of anything.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Rewriting Teotihuacan?

I'm one of those guys who kinda wished at some point as a kid.....some teacher would have twisted me around to Archaeology and got me off to the right direction.  I always had a curiosity about ancient civilizations and what happened to societies that just plain disappeared.  

There's a big-time hub in Mexico....Teotihuacan.....which started up around 100BC.  Folks got into a mega-building phase for roughly 300 years.  Then, they hit some peak.  No one really says why, but they simply reached a point where they felt the plans were all accomplished.

From roughly 250 AD to 500 AD....they were coasting along and Teotihuacan was 'the' hub of all activity in Mexico.  For some mysterious reason....around 550 AD....the crap hit the fan and society just dissolved.

To be kinda honest....this wasn't really just a dissolving of a major city in the world....it was massive chaos and the city was burnt to the ground.  Somewhere around 100,000 locals were there and watched events unfold.

There's a piece published in the last week or two by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which details what folks have kinda figured out, which lays out an odd consequence of success and government intervention.

There's a new story which lays out the end of the Teotihuacan society.  Success was a great thing for upper-class folks of this community.  They had a fair amount of power and accumulated ownership of things that went past the norm.  They....the elite class of Teotihuacan....were now in direct competition with the actual rulers of the city.

At some point.....probably to show who was actually in charge....the rulers of Teotihuacan got into control of the economy and capitalism.  There are various indicators that movement of goods were slowed down, which naturally got tensions rising among the power-players.

At some point.....a massive fire was started.  For years, there were theories that an invasion had occurred or a civil war erupted.  Recent analysis have led folks to realize there were differences from the political side to the economical side.  Once the rulers got into the middle of capitalism....they were more of the problem, than the solution.  The fire simply ended the relationship between the rulers and the trading side of society.  Folks packed up after the massive fire, and left.

Within two hundred years.....there wasn't much left of this society. It wasn't the Europeans or some massive Central American Indian society that destroyed Teotihuacan....it was a hindrance of capitalism and government regulation that destroyed the city.

It's an odd turn of events in terms of archaeology and history.  Usually, it's invading armies that destroy a civilization.  I suspect it might require some folks to go back and revisit various mystery elements of collapsed societies and see if the same regulation got into the middle of people's lives and triggered a collapse.

The Box Cat

I have a cat who has fascinations with boxes.  If you get anything in the mail and you open the box....I usually shove the box into the hallway for disposal later.  In ninety-nine percent of cases....I will find the box occupied by "Mister Fluffy".

It's an obsession of sorts with him. He'll sit in the box for an hour or two....maybe longer.  I suspect he's thinking it's a long-term box, or maybe it's just something new to investigate.

It's hard to tell Mister Fluffy that the game is over....the box has to go.  He'll just sit there and let you know it's part of his empire now.  I suspect he'd be in hog-heaven if he could be relocated to a box-factory somewhere.

Monday, 16 March 2015

White versus Neon?

I'm a old-fashioned guy.  As a kid....there was basically one color for underwear, t-shirts and undershirts....white.

Well, things have changed.

Today, I was over in Mainz for a vendor fair, and came to this one booth.  Neon yellow, neon green, neon pink, etc.....were all available.  Not just for women, but for guys as well.

After joining the Air Force, I got use to green t-shirts, and a couple of years later.....I got use to black t-shirts.

But this multi-color thing?  It's hard to say that I can buy off on the forty different colors, especially for a guy.

I suspect if you cornered most guys.....they'd admit a preference to just white underwear, and maybe three colors for t-shirts (white, grey, and black).

A trend?  No.  I think in five years.....we will have done the forty-color thing and retreated back to some simple basic colors.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

A Limited Group of Republicans Converting to Democrats

Sometimes, I'll write a short essay on some historical event that folks don't think much about.  This is one of those.

In the history of Alabama....there are dozens of individuals who've switched from Democrat to Republican....running for some state-level office.  But Republicans turning Democrat for an office?  One.

Yep....I've sat and read a fair amount of history over this.  Since 1900....you can probably cite at least thirty individuals who started out as a Democrat or as a blue-dog Democrat (pretending to be a mixture of Democrat-Republican).

Somewhere in Virginia in the 1820s.....a David P. Lewis was born.  Somewhere in the 1820s....Lewis's family ended up in north Alabama and got into politics.  His dad was associated with the county commission of the 1830s and 1840s.  As for David?  He ends up studying law in both Alabama and Virginia.

By 1843, he's a practicing lawyer in Lawrence County, Alabama.  What history will say was that he was a fairly dedicated guy and just never got married.  By age forty, he was a self-made man and property owner.

Most of what is written about Lewis is that he was a dedicated Republican and tended to believe the succession of Alabama wasn't going to play out well.  He involved himself with a group who felt that the state would eventually come back into the union....which probably didn't gain any friends.

Around the third year of the Civil War.....he was 'drafted'....and basically left town....crossing the border into Tennessee.  Three years after the war ends.....he's gotten a pardon from the federal government and back into the law business (1868) and curiously involved again in politics.

In 1868.....he ended up at the Democratic National Convention as a registered representative for the state Democratic Party in Alabama.  Chief logic?  Basically, it's impossible for a guy noted as a Republican to run in Alabama for just about any office.....such is the hatred around the state.

A year later....he flips back to the Republican Party.  Because of various confrontational situations within this period....he ends up being elected as governor of Alabama for a brief two-year period.  There's chaos, insults, bedlam, and pandemonium going on within Montgomery.    At the end of two years.....he's beaten by a Democrat.  Lewis tries to get a judgeship but fails.

In the end, his enthusiasm is finished off and he retreats to Huntsville to simply practice law.  He passes away on 3 July 1884 (buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville).  Oddly, upon returning to Huntsville.....he re-re-converts himself into a Democrat (at least that's the understanding written on his personal history).

The simple truth in Bama is that Republican or Democratic labels.....are just that.....labels.  You can find various characters who will swear up and down....they are die-hard Republicans and then quiz them to find forty-percent of their positions fit better with Democrats.  The same is true with die-hard Democrats in the state.

It used to be true that a Democrat in Alabama held a better chance of winning state office (even state agricultural commissioner) than a Republican.  That was probably true up until the Reagan era.  Over the past twenty years....things have simmered a bit.  People will tell you they are blue-dog Democrats....talk up the 1960s and how their dad used to always vote a straight Democratic ticket.  Now?  They talk a bit, but you generally notice that results around certain towns and communities are fairly strong Republican.

The newspaper machine that used to deliver a fair number of voters?  It's dying off.  Fewer folks read the newspapers, and the bulk of registered voters tend to watch the 6AM local news to catch traffic accident video, or local scandals with high-school teachers.  If they really get into politics....they tend to listen to some talk-radio guy from the region and get a full-hour or two of rapid fire topics......which go way beyond what newspapers used to deliver.

David P. Lewis is a legend in some ways.  Whatever he needed to be.....he was....and no one asked stupid questions.  If he'd had better health, and better chances in the 1880s....he might have converted back to Republican yet again and run for office one more time.  People would laugh about switching so much on political parties....but in the 1860s/1870s.....no one really noticed these sort of things.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Net Neutrality Discussion

The FCC "net neutrality" document got released this week.  I sat down and read through 75-odd pages of the 400-page document.  FCC 15-24 is the document....it's free to browse and read off their server.  I'll make these five observations.

First, when people expected it to sound like 'rules'.....they were expecting too much.  I've written rules for the government (particularly DoD), and it just isn't that type of document.  I'm very familiar with white papers, point papers, situation awareness papers, etc.  This document doesn't read like them either.  Oddly, it reads like a thesis paper, written by some masters degree program.  It works itself to be type of argument for convincing the reader of some bluff (a word that I would use to describe intentions to convince someone of something but without any heavy weight).

Second, citation-wise....it's an amazing document.  Whoever wrote it.....has heavyweight experience at writing a thesis-like document.  Everything is absolutely cited.  In fact, I'd say that half the pages in the 400-odd page document are heavily cited....to the point that a quarter of the page is the cited references.  Odd?  When you write a rule document....it's rare that you reference anything.  I can say this because I've written at least forty regulations in my life.

Third, I kinda noticed one particular organization listed in the references a good bit....a George Soros-sponsored media group.  They got mentioned forty-six times.  The author?  They had a heavy hand to use significant references from the Soros group.  An agenda?  It would be curious to ask the three who voted for the document if they knew what the author was doing or if they've ever met any member of the George Soros-sponsored group....."Free Press".

Fourth, ID theft?  It's one of top five problems with the internet today.  In the 400-pages?  It's mentioned two times.  Yeah....two times total.  I did the word check at the conclusion of my reading.  Obviously.....the commission didn't really care to go after one of the biggest issues with the internet.  What does that say?  This is the one thing that they could have said was their top priority and we might have stood behind them for fixing ID theft.  Zero effort.

Fifth, who wrote the document?  Unknown.  No names attached to the beginning or conclusion.  I seriously doubt that the five members wrote this.  Some editor stood in the middle and constructed the document.  Who?  We will never know.

My conclusion or bottom line?  It's a neat thesis paper.  Whoever started this paper.....probably started it as a college project and it simply grew.  Someone read it....pushed it along....and eventually it was turned into the FCC net neutrality project.  It's value as a monumental regulation?  On a scale of one to ten....I'd say it's closer to two than anything else.  Rules and regulations from this document?  No....just positions....nothing else.  For a thesis paper?  I'd give it a "A".....written well and well cited.  Beyond that.....it doesn't say much except everyone ought to have the same speed.  Yeah....400-pages wasted on a position of speed for Americans.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Hillary Woes

I sat and watched CNN last night....covering the lead into the Hillary Clinton press conference, and the conference itself.

First, on Hillary.....basically, nothing more than what had been written in various publications of the past two weeks. She admitted that it probably wasn't right but it was a method of convenience.  Then she commented on exchanging emails with Bill (odd, because Bill doesn't text or write emails.....so he claims in public).

Second, Hillary kinda admits that she deleted half the emails on this server.....so getting those now?  Zero chance.

Third, I come to the weird method of operation at CNN.  I don't have access to MSNBC or Fox News.....here in Germany.....so for this type of coverage, I have no choice.

CNN ran the episode with Blitzer.  Wolfe was at his best and did a fair amount of decent analysis.....I won't discredit him for making an effort.

CNN brought in David Gergen.....a former White House assistant....half-Republican, half-Democrat, half-lobbyistcrat.  He'd worked on the Clinton administration, and knew the various problems associated with Hillary.

So, Gergen sits down and explains why Hillary acts this way when Blitzer wanted the logic to this.  Gergen says that as problems developed with Bill's administration.....they surrounded themselves with lawyers, and the lawyers told them to keep every single detail hidden from view.  So Hillary learned quickly on.....to use what tools existed....and ensure the public is kept from your situation.  It was probably the best explanation that I've heard yet on why this email episode occurred.

But then a 2nd CNN guy jumped in and wanted the connection to the 'evil-Republicans' commented upon by Gergen and this was why Hillary learned to be this way.  All of this lead back to the 1990s and how the evil-Republicans were after the innocent and pure Clintons.....as the CNN expert wanted Gergen to tell the story.

Typical CNN slant.  It would normally work.   Except when you pull this time-line business.....the question is....when does the time-line start?

In the mid-1970s, with the Watergate episode unfolding.....Hillary (not connected to Bill at the time) was a player in the Democrats effort to bring down the Nixon White House.  At some point during the investigation.....Hillary was fired (some argue released because there wasn't any more work to be done).  Hillary, along with several individuals who come up later as major players in the Clinton White House, conspired to some degree to deny Nixon legal counsel.

The old style Democrats on the Watergate Commission went kinda nuts when this behavior came out and regarded it was simply wrong.  The telling point of this termination?  The guy over her (Zeifman) did not write a letter of recommendation for her as she left.  He has said different things over the years, and tried to clear up some original comments where he noted that he fired her....then eased off and has tried to explain it as simply letting her go.

Republicans who knew the inner-workings of the Watergate Commission....knew at that point that Hillary was a problem.  For the CNN analyst to suggest that this started in the 1990s as she was a target.....no, she already got target status there in 1974/75 era.

Over the past month or two....CNN has tried to remodel themselves and earn back viewers.  They've let some folks go, and brought in some new folks to appeal to middle-of-the-road viewers.  After watching the episode yesterday.....I'd say they haven't let enough folks go yet, and are not yet ready for regaining viewers.

As for Hillary?  I thought the news conference was awful lame....the questions were likely designed ahead of time with answers scripted....and you got basically nothing.

The odd thing?  For fourteen days, nothing has been spoken in German news outlets.  Nothing on Channel One or Two.  Nothing much in the newspapers.  As far as Germans are concerned.....they know nothing.  Leading on Monday night?  They talked up the Republican's letter to Iran.....topic one and fairly slanted.  Oddly, not a single German knows about Hillary's woes.  If you went around the US.....you'd have to be in some prison with limited access to news to know nothing.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Nixon Health Care Episode

At the end of the Nixon era....in the middle of Feb of 1974....Nixon decided to take a major step toward a health care option for Americans.....basically converting Medicare into a device for all Americans.

The order given down?  Here's the significant part of the Nixon plan:

"The plan is organized around seven principles:

First, it offers every American an opportunity to obtain a balanced, comprehensive range of health insurance benefits;

Second, it will cost no American more than he can afford to pay;

Third, it builds on the strength and diversity of our existing public and private systems of health financing and harmonizes them into an overall system; 

Fourth, it uses public funds only where needed and requires no new Federal taxes;

Fifth, it would maintain freedom of choice by patients and ensure that doctors work for their patient, not for the Federal Government.

Sixth, it encourages more effective use of our health care resources; And finally, it is organized so that all parties would have a direct stake in making the system work–consumer, provider, insurer, State governments and the Federal Government."

What happened to the Nixon plan?  Oddly, the Democrats of the House and Senate picked this up, and put a package together which conformed to the majority of Nixon's ideas.  At some point, it got out to unions and older Americans that there would be a cost factor involved and regular Americans would have to cover the price difference between what the lower-class could pay and the rest of America.  Newspapers, Time, Newsweak, and the big three networks carried the message to the public, and the Democrats simply could not sell this to the public.

Ford came into office shortly after this, with Nixon's resignation....and the Democrats just said adios to the whole idea.

The no-new-taxes part of the scheme?  Oh, he was right about that.....it would be built into your monthly deductions for medicare.  So he was right....no extra taxes.....just more onto what you already paid.

When this usually gets brought up.....Republicans of today usually go into fits and deny such a thing ever occurred.  The odd thing?  Well....Nixon spoke up that NO new taxes would be added to pay for this.....kinda like the plan we have today.  Nixon also said that you could keep your doctor (in certain words), if you wanted to, and the doctor would work for you, not the government....which is a President Obama-situation that popped up.

One of Those Jobs

Occasionally in my life, I've had the unique opportunity to come across five-star jobs.  I'd apply for them, and of course, get turned down.  These are the jobs that way outside the norm and have the potential to be jobs that you'd want to be at the shop by 6AM and stay till 6PM that night.

The Land Management agency of the government had a GS13 job out in Wyoming to be the jack-of-all-trades guy, who handled property, spending money, and the wild horses/burros of the range.  They went into detail over the job description.....you were the guy who bought feed and issued orders over the wild horses/burros......checking on them daily and ensuring the hired hands did 'right' with the animals.  Of course, I got turned down for that job.

So, these jobs come and go......I never get hired for these type of situations.

This week, I'm come across a five-star creative job with the city metro transportation guys of Seattle/King County.  They've got a $97,000 a year job.....for a metro comfort station coordinator.

Naturally, you'd ask what the heck this coordinator does.  Well....he runs this toilet monitoring station centrally located in Seattle and ensures all the drivers get to their bathroom breaks as necessary.  Driving the bus and got a sudden urge to go?  You call up this guy and he looks onto the map and tells you the nearest place to stop and do a toilet moment.

Yep.....a nifty job for $97,000 a year.  Now, a smart guy would do research and have a spreadsheet built with various 'extras'.  Like.....if you stop at this point, they got a coffee machine.  Or if you stop by this donut shop.....they sell a 'three-for-one deal' on donuts between 5AM and 6AM.  Or if you stop at this toilet.....it's ultra clean because they use Ajax and South Korean-imported Munsun oil (that's a made-up word, if you were curious).

Who will end up as the toilet coordinator?  Hard to say.  The thing is.....your career pretty well shot.  There's no chances of you getting into some rocket-science episode or upper-level management deal with NASA if they figure out what you did in Seattle.

Some fake job for a friend of the union?  Well.....it's hard to say.  It would be curious to know who gets the job, and if they had relatives with the city metro service or knew someone within the city council.  Maybe it'll be a hard-working honest gal, who really wants to help out some guys with desperate bowel movements.  Guys appreciate stuff like this.....you know.

Five Star TV

Having signed up for Netflix in the past week.....I've had some catching up to do....with "Better Call Saul".  Through the first five episodes, I'm surprised not only of the quality of acting, and the five-star script....but it's shows that I tend to get addicted to and can't skip.

This morning, came the sixth episode.....dealing only slightly with Saul (the lawyer), and more with his get-the-job-done former cop....Mike.

For forty-two minutes, they weaved the story in and out.....with twists and turns....and delivered some of the best acting that I've seen in in years.  They could have easily built the forty-two minutes into a two-hour movie and put into a theater-release situation.

The Mike character?  You kinda feel sorry for him.....but you reach a point where you know that Mike isn't a guy who you'd want live next door to.  He's pretty direct and confrontational when required.  He has a code of ethics that go beyond the norm of life.

Who "Better Call Saul" goes onto now?  It's hard to imagine this type of writing and scripts.  In the middle of any show....it's possible that they'd dream of another 'Saul-like' character, and a year later.....you get an entirely new series with some weird guy that was a client of Saul.

Bottom line?  Right now on TV.....Better Call Saul is probably the best show around.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Driver-Less Cars

This week, the Wall Street Journal did an outstanding piece on car insurance.  There's a tidal wave coming to car insurance over the next twenty years, and it's going to make the entire industry of car insurance....no matter what country you live in, or what type of insurance you have currently.....radically change.

You see.....driver-less cars are coming.  Every single insurance company within the US has a team working on this issue.  Frankly, it's disturbing where this is heading in terms of cost and profits (for the industry, not you).

Here's the thing.....the strong belief is that those sensors and onboard computer system....will lessen car accidents....year by year.  As more driver-less cars come.....less accidents (at least in theory).  What happens in twenty years?  You could bundle up a thousand 18-year old kids into one type of policy, who happen to all own a driver-less car, and discover less than three total accidents for the year (snow and ice-related, probably).  The rates for an eighteen year old kid?  It'll be dirt cheap compared to today's rates.

This worries the insurance industry.  They spent years developing the data and know the general accident rate for 40-to-60 year old folks who drive Ford pick-ups.

Of course, there's also a discussion about lawsuits against sensor and computer companies, where accidents do occur and the blame is on them.

This brings me to a curious computer logic situation.  Let's say you bought the $30,000 driver-less car.  It's mid-March and some ice storm arrives.  You crank up the car, and immediately it checks weather reports, and outside status.....then it turns itself off and determines that it is unsafe to proceed.  Will you override the computer?  Will the computer note your insistence and transmit an unsafe-to-drive email to your minister, your insurance company, and maybe even your spouse?

Will the driver-less car also have bad-maintenance feature where it determines you aren't responding to car issues and maintenance problems....so it sends another email to your insurance company about your lousy habits?

As much as I'd like to say that driver-less cars are appealing to me.....I'm holding reservations about all the wonderful things that will come.

I realize....some guys with an hour's drive to work could settle back into their seat and do class-work to finish up another degree.....or watch the Today Show.....or simply sleep another hour.

But I suspect as much positive as it might bring.....there's some bold negatives about driver-less cars.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Simple Truth About Emails

I came across this five-star quote from John McCain.....spoken this week....over the Hillary email business (pulled from Yahoo's article this morning):

"I don't email at all.  I have other people and I tell them to email because I am just always worried I might say something. I am not the most calm and reserved person you know? I am afraid I might email something that in retrospect I wish I hadn't."

For years, I worked in the Air Force around pilot commanders who at the age of forty-five....had a very short fuse to saying stupid things and dumping a one-star idea onto a bunch of folks without any thought to consequences.

What I eventually figured out is that pilots live by a short checklist that they carry on their lap for flights.  They have points to hit, and if some mechanical issue arrives.....there's a page in their little floppy book where they are supposed to do 'X' number of steps to rectify the situation, or bail-out.  It's cut and dry.  There's no pause and ponder structured into their lives.....you evaluate the situation over eight seconds, make a life-or-death situation, and live with consequences.

They take this mentality into the office or division......working issues with a eight-second automatic reaction.  Some things work perfect.....some things get smoothed out later with some captain who dreams up the forty-step process to solve what the Colonel did wrong.....and some things fail miserably with medals or citations awarded to everyone for their jubilant effort at a screwed up mess.

I worked on a base where some eight-second decision was made and a kid's play-park was established, with around $150,000 spent on landscaping, playground equipment, and trees.  Between 400 man-hours of 'donated-time' (what we call in the Air Force as volunteer efforts)....a fairly decent park was established.....in an area of the base that wasn't near base housing, or anything that drew kids.  A year or two later....I asked one guy if he ever saw any kids at the playground, and he just grinned.  He responded that teenagers would hang out at the stupid park on weekend nights, consume beer, and the whole project was considered a complete failure.

Senator McCain probably got saved forty or fifty times from email comments, and he eventually got someone to impress upon him that his eight-second reaction time and commentary....didn't help situations very well.  He learned a lesson.

I look over at Hillary and think that she created this non-government email account for one single purpose.....sending a draft email to someone who would review it and tell her to tone down her comments or deleted the bulk of her comments down to six lines instead of eighty lines of garbage.

Who read her 'drafts'?  Unknown.  Maybe Bill did.....maybe her daughter.....maybe some hired guy from France.....who knows?

The curious thing here is that we survived from 1776 to the late 1990s without email within the US government.  If you had something to say.....you'd call in some secretary who you'd dictate a twelve-line typed letter.  "Wanda" would hear your talk....write the draft on paper.....stop you at various points and suggest a kinder and gentlemanly approach to addressing someone.  "Wanda" might soften your tone.  "Wanda" might straighten you out on facts, or sharpen your emphasis to one single point.

Thousands of "Wanda" secretaries in DC....made communications work up until the late 1990s.  Then computers, emails, and servers arrived.  Folks fired their secretaries and then started writing their own stuff.  Then they discovered that their bluntness, their lack of a central theme, and general poor communications talents.....left them with marginal success.

If Bill Gates really wanted to fix Microsoft and improve the world of communications.....he ought to create some software package called "Wanda"....which takes your marginal draft emails and suggests ways to improve or fix the message you want sent out.

As for Hillary?  Well....that Jefferson kid did Ok without ever sending out a single email in his life.  Maybe Hillary ought to just clean up her act and vow never to email again.  We never hear bad things about John McCain's emails, or lack of emails.....well....do we?

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

The Simplicity of this Iran Nukes, US Treaty, and Netanyahu Speech

Rather than make this all complicated and require Wolf Blitzer an hour to explain things....let's do it in sixty seconds.

First, thirty-one countries have nuke power today in some form.  Nine countries have nuke weapons in some form.  How quick would it take Brazil, Czech or Finland to flip over to nuke weapons?  Probably less than three years.  Once you have the technology of nuke power.....it only takes a bit of experimentation or acquired technology from North Korea.....to settle into an accomplished goal of weapons.

Second, what the treat discussion here is really about.....is a brake-job or delaying Iran from nuke weapons for approximately a decade (might even be less than that, if they wanted to just skip the last part of the treaty).  So the value of the treaty is for the US is stand and admit there's nothing to hinder or stop this process....we will simply let things develop as they are.

Third, once Iran has nuke weapons.....what exactly do you think their neighbors will think about and consider?  Their own nuke weapons?  Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey?   The Saudis currently have no nuke power generator.  It'd take a simple contract with a French power company to get over to step one......build a nuke plant, and then bring in some South African or North Korean engineers to build up the secondary arm of nuke weapons.   Ten countries in the Middle East by 2030 with nuke weapons.....if Iran proceeds ahead?  It's a safe bet to make and put some money on.

Fourth, Israel and Netanyahu simply want the poker game to keep playing out with economic sanctions and military strategy.  We are probably on poker game version forty-two at present and Iran has figured out how to play poker in an effective manner.  Iran can't lose.....while they might be on a long-term strategy, they don't care about short-term losses.

Fifth, President Obama and Netanyahu?  Basically.....two guys who have each run out of likability and flexibility.  Netanyahu is up for election, and some Democratic Party wise-guys have shown up to help against his election chances.  Bad strategy if you ask me.....but meddling in politics is now a daily event in US politics.  Netanyahu has countered the White House strategy and now in their own backyard....something that they never envision.

The only option left besides signing some marginal treaty with Iran?  Basically dig up fifteen Democratic senators who will side with the Republicans and vote prior to the treaty.....saying 'no' support, period.  It'll make the President look weak, as well as the Secretary of State.....but we are at some point where there's nothing much to gain.

Bottom line?  There's a nuke war to come sooner or later out of this, and it might not involve the Iranians versus the Israelis.....it might be involving the Saudis, and there might be some religious mullah folks who trigger the event.  Then what?  To have twenty-five nuke missiles fired off within a span of an hour and half of Riyadh and Tehran destroyed?  Would it bother us that much?  I think the White House is simply saying 'no'.....they don't care anymore....let the nuke scenario play itself out.

That's the simplicity of this discussion.....nukes actually going off and some people wising up over stupidity.

EU: Fake Net Neutrality

It was an odd event yesterday that rivaled the US net neutrality of last week.

While the EU commission on communications didn't say nothing in public.....their documents found their way into the hands of a couple of journalists.  My humble guess is that some members of the commission disagree about what is being discussed and this was the only way to get public reaction.....complete open discussion prior to some big decision.

So, the talk within the commission?  You can have full up and turbo-powered net neutrality.  Yep....no one will stop net neutrality from occurring.  Oddly....the telecom groups (commercial organizations) will have the authority to monitor and arrange speed to customers.  In essence, there will be a minimum of two speed situations.  Those who pay extra.....will get extra.  Those who pay minimum.....will get plain vanilla speed.  But in the end, everyone will get net neutrality.

I know.....you will start laughing because it's a fake scheme and doesn't do much of anything, but that's the only way to keep current rates where they are.  You have to remember, there's already taxes built into the various government schemes in Europe.....so you pay a communications tax and sales tax into the package.  To suggest another tax, for what?  None of the current taxes find their way to improve the network....they simply move into the gov't pocket of revenue.

Folks disturbed by this? There are a number of folks who kept thinking the EU crowd would take the same steps as the FCC, and render net neutrality.  Well, they will deliver on that promise.....but it's not real net neutrality and simply plays on words, at best.

Living in Europe, as I do....I've come to some realizations about where things are going.  State-run and commercial-run TV is slowly dying off.  It might take twenty years but neither is going to be the vehicle of choice in thirty years for most residents of Germany.  Internet TV options will the pick, and state-run TV knows that it's a limited future for them....meaning their 18-Euro a month mandated tax is going to eventually dissolve.  It's almost impossible as it is now.....to find some sixteen-year-old kid who watches state-run TV.

I think the EU commission is looking at the situation and simply preparing people for the package deal......you want real speed via net neutrality.....you will pay for it.  The customer will determine this and sign up for it.  The lesser-speed crowd?  Month by month.....they will decline in number and more will opt for better speeds and more cost.  The customer wins in the end.

As for the fake words of net neutrality here in Europe?  As long as you say it's fair and you allow two speeds to exist.....people will believe it.  You could utter 'beer neutrality' or 'car neutrality' or 'ice cream neutrality', and people would all believe in some fairness to be skimmed off the gimmick in question.  That's life.

A New McDonalds?

The Wall Street Journal did a fine report yesterday over McDonalds and where they might be going.  If you follow news.....they replaced the CEO of McDonalds recently....saying business was stalled.

What the journal says is that new ideas need to be pushed and there's two suggestions being reviewed.

First, bio-beef.  I realize most folks don' care, but here in Europe, it's a growing trend.  Probably five to ten percent of folks are bio-dedicated now.  They want 'pure' and safe foods (at least they believe the gimmick).

Where do you suddenly find vast herds of bio-beef?  That's something that I'm not sure about.  Even with Brazil and Argentina.....it might be hard to find such beef.

Do you mix regular beef and bio-beef into the same stores?  No, with the idiots that run things within McDonalds.....they'd screw it up.  So you'd have to flip the button on day X and just go all bio.  Cost factor?  Figure ten to twenty percent increase in meat, and another 15-cents added to each burger.

Second?  Take out all preservatives from the special sauces/mustard/ketchup.  I know that the lab that McDonalds has experimented with this idea but it's like the holy grail for McDonalds.  There's a unique taste to the special sauce and if you remove the preservatives.....it really changes the taste around.

How many people would return to McDonalds if you went to natural elements?  One percent?  Three percent?

Change is always good.......I tend to believe that concept.  But neither of these ideas appeal that much to me.  I use McDonalds maybe four times a year now.  Yeah, I went to a healthy lifestyle thing and tend to avoid them.  In my twenties, I stopped off there at least twice a week for lunch or dinner.  While at the Pentagon, I stopped every single morning for tea, and twice a week for lunch.

Sometimes, folks get some idea that they need to fix something that isn't broke, and I suspect this might be one of those occasions.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Jack Daniels Wisdom over Tuition Costs

Just to make an odd comparison with a bottle of booze and college tuition in 1970.

Let us assume that a plain bottle of Jack Daniels in 1970 cost around $4.  Today, a bottle of Jacky D's in Bama will cost you $23.95 (maybe less with a sale discount going on).

If you applied regular cost increases of college tuition....it'd be 1194-percent, since 1970.

So a bottle of Jacky D's today....if you used the same numbers.....$44 minimum.  Roughly half the rate of what college tuition is.

A rational guy would pause over this and do two things.  First, there ought to be some way of bottling up college tuition and selling it like a mutual fund because it's guaranteed to only go up, and if you offered folks some stock $10,000 in value today and it's guaranteed to go up by 1194-percent in forty years.....folks would buy into this in bulk.

The second thing?  You might want to go ahead and buy a pallet of Jack Daniels now because at the going rate in 2040....it'll be $60 a bottle.

Testicle Story

Sometimes, as I read through the couple dozen newspapers from around the globe....I come across this one oddball story which makes no sense.

Out in India, there's this guy.  He has a bio of himself, and lists out his 'skills' (singer, art director, music director, writer, autobiographer, philanthropist, sports guy, and spiritual saint).  Yeah......spiritual saint.

A guy from Alabama would look upon spiritual saint as a full-time occupation by itself.  Usually, if you really push yourself.....you might be able to confess in public that you have three real skills in life.  Hunter or fisherman would be no problem to reach some status upon.  If you were a farmer, you might want to show some success at the occupation before bragging in public.  A carpenter would need to at least build a barn or garage before he put the occupation on his business card.  A political figure might want to win at least one election before saying he was a politician in his bio. An Army guy would have to participate in one war or campaign before he considered himself as significant.

This Indian guy.....Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh....kinda started out as a pop star.  He had a couple of tunes, got noticed by some younger Indians, and briefly was of some status that you'd today say was a washed-up 1980s pop star.  At some point, he slipped out of the pop star business and got into being a Indian TV preacher.

Things kinda went upward to some degree for Singh.  He had some wealth....TV time....and faithful followers.  Over the past couple of months though....there's been some serious accusations going on against Singh.

Apparently, in his talks over what God and him have discussed.....Singh let it be known that you, as a guy....needed to be closer to God, and there's only one way to get to that level....castration.  Yeah, removing your manly nature.

Somehow, Singh convinced what is believed to be a group of 400-odd guys that this simple procedure could be done at some clinic that he sponsors.

It's hard to say how testicles really fit into some dialog with communication to God.  Maybe if there was some heavy 'weed' involved, or a fair amount of alcohol.....a guy might get testicle-stupid (the best word I can think of), and do something like this.

In Alabama, over some alcohol-laced weekend.....a guy might get stupid enough to get a couple of tattoo's done (as long as his cash reserves were positive), spend some time with a Memphis hooker (until his money ran out), or buy an overly powerful speedboat which he wrecks along the second hour on the river.  It's hard to say if we'd get to the level of wanting to know God so bad.....that we disposed of our testicles.

I could see this discussion going on between a minister and three or four guys.  Back and forth.....how close are you now, and how much closer would you like to be.....would be the minister's talk.  The guys would be a bit confused.....asking if this was free, and if it might hurt.  Most guys would eventually wise up and walk away......feeling relieved hours later when they realized just how stupid this suggestion might be.

Four hundred guys.....walking around without testicles.  What the Indian press suggests is that most are a bit disturbed now by this, but they don't want to really say anything because it makes them look absolutely foolish.

Meanwhile, Singh continues his ministry business and talking up the idea of getting closer relations to God.  Fortunately for us in the US....washed-up rock stars of the 1980s.....usually just fad away or sell car wax on late night TV commercials.  We don't end up with these guys selling religion....at least not yet.