Thursday, 23 April 2015

DC and the "Other" DC

I lived for 3.5 years in Arlington, VA.  I came to realize after a few months that DC (just two miles from my apartment) was "another land".  Once you crossed the river.....general logic and the standards of life that I'd be accustomed to.....simply didn't exist.  This week, I was reminded of this problem.

A picture came out with two Republican congressmen....holding a colorful red, white, and blue AR-15 automatic rifle.  They were doing a benefit deal in DC and the weapon was to be the prize for those who bought raffle tickets.  The picture?  Well.....it got out into the DC press (the city DC, not the federal DC), and pretty quickly.....the city DC's Attorney General got all hyped up.

You see, in the city DC (not the federal DC).....there are the strictest gun rules in America.  This helps in various ways to control the killing efforts in DC (the city, not the federal DC) and limit deaths to approximately 110 murders a year (I won't say that these are all gun related....some are done by knife, hammer, or beatings).  If you figure the six by six mile area.....then do the statistical averages.....it's a fair amount of killing.  I should note.....most of this killing takes place in the city DC, not the federal DC.

So the city DC's Attorney General got fired up and went to the capital police.  Note....the capital police don't work for the DC city police.....the capital police work for federal government.  The photo of the gun on DC grounds was immediate evidence in their mind of some no-good going on.

Well....Representative Ken Buck got the call and kinda noted that he'd done all the fine paperwork required by the capital police (not the DC city police).  The capital police kinda agreed.

In fact, at this point.....the capital police let the DC city police know of this little funny rule.  ANY Senator or Congressman.....Democratic or Republican....by the rules of House and Senate.....are allowed to keep weapons in their office (UNLOADED, naturally).

Now, it should be noted that you can't walk into any chamber or public meeting area within the House or Senate with your gun.  There are precise rules against that type of behavior.

However, every single one of these elected officials can hold weapons within their office areas.  Not just one or a dozen, but they could legally hold hundreds of guns if so desired.

I'm guessing the DC city police (not the capital police) are a bit disturbed by this.....thinking their city rules and procedures would guarantee DC (the city, not the federal DC) to be gun-free.  They were wrong.

Now, you might ask this stupid question.....in the last two-hundred years, with all these guns laying around the capital with these Senators and Congressmen.....has there ever been some incident that caused someone to get shot (intentionally or by accident)?  No.

What if some idiot fringe group got a couple of whacked up individuals into the federal building and attempted to threaten any Senator or Congressman?  I'm pretty sure that each guy or gal would pull out their arms.....open up the box of ammo....and lay some efficient layers of defense beyond what the capital police or DC city police could offer.

Some people will sit there and start to worry about this.  Frankly, on my list of 1,000 things to worry about.....this rates around 6,438.  Now, if these idiots were keeping sticks of dynamite or cranking up chain-saws in their office to 'show-off'.....I'd prioritize things higher and move this to around number 466.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

“Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota.”

“Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota.”

This is the new tourism campaign for South Dakota.  Folks within the tourism trade woke up one day and noticed how a bunch of people are all stirred up and want to go visit Mars.  Thousands of people in fact.

Now, a logical guy would ask....what exactly will you be seeing or doing while visiting Mars.  Swamp fishing?  Gambling on some bayou?  Tanning on some beachfront?  Drinking Whiskey Sours at a Mars nightclub?  Dancing with some hot fifty-year-old chick from Boaz?  Mountain-biking?  Getting fitness training from some San Diego guy who only eats mushrooms and shrimp?

The general trip idea to Mars currently is a one-way trip.  You will die there.  Period.....end of story....no commas.....no plan B situation.....no exits.....no change of plan at the midway point.

I think there's a brief one-hour window of fantasy that will occur when this first group arrives on Mars.  They will don their suits.....go walk around for an hour....then come to this new reality.  I'd refer to it as "dumb-itis".  I paid all this money and for some reason.....this brief walk on Mars and my impending end to life don't make much sense.

The problem in life is that people watch an awful lot of fantasy stuff on TV and get these weird ideas.  Guys used to aspire to be on some bowling league and bowl a three-hundred game.  Now, they fantasize about some android-borg-like lady-gal who looks marvelous, stacks one-hundred-pound hay-bales with ease, and performs over six-hundred multi-task functions.

A guy used to aspire to have a truck that makes it through a whole year without a visit to the garage for repairs.  Now, a guy fantasizes about some hover-craft vehicle that gets up to 300 mph, and has a leather suit with turbo-blast air cooling for hot summer months.

A guy used to aspire to have a simple steak over the grill after work.  Now, a guy fantasizes about some Argentine steak which sat in a bowl of special Taiwanese sour sauce and Bombay peppers which are sold at only one store within seventy miles of the house.

A guy used to aspire to have four basic options for TV entertainment each evening (ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS).  Now, a guy fantasizes about 700 channels, and sixteen possible baseball games tonight for viewing.

A guy used to aspire to get in a car and drive for two days to reach South Dakota.  Don't ask me what was on the typical 'to-see-list'.....I might assume Mount Rushmore but maybe the Badlands or Black Hills interest the guy.  Now?  A guy dreams up Mars? And for what?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A Mayor Story

It's an odd story.  Election occurs in some small (700 residents) town in Missouri (Parma).  For thirty-seven years.....the same guy has held the job.  He was defeated by a black gal.  Within days....the town attorney, the chief of the water department, the city clerk and the bulk of the cops in town (five out of six) resign.  They also wipe the computers as they exit.

Normally, you'd look at this and ask some questions.  Folks appear to have registered some dislike for the old 'regime' and the 'old-boys-network'.

Then you start to look at potential corruption.  It's odd.....the eight people in town to handle money and funds?  They up and leave.....erasing all computer records. The paper records?  No one says much but I suspect there's no more than a year's worth of records in the cabinets there.

Generally, if you are running a corrupt funds department in town.....it'll show up with what the city attorney does, the paperwork that the clerk generates, the acts of the city cops, and the cherry on the cake is usually the city water department which can always hide expenditures easily.

If I were the new mayor.....I'd ask the state to come in with some investigation.  The five cops who left?  I imagine they will be hired within weeks by some small town nearby and they will continue their money-making talents for that organization.  Why would you need six total cops for a town of 700 residents?  That's another odd thing.  Normally, a town of this size would not be able to generate enough income to pay the cops.....unless there's tons of tickets issued monthly.

Across the nation, there are thousand of Parma-like towns with the same issue.  They've built up a network of 'good-buddies', and made the cops into revenue-generators.  There ought to be a rule in every state that determines that a town of 1,000 residents can have as many cops as they want, and generate as much revenue via the cops as they want......until they get to a certain point in relation to the town's size.....then all cop-generated revenue would go to some state educational fund.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

An Old Ad

An ad in the Daily East Oregonian newspaper (19 Apr 1915), page 8 (the back-page):

"Backtime (the theater)

A queen without a home; A king without a throne

Today's last chance

Elinor Glyn's

"Three Weeks"

in five parts

Sensational drama of thrilling love and royal intrigue in two-hundred-and-eighty scenes.  Passed by the National Board of Censors"
-------------------------------------
Around this period of 1915, because of advancements in technology (marketing of trampy magazines, silent movies, and public interest in racy material).....we were advancing into a territory where people had lusty thrills and censorship needed to be a daily task.

Along came Elinor Glyn.  She was born in 1864 to a simple middle-class family.  Her father would pass on in her youth, and mom relocated the family from the Channel Islands (off the UK) back to Canada.  Fairly well educated.....Elinor found herself at age twenty-eight with limited suitors and would eventually marry a successful British lawyer who was seven years older than her but fairly well known for being a spendthrift.

Spendthrift isn't a term that most Americans deal with today.  If you were going to make a template and use it with today's society.....then a spendthrift is a guy who goes to buffet discount restaurants (the $6.99 dinner), drives a seven-year old car, would never spend more than $100 for a suit, shops mostly at Wal-Mart, drinks only tap-water and not the $3 bottles of French glacier water, and still wears clothing from two decades ago.

Writers tend to say that Elinor and her man (Clayton Luis Glyn) were a total mismatch.  Her husband had a family history.....his father was a Lord Mayor of London, and he had various connections which meant invitations to parties and dinners.

By the age of thirty-six......Elinor was fairly bored with things and enjoying various relationships on the side.  She wrote a book based on some letters she'd written and found a small audience of readers.  A year or two later, she sat down to write "Three Weeks"....which is mostly a semi-fictional....semi-fact piece....over a highly sexed queen from the Balkans who gets all hot and bothered with a young British lad (at least fifteen years younger than the queen).

For some reason, "Three Weeks" turns into some hot lusty curiosity piece.  Around this same time period......Elinor finally came up with a worldly phrase....."IT".  It was supposed to be lust and charm all rolled into one.  When some gal walked into a room in a skimpy gown.....and guys gawked at her....then she had "IT".   "Three Weeks" was about "IT".

The book got Elinor noticed and brought in some revenue.   Seven years would pass....her husband's health was failing...his income was limited....and Elinor became a book-a-year writer.  As the silent movies arrived....the production teams were on the prowl for books and themes for their movies.  Elinor's passions, writing skills, and creativity were a perfect match.

After the husband died in 1915 and movie production went into high gear after WW I....Elinor packed up and moved to Hollywood, California.  At the age of fifty-six (1920), she became a big-time screen-play writer, producer, and director.  In 1926, she took a twenty-year script idea of "IT" and combined with Clara Bow....making "Red Hair".  Sex appeal, lust, and censorship all played together for it's success.

As for the ad in the Oregon newspaper?  A guy sitting off in rural parts of the nation in 1915 was fairly desperate for risky weekend fun, and "Three Weeks" played into that effect.  Toss in the notice of being censored to some degree, and it meant that it just barely made it out of censorship (many people would think that anyway).

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Gov Mike Huckabee for President

There are ten potential folks running for the Republican nomination in 2016.  There's supposed to be an announcement this week that Huckabee is also running.

The odds of him getting in the top three?  Zero.

He has some limited appeal to a small audience across the south, and I suspect his end-game is to subtract votes from Jeb Bush in five or six states.  Three percentage points here, six percentage points there, and limited to strictly six states (my guess: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana).

This will end up being a bit of a tough race and no clear winner prior to the convention.  Since most states have dropped a winner-take-all point system for the primary.....folks get a percentage of delegates showing up for the convention.  My humble guess is that Huckabee hopes to have five percent of the votes.  He's doing this mostly to swing his votes around at the right time to another candidate.

As for a cabinet post later for Huckabee?  Maybe he'll get some ambassadorship....like to Cuba or such.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Alabama State Parks Analysis

From my previous essay over Alabama State Parks on a closure list, there's some interesting history to the ones listed on the closure list.

Cheaha State Park: Carved out by the Roosevelt CCC-gang in 1933.  It's on the highest point of Alabama, and for the first forty years.....had just a couple of stone cabins and one small lodge.  In the late 70's, they added another lodge and a restaurant to the operation.  Basically, there's a campground, some minor fishing, a swimming pool, an area for conferences/weddings/events, and a fair amount of hiking.

Bladon Springs used to be a health spa in the 1800s.  The local area had gone down hill and the state acquired the property in the 1930s....again, in the middle of the depression.  There's only ten spots for camping and a couple of pavilions for picnics.  It is a bare-bones state park and it's questionable why anyone ever put money into it.  Minimal profit operation and nothing really to add on it.

Blue Springs State Park is an operation which is bare bones.  Beyond some swimming in the local springs and a picnic pavilion, there's nothing much there (barely 100 acres of state property).  Zero potential for any profit.

Chickasaw State Park.  It's a 500-acre plot of land with some picnic tables and a kid's wading pool.  Toss in a couple of hiking trails and several pavilions, and that's it.  Zero potential for any profit.

Buck's Pocket State Park.  Twenty-odd miles of hiking trails, some picnic tables, a boat launch point, and a couple of primitive camping spots. Zero potential for any profit.

Paul M. Grist State Park.  Minor-league park with eleven RV spots.  Some Pavilions with picnic tables, and a 100-acre pond for fishing.  Very minimum potential for profit.  Maybe if they had forty RV spots and some cabins for rent....but it's nearest town is Selma and folks just don't go there for recreation.

Florala State Park.  Good location on Ala-Florida border, but only forty acres.  A couple of camping spots, some swimming in the local lake (500 acre lake).  Some picnic pavilions. Zero potential for any profit.

Roland Cooper State Park.  A curious park....it has a nine-hole golf course.....no plans to expand to eighteen holes.  Built on the side of a reservoir with plenty of fishing opporunties.  There's a couple vacation cabins, a bait and tackle shop, and a couple of picnic pavilions.  With infrastructure money and expansion (toss in another forty cabins, some advertising, and a lodge).....it might have potential.  Issue?  It's in the middle of nowhere.....twenty miles south of Selma.  Again, I'll ask....who the heck goes to Selma for recreation?

Rickwood Caverns.  Basically, you've got a four-star cave, an Olympic-sized pool, some hiking, zero cabins, no lodge, a minor campground, three hundred acres which they advertise as a 'wilderness' but it's really just a heavily wooded area about twenty-five miles north of Birmingham.  Has potential but you'd have to put in a real hotel.....market it for the caverns adventure folks....build up forty cabins and run the operation in a totally different manner.

Lake Lurleen State Park.  It offers around a hundred RV camping spots on a fairly big chunk of property (1,600 acres).  Lake front view, with more picnic pavilions, and roughly twenty miles of hiking trails.  Big selling point?  Mountain biking.  No lodge, no cabins.  Within twenty miles of Tuscaloosa.  With development and more infrastructure for mountain biking.....it might attract a unique crowd.....but you'd need to bring forty cabins and remarket the operation.

DeSoto State Park.  Another 1930s Roosevelt CCC-project.  Three thousand acres of property.....all in high terrain areas, with mountain streams.  Oddly, just twenty-five miles of walking trails and barely eleven miles of mountain biking trails.  There is a lodge, a couple of cabins, a restaurant, and a decent camping area.  It's a park which need redevelopment.....market it as a mountain paradise with adventure trails and triple the mountain bike trails.  Close enough to Huntsville that you could advertise around the nation for a 'rough adventure' and have several hundred people a week fly in and want to have some type of bold experience.

Lakepoint State Park.  This is one of those odd parks which ought to make it.  It's hidden away on a 45,000 acre site near Lake Eufala.  Sadly, it's in the middle of nowhere in central Alabama....far east side.  They've got a convention center, a eighteen-hole golf course, 100-room lodge, and a huge 192-site campground.  They've actually got almost forty cabins, and a boat marina area.  More picnic pavilions, and a couple of minor hiking trails.  It has success written all over the potential but has never been really marketed the right way.  Everybody in Atlanta and Nashville ought to know about the golf course and marina.  The convention center?  It ought to work better but with only a hundred rooms in the lodge.....I'm not sure they have adequate rooms for the bigger conventions.

Guntersville State Park.  A six-thousand acre park on Lake Guntersville.  Has a lodge area, boat ramp, eighteen hole golf course, and convention center.  Has a decent campground and beach area to the lake.  Has a fair amount of potential.  Advertised right?  No.  If the local community ran the operation....they'd have fishing derby situations all year-round, and probably add another hotel to the complex.  It's near Huntsville and they could easily attract people to fly in for weekends and get a recreation blast from the lake.

Frank Jackson State Park.  Another park in the middle of nowhere.  Ninety minute drive northeast from Mobile.  Underdeveloped.  Basically a fishing and boating park, with some picnic pavilions.  Limited RV and camping possible.  Even if you added more money and structure to the park.....it's out away from the interstate and bigger cities.

Finally, Joe Wheeler State Park.  Structured around a golf course, a boating marina, a significant convention center, a lodge and within three miles of highway 72.  With 2,500 acres, they've got plenty of possible expansion situations.  Advertised right?  No.  Toss in sixty cabins and another lodge, and upgrade the golf course.....you might triple the current income levels of the park.  Barely a 2.5 mile looped area for mountain biking.  Turn that into a twenty-mile mountain bike trail and you'd get some heavy interest throughout the south.

Here's the thing....at least six of these state parks are dead in the water.  No matter what you do......they can't achieve any profits.  The dimwits in the 1930s and all the way to the 1970s....never cared about profits.  Now?  It's important.

At least three of the sites ought to be turned over to local municipal communities and let them manage it better.  Five or six of these could be turned in mega visitor sites.....if they were managed by a business operation.....built up more hotel space....went heavily on mountain biking potential.....and were advertised as adventure centers.

Sadly, the Alabama conservation folks are not the ones who ought to be managing this operation.  And the state just refuses to get smart and realize the potential here if they were managed right (add one million more tourists a year if half of these were run the right way).

Joe Wheeler State Park?

It's hard to believe.  Alabama, the state, runs twenty-one state parks.  They are actually run by  the state conservation department.

They come to realize that over the years....so parks provide a profit and some don't.  With a federal grant, they've somehow managed to survive.  Well....up until now.  The state is drawing up a plan for 2015.....to close down fifteen of the state parks.

Some parks.....like Bladon Springs, have been around since 1938.

The parks remaining?  Well, you had to guess right on Gulf State Park, which is a four-star resort on the Gulf Coast.  Wind Creek State Park?  It'll be around as well, and is fairly well known for fishing competitions in the summer. Oak Mountain State Park has been around since the late 1920s and is just minutes away from Birmingham.

Some of the parks on the closure list?  Guntersville State Park made it on the list .  They actually had horseback riding potential, a championship golf course, and a fishing center.

Joe Wheeler State Park, from where I grew up.....made it on the closure list.  It has a major boating center and a championship golf course.  It also has a major hotel resort.....right on the water.

I admit five or six of the parks on the closure list.....just aren't pulling in enough customers to make them worth the effort of saving.

The closure business is not a guaranteed thing.....it's simply the first step and the state will go through the motions.  My humble guess is that by December of this year.....at least three parks will go final and shut down.  Maybe another three or four will shut down by the end of 2016.

My general view of the Joe Wheeler complex is that it's got all the dynamics to be a mega recreation center.  The complex has been on plan A since it's beginnings in the early 1980s with the hotel and golf course.  A few additions occurred over the last decade.....but they really haven't been forward-thinking or aggressive about visitors or use.

With the right advertising, a few added features, and some figure (TV star or entertainer) as a 'host'.....they could probably double the business that they currently achieve....all within three years.  They could easily add more cabins and cottages.  Another hotel could be put up on the property with more revenue potential.  Advertising via national magazines would attract more RV visitors.

So, my suggestion is for the city of Rogersville (their next door municipality) to ask for the property and hire up a couple of smart folks to rebuild the image of the park.

I admit.....some of these state parks are practically dead and there's just not much you can save.  These are parks that never should have been made into state parks.

Bottom line?  This might be the best thing to happen to Joe Wheeler State Park....ever.  And they might take the park to a whole new level within the next decade.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Hillary Art or Anti-Art (depending on your view)

Within a couple of blocks of the new Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters in New York City....a number of posters have gone up.  Anti-Hillary posters.

There are three versions so far.  What they all harp on.....is the strong supporter which is quick to jump up and say the term 'sexist' whenever anyone questions the wisdom of Hillary running for office.....even if the individual was a Democrat and just questions her capability.

So the poster highlights the words or phrases that you aren't supposed to say when talking over the campaign front (secretive, ambitious, entitled).

A artsy Democratic front that isn't so pro-Hillary?  One might think that.  You don't have too many artsy Republicans or Libertarians.  If you tossed a color marker to Cruz or Walker.....they'd probably both draw 3rd-grader winged horses and a bad impressionist drawing of George Washington.

Completed Fringe Finally

This past weekend, I finished up 'Fringe'.  I admit....during the era when it aired, I probably watched five episodes of the entire series.  With Netflix, I've finally sat down and watched Fringe from start to finish....all 100 episodes.  It took me seven weeks but it's done.  So five observations.

First, Fringe is what Lost, "V",  Doctor Who, Stargate, Heroes, The X-Files and Twilight Zone all tried to be.....condensed into one single series.  To be truthful....you could not afford to miss a single episode and you had to watch them all in sequence.   Skipping one or two episodes per season simply left you without vital pieces of the entire story.

Second, Fringe had four-star writers from start to finish.  With most series....you reach a point where you know the top writer or two have left the show and the epic points have disappeared.  The script from day one worked....and you tended to admire some speech or frustration moment by a character.

Third, as bad guys go.....David Robert Jones and the Observers 'Captain' are five-star bad guys.  The camera angles....the script and text of both characters....the dialog with the primary characters.....all lead to some successful stories.

Fourth, the alternate universe Fauxlivia....once introduced....was a heavyweight for each story.

Fifth, there is a simple fault with Fringe....in that you really need to watch three or four episodes a week and assemble the series within a limited time so that everything makes sense.  To space it out over five years....probably make economic or business sense, but for the regular viewer.....one episode a week, and twenty episodes a year....simply delayed the potential effect of the series.

I would strongly recommend Fringe but you'd best plan an episode a day to make it work right.

Hillary Clinton

As of this past weekend, Hillary Clinton is now running for the 2016 Presidential election.

Generally, the news media is showing some enthusiasm and talking up the fact that we've never had a female President.  We've also never had a midget President.....a albino President....a mentally handicapped President....a bi-polar President....a Jewish President.....or a transgender President.

Hillary's one brief opportunity for a win came and went in 2007/2008.  For most of a year....she had people in Iowa and working hard to sell the message.  All she had for competition was a no-name Senator from Illinois.  She assumed the Bill Clinton-image was owned by her and she could use the same image to win.......a false assumption.

I compare this to a theory of mine.....the Buick-Chrysler Cordoba theory.

A Buick is always a somewhat dependable car with a decent appearance, and appreciated by a large segment of society. You generally know when you are in the presence of a Buick. There’s a decent ride and things tend to work.

With the Chrysler Cordoba, there’s some image of style and luxury, but as you step into it....there’s faults. The smooth ride is bumpy. Things ought to work but you keep seeing issues which worry you about dependability. You step into it at midnight in the worst possible neighborhood, and it stalls.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could bring the image of the Buick across to the public, with the help of the news media. Hillary, with all the help that they might provide....can only establish herself as the Cordoba character.  Sadly, the only positive things that most people remember about the Cordoba were the fine corinthian leather seats and some luxury image.....the maintenance issues and poor quality made folks forget about the Cordoba.

A no-name senator from Illinois was able to sell his image in Iowa and easily beat the machine that Hillary had an entire year in Iowa with significant funds. Whatever problem she had in 2008....is still there and it’s the Cordoba image which people just won’t buy into.

I would say this.....Iowa is a make-or-break situation.  If Hillary fails to get a majority of votes (if five people are running....each will get some percentage).  She has to place number one in Iowa or I think the campaign is screwed up.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Barracks Story

In my twenty-two years in the Air Force.....I lived in six dorms (barracks might be appropriate to use as well).  I actually won't say nothing much negative about five of them.

The Barksdale AFB dorm (in Shreveport)?  This is a shot of the old dorm I lived in (renovation around 1984, after I left).  It was one of the worst places you can imagine before the renovation, and I actually stayed there for roughly two years.

It'd been built in the mid-1960s and was state-of-the art when it was built.  But from like 1981 to 1983....it was in terrible shape.

The cooling unit was no longer able to cool.  It was a shocker to survive the two summers I spent there with almost no cooling whatsoever.

The heating unit would only heat to a sufficient level (around 25-degrees).  Anything below that and it just subtracted from the general comfort of the room.  At some point, around minus-five degrees....the room temperature was around 32-degrees. Even the mini-heating unit I bought could barely add ten degrees onto the room, and it'd pop the circuit breaker after thirty minutes of use.

The cockroaches?  In the middle of the night, if you got up and turned on the light.....the one sink in the room would have around a dozen cockroaches scrambling around.  I'd keep a can of lighter fluid nearby and spray them with that.

Mice were a problem on the first floor....luckily, I lived on the third floor.

The water for the showers....if you didn't have a problem with water switching from mild-warm to extreme-cold in the winter months....it was Ok.

The ice storm in January of 1984?  It covered the fire escape entirely and made it impossible to use as an exit.

The natural gas leak in 1982?  It took two days for them to get the gas cleared out and make the dorm safe for usage.

It was the only barracks that I came eventually to hate with a passion.  If I hadn't had orders to leave in January of 1984....I would have said enough and just applied for quarters pay and moved off-base.

From what I can figure....they renovated the place in 1984.....again in the late 1990s, and finally tore the entire building down two or three years ago.

The Walter Scott Shooting

Typically, I strongly recommend a five-day waiting period before people get all hyperactive and think they know the entire episode to some chaotic event.  In this Walter Scott episode.....I can make three observations.

First, this is North Charleston.  Around the 2005/2006 period.....this was considered one of the most dangerous places in the US to walk around. Drugs, gangs, and chaos reigned.  It's a town of 105,000 residents and it was deep into serious trouble.  A decision was made by the city leadership after they saw strong hints of people vacating the area and escaping off to towns around it.  The decision was to build up their police department and get fairly enthusiastic about law enforcement.

The town might have been predominately white twenty-five years ago.....but as the crime escalation started to occur....'white-flight' had already started.  North Charleston had dealt various cards to regain stability and stop the chaos.  Sadly, this meant a higher chance of residents in town (more black than white) getting pulled over for questions or small traffic violations.  Walter Scott could have driven in hundreds of cities and never been pulled over in his entire life.  But North Charleston doesn't have those odds.

Second....Walter Scott was formerly married and owed around $18,000 on back-payments for child support.  Being a warehouse guy and fork-life operator.....he's making next to nothing.  The odds of him ever making enough to cover a regular monthly payment?  Zero.  It's nice that the legal system has invented child support payments.....but it only works if you make enough pay to cover yourself and the payments.

What the guy feared was that the cop would see some warrant for his arrest....arrest him.....and put his one job into jeopardy.  Without that one job.....he's one step away from street-life or living with relatives.  So, when he freaked out.....he had justification to freak out.

Third....I still can't understand the necessity of pulling a gun on a unarmed guy who was running the opposite direction.  If Walter Scott had shown a gun and started running.....maybe there's some justification (marginally, I admit).....but with no gun and running....there is zero justification.  What was the cop thinking in terms of a threat?  There is no threat.  This is the same type of mentality that you'd see when some cop comes to an enclosed yard.....enters....encounters a family dog....and shoots the dog with no logic or reason.

The charges?  It's between murder-in-the-2nd-degree or manslaughter.  In either case, I don't see the jury giving the guy more than fifteen years.  But I don't see this guy surviving in a state prison more than a year or two.  Some gang hit will occur, and this guy will never finish his 'trip' in the state prison.

The Newest Disorder?

For years.....I've been waiting on this to occur.

The British Daily Mail (one of my favorite newspapers) wrote up this piece on a new disorder affecting people.....Orthorexia Nervosa.  It's basically a healthy food disorder.

Yeah......it's when a person has zapped themselves mentally enough....that they crave only fruit and vegetables....no bread....no dairy products....no meats.  So when they get to some stage....they feel all negative and frustrated when they slip up need a piece of bread....negativity goes up in a massive sense.

Has Orthorexia Nervosa made it into the DSM-5.....the handbook/manual that mental health folks use to identify disorders?  The simple answer is no.  This would require a fair amount of surveys, polls and analysis....which is probably several years away from establishing absolute facts.  So, it's a discussed item around mental health experts who have started to see folks who complain about this nervous condition or frustrations surrounding their diet agenda.

Here in Germany, I'd take a guess that one in a hundred folks are already slipping into this disorder.  If you survey the dozen-odd state-run networks....there's probably twenty hours a week of nutritional news or shows.  Some simply key in on how to eat healthy.....cutting out some grease or fat.  But you could see after a while some efforts to maximize on eating healthy.  It'd only take a year or two for someone to repeat their daily habits over and over....reaching the point where it's a food disorder.

The curious thing....no one has said how you treat the disorder.  Teaching people how to eat an unhealthy menu of food?  Forcing people to eat two slices of bacon?  It's hard to say how you'd find some way of treating such a person.

Bottom line?  You might be so successful in life at extending yourself and making yourself believe in good nutrition....that you might harm yourself with frustrations and negativity over such a diet.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Short Essay on Gender-free Bathroom Story

I noticed some big news group talked up the newest thing in the White House.....a gender-free bathroom.  This is one of those new fangled bathrooms where males, females, or transgender folks can attend to their personal business.

I sat and thought about it.  I also have a gender-free bathroom in my present house.  You can open the door.....go do your business....wash up....flush....and then spray a bit (the guy-rule that my wife enforces).

I also go one step further.....it's a gender-free and paw-free bathroom.....meaning that two Maine Coons can also do their business as well.  To be honest, I've had a gender-free bathroom for years....every since I got married.  In the days prior to that.....I lived in the barracks where we had a open bathroom.....which means forty guys could use it at one time, if necessary.

This gender-free bathroom thing appears to be a hot topic.  Folks marvel at the new and complex nature of this....yet never seem to ask any questions.  It's like some alien species arrived last week and everyone jumped to toss in a new type bathroom situation.

In the old days.....if you stopped off at some gas station....you'd find that they had only one bathroom (the typical solution) and you got a key to walk over to the gender-free bathroom.  It was one single stall with one single wash basin.  You did your business quickly, and left (hopefully flushing).  End of the discussion.  Today?  Business operations have multiple stalls and things appear to be slightly more complicated.

The odd question to ask the White House?  It'd be interesting to note if it has a sensor and are counting 'users'.  In an entire year.....is there anyone using the gender-free bathroom?  And if they are using it.....are there any problems or complaints?

An Amusing Fracking Story

CNBC did a report up today.....talking up the idea that fracking has caused massive radon build-ups in Pennsylvania houses (800,000 of them presently are mentioned in the news item).  They use statistical data collected by Johns Hopkins to state their point.  These are homes which were measured back in the late 1980s and again in the last five years. "Bad-boy" fracking.....obviously has to be the cause.

Sometimes.....you get the impression that a good story ought to be able to stand, and this would work good....if they hadn't put the date into the storyline.  The data collection started in 1987.

If you go back to the 1980s....some people were starting to talk in public forums and to building/renovation crews about selling people on better insulation and high-standard door/windows.  The deal spoken by environmentalists was that we were allowing precious cooled or heated air to escape a house.

Naturally, the gimmick here was to spend several thousand and buy some insulation protection.  What happens after you spend the money?  Your house gets insulated, and air doesn't escape.  That also includes radon which might be in the house.....so you have radon build-up.  Shocker.....?

Unless you also went out and put in an exhaust fan.....to help several times a week to 'flush' the house.....you were were going to collect and develop a substantial radon problem.

The 300,000 homes that CNBC talked about with big issues which lead back to fracking?  No.....they lead back to the investment made fifteen to twenty years ago.....to better insulated homes.  It's not rocket science to figure the consequence here.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Thing with Rand Paul

Rand Paul is an enigma.  He is unexplainable.

He wants a balanced budget....lower taxes....and control over government spending.....which generally gets people in the heartland all pepped up and enthusiastic.  He's against subsidizing energy companies.....but he's willing to offer them tax breaks for innovation. He hates TSA and says he would eliminate them.....but he never says how.  He says that American's privacy rights are threatened....but never says how he's solve this.  He says he's for plain old-fashion marriage, but it's same type statement that President Obama had before his conversion to being 'open'.  He opposes all possible gun control, period.....which usually gets him support from the NRA crowd.

If you went down the list of twenty-five topics that the normal heartland guy would support and how they would answer a question over issues.....Rand Paul gives the same exact answer.

So, why is Rand Paul considered a 'nut'?

It's when you get to the 2nd twenty-five hot topics of Republican Conservatives and the fringe side of the Republican enthusiasm.....that you start to see Rand Paul angle to get the right spot on each of the next twenty-five topics.   He wants to fit into the perfect square.

For an engineer.....the perfect square is measured and it's absolutely precise.  If you say you are within 1/1,000th of an inch of the perfect specifications to the square.....that's the gimmick of Rand Paul.  He really wants to fit that neat and tidy square.

If someone said that lawn landscaping had now moved to topic number 46 on the Conservative scale of important things.....Rand Paul would come out tomorrow with a three-point agenda on land landscaping....offering up tax incentives for a better lawn, recommended advice on cutting range for the mower, and a government program to offer free grass seed to the needy.   It's that simple.

The heartland candidate?  Yeah.  He's the guy who wants to take around twelve percent of the vote in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, etc.  He's the all-in-one type candidate that fits the perfect square and people comment on that. The remaining eighty-two percent of voters?  They'd rather not vote for the guy.....there's just something that's not real or convincing about Rand Paul.

Oddly, you can find Democrats in the south who say that they could almost support Rand Paul because he's got the right position on twenty of their top priorities.

The perfect square?  There is such a thing....but it's usually not what people are walking into Home Depot or Lowes to buy.

What Rand Paul is after....is mostly votes.  He ties up an election and makes things a bit more difficult for the top two or three guys in the primary.  He's making them pay attention to him and his fifty-odd topics.  If you want the perfect conservative.....he's the solution.  At some point in the decision process...you make the decision that you don't want the perfect conservative, and then you start to question your whole priority system.

The odds of the top guy wanting Rand Paul for VP or some cabinet post?  Zero chance.  It'll never happen.  So, Rand is mostly there for the theater side of the conservative vote.  He gives the audience the best act possible, and that small group feel that he might actually deliver on these fifty-odd values that they've worked themselves into.

The news media tries to side with this view and get the small crowd all pumped up.  It's fake stories and a comical sort of perception that he might actually deliver what he's talking about.  Then later.....you figure out that the news media lied to you and you go back to reality.

That's the plain and simple truth with Rand Paul.

Monday, 6 April 2015

On the Subject of Water

“This executive order is done under emergency power. It has the force of law. Very unusual. It’s requiring action and changes in behavior from the Oregon border all the way to the Mexican border. It affects lawns. It affects people’s — how long they stay in the shower....how businesses use water."

-- Governor Brown of California

For those who haven't heard.....California has a serious water shortage.  It's been building up for over one-hundred years.

You can go back to the 1910 period and find people who were staking out a negative position on reservoirs and use of mountain runoff water.

Population growth?  It continued on, continuing a gradual growth, and today sits at around forty million residents.

The desalination plants?   The folks in Santa Barbara are cranking up their plant.  Water cost?  If you compare it against the regular water.....it's fifteen times the cost.  You can imagine your water bill.....if it was one hundred dollars a year under the old system.....it'll run fifteen-hundred under the new system.  I should add as well....after you filter out the salt.....it gets dumped out in the process back into the local waters.  So if you had one-hundred percent salt water along your coast before.....it'll probably at least three-hundred percent salt water afterwards.  You can already expect legal cases to occur with environmentalists trying to shut the operation down, and regular people unable to afford water.

But we come to the subject of monitoring shower usage.  I'm guessing someone will want to install a meter on showers or tubs within a home, and start to check your usage.  I'm an old military guy who knew how to take a simple 90-second shower.

You can imagine the training videos that California will have to put out.....trying to teach people to shift from the six-minute shower to the 90-second shower.  Use this type of soap....dash yourself for twenty seconds to wet everything down....etc.  Some idiot might even make a special shower attachment which only throws 10-second spurts of water of you and then ten seconds of nothing. People will be buzzing at the office....chatting over their ten-second method or a twenty-second method....creating fake enthusiasm over this whole bogus situation.

Bottom line?  California has had a hundred years to work on their water situation, and at this point.....they are still one-hundred years behind.  And when the water bill comes for the month, and you spent $450 on water.....you will finally make the decision to pack up and leave.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Explaining Dugout, Tennessee

The first original road or recognized trail out of civilization.....into the depths of the frontier....to New Orleans.....was the Natchez Trace.  The first guy who wandered through this "trail" came to report that it was "miserable" but passable.  This 1742.  When you take into account various hills that had to be climbed, the streams and swampy areas to be crossed, and the 440 miles required.....it was a pretty tough trip.

A guy could generally make around twenty-five miles a day on horseback in these type of conditions, so you can figure the Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi trip took about eighteen days.  Even when you got to Natchez.....you really weren't in New Orleans yet....you still had another four days minimum to make it into the 'big easy'.

It wasn't until 1801....roughly sixty years later....that the US Army was brought in to "fix" the Trace.  The Army stuck around for several years and accomplished a fair amount of the renovation.  Then contractors were hired to work the final effort.  Somewhere around 1809/1810....the Trace was upgraded to the level that wagons could make the trip with some ease.  That opened up a big deal for trade and commerce.

That was the sole road in the entire region until 1817.

Through various political efforts.....money was put aside in 1816 for General Jackson....then the military commander in the new frontier....to build a second road that would go from Nashville (his headquarters) to Madisonville, Louisiana (a couple miles outside of Jackson, Mississippi). It's length was 436 miles.  Even when you finished the trip to Jackson....you were still four days of travel away from New Orleans.

The survey of the route took place in 1817 and work started immediately.  What can be said was that thirty-five bridges had to be built as part of the overall plan.  There's not a precise history to this piece of American history.  One newspaper account talks of 300 men who were involved in one phrase, and another separate account talks of fifty men.

The road was completely open from beginning to end....around May of 1820.  There's a number of seventy-five-thousand man-days of labor attached to the road.  Whether it's accurate or not.....is questionable.

If you draw a straight line from Nashville to Madisonville, Mississippi.....that's pretty much accurate.  The road has to intersect and go through Florence, Alabama....because this was one of the rare points on the Tennessee River where you might cross on horseback or wagon....without the aid of a bridge or ferry.

For me....it's an interesting route because it will come down through Lawrence County, Tennessee.  It will take a straight route similar to Highway 43 which exists today, from Summertown to Lawrenceburg.  Somewhere about four miles north of Ethridge, Tennesseee....to the east of Jackson Military Road....was Anderson Creek (not related to Anderson Creek of Alabama).

At some point around 1820 (the year that his second wife gave birth to daughter Nancy).....my ancestors gave up on Indiana as a possible settlement point, and headed south.  Some words indicate the initial plan was for Wetumpkia, Ala....in the far south of the state.  One might speculate that the period of an extended stay around Dugout was chiefly because of the birth of Nancy.

Various events occurred and the small group of travelers instead stepped off the Jackson Military Road and traveled about two miles eastward, to Anderson Creek, Tennessee.  Here in some clearing, they set up a camp to stay for a couple of weeks.  This location would be called "Dugout".  There might have been people who used Dugout before this period, but it was a name that would stick around for decades.

Dugout, Tennessee today?  Non-existent.  There's Dugout Road....that's the only reminder of the small community that existed there along the creek.  A community existence of Dugout?  It probably hasn't been uttered since the early 1900s.

Somewhere in the history passed down by various folks, there's a false attribution of Dugout being on Second Creek, which runs near Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.  Second Creek officially starts along Rabbit Trail Road....about three miles south of Leoma, Tennessee (a good fifteen miles south of Dugout).  The origin of the Creek starts around where Glendale Road intersects with Rabbit Trail Road.

What I would speculate is that the family members on this little trip spent some recovery time at Dugout, and drove on for a day along Jackson Military Road, and came to Leoma.  The Road would normally head southwestward toward Florence.  For some reason, they departed Jackson Military Road and headed along Rabbit Trail....then using the flat land around Second Creek as their path. They would cross the Tennessee line and make it along to the Whitehead community.

One might imagine a trading post in the local area of Whitehead, and the family members discussed things with the locals, and made a decision to stay there in the region.  No one says much over the population in the local area.  Within five miles of Whitehead.....I doubt if there were more than two-hundred people.  The trip had ended.

No one says much over the journey....likely taking six weeks of active travel, with stopping points probably in the Nashville area and Dugout.  It would have been a miserable experience because of the physical efforts involved and the emotional strain.

The ancestors to this little group have been almost two hundred years in the same area.

It's an interesting little story, with a slice or two of history added.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Card Game

Generally, if you work for the media or any gimmick society....you got a "card".

You can play the "racist" card....when you need sympathy for blacks or attack anyone who needs to be brought down a step.

You can play the "sexist" card....when you need to go after guys in general.

You can play the "ableism" card....when you need to go after people who have a problem with issues of physical or mental handicaps.

You can play the "classism" card....when you need to spank some folks over their rich nature or economic advantages.

You can play the "anti-seminism" card....when you need to go after Jews.

You can play the "gay" card....when you need to go against people who have issues with gays.

There are literally hundreds of 'cards' that you can play when the mass movement needs some creative inertia out of thin air.  The key?  Hatred and resentment.  That's the end product to the "card" game.  You can use dozens and hundreds of formulas to play the card, as long as the final product equals hatred and resentment.

Turning a pizza business into a "card" game?  It was tough, but fairly creative.  Next week?  A barber shop?  A tattoo parlor?  A muffler shop?  A women's gown shop?  A sports team from Seattle?  A marijuana shop in Pueblo, Colorado?

The "card" game revolves around you being able to identify yourself as part of a bigger group, a tribe, or a mystical creation.  As long as you feel isolated....the "card" game thrives.  The minute that you start to ask questions....to develop some process of reasoning over the problem or issue...the "card" game starts to end.  It can't sustain itself in that type of open discussion.

It's like the gimmick of tolerance and intolerance.  The distance between the two can be measured in 1/1,000th of an inch.  The fact that you can proclaim yourself absolutely tolerant in one brief statement.....then strangely state your intolerance to the opinions or ideals of others, makes your position in life questionable.  At that moment....your transparency of tolerance slips from a ten to a zero.

The redneck card?  The church card?  The government bureaucrat card?  The Tea Party card?  The anti-environmentalist card?  The climate change card?  The Latino card?  The anti-drug-thug card?  The anti-cop card?  The anti-bank card?  The anti-capitalist card?  The anti-Republican card?  The anti-Democrat card?

There is a perpetual game being played out in society....for change and power.  The cards are the tools to bring about both.  If you deny the cards....the game ends.  It's that simple.

Governor's Task Force?

From my homestate news (Alabama).....the word is out that the governor (Bentley) will do an executive order.  Yeah, it's shocking....even governors have executive order capability.  It's supposed to come out on Monday.

The deal?  Well....he thinks there is a health crisis in the state and he is forming a task force on health care improvement.

Generally, you can expect this task force (probably seven to ten folks) to meet a couple of times and discuss what you can do with limited or marginal funding.  It's a fairly limited debate.

You could tax the heck out of sugar products, alcohol, or fatty foods (even taxing Burger King and McDonalds in some whacked-up fashion).  You could do some kind of kid's educational program and mandate it for all Bama schools.  You could get the two major universities in the state (Auburn and Alabama) to use their media and health students to build video clips or advertising campaigns to help the state.

The thing is....folks tend to eat greasy foods, consume fat at an alarming rate, drink full-up sugary drinks by the six-pack, smoke a full pack of cigarettes per day, and enjoy a fair amount of alcohol when possible.  It's not easy to force some habit to change.

Not to cast doubt on the governor's task force, but other than paying for hotel expenses at some fancy resort in Orange Beach for them to meet up for a couple of weekends to discuss matters....I just don't see much coming out of the deal.

The best approach?  I'd give up on the bulk of folks in Alabama.  I'd take my ideas and match them up against six to twelve-year-old kids.  Forget regular heath classes in school....you need to 'turbo-ize' the health studies program within the state and actually give them the concept.  Toss in more physical activities for kids and younger adults.  Maybe twenty years down the road.....you might see more of a change.

That's my two cents on the subject.

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Frontier Story

There is this epic point of my family history where the family members leave 'civilization' (namely....Surry, North Carolina).  It's the area or county around Mount Pilot and Mount Airy....from the Andy Griffith series.

It's a combination of two reasons....property prices are escalating and crops have burnt out.  The general strategy of farmers throughout the 1600s and 1700s of the new colony in America was to plant the only two crops that made cash money.....cotton and tobacco...YEAR after YEAR.  Naturally, land nutrients shifted around and without fertilizer.....you started to notice less and less production after the fifth year of same crop usage.  Dutch farmers in more northern states knew of the issue and had several crops....which they tended to shift around on properties....to help with nutrients.  Of course, this meant a smaller profit scale but more stability.

So, the two sons of "Joseph" (1753-1829) set in motion this migration past the state line and into the wild frontier.  Joseph doesn't have a big rich history tied to himself.  At one point, he did own 200 acres of property, served with some distinction in the Revolutionary War, and had a total of two sons and two daughters.

The two sons?  "Jim" and "William".  Jim was born in 1784 and William in 1787.  Jim is my ancestor.

Jim ends up marrying Maggie Boggs, who was born in 1797.  He was roughly fourteen years old at the time.  Maggie (born in 1785) would have been twelve years old.  On the outer edge of the frontier....the age deal probably was somewhat typical at the time.

Over the next eighteen-odd years....there's only one child from this marriage.  Somewhere around 1813....Maggie passes away.  There's a decision made that year by Jim to pack up and leave for the new frontier, with his brother.  Their original target was Indiana but discovered two years into this episode that the winters were too harsh. The move from NC to Indiana....sometime around 1815.  The move to Alabama?  Around 1817/1818.

The original arrival point?  Dugout, Tennesssee.  It's a an area on Second Creek and near Lawrenceberg.  For a while, they camped out there, and then made it further south to the Whitehead area where there was a trading post of some type.  The trip ended at that point.  They both stayed on and settled in the local area.

Alabama property sales started in the 1819 period, so they likely settled and purchased property.

For all practical purposes.....these two were in the new frontier for barely a year or two....then civilization arrived (statehood).

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Volvo Coming

Over the weekend....Volvo finally put out an announcement.....they will build a plant in the US...their first plant to manufacture Volvo cars.

Rumor has it that North Carolina is one of the states, with at least two additional states involved in negotiation right now.

Most Americans have zero knowledge over Volvo and probably would never buy the car.

From the historical prospective.....there are three eras of Volvo.

The first era, from 1927 to the early 1970s.....was the Swedish era (my term).  They were a Swedish company and built cars for sale primarily within the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland).  What you can typically say was that it was an engineer's car....built a decade ahead of most technology that you saw with the automobile industry.  They weren't booming....but they were making a fair profit.

In the early 1970s.....the second era came.....where Volvo branched out into Europe and the US.  What made their cars better than everyone's cars was the safety factor.  They put every possible safety option known at the time into the standard Volvo cars.  The legend was.....if you got into a Volvo and had an accident.....you survived.

The problem with the second era Volvo cars was that they were "plain" and expensive.  You paid twenty to thirty percent more for a Swedish-made Volvo.  There wasn't any sports-car version, and no one under the age of thirty would buy a Volvo.

Chinese investors came after 2008 and bought the company.....they were in serious jeopardy at the time like several major car companies. Thus....we enter the third era....where the company survives but with Chinese ownership.

If you sat down and listed the forty top safety items that could be put into a car....you'd discover that Volvo tends to have every single item in the standard car (it's not optional in their mind).  Between that and the Swedish manufacturing costs.....that's the primary reason why Volvo cars cost so much in the US.

Would a US plant change the perception and the cost?  I imagine that they've figured the formula and might be able to find a model or two that fits into the prospective of an American buyer.....for the right price.  It's an enticement to get you....the buyer....into a Volvo franchise and get you to first base to buy your first Volvo.  Maybe ten years down the line.....as you get ready for a replacement vehicle....you'd want to spend the extra $15,000 and buy the typical $45,000 Volvo SUV or four-door car.

I've never owned a Volvo....but I've ridden in a couple.  It's like a plain sports-car version of a Lincoln Towncar.  The ride is perfect....the style is professional....the horsepower is there, and you find no flaws.

I agree....it'll take a while and most Americans will just ask where the heck it's made.  But after a brief ride from a dealer's model......you might start crunching the numbers and realize that the safety factor in the Volvo adds $100,000 onto the value of the car.  Maybe it'll help you survive an accident....which is something that you typically don't think about with the Mustang or Dodge Charger.

Anyway....Volvo is a name you might hear more often now.