Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Weed Hotel Idea

I read a fair amount of business news, and noted via the AP today.....there's this Indian tribe in the US who dreamed up this great idea.  A marijuana resort hotel.

The Santee Sioux Tribe  already runs a casino and hotel operation in South they've taken up this new idea....operating a nice resort with marijuana in the background.

What they say is that they will grow the stuff on the reservation, and figure that the Feds won't say a word or stop them.  They will operate a nightclub as part of the deal, where a smoking lounge will be in full operation.  Naturally....gambling opportunities will exist.

The take-down?  Right now, they are talking about people wanting to come up to South Dakota and spend enough to generate two million dollars in profit each month.

The thing about this.....if it goes down like the tribe'll generate interest across the US.  There are hundreds of reservations, with various tribes, and they might all get smart.....grow their own weed, and make millions off people who want recreational opportunities.  Then you add this one big ingredient.....being high and doped up.....while gambling.  Some gal might wake up in her room after a long time of partying, and discover that she took $8,000 out of her credit card last night while sitting at the slot machines and all 'weeded-up'.

Somehow, I would imagine the federal government will stand there and just say you can't do something like this.  It'd start a trend, and the courts might end up being involved.  But if this takes off and makes it.....I'll predict dozens of such operations within five years.....all offering four-star marijuana and Indian tribe hotel operations.  It'll turn into a big deal where couples can escape for the weekend and get 'weird'.

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Real Political Mess We Live In

If you woke up from some twenty-five year nap and took a look around America today.....gazing at'd be shocked to the ninth-degree.  On one side is a significantly tired Hillary Clinton and some socialist guy duking it out.....with the socialist guy slightly ahead in a number of states.  Over on the Republican's mostly some Seventh-Day-Adventist doctor, Donald Trump, and some fired HP female executive from a decade ago.  You'd be in disbelief at how the nation has fallen.

So, there are five basic reasons that we are at this junction in our society.

1.  No one reads newspapers much anymore.  We don't care about the local paper except for the page one stuff, the local news, the obituary, and the police blotter.  For the most part, less than five percent of society will read the commentary or editorial page of the local paper these days.  No one cares who they support in the general election, and their slanted articles on politics just don't work on the general population anymore.  With the exception of the Washington Post and New York one cares what commentary is written up on politics.  All of one single generation of change.

2.  CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, Fox News and MSNBC are mostly disregarded as trustworthy.  I doubt if thirty to forty percent of society have much trust in what's delivered or the truth factor of the topic.  In some cases, people trust their local weatherman more than Bill O'Reilly of Fox News or the Today Show crew.

3.  Time and Newsweek are irreverent.  Back in the 1980s....probably near twenty-five-percent of the adult public read at least one of the the news magazines monthly.  Today, it's probably closer to one or two percent.

4.  The general public.....after two hugely stressful administrations......really doesn't buy off on competency coming out of the political crowd (either party).  If some Senator says he's got the solution to a just start laughing because he's probably going to fix one problem and create a new and more significant second problem.  Toss on lobbyists and's mostly a Micky-Mouse crew that dresses up and says scripted stuff, and entertains you throughout the week.

5.  Most people have taken the attitude that America is some brand of something.....which is mostly failed (a 1971 Ford Pinto).   It doesn't matter if you talk banking, credit, law enforcement, immigration, Republican, Democrat, gay marriage, cops shooting blacks, blacks shooting cops, fatty food, expensive cars, taxes, environmental laws, religious nuts, crazy people on the street, or lusty stuff on TV.  Everyone generally believes the brand name of America is screwed-up.  So, we all kinda needs fixing, but there's just not the standard formula of American politician to fix it.  We've reached a point, where we might just vote for a Doctor with no political experience, a wild socialist guy, or Donald Trump.

And if this doesn't work?  Well.....yeah, that's the curious thing. Frankly, we don't have a plan B other than electing a comedian the next time around.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Thing About Statues

After you travel around Europe enough, you come to this realization.  There are statues that can be done in some tasteful but provocative fashion.....that no one says much about.

In Bama, if you tried to put up some statue of a half-naked gal with a lion's body on the bottom half....a bunch of folks would get all upset and frustrated.  They'd be disturbed and have to talk their minister about their hurt feelings or the downward spiral of the world.

This the front of the big palace in Vienna will probably have itself photographed at least a thousand times a day and no one ever says much.  I would's not that great of a statue and it doesn't really say much except for cash flow for the artist who spent a year crafting it.

The thing is....folks get around to talking a lot over least in the US.  It's always supposed to represent some dead Senator, soldier, or President.  You don't get statues made of farmers, trailer-park women, or former University of Alabama quarterbacks.  There's only two statues of Coach 'Bear' Bryant in existence.  If you went looking for female statues in the'd only find a couple.  In Europe, probably a quarter of all statues.....are mostly of imaginary Greek goddesses who did some fantasy deal with some other imaginary Greek guy or just looked 'hot'.

So, when you sit and dream up an idea of a trip to need to prepare yourself for some lusty statues, and ask the local Baptist minister for some hefty praying material while on the trip.  

Vinegar This and That

In a couple of weeks, the wife will have wrapped up one full year at current job.  Frankly, it's one of the few jobs ever in her life.....where there is satisfaction over the operation and the product (vinegar).

This small company markets one of the top vinegar production lines in Europe.  There's probably twenty different vinegar items which are produced and sold.

Over the past year....I've probably had more than triple the amount of vinegar in my system than usual.  Mostly because.....they give the wife free samples on a monthly basis.

So, there's the regular vinegar for cleaning windows and shelves.  There's the fancy stuff for salads.  There's the hot-chilli-related vinegar for spicing up your foods.  There's the vinegar-mustard sauce.  On and on and on.

I'll bet there's probably forty bottles of the stuff around the house and more than a three-year supply on hand.

To be honest, I probably never (ever) was a big fan of vinegar until I got to the more unusual tasting types.   Now?  I can almost gargle with the stuff, or sip it via a shot-glass.

Last Observation of the Car Show

 My last four comments over the Frankfurt Auto Show:

First, one of the top ten reasons you to note the models hired to 'talk' about the new cars.  There's at least forty car companies there and each hires a minimum of a dozen models....who wear the company-approved clothing....always showing a lot of leg and cleavage.

You tend to be amazed as you walk up to a car and some gal quickly walks up and lets you know eight amazing facts about this new model.  Then you ask this stupid question about the tires or the engine, and she's got this deer-in-the-highlights look.  You've gone one step beyond the eight lines that she memorized. Then she turns and gives the signal to 'Doctor Johnny' who is some car engineer guy in a suit, who walks over and then starts to bring tears to your eyes over the 16,000 interesting things about this particular model.  'Doctor Johnny' wears a suit and has zero sex appeal....even to women over the age of fifty.

I've often been curious where they find these gals and how they train them the week prior to the show.  Each one fits into her suit and it's simply a 'sexed-up' piece of clothing which helps to sell the cars, in my humble opinion.  Some Mercedes are very picky about the suit and it's more professional.  Some companies, like the Chinese car makers....try to show as much skin as possible.  I'm guessing the car show management has some rules....otherwise, all of the ladies would be in bikinis.

Second observation.  The Audi guys turned their entire building into some life-time experience.  You weave through a massive crowd and it takes ten minutes to get to the front door.

Then you enter some stairway to reach the 'ice-room'.  They brought in a dozen slabs of arctic ice with blue lighting in the background.  The temperature in the room is probably 25 degrees, and fairly chilly.  Then you exit to this big long extended hallway with flashing red-lights.   If you were epileptic in'd be all over the floor.  Finally you come to the end of the light show room and there's this gal with a big long stick and this 12-step downward stairway.  She's there to whack you and get you back to your senses that you have to be careful and watch your step.  I imagine a dozen-odd people fell down the stairway over the whole show.  Why they need to have some stairway deal built into this or all the flashing beyond me.

Third.  I come to the number of bikes shown at the show.  I's an auto show, but there were at least forty different battery-powered bikes on display.  This one is designed in a way similar to some small motorcycle, and has the battery-pack for added boost.

Germans are hyped up about this trend.  Most everyone is trading in their old style bike for the battery powered deal.  The odd thing is this cost factor.  You can't find a single battery-powered bike for less than $1,750 (1,500 Euro).  I was looking at some bikes at the show and they were in the 3,000 Euro range.

The batteries themselves?  Well, no one says much but it's hard for me to see them lasting more than three or four years with the recharge business.  Getting a new one?  No one says much over the cost factor, but I doubt if these are cheap.  And I'd have serious doubts that you could order this and install the battery yourself.  Probably takes some certified bike mechanic to make the change-out.

Fourth and final.  I come to the yearly demonstration of a useless personal gadget which pops up at these shows.  These are health-related items which are usually disproved by health authorities within three months after a show episode.

This one?  A turbo 'wiggle-device'. Basically, you turn the thing on, step on it, and it's flipping you at a hefty speed.....flopping left and right.

There were probably six different stations around the whole show where they featured these.

After watching this demonstration for five minutes, I made the logical Alabama educated guess that it was a nifty engineered gadget with zero health appeal.  They had some warning sign near the station....not to hold kids while on it or pets.

Cost factor?  Unknown.  They didn't put signs up and they wanted you to stand and chat with the guy for a while before they dumped the price on you.  I'd be guessing somewhere in the five to six hundred Euro range.....for a cheap wiggle-machine made probably in China.

Course, some computer engineer guys will look at this and think it'd be neat to have in their office for that mid-afternoon low-sugar point.  Toss back a Mountain Dew and stand on the wiggle-machine for five minutes, and you'd be back in fifth gear for the final two hours of work.

More Auto Show

 Three more observations from the Frankfurt Auto Show.

First, this mini-truck.  Max speed is 50 kph (roughly 30 mph), basically made for driving around your village or local town.  Oddly enough, because of the speed and limited power.....they even allow a sixteen-year-old kid in Germany to drive it.

A guy with a small business and delivery requirements in town might look over this option.  The price though?  Roughly $15,000.  Yep, for a vehicle that you can't drive on the autobahn, and would take forever to drive twenty miles.  You can barely toss one driver and a border collie into the cab.

 Second, this little vehicle?  It's for retirees and gives them 365-day protection from the elements.

I looked at it's all cheap plastic and has some little heater element.  In rain or fall might be a decent vehicle, but I wouldn't take it out into any field or figure to go further than a mile or two.  Maybe if you needed a beer in the midst of a November could climb into this and drive down the sidewalk to your local pub.

Maybe if an older guy had money to throw around and just wanted something to impress the might be worth it.  To me, it just looked like a riding lawn-mower with a four-star cab.

Third, Opel had this new van design.  Basically, you have the drivers compartment area, then you have the second seat for up to three people to sit, and then you have an entire enclosed area behind the second seat.

Naturally, the Opel guys put in fancy lights and nice carpet.  I tried to stand there and imagine why you'd want the enclosed area.  Maybe if this were for business operations or you needed a mini-office at some construction site, it might work.

For a tail-gate party?  Well, you could load up a ton of stuff into the back (cubic-space-wise).

This was also the model that had the USB stations at each seat and two tab-like computers in the back-seat.

A camper-like deal?'s actually big enough that you could throw a couple of bunks into it but why make it a camper?

It's simply designed as one of those oddball things that a guy would dream about, but have no real excuse for buying.

The VW 'Fix'

"Performance, emissions, durability, and fuel economy."

- Jake Fisher, Director of Consumer Reports Auto Testing

I was reading over a simple outline of the VW diesel problem yesterday, and Jake put it in simplicity.

You can build an engine that delivers one of the four, or three of the four.....but you can't have all four mandated requirements of a normal engine when talking about diesel design.

So you prioritize.  You can have great fuel economy....doing forty-odd miles per gallon.  You can have a very durable engine which lasts easily through 250,000 miles.  You can have a car that performs through harsh winters and hot summers, and zips you from 0-to-60 in a couple of seconds.  But when you have those three can't have emissions on the plus side.  Zero possibility.

I noted several German PhD engineer folks commenting on the VW crisis, and they generally think a minor part or two change-out and a different software package....could bring this problem under control in a matter of six months.  Then they kinda noted the obvious 'fix''d have to accept a car which doesn't have quiet the ZIP that it had before and the gas mileage would go from forty-odd miles a gallon down to probably twenty-four miles a gallon.

Back in 2009, I had a chance to drive a diesel Alfa-Romero MiTo as a rental for two days.  It had been twenty years since I'd last driven a diesel and I was expecting a less-than-peppy car.  So I was surprised that it actually reacted very quickly and blasted along the autobahn at a fair speed.  I might have even been enthusiastic about buying the MiTo.....except when it came to the final hour of use and I needed to refill the tank.....the stupid tank-security cap release simply didn't work.  A one-year old car and the security device giving you access to the cap was screwed up.  But I was sold on the idea of a decent diesel powered car.

Here's the problem I see with the VW 'fix' that will come by spring of 2016.  The EPA will ask for the full copy of the software and demand some kind of review....go figure four months before they approve this.  So when it's accepted....there's going to be several problems to develop.

First, is there a complete list of VW owners affected held by the EPA?  My guess is no.  Not unless VW offers them the list, or states cooperate to provide registration data to the EPA.  Can the EPA mandate that you come in and be forced to accept a change to the car which drops it from forty-odd miles to the twenty-four miles a gallon, and remove the peppyness of the car?  I have my doubts that EPA could do it, but states could deny you a renewal of the car tag (some states have emissions tests and some don't).  The EPA might invent some yearly tax to encourage you to accept the 'fix'....figure $500 a year is enough to convince most folks.

Second, let's say that you figure out all this geeky stuff.....get upset....then decide to undo the software release going from Windows 10 back to Windows 7 because it simply worked better.  This would require you to have a copy of the VW enhanced program, and each year you'd have to bring the car back to the right version for the state emission test episode.  Would EPA figure out that half of these owners have turned geek and cheating the system?  Would the EPA start having spot-inspections on these owners?

Third, if you were an owner of a 'fixed' VW diesel car, and you had the twenty-four mpg situation....of what re-sell value is your car?  Even if the car was just a probably lost another fifty percent of the re-sell value once the 'fix' goes onto the car.  There just wouldn't be used-car market for these diesel VW's.

So, this brings me to this odd analysis point.  If you were ever going to own a diesel VW that does the forty-odd mile per'd best go down this next week or two and buy it now, with the problem software working as it should.  Even when the sales guy warns you about the 'fix', just smile and grin and say you kinda know what has been said....but you know this geeky guy who will ensure you stay with the better performance package.

Friday, 25 September 2015

How the VW Thing Might Go

I noticed in today's news.....even the Alabama Attorney General has decided to jump into the VW diesel business.  There's apparently already twenty-odd AG's throughout the US....fixing up some kind of investigation and settlement deal.  My humble guess?  The EPA might be convinced to keep the fine at one billion dollars....but that might be one side of the whole deal.  The fifty states?  Combined....I'll bet it adds up to ten billion easily.  Then you might have lawyers just going for private lawsuits.

So, I'm making these five predictions:

1. An EPA leveraged deal where Volkswagen must fix the problem and pay a fine (one billion is my humble guess on the minimum), OR perform a buy-back/swap...with a gas engine car instead.   The 'fix'?'d be a software and engine update....which brings that 42 mpg down to around 22 mpg.  The odds of some guy accepting something like this?  Zero.  The odds of some guy accepting a buy-back deal?  Zero.  If you are getting 42 are fairly happy and don't want a government guy messing with your life.

 2. Oddly, over ninety-percent of the owners will refuse the fix....refuse the swap....and say they won’t participate with the EPA deal.  Or you might have guys accept the 'fix', with some cash for the deal and then have some engineer friend reset the computer back to the 42 mpg version and dirty air deal.

3. EPA then gets upset over people confronting they order them to accept the swap or pay a yearly fine of $500. More than half of the owners will accept the $500 a year fine and just say OK, but take the EPA to court.

4. When the smoke finally clears....half of the cars are bought back and put on trucks...sent to Mexico and sold there to the general public...sending the fumes over the border into the US.  EPA goes ballistic but can't do anything about this.

5. VW has billions to pay which infuriates the Germans. So the Germans decide by election year in sue the US for privacy violations by NSA for 15-billion dollars. As much money as the state attorney generals and EPA think they will get off VW....the Germans will get twice that much in return.

Finally, this odd feeling.  What would President Donald Trump do when the Germans confront him over NSA, privacy violations and pay-back for the screw-job on VW?  I'm guessing that President Donald will jump quickly and order US troops to pack up and leave Germany.  We might all be shocked at how this incident flipped itself into some radical change in German-US relations.

Some More Car Stuff

From the Frankfurt International Car Show.....another curious item....a car espresso maker.  I stood there and watched the guy demonstrate this.  I admit....I like espresso and  it might be a nice feature to have this in your car.....brewing and making your personal espresso mix while driving down the road to work each morning.

But then you'd start to think about this.  Espresso makers only work correctly.....under extreme heat and high pressure.  About the last thing you'd want to have happen in some car or truck at 75 for the espresso machine top to flip off and toss hot coffee around the interior and onto your lap.  For some reason, I might be fearful of having this nifty device.

 Another interesting item was the street sweeper bike.  Yep.  It's a can mounted onto the bike (3 x wheels) with your gear and everything.  It's hard for me to imagine any landscaper guy volunteering or allowing himself to be talked into pedaling this around some town to do clean-up work.  Price?  Unknown....but it has to be a minimum of $2k in my humble opinion.

Finally, I come to odd feature that was on display at several points at the car show.....virtual reality.  This shot was taken as I watched an older guy sit down and the tech-geek lady set him up with some virtual reality goggles.

How this fits into car innovation in the future?  Unknown.  It's pretty well thought out that we will have driver-less cars within a why bother with any virtual reality driving skills?  It'll never happen.  Other than the gaming world, I don't any work skill usage coming out of this.

Course, maybe the idea is to have two pair in the backseat and have the kids entertained in some bogus reality world instead of asking stupid questions or demanding to know when we will arrive at Grandma's house.

From the Car Show This Week

I went to the Frankfurt International Car Show this week.

There were dozens of interesting things....but two caught my eye more than most.

First, there's a European car company which has developed this unique tire....which has sensors and talks to the onboard computer of the car....noting tire pressure and conditions which might affect driving.

I might be still five years away from real production and it might cost a fair amount of money (probably more than $300 a tire) to have this all work.  But it's an interesting concept.

The other idea is this Audi feature which is going to be on new models.  As you get the door up to the one-inch point of closure.....the car takes over and automatically closes the door for you (no strength or pull on your part.....a motor pulls the door shut and locks it).

I stood there and watched the lady show the guy the feature.....and he pulled near the closure point five or six times.....and it shut on it's own.

Now, the thing I was looking at.....if you brought this home and told Donny Junior (the 5-year old kid) about this feature on your new car.....Donny would want to go out and put his finger between the door and the car and then watch it slam shut closed on the finger.  Maybe it's just me thinking this.....but I could see tens of thousands of stupid kids doing this and Audi having to dump the feature eventually.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The VW Engineer

For several days, I've been watching the various pieces of the VW diesel story.  So far, no one has touched on the original point of the story.....the engineer and his gifted design.

Somewhere in the midst of this....probably five to ten years ago....VW had this idea of reintroducing the diesel engine into it's car production of the US.  They knew that it'd be tough with the regulations but they figured technology had turned a corner.  So, there's probably a small team led by a VW engineer with a PhD who is building this new engine.

The guys sit around and spend thousands of hours....tons of VW research money....talking over the design day and night.  They sit on their patio after getting home.....sipping beer and thinking over how to build this 'dream' engine.  

With test engines and everything added up.....there's probably hundreds of millions put into this technology development concept.

I imagine at some point....the head guy....the PhD standing there with tears streaming down his face because he can't build an engine that would pass the EPA's harsh regulations.  They've put in some many hours and so much money, and he just can't admit failure.

Somewhere in the background is this guy is who is like Kevin from "The Office".  If you remember, there's this point where Oscar relates that Kevin has had to invent a special formula to balance the books at paper company.....because at the end of the month....the balance doesn't work without Kevin's special formula.  I suspect that this German "Kevin" just figured that VW had all this money invested, the PhD guy was at the peak of his career and needed a boost, and it just seemed like the right thing to do.

So, in this world of car development.....this formula got added into the software.  You have to remember that there dozens of computer components in each car today, and coding now takes a fair amount of effort.  No one goes back to look at coding.....just to see what they did or how it worked.

So the computer was built on the car to say X and Y, and the test results came back X and Y, and the PhD guy just sat there in amazement that it finally worked.

My hunch is that maybe six months after they went into production....he probably stumbled across the problem again, and discovered that things weren't that great, and just retired......probably moving to southern Italy or Spain.  In essence....he disappeared.

The "Kevin" guy?  I'm guessing he's still around and probably grinning over what he did.  He knows that you just can't build a diesel engine to pass the EPA's test.....unless you put a massive filter system into the car and make it a yearly $500 cost item to replace that filter and have it sent to a Mexico garbage dump.  The EPA would probably agree.....they built a regulation which should destroy the diesel industry in the end.

Maybe I'm wrong, but life tends to be this simple and stupid.

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Air Conditioning Story

“A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning,The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior, which at times appears self-destructive.”

-- Comment by Pope Francis

Basically, the Pope came out a while back as being anti-air-conditioning.  In the Catholic religion, there's a sinful area called consumption.  Everything would be fine, if in moderation.  But the Pope's comments here were that air conditioning  puts a terrible burden upon society, adds unnecessary cost onto people, and then says it's all self-destructive.

I could note that there's tons of air conditioning around the Pope's residence in Rome, and probably fifty percent (my guess) of their electrical bill relates to HVAC usage in the summer-time.  Rome, if you've never been there, is awful hot and muggy....within the months of July and August.  If you intend to stay at some fine Rome will note that most folks only stay at places with air-conditioning.

Being from Alabama, I have a special appreciation for air conditioning.  For years and years, the local school had survived without AC, but wrapped up by mid-June and it'd be mid to late August before we went back.  At some point in the early 1970s....they threw a AC unit into each class.  Sadly, it was loud enough that you couldn't hear the teacher but you would have some minor relief from the heat.

If you travel around Alabama today....just about everyone has a AC unit.  Most stores have it.  Most kids have no idea of the suffering involved if you had to go an entire week with no AC.

Ever wondered why people don't really have that much enthusiasm for the Pope?  Well, it's for comments like this.  When some holier-than-you guy stands around and talks on non-religious generally becomes comical.  It's the same kind of guy who'd comment on beef jerky, pancakes, wrestling, Ford F-150 pick-ups, Mountain Dew, chain-saws, or gas-grills.  Once you get this much religion in your might even want to chat some bad church feelings over waffles or reseeding your yard.

Frankly, folks ought to have a real job in life....sweating a bit.....and doing something that gets the stupidity out of their system by 6PM.....where they can return home, sip a beer in an air conditioned house, and grill some chicken.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Texas Kid Story

I spent an hour this weekend.....reading back and forth over this Texas story with the Muslim high school kid who brought his science project into the school, and folks got disturbed enough to call the cops.  The cops looked at the project and temporarily arrested the kid.  The general belief is that it was a suitcase bomb.

One segment of society wrapped their arms around the kid and made this all look like a bad mistake by the school and the cops.  The other segment questioned the overall story and simply don't believe the kids story.

I looked at the 'kit' used....Micronta 63 756....a Radio Shack package.  Anyone can buy it and assemble it.  That was one of the great things about Radio Shack....they were always the place where you could buy nifty kits like this for understanding things and being a junior-junior engineer sort of person.

I looked at the way this kid built his project.....everything inside of a suitcase.....then proclaiming it was only a clock.  Maybe he believes that, and just had some guidance from dad.   But the method of which this was built.....all in a suitcase, so you can't read the time on basically ten minutes away from being converted to a bomb device.

Here's the thing....we live in a society where key components for any kind of explosive device can be built. There are probably over a hundred million Americans who could walk into Radio the various kits necessary, buy some other materials, and build this briefcase bomb device.  You simply have to hope that some nutcase doesn't get peeved one day and do something stupid.  That's our whole life cycle now....hoping that the nuts don't go to the next step.

As for the kid?  I'd like to believe his story.  It's just this odd thing.....why build a clock that you can't see without some significant action?  Someone around this kid suggested this 'nifty' idea and just grinned as they suggested this method of design.  The kid is naive....never asking any stupid questions.   The kid might still be naive.....but you'd think he'd ask stupid questions now.

I think the science teacher in this school ought to flip things over and just require kids to manage some 'ant-farm' for six weeks.  A lot safer, if you ask me.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

My Theory of Trump

I have this theory of Donald Trump and why the popularity seems to be so strong, and it revolves around Seinfeld (the TV series).

To be honest, it wasn't until 2010 that I sat down and watched Seinfeld.  Living overseas a good bit....I just missed out on it and caught up twelve years after it ended.  Between 2010 and 2013.....I probably watched every single episode at least twice.

My theory revolves around three observations connected to Seinfeld.

First, in a way....Donald Trump has become like George Constanza....from the 88th episode...."The Opposite).  George has discovered that if you just do the opposite of what people succeed.  So George becomes a man on a mission and unable to fail.  This is the episode where George criticizes George Steinbrenner of the Yankees.....thinking this will fail him for the job interview, and it actually does the opposite.....with the Yankees hiring him.

I think Trump has figured this out......just do the opposite.  People like that, and they love they loved George on Seinfeld.

Second, my brother has always a show about 'nothing'.  It ought to fail.  It could not fail.

Trump's strategies or policy talk?  Non-existent.  He gives a good decent speech but his policies are mostly 'nothing' (just like Seinfeld).  People accept that.  For the news drives them crazy.  But it works.

Third and final, a lot of us fell into a daze about Seinfeld because it's really about New York City.  We looked at the people and characters there on Seinfeld.....and connected to the city....even though we've never been there.

Well, Trump is the same....he's packaged in some way as New York City, and we see him as some character who just came out of nowhere and we appreciate his raw character.

I makes no sense how Trump is surviving among the Republican candidates for President.  It's like George being suggested for the job for the New York Yankees.  But life is weird, and sometimes....this all works.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Book Review: Warren G. Harding: American Presidents Series

Warren G. Harding: The American Presidents Series: The 29th President, 1921-1923

By John W. Dean (2004)

I've made it a point over the past year to read a hefty amount over the 1920s.  This particular book is around number eight on my book list and does fill in a lot of the squares.

There are eight obvious points about Harding that most people ought to grasp.

First, of all the US Presidents from the past hundred years.....he's the biggest unknown of the entire group.  Very few books have been written of the guy, and very few go into detail about his youth and his career prior to the Presidency.

Dean does a good job in laying out the story, although I will's just barely over the 200-page point, and there's still a lot of blanks existing....mostly because of non-existent historian coverage.

Second, my historical writers and professors will say at some point the limited amount of written material comes because Harding's wife burned most of his personal papers within weeks of his death.  The story has some minor weight to that Mrs. Harding did request all his personal papers be brought to her and she did burn through two or three boxes of material.  What she didn't Dean points out....the guy she entrusted with this job of shipping her the private papers....basically shipped what was in the office itself, and the other 99-percent went into the White House basement.  So, there is tons and tons of material.....but just no interest in going through it and noting what occurred.

Three, Harding was not fit or in great shape.  That was apparent in 1914 as he did the run for US senator and he was already having health issues.  These people suggesting poisoning or such for his death?  Well, you can find numerous descriptions from people who encountered Harding and noted various health issues.....for years.

Four, very few people realize the impact of the 1920 election.  Harding won with 16 votes for every 9 for the Democratic contender.  For the Electoral College....Harding picked up 404 votes, which is a massive win.  By the end of the 1919 Wilson era.....folks were prepared for a massive change and Harding was the guy.  Most Senators....both Republican and Democrat....would readily agree that he was a friendly guy and didn't have an enemy in the world.

Fifth, Harding was a newspaper owner for most of his life, He served two years as Lt Governor of Ohio, and did one single term as US Senator.  Generally, he was successful.....but most folks would say that his wife brought a fair amount of management into the newspaper, and made it more of a success than Harding did. much as it's written in this book over Mrs. Harding....maybe 40 pages....she probably deserves an entire book, but there's just that much material based on her life. the comments that always come up by history professors over his corrupt administration, it's not that type of situation.  Man-by-man, as you go through who he hired for the cabinet positions....roughly ninety-percent of the people brought in.....were top-notch individuals and some were graded over the years to be among the best people to hold the positions.  Sadly, there's around five or six people that Harding's wife pushed him into hiring (she liked them).....and these guys were the worst-of-the-worst.

Eighth, Harding wasn't exactly executive-type material, and his chief theme was that he looked sharp and gave five-star speeches.  Beyond that.....a number of people admitted that he often had to ask a lot of questions and was learning the profession from others.

I think the book does a great job in telling the story, and would strongly recommend it to anyone who wants a better view of the 1920s.  There are very few statues to Harding, which begs questions.   But with the limited period and corruption accusation...well....that's why there are so few statues of the guy.  Oddly, the one that gets the one with Lady Boy, his dog....and Harding.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Chinese Story

There's an article or two over China, the stolen data of people with clearances, and the suggested end-product.  What people are suggesting is that China is now building a Facebook-like page....with government employees listed, and their 'history'.

For decades, the US had something like a Facebook like folder or document section for VIPs in various governments.  This Chinese effort, if true....would cover several hundred thousand individuals and give you insight over the economic situation, personal problems, and connections.  If the guy was married to his fourth wife.....the Chinese guys might grin for a moment and know that he has relationship issues.  If the guy has a home that he can't afford....the Chinese will know that.

This is probably worrying the big guys a bit in DC.

You could imagine some scenario where you walk into work one day and the government boss wants to see you.  That trashy gal who moved next door to you and started a lusty relationship with you....which was all private....well, she was hired by someone who works for the Chinese government, and the US security guys figured this out.  You kinda sit there....having enjoyed months of lust, and now realize it was all fake, and it bothers you a bit (well, maybe not that much).

You can also imagine guys being set up by some Chinese folks in deep financial issues, and being fired because they were deep into debt.

It's hard to say where this goes.  It'll take an entire generation (maybe twenty years) before you see these guys retired and a new (unknown) crowd hired.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The Smarter-Than Article

About once a month, the New York Times will actually go and do a five-star journalism piece.  Yesterday was such a day.  They wrote up a column to ask the question....."When Did Jeb Bush Become the Smarter Bush?"

Basically, they went to a couple of people and chatted to this about this weird feeling that people generally have....that Jeb Bush is the smarter of the two Bush brothers (G W).  The general comment from folks is that it's NOT entirely correct.

G W was always the happy go-lucky guy, who socialized with people....sipped beer with into trouble, and that Jeb was the guy who didn't ever get into trouble.  So, in some weird way....people just assume that Jeb is smarter because he didn't drink excessively or get into cop-trouble.  Beyond that, there's no indicator of brilliance or being smarter.

In some ways, I wish that they'd take this same reporter and go over to ask the next question...."When did Hillary Clinton Become the Smarter Clinton?"  The answer here.....she never never has reached the smarter level over Bill Clinton.

There are a lot of historians who walk around and want to push their guy or 'dimwit' as the smarter-than guy.  People want to claim LBJ or Nixon were smarter than so-and-so.  If you go back and look for common sense in a'd probably come to realize that Warren G. Harding probably ranks up near the top....but we don't usually want common sense in a President, or it's generally disregarded.

We are into September now and it's roughly a 100 days away from the Iowa primary.  Jeb doesn't have to win the Iowa primary.....but he has to place somewhere in the top three or he'll lose some enthusiasm over the next two or three primaries (New Hampshire isn't going to be kind to him).  He needs to build some enthusiasm.....even if it's fake enthusiasm.

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Alabama School Shift

I kinda noticed in Alabama news this morning....the state education board met and finally decided to mandate that Alabama science teachers have to teach evolution and climate change.  Then they mandated that students had to understand evolution and climate change. make this work in the state....there would be some type of experimentation and hands-on instruction and less talking or lecturing by the teacher.  

I should add another odd feature to the element.....students don't have to believe in evolution or accept the idea that climate is changing on some basis.

It's been roughly ten years since the board met and did a major shift on science topics in the some folks kinda expected this to happen.

But here's the really odd feature of this was all done and approved by the Republican-controlled Alabama State Board of Education.  Yep, the Republicans actually did it.

For four years of my life in Alabama.....I had one particular science teacher who absolutely refused to allow evolution to be brought into the classroom.  The science book had at least one chapter which always touched on this, along with dinosaurs.....but the teacher used this nifty gimmick....skipping chapter by chapter.  We'd do chapter twelve in the first month of the class year.....then shift to chapter two.....then shift to chapter six.  No one really noticed this missing stuff, and it was probably a year after I finished high school that I started read (independently) on evolution.

I'm pretty sure that she's flipping over in her grave right now.  This would have been rough on her.

What the board is kinda that they want video presentations.....bought from some national agenda folks, and used to orientate the students....rather than a simplified one-page text that the teacher might use.  An agenda at work?  Well....yeah, but it's best not to mention to the board.

I'm guessing.....probably half of the state will be up in arms and this will trigger various arguments at PTA meetings and require teaches to just stand there and take the sarcastic words.

The potential to sell climate change to Alabama kids?  It's going to end up being a mess, but folks argue about NCAA football to the ninth degree these we might as well allow climate change to be argued at the same level.

For those who thought that the real Republicans were going to help or save you.....if you look around at the Governor's problems, and this've pretty much got some fake Republicans in office.

Friday, 11 September 2015

New Owner at the National Geographic

It is a shocker of a sort....National Geographic got bought this a group related to Rupert Murdoch.  Price for the purchase....around $720 million.   It is a partnership deal....Murdoch will have 73-percent ownership.

Up until 2004, I had been a subscriber to National Geographic for a decade.  In fact, I can remember reading it as a kid (an uncle would drop off copies after he finished reading them).  In the fall of 2004, they ran a stupid all-climate-change edition.  Every single article was climate change.  It was the month prior to the election.

I wrote a simple 8-line letter and quit.  I haven't picked it up since (even at airports).

Will this purchase change my mind?  Maybe.  It might take a few months for Murdoch to get the staff to see his view of the world and return the Geographic back to the former glory (before the 1990s).

9-11 Observation

I sat and watched a video interview deal that a student team did on George Mason University (a significant university in Virginia).  The topic?  They walked around the university and asked dozens of college students why the US was attacked on 9-11.

The typical answer?  Most students said they didn't know the reason which triggered 9-11.  A handful commented that it was George Bush's fault, but they rendered a one-star explanation.  They then asked the students if there should be classes to talk more on 9-11....which almost all of them agreed that would be good thing.

So, the video in the end points out.....these were all people who were around age four when 9-11 occurred.  Their knowledge level is non-existent....of an event which occurred less than twenty years ago.

The blame toward Bush?  You could have a laugh over the answer given.  The same guy would give similar answers over the banking crisis, the housing market collapse, and various oil tanker my humble opinion.  A smart guy in the background ought to quickly jump up and note that Bush was responsible for the Nazis coming to power, the riots in Detroit in the late 1960s, the trigger to causing the Vietnam War, and helped to send the iceberg into the path of the Titanic.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

"Person of Interest"

Around the Christmas holidays of 2011, I had to do a trans-Atlantic flight, which means eight or nine hours in a cramped plane and the only entertainment is the video offering.  I sat and saw some five episode deal of a new CBS show....Person of Interest.  After viewing the original show, and the next four episodes....I had an interest in it.  For the remainder of the 2011 season, I probably watched a total of a dozen episodes.  After that, I just didn't have time to view it.

This past six weeks....I've been using Netflix and caught up with all the episodes of the first three seasons.  A fourth season was done for last year, and CBS has agreed to produce roughly a dozen episodes for what they believe is the final year.

After watching the sixty-six-odd episodes....I'm at a point where I'm keenly into the series.  On several levels....they've screwed up and accidentally produced a five-star series loaded with mistakes.  Viewership isn't where it should be and CBS thinks they are doing a good thing to let the series wrap up the ending.  There's talk that Netflix or Amazon might be in the background.....ready to pick up the series and run it for a season or two.  Maybe if huge numbers come up for Person of Interest over the final dozen episodes.....CBS might wake up and carry it for another season or two.

The big screw-ups?

1.  The name doesn't work.  It should have been "Man and Machine" or "Man in a Suit".  Person of Interest has zero appeal.

2.  The use of music within the video?  For the first season, they marginally did a good job on this.  For a couple of season two episodes....they did a five-star job and the rest fell between a two-star and four-star.  They should have hired some smart guys to gear music to the scenes.

3.  A lot of this storyline is about Artificial Intelligence (A-I).  For a large segment of the audience....they needed a real introduction to the science.  I think somewhere in the middle of season two, they woke up and did some explanations but they wasted tons of opportunities.

One of the big problems with the series is that you have to watch each single episode because they are laying down bits and pieces of secondary stories.   If you missed two or three episodes from season one, and two episodes from season'd be in hurt-status for grasping season three.

So, I'm kinda hoping that the series survives the short season, and someone picks it up.

Stonehenge II?

If you drive for roughly two hours west of will eventually reach Durrington....a small town with only one significant feature....Stonehenge.

I made the trip twenty-odd years ago.  You come over the top of some hill....and you look down to the right of the road, on a very low-grade slope, and you can see the stone monument off in the distance.  But you typically think least in my's all a big cow-field.  Just open farm land with grass growing.

My little group spent about 90 minutes at Stonehenge.....walking the circle.  Once you've been realize there's no reason much to return.

Well, this week....some researchers noted that they've found more to the whole Stonehenge thing.....except a much bigger site.

Around two miles from the current this mostly buried site, with around ninety big stones (all buried, of course). They note the depth of the stones to be at least three feet under surface.

So, there are some basic facts, and then a lot of mystery.

They calculate that this was Stonehenge II (to have occurred after the original smaller episode).  They also calculate that this all occurred around 4,500 years ago (2500BC).  They also calculate that some of the buried stones are fifteen feet tall.

Purpose?  Unknown.

What folks have come to say is that Stonehenge I (the smaller site) was developed as a mystic ritual site and people were told far and wide that if you made a walk (like the Catholic Saint James Way from the center of Europe to the far west end of Portugal)....that some higher power would help in your life, cure ills, bring good luck, and and lift your outcome in life.

It's believed that a large assortment of people in Europe would find their way to Stonehenge.....bringing sick relatives with them, and believed that the mystic charm of the site would do something.

Why was Stonehenge II (the new site) buried?  No one is sure if it was buried intentionally (three feet of dirt is a lot).  There's no flood area there, and there's no possibility of landslides to disrupt site.  There's no possibility of a volcano being involved (as in Crete's case).  So you are left with the idea that some guys put a lot of effort into burying the site.

I would take a humble guess that some event occurred....of a pretty harsh and negative nature.  Enough people were standing there and believed that the Stonehenge II site was 'cursed', and they decided that it was best to bury it and never walk those grounds again.  A disease?  A plague?  Who knows?  The fact that thousands made the journey from Europe to Stonehenge I....meant hundreds probably had a disease and passed it along via the trail to Stonehenge. It was only a period of time before a large segment of visitors would arrive and be seriously ill while visiting the original site.

So, I'd suggest to the research guys.....broaden the search pattern slightly and look for a burial ground within a couple of miles of the second and newer site.  Once you find a large assortment of burials....look for clues.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The Hillary Oath?

A journalist (Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) showed up at the Hillary Clinton speech in Cleveland.....but to be given access to the event....she had to sign a loyalty oath (as were the hundreds of others who wanted entry).

This oath?'s an odd deal.  You just say that you are committed to Hillary....offer up some help like a backyard bar-b-q or coffee meeting with other concerned Hillary folks, and then hand this into the team that runs her campaign.

Might someone lie on the loyalty oath?  Well......yeah.  That's one of the dozen-odd problems with such oaths.

You can always dump your fact, from day to day or hour to hour.

A comical political theme?  Well, if you get desperate might turn to the idea of a oath.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Wise Words from a Dentist

Some journalist did an interview with the Cecil-the-Lion killer-dentist.  At the end of the conversation....the dentist kinda admitted that if he'd known the lion had a name and was noteworthy.....he never would have killed the lion.

Being from Alabama, I took a moment to ponder upon his wise words.

Generally, you learn a thousand and one things as you grow up on a farm.  Around lesson number 644....there's this important bit of wisdom....never name any animal on the farm that you might have to sell or butcher one day.

Things get painfully difficult when you've named some goat "Marvin" and you realize he's up next as the 'stew-goat'.

So, it occurs to me....the way ahead in Africa or anyplace for that prevent animals getting shot or to name them.  If you got sixteen-thousand lions in Africa.....they each need a name. If you have forty-five-thousand elephants....they each need a name.

Some ought to get royal-sounding Prince Albert or King Micky.  Some could get fictional names like Atticus Finch, T.S. Garp, or James Bond.  Some could be named after sports figures like Babe Ruth or Micky Mantle.

You would ID tag each animal and let folks know the status of Doctor Zhivago (the Rhino).

Course, as quickly as you create a fad like this.....some anti-name-the-animals crowd would start up, and prefer that we only use numbers.

Yeah, if you pay attention....occasionally, you will get a bit of's just that you have to think about how to use that wisdom and not be real stupid.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Two-Percent Alabama Folks

I noticed the Dothan Eagle.....yeah, I even read their newspaper.....had an interesting article up this week.  Journalists in Bama are always looking for a religious angle to something....for the weekend edition and it hints of some religious theme which folks in Bama enjoy. So Matt Elofson (normally the crime reporter of the Eagle)....wrote up this analytical piece.

The story relates to Gallup, who did up a poll nationally....state-by-state....on folks who attend church.  It's an odd question and they probably just want to show that the traditions of the nation are evolving.  The slant on the article was to tell some story about the society around us and their church-going habits.

So, I went back to Gallup and looked up the situation for the state of Alabama.....46 percent of residents say they attend church weekly.  Around 25 percent of folks said they go near weekly or at least once a month.  In the category of seldom or never....27 percent of folks held up their hand.

Now, at this'd add up the numbers and say we are at 98 percent. And then you look at the choices and ask what's left.

Well.....two-percent of folks said they didn't know.

Now, you can debate this and talk about it for hours and hours.....but why would two-percent of Alabama folks just say.....they don't know?

Well....some folks don't keep calendars up on the wall and track anything much other than the NCAA football season.

Some folks don't track things like this because they've got more important hunting season, tornado season, or wet-dry voting episodes.

Some folks would prefer not to answer a loaded question like fear that some Baptist minister will jump out of the bushes and launch into a sixty-minute discussion over Moses and his woes in life.

Some folks will say that they drink too much and they might have been there at church last week but they were drinking a bit and just don't remember much of anything.

Some folks will say that they are taking a fair amount of pain-killer and weed, and just don't remember things clearly.

Some folks will question the guy asking the question, and if they work for the federal government....then simply provide this as a 'non-answer'.

My brother would probably respond that he would have been to church....but that dang fence got busted again by his playful cattle, or the barn roof required mending, or that Sunday morning was the only dry spell to cut hay, or that some neighbor stopped by on Sunday morning to ask thirty-six questions on the method of operation for a 1968 Ford Model 14-71 hay-bailer.  Oddly, these events occur not only fifty-two Sundays out of the year.....but 365 days out of the year.

Oddly, the two-percent crowd aren't that worried about weekly church attendance, or the condition of pews at the local church, or if there's a new interpretation of Revelations, or if the new minister hired up at the church is an authentic Republican or a fake Republican.

The two-percent crowd doesn't want to get anyone upset or get anyone frustrated.  So when you see the question pop up and some local guy wants to discuss the numbers because he's worried about folks.....well, just reassure him.....the two-percent crowd are holding together the rest of the state....under sometimes dire circumstances.

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Carbon-Dating Question

Some guy was digging around a library collection in England, and came to a page or two which weren't part of the original book.  Inserted pages.

The book in Question....the Koran.

After a while, the people with the collection had this curious nature and had a carbon-dating done on the inserted pages.

It's an odd thing.....the inserted pages were from the period of 568 AD to 632 AD.

Basically, this opened up a can of worms with the Islamic community.

You see....Muhammad didn't even get born until 570 AD.  He was in early thirties when he finally got around to organizing his church group, and the document in question....didn't really come together until a decade later.

Some people now have this odd suggestion about how the inserted pages and carbon-dating fit together.  The idea is that the Koran existed prior to Muhammad and prior to the formation of Islam.  If true (you have to emphasize IF in this case), then Islam is a copy of another religion, which puts the whole thing into a massive discussion stage.

Few non-believers have an understanding of Islam in the historical sense or Muhammad's youth.

Muhammad hung out in his youth with his uncle, who was a regional trader.  One of the great things about the trading situation.....was that you got to travel and meet different people.....along with different religions.

In Saudi Arabia at the time.....there were roughly three-hundred-plus religions.  People were creating religions left and right.  Muhammad took to reviewing various religions and had a curious nature with them.  After the Uncle died and stability kinda fell apart.....Muhammad's effort to create Islam went into overdrive.

The odds of a religion existing at the time....before Islam.....and using the Koran?  There's not much proof.....but a lot of things have been purged over the years and you can't be sure of anything.  I'm guessing that the Islamic crowd is a bit frustrated that this came out, and there's going to be some effort to downgrade the carbon-dating story.  But it puts some people into a different prospective.  If you could dig up a dozen-odd Koran items.....all dating prior 570'd set the stage for a confrontation.  Questions would get asked and the legit nature of Muhammad would be called into question.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

When Your Convictions are a Problem

I sat and watched for the last couple of days this epic battle between some county clerk in Kentucky and the court system.  The county clerk says she's got religious empowerment, and she just can't issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  The court system, via a US federal judge, has issued out the ruling that there's no choice in the matter, and demands she come to court.

Personally, I wouldn't normally care much for the story or the events unfolding....but there's this odd factor which bothers me.

You see...when you go and do some public service job...whether elected or hired....your religious background, tendencies, and interpretation of some Biblical factor....makes your service to the public a question mark.

I could walk in and present myself as a heavy drinker or a guy who has relations with dozens of women monthly, and you as the public servant of whatever function you serve.....might decide that your holy-attitude  needs to invoke rule X, Y or Z....thus denying me service.  You see, it's not just a gay thing or could invoke any interpretation and just say these verses are enough to deny service.

If there were an alternate I wanted a barber to cut my hair but he decides that my big hooter mermaid tattoo situation offends him, well, it's not all bad because I can find another barber in ten minutes.

If I walked into a Burger King and they wanted to deny me a sausage and biscuit because I wore flip-flops, well, I could go down the street and find a McDonalds operation who doesn't care about my flip-flop situation and serve up a sausage and biscuit.

In the case of the county clerk....where license are issued via one particular person for the whole county, there's a problem for me to go and find another clerk in the same county.

In this case, this gal's religious convictions are such....that she might want to find another line of work.

In our modern world, there are hundreds....maybe even thousands....of moral decisions made and it reflects upon character.  For a heavily defined religious person....there's probably a minimum of two-hundred 'flaws' where you might be on the no-go or unacceptable list.  In the world of capitalism and commerce, it doesn't matter much....there's always an alternate place for service.  But when there's NO alternate deal.....your public service situation is called into question. This gal has a profession where she can't perform at the level required.  My humble guess is that the federal judge will offer one chance to grasp the big-picture, and she won't understand that.....he'll ever remove her from position, or put her into some home-arrest deal until she cooperates.