Sunday, 31 January 2016

Book Review: Drinking in America

(Our Secret History) by Susan Cheever.

It is a 273 page book which you could read over in about a week.

It's a long discussion over our drinking habits.....from 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived, on up to today.

You see....we were a fairly hard-drinking crowd from day one.  If you read through Cheever's come to realize this list of priorities that existed with the crowd who landed there at Plymouth Rock.

Most of us have been led to believe shelter, firewood, hunting, fishing.....all would have been priority number one.  It wasn't.  Brewing beer was the first and absolute priority.  On board the Mayflower?  Passengers stayed mostly lit up and blitzed....even the women.

Most of us would also say that these were hand-picked individuals for this enormous task of landing on the coast of the US and making something out of nothing.  Other than religious enthusiasm and a passion for alcohol consumption....there was nothing remarkable about their resumes.

Cheever covers the different periods,and how our habits changed.....intensified....and were part of our success (and failure). Drunk guys do stupid things....even taking orders to go and do something really risky and dangerous.  Drunk guys win revolutions, take on overwhelming odds with British Army regulars, and face fierce Indians in combat.

Cheever comes to the period after the Civil War and discusses the industrial revolution going on in America and how safety/accidents were now part of the failures of the nation.....when you inject drunk workers into the scenario.

For anyone who has an interest in the Revolutionary War period....the early 1800s....the Pilgrims period....and the Civil War.....I'd note this book as mandatory reading.  It will influence your perception of your ancestors and the type of lives that they actually led.

There's a great two page piece over George Washington's distillery operations and how successful his 'brand' became in the local region.

Cheever writes in a method that makes it easy to follow and keeps your interest high.  It's probably not a book I'd endorse for high school kids because it'd beg a lot of questions over how history has been written for our general consumption.  But if you have a keen interest in history....I'd put this on the top twenty "must-read" books for a history enthusiast.

The Email Story

Most news services say that 150 FBI agents are onto this Hillary email episode currently.

This would make you sit back and ponder.....where exactly is this going?

The chief issue I see is that these classified messages that went to her private account.....were directed by a cut-and-paste job.  Some office worker (perhaps several) cut and paste classified messages.  It would not be that simple, and you'd require some higher privileges.....thus more training and certification.  Whoever did it.....knew it was a violation of the security code.

The thing is....once this went out to her account....then what?  Did it get rerouted around?  Did it go to other members of the Clinton Foundation who have no government job or security clearance?  And if so.....what happened then?

I'm of the mind that the Clinton Foundation ended up with the classified information, and this was part of a pay-for-help gimmick with sponsors of the Clinton Foundation.  If you were a Saudi business enterprise and wanted inside info on the Russian oil business....the Clinton Foundation might have a folder and handy info.  If you were a Chinese sponsor of the Clinton Foundation, then you might have a big interest in such-and-such trade agreement being worked up.

The problem here (which the 150 FBI guys will eventually get to) if you sold classified data to someone for money (even for the Foundation donation gimmick)'s illegal.  You could go to jail for decades.

Building a case?  It'd take months because you'd have to get to email records of the Clinton Foundation, and get one or two insiders to agree to some rat on the others.

At some point, the FBI is going to be blunt and tell the Attorney General that they've got the goods and about 90-percent ready to hand the case to her.  The Attorney General could just decide to dump this and forbid any case.....but the FBI might accidentally hand the folder to some news organization and trigger a massive senate episode.

In the end.....I think several people are in serious jeopardy of jail-time.  Hillary's pursuit of the White House?  Finished.

First Real Flight

I am in the planning stages of a trip, and came back to review my first real flight (more than 2 hours).

At 18, I had three short trips revolving around Air Force boot-camp and the technical school after that.

So my grand trip was in January of 1978...from Charleston Air Force Base to Rhein Main Air Base....aboard a 707 (as cramped as you can get) full uniform....and sitting there for roughly nine hours.  I was sitting in the middle seat which just compounded this trip even more.

This was during the period when everyone you were continually watching people light up and huff.

The food?  Something on an aluminum tray which resembled a TV dinner but was only half that good.

On a scale of one to was a marginal three at best.

If you count all the flights in my life.....I'm probably up around 150 point, with a dozen of them in military cargo planes.  Those were always the more ideal method of travel because you could get up and walk around the whole interior of the to the pallets or vehicles.  On one occasion, we had a Air Force fire truck in the back.

After enough of these marginal trips.....I sorta have a problem now with flight planning.  There are certain airports that I really don't care to transit through (JFK for example) and I start paying attention to the particular airframe offered for a flight (they typically don't like telling you that type of you have to dig for it).  With only a few exceptions.....I can't stand to eat any food served onboard a plane (Lux-air and Air France are my exceptions).

If you've never been on an Icelandic Air've never experienced the mayonnaise sandwich....10-percent bread, 10-percent fish, and 80-percent mayonnaise.

After a while, you learn how to gracefully step into a marginal bathroom area and somehow let your pants just fall, and do your business....then use six different steps to get the pants back up and in place.

The crazies?  I've only noted one or two people that had serious issues....either from too much alcohol or stupid behavior.

From this original Charleston flight.....after I got off the plane....I never wanted to ride another jet.  To be restricted for nine was simply impossible.  Maybe I've conditioned myself, and the entertainment options with movies and TV shows help to pass the time.....but I still hate long-distance traveling with a passion.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Air Force Weapon Story

It got brought up this week over an item that the US Air Force put out....which was a friendly reminder from Air Force Headquarters to each base.....qualified airmen may carry firearms on base.

Some people felt this meant some change, and that it was a big flip for the Air Force.

Well....there's been this standard policy on the books where a wing commander has the authority to grant airmen permission to openly carry or conceal firearms. It typically fell into two got a request from some NCO to drive upon the base with a pistol in his possession in the vehicle.  The pistol would remain in the vehicle, and not be carried into the building.  The second category, which as far as I knew from the 1990s.....rarely was given approval.....the carrying and concealment of firearms....meaning you could come on base, and walk into your building....with the weapon in your possession.

This topic gets picked up for various debates and conversations.

In Louisiana when I was stationed there in the 1980s....there were guys who'd come onto work on a Friday....and have their hunting weapons in the truck.....anticipation of getting off early and leaving for an entire weekend of hunting.

None of these guys ever asked least as far as I knew....and simply were going to be lucky if the SP's ever stopped the vehicle for an inspection.  If they were stopped, their gimmick was to say they were on the way to Armory on deposit their guns until the end of the day (something that was totally legal).

From the three year period that I was stationed in Tucson....there just wasn't much of a need to haul a weapon around because it was relatively safe throughout the city and the base (at least we felt that way).

A change in perception by people and their safety factor?  I'm pretty well convinced that people generally don't feel safe today.  They look more closely at where they shop....where they stop at an ATM machine....where they buy gas.....where their kids go to school....and read the local crime stories in their newspaper.

What will happen with this suggestion?  It's simply a reminder that this option occurs, and some Colonel or one-star General will discuss it at some meeting.

There are a thousand things which require a waiver on a typical Air Force installation.  Some can be granted by a mere Captain....some go all the way to a full-bird Colonel.

I was briefly assigned to Bitburg Air Base years ago, and came to a point where I was briefly going to own three vehicles.  You would think that it really wouldn't matter for this 90-day period that I'd have three vehicles....but the Air Force Headquarters in Europe had this regulation.  It said you were limited to vehicles unless you got a waiver signed by the Wing Commander.

I remember looking at the idiot Captain telling me this and asking if this were really necessary for the Wing Commander to sign this.  "Yes" was the only answer.  So I asked for the was a two-line simple letter that simply said I was buying a third vehicle and there would be a period where such an event was necessary.  I took the note up to the Wing Commander's office.....his secretary stamped his name onto the bottom....he walked up and she had like six such letters for the day of the same variety, and he signed all six in 30 seconds.

After this event, it made me wonder how many times a month that each Wing Commander had to sign a hundred-odd waivers like that, and how many times was this guy signing something for the sake of signing it.

So you look at this....would the Wing Commander just glance at some stack of fifteen-odd requests for some NCO, officer or airman to bring a gun on base and just sign it.....or get all fearful and invent a dozen reasons to question this waiver?  It's hard to say.

You can imagine a work environment like a typical base.....where every single military individual has qualified with the M-16 rifle as a minimum, and twenty-percent have qualified for the M9 pistol.  They all passed gun safety classes (some twenty times over) and the Air Force will proudly tell Senators that their guys are prepared for a firefight at any installation.  Would the same commanders be happy knowing that 2,000 individuals are on base.....with a pistol on themselves?  I have doubts.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Bloomberg Scenario

Will Bloomberg enter the 2016 election race?  The news media now says he's exploring the idea.  So my eight observations on this.

First, let's say that Bernie does well in the first five primary states and wins three of the five (I think this is now possible).  It would show Hillary in a weaken state.  If this was an election of just Bernie, Trump and'd suddenly become a difficult race to predict.  If this were Hillary, Trump and Bloomberg.....Hillary would be fairly safe, and Bloomberg at best....could only win two states in the election (my humble opinion).

Second, this could be about the fact that Bloomberg has heard that Hillary will face charges and likely have to drop out.  Maybe he believes his info, and that he'd do well in taking Democratic voters.

Third, there's no doubt that Democratic and Republican insiders (the top level in Fairfax).....really aren't happy with either Hillary or Trump.  They don't want the Clinton Foundation to be the 500-lb guerrilla in the room, and they don't like the idea of a untamed Donald running executive matters.  In this case, they'd prefer Bloomberg.

Fourth, there's this odd factor of straight-ticket voting.  Roughly sixty percent of the nation votes this way.  In some states.....more Democratic than Republican (California for example) and some where more Republican than Democrat (Texas for example).  Bloomberg would not be able to take their votes.

Fifth, the black vote.  So far, it's difficult to say for sure.....but it just seems like that Trump has gathered more enthusiasm for himself, than Hillary has.  Bloomberg would not able to sweep those votes over to his side.

Sixth, who would be Bloomberg's VP?  This person would have to be giving up their connection to both Republican and Democratic parties.  A woman?  More than likely.  But who would step up to this?

Seventh, if you had $500 million and a chance at Bloomberg may have to finance the bulk of the race for himself.....what odds do you want?  Anything less than fifty-percent is not good enough.  You need a 51-percent deal or better.

Eighth, finally....this odd factor with electoral college votes.  If none of the three get the necessary votes to goes to the House to pick the winner. Each state delegation has ONE single vote.  I suspect that the game here is for Bloomberg to take two significant states (California and Florida), with one or two other states.  Without them....and Hillary/Trump splitting the'd go to the House and their one state/one vote situation.  Who can take twenty-six states in this type of House vote?  Unknown.

If Jeb had done well.....if Hillary didn't have the email server issue.....if disgruntled voters didn't exist....if Bernie hadn't done so well with college kids.....well, things would be different.  So we may get Bloomberg.

The final observation?  Who says that Bloomberg is the ONLY guy thinking independent campaign for President?  If you just had one single crazy gal with name-appeal (Kadashian for example) to run strictly in California.....she'd likely win that one state.  In this age of internet and social media.....could a one-state player really disrupt politics by winning one single state?  Maybe.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Lessons From a Blizzard

I sat yesterday watching CNN's blizzard coverage.  They were interviewing this family stuck on the interstate in Kentucky...had been there twelve hours in a drift on the road, and no idea when help would come to pull them out.  Trucks all around them.....same position.  They got to some point in the telephone interview where the host of CNN asked the lady (she was with the husband and kids) if they knew about this approaching blizzard.  The lady stated....well....yeah, but they were intending to make it to the very next exit and get off there.  I just sat there....shaking my head.

Over the past decade or two.....I've come to note that weather folks now give an enormous amount of warning....sometimes now two days ahead of a blizzard.  They put a red screen.....winter weather warning.....telling folks that at 6PM on'll hit.  Naturally, this being Sunday've got time to plan and get your act straight.

Then.....folks start to get stupid.  Well....let's just see how bad this will go.  Then they proceed to continue driving past 2PM when they should have gotten off the interstate and found a hotel....had supper at some greasy spoon operation, and just accepted what was going to come.

But folks just aren't willing to accept that.  So they push 6PM when the flurries start coming down, and there around 7PM....when there's an inch on the ground....they start thinking in about an hour....they will stop.  At that point, it's too late.

I don't have much sympathy for folks anymore.....when you get 36 to 48 hours warning and start start to challenge common's plain stupid.

My guess is that the lady, husband and kids were still in the the 24-hour point, and might even be still there now at the 48-hour point.  Maybe cops did eventually come by and offer up some bottles of water....but you kinda have to just sit there and worry about bathroom business and how you'd do it in a blizzard.

Maybe after an episode like this.....people will learn.

Rebooted TV Series

I noticed this week, there's talk of a Baywatch 'reboot'....meaning that some network executives have decided that Baywatch in 2016....might appeal to a vast redesign it to a degree, find some new actors, and work on scripts that might be better than the previous show.

For those who don't remember....Baywatch went through one season (1989) and was deemed a failure. Part of this was the background of Hawaii used as the central theme for the show.

So, Baywatch emerged in 1991....set in southern California....running until 2001 (11 total seasons and 242 episodes).  To this date....I've watched a total of two episodes.  There was a faint bit of script....tied to a thin-story-line....that seemed to revolve around the lifeguards and some opera-like device that involved danger, romance or comedy.

I've come to this view....some shows really don't need a reboot or an attempt to modernize with a different theme.  My ten on the forbidden list?

1.  Bonanza.  I just don't see how anyone could out-act Hoss or Little Joe.  Nor can I see the story-line improving....without shooting a bunch of folks on a weekly basis.  The Hop-Sing guy would likely be replaced by some Kung-Fu Chinese female cook, and Adam would likely be some gay character who rides over to Silver City one gay saloon for quiet afternoon beers with his buddies.  None of this would work with the public.

2.  The Dukes of Hazard.  Basically, if they reboot the show....there'd be meth dopers in the background, corrupt cops, trailer trash women on the verge of redemption, Republican political figures in honky-tonk relationships, Democratic political figures in corruption scandals, and Latino friends of Bo Duke.  The boys would likely be driving some GM car which mostly just sits in the front-yard of their trailer....because of maintenance issues.  And some comedian would appear weekly to instruct the guys on ways to bar-b-q roadkill.

3.  Mork and Mindy.  A reboot?  Mork would be half-male, half-female, and half-android (a Al Gore Man-Bear-Pig figure).  Mindy would be doped up on pain-killers half the time.  Several neighbors would be in open conflict with Mork's habits (mostly thinking he's from El Salvador and thus a foreigner).  The TV executives would demand some drama to occasionally occur....where Mork would be on the run from evil US government agents.

4.  Bosom Buddies.  A reboot?  It'd be two women in male outfits....trying to live in a male's only (gay) apartment complex.  It's be called a failure after the first episode.

5.  Adam-12. A reboot?  Some fake personal relationship dynamics would be tossed into the theme, and a dozen oddball characters from the street would be added for comedy or dramatic purposes.  One of the two would be shot or beat-up on every third episode.....with the other guy drifting around on mind-altering drugs from time to time.

6.  Happy Daze.  A reboot?  Basically the story of some Chicago thug family in the 1990s trying to survive in some comic haze of shootings, robberies, and drug-cartel business.  Strictly dramatic.

7. Bewitched.  A reboot?  It'd be some Hungarian witch in trampy clothing and attached to some mid-40's computer geek engineer.

8.  Dark Shadows.  A reboot?  This is probably the only show which could shock people and scare a large portion of American society.  With all the Dracula stuff and Werewolves of could go off and do some pretty scary stuff.  You could induce Mafia thugs, bad guys from gangs, and suddenly some Barnabas Collins guy walks in and fixes problems real quick.

9.  Route 66.  A reboot?  To be honest, Route 66 just never had any real scripting direction and they made 116 episodes mostly about a guy traveling around in a Corvette and working day jobs here and there.  The thing could basically turn the sound down to nothing and just sit there to observe the details, the background characters, and the story really didn't matter.  Today?  No one would believe some guy driving around in a Corvette with no real cash and working some job at Wal-Mart or Piggy Wiggly.

10.  Lost in Space.  A reboot?  An alien per episode?  After they end up on the lesbian planet, the viewers start asking stupid questions about all these weird aliens.  Then you'd land on the chubby green guy planet and have some weird episode unfold with Doctor Smith and some magical mystery weed that he smoked.  It'd fail after one single season.

Friday, 22 January 2016

The Chess Syndrome

I noticed some mention of a new video which has come out from the top Islamic cleric of Saudi Arabia.  For some reason,, he got dragged into a discussion on the game of chess.

Naturally, he reviewed doctrine, the Quran, and pondered over the subject.....then came to the decision that it is forbidden.

Chief reason?  It wastes time and leads onto conflict and jealousy, in inflamed situation that is unnecessary.

It will disturb quiet a number of Muslim intellectuals.....who tend to play chess on a weekly basis.

The original nature of chess isn't factual.  Some people have done research and say it started around the sixth century in India.  Based on trade routes and people always looking for new things to trade and moved fairly quickly out into Persia.  After Muhammad's campaign to engulf the Arab community into one religion....along the way was this attachment to chess.  Once most of the Arab world was safely was also safely pro-chess.

So for roughly 1,300 years....chess has been accepted by the Muslim community.  It didn't matter if we were talking Iran, Syria, Egypt, Libya or Turkey.

My humble guess is that a number of people within the Muslim community are going to look at this discussion, and now ask the really stupid question....what exactly leads onto rivalry, wasted effort, enraged feelings, and incitement to riot?   If this Saudi religious cleric were standing there....he'd start to grin and know that they were onto his game.

How many chess boards exist in Saudi Arabia?  I'd take a wild guess....with 28 million residents....that at least one million chess boards exist.  Will some religious cops start to check out houses?

When you start to worry about things like've probably painted yourself into a corner, and burned down the last remaining wooden bridge that you could cross back into reality.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Ninth Planet Deal

I probably wasted an hour reading upon the talk yesterday of the new 'discovery' of the ninth planet.

So, onto real facts.  No one can absolutely confirm this discovery.  What they've done is pour the data into a computer, and with simulation concludes that such a planet exists, it's size is related to Neptune, and it rotates about every 15,000 to 20,000 years through our system.  Their chatter so far indicates that it was a planet that survived in our system, and then got "bumped".

It's orbit when approaching this area?  Between Saturn and Jupiter.

The odds of this being a perfect orbit and repeating orbit path each time it enters our chunk of the universe?  Well....that's not yet possible to say.  All of simply theory.

With can't name the planet, so it will continue to be called "Planet X".  To be honest, it might still be another 1,000 years before we even get to some point of identifying it, the proven path, and then naming the thing.

A big deal?  For the planet scientists....this is like the 4th of July.  It'll keep them hyped up for months and working on some new theory to explain how the crash occurred and how the spiral turned into some orbit.  For the second part of this orbit to has to slung from another sun-like point (yet to really be identified).

But here's the other part of this story.  Who says that we are only talking about one single Planet X?  Could there be other planets that got bumped and they are on some 40,000 year orbit? just don't know.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

A Brief Essay on the First Amendment

The Dailycaller put up a piece today.....refering to column written by a Duke University student newspaper.

Normally, I probably would have just skipped it.

But this circled around what he perceived (a grad student)....over America's 'obsession with the First Amendment'.  He coined the phrase....that it (the First Amendment) was more or less an expression of white supremacy.

What he wanted to suggest was limits on free effect....restrictions.  Censoring critical speech or hate-speech....would be a much better effort for society to benefit.

It's one of those do-gooder type things you see in Germany now.  Facebook has been dragged into such German government meetings and told that it needs to limit free speech....eliminate hate-speech, and that someone could easily determine what was good-speech and hate-speech.

I admire the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

It is simplistic in nature.

I kinda doubt that you could walk into a room of a hundred grad students today....challenge them with a weekend project to write the text for a new modern version of the First Amendment, and get a simplistic three-line piece of text that is that clear.

Most would write some ten-page amendment which allowed certain things.....forbid certain things....and tried to make end-all-make-all statement.

We are at some threshold of society, where people attend four to eight years of some university operation, getting a certificate of sorts.....then returning to the world with the brightness of a 7-watt light-bulb that you would depend upon to light up some arena.

The white supremacy angle?  If you asked the guy to explain the history to America from 1492 to'd revolve around eight lines of information, with Columbus noted two or three times.  Beyond that....he would be unable to note the effect of French, Spanish, Dutch, and English settlements upon the land mass.  He'd also be unable to project the effect of the Roman Empire upon the four cultural groups mentioned and the thousand years prior to 1492.

To be honest....I am worried about speech in America.  It's just that I'm not worried about free speech, hate speech, critical speech, derogatory speech, criticism speech, or fake intellectual speech. I'm worried about stupid speech....where you say something without much value and pretend it has merit.
My humble advice for the grad student....if Duke did charge $120,000 for the past six-odd years of might want to review what you got and maybe ask for a refund.  You may not have gotten the best or wisest commentary from the professors.

The Thing About Chocolate-Cover Fries

McDonalds has reached a stage where business is tough and they need to entice people to come more often back to the fast food enterprise.  So, they have this new idea.  Chocolate-covered fries.

It's hard for me to imagine such a 'treat'.  It's loaded with sugar, sodium, and various preservatives.

About thirty years ago, I had to ride along on some stupid tour bus to Switzerland.  The package deal included one evening at a Swiss authentic dinner.....which had a fondue 3-course dinner.  The last fondue.....was the chocolate deal....where you took some sweet bread and dipped it into a hot chocolate sauce deal over a fire. At the time, the chocolate sauce reminded me of melted M and M's.

What the business reports say is that it's only a 'test' and might only be a one-time production item.  I looked at the wasn't a completely covered fry with simply had a ketchup-like stream over a pile of fries.

Presently, McDonalds is worried.  The business boom of 1980s is gone.  People got worried about nutrition, fatty foods, and hygiene.  They need a gimmick...something to return back to the glory days, and chocolate covered fries....seems to be it.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

The Ten Chief Things That Alabama Folks Worry About

1.  There's this big line drawn between a tornado watch and a tornado warning.  By the time you turn forty in've likely seen three hundred tornado watches.  So, you don't really grit your teeth or say nothing much.  You might turn over to such-and-such channel to get Doppler-radar and hear Ms Wendy chat about this front or that science stuff.  But the minute that Ms Wendy says "tornado warning".....that usually peps a guy up and he's got a sixty second list of things to accomplish before hitting the backdoor of the trailer and hitting the shelter in the backyard.

2.  Roughly forty percent of all Alabama adults generally worry about the University of Alabama football team.  They worry enough....that they'd actually pray for Coach Saban if he appeared sickly.  They worry about the schedule....the heat for Saturday's game....and the possibility that Auburn might have a better team this year than Alabama would have.

3.  About a quarter of the state's adults generally worry about your church habits and soul's destination.  Moving into a might find that your neighbor slowly gets around to asking about your church preference and if you are with the right people.  If you are a's best not to mention that and simply say you'd pray for them as much as they pray for you.

4.  Most Alabama folks worry about snakes.  When you pull into some field and the guy says that looks 'snakey'......(not a real world but we tend to use it).....then he's pretty confident there's a snake somewhere there.  This fear causes most folks to have a snake-stick near the patio door of sufficient length.....usually six-foot long.

5.  If you live within a hundred miles of the coast, you tend to worry about hurricanes.  Folks from the rest of the state tend to worry about them missing the hurricane and discuss the idea of driving down to Orange Beach to watch the hurricane approach and get the full-blast.

6.  Most Alabamians tend to worry about the status of their septic tank.  There's some kind of internal clock that they have....noting that it's been 3,888 days since they installed the last tank and they really don't want to relive that experience.  Oddly, you note that they marked the date on a calendar and remember every detail of the past experience.

7.  Most Alabamians (maybe fifty percent) worry about your drinking habits.  They'd like to live in a dry county and hope that you will be cooperative in keeping it dry.  Don't shock them with the six cases of PBR that you keep on the patio or the six bottles of Jacky D's which sit by the couch in the living room.

8.  Most Alabamians worry that a Democrat will eventually return to the governor's office and go off to do something illegal, deceitful, or corrupted.  Course, you ask about the current Republican governor's alleged affair and his wife divorcing him....and then kinda ends that discussion and worry about politics.

9.  Most Alabamians worry about some neighbor suddenly selling their farm and the new guy arriving to put up a chicken farm and stink up the whole area of that scent.

10.  Finally, Alabamians will tell you about this great thrill of a major snowstorm coming through, and bringing some fond memories of snow.  Then you mention that the snow was such that powerlines went down and folks had no power for a week there, and they kinda agree....they do both love the thrill and have a worry over the same time.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Driverless Car Story

I sat kinda amazed at a DC news story today.  The Obama administration wants to spend $3.9 billion of your money (tax revenue).....on driverless car technology.

It's a curious technology which I've been following for the past year.  In Germany....they've ordered the transportation ministry to proceed and write the draft regulation for such cars to be on the road.  They actually have a deadline to complete this within the next two years.  If you look at commentary across the spectrum.....most of the insider people think Germany will actually see the first such car by 2019.

The leaders of such technology?  Ford? No.  Chevy?  No.  GM?  No.

Presently, there's only three car companies at the very top of this development cycle....Mercedes, Tesla, and Volvo.  Based on various articles, it would appear that Toyota is a step behind the three.

The other players?  Google and Apple.  Neither have explained how a non-car company figures the value of this investment and where this will end up.

Why draft up an idea to spend $3.9 billion of US tax revenue?  That's the curious thing.  If they do absolutely'll still be developed and likely in operation within five years.  My guess is that the big three of car makers kinda mis-prioritized their agenda and their strategy.....probably ten to twelve years down the line is lagging.  They need to beat out Volvo, Mercedes and Tesla.

Course, you ought to ask yourself.....why not press the big three US companies to partner up with Google or Apple?  They'd jump-start their strategy.  But then they'd miss out on the $3.9 billion in pocket change.

Somewhere in the middle of this?  The Republicans in the House and Senate.....never missing a beat to spend money in a wasteful fashion.

So, when you hear about the money and this crazy idea to spend a fantastic amount to get this know the gimmick.  And don't be surprised if after they spend the $3.9 billion....they end having to buy Volvo  or Tesla to get the insider deal.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Airman Story

It came out in the news today that the Air Force is studying the idea of removing "Airman" from official lingo of the military organization....because of the reference affecting women.  The only general suggested solution has been to say Airmen for men and Airwomen for women, or just to say Air-person.

It's hard to figure how this conversation started, what general supported the topic for debate, and the various senior enlisted leaders who felt it was a wonderful discussion topic for it's members.

If it sounds like they ran out of debatable topics.....well....yeah, that's the likely reason why this comes up at this point.

Even if you did come to some rational conclusion....the debate would be rekindled within months to consider how it'd affect trans-gender individuals that the Air Force may have to accept or neglect.  Air-genders?

For roughly the first fourteen years I was in the Air Force.....up until around knew how the game was played and the 1950's Strategic Air Command mentality still held some control over stupidity and management.  After 1991, I'd say it was a fighter-pilot mentality that took control, and you went through some debate mess about every two or three months.  The idea that change would bring a better Air Force.....eventually led most people by 2000 to just laugh and become cynical over the new management trend.

I'm guessing some agenda group is holding this discussion and focusing on the dynamics of the future, and how all people will not have a sexual identity (probably shocking some women and some trans-gender dudes).

Perhaps down the line....even the idea of a men's room and a woman's room at the gym....will disappear as well.

The Dog Story

Some smart guys did a study, and came to this conclusion....that your dog....readily reacts to your emotional state of happiness or sadness.

It's hard to say how this test was devised, how many dogs were involved, and how they shaped the happy or sad state of emotion.  But in the end, they had enough concrete proof to establish that dogs are that smart.

The thing they can't tell you....which breed of dog is more perceptive of your condition than another breed.

I'm of the mind that the Border Collie breed is probably king of this perception business.  This particular dog is probably sitting there in anticipation of coming home....thinking of a dozen things to pep up your day....forcing you to play ball with him or react to Frisbee tosses.

The thing is....this breed of dog probably even calculates the happiness state or sadness state of other animals.....from cats to cattle.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Al's Business Success

When Current TV (a cable news format network) got sold about three years ago.....Al Gore was one of the chief owners.  Al's chunk of money from the sale was around a hundred million dollars.

To be honest, there were two sides to Current TV at the time.  First, they did reach via packaging to 43 million homes (so says Bloomberg Business).  Whether through accidental business accomplishment or under the table deals with the cable's a fair chunk of homes that had access to it.  On the negative one really was watching Reason TV in big numbers.

Current TV was designed and started back in 2005....with the idea of 15-minute blocks of special news capsules.  It modified itself slightly.....going political in nature....and becoming very progressive in nature.  They won several awards in the early years, although if you ask what'd just get a grin because no one could remember anything remarkable about the network.

By 2009.....they were in financial trouble.  You see.....advertisers noted that no one much was watching and refusing to pay remarkable amounts of money.  In four short years, they had hit absolute peak in terms of viewership.

In 2011, they did format changes....brought in some big names....trying to impress the news media critics and getting viewership back up.

It was shortly after this that Al Jazeera came along with the idea of paying $500 million for the network....rename the network Al Jazeera America.....and give Americans a taste of news with an Arab-slant.

Bluntly, it was a flop.

Today, it's noted in the business news that they will shut down the network by April....admitting that whatever business model they had in mind.....was a failure.  They couldn't attract more viewers or increasing ratings which would have drawn higher commercial income.

Al, in some ways, is a lucky guy.  He and his team was able to convince Al Jazeera to pay $500 million for a nonperforming network, that simply reached into millions of homes but wasn't readily viewed by anyone much.

How much did Al put into the operation to start with?  Unknown.  No one talks about the beginning angle to Current TV or Al's contribution.  My humble guess is that he probably arranged some type of contribution of a couple of million....showed up at various parties to get enthusiastic investors to dump their money into the operation....and got a certain percentage of the sale because of his help in getting it started (kinda like the White Water episode if you think about it).

The end?  Well.....only until some rich guys with some agenda or business gimmick get all excited and repeat this experience again to draw in some dopey business syndicate to spend money on a fiasco.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Skill of Thinking

It got brought up today....that some universities in the US.....are engaging upon a new 'studies' forum.

They've decided that a new and emerging academic the study of fat people.  So, fat studies are popping up with various classes (Weightism, fat stigma, oppression of hefty folks, etc).

Most of my academic life was served with the University of Maryland, Louisiana Tech University, and Fort Steilacoom Community College (Washington State).  Sadly, we didn't have fake classes like this.  You actually had real classes which jumped into the Revolutionary War, English literature, and the study of volcanoes (the one class that I really had zero interest and the instructor was a nut-case dinosaur dig expert).

You'd have to sit there and wonder.....if Dad is paying $24,000 a year for Junior to attend such-and-such state university and he's taking fat stigma psychology doe this relate to the money being spent?

It would be one thing if Junior was studying ancient Rome, meteor science, catfish dynamics, common horse diseases, and Mayan farming techniques.  That might have some type of balance related to a job later.

The problem I that colleges are reaching a point of desperation.  They need weird classes to attract these stupid kids who can't add numbers.....can't explain any difference between Democrats and Socialists.....and can't tell you what half of twenty-four hours equals.

In a couple of years, I can see these course: leisure activity of Mennonites study, how to grow pumpkins, the science behind Lord of the Rings, lectures over Opie's dismal life in Mayberry, trailer-park psychology, tramp and harlot studies (mostly where you have to go to special bars near the university and have discussions with women), and the science of changing oil in your car (a whole semester where you hear some professor talk about the ways you can do it).

If it sounds like I'm cynical on colleges.....well...I am.  There are a thousand things that you could do....which would teach thinking skills to a bunch of dimwitted high-school kids.  Yet, we seem to be avoiding that one critical skill which might be worth something later in life.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Tavern Story

A tavern, a bar, an inn, a lodge, a lounge, a pub, a saloon, a watering hole, a alehouse, a barroom, a hostel, a roadhouse, a speakeasy, a suds house, a tap room, a beer-joint, a drinkery, a gin room, honky tonk, a public house, the 19th hole, or a dive.....take your pick.

Before prohibition, every single community in America had a minimum of one in the local community.  From November of 1620.....we had an acceptance of taverns in America.  When the Pilgrims landed.....if you sat down and examined their top ten priorities.....brewing beer and establishing a public house was on the top ten list.  As more people arrived, their priority was to build communities with public houses.  Beer and whiskey openly flowed.

I'm reading through a book by Susan Cheever (Drinking in America).  She notes early on in American history, as the Mayflower is sailing across the Atlantic with their band of a hundred-odd passengers.....there are two assortments of beer onboard.  Most people wouldn't ever note this in history books or get a lecture from some professor which would cover this little item.

Why two assortments?  One was strictly for the crew, and one strictly for the hundred-odd passengers.  Someone sat down and added up the numbers, and what was left by the time that the boat was ready to return to England.  The statistical side of this story is that from the adults onboard as passengers.....they roughly consumed a gallon of decent high-grade beer (figure a minimum of six-percent alcohol).  If you figure the typical weight (they were hefty or overweight guys back in that period) and being awake sixteen hours a day on the voyage.....they were a bit tipsy for the entire trip.

Why?  As Cheever points out.....sloshed people are happy people, and whine less.  It was common through England at the live off a liquid diet of beer or whiskey.

If you examine the accomplishments of the remaining forty-odd people who survived the first winter after landing.....there's the brewery establishment and the public house.

Cheever goes on to note one other curious thing which I thought was interesting.

There are roughly six guys who contributed in some way to the Constitution and it's pieces.  Thomas Jefferson is one of the six.

From what people generally know.....Thomas Jefferson sat down one evening at the Indian Queen Tavern in Philly, with a quill and ink on one side, and an ale on the other side.

You can imagine the scene.....night falling.....little light in a dimly-lit tavern.....a guy playing a mandolin in the background and some drunk guys discussing something other than turbo-charged engines, NFL games, NCAA bowl episodes, or the Kardashians.

A line here, a sip there.....two or three hours likely pass with Jefferson sitting at the roughly cut wood bench or sturdy chair.....perhaps a bit fuzzed and having no limitations over his thought process.  He's writing the best stuff of his life, while on the 2nd or 3rd serving of ale.

He probably finishes up the evening.....wraps the written draft up and puts it into his pocket....and settles with the tavern-keeper.  He might have said a word or two to the guys at the bar....noting agreement over some argument concerning horses or buggy-whips.  He might have winked at the hostess gal who served drinks and tried to catch one last eye-full of an open blouse.  He probably turned to face the image of this tavern and it's shadowy landscape.  Then he left.

This is probably one of the little features of our history that gets mostly forgotten.  Jefferson wrote bits and pieces of the Constitution, while under the influence, and while under a fairly happy influence.

So when you sit in some dive, or honky tonk, or might want to look around because there's some heavy thinking going on by some occupants of the establishment.  They are thinking at their best.....when relieved of stress and the support of beer or booze.  

Friday, 8 January 2016

University of Missouri Fallout

One of the regional channels around Columbia, Missouri....near the University of Missouri....came up with a report that a downward trend exist in applications to the campus......since all the 'Black Lives Matter' episodes.

Five percent less applications....that means 941 less freshmen in the fall.  Even for black students.....almost twenty-percent less than the previous year.  Graduate almost twenty-percent.....declined as well.

It was predicted.

What happens here?  There will be various discussions and some people will say it's a temp-thing.  Maybe.....but let's say in January of 2017.....there's another five-percent drop.  That's the point where you go to the professors and instructors....and start to discuss the idea of letting people go.  Then they get all upset and frustrated.

A bad trend?  Some people would say that it was simply reality.  Parents got involved and suggested to the kid that this wasn't the right atmosphere....the right place to get educated....and suggested another college in the state.  It may take a decade for some reversal to occur and people forget about what happened.

My guess is that if you look around the region.....other colleges got the five-percent instead.

The "Fine" City

One of the things that I learned while living 3.5 years in Arlington, VA.....was that the District of Columbia is a money-eating machine.

I'm not talking about the federal government itself.....I'm talking strictly about the city management folks and the underlying support staff.

This week, it got brought up in DC and some folks are all hyped.....over the new fine that will go into effect if you are caught speeding twenty-five mph over the speed limit.  The old fine?  $300.  The new fine?  $1000.

There are other fines on the increase which irked the locals.

You could be fined $200 for rolling through a red-turn-on-red light, without stopping.

You could be fined $500 for blocking traffic  while sorting out an accident.

You could be fined $100 speeding near a recreation field or senior citizens center.

You could be fined $500 for failing to slow down or getting out of the way of an ambulance or emergency vehicle.

Oddly, you could be fined $500 just for failing to yield to a METRO bus trying to reenter traffic from a stop.

There's talk that some folks are fairly angry at the city council and maybe this might be changed back to the old fine amount.

The city relies upon the federal government to give them a fair amount of their pocket money, and upon city property taxes, and city income taxes for those really stupid and need to live in DC itself.

How often do these fall into effect each week?  No one really says much about that.  I'd take a guess that the over-25-mph speeding episode ($1,000) might be a thing that only happens five or six times a week.  The $100-fine for speeding near a senior citizens center?  If you don't know the neighborhood.....this might be fifty or sixty times a week.

Without counting parking fines.....which are bad enough.....these guys are probably making over half-a-million a month from these various fines (my humble guess).  For a population of 650,000-odd's a fair chunk of money.

You can imagine going to the wife to mention you got a ticket on the way home today......and she finally drags it out of you.....a $1000 fine.  That just wouldn't work.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

You Might Be a Dealer

I've sat and read a dozen-odd columns and articles over the President's order on guns given this week.  I've come to this one basic conclusion.  No matter who you are....what state you live in.....if you own a gun, you are a dealer (under his effective executive order).

The minute you try to sell your old shotgun or a pistol in your collection.....even to your cousin, or to your co-worker at the fit the description of "dealer".

In essence, we are now a nation of 300-million citizens and dealers.  We are all dealers.....if we own a weapon.

Six months down the road....there will likely be another executive order.....if you are recognized as a need to attend a dealer class and be dealer-certified.

As time goes'd add more and more rules....just upon dealers...not guns themselves.

Yeah, we are going through a change system where they admit they can't do anything about the gun laws but they can bring change or effect to dealer laws.

Your Republicans in charge?  If you kinda notice.....they aren't doing much of anything since the new executive order came out.  It suggests that even they are buying off on the new logic.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Forbidding the Donald?

A number of weeks ago....candidate Donald Trump made a comment or two, which peeved a few Brits who were enthusiasts of multicultural situations (mostly around Muslims).

They petitioned Parliament to discuss the matter, and apparently.....the British Parliament will have a debate of sorts, and possibly a vote on whether Donald Trump will be forbidden entry into the UK.

Over the weekend.....Trump apparently noted the unfolding episode and make the comment that he's kinda prepared to take on the entire United Kingdom if necessary....."counterpunching" if necessary.  Then he ended the comment that a stupid decision would have consequences.

I'm of the mind that the British parliament is loaded with more than enough wise men who will carry on a proper debate and conclude that Trump gets the same deal as ninety-nine percent of all Americans.

However, should they be foolish enough to cross Trump off on the entry-list....I'm of the mind that the great consequence in question would be a President Trump who takes office on day one, and declares US troops in the United Kingdom are no longer necessary.....removing them within a one-year period.

The French might might the see the British kicked around a bit.  Putin would be amused and send some letter letting Trump know that it took 'balls' to make a decision like that.

I think somewhere in this little debate before Parliament....someone is going to deliver a Shakespeare quote on seizing opportunities: "There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures."  (from Julius Caesar, IV).

It'll be some vivid moment where you need some Churchill-like inspiration and the crowd will stand and applaud there within Parliament.....noting Trump is a friend of the British empire.

If that fails?  The Queen might stand and say that Donald is exempt from such stupidity.

Just a Few Questions

This morning.....I was sitting and reading a Saint Louis newspaper, and came to this one state news item.

For roughly fifteen years....the cops in Missouri have been required by state law to note the ethnicity of drivers that they stop on state roads and interstates.  This was done to be used to defend the state and cops against the problem of racial profiling.

No one said much about this, and the truth is....most cops just looked at the guy and did an X on whatever column he felt that the guy, Hispanic, Asian, white, etc.  It really didn't have to be a question....and folks didn't say much because it wasn't forced on them to answer.

Well....a new requirement has been drafted up and is being pressed toward a law (has yet to pass).  This would require cops to expand their data collection.....noting 'perceived' sexual orientation, religion, disability, and "English language proficiency".  It's called the Fair and Impartial Policing Act (supported by both a Republican and Democrat in the state legislature).

Now, most folks....from Bama....would pause over this and feel a need to be amused.

The cop would ask about your orientation, and you'd respond that you were only into relations with alien women who wore nylons and talked in some foreign language.  The cop would stand there shaking their head because they really don't want to know the guy's personal orientation.

Then the religion thing would come up and the Bama guy would note that he was mostly a Druid (into the tree Gods), but had handled some rattlesnakes over in Sand Mountain territory with some primitive Baptist folks.  Then he'd hint that he just didn't believe much of anything in the New Testament, and he'd start to recite quotes from Revelation.  The Missouri cop would be a bit uneasy at this point.

Then the disability thing would come up.  The Bama guy would note that he's got some disability in right foot....from a fishing accident in '88, and that he can't do "it" with the wife unless she's got on the camouflaged nightie that he bought her from Wal-Mart.  The Missouri cop would grit his teeth a bit.....trying to figure out how he'd write this down.

Then finally, the "English language proficiency" thing would come up.  The Bama guy would let the cop know that he'd been doin’ some type of spearmint (experiment) in school and got all whooped up by Ms. Jones siance (science) class.  The Missouri cop would debate for several minutes about this and eventually say the guy more or less.....understood English.

The sad thing is that some Bama guy.....just going up to some cattle or tractor auction in Missouri....would end up in a Missouri database, with some data that might not be totally correct or right.

In fact....he might get stopped on the return trip to Bama in two days.....asked the same questions, and give totally different answers.....which most engineer folks would automatically say that it disrupts vital statistics and gives you a fraudulent database.

All of this would simply open up the door.....for more questions.

In five years, they'd start to ask about your dog or cat situation.  Maybe they'd collect data on your NCAA team, or what bumper-stickers appear on your truck.  Maybe they'd ask you about your perception of Bigfoot or UFOs.  Maybe they'd ask you about your favorite critter to hunt.  Maybe they'd ask about your preference for women (husky, BBW, Latino, crazy, or fire-ball aggressive).  Maybe they'd ask about favorite characters on the zombie show Walking Dead.  Maybe they'd ask about your clothing style, your haircut preference, or your favorite condiments for a burger.  Maybe they'd even ask if you preferred filtered or unfiltered cigarettes, or preferred mowing weekly or bi-weekly.

The thing is.....once you start a database.....folks usually want to build onto it.  They get this feeling that the more knowledge on you....the more value of the database.

In Bama.....folks have tended to learn after a's best to know only a limited amount of knowledge about folks you work with or hang out with.  You'd rather not admit that you voted for Clinton twice, or like Auburn football over Alabama football, or you had a one-night stand in Guntersville with some minister's wife.

I suspect that most people who get stopped by Missouri cops in the future (if this passes).....will just grin and refuse to answer the questions.  Cops will take as a confrontational attitude and things will go negative from the public perception.

The more that Democracy develops.....the further away from reality that it goes.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The "Crazy" Rule

No one really knows how many crazy and dangerous people exist in the United States.  I would even make the accusation that most of us probably would be fairly scared if the actual number came out and we came to face facts that roughly three million Americans have some type of mental problem and have the potential to easily kill.

Today, the Obama Administration came out with a new rule....that basically says health care providers can report the names of mentally ill patients that they feel are a 'threat' the FBI firearms background system.

The catch?  Nothing much is said, and most providers would sit there and ask stupid questions about where you draw the line.  A mental health provider might have two hundred people that he regularly sees each month, and twenty of them are showing certain signs of a threat, but if they put the information into that database....and the cops came to visit....the guy or gal would ask questions and feel the provider was now a threat....stopping treatment or going off their medication.

It's what you'd call making the best of a dozen bad decisions.

There are probably a thousand mental health providers who will absolutely never, under any one of their patients to the FBI database.

There are patients who will put some stupid form in front of the doctor or mental health expert.....making them take an absolute promise to protect their identity and problem from the US government.

If you drew a ten-mile circle around your house and the FBI came to note there were sixteen people considered crazy and dangerous within that would your attitude change?  Would you arm up and carry a weapon with you every single day?  Would you be inclined to even carry a pistol with you when you went grocery-shopping or stopped off to buy a pizza?

This is the problem with these databases.  They start to be used by various people for different reasons.  Instead of making you feel better or just has the opposite effect.

Some people will say over the next year that each entry in the database of crazy people with the intent to harm others.....was a good thing and helped to prevent one more murder.  Maybe.....but I would speculate that fewer people will seek any mental health help in the future and after a while.....some dimwit will analyze the heck out of this to say that we seem to have a positive trend of less crazy people....when it's a false conclusion.

So, don't get excited or start thinking this rule changes fixes anything.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

TV Viewing

There on New Year eve.....while sitting in Germany.....I was channel flipping.  So around 10PM, I flipped to this oddball movie playing on a German commercial network.

It was Russ Meyer's production of UP! (1976).  It was some softcore nudy movie with the basic script of some Nazi-guy who was murdered in some Bavarian-style mansion in southern California.....with dozens of nude Amazon gals walking around.

For about ten minutes I sat and watched this.  It was designed as a least in 1976.  It's mostly marginal acting.....a guy with a camera....and some kinda script that would have come from two twelve-year-old kids.

I looked at the German TV guide and they were going to feature two of Russ Meyer's movies (UP! and Vixen).....over four hours.....uncensored.  The thing just sit there and shake your head because it has no redeeming qualities and absolutely no story-line, but appeals to you in some weird way (maybe it was the boobs....maybe it was the landscape).

Possibility on a US network?  Zero.  Oddly, the Germans carried it.....without cutting a single minute.

The Small Farming Story

I rarely read Salon but I went over and found this interesting article.

The writer laid out her dream job and all this enthusiasm for farming.  She took it on as an occupation with her friend.  Ten acres, a business plan circling around organic vegetables and lots of sweat.  The result?  About forty lines into the essay, she notes that it's virtually zero-profit.  There's maybe a hundred hours of work put into the farm between her and the friend each week and they probably average around a $100 each for profit.....which certainly isn't enough to sustain an operation.  It took a long time, but she eventually realized that it'll never cross the line and be something to depend upon.

The reality of life is that farming used to be the chief occupation of most Americans.....all the way to the 1920s.  That period ended, and the reality is a pretty harsh thing to face up to today.

You can operate a 200-acre farm with various angles and probably make just enough to sustain the farm and live a meaningful but limited lifestyle.  This kinda means you don't take press forward with fifty to sixty hour work-weeks.....and you get smart on mechanics, agriculture, and innovation.

You might be able to run some bio-farm operation, where you cut corners and say you 'organic' in the briefest sense of the word....with some cash flow that pays the briefest of lifestyles.  The reality is that either your wife/husband/partner has a real job and bringing in the bulk of money for living expenses, or you grow marijuana on the side as your other organic cash-crop.

There's some odd group of agriculturally-inclined intellectual-farmers who have a great passion for the art of farming, and want to have something that resembles a farm and a profit-making enterprise.  Maybe they watched Green Acres as a kid, or they had some professor from college who talked about the natural lifestyles of farming, or maybe they just observed some Mennonites and wanted the humble lifestyle.  It doesn't was mostly just a fantasy (like you hooked up with some Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, or you won a million on the Lottery).

 One of the things you pick up when you visit George Washington's Mount Vernon that he had almost sixty different crops or animal ideas in operation.  There was even the distillery function on the side.  But this was never a big-profit type simply had a cash-flow.

The title of this essay on Salon is "What Nobody Told Me About Small Farming".   There's not exactly some wise guy standing out there at the end of high school and noting all the professions that really don't pay off.  Otherwise, you wouldn't be that stupid to spend four years and $90,000 at some university to get a degree in French literature.....nor would you invest $20,000 into an organic farm and spend years trying to reach a point of profitability.  Perhaps the last six weeks of high school ought to be about the realities of life......but after you've wasted twelve years of high really don't want any wisdom at this conclusion point.

So, I kinda end this essay with some brief advice.  If you did watch Green Acres over and over, and got this crazy idea that farming could be in your blood......give it a shot, and when you realize all the issues with it......count it as a lesson in reality.