Monday, 29 February 2016

The Recruitment Story

While I was off in Australia on my vacation....I read through daily papers, and one afternoon.....there was this one article.  It was a woeful tale of a town....along the eastern side of the country....of roughly six-thousand people in the local region.

Their one and only doctor was coming up for retirement and they wanted to hire up a replacement.  So for over a year now.....they've searched for a doctor.  They've used a HR service and advertised far and wide.  So takers.

The deal?  $370,000 Aussie dollars a year.  Roughly $290,000 US dollars.  We aren't talking about a specialist or anything.....just a plain and regular doctor with a couple of years of experience.

The hindering to recruitment?  It's a rural area....far from any major city like Melbourne or Sydney.  When we say 6,000 residents.....that kinda includes the wider community....anyone within an hours drive.

The retiring doctor likely stays around another year or two, while they continue this search.  The sad thing is that you'd find yourself in a quiet community without a lot of normal things you'd expect to find in a big town like Brisbane.  The $370,000 would be taxed and you'd probably see a good quarter of it gone for taxes.  You'd think.....someone would want the quiet atmosphere.....low stress....and lack of urban life.

Law and Order in Hong Kong

I spent four days in Hong Kong.  There are thousand little comments to make, but I'll center this short essay upon two things and law enforcement.

This sign kinda notes the direct impact of NOT using seat belts....caught?  Five thousand Hong Kong dollars and 90 days in jail.  You see.....they don't kid around about the second weasel for a judge....just plain regular enforcement.  If you need to spend 90 days in jail to reestablish your understanding of the law.....go for it.

So, this played out on the second day there.....where I was on a street and just standing there when a van was backing into a parking spot, and a taxi ran into the back (bumping the van ever so slightly).

The van (in front and backing) jumped out and was about to launch into a five-star confrontation.  But at the same time.....there were these two cops (male and female officers).....about forty feet away and had observed part of the incident.

The female officer went straight up to the van guy who was angry and stood five feet away.....then raised her hand in a manner to send a strict message to the guy.  No other words.....if you do anything to challenge'll go hard against you.

I turned and watched the male officer facing the taxi guy who was angry and was going to exit the cab to toss in his two cents of confrontation......and the hand signal went into action there.

It was absolute authority by the cops, and absolute fear of what the cops would say or do in court.  In the US, you would have had to call for back-up cops (maybe 20 of them) and worry about people in the crowd getting into some massive riot.  Here in Hong Kong?  The cops owned the peace and you just didn't do anything to send them the wrong message.

Frankly, I was impressed.

The taxi guy drove off.  The van guy proceeded to back in.  The two cops continued their walk on down the street.  It's the way things ought to work.

The Island Tour

About forty miles off the eastern coast of Australia (north of Brisbane) is Lady Elliot Island.  As one day of my entire trip....I ended up on a 10-passenger Cessena and flew into the island.

First, its safe to say that it is one of those unique things that you probably will question.  I looked at the runway as we circled on approach, and kinda questioned the length.  The island is roughly a hundred acres, and I'd take a guess that the runway was no more than 2,000 feet long.  You could feel a good hard braking effort once the wheels touched the ground.  Then I kinda noted that it was all grass and a fairly bumpy landing.

The guy lets you know right off the bat that there are no snakes on the island....but ten thousand birds.

With the package get roughly six hours on the island.  If you wanted to stay at the resort could.  But then you'd be living life on the high-end.

You are at the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.  Turtles, sharks, etc.

If you were looking for a permanent structure on the island.....the only thing of a brick nature is the lighthouse.  Otherwise.....everything else is wood or aluminium.

Lunch?  The resort guys run a decent service and at least offer a better than average deal.

After a while, you just start viewing this as a Gilligan's Island type situation.  If I had to spend months on such an island.....I'd go nuts.  Between the bird noise and constant waves hitting'd drive me crazy.

So, if you were in Brisbane and wanted to do something unique.....I'd suggest the tour.  It is an eleven hour total package deal.....from your hotel to the island and back, and likely gives you one of those rare moments in life to ponder upon remote places.

The Airline Seat Discussion

Over the weekend, I finally returned from a long extended flight from Sydney.  I looked at US news, and there's this piece from US Senator....Chuck Schumer....from New York.

The Senator wants the FAA to establish seat-size standards for commercial airlines.  Chief reason?  He says they (the airlines) have been cutting down on leg and seat width for's time to reverse the trend.

Back in the had 35 inches of room....from the pitch to the next seat.  Today?  It's closer to 31 inches with most airlines.  The seat width used to be 18.5 inches but with most's 16.5 inches now.  There's even some talk that they want to advertise certain seats as wider but charge more for the benefit.

From this trip, I was lucky.....I rode business class and for the first time in my life....had ample room.  
Back around 2011....I had the privilege of riding US Air from the Philly to Frankfurt....and rode eight-plus hours in one of this 16.5 inch seats and 31 inches of leg room.  It was without any of the worst flights in my life and toward the sixth hour....I actually got up and stood near the bathroom for almost forty minutes before being chased off by the Stewardess.

The thing is....if these flights were all just 90 minutes in length, then we wouldn't be discussing this.  The minute that you start talking about three hours of sitting and no real leg's more of a torture to travel.

A couple of years ago, I was reading on a Japanese plan to make people stand for all flights of 90 minutes or less.  You'd be leaning and buckled into some standing and leaning seat.  The guy designing this figured that you could cram 400 people onto a plane that typically carried 180 passengers....if they were all standing.  The swap here was that you'd pay probably half the amount of money for such a trip.  I kinda questioned this but it is true....we'd all like a $45 one-way ticket from Atlanta to Orlando and be willing to stand as part of the deal.

Mandating this through Congress?  It's hard to imagine how you'd sit and trust these guys to fix this problem and not screw it up.  In the end.....they might mandate something trigger prices going up by forty-percent and you just getting one inch more of legroom.

Do we really need the House and Senate working on things like this?  This is one of the sad parts to our democracy.....where everything becomes political in the end.  A Republican agenda against this?  More than likely.

We probably will end up with another group working on Greyhound or Trailways seating arrangements, and then some fool jumping in to assess seating arrangements in mini-vans and SUVs.

The best seating arrangement in my life?  I hate to admit it.....but when the Air Force tagged me to ride in the cargo planes and you rode in the had tons of leg room and it was the best seat possible for eight hours of flight.  Course, you had to accept the five-star box lunch from the Air Force as part of the deal.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Twenty Observations Over Australia

I spent roughly 17 days in Australia.....staying mostly around Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.  So this is my list of observations.

1.  When you sit at a regular Aussie restaurant.....they let you know of a dozen-odd steaks that they have (Tasmania grass-fed, Tasmania corn-fed, Victorian grass-fed, New South Wales grain-fed, etc).  The thing is.....when they finally come out with the steak, you kinda have to admit it's some pretty fine matter what you selected.

2.  The typical Aussie guy is some guy with a wrench, hammer, and screw-driver....that you call with some big emergency situation, and after thirty minutes.....he's fixed the problem and caused himself a fair amount of sweat.  He'll turn to you....noting that he's a bit dehydrated.....and perhaps its' time for a beer.  You will ask where, and he will note there are sixteen pubs within walking distance and these are the five that he'd recommend.  You go with him and find yourself getting easy acquainted with the guy in a matter of minutes.

3.  Yeah, toilets once go the opposite direction of toilets on the top end of the planet.

4.  There's a Krispy Kreme operation on just about every street corner in Aussie towns.

5.  Aussies make about the worst coffee in the civilized world.  No one can explain this....except that they'd prefer a beer over coffee.

6.  Everyone has a snake story to tell....but I spent the whole time there and never saw a single snake.

7.  Most Aussies are charged-up and positive.  It's hard to find anyone who has some negative prospective.

8.  Mushrooms are served on a breakfast plate.  I've yet to figure this out except they have a major farm industry and can produce just about anything you desire.

9.  The Sydney international airport side.....once you exit the immigration area.....kinda reminds you of some third-world country.  The entry area to the airport?  Worth a million bucks and designed to impress you.

10.  About every tenth Aussie gal that you six foot tall and reminds you of that Xena warrior gal.

11.  If you walk around Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.....shooting black and white pictures.....the architecture and design would all remind you of the 1950s.

12.  You just don't find many homeless people.

13.  Aussies hate their politicians about as much as Americans.

14.  There are Chinese everywhere.....on vacation.

15.  The Coastal Road.....south of probably the best scenic drive you can find in Australia.

16.  Aussies can make some fine beer, and they know it.

17.  Generally, Aussies hate their version of NPR (ABS and SBS).

18.  If you were graduating from some city-design degree really ought to go to Australia and observe their design of cities.  Their one and blaring failure?  Rapid transit and interstate roads within the major cities.

19.  It gets to being awful hot in Australia.  You need not ever worry much about snow or needing a sweater.

20.  Some of the best city parks that I've ever seen in my life.....are in Australia.

A Sign to Ponder Upon

I stood a couple of days ago in front of a pub in Chinatown there.....with this unusual sign out in front.

The question is.....what kind of music is dope music?

In would have invited a dozen responses from the my barracks crowd (my old Air Force days).  At least forty bands would have been mentioned.

The thing is pretty laid back and non-drug.  If you got into any kind of'd be dragged down for some harsh cop attention.  So, you have have some pretender dope music, some fine Asian craft beer, and some tapas.

But this led me to consider this.....would any American bar put up a sign like this?  Cops would quickly jump into the middle of this, but then find it's a fake gimmick and just done to draw people in to drink beer and listen to Little River Band or Johnny Cash tunes.

The Hotel

I've been on "R and R" for the past three weeks....traveling via Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne and I'll have a dozen-odd blogs to write over the next week or two.

This one?  I stayed at an unusual hotel in Brisbane, which deserves commentary.  I won't name the hotel because of certain reasons....which will become apparent.

I surveyed to forty-odd options for hotels in the center of town and eventually came to this one unique hotel which was an computer engineer's dream.

They had taken all available technology items and tied them into this one hotel.

So, it was a four-star place and once you entered the sat and were amazed.  A dozen-odd spotlights and landscape lights covering the bath, the hall, and the bedroom area.  All of these were tied into a Samsung phone left on the bed table.  then you had the AC unit tied to the Samsung app.  Then you had a menu of food and beverages.....tied to the Samsung app.  The cleaning gal?  Tied to the Samsung app.

So I picked up the Samsung discover it (coming off the charger) was dead.  I called the hotel IT guy.  He came and put in a new battery and for twelve hours.....I enjoyed this interesting gimmick.  Then it died.....never accepting a charge from the room charger.

Yeah, I checked....the charger was perfectly OK.  Then I noted.....a little sign....if the Samsung was'd amount to possibly 500 Aussie dollars.  I kinda put down the phone and figured it was best not to do much else with it.

Various things didn't work over the four days there.....I had four calls that went get things fixed (like the typical office environment with gadgets).

I admit...if they'd all might have been awful impressive.  But it's just like in real'd like for the 'toys' to work, and they just never work the way as designed.

The sad thing is that it was a perfect location, a perfect hotel bar, and a perfect hotel restaurant.  You'd like to say something pretty good about the place but all these failed technology stuff.....left a bad taste in your mouth.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Best Bar I Ever Walked Into

Around fifteen years ago, my wife sent me off on a weekend trip to Rome.  I picked my hotel....about three blocks west of the train station....quiet place....three star situation.

On the first day of walking around....I returned to the front of the hotel.  I had a feast of a lunch....a five-star ice cream in mid-afternoon, and was fairly tired.  I looked across and there was this little pub across the street from the hotel.  It was a no-name Italian pub.....nothing fancy.  This was there's not a lot of tourists around.

I stepped in.

This was an establishment of roughly 1,200 square feet.  Certainly not big in size or ultra modern.

I stood there for a moment....looking at the character of the place.

Tables were designed and built with chess or board games in mind.  Across the wall were literally dozens of board games in English and Italian.

In the back was a billiard table, with a number of seats facing facing a soccer game running.

In the mid-section was a library of sorts.....Hemingway, Twain, Hugo, Shakespeare, etc.

I sat mostly in a daze for the next two hours.  The crowd never went past twenty in number.  They sat playing Risk with some associate.....discussing some finer points of Shakespeare in Italian.....or engaging in political talk.

It's the kind of pub that probably can't exist in the United States and if it'd probably fold up after a year because of limited or marginal profits.

An American is used to the saloon-type in the over NFL games....etc.

I came back the second day.....repeating the two hour visit to the pub.  It's a fascinating atmosphere.....maybe it was a one-of-a-kind situation there in Rome, and maybe there's not another place like it in Europe.

If I ever won a lotto and had a million to throw at some business idea....I'd like to put this type of pub into operation.  Course, it'd probably be a failure within a year or two.....but I'd just run it for my own entertainment.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Ten Things You Learn After Four Years in the Military

I never thought too much about the first four years in the Air least til the last year or two (thirty years after the fact).  In retrospect, there are a couple of things that you gain from wisdom or stupidity....depending on the way you look at things.

1.  There are a lot of stupid people and crazy folks in the world.  You need to develop a quick method of recognizing the two groups and ensuring a fair amount of distance between you and them.  They aren't your friends....your associates....or people that you should trust.  If you are lucky, the military will realize their issues and help them return quickly to civilian life.

2.  As bad as chow hall food might be.....they really can't screw up any breakfast menu.  It doesn't matter if we are talking about pancakes, waffles, omelets, or bacon.  So it's smart to attend every single breakfast and enjoy the one meal of the day without burnt edges, 200-percent salt added, or tasteless food.

3.  You learn this nifty trick of just laying down and getting 25 minutes of a help make up for the four hours of sleep that you missed last night due to a false fire alarm (two or three times a year), a barracks fight around midnight (usually every other weekend), or a recall by the squadron (every other month).

4.  You eventually learn that just about everyone you meet from New York City is interesting and deep into character flaws.  You also learn that most everyone from Arkansas are accommodating and genuine in terms of humbleness.  And you learn that anyone from the upper peninsula area of Michigan are capable of hunting bears, boars, elephants, and various exotic creatures that should only thrive in Africa.

5.  You learn that the BX only sells clothing that fits some male model style guy....who likes the colors of red and yellow.....and it's stuff you'd be embarrassed to wear anywhere except to the TV room of the barracks.

6.  You eventually learn that the TV room of the barracks is the point where intellectual discussions often take place.  These talks include the possibility of aliens, the family burdens of the Ewing family of Texas, the finer points of professional wrestling, car repair, travel tips on cheap hotels, and pick-up advice on young women who hang out at the NCO Club.

7.  You learn that some places around America are boat-anchors for miserable feelings and frustrations.  Then you learn of places where you seem to be happy....365 days out of the year.  It makes no sense, but you learn that by will eventually find the perfect place.

8.  You eventually learn that barracks parties are occasions where stupid things occur, and potential downfalls in life might occur.  So, you learn how to avoid such parties.

9.  You learn that a pair of combat boots....after they get broke in.....are the most comfortable shoe on the face of the Earth.

10.  You learn that patience is a great skill in life.  You learn this....mostly by waiting and waiting, and waiting, and waiting for various things to occur on time.....but they never do occur at the time they were supposed to occur.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Setting One Up to Succeed

I am a amateur historian of sorts.  There are bits and pieces of history, which tend to drag me off to a curious state of mind.  For years and years....I've had this mystery existing in my mind over how the Pilgrims got off the Mayflower and went through a winter season where only forty-seven of the 102 original members survived.

You can do the statistical average.....more than half died over a six-month period.  It just simply didn't make sense.  If there had been some plague, or some flood, or some nutcase going around killing'd all fall into place and make sense.

Over the past month, I picked up a new book...."Drinking in America: Our Secret History" by Susan Cheever.  I admit.....the book will detail more about our drinking habits and history that we may not be too proud of.....but somewhere in the early stage of the book, Cheever goes back to the original crew of Americans....the Pilgrims.

In simplistic fashion, she details what I'd call in management circles....setting someone up to fail.

I came to work for a new boss in December of 1992, who spent fourteen months teaching me the art of setting people up to succeed.  It didn't matter if they were people above me or below me.....his philosophy was that I needed think and act upon the situation....ensuring people got information, made informed decisions, that they avoided over-reaction, and that this would all lead to a better atmosphere. I came to believe in his strategy, and until the point of 2013 where I retired from work entirely.....that was my philosophy.

Cheever tells the Pilgrim story from the prospective of setting someone up to absolutely the extent that fifty-five valued members of a community will die over a six-month period.

You have the case of religious fanatics (no better word for them), who were charged up on religious chatter, and wanted some dynamic land where they could practice their beliefs with no hindrance from a government.  Never once did they question their beliefs or where this might lead.  So they made some unwise decisions in the beginning.

The two ships they hired (oh yeah, there were two to start with)?  The Speedwheel would have been drafted into history and have been mentioned millions of times.....except it never made the trip.  Cheever tells this side of the story......where the owners of the Speedwheel simply didn't want to make the trip, and wanted to take the money handed over by the religious fanatics.  They created episode after episode to ensure that they turned back.

Roughly two months was wasted on the delay tactics of the Speedwell crew.  The supplies used up?  Never really replaced.  So when the Mayflower finally did take was mid-September.  Arriving in early November?  They were basically there at the beginning of winter.

Oddly, their charter was for a particular piece of land in Virginia.  The Mayflower arrived with limited supplies for their own crew to survive the trip back.....mostly a very limited supply of beer (go figure).  So the minute they hit the east coast.....near Plymouth Rock.....roughly 550 miles from the charter location agreed upon by the king....there simply wasn't much discussion.  They were going to be dumped off there, period.

The difference of the 550 miles?  This would be a curious point that historians ought to jump into and analyze.  Milder winters exist there along the south coast of Virginia.  Oddly, the Plymouth Rock area had fairly agreeable Indians who didn't threaten the existence of the Pilgrims.  South Virginia?  That's a totally different area and they might have all been wiped out by spring.

With a meager batch of supplies....they were not set up for success or the harsh winter they faced.

Finally, Cleever gets around to this one odd question that I've always had....the background and skill of the 102 individuals.  There aren't accomplished hunters, fisherman or outdoors sort of people.  You had some with military experience but that basically means they could handle and gun and fire it......having little relationship with normal hunter skills you'd desire.

These were average people who had one simple core relationship....enthusiasm for religion.  If you were rating survivor skills up to a thousand skill-sets.....religion never makes the list.

In various ways, they were set up to fail miserably, and to pay for this with their lives.

In some ways, this satisfies the mystery to me of the epic failure of the Pilgrims in that first six months.  In another way, it changes my perception of the Pilgrims and their historical impact in America.  They were doomed for failure, and there's just not much of a heroic nature to observe.  I hate to sound negative.....but it's one of those stories that one might relate to a kid....talking about setting people up for success and why it matters.

Friday, 5 February 2016

If I Were Going To Rewrite The Constitution

NPR did a piece yesterday....on state-by-state efforts to call for a Constitutional Convention.  Basically, they are up to five solid states.  It doesn't mean much.....but you can never tell if people would get that crazy.  So if I were rewriting the Constitution?  My ten changes:

1.  Senators are limited to two terms.  If you get appointed to fill out some retiring guy, that's term one for that month or year.  Representatives would be limited to twelve years of service in the House.

2.  A national election is limited to only citizens of the nation, and thus proven by an ID at the polling location.  States can determine how they recognize your citizenship, but a formal fee will be built into the system of $25,000 for non-Americans voting and caught later.  The $25,000 will be split among the person who identified the non-citizen and the county register's office.

3.  Congress will be solely responsible for the budget.  The Senate will have no say over the budget.  The President may veto the budget, but the House can over-ride his veto with a 51-percent vote.

4. No Senator or House Member must reside for 30 days of the year in their home state.  If they miss the requirement, then the House may bar them from participating in matters of state.

5.  The House will be given three years to arrive at a method of a balanced budget.  Failure to do so?  A six-percent budget cut will occur on the 4th year, and continue until they've reached a balanced budget.

6.  No tax may be passed onto citizens of the United States by the House, unless twenty-six states meet and agree upon the additional burden.

7.  Presidents are forbidden from appearing on comedy shows.

8.  Any money paid to House or Senate members for appearances on TV shows.....must be handed over to the Federal government.

9.  Half of all national forest property must be handed over to individual states within a ten-year period.  States will be required to maintain the forest but at their discretion..

10.  The President will be limited to 21 days a year outside of the US border.  Failure to do so will result in a twenty-five percent pay-cut for the year.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Ten Things That Won't Sell Today

1.  No matter what Jeb Bush says or talks won't sell in American politics in 2016.  Maybe back in might have worked....but today?  No.

2.  Fox News probably has reached a point where their brand of journalism doesn't well in 2016.  There in 2008 to 2012.....they might have said a hundred things a day to captivate their audience and impress people.  Now?  It just doesn't work.

3.  McDonalds had some great success from May of 1940 to roughly a decade ago.  Something happened, and the magic has more or less dried up.  They might have flipped the sign to have the breakfast menu around the clock....but beyond that?  It won't sell in 2016.

4.  American baseball hit some mythical point about a decade ago when the whole steroid thing was obvious and all the numbers accomplished for twenty-odd years were fake.  Now?  It just won't sell.

5.  Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler all enjoyed remarkable success for several decades.  Playboy from 1953 to about a decade ago.  Now?  None of the three are really doing much in business to brag about.

6.  Reality TV went through a fantastic success period, and today?  Nothing much sells because the public really doesn't believe it's real.

7.  Climate Change, Global Warming, Global Cooling.....all went and got hyped up.  Today, it's practically impossible to get the public into a buying stage.  Everyone thinks there's something bogus attached or ask questions about why they are right today but not when it was plain old Global Cooling.

8.  NCAA bowl process being fair.  For several decades....folks imagined some method could exist where the NCAA bowl process would be legit and completely open.  Well....the idea just doesn't sell well today.

9.  A $90,000 degree paying itself back, eventually.  Well, it doesn't sell unless your dad paid for it in cash, or you got an engineering degree which gets you a $50,000 a year salary right off the bat and $80,000 within six years.  People are sitting there now at age forty-five.....still paying off that stupid college loan, and can't really explain where they went wrong.

10.  Obama Care.  Maybe for two brief years.....people held some hope that the price business would all work out and they'd be in a fine window of opportunity.  Well....that window came and went.  Today?  You likely will pay $800 a month for family coverage, and have a $6,000 deductible as part of your deal.  If you were lucky (sadly, I say lucky) make less than $30,000 a year and only pay $200 a month for your same coverage, but then you have the $6,000 deductible as well, and have to decide if you get new tires this quarter for the car or take the wife for some serious medical condition.