Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Canal Problem

I tend to occasionally write essays to provoke thought and make people ponder.  So this is one which will draw this situation.

Roughly two million years ago, down in the region of southern Africa, on the northwestern end of what is Botswana, and heading west toward Namibia.....there's this area which was in a state of 'creation'.  Most folks would refer to it as Lake Makgadikgadi. 

Various waters came to feed into what you'd call a basin, and form up the lake.  Because there was no true outlet to the Pacific or kinda collected, and kept building.

For generations, this basin was active and able to provide waters.

Then 20,000 years ago, the overflow finally started to occur.  The drain?  It went northeast.  Leading to the Zambezi River.  Up until this point, there was no true 'drain'.  From that point (20,000 years ago, between the drain effect and natural evaporation....a dry period started up and changed the character of the basin.

It would be true to add this point....that a glacier period was in full bloom around this period in northern Europe and northern America. 

About 10,000 years ago, we reached the next stage of Lake Makgadikgadi was starting to dry out. 

Today, the basin still exists, but it's referred to as the Okavango Delta.  This amounts to roughly 3,800 square miles of a basin...swamp....lake...etc.

This amounts to what is one-twelfth the size of Alabama.  So it's a fair-sized basin.  Course, then you start think back prior to 20,000 years ago, and how the Lake Makgadikgadi area might have been....30,800 square miles of lake area....more than half the size of Alabama. 

Why any of this really matters?'s this odd thing.  When you pull up Google imagery and look at Okavango Delta area, and go down a notch or two....looking west of the present see this straight lines.  Those are canals.  Straight canals....stretching for several hundred miles each.  Dozens of them.  It's an area about the size of the state of Arizona....all developed with canals.

You can use Google Earth Pro and look at the straight character and the length of these canals.  The size?  It's enough to probably feed least a hundred million people. 

A smart guy can go and figure the amount of earth moved.  Even if you had modern earth-movers, road-graders, and bulldozers....with a fair sized'd be talking about ten to fifteen years of continual work to get these canals built.  The scope and concept here....even in this modern age....would be enormous.

So, here's the thing.  This was not built in the past hundred years....or past thousand.  No one knows when the canal system was constructed but it has to be well over twenty-thousand years ago, and it's usefulness probably started to come to an end around ten to twenty thousand years ago. 

As long as the delta existed in this million-year period....this canal method of farming and decent climate of the region (no real winter) would have made this a fantastic farming area.

So who farmed it?  Who brought in the Earth-movers to move the dirt?  Who designed the canals? They had to exist way past twenty-thousand years ago. 

It's a problem, which can't really be answered.

The value today?  The basin really doesn't exist, and the canals are mostly all dried-up.  Nothing is left to tell the rest of this story.  Someone did a heck of a lot of feed a bunch of folks. 

Alabama Governor Topic

I tend to follow Alabama news a fair bit.

Today, it was noted via that things are lining up for the 2018 Governor's election.

The GOP folks?

1.  Kay Ivey (present governor of the state).  On the positive side, Kay hasn't screwed up since taking over. Kay doesn't have some boy-toy or part-time lover on the side.  And Kay seems to avoid any kind of controversy.  On the negative side, Kay is 73 years old.

2.  Tommy Battle (Huntsville mayor).  On the plus side, Battle has been a business guy for most of his life, and if you wrote down his entire'd be at least five pages (he's 62 years old).  If you were looking for soap opera lifestyles.....he's about as boring as you can get.  The other plus of Battle is that he's gone and created more than 10,000 jobs in the last decade of being mayor in Huntsville.  In some ways, he is a mini-Trump-like character.  The title that he likes to point out?  He's won a few bar-b-q awards and apparently knows how to grill pork and beef.

3.  Birmingham evangelist Scott Dawson.  He's a mega-church kind of minister....a four-star public speaker....and likely will carry a fair number of the church-votes in the state.  Beyond that?  No real experience.  We've never had a minister as a governor, so it might be a shock to most folks if he were to win the election.

4.  Bill Hightower (state senator, Mobile).  He's a businessman turned state senator.  For four years, he's been around Montgomery and shaken a few hands.  In the Mobile area....probably half the folks have heard of the guy and would recognize him.  Beyond Mobile?  He's unrecognizable.

5.  Josh Jones.  He's a health-care executive out of Birmingham and likely the most unknown individual of the five.  Past political background?  Zero.

For the Democrats?

1.  Sue Bell Cobb. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice.  She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and has done a fair amount of legal work.  Age?  Near 60.  The problem in her case is name recognition.  You can ask a hundred Alabama folks about the name, and maybe three would have remembered her being on the state Supreme Court.

2.  Walt Maddox, current Tuscaloosa Mayor.  He's 45 years old....mostly done work with the education sector, and been a political figure for about a decade.  On the positive side....with the 2011 tornado episode that tore up the city, he's known for crisis management skills and is one of the folks you'd want in an emergency situation.  His problem will be name recognition outside of the Tuscaloosa region.

3.  Jason Childs.  Trucker (Oxford).  Well, he's the one odd character of the whole bunch.  He admits right up front.....he is pro-marijuana, and pro-LGBT.  He even says up front....both parties have failed the working-class folks in the state, and we need to bring back a fresh view of the common man.  Name recognition?  Near zero.  The thing is....if someone just stood up with a web site and actively went to some campuses in the state..Childs could pick up 25,000 votes and interest a fair number of people. But that probably won't happen.  To be honest as well....we've never had a trucker as a governor and that might be worth exploring.

4.  Anthony White.  Local black minister from Dothan.  He's a local guy....former Army....been a small business owner, and got a degree in business.  His issue will be name recognition.

5.  James Fields.  He's a black Methodist minister from Cullman.  He's actually pushing this idea of a rapid-rail system in the state....connecting cities.  Course, if you asked a hundred Alabama folks about something like this....they'd tend to rate this at the bottom of 10,000 things that you could do for the state.  His problem will be name recognition.

Is that it?  There might be two or three more jumping in by March, but I suspect this is the main group.

The odds here?  I suspect that Kay Ivey will have a problem in the primary and Battle might actually be this Alabama-style Trump-figure, who gets the primary win.  A second vote required?  Well, here's the thing, this Dawson-character will be popular with church-voters and he might actually take 15-percent of the state vote....meaning that Ivey and Battle don't reach the 50-percent required in the first primary.

For the Democrats.....the Tuscaloosa mayor Maddox ought to win in the first primary.  Childs is a wild-card because of his marijuana stance, and if this election was about making it legal....he might find 50-percent of the 18-to-50 year old voters in the state favoring him.  It'd be a shocker if suddenly this whole election was about making marijuana legal in the state.

The likely winner?  I think Battle wins in November.

Who Do You Call

Back in the late 1970s....I started traveling.  I was fortunate that the Air Force gave me that chance, and I've traveled through dozens of countries and admired lots of different cultures. I've observed TV, comedy series, food, beverages, hostility, and lots of aspects that you typically don't think about.

My brother brought this up yesterday....over something involving Asian folks.  I sat and pondered over cultures and reactions to chaotic events.  You can't say precisely in every single various cultures will react, but there's this tend to know alot about chaos, and human reaction.

So you throw up some situation....a barn on fire....a broken water-pump....a flight to be cancelled where you need a plan 'B'....or some bear that has walked into the middle of your backyard.  You then mix the various cultures.

1.  The German.  This culture wants to study the problem for a fair amount of time.....making a plan which likely revolves around six options or resolutions.  All might work, but the time to reach that moment is generally more you'd like to imagine. 

2.  The Italian.  The Italian will go from zero to sixty in ten seconds flat in terms of emotion, and might possibly do more damage than the current situation is creating.  Some emotion will be driven into the problem, and you can't be sure about the final outcome. 

3.  The Greek.  Well....does it really have to be resolved or fixed today....will be the first question.  How important is it to be fixed....will be the second question.  This will be like a question and answer session with Socrates (former blacksmith in his early years).  At least an hour will be used to center on the relative significance of the problem.  In the case of the bear'd hope that both of you are inside of the house at the time.

4.  The Japanese.  An immediate question or two will pop up did this all occur?   They'd like to know the cause and only work toward resolving that one single problem.  Emotion will be throttled back....maybe to 20-percent of what the Italian guy was displaying.

5.  The Icelandic culture.  At least five minutes will be devoted to watching the chaos develop because they've never seen something like this....EVER.  Then about forty minutes will be devoted to talking about nature, and this chaos is part of the bigger picture in life.

6.  The Brit.  Some quick reactionary plan will be put into immediate action, and it'll be something of a creative nature that you could never repeat in a thousand years.  Even after the event, no one will be able to describe why he took fourteen different steps, how each step fits into a precision solution, and how they stopped the barn fire, or removed the bear from the backyard.

7.  The Chinese culture.  There will be a period of review....perhaps a few minutes, then a plan will be established, and a solution put forward.  There's a fifty percent chance that the solution plan is more dangerous than the current event....that they might make the problem worse than it already is.....or that some fight might break out among the handful of Chinese folks over comments uttered or insults thrown at bystanders. 

8.  The Irish culture.  They will mostly stand and talk a good bit about the problem....suggesting a pint of some ale as part of the process, and then talk over the woes of the problem in detail.  Their son, their daughter, or their relatives....will have seen the problem and it's a matter of talking this over and repeating the process.

9.  The French culture.  They will suggest that there is a special office or agency to handle this, and it's best to leave it to the government to fix the problem.

10.  Finally, the Russian. In one sweeping motion, with almost no plan, or words.....the Russian ends the problem in seconds.  They kill the bear....put out the fire....or arrange for a plan 'B' after the cancelled flight. Then, there's vodka to be poured, and long discussion over everything except the chaotic event.  By morning, most of what happened is forgotten. Then they proceed on.....remembering nothing and rarely writing down the solution for future generations. 

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Bubble Game

I follow business news and it's hard to avoid looking at three enormous bubbles that exist in the stock market today:

1. The China bubble.  Tons of buildings go up each year....maybe 60 million apartments sitting real game plan.

2.  The Bitcoin bubble.  What's it really worth?  It's useless to really discuss this because it's worth nothing unless you had something behind it.  There is nothing.

3.  The College-loan bubble.  $1.4 trillion.  No one can explain from the this can possibly be reduced or controlled.  It simply continues on.  We will likely hit 2-trillion by the end of 2019. 

There are another dozen smaller bubble which could equal out the property bubble of 2008....but these particular bubbles are more serious than the 2008 episode. To have two of these occur in one single year?  That's the scenario that you have to start worrying about. 

The odd thing is that the US government just doesn't care.  The six months before the 2008 bubble burst?  Absolutely not a care in the any agency of the US government.

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Santa Story

I noticed this piece early this morning (25th)....that a Canadian government organization is saying that global warming has triggered Santa Claus to "pack-up" and move....taking his toy-making operation, the deer barn, and the Santa house....down to the South Pole. 

This organization?  The Policy Horizons Canada. 

Part of the story going with this....that the 'international community' (apparently not the US)....were in agreement and there was some written document where Santa, and the global warming community signed this document.

Now....I sat and pondered upon this amusing story.

A smart 8-year old kid would have eventually got to this point and, Santa just lived on top of ice...not land, all this time?  Where did these reindeer eat grass?  Did Santa have to ship in grain and hay for the reindeer.....aboard aircraft, and thus trigger climate change himself? 

This toy-making operation, with the thousands of elves....did they require constant heat, and thereby create climate change as well....with coal or oil heat?

If things are heating up at the North Pole....wouldn't the same heating-up or climate change exist at the South Pole?

Will the letters written and addressed to the North Pole.....get now to the South Pole?  What if some kids don't get the message, will their letters just end up with some dead-end post office in the North Pole?  Will Larry (the kind-hearted mail guy from the Canadian government who delivered mail to Santa for 40 years) still have a job? 

Were the elves forced into this move?  Or did the elves just accept this as being the only solution? 

Can reindeer survive at the South Pole?  Are there any there (no)? 

What did Ms Santa say about all of this? 

It simply begs questions.  One has to hope that CNN will get to the bottom of this story.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

2020 and Harris

Over the past two weeks, I've sat and probably watched at least 90 minutes of video clips of Democratic Senator Kamala Harris (California).  She's rated now as the most likely winner-candidate in the 2020 Presidential primary for the Democratic Party.

Her plus-up in selling the image to the public?  She's black, and a woman.  Beyond that?

Well, after watching the video clips, I would offer four observations.

1.  She comes across as a very direct and confrontational individual.  In a debate situation, she might be a heavy-weight, but her tactics might also come to label her as cantankerous and combative.  Neither of those two personality characteristics sell well in the south.  A happy charming personality?  No....that really doesn't come across. 

2.  Her background is lawyer, prosecutor and US Senator.  Knowledge in taxes, business, or jobs?  Zero. 

3.  The hurt here for the GOP is that 2018 and 2019 have to be big years on women's harassment.  For this Harris idea to work across the need constant harassment news in the press....365 days out of the year.....for two years straight.  It's hard to see people buying that slant on the news for that long of a period.

4.  Then there's this last problem.....she's from California.  Some people might see this as a major plus.  Some might see it as a major negative.  If anyone asks about how taxes stand or the public safety in won't be something that she can openly hype upon. 

One might hope that the Democratic Party has two or three other folks lined up, and allows a totally open primary (unlike 2016). 

Friday, 22 December 2017

Thinking Over Taxes

If you sit and think about the Trump reform on taxes....there are two waves that will occur.

The first wave will start in January, as small, medium and big business operations start to feel some enthusiasm and look at improving their technology, their work-place, or bulk up on employees).  All of this will add onto the GDP statistics, and create a wave that will last all throughout 2018. 

GDP-wise, you ought to be thinking of a 4-to-4.5 percent GDP by the end of 2018.  Right now, for 2017....we probably are talking about a 3.2-percent GDP, which compared against the 2000-to-today FANTASTIC.  If you were comparing against 1980 to 2000's AVERAGE.

The second wave?  That starts in March to July of 2019, when private folks add the numbers up and realize that they are getting an extra $500 to $10,000 back.

A married guy, with one kid, and a wife....making $50,000 a'd be paying $739 for the whole year on taxes. 

Same scenario, with no kid....$50,000 salary?  You'd be paying $2,739. 

Same scenario, with no wife or kid....$50,000 salary?  You'd pay $4,370.

So you start to think about these guys and families in the spring of 2019.  A check for $3,000 as the refund, instead of the $1,200 you were expecting?  The automatic reaction by ninety-percent of people.....spend it. 

This wave will start up across the US with people walking in and discussing a new car.....a renovation project....a new riding lawn mower.....a pool table for the basement lounge....a vacation to Aruba....or perhaps a boob-job for the wife.

By the fall of 2020?  That's the curious thing.  You get into November of the next election period, and see three-million jobs created across the US, and a heck of a lot of enthusiasm for the nation.  Your cousin....the worthless idiot with the degree?  He might actually be working finally, and paying taxes.  Your wife who kept hoping for a 2nd shift at the local plant to hire up forty more employees?  She might get hired on.  Your son might be finally hired-up and working for $15-an-hour. 

For this long two-decade period....we were kinda sitting on marginal enthusiasm and just not getting much in return.  Now?  Things are worth discussing and having higher hopes. 

Movie Topic

I sat and watched the other night.....The Great Gatsby.....the 2013 version with Tobey McGuire.

To be honest, it's the only time I've ever seen the movie.  I tried reading the book back in the early 1980s, and maybe got thirty pages into it, then dumped it.  It just didn't have any real enthusiasm for me.

I was surprised with the 2013 movie because the characters....the story...everything, worked.

So it begs to me a lot of questions. 

For F. Scott Fitzgerald, the was his 'big' piece.  He published it in 1925, and it got into the 20,000 range for copies bought.  He made a couple thousand dollars, and died in the early 1940s....mostly thinking it was a failure.

It's an odd story then because it got picked up in 1943 by some folks who were wanting publish some books for GI's to read while deployed.  Why?  It's not ever explained.  Someone made the decision and thousands of copies were made up and pumped out.  Then these Army guys began to read it, and got enthusiastic about the book.

In the 1950s, it went through a growth period, and colleges were using for literature pieces.  By the 1960s, high schools were routinely using it.

Roughly twenty years after his death....the book was a classic. 

Fitzgerald is an interesting character because he ended up married to some Alabama gal....Zelda Sayre. 

Zelda, in her early teens, was considered some provocative gal, who deserved a one-ticket to New York City.  When 1920 came along, she was married up with Fitzgerald....fairly reckless (in terms of personal behavior), a heavy-drinker (yes, even in the Prohibition period), and a good example of the term "Alabama-crazy".

By age twenty-five, Zelda was having various issues with the husband, and with life. 

Around 1930, she went off to France, got examined by a mental health guy, and pronounced as being a Schizophrenic.  From that point, she was some clinic or hospital situation, and Fitzgerald was probably finished with writing at the level he was capable of doing.

By 1940, Fitzgerald was dead.  He'd died at age 44.....had two heart-attacks over the last decade of his life, and pretty much consumed as much alcohol as a man could consume.

As much as The Great Gatsby is a classic.....someone ought to write up the story of Fitzgerald and'd be just as much a classic. 

Zelda?  She died in the late age 47. 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Mr Kim's World

I noted in news this week that North Korea's Mr. Kim has made up a new decree.  He's unhappy with folks getting festive in the Christmas season, so the rule handed down is: no gatherings of people that involve alcohol and singing.

Now, you can sit and imagine this type of rule, and how things would typically work in the holiday season.  It's not Christmas....if you erase or prevent alcohol consumption and Christmas songs in the background.

Growing up in the south, and in a dry county....we typically survived without any alcohol consumption for the Christmas holidays.  It wasn't that big of a deal.

I suspect that Mr. Kim tries hard to avoid festive-like occasions and music...of any type....would generally lead to happy people.  Maybe he might add.....if there are gatherings, it ought to be limited to six people maximum within a twenty-foot circle.  That would help to lessen festive occasions.  And you might go and suggest no muffins or chocolate. 

My guess is that he'll have to set some example and find a dozen folks who need execution, and accuse them of singing Jingle Bells while consuming Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

NPR 2.0 (My Version of a Reboot)

I can go back to the mid-1970s and remember the original content of NPR.  You actually got classic music, some jazz, literature readings, poetry, and some occasional bluegrass music. Then, in the early 80s....they started off to some other trend.  For me, if I were driving around at lunch....I might turn NPR on and listen to it, but they've lost me for the most part.

What I'd like to see?

6:00 A full hour of legislative matters in the House and Senate.  Explain what bills are coming up and what bills failed. 

7:00 Farm news hour.  Anything of a rural nature, relating to farms and rural business situations.  Bring in some PhD guys to talk about livestock, and crops.  Bring in a brewery guy to talk about garage beer creations.  Interview some bio-fruit people.

8:00 Medical hour.  Hire up four medical experts and have a morning round-table to discuss reports, health issues, and new innovations.  Bring on a nurse to talk about weird school health issues.  Talk about cancers and treatments. 

9:00 Jazz for an entire hour.

10:00 Great literature readings from the 1700/1800 era.

11:00 Business hour.  Have another round-table of four Wall Street guys to talk about what's hot in the news.

12:00 National news hour.

13:00 Classical music hour.

14:00 History hour (have four PhD history guys line up and tell some story over history).

15:00 Opera music hour.

16:00 Bluegrass Hour.

17:00 National news hour.

18:00 Four random folks interviewed hour.  Just go and pick out four random people (barbers, truckers, diesel mechanics, NCAA football refs, zoo-keepers, muffler-guys, etc) and ask them random questions.

19:00 1920s/1930s Radio Mystery hour.

20:00 More bluegrass.

21:00 Great literature readings from the 1900s.

22:00 Science Fiction Readings

23:00 Sign off

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Tick Story

It came out recently in the world of paleontology, that they've got a bit of amber, which has a 99-million year old tick....holdingonto a feather of a dinosaur.

So there is some minor belief that you might be able blood locked into the tick, and you might be able to do some fancy work with DNA.....thus bringing back dinosaurs. awful lot of fancy work.

One can sit and fantasize about this idea.

Would you even want to go and recreate this situation?  Is it dangerous?  Would some idiots go and try to sell these to the general public?  Would the UN go and try to forbid something like this?  There are a thousand things to ponder over an idea like this.

I would speculate that if they produced just one of'd crank up an entire industry, and you'd have forty different DNA projects going on within a decade to reproduce various creatures.  I just don't see this being positive.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Ball Plan

It's one of those sports stories that you have to laugh about.  A few weeks ago....three NCAA basketball players from the west coast....went to China for some games.  They shop-lifted while there, and got arrested.  They couldn't leave China until President Trump got involved.  Then when they did get back to the college.....well....they were kinda suspended.  The college doesn't appear to have any desire to give them much of a second chance.

One of the players....LiAngelo Ball (son of LaVar Ball)....finally added up the problems and left college (UCLA). 

Dad sat there reviewing everything....knocking Trump several times for commentary that the kid should appreciate what Trump did. 

Today, the Ball family announced what LiAngelo would do next.  It's an odd deal.  The other son....LaMelo (in high school) announced that he was quitting high school (odd decision too).  Both kids are now signed up with a semi-pro league in....Lithuania.  The team  Prienai, Lithuania.

Prienai?  Well....yeah, it's a town of roughly 9,800 residents.

The team?  BC Prienai.  They've been around for about twenty years, and play in the Baltic League.  Their arena?  Prienai Arena.  It was built around six years ago, and holds 1,500 fans.

What this whole Ball-family move to Prienai adds up to?

Most basketball teams in Europe over the past decade have really grown their game, and they really don't care to be baby-sitters.  You got a drug problem, an alcohol problem or attitude problem?  Fine, go home....we don't need you.  I would compare about one-third of the clubs in Europe today as being almost at the level of the better NCAA teams.  In another decade, I expect the majority of clubs (maybe 75-percent) to be as good as the average NCAA team. 

The Ball boys?  There's some advantages to being in a small town like Prienai.  No stress.  No major journalists following them.  A chance to work out daily.  As for making a name for themselves?  Maybe.  But if neither kid expands their game or does much to attract more attention by the end of 2018....then their careers are finished.  They might stay around three or four years and be back-up players in the NBA eventually, but the chance to be starters in the NBA will diminish by the end of 2018 if they don't show improvement. 

I'm not going to suggest 'dad' is stupid here, but the odds of all three Ball kids making it into the NBA are statistically very low.  There's obviously no plan 'B', and I feel sorry for both of these kids thrown into the middle of Lithuania and trying figure into some plan without good odds. 

A Suggestion of Patterns

I sat and looked over this graphic today.  It does make sit and ponder 'patterns'.  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

That New Mexico Shooting

“Work sucks, school sucks, life sucks, I just want out of this s--t.”

-- William Atchison

This week....the twenty-one year old William Atchison wandered into his old high school....Aztec HS, New Mexico, and shot two students before killing himself in the bathroom of the building.

From all reporting done, it doesn't appear that he knew either kid that he shot.  They were just random picks.

News analysts spent a fair amount of time on the shooting, but the truth of the matter is that it was at best a eight-line story.  He had a legal weapon, and he had no real police record.  Nut-case?  No one suggests that...he probably was maxing out on depression at a ten, but that won't get mentioned much.

Classified as a mass shooting? FBI standards, you need four folks dead, and in this case...while he did shoot himself as well in the end, that only adds up to three folks.

I have this theory that a fair number of shooters are nut-cases....maybe in the forty-percent range.  Some are people who are drugged up and unable to account for their actions, and then there's this last group who are plain tired of life (suicidal). 

In the old days, you'd reach some desperation stage and just go off to handle the suicide by yourself....not involving other people.  There is some trend going on where people think that they need others involved for some odd reason.  Maybe it's the thought that people should have helped you or that some folks prevented you from reaching success in life. 

Making a law to halt this behavior?  Go for it.  People in this stage of thinking don't readily react to laws.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The UN Dude

Once in a while, I'll notice a Alabama story which draws me to ponder.

So it came out in the news today....that some UN (United Nations) dude is planning a trip to Alabama this week to investigate.....poverty, inequality and "barriers to political participation". 

I looked at the item....roughly 12 lines.

This guy....Philip Alston....says he will visit a couple of places (Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and California are mentioned) on this 'road-trip'.

Where he intends to stop in Alabama?  Lowndes County....down in the south central region of the state.

Based on comments, he's got some folks lining up his schedule and prepared to hype up their poor situation in life, while living in Alabama.

How exactly he will help to change the poverty and inequality?  Well....that's the thing.  He's basically a nobody.  He'll write some report which will bring tears to your eyes, but he's basically going out to stay in some nice Holiday Inn some high quality business-class....and spend a fair amount of travel funds.

You can imagine these folks trying to line him up and their hype?  Well....we are so poor, and bad-off.  He will have sit there for hours while these folks hype up their negative status in life.  When he asks about the barrier to their political situation...he'll do his best to ask how evil the Republicans are in the state and is there any way we can get more folks signed up to vote....because the more that vote....the more likely they would go and fix all the problems that exist in the world. 

It would be interesting if some Alabama folks would take him over for a catfish dinner, some Friday night football, a sip of whiskey, and offer up some advice on car mechanics....but that just won't happen.


It's one of those statistics that news folks tend to skip.....roughly 45-percent of Americans don't pay anything on federal taxes.  It adds up to around 77-million households. 

They might have made enough in some cases to require the form submission, but when you add up credits....they zero out.

Oddly, I can go back all the way to 1978 and remember submitting my tax form in the spring of that period for five months of pay with the Air Force....feeling silly to waste time on filling out the form and to admit a total pay situation of roughly $5,000.  That was the only time in my life where I paid nothing.  I looked at the refund check as simply a 'gift'. 

I sat there in 1979....a year later, and figured I'd just repeat the whole episode, and that $400 of pre-paid tax-money would ALL come back to me.  I was wrong....I still ended up paying roughly $180 that year in taxes. It was an amazingly low amount of money but it just made no sense.

Are these 77-million households avoiding all taxes?  No.  They still meet up with property, car and sales taxes.  For a lot of them, they are still throwing a thousand dollars a year toward their state government in various ways.

If you think about one in America is truly living a tax-free lifestyle.  Either through the federal folks, the state folks, or are paying into some pot.  It's virtually impossible to skip out entirely. 

Replacement for Conyers Topic

The 13th District of Michigan comes up in the news this week.  John Conyers, because of his harassment situation....will end up retiring.  So the seat will come up for 'action'.

The 13th District is 100-percent Detroit....roughly 705,000 residents....roughly 33-percent white and 55-percent black.  A typical election (every two years) would circle around 180,000 total votes cast, with Conyers typically winning with 85-percent of the vote.  In 2016, Conyers actually faced the toughest competition he's ever seen (he started in 1964 with 84-percent that year)....with the GOP guy getting almost 20-percent.

It's just about impossible for a Republican to win in the city election.

At this point, some folks are sitting there and looking at how this replacement game will run, and it gets pretty interesting.

First, John Conyers wanted his son to assume the seat.....John Junior.

Second, there's the nephew who has made a name for himself in state politics, and he says he will be running....Ian.

Third, Coleman A. Young....the 'secret' (illegitimate) son of the former mayor of Detroit says he will be running. He's actually been active in politics and done a number of speeches.  He actually tried running for the mayor's job but got beat out there.

Brenda Jones....the city council gal.

Benny Napoleon....the sheriff from Detroit.

Rashida Tlaib...politically active Muslim gal who is term-limited within the Michigan House of Representatives.

After that, there's maybe five or six others....but they don't have the traction like these six.

In a way, it's fairly odd election....all of the six are Democrats.  Each has some career role and can show their path.  The question is....if you shuffle up the 180,000 likely Democratic voters of the district, who are the likely final two?  Can Young use his name to captivate voters?  Can Tlaib find 40,000 votes from the Muslim crowd in Detroit to step up and get into the final primary?  Can Napoleon captivate voters with his speeches?  Can John Junior get dad to help in the election?  Can Ian Conyers find enough votes?

Might be an election worth watching.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Witch-Trials and Their Significance

My brother brought up the topic of 'Salem Witch Trials' today, and how most folks have no memory or a marginal amount of knowledge over them....when comparing it to the Moore episode in Alabama.

For the twelve years of school that I attended in Alabama....I think the total number of times that the 'Trials' were mentioned were probably twice.  If you gleaned the history books usually amounted to eight to twelve lines.  The attempt by the teacher to explain this?  It would have come across to the group as nuclear science.

After the high school years....I went off and had the luxury of the University of Maryland, Louisiana Tech University, and Pierce Community College.  The topic of the Salem Witch Trials likely came up on one solid occasion and the lecture guy actually did spend thirty minutes laying out the basic story.  It was better than nuclear science explanations....but really didn't do justice to the story.

So a decade or so later.....I picked up two or three books and read through the entire episode and branched out....because it's more broad than folks think.

You can go back all the way to 451 BC and find locals in Greece who were open to the idea of blaming crop failures on bad spirits and pretender-witches.

You can go to 186 BC in Rome and find regulations already existing on how to handle witches.

After Christianity was introduced throughout the Roman Empire, the idea spread.  At some point around the 1100s, in Hungary....the King actually wrote out a regulation to halt witch-hunts because he just plain admitted....witches don't exist.  Folks didn't easily buy off on that.

In the mid-1200's, the Pope tried to stop all this business....also saying....witches don't exist.  That wasn't easily grasped by the general public.  Around two hundred years later, another Pope stood up and said yes.....we need witch trials because they exist.

In the 1500s and 1600s, throughout Europe, the trials took off and were a fairly regular thing.  I live around 15 miles from an area (Idstein) where the trials were regularly held in the fall, and some folks had to be killed to make folks happy.  In that town, they tended to kill women,  about eight to one over men.  No one could ever explain why women were often the chosen folks for these episodes.

In the Salem witch episode?  Around February of 1692, some accusations started the locals off on a mission with purpose.  You can safely say that this was...even before the accusations....a fractured town, with people trying to get into each other's business.

In the year prior, that had been some heated church-talk in the region by Cotton Mather (a Billy Graham-like character who could preach for hours and hours) on potential witchcraft, and this got people all hyped up.

So, two kids (nine and eleven) made the act of this....going into violent fits.  I think this was mostly to entertain folks but these locals actually took this serious.  This drew out some minister, who viewed the two girls, and he claimed that they were under the influence of the devil.  A couple of other young ladies then acted out the same way.

All of this led to three folks being detained and blamed for witchcraft.  There's no logic or sense to this.....just that locals needed to bring this quickly to a closure.

A month later, a couple of other young ladies were dragged in and were identified for witch business.

By early summer, court action was now underway and a prosecutor of sorts had to determine the intent of the devil here.

By mid-August, five folks were executed.

In September, around 18 other folks were dragged in and accused.  One of them was a guy who they asked him to plea and make an admission....while they put heavy rocks on his chest.  He eventually died from the weights on his chest.

By January of 1693, things were on a roll....more convictions.  Then, the Governor got involved and started to pardon folks.  In a way, he knew they were all unfocused and unable to grasp what was going on.

By early summer of 1693, the last court episode occurred, and everyone got 'sane'.

What you can typically say is that the witch trials were all based on some fake evidence, which got the general public all churned up and hyper.  The public at that point....could not grasp the landscape or understand the actual laws.  They just wanted a no-witch atmosphere, and were willing to kill to reach that point.

You would think that this would be a five-day detailed review in high school, with things laid out in detail.  Yet, no history teacher really wants to spend any time covering the topic.

Understanding the Flynn Situation

So, when some FBI idiot comes up and requires a statement out of you in the process of an interview, and then has a paper for you to sign at the end (attached to the tape of the interview) either don't answer particular questions, or admit all.  The third choice of lying?  That's precisely what Flynn got into trouble about.  If he had declined to answer their question on the contact with a Russian government official (not a lobbyist or plain-vanilla citizen of Russia), he would still be in some minor trouble.  But in this case....he just plain lied.

What else?  Nothing.

If you remember....there is some type of relationship between Flynn and Turkey's Erdogan.  There is a suggestion led by the press that Erdogan asked Flynn to possibly arrange for the kidnapping of Gulan (the arch-nemesis of Erdogan).....residing in the US.  This story has not been proven.  If true, Flynn....if he had taken steps to plan the kidnapping....would be in bigger trouble.  I doubt that the FBI has any evidence of this, and it was all just plain chatter.

Anything leading to trouble of Trump?  No....that's the amusing thing.  I realize 10,000 journalists and political folks are all hyped up, but there is virtually nothing illegal in folks talking to foreign citizens, Saudis, Russians, etc.  If promises were made, prior to the election....maybe this might be viewed in some illegal fashion.  But then selling uranium off to Russians, after their donations to the Clinton Fund occurred....would be awful high up on the list of stupid and illegal things. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

The Matt Lauer-New Zealand Problem

There's an odd story following the firing of Matt Lauer of the Today Show (for sexual harassment).

Somewhere early in 2017....a property came up for sale in New Zealand (south isle).  It's a 26,000 acre sheep-ranch....referred to as 'Hunter Valley'. 

If you go and pull up the map....along the western side of the south isle, are a ton of mountains and in the middle of this range is this lake (Lake Hawea).  Highway 6 runs along the western end of the lake, and this ranch basically sits on the whole (emphasize WHOLE) western end of the lake.  The dirt road out from Highway 6 to the actual ranch house?  It's at least five miles....maybe even going on seven miles.

Based on the newspaper accounts, it'd been run for years by a New Zealand couple and they put it up for sale, and Lauer bought it in March....for around 10-million USD (more or less).

Locals came immediately upon the sale and had negativity.  First, it was another foreigner (something that gets discussed alot by New Zealand folks these days).  Then came this issue of access.  The old owners had allowed some limited access.....mostly for bike races and special events. But for the most part, the dirt road was not a public road.  They wanted Lauer to agree on full open access, and that wasn't forthcoming.  The dirt road ownership?'s a private road....not a state road.

As for civilization?  Well, that's another funny part of this story.  Where this ranch house and property exists....there's nothing else there.  Here's the lake on one side and a snow-capped mountain on the other side, and tons of sheep.  If you wanted zero stress, limited contact with humans, and solitude?  Well....this is the place..

Looking for a gas station?  The nearest one to the gate of the twelve miles away.  Looking for a grocery? You can figure roughly a 45-minute drive from the house to a real grocery (not a general store).  The local 'city'?  Wanaka.  If you'd gone there thirty years ago, it was purely ranch property, cafe or two, maybe two or three stores, and a few houses.  Today, it's near 6,500 residents....with a number of hotels and lodges.  Yeah, a lot of tourists come through and stay for a couple of days because of the scenic lakefront and glaciers off in the distance.

What was Lauer's intention here?  Unknown.  Maybe he was going to retire there.  Maybe he would have opened up a lodge of his own.

The problem now? get residency and thus full need to pass a character-test.  Yeah, those sneaky New Zealand folks decided that with the foreigners coming in....someone needs to check people out.  Well....Lauer was fired for sexual harassment.  Apparently, the audit crew in New Zealand thinks this needs to be reviewed.  The odds of a purchase being halted?  At this point, it's an unknown.  The fear factor here is that Lauer might end up losing his the purchase deal  and be refused residency.

An odd problem?  Well, one might get the idea that he had some retirement plan in his mind for three or four years in the future, and the sheep ranch thing with almost no civilization around?  Well...yeah, it's just an odd idea.

Thursday, 30 November 2017


I noticed this got brought up today with Brown University in the news.

They've least for their graduate school application business.....that they will allow you the sign up and 'self-identify' as a person of color.

So, you could walk in on day one of the application business, and just state that you were Latino....when you were....well....just plain 'white'.

It appears so far, at least through this week....the college has tried to avoid discussion on this and some folks are a bit disturbed because they think the situation will be taken to some ridiculous lengths (like you claiming  to be Cherokee Indian, when you aren't an Indian).

The social justice crowd dumping onto the idea?  Well, you would expect that.

The problem I see is that as we move forward in this new era...if you tried to stop the self-identify effort....then you have to do a DNA test.  If a black guy showed up and applied, and you forced him through the DNA business....only to discover that he's 48-percent African, but 25-percent Bombay Indian, and maybe up to 16-percent do you handle the guy?  Is he African, or will you have to invent some whole new way of identifying folks?

After I finished up my DNA business, I kinda came to the conclusion that I'm white, English, French, Viking, Danish, Jewish, and sub-Saharan African (.5-percent).  I can still kinda claim 'white-status' but there is enough Danish or Nordic....that I might start to claim Viking-status.

The problem here is that a whole bunch of folks want to manage you and your 'self-identity' business. In their mind, you can't allow folks to just willy-nilly around and start claiming some status without approval.

Working-class folks will have a laugh because there's no real rhyme or reason to this type of game.  And you would continually wonder about this guy trying to supervise your status.....if he just didn't want you in the Viking-club, the African-program, or the Mexican-Latino program (unlike the Puerto Rican program). 

Then you'd have this one African-American guy who would let you know that he was six-percent Irish, and intended to claim his status as Irish....just to screw up the mess even more, and cause a number of the controller guys to get angry that he didn't pick the right identity in their mind. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

An Ancestor Story

Somewhere around 700 years ago....near the 1360 era, I had this ancestor named Thomas.  We will call him 'Tom' for short.

Tom grew up on the eastern side of England, in a small farming community of Levenham, UK (about an hour's drive north of London).  To be honest, in today's environment....there's just not much there.  In the 1200 to 1400 era?  Well....oddly enough, it was regarded as one of the dozen-odd spots on the whole isle with wealth.  Several families with status....lived in the local area.  Tom?  He was a 'clan-member' of one of these families.

At some point, around age twenty to thirty (no one knows the precise story)....Tom ends up on a trip that takes him to the northeastern end of Turkey (on the Black Sea....NOT the Med).  This is 200 years after the crusades and has nothing to do with the crusades.  The period?  This is really the Marco Polo-era, when trade routes are being developed and people are trading off into China, and routes end up going through Persia, Armenia, and Georgia....onto Turkey, the Black Sea, and the Med.

My humble guess is that Tom ended up on one of these sea adventures, and a trading expedition of sorts. 

Along the north coast of Turkey, near the end....lies the port city of Trabzon.  Today?  It has roughly 750,000 residents.  In those days, it probably numbered at least 50,000.  It would have been a major port for trade activity coming out of the Silk Road.

At some point, Tom ends up with a Countess wife (Cycely of Alcel).  Tom?  He likely holds a title of 'Sir' at this point.  Most royalty in England is ending, and even getting the title of the 3rd Duke of Madison....really didn't mean much of anything. 

Who was the Countess Cycely of Alcel?  It is a real unknown.  It's an odd spelling.  If this were English or'd be Cecily.  Alcel?  Non-existent today.  It might have been a hilltop, or a courtyard on the outskirts of Trabzon.  Perhaps it's not even around Trabzon but of another area in the distance. 

So you start to look around this region of northeastern Turkey, and its neighbors.  To the east, you have Georgia, and in the middle....the major trading city in the 1300's of Tbilisi.  Tbilisi is fairly well known in this era for prosperity, trade, and capital.  Interestingly enough, it's also known for a fairly large population of Ashkenazi Jews.   Around a hundred years prior to Tom's adventure....the Mongols arrive in the Georgia region, and a fair number of folks evacuated....left....relocated, with some of the wealthy clans ending up in Turkey. 

My suspicion, to this odd feature in this recent DNA test I took....I have .5-percent of Ashkenazi Jewish that the Countess here (Cycely of Alcel) is more or less a descent of the Ashkenazi Jews of Tbilisi, and the family had become traders in the Trabzon port region.

A dowry of sorts is offered up to guys of this era, and I'm guessing that Tom was standing at the right place and right time....and ended up with a Countess by this circumstance.  And thus explains to some degree the .5-percent of Ashkenazi Jewish DNA that I have.

What happens after this event?  Tom and Cycely return to England.  Tom passes away at age 49 (we never know the circumstance to this).  Cycely lives on for another forty-odd years. 

Oddly enough, this is the end of any royalty or status claims to the family tree.  No one after this point ever mentions Lord, Duke, Sir, or Countess. 

The Rural versus Urban Senator Topic

The Wall Street Journal wrote up a piece yesterday to stir 'the pot' over representation and fairness within the Senate....which got two public comments tossed out:

"By 2040, about 70% of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states. They will have only 30 senators representing them, while the remaining 30% of Americans will have 70 senators representing them."

-- Kyle Griffin

"This is the core threat to our democracy. The rural minority -- the people @JYSexton just wrote a long thread about -- have and will continue to have disproportionate power over the urban majority."

-- Joy Reid

In this case, Griffin and Reid have spent almost no time looking at history and how the Constitution pieced together the US government.

If you go back to the original thirteen states and review the 26 Senators in place....there's an unfairness built into the system on day one.

The 1790 Census shows the general population of the US, which includes free-men and slaves:

Virginia: 747,000
Maryland: 319,000
North Carolina: 393,000
Vermont: 85,000
New Hampshire: 141,000
New York: 340,000
Georgia: 82,000
Maine: 96,000
Rhode Island: 69,000
Massachusetts: 378,000
Connecticut: 237,000
Delaware: 59,000
Kentucky: 73,000
New Jersey: 184,000
Pennsylvania: 434,000

That adds up to 4,893,000 total.  You can subtract approximately 694,000 as slaves, if you desire.

So talk fairness.  In 1790, there are five states with 300,000 or more, and there are ten others with a population of 200,000 or less.  In fact, Delaware has barely 59,000.

One might go to both Reid and ask what exactly do you want to do?  Redesign the states to be a particular size each?  Do you want to force large segments of the population to move into Utah and even things out?  Do you want to give an extra Senator to highly urbanized states?

For that matter, what is a highly urbanized state?  Once you get beyond the New York City's a fairly rural state.  Once you drive past the city limits of Chicago....Illinois is a fairly rural and non-metropolitan state.  Once you exit Detroit.....well, there's just not much of an urban nature to talk about. Go discuss Atlanta and draw the 30-mile circle....what you find outside of the circle is a very rural state. 

Then you have this funny factor.....large urban cities to some degree are dying or getting less popular.  A lot of people work now in urban areas, but drive an hour to live in lesser urbanized areas.

The original thought by the Constitution guys...was that Senators were going to be wise older men, and advise the President.  Where did they get the idea?  Oh my...that would require pulling out Roman history and discovering that virtually everyone had a grasp of Rome, the Empire and how things worked there.  Go ask high school kids how much Roman history they get today.  Ask Reid and Griffin what they know about Rome. It'll likely be two 3x5 cards of information. 

I can see this label coming in the future....rural-Senator or urban-Senator.

Monday, 27 November 2017

McCain Wisdom (Limited)

There's an interview that John McCain gave Esquire Magazine recently, and he gave them this set of quotes:

"What's the f***ing point? 'Keep the fight up?" (referring to Hillary's book campaign)

"This is Hillary's problem right now: She doesn't have anything to do."

I sat and read the piece.  I'm not much of a McCain fan but on this issue.....he hit the nail precisely.

You've got a 70-year-old woman with just about nothing on her plate to do, and making these talking tours and explanation tours on her about the only real thing that she can do at this point.

Most magazines would have cleaned up the f*** word and used something less harsh, but then.....this is John McCain and likely the way he talks on a daily basis.

Since November of 2016, I've kinda viewed the Hillary 'waltz' as a dramatic piece and no real return on value.  If she were running again in might make sense to keep her name out there.  But she'd be close to 72 years old and is what I'd suggest as marginally healthy at this point now.

What does someone like do at this point?  They'd typically go and get some college professor duty arranged for a year, and write two or three books on regular politics (not why you lost).  On this....McCain had this clear moment of thinking and offered up some short but blunt wisdom.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The 'New' Farmers

The Washington Post folks wrote up a curious story today and discussed this new trend seen....people in their mid-30s to up their technology or IT or business-related job.....and going to farming work.  It's not a big trend, but it's being discussed openly because it's such a dramatic change for folks, especially those who didn't really grow up on a farm.

Years ago, I worked with an Air Force guy who was retiring after twenty years and decided to resettle with his wife....back to where she grew up in Iowa, and he was going to go and buy some sixty-acre farm.  I questioned the guy because he was one of those folks who'd grown up in suburban New Jersey and knew enough about farming to fill up three 3x5 cards.

His attitude was that this wasn't a big deal.  He intended to garden out around twenty acres for some minor amount of production (strictly for a fruit stand operation), and have around a dozen cows.  His wife did have some knowledge but hadn't lived in a farming situation in at least fifteen years.  He had a collection of a dozen-odd books on how to farm, and simply was going to go small-scale.  A guy could probably go at this, in a small vision situation....and succeed.  The one benefit was that he had the Air Force pension, and the wife was a nurse.

The appeal of this farm life for these people?  I think they want a stress-free life, and think that farming will give it to them. I tend to disagree about farm life being stress-free but it's up to the individual involved and what they think is stress.

Bound for failure?  It would be curious about the statistics on this lifestyle change.  How many of these 'new' farmers wake up after a couple of years and regret the farm life and long to return to cubicle work?

The difference in lifestyle?  Once you settle on farming, you get into a new sleep schedule.  You get up at sip down a coffee, and then launch into sixty to ninety minutes of some work task.  Then you settle back for sausage, eggs, biscuits, jam, and gulp down two more cups of coffee, while watching 'Tina-Louise' on channel 4 report on local weather, a tractor-trailer accident, and fishing boat sinking on the river.

By 7:30, you are off on task list number two...with twelve things that really need to be done by noon. You are hoping that no one stops by the farm to chat, or to draw your attention off the priority list. Weather matters as well because half of the twelve things can only be done on a non-rainy day.  You also are dependent that 'Rummy' (your least favorite steer) hasn't broken down the back fence and escaped for the 3rd time this month.

By noon, you are worked up for hunger, and have to make a decision.....a Turkey sandwich with a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, or you go down to the Green Velvet Grill for a plate of greasy catfish and hushpuppies.  You would get all the gossip of the day that you needed at the grill, but you'd have to sit and hear Marvin tell about his wife's relatives, or listen to Woody describe how he found Jesus the sixth time in four years (always after a revival), or give a few moments to Wanda the waitress describe her lack of passion with her man and that she might be giving you the 'eye' (as we say in Alabama).

By 1:30 in the afternoon, you are onto task list number two....which requires a brief run to the farm store and a 30-minute discussion with Lester, the sales guy, over some remarkable technology coming out of Iowa, and trying to limit your spending today to just $200.

By 4:00, you are rushing through to get six small tasks down, and the dog is letting you know that it's about feeding time with the special doggy treats.  A thunderstorm typically runs through about 25-percent of the time at this point in the afternoon and spoils the rest of your task list.

You eat a early dinner, and guzzle down another Pabst at this point.  By 6PM, you are working on a project list and trying to mow the grass if the storm didn't occur.

Toward 8PM, you have the mail in your hand and realize that the truck tags have expired (you just forgot to put that task on your list last month).  So you put the renewal as priority number one tomorrow morning, and realize that kills off almost two hours of time to make the run, stand in the stupid in with sixteen other folks who also forgot about their renewal, and deal with some half-wit clerk who barely graduated high school.

 Around 9PM, you get a call that such-and-such neighbor that you know fairly well is bad off and in the hospital.  Their farm task schedule is way behind, and you call up his wife to volunteer your afternoon tomorrow to help out.  She's awful appreciative of your offer of help, and wants to return the favor by mentioning her cousin is finally divorced and she could 'fix' you up with her.  You politely decline....knowing that the cousin is a nutcase and been arrested on four occasions for assault.

Round about 9:30 PM, you've reached maximum intensity for the day and fallen asleep.  Next to the nightstand is a task listing for the next day, and for that matter....a task list for the next thirty days, with no real time off....other than to shop at Piggly Wiggly, get a haircut, or waiting for a thunderstorm to wrap up.

Is this the lifestyle that these converted farmers desire?  Maybe.  Or maybe they just aren't aware of the various entanglements to the farm lifestyle.

Friday, 24 November 2017

How Immigration Works in New Zealand

One of those things you tend to notice about New Zealand is that a fair number of folks are immigrants. 

The easiest way to get the visa and be able to stay?

You offer up 500,000 NZD (roughly 343,000 USD) to create or buy into a business.  Then you show how you went and created three jobs.  No one is really picky about the pay-level of the three jobs....they could be strictly clerks, or delivery folks, or bar-staff. 

Unemployment in New Zealand?  Back in the was roughly 4.9-percent. 

This episode gets you a permanent visa, residency, and a stable lifestyle. 

Using capitalism to fill a void?  Well....yeah.  Most folks who immigrate into New Zealand....pick Auckland, or to a lesser degree....Wellington. 

Why does New Zealand appeal to folks?  After wandering around for almost three weeks, I'd tend to suggest that the slower lifestyle, lesser stress, stable economy, and safe landscape (meaning less crime) a magnet for people who've accumulated money and want a change of scenery.  Toss in the international airport, and open spaces, as 'cherries' on the cake.

The negative?  Well....Beyond Auckland, and five or six of the major cities of the's a bit remote.  Getting from point A to B?  Yeah, it takes a bit of driving.  Add on the fact that things aren't that cheap, and it might be fairly low the point, that you actually miss stress.  The turbo-charge of the economy? you can't complain about the number of tourists wandering around.

Likely to decrease?  No.  I think it's pretty safe to say that they will continue to see 30,000 to 40,000 every single year, for the foreseeable future. 

A Wisdom Moment

While on this trip to New Zealand, I spent a half-day on a wine tour.  The deal is simple....some guy picks up a dozen folks in a big van, and drives you around the Christchurch region where vineyards are in abundance.

You stop and have five or six 'sips' of wine (they never offer you a full-up glass)....just enough to wet your whistle and identify a fine taste.  Maybe you buy a bottle....maybe not.

I reached some vineyard (the last one of the day) where I needed to use the restroom.  Typically, I don't walk into restrooms with my's some kind of Bama just don't go to restrooms to take pictures.

But I sat down in this stall and then realized the rich white nature of the walls of the stall, and all of these fantastic moments of wisdom written upon them.  So I could not just avoid taking a picture of the wall.

Typically, on most bathroom don't get anything beyond some witty Brit poem, or a vulgar piece of analysis. 

In this case, several great bits of wisdom were offered up.  This picture?  Well, it's a bit of wisdom handed down by Plato...."Boys should abstain from all use of wine until their eighteenth year, for it is wrong to add FIRE to FIRE."

It's the kind of knowledge that makes sense and causes you to reflect upon youth, alcohol, and wisdom.  For me growing up in a dry-county (in Bama), they were helping me to prevent some great mistake in life (perhaps).

After a while, and having observed three of these wisdom moments from the stall....I came to this conclusion that it'd be a good thing in life if all stalls offered up Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle wisdom.  Course,  folks would get all confused about this and suggest it was a bad thing to offer wisdom in bathroom stalls. 

The odd thing here is that the only place on Earth where you might get this type of innovation?  It's in a vineyard wine toilet, near Christchurch, New Zealand. 

The Saudi Story

If you follow the page two Saudi news, which few journalists in the US are really discussing, we have this lego-like story brewing: the king bought off on corruption and money-laundering taking place.  The king agreed to arrest thirty-odd princes, accused of corruption, and put them into the five-star Riyadh Ritz-Carlton hotel.  The king (at least through his son running the investigation) has agreed to interrogate the princes, possibly torture them to get to the facts, and there is this suggestion that princes will have to turn over the bulk of their exit or survive (probably into the 500 billion-plus range).

What really happens next?  I would offer this observation:

1.  While the thirty princes are being the chief target.....just about every other single rich Saudi is watching this play out and likely moving their money out of reach of the Kingdom.  Internal investment?  I'd suggest that within three months....there's going to be serious problems in Saudi banking circles.

2.  The families of the thirty princes?  I would suggest that all have reviewed options and might go to ISIS to hire up their thugs to come into Saudi Arabia and start a civil war.

3.  The Saudi ability to react to a ISIS threat?  Minimal.  They will have to ask for US assistance.  Trump?  He'll quote some outrageous price of a billion dollars a week, and the Saudis will have to pay it, or go to some outsider (the Russians for example).

4.  All of this is entertaining for the Iranians.  If you shut down Saudi oil sales during an ISIS civil war....Iran can make up for the sales and gain the profits.  Oil prices? Currently at $55 to $60 a barrel. With a crisis?  It'll go to $100 easily.....maybe $120.  Iran benefits from this. The Saudis hate this.

So, you might want to stand back and observe this development.  A change is coming, and you can't be sure who will be standing at the end.  Saudi Arabia as a nation....might not exist in two years.  ISIS might be the 'cure' for the Saudi woes. 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

My Week in Christchurch

 One of the things that you tend to notice out of Christchurch after walking around for a couple of days is that the damage from 2011 earthquake is still very noticeable, and as much as they've spent a lot of effort in rebuilding things.....there's still dozens of structures in town which haven't been torn down.

In some cases, it's all historical stuff, and they'd really like to find a way to stabilize the building, and rescue it. 

In the first picture, one structure survived without much damage....the other on the left is in a fragile situation and the cargo containers are there to prevent it from falling down onto cars or people....while they figure out a way of saving the building.

In the second picture, this is one of the more famous churches of the city, with about 20-percent of it having fallen, and the rest in some state of trying to be saved.  It might be a decade before they reach the stage of stabilizing it.

From the center of town, I would take a guess that almost 90-percent of the structures have been taken down, or fell on their own account. 

Oddly, the hotel I stayed in....built in a NZ federal government building....had thick concrete walls, and appears to have suffered almost no damage at all from the earthquake.  Then you turn on a 360-degree circle and note that there's only one or two other buildings, out of forty nearby buildings.....that survived and in use today. 

The odd thing as well....lots of new buildings have gone up, and various parts of those buildings are up for lease, but unrented.  Maybe it's a slow period....maybe they've over-built.....but it's a very noticeable thing.

As for an end-point on construction?  Unknown. The state government has poured tons of money into roads and parks.  Thousands of construction guys can be seen around the city and there is some strange positive optimism that exists in Christchurch.  You also get the impression that a lot of folks are somewhat fearful of another quake and sleep in a fragile way.

Tourism?  Well, I hate to suggest it, but a fair number folks stand and admire the damage, and the reconstruction.  It's not something that you typically see.  I stood and watched two Chinese guys admiring some park area and how the new design appeared.  You could see it was giving them ideas. 

My humble feeling is that in a decade, some folks will say that Christchurch is the most liveable city in the world, and lay the nature of this comment on the rebuilding work.

Ten Things About New Zealand

 1.  As you stop in any cafe, or restaurant....the mighty fine folks of New Zealand will run up and serve you some of their best tap water....usually chilled.  I thought after ten to fifteen was an awful kind gesture, and they must have been awful proud of their tap water.  On the whole of the idea, I will admit that it was pretty fair water, without any funny taste (as you would expect in most US cities.  I should also note that if you ever ran through that bottle that they brought out, they'd rush up to give you a whole second

2.  At some point in Auckland, I turned a corner in the morning and here was a cafe that was serving up pancakes smothered with bacon and bananas on top.  Being from Alabama, I could not pass up this opportunity.

I will say that it's the best way of mixing everything possible onto one single plate.  You probably got enough calories to sustain you for 90-percent of the day.  Course, it did end up ranging in the $12 USD extra.

You might also note 'The Law" sign above it, which typically laid out the NZ standard that if you even hint or act like you are drunk....they cut you off from further alcohol.  They are a bit dedicated on that stance....mostly because folks do enjoy consuming beer.

3.  Throughout NZ, folks typically have ribs on their menu.  So I sat down on the 2nd day in Auckland, and had some of the finest ribs of my life, with a tangy sauce on the side.  By the last day of the trip, I had tried at least six different plates of ribs.

I will note this as average menu will have only eight items on it....with two items being fish of some type, then lamb, ribs, and the rest are beef dishes of some type.

4.  Generally, NZ folks drink beer to substantial portions.  In the one pub that I stopped in, they even offered up a 'beer research fund' jar at the counter, for tips.

The typical food menu would go to two pages max, but the typical drink menu would go to four pages.....which says a good bit over various offerings.

Bad beer?  Out of the twenty-five-odd beers I tried, I would suggest that the one that mixed in a hefty amount of ginger was the only way that I would disqualify.

5.  Virtually, every NZ guy will claim he's an expert on a hundred things.  I stopped one evening and stayed in a 'cabin' overlooking a 500-ft cliff.  It was a bed and breakfast deal, and the guy had put a ton of effort into the view, the cabin and the semi-rustic nature of the 'cabin'.

The fact that it was barely 20 foot away from the edge of this cliff....did weigh on my mind a good bit.  The view?  Worth a million.  The thing was, all around was brush, and it looked awful snaky. But in NZ, there are no snakes.

So you laid down and could hear the waves hitting the beach below and it put you to sleep awful fast.  As for this being a great idea?  All it was....was a steel capsule-like container, with some handy-man add-ons, and some plastic covering to prevent the breeze from hitting you.

6.  No matter where you go on the north isle, there are hundreds of reminders of volcanic activity.  Near the center of the isle is the chief volcano.

Naturally, down at the base of the volcano....they put up a fancy four-star hotel back in the late 1920s, and folks come from around the world to hang out there.

It's an odd hotel because it's got the old world cinema operation in the basement.  There's a fancy ballroom in the middle, and the place looks like something out of the 1930s.

The thing about the volcano and the's all in the middle of nowhere.  There's one single gas station for about sixty miles.  You feel like you are in the middle of some lost civilization.

7.  I turned a corner in Queenstown, and here was this interesting bar....called the 'Ice Bar'.  They keep the temperature below -5 (Cel).  So, yeah, it is awful cold.  I didn't venture in (a regret).

It would be interesting to ask how long a guy sits there (they provide some kinda parka for the experience).  Then I'd be asking about the alcohol affect and the temperature.  It's probably not the kind of place you'd want to spend more than two hours.

8.  While in NZ, I was introduced to something they call the 'Blueberry Bomb'.

Roughly $7 USD, it's a giant smoothie, and is advertised as all-natural, without extra sugar (it's got enough to start with anyway.

Calories?  They are careful to make it confusing.  After consuming my 5th one.....I got around to figuring out the big container was in the range of 850 calories.  I guess it was meant for two or three days.  Yeah, I was consuming one every single morning.

If you can take one of these.....toss it into the freezer at your hotel for an hour, and then guzzle it down....the sugar fix hits you and you feel all happy and chilled.

It's probably something that you'd best not get addicted to.....for the calorie reason.

9.  At some point in my stay in Queenstown, I took a day-trip out to some remote area of the region, which overlooked the lake.

It was a small town situation, and we stopped at a city park, with a WW I memorial.

There's roughy twenty-five names carved up on the memorial....the guys who didn't come back.

When you look over this small village....the population in 1914 probably didn't exceed more than a thousand, and twenty-five lost souls did amount to an awful lot of the local character.

It's one of those things that you look at for a good ten minutes and realize the impact of the war, and the burden on folks after the war.  Still today, they likely remember the event.

10.  As you travel on public transport (trains and buses), you tend to see various signs....letting you know that destruction is a thing which can get into include vandelism and spray-painting.

New Zealand folks are pretty serious about this.  Their threat?

You could end up with three months in prison and $2,000 NZD in fines.  A hefty deal.

The thing is....after a while, you notice that there isn't any graffiti around on trains, like you see in Germany or France.  Nor do you see damage on buses.

I'm guessing that after putting a few folks in jail for a month or two.....folks realized the cops were serious and this stupid stuff stopped.

After walking around, you tend to notice a limited number of radicals or criminals.  I think the judges are pretty serious about real jail time, and it has a positive influence on society.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

NZ: North Island versus South Island

After roughly three weeks in New Zealand, you come to notice a number of things about the two islands.  Combined, the population is 6.4-million and growing.  The south island is the lesser island, with roughly 1.1-million.  The north island with 5.3-million.

The basic difference? 

The north island has Auckland, which is a magnet now for business and technology start-up operations.  I might add that it's also a major magnet for Chinese immigration and business-start-up shops.  You can draw a 40-mile circle around Auckland and probably find almost half the population of the island in that metropolitan area.

The connecting force of the north isle is Route One (going from Cape Reinga on northern most tip), to Wellington (the capital) on the far south of the isle.  It's safe to say that Route One has intense traffic and always in some stage of renovation.

I had this unique experience traveling north, when the cops closed off Route One because of a truck accident, and put everyone onto a dirt-road situation.  It was a 12-mile detour along a road that you'd typically avoid....and find yourself on a cliff-road where you might fall 200 feet easily if you went two feet further to the right. 

The landscape?  An American would say it looks an awful lot like Washington state (with the Volcanic-like landscape) and Tennessee (with the rolling hills). There's some point where I ventured off Route One onto Route Four....discovering a mostly rural area, cattle ranches, and small towns with just a gas station and general store. 

The south isle?  It's the mountainous region....more like the Alps of Europe than anything else, which takes up maybe one-third of the south isle.  The rest is mostly flat, farming land, and this is the region that typically draws a lot of tourism.

Christchurch, Queenstown, and Invercargill make up the bulk of population in this region. 

Why do people want to migrate into New Zealand?  I think it adds up to four simple feelings:

1.  It's safe.  You just don't see crime, drug usage, or crazy folks.

2.  The weather isn't that bad.  Summers are generally mild....maybe into mid-seventy to mid-eight range.  It does rain a fair bit but that gives you the 'green-look'.  Winters (especially on the far south), can offer up snow.

3.  Low stress.  You see a minimal amount of stress in just about everyone.

4.  Everyone claims to be an expert craftsman, transmission mechanic, grill cook, carpenter, and animal vet.  Once you get beyond Auckland, you kinda notice that things are rigged up in a fixer-up kind of way and folks make due with the limited knowledge that they have.  You could call up some neighbor and mention that you had brake issues, and he'd come over with his tool kit, to offer up his vast knowledge (enough for four 3x5 cards) and fix the issue.  I think people are impressed with this attitude about getting the job done.

But all of this immigration business is driving up home costs, and it's a shocker to note that homes around Wellington and Auckland will easily run 500,000 to one million NZD (340,000 to 680,000 USD).  A decent home with real property?  You'd be talking about 800,000 USD easily.  All of this is begging for light rail growth and home development forty to sixty miles away from the metropolitan areas.

I stood one day in Queenstown and admired the bank-real estate ads....noting a simple one-bedroom condo could run you in the range of $250,000 USD easily, if you were within the city limits.  We took off one day from the airport to fly around the range.....and you could see tons of growth around the airport with forty-odd buildings being constructed (banks, grocery operations, hotels).  If you made it into Christchurch and noted the construction efforts from 2011 earthquake episode, there's probably well over 3,000 construction guys at work.  There's probably enough work there to guarantee a stable work situation for at least ten more years.

The thing though that gets into your mind after a are at the edge of the Earth.  Getting anywhere with civilization (like Auckland) might take you two hours in the air.  Getting to Australia?  Maybe 3.5 hours in the air.  There are some folks on the extreme north of the north isle....who might only get into a real town or real grocery....maybe four times a year.  As much as the landscape begs for you.....the reality is that you need to accept limits on your life.

New Zealand and Spiders

After you've been in New Zealand for a couple of days, you tend to notice....spider webs.

Take a close-up view of the car.

Anything that sits idle for six to eight hours.....likely gets the attention of a spider.  I don't know the variety or if it's a killer....but they work their butt off.

This was a car parked along a city park....probably for six hours. 

You see this on buildings, trees, and just about every vehicle that rests. 

The Bus Station

 I typically don't blog on bus stations....mostly because they are about the last place on Earth (at least in Bama) to hang out.

However, on this vast trip down to New Zealand, I came to Christchurch....where they had the earthquake from 2011.  In the middle of town, virtually everything was wiped out, and they rebuilt the center of town.

So there is this state-of-the-art bus station....the kind of place that you would dream about in a thriving community.  Roughly sixteen gates are rigged up....all with automatic glass doors and a TV to note bus X has arrived and ready to accept passengers.

Marble floor.  Security cameras around the area.  A cop or two.  At least three coffee shops.  Open space for at least 3,000 people to transit from bus to bus.

In the middle of the 'yard', there's a control booth....with communications to each driver making their way around the city.

Fantastic design and the kind of place that you would dream of.  But here's the only occurred because the old station was literally destroyed and they had the state giving them tons of money to rebuild the center of town.  Otherwise, they'd probably never get this type of serious money.  Cost?  Unknown, but it had to be in the five-million US dollar range, with all the gimmicks included.

Oddly, no junkies or homeless guys hanging out.  Course, I think the cops are all over folks to avoid bringing their problems into the facility. 

The Tower Experience

In mid-town Dubai, there's the main attraction of Dubai....the tower.

So, I made the trip.  First, you need reservations.  Just about everyone and their brother want to go up to the top....particularly at 5PM to catch the start of the sun going down.  The sad thing is that you need to think about things like this six weeks prior and get your reservation into the system.

The cost?'s in the hefty $70 range for each person.

So you get to the entry point, and then you realize the traffic flow, there's at least 4,000 people lined up in different segments to make the trip to the a her of cows.

You walk through this tunnel, and then onto this other tunnel, and finally get 25 minutes later....over to the elevator.  It's hot as heck inside of this elevator.

Then you get to the top, and gaze out at.....well....a sandy colored landscape.  I doubt if you can see clearly for more than 500 feet.  I asked about this, and the guy said this was normal.  So you looked at the images of the city....sandy-colored....and asked yourself why you paid out so much and was this really worth the trip.

I've been in probably twenty towers in my life and it's always an interesting view.....well....up until this point.  I probably spent 2.5 hours in some line, or processing through the episode, and it took eight minutes up there to convince me that this was worthless.