Tuesday, 12 December 2017

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?  No....by 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 situations....eat some high quality food....travel 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.

Taxes

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 this....no one in America is truly living a tax-free lifestyle.  Either through the federal folks, the state folks, or sales-taxes...you 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 used....it 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.

Alabama and Moore

By midnight on the 12th of December, the Senate race in Alabama will be over.  Most folks (99-percent I think).....will say that it was the most entertaining race in their lifetime,.  Some will say that they'd like to see this yearly....strictly as entertainment.  So, my ten observations over this episode:

1.  Jones, the Democrat, never stood a chance.  If he'd been a Blue-Dog Democrat....lesser theatrics by the women involved...and someone other than Moore, he might have won.

2.  Of all the six-million characters in the state....to throw young-gal 'mud' at someone....the wrong character to pick upon and figure he'd collapse his election and just quit?  Moore would have been the last person to pick upon.  On the Alabama stubbornness scale, from one to ten.....Moore pushes a '12'.

3.  When the national comedians and talk-show folks jumped into this and felt that their gimmick would shift votes?  Oh, they were way-off in understanding the character of Alabama folks, and that people stay up at night to watch their late shows. 

4.  The power of the Baptist vote in the state?  Proven yet again....that it matters.

5.  Mitch anxiety among Alabama folks?  You can gather ten GOP-likely voters in a general store, and likely get some fairly negative comments uttered by six of them over Mitch McConnell. 

6.  That corrupt GOP image out of Montgomery, and left-over feelings about Governor Bentley?  Yes.  I would say a third of the outcome here for Moore....was anger about Luther Strange and his gimmick relationship with Bentley.  Without Bentley's lusty relationship and the whole deal worked out?  I think that Strange would have appeared somewhat clean, and Ivey would have allowed him to stay in DC.

7.  The black vote.  Well....if the Democrats had gone out and recruited early on some black candidate....I think it might have mattered on voting, and put another 250,000 votes up for their guy.  But this was not that type of race.

8.  The change in polling from three months ago and today?  None.  Polls that kept saying Moore was down?  Wrong. 

9.  Is Moore crazy?  I'd guess that 60-percent of GOP voters would say they'd prefer someone else, but it was Moore or Strange.  That's how we got to this point.

10.  Folks wanting to unseat Moore in DC?  Ask yourself....what exactly of an illegal thing, has Moore done?  Can you prove this point?  Want to drag the ladies up to DC and discuss their sexual escapes for public consumption?  You'd just be begging for trash talk by the public. 

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)....you 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?  Well.....it'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 property....is 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?  Well....to get residency and thus full ownership....you 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

"Self-Identify"?

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

They've decided....at least for their graduate school application business.....that they will allow you the student....to 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 Danish....how 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 Irish...it'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 DNA....is 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 Griffin....to 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 Montana....to 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 limits....it'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 loss....is 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 2020.....it 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 mid-40s.....giving 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 5AM....to 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 spring....it 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)....is 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 isle....it'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 stress...to the point, that you actually miss stress.  The turbo-charge of the economy?  Tourism.....so 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 camera....it's some kind of Bama rule....you 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 walls....you 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 wealth....to 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

Moore and the Purity Angle

For weeks, I've been watching the Judge Moore situation develop out of my home state of Alabama.  Just about every single weird thing you could imagine.....has been said.

Today, I noticed that some pastor from the state (we have a lot of them) has noted that Moore might have pursued younger women (say age fourteen or fifteen) because they were chiefly the ones around with purity still left.

I sat and pondered over this statement.

Having grown up in the Alabama of the 1970s....one has to examine the purity or innocence comment carefully.  I would take a guess that more than 90-percent of the 17-year old gals in the region I grew up in....had lost purity at that age.  The 16-year old group.....maybe 70-percent had lost purity.  The 15-year olds?  Maybe fifty-percent.  So, yeah.....if you were going strictly for some young gal to establish a relationship and she absolutely needed to be pure (a virgin).....you might have to dip down into the fourteen-year old group.

The thing is....most guys would have said that they'd prefer someone who wasn't pure, and this whole discussion of a virgin gal is null and void.....unless of course, you were some nutcase in your late 20s or early 30s.

How stupid is this discussion.....to get some minister to suggest something like this?  Well, that's how far the whole mess has fallen.

All of this ought to trigger folks to ask why so many young ladies were not pure, but the news media don't seem to care. 

At some point here, I suspect some teacher from Judge Moore's youth (being near 80 now) will step out on CNN and say she had relations with young Moore when he was thirteen, and that corrupted him for the rest of his life. 

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 1909....as 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 occasions....it 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 bottle.....free.

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 range....coffee 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 well....an 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 hotel....it'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 trouble....to 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 while.....you 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 thing....it 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?  Well....it'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 top....like 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. 

Mice

In the middle of the Dubai Mall, there's this household shop with figures and statues.  So in the middle of the display area....there's this three-mouse plastic deal....with light bulbs inside of them. 

Yeah, it looks awful gaudy and cheap.  I actually walked in and priced it....roughly $25, for something likely made in China for $2. 

Putting that on display in some home?  It'd take a nutcase probably.  Back in the old days, I would have bought this and taken to the office for display on my desk.  But in this case, I just walked on by.  I bet they sell at least a dozen of these each week. 

Robes

Most of my life, I've often wondered where a Arab guy goes for his robe outfit.  So in the middle of the Dubai Mall.....you have a fine men's robe shop.

I stood there in front of the place for a good two minutes admiring the outfits on display.  Not that I'd buy one, but it's a display that you just never see.

Cost?  It's like fine Italian suits and you'd need a thousand to get anything they had.

Next to it?  A women's outfit robe shop. 

Real Popcorn

In the entry of the Dubai Mall....there's this shop on the side which sells popcorn.  Naturally, I stopped and bought a bag.

First, I must admit this was the finest popcorn that I'd ever eaten in my life. My guess, it had at least 300-percent the normal amount of butter added to it.

Bad for you?  They had some mega bag that they would sell you.....I just bought the regular bag.  I'm guessing the mega bag would given you a minimum of 700 calories with popcorn and butter together.

As for butterly hands at the end?  You needed to wash up bad. 


Trip Through Dubai

I wrapped up a three week trip.....Dubai for a couple of days, and the rest all in New Zealand.

So, some comments on Dubai:

1.  Beyond the Mall, it's a limited number of things that you'd go to Dubai for....VERY limited.

2.  Looking for any pork products?  You can just about forget that.  I sat and ate some sirloin steak pizza one night....which just doesn't work with pizza.

3.  Folks at every single hotel go way out of their way to be nice.

4.  If you've never been to the Dubai Airport.....there's no airport that reaches the level of 'look' that this airport has.  Just the bag-pick-up area by itself.....is big enough to put forty basketball courts there.  If you walked into the Emirates business-class lounge, it's big enough to handle over 3,000 people....with five different food courts. 

5. The Mall?  You could start at 8AM and I think you'd still be walking at 6PM....fairly amazed.  The thing is...you'd need to start out with at least a thousand dollars in your pocket, and expect most to bw gone by the end....easily.

6.  As bad as traffic is in New York City, Dubai is pushing to have even a worse traffic flow problem.  For a 15-minute ride to the airport, I had one hand on the door handle at all times, and kinda surprised how the driver avoided accidents. 

7.  Crime.  Well....no matter where you go, you just don't see it. 

8.  Every single employee?  Except for the guys at the border control point in the Airport.....everyone is a foreign employee.  A lot of Russians, Ukrainians, Philippine folks, and Egyptians.

9.  Even in November, it's still fairly hot.  And if you hung out for more than an hour....you'd be sunburned a bit.

10. Classy would be a word that you'd use often.     There's another world existing in Dubai. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Saving-the-World

Back in 2006, NBC produced a TV show called 'Heroes'.  It blasted along for the first year and was among the top shows on TV.  Year number two saw a fair decrease in viewers.  Year three and four were marginal.  The hype for the show?  We intend to save the world.

The whole creativity and sales point of the script was that these special people were going out and saving the world. 

It's one of those odd things that stand out today....a decade later.  We have all these people focused on saving the world today.  There are agenda groups...individuals....hyped up on some purpose which leads to their participation and drive toward saving the world.

Since the November election a year ago....I look upon a significant number of people being in some hero-status and expecting Hillary come to arrive and help save their world.  Without Hillary, in their eyes....the world can't be saved.  I know....it's comical in a way, but that's the fractured nature of society in 2017.  The adolescents who grew up in the past two decades were lectured over and over by peers and teachers....we are all on a mission to save the world.  Failure or having the wrong people to save the world....isn't an option.

I sat in Detroit's airport for two hours this past summer and watched some CNN 'hype'....becoming amused over the commentary of passengers in the waiting status and their negativity of CNN's 'save-the-world' theme. These were obvious people who weren't into saving-the-world and can't be brain-washed with the intellectual message anymore. Ten to twenty years ago?  They would have questioned their skeptic nature and just bought off on CNN's message.  Today?  There's a powerful amount of skeptic nature brewing in America. 

Kids freaking out in college about commentary challenging their view of the world?  Well, this gets back into the hero mentality.  Imagine Batman being told by folks not to rescue them or save them.....that he needs to just back off and leave the situation.  These adolescent kids are sitting there at age eighteen and see their mission in the next decade as to save-the-world, even if people don't want their services.

The snowflake generation?  I would actually prefer to call it the saving-the-world generation, and they can't imagine anyone turning them down.

Where this all leads onto?  I'm of the mind that a lot of these adolescent adults will wake up around age thirty and realize that there really isn't that much to save.  After they've been told x-number of times to desist on saving action....they will go into some stage of self-examination, and then realize that they've been brain-washed in various ways to believe something. 

The idea of Hillary being this hero to save-the-world?  Well....it can only be special people doing this line of work.  Hillary....Batman....Bernie....Flash....Superman...Obama.....Ironman...etc.  Trump?  No, he can't be a save-the-world kind of guy. It's a silly discussion but we got here because of juvenil understanding and adolescent behavior. 

How did the Heroes TV show come to fade after the first season?  People just got tired of the theme, and that'll be what happens in real life.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Gilligan's Island: My Reboot

There are a dozen shows from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s....that I'd like to see rebooted or done again today.  One of them is Gilligan's Island.

My reboot would go this way.  'Skipper' is a one-man airline exectutive and pilot.  He's put his life and savings into one single plane, and runs people around the Hawaiian islands.  Skipper drinks too much...curses continually....lives on the fringe of society. 

Skipper has one single employee...a happy-go-lucky young twenties female with the last name of Gilligan.  She's stretched her capabilities as far as you can go.  She claims to have a flying license but it's fake.  She also claims to have graduated from Harvard, but that's fake as well.  And she claimed to have made a movie with John Travolita but that's a lie as well.

Skipper and Gilligan are hired to take some passengers out to some island 600 miles southwest of Hawaii.  A storm arises....Skipper is drunk....and Gilligan is playing some video-game.  The aircraft shifts direction and flies an extra five hours, and then crashes onto an island in the Pacific.

The passengers?

You have an MIT professor, who got fired.  He was flying out to his last chance in life....some sea-exploration project. 

You have a washed-up TV star, who readily admits that she needs some second chance.

You have a female CEO from some TV shopping network who is abusive and a terror.  She's brought her husband, a safari-hunter-survivor-gourmet cook kind of guy along, who seems to be a lot like Higgin's (Mangnum) type character.

You have a young 20-year-old guy who aspires to be a Hemmingway-type writer, and basically tells the story a great deal from his prospective.

Finally, you have an honest-to-God 'snowflake' social justice-warrior female from Evergreen College in Washington.  She freaks out over the crash, the uncivilized lifestyle, and the survivor-attitude required.  Trigger-warnings occur on an hour-by-hour basis with her. 

The group lands on an atoll which has one single fresh water spring, approximately three-hundred acres of sand and palms, and one single hill that's about three-hundred feet in height.  The radio is out.  There's a wrecked vessel on one end of the island, with indications of a survivor but they never seem to be able to find the survivor.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Gilligan's Island

Over the past month, for some odd reason, I went back and watched five or six episodes of Gilligan's Island.  As a kid, I probably watched every episode at least ten times, and over the past thirty years probably another three or four times.

There are a lot of things left in your imagination over the castaways and the island:

1.  You never notice a latrine or toilet.  So you kinda wonder....did Gilligan have to dig a new pit each week?  And what would have been used for toilet-paper?

2.  You often see mountains in the background of shots, but the opening shot is some small 100-acre-like isle.

3.  After a couple of months on the island, you would have been steadily losing weight....especially for the skipper.

4.  Clothing should have worn out after twelve months.

5.  Ginger must have brought three suitcases of make-up on the trip because she looks like some beauty queen in every shot.

6.  In the real world...Mary Ann and the Professor would have hooked up.

The thing is.....you just can't take the show that serious. 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Thing About This $5.6-Million

So, to the Trump dossier that Fusion GPS wrote over Trump and the Democrats paid $5.6-million.

I sat down today and came to realize that this entire dossier....which I thought was 300 to 500 pages....was basically 35 pages.  That's it.  That's $160,000 per page.

It's an unbelievable amount.....for fictional material.  And the Democrats felt it was worth not only the $5.6-million, but threw another $3-million in on top of that.

How was the money spent?  I'm guessing there was a bar tab set up, and whoever this British dude was....he stayed at five-star hotels....sipped through as much booze as he wanted....had $90-a-plate dinners....and interviewed only the best hookers in town.

How stupid is this?  If you were a working-class democrat and had sent Hillary $75....you'd be kicking yourself right now and wondering what-the-hell-idiot would go and spend money like this on fake stuff.  Did Hillary actually approve this? 


How Stupid Can You Really Be?

So, the basic story is that the DNC (Democratic National Committee), in hopes of taking down Trump in the campaign and helping Hillary win....paid $5.6-million for the Fusion GPS dossier on Trump. 

I sat there for about thirty minutes thinking over this and reading through the various accounts.  They listed the payment as 'legal fees', and it's basically structured in this way.

Since we know that about 99-percent of the dossier is a fraud and fake....the question would lead back to the DNC....if you just wanted a fake dossier, why pay $5.6-million?  You could have done the same dossier with some creative writer for $5,000. 

Someone at Fusion GPS convinced the idiots at the DNC that they had the best people, the best writing, and the way of making the fake dossier seem truthful, and so the price-tag of $5.6-million makes sense. 

Money flushed down the toilet?  This is what amazes me.  You could have bought 224 pick-ups with that money.  You could have most of the home-ticket tickets for the University of Alabama football season, for the entire stadium.  There are dozens of things that you could have done with $5.6-million.  But with this money....all you got was a fake dossier on Trump? 

It presents this image of the leadership of the DNC as being not only corrupted, but just plain stupid. Who authorized the payment?  How was the money shifted over, via wire-transfer?  Could Trump now sue the DNC for defamation of character? 

So, I come to the last note of criticism....Hillary Clinton.  When you start back in Little Rock with decisions made....like White Water, and then you go down the list with over a hundred significant screw-ups that should have derailed your public career (and never did)....now you come to the dossier story.  She likely stood there after hearing the details of the dossier and felt absolutely sure that this would convince those stupid Republicans and moderates not to vote for some sex-fiend like Trump. And now? 

This Uranium-One Story

This story of the sale of US uranium to the Russians has been brewing for months.  Bill made $500,000 from a Russian syndicate by giving a speech.  Hillary's foundation got some money after the deal was pushed through.  There's probably enough on the story to write sixty pages of material.

I've looked this in the past week and come to three observations:

1.  There's tons of uranium in Russia and it doesn't make any sense that some Russian billionaire folks would work up some deal with the Russian government to go out and buy more at inflated US-prices, and ship it to Russia. My belief?  I think the Russians baited the Democrats, and Hillary....into getting deep into this deal, and at the right time (expecting Hillary to win), they would have disclosed more to the deal and probably gotten a Senate investigation into President Hillary (assuming she would have won), and maybe triggered her resignation from the Presidency with a threat of impeachment. 

2.  In 2009, Secretary of State Clinton directed Rober Mueller (our special prosecutor now) who was the head of the FBI.....to fly off to Russia personally and deliver a sample of some ''captured uranium" that the US had intercepted being sold by Russians to some middle-man.  Was the FBI holding the uranium?  I kinda doubt that.  So the question....why Mueller?  Why did he have to be this delivery guy?

3.  Finally, what exactly did Bill know about this entire deal?  Did this whole thing start up because of some European meeting that Bill attended and the deal originally pitched to him....not Hillary? 

If you had come up in the 1980s and suggested that the US government would ever approve a uranium sale to the Russians....most everyone would have laughed...yet here we are, and eight years later, it's looking like bribery. 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Trouble with Thinking

I noticed this got brought up today.

There's a  University of Illinois math professor....Rochelle Gutierrez....who wrote up this new book....which basically says that algebra and geometry sponsor “white privilege”.

Reason?  It's a Greek creation.  A bunch of white dudes.

Her big cause?  She suggests to teachers that they ought to be aware of 'identity' politics when it comes math.

I sat there for a few minutes reading over the article and her gimmick.

You see, I enjoy history....but I also have a fascination about math.  So, you lay this out.....most all math leads back to two groups....Sumerians and Babylonians.  It's basically the same region but some will argue that the Sumerians were there before the Babylonians existed. 

The Egyptian angle?  They were hyped up on linear equations (lot of this seen in the Pyramids). So the term algebra is Arabic in nature.

If you were talking about geometric algebra...then yeah, it’d be the Greeks who developed this. They'd sit around for hours after the sun set and discuss how many pickles you could cram into a barrel, or how you might measure the volume of a container of water.  Rather than waste time talking about zombie stories, or fake politics....they were actually thinking beyond reality. 

I don’t think this professor knows much about the historical side. It doesn’t matter who developed it....just that it works. She sounds like some loser who is continually looking for something to get all angry about. She might as well suggest that tampons and bras are ‘white privilege’ because white guys from France developed them.

Why didn't some African guy go and develop algebra ahead of the Arab dudes?  That might be worth asking. 

All of this fake 'white privilege' talk gets to an amusing stage.  Are Arab guys 'white'?  Are Egyptians 'white'?  Are Greeks 'white'?    Should you get all hyped up because hamburgers, muffins, Coke, or ball-point pens were some white guy's invention?  Should we be thinking of 'white privilege' every time we open up some a box of Orellos?  Should it bother some black dude or Mexican dude if cocaine, marijuana, crack, meth, or opioids were some 'white privilege' invention and I should decline it if I were Latino or black? 

The trouble when you start pondering or thinking....a rational person would eventually ask questions that some dimwit intellectual professor can't answer.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Picture of Hillary?

This came up in the news from the weekend....in New Jersey.  Hillary Clinton is showing up for a guy running on the Democratic ticket for governor (Phil Murphy). 

There's a party-like function planned out (Whoopi Goldberg will be there too). So to get in the front-door....you need to cough up $1,000.  A fair sum, I will admit but it'd really help this Phil guy in his quest to be governor.

To get a picture with Hillary?  Well....$4,300.  Yeah.  It's an awful lot.

So I pondered upon this amount of money, and the fact that you'd have a shot with yourself and Hillary as a memento.  Is it worth $4,300?

There are three or four folks that I might be willing to pay $500 to have a picture with....like Dolly Parton, Nick Saban (the Alabama Coach), and Putin of Russia.  I would pay $25 to have a picture with Kay Ivey (our governor of Alabama), and I might be willing to pay $40 to have my picture with William Shatner (of Star Trek fame).  I would pay $150 to have a picture with Senator McCain, if he'd put on a MAGA hat (Make America Great Again)....but I doubt that he'd agree to that. I'd also pay $400 to have a picture with our former governor (Bentley) and his fallen-woman gal....but I doubt that they'd ever appear in public together again.

My brother and I are probably different on this issue.  I doubt that he'd be willing to part with even $10 to have some picture made with him and some semi-important gal or political figure.  It'd be different if they'd come over and haul hay with him for eight hours, or if they'd spend half-a-day fixing some fence on the property.  But for an image thing?  No.

How many folks will part with $4,300 for a Hillary picture?  Well, that's what I'd be curious about.  I doubt if she finds more than fifteen people who'd be willing to part with money like this. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Ashkenazi Jews and Western African

This topic comes up because of a DNA test I took and noted that I have around .5-percent of Ashkenazi Jewish DNA show up, and .7-percent from western Africa.  From the family?  Well....this takes a while to figure out.

What I can say is that from my Grandfather's mother....she comes from a family that immigrated into the US around 1730 from central Germany....arriving into Philly and staying for a couple of years in the Maryland area before branching out.

So they were Germans?  Well....no.  You see this side of the family started out in Haute-Saone, France.  It's down in the southern tract of France....fairly near the Alps....in a fairly rural area.  Somewhere in the 1650 to 1700 era....they left this region and moved into the Pfalz area of Germany (again, a rural area).  This likely (not a guaranteed thing) came because of the Thirty Years War (1619 to 1650), and the decimation to farms throughout Germany because of the war and the plague.

Prior to the 1619 era?  The Jewish thing comes into play because of the Roman Empire and the introduction of Jewish traders into France and Germany in this period.

My guess is that some member of this family while in the Pfalz period of 1700 to 1730 era....ended up meeting some Jewish gal and she came with the 'clan' into the new world.

One of the curious episodes that come up because of the Roman introduction of the Jewish traders....is the era around 1096 in the Pfalz region when Crusader-mobs went out on large massacre expeditions and killed off a large segment of population of Ashkenazi Jews.  The three chief cities in the region where it was largely noted were Mainz, Speyer, and Worms.  In the case of Speyer, the Catholic Bishop put up a protective circle around the community and saved a fair number.  But its safe to say a large portion of the Jews were wiped out.

At various stages around the late 1700s, it was strongly emphasized to the Ashkenazi Jews in central Europe....that they needed to change their names, and 'blend-in'.  So families changed their names.

If you look at roughly the nine-million Jews in Europe in the 1930s.....almost six million of them were Ashkenazi Jews.

As for the western Africa DNA?  There's a mystery gal married in the 1830-era with just the name of Rebecca, born in 1814, and from Georgia.  Little else is ever mentioned of her....except the husband and her chose one of the most remote locations of Tennessee to settle into.  My humble guess is that she was 50-percent or 25-percent from a slave-situation in Georgia.  The western Africa thing?  From Senegal to Nigeria.

One can only take a guess...somewhere in the 1700s era....this Senegal-gal came into Georgia and ended up with a child from the situation with a white guy.

As for the story of Rebecca being part Cherokee?  It's been told for almost two-hundred years, and it's a false story but fairly believable. 

So you gaze over this .5-percent and .6-percent....just wondering.  There is more to this whole story but there is way to really figure out the rest of this.

I should note from this DNA test this one other odd feature....2.8-percent Nordic.  This angle?  I'm guessing why the bulk of the family sat on the Norman beaches of France about a thousand years ago....Nordic Vikings/raiders came through and pillaged the land, and some of these Norman women ended up with Norman-Viking kids nine months later.

Then you come to this one last aspect out of this DNA business.....Neanderthal DNA.  Yes, I have some....but it's not as much as most folks.  So somewhere about 20,000 years ago....Yarg met up with some Betty or Veronica gal....and had relations with her.  This could explain my appreciation to steak and bacon today, and why I don't get that excited over chaos much.  I guess Yarg would be proud of the far distance that the family has come and the accomplishments of most of the 'family'.