Friday, January 31, 2014

And the winner is.....


For once I'm actually looking forward to this year's Super Bowl.  You may agree or disagree with my methodology, but to a large extent I base my enthusiasm on the cities represented, and I really like both Seattle and Denver.  Of all the cities represented by NFL teams, these two rate right near/at the top of my list.

I'm not really a fan of the city of Denver proper, but I like that it's the jumping off point for the Colorado Rockies.  I'd live there in a heartbeat, or at least in one of their western suburbs.  And come on, really....who doesn't like Peyton Manning?

And Seattle....Wow! What a beautiful city.  Everything is so green there.  For the record it doesn't rain that much there by volume (the same amount as Dallas), but it just drizzles often, giving it it's reputation.  And all the islands and water and bridges, it's just SOOOO different from anything I see daily in north Texas.  And it's within a couple of hours drive of mountains, too.


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Are we witnessing the collapse of internet commerce?  This morning the news reported that 80M Yahoo accounts have been hacked, which also means those in your contact list have been violated, too.  This time they think everything was picked clean....account #'s, passwords (pin #'s ?), etc.  

The good news for me is that, since I have trouble remembering all my passwords, I can just call the Hacker Hotline and anyone there should be able to tell me all my passwords and which accounts they match up with.  That's convenient!  ;)

Does anyone but me have second thoughts about buying things online and giving up my personal financial data?  And I do all my banking and bill paying online, too.  Am I playing with fire?

DAMN YOU BILL GATES!  (He's my go-to scapegoat in all high-tech crash-and-burn scenarios.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh yeah.  And the winner is......Denver!  :)

Happy weekend everyone.

S


Thursday, January 30, 2014

And you thought YOU were having a bad day!

Put aside your petty office politics and your complaining about the lack of paper towels in the rest room.  Count you blessings you aren't Amy Herbst.

She's an opera singer (a mezzo-soprano) in Nashville, KY, and she has a serious dilemma.  It seems that ever since a common procedure during childbirth, she farts when she sings.  

She claims a nurse at the Ft. Campbell Army Hospital that did an episiotomy (look it up) on her botched it, damaging her reproductive and digestive systems when her son was born, leaving her incontinent, flatulent, and unable to continue her singing career.  She has since lost her job in Madame Butterfly.

Her attorney says the incision wasn't fully repaired, and the prognosis isn't good as follow up surgeries may not fix it, either.  Ouch!

Kinda makes your complaining about the new guy that took your de-facto parking place, the one  you claimed back in '96, seem lame, doesn't it?  ;)

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It seems that a lot of people in Atlanta who were walloped by ice and snow earlier this week are upset with the mayor and the governor for them getting trapped in their cars on the freeways, their kids trapped in their schools, etc.  They say they weren't given enough warning and that someone needs to be held responsible.  

"Dear God, how dare you!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And finally, Justin Bieber is back in Canada to answer assault charges filed against him there.  If I was him I'd be very scared.  I don't think he'll fare very well in prison.

Now, y'all go and have a nice day.  :)  

S


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Producers vs "hangers-on"



How many people do you see here actually working?

Have you ever stopped to think about all the jobs there are in this country, around the world even, that don't directly produce anything?

For example, there are people who mine the raw materials that go into making the steel and rubber and plastic that will eventually become a car.  Engineers add their smarts, some make the parts, and finally others screw it all together.

Eventually, waa laa....CAR!  All those people DIRECTLY add to the economy.  They PRODUCE something of value.  Same with the geeks at Apple.  They dream up things....they're part of the process....that eventually PRODUCES iPhones and iPads and such.

But along the way there exists a huge workforce comprised of what I call the "hangers-on".  They don't DO anything except watch the people who do the work.  

For example, the Human Resources folks don't produce anything, they just make sure you comply with all the rules imposed on you by other people who likewise don't produce anything.  (Full disclosure:  K works in HR.)  

I can understand a "safety officer", but why a "safety inspector" AND a "safety manager", too?  Why do we need layer upon layer of hangers-on watching workers work?  

Consultants are everywhere, many because they're just unemployed producers themselves.  Don't even get me started on the bean counters and their "generally accepted accounting pricnciples", which is code for "What do you want it to say?"  They can obfuscate anything.  

Yes, I know there is societal value in making sure polluters don't mess up our air or water, and to putting out fires and locking up criminals, even though you can't put a price on how much those jobs add to the economy.  But IMO too much time is spent making sure the file cabinets are full of cover-your-ass paperwork in case a lawyer (another large group of non-producers) comes along and wants to extort a few mil.  

By and large most hangers-on are simply necessary liabilities, not assets.  They take their paychecks and buy those cars and computers and TV's produced by others, and that's a good thing, but really they're just the "filler" in the economic smorgasbord, not the "entree".

Now don't get your knickers in a knot.  Before anyone gets their feelings hurt, know that I consider much of what I did for nearly 40 years was of the "filler" variety, too.  I'm just calling 'em as I see 'em.

Did you know my city has a guy whose job, one of them at least, is to go around and make sure all the construction site porta-potties are properly staked down per ordinance?  

In France there are laws that dictate how large the signs painted on store windows can be.  And field inspectors who go from store to store with tape measures to make sure all are in compliance.  How is that adding anything of value to the economy?

Remember the book Future Shock?  It mentions a time in the future when more and more of the work will be done by fewer and fewer of the people.  I think we've found that time is here right now.

S


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Yankee tumbleweeds

Well here it is before 9am and I've already learned about something new today:  snow rollers.  I'd never heard of such things.  Be honest now, had you heard of them before?


Course, I'm not too well versed on the phenomenon peculiar to the frozen north.  I did live for a year in Illinois when I was a toddler, but all I remember about it was the HOT babysitter who lived next door.  Never anything about snow rolls.


I saw this on TV this morning.  How cool is that?  The wind blows so hard it just rolls the snow up layer by layer.


The closest I've seen are rolls of hay, and they're not nearly as picturesque.


And tumbleweeds.  West Texas at it's finest!

That's all I have.  My mind has drawn a blank.  I'll try and find something to write about tomorrow that will leave you spellbound.  :)

S


Monday, January 27, 2014

Bigger is better....truth or myth?

Wonder who it was that first came up with the slogan "bigger is better"?  I will agree that in a few very specific circumstances bigger might indeed be better, but generally speaking bigger just means "bigger headaches".

I read in the paper yesterday that now that the US economy is recovering, the size of newly built homes is growing again.  It said that new homes now average over 2200 square feet, but I can tell you that around here (Dallas), that's a relatively modest starter house.  The vast majority seem to be well in excess of 3000 feet.  For families with kids this might make sense, but not for empty nesters (and there are a lot of us).



Build 'em big.  Build a lot of 'em.  

I haven't built a home smaller than 5500 square feet in years.  Right now I'm adding on to a 6300 square footer I built 2 years ago ^ , bringing it up to around 9000 feet.  I can't imagine living in a house that large.  It just isn't my thing.  (But of course, if they're intent on giving their hard earned money to a builder, it might as well be me. ;)

I had a large(-ish) home myself a few years ago, but with the recession of '08 approaching I knew that its value was only going to drop, so I bailed when I could and did fairly well.  

The main reason I bailed, however, was because I was tired of paying all the property taxes, the insurance, the utilities, the maintenance, the yard upkeep, the cleaning, etc.  I was getting no satisfaction from ownership, and in fact it was an albatross around my neck.

I began thinking about it and realized we actually only used about 1300 square feet, the rest just being space that was never used.  All that hassle wasn't worth it to my teeny ego.  Or maybe I'm just lazy? (Full disclosure.)

We rented a 2 bed-2 bath apartment* in a nice area and found it to be plenty big enough....after getting rid of everything we knew we were never going to use again.  Before long we realized even that was too much (the spare bedroom became a catch-all junk room) so we downsized again to a one bedroom apartment.  The peace of mind knowing that I have virtually no chores to do around the house/apt is very liberating.



This would do just fine.

But now here's the crazy part:  I sometimes think it would be nice to build another home for K and me.  I could make it state-of-the-art, energy efficient, super durable, etc, but I would want absolutely no more than 1,000 square feet, and there's the rub.  No city around here will allow a home to be built that small.

Why, you ask?  (Go ahead, ask.)  Because the cities like all the property tax $$$$ big houses bring in.  Screw what the people want, this is what the cities want.  The tail is wagging the dog.  

So the next time you hear some bureaucrat from the Department of Overpaid Gubment Employment preach that we need to preserve water and power, use less everything, recycle more, live smarter and such, remind them of this hypocrisy.

S


* Sometime I should write about my downsizing experience.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

I'm scared to know where this is going


"When I'm good, I'm very good.  When I'm bad, I'm better." ~~Mae West

Every Friday night K and I have our date night out.  It's always dinner and then maybe a bookstore visit or shopping this weeks Big Sale before the crush on Saturday, etc.   The funniest thing is, we live in the heart of restaurant country, there are literally 100+ places to eat within a couple of miles of home, yet we have trouble picking one.  

Every cuisine you can imagine is somewhere in the vicinity, but somehow we have a hard time picking a place we can both agree on.  One thing that is always high on my list but is always poo-pooed by K is barbecue.  I love a plain 'ol simple barbecue joint.  She says she always comes out smelling like wood smoke.


I have no idea why she thinks that.  I tell her it's all in her head, but she's adamant....NO BARBECUE!  If I want barbecue I have to go there by myself when she's over visiting her mama or working a little late. 

Last night she came home from work and I asked her, "What sounds good for dinner tonight?"  I'm expecting a half hour of, "How about Romano's?"  

"No."  

"OK then, how about Anamias?"  

"No.  Maybe Jasons?"

Instead, the first words out of her mouth were, "How about barbecue?"


OMG....OMG!  What has she done?  Did she wreck the car?  Did she run up a gazillion dollar charge on her credit card buying books on Amazon?  (She already has a dozen or more unread ones waiting in line.)  I know....she's wanting to drag me to some Star Wars convention?

  
Then she said, "And Saturday evening the Northampton Saints (my favorite rugby team) are playing [some French team] in a Heineken Cup match and it's gonna be on TV!"

Oh Dear God....this is worse than I thought.  WHAT IS SHE UP TO?

So far we've had some great barbecue and I bought a new Car magazine at the bookstore last night.  That's it.  She hasn't tipped her hand yet. 

I'm scared.  

Stay tuned.

S



Friday, January 24, 2014

My weekend wardrobe....a heavy parka and shorts. No, really.


But no snow.  It's like getting a kiss from your sister.  So far this winter we've had a helluva ice storm, but no snow.  If we don't get some in the next 30 days I'm afraid we'll miss out completely.  :(  

Imagine this:  It's 15 degrees today and it's expected to be in the mid-70's for a high on Sunday.  Sheesh!  That's Texas weather for you.  On a more personal level, it takes me longer to get suited up to take the dog out than it takes him to find a spot and take care of his business when he gets there.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We had a little excitement in the neighborhood last night.  I heard multiple sirens and looked out to see the fire department turn into the Cisco office park right across the street.  When I walked to the window to see what all the commotion was I saw this:


A car in their parking lot caught fire.  I called K to come look, and as we watched it exploded!  The FD had already checked it and then apparently pulled back, just waiting for the KABOOM!  Then they snuffed out what was left and moved on.  Just another day at the office for Frisco's Finest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So Super Bowl Sunday is rapidly approaching and now they're saying that if another killer snow storm develops the NFL might move the game to Saturday or even to a weekday the following week.  I'm thinking Green Bay Packer fans are laughing their asses off right now.  :)

What the hell was the NFL thinking when they awarded the Super Bowl to an open stadium in a northern state to be played in the dead of winter?   In this day and age of domed stadiums everywhere....DUH!  

Have a great weekend everyone.

S


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winners and losers


According to one news story this morning Prez O'bama will again make income inequality a major issue in his upcoming State of the Union message.  The fact that there is growing income inequality is irrefutable....the rich are indeed getting richer.  The question is what, if anything, can be done about it?

I'm a compassionate capitalist.  In theory I don't believe there is a lock on the door that prevents anyone from getting ahead.  But facts say that it IS becoming harder, and IMO that's because there are special laws and tax advantages the government has granted to some at the expense of others. (Example:  Allowing tax deductions for companies to shut down US facilities and move them overseas.)

In other words, the rich are to a large extent getting richer NOT necessarily by their hard work, but by the wink and nod they've been given by the government.    

Consider this:  In 2008 69% of corporations paid NO corporate income taxes at all, up from 24% in 1986.  Successive administrations, both Democratic and Republican, through their policies and favors dispensed, have given special help to SOME businesses/industries (and individuals, too), primarily those who lobbied the hardest and made the largest political campaign contributions.  

Their shareholder's "windfall" wasn't the result of working any harder, but due to government largess.  If your company is still paying taxes, then you are at a competitive disadvantage.  In other words, those who paid taxes subsidized those who didn't.

We need a level playing field, one where government can't designate winners and losers.  That's what is happening now with special tax advantages and subsidies for some at the expense of others.  Income inequality can largely be addressed by simply scrapping the old tax code (for both corporations and individuals) and replacing it with one that is fair to all.  As always, the devil will be in the details.

*"Blasphemy!" said one fat cat to another* 

Your ultimate success or failure will then be largely in your hands.  Work hard, work smart....you thrive.  Slack off....you lose.  No headwinds, no tailwinds.

S


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pimp my Olympic team

Have you ever watched "Pimp My Ride"?  It's a TV show where they take bland, unappealing cars and highly customize...."pimp"....them until they become desirable (?).  They're usually really over the top:




I'm guessing that show is popular in Norway, too, or at least with the Norwegian Olympic Curling team, as evidenced by their uniforms....


Business attire


...and when they want to step out on the town.  So much for the calm, introverted Scandinavians, huh? :)


OMG!  Even the host Russians are making a fashion statement!  (I just wish they'd learn how to smile.)


Spain is tarting up, too.


Which leaves the USA.  We look like the valet parking attendants at the Ritz Carlton (circa 1972).  Is it too late for a mad shopping spree at....umm....you know....one of those cool hip stores 63-year-old white men aren't allowed in?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of the upcoming Olympics, I also read that the Rooskies are trying to spiff up their image with their international guests attending the Sochi Winter Games.  Here is a restroom facility at one of the venue sites.  Quite modern, eh?....


It's actually an upgrade from back in the Commie days when a "two holer" was just that....two holes in the ground. Oddly, the two toilets have to share one roll of toilet paper.  I guess that's one way to get people to work together.  ;)

Peace, out.

S


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Does "NFL" stand for Narcissist Football League?


Did any of you watch the NFL Championship games on TV this past Sunday?  I watched them both....they were great!  But the image that lingers with me today isn't Peyton Manning shredding the Patriot defense with his laser-like passing or San Francisco QB Colin Kapperticknick running wild through the Seattle secondary like he was Barry Sanders in his heyday.  

No, what I remember is this asshole ^ , Richard Sherman, shooting his mouth off to Erin Andrews in a post-game interview about how great he was.

He isn't the only "legend in his own mind" in the NFL.  Have you ever noticed how, when a defensive player makes a tackle or breaks up a pass, most will jump up and run about 10 yards away from the pile where everyone can get a good look at them, then do their chest pounding "I'm so cool" dance?

We can thank Kansas City receiver Elmo Wright for giving us the end zone dance.  He was the first I can remember doing it.  Yes....no?  Anyway, I've read that today many NFL players will stand in front of their full length "I love me" mirror at home and practice their goofy little arm-flapping, knee-knocking, chicken-dancing moves.   I'm sorry, but I just find that silly.  

Here's my theory:  Most of these more flamboyant NFL narcissists probably came from impoverished backgrounds.  As kids they didn't have much, had little hope for the future, and were told they would never amount to anything.  But then at some point they found they had athletic ability, and suddenly they were somebody.  

They were high school heroes, then they were fawned over by college recruiters.  In college all they had to do was take 12 hours a semester to stay "full time" and keep their eligibility.  Grades were often...."manipulated".  They didn't have time to learn....all they could think about was the post season awards they would get, the NFL draft, and their $$$$ signing bonuses.

By the time they got to the NFL any modesty they might have had at one time was long-gone and they truly believed they were somebody special, and all their antics are just their way of begging for more attention...."Look at me, look at me!"

The sad part is, they really aren't that special.  Most can only do one thing, and that only lasts until somebody bigger, better, faster, stronger, younger comes along, and somebody always does.

Statistically most NFL players will have squandered their considerable earnings within just a few years after retiring.  They might be able to live off their past glory for a few more years, but even that will soon fade.  

The smart players will employ financial guys to invest and manage their money, but most are too busy buying new Bentley's and shiny rocks for their ears to worry about practical things like planning for a future after football.  

As they say, "The bigger they come, the harder they fall."  I'm thinking Richard Sherman is just one of many NFL narcissists who will make a major splat one of these days that will register on the Richter Scale.
  
S



Monday, January 20, 2014

On the podium at the Winter Olympics

I love the Winter Olympics, and they'll be starting in just a few weeks.  Woo Hoo!

I enjoy them more than the Summer Olympics because the events seem much more exotic, at least to this Texas boy.  I mean, I can swim, just not as fast as Michael Phelps.  And I can run, just not as fast as that gazelle from Jamaica.  I've thrown a shot put, and somehow avoided squashing my own feet.  Ride a bicycle....check.  And I've been on parallel bars, too....I even managed a non-lethal dismount.  Been there, done that.  *thank you....thank you very much*




But I've never been on a bobsled. (I've never even seen a boblsed.)   I think that would be a hoot!  I'd be happy just to be the #4 guy, sitting back there holding on for dear life. 


Or the luge.  I'd love to give that a try.  Even if I couldn't steer, I would think you'd just bounce off the sides of that chute a little and let gravity do the rest.  Right?


Skating....OK, I have done that. ( We have ice skating rinks inside malls here.)  But I didn't go very fast.  In fact, if I'd been going that slow on a bicycle I would have fallen over.


Oooo....downhill skiing!  I can't imagine what it would be like to be going 80mph on skis!

The one event that most appeals to me, though, is ski jumping.  It combines my fascination with flying and my love of mountains and (no offense Yankee friends) snow.


Imagine stepping out onto that incline thing and getting up a head of steam and at the end, giving it a supreme spring and....


....then you're flying.  :)  How cool would that be?  I wonder how those guys got started?  Think I could do it?


Sure, I doubt my form would be all that good at first.


I'm sure it's not easy.  Still, how hard could it really be?

 I mean, gravity will see to it that you get to the bottom, one way or another.


*gulp*  Or, I could just sit in my den and watch the Olympics on TV.  


 Just like I've been doing ever since 1960.  Yeah, let's go with that.  They can just mail me my medal later.  (Besides, I don't think I'd look very good in Spandex.)  

I can't wait!  :)

S


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Monkey see, monkey do

Reading the news online this morning I saw this:

The State Department recently warned that no one attending the Olympics should expect privacy, noting that Russian law “permits the monitoring, retention and analysis of all data that traverses Russian communication networks, including Internet browsing, email messages, telephone calls and fax transmissions.”

Umm....haven't the US Courts ruled that our government can do the same thing?  It's only at the whim of our leaders (from both parties) that we don't.  Or do we???

Think about that, Comrade.

S

Friday, January 17, 2014

So now I've pissed off Germany, too?



"I had...a bad...experience!"  from The Italian Job.

Earlier this week I said some rather disparaging things about India, and immediately my technology tools all went kaput.  This necessitated a call to Yahoo customer service, which of course is contracted out to a couple of semi-English speaking idiots in....INDIA!   It has been suggested to me this was simply Karma coming home to roost with a vengeance.  (NOTE:  Just as I typed this, the battery compartment door on my wireless keyboard popped open and the batteries fell out.  That's creepy!)

Yesterday my car's driver side power window wouldn't open, and I remembered there was a fuse that controlled just the driver's side front window.  The other 3 windows worked fine.  So while I was out making my rounds I stopped in to my mechanic and asked him to please check it.

He got in my car (an Audi), turned on the key, hit the "down" switch....and it came down.  DAMN!  So it was just me?  Am I jinxed or what?

Then he tried to close it, and just as happened to me....nothing.  Now it was stuck down*.  Yes.  I AM jinxed.

What have I done to piss off Germany?  I like Germany, especially their cars.  *sigh*

I need the weekend to hurry up and get here.  *pout*

S

*They got it back up temporarily. It wasn't the fuse.   Replacement parts are coming pronto from Canada.  I'm just thankful they aren't coming from #$%^& India.  ;)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

You live by technology, you die by technology


Technology really kicked my ass yesterday.  My business email just vanished.  Pffffft!  I can't access my business website, and my email can't forward (link?) over to my personal email account.  I used to log in to my personal Yahoo account, then I could skip back and forth between the two emails....been doing it that way for years.

And I use my biz email as my "paper trail".  I have thousands of emails saved, available to refer back to if needed.  Where'd they go?  

K says they're on a cloud somewhere, but I have no idea which one.  So what am I supposed to do?  Call Google, Yahoo, Apple, Amazon, the NSA, etc and ask 'em if they have my stuff?  And if they do, I'm sure they're gonna want a password.  

"Sure, here's 50....let's try 'em all and see if one of them works."  I'll be "locked out" after the first 3 and have the FBI after me for suspicion of hacking.  DUH!

And on a non-technology matter, even dinner kicked my ass, too.  The little jingle on TV said, "Any footlong Subway sandwich....$5 all month long."  So I went to get K and me a footlong Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt for dinner last night.  They made it, toasted it, put on my toppings, wrapped it up, and then said, "That will be $7.75."  

"Umm....what happened to $5?"

She pointed to the small print on the bottom of the menu 15 feet up in the air, 30 feet behind the counter.  It said, "Any footlong except the Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt".  Those bastards!

Then back home I pulled up my ATT Uverse app on my iPad to check the TV schedule and it said I had no favorites saved.  Bullshit!  

It wants me to look through 800 channels just to find the 10 or so I actually watch?  I've been looking at it every evening for months.  I know I have them saved.  Where'd they go?  

Then I tried to log out and then back in, and it said it couldn't find the server.  It...couldn't...find...the...server?  How do you lose an entire $%^& server?  Aren't they the size of a refrigerator?

Is there some weird sunspot activity going on?  I mean, why me?  Why couldn't it smite Iran or North Korea or Cleveland?

*sigh*

S