Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pay now, or pay later


I can't for the life of me understand how a human mind could become so depraved as to think that slitting an 86-year-old Priest's throat is somehow acceptable.  To some, "the end justifies the means."  To me, and I'm guessing I have just a "normal" Western mind, the means ABSOLUTELY DO matter.  If you have to lie, cheat, steal, or kill to get what you want, then what you want is evil.

I read today in the Washington Post the results of an extensive survey* regarding Muslim attitudes towards ISIS in 5 Mid-East countries: Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, and Algeria.  Keep in mind these do NOT include the dysfunctional Muslim states of Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, with Pakistan and Egypt "on the cusp".


Sorry for the blurry chart above, but the takeaway is this:  between .8% and 5.5% agree with ISIS tactics, and between 1% and 8.9% believe ISIS tactics are compatible with Islam.

With a population of 2.7 million, this means Jordan has 216,000 potential new terrorists.

With a population of 33.6 million, this means Morocco has 504,000 potential new terrorists.

With a population of 11 million, this means Tunisia has 165,000 potential new terrorists.

With a population of 4.3 million, this means Palestine has 382,700 potential new terrorists.

With a population of 39.5 million, this means Algeria has 3,199,500 potential new terrorists.

Now ISIS task is to convince these 4,467,200 potential recruits to "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk".  If only .5%....that's one half of one percent....accept the call to arms, the world will have 22,336 new throat slitters on the loose.

I in no way mean for this statistic to be an endorsement of Donald Trump, but I will say, on this one issue, his suggestion that all applicants for immigration to the US from "certain countries" be thoroughly vetted, is prudent.  

If we don't, and we do let even a few hundred of these radicals slip in, and they do the unthinkable, Americans will panic.  Let's face it, we're quick to see murder and mayhem behind every tree and rock.  Imagine a hundred million gun owners running around looking for those who "don't look right".  Yikes!

Then there will be a wholesale backlash against every Muslim, which is exactly what radical Islamist terrorists want.  To see Westerners pitted against each other....whether by race, or religion, or whatever....means they have succeeded.  They will see us collapse into the abyss with them where for the first time in a thousand years they will be on par with us.  That's about the best they could ever hope for.

I say lets just do the responsible, prudent thing now and not give them the satisfaction later. 

S

* The Arab Barometer survey was done by: 
Mark Tessler is the Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Michael Robbins is the director of the Arab Barometer. Amaney A. Jamal is the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics at Princeton University and director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, no wait...are those PIGS flying??


I love waking up in the morning so I can see what screw-ball political news popped up overnight.  Last week I saw a guy who used to be a billionaire Democrat, who raised millions of dollars for them, be crowned King of Republicans.  Then in his acceptance speech he talked about being the voice of the underdog, the working man, and underpaid women workers.  He says he'll bring back American jobs, and he's against a trade deal that [some say] would enable his fellow one-percenters to move jobs overseas and maximize their profits.  Wha....what? 



Then this week I've seen a woman who's been a lifelong liberal Democrat and is on the cusp of being her party's nominee for President, but who is today actually, quietly, the Darling of the Rich Establishment.  She publicly pledges to take down their Big Banks at the same time she gives speeches to them at a Quarter-$Mil a pop, and stuffs her campaign chest with their "donations".   *wink wink*   


She's been scorned for months by a crusty old Independent-Socialist Senator who fought tooth-and-nail with her, but now is having to beg....absolutely beg....his followers to not do anything to upset her status quo.  ('Cause, you know, socialists just loooove the status quo.)  And his loyal followers aren't buying it!  They're in the streets chanting, "Hell no D-N-C...we won't vote for Hill-ar-y."  Double Wha....what?

In my lifetime I've seen Republicans do a 180 and embrace positions that used to belong to Democrats, and vice versa.  The party of Lincoln today rarely gets any African-American votes, while the party of George Wallace gets millionsNow I can't tell a Republicrat from a Demolican.  I'm so confused.


Are we watching some long-lost episode of The Twilight Zone?  Is the ghost of Rod Serling just jerking our chain? 


On a side note, are brownies supposed to have seeds in them?  ;)

S

Sunday, July 24, 2016

How can supposedly smart people do such dumb things?


So the Democratic National Committee got caught playing favorites with their candidates.  It seems that WikiLeaks made public thousands of damning emails between DNC staffers, including the DNC Chair, and others, talking about how they could cripple Bernie Sanders' campaign and help Hillary Clinton's.

Yes, I'm outraged (but not surprised) it happened, but I'm even more dismayed that all those supposedly smart people would put anything in writing that they wouldn't want to see made public.  Nothing is secure these days....that's common knowledge.  Some smart geeks somewhere in the world can and will hack into any and every high profile account they can just to cause trouble, if not outright extort.

If you don't want to get caught writing embarrassing, vulgar, slanderous emails, don't write embarrassing, vulgar, slanderous emails.  "Paper trails" work both ways....they can hurt or help.  Haven't we learned that by now?  Have you ever sent an email meant for one person to someone else by mistake?  I thought that was just a rookie mistake.  So now we know the Democratic National Committee is full of rookies?  These are the people assisting the potential leader of the Free World?  Yikes!

*Looks like the DNC will soon be hiring.  Experience not required*



The same goes with cameras.  How many times have we seen videos of a policeman just beating the beejebers out of some guy after, for example, a chase.  He'll get the guy on the ground and then commence to just beat the crap out of him, and then a few seconds later the other less fit, fat, flatfooted cops catch up and jump in, too.  Then it goes viral and the cops are indicted, or at least looking for new employment.

BREAKING NEWS:   Every mouth breathing knuckledragger with a cell phone (and they all have cell phones) lives to take a video of something to embarrass someone else with.  Security cameras, cell phone cameras, traffic cameras, body cameras, dash cameras....they're everywhere.  How can anyone with even a low-double-digit IQ not know that?

  Even I know that!  ;)

Don't want to be photographed picking your nose, or staring at some well-endowed babe's cleavage, or stealing your neighbor's Amazon package off their porch?  THEN DON'T DO THOSE THINGS!

How can we be so smart and so stupid at the same time?

S




Friday, July 22, 2016

Well...THAT was interesting!


The Republican Convention 2016 is history.  Hurricane Trump has moved inland, the Lake Erie coast has been spared.  No riots, no attacks.  Now we just have to slog through the usual follow-on storms and the eventual cleanup.

What I took away, first of all, is that Donald Trump has a set of World-Class vocal chords.  I watched and heard him scream for 75 minutes during his acceptance speech.  Some say his screams were scary dark, that he dwelt on doom-and-gloom.  The media called it "midnight in America".  Others say he was just telling it like it is.  I heard a bit of both.

These are scary times.  Domestically, race relations are tense.  Many cities are potential powder kegs.  Too many cops have itchy trigger fingers.  Too many of our citizens need anger management.  The average Joe is falling behind.  He/she hasn't had a raise in 20 years (after inflation).  Too many good jobs have gone overseas.  

Too many educated young people with staggering student debt can't get a job commensurate with their smarts.  We're flipping far too many burgers.  Too few Ivory Tower dwellers pull too many strings and are too far removed from the country the rest of us have to live in.  Fact.  (Bernie and The Donald can have a lovefest on that one!)

Internationally, it's a pretty f__ked up world out there, and it gets more f__ked up every day.  Look at what's happening in previously stable, vibrant Turkey.  We have a tiger by the tail and we don't know how to turn loose of it.  Our attempt at "nation building" has NOT worked.  Fifteen years and a TRILLION dollars later, all we've managed to do is stir up a fire ant pile.  Islam has proven to be an apparently easy religion to subvert.  As one of the convention speakers pointed out, while only about 10% of the world's Muslims have any sympathy for Islamic terrorism, 10% of 1.6 billion Muslims is 160,000,000 potential bomb chuckers! 

The basic premise of Donald Trump's grievances are true.  The issue is, can he and he alone fix it?  Lemme think....*one nanosecond later*....NO!  Like all politicians, he's over-promising.  ISIS will not crawl back into its hole on January 20th.  Ronald Reagan might have backed down the Iranians back in 1980, but the Iranians were sane.  ISIS isn't.

The underlying racism that exists here at home can't just be legislated away.  Crime will not instantly vanish on inauguration day.  His wall isn't going to build itself.  American companies* aren't just going to put their greed aside and move production back here.  (I see a Trump Presidency as being an absolute gold mine for lobbyists!)

     *Is there such a thing as an "American company" any more?  IMO their loyalty seems to be to their money, not their country.

So if Donald Trump is just blowing smoke, does that mean that Hillary Clinton should have an easy time exposing him as a 21st Century Don Quixote?  I'm doubtful.  It will be difficult for her to say she can bring us the change (now where have we heard that before?) that will right all our wrongs.  Why?  Because SHE IS THE ESTABLISHMENTThe Establishment with the lowest approval rating in history.  Want proof?....look who the big financial interests are throwing their money at this election year.  They are the ones who have the most to lose if the status quo should implode.  

And as I've said forever (and you know I'm never wrong *wink*) Hillary has too many skeletons in her closet.  Too many people just don't like her.  There isn't enough lipstick....no, I won't go there.  Hillary will have her week, we'll hear her tell us how she'll fix things, and then it's up to us to choose.

Just to stir the pot a bit (more), have you looked at the Libertarian candidates?  The Libertarians are an odd mix....fiscally conservative like traditional Republicans, yet socially liberal like traditional Democrats.  Their poll numbers this year are up into double digits, very good for them.  They won't win this year, but they just might build themselves into a viable third party, one that might temper the other two some day.  Give them a look-see.

Enough of my bloviating.  Your feedback, either (politely) positive or negative, would be welcome.

S


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"Were your there, Grandpa, when The Donald became President?"


Presenting the next King President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

Remember all those "And You Were There" books that put you in the place and time a historic event took place?  I think watching Donald Trump this election cycle dispose of 17 primary opponents and win the Republican nomination for President is going to be one of those book-worthy historic events.

The Republicans have one more night of smoke blowing for us to endure, and then it's on to Philadelphia to watch the Democrats trot out their Dog and Pony Show.  I have no idea what the polls say this morning, which will no doubt be different, perhaps even 180 degrees different, from what they'll say next week or next month, but I think it's over.  The Donald will be our next President.

Here's why I say that:  First, national events are working in Trump's favor.  His tough law-and-order stance will resonate more and more over the next few months.  The stark contrast between candidates Trump and Clinton will cause national tensions to remain high.  Another minority will lose his life under suspicious circumstances, and another few lawmen will sadly die, too.  Hillary Clinton's meek "why can't we all just get along" message will ring hollow compared to Donald Trump's "kick ass and take names" chest pounding.  Advantage Trump.

Second, terrorism around the world is gaining momentum.  I don't care if we militarily stomp ISIS into the dirt in Syria and Iraq, lone wolves or small cells of Islamic terrorists will continue to kill innocent people in Europe and, yes, perhaps even in America, too.  We're right now seeing the only sane (up until now) Muslim country in the Mid East be taken over by an Islamic strongman.  Turkey is going down the toilet before our very eyes.  How soon before the West will be told to take our NATO and move along?   Many Americans say they're tired of being "kicked around".  Donald Trump's tough talk will help soothe a lot of wounded American egos.  Advantage Trump.

And finally, we know the campaigns will get nasty, but think what each side has to complain about.  Hillary can talk about Ms Trump's plagiarism, Donald's multiple business bankruptcies, the perhaps fraudulent Trump University (which no one had even heard of until a couple of months ago), Trump steaks, his animated insult of a physically challenged NY reporter, his massive ego, his lack of government experience (which to many is as much an advantage as a disadvantage), his serial marriages, his policy flip flops over the years, "Two Corinthians", his demeaning words about Hispanics (whose votes Republicans rarely get anyway), and a few others.

Now think what Donald Trump can say about Hillary Clinton.  It's hard to even count all the scandals, real or imagined, that she has been associated with over the past 30 years....her abortive HillaryCare back during Bill's presidency, File Gate, Travel Gate, Vince Foster, the legal order to give back stuff she left the White House with when Dubyah moved in, and all the trade deals she has supported, which can easily be argued cost American jobs.  And more recently, American lives lost at Benghazi, the recent Iran deal she began negotiating, her "damn emails", etc.  Plus, she's been a part of government for decades.  It will be easy to say she's not the answer, but actually a part of the problem.  And independently, the NRA will go after her with a vengeance.  Hillary's flaws will seem more substantive to more people than Donald's shortcomings. 

Game, set, match.  All Hail President Trump.*

S

* Don't run to your bookie and bet on Donald Trump based on my analysis.  I also thought he would have stumbled and fallen months ago.  What do I know?  *wink*


Monday, July 18, 2016

What's the point of "open carry"?


The Ringling Brothers Republican National Convention opens today in Cleveland and the talk of the town, almost surpassing talk of/by Donald Trump, is the open carry of guns by citizens and protestors around the convention site.  Law enforcement is scared shitless, saying in the event of violence they won't be able to differentiate the bad guy(s) from the people legally carrying openly.  It's a valid complaint.

We've had legal open carry in my state of Texas since late last year, joining 44 other states allowing citizens properly vetted to carry firearms openly in public....ie: NOT concealed.  I'm one of those who has been thoroughly vetted.  

I often, but not always, carry my firearm, but when I do it's always concealed.  I prefer making anyone who wishes to do me harm guess when I am and when I am not carrying.  For the life of me, I don't see what advantage there is to carrying a gun on my hip for all to see. 

For those who do openly carry, do they think just seeing a gun on their side will make possible assailants walk wide of them, or look elsewhere for someone to mug?  Think about that....if someone were to assault you, what would they be looking for?  Something on you of value, right?  Your watch, your wallet, etc.  When they can see you have a $500-$1,000 gun right there for the taking, wouldn't that be what they would go after first?  

Might that gun on your side actually attract trouble?  It would be ridiculously easy for someone walking down the sidewalk to suddenly hit someone openly carrying up side the face or stick a knife in them, grab their gun, and run off long before the gun toter could react. It's like wearing a sign on your back that says "hit me".

Given the choice, especially considering what has been happening recently, don't you think even the cops would rather be driving unmarked cars, wearing civilian clothes, and carrying their guns concealed to make themselves less visible?


IMO people who are walking around flaunting their gun(s) are simply living out some romanticized dream of themselves as a real life Rambo.  I'd love to walk up to one of them and say, "Wow, cool gun.  Sorry about your penis."  :)

S



Saturday, July 16, 2016

A tale of two Turkey's

OK, stay with me here....I'm talking about Turkey, the country, not turkey, the bird.  Turkey the country burst into the news a couple days ago when a group of its army officers tried to seize power from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  The coup d'etat failed, and Erdogan remained in office and in fact is now consolidating his power.  Looking at it through American eyes, what does all this mean?  Some background:



Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first President of the modern Republic of Turkey.

At the end of World War I the defeated Ottoman Empire was broken up.  It was Mustafa Kemal (the name Ataturk was added later), a former Ottoman military officer, who pulled together Turkish nationalists and, long story short, won the Turkish War of Independence.  Think of him as a Turkish George Washington.  He was a brilliant progressive for his time, insisting on a strict secular (separation of state and religion) form of government and a strong, independent judiciary.  He built thousands of new schools, primary education was made free and compulsory, and women were given equal civil and political rights.  


Ataturk and his successor's western style of leadership have made Turkey far and away the most affluent, modern, and stable country in the Muslim world.  (The oil kingdoms might be affluent and modern, but will likely be stable only until their oil runs low.)

The Turkish constitution specifically gave the army the power to intercede if attempts were ever made to subvert its secular form of government.  Five times since 1960 they have stepped in to restore order after various crises, sometimes peacefully, sometimes rather heavy-handedly.


Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the 14th and current President of Turkey, serving since 2014.

President Erdogan was elected Mayor of Istanbul in 1994, and although an Islamist at heart, was a fairly pragmatic leader.  By 1997, however, his Welfare Party was one of several the army cracked down on for violating Ataturk's guiding principle of separation of religion and state.  When Erdogan publicly embraced the words of an Islamist poem, saying, "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers", he was sentenced to 10 months in prison, eventually serving four.

After prison Erdogan was one of the founders of the Justice and Development Party, known as the AKP (go figure).  While still Islamist, it struck a more moderate public tone.  In recent years, however, he has accused the army of numerous (real or imagined) intrigues, and has had the supposed leaders arrested and jailed.  The result is that today most surviving senior military officers seem unwilling to speak out against him.  

This has paved the way for Erdogan to increase his authoritarian power.  Perhaps due to the current worldwide "Islamic awareness", the masses in Turkey seem more and more willing to blur the line between separation of religion and state, which Erdogan has been more than willing to exploit.

The still independent Turkish courts have recently on appeal ruled in favor of the officers Erdogan had jailed and released them.  This might be why [some of] the military again found its nerve and initiated last weeks coup, but without enough popular or military support, they failed.  Now the roundup is underway (6,000 so far), and the army is again being de-clawed.  Do you honestly believe any of the officers left standing will risk their necks to defend a secular Turkey?

So what does this all mean to us?  Until recently Erdogan has been a rather lukewarm participant in the war on ISIS.   The Turks have allowed ISIS recruits to transit through on their way Syria and Iraq, and have not allowed their air bases to be used to bomb ISIS strongholds.   (Turkey's and ISIS' sworn enemy is Syria's President Assad, and Erdogan was following the old adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend.")  It was only after ISIS targeted the Turks for being apostate Muslims that they joined the fight in earnest.

With their newly found Islamic sense of pride and after being rebuffed by the European Union for membership, I'm wondering if Turkey will soon become a less-than-reliable ally?  How far will they go?  Will they someday become a theocracy similar to Iran?  Our next President might want to think about putting fewer of our eggs in Turkey's basket, just sayin'.

I think....I hope....we've learned the lesson that [helping to] overthrow an "uncooperative" government often backfires, leaving a vacuum that can be exploited by factions far worse than the one we helped eliminate.  The Turks will have to decide their own fate, and live with the results.  

So who is the big winner in all this?  Beats me, but I don't see it being the West.  Ataturk's moderate, secular Muslim country seems to be slowly backsliding.  Methinks they might be messing in their mess kit.

S


Friday, July 15, 2016

Here we go again....

The crowd at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France runs for their life as a truck ran down hundreds of people on the street.  Early reports are the driver was a French Muslim citizen of Tunisian heritage.

Once again we are focused, even overwhelmed, by talk of terrorism and how likely we are to see it here in America.  Short answer:  Yes, we'll see it here in America again, too.  Start buying up supplies, stocking bottled water, and building that safe room.  Pull the shades, hunker down.

Kidding.  All the "Breaking News" banners across our TV screens might push us in that direction, but the facts just don't support it.  Terrorism, unless you live in some hellhole like Iraq or Syria, doesn't register as a leading cause of death.  According to our Center For Disease Control, [in 2014] these are what we Americans should be watching out for:

Heart disease: 614,348
Cancer: 591,699
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
Alzheimer's disease: 93,541
Diabetes: 76,488
Influenza and pneumonia: 55,227
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 48,146
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773

Terrorism isn't even on their loooooong list.  It's probably somewhere down there with "being kicked in the head by a mule" as a cause of death.  Relax.  Relax, but don't just walk around with your head up your arse.  Learn situational awareness.  That's a $3 term for knowing what's going on around you.

Keep your eyes and ears open.  If you're a Muslim yourself, you're likely to come into contact with other Muslims.  If you pick up talk about some being sympathetic to ISIS-type attacks, report it.  

If you're African American and you hear some in your circle of friends/acquaintances expressing support for "getting even with the cops" or white people in general, report it.  If you're a white person and you hear some in your circle of friends/acquaintances showing support for white supremacist activities, report it.   If you're a Hindu....oh, never mind, they never hurt anyone.  No, all terrorists are NOT Muslim.  These qualify, too.

Any time you're out in public, at a theater, or a mall, concert, or sporting event, understand that you can NOT be protected all the time.  I love our cops, but they can't be everywhere.  By the time someone calls 911 and the cops arrive, it's usually all over.  YOU are ultimately responsible for protecting yourself and your family.  Know where your avenues of escape are.  If you learn to just matter-of-factly note these things, you will be able to react instinctively if it ever hits the fan.

Now to stir the pot....if you have a firearm and you are legally licensed to carry it, consider doing so.  Learn how to use it, when to use it, and when NOT to use it.  You can't just whip out your 15-round Glock and start blasting away in the general direction of an active shooter.  If you do, then YOU become an active shooter yourself.  And you know what happens to active shooters.  *Taps*

Relax, breath, think, and be prepared.  But most importantly, just LIVE.

S
 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Our new humble abode

Our timing sucked....what were we thinking, moving in July in Texas?....but it's done.  We turned in the keys yesterday to our old residence.   *whew*   We hired movers to do the heavy lifting of course, but I can attest even moving small boxes can be a backbreaking chore.  Thank God for Tylenol!



So far our new apartment community has not disappointed.  It's new, very clean, and in a good location just a block away from a major east-west artery.  


About a half mile to our west is a nice shopping area with a Lowe's, Super Target, Best Buy, Staples, Pet Smart, and other smaller stores, too.  Eateries such as On The Border, Starbucks, Subway, Dickey's Barbecue, Raisin' Canes, plus all the normal drive-thru joints are also close by.


Just east of us is something called the "Craig Ranch Beach Club".  (I'm thinking they took considerable liberty with the "beach" notation.)  It appears to be some sort of juvenile holding facility....there are many large fenced in pastures with tall overhead lights.  I'll investigate soon.

We're apparently located near a number of medical facilities as I've noticed many of our neighbors leaving for work wearing scrubs.  We also have a fair number of gray-hairs here, too, so it's nicely diversified.



Our community seems to be seriously dog-centric, which was a major factor for us choosing to live here.  Just across the street to our south is a park with a lighted, paved walking path leading back into a treed area.  



At the far end of the loop is a sitting area with arbors overlooking a small man-made pond.


Jax approves!


Right now two phases are complete, with another under construction.  There will be three more after that.

 
Each phase has its own four-story secure parking garage, so I don't have to worry about our cars being exposed to our often times severe Texas weather.  After our catastrophic hail storm(s) earlier this spring this was on my "must have" list.


Phase one has a large pool with private cabanas around the periphery.  (Sorry, this was taken at a bad angle.)


Our building has its own small pool and courtyard area with several grills available for our use.


We also have a dedicated picnic/grilling area that seems to be heavily utilized.  I've gotta give it a try soon.  (You can see Phase 3 underway a block north.)


We also have a large "wellness studio" (a $3 word for gym) that I understand can "pump you up", although I'm told it will cause great physical pain in the process.  They offer free classes here for pilates, yoga, and other regimes, too.


The deal-clincher for us was the dog park.  It's a nice size, divided into spaces for large dogs (over 30 lbs) and small dogs.  I bring Jax here often as many of the other pet owners are very attractive ladies who just fawn all over 'da boy*wink*

All over the park, all over all the grounds actually, they have dog poopie-bag dispensers, and owners seem to be very responsible about cleaning up after their pets, unlike in our previous neighborhood.


And right across from the dog park is the "Pet Spa".  No, I'm not kidding!


It consists of a room with numerous stainless steel wash tubs at heights that allow owners to wash their dogs without having to bend over, plus heavy duty blow-dryers to fluff 'em up afterwards.

Our apartment itself is small, as we wanted, but with one exception, it's perfectly sized.  The exception is the den.  Actually the den is adequately sized, but our furniture is simply oversized.  Two overstuffed chairs with ottomans and our huge reclining massaging chair have just overpowered the space.  All three are keepers, though, so we'll just have to deal with it.

The quality of construction is actually pretty good.  Everything appears to be square and plumb, the lighting fixtures are LED's, the shower is about the best I've ever enjoyed anywhere, the plumbing fixtures are of the water-saver variety, and the A/C can freeze your arse off you want it to.  *Brrrr*

The windows appear to be nice quality vinyl framed, and the patio door is super-heavy and tight fitting.  I'm expecting low utility bills. The kitchen appliances, however, are crap.  Although they're Energy Star, they're about the cheapest I've ever seen.  The water still boils on the cooktop, the pizza still cooks in the oven, and the freezer still spits out ice cubes on demand, so I guess I can't complain. 

As things are still being put away and pictures are still leaning against the wall awaiting hanging, interior photos are not available yet.  Sorry.

As Porky used to say, "That's all folks".  Have a good weekend everyone.  :)

S

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ahh Houston, we have a problem. A BIG one


I'm a big supporter of police.  I've been around them as a civil service commissioner, and I know what they go through every day.  It's a tough job to say the least, and the level of stress is very high. I've gone along with them on "ride outs" and watched them doing their job.  Believe me, there's a whole 'nother world out there most of us in middle class America have never seen.  From one call to the next, they never know what to expect.  I respect them immensely.


But....

Something is very wrong within the ranks of [some of] our police today.  Is the quality of our new police recruits not what it used to be?  I suspect that's some of it.  I know police departments have a tough job recruiting, especially for minority officers.  The desire to hire with greater diversity in mind to better represent the demographics of the community is easier said than done.  Relaxing standards in order to meet racial/ethnic/gender or numbers goals at the expense of quality will often come back to haunt. Quality must always come first, period.

Is police training lacking?  I'm thinking yes.  It's very expensive and time consuming, and I suspect many departments want to get officers on the street ASAP, and not have them in prolonged classroom  training.  And time spent in recurrent training is time not spent on the street, too.  Bad mistake!  The number of different scenarios an officer will find himself in daily is almost infinite.  How do you train for every possibility?  You can't.  You just have to hope your officers are intelligent enough to be able to think on their feet, and act accordingly.  If some aren't of the highest quality to begin with, and if their training isn't thorough, things can go downhill really fast.

I just saw a video of a black man shot after a traffic stop (burned out headlight) in Minnesota. His girlfriend used her cellphone camera to record what happened.  The black man had a license to carry a concealed weapon, and he told the officer this as required.  The officer asked him for his license, and he said he was getting it from his pocket.  The officer for some reason freaked out and shot him four times, killing him.  

The officer did not have a body cam, which might have offered some insight.  In this day and age I can't imagine a police department not equipping every patrol officer with a body cam.

His girlfriend was completely compliant, respectful, and calm, and I have no reason to think the black man wasn't, also.  He had no prior criminal record, which the officer should have known before he approached the car.  He was in fact a cafeteria manager at a public school.  While the officer deserves his day in court, I can't imagine what happened that caused the officer to react the way he did.

It appears we're caught up in a viscous downward spiral of minority/police distrust, leading too often to violence.  Civilians (of all color) need to be cognizant of the stresses officers are under and not give them any reason to over-react, and officers need to think before they act.  If they can't analyze and think quickly, they shouldn't be cops.  Shooting first and thinking after the fact is completely unacceptable.

S


Monday, July 4, 2016

My current mantra: "Everything you need, nothing you don't"

I often catch grief as a homebuilder who lives in an apartment. "Isn't that almost a sacrilege" they ask? "Why wouldn't you want to build yourself a big beautiful home?  What about the American Dream?"  Well, the American Dream is alive and well, and for many families it's what they live their lives for....working hard to buy a bigger house to contain all their "stuff".  There's nothing at all wrong with that, but for some of us we see all that stuff as owning you vs you owning it.

There was a time in my life when I had nice, fairly large homes.  With a wife and three children (and a dog), we needed lots of bedrooms and bathrooms and living areas and a big yard, too.  It was right for us at the time, and I don't regret it.  But for me today, when I realized I was paying utilities and insurance and taxes and maintenance on space that I wasn't using even half of for just two people, a little light bulb came on in my head.  Enough!


Today something like this would be my dream house.

I would love to find a postage-stamp-size lot in a decent neighborhood and build about a 1,000 square foot single story home.  A Great Room (kitchen/family room), two modest bedrooms at most, a bath and a half, small utility room, and a garage is all I/we need.  Can you imagine how little there would be to maintain?  Sweet!

Trouble is, no city around here will let you build a home that small.  It's all about the money.  Cities love McMansions because they generate a lot of tax dollars for them.  They can provide city services (parks, water, sewer, streets, police and fire protection, etc) to a small family in a very modest home, or to a small family living in a home four times as large, generating four times the tax revenue.  It's all about them, not the residents they serve.  The tail is wagging he dog!

I could go 20 miles further out of town and buy land in an unincorporated area and build pretty much whatever I wanted, but who wants to mow acreage?  It sorta defeats the idea of a "maintenance-free" lifestyle.  And who wants to drive half an hour to go to the store for some last minute supplies for the night's cookout?

I could buy an early post-WWII home....they were commonly around the size I would like....but most of those neighborhoods are today pretty....umm, "run down".  I like the sights and sounds of birds chirping and people walking their dogs, not random gunfire and crime scene tape. 

Townhomes are a possibility, but most are fairly new and currently in high demand.  To buy one and then gut it in order to build it back to my standards would be impractical....it would be so "over-improved" I could never get my money back if I ever wanted/needed to sell it. 

Which brings me to apartment living.  Small, new and clean, with nice grounds and tons of popular amenities, and maintenance-free to boot.  I often have to take a deep breath and shake my head when I look at the cabinets, appliances, and such, but did I mention it's maintenance-free?  *happy dance*

I think my point of view is gaining acceptance.  Many empty nesters these days are choosing "lock and leave" apartments where they can travel for months at a time and use their apartment for a base when they're in town.   

HGTV now even has an entire series built around tiny houses.  Most are built on wheels and are just a couple of hundred square feet, which is even too small for me, and besides, I've sorta grown accustomed to indoor plumbing. *wink*

Whenever I need to have my inspiration renewed I just think of my friend in St. Petersburg, FL  who lives on a vintage 35-foot cabin cruiser, or look again at this video of a guy in Bordeaux, France who converted a garage into a killer residence.  It's small, compact, and utilizes every square inch of space.  Everything has a place.  "Everything you need, nothing you don't."

 

While the neighborhood looks rather shabby by our standards here (it's in a historic district), they say it's in a highly desirable area there.  It's really a cool watch, but don't bother with the sound unless you speak French.

Now I'll wish you a happy Fourth of July.  I hope you have a wonderful day.  I'll defer my celebration for another couple of days....we're moving into a new, cool, smaller space this long weekend.  

'Merica!  :)

S