Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Fragment; Probably A Lie

I have heard over the years numerous accounts – one even from a young first generation American woman I met at a party at Joe’s – that document the fact that a lot of “undocumented” immigrants do pay social security, taxes etc. 

But they don’t get credit.

The money just gets stirred into the great American “entitlement” pot au feu.

And gets doled out to “the rest of us”.

Pretty good deal for “the rest of us”.

But the haters have a rejoinder for that possible fact also.

They want to throw undocumented immigrants who pay SS in prison for having SS numbers (one might ask how, in some other world, people with SS documentation are “undocumented”; but what the hell). 

As always with the haters, they want to have it ALL ways as long as the equation solves toward their self conceived facts.

That is all probably a lie, though.

I have obviously been tainted by creeping socialistic humanism.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Good Question

I got an email from a friend this morning with a question.

“In your opinion, what happened in the UK?”

Here is what I answered. 

In the United States there is a demographic: predominantly old, mostly white, mostly male, usually undereducated, frequently lacking anything resembling creativity or imagination; that demographic cleaves unto females similarly configured and in union they beget progeny of also mostly similar characteristics.

Their lack of anything to offer in the world that has evolved over the last century has caused them to lose jobs – the jobs have ceased to exist (see the words to A Pirate Looks at Forty by Jimmy Buffet) and they believe that some sinister group or force have caused them to lose “their place” (decent god fearing white people). 

The thought that “their place” really never existed, or if it did it has been eliminated by the need to be informed, educated, and, maybe even, smart does not pass their minds: their misery has been caused by some plot or plan which has singled them out for marginalization. 

Electing a black President became the flash point of no return for this demographic. 

In 2010 they started shouting that they were going to take their country back.  

Once taken back, they believe, that moldering Chevy plant, closed since the 1970s, will re-open and they can all return to the spot on the floor where their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers all turned the same bolt with the same wrench on exactly the same floor tile; and America will be great again.

It turns out that in the rest of the highly developed European heritage world the same demographic lurks.

And it is mad as hell and not going to take it any more.

Specifically to your question, that demographic in Britain all voted and the people who are the “other” – young, educated, diverse, etc. etc. etc. all went to Starbucks.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit, Schmexit

I just heard some nut in Britain say that today is their Independence Day.

It rang hollow.

And he had just said previously that he hoped that Europe would go back to independent entities instead of closely co-operating nations - my words, not his, but thematically accurate.

I suggest that we -  the United States of America - don't go help them this time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Watson Etc.

In the constant news coverage of “tech giants” I always hear “Amazon, Facebook, Google” and, occasionally, “Microsoft”.

Hearing that I always wonder why the grandfather of “tech giants” isn’t mentioned.

But after some thought: “Ok” I say.  “That must be because to a great extent “tech giant” means something different that it did 30 years ago”.

“So what?”, I say to myself, “is it that IBM is doing – or thinks that it is doing. If it is not a tech giant anymore, what is it?”

“Watson” I say to the empty air. “IBM seems to have bet the farm on artificial intelligence; and that is good: IBM has been working on that forever; so they must be really good at it.”

The other day I heard that NPR was going to have a special feature on the state of AI and who the major players are.

I was somewhat unhinged when I heard who the major players are.

“Amazon, Facebook, Google” and, “Microsoft” is what I heard.

But I guess I don’t need to worry: IBM’s revenue growth has been negative for multiple quarters; they must be just getting ready for the big transition?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Bronze Jigger

Today it was pouring rain.

So I didn’t ride my outside bike: a Specialized Roubaix road bike.

I rode on old paint – a Rocky Mountain hybrid – on a trainer inside out of the rain.

So I was able to stream NPR on my iPhone.

I listened to several things before getting twenty miles on the trainer; the last thing was The Dinner party Download.

One of the segments on that feature was an interview with a famous bartender who talked about several things.

From my viewpoint the most significant of those things was martinis; specifically he contrasted different views of how much dry vermouth should be in a gin martini.

I love martinis and have made a large number of them over time; but they have never been the same since a disaster that occurred to me some time in 1992.


I once had a friend named Jack.

He and I went to High School together, went to different colleges, and reconnected as close friends just before we both went on active duty in the military.

That was Vietnam time.

So we even spent some time together there.

It’s worth reading Screen Saver and Saigon 1967 to find out more about those Vietnam adventures.

But that has nothing to do with the point of this post; it is merely an attempt to sell books.

But Jack is a vital part of this post because he gave me and my first wife a wedding present from Thailand; when he was in Vietnam he got to Thailand a few times; I didn’t.

The gift was a Thai bronze bar set.

Over the years I lost the whole set except for the jigger.

That jigger was a magical device.

I have never been able to duplicate it’s martini making traits.

It had two venturi shaped cups, one bigger than the other. 

They both had a characteristic that I have never found in another jigger: they were perfectly shaped to accept just barely any dry vermouth in their very bottoms; it was the perfect amount of vermouth for the perfect martini.

One night in 1992 I had just made one of those perfect martinis and was sipping the initial quaff when disaster struck.

An unrememberable sequence of events caused the jigger to be knocked off the counter and into the garbage disposal maw.

Unfortunately the disposal was on.

It is really disquieting how much damage can be done to bronze ware by a garbage disposal.

I lost one of my closest friends that evening.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What? Me Worry?

I go to Costco store number one.

That is the very first Costco anywhere.

It’s in a totally commercial and industrial part of Seattle.

So there are railroad tracks just off the Costco property.

Just on the Costco property is the Costco gas station.

That’s quite a number of three pump gas lanes.

Those gas lanes are always full of cars with lines snaking out behind where people wait their turn to gas up.

Quite frequently those railroad tracks have an apparently interminable line of black petroleum tank cars rattling and rumbling by those gas lanes where people gas up at the Costco pumps.

I guess they are rattling and rumbling on their way to the refinery in Anacortes.

But I don’t know that for sure.

But I have seen the same black tank cars rattling and rumbling on at the other end of Seattle, down by Builders’ Hardware.

So I guess they could be going to Anacortes.

That’s a lot of crude oil rolling through the city here.

And it rolls past a lot more petroleum product – gasoline – in the tanks of the Costco gas station, and the tanks of the cars gassing up and waiting to gas up.

Luckily the railroad assures us that there is no possibility of any of those cars being derailed.

Because if they derailed right there by the Costco gas station would be a bad place for a volatile petroleum tank car explosion and fire.

It also goes without saying that terrorists would never notice miles of unprotected petroleum rolling through a major city, past a reservoir of refined stuff.

A terrorist would never think of setting off the whole thing with a well place derailment bomb.

Or so, I am sure, the railroad would assure us if we had the temerity to ask them about that concept.

The railroads and their rolling stock have always been and always will be totally immune to problems and derailments.

Never had any problems.

That we want to remember or talk about.

That’s pretty comforting.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Call Me Micro Aggressive

A friend of mine recently sent me an email musing about the thoughts he had as a follow on to taking a survey from his college alma mater.

He said the survey had asked for his late-in-life views of how well they – the institution of higher learning – had prepared him for life and career.

His email musings centered on the  observation that none of the education did much to “prepare” him for a career, let alone life, but that it had created in him a malleable being capable of reacting to challenges and opportunities as they arose such that he could succeed at career and life.

That observation caused me to respond with the following:

“The thing is, I think that “back then” nobody had any illusions about ‘preparing people for a career’.

I think there was instead a supposition that most of us young Americans – within a fairly narrow range – were pretty smart and – probably – pretty curious.

That supposition then went on to an assumption: take a smart curious person and let them follow their intellectual nose through 16 years of academics – assuming also that the teachers supplying the teaching were pretty good, smart and curious also – and at the end of the process there would be a human product ready to enter the workforce.

Once hired by a company into the workforce all that would be needed would be specific indoctrination and training to set the new work force members on their way. 

After that, the assumption went on, would be the answers to several questions: “are they lucky; are they really smart; are they really curious; did they follow their intellectual noses in the right direction; and, do they give a shit?

If all of that worked out, voila, there was a career.

Many of us a found a home with out first employer.

Many of us did not.

In that case, at least there existed the basis for moving on and trying something else

Which many of us did.


Somewhere along the way we have slipped from that model into a world where we need to shelter all our thin skinned young from being victims of micro aggressions while being exposed to academia.

But the world is full of micro aggressions.

But the world is full of micro aggressors.

So there is a lot of sheltering to be done here.

But there is a problem with that noble new model: saving the thin skinned kids from micro aggressions pretty much precludes their becoming educated and from their having a snow ball’s chance in hell of successfully competing in the world as it exists.

It is a world of nice people and nice ideas; it is a world of not nice people and not nice ideas; and nice or not nice as a characteristic often turns on one’s own personal views and experiences, not on anything intrinsic to the people or the ideas.

And being sheltered from the conflict of people and ideas sets a person up for insular myopia – often called stupidity.

If the person so afflicted started out pretty smart the effect of sheltering probably doesn’t make them actually stupid, but the functional equivalent will nicely accomplish the same thing.

And genuinely stupid people generally don’t get ahead.

So their functional equivalents probably won’t either.

And they seldom know anything other than what their mommy told them was nice.

But I guess that viewpoint is pretty micro aggressive.”