The Obama administration. What are ya gonna do?

I’ve been quiet for a good while but I think I’m at a place where I can start updating this little corner of the interwebs again on a somewhat regular basis, so let’s give this a shot…

I ran across a story on the web tonight that kinda hit a chord with me. Seems The Brilliant One is once again showing his lack of understanding of the free market. He basically told the automakers they had to double their CAFE standards by 2025 or, of course, they would run afoul of the laws set in this land of the free, home of the brave and junk.

Basically, the Obama Administration had already announced they wanted the Average MPG for vehicles to go from what they are today – 2011 (30.2 for cars and 24.1 for light trucks) to 39 MPG for cars and 30 MPG for trucks by 2016. Now they want 56.2 MPG in 2025. How that number is derived is a complicated mess of bureaucratic clusterfuckation.

He wants to pass down an edict that would not only determine what vehicles are MADE, but what vehicles us “free” citizens choose to buy. You see, when the All Powerful Protector Of Our Liberty says the average miles per gallon of vehicles sold in a year have to be “X”, it doesn’t matter what the great unwashed masses WANT to buy, it only matters what they DO buy. In theory, a car maker could offer 10 models that get 100 miles to the gallon and only one that gets 20 miles to the gallon, and if they sell 10 low mileage cars (@ 20 MPG), they would have to sell nine high mileage cars to make 56 MPG average. So, in essence, you would have to have half your market want a ridiculous little tin can, and the other half want a substantial vehicle.

I just had a kid turn 16. When we were looking for a vehicle for her, the main thing we were looking for was safety and efficiency. I don’t give a damn if she burns a lot of gas, I want her to live through an accident. We bought her a used midsize SUV that gets pretty good mileage but that has traction control and enough heft to get her through most accidents if the traction control isn’t enough. One thing we DIDN’T look at was the over all mileage the vehicle got. Of course, we didn’t put her in a Sherman tank, but we damn sure didn’t put her in a cute little rice-burner, either. I’m guessing her vehicle gets over 20 MPG but if it doesn’t, I really don’t care. Her safety and ability to move about is my primary concern – not the overall mileage of the vehicles sold by a particular car company in a particular year. See where this is going? The national government has put the incentive of the producer at odds with the incentive of the buyer. The buyer wants X, the producer wants HAS to supply Y. Damn what you want to buy, and damn what they want to sell. This is what the government wants to happen. In the land of the free, home of the brave.

“If you look at the ‘56-by-2025’ standard, you can save about $6,000 per vehicle because of the dramatic reduction in the cost of fuel for that vehicle,” (Jack Gillis of the Consumer Federation of America) said. “If you force the market to implement certain technologies, they will figure out a way how to do it. And they’ll figure out a way how to do it efficiently and effectively.” (Emphasis mine)

Note the use of the word “force”. This is what government is – force. Note the words “choose”, “choice”, or anything else of the sort is not used. This is not free market stuff – this is centralized planning. A little bit, sure, but every little bit helps the centralized planners.

Also notice the faith in “…the market” to “…figure out a way to do it.” Oh! So the Market can figure out HOW to do something, as long as the All Powerful Elite tells it WHAT to figure out! What would we do without them?

So they FORCE us to do something and we FIGURE OUT how to do it. Kinda like you do with slaves – You give them some unreasonable demand and it is up to them to figure out how to fulfill it. If they can do it and survive, that’s good. You can just put more demands on them. If they can’t do it and die, Oh, well, maybe somebody else will come in and do what you want.

This, folks, is why I always put the word “federal” in quotation marks when talking about our present national government (look up the difference between “federal” and “national” if you need to) and I mock the phrase, as it’s used today, “The home of the free, land of the brave”. We are told what to do, when and how to do it, and if we don’t WANT to do it, they pass laws that tell us we HAVE to do it. But hey! If we don’t have the money to do what they want, they give it to us to do it with and point to that as proof that we want to do it.

Proof of what I say above? You want proof? OK, how about this?

  • Healthcare – We’ll tell you what kind of “insurance” you have to buy. You’ll buy it or pay a fine (or tax, whatever we need to call it to get it through the courts). If you cannot afford that insurance, it will be provided for you (by your fellow taxpayer through force , if necessary). The “insurance” will cover what we determine you need, not what you determine you need. You are free to vote for WHO determines your needs, but have no say in WHAT determines your needs – leave that up to us; we’re the government and we know best.
  • Cash For Clunkers – Even though you can’t afford a new car, we want you to buy one. We won’t force you to buy one but if you do, we will pay you up to $4500 dollars (taken from your fellow taxpayers with force, if necessary)to buy one off the list we think you should have. We require you give us your previous vehicle and we will destroy it and any value it once had. See, we are government – We don’t create wealth or value, we either transfer it or destroy it. No skin off our backs, it ain’t coming out of our pockets.
  • Bank bailout (This was a Bush administration dealio, but still a big government liberal. Obama was ALL for it, BTW)- We told the banks to give you money whether you could pay it back or not. Told them we would come down hard on them if they didn’t but then we told them if they did, we’d take the risks off their hands through some NGO’s like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This started a market for sub-prime loans and some greedy bastards tried to cut in on our action. So our executives took 8 and 9 figure bonuses and then ran our NGO’s into the dirt. It’s OK, we’ll blame the greedy bastards that were making 4,5 and 6 figure deals. Meanwhile, we’ll let the big evil corporations get to the breaking point and then come in with your fellow taxpayers’ money (get it by force, if necessary – you know the drill) and decide which ones we like, and which ones we don’t.  We’ll save the guys we like with “loans” and let the others go away. (C ya, hate ta B ya!!) Then we’ll tell those we made the “loans” to when and how to pay the “loans” back. Of course, even after they give us the money we used (but didn’t earn) to prop up the ones most guilty of riding the government gravy train, we’ll still lambast them for NOT doing EXACTLY what they did to get themselves into this mess in the first place – make loans to people who can’t pay them back. But, the people will hate them for ‘taking” all the money we forced on them and not blame us so no biggie! 🙂

It goes on and on. They fund “studies” we can absolutely live without. Medicare fraud is rampant. Food stamp fraud is rampant. Yet they can’t find anywhere to cut entitlements of social programs. If you think they’re doing this to help you, you’re wrong. They’re doing it to exercise power over you. They are convinced they know best and you just need to do what they say and if it works out, whoopie. If not, they’ll always have someone else to blame it on.

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I’m burning off a Monster drink (Green – cause I ain’t skeered of carbz! WORD!!) after a day from hell that drifted over to the first anniversary of my mom’s death. Anniversaries like that make you take stock in things and I took stock in the fact that I haven’t updated my blog in like forever. That sounds coarse but look at it this way – I started this thingy to get stuff off my chest and yesterday/today is a banner opportunity to remember that.

Subject: Fibo. My mom.

Name me a person with no faults and, short of deities, I’ll call you a liar. So yeah she had’em. But the cool thing is, she never hid them. They were there – take’em or leave’em. No airs. You want airs? Call Holox.

What this strategy achieved was nothing short of brilliant. It let people know who she was and choose to accept or reject her. Now check this out: The people who decided to accept her, loved her. The others? I dunno. They went about their business and didn’t get in the way much. As far as I know, she never intentionally tried to make anyone dislike her. If they did, fine. If they didn’t, fine. If she had bad people in her life, they were temporary. The good people were permanent.

See? That’s the cool thing. You CAN choose the people in your life, if not but passively. Be who you are and the people who like that kinda thing will be there. The rest? Whogivesashit?

This I learned from her. This I cherish above all else.

My mother was never into music so she didn’t have a “theme song’ as far as I know. As her son, I will take it upon myself to pick one for her.

Note: This selection is in no way to be construed as being exclusive and is only offered as a representation of the writer and is not the view, opinion, or assertion of anyone else as far as the writer knows.

(Damn lawyers. Hey, Bill Shakesphere, when can we get started with YOUR plan for them?)

My pick would be this:

This I learned from her.

Her funeral was a real eye opener for me. I knew of a lot of people who just could not be there. I understood. I knew a lot of people that could have been there just didn’t because it was not really feasible with the things going on in their lives. I understood this, too and appreciate it because I am in the same boat a lot of times. It was a hot day and there were already gonna be a lot of people there and nobody would miss anybody that didn’t show up so why go through all that mess? Summer weekend. Vacations. Kids have plans with friends. Trips and projects planned long ago. All sorts of stuff to do the weekend before the 4th of July and all. We couldn’t blame anybody for not showing up.

But show up they did. In droves. People that I didn’t know. People who I barely remembered. People from far away who had every reason to not be there. They came. And they kept coming and the florists ran out of flowers and had stores from a good piece off help to fill the orders and just damn at the food!

I think I know my mom pretty good and I think I know what she thought her funeral would be like. She had no friggin’ idea. There were hundreds that came to the hospital to see her. There were way more that paid their respects afterward. I like to think I keep tabs on what’s going on around me and am rarely surprised by what people do. I was humbled beyond measure. Nobody I saw or heard from surprised me, but the sheer enormity of the outpouring for a woman who was born to dirt poor share-croppers and who never did anything that most consider “great” in her life flat out floored me. It gave me hope at the precise time that I thought I had lost the last bit of it.

Folks, let me make this point: She never made a splash in the news. She did what a middle class mom does to get by. She had her problems and suffered them gracefully. I, and my brothers, presented her no end to stress and pride. She coulda swung either way but she chose to persevere and make the best of life. She didn’t want to die. She didn’t think it was her time. We didn’t either. But she died anyway and in her death, she was as she had been in her life – unassuming and fighting the tide. It was as if I were destined to learn from her til after her dying day. And I did.

This I learned from her.

OK, lemme get this straight. The Wreckonsiliation vote the Dems plan is limited in scope. Due to rules set forth decades ago, reconciliation can only be used in budgetary matters. Taxation is a budgetary matter. So, the taxation part of Obamacare is mainly what came through the Senate. Remember, the taxes start immediately while the benefits don’t start for four years. Anyway, the Senate bill before the House right now is basically the tax and spend portion of the bill – not the “insurance companies gotta cover this and that and you go to jail if you don’t dot the I’s and cross the tees” sort of stuff.

Now we have the Slaughter Solution. This is a procedure that is also know and “Deem and Pass”. In essence, it means that the House takes the Senate bill and does NOT vote on it but “deems” it to pass. Kinda like if a governor doesn’t sign or veto a bill for three days it becomes law anyway. So in for all intents and purposes, the House just “decides” this bill passes without the REPRESENTATIVES voting on it. And if this bill institutes taxation without the REPRESENTATIVES voting on it, somebody tell me how that upholds the concept of  “No taxation without representation” that WE FOUGHT A FRIGGIN’ WAR OVER!!!

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe that something is a little fact like this shit will not stand up in court. But then again, I have this weird idea that the court is there to uphold the Constitution which, in Article 1, Section 7 says:

(I kinda added some emphasis to the part I think is a little bit important)

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

So, am I missing something?

P.S. I don’t want to hear “Well the same thing happened under Booosh!” , “The Republicans did it, too!”. That is Soooo bullshit. They did. But it was used for stuff like extending the debt ceiling and Welfare Reform – not instituting new taxes. And I’m not supporting them even using it for that but Art.1 Sec. 7 is specifically referring to “All bills for raising Revenue…”. No getting around that.

Here at Pi Are Squared Headquarters, Pi Day is a really big deal. So hopefully everybody will have a great Pi day and celebrate it for what it is – A nerd’s way to seem knowledgeable.

Links for Pi Day:

http://www.piday.org/

http://www.freep.com/article/20100314/BLOG36/100314006/1004/news02/Today-is-Pi-Day

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi_Day

Anybody that knows me now knows I am really big on math and math education. I have three girls and I drill math all the time. I have always thought their education was my responsibility and if they learn something at school, that’s great. But whether they do or not, what they eventually end up learning, I have either taught them or allowed them to learn.  I try to watch their test scores and homework  to monitor this but now I am realizing that it’s not just the test scores and homework, it’s the whole concept of the curriculum. If I thought this were the shit that my kids were being taught, I would turn the whole board of education building into a hotdog stand. I intend to look a WHOLE lot deeper into the issue really soon. This is a 15+ minute video but if you have kids in school you really should watch it. If you are a teacher, I’d love to hear your feedback – positive or negative, on it. I really would love to hear from a supporter of this stuff to try to wrap my mind around why anyone thinks this is a good idea.

Now, let me make a couple of things clear. I understand the concept of some of this stuff. I even USE a variation of some of this stuff. For instance: In the problem 133/6, mentally, I thought, “6 will go into 120, 20 times. 13 left over. 6 will go into 13 2 times and have 1 left over. Answer: 22.1667.

By trade, I am an engineer. I do not have an engineering degree so I am not a degreed engineer but it is what I do for a living and have done for the better part of 25 years. I have taught myself everything above 11th grade math. I use calculators on a regular basis but I have found that knowing the multiplication tables to 20 and the squares of 1 – 20 have served me very well to do most math in my head. My standard precision on a problem is to the 1/1000 place. In my line of work, I think in 1/1000 – not fractions so I automatically convert fractions to 3 or 4 decimal places. I can take a tape measure and tell you what the force of a hydraulic or air cylinder is to a precision that is negated by the coefficient of friction of the material used in the seal on the piston. In my head. I ain’t braggin’ – I’m just sayin’: I know a thing or two about learning math. Some of what was in that video are tricks I taught myself after I learned the basics of mathematics. The important thing to consider here is that for a 20 or 30 or 40 year old guy to learn this stuff is one thing; but to try to get a 9 or 10 year old kid to learn the mental shortcuts BEFORE he even understands the basic concepts is bullshit on an unimaginable scale.

My problem with math education has always been that it starts out WAY too abstract. Word problems are made out to be some type of demon for kids. But in reality, all math starts out AS a word problem. I want to buy 2 6-packs of beer at $5.95 per pk. and I need to know if that is more than $11.75 per 12 pack. (I like good beer – don’t judge!) When I walk in a grocery store, nobody hands me a sheet of paper that asks if 2X5.95 is <, >, or = 11.75 – I gotta figure it out. Word problem. I could go into all sorts of a bitchfest over how calculus is taught but I won’t. Suffice it to say, from some of the text books I have bought on calculus, you could master the subject and still not have a friggin CLUE what to do with it or when to use it. My point is, the basic concepts of math are hard enough for a kid who is brought up in a world of fluid definitions. There is very little that is “right or wrong” for kids today. There is very little concept of “go, no go” for them. But math is a game of “go, no go” – either you are right or you are wrong. There are no degrees. To throw a kid into abstract conceptualization before he comprehends the basic parameters is stupid.

It seems some people are trying to turn math into a social issue – colored in individual perceptions and judgments, as opposed to a defined science. Those people just need to cut it the hell out!

It snowed here, again. Friday, we got anywhere from 4 to 6 inches, depending on where you measure. It was a bitch to drive in and drive in it I did. I left Monroe, NC at 3:34 PM. My GPS unit said I would be home @ 7:33 PM.  It was 11:00 PM when I got here. I hit snow just outside of Charlotte at 4:00 and it was pretty much downhill from there. Greenville had a lot of ice on the road and a few wrecks. South of Greenville, though, the roads were just wet but it was snowing harder. I did OK from there until about 1-1/2 miles from the exit I get off of I-85 on. Everybody just stopped. Didn’t move over 100 ft for the next 30 minutes. I switched to local radio from satellite and heard people talking about sitting in the same area for hours. I was determined not to get in a hurry coming home from the beginning but I had a time limit on my overly caffeinated bladder. A quick survey of the surroundings confirmed that if I had to let loose and ‘write my name’ on the white line on I-85 (a little thingy I like to thing of as “signing the dotted line” <snerk!>), the cops couldn’t get to me even if that old bat in the OldsmoBuick Landyacht DID call them. As it turned out, I maintained my civility as well as my dry pants long enough to get to a Racetrac station. Anyway, that was a little before 9:30 PM and I had about 30 miles to go to get home. That took 1-1/2 hrs. Average speed – 20 MPH.

There is no big climatic ending to the story except to say I got home in one piece. I learned a few things though:

1) There are some dumb asses out there. I was out there because I had to get home. I wasn’t just joyriding. I can give the benefit of the doubt that a lot of the others out there were not there for kicks but rather necessity. My main goal in life was to get home in one piece, though. Their’s seemed to be to see how fast they could go while hopefully keeping the car on the road. I had a guy pass me in a curve on solid ice just this side of Winder. I swore to myself that if I saw him down the road in the gulley, I would call 911 but I would not stop to help his stupid ass. Why risk my vehicle and my safety to help an irresponsible dumbass when I was doing everything I could to get home alive? Screw him. Hope he made it home OK but I hope he loses his nuts in a hot coffee incident before he procreates. That’s not just me talking – that’s Darwin.

2) Guard rails at really steep drop offs are woefully short of where they need to be. Man! A few creek bottoms I came up on were a tad on the scary side. Where you start sliding is BEFORE the guard rails, too. Coulda went right off behind them in a second flat. Just sayin’.

3) Thank God for the guys and chicks out there driving tow trucks, utility trucks, police, fire, ambulance, pizza delivery, snow plow, salt trucks, etc. And before you wonder why I included pizza delivery guys in there, think about it this way: Every pizza they delivered kept at least one car (probably with a few people in it) off the road. I hope those guys got tipped to the point of kicking back on a beach real soon.

If you find yourself out there sometime and get in a pickle of an ice incident, just use common sense and slow down. Don’t apply constant pressure to your brakes going down hill and don’t trust the anti-lock to figure it out for you – If you have to brake, just easily apply them for a second or so and let up. Keep doing this to reduce or limit your speed only as much as necessary. Otherwise, stay away from the brake. If you’re going slow enough while approaching a stop, you can just about coast to a stop. Don’t tailgate the car in front of you and by “tailgate”, I mean “occupy the same ZIP code as”. You really have to allow a lot of room between you and the guy ahead of you. Otherwise, just do what you have to to get home to your family. That cheesedick that passed me may think he impressed me by doing it and in a way he did – I’m impressed what a cheesedick he is. But I bet I impressed my wife and daughters a lot more by walking in the door in one piece.

I have spoken against arbitrary government powers at length. I feel like expounding upon that a little. I think I can better get the point across using some hypothetical scenarios. Here lately, I have noticed the Left attacking hypothetical scenarios as “Straw Man Arguments”. That’s fine and even warranted sometimes, but I want to couch these arguments in different terms. I want Dear Reader to use his judgment and experience to make the argument for me.

I will ask you if certain circumstances arise, what you think may happen. What may or may not be possible. It is up to you to decide from there.

As I have explained before on many occasions, I do not identify with Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, independent or partisan. I am a non-statist. Many times, this puts me on the side of the Republicans but I am anything but a Republican. Sometimes the Republicans are 180 degrees against what I believe and stand for. But more often, the Democrats are. The very few things the Democrats stand for that I agree with are nowhere near enough for me to support them because the vast majority of their platform is antithetical to my beliefs and convictions. Neither the Republicans nor Democrats are sufficiently non-statist for me so I am neither. I do believe, however, that the Republicans stand a better chance of becoming more of what I want in power than the Democrats, but that is an argument of possibilities, right now. Not probabilities.

I believe, and you must agree, that no matter who is in power at any given time, the opposite party will re-group and regain power in the future. I also believe, and you must agree, that whoever is in control of the exclusive right to use force to accomplish their political goals (running the government), will use any power given to them to accomplish their political goals. Therefore, I believe that any power given to the government can, and eventually will be, used against those who ceded the power in the first place.

I am neither an anarchist nor anti-government. I believe the government must have certain powers to insure and protect the rights of the individual. But I make a clear distinction between what is a right of the people and what is a power of the government. Any right of the people given up to the government, becomes an ability to use force against the individual by the government to deny that right. In short, what you would otherwise be able to do for yourself as a right, if you give power to the government to do on your behalf, the government can then refuse to do and forbid you from doing. You are effectively transforming an option of yours into an option of the government. You lose the ability to do for yourself and if the government decides not to do it for you, it just doesn’t get done.

I know many people would say that if it is law that the government should provide an entitlement, then they must. But the problem is the government is run by political people and political people can not only change the specifics of what they choose to provide, but they can change the definition of “provide” itself! Not only that, when you give up a right, the politicians use that abrogation as precedence to go even further than even the proponents of the original idea had in the first place.

Another thing to consider is that regardless of what side you come down on in political ideology, you are naïve to believe that if your guys are in power, they always will be. It is a fact of life that the parties in charge change. So whatever power you want to give to your political allies, you are also giving to your future political and philosophical foes.

If you are on the left and you want the government to “provide” healthcare, you must be content that the right wing will get their hands on that power one day and do with it what they want. If you are one of the ones that believe the right is full of racists, homophobes, unscrupulous profiteers and religious zealots, do you really want them to hold the power of what medical procedures you have access to? And if you are on the right and you are convinced the left is full of terrorist loving, illegal alien coddling, UN worshipping, tree hugging Communists, do you really want those guys in control of deciding what books you read are “immoral” and what laws are “morally justified”?

Now I, personally, don’t think the right nor left is full of the people mentioned above but I do believe that all successful stereotypes are formed around a kernel of truth. There are some of those people in power or soon to be so. And I don’t want either side deciding what I can do with my body nor what books or movies or anything else I can expose myself to.

This is why the Constitution of the United States was written the way it was. It was written to form a government that would protect the rights of the individual to do for himself – not to form a government that would directly provide for the individual. The framers knew that what the government gives, the government can take away. The framers trusted people to want to provide what is best for themselves and their families. They did NOT trust any men in power to care as much for you as you do for yourself. The framers were very smart in that way.

I think it is disingenuous for anyone that supports what the government is trying to do right now with healthcare, banking, insurance, the automakers, et al to really believe that they will be happy when someone like Dick Cheney is deciding which companies get bailouts and which ones don’t.  But if they think it is right for the government to pick winners and losers now, they will have to be happy with the government picking them when the other political ideology is in charge. You and I both know they won’t be. Even now, whenever any company that has taken a dime of federal money pays its executives anything over minimum wage, the same people that raised immortal hell to give that company that money, act like they are astounded that that company would unwisely spend some of that money. One the one hand, they want to prop up companies that were fiscally irresponsible in some way, but they are surprised that the company is fiscally irresponsible.

Anyway, I can assure you that if it were a Republican statist giving out billions of dollars willy nilly all over the place, the left would be apoplectic in their assertions that the money was only given to prop up the fat cat donors to the Republican party. Kinda like the right claims the unions are the ultimate beneficiaries of the “stimulus” money being broadcast across the fruited plains, now. I will predict this: Whenever the Republicans are in charge and another financial hardship hits, if the Repubs decide the market should run its course and decide the winners and losers, the left will have a fit that the government isn’t out there writing checks left and right. And when the Republicans cave (as they ALWAYS do) and start writing checks, the left will watch every penny for evidence it is being passed out for political payoffs.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The problem is, it will never occur to most people to even question whether it is right for the government to be in the business of bailing out businesses in the first place.

In today’s world, the exception to the rule is more important than the rule. Political expediency takes precedence over right and wrong. And while this is nothing new, it is much more ambiguous than it ever has been.  Sadly, the ideals are philosophies that made this country the greatest force for good and liberty in the history of mankind, will likely be “excepted” to a state of impotence until this wonderful experiment is relegated to the dust bin of history.

The answer to this age-old question that haunts the minds of, perhaps, 10’s of people as it relates to Pi Are Squared is quite simply, “No”.

I have been very lax in getting here over the last couple of months even though I thought I would be a veritable fount of blogging awesomeness over that time frame, but I obviously miscalculated. Lemme ‘splain myself:

As I said in my last post, I’ve been on a project since late October. It’s been a very involved project as I am living in a hotel room when I’m not in the plant actually working on the nuts and bolts of the project. This means I’m kinda out of my element in that everything is “project centric”. No coming home to the wife and kids and oil changes and stuck shower doors every night. I do come home on the weekends but that amounts to me sweet-talking SWMBO into washing my clothes from the past week and me trying to be a dad and husband for a spell and then getting ready to go back about 4:00 AM Monday morning. So, the sum of the matter is, When I’m there, I’m focused on melting plastic and such. When I’m home, I’m focused on going back to melt more plastic. So if ya wanna take a stab at what my thought processes have been geared toward for the last couple of months, go ahead. I’ll wait. I’m gonna get a beer while you ponder it and be right back…

OK, I’m back. what did you come up with? Anybody come up with “political and sociological ramifications of creating a new entitlement program and calling it a ‘right'”? How about “Where the word ‘indefatigable’ came from”? Or maybe strained analogies between political theory and agricultural activity? Anybody? Well, if you did, you’re wrong. I’m kinda in a “melting plastic” mindset right now.

I know, I know, that sounds like a perfectly reasonable and exciting subject for blogging, fer sure. But, you may find this hard to believe, some people don’t CARE about melting plastic! I know – stunned me, too. You’d think most anybody would be all into the effects of crystallization in cross-linked polymers due to additives and their effect on the IZOD rating of the subsequent polymer, but I have good information that there are those who just nod off whenever the subject comes up. Figgin incredible…and sad.

So, even though I have heard or thought of many things over the last couple months that I was all like, “I’m gonna blawg the hell outta that”, Alas, it has yet to come to pass. Been mentally rat-holing some material, though.  Funny how everyday activities will lend themselves to support or challenge long held beliefs but also serendipitous.

I need to figure out where “serendipitous” came from. I could blawg the hell outta that!

See, that’s what I mean.

Anyway, I have the next week off from the project so I’ll drift ever so slightly out of the mindset. But then there’s a holiday in there so I gotta work around that. Might get a legitimate post in – might not. But I’ll be thinking of you guys!

In the mean time, if anybody wants to explore the wonderful world of melted plastic, just drop me a line!!

Ya know, it’s high time I “got my write on”.  For those who care but don’t know ( as opposed to those who know but don’t care – a much larger group, I’m sure), I have been on “assignment” for over a month. I’ve been living in a motel about 250 miles from home, working on a project that I have been involved with for about two years.  It’s been fun and a constant mental exercise so I have had precious little time to blawg. Even before I came up here, I had a lot of preparation to do for this job.  I had to study a lot of things and go back and dig up past experiences so I could look like I’m as smart as the guy who writes the check expects me to be for the invoice I send him. That’s pretty tough when you have a lot of other stuff going on but it’s just one of those things you gotta do.

I know I have been vague about the project to those who have asked and that is not only intentional, but for good reason. The Customer is writing a big check to a lot of people in hopes he can have a machine to do what very few people in the world are doing. He has lined up many resources to make this happen. I am not privy to his marketing plans as that is none of my business. Suffice it to say, what ever they are, I have hooked my wagon to his horse and it is in my best interest that his horse runs right where he wants it to. If he wants the world to know what he’s doing – he’ll tell them. I am just a cog in the machine, so to speak, so it is not up to me to release that information.

But relax, regardless of what he decides to do, this is not earth shaking stuff to very many people. You will not see anything about it on the news. If you did, you wouldn’t care. But to me and the customer, this is a big deal and we are very proud of what we are doing. We are trying our damnedest to make something work for our own benefit. As a by-product of our selfish greed, there will probably be openings for two or three more jobs in Customer’s plant. Jobs that flat out DO NOT EXIST right now.  Somebody, somewhere, is sitting at home right now with no job that will be working in the coming months because of what I, along with MANY people much smarter than me, have been working on for a couple of years. The people who will find new jobs because of this may not even work in the plant this machine is in. Probably not for the same company. But the people hired to work on this new line and work because of this new line will not be among those taking other jobs they might otherwise have taken. That will leave a vacancy in those jobs that others will have to fill. In other words, the guys that will work on this line I’m helping build would have had a job regardless because they are going to be better than average people. The other jobs they DO NOT have to occupy that they otherwise would have, have to be filled by someone and that someone is probably sitting at home praying for a job right now. Does this make me a soldier of the Lord? Maybe so, but if so, it is because I like the money I’m making right now doing what I’m doing. Truth is, I like what I’m doing and would, given the opportunity, do it for free. But SWMBO would not be pleased and so that is all academic. Also, I like the bucks.

While the unemployment rate dropping by 3 people will not make the news, nor will the couple million dollar addition to GDP for the US, it is undoubtedly going to lend a positive bias to the employment and productivity numbers of the present economy. This is misleading because this thing has been in the works for over two years. No recent program or policy made this project happen. It was mainly inertia of past policies and the influence of recent and, hopefully, present market conditions that made this happen. I can assure you that no “stimulus” money played into this. And there was not a damned nickle of Cash For Clunkers ever even SAT next to a reason for it.  But those in power will take all the credit and none of the blame for what happens regardless. The “buck” no longer “stops here” – it stopped with the last guy that was here. There are very few, if any, presidents or other gov’t officials who accept responsibility for their policies any more – just a bunch of  “we inherited  the worst economy in {fill in the blank} years {or decades or centuries, blah, blah, blah}. In other words, The buck stops somewhere else, “…don’t blame us and also don’t blame us if we totally screw you up in our desperate attempt to fix what we know JACK SHIT about. It’s the other guy’s fault so leave us be.”

Tangent. I got off on a tangent. Who saw that comin’?

Anyway, I am home right now for Thanksgiving and have enjoyed being with my family. We put the tree up today and, as is tradition, went through about two or three bags of pork rinds in the process. Nothing says Christmas like fried pig fat with artificial Bar-B-Q seasoning. How that tradition got started is a WAAY more boring story than you might think it is, but suffice it to say, it got started. We always get the tree down on what many might call “Black Friday” because we are at home and might as well put up the tree that day. SWMBO used to go shopping with my mom on that day before we had kids but that tradition gave way to common sense and they both stopped doing it long ago. Now, the closest thing to a line we stand in is waiting for the page to load at amazon.com.

Amazon has a wing named after me – I just know they do. I first started shopping Amazon when few people had ever heard of it. It was an online book store with a great selection and great prices. Books. That was it. Then they started selling music. Then clothes. Pretty soon, they were doing it all. I remember when they teamed up with Target to have a ‘brick and mortar” presence. I remember how relieved I was they had done that. They wanted to focus on what they did good and partner with someone else to do what they did good. It’s a little trick in business that often works out well. It lets you know the guys at the top of that company are taking a long term view of things. How? Well, look at it this way: Amazon wanted to sell what Target was selling. Target would like to get a big internet presence. Amazon would like to have the ability to sell an item and let the customer pick it up at his leisure. So, either Amazon throws out tons of money to have a brick and mortar presence that will never come close to the market penetration of Target or Wal-Mart, or they partner with someone who already has that presence. Why not Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart has proven itself to be dedicated to one thing and one thing only – low prices. Low prices mean lower margins but volume makes up for that if the margin is steady. WalMart will throw it’s vendors under any bus to shave a nickel off the price. I’m not criticizing Wal Mart here because sometimes I take advantage of that low price commitment. But if you are a company looking to maintain as high a margin as possible and make your name in service over price, you are better off partnering with a company that shares those values. Target and Amazon were a perfect fit.

Can you get stuff cheaper than at Amazon? Yep, everyday. Not a lot cheaper but it’s not hard to shave a nickel off their price. Can you get better customer service than you get at Amazon? Maybe, I don’t know. But I can tell you that anytime I have ever contacted Amazon about an issue on a purchase I made, it was resolved in no time with no problem. Not only that, whether I called or communicated via email, I communicated with a real live Homo Sapien (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I knew a long time ago that Amazon would be the future of retail. With the hassle of crowds at retail outlets and the marked lack of customer service after you have traveled to a store to spend your money, it is no surprise that many brick and mortar stores are having increasing difficulty staying viable. Sure, some retail outlets will always be there. There are the places that sell items you just have to touch, feel, try out, etc. There are some places that rely primarily on the personal retail experience to sell their wares. There are some places that cannot be done over distance. But many typical retail stores are in more trouble than they may want to believe. The times, they are a changing and though old habits die hard, they do die.

How long ago do you think it was when people were thinking that people would ALWAYS have to go to the bank? And not just go to it, but go INTO it.  Then, in Atlanta, at least, came Tilly the All Time Teller. Along with ATM’s came direct deposit, online banking, debit cards, added to drive through windows and when is the last time you went into the bank? Do you think you go into a bank half as much as your parents or grandparents did? Banks offer a lot of services they didn’t 30 years ago but my guess is there are less than half as many “feet on the floor” per branch as then. Sometimes you have to go into a branch but with technology making it easier to stay out, why go in unless you have to? True, there are some who are set in the old ways. They go in and probably always will. I, myself, who likes to think of himself as an eager adopter of technology in all areas where it increases efficiency have used ATM’s for about 30 years but have yet to make a deposit in one. It just never got that necessary to me. But I probably will one day, if I ever get a check and can’t get to a drive-through window in a reasonable amount of time.

My point is, retailer beware. If you want to buck the “Virtual” trend, you better have a hook; an angle that makes people WANT to come into your store – almost NEED to. Otherwise, the customer will be at your competitors website, spending money galore and all the pretty decorating schemes in the world won’t get a nickel out of them. You sell clothes and think people will never go to buying clothes without trying them on or touching and feeling them? You may be right. They will come to your store and touch and feel and try on your inventory, and then go home and buy it. They may buy some from you, but they will look at a lot more than they plan to buy from you and order the balance from your online presence or competitor in a heartbeat. And remember, some people WILL buy clothes without laying eye nor hand on it ahead of time. As people get used to buying everything else sight unseen, they’ll have very little problem doing clothes the same way.

OK, tangent #2 I guess but the whole point of this post was to let you folks know I didn’t die or drop the blawg or anything. I’ll be here and hopefully with more frequent updates.

See ya later!!!

I Googled my birthday. Put in “10/22/1965” and what I got was the title of this post. I thought it was cool.

Darrel Birthday baby

When I lived at home, the morning of my birthday, my grandmother on my mother’s side would always call and sing happy birthday to me. She couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but I always looked forward to it. If I ever made it on the bus to school before she called, I would worry about her. I think that happened once. She stopped calling about five or six years ago because she died. My mom knew what it meant to me to get those calls, so instead of her telling me happy birthday when she saw me, she started calling to sing to me. That’s not going to happen this year. She died just a little over a season ago, in late June. I don’t know if anybody else will try to carry it on and to be honest, I don’t care. Maw Maw started it as a cute thing, I guess and mom continued it because it was tradition. Those two had a right – and almost a slf-imposed obligation – to do it, but I don’t want anybody else to feel obligated to try to carry that on. It’s still kinda sad, though.

If I recollect correctly, I was born at 4:11 PM on this day in 1965. Now I’m a numbers guy and always have been so even in my “yoot”, I analyzed and over-analyzed numbers for stuff. I remember when I decided my favorite number was “4”. I might have been seven or eight years old. I liked 4 because it was, to start with, symmetrical. All even numbers are symmetrical but four is doubly so. It is 2 (symmetrical) times 2 (also, symmetrical). So it is symmetrical in it’s symmetry. How cool is that? So that leads to 16, because it is symmetrical in all four dimensions – 3 space and one time. So 16 is cool, too. And if 4 is cool, then 44 is even cooler because it is not only expressed in the base-10 numerical system we use as two 4’s, but it is 4 X 11 and since I was born at 4:11, it just kinda fits. Not only that, but my birthday is 10/22 and if you add 10 + 22 you get 32 which is a symmetrical expression of 4X4 (4X4 times 2) or better yet (4+4)X4. Even cooler is 16X2 – since 16 is so cool anyway and besides, it’s symmetrical squares of 4. Note: a square has four sides – COOL!!  My teachers used to think I was daydreaming, but I was thinking of this kinda crap. Go figure.

I just realized that last paragraph really kinda explains why I thought that Google result was cool enough to use as the title to this post. I guess I always knew numbers were important. In fact, the word “number” and the word “truth” are almost interchangeable in my brain. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to decide which word to use in a sentence. For instance, I might want to say, “He is telling the truth.” but I have to catch my mouth from saying, “He is telling the numbers.”. I rarely miss it but I figure when I get older, there will be times when I don’t catch myself and everybody will think I have some degenerative brain thingy going on. So it goes, I guess. No use arguing with them. If I try to tell them I have mixed those words up forever, they’ll see that as more proof I’m losing it. For the record, the word “fact” gets mixed in there, too. “Fact”, “Number”, and “Truth” are all the same thing in my head. It really makes sense, if you think about it. They are all three by definition unassailable. I guess it’s kinda crazy to mentally equate them, but I could argue that it’s pretty lame NOT to do so, so don’t judge.

When I was a kid, we didn’t go in for all this nonsense about giving siblings presents when one of them had a birthday. What I mean is, you know how some people will take Little Johnny’s Sister, Suzy, a present when they take Little Johnny a birthday present? I pronounce that, now, and forever more, “Horseshit”. We didn’t do it when I was a kid and I’m not totally warped. Well, any warpage is probably not due to that, anyway. I just think it breeds a sense of entitlement in kids that they have a hard time letting go of later. I think it’s another example of a good intention going bad. With all that said, if anybody reading this wants to give me a gift for my birthday and they know one or both of my brothers, don’t think you have to splurge on them – Give Me It! They can wait for their birthdays to get their own beef jerky.

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