Sunday, March 30, 2014

Scattershooting 03-30-14

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great

 Bill Russell

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

Just for grins I checked final four tickets at Jerry World. Matt and I went to the regionals (sweet 16) last year to see the Gators - FGCU game. Seats in the section next to the one we sat in, which are worse seats, are going for $4,145. That's a little more than I paid last year. Cheapest seats in the far upper corners are $464. I'm pretty sure even if the Gators make the final four I'll be watching the game on TV.

Once again for the second time in a week, the lowly unranked Gators beat the #2 Noles. This time it's 4-1 in Jacksonville.

This applies to some law offices too. Ask Lawyer Rick.

Good point. Tolerance.

It's #TBT once again. Here I am at 11 for my school photo. That means it was either the second half of fifth grade or first half of sixth. Note the very cool tough guy rolled up sleeves. That's a pretty long collar too. The pocket patch "A" was blue, not scarlet. I'm sure it was to help people more easily identify us so any bad behavior off campus could be reported to the school. Not that I ever did behave badly of course.

New health food choices this season at Rangers games. Home opener is Monday.

Here is a picture of the new MLB ROC (Replay Operation Center) in New York. I think they need a couple more monitors.

This is enough to make you sick (pun intended) - 

Good idea -

Remember when there was just Triscuits? The box didn't have a qualifier like "Original", it just said Triscuit. Now there are over 20 variations of this venerable snack cracker that was invented in 1900. What's your favorite new flavor? I still buy the plain old kind most of the time.

Gators are coming to Jerry World again. This time for the Final Four. We'll have to wait until Saturday for the next game.

Pretty strong SNL for a change. This week's host was Louis C.K. His opening monologue was very good. Musical guest Sam Smith was OK too. Good SNL's are few and far between these days.

Have you been seeing the ubiquitous H & R Block commercials all over TV as we approach tax day? They have been using "Reunited" by Peaches & Herb as a theme. It perked my interest in the original version. I had forgotten how gorgeous "Peaches" was and how good Herb sang. Here's the original. Good song, good singers, a couple of dated hairdos and outfits.

Gators will be facing the UConn Huskies in the opening round of the Final Four. They are the last team to beat Florida, a one point loss at Connecticut on 12/2. Let's avenge that loss on Saturday.

Nice piece on 60 Minutes about Marcus Roberts. He's a Jacksonville native and attended Florida D&B and FSU where he now teaches. Mom still lives in Jax.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hobby Lobby vs Obamacare

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard the oral arguments in the case of Hobby Lobby vs Obamacare. The actual case probably has a different official name and some kind of number. In short, this case is about Hobby Lobby's objection to having to pay for contraceptives for their employees under the rules of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Hobby Lobby is a privately held company that has over 500 stores that sell supplies for crafts, home accessories and junk. The owners are a Christian family and believe that contraception is akin to abortion. They contend that under our constitution they have a right to refuse provisions of the ACA that goes against their religious beliefs. This in effect would give companies the same religious standing as an individual. I won't pretend to know all the legal technicalities or to be a constitutional expert. What I will do is give you my opinion on the issue.

Obamacare may ultimately prove to be a good law or it may prove to be a disaster. So far it has proved to have flaws and benefits. Regardless, as of 2014, it is the law. A main provision of the ACA is that everyone gets treated the same. You can't be discriminated against because of a pre-existing medical condition, gender, race, sexual  preference or religious beliefs. That last one, religious beliefs, is at the crux of the issue. Hobby Lobby contends that they have the right to deny contraceptive benefits to their employees regardless of the employees' religious beliefs.

This sounds like a double standard to me. The company gets to exercise their religious beliefs but the employees don't? I'm quite certain that some of Hobby Lobby's employees believe contraceptives are a valid choice and in fact use them. They would probably like the company and insurance carrier to help pay for them.

The problem with Hobby Lobby's stance is that once we allow this exception to the ACA we open a Pandora's box of future exceptions. Employers and employees will be able to object to any requirement of the ACA that goes against their religious beliefs. Where does it stop? Jehovah Witnesses are opposed to blood transfusions and some people and religions are against vaccinations. There are even religions that are completely against healthcare. They believe if you are good that god will heal you. There is no need for doctors or drugs. So, if I am a Jehovah Witness and own a business I can opt out of the blood transfusion parts of the health plan? The same if I object to vaccinations? What if I don't believe in any kind of healthcare, only prayer. Am I off the hook completely? While the Hobby Lobby case is about a company having to pay for benefits it is opposed to, what about the employees who are covered by a group policy? Do they have to pay for benefits they are opposed to or may never use?

Let me put my cynical hat on. Because the insurance costs for some conditions and diseases are expensive, it would be to a companies advantage to eliminate coverage for them from their group insurance policies. I'm thinking that some owners would profess that their religion doesn't believe in cancer or Alzheimer's or hepatitis or HIV/Aids. Some charlatan cleric and a couple of lawyers would be able to establish a religion that has an objection to any ailment you want. Companies and insurance carriers would conspire to come up with hybrid policies. So what would be left to cover? Maybe a hangnail or a paper cut, as long as neither got infected. Of course stiffy pills and penis pumps would always be covered because the company owners and executives are old guys who need help in that area.

I support religious freedom but like free speech there are limits. When your religion or speech infringes on my religion, lack of religion or speech there is a problem. Just as you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater, you shouldn't be able to yell "religion" when it may endanger me or deny my rights. While contraceptives may be a religious issue, it is are also a health issue between a patient and a doctor. Just because you work for Hobby Lobby that shouldn't require you to have a baby or be celebrate. What's the alternative, the rhythm method? You know what they call couples who use the rhythm method? Parents. Some may even contend that the rhythm method is a form of contraception so maybe Hobby Lobby employees can't do that either.

One of the main tenets of Obamacare was to eliminate all the exceptions that insurance companies had. If we now allow a whole new category of religious exceptions it's the same old situation. Health insurance is like many other institutions in a civilized society. We all have to pay for common things, some of which we won't be able to take advantage of or get our fair share of. Single people, childless couples and old people don't have children in school but they pay school taxes. Those who never use public transportation help pay for it. Some never use the public parks but others use them almost every day. Each house doesn't have the same amount of garbage but they all pay the same garbage fee. The list goes on. It's the same deal with health insurance. Some people have catastrophic illnesses and have thousands of dollars of claims while others are never sick a day in their life. Most folks are somewhere in the middle. That's the formula. Lose a lot of money on some customers, make a lot of money on others and break even or make a small profit on most. Exceptions or exemptions skew the equation. Let me also state that the coverage of contraceptives does not require anybody to use them. If a Hobby Lobby or General Motors employee does not believe in contraception they don't have to use them. Just as a Jehovah Witness does not have to get a blood transfusion even though their insurance covers it.

Freedom of religion means each of us are free to practice our religion, not freedom to impose our religion on others. Organized religions already enjoy some governmental preferences. Let's not extend those preferences to health insurance.

I hope SCOTUS rules against Hobby Lobby. Right now it looks like it will be another 5-4 vote although the outcome is in doubt. A final decision probably won't be made until June.

What do you think?


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scattershooting 03-23-14

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great

 James Arness

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

The 3/16 episode of Cosmos was about evolution. According to the Texas Board of Education I'm pretty sure that Fox TV will now need to clarify that evolution is just a theory. They will then be required to air a program about intelligent design/creationism. We wouldn't want anyone to be influenced by real science.

In the rough and tumble football centric SEC even the basketball games start with a kickoff. 


Hope everyone's St. Patrick's day celebration was fun and safe. Did anyone overdo it like my little leprechaun friend? We need a celebratory holiday or two between now and Memorial Day. Any suggestions?

Stuck inside on this sunny and warm afternoon waiting for a call back from my friends at Social Security. I may be here a while.

A great cause. 

Urge the FDA to Say YES to Accelerated Approval for safe, effective therapies for children with Duchenne.

I know it's basketball season (where the Gators are #1), but I couldn't let this slide. The lowly unranked Gators baseball team beat the #1 FSU Seminoles today 3-1. 

Anybody want a margarita?

Sugars found in tequila may protect against obesity, diabetes

Spring sprang forth on 3/20 at 11:57 a.m. CDT. The day started out at 43° which is not my ideas of spring temps. Forecast high of 73° which is much better. Happy spring.

Under Construction. My patio ceiling is being replaced. There was a little rot in one of the beams so I guess it's good to replace it before my upstairs neighbor's balcony comes down on top of me or the birds.

I want one - my all time favorite Ranger. Loved to watch him play.

Had lunch at the new Puerto Rican restaurant in Bedford. Jibarito's is at Central and Harwood next to Big Lots. I had the house specialty sandwich - 
  Emparedado Jibarito / Jibarito Sandwich
       A fried plantain sandwich with Puerto Rican pulled pork, tomatoes, avocados and            pickled red onions with a spicy cilantro mayo sauce with rice and beans.
Very good. Give it a try.

The #1 Gators advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA basketball tournament.  Next game will be against #4 UCLA.  GO GATORS!
#11 seed Tennessee easily beats #14 Mercer who beat #3 Duke. That puts three SEC teams into the sweet 16. Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Not bad for a football conference. 


Johnny Carson

I just read a book simply titled Johnny Carson that was written by Henry Bushkin. If you were a fan of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, you may remember Carson making jokes about Bombastic Bushkin. For the sake of the joke, Bushkin may have been portrayed as Johnny's accountant, financial adviser, lawyer or any number of other professions. In actuality Bombastic Bushkin was based on a real person. That person is the author, Henry Bushkin, who was officially Carson's lawyer for 18 years. The book is about their years together that spanned from 1970 to 1988.

Henry Bushkin was much more than a lawyer to Johnny. He was part confidant, agent, manager, adviser, tennis partner, enabler, drinking buddy, fixer, employee, companion, business partner, gopher and yes, even lawyer. When he was hired by Carson he was a 27 year old relatively inexperienced entertainment lawyer. His first duties were to accompany Johnny and a couple of others on a raid of Joanne Carson's, aka Mrs. Johnny Carson, secret apartment. The purpose of the raid was to find evidence of Joanne's infidelity. According to Bushkin, they found the place furnished with items from the Carson's apartment, women's and men's clothing, not Johnny's, and pictures of Joanne and Frank Gifford. The raid may have been illegal although technically Johnny was paying for the apartment. This all ultimately led to the Carson's divorce. It also led to Bushkin becoming Johnny's lawyer and a member of a very small Carson inner circle. One of his first tasks was to represent Johnny in the divorce from Joanne.

While it is obvious that Bushkin admired Johnny, basked in his glow and profited greatly from their relationship, he exposes many of the warts in Carson's life. It was a complicated life full of contradictions. That charming, witty, funny, midwestern host of The Tonight Show was far less charming off the air. Bushkin paints Johnny as a selfish and often nasty person. One who failed miserably at marriage, parenthood and friendship. An alcoholic who had issues with commitment and fidelity. A paranoid loner who once crossed, whether real or just perceived, held a grudge for life. A person who could be extremely charming to your face but also just as easily extremely nasty. It all depended on the mood du jour or state of intoxication. Because of his personality, wealth and power, Johnny was able to play by his own rules rules and live his life differently than the common folks. 

There is no need to go into the details of their time together. That's what the book is for.  There are many adventures documented, although very little about The Tonight Show. I will say that Bushkin was not an innocent bystander during that time. He philandered right along with Carson whether either of them was married, involved or single. There is no way to know if the misadventures portrayed are the whole truth, the edited version or complete fabrications. While admitting to errors and mistakes, Bushkin depicts himself as mostly the good guy who was just taking care of his client and friend. 
Henry Bushkin & Johnny Carson

According to Bushkin, the end of his relationship with Johnny took place in a three minute meeting that ended with a handshake. They spoke only once after that. Carson later accused and sued Bushkin for malpractice and a few other things. After four years of litigation Bushkin won a $17 million settlement and kept his law license. It is a little murky as to whether Bushkin betrayed Carson or did anything illegal or unprofessional. It is obvious that he made some careless and stupid mistakes, especially for a lawyer. It was a messy situation and Bushkin lost his stake in Carson Productions which owned The Tonight Show and some other entertainment properties. Carson Productions is still making money from the DVD's and rebroadcasts of Tonight Show videos. 

I've read eight or ten books about Johnny and The Tonight Show. While some of the details and interpretations of this book should be taken with a grain of salt, the general tone seems right. Johnny was the best ever at hosting late night TV. He was also not very successful at being a happy or pleasant human being. A very flawed person. Although the Carson estate was estimated at around $450 million at his death, he was virtually alone. He was separated from his fourth wife, had almost no relationship with his two remaining sons and almost no friends. He did leave much of his estate to charity.

The book is a good read but don't open the covers if you want to preserve your image of Johnny Carson as the funny, congenial, every man host who came into your living room or bedroom after the late local news. Sometimes our heroes have warts but they can still be our heroes. If there is a show about Johnny, a rerun or clip of The Tonight Show, I'll watch it and there's a 99.99% chance that I'll laugh out loud and enjoy it. His personal life won't be a factor. He provided 30 years of great entertainment. That's enough for me. It's sad that someone who brought so much laughter and enjoyment into the world for others was unable to find peace and happiness in his own life. RIP Johnny.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Jibarito's Puerto Rican Restaurant

I ate lunch at a new restaurant today. It is called Jibarito's and serves Puerto Rican and Caribbean style food. It's located in Bedford, Texas in a nondescript shopping center at the corner of Central and Harwood. It is sandwiched (pun intended) between Big Lots and Little Caesars Pizza. For those familiar with Bedford, it is in the old La Bella restaurant location.

The interior has been completely redone. La Bella was an old style white tablecloth Italian restaurant. It was dimly lit by candlelight with paintings of Italy on the walls and a piano player next to the bar. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Tony Bennett recordings were playing when the piano player wasn't. Luckily La Bella didn't close until after my father died. It was one of his favorite spots. 

Jibarito's is much brighter and more casual. The tabletops are wood grain formica, no tablecloths. The walls have been covered with corrugated tin siding. There are a few Puerto Rican themed posters on the walls. A Puerto Rican flag hung parallel to the ceiling is in the center of the main dining room. There is a very small private dining area at the front. The piano is gone, but the bar is in the same place at the back of the main dining area. It is a full bar. The room is pleasant enough but I have a feeling it could get pretty noisy with all the hard surfaces. There were only a few other customers when I was there but I could easily hear conversations from other sections of the room. On this particular afternoon there were at least as many employees as customers. Despite the abundance of help and the lack of customers it took an inordinate amount of time for my meal to be served. The delay was with the kitchen, not the server. That might be a problem when the place is busy. The service was friendly although not particularly polished. 

On to the food. I had the signature Jibarito Sandwich which is described as A fried plantain sandwich with Puerto Rican pulled pork, tomatoes, avocados and pickled red onions with a spicy cilantro mayo sauce with rice and beans. It was delicious. The fried plantains take the place of bread in this sandwich. They are fried to a crisp and held up well. They did not get soggy and fall apart. Get an extra napkin or two. Your fingers will get greasy but the sandwich didn't taste greasy. The pork was plentiful, lean, flavorful and had some crispy edges which I like. The tomatoes, avocados and onions added good flavor and additional textures. The spicy cilantro mayo wasn't spicy but it did taste OK. Full disclosure, I like really hot spicy food so the mayo might be spicy to the average palate. The rice and beans were also very good. It was white rice with red beans, some green onions and a good dose of garlic. It was a big sandwich and large portion of rice. I couldn't quite finish it all but still waddled out of the place. I thought the $10 price tag was very fair. Another nice surprise was the Dos Equis draft for $1.75. I don't always drink beer at lunch but when I do I like a reasonably priced one.

The rest of the menu runs the gamut although it all has a Latin slant. Everybody, including the kids, should be able to find something to their liking. This is the kind of restaurant that I like to patronize. Family run and a local business. I'll go back again and if you are in the area I hope you give it a try. It's nice to see a local restaurant with a different cuisine. I love BBQ and Mexican but we have plenty of those. A little taste of the Caribbean for this Florida guy is very welcome. Find Jibarito's on the web or on Facebook.

Fried plantains in place of bread, a good idea. $1.75 Dos Equis, another good idea.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Scattershooting 03-16-14

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great

 Frank Robinson

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

This terrible crime should be punishable by at least life in prison (without beer). The inhumanity.

Arena’s concession rip-off discovered: ‘Large’ size beer found to be same volume as ‘regular’
Winds up to 40 mph today (3/12). Better strap on that toupee and use extra hairspray on that comb over.

The Daily Show did a very funny piece on the Republicans obsession with the fact that Obamacare covers birth control for women and it must be stopped. Ironically these mostly old white guys have no problem with Medicare or insurance paying for stiffy pills or penis pumps. No double standard or hypocrisy there. The healthcare segment starts at 10 minutes into the show.  

It's time for #TBT once again. Here is a photo of Mom & Dad about six months BB (Before Billy) frolicking at the Jersey Shore. Very stylish beach attire. — at Sea Bright New Jersey.
According to at least one of my feathered friends it must be just about springtime. A sparrow came by the patio today, grabbed a snack and then got a beak full of stringy bark mulch for some nest building.

Just about two weeks before the baseball games count. Looks like the Texas Rangers will be well armed this season.

Decisions, decisions -

#1 Gators win the SEC tournament and finish the SEC season with a perfect 21-0 record. They go into the NCAA tournament with the overall #1 seed. 

Remember, some of us are Irish every day but everybody is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Hope all my Irish friends have a great day. Celebrate with some corned beef and cabbage, a pint of Guinness and a wee drop of Jameson.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Ebb and Flow of Technology

I've been around technology since circa 1970. I spent my entire career running and programming computers. Needless to say I've seen exponential changes and advancements in the technology. Except for maybe warp drives and transporters, computers and technology have advanced beyond what even the science fiction writers could dream of just a few years ago. It was an exciting career. The faint of heart or those who didn't embrace constant change need not apply. This post is not to detail the specific advancements and changes but rather to give my view of the general ebb and flow of the industry.

When I started my career in the late 1960's all the computers were huge and in a special room. The input data came in via punched cards, paper tape or magnetic tape. The output was punched cards, magnetic tape or printout. No one except for the computer operator ever touched a computer. There was no real time updating or instantaneous results. Applications were processed once a day at the most. Maybe by Wednesday morning you would know what happened on Tuesday by reading the printed reports. Computers and data processing were only for large companies.

Within a couple of years there were a few CRT terminals introduced into the landscape. These CRT's, aka dumb terminals, were big and expensive. Initially they were for inquiry only. The information available was usually a very limited subset of that on the printed reports from the night before. They could only display a few lines of text, no graphics or color. CRT's were few and far between. A department might only have one or two for several people. All the computing was still done in data center.

The next step was a wider distribution of CRT's with bigger screens and the addition of input data. Now people in the user departments could add, delete or edit data directly into the computers. Applications were still typically only updated once a day, usually overnight. Most everything was still centrally located with a very few terminals connected by primitive and slow phone line networks.

A couple of companies like Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) began selling smaller computers. These systems were for smaller companies or for specific applications. They were still company or department systems with maybe a terminal or two. Batch processing still was the mainstay.

The model of a central data center with dumb terminals prevailed until the mid to late 1980's. By then mini computers, personal computers (PC) and faster networks came on the scene. Computing began to migrate from the big central computer room towards the desktop. By the 1990's the dumb terminals were almost completely replaced by PCs. Many were still connected to a big computer for some information but once the data reached the PC it was reformatted, combined and manipulated by the desktop computer.

More and more processing was moved from the big mainframe computers to mini computers to small servers to desktop PCs. It seemed to be a race to get applications to the smallest computer possible. This was not necessarily the best strategy but it was the popular trend. I'm not sure when this trend reached its peak but it was probably in the early 2000's.

About then, companies started to move back towards more central control of data and applications. Instead of huge water cooled computers they installed several smaller servers, often in racks, networked together. Part of this was economics and part was for security and control.

In the past couple of years we have seen an explosion of cloud storage and computing. This is a more centralized approach than local servers or even company data centers. Now instead of a corporate computer there is a national shared data center run by Google, Amazon, Microsoft or any number of cloud companies.

As we move again to more centralized storage and processing we need less computing power at the desktop or our mobile device. So even though your smart phone is more powerful and has more storage than a PC of a few years ago it couldn't function without all the cloud data and computing. We will never go back to days of completely dumb terminals but we may be headed toward less smart desktop and mobile devices.

As networks get faster and cloud computing gets cheaper there will be less and less reason to compute or store locally. An example is the new prices for Google Drive storage. You can now get a terabyte of storage for $10/month. That's probably less than the electricity to power a local TB disk drive. Besides the storage you can use the cloud servers computing power to run you applications. This post is being written, edited, previewed and published in a web browser tab. None of it is stored or processed locally on my PC.

The Chromebook and Chromebox are today's equivalent of the old dumb terminal. They are dependent on a big computer center to do useful work. While everything has gotten faster, bigger (not physically), cheaper and more available we seem to be migrating back toward a centralized computing model. Will this be permanent or is it just the latest phase (fad) of computing technology?

There will always be ebb and flow from central to individual. Companies like centralized for control and security reasons. Individuals like decentralized and local for the freedom and customization. There is also the cost issue. Are a couple of big data centers cheaper than hundreds or thousands of smart desktops or individual devices?

Regardless of the technology or cost issues, never underestimate the effect of social trends. Many a CEO will adopt a new technology direction because it is the popular thing to do. He/she may have read in Forbes or seen on CNBC that everyone is now doing whatever the technology du jour is. It doesn't matter if that strategy is right or cost effective for their company. Individuals are the same. It's trendy to have a MacBook or iMac but if all you do is email and Facebook it is very expensive overkill. Get a Chromebook for about a $1,000 less.

So in the last 40 years we have gone from behemoth central computers with dumb terminals to mini computers to local servers to desktop PCs to web browsers to national cloud data centers with limited function desktop and mobile devices. Will we continue the shift toward centralized computing or will there be a trend toward individual computing? Technology advancements will have much influence on this but so will social pressure.

The pendulum always keeps swinging, it never stops moving. Only the direction is in doubt.

Got any predictions?