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Monday, December 12, 2016

College Football Bowls 2016-17


And so it begins again. The college football bowl season starts on December 17, 2016 and ends on January 9, 2017. Other than bragging rights, only three of these bowls have any real meaning. Those three are the two semi-final games and final game of the College Football Championship. The rest are what would be called "friendlies" in soccer. Or maybe Silly Season is more appropriate.



So let's break this down. There will be 41 bowls consisting of 80 separate teams. There are only 128 total teams in the NCAA FBS division (formerly Division 1-A). According to my math, that means an elite 62.5% of teams play in bowls. Teams have to win six games, seven if they play 13 games, to qualify for a bowl. So, you have to have at least a break-even record, 6-6. That is unless you don't. This bowl season there are 15 teams with the supposed minimum 6-6 record. There is also one team, Hawaii, with a 6-7 record and two teams with a 5-7 record. It's fairly obvious to me that if there are not enough teams with at least a .500 record, there are too many bowls.

I remember when there were fewer than 10 bowls so only the top dozen or so teams got an invitation. Now the #12 team in the SEC goes to a bowl game. Many of the games are now held just to satisfy ESPN's huge appetite for content. In fact, many of the newer bowls were started and are produced by ESPN. Because of this you will see crappy games played in front of a couple of thousand spectators.

Other than the three playoff games I will probably watch at least parts of Florida vs Iowa in the Outback Bowl, USF vs South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl and TCU vs Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Florida, South Florida and TCU are teams I follow all season.

I'll also check out the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville where Georgia Tech plays Kentucky. This is my hometown and was a big event back in the day. The TaxSlayer Bowl name pisses me off. A couple of years ago the powers that be dropped the Gator Bowl part of the name. The Gator Bowl was founded in 1946 which makes it the sixth oldest bowl. I blame the bowl committee, the city and the sponsor for abandoning the historic name. What the hell is a TaxSlayer anyway? Even their crappy logo barely recognizes Jacksonville. 
The Cotton Bowl is no longer played in the Cotton Bowl. It is now played at AT&T Stadium, aka Jerry's World, in Arlington. To further confuse the issue, the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl is held in the Cotton Bowl. The longest bowl name is the Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman although the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and the San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl are close behind. Do the teams in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl have to stay in a Motel 6? We also have the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. I'm not sure if Idaho or the Potatoes are famous. Then we have the Popeyes Bahama Bowl which is held in a second rate soccer stadium in that hotbed of American Football, Nassau.

I would guess that Alabama is favored in this year's playoffs.We may even have a rematch from last year between Alabama and Clemson. 

So how many bowl games will you be watching? Will you be following your favorite teams or maybe your favorite corporate sponsor? Happy bowling.

wjh

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Charlie Rose & Civil Discourse

Full disclosure, I am a fan. Charlie Rose is a treasure. He is a very busy TV journalist. He does the CBS Morning News and The Charlie Rose Show on PBS. That's at least three hours of TV every weekday. He also does some segments on 60 Minutes, fills in as anchor on CBS Evening News, was an election night anchor plus numerous other stuff. To say he is busy is an understatement. Charlie is also 74 years old, actually closer to 75. 

Not only does Mr. Rose work like crazy, he is prepared for every interview. His wealth of knowledge is amazing. Charlie is not just a political or news expert, he is also a fan of the arts, science, technology and numerous other areas. He is one of the most curious people I know. He is also one of the smartest.

The reason I am writing this post is because I had been watching some so called "news" program with four or five talking head experts. They were arguing and disagreeing about something. Let me correct that, they were yelling at each other. Interrupting and talking over each other. Then later I tuned into The Charlie Rose Show on PBS. They were talking about the same issues but no one was yelling. The only time anyone stepped on someone else's line it was due to satellite delay. Charlie orchestrated the discussion in his normal smooth way. Guess which program I learned the most from.

I wish we had more thoughtful and civil discussions in our news coverage. I wish we had intelligent, curious, informed anchors, reporters and "experts" participating. I wish yelling was eliminated. I wish spin was banned. In spite of what Bill O'Reilly says, his No Spin Zone is almost all spin, his spin. 

Charlie is a Southern Gentleman, raised and educated in North Carolina. A graduate of Duke and Duke School of Law. He was never a practicing lawyer but I'm sure his law school training was great preparation for his career as a journalist. 


I'm old enough to remember when news shows including the Sunday morning political shows were civil. I remember when the great David Brinkley would interview a politician, ask probing questions, have a wry smirk after a ridiculous answer and then thank them for being on the program. Never a raised voice or open disdain. Charlie is cut from the same cloth as the David Brinkley's, John Chancellor's, Frank McGee's, Dan Rather's, Tom Brokaw's, etc. of our past moderators and anchors. 

Civil discourse, a dying art and behavior. You won't find much of it on the cable news networks. For a refreshing example of civility, tune into The Charlie Rose Show every night on PBS as people gather around his famous round table. You might learn something.

The world and the country need more real dialogue and less yelling.  

wjh

Goliath


I recently watched Goliath on Amazon Prime Video. It's the story of a once prominent lawyer, Billy Bob Thornton, taking a case against his former worldwide law firm. Hence the disgraced, alcoholic lawyer (David) against the rich and influential big law firm (Goliath). Only one core court case, but lots of side stories and intrigue. 

The series was created, produced and written by David E Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro. Kelley's previous efforts include Boston Legal, The Practice, Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope and others. Quite a pedigree. 

I have had some problems with Billy Bob in the past. Maybe I had trouble separating his personal life (very strange) with his professional life (amazingly solid). For the last few years, I have enjoyed his work. This project is no exception. He portrays a conflicted, very flawed, free spirited, brilliant lawyer. He plays that beautifully. A little bit crazy. Not unlike Billy Bob. 

It is the best of times for outstanding TV programs and series. HBO, Showtime, Netflix, Amazon, Starz, AMC, etc. are all producing stellar entertainment. Most of these are unencumbered by corporate advertisements and ratings. There is far more freedom than the 9:00 PM time slot on CBS or NBC.  

Back to Goliath, it's an old story but one well told. It plays into the general mood of the country that the rich control everything and have their own rules. The politicians, police, courts, even the church are in the pocket of the rich bad guys. 

William Hurt plays the head of the global and powerful law firm that he and Billy Bob founded. Hurt is now both physically and morally compromised. He barely cares about the ongoing case as long as he can destroy Billy Bob. It is revenge. He has many minions and millions to do that. His corporate client adds even more money and muscle to the fray. Dwight Yokum plays the head of the evil corporate entity. He convinced me and he didn't even have a guitar. The rest of the cast is also strong. 

I won't reveal any spoilers. Most of the plot twists aren't that surprising but they are well played. There are eight episodes. I think this is a one season series. Based on how it ended, it didn't feel like a to be continued... deal.

If you like well written and well acted drama, give Goliath a look. It is an adult program there is minimal nudity but Billy Bob has a real potty mouth. I rate it a solid A. 
wjh



Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Crown


The Crown is a Netflix original program about the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II's ascension to the thrown of England in 1952. It covers the last parts of King George VI's reign and Elizabeth's first few years as queen. I recently completed watching the last of the 10 episodes. 

I'm not too sure how historically accurate it is. The major events certainly are, but there are numerous private conversations depicted. I assume the writers and producers took great liberties in this area, since the royal family is very protective of their personal privacy.

I found the first few episodes interesting, those about George's health issues and death, then the transfer of the crown to his mostly unprepared 26 year old daughter. There was also the story of how Elizabeth and Prince Philip came to be married. The performances were very good and the location shots were well done.

Unfortunately, I found much of it tedious. The internal conflicts among the different royal factions seemed more like a soap opera or maybe Downton Abby. I am not a fan of royalty or pomp and circumstance. The whole set of rules that guides the royal family is ridiculous as is the entire titular monarchy. 

I can't imagine living under those constraints. There is an army of people employed to enforce the rules and direct the royals. There were even laws about who they could marry. The series tries to make it out that all the royal family's trials and tribulations were monumental and important. That to me is like our current obsession with celebrity. Kim and Kanye are not important. In a real world, these issues are trivial, or at least should be.

I can kind of understand the UK keeping the monarchy, but only if they are pulling their weight. If the tourist dollars (£ pounds) they bring in more than offsets their upkeep. Seems to me that opening up all the royal residences to tours would be just as good as actually having a monarch with no real power. But I digress. 

I think The Crown is a well done, very well acted mini-series. The overall story is interesting and includes some of the real British politics of the time in addition to the backstage dealings of the Court of St. James's. I particularly enjoyed John Lithgow's portrayal of Winston Churchhill. His dealings with the young Queen Elizabeth and his own Conservative Party, especially Anthony Eden, are highlights. The series also gives some insight into Elizabeth's husband, Prince Phillip, although it is not always flattering. Princess Margaret's story is interesting and shows the cruel side of the royal rules and protocol. 

For history buffs and those who enjoy royal watching, this is a worthwhile investment of your time. If you liked Downton Abbey, I suspect you will like The Crown

I give the mini-series a solid B+ bordering on an A-. Take a look, it's way better than 91.7% of the other stuff on TV. 
wjh

Friday, December 2, 2016

Very Random Thoughts - November 2016

  • We no longer have waiters and waitresses, they are now servers.
  • Saw a news story that said a local Taco Bell had been evacuated because of a gas leak. No kidding.
  • Can anyone explain why a company would use Michael Phelps in their commercials? Great swimmer, terrible spokesperson.
  • Thankfully for almost every side effect that a drug causes, big pharma develops another drug. They are always looking out for our welfare. 
  • Apparently, God and Jesus are in charge of the CMA Awards. Almost every winner thanked one or both of them. Busy guys, they control the outcome of award shows and almost all sports.
  • Whenever a football player is down on the field with an injury, the announcers tell us what an integral part of the team that guy is. Do crappy players ever get hurt?
  • Who thought that using only mascot names for NCAA basketball games in the U-verse TV guide was a good idea. When the listing says Tigers vs Bulldogs what schools are they talking about? In just the SEC there are two Bulldogs and three Tigers.
  • Our local Oldies radio station began to play all Christmas music on November 14th. Way too early.
  • My U-verse DVR/receiver went on the fritz so they sent me a new one. It was a self-install deal. The old one is to be returned prepaid via UPS. Unfortunately, the new DVR is smaller than the old one so it won't fit in the box. Customer care is always a priority at AT&T. 
  • Let's rename the pro-life movement to pro-birth since many are not really for all life or quality of life.
  • How come rich college coaches can do endorsements and advertisements, but poor college athletes can't? 
  • If "Conversion Therapy" can make gays straight, can it also work in reverse? Maybe teach it backward. Maybe just reverse the electrodes on the electroshock treatments. Probably should check with Mike Pence.
  • Are you supposed to wash your beard with shampoo or face soap?
  • How come football teams don't wear pinstripe uniforms?
  • Why does the news make such a big deal about plane crashes? Total worldwide commercial airplane deaths per year are usually measured in the hundreds. The worst year ever was about 2,400. Yet, there are over 30,000 traffic deaths per year just in the USA that barely get a mention.
wjh

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Castro & Cuba


With the recent death of Fidel Castro, the news is filled with analysis of what he was and conjecture about what comes now for Cuba. You can tune into any of the news programs or channels to get the experts' opinions. This is my blog, so you get my recollections and opinions. I am not a highly paid news talking head expert, but I was around when Castro came to power and it had direct effects on me.

Fidel Castro and his rebel army overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in early 1959. At that time I was an elementary school student in Jacksonville, Florida. I was in the 6th grade, so although not politically astute, I was old enough to know what was going on. Shortly thereafter I was even more aware what was going on. There was a direct impact on Florida, the Jacksonville area, our Catholic diocese and my elementary school.

Not long after Batista's regime fell, the rich and powerful began fleeing Cuba. Many of the middle class also fled. So, if you are in Cuba, an island, under stress and in danger where do you go? Maybe Florida, 90 miles away, might be your choice. Boats and planes carried thousands of Cubans to Florida. Although many of these were the wealthy and upper middle class, who could afford to escape, they were not able to bring much with them, including money. Most refugees settled in far South Florida but some migrated north by choice or because of charitable agencies relocation. One of the main charitable organizations was the Catholic church. As South Florida and the Miami diocese became overwhelmed, the other Florida dioceses pitched in. The St. Augustine Diocese (Northeast Florida) included Jacksonville and my parish school. We got some of the overflow. 

There was a camp/retreat that the diocese owned called Camp St. John, ironically on the St Johns River, in an unincorporated area well south of Jacksonville called Switzerland. It was a rustic camp, but it did have some dorm-like structures and kitchen facilities. Some of the Cuban refugees wound up at Camp St. John pending permanent relocation. Unfortunately for the kids, there were not many Catholic schools in the area and the closest one was almost a one-room school. The alternative was to bus the kids into Jacksonville. My school was one of the closer ones but was still about 20 miles away. We got a few of the refugee kids. 

One of them was in my class. That one was a boy because everyone in my 6th grade class was a boy. All the girls were in a different classroom. I don't think any of these kids spoke English. I know the one in my class didn't. I seem to remember his name was Juan. He was slender, actually skinny, tanned and a little taller than me. OK, everyone was taller than me. Back then I usually rode my bike to school or took the city bus. I was in no rush to get home. Juan had to wait for the Camp St. John bus which had to stop at a couple of the other Catholic schools to pick up kids before making the 20 mile trip back to the camp.

Turns out Juan and I were both baseball rats. I always had my glove and a ball with me. One day while he was waiting for his bus and I was just hanging out, we struck up a sorta conversation. He couldn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish. He saw my glove and said some of the few English words he knew. Those words are stuck in my brain. He said "I pitch, you catch" with a thick accent. I nodded yes and we went to the school ball field. He got on the pitching rubber and I got behind the plate and we played catch until either his bus came or I had to head home. We did that most every day for a few weeks until one day Juan didn't come to school. He never returned. He had been relocated. That was the end of our relationship. He learned a little English and I learned a little Spanish. Mostly it was just an afternoon catch between two young baseball players. I missed Juan when he disappeared. 

That was phase one of Castro's Cuba. A couple of years later, those of us in Florida had another event. That would be the Cuban Missile Crisis in late 1962. By then I was in high school. There was a definite tension in the air during the crisis which was at its height for about two weeks. Jacksonville was thought to be a primary target if the missiles began flying. At the time there were three major naval installations in the area, two Naval Air Stations and a Naval Base (port). There are still two. Jacksonville is about 500 miles from Cuba, well within the range of the missiles that Russia deployed in Cuba. That too passed.

After the missile crisis, Casto's Cuba became less of a day to day concern but it was a constant issue, especially in Florida. The influx of refugees forever changed the makeup and politics of the Miami area. To a lesser degree, Tampa Bay was affected as was the rest of Florida. Plus, the influx of Cubans continued through the decades. Luckily for us, they brought their food and culture with them.

Now for the opinion section. The dictator Batista needed to go in Cuba and Castro brought that to fruition. Unfortunately, Castro was also a dictator, a communist/socialist dictator. The people of Cuba went from one oppression to another. What I witnessed is that Cuba lost a whole generation, maybe two generations, of the professional and middle class. This exodus was not only devastating to Cuba, but to the individuals.There were Cuban college professors who were lucky to get an elementary or high school job, even those with Ph.D's. Medical doctors and dentists could not practice, engineers could not engineer. Some completely abandoned their former professions, others took lesser positions in their old field and a few were able to go back to school or pass certification tests and regain their former positions.



I think the Bay of Pigs was a stupid and sloppy adventure by ill-prepared Cuban expatriates and a naive US administration. The embargo after the missile crisis was well founded, but not for 60 years. The wet-feet, dry-feet immigration policies for Cubans are ridiculous. I agree with Obama that we should try to normalize relations with Cuba. Exposure to our culture and economy are far more powerful weapons than the isolation of the past several decades. Expose the Cubans to what could be a new standard of living. Let's let them upgrade that 1957 Chevy to a new 2016 vehicle. It won't be as pretty but it will be more reliable and fuel efficient. It's a version of the old honey and vinegar parable.

I hope the demise of Fidel Castro opens a new era of US-Cuban relations. I hope it also begins a new era of increased freedoms for the Cuban people. In a better world, Cuba would be more like other Carribean islands and Mexico. Safe and friendly neighbors. An island deeply connected to South Florida. Maybe even a reverse migration back to Cuba. 

Will the new administration continue the detente? 

wjh

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Disappointed


Disappointed. That's probably the best word to sum up my feelings about the presidential election. 

I'm disappointed that the campaign was such a mess. I'm disappointed that the two major parties nominated such flawed candidates. I'm disappointed that negatives rather than real issues were the driving factor. I'm disappointed that Clinton couldn't inspire what should have been her base. 

Where to now? Do the Trumpers and Republicans seek revenge? Do they dismantle everything the Obama administration has implemented over the past eight years? Do they turn back gains in equality by LGBT's, women, Blacks and others? Do they round up the million of illegal immigrants? Do they build the wall? Do they ban all Muslim immigration. Do they profile and spy on the non-whites? Do they impose Christianity into our public and government institutions? Do they tear up our defense and trade treaties with other countries? Do they make it even harder for people to vote? Do they try to indict Hillary Clinton? Or do they extend an olive branch?

On the flip side, will the Democrats now adopt the game plan that Republicans have used since the Obama election? That is to oppose everything Trump proposes and grind government to a halt whenever possible. 

I was not for Trump. I dislike almost everything about him. I dislike his personality. I dislike his lack of experience and preparation for the office. I dislike his platform and policies. I dislike his lack of any details. That being said, I hope he is a successful president and most importantly that the country is successful during his administration. I also hope that his administration is only four years and that Democrats take back Congress in 2018.

It will be interesting to see how the nation reacts to this election. It will also be interesting to see how Trump governs in his first 100 days. Let us all hope that it is peaceful.  

The Trump supporters got their wish for change. Now we can begin to see what that really means. Just remember that even though you won this presidential election, the popular vote was almost evenly split. Do we begin to come together as a nation or become even more divisive? Do we move forward as a country or take a step backward? 

Disappointed.

wjh

Friday, November 4, 2016

Very Random Thoughts - October 2016


  • As we enter Fall, the sidewalks are covered with acorns, figs, pecans and other things that fall from the trees. Even at my advanced age, it is almost impossible not to kick those objects down the sidewalk. Is that behavior in our DNA? Seems we never outgrow "kick the can".
  • When people greet you with "you look great", it's probably because you are old and they are surprised you can still move or are alive. You may not actually look that great.
  • Do you ever watch a food or restaurant commercial on TV and think "that looks terrible"? Seems like if a company spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on filming the ad and then buying TV time, they would make their crap look better. 
  • In the same vein, how often have you seen a movie trailer or promo for a TV show and thought "these are the good parts"?
  • Every time an app or software package makes "productivity" changes, I become less productive. That feature I always use is now buried about five menus deep or completely gone.
  • I'm pretty sure that "clean coal" is equivalent to "safe cigarettes".  
  • Locally-sourced is a trendy restaurant term these days. Does that mean locally grown, or just bought locally? I see restaurants in my area featuring ingredients that are not grown anywhere near here.
  • Many times I'll get the misspelled red underline and think, spell check is absolutely wrong. Turns out it rarely is unless it's a proper name.
  • The "Pro-Life" label has been hijacked by the anti-abortion crowd. Many of then are also for capital punishment which seems to me to be anti-life.
  • Is there ever a good reason to have three announcers in the booth for a sports event?
  • Same thought, do we really need a cast of thousands for the pre-game, halftime and post-game studio shows?
  • The new sports talk show on FS1 is called Undisputed  with idiots Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharp. In the promos, it looks like every topic is "Disputed".
  • How can any of these old white male Republican politicians say that grabbing a woman by the pussy is not an assault? Maybe somebody ought to grab them by the nuts. Fun, isn't it?
  • When did sports analysts change from explaining what happened to telling us what they would have done?
  • I have no idea how it gets from around 10:30 PM to 4:00 AM in just a few minutes. Could be my circadian clock is completely screwed up.  
  • Realize that when corporations make contributions to charities, they spend way more money advertising that fact than the actual contribution. All that pink stuff on labels during October is a marketing campaign, not a charitable act.
  • Not overly important, but it is hard to write, talk or type when you have the hiccups. 
  • I heard a tease on the news for a story about the nation's largest "Blowout Chain". I don't know what that means or whether it is good or bad.
  • How come every institution or government entity feels the necessity to have their own police force? Universities, school districts, transit authorities, hospitals, etc. Aren't the regular cops good enough?
  • I'm about done with putting an i (I) in front of a word to make a product name. It was OK years ago when Apple named the iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. It's a little tired now. 
  • Some want to make election day a national holiday. If it happens, retail stores will still open and have "Election Day Sales". 
  • For the past two nights, I have had similar dreams that involved password problems. This seems odd and depressing.
  • Why can't college football use radio receivers in the QB's helmet to transmit plays from the coaches? The current system of hand signals, signs, semaphores, dances and assorted other nonsense seems quite archaic in 2016.
  • It is now assumed that if anyone in government or politics has emails on a server or PC they are criminal. 
wjh

Monday, October 24, 2016

Election Day Holiday


Some people, including President Obama, are advocating making the November election day a Federal Holiday. It sounds like a good idea on the surface but like most ideas, it is a bit more complicated.

The pros seem obvious. Since federal elections occur on a Tuesday in November, most people are at work or in school. They have to take time off from their job or go before or after work to vote. Polls are typically open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Including commute time, many people's work days are longer than that. By making it a holiday, more people should be able to get to the polls. Early voting and absentee voting has somewhat diluted this argument. Many people can now vote at home or on a day when it is more convenient. Early voting poll locations also often have no or shorter lines. Parking is usually more available. That makes voting quicker. It is also possible to vote at any early voting location within your county rather than your specific precinct. You may be able to vote near your work location or a location near your children's school, the grocery store or other places you frequent. 

The cons may be less obvious. Everybody will not get the day off. States and local governments may not implement the holiday. Even if they do, there is no requirement for private businesses to close. In most states, there is no requirement even to give employees time off to vote. On the off-chance that everybody is on board with this holiday there are still many who would have to work. Healthcare workers, public safety personnel, utility workers, and the clerk at 7-Eleven. Oh, hopefully the poll workers and election officials won't have the day off. While the airlines would probably fly on that day, local public transportation may close down. That may keep people from the polls. 

In the private sector, many businesses would look at a Federal Holiday as an opportunity. Retail stores may extend their hours and have "Election Day" sales. What would be the big item pushed on this day. Presidents Day already has mattress sales locked down. Maybe some Black Tuesday Christmas sales. So, possibly more retail workers would actually be on the job than on a normal Tuesday.

There is also the cost involved. It is estimated that it costs about $500 million in federal employee wages for a holiday. Of course, the taxpayer burden would be much higher if state and local governments also observe the holiday.

I suspect that very few or none of the current "Red" states would be observing an Election Day holiday. It took years for some states to observe MLK Day and even today, several give the January holiday a different name.

I don't know if an Election Day holiday is a good idea. It may be more productive to continue to increase early voting in all states. Maybe pass a federal law requiring employers to allow paid time off to vote. Some states already require this. How about we consider electronic voting in this age of the internet. Would a holiday actually increase turnout or would people plan other activities with their free time? Would a ton of people also take Monday off to make it a four day weekend?

Regardless of any future changes to election laws and procedures, the objective should be to get more people to vote. That means all people, not just the ones who support your particular political views or party. 

What do you think?

wjh

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Male Locker Room Talk


Many men, mostly old white guys, have come out in some level of defense of Donald Trump's bragging about sexually assaulting women. I am not and will not be one of them.

I have read politicians say that grabbing a woman's pussy is not assault. I have read and seen interviews that this is how guys talk when there are no women (or microphones) around. I even had someone say that they had heard much worse at their church on Sundays.

Quick responses. How about someone grabs these cretins by the nuts and see how they like it. My friends and I haven't and don't talk like this, in the locker room or the bus. Maybe you really need to change churches. 

No holier than thou claims here. Yes, when guys are together, me included, we talk about women. We even make sexual comments. We recognize and appreciate attractive women. We notice nice tits and asses. We indicate that we would like to be with that sexy attractive woman.

What we don't talk about is assaulting those women or forcing our affections on them. We can go into all kinds of situations and what is acceptable behavior. Is it an established relationship, is it a consensual beginning of a new relationship? More importantly is it a consensual encounter at that moment? In no situation other than in a mutually consensual situation can either party grab the genitals of the other. 

The Donald seems to be stuck in the 60's or 70's when powerful men ruled with almost no boundaries or consequences. Unfortunately for him, fortunately for women, it is a new century. 

How as an alleged presidential candidate, trying to woo female voters, can you hire Roger Ailes as an advisor?  Is the thought that he got away with it, so I can too? 

Since many in the Republican party have given up on tRump, I fear that his scorch and burn tactics will reach a new low. It appears that he has abandoned the teleprompter and is now fully ad lib.  

I am prepared for an ugly month of campaigning leading up to the election. I made up my mind on the election months ago. Trump and his behavior only reinforce that decision.

He will rationalize all his problems as being caused by someone or something else. He will never accept that he screwed up or was wrong. It must be a heavy burden to be infallible. 

How sad that in a country of 320 million people it comes down to this choice.

wjh

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

To π’žπ“Šπ“‡π“ˆπ’Ύπ“‹π‘’ or not to Cursive

There are a lot of posts on Facebook and other social media sites about whether schools should continue to teach students how to handwrite cursive. 

When I was in grade school, learning cursive consumed a big portion of our school day during the first few years. We had to learn the Palmer Method. In fact, I don't remember hearing the word "cursive" used. It was handwriting or just writing. Handwriting tests, handwriting practice, handwriting homework, handwriting workbook, handwriting paper, handwriting grade on the report card, etc. It was how our teachers, parents and grandparents wrote. Everything not from a typewriter or printing press was in cursive. We even had mimeographed (kids, ask your parents or maybe grandparents what mimeograph means. Ask about the ink color and smell) work sheets and test that were handwritten by the teachers and then copies run off. 
Mimeograph Machine

All of the important documents from the founding of our country like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were handwritten in cursive. The immigration records from places like Ellis Island are in cursive as are most of the old US census records. Every letter or note I ever got from my Mom, grandmother or high school sweetheart was written in cursive. 


So as you can see, I grew up with cursive and yet like that algebra stuff I learned in high school, I rarely use it. In fact, being a computer geek, I probably used algebra and math way more than cursive. I was never good in "handwriting". I could write or draw all the letters, but it was not smooth, flowing or graceful like it should be. I always put the pencil or pen in a death grip. That does not induce a smooth flow. My middle finger would develop a bump, my thumb a deep groove and after a few minutes of writing my hand was sore and fatigued. I also tended to write very small so it was even harder to read. Small and sloppy is not a good combination.


Accounting Ledger Sheet
I started migrating to printing by the time I went to college it was easier for me and slightly more legible. Being a business/accounting major reinforced that. We were still doing spreadsheets by hand, no Excel, no PCs. Column and row headings and labels were printed. Any notations were also printed.
IBM Assembler Coding Sheet

Then the final nail in the coffin for me and cursive. I became a computer geek after college. The computer had no use for cursive, everything was printed. There were good reasons for that. Back in the late 60's and 70's most computer stuff was done in 80 column card images or 132 column print images. There were forms with little designated spaces for the programmer, operator or technician to write out these instructions before sending them to the keypunch department to be transferred to punch cards that the computers could read. You can't write cursive across those little boxes when each character has to be readable and in a specific column. A letter or number in column 9 may mean something completely different than a letter or number in column 8 or column 10. Computers are very particular and not forgiving. They do exactly what you tell them to do, not what you want or meant.

So, although I don't write code anymore and haven't used coding sheets for many years, I have had no reason to resurrect my limited cursive skills. The only remnant of those old days is when I sign my name or write a check. I suppose you can print checks, but old habits die hard. I normally write only about one check a month, maybe 15 a year. I often struggle half way through the amount or a long payee name. Every other expense is a credit/debit card, PayPal, or electronic payment. Even my deposits are electronic or I take a picture of the check with my phone. Oh yes, I still endorse the checks with my signature in cursive but I print "for deposit only"

I think there should be enough exposure and teaching so that today's generation can at least read cursive. If they do any historical searches of old documents, it will be very helpful if they can decipher the information. I have researched some census documents that were somewhat of a bitch to read, but I could. All census takers and Ellis Island workers were not created equal when it came to handwriting. More importantly is if they find old family letters or other documents after the prior generations, and cursive writers, are gone. 
Old Census Form

One thing we lose as cursive fades in use is the beauty of some people's hand. On the other hand, we should not miss those who turned handwriting into a contest with chickens scratching for grain. No, of course, I am not referring to doctors.

Remember too that there are already cursive translation apps. Point your phone at a note, passage or page and the app will render the cursive into crisply printed letters on the screen. A bonus feature of these apps is that it doesn't matter what language the original was written in. Simultaneous cursive and language translation is no problem. These apps will only continue to improve. π’―𝒽𝑒𝓇𝑒 𝒢𝓇𝑒 π’Άπ“π“ˆπ‘œ π’Έπ“Šπ“‡π“ˆπ’Ύπ“‹π‘’ 𝓉𝑒𝓍𝓉 π‘”π‘’π“ƒπ‘’π“‡π’Άπ“‰π‘œπ“‡π“ˆ, which convert printed characters into π’Έπ“Šπ“‡π“ˆπ’Ύπ“‹π‘’. For word processing apps there are multiple cursive fonts available.

Here are my thoughts. I think students in the early years while they are learning to read and write should be exposed to cursive, at least the reading of cursive. I think they should be taught the rudimentary concepts of cursive. The same way that I think math principles and concepts should be taught with pencil, paper and blackboards (whiteboard, overheads, screens) even though there is almost always a sophisticated calculator or digital assistant available. I do not think that there should be hours of drawing ovals and other cursive writing practice. The kids are going to type everything on a phone, tablet or computer. The few times they need cursive, one of those devices will translate what they want to read or translate their handwriting into digital characters. That is as long as they recognize it as human English cursive and don't think it is Klingon.

Old school folks think that today's kids should have pretty much the same school curriculum that they did. After all, if it was good enough for them, it's good enough for the next couple of generations. Times change. We no longer need to teach typing, but keyboard skills may still be useful (he says as he types this on a laptop keyboard). Looking back, I'm glad that I can read cursive but I think most of the time practicing how to write it in a perfect Palmer, nun approved form was a waste. I would also like to have back every minute I spent in four years of high school Latin. Although I can read and translate the following latin phrase written in cursive. 


What do you think?

wjh

Monday, October 3, 2016

Very Random Thoughts - September 2016


  • Remember when there was only one kind or flavor of Coca-Cola, one Pepsi, one Budweiser, one Oreos, one Special K, etc.?
  • It seems that the most macho, well armed, tough guys are also the most paranoid and afraid. 
  • I find it almost impossible to watch The Weather Chanel. A slight drizzle is not a catastrophe. The hype is overwhelming. 
  • Do you think when the TSA talks about new rules &/or procedures, someone says "this won't do a damn thing to improve security but it will really piss off the passengers"? Then the head guy says "I like it, let's do it". 
  • Pumpkin flavored crap and Halloween candy now appear at the end of August. 
  • I am never confident that I have completely emptied all the pockets in my cargo shorts before I wash them.
  • Those "Last Chance to Save" emails are usually followed the next day by an email for a new sale.
  • Marketing BS. Putting "Gluten Free" on a product that has never had gluten. Like candy or ice cream or chicken breasts. Remember only 1 or 2% of the population is gluten intolerant.
  • Remember too that often times "Gluten Free" also actually means "Flavor Free". But they don't advertise that.
  • Do you think the lobsters at Red Lobster get pissed when they have a shrimp or crab special?
  • Do you ever graze the kitchen when the fridge and cupboard are jam packed but you can't find anything to eat? Is that the equivalent of a woman looking into a fully stocked closet only to determine she has nothing to wear?
  • Don't take the TV remote to the kitchen. You will leave it there and only have to get up again to fetch it.
  • Sometimes when I write something, I mention that the youngsters should ask their parents what I'm talking about. I am beginning to realize that I need to tell the kids and their parents to ask the grandparents about the references. 
  • In the old Westerns, whenever somebody got knocked out by a punch or gun barrel to the head, they could always be revived instantly by some water splashed on the face. No concussion protocol at all.
  • The Post Office finally came out with a good deal when they introduced the forever stamps. So what do they do this year? They reduce first class stamp prices. Now all your old forever stamps are overpriced. 
  • Staunch gun advocates seem to be paranoid too. Which comes first, the paranoia or the guns?
  • I used to think "stars" were famous sports greats or movie, stage and TV actors. Now we have reality stars, YouTube stars, Facebook stars, Vine stars, Instagram stars, etc. Everybody is a damn star. From now on refer to me as a retired star or an old star or a short star or a bald star or a fill in the blank star.
  • I don't think we will get better candidates and politicians until we get a more conscientious and informed electorate. I hope we reached the bottom this election cycle.
  • Strange. I haven't had a cigarette in 10 years and haven't really had a craving for one in probably 9 years 11 months. So today I woke up from dozing off and thought I needed a cigarette. 
  • Got an email from a fitness tracking site with the heading "Avoid Bonking On The Bike With These Easy Tips". I misread "bonking" for "banking" and wondered why banking on a bike was something I should avoid. I actually do it all the time. I have also bonked on a bike ride and it's no fun.
  • I just missed a "last chance" sale opportunity. Now I'll have to wait until tomorrow or maybe the day after for an even better "last chance" deal. 
  • I have always been a news junkie, but I hate the way it is now covered and reported. 
  • Does every food product have to have a "pumpkin & spice" flavor for autumn? 
  • Amazing how football analysts can turn on a dime from calling a team terrible to calling them the best ever. It only takes a couple of plays and may flip flop a few times during a single 60 minutes game.
  • Is there a school that all politicians and their surrogates go to learn how to avoid answering questions?
  • Do commercial food chemists get paid by the number of ingredients that they can cram into a product? Do they get a bonus if those ingredients are obscure and unpronounceable? 
  • Wouldn't it be great if one of those inane  "Select Committee" congressional panels were convened to find a solution rather than pin blame on a political rival? How about if grandstanding and hyperbole were banned during the public hearings. Never happen.
  • I remember when you weren't supposed to mix stripes, checks and plaids in your wardrobe. Too busy. Now it seems like it is mandatory to get as many different patterns as possible into the same outfit. Still looks crappy to me.
  • There is a Chevy commercial on TV where the guy brags that their vehicles have won all the awards shown on a big wall. There must be at least 20 awards. My take is that there are way too many meaningless auto awards. 
wjh

Friday, September 9, 2016

Music 2016 - Better or Worse?


Is Music in 2016 better or worse than 1956, 1966, 1976, 1986, 1996 or 2006? I'm a child of the 60's so I would vote for the 60's and 70's music with maybe a little late 50's foundation. Of course, the answer is dependent on how old you are and what music you grew up with. I have friends who are my age but grew up listening to Country music. My parents listened to the Pop and Jazz standards of the 30's, 40's and 50's so I was exposed to Ella, Frank, Bing, Perry, Duke, Count, Glenn, the Dorsey's, and many others. I still like that music on occasion. I listened to the early Rock 'n' Roll guys like Bill Haley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and of course Elvis. I liked it, but never fully embraced it. I liked the Doo Wop stuff more. My real love of music came in the early 60's with a combination of the Beach Boys and Surf music along with some Folk music and Soul music which was really made popular with the advent of Motown. There was the occasional Country song or artist that got my attention too. After the Surf craze, we had the British Invasion led by the Beatles. To be honest, there were several British groups I like more than the Beatles. The Rolling Stones, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Zombies are a few of them. 

Now we get to the differences in music and it's consumption today vs then. We listened to AM radio for most of our music. We might have a couple of 33⅓ LPs and some 45 singles, but none of my friends had an extensive music library. In the 60's, the AM radio dial (there was little or no FM) was divided into pop standard/big band, classical, country and top 40 along with maybe a kind of news/NPR/public affairs station. I guess there may have been religious/gospel stations, but I don't remember them. The top 40 stations played whatever was on the charts so a Frank Sinatra song might be followed by The Miracles followed by the Beatles followed by Johnny Cash, followed by... It eventually was dominated by Rock, but it took several years. The good part was that we were exposed to all kinds of music and artists. The bad news was that we had to listen to stuff we didn't like and maybe wait a couple of hours for that song or two we really wanted to hear. 

I was lucky in that there were always at least two and sometimes more very good Top 40 stations in my town. We were experts at switching between the stations either with the pushbuttons on the car radio or the dial on our transistor radios. We could avoid the commercials and the songs we didn't like. 

Back then, you listened to what was on the air with limited choices. Today, there are a million choices. If you want to listen to only 1998 Rap, you can find it, although why would you. Radio stations are very specific now including pay/satellite radio. You don't just have Country, you have modern Country, classic Country, 70's Country and maybe Texas Country. You also have a plethora of streaming choices, some free and some subscription. That's all great but it can limit your exposure to new and different types of music if you let it. I have built 10 or 12 fairly specific Pandora stations but I usually shuffle all of them together when listening. I don't know if I fit the norm for my quest for variety or if most folks stick to a specific genre and/or time span. 

I have friends who only listen to Country or only Rock Oldies or young friends who only listen to Rap and Hip Hop. Seems very limiting to me. There is lotsa good music out there, also lotsa crap. Our options are so much better now. I can pretty much have music with me whenever I want and wherever I go. In fact, I do have all the music in the world with me all the time since I can get to it on my phone. I have about 800 of my songs downloaded on my phone so I can listen to them anytime, anywhere even without wi-fi or a cell signal. I also have over 7,500 songs that I own in the cloud. That's amazing for someone who once owned maybe 10 albums and an AM radio. That doesn't even include the streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Google Music, Amazon and others that have millions of songs available.

So while there is no doubt that there is more music more easily available now, that does not necessarily mean it is better. The fact that anyone can easily record a song and make it available on the internet guarantees that much of it will be crap. Some of those folks have no talent. It also means that a diamond in the rough can more easily be discovered.

Every era and genre has had its outstanding music and also its terrible and ridiculous music. No doubt, there is more music more readily available today than in any time in the past. It is also far less expensive, much of it free. Yes, back in the day we had free radio but you had to listen to what the DJ played.

The good news is that music continues to be important. The next generation has to find their own sound. They often think the prior generation's (AKA parent's music) music is old fashioned. Sometimes as they get older they realize there was some good stuff in that old music collection mom & dad had. 

Like many things in life, there is no definitive answer to which era or generation had the best music. The only thing we can say for sure is that it was different. Different doesn't mean good or bad, it just means different.

wjh

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Very Random Thoughts - August 2016


  • A popular start to news and talk shows is for the host to give a brief synopsis of what's coming and then say "Shows name starts right now". That is a lie. The phrase is invariably followed by a commercial or a long introduction montage. Right now should mean right now, not in a few minutes.
  • Another BS job title. Hulu has a Senior VP & Head of Experience. What the hell is that?
  • Since newsbiz broadcasts can't preface stories that are days old with "breaking news", they now start with a graphic saying "developing news". 
  • I know lawyers need to work too, but do we really need to file a lawsuit for every little perceived slight? 
  • So, which is correct? Chili, Chile, Chilli, Chillie, Chilly? Depends.
  • It seems to me governors that badmouth Washington and the federal government the most are also the first to demand federal aid and assistance.
  • Am I the only one who thinks universities and athletic conferences should tell the NCAA to stick it? 
  • Zero tolerance rules and laws mean zero human judgment, zero responsibility and zero accountability. They are a cop-out.
  • Stephen Colbert does a fake confessional bit called "Midnight Confessions" yet he doesn't use the song Midnight Confessions as the theme. Sacrilegious. 
  • What purpose does Vanna White serve on Wheel of Fortune? The electronic puzzle board letters don't need to be turned. She is proof that you don't need intelligence and hard work to be successful.
  • Meaningless phrase that needs to be retired from our vernacular - "It is what it is".
  • Take it further - "It was what it was". "It will be what it will be".
  • How can there be overweight UPS/FedEx drivers in Texas during the summer? Hot truck and carrying packages to doors, sometimes upstairs, often at a run.
  • I keep seeing TV ads for car insurance that say you can save $400 by switching to (name an insurance company). My question is if I switch to that company and then switch again to a different company, can I save another $400?
  • Watching the Little League World Series reminds me how much difference there can be between 12 year olds. Some are still little kids and some are 6' tall and have facial hair. I was one of the little ones. Still am.
  • Why is Tony the Tiger's nose blue?
  • Every generation thinks the one before them is old fashion, they are near perfect and the one behind them is useless. Somehow civilization continues. 
  • Watching the Little League World Series, it is obvious that the star player on some teams is surprised that they are not the best player on the field, maybe for the first time ever. Those other teams have good players too. Some rise to the occasion, some look like they give up.
  • There is a show on Comedy Central titled @midnight. In the Central time zone it comes on at 11:00 and now that The Nightly Show has been canceled it comes on at 10:30. Always risky to have a time, day or Live in the show title. 
  • "We have launched an internal investigation" never precedes a job well done. What the spokesperson really means is "we are looking for a scapegoat".
  • Don't you just hate it when you smash a bug and red blood comes out? You just know it is yours.
  • When someone states "This is not about me", you can be pretty damn sure that it is all about them.
wjh

Friday, August 12, 2016

A-Roid

Crime doesn't pay, cheaters never win or is that all bullshit? It certainly seems so in the case of one Alex Rodriguez. On Sunday, August 7, 2016, the Yankees and Rodriguez announced that he will play his last game as a Yankee and presumably the last game of his major league career on Friday, August 12th. Because the Yankees are giving Rodriguez his unconditional release, they are on the hook for the remaining $27 million of his contract plus he theoretically could sign with another team. Let's hope that doesn't happen. 

To add insult to insult to injury, Rodriguez will be a special advisor and instructor to the Yankees organization. I don't know whether that job includes more pay or if it is rolled into the $27 million payout. He is also free to pursue broadcast jobs which would definitely pay him and which he will definitely get offers for. Now if you only look at the numbers from his 22 year career you might think all this is fine. An old star player fades into the sunset with a huge severance and thank you package. Just look at some of his numbers. 

That's not how I see it. This is an asshole who made more money than any other Major Leaguer while playing a good part if not the majority of his career while taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Then lying about it, gaming the system, mounting a legal and public relations defense and throwing others under the bus. He is baseball's version of Lance Armstrong only much richer. 

Young Alex was a helluva baseball player even at 18 years old. Of course, who knows whether he was already juiced even then. He was the first overall pick in the 1993 draft and was a part-time starter in Seattle by '94. He had seven terrific years there before signing a $252 million, 10 year contract with the Texas Rangers. It was a record setting contract and wound up hamstringing the Rangers budget for several years. Although he had all-star and MVP numbers while in Texas, he later admitted that he used PEDs during his time there. He also exhibited an aloof and phony demeanor during that time. After three years in Texas, he was traded to the Yankees although the Rangers continued to pay a significant portion of his salary, despite which he badmouthed the organization. He was mostly successful in NY although again the PED problem popped up. He also had several incidents of being an ass both on and off the field. 

This blog is not meant to be a recap of the Rodreguez career. It is meant to convey my total disgust at a first class cheater and pretty miserable excuse for a human being. The fact that he was able to collect almost $400 million in salary despite being at least a two time PED offender speaks volumes. Sure, he was suspended for a season but when you're already that rich what is the real punishment. On top of that, the Yankees were obligated to take him back after the suspension and pay him the remaining $50+ million on his contract. 

Back before the 1970's, the players were taken advantage of by the owners. That power pendulum started to swing towards the players when Marvin Miller became the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). Now that pendulum has swung too far in the player's favor. They have consistently blocked meaningful testing and punishment for PED use. Teams should be able to void the contracts of players who fail drug tests or other offenses. Rodriguez should have lost many more millions and been kicked to the street.

Instead, he get's gently let go at full pay from a team and a league that he trashed and with a free pass to possibly play again. The other disturbing point is that Rodriguez will almost certainly end up as a baseball analyst on one of the TV networks that broadcasts baseball. I will bet you large sums of money that we will see him as a regular commentator during the 2016 postseason. That will only be the beginning of his lucrative broadcast career in the future. 

A-Roid or A-Fraud earned those nicknames and he deserves to fade into the background never to be heard from again. His $400 million should be enough. Unfortunately, the Yankees, MLB and media started their image rehabilitation of A-Roid last season and it will continue. Let's hope the Hall of Fame voters don't forget what a fraud and disruptive force he was.

So who will be A-Roid's next employer? Will it be the Miami Marlins or some other desperate team? Will it be the MLB TV Network, Fox Sports, TBS or ESPN? 

Cheaters mostly win nowadays and big cheaters are even bigger winners. 

wjh