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?


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.


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?


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.