Month: May 2012

Diddy’s Kid Got A Big Scholarship

In the news on Yahoo is the story that Diddy‘s son, Justin Combs, has won a $54,000 scholarship to UCLA. Diddy, the richest rap artist in the world, has a net worth of about $500 million as noted in this Wikipedia article.

With all that wealth, a lot of people think that Diddy’s son, Justin Combs, does not deserve the scholarship. According to the article, some taxpayers think that the $54,000 should go to others, less fortunate than Combs. It sounds kind of logical.

However, the scholarship is for Justin Combs to play football at UCLA. For that $54,000, he is expected to do hard physical work, putting his body at risk, and to do well in his classes. This is not a slam-dunk for the kid.  I suppose that you could make the case that UCLA recruited Justin so that his daddy could donate millions of dollars to the program, but that’s a stretch.

Justin Combs played corner back at a New York prep school, and carried a 3.75 academic average while doing so. Justin Combs is the example of what the student athlete should be, and I imagine UCLA is proud to have him.

Justin Combs scholarship was awarded for his performance, not his father’s reputation or wealth. In my opinion it belongs to Justin. If the taxpayers in the State of California want to means test all college scholarships to state supported institutions, they have that right. Just don’t gripe when the athletic programs fall short of providing their millions to the universities.

What do you think?

The Engineer’s Burden

Yep. I am an engineer.

I have to put up with all sorts of abuse like bad jokes and questioning looks from liberal arts majors whenever I make an indisputable point. For your future reference, whenever an engineer makes a point in a discussion, it is always indisputable. That’s the way we roll.

picture of the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower, A Great Engineering Achievement

Things have gotten so bad that even my good friend, Nick, is sending me those tasteless jokes that tend to circulate on the internet. Here are a couple of those insults.

1. Two engineering students were biking across a university campus when one said, “Where did you get such a great bike?” The second engineer replied, “Well, I was walking along yesterday, minding my own business, when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike, threw it to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, “Take what you want.” The first engineer nodded approvingly and said, “Good choice: The clothes probably wouldn’t have fit you anyway.”

2. To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

OK. You get the message. Just why are people promoting these obviously false, and sick views of one of the most upstanding professions in modern civilization?

Easy-Peazy.  Others are envious of our knowledge and power over their lives.

An engineer’s education is exacting. As engineers, we had to master the collective academic areas of physics, mechanics (static and dynamic), electricity, electric field theory, magnetism, mathematics, materials science, quantum physics,  thermodynamics, and fluid mechanics.

Mathematics is our basic tool, and logic is our guide.

No other academic major in the university had such a demanding, and rigorous set of requirements. Others, lacking the intellectual ability to become engineers, went on to majors in medicine, law, art, and business with a heavy dose of recreational drugs and beer. While liberal arts people were playing cards in the student center, we were in labs, busting our butts to keep our heads above water academically.

Here’s another one of those insults.

Normal people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features.

 Do you see what I mean? People are jealous. They just can’t stand it!

Now, if you translate all that to the blogosphere, you can see that when an engineer comments on a subject, he has already thought it through, and is presenting the best solution or criticism available. It is possible that he can be a bit off base when he doesn’t use Google to check his historical references.

Although I have not been a practicing engineer in many years, the education lives on, and on, and on. Once an engineer, always an engineer. Many times engineers have graduate degrees in business. So, be careful when arguing with that combination.

Engineers have made the technological world what is is. Think of the internet, cellular phones, HDTV, radio, airplanes, automobiles, smart phones, computers, push-up braziers, and silly putty. Well, maybe not the push-up bra, but if an engineer was not involved in that one, he should have been.

All these things make up our modern world, and the modern world expects more from us, every day.

There is a burden to being an engineer. It is difficult to be more knowledgable than your neighbors without telling them. It is even tougher to keep one’s mouth shut on the job when you know infiinitely more than your boss. We are learning that our burden is to build a better world, and not emabarass all the lack-luster players in the process. After all, we need others to say, “Do you want fries with that?”

Engineers rule!

Honor To Our Brothers

Picture Pearl Harbor as viewed by Japanese plane on Dec 7, 1941
Pearl Harbor from Attacking Japanese Airplane

Today, I want to memorialize two 19-year-old men who were killed in wars, my brothers Charles and Jimmy.

Charles was the first-born in the family, and was born into a poor, rural household. The year was 1923, and the Great Depression was just around the corner. The entire South was in poverty in the early twentieth century, not having gotten over decades of discriminatory Reconstruction, depression, and destructive farming techniques.

On February 4, 1941 Charles enlisted in the Army at Ft. McPherson, GA. He was radio operator, and was sent to the Hawaiian Department.  That was before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7 of that year. He got there in time for the attack, and eventually wrote a letter to his younger brother, Ray, telling him of the experience. We still have copies of that letter.

After the attack, personnel were confined to the base. Charles got an opportunity to go on an air freight mission, ferrying a load of aircraft parts from Hawaii to Christmas Island. The plane got off course, and eventually ran out of fuel. My brother radioed in the coordinates, speed, and course, but they were never heard from, again. A resulting search turned up nothing.

Charles is listed as Missing In Action on June 16, 1942.  More than a year later, my parents received a death certificate from the Army Department listing the MIA date as June 16,  1943, an obvious error. My Dad flew into a rage, and called the White House, cursing and telling them of the error. Mom and Dad, later, received another certificate with the correct dates.

My brother Jimmy was just in high school when the Korean War broke out. My parents signed for Jimmy to join the National Guard so that he would not be drafted into the Army to serve in Korea.

Picture of 155 mm Howitzer
155 mm Howitzer – Still In Use

The US was in trouble in Korea, and President Harry Truman nationalized the National Guard. My brother was sent to Korea as part of a 155 mm howitzer gun crew. If you are not familiar with this cannon, it was big, with the shell being over six inches in diameter.

We received lots of souvenirs from Korea like silk smoking jackets (everybody smoked in the 1950’s) and  Korean currency. At least once, we received battlefield photographs showing dozens of dead Chinese troops. Although I don’t remember what happened to the pictures, I do remember pictures of corpses lying on the ground, dozens of them, looking like so many rag dolls thrown down in random positions. I was six years old, and didn’t understand what had happened.

On December 23, 1951 the crew had been firing their howitzer for over 24 hours. As they were re-loading the smoking hot gun, the round exploded in the breech. The entire gun crew was killed. This is the story told to our family by the Army.

Almost twenty years later as a graduating engineer interviewing for a job, I talked to a recruiter with a company that had manufactured 155 mm ammunition during the Korean war. He told me that there had been a problem with defective rounds. Today there would have been investigations and law suits. Back then, we only knew that Jimmy was dead.

Here is a description from the records of the Korean War Veterans Honor Roll:

Sergeant (last name deleted) was a member of Battery C, 196th Field Artillery Battalion, X Corps. He was seriously wounded while fighting the enemy in North Korea on December 23, 1951 and died of those wounds the following day. Sergeant (last name deleted) was awarded the Purple Heart, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

These two men were so young to have paid such awful prices. We remember and honor them, today.

Note: 5/29/2012 – A perusal of the Tennessee National Guard web site states the following:

During the Korean War, Tennessee mobilized 11 units, with four seeing combat in Korea. The 196th Field Artillery Battalion received a presidential unit citation for helping to repulse the massive Chinese invasion in 1951.

Let’s Tag The Buggers

picture of rfid device next to a grain of rice for size comparison
RFID Device Compared To Grain Of Rice

Every now and then, somebody takes a bad idea and turns it into something that can benefit all. Some San Antonio, schools are losing money because they don’t know whether or not all the students show up at school. Now, you would think that a simple roll call would solve that problem. But, nooooo… Not in today’s America.

You see, high school students may or may not be in home room. They may be taking their last smoke before class, thereby keeping their nicotine and thc levels up to par. Or, maybe they are running late, not having spent the last of their lunch money in the poker machines down at the corner convenience store. Students can be unreliable when it comes to showing up on time.

Now, that causes problems with the school’s cash flow because most states partially fund the school systems based on attendance. Ouch! If the kids don’t show up everyday, the school systems can lose money.

Enter the RFID tag. This means Radio Frequency Identification tag, a technology that has been used on railroad freight cars for decades, and in other industries. The schools will put RFID tags into the students identification cards, and an RF sweep of the classroom will make it easy to take the attendance roll. I don’t know how they are going to get the ID’s of the kids still smoking at the Seven Eleven.

This brings me to make a modest suggestion. If the RFID in the student’s ID card is a good idea, why not go all the way and just put it on or in their bodies, somewhere? Well, why not? The little turkey’s will forget to bring their ID’s, anyway. Then, somebody will start paying other students to carry their ID to class, thereby being counted as present. Believe me, if the system can be cracked, a bunch of high school students will do it.

In the last few years we have seen a terrible surge in kidnapping of small and school age children. My little idea of putting an RFID tag on or in their bodies seems pretty sound to me. I know, some people will rebel on the grounds that their kid’s privacy will be invaded. There would be a trade-off between privacy considerations and safety.

Maybe the RFID system will not work well for my proposal. Maybe there are other technologies out there. One of the weaker features is that the RFID tag has no inherent power. It is triggered by local microwave transmissions remote from the tag. The tag re-emits a very low power microwave signal dependent on the strength of its received signal, and that would make it hard for a police helicopter search, for example.

However, with hearing-aide and pace-maker battery technology, you can launch a low power, but much stronger signal.

My heart breaks every time I hear of a four-year old child being abducted, or a seventeen year-old girl being dragged into a car, raped, and her body being dumped by the roadside. Will we ever be able to harness technology to fight these senseless crimes?

I think a simple RFID tag for each child would be beneficial. Let me know what you think.

Alien Fish Story

picture of 1985 Ford F150
Arkansas Ford F150

After watching a very interesting episode on the History Channel about space aliens, I went to the local Quick Trip to get a  Cherry Coke Zero and to fill the car with gas. As luck would have it, I pulled in behind a 1985 Ford F-150 pickup truck with Arkansas tags.

The idea struck me that I had been thinking about space aliens, and now I am behind somebody from Arkansas. That’s about as close to a space alien most earth people will ever get. I was raised in Memphis, Tennessee, just across the Mississippi River from Arkansas.  I know those people, and have great respect for them when they play football, cook barbecue, and drink beer. That’s universal stuff in the South.

The man pumping gas into the pickup truck was about five foot, ten inches tall, wearing tattered camo’s, and a dirty Brave’s baseball cap. He had about four days worth of beard, and smelled like he took his alcohol seriously.

Approaching the gentleman, I broke the ice with the universal good-old-boy line, “Where y’all from?” The answer was kind of muffled, but I attributed that to the shape of his teeth, of which there were damned few. I should have known that he had a mouth full of Redman tobacco. He was from the Ozark Mountains in Northern Arkansas. That is fishing and hunting country!

He was not impressed that I was from Memphis, but he was OK about Bull Shoals Lake and Lake Norfork, two of the best water skiing and fishing lakes in the entire world.I asked him if he did any striped bass fishing, and got a big, ragged-toothed smile.

Sure enough, the man had a fishing story for me.

His name was Sidney, and he started talking about the time when he and his cousin, Simion Paul (asleep in the front seat), were fishing Bull Shoals at three in the morning for striped bass. They had caught a couple weighing about fifteen pounds each, when Sidney hooked a really big one. He said that this one had to be about seventy-five pounds. The record was a sixty-four pounder.

As Sidney was fighting to reel the fish in, Simion Paul grabbed the StowMaster Tournament fish net to finish the job.

Sidney said, ” ‘Bout that time, a blinding light flashed down from overhead like a million flashbulbs going off all at oncet “.  I didn’t think Sidney was old enough to remember flash bulbs, but I let that slide. After all, whenever a guy gets a good story going, do not interrupt him with facts. It might not be healthy.

Sidney then says he hears a voice holler,  “Drop the fish and nobody gets hurt!”.  Then, Simion Paul yells, “It’s the cops, and they’re not taking me alive!”

Sid says that’s when things get whacky. He swears that a seven-foot tall green-looking bug dropped down into their boat, grabbed the fishing rod, net, and seventy-five pound striped bass. Then, the creature took their stuff, tumped the boat over, and flew a saucer shaped craft into the night. After that, Sidney remembered nothing.

Well, Sid did remember waking up the next day on the highway by a sign that said, “Mountain Home – 6 Miles”. There was no boat, no fishing rods, and no fish. There was no Simion Paul, either.  Sidney thought he had lost his cousin to space aliens and was worried about how to break the news to his Aunt Sooey.

That’s when Simeon Paul made his appearance, stumbling out of the roadside ditch, with a beautific smile on his face.

Simeon Paul had seen the light, and that changed his life, and the way he spelled his name. Sid, though, was left with nothing but a fish story and a hangover.

Word Of The Day – MEH, meh, Meh, mEH

I am probably the only person in the world to not know what was meant when I saw the letters, meh, in a blog. Apparently, this is a Simpsonian word meant to convey the meaning, meh…

Yep! It means, nothing. Well, nothing in the sense that you don’t think much about the subject at hand. We have all used it in one version or another all our lives, but the Simpsons defined its post modern usage. In my experience it should be used along with a smirk on your face to indicate the senselessness of the situation. Or, not.

Here is Wikipedia‘s take on the word.

Here is an example of the actual usage.

So, what do I think?


High Profile Profiling

As I was on the way to my next appointment, I coasted up behind a new Mini-Cooper convertible at the light by Bank of America, Wachovia Bank, Burger King, Home Depot, Trader Joe’s, Publix, Starbucks, and Walgreens. OK. There were not that many corners, but you know the intersection I am talking about.

Lots of expensive cars show themselves in that intersection, everyday. After all, there is the local high school traffic, the Catholic High school traffic, and the Christian High School traffic, with scads of Mercedes and BMW SUV’s, Lexus, and now, one Mini-Cooper convertible. In my neighborhood we have an absolute surplus of rich soccer moms to drive those SUV’s, and a few not so rich dirty old men.

What is a Mini-Cooper? It is an effort at building a starter BMW, and, indeed, the Mini’s are sold at BMW dealerships, everywhere. This car would be cool, but it has a damaged reputation. Once upon a time, Mini-Coopers were cool rally and race cars. They were formidable little buggers, and the drivers were no-nonsense suicide jockeys, afraid of nothing. Hence, the tough reputation. The present day Mini is now known as a “chick car”. Yup! No red-blooded American male would be caught in one of those egg-shells on wheels.

As I pulled up behind the Mini convertible, three bumper stickers shouted their messages loud and clear. Let’s see if you can break the code on the basic identity of the driver.

The stickers were, from left to right:

1. An Apple logo.
2. An NPR (National Public Radio) sticker.
3. An Obama/Biden sticker (new)

Consider the Apple sticker. Apple is on of the largest computer companies in the world. They didn’t get that way with their computers, it was the iPods and iPads that made them big. Apple is a marketing company, not a technology company. People who use Apple computers can be teachers, technology challenged individuals, rich kids, old-people, or people who move their lips when they read. Apple products are supposed to be cool, and easy to use.

NPR  listeners tend to be richer, older, and more educated than the population at large. However, this does not make them smarter. It makes them liberal. Most listeners are male, and part of the baby-boomer generation. The second largest group of listeners are in the 18 to 24 year-old category. NPR is considered to be government news for the socialist.

Obama election stickers get stuck on the back of the cars of people who want to send a message. Many Obama voters are young, many are black, and all respond to feelings rather than logic. Obama voters think they are cool. Time Magazine says that Barack Obama is our first gay president.

No black person would be caught dead in a beige Mini-Cooper convertible. Since I sold cars for a while, I can tell you that black females are all about appearances and value. The Cooper is not much value of a car. Black females would rather have a used Lexus than a new Mini-Cooper. Forget the idea of a black male driving a Mini. No heterosexual black or white male would even look at a Mini.

The Mini costs in the neighborhood of $25,000. It was probably all the driver could afford. The car is cute, stylish, moderately popular, and was probably leased.

Finally, I have to question the intelligence of anybody who puts bumper stickers on their cars, no matter what year and model. You see this, occasionally, as you drive around town. When someone pastes bumper stickers on their car advertising how they will vote, what they listen to, and that their personal computer is the technological equivalent of a Fisher – Price toy, that’s stupid, and not cool.

Putting together all the clues, I can make a fairly certain statement that the driver of the car was female, white, about thirty years old, financially insecure, and technology challenged. The driver is not very intelligent, in spite of an assumed college degree.

The driver was probably gay.

The Science Channel Does Science Fiction

picture of USS Skate surfaced in open water at North Pole on August 11, 1958
USS Skate Surfaced In Open Water At North Pole – 11 August 1958

They say, “don’t believe everything  you read”. Well, now they can say it about stuff you see, too. I am not sure who, “they”, are, but I am fast starting to respect their wisdom.

It as gotten to the point that you have to question the programming at the Science Channel. Where are their heads? First, we see programs on melting glaciers and Arctic Ice melting. OK. So, what? Ice is supposed to melt. In the case of the Arctic it is not uncommon for the ice to melt every summer. It re-freezes in the winter, too.

As a matter of fact, we have seen extensive Arctic Ice melts, before. On August 11, 1958 the nuclear submarine, USS Skate, surfaced in open water at the NORTH POLE. Yes, most of the water was covered with ice, but the submarine surfaced unimpeded by ice at the North Pole. There are other times of Arctic Ice melting, but the Science Channel does not tell you that.

Over the weekend, I was particularly attracted by several cable channel programs on the universe, and the various theories and facts that current science has to offer. Unfortunately, most of these good shows were on the History Channel. The Science Channel was just throwing up more fiction.

The Science Channel not only mangles the facts about global warming and climate change, but they are now preaching a new religion. Space aliens.

In the Science Channel series, “Are We Alone”, the producers have committed pretty much every known sin available to wannabe scientists that you can imagine. There is no science supporting their little story about space aliens.

First of all, we hear the fiction of, “With there being possibly billions of planets in the galaxy, surely some of those planets are rich in life”. Wow! What a jump of faith. Certainly, there are no sightings of space aliens, space alien ships, or voting records that I have seen. Where do they get their facts, if any?

The Science Channel relies on SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) for their scientific inspiration. SETI is an organization of people who have been sitting at radio astronomy units for decades, waiting for ET to call, and transmitting heavy metal recordings to their imagined space alien buddies. This is a mission of the ridiculous, and was originated by hippies who could not get a job, otherwise.

By the way, ET has not called, nor has there even been a wrong number call. Nobody calls SETI except for weirdos, social outcasts and medical marijuana advocates.

So, what does the Science Channel series claim?

1. Billions of planets must mean lots of life, which certainly means that somebody out there is trying to reach us.
2. Certain hydrocarbons have been found in meteorites, and therefore life had to begin in outer space, somewhere, and was possibly seeded on earth by space-faring folks.
3. These space folks will return to see if we have been good to our planet, and will spank us because we let the Arctic Ice melt.
4.  We must spent lots of money, now, to get ready for the nasty things our space ancestors will do to us. They might even take our planet away from us.
5. We must make funding SETI a priority. After all, there’s nobody else dumb enough to do what they do.

The obvious question is, if space aliens are so dangerous, then why in hell would we want to send them radio messages? Talk about stupid…

OK. I am exaggerating a bit, but not that much. The series is not about science, nor is it about space aliens. It is about money and scaring people into paying for programs to employ people doing things not needed.

Follow the money.

Rock Bottom

I think I have found rock bottom. Specifically, I have been watching the most icky, stupid, worthless, and goofy reality shows I can find, and may have come up with shows that represent the very worst America has to offer.

You have read my praises, before, of shows like “The Deadliest Catch”, “Swamp People”, and “Storage Wars”. In these shows I found people who are the salt of the earth. You have to respect the sheer terror and danger inherent in fishing for King Crab in the Bering Sea, or hunting for alligators in the Louisiana swamps, or the possibility of buying somebody’s five year-old kitchen garbage in an abandoned storage unit. That is really scary stuff.

In “Ax Men” you can sense danger in every scene. Trees can fall the wrong way, or the foreman can get pissed and knock your head off. Yet, these men don’t hesitate to charge into a forest of widow-makers everyday to earn their simple fare of fast food burgers and cheap beer. Life is tough for some people.

Wait! You ain’t seen nothing, yet. There are people doing necessary, but objectionable jobs. You have to respect them because these are usually the only jobs they can get.

These are people at the very rock bottom of the food chain. These are the ones who didn’t get a GED, and cannot say “do you want fries with that” without using the “F” word multiple times. These are the people who pick up after everyone else. These are people with hearts of gold, but brains of granite. This is the auto repossession industry.

Enter the reality show, “Repo World”. It seems that they find the scuzziest people they can to play the parts of drivers, and even scuzzier people to play the part of the non-paying scoundrels. Are they a real portrayal of the business? Probably so.

Some articles say, no, the whole thing is phony. If you look at the fine print before and after the show, they are producing re-enactments of real scenes. How convenient. Just reenact a gang of jackbooted motorcycle hoods kicking a repo-driver while he is down. I just don’t think a dozen or so of America’s toughest would be stupid enough to commit crimes while being filmed. But, I could be wrong.

OK. So, I spent the entire weekend watching pure trash. Maybe that’s your opinion. I call it social research. With my work done, you don’t have to watch those shows yourself. But if you like to see the occasional cultural train wreck, have at it!

The New Retirement System

Reporting on a Gallup poll, today, is an article that posits the new ideal retirement age is 67. This poll reflects the opinions of over a thousand people. Those opinions of the right age to retire have changed over the last several years, with the expected retirement age going up, and up.

We have been brainwashed that 65 is the age to retire. We also find that corporations tend to get rid of older, higher paid workers. My experience is such that I was laid off at age 57 from a sales job, and when looking for work discovered that nobody is going to hire a grey-headed salesman. The only sales positions available are those that pay commission, only, and are primarily low-income, telephone based sales positions.

At some point, you will find yourself taking Social Security payments. Social Security is nothing more than extended unemployment income for someone over the age of 62..

The government is pushing the Social Security retirement age past 65, and workers are being forced out of jobs at age 60 or before. A large part of the unemployed in the US is that population of pre-retirement age adults that cannot get a job. These are the people who have given up seeking employment.

Maybe you think that our drift into a socialism will mitigate the problem with the government taking care of you.

Think, again.

The government is looking harder and harder at the wealth accumulated in 401K’s and IRA’s. The government has long wanted to take that money and give it to those who have failed to plan for their retirement. They think you are more fortunate than others, and you should share. That is the government mentality.

So, all that hard work with accumulating money for your retirement can be gone in an instant. Your job can disappear in an instant, and so can your wealth.

The new American retirement system is called, unemployed. Good luck with that.