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Friday, January 6, 2017

Energy Policy, and Why Going All in With Ethanol is Not a Realistic Long-Term Solution



    Some random thoughts occurred to me as I was driving home from my regular Thursday night dinner at Bojangles(I always do the Egg & Cheese biscuit and small Diet Dew, myself), particularly as I passed the new Exxon petrol station. I first considered the new jobs that had just been brought into this very rural area and what a boon to whatever constitutes an economy this must be for them. Somehow, my mind hopscotched over to the matter of the different grades of gasoline used by these petrol stations and, eventually, the sustainability of America's current course regarding energy and reliance upon foreign oil exports. Gave a thought to one of the leading renewable energy solutions, and then came to what seems like should be fairly obvious conclusions regarding its feasibility.

    One of the more prominent 'green energy' solutions that's at the forefront of the renewable energy debate is that of Ethanol, the corn-based fuel which people are looking at as a substitute for foreign-exported Carbon gasoline. Based in plants as it is, it certainly makes for an interesting, quite well renewable source for fuel. By most accounts, it is past time for us to find a new solution to our fuel needs, as the current status quo does not provide a reliable, sustainable path into the future. Just as it is said in the Bible that man cannot live on bread alone, it is also true that the environment cannot survive on carbon gasoline alone, especially as it regards those oils purchased from shady(to put it quite mildly) Arab governments. As we are now living in an age where "bomb the oil" and "take the oil" constitutes key tenants of American foreign policy, continued reliance on foreign exports could result in massive price spikes and stock cratering. It is high time we consider a new course.

    That said, what the green energy people fail to account for regarding mass consumption of Ethanol hides in plain view--The weather. This is an easy one for me, as we here in the Southeastern United States have undergone a severely crop-damaging drought(to say nothing of the wildfires) within the past year. Given that Ethanol is created from corn crops, the supply is easily limitable given any manner of weather confections, including that of a protracted lack of rain. To combat this, the mass market producers of the corn would have to infuse their crops with GMO's and various turbo fertilizers, to say nothing of pesticide usage, things that are already done to a certain extent to ensure that the crops make it to market at their due times. Now, this runs into serious headwinds when you consider how the green energy, clean living people have striven to rid crop and food yield of the dreaded GMO's, pesticides, and turbolizers in favour of more natural-based ways. It would seem that somewhere along the line, serious compromises will need to be made in order to bridge the divides and create a sustainable framework for Ethanol production if this is, in fact, a way for the future.

    Also damaging to the corn crops necessary to produce Ethanol is another unusual-seeming suspect--Heavy rains. "When it rains, it pours," the old adage says, and this is never truer than after a long dry stretch. While the rain does a good service in the middle and longer runs, the short term can oversee some rather dramatic consequences. Sudden infusions of rainwater can flood and drown crops and plants, and flash flooding can uproot and sweep away all the crop yields. Flooding can also render soils otherwise non-conducive to crop/plant growth by sopping up water upwards of a half-foot (perhaps even greater, depending upon precipitation amounts) below the surface. This also ties into one of Ethanol's most pressing drawbacks--That it absorbs water at rapid rates, which makes contamination of fuel product easy and transportation through pipe-lining a difficult matter. And just imagine if one of the pipelines burst, as has been known to happen from time to time. That would make for an environmental disaster certainly without any precedent, at least in the modern era.

    Probably the most controversial consideration that has to be given in these discussions is the matter of our, much bemoaned of late, free trade agreements. Were we to engage in the mining of natural resources(such as those in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) or in the drilling of oil(offshore and onshore) and shale fields, North American trading partners in the US, Mexico, Canada, and also in the Caribbean Isles would need to meet up and consult with each other on these matters as per NAAEC(North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation), a major component of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Given the proximity of the offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico to the Southern continent of America, perhaps a sort of 'SAFTA'(Southern American version of NAFTA, of course, which is not to be confused with the South Asian free trade organisation--Perhaps call it SAFTO?) will need to be assembled to broker fair deals and come to needed consensus on the matters of usage and appropriation of resources.

    The consideration of renewable energy solutions, given the increasingly unsustainable path, is a must for any serious consideration of America's and the world's future. Wind, solar, water, natural gas, offshore drilling of oil, and even Ethanol solutions, among the myriad other proposals, should be given fullest consideration as we collectively approach a moment of reckoning regarding our reliance upon foreign oils. Not even giving thought to the problem risks our standing as an example to other countries in the world, and that's just the least of the problems we could face.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Time Magazine's Year-in-Review: No Longer Timeless



    You knew it was coming, but the reality of it is still no less shocking. No, I'm not talking about the travesty of Donald Trump and his dubious-at-best Cabinet choices–That's a whole other story. No, I was at a Wal-Mart earlier today, and I had a chance to check out the Time Magazine end-of-the-year retrospective, and I saw where they omit mention of Keith Emerson, Glenn Frey, Christina Grimmie, Paul Kantner, Garry Shandling, and Leon Russell(he died at the same time as Leonard Cohen, and yet the latter got a not small mention) in the deaths section. This more than EXEMPLIFIES why I no longer buy that expensive dish rag of a retrospective. They mentioned Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore, and yet several of the far more famous names–household names, even–get passed over. Oh, but Muhammad Ali(In their only solid move, he was placed at the front of the pack and given the bitter-sweet distinction of being the understood biggest death of 2016), David Bowie, the aforementioned Cohen, Prince, Gene Wilder, and such get their mandatory half-dozen/dozen or so paragraphs. What a complete waste!

    More can and will be written by me as it regards the subjects behind the sticking points(Particularly ELP, Frey, and Grimmie), but I'll stick to the matters directly pertaining to Timeless Magazine. The reason I used to buy the Time end-of-year retrospective was because of their exhaustive, thorough reports on the year's news events & deaths. I once scoured the release from the end of the year 2001 when I was really young, and was impressed with all that was covered. Indeed, it even greatly expanded my then-quite limited horizons(Reading about the late former Beatle George Harrison at the very end of that issue planted a seed in my head that changed my life, for better or for worse). All those released last decade were exemplars in solid reporting. Now, it’s all opinion, the reins of the articles long-ago having been passed over to the likes of Ezra Klein talking about 'personal significance,' as opposed to talking strictly about 'life and times,' which is what Timeless used to do. And their reporting on this past election was...a little shoddy, incomplete, and otherwise haphazard, to say the very least.

    The really interesting, perhaps one could even say jarring, paradox about this is that the weekly magazine issuance is actually, with Rolling Stone, one of the only worthwhile things on the non-musical portions of the news-stand. With a healthy mixture of on-the-front-lines reportage and and opinion editorialization, the magazine makes for easy, informative enough reading when I'm de-compressing at a Bojangles or a Burger King. One assumes that different standards are employed in the assemblage of a single issue, weekly magazine as opposed to an end-of-year/looking back piece–Sort of like the difference between assembling a studio album and a compilation record(in some cases, a compilation of re-recorded hit pieces). Key structural differences aside, it would seem that similar principles of reporting should be applied regardless of the nature of the magazine issue. No playing favourites!

    This year, I’ll buy a Time retrospective from 2003 to round out last decade’s selections–Selections from an era when Timeless was actually Timeless. 2001's retrospective, as it ultimately turned out, was the foundational document for a lot of where all I've gone in life, whether in a musical, political, or personal regard. The 2002 edition gave a nice blurb to Who founding member and Bass player John Entwistle after his cocaine-fuelled death earlier in the year. Had he lived long enough to die this year, his memory and earthly contributions would have probably been discarded in much the way fellow rocker and 1944 birth-mate Keith Emerson's was. 2005's retrospective gave the greatest of final send-offs to such giants as Johnny Carson, Pope John Paul II, and Peter Jennings(they missed Bob "Gilligan" Denver, but nobody's perfect and I really don't demand perfection), as well as an able re-capping of Hurricane Katrina. 2008 quite well re-capped the election, my very first as an observer of politics. The others up until the turn of the decade(was it a change of management, or a merger, or what have you?) were quite solid in their own respective ways. For about five years, they've been on that unmistakable glide path towards fully and completely jumping the shark.

    Nowadays, it's all just a bunch of ‘reports’ and selections chosen by agreements made in the meeting of Beltway, Hollywood, and Rockefeller Plaza elitist windbags. The media being the media, they sheepishly go along with it, refusing to even give the time of day to those who didn't make the gilded list. Granted, though, it must be stated that the only group worse than the masked media literati behind these profligate retrospective issues are that certain group of hard-core rock group fans who will go unnamed–That group which seems to get really stuck up and militant when one dares express disagreement with the more-than-slightly unqualified greatness of the band's 'Big 2.' Still, it's a shame to see such a vaunted institution rot away, not to mention all the significant names left off their lists. I miss old-time real reporting(the aforementioned Peter Jennings got several paragraphs etched into the 2005 edition, Ed Bradley in the 2006 edition, Tim Russert in 2008, Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt in 2009, and Mike Wallace presumably in 2012's retrospective), the type that actually got just a little into the weeds and informed you.

    Long live Erin Burnett and Jake Tapper!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The New (Mis)Adventures of Lady & the Trump




    I really wish I wrote more during this election than I have. Articles are just mentally taxing, and I'm not anything close to a natural writer. My thoughts amount to short bursts of inspiration that, like a magician's flash paper, fall apart and fade away not long after their inception. I couldn't begin to tell you how many ideas I've had that are now forever lost to the ether because of both laziness and being otherwise a mentally unsorted person. Ah well, if it was worth the while, I would have come to pursue it like I am doing right now...


    By now, one has heard(unless you're living under a rock) the statements made by Donald Trump, caught 11 years ago by then-Access Hollywood reporter Billy Bush, where he is boasting of how he can grab women by the *REDACTED* because he's a 'star.' The condemnatory outrage was sudden and swift, with most high ranking Republican Party officials slamming Trump, and a good number even going as far as to retract previous endorsements of their party's Presidential nominee. His poll numbers plunged across the board, only recently mitigated somewhat by his steady coalescence of support in the wake of FBI Director James Comey re-opening investigations into Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's usage of private e-mail servers.

    After I had first heard these comments and absorbed the barrage of condemnation, many women I've known and have liked(not entirely the same exact concept, mind you) sprung into my head. In no particular order, the girl from my favourite North GA area General Store, a girl from Bojangles who once held open a door for me, the girl who guided my most recent college tour(in addition to another who joined in on the tour), Erica from my Fall 2014 semester, Erin Burnett of CNN, Katy Tur of NBC News, and young girls from Athens and Ellijay, GA, who I've known in years past, not to mention many others I've known and known of in my years. Never would it cross my mind to talk about or to them in that manner, though, in total frankness, other thoughts of certain explicit natures have crossed my mind in a few particular instances from time to time. I try quickly to perish the thoughts as they come.

    Eventually, though, my mind drifted back to a young lady I met four years ago this past July, when I was doing testing for my GED. I was just days away from turning 18, and it proved to be a life-changing, foundational experience for me. Her name was Millie, and she was probably the nicest girl(or at least one of the very nicest) I have ever met. Having just come off of a dismal failure of an experience with the fairer sex, it was the most wonderful thing to meet someone as pleasant as she was. In between tests that day and the next, we hung out and made great conversation. Lord knows I was feeling alive...

    Ultimately, though, it was not meant to be. Before I had a chance to establish any way for us to keep in touch, her extended family came by out of the blue to pick her up. She thanked me for spending time with her, and that was the last time I ever saw her or spoke to her. "Free Fallin'" was the only song I could think to put on after that, it was just so fitting. I realized then that politics alone was a hollow, empty place(I've been blogospheric flotsam for 8 years, now--Over 1/3 of my current lifespan), and made me want to break out of the funk. Never would I want to debase her in the grimy, ugly ways of your average Donald Trump-type. In the years since, according to what I've discovered on social media, she has been married, divorced, and in the arms of a cavalcade of young sunshine patriots, or "Boys of Summer," if you will. She is the basis for my moralistic, oftentimes sanctimonious attitudes towards the things I see in life, whether in person or on the news.






    Having mentioned Katy Tur in an earlier paragraph and speaking of the news, it merits more than a mention that Mr. Trump singled her out once again(he's done so on many previous occasions, classy guy that he is) at a swing state rally Wednesday afternoon. She has now received many death threats, stemming from the fact that she's doing her job as a reporter. Without getting any more personal than need be, I'll admit bias right now and say that I have had a massive crush on her for this whole year. That having been said, all this is still quite immeasurably absurd. The network assigned her to cover Trump, just as others are assigned to cover Clinton and, way back in the Primaries, the likes of Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and John Kasich. It's her job to give singular coverage to Trump's doings, and I do not envy her one bit. As she said in her seminal article--article of the year, IMO--in Marie Claire magazine, it has been a draining, tumultuous journey. If for no one else, I'll be happy for her when it's all over just five days from now(Clinton will win, and it won't be that close), and she can finally, at long last, scamper on back to old England town.

    The spectre of the death threats, though, is truly and incomprehensibly terrifying. If you care not for her reportage, don't watch the network. If something wrong were done on her part, the network would surely take due actions--Networks are like that, they look out for their bottom lines(our news isn't biased one way or another so much as it goes where the money is). Posed this way, how would Trump and his cultists like it if his primal yells incited the wrong person at one of his rallies and that person did something to Trump that...he didn't like so much? Would they take that one sitting down? Of course, the answer is obvious: There'd be blood and rioting in the streets(the 'Days of Rage' would be an afternoon stroll through Piedmont Park by comparison), even though they probably wouldn't lift finger #1 if the exact same thing happened to our President(a lot of them have probably especially wished upon a star for the latter, judging from social networking feeds). I am extremely tense and worried these days for her safety and well being.



    I worry for the country when we get to a point of just accepting this kind of human debasement and degradation as some sort of a 'new normal.' As comedio-political HBO host John Oliver has been saying of late, "If you look up, you can see rock bottom." From one weekly airing to the next, as it is noted, things go from worse to far worse to the point of us crashing "through the core of the earth, and we’ve come bursting out the other side...hurtling toward outer space." One hopes that this election signifies our lowest point for a long time, but that may be too much for which to hope. If you think the average Trump supporter is coarse and vulgar in mouth and mind, just you wait until their children grow up. Ladies and gentlemen, the future of America is upon us!

    Concluding this article, I want to draw a contrast between the two major parties' bulwarks and standard bearers. I believe that the policies as pursued by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary Clinton have been and would be damaging to our country, but not damage of the sort from which one can't re-build. Donald Trump is another matter. He threatens our way of life. He threatens our lives. All of our lives. All around the world. Vote accordingly.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Discussion of Fire Ants and Pest Management



        In  the  realm  of  pest  management,  there  are  many  potential  issues  which  can  arise  and  wreak  havoc  upon  lawns  and  gardens  in  any  climate.  Knowing  what  these  issues  are,  how  to  deal  with  them,  and  what  sorts  of  precautions  to  undertake  in  preventing  them  from  happening  in  the  first  place  is  very  important  when  caring  for  a  landscape.  High  on  the  list  of  pests  in  desperate  need  of  management  is  fire  ants,  among  the  most  invasive  insects  of  them  all.  These  pests  are  the  bane  of  many  a  gardener's  existence,  and  the  reasons  why,  plus  some  solutions  to  the  problem,  will  be  detailed  in  the  next  several  paragraphs.




        Fire  ants  nest  in  such  moist  soils  as  river  banks,  pond  shores,  watered  lawns,  and  highway  shoulders.  Nests  usually  aren't  visible,  as  they  will  be  built  under  timber,  logs,  rocks,  or  bricks.  Ants  form  underground  nests,  where  mating  takes  place.  Fire  ant  colonies  generally  produce  large,  dome-shaped  mounds  in  such  open  areas  as  fields,  parks,  and  lawns,  feeding  mostly  on  young  plants  and  seeds.  They  will  often  attack  and  kill  small  animals  by  stinging  from  the  abdomen  and  injecting  toxic alkaloid venom.  Fire ants  are  very  tolerant  to  extreme  weather  conditions.  They  do  not  hibernate,  but  can survive  in  temperatures  as  low  as  16  degrees  Farenheit.  In  hot  conditions,  they  can  build  nests  deep  within  water  tables.  Among the many issues  caused  down  the  line  by  these  ant  mounds  include  the deadening of  grass  and  the  killing  off  of  their  root  systems,  leaving  bare  soils  vulnerable  to  erosion  and  diseases. 

        This  problem  can  notoriously  manifest  itself  health-wise.  Fire  Ants  sting  multiple  times,  sometimes  as  a  group  effort(as  in,  more  than  one  ant  is  in  on  the  action).  A  small,  but  still  noticeable  number  of  the  population  will  have  allergic  reactions  to   Fire  Ant  bites.  Allergic  reactions  come  in  many  shapes  and  sizes,  such  as  swelling,  blistering,  scabbing,  burning,  itching,  difficulty  with  breathing,  rapid  heart  rate,  chest  pains,  nausea,  dizziness,  and  shock.  If  it  comes  down  to  calling  9-11,  be  very  sure  to  have  at  the  ready  such  information  as  the  person's  age,  weight,  and  condition,  the  type  of  insect,  and  the  time  of  the  bite.

        My  interest  in  this  pest  management  issue  stems  from  my  own  personal  experiences  with  fire  ants.  Part  of  why  the  lawn  at  my  place  is  the  mess  that  it's  become  over  the  past  several  years  is  due  in  part  to  the  building  of  fire  ant  mounds  and  the  death  of  the  grass  areas  and  root  systems  underneath  the  mounds.  In  the  past  few  months,  we  have  had  to  apply  fertilizer  and  lime  to  the  soils  and  spread  around  some  grass  patch  seed  over  several  of  the  bare  areas  of  the  lawn.  Still  a  ways  to  go  before things  are  orderly  once  again,  but  things  are  already  looking  much  better  than  they  did  before.


        The  principles  of  'Integrated  Pest  Management'  can  be  useful  assets  in  combating  the  invasion  of  the  fire  ants.  They  can  be  applied  as  follows:


1. Produce  Healthy  Plants  that  Resist  Pests—Select  healthy  plants,  use  the  strongest,  highest  grade  fertilizers  available,  use  certified  seeding,  check  soil  pH  values  regularly,  and  give  plants  proper  lighting  and  shading.

2. Identify  the  Problem—Spend  time  and  resources  investigating  the  problem  in  order  to  come  to  the  right  conclusion.  It  is  not  prudent  to  go  after  what  turns  out  to  be  an  environmental  issue  the  way  one  would  pursue  a  pest  issue,  or  vice  versa.

3. Expect  Some  Pests  &  Tolerate  Some  Damage—Don't  aim  to destroy  all  the  fire  ant  colonies,  lest  you  also  risk  irreparably damaging  your  plants  and  soils.  Set  a  threshold  for  pests  and  damage.

4. Use  Pesticides  as  a  Last  Resort—Before  taking  up  pesticide  usage,  first  exhaust  every  possible  avenue  for  plant  treatment.  Only  use  when  a  problem  is  otherwise  unavoidable.


         Several  measures  are  presently  being  used  to  combat  fire  ants,  including  the  deployment  of  fire  ant  bait(Examples  include  Amdro  Pro, Advion, and  Spectracide)  and  insecticides.  Mounds  can  also  be  drenched  in  toxic  liquids,  which  can  include  various  insecticides,  boiling  water,  kerosene,  and  lighter  fluid.  Planting  of  Sundews  and  Venus  Flytraps,  as  well  as  selective  deployments  of  Phorid  Flies,  would  also  be  an  innovative(yet  probably  pricey)  solution  to  the  fire  ant  problem.

         In  conclusion,  out  of  all  the  pest  issues  of  today,  fire  ants  constitute  the  dominating  pest  management  issues  that  need  to  be  dealt with.  They  can  cause  much  damage  to  lawns  and  gardens,  not  to  mention  the  many  health  hazards  posed  by  them.  All  the  troubles  Fire  Ants  cause  can  easily  be  solved  if  you  have  enough  of  an  understanding  of  the  insects  and  how  to  use  various  combative  methods,  whether  they  be  in  the  form  of  pesticides  or  other,  more  organic  means.  Knowing  all  of  this  could  literally  mean  the  difference  between  life  and  death,  so  tread  carefully.





Works Cited

1. Wikipedia—The Free Encyclopedia: Fire Ants  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ant
2. Do Your Own Pest Control—Top 10 Things You Should Know about Fire Ants http://doyourownpestcontrol.com/pest_control/questions_and_answers/top_10_things_you_should_know_about_fire_ants.html
3. Orkin—Fire Ants  http://www.orkin.com/ants/fire-ant/
4. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension—The Latest & Greatest on Fire Ant Products http://fireant.tamu.edu/files/2013/05/2013-Fire-Ant-Bait-Misc-Control-Products-5-30-13.pdf
5. University of Florida Extension Office—Red Imported Fire Ants http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/ants/red_imported_fire_ant.htm
6. MedLine Plus—Trusted Health Information for You: Fire Ants https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002843.htm
7. USDA National Agricultural Library and Invasive Species Information Center—Red Imported Fire Ant(Solenopsis Invicta)  https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/animals/rifa.shtml
8. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources—Red Imported Fire Ant Management Guidelines  http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7487.html
9. Ant Ark—Fire Ants Species Solenopsis Invicta  http://antark.net/ant-species/fire-ant-solenopsis-invicta/
10. Fire Ant Information  http://www.fireant.net/
11. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum—Red Imported Fire Ants http://www.desertmuseum.org/invaders/invaders_fireant.php

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

To Politicize or Not to Politicize? Ruminations on Orlando


   That is the question I'm pondering right now, as the bodies are being prepared for burial down in Orlando, FL. Terrorists have struck at the heart of children's entertainment, near to the World of Disney. It's something we're all coming to hear about too, too often. As our standards of decency and morality are further degraded, more people are coming to value human lives as little more than cheapened stage props unworthy of basic love and respect. Some, de-sensitized by video games like "Grand Theft Auto" and shows like "COPS," even seek out and take up arms and shoot up large venues, whether for the thrill of it or for the otherwise satisfaction of disturbed minds and the worst elements of humanity.

    The clarion calls for weaponry restrictions grow ever louder. I have mixed feelings on this. Putting my own personally Conservative, pro-Second Amendment ideology aside for the moment, I never thought it was the decent thing to do to inject high-stakes political positioning into such situations. Having said that, the terrorism angle already brings into the fore many a political consideration. The fact that this was an orchestrated attack upon a gay night club also brings into discussion, among many others, a civil rights element. At this point, I suppose it is only natural to bring talk about weaponry-related 'solutions' into the spotlight.

    The people who have for years screamed "DON'T POLITICIZE!," seemingly unaware of how their response already innately politicizes the situation, don't help matters. It frankly allows Conservatives to be portrayed as an ideology unwilling, perhaps even too scared, to have an argument or a debate on these important matters. "Thoughts and Prayers" has also, unfortunately, become a cliche phrase. While I'm sure there are a lot of people who do this, it has become, like "DON'T POLITICIZE!" before it, almost sort of a cop-out for a side seemingly unwilling to have a debate on an important issue. To be totally fair, though, the other side of the ideological coin is not served well by attention gluttons like Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes and Senator Chris Murphy, who both seem to utilize tragedies like this one as a means of getting on TV to do their share of soap-boxing. Taking on the political elements of delicate situations like this requires a good bit of careful thought, and is not served well by those who solely want to bring attention to themselves.

    Frankly, my own solutions in that regard are simple and are positions that I think can be quickly agreed upon by any rationally thinking person. I think all military-grade weaponry(AK-47s, AR-15s, elephant guns, flame throwers, grenades and their launchers, and machine guns) should probably be restricted to only usage by our military and police forces. Civilians have all the rights to own a handgun, a rifle, and/or a shotgun, but military-grade artillery is going absolutely overboard. Oh, the preppers will no doubt say that they need it all in case the economy crashes, the Seventh Seal is broken, and all the world goes down the toilet. They're wrong. No grade of weaponry will put a damper on all the madness at that point. Besides, a better case could be made for keeping unfettered access to high-power weapons the way it currently is were that unstable, millionaire Bankruptcy King to take power in November and launch a sustained assault on our First Amendment rights, among many of our other constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.

    Another solution--a very basic, common-sense solution--involves taking military-grade body armor off the public market and restricting it to only military usage. It was reported in the news yesterday afternoon that the Orlando shooter was shopping around for body armor in preparation for the attack. Back in November, the shooters at the Special Needs Facility in San Bernardino, CA, were revealed to have utilized body armor so as to prevent themselves from being taken out by potentially incoming fire. All the civilian, out-of-proper-context usage of military armors ultimately succeeds in doing is to put the shooters in a safer position as they are executing their attack.

    What we can all agree on is that the Islamic State is a matter that needs to be immediately dealt with. If we can re-structure the balance between the civilians and the military so that it is the military, and not the civilians, who have the best access to the weaponry that is most fitting of their(the military's) needs, then and only then can we have a prayer of winning the fight against the Islamic State. Since, with the lecherous huckster serving as an anvil atop their hopes across the board, Conservatives may be on the verge of a generational electoral blackout, we might want to figure out ways to work with the Liberal Democrats on the key issues so as to try keeping things halfway functional in the dark ages.

...

  But not 24 hours before the terrorist attack, something else happened in Orlando. A young pop star of considerable renown was assassinated. It's something I've not the heart to politicize in any way, though I'm sure all the Trump Jr's of the political world will pick up my slack--I don't care. To me, the most heart-breaking news to come out of this year so far...




    Christina Grimmie. In total fairness, I never knew her music, and had only the most fleeting of awarenesses of who she was. She was a contestant on "The Voice" back in 2014--I was a bit taken up at that particular time, so I never got the chance to pay her rise to stardom any of the heed and respect I should have.

    She was my age--About 4 1/2 months older than I am. In reading her life story upon learning of what had happened, I was struck by how much I admired, identified with, and related to her. From a young age, she had an ear for and an interest in music. She was a Christian, and by all accounts tried to live out her faith in all she did. An animal lover who advocated for adoption. Someone who knew well how to cultivate solid, lasting success on YouTube, something which fellow YouTubers like myself can aspire to and learn from.

    Fact of the matter is we both had dreams of becoming famous musicians--She a singer and I a guitarist. Unlike me, she actually had talent enough to make something of it. She realized her dream. I've been re-adjusting and re-thinking a few things of late. Sometimes I'll regret not making it big, sometimes I don't. I sometimes think that if at some point I had applied and concentrated myself in my musical studies earlier on up the road and the lightning of fame and renown HAD struck me, we might have ended up travelling in some of the same circles and ultimately crossing pathways.

    In a lot of ways, I regret that I never got the chance to reach those heights and maybe know her in some way. She seemed, from what I read of her, a really nice human being--Like many a nice girl I've met in school and in my own travels. At the same time, consider that when my friend Tim died 5 years ago this coming September, it took me about a year to start moving on. This would have been far, far worse, no question. I can run down several of the scenarios in my head right now.

    Three weeks before she was killed, she tweeted this picture from when she was little, and to me it sums everything up and puts it all in proper context. More than being a pretty face and a talented musician and singer, she always was and always is the sweet little bundle of joy to a loving New Jersey couple. No matter what you do with your life, no matter your achievement(s), you'll always be someone's bundle of joy. Someone's child

    The one thing that both sums her up and magnifies the horror of what happened to her involves the way she (unknowingly)handled her assassin. She greeted him with open arms and pearly whites a-flashing. Pure love. She greeted him with the same love and gratitude she apparently showed everybody she met, and he responded by cutting her down(To the people posting up footage of the incident, stay CLASSY). Says all there is to know about the kind of wonderful human being she was, as well as shining a light upon the absolute worst elements of humanity.

    She is now and forever more leaning on the almighty and everlasting arms of love. While I never knew her, in some strange way I feel as though I did. Ya know, in a distant and tangential sort of way. Like you do with people who were born in and live in almost the exact same space and time as you. Like star-crossed people living in the same time who never had the chance, in some odd way. Perhaps I'll have the chance to meet her someday, somewhere over the rainbow.


Pile on many more layers, and I'll be joining you there.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
And we'll bask in the shadow of yesterday's triumph,
And sail on the steel breeze.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Spirit of Innovation: Henry Ford(1863-1947)




    Henry Ford, who would later become one of America's best known and well respected innovators, inventors, and manufacturers of the 19th and 20th centuries, was born on July 30, 1863. He was the first of five children. His father was an Irish immigrant, and his mother was a descendant of Belgian immigrants. Both of his parents were farmers.

    Henry Ford went to school for a while, but he dropped out at fifteen to tend to the family farm. It was around this time that he earned a reputation as a watch repairman, dismantling and reassembling the timepieces of his neighbours and friends dozens of times. At sixteen, he left home to work as an apprentice machinist in Detroit, Michigan, for James F. Fowler & Brothers and shortly thereafter with the Detroit Dry Dock Company. After he worked three years, he returned home to work on the family farm, and became a skilled operator of the steam engine, a relatively new invention at the time. His skills with the steam engine landed him a job at Westinghouse, servicing their steam engines. When he was 25, he married Ms. Clara Bryant, with whom he had one child. To support himself, his wife, and his child, he farmed and ran a sawmill. In 1891, Henry Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company, and within two years he was promoted to the position of chief engineer.

    He was influenced by an article he read in World of Science about how German Engineer Nicholas Otto had built an internal combustion engine. After finding enough time and money to focus on his experiments with gasoline engines, Ford test drove his new invention, the Ford quadricycle, on June 4, 1896. He used the information from this and other test drives to find ways to perfect the quadricycle.It was around this time that Ford met Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, at a meeting of executives of the Edison Illuminating Company. Encouraged by Edison's approval of his automobile experiments, Ford went to work on a second vehicle, completed in 1898. Boosted by the backing of lumber baron William H. Murphy, Ford resigned his position at Edison. After he left Edison, Ford launched out on his own. He then founded the Detroit Automotive Company in 1899. The company didn't last long. It stalled out and was dissolved in 1901 because of Ford's displeasure with the lower quality and higher pricing of the automobiles. Later in 1901, Ford designed, built, and successfully raced a 26-horsepower automobile. On the heels of his latest triumph, Ford, William H. Murphy, and fellow stockholders formed the Henry Ford Company, naming Ford as the chief engineer. Upon Murphy's hiring of Henry M. Leland as a consultant, Ford left the company in 1902. The company was later renamed the "Cadillac Automotive Company." Shortly thereafter, with the backing of Alexander Y. Malcolmson, Ford produced the 80+ horsepower racer "999" that Barney Oldfield raced to victory that October.

    Ford and Malcolmsen later formed a partnership, naming their company 'Ford and Malcolmsen, Limited.' This company's function was to manufacture automobiles. They leased a factory and contracted with a machine shop owned by the Dodge brothers to supply over $160K in parts for an inexpensive automobile Ford was designing. In 1903, Ford & Malcolmsen re-incorporated as the 'Ford Motor Company.' Shortly thereafter, Ford experimented by driving his newly finished car out on the ice of Lake Saint Clair. He drove one mile in 39.4 seconds at a speed of 91.3 miles per hour. Buoyed by the success, Oldfield took the car around the country, thereby making the Ford brand well known throughout the United States.

    On October 1, 1908, Henry Ford introduced what would be his most famous invention, the Model T, which had the steering wheel on the left side. The engine and transmission were enclosed, the four cylinders were cast in solid block, and the suspension used two semi-elliptic springs. At $825 per car, it was one of the cheapest cars on the market. By the 1920's, most Americans had learned to drive on the Model T. It was around this time that Ford decided to merge his latest business success with racing by entering stripped-down Model T's in races, winning an 'ocean-to-ocean' race in 1909 and setting a one-mile oval speed record at the Detroit Fairgrounds in 1911 with driver Frank Kulick. Later that year, he opened Ford Assembly plants in Britain and in Canada, and they became the biggest automotive producers in those countries, Boosted by the success of the new plants, in 1912, Ford cooperated with Agneli of Fiat to launch the first Italian automotive assembly plant. Sales of the Model T were sky-rocketing. For several years, Model T sales posted 100% gains over the sales of the previous year. Always on the hunt for more efficiency and lower costs, Ford introduced moving assembly belts into his plants in 1913, enabling an upswing in production. Ford dropped out of racing that year after attempting to enter a re-worked Model T in the Indianapolis 500 and being told that he needed to add an extra 1,000 pounds to the car in order to qualify.

    On January 5, 1914, Ford stunned many business observers by offering his workers a $5 per day wage, which was more than double the rate of most workers. This move proved very profitable because instead of the constant turnover of workers, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing with them their money and their expertise. The result was raised productivity and lower training costs. The company's use of the vertical integration proved to be successful when built a big factory that used raw materials and shipped out automobiles. Sales for the Model T surpassed 250K in 1914, and by 1916, as prices fell to $360 per car, sales reached 470K.

    Henry Ford strongly opposed the United States' involvement in World War I, calling it a terrible waste. A group of pacifists curried favour with Ford and convinced him to fund a peace ship to Europe, Ford, his minister, and 170 pacifists travelled to Europe. To no avail, Ford had tried to persuade President Woodrow Wilson to give government aid to the mission. Subjected to much ridicule, he abandoned the mission upon docking in Sweden. Though he had opposed America's involvement in the war, to help in the war effort in Europe, Ford plants in Britain produced tractors to help increase the food supply. Upon the United States formally entering World War I in April, 1917, the company started producing weapons, anti-submarine boats, and liberty engines. By 1918, half of all American cars were Model T's. Also in 1918, President Wilson encouraged Ford to run for the Senate as a peace and pro-League of Nations candidate. Ford accepted, and lost by 4,500 votes out of 400K cast.

    In December, 1918, Ford turned over the Presidency of Ford Motor Company to his son, Edsel Ford. Henry still maintained authority over decisions, and sometimes he opposed his son's decisions. Henry Ford started another company, 'Henry Ford & Son,' and took his best workers over to see the new company, generating some publicity. The goal of taking workers to the new company was to scare remaining stockholders of the Ford Motor Company into selling their stakes to him before their values were lost. This tactic worked, and Henry and Edsel Ford purchased all remaining stock from the investors, thus giving the Ford family sole proprietorship of the company. The 1920's began with Ford opening plants in Australia, France, Germany, and India with the help and encouragement of Herbert Hoover and the US Commerce Department, who concurred with Ford that free trade was essential to world peace.

    After the end of World War I, Ford resumed auto manufacturing until 1925, when Ford acquired the Stout Metal Company, allowing him the opportunity to transition from manufacturing cars to manufacturing aeroplanes, a budding market in the "Roaring 20's." The new airline manufacturer was called the 'Ford Aeroplane Division.' Ford's most successful aeroplane to come from this was the Ford 4AT Tri-motor, also known as the "Tin Goose" because of its corrugated metal construction. The plane used a new alloy called 'aclad' that combined aluminum corrosion resistance with the strength of duralumin. The Tri-motor's trial run took place on June 11, 1926, and became the first successful United States passenger airliner, accommodating 12 passengers in a rather uncomfortable fashion. Before the Ford Aeroplane Division's dissolution in 1933 because of poor sales as a result of the 'Great Depression,' the company had produced about 200 Tri-motors. Around this time, sales of the Model T had stalled out.

    Ford was convinced it was time to produce a new model car. The result was the very successful Model A, introduced in December, 1927. It was in production until 1921, selling about 4 million cars. In 1928, Ford was awarded the Franklin Institute's ''Elliott Cresson Medal'' for his achievements. In 1929, Soviet Chancellor Joseph Stalin invited Ford to build a model plant at Gorky, Russia. Ford accepted, and he sent American engineers and technicians to the Soviet Union to help in building the plant.

    By 1932, Ford was manufacturing 1/3 of all the world's automobiles. Ford's image transfixed the Europeans, especially the Germans, who believed that "Fordism" represented something uniquely American. They believed that the size, tempo, standardization, and philosophy demonstrated by Ford as an international service, and something that positively reflected on the American way. When World War II broke out in 1941, the Ford Company lined up behind the war effort and focused exclusively upon mass production for it. One of the world's most successful aeroplanes to come from this was the B-24 Liberator Bomber.

  On May 26, 1943, at age 49, Edsel Ford died after a long bout with cancer. Upon his death, an ailing 79-year-old Henry Ford re-assumed the Presidency of the Ford Motor Company. By this time, Ford had suffered numerous cardiovascular illnesses and was mentally inconsistent, suspicious, and generally presumed to be unfit for such a job. In September, 1945, Ford, for the last time, ceded the Presidency to his grandson, Henry Ford II, and retired. The elder Ford died on April 7, 1947, aged 83, from a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Dearborn, Michigan. His funeral was held at Detroit's Cathedral Church of Saint Paul, and he was buried at the Ford Family Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

    In 1965, the United States Postal Service honoured Ford with a prominent American series 12 cent postage stamp. In 1999, Ford was posthumously awarded the title of 'Car Entrepreneur of the Year.' According to Gallup Polling's 1999 end-of-the-century survey, Ford was among 18 people who were named "Widely Admired People of the 20th Century." He was indeed a deeply respected man.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Super Tuesday Thoughts & Predictions


    Today, 13 states cast their votes for the Presidential nomination contests of the Democratic and Republican Primaries. Both contests are cumulatively expected to yield decisive, game-changing results, one way or another.

    On the Republican side, millionaire real estate developer and reality TV star Donald Trump is, to date, the undisputed leader of the pack, leading in both the delegate count and in the popular Primary vote. Polling in many of the states voting this Tuesday show him in a mostly dominant position over his opposition, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. However, a few states are showing the brash, blustersome Trump in a softened position of late, leaving a select few openings for Rubio to, at long last, gain a foothold and start up with the winning. Right now, polling has Trump in a dominant position in Alabama, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Vermont, with modest leads in Alaska, Georgia, and Virginia. Polls show a possible opening for Senator Rubio in Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, and Oklahoma, with the dynamics of Wyoming looking favourable towards him(no polling has been done in that state in almost 3 years). Additionally, for a state that's giving Trump seemingly durable leads, Rubio is focusing considerable efforts upon that state, leading this writer to believe that his internals are showing him with a good shot at victory. Cruz will win his home state of Texas, but probably nowhere else. Given Cruz's missteps in recent weeks, one would expect Rubio to unite more of the Conservative vote in his quest to be the GOP's anti-Trump, which should increase his odds in several states where most have generally written him off. This side of the aisle will be the subject of most of tonight's attention.

    Turning to the Democratic side, with few exceptions, this should be, for the most part, an anti-climactic night for former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is a lock on a clean sweep of the South over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed Socialist. Clinton also dominates in the Midwestern, Rocky Mountain states. Of course, several states could provide Secretary Clinton sources for heartburn. Take Oklahoma, for example, where Sanders has been leading of late. Minnesota could also provide her a speed bump--Sanders is leading there in polling and in enthusiasm. Same goes for Alaska, where no polls have been taken, but a strong ground-game from Sanders could make all the difference. Finally, New England is going to pose some problems for Clinton. Vermont being Sanders' home state, he should dominate there. The two candidates are virtually deadlocked in Massachusetts. Ground game will be key there, likewise everywhere else. General advantage goes to Clinton, but not without some fighting and a few upsets tonight.

    Having said all this, here are my predictions for how things go down tonight...


Alabama: Trump wins with 43%, versus Rubio's 22%, Carson's 14%, Cruz's 13%, and Kasich's 8%.
Clinton beats Sanders 76-24.


Alaska: Trump wins with 36%, versus Rubio's 31% and Cruz's 29%. Carson & Kasich split the remaining 4%.
Sanders beats Clinton 53-47.

Arkansas: Rubio wins with 30%, versus Cruz's 27%, Trump's 24%, Carson's 13%, and Kasich's 6%.
Clinton beats Sanders 70-30.

Colorado: Rubio wins with 31%, versus Trump's 28%, Cruz's 21%, Carson's 12%, and Kasich's 8%.
Clinton beats Sanders 59-41.

Georgia: Trump wins with 37%, versus Rubio's 30% and Cruz's 22%. Carson & Kasich split the remaining 11%
Clinton beats Sanders 72-28.

Massachusetts: Trump wins with 52%, versus Rubio's 25% and Kasich's 16%. Carson & Cruz split the remaining 7%.
Clinton and Sanders both draw 50-50, or otherwise even parity. Winner decided by a handful of votes.

Minnesota: Rubio wins with 35%, versus Trump's 31% and Cruz's 23%. Carson & Kasich split the remaining 11%.
Sanders beats Clinton 52-48.

Oklahoma: Rubio wins with 28%, versus Trump's 26%, Cruz's 25%, Carson's 13%, and Kasich's 8%.
Sanders beats Clinton 54-46

Tennessee: Trump wins with 34%, versus Rubio's 28% and Cruz's 25%. Carson & Kasich split the remaining 13%.
Clinton beats Sanders 71-29.

Texas: Cruz wins with 38%, versus Trump's 27% and Rubio's 24%. Carson & Kasich split the remaining 11%.
Clinton beats Sanders 61-39.

Virginia: Rubio wins with 37%, versus Trump's 36% and Cruz's 21%. Carson & Kasich split the remaining 6%.
Clinton beats Sanders 57-43.

Vermont: Trump wins with 35%, versus Rubio's 26%, Kasich's 18%, Cruz's 13%, and Carson's 8%.
Sanders beats Clinton 64-36.

Wyoming: Rubio wins with 32%, versus Trump's 26%, Cruz's 22%, Kasich's 13%, and Carson's 7%.
Clinton beats Sanders 55-45.
Final result: GOP--6 Trump, 6 Rubio, 1 Cruz. Rubio gains considerable momentum going into Saturday's Midwestern Primaries. A dismal finish throughout the South likely finishes off the campaigns of both Senator Cruz and Dr. Carson. Governor Kasich plans to hold on at least until Ohio holds its Primary on March 15.
Democrats--8 Clinton, 4 Sanders, 1 tie(narrow victory either way). Over-performance on the part of Sanders means he lives to fight another day. He still won't be the nominee...

(Note: As I go to post this, Clinton has won GA and VA, Sanders has won VT, and Trump has won GA)