8/31/2012

College Football Season 2012








Well, with the University of South Carolina vs Vanderbilt University game last night, we have witnessed the start of another college football season.  I am now, always have been and always will be a college football fan.  I will watch an NFL game on occasion.  But, only if it involves the Green Bay Packers.  The pro game just lacks the passion of college football to me.  When you are dealing with state and instate schools, the intensity ratchets up a notch.  It's just a preference to me.  I know that the NFL ratings are off the charts, even for pre-season games.  I understand that.  But, for me the pageantry, excitement and, again, passion of the college game is unequaled in my humble opinion.  Texas vs OU, Alabama vs Auburn, Michigan vs Ohio St.. are games that fans live and die with each year.  Ok, might as well make it known, I am a diehard Alabama fan.  Bama has won two out of the last three national championships.  I've been around since the Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant days to the golden era of Coach Nick Saban.  In my opinion. Coach Saban is the best college coach in the nation.  His approach to defense, offense and the kicking game is second to none.

So, who do I think wins the BCS National Championship Game this year?  The easy pick would be my Alabama team.  But, I think we will stub our toe during the brutal SEC schedule.  What game that will be, I don't have any idea.  Most likely it will be to a team that has no reason to be within two touchdowns of Alabama.  My two teams for the BCSCG are Florida State University and the University of Oregon.  I'm not buying the USCw hype with their razor thin depth, especially on defense.  I think the Seminoles of FSU will win the NC this year.  I hope I'm wrong.  But, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. There have been many terrible stories in the off-season for college football (Penn. St. to name one) I'm just happy the college football season for 2012 is upon us once again.

8/27/2012

Hurricane Isaac Aiming for Gulf Coast










At this moment, as I type this up, Tropical Storm Isaac will most likely become Hurricane Isaac.  It is only a matter of time.  Once it hits the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it will rapidly gain strength.  As I woke up on Sunday morning, it had a direct path to my hometown of Mobile, AL.  At one time, the path was as far east as Destin, Florida.  It is currently tracking for Southern Mississippi.  It is continuing to track westward.  It is entirely possible it could track as far west as the Texas-Louisiana state line.  Regardless, we here in Mobile are going to get, at the very least, tropical storm surge and winds.  People on the gulf take hurricanes seriously, especially when they skirt by Cuba.  That means the hurricane has not been weakened when it gets into the Gulf of Mexico.  That is a troubling prospect.  Hurricane Katrina is the monster we judge all hurricanes by these days.  At this time, there is no reason to believe Hurricane Isaac will become as fearsome as Katrina.  But, hurricane forecasting is not an exact science.  I have seen hurricanes zig zag all along the gulf coast before coming inland.  Some will stall right off the coast for hours, days even.  So, it is a waiting game along the gulf coast.

My current thinking process is that this storm will continue to track west.  But, that means we will get the eastward winds coming off the Gulf of Mexico.  They will be very bad.  I'm not looking forward to this.  The great fear is of losing electricity, of course.  Heat and humidity this time of year is unbearable.  In three weeks, the summer weather will start to crack.  But, I suspect Isaac is not going to wait around for three weeks.  We all just hope and pray that there will be minimal damage to businesses and homes.  


8/24/2012

Demise of the Desktop Computer







I have stated before, on this blog, that I do a little minor computer maintenance on the side now that I am retired.  It's not that I desperately need the money.  I honestly don't know anyone who can't use a little extra money.  But, mostly, it is to get me out of the house and doing something I enjoy.  Now, there are not many 60 (61 next month) year olds that do computer maintenance.  Not tooting my horn, but it's something that seemed to come naturally to me.  In 1990, I didn't even know how to turn on a computer.  In 1992, I was building computers and selling them.  Of course, desktop computers came down so much in price that it did not become feasible to build and sell computers for very long.  Anyway, I had a maintenance job at a real estate company this past Tuesday.  It seems that their router kept intermittently knocking everyone offline.  I had a pretty good idea of what the problem was before I even set foot in the building.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and did not see one desktop computer.   Most of the people working there had an iPad or some other tablet.  I saw only two laptop computers.  Now, I say this surprised me.  In reality, it should not have surprised me.  Desktop computers have been on their way out since the first iPad made its debut.  Laptops are not far behind.  Since January,  I have made 45 computer repair visits to customers I have accrued over the years.  Compare that to 76 visits to this time last year.  I have to attribute that to lack of desktop computers (and the economy as well).  Yes, I do work on laptops.  But, since most parts are integrated, I can't do as much for a laptop customer as I can a desktop customer.  I have noticed in those  customer visits that most of my visits were for laptops.  I estimate at least 70% were laptops.  There is still a large customer base in the business world that uses the desktop.  Businesses are slow to change from something that has worked as well as the desktop computer.  Desktops take up a lot of space.  I guess the question arises why designate all that space to something so big and bulky when something as small as a tablet can do the job just as well?  A lot of people make the case the iPhone can do the same thing as the tablet computer, which can fit in the palm of your hand.  Technology is changing so fast that it is difficult to keep up.

Another thing that is killing the desktop computer is the lack of mobility.  You can't just take your desktop to lunch with you to check email, tweets or Facebook.  People most likely leave their iPad at the office and take their smart phone with them.  In 2009, desktop computers faced its first decrease in sales since 2001.  I suspect those numbers are continuing to decline.  In fact, with the demise of the desktop, and with the laptop apparently on the way out, there will no longer be a need for a computer tech any longer. Desktops today can practically take care of themselves with add-on programs. I'm not saying the death of the desktop computer (along with techs) is imminent.  However, technological changes cannot be stopped.  We either get on the train or get left behind.  It appears the desktop computer is being left behind these days.  

8/20/2012

Red Lobster Server Attacked





In Fairvew Heights, IL, a server at the Red Lobster attacked a server when she repeatedly refilled their glasses of water.  That's right.  Three female customers became irate with a server who was filling up their water glasses too quickly.  After the server started walking away, one of the female customers picked up a glass, hitting the server in the back of the head.  But, they were not through with this server.  As the server turned around to confront the attacker, one of the female customers threw a dessert book at the victim, striking the server in the face.  Paramedics were called to treat the server.  But, the server refused to go to the hospital and returned to work instead.  Both Red Lobster employees and customers made sure the three females did not leave the restaurant before police arrived.  When police did arrive, all three women were arrested. At the time of the report, police were still unsure of what charges were to be brought against the three female attackers.  Ironically, at this same Red Lobster, six months prior to this incident, four females attacked a server for "poor service."

I'm not sure why the police are unsure of what charges to bring against the women.  How about assault?  Disturbing the peace?  Malicious conduct in a public setting?  Hell, I'm not a district attorney.  But, at least there should be assault charges against the women for throwing something that could have caused permanent damage to the Red Lobster employee.  If' I'm this server, I'm going to be talking to a lawyer about a civil suit as well.  There is simply no reason for this kind of conduct against an employee who was doing what she was taught to do (keeping customer drinks full).  I've gotten irritated by a server before also.  But, then I think this person is only doing what they were taught to do.  What would I do if I were in their position?  I'd do what I was taught or lose my job.  In this day and time, it's tough to even get minimum wage jobs.  The idea of physical violence never entered my mind if I was bothered by a server.  Why not contact the manager before physically attacking the server?  I hope these three women pay by serving time in lockup and from their bank accounts as well for their disgusting behavior.


8/17/2012

August in Alabama







August.  Just the mere name sounds hot to me.  That is especially so in the state of Alabama.  Even more so if you live on the gulf coast.  The humidity, the heat is overwhelming at times.  Just this morning I somehow managed to mow my lawn.  I had been mowing the lawn about 15 minutes when I noticed water was dripping off me like I had just gotten out of the shower.  It "only" took about 40 minutes to mow my backyard and side yard.   But, at 60 years of age, that is something I'm not going to be able to do much longer.  I had been letting someone else mow my lawn.  But, like in so many situations today, finding good help is hard to find.  So, I let him go.  The heat radiating off the roads is that mirage image you see on TV when people are in the desert.  Some roads have buckled.  But, that is normal for this time of year.  The county road crews stay busy this time of year with repairs. 

Of course, we celebrate numerous things here in Alabama during the month of August.  From August 17-26 is Alabama Restaurant Week.  Yes, that's longer than a week, even in Alabama.  I think the heat just warps our brains and we lose sight of the fact there are only 7 days in a week.  But, this is mostly a promotion for tourists from the various restaurants.  Of course, with the warm weather of August comes better fishing on the Alabama gulf coast.  The King and Spanish Mackerel start moving closer to shore.  So, fisherman this should be your time of year.  Lots of charter boats to chose from in Orange Beach, Alabama.  Usually in August, this is the month for "Founders Day" celebrations throughout the state.  Just pick a town and you'll probably find some sort of celebration going on. 

Back to August in my neck of the woods (Mobile), this is also the time of year we start taking hurricane season really seriously.  The Gulf of Mexico is very warm and that is like gasoline to a tropical storm this time of year.  So, we really keep an eye on the weather this month.  In fact, everyone is taking a close watch on the hurricane season now with August upon us.  Even my 4+ old beagle, Ralph, seems rather anxious these "Dog Days of Summer" in August.  He doesn't want to go outside except to use the bathroom.  Then he wants back inside in the air conditioned house.  I suppose he's like me.  He is spoiled by the AC.  I seriousl6y don't know how people in Alabama can live without AC, especially in August.  But, I'm sure there are some.  God Bless those people.  I know they must be suffering this month.


8/13/2012

The YouTube Plane Crash









I'm sure many of you have seen the stunning plane crash on YouTube by now.  For whatever reason, someone had a camcorder inside the cockpit to document the ride of four men on board the 1940s-era Stinson aircraft.  You can see them clearing the trees on takeoff on a dirt runway in Stanley, Idaho.  But, soon afterward, the plane starts taking a downward plunge into the treetops.  The video shows the incredible sequence of events inside the cockpit of a real life plane crash.  To say the least, it is a nightmarish scenario.  It is difficult to see exactly what is happening as the plane crashes.  All four men were heading for a hiking trip.  Alas, that hiking trip is now on indefinite hiatus until they recover from their injuries.  Les Gropp, the pilot of the craft, suffered serious injuries, including a broken jaw.  Fortunately, that is the most serious injury.  All four survived.  Both members of the Gropp family, Les (father) and Tol (son) credit their survival to their religious faith.  The NTSB has taken control of the plane until they have completed their investigation into why the plane crashed.

I have to say this is one of my worst nightmares.  I have watched that video over and over again.  Yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess.  But, I had dreams of plane crashes for many years early in my youth.  I have not been on a plane in almost 40 years.  As you may surmise, I do not like to fly.  These men were extremely blessed and very fortunate to just basically walk away from this plane crash.  I guess the old saying "Any plane landing you can walk away from is a good landing" holds true here. I just don't intend to put that saying to practice if I can possibly help it.


8/10/2012

Child Abandonment in Europe



 




As the European debt crisis continues unabated, one consequence is something no one really likes to talk about;  child abandonment.  More and more frequently, distraught, debt-ridden parents are dropping off infants in "baby hatches" all across the European continent.  The baby hatches are sensor sensitive.  Meaning, a baby placed in one of these boxes sets off an alarm.  A care assistant comes out to retrieve the baby when the alarm indicates there is something in the box.  There are countries where "baby hatches" are illegal.  In those countries the baby is left in a hospital, church or some medical clinic.  In just the past year, there have been 750 in Italy and 1200 children in heavily indebted Greece.  That is an appalling number. These economic orphans are increasing in number as the debt crisis in Europe continues with austerity measures that are helping the debt problem, but hurting families financially.  I am very surprised by the 750 number in Italy.  I lived in Italy for over three years.  I now how much the Italians love and value their children.  The families financial situation must be overwhelming. 

There was nothing mentioned in the article about child abandonment in the USA.  I suspect there is a large number of children abandoned, in the USA, due to the economic hardships of the past four or five years.  But, I could not find anything on this concerning America.  I had my own personal experience with child abandonment right after I got out of the U.S. Navy in 1974.  I had gone riding on my motorcycle (1972 Triumph 650 Bonneville) one Saturday morning.  I was slowing down to a 4-way stop when a woman on an adjacent street ran a stop sign and I broadsided her.  Next thing I remember, I was in the emergency room.  I was there about six hours before they let me go.  As I sat in a wheelchair in the emergency room lobby, listening to my mother talk about the dangers of motorcycles, a young woman came in with an infant wrapped in an old blue blanket. She came directly to me and my mother.  She pushed the crying baby into my mother's arms and left in a waiting VW van.  A nurse came, took the baby from my mothers arms and told us this happens about twice a day in the hospital.  At the time, I thought how sad that was.  How could a mother do such a  thing?  But, in retrospect, at least the mother cared enough to get the baby proper care.  I think the same can be said about all the European families who, even though not taking the proper care to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, at least did the right thing with the baby by taking it to a place of caring. 


8/06/2012

From PR3 to PR2






I started this blog in April of 2008.  I did not know ANYTHING about Page Rank at that time.  I soon found out it was the ark of the covenant to most site owners.  Imagine my amazement when I went from PRO in April to PR3 in July of 2008!  This new (at that time) blog went up 3 page ranks in just 3 months.  Most could not believe it when I told them.  However, for the next 4 years (with the exception of 3 weeks in July of 2011 when this blog went to PR4 so very briefly), this blog has stayed at PR3.  Try as I might, I could not get the Page Rank to rise.  I soon gave up and just concentrated on providing content on this blog.  Now, I admit, the recent Panda and Penguin updates did cause me concern.  However, this old blog stayed at PR3....until about August 1, last Wednesday.  Imagine my astonishment when I found out my blog had been lowered from PR3 to PR2!  At first, I thought it would be temporary.  My PR had gone down from PR3 to PR0 briefly before.  But, I am now convinced this blog is a PR2 for the foreseeable future.  I'm not going to dwell on it because there isn't a damn thing I can do about it.

Google, of course, never provides an explanation when they lower or raise the PR on your site.  Ironically enough, my new political blog, "The Right Commentary," rose from a PR1 to a PR2.  It will be a year old on September 3.  That blog has far fewer posts, backlinks and comments than this 4+ year old blog.  It doesn't make much sense, does it?  But, trying to figure Google out is an exercise in futility.  At one time PR meant everything to me.  I would check around the internet, looking to see if a Google update had happened recently in the hopes my blog's PR would increase.  Now, alas, the PR has decreased.  I'm not going to worry about it.  I will still update this old blog at least twice a week.  Getting mad at Google doesn't do a damn thing except give you high blood pressure.  Of course, Google techies say PR doesn't mean as much as it once did also.  So, dear Google, why all the animal updates?  Tell sponsors and advertisers PR doesn't mean much.  Regardless, there's nothing I can do about it.  I just wanted to rant and rave about this once on this old blog.


8/03/2012

U. S. Postal Service in Default






This past Wednesday, the U. S. Postal Service (USPS) defaulted on $5.6 billion owed to the U.S. Treasury for future retireee health benefits.  USPS owes another $5.5 billion in September.  At this time, USPS may not be able to meet other obligations, such as a payment for worker's compensation.  There are also billions in interest payments that USPS owes the Treasury.  USPS is heading for bankruptcy if Congress does not help this quasi-government agency.  There is a postal overhaul bill that is stalled in Congress.  However, there isn't much chance Congress can do anything to help the agency at this point.  Congress is more interested in passing bills to name post offices after friends, family or colleagues than actually try to fix the problems of USPS.

When I worked for USPS, there were always fears of talk of privatizing the postal service.  Back in those days, UPS and FedEx would have gladly taken the high density markets from USPS.  But, nobody wants to take the USPS mission;  deliver mail to every mail address in the USA.  Today, that kind of talk continues.  But, there is little chance anyone would want to buy the USPS.  With the advent of technology, businesses and individuals are finding easier and faster ways to send their communications in today's world.  You may say, but there are always going to be a need to send packages, flats (large manilla envelopes) medicine, etc.  But, USPS can't possibly survive on that type of business alone.  Believe it or not, the so-called "junk mail" was absolute gravy to the postal service.  But, business mailers are finding faster and cheaper ways to advertise these days.  Why send a business flyer with USPS, that might find its way into a mailbox in 3 or 4 days, when you can send an email with the same information to an email address?  The cost for the latter is next to nothing.  Business and personal mail is virtually a relic of the past.  Many, if not most, bills are paid online or by electronic payment to the bank. 

The postal service, as we know it today, is basically gone.  The days of employees making $20-25 an hour will end when current employees with 10 years or more service either retire or are laid off.  If USPS goes bankrupt, that invalidates all union contracts.  Then USPS can do as they wish with employees.  That is a fearsome thought for many postal service employees.  The future USPS employee will be a temporary employee, with no benefits, making half of what permanent employees make today.  This is bad news for those who had wished to make the USPS a career. You might want to consider another career option.  This bad news scenario is coming whether we want to think about it or not. 

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