1918

October 6, 2018


I want us to climb in Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine and travel back in time to the year 1918.  One hundred years ago.  What were things like back then; clothes, cars, entertainment, politics, technology, etc.    It’s amazing to me how many advances have been made in just one hundred years.  Let’s take a quick look.

  • The average life expectancy for men was forty-seven (47) years.
  • Fuel for automobiles was sold in drug stores.
  • Only fourteen (14) percent of the homes had a bathtub.
  • Only eight (8) percent of the homes had a telephone.
  • The maximum speed limit in most cities was ten (10) MPH.
  • The average wage in the US was $0.22 per hour.
  • The average worker made between two hundred ($200) and four hundred ($400) dollars per year.
  • More that ninety-five (95%) percent of births took place in homes.
  • A dentist made $2500 per year.
  • A veterinarian made between $1500 and $4000 per year.
  • Ninety percent (90%) of ALL doctors had no college education. Instead, they attended so-called local medical schools. Many of which were condemned in the press and the government as substandard.
  • Sugar was four cents ($0.04) per pound.
  • Eggs were fourteen cents ($0.14) per dozen.
  • Coffee was fifteen cents ($0.15) per pound.
  • Most women washed their hair only one per month and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
  • The population of Las Vegas was thirty (30).
  • Two out of ten adults could not read or write and only six percent (6%) of all Americans had graduated from high school.
  • There were two hundred and thirty (230) murders reported in the entire United States.

If a picture is worth a thousand words—let’s have pictures.  All of following pictures are from Getty Images and were taken in the year 1918.  Let’s take a look.

HUGE differences—right?  One thing I am certainly grateful for is advances in medical technology.  Our life expectancy for a male is now seventy-eight (78) and not forty-seven (47).  Huge advances.

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Some information for this post is taken from the Concord Coalition

Business, corporate, government or individual fiscal year calendars and planners for the US fiscal year 2018 as defined by the US Federal Government, starting on October 1, 2017 and ending on September 30, 2018. The calendars cover a twelve-month period and are divided into four quarters. With that being the case, once again the clock begins ticking elevating our national debt.  As of 2 October 2018, at 0900 hours our national debt was about $21.5 trillion dollars.

As you can see, a trillion is a one with twelve (12) zeros behind it.  We have twenty-one of these to deal with.  The chart below was “shot” at sixteen (16) hundred hours (4:00 for you civilians) on 2 October 2018.  If that debt is allocated for each citizen and each taxpayer, the debt becomes $65,447 or $176,475 respectively. We all had better have a really really good year.

Right now, our debt is approximately ninety-four percent (%) of our gross domestic product (GDP).  In 2050 that debt is estimated to be one hundred and fifty percent (150%) our GDP, which is considered to be unsustainable.   The chart below will give you some idea as to how quickly our debt has risen.

Well, if misery loves company, we are not alone with issues of national debt.  The following chart give debt of the top twenty (20) countries with significant debt.  Not a pretty picture.

WHAT IS THE CURE FOR US NATIONAL DEBT?

Entitlement Programs – When social security was first enacted the life expectancy in the country was sixty-three (63) years old.  Today that life expectancy is in the late seventies (70’s).  If we’re to get our entitlement programs back into line, we should think about changing the eligibility age for social security and Medicare to at least the early seventies (70’s).

We should also change social security disability and loosen the eligibility for those who are over sixty-two (62) years old.  Those who can’t continue to do hard labor (construction) type of jobs would be eligible to collect earlier.  We would also have to make sure that medical insurance companies use community rating so those older Americans could get medical insurance at a “reasonable” price until they reached the age of eligibility for Medicare.

The Military – It makes no sense that the United States should spend more than the next ten countries combined for national defense.  We have significantly more firepower than we need and as a result we tend to trot this ability out to other parts of the world and work towards “nation building”.  It’s time that we go back to the levels of military spending we had under previous administrations and even make larger cuts.  We just can’t afford the size military we have and the interventionists policies that we’ve developed.  We really cannot protect the entire world endlessly.

Tax policy – It’s not only the rich.  We do need to change tax policy on the richest Americans.  They do need to pay more, but so does everyone else.  Right now, we have close to fifty percent (50%) of Americans not paying any income taxes.  This just isn’t fair.  If we’re all to participate in the good things that our country has to offer, then we all need to participate in paying a “fair” level of taxes to support those activities.  Everyone should have “skin in the game”.

Public workers compensation packages – Thirty years ago people went to work for the government knowing they were going to make less money, but their job security was going to be very strong.  Today according to John Mauldin, we have a situation where government workers are paid on average forth percent (40%) more than their private sector counterparts.  This is more than unsustainable.  There is no reason government workers should have this sort of bonus and it needs to be brought under control if we’re to reign in our government debt issues

CONCLUSIONS:

The above suggestions and possible solutions are only the tip of the ice burg.  The problem is: WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING and do it quickly—like this year, right now.

 

 

 

NATCHEZ BURNING

August 30, 2018


This is the first book I have read from Greg Iles and I can certainly state that he is an excellent writer—a marvelous word-smith.   In looking at the product details, you can see that this is a HUGE book.  Eight hundred (800) pages of detailed, descriptive material with many fascinating characters and multiple story plots. This translates to approximately two hundred thousand (200,000) words.   I had to really concentrate to get into this book and follow at least half a dozen story lines that travel back in time then move forward.  You will see from several reviews below, this is not a book always enjoyed by every reader.  A compilation of scores may be seen as follows:

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Series:Penn Cage Novels (Book 4)
  • Hardcover:800 pages
  • Publisher:William Morrow; First Edition (April 29, 2014)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0062311077
  • ISBN-13:978-0062311078
  • Average Customer Review:4 out of 5 stars   3,939 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:#429,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

I always like to know something about the author feeling it helps me understand his purpose in writing and specifically writing the book I’m discussing.  Mr. Ille’s very brief biography is given as follows:

BIOGRAPHY:

Greg Iles was born in 1960 in Germany where his father ran the US Embassy medical clinic during the height of the Cold War. After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1983 he performed for several years with the rock band Frankly Scarlet and is currently member of the band The Rock Bottom Remainders. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, a thriller about war criminal Rudolf Hess, was published in 1993 and became a New York Times bestseller. Iles went on to write ten bestselling novels, including Third Degree, True Evil, Turning Angel, Blood Memory, The Footprints of God, and 24 Hours (released by Sony Pictures as Trapped, with full screenwriting credit for Iles). He lives in Natchez, Mississippi.

STORY LINE:

Penn Cage is shocked to learn that his father, Dr. Tom Cage, is about to be charged with murder in the death of a local woman, a nurse who worked with Dr. Cage back in the 1960s. Stymied by his father’s refusal to discuss the case, Penn digs into the past to uncover the truth and discovers long-buried secrets about his community and his own family. Natchez Burning (the title is surely a nod to the infamous “Mississippi Burning” murder case of the 1960s, and others like it) is the first of a planned trilogy. The story ends in mid-stride, leaving us on the edge of our seats, but that’s not a criticism. This beautifully written novel represents some of the author’s finest work, with sharper characterizations and a story of especially deep emotional resonance, and we eagerly await volume two. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Several of Iles’ thrillers have found their way to best-seller lists, but his new publisher is touting this one (his first novel in five years) as a breakout book and seems ready to put marketing dollars behind that claim.

When reviewing a book I have just read, I like to indicate comments from other readers.  A few of these are as follows:

REVIEWS:

CONCLUSIONS:

I can certainly recommend the book but you really need time for completion.  Also, the ending carries a big big surprise.   GO FOR IT.

SEVEN DEADLY SINS

August 4, 2018


The web site given below is a great site for mechanical engineers and other engineering types involved with projects technology and otherwise.  The “Seven Deadly Sins” caught my attention because these traits apply to just about all projects including those we undertake at home. Let’s take a look.

  1. Rushing projects

More haste, less speed. In other words, if you’ve left things to the last minute or you have taken on too much just to impress your superiors and can’t cope with the workload, it’s a recipe for design disaster.

Mechanical design is a complex process. I might add that most projects that require thought require planning.  If you wish to build a deck for your home—you MUST plan. You need plenty of time to think, plan, reflect, analyse and create. If you’re pressed for time then you’ll probably start cutting corners to get it finished quickly and make glaring errors that won’t get picked up soon enough, as you don’t have time to go back over it to check. To avoid this, make sure you have a well-organized work schedule, don’t take on too much and plan the process of each design carefully before starting.

  1. Poor attention to detail

This is a very broad mistake, but worth mentioning in its own right as it’s so important to develop the right mindset.  The devil is truly in the details. You need to be able to focus on the design or project adequate periods of time and get into the habit of coming back to take a second or even third look at your design.  Checking it over with a fine toothcomb is not time wasted.

  1. Getting the dimensions wrong

Even some of the best engineering minds in the world get it wrong sometimes. Just look at the mistakes NASA has made over the years. One of their biggest mistakes was the loss of a Mars orbiter worth $125 million in 1999. The error came about when engineers from the contractor Lockheed Martin used imperial measurements, while NASA engineers used metric. The conversions were incorrect which wasn’t picked up by either team, thus causing the vessel to orbit 25km closer to the planet dipping into the atmosphere causing the engines to overheat. The moral of the story? Check your dimensions and conversions. In fact, don’t just check them, double or triple check them, then get someone else to check them. Especially when there’s $125 million on the line! How many times have you heard—measure twice, cut once?

  1. Falling behind the curve

Don’t get left behind. Not staying up-to-date with industry developments or the latest technology is a big mistake for mechanical design engineers and individuals considering and planning projects. In this technological age things change fast, so make sure your knowledge is relevant.  The latest “gadget” may just be the device you need to make a good project a great project.   Also, depending upon the project, building codes and building permits may come in to play. Some years ago, I built a backyard deck adjacent to my house.  It was a big project for me and necessitated a building permit from my community.  I found that out when I was visited by one of our local commissioners. The project was delayed until I had the necessary permit.

  1. Not thinking about the assembly process

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your design and forget about the practicality of actually putting it together. Make sure you are thinking about misassemble during the design. Try to foolproof your design, in other words, you want to make sure that, if possible, the pieces can only go together in one way to avoid the chance of misassemble. I’m sure you all have heard about the guy who built a boat in his basement only to discover he had to disassemble the boat in order to get it out of his basement.   In manufacturing, this is known as ‘poka yoke’.

  1. Not applying common sense checks

Make sure the results of your calculations  and planning make sense. Always question everything you do. Question it, check it, and check it again is a good motto to live by.

  1. No consideration of design presentation

At the end of the day, your design is going to be seen by lots of people including your “significant other”.  It needs to be clear, not just to you, but to everyone else. Also, make sure you are constantly practicing and developing your interpersonal skills. There’s a good chance you’ll have to explain your design and rational for that design in person, therefore make sure you figure out how you’re going to communicate the concepts and practicalities of the design beforehand.  You need to make sure when that neighbor asks—“why did you do It that way”- you have a logical answer.

Just a thought.

CENTRAL MARKET—DALLAS

July 14, 2018


When we visit our family in Dallas, Texas we ALWAYS make at least one stop at the Central Market on 5750 East Lovers Lane.  The digital below gives you some idea as to the size of the facility—its is HUGE.  Everything from soup to nuts, all fresh daily, with an amazing verity of choices for every want and need including ethnic.   In this case, a picture or pictures, are better than a thousand words so this post will be pictorial in nature.  I do not think you will regret the digital visit.  Here we go.

The outside is not very dramatic. Pretty much “plain Jane” as it were but wait until you see the inside.

No way we start shopping without taking our grandson.  As you can see, he is driving the bus.

VEGGIES:

If variety is the spice of life you are in “tall cotton” when you first visit the vegetable section. This is the very first area you come to when you enter.  The picture below does not do the area justice.  There are three additional long tables and one shorter table loaded with anything you might want or need including vegetables I have never heard of much less eaten.  The citizens of Dallas represent a very diverse culture so Central Market caters to those cultures.

FRUITS:

Same way with fruits. You name it—they have it.  Again, four tables of fruits neatly arranged and labeled to provide any customer with a superb selection.

FISH DEPARTMENT:

All fresh although there is a frozen fish section in coolers located within the department.


 

$26.99 per pound for lobster tails.  You might also notice the size of the bay scallops.  They are absolutely huge.

MEAT DEPARTMENT:

Two sixty (60) foot counters of meat for consideration.  If they don’t have it, you done need it.  There are even “exotic” meats such as ostrich, buffalo, snake, etc etc.

GRAINS:

This is one of the most intriguing displays in the store.  Each container carries a different consumable.  As you can see, there are well over fifty (50) to consider.  Again, Dallas is a diverse city and many shop here because they know they can find foods and ingredients common to their upbringing.

COFFEE:

The various coffees displayed cover the field and come from many many different countries.  You can buy the bean or grind in the store.

BREAD SELECTION:

To me, the most impressive section of the Central Market is the great variety of bread they offer.  ALL bread, including muffins and pastries are baked at the store on a daily basis.

CHEESES:

The second most-impressive displays are in the Cheese Department.  Again, if they don’t have it you don’t need it.

WINE:

With bread and cheese, you have to have wine and of course they do.  Take a look.

PASTERIES:

We may as well finish with dessert.  Take a look at the selection below.

CONCLUSIONS:

I obviously do not know if you ever travel to Dallas but if you do, here are several places you need to visit:

  • The Central Market
  • AT&T Stadium (Home of the Cowboys)
  • The George W. Bush Presidential Library
  • The Perot Museum of Natural History
  • The Dallas Arboretum
  • Pecan Lodge (Best brisket in Dallas)

Just a thought.

SOCIAL MEDIA

June 27, 2018


DEFINITION:

Social media is typically defined today as: – “Web sites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking” – OxfordDictionaries.

Now that we have cleared that up, let’s take a look at the very beginning of social media.

Six Degrees, according to several sources, was the first modern-day attempt of providing access to communication relative to the “marvelous world” of social media. (I have chosen to put marvelous world in quotes because I’m not too sure it’s that marvelous. There is an obvious downside.)  Six Degrees was launched in 1997 and definitely was the first modern social network. It allowed users to create a profile and to become friends with other users. While the site is no longer functional, at one time it was actually quite popular and had approximately a million members at its peak.

Other sources indicate that social media has been around for the better part of forty (40) years with Usenet appearing in 1979.  Usenet is the first recorded network that enabled users to post news to newsgroups.  Although these Usenets and similar bulletin boards heralded the launch of the first, albeit very rudimentary, social networks, social media never really took off until almost thirty (30) years later, following the roll out of Facebook in 2006. Usenet was not identified as “social media” so the exact term was not used at that time.

If we take a very quick look at Internet and Social Media usage, we find the following:

As you can see from above, social media is incredibly popular and in use hourly if not minute-by-minute.  It’s big in our society today across the world and where allowed.

If we look at the fifteen most popular sites we see the following:

With out a doubt, the gorilla in the room is Facebook.

Facebook statistics

  • Facebook adds 500,000 new users a day – that’s six new profiles a second – and just under a quarter (775) of adults in the US visit their account at least once a month
  • The average (mean) number of Facebook friends is 155
  • There are 60 million active small business pages (up from 40 million in 2015), 5 million of which pay for advertising
  • There are thought to be 270 million fake Facebook profiles (there were only81 million in 2015)
  • Facebook accounts for 1% of social logins made by consumers to sign into the apps and websites of publishers and brands.

It’s important we look at all social media sites so If we look at daily usage for the most popular web sites, we see the following:

BENEFITS:

  • Ability to connect to other people all over the world. One of the most obvious pros of using social networks is the ability to instantly reach people from anywhere. Use Facebook to stay in touch with your old high school friends who’ve relocated all over the country, get on Google Hangouts with relatives who live halfway around the world, or meet brand new people on Twitter from cities or regions you’ve never even heard of before.
  • Easy and instant communication. Now that we’re connected wherever we go, we don’t have to rely on our landlines, answering machines or snail mail to contact somebody. We can simply open up our laptops or pick up our smartphones and immediately start communicating with anyone on platforms like Twitter or one of the many social messaging apps
  • Real-time news and information discovery. Gone are the days of waiting around for the six o’clock news to come on TV or for the delivery boy to bring the newspaper in the morning. If you want to know what’s going on in the world, all you need to do is jump on social media. An added bonus is that you can customize your news and information discovery experiences by choosing to follow exactly what you want.
  • Great opportunities for business owners. Business owners and other types of professional organizations can connect with current customers, sell their products and expand their reach using social media. There are actually lots of entrepreneurs and businesses out there that thrive almost entirely on social networks and wouldn’t even be able to operate without it.
  • General fun and enjoyment. You have to admit that social networking is just plain fun sometimes. A lot of people turn to it when they catch a break at work or just want to relax at home. Since people are naturally social creatures, it’s often quite satisfying to see comments and likes show up on our own posts, and it’s convenient to be able to see exactly what our friends are up to without having to ask them directly.

DISADVANTAGES:

  • Information overwhelm. With so many people now on social media tweeting links and posting selfies and sharing YouTube videos, it sure can get pretty noisy. Becoming overwhelmed by too many Facebook friends to keep up with or too many Instagram photos to browse through isn’t all that uncommon. Over time, we tend to rack up a lot of friends and followers, and that can lead to lots of bloated news feeds with too much content we’re not all that interested in.
  • Privacy issues. With so much sharing going on, issues over privacy will always be a big concern. Whether it’s a question of social sites owning your content after it’s posted, becoming a target after sharing your geographical location online, or even getting in trouble at work after tweeting something inappropriate – sharing too much with the public can open up all sorts of problems that sometimes can’t ever be undone.
  • Social peer pressure and cyber bullying. For people struggling to fit in with their peers – especially teens and young adults – the pressure to do certain things or act a certain way can be even worse on social media than it is at school or any other offline setting. In some extreme cases, the overwhelming pressure to fit in with everyone posting on social media or becoming the target of a cyber-bullying attack can lead to serious stress, anxiety and even depression.
  • Online interaction substitution for offline interaction. Since people are now connected all the time and you can pull up a friend’s social profile with a click of your mouse or a tap of your smartphone, it’s a lot easier to use online interaction as a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Some people argue that social media actually promotes antisocial human behavior.
  • Distraction and procrastination. How often do you see someone look at their phone? People get distracted by all the social apps and news and messages they receive, leading to all sorts of problems like distracted driving or the lack of gaining someone’s full attention during a conversation. Browsing social media can also feed procrastination habits and become something people turn to in order to avoid certain tasks or responsibilities.
  • Sedentary lifestyle habits and sleep disruption. Lastly, since social networking is all done on some sort of computer or mobile device, it can sometimes promote too much sitting down in one spot for too long. Likewise, staring into the artificial light from a computer or phone screen at night can negatively affect your ability to get a proper night’s sleep. (Here’s how you can reduce that blue light, by the way.)

Social media is NOT going away any time soon.  Those who choose to use it will continue using it although there are definite privacy issues. The top five (5) issues discussed by users are as follows:

  • Account hacking and impersonation.
  • Stalking and harassment
  • Being compelled to turn over passwords
  • The very fine line between effective marketing and privacy intrusion
  • The privacy downside with location-based services

I think these issues are very important and certainly must be considered with using ANY social media platform.  Remember—someone is ALWAYS watching.

 

CAN YOU RETIRE

May 29, 2018


At some time in our working future we all hope to retire, but one burning question lingers—can you retire on what you have or will save at that point?  We are told that:

At some point in your life, you’ll be using this money to support your lifestyle. By the time you reach sixty (60), you should have six times your salary saved – that’s $360,000 if you make $60,000 per year. Unfortunately, the average sixty-something has an estimated median of $172,000 in the bank.  That is an estimate as of December 8, 2016.  Nearly half of American families have no retirement account savings at all.  This really blows my mind but this fact is what we are told by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in a new report entitled, “The State of American Retirement”.  Please take a look at the graphic below and you can see age groups vs retirement account savings.

Whereas the average savings of a family with members in the 32-to-37 age range is $31,644, the median savings is a bleak $480. At the other end, the average savings of families 56 to 61 — those nearest to retirement — is $163,557. The median is $17,000.

I think there are very specific reasons for the lack of savings, especially for younger citizens of our country.  Student loans, cost of living, pay scales, credit card debt, living above ones means, etc. all contribute to the inability to save or at least save enough for retirement.

The web site called MoneyWise.com has a very interesting solution to this problem or possible solution.  If you go to this web site and look up the following post: “Places You can Retire to for Less Than $200K” you will see a list of twenty (20) countries that can supply most if not all of your needs if your retirement is less than $200 K.  Let’s take a look at the list in order of favorability.

Thailand

Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Malaysia

Mexico

Malta

Ecuador

Spain

Portugal

Panama

Australia

Austria

Czech Republic

Slovenia

Chile

Uruguay

Vietnam

Guam

Indonesia

South Africa

MoneyWise.com completed a study comparing housing availability, cost of living, health care, crime, government and several other indicators to compile this list.  It is a very interesting study and I encourage you to take a look even if you are not considering being an expatriate. You just might change your mind.

There are two other web sites I definitely recommend you check out as follows: 1.)  The CIA Fact Book and 2.) Lonely Planet.  From these two you will find very valuable information relative to any country you wish to research.  Look before you leap might just be in order here. Another option might be spending time and not completely relocating.  Two, three, six or even nine months during one year might get you beyond worry relative to being able to afford retirement on what you have saved.  The most important thing is to DO THE RESEARCH.  Make a list, then a short list of the countries that represent the leading candidates. THEN MAKE A VISIT. Wade—don’t jump.  Several other considerations I would list are as follows:

  • Make sure you consider your family, friends and support group before you make the move. Will they be willing and able to visit on a regular basis if needed?
  • A huge factor for me would be availability of good if not excellent medical facilities.
  • Cost of transportation.
  • Language considerations. If English is an issue, how difficult would learning their language be?
  • Power supplied. (I know this is off the wall.) Does the country provide 120-volt AC, 60 cycles per second or do they provide another voltage and frequency?  In other words, will your electronics work?  Will you have to buy new equipment or can a converter do the job?
  • How difficult and costly is communication “back home”? This includes Internet services.
  • Viability of local banking institutions
  • Stability of government
  • Weather factors

This is where good research is a MUST.

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