Category Archives: Opinion

Places Where I Have Been

(Originally posted on 2012-05-14 as /archives/2681)

I just added Colorado! I rarely go anywhere anymore, due to my disability, but we did get to Colorado.

States That I Have Lived:
lived

States Where I Have Worked:
worked

States Where I Rode Motorcycles (Florida was a scooter):
rode

States That I Have Traveled-to:
amCharts

Countries? I’ve only been to the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Alabama
California      [Traveled]         [Worked]
Colorado        [Traveled]
Connecticut     [Traveled]         [Worked]
Delaware        [Traveled]
Florida         [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Georgia         [Traveled]
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois        [Traveled]         [Worked] [Rode]
Indiana         [Traveled]                  [Rode]
Iowa            [Traveled]
Kansas          [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Kentucky        [Traveled]
Louisiana       [Traveled]
Maine           [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
Maryland        [Traveled]
Massachusetts   [Traveled]         [Worked]
Michigan        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
Minnesota       [Traveled]         [Worked]
Mississippi
Missouri        [Traveled]                  [Rode]
Montana
Nebraska        [Traveled]
New Hampshire   [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
New Jersey      [Traveled]         [Worked]
New Mexico      [Traveled]
New York        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked]
North Carolina  [Traveled]
North Dakota
Ohio            [Traveled]         [Worked]
Oklahoma        [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Oregon
Pennsylvania    [Traveled]
Rhode Island    [Traveled]
South Carolina  [Traveled]
South Dakota
Tennessee       [Traveled]                  [Rode]
Texas           [Traveled] [Lived] [Worked] [Rode]
Utah
Vermont         [Traveled]
Virginia        [Traveled]
West Virginia   [Traveled]
Wisconsin       [Traveled]
Wyoming
Washington      [Traveled]
Washington D.C. [Traveled]

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You Too Can Train Your Cat

(Originally posted on Feb 12, 2016 as /archives/10756)

Kay trained our cat. The trick is simple; only pack animals respond to punishment. So? Don’t use punishment to train your cat. Use positive reinforcement instead.

When I describe how to do this, people get upset as if it’s manipulation, especially with regards to teaching children. The thing is: we are always using operant conditioning. You can’t not. The difference is: are you going to do it well, or haphazardly?

With regards to humans: over-permissiveness is wrong, but you can maintain control without hitting.

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MasterCard’s Truly Priceless Ad Campaign

(Originally posted on 2007-11-20 as /archives/118)

The 2007 Subprime Mortgage Financial Crisis is well underway, and what does MasterCard do?  Present me with an ad about using a credit card to get busy with some big-time housing market speculation (see a cobbled-together version of it below).  Priceless.

house

To be sure I don’t see many enemies there.  The market is non-evil.  It just is.  Real Estate has always been a very risky business.  Why?  …because buildings aren’t liquid capital, and houses eat up a large part of one’s income, so one isn’t diversified when one buys a house.  What do I call a non-liquid, non-diverse investment?  I call it a gamble.  Still, if you really want to live in that house, and that house is for sale, then you will need to buy it.

Me?  I tend to prefer to go the Coliag route, which is to rent, while putting the difference between what I pay for rent and what I would have paid for a house into diversified funds.  Coliag (not his actual name) did so well this way that he was buying things like cars, computers, and photographic equipment with cash… before the age of 44, and he stilled had a great retirement stash.  The man was frugal and it paid-off, plus he didn’t need to worry about mowing the lawn.

Yes, some folks have done really well buying and selling their houses, but guess what?  It’s still a gamble, and the baby boom that drove the long-term-run-up is over.

My first house purchase was in Plano Texas… just North of Richardson’s Telecom Corridor…  just before the Dot-bomb-bubble-burst.  IT is a luxury, and spending on luxuries slows down when the overall economy slows down. Yes, I know, “But computer jobs are important.” …but they are not. If I run a foundry that makes car parts, and business is slow, then do you think that I am going to buy more aluminum, or complete my new HR IT project? That’s the real story of the dot-bomb implosion. The media focussed on the failing dotcoms, but that didn’t account for most of the layoffs. We had too many computer programmers, working on too many projects, at too many companies, that were still needing to “buy their aluminum”. In a slowdown-like-that the luxuries go first. My industry went first.

I survived one-layoff-per-quarter for 5 years at two different companies, but when I finally was “affected” it was certainly not within my control: the company that I worked-for went from around 2500 workers to less-than 250 during my period with them.  No-one is safe when the cuts run that deep.  Folks said, “Why aren’t you looking for another job?” and then looked at me like I was some kind of freaky alien when I said: “There aren’t many available jobs for what I do, so I am going to focus on doing the best job that I can at my current position.”

  1. I lost my job, and most people that do-what-I-do were already flooding the job market.  I could no longer afford my house, because I had too-little work (I never completely stopped working).
  2. My foreign national neighbors, most of whom were great engineers, were forced to go home, when they also lost their jobs, and couldn’t afford to pay Dallas Texas real estate prices, and also live in India, or wherever, so many of them were forced into foreclosure.  This drove down the value of my house.  So I couldn’t afford to sell it.
  3. I could not afford to rent-out my house, because any potential renters could simply buy my neighbors’ houses for peanuts.  I was very dissapointed with  NPR‘s recent article about renting-out your house if you can’t sell it.  The interviewie had a good experience doing that… when the market was hot… and the article implied that y’all will have the same experience now.  It’s just not so.
  4. The housing market in my area-of-town completely crashed as developers put their new houses on the market, because these builders were also competing with the foreclosures.  Spec builders make building decisions based on yesterday’s demand: where “yesterday” was around five years ago, but the housing market moves up-and-down much faster than that.  (This is is the type of thing that makes it tough to sell a house in Phoenix these days.)  Plus, new houses are luxuries, and “spending on luxuries slows down when the overall economy slows down.” <– I just quoted myself!  (Why 5 years?  They need roads, and sewers, and utilities, and government approvals, and so on.)
  5. …then my car got totalled.
  6. …my spouse divorced me (actually that happened before the layoff).
  7. …my arthritis got worse.
  8. …and someone kicked my dog.  No, I just made that part up.  I didn’t have a dog.

How much did I lose by “owning” that house for three years?  It cost me $100,000 more (two closings, two residences, and a 30,000 loss in value) than I would have paid for renting one apartment, but hey, my (former) spouse wanted that house, so we bought it.  I now had no job, no family, and no savings.  Swell.

My plan was to work as much as possible, while spending my free time either looking for better work, or riding my motorcycle to Wendy’s for that great dollar menu.  Really.

I followed every lead.  I went to a Diversity Job Fair like this one (because how diverse would it really be without at least one white male?  That’s a joke.  Actually, it was because I was going to every job fair.)

So I go to the hotel that’s hosting the job fair, and they have 30-or-so companies arrayed around a large conference room.  Two of those companies were tech companies.  Hundreds of people were in line to speak to those two companies.  One of the companies was looking for Math folks with top-secret government clearance to work on a flight simulator or something (not a good fit for me), and the other one wasn’t taking resumes.  They simply asked every person to go to their Web site.  Well…  Well, why not talk to everyone else?

The Wal-Mart recruiter that was there explained to me that she was hiring night stockers for the Christmas rush, and I told her that I loved doing night stocking when I worked in retail, plus that I would really like to move to Bentonville Arkansas to work for the IT department there.  She told me that she would take my resume back to Arkansas.  I assumed that it would just be tossed.  It wasn’t.

Wal-Mart called me up.  I had a few interviews.  They asked me to fix something that couldn’t be fixed in the way that they wanted it to be fixed (this “something” happened to be listed on my resume). I told them what could, and couldn’t be accomplished.  I have integrity, so I was clear about the situation.

During one of the interviews Jeff (the manager) spins around in his seat and types “W. Paul Caligiuri” (my old name) into Google and finds the Web site that I set up to sell my house.  He laughs and says: “Did you put this up yesterday in order to impress us about how confident you are about this job?” or something like that.  “Well… No.”  I didn’t explain that the Web site had been up for years.  Bentonville Arkansas had a booming economy.  So that’s how I ended up in Arkansas: the best motorcycling-place in the US of A.

I had to pay for the Texas house for 1.5 years of my stay in Arkansas.  It was simply that hard to sell.  I would go down there every other weekend, and work on it.

I suspect that lots of folks are being burned by the mortgage crisis, but that we only hear about the fringe cases, because the fringe cases make for better stories (just like in the dot-bomb days).  Also, Real Estate is:

  • Not-liquid
  • Not-diverse
  • A gamble
  • …and a luxury, and “spending on luxuries slows down when the overall economy slows down.” <– I just quoted myself!

Oh, and the MasterCard ad was a really bad idea on someone’s part.

There’s lots of bad ads out there.  They don’t get made “because they work”, they get made because advertising firms know more about selling their own services, than they know about selling their client’s products.

THE END

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Proof Of Citizenship Is Not Trivial For My Child

(Originally posted on Nov 25, 2015 as /archives/10617)

This is from Episode 10 of “The Newsroom” by Aaron Sorkin. In it, Jeff Daniels, as Will McAvoy, takes on the Tea Party.

In it he says, among other things:

Dorothy Cooper is a 96 year old resident of Chattanooga Tennessee and has been voting for the last 75 years.  This year, she has been told she can’t.  A new law in Tennessee requires residents to show a government issued photo ID in order to vote.  Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a driver’s license, because Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a car. Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a passport; a vacation abroad was never in her future.

In Kansas It’s Far Worse

In Kansas we need to show proof of citizenship to vote, and to get a driver’s license: not just ID.

If you are a US citizen, then your child becomes a US citizen as soon as they become legal residents. The combination of your proof of citizenship, your adoption papers, and their proof of residence is proof of citizenship.

However: in my experience government employees are not familiar with this law, and do not know how to read this law, and will demand that you produce the Certificate of Citizenship for foreign born adopted children.

In Kansas, in order to get a learner’s permit, so that my child can drive, required me to educate four levels of management at our DMV. It escalated to the highest level. It took many hours of time, over a couple of days of time, to get this done. That’s with extremely helpful people. If they weren’t so helpful, it would have gone much worse.

Natural born citizens can use a birth certificate, but it costs $550 for any person that is already a US citizen, but wasn’t born in the USA, to get citizenship papers.

In our case naturalization was automatic when my daughter was adopted by her American mother. INS doesn’t automatically provide proof of citizenship for adopted children, but adopted children are naturalized citizens. It was very difficult to convince the DMV though: I needed to convince four levels of management that a foreign birth certificate, and adoption papers, are proof of citizenship, because of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. (Ironically, Sam Brownback’s children have the same status.)

My child, who is a US citizen cannot vote without that $550 piece of paper, because: Sam Brownback.

12088138_10103167471488709_4102570130478683565_n

Here is the video.

Here is the transcript. I copied it from DAILY KOS, and they copied it from the video:

Good Evening, I’m Will McAvoy.  Today is Monday, August 8 [2011].

And this past Friday, for the first time ever, Standard and Poor’s downgraded the credit rating of the US Treasury.  You would think that would be tonight’s top story.  Or you might think it would be the Dow closing down 634 points on its worst day of trading in 3 years.   Or the austerity riots in Europe.  Or any statements of the Republican candidates running for president. Or the President himself.  But it’s not.

Tonight’s top story is a woman named Dorothy Cooper.  

Dorothy Cooper is a 96 year old resident of Chattanooga Tennessee and has been voting for the last 75 years.  This year, she has been told she can’t.  A new law in Tennessee requires residents to show a government issued photo ID in order to vote.  Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a driver’s license, because Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a car. Dorothy Cooper doesn’t have a passport; a vacation abroad was never in her future.

Tennessee isn’t alone.  At this moment,  33 states have proposed or already adopted the same voter id laws that have disqualified Dorothy Cooper from the one fundamental thing that we all do as Americans.  It’s estimated that 11% or roughly 20 million people don’t have government issued voter ids and will be disenfranchised this November.   Why?  To crack down on the terrible problem of voter fraud.  Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who is about to enter the presidential primary race, is serious about cracking down on the problem:

>Video of Perry:  “Making sure that there is not fraud, making sure that someone is not manipulating that process makes all the sense in the world to me.”<

Me too.  Because voter fraud is such a huge problem that during a five year period in the Bush Administration, when 196 million votes were cast, the number of cases of voter fraud reached…86.   Not 86,000.  86.  Here’s what that number looks like as a percentage of votes cast.  .00004%.  Four one hundred thousandths of a percent.  This would be called a solution without a problem, but it’s not.  It’s just a solution to a different problem.  

Republican’s have a hard time getting certain people to vote for them.  So life would be a lot easier if certain people just weren’t allowed to vote at all.  I’m ashamed to say that 32 out of the 33 voter id laws were proposed by Republican legislators,  and passed by Republican controlled statehouses.  And signed into law by Republican governors.   I am not ashamed to say that I, however, am a Republican.  And that brings us to tonight’s second story.

I’m what the leaders of the Tea Party would call a RINO:  Republican in Name Only.  And that’s ironic because that’s exactly what I think about the leaders of the Tea Party.   Because the most conservative Republicans today…aren’t Republicans.  

Republicans believe in a prohibitive military.  We believe in a common sense government.   And that there are social programs enacted in the last half century that work but that there are way too many costing way too much, that don’t.  We believe in the rule of law and order and free market capitalism.  The Tea Party believes in loving America but hating Americans.  Tea Party Congressman  Allen West of Florida.  

>Video of West:  I must confess, when I see anyone with an Obama bumper sticker, I recogonize them as a threat to the gene pool. <

 They believe in loving America, but hating its government.  Conservative activist, Grover Norquist.

>Video of Norquist:  I don’t want to abolish government,  I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub. <

And they believe that anybody who disagrees with the Tea Party has sinister anti-American motives.  

>Video of Herman Cain:  The objective of the liberals is to destroy this country.  The objective of the liberals is to make America mediocre.  <

Most of all, you must never, under any circumstance, seek  to reach a compromise with your opponent.  Or do any of what Democrats and genuine Republicans both call ‘governing.’  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

>Vidieo of McConnell:  Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.<

And one other plank in the Tea Party platform.  If you are poor, it means that you are either too lazy or too stupid to be rich.  Here’s Andre Bauer, Tea Party Leader and the Lt. Governor of South Carolina [McAvoy read’s Bauer’s words] :  My grandmother was not a highly educated woman but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals.  You know why?  Because they breed.”

It’s almost hard to believe that Republicans can’t get Dorothy Cooper to vote for them.

During Tea Party rallys and in campaign speeches, we’ve been told that America has been founded as a Christian nation and if the founding fathers were here today, they’d tell us so.  Here’s John Adams in the treaty of Tripoli:  “As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”  And here’s Thomas Jefferson:  “…that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.”  And here’s the first amendment to the US Constitution:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

What’s more frightening than the perversion of our great history is that sensible strong smart Republicans, the very men and women who should be standing up to radical fundamentalism, are so frightened in losing primary battles to religious zealots that they’ve thrown in the towel on sanity.  So we get this:

>Video of John McCain:  Yes, that the constitution established the United States as a Christian nation.<

It’s ironic because the biggest enemy of the phony Republican isn’t Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama.  It’s this man.  [image of Jesus Christ].  He said ‘Heal the sick.  Feed the hungry.   Care for the weakest among us.  And always pray in private. ‘  

On screen behind McAvoy while he reads:
–    Ideological  purity
–    Compromise as weakness
–    A fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism
–    Denying science
–    Unmoved by facts
–    Undeterred by new information
–    A hostile fear of progress
–    A demonization of education
–    A need to control women’s bodies
–    Severe xenophobia
–    Tribal mentality
–    Intolerance of dissent
–    A pathological hatred of the US government

They can call themselves the Tea Party.  They can call themselves Conservatives.   And they can even call themselves Republicans.  Though Republican’s certainly shouldn’t.  But we should call them what they are:  The American Taliban.  And the American Taliban cannot survive if Dorothy Cooper is allowed to vote.  

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The Kansas Speedway: Inadequate Parking for those with Disabilities

(Originally posted on 2015-11-22 as /archives/10609)

This image is from a 2014 Texas Speedway road race. © Paul Danger Kile, All Rights Reserved

I missed this year’s Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway.

I do prefer road racing to NASCAR, but we didn’t have road racing this year. Heartland Park Topeka was on life support, and Kansas Speedway didn’t host the IMSA TUDOR roadracing series.

The thing about NASCAR is this: it is perfect for those who are at the track. TV shows the front runners most of the time, but spectators get to see cars battle for position everywhere: not just in the front. Most super speedways allow you to see all of track from any stadium seat. You can listen to team managers talk to their drivers via a scanner: that you rent or own. That rocks.

Here’s the thing: I bought the tickets, but I missed the race, because of my disability. Here is a quote from my email to Kansas Speedway. I haven’t heard back from them yet. Maybe the email went to the bitbucket?

  1. The Kansas Speedway parking lot is inadequate for those of us with disabilities.
  2. Disabled placards are unavailable to people that can walk this far:
  1. The walk from the end of Talledega Drive to Gate A is over 1.2 miles long (more than 6300 feet).
  2. Disabled parking at Kansas Speedway is only available to cars with disabled placards. (http://www.kansasspeedway.com/About-Us/FAQ.aspx)
  3. There is no tram service in the parking lots. (http://www.kansasspeedway.com/About-Us/FAQ.aspx)

I have documentation that proves that I have a disability, but most days I can walk 100 feet, so I don’t have a placard. I cannot walk more than half a mile 95% of the time. I suspect that many other people are in exactly the same situation.

A few days before the race I called Kansas Speedway, and I explained my situation. I was told, “You won’t have any problem, because we have a tram going to Gate A.”

I looked at your map on race day (10/18/2015) and I realized that the tram goes to Gate A, but doesn’t go to the parking lot, so it won’t help. I was unable to walk long distances on race day, so I had to miss the race.

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Telemann Concerto for 3 oboes and 3 violins B flat major (c. 1740)

(Originally posted on 2016-05-06)

This video is from The Academy of Ancient Music. It’s Telemann, so it’s baroque. If like baroque music then you need to check it out, if not, then you really need to check it out.

It’s awesome. It has melodies that simultaneously create chords (not harmonizing, separate melodies, on separate instruments).

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