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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Letter from America XXVIII - November 2014

Recalibration required!
The BIG news is that, after working for what seemed like a lifetime in a huge organization and then quitting to start up a start-up, I am now back working in a huge organization (albeit a very different one). Yes, we have just closed on a M&A deal that delights M&A'ers, M&A'ees and investors alike but, from an inventor/CTO perspective, concludes a technology development (ad)venture of epic proportions; a 14-year-long journey on rocky, potholed roads, through minefields, battlefields and torpedo-infested waters; a roller-coaster of emotions. Some have called it "tenacity, determination and unwavering commitment" others, "stupidity and obstinate pigheadedness" but, whichever it is, the API 'smugometer' will now need recalibrating. Numerous friends and brilliant engineers can congratulate themselves on being part of the story (they know who they are). Conversely ... OK, I won't go there (they too know who they are). Unfortunately, the person who gains most from doing least in this whole (or)deal (apart from the investors of course) is the tax man. 

Taxes for rabbit massage!
After all, Barry must ensure that all the poor people on benefits have the latest iPhones and flat-screen TVs, all the illegal immigrants have education and healthcare and, equally importantly, ensure that a statistically significant number of rabbits receive daily massages. Yes, you read that right! Among countless ludicrous and outrageous wastes of taxpayers' money, $387,000 has just been spent on a study to figure out if Swedish massage helps rabbits recover from muscle fatigue – you couldn't make this stuff up! Sadly it was the rabbits that were 'euthanized' at the end of the study and not the administration.

Talking of illegal immigrants, the following remake of the Beach Boys' classic says it all (Click here: Beach Boys)
Pointing at fish holidays
Anyway, the 'silly season' (aka the vacation period when people 'vacate' to play with their iPhones in new places) is now over, and thankfully the temperature and 'humididdy' in Houston have eased from unbearable to rather pleasant. The British PM and his Missus have just returned from their demonstrably British-middle-class seaside hols where, every year, they point at fish (see pic) and, yessiree, in the USA, it's football season again!! The reason why there is so much razzmatazz around American football (cheerleaders, marching bands, mascots, flags, pom-poms, banners, coke, beer, popcorn, burgers, hotdogs) is that there needs to be..

Breakdown of match coverage
Though the game is played in 4 quarters, each of 15 minutes duration, there will be at least 20 TV commercial breaks (i.e. over 100 commercials) during which live play actually stops. The 'elapsed time', kick-off to final whistle, will therefore average 3 1/2 hours and will often extend to over 4 hours! This means that popcorn has to be sold in buckets and beer watered down (yes, believe it or not, even Bud Lite). Now, compared to rugby football (even rugby league), American football is extremely 'staccato'. Each 'play' lasts for mere seconds and is consequently referred to, appropriately and descriptively, as a 'snap'. If you glance down to see where that glob of ketchup landed, you will likely miss it. What's more, virtually every successful tackle or catch at the end of a 'snap' is celebrated in much the same way as a goal in soccer. Then, after the celebrations, multiple replays and analysis of whether the exact nature of the celebrations was legal, considerable time is wasted loitering around, substituting and then posturing for the next 'snap'. On average, of the 220+ minutes of total match time, the ball is only in live play for – wait for it – 10 minutes and 43 seconds!

NFL fixed expressions!
Yes, supporters will travel for hours and pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to spend a whole afternoon or evening watching less than 11 minutes of actual sport! The graphic above breaks down the TV coverage of a typical match (click to enlarge and note 58.5% of coverage is just standing around). The bands and cheerleaders thus play an essential role in maintaining crowd interest while the team mascots get up to all sorts of mischief and amusing antics, regardless of their unnatural and incongruously fixed facial expressions … which segues nicely to the next topic - Joan Rivers.

River's fixed expression
With her sewn-on facial expression much akin to an NFL mascot, I found Rivers creepy and very difficult to watch, though I don't doubt she had her own brand of talent and humor. It was, however, ironic that the operation that killed her was probably the only one of dozens that was supposedly necessary. Nevertheless she was smiling to the very end (and presumably still is). RIP Rivers.

"No boots on the ground!"
So now Dubya and Tone have realized that when you invade a country (under false pretenses), rip out its administration (albeit a very disagreeable one) and then handover to a misguided, 'anti-war' President to pull out troops prematurely (and against all sane advice), you provide an ideal opportunity for something very nasty to take root (almost as nasty as Comcast when you try to cancel your subscription). Barry was so shocked by the heinous actions of ISIS (or IS or ISIL or whatever they call themselves) that he almost missed his putt, but not as shocked as the rest of the world when he admitted that he didn't have a strategy.

Even Kerry and his team of hair-salon Napoleans were flummoxed by the admission, especially when the 'anti-war' Commander-in-Chief insisted that they were not allowed to use the word war! "Please work on your best euphemisms while l work on my next 'redline' and my next 'definitive, absolute' statement that will come back to haunt me." ISIS could be heard laughing (in British accents apparently) behind their masks. So now we have a "very significant counter-terrorism operation" (V.S.C-T.O., classy eh?) throughout which there will never, ever, under any circumstances, be a single "boot on the ground". US troops are now dreading the inevitable – fighting a vicious ground war in their carpet slippers.

"Nailed that speech, Barry!"
Piers Morgan, ignominiously sacked and therefore unshackled from CNN politics, immediately defected to the FOX stance that Barry is clearly not up to the job. More worrying, however, is his refusal to accept any sagely advice from his sagely advisors. Barry actually had the audacity to blame 'his' intelligence community for lack of intel on ISIS but trying to outsmart the most intelligent guys in an intelligence agency was not the most intelligent of moves. The backlash was ferocious – numerous options had been tabled in the 18 months leading up to ISIS' despicable acts of violence; Barry had been repeatedly forewarned but had showed up to only 42% of his personal briefings and all military options had been denied. With so much egg on his face, Barry decided to do what any concerned President and Commander-in-Chief would do in a time of national ISIS crisis – return to the golf course.

"Not good optics"
To his (dis-)credit even Barry had to admit (only when he was caught) that a President photographed laughing and bumping fists on a golf course 7 (SEVEN) minutes after making a statement about the beheading of an American citizen was … err? … "not good optics." Barry, news flash: if it don't look no good, it ain't no good, comprende? Regrettably, the reason that ISIS is still an 'is' and is not yet a 'was' is clearly down to the Golfer-in-Chief; the same guy who chews gums with his mouth open during the silence on Veterans Day (not good optics!) and salutes his soldiers with a plastic coffee cup (not good optics!). 

Bobbing Borris for PM!
However, before we all fantasize about 2016, I have news that will make all Americans quake in their boots (assuming that they are allowed to wear boots). While Hilaryous Clinton is obviously posturing to run for President, the UK's Boris Johnson (by the way, "johnson" has an unfortunate, but quite likely appropriate, meaning in the USA) is posturing to run for PM back in Blighty. But, as reported in The Times, Boris also has an American passport and, rumour has it, he has aspirations to go for the 'double whammy': UK PM then US President. If there is one person on the planet more prone to 'egg facials' than Barry, it has to be bobbing Boris!

Catch up with the Times!
By the way, in an attempt to increase the enthusiasm and dynamism of its reporters, The Times is piping the sound of old typewriters into its newsroom! They seem to have forgotten that most news agencies did away with typewriters way back in the mid 80s (around the same time that CNN and FOX did away with news). Come on Times – catch up with the times; this is 2014 and folk are far more interested in Kim Kardasian, Buoyancy and Jay-Zed than boring foreign wars and stuff. 

By the way, a passing thought: Since it is so easy to search for stuff online and clever interweb algorithms register your 'interests', why is it not possible to register avid disinterest in subject matter. Online news sites would then be able to filter and present content accordingly. If 'parental-type' controls were developed to filter ignorant, crass articles and articles about ignorant, crass people (maybe ranked on a 'Kardasian index') then we may see a gradual increase in the average IQ of the human species. I need to write a letter.     

New face of English football!
Continuing on the theme of despicable acts of violence brings me back to the National Football League (NFL). It would seem that, without the protection of body amour and helmets, NFL players much prefer to vent their aggression on women and children. So much for role models – now, thankfully, unemployed ex-role models. The situation is somewhat different in the UK however. English soccer has just promoted the brain-dead neanderthal, Looney Rooney to England captaincy regardless of his violent, foul-mouthed past and his indiscretions both on and off the field. Role model? Good grief! Having said that, nobody can disagree that he perfectly reflects the true essence and character of the noble English 'sport'. All together now, "Ing-er-land! Ing-er-land! Ing-er-land!" 

As if by coincidence, scientific study of the DNA from a 45,000-year-old bone has confirmed that humans actually interbred with neanderthals (presumably after too much to drink). Yet another waste of taxpayers money since all they had to do was look at English premiership football. The key question remains: did footballers ever interbreed with United baggage handlers? 

Darwin award candidate
The trend of taking "selfies", sponsored by the President himself, has reached ridiculous extremes and some suggest that laws should be introduced to protect the stupid. The practice of taking selfies with bears in Jellystone Park has resulted in several folk losing more than just their picnic baskets and selfies too close to the lava streams in Hawaii have resulted in skin-grafts. Being a true Darwinian, I feel these activities should be positively encouraged.

Police - worthy of honour!
Extending the theme of armed forces confronting despicable villains, I would like to take this opportunity to honor those who, every day, risk life and limb, just so that us normal, decent folk can go about our everyday lives. I refer, of course, to the police. Now, contrary to popular belief, the modern-day policeman spends very little time helping old ladies across roads and visiting schools. The modern day policeman, if not scraping body parts off roads, spends most of his time dealing with the most detestable, thieving, drug-addled, violent, underclass that us sheltered, decent folk can only imagine (and it ain't all like CSI Miami). Furthermore, the modern day policeman is in perpetual fear for his life because the said detestable, thieving, drug-addled, violent, underclass in the USA has guns. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that on very, very rare occasions, and when seriously provoked, a policeman will shoot a villain.

RIP "college graduate"!
You might have guessed, by now, that I do not have much (sorry, any) sympathy for the violent, thieving, drug-addled, thug who was shot dead by a policeman in Ferguson. I do acknowledge, somewhat reluctantly, that violent, thieving, drug-addled thugs do not deserve to be shot dead by the police. However, I also maintain that the world is a better place without them and, forgetting liberal American over-correctness for just a moment, anyone who suggests that the world is a better place with violent, thieving, drug-addled thugs is quite obviously 'a sandwich short of a picnic'. 

Rhetorical Provocateur
With echoes of the other violent, thieving thug case (aka cherubic Trayvon) CNN immediately published baby photos of "college graduate" Brown while the odious rhetorical provocateur 'Irreverent Reverend' Al Sharpton waded in to fan the flames and incite the riots (gotta sharpen up those profiles y'all). Obama did what he does best - make a fool of himself with ill-advised and inappropriate comments (and then went to play golf), while Opera Windfree kept deafeningly quiet (her popularity crashed following her crass, racist comments about Zimmerman). Brown supporters were somewhat dismayed when video evidence was released showing Brown updating his profile with aggravated daylight robbery just prior to the fatal altercation … oops … again Barry almost missed his putt.

Need a new telly!
In Texas, after stealing and assaulting a shop owner, a violent, thieving thug can be shot dead before leaving the premises - perfectly legally. This is called 'Castle Law' - a principle to which I fully subscribe. Just sayin'.

Incidentally, Brown's mother (yes, mother!) is now to be charged with armed robbery and assault. This 328 years after Sir Isaac Newton had his famous and ground-breaking "Eureka!" revelation that "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" (I may have got that wrong).

While Sharpton was doing everything he could to incite racial hatred, a new Pastor, Johnathan Gentry, appeared on the scene with a voice (or rather a rant) of reason. If you haven't seen this guy then you must (Click here: Pastor JG). But anyway, 'nuff on this subject. I am eagerly waiting for a brown cop to shoot a pink thug 'cos I need a new telly.

07:00 Saturday SEM 
I have to defend the heinous act of profiling on another occasion too. Sitting in the enormous, deserted, parking lot behind McDonalds on Westheimer in the DB9 and two tasty bites into my 07:00 Saturday SEM (I still have trouble saying "Sausage Egg McMuffin") I noticed three 'hoodied', long-shorted, low-crotched, young chaps loitering in a doorway. Apart from going out of their way to look like idiots (and succeeding magnificently) they seemed to be minding their own business but what business might that be at 07:00 in the morning? It is, of course, entirely possible that they were returning from a night-shift or on their way to work in one of the numerous establishments served by the parking lot but they looked neither employed nor employable. While I was pondering the possibilities, there was some conspiratorial mumbling and then all three started to waddle in my direction. I froze mid-chomp. Did they simply want a closer look at the nice car and maybe a pleasant, albeit probably monosyllabic, morning conversation or were they more interested in my wallet and the contents of the glovebox? Maybe even the car itself? Outnumbered 3 to 1, this most despicable, politically-incorrect 'profiler' decided not to wait around to find out. As I pulled away, one of the young chaps gesticulated ambiguously with an exaggerated shrug making we wonder, albeit for a brief second, if I had hurt any feelings. Now, as I feel the reassuring bulge of my wallet still in my pocket, I am less concerned. If they were actually avid car fanatics, then at least they were treated to the sumptuous, operatic tone of the AML 6.0L V12 adaptive exhaust system as I sped away. 

"Too much noise!"
Talking of exhaust tones, the Maserati is in a different league and affords the amusement and satisfaction (albeit puerile) of setting off numerous car alarms in the confinement of my underground garage. Flip side: I can't take the Mas. to the McDonalds drive-thru because I then have to shout, "Sausage Egg McMuffin!" and usually several times over. Unreasonably, my neighbours complain, not that several of their cars and trucks have over-sensitive alarm systems, but that my car makes "too much noise"! Admittedly, it might be reasonably argued that zig-zagging around the car park instead of taking the shortest route to the exit ramp is not exactly necessary, but that is beside the point! 

Halloween passenger
I have mentioned before that Halloween is a big deal in the USA, second only to Thanksgiving, but with so much 'excitement' in the office recently, this year's pumpkin carving competition was cancelled. I guess we will never know who might have come second. Nevertheless, everywhere else in Houston celebrated in style. The car in front of me at the McDonalds drive-thru last weekend was obviously taking it all very seriously (see pic).

The Ebola outbreak is causing a disproportionate concern in Dallas, Texas simply because the matter is being mishandled by incompetents and idiots (aka the CDC). But fear not, Barry is now on the case and, after much chin-stroking and hand-wringing, he has appointed a Czar. Although Ron Klain has no medical qualifications whatsoever, his character was played by Kevin Spacy in the 2008 Film, "Recount" and Spacy also played Major Casey Schuler who died of an Ebola-like virus in the 1995 film, "Outbreak". Ah, now I get it! If the virus doesn’t become a pandemic that kills millions, it will be no thanks to Barry, Klain or his team of stuffed-hazmat-shirts. To quote the old Texan adage: it's not just the heat, it's the stupididdy. 

Scottish independence?!
Talking of deadly diseases, it seems like bonny Scotland escaped a nasty bout of 'Salmondella' poisoning that, if it had taken hold, would have doubtless lead to a very slow and painful death. I refer, of course, to the Scottish referendum, a fiercely contested battle between so-called 'Yes-voters' and sensible people. The implications to other would-be independent states across Europe elevated foreign interest and gave the TV political commentators cause to breakdance on 3D graphics in much the same way as a general election. In the run-up to the infamous ballot, pollsters lead everyone to believe that the vote would be close and this panicked a gullible PM and his sidekicks into making unnecessary concessions. In reality there was never any chance of a yes vote; while it may have been cool and trendy to outwardly voice support for independence, when Scotsmen (somewhat renowned for their frugality) cowered behind the curtains of their voting booths, they simply voted for 'what's best for Jimmy'. Nevertheless, the turnout of 85% was impressive (almost two thirds of a typical turnout in North Korea) and hence the result was conclusive and undeniable; the Salmond was smoked.

Scottish "Hypocritic Oaf"
Andy "Mr. Charisma" Murray also came out of the referendum with egg on his face. The 'wee timorous beasty' (aka cowardly rat) only voiced support for the 'Yes' campaign when he thought they would win and then had to splutter apologies in the aftermath of defeat. Remember, in 2006 he professed to support Scotland and anyone playing against England; that was before he swallowed a good dose of hypocrisy to move to a multi-million-pound mansion in Surrey and benefit from 9 million pounds/year of British sponsorship. If he had played for an "Independent Scotland" he would be lucky to have his own brand of shortbread! It will be interesting to see how much support the 'Hypocritic Oaf' gets when he next plays for 'Team GB' (I think I'll support Djokovic and anyone playing against 'Andy-Scottish-if-it's-YES-British-if-it's-NO-Murray').    

Intruder in the White House
The FBI and (not so-)Secret Service are in trouble again after an intruder managed to break into the White House by the super-ingenious and devilishly-cunning means of … err … jumping over the fence, running across the lawn and opening the front door! But how did he get so far and why did it take so long to apprehend him? The truth is embarrassing; precious seconds were lost when the intrusion was called in:

"Secret Service"
"Emergency! There's an intruder in the WhiteHouse!"
"We know, Sir."
"No, no, you don't understand! A guy that shouldn't be there! An infiltrator! A villain! Probably a madman!"
"But, that is the price of democracy, Sir."
"No, no ……     

Appointed for wrong reasons??
By the way, the Secret Service Agent in charge of investigating the 2012 Secret Service prostitute scandal (Letter XV of June 2012) has just been caught, by the Secret Service, with a prostitute. He is obviously a very thorough investigator with a keen attention to detail. The real surprise was that the Secret Service actually managed to catch someone. After a catalogue of embarrassing security breaches under her watch, Barry eventually woke up to the fact that his Secret Service Director, Julia Piersen was both incompetent and hopelessly inept. He even began to wonder if she had been appointed to the leadership position for 'the wrong reasons' ... err ... best not go there, Barry.

Two losers - one cares
But there are indications that the tide is turning. The GOP's landslide victory in the recent midterm elections is a true reflection of the country's dismay with the (lack of) administration. Demoncratic candidates were repeatedly challenged to name one thing, just one thing, that Barry had got right; their speeches were very short. Nevertheless, Kardasian tweeted that she was voting for Obama and prompted several of her 25 million followers to explain the term 'midterm'; the other 24,999,993 rushed out to vote. So lets finish this letter with well deserved commiserations to two losers. The only difference is the Scottish Salmon does seem to care. By the way, those ain't Salmon's fingers, they are a sign to Salmon from the rest of the (still-)United Kingdom.   

Last but not least: CNN Breaking News: the new iPhone6 will bend if you bend it ... err?

Have a great fall y'all!

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