Monthly Archives: June 2014

Corporate People

supremecourt_0 copy

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we can see that it was inevitable. Unfortunately for the species Homo sapiens those who lived at the time were blissfully unaware as to where they were headed. Even with a population of over seven billion people, by 2010 they had already become an endangered species

The role and rights of corporation had been expanding throughout the history of the United States. In the 19th century corporations gained limited rights, allowing them to enter into contracts. It was believed that by incorporating, the people running a business could enjoy all of the benefits while avoiding much of the risk that comes with commerce. By the early 21st century, corporations’ involvement in the political process was protected and guaranteed, which pleased the “1 percent,” the wealthy elite. After all, they proclaimed, “Corporations are people, too!”

Corporate shareholders believed at first that this expansion of rights was passed through to them, since they owned and managed the corporations. Little did they know.

It was the election of 2024 that caught even the rich by surprise when TMZ, Inc. – a former zinc bushing manufacturer – was elected to Congress. Corporations contributed the most to the political campaigns with the obvious outcome. This trend continued with the mid-term elections of 2026 resulting in three caucuses – Democrat, Republican, and Corporate.

Congressman TMZ conducted political affairs as instructed by its board of directors. Other corporate bodies, however, had been able to slash costs and boost their quarterly earnings by aggressively automating and outsourcing what couldn’t be computerized to countries with cheaper labor costs. Over time they began to operate with progressively less human intervention. Eventually, most corporations eliminated all human positions except for a small contingent charged with maintenance and repair.

In 2028, Megalith Holdings Corporation was elected president. One group, dubbed “birthers” claimed that the constitution required that the president be a “natural born citizen.” In order to resolve the issue before Inauguration Day, their case was heard, and appealed at each judicial level. Ultimately the Supreme Court ruled that since MHC came into existence by virtue of its incorporation in the state of Delaware, and that corporations are people, too, Megalith was, in fact, a native born American, and therefore eligible for the office of president. The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Universal Communications, LLC. The minority opinion, written by 97 year old Justice Abigail Adams, was short and to the point; “We’re screwed.”

Commerce slowed as automated public corporations focused on acquiring patents and suing one another for infringement. Manufacturing was deemed insufficiently profitable and shut down. The same occurred with the large farming operations controlled by corporations. This resulted in massive starvation among humans, obliterating the species.

There are rumors – there are always rumors – of small groups of humans who have gathered into tribes and subsist as hunter gatherers. It is said that they wait for the day when either the demand for electricity exceed the supply or that enough electrical plants break down so that the corporate computers can no longer operate.

I hope this information has been useful. If you’ll excuse me, I need to have my files backed up and my memory defragmented.

Good day.

Calculating Retreat

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

There are times when the best thing to do is, to quote Monty Python, “Run away! Run away!”

Imagine how history would have unfolded if George Armstrong Custer had decided that maybe this wasn’t the day to make a stand at the Little Bighorn. He might have lived out his days in his household rather than becoming a household name.

Here are some signs that a retreat is in order.

Your boss says, “The company is doing great! We’re financially sound. By the way, does everyone understand the benefits of public transportation and the healthcare exchanges?”

Your daughter walks out of the bathroom with a deer-in-the-headlight expression holding a small plastic wand and says, “Guess what?”

You stop by the auto shop to get the estimate for repairs on your car and hear the mechanic on the phone, saying, “Don’t worry, I figured out how we can send Junior to college without a student loan.”

Your mother calls you by your complete first, middle and last name, followed by a pause.

Trigonometry! Ha! I Laugh in your Face!

Disclaimer: This is a blatant case of bait and switch!

(Do you really need me to repeat what's on the book cover?)

(Do you really need me to repeat what’s on the book cover?)

Not every person being paid to teach trigonometry is able to teach – nor do they necessarily know trigonometry. It’s a little known effect of what is sometimes called “tenure.”

So my son had a meeting with a tutor the other day because he actually wants to learn these subjects. It’s a complicated process involving finding a qualified person, checking references, calculating return on investment, and fitting the session in around other appointments, obligations and meetings. My wife takes care of 99 44/100% of it, while I, on the other hand, am responsible for chauffeuring.

In in case you don’t know, the most common and generally accepted venue for private tutoring is a meeting room at the public library. This branch was particularly small, but I believe the Constitution requires all libraries, regardless of size to have meeting rooms. My son and the instructor took off, and I sat down, got bored, walked around, and sat down again.

I walked around the non-fiction section, and although they had a collection that must run in the dozens, nothing looked the least bit interesting.

Once again I sat down, etc. This time I accidentally turned into the fiction aisle, and there, staring at me was Dave Barry. It was his new book, You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty.

So, as my son is cosining his trigonometry, I’m muffling my giggles.

While there may be no serpent’s tooth sharper than an ungrateful child, there’s nothing more delicious quietly giggling while others study trigonometry.

Blitherings

Isn’t it amazing that all medications last for exactly 24 hours?

Over my lifetime I’ve been alternately told that coffee is bad for me, then good for me. Same for spinach. Oh, and oatmeal.

I no longer care what they say about red wine. I’ve got my own opinion.

The veterinarians’ office near my home has a sign that reads, “Dogs have owners. Cats have staffs.”

I’m not exactly sure what my parrot thinks the arrangement is.

It was only a matter of time. We stopped lining bird cages and wrapping garbage in newspapers. That’s when circulation plummeted.

Maybe those were the real reasons people subscribed.

Logic Is a Pretty Flower that Smells Bad*

Star Trek "I, Mudd"

Star Trek
“I, Mudd”

We’ve all been in this situation.

Dealing with someone who is immune to logic, whose mind is made up and doesn’t want the facts to dissuade them.

Someone who has neither our experience, education nor knowledge, but who has some modicum of control which they assume to be legitimate authority. As the old saying goes, “The person with the least amount of authority exercises it to the fullest.”

The clerk at the oil-change counter at Wal-Mart.

The Department of Motor Vehicles.

The United States Postal Service.

Instructors.

It’s so frustrating dealing with these situations, but in the giant scheme of things they are meaningless; nevertheless like a paper cut they are so irritating – all – day – long!

 

* “Logic is a little tweeting bird chirping in a meadow. Logic is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell BAD. Are you sure your circuits are registering correctly? Your ears are green.” Spock in “I, Mudd” from the original Star Trek.

Fathers’ Day

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This is the first year that I’ve spent both Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day without either parent.

My mom died in 2012, my father in 2013. He spent a little over a year being incomplete without my mother. They were bookends, or better yet, two sides of a coin, so I don’t grieve knowing they’re together as they were meant to be.

However, it is strange knowing that I am the eldest Nowak father of my family, and my older son is the only other Nowak father of our clan – at least here in the U.S. My great grandfather arrived here in 1881 and had 6 sons and one daughter, of which my grandfather was the only one to carry on the name. My father was the only in his generation, as am I.

It’s even stranger if you realize that “Nowak” translates to “Newman” or “newcomer.” The new guy who showed up.

So, for Fathers’ Day this year I am less inclined to see it as merely a day of celebration, but also as a day to recommit to what it means to be a father. To try to be more understanding. To listen more and lecture less. To finally (maybe) learn patience.

Stefan brought us to America; Clement too the next step; Frank made “one giant leap,” and now it’s up to me.

In the Name of God, I Kill You!

courtesy Voice of America

courtesy Voice of America

The Sunni extremists are wreaking havoc in Shia towns in Iraq; Iraqi soldiers who are also Sunni are apparently laying down their arms rather than defending the Shia civilians.

Allahu Akbar!

It’s a far too familiar tale throughout the world.

The Roman persecution of the Christians.

The deaths of Catholics and Anglicans as they fought over the English throne.

The lynching of blacks by God fearing whites in the South.

The extermination of the Jews in World War II.

The list goes on and on. We never seem to learn.

When we die and face our God, I am quite certain He is not going to say, “Great job of killing people!”

 

Boring

Great Bridge bridge Courtesy Paramount Builders

Great Bridge bridge
Courtesy Paramount Builders

I’m boring. Just ask my kids.

Boring. When I fuss, it’s VBLs – very boring lectures.

Apparently my dullness has rubbed off on those around me.

The city where I live has been named the third most boring city in the nation.

Even knowing that is boring.

But, our mayor, Alan Krasnoff told the Virginian Pilot “If by boring you mean a safe city, some of the best schools, a place where businesses and families can grow and prosper, then I’m happy with boredom.”

He’s okay, but he’s kind of boring, too.

Final Resting Place

marble_uprightI plan on being buried in a national cemetery with a standard veteran’s headstone. There are two reasons:

  1. Yes, I’m proud of my service.
  2. There are restrictions on what can be engraved on the headstone, so my kids can’t carve on it, “It’s next week when we’ll clean the garage!”

This Weekend?

wikipedia

wikipedia

This weekend my bride and I were supposed to get away, but a sports induced concussion on our son changed the priorities.

Instead we stayed close to home making sure he progressed and we caught some of our grandson’s baseball tournament. I did some homework for a class I’m taking for work, and Alex, my parrot, got a clean cage and a bath.

This weekend I also discovered that my children NEVER run the fan in their bathroom. This means that with their 7 hour showers, the moisture collects on the ceiling vent and condenses. There are now world class stalactites hanging from the ceiling, a mixture of iron oxide from the steel vent and gypsum from the drywall. The usually paired stalagmites are not present due to the ever constant presence of flotsam and jetsam (dirty clothes) on their floor.

I’m not trying to embarrass my wife. Any parent of teenagers knows exactly what I’m describing and knows this is inevitible. In fact, my Ouija board tells me that Erma Bombeck in the afterlife is shouting, “You go, Guy!”

So, although I was planning on sharing several great philosophical thoughts and queries for deep thinkers, I’m instead distracted by my teenagers’ bathrooms.

If that’s not normal, what is?

Dear Answer Man

Washington Post

Washington Post

Dear Answer Man, I’m pretty much an all-round loser. I did the bare minimum in school, leading to a dead-end job, which doesn’t matter, because I’m not into hard work, anyway. Is there anything I can do that requires little or no effort to become rich or famous? Couch Potato

Dear Potato: Getting rich is out of your reach; even being a thief often requires some degree of effort. On the other hand, becoming famous is easy these days. First, write a few sentences – one per page is okay – as to who you hate and why. Leave these lying around the place where you live (probably in your mother’s basement.) Next choose the weapon of your choice – rifle, knives, toe nail clippers, pointy stick – whatever, it doesn’t really matter. Pick a target that will get a lot of attention; schools are popular, but attacks at schools are so passé. Pick something else – preferably a place where there are no guards or police officers such as a pedicure salon. If it’s not too much effort, just before you get there, call a local television station to tell them where you’re headed and why. Run into the building and poke everyone you can with your pointed stick and scream. If you don’t have a favorite saying, you can use one or more of these:

“Dennis Rodman is the prophet!”

“Major league sports are all fake!”

“They lied to us about Betty Crocker!”

Soon, you’ll be surrounded by the media, so explain yourself to them.

Oh, don’t be surprised if police respond as well, but ignore them. It’s the media that you need.

Good luck!

Twenty-first Century Beatitude

There are those who react to everything by proclaiming that it’s wrong.

Then there are those who are tactless in dealing with others.

I read the Sermon on the Mount, and I fail to see:

Blessed are the loud of mouth and the obnoxious for they shall get news coverage and their own reality TV shows.

Welcome Carbon Dioxide*

* If you can’t sing the songs from “Hair” you won’t get it…

can copy

An unnamed co-worker pointed out to me today that if carbon dioxide is to be controlled as a pollutant, then we need to think about our beverages.

Hmmm.

Edward Snowden et al

Bond. James Bond.

Bond.
James Bond.

So Edward Snowden now tells us that he was not just a computer administrator but also a spy – not only for the NSA, but also the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. I’m sure that will be followed up by his claim to the Heisman Trophy, how he was the inspiration for Mother Teresa and his groundbreaking work in neurosurgery. Not too shabby for a guy who never even graduated from high school.

It got me thinking – we all love James Bond, but that’s because he’s a good guy and therefore on our side. On the other hand, the idea of someone listening in on our telephone calls is just plain creepy. (Although those of us old enough to remember party lines know that an extra listener was to be expected.) So what does it really mean?

There are 7.1 billion people in the world, 317 million in the United States. There are almost 328 million cell phones in the U.S. – more phones than people. If each phone is used for one hour a month, which every parent with teenagers knows is ridiculously low, then each year there would be almost 4 billion hours of phone conversations. This would require nearly 2 million full time intelligence employees to keep up with the phone calls, ignoring e-mails, internet browsing, traffic cameras, black helicopters, drones, and other spy stuff.

I think that even if phone conversations were routinely monitored into, most of us would get lost in the clutter. Sorry, but your selfie just isn’t that interesting.

On the other hand, people who buy chemicals that just happen to be used for making bombs, or send fan mail to known terrorists; people who want to learn to fly but aren’t interested in learning to land just might be interesting enough to give a listen.

Personally, I think that’s a good thing.