Thursday, May 24, 2007

I wanna go back ...

... to the island,
where the shrimpboats tie up to the pilin'.
Give me oysters and beer,
for dinner every day of the year,
and I'll be fine.

So, we made it back from Key West Sunday morning, 7 a.m. It's a 22.5 hour drive, half of which is just Florida. Dave said that the drive from the southernmost point of the U.S. to Pensacola, which is the westernmost point of Florida was "surreal." I said it was boring. Honestly, I slept from Shreveport to East Texas.

If you were wondering, yes, there are photos, almost 100 of them. Check them out on Flickr.

Here's a taste:


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Our Top-Down Future

No, I'm not talking about convertibles here, but about a method of organization that is entrenched in American culture: top-down management. I can't really think of a branch of government or an economically successful organization that doesn't use a top-down form of organization, where the final word rests in a board of directors and a CEO, with the board being a kind of mirage of stockholder autonomy in a bought-and-sold-by-the-share market. Many people may own a publicly traded company, but in truth only one person really controls it.

Same with our government. In the press you see the president take the heat, World-Bank chief Wolfowitz get an ouster over bad management practices and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi getting sound bites left and right, telling conservatives "Whoa there!" but posing no solutions to our problems. All this makes our government look like a circus ruled by apes -- entertaining, but going nowhere.

So, in this system, where power is veritably concentrated and corrupted, nothing really changes except vacuous, self-serving laws. Most change that happens on a large scale is engineered by demographic shifts and market changes that are almost independent. These changes are large-scale differences in mentality, the mentality of citizen consumers.

So, lately people in my neck of the woods have been all atwitter over immigration problems, a problem so entrenched in society that our government has no real answers to. At least, answers that have any real hope of working. One side says, "Build a fence!" but fences can be climbed over and tunneled under. Another says, "Deport them all!" but splitting families of legal-born citizens from their illegal immigrant parents creates a burden of orphans and wards of the state, and they knew this when they had children here. "Penalize companies that hire them!" cries someone else, but when companies have to increase wages to attract another labor pool, this will cut into profits and thus, prices for goods and services will increase.

So, all of these top-down, federally mandated answers seem a little silly when you think about it. Though, how do we solve the cultural, societal and economic woes that are wrecking American culture without causing more damage than good? I think the answer lies in the proposed solutions. If the strategy leaves much to be desired, then the strategy is lacking. Change strategies.

Something happened last week in North Texas. A small community called Farmers Branch, very close to Dallas, approved an ordinance that would restrict illegal immigrants from renting apartment in the area. All apartment managers would have to verify that the lessors in the complex were legal citizens.

This seems fundamental enough -- community tires of negative impact of illegal immigrants and decides to prohibit them from living in some areas, thus reducing the resident population of illegal immigrants. But this doesn't keep illegals from living in rented houses, or keep them from working in the area, or keep them from having a market impact. It just says that they can't live in apartments in Farmers Branch.

This is an examptle of democracy, or the opposite of top-down managment, or even more liberally, Populism. People that voted wanted a change, they formulated a very calculated rule to have a specific impact on property owned in the area, a protracted attempt at immigration reform. It passed.

Too bad we'll probably never know whether or not it would have worked.

Too bad that today, Federal Judge Sam Lindsay overturned the ordinance, saying that immigration is a federal issue, an issue that should be solved on the Congressional level, which happens to be cluttered with top-down, power hungry sycophants.

Too bad our social experiment of democracy isn't what our democratically elected leaders want.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Blogging on holiday

So, Matt blogged while he was on vacation in the Pitts. I don't know if I'll have access to a computer while I'm away, so I don't know if I'll be on here for a week! I really want to post updates and piccies, but we'll see what happens. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the hurricane season is staved while I am on a rather tiny island.

Otherwise, the weather is here, wish you were beautiful!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Center of the Universe indeed

We were supposed to crash at a friend's house in San Antonio on Friday, but because plans with them fell through we stayed in Dallas and left for the Texas Hill Country on Saturday after Yoga class. The drive was bumpy; I-35 is the worst interstate highway by far, worse than I-45 only due to it's condition because there's plenty to look at from the road.

When we arrived at our friend's digs, we unloaded and headed out for a beer or two (or three) at a wonderful, mystical joint emblazoned with a bold sign toutint "HILLS & DALE'S -- CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE!"

We walked in from the overcast afternoon to a sparsely lit ice house with a concrete floor. The spartan main room was decorated with plank picnic tables and a billiards area in back. But the main attraction was covering the side of a main wall: AN ENORMOUS BEER REFRIGERATOR!

The wallside cooler was stocked to the gills with any and every kind of imported beer and malt you could crave. They even had St. Peters and our favorite Oatmeal Stout!

I started off with my pint of Guiness and then had a couple of bottles of St. Peters and one of Sam Smith. I was so full of fuzzies that I barely ate dinner! From there we went to Floore's Country Store, Dave's favorite music hall. We listened to Jay Farrar and Son Volt play, had a frozen margarita (or two) and headed back, where I crashed and burned!

The next morning we washed off the previous night, had biscuits and country muffins and washed it down with copious carafes of coffee, black. Well, I washed it down with black coffee, but Dave has to have frou-frou in his cuppa joe, you know what I'm saying, sugar cream and all that! We swapped cds to upload to iPods, gushed about our vacation and then we were a gonner!

Hours later we were back in Dallas again, with laundry to do and loose ends to tie up. I love weekend trips but the reality of the work week is a bummer, especially before an all too short vacation in the American Caribbean!

Making my vote count

Today is the final day for early voting in the May 12 election. Because I'll be on the beach May 12, I need to vote today.

Earlier this workday we were running down predictions on what the Sunday headlines would read the day after. My wager:

Dallas Mayoral runoff between Don Hill and Tom Leppert; Farmers Branch passes immigrant rental ordinance; Prop 1 passes by a mile

Any other Dallasites out there wanna take a shot at 'er?