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Today, as many times before, I got a notice that one of my flights was delayed, and I realized that I’d need to rebook my connection. I carry my American Airlines Platinum Card with me, which contains the phone number to call for service.

It’s on the back of a light gray card in light gray TINY font. The photograph above is actually a magnification to double the size of the card, and I can actually read the number.

In the “real world” with the card in my hand, that is impossible. My 60-year-old eyes, with bifocals, cannot possibly read anything on the back of this card. The font is too small, and then it’s gray on gray, with very little contrast.

What is American Airlines thinking?

There is so much white space on this card. They could easily double the font size. They could make it bold, dark black on white, so you can read it with ease in a poorly lit airline gate area, the card on your knee while you’re fiddling with your phone.

This is not limited to American Airlines. I just checked a few other cards, like my Hilton Hotels card, and it’s got the same problem.

American Airlines – not all your customers are young eagles or owls with night vision eyesight.

We can’t read your cards!

We have all seen it when someone pretends they have done something, or experienced something, but they really haven’t. You might remember the scene in the movie The 40-Year-Old Virgin, where he talked about feeling a woman’s breasts. After a few descriptive comments, he says “two bags of sand” and the other guys all stop and frown. “Two bags of sand???”

I am a computer software professional. I may not know all the details of the current new programming languages, but I have done many years of programming. When somebody’s nephew at a backyard BBQ starts talking about his vast experience with computers, and how he is such an expert, it usually takes me about 10 or 15 seconds of listening before I know whether the guy knows what he is talking about, or whether he is faking it.

I am not unique in this. Anyone with special expertise in a given field has had this experience of running into an impostor who is trying to impress all the girls at the party by exaggerating his skills or expertise. To the expert, he just looks ridiculous.

When Trump traveled overseas a couple of weeks ago he met with the heads of state of the G7. Every one of those individuals, whether Trump realizes it or not, is at the very top of their profession and careers. They made it to the pinnacle of power in their own country. They are expert diplomats, savvy politicians and often have advanced degrees. Angela Merkel holds a Ph.D. in Physics, and is in her third term in office as chancellor.

What do you surmise the heads of state of the G7 think of Donald Trump?

 

President Trump’s son Eric Trump on Tuesday said Democrats are “not even people” to him after their obstruction of his father’s agenda.

“I’ve never seen hatred like this,” he said on Fox News’s “Hannity” Tuesday night. “To me, they’re not even people. It’s so, so sad. Morality’s just gone, morals have flown out the window and we deserve so much better than this as a country.”

— The Hill

Seriously? The most immoral man ever to reach high office in the United States has his son lecture us about the morality of 50% of the people in the United States?

This is the man whose father is the “grab them by the pussy” guy, who boasts that celebrities can get away with sexual harassment any time.

This is man lecturing us about morals, whose brother has his picture taken with the tail of an elephant he killed for sport.

This is the man with the dead leopard in his arms that he killed for sport.

This is man that tells us that Democrats are “not even people” after he was a Democrat himself not too long ago and could not even vote for his father as a Republican.

How can a person classify a people into two separate groups, people and not-people, simply based on political affiliation? Who are these “democrats” that he is talking about? The not-people. The immoral?

I have only one word:

Sick!

After pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, Trump and Pruitt have been announcing that this would create lots of American jobs.

On Meet the Press on Sunday, Pruitt said that since the fourth quarter of last year to most recently, we have added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector.

This statement is completely wrong. There are only about 51,000 jobs in the entire coal industry in the U.S. Last month, 400 coal jobs were added. The entire U.S. mining sector added 7,000 jobs last month or 50,000 since the 4th quarter of 2016. Perhaps that was the figure Pruitt was quoting, but he carefully misquoted it so the numbers were vastly inflated.

Trump and Pruitt seem to be building up fossil fuel industries as massive job creators, which is just flat wrong. In comparison, just look at Tesla, just one company, which has over 1,800 job openings in the U.S. right now. Tesla is not known for its exciting benefits and great wages, but their high-pressure jobs in factories must be at least as good as coal mining jobs. If you had to pick a job, working in a coal mine or working for Tesla, which would you pick?

Coal is dead. It’s a dead industry, and no amount of deregulation is going to bring it back. Trump and the EPA can do whatever they want, we’re going to be buying less and less coal, and coal jobs will continue to disappear. The people are deciding, not Trump.

It’s all bluster.

We are mired in wars that seem to never end. When our children think of war, they think of Iraq and Afghanistan. For the majority of our population, Vietnam is ancient history. Vietnam veterans are now all in their mid to late sixties or seventies. They know their combat stories, and their politics, and they remember the days of their young selves, when they were asked to give up their youths to fight in a brutal and bloody war far away from the American reality. They all have friends they lost, whose names are now on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. And they all still grieve for their comrades, their friends, every day of their lives.

Every soldier of the 58,220 who lost their lives in Vietnam had loved ones at home, girlfriends, wives, children, parents, neighbors, buddies. Thousands of those lives of those loved ones were changed forever the moment two or three soldiers in uniform walked up to the front doors of their houses to bring the impossible and unbearable news.

In Backtracking in Brown Water, the author, Rolland E. Kidder, a Lieutenant Junior Grade in the U.S. Navy, tells his own story of his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1969. He saw many soldiers die, but three of them were close friends. Chief Eldon Tozer, Captain Bob Olson and Lieutenant Jim Rost all lost their lives while serving alongside the author.

While he tells his own story of how he ended up in Vietnam in the war, he recounts the lives of his three fallen friends. Then, forty years later, between 2010 and 2014, he visits their families back home, interviews them, shares stories with them, and goes to see their graves. While it does not bring closure – nothing ever seems to do that – it honors the men who gave their lives for their country, even now, 40 years later.

He also went back to the brown waters in the Mekong Delta and visited the places where he had served, and where his friends had fallen, so many decades ago.

When I read Backtracking in Brown Water, I was first with the author right there in Vietnam, in 1969, and experienced the horrors of that war. Then I was there again with him when he returned to Vietnam. I saw the country through his eyes by reading his words. And I got to know the fallen heroes almost like they were my own friends.

And above all, I came to abhor war even more than I already do, this vicious thing our so-called “leaders” initiate to make themselves large, by sending other people’s children into foreign lands to suffer and to die – for illegitimate causes.

When will we ever learn that war does not work, that war never works?

Ask Eldon Tozer, Bob Olson and Jim Rost. You can’t. Because they lost it all so abruptly in 1969, while the rest of us got to live on. Every one of us should read Backtracking in Brown Water to remind us of the horror of war.

Check out the author’s website and blog.

He now lives in Stow, New York, in the heart of Chautauqua County.

***

But wait, there is more. It turns out I know author. Here he is on the left, in a picture taken in March 1975 in Albany, New York.

left to right: Assemblyman Rolland Kidder, unknown student of Jamestown High School, myself, Senator Jess Present

I was a foreign exchange student with AFS at Southwestern Central High School in Lakewood, New York, in the year 1974/75. My history teacher, Mrs. Tarbrake, chose me (of all the students in her classes) to go on a visit to the New York State government. There was just one student per high school. It was such an honor.

Senator Present picked me up at my house in Lakewood, New York and I rode with him the seven hours to Albany, while we chatted about the life of an exchange student and world politics. When we arrived in Albany, he passed me on to Assemblyman Kidder, who, with the help of his staff, hosted my visit and allowed me to sit with him in the chamber while legislative votes were taking place. I saw state government in action with his personal commentary.

In the picture above, I am the one that looks the least like the other three. Nobody had told this poor foreign exchange student that there was a dress code in the New York Assembly Chamber. You needed coat and tie to enter. I had not brought any. For me to get in, Assemblyman Kidder let me use one of his jackets, and one of his staffers gave me a white shirt and a tie. Along with my blue corduroy pants, I am sure I was not much of a fashion statement in the assembly chamber, but I was honored to be there wearing the Assemblyman’s jacket.

At that time, I didn’t have much of a perspective on Assemblyman Kidder’s role there. I just found out when I read this book that he had only been in office for a few months at that time, in his first term. To me, he looked like a seasoned and distinguished politician.

The picture above was published in the Jamestown Post Journal, the local paper in Chautauqua County, during the following week, telling the story of two local students from the two local high schools in the Jamestown area, visiting the State Legislature. I was famous.

And of course, I had no idea that Assemblyman Kidder was a Vietnam veteran, and that I would stumble upon his book 42 years later.

It’s been an honor – twice.

Check out the tweet above. At 3:29am this morning, Trump apparently couldn’t stand it anymore. He had to attack somebody. So he came after himself.

First, he called his Executive Order, which was found unconstitutional by the courts twice, a Travel Ban. Calling it that was exactly one of the reasons why it was struck down. So he reaffirmed the arguments of the courts here.

Then he threw the Justice Department under the bus. These are people who work for him, and under him. He tells the Justice Department what to draft, and then they draft it, and then he signs it. So telling the Justice Department it “should have” done something is like telling himself he got it wrong, or he didn’t know what he was doing at the time.

Then he made himself look like a fool. He, not the Justice Department, was who signed the Executive Order that was found unconstitutional. He was the one that signed it. It was his order, not that of the Justice Department. Is he therefore saying that he wishes he had done something different?

How would you like to work for a boss who attacks and accuses you on a whim, whether you deserve any blame or not? How would you like to work for a boss who does one thing today, and then blames you for him doing it tomorrow? Clearly, this man is not thinking rationally, at 3:29am. How can he find anyone to work for him?

And that is our President of the United States.

I saw this post by a “Bob Clark” on Facebook today. I don’t know him. But his point struck me.

He is completely wrong on his facts. But he writes them as if they were facts. The stock market went from 7,949 to 19,827 under Obama, and now to 21,206 under Trump in his first five months. Averaging this out over eight Obama years, this is not a rally, it’s just the continuation of Obama’s slope.  How Trump can take any credit for this is beyond me. How Trump supporters bolster their arguments is dumbfounding.

June 2, 2017: 21,206 – Today under Trump

January 20, 2017: 19,827 – day Obama left office

January 20, 2009: 7,949 – day Obama took office

The DOW more than doubled under Obama. When Obama took office, it was in freefall. We were worried about total economic collapse. Remember?

Now Bob Clark is acting like Obama left an economy like Bush did. Seriously?

Here is the graph:

This looks to me like the slope of the graph has simply continued the way it was going under Obama.

The current rally in the stock market is mostly due to tech stocks, like Amazon and Apple. I am not seeing any rise in oil or coal, but granted, defense contractors, like Lockheed and Boeing are going to see bumps from the Saudi arms sales.

So I don’t know what Bob Clark’s ticker looks like between 2008 and 2017, but here is mine.

And calling Trump a racecar?

Really?

The above post is about an organized bike ride in the communities surrounding the little town of then 200 souls deep in Bavaria where I grew up. For those of you that don’t know about the German language and its “sublanguages” there is this: Bavaria has its down derivative language, where some words and expressions are almost unrecognizable for other Germans. It’s a very strong modification of the language, way beyond the scope of English accents. Entire words change. There is no written form of Bavarian, but poets, musicians, comedians and, of course, Facebook posters, occasionally write down phonetic approximations of the spoken Bavarian and achieve hilarious results.

Even as a Bavarian, we can’t really “read” such approximations without sounding them out loud, and then they make sense. The words themselves just don’t look right.

So here is the sentence in question (red arrow above):

Bissl a Gaudi muss a sei

I could have also said:

A bisserl a Gaudi muas a sai

It would have been just as correct. Not a single word of either sentence above can be found in a German dictionary, except for possibly “muss” in the first variation. For instance, the first “a” stands for the German word “eine” which is a form of the German indefinite article “ein” or the English equivalent of “a” or “an.”

The second “a” in the sentence stands for “auch” meaning “also” in English or possibly just an affirmation word to give the statement weight.

There is no written form of Bavarian, no grammar and no spelling rules. Incidentally, the same is true for Swiss German, a flavor of the language that I, a native Bavarian German, cannot understand, save a few words here and there.

But now to the translation (green arrow above):

A little fun is a must

This is the best literal translation that I could possibly come up with for “bissl a Gaudi muss a sei” and I have no idea how the automatic translator could possibly have come up with this. Is there a Bavarian dictionary with spelling variations that it used? How did it even know it was a branch of German from these six words alone?

I am astonished about the fact that an automated translation engine handled this.

If any readers have examples of such feats in German or other languages, I’d be interested in seeing them.

I thought I knew how translation engines worked. Perhaps I did at one time. I obviously no longer do.

I am mystified.

Ford Flex

When I picked up my rental car yesterday, I was in shock. It looked like a hearse! It was black! Since I had never seen one of these before, I had to look it up. It was a Ford Flex.

As ugly as it looked, it felt really good driving it. What is more important about a car, whether it feels good, or whether it looks good?

Seattle from the Air – click to enlarge

Downtown Seattle from the air. You can see the (tiny) Space Needle right  above the engine.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the kleptocracy for which it stands, one nation, under Trump, divided, with liberty and justice for rich whites.

1932

“How many look up to him [Hitler] with touching faith as their helper, their savior, their deliverer from unbearable distress.”

Louis Solmitz, Hamburg schoolteacher, 1932

2017

“President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.”

— Official White House response to reports that Trump berates, insults, and belittles members of his staff.

There were several audiences for Nazi propaganda. Germans were reminded of the struggle against foreign enemies and Jewish subversion. During periods preceding legislation or executive measures against Jews, propaganda campaigns created an atmosphere tolerant of violence against Jews, particularly in 1935 (before the Nuremberg Race Laws of September) and in 1938 (prior to the barrage of antisemitic economic legislation following Kristallnacht). Propaganda also encouraged passivity and acceptance of the impending measures against Jews, as these appeared to depict the Nazi government as stepping in and “restoring order.”

— Holocaust Encyclopedia – Nazi Propaganda

Does the “struggle against foreign enemies” make you think of anything?

Are we seeing propaganda campaigns that are creating an atmosphere tolerant of violence against minorities?

Let’s make sure we don’t get passive just by getting used to the constant barrage of violence. After a few years of it, the German people didn’t mind when anti-Semitic economic legislation followed. By then, it had always been like that, preached from the very top of the government.

That didn’t end well.

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