Friday, June 24, 2016

The Battle of the Brexit

(Photo credit: The Guardian)

June 24, 2016. American has awakened to welcome a new member to the league of independent nations. After 240-years, Great Britain has emulated its Yankee cousins and voted to claim its independence from the European Union’s economic shackles.
Will it work?

(Photo credit:
The nattering nabobs of negativity, like global vampire George Soros, are already forecasting doom and gloom for the Brits. The master EU-puppeteer wrote in The Guardian earlier this week, “…the Pound will plummet, along with your living standards. The only winners will be speculators,” which 58% of Brit’s apparently are.

US President Barack Obama characteristically quipped the UK could “go to the back of the queue” when it comes to trade with America. By the time the dust settles from this historic Brexit vote, he’ll be mercifully out of office. Back of the line, Barack.

Did Great Britain take a cue from America’s brash bid for Independence in 1776? If so, they should also recall that the process of freedom didn’t happen overnight. Indeed, the concept of negating taxation without representation first began to congeal in the colonies with the Tax Stamp Congress of 1765. Events in the following 11-years leading up to the Declaration of Independence were brash, bloody, and decidedly anti-British. 

The bold momentum of America continued to push forward, wringing out a national Constitution first agreed to in 1781 as the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.”  The freedom experiment continued to evolve into the first Constitution in 1788, and those first pesky ten Bill of Rights were added in 1791…15-years after American’s essential Brexit declaration.

Point being—the first battle of independence, the vote to leave the European Union, has been won. Now begins the Battle of the Brexit—how to move forward and operate out from under the umbrella of the EU. 

(Photo credit:
Sir Winston Churchill is famously quoted for his “never give in” speech, delivered in October 1941 to a group of students at Harrow, his boyhood school (from which he nearly flunked out). Note the similarities to contemporary sentiment:

“…we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if it takes months—if it takes years—they do it…”

“…never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy...”

(Remember, Churchill was addressing an England that had been under attack by the Nazi’s for the previous ten months. He knew there were still some difficult times to come for his country.)

“Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days—the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.”

If Churchill is spinning in his grave over the Brexit poll, it’s probably only to shift positions so that he might salute the valiant voters who decided on Thursday that ‘enough is enough,’ and it’s time for ‘no taxation without representation.’ 

The next Battle of the Brexit won’t be easy. But will be rewarding.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Rainy Day Drivers and Other Irritants

Faulkey Gully receives a gully-washer, May 2016

It is the Monsoon Season in Houston. We should not be surprised at all by the flooding we’re seeing, having received over 21-inches of rain through April this year. The May totals will be posted just as soon as they dry off.

It is also, apparently, open season for morons. Where else can you see a college professor intentionally drive his automobile into high water—on live TV—then stagger out of the passenger door and ask a reporter, ‘What do I do now?’ Swim, you idiot.

Rain brings out the foolish in all of us. For example, as I’m driving to work in a blinding rainstorm this morning, the car on my right and slightly ahead of me turns on his emergency blinkers. At 50 mph. 

Because I can only see his left taillight, I think he’s about to move into my lane, so I lean on the horn. He flips me off.

Raining is not an emergency.
Running emergency flashers in the rain is doubly stupid—you’re creating an unnecessary distraction (hey, we all know It’s Raining), and you’re now rendering everyone else in traffic clueless of your intentions. 

(Photo was NOT taken in moving traffic!)
Changing lanes?
Which way? 
Hard to tell, since your flashers are on!

Heavy rains should not be ignored. Turn around, don’t drown. 

However, if you feel compelled to alert the rest of the world that it’s raining by running your emergency flashers, why not pull over to the side of the road and park until the rain storm passes. You can run your flashers all day long on the shoulder, and the rest of us can safely pass on by. In the rain.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Hard Truth About Hardware

Most of my nemeses can be found in any hardware store.
They lurk on the plumbing supplies aisle. There are also quite a few challengers on the electrical aisle. I have grudgingly accepted a cease fire from the nail bins, but the hardware store is not Brent-friendly.
Case in point—today I sought to change out a lighting fixture in our kitchen. Being moderately tech-savvy, and unapologetically cheap, I elected to light the new fixture with LED bulbs that will last beyond my life expectancy. I figured while I was at it, I’d install a dimmer switch on the fixture circuit. What could possibly go wrong?

I have a healthy respect for electricity. The first thing I did was turn off the power to that part of the house. I asked my wife to tell me when the light went off, as I headed for the garage. “It’s still on,” she said, as I approached the garage door.
Everyone’s a comedian.

Once I got the power off, I took down the existing fixture and noticed the brace in the ceiling to which it was anchored would not fit the hardware on the replacement fixture. Of course not. So off to the hardware store I headed, like a sheep to slaughter.

On my first trip to the store, I located a helpful associate in the electrical aisle and told him what I was going to do. He asked some very technical questions, like “is this light also controlled by another switch elsewhere?” (It is.) “Are you going to run LED bulbs in the fixture?” Another brilliantly insightful query. I felt confident as I returned home with $65 worth of hardware, a dimmer switch, and a box of high tech lightbulbs for my project.

With the able assistance of my Bride, for whom this entire ordeal was being borne, we got the new fixture installed with minimum trouble and use of colorful adjectives. I disconnected the old light switch, taking careful note of which colored wires were going where.

Instructional English grammar is a lost art form, especially in developing countries where inexpensive electrical parts—like dimmer switches, for instance—are manufactured. I was, therefore, not surprised when my first attempt at wiring the switch failed.
Not spectacularly so—there were no sparks or smoke.
It. Just. Didn’t. Work.

There are three wires plus a ground lead to be connected to this switch. That leaves 16-potential wiring combinations. Nine possible solutions, if you figure you’re pretty sure where the ground wire goes. After the first two wiring attempts ended in failure, I removed the wires, took a snapshot of the wiring box with my smartphone, and headed back to the hardware store. Not happily.

Chris, the helpful hardware man, looked at my wiring snapshot, looked at the switch, and unfurled the instructions for his own forensic analysis. We came up with two possible combinations involving the placement of one red wire, two black wires, and the copper ground. I returned home, cautiously optimistic. His solution matched neither of the wiring scenarios I’d tried before.

The next wiring combination I tried—Chris’s first suggestion--also failed. I was getting desperate. I forgot to turn off the power at the breaker, and the live wire reminded me of my mistake as I began to disconnect the wires (insert colorful euphemism here). On a hunch, I swapped the two black leads—the “traveler” and the black half of a twisted pair. 

Success! Sort of.

The light fixture sprang to life…the dimmer dimmed. But the second switch on the circuit had to be “on” in order for the dimmer switch to operate. Tough. The cover plate went back on the wall, and I rejoiced that I’d only had to make TWO trips to the hardware store to complete this chore.
For me, that’s a record.