27 December 2013

The "World Peace Game"

I'll get to the truly important fact about the World Peace Game: the recent well-received book about it mentions Me in the Acknowledgements.

Yeah, Me. Makes Me proud.

The World Peace Game was developed by John Hunter, as a teaching tool in the areas of problem-solving, creativity and current events. John's TED talk about it is amongst the most-viewed videos of that ever-growing series of events.  Here it is, and it's well worth 20 minutes of your day:

video


In his talk, John describes how he developed a simulation involving four countries and what is now over 50 major problems that the world faces, from hunger, epidemics, bigotry and destruction of the rain forests to lack of water, pollution, religious strife and economic inequality. The countries have different resources, random events can alter the game in drastic fashion, and to win, every problem has to be solved and all countries must show progress.

Oh, and the players? Fourth graders.

Yeah, what were you doing in 4th grade?

In his over 30 years of using the World Peace Game, John has made changes to the game, to not only reflect new realities, but also to accommodate the impact of new technologies. In early versions, John provided the students with binders filled with information on the problems to be solved. Now, the players do most of their own research, working off a descriptive list of the problems. What hasn't changed is the immersive nature of the game, as the players come face-to-face with new concepts and have to develop strategies to not only understand problems, but find ways to fix them.

I learned about the game through a blog post and was immediately taken by the concept. I sent John e-mail and he was kind enough to respond. In a few exchanges, I addressed issues I saw might be pertinent to expanding the game so that other teachers could host it. As much as I wanted to jump in and help John and the World Peace Game organization, I couldn't stretch enough to do it. Didn't matter, as John and his organization expanded workshops and the Game to reach a much broader audience.

The book (did I mention I was thanked in it? Okay.) is a wonderful read, packed with experiences that good teachers thrill about, those that have students reaching far beyond their expectations to explore their greatest potential. I defy any teacher who thinks they are goof to read about the World Peace Game and not come away prouder of their profession and inspired to do more.

One thing John learned early in the Game--and that he still has to challenge himself with--is to sit still and let the students do. The urge to jump in and "correct" them is ever-present, and the Game's overwhelming success--and it is an overwhelming success--is due to this "the students learn through their efforts" process. The current education system is a top-down, fully-imposed, authoritarian, command-center, conformist, shut-up-don't-ask, memorize-and-vomit sausage factory (My words, not anybody else's) while the World Peace Game is a "Here, experience this directly" journey.

There are only two things I regret not being able to participate in as a kid: parkour/free running (although We did do "run away through obstacles to avoid getting beaten up" a lot) and this Game. I love strategic games, the more complex the better, and I can only imagine what it would be like to face the challenges John places before his students. Workshops and Games are held often, for students and teachers, but time and travel constraints can limit participation.

Now the game is more accessible, as the online version allows players to join in from around the world, even using cell phones. The format is adapted to asynchronous play, and though I'm sure that the challenges are as riveting, in many ways the direct and personal sharing involved in classroom or workshop play adds a rich dimension to the entire experience.

You can see the results yourself in the film about the Game, a companion piece to the book (where My name appe--Oh, you know that already...).  If you have kids, want to have kids or were ever a kid, I urge you to see the film, read the book, watch the video...and support similar projects.

Our children's education is far too important to leave in the hands of government. We need to do more to support dedicated teachers, visionary principals, community resources and Our own talents in order to make education less destructive. (Yes, I said "destructive." It is.) John Hunter has his way of improving education, but he'd be the first to say that his way is certainly not the only way. Whether it is through a game, dance, journals, music, lab experiments, robots, painting, making films, building castles or making costumes, kids will learn better when they are (a) engaged in activity and (b) allowed to explore their solutions and their mistakes.

And no, not everything has to be a game. But it helps if the lessons are merged with a sense of excitement that can be treated as fun. And kids can tackle more than you think, as John has shown over and over again in his Game.

All of the world's major problems solved, and everyone making progress together. Sounds utopian? Most great ideas do, and through the World Peace Game, fourth graders are getting a chance to experience that maybe, just maybe, Utopia is not as impossible as adults believe.



The Jenius Has Spoken.




25 December 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 007: Laura Gorbea and James O'Malley

MERRY CHRISTMAS, Y'ALL!

The James Bond vidcast presents two of my favorite people, the husband-and-wife team of Laura Gorbea and James O'Malley. Both are talented, well-educated, entrepreneurial souls that also happen to be the parents of four lovely children. In this video, they discuss their idea about fostering Fine Arts education in Our schools. And as you shall see, they don't just talk about ideas: listen and you will discover what their wonderful oldest daughter did.

To get to know Laura and James a little, click here or just click below:



And with this family-oriented theme, I want to wish all of you the very Merriest of Christmases.



The Jenius Has Interviewed.

18 December 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 006: Gabriel Pagán

Here's the thing about ideas: the best ones are often the most startling.

On that note, welcome Gabriel Pagán. His idea is simple to express and once you get past the "Huh?" factor, it makes a ton of sense: spread Our government agencies around the Island.

Simple, right? At least in concept, for execution will take some effort. But once you get into the idea, you'll see it has more pros than cons. And no, I won't make a joke about "cons" and government workers. It's your turn.

You can explore this idea with Us by clicking here, or just aim your mouse at the video link below:



You will note that I don't appear at all, except as a disembodied voice. Cheer if you must. A technical glitch kept the camera on Gabriel the whole time, or maybe he rigged the system because he needed the attention.

I doubt that, though. A little.

Either way, take a look at decentralizing Our government and if you notice a trend in these videos, it isn't an accident: many of Our solutions have a common thread.

Enjoy!



The Jenius Has Interviewed.



12 December 2013

Someone Shut The PoopyHead Up

Detroit declared bankruptcy. The largest municipal default in U.S. of part of A. history. Want to guess who might be next?

Uh-huh. Although in Our case, We can't "go bankrupt": We "default." Which still leaves Us holding a smelly diaper of diarrhea-drenched debt.

Speaking of which, Head Beggar Pedro "PoopyHead" Pierluisi had this to fart about the situation: “Some people might say, ‘This is their problem.’ But Puerto Rico is part of the United States, you own this problem."

Well, yeah, they own pretty much everything We have, what with Us being a colony and all that jazz. But here's the trouble with your statement, PoopyHead Beggar: you sound childish and stupid.


Pedro "PoopyHead Beggar" Pierluisi
I know, I know: you can't get sweet wine from a lump of filthy clay. But your job, PoopyHead Beggar, such as it laughingly is, consists of one single, undeniable, unimpeachable and uniquely central goal: Don't make Us look bad. 

Mission unaccomplished. Pat yourself on the ass, you ass.

Capable, responsible and mature human beings, also known as "adults," don't go whining and blaming others for situations they are involved in. 

Intelligent people who think clearly about their situation, don't spout shit that makes the people that most likely to help think twice about doing so or disgusts them enough to make them walk away.

Is the $70 billion clusterfuck We are in Our fault? Damn right it is, based on your fellow shitbags in blue and turdsacks in red, going back to 1968. We elected the vermin and let them run the country into the ground, so yeah, it's Our fault.

Is the U.S. of part of A. involved in Our problem? Hell yeah: they hold most of Our debt. But does that mean that they have to help Us, to bail Our sorry asses out? Not really. As I pointed out before, the Puerto Rico Constitution forbids the government from declaring bankruptcy and is obligated to repay external creditors (i.e., investors in Our bonds) firsteven at the expense of the people it is supposed to serve.

You know PoopyHead Beggar, you should read Our Constitution sometime. It's in Spanish, too, so you won't strain what feeble linguistic skills you have. Then again, you might.

Here We are: up Shit Creek and some PoopyHead Beggar takes a dump in the paddle-makers' faces. Who would you rather help: the whiner or the guy who rolls up his sleeves, exhibits a can-do attitude and gets to work?

Yeah, the U.S. of part of A. too. Too bad We specialize in whiners.



The Jenius Has Spoken.




11 December 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 005: Ramphis Castro

The best thing about talking with smart people is that you come away with an enhanced perspective on the issues discussed. That's the case with Ramphis Castro, an energetic explorer of ideas who takes action. As you'll see in the vidcast, I give him the idea of "the 5--", uh, actually, Ramphis gives Me the idea of identifying "the 5%," the folks who know what's up and are either doing or are willing to do what's needed to make Puerto Rico better.

Yeah, I want credit for every great idea out there.

Here's the link or just click on the bearded man below:



 You'll be hearing more about "The 5%" (now capitalized, which was MY idea) in future Jenius posts.



The Jenius Has Interviewed.


05 December 2013

Choking Our Information Stirrer-Straw

Look what I just found: an executive order that seeks to centralize all--ALL--digital information sources and services of Our hideous shitfest of a government under one shitpile, the Office of Management and Budget.

Really.

Now I'm not going to sit here on what was supposed to be My week off and tell you that Our digital information system is A+. Or C+. Or even D+. It's more like a D--, but it is making progress. Here are some highlights, in just 7 months:

* Oracle contract reduction cost from $33 million to $16 million.

* Mobile phone compatibility (finally) for government webpages.

* The discovery and elimination of over 64,000 viruses infecting government computers, most of them originating in Russia and China.

* A centralized portal for government tech projects, to avoid waste through repetition or needless redundancy.

* Coordination of agency groups for enhanced inter-agency communication and collaboration.

* Database contract cost reductions, the first ever.

* A Tech Summit, the first such high-profile event in Puerto Rico.

* The implementation of transparency and open source software as the official policy of the government.


In the words of a Mythbuster, "There's your problem!" This power ploy by the OMB--OGP in Spanish, as in Over-Grown Pus-heads--is pretty transparent, seeking as it does to quash not only the notion of "open government data," but also that of "open source software." The order issued would consolidate all purchasing power and purchasing-related decisions into the hands of the OMB, leaving the tech experts as before, "advisors" with the power of watching their best efforts be derailed.

I can practically smell the crabbed hands of Micropore and Bore-acle in this mess.

Now I'm not a techie. Can't program an 8-track to record a video for My Nokia. But I do understand one thing: change hurts. But change is needed, and in Our tech environment, it is absolutely necessary. The change coming out of the technology director's office is a breath of fresh air for two very basic, very cogent reasons:

1) True techies are finally in charge of tech development and policies, and...

2) The established providers are being shown up for what they are: money-grubbing, bribing apes.

Okay, not convinced? Then look at it from another direction, in step-by-step fashion:

Step 1: The current (faux)governor, Alejandro García, "The Ova," made transparency and open source a commitment of his (faux)administration.

Step 2: The OMB Director, one Carlos "¿Quéseyo?" Rivas, decides to unilaterally erase that policy, effective December 15th, 2013.

Carlos ¿Quéseyo? Rivas
Now, analyze:

* Did The Ova decide the policy's time was ova, uh, I mean, over? If so, he is now several parsecs further from considering the potential of maybe having a spinal cord than he was before.

* Has ¿Quéseyo? decided that The Ova is too soft to stop him? In so much hot water that he'll crack before taking action? That The Ova is fried from too many problems and nowhere near enough solutions? Or is it that ¿Quéseyo? thinks The Ova is ultimately a chicken?

* Yes, I enjoyed writing all that.

You see, this 3-page document is not just another dosage of stiff toilet paper, this is a battle for the type of government We will have. On one side sits a group of tech experts who want to implement best practices and truly place Puerto Rico at the forefront of tech innovation. On the other side, you have whores. Nothing more, nothing less.

I know what side I'm on, and there's only side to be on. The days when whores run rampant on Our dollars should have ended long ago. Transparency is a sure way of starting to run them off.

So Let's make sure they stay on the run.



The Jenius Has Spoken.



27 November 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 004: Marcos Polanco

Continuing The Jenius's vidcast series, Solving Puerto Rico, We come to Marcos Polanco. Not only is Marcos a serial entrepreneur, he also worked for the government agency called Puerto Rico Industrial Corporation, better known as TRASH, er, I meant PRIDCO.

Marcos is closely involved with Our start-up community and was a major force behind the successful TEDx San Juan Conference. We cover a series of topics in almost rapid-fire fashion, and leave many more for future chats. Check it out here, or simply click below.



I'm very sure that, time permitting, Marcos will be back on the vidcast. There's too many ideas We could discuss to leave unexplored.



The Jenius Has Interviewed.

22 November 2013

We Were Screwed, Then The Rapists Showed Up

Ronald Reagan, second banana to a chimp for most of his life, once said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Screw that. They're still true, but they've been replaced by "You're bankrupt and Wall Street will help fix that."

So combine the two, the federal government shoving Wall Street at a problem, and you have the current "Huzzah!" moment Puerto Rico is going through.

 "But, Jenius," some of you will say, "it's just the feds coming in to set things straight. Who said anything about Wall Street?"

I did, I do and there's no hiding it. The federal government is trying to head off the financial collapse of Puerto Rico and who knows more about financial collapses than the banksters of the Street?

Look, We are bankrupt. Our debt and debt service are beyond Our current and estimated future capacity to repay. Anyone who argues the contrary is an idiot or ignorant of the facts. Puerto Rico's bond rating has not been properly classified as "junk" because there's too many billions of dollars of Our debt running around in too many pension funds and investment pools.


Yes, Puerto Rico, through bankster-like mismanagement and greed, has become "too big to fail." Woo.

And hoo.

The feds may have ordered the "rescue mission," but the banksters are going to do the actual """work""", and if history is any sort of teacher--and it is--We're about to get raped. Oh, not immediately, of course not, that would be counterproductive. No, the rape will be delayed, to a time well after the money-grubbing forced "pawing foreplay" has properly run its course. Then, when the banksters and their cronies, both federal and local, have had their fill of easy pickings, then We'll experience the full effect. Think of it as going roofied, by command.

But by then, the feds and the banksters and most of the local vermin will have moved on, to another target.

It's not called a "SWAT team" for nothing.

And yes, "rape" is a harsh and horrible word. But Puerto Rico is about to be forced, compelled and obligated to perform solely to please someone else's idea of "satisfaction." We will ultimately get nothing out of the "rescue the Island's financial status" process except a loss of self, an image tainted by contempt and lasting pain. That is economic rape.

We can demand transparency in the process. We won't get it.

We can demand a greater say in the process. We won't get it.

We can demand more control over Our economy. We won't get it.

We can demand to be left alone to solve it Ourselves. Nobody will believe Us.

We won't get any of the above because We haven't got the guts, brains or will to demand any of it. And even if We did, We'd get nothing.

What We'll get, is shafted. Economically stripped and plundered like a Roman vestal by rampaging Visigoths wearing $2,000 suits and the moral IQ of a lead bullet.

They'll get what they want. We'll just get older. And more screwed.



The Jenius Has Spoken.




20 November 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 003: Raúl Colón

Serial entrepreneur and young father Raúl Colón has a varied background. On top of that, he is a passionate advocate of and for Puerto Rico. Our Solving Puerto Rico vidcast crept over the 30-minute mark because Raúl unleashes ideas a mile a minute and I saw no need to stem such a favorable tide.

You can see the the interview here, or click below.



For Raúl, a social change is needed, a building of trust between individuals and organizations, so that We come together rather than dedicate Ourselves to wretched in-fighting. It's about time We realized that We don't live in a zero-sum world, but We are responsible for the zero-sum society We live in.

[In strict order, Raúl's was vidcast 004, but I want to bookend Marcos Polanco and Ramphis Castro over the next two weeks. Continuity-obsessed fans can watch them in chronological order, to avoid any severe and debilitating stress My decision may cause them.]

*****

As a follow-up to Solving Puerto Rico 001, with Luis Herrero, his idea was to change the incentives in the education system to provide a greater level of support to school principals. It is beyond discussion that the educational system We have is a failure. And yet as a system, it sustains itself, so whatever incentives the system has must be working. That the system's goals are not what We want them to be is the issue, so I start by asking: who benefits from the current (fetid) educational system's incentives?

At a general level, the Department of (Mis)Education's personnel structure is about a 51/49 ratio, with the higher number being administrators or some such crap. (I'm taking the high road here, obviously.) That looks pretty bad, when one considers that an educational system should have more educators than a mere "less than half."

But a closer look reveals that in terms of personnel compensation, the ratio in percentages is closer to 66/34, in other words, the pay scale for crap exceeds that of teachers/ (Again, I'm on the high road here.) Even a third grade (math teacher) student can see that 51/49 does not equal 66/34.

Drilling a little deeper, with what little statistics the department provides (data from 2009 and not online as far as I could find), you'll see that on the administrative side, almost 23% of the total payroll goes to "consultants." A simple calculation (66 X .227) will show that almost 15% of the department's total payroll goes to outsiders, folks who neither teach in a classroom or directly support those who do.

"So what?" you say. "Teachers can't work alone." Granted, but when the average teacher salary barely cracks $21,000 on average, you'll note that the average consultant salary averages $79,000.

Uh-oh. Crap be expensive.

So Let's just look at that angle. The system knows it gets many millions of dollars, from both local (it is the largest single departmental budget in PR) and federal funding. Instead of focusing the department on education, the system looks inward to create boondoggles for political cronies. The incentives are not geared to "education," but "profiteering," on the form of increased bureaucracy (more people doing crap) and sweetheart deals, which include consulting and "services." Have you ever wondered why the local department of education doesn't keep accurate statistics? Now you know why.

You want proof? Our educational system was pretty much under federal government control for several years because from 1992-2008, it was a morass of corruption and fraud. It isn't much better now, but at least We no longer have the feds probing every orifice.

When education spirals downward year after year, and corruption and fraud rise over the same period, it is obvious what the incentives of the system support. So Luis Herrero's idea of changing the incentives of the system to foster stronger community schools is a great idea. It aligns the system's goals with its primary mission, whereas before the goal was "lip service to education" and the mission was "grab as much as you can before they catch on."

The educational system works as a partnership platform for back-scratching-cum-profiteering, acronym F.E.L.O.N.S. Seems appropriate that the acronym begins with the exact letter grade the system has earned for over two generations of ill-served students, parents and teachers.



The Jenius Has Spoken.




18 November 2013

Low-Wage Corporate Welfare Must Die

Wal-mart. Taco Bell. McDonald's. KFC. Marshalls. Pizza Hut.

You know these places. You know what the offer. But did you know they are amongst the lowest-paying companies in the U.S of part of A?

According to a 24/7WallStreet.com article, these companies, along with Sears, Macy's, Target, Starbucks, Kroger, Olive Garden and Red Lobster are in the group of the 10 lowest-paying cheapskates.

But unless We work there, what do We care? "Bring on the low prices," We say!

To the employees of these companies, whose average wage is under $10 an hour and most are limited to part-time work to avoid getting benefits, the reality is very different. There's a reason the government tracks a category called "working poor."

Did you know there's a company that made $17 billion in annual profit, paid virtually no taxes in almost every state, has over 1.4 million employees and is by far the company with the most employees receiving food stamps and welfare support? In fact, in some states, their employees are the single-largest group of welfare recipients? Did you know that company is Wal-mart?

Now you do.

And what do you care, right? You don't work at Wal-mart. Bring on everyday low prices!

Okay, but who pays that welfare support to Wal-mart employees? It isn't Wal-mart, who protects its profits with canny accounting. It's Us. Our taxes subsidize Wal-mart underpaying its employees. In effect, We pay for these employees, as We do for those who work in McDonald's, Sears, Pizza Hut and the rest.

You might say that people have to work and at least these folks have a job. Wrong point. Look at the other end: $17 billion in annual profit. How much of that is needed to raise wages to a level that gets Us--you and I and Our taxes--off the hook, so We stop providing welfare to employees and the companies that underpay them? Did you make $17 billion in annual profit last year? So why should your money underwrite the company that made that much and expects to make more this year?

The argument for establishing a "living wage" minimum, which can range (according to whose numbers you believe) from $11 to $25 an hour, is based on the idea that when people earn enough money to sustain themselves, they need less welfare. They can thus consume more and as We have all learned from Saturday morning TV ads, consumption makes the world go round.

The companies listed above are vehemently opposed to a "living wage." Wal-mart and many of these companies are also vehemently opposed to unions, who can organize to negotiate one. Cynically, the opposition is because these companies will then have to get off the welfare teat and actually work for a living. The specific driving force is that the shareholders want profits and profits are harder to come by when the monies have to be paid to the employees, rather than letting the state and federal governments pay out.

But are profits really that hard to come by when paying a living wage? Costco has routinely kicked Wal-mart's Sam's Club ass year after year, generating more sales per square foot and far more sales per employee. Costco workers average just under $17.00 per hour in base pay, nearly all work full-time and thus enjoy benefits such as medical plans and retirement funds. Costco is not as large as Sam's Club, but it generates roughly the same level of profit per store, and that makes them just as attractive to shareholders.

McDonald's has a dominant position in one market, where the stores have above-average sales and wages are equivalent to about $15.50 per hour. There's even plans to open more stores, despite having to pay over twice Our national minimum wage. Where is this magical place of Happy Happy Joy Joy Meals? 

Australia.

Stick that in your low-wage pouch and smoke it.

The largest segment of workers in Puerto Rico are in the "Services" category. Just drive around and you'll see why, with many of the cheapskate companies listed above joined by Walgreens, Pep Boys, Burger King, Auto Zone, Wendy's and Office Max along with local retail chains like Pitusa, Econo, Selectos and Me Salvé. All have the same marginal-wage structure, trying to cap employee hours at 35 per week and letting the welfare system fill the gaps.

A friend of Mine, who has an MBA, lost her job when the multinational she worked for closed with barely 15 day's notice. She went to verify her unemployment benefits and to see if she could get a job through the government agency's resources. She was only offered jobs at Burger King. The pitch? "Take the job and we'll get you food stamps to help out."

She's living in Boston now.

Where Burger King and McDonald's and Wal-mart and Starbucks employees also qualify for food stamps.

You see the problem, right? "Blame it on the system," right?

But aren't We "the system"?  Damn right We are. So it's either fix it, destroy it or stay out of it altogether. 

We can do all three, and We should. Solutions are out there, but like with ideas, it's making them happen, the execution, that makes the difference.

Let's explore that, shall We?



The Jenius Has Spoken.


P.S. -- From today's Cleveland Plain Dealer website: A Wal-mart in Canton. Ohio is holding a Thanksgiving food drive "for their associates in need." Associates, what Wal-mart calls its employees, are in need? Of food? What the hell is Wal-mart paying them? Peanut shells? And how the hell does a company with a $17 billion annual profit have the totally unmitigated gall of asking its customers to directly help feed its employees? Is this the new image of America? 

Damn.


[Update: 20 Nov 2013: You vote more with your dollars than you do with your, uh, vote. Here's the explanation and how powerful it is, via Free From Broke.]

[Update: 21 Nov 2013: How Wal-mart Could Pay Workers a Decent Wage Without Raising Prices. From Mother Jones. The skinny? Take the money the company uses to buy back its stock, to enrich the Walton family, and put it into wages instead. And you thought I was just spewing gall about the $17 billion profit, of which $7.6 billion goes to buying back stock...

And from Bloomberg.com, How McDonald's and Wal-mart Became Welfare Queens. A few words, to sully the palate: "Wal-mart’s 'associates' are paid so little, according to Grayson, that they receive $1,000 on average in public assistance." That's over $1.4 billion a year that taxpayers shell out for "everyday low prices." Shit.

Speaking of which, from the good people that run the other welfare queen bitch: "McDonald's Tells Employees To Consider Returning Holiday Gifts To Get Out Of Debt."

Merry Christmas, everybody!]

[Update: 22 Nov 2013: Counterpoint, also from Bloomberg: Why Wal-mart Will Never Pay Like Costco. A quote: "Costco really is a store where affluent, high-socioeconomic status households occasionally buy huge quantities of goods on the cheap: That’s Costco's business strategy (which is why its stores are pretty much found in affluent near-in suburbs). Wal-Mart, however, is mostly a store where low-income people do their everyday shopping." The article makes, and supports, its valid points.]

13 November 2013

Solving Puerto Rico 002: María José de Mata

The second Gil The Jenius: Solving Puerto Rico vidcast features a talented young lady who is looking to make her way in films and multimedia. Although Puerto Rico is a huge consumer of entertainment, the only genre with a great number of projects is music. Local films are few and far between, and the obstacles We face to increase their number are many.

Some folks might consider that government monies used in supporting films are wasted, when there are drug addicts on the streets, battered women without shelter and politicians needing a late-model Lexus. But it isn't a matter of "or," but of "and." We should have the flexibility and support systems to foster films, decrease the number of addicts, protect battered women and run politicians over with their current Lexus.

María focuses on the film side of the equation, and the chance to develop Our own stories. Use the direct link or just click below.






On the off-chance that you might ask, the cat's name is "Sally."



The Jenius Has Interviewed.



12 November 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!!

Yes!! It's that glorious tiME of the year (roughly a 9.4-month period) that culminates in...wait for it...MY BIRTHDAY!!!

Feel free to applaud. Hoist a drink. Dance a jig. Freedom of expression rules here.

For the past 9 years, I've been celebrating MY BIRTHDAY as part of My Jenius utterings. This year has been different. I only recently got back into this groove, or actually, a new groove. We'll see how far this takes Me in terms of accomplishing soME things I've been pondering for a while.

Yes, "utterings" is a word.

I'm keenly interested in the Center for New Economy's "The Mysteries of Your Electric Bill" campaign. Our local power company is a monopoly, run by cronyism, charlatans and crooks, and it's way past tiME that soMEone jabbed a pointy two-by-four into its eye.

Now for those of you who have followed My trajectory here, you know I'm not a fan of the CNE. I considered them a cynical useless piece of Establishment fluff with the mental acuity of toejam. I may have been wrong, or more accurately, they may be evolving into a group that can prove Me wrong. If they do, I'll take partial credit for the upgrade.

In a recent developMEnt, I have a friend, a brother actually, who is on the opposite side of the world right now. He is working, aiming at completing a task that few could hope to even imagine doing. I haven't seen him in over two years and I hope that absence ends soon.

My Son continues to gain My admiration simply by being a more well-rounded person at 13 than I was at 31. And I don't think it's a coincidence that I have had only a tiny handful of "ugh" days since I met Mrs. Jenius seven years ago. For a person who had almost three years of continuous "ugh" days, the difference is truly life-changing.

Unlike other years, this version of MY BIRTHDAY has a greater sense of gratitude in it. Life isn't perfect, it never will be, and though there are several things I yearn to fix (mainly health issues faced by wonderful friends), I can accept that I have limitations. Not easily, but acceptance it is.

And as for the problems faced by My Island, I'm no longer consuMEd by anger, spiking into occasional rage. There's a sense that a change is coming, not because We willed it into being, but because the system is so befouled, so broken, that a change will happen anyway. A rotting log will eventually collapse under its own devastated weight. (Feel free to add imagery of creepy-crawlies and the appropriate MEtaphor related to the Fools who hollow out Our Island, skittering in darkness.)

In a little while, I'll pin My "BIRTHDAY BOY" blue ribbon on and take a couple of hours to sit soMEwhere and continue writing. (I'm doing NaNoWriMo again.) Maybe I'll get free coffee again. (It worked in March. And June. And September.)

Yeah, it's MY BIRTHDAY!!! Pretty much all year long.



The Jenius Has Spoken.




06 November 2013

Solving Puerto Rico: Luis Herrero

As promised, here's the new Jenius effort, the Solving Puerto Rico vidcast. The inaugural episode belongs to Luis Herrero, technologist, entrepreneur and lawyer, which is where he falls off the pedestal.

Ouch.

Luis and I discuss his idea of changing Our educational system by looking at the system itself and where it places its incentives. Give yourself about 22 minutes to watch Us explore the topic and feel free to weigh in with your comments.






If you'd rather go to The Jenius channel and hang out, just click below.


Thanks, and there's much more to come.



The Jenius Has Interviewed.

29 October 2013

Gil The Jenius: Solving Puerto Rico

Aside from the fact that I just found out about Tribuna Puerto Rico, an online digital newspaper that makes Me want to dance,  I have an announcement:

The Jenius is launching a vidcast, titled "Solving Puerto Rico."

Beginning next week, I'll be talking with folks about all kinds of subjects, from education to economics, technology to security, politics to filmmaking, all with an eye towards offering solutions that can help Puerto Rico move forward.

Being The Jenius, there's a need to clarify what this vidcast will be. After all, a quick glance through the archives would indicate that engaging with Me might be akin to a wrestling match. That is not what Solving Puerto Rico is about.

* It is not about arguing with anyone: it is about exploring ideas.

* On that basis, I don't have to agree with the idea. It might even be better if I don't, for that may help push the idea into new, unintended arenas.

* It isn't about making money. I don't derive a cent from this blog and that will continue. (Heck, Mrs. Jenius gets 98% of everything I make anyway, so it's not like I'm losing a ton of money.)

* It is about presenting the conversations in a public forum. The vidcasts will be made using Google Hangouts, and uploaded to YouTube.

* Only two questions will be pre-arranged. The first: What do you think will the "tipping point" for this solution? The second: Who would you recommend for this vidcast?

Aside from the above, the conversations will take about 15-20 minutes, and most will be carried out in English. Why? Because this blog is already in English, with the language intended to reach a certain local audience and a wider global one. I see no reason to change that, just as I see no reason to not include a Spanish-language vidcast if the mood strikes Me.

Now I extend My invitation to all of you: Who should join The Jenius on a vidcast? Nominate yourself or someone you admire, know, like or just want to learn more about. Nominate folks who teach, inspire, create, modify, or simply do their job under everyone's radar. Nominate people that make a difference, whether they are poor, rich, native-born or "gone native." They don't even have to live in Puerto Rico, for there are several hundred thousand of Us making a huge difference while living in the U.S. of part of A.

Most of all, nominate yourself or someone who wants to talk about solving something in Puerto Rico. Too many of the conversations on My Island end up in a downward spiral of negativity that culminates in a nadir of hands-thrown-in-the-air despair.

Enough.

Solutions are out there. We have solutions. It's time We made them known.



The Jenius Has Spoken.



22 October 2013

Time To Renew

Yeah, The Jenius is back

It's been over 10 months since I wrote My last post, and I didn't think it would mark the beginning of a long hiatus. It just simply happened, as a certain level of ennui and dissatisfaction reached a tipping point.

Doesn't mean I stopped caring or giving a damn about My Island. I just...went away, to do other things.

But a headline today proved to be another tipping point, as several weeks of pondering were coming together. Here it be:  How Wall Street Fed Puerto Rico's $70 Billion Debt Binge.

Courtesy of Bloomberg.com, Let's pause a moment and look at that headline:

1) "Wall Street": The code word here is "banksters."

2) "Fed": Ah, the banksters in cahoots with...

3) "Puerto Rico": Aw shit.

4) "$70 Billion": Now hardly anyone can actually imagine what 70 freaking billion dollars really is. Maybe Bill Gates, for whom the sum is "My next round number up." But almost everyone understands that 70 billion dollars is a freaking huge amount of money that they don't have. Hits you in the ol' bread basket, it does, pun intended.

5) "Debt Binge": Aw shit again. Now We're out-of-control mother-bleepin' fellow crooks with the freaking banksters. Yee. And haw.

You want the lowlights? Glad you didn't ask:

* Puerto Rico more than doubled its borrowing in the municipal bond market since 2004. To the average Brethren out there, let Me parse that for you: Both retarded political parties mucking up Our present and future added to that doubling, and "borrowing" you freakazoids doesn't mean "free ride," it means "debt." As in "crushing amount of it." How bad, you don't ask?

* "(T)he government kept selling enough bonds to saddle each man, woman and child with $19,000 in debt." You got $19,000 to pay your share of debt you don't care about and most likely didn't get but a few dollars' worth of services from? Me neither.

* Here's a fun stat: Over 77% of the muni funds in the U.S. of part of A. have investments in Puerto Rican bonds. "Too big to fail," anyone? Uh, think again.

* "Neither a U.S. state nor a sovereign nation, Puerto Rico and its debt-issuing agencies, such as the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, aren’t eligible to file for bankruptcy the way Detroit and Jefferson County, Alabama, have. It must pay its debts or default." How do you like them aguacates, huh? Hey, statehooders, wanna make this your rallying cry for admission into the 50 Club? "We want the right to say We're fucking broke!"

* Oh, and what does "default" mean? Bottom line: We pay creditors through the nose, until Our brains are slop and Our innards are squeezed dry. Why? "Puerto Rico’s constitution guarantees that holders of general-obligation bonds are paid before any other creditors." And who could be listed as one of those "other creditors"? You and Me.

* Rescue plan? Puh-lease. "President Barack Obama’s administration isn’t moving to aid the commonwealth." And why should it? Yeah, $70 billion is a lot of money, but compared to the trillion-dollar fake meltdown-cum-bailout, it's a fart in a shitpile. And don't forget the previous paragraph: Our Constitution guarantees payment. You think the U.S. of part of A. isn't going to enforce that clause to the utmost limit? Here's the chaser: "The U.S. Treasury also said it isn’t taking any special measures."

* Tidbits tossed in, like sand in pus-flavored Jell-o: "Puerto Rico’s population has shrunk 4 percent since 2004 to 3.67 million, according to U.S. Census data... More than a quarter of the population depends on food stamps... Per-capita income of $15,000 is one-third the U.S. average... Labor-force participation rate of 35 percent for those age 16 to 24 is among the lowest in the world (My emphasis)... An unemployment rate of 13.9 percent, almost double the U.S. rate of 7.3 percent... Emigration is increasing... Rising crime is also persuading people to leave (as the) homicide rate is about 27 for every 100,000 people, compared with the U.S. average of 4.7... Puerto Rico’s leaders haven’t done enough to make local industry competitive in the global economy and are instead counting on tax incentives or other assistance from Washington to protect businesses."


Still with Me? Kudos.

Does any of this surprise you? If you're one of My Brethren, is anything mentioned above a true surprise to you?

Why? Why are We so accepting that this is the way things are and will be?

Well I didn't come back to keep yapping about what's wrong with Us and Our Island. I think I've covered that crap beyond the point of nausea. 

The next step is coming up.

And it won't take 10 months to happen. I guarantee it.



The Jenius Has Spoken.