29 October 2007

Security Solutions - Part 2

Following Part 1, comes Part 2 (You're welcome, statehooders.)

Privatize both utilities: In terms of electricity and water, Puerto Rico has long teetered on the brink of disaster. Our water pipes are 50 years behind the current demand, the current Sewage-headed Authority in charge of it plays monkey-butt with "estimated" water bills and the government keeps allowing this decrepit slug to give away water, both legally (subsidies) and illegally. (The other decrepit slug gives away electricity. Huzzah!)

So it's time to privatize the right way. And the right way doesn't mean "Protect the vegetables in their cushy jobs," it means "Transform the system from chaos to order."

Here's how:

1) Place both utilities "on the market" so that private companies can present their plans and bids.

2) The government establishes the objectives and expected results for the duration of the initial 5-year contract. These objectives DO NOT include "job protection," "minimum employee retention" or any some-such crap. A smart business is run with the people needed: Let the winning bidder establish its operational team.

3) The winning bidder takes over the utility and is on the clock. The company starts its transformation plan and the government clears the way. The "stick" to keep the utility in line is the loss of the contract if objectives aren't met. The "stick" only works if the government clears the way properly. (To the Fools: You can control the utility better by targeting long-term profit potential than you can by shoving useless employees down their throats. Ask Verizon.)

4) The government has oversight powers on rate changes, in its role as protector of the citizenry. (Excuse Me: I just cackled a tear here.) Rate changes must be tied into completed infrastructure changes.

5) If the company falls short of objectives, it incurs a fine equal to the transition cost for another company to take over. If objectives are met, the company receives another 5-year contract, or a longer one that voters decide on. That's right, I said voters, the people who pay the bills. The Fools will quickly try to arrange for a long-term butt-buddy deal; there's no stopping that. With this system, the company must do its job right. If they want to stick around for more than 5 years, it's not the Fools who decide.

Sub-clause solution: Establish two new energy plants: This can be a stand-alone measure, but as part of a utility revamp, it's absolutely necessary. Let's cut to the chase: These plants need to be established, by fiat, use of eminent domain or simple fait accompli machinations. What I'm saying here is that the government needs to make this happen without regard to the knee-jerk "not in My backyard" reactions it will engender.

With over 1,000 persons on average per square mile and more along the coastal regions, there is no way a new energy plant can be placed on this island if We let tiny groups sway decisions against it. This tyranny-by-minorities is arguably acceptable when it comes to a tourist resort, but it no longer has a place when the economic and security potential of Puerto Rico is so compromised by an overburdened, outdated and collapsing infrastructure.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

26 October 2007

Security Solutions - Part 1

My previous four posts were picked up by Global Voices Online. That's always an honor.

Now the following solutions for what I deem are security issues in Puerto Rico:

Double police salaries while significantly raising the standards: If you have a high school diploma, don't have a criminal record and aren't reasonably in danger of dying within the next five years, you can be a Puerto Rico police officer, with your own gun and everything. And you start at $1,400 a month.

What a joke. Just as the political system weeds out capable people to favor sub-normal and sub-evolved cretins (I know, I'm being redundant, but the Fools don't understand what I say), the police force attracts largely marginal candidates for any job, much less ones to engage in the primary function of government: defense of its citizens.

Many in Our police force work two or even three jobs to make ends meet, which is an obvious scenario for stress, dysfunctional relationships and corruption, not to mention thuggery. No police force in the world is immune to bad apples, but when you start with inferior material (Yes, I said "inferior") you can only hope you wind up with a worthy crop.

We're past the stage where hope has any right to guide Our actions here. Beginning immediately, the police force has to seriously raise its standards to beyond "You wan' fries with that?" candidacy. It has to police (pun definitely intended) its own so that the rotten ones are expelled as quickly as possible. And while that happens--only as it happens--do current officers start receiving the higher pay they deserve.

And don't give Me that "There's no money" crap: There's plenty of money for this even without implementing My other solutions. Proof: The Fools added more employees in four years than there are police officers in Puerto Rico, many of them at salaries that triple what cops make.

There's money. And then there's money.

Implement preventive care in the health care system: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The current health reform--a sick oxymoron at Our expense--is absolutely lousy at health care, but it's light-years better than it is at preventive care. The reason: The system was designed by venal doctors, starting from the top with an ex-doctor who aped rather than shaped.

The specious argument against preventive care is that it's up to the patient to follow-through and that you can't coerce a person to engage in the required activities.

Just shut up.

What is government if not a system to coerce certain behaviors from its citizens, ostensibly for the good of that person and society? Is it better for a government to coerce behaviors after the person is sick and weak or when the person is healthy? Is it better to coerce those behaviors to help the person stay healthy or is it better to coerce them to possibly restore health, if time doesn't run out? Which is more cost-effective, regular check-ups to avoid problems or expensive drugs and surgery to fight for an unsteady status quo?

An ounce versus a pound. People--doctors, hospital owners, insurance company shareholders, Fools-- love the pound...that comes from Our flesh. We'd rather pay the ounce. Here's how: We extend the health system to a schedule of routine yearly or semi-annual check-ups. No one is required to keep the schedule, but if they do, they get progressively smaller deductibles when they need health services. This alleviates two problems:

1) Those with marginal incomes often put off health care due to cost. Here they can get basic care at no cost.

2) By getting that care and developing a medical history, many health problems can be ameliorated or caught early enough to be easily treated. And by "easily" I mean "at lower cost."

An ounce versus a pound. Seems applicable to both solutions, when you come to think about it.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 October 2007

Government Solutions - Part 2

More on how to fix the hideously defective sewer We call government:

Change the Legislative elections to a separate schedule from the Executive election: Every four years, Puerto Rico sweeps out one set of Fools and installs a veritable clone-herd of Fools in its place. Every seat, from governor to head butt-kisser at the Municipal level is up for grabs, and even if the governor and butt-kisser win, the simple idea that everything is in flux means everything grinds to a halt.

Add to that the whole chaotic inrush of effluvia hiding cronyism and nepotism to a severe degree and you have the typical high colonic We call transition.

Here's how to ameliorate this idiocy: Use the change to unicamerality (I can hear Myself laughing in the near distance) to have those Fools and County Commissions (Yes, implement My other suggestion for better mileage) elected in even-number years that don't involve the executive branch (governor and head beggar in Washington, D.C., as well as all mayors). Under that system, We still have year-round campaigns (like THAT'S going to change), but We separate the transition efforts into separate periods.

Those who say it will create chaos are to be forcibly reminded of the following two points: This system works for Us by reducing overall government strain--which reduces overall economic strain--and do you really want to continue with the current witless system?

Make a full transition to e-government by 2012, but keep elections paper-based: Puerto Rico, with its high population density and technology infrastructure, is--should be--the perfect sociopolitical laboratory for e-government. A streamlined, Web-enabled, Web-enhanced, near-instantaneous government is within Our reach. We could teach the world how to make a truly representative democracy, the first since the experiment of Athens some 2,400 years ago.

But no e-voting for general elections. The murderous moron and his moronic thugs stole two national elections by using e-voting. Independent reports and even a Republican-supporter's analysis of the 2004 Ohio debacle conclude e-voting was rigged, and in 2000, Florida's unbelievably irrational voting patterns were carried out via e-voting.

We can use e-government to set a world-class standard. We don't need e-voting to make electing pluperfect idiots any easier.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 October 2007

Government Solutions - Part 1

Now let's see how to fix the f#@*&^%! government:

Reduce the number of its employees by 60%: The local pathetic excuse for government is grossly overburdened because it serves as a garbage can for stuffing nobodies who would otherwise have to actually provide value and work for a living. Almost 42% of Our employed work directly or indirectly for the government and that has only ONE explanation: Votes.

Since I couldn't possibly care less about votes, slash 30% of those nobodies stat. Begin with the huge departments, such as Education (more on this "later" or "above", as the case may be...), Hacienda (the junior-batty IRS), Vivienda (Housing) and Salud (Health). Contracting these asylums for the mentally incompetent and morally bankrupt would drop overall numbers by some 15%.

How? Eliminate--immediately--everyone whose title/position includes words such as Auxiliary, Assistant or Special and/or includes a number/ordinal, such as "Second Sub-Director." These are all useless positions and people who occupy them are at best accomplices in stupidity. (At worst, they are outright thieves.)

Along these lines, eliminate some agencies, such as the Public Buildings Authority and Ports Authority. The latter is basically a Federal government rubber stamp that can be melded into Hacienda and the local Transportation Department. Then privatize utilities (power and water) and unused public buildings (for community development projects). Lastly, go unicameral. At this point, We've chopped off some 30% of the government's brainless fat. The other 30% comes from...

Consolidate the 78 townships into 16 counties: And by "consolidate" I mean "Create a unified, single-point-of-reference operation," not another useless layer of bureaucracy. Puerto Rico doesn't need 78 Municipal governments providing voter-based exchanges: What We need is more efficient government.

Creating a 16-county system would combine geography at the Municipal level (no gerrymandering) with population, where each county will represent roughly 350,000 residents. The exception would be San Juan, as a county in itself, but the others would take contiguous towns and balance the populations for near-equal distribution. Municipal governments would contract by 15-25% and central government agencies would also reduce their employees by about 10-15% because of a reduced service base (78 versus 16.)

With these solutions, Puerto Rico's bloated government would shrink its percentage within the total work force from 24% direct employment to about 12%, a sustainable level. The savings in wages and benefits alone would provide a large pool of funds for government-led projects, primarily aimed at education, energy and economic development.

And you know where to find Me for those solutions...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 October 2007

Economic Solutions -- Part 2

Second part of the Economic Solutions set, part of My 9-post series:

Drop subsidies for outside investors and focus on creating research centers: It is estimated that to secure a $1,000 investment, Puerto Rico "gives up" some $1,100. That's like playing blackjack to lose...on purpose. The loss starts with power and water subsidies, then tax subsidies and even extends to labor subsidies. (Hewlett-Packard, anyone?) The key transition is to stop giving away money and start developing a "service first" attitude. And the best way to do that is to transform Puerto Rico into an a la carte research center. You want to do biomedical? What do you need and by when? You're interested in nanotech? Give Us your shopping list and We can do. From buildings to broadband to bright-eyed associates, We can start selling Ourselves as the "just add you" place for scientific and technological research. Will it be easy? Hell no. But it has three advantages over the current "We'll blindly grease Our backsides" method of getting screwed: (1) It is an easy-to-market proposition; (2) It plays to Our strengths as a U.S.-connected, somewhat bilingual and highly-educated workforce and (3) It lets Us manage development costs as investments, not as losing propositions.

Make all welfare workfare...and if the U.S won't agree, opt out of every program: Yeah, you heard Me: No free rides and the hell with the federal government if it doesn't understand. We have an enormous population of people who live off the kindness of strangers and the venality of politicians in two countries. However, many of those on welfare would rather work than stay trapped in their subservient limbo. There's considerable debate about this point and I acknowledge that the number of "willing to work" may be quite low. On the other hand, if forced to choose between workfare and no welfare, how much do you want to bet workfare will be the favored option? Unless We get this large percentage (about 20-23% of Our potential working population) into the fray, We're simply feeding the underground economy, debasing any chance at a national will for economic growth and raising another generation of parasites masquerading as "the poor."

Of course, you won't see any Fool on this island or up north take the lead on this solution because they fear being labeled "enemies of the poor." But any true political leader worth more than a bag of pig crap has to be an enemy of the poor because their poverty implies that "the system" isn't working. And you don't help a poor person by making his/her poverty their best option: You help the poor by creating better options.

By U.S. standards, more than half Our population is economically poor. Well, Uncle Sam, here's a tip: Implement workfare in Puerto Rico and make it the starting point for a nationwide transition over the next decade. By starting here, you U.S. Fools would not be risking a major voter backlash...and you Republicans couldn't care less about the poor anyway, so what the hell do you care? It saves the government money and that's all you care about. And you Democrats should stop sniffing your anuses and realize that extending welfare prolongs poverty, and that the only sensible way back to a self-sustaining lifestyle is to actually have the welfare recipient work at sustaining themselves to some degree.

Go ahead, Fools, find reasons not to do this. You always do. That's why We continue to sink into Our own little patch of economic quicksand, a sludgy elevator to No Future Worth Wanting.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 October 2007

Economic Solutions -- Part 1

Here's My solution set--more to come--on fixing Puerto Rico's economic malaise:

Cut the sales tax from 7% to 3%: Despite a government intent on upping this to 8% or more (trust Me: The Fools want this badly) the current sales tax has proven itself to be too high, as anyone with an IQ above 60 could have foreseen. The proof: Overall consumer spending has dropped and the government coffers are receiving less money than expected. Dropping the sales tax to 3% jumpstarts the local economy and, as proven by hundreds of cases worldwide, will actually increase the government's revenue. In addition, cutting the tax will force a reappraisal of its application which at this point looks more like "Tax what you can get away with" instead of "Tax what can bear taxing." Any tax perceived as slipshod, unfair and wasteful--and this one hits all three with a vengeance--is not a tax that will propel an economy into even modest growth.

Tax all second and additional residential properties at modern property value: Local property taxes are an Edsel: An ugly relic of the 1950s. Although the number of second and third homes in Puerto Rico is not close to majority (the estimate is 18% of all homes and apartments are owned in addition to a primary residence), it does represent a substantial undertaxing of true value. By modernizing the property tax We can collect the monies needed to provide infrastructure services at today's costs, not at some 1950-level pipe dream. Property taxes for primary residences can remain at the current levels: The point here isn't so much raising money as it is making the housing market a fairer provider of its own services cost. Given that many of these houses and apartments are built upon or extend a ravished power and water/sewage jalopy, the need to raise monies in that specific segment has been avoided due to cowardice and political buffoonery.

Eliminate capital gains taxes on investments made in local companies: Businesses in Puerto Rico are often like fish in muddy puddles: Flopping about in murkiness while trying to survive on just barely enough oxygen. That business "oxygen"--investment capital--is so hard to find that entities as clueless about business as the EnterPRize cavemen can actually flourish. Those same cavemen would be laughed out of any stateside business community with their feeble brand of "entrepreneurial development." The culprit? Double or even triple taxation on local capital gains. While We bemoan the lack of investment capital, billions--yes, billions--of dollars flow out of Puerto Rico and within it through the so-called underground economy. The Fools taxed Us to "reveal" the underground economy, which is like kicking a dog to make it like you. Take a hint, Fools: The key to making the underground economy a cash-flow stream is to cut taxes.

I've just told you where to start.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 October 2007

Blog Action Day: Time to Act

Yes, The Jenius is adding his 2 (billion) cents to Blog Action Day. Check out the action around the Internets!

And action is the operative word in that sentence. Now a blog isn't really a place for action, but it can be, if it at least espouses positions for improvement and/or solutions. And based on that criteria, The Jenius is falling short of His own expectations.

Look back at most of this year's posts and you might see what I see: A dearth of positive. Yes, there's plenty of pinpointing problems and negatives with no concurrent listing of what needs to be done. I'm certainly better at balancing those two elements than most pundits (3), essayists (5) and freaking idiots (19,341) inhabiting the realm of local media, but I'm definitely not happy with My level of balance: I expect--and must provide--more.

Time to situate My lucre with My oral aperture.

Over the next nine posts, I will provide My current best ideas for changing and improving Puerto Rico's economy, educational system, political system and security. I say "current" because (a) I don't know everything (shocking to Me, too), (b) things change, even solutions and (c) perfection is within My reach, but even I have to work for it.

So if you're reading this in chronological order, you have something more to look forward to in the coming three weeks. If you're reading "down" the list and have just arrived at the beginning, congratulations! If you're just passing through on your way to some other more relevant result, I hope you land on another Blog Action Day blog.

If you don't fit any of the above categories, good for you. Come back sometime and see if I've changed again.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

12 October 2007

Behavior and Laws

In a typically crowded mall, late afternoon, on one of the many holidays We have freckling the calendar. I enter a music store to see if anything good shows up in the bargain bin. I pass a few drum sets and other musical instruments set up in the display window. All of them have handwritten signs taped to them: No toque. Do not touch.

Behind Me, a kinetically-unchallenged miniature baboon races into the store and immediately starts banging his paws on a drum. The mother, a frump with every right to stay home and reduce the collective eye-strain of looking at her, heaves a deep sigh, shakes her head and walks towards the back of the store.

Baboon-boy is banging bongos. So I kicked him.

No, not really. I wanted to. I have a well-behaved seven-year-old boy and I've never wanted to kick him, but for baboon-boy? I say 20 yards. And that's unfair because the truly deserving target of a drop-kick in the ass is his apish mother, who probably whelped the child and gave up on trying to teach him civility, manners and respect before the banana-peeler shed his baby fuzz.

I moved down to the toy store, looking for something for My son. (No, really.) Despite 9 employees, practically every square inch of floor space was occupied by boxes, plushies, scattered playthings and people, adults and kids sitting on the floor in an apparent attempt to create a kaleidoscopic obstacle course.

One young father pulled out a batch of action figures (screw it: dolls) for his son to look at. The child made a face, grabbed the packets and flung them to the floor. What did Spineless Sire do? He followed his son to another aisle, the discarded toys adding to the pile in Aisle 3.

It's terribly easy to criticize these actions, but here's the basic point: Why do We need signs on every freaking drum and musical instrument to tell Us "Hands off!"? Why do Our stores so often look like they've been hit by a Richter 7.9? Why are We so hideously bad at keeping Our (k)ids in check?

Sure, you see this behavior--or lack of it--more often at the freak show called Wal-Mart, or at the crybaby convention called Toys 'R' Us, but it's inexcusable in any store. Yes, kids will be kids and they will, occasionally, mess things up. And maybe "The Broken Window Theory" applies, where chaos increases because chaos (in the form and metaphor of the broken windows on an abandoned building) are visible and thus "allow" further negative actions. In that case, quick intervention by employees could reduce the disorder.

But that's like trying to hold back the rising tide with a sponge mop. We simply misbehave in such great numbers that any action taken to overcome it are quickly seen as futile. And that leads to wondering: What does this say about Our society?

And here's an interesting facet to add to the discussion: We have the most extensive set of civil laws (by number of laws and the number and length of their clauses and subclauses) of any state or territory in the U.S.

We misbehave often. We have more laws than almost anyone else. Discuss.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 October 2007

Puerto Rico's Casu Marzu

From Cracked Magazine's website, their selection of The 6 Most Terrifying Foods in the World. With My editing tossed in for local "flavor":

#5. Casu Marzu

Sardinia, Italy.

What the hell is it?
This, dear reader, is a medium-sized lump of Sweet Fucking Christ. Casu Marzu is a sheep's milk cheese that has been deliberately infested by a Piophila casei, the "cheese fly." The result is a maggot-ridden, weeping stink bomb in an advanced state of decomposition.

Its translucent larvae are able to jump about 6 inches into the air, making this the only cheese that requires eye protection while eating. The taste is strong enough to burn the tongue, and the larvae themselves pass through the stomach undigested, sometimes surviving long enough to breed in the intestine, where they attempt to bore through the walls, causing vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

Wait, it gets worse...
This cheese is a delicacy in Sardinia, where it is illegal. That's right. It is illegal in the only place where people actually want to eat it. If this does not communicate a very clear message, perhaps the larvae will, as they leap desperately toward your face in an effort to escape the putrescent horror of the only home they have ever known. Even the cheese itself is ashamed; when prodded, it weeps an odorous liquid called lagrima, Sardinian for "tears."

Danger of this turning up in America:
It's already here. A "maggot-ridden, weeping stink bomb in an advanced state of decomposition"? Say "Hello!" to the Legislature of Puerto Rico.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

08 October 2007

Ay Bendito Revisited

Happy Birthday, Vi Marie!

My previous comments about Our Ay bendito--that so-personal phrase that encompasses so much--drew a bit of praise and some brickbats.

Praise, I deserve. Brickbats? Well, those might be deserved as well. One particular point was brought up by Liliana, who wrote (and I translated):

Our Ay bendito is not a way to enjoy someone else's suffering. It is not infinite tolerance. It's something good that has always characterized Our people and that We've been losing, in part because, some years ago, the phrase began to be criticized and ridiculed. Ay bendito is compassion and solidarity. It continues to exist despite efforts to eradicate it. Ay bendito is what compels Us to rush in and help Our neighbor and those affected by disaster or crime. It also makes Us reject the death penalty because it is a definitive punishment that leaves no margin for forgiveness and spiritual growth.

Viva the Puerto Rican Ay bendito.

Liliana's right, but she brings three points to the discussion that I didn't cover:

1) "Infinite tolerance": The fact that Ay bendito implies (or can imply) a level of tolerance so vast it is nothing more than bovine passivity is what eventually sparked a cynical reaction to its use. Spilled milk? Ay bendito. Injustice? Ay bendito. Outright thievery and thuggery? Ay bendito. Liliana is right: There is a difference between compassion and indifference. I didn't point out the compassion part, but focused instead on the pretense of compassion.

2) "Rush in and help Our neighbor": Time and again, Puerto Rico is amongst the most generous providers of food, clothing, medical supplies and volunteers for practically every disaster in this hemisphere. On a per capita basis, We often provide twice as much aid as any other country, despite some of them (listen up, U.S. of part of A. and Canada) having much vaster resources at the per capita and national levels. Stick that in your Ay bendito discussion.

3) "Efforts to eradicate it": As above, Ay bendito has been made to represent a negative--passivity--rather than a host of positives. I don't think it was a concerted "plan," but rather a reflection of comparison. When Puerto Rico was isolated in its misery, Ay bendito may have been the only "glue" to keep Us together. Exposure to "American" ways, growth and lifestyle, all as part of cultural mores that are different from Ours , may have engendered or exacerbated a sense of inferiority that was neither real nor necessary. At that point, Ay bendito may have been seen as the slogan of Our past rather than the basis for Our future. Alternate and parallel theory: Things have gotten so bad for so many of Us that We use Ay bendito as criticism while waiting for someone (else) to solve the problems. Think passivity plus cynicism.

And We're (almost) back to My original argument. Should We "eradicate" Our Ay bendito? It can't be done, so trying to is useless. Can We stop people from using it as a mask of hypocrisy? Ditto. Can We stop seeing it as a negative and base Our truest potential for growth on its spiritual power? I don't see as We have a choice.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

05 October 2007

Think Your Own Way

I confess that I can't pinpoint where I found this, but it's well worth reading. This anecdote dates from a long time ago, but its message is even more relevant now: Think your own way.

Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I read the examination question: "SHOW HOW IT IS POSSIBLE TO DETERMINE THE HEIGHT OF A TALL BUILDING WITH THE AID OF A BAROMETER." The student had answered, "Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building."

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly! On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student have another try.

I gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on.

In the next minute, he dashed off his answer which read: "Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch.Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^^2, calculate the height of the building."

At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded and gave the student almost full credit. While leaving my colleague's office, I recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem, so I asked him what they were.

"Well," said the student, "there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building."

"Fine," I said, "and others?"

"Yes," said the student, "there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units."

"A very direct method."

"Of course. If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated. On this same tack, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession."

"Finally," he concluded, "there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent's door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: 'Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer."

At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.

The student was Neils Bohr.

Look him up if the name means nothing to you. His birthday is October 7th, so think of this as My way of celebrating your own way of thinking.

(The "correct" method is to measure barometric pressure at street level and rooftop level and convert the difference into height based on their relative pressures. Three other methods I could suggest: (1) Measure the barometer, then measure the apparent height of the barometer from a known distance. Measure the apparent height of the building from the same distance. Simple math will give the approximate height of the building. (2) Throw or fire the barometer, tied with string, to the rooftop. Measure the string. Variation: Tie the barometer to a helium balloon that floats to the rooftop. (3) Find the final building plans; use the barometer to make sure the plans don't roll up as you write down the answer.)

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 October 2007

Rogelio Figueroa: The PPR's Kamikaze, Part II

More free advice to Rogelio Figueroa and his soon-to-be-undone PPR party: Pick your battles wisely or your opponents will pick your bones gladly.

The example at hand is Rogelio leading a Light Brigade charge against the local Independence "Party," alleging that the PIP committed fraud in re-registering itself for the coming elections.

Educational pause: Parties that do not receive at least a 3% level of voter support--like the Independence "Party" does with recent regularity--must compile 100,000 signatures and have them certified by the State Electoral Commission in order to receive public funding and ballot space.

The PPR fought a long hard battle to overcome the many obstacles--some of which were and are bogus--in order to register itself. Instead of recognizing the process for what it is--dirty infighting with public monies--and staying away from it, Rogelio leads his band of Fools into a head-first confrontation with the only party that could conceivably help it break the stalemate.

For you see, the PPR has yet to receive its alloted funds--no surprise there. What is a surprise, and a mockery of smart thinking and planning, is the attack on the PIP as an extension of demanding the monies that are the PPR's by right.

No, I take that back: It isn't a surprise. It's simply near-sighted and a thus a perfect example of the PPR's political "strategy."

Sit down, Rogelio, and let Me enlighten you: The PIP was not your enemy. Never was. But you made it that by challenging their right to co-exist in the swamphole We call politics. What you wanted was money: What you got was shot down in court, no public monies and a once-proud, now-vacuous party jumping on the "Let's stomp the PPR" bandwagon.

What you did was stupid. Rather than pick a fight you could win and thus enhance the survival of your party, you picked the wrong fight, aimed at the wrong target, chose the wrong battlefield and topped off the whole stupid orgy of Foolishness by being slapped with the punishment of paying the PIP's legal costs.

You make the Earl of Cardigan look like Napoleon.

You abandoned the unassailable high ground of "We earned and deserve this funding" for the low crawl of "I want want he wants." Maybe you won't pay a cent of legal costs, but you and the PPR will pay for this and other similar mistakes. Because if you continue to act like a long-established party--like a fetid stable of Fecal-Filled Fools--you will simply make it easier and easier for the voters to ignore you and for the opposition--now unanimously united against you--to scatter your ashes to the wind.

And unlike the Light Brigade, no one will write a poem in praise of your stupid death.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 October 2007

Zip Gun

This won't take long...

Slightly past 8:23 in the evening. I'm driving through Caguas, a large, sprawling city between San Juan and Ponce. I'm looking for an apartment and have taken a turn just off the main street to explore a small enclave of a neighborhood, one combining houses with small apartment buildings and a few public buildings...

I drive down the side street, a short one leading into a T intersection. At the end of the street stand three young men, two in conversation, the other clearly acting as a lookout. Movement from My right is a scooter, one of thousands now zipping around, with two young men on it. Neither is wearing a helmet. They roll in, circle around to the two young men in conversation and as they turn to look down the left-hand street--where the lookout pointed--I notice the driver of the scooter is carrying a gun in his left hand. A long-barreled gun.

Right or left? Right I head into a maze of short streets; left I head towards the highway. Both may be blocked or changed by construction...

I see the gun a couple of seconds before they see Me, the scooter circling left to almost face Me. Only then do I notice how empty the street is, how dark it is outside the spot where they congregate, how thoroughly shuttered the houses look with their 5-foot walls, razor wire and double-locked iron grillwork.

The scooter drifts a little, driver, backseat rider and three other guys staring at Me. My foot flits over to the accelerator...

The driver--the gunman--suddenly leans right and zips the scooter up to speed, tracking down the left-hand leg of the T. He's heading after someone: His passenger is urging him to hurry.

I glance at the three other young men, noting their relaxed posture. They seem to be powering down to wait.

I let the car roll a few feet, then speed up. To follow the scooter.

It's where I was going anyway.

The Jenius Has Spoken.