Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Silicon War in our pockets

To say that technology has changed the landscape in America, over the past thirty years, is a no brainer. I have this concept in my head and really want to share it with you all, it will take some time to explain. I can say that the sparks for this line of thinking were the electronic billboards along the interstates throughout Cleveland.

As my wife Lisa and I were coming home from her mother's after dusk last weekend, you could see the ever-changing Jumbotron style billboard along I 480 near Lee Road for some distance. Its changing images came into focus as we approached from the east. I was more aware of the sign, since I had remarked that two of the billboards adjacent to the Valley View bridge on I 480 were blank on our way over to Beachwood. Then my mind was flooded with the cold hard reality of our current situation, in America.

We had traded tradition for novelty. My regular readers will recall my reference to the multiplier effect where jobs are concerned when I wrote about the casino in Erie, PA. From this observers seat in our Dodge minivan this sign represented an existential threat to our whole way of life. I asked my wife what about the sign-hanger, printer, truck with crane seller, glue for the sign maker, fuel for the truck, tools for the sign hanger, receptionist at the sign company, people to paint their building, and so on. I will not name all the concentric rings that emanate from a stone thrown into a placid pond, I'm sure you catch my drift.

This is not meant to be a politically charged message, just a common sense observation. All of the jobs mentioned above could easily be filled by a semi-savvy computer user in a small office who opens an e-mail attachment and uploads the image to the sign. This could easily be done from a smart phone by a person eating a scone at a coffee house, while they took 60 seconds away from updating their social media site, or so they could get back to playing Angry Birds.

Typically, Americans can write off these new more efficient methods to a reduction in price by the end consumer. However, the new billboards are the place to be seen if you want to give your product or service the "cool affect." So, the price might even be higher than traditional bill board. I gave up on being cool back in the late 90's. Not withstanding my fashion faux pas, what is to become of all of the workers mentioned above. Could China, where the sign was most likely made, have taken these jobs too?

Some of you might be thinking what a hypocrite, he just got a degree in IT. I was thinking that too. After all we can't all work in the IT field. We need to stop making everything so easy that there will literally be  nothing for many Americans to do. We cannot wall off our nation from imports, that was tried in 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tarrif Act of 1930 Wikipedia and was a failure. When in Rome as the saying goes. However, Rome fell in 486 A.D. I'm just saying. We need to find a balance in our country between having the convenience of smart phones and the reality that semi conductors are making more and more of us irrelevant. I am hurting deep in my soul after writing that last bit, but it's true. There is no need for new bridges and roads if there is nobody left in America to use them; let alone pay for them. I hate to sound cliche, but we really do need to make things here and soon.

We were always told to fear the war with machines thinking they would take on a human-like form and tear us apart from limb to limb. Or worse place us all in pods and use our bodies to produce electricity, like in The Matrix. In reality they are small thin rectangular devices we carry in our pockets, protecting them from any harm. This is "The Silicon War" being waged in our pockets; right under our noses. We might not be playing the violin while Rome is burning just Angry Birds.

While I am aware that trying to stuff this genie back into the bottle is all but impossible. We need to stop thinking that the next iPOD, iPad, or cheaper way to rent a movie will save us all from extinction. I was visited by a very nice young woman last week passing out fliers in opposition to Issue 2 on the ballot this November. I listened and told her I was unsure yet but thanked her for her time. Union members, in the abstract I appreciate what you are trying to do. I really do. You want to get more for the workers at a company. A noble goal, to be sure. However, when we have reached critical mass in America and jobs are leaving or being lost to obsolescence, no matter how hard you fight, if you have all the peanut butter piled up on one small part of the bread it makes for a lousy sandwich. Let us not fight for scraps, let us fight to remain relevant. I will have much more to say going further. Please let me know if you agree or disagree and help me to find a way to sooth those Angry Birds.


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Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Three Credit Agencies NEED to Hit the Reset Button for Real Stimulus!

Dear Mr. or Mrs. * after close consideration (which is not accurate, in my opinion) we are unable to approve your  * loan at this time. How many of us have seen this type of notice in our mail before? Sadly, This is an all too common letter mailed out to millions of Americans every day.

I have been kicking this idea around for several months weighing the pros and cons. I have come to the conclusion that many of the potential consumers who receive this notice are being held back from participating in the economy, or having their purchasing power diminished due to punishing interest rates. Obviously, this would allow some abusers of credit to get a fresh bite at the apple, however, I think the economic good would surely out weigh these exceptions.

The current system has no way of parsing out people like you and me who would have, under normal economic conditions, gladly paid our obligations, but for the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the great recession. The one size fits all monolith put up by the big three credit rating agencies has become an impediment to people who would like or need a new car, washing machine, home repair and the like. The evidence I would submit is the stock price for Auto Zone.

In October 2008 the stock was trading for $99 and change. Friday's close showed an amazing $331.25 per share. Really, is this stock really in the same league as Apple? In my opinion, no. I have nothing against Auto Zone as an organization. They are simply harvesting huge profits that result from people who have to patch up their older cars since they cannot get a loan for a newer model.

I think the people who were most affected by the bursting of the housing bubble, and now find themselves in a negative equity position on their mortgage would benefit the most from my proposal. As loose as the credit terms were before, they still had to have some qualifications to get their mortgages in the first place. Also the Federal Government has shown a willingness to bail out banks, should this plan not work out. More likely, they will enjoy the huge profits afforded Auto Zone, this will surly put a spike in demand. At least the money would be spent in America. I was sickened to find out that the Federal Reserve Bank gave a number of billions to European banks just this past week, to prevent their banks from running out of money.

The credit rating agencies and law makers must realize that the tsunami of less than stellar credit scores that have washed over America in the past three years is not the fault of the consumers altogether. There were large macro-economic force's stacking the deck against us. This is like a city giving a citation to a home owner who had a devastating house fire two weeks ago, for not cutting their grass in a timely manner. Hello, my mower was burned up in the fire along with my ability to buy a new one.

Our days of sending our jobs, money, intellectual property, ideas, and technology without getting anything in return need to come to an end. I beg the people in power to, as any flight attendant will tell you, "Put on your own oxygen mask before you put on the one of those you are caring for." Or better yet let them put on their own damn mask.

If you agree please share a link to this post with all your friends. and as always please leave me a comment.

Best of luck
Richard L. Pryor, Jr. 


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Sunday, September 4, 2011

9/11 A trucker then, now a Writer's Perspective, Where were you?

I pray that my words here might give you some measure of comfort. As many of you know, I recently graduated from college and it was there that I found my love of writing. I imagine my words as steam valves that allow pressure to be let out. I have been thinking for a few weeks what I might say to mark this 10 year anniversary. Here goes:

September 11, 2001 was one of the longest 24 hours in American history, in my opinion. I was in Greenville, South Carolina that morning. I was in my first week of training as a newly minted long haul truck driver. This meant I was driving a trainers truck, while I learned the ropes. Ironically, the load we were delivering was from Connecticut, so I had traversed the George Washington Bridge on September 10, 2001. As I drove south on the New Jersey turnpike in the middle of the night I saw the Manhattan skyline, for the first and last time in its pre-9/11 configuration. The twin towers which sat at the southern tip of the island looked like all the movies I had ever seen. They were a permanent fixture, or so I thought. I remember telling the trainer I must come back here someday, when I can go into the city, and have a closer look.

When we arrived in Greenville, SC at our destination, we both got in our respective bunks and hit the rack. Eight AM came in a flash and the truck was empty by 8:30 AM. We were headed east on I-26 towards our next pick up location when the seemingly endless stream of country music, was cut in on in the middle of a Toby Keith song.

The voice was that of ABC news with an urgent news bulletin. A plane had struck the world trade center. As the songs returned the trainer and me were mildly affected. We had no TV so we were left to make our own images in our heads about this event. I envisioned a small plane that might have had a mechanical failure and could not avoid the tower. I am reminded of the stories about the 1960 Presidential debate where the radio audience thought Nixon won and the TV audience thought Kennedy prevailed. I could have never conjured up a mental image of the true magnitude of this event. I had no frame of reference. I will also say that I am glad I was not near a TV for this event. When I watch news specials about 9/11 my wife has a far stronger reaction to the imagery, than do I.

Soon the music would be gone again, and gone for a long time. As the miles went by the next report of another plane hitting the other tower came into our big red semi-truck. There was just the hum of the turbo diesel, the sound of the radio announcer and nothing else. It was like when you pull up to a red light and you and the car next to you are playing the same song and you both realize you are singing the same tune. There is the smile and wave then exaggerated head movements as if to say, no I like this this song more than you. This was the same feeling but this was a song nobody wanted to hear. There was no finger clicking or mouthing the words, just a stunned silence.

We made a stop just after the Pentagon had been hit at a Pilot truck stop. The place was packed with drivers, who were gathered around the TV's for sale. I saw the towers set ablaze with smoke billowing from them and that image will be with me for the rest of my life. The group of truckers standing there had lots of things in common. While I cannot remember the race or gender of the individuals in that truck stop I will never forget the tears. The differences that might have separated us before just simply didn't matter. Our nation was under attack and we were just frozen in space and time watching helplessly. I think that was the hardest part of 9/11. You felt absolutely helpless. I did, since my wife was in Ohio and I was far away from her. I cannot imagine the not knowing followed by the pain and suffering felt by those who lost loved ones in this most tragic event.

The place where we picked up our load headed for Wisconsin gave us time to talk things over with the dock workers there. This was on everyone's mind. As we proceeded north, and the miles ticked off there was a feeling of sadness that was just everywhere. The hate that brought on these attacks was winning, for the moment. I recall how strange it was not seeing any aircraft for that whole day. The sunset in Indiana had none of the bright jet trails to light up as it vanished over the western horizon. The calm was deceptive.

Our New Flag Just in Time
All over the nation people were in there homes and the next day would bring about permanent change to the landscape of America. People would rally with signals to the enemy, whoever it was, that they were not going to give up their way of life and the freedom they enjoyed. The beauty of the flags sprouting up everywhere is also an image I will never forget.  They would fight and fight to the death as so many brave American's have and still continue the battle to this day, ten years later.

You can argue whether or not the exact approach was the correct one, or the venues chosen to wage this war were the best use of our might, you cannot say that America went down without a fight. I know this is a hot-button issue for many of you. However, we must remember who threw the first punch. It was a small group of freedom hating, radical, ideologically driven, people. People who do not represent any larger race or creed. Just people who happen to also have 23 pairs of chromosomes and the same genus and species as me. I do not know anyone who shares their beliefs, or their hate. I know plenty of people who hold Muslim beliefs, who would never imagine causing harm to this country. Painting with too broad a brush is messy and usually just results in paint ending up where it does not belong.

I will end by offering a Thank You to all of the men and women who have or are serving our military in hostile lands. I would also like to thank the family's left behind for their sacrifice, while husband's or wive's are serving overseas. The loss of life in the cause of freedom for America is the highest price our nation has paid. To all of the family's who lost members in the attacks I want you to know that I will never forget your loved one's and neither will our nation. I am pleased by the rebuilding which is going on at the site of the former World Trade Center. The new buildings serve as a reminder of the might of our nation and her ability to maintain the beacon for freedom as they look out over Lady Liberty in the harbor.

Please leave me a comment saying where you were on 9/11. God bless America.





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Friday, September 2, 2011

My knowledge of the Sheffield Township Fire victims, The Maruschak's

I would like to contribute some thoughts to the tragedy, which has unfolded over the past couple of days in Lorain, my hometown. I knew the family back in my high school days. I was in their home many times in the late 80's. They were always kind and caring people. Especially, when it came to Michael.

I graduated with Bill in 1989 from Clearview. There were only 89 in 89. We were a small class but our spirit was mighty. Bill, who was my biology partner, was the strong silent type. He kept to himself but if I worked on it I could usually have him smiling by the end of biology. We were on the football team together and got along just fine.

Michael, his brother was never far from Bill. They walked to school together and Bill always had time for Michael. Michael like me, was not an athletic specimen but any physical deficits he may of had back then were greatly overshadowed by his pure heart. He was a nice guy who always made a visit to the house more enjoyable.

Bill's family had converted their garage into a rec-room with lots of musical recording equipment and instruments. His father joined us one time and tried to explain how some of the consoles worked. I was lost but enjoyed seeing the family get so much from the music they played. His parents were kind to me and always offered me a drink and made me feel at home there. As soon as I saw the picture of the house being consumed by flames I knew where it was.

Had Michael been attending school in this era he would have been afforded much more protection against bullying. He was an easy target for the people who didn't know him, or his brother Bill, who is a tall imposing figure to anyone who might have had something negative to say against his little brother. Bill ALWAYS had Mike's back. After the events that took place the other night that debt has been paid in full with interest. Michael left this world a super hero just like his comic books featured.

I am very sorry for the loss of Michael and the emotional toll his loss will take on his family. I do recall seeing photos of Bill on Facebook holding his newborn son a couple of years ago. He was surely smiling then. My prayers are with them and with Michael, his guardian angel.  

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