Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, October 11, 2018

No Excuses. Just Vote!

Love is a pile of ____, A Musical

We were invited to a performance of a play at the Teatro de la Ciudad de Chihuahua, in Chihuahua, Mexico, this past Saturday evening. This was a presentation of the City of Chihuahua, and featured some very professional actors.
                                                           The Playbill:

Before I mention the play itself (other than showing you the playbill, that is), let me tell you about the venue.  The theater itself is old, and its location has variously been occupied by theaters known by names such as Betancourt (1877-1904, when it was destroyed by fire), Teatro Centenario (until 1938, when it was again destroyed by fire), then Cine Colonial (1947-1992, when the doors were closed).  As the names might suggest, it was a regular theater, with live performances up until it became a movie theater in 1947.  Following the closure in 1992, the theater was not used until the City opened it as The Theater of the City, in 2001.

                                            The theater from the street

The presentation that we saw was an original play whose name ends with the well known emoji for "poop."  The name is literally suggesting that love is nothing more than a pile of same.  Basically, despite my own inability to hear and completely comprehend the dialogue, I got the gist of the idea that young couples today argue over petty things, and have a bit of trouble resolving their differences.  It is a comedy, and it does have a number of really decent songs.

                                            A great view of the interior

I have to confess that I was disappointed from the get go to see the actors using microphones, and in my opinion, that took something away from the entire presentation.  Even though these were the behind the neck, hang near the mouth type, they could not overcome the rustle of clothing too close, or the inevitable movement that put the mikes too close to the mouth.  So, in addition to the fact that young people tend to talk too fast for us older folks, and my own limited Spanish, I had to deal with distortion that was pretty much present throughout.  In short, my comprehension of this play was very limited.

                                              Some of the intricate detail

I understand that at least one of the songs belongs to one Cristian Castro, a well known Mexican singer, and a brother of one of the cast members.  That brother played the part of the Psychiatrist, and his name is Marcos Valdes, who just happens to be the son of Loco Valdez, a famous Mexican comedian, and a member of a very distinguished family of actors.  Marco's mother is Veronica Castro, a famous singer, actress, producer, and presenter.

I guess I'm trying to say that this play has some serious bona fides, and, as I did mention, it is a professional presentation that was - for me, at least - marred by the use of microphones coupled with a less than ideal sound system.

Monday, October 1, 2018

So, Why Does The U. S. Have A Department Of Defense?

I have been thinking about our yuge (we're talking major Bigly here) National Debt and Deficit, and other woes of the Trumpian Era, and this one thing keeps bothering me.  Now, I grant you, this did not begin with the current administration.  It began a long, long time ago, when we first chose to ignore the warnings of Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he talked about the Military Industrial Complex, upon his leaving the office of President.  It escalated over the years, and then got really, really bad in the wake of the stupid that followed 9/11.
I am talking about Defense Spending, and the seriously out of control Department of Defense!  Why should our spending on what we euphemistically call Defense be so damn high?!
Just to be sure that I had this right, I looked up the word:
1.      the action of defending from or resisting attack.
"she came to the defense of the eccentric professor" · 
synonyms: protection · shielding · safeguarding · guarding · security · fortification · 
·        an instance of defending a title or seat in a contest or election.
"his first title defense against Jones"
·        military measures or resources for protecting a country.
"the minister of defense" · 
synonyms: armaments · weapons · weaponry · arms · 
2.      the case presented by or on behalf of the party being accused or sued in a lawsuit.
synonyms: rebuttal · denial · vindication · explanation · mitigation · justification · 
3.      (in sports) the action or role of defending one's goal against the opposition.
"we played solid defense"

I do not see anywhere in that definition, anything about sending our armed forces to any other place on this planet!  Do you see words like "invasion" or "occupy" in there?  I sure do not.  I mean, how is invasion of Iraq equal to "protecting" our nation?  Did Iraq have the power to invade us, and only the Defense Department was aware of that?  So, how are we defending our nation by invading the Middle East, and making war on nations, when it was individual terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers?  Why did our "Defense" not prevent that horror?  Isn't that what Defense is supposed to do?  When did Defense become Offense?  Why are we OK with this?

Have we all forgotten just how much money we've allowed our Defense to piss away over the years?!  Are we all totally ignorant of the good that could have been accomplished with that much money, if diverted towards the infrastructure, or health care, or education?  Does it not hurt you to think of all the waste?  All the loss?

How is joining an all volunteer Army, and going off to countries whose citizens never hurt us equivalent to "serving" the nation?  Hint:  If you joined the Army (or, the Navy, or the Air Force, or the Marines, or even the Space Farce) to serve your country?  You don't need to go to some far away place to do that.  You can "serve" your country right here at home by volunteering to house and feed the homeless, or educate young people, or volunteer at a hospital, or go to work fixing broken streets and highways!

And, if we have a desperate need for Defense of our nation (I abhor the use of that word, "homeland"), then should we not have shoreline artillery batteries, Air Force Bases near our borders, and Army posts?  Why must our Defense be concentrated overseas?

I mean, if we have some 800 +/- bases across the world, that is not even remotely like Defense.  That's Empire Building, and we have always denied any bent towards Imperialism.

Personally, I think it is way past time to stop saying that we must have a huge Defense budget, and time to begin calling it what it is.  It is either an invasion budget, or an empire building budget, or better yet, an Offense Budget, because all of those are more accurate and honest.

Bottom line, for me, is this:  We don't need a humongous military force.  No.  More.  War.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

My latest email from Beto's Campaign.

Beto for Texas

Dear John,
Yesterday, we wrapped up our 34th day straight on the road with 6,803.0 miles on the odometer.
Beto for Texas
On the road to El Paso.

MY NOTE:  This photo is particularly poignant and significant, if you can read the road sign.  The history of how a nearby ghost town got its name is interesting, and I tend toward the first one provided, here:  GO BETO!

On Thursday in Sweetwater, Tom Ritchey introduced me at our town hall at the Argos bookstore. Amy and I had met Tom and his wife at a gas station in Fort Davis at the outset of this trip, weeks ago. We had just picked up our kids from Prude Ranch and were on our way to Alpine when Tom took the time to introduce himself and say hello to us.
It made me happy to see us come full circle -- after traveling to Del Rio, Corpus Christi, Nacogdoches, DeSoto, Galveston, Missouri City, Longview, Muleshoe, Austin, Comanche, Edna, Houston, Alice, Victoria, Brownsville, Beaumont, Tyler, Laredo, Iraan, Lubbock, Rockport, McAllen, Lampasas and many, many more communities -- to be back in West Texas, to see Tom again in his hometown, where he is the winningest football coach in Sweetwater history, and to have such a great conversation with the community about anything and everything on our share my impressions of the amazing Collegiate High public school I had visited earlier in the day in Roscoe, to listen to those I want to serve tell me about healthcare, education, delivering for our veterans -- it just made me grateful to be doing this and to be doing it with so many wonderful people.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Sweetwater.
Beto for Texas
With Coach Tom Ritchey and his wife.
Yesterday, we closed out our last stop on this road trip at a rally in El Paso, the town we started from 34 days before, the place Amy and I are raising Ulysses, Molly and Henry, the center of my world. Today, I am thinking through all of the amazing people we’ve met, all the extraordinary volunteers and field staff who made these meetings possible (shoutout to our Ambassadors!), all of the good energy. Everywhere we go in Texas, we find that people are focused on the future.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in McAllen.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Lubbock.
We’re not running against anyone else or another political party. We’re running to do our best for this country, for every one of us. To make sure that we can all learn to our full potential by getting behind our public educators; to ensure that we are all well enough to contribute to our maximum capacity in life because we will lead on universal, guaranteed healthcare; to use our standing as the most diverse state in the country to rewrite our immigration laws in our own image; to ensure that our criminal justice system treats everyone with dignity, respect and provides equal justice; to know that every one of us can find work that ensures purpose, function and a living wage, that we have access to the higher education, the skills and the training to be able to find it; to be there for those who’ve borne the battle, with resources, oversight and accountability for veterans’ services -- to move forward, always. With confidence, courage, strength and, in Truman’s words, “with an unstoppable determination to do the job at hand.” Leave the fear, the anxiety, the hatred and the smallness behind.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Edna.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Comanche.

Beto for Texas
Town hall in Iraan.
This is the most encouraged, the most hopeful, the most excited I’ve been for the future of this country. Despite the disappointments we might face, the dysfunction that defines so much of our national government today, the deep damage we do with policies of family separation or trade wars that hurt our farmers, ranchers and exporters -- I know that we are a match for this moment, that Texas will help lead this country in a better direction.
Beto for Texas
Back-to-school town hall in Austin. Hook 'em!
Beto for Texas
Opening our new Houston HQ with Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
I know that because I’ve met you everywhere in Texas, in every county in the state. I’ve seen the determination to do better for yourself, for your kids, for this state, for this country, for this generation and for every generation that follows.
You’ve inspired me, filled me with hope and you give me confidence that we will win this election and that we will deliver on the very high expectations that we’ve set with, by and for one another.
I am grateful to be doing this with you.

Beto for Texas
6,803.0 miles on the odometer.

Friday, August 17, 2018

You might want to avoid any dealings with Viva Nissan, in El Paso.

First part of this post began one week ago, on Friday, 08/14.
Let me tell you about my experiences with this dealership this week, just ended.  I have decided to shop around for a newer car, even though I haven't yet sold my minivan.  I have researched and decided that I'd like either a Buick La Crosse, or a Buick Enclave.  My price range is pretty low, so this means I am looking at cars that are around seven years old.

I looked at a couple of Enclaves during the week, and really liked one, but it needs new tires, and has a clunk in the front steering/suspension.  Meanwhile, I had seen an ad online several times for a 2011 La Crosse, on both and Bestway Auto, a subsidiary of the Viva Auto Group, in El Paso.  My inquiry at Bestway's web site, got no response, but at some point, I did get a call from a Pamela Mena, a "Trusted Advocate" with Viva Nissan.  She told me the car in question was at her dealership, and asked me to go see it.  I went over there yesterday morning only to find out that the car was not there, and nobody knew where it was.

Strike one.

Later yesterday afternoon I received a very confusing call from a female, who sounded super bored with whatever she was doing, but she managed to convey to me that the car had been located a another Viva dealership, the Mazda dealer.  She said it was there for "service," but did not indicate what service might be getting done.

Strike two.

This morning, I got another call from Pamela, who told me that she had gone to get the car, and would like to show it to me.  When I got to the dealership late this morning, she had taken the car to put gasoline, so I waited.  Upon her return, she and Luz gave me the keys and went with me for a test drive.

I noticed while we were driving, that the passenger side window was cracked, and then I noticed that the check engine light was on.  I pointed those out, and asked if they would be addressed should I buy the car.  I received assurances that this would be taken care of.

We briefly discussed my current car as a possible trade in, but it was obvious to me that would not work, since I do owe money on it, and dealerships are famous for never giving a fair trade in value.  Her boss, Adelberto, looked at my current car, and gave me some preliminary numbers, but since their computer was off line, we decided that they would have to call me later.  The numbers did not look very good for me, so I came home.

I talked it over with my wife, and we figured out a way to handle the down payment Adelberto was asking for, and leaving my current car out of the deal, so I called Pamela sometime later, to see what we could do.  I told her that, if I was to meet their price, they had to fix the window and the check engine light, and I'd even like to see the price come down for me.  She went back and forth to her manager with my requests, and then said that the price they were offering me was the internet price, and the car is actually supposed to be sold at $11,000, about 1200 more than I had seen in their ads.  No further discount could be considered (despite what Adelberto had personally told me about how he was a veteran, too, and would see if he could get me a veteran's discount).

Not only that, but the car is sold "As Is," and the only way they would fix either the light or the window would be if I gave another thousand dollars to them.  As I told Pamela, I am not going to buy a used car with the check engine light on.  Not now.  Not ever.  Not at any price.

Strike three.

Perhaps I spoke too soon.  Not long after publishing this post, and a similar one to Viva Nissan's Facebook page, I got a call from somebody at (apparently, they oversee the dealership's social media) asking for my phone number.  I provided it, and received a call from the GM at Viva Nissan, Adrian Soto.  Young Mr. Soto not only apologized for my bad experience, but offered to fix things.  He lowered the price of the car and promised to fix the check engine light and the broken window!  So, I did go back to the dealership, and completed the paperwork to make a purchase.  As of this morning the car is scheduled to be in the Service Department to get these things done, along with a car wash and some gas in the tank!  Now, all I have to do is sell my van.  Anybody want a nice 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SE?  125,000 miles.  Loaded.  You can get more info here:

Oh, one more thing:  I'm sorry for anything I might have said.

Update:  I am not sorry for what I said last week, and now have much more to say!  I tried to wait all of this week for word that my car was ready for me.  I got no real status updates all week long, other than to say the my car was at the Chevy Service Department for the work needed to fix the engine light and the broken window.  Finally, I drove to that location late this morning, and talked to a Gus Torres, Service Consultant.  He was in charge of the work on my car.  He explained that they did not get permission to complete the diagnostics until this morning, and now was waiting for permission to look at the timing chain, because that was what the computer was suggesting as the problem.

I went home, and then received a call from Adrian Soto, the sales GM at Viva Nissan, who said that they needed to back out of the deal.  He said that the engine has sludge, and that means a new engine is called for, and he "cannot" replace an engine.  It would be just too costly.

He asked me to go back to the dealership so that they could shred all the paperwork and credit my credit card for the down payment I had made last week.

And, here is where I think I blew it.  With a certain amount of protest, reluctance, and anger I let him talk me into backing out of the deal.  When I tried to press him to go ahead with whatever fix might be necessary, his only response was that he just could not do this.  I tried to suggest that the onus is/was on him, because his promise to me was to "fix engine light," with no if's or and's or but's or even "unless it costs too much."  He insisted that was not what he meant, and that he just could not keep his promise to me.

So, like a fool, I gave back my copies of the paperwork, and took my refund slip.  The more I think about this, the more convinced I become that I should have - at the very least - made him wait over the weekend, and maybe looked for legal advice.  I think he broke the contract that he made with me, and now I have lost any evidence that I may have had to try to hold him to it.

The bottom line is back to where I started:  Do not ever have any dealings with Viva Auto Group.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

State Regulatory Agencies Are Missing Something

Please bear with me here, just for a few minutes.  During my working years, I spent ten years as an Investigator for the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.  We, who worked there in the trenches, tried to reassure ourselves that we were there for the people of the State of Texas.  All the people of the State of Texas.  We tacitly knew that the reality of that regulatory Board was that its members were more interested in protecting the licensees, rather than the general public, and we tried our best to live with that.  After all, the Board was controlled by physicians themselves!

And, if you look at all the other myriad State regulatory agencies, you will quickly see that this same situation exists right across the spectrum!  Lawyers control the State Bar.  Dentists control the Dental Board, Plumbers, theirs, and so on.

How can an unlicensed person, who supposedly depends on these people for adequate and proper health care, or adequate legal representation, or even adequate pipes and drains, hope to ever see that whatever laws might apply to the given professions actually be enforced?!  Especially those laws and rules and regulations supposedly designed for the protection of the general public?  It is absurd on the face of it, and in reality, we, the great unlicensed majority, haven't got a prayer, or a leg to stand on!

So, here's a radical idea:  Let's continue with State regulatory agencies, to license and oversee the various professions.  But, let's appoint only regular non-licensed people to sit on the Boards that do the overseeing and enforcement!  Maybe one trusted physician could serve in a strictly advisory role for the State Board of Medical Examiners, and one lawyer for the State Bar, and so forth.  But, let's let the people police the licensees that we all depend on.  After all, the way the system currently works, licenses issued by these various agencies are actually more like licenses to steal!
And, that is not only wrong, but it fails to accomplish what the whole idea of regulation supposedly does!  So, what is missing is that people are lacking any voice.