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Two friends go get a sushi dinner. The menu is extensive with lots of items. The two friends both order all different items. The bills come back and are exactly the same. What are the odds?
Hanabi in Austin, Texas.
Unpublished and written sometime ago…
German Chancellor Helmut Schmitt died a few weeks ago at 96.
I had not read much about Helmut Schmitt before his death but after reading a bit about the man I found him be an interesting person. German Chancellor between May 1974 and October 1982 he seemed to be moderate, a realist and pragmatic. From the left of center Social Democratic Party (SPD) he was still under no allusion to the situation in east Germany (GDR). The history is not that old but I sometimes remind people that they would shoot you for trying to leave the GDR. Some people seem to be confused about that.
Schmidt was mostly positive about the USA military presents in Germany and aggressively pushed to shut down the Red Army Faction organization. He did not seem as concerned about social issues or big ideas saying “if you have a vision go see a doctor”. He seemed most concerned with good management and keeping the economy functioning. At the same time he was able to raise retirement and unemployment benefits.
Today I assume he might have more difficulty rising to the top of the SPD. He called population growth a bigger problem than global warming and was sympathetic to Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the Crimea. I am not sure if he was the German Chancellor today he would be Time Person of the Year like the current Angela Merkel with her stance on refugees. His view on Turkish immigration to Germany was it was a mistake and said “The concept of multiculturalism is difficult to make fit with a democratic society” . This I am sure would not get him the SPD vote.
Hard to see where he would fit into an American political party today or even German.
I’m sort of impressive how he was a chain smoker till the end. Here is a video of him smoking away at a panel discussion with Henry Kissinger.
Please go to TitmanvAustin.com for all updates and info on my legal battle.
Why I’m Suing the City of Austin, Texas
On September 15, 2016 I filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin and members of the Austin Police Department over an arrest made of myself two years before. The actions of the defendants have far reaching consequences which have the ability to violate the civil right of everyone in this city and to do so with immunity. I was arrested in Austin, TX on September 16, 2014 after I was pulled over because of a non-driving related issue.
After being completely polite and cooperative and after volunteering breath, blood, or more to test I was accused of being high on stimulants, depressants and marijuana at the same time. I then spent 26 hours in jail. I have a DWI mugshot on multiple websites saying I was charged in Austin Texas with a DWI. I had to spend years and thousands of dollars dealing with the related legal mess. The results of the blood test were only obtained over two years after the arrest after I sued to get the information because the Travis County Attorney’s office refused to hand them over and going so far as to appeal to the Texas Attorney General’s office. The results, when I finally received them said I was clean on everything.
Picking up from where I left off from Blogging on a Summer Trip to Euro 2013. I had left Amsterdam and headed to Cologne, Germany. I was still Jet lagged and remember waking up at 5 am in the Amsterdam hostel. The sound of Vomiting also helped me get up. See my last post from this trip: Credentials are Everything. I got the earliest train to Cologne and was there in about 4 hours.
I had been to Cologne once before. It was years ago and had only spent a day there. At the time I was booking hostels one day in advance which becomes problematic when an unforeseen large event comes to town.
Cologne is a large city but does not feel huge. It is located in the Rhine-Ruhr area which is a collection of many midsize cites which is actually one of the densest areas in Europe. I think because of zoning and history these cities really never joined together to become one giant city. It makes me wonder how this could of happened in the United States. Los Angeles a hundred years used to be called a place with a hundred towns without a city. I think its possible something similar could of happened in the LA area as with the Rhine-Ruhr area. LA used to have a very good Mass transit system ( There have been movies made about this... Also movies made about other LA infrastructure..) which could of been expanded. Maybe more likely if LA was sort of forced to have been a midsize city center with more rural zoning around it and the other cites around it had similar restrictions then maybe something similar might of happened.
The city center was extensively damaged and then rebuild after the World War II. Clear reminders of that time are not hard to find and sometimes they are unexpected such as coming across Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park. I did some research on the park and found it was only named this 2004 and of course it was named in memorial to the victims of the American bombings of those cities. The city of Cologne had very little or no direct relations to those particular events so why name the park after these events? Why not name the park Auschwitz park after the place where some actual citizens of the city ended up? I don’t think that “Hey I’m going to take the kids to play at Auschwitz park” sounds so great… Better just to call things like this mostly vague names like Memorial Park. We have many of those in the United States.
After spending a lot of time in Germany I can see most of the population has WWII fatigue and want to move on. Sometimes it just comes across as over compensating in the way Germans like to tell the world hey we are not Nazis anymore. One multiple occasions I have had some Germans point out that Barack Obama had his biggest rally of 2008 in Berlin. Whatever that means. I can understand how the constant NAZI baiting stresses out that average German that has nothing to do with the events of over seventy years before. Yet the Hiroshima Nagasaki Park is a misstep because it just brings up all the questions I am now bringing up. How many parks in Japan or Germany for that matter are named after atrocities committed by the Japanese army?
The most memorable thing that happened in the city was a taxi ride I took. I was being driven back to my hostel through a park by a German taxi driver and unexpectedly he pulled over and started muttering something in German. He turned around to myself asked if it was okay if we were a few minutes late. I was a little confused but just said okay. He then made a U turn and drove about a minute back down the road. He then pulled over and got out of the car and grabbed something in the grass by the car. He pulled out a small rabbit out of the grass. Then he waited for the road to clear and walked it to the other side of the road and dropped it off. He then got back into the taxi and we drove off.
A day trip to Santa Cruz, California.
There isn’t as much of an issue that some might think telling Texans I was born in California. Yet there is sometimes controversy when meeting other Californians. The question usually arises North Cali or South Cali? I was born in Los Angeles and if the person asking the question is from North Cali a response of “SoCal sucks!” in many cases follows. The people from these interactions have come disproportionately from the Santa Cruz area. A pretty town on the California coast.
My joke that Galveston was the Santa Cruz of Texas was under appreciated.
I have become more and more skeptical about how strong the links are between infrastructure spending and economic growth/strength. What got me thinking about this recently was the opening last June of longest and deepest tunnel in the world, the Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland. The Interesting photos in this post are from the opening celebratory ceremony for that tunnel. The ceremony looks like it was a real Swiss cultural experience of sorts. The tunnel took 17 years and over $12 billion dollars to build but was it worth it?
An economic argument can be made for many infrastructure projects like a bridge that cuts travel time and eases congestion. It can be done with figuring the cost of the time and money it takes to build the bridge and the cost savings in time and personal economic benefit to the population benefiting. In many cases I think it is hard to make the case for any real strong economic benefit for some projects. One case that comes to mind was a very expensive bridge in Alaska that very few people would of likely used nicknamed the bridge to nowhere.
With the Gotthard Tunnel opening it will cut the journey from Zurich to Milan by an hour making the trip take a little under 3 hours. 65 passenger trains and 260 freight trains will make the trip a day. 9 workers died during the building of the tunnel. I am not sure how to calculate the value of time savings and the economic valued here. The tunnel seems to of mostly just save a little time for passengers (about an hour on the way to Italy) and I am not sure about added capacity. Switzerland’s population is growing slightly because of immigration and Italy’s is in decline. I doubt there is going to be that much more people and goods moving back and forth between the two countries in the near future.
When spending time in Europe I have had many conversations with locals where it comes up that I live in a city of around 2 million people that has just 2 intercity passenger trains a day. Austin also has one suburban train line which is not used much. I mostly get a reaction of I must live in a really underdeveloped area of the United States. In Austin, TX we have one train in morning that goes north to Dallas and one in the late afternoon going south to San Antonio. Besides that Austin has historically under invested in other transport infrastructure such as roads in the hope of delaying grow. We have some of the worst traffic for a city our size from under investment in the road system. Unlike other major cities in Texas, Austin does not think BIG. In spite of the lack of infrastructure investment in Austin the city still has been one of the strongest economically and one of the fastest growing in the USA for years. Texas in general has not invested much in infrastructure and has had one of the strongest state economies in the USA in recent years. Energy infrastructure spending is still there. The lack of investment in some areas will certainly damage growth in the future. Water infrastructure was shown to be seriously needed a few years back during a serious drought.
A lot of the rumors and thoughts about what the Trump economic growth plan consist of has a lot to do with Infrastructure spending. We know Trump likes to build things but will the money be well spent?
It is interesting to note that in his first year in control of Cuba Castro actually had good relations with the United States. He visited the USA and even had good things to say about Ricard Nixon. Things later went down hill from there.
Best anti Castro speech written by Oliver Stone:
I doubt Oliver Stone shares these views now given his friendliness with Castro over the years. Hard for myself to believe how many people praise the leadership of someone where so many have died trying to leave the country he ruled. The bodies that line the Straits of Florida were on their way to Miami not Havana.
I attended the H.O.P.E (Hackers On Planet Earth) conference this past July in New York. Interesting speakers with talks on a wide range of subjects including : Smart Cities and Blockchains: New Techno-Utopian Dreams or Nightmares?, Chinese Mechanical Locks – Insight into a Hidden World of Locks, Crypto War II: Updates from the Trenches and many more. I recommend a trip to the next HOPE conference in 2018. If interested in the subject matter I suggest taking a look at 2600 magazine and a listen to Off the Hook. The magazine and radio show of the organizers of the event.
Somewhat interesting… Looking through some current events on Wikipedia I came across the headline that the Hokkaido Nippon Ham had beaten the Hiroshima Carp to win the Japanese World Series. So the Ham beat the Carp. For some reason I could not see any American sports team being named the Ham or Carp. Many Japaneses sports teams are owned by companies and the names of the teams are often associated with the companies. Hokkaido Nippon Ham is owned by Japanese food processor Nippon Ham. This I guess is uncommon in the USA. Up until recently the Seattle Mariners were owned by Nintendo. I wonder if having a corporate brand so strongly associated with a sports team is a good idea. If the team is doing well it should help but if the team is a disaster I don’t think its a great idea. I do wonder how Ham is selling in Japan right now…
I have been assured by many this was a better use of time.
I have been thinking again about the controversy in the United States around the issue of Refugees. The United States recently hit Obama’s goal of bringing in Syrian Refugees. I wrote some thoughts on this in November last year in the post: About Those Syrian Refugees… I do hope things work out for these recent arrivals in the United States because they probably are not going home anytime soon. They are now likely permanent residence of the United States.
Most refugee immigrants do not cause problems and are probably grateful to be here. In the past few years in seems like the children of refugees have caused a bit more problems with attacks in Boston (Chechen) and Orlando (Afghanistan). There have been more issues with groups of certain backgrounds integrating in Europe. It might be true more people leaving Europe to join ISIS are second generation immigrants. It would be interesting to look at this data.
Some cases of the United States bringing in a refugee population I think have been admirable. For example the United States letting 60,000 ethnic Nepalese move to the country after they were kicked out of Bhutan, the country famous for creating the “Gross Happiness index”. You can read this article from the Guardian while keeping that in mind – “Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world, Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens’ happiness levels, not the GDP. Now its ideas are attracting interest at the UN climate change conference in Doha”. Sort of makes you think hmm with the context of expelling a large chunk of their population. Or maybe the expulsion of the Nepalese made them more happy (What the asjfjsvdfsdsrwq!fs)? The Nepalese community so far it seems has been doing ok in the USA.
Thinking about the Bhutanese and the Nepalese reminds me of the experiences between the Greeks and Turks. Greece and Turkey seem to have worked better together after their population exchanges . The Island of Cyprus is still divided and that does not looked to be solved soon. Sometimes it seems or more than just sometimes forces seems to pull groups apart rather together. The issues around why the ethnic Nepalese were kicked out of Bhutan in the first place, democracy, integration of outsiders successful or not cause and the effects of events and there ramifications has a lot to do with something I have been saying which is the decisions that are made don’t happen in vacuum.
The Film Exodus staring Paul Newman about Refugees from Europe in the Middle East. :
I guess some people from the last film got displaced and end up in the film Deadline staring Christoper Walken. Refugees made Refugees from the Refugees from Europe from in the last movie. How often do people mistake Lebanon for Disneyland?:
Events on one side of the world can have far reaching repercussions on other parts of the world. This is true with the events and refugees in the last two clips in particular. Issues surrounding this today causes controversy in places like Austin, Texas where I live today. This is from an event at the University of Texas last year. In this context could you call the Pro-Palestinian student protester an anti-refugee activist?
Sometimes there are a lot of unintended consequences with moving people around.
Friend: Yeah, I think it’s a bit more complicated than they make it out to be. Syrian pound went up 20% after Bashar took power though. Stayed relatively flat, except for conflict with Israel in 2006, but of course it completely tanked in more recent years. I’ve been watching Cuba too. I think Cuba is probably the safest bet out of all of them.
Trevor: Maybe the spike in the Syrian Pound pre war can be a warning about how events can change rapidly. Actually interesting to think just about that in particular because it shot up because Bashar was viewed as a relatively good guy in the region. An eye doctor who spent a lot of time in the UK. I don’t think the analogy of betting on the Chinese currency around the same time as China was reforming is great because I don’t think you would of made money (Looking this up it seems to be very TRUE). China along with many developing countries aggressively hold down the value of their currency as a way of making their exports more competitive. I think real estate could be a very good proxy for betting on a country’s economic growth. But buying North Korean property is probably a little difficult. Trading currencies are for short term trading gambling on a country’s central bank policies and trade flows. Not investing in my opinion. Just some thoughts….