March 09, 2014

Starting the 2014 European Delivery Trip

After many months of impatiently waiting, I am going to Germany to pick up my new Mercedes. This is using the Mercedes-Benz European Delivery Program (EDP). We start near Stuttgart at the Mercedes factory and after picking up the car, progress to Austria and then onto Italy. This trip takes us on a driving tour of Italy complete with hill towns, Assisi, Rome, Florence, Pisa, Bologna, the Cinque Terre and on to Nice. I will post pictures and other reports here. As a bonus, besides Beth and I going, my son David is flying over to meet us for a few days as well before he goes onto Sweden to see some friends.

April 24, 2013

Now for the visited countries...

create your own visited country map or check our Venice travel guide

October 19, 2011

China's Cultural Revolution

Similar to the repudiation of Joseph Stalin and even Lenin, Mao Zedong has been vilified in modern China. While the early ideals of Chairman Mao are held in esteem, the methods he employed later in his life (and during the cultural revolution) have since been cast in a negative light. The fact that the founder of modern China could be publicly repudiated by the very society he helped found speaks to the depth of his crimes considering the Chinese ideal of saving face. During the cultural revolution, Mao felt there was a creeping of capitalism that must be stopped to regain the ideals of the revolution. Unlike the revolution of the Bolsheviks, Mao constantly struggled with the old guard ruling classes striving to hang on to their power. However, again as with most dictators, the mantle of authority they assume is soon replaced by a lust for power and status-quo. Ultimately, all revolutionaries that end up in power suddenly abandon this role in order to maintain their hold over the people they claim to support. In the end, the Cultural Revolution was an abject failure and set China back 50 years in development and political clout. While it is true that China has seen 200 years of Imperialism and centuries of invasion, it seems to rule from a position of weakness. It is ultimately weak because it acts to simply keep what it has versus to better itself. Power maintained for the sake of power is always fleeting. The fear of democracy and simply change drives China to modernize and become a defacto capitalist society. Chairman Mao tried to get rid of party figures that were left in name, but right in action. This is exactly where China is today. While it will exceed the economic output of the US in the next 20 years, as long as it operates like a scared little boy afraid of the dark, it will never be able to see the light of its own prosperity.

October 10, 2011

Keep your religion to yourself please.

Having a little free time, I thought to explore some subjects regarding religion. I started with Indulgences, those little man-made payments to put you in the good graces of God created by the Catholics. From then, it was a natural path to Martin Luther, followed by the Reformation and then the Lord's Prayer. Earlier in the day, I was reading about the attacks some blowhard pastor made against Mitt Romney's faith. I have been thinking about this idea all day and something was bound to come out of my head, so here goes...

Keep your religion to yourself. If you want to be a pious person, that is fine. Live an ethical life. I encourage you to follow the Golden Rule as it were. But, the line stops when you feel compelled to tell me of your good deeds, or judge others piety based upon your own belief systems. If you faithfully attend church every Sunday and tithe your 10%, that is great, but I do not need to know about it. I don't say this from any level of discomfort in people being religious, but if you feel compelled to tell everyone your good deeds, or worse, to condemn someone else's religion as falling short of your own, then you are simply an egoist. I often see people that open their arms wide in church as if receiving the Holy Spirit at that very moment. That is fine if you really feel compelled to demonstrate that, but isn't there just a bit of ego involved. "Look at how pious I am. My arms are spread wide accepting Jesus Christ into my life." I used to only see this behavior in Evangelical churches, but I have started to see this in Catholic masses. If you're guilt of this, just a note, Catholics don't do that, just like we do not add that extra verse to the end of the Lord's prayer. Note I have no issues if you want to profess your faith in that setting, but just don't do it to show you are better than me. You're not! How easy it is to openly welcome the clean-cut family into church. "They are so neat and clean. Susie bakes a heck of a pie, and Matt is just charming to everyone." you hear the woman in the back of the room say. But, isn't the better example of your faith how you treat the dirty, toothless white people that stumble in. The imperfect--we all are-- and sincere people that are looking for some salvation. Those are the ones that Christ wanted you to attend. This is no different than how we are all for Freedom of Speech when the message is the same as we believe. The real challenge if I may quote a line from The American President is "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours". Religion is no different. The easy path has cost us plenty as a nation. Instant gratification, the simple classes, the ethical shortcut, get rich quick. All these things are moral shortcuts that in the end, set you back. I deeply love this country and respect the establishment clause of the first amendment in every fiber of my being. I will stand arm in arm with you defending your right to believe in whatever you like. No, I don't agree that God and Adam are the same thing, but I will stand cheerfully next to Mitt and defend his right to believe whatever he wants. That being said, if your purpose for getting out there and demonstrating or to pick on the newest religion in town (remember that Mormonism is still an infant as far as religion's go) is to show how much better you are than others, or to build yourself up in the eyes of your neighbor, then you are sadly mistaken if that is what religion means to you. My friends and I will say a prayer for you, but hopefully, we will speak between each of us and God. For if you want to pray, do you think God really needs to hear you speak aloud. I'm guessing he gets the message if you keep it to yourself.

November 01, 2009

Should we all change our buying habits?

I have found myself wondering why people that have not had their financial situation changed would approach things differently. I understand if someone feared for their jobs, but if that is not the case--in the sense of no more fear of losing a job than normal as nothing is guaranteed--why would you approach spending, or what trips you take, or whatever you do with your discretionary income differently? It seems to be that if you are in the camp where your job is safe and you make the same as last year (if not more), you would behave the same. Do people in this boat simply give in to group-think? Since three families on the block have ben hit by hard times, we have to conserve. I think that is squirrel behavior :)

Note I understand if your life was based on how much credit you could acquire and living of off your cards but that credit is not as available now. If that is the case, then you are NOT in the group I describe. No matter if your family makes $30,000 or $300,000, if you are making the same as the last few years and do not fear losing that income, have you changed your buying behavior? Does something tell you that you should not buy as much this year or maybe you have decided to give up Target for Walmart (or dare I say, Nordstrom's for Sears).

March 28, 2009

Parity (the root of all evil)

Back when I worked at the Home Shopping Network, I was a systems programmer. In that environment, that meant that I worked on development that included maintaining the operating system of the Unisys mainframe, developing utility software, automating the end of day run, and various projects that were the technically difficult things. Often, this meant that I was charged with working on things at night. This could mean I was there for the start of the end of day run (11:00 PM) or when the operator sent a file to the credit card processor (2:00 AM). I cannot count the number of times I ended up working late. Mostly, I would go home then come back later and work until the wee hours of the morning. This normally meant that I would get home at 2 or 3 in the morning and get up at 9 or 10 and go back to work. The net effect was that I wandered into the office much later than the application developers that had to be there at 8:00 AM. I frequently heard complaints such as "Why can Tom come in late, but I have to be here early?" My managers were quite supportive and always would tell them that Tom works strange hours and if they worked the hours I did, then then could come in whatever time they wanted. Few took them up on the offer. I tell this story because it illustrates the demand for parity. This is rampant in corporations--if I get an extra day off (for working like a dog for weeks) there are those that think they should get an extra day. "If I have to stand in this airport line, then you do too". They miss the fact that I am standing in the Gold dividend miles line because I flew 50,000 miles last year. That means I was away from my family for many hours and sacrificed much for the small perk to get my boarding pass a little bit faster. As long as there is a desire for parity, there will be those that look upon others that have something they do not with contempt. Forget the fact that I have sacrificed more than they could know for what I have. The successful among us only make it look easy--it is really not. Until you have put in the effort that I have, you cannot fathom what I deserve to have.

I have been thinking about this issue lately because of the burgeoning class war in America. The gulf between those that have and those that do not is widening. Now, I completely agree there are those that game the system. They lie and cheat their way to some form of financial success. I am confident there is a special place in hell for those people and no amount of accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior will get them out of it. I would not waste any more words on those cheaters. I am talking about the contempt our society is showing for those among us that have gained some financial success. If I happen to make $200,000 this year (not that I'm saying I will), why should I be looked upon with contempt by those that do not have a chance in hell of making that kind of money. Just let me enjoy the fruits of my labor and be done with it. I should not have to read a paper where they use the term "six-figures" in a pejorative sense. Maybe I am being too sensitive. It seems that I get this sense that I am being made out to be an enemy of the state for making good money.

Now I am not one of those that thinks I pay too much in taxes (I think I don't pay enough). I am as liberal as they come (although I do believe in personal responsibility) I have no problem with not qualifying for tax rebates, or the various middle class tax credits. I make good money and those should be reserved for those making less. But, please do not cast aspersions on my career or what I make. I could make the statement that finances is only one small measures of success, but honestly, considering that I lost my job in 2003, had recently divorced (2002), lost my house in Salt Lake City and was flat broke. I can say that after not having anything, financial success is a big part of how we get to live. I turned it around with my abilities, knowledge, and reputation. I guess I would like those that don't make as much to think that those of us that do are somehow less deserving than them. We are a product of our choices. If your neighbor makes more and gets to travel to Europe for the summer, instead of putting them down to prop yourself up, make better choices.