Thursday, May 16, 2013

The DFW NORML April Meeting Video

Here's the DFW NORML April Meeting video, from the Whiskey Girl Saloon in the Fort Worth stockyards.  (Yes, they really do have a mock police car with a marijuana leaf on the hood.) 
Shaun McAlister has done one heck of a job building this organization. 
For anyone wondering what I look and sound like, go to the 12:00 mark. 
My observations on form, not content, below the video:

1) I need to lose 40 pounds.  Quick.  None of my old suits fit me, and I wanted one for our gun rights debate that was held earlier the same day.  Got this lovely ensemble, the jacket and pants, for just $104.00 at Sears (after saving $15.00 by getting a Sears credit card).  If those clothes were to catch on fire, they would melt back to their original state as a sheet of plastic. 

2) I need to smile more.  I mean really overdo it. 

3) Lord have mercy, I speak like someone from Mississippi. 

Shaun has also asked me to speak on the topic of my choice at the upcoming Texas Regional NORML Conference, June 7th-9th, in downtown Fort Worth's Norris Conference Center.  Hit the link.  I can't wait!!!

BTW, if you've ever wondered whether or not Broadway Baptist Church is the coolest religious institution on the planet, wonder no more.  Broadway has TWO members speaking at a weed legalization conference. The great Dr. Alan Bean is the other one.  Go figure. 

Herb's the word !!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why free markets are better than quotas for achieving "diversity"

I have a co-worker/friend at Jukt Micronics that I'm going to call "Jim". 
Jim is gay. 
He's not political about it, he doesn't go to the bars, and he doesn't crusade. It doesn't matter either way, and long-time readers of this site know that I don't care.
Jim just got one heck of a promotion.  He's been elevated into the stratosphere of the Jukt Micronics sales department where he'll be taking care of what'll soon be Canada's #1 retailer, if it isn't already.

Jim wasn't given this job to fill a quota, or to show off how "diverse" we are.  Jim did a heck of a job when he was running Customer Service, and if we hadn't hired and promoted him, someone else would've hired him and possibly made a lot of money with him selling to Canada's #1 retailer.

Our #1 salesperson is usually a woman named....  Well, I dare not speak it.   We all fear her.  Competitors won't hire her, because they're afraid she'd take over.  One doesn't achieve the highest sales total every year by merely being quota-filler.  She has the highest sales by making heroic personal sacrifices, taking care of bidness, and squashing everyone else like a bug.   

Our plastic, wood and metal shop Production Managers are Black, Hispanic, and Black, respectively.  Dig down a little deeper and you'll find a Cambodian clear plastic supervisor, a Cambodian design supervisor, a Serbian wire shop supervisor, and another gaggle of bosses who all seem to be from the same neighborhood in Mexico.  My boss, the Operations V.P., is from Juarez. 

Our meetings sometimes look like the United Nations' break room.  Nobody planned it, nobody even wanted it.  The owners just started going for the best people they could afford, and that's what happened.

Compare my workplace to this....  It's from an article in City Journal by Heather MacDonald called "Multiculti U", about the insane expenses associated with "diversity" programs in the California college system.  Hit this link to read the whole thing. 
In September 2012, for instance, as the university system faced the threat of another $250 million in state funding cuts on top of the $1 billion lost since 2007, UC San Diego hired its first vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion. This new diversocrat would pull in a starting salary of $250,000, plus a relocation allowance of $60,000, a temporary housing allowance of $13,500, and the reimbursement of all moving expenses. (A pricey but appropriately “diverse” female-owned executive search firm had found this latest diversity accretion.) In May 2011, UCLA named a professional bureaucrat with a master’s degree in student-affairs administration as its first assistant dean for “campus climate,” tasked with “maintaining the campus as a safe, welcoming, respectful place,” in the words of UCLA’s assistant vice chancellor and dean of students. In December 2010, UC San Francisco appointed its first vice chancellor of diversity and outreach—with a starting salary of $270,000—to create a “diverse and inclusive environment,” announced UC San Francisco chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann. Each of these new posts is wildly redundant with the armies of diversity functionaries already larding UC’s bloated bureaucracy.
Good God in heaven, what a mess. 

Full disclosure:  Jukt Micronics isn't remotely "normal".  It's an insane place to work.  Hours are long.  It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  The first time I went to lunch with a plant manager, he warned me that "we are a screaming company".  And yet we've accidentally achieved a level of diversity that other places can't even dream of, and it didn't cost us a dime.  We made money doing it!!!   

Competition for employees, for raw materials, and for ideas has a way of cleansing and purifying things.  What if we had decided early on to not hire any ethnic or social minorities?  Who would it have hurt more, Jukt Micronics or the potential employees that we would've unwisely declined to hire?  I think it would've killed us. 

Read the entire Heather MacDonald piece if you get a chance.  And then try to decide which organization has the best approach to achieving diversity: California's college system, or a bunch of Texans who wanted to make the best display fixtures for the best price.

And congratulations, Jim!   

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Odious Chinese Nachos Story

I’m not a picky eater. My father was a big advocate of “Eat what they set before you”, and my mother likes to try different recipes, mostly Southern Living Magazine’s fried salad/fried watermelon offerings. Good stuff.

When I cook, recipes are nothing but points of departure – a suggestion on how the other person once did it. If you’ve never run short on ingredients and hollowed out a Pop-Tart and used the crust in place of bread crumbs, you have no business calling yourself a cook.

But creativity has limits….

One of my China trips was supposed to last only 3 weeks (typically I’m gone for 5). Problems had erupted, solutions were rejected, and the bosses asked me to stay for another week. I failed in that week’s missions, so they asked me to stay yet another week.

After week four in the land of Mandarin Chinese, I was ready to speak some English. I can usually entertain myself with the contents of my head (one of the many, many advantages of an old-school Liberal Arts education) but I found myself bothering Texas co-workers on Skype more than necessary, and called home too many times at odd hours only to learn that the grass was still growing and that no dachshunds had died.

I started lurking in the lobby of the Xiamen Princess Hotel, hoping to catch other manufacturing exiles who could talk football, food, politics or even American Idol. After several nights of reading downstairs, advertising my availability like a Shanghai harbor whore, I saw someone going through the buffet line, a guy that looked like an American. He had on a John Deere Tractor T-shirt!

I ran over and introduced myself. (I may have offered to buy him a drink, given him my phone number, my room number, and told him how fit and manly he looked in his John Deer T-shirt.) He sensed my desperation level, and asked if I wanted to hang out with him and a buddy the next night. I’ve forgotten the guy’s name (Jason?), but he turned out to be from Memphis, Tennessee, and he and I had actually deer hunted on the same land in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. His family had a successful business manufacturing high-end dresses in a factory two hours from Xiamen.

One night later, I met Jason and his friend Jeremy (?) in the lobby. We were going to go to Xiamen, China’s first Mexican restaurant. Let me be clear: we were going to go to Xiamen, China’s first Mexican restaurant.

I’m an optimist. Having already experienced Cleveland, Mississippi’s first Chinese restaurant, Jackson, Mississippi’s first Thai restaurant, and Merigold, Mississippi’s first ever restaurant, I didn’t think things could go too wrong in Xiamen’s first Mexican restaurant.

Jeremy, who was somewhat fluent in Mandarin, explained the sign over the front door – “Xiamen’s House Of Mexico”. The place had a ragged tourist-trap sombrero hung on one wall, and a map of Texas and Mexico painted on another. (Chinese people generally don’t know the shape of Mexico, but everyone knows the shape of Texas, and perhaps the Lone Star State was included as a point of reference. You are about to eat food from the little country south of the nation of Texas. Canadian singer/songwriter Fred Eaglsmith likes to talk about how proud Texas is of its shape. We’ll put that shape on anything.) If not for the mariachi hat and the Texican wall map, the place could’ve been any other noodle shop.

Well, except for the menu….

Veteran China travelers often collect examples of bad “Chinglish”. The menus at this place were in Spanese. Or Chinish. Whatever you call it when you cross Manchu Wok with Taco Bell. After we ordered our beers, Jeremy determined that the menu item “Chips Beef Medley Layer Family” was probably nachos. You can’t go wrong with nachos.

Here’s how they went wrong with nachos:

These restauranteurs had never seen, smelled, tasted, eaten, chewed or shat Mexican food in their lives.

My theory was that everything on the menu was created from photographs, with no other guidance.

Let’s start at the bottom of the “Chips Beef Medley Layer Family”, shall we? Where god-fearing Mexicans would put some corn tortilla chips as a foundation, Xiamen’s House Of Mexico had a layer of rice chips. Not a problem. They don’t grow much corn in China. When in Rome, etc., etc., etc.

Most nachos continue upward with a layer of sliced and spiced chicken or beef. The Chips Beef Medley Layer Family nachos got by with a thin layer of shaved pork. I’ve never seen this stuff outside of Asia, but it’s pretty good. Take some pig meat and repeatedly run it across a cheese grater for a couple of years. It has a good taste with almost no texture. Dust it on the rice chips of your Chips Beef Medley Layer Family, shortly before adding your….cheese.

Asians (stereotype alert!) generally don’t like cheese or dairy. They think that cheese tastes and smells like baby vomit, which, when you come to think of it….it does. That’s why one cheese is as good as another to them. Take some leftover Limburger and Munster, or any combo that smells worse, throw them in your Crock Pot and melt it until it can be smelled throughout the Middle Kingdom, from Beijing to Hong Kong. Apply liberally to the pulverized pork, and you have the stinky middle child of your Medley Layer Family in place.

I know for a fact that the Master Chef at Xiamen’s House Of Mexico had never been exposed to salsa. Or Picante, Pico De Gallo, Ranchero, Guacamole, Chimichurri Sauce, Habaneros, or Chipotle. This guy had never even seen a bottle of Wal-Mart’s Old El Paso Picante Sauce from New Jersey. So he improvised. The upper stuff in his nacho photos was red. Tomatoes are red. He needed red stuff.  So he took a large can of Campbell’s Tomato Paste and put three thick slices of it on top of the Limburgermunster cheese. We could still see the ring marks from the Campbell’s can.

Remember my Chinese stereotype, the one where they don’t like cheese or dairy? The chef's photo of nachos probably showed a dollop of sour cream on top of the Chips Beef Medley Layer Family. Native Chinese can’t imagine eating sour cream.

What to do, what to do?

Instead of sour cream, they topped off the rice chips, the shaved pork, the Dr. Scholl’s Shoe Insert Cheese, and the slices of tomato paste with…. A big ol’ scoop of Kool Whip.

I’ve probably spent six months in China, and have had only four or five bad meals. Of the bad meals, this was the one I enjoyed the most. Jason, Jeremy and I didn’t act like The Ugly Americans. We were polite. We used the rice chips to dig out the shredded pork. We drank. We bonded. We drank some more. 

Having learned our lesson, we decided to stop experimenting with Asian/Mexican Fusion Food. We vowed to eat the next night where the Chinese eat, to experience what the locals were eating. The next night, we ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Congratulations, Mary Kelleher !!!

Let me tell you a story.

About two months ago, I got an email from my friend Layla Caraway.  She invited me to a meeting about the Tarrant Regional Water District board elections.  It was the most politcally diverse room I've ever been in. 

There were Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, 9-12'ers, Greens, and environmental activists.  We had one thing in common.  We were all sick of Fort Worth taking land and money from the little guy and giving it to the big guy. 

We'd tried and failed before to get candidates onto this board.  This time we had some money and a consultant. 

We had a trio of three candidates - John Basham, an experienced candidate, Tim Nold, a surveyor, and Mary Kelleher, an Arlington landowner and rancher/farmer who had gotten sick of her property falling into the river.  And black helicopters landing in her ranch without permission in the middle of the night.  You know, the usual. 

Mary was painfully shy in that first meeting. 

Mary turned into a monster candidate. 

Mary Kelleher went out and won the son of a bitch!!!  She did it. 

Go here.  Most of the article is the usual Star-Telegram blather supporting anything City Hall wants to do.  But here are the money quotes:
In recent years, the district has also been a key player in the $909 million Trinity Uptown project, a flood control and economic development effort that stretches from an industrial area on Fort Worth’s near north side to the green spaces of Gateway Park on the east side. Its plans include a bypass channel and a Town Lake north of downtown.

District officials worried that if Basham’s slate prevailed, a number of projects would be in jeopardy.

They said that if the pipeline project were stopped, it would mean dire consequences, including water shortages.
Oh yes.  There would have been "dire consequences".  Our guys woulda stopped that boondoggle faster than you can say "Crony Capitalism".  That thing has more to do with The Manichean Heresy than it has to do with flood control. 

But the people now have a voice on the water board.  We have access to the file cabinets (if they've bothered to keep any records).  No more Freedom Of Information Act requests will be necessary. 

Note to the Star-Telegram - Let us know if you want to learn anything about how Fort Worth's money is being spent by your downstairs neighbors on the water board.  Maybe one day you'll want to stop cheerleading and start doing your freakin' job.