Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oktoberfest is More Than Beer

Last night I went to a local Oktoberfest and had one hell of a good time. I seriously think they stole my grandmothers recipe for Sauerbraten; it was that good. About two hours after dinner I even managed a snack: a big fat braut with saurkraut and horseradish. Not on wiener bun, but on a hard crusted roll. I'm ready for another one of them today.

And the beer! Warstiener Oktoberfest on tap evrywhere you looked; life is good. I even bought the plastic souvenier mug for 2 bucks. The steins were $38, and a little pricey for me. The weather was perfect. Just a little warm if you were in one of the tents, but out under the trees in the biergarten it was perfect.

But that's not the topic of this essay.

One of the entertainments was German Folk Dancing, like this video I found on YouTube.

I have never thought much about dancing- I was never very good at it anyway- but being in a philosophical mood I did start to examine the meaning and uses of dance as a mating ritual.

Every culture has traditional folk dances. Usually fairly complex patterns of motion and interaction with other dancers set to a specific tune or rhythm, they sometimes function as a story-telling medium.

But here is a function I didn't think of until last night. Why have the dances at all?

Darwin's theory of Survival of the Fittest is a good place to start. Everyone looks for the fittest mate available to them, and traditional dances are designed to showcase some of the traits looked for in a mate; coordination, memory, ability to interact with others and physical prowess. The basic traits that are needed to survive and need to be passed on to the next generation so they can thrive.

Prior to the dance, these skills would have been showcased during the Hunt, or in other communal activities that as society became more industrial- even 2000 years ago industry and trade had replace the tribal community, even though it was a very rudimentary industry- communal events were created where the young could be exposed to one another and the evaluation of potential mates begun.

And the ritual dances were born.

If you couldn’t do the steps, maintain the timing or remember the intricate patterns, then your worth as a potential mate was limited by those failures.

This has sort of been updated to the “Cool Kids” ideal, and fitting into the various levels of modern society and the place where the mating rituals are most often performed today, far from the watchful eyes of parents: High School.

The rituals are not time honored and based on traditional actives, but vary generation to generation, school by school and even year to year. They aren’t prepared or governed by the adults for the most part, but are developed and governed by the young adults themselves and the self appointed social arbiters of the day.

What does it mean in the end? Hell; I don’t know.

I just have one question:

Is it this rush away from tradition one of the reasons our culture is disintegrating as we watch?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Grand Style, Circa 1895

I went to a business party here last night. This place is fantastic, and in and incredible state of preservation. Its called the 1770 Sherman Event Center, and just being in the building is an event.

This was a Mason's Hall in Denver, until a few years ago. Interestingly enough, their website says the building was constructed in 1906, but the cornerstone says 1895. But then; it could have taken 10 years to build this place.

My pictures don't do the place justice. If I would have known where I was going I would have taken a better camera.

Every inch of wood in this place s intricately carved; There must be over a mile of this molding alone.

What isn't carved is painted. This view is down one of the barrel vaults shown earlier. Check out the Chandelier/disco ball hanging in the middle of the room.

One other neat feature that you can't see well in this photo is a small stone set in the wall about 18 feet from the sidewalk. It says:ONE MILE HIGH.

I have to admit to kind of ignoring the focus of the party so I could look around the building.

The engineering was fantastic as well. They had a massive open room with a mezzanine on the second floor with a multiple barrel vaulted ceiling, and full theater on the third.

An incredible treasure in downtown Denver.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Proof I Am Edjamikated

The previous post reminded me of the only time I ever took a Philosphy class.

It was actually titled "Business Ethics", but was taught by a Philosphy Ph.D.

And he was a full-boat, anti-business liberal.

To put it mildly, we argued some.

Like for 4 hours every Thursday, for 5 weeks. I won 95% of the time.

The kicker is after all of the arguing I passed. The guy who sat next to me, who was in the same study cohort and shared my first initial (and kept his mouth shut for 5 weeks) flunked.

So this guy was not only vindictive, he was too educated to realize how ignorant he really was.

This was a paper our group turned in that, if I remember correctly, we got a 'C' on.

Basically because I called our 'Instructor' an idiot, used his philosphers to prove it, and made the charge stick.

The Pinto Case Study

In 1969 the United States was gearing up for its first energy crisis. At that time the average American made automobile weighed around two tons, had a high compression V-8 engine capable of producing at least 300 hundred horsepower and seated 6 comfortably. Volkswagen had been a fixture since the 1950’s, but recently the Japanese had started importing smaller cars, and it seemed time for the big three to enter the small car market.

Lee Iacocca, a demigod at Ford since his creation of the Mustang and the ‘Pony-car’ Market in 1964, saw a possibility to again shake up the American car industry, capture the economy market, and polish his star even more for his planned leap into the chair Henry Ford II had held since 1942- President and CEO of the Ford Motor Company. His idea was for a car that weighed less than 2000 pounds and cost less than $2000. To remind the Board of Directors who was behind this miracle car it was codenamed “Pinto”.

Iacocca met his goal and got the car on the market in time for the 1971 model year; but not without problems. The Pinto was the first all new design Iacocca had headed. (The Mustang was a re-bodied Falcon, a 4 year old design that had been well tested.) One issue that had to be addressed was the gas tank design. Various redesigns had been tested and rejected due to weight and expense issues. The first Pinto hit the market weighing 2005 pounds and costing $1995. Iacocca had done it again.

Six years later Mother Jones magazine published an ‘exposé’ on the Pinto and its exploding fuel system. The piece of evidence they considered most damaging was the internal FoMoCo memo that had the audacity to place a value on a human life and use that value in a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether or not to redesign the Pinto. Eight months later Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos for repairs.

Public sentiment was very much against the placing of a specific dollar value on a human life, yet this was not a new, or strictly a business, concept. When each of us decides how much life insurance to carry we are determining the value of our own lives, or that of a loved one. Some considered Ford’s valuation callous, yet it wasn’t.

An interesting bit of Ford history; in 1956 Ford produced what it billed as the “Safest Car on the Road”. With such items as seatbelts (not required by law until 1965) padded dashboard (also first required in 1965) and other safety equipment as standard Ford was hoping to excite the market. Instead, for the first time since the introduction of the Model A in 1929, Ford lost the production race to Chevrolet. The 1957 Ford was lower, faster and billed as race ready. Ford out produced Chevy by almost 150,000 units. Henry Ford II had learned his lesson- the American car buying public would not pay for safety.

Not that he Pinto was unsafe. It met or exceeded every safety standard in the industry when it was produced. Life is risky. We can either face that fact or hide from it. Ford’s analysis faced the fact that a certain percentage of their cars would be involved in fatal accidents, quantified that risk and compared it to the cost of upgraded safety items. $5.00 may not seem like a lot of money, but when 5 million cars are built that equals $25 million; money that the car buying public may not want to spend.

Facts can sometimes be elusive things. Depending on your point of view a source may or may not be reliable, and those sources’ facts may or may not be acceptable. Mother Jones magazine, named for Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a Mother Jones, “a union activist, active opponent of child labor, anarchist, and self-described “hellraiser.” ”(Wikepedia; Jones_(magazine)), which can count among its former editors ersatz filmmaker Michael Moore (Wikepedia), is not what I would consider an unbiased source on corporate matters.
Neither is it a media force; according to the Mother Jones website,, as of February of 2005: “Mother Jones magazine's A.B.C. audited circulation for the second half of 2004 was 250,563, the highest figure in the 29-year-old magazine's history.” Compared this figure to Sports Illustrated Women magazine (highest circulation 400,000) (; Car and Driver (1,387,113) or Reader’s Digest (11,944,898) (World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 edition).

Our case study quotes the Mother Jones article at one point:
Unfortunately the Pinto is not an isolated case of corporate malpractice in the auto industry. Neither is Ford a lone sinner. There probably isn’t a car on the road without a safety hazard known to its manufacturer.

This statement is probably not as broad as it could be. There probably isn’t a product on the market without a fault of some kind or the other, including medications. Manufacturers of all kinds will do a cost/benefit analysis of any defect and go into production. To do other wise would bring an end to production of anything, while it is exhaustively tested to cure any possible fault. The manufacturers know of these problems, and are aware they can cause injury, but have decided that the benefits of their products to the consumer outweigh the possible hazards.

Undeniably, Ford has a duty to its stakeholders; chief among them its customers, to whom it owes safe, reliable, affordable transportation; its shareholders, to whom it owes a return on their investment; and its employees to whom it owes a chance for future employment. Ford had spent $200 million (over one billion dollars today ( and the impact of retooling would have affected their most important stakeholders negatively, as would have the cost of new regulation.

The Pinto could never be called the safest car on the road, yet it was not the unmitigated death trap the press reported either. Millions of these cars were built, and were driven billions of passenger miles. It also fulfilled its duty to the Ford Company stakeholders- jobs to the employees, a profit to the shareholders and affordable transportation to the customers. Had the cost of defending against, or settling, lawsuits over the Pinto been excessive Ford would have pulled the plug on the project, using the same cost/benefit analysis that Mother Jones so disparaged.

Production of the Pinto is not an ethically hard decision. The failure to include a $1.00 piece of plastic is harder to justify, but we are taking this decision out of time and out of context. The production of any product, much less a complex one such as an automobile involves thousands of choices at each step of the production. Hundreds of these choices would involve potential safety issues. To single out one, in hindsight, for special attention because it was wrong is patently unfair.

John Rawls advocated the idea that a society should decide on the rules for society blindly, the deciders not knowing which side of the lines being drawn they would inhabit. Ford Motor Company, its engineers and managers made the decisions needed to meet the goals set down for the Pinto Project, then purchased these cars and put their families in them. They knew there were potential problems, yet felt their risk of occurring was low and that overall they had done a good job. As Rawls had advocated, they made decisions not knowing if they would become one of the few these problems would affect.

Milton Friedman, who felt the only social responsibility a corporation had was to increase profits to the shareholders, Ford admirably followed. By meeting every safety standard in force, and making sure the shareholders profits weren’t wasted, they were good stewards of the corporate funds. Their response to the various lawsuits also showed acceptable conservation of corporate funds by limiting losses through settlement of lawsuits instead of adjudication.

Moral objections can be made to most business decisions, depending on who your moral heroes are. Obviously there are parties who could, and have, disagreed with the production decisions made on the Pinto. Yet most of these parties have had issues with any decision made by business that didn’t involve closing their doors. Each decision must be evaluated in context, and not as an individual- that’s they way their made. Given the context, it’s hard to fault any decision that contributed to a project as successful as the Pinto was for Ford.

I Can't Understand Kant

I found this thorugh Instapundit.

What are the comments like?

Can you believe it turns into a philosophical smackdown?

Such phrases as “All of which are incoherent, incogent, incompetent, nay impossible messes of philosophical-sounding word salads that borrow extensively from philosophical systems such as materialism in one paragraph all the while preparing to get on denouncing them in the other.”

Yeah, most of the comments are the same; philosophical-sounding word salads.

Which describes most philosophy. If you can understand what the writer is talking about, you are probably useless in the real world.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Germany Has Rednecks Too!

This is living proof that you don't have to be from South of the Mason-Dixon line to be a Redneck.

Check out the end of the tape; where they open the hood...

Pure Redneck!

And I think this is Germany; it could be Poland; all I know for sure is it ain't Amurican them folks is chattering in!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

California's Prop. 8

You all probably know the basics; California passed a law banning same sex marriage; the gays had it overturned in the California Courts as against the California Constitution.

So the voters amended the California Constitution to ban same sex marriage.

And the gays went to the Federal Court, where a Federal Court in California just used ONE judge to over throw the votes of MILLIONS of Californians.

AS long as you are for Gay marriage and against state's rights this decision looks pretty good.

But for the other 95% percent of the country, we just got hammered.

I was reading this post over at Althouse and as usual the comments are great.

I especially liked this one:
dbp said...
Denying same-sex marriage is like denying blind people driver's licenses; it is just not fair since nobody chooses to be blind.

I don't see how blind drivers will have any impact on sighted motorist's ability to navigate our roads.

8/5/10 10:32 AM

Quipping aside, the basis of this judges decision- is the same as in the US Supreme Court case that made oral sex legal in Texas, the Lawrence decision. Basically, local morality has no place in law.

As a States Rights originalist, I have a problem with that.

But one point that keeps being made is that why is the state involved in promoting traditional marriage, but not same sex marriage?

Here I'll tie into my last post.

50,000 years- or more- of evolution has gotten us where we are. 90% of the world- and ALL of the Western World- traditionally has supported the One Man/One Woman concept of a nuclear family. Man and Wife join together and create a new generation. The children that have a mother to nurture them and a father to support them traditionally have done the best, and gone on to create the next generation.

Once again, the new age idiots, who know more than the 15,000 generations that have gone before us, are out to prove how smart they aren't.

Is it fair that Adam and Steve are in a committed relationship, but can't get married?

Eh; maybe not.

But life's not fair. Get over it. Either live in sin with your boyfriend or get with the program and find a nice girl to settle down with.

If you don't like that move to a country that will accept your version of morality and be happy there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Remember That God Made Man in HIS Image

Not the other way around.

I was forwarded a link to this by a friend.

For those not in the know, Google basically publishes out of copyright books on the Internet. Books like this; from authors who believe morality can be established without religion.

First; I'll admit my biases. Raised a Roman Catholic, when I attend Church, it is the Catholic Mass, but I don't attend regularly.

After reading as much of this drivel as I could stomach, I am curious.

If morality doesn't come from God, where does it come from? If we don't have an all-powerful determiner of what is moral and what is not, how are individual actions determined to be moral or immoral?

Do we follow law? Don't Kill; Don't Steal; Don't Assault? Why do those concepts sound familiar? Maybe because they are found in religion as well?

Or are we to develop a separate morality based on law? Is it now immoral to speed? Do I need to confess my 70 MPH ride home to Gaia?

Or do we each develop a morality of our own, based on the values we have created for ourselves? Maybe that's where the 'You have it; I want it; I'll take' school came from?

Just one more example of throwing 50,000 years of learning how to run a society out the window because some modern nutcase thinks he (or she; I'm equal opportunity) knows more than the 15,000 generations that made us what we are knew.

Wasn't it Voltaire who said "If God hadn't existed, man would have needed to create Him for society to work"? Of course I'm paraphrasing; I can't even remember the quote as translated into English, much less remember it in the original French. If it was Voltaire. And if he wrote it in French.

But, I digress.

Just where is this new morality to come from?

And who is the arbiter who decides what act deserves eternal damnation and which ones don't?

Or does it not matter, because we are like plants, and once were dead that's it?

I didn't say animals for a reason; there are folks (I'm one) who believe Heaven isn't complete without our pets. But they're hypoallergenic (it is Heaven), but I don't know of anyone who is waiting to see their favorite African violet in the Great Beyond.

But again; I digress.

If my morality depends on me alone, and there is no Great Punisher why am I not beaking my own, variable rules? Or do the rules get changed when I need to change them?

Hell; they're MY RULES; why can't I change them when I feel the need?

Because we, as a society, found out 25,000 years ago that a system like that doesn't work.

Hopeully it won't take another 25,000 to find it out again.