Coping: Ratting Out Lexus

(Amarillo, TX)  If you remember yesterday’s column (that’s two of us then) I had mentioned that we were planning to stop at Sewell Lexus in Ft. Worth to have them figure out why the (damn) Check Engine Light (CEL) came on the day before our trip.

This is a marvelous opportunity, if you’re a shade-tree mechanic, to brush up on your troubleshooting skills.  The symptoms?

  • Check engine light: on
  • Transmission:  Not downshifting properly at 5 MPH or above, into 1st gear
  • OBD II codes indicate from ABS issues
  • George has been studying “luck” and short deviations from standard expectations around the normal/Gaussian distribution all week.

We arrive, more or less promptly 15-minutes later than planned but good to the service rep’s word, we were there for about three-minutes before the paperwork was done and we were whisked into our choice of waiting rooms. 

I don’t know if you’ve spent much time around a good Lexus dealership, but a word about the waiting rooms is in order since there are two of them.  One has a television in it (hence it’s noisy) while the other one is more like a quiet study.  Overstuffed leather chairs and no one talking above a whisper because when someone wasn’t talking to a service rep, they were reading.

So our first socioeconomic observation of the trip was made here:  The people who buy upscale cars spend a lot of time reading and no, Fox News didn’t seem to be their major media source.  These were people with Kindles and honest-to-God books.  If you don’t drive an upscale car (OK, ours is a 2005, bought as a lease-return years back) consider that reading and learning and getting smart may have something to do with how much money you make.

Just a thought.

So we were there for about 30-minutes and our service rep comes over smiling.  She lays a small plastic plug. 

“This is your problem,” she announced.  “This is a wiring plug in your transmission circuit.”

I picked up the part to inspect it not knowing if this was a part from a moon lander, or what.

“Has some funny marks on it…”  I stumbled, not quite sure what to make of it.

“Those are teeth marks from a small animal…it will take about two hours to fix…”

At this, we decided to taken them up on the free loaner car…found a wonderful lunch…and came back to await the news.


As luck would have it, our mechanic was coming back from the test drive as we returned. 

The car was running perfectly again, and he explained that he had fixed all the wiring issues (new plugs and so forth) and that it would be another 20-minutes, or so, as he dropped the glove compartment and got to the rat’s apparent hang-out…having weaseled in through the ventilation system

Our service rep was kind enough to take a picture of the rat and the cabin air filter which had been turned into its home.

About here, you should be thinking “What are the odds?”

Well, turns out that we are not the first people to have this problem.  Seems in this part of the world, when the weather turns cold, fair number of car owners discover that small furry critters take to moving in.

While we were hanging around, another service rep explained that in just about ALL cars, anymore, the insulation used on wiring is a plastic derived from what?  Soy.  So while oil gets crushed and all, apparently a lot of insulation gets made with other by-products.

We then discussed non-soy insulation (Teflon, for example) but seems like every option has costs and benefits.  It was really an informative conversation…

So there we had it:  Our old Lexus was once again running like a top and we were back on the road by about 1:40 in the afternoon.

Militarizing Texas

Do you remember the Clint Eastwood movie, The Gauntlet?  In it, Eastwood braves a hail of bullets in an old bus to deliver some criminal to testify at a trial.  Mostly, it was classic Eastwood shoot ‘em-up, but the point of reference is a road lined with cops.

If you are ever (foolishly) inclined to drive from the Dallas area up to Amarillo on Texas 81/US 287 don’t even think about speeding.

We counted no less than 20 police cruisers, SUV’s, Chargers, and Pickups from an assortment of Texas’ finest (TSP) as well as small town police and small-county sheriffs.  We kept an eye open for cavity searches at roadside and didn’t see any, so that was a relief.

Since the only laws I’ve broken since one speeding ticket in a VW as a youth (half a century back, though) involve English and punctuation, we ran the gauntlet fine but holy smokes!  There may be a decline in some of the drought area ag ventures, but law enforcement has been expanding like there is no tomorrow.


About here, in came an email from my buddy Jeff down in Palestine, announcing that our local sheriff’s office now has an anti-personnel vehicle…

I got the Herald Press today and on the front cover is a big article where the Sheriff’s Office just acquired a “free” MRAP or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. I tried to find the article on the website but it is not there yet.

Yesterday I got my new Backwoods Home Magazine in and they spoke directly to this trend of militarization of local police.

Makes you wonder. Here is the article in full

I’m not sure what the purpose of giving an MRAP to our local police has to do with the crime rate.  It would be a lot more productive to just visit local dentists and find out who’s coming in for meth-induced dental problems, know what I mean?

Besides, the closest thing to an IED (improvised explosive device) is the IED which are occasionally used around tax time, since those are “Improved Expense Deductions.”  Hardly the thing to be committing vehicular budgetcide over, but to each their own.

I’m not getting too worked up over it, though.  Eventually, a rat will find its way to the soy-based wiring insulation and that will be that.

Letters We Like to Get

Remember our discussion about Homeschooling for College Credit?  We got a nice note from the author…..


Thanks for the shout out in your blog!  For folks with the DIY gene, homeschooling offers a fantastic opportunity to customize your child’s schooling.  Of course people homeschool for a number of reasons, but as our sons reached high school age, I worried a lot about being able to adequately guide them through the maze of college entrance requirements.  I’ll spare you the long story that led to my stumbling on the “work-arounds” I found, but they were not new.  In fact, there are MANY tried and true work-arounds that decrease both time and cost of traditional college;  most importantly, these do not require you earn a degree outside traditional college walls.  Of course, unless no college helps you find ways to spend less money or time on campus!  Anyway, as a homeschooling family, we found that these work-arounds were really just low hanging fruit for homeschool families already customizing their child’s curriculum.  Our oldest graduated high school with 33 college credits, and our other 3 are on track to do the same.  I’m not really a writer, I’m just accidently an author, so I sincerely appreciate you helping share the information contained in Homeschooling for College Credit.


Jennifer Cook DeRosa

No worries…glad to do it.  I’ve got plenty of first-hand experience in “beating the [high tuition] system.  In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to complete my MBA without distance learning and some of the secrets that have been around education for years.  I remember from of Dr. John Bear’s work in the field and is explaining the value of the CLEP program (credit for life experience program) that allowed me to blow off most of my electives, including, amazingly, English.

Unless you really need a degree for a job (and go watch the pilot and the first few episodes of Suits on Netflix or Amazon Video) anyone who pays full time for a degree really hasn’t learned much except the “Write a big enough check and you can buy your own Stairway to Heaven.”

After the sheepskin, there’s this little detail called WORK because once the paper gets you in the front door, then you have to actually produce and you know what?  That’s where the rubber meets the road.  Teaching yourself is much faster and I’m all about learning styles and if you don’t know what your Gregorc Style Delimitor is, you haven’t invested much time in learning about learning.

Not that you’re an exception, if you haven’t.  Lots of people start off intending to get rich, too, but never get there because they don’t study how it happens.  Don’tcha hate it?

And that’s the thing, you see:  Most humans are about equally smart, I’ve found.  When you get into it, though, helping someone become a much smarter (and thus, usually higher-paid) person is really pretty simple.

Generalizing terrible here:  If you do really well at math, you may not do poetry or English well.  *(you also might tend to be more left-handed) That’s because right and left brain dominance (who’s yelling the loudest over the Cambrian Sheath) really matters.

Once you figure out how your own brain works, you can then use the “right operating system” to cram and jam useful information into your head.  I’m heavily auditory, which is why music, lectures, and so forth, fit really well.  When I read, I need highly structured (no bullshit, but give me the hierarchy of how of this subject fits into my “plug & play” thinking and I’m good to go. 

(I did most of my early writing for my radio newscasts for 13-years, so that’s where the “conversational style” of this column comes from. It wasn’t “learned.”  I just started to write what I would speak.  In that world, spelling doesn’t matter, since you can put literary rubbish in front of me and I can read it.  Go watch the recent movie “In a World…” which is just amazingly on point.  Especially if you’re an auditory learner.)

But there are several learning styles: Tactile, visual, auditory, and so on.  So the morning contribution to you being a better programmer of “You, Robot” is to find your mind-style, then learning style, and then pick a specialty where there’s money.

Your “learning style” is not something you get to choose.  It’s something that comes from the factory…that being Mom and Dad and early-life programming.  And did you talk around the dinner table?

We can save the hopelessly F/U’d outlook for future jobs for another morning.;  .But let’s just say that while the Department of Labor Occupational Outlook might have worked once upon a time, the world is changing too fast for bureaucrats which is why we have so many unemployed project managers and carpenters around.

You need paper to get in the front door and you need to excel at job performance to keep a job.

My son G2 grew up seriously attention deficit…and one of the big changes in him has been getting off Adderall.  Skydiving literally changes how your brain works…and the outcome in life is in how we seize the day (carpe diem) and how well we each become computer programmers of the only computer that matters.

A Critical Letter and Clarification

So much for nice.  I also get letters that are not quite so friendly, but when make some excellent points like this one from reader Brock:

Mr. Ure,

I recently listened to your January 1, 2014, interview on Coast to Coast AM. During that interview, you called for “the mexification of America.” I want to believe that you were joking, however, I don’t believe you were joking.

I don’t know how much you know about “Mexicans” but surrendering this country to Mexico is the worst of all possible scenarios. I have lived around Mexicans most of my life, both legal and illegal, and I can tell you their ideas about living is a direct cultural conflict with our American culture. Mexicans rarely adapt to their surroundings but instead bring their own culture which is rude, noisy, dirty, and usually illegal in some fashion. Mexicans do not like “blue eyes” and they are taught to come here and prepare to recapture

their “land.” It doesn’t matter that Santa Ana sold it to us.

Organizations like La Raza and Aztlan are militant and advocate blood letting.

I live in West Texas, in a town called Stanton, just outside of Midland. I have never seen so many Mexicans in my life. I would wager that most of them are illegal. A friend of mine working for I.C.E. told me that when Obama took over they were instructed to downsize investigations into illegals. They were basically told that if you come upon one, then you have to act, otherwise do not pursue unless instructed.

I was born in this country and I have every right to be against illegal immigration and I am and I will always be. I hate it! If these people were “honorable” they would stay home and change their system. But they are not “honorable” they are chicken shit thieves.

I hope you do not continue to preach the “mexification” of these United States. Become an American again, not a globalist.


Fine points to consider. But let me give you a nickel’s worth of clarification, if I can.

First, I was NOT joking about the “Mexification” of America.  What I was referring to trends that I believe are facts that could be objectively proven.

There is a core difference between South/Central American culture and life further north.  That’s because the whole of that region was conquered by Spain and perhaps because of it, society there is highly stratified.  There’s the upper class and there’s everyone else.

From an economic standpoint, our “social conveyor belt” is running poorly.  And, since there are tons of issues related to that (robotics, job automation, and all the rest) most of our political leadership is hopelessly confused.  Which may be why our Sheriff has an MRAP now.

What’s going on are several trends:

Life in Mexico sucks.  There are lots of people without indoor plumbing and good water.  Few compared to here have cars, educations, and all the rest of it.

But they do have a strong family value and strong male heads of households.  So when checks come back from illegals in America, the most natural thing to do is for them to “follow the money” which leads them here.

Now, about the border.  I agree that ICE has a serious case of mission-fog.  They are doing things like searching private aircraft in the middle of the country on the flimsiest (but most well-armed) of pretexts.  And yes, I think Sheriff Joe is probably why street signs in Phoenix are still in English.

But I can’t fault people for “following the money” when that’s what I help clients to – so they can get more of it – and it’s what anyone does given that we all want a better life.

Which gets us to the three fundamental problems of Mexification.

1. Because of the Washington liberalistas, we have lost the concept of America; The Great Melting Pot.  This results in immigrants not “getting” that we’re more like Cherries Garcia ice cream as a country – always looking for the best of all cultures that come here. 

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair to generalize the Mexican culture too harshly.  Nortes would have the same thing under Spanish domination.  We got lucky. 

Oh, and if you read history, you’ll find an pretty good cross-section of Irish, Scots, Germans, French, Italians and so forth, raising their bit of hell.  Take the Mafia, as an example.  Hard to pin that on people in South America who are “following the money” north.

Did I mention Hell’s Kitchen didn’t come here from Mexico?  Sometimes the melting pot gets messy.

What we can – and must do – is a better job of reminding everyone coming here about this melting pot “deal.”

Unlike France (where a kind of Muslim separatist state has arisen internally and is out-populating the native French; a grim statistics they will curse the liberalistas for in the future, I expect.  America needs to focus on the melting pot and the best of class thinking which is how we got this far.

2.  Second point on Mexification is that the US has gotten itself into a horrible economic mess where we need to bring in lots of young people who won’t question the paradigm and will pay into Social Security.  That’s important at hell.

In many ways, immigration is important as an economic recovery/expansion method.  It helps to get that social conveyor going.  And if there’s more crime, well, that gives the cops something to do because the upscale people all have online, autodialing security systems.

We hate to admit that crime and addiction are major industries, but they are.  If crime and addiction disappeared tomorrow, we would have an economic collapse.  Police cars, lawyers, jailers, jails, cops, administrators, massive computer infrastructure….it’s all a huge interconnected economic web and ending crime would break us.

That’s a dirty secret, but that’s what real economics shows, sorry to report.

Disruptive technology is dangerous stuff and nothing is more dangerous anymore than peace and harmony.

3.  We need to rethinking Education in America and deemphasize the “honoring other cultures” by reinforcing their integration into  mainstream America rather than their differentiation.

I mention the Spanish-speaking case and I would challenge you to contrast that with the Vietnamese case.

Few people remember that 10’s of thousands that came to the USA following the Vietnam War.  I happen to remember because I was on the board of a leading Vietnamese-language newspaper for a couple of years (Dat Moi).

You don’t see a big push for the teaching of Vietnamese language or street signs from their community.  Even in “Little Saigons” around America, the signs are English and the people are assimilating.  It’s called “leading from within” and they rock.  The older people still speak Vietnamese (as did the Japanese or Chinese here) but assimilation and getting on the same bus is what works. 

If you look at the history of radicalism (Marx, Engels) you’ll find the promoters of radical thinking came from the privileged class.  In other words, they didn’t work.

Similarly, when new cultures come to America, there will be some who use the same flash-mob techniques we’ve seen in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and so forth.  So yes, we probably see a lot more La Raza and Aztlan than might have happened before the days of push-button organizing.

But a good bit of that organizing is also justified…maybe a few days picking in the fields might garner a bit more respect.

But given enough time, and American’s keeping an eye on competing birth rates, the melting pot can still work, I believe.  But it may just take longer and it could be a tight race.

But where liberalism goes crazy, what you end up with is France, a country which will eventually accomplish what the Moorish Invasion ( al-Andalus)   could not.

Amazingly, the French think of themselves as progressive.  I think a better term is idiots. But tell that to the American intelligencia.  They’re still dumb enough to admire France which is a has-been country waiting to happen.

To Summarize.  I’m not a globalist and I am not “preaching Mexification.” 

First and foremost, I am a realist. Look around you at the data.  Don’t argue the data, learn instead to understand what the data is saying.

I’m  an American preaching melting pot.  It’s a core value of America. At least, once upon a time.

But I’m also a consultant and economist, after a fashion.  As such, we are undeniably screwed – all of us – if we can’t get more honest and call out the instigators who are looking for their own free lunch.  That’s from SoCal to Kiev, to Egypt, to Libya and back again by way of Syria.

Oh, and it would be nice to have people in Washington who understand this, as well, but that doesn’t seem very damn likely, here lately.  Which makes me a seriously disappointed realist.

OK, on  the road again after this morning’s news post.  Peoplenomics will be up Sunday instead of our usual Saturday, while we conduct “field research.”

Be well and be back Monday…