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A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off. I just finished reading a book titled “Fly Boys” by James Bradley. The story is about World War Two with Japan in the Pacific. I learned a lot reading this account. First, the history of Japan and its Emperor worship which eventually evolved into their samurai military. I learned that we won the war not with the atomic bomb, but by an endless assault of incendiary bombs on cities built of wooden buildings. We burned the Japs to death. The atomic bombs were just a more efficient method.

During my early years, I read daily news accounts of battles, defeats, and victories. On my paper route, I noticed flags hanging in windows with gold stars on them. I grew up during World War Two. I watched my parents become somber when FDR declared war after the Pearl Harbor attack. I saw families in our neighborhood mourn the loss of their sons. It had an effect on my psyche. I learned to hate the Japanese as well as the Germans, and Italians, but I had a special hatred for Japan. This hatred grew as I grew.

As a young adult when it came time to enter the business world this conflict grew. As an engineer and product designer I favored US made products over those of the inferior Japanese made ones. My Christianity continued to work on me and as my thoughts about heaven and the teachings of Jesus to love my neighbor as myself began to take root my hatred began to dissolve, slowly. By 1969, I opened my mind to Japanese made products and bought a Toyota Corolla. It only served to bolster my attitude about Jap-Crap. My kids were old enough to chastise me about my use of words and that also affected me. I tried like heck to transfer my hatred to them, but they were smarter than me and resisted. The Corolla and I lasted but two years together. It was the worst car I ever owned.

The years passed and my war against Japanese products waged. I preached American made to anyone who would listen. My friends bought Japanese made Toyotas, Hondas, and Datsuns.  I lost the war when my three kids all bought Japanese made cars and loved them, but I kept telling myself that the price I paid for a good UAW made American car was worth it in patriotic pride. In 2006, I finally succumbed to the Japanese automakers. That came after studying their manufacturing methods and their zest for never-ending quality control. America finally woke up to the fact that Japanese manufacturing methods and quality systems were superior. American manufacturers were in catch-up mode. Our employers all scurried looking for the magic bullet that would allow them to compete. I came to believe in the Japanese system, not because it was Japanese but because it was American. They were smart enough to hire Joe Duran an American quality guru who couldn’t find an audience in America. The Japanese studied his system, and then embraced it. They implemented practices until it hurt, but it paid off. The result is a revolution in auto-making that has changed the world. They have won that war.

In 2006, I bought a Toyota Avalon which I so dearly have named the Death Star. It is the finest car I have ever owned. Then came “Flyboys.” Reading a history of the war with Japan in the detail in which author James Bradley tells has reawakened the deep-seated hatred within my heart. The atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war are hard to understand, but author Bradley explains the Japanese warrior psyche in detail and makes an attempt to rationalize their behavior. What is harder to take are the counter-atrocities we committed to beat them. Our methods were the best we could come up with. They were not pretty, but necessary. Japan’s determination was to take over China and the Pacific to expand their empire. They needed room to grow. Their population in the late nineteen thirties peaked at sixty million, and they lived on an island the size of California. Today, California has sixty-four million people and I think it is over populated.

Hopefully, this reawakened hatred will be short-lived as the memory of this narrative wears off. So, what does this have to do with my opening sentence, “A few years ago a movie called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles came out and caused me to laugh my butt off”? The answer is “nothing,” but my fascination with trains, planes and automobiles developed during this time frame. I grew up on a street one block away from a Nickel Plate RR line and I listened to and watched thousands of trains pass by carrying war materials. Airplanes of every type flew over head daily on the way to training fields and to missions in the Pacific, and automobile development stopped causing people to keep the cars they had, or to buy used 1930’s vintage models. To this day I love WWII airplanes, nineteen thirties hot rods, and steam engines.

We Need a Do Over

Cray X-MP/24 (serial no. 115) used by NSA

Cray X-MP/24 (serial no. 115) used by NSA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (Photo credit: @mjb)

The Edison bulb lit up over my head again while Peg and I were having our pork chop. I think the Smoking Loon Merlot had something to do with it. The Obama Care sign up website has been bothering me ever since it became clear that the site is worse than any hurricane that has hit North America. One question keeps coming into mind, how can the world’s most powerful country be so stupid as to allow a software program bring them down? We are the world’s software experts. Our computer scientists are known worldwide for their ability, yet we introduce software that will control one sixth of the US economy that is a pile of cow dung. “A few glitches” O said. It is becoming apparent as the days roll by that the glitches are major screw ups in the architecture. He will never admit it but he owns this one. There is no way to blame it on Bush or the Republicans.

The engineer in me has been working overtime to figure out what I would have done differently. The problem with this type of analysis is that I have the benefit of the Monday morning quarter back. Nevertheless, I began analyzing what I would do. The first thing is I’d hire my brainiac son who is a computer scientist. He works on huge financial analysis software and is known for his ability to test the living crap out of his programs before they go on-line. The problem is that he won’t take the job because he is more conservative than I am, and he would rather see the big O flushed down the toilet.

Any software needed to do this job has to perform fast, and must handle terabytes of information. Hmmmn, where have I heard that before? Yes, the NSA does exactly that. They monitor billions of phone call, e-mails, and video cameras daily. They respond quickly at the command of the Big O. They have a complex of buildings in Utah to house their new computers designed to handle the load with capacity for the future. Those are the guys, I will call to consult on this problem.

How is it possible that the huge government of over educated liberals failed to see the NSA as a contractor for the health care program? They would most likely handle it like a kiddy game compared to the work they do spying on us.

All I can come up with is that the NSA is the NSA, and Health Care is Health Care and never shall the two bureaucrat organizations meet to coöperate with each other and make synergy happen. The number one problem we have is a government that is too large, second, we give the government too much money, and three, we propagate bureaucratic empires.

After World War II the Japanese government was broke; their economy starved for cash. We didn’t help them because we didn’t want them to rebuild their war machine. Yet, by the nineteen eighties the Japanese auto industry started a war against the US big three and they won commercially. How did they do it? They didn’t have cash to invest extravagantly like GM, Ford, and Chrysler, in fact they had but a shoe string budget to invest. Today, the Japs make the best cars in the world.

Necessity made the Japs think outside the box, they worked with their government in a positive way. Japanese engineers came up with ingenious ways to make things with limited stamping presses and tooling. The government handled a plan to protect their markets while attacking the US market. The engineers stole an idea from the progressive die makers and applied it to making auto body parts. Our guys in America thought it was a stupid idea and laughed them off. The result was a car body made in Japan with superior fit and minimal assembly. They were also smart enough to hire an US quality control consultant who taught them the basics of just in time manufacturing. The US auto industry controlled by the UAW unions were too stupid to see the value of the process.

What does this have to do with Obama Care? The point I am making is that attacking the problem with a team and a very specific well-defined goal would have resulted in a superior roll out experience and Obama would have signed up 2.5 million people on day one.  The health care software didn’t need tons of money to reach the goal, but it will to fix it. We need a do over.

Mac Arthur Versus the Emperor

MacArthur signs Japanese surrender instrument ...

MacArthur signs Japanese surrender instrument aboard USS Missouri. Generals Wainwright and Percival stand behind him. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The Emperor” turned into a surprisingly good historical story. I know that today’s youth hate anything historical, but for an old guy like myself it is entertaining because I lived through the period. Tommy Lee Jones plays General Douglas Mac Arthur as Mac begins to rebuild Japan after the atomic-bombs forced Japan to surrender. Before Mac Arthur can do any positive rebuilding, he must first bring Japan’s war criminals to justice. One of his big concerns is whether the Emperor, who is god to his subjects,  started, or made decisions in the conduct of the war.

Mac Arthur relies on General Bonner Fellers, an officer who is expert on Japan affairs and who speaks the language, and knows the culture. General Fellers, played very well by Matthew Fox, went to school with a Japanese girl in the States and then followed her back to Japan before the war began. Therein lies a sub-plot between the girl and the officer.

The story gets into the culture of Japan and the blind loyalty of the people to the Emperor. It is this loyalty that makes Fellers job to discern the truth about the emperor impossible. General Fellers finally submits a report which Mac Arthur finds useless. Mac must decide the Emperors guilt based an Fellers’ opinion, and not on the facts of the case.

Tommy Lee plays a great MacArthur, and Matthew Fox portrays General Fellers well.

The film went  by so fast I felt we were in the theater for only fifteen minutes.

This is a great story with good acting, and direction. There is a glimpse of the destruction brought on by the atomic bomb, but nothing unbearable. The sub-story of the love affair between the officer and his Japanese girlfriend made the story that  much more interesting.

What disappointed me was the lack of people who attended this showing. I guess this story appealed to an old fart like me because it occurred when I was seven years old.

I found this film well worth the time spent from those precious minutes I still have remaining on this earth.

English: Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthu...

English: Emperor Hirohito and General MacArthur, at their first meeting, at the U.S. Embassy, Tokyo, 27 September, 1945 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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