Saturday, December 27, 2008
Well I have just experienced my 55th Christmas. I cannot claim I remember them all, especially the first ones; but this seemed to be a good one. Of course, nothing compares to Christmas as a kid. The only thing that comes close is Christmas with your own kids. (warning - Santa buster ahead) To an extent anyway. I have told many people that I quit enjoying Christmas as much when Santa started leaving me the bill. I also remember the WORK he left me. With six kids, my Santa building experiences top a lot of folks, I am sure. I have built a lot of bicycles, wagons, and other riding contraptions. I have set up train sets of different sizes and configurations. I have unwrapped, assembled, and set up enough toys and vehicles to start up a small toy shop. Going back to my post about building the bird houses and how every time I go to build something, I never have the right tools and/or supplies. This was also true almost every time I went to build the contraptions that "Santa" left for me to build. I remember one particularly cruel Christmas that I was hammering a seat post into a bike at about 2 am. IT WAS IN UPSIDE DOWN!! Then I spent the next hour removing it. I lost all the skin on one set of knuckles and still have trouble making a fist with a finger on my right hand from that one. I never did get the bike together that night. I remember on Christmas morning (after about three hours sleep for me) we were explaining that the elves had not been able to finish the bikes due to a union dispute, or something like that. There were a few doll house setups that had more intricate parts than a nuclear reactor. There were some of these "toys" that were more complex than a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There was nothing that would make me weaker in the knees than opening a parts bag on a toy stove at 1am and having 123 parts fall out. Most of them were precisely designed to fit in only one spot, but looked exactly the same as twelve others until you measured them to find the 1 mm difference. Then there was the wooden items that included the bottle of glue necessary to assemble the piece. The problem was, the glue was usually a small yellow lump in the bottom of the bottle. There was less moisture there than in the Sahara during the dry season. Of course any other glue we had in the house had been used to make ornaments for the tree or Christmas cards (or eaten). So there I was mixing my proprietary mix of flour and water to make homemade glue in the wee hours of the morning. I would be hunched over my mixture like a illicit drug maker in a trailer park in the country. I will admit that Christmases are much less hectic now. I also have to admit having all my knuckles and a full nights sleep on Christmas morning are both wonderful things. I will also admit that some of the magic was in those early morning searches for a part to replace the one I dropped down the drain. Ho Ho Ho
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Although I do not consider myself a person that needs a lot of validation; I am finding myself quite disappointed in the lack of comments and responses to this blog. I could be writing in a diary and keeping it under lock and key if all I needed was a place to write my thoughts. You, dear readers, have your part to play as well - to criticize, applaud, jeer, etc. Comments and thoughts are required. Please ask anyone you think would enjoy my ramblings to read this...... AND COMMENT!! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
This one will be a bit different. There is an organization here in Winston-Salem - Trinity Center - that offers counseling services from a faith based perspective. (to read their exact explanation, go here: http://www.trinitycenterinc.org/Ministry.html and/or here: http://www.trinitycenterinc.org/Services.html ) They are in financial trouble. Due to the economic climate, and their policy of working with people regardless of ability to pay, the center is facing severe budgeting issues. These issues have gotten so severe as to cause the board to consider shutting the organization down. My family has involvement with Trinity Center on many levels. My wife has been receiving counseling there for over a year. She has worked/is working with a counselor and a psychologist, as well as a psychiatrist. We both feel this has been very beneficial to her in helping her deal with her own heath issues and life changes that she has faced over the past two years and is still dealing with. I have two daughters that are employed by Trinity Center. My second oldest worked for Trinity part time as she made her way through Salem College. She is now the office manager. My next youngest daughter is working there part time in the office. My youngest daughter has done volunteer work for them in the office as well. You can see the center has entwined itself into our lives. Most of you that will read this are doing OK. I know we all have our problems. I know that new problems and challenges arise every day. I also know that these economic times are not the best, and are making some comfortable people nervous. But, I still say most of you are OK. I would ask that you donate to Trinity Center what you feel you can afford. They are a non-profit organization, so you can even get a tax write-off. I guess this link still works to even make it so you can give from your computer without even lifting a pen! Go here: http://www.trinitycenterinc.org/Egive.html. If you are a more traditional type, here is the email address and an old fashioned way of contacting them: firstname.lastname@example.org Executive Director: Ann Dixon-Coppage PHONE: (336) 725-3999 FAX: (336) 725-7720 SNAIL MAIL: 640 Holly Avenue Winston-Salem, NC 27101 Only you know what you can afford to do or not do. I would ask that no matter how much or how little you can personally do, please forward this request to as many other people as you can and encourage them to donate what they can. Also ask them to forward the request to as many people as they can. We can help Trinity Center resolve this crisis if everyone will get a group of people to give $10 or $20 each. If some can do more, that would help even more. In the spirit of the season, and for a tax deductible donation - please send what you can NOW! Then get others to do the same.
Monday, December 8, 2008
I had trouble spelling "Thoughts" as the title for this one. It was almost "Thoughta" or "Thoughs". I got the old fingers back on the home row however. I am going to exercise my prerogative as one of the (almost) senior citizen camp - that prerogative that says I can comment and complain about things, and also let everyone else know how they should run their life. First, if you need air in a tire now-a-days, what to do? No one has an air compressor with a tire valve connector on it available anymore. I am talking about a REAL air compressor. One that can blow the paint off the metal if you aim it wrong. You have to use those tiny little boxes you put from $.25 to $1 in (and I NEVER can find the quarters!) and it starts whining. It sounds like a moped for a mouse. The air comes out at about 35 lbs of pressure. Now that would be fine if you were trying to pump up a beach ball, but a tire....no way! I am trying to reach 32 or so pounds of pressure which is just shy of the maximum output of the moped! So, let's say you start at 28. You put your quarters in, and it starts pumping. First, by the time you get to the tire and get the connector over the tire valve, you have lost half your time. Then the machine starts struggling. Oh, it handles 29, 30, and maybe 31 OK. 32, 33, and up are a STRUGGLE! Again, using the moped analogy, the mouse would have to push this baby up that hill. It stays on 30 forever, and then the quarters run out. You start losing air! So, you are back down to 29. OK, I have now spent $.50 (I will use this as an average) for one pound of air pressure in one tire. If I am lucky, I find two more quarters. I go at it again. 30, 31, 32......32......32......32. Good enough. Now, three more tires to go. I should have robbed a drink machine for change. For those of you under the age of 30 or so. Gas stations (which I just realized also are gone for the most part - FYI - they were the predecessors of convenience stores. They just sold gas and a few snacks...maybe more later) had real air compressors in the garage area. These babies had a half horsepower motor hooked to piston from a '55 Chevy that would keep 100+ lbs of pressure in a tank big enough to fill six or seven cars worth of tires. You could go in with a tire totally flat and fill it in a minute or so - (hold on) for FREE! Yes, air was free. No hunting for six pounds of quarters to get a tire filled. I curse the entrepreneur that invented those stupid air machines. Now some advice to live by - On getting things done - DO THEM! There is never a "perfect" or "right" time. There is only NOW. If something needs doing, do it. Waiting usually only makes it worse. If something pops up that needs to be done by you - do it then. One exception, if you are already doing something that needs to be done - FINISH IT! You will never get anything done if you are always starting something new. After doing the first necessary thing, start on the new one. To help with the above - Usually we do not have the luxury of having our jobs come upon us one at a time. We all have some time during the day - early morning, late in the evening, etc.; that we can get alone and have some quiet time. List all you need to get done, or would like to get done. Then, PRIORITIZE! Rank the tasks in the order of importance. A "1" or "A" should go by anything that is critical. Critical is defined as something that will cause a problem at work or home if it is not done. Then put a "2" or "B" by the ones that are not critical, but are important. Then put a "3" or "C" by the ones that it would be nice to get done. If you have any you cannot really put even a "C" by - why is it on your list? Then - start with the first "A". Work it through. Then go to the next "A", and so on and so on. Then you move to the "B"s. At the end of the day, you will have a record of what you have done and a sense of accomplishment. During your planning session for the next day. Take any remaining tasks and re-rank them. I will say if any "C" (or maybe even "B") stays on the list for days and does not get done, and the world is still spinning - drop it. It probably did not need to be done anyway. To be fair, this system is not my own. It is a variant of the Franklin/Covey system . They sell fancy planners to help you with this, but you can use a legal pad or a computer. Try it. Adios, I have tires that are low - gotta go look for quarters.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Well we are entering one of my favorite times of the year - Flu & Cold season! My family tells me (and truth be told, I admit) that I am a bit more germ-a-phobic than I was in my younger days. I am not to the Howard Hughes/Adrian Monk stage, but I find myself very uncomfortable in the presence of someone obviously sick with a cough, cold, or flu. One thing I have never understood is people that go to work deathly ill. That is how we all get sick people! Who are these creatures anyway? Most of the folks I have had working for me or with me over the years would stay home for a sick pet bird, much less for themselves! A scenario - I am traveling down the road and decide to take a bathroom break and maybe pick up a Slim Jim and drink. I stop at the convenience mart at the next exit and head in. Don't even get me started on the condition of most bathrooms, but I'm just saying: germ-avoidance is impossible here. Heading to the counter with my processed meat snack I hear a hacking cough that sounds like a dragon awakening from a deep slumber. I look to the head of the line and see Gameesh, the wonder clerk; who has not missed a day of work since the first Reagan administration and looks like he could play a lead role in Night of the Living Dead without makeup. Ole Gameesh is sneezing and hacking into some sort of cloth, and/or wiping on his pants legs the residue of germs that predate modern antibiotics. Now the dilemma - I was just going to buy my wonder meat and a diet Coke. I have a severe problem. I only have a $20 bill or a debit card. The thought of getting change back with the ravages of Gameesh attached gives me chills to my core. Same with my debit card. But, it can be sanitized! God Bless the Germ-X people. A portable method of sterilization without water is one of mankind's greatest inventions. However, the thought of handling my debit card with Gameesh residue attached is too horrible to contemplate. So, I start gathering up various items on the way to the register so I don't have to get change. Luckily the modern convenience store has all the modern conveniences. An air freshener shaped like a tree (because we just may think there is a real pine in the back seat), a tin of fake speed that will make you shake like a junkie coming off of a high to remember, laundry detergent (wait, that costs $63, I only have a $20 - put it back), a cellophane wrapped piece of cake with a handwritten label (does the health department know about this?), and more of the detris of human convenience. I get the total in my head up to about $18. I make my way to the counter bobbing and weaving to miss the flying sputum, show my bounty, and throw the $20 at Gameesh and say "keep the change". A bit later I am riding down the road sanitizing my hands (and neck and face, etc) smelling like fake pine, alert as a gazelle with a newborn, wishing I felt clean enough to open up the Slim Jim that started all this. I was going to do some more along these lines of the joy of flying during flu season. My seatmate always seems to have a green palor and a cough like the release of the demons of hell. But, it is getting late - maybe later. Remember, sanitize; and stay home (or at least out of my path) if you are sick.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Let's imagine you have a father. Shouldn't be hard for most of you, as you all did by requirement of nature. You did not really know your father that well, as fathers in the 50s and 60s were a bit "stand-offish" in the fathering department. Group participation in a sport or sporting outdoor activity was the interaction of the day. Not being a hunter, fisherman, or golfer would limit your relationship development. This describes my relationship with my father/dad. Most of my memories of my dad are of him leaving for work, golfing, fishing trip, or whatever; or coming home from said journey. Other memories are of him drinking himself into a stupor every night he was home and wondering how he would make it up the stairs to get into bed. We never had a conversation to speak of, and neither of us really knew how to get one started with the other. My dad was an amazing wit and bon vivant with the rest of the town, but with me - not so much. I left my home town of Raeford, N.C. well before he gave up the bottle. So, my reflections and memories of him are vastly different than most of the other members of my family and his friends and acquaintances. Neither here nor there, just is. I was lucky enough to get to know my Dad a bit when he became ill late in his life. The ravages of a southern diet, Camel non-filter cigarettes, and enough alcohol and to preserve a herd of wildebeest finally took their toll. He was in a wheelchair for the last year or so of his life and I tried to be there for him when I could to do whatever. I built his first ramp to get him into the house when he got home from his amputation and recovery. I helped get him out to see the world for the first time in six months or so with a car ride or two. And, I would go down to cut his hair on occasion along with other simple little things that seemed to take the place of meaningful conversation. My family was not and is not one of any great means. My dad's will was a short and sweet document leaving his worldly possession to my mother (rightly so). He did give something personal, and of value to each of his four children. My one personal item was his Colt M1911 U.S. Army service pistol. As I stated above, I am not a sportsman. I am not a gun person per se. I have hunted, I have shot guns of most normal sizes and calibers. I did not own a gun at the time, but was very excited about the prospect of owning my father's service weapon. As my mother was going through a lot at the time and I had my own personal tribulations starting (see other blogs for that - my wife has health issues) I just told my mother to keep the pistol and I would get it later. Imagine my surprise when I found out later that the gun was gone! I am still not quite sure who, where, and what happened. Some unspecific statement about it being sold by someone. The only thing I was left by my father to me personally in his will was somehow disposed of to someone I don't know for some unknown reason. Now I am not one to beat a dead horse (although I have been know to give one a last shot to see if it has life), so I will let this go now. But I still cannot believe it. That weapon was and is a collectors item. It has a value of thousands. It has an attachment with my father that is invaluable. But, the horse is no longer breathing. I hope I am purged.
Imagine you and your spouse, or significant other, are on a nice boat ride called life. You are on this inconceivably large boat in a sea of unimaginable size on a trip of indeterminate length. Once in a while, you go through some beautiful. almost indescribable days where birds sing, wonderful angelic music accompanies you in your daily activities, and everything you want is there before you. Then there are the dark and stormy days where all you can do is hold on to the rail and upchuck your lunch into the water. Most of the days, however, are just a boat ride. One day your spouse falls overboard, fully clothed, and for no apparent reason. You quickly toss them a line, and say"hold on, I'll get you out!" There is no reason to panic, people fall into the water all the time. Plus, they are a fairly strong swimmer, we will get them out. So, you start pulling on the rope. After pulling and pulling you notice they are not any closer to the boat. You decide you need help. You go and get the some of the lifeguards that are stationed around the boat. One by one they examine the situation. All of them, after careful thought and deep reflection based on years of training, say "They are in the water. They will surely drown. All we can do is keep them on the line from the boat, and wait." You become more and more agitated and upset. You go and get one lifeguard after another. Some haven't got a clue. All the rest just say, "At some unpredictable time in the future they will drown. Keep them nourished, provide fresh water, and here is a wonder drug in case they get cramps." You consider going into the water yourself. However, there is no good way to get in, and definitely no way out. So, you sit by the rail and talk to your loved one about the good days where the birds sang, angelic music accompanied you, and all was before you. Meanwhile, it becomes harder and harder for your spouse to keep their head above the water. One of your greatest fears is a storm coming up and causing waves that they surely could not ride out. More and more time is spent just working to keep their head above the water. Meanwhile, you can only sit and watch. Enjoy your cruise.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
I am an optimist at heart. Senator McCain was ridiculed during the campaign for saying the fundamentals of our economy are strong (there is another post a ways back about that, so read it if you care). They are. When allowed to function, the free market economy is the best system devised. Are there inequalities? - Yes. Are there people that will go broke? - Yes. But, if left to be truly free, there will be a much larger number of people that accumulate more wealth. Our problem now is we are being led into a disastrous economic situation by people that think the down times and the "losers" in a capitalistic system can be turned around and/or saved. That is insanity. There can be no good without bad. There can be no winner without losers. To appreciate the light, one must experience darkness. The "feel-good" notion that we can bail out all the downtrodden and speculators that lost, is not only wrong - it is suicidal to our economy. Here is a blog by a business reporter. It is OK, read it if you like. I am putting this link here specifically for you to listen and watch the first two video clips linked on her blog. Mr. Rogers (no sweaters or slippers here) is one of the most successful investors ever. He knows economies and business. His comments are chilling. The second two - not so much. Watch them if you like. http://glickreport.blogs.foxbusiness.com/2008/11/25/jim-rogers-citi-should-have-been-let-to-fail/ I truly feel that if left alone, and if the weak are allowed to fail; our nation and its economy will roar back with a vengeance. I also am beginning to feel that with all the bail outs and money being thrown around - we may be in a LOT of trouble. I took an economics course in the late 70s. We were taught that an unemployment rate of about 6% was the absolute minimum that a healthy economy could achieve. We are just now at 6.5% nationally. The 6% floor was said to be the bottom due to the fact that there are many people that just do not want to work! Oh they may go to job interviews or even take jobs, but they are very happy just getting by on charity or government handouts. To try to make these folks a permanent part of the work force was considered to expensive. Also, when the unemployment went too low, the cost of filling new jobs was too high for growing companies -ie there was way too much competition for the available good employees and wages went to a prohibitive level. We have been under 6% now for the better part of 15 years! We were under 5% for a large portion of that! Here are some famous (and not so) companies that have filed for bankruptcy. Yes, some went out of business. But, some are still around, some were bought out by successful businesses, and some morphed into something else entirely. But, they used bankruptcy to help when they got in bad shape financially. Here is the list: Aladdin Gaming, LLC (Las Vegas Hotel Casino) (2001) ABB Lummus Global, Inc. (Petroleum Refining) (2006) Aloha Airlines, Inc. Allegiant Air, Inc. American Banknote Corporation (1999) American Federation of Television and Radio Artists / AFTRA (1982) America Online Latin America, Inc. (2005) American Restaurant Group, Inc. (2004) Ameridebt (2004) AMF Bowling Worldwide, Inc. (2001) AtA Airlines (2008) Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. (2005) Baldwin Piano & Organ Company (2001) Bally total fitness holding Corporation Beliefnet, Inc. Ben Franklin Retail Store, Inc. Bethlehem Steel Corporation (2001) Big Buck Brewery & Steakhouse, Inc. (2004) Birch Telecom, Inc. (2005) The Bombay Company, Inc. Bugle Boy industries Burlington Industries Inc. (2001) Carolco Pictures Inc. (1995) Casual Male Corp. CD Warehouse, Inc. Champion Parts, Inc. Chiquita Brands International Inc. (2001) Clothestime Stores, Inc. Color Tile, Inc Continental Airlines Inc. (1967 & 1984) Converse Inc. (2001) Cosmetic Center, Inc. County Seat Stores, Inc (1996,1999) Dairy Mart Convenience Stores Inc. (2001) Death Row Records (2006) Delphi Corporation (2005) Delta Airlines Inc. (2005) Diamond brands inc. Dow Corning Corporation (1995) Drug Emporium, Inc. (2001,2003) Eastern Airlines Inc. (1991) Easyriders, Inc. Edwards Theatres Circuit, Inc. Einstein/Noah Bagel Corp. Enron Corporations (2001) eToys Inc. (2001) Excite@Home (2001) Factory 2-U Stores, Inc. Family Golf centers, Inc. Farm Fresh, Inc. First City Banc. Of Texas Fitzgeralds Gaming Corp. Flooring America, Inc. Frank’s Nursery & Crafts, Inc. (2004) Frederick's of Hollywood Inc. (2000) Fresh Choice, inc Friedmans Inc. (2005, 2008) Furrs Restaurant Group, Inc. Fruit of the Loom Inc. (1999) G. Heileman Brewing Co., Inc. Gadzooks, Inc. (2004) Garden Bontanika, Inc. General homes Corporation Gibraltar Financial Corp. Greyhound Lines, Inc. Gulf States Steel, Inc. Happy Kids, Inc. (2005) Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. Hispanic Television Network, Inc. Hollywood Casino Shreveport (2004) Homes.com,LLC Homeseekers.com,Inc. Houlihans Restaurants, Inc. Huffy Corporation Imperial Sugar Company Just For Feet, Inc. KB Toys, Inc. (2004) Kmart Corporation (2002) L.A.Gear, Inc Laidlaw, Inc. Lionel Corporation (1967 & 1984) Loan Fabrics Corporation Loehmann’s, Inc. Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Inc. (2000) Logix Communications enterprises, Inc London Fog Group, Inc. Maidenform Inc. (1997) Mars Music, Inc. Marvel Entertainment Group (1996) Mercury finance Company Midway airlines Corp Montgomery Ward Inc (1997 & 2000) Mortgage Lenders Network USA, Inc. Moto Photo, Inc. Motor City Five/MC5 rock group of the 1960s (1970) Musicland Holding Corp. (2006) Napster, Inc. NextCard, Inc. Northwest Airlines (2005) Onieda Ltd. Orion Pictures Corporation (1992) Outboard Marine Corp. Owens Corning Corporation (2000) Pan Am Corporation (1998) Payless Cashways, Inc. (1997,2001) Planet Hollywood International Inc.(1999 & 2001) Polaroid Corporation (2001) Purina Mills Inc. (1999) Quality Home Loans, Inc. Quebecor World (USA), Inc. Rand McNally & Company Regal Cinemas Inc. (2001) Reliant Energy Channelview LP Resorts International Inc. (1994) Roadhouse Grill, Inc. (2002,2007) Ronco Corporation Safety-Kleen Corporation Samuels Jewelers, Inc. Schlotzskys Inc. (2004) Schwinn/GT Corp Service Merchandise Company, Inc. Seven Up/RC Bottling Company of So. CA,Inc. Sharper Image Corporation Shuttle America Corp. Silicon Graphics, Inc. (2006) Singer Company (1999) Sizzler International (1996) Smith Corona Corporation (1995) Southland Corporation (7-11 stores) (1990) Spiegel, Inc. Stan Lee Media, Inc. Standard Automotive Corp. Star Telecommunications. Inc. State Line casino Stratosphere Corporation Strouds, Inc. Sun Country Airlines, Inc. Sunbeam Corporation (2001) Swissair Group Inc. (2001) SyQuest Technology, Inc. Talkpoint Communications, Inc. Talon Automotive Group, Inc. Texaco Texas American Bancshares Texas Commercial Energy, LLC Texas Equipment Corp. Texas International Co. Texas Petrochemicals LP The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon (2004) Thinkpath Inc. Thomaston Mills, Inc. Todays man, Inc. Top-Flite Golf Company Tower Automotive, Inc. Toysmart.com (2000) TLC rock group (1995) Trans World Airlines Inc. /TWA (1995 & 2000) Trans Texas Gas Corp. Tristar Corp. Trump Hotel & Casino Resorts, Inc. Twinlab Corporation Ultra Stores,Inc. United Artists Theatre Co. United Petroleum Corp. United States Leather, Inc. US Airways Group, Inc. (2004) USA Commercial Mortgage Company US Office Products Company (mail boxes etc. stores) (2001) U.S. Wireless Corp. Vangaurd Airlines, Inc Venture Stores, Inc Vlasic Foods International Inc. (2001) Western Union Corporation (1993) Wherehouse Entertainment, Inc. Wickes Furniture Company, Inc. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. (2005) WorldCom, Inc XO Communications, Inc. Zany Brainy Zenith Electronics Corporation (1999) One of the reasons that the car companies (and some others like airlines) are NOT being allowed to declare bankruptcy is the unions. Now unions are the subject of a whole other blog for later (and I have done some - look back). The bailout for the car makers should be seen as a bailout for the unions. The unions got Obama and the democrats elected this time. Their payoff is to protect and grow union jobs. The only thing that will save American car companies long term is to eliminate or radically change the union contracts they have today. THAT is one of the purposes of bankruptcy - to cancel contracts and leases that are not in the best interest of a continuing business. So, now we have to give a TAXPAYER bailout to the car companies so the unions can keep their contracts in place. These contracts amount to thousands per car overhead that GM, Ford, and to some extent Chrysler pays per car that Toyota, Nissan, etc. do not. It is really amazing that Detroit has survived at all. Give them a level playing field and they will not just compete, they will win. The problem with "government" bailouts is - (all together now) THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT MONEY!! The only money a government has is from its governed. Any money given to banks, car companies, airlines, mortgage lenders, hot dog vendors, etc - is FROM US! The government is taking money from those that are successful and good at managing their money and giving it to those that have proven they are not! That is a recipe for disaster. Failed businesses and people must be allowed to fail. People that cannot pay their mortgage, must be allowed to lose their homes. Companies that cannot compete must be allowed to reorganize (that's what bankruptcy is for) and restart, or fail. The weak, dumb, poorly financed, badly conceived, ineptly managed, and uncompetitive must not be preserved. That weakens us all. Here is what we all MUST do - (I have and do often) Write your congressman and senator. Write our new savior Obama. Call neighbors, friends, and co-workers. Tell the government to STOP giving away your money to failures. GM and/or Citibank declaring bankruptcy will NOT take down this country. Allowing them to continue with failed policies and management with our money may. If you wanted a feel good piece about Thanksgiving - go to last year's post. I was in a better mood.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I have written one post that included some thoughts about perspective. Here's another - I was just reading a book that takes place in Russia. The time frame is after the fall of the Soviet Union, but one gets the feeling that it is not that long after. One of the chapters in the book goes to a elementary school classroom to a history lesson. A question in asked of one of the little girls in the class - "Who was Abraham Lincoln?" Now, we all know Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the U.S. He freed the slaves, wrote the Gettysburg address on an envelope, and preserved the union of the states with his action in and surrounding the Civil War. We also know he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth. The answer given by a Soviet school educated child was - "Abraham Lincoln was a president of the United States. He led a bloody suppression of a revolt by the southern states of the U.S. seeking freedom." How about that for perspective? I was then thinking about how perspective would apply to other historical figures and heroes in history. How about these? - George Washington to an English child in the early 1800's would have been - "a rebel leader that led a bloody revolt against the King. He was later selected as the first leader of this breakaway colony." This same type of description can be given to most of the American leaders of the revolution. Christopher Columbus to a Spanish child in the 1490s might have been - "an explorer that failed to find a passage to India and the far east." Ponce de Leon to a native American child in the early 1500s could have been - "a murderous invader that led the occupation of our great land." You can see where I am going - How about some of your FAMOUS/HISTORICAL PEOPLE IN PERSPECTIVE? Write 'em down and I will post them.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
11/26 - I wondered why no one had commented on this one. I forgot to post it. I did it a few days ago. Here you go - I was sitting and talking with my wife and considering what to give folks for Christmas this year. I love to make things. (no really I do) I have made some stuff in the past, but it rarely comes out as I envisioned. I have also had things that did not come out at all. With six kids around the house in earlier years, sometimes NOTHING came out at all except destruction and aggravation. (love ya kids, mean it) I was thinking for the last few years that I wanted to make people wind chimes. Homemade and handmade wind chimes. I have been working with the design in my head now for at least two years. I thought this might be the year I would actually do them. So, I talked it over with my wife, who tactfully agreed. (knowing that disagreement would do nothing) I have done some research online at various places about wind chimes that are available and their costs. I have gotten some great ideas, and an idea of what I could get one commercially for. Now, I am a realist. I know that although sometimes handmade/homemade items can be cheaper than factory produced units; the real benefit is in the fact that someone made the item for you. I can get some outstanding wind chimes off the internet for $19 - $25 ea. There are some higher and some lower, but that seems to be the "sweet spot" of wind chime-dom. I started doing some more detailed planning on the actual production of the wind chimes. I had a basic idea and design, but I knew I needed a more specific one to get the tools, equipment, and materials I needed to get them into production. This brought up the first "issue" to address in the making of wind chimes (or other handmade items), tools. With the design I was going to use I would need a better, easier cutting device than a twenty year old rusted hacksaw with a missing blade. I first considered just buying a new blade (or blades) for the device, but it has definitely seen better days. I then considered the fact that if I was going to do the number of wind chimes I planned, I would be doing a LOT of cutting of tubing. So, some type of power cutting device would be nice. Cost - $50 - $100 (or more). Now, to use a power saw of any design, you need another device to hold what you are sawing. With a 2" x 4" you can use your free hand and a bit of body weight. With a length of copper pipe, one would need a clamping device of some sort. I was looking at a vise or table clamp. Cost - $25 - $50 (or more). I knew I would need to drill holes in the cut lengths of pipe. Now one of the few things I have accumulated over the years is a couple of good drills - cordless and plug-in. But, the drill bits I have left are weak and spartan to say the least. I never seem to have the right drill bit when I go to sink a hole in something. I usually use the next smaller and "route it out" a bit with the old circular motion on the drill. I can usually go up a size or two with this highly developed technique. For this much precision drilling, I knew I would need a drill bit or two. Might as well get a whole set - cost - $20 - $50 (or more). I took stock of the other items I would need - fishing line (don't fish, so none here), some sort of material to make the top hangy thing (I hate to go all wind chime technical on you, but you can tell I have done extensive research) that supports the whole contraption. Now, round this all up with at LEAST three to four shopping trips to multiple stores, because I NEVER, EVER get everything I need for any project I have done until at LEAST three trips have occurred; and the labor. I enjoy doing things with my hands. I am fairly proficient with my hands. Once I get the tools (or even if I don't have all the right tools - For my father who was in a wheelchair, I once built a twenty foot long ramp with a three foot drop with nothing but a hammer, cordless drill/screwdriver, level, tape measure, a skillsaw, and a small handsaw) I can usually do a job in a reasonable amount of time. However, reasonablity is measured relatively. It almost always takes me twice as long as I originally planned, some of which is eaten up by repeated trips to various stores and hours looking for the missing and misplaced tools (where is that level? I left it right here). I was looking at making seven or eight wind chimes. I did the math this morning and determined they would cost me about $75 - $100 each with labor figured in at a reasonable rate. Remember, it's the thought that counts........ Now, if I could only remember those websites with the coolest wind chimes.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Those of you that know me well know that for 15+ years I did not miss a Price is Right Show. I recorded them every day and watched them at night or on the weekends. I love(d) that show...farewell Bob. Here is a link to a video of one of the current Price is Right shows that went pretty well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpMuiYNa3Xo If you want to see excitement and what a good day is - watch. I also just found out that the Time/Life people are putting their 150 years of photographs on the web - with FREE public access through Google Images. I have only started to look, but saw some great photos of the Civil War. These are some of the first photographs taken, and look amazing. They are categorized by decade. They have from the 1860s through the 1970s now. Take a look. If you are a history buff or a photography buff, this is great. Here is a link: http://images.google.com/hosted/life I was going to continue with my theme of change; commenting on the changes in society, culture, people, and events in my lifetime. I will postpone the additional comments to let you check these two links out. (I will just say that one of my thoughts was on the availability of information - the internet has changed information accessibility in a way that is immeasurable. These two links, and especially the photos, are a great example. In my youth, if we had to do a report we had to go to the library or an encyclopedia. In our case the encyclopedia was a bit dated. If you looked up "Rocket" it referenced Chinese fireworks. No, in reality it did show a black and white photo of Werner Von Braun by a derrick looking thing with a pointy device on top of it. The caption was something like "Dr. Von Braun doing experimental work with new devices to rocket into space." True story) More later. Enjoy.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
You all have probably heard the "million monkey theory" (or actually the infinite monkey theory) - If a million (infinite number) of monkeys (chimpanzees) were put in a room with an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time - they would produce the complete works of Shakespeare. I was thinking about this this morning (I think about "stuff" like this) with some of my weirdness taking over. Some thoughts - First, how can an infinite number of anything fit into a room. You would have to have an infinite space. But, that is nit-picking. Then again lower primate societies are built on nitpicking!?! I just read a study (yes, I read weird stuff too!) that showed that chimps "hold grudges" based on grooming (or true nitpicking). If one chimp groomed another and then the nitpicking was not reciprocated, the first chimp would "shun" the non-groomer and attempt to get others to do the same. So, if you put an infinite number of chimps in a room (ignoring the above space restraints) for an infinite time with an infinite number of combs and brushes - would they invent new hair styles? My guess is they would stick combs and brushes in orifices of the non-groomers. But, theoretically... Vidal Baboon. If an infinite number of chimpanzees were put in a room with an infinite amount of U-238 for an infinite amount of time - would they produce a bomb? Again, I doubt it. More likely they would die of radiation poisoning. OR, maybe mutate from the radiation into different life forms like writers and go looking for infinite numbers of typewriters. How would one monitor infinite chimps? How would one know if they had produced the works of Shakespeare? You would need an infinite number of monitors/observers. (this "room" is getting crowded). What about the food, water, infinite amount of poop? If an infinite number of chimps were put in a room with an infinite amount of poop, water, and pipes; would they invent sanitary sewers and plumbing? (wow - an infinite number of butt cracks!) Would they show up infinitely late? If an infinite number of chimps were put in a room with an infinite number of buns, beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions; would they invent a Big Mac? If an infinite number of chimps were put in a room with an infinite number of hammers, nails, and lumber; would they build a house? More likely just bludgeon each other an infinite number of times. The non-groomers would go first. I wonder. Later. Gotta do more research.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Well, I guess there are a LOT of idiots out there! This is one time that I hope I am wrong , VERY wrong. Because I feel we just took our great country down a path that we will have a hard time getting back from. If you read these posts regularly, you should have seen one titled "Back in the USSA". I wrote it the day after our government started a socialist approach to banking and business. Our government now owns a sizable percentage of each of the top banks in the country - socialism. I have seen articles where the government is proposing "buying" sizable chunks of other industries, in the form of loans for equity swaps - socialism. Now we have elected a president that has socialist tendencies and a definite support for socialism in his past. Socialism DOES NOT WORK! I agree in theory it is a wonderful and compelling ideology. Spread the wealth. Take from the rich and give to the poor. Share and share alike. From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need. If you don't recognize it that last one is directly from the guru of socialism - Karl Marx. The problem with the ideal of share and share alike is human nature. Why would the hard working people that do overtime now and work two jobs do so in an environment where any excess they make is put into a "pot" to go to all equally? Why would the lazy work at all, knowing the "pot" it there for them to get their needs met? Capitalism is NOT a dirty work. Free enterprise is the fuel that has built this nation into the greatest nation on earth. The problem with capitalism in its present form is that it is no longer FREE. We already have enough socialistic tendencies in our government/laws/regulations to hamper the results. The top producers in this country already pay all the income taxes. The bottom 40% of wage earners PAY NONE! This cannot stand. If you love this country and you want your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to do as well as most Americans have historically, you must pay attention. Fight big government and the politicians that try to make it bigger. We need fewer laws, less regulation, smaller government, and much less government waste! Get involved. Write your elected officials and tell them you want smaller government. Tell them you want less taxes (FOR ALL). Read, learn, and study the Constitution and ideals that this government was founded on. Don't fall for the hype. Just because the media and/or government says you are doing badly, you aren't. Just because they say you are doing well, that doesn't mean you are.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I have not written in a while, and I am tired of the political and election stuff - SO, here are some random thoughts. (if this seems disjointed a bit, I did it over two days - sorry) I was thinking about the differences in everyday life today versus when I was a teenager. (yeah, old people reminisce more - it's that rear-view mirror line again) I mentioned in an earlier post about the "tub-o-soda" I get for lunch most days. That is one BIG (pun intended) change. When I was starting out my working career, I was in fast food management - Burger King, McDonald's, Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips, and Hardee's to be precise. Even Hardee's (which was the last and latest), who helped pioneer the "tub" size drinks with 7-11 (Moose cup and Big Gulp respectively) only had a 20 oz drink as a large. At BK, McD, and AT we only had a 16 oz as a large. That is a small now! I understand why (partially due to my training at Whopper College and Hamburger University!), the drink costs less than the cup and the labor for most soft drinks. So, they can sell you twenty more ounces of drink for more money = more profit. But, even though I get these things often, I know they are ridiculous! (don't even get me started on the cup holder vs cup battle that rages in industrial design studios around the world!) But, even though they represent the greatest profit for the seller, they represent the greatest value to us, the consumers. Bring on the "tub-o-soda"! Can I get some wheels with that? Another HUGE change is in communication. Cellphones, text messaging, computers, email, and IMs have revolutionized the interaction and dialogue (or lack thereof) between people. Now, although an improvement from my mother's days where if the person you wanted to talk to did not live in the cave next door or the signal fire wood was wet, you couldn't communicate with them until they came by - we did have phones.....period. They were black rotary dial devices with CORDS (shudder) that we had to be tethered to while we tried to reach another similarly tethered individual at a specific location. No voice mail or even answering machines (WHAT!!), if they were not there you left a message with the evil younger sibling that promptly forgot you called (possibly on purpose if they did not like you); or you had to talk to their Mom for twenty minutes about how school was or how your last doctor visit went. We all had meeting places. That took the place of cellphone/text message communication. If your friend was not home, there were two or three places you had to drive to. In our town it was the Tastee-Freeze first, or the drug store (afternoons). Now, people expect to be able to communicate with anyone they know anywhere, anytime. During the summer when I was young, we would frequently go months without talking to or communicating with a good friend. When you said goodbye on the last day of school, for a lot of those people it was literally goodbye until school cranked up again in the fall. Now, I can be in Denver and take a call someone in Virginia or Florida that has no idea where I am. My daughter sometimes feels offended when she sends a text message to a friend and does not get an answer in twenty seconds! Speaking of communicating - how about the handwritten (or even typed) letter? Even I, in my day, wrote letters to people. Now we do what I am doing - type on a computer and hit "send". I remember getting out paper (we would even buy stationery to write on!) and pen, sitting at my desk and writing people. I cannot remember the last time I wrote a handwritten letter and mailed it. When I need to contact people now I email them or call them (expecting an immediate pickup). Senators, businesses, friends, etc. all get emails now. The post office is reduced to junk mail, periodicals, and bills. (a sub-plot of this one is stamps - no stamp lickum anymore!?!) As I was afraid, I lost my train of thought here on the second sitting. I will return to this subject at a later date. Remember, if you vote for a democrat for a national office this election - you are an idiot! If that offends anyone - at least I hope it makes you research and think about what you are doing. Peace and Love. (used to end letters that way in the day)
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
You guys all know (I think) that I was on the Atkins diet a ways back. The Atkins people are big supporters of the Sucralose/Splenda sweetener. This sweetener is now in a LOT of food and drink. I used quite a bit of it, and we still have it in the house and I use it occasionally. However, those of you that see me regularly also know I do NOT use it for most of my sweetener needs. I did some research on it and was convinced it was not good for humans, especially in any quantities. I came across this today. It is a study from Duke University that shows that the sweetener is NOT healthy. You folks that know me also know that I have strong feelings about health, supplements and foods. I will not be using Splenda any longer at all, when given a choice (it is in so much of the diet foods and drinks, I do not know if I can avoid it totally). I would advise you to do the same. As for what you should be using, who knows. It may be that in small amounts sugar (cane, not fructose or corn syrup) is the best. I will use the pink packets, and maybe stevia. Here is the study info: This study, from Duke University, isn't the first warning that heavy intake of sucralose (better known by the brand name Splenda) may be linked to health problems. Several years ago an HSI member wrote to ask if sucralose was as bad as other artificial sweeteners. In response, HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., noted that any claim about sucralose being "natural," is naturally false. Dr. Spreen: "The stuff is patented and involves taking sugar molecules and treating them with (ulp) chlorine. "The argument is that the chlorine is not absorbed at all, so therefore the agent is harmless. There have since been reports of up to 30% being absorbed and symptoms being caused. I don't really know what percentage, if any, is absorbed (though I bet it's higher than zero). However, I don't trust the stuff, though it may have less after-taste than stevia." According to the sucralose "Final Rule" issued by the FDA, the body may absorb from 11 to 27 percent of ingested sucralose. But research from the Japanese Food Sanitation Council doesn't agree, estimating that as much as 40 percent is absorbed. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Cake & coffee ------------------------------------------------------------------ How chlorine absorption from sucralose affects us isn't clear. But something in the sweetener appears to prompt stomach pains and gas pains – the two primary complaints about sucralose. This new study may explain the indigestion discomfort, while also raising the possibility of greater harm. For 12 weeks, Duke researchers fed varying amounts of sucralose to rats. Fecal samples were examined weekly. Analysis showed that sucralose altered pH balance in the intestines and prompted weight gain. But two additional results were quite worrying: Good bacteria in the intestines were dramatically reduced – by 50 percent! – while P-glycoproteins were increased – a condition that limits the absorption of oral drugs. According to James Turner, chairman of the consumer advocacy group Citizens for Health, just two slices of sucrose-sweetened cake and two cups of coffee with Splenda might be enough to affect P-glycoproteins and compromise drug absorption – a potentially devastating situation for patients undergoing chemotherapy. Mr. Turner has called on the FDA to insist that Splenda products carry a warning label to caution patients on medications and those with gastrointestinal issues. Of course, more research will be needed to confirm these findings. But anyone following the Atkins diet should know that most of the Atkins snack and dessert products are sweetened with Splenda. In keeping with the Atkins diet, Splenda use avoids blood sugar spikes that lay the groundwork for type 2 diabetes – a benefit that may come packaged with potential risks.
I have been told that I have offended some with my last post. I am glad there were people to offend. That being said, I thought a bit of follow up and explanation was in order. First, I do not think being a democrat makes you inherently any worse or any better than being a republican or an independent (of which I am one). In fact, the current republicans are not much (if any) better in practice than the democrats. Given the history of control (see the last post for details) where the democrats have controlled Congress for the vast majority of the post WWII era, I do feel the democrats and their core beliefs to be flawed greatly. Some current commentary - see this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MGT_cSi7Rs The democrats are going on and on about how the George Bush policies of deregulation caused the financial mess we are in. - B.S. The problem has been of "half ways". The financial sector (like the airline and transportation sectors, and others) have never been "deregulated". In fact, one could argue that there are more regulations now for all areas of our economy and business than ever before. The problem was lack of enforcement, and possibly oversight. Just like with illegal aliens - (I love when this is called an "immigration problem" - I have said here before - calling the illegal aliens an immigration problem is like called bank robbery a withdrawal problem!) - and gun control - there are too many laws on the books not too few. There is no will to enforce the laws. Banks and other mortgage institutions were made to write loans to people that had no business getting them. These were people that were turned down for loans under normal circumstances. I hear people say this was caused by greed. How is it greedy to loan money to a person that you know cannot pay you back? Banks and lending institutions loan money to be paid back with a profit. That is what they do. That is what their shareholders and owners require them to do. The government and local activist organizations made them out to be benevolent societies - doing "good" for the undeserving vs doing their best for the investors. As for the democrats, the video above shows how THEY kept the regulators from being appointed to give the oversight to the lenders. Now, on taxes (I have a LOT of old post here, so read them if you want a more thorough picture) - Obama and the democrats say they want to tax corporations and "windfall profits". Read this carefully - CORPORATIONS DO NOT PAY TAXES - they collect taxes and pass them on to the government. YOU PAY corporate taxes. If the taxes on a company go up by ten percent, they raise their prices by ten percent - or cut their payroll by ten percent, OR GO OVERSEAS! Our corporate tax rates are some of the highest in the world. That, combined with labor unions that outlived their purpose thirty or more years ago, is the reason that companies are moving overseas. Remember, corporations have a legal duty to make money for their shareholders. If they cannot make a profit here due to high taxes and/or high salaries - they are mandated to adjust to make a return. Corporations do NOT exist to pay salaries, or to pay taxes, or to build pension funds - they exist to MAKE MONEY! If the ability to make money is taken away - they will go away. Then, NO JOBS! As for the rest of the tax story - read the old posts. One last comment on the above - If you are upset at the money a corporation is making - BUY IT! That's right, buy it. Almost every well known corporation is a publicly traded on one or more stock markets. Buy some stock. Share the wealth. You will then get a piece of the profits they earn (and maybe have a greater understanding of why corporate taxes are bad, when your shares fall due to lower earnings caused by a high tax burden). A lot of people have whined about the oil companies of late and their grossly inflated profits. Buy stock! You will share the profits. Of course, the years and years that the oil companies do NOT make those high profits (which are numerous - the oil companies are one of the LOWEST in profits over the long haul historically) you will not either. If you don't like the money Wal-Mart makes - BUY STOCK! If you had bought stock in Wal-Mart when you first heard of it, you would have made one of the best returns on your investment that you can make. Instead, people would rather lament how Wal-Mart takes away from the Mom and Pop stores and ruins small towns. (all while shopping there - more people shop at Wal-Mart than any other store - and on the subject of Wal-Mart - they are blasted for selling more Chinese made goods than any other retailer. That is true - but did you know they sell more American/U.S. made goods than any other retailer? True - THEY ARE THE LARGEST RETAILER IN THE WORLD BY A HUGE MARGIN - they sell more of ALL types of goods than almost anyone else) I am rambling now. Not even sure I made my point. Just watch the video, read the older posts. and do NOT vote for a democrat for any national office. Change is voting the democrats OUT.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
So much to say, so much to comment on, WOW! Here we go... A few weeks ago John McCain was made a laughing stock by most of the media for saying the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were strong. The ridicule dished out was so great that he wimped out and started explaining that he meant something different than what was reported. (some stuff about how he was commenting on the American worker and population). The whole problem I have with this scenario is - HE WAS RIGHT! The fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong. We still have an economy that is the envy of the world. Are there problems now, yes. Are the fundamentals (American Heritage dictionary says fundamentals are - 1) Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary: the fundamental laws of the universe. 2) Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central: an example that was fundamental to the argument. So, our fundamentals are: Freedom, democracy, free markets, equality, etc. All still pretty sound, if you ask me.) of our economy sound - I say again, YES! Now for some comments on our current situation(s). The "mortgage crisis" - Did you realize that as of August less than 2% of all personal mortgages were in default? Did anyone report that? Did you know that at the same period, less than 6% of personal mortgages were in arrears (late)? Now, there are areas of the country with much higher percentages, this is the national average. There are also lenders with MUCH higher percentages, but it is of their own doing! One problem I have here is, now that Americans have been told that the government is going to "bail out" bad mortgages, the default rates will skyrocket. Why pay when the good ole government is going to take care of it. REMEMBER - THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT MONEY!! JUST TAX DOLLARS!! Wall Street problems - Today, 10/7/08 - The stock market took another large drop. (yesterday it was up, but that did not make the news - another problem I have) Headlines read - "2 Trillion Gone from Nest Eggs!" Sensationalism. Yes, if you went to sell your stocks, cash out your stock or mutual fund based retirement plans, there would be 2 trillion less than in July. What percentage are going to cash out now, CLOSE TO ZERO! Apocalyptic headlines make news. The stock market has been going up and down for the history of people buying and selling stocks. A big part of this problem is a LOT of current investors are young enough to have never seen the market drop. They thought stocks always went up. (actually in the long run, most do) Unless you are in a position to have to take your money out of a retirement plan now, all is fine. Look back on this in two or three years and all the value will be back, probably plus some. Government bailout(s) - You can read my last post on this. I have a REAL problem with our tax dollars being used to cover poor financial decisions. If the government has that kind of money, we are paying too much in taxes. If you want to know a GREAT reason for tax cuts - this is it. The government can't spend what they don't have.... Oh yeah, they can - THEY'RE THE GOVERNMENT! But it makes it harder. Speaking of TAX CUTS - Tax cuts always benefit the people that pay the taxes. (I have a post on this as well back a ways - read it for details.) I am soooooo tired of that class warfare B.S. put out about the rich getting the tax breaks. Since the "Tax Breaks" of the early 2000s, the "rich" are paying a higher percentage (and many more dollars) of taxes than before. Here are the breakdowns - The top 1% of population ranked by income make 19% of the income and pay 37% if the income taxes The top 5% of population ranked by income make 33% if the income and pay 57% of the taxes. The top 10% of population ranked by income make 44% of the income and pay 68% of the taxes. The top 25% of the population ranked by income make 66% of the income and pay 85% of the taxes. The bottom 50% of the population effectively pay NO INCOME TAXES! (after tax credits, etc) So, of course tax cuts go to the rich - THEY PAY THE TAXES!! And, even after the latest tax cuts they pay more! and the "Kicker" - POLITICS - I am going to make a flat statement - If you vote for a Democrat for any national office (local, even state - if they are the better candidate - go for it) - you are an idiot! The national democrats are so invested in winning this election that they are willing to destroy the country to do it! The reporting and sound bites coming out of this "crisis" is more than half the problem. The people in Washington know that most of the voters are so ignorant of how things really work that they can say George Bush and his administration "caused" the current problems and people will believe it. They know that to get Obama and a larger majority in Congress elected, they have to terrify people and make them believe the Republican did it. Here are some facts - Since World War II (1945) through the current one, there have been 30 Congress -es seated. The Republicans have controlled 6 of them (12 years). The Democrats have controlled 20 of them (40 years). I define control here by having a majority in BOTH houses of Congress. So, for the remaining years there was a Republican Senate and a Democrat House (interestingly there has not been a Republican House without a Republican Senate). The Constitution of the U.S. mandates that ALL spending bills be created and approved in the House of Representatives. This includes budgets and TAXES! The Democrats have had total control of spending and taxes for 40 years out of the last 60, and control of the House for another 8, for effective spending control for 48 of the last 60 years! How the hell can they blame ANYTHING on ANYONE else!! So, I say again - If you vote for ANY democrat for a national office - you are an idiot! The reason this economy is in "CRISIS" is THEM! A LOT of it is pure contrived b.s., but it is affecting our lives anyway. And for President - regardless of any policies - to vote for a guy for President who only has 150 days as a Senator as his experience is insane! I am not a John McCain supporter in a big way, but I don't think that on the job training is appropriate for a president of this country. (I don't understand how Democrats and voters can blast Palin for her lack of experience to be VP! Her experience as a mayor and a governor are much more relevant to be VP than Obama's experience is to be president!) Lastly, if you are in N.C. - vote for Elizabeth Dole. It is rare that we ask someone in national office for a personal intervention. My wife and I asked Senator Dole's office (and Richard Burr, but he is not up for e\re-election) to intercede on her behalf to get her disability approved. After being told the decision was going before a judge and would not be heard for three or four months; three or four WEEKS after contacting the Senator we got an approval. We got follow up calls from her office and a letter from her following up. She did her job, I feel she earned my endorsement. I am asking anyone that can legally vote for her to do so.
Friday, September 19, 2008
We, the U.S. of A. seem to be rapidly heading towards socialism. Our efficient, well-managed, totally ethical government in one week has taken majority ownership of the world's largest insurance conglomerate and the two largest mortgage lenders. We have added billions upon billions of potential debt, and no small measure of real current debt to our burden as taxpayers. Although I understand the reasoning behind all three moves, at a base level I abhor them. Free enterprise involves both reward and loss. It appears now that there is expected to be only reward in any investment. Risk is inherent in all speculation. In a free market (or as free as we historically have ever been) the potential reward was scaled in relationship to the degree of risk. Low return equalled low risk - think U.S. Savings Bonds or a passbook savings account. High return equalled high risk - think "junk bonds" or a venture capitalist providing start up dollars for an inventor. Mortgages have traditionally been a relatively safe haven for investment. Houses historically have risen in value over almost every decade versus the previous one. Therefore, even in default a lender could recoup a delinquent loan by repossession and selling of the property at a higher price than the loan was made for. With some careful vetting of applicants and weeding out those willing to "bite off more than they could chew", this system worked for decades, helping the American economy to become the envy of the world. Somewhere in the 60s bleeding hearts noticed that not every American had a home. The government under Johnson started requiring lenders that wished to participate in government sponsored loan programs to make loans to "marginal"(read - unqualified) applicants in lower income (read - ghetto) areas. These loans defaulted more often and when they did the properties did not/had not appreciated in value as much (if at all) as properties in more affluent areas. This caused lower returns on mortgages in general and more reserve dollars to have to be held by lenders that could have been used to make money (by lending it) for the companies versus just sitting or even worse, being spent to bail out bad loans. Ole Peanut Boy (aka Jimmy Carter) expanded the program even more. Aided by the civil rights "activists", it became mandatory for any lender to have a certain percent of their mortgage portfolio in "sub-prime" (read - bad debt, or loans that should have never been written) loans. Any mortgage writer that did not have enough "low-income" (read - unqualified) loans would be penalized by the government and chastised publically as racist by the civil rights people. The one "good" (read - scary) thing about this program was it started an unprecedented run up in the prices of homes. With prices constantly rising, this covered the inherent problem in the program of excessive defaults by providing a cushion when the houses were foreclosed on. With a ready body of new customers waiting in the wings for "sub-prime" loans, these homes could be rolled over to the next defaulter. This philosophy has continued and grown to a point that Jesse Jackson and his ilk will protest any builder or lender that does not arrange for a proper percentage of their homes to be "sold" (read - given) to people that otherwise would not be able to buy a home. As hard as it is for some to realize, some people are not fit for home ownership! The other problem in this system is the lenders themselves. With the run up in housing prices, they started seeing themselves in a no loose situation. If they could just write enough paper to enough qualified people their exposure to the marginal paper would be mitigated. This led to more and more loans being written for more and more houses. Competition began to get the "good" mortgage customers. Then came the speculators; investors that really did not want to live in the house (or in some cases - multiple houses) they were buying. They just wanted to buy them, hold them long enough for the price to rise and then sell them to the next in line. (a note here - I know the proper people would never read this blog - but to stop this all that has to be done is eliminated the mortgage interest tax deduction on any home not lived in by the tax filer at least 50% of the time. You could also "charge back" the deductions if the home was not held for at least five years or more. This would cause apoplectic gnashing of teeth from the real estate people and multiple home owners, but would have prevented a lot of what we are seeing now.) Lastly we had the "over achievers". These people wanted the latest "McMansion" without regard to the price. Getting a loan that was WAY over their ability to pay was OK as long as the value of the house was "guaranteed" to rise. Then you could refinance later with a higher base value and make it all right. People that should have qualified for a $200,000 loan were being written loans for $400,000 homes. Sometimes short-term mortgage paper was written with an adjustable rate mortgage to make the payments work, knowing the house would be sold or refinanced before the rate climbed to a reasonable level and the owner "blew up" in their ability to make it work. I have no sympathy for a person that took out a loan knowing they could not pay it unless they refinanced later with a more advantageous loan. The problem with these scenarios is analogous to water skiing. As long as the boat is going at a proper speed, a skier can ride the water. If the boat slows or the rope breaks, the skier sinks. Well even though our economy is the most prosperous in the world, sometimes the boat slows or even stops for gas. Our skiers sunk. Bottom line - people that make dumb, unwise, or risky financial decisions should pay when those decisions prove to be wrong. Lenders and politicians that allow the risky behavior should be jailed or penalized severely. Remember - THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT MONEY!! JUST YOUR TAX DOLLARS!! You bailed out the guy with the $500,000 mortgage and the management of AIG! Marx would be proud.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I have always known we are on the verge of anarchy and chaos. Just go to a grocery store in N.C.(or most other southern states) when the first snowflake is forecast. Bread is treated like true manna from heaven and milk is like liquid gold. People will fight to the death over a half-gallon. Don't even get me started on toilet paper - you would think it was made with $10 bills..("isn't Jackson snuggly soft today?") Chicken Little would be proud. Friday, with Hurricane Ike pounding the coast of Texas/Louisiana; someone, somewhere said - "gas will be going up!?!" The rallying cry started - "Gas will be going up $1 at noon" - "Gas will be $10 by Saturday" - "Aliens are probing our *SS" (sorry, I lost it a minute - that one is ALWAYS out there). I was told by many people Friday morning that they heard from someone that heard from someone that ate a bagel next to the CEO of Exxon that gas was going to go up $5 by dinner-time that very day! People were leaving work to get their tanks topped off. I asked one if they were out of gas and they said no they had almost a full tank, but they didn't want to take a chance. I had a little less than a half a tank, so I decided to not worry about it. I had brought my lunch with me, but needed a drink. So, I rode to the Sheetz gas station up the street to buy my customary Tub-O-Soda (you know the drinks that need a porter to get to the car - but that is another blog). When I got near I saw cars EVERYWHERE! It was after the magic hour of 12 noon, and gas was the same price as that morning, and as the day before; but people were in line to buy it. LOOONG lines! Work trucks, cars, boats (on trailers), SUVs, etc were all lined up like we were getting the hurricane. I parked across the street (didn't want to put my life in peril and make someone think I was cutting as I headed for a parking space) and went in. I got my garbage can of soda and when I got to the counter I was met by a guy with a name tag that identified him as a "Manager" (my shoes were older than him, but that is also another blog). I said something about them being busy and he said "You wouldn't believe it". I asked if they were told that morning that they were to raise prices that day. He said no, but the office had called a number of times wondering why they were pumping so much gas. (if you do not know Sheetz, they are based in Pennsylvania, and evidently the histeria did not get that far north that fast). They had told him to raise the price by ten cents (which they did while I was there) just to see if they could slow things down a bit. He told me at the rate they were going, they would be out of regular gas by the late afternoon and could not get a delivery until the next day (as they had just filled up the day before). He said "People are crazy! I don't understand it." He said they raise their prices when they get a wholesale increase, and none was announced. As I went back to the office, I saw two other gas stations (again with prices the same as earlier) with lines into the street. It was amazing. When I got back to the office, there was still that buzz in the air about prices being "at $5 in Charlotte" or "gas is at $4.89 on the north side of town". The people that had not fallen in with the earlier histeria, all went to fill up. I told them that the prices I saw were all the same except for Sheetz which had gone up a dime, and told them my story. As I was being watched with eyes wide with fear and desperation, I knew that the only words of my story that were heard were - "Sheetz" and "up". The gnashing of teeth was tremendous. As I left that day, I passed stations with lines still into the streets. I saw prices had gone up, most by ten or twenty cents, but a few to $4.00 or more (we started the day at about $3.55). The fear and panic was palpable. I turned on the radio and heard some guy with the N.C. independant gas retailers saying there was no problem with supply and prices were not going through the roof. When he finished, the announcer guy could only say "The lines are long, and some stations are already out of gas!". You could smell the fear through the airwaves. Lemmings are lucky, they go wild and get mass hysteria once - then it's over the edge and into the water. We have snowstorms to look forward to.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
I did not realize how long it had been since the last post - apologies. I forgot one got "eaten" by the internet one night in a hotel. I thought some more memories might be in order - "Give ya a quarter for a peek at those." Man if I had a dime for every time I heard that one. Another memorable summer was the one I spent with my uncle Pierce. He was a strange little man that was quite disagreeable. Of course some of that angst may have been from his job. Pierce was a chicken sexer. (yes, even in the age of computers, that is a real job - look it up) Pierce spent his eight working hours looking at chicken butts. Through some magic of prodding and observance he could tell if the chick was Al or Alice. This "talent" was of no use in the real world and made uncle Pierce a bit mean and cranky most of the time. (he also had a bad habit of taking babies and looking in their diapers - hey, thinking back on that - he was weird!) Not much happened that summer. There was not much I could do to help uncle Pierce in his job, so I just hung out. We were in a small town in Arkansas. There were millions more chickens in the county than people, so not a lot was going on. I caught lightening bugs, fished, threw rocks at stray dogs, etc. (all the cool small town Arkansas stuff). It was pretty bland. Until "that day". One day a man came into the chicken house with a shotgun. He started shooting. Uncle Pierce took two direct hits to the chest and died instantly along with about six hundred chicks. Wow, what a mess. We never did know why the guy did it as the six dobermans that lived behind the barn pretty much ate the guy. I took my unicycle and left Arkansas forever.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
WARNING - this is PG-13 or so. Spidey LIVES! Imagine my surprise when I went out to face Spiderman's killer tonight and saw - Spiderman in his web! And, guess who was in the web with him (or I guess now I might have to say - her) the other spider! It appears now what I was witnessing when I saw Spidey being killed was...... Spider Sex! Spiderman (or Spiderwoman - although that does not have the same ring to it) was just setting up house with a suitor. Hey, I didn't even know Spidey was seeing anyone! The large guy/girl was eating the grasshopper while Spidey held down the fort in the cocoon/cave are I was discribing earlier. I wonder who the kids will look like... I guess I need to watch more Discovery Channel or National Geographic.
I have solemn news. Spidey (aka Spiderman) is dead. Most (if not all) of you do not know or understand who or what I am talking about. So, here is some more info: For the past ten days or so, I have been "caring for" a large spider that set up shop on our rear patio/porch area. The first day I saw him, I marveled at the web he was in, in the corner of the house by our back door. He was fairly large, his leg span would not have fit on a silver dollar, and his body (although slimmer) would not have fit on a nickel. He was large and black with some markings on the top of his abdomen. (I deduced he was a Wolf spider, but that is not important to this story) I instantly had respect for him because he had taken the web for his own from another slightly smaller spider, and was eating him to boot. Later, I saw he had pushed the "husk" of the former owner of the web to the front and out of his way. I appreciated his aggression and command of his environment. I watched him over the next few days as he improved and put his own touches on the web. He built a nice cave-like structure right in the corner that served as a funnel to steer bugs to him. He also reinforced the structure to the point that when I moved the garbage can that anchored one end, the web did not falter. We "spoke" whenever I took out the dog or garbage. About a week ago, I killed a rather large spider in our house and my wife suggested I give it to the spider. So, I took the spider body out and set him on the web. Later when I looked, I saw he had taken the spider body and was eating it. Later, it too was discarded near the front of the web. I gave the spider that I had dubbed Spiderman another spider and a bug or two over the next few days. Day before yesterday, I gave Spiderman another dead spider (yeah, we have a few around - but I read somewhere that there are about 70,000 spiders per acre in the U.S. - so whatever) When I checked later, he had not taken it. I thought he might not be hungry, as he had been well fed earlier. (I have to admit, I do not know the feeding schedule of a spider) The next morning, when taking the dog out, I looked again and Spiderman had still not taken the meal. I gave him a bug I found to see if that was more appealing. A few hours later, he had not partaken of that either. He moved when I shook his web, but was not eating. I was a bit worried, but not too badly since as I stated above, I don't really know the feeding habits of a spider. This morning when I took Tucker (the dog) out, I saw a grasshopper in the web. I was thinking, WOW Spiderman will love that! I looked at Spidey, and saw.... ANOTHER SPIDER... and... HE WAS EATING SPIDERMAN!! (I feel now Spidey was sick and weak or he NEVER would have been beaten) Nature sucks!! Farewell Spiderman. You are gone but not forgotten. My revenge is being plotted as I write this. (speaking of revenge, I have a theory that maybe this was a retaliation killing for the spiders in his web. Maybe I am to blame?!?)
Friday, August 8, 2008
Many, many years ago Og came home to his cave from a day of hunting with nothing to show for it. Og knew his woman would give him a very hard time for this, and he was thinking of what to tell her. He was not a particularly good hunter, mostly because he would rather sit by the stream and sleep rather than roam the area or set up a camp and wait. Og knew he could not tell his woman this either, or she would leave him for Rusty, their annoying neighbor who always seemed to be cooking some huge beast he had brought home after his hunting trips. Og had noticed there were a few other guys that rarely came home with a kill (most were on the stream bank with him most days). He knew they were in for the same bad time he was when they got home. He knew they would be on his side if he could come up with a great story. Og had also noticed that over the last few years the successful hunters had been going a bit farther away from the caves each day to get the really good kills. He also thought about how they hardly ever saw any animals around the caves any more. Then it dawned on him.... He had no kill to bring home because people were killing off all the animals! Now Og knew that the real reason he had no kill was he liked to sleep more than hunt. But, no one could doubt that hunting was harder now than in his father's lifetime. And in his Grandfather's; well, animals almost came and jumped on the fire! His story had just enough truth to be believed. He began to work out the details. When he got home Og was met by his woman. She accosted him at the mouth of their cave with a shriek of "What no food!?!" Og shook his head sadly and began his tale.... "You know how the men stay out longer and longer, right? You see how many of us come home with no kills more and more often?" Og was warming up to the task as he saw some of his neighbors gather around. "It is true, I have no beast today. The beasts are dying out, we have nearly killed them all!" He tried to look somber and concerned as some of the womenfolk gasped. Og continued, "As we hunt more and more, we are killing all the beasts fit to eat. Soon they will all be gone and we shall starve." A little girl began to cry as she was quite hungry. Og loved the sound effects. His wife said "Rusty has a large beast to eat. He has a kill almost every day." Here was the tricky part. Og knew this could make or break his argument. He turned to Rusty and asked, "Is it not true that you have to travel farther now than when you learned to hunt? Is it not a fact that we see fewer animals around our caves?" Rusty knew why Og did not get a kill most days, but he could not deny the questions. He just said "It is true." Then he started to add, "But, if you just go into the trees and hunt...." Og cut him off with a "See, even the best hunter among us admits it is harder to find a good beast now!" He turned to his friends that sat on the stream bank with him most days and asked, "Do you all not agree? Are there not fewer and fewer animals to be found?" Now they were not as sharp and quick as Og, but they were tired of getting yelled at when they came home empty handed so they all started nodding vigorously and saying "It is true." Og was invited to dine that night on some of the best food he had eaten since his childhood. He was asked over and over to tell them about the lack of game and what they could do. Og saw a real potential here. He went to bed and thought about it all night. The next day, Og went to the village elders and said to them, "I wish I had the time to try to work out a solution to our problem. But, with spending all day out trying to find a beast to kill, I cannot." The elders thought and after seeing how many of the tribe were watching, said to Og, "Stay here and think. The tribe will feed you and your woman. We must find an answer to our problems." This was what Og wanted to hear. Og set up an area by the main cave of town where he sat and "thought". Mostly he napped and daydreamed, but it looked good to the other people. They brought him lunch and drinks and asked what else he needed. He was wined and dined every night and was brought gifts of clothing and food by tribe members hourly. Og sat back and thought how good his life had become. All he had to do was talk to the tribe at the weekly council meetings and say that he was working on the problem. Then an idea hit him. Wouldn't it be better if he could talk and enjoy the leisure "thinking time" with his friends. At the next council meeting Og said, "I am making progress with a plan to help us out of this crisis. (He had noticed how using words like "crisis" and "destruction", the people paid more attention to him) I need more minds working with me on the problem. I propose a separate council to ponder these new and deadly dangers." Og then proceeded to name four of his best friends (the ones that also were too lazy to hunt) to join him. Og continued. "Of course, they will not be able to hunt any longer and will need the tribe's support. But, if we really work on solving this threat to our existence, we will prevail." The group started yelling in agreement that Og and his "council" should be supported by the tribe, and the chief had to agree. Rusty and Og's former woman (now with Rusty and eating roast beast every night) seemed to be the only ones that spoke against it - "Og is just lazy" they said. "Why should we offer food, drink, and clothing for them to do nothing?" Og saw this as another turning point here to his scheme and went on the attack - "Do you not love our way of life? What of our children? If we have hunted away the animals, what will our children's children eat? We must work on this problem for our children if not for ourselves!" This worked, no one could argue against helping the children. Og worked this plan for weeks and months. He was set up in the best cave with some of the best food and drink he had ever had offered to him daily. He and his friends sat all day by streams and on cool hilltops "thinking" about how to overcome the crisis facing their tribe. But, Og knew from the talk he heard around the stream that he had to come with some ideas or the tribe would stop supporting him. So, after days of talking to his friends Og called the tribe together. He began to speak: "We all agree that we are facing a crisis that endangers not just our way of life, but our children's future." A few of the dissenters led by Rusty started crying "We do not all agree", but were quickly quieted by the chief. Og continued, "We all know the great beasts are harder to find now than at any other time in our lives. We must act or we shall perish. I and my fellow council members have come with a plan. We must eat less beast. Berries, nuts, and fruit along with edible leaves are plentiful. They truly grow right from the ground. We must eat more of these and not dine on roast beast every night." Og saw some of the men squirm, as they really loved the roast beast. So he quickly continued, "I know this will be a change and even a hardship for some of us. But, for our children's future and the future of our tribe, we must change. We will still hunt the beasts, but only three days a week. Smaller beasts and females must not be taken. We must leave them to repopulate the herds. Berries, nuts, fruits, and leaves must be harvested daily. Some of the hunters can be involved in this since they will not be hunting as much. I will provide more details to the tribal council as we go along. These measures are all that stand between us and disaster. We must act now!" Og saw how these words had people nodding in agreement. Og began being asked to speak at neighboring tribal councils. He was wined and dined like a great visiting chief. He realized this could be the beginning of him getting more fame and fortune out of this disaster and crisis scam than he ever dreamed of. It was good. Og spent the rest of his days speaking and telling people how conservation and frugality were the answer to a great future for the people. The more deadly he made problems sound, the more he was in demand. Crisis after crisis was his "golden ticket". It was good. Og's descendants have carried Og's tradition throughout the ages. In my lifetime they have told us that global cooling would kill us all by destroying agriculture and making northern latitudes uninhabitable (the 60s - 70s). They have told us the the rapidly exploding population would destroy civilization in twenty years with worldwide hunger and anarchy. (the 70s) They have told us that the oceans would not support sea life for more than ten years and mankind would suffer greatly due to no food from the sea. (the 70s - 80s) They have said our oils supplies were almost gone and we would be pushed back to the pre-industrial days. (1920s - to now) AIDS was going to decimate the population and was a pandemic unlike any ever faced by mankind. (80s - 90s) We were told that nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons would destroy mankind with nuclear winters, and/or meltdowns that would destroy the environment. (50s - to now) We were told that Y2K would be a total meltdown of our electonic world (late 90s - 2000 thanks to Dave for reminding me I forgot this one). Now the favorite is Global Warming (which has already morphed into Climate Change - as the earth appears to have cooled over the last ten years) which will end life as we know it if we don't start driving hybrid cars. (90s - to now) Og would be proud.