Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't F&*k with My Friends!

I am a peaceable guy, much rather kiss than fight.  I love a good argument.  I look at everything with a critical eye.  I have a certain suspicion about everything.  I hunt for motives.  I follow the money.  I try to separate fact from fiction and am always trying to remove emotions from an argument.  I never, ever make an argument personal.  An attack against a person always ends a discussion one way or another.
   I love my country and am critical of it at the same time.  It is one of the few countries in the world where people are attempting to break into, not leave its borders.  To imagine the World without the United States
is just imponderable to me.  Oh, we have made mistakes, that is for sure.  Done some things that maybe we shouldn't have and didn't do others that maybe we should have.  We do not conquer countries nor occupy them for long.  We liberate them and leave, hoping a chance for freedom will ignite the flame of liberty.
Some are suspicious of our military budget, huge, I admit but we have the military budget of the entire free world.  In the effort to free Lybia from the clutches of Gadafi the NATO forces lead by France ran out of ammunition after only three days!!!  Much of the world can laugh and be critical only because we are in the room.
   I like this country and don't agree with everything it does.  I like our elections, our free exchange of ideas, even some our our crazy candidates who run for office.  I like the Teabaggers and disagree with most of them.  I like the ultraconservatives and disagree with all of them.  I have friends of every persuasion.  When you are in a bar fight and someone comes to your aid, you never stop for identification.  I separate people from ideas and I support the right to every idea.
   Sometimes in the Blog World and sometimes in the real world, people will confuse their arguments or get on weak ground and do the equivalent of throwing stones.  It is the same as admitting that you have no argument, no real basis, no intellectual proof, no historical suppositions, so you are reduced to attacking the person.  Pretty weak.  I have no respect for that.
   We have lost a friend blogger this week.  Someone attacked her personally.  I have always believed that if you draw a circle limiting my access then I will draw a bigger circle to include you.  But if you pick on my friends, then you are picking on me.  If you want a fight, well then, here I am!

My Happier Stuff is HERE

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

4 Americans get pot from US government EarthLink - Top News

4 Americans get pot from US government EarthLink - Top News

Yeah, Oregon made the National News! I would try this if I needed this. I did try this when I did need it. I don't need it now and I don't use it now. It worked for me. It will work for you!

Monday, September 26, 2011


"Truth, Justice and the American Way."  That used to be Superman's slogan, the words he lived by and the words I grew up with.  I believe it was "Lil' Abner who said "good is better than evil because it is gooder!"
   I do not like politics.  A political discussion is mostly uncomfortable, seldom enlightening, often stressful and fraught with lies, always failed promises and contain contradicting statistics.  We are contradicting creatures.  We live in a very complex world.
   To me, and by definition, to be a citizen is a verb.  It is a gift.  It is a right and comes with responsibilities.
To abandon participation in government is the system of China allowing a governance by committee and regulation by force.  Mexico regulates by fear.  By beheading and violence.  In the United States we  set up our government by agreement, by consent of the people.  In order for this to work we have to have an idea of what is going on.
   Sometimes I feel as though the different political camps in our country are the last vestiges of tribal beliefs.
Kind of like the Hatfield's and the McCoys.  We develop our belief system and only feed it, afraid another plate might contain some kind of poison.
   I eat from every plate.  More than anything I want to understand.  I like to know what is going on.
I want to play too!  I want to participate, to be a citizen.  I read both sides.  Every coin actually has three sides and I read all of them.
   When it comes to voting, when it is just me in a darkened booth, that is when I have my biggest dilemma.
There are all of the different issues and there are all the different facets of me.
   Do I vote my pocket book or my morals?  Do I vote my best interest or my children's? or for me or my neighbors?  for the future or now?
   It always amazes me how "American Idol" can muster more votes than an American election.  How some could think that their votes count there but not in real life?
   I grew up with Superman and still am after truth and justice.  That takes some work on my part but that too is "the American Way".

I can be found HERE too!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Hardest Question?

No, it is not a math question, no chemistry nor economics and for sure, nothing political.  I remember years and years ago, an old girlfriend, young at the time startled me with the most dangerous of all questions!
   "How do you think of me?"  How do you answer that question without exposing your own weakness, your flaws and the broken lens with which we see?  How do you answer that question without showing vulnerability?  Without need?  With no points on a radar, the answer will expose your position.  I can find my identity in how I think of you.
   It occurs to me that we are different with different people.  Other's know me from different angles and look upon me with their own expectations.  The mailman anticipating that I will meet him halfway to my mail box.  He must know me from the mail that I receive, not much junk and sometimes letters from far away.
   I no longer look upon people with expectations.  I try not to pre-define them.  I do not look for expected behavior nor patterns; frankly, I have no interest in what they have done.
   I think I learned this as a school teacher a half century ago.  Before the first day of school we were allowed to look at a student's records, check for past behavior.  See how they were graded in the past.  We knew the trouble makers, the failing students, the one's from single parents, where they lived and how much school they missed.  They were marked before the first day of class.
   I always hated that.  I never looked at their records.  I preferred not knowing.  Then they had a chance.  Then I had a chance.
   How you look at me depends upon where you are.

THIS is my business side, with a little art thrown in.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


eWhen I bid a job I itemize every single thing, each and every part of the job.  I learned to do this when I was in the construction industry and I did it mostly for me alhough it came in handy from time to time if I ever had a customer complaint.
   I do it for me because I forget a million things about a job if I don't actually write them down.  Selling art or a welding project is no different from construction, just a smaller scale, but everything applies.
I used to have a printed sheet with all aspects of construction neatly written down for me to fill in the blanks.
I had "clean-up" written several times on this sheet to remind me that each stage along the way needs to be cleaned up, debris hauled to the dump, things organized, tools put away, the site swept clean ready for tomorrow.  Someone has to do this.  It is expected, necessary and costs money.  No elves come in the middle of the night to do it for you. If a customer sees a mess that is what he will focus on and hunt for flaws in the production.  That is natural, but I always wrote it down to remind me how essential it is.
   When I price my art I look at my shop and add a few bucks for clean-up.
   There are a lot of costs that we don't account for.  The steel doesn't arrive here by itself, the canvas does not just appear, already framed and matted.  I need lights for welding, to see my paintings, electricity to run the welder and if I am feeling exuberant, maybe even heat on a cold winter's day.
   There are always supplies and I am consistently running out, more sanding disks, more paint, the turpentine, another canvas.  Never enough.  These are expenses that get added to the bill.  I need my truck, gas, insurance, even an occasional oil change or nothing gets delivered, nothing happens. Not without my truck.  I never count lunch, unless it is a really good job.  I have to eat anyway. But that is a cost to my living and so is my house, my studio, my garden.  If you want me to work for you then you will allow for these indulgences.  I have to be me in order to work for you.
   There are tons more costs.  I haven't even begun.  A million taxes, insurances and the cost of being in business. Cost of living.
   In real life I do a lot of small jobs but if this was all that came my way I would go out of business.  I like them.  They help in the cash flow.  Sometimes I learn a lot from the smallest of jobs.  It is a lot like the corner grocery store selling a pop for a dollar.  I am hoping that you will buy more or tell a friend.  It is the big jobs that enable me to do the small jobs.
   I itemize every job.  The cost of materials and getting them here and there, moving stuff, the welding, fabrication, design, painting, digging the holes, the amount of concrete, the final installation.  Sometimes I am asked whether I can "make it cheaper?"   Happily, I always say "Yes", which item did you wish to omit?

Dealing in Death

Well, Georgia executed Troy Davis last night and not to be outdone, Texas executed some despicable piece of trash also.  No big deal in Texas, they do this all the time.  Some of these convicted felons are the lowest trash on this Earth and after all, we are not an endangered species, so why should we give a rip?
   Troy Davis was an interesting case, especially if you take the emotion out of it and read the story as a detective novel.  It is difficult to remove emotion.  An off duty police officer, a hard working veteran doing two jobs, a young father of two small children tries to break up a fight in a parking lot.  He is the good guy, doing the right thing and some drug crazed hopped up hateful idiot shoots him.  Twice! Once in the face!
A black guy in the deep South of Georgia, a Southern State with the lowest Police Standards of any State in the Union.
   I don't really know all of the "facts" in this case except that there weren't any.  We have all watched enough CSI on television to want some kind of evidence, some forensic evidence, at least a fingerprint, maybe? DNA?
   Seven "witnesses" have recanted their stories.  Some have said that they were not even there!  That should be a story in itself, huh?  In today's standards of courtroom proceedures, rules of evidence and so forth, Troy would have walked.  O.J. Simpson did.  Lots of other's have.
   I am against the death penalty but there are certain human beings, well, maybe they are human, that I find so disgusting, people who have done such horrible, evil things, that I could easily kill them myself.  I don't do it because I don't want to be like them!  I don't want to be ruled by my anger and anger or self defence is the only understandable reason to kill.
    China still kills people under certain circumstances.  Maybe they were bad guys?  Murderers? Stole something? Said the wrong thing at the wrong time?  Someone didn't like them?  They kill people without much evidence.  No forensics, no DNA, no reliable witnessess.  They do it because they can.
   We are the only "Civilized" Country with a death penalty and I wonder what that means?  What could that possibally say about us?  "Might makes right" is all I can think of.
   We do have laws, you can't kill people over the weekend.  It takes time, appeals, proceedures.  It takes a lot of money.  It is far less expensive to lock someone up forever than it is to kill them.  I am against the death penalty because it is cheaper!  It took over twenty years to kill Troy Davis, and a lot of money.  I think we killed him because we got tired of it all.  Just another thing to fret about.  Tired of reading about that story.
Killed out of boredom!  Lots of reasons to kill people.
   He may have done it.  Maybe he didn't?  What is there about us that we would like to have put him in a bear pit and watch the animals tear him apart?  Maybe sell popcorn?  Happily count the hours that he was strapped to the gurney?  I don't know.  That is the dark side.  Maybe the same side as the guy who shot the police officer in the face?
   I do know innocent people have been killed.  We have executed people who have committed no crime.
Interesting how we reduce this to a math equation with certain variables, acceptable margins for error.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I bought my house in 1972, a little "fixer-upper" in the middle of the city on its own one-third acre.  I paid
$8,375 dollars for it and I was working at the local cannery, making about $2 dollars an hour at the time.
My monthly mortgage payment was $75 dollars, about one week's paycheck.  My utility bills for electricity, sewer and water were never over twenty dollars in a month.
   In today's dollars that same job might pay $16 dollars an hour, eight times what I was making.  If you do the math a small "starter house" should cost about $72,000, the same eight times what I paid for mine, with utilities costing another $160 for the month.
   I first began worrying about our economy in the 1980's when all this math didn't add up.  The cost of housing has always been 25% of income, that is what my parents paid and my grandparents before them.
It has always been how banks write formulas for mortgages.  It is what your landlord looks for when you fill out a rental application.
   The prices creeped up.  It was like the non-existent McDonald's Dollar Menu or raising the price of gasoline a nickle at a time.  And a little bit like cancer too.
   In the 1990's it all went nuts.  A part of the American Dream has always been home ownership leading to a stable, conservative society.  Prosperity and family values.  All good things.
   With bad outcomes.  New development, new housing created new standards of construction, always more, bigger, better, shinier.  The latest in everything.  Housing became expensive.  Twenty times and at its highest, thirty times what I paid for mine.  Wages could not keep pace.  It took two incomes to buy a house, sometimes two jobs.  We became so busy we had homes we could only sleep in.
   Then they became bank accounts!  It became so easy to refinance, steal that new found free equity and buy a car!  This was the driving force in our economy during the 1990's.  Free money it seemed, every month the equity in our homes would increase and that became the solution.  We lost the idea of working hard, the idea of saving and even the idea of spending money wisely.  We could refinance.  Borrow money at a cheaper interest rate, get a lump sum and our payments would be less!!!
   Such a deal and we fell for it.  Never, ever thinking about the next guy.  The young person just starting out, what has been done to the price of housing that put it beyond reach.
   What is happening in our economy today is a dose of reality.  Market adjustment.  Math.
   Housing prices are falling, our equity disappearing and that is a good thing.  Math doesn't lie.

My Art Stuff

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Now Is The Time

When you first learn to weld and you know the basics

 Morning Walk

you have an overwhelming desire to create something nice.
I encourage those I help to learn this skill to save their
first creations.  A year later, if they continue to practice,
they can look back on this experience and laugh.
 I still have a lot to learn, a lot of brushes that have never seen
paint, even paint not opened that has never seen a brush!
I am tired of landscapes already and realize they were just an exercise.  It could take me years to paint the perfect tree, a cloud that you could really see through or water that really looked wet.
Any landscape leaves the viewer with an attitude that they could do it better or certainly seen it better done.

I have learned shadows, light and dark, depth and focus.  I like some detail but not too much.  I like mystery to a painting.  Painting should be poetry.

So this is my "project piece" the one I will save and look back on it a year from now.  The intention is to get better and laugh!

More Early Stuff is here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Assignments what I give myself.  I am still in the fun stages of learning to paint and don't really know what I am doing.
I have no teacher, no mentor looking over my shoulder and guiding me along the way.  No helpful hints.
I am not really painting anything, just learning what a particular brush will do and what I am capable of doing with it.  My painting is getting heavy from the layer upon layer, thick with ideas, changes as something catches my eye and needs attention.  Nothing is deleted.  Every idea, each misstep along the way is there under layers of paint, one stroke covering another.
   I have forgotten nothing in my life.  Experience and reaction all along the way, each episode, like layers of paint are embossed onto the canvas of my brain.
   I am playing with shapes and colors and shadows, clouds that become fog, trees that lose their definition in a forest.  I think of the painting of a painter painting the painting of a painter painting a painting...of a painter painting a painting and I wonder whether I am trying to say anything?
   The process is different from welding and it is very much the same.  You stay at it until you get good at it or you abandon it altogether.  That is pretty simple and straight forward.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

All Hope is Not Lost

   On any level, from any perspective Hope has not been lost.  It is pretty easy to focus on the bleak, negative things are thrown at us every day.  There is money to be made in the attention towards our ills, our aches and pains and political parties are finding strength in our despair and frustration.  It has become negative campaigning at its best, no one is offering a bright future.  They sense power in these economic times and the worst picture they can paint the more power they can get.
   Who knows where all this began?  I am so sick of television advertising, especially the "prime time" for older Americans, from 4pm to 7pm.  That would be a great time to rekindle our interest in Art, guide us to the library, interest us in reading, attract us to travel, find part-time work or volunteer efforts toward our community.  Lots of positive stuff.  Heck, they don't even try to sell us cars anymore, not like they used to!
   It is all about how sick we are.  All about aches and pains, allergies and constipation and for Christ's sake,
Viagra!  Like we could screw our way out of this mess!
   It seems to me that News is about entertaining us.  A fellow blogger mentioned on his blog that this began with "60 Minutes" and the discovery that news could become profitable.  No longer informative and educational, they can operate with fewer employees and make more money.  Negative sells.  We are attracted to this dark side.
   We are never told the "rest of the story", the follow-up, the consequences, what "really happens".  Just the headlines, the next bleak news, the next negative thing.
   I wonder about things all the time.  On any given day it takes about ten people to build a house, plus the inspectors and city or county administrators, maybe 15 people could be involved.  Architects and engineers,  planers, foundation people, framers, electrician, plumbers and so on.  1,500 houses were burnt to the ground in the Texas wildfires.  That is an opportunity for 15,000 jobs and a lot of money entering the economy.
It seems as though Nature is trying to help us.  The hurricanes and massive flooding on the east coast should provide a lot of work.  There are always opportunities with calamity.  Somebody should be rebuilding something.  Good news doesn't sell and we are seldom exposed to the brighter side.
   I have a neighbor from Guatemala, a little short stocky tiny guy who is far short of five feet tall!  Someone should write a news story about him but they never will.  He has been in this country for 17 years and originally, like so many others, crossed the dessert, friends falling by the wayside.  Risking his life for opportunity.  He became legal in one of the amnesty programs and found a job making motor homes when we had that huge industry here.  He worked there for ten years until they closed and shut down the plant.
That was the story that made the news, the loss of over 5,000 jobs.  Good jobs with good benefits.
   It was difficult to find work and many have been on Government Assistance ever since.  Not my neighbor.
He has never collected a dime from this adopted country.  He saw as I mentioned yesterday, the unattended lawns in our neighborhood and bought a lawn mower.  This is a lower middle class working neighborhood and we do not have "lawn boys" and he knew that.  It didn't stop him.  His sales pitch was simple and direct.
"Let me show you what I can do for twenty dollars".  Well, he is a little ball of furry but what is most noticeable about him is his happiness.  It is an attitude thing and not newsworthy.  He sees everything as an opportunity and is willing to work.  He always works 12 hour days and says it is a piece of cake compared to crossing the dessert, compared to the real poverty of his youth.
   People are doing this all across this country.  My daughter, by choice, lives in Washington D.C. and rents one tiny room in a great big house with a lot of other people.  People joining together to make life affordable, to make things work.  It has always been that way.  We didn't settle the West one wagon at a time but came in droves, in "Wagon Trains", lots of us helping each other.  There was work to be done when we got here and we did it together with barn raisings, hard work and community effort.
   Hard work is very much a part of the "American Dream" and we have forgotten that.  "Hope" is not the idea that someone will give us something, it is the realization, the attitude, that it is there for the taking.
Nothing is free, you have to work for it.  In this country there are still a million ways to earn a dollar.

My Art Stuff is HERE

Friday, September 16, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake!

That is what Marie Antoinette said when confronted with her people starving, not being able to eat simple bread.  I believe they beheaded her!  Simple solutions for a simpler time.
   There is no shared hard times during this recession.  No shared costs to the wars we are fighting.  In fact there is no cost at all.  It is all on borrowed money!  There is no rationing, no war tax as we have done in the past.  For the most part we can go about our day, live our lives and be blissfully unaware of what is going on.
I wonder if this is done on purpose?  If we were to receive a bill in the mail each month, or if we were only allowed twenty gallons of gasoline each month, if there were long lines at the grocery store and the shelves were mostly empty, maybe we would feel a little different?
   It is comfortable living on my little island that I have created, with my garden, my shop, my welding, my art
but that does not mean that I do not know what is going on in the world, that people are suffering, on the edge of despair as I sit here with my nice cup of coffee in my office.  I read a lot and I read both sides of every issue.  I watch CNN and Fox News.  I listen to Conservative and Progressive Radio.
   You don't really have to do any of this to realize that there is a problem.  You can go to the grocery store and realize that $100 doesn't go very far any more.  In my town 40% of the people buy groceries with food stamps.  On the way to the store I see all the unkempt houses, some occupied by people who have lost interest in mowing their lawns or who can no longer afford the gallon of gas for their mowers, if they have mowers.  Others are clearly abandoned, foreclosed on and now bank owned.  We have hundreds of empty houses in my town and thousands of homeless, people living on the streets!  Each day it seems, both these numbers increase.
   That is so funny, in a sad macabre kind of way, twisted and strange.  People sleeping under a bridge when, a hundred feet away is an empty house!  People hungry when there are eighteen Super-Mega-Grocery Stores so near by.  So much abundance and such a big divide.
   The homeless, the unemployed, the poor have no power.  Can you imagine a Fifty Million March on Washington D.C.?  There is no shared cost to these problems.  If you are lucky to have a good job, are one of the few left to have good health insurance, or, like me and get a check every month, none of this affects you.  We can be amongst the 60% who "have it made"!
   It used to be 90%, over 90%! then 80, then 70, now 60% and tomorrow it will be worse.  At some point you have to realize that they will be coming for you!
   They have done this to Social Security already and we didn't even whimper!  There is no debate on Social Security it has already been destroyed.  There is no rioting in the streets by old people because we are tired and it doesn't effect us today.  Do you even know what has happened to it? or did it just slip by?
   There is no longer a cost of living increase to SS.  It is frozen and will be devalued to nothing within a few short years.  They claim that a letter to your Congressman is worth 30,000 votes.  That is how lazy and complacent we have become.  Yes, we are "sheeple".
   Marie Antoinette did not listen to her people and lost her head!

I am always HERE

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I am a Convervative

   Yes, it is true.  I am so conservative some think I am boring.  In my personal life I am rock steady in my beliefs.  I don't make changes quickly.  I have had the same telephone number for over 40 years, the same house since 1971 and the same wife since 1968!
   I have been self employed since 1973.  I have gone through several recessions, economic hardships, good times and bad times.  I have paid more in taxes than anyone I know.  I paid both sides of my own Social Security Tax, as the individual and being self-employed.  No one else paid a dime into it.  I have paid Federal and State Taxes, County Taxes, City Taxes, Licence Taxes, Local Transit Taxes, Unemployment Taxes, Worker's Compensation Taxes and probably a lot of other taxes I am forgetting.  There were many, many times when all these taxing agencies got paid and there was no money left over, none to take home.
And there were other times when there was lots to take home.  That is the nature of the business world and if you want to stay in business you always pay yourself last.
   I liked what I did.  I liked the freedom it gave me, the entrepreneurial spirit of it, the "can do" attitude of it all.
I did it all by choice and it is our American Society that allowed me this choice.  There are many countries in the world where doing what I did is just not possible.  It is our society that offers these possibilities.  In our society a hot dog vendor can become a millionaire.  A pizza worker can run for President.  The lowliest worker at McDonald's can end up owning the place!  I love this about our society!
   I have mentioned "Vertu" and "Fortuna" before.  Two Greek words meaning the measure of a man and the luck he encounters.  In our society the harder you work the luckier you can get and I like that too.
   Without exception ALL of the successful people I have ever met worked long hours to get to where they are.
   We have an opportunity to shape the society in which we live.  We can be helpful or hurtful.  Positive or negative.  Mostly I realize that I am not alone.  I didn't do whatever I have done by myself.  I have had help all along the way, employees, neighbors, fellow citizens, the society in which I live.
   There are two things that often run through my head:  how do I want to be? and how do I want others to be?
   If I lived in Zimbabwe I would be a flaming liberal or a radical of some kind, that is for sure.  We are pretty lucky here.  I do believe that we are caretakers of this planet, that we should clean up our messes and cause no harm.  I don't want garbage dumps, spilled oil, polluted air and undrinkable water.  I am pretty conservative about that.
   I am very conservative when it comes to money.  It is hard to get and I am getting old.  Don't want my debts passed on to my children.  As a business person I understand the value of borrowing money, understand it can be a good thing to borrow a hundred when you could make a thousand out of the deal.
I am tired of war.  Tired of paying for it with borrowed money.  Tired of all the costs yet to come from this.
I am pretty conservative there too.
   I was embarrassed for my country when there were cheers to the idea of allowing a thirty year old to die
unattended rather than contribute to his care.  That is not the kind of world I want.  It is not practical.  It would be smelly.  And what so many people don't realize, it would be more expensive!
   It is not some kind of altruism, some kind of belief in doing good that causes me to want some kind of National Health.  I think of it as wholesale buying.  It is like Costco.  If we bought it together it would be less expensive.  Americans spend more money by far than any other country in the world on health and we get far less for it.  Our system is broken and too many people don't realize what this means.  50,000,000 Americans have no health insurance at all.  More join these ranks every day!  Hospitals are just like any other business,
they need money to operate (litterally!).  They are closing their doors all the time.  With no insurance income
hopitals cannot stay in business.  This will hurt us all.  I don't really understand why emotions enter into this discussion.  It is all pretty simple math.
   I like simple math and it is the way I look at a lot of life, what adds up and what doesn't, who is lying and who is telling the truth.  Corporations are behind most of the television advertizements now.  They hire lawyers and psycologists, slick guys from Wall Street, clever people who can tweek our emotions.  Funny how they can make every side to an argument sound so right! 
   I have become suspicious of the lot of them!  I take more and more with a grain of salt and retreat more a little each day on to my little island.

THIS site is free and I am always there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Long ago we used to live in caves in family units, fending for ourselves and suspicious of those who might wander in.  Hard to believe but over a thousand years ago Rome was a huge modern city with indoor plumbing and over a million people.  Today we have huge governments, cities within counties within states and all together we are Americans.
   It took thousands of years, millions of deaths and tons of compromise in order for us to figure out how to live together without one of us destroying the other's cave, to live in relative peace.
   In order to achieve this we needed something in common, something we all agreed upon, maybe something more valuable than any one of us.  This is a difficult task and failure is more common than success.
   Even in this modern era some countries have been held together by brute force, the only thing in common being the single will of a dictator.  Yugoslavia, that mix of Slavic Groups fell apart with the death of Tito, the guy who created unity with an iron hand.
   Lybia will be interesting to watch.  Newly freed after over forty years under the thumb of Ghadafi, it is not really a country at all.  It was created as lines on a map and encompasses several divergent tribes, each with its history of hatred for the other.  Isolation and self interest has been the norm of History.  Countries have been created out of force.
   The United States has this experience to a lesser degree than most countries.  Oh, we have used force during the Civil War but mostly we are together by invitation and agreement.  From our original 13 Colonies
to the 50 States that we have become it has been through the will of the people that we have become One
Nation and each State voted to do this.  Oregon was a territory and we voted to join this Union as did most other States.
   Private enterprise and the Government together joined forces and the Railroads crisscrossed this huge country and helped bind us together.  We welcomed foreigners to our shores, made it easy for them to become Americans in an effort to conquer this vast country.
   What ties us together is not force but an idea.  We have learned about freedom from the likes of John Stewart Mill, Burke, Locke, our own Jefferson, Adams and Benjamin Franklin and others born of this American Experience.  It is a process of continual refinement and we have created a Government that allows for change.  We have learned from History that "majority rules" can have devastating effects as we are caught up in the moment.  We remember that Hitler was voted into power and no one wants that.
   We are a country of laws, of rights and responsibilities and changes move slowly for a reason.
   Tomorrow I will prove to you that I am NOT a flaming liberal as some of you have come to believe.
If the truth were known I am very Conservative.

You can really discover everything about me right HERE

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Two Americas

Whatever you may think about John Edwards he was right about there being two Americas.  Maybe there are a lot more?  I watched the "Tea Party" debate last night and it was an eye opening experience.
"Selfish" is the word that comes to mind.  Divisive is another but mostly destructive.  They are mad, quite clearly, and want to tear everything down.  Put us back into that Old West mentality of every man for himself.  I have never seen such hatred, such disdain for Obamacare nor such denial of the issues that created the situation that we are in.
   There are Historical Reasons for Government regulation in private business.  Government (think tax dollars) has helped private enterprise for hundreds of years, since the Mayflower, since the railroads and the Erie Canal.  We would still have children chained to machines and working in sweat shops if it weren't for government intervention.  It is the government that has been given the task to insure clean drinking water and the air we breathe.  The government who is in charge of our transportation systems, bridges and roads and interstate commerce.
   Get rid of government regulations and all of a sudden everything will be better?  Yeah, sure.  History doesn't say that.  We will have the water of Mexico and the air of China and the garbage pits of Russia.
How any one could even think this is beyond me.  Two Americas.
   Privatize Social Security?  Yeah, they want this all right.  It is our last bank account, the only money that remains.  In the private business world 401's and other private savings have been cut in half already, the equity in our houses stripped to nothing.  The only reason that there is anything in this Social Security fund is that by law the private business world has no access to it.  It cannot be put into the stock market or used to buy junk bonds.  But they want it.
   It was interesting when asked to say something good about another candidate how they stammered, afraid to say something positive about their own competition.  This is the new gladiator sport, any weakness will be pounced upon.
   My biggest fear was the audience, their applause, their hatred, their self-righteousness, their willingness to throw the weak to the lions, their eagerness to place blame.  Their willingness to destroy what we have worked so very hard to get.
   Yes, we have met the enemy and he is us.  It is going to be a dark and stormy winter, I know.

Mt Art and Garden are HERE

Monday, September 12, 2011

Made in the U.S.A.

    "Proud to be an American," we all think that from time to time and especially now, at least for this anniversary of 911.  I sometimes wonder what that means, what is this "American Spirit"?
   We are a mixed bag with every skin color, every religion and we come from every corner of this globe.
Except for the American Indian none of us are from here.
   I think this is the only country in the world where if you are born here you are an American!  And I like it that way.  This is the only country in the world that has total acceptance.
   We have a lot of different accents, different cultures adding to this melting pot of humanity.  The best Italian pizza in the world is American!  We may never forget where we came from but once here, once on this soil, we are forever Americans.
   It is still the freest country in the world.  No one knocks on the door in the middle of the night; every city, every little town has a public library.  No one controls the newspapers, tells us what to do or how to do it.
We can gather in groups, worship where we like and how we like and protest in the streets without getting shot.  One of the best things about living here is our right to complain.
   The economy is bad all over the world and here too and yet people still want in.  It is still the "land of opportunity".  People have gotten rich beginning from selling hot dogs from a cart!  I like that too.
   It is a big country and you can travel anywhere without a passport.  The terrorists have made this a bit more complicated but you still don't need local police documentation to travel as you do in a lot of countries.
There are no road blocks within our cities or from State to State.  From California to Rhoad Island and everywhere in between, wherever you were born, you are an American.  I like that too.
   There is a particular "American Spirit," that is not found anywhere else.  It is a spirit of attitude, of resilience, of rolling up your sleeves and thinking, "I can do that!"  It crosses cultural lines and religious beliefs.  It has no boundaries between the rich and the poor.  It is this attribute that got us to the moon and beyond the stars.  That was no accident.  We are Americans.  I like that too.

you can visit me HERE

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Elections will Decide

I listened to our President's speech and wonder what will happen now?  It occurred to me that many people might not realize the urgency of these issues.  After all, some of us are still working, or in my case, happily collecting a Social Security check after years of paying into the system.  If you have a job there is no recession.  You can go about your life, drink your lattes and when you feel so inclined, even buy something.
It is a great time to buy, housing prices are at an all time low and there are great deals to be made on autos.
60% of us can still live "The American Dream".
   The problem with this thinking is it used to be 95%.  5% unemployment has always been considered normal and desirable in our economic world.  Our system worked well when we only had to contribute to these bottom 5% unemployed and those who needed our help.
   The scale is now out of balance, what used to be 5% is close to 40% now.  20% unemployed or not even hunting for work and another 20%, the new working poor, those scrapping by and getting a little deeper in debt each month.
   Not much was even said about National Health Insurance, that is the gorilla no one wants to talk about.  Millions more of us are going without insurance ever month and I would hate to count the people who are under-insured, those who think they have insurance but don't.  Lots of insurance policies pay 80% and it is so easy to get a $200,000 medical bill these days, leaving you with $40,000 to pay out of your pocket.
   There is an urgency but in our sheltered lives these are just statistics, numbers that do not apply to us.
   In listening to our President's speech I realized that we have forgotten our sense of unity.  Maybe we only get this when we are attacked?  Like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor?  Something to drive us out of our place of
complacency?  Something to create that feeling of us out of our isolation?
   There are practical reasons to worry about these numbers.  They are changing fast and we can soon find ourselves on the wrong side of the scale.  My God, we have become them!  Next Friday could become our pink slip.  And then there are other reasons.
   We are Americans and "United we stand."  The  divisiveness of our political parties is not working.  I think there are personal agendas, corporate protections, and a reverence for the wealthy taking precedence, clouding the issues, dividing us and making us weaker.
   I am not sure whether we can wait fourteen more months until there is another election.  Our situation is getting worse faster than we care to think.  Soon enough we won't have the luxury of considering what is fair
and just and equal, we will need to deal with what works to save this sinking ship.  That will be ugly indeed.
   Somehow history will show that we did something wrong.  One problem with Democracy is that we are allowed to vote with our emotions, gut feelings without considering the consequences.  Maybe there should be some kind of test for our elected officials?  At least a civics exam and maybe the current price of a loaf of bread?  Sometimes I think they are from a different planet.
   Fourteen months will be a long time for something that could be decided now.  It is difficult to get on with the business of living when the future is so undecided.
   That is a contagious attitude.  Even my daughters who are among the 60% employed have developed this attitude.  They won't buy a house until they see what happens.  They won't buy into the "American Dream"
because they see it as a failure.  It is a contagion of defeat.
   No one wants to play the game until they know what the rules are.

When I have a job, this is the website I take people to: HERE

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wait and See What Happens...

...I do it too!  In the old days I was far more of a risk taker.  I ordered way more steel than I needed for a particular job, nice to have the inventory, convenient and I knew I could sell it.  I used to have a "cash flow",
completed jobs awaiting payment, jobs in progress needing to be finished, and jobs "on the books", guaranteed jobs to do down the line.  Those days are gone and I don't know whether they will ever return?
   I have become a part of the problem.  I am far more conservative now with the little money I have, careful where I might spend it, knowing more will be hard to come by.  This is rapidly becoming the new American standard and it is hurting our economy.
   Business has developed this same attitude, hanging on to their money, creating less production, hireing less, making less, laying off workers.  It is not the burden of being in business, it is not the taxes or insurance, none of those expences.  There are no customers.
   Cheaper doesn't seem to work.  Walmart has lost customers too.  It used to be that a business could create something better, invent something new or make it less expensive and they would succeed.  That doesn't work anymore.  You just can't create a job for a product that no one wants or can't afford.
Different businesses have tried everything.  "Free" this and free that with a purchase, time plans.  Heck, I have even seen beds you can buy over a four year payment plan!
   The working poor have become the new poverty statistics!  That is 25% of us!  Add to that the 14 Million people who aren't working at all and you have a recipe for disaster.
  It is funny when I hear different politicians come up with a solution for this.  You can't get blood out of a turnip.  You can't tax the poor any more.  No one played Monopoly as a kid?  It doesn't get better by reducing the flow of money.  We are waiting "to pass Go" and collect our $200!  Just something so we can keep playing!
   There are lots of ways to save money, to reduce our National Debt if that is really the issue.  Quit being the world's policeman would help or send someone a bill for the services.
   I liked playing "Monopoly" as a kid, liked the element of chance and got pretty good at it as I came to know the rules.  It was an American game and I liked that too.  If you worked hard and made good investments, knew the rules and played fair you might even win.  Always a chance.  Opportuntiy.  And risk, you never wanted to lose what you acquired.  Sometimes that would make very conservative players out of the most obnoxious kids.
   It was just a game invented from the last great depression, another time of grief and failure.  The "American
Dream" the game was based on is dissappearing.  Good jobs and home ownership is rapidly dwindling, the things that give us reason to be conservative.
   It was always the loser that tipped the board over in his own disgust.  Having lost everything, there was nothing left to lose.
   That is what makes riots in the street.  Nothing left to lose.

You can always find me HERE

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Customers Wanted, Apply Within

   I saw this sign on a marquis of a local business and that tells the whole story, doesn't it?
The factory where I get my metal pieces powder coated only works three days a week.  They used to paint five days a week, three shifts, around the clock, all the time.
   No amount of government incentives could induce them to hire more people without additional sales.  Unless they needed a fifth person for a hand of Bridge!  They are working pretty slow as it is.  You could set up a program where they paid zero taxes and it wouldn't help at all.  They need customers.
   If powder coating of steel is down then so are steel sales, and so are the truck drivers who deliver the steel.  So are the sales of computers which keep tract of all this and the bookkeepers who keep track of them.  It is the wing flap of the butterfly felt everywhere!
   I can't imagine anybody in their right mind wanting to be President!  I mean, really, could you solve this problem?  It is not just us; it is the same everywhere, all over the world!  Germany might be the strongest in the Eurozone but there is a good chance the problems in Greece, Ireland, Spain and other's might bring them down.  Those countries have tried the austerity measures for over two years and their situation is just getting worse!  Can we look to another country to see what they are doing, maybe see what works and what doesn't, one step in the right direction to get out of this mess?
   Steps it is going to be too.  It will not be a fast process.  We are in this mess for the long haul, maybe deeper before we start to see some light.  When I was a lad unemployment payments were for 20 weeks and then you were expected to find a job.  Now it is 99 weeks!  That is almost two damn whole years!!!
You could get a degree from a Junior College in that amount of time!
   Hey, that is not a bad idea off the top of my head!  How about making that a requirement for unemployment!  You can collect unemployment for two years AND we'll pick up the tuition, but you got to go to school!  It would take a few million people out of the unemployment cycle, give some work to the bus drivers, the school staff and lots of others down the line.
   It is not easy to create work, oh lots needs to be done but someone has to pay for it.  More important someone has to want it done.  We need customers.  We need customers who pay!
   Have you thought what happens if we get rid of Medicare?  What would happen if there were no "Obamacare"?  We have a brand new hospital in our town and they just published their annual report.
Big article in the newspaper this morning.  25% of their customers do not pay!  Up from 18% and an up and onward trend!  Cool, huh?  The working poor without insurance, the down and outers, those that have nothing.  That is an ever increasing circle and it wants to envelope us.  Hospitals go out of business every day, just like any other business they cannot work for nothing for any length of time.  Medicare and other government programs pay about a third and private insurances pay the other third.  What happens if we take the government third out of this equation?  Quite simply they would shut their doors.
   Dollars and programs for the under insured provide jobs and keep the hospitals open for all of us.  That is pretty simple math too.  If you want to bring down the cost of medicine, create more doctors and nurses and all the people who help us when we so need their help.
   Hey, this is easy!  If I were President I could create more jobs by extending Obamacare!  I might offer "free" tuition to medical schools and nurses training programs?
   "Free" is in quotes because nothing is really free.  Maybe some kind of internship, some kind of return for my investment?  There are ideas here that could be explored.
   It is a tough job to be President.  I wouldn't want that job.  There are things I wouldn't do though.  I think they should have to take the Hippocratic Oath, like doctors used to do, (they don't do it any more!).
   "First do no harm"!  We may not know exactly the right answers, know the consequences of what seems like a simple solution, but we do know when harm is done.  Everyone knows that.
   In the name of progress and recovery we are abandoning our pollution standards, allowing more dirty air into what God has given us to breathe.  Really, we did this and it is crazy.  A cave in to Republicans and prosperity at any costs.
   I would not drill willy nilly, here and there, in my backyard or the beach I love.  The Gulf Oil spill taught me a lesson and it was there for all to learn.  It can be dangerous and deadly, black gold that blinds us.  Do you ever wonder what happens at night when the lights are off?  Power still surges, going its way along the wires.
The first person to develop a battery and incentive for this night time energy will be very rich indeed.
   There is an idea!  I might offer a reward?  Save me a billion bucks and I will give you a million!  Why not, we need it?
   Oh, I might come up with a few more ways to create a job or two, but I wouldn't want to be President, 
no siree bob, not me.
   But what would YOU do?  We have until Thursday when the President will give his speech, and then it won't be about jobs at all but bickering and infighting, name calling and endless drilling.
   Seriously, if you had to create just five jobs and figure out a way to fund them, what would you do?
If you could solve that problem, maybe you could be President of the United States!

It is not unusual...

 Just a caddie to hold 2 yogurt containers and some brushes
...for me to make something for sale.  I have been self-employed for over 40 years.  I have never had a regular paycheck, certainly no standard benefits, no compensation for time off, no sick pay, no paid holidays.
There have been other benefits, mostly my time has been my own.  Even when I had a really bad job I knew it would be over when it was finished and I could go on to something else, always hunting for that next great job.
   I did most of my advertising through Home Shows, that one opportunity to "be on stage" and allow the public to compare me with the competition.  I learned the retail trade because of these Home Shows, the space is very expensive.  I learned that the worst possible thing I could do was to sit at a table and wait for them to approach me.  Mostly I sold a service, sort of renting me and my crew out to remodel your home and this could cost thousands of dollars.
   I learned that there was a market for those who couldn't afford or didn't desire their homes torn up and rearranged.  They liked me, wanted something from me, just not the whole big job.
   So I got to thinking, wouldn't it be nice if I could create a product?  Maybe something that would be an advertisement in itself?  Something that would help with the ever increasing cost of doing Home Shows?
   I started pretty simple.  My very first goal was to create something that would feed me during these four day shows.  I had incentive.  I told myself "no lunch" until I made a sale!  At the time I was importing lumber from the Fiji Islands (I could blog about that for awhile!) and I had made some kitchen cutting boards and clip boards out of these exotic woods.  I also made some little toys, something that might attract kids and get their parents to linger.  Well, it was a hit and I ate well that first day but completely sold out my meager inventory on the opening night!  If I had only had more I could have paid for my space!
   Over the years my interests changed and I would be into other things, one year doing nothing but decks and outdoor living, another just kitchens and another I was into bathrooms but I always had a product, something to sell off the floor.  The last few years when I got into steel I could quadruple my space costing me over $3,000 for the very long weekend and pay for it entirely with "stuff" that I brought for sale!
   I got in the habit of making my hobbies pay for themselves.  If I liked it maybe someone else would too?
And then I could sell it allowing me to continue.  My first welder was just a little guy costing me about $300 and on principle I refused to buy a better one until I could pay for the first one through the sale of something I made.  In less than one year I bought the one I have now for $2,400, all paid for with a $300 dollar machine!
   I still have that attitude.  It was something developed over time and is just a part of me now.  In a forty year career I can often go look at a job and find something of mine already in someone's house. That is nice too!

More is HERE

Monday, September 5, 2011

So far So Good

Developing a prototype is contant thinking, tinkering and adjusting.  I remember when I first developed "Stone Posts", my slate covered light posts, almost 20 years ago. I had concrete shapes all over my backyard, broken ideas, failed first steps.  I knew it was the key to getting me out of construction so I continued until I got it right.
 Artist's Pedestal
   I am liking my first easel and tested it out yesterday on a larger canvas, about 3' by 6', steel framed, of course because that is what I do.  An artist really needs a lot of space, a lot of supplies and a lot of room to work.  I needed more furniture, bigger pallette, more room for more brushes and at least three cup holders for the little yogurt containers I put turpentine in to clean my brushes and stir stuff.  So I made an artist's pedestal.  Three cup holders, room for 20 tubes of paint and holders for a dozen brushes.
And the steel top is the pallette where I mix the paint.
 Here it is, in my garden!
   The advantage of making prototypes is that I get to keep them.  I think I will continue this process at least until I can create a perfect pair of them, one a stripped down practical model with all the bells and whistles for about $200 and another, furniture quality, powder coated with embellishments in the $500 range.  Over the years I have furnished my whole house that way and on occasion created a product to sell.
   The easel itself eventually needs to have foldable adjustable legs or I could never ship it.  In the meantime it is perfect, strong and stable.  It can easily support a six foot wide canvas.
   One added benefit to all of this is that I can learn to paint at the same time!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Market Reseach/Easels

I have never used an easel until yesterday.  I paint inside my shop on my welding table or pin up my canvas on a vertical structure I also built for welding.  I never really thought much about an easel until yesterday.
   It was such a beautiful day.  The sun was out in full force but the long shadows signifying Fall were lurking as shadows are prone to do.  I wanted to paint outside!
   There is no drying time to welding.  You weld it and it is done.  I gathered up scraps from around my shop and began with a tripod, that wonderful three legged creation that is always stable.  And then I added to it.
 My first Easel
I needed places for some brushes, holders for my little yogurt containers of turpentine and linseed oil and a nice flat steel shelf I could use as a pallet for mixing paint.
   So all this gets me to thinking?  I wonder if I could make a dime from this?  Is there a market for a good, well built, sturdy easel? and what would that be?
   Or maybe companion furniture for the artist?  A one foot square pedestal with places for brushes, paint and supplies?
   There must be a million plastic things already on the market, but I am thinking something nice, well built, sturdy, inspiring.
 My Easel in front of the Trumpet Vine
   So, tell me about your easel?  What do you use?  What do you like about it and what you don't?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wow, that was lucky!

I would attribute a lot of my life to the luck of the draw.  That and along the way I have learned to take a flashlight with me.
   My first bit of luck was that my parents weren't from Somalia and left me to fend for myself in the dessert.
I was born in a wood framed hospital in a small town of 46,000 people in America, in Oregon, about as far West as one can go without leaving the mainland.
    There were no gangs in my town unless you count my best friend.  The two of us hung out together, rode our bicycles everywhere and walked along the creek back into the hills.  The creek that goes through this whole town.  I never knew violence or fear.  Experiences that I have never had.
   I grew up in a small college town, that was the main industry and like growing up in a Mill town where you would be expected to eventually work that job, it was just expected that I would go to college.  Lucky that too!
   The '60's and Vietnam, the Cold War with Russia, the ever increasing mega bombs, the creation of the Hippies, abstract art and beat poetry changed everything forever.  50,000 Americans and God knows how many Vietnamese died in that war.  It was on television every night.  We could eat TV dinners and watch the evening news!  Lucky there too, I never went but a lot of my friends did and some never came home.
   It was during this time that I realized the Human Race has a propensity for insanity.  Difficult to believe it now but there were protests.  Some people were actually for this war!
   Sometimes it is just lucky that History doesn't take a certain course, a road we are definitely on somehow gets disrupted.
   I grew up and raised my family under different times, better times than now.  You can't choose when you are born that was luck too.  Jobs were easier to get and there were always raises or different jobs.  Better jobs.  Almost anybody could buy a house and they cost about 25% of your wages.  The better job one had the bigger house you could get.  And you could always "trade up", build up equity in your house and trade that for the house of your dreams.
   Times are changing now, quickly and everything is slower too.  Reminds me of the saying, "if I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all"!
   I think we are in for hard times and I think they will be with us for awhile, maybe for a very long time.
A part of it we can blame on others.  Somebody should have done something different.  Congress won't cooperate and you may not like our President.  It is always easiest to put the blame on someone else.  Some of it might be bad luck or no luck at all.
   And some of it is clearly our own fault.
   In the 1970's I could build a "ding bat house", a small house, maybe 1200 sq. feet with a simple roof line and nothing too fancy in ten days.  That was it, from building permit to turning over the keys, ten days, two weeks.  It cost the new homeowner about 25% of his wages and he had to put in his own landscaping, plant his own trees and put in the lawn, build his own fence and make it a home.
   We want more and we want it now.  These kind of houses are no longer being built because they wouldn't sell.  We want granite counter tops and the latest in kitchen engineering, the fence already built and underground sprinklers installed.  We want the big flat screened TV. And the double car garage for our new cars.
   It takes two incomes now to buy a house and what was once a haven to come home to has become an albatross.  We have become slaves.  Slaves to our desires.
   It is like the game "Monopoly," I have said that before.  When the bank runs out of money or one player has it all the game is over.
   Sometimes I feel that with our present political situation, all the disagreements and infighting, we might be playing a game of Chess?  Stalemate!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Don't Know

Well, that is the truth about it, I don't know anything at all.  Life is difficult and it is not as if there were a gold star to achieve or a bell that rings when you get it right.  It is a moving target.
   What advice would you give a young one today?  I don't know.  Maybe, as Whoopie Goldberg said,
"Life is tough, wear a seat belt"!
   Certainly my happiest moments were ones of innocence and no expectations, moments when the train stopped and I could just get out and walk around with no place to go and no place I had to be.  Moments when time stopped or didn't matter.
   When you think you got it right, everything changes and now the world is in turmoil, our economy is tumbling and security cannot be found in an outside source.  The old math succumbs to the new math and it does not add up.
   There are a lot of reasons the housing market is in the garbage can.  One amongst them is that we do not know where the next pay check is coming from.  Next week could be our turn and we might lose our job.
Renting, its short term commitment and 30 days notice is replacing the stability of home ownership.
   I do not know.  There will be consequences to this, I know that.  The rules will change and it will become a different game.  It might become a time of no obligation, no commitment.  There is always a price.
   It is difficult to give advice other than stay strong and be healthy, get lots of sleep and keep the faith.
   Our President will give a speech on job creation next week.  I know a lot of business people and they would hire tomorrow if they had a customer.  It is really very simple math.  No money equals no buying.
No buying equals no jobs.  So we get another politician who wants to get rid of minimum wage!  That will be great!  We can work for a dollar a day! and another, Rick Perry from Texas who wants to get rid of Medicare and Social Security!  That will be great, dump more Seniors into poverty and reduce the flow of money even further!  Texas has more people working for minimum wage than any other State in the Union!
  I don't know.  How hot does it need to get before we believe in global warming?  How many icebergs need to melt away?  How many hurricanes blowing into New York City?  How many bridges falling because of the worst floods in over a hundred years?
   It is easy to say we will never get it right but that is defeatist and sightless of any goals, an admission that the rules are contradictory.  I think the rules are clear.  We are the caretakers of this planet.

I am always HERE, join me, it's free!