Friday, December 28, 2012

Whale Watching

This is my first "Movie" and I am not sure that it will work but I gave it an effort.
The day after Christmas we went to the coast, an hour and a half drive from our valley home.
It is Whale Watching Season in the Pacific along the Oregon Coast where up to 30 whales per hour, about 16,000 total migrate each year from their Alaskan Feeding grounds to the warmer waters off the Southern California Coast.  It is a sight to see although there are none in this movie.
There are NO Private beaches in Oregon, no place you have to pay to visit, no boardwalks or carnival atmosphere and no one serving drinks under umbrellas. And almost never crowded even in the height of the summer season.  If you see more than six people you just move down the beach for your own private place.
   We do have sandy beaches in Oregon, miles and miles of sand dunes and open beaches and a couple special areas with a particular sand the sardines like and they can easily be scooped up with a net.
Salmon can be caught directly off the beach.  We also have rocky areas, my personal favorite where at high tide one can see the power of the Ocean as it beats upon the rocks.  At low tide you can go exploring and find the pools with crabs and star fish and all kinds of sea life.
   We stayed in a Motel above this rocky ledge and had a balcony view.  My daughters are adults now but a visit to the ocean always brings back fond memories of our visits there when they were small children.  And we had real fish and chips, fresh Ling Cod, not that frozen imitation.  Wonderful.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Proper way to stock up for the end of times!!!

Red Dots

We are still alive and that is grand!  I will enjoy every bite of the cheesecake!
   So, yesterday, as it might have been the last day, I went to our local Art Gallery to pick up a couple of steel and copper wall panel "paintings" that have been there for the month of December.  I had plans,
because I thought the Mayans might be wrong, to give these as Christmas gifts.
It is a big gallery with one great room and several adjoining rooms all full with over 300 pieces, all the works of local artists who support this particular gallery.  It is not a juried show.  Each December, for the members, we can hang our works for the public to see and with luck purchase items for Christmas. There is some good work represented there and some average and some downright beginners kind of art.  It is a mish mash of styles and talents all professionally hung with little placards
naming the piece with the artist's name and, of course, the price.  The gallery takes a third which is reasonable for their work and all the bills they incur.  Prices were all over the board, beginning at the low end of $65 and all the up to over $2,500.  There was a relationship to the price and how much oil paint was on the canvas and I suppose a beginning artist always charges less.  For those that might have no interest in paintings there was an entire room for ceramic artists.  Bowls and dishes and clay statues and paperweights aplenty.  There was also a wooden section, furniture and cutting boards and modern art pieces in all price ranges.  Practical gifts and whimsical, some to gain value and many useful.  Some clearly Art.
   All of these pieces were locally made.  American made. Artist made in small studios and on kitchen tables.  Made from the soul.
   I didn't go to the "Opening Night" and I regret that.   I am inherently lazy and don't seek attention.
I wonder now if there were a crowd there?  What people came and who were they?  Yesterday, the day before the last day (today it is still OPEN) I was the only person there.  This was great in that I had the place to myself and could wander around at my leisure examining and studying and learning.  Each artist was allowed only two pieces so there were about 150 artists represented and all were displayed beautifully.  Even crap displayed on a gallery wall looks pretty good and most of it was far better than that.  It was sad too that I was alone, had the gallery to myself.  I think of the lines at Walmart, the Christmas rush at the Big Box Stores, people buying junk that won't be around next year and I am saddened.
   Red Dots on the display card with the artist's name mean that the piece has sold.  In the entire gallery there were fewer than a dozen.  I know this means something.  We complain about the loss of American industry and like moths to a flame we are driven to foreign imports.  We complain about shoddy work and buy stuff that will fall apart the day after Christmas.  I just don't know.  Lil' Abner had it right:  "We have met the enemy and he is us."  We also have local craft fairs and farmer's markets.  I hope they did better.
    Red Dots?  Yes, I received one.  I am happy that someone liked my creation and in someone's home this Christmas it will be given as a gift and hang on their wall.  I am IN someone's home! An invited guest.
Merry Christmas!
My daughters will be home today!  For a short week.  They live on the other side, 3000 miles away and that is far too far away.  I am lucky they are healthy and employed and have a life and lucky they choose to visit this time of year when there is a whole world to explore.  It will be a great week.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

One Day Left!

What time tomorrow will the bells toll?  Tomorrow, December 21st, the End of Times according to some attempting to interpret the Mayan Calendar.  I wonder if we can have breakfast first?  Will it end in a millisecond or take up the entire day?
   When I had my fight with cancer I thought each night was my last, that I would never wake up the next morning.  When you get to that point the lists of things you want to do become very small indeed.
It is the sick and the dying who have little thought of the future and secretly wish it would come fast.
I wonder about extreme beliefs and the people who find comfort in them.  I have read that all over the world, crisscrossing the globe and regardless of religion people have been preparing for this winter event.  Stockpiling food and guns and batteries and such.  Maybe they think it will take longer than a day?
   What an inspiration for our children!  The World will end...SOON!  Maybe tomorrow! or with Armageddon on its way, certainly in your lifetime!  No time for rosebuds and silly poetry, gather ye armaments while ye may!  Before the Government shuts this avenue down and we have to use Molotov
Cocktails!  Our last days gathering empty bottles and siphoning gasoline from abandoned automobiles!
Such an apocalyptic world view, why are we so BAD?
   Today I will buy a Christmas tree and decorate it with lights and balls and tinsel. I might buy a cheesecake because I would like that taste if tomorrow is the last day.
   If I wake up tomorrow and the day is still here I will make plans.  I want to see and be in the middle of a great big forest, away from roads and wires and buildings, the scars of man.  I want to see the Ocean and breath the salty air.  I will hug my children and laugh and tell them, no, the World is not going to end.  You will have to go to work tomorrow and plan for your future.  It will be as you want it to be.

Monday, December 17, 2012

One More Kiss!

It has been in the news that the gunman's mother (I won't respect them with a name) was an "end of times" believer, a believer in a horrible Armageddon , end of Government, mass hysteria, shootings in the streets, famine and each for his own.  It is not known yet if this is a religious belief or maybe, just Four Days From Now: December 21st and the Mayan Calendar.  Whatever, she was prepared. Stockpiling of food, lots of guns and thousands of bullets and she taught her son to shoot, good mother that she was.  To them and the children, the end of times was near and they brought it about.
     I am not a believer.  Not in that kind of stuff, only in the self fulfillment part.  We get what we look for in this life.
   In my drinking days I used to say that if that time were near, only a day or so left, I would head to the liquor store and today I would probably do the same...It is a crazy world where we propose scenarios in  which we pit one neighbor against another.  In that last moment (where we may or may not see God) we want to go out with so much anger!  I remember the Chinese student during the Tianiman Square protests who put flowers into the barrel of the gun on the tank and think I would rather be like him.
Fifteen rounds per second, that is what that rifle shoots.  Instant hamburger, not a good hunting rifle.
It is not the way I would choose to be.  I am more like "gather ye rosebuds while ye may"! One last poem, scratch my name in the sand, another painting, one more piece of metal worked, another kiss!
I am suspicious of people who believe in Armageddon, especially those with guns and self fulfilled prophesies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gun Issues

I have tried to keep my opinions out of this blog since the elections and that is why I haven't been commenting much.  Take my opinions away from me and there isn't much left, even art is opinionated.
There will be talk now about gun control.  Obama will be that Black Kenyon boogie man out to get control and destroy this nation because that is how many are comfortable in seeing him. It is easy to lose sight of the argument when there is a boogieman and we can shift the blame to him.
   We have lots of school shootings in our country, one a few years ago in my home town.  They are devastating. I remember the recent Movie Theater shooting and some people suggested that if the theater patrons were armed it wouldn't have happened.  At least not so much, someone could have shot him on the stage.  With that thinking there will be suggestions to arm the kids in school  First year in kindergarten and you will be issued your own Glock!
   I don't play video games but from what I've read they are violent.  I know TV and Movies are full of blood and guts.  We have a culture of Anger.  We have angry games, angry politics, angry discussions and angry protests.  I think anger is always a substitute for something else that is missing.  It is always what steps in when we feel powerless, lost our argument in another way.
     It is so easy to blame this on a parent when we ourselves have no sense of community, don't even know our neighbors and they don't know us.  Feelings become personal and stuffed with limited ways to express them.
   They no longer teach art in school.  No theater. No poetry and literature. It is all pretty insane and once in awhile someone will come along and show us that it is.
   How about limiting clips of bullets to a thousand rounds? or maybe just a hundred? That should be enough.  or maybe just six and then you have to reload?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Twinkie Defense!

It has been a long time since I have had a Twinkie.  I remember my grade school days when we used to bring our own lunch to school.  Oh how envious I was of the kids who had "Twinkies" stashed in their lunch boxes!  On a lucky day I might have raisins, normally an apple and once a week a home made cookie!  My mom was like that, health conscious and we didn't have money for store bought goodies.  In high school sometimes I would sneak out and buy my own.  They last forever I am told.
"Best Before Aug. 2075",Can you believe that?
   I have been self employed for over forty years and always thought that if I could just cut the labor costs, to like, almost nothing, then I could have made a lot of money!  That is a way some business people think, you know.  Or if I could avoid the taxes, cut the government out of the picture.  Make up something.  Put my money overseas.  Worker's Compensation was a huge expense.  I always told my employees that if they fell then they were fired before they hit the ground.
   The CEO's of Twinkie were making $375,000 to $600,000 per year.  Each.  There were times I could have done that but I would have had the feeling that I was stealing.  I don't think one gets that kind of money from working.
   Of course if the Twinkie people had had their eyes open they would have realized that their sales were down.  They had already filed bankruptcy just a few years ago.  Why they thought that if they could cut wages and benefits 30% and raise CEO's pay 300 % then all would be alright is beyond my thinking.  But that is what they did.
   The truth is Twinkie lost to little home grown bakeries.  Even in my little town we have several of these Mom and Pop (and kids and cousins!) operations and they are great!  We have a Mexican Bakery and a French, of course!, some super specialized bakeries and health conscious one's. Really, "Wonder Bread"?  when you could have a fresh baggette?  Russian Rye or sour dough made at 4 AM this morning?
   Times change and Twinkies are gone.  We can go exploring in the neighborhood now.  See what we have been missing.
   I learned the other day that Coca Cola was a nickle for over 70 years!!! from the 1880's until 1957.
That is pretty cool and pretty cool marketing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

When the Leaves Fall

My Summer was a good one.  May was beautiful and unseasonably warm.  I got my garden in early and then June came, colder than normal with too much rain.  The July weather was more like June normally is and the garden got off to a slow start.
   July was when I woke up. My cancer was officially "gone" and after a three year hiatus I decided to participate in a Summer Art Show so I was pretty busy making steel creations for that event.  It was pretty successful and meeting new clients with new commissions kept me busy for the rest of July, all of August and September and until about a week ago.  The Eugene area went 118 days without rain, a "World Record" for this area and I finally got some pretty nice tomatoes!
   Now the rains have started, almost a full month late, late October becomes the weather of late September.  It is colder too and all of the green turns to Earth tones, the deep orange, amber and yellow of Fall, an ever changing pallet with the seasons.
   Traditionally this is my slow season for metal work.  I am busy with new construction and major house renovations, the creation of gardens or open areas that need a focal point.   That work slows down this time of year.  It is dark in the morning and dark in the early evening.
   I read more this time of year, during the Winter months and until I can plant saved seeds in my greenhouse in the early Spring.  I hunt for books.  I am a hunter of books and I have bagged a few good ones in my time.  Yes, I read cheap dime novels which cost me a buck at a local thrift store and I love them.  I can on kicks though or tangents and for a while will read a bunch of books on particular subjects.  Last year it was Art History, my attempt at understanding the transitional art world and this year it seems to be American History, an attempt in discovering why we are where we are!
   I paint in the winter.  Retirement is different from working all of the time.  Money doesn't come in like it used to, obligations are smaller and there are more hours in the day.  I made my shop smaller and created a "studio", 10' x 20' next to my office.  Clean and heated, like a mini-gallery.
   I feel like that guy on television, "I am not a painter but I stayed in a Holiday Inn last night"!  I know nothing and am comfortable with my lack of knowledge. I made some lucky garage sales finds: a bucket of paint brushes, over 200 of them for $40. Two giant rolls of canvas, one 5' x 200' and the other 3' x 100' for less than $100.  and a bucket full of tubes of paint for $20.
   I made steel easels, selling most of them but keeping three for myself and I made steel painting stations that I keep near the easels.  I frame my own canvas with steel.  I can't have wood in my metal shop!
   So all of the "stuff" is outside my office door and calls me:  "come and play with me"!  Sometimes I do.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What to say?

   I sometimes stare at this blank screen and think about what to say?  Or wonder whether I should say anything at all?  There is no end to topics in the news, always lots of politics going on, lots to do and Congress doing nothing, pretty much given up until November.  Another well deserved vacation, they work so hard, don't they?
   Romney is having a tough time, mostly because it is being discovered that he doesn't really believe in anything.  He has the passion of an accountant and people are wondering why is it that this was the best the Republicans could come up with?  What has happened to the Republican Party?  What a dismal group they had to choose from.  Looking back it is making Nixon look like a pretty darned good President!  He opened doors to China and it was Nixon that began the EPA! Environmental Protection Agency.
   I get discouraged when we are satisfied with sound bites.  I hate 30 second "news" stories, "around the World in 80 seconds" is just plain nuts.  Fox News is like the "Enquirer", hyping on emotion and careless with the facts.   I actually watched it for three full hours the other night and thought I was in
"The Twilight Zone"!  At least I discovered why some people don't like Obama!  He is a boogie man, from Kenya, a Muslim, a socialist with a secret agenda!  Fox News says that every twenty seconds, often enough that people become to believe it.  Much like repeated advertisements, it is how we  become fat and docile and have our desires manipulated.  Discovering any kind of real truth requires work on our part and we have no time for that.
   The Republican Party has become bitter and afraid and nostalgic for a badly remembered past.  They are scary too.  Too many similarities with the Germans between WWI and WWII, that time in History
when they wanted to retrieve their greatness and thought that hatred towards the Jews, the Gypsies, the Gays, the Old and Infirm would be the binding ties that would return their glory days.  We never learn nothing, huh?
    We are slow to wake up at least.  The Republicans are now distancing themselves from Romney.
Senate Seats are at stake.  Just five months ago the Republicans were expected to gain a majority in the Senate and now it is not so sure.  Like rats deserting a sinking ship.
   There will be no quick fixes no matter who wins.  Eight years of /Republican Deregulation took us to the brink and we will have to claw our way out, gaining in inches what was thrown over the cliff.  It will be years from now that books will be written and we will realize how close to crashing we really were.
   On a separate note I have been really busy!  Welding everyday, one job after another, one not quite finished and another one begun!  No doubt better than it was but really, I couldn't tell you why?  It is just the nature of what I do, feast or famine.  A lot of it was the Art Show I did in July, my first show in over three years, since my cancer and voodoo cure and regaining my strength.  Networking, they call it, huh?  Meeting people who know people and my card gets passed around and the phone begins to ring again!  That is the way it works.  You can't make much money when you are hiding.
   Hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, September 14, 2012


Really, I would be a very bad President.  My response too often would be bellicose, full of fury or, maybe worse just a total retreat, a leave us alone in isolation from the world.  The problem with leaving an area, which is my reaction, is that someone else would step in and clearly the problems would escalate.
   Obama is cool headed and clearer thinking about all of this than I would be and I am thankful for that.  These new "Arab Spring" governments are just months old and not established.  There are still militias with armed trucks patrolling the streets and often causing trouble.  They don't have a national police force established and certainly no kind of law and order.
   Yes, it is good that I am not President and that more rational heads prevail. It is a difficult situation to say the least.  Although my inclination might be to blast my way in there like the "Lone Ranger" I suspect that is not realistic.  Iran is a formidable force without atomic bombs and if we or Israel just bombed their weapon factories it would ignite a huge area war not unlike World War II. Not only would gasoline go to $20 a gallon, millions of people would die.  The best fight is always the one you can talk your way out of.
   Obama is sane and sensible, cool, hardworking and pretty darned tough.  He is no peanut farmer!
He has taken our military into the 21st Century and in his four years in office has killed more "bad guys" than Bush did in eight years!  Letting the wars wind down while keeping American influence in the area is a better plan than the retreat my inclination would want.
   Being President has to be the toughest job in the world.  My decisions and mistakes have very little consequence and no one blames me when I can't make everything all right.  The guy goes to bed at one o'clock in the morning and is up by seven.  Bush went to bed at 8 o'clock, pretty much like I do, and didn't go to work until ten!  I don't want a President like me!  If you are President it is not a good idea to blast out emotional reactions to world situations and then spend time eating your words.  That is what Romney did and I probably would also, but it is not the best way to be, especially if you are President!
   It is a strange world and people and governments are different.  The Chinese Government went to Corvallis Oregon, 40 miles from here, to look at a mural on the wall of a local business!  Can you believe that?  Seems it was too sympathetic to Taiwan and they wanted it removed!  So we had to explain "free speech" and our Constitution to them!  I hope they learned something, and, of course, the mural is still there.  At least no body got shot.
   I think our President is more the "walk softy and carry a big stick" kind of guy.  He got Osama, something Bush could not do in eight years.  I suspect the 20 guys who destroyed our Embassy and killed the four Americans are on the radar also.  It is difficult to hide from the drones once you are on the list and Obama is not afraid to use them.
   I might make a good dictator but I would be a lousy President.  I like the one we have.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Attacking Our Embassies

Wow,  it is good that I am not President!  My tolerance level would be just about zero.  I am wondering if Muslims ever laugh?  Pretty sensitive bunch to get riled up over a b- third rate satirical film.  Thirteen minutes of it is available on YouTube and really, it will put a normal person to sleep.
   We have different cultures, that is for sure.  We might have more in common if we found life on Mars.  We laugh in a sometimes cautious way about the Christian Religion, show slightly disrespectful Broadway Plays on the Mormon Religion.  We even have Jesus Christ, Super Star!  If we put a quarter in a jar every time we cussed we would have our retirement paid for right there!
   We are in debt for fighting for their freedom.  We supported them in getting rid of their dictators.
They are killing us every day in gratitude. It is a culture that kills their daughters and straps suicide bombs on its children.  It is a culture that respects power and brutality and sees our kind of freedom as a weakness.  I think Sadam had it right:  rule with an iron fist, terror is what they understand.
   It is good that I am not President.  I would not give a nickle for their oil or their freedom.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Conflict is Good!

The elections, the conventions, all of this political debate is certainly good for the economy!  Newspapers, Radio and Television must be getting a bounty in advertising revenue; literally, billions of dollars are being spent.  Whoever wins, he will be the best President that we can afford.  No country on Earth spends on elections like we do.  It has to be good for the economy!
   Personally I like elections.  My normal day is not unlike yours.  I get up, find something to do and get tired doing it, then go to bed.  Just routine.  Elections make me think of the world around me, get out of myself and think of others, and yes, even fantasize about an "ideal world" and then laugh  at the comedy of it all.  It seems that we screwed up when Eve offered Adam the Apple and this can never be Heaven on Earth!  We have to wait for that pie in the sky when we die.  That is always the problem.  It is later, if only and under conditions that things will get better.  I don't know why it is so difficult to make a plan, stick to it, and make things a little better all along the way?
   Now is when we want it.  We don't see things in increments, no longer listen to arguments.  We make our own bleak world, close the drapes and get comfortable in the darkness and always blame others for everything that is wrong.  With us and with the world.
   If we could have unlimited coal and tar sands oil then everything would be all right!  One more apple, Eve, please!  That tree may be beneath the Arctic and we will destroy that last pristine place to get it.
Humans have a hunger and believe that the Earth should be used UP.
   Tell me three nice things about Obama and I will tell you three nice things about Romney!  Really I would.  I read both sides, conflicting editorials and diverse opinions.  I like some elements of each and each have elements that I dislike.
   I think the elections will boil down to two issues for me and this may be selfish because they would effect me personally.  The issue of Medicare won't harm me either way but I know the math.  A voluntary and competing program with Medicare will destroy it.  Health issue, National Health will not affect me.  I am one of the 1% there for sure and history has proved over the years that we really do not feel another's pain!  National Health Care would be less expensive than our present system, but that is pretty simple math and if you want to you can work that out yourself.  Gay rights mean nothing to me personally although according to the math, we all know someone who this issue is important to and I think I should cast my ballet in their favor.  Voting for the benefit of others! What a novel idea and this one would not cost me a dime.  Women's issues mean a lot to me.  I like women!  And I have two daughters so for very selfish reasons I would vote for their rights and equal benefits.
   There are two issues that will determine my vote.  The Republican Platform does not even mention
our wars, not a single word about Afghanistan and the 31 American Soldiers who die there every single month.  One Dead Every Day.  These are our youth, America's best and we have forgotten them already.  In the months and years to come we will spend trillions on those returning soldiers, for their care and support.  It is a debt we will try to weasel out of as we have in the past.  We already have homeless veterans begging on street corners, young ones now, next to the Vietnam vets, struggling for position.  I will think long and hard about which political party will recognize our obligations.
   We are tired of war and can not afford it.  I am thankful there were no troops on the ground in lybia and we are not in Syria.  I will think long and hard about which party can keep us out of future battles.
   There is one single issue that comes down to belief that will determine my vote.  One Issue that I use to believe in that I no longer do.  I believe in the American Worker.  I do not believe in Trickle Down.
For over a hundred years the Chief Executive Officer of a corporation made six times the wages of the average worker and that money stayed here at home, in our neighborhoods, supporting our communities.  These were attainable jobs and through education, hard work and discipline, average people  could get there.  I graduated from the University of Oregon and paid $96 dollars per term for the classes.  I received no grants or free money.  I did it with a part time job and student loans totaling only $1,500 for five years of education.  Something has changed.  This is impossible now.
    Trickle Down doesn't work.  CEO's can make MILLIONS of times the pay of their average workers!  And the money doesn't stay here.  It goes to China along with our jobs.  It is safe in off shore accounts with clever accounting avoiding taxes.  Four years ago Google and Amazon Stocks were selling at less than $200 and now they are over $700!  Corporations have never been richer and never invested less in their local communities.  They don't even bank here.
   I believe in Henry Ford who didn't have a dime invested in China, who rightfully became wealthy investing in American workers and paid them enough so they could buy the cars they were making.
   It is greed that will get us in the end.  Greed and the idea that there are simple solutions, that we could drill our way out of this, like a lottery ticket is awaiting us under the arctic ice.
   I believe in hard working Americans.  I believe in the Middle Class.  The more the better, that center bulge on the graph that goes to work every day, banks locally, supports their schools, their community.
That is who I will vote for.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Serious BLT

I found some really good bacon!  Buying bacon is pretty much like anything else, find the most  expensive in the store and it will probably be the best.  Three times the cost of the cheapest but worth it.  I have lots of tomatoes now, plenty to eat and give a few to neighbors but not enough to get the dryer out.  My plants never recovered from the harsh June cold spring weather.  There are nice ones out in the garden and easy enough to find ten or so on any given day, some weighing over a pound and even bigger!  The really dark varieties are ready now, ripe and juicy and full of flavor.  Time for a BLT, the sandwich of Kings and want to be politicians!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Sense of Urgency

I am watching the Republican Convention and look forward to Mitt's speech tonight.  I did watch the CNN special on Mitt the other day (liberal media?) and he seems a decent guy, hard working and I like that.  I flip channels between CNN and Fox (really I do!).  I want to know what is said and what people are thinking.  I read the entire Republican Platform! and, so far, here is what I still believe:
   Trickle Down Economics doesn't work.  More people got richer under eight years of the Bush Administration than most any time in History, the same time period when we were losing over 200,000 jobs a month!  The philosophy of abundance, of rewarded work worked pretty good in the days when a CEO pay was about six times the average worker's.  Then it became sixty times and now, in some cases six hundred times or even more!  Something got derailed.  American Corporations are sitting on over a Trillion Dollars, mostly in off shore accounts or invested overseas.  None of this is trickling down to us.
    The Republicans say the National Debt is the issue and yet the Super Wealthy pay less than 15% in taxes, or eleven percent in Mitt's case!  I do not begrudge them their wealth but think their taxes should equal mine.  They, the Republican Party, won't even agree to a measly 2% increase on incomes over $200,000.  I won't think it is a serious issue until they chip in to save the system that has been so good to them.
   And what is with this "who built it" crap?  Where is the gratitude that should come from living in the USA?  I had my own Company for over thirty years and of course didn't do it by myself!  I needed the roads and bridges, the public education of my workers and an endless list contingencies all along the way that got me to where I was.  It is the advantage of living in this country, a land of opportunities paved by people before me, leaving me with the obligation to pave the way forward for others.
   I am fine, whatever happens won't affect me.  I worry about the future.  If Medicare becomes voluntary it will be destroyed.  That is pretty simple math. And is Social Security about my personal benefit or a part of the responsibility required to live in a country where the old and sick are cared for and not indigent?
   It seems that the Republican Party is the party of me.  I see no National  Consciousness except maybe greed and self indulgence.    Drill baby drill.  Get it while the getting's good.  Use it all up!
   Should I mention women?  You really want to vote to go back in time 50 years?  They don't even make wire coat hangers any more.
   I do like the work ethic that is expressed in the Republican Platform.  I am not after a give away society.  Personally I don't even like food stamps or housing assistance or anything free.  I think that is the job of industry and the rewards from working hard.  If Bane Capitol believed that they would bring our jobs back home.  I think their belief system is Cash First and anything else is secondary if in their thoughts at all.
   A lot of my positions are just simple math and looking at consequences.  I don't like negative campaigning from either side and become very suspicious when my emotions are appealed to.
It would be nice if candidates could stick to the truth and occasionally mention what is nice about living in this country.  There is a lot to be optimistic about. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two at a Time...

When I was younger and in construction, that was always the rule.  Carry two sheets of plywood at one time.  If you are young and strong and know the trick it is pretty easy to do.
girls can do it!  I can't.
   I just came from my yearly physical, three months late so it was about a year and a quarter!  I would have gone even longer but my doctor was going to cut me off from the one prescription I take, "simvastatin", a cholesterol lowering drug that really works!  Brought it from 220 to 170 within a week!  Anyway, so I made an appointment and he pushed and pulled and prodded, took some blood and checked my blood pressure:  always on the low side of "normal".  I don't get riled.
   "I want to be 19 again", I was complaining about not be able to carry 2 sheets of plywood.  I did just finish an eighteen foot balcony railing and carried the back half of it to the street 160 feet from my shop with my helper leading with the front half.  Years ago I could have done this by myself.
I want that strength back.  Now I know what they mean when they say, "youth is wasted on the young".
   I know that I shouldn't be complaining, two years ago I couldn't carry 20 pounds!  I keep a photo of me taken 2 years ago, after 12 "chemo's" and the loss of over 50 pounds thanks to that voodoo chemical crap made from WWI Mustard Gas.  It is on my wall, right over my desk and I don't recognize that guy at all.  I used to walk down the street like a ninety year old man and the neighbors didn't know who I was.  I should have been a Bank Robber.  It was the perfect disguise.
  I did pass my physical, this one from my regular doctor, a much more thourough inspection than my cancer doctor ever does.  It was my regular doctor who discovered the Hodgkin's Lymphoma in the first place, nailed it on the spot during a fifteen minute physical that turned into over half an hour!  No one likes to hear those words: "You've got Cancer".  He sent me to the specialist who spent $30,000
to confirm what he already knew.
   No one wants National Health until they get cancer.  It is not really in the top ten things we think about during the day.  "Not me," right?  It is an interesting topic if you get into the thick of it.  Better to discuss it before you need it is all I am saying.  Should be just a discussion on economics, dollars and sense, what is practical and workable and not an emotional topic at all.  Funny, we can send a craft to Mars and we can't solve this problem!
   I have good insurance, so it is not a battle for me.  My $130,000 war with cancer cost me exactly One Thousand Dollars.  The Insurance Company paid the rest.  I was lucky, most people at least lose their houses and pretty much everything else.  People with great insurance get too sick to work and lose their policies and then get kicked out of cancer treatment, file bankruptcy or both.  Cancer represents only 5% of the total medical expenditures in this country.  But that is everything when you get it.
  All right, so I am not 19 anymore.  I am still getting used to that.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am Retired

I no longer make lists, obligations and chores to fill my day.  I may or I may not do anything at all.
This time of year my garden no longer requires my devoted attention.  It will grow now and take care of itself.  The tomatoes will get big and ripe and juicy or they won't and my effort is not required.
I may paint, sometimes I do that even though I am a beginner, a novice who doesn't understand the rules. I have sold three paintings in my life and don't even remember what they were.  As I get older what once was important has lost its significance, just a painting, that's it.
   I might weld, slap steel together and make something that way, the  way that got me on this road, introduced me to art and got me to wherever I am.
   I have four sheets of siding that need replacing on my shop and I work at that a little each day, pulling a few nails, dragging out a three hour job and making it last weeks.  I have until the fall rains, another five or six weeks so I am not in a hurry.
   I still read the newspapers, an old habit that I continue.  We are on Mars and won a lot of gold medals, the most I hear!  Romney has chosen a running mate so that race has really started.  We will be getting a lot of lies from both sides, distortions and I sometimes wonder why these people (from both sides) are not in jail?  It leaves a lot of work for us to discover the truth and I wonder if we even give a rip?   Many days it is not on my list and I do not investigate at all.
   I sometimes start something and put it down and not go back to it.  Finishing a project, unless it is for a customer, is not as important as it once was.  I do not have to get something done in order to get on to that next thing on my list because I have no list at all.
   I have begun the last in the trilogy of  Stieg Larsson's books: "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest".  It is a complex novel full of details and conspiracies.  It requires the reader's attention, something not required from most books nowadays.  I like it and, of course, love Lizbeth Salandar, the uncooperative heroine!
   I check on my friend's house from time to time.  The roof trusses arrive next Wednesday and I will be there to help.  It is a small house by our standards, about 900 square feet and only one bedroom and one bathroom, mostly a living room with kitchen and a big front porch.  It is enough and I wish my house were smaller.  How we ever got trapped in the bigger is better I will never know.  It is just a lot more work and I wonder what drives us so?  We could learn from other species if we could listen.  My dog could teach me to relax.
    My hands still hurt and they are teaching me to slow down but inactivity doesn't seem to help. They are at their best when I am deep into a project and can forget about them.  Maybe that is the purpose of a "list"?  I will pull five more nails and think about it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Baby Daughter

She should be getting frequent flyer miles.  She is a lawyer now, living and working in Washington D C but when she gets the chance, flies here and there, to visit with us, off to California for a wedding (not hers!) or to Texas to visit her sister.  My family is scattered over the Country, a result of this lousy economy.  You go where the work is.  They are getting older and as the mirror attests, so am I.
   My daughters are fearless, not afraid to tackle new things, not afraid to move away to where the action is, seemingly not afraid in this scary world at all.  They are both hard workers and I am lucky that they choose to spend some of their money on a visit to me!  It is expensive to fly across the country and that money could be going for a new car or an ipad or whatnot.
   My youngest daughter likes to cook and maybe should have gone to a culinary school.  Instead she went to Law School and wants to represent the down and out, woman's rights issues, immigration issues and all low paying legal forums.  She is not a corporate attorney.Not a great way to get rich but doing what matters to her.
   I am the lucky recipient of her cooking skills and she always raids the garden while here to see what is available. The tomatoes are coming on fast now and some peppers were ready so we had Chili Rellenoes, one of my all time favorite meals.  On a different day I made her a Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich the meal of Kings, if they were so lucky!  I always feel like a millionaire this time of year, the garden provides so much in abundance!  I have lost the photos of these wonderful meals but when able I will post them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Where the heck are we going? and do we really long for the "good old days"?  What is the direction of USA that you like? and do not like?  I think that when we look back with nostalgia we don't see what we don't want to see.  When were the "good old days" anyway?  The 1950's? when the best job a woman could get was a school teacher or a half the salary of men?  No, I don't think so, unless being "kept" is your idea of perfection.  Woman have come a long ways, their voice counts now.  Our rivers and the air we breath are so much cleaner now.  Landfills are no longer just a dumping ground of unwanted discards.  We are more aware of the damage we can do and more protective of the environment.  I like that!
    Somehow, miraculously and by design we have stayed out of the wars in Lybia and Syria and i sure like that direction.  We are out of Iraq finally, that quagmire battle, our longest war and on schedule to leave Afghanistan, the other mistaken war.  That seems a good direction to me.  We have yet to get the bills for these wars but they will come
   Twenty six million more people have health insurance and that just can't be bad.  For those of you against National Health Insurance, let's do away with Medicare!  Or is it OK for you to have National Health Care but not others?  This is a good direction.  It is a tribe looking after its members.  A Nation that cares for its weakest members.  A sign of strength.  I like that direction.
   We landed on Mars!  A one ton scientific vehicle as big as a car and nuclear powered at that.  What a sense of pride that should be!  The Koreans would kill to have such rocket scientists.  They should be rock stars!  American Made!  We should be bursting with pride and dancing in the streets!  Nice direction!
   People believe in us, even when we don't sometimes.  Investors from all over the world pay us to put their money here!  Face it, we are the prettiest girl in the house!  Stable, maybe slow sometimes, but secure, a country founded  and based on laws.  I like that and most of the world does too.
   Oh, sure, I have disappointments!  The pretty girls of my youth have grown old and fat. And sometimes I don't remember things exactly as they were.  I am not sure it would have been nice to ride in the back of a bus.  I wouldn't want to go back there.
   I wish we would do things, that is for sure. There has never been a better time to rebuild our infrastructure.  Money is cheap and it needs to be done.  China has better roads and trains than we do.
Our bridges are getting old and some of our water systems are over 100 years old.  They are far more expensive to repair on an emergency basis than having a plan and I wish we could agree on one. There is no single thing that would be better in creating jobs than working on our infrastructure and it need doing.
    Unless you are into dirty water and dirty air the answer is not in deregulation.  Go to Mexico City and see what that is like.  I am glad we are not going in that direction and hope we never do.
   The direction I really don't like is our own apathy.  We have lost a sense of investigation, of reading and looking at other sides, of considering consequences. This fosters hate and fear and intolerance.
We would rather be entertained than learn something and we get bored easily.  Easily distracted we are only after sound bites and emotions.  God forbid if we actually sat down and read a book!
   I think the Country will be fine, even if "the other guy" wins the election.  We have so many checks and balances in our system that even someone "perfect" cannot move fast.  That has always been our biggest strength and prevents popular opinion from crushing the minority.
   It is the direction that we are going as individuals that I worry about.  Our becoming comfortable with being lazy, our feeling of inconsequence, our sense of powerlessness and our own willingness to settle for less.  That is a bad direction, every time.

Monday, August 6, 2012


are in order! ...and, Sherry, it is not your fault for not knowing about this. I'll explain my thinking there in a minute.
    Over 2,000 pounds, a nuclear powered robotic rover has landed on Mars.  Stand up proud folks, we did it!  It is more difficult than sending up an Earth based rocket and landing on a dime.  It is the modern version of the Pyramids or the Great Wall of China, something pretty phenomenal created by Man and "Made in the USA"!  No other country could have done this and several have tried. Mars is a harsh teacher.  10:31 PM Pacific Time and what was on television?
   Reruns of 2 and 1/2 Men!, maybe the news about the crazy man killer in Milwaukee and the typical crap that is normally on television!  What a terrific educational opportunity lost!  I could watch pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope all day long.  You want poetry, adventure, mystery and violence, you won't get better than that!  The television stations could have thrown in some history of the Space Program, a reminder that we began this mission in second place, losing to a Russian dog!  They could have run programs touting the civilian benefits of the Space Program but chose not to.
   It wasn't "luck" that we did this.  It was ten years in the making and the final victory of an eight month voyage and two and a  half billion dollars spent!  They could have educated us and instead gave us reruns on television!  That is sad.
   The guy in Milwaukee or that orange hair theater killer should have been back page news, two paragraphs at most.  Add up television time at over a half million dollars a minute, add up court costs, time and money and energy.  Why do we focus on such b.s. when there are wonderful things, amazing discoveries, incredible achievements to dream about?
   Made in the USA!  We did it.  We should be proud.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


It is not on your local TV station but tonight, 1:31 am Eastern Time. 10:31 Pacific Time is the landing of "Curiosity". our Mars Lander!  Ten years in the making and in flight since November, pretty cool stuff!  It will be on NASA TV  which you can get on your computer.  Something to be proud of that we even attempt this and oh so incredible if we succeed!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hotter than Blazes!

Well, it is all relative, for Oregon it is hot.  99 degrees today!  I will be in the pool!  It is hotter everywhere, you know.   This drought is world wide, ask India or our own Midwest.  Corn it seems is in every food and in the gasoline to drive our cars and there won't be much this summer!  How much hotter does it need to get for you to believe in Global Warming?  I wonder how much more coal we need to burn to really screw up the atmosphere?  Seems like a challenge, doesn't it?
   Chic-a-fil seems to think we are challenging God in the bedroom when it is really this small blue orb that we are playing with.  It is not nice to fool with Mother Nature!  It will get hotter, that is for sure, and a lot more weird weather before we will admit...anything!  That is just the way people are.  Stubborn.
   I have a well on my little one third acre, one of the first things I did over 40 years ago.  It is only 20 feet deep and has never run out of water, although I am not so presumptuous as to think this might never happen.  I pray to the well gods every time I turn on the pump.  So far that works.
   So, how hot is it where you are?  and what do you do to cool down?  I don't have air conditioning, would only need it one week a year in Oregon.  I have my little garden pool and that is where I will be.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Did You See The Moon?

Wow, how lucky Oregon is!  The Full August Moon and just over our coastline!  It is huge and a bright white yellow and oh so close.  I sometimes wonder about other countries?  How many moons does Canada have?  I am pretty sure that the French have two; in England you can never see the moon because of the rain and in Russia?  I am not sure whether a moon would even be allowed?
   Did you know that it is getting a little further away from us each passing day?  Someday it won't be there at all, just a fairy tale that no one will believe.  Enjoy it while you can.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Eighteen Yards

There were four of us old guys over sixty-five, one about seventy and his young son and Ruby, also on Social Security.  We were waiting for the concrete trucks to arrive.  There would be two of them, each carrying nine yards, enough to pour a slab about 24 feet by 34 feet long.  This will be the foundation for the new house.  It is in the countryside but not really the country, five acre parcels fenced like city lots. Enough room for dogs to roam and chickens, a barn and a garden and the big house.
  It is a scenario that could become Reality Television although it is not the children moving back home, it is the parents, fresh out of bankruptcy and living in a small trailer next to a drained and very dried up pond on the five acre parcel owned by the daughter and her husband.  Multiple housing is not allowed on this property so they got a permit to build a "hobby room", 816 square feet, the new little house one hundred feet from the big house.  Families pulling together in these difficult times.
   My friends were caught up in the American Dream.  They are very interesting people, the hardest workers that I know.  He has been in construction all of his life and his wife hammering and painting along side him. Years ago they built a yacht in their backyard.  Just like that, a steel hulled fifty footer with teak and holly trim and big blue sails.  Then they set sail to unknown places and search the world for five years, this boat their home.
   Still years ago they sold it, too much of paradise they said, and moved into a little fixer upper house not far from my own house.  They remodeled it and improved it step by step and it became a pretty remarkable 900 square feet of perfection.  That is the way they are.  A little more effort than most of us, everything they build is perfect.
   The housing boom or bubble was going on then and their house increased in value with every improvement made, from the initial 45 thousand dollar purchase to over $100,000!  This was their sole asset and it increased in value monthly.  Maybe, they are thinking, they could build up a retirement nest egg?
    Five blocks away an opportunity came up.  An 8,000 square foot Church, long abandoned and in disrepair came up for sale!  $75,000 for a half city block and a falling down 8,000 square foot Church!  How could they go wrong?
  To make a long story short, they sold their little house and bought the Church.  They worked on it for over five years, every single day.  It became one big glorious residence with a beautiful shop with eighteen foot ceilings!  It appraised at over $460,000 and they had $275,000 in loans against it.  Certainly not a get rich quick scheme but a profit, or pay back for their labor of almost $200,000 for the five years they enjoyed working on it together.  It was just too nice to keep and now they wanted to retire, maybe get their little house back and some money in the bank!
   I think you know the rest of the story.  Timing is everything.  Almost overnight the housing bubble burst.
Oh the Church sold all right but it took two years to sell it and the final price?  $260,000!!!  Wow.
So, bankruptcy became the only path out and garage sales and scrounging for the money to buy a used fifth wheel and move it onto the daughter's property.
   If this were a Reality Television Series there would be many more seasons and we could meet their friends.
The six of us old people pouring concrete, it was quite a sight!  We all left after the concrete was laid, screed, floated and fresnoed.  Pretty flat by most eyes.  Edwin and Ruby spent hours on knee boards, hand troweling to perfection, after we all left. That is what they do, you couldn't stop them.
   Next week will be fun.  It will be like a barn raising.  Friends and family working together, also a part of the American Experience.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Bill is in the Mail

How horrible!  What a horrid thing that happened in Colorado, getting shot in a movie theater!  Like being struck by lightening, no accounting and no protection from it.  Insane, of course.  Gun control is really not the issue although it is doubtful why someone might require 6,000 rounds of ammunition and a magazine that would hold a hundred rounds.  That might have been an indicator, maybe.  It happens everywhere, Canada earlier at a shopping mall and England, Norway, other places with strict gun control laws.  Bad guys have always gotten guns.
   No, this was all a lot of bad luck.  What is horrible to me is yet to come.  You get shot and survive in this country and you will get a bill in the mail.  or if you get killed, the bill comes anyway and someone pays.  The medical expenses must be horrific.  We have no National Health Care in this country.  Our victim's assistance, a welfare fund of sorts is pathetically underfunded.  Those who got shot will get a bill in the mail.
   We are a shoot 'em up Cowboy kind of Country, I admit that.  In the ten years we have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, more people have been shot in Chicago than on the battlefield.  Ten a night is not uncommon.
The deer in Chicago are in the zoo but people roam the streets and make for moving targets or the shooters move and do "drive byes".  Sport.  They have found abandoned guns with notches cut into the handles. Pride of marksmanship, I presume.  If you get shot in Chicago you will get a bill in the mail.
    Osama bin Laden single handedly doubled the price of an airline ticket, created Homeland Security and caused the economic collapse of the Western world and this Joker Guy who shot up the movie theater will double the price of a movie ticket.  The ticket takers will become trained armed guards and there will be secret guys, like air marshals, watching the movie over and over in the audience.  Terrorists and crazy people will control our behavior because we cannot control theirs!  Crazy world and they will send us the bill.
   It is all nuts. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

One or Two is Good

...and sometimes even three can make it perfect.  Wow, I always get an education when I visit my local Giant Hardware Store.  This is over 100,000 square feet "under one roof" and they have everything you might ever need to build or refurbish a house.  My kind of store.  They also have a "Junk Room" although they do not call it that.  It is their "up to 75% off" Room, pretty big too, maybe 60 feet by a hundred feet, all discounted, some damaged but mostly in perfect condition.  The kind of place where I can find mismatched paint for $5 bucks a gallon!  Today was "China Day" and not the normal import stuff, this was "China Art Day," or more exactly, Chinese Metal Art and they had over 100 feet of it, stacked up on tables and leaning against the walls, piled deep.  Like a garage sale.
     Chinese Wall Metal Art by the box load.  Trellis's by the rail car load and even row after row of little creatures (Chinese, I presume) with spring necks so their cute little heads bobble!  And about a million leaves from two inch to two feet, nicely shaped and powder coated!
    Everything 75% OFF. Such a deal.  This would be discouraging if these were the wares of an individual Chinese Artist but I would bet money these are from a Chinese Gulag, the work of beaten prisoners or the labor of factory workers at two dollars a day and they have to feed themselves.
   I know people buy this crap. I have seen them walk out with armloads of it at the Spring Home Show where vendors are allowed to sell anything that people are willing to buy.  I just do not know why?
I wonder if there is a book on compulsive buying?  or the buying of crap.  Stuff that will fall apart before you get it home.
   The funny thing is even at 75% OFF the store is still making a profit.  That should tell you something right there.  Like buying jewelry I guess.  The value is in the idea.
   This is the reason that I am not a fabricator and seldom make the same thing twice.  Three times and I am out of there and on to something else for sure!
   It was discouraging to see it.  I have seen paintings at Walmart, thousands of them against the wall, all imported and churned out like making butter.  Same kind of thing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Steel Easels

My garden trellis easels did well at the "Art in the Garden" show but what really perked people's interest was the steel easels that were really meant to be used for artists to hold their canvas.  Funny, how I could be so wrong (like it has never happened before!).  I didn't even bring my very best easel to the show, just thought it was the wrong environment.  We talked a lot about easels and plein air painting and the flimsy aluminum easels that blow over in a small puff of air and can't hold a canvas steady.  So in the back of my brain I am thinking all of the time about this.  My goal is to eventually build that thousand dollar, perfect and detailed custom easel but maybe along the way there is some room for a really nice strong and portable easel?
   So I made one!  It comes in three pieces for easy shipping but is assembled with only two bolts.  I think it might weigh about 30 pounds but the mast is a separate piece so each section is about 15 pounds and there is no assembly to install this mast.  It just fits!  I think it could survive a sixty mile wind and probably 20 miles with a decent sized canvas.  It is adjustable and can hold a canvas as large as 56 inches tall and most any width.  It has a nice brass medallion to lock in a canvas to the mast.
   This won't be a get rich quick scheme but I can sell these for $200 as long as they remain fun to build.

Shipping should be around $30 so that is doable also.  It is not an item that could ever be retailed, too many fingers in a retail pot for that to happen.  Did you know that, on average, for every $100 you spend at retail the product costs $15 to manufacture?  Everything else is "value added" because of wholesaling, shipping and handling, profiteering all along the way.
   I will make five of these and take them to the next show and see what happens.  I think this is an idea for someone younger with more ambition but I know there is a market for these.  I enjoy making the prototypes.
I like the research and development part, then I will leave the manufacturing part to others.
   This one does not lay flat, Sherry, I need the bench model as a counterweight for that to happen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blog Topics

As you might know I am really almost never without something to say.  My problem is to limit and focus. In the world of things there is much to talk about, a bit to reminisce, and so many things that I wish to explore.
The only time in my life when I knew everything I was only seventeen.  Now as I get older, with each passing day, I am discovering that I know less and less.
   There are several reasons that I blog.  I can.  That is one for sure.  I am alive and well and strong.  Two years ago I was about as close to death as one can get and still be able to creep back from the edge.  So, blogging is in celebration of life, living.  Screaming into the fire with the notion that I am not ready yet!
   Blogging is a journal for me.  I can look back to see what was consuming me in the past.  I can hunt for inconsistencies, attempt at discovering a pattern and examine my garden from year to year.  I can look back and discover the eggs of ideas that could have been incubated. 
   I like teaching and clearly attempt that from time to time and it is not all about politics.  I have written extensively on tomatoes, on my steel creations and offered a detailed description of my stone posts, enough to allow for easy copying if anyone should want to.  Clearly I like discussion and comments and disagreements always lead to a better understanding.  I don't know any truths whatsoever!  Except maybe it is nicer to appreciate a night sky than to attempt to understand it.
    You can meet people from all over the world in the blogging universe and a few will become your friends.
Some, I could end up at their front door one day and they would feed me and that is a wonderful feeling.
People from all over the world have the same concerns, the same pains and frustrations, similar interests and aspirations.  The Beatles had it right:  We Are One!
   I get ideas right out of the newspapers and always want to know, as Paul Harvey used to say, "The Rest of the Story"?  I am pretty convinced we are not told "the Truth" about anything.  Some is by design, the truth would destroy profit and in other cases we just don't know the truth and mostly don't care to find out.  We are a lazy lot and wish not to investigate any consequences.   I am a "list maker", have been all of my life.  School teaching demanded it, the lesson plans, goals and methods to achieve them, contingencies when things went astray and the necessity for alternative plans.  The construction industry was the very same except when things went wrong I lost money.  That is the source of my "conservative side".  Any mistake I ever made cost me money and sometimes a lot of it.   It costs the employer about $20 dollars an hour to pay an employee $12 dollars per hour.  I had sometimes nine employees, $180 dollars per hour. A mistake would cost me $3 dollars per minute until I solved it.  You learn fast.
   Some of you reading this blog may think that I am a flaming liberal and I am not.  Oh, socially I may be but fiscally I am about as conservative as you can get.  I am not in favor of a Government that gives everything away.  I think that rewards laziness and I hate lazy people.  I think we should all pay taxes equally, what ever that might be.  If every dime of the working man is taxed for Social Security, then I think every dime for everyone should be also.  I am not after the money of the 1% but I want them to pay the same taxes as I have all of my life.  The same.  Equal.  I want "Capital Gains" to be taxed as wages.  Some may say oh they won't invest and risk their money if that were to be the case!  That is garbage.  Everyone, even you and I almost always invest any surplus money that we may have.  That is what a bank account does.
   I Blog because I don't write letters and I seldom use the telephone.  I don't have a cell phone but if I did 100 minutes would last me over a year for sure.  I am about the worst there is on the telephone, quickly get tongue tied and run out of things to say.  Me?  Yes, for sure, I am no good on a telephone.   There are some people I care about though and keep in contact with them through this blog.  If you want to know what I am doing, how my garden is doing, the weather in Oregon or what I am thinking, this is the place to find out.
     The blog world is interesting and slightly mysterious.  The cyber world is way beyond me.  Somebody or something is always listening, noting key words and phrases, hunting for something.  I get advertisements on my screen that theoretically are geared toward me.  I don't know why.  I couldn't afford a "Hot Russian Babe" and my wife would laugh at me!  I go to the grocery store, the hardware store and the local steel scrap yard and that is about all of the shopping that I do.  Sometimes I buy sanding disks or ornamental iron on line and I use my Amazon credits from my credit card to do Christmas shopping.  That is about it for on line shopping.  I have never set foot in a Target Store or Best Buy or Sam's Club or most of the big box stores.  I have been caught in the local Walmart, "China Incorporated" from time to time and always sneak out, guilty as hell.
    I get "hits" from Russia, sometimes over a hundred in a week and it always leaves me curious.  Why?
Did I say something interesting and why would they never leave a comment?  In any given year I have more visitors from Russia than here and they have never left a comment.  Maybe they are not allowed to?  Maybe Hot Russian Babes in search and quickly moving on to more desirable waters?  One of the mysteries of life.
I have had hits from Arab countries and would love to have them stop by for a chat!  Are they really after Democracy or do they want flat screen televisions?  And us?  What do we want?  If we can get 50% to turn up in an election we consider that pretty good!  Newspapers used to be "The Fifth Estate" telling us the truth in a deceiving world and that has all changed with the times.  We don't seek any truth anymore.  Sound bites.
   My world revolves around my little one third acre near the downtown of my little city.  I have control here.
I can turn the water on or off and almost control the weather.  I have my garden, my tomatoes and flowers, the shop and my little studio.  One day I can bang steel together, grind and make fire and on another I can dig and work in the dirt, putting my hands deep into the Earth.  On some occasions I may paint, work in my quiet studio and apply color to canvas just for the hell of it.  Because I can.
   I am always thinking of the next project, inventing something or improving on what I did.  I always get up early and still make lesson plans, list of this or that, what things I may need, how to acquire them, what to do.
The difference now is that I am retired and I know these lists have no importance and I can toss them at a whim.  Like going to Seattle on the spur of the moment to help a friend.  That was simply great.
   Now you know.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Seattle and Back!

A friend of mine is retired like I am and struggles to survive on his $1,000 per month Social Security check.  That used to be a lot of money but a part of this Monopoly Game Plan is as more players are allowed into the game, the money is devalued.  So we do what we can.  This guy knows about trucks and can tear them apart and put them back together.  He knows a good value when he sees it.  He buys them, fixes them and turns them over for a profit.  The American Way.
   These trucks are always someplace else.  You never find a good deal next door or down the street.  I am often the driver that gets him there.  Yesterday we took off for Seattle, Washington, a little over 400 miles from here!  The total trip was close to nine hundred miles, there, running around, and back.  I have my "TOM-TOM" and absolutely love it.  Figuring out where you are going is not stressful at all, TOM-TOM will always get you there and let you know when you are going 3 miles over the posted speed limit during the trip.  We left at about 4am and found his truck by 9am, bought it after a short test drive, had some lunch and were back in Springfield by 4pm!  I have not done that much driving since I was 21 years old and, like a fool, drove from here to Washington DC in 54 hours! I think that might be some kind of world's record!
    It is nice knowing that I can drive 900 miles in a day but I sure wouldn't want to make a habit of it.  I am not one of those Americans who love to drive or find my ego behind the wheel.  My little truck is a work truck and looks the part.  The good news is the mileage I got!  It is a 1998 Nissan, although I still think of it as a Dotson, and it got 38 mph on the freeways, going a "little over" 70 miles per hour all of the way!  My truck is dirty and has its share of dents and nicks and scratches.  It is not the kind of truck that people would buy as an investment to resell at a profit.  The truck my friend bought is a 1996 Dodge, 3/4 ton diesel with the contraption in the back bed to haul a fifth wheel trailer.  Not a ding on it, not a single scratch!  I have never understood why someone would buy a "work truck" and then not use it, afraid to scratch it or put gravel in it, treating  it like a fine car, an ego truck?  Mine's a tool and we have a good relationship.  I change her fluids, put gas in her, toss crap with abandon in her back bed and she gets me to where we need to go.
I'll keep her until she is just too tired.  She is not for sale.
   The advantage of being retired is lack of schedule.  My friend thanked me for the ride and I let him know that I was so happy that he asked me!  That was the best part of all.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Bankruptcy is like beginning a whole new game of Monopoly but with slightly different rules.  The I-O-U's get thrown out and the "Get out of Jail Free" cards are dispersed with a great hope that the game can begin anew!  Individual people do this all of the time.  It was our solution to over crowded jails due to debtor's prisons.  It has been the answer to overwhelming medical expenses and other unforeseen events and just careless spending above our means.  Now it is the wave of the future for entire cities!  Stockton, San Bernadina and a third city in California have recently filed for bankruptcy and there have been other cities in the United States doing the same.  California itself, the entire State could be headed that way!
   Why are they doing this?  and what does it mean?
   Simply, there is not enough money on the board.  Money needs to circulate for the system to work.  As you "Pass GO" you collect and land on certain properties, you pay.  If you can't pay, they cannot collect and the game is over.  The money is still there.  The fat cats have it or the bankers have it but it is not being circulated.  You bought Park Place for every single piece of value you could scrounge only to discover it was not worth so much!  So you begin to skip some payments.  Then the banks don't get it, the grocery stores don't get it, the worker at McDonald's doesn't even get it and soon the game is over.
   What makes the situation a little worse is past games.  In past games the winners were awarded with a kind of annuity, a lifetime income for a game well played.  Not everyone got this, just the winners, but they did pretty well, receiving lifetime payments as much as their yearly salaries while they worked and lifetime health insurance for a game well played!  This debt to past players (the winners only!) amounts to Trillions of dollars and with no money circulating on the board, it is difficult to come up with.
    This means that school teachers, city and government workers, policemen and firemen and others thinking they had won the system and could live out their retirement years with a good pension and benefits have all of a sudden found themselves with nothing!  Bankruptcy.  No more checks.  This initially solves the problem for the City, the debt has been wiped clean but it has taken even MORE money OFF THE TABLE!  This is how Greece is attempting to play this game and it has not worked well for them.  California cities and others are following failed states in a feeble attempt to play this game.
    There is another solution but it would require all of the players to agree and to put forth the best interests of the Nation as a whole and not individual players.  We could create more jobs!!!  The world is in such a dismal economic turmoil that people, corporations and countries will loan us money at NO INTEREST!!!!
because America is still the safest place to bank.  Now would be a perfect time to rebuild our infrastructure, our waterways and highways, our bridges and airwaves, our transportation and airports.  We used to devote 7% of our GPD towards this rebuilding and now it is less than 2%.  More jobs is more money in circulation, more for everyone.
    If we do not do this now maybe we should be thinking of a different game to play?  Maybe "Prison Dodge Ball"?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

30 Times

Yes.30 times the House Republicans have voted to repeal Obama care and not once for the job creation bill.Voted against getting health insurance if you have preexisting conditions. Voted against adult children allowed onto their parents insurance until age 26.  Voted against reduced priced reduced prescriptions for Seniors. Voted against women. and kept their own Cadillac Insurance policies!!  Voted against cost reducing insurance for everyone and provided no alternative policy!
   So, here is my proposal:  If you vote against Obama care why not be consistent and vote against Medicare also?  There are too many people in the world, we all know that.  The sick, the frail, the weak and the poor are deficits to society.  They drag us down and contribute nothing.  Maybe Hitler had it right, round them up and get rid of them!  People struggling with minimum wage jobs, working hard and complaining?  Throw them on the wagon too!  What is the Republican plan?
   Frankly I am in favor of Obama care because I am a conservative!!!  It was an idea initially started by the Republicans and implemented by Romney himself in Massachusetts and contains the thought that if we all contributed then medical care would be less expensive.  Obama care will SAVE a trillion dollars over the next ten years.  There are government subsidies for those who cannot afford the cost.
   As it is now emergency rooms are used as the primary care for poor people.  This can cost thousand's per visit and we are paying for it now.  What is the Republican Plan to improve this situation?  Maybe all people who visit the emergency room who don't really need it should be shot?  I rather like that idea and it would create more jobs!
   50% of Americans don't even know about the Supreme Court decision on health care.  Probably 80% don't give a crap.  Pretty sad for a country that spends trillions of dollars fighting for freedom (?) and we don't even follow what is going on, don't give a crap.  More interested in sound bites than understanding.
   The Republicans will do NOTHING to make Obama look good, certainly no infrastructure rebuilding, certainly no jobs bill and they won't even entertain their OWN idea on National Health!
   I wonder what will happen?  How we will vote next November?  More years of the failed Bush policy?
A Nation lead by its Corporations?  Oh boy!  We will get what we vote for, what we deserve, that is for sure.  Cutting government programs and austerity?  Yes, let's be like Greece!!!  Or Ireland or Portugal or Spain!  They will show us the way!  I am amazed how easily we are persuaded to vote against our own interests, how easily we can be led and how lazy we have become.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Secret

The "Art in the Garden" show was a terrific success, I think for everyone.  I have discovered that this was their 29th year so next  will be huge!  They have had years to practice, problems to resolve and seemed to run this show effortlessly but a lot of work went into it.  I think there were about 30 artists in this garden section and we all did well.  The pieces that were there, mine and other's do not display well in a booth and we need this garden setting, an environment that encourages walking through a magical garden and finding treasures that can be purchased.  There were no ten by ten plastic tents, no carnival or food court atmosphere.  Just fun and open space and about a million flowers!  Seriously, they transformed an open field into a beautiful garden over night.  Elves working around the clock.
   I have been invited to other summer garden exhibitions already, but different ones.  With booths and the plastic canopies where I should be selling cotton candy. One booth indistinguishable from the next.
My hat is off and fair organizers should be flocking to Maude Kerns Art Gallery to discover their secrets.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Thousand Dollar Easel

One more day of Art in the Vineyard, this art show I am participating in.  I am amazed that I have not done this show before.  I have been invited many times but it is always in July, my busy season, and I just didn't have the time.  Now it is different.  I am retired and have all the time in the world but I don't have the strength that I used to have.  I am not after the big jobs, nothing too heavy.  I could have sold a lot of benches at this exhibition, there were none there.  My benches are serpentine, curvy and heavy.  I seldom make them any more because of the effort at moving them.  I can make butterflies and saw some great ones there, made from spoons and forks and drill bits and stuff of imagination but I leave that to others.  If I make three of one thing that is a lot to me and I am on to something else.
    I brought three truckloads of stuff to this garden show and will probably bring about a half truck back to my shop, not bad by any measure.  My main attraction were the easels.  Easels.  Art.  "Art for the garden", get it?  I brought a total of five and one real one, the very nice bench model that, at Sherry's direction, lays flat for horizontal painting.  They all sold and two went to California, one to a local winery and I am not sure who bought the other two.  The "painting stations" were popular too with their steel palettes and cup holders and places to put brushes.
   When I introduced my arbors years ago everyone told me that arbors didn't sell well.  Too much competition from imports and they were pretty inexpensive.  So I studied arbors.  The first home show I introduced them and had one as my entrance to my booth.  A $550. dollar price tag, pretty pricey for an arbor.  I sold it twelve times before I quit taking orders!  Each year I would make the arbor bigger and better until the last year I did the home shows and had a model, pretty extravagant with a price of $3,500.
I sold it twice!
   You can find easels on the internet, e-bay has over a thousand of them.  I studied them all and most are pretty cheap.  Why would I want to compete in that market?  I think there must be people out there who would like a really nice easel.  It is just a challenge and I have the time.  I am not there yet but one sold for $200 at the show and the Gallery itself wants my $500 dollar model, the one I thought too good to bring to a garden show.  I wonder what a thousand dollar easel would look like?  I wonder if I could make one?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What is Hot?

I am so tired, I had forgotten how much work these shows can be.  To top it all off I lost a filling and had a toothache from hell.  Over the weekend of course.  Why doesn't Anbesol come with a little paint brush applicator?  Luckily I have a lot of paint brushes!  The first day of this show is over and I made it until about five o'clock before I collapsed and went home.  Nice to be in the "Garden Section", a fenced in section with other artists and not a booth that needs attending.
   The area was transformed overnight and magically decorated with potted flowers and shrubbery.  Seriously, maybe a semi truck load of them, creating wandering paths and encouraging people to investigate what treasures they could find.  I think this is the twenty-fourth year of this event and they know what they are doing.  This garden section has quite a reputation and as people enter the main grounds they head straight for it, knowing if they don't get there soon the treasures will be gone.  I think there were 30 artists in this section and most of us did pretty well.  About a third of the inventory was sold at five o'clock when I was just too tired to continue.  There was an artist there who made globes for candles on a steel frame, all pretty simple and clever.  The globe was from 2 glass light fixtures, one on top of the other with the candle inside.  He had, at the beginning of this show a triple row of these, maybe thirty of them and they were gone by 4 o'clock!
   There was a steady influx of people and it seemed as though everyone was buying something.  The dragon flies and butterflies on a stake went flying out of there and all of the clever creations made from spoons and forks and knives went as well.  Anything at $30 or less disappeared pretty fast.  My little pieces of slate on a steel stake, a place to put your morning coffee all sold also.
    Before the show opened the Art Gallery people walk through the exhibit checking things out for themselves.  When they found my lady holding an easel they stopped and we had quite a conversation about easels!  She is now a permanent fixture at Maude Kerns Art Gallery!  And they are interested in seeing my very best easel which I didn't even bring to this show!
   Someone from California came to the show with a truck.  Seriously.  Apparently they do this every year, combining a vacation to Oregon with a tour of this garden show and they know from experience that they will want to take home some of the bigger stuff.  They bought my bench model easel and it is on its way to California now.  That is such an honor.
    I sold some other bigger pieces too and still have some left.  The glass topped table with vines is gone and the wooden garden table on its steel frame is also.  Maybe I sold about a third of what I brought and for having a tooth I would like to rip out that was not a bad first day!
    It is a different world at these shows.  You would never know that these are difficult economic times.  Thousands of people paid $7 to get in and some bought three day passes for $15.  There must be over a hundred food vendors there and lunch at all of them is about $10.  Nine really but you always put the buck in the tip jar.  I do anyway.  It is hot and nasty in those kitchens.
   I am ready for day two!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cool Stuff!

I have not displayed in a garden show for over five years and that was seldom how I displayed what I do. I consider myself a "Home Show Expert" having done them twice a year for twenty-five years.  In these shows I displayed my creativity but I was always after the bigger jobs and just brought the little things to show what I could do.  Sometimes I would get $50,000 worth of work from a single show.  I am retired from that now, no longer have a crew and am not after these bigger jobs.  I'll leave them for the younger people.
    Now what I bring to a show is what I am trying to sell and there isn't much more.  Oh, it is a lure a little bit; I would like to be commissioned to build a custom gate or something really cool, but basically what I am bringing is what I have to sell.

   I moved in yesterday and on the spot sold three pieces to other vendors and that is a good omen for this show.  I got the opportunity to look at their work also and I have to admit that I was impressed!  Their art is different from mine and that is good.  We are not really in competition with each other.  It is apples and oranges and they have worked hard.  I see a winters gathering of gleamings out of their work and they have turned common tableware into magical dragonflies.  Whimsical, fluttering, with the strength of steel. Clever!
   I haven't got a photo yet, perhaps today, but there is an artist there who makes creatures.  A life sized giant sea turtle, a dragon that must be 15' tall, butterflies, of course and other animals.  They are incredible, perfect workmanship, amazing details.  They will bring the crowds.
   I think artists always compare themselves to other artists, steal ideas a bit, incorporate concepts.  My art is different because it is all designed to be used.  I make tables and pedestals and places to perch a cup of coffee, cucumber trellis's and structures for bigger climbers.  Used by people or used by plants. Functional Art.
    There are lots of vendors at this show, some in the "Garden Section" where I am and others in booths packed together along a serpentine walkway with over a hundred vendors.  Artists from all over the Pacific Northwest.  The show is a big to do and is supposed to attract over 25,000 visitors.  I wonder if the public realizes all the work that goes into such a production, renting the park for an entire week for a three day show.  Lots of security, just lots of people working to make this a success.
   Some artists have been here for 15 years in a row.   Months of labor for a three day event.  I am a little embarrassed.  I churned my stuff out in a three week frenzy.  Next year I will do a better job.  I am already thinking about it.