Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and soon to be 2014.  Hard to believe, like into the future.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Honey Baked Ham?

I did all of my Christmas Shopping Online this year and the presents are arriving every day!
The "Honeybaked Ham" arrived 2 days ago and my daughters arrived yesterday!  We got into the ham last night and now I remember what the big deal is about "this ham"!  I started thinking about ham a month or so ago and read a lot of reviews on wikipedia  They were interesting and a $20 ham from Walmart got a close second in raves from reviewers.  Enough that I went out and bought one and yes, it was really good!  However, a "Honeybaked Ham" is just in a different category entirely.  These hams, if you anticipate buying one, will require an investment of $8 dollars a month for a year and are well worth the money.  These are not "cooking hams", not something you would want to cut up and add to a bean soup.  These are melt in your mouth perfect hams that are best accompanied with cheese and crackers or maybe later in the week, the perfect ham sandwich.  Once a year it is a nice treat and for a short time you can eat like a millionaire!  I will freeze some so this summer I will have it with my tomatoes!  Nothing could be better than that!
   The other packages are put in the pantry, unopened until Christmas day.  Mostly fancy marzipan candies and European Chocolates.  It will be decadent, eaten up and gone and then back to reality!
Today we will get a Christmas Tree, a local Douglas Fir.  I am looking forward to that, one of the smells I associate with this season.    Mostly all year long with just the two of us we do not do "fancy cooking" but now with my daughters home there will be plenty of cooking smells in the house and I always look forward to that.  On Christmas Eve my youngest daughter always makes Sausage Rolls.
You can't get those even if you were a millionaire!  They need to be homemade and hot, fresh out of the oven!  Rich!  Yes, I am!  Are you cooking for Christmas?  What is on the stove or in the oven?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Or Atlanta Georgia?  I am sure I have friends in both these cities!  I will be checking Ancestry.com.  I know I have relatives everywhere!  Two people, one from each of these cities 2,000 miles apart have won the latest MegaMillions and now they have to share it!  Can you imagine the disappointment in having to share a little over half a Billion Dollars!  There were stories on the news, advice on how to invest this large sum of money, like it wouldn't be enough.  Human nature, I guess, when is it ever enough?  I was going to wait until after Christmas when, had no one won the prize was expected to top a Billion Dollars!  I confess though I did buy 3 tickets, my $3 investment to a fantacy!  That is cheap entertainment really, a dollar only to dream big and pretend!   The prize was something close to 685,000,000 which sounds like a lot of money and is.  After taxes, and there are a lot of taxes and getting far less if you decide on cash now instead of payments dragged over 30 years, it is closer to $200,000,000 and then, dividing that in two leaves "only" $100,000,000 or so.  You would have to be careful with your money, I guess.
It would be far easier to win a million dollars, that divided up and after taxes would be about $30,000 a year for 30 years and no one would expect you to be a saint with that paltry sum!  Winning a huge, obscene amount of money would be a job!  It might be fun for the first week or two but can you imagine the letters pouring in?  The whole entourage you would have to hire?  There would be trust issues.
Most people, when they make a list of the ten things they would do if they were wealthy, could do 7 of them without much money at all... Even giving away that kind of money would create enemies and ill will.  Even with that much money someone would not get some and there would be resentment.
Problems, problems. At east I do not have that problem!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Minus Eight Degrees!

Wow, it it ever cold!  My garden pool is frozen solid and the vegetable garden is a frozen sheet of ice.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday!

Black Friday started Thursday this year!  It is so sad to believe that it is so easy to market to our greed!
I would rather have a loaf of homemade bread, hand kneaded, not machine processed, than any store bought  discounted item off the shelf.  Over 35 Billion Dollars will be spent this year on Christmas presents!  That is just insane!  That is more money than a trip to Mars!
   Last year I bought everyone on my Christmas list Socks.  I refused to purchase items imported and mostly boycott anything made in China.  With "Amazon" it is easy to find anything you want "made in USA" and you can avoid the scary crowds.
   This year I am going to buy Food!  I really don't know anyone who "needs" food so I am on a search for celebratory food, unusually food, extravagant purchases not on the usual grocery list.
   Several years ago my cousin visited us and he is always generous with his gift giving.  That year he brought a huge spiral cut "Honey Baked Ham", the type that just melts in your mouth.  A normal ham is less than $20 dollars and a Honey Baked one is close to a hundred dollars!  That is at the top of my Christmas List!  Also, I am after Belgian Chocolates!  Marmite from England and maybe Marzipan!
  It is early yet and there is plenty of time to order something extravagant and I am after suggestions!
What is your favorite most outlandish food item that you only purchase for special occasions?
   I have a neighbor who weekly on Sundays feeds the homeless at a nearby park.  Normally this is spaghetti or a giant casserole with bread and salad, enough to feed the 20 or so who show up every week.  He was recently given 3 turkeys and intends to cook them for a feast for this Sunday.  I am contributing the stuffing and it should be the best meal ever!  Here is what is in my stuffing, enough for one turkey:              

                                         1 package stuffing mix (bread crumbs)
                                          1 large onion, diced and sauteed
                                          celery, chopped and sauteed
                                          almond slivers, also sauteed, nicely browned
                                          mushrooms, also browned
                                          Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage, cooked
                                          1 can mandarin oranges, juice and all
                                          1 can water chestnuts, sauteed
                                          and, the song, of course!
                                          "Parsley,  Sage, Rosemary and Thyme"
                                          I add these spices every time I am sauteing each item.

It is really good stuffing and there are never any leftovers!  So, what are great, unusual foods I should add to my Christmas list?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It is just like painting...

...except you frame it first.  This is the gate I am working on, the double arches, the entire frame are finished.  It is about 13' wide and 5' tall, on the smaller side for entry gates.  Between the arches will be a cobweb of vines, seriously adding to the strength and creating a truss along the top.  This is what makes the gate strong and prevents it from sagging.  The interior lower field of the gate will be made up of wavy round bars, like rain, maybe.  The top section between the arches and overlapping here and there (think "splash of paint") will have nine grape clusters with copper leaves.  These will be powder
coated clear and the gate itself a textured black satin powder coated finish.
 Pieces on the floor! I will pick them up tomorrow and turn them into table legs for the bar.
I have 2 projects at the same time going in my shop!  I have to build 15 table legs for a new beer bar!
Nine of these, all different, should be stunning once clear coated.
having fun!
 the center piece you see is just a brace to be removed.

I admit this is a little heavier than paint but the idea is the same:  create something never seen before!  I will be 67 years old in a couple weeks.  I was almost dead a short four years ago!  It is pretty incredible that I can still do this!  Loving it!

Monday, November 4, 2013

I've been working!

Oh boy, it is nice to have some work!  I am retired but like to feel useful.
October has been a good month after a very slow September and August.  I thought I was forgotten!  Easy thing to do to retired folk!  It began with this interior rail, separating a floor level where people were tripping.
My wife wanted a pot holder so I made this for her.

a copper roof cantilever entry! you might notice it is only supported on one side!
And a Gate Job!  Three gates for one client!
It is a greedy situation!  Now I am on the hunt for more interesting jobs!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who Made That?

Most of us can't even imagine the size of Container Ships they make nowadays, suffice it to say, they will not go through the Panama Canal.  International trade is very big business and we are the largest customer.  Almost everything we buy from art paint to toothpaste is "made in China".  I am protesting this in my house.  Over 600 dogs are dead now and those are just the ones who made it to the vet!  They still skin dogs alive there because it is too much trouble to kill them first.  If you buy a furry toy for Christmas the odds are pretty good that it came from a dog skinned alive in China!  That is just disgusting!
   It is sort of fun finding things made in America and we still make a few things.  Tom's Toothpaste is made in Maine!!!  Crest and all the "other brands" will NOT tell you where they are made!  Dog food and the poisonous dog treats will say "distributed" by some American Company (like Purina!!!) but will NOT say where it is made or from where they got the ingredients!  Doesn't say?  I won't buy it.
   Last year I mostly bought everyone American Made socks for Christmas!  Oh yeah, they weren't ten for ten bucks but they were Great Socks and a year and 50 washes later, they are still great socks!
It is really easier than you think to find items "made in USA", especially over the Internet.  There is Amazon where I buy almost everything now and lots of other places.  Just search for what you want and specify "made in USA".
   Just NOW the FDA is saying, yeah, maybe we should look into what is put in dog food!  Canada is way ahead of us and has the highest standards in the world (according to Petsmart) on what is allowed in pet food.
   I have always been careful and aware of what I add to my garden soil.  Basically, the plants eat the soil and I eat the plants!  I am eating what is in the soil.  No poisons, not even "mild" ones, no sprays, no chemical fertilizers, no magic potions!   Big Agriculture has destroyed the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico with the chemical run offs.  I don't want to do that to my garden and what I eat.
    Food should be healthy, even for my dog!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Where is it made?

I have written about Dog Food before but it is worth one more post.  On CNN News last night there was a story about the death of over 500 dogs and over 3,000 getting sick.  Probably far more that went unreported.  The culprit this time was chicken jerky made in China with god knows what in it.  Something sweet and deadly, destroying the kidneys and shutting down the system.
   It is difficult to find Dog Food made locally and hard to find made in USA dog food.  Canada has an even higher standard for the ingredients than we do.  China apparently has none.  Even Brands you think you could trust, like Purina are sourced from China.  Most dog food will not mention where it was made or from where they found their ingredients.
   Interesting, toothpaste is the same way, doesn't say where it was made for most brands!  I wonder what we are putting in our mouth?  One company in China was known to put antifreeze in  their toothpaste because it tastes sweeter!
   We are what we eat, huh?  and if we eat poison or give it to our pets, they die.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Now What Do We Do?

Finally our little revolution is over!  No one was shot, no snipers in the street and no one in jail.  Yes, this is a great country and although we move slowly we don't shoot each other in the streets.  Pretty scary and pretty stupid and costing at least 24 Billion Dollars.  Why did it have to be this way?
Mostly because we don't listen and we don't really understand our own Political System.
What would have happened if a few Teabaggers in the Republican controlled House had gotten their way?  It would have established a horrible precedent.  Next time it could be a Democratically controlled House and a Republican President and a few members could demand a 20% increase in Corporate Taxes in return for raising the debt ceiling.  Hijacking the government this way is not a good idea.
Now maybe we could have a real discussion?  with no threats? and with an agreed upon vocabulary? and an understanding that what is good for the Nation might not be good for a particular person?  It is not or should not be a difficult process.  It requires a vision and some hard work.  How do you want the USA to be in ten or twenty years and what can we afford?  How can we make improvements along the way?  A lot of it is simple math.  At the moment Health Care is our country costs 18% of the GNP.  The GOAL of the Affordable Care Act (let's call it that) is to reduce this percentage to 14% and expand the system to more people.  It will work or it won't.  We can improve upon it or we can hinder it but the goal itself is admirable.  Other countries can do it, maybe we should look into that more?
About The National Debt.  It totals now about the same as all the goods and services we create (our GNP) in ONE year.  Compared to other countries it is a low percentage.  The National Debt is not just the money we owe, it is also the money we are obligated by law to pay.  It is lent to us at less than 1% interest.  It is a pretty good deal even if we don't like it.  It is pretty cheap money, especially if we used it to grow and not to just survive.  It would be worth it to rebuild our infrastructure and industry.  Clearly when you borrow money you need a plan to pay it back.  At the moment we do not have that kind of tax structure.  Federal Taxes are the lowest they have been in 60 years!  We need to return to the Reagan Tax base.  We did most of our infrastructure building when Eisenhower was President and had then a tax system that went as high as 90%.  General Motors paid taxes then.  They do not now.
I have a problem with people who take both sides.  Accepting Medicare and against National Health.
Accepting Social Security and against a Government "Safety Net".  Accepting Unemployment, food stamps, housing assistance, free Medical at the emergency room and against Government.
It should  not be a difficult process to make our lives better and those of our neighbors, inclusive rather than exclusive.
I think members of Congress should lose their Party Affiliations when they step into office.  Leave the hat at the door and work for the American People.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sometimes I Wonder...

...What would happen if we turned this whole mess of governing this country over to Walmart?
Walmart is Big Business, Huge Business in fact and not all bad at all.  In fact they have single handedly brought down the price of prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals had to match their prices.  They have low cost health clinics in many of their stores and they employ millions of people, even sourcing locally wherever they can.  They have helped many small businesses expand their production to become suppliers for Walmart.  They know how to get things done.
   It couldn't be much worse than the system we have now.  We have people in Congress who haven't a clue and let's face it, we don't have a strong dynamic leader who is good at manipulation.  We are going nowhere fast or maybe even back in time.  We have lost 30 Billion Dollars so far with this Government Shutdown and that will be nothing compared to not raising the National Debt.  It is clear to most people that raising this National Debt does NOT increase what we owe.  It only allows us to pay what we have signed on to pay.  It is NOT more bills.  It is money to pay existing bills.  Congress can't seem to get it right.  Without raising the debt there could be a 30% across the board cut in everything, including Social Security, Medicare and our Military.  
   I doubt if Walmart works that way.  I would think they borrow Billions and allow their increased sales to pay their bills.  That is how most businesses work.  In fact money is pretty cheap these days and we should consider borrowing an extra Trillion or more and seriously bring us into this 21st Century  Serious expansion of our infrastructure and industry.  Now would be a good time.
Walmart would do that.
   Just the threat of default has hurt our economy and that of the rest of the world.   The Stock Market is falling every day.  The last time this happened we lost our AAAA+ credit rating and it will be lowered
again.  Like a personal credit rating, easy to lose and difficult to build back again.  Funny, Walmart has a better credit rating that USA!  and we all know that Apple Computer has more money!
   Maybe it is time to give up and turn this mess over to private industry?  I know if we did that at least a lot of people would be fired!  That is the first thing that Private Industry does:  trim the fat, the unproductive, people who can't play well on the team.
   It is all nuts!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Why is Big Business in Favor of Socialism?

Wow, that seems like such a contradictory question but I am afraid it is true!  In the "old days", the '50's and '60's and for hundreds of years before that when society didn't have much of a safety net, business, big and small had to foot the entire bill.  There was no public housing or food stamps and if you hired someone you had to pay them enough to live or they would simply die or move on.  The meanest businesses might have had barracks for their workers and pay barely enough to get by but the really successful businesses paid more than that.  The best, of course was Henry Ford who was famous for paying his workers enough that they could afford to buy the cars they were making.  Somewhere along the line, maybe beginning with Walmart, "Big Business" discovered that they could pay less than a living wage if society would make up for the difference.  "Society" is us, the taxpayer and Big Business loves subsidized housing and food stamps and other government hand outs.  Keeping the workers happy and business doesn't even have to pay them enough to live on!  There are three costs of doing business:
materials, labor and taxes.  The way to reduce your labor costs is to let the government pick up the slack.  Don't ever accuse Big Business of not being smart!
   Under our present system, most Americans who have Health Insurance (over 25 Million have none!)
get it through their place of employment.   This has become a horrible burden for business and puts us at a competitive disadvantage with the economics of the rest of the world.  It adds over $1,300 to the price of an American Automobile.  Many smaller businesses simply can't afford it at all.  Over the past several years they have been dealing with this problem by reducing benefits, increasing co-pays, increasing deductibles or, when they can get away with it, simply by dropping out of providing insurance entirely.   Now, if you were "Big Business" what would YOU want to do?
   Like any good mystery novel, sometimes you can get to the truth by following the money and that doesn't mean it's "bad".  Sometimes it is the reasonable thing to do.
   Clearly you cannot open the Government by funding the laws you approve of and declining those you disagree with as our House seems to think.  Yes, it is in the Constitution that they control the purse but it is also in the Constitution that they are to enforce the laws.  The "power of funding" is over Policy, not laws!  and was Intended to prevent International shenanigans single handedly placed upon us by the White House.  It was never, this law I like and that law I don't.  What a horrible precedent that would be!
   Big Business, a lot of Small Businesses, even The Chamber of Commerce are jumping the ship!  For the last hundred years these organizations have supported the Republican Position and now they are bailing out!  I am glad they have sense but  feel sorry about what has become of the Republican Party, hijacked as it were by The Teabaggers!  It was under Republican Administration, under Eisenhower when we had a massive infrastructure building in this country, under President Nixon that we opened the doors to China and the Environmental Protection Agency was created and while Reagan was President taxes were raised, the debt ceiling was raised six times, the Berlin Wall came down and the "Cold War" ended!  Those are the Republicans I want.  Where did they go?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

I've Got Mine!

So far I have not collected a dime off Medicare although I have been on their rolls for about two years.
We have had this National Health for older people since 1965 and I have paid more into this system than Social Security.  Can you imagine the price of Private Insurance at an older age with all the aches and pains and the pre existing conditions of just having grown older?  It is about $1,200 per month, if you can get it.  Most Americans are happy to have Medicare, finally to retire and get out of paying such high prices for medical insurance.  It is a great system.  Although as a whole the USA ranks low for quality health care in the world, after we reach 65 and get on National Health, we rank #1.
   I, personally, have no need for it.  Now at least.  I am glad it is there.  It is reassuring that it will be there for when I need it.  I have been to foreign countries where the older people are pretty much thrown to the streets, beggars in rags.  They say a society can be judged by how well they treat their elders and the children, the very young, the old, the weakest among them.
   I sense a certain meanness to people who would not expand our National Health.  We have proof that it works for those using Medicare, so "it won't work" is not much of an argument.  We know it works for Veterans.  I don't understand the apprehension of expanding this system.
   The system we have is broken.  Businesses can not afford to provide health insurances for their workers.  Hospitals can not afford to provide free medical emergency services for those who drop in and use the hospitals are their primary care.  Health care in USA is 18% of our Gross Domestic Product, the highest of any nation.
   "Obamacare" is far from perfect and the policies that are being offered are not very good.  In fact, for this first year, I have advised my own daughters to pay the fine rather than to sign up for a nonfunctional insurance policy, but I am glad there is a fine to pay.  I am glad we have started this process.  It is the Law now and I am glad of that.  The issue now should be how to improve it.
    There is a huge Philosophical Issue here:  Individual Freedom Vs Societal Responsibility and it is OK to take a stand on this issue but you can't go back and forth.  If you are against National Health you should burn your Medicare card!  Do not go to the emergency room without cash in hand or a private insurance card.  Do not take prescription drugs that were developed with Government funding.  Go live on the pond like a hermit and I will respect that position.  To accept aid from living in a society and not wanting to share this with others is just plain mean.
   I wouldn't mind the other extreme, seriously.  I have never received food stamps, unemployment, housing assistance, free medical care or any other government service.  I would have to give up my monthly Social Security Check and that would be difficult.  After just four years I am receiving more than I have ever put in.  You are too, that is the way it works.  It would be a harsh world.  Beggars and cripples and the ill on the streets.  I would probably become a gun advocate and live in fear.  I've got mine and have to live out my days worrying about someone taking it away from me.  That wouldn't be nice.  I can imagine a better world.  Why not work in that direction?

Friday, October 11, 2013

I am Against "The Affordable Care Act"

Yes, I really am!  Not because it is forced upon us, many good things are forced upon us because it is the price of living in a society.  I don't want the independence and isolation of failed States like Somalia.  The Affordable Care Act is a health system instigated and supported by the Insurance Companies of America and it is purely for their benefit.  Have you read any of the Policies that are being offered?  They are all bad policies, no wonder our Congress wants to be excluded!  Most of them have a $5,000 deductible (or even more!) and 20% or more copay!  This means they won't pay a dime until you come up with five thousand dollars FIRST! and 20% each time!  Lots of people can't do this and if you don't it won't cost the insurance company a dime!
   I have Private Insurance and it costs $1,200 per month!  That is a lot of money and I don't pay it all.
Lucky me, the company where my wife works pays $1,000 per month and we pay the $200.  But someone is still paying and many companies simply can't afford the thousand or so each month for their employees.  my wife's company charges higher prices for their services so in reality, YOU are paying for my insurance and I thank you for that!
   I had Cancer about four years ago, stage "4" and gone now but at a total cost of $130,000!  20% of that would have cost me $26,000 which I didn't have.  Without this $26,000, under The Affordable Care Act, the insurance companies would pay nothing.  I had good insurance, paid a total of $1,000 and they paid the rest.
   That is what we should all have.   Maybe the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction but it is a baby step indeed.  I have many Canadian Cousins and they have real National Health Care there.
One cousin had major back surgery and another had serious cancer treatment and neither had any medical bills to pay!   I would like a system like that.
   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sen. Warren on the Shutdown and Why Government Matters

We Are Number 18!

Well, somewhere between 14 and 18 depending on the category.   Right behind Botswana in knowledge of World Events, seriously lacking is Science, Math, History and even Technology.
We might be #1 in Apathy, we really don't give a crap.  We don't read newspapers anymore.  We use News as entertainment and only follow up on what reinforces our beliefs.  We have zero knowledge  of why we believe what we do believe and no curiosity.  Everything is just too much trouble.  We don't even cook any more!
   Do you think there will ever be a "Judgement Day"? and will "I didn't know that"? be a sufficient excuse?
   I am appalled by some people who are against "Big Government", these same people who take advantage of Big Government every single day!  Happy to collect their Unemployment checks, happy to get their primary medical care through the Emergency Room, Happy to collect the monthly Social Security Checks, grateful for subsidized housing and food stamps, eagerly sending their kids to State subsidized schools, flying here and there to Government built airports and on and on using services and benefits we have never paid in full from.  That is a benefit for living in a society.  "Small Government"
is for small dreamers or places like Somalia with no government at all.
   We are being held hostage by a minority and if the debt ceiling is not raised it will be disastrous.  It would establish a horrible precedent, allowing for minority hostile takeovers in the future and it would absolutely destroy the faith in America.  Our money, the dollar is as valuable as the world believes it to be.  It is based on faith and our word, as good as our promise.  It does not have to be the world premiere currency and there are some in the world that would like to see it destroyed.  The Russians,   the oil producing countries, the Teabaggers!
   I wonder whether there is a connection to our being #18 in an information test score throughout the World and the apathy we find ourselves in now?  We don't know enough to give a shit and we just plain can't be bothered.  Heck, we don't even cook any more!  Maybe our time is over?  The Great American Experiment, our exploration of Democracy and being a World leader may be finished.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

All in the Red!

You don't have to believe me when I say how bad it will be to default on our obligations and not raise the debt ceiling.  Look at the Stock Market and don't just look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average, have a look at any other country's stock market.  They are all falling.  The OLD Republican Party, the "Party of Business" would never allow this to happen!  I am beginning to wonder?  If Iran or China or North Korea wanted to really get at us, really destroy us completely, why wouldn't they create the "Tea
Party"?  Are we really so dumb so as to be doing this to ourselves?  These are the White Folk from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and other Southern States who are doing this to this country.  Not California and illegal immigrants.  Specifically, it is the White People from the Slave States, States which receive the most in Federal Assistance!  There is a downside to Universal Suffrage.  Some people should just not be allowed to vote.  Sometimes what "sounds right" can have horrible consequences.  We have become too lazy and maybe deserving of what is yet to happen. 

Nine Days!

And held hostage by the Southern States!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It will be exciting!

Wow, Ted Cruz really is out to destroy us and it will be exciting!  Watch the Stock Market Crash!  That will be exciting too!  The 401's and retirement will be worth zip!  Social Security, no those checks won't come and without a budget, no medicare.  No almost nothing!  Think our devalued credit rating can't get lower?  Yes, it can!  If God isn't ready for Armageddon, we will just have to do it ourselves!
Just the THOUGHT of not paying our bills will make the economy grind to a halt!  This is brilliant!  No other nation can defeat us but we will allow Ted Cruz to do it for us!
He is right, you know!  People shouldn't be able to get insurance with preexisting conditions!  and 26 year olds on their parents policy are just plain lazy!  I am against all government interference with our lives!  I vote for an end to Social Security!  an END to Veterans Benefits, and end to medicare and end food stamps and an end to the government building roads and bridges!  Just end government period!
Absolutely NO unemployment!  Paid not to work?  That's crazy!  No government at all.  Period!
Wouldn't that be great?  October 17th will be here sooner than you think!  If you don't express your opinion, someone else will do it for you. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

No Comments Please!

About this shutdown of our Government, we won't have an opinion until it directly affect us personally.
So far it is pretty mild unless you are one of the 800,000 or so government workers told to stay home.
I am reminded of that story "they came for the Jews and I wasn't a Jew so I did nothing".  The Government attempts to make this shutdown as pleasant as possible with few real interruptions.  We still have our military, the police work, the banks are open and, thank God, the Social Security checks still arrive.  At least for now.  This showdown is costing $300 MILLION a day! A Billion Bucks every three days.  But our representatives still get their checks and I still get mine.
   There really should be rules on how to run a government.  Maybe this wouldn't happen with a little foresight.  The arguments will continue until it becomes painful for more people.  That is not likely to happen for another six weeks with the issue of raising the debt ceiling.  That will be the interesting battle.  That is when the checks could stop being printed.  THEN, will you have an opinion?
    Personally, I think this all comes to a head because we have lost the art of negotiation.  In these modern "Twitter times" we have lost the ability to speak to each other. The age of non-reason.
When Ronald Reagan was President the Debt Ceiling was raised SIX times AND taxes were increased.  I want to go back to those Republican Days or the "Clinton Era" when the National Debt was on its way to being erased completely.  Both better times than now.
   The "blame game" is easy to play but clearly it is a game of self destruction.  We can blame the Democrats or the Republicans or the Teaparty, but I really think, "we have met the enemy and he is us".  We don't talk on our front porches any more.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shut it down?

I don't know, seems broken enough anyway, what more damage could it possibly do?  There are a lot of things about "Obamacare" that I can find issue with but we know that this is not the time, our government has never worked that way.  The issue before Congress is our National Budget, finding the money to fund already promised goods and services and obligations.  It is not supposed to be and never has been a time to sneak in new agendas nor alter or get rid of existing points of contention.  In the next few years "The Affordable Care Act" as it is officially known,  will go through its growth, change and develop and ideally will become what its intentions were:  affordable health care for everyone.  No one could really want to go back in time, just a short two years ago, when we were the only industrialized nation on the planet without national health care, a time when health care had double digit inflation, when we had 35 million Americans without insurance and government subsidy of our health system was about to rival our military spending.  There are hundreds of improvements to make.  It won't be right until members of Congress have the same health care all Americans have but these are incremental changes and not an opportunity to threaten to break the government if they don't abandon the Affordable Health Care Act.  That sounds like terrorism.  A hostage situation.  They are basically threatening to blow the place up if they don't get their way!  That is nuts and not the way our government is supposed to work.
   California is like a different country.  40 million people live there and it is the 8th largest economy in the world.  Illegal aliens can get driver's licenses there, I think on the theory that if you are going to be in an auto accident you hope the parties involved have insurance!  In 2010, after years of Republican rule with the "Governator", California was 27 Billion Dollars in debt.   Now they have a Democratic Governor and a Democratic controlled House and Senate.  They tried something different:  they cut spending AND raised taxes, what a novel idea!  Now they have a surplus.  It is difficult to wrap your head around the idea that the top 1% control 23% if the wealth.  In our wildest dreams we can't even imagine that kind of money.  Think if the top 1% each won the 400,000,000 dollar PowerBall, that wouldn't be enough!  It never used to be that way, certainly not in the '50's and '60's when our Middle Class was perhaps at its strongest.  Rich people (over 50 million in assets and $5 million per year) can't spend that kind of money and it just plain doesn't trickle down.
It is funny that the Tea Party is from the South, Southern States with minimum wages 25% lower than California, the poorest States who receive the most in Federal subsidies  The South where their most burning emotional issues are centered around restricting the rights of others, limiting, a narrowness.
The South where there could be a Church on every corner and a gun shop alongside.  The "Teaparty", our own American Taliban!  Enforcing, restricting, narrow and selfish.  Congress recently cut back 40 Billion dollars in Food Stamps and offered twice that much in Federal Subsidies to Agricultural Corporations!  Is this crazy or what?  Monsato receives your tax dollars!
These are interesting issues but now is not the time.  We lost our AAAA+ credit rating a couple years ago over this same problem, Congressional infighting instead of doing their job.  We have elections to determine the direction we wish, next year a Congressional Election and two years later another Presidential Election.  That is the best time to speak and let your voices be heard.  We can follow California or Mississippi or create a different path.
The Republican Party is self destructing and I am sorry about that.  They were the party protecting our environment, behind much of our Civil Rights Laws, in Massachusetts behind National Health Care, under Eisenhower, the party behind the massive build up of our infrastructure.  They were truly an American Political Party to be proud of and now they too are held hostage by the political acts of terrorism  by the likes of Ted Cruz.
We will get over this.  Even if the Government shuts down it won't come to an end.  It is a great time to reflect and a time to imagine how it could all be better.  What does it mean to be an American?  Do we want to be inclusive or an island, each to ourselves and beholding to none.   We change all the time, we evolve.  We used to not have Social Security and many thought it would mark the end times when we got it.  Women couldn't vote, slavery was once legal, public schools went only through the eighth grade.
We can participate in this change or not but it is going to happen.  That is one of the best things about this country.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Not Available!

Have you had a real tomato recently?  If you don't grow them yourself they are difficult to find.
This time of year my garden is full of them, enough to give to neighbors with plenty left over for the food dryer.  These can never be commercial tomatoes. They have a short shelf life once picked and are the very best eaten right out of the garden.  I often cut a 3/4" slab from the center of the tomato and the rest goes to the dryer!  Nothing better than a BLT or a hamburger with a thick slice of tomato!  I experimented this year and grew some in 7 gallon pots and they produced well but offered fewer tomatoes.  Worth a try if you have limited space.  The advantage of growing your own garden is this is the only way to get these tomatoes and you know what is in them.  We eat far more poisons and pesticides and GMOs than we would care to know about.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What is in it?

What do you feed your pets?
This time of year I pretty much eat from my garden and I know what is in it or more importantly, what isn't in there.  There are no sprays, no poisons, no chemicals, no Genetically Modified foods. It is all pretty healthy.  Like eating Hot Dogs, we really don't want to know what is in our food but my suspicions increase when the food I eat originate from a foreign country.  China has been accused of adding Antifreeze as a poisonous inexpensive sweetener in toothpaste and food additives.  Recently I read of hundreds (it might have been thousands!) of dead pigs floating down a river in China.  I wonder what they did with all of these dead pigs?
   I have discovered that with even traditional American Companies, the package will say "distributed by" and seldom "manufactured by...". It is ever more an International World and ingredients come from all over the world.  Hamburger comes from bits and pieces, the left overs of meat packers from hundreds of sources spread around the globe.  A single package of hamburger can have the DNA from over 400 cows!
   So the other day I was curious what I was feeding my dog?  He doesn't really care, he will eat anything but I like him and my job is to look after him.  He is a mix of Mastiff, Rottweiler, Pitbull and probably something else.  He doesn't know this and we make a point not to tell him.  He weighs 130 pounds and is the gentlest dog I have ever seen unless he sees a racoon!  He has been eating Purina, what I thought was a good, average American dog food.  Yesterday for the first time I read the package, all of it, hunting for American ingredients and there were none!  I went to the store and discovered that in an average American Supermarket it is almost impossible to find dog food that originates and it manufactured in USA!  The same is true for Tuna fish and lots of the food items we eat.   "Distributed by" is about the best you can get.  They seldom tell you where the food came from.
   So, continuing on my investigation, I went to Petsmart and did in fact discover that there are American dog foods!  I also discovered that Canada has a higher standard of ingredients for pet food than the USA does!
   So, what do you feed your dog? (or cat?)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

After the Fire

It is amazing how the Earth regenerates after a fire or any major natural disaster.  In the disaster zone that fried my blueberries I had Borage plants to attract the bees and they were totally wiped out, or so I thought.  I removed the dead plants and tilled this area and added 6" of a really good mulch and the first plants to appear were the Borage!  It is claimed that the more you curse this plant, the harder you are on it and the more you neglect it, the better it will grow.
View to the right of my desk
   Maybe my office is the same?  I removed everything from it, scrubbed and cleaned and painted and put it back together differently and I like the new look.  I didn't struggle over paint colors and went directly to the mismatched discounted paint selection at the local home improvement store.  Some kind of lavender for the walls and a pale blue for the ceiling.  The end slate wall after a good cleaning remained the same.  I gave one desk to a neighbor, that extra desk was just a catch all anyway.  My new office is roomier now leaving more room for "art".  I even have an easel in this room!
Slate wall and widow in office
   The next door studio room is coming along.  I added bookshelves in a couple spots which helped clear out my office and adds a touch of interest to that room.  It is still a working studio where I can splash paint and make a mess without fear but has some added elements of interest.  It is not finished.  I still have some areas to develop but it is clean, just needs a bit more organization.
 Bookshelves added to Studio wall.
Studio wall and exit door, still too much clutter!
The office!
   It took a fire to get me to do this.
Studio, view from office.

I have made a couple trips to the dump and a couple to the recycle yard, given away "stuff" to the neighbors and even sold a few things and I still have too much "stuff"!  It is amazing how we acquire STUFF.  In over 35 years as a remodelling contractor, that was my job, making houses bigger for the addition of more stuff.  I do the same but I think of it as an illness!  I seem to be putting off the major cleaning of my shop.  It will be a huge task and I am not sure what is even in there!  I will take some before and after photos!  I think in my next reincarnation I will be a minimalist.  We work hard to "get stuff", to keep stuff, provide a place for stuff and we don't even know what we have!  Pretty crazy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Harvest Time

This is the time of year my garden turns into a jungle and produces more than we can eat.  I feel like a millionaire and the Powerball isn't until tonight!  Heirloom tomatoes, especially Cherokee Purple and Black Krim simply cannot be bought.  They have a shelf life from perfect ripeness to way too mushy of just three days.  No tomato has the flavor and texture and aroma that can replace the homegrown.
I am popular with the neighbors this time of yer and wen I have too many to give away I get the dryer out.  Today I sliced and diced and cut up about 25 pounds of tomatoes, what it takes to fill the dryer.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Five Seasons!

It has been almost five years since I discovered the cancer.  That is five years added to my perfecting the best tomato!  Tomatoes are self pollinating but they will also cross pollinate so as you plant different varieties close together the seeds saved will eventually become another variety or at least a variation.  I only save seeds from the heirloom dark varieties, some Japanese varieties, the darker the better.  I like Cherokee Purple and Black Krim probably the best.  They are packed full of flavor and have a soft juicy pulp.  Of course my favorite sandwich is a BLT but it is hard to beat a grilled hamburger with a 1/2" thick slice of tomato the size of the bun!  I can pick them every day now, plenty to eat and give away but not quite enough to get the dryer out.  Soon enough!
Here is what I picked from the garden this morning!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ruthless

That is the  best way to clean.  Trips to the dump.  I built this shop over twenty years ago and the office was adjacent to my welding area.  All the grinding and debris could easily penetrate into my office.  Almost four years ago I separated my studio space from the shop but at that time did nothing with the office.  It has never even been properly painted, just primed and I moved in... over 20 years ago!
   The fire has given me an opportunity to do what I should have done years ago, a thorough cleaning!
This involves trips to the dump!  A ruthless sorting and getting rid of stuff.

The studio, a 10'x20' space I created about four years ago
is pretty much back together but until I get the office emptied
What to say?  I am a welder!
it will become a dumping ground for things I may want.
Some of cleaning and painting is a process of moving things
around.  Eventually all will find a home or it is off to the dump!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Phoenix !

We all rise from obstacles, inconveniences and ashes.  Dust ourselves off and get on with the process of living.  Having been a contractor for  over 35 years I know that huge messy jobs get divided into smaller more manageable tasks and get completed one obstacle at a time.  I emptied my studio, swept first, the floor and the walls and the ceiling.  Then vacuum , then mop, then paint.  Now already I am putting it back together.  I will reseal the floor but wait until everything is done.  I am going to empty my office, a 10'x10' room that over the years has become a "catch-all" , full floor to ceiling of things I might need!  I don't even know what is in here!
In the meantime I have power washed the outside, pulled two of the three blueberry plants out, radically trimming the remaining one which had some green leaves remaining.  The bamboo is also radically cut back but I am not worried about it.  Bamboo is difficult to kill.  Then I tilled up the soil and added about 6" of great compost based potting soil.  It is ready, like a blank canvas.  I radically cut back the Jasmine also and think it will live.  I removed two blueberries but am thinking I have room for three new plants!  So that will be a bonus.  I have wanted to improve the sprinkler system in this area for a long time so I did that too!  I made one huge truckload of debris to the recycle yard and that is where I picked up the compost potting soil.  It all looks "brand new"!  It will probably be a couple years before the new plants produce many berries.  The time to plant is in the Fall, October through March.  In the meantime I will plant a winter crop of broccoli there.  The ground with its perfect drainage will not go to waste.
I got a little welding job so I will now take a break from this clean up and have some fun.  Then I will attack this room, my office that has never been painted!  Then the shop itself.  It has been over two years since I have done that and bits and pieces accumulate, it seems as if by magic in the middle of the night!  I wonder what is in there?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Good and the Bad and The Ugly

OK, so I stole the tile but I am trying to find some good from the ugly fire I had.  The saddest thing is the loss of my Blueberry plants, five years of nurturing them gone to pretty much ashes.  Over five feet tall and almost as wide and producing abundantly.  At least I got this year's pickings, so that is a plus.
"What happened?" you might ask as I am still asking that question.  A five gallon container of gas, about 2/3 full and next to it oil soaked rags, the perfect combination.  Call me an idiot, I am still doing that.
On "my list" yesterday morning, get rid of the gags and put the gas can away, safe away from the shop in a little outbuilding where it belonged.  On my list, but first was a stop for lunch.  Big mistake.
After lunch on my way to my shop, all of 100 feet in my backyard, I see a wall of flames about 20' into the air.  Flames caressing the eaves to my shop roof!  I ran, yes, ran to the pool, as close as I could get, turned on the garden hose and watered the fire as it laughed at me.  Dancing and yelling and screaming and hot, the water from the hose was a joke.  My efforts as a fireman were doing nothing to the flames so I changed tactics and sprayed the eaves and the roof where the fire had every intention of going.  I heard sirens and within three minutes I had eight fireman in my backyard, two fire trucks, the big hook and ladder type and an ambulance in the front of my house.  It was funny, they were admiring my little swimming (half lap only) pool and looking at my metal work!  The fire was like a chimney, about five feet in diameter and maybe 10 feet tall, but roaring.  No one got excited.  Two of them went to the street and returned with large fire extinguishers and proceeded to empty them on this burning inferno.  Pretty much nothing happened.  I was told to stand back and relinquish my weapon.  I didn't have time to explain the "stand your ground" laws as they took the garden hose from my hands and told me to move away!  I don't think they were armed but they were suited up for a fight, covered head to toe in firegear and ready to do battle.  I moved back as instructed.  Two other firemen were snaking 150 feet of firehose, much bigger than mine!
My reaction really would have been to just let the fire burn out.  I had saved the roof, well, maybe, maybe not.  Anything could happen.  You could see right through the gas can by now and clearly there was a couple gallons still in it.  "They only blow up in the movies," the fireman with the nozzle said as he turned on this humongously large water hose and everything went flying!  Tons of instant water and, sending the gas can flying, a wall of flame like I have never seen before!  Maybe 20 feet long and, like a tunnel of flame, five feet wide and ten feet tall, towards my studio and right along the blueberry plants!  Maybe, just two seconds but they were flames of hell, followed by a wall of water and it was out.  Just like that.  Faster than a microwave!  The blueberries suffered a death blow from which they will never recover.  That is the ugly.  I love my garden and feel responsible for its care.  I will take them out this weekend.  Looking in that direction, once one of the nicest views, is now depressing.
My studio door was open  as was the door to my office and all the smoke and there was tons of it, found its way there.  Leaving traces, like little powdery angel dust all over everything!
So, I get to paint my studio!  That is the good, I guess.  It is empty now and the floors are swept and mopped.  Art is off the wall. A little smoky smell is good, right?  Like art around a campfire!  Anyway, tomorrow I will paint and when that is done, attack the office.  Emptying it 100% and cleaning, mopping and painting there also!  I built this office over 20 years ago and it has never been painted!
 Roasted Blueberries?
 My view from my studio!
Now is a good time.
 The ivy is green in the background. That is one tough plant!
 The gas can and the fire was mostly on top of this table.
No one was hurt, my tomatoes are safe.  I get to clean and polish and paint and organize, so that will be the good that will come of this!  At least I finished painting the house before this happened. Timing is everything!
 The leaves are supposed to be green!

Friday, July 19, 2013

You say "Tomato", I say

 Well over a hundred of these flowers on the Trumpet Vine!
This one is grown in a six gallon pot!
You gotta be a millionaire or do it yourself! 
Tomato!  Oh man, I feel rich this time of year!  My house is painted!  I am done with the spraying part anyway and have the white trim to go.  I am in no hurry and will do it one section at a time, the same way I got the house painted.  I had to look at this job in bits and pieces because the whole project would have become overwhelming.  I would just say to myself, "today I just have to paint one wall" and eventually I met myself at the beginning where I began.
Trumpet Vine Entry to my garden
This one might get eaten today!
I spend every morning in my garden, a little weeding every day and that too does not become a big job.  I think this year will be a bumper year for the garden.  We had a pretty nice Spring and I have been eating tomatoes since June 25th, the earliest ever.  Now the "Big Ones" are ripening!  These are the one pounders from all varieties:  Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, my two favorites, and Lemon Boy, Brandy Wine and others that I have forgotten their names.  I save the seeds from season to season and each year they get bigger and better and healthier. I can't imagine a summer without homegrown tomatoes and I wonder how we got fooled into accepting store bought tomatoes?
 Getting Bigger every day!
 My garden pool where I go skinny dipping!