Facebook Increases My Blood Pressure

February 24, 2017

The way I see it, there are three types of people who frequent Facebook. This may also be true of the other social media networks, but I am only familiar with Facebook. If the other networks affected me in a similar fashion, I would’ve had a stroke a long time ago.

The first of the three types of people on Facebook are those who stay away from politics and post nothing but nice friendly pictures, poems, videos, jokes, etc. I love those people. More often than not, they cheer me up and make my day. There is still hope for humanity.

The second type are those who post political items without doing the slightest bit of research to verify the truth behind the claims. These people represent the extreme sides of both major political parties. Prior to the election, they painted Hillary as a saint and Trump as the Devil, or vice-versa. Since the election, Trump is painted as Satan (his own self), or the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Both sides irritate the hell out of the other.

The third bracket belongs to people like me. Throughout this process I have tried repeatedly to demonstrate that no politician can be trusted and, for that reason, Trump might actually be beneficial – although I have no high regards for the man beyond the fact that he has not made a career out of living off the taxpayers as a member of some government.

Obviously, it is the second type that drives me up a wall. Not only will they defend their posts while refusing to acknowledge that the posts may be out-and-out lies, they will attack my posts and insist I prove my statements.

One such statement had something to do with, “The election is over and it is time to stop the protests and rioting. Give the man a chance. If he screws up royally, impeach him. If he screws up enough to cost him his re-election, vote him out.”

One person too lazy to do any research at all challenged me on the word ‘rioting’. I suggested they might consider the University of California at Berkley who stopped a gay Libertarian from speaking on the campus because the protesters considered him to be too Conservative.

The response from the challenger was “That’s one. You used a plural term.”

Too many people on the left (and yes, it is the Liberals)  are more than glad to exercise their freedom of speech to stop anyone they disagree with from exercising his or her right to free speech. Yes, that upsets me greatly. If you refuse to even listen to the other side, how can you ever hope for compromise.

And yes, it is the left – the side that preaches tolerance – as long as you agree with them. When is the last time a group of Conservative students stopped a Liberal from speaking on a campus?

I made another statement that caused consternation from the left. “I would love to see Trump make America great again simply to see how his detractors react.”

I was informed by people barely old enough to vote that American has never been as great as it is now. How do I argue with someone who is being indoctrinated by Liberal college professors?

I would begin by taking a closer look at the unemployment rate. Obama is very proud that the number is under 5%. On the surface, that is a wonderful accomplishment. However, if one does the slightest bit of research, there are a number of factors that bring that number into question.

Let’s begin with some basic numbers. I’ve seen government numbers (which calls them into question immediately) that an average of 250,000 people enter the labor force every month. I assume that is high school dropouts and graduates, college dropouts and graduates, and legal immigrants. (They might also be counting the illegal immigrants, but I don’t know that for sure.)

Every month the government releases the latest figures of people who got jobs last month. I have yet to see that number top 250,000. So, based on that alone, the unemployment numbers should be going up.

Unless something drastic has happened and I missed it, the population of the United States has also increased every month. I know there are many deaths each month, but the newborns more than make up for that. PLUS, we still have immigrants coming in on a regular basis.

Somewhere along the way I’ve seen numbers representing the ‘under’ employed. Those are the folks who had decent jobs that were outsourced or sent overseas. Instead of making $100,000 per year as middle-management types, they are now working for much less money – but they are working and not part of the unemployment numbers.

But the numbers are still questionable. The big question concerns the number of people in the labor force – a number that has dropped significantly over the last ten years. How can that be?

Let’s begin with the fact that unemployment benefits eventually run out. How does our government handle that? To begin with, there is welfare and food stamps- the recipients of both has dramatically increased over the last ten years. So, these folks are no longer counted as unemployed. They are simply living off the kindness of the taxpayers. (To be honest, if I had a choice in the matter, I wouldn’t be so kind. I don’t mind helping someone get back on their feet, but I resent helping someone stay in the chair.)

I have friends and relatives who insist I am a Republican because I believe and say things like this. I then ask them “How many Republicans have no problem with gay marriage?” I also point out that while I don’t like abortion, I hate the alternatives, so I accept it as a necessary evil. There are a few other items that would label me as a Liberal, but that is only a small part of the bigger point.

I could be wrong, but my guess is that the people on the far left and far right of the political spectrum are the vast minority of our citizens. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. But, thanks to the politicians and the news media, they have us at loggerheads.

As for the media, I am convinced they have moved into the business of ‘making’ the news rather than simply reporting it. If they didn’t bother to cover the protest marches, would the protester even bother? And if they didn’t stress certain facts, would people get royally ticked off and go on rampaging riots?

I heard a talking head question the Trump administration by asking “If they are doing such good and worthwhile things, why do they have minor things dominating the headlines?” Simple answer: So people will get upset and do more things for the reporters to cover. They are going out of their way to get juicy stories.

So, the statement I continue to make on Facebook is “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”

In the meantime, I will stay off Facebook for a while and get my blood pressure back down to a reasonable level.

 


Ending the Violence

June 16, 2016

Every time there’s a mass shooting, our government leaders renew the debate over gun control… ignoring the fact that in most cases, additional control of the legal sale of firearms would not have changed the outcome one iota.

The Sandy Hook killings were done using the weapons of a family member. The guns were purchased legally. The Orlando murders were committed by a person who should not have been allowed to buy guns, but was. The existing gun laws were not to blame – the FBI’s process was.

If the government can place a person on the “No Fly List” without due process, they should have been able to do the same when it came to buying guns. If nothing else, there should have been a ‘flag’ to let the FBI know the man had purchased weapons. Had a simple system like that been in place, they could have increased their surveillance and, hopefully, stopped him before he killed even one person.

The debate will go on while the more serious issues continue to be ignored.

Why is there a murder every two hours in the city of Chicago? Why do our government officials ignore that fact. Do those thousands of lives lost every year count less that the 49 killed in one night in Orlando? For that matter, was anyone else murdered in Orlando that night? Did that person’s life not mean anything because he or she died alone?

The way I see it, murder is the result of a number of factors. The simplest one is rage – in all too many cases, rage directed at a family member or a close friend.

Then we have the ‘gang’ related; in many cases caused by ‘turf wars’ in the dealing of illegal drugs. These are the cases where one, two, or three people are killed at a time.

My solution for the gang related mayhem is to legalize drugs. Let government sanctioned outlets sell them so that the purity of the product can be more closely controlled and the tax revenues can be used to treat the addicts. Taking the drug dealers off the streets and out of the prison system will save lots of money and lives.

As for family members killing each other, take away the guns and they’ll use knives or baseball bats. It has happened where a couple closing in on divorce settled the issue when one or the other was accidentally pushed off a cliff or assisted in drowning. In other words, rage is difficult to prevent, although if the rage is a result of mental illness, there is hope.

My first job after college was at a mental hospital for children. It was part of a network in Western Pennsylvania. Within a twenty-five mile radius, there were at least two asylums for adults to go along with the one I worked at. Many of our ‘inmates’ graduated to the adult facilities.

And then came along two factors that totally changed everything. One was President Reagan and his cut-backs. Federal funding for mental institutions dried up at the same time the A.C.L.U. convinced a judge that mentally incompetent people should not be held against their will. Brilliant! Very few crazy people readily admit they need help. One of the biggest problems with mentally ill patients is to have them continue to take the medication to control their behavior.

Thus, we have people who were once safely cared for in mental hospitals (and forget the Hollywood nonsense that says those hospitals were all horror stories) now walking the streets forgetting to take their medicine. Since our government sees no danger, they are permitted to buy fire arms and, when the voice in their heads tell them to go into a movie theater and shoot those enemies of Bat Man, we have another mass murder that could have been prevented. How many times did a psychiatrist think there might be such a possibility, but said nothing due to another Federal law called HIPAA.

So, there are my solutions to two of the root causes of murder; legalize drugs, and get mentally ill people the treatment and care they so desperately need.

And that brings us to the biggest problem we face today – terrorism. We have huge segments of the world population who hate us… thanks to the propaganda distributed by many of the people we (our government) consider to be our friends. These same people, in many cases, are the ones we give millions, if not billions of dollars in foreign aid every year.

We do everything we can in this country to encourage freedom of religion, but some religions use that freedom against us.

In fairness, Christian ministers encouraged people to join the crusades a thousand or so years ago. So, I can’t blame religious leaders in the Middle East for returning the favor (they carry grudges for thousands of years in that part of the world.) What gripes me is the leaders in churches in the U.S. encouraging young folks to either go to the Middle East to help the effort there, or simply buy guns and bomb making materials and do as much damage as possible here at home.

Sadly, there is no easy solution for this problem… any more than there was an easy solution for dealing with Hitler and the Nazis. The free world must come together to stop the terrorist groups. We need to be a part of that effort.

There is a very old adage that says “Those who ignore the past are destined to repeat it.” Our current leaders decided that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were over and our troops needed to be brought home. Those leaders ignored the fact that we still have troops in Germany and Japan. Lasting peace doesn’t happen overnight. It took decades for the peoples of Germany and Japan to realize we were there only to keep the peace – nothing more, nothing less. Any remnants of the groups that did not like losing World War II eventually were won over to the improvements brought about through peace.

We cannot force any nation to become a democratic republic such as ours, but we can help them peacefully establish governments that work for them.

 

 

 


Another Book

July 14, 2015

Beliz Pyramid

I recently uploaded a new book for both Kindle and Nook readers. It is called “If the Sky Should Fall” and is my first step into the world of science fiction. The following is the blurb I wrote to encourage people to read it:

Semir (Sam) Osmanagic is a Bosnian American archaeologist. He has spent years studying the pyramids of Latin America and believes that certain mountains in Bosnia are, in fact, also pyramids. Of course, the ‘experts’ have scoffed at the idea… just as the ‘experts’ scoffed at the idea that dinosaurs were birds rather than reptiles. One of Osmanagic’s findings showed that electromagnetic pulses were emanating from the top of the Bosnian pyramids. What if that is true? What purpose would such signals serve?
After visiting ancient ruins in Mexico, Belize, and Peru, the author of “If the Sky Should Fall” has his own thoughts and theories about ancient aliens, UFOs, and pyramids. If you’re a fan of television shows such as Ancient Aliens, History Unearthed, Hanger One, The Unexplained Files, and Ancient Discoveries, or books such as “Chariots of the Gods” by Erich von Däniken, you will find “If the Sky Should Fall” a compelling read. While it may well be a book of science fiction, the author raises a number of questions to make you stop and ask yourself, what if it were true? Life on our planet and throughout our solar system may, in fact, depend on the actions of aliens. They may be living among us and keeping us alive. Why would they be doing that? That’s a topic for another discussion.

Obviously I am a fan of all those TV shows I mentioned as well as a reader of books similar to “The Chariots of the Gods.” But watching those shows and reading those books, combined with traveling to ancient ruins and seeing the amazing constructions done by ‘primitive’ people, leads me to ask even more questions. And I can’t help wondering why mainstream scientists are so quick to laugh off the possibilities. Those are the folks who believed that uranium was a worthless metal prior to the 1940’s.

It’s difficult to watch these programs and not ask how the ancient Egyptians, Mayan, Incas, and others could build such structures. More importantly, I kept asking myself WHY? Did these folks have nothing better to do? Then I found myself wondering if there might not be pyramids right in my own backyard? The ones that have been discovered in Central America, for the  most part, had been hidden from view for centuroes by dense vegetation. How many mountains in the United States are also covered in dense vegetation?

IMG_0955This mountain in North Georgia sure looks like it could be covering up a pyramid. And there are many more like it.

Sam Osmanagic really got me thinking when he discovered electromagnetic pulses emanating from the tops of the ‘mountains’ in Bosnia. What if they really were signals to aliens? What if that mountain was serving as a light house for space craft navigation? The more I thought about such things, the more “If the Sky Should Fall” wrote itself!

I am in a comfortable point in my life where I am retired and, although living on a fixed income, my lifestyle does not require lots of money. My bride and I own a lot at a camping resort and a small trailer. We love taking our grandchildren camping for a week or so at a time. Otherwise, we are basic home bodies who take one or two trips a year.

We are extremely active in our church and community. Currently we are deeply involved in a program called Family Promise, which aims to help homeless children and their families. That is why I am dedicating 50% of any royalties to that charity.

If you are at all interested in the ancient aliens theories I think you’ll like my book. More importantly, if you’d like to support a program that helps homeless children, I ask that you buy the book for their sake.

Cover for bookLet me know what you think of it and how many questions it raises in your mind.

 


Market Place Blinders

January 5, 2015

IMG_1258

My bride and I are basically retired and living off a combination of income streams. We both have small pensions and collect social security. Since we have no major debts, we could probably make do on that.

However, we both saved in company sponsored 401K programs while we were working and did some other investing as well. The dividends of those savings are adding to our retirement income and providing the money we need to continue to live more comfortably. We can buy gifts for our children and grandchildren and we can travel. We’re far from living in the lap of luxury, but we have enough. (More people should learn to be happy with ‘enough’!)

Our investment plan has been fairly simple. We bought stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that all pay quarterly dividends. Until we fully retired, we let the money grow through dividend re-investment programs. From a psychological standpoint, it made following the market rather interesting. It’s always comforting to see the value of your investments going up. But, come quarterly dividend time, it’s fun to see the value go down – that means your re-investment will result in a greater number of new shares. Thus, your next dividend payment will be that much larger!

We continued to let things grow until we no longer had regular paychecks. Then we quit the re-investment programs and now have the dividends automatically deposited in our bank account. So far, it is working great! And that bothered me.

It bothered me because none of the experts I follow, nor the publications I read, recommend doing such a thing. In fact, while they are saying that bonds are not a good investment at this time, people our age should be moving more of our assets into bonds. Go figure! They have all sorts of fancy formulas, but none of them make sense. Why should I put 50 to 60% of our retirement nest egg into something that the experts are saying to avoid?

I read an article this morning in Money Magazine. It was talking about the problems of going after high-yield (translate that into dividend paying) stocks. Their take was that as the price of the stock went up, the yield (translate that as the amount of the dividend payment as a percentage of the price of the stock) went down – unless the company increased the amount of the dividend.

For example, let’s say you buy 100 shares of Jim’s Journeys for $100 per share and I pay you $5.00 per share per year in dividends. The yield is 5%. Now, if everyone wants a piece of the action and the price of my stock doubles to $200 per share and I continue to pay the measly $5.00 dividend, the yield is now a mere 2.5%. On the other hand, if the market dives (through no fault of my blog) and my share price dips to $50 per share, your yield is now a whopping 10%.

Thus, looking through the “Market Place Blinders” unless you buy the shares at $50, it may not be a good deal. But the financial planners and experts fail to see it any other way. They only see values at the time of the transaction. If you are not currently buying or selling, they are not paying much attention. Yields, to them, are nothing more than the percentage of the selling price.

In truth, I can’t tell you how much we paid for individual shares along the way. I really don’t care. The only thing that concerns me is the size of the quarterly checks.

So, if I was your financial adviser, I’d tell you to do what I did. Spend a month examining every company that pays dividends. The questions I asked were: How much do they pay per share? Has that amount increased over the years? What sort of business are they in? (I avoided any company that did not manufacture something. Mortgage companies, banks, and holding companies all pay handsome dividends, but they’re the companies that had to be bailed out and were saved only because they were “too big to fail”.)

As to our dividend income payments, my only regret is not taking advantage of this methodology sooner in my life. I watched our nest egg grow for about ten years before we began to reap the benefits. Had I begun the process much earlier, the nest egg would have grown more substantial and we would now be living in the lap of luxury. But then again, we’re more than happy with enough.

Hopefully the time it took me to write this article will pay dividends for the person who takes the time to read it.


E-Publishing

March 20, 2012

Aspiring authors know how difficult it is to get something from an idea to the pages of a hard back book. Some might say it’s impossible. I, like many others, have never put forth the effort it takes. One of the main reasons is the frustration created by the roadblocks put up by the industry.

Most legitimate publishers will not accept submissions directly from unpublished authors. Such submissions must come from an agent.

Since most agents will not accept new clients unless they’ve been previously published, it’s almost impossible to find an agent. Self-publishing through the “vanity” presses doesn’t count.

So, what does that aspiring author do? If he or she found a way to be a celebrity of some sort – professional athlete, well-known recording artist, or politician – he or she wouldn’t even have to possess writing skills. He or she could find a ghost writer (with the help of that agent who can’t be bothered with people who write well) and lead everyone to believe that the celebrity has multiple skills.

Fortunately for me, and many others like me, I never needed the money badly enough to grovel. After several futile attempts, I just let my work gather dust.

Then along came the e-readers and self-publishing was given a new meaning. No longer does an author need to pay a vanity press thousands of dollars to print a stack of books that will gather dust unless the author is really good at marketing his or her own work. The author can now simply go to one or more of several sites and upload the work for free. After that, it’s a matter of watching to see how many copies are sold.

Perhaps the most difficult part of this free process is determining what price tag to attach to each book. If a person has invested a year or two in creating his or her masterpiece, he or she might want to see people pay the kind of money they would pay for a Stephen King novel. But, how many books by an unknown author would people buy – especially if the price is high.

On the other hand, if a bargain basement price is attached, people might not think it’s worth anything.

So, you pick a number that sounds reasonable – reminding yourself that the reader isn’t even getting a hard copy of the work. Then, you sit back and hope it will continue to sell after all your friends and relatives have been shamed into buying a copy to help you out.

Short of buying an ad in USA Today, I’m hoping the people who read my work will provide glowing reviews to their friends and relatives and encourage others to read my work. Social networking and blogs supposedly have ways of causing things to go “viral” – a term with which I’m not totally enamored. So, for now, I’m going to avoid the USA Today ad and see what happens.

Before I end this post, I will include some information on each of the books I currently have available for sale. When you see the list of choices, you might think I have yet to find my niche or genre. That may be true, but I have my own thoughts on that.

Ian Fleming is famous for the James Bond novels he wrote. I know for a fact that Ian Fleming wrote in other genres – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is one most people would not have guessed. At least Fleming continued to use his own name regardless of what he wrote. Many other authors used pseudonyms when writing something other than the genre for which they were known.

The truth is that all writers like to write about lots of things. Establishing a “voice” is more important than getting boxed into a specific genre. If you like the style of someone’s writing – it’s easy to read and makes you feel comfortable with the use of the language – it doesn’t matter what he or she is writing about.

So, that should explain the works I have published to this point.

The first to hit the stage was:

This work was born out of a dinner conversation in New Orleans. A friend of my bride was asking us about various trips we’ve taken and finally suggested I write a book about how to have a great trip at a reasonable price. This book is available for both Kindle and Nook readers.

Next came my murder mystery.

This book was written in 1996 shortly after I learned that my teenaged daughter had been raped and was pregnant. I was out of work and depressed and started thinking, “What could be worse?”

The ordeals experienced by the little girls and their parents in this book are far worse, and should be a warning signal to all parents and grandparents.

Every time I see a parent simply drop off a child and go off to do their own thing, I shudder to think what could happen. People need to wake up. “Stranger Danger” is a stark reality!

Currently, “Shattered Princesses” is only available on Kindle.

Next came this:

This is a collection of magazine articles and essays I’ve written over the years. It clearly demonstrates that we writers like to write about anything that strikes our fancy.

Like my travel tips book, this one is available for either Kindle or Nook readers.

So, there you have it. The three books I’ve published so far. There will be more.

The most expensive of the three is the murder mystery. It sells for $3.99.The other two sell for $2.99.

With all three, you can download the first several pages and see if you’d be interested. If you like my style or get caught up in the plot, you can go ahead and buy it.

Finally, if you buy it and like it, please encourage your friends and relatives to take a look. I’d appreciate all the support I can get.


Christmas Thoughts from my E-mail Bag

November 16, 2011

I received this note this morning. Unfortunately it is one of those things that has been forwarded numerous times and I have no way of determining the original author. In any case, I think the person who wrote this has some very good points and they are worth sharing.

Here it is…

Christmas 2011 — Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods – merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?  Think about these ideas instead:

  • Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?
  • Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.
  • Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.
  • Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plunking down the “Benjamin”s on a Chinese made flat-screen?
  • Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.
  • There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint.
  • Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.
  • How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?
  • Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.
  • My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.
  • OK, you were looking for something more personal. Think about your local artists and crafts people . . . paintings, photography, sculptures, jewelry, pottery, hand made sweaters and scarves.
  • Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip.
  • How about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.
  • Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.
  • Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community.
  • If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.

Naturally we are asked to forward it to everyone on our mailing lists. If you wish to cut and paste, and forward it, feel free.


Jim’s Shortbread Surprise Cookies

December 5, 2010

Lu and I made a batch today and I made a comment on Facebook about them. Rather than try to bake enough to feed all my friends, I’ll simply share my recipe.

Here it is…

¾ pound butter – at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar + 1 cup for dusting baked cookies

3 to 3½ cups flour

½ to ¾ cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

½ tsp salt

2 pounds Hershey’s Kisses

1.          Preheat oven to 325°F.

2.          Cream the butter with electric mixer at medium speed.

3.          Gradually add the powdered sugar to the creamed butter and beat until fluffy.

4.          Gradually add the flour, chopped nuts, and salt and blend the mixture thoroughly.

(NOTE: Add about 3 cups of the flour and ½ cup of the finely chopped nuts. If the mixture is not too gooey, stop there. If the mixture is too gooey to roll in your hands to make a ball, add the additional flour and nuts.)

5.          Take about 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture and roll it around 1 (unwrapped) Hershey’s Kiss. There should be just enough cookie dough to cover the kiss.

6.          Roll the kiss and dough in your hands to form a small ball. (Roll the dough and kiss between your palms as you would to make a ball of mud or clay.)

7.          Place on ungreased cookie sheet about ½ inch apart.

8.          Bake for 25 to 30 minutes – until bottoms of cookies are light golden brown.

9.          Place cookies on cooling rack for about 5 or 10 minutes.

10.     Roll in powdered sugar.

11.     Eat any Hershey’s kisses left over.