Cap & Trade or Michael Jackson

July 7, 2009

Regardless of which side of the issue you’re on, it should bother you that the news media is spending far more time keeping the American people up to date on the Michael Jackson memorial service than they are in informing us of the progress of the Cap & Trade legislation.

And why are they placing so much emphasis on a dead celebrity? Why are they ignoring more important issues that could affect all tax payers?

Some right wing conservatives would have us believe that the left leaning media is intentionally taking the focus away from Congress so the Obama administration can shove another giant spending (and taxing) bill down our throats.

The left wing radicals would argue otherwise.

Naturally – and unfortunately – the truth has nothing to do with politics. Sadly, the media is giving the American public what the American public wants. I’ll admit I haven’t checked, but I’d bet that any broadcast of the American Idol show garnered a much larger share of the viewing public than any of the Presidential debates.

The truth is a large portion of our population doesn’t care about what goes on in Washington, D.C. In fact, they care even less about what goes on in their own state capitols.

Many years ago I attended a Key Club convention in Philadelphia. Each delegate was given a key ring. On one side was the Key Club logo. On the other was the phrase, “Combat Complacency.”

I believe we’ve lost the battle. In the 1960’s, college students stood up and voiced their opinions. While many of them were wrong in their beliefs, they all had the courage to stand up for what they believed. As a result, many things in our society were changed.

The youth of my youth took the time to learn about things that mattered. Sometimes they heard one side of the story and jumped to incorrect conclusions, but in most instances, they looked at both sides and came to good logical conclusions.

I’m afraid today’s youth are too busy twittering their lives away.

Perhaps that’s the major difference. While we didn’t have CNN, FOX News Channel, C-SPAN, or… come to think of it, we didn’t have any cable channels because we didn’t have cable. We also didn’t have lap top computers and the Internet. But we did have newspapers, news magazines, and the library.

We paid attention to the world around us – sweat bullets during the Cuban Missile Crisis – and felt a responsibility to speak out against what we saw as injustice.

Perhaps that was the influence of John F. Kennedy. I know we all admired the man and took the “New Frontier” very seriously. And we all deeply mourned his passing.

Until President Obama came along, we hadn’t had another President who could reach out and stir the interest of the youth as JFK did. But it appears that the interest of our current youth petered out once their man was elected.

It’s a shame because, the way I see it, it’s the youth and future generations who will be most harmed by what is currently happening in Washington.

The U.S. Government has no business being in business. Every time government has taken over an industry, that industry stops being self-sufficient. For example, independent bus and trolley companies operated in major cities for decades. They competed for riders and most of those companies were profitable.

The companies that couldn’t compete went out of business and their assets were bought up by the other companies. Then, the government decided to take over. The two ‘companies’ I’m most familiar with – the Port Authority Transit (PAT) in Pittsburgh and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit  Authority (MARTA) – have both operated at a loss for decades. Taxpayer subsidies are the only way they stay afloat.

Will General Motors be any different? Will taxpayer subsidized pricing put Ford, Chrysler, and others out of business?

The Federal Government has put itself in a very awkward position. Congress is talking about passing a ‘clunker bill’ that will give citizens a tax break for trading in an old car for a new, more fuel efficient, car. Will the tax break be higher for those of us who buy a GM product? It would make sense if the government wants their ‘company’ to flourish.

But wouldn’t that be unfair to the other companies? Does the government care?

There are many people who believe the economic crisis could’ve been solved months ago simply by the government letting workers keep their entire paychecks. Think about that. The typical worker has almost a third of his or her paycheck withheld every pay day. If that money had been available to the individuals, they would’ve spent it. Even if they simply paid off some bills, the economy would’ve improved.

Foreclosures would’ve been reduced dramatically and banks would’ve had more money for other loans. Consumers would’ve bought more cars, televisions, and other big ticket items… which would’ve resulted in more jobs.

If consumers bought Fords and Toyotas rather than Chevys and Buicks, GM would’ve had to fix their problems or go out of business. With increased sales, the other auto makers would’ve been able to buy GM factories and put the former GM employees to work building other makes of cars.

Is it too late for the government to get out of the auto business? I hope not. And while they’re at it, they should also get out of the banking and investment businesses.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s time for MARTA and PAT to liquidate and let the private sector show the politicians how it should be done.

Considering the business acumen of most politicians, it wouldn’t take a business genius to repair the damage done by congress. Think of it! How many politicians have held a ‘real’ job during their adult life. There may be a few, but most of them were borderline lawyers who recognized they could make a lot more money supporting the causes of special interest groups.

If they were intelligent enough to be successful business people, why would they even consider becoming a member of Congress?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and see if Michael has been buried yet.


Progress isn’t Always Obvious

June 29, 2009
The 'basic' desired result

The 'basic' desired result

Our (I use the term ‘our’ tactfully here – it was really my bride’s idea… make that ‘insistence’!)… our goal is to put ceramic tiles between the counter top and the bottom of the wall cabinets.

Following the advice of my bride’s hairdresser (I never even bothered to search the Internet for other ideas and methods) we have glued the tiles onto boards that are similar to peg board without the holes. They are now lying in wait on every flat surface in the kitchen and breakfast room.

This section will go to the right of the sink

This section will go to the right of the sink

The only windows in the kitchen are above the sink. Neither my bride nor I liked the existing window frames. So, before we could measure and cut the boards, I had to install new window frames.

The new window frames

The new window frames

Of course, to do the frames, we had to re-borrow our son-in-law’s miter saw. I thought we were done with it after we finished the crown molding on the wall cabinets. Silly me!

Two more sections waiting for the next step

Two more sections waiting for the next step

The thinner of two sections will go under the windows. The other fits under the microwave. Please take note of the precision cutting along the notched side of that section.

To make that cut, I called a friend, Donnie Culver, who is in the home construction business, and asked to borrow his tile saw. He, of course, said ‘Yes” IF I could come and pick it up. I then started calling other friends and relatives who owned pick-up trucks.

After having no luck, I drove over to Donnie’s office in my 1999 Mitsubishi. After some effort, we managed to get the saw into my trunk. I returned home without any major difficulties.

However, upon arriving home, I realized I had to get the saw out of the trunk as soon as possible. My Mitsubishi needs a new battery and being unable to close the trunk meant the trunk light would be on all night.

The saw probably weighs more than a hundred pounds and is very awkward to lift.

The saw is what you see

The saw is what you see

The saw sits atop a trough that is filled with water. The water is sprayed on the tiles as they are being cut. The estimate of weight I gave is with the trough empty. I assure you I will get the water out before I try to move it again.

After getting the saw home, I struggled to get it out of my trunk and into a wheel barrel. I then put it in the garage overnight while I went off to choir practice.

The next morning, I wheeled the saw up to our deck. It was then I discovered I had managed to get the saw wedged into the wheel barrel. Eventually I was able to work it loose and get it out. I then literally rolled the saw up the steps and onto the platform shown in the photo.

That platform is a wooden box in which we keep our soft drinks. Therefore, I had to go to the store and buy more soft drinks… there’s no way we can currently get into that wooden box.

Another section waiting its turn

Another section waiting its turn

The next step is to apply the grouting. Believe it or not, we will use cake decorating funnels to fill the cracks between each tile. The reason we’re taking this approach is to protect the integrity (translate to ‘beauty’) of each individual block. Some of the tiles have a number of holes that add something – I’m not artistic enough to say more than that. If we were to simply spread the grout over the tiles, those holes would be filled with grout. We don’t want that. Therefore, we will act like cake decorators and squeeze the grout into the appropriate slots and nowhere else.

With luck, that will be finished within the next day or so. Then, we will use liquid nail to attach the boards (and attached tiles) to the walls. We will then make adjustments to the holes I’ve cut for the electrical outlets.

A WORD OF WARNING: Some things have to be learned from experience. Be sure to turn off the electrical power prior to messing with electrical outlets. I, without thinking, grabbed one such outlet as I was preparing to put a section up against the wall to make sure it fit properly. Needless to say, I grabbed the outlet in such a way that I was touching two of the screws used to attach the wires. For a moment our two, we had one more electrical appliance in our kitchen.

Fortunately, I was wearing rubber soled shoes and was not grounded in any other way. All I got was a slight buzzing sensation.

Another section-in-waiting

Another section-in-waiting

After everything is on the wall and the electrical outlets are properly aligned, we’ll paint on the sealer. Then we can replace the electrical outlet plates and be ‘almost’ finished.

I say ‘almost’ because Lu wants to dapple them with various colors of paint to make them blend in with the colors of the tiles. (This advice did not come from her hairdresser, but one of her fellow employees at the hospital.)

When you’re gluing things, you often have times when you can do nothing but wait for the glue to dry. I can watch such things all day! But not my bride. This is what she did while waiting for the glue to dry.

Our freshly painted front porch

Our freshly painted front porch

This is great! Today I can watch the paint dry!


Misnomers

May 29, 2009

One of my high school classmates (please note that I did not use the adjective “old” to describe her) sent me a quiz that prompted me to address the subject of misnomers. I immediately went to the Internet to track down the logic behind misnomers and to see if I could find any other good examples.

The first place I visited was Wikipedia which provided answers to both of my questions. That site listed a number of sources of misnomers, along with some examples of each. They included:

  • Older names being retained. A perfect example of this is the ice box.
  • Well-known product names being used generically. Kleenex, Xerox, and Jell-o are the examples given.
  • Ambiguity. The example given is the ‘parkway’ which was so defined because the roadway traveled through park-like surroundings. Of course this has led to more than one comedian pointing out that we drive on parkways and park on driveways.
  • Association of an object with something other than its origin. See question number 2 in the quiz for a perfect example of this.

There are a number of other sources listed and the entire article is worth reading. But, before you do, see how well you can do on this test.

1. How long did the Hundred Years’ War last?

2. Which country makes Panama hats?

3. From which animal do we get cat gut?

4. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?

5. What is a camel’s hair brush made of?

6. The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?

7. What was King George VI’s first name?

8. What color is a purple finch?

9. Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

10. What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane?

If it makes you feel any better, I guessed correctly on one and knew the answer to another. That gave me a twenty percent success rate. I doubt if that would be a passing grade at any level.

Check your answers below:

ANSWERS TO THE QUIZ

1. How long did the Hundred Years War last? 116 years

2. Which country makes Panama hats?  Ecuador

3. From which animal do we get cat gut? Sheep and Horses

4. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? November

5. What is a camel’s hair brush made of? Squirrel fur (So that’s what happened to all the squirrels in our yard. And I was blaming it on the fox.)

6. The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal? Dogs

7. What was King George VI’s first name? Albert

8. What color is a purple finch ? Crimson (I guessed this one right!)

9. Where are Chinese gooseberries from?  New Zealand

10. What is the color of the black box in a commercial airplane? Orange (I knew this one!)

There are so many words and phrases we use on a daily basis that would make no sense at all if we stopped and questioned them. If you can think of any we missed, feel free to share them with us. Please click on the comments button to do so.

Thank you kindly for your continued support.


Too Much Stuff

January 30, 2009

For those of you who do not have blogs of your own, let me tell you that the spammers don’t confine their junk mailings to email addresses. Blogs receive spam in lieu of comments.

Thus far, the number of spam ‘comments’ I’ve received on my blog is minuscule compared to my email account. However, they are a similar nuisance.

A spam message that tried to attach itself as a comment today was one I found most interesting. It was written in Chinese.

I should point out that some of the things wordpress treats as spam are not what I consider totally useless. Unless I know for sure the spam came from a gambling, insurance, or porn site, I investigate by going to the guilty party’s web site and checking out its content. I’ve discovered that there are times I don’t object to the link and I simply let it be to see if it increases the number of hits my blog receives.

Out of curiosity, I linked to the Chinese web site this morning. I was a bit fearful that it might be a trap – a way for someone to infect my computer with a virus – but I foolishly went ahead anyway.

It turns out that it was a web site for a storage facility in Hong Kong. I guess they’re hurting for business and trying to increase their traffic by sending out spam. (On the Internet, there is no easy way to determine the ‘home’ location of a web site. So they linked to whatever sites they could find. At IBM, we called it ‘throwing a bunch of darts at the wall and hoping one or two would stick.)

The factor that interested me the most is that we Americans are not the only people with too much stuff. I have always believed that a nation that makes storage lockers a strong and vibrant industry has too much stuff.

When I was a child, most of the old stuff was stored in the attic… even if the attic was difficult to access. With many of the older homes, attics were reached using permanent stairways. It was not unusual for large families to ‘finish’ their attics to provide additional bedrooms.

That’s when the overflow of stuff began finding its way into garages and cellars. Of course, newer homes turned cellars into basements with rec rooms and home theaters. The stuff had to be moved again.

The industry probably began when a farmer who had retired and no longer worked the land began renting space in his barn. When he discovered how lucrative it was, either he or his offspring began building mini-barns. The idea quickly spread and now we have storage facilities everywhere.

I must admit that I used a storage locker for a few months while I was going through my divorce. My ex-wife wanted me to remove my stuff from ‘her’ home and I had no room for it in the small apartment I was renting.

As soon as the divorce was finalized and I bought a place of my own, I took the stuff out of storage and moved it into my new home.

Since then, I’ve remarried and moved out of my single-wide trailer into a new home we had built on the same property. During that transition, my bride and I, with the help of our adult children, built a two car garage. When they came to take away my single-wide trailer, we moved all of our stuff into the garage. After our new home was built, we moved the stuff out of the garage and into the new home.

So why can’t we park either of our cars in the garage? Too much stuff.

I’d swear it multiplies on its own, but I know better. I’m the worst offender in this household. I firmly believe that as soon as I throw away that old and useless object, I’ll discover I need one of its parts to repair something else.

Speaking of old and useless… that spam I received from the Hong Kong storage facility wasn’t useless afterall. It gave me inspiration to write today’s post.