Friday, February 27, 2009

The Economy

The main topic of every newscast. But is it dying? Or is it booming? I guess it's sorta according to who you ask. For instance, this evening the CBS Nightly News ran a report on a survey they put together. All they did was to go around and poll people at several public places including a church, a job fair, and a car race.

Everyone had an opinion, ranging from "this too shall pass," not surprisingly at a church, all the way to my *favorite*: "A recession?! This is more like a DEPRESSION!" Strangely, this came from guess who, a person in the crowd at the car race. Well, I am not a professional economist or anything, but it seems to my uneducated mind, that a person who can afford to go to a car race must have at least some discretionary income. I know I haven't been to any car races lately.

So, here is my own little survey. Check these out, and make up your own mind. Is this a recession? Or is it a depression? Or, could it be, as it has ever been ~ the best of times, the worst of times...???

  • Now if you look here, you might conclude that, yeah, this is a recession. But so what? Let the good times roll!
  • If you can't quite afford the car races, this might interest you.
  • E-life being what it is, I'm not sure how we're going to get along without this one.
  • And on the home front, I'm happy to report that business is booming.
Whatever you conclude, there's no need to worry. Everything is going to be fine. Or is it? To quote the lovely Iron Lady, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tire and Other Troubles

Cars are expensive pets. Expensive, high-maintenance pets, and no shortage of moving parts and things to break down. This weekend we had two incidents.

The Other Trouble came first, after the "free" $25-a-ticket nacho dinner at the Home and Garden Show, but that's a whole 'nother story. The thing is, a light on the dashboard came on. I'm not sure, but I think it was a picture of a battery. We were on the freeway, with no place to pull over, so I handed the car manual to my Man, who was in the back seat with the Blue-Eyed Boy, and he tried to diagnose us on the run. Those car manuals are chock-full of all sorts of information, just not the information we need. Trying to find anything in there is basically an exercise in futility.

While he thumbed through the book, I drove. It was getting darker by the mile, outside and in, with our dash lights and our headlights fading away, but we were out there in the middle of nowhere, so we kept going on the hope that we would get home before we conked out. But just two or three miles from home we heard some scary sounds from under the van, followed by some scary jolts, and that was that.

Most of the roads in Texas have a shoulder where you can pull over, but this particular stretch of highway has been under construction for the last four years, and the side of the road is lined with orange barrels where the shoulder should be. So ~ taught in my early driving days by my dad, I can parallel park with the best of them ~ I pulled over in between two of the barrels.

A phone call to Geico brought assurance that the wrecker would be there within 45 minutes. Time, and dark enough, to take a nap, only it turned out that we had stopped just before an entrance ramp. We already knew there would be traffic whizzing by on our left side. What we were not prepared for were the cars and every other assortment of vehicles on our right side speeding up to join the freeway. Every time one of these came by we were given a good shake, reminding us that we were just inches away from disaster, so we could never quite relax and enjoy our predicament.

The Tire Trouble came about just a day or two later when we were outside watching the kids play. BB1, who was hiding behind Nellie, suddenly asked, "What's wrong with this tire?" Earlier that day the Blue-Eyed Boy had asked the same question. They clearly knew something I did not. My Man came over to inspect it, and whaddya know, there was a big screw sticking out of the tire, calling for a trip to MoreMart.

Good news/bad news. The good news: "Pull right up!" I cannot remember one other time in my relationship with MoreMart that I have been first in line (Remember when they had "You're always next in line" signs at the checkouts? Definitely another rant for another time.). The bad news: "The screw is too close to the side and we can't fix it. You need a new tire. Only $90." We normally get our tires at MoreMart, and we normally have road hazard, but these tires were bought by D and Da in Temple before M fell heir to Nellie.

So those nice MoreMart employees replaced the mortally wounded tire with the little pretend spare tire and a caution not to exceed 50 mph all the 30-mile way to Temple, but by then it was too late to creep anywhere but home. I arrived with my dialing finger ready and got right to work calling E Tires in Temple and discovered, quite by surprise, that we had to go no farther than Killeen, which was more than far enough on that non-tire.

The next afternoon we headed off to get our new tire. That was one long 10-mile trip ~ driving in the slow lane, hugging the non-shoulder, eating the dust of every last vehicle speeding past us on the road, and when we finally got there, unlike at MoreMart, we found quite a line ahead of us. But only two hours later, it was our turn. Thanks to road hazard at E Tires, we got a brand-new tire for just under $10, and we hit the road toward home.

So that is one little glitch taken care of, and at least I should be lucky that we have cars to spare, because the van, meanwhile, sits at the curb where the wrecker so expertly parked it on his very first try. Its turn is coming up, and this is just a guess on my part, but I'm thinking $10 isn't going to fix this one.

When you're a kid, the scariest noises may come from under the bed. But when you're an adult, the scariest noises come from under the car.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Profound Statements

1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.

-- John Adams

2. If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

-- Mark Twain

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.

-- Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle ..

-- Winston Churchill

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

-- George Bernard Shaw

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.

-- G. Gordon Liddy

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

-- James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

-- Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

-- P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.

-- Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

11. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

-- Ronald Reagan (1986)

12. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

-- Will Rogers

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!

-- P.J. O'Rourke

14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.

-- Voltaire (1764)

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!

-- Pericles (430 B.C.)

16. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.

-- Mark Twain (1866)

17. Talk is cheap...except when Congress does it.

-- Anonymous

18. The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

-- Ronald Reagan

19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

-- Winston Churchill

20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.

-- Mark Twain

21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

22. There is no distinctly native American criminal Congress.

-- Mark Twain

23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.

-- Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.

-- Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tax Time

HAVE FUN AND GET YOUR TAXES DONE!!! "Liberty Tax" extends this absurd invitation to every driver on the main streets of Killeen and Copperas Cove and a number of other cities by way of the Statue of Liberty and/or Uncle Sam, of all people, standing by the side of the road jumping up and down and waving their ridiculous signs around. Does anybody catch the irony?

I confess, my first reaction upon seeing those ludicrous characters, was to laugh out loud, but it only took a moment for the feeling of hilarity to change to a sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The attention-getting costumes are comical, to be sure, but they underscore a tragedy in our delusional public consciousness (or more accurately, our lack thereof): As a general public, rather than being outraged by the onerous tax burden to which we are subjected daily, we allow ourselves to be amused and distracted and deceived, and voluntarily enslaved, because, after all, we're having "FUN"!

"HAVE FUN AND GET YOUR TAXES DONE" urges the sign. Huh?! I must have missed something. I can't imagine what's going on in that office, because nothing about having my $ snatched away before I even touch it strikes me as fun. Perhaps some of the fun of April 15th would evaporate if our own money made its way through our own hands, and then we were compelled to pay our taxes by writing a big, fat check once a year. That little exercise oughta raise some public consciousness. But meanwhile, we are just willing suckers who are too ignorant and apathetic to know or care. Sounds appealing, doesn't it?

WAKE UP!!!!! Take a backward look. Recognize what has been lost. There's no lesson like history, but too many of us are too brain dead to learn it.

...Liberty Tax? An oxymoron if I ever heard one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Heart Day!

It is A Day in My Life day again.

My Man went off to work dark and early this morning like he does every Saturday, and I went back to bed, like I usually don't, and I actually went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

I love Saturday mornings at home alone, having plenty of time to avoid whatever it is I don't really want to do. Today, as it is so often, it was the paper piles, the bane of my life. Here a pile, there a pile, everywhere a pile...

I did manage to get myself dressed and had dinner almost all ready in the crockpot before the phone rang. It was my friend De who had found a homeless person by the side of the road last night. She was calling to see if I could meet them at the Little House, our church's pantry/clothing room. It was a chilly morning, but they had gotten out of the truck and were sitting outside at the picnic table when I got there. We went in and quickly found a few things for her to wear. Not so easy was rounding up something for her to eat: food had to be non-perishable, single-serving, and no cooking required.

We spent quite a bit of time talking with her. At times she was perfectly rational, other times...not so much. The encounter left us with a bit of an Alice-in-Wonderland feeling, and in the end she told us she would rather go live on the street than spend any more time talking to us, so De loaded her up with her *new* stuff and took her back where she got her. We can't fix her, but at least we know we did what we could, and she is a little bit better off tonight than she was yesterday.

I did a couple of errands, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon at home. I made some phone calls and took another run at the paperwork, which springs eternal around here. Every now and then I had to run outside and hold something for my Man who was working on a display stand for the Central Texas Home and Garden show next weekend.

Later on I had a moment of hope that I might see D on the webcam, but that was short-lived. It's a bit too advanced for my techno-grade, so here's my plan: tonight I will shut down the computer, and hope that it has time to heal by the time I turn it on again.

My Man and I used to have a standing date to watch the British comedies on Saturday nights, but over the the last year or two, with one thing and another, that lovely habit has gradually fallen out of favor. So tonight, in honor of Valentine's Day, it is being resurrected. That oughta be enough heartfelt fun for anybody!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Friendly Fun by Fone and Facebook

Yesterday was a friend-friendly day.

My first surprise came when the phone rang. I am always a little apprehensive about answering the phone because, even in the age of caller ID there are unwelcome surprises. But, we have a business at home, so I almost always answer, because you never know when it's going to be your next client. This time the ID said "ST OF CALIFORNIA CON," certainly no one I recognize, and other than my mom, nothing California appeals to me. But, oddly enough, for a mostly local business, we get calls from all over the country, so, hesitant or not, I answered.

I was greeted by a deep voice saying, "Is this the A residence?" Followed by, "Is this M, also known as L?"


And then, "This is DD." Oh, my, what a surprise!!! DD and I are friends of a rather unusual sort. We met probably some 40 years ago or so, when his parents hired me to babysit for him and his younger brother JD. I believe their father and my father had some sort of work connection.

DD was a fun kid to hang out with, and his parents were very nice to work for. JD...well, he was a bit more challenging than DD, but very likable, and now, having raised some challenging grand/sons of my own, I have a whole new appreciation for JD and boys like him ;-)

DD and I have stayed in touch over the years, mostly with letters and Xmas cards, and once with a visit when his traveling job sent him to the town where we lived. Over the years life has gotten faster and furious-er, and the letters have dwindled to only Xmas cards.

It turns out that DD now does some sort of research for the State of California, which is how he happened to come across my boy on the internet, prompting him to call me. We didn't talk long, but it was long enough. Long enough to re-establish a connection of good memories of good times.

My other surprise was WW on Facebook. WW and I are a much more likely pair. We became friends about 20 years ago when my family moved to Houston and joined the WW-led homeschool support group, our hands-down, no-contest favorite homeschool group in our entire homeschooling career. As homeschooling moms we had a lot of common interests, and our children became friends as well.

We, too, have kept in touch over the years with sporadic letters, and through our children, and like everyone who has lasted longer than a few days in this life, we have each been through some hard things and some difficulties, but here we are...alive-and-well survivors on Facebook!

Techno-tard that I am, I have to give high-tech its due. And I'm going to need to adjust my attitude to love it...EEK!...because that, it seems, is where my friends live.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why the Pope Wears Red Shoes

I've always been curious as to why the pope wears those ridiculous-looking bright red shoes. Awhile back during a Bible study, the pope and the Catholic church came up, and that got me to thinking about it again. After class I inquired of the teacher, a man exceedingly knowledgeable about world religions. He shrugged, said he had no idea, but if I found out to let him know. He finds ideas for sermons in the most unlikely places and thought there might be something there.

So I have been doing some research. Among other things, I discovered a world of information about the pope's entire wardrobe, including the cassock (a fancy lace-trimmed dress), the chasuble (a poncho), the cope (a cape/cloak), the mitre (a KKK-looking headdress), the rochet (a tunic), the mozetta (a short cape), and the camauro (a Santa-looking hat). But to stick to my topic, the ruby-red slippers, this is what I discovered:

  • They are a statement of his desire to demonstrate continuity with the symbols and history of the Catholic church.
  • They are a reminder of the years he served as a cardinal.
  • They are an optional papal tradition.
  • They symbolize the blood of martyrdom.
  • They identify him with the Holy Spirit.
  • Red represents power.
  • They represent his ultimate sovereignty, without being subjected to any temporal authority.
  • "Because he wants to go to Kansas."
I believe the last one is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there it is. So in case you ever wondered...

P.S. They are rumored to be made by Prada, from the finest Moroccan leather, at a cost of $640 a pair. But I am happy to report that the pope gets his free.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Snap Peas on Sunday

It's potluck Sunday again! My favorite place to try out new recipes. My favorite place to cook recipes too big for our little two-person family. And my favorite place to make things my Man doesn't like to eat. Today was a day for the latter. Onion Pie, and from my dearly loved friend of Good Cookie fame, Sugar Snap Peas:

3 slices of bacon in 1/2" pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb sugar snap peas
1/2 c. water

Cook bacon until crisp, remove from pan. Cook onion 3 minutes, or until just tender. Add peas and water to the pan. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and allow liquid to cook away. Add bacon back to pan and remove from heat.

Simple, and another YUM-YES!