Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Music Conundrum

CONUNDRUMS ABOUND!

Twenty minutes ago I had no idea that an artist I knew about via an excellent side project (L.E.O. and the amazing "Alpacas Orgling" album) had a third solo album that came out late the summer. "Late This Summer" is just within the bounds of being recent enough that I can review it and recoup the expense of purchasing it.

Loading up Amazon I find that I can download the album for $9.49 and have it instantly. Or I can get a used copy of the actual CD, shipped, in a week or so for just under eight bucks.

Pay more money, don't get a physical CD with artwork and liner notes BUT have it instantly and the artist actually gets paid for his work

-OR-

Pay less money, get more (physical CD) but I have to wait and the guy who created all the (hopefully) musical goodness gets nothing from the deal.

Hmmmm....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Refinancing Conundrum

We're in the process of having our house refinanced. Doing so would lower our payments about $100 a month and the Magic 8 ball said it would be a good move.

Right now we're in the midst of the appraisal stage. As everyone and their hermit knows home values have dropped since we bought the house nearly five years ago. However we got a very good deal and paid 20% down (to avoid that pesky PMI) and we've been paying a bit extra each month on the principle and home values in our area have been fairly stable so I wasn't concerned.

I should have been.

The appraiser, who spent an unusually long amount of time jockeying her SUV around to get into our driveway, valued the house at $10,000 less than we paid for it. Because there hasn't been much sales activity in our neighborhood in the last she for comparision she used a house two blocks away and two houses FOUR MILES AWAY. HUH? It's not like we live in the country... we're in the city so four miles could be just about anywhere. In this case it was near Rudisill. I mean no disrespect to those living in the Rudisill area and there are many fine, well built, older houses like ours but it's well known that the area is a bit on the urban side. Home values traditionally are quite a bit lower in that part of town so naturally our value got dinged. Seems a bit of common sense would prevail, eh? So its time to file a review / complaint / whatever to see if this can be changed. I've been told not to expect much.

Which would mean having to pay a nice chunk of change at closing NEXT WEEK in order to avoid those nasty PMI fees. We don't have to pay a mortgage payment in January so the amount we need is quite close to our monthly mortgage payment. If closing was in three weeks it'd be no sweat, just take Mortgage Payment A and apply it to Mortgage Prepayment B and everyone is happy. So now I'm looking for a rich uncle to lend me a thousand bucks for two weeks.

The good news is that I can take this OFFICIAL APPRAISAL to the county tax officials and have our taxes adjusted. They only have it inflated by $50,000 or so meaning that in addition to saving money on the mortgage we should also start paying less in property taxes.

What to do with all this money we'll be saving? How about maternity and baby clothes! OH YEAH!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fuzzy Kitten Warning

The latest head honco at work (who is in charge of daily operations and yet lives many states away and visits this humble city a handful of days per month) decided that our offices are ugly and that we need artwork on the walls. No big surprise there. We received a budget of $3,000 and a couple of employees were approached about using their photographs. These guys are semi-pro photographers and have very nice cameras that take very nice pictures. Plus there's the matter of having the artful eye in creating a pleasing composition for these very nice pictures. The company is going to pay to have the prints professionally framed but when the employees asked how much they would get paid for the use of their photographs, well, shouldn't that all be gratis?

So now we're having a company-wide photo contest! Go out and take pictures of the city (or children and/or kittens... children and/or kittens always score big in photo contests... pretty much anything that looks like it belongs on a 99 cent Walgreen calendar) and submit them. Many will enter, many will win and you'll get to see your artwork all big and blown up in 16X20s on the walls.

Of course these will probably be shot at 8 or 10 megapixels with compact pocket cameras so once they get blown up to poster size there will be noticable grain. Oh, and it's currently winter so every exterior picture will be washed out, colorless and grey unless they are taken during the 18.2 minutes of sunshine during the average north-eastern Indiana January.

I personally think we should also have a picture framing and matte cutting contest. Cut that matte nice and square and you'll get the satisfaction of seeing your matte surrounding an off-center fuzzy photograph of a co-workers childing holding a fuzzy kitten!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Horrors


I recently stumbled across an amazing web site dedicated to halloween music... including downloads! So I downloaded about one hundred hours of music and started digging in! There's tons of monster movie soundtracks from the Universal days up through the mid-70s plus lots of unique finds.

One nice treasure, for me in particular, is a record my family had called "Halloween Horrors." The first side is a spooky story about an old southern mansion, complete with tons of sound effects. While the adult me finds it amusing the kid me, as well as my brothers, found it pretty creepy stuff! Side two of this album is fifty or so sound effects that you can use to make your own scary tale, including every sound used on the first side. I don't recall that we ever made a scary tale but perhaps we tried and it was such a let down that I've erased it from my memory. It was a blast hearing these again after so many years, remembering things like how we laughed at the kitten sound effect. Ooooo.... scary kitten!

Of note is a snippet of violin music that was strategically used on side one. Years later I finally found out that this was from Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, a piece that isn't particularly frightening unless Romantic composers creep you out.

The web site? Right here at Universalhorrorsounds.blogspot.com. The links to download the files are in the comments section.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2009


The following is a true story:

Last night I stopped by Pios, a local old timey meat market to pick up something to make for dinner. While I make my way to the counter I overhead a lady ask "Do you want steak tonight?" I look over and she's asking what appears to be a ten year old girl. "Must be nice," I thought. When I was a kid we rarely got steak and even now steak is a luxury. But I'm all for those who work hard and don't begrudge anyone what they've rightly earned.

Except this lady and her daughter and her twelvish looking son in their baggy clothes and greasy hair didn't exactly look like go-getters.

As it is a small store they have plastic baskets to put your food in instead of the giant Walmart-type carts. "Carry that basket up the front so mamma can pay."

"I can't. It's too heavy!"

By this time I'm by the counter and can see a basket overflowing with bundles wrapped in white butcher paper, capped off with a side of ribs. Again, I loves me some good ribs but it's not something I can afford, opting instead of the more affordable pulled pork.

Somehow the basket gets to the front of the store while Neil gets my order together (two and a half pounds of hamburger which I will stretch to feed a family of seven, if you must know) and I overhear the lady approve of the candy her kids have picked out. I take my solitary purchase and walk to the front of the store in time to see this lady pay for her feast of meat with a food stamp card.

I sure was glad that I could help pay for her $84 of meat. This wasn't the first time I'd been standing in line behind someone buying $50 of meat using food stamps while I pay cash for a pound or two of hamburger, sometimes seeing these same people drive away in nice new cars out in the parking lot while I climb into my 1995 Ford Taurus.

What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Generic October Entry

I haven't been writing much here because I've been writing elsewhere. Or rather I've started submitting my short stories for publications. So far I have a stable of five stories (six if you count that I changed one slightly to "Christianize" it for a particular magazine) and and have received five or six rejection notices. YEAH! I'm not taking it personally, though, 'cause volume is the name of the game. Sure, after 100 rejections and not one bite I might feel the sting but for now it's onward ho!

The plan is to write one short story or make two submissions per week. I found an amazing site that lets you plug in the type of publication and it will give you a massive list of on-line and print magazines, how much or if they pay, their criteria, etc. For the most part it seems that my genre is "slipstream", which not surprisingly is a fancy word for "weird and offbeat." Go with your strengths, I suppose.

I also completed the Fruit Bat song... nine months in the making from melodic and lyric-snippet conception in January, hastily sung into a digital recorder to be revived a few months later when I had time to flesh it out. The amazing Greg Flesh, guitarist for Daniel Amos and The Swirling Eddies, laser scientist for NASA and potential Lutheran pastor, was generous enough to add lead guitar tracks all the way from California. Now it's time to work on a song for a Gene Eugene tribute album ("Hide Away") and two cover songs for Melynda for Christmas.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Backlogged

Not much to talk about lately. Well, not much chance at least. I still need to regale my 1.72 readers with the exciting garden battle stories complete with pictures (spoiler: the humans won but not without casualties).

Right now, though, I'm busy with catching up on my music. It's a tough life. At this very moment I have 100+ albums that I've yet to listen to or listen to enough to know if I like it or not (tagged with an "In Process" label in my database). I'm a junkie. Plus there's my wife's collection that she brought into the marriage that I chip away at now and then. Many of these are probably ready to be rated and moved off the "In Process" list but they're so good and I feel that I haven't plumbed their depths completely and I know that if they move off the "In Process" list that they probably won't get the attention they deserve. SOMEONE GET ME AN INTERVENTION!!!

So for no other reason other than I'm a dweeb, here are the albums currently being pumped through my brain:

Phil Solem's (of The Rembrandts) unnamed unreleased solo album (it's quite good!)
Thrush unreleased songs
Electric Light Orchestra - A New World Record (how did I manage to evade ELO for all these decades?)
Keane - Under the Iron Sea
Sam Phillips - The Turning
Mark Heard - Stop the Dominoes
scaterd-few - Sin Disease
Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left
George Harrison - Thirty Three & 1/3
Gentle Giant - Octopus
Peter Case - The Man With the Blue Post Modern Fragmented Neo-... Guitar
Aimee Mann - Lost in Space
Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Hoodwinked Soundtrack
Recess Monkey - Field Trip
fun. - Aim & Ignite
Kevin Moore - Ghost Book
Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura

Of course I've paid the record companies for each of these.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Successful Failure

It looks like boycotts are alive and well. When conservatives do a boycott it's shutting down free speech but when liberals do a boycott it's a grand, heroic thing. In addition to the boycott on Whole Foods because the founder published a very neutral, well thought-out position on the health care debate ("How DARE he express his opinion which is different from OURS! We are only tolerant of those opinions which are exactly like OURS!")

Now Color of Change, those fine folks who brought you "BUSH IS KILLING BLACK PEOPLE IN NEW ORLEANS" is pushing a boycott against Glenn Beck for stating that Obama is a racist. HOW DARE HE! Unfortunately for them Beck has video proof of his claim (see below), proof that would convince anyone who hasn't already made up their mind (i.e. the closed-minded). But then again, when has facts and proof ever been of value to liberals when there's so much to FEEL about?

So this boycott is being trumpeted as being "one of the more effective boycott campaigns in years”. YEAH FOR BOYCOTTS! But read to the bottom of the article...


For its part, Fox News said through a spokeswoman that while some advertisers have "removed their spots from Beck," they have just shifted to "other programs on the network, so there has been no revenue lost."


So how is this boycott successful? Fox is not losing money and if anything more people are tuning in to find out what all the hullabaloo is about. The boycott, like most things liberals try to do in the public realm, IS A FAILURE!

But then again, don't let verifiable facts get in the way of what you feel.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Morning Stuff



Eighteen months ago I bought some mid-80s Fangoria magazines off eBay... and then their warehouse holding all their back issues burned down. These five or six issues gave many hours of enjoyment, nicking down to my basement man-cave now and then to read about "upcoming" horror movies or books or special effects gurus.

But recently when this supply ran out I had the great fortune to win a massive auction of 40+ Fangorias from this era! Sure, some are missing covers and the earlier ones have some oh the pictures cut out (long with bits of the article on the other side... seems the previous owner liked Mad Max) but all in all it's a historical treasure trove of the golden age of horror films.

Last Saturday I sorted through the lot and this morning I started in on the earliest - #16 from 1981. Even at almost three years into it's publication it's interesting to see the transition away from science fiction and its sister publication Starlog. The ads, especially, run heavy on sci-fi and fantasy as the demand for scarier fare had, as yet, only created a few "A to Z" type monster books.

I read only one full article, one on Chris Tucker, the man who did the makeup for The Elephant Man, the wonderful movie directed by David Lynch. In Lynch's first film, the nightmarish EraserHead, there is a creature that is startlingly realistic, one created by Lynch who has never divulged how it was created and has said he never will. However in the article Tucker gives some insight into how this earlier effect was most likely achieved:

"According to Lynch's own account in a British film trade publication, his idea was for a suit built in layers that would have an 'incredibly organic' look [just like in EraserHead -ed] and would require five hours to apply each day. 'It was perfect in theory,' Lynch said. 'Like a ten-thousandth of a second, when I it on John Hurt the first time, he looked all right; then, the next ten-thousandth of a second... there was no way."

The ErasureHead creature was a puppet kind of thing that laid in a bassinet. It moved but only slightly. Lynch would naturally try to use the methods that he knew- thus some kind of tissue-thin layering to create the organic look.

Okay, so maybe it's not step-by-step instructions of how Lynch built the creature but it was more information on the subject than I had ever heard divulged.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mink Car Revisited



Originally I found the 2001 They Might Be Giants album Mink Car to be a mediocre album: a few good songs and lots of stinkers. In my nerdy CD database I had given it a 6. This morning I gave the album a fresh listen and was impressed by the number of great songs that kick off the album: Bangs, Cyclops Rock, Man It's So Loud In Here, Another First Kiss, I've Got A Fang and Hovering Sombrero all appear in the first half with Older, She Thinks She'd Edith Head and Working Undercover for the Man on the second half. A couple of those are classic status and the rest a good goofy fun! Why didn't I like this album more?

Oh wait... it's songs like Mr. Xcitement, Yeh Yeh, Drink!, Wicked Little Critta... songs where Flansburg has seemingly fallen off his musical rocker. HEY FLANSBURG... YOU'RE NOT SINATRA!

It's also of note that most of the above-listed great had previously been released on E.P.s or other collections so I can see how, in 2001 after waiting five years for a full album only to receive a few new songs that were good and an equal amount of new songs that were MAJOR stinkers, well, a six might have been generous.

As it stands I want to give this album an 8 but the Good to Stinker ratio is still frighteningly high. I'll bump it up the a 7 and hopefully will like their kids album (SCIENCE! - due September 1) better.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Too Early (in the morning) For Predictions


The current administration is showing itself to be extremely thin-skinned. People are coming out to protest government-run universal health care and these individuals are being lambasted as extremists and/or part of an organized event. It's the true liberal way: If you can't logically argue against something you start slinging mud and name calling and smearing reputations. Remember Joe the Plumber? At the mere mention of this guy some of the liberals I know would say, "But he didn't even have his plumbers license!", meaning that the media was right in what they did to this man's life. But what does his lack of a license have to do with the question that he asked? It's not like he approached Obama, Obama approached him!

So now we're seeing how Chicago politics operates on a larger scale: hired union thugs beating up old people, trying to threaten them.

I predict that 2012 is going to have a very unusual November. The sleeping giant is waking and the American people who normally only care about getting to the local RedBox and making sure their boat at the lake has gas is slowly realizing the character of this man they voted in for President of the United States of America. My prediction is that reality will continue to set in for the rest of this mans 3.5 year term, provided he is allowed to serve it (but that's another post) and the American people will descend en masse to vote him out. However there will be a couple of unusual things that will happen:

1) In the last election there was MASSIVE voter fraud, Chicago style. Everyone jokes and laughs about how the dead vote in Chicago but in this last election ACORN made sure that the dead voted nationally. Anyone with a bit of time can read this or simply search "ACORN voter fraud" for hours of evidence. The fact that the past election was so close means that it is extremely likely that the election was stolen. In my own county I chose to vote early only to find that there wasn't anything to prevent me from voting again on election day. I was told that there were checks in place but my hunch is that this was just CYA on the part of the voting board. A list was supposed supplied to each voting station of those who already voted and the volunteers were to go through the book and mark out those who had already voted. When my wife voted in the afternoon there was still no indication on my record that I had already voted.

2) The Republicans had better give us someone worthy of our vote! If they sit back and say, "We've got this one in the bag... who's the next Country Club Blue Blood pal of ours who's due?" JUST LIKE THE DID LAST TIME then, well, I don't know what will happen. I fully believe that if they hadn't had Sarah Palin on the ticket that they would have lost by even more and if they had had someone who acted like they wanted to win, someone who wasn't so wishy washy like McCain, that there would have been enough votes to overcome the fake ACORN votes.

3) I suspect that Obama and his machine are working towards gaining control of counting the votes. He illegally grabbed control of the Census and no one stood up to him so why not the whole voting process? So he won't be too concerned over campaigning (thought that appears to be the old thing he's good at) or sweating it out because he and his goons will control the outcome. The problem will be when the American people realize what's happened, when all the poll numbers leading up to the election show clearly that Obama is losing badly and suddenly he wins... well, I'm not sure what will happen but there might be a sale on pitchforks and torches.

4) Regardless, there will still be wholesale intimidation by The Black Panthers/ACORN and voter fraud on Election Day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Continuing Saga of the 1995 Ford Taurus

It's been a good car. The 1995 Ford Taurus came into my life via a friend. He asked if I could put up some fliers at my work and I'll be durned if the car he was selling wasn't loads better than the one I was driving. So I bought the car for a cool grand, a bargain for the mere 67,000 miles on it! Perfect also for the long distance relationship that would develop into marriage. I had to immediately put $300 or so into a fuel pump and then another $300 into tires. $1600 for a car in great shape with only 67,000 miles on it? Prior to this the lowest milage I had purchased was 92,000 back on my way out of college, the very car I had driven to bits.

Now it's six years later and I've managed to put a whopping 35,000 miles on it (tis only a mile or so to work). I've since put in another $2000 or so in repairs over the years but overall it's been good to me. But last February it shredded a belt on one very cold day. Fortunately it happened AFTER I had dropped off my son at school so I walked to a pay phone, waited until when they opened, and called my mechanic. One tow and $400 later (the belt broke due to a siezed steering pump) I was back on the road. But things had changed in our relationship. It had left me stranded and was now on probation.

A couple of months later I had to come to a quick stop and a pop sound came from the right front wheel well. Then when I started driving again it made a giant CLUNK sound. Then nothing for a few weeks until I had to make another quick stop. Later I took off the wheel buy my non-mechanic eyes couldn't see anything. Over the summer this sound happened with less and less provocation but it wasn't until I hit a rather large bump that a new sound started - a dinking tink in the engine compartment when I'd start to drive it, just once or twice and then done until the next time I'd drive. Two weeks ago I admitted that it was time for my mechanic to take a look.

A mere $20 later and my car is on life support. The parts that need fixing are structural but would be expensive. "It's safe to drive but I'd start looking for a new car." Hmmm... no need to change the oil? No need to fix anything? Just drive it until it leaves me stranded or the tink or CLUNK becomes a CRUNCH? FREEDOM!

But today there was a slight grinding noise from the right front wheel well. I'd hoped to maybe drive the thing well into the fall when this Cash for Clunkers nonsense was over but perhaps it won't let me. I barely drive it lately as I'd rather bike to work but some days, like when I take the water buffalo to work, I have to drive. Since I don't drive much and my cars seem to wear out from age rather than high miles my strategy is to find a newer car with high milage, preferably cheap and neon green. CRAIGSLIST TO THE RESCUE!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

News From the Front

Days three and four:

It's been quiet. Too quiet. If I sit still long enough I can see them growing, soaking up the sunshine, mustering up the courage to turn red, perhaps coordinating with their siblings and cousins on when to make the attack. There are dozens of them.

In the meanwhile an unexpected attack has come from the bell peppers. Two... three... FOUR of the monsters demanding to be picked before they turn bad. Stuffed peppers for dinner tonight? Oh, they'd like that, I'm sure.

We've also managed to stave off two assaults from the Bushbean Corps. This year not only are they coming at us in green but also in yellow... just as dangerous, just as tasty. The children won't touch these yellow beans which laughingly leaves more for my wife and I. That wife of mine (as well as the baby) loves fresh beans so I doubt we'll have trouble keeping up but still I worry because also new this year is four stands of pole beans. Already they've crested their seven-foot poles, reaching higher still. Some of them seem to be reaching for the phone line about two feet above them. It's an insidious plan, taking out our communication line to the outside world. I'll have to keep my eyes on them. So far these vertical devils haven't done more than put out a few flowers but they are notorious for later production. I fear they will hit us hard after our culinary defenses have been tired out by the Bushbean Corps. There's always blanching and freezing but it's not the same.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

News From The Front

Day Two of the Siege:

Some time during the night a hoard of Cherries turned . We found them first thing, smiling back at us with their cheery red faces, wearing their socialism proudly. Our eldest daughter dispatched them quickly.

Two Better Boys are making their way over the hill. Big guys. One looks like it's almost here but the one will most definitely reach out camp by nightfall. Like I said, they're big but it's early in the battle and I think we can take 'em without much of a problem. If not they can cool their heels with yesterdays scout.

Fortunately that's all there is to report at this time. The Mountain Heirloom unit still seems to be trying to get organized and Commander Stripey's unit appears to only have two troops still in training. We'll have to keep an eye on those Cherries, though. There's a lot of 'em and sooner or later it's going to take more than a ten year old girl to keep up.

News From The Front

Day 1 of the Siege:
The first of the enemy arrived today. It was small so it was probably a scout. Our troops took the scout into custody and it has since been in solitary confinement ever since, being moved to a cold containment unit.

After being alerted to the long-awaited arrival of these fiends we sent out a scout of our own and found a larger combatant, though only about 90% ripened. Unfortunately our interrogator got carried away and in the process of trying to learn what this soldier knew, well, things got dicey. Fortunately we're having tacos in the mess hall.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BORING HISTORY ALERT!

If it weren't for the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution we wouldn't be having this debate over nationalizing health care.

The current plan is to force the states to pay for national health care. "YOU THERE! I COMMAND YOU TO DO THIS BIG EXPENSIVE THING AND FIND A WAY TO PAY FOR IT!" Doesn't seem right, does it?

It's not. Our founding fathers didn't want a system like this. They didn't want Congress to have this kind of power. They envisioned an America of individual States that were United for a very few common goals (such as protection from other nations). Kind of like a Europe with a small central government. France can set the rules and laws it wants and Germany can set up completely different rules or laws. Likewise their intent was that, for exampe, Michigan can force a minimum wage upon it's employers but Indiana could choose not to. If you live in Indiana and think the idea of a minimum wage is good, move there. If you find working or employment conditions better in Indiana (or there are few jobs to be had) and you live in Michigan, move there. Competition. It's what's for dinner.

The founding fathers carefully planned out a balanced system where the people elect members of the House while the states elect two members for the Senate, members that are intended to protect the interest of the states. In terms of the recent "debate" such an unfunded mandate would be shot down in an instant.

House and the President: "Hey, let's mandate national healthcare and force the states the pay for it!"

Senate: "Let me check with the governors of our states that send us to protect their interests.... Um... nope."


-End of discussion.-

When I was in skool I remember wondering what the difference between the house and senate was because I didn't see much of one. Too bad the teachers didn't explain this but I guess they were too busy praising FDR and Woodrow Wilson. I also remember wondering what the big deal with the 17th Amendment was. I mean, wasn't it corrupt for the states to NOMINATE someone for such a powerful position? Wasn't this America, the democracy, where people voted on things?

Maybe I wasn't paying attention or was too shy to ask. We are instead a Representative Republic. Our politicians can't, and shouldn't, stick a finger in the air and take a poll for each and every item up for vote. The American people are supposed to choose a candidate who reflects their values and if that candidate betrays them, they don't get re-elected.

The 17th Amendment, in my view, was a monumental dismantaling of the intricate balance of power that the founding fathers set up. Hey, if they overturned the 18th amendment then why not the 17th? DOWN WITH 17!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Long Overdue Math


I see that Fort Wayne Community schools is finally doing away with this asinine policy of having two hour elementary teacher in-service training days sprinkled throughout the school year. SURPRISE! This morning your normal schedule is disrupted because of a non-weather related two hour delay! Find a sitter or take two or three hours of vacation time from work, juggle your schedule 'cause them teachers gotta have training!

It's not like they have, oh, ALL SUMMER FOR TRAINING! All these two hour bites could even be summed up into one or two full days either before or after the regular school year. But don't mention this to a teacher or else they'll get all whiney (being around small children all day tends to make the whininess rub off... or maybe it's because the majority of public school teachers lean to the left) about how it's hard to teach all day (all "seven" hours of it, including a break for lunch, recess, when your class goes to art or gym or music or Spanish) and how you get paid so little (apparently they had no idea of the pay scale while they were in college or interviewing for the job... but if you count up the actual hours worked [7 hours + prep time + spring break + CHRISTMAS break + summer break + regular sick days] you'll find that they get paid quite well!

I just did a quick check. The average STARTING teacher's salary in Indiana is $31,703, while the average teacher's pay is $46,597. That's not adjusted for time off, etc... Seems pretty durn good to me! Let's do some math, shall we?

7 hours a day - 1 hour for lunch/recess - 1 hour for special subjects + 1 hour of prep/grading time = 6 hours a day. Let's throw in an extra hour a day just to be generous.

7 hours a day X 5 days a week = 35 hours of work per week

52 weeks in the year - 2 weeks for Christmas break - 1 week for spring break - 1 week of vacation/sick - 11 weeks of summer + 1 week pre school prep + 1 week post school cleanup = 39 weeks

39 weeks X 35 hours a week = 1365 hours worked per year

$31,703 starting salary / 1365 hours worked per year = $23.23 per hour. Wow. That's way more than I make! More than most people I know make and this is just for a teacher starting out.

$46,597 / 1365 = $34.14 per hour... PLUS GREAT BENEFITS! QUIT YER WHINING!

My brother Pete used to be a teacher. Junior High. History. Do you think he earned his money every day, trying to get self-absorbed junior high schoolers interested in HISTORY!?!?! You bet he did, trying to come up with ways to get the interested! But he even said that it was a cush job. The first year, he admitted, is tough because you have to do a lot of lesson planning and prep work but every year after that is a cake-walk in that you just modify your plan IF YOU WANT. Remember that old teacher who seemed to be teaching the same things the same way for decades? He or she probably was.

But this long overdue rant is all for naught. DING DONG, THE SUPERFLOUS TWO-HOUR DELAY IS DEAD!

WHAT AM I MISSING? BRING ON THE FLAMES!

#4- DONE

Things to do today:

1) Write and polish up and submit a review for the new Phil Keaggy / Randy Stonehill album - Mystery Highway. Overall feeling, a fairly good album whose aftertaste is tarnished by one horrendously horrible out of place song that isn't even good enough for a hidden bonus track. Start work on a long overdue review for the newest Joey O. Band CD.

2) Revise and polish up a short story I wrote and then decide what to do with it. Submit it somewhere in the hopes that it's published? Just post it online? Finally check out online writing communities?

3) Continue to contemplate the Fruit Bat song 'cause I get to work on it tonight. Hmmm... what part to tackle next...

4) Finally write a blog post. DONE

5) Work a full eight hour day. More or less.

6) Spend time with my wife and family after work.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Terry Scott Taylor Home Show

I was very fortunate to be able to host the world-famous Terry Scott Taylor at my home as part of his mid-west tour this year. Below are two video snippets of his show. He spent a lot of time tuning so if you want to get a real feel of the evening just loop the tuning bit over and over. :) The house was packed with fans (well, sprinkled with fans) and Steve Hindalong of The Choir paid me a great compliment: "You've got a great sounding home." YES!



Saturday, June 27, 2009

NEW SONG!

This ditty popped into my head about two months ago while changing a diaper. Of course by the time I finished writing and recording it Tessa is walking... go figure! And since I seem to be the only person on the planet who listens to music instead of watching it I set it to some video. Mucho Rembrandty.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why I Loves Me The Internets


Though you young punks may find it difficult to believe that this geezer who only in the past year has purchased both a cell phone and an MP3 player, I was an early adopter of the internet. Heck, thanks for BigDork I even used Google back when it was Beta (and wasn't cooperating with Communist China or protecting pedophiles).

So after the usual years of "golly gee there's lots of fun time wasting stuff out there" you get to the point where it's just a resource, replacing that old fashioned library.

Case in point: Last night I went down into the basement and the furnace sounded... funny. A bit more exploration and I find that the AC refrigerant line is frozen up with frost all over it. YIKES! Visions of thousands of non-existant dollars leaping out of my bank account spring into my mind. In the olden days of even fifteen years ago you'd have to make some phone calls and wake up repairmen or wait until the library opened and grab a dozen books on air conditioners and spend an hour or so leafing through them to find what you want. No more! In a matter of five minutes I was able to find the name of the frozen line (the refrigerant line... yeah, makes sense but often these things are called something like the Howitzer Return Feed) and how to fix the problem. I also found plans to turn my AC unit into an ice cream factory and/or nuclear refining facility.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

My grocery bills have given me the blues. Part of it is having four kids between the ages of eight and fourteen, any three of which are in a growth spurt at any given time. But the other part is prices at the grocery store and with the rampant printing of money and upcoming Obama-government mandated growing schedules for farmers it's only beginning.

Two examples.


Less than ten years ago I bought myself one of these cheap-o Indonesian-made guitars. $80. The tone isn't perfect nor does the neck melt into your hand but I'm not all that great of a guitarist and I needed an electric to knock around upon. This fit the bill.

Two years ago my son wanted nothing more than a guitar for his birthday. Well, a guitar or a $5000 gadget. I went shopping and found that this particular model was now $100.

Now I see that it's raised up another $20 to $120 American dollars.

2000 to 2007. 25% price increase in six+ years. 2007 to 2009. 20% increase in two years. Graph that out and you'll fill your drawers. That is if you're in the market for a beginner guitar.

Example Two:

Can o' corn at Aldis. Notice that this is not an actual Aldi's can of corn. Photographs of such a rare beast are not released to the internets. I'm using Aldi's here 'cause I'm frugal (or cheap) and it's easy to compare historical prices because they have ONE type of canned corn. Apples to apples.

Ten or twelve years ago this tasty product was twenty-five cents. A mere quarter. It was that was for years and years. Then about four years ago it went up to 33 cents, you know, about the time ethanol came into fashion.

Farmer Bob: "Hey everybody, let's turn our food supply into fuel, not because it's more efficient or creates more energy than we put in but because it makes us feel good. I could plant corn for humans and get $10 a bushel or I could plant feed corn for cows and get $10 a bushel or I could plant corn to turn into gas and get a Bush-Government subsidized $20 a bushel. I'm no dummy. Oh, and since I'm not planting corn for humans the guys who are now want $12 a bushel and since I'm NOT planting green beans those have gone up from 30 cents a can to 40 cents. Less product, same demand, higher prices."

Thanks for the monologue, Farmer Bob.

The bad news is that a can -o- corn is now 49 cents. That's a 100% increase in less than ten years. I won't go into how your favorite milk products (cheese, ice cream, and everybody's favorite lo-fat yogurt) went from $1.69 per bag (this is cheese I'm talking about) to $3.69 in the same few years. Ice cream at least only went from 99 cents to $1.69 in less than ten years. Inflation? It's already here.

Just in case you're wondering, we tried messing with food prices before with FDR and it failed miserably. Back then we had a supreme court with a slight understanding of the U.S. Constitution so they rightly struck down the Agricultural Adjustment Act as unconstitutinal. I doubt our current court will have the moral compass or the spine.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Mere Three Minutes Of Your Life

Or more if you have a slow download connection.

Observations

This morning as I rode my bike to work (riding my bike to work four or five days a month plus keeping up with five kids is the only exercise I get) I noticed that they had stopped working on the expension of the art museum. Oh wait, there's four guys in hardhats standing on the corner. Around the corner along Main Street are two more groups of hardhat guys holding signs. On strike. Don't they know we're in a bloomin' recession?!?! That there are tons of people out of work (so they tell us) that are just itching to get a construction job? Seems like a pretty risky time to go on strike.

And then the thought occured to me that perhaps this is the unions flexing a bit of muscle since they have the full backing of the Obama administration, just testing to see how scared businesses are of earning any unwanted attention from Washington.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Still Afloat on Oceansize

If they sound this good live imagine how amazing they are in the studio! Well, actually it's pretty close, just a bit cleaner.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bend Over... Again

I CAN'T RESIST!

First the taxpayer gets bilked out of TWENTY BILLION DOLLARS to give to GM to keep them out of bankruptcy. All that money went to the pay back the unions because now GM is going into bankruptcy with possibly even ANOTHER twenty billion taxpayer dollars going to GM very soon.

Under Obama control GM is going to sell off various brands. The profitable ones. Leaving the ones who don't make a profit for the United STATES taxpayer to continue to subsidize. And just who is buying one of these money-making brands? China. Payback time! http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_automakers

Ya gotta wonder how Ford managed to not need any taxpayer dollars if things were so bad for everyone.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Catching Up

Pity the poor neglected blog.

In the month since I've last posted...

Tessa has taken a couple of steps. Tentatively. She's growing and eating and crawling and getting a will of her own. She may not be one just yet but dag nabbit, she wants a spoon to hold when she eats and maybe take a stab or two at getting some mashed taters into her mouth! It's hard to believe that she turns one in just two weeks!

I wrote and recorded a quick song, "The Boy Who Liked Zombies" and have had an amazing THREE LISTENS on MP3.COM (one each from my wife and kids). It's good to be the king. Up next is a quick ditty about Tessa done in the Rembrandts style (acoustic guitar and two vocals) called "Don't Fall Off the Bed". I'll make millions for sure!

School is almost out so it's time to plan some kind of summer vacation. Spain? South America? Indiana?

The garden is in. Once again almost nothing I tried to start from seed has taken. I think basil is the only one and even then the batch I tried in March fizzled but the seeds I started a month ago are going strong. Well, I also used seeds for turnips and fancy lettuce plus the usual beans. Okay, so a FEW things have taken off but not tomatos or peppers. I sowed the fancy lettuce seeds in a clean cat box filled with pottig soil and a few drainage holes custom drilled. YUM!

I bought a nine pack of peppers so we'll soon be buried. In fact two of the plants already have wee little flower buds. I'm trying a lot of container gardening this year so I've got three of 'em in big pots and four more in the ground. Four tomato plants... or is it five? I told myself I'd not plant so many this year but they are difficult to resist. Lyndi brought home a plant from 4-H but I didn't know which kind it was. I bought an heirloom and a big producer. And then had to buy a Mr. Stripey just for fun. And then Brooke wanted cherry tomatos. So I guess that makes five.
As for the beans, I'm trying my hand at pole beans as well as the usual bush beans. But for some reason about half of my bush beans didn't come up. Sure, the seeds are two or three years old but still... Lowes was out of green beans so I brought home some wax beans. Turns our the Mrs. isn't fond of wax beans. Scott's fortunately had some bush beans so they've gone in. If it all comes up we'll be swimming in beans! Yeah!

Also new this year is an attempt at cucumbers, butternut squash, stevia, rosemary, and chives. Oh, I put some peas in two long window boxes with a wire trellis behind them. They're flowering all over the place and bearing thin pods that will hopefully soon fill with peas.

The carrots have not fared so well. I'll try again closer to the fall.

In the bad news department our aged cat of umpteen years has disappeared. Then we had a garage fill of kittens! Well, three kittens and a mom cat and a dad cat who come around now and then. And then they were gone. Did the mother cat chase away our aged cat or did he just crawl off somewhere to die? I smell another song coming on!

More in a month...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Twelve Steps

A recent review of my music database has revealed that I have 94 albums that I have yet to listen to and 16 that I am currently in the process of digesting plus about fifteen CDs-worth of classical music that needs my attention.

Doesn't everyone have a database of all their music?

Some stats, purely for my own amusement.

In Process albums contain albums from the new Ben Folds (growing on me but doubt it will ever be more than a 7), an old Atomic Opera, a Japanese avante-garde metal band Dir En Grey, Cindy Morgan, and scaterd-few.

Unlistened albums include Nick Drake, Gentle Giant, Mark Heard (found nearly all of his albums on eMusic!), Goblin, King Crimson, Nektar, YES, Sufjan Stevens and even Lisa Whelchel. Of Facts of Life? Yeah... I'm chomping at the bit to hear that one but it has one track written by Steve Taylor so perhaps there's some other good songs. Some of these will get two or three listens before being tossed into storage but there may be one or two that will become lifetime favorites. Doubtful but possible.

1199 CDs (rock) plus around 275 classical albums and scant time to enjoy them. It's like that Twilight Zone episode where the guy lives through a nuclear blast and now has all the time in the world to read but breaks his glasses. I'm not complaining, though. Blessed be the ties. One day, all too soon, the house will be all too quiet and I'll listen to a couple of hour-long classical compositions and read a few chapters of a novel and then I'll start wondering what Melynda is doing or when the grandkids will be coming over.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sugar 'N' Yeast

All the female members in my household, save Tessa, are on a food regimine to reduce unhealthy yeast overgrowth that can occur when a body is subjected to more than one dose of antibiotics per year. I should probably also do the program but I'm lazy.

As part of the program you reduce sugar for four weeks. Originally we thought it was eliminate sugar for four weeks but fortunately we were wrong. This is supposed to include sugar substitutes and corn sweeteners and fruit juices.

In an attempt to be all scientific about it we did a little test. However we weren't "high school science project" scientific in that I didn't measure out the amount of water for each sample and warm each to a specific temperature. We did have a control of just water and I did measure out 1/4 tsp yeast per test and let each sit for 15 minutes. I of course was wearing goggles, rubber gloves, spandex, and moon boots. You know, the usual scientific gear.


THE CONTROL: Note the absence of yeasty growth and smell. Also note the clean counter top which I photoshopped in.



SUGAR: If you could have only been here. Foamy like root beer but with a rich, tangy smell. If you want to grow yourself some yeast this is the stuff to use.


STEVIA EXTRACT: A sweet herbal extract that is great for those who really love sweet herbal things. No detectable yeast growth.





HONEY: Very slight yeast growth but not exactly something I'd like to drink.



MAPLE SYRUP: More growth than honey, that's for certain. However when you know that they boil down forty or so gallons of tree sap to make one gallon on syrup, well, it's gotta be concentrated goodness!




ORANGE JUICE: Another big winner is orange juice. At first you think "Why no juice but it's okay to eat fruit?" Well, here's why. Grow little yeasties, grow!



So how about that old favorite CORN SYRUP? Unfortunately I didn't have any of that mythical High Fructose Corn Syrup but I did my best to make pudding out of sour grapes. Or something like that. Pretty decent growth, dontja think? Contract and compare against orange juice at your leisure.






The only non-diet soda we had in the house was ORANGE SODA! Pretty dismal growth, at least for what one would expect. Maybe it would grow better in a name brand.




Now on to the artificial sweeteners! How do THEY make yeast grow? Well... kinda sorta. Here's the first: ALTERN! It's the Wal-mart version of Splenda. A nice and even growth but without the vertical growth potential of sugar.



Here's the official version of SPLENDA. Hmmm... even less growth despite the stuff being made in the same factories. I wonder if Walmart cuts their powdery white stuff with the real thing?




The last is WEETENER. Very minimal growth. I unfortunately didn't have any of those mysterious blue packets to test but I'm sure they would grow mutant yeasts! Maybe some day...

What have we learned? That SUGAR IS KING! Also that I've run out of funnies 'cause it's late and the kids really need to go to bed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How To Build Monkey Bars - Step 4

This last step will be easier if you can gather up a willing victim but it's completely doable if you have a few bar clamps, a few muscles, and are willing to shed a few drops of blood. I gots me lots of clamps but not nearly as many as that Norm Abrahms. Clamp hog.


19. STAND the end pieces upright.


20. LIFT top piece into place on top of both ends and clamp at least one end to the top. Make sure it's a right angle and all square-ish. It's also very heavy. DUDE, you're lifting four ten foot 2X4s PLUS dowels PLUS screws and it's all dripping in preservative!


21. SCREW in the braces you cut in step 17. I recommend three on top and toenail two in on the lower end.


22. SCREW the top to the side. Note the placement of the three screws in the corner in the above and below pictures.


23. Unclamp and do the other side, again making sure it's square.

24. Time to bolt! DRILL a 1/4" hole on the inside of each corner, about as deep as your 1/4" bit. Slide the washer over the bolt and insert into the hold. Tighten that puppy all the way up.

25. Time to play! Climb up on that thing yourself and have some fun before the kids see you.

You may want to sand down the dowels a bit or you can wait for it to happen naturally.

Congratulations!

How To Build Monkey Bars - Part 3

We're over halfway done! Have some skittles.

11. DON'T CUT any of the ten foot boards.

12. Layout and DRILL holes in two of the ten foot boards like you did in step 2 EXCEPT instead of marking/drilling the holes every twelve inches do the first one eleven inches from the bottom and then drill them every fourteen inches after that. What? Do you really need a picture of this? Paintbox to the rescue!

13. CUT eight pieces of dowels to 21 inches long.

14. INSERT dowels, add top piece, pound away, SANDWICH with the undrilled, uncut ten foot boards and SCREW them together between the rungs. If this seems like deja vu it is! See steps 4, 5, and 6 for a refresher course.

15. CUT two 2 21" pieces from the very last eigh foot 2X4. It's been a real champ, hanging in there while all of it's brothers got picked.

16. SCREW these 24" pieces onto the ends of the top ladder. Make sure things are all square-like before screwing. Two, three, or four screws per end, your choice.

17. CUT four brace pieces from whatever scraps you have left (remember the orphans from step 9?). First cut them to 26" (a shade more or less is okay) and then set your miter to 45 degrees and chop them as shown below.
18. Time to ASSEMBLE! If you have a friend or a sibling go get them. Otherwise any Person of Convenience or neighbor will do.

Next up - Almost there!





How To Build Monkey Bars - Part 2

Ready for that sweet smell of pine sawdust? Well, it's pressure treated lumber so there will be none of that. Maybe you should wear a dust mask so that stuff doesn't get into your lungs.



1. CUT four of the eight foot 2X4s to 83 1/2" long. Use that miter saw or, if you're feeling muscular, a hand saw!

2. DRILL HOLES! Line up these boards side by side (flat side down) and mark out where you are going to drill. You want to drill right in the middle of the board. If you want a full set of rungs of both sides do all four boards like this. Otherwise do two boards like this and the other do as shown below.

Mark where you are going to drill, measuring off every twelve inches starting at the bottom. Your square could come in handy here. If one side is going to be a hangin' side mark the first rung nine inches from the top and the next twelve inches below that.


Start drilling! Try to drill straight up and down if you can. I'll wait right here.

3. CUT 8 or 12 two foot lengths of dowels (again, cut 12 if you want rungs on both sides). It's okay if it's a quarter inch or so shorter than two feet.

4. ASSEMBLE ! Lay one hole-riddled board flat and insert six dowels. Use that rubber mallet and smack 'em all the way through so they are flush on the back side. Now place another board on top and pound it down so the dowels are all the way through and flush with the top of the board. I recommend you do this on concrete or other hard-ish surface. Do your best to keep everything square but it should all be pretty close anyway. Neat little ladder, isn't it?

5. CUT four of the eight foot 2X4s to 87" long.

6. SANDWICH! Take two of the 87" boards and sandwich the ladder you just made. Screw them together using the exterior screws every twelve inches or so. If you want it to look nice screw from the inside between every rung. Use your clamps if you got 'em to hold the 2X4s snug against each other while you screw for a nice tight fit. Be sure that the bottoms of the boards all line up nice and straight.





7. REPEAT. Do the same thing to the other side/ladder that you built.

8. CUT two 5' 10" lengths from the eight foot 2X4s. Don't throw away those scraps, though. You'll be needing them soon enough!

9. SET your miter to 45 degrees and chop of the corners of these 5' 10" pieces. These will be the bases of your set and you don't want pointy corners. You can do a simple 45 degree chop or you can get fancy and make the taper longer. It's up to you.

10. SCREW the base onto the bottom of each ladder sandwich. Center it as best you can and use three or four screws on each ladder leg.

Hey, an entire post with no political commentary! YEAH!


UPDATE: For one of the sides I would recommend three rungs on the bottom only, leaving the top three out. This way kids can climb the three steps and hold onto the monkey bars to swing out. Slight design flaw...

Next up - The Top!

How To Build Monkey Bars - part 1


In an attempt to be less dour and less obsessed with the decline of America (which somehow reminds me of sliding down a banister that turns into a series of razor blades... sorry... I'm done) and because most of my blog hits are from Google and my post How To Build Monkey Bars I've decided to post, for real, instructions on how to inexpensively and easily build a set of monkey bars for your monkeys to play on and I hope no one is offended that I'm calling their children monkeys.

The whole shebang should run you no more than $80 (pre-hyper-inflation carbon/green surcharge flyover country prices) provided you have the very few tools required and should take no more than an afternoon.

INGREDIENTS:
4 Ten Foot Exterior 2X4's
11 Eight Foot Exterior 2X4's
4 3/8" 4" long carriage bolts
4 washers that will fit the bolts
1 or 2 pounds of 2 1/2" exterior screws, depending on how much you like your kids
Between 40 and 32 linear feet of 1 1/8" dowel rods

THE HARDWARE (Thank you Alton):
Electric drill
Chop Saw (a.k.a. miter saw)
1 1/8" spade drill bit (one and one-eighth inch)
1/4" drill bit
screwdriver bit
Tape measure
Pencil or black marker or other writing device

NICE TO HAVE:
A rubber mallet
A Square
A helper (for the last few steps)
A couple of clamps bigger than 3"


NOTES BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Just a couple of things before we start. Always wear eye protection, gloves, asbestos body suit, and lead underpants.

It may take some time in the steps where you are drilling oodles and oodles of 1 1/8inch holes in the wood. I know my tried and true Craftsman got pretty hot and I stopped a number of times to let it cool down. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! If you burn up your hand drill making these don't come crying to me. You can use 1" dowels if you want but I find that the extra 1/8" makes it more manly and meant I got to go out and buy a 1 1/8" spade bit that will now sit unused in my workshop until I'm returned to the ground.

The variance in the amount of dowels needed is because you need to decide if you want rungs up both sides of the monkey bars or if you want a set that has rungs up just one side and two rungs at the top of the other side so your kids/monkeys can hang upside down and help you appreciate our non-socialized medical system while we have it (smacks hand). Buy 40 feet of dowels if you want a full ladder/rungs on both sides.

Also important is to buy the rungs in two foot increments. If your local home center sells three foot lengths, well, they're probably not right in the head.

When you buy 2X4s make sure they aren't bowed. They will probably be mighty heavy and dripping with whatever toxic goo they inject into them to keep them from rotting but you can most likely fit them all into the trunk of your 1995 Ford Taurus. I did.

You'll also notice that the set pictured above is connected to a 2X4 constructed swing set. I love 2X4's. They should build houses out of those things. Anyway, my monkey bars is bolted to the 2X4 swing set which is bolted to a (mostly) 2X4 constructed play house.

Enough of this chatter... LET'S MAKE SOME SAWDUST!

Download all these plans for a mere ninety-nine cents at Amazon!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bottom Heavy

I've been reading In The Event of My Untimely Demise by Brian Sack, a humorous collection of essays on what essential tidbits of wisdom he would like to pass along to his son. It's not exactly appropriate for a son under the age of 18 but it's still quite funny. I just finished a chapter on friends that had some distinctions that appealed to my "MUST CATEGORIZE" brain and, being in great need for blog material, thought I would share. I shall paraphrase and quote wreckless abandon, often without the use of those pesky quotation marks.

Friend: The title of friend should be earned. You are comfortable around a true friend with no need for posturing or pretending. They know your strengths as well as your weaknesses and haven't run away screaming. You can trust a true friend to watch your house and not steal from it. You can tell them secrets that will be kept. There is minimal B.S. You can tell them why you don't want to go out without making something up and though they may try a bit to get you to still go out they will accept your ultimate decision. They will answer honestly if "this makes my butt look big" or tell you if you have bed hair or forgot your pants. If you ask a friend to "drive 1,100 miles in a muffler-less Yugo to staple a banana to a light pole", and you really honestly need them to do it, they will. Friends can stop by unannounced and you're happy to see them and friends will be eager to help you move. You always take their phone calls. True friendships can survive long distances and lengths of time with no contact and when contact is made again it will seem as if no time has passed.

Associates are much like friends - you go out to dinner with them, share some secrets, attend events. They know who you've dated but not necessarily which ones broke your heart. They probably don't have copies of keys to your house. If one of you moves away there's a good chance that you'll trade sporadic phone calls and e-mails but "the relationship will slowly crumble like Soviet-era cement. They might stop by unannounced, which can bother you." When asked the "big butt" question your answer might depend on your mood instead of the truth. Sometimes when an associate calls you'll check your caller ID and not pick up. They might not jump with joy to help you move. You have fun with associates, sometimes a lot of fun, but it's on a different level than a true friend. Associates are "important parts of the friend spectrum, offering many of the perks of true friendship but without requiring the same kind of commitment."

The lowest form is People of Convenience. If you have an extra ticket to some event and you can't decide whether to invite Grover or go by yourself, Grover is a person of convenience, the "no-frills airlines of friendship: they're handy but usually not for the long haul." They are easily replaced and habitually forgotten ("Oh, I was supposed to call him yesterday.") When people of convenience invite you to things you have to think about it and weigh your options. They are great in groups of other People of Convenience but one on one you might find them annoying or dull.


Sack writes lots other things about friendships, such as how they can cross various social barriers and how it's possible to move from one strata to another, etc, etc but it was interesting to me because in my social awkwardness/retardation (and yes, I really did read "Social Etiquette for Dummies" and it was too advanced) I tended to rate people a step higher than they should be. This chapter helped open my eyes and explain a lot of the puzzled reactions I received in my past from people, why person X wasn't so happy for me to drop by even though I would have been pleased as punch for them to drop by my house (but they never did), or why I would be willing to take a day off of work to help person Y but person Y wasn't willing to take even an hour away from his family on a weekend to hang out.

A final "take away" is that friendship is about chemistry - you can't force it.

Veddy veddy interestink. I can't wait to read the chapter on Self Defense!

More Paranoid Lunacy

If the government gives money then it can pull the strings. We've seen it in the education system where they can withhold funds until a school does things their way, regardless of how the local community feels about it.

When Nationalized Health Care starts up it's going to be the same. Why should politicians give up that power? If you are over a certain age or over a certain weight or have something that has a low recovery rate (or high cost) then you'll be S.O.L. when it comes to getting medical treatment. If you have doubts simply look to the U.K. or our lovely northern neighbors.

It also means that if they think you need to be taking heart or cholesterol medications then you had best listen to them if you want to get covereage (or possibly coverage for their families) even if you would rather live with the "condition" rather than the side effects. I had thought they they would probably do annual drug screenings but now there's something even better! ROBOPILL!, a device that will monitor you to make sure you've taken your medicine and notify authorities if you don't.

This hits home because I've been turned down for premium insurance rates due to having high cholesterol. Heart disease does not run in my family and though I have a desk job I'm not exactly a regular at Dunkin' Donuts. So I researched cholesterol and found it's pretty much a farce. The original studies (early 1900s) were based on rabbits, noticing that if they fed these HERBIVORES lots of meat then their choesterol went up. Later, when the margarine industry started taking off, there were margerine company funded studies that showed how butter increased choesterol more than margarine, thus making this margarine "healthier." Now these studies are never questioned because they are so established that everyone knows it's fact. But please, don't think about that. Instead take this pill (paid for by your insurance company) and disregard the side effects and they can almost guarantee that you will have less of a chance of heart attack than if you didn't. Pretty much sure on that one. Yep.

Okay... I'd better put my tinfoil hat back on and get back to work.

Chinese Democracy

From the people who gave us lead-coated childrens toys comes tainted drywall! Its fumes corrode copper pipes, blacken jewelry and makes ya just plain sick. This was used lately in the housing boom when American drywall was in short supply. The kicker is that this kind of sub-standard hazardous product is the result of a communist government. You know, the "everyone gets their fair share" kind of government that our current crop of politcal leaders is promising.

Sincerely,

Mr. Optomist

Full story

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hip Waders Welcome

Why is it that out of the hundreds or thousands of songs that you hear on the radio growing up that you gravitate to a handful? Why do you seek out and buy only certain albums? Why is it that when I borrowed some cassettes from my older brother while growing up that Freeze Frame by J. Geils Band hit me hard while the rest were either glancing blows or complete misses? Why is it that lonely music appeals to me, that minor keys feel like home?

What was going to be a post on Freeze Frame and how it impressed me greatly in my tender years, what with it's rich textures, massive bass lines, and sophisticated pop compositions has instead become a kind of typical musings on why we like certain things. Do you hear music that your parents like and because they play it often or talk it up and kids want to please their parents so then you start to like that kind of music, albeit the youthful version that incorporates the same musical DNA? Or is it that a thousand ears pass your ears and the ones that fit your genetic predisposition are the ones that grab you, the ones that you go out and buy?

I'm personally inclined for the latter.

My home is a kind of experimental lab where two test subjects are not under the direct influence of half of their genetic sponsorship and have not been since near toddlerhood (and pardon the heady lingo as they have been known to read this blog). What I've noticed is that certain "foreign" predispositions can show up that can be tamed or encouraged, but predispositions that are so uncannily similar to parentage long gone that the only explanation is genetic.

So how much of ourselves is really ourselves? Yes, we have free will and our decisions are our own. Everyone is dealt a specific hand of cards and it's up to you on what you do with them. It's the whole idea of one man being given ten talents, another five and yet another just one.

That's all I have. I should get back to my exciting work. Did I choose this line of work or did it choose me? Sorry, there I go again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

To take your mind off any worries, here's my talented daughter Brooke singing with her backup band, thr Fort Wayne Children's Choir.

Onward Ho!

Didja like the kittens? Me too.

Next up, in my reading of New Deal or Raw Deal by Burton Fulsom Jr., are the massive programs that were created in the New Deal. You know, those amazing programs put in place by the brilliant FDR and his Brain Trust that pulled us so quickly out of the Great Depression. Or made it last for another seven to ten years. Not sure there...

The big one was the NRA. No, not those gun-totin' freaks who believe in a little something called the Second Amendment, but rather the National Industrial Recovery Act (the "I" was dropped due to a shortage of vowels). The NRA was an attempt by the Federal Government to set prices and wages so that people were paid fairly and that companies didn't go out of business. Good intentions, right?

Here's what happened.

The large businesses in each industry were told to get together and decide between them on what would be fair. Did they ever! What is fair to a large and bloated business was suddenly discriminatory to the small and innovative businesses. A classic case was the owner Community Dry Cleaners in Cleveland. Their business was further from the center of town and they used lower prices to get customers. Under the NRA this was illegal - everyone had to charge the same price. The owner of the business was fined and sent to jail. If you want some laughs just look into the rules of this terrible legislature (for instance the NRA said that when you bought a chicken you could not pick out the one you wanted, the same went for candied yams).

There were over 500 regulations that made it extremely difficult to figure out what the government wanted you to do, let alone how to legally do it. Sounds like the current tax code.

The unintended consequence of the NRA is that prices went up more than wages. Competition went way down as small businesses were forced out of existence, sometimes at the loaded end of the law. This made output go down so there were less goods, plus higher unemployment.

The NRA was so destructive and horrible that it was ruled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court a mere two years after it was passed into law. That was a 9 to 0 ruling. When does the Supreme Court ever fully agree on something?

Not to be undone FDR still tried to pass the NRA is smaller forms, telling Congressmen not to be alarmed if it seems unconstitutional. One biggie was a bill that tried to regulate the coal industry. The result? Over 350,000 prices for coal based on size and shape and sexual orientation. Coal ended up costing so much that gas and electricity use skyrocketed and parts of Pennsylvannia nearly went bankrupt. Hmmm... bankrupt the coal industry. Where have I heard that before?

The NRA makes me think of Laurell and Hardy: "That's another fine mess you've gotten us into."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Depressing Historical Fun!


More on Morons

This week, the causes of the Great Depression.

Even to this day "scholars" cannot fully agree on what caused the Great Depression, often because an objective analysis would contradict their political biases and being objective costs extra. However the big three reasons that frequently bubble up is the massive debt from World War One, high tariffs and bad policies by the Federal Reserve.

War Debt - The United States incurred tens of billions in debt fighting the first world war. Of this approximately $10,000,000,000 (ten billion, in case you don't feel like counting zeros) went AS LOANS to European countries to help them rebuild.

High Tariffs - The Smoot-Hawley (Smoot... heh) legislation wanted to help keep American dollars here in America and help American employees. BUY AMERICAN was the slogan of the day (sound familiar to any recent massive stimulus bills passed lately?). This made European goods cost more and enabled American producers to raise their prices. For example, hip waders from Europe (the leaders in hip wader technology) used to be $7 and American hip waders were $8. Suddenly the tariffs make the superior European hip waders $10 thus enabling American hip wader makers to increase their price of their inferior hip waders to $9. Whaddareya gonna do? They had you over the proverbial barrel (which also cost more, though proverbs were still free). The consumer is now paying more and receiving less quality goods.

As a response to our high tariffs, the European markets increased tariffs on U.S. goods so American goods were not selling as well overseas. Tariff. It's a good word not used near enough these days. Anyway, the ticked off Europeans also reneged on their promises to pay back the ten billion in loans for rebuilding after WWI. Oh, and since many of the products used in U.S. manufacturing came from Europe (products which now cost more to import due to the tariff) things cost more to produce and sell. A double whammy against the consumer!

Federal Reserve - In a misguided effort to help things out the Fed raised interest rates, making it more difficult for businesses to get the short-term loans required to run a business. They also stopped giving out free toasters. A liquidity (and toast) crunch, eh? Again, another ominous foreshadowing of today.

Less money in peoples pockets due to higher prices, companies failing because they can't get the short-term loans needed for daily business leading to more and more people out of work and...

I'm not saying we're heading into another Great Depression. There are many signs that we're already coming out of it - higher home and car sales, businesses starting to turn profits again, etc. However this does not count on what will happen once Obama's Federal Government starts messing with things in an effort to "help" in the same way that FDR "helped" despite his complete ignorance of practical economics and modern electronics.

Like like Obama, FDR proposed massive increases in spending while promising to cut government by 25% and to balance the budget. At least Obama knows how to use his Crackberry. Some say he's durned near addicted to it. I'm glad we have a President with an addictive personality.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Horrible Presidents of our Past : A Series

I'm reading a book on FDR and the New Deal as a kind of antidote to the indoctrination I received in public schools. We all know this highly extolled president and how he was one of the "best presidents of this past century" and yada yada yada. What I have read so far is that he was the son of wealthy parents who had no business knowledge, parents who inherited their wealth (on his mother's side via illegal opium sales) and consistently made bad investments. FDR continued this trend, doing very poorly in his economics courses as well as legal courses, ending up with a paltry C+ average at university but managing to pass the barr exam. He continued to leech money off his mother while making horrible investments (his money was on a fleet of dirigibles as opposed to those newfangled aeroplanes) and running for various public offices. His strength was in politics and he often got by on his charisma alone. He married his cousin, as well all know, had a three year affair with his wife's secretary, contracted polio and then lived on a houseboat for seven or so years rarely seeing his wife or five children. Translation: He abandoned his family.

While on the campaign trail in the late 1920s he stated that he wrote the Haitian Constitution. Or invented the Internet. Then he denied that he said it.

On a completely unrelated note, I just spoke with my neighbor who returned from a month in Singapore where he was able to get an unfiltered view of how much of the world sees our new President (a President who by his own admission isn't all that keen with this whole economics thing). While much of the world is more liberal/left-leaning than the United STATES of America and were previously championing Obama, the general consensus a mere two months after he has taken office is that he's screwing things up and but bad. They wouldn't care so much except that it's dragging down their economies as well.

The parallels I'm seeing is that, if you click on the "Economics with Charts" link just a bit to the right you'll see how things are starting to turn around. Home sales are creeping up, used car prices are up which often leads to more new car sales, some firms are starting to turn profits, which is all to say that things might be starting to turn around. Until, as in the Great Depression, these bailout plans start to do their work and the rules therein begin to restrict the American spirit. Some say that FDR made things better during the Great Depression but the numbers show otherwise... but that's another post for another day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Too Much Blessings

We suddenly found ourselves needing to be in the market for a used van i.e. Melynda's very dependable car up and tore it's engine apart. After looking around we realized that we hadn't asked God to provide a dependable and affordable minivan.

He provided two.

Van A) 2001 Honda Odyssey, 112,000 miles, new timing belt at 100,000, very well maintained with all the papers. The van was being sold in North Manchester by an almost-retired lawyer for his daughter in Illinois. We loved the van, hit it off with the lawyer and his wife (yeah, I don't normally fraternize with lawyers but this guy was actually on the up and up and a steadfast member of his local Lutheran church) and gave him a certified check. Melynda drove it home and almost before she was out of North Manchester the check engine light came on. It was the transmission, a problem the 2001s are notorious for having. We called the lawyer up that night and he offered to take the van back and return our check. Since then he has offered to sell us the van minus the cost of a new transmission so that the transmission warranty would be in our name. We were very happy to have found this van below the Kelly Blue Book price.

Van B) 2004 Honda Odyssey, 73,000 miles, newer tires, new transmission at 57,000 miles, extremely well maintained with all work done by the dealer. So well maintained that I think the owner makes Felix Ungar look like a slob, as in seat covers and deluxe floor mats. We think that he's the kind of guy who buys a new car every few years whether he needs one or not, but still seemed like a very nice and honest fellow, for a Buckeye. This one is the EX model with power side doors and a few other extras (Van A is the LX model), plus it seemed just a wee bit tighter/more solid than the 2001. At nearly twice the cost of the 2001 it's still under Kelly Blue Book but would be an even larger loan from my 401k in these uncertain times.

Of all the Odyssey vans Consumer Reports rates the 2004 as the best year. 2001 is comparable with an excellent engine but a poor transmission rating... which would be nullified by the new transmission. Both vans are great buys. We were 100% happy when we bought the first van and would have been even more thrilled if, when we bought it, it had a brand new transmission under warranty. Are we greedy to want Van B? Since we plan to keep it for at least a decade is Van B the better long term buy?

Anyone? Anyone?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Contrast and Compare

The brilliant orator can't work without a safety net. In fact news reports say that he doesn't (can't) give even small speeches without his teleprompter feeding him his lines. Teleprompter malfunctions last summer revealed the true colors of this genius, a stuttering, stumbling buffoon who cannot live up to the hype.

Two questions:

1) How would the media have treated this if it were Bush who were addicted to teleprompters? They crucified him for him less-than-stellar deliveries. It's at least encouraging that the fawning major media has seen through their rose-colored glasses enough to write such a story. I would have expected more from a Harvard graduate, but maybe that explains why Obama hasn't released his college grades.

2) Remember when Palin's teleprompter malfunctioned during her acceptance speech? She didn't miss a beat and gave one of the most impassioned speeches of the campaign. That's MOXY! That's a woman who's firing on all cylinders! This speech was worlds better than when the McCain campaign muzzled her in later with their list of forbidden subjects.


Full Story

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gratitude

Thank you, oh thank you Mr. Obama for the reduction in Federal Tax in my payroll! Some people I work with have an extra $30 in their check this pay period.

I however got $0 extra.

This is because I take the maximum deductions and pay $0 in Federal Income Tax (though I still pay 7.65% for Social Security/Medicare). Thanks to the Bush Child Tax CREDIT I pay no Federal/National Income Tax so once you calculate what I owe and subtract the child tax credit I owe nothing. So, Mr. Obama, thanks for nothing. You have not managed to buy my vote by potentially giving me $15 a week in my check while increasing my gasoline, electricity, and natural gas costs 50% through Cap and Trade programs. But that's another rant for another day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Yahoo couldn't find it. Neither could Google. Even the local PBS station listings had a mysterious blank spot at 11 pm. I KNEW (or hoped) that I wasn't imagining this odd little show that I would watch with Tessa in the late night hours. You see, it had this computer animated from and a live host. A live host in a goldenrod yellow T-shirt. And an orange face. A jet black hair. And magenta lipstick. And drawn-in eyebrows. A live host that makes these "I love you but I'M GONNA FRICKIN' KILL YOU" faces at the frog. I'm fairly certain they weren't going for the crazed lunatic look but that's exactly what they got. It's also named "Ribert and Robert's Wonderworld". Not Ribit.





More research shows that you can go to the show's official site or even click over to host James Bondy's official site where you can see him without the orange makeup and order an autographed photo or his CD, Songs of the Heart which is chock-full of showtunes! Don't bother to click on the fanpage link - that MySpace page is closed.

If you're really up for a good time click here for the show's closing song! Embedding disabled by request.

WE'LL MAKE MEEELLIONS!

This post is to publicly state my idea so if it get's stolen I'll sue! Either way, implementation of said idea or lawsuit, I make my millions!

Soon to become a trend in fashionable Hollywood circled - spray tans in colors other than orange. Imagine showing up on the red carpet sprayed a lovely teal or perhaps cornflower blue. Saffron yellow, anyone? I've yet to work out the kinks on spraying stripes or paisley but soon the fashion world will be my oyster!

Gotta go... I've got to take a call - I'm working on getting one of the Obama kids to get sprayed purple and appear on the Disney channel.