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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bird Watching from the Deck

This time of year is full of birds. Birds flying north for the summer. Birds chirping their heads off in the hopes of attracting a mate. Birds making nests, sometimes in the most inconvenient places. We can sit on our deck and watch the birds swooping through the tree tops, catching fish in the river below. Because we are about 50 feet above the river the birds fly at our eye level for a spectacular close up view. I have a couple of field guides and we break them out when we see a new species. At the end of the day, with scotch glasses on the table and binoculars in hand we can spy on the birds and laugh at the cows, in the fields below, who will madly stampede in one direction or another for no reason.

We saw these the other day

Cedar Waxwings. My husband thought they all looked like Pauly from the Sopranos except with a reverse (dark on light) swept back temple effect. They came through in a group, landed the the ancient juniper tree, ate some berries and moved on up north.

We also had one of these shy little guys.

Juniper Titmouse. A soft little ball of grey fluff with a body just a little larger than a golf ball. Perky crest on his head and beady black eyes.

A confession. I wish I was the photographer who took these photos. I lifted them from other spots on the internet.

In just one day around our property, we have seen Bank Swallows (which are endagered but have established a thriving colony in our area, Blue Herons, Egrets, Red Tail Hawks, Buzzards, Robins, Canadian Geese, Mallards, Bald Eagles, Great Northern Flicker and Downy Woodpeckers, a zillion Quail and White Crown name just a few. I enjoy most of the birds but must say....I am NOT enjoying the Mockingbirds who sing their heads off outisde my bedroom window beginning at 4:30 AM.

I Want To Be An Illegal Alien

So, we want to have the illegal aliens, (our gate crashers, our uninvited guests) put on a track to become citizens of the United States. We hold out the carrot on a stick of citizenship as if it is some sort of a prize. Once it was a proud achievement and a goal to become a citizen of the Untied States of America. Pledging allegiance to the flag and standing with hand over heart for the National Anthem was enough to bring a tear to the eye or least a lump to the throat. But is there really any advantage today in changing status from illegal immigrant to citizen?

What would be the change in their lives to become citizens? Illegals already get Social Security benefits in the form of SSI, welfare, food stamps, free medical care, school tuition breaks among other socialistic........oops, I mean public benefits. This latest amnesty proposal is now proposing that they are entitled to the traditional Social Security benefits and only have to pay three out the last 5 years incomes taxes. I would like that deal on the taxes!! Most illegals work under the table and don't pay income or payroll taxes. $10.00 an hour in cash equals about $15.00 in a legitimate job, where payroll taxes are withheld. State and federal income taxes, social security and Medicare taxes. The employer pays a matching portion of social security and Medicare taxes and State and Federal unemployment taxes. This money is lost to pay benefits to legal citizens when illegals work under the table for cash. It is further proposed to give driver's licenses and other legal identification without having to be an actual citizen.

Hmmmm. So far they are missing out on voting. Well, maybe not, since we don't ask for identification anymore because it might offend a black person or other ethnic voter. Voting must not be such a privilege of citizenship anyway, since over 50% of citizens don't vote. Illegals miss being called for jury duty, again a privilege that most of us try our darndest to get out of. If we had a military draft guess who won't be called up.

What then, is the big carrot, the enticement that is supposed to have all the 2 or 4 or more million illegal aliens turn themselves in and become citizens?

It used to be patriotism and pride in just being an American was a driving force. However, our schools no longer teach American History and are not even allowed to use the term in some cases

In the past years, instead of teaching pride in our heritage as Americans and celebrating the melting pot of cultures, our schools stress the "bad" about the United States. Leftist teachers indoctrinate our students and warp history to suit their own current political biases. Political correctness has run amok. Instead of stressing the strength of the United States created by the blending and absorbing of immigrant cultures, we are encourage to remain in our own separate cultural enclaves. There is no value placed on learning a common language, learning a common history or instilling pride in country. Is it any wonder that illegal immigrants have no burning desire to give up their current lifestyle and jump into the "American Melting Pot."

Free services, medical care, special treatment in schools, work under the table, don't pay taxes, give up jury duty, not be drafted into the military. I want to be an illegal alien.

Update: I guess I am not the only one with these thoughts. Here is a link to Captains Quarters for his 5-31-06 post What The Senate Didn't Tell You About Immigration

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Electoral College Prevents Civil War

Ever since the last election and the fiasco in Florida where we discovered that many people are too stupid to punch a hole in a card with a provided stylus, the Dems have been whining, moaning and gnashing their teeth with the claim that the election was STOLEN because Gore got the “popular vote”. Well….tough titty. The popular vote does not matter, should not matter nor has it ever mattered in National Elections (note emphasis on National). “Well isn’t that the democratic (small d) way to have every vote count?” you may ask. It is…. if we are voting on a local or State level for the Governor, School Board or Prom Queen.

Here’s the news folks. We don’t live in a Democracy. We have a Federation of States or a Representative Republic. We have this for a very good reason. The reason is buried in history. You know? That third period class in Junior High.

The real problem with the current whining seems to be that the Democrats never attended High School Civics, or they slept through the course. Most of the current whiners attended school in the sixties. You know the old saying: If you can remember the 60’s you weren’t really there. So, how about a refresher course? Think about the name of our country, The United States of America. Let’s all get in the Wayback Machine with Professor Peabody and Sherman, to the Revolutionary War.

Each of the 13 colonies was an individual and autonomous state. They had some common goals, but operated independently in their own interests, had their own armies and governments. After the defeat of the British it was not clearly decided that the 13 separate entities would really combine. It was only the brilliant plan devised by the framers of the Constitution that persuaded the Colonies to combine. There needed to be a reason to submit to joining and losing autonomy. By making it assured that all states would receive an equal voice (despite the disparity in geographic size or population size) with the establishment of the Senate, House of Representatives and the Electoral College system, the States were persuaded to unite. New States that were added were done so only by the decision of the people of each State. They could have refused to become States, just as Puerto Rico and Guam have declined to become States. And the States have the right to change their minds and secede from the united status, as we well know from the Civil War and recent events in Hawaii.

What holds us together is the knowledge that a small (population) State such as Wyoming, can have just as strong a voice in government as a more populated State such as Ohio. If the Electoral College were to be dissolved the resulting chaos and dissent would make the Civil War look like a walk in the park.

Now California has introduced a bill to circumvent the Electoral College and the Constitution of the United States "The proposed “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote” in an interstate compact. The proposed interstate compact implements nationwide popular election of the President by having states agree to jointly award all of their electoral votes to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia."

If we only counted the “popular vote” then every National Election would be decided by California, New York and a handful of other heavily populated States. How discouraging would that be for the rest of us who may live in the less populated areas? Talk about your vote not counting. What would be the incentive to even belong to the United States much less vote? When we lose control of our own lives, and decisions are made for us by strangers in New York or Los Angeles, who wouldn’t want to rebel or secede from that tyranny?

The same situation exists in California where the voters in San Francisco and Los Angeles override the desires and needs of the rest of the State. There have been serious attempts to seceed from California. The State of Jefferson is a movement and a dream that keeps returning. The secession almost suceeded but for WWII. Every few years the topic comes up again. Especially when bone headed and restrictive laws that affect the people of Jefferson State are passed by a majority of voters who have no connection with us or even care that we exist. How much worse do you think it would be when year after year the majority of Red States voters are stomped on by the masses of voters who live in the more poplulated Blue States and who have no desire to do anything but "fly over" places like Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota?

Update 6-1-06 Link to IBD Editorial with similar ideas on the Electoral College

Stephen King is a Hack

The other night out of desperation and a lack of any thing else scheduled, we watched the movie made for TV that was adapted from Stephen Kings book” Desperation”. I have positively come to the conclusion that Stephen King is a hack.

First of all, we have our standard cookie cutter cast of characters. The young idealistic boy who seems to have a pipeline directly to God. His whiney, annoying parents, represented by some skinny bucky toothed harridan and the guy who played Max Headroom. By the time the parents inevitably get taken over by the resident evil sprit and die, they have made themselves so intolerant, whiney, ineffectual and obnoxious that you don’t care. In fact you are glad they are gone. We have our young ruggedly handsome hero type and a younger empty headed ditzy heroine, who we just know really has a heart of gold. There is the young handsome yuppie husband and his pretty wife. Since we can’t have two ruggedly handsome stereotype characters of the same age in the same film, because we might get them confused, we kill off the husband in the first few minutes of the film. There is the older and slightly alcoholic crusty town character the Veterinarian who is there to give us some back ground on the town history, and then die. And of course the jaded burned out older ruggedly handsome Vietnam Vet with his obligatory psychological baggage. Is there ever a Vietnam Vet who didn’t come back from “Nam” and just get on with his life?

So, now we have our group of main characters who bumble into a town that has been taken over by evil, personified in a witty, entertaining (albeit evil) and pretty much rotting sheriff. This character actually has the best lines in the film and we are kind of sorry to see him go.

We are treated to a series of formula scenes. Everyone in town including the domestic dogs are dead. Do our characters do what any other sane person would do when they get free, which is jam boogie split? Hell, no!!. They stand around debating deep thoughts such as Good versus Evil, Free Will versus Destiny and Mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip ( Ok….. I added that last one just to change it up a bit. Something Stephen King seems to be unable to do.) We get treated to a lengthy “loaves and fishes” analogy in the form of canned sardines in a brown paper bag and a sleeve of rye cocktail bread. We get it, already!! At this point our crusty old town character spins a yarn about the town history. Something to do with a mine, Chinese workers and a mysterious discovery that led to a cave in or something. My husband said…..well that was about 150 pages in the book.

We have howling wolves and prowling mountain lions all we were missing at this point was the gratuitous snakes. Ooops, spoke to soon. A snake comes slithering out of a dead woman’s mouth and tarantulas are crawling over the dead bodies. The only other icky wild life I think they left out was scorpions and panhandlers.

Crusty old guy decides to go sneak a drink …..alone naturally… in a bathroom. We all know he is toast (Oh Noooo. Don’t go off alone you dope!) and yep, he is eaten by a mountain lion who is also the spirit of an evil Chinese guy.

More deep thought discussions and an epiphany on the part of our “Nam” Vet where he realizes just what scum he was in Vietnam and they decide that as long as they are there and half the group is dead anyway, they might as well go ahead and blow up the mine and destroy the evil. The movie keeps going downhill deeper than the Chinese mine from here. The upshot is that the ruggedly handsome, now nice guy, Vet will sacrifice himself for the better good. Seems there is a teeny tiny hole in the bottom of the mine and if he can pour some handily found explosives and set it off with a 12 gauge shotgun shell that conveniently fits into the hole…and the world will be saved. Our Vet suddenly is an explosives expert. The coinkidink is incredible. In a scene with a flat voice hilariously similar to Hal the computer negotiating with Dave, the Evil tries to bribe the Vet. “Come on guy. Don’t kill me. I’ll give you anything you want. Pretty Please??”

Somewhere in the first third of the film, we began to amuse ourselves by catching the technical flub ups. Things like: the kid has a gun and walking across the room he doesn’t but at the other side of the room he does again. Ooooh…. look the Sheriff’s face is rotting in different places in the same scene. Hairdos change in mid scene. Collars are buttoned and then not.

My husband very good at spotting these kinds of things (somebody should hire him). With Tivo type recorders we can scroll back and see. Old “B” movies are the best for this. Nick and Nora Charles are drinking, as usual, and Nick’s glass is half full and then suddenly full again. When did he getup and fill it? Maybe he spit some back? One 1950’s movie about a White Hunter in Africa was hilarious. They couldn’t keep track of how many rifle cartridges the guy was wearing in his front pocket. Three. No four. No three again. All in the same scene. Was he dropping the cartridges when he bent over and replacing them? What a klutz. I usually notice the background stuff, like furniture and knickknacks on the table being rearranged. My husband notices the people’s appearances and when they change vehicles in a chase scene. He is a real auto buff and subtle changes really stand out to him Try “catch the technical goofs” game when you are stuck watching a bad movie, like I was last night. It is often more entertaining than what you are watching.

I know that Stephen King is all about the money, and it must be hard to crank out the volume of work he has and keep it fresh….but come on. Try some different plot lines, different dialogue and different characters once in a while.

What a Hack!.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Armageddon Pantry

Ever since the latest round of hurricanes that have hammered the South East, I have gotten serious about stocking up supplies for an emergency. The Dumbplumber calls it my Armageddon room. Actually this is something I have been serious about for some time and it gives me a really good excuse for my hoarding behavior. I must have learned this when I was a child: this need to have not one, not two but a dozen cans of corn, soup etc.

Well, a while back, we actually got a small preview of what the effects of a "disaster" would be. Ok, a very, very small preview. Our house wasn't destroyed, my cat can still come in and whine for her "TREAT" (a tablespoon of canned food), we still had running water and the natural gas to the Wolf Range was still functional. What happened was that for some inexplicable reason the electricity went off on a Sunday afternoon about 1:00. I was in the middle of a load of laundry, in the middle of typing up recipes into my Master Cook program and whamo......power outage. Fortunately I have a power back up on the computer so I shut it down. The Dumbplumber was taking a nap. No need to disturb him. I had full confidence that the power would be back on shortly, after all it was a beautiful sunny afternoon. So, what to do now? Grab a beer, a bowl of potato chips and my latest paperback and go sit on the deck in the sun and read, naturally.

As the day wore on, DP woke up and there seemed to be no progress from PG&E. I decided to get some of the supplies from the Armageddon Pantry. Out come the oil lamps....hmmm I only have one more bottle of oil, better make a note. Out come the candles and candle holders....better buy some more candles, all I have are two green decorative candles. I had already made most of dinner so that wasn't too bad. But after about 8 hours of no power, I am beginning to worry about the food in the fridge getting hot and my half done laundry getting moldy. Wow, I think I'd better get some old fashioned clothes pins for the future disaster room.

So, the evening wore on. We had roasted chicken, macaroni salad, green salad and peach cobbler. Fortunately I had purchased an antique (OK only 1950's) rotary egg beater, so I was able to make the whipped cream without electricity. Whew! averted that disaster. No television! Actually that was the best part of the whole experience. Whipping out the matches, which didn't work because they were too old....hmmm more notes to self, and then getting the butane lighter from the bbq, we lit the oil lanterns. Feeling like Abe Lincoln, we read our books by oil lamps sipping on a glass of wine. I said, "No wonder women did so much needlework, they were bored." The Dumbplumber said, "No wonder people had such large families."...So we went to bed. Suddenly, twelve hours after the outage, everything comes back on with a vengeance. Lights, washer, stereo and all electronic devices begin beeping. Life is back to normal.

In all seriousness, our little inconvenience wasn’t much, but it has reinforced the need to be prepared. What if this was not just an annoying 12 hour event, but a situation that would last for days or weeks? We are in a rural area. If anything happened (earthquake, terrorist attack, bird flu epidemic) it is highly likely that we would be cut off from supplies of food and other necessities. I am determined to beef up the disaster pantry. Plus it is pretty convenient to grab that extra jar of mayonnaise from the pump house instead of trundling off to the store.

Fat Kids on Welfare

The alarms are sounding about the growing (no pun intended) obesity epidemic especially in low income families. Well I have the answer and the cure. It is no secret, especially to anyone behind a food stamp recipient in the grocery store line, why people on welfare are fat. Just look at the crap they are buying, almost all processed foods high in sugar, fat and salt. Twinkies, soda’s, frozen pizza, corn chips….. You name it. Hardly any fresh fruit, vegetables, meats or other ingredients to make a wholesome home cooked meal.

And there you have the root cause. People do not know how to cook anymore. I don’t know when they quit having home-economics as a required course in high school. As a matter of fact, I don’t think they teach anything in school anymore…but that is another rant. It used to be that young girls and boys (boys can cook too) learned at least some rudimentary cooking and household skills from their mothers. Now we have two or even three generations who have grown up on fast food and frozen food and have never learned to cook.

If the government wants to cut down on obesity and the health related costs in welfare recipients and the poor in the United States, I say give them some cooking and budgeting classes. Make these courses a mandatory part of the curriculum again.

Ah…. But some people say that you can possibly make decent meals on a low budget or food stamps. Baloney! (which is also an inexpensive luncheon meat) My parents didn‘t have high paying jobs, and we ate well. Good basic comfort food with occasional splurge dinners. My Mother’s cooking style was basic stick to your ribs home cooking and my Father took an interest in gourmet meals. I learned both styles and love to cook.

In California a family of four receives $425 a month in food stamps. Now, granted, they aren’t going to be eating rib eye steaks and gourmet dinners, but you can eat well on that amount of money if (and here is the big IF) you know how to cook, use leftovers and shop wisely.

We are a family of two adults but we do love to eat and it can be done reasonably. For instance, last night we had:
Parmesan Chicken Breasts
Sautéed Hot Pepper Garlic Broccoli over Fettuccini
Sliced Tomatoes with a Olive Oil Basil Dressing
Strawberries and Ice Cream

Chicken Breasts $1.00 each x 2= $2.00
Broccoli 1 lb for .89 (saved half for another day = .89
Fettuccini 1.29 for a package (used half) = .65
Butter ½ cube at 2.99 /lb = .40
Parmesan Cheese 6 oz at 4.00 ( I use real cheese and grate it myself) used 3 oz = 2.00
Tomatoes 2.99 lb (used two) about ¼ lb = .75
Strawberries from a local grower $7 per half flat(6 baskets) used one for the desert, froze three for later and have two for tomorrow. = 1.16
Ice Cream Dreyers Sugar Free 6.99 we probably used about 1/3 of the carton 2.33

Total ingredients cost = $5.00 per serving.

If we didn’t have the expensive ice cream I could have made the dinner for less but….hey it is strawberry season so live it up. We also had a nice glass of white wine with the dinner.

The point is that people can eat good healthy and inexpensive meals if they only had some knowledge and training. If they aren’t going to be getting it from family members then where? Television? Books? School?

Learn to cook people!! The result is that people will be healthier, happier and the burden on our public health care system will be decreased. Your food budget will go much farther and your taste buds will thank you too.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gay Marriage. Be Careful What You Wish For.

You know that old saying: Be careful what you wish for you might just get it? Well, I can’t help thinking of that when I hear about the desire to have gay “marriage”. (The big M word) First of all let me say I don’t care one way or the other about gay marriage other than I think it is entirely inappropriate to make a Constitutional ammendment about the issue. If anything it should be left up to the States to decide according to how the people in each State vote. Some States will approve, some won't.

However, I really feel that the proponents haven’t thought this through. Most of the issues of marriage can be solved by using a decent lawyer (ok, an oxymoron) and paying attention to legal details. You want your significant other (S.O.) to inherit? Write a will, establish a trust, own property in joint tenancy, have joint bank accounts, change the beneficiary on your IRA, 401k, life insurance. Worried that your S.O. won’t be able to see you in the hospital or that your family members will interfere? Write a living will, get medical directives, get a court injunction or restraining order. Want your S.O. to be able to take care of your children during/after your life? More legal work. Adoption….don’t know about that one. I did say most issues. Here are some financial benefits you do miss out on if not “married”, and that is Social Security survivorship, assumption of the annuity or IRA upon death. Health insurance routinely allows domestic partners to be covered as dependants. Family leave? California has that privilege in the law. Most large companies have that policy and more are coming on line. Being recognized by society as a couple? Well that would be pretty much self evident by your behavior. and who is so insecure in their relationship that it isn’t real unless other people, who should mean little to you, validate it.

So what about the other things you are missing out on if not married and only cohabitating? These are things that “married” people would gladly do without. Ruined credit when your spouse can’t keep off the credit card merry-go-round. Liability and responsibility for all debts whether or not you actually incurred them. Inability to get a loan for years even after your spouse is nothing but an unpleasant memory (What the hell was I thinking?) because of fiscal irresponsibility. Needing to have your spouse’s signature or permission to leave your IRA to somebody else like your children or parents. Getting sued and losing everything you ever worked for when your spouse commits a crime or has an auto wreck, which by the way also will increase your insurance costs for years to come. Let’s not forget about the really fun stuff when the bloom is off the rose and the whole relationship goes into the crapper. Alimony, spousal support, child support and half of your retirement plan that you hoped would make your twilight years comfortable, taken by your spouse. Getting to pay for the court costs for all that fun is also a bonus.

So be careful what you wish for.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Rabies and Me

In cruising the internet I came across this news article.

This brought back a very unpleasant memory for me. A really hairy dust bunny. Back in the "olden days" the treatment for rabies was a series of very painful shots in the abdomen every day for 23 days. Today it is 6 shots in the arm over the period of a month.

When I was three years old we lived in Houston, where my brother was born, and I was bitten in the face by a dog. The dog hadn't had its inoculations so the doctor said I should have the rabies series of shots. I don't remember the incident myself as I was so young, but for years I would literally scream hysterically, vomit or pass out at the sight of anyone in a white coat until I was 6 years old. I was deathly afraid of needles and refused to have novocaine at the dentists office until I was 12. You should have seen the hissy fit I threw when they tried to inoculate me for Smallpox and Polio. I remember my relief when they went to the sugar cube treatment for Polio.

Even today I break out into a cold sweat when confronted with needles in the form of blood tests or at the dentist.

My parents said it was a horrendous experience for them too. They tried to change the route to the Hospital so that I wouldn't suspect where we were going but I guess I figured it out after a few trips. They had to drag my three year old self, screaming and crying, from under the bed or back of the closet. The guilt they felt was terrible, but the consequence....death.... was worse.

After half of the treatments, about 14 days of torture, the dog turned out to not be rabid.

Thank God for the advancements in medical science. You young wippersnappers have it too good. Want to hear about my two way trek uphill in the snow to school? Just kidding.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Back from hiatus

The dust bunnies are really piling up and I'm getting ready to sweep some out onto the waiting internet.

The Dumbplumber has been actively writing and ranting. While I've been pretty busy with my business. Tax time is a crunch for me and I've been studying to get (yet) another securities license. Usually I enjoy being busy and stretching my mind around new concepts, but this year it all came with a horrible cold that will not go away.

But I am back with rants brewing. Fat Kids on Welfare. The Economics of SSI and Homelssnes. What are we really teaching in schools? And so on.

Thanks for the kick in the rear Three Score and Ten :-)