Monday, October 31, 2011

For What It's Worth - Revisited

I read a rant by an angry Wall Street worker in response to the OWS protesting going on around the country. Typical in your face, no holds barred rant that must have made him feel better once he got it out of his system. Been there, done that myself.

The man made some valid points. No, he does not owe any of the protesters anything. Yes, I have no doubt he works hard for the paycheck he takes home. But then he steps off the edge and opines on just what the OWS protesters are made up of. Liberal union commie losers who never worked a honest day's work in their life. He then goes on to claim that all unions, teachers , firemen, police, etc. are nothing but safe havens for lazy do nothing hacks who suck off the hard work he and his brethren produce day in, day out. He finishes up with the legend he has built in his own mind that without traders, we would all be in a world of hurt. And finally he whines about fairness and how he is getting the raw end of the deal.

Fairness has nothing to do with it. But perception does.

The wealthy have been perceived as uncaring greedy bastards who are sitting on their wallets while the country goes down the tubes. Rather than investing in our future, they are investing in each other and not sharing in the good fortunes they continue to reap in. The OWS protesters are pictured as rabble rousing leftists intent on bringing down America by destroying the economic stability of our great nation. They want something for nothing. Both sides have allowed emotion to to taint their image of what the other side wants. A great Buffalo Springfield lyric comes to mind - "Nobody's right if everyone's wrong".

The man and I will agree most of the OWS movement miss what is really happening in my opinion. When the peasants get pissed off enough, they always take down the rich. There is no right. There is no wrong. It is what has been happening for as long as one man was perceived as having more than another man.

What we are seeing now is just the beginning of what could turn into down the road, a correction that will redistribute wealth in the end. How it is redistributed will be up to how the players end up dealing with each other.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Your Face Shapleigh

I was watching the early storm results after the Nor'easter that just swooped through our region. Channel Six up to Portland reported snowfall amounts for the towns hit hardest. A list was placed on the TV screen. The accumulated amounts varied greatly, with some areas just getting a dusting. As I read the list, I noticed the town next door, Shapleigh came out on top with 17".

"Harumph.....Where's the Acton results? I bet we beat those clowns over to Shapleigh. They think they're just so special."

But Acton was not even on the list. Grumpy now, I went about my morning. Brewed some coffee. Drank some coffee. Looked out the window at the instant winter that came overnight. Drank some more coffee and waited for daylight.

About 7:30 AM my wife found me. "Hey, I just saw Acton's snow fall results. We got 20", the most reported in the state so far.

Now flush with victory, my day just got better.....................and then I realized.......................I have to go outside and clear that 20" of snow off the drive and walkways.

Suddenly and instantly without so much as a warm up storm, I am hard into winter and it is not even November yet. But that does not bother me. I have bragging rights when next I meet some flounder from Shapleigh......Nyaah, Nyaah, Nyaah.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Number 2,615,064,392

I ran across a link/story regarding the planet's dubious honor of now having 7 billion humans roaming around its surface. It is one of those interactive sites that will tell us where in the numerical order of humans inhabiting this rock one falls. According to the BBC article, I am the 2,615,064,392nd person born on this planet. When I was born in 1952, there were not even 3 billion people. Now, 59 years later, there are 7 billion of us taking up , taking over, and eating up space. The UN agency in charge of counting humans insists that by 2050, we will be dealing with 10 billion people.

Wow. 7 billion is a lot of people. 10 billion people is even more insane.

I will admit that this more than doubling of the planet's population since I was born pretty much went unnoticed by me for the most part. Oh, I knew we were crowding each other out a bit, but here in Maine, there is still plenty of room. Maine has a density of 41.3 people per square mile. Or to put it another way, every person in Maine has 15.5 acres of land around them. Or could have if we spaced everyone just so.

The World's population is much more crowded. Taking everyone into account and excluding Antarctica as livable space, there are well over 130 people per square mile crammed together on this planet. Using fuzzy math I figure that by 2050, this figure will climb to around 170 people per square mile.

I am not even sure why I bothered to write about this. We all knew we have been creating humans faster than we destroy them for years. I thought it was whacked when we hit 5 billion and now that a couple more billion have been packed in, it is almost anticlimactic. So what if for every 33 deaths, 100 brats are spit out to take their place. What that means is somewhere in neighborhood of 400,000 people are born everyday while only 132,000 people die.

Regardless whether my math skills are up to the task, there is no denying we are going to stress our planet even more in the coming years. Of course, there is always that go to hope many secretly harbor and we could experience a species decimating event of some kind. A plague, a series of natural disasters, or maybe another war to end all wars. But barring that, I am afraid my daughter will have to get used to sharing more of her air and space with more people than I did.

The above link has some very sobering predictions about what Life will be like if we continue our wanton consumption. There is a crisis point coming. Or at the very least some kind of correction I am sure. Whether we instigate it or the planet does, Mankind is in for some rude awakenings in the not so distant future.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Decade of Odd

It has been an odd year, this year of our Lord, 2011. Odd for me and most likely odd for many others also. But then I should be used to odd. Life started getting seriously odd in my little world right after 9/11. Maybe it was just me, but I felt a change in this country, an unnerving if you will of this country's confidence in itself.

So with a decade of odd behind me, I should be used to it and not even bat an eye when another lunatic escapes from their fringe and makes some kind of impact on the rest of us. It is as if the fringes of our national personality have switched places with the mainstream. The average idiots like me are now not in charge. Nor are we what would be considered mainstream, but have now been expelled to the fringes. The extraordinary idiots have taken over control and now their agendas are pushing ours out of the way.

But have the whackos from our fringes really taken over? Or have we allowed the fringes within ourselves to take control? For whatever reason or reasons, have we begun to let some of our inner demons out into the real world?

A free society can only function effectively as a group if as individuals, we dampen our extreme views and rein in our most fanatical inclinations. But then I guess, a free society can only handle a certain amount of internalizing anger before it has to go through a period of purging.

Cycles. It is all about cycles. And right now is the end of one and the beginning of another. How we handle this unsettled time between the two will define where we go from here. Will reason catch back up with us? Or will we continue to beat each other senseless by forcing our personal fringes onto each other? Will this decade of odd turn into a generation of odd?

The Doomers and the Gloomers tell us this is it. It's all over in a short while. Or in the case of some, it was supposed to have happened already. But so far, the end has not happened contrary to many unfulfilled predictions in our recorded past. No matter what comes at us, somehow we have dodged the bullet. Given our historical tendency to screw up a good thing and then recover, I would say the odds are in our favor. That somehow, we will figure things out and move on into the rest of this century.

In the meantime, maybe we should all try to cut each other some slack again. It works for the most part. What doesn't work is what we are doing now. But then every society has to blow off some steam on a regular basis.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Discontent in the GOP Playground

It has to be tough to be a Republican these days. The internal strife, the back biting, the lack of any leaders with a clue must be driving the few "good" Republicans bonkers. It used to be the GOP would not allow it's members to go after each other like siblings in the back seat during a long trip across country. The best the GOP has to offer are acting like, ....oh my Gawd,.....Democrats. Everyone knows Democrats are loose dogs and have no self control. The GOP was above the fray. Republicans always offered up a united front. They could disagree with each other, but only behind closed doors. Solidarity above all else.

But it has all changed. Just watch a couple of minutes of any GOP debate. Close your eyes and they sound like Democrats.......... Okay, maybe evil Democrats. The tempo and pissing on each other shoes surely is the same standard Democrats jump right into when they debate each other. It used to be Democrats wore their feelings on their sleeves and Republicans kept them in the closet. Not anymore. The GOP is now proving to be whackier than any Democrat I know of. I never thought I would see the day. I am positive my mother, her father, and any dead relative from the black Republican side of my family are turning high RPM circles in their respective graves about now.

Every day, the front runners hoping to capture the Republican privilege to go head to head against Obama open their mouths and shove not one foot, but sometimes both feet hard into their mouths. And what is even funnier, many of them have not even a glimmer of a clue they have done it. But when caught and forced to acknowledge their mistake or conflict of ideology, they weasel out by lying, claiming their words were taken out of context, or that what they meant to say was not what came out of their mouth that day. And then quickly, they spew forth a statement that completely reverses the position they had taken sometimes not even hours earlier. They are so desperate to capture the favor of their base, they will say anything and not even realize what they are doing.

This internal girl fight would be true comedy except for the fact that the GOP has lost any interest in actually helping this country out of its current situation and are focused only on defeating Obama, no matter the cost. They are acting like toddlers in the throes of the terrible twos where no matter what mom says, all they have to say is "No". And in the meantime, the rest of us pay for their self absorbed focus on defeating Obama no matter what.

The current state of the GOP illustrates perfectly what I have said all along about the leadership of both parties. The interests of the party come way before the interests of the nation. They only care about us when it comes time for them to ask us for our votes.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Taxing Simply

Okay, so a fellow I know pointed out to me that Herman Cain's whacky 9-9-9 plan does not impose a 30% sales tax. He is right as far as it goes. But Herman Cain has already admitted his plan is really a stepping stone to the Fair Tax plan proposed back in 2007. That plan would abolish most taxes, replacing them with a 23%(some are convinced it is really 30%) national sales tax. My friend's response was "What's wrong with simplifying the tax code? We all end up with more money in our pockets."

Hmm............The notion of condensing our tax code into one basket that will only cost us 23% (30%)of every dollar we spend does on the surface seem simple - spend less, you keep more. To a nation trained to make their mind up from 30 second soundbites and clever catch phrases, I can see why this idea might have some support.

Being prone to the same trap of relying on catchphrases and soundbites, I remembered my wife , the accountant, and her feelings about changes in the tax code. Paraphrased, her pearl of wisdom goes -

"Whenever the word 'simplify' is attached to changes in the tax code, two things happen. One the code becomes even more intricate and two, millions of accountants get richer. There is no simple tax code, just different tax codes."

Armed thusly to whatever teeth I had in my head, I visited the fair tax plan website for more information.

I am not a gifted analytical thinker. I am not gifted with much other than the ability to breath. So imagine my befuddlement when I visited a link provided by Fair Tax and attempted to understand the pros of this plan as written by Paul Bachman and others. Just the highlighted intro had my head spinning.

And while I am not a great analyst, I do have a knack for getting the gist of a thing. After reading through as many pages as I could handle before my eyes rolled up into my head, I realized my wife was correct. This plan may be simpler than the hodge podge cornucopia of taxes we pay now, but not by much, if at all.

First of all, this whole tax plan, like any new proposal is based on assumptions. The assumption is that people will not change their spending habits. We will still over consume as we always have. Okay fine. But will we? And then there is the fact that assumptions are created to paint the rosiest of pictures or the most dire of consequences. Depending on which side of the economic fence you sit on, take your pick.

This tax is still a tax and many people will still do their damndest to avoid paying it just because of what it is called. Which brings me to another assumption of the plan I don't understand. Somehow, this fair tax plan will reign in the trillion or so dollars spent that avoid the current sales taxes in play presently. Huh? My assumption is that current trillion dollars of lost taxable money will grow instead of shrink.

Another claim I have heard is the IRS will no longer be needed. Okay so I did not hear it from the Fair Tax site, but advocates of the plan have made the claim. Come on people, any tax plan will require goons to twist the arms of those of us who would skip our tax paying duty. They might change the name, but there will still be federal agents of some kind knocking on our doors if the government feels we are ducking our responsibilities.

One of the complaints about this national sales tax is that it will punish the poor. The Fair Tax Plan people have an answer for that. It is called a "Prebate". The government will issue checks preemptively in amounts that will cover the purchases of the poor up to the poverty level. Right. As is the case when the government decides what a level is, they come up with a broad brush answer that does not take into account what the poverty level is in a given region. So I make another assumption and assume that "prebate" will often fall short. And the fact that money will be spent before money is taken in seems like more of the same voodoo economic madness we deal with now.

I will say that the "Fair Tax Plan" and even Cain's "9-9-9 Plan" are at least proof someone is trying to come up with alternatives to what we all agree is an overly complicated mished and mashed tax code. But neither of them are even close to being what I would call "simple". And from what I read, the potential pitfalls that might and probably will happen will punish the most vulnerable among us first.

In my mind if the financial wizards are intent in re-creating our tax code into revenue based on consumerism, then why not just let us allocate our tax dollars in the same manner - pay into those services and government efforts we feel represent our interests.

Say everyone has to pay oh, Hell, for arguments sake any number will do, say we all have to pay 15% of our income to the Feds. But we can break it down into whatever area we want. That way we could support and change government services with our choices. Personally I would allocate all my 15% the first few years to education,infrastructure and job creation. Defense can pound sand. DEA can pound sand. Congress can pound sand. Maybe if some of these departments have their funds cut by angry citizens, they might just deliver in the future a better government. Let them compete for my tax dollars just as I compete for the dollars my customers may or may not spend in my store.

Realistically, I know this would not work out. But in my opinion, my plan is as worthy as either the Fair Tax Plan or the even shakier 9-9-9 plan. All are pie in the sky ideas that have no real place in the real world. We do not live in a simple world. And sometimes, simple solutions are not the answer.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tipping Scales

There seems to be a direct correlation between our recent economic downturn and the recent consolidation of wealth among the richest one percent of the population. I read an interesting op/ed by Robert Reich (Worked in three administrations) regarding this trend. He says and I quote:

"In the late 1970s the richest 1 percent of Americans received 9 percent of total income and held 18 percent of the nation’s wealth; by 2007, they had more than 23 percent of total income and 35 percent of America’s wealth."

His op/ed is about how the conservatives of today are not conservatives but regressives. I will let you read his take on this as I have something else on my mind.

It would seem odd that as the richest one percent gathered and consolidated more wealth, our economic position began to show cracks. This transfer of wealth went unnoticed until it finally collapsed under its own weight. And even then, our leaders propped up the transfer of wealth so more of the wealth could move from Main St to the endlessly deep pockets of Wall Street. In the meantime our wages went down, our hours were cut or just disappeared.

It seems obvious to me this is not a healthy situation for the majority of Americans. Yet, these same robber barons have convinced a sizable chunk of the folks affected that what they are doing right in front of us is "good" for the nation. Some of us even embrace the recent hot tax plan 9-9-9 that will by almost every account I have read only take more from the poorest of us and put even more money back in the pockets of the sleaze bags who have been pillaging our economy. I gotta say, a national 30% sales tax on top of the state sales tax would kill my retail business.

Okay fine. Perspective, political slant, ideologies. But the fact is, the richest of the rich have been quietly tipping the economic scale more and more in their direction. And I guess this is fine if one believes that power consolidated in fewer hands is a good thing. Because we have now become a country that judges power on how big our paycheck is. At some point, once our pockets have been completely picked clean, they will go to work on restricting the diminishing rights like voting, right to negotiate labor contracts, and who we pray to as a nation.............. Uh, oh yeah they already are.

Keep it 'tween the ditches.......................

Monday, October 17, 2011

Torturing Children

I am sure I have mentioned this before. If not here, I have voiced my opinion bluntly many times to the small fry who wander in and out of my bike shop on any given day.

It is the 10th visit to make sure the bike part they lust after is still in stock and they have finally scraped together enough money to purchase the part. If I am feeling evil that day, I play the "change game" with them.

Barely able to look over my counter, a grubby little tacker will place both hands on the counter, one hand clutching tightly the money he has been able to scrape together by hook or crook to walk out with those Odyssey pedals he has been lusting after the last month or so.

"How much are those pedals?" He knows full well how much, he has asked me the same question the last nine times he visited.

I refrain from being snarky and I evenly say, "$16.95 and a little for the governor for a grand total of $17.80."

When the kid places several crumbled bills on the counter and asks me, "Is this enough?" - My evil side takes over. The little punk should know whether he has enough to pay for it. Now it is time for me to pass on some education.

I gather up the balled up money and begin to separate it. A typical wad will have way more than the pedals cost. A ten, a five, and some ones would be the typical combination.

"Well young sir, it appears you have, uh, how much is here?"

The kid looks at me as if I had just asked him the capital of Mongolia.

"I don't know. Is it enough?"

"I don't know kid, you tell me. The pedals are gonna set you back $17.80. Is there enough here?"

Again a blank look. Then, "My mom gave me this money and said whatever it was I just had to have better not be over $20. I guess it is $20."

"Guess? How old are you kid?"

"Um, I'm 11. Why?"

"I don't know, but I was just thinking 11 is a tad too old to not be able to add a few bills together. How many ones are there?"

The kid moves them around and whispers, "Five."

"So far so good. Now add this to the five. How much is five and five?


I take the five and the ones and set them next to the ten.

"How much is ten plus ten?"

Immediately I get one of the classic eye rolls kids toss out when confronted by an adult intent on making their lives miserable. But he hesitates and looks up at the ceiling and maybe begins to twitch his fingers like he was counting. His eyes brighten and he looks at me. "Twenty, there's twenty dollars there.", he says triumphantly.

"Very good. Now the question to you is, is twenty dollars enough to cover the $17.80 you owe for the pedals?"

The eye roll is replaced by two small eyes glaring, wishing I was dead. But the lust for the pedals outweighs the frustration of dealing with a math quiz out in the real world, so he might say something like, "Yeah, it's enough."

If I am feeling particularly evil that day, I will collect up the five, the ones and the ten and put them in the cash drawer and hand him his pedals. I will offer him no change. I hope to shake loose some kind of defense response, some clue they have a clue that they deserve some change back.

To be fair most kids will tell me they deserve some change. For the ones who actually begin to leave, I stop them. I don't rip off kids. I prefer to torture them.

Now the real fun begins.

"Okay so I owe you change now. How much change do I owe you?"

Nine times out of ten, I get no answer, just dark sullen anger. So I continue the lesson with, "Come on kid, you should be able to count change if you are going to carry money. Trust me when I say there are adults out there who will take advantage of you. Think now, how much change should you be getting back?"

Some kids get angry and will tell me that this is not school and they don't have to do math problems. I agree wholeheartedly but finish by saying they are just asking to ripped off. I will try once more to engage them in the game. If they refuse, I hand them the change without comment.

Some kids rise to the occasion and will do their best to figure it out. I will work with them until I feel they have gotten it or they have at least given it their best shot. It will be these kids who will be running the world and bossing the kids who refuse to learn. There is nothing wrong with not knowing an answer, what's important is seeking the answer.

I used to be shocked by this inability of the local youth to count money. I would like to say counting change was taught to me just as I stepped out of the womb, but the reality is I just know my parents made sure I could count money long before I hit kindergarten. I grew up assuming everyone could count money. Apparently not.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tangible Worth

A couple of days ago I tore off a few sharply written words regarding a couple of less than impressive examples of American leadership. Mixed into the rant was this statement, "....the fine folks wearing wing tips and Brooks Brother suits who shuffle money around but produce nothing of tangible worth."

I was referencing the working inhabitants of Wall Street, the movers and shakers who control the flow of wealth as it moves in, out  and about  this country. Off and on yesterday, I thought about that line. Was I being unfair to these buttoned down tight asses in $1000 dollar suits when I accused them of producing nothing of tangible worth? Or was I just jealous that they had more than I did as Herman Cain claimed anyone who criticized them was?

Fair is fair, so I tried my best to conjure up a viewpoint with their perspective in mind.  I am sure many, if not all of the financial wizards and their gang of spreadsheet lackeys, are positive that without them this country would be in chaos and nothing but a larger version of the Sudan. After all, they are charged with the stewardship of all our wealth. 

I then considered the notion of wealth and what exactly it was. I have never really considered wealth in any terms that did not incorporate the idea of money along with it. It appears I have been successfully indoctrinated to believe that wealth without money is nothing.  Thousands of years ago Man invented money to facilitate commerce more expediently and now money has replaced the actual products it was meant to represent.  We came to value money more than how many cows we have in our barns.  The financial class has fooled us into believing protecting the representative (money) of our wealth is more important than protecting the physical, touch it feel it, eat it wealth.  Are we stupid or what?

Following my own path to enlightenment or the usual deeper befuddlement, I attempted to get my head around the phrase "tangible worth". What made something tangible?   Could something be tangibly worth more than something else? Certainly assigning the sliding scale of a monetary system quickly and logically creates relative values in most cases. But is that product or service really tangibly worth the value someone has placed on it? And should I believe something is worth more than something else just because it has a higher price tag?  Is a pair of Gucci shoes more valuable than a pair of work boots?  It is because we perceive it is. 

Looking at tangible worth from a strictly capitalistic slant, whatever the market is willing to pay is the tangible worth of that product or service. Okay fine. Why then has the storage of money combined with the shifting of stored money from one coffer to another become more valuable than the products or services whose purchases originally set the stored money into motion?   Again I say, are we stupid or what?

I understand that money is used to initiate the physical process of gathering and distributing wealth through investment.  However, it seems today, more money is generated by keeping it out of the physical world and just moving it around inside a virtual circle of bank accounts and investment portfolios. Less of it is used to actually buy things or employ people.  It stays off Main Street and is kept under lock and key in the exclusive club known as Wall Street.  How can this kind of activity be of any tangible worth other than in the small economic circle it loops around in?  It is nothing but virtual worth and we have been fooled into believing there is some kind of intrinsic value to our economy because these fancy pants are getting filthy rich by passing money off to each other.  It is a massive ponzi scheme that is carried out legally.  Is it any wonder it failed?  No.  What amazes me is we handed these clowns more money to do it again.  Are we stupid or what?

I'm sorry, but wealth derived from a shaky concept is not tangible in any way I can think of. It is more like some fantasy game that creates virtual worth. The only true value being in our minds, not on the dinner table or parked in the garage.  Until such time the money changers decide to stop sitting on their over stuffed coffers and actually return that money to the real world in the form or investment, purchases, or taxes, they have done nothing of tangible worth. And it is a crime, or should be that they have been allowed to hoodwink us into believing their chosen profession is even close to being as critically important as, oh say, picking up the garbage, growing the food, fixing the roads. These activities have tangible worth and are considerably more valuable to our nation than shifting paper money from one account to another.

I'm going to bed. My head hurts....................

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Words of Encouragement – 100 words

The grey understood the edict forbidding contact of any kind. They were to leave no clue of their presence in this part of the Great Beyond. The grey knew well his race's failures in the past when they exposed themselves too early.

The grey still bristled. Some encouragement should be communicated. Some signal that would let them know they would prevail. Instead he had to watch them suffer…………… But did he?

“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” – just silly lyrics thought up while on LSD Lennon insisted. “They mean nothing.”

Image from Dreamstime

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Most Recent Anti - American Americans

What a great country. And I mean it. Not so much because we thump our chests and say it is so, but more because we are still in business in spite of ourselves. Our founding fathers landed some serious beginners luck when they created what is shaping up to be an idiot proof system of government. So far the wheels are still on the bus, but every day at least one or two of the boneheads in charge do their best to flatten the tires by pruning more rights from the shrinking quiver we still have.

A couple of tidbits that illustrate my point:

"U.S. Drug Policy Would Be Imposed Globally By New House Bill"
Apparently the Einsteins running the House Judiciary Committee have come up with another useless weapon in the "War on Drugs". If their bill makes it through Congress, any US citizen who buys a joint or a gram of hash or even discusses the possibility of scoring said substances while on that 6 day, 5 night tour of Portugal could be jailed here in the US once they deplane at Kennedy. I am guessing that running our lives here is not enough for some of these clowns. They want to make sure we mind our P's and Q's when overseas. And at the same time jam our notion of law down the rest of the planet's throat. What a bunch of cocky and arrogant assholes. Rep Lamar Smith of Texas - you are a class A ugly American and if anything cries out to be tagged "anti-American", your recent sponsoring of this bill would fit nicely into that category.

Rather than admit the "War on Drugs" is the prime catalyst creating the violent crime associated with drug use or abuse, these idiots want to continue to expand a failed policy. There is no way to legislate stupidity. For Lamar Smith apparently, punishing it is a satisfactory alternative.

And then there is the new Republican golden boy, Herman Cain calling the Wall Street protesters Anti American because they are carrying signs that disparage the fine folks wearing wing tips and Brooks Brother suits who shuffle money around but produce nothing of tangible worth. As he puts it, to be Anti-Wall Street is to be Anti-American. But go ahead and preach to your brain dead choir that Wall Street is somehow just shy of God on the ideological barometer that determines the difference between Good and Evil.

Capitalism is not an ideology, it is an economic system. Sadly however, you and the big money interests you represent have managed to convince too many of us that the idea of money is interchangeable with the ideal of freedom. In my opinion you sanctimonious jerk wad, the activity of peaceful protest represents what is great about America, not the money changers of Wall Street. Economic power only supports Freedom when everyone, not a select few are invited along for the ride.

Rep Lamar Smith and Herman Cain - you two get my Anti-American awards for this week.


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Taking the Test

I was putzing around the Internet this evening when I came upon a teaser headline on the "Drudge Retort" - "Poll: What does GOP mean?" I found out that barely 51% of Republicans polled knew the answer. I chuckled and moved on. One site led to another and the next thing I knew I was on the Christian Science Monitor site taking a written version of the US Citizenship test given to eager immigrants wanting to become citizens in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The test took awhile. Each question was on it's own page and well, I almost dropped it mid stream. I carried on til the end just to see if I had what it took to be a US citizen in the eyes of some bureaucrat hunkered over US facts and figures in some dusty cubicle over to Foggy Bottom.

Apparently I passed with flying colors. In order to gain a passing grade one must get 58 of the 96 questions correct. Using only my porous brain pan to find the answers I got 93 correct. One of the wrong answers I cry foul on. It was a trick question. Another one I just flat out blew. And the third, well, Not sure why I got that one wrong. I was thinking 1787, but I punched 1789.

So I could have passed the test. Does that mean anything other than I have a decent working knowledge of how our country was set up and has run since the beginning? No, not really. This test does not ensure that I am a good citizen or even a bad one. But I guess if I was a just landed immigrant, it would indicate that I have enough interest in this country to at least study for this test. A place to start.

I looked up some US statistics regarding the numbers of legal immigrants entering this country. I had made some assumptions that were not supported by the figures. I assumed that immigration was down, but lo and behold, we legally allowed 1,042,625 foreigners to move here in 2010. The World is still knocking on our door even though the mythical streets of gold turned to potholes many many years ago. I guess as bad as I sometimes think it is here, I could be someplace else and in a much worst life situation.

Which just reinforces the notion I should be grateful for what I have and not angry about what I don't have.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

An Encounter Down to the Hardware Store

Tom Roberts pulled up in front of Sunnyvale Hardware. His mind was hard into figuring what pieces and parts he needed to fix that antique lamp his wife had been pestering him about. He almost walked right over Jedidiah Ridley who was bent over by the shovels stacked up carelessly near the front door.

"Jeezum Jed, ferchrisakes what the Hell?"

Jedidiah straightened up. In his hand was a True American #12 feed shovel. Shiny new aluminum, light as a feather and it had one of those new gee whiz poly carbonate grips. Jedidiah turned and squinted in Tom's direction. "Just pickin up a new shovel. Thought I'd try this one..... Seems plenty rugged"......He turned the #12 shovel over and looked at the back side, "Um, I don't know though, wish it were straight out flat." He spun it back to view the top. "She is a light one though."

Tom looked at the shovel and nodded. "Yep, got one of those last Spring. The ole steel one Pepe used in the barn finally shit the bed. They's nice, but they wear out quick. Guess it's the aluminum.... jes don't hold up to real shovelin."

Jedidiah set the shovel blade on the ground and leaned on the handle. "Well sir, I ain't gonna use it in the barn. Need a new road kill scoop. That old flat snow shovel I bought a month ago jes ain't working out."

"Why's that Jed? Not rugged enough for that occasional moose you sometimes run over?" Tom grinned and shook his head.

Jedidiah snorted. "Funny man. No, the flat shovel was fine for scoopin, but not so good for cookin."

"Cookin?" Tom's eyes opened some as his mind created an image of Jed holding a shovel full of dead possum or squirrel over an open fire.

"Yes sir, cookin. Seems they don't make a straight clean shovel no more. All of them are either plastic or the metal ones come with some kinda anti stick coatin that bubbles all up and sends up a real stench when I hold it over the fire........Makes the meat taste funny."

Saturday, October 01, 2011

What Happened to Being Bored?

As it turns out, September, 2011 is now officially the highest grossing month of the year down at the bike shop. This is certainly good news as it helps to put me in a better position financially to weather the slack sales of winter. This is also a very odd turn of events in that September is traditionally the month the door to summer begins to close. My previous best September grossed only 25% of what I brought in this September.

What does this mean? My best months historically are April, May, June. September has never been more than a meet expenses and maybe pack a little away for October. I am a tad unsettled and mildly disturbed about this.

Being true to my nature however, I would not be happy unless I was able to find something about this month to bitch about.

For 20 years, this bike shop and the one I owned previously enjoyed or suffered a predictable flow of business over the course of a year. The season slowly winds up in late February, builds a good head of steam in March, and then settles into a dull roar for April, May and June. July is often a cruising month. Sales flatten out some, but business remains brisk. August is when the winter wind down begins. And by September, I am usually ready for a break. I got no break this September. Not one day at the shop this past month did the words,"I'm bored, would someone, anyone at least call with a wrong number or try to sell me some insurance?" No, every day in September was another high RPM day just like the previous 180 of 2011.

A man gets used to his life panning out in predictable ways. And while stepping outside of a comfort zone is one thing, being forced outside of it is a whole other matter. If this unpredictable flow of events continues, I may just have to find something other than boredom to whine about this winter. And I was so looking forward to it too.

Oh well.............