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Thursday, December 28, 2006

CFP Test = Hard

I've been studying for the hardest test I have ever taken. The studying has consumed all my free time. I haven't posted here. In fact I haven't read a book for fun in months. That's so unusual for me as I read several fiction novels a week.

Now that I have taken the test, my life can begin again. I won't know until January if I passed it and I have to say, I'm not all that confident that I have passed. If not, this will be the first test ever in my life that I haven't aced.

It was interesting to go to the testing site as it was at a college that I went to over 30 years ago. Talk about a time warp. So bizarre to be 30 years older and hopefully wiser and be back in the same classrooms I was in at the age of 18.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I'm Cat Meat

A Mulsim cleric in Australia has decided that I am abandoned cat meat and deserve to be raped because I don't cover myself in a couch throw and put on a mask when I go outside.

"If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park, or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, then whose fault will it be, the cats, or the uncovered meat's? The uncovered meat is the disaster. If the meat was covered the cats wouldn't roam around it. If the meat is inside the fridge, they won't get it."

"If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen."

So I guess that makes his wife(wives?) and daughters covered up cat meat. I always thought the dating scene was somewhat of a meat market, but never really took it literally. In the Muslim world, then women are meat and men have no choice as prowling cats but to pounce on and devour the meat. Great world philosophy they have there. This does explain a lot on why we will never ever ever be able to negotiate with these people. They come from another planet, another time and a completely foreign mindset than we have.

"Satan sees women as half his soldiers. You're my messenger in necessity, Satan tells women you‘re my weapon to bring down any stubborn man. There are men that I fail with. But you're the best of my weapons."

"Â…The woman was behind Satan playing a role when she disobeyed God and went out all dolled up and unveiled and made of herself palatable food that rakes and perverts would race for. She was the reason behind this sin taking place."

Aha. Women are the cause of all evil in the world. We are Satan's tool to undermine the will of MEN. And we deserve everything we get.

What I want to know is where are the feminist and the feminazis protesting these types of statements. If a rapist from Arkansas were to state that the bitch had it coming because she dressed provocatively and had the temerity to go out alone, do you think that they would just let that go with... "Oh well, you know they do come from a different culture down there in Arkansas. We have to understand and accept their cultural diversity." Yeah... right.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It's Apple Time

Now that the weather is turning as crisp as a bowl of fresh apples, my thoughts turn to the Holidays. I break out the worn recipe box with its collection of stained and tattered 4 by 6 cards. Someday, I promise myself, I will re-do these cards before they become completely illegible. I have started to put my favorites into a computer cookbook program that I have. The program even gives the calorie count, fat content and other nutritional information. Sometimes that isn't such a good thing. Yikes!!! My favorite pasta shrimp in cream sauce dish has 1500 calories a serving, and I can't just stop at one serving. Put that on a list of things I didn't want to know.

This is one of my favorite apple pies. I don’t remember where I got the recipe but I do know I’ve had it for at least 10 years. Single crust Cranberry Apple Pie. Colorful and tasty. Enjoy.

Cranberry Apple Pie

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 8 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Baking Desserts

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter -- cubed
3 tablespoons ice water

1 1/2 pounds granny Smith apple
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons melted butter
1 large egg

Make crust as usual pie crust. Wrap in plastic and chill. Roll out and shape into a pie pan. Chill again. Bake at 400 filled with pie weights 15 minutes. Remove weights and bake 10 minutes more. Cool completely

Peel and chop apples into 1 1/2 inch chunks. Mix apples, cranberries, 1 cup of the sugar and 2 tbsp flour and cinnamon. Place into prepared pie shell. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. Whisk melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar, beaten egg, and 2 tbsp flour. Pour over filling. Bake 1 hour longer. Cool completely before serving

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 354 Calories; 17g Fat (42.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 51mg Cholesterol; 245mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 Fruit; 3 1/2 Fat; 2 Other Carbohydrates

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Addicted to Gaming

I found this article via Instapundit, one of the blogs I routinely read. It's from a woman who is having issues with her husband's excessive gaming. Computer games can be very addicting. However, I have some thoughts about her post that go beyond gaming. I think there are other factors in play in her troubled marriage, but I won't go into those now. The comments are very interesting from gamers and non gamers.

I am a computer game addict. I admit it. Isn't that the first step in breaking an addiction? Well, actually I don't plan to completely break the addiction. Control is more the goal. Unfortunately, some people can't control their time and become so absorbed in the "games" to the extent that the virtual world is more real that the literal world. Their personal interactions with real live people suffer. Their job performance and health deteriorates. It is a serious issue. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am spending much of my time studying for a career related test. In consequence I have had to severely limit my gaming time. We all need to prioritize our time. For me at this point in time it is: Work, Study, Husband, Cooking and Household Maitenance, and Leisure Activities which include gaming, this blog, computer surfing and playing my guitar. Poor guitar has really been neglected. The importance is keeping things in THIS order as much as I want to bump up the gaming to a higher position on the list..... I must not.

World of Warcraft
is my latest poison. A MMORPG A very seductive virtual world. In the screenshot above each of the characters is a real person, who is on line at the current time and playing the game. They can all interact with each other in real time. Some people even meet with their virtual gaming friends, get married,form social relationships and have pizza together. In other cases, people become so involved that they lose their friends, family and jobs. This is a true addiction.

As a woman, I am unusual in the gaming world. Very few women like to play role playing and strategy games. Not many women like to program computers and enjoy the logic of the process. I find myself outnumbered not only by gender but also by age. I'm pretty long in the tooth as a gamer as well.

How did this happen that I enjoy computer games? Why do I find it fun to play computer games? My family was always on the cutting edge of technology. When the first home computers became available in the form of the Commodore 64 over 30 years ago. It was a revelation. We could do word processing, no more white out or backspacing over erasing strips. No more carbon paper, just print out several copies. We could play GAMES and program the computer ourselves. The power and the challenge was seductive. When the next advancement came out in computers we had to have more. My father even built his own computers and we helped. Even today, I am always wanting the next more powerful processor, video card, monitor, software....GAME.

Zork, the original text based adventure game, was the first in a long series of games that challenged my mind and absorbed my time. There were no GUIs (graphic user interfaces) at that time. No pretty pictures, no animated characters. Just text on a screen, your brain, a pencil and paper and the satisfaction of the AHA!! moment when you solved the puzzle. I was hooked. The Legend of Zelda, 1986, and Nintendo further enticed me. The graphics were phenomenal, for the time at least, and you could play with other people. My daughter, then 8 yrs old, and I would have a great time with Link and then with the Mario Brothers. Her friends would come over and have Nintendo parties. Fun.

Yet, I was always more drawn to strategy and fantasy games. When Myst came out with its beautiful graphics and complicated puzzles, again I was absorbed into that world and would spend hours working my way through the game, but it was a solitary gaming experience.

The world of online gaming has been a wonderful revelation and a seductive addition to my gaming addiction. Not only are the games challenging, fun and graphically beautiful, you have a social aspect as well. Playing with and against other players, it's easy to become too wrapped up in the experience.

Do I neglect my husband and other duties...... No, I don't..... but it is hard to push myself away from the keyboard sometimes.

Algebra: Who Knew

Way back when in high school we all had to have algebra to graduate. It this still the same? I don’t know. I struggled through the course never really accepting the principles of algebra. To me it seemed like arbitrary rules made up out of thin air.

3 × (d + 4) - 11 = 321 - 23

Just looking at this gives me a headache.

“To find a solution for an equation, we can use the basic rules of simplifying equations. These are as follows:

1) You may evaluate any parentheses, exponents, multiplications, divisions, additions, and subtractions in the usual order of operations. When evaluating expressions, be careful to use the associative and distributive properties properly.


2) You may combine like terms. This means adding or subtracting variables of the same kind. The expression 2x + 4x simplifies to 6x. The expression 13 - 7 + 3 simplifies to 9.

3) You may add any value to both sides of the equation.

4) You may subtract any value from both sides of the equation. This is best done by adding a negative value to each side of the equation.

5) You may multiply both sides of the equation by any number except 0.

6) You may divide both sides of the equation by any number except 0.

Hint: Since subtracting any number is the same as adding its negative, it can be helpful to replace subtractions with additions of a negative number”

AAAAKKK Gobbledegook!!! Voodoo numbers that have no basis in reality. Ok…if you insist I will force myself through the course and take it on faith that this stuff really works and has some meaning. I took these courses way before the invention of the handy little calculators that can solve these problems practically by themselves . I vaguely remember using a slide rule. I believe these are now considered collectable antiques.

The math teachers….. strange people to begin with, who would actually WANT to study math…. would assure us that we would need Algebra someday. Well, as it turns out, they were right.

I’ve been a financial advisor for over 17 years now and have completed the CFP courses. (Certified Financial Planner) I’m now in the process of taking a review course to be able to better sit for the final exam in November. This is a very difficult exam with a pass/fail rate of about 50% passing and I am assured, by the course providers, that they have an 80% pass rate. I sure hope so!!.

Up until now to calculate things like the Present Value of a future income stream, the Net Present Value of an investment and associated cash flows, or the amount needed to save on an annual or monthly basis for a future event such as college adjusted for inflation and taxes, I have use one of several computer programs and my handy HP 12C calculator, never really knowing, or caring, that they were doing Algebra for me. We really have become lazy people, relying on machines and computers to do the heavy lifting,

Now, I actually have to understand the underlying principles of solving the program and that means I have to remember basic Algebra.

I have a headache.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Too Many Plums

I love and dread the end of summer.

The love part: the nights are beginning to cool down enough to throw a light blanket on the bed. The cat begins to snuggle up and settle down....finally. The trees are starting to turn from green to light yellow to orange and red and we know the leaves soon will fall to the ground and be recycled in the efficent way that nature has devised. I know that winter is just around the corner and I will be able to bring out my cozy knitting craft projects. I will be able to cook in the house instead of creating meals that can be cooked outside on the barbecue to keep the heat outside. Lingering on the deck in the crisp afternoons and early evenings watching the geese and egrets moving southward, with the poignant knowledge that soon it will be too cold to enjoy these moments. The garden plants and fruit trees are groaning with their valient efforts to produce food for us... the patient gardeners.

The dread part: The sun is setting earlier and rising later. The days are getting shorter and I want to savor every moment of beautiful fall color and breathe in the smells of nature beginning to settle down for her winter's sleep. And we have TOO MUCH PRODUCE.

I can't stand to see the fruit and food go to waste and there are only so many zuchinni or plums a person can eat without dire consequences to bodily functions. In the spring it is a gamble on whether the fruit tree blossoms will get to set fruit or be frozen off of the tree by a sudden freeze. This year our plum trees went insane producing fruit. Santa Rosa Plums and Italian Plums, we must have had 50 pounds of fruit. What to do? I get busy canning, preserving, making deserts and freezing for the winter.

Plum jam, canned whole plums, plum crisps and plum cake for the freezer and still to many plums. This year I tried something different for those pesky end of the harvest plums.

Chinese Plum Sauce

8 cups plums pitted and halved
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic minced1 cup water
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp ground corriander
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cloves

In a large saucepan, bring the plums, onions, water, ginger and garlic to a boil over medium heat. Cover and reduce to a low simmer and cook stirring occasionally until very soft. About 30 minutes

Press through a food mill, or puree with a hand blender or other method. Return to a clean pan and add the rest of the ingredients.

Bring to a boil stirring. Reduce heat and simmer until it reaches the consistancy of applesauce stirring occaisonally to keep it from burning on the bottom. About 45 minutes.

Fill and seal in half pint jars an dprocess in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

Makes 4 to 5 half pints.

I did this over two nights after work by putting the pureed mixture in the refrigerator and doing the second half the next night. This turned out so good that next year I am making a triple batch.

So I complain about too much produce, yet I am even now planning future crops in our new raised planting beds and what I am going to plant in the half wine barrels that lne our driveway. I think peppers, tomatoes and beans in the barrels.

I am such a glutton for punishment.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We Have A Lot Of Old People

A friend of ours has been hosting two couples from Russia recently. A little background is needed first. He met them while participating in a target shooting competition. The Russian men come to the US to hunt trophy animals they also like to gamble in Nevada. They are ex KGB and seem to be middle aged (about mid 50's). The explained that when they were young men there were only two career paths in Russia, become a party politico or join the KGB. They had an interesting observation after spending some time in the country. We have a lot of old people.

When asked to explain, they remarked that there were very many old people in the United States, meaning over the age of 60, actively participating in social life and visible. In Russia, "old people" either are not as active and outgoing as ours are, or there are just less of them due to attrition. Maybe it is the harsh weather, poor health conditions, or just that old people stay home and don't run around in Bermuda shorts at the mall like they do here. I don't know.

Anyway an interesting observation. We have a lot of old people.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What Animal Am I

Aaaaw. I'm a bunny. Funny don't you think?

You Are A: Bunny!

bunny rabbitThese adorable woodland animals are known for their fluffy cotton tail and shy disposition. Bunnies reproduce like crazy and are found all over the world. As a bunny, you spend your days hopping through fields and chewing on grass and leaves. Your cuddly, gentle appearance is irresistable!

You were almost a: Pony or a Duck
You are least like a: Monkey or a MouseTake the Cute Animal Quiz!

Folgers Happy Morning

This has to be the strangest and most surrealistic commercial I have ever seen. It is also funny in a very warped way. Somehow it brings back memories of the 1970's. It as if the Brady Bunch have gone on a yellow tinged psychedelic trip.

Watch the whole thing. I love the dog.

Hot cha cha cha!!!

Added another link in case the first one is broken

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

666 The Apocalypse Has Arrived

Here it is. The fabled and fated day of judgement. The mark of the beast is upon us. We had our first sign of impending doom. This morning the newspaper didn't arrive!!! The beginning of the end!! The horror! Oh...Ok ....the inconvenience. Our little cozy routine was all discombobulated. The Dumbplumber (AKA my husband) said, now he knows how the cat feels when we move things in the house or have company to intrude on her well set routine. Ah, well. This too shall pass. At least I have the Internet to get my morning news fix.

But, just in case this is the real thing, I think I'll check the Armageddon Pantry this afternoon. I'm sure we must need some more dried fruit or wine or something.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Taxing the Wealthy

When a lie is repeated over and over it becomes mistaken for the truth. This is called propaganda. The mantra that tax cuts only benefit the wealthiest 1% and that there have been massive cuts in social programs as a result of the wealthy skipping out on taxes is widespread, especially by the left. Part of the reason for the spread of these lies and misconceptions is due to the complex nature of economics, biased blathering by uneducated reporters and mostly by purposeful distortions of policy by those who benefit from the lies.

Caution: this is a link heavy article as I want to document myself. If you don't like economics or statistics, don't click the links.

First of all, income tax is not a tax on the "wealthy". It is a tax on income. Period. Wealth is taxed when you die. Politicians self-servingly promote the idea that the top 1 percent are dilettante millionaires living off of the backs of the rest of the population. The facts are something different. Of the one half of the 1 percent who are in the top tax bracket, more than two thirds are small business owners. Of all businesses in the US approximately 98% are classified as small businesses that employ less than 100 people, yet they also generate over 36% of jobs. Taxing the small business community to death would harm and halt the economic growth we have seen since the tax cuts were enacted May 28, 2003 when ALL income classes had their tax brackets lowered.

Does this mean that the people who earn more income paid less dollars in income taxes when the rates were reduceded? Yes. But here is the rub. The class warfare warriors focus on dollars of tax relief received instead of the percentage of taxes to income paid. These figures from the Cato Institute give us a real picture of where the tax revenue is coming from. The top one percent make about 17 percent of the money in this economy, but they pay 33 percent of the income taxes. How is that fair? The top five percent make 33 percent of the income, but pay 52 percent of the taxes. The bottom 50 percent pay only five percent of the income taxes In contrast, households earning less than $75,000 received about 70 percent of the benefits from increasing the child credit and 64.4 percent of the benefit from creating the 10 percent bracket on the first $14,000 of taxable income, the Tax Policy Center says. In addition, it says 55.2 percent of the benefit from ending the so-called marriage penalty was received by families earning less than $100,000.

How is our economy doing since the tax cuts? To hear the Democrats in Congress and the leftist moonbats on blogs the US is perpetually about to go into a recession.

Unemployment is at a low of 5% and lets face it 5% of the population is just not employable and will never hold a job.

The gross domestic product growth rate took off immediately after the tax cuts hitting a 20 year high of 7.2% in October 2003 and has continued to grow at a respectable 3 to 4 % average surge in tax revenue since the tax cuts.

The reason we don't see this information published in the MSM is that the MSM is composed of or controlled by left leaning Democrats with agendas. They want to perpetuate and prolong class warfare to regain power and further their Socialistic aims. By repeating propaganda over and over to create unrest and division within the population the politicians hope to gain power. This is a similar technique used by the National Socialist Party in Germany as applied to the Jewish population. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for our current politicians, there is a fatal flaw in their propaganda. Most people aspire to become wealthy and earn high incomes. It is hard to create a complete societal rift and create envy, when people want to become the envied.

But let's look at the real tax on the Wealthy.....the Estate Tax. Here is one description by proponents of the tax.
"The estate tax is the most progressive tax in place in the United States tax code. It is the federal government's only tax on accumulated wealth. It helps reduce concentrations of wealth and power." Redistribution of wealth, isn't that a central tennent of Communism?

More about the Estate Tax in a later post. But consider this, if you or your family have worked hard to create a business, have been smart in your investments, or have just been lucky in owning land in an area that has had huge property appreciation through no effort of your own, why should you be punished and have over 50% of your efforts confiscated by the government and redistributed to others?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Best Rock and Roll Station Ever!!

Just discovered KCDX If you love music and hate the canned stuff on commercial FM stations, you know where they play the same 20 songs over and over, you will LOVE this. You need a broadband connection. I have this streaming on my computer when I am working or just futzing around and leave the website open so I can see what is playing at the moment. I don't always like rock and roll but the mix is so eclectic it works as a change up from my usual jazz, blues and old standards that I have in my comuter music library.

There is an interesting story about the station and the owner.


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 :-)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

It is the little things

It is the little things that make life enjoyable. My husband and I have a routine in the mornings. We wake up with our natural bio-clock, not the annoying alarm clock, at 6am. We try not to disturb the cat on the bed with us as she has her own routine and likes to sleep in. I grind the coffee beans and my husband trundles out to get the local paper. We turn on the television news and listen with half an ear while settling in with our first of three cups of coffee. We read the paper, swapping sections back and forth until we have read everything of interest, especially the comics. If there is time my husband will break out the laptop computer and I will migrate to the office which is just a few feet away and peruse the internet. Having learned all there is to know about the local, national and business news and finished the pot of coffee. It is time for a quick breakfast, shower and off to our separate work lives. On the weekend we may have a more substantial breakfast and linger longer over the weekend paper. Some people may consider this routine boring, I consider it comforting.

Well, our world as we know it is about to come to a screeching halt. Oh the horror!! the drama!! the pain!!.....oh ok I'll come back to reality.....the inconvenience. Our paper delivery lady of the last 6 years is retiring and we will be getting a new delivery person. Delivering the paper is a thankless job. She has to get up in the middle of the night 2:30, drive 30 miles to get the papers that have been delivered from the "big" city 75 miles away. Fold, wrap and bundle hundreds of pounds of newspapers, and then drive many miles in our rural area to make sure we have our dose of the daily news. Rain, snow or icy roads, our paper lady always had our paper to us so our snug little routine was assured. We had a special arrangement with her to drop our paper near our house instead of at the end of our long long driveway out by the road. Our paper lady took pride in her job, was always on time, and we were suitably $$ grateful when it came time to pay our bill and when Christmas came around.

With her retirement, we are getting a new delivery person. Will he/she make the special trip down our driveway? Will we get our paper on time? Will our routine be disturbed? Will we have to wake the cat up earlier?

Stand by for breaking news.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Obscene Oil Profits and Who Really Profits

It seems that the recent profits posted by Exxon have the anti-business left, ill informed consumer groups and some of the media in a tizzy (Bill O'Reilly). Claims of price gouging and suggestions that we should have a windfall tax to punish the big bad oil companies for making a profit have been raised. These ideas are proposed by people who have no idea how the oil industry works (or any other industry for that matter). These ideas are also proposed and accepted by people who haven't the slightest idea of how economies work or how supply and demand affects prices. Unfortunately these people are our Senators and Representatives, who make the decisions that will affect our lives. Scary isn't it? Just to think that Ted Kennedy and his ilk are in control of our economic health is enough to make me want to go back to bed and stay there.

Here is a very, very simplified example. The market and market traders set the price of oil....not the oil company. The cost of producing oil is controlled by the company, to some extent, but the market price is set by futures and options traders who base their prices on expectations of supply and demand. When supply is expected to be ample and demand is down compared to the amount of supply, the price is down and the companies make less or even lose money. If the supply is expected to be short, as it was directly after Katrina, the demand for oil is high and so market prices are higher and the oil company makes a profit. The oil companies hope for a stable supply and demand in order to be able to predict their profits and be able to know how much to reinvest into exploration and processing.

A windfall profit tax would be a huge mistake. A windfall profit tax is actually an excise tax on the difference between the market price of a commodity and an arbitrary figure determined by the government. The prices were obviously different in 1980 the last time we did this, but the effect of the tax would be the same, a decrease in domestic production and a increasing dependence on foreign sources Here is why. In 1980, the excise or "windfall" tax was 70% For example if the market price of oil is $60 a barrel and the government determines that the price should be $30 a barrel the difference of $30 is taxed $21 which leaves the oil company $39 (60-21=39). If the real cost of producing oil is $40 the oil company has just lost $1 per barrel of oil. What's a company to do? Increase the demand by reducing supply, of course. Dairy farmers have used similar tactics to raise the price of milk, why should oil producers be any different.

So the oil companies are making huge profits right now. Who is really profiting? Oil companies pay huge taxes to State and Federal Governments. Taxes in the billions of dollars that benefit schools, road projects and other expenditures that our politicians spend on our (supposed) behalf. Do all the profits go back into the oil company executives pockets? No, of course not. Exxon has spent an average of 10 billion (that is with a B) dollars annually in development and exploration. If development of our existing and potential oil sources and expansion of our refining capabilities were to be allowed, instead of being blocked by environmentalist, it would benefit us all.

Anyone remember the 1970's oil shortage? The 1973 oil crisis began in earnest on October 17, 1973, when Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), during the Yom Kippur War, announced that they would no longer ship petroleum to nations that had supported Israel in its conflict with Syria and Egypt -- that is, to the United States and its allies in Western Europe. At around the same time, OPEC members agreed to use their leverage over the world price-setting mechanism for oil in order to quadruple world oil prices. The complete dependence of the industrialized world on oil, much of which was produced by Middle Eastern countries, became painfully clear to the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan Hmmmm. Does this have a vaguely familiar ring to it????

Ben Stein has an excellent article that explains this much better than I ever could. I bow to the master. Read the whole thing.

"Meanwhile, why is it so bad for oil companies to make a profit, even a big profit? That profit doesn't go into the pockets of Dr. Evil. It doesn't go to Saddam Hussein (not anymore). It goes to tens of millions of stockholders who use the dividends and the increase in share price to pay for their RV's and retirements and their (ungrateful) kids' college education. John D. Rockefeller is long gone. Anyone in America with a few twenties in his pocket can become a shareholder of a big oil company and share in those profits. Those profits go to teachers' unions and policemen's unions and to any person on this earth who cares to speculate that the big profits will continue. Or, as my father once said to me, and I have said before, "If you think oil company profits are obscene, buy stock in the oil companies."

I love this last remark!! If you have a mutual fund, a profit sharing plan, a company or State funded pension plan.....YOU are the beneficiary of the profits. Your share prices are up and you are receiving a dividend on your investment.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Where Have I Been

I saw this on Born Again Redneck. These are all the States (the red ones) in the US that I have either lived in or have visited.

I have actually lived in most of them before the age of 10. And no, my parents weren't in the military.

They were printers when it was actually a skill: not like now where all you need to do is type. Both my mother and father were typographers and worked at newspapers all across the country. In those days most of the papers in large cities were Unionized and as card carrying members they could "pull a traveling card". This meant you could pick up and arrive in Toledo and go to the local paper, The Toledo Blade as I recall, and fill in as a sub if someone wanted to take off for a few days. We lived like gypsies and pulled our home, a 40 foot trailer, behind a 1955 or so Ford station wagon from one end of the country to the other several times a year. I spent more time on Route 66 than Tod Stiles and Buzz Murdock. I was in first grade in Ypsilanti Mi., Walla Walla Wash., and Seal Beach, Ca., and a couple more schools, so I've been told, all in the same year.

Looking back, I now realize that my mother was unusual in that she was a successful woman in a man's world way before there was such a thing a feminist revolution. Maybe that explains why I am a woman in what is usually a man's occupation. My father has written a book about the lifestyle which doesn't exist anymore. Here is a photo of my father with one of the few last working Linotype machines that has been refurbished an is now in a museum.

Wanderlust is just built into our genes. I still love to travel. And my father since retiring has written tons of travel books which require..... traveling. What a drag, getting to do what you love and get paid to do it. We should all have it so hard.

Messing with my blog

Please excuse me for a while. I am trying to get the comment section on this blog back to the Blogspot defaults so that I can respond to comments left. I appreciate that some people are "really" looking at my vanity blog and want to be able to respond to those so kind as to leave comments.

Not being the most adept computer programmer in the world, I'll probably flub it up a few times. And I think I will be deleting your previous comments. Dang!!! Be patient.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Teaching to the Test....So?

What is the big problem with "teaching to the test"? I remember when I was in grade school and high school (Ok! so it was a long time ago) that the teacher would often say "Take notes this is going to be on the test". And it usually was on the test. It seems to me that testing the students is the only way to know if they are actually learning anything in school. It also seems dubious to me that they are actually learning anything at all.

The Teachers, and their Union, are screaming that it is forcing them to .....what? Change their methodology of conceptual learning where the students are in a free form learning environment, or change their methodology to be assured that when the kids have completed 13 years of mandatory education, they have actually obtained some skills that will help them out in the rest of their lives? I don't see a problem with this.

From personal experience, I know that it is next to impossible to hire a young person out of high school, or even college for that matter of fact, who possesses even the most rudimentary skills in reading, writing and math. When the prospective employee has a high school diploma, the employer should be able to feel confident that the prospect has at least some basic skills. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. I'm not suggesting that we go back to diagramming sentences (something that I really liked in English) or that every student needs to take a calculus class. But.....Come on.... How about being able to do some basic math and be able to write a coherent sentence.

Even some teachers have admitted the failings of our current educational system. "But, a new era is upon us. Students graduate uneducated, and incapable of even faking it for a simple book report. They fail to learn math facts, so need a multiplication chart. They fail to learn math processes; are not made to show their work; are not held to standards of accuracy; so are allowed "encouraged" to use calculators, even for ACT and SAT tests. Students fail to develop skill with cursive penmanship, so must depend on keyboards of some kind. They fail to learn rational thought and discriminating judgment, so must depend on fools, liberal professors, a biased media, for their 'opinions' and decisions."

It is probably too late for most students to catch up. By the time they are in 6th grade they have whiled away 7 non productive years. Those students who are ready to graduate from high school now have no chance to "learn" the material that is needed to pass the test. So at this point the teachers are actually teaching THE test. Teaching TO the test is not the same thing. Teaching to the test should have been done all along. We may not be able to help graduating students now, but it is not too late to start with the younger grades. Mabye in 13 years we will be graduating students who are compentent citizens instead of a bunch of uneducated drags on society.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Expensive Penny

If you have read the side bar you know that I am a financial advisor and money manager for a living. The following is the kind of waste and short sightedness that will bring a business to it's knees. It is also the same kind of waste and robotic adherence to frivolous and unnecessary procedure that will bankrupt a country.

A short while ago, I decided that I would close one of my Bank accounts. Seems simple? Wrong. I carefully balanced my check book and wrote one last check. It seems, however, that there was a teeensy bit of interest that kicked in and I had a balance remaining of one penny! So I tell the bank, go ahead and keep the penny I don't want it......but.....nooooooo. They send me a cashiers check for ONE CENT. Think about how stupid this is and how the costs of sending me one penny add up. First they have to print the check, put it in an envelope, post it. People all along the way are getting paid to send me a penny. Bank personnel, USPS people who send it to my post office and then they deliver to me. If I then cash the check at my bank, the teller and then the processing center and then the delivery service that actually handles the physical check and the other bank then gets the check and processes it, film of the check is made in both banks. And so on and so on.

My one penny probably eventually cost hundreds of dollars. So who pays for the expensive penny? Everyone else who still has an account with the original bank by paying higher and higher fees to cover stupid and avoidable losses.

I have the check framed and near my desk. When I discuss why I think the stock of a particular company maybe or may not be a good investment and bring up the topic of earnings per share and other fundamental analysis issues, I can refer to my expensive penny as an illustration. They should have just kept the penny.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I can see for miles and miles

It has been a terrible winter here. Usually we are dry, cold, with a little bit of snow, frozen ground for many days but crystal clear skies at night where you are stunned and awed by the stars and brilliant cold but sunny days. Did I mention cold? This year it rained daily for two weeks and was overcast on the days it didn't rain. The last time I lived in weather like this was in Paradise, California. It rained 108 inches that last year. Paradise was, and still is unless someone moved it, above the Sacramento Valley just high enough to always be in the clouds. I thought often then of committing suicide like the characters do in the Illustrated Man, The Long Rain. Just tip my head back and drown. I felt if I didn't move fast enough I would be covered by moss and mildew.

When I moved to where I am now, I was enthralled with the wide open vistas. Even in winter the view was unlimited. Since the sun has come out again, my spirits have soared. Stress level down, energy level up. I suspect I have S.A.D. or the Winter Blues. Unfortunaltely in the winter I also get F.A.T. and B.I.T.C.H.Y. WIth my newfound enthusiasm, I ordered some overly ambitious gardening catalogues. When I excitedly told my husband my plans (plans for him actually) to construct raised planting beds and grow some herbs and vegetables, his reaction was "ummm yeah...I gotta take pictures of that". Well, he may be right and I will crap out before I get done. But ....hey don't rain on my parade. The sun is out.... wooo hooo.

Soon the fruit trees and lilacs will be budding out. The daffodils will be pushing their sunny faces through the dirt. The birds of spring will be returning to join the zillions of quail that we have been feeding all winter. Soon we can sit in the sun on our deck and enjoy the view. We can see for miles and miles.

I'm a Corvette!!

I love meaningless on line tests, which probably download a ton of tracking cookies. anyway.

I've always wanted a Corvette. Well, either that or a big fat chrome grinned 1948 Buick.

I'm a Chevrolet Corvette!

You're a classic - powerful, athletic, and competitive. You're all about winning the race and getting the job done. While you have a practical everyday side, you get wild when anyone pushes your pedal. You hate to lose, but you hardly ever do.

Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.

Take the test

Sorry for the cruddy pictures, but the Corvette shot that came with the test results rudely pushed itsway into the right hand column and messed up the web page. I guess you get the idea anyway.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Domestic Spying Claptrap

The following is a letter that I have sent to our local fishwrap. I just can't stand it anymore!! The distortions, the half truths, the out and out lies and especially the idiots who lap it all up without a scintilla of thought and then reguritate it back into the aforementioned fishwrap.

The recent spate of letters to the editor decrying “domestic spying” and wailing that the “President is breaking the law” need to be examined in a brighter light. Let me give you a few quotes to ponder. "The Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes." also “It is important to understand that the rules and methodology for criminal searches are inconsistent with the collection of foreign intelligence and would unduly frustrate the president in carrying out his foreign intelligence responsibilities." Before the inevitable knee-jerk reactions, let me also clarify that these quotes are from Clinton’s Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 14, 1994. Where was the outrage then?? In 1994 President Clinton expanded this program of warrantless searches to domestic programs with no foreign connections at all in an attempt to control crime in highly violent housing projects. Again, where was the outrage??

It is a falsehood that the law has been broken. Federal Courts have constantly upheld the right of Presidents since Jimmy Carter through George Bush to gather foreign intelligence without having a court ordered warrant. In 1982 a federal court of appeals ruled that "the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agents." This program is nothing new. What is new is the concerted effort by those who are permanently angry at the current administration to attempt to discredit it and try to regain political power at all costs, even at the cost of allowing future attacks on America.

We are at war; a global war with terrorists who have stated their goal to destroy us. The fact that the enemy doesn’t wear a spiffy uniform or have a recognized national flag doesn’t make it any less of a war. We ignore these facts at our peril. For those of you think that the attack on September 11, 2001 was the opening salvo, you need to review history. You know, that thing we are doomed to repeat if we don’t study it? Here is a very short recap: the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, US Embassies in Africa in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and in 2001 attacked both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Thousands of American citizens have died at the hands of terrorists.

Mr. Whittaker, from Millville, wants to know “How many innocent lives will be devastated by the recklessness of this administration?” I would like to know how many innocent lives will be destroyed in the next attacks. The next attack perhaps may be a dirty bomb made with enriched uranium obtained from Iran, or possibly a biological one fueled by a test tube of smallpox or anthrax. This next attack doesn’t have to be inevitable; however, it can be preventable if we are allowed to protect ourselves. Mr. Whittaker may be unwilling to give an inch or ounce of credit to the current administration in its efforts to keep us safe. In the short run, I am willing to give the government computers the ability to spy on terrorists, yes even American citizens who help the terrorists, if in the long run it means that we will live to have a future.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The "It never fails" Category

Some mysteries of life can just be filed away under "It never fails".

I don't know why but whenever I want to get an item out of the clothes drier, it is always on the bottom of the pile....always.

When I grab some paper clips, they have somehow become entangled. There can be 500 paper clips in the box, but it never fails that the ones I grab have "married" each other.

When I am in a hurry to take a jacket out of the closet, the coat hanger does a double flip and lands down behind in the most inconvenient place to reach, one that entails getting on hands and knees with butt high up in the air.

If I, out of the goodness of my heart, let someone with fewer items than me go ahead in the grocery line, it always turns out they forgot something, run to get it and make the rest of us wait. Either that or the clerk knows the customer and they have a 5 minute talk about their kids, husbands or whatever. Just hurry the heck up! I want to get out of here before the ice cream melts.

The last pair of nylons (How is that for showing my age? I didn't call them panty hose) will get a run before I can walk out of the bedroom.

The utensil I want from the utility drawer is always in the back and wedged under everything else. What! Do the spatulas, measuring spoons and cheese graters move around at night? I'm sure I put them back where they belonged.....I think.

I am a Mastermind Rational

According to the Jung Typology test, I am a Mastermind Rational or an iNTj. So I am introverted (44% strength of preferences), Intuitive (62%), Thinking (62%), Judging (22%). I guess that means leave me out of the big crowds, let me think and plan, and I really don't care to judge you or even think too much about you.

I like this part "However there is one attitude that sets them apart from other Rationals: they tend to be much more self-confident than the rest, having, for obscure reasons, developed a very strong will. They are rather rare, comprising no more than, say, one percent of the population. Being very judicious, decisions come naturally to them; indeed, they can hardly rest until they have things settled, decided, and set. They are the people who are able to formulate coherent and comprehensive contingency plans, hence contingency organizers or "entailers."

Now, isn't that just what you want the person that is watching your money to be like?

I also find it interesting that US Grant and Ayn Rand are classified as Masterminds. Ayn Rand had a profound affect on me when I read Atlas Shrugged at the age of 13 and supposedly U.S. Grant is a distant relative of some sort. I am also a distant cousin of Jessie ....go figure.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dust Bunnies

It occurs to me that the thoughts we have rumbling and rolling around in our heads resemble the dust bunnies that grow under our beds. Dust bunnies start from a small bit of fluff or dust and somewhat like a pearl in an oyster gather unto themselves more and more substance around the initial irritation until they become noticeable. We eventually clear out the dust bunnies and start a new batch. Similarly the thoughts that I have seem to gather enough dust from various sources until I can someday form them into some sort of a whole. Here is where I plan to cough up the dust bunnies in my mind.

The core of my dust bunnies can be something serious like world peace or as frivolous as to how the cat knows what time it is and why is it that the item I want to get from the utility drawer is always in the back. My husband has his own dust bunnies or in his case nits to pick with the world and shares his thoughts with the rest of the world on his own blog

Lucky me..... I get to be the web master on both blogs since, as the name of my husbands blog indicates he is a plumber and not a computer programer. Since I am the computer techno geek in the household I get to set up the home entertainment center, download the digital camera, program the TIVO, set up the wireless network in the house and anything else to do with tthe computers. I really don't mind. It gives me a sort of powerful feeling and a satisfaction in knowing that I have these skills. that my husband doesn't have. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that he "could" do these things if he really wanted to, but it is easier to let me. That's ok too. I probably could learn how to do the maintenance chores around the house that my husband does now, but I don't want to to those things either.