Thursday, November 30, 2006

Comedy

“Seeking to create a more meaningful citizenship test, the federal government unveiled 144 draft questions Thursday that it will try out on immigrants taking exams in 10 cities. A sample question: Why do we have three branches of government?”

What is this? Some sort of “Polish” joke? Like, how many congressmen does it take to screw in a light bulb? OK, let me try it…we have to have 3 branches of government because none of the 3 is bright enough to do it on their own. No? That wasn’t the answer?

Buttering my toast

Interesting thoughts as I was putting the cheap spread away in the refrigerator, you know, the one with trans fats. With all of the news sources telling us that trans fats are close to asbestos in lethality, I have to wonder why it’s still being sold? Of course, the FDA is the agency that tells us that it might be dangerous to buy our drugs in Canada. In fact, they were confiscating those “dangerous” drugs just a while ago. Just trust your government…

Where?

Colorful! But can you spot Meghan in the top photo? (Where's Waldo?)
See her here?

This one's easy...

Greenhouse life


No, that isn't a microphone that Steven is reaching for...those are all "drippers" that provide water to the poinsettias

Poinsettias

Busy, busy! It’s quite early but I have already spent about 30 minutes working on an Excel spreadsheet that calculates the number of poinsettias sold and deducts that number from the amount available…simple stuff, but I’ve been tweaking and formatting for fun!

Yes, I’m in the poinsettia business these days as the Plant Barn is having their annual sale. I’m just an apprentice at it, so I do things like “pull” the plants; taking them from the greenhouses to the point of sale. It’s technical work; you have to know the difference between a “Pink” and a “Shimmer Pink”, plus the darned “Da Vinci” looks a lot like a “Pink” with some exotic plant disease. And they come in various sizes; 4”, 6”, 8” and 10”…the big boys! And expensive!

Besides being expensive, they are fragile; prone to losing stems when being moved. I had to move 50 4” Reds from house #7 to a reserved space in house #8 and although I was only carrying 3 at a time and in a carrying tray…I still lost about 3 stems, with their precious flowers. Although there were 12,000 poinsettias in the greenhouses, each and every one is already promised to some one, so you can’t lose a whole plant.

It’s actually fun…I always enjoy learning something new and I have found that there is lot more to poinsettias than meets the eye. Did you know that they spray the plants with growth inhibitors? If they didn’t, you would be buying poinsettia trees. And when you buy a 10” poinsettia, it didn’t progress from being a 4” plant and transferred to a 6” pot and then to an 8” pot, etc. They all grow in the pot they will be sold in. They are too fragile to be repotted every few weeks.

Pictures to follow…

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oh, no! (2)

Once I posted the hard drive disaster information on my blog, I saw that the AdAware software had picked a hard drive ad to display at the top of the page; an ad for a Seagate 250 Gb drive for only $45! Hmm? Should I get one for my computer? Or should I think again about building my own computer? TigerDirect was the site that had the low prices…maybe I’ll look.

And now that I have seen the ads for the kits, I know that I have a serious need to refresh my technology memory. Back in the day…when I did this for a living, technology acronyms rolled off my tongue with the greatest of ease. When flying, I had at least two computer magazines with me at all times. I knew what the latest processor from Intel or AMD could do. I’m afraid that I’m losing my geekness! Someone should take me out and shoot me…

Oh, no!

Darn! Our laptop computer was found to have that dreaded white on black message displayed on the monitor this morning…”bootable device not found…Press F1, etc, etc.” I hate when that happens!

I have the computer back on and in “Safe Mode”, so there is a good chance that we can save a lot of data to a flash drive. If it is the beginning signs of a hard drive failure, which it is…this would be the 2nd hard drive failure for this computer in 3 years or less, not a very good record. Could this be the reason that I was reading this month’s edition of “Smart Computing” and a whole section on what to do when your computer dies?

And as I was going through my Journal, looking for info on her computer, I found that my computer is a little over 3 years old, while Laurae’s is over 4. Almost ancient aren’t they?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

FBI To Lead Johnston Investigation

C'mon...it's just some "collateral damage"

There's a war going on, don't you know? The War on Drugs, and these things happen.

Brrr!

The coldest part of the morning is drawing near; it’s already 31° and going lower, down to 25°. Since I recently had to remove the “wishing well” structure over the well piping, there is some risk of freezing for the exposed pipes. I certainly don’t need a frozen pipe! So I have taken the easy way out and placed our large ice chest, upside down and open, over the pipes. I just have to remind myself that it’s not a permanent solution.

I have finished Thomas Friedman’s book, “The World is Flat”. It took awhile to read; not because it isn’t interesting…it is! In fact, I read a lot of it twice. I’m afraid that Mr. Friedman’s writing style is not my favorite. He ordinarily writes newspaper columns, opinion pieces, and so every few paragraphs felt like a column to me. And I would have to stop and digest it.

Writing style aside, the book is filled with great information about our 21st century world and how we all (that’s everyone!) fit into it. For those of us that recognize pervasive tribalism as the greatest threat we face in our world, this book validates our beliefs.

War and Peace

Only in America…

“A subdivision has withdrawn its threat of $25 daily fines against a homeowner who put a Christmas wreath shaped like a peace sign on the front of her home…

Jensen was ordered to take the wreath down when some residents in her 200-home subdivision saw it as a protest of the Iraq war. Bob Kearns, president of the board, also said some saw it as a symbol of Satan. (These are probably the same people who saw the face of the Virgin Mary in a toasted cheese sandwich.)

The homeowners' association demanded Jensen remove the wreath from her house, saying it doesn't allow flags or signs that are considered divisive.”

Peace is divisive? Of course it is! Yes, some people are actually against peace, although they never put wreaths shaped like “war” signs on the front of their homes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Avoid the loony Zune

What were they thinking?

I'm still looking for the device that will play my music. (Where I got that music is no ones business but mine...) And I want it to act as a file sharing device as well. I want it to be a little wireless server (about 30 Gb's worth...) And I want to be able to view my photo collection on it as well. And it needs to be small. Did I mention that it should also be a voice recorder so I can take notes wherever I am? Increase the size to 40 Gb and you should be able to run PDA apps with it.

I won't do iPod's because of the fact that Apple thinks everything they ever think about is proprietary...even when it's not.

Winning?

Speaking of apologies; I think that’s the only honorable way out of Iraq. No, that won’t bring back to life the hundreds of thousands of innocents that have been killed by our little war. But it’s a good first step in healing the wounds of that war. Apologize and then ask what we can do to help right the wrongs.

Of course I’m dreaming! W has a legacy to create and it doesn’t include any defeats, let alone any apologies.

Good Enough

A very busy holiday weekend has passed and so I’m looking forward to a more relaxed week. There are not a lot of demands on our time now that the garden has eclipsed and the trees have stopped producing nuts. There are plenty of winter time chores; that’s for sure, but just not this week.  

Well, one of those chores won’t be postponed; I have to clean the ashes out of the woodstove and get ready for the next icy blast of weather. The low temperature is supposed to get down into the mid 20’s later this week. I think that deserves a fire.

Winter time is a time for retreat. Yes, I know it’s not officially winter; that happens sometime in December, but I don’t care…it’s winter here. And I have been retreating from the news outside of our small world. I just gave it a cursory glance over the long weekend. I guess I need to look at it again.

As expected, World War III rages on. Officially, it’s now one of our longer wars; the 3rd longest, a record we certainly didn’t need. There are some who say that World War II has never ended as we still have occupying troops in Europe and in Japan. They may have a point there. But measuring it simply by days never tells us what it cost in lives and misery. But those in power, especially the ones from this administration, have never served in the armed forces during a time of war…so why do they love it so much? If I were king; you wouldn’t even be allowed to comment on war, let alone make war unless you could produce a DD214, the official document that tells the world that you served in the armed forces.

And the dollar cost of war needs to be examined as well; here’s a web page that does it quite well with some simple graphics.

There are still some who think that W should be impeached because of what he did to Iraq. And they have a point…but it’s useless to try. Have we ever had a president punished as they deserved to be? Nixon should have been, but he skated, thanks to Ford. Reagan claimed that he had a bad memory and that was good enough for his misdeeds. Truth be told; Clinton is the only President that has ever apologized. For which he was vilified; most conservatives said it wasn’t a “good enough” apology.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Chilly!

According to the wireless thermometer, it’s already down to 32.2° this morning and it will surely go lower before the sun rises. That means that I need to make a decision soon; Light a fire or let the furnace run. If I light the fire, then we have to worry about the kids getting too close to it. Letting the furnace run equals $$$. Decisions! OK, the furnace just kicked on and so my decision making dilemma is postponed.

This day in history…
On Nov. 25, 1986, the Iran-Contra affair erupted as President Reagan and Attorney General Edwin Meese revealed that profits from secret arms sales to Iran had been diverted to Nicaraguan rebels.

History is such a wonderful teacher. Yet we ignore it at our peril. And we certainly did that when we allowed W to run the country, and in a manner that smacks of Reaganism; including W’s resurrection of some of the key players in Reagan’s scheme.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Schwarzenegger Aides Land Plum Jobs

Yet he wins re-election easily...what is the problem with voters? Are they all star struck?

The Day After

This is it; the really big shopping day and I suppose that there are more people awake at this hour than at any other time during the year. All across the country, shoppers are sipping coffee and checking their lists. Hmm? I suppose they are already shopping in some time zones, as the stores open here in just 30 minutes. I can’t imagine it. It’s beyond understanding. The thought of stores, crowded with hordes of shoppers, fills me with a sense of dread.

Thanksgiving was delightful…family and food. Not all of the family was present, but we knew where they all were and that was good.

The cat has rejoined me this morning and she is purring heavily as she sleeps in her bed next to me. She was under heavy social pressure yesterday as the twins roamed the house and she quickly found safety by hiding in our shower for most of the day, only coming out of her hiding place just in time to scare Laurae…who hadn’t expected to see a cat in the shower.

With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s only a month now till Christmas, followed by the New Year and time for more celebration. Whew! This is a tough time of year for the introverts among us.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Morning Musings

(Early this AM) This is the day we were waiting for; Thanksgiving. And it will come with all of the usual menu items. The turkey is defrosted and waiting for the oven. I made the cranberry sauce last night and I may make another batch later today. (A different kind) There are still some pies to be made, stuffing to be baked and carrots to glaze. We have just about everything we need to make the day. If we don’t, who will notice?

(Later) I’m back from participating in the Jesus Center 5K race in Chico’s Bidwell Park and it was great! I have to do that one again next year.

So now that I’m back, the (empty) turkey is actually in the oven and the stuffing has been cooked and is waiting for the turkey to catch up. I have 3 or 4 recipes for the carrots and I’m still undecided as to which one to use, but I have 3 or 4 hours left before I have to decide. The pies have been baked and look great…that doesn’t leave much left to do. Let’s see; gravy and ?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Iraqis dying

in record numbers, fleeing:

Amazing numbers...Tell me again why we are there.

Flickr:

Camera Finder

Flickr has come up with probably the best idea in camera reviews...actual photos taken with the camera in question. Sure, some photos required skill as well as luck...but a good camera counts!

Ars Gratis

It’s going to be a busy day, but I need to find some time to work on my step stool project for Kyle. It has changed a lot over the weeks and that is OK. Art is supposed to be a changing force. And it’s supposed to be fun. Even the solemn work of the old masters is exciting to see. I still remember the first time I saw a “real” Velasquez painting and I was amazed at the brilliance of it. No, I’m not comparing myself to Velazquez; but art of any kind is supposed to be fun for the artist and the viewer. So I can only hope that my art will make someone else smile and not just me.

And I’m learning. I have come up with all sorts of ideas to use for my next step stool project. I want to use inlaid copper wire and stained glass along with various wood shapes and pearlescent paints.

I guess I had better post some pictures of what I’m trying to do. Maybe, if I see them…I will have another idea.

Forecast

According to the weather report, we’re going to see some more rain just before the holiday begins. Just rain showers; nothing that will ruin the day for us. Or for the travelers; Bill and the twins will be driving down from the mountains, just ahead of the snow and wind that is forecast for that region later this evening. It looks like daughter Alicia and family will be cabin bound as they will celebrate Thanksgiving at Lake Almanor. 2” of snow is predicted for that area tonight.

For us, today is a preparation day. Cookies and pies must be baked. Fresh cranberries will be turned into jelly. Recipes need to be examined one more time for any missing ingredients and if found, I will have to run to the store. I have the turkey out on the counter this morning as it wasn’t defrosting as fast as I hoped for in the refrigerator. Tables will be expanded to fit the crowd and then decorated. Some vacuuming and dusting and then we wait.

Image Labeling

for Blind Helps Machines 'Think' - washingtonpost.com

Got some spare time at the computer?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bet ya a dollar

Dreary is the word for it. Gray and wet, though not all that cold. The moss has already begun to reclaim its place among the pavers, a green and growing carpet. And blades of winter grass are poking through the fallen leaves, now that the rain has had a chance to give it life again.

I guess we will be off to the store this morning for one last shopping expedition before the holiday. The turkey is thawing in the refrigerator and the pecans have been shelled. A large pumpkin from the garden was cut up and cooked down yesterday; all set for a pie. Amazing, but we seem to have all of the required spices this year and so our shopping list is a little bit shorter. We made a list of all the possible needs and wants and if we go early, we can beat any crowds. Yes, I’m sure we will forget something!

I was looking through the headlines, of course…and ran across this one.

“Hoping to encourage the use of a much-criticized form of currency, the U.S. Mint on Monday unveiled a series of $1 coins honoring U.S. presidents.”

In case you weren’t counting, this will be the third attempt in recent times to get us to use a dollar coin. The Susan B. and the Sacagawea dollars failed and I would be willing to predict failure for this one as well. Honoring U.S. Presidents? Oh, please!

And then I read that the Pentagon has come up with a new plan for World War III. They will temporarily increase troop strength by some 20,000 - 30,000. After some unknown time has passed, they will then cut the numbers and begin sending troops home.

What’s wrong with that? I guess it’s the fact that they keep using the word “temporary”. The government has a terrible history when it comes to all things “temporary”. And once more, I am willing to predict failure; that temporary will somehow become permanent.

Monday, November 20, 2006

More History

I found an interesting article about Guatemala in this weeks Economist. Because of our relationship with our pastor and our friends in Washington State, we have more than a passing interest in the country and so I did some additional research. The article that is linked below was written in 1997 and the civil war which had claimed the lives of over 200,000 citizens, had just “ended” in 1996. 40+ years of violence, caused by the less than covert actions of the C.I.A., and for which they were quick to brag.

http://www.consortiumnews.com/archive/story38.html

Back to the article…the murder rate in Guatemala is increasing dramatically as the current government seems unable to erase the violence from society. Maras, youth gangs are growing in number, as is the violence against women. 624 women were murdered last year compared to 213 in the year 2000. There are only 20,000 police for a country of 13 million; with only 3,000 on duty at a time. Unregulated security firms employ about 100,000 people. If you can pay, you can be safe, but you may not want to know how they accomplished it. The adjoining country of El Salvador, with half the population, has twice the number of prosecutors. Imagine; 52 years of violence and what that does to a culture.

Busy, busy...

What else is new and exciting? I guess the fact that I’m busy in the garage/shop is good news. I’m using my mind in an artistic way and that’s always healthy for me; makes me feel good! Even if I don’t produce a thing with my efforts, just going through the mental process is good. In fact, I have a great idea for Kyle’s new step stool that is fermenting right now and I may get up from my chair and put it into action this very minute.

(Later) OK, it wasn’t right that “very minute”, but I did implement my ideas about a half hour later and I like it! Now I need to find a way to spray paint more easily and with less expense than buying cans of spray paint. Although I have always disdained Harbor Freight Co. and what they sell, I may just take a second look at some of their spray equipment.

And I want to get a scroll saw/jig saw. Not the portable one, I already have one of those, but the stationary kind. Also a scroll sander. Should I look at Amazon for tools? Or, how about Craigslist?  

The Season

The holiday approaches. Thanksgiving; and at first glance, it appears to be one of the less commercial of the major holidays. We don’t send Thanksgiving cards and we don’t have to listen to Thanksgiving carols (The Little Drumstick Boy?) but, I imagine the cash take from this holiday is far larger than I thought. Turkey sales have to rival that of Christmas trees, especially now that pricey free-range gourmet birds are considered essential for the family table.

Ever since President Lincoln arbitrarily decided that the last Thursday of November would be the date to celebrate Thanksgiving, there has been a subtle blending of the Christmas season with the turkey season. And now Christmas sales have started before the first turkey hits the shelves at the market. I think I saw some Christmas ads back in September.

I can’t complain much about rushing the season, as I roasted a turkey last week. It was a nice 15 pound bird that had been sitting in the freezer most of the summer. I didn’t want to let it sit much longer and I wanted a fresher one for the holiday meal so it made sense to cook it and then to make some interesting turkey meals with it. Turkey Chowder. Turkey Enchiladas. Turkey Mac. Turkey Pizza. Sure, why not?

We’ve enjoyed a couple of turkey meals already, we have plenty more in the refrigerator and now, when our Thanksgiving meal is complete, we can load up our guests with the leftovers. Everyone is happy!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Imagine

You looking for a good therapeutic cry? Here it is...

Thanks, son...

Escape!

A cool morning. Cool and not cold. Very odd for this late in November. Do I care? No, I have plenty of wood to burn when the temps finally head downward.

I was reading a great article about “herd mentality” and grocery shopping. In an experiment, shoppers at a market were informed, via a cart mounted video screen, as to what items were most popular at that time. Odd, but those same shoppers then went on (and out of their way) to buy those very same items. In a related experiment, a group of people downloaded the music that they were told was most popular. (None of the music was popular at all) This is also why you will always see a list of “related items” whenever you buy something from Amazon. “Shoppers who bought (blank) also bought these items.” And I noticed it being used on the Netflix site; “Members in and around Chico, California are currently renting these titles much more than other Netflix members…” It seems that most people want and need validation for their choices and will always go for the most popular. Critical thought never enters into their decision making.

Of course none of this great news. Retailers (and politicians) of all sorts depend on the herd mentality. What’s sad is the fact that it’s so common. How else do you explain Bush getting a second term after failing so miserably during his first?

Anyway, forewarned is forearmed. Pay no attention to shopping carts that try to tell you what’s good on aisle 12. Cancel your subscription to People magazine. Listen to music YOU like. Stop watching Fox News. Exercise your mind!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wondering?

Rice: Countries Should Follow Vietnam
“North Korea and Myanmar should follow Vietnam's example in joining the international community and opening their economies to the rest of the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.”

Is this a variation of the “Domino Theory” that we were warned about so many years ago?

PE

Some bad news…
“When it comes to being lean, mean athletic machines, California children just aren't making the cut. In fact, a meager 30 percent of state students met California's fitness standards in 2006, a 1-percent gain over last year.”

Before I even read this, I was on my way to the Chico library on Wednesday and passed Hooker Oaks Elementary School. There was a parade of children running laps around the school yard. Correction; there was a dozen children running among hundreds that were strolling. Some would run for about thirty seconds at the urging of some distant teacher and as soon as that teachers attention was diverted, they were back to strolling.

Doesn’t anyone understand that our schools are broken? Physical education “standards” are met? by the time a student reaches the 11th grade. We have very few vocational classes available anymore. Music and art classes are distant history. Classroom time is getting shorter, not longer. ½ day Fridays? We ban sodas from school vending machines and then allow students off campus…to buy them somewhere else. Hello?

Note from the past; when I was attending El Camino Junior College in 1958, I had to take physical education classes. No choices…it was mandatory. Sure, I was upset about it, but all public schools had that requirement. If you didn’t like P.E. you had to go to a private college.

Planning is everything!

The gloom of winter is definitely upon us…but is it officially “winter’? It’s not high on my list of important dates to remember and so someone will have to tell me when winter arrives.

The cat is feeling better these days; she was quite ready to play early this morning, racing up and down the hallway and then lying in wait for me, ready to pounce and grab my leg when I pass her hiding place. A dangerous move when I’m carrying coffee.

Notice that I call her “the cat” now and not the name we gave her, Boo. Does anyone have a cat that responds to a name? Ours certainly doesn’t, so why bother? I suppose if we had more than one cat it would make sense to give them individual names as “the cat” doesn’t work well for multiples of the beast. So guests, grandchildren and the veterinarian can call her Boo if they wish; I’m sticking with “the cat.”

Mid term elections are a lot of fun, but afterwards, there was a feeling that, somehow, we didn’t get what we really wanted. (And deserved!) On the morning of November 8th, there was no “poof!” and a cloud of smoke rolling away to reveal a new president. We’re still stuck with the old one for another two years. That’s a long time!

A thought I had the other day; our own civil war officially ended in 1865. That’s 141 years ago and the reasons that precipitated that war still have the power to divide us as a nation. I certainly saw that when I traveled in the south.

So why do we expect the people of Iraq to come together in less than 5 years? They have no real history as a nation; Iraq was formed by the mandate of a foreign power (Great Britain), not by popular opinion.

And then I read this story from London; Tony Blair is being interviewed and makes a less than guarded comment…

"…so far been pretty much of a disaster".

"It has," Blair said, before adding quickly: "But you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning.

"It's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy -- Al-Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other -- to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."

If you are told in advance of this war that these things are possible and yet you make no plans for them, what do you call that? Funny, that sure sounds like some accident in planning. Or a disaster.

I have a feeling that Tony has already made his last trip to Texas for some barbecue at the presidential ranch.

Friday, November 17, 2006

God's Politics -

- christianity and values

Words worth pondering...

Ideals

Do I have a plan for the day? Not yet. But I’ve only had one cup of coffee so far, so the status of plans can change at any time. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of tasks to choose from; I have more than enough, thank you very much!

I found it to be an interesting news day. And one of the first things that caught my eye was an article about the new citizenship test that will soon be administered to those aspiring to become “Good Americans”. The test will focus on American ideals and no longer on historical facts. Abandoning history makes sense; Americans hate history! But ideals? Aren’t ideals those things that we can only aspire to? Aren’t they, by definition, unattainable? But I suppose any test is better than none at all. As for me, I would rather see them have to pass a spelling test.

And this one; Nuclear Deal With India Wins Senate Backing
“The vote expressed that a goal of nurturing India as an ally outweighed concerns over the risks of spreading nuclear know-how and bomb-making materials… By a vote of 85 to 12, senators agreed to a program that would allow the United States to send nuclear fuel and technology to India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. ”

Let’s see…today India is an ally. Tomorrow? For a good example of how fast things can change. Bush arrives in Vietnam for trade talks
“President Bush flew to Hanoi this morning after a one-day stop in Singapore, where he warned North Korea not to spread its nuclear technology to nations or terrorist groups, and said the United States' partners in the region needed to recognize the threat that Pyongyang posed.”

Would you have believed that headline 20 years ago? 40 years? It’s all about the power of the dollar.

And something I heard on the radio; eligible voter turnout in California for the past election was right around 40%. So 4 out of 10 of us get to decide everything. Cool!

And one moreRice: U.S. Concerned About Rising China
“The United States has some concerns about a rising China, including a military expansion that may be excessive, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.”

Would this have anything to do with the fact that China owns most of the American debt? But no, that hasn’t been a concern of this administration.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Seniors

Not surprising; the Democrats have decided to ignore the obvious and have gone back to their old tricks. The voters signaled “change” but the party leaders seem to be blind. Pelosi has decided to go back to the ancient custom of deciding committee assignments by seniority. Even the flat earth Republicans gave that up years ago. Seven of the 19 committee chairs will be over 70 years old! Why are these people even being elected, let alone being allowed to decide anything? For example; John Dingell has over 51 years in as a Congressman. You think he has any new ideas? Not! So the Energy and Commerce Committee will have to suffer. Energy? Commerce? Who needs any new ideas there?

And of course Pelosi has no plans; just sound bites for the 6 o’clock news. Nothing much has changed in Congress, only the player’s names.

Nevada town

to levy fine for foreign flags -

See? I told you that the Neanderthal story is relevant...and this just proves it!

Cave Men

Bad morning! Couldn’t find a network connection after finding that Microsoft had remotely rebooted my computer early this morning. They do that every once in awhile when doing a “critical” update. Most times I have no problem and life goes on. But this morning I had to fiddle with every connection and setting to regain access to the net…

OK, how about some news; “The election of Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi as minority whip offers an unlikely study in professional redemption.” Unlikely is right! That story should tell us all that we need to know about the Republican Party and the Senate. And then I read this bit of news and I see a definite relationship between the two stories… “Geneticists are decoding the bones of the Neanderthals and finding that the DNA is nearly identical to humans.”  Do you see what I mean?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Vinyl

I was reading the blog of the New Dharma Bums this morning and couldn’t help but notice the posting about old vinyl albums. I have a few of those myself and have always wanted to save them in some digital form; WAV or MP3 file format. According to what roger wrote, there is copying software available for Mac’s so I’m pretty sure they have it for pc’s as well. And I have a turntable; the other required item. Now I just need the time.  

If nothing else, I should take photos of the album covers. I think that the cover art was half the attraction when buying an album. That and the liner notes. I wonder? If someone looked at my favorite album covers, would they be able to “know” me? Maybe. I think they would be getting close.

Speed

Wednesday and the middle of the month. Well, that didn’t take long! Why is November flying by so fast? I’m really not in any hurry to get to December, but here it comes…

Since the day has a promise of being decent; there may be some dense fog this morning, but no rain till this evening, so I’m going out for a training walk in the park this morning and make sure I haven’t forgotten how to racewalk. It’s only been a week…but with my memory, I can’t take any chances!

I had quite a wrestling match yesterday afternoon as it was time to take the cat to the veterinarian for her yearly immunizations. As soon as she saw the pet carrier, she knew I had tricked her when I picked her up and began to pet her. She made a break for it as soon as I attempted to lower her into the top opening. She headed up over my right arm and onto my shoulder, but I reached around just in time and grabbed her, but only with one hand. She made a try for the safety of a higher location; the top of my head. But I was able to stop her. Then she went around and down my back before heading around to the left and over my shoulder on that side. There I was able to get both hands on her again and into the carrier she went. I was just plain lucky. Her feet never made it to the ground and although she made a complete circuit, she never drew blood! That’s always a plus.

Speaking of the cat; she figures into our vacation travels in January. I have been debating as to whether we should fly to Arizona for the P.F Chang Rock ‘n’ Roll ½ marathon or drive there. I have been doing the math and driving only saves about $80 dollars; as we have a larger pet boarding bill if we drive. If there were some interesting sights to see on our journey, the decision would be easy. But Barstow and Needles? Is that all there is?

On the other hand; flying is such a chore! For me. The flying itself isn’t a bother; I can even sleep during takeoffs and landings and have done so on many occasions. It’s the process that you have to endure before and after the flight that bothers me so. I hate not being in charge of my own destiny…or just thinking that I am in charge. As I’ve said before, leaving the airport at the end of a trip gives me a feeling that can only be described as “being released from prison”. To be truthful, I felt much safer when TSA was not in charge! A government mindset does not equal security.

I will take a look at the map again…maybe there is a “Giant Ball of Twine” to see somewhere between Orland and Scottsdale. If not… I guess it’s the plane for us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Choices

Apparently, I have made a good second choice in anti-virus software for Laurae’s computer. My first decision, to use McAfee, was a disaster. Bloated software that did a gazillion things was not what was needed and the performance really suffered. I tried a dozen little tweaks to improve how it worked, but in the end I had to admit that none of those were going to help.

And getting rid of the software was no picnic either. Laurae tried every phone number on the McAfee site after her e-mail was ignored. (“We’ll get back to you within 24 hours”…not!) It took her at least an hour to cancel the sale and get her money back.

After removing the software, the computer ran fine again but I needed to find some kind of anti-virus software for it. I searched through download.com and found Zone Alarm, a program that I had used a long time ago as a firewall. (It was free at the time) It was only $20, a third of what McAfee wanted and so far it’s doing a great job. The computer runs as fast as it ever has.

Speaking of things technical; I just received a note from Amazon.com and they tell me that they are pretty sure that the original shipment is lost in the mail. (Gee! You think so?) And they are shipping my order again… So my web page development for the Plant Barn is still on hold. But, I’m tracking this order on-line from the very day it leaves the Amazon warehouse. Not that it will stop the order from being lost again; I’m doing it just because it’s such a cool thing to do.

Monday, November 13, 2006

SR36/SR44 Cam

Early Morning snow
.
Whenever I feel beset by the weather... I visit these traffic cams and feel better

Caution. I'm complaining here...

Amazon. A once great name in on-line shopping. As you might notice, I wrote “once great”. I’m having a shipping problem with them and the Post Office and Amazon is failing on their part. The package, which contains a book on how to use Front Page to create great websites and a CD with the Front Page software on it, has disappeared. I’m tracking it with a USPS number and have located its last position, Richmond, California. It left there on the 3rd of November and hasn’t been seen since. I’ve been checking with the local post office with no success and so I thought it was time to contact Amazon.

Apparently, Amazon now goes to India to outsource their support functions. Very early this morning I received a reply to my e-mail and was informed that since I must have used a wrong address, the package would soon be returned to Amazon as “undeliverable” and I would then receive a refund and I could start all over again by re-ordering it. What? I asked them to help me locate the package; and why would I want to start all over again? It’s already been 3 weeks! So I responded with the question… “How about answering my original question; where is the package?” And early tomorrow morning, I’m sure I will get some answer… no, not “the answer”, but an answer. This will prompt another letter from me. Ad infinitum.

OK, I’ve vented. But I can see that a rudimentary knowledge of Myers-Briggs Personality Types would help companies like Amazon to better staff key positions. Help Desk personnel should always be “Intuitive”.

Oops! Time to vent once again… I just received an offer from Hughes.net; the same people who forced me to change my e-mail address awhile ago. The offer was to upgrade to a faster modem. I’m always interested in FASTER and so I looked at the offer. Before I could even find out how much it would cost, I read this…

“Before viewing your HN7000S Upgrade options, it is important that you read and understand the following conditions:
I understand that during the upgrade process, it will be necessary to re-commission my HughesNetTM system. During this process, the email addresses associated with my HughesNet account and any email messages associated with those email accounts will be lost. When the upgrade is complete, it is possible to re-establish my email accounts, but the availability of those email addresses is not guaranteed by HughesNet. Additionally, even if the email address is recovered, any undelivered or unread email will be lost from the previous account. All emailed stored in the HughesNet Webmail system will be lost.”


Tell me why I would be interested in this upgrade?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Navigating

Medicare plans throws seniors into puzzling dilemma

This kind of headline gets my "senior" blood boiling. What if this very peculiar Medicare plan was intended for middle aged folks? Would the headline read, "Middlecare Plan throws "middies" into a puzzling dilemma"? Or for the very young? "Pedia-care Plan throws children into a puzzling dilemma"?

No, the inference here is, that somehow, the elderly are at fault for not "understanding" Medicare. Does anyone, young or old, understand the "doughnut hole"? I don't think so!

This just helps to perpetuate the myth that the elderly are somehow less competent...and it is a myth!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pine Creek

During the past year or two, on our way to and from Chico, we have passed by a large expanse of native grasses located just east of Hamilton City. The grasslands are surrounded by a very expensive looking vehicle proof fence; not the usual farm fencing. We have always wondered what was going on there as it obviously wasn’t a farming operation.

Finally, there was a sign, a small one that you can barely read while passing by on Highway 32, but we made it out to read, “Pine Creek Unit…” So I Googled those words and came up with this link. The picture on the site gave me a better view of the river; I didn’t realize there was a bend in it at that location. I suppose I should use Google Earth to see what this whole area looks like.
And speaking of Google Earth, Kitty sent me a link to a Google Earth hacking site where you can see all sorts of oddities if you register (free).

All Wet

Rain has made its way east from the coast and I’m listening to its pleasant sound this morning. And I just called the cat in to join me; yet she was completely dry? I wonder where she was hiding during the downpour? Famous old cat saying; if cats could talk…they wouldn’t.

I need to check out the news this morning. And have another cup of coffee.

Darn! Without an election coming up, the really interesting news has dried up. But I’m sure I can trust the Democrats to do something stupid within a day or two. And the Republicans will retaliate with something equally stupid and within a week or two; it will be the same old comedy but with a new cast of characters playing the leads.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Intel to spend $1Billion

on Vietnam plant -

And why did we go to war there? I seem to have forgotten...Now I remember! It was something about the Domino Theory.

The Good Life

Mission accomplished. We dithered in town while the plumber worked on the well piping. Upon our return, we went to the dump and disposed of the old “Wishing well” structure. Now I have to come up with some sort of protective cover for the exposed wellhead before the weather turns very cold.

While dithering; that is sipping on a latte at the CafĂ© Mondo; I read a great article by Jaime O’Neill, a local contributor to the Chico News & Review. He certainly has a way with words!

While reading the news this morning, I saw this, “The new majority is expected to hold hearings on military spending and the Iraq war - just for starters.” Now that should make Mr. Cheney nervous. And it proves that while the Democrats and Republicans were making the usual conciliatory noises after the election, there is still going to be a move towards justice. Finally.

Even with a mandate from the public, it’s going to be a tough fight… “The president made it clear that, for now, his idea of how to “put the elections behind us” is to use the Republicans' last two months in control of Congress to try to push through some of the worst ideas his administration and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill have come up with.”

And this... I used to be a Rush Limbaugh fan; that was back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, when he was in Sacramento and way before his market share and ego had expanded to astronomical proportions. Now I have to wonder; what’s he saying these days?

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Some Facts

About Robert Gates

The most important one? His degree in history! Maybe he will provide those around him with a dose of historical reality. That's something that's been missing in the White Hose for the past 6 years.

Sooner, rather than later

I see that Proposition 86, the anti-smoking measure failed. What’s the matter with our citizens? Tobacco companies are moral criminals and should be put out of business. Period. There is no excuse for not doing anything at all towards accomplishing that goal.

OK, enough of the politics. What’s happening here in the real world? I have a few more chores almost complete and I can see the end. I think.

My art projects have suffered from lack of attention during the past few months and I want to get back to those. I have 3 or 4 Senior Center projects to complete; a little painting and some faucet repairs. Maybe a shelf or two. I also have 4 step stools to complete for the grandkids, but those are “art” as well.

Pictures will follow. Soon.

Suddenly Thirsty?

Ah! The country life…without water. I turned off the power to the well last night so that the ground can absorb some the flood before the plumber arrives. That will happen sometime this morning. And I say that with some measure of pessimism as this the same plumber that told us he would be right back (twice) and then showed up very much later, and only after being called by the insurance company. This would be the same insurance company that now says that paragraph 7, sub-paragraph B, clause 5.E, in really teeny tiny print, exempts them from any liabilities in this. Ya gotta love them!

So I think we will go away this morning; go into Chico and do some chores, sip a latte, read a newspaper, visit the nursery; all while the plumber fiddles. It’s certainly better to do that than to sit here, frustrated, and watch him. And with any luck at all, when we return he will be gone.

Though I’m not a fan of any political party, I’m quite happy with the results of the election. The House was designed to be our defense against a president who had more ambition than common sense. With a weak congress that thought Dubya walked on water…we were definitely in trouble. Now there is balance. I can feel it.

Along with balance comes change. And let the waffling begin! Every pronouncement that comes from the White House from now on should be compared to the previous statements made by the man who was going to stay the course…it’s going to be a riot!

On another note; do we really want impeachment? Does he deserve it? Oh, yes! But look at what we would get if he were removed from office. Cheney. With his physical problems, he has a very different outlook on life and I don’t think he would feel bound by the normal moral restrictions that govern the actions of those contemplating a long and pleasant life. Does he scare me? You bet he does! Both Dick and Karl need “impeachment”. If such a thing were possible, we wouldn’t have to worry about Dubya.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Slowing down

What a day! Who said retirement was all about relaxing? OK; it’s true that I have the cat sitting in my lap right now and I’m checking out the latest news on CNN…but I was busy earlier. Apparently our well has sprung a leak and water is pouring out onto the grass. The repair guy showed up briefly and said that the “cute” wishing well structure would have to go. Then he left. So I took it down, using a chainsaw and ropes to pull the structure over. It’s been a couple of hours now and still no sign of the repair guy…And the firewood delivery showed up early and now I have a cord of almond wood to get stacked out back. And I made a run to the Chico library for the weekly book delivery. And I am almost finished with Bill’s pantry. And…I’m taking a break!

CNN.com - Elections 2006

Exit Polls - Elections 2006 in Virginia

Amazing stuff! I'm not sure what it all means though. Apparently as you grow richer, wiser and older, you favor Democrats? Who would have thought!

Crime and Punishment

Question just heard: “Now, can we impeach him?”

Nah! Let’s have the punishment fit the crime. Make him stay for two more years and watch his power eroding away every day.

Special friendship

At Mira Costa? - (Los Angeles Times)

I graduated from this school (48 years ago) and it certainly wasn't like this back then...

I guess that sometimes you have to wait (a long time) for the good things.

Searching

I wish there more results available for California propositions. All I can find are 85 (Parental notification - being defeated) and 87. (Alternative energy - is defeated) Maybe the next update will have some more of them.

Looking at some results from other states is fun. Arizona voted to make English the “official” language. Brilliant! This will do absolutely nothing for anyone. Unless it would mean the end of those irritating instruction manuals that are printed in 4 or 5 languages. I always pick the German or Portuguese page for some reason. And Arizonans decided not to take a chance on winning a million dollars every time they voted when they defeated the Voter Lottery proposition. Surprisingly, a lot of states had propositions to raise the minimum wage and they were all successful. Republicans have to be gnashing their teeth over that one! Really important stuff, like Same Sex Marriage was defeated everywhere.

And I just read that Peter Camejo received 88 other votes, besides mine, in Glenn County. So there’s hope! Also, most of the big bond issues are passing in California… giving us a debt of astronomical proportions. After all, why should we pay for the stuff we need. Our kids can pay for it; or our grandkids. Whatever!

Early Morning Humor

What fun! Change is good! And watching the election results via my computer was even better. No talking heads telling me what I could already read for myself on the screen. No mindless chatter by those same heads as they tried to think of something intelligent to say while filling “dead air”. “Yes, John. It looks like the voters have spoken.” Duh!

The best website I found for election results was CNN’s. I’m sure there were more and even better ones out there somewhere but this one sufficed.

And now we will be subjected to the opinions of all of the pundits, domestic and foreign, as to what this all means. The Republicans won’t understand the message that the voters gave them and blame it all on a “Godless Liberal” conspiracy. The Democrats will misinterpret the message completely and think that they are somehow favored. Not!

And what will Karl Rove think of the message? I’m sure he has already shifted into a 2008 mode. Besides being evil, he’s also smart and knows how to play the game.

Locally, it’s been the same old game. A Red county in a Blue state and all of the usual suspects won their races, thanks to careful gerrymandering and a sense that they were embattled, so the Red troops rallied for “the cause”. Glenn County gave our acting governor 77% of the vote, a record in the state. And a clear indication as to the need for improved education in this county. Me? I voted for Peter Camejo. Sure, it was a throw away vote, but at least I studied something about the man I was voting for. And that reminds me… why weren’t there any women running for governor?

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

The Best War Ever

Certainly worth reading (and watching)

Don't forget to turn up the volume so you can hear the Decider's words of wisdom...

And add this to your favorite sayings, "Orwell once wrote: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

It's Over!

Election time is here; finally. I don’t know of anyone that isn’t glad to see the end of the campaign. If you didn’t already think your congressman was an idiot…you certainly should now. Although it is tempting to make predictions, I’m not going to. Both parties deserve to lose. And this election time has convinced me that becoming an independent voter was a smart move. I can’t imagine having my name linked in any way to either party. How embarrassing!

I suppose the worst part of the campaign has been the ugly rhetoric. That and the fact that they expect someone to believe it. Would anyone really listen to campaign “facts” and expect them to be true? I suppose so; or why would they spend the money on those kinds of ads? They know their audience well and it’s the “average” voter they are targeting; the voter who doesn’t do any research, watches network TV news and never reads more than the sports page.

The second worst part was the computerized telephone ad campaign with celebrities and politicians calling you with a recorded message. My first response to such a call is to make certain that I never vote for the person or proposition that is being touted via my phone. Clint Eastwood called during dinner time last week. Do you suppose I could find out where he’s eating this week and give him a call back?

Monday, November 6, 2006

Waiting

Finally! We lost our internet connection on Friday afternoon, or so I thought. I spent all sorts of energy on looking for “lost” papers that might have contained the missing IP address for my connection. Frustrating! And finally, today, I found a piece of paper with the vital information on it. I entered it and then found that I had been looking at the error message on my wireless router, not the Intel connection. So I re-booted the wireless router and all was well again. I suppose it’s a good thing for me to be humbled every once in awhile. I am still baffled as to why this happened; and I have to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. I guess my old skills are simply that…old skills.

OK, here are some odds and ends…

Tribalism continues to reign in every culture; no matter how advanced we think we are, we’re still just a stones throw away from the most primitive of our fellow humans. (Throwing stones is a good analogy) yesterday I noted how we all stood up when the song, “God Bless America” was played. Spontaneously. Patriotism is simply another form of tribalism. It just happens to be more acceptable when it’s called a “love for our country”. If we are all children of God, isn’t the whole world ours and not just a country? Does God’s love stop at some border we have created? An imaginary line created by man? Why can’t we love the world?

Have you ever looked at a border? I mean really looked at it? One side of the line versus the other side. Funny; they look exactly alike on each side. And how wide is that line? An inch? So who owns the space in between the sides of that one inch line? Of course you can carry this thought to extremes and wonder how wide it is all the way down to a sub-atomic level, a nano border. But no one wants to think about it, or think about the fact that the people on each side of that border (no matter how thick or thin it is) are God’s children. And we are all exactly alike; under our skin. A drop of blood on either side of the border and we can’t tell where it came from.

But we all know how to stand up and salute “our” flag. Yes, tribalism is alive and well.

What else was on my mind yesterday? Drunk driving. I don’t remember why that came to me; probably because of some news story. Since we, as a society, are so quick to punish drug abusers and send them off to prison; why don’t we do the same to alcohol abusers? Drive drunk and be sentenced to 5 years in the state slammer. Why not? It is drug abuse. And how about those who smoke and endanger the health of their families? That sounds like a felony offense to me! Endangering the lives of little children shouldn’t go unpunished. Let’s make that crime a one year prison term for the first offense. Three strikes and you’re in there for life! Alcohol and nicotine are dangerous drugs so I don’t see a problem with it.

I read that we spend about $35,000+ a year to keep someone in prison. Imagine what we might be able to do if were to spend that money…oh, let’s just say half of that money, $17,500 per “criminal” on therapy instead? A class where 10 drug abusers could learn to control their habits would cost $175,000 per year versus $350,000 spent to make certain they re-offend by keeping them unproductive and in a dangerous environment. Dangerous for them and for those who are supposed to be watching them.

Every time I think about all of these things, I wonder, just how civilized are we? Give us a natural disaster that wipes out all of our technological advantages and we would quickly revert to our primitive selves. Mentally ill? We would gladly rid ourselves of any among us who were different. In fact, being different in any way has always been dangerous for those who dared. Do I dare?

I ran across this old entry in my Journal, from February of 2004. “I have been reading the book, The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Kidd and it’s been a great book. And in it I found a most powerful statement…”People, in general, would rather die than forgive. It’s that hard. If God said, in plain language, “I’m giving you a choice, forgive or die.” A lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.”” It’s still a very powerful thought. So why do we do that? Jesus told us what to do and still we ignore Him. And the most baffling aspect of this is the fact that those who proclaim their Christianity the loudest have the least ability to forgive.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Am I bored?

Friday and the end of the work week…if I had some work to do. I only have chores and tasks these days and there is no “Friday” for those. And it’s not quite as early for me to be awake so I can assume that last weekend’s transition from Daylight Savings time to Standard Time is finally starting to change my sleep patterns. That’s a good thing.

And what kind of progress have I made on my chores and tasks? I had promised to make Bill a pantry to hang on his laundry room wall and that’s about ¾ complete. I’m in the gluing stage with the small bits and pieces that make up the shelves and dividers. I am also building a step stool for Kyle and that only needs painting and a few finishing touches. For the Plant Barn, I have the fabric screen in production and now I’m undecided as to what color to paint the wood. The fabric is burlap; should I paint the legs red to match the seed displays? But…I’m thinking yellow might be nice.

I must admit that the “chores and tasks” are really things that I enjoy doing and it’s a good thing that Fridays never come. I take too many breaks as it is!

When I retired, I once had this weird vision of just how life was going to be. I would spend my early mornings reading, while enjoying a smooth cup of cappuccino or a latte in some pleasant coffee house. I would meet like minded individuals and intense, stimulating conversations would then ensue. After lunch I would pursue my artistic dreams. In the evening, I would enjoy a good book.

Notice that in my vision, it’s all about me. Wrong! That had to have come from my view of life when I was 18 and really into the coffee house/beat generation scene. Jack Kerouac, dark poetry and equally dark black and white “art” films were my obsessions at that time. Do I really want to go back to that?

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Plans

A rainy day and that’s a rare sight. But it’s the beginning of the wet season and we will see more of it soon enough. And with the rain, we are also seeing the leaves deserting the trees in a blizzard of color; covering the lawn and the driveway.

I’m wondering now; what did I have planned that this rain will interfere with? I have this nagging feeling that I have forgotten something…old age! Bah! Of course if I had written it all down I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

Speaking of plans, I have about four projects in progress in the garage and I need to get one finished. Just one of them needs to be complete and I will feel like I’m back in control; until the next time of course.

More plans; one of the vacation spots I want to put on my list is a visit to Minnesota. And to be more exact; Duluth and Tower. Those are cities (towns?) associated with dad and with Nana and I would love to see places that they once knew as home. Of course that would give us an excuse to see the Mall of America…who wouldn’t want to see that? And Lake Superior, plus 9,999 other lakes. And it wouldn’t be that far to drive down to Fort Madison, Iowa (536 miles) to see where my maternal grandfather, great grandfather and great-great grandfather came from. Imagine looking out onto the Mississippi river and knowing that at one time, my great-great grandmother lay dying on a steamship that had anchored there to ferry her and her family ashore.

On a different note; the elections are almost over and it’s getting sillier than ever before as the candidates fling the last of their campaign funds into the cesspool. And, according to what I have read, negative campaigning tends to decrease the voter turnout and this is a planned outcome. Yes, a lot of politicians don’t want you to vote! They already have a loyal bloc of voters and they don’t like voters they can’t control, so they try to discourage them.

Of course World War III won’t go away for the Republicans so a lot of them are doing their best to distance themselves from it. I would love to see one responsible person tell the country the truth about this war; that it was started under false pretenses but now it’s time to do the right thing and not abandon the Iraqi people. Respect them, ask for their forgiveness (and ours) and ask them what they would like us to do to help them get back on their feet. Then do it.

The so-called War on Terror doesn’t belong in Iraq. The whole world is that insane battleground and always has been. And killing Iraqi civilians doesn’t make anyone safer. The war needs to be fought globally with the tools of mutual respect, aid and education, not bombs

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Seasons

Here it is, already the middle of fall, and winter is closing in on us…and I’m already thinking about vacation travel. In fact I’m going to send away for some colorful brochures and other info, all designed to make the winter days more bearable by creating dreams of the warm and pleasant days ahead.

We have no definite plans yet, but a trip to Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina is being discussed. Specifically; Knoxville and Asheville and all points in between those two cities. The in between includes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This whole area is filled with local artisans in wood, weaving and clay; all things that I enjoy seeing. Plus, the two cities are college towns and so there are some cultural elements that go along with that label; galleries and museums. Plus some coffee shops that don’t have a Starbuck’s sign hanging outside!

There are 118 miles between the two cities; the road taking you through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg where tourism is big business and then into the quiet of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No fast food or t-shirt shops allowed in the Park! Once you get to Asheville, there is the Biltmore Mansion and Estate to see and I understand that’s almost a full day tour. Plus, you have to see the Grove Park Inn… and dozens of art galleries.

(What a bummer! My satellite connection decided to die for a few hours this morning…)