Sunday, July 31, 2011

Down the river

Here we go again. Another day and definitely not another dollar. Life moves on as if it were a river and I am in that river, but not in the mainstream. No, I am bobbing along in the current near the shore. I get hooked on snags every once in awhile but then I’m free and I sail along with the others once more. Until the next snag. Looking downstream, it appears as if there are quite a few snags so I will have to be careful if I want to continue the trip.
Here it is, the end of July and that means that in just another month I will be seventy one years old. Seventy one. Who knew! Now what’s the average life span for US citizen males? I think it has dropped to seventy eight and it’s still sliding south as our health care system evaporates under the harsh sun of a Republican/Tea Party Congress. Perhaps I should be moving north to Canada instead of east to Chico? I would have a better chance for a longer life. No, I suppose not. Even though I love most things Canadian…except for their Conservative government, with Stephen Harper, Canada’s answer to Ronald Reagan, as Prime Minister. Truth is, I could be run over by a car in Canada just as easily as I could in Chico. 
I was mowing the orchard yesterday, an hour long chore that will soon be just a memory. And as I mowed, I was thinking about the sale of our house to a local rancher. I have met a lot of local ranchers, farmers, etc in this area and I don’t hesitate to brand the majority of them as racists. That doesn’t mean that the new owners here are…I haven’t met them and don’t plan on meeting them. But racism is a big part of the Glenn County culture. Brown people are supposed to work here but they are not encouraged to be part of the community. Blacks and Asians are rarely seen. Separate but not quite equal. Anyway, back to the sale of the house. We have a black neighbor. A rarity. They are a very nice couple and we have shared dinners, backyard advise and most important, we have shared power tools! And then it struck me that seventy one years ago, in the State of California, I would have been fined if I had not disclosed to the buyer of my house, the fact that Black people lived nearby. Can you imagine that?
I was blessed, growing up, by the fact that my mother was a Roosevelt Democrat and a Socialist to boot. I was instructed early on that ALL people were equal. It made sense to me. Still does. Unfortunately, living in Manhattan Beach, there wasn’t a single soul that was different from the rest of us. I never saw an Hispanic until I was in high school and then I learned that they lived in North Redondo and that was a place we shouldn’t go. When I was 15, I met the first Black person that I would know by name. Jesse. He was hod carrier that worked for my dad and I had heard his name many evenings at the dinner table. My dad had a very high opinion of Jesse and would tell us about him often. Anyway, Jesse had a 1930 Model A four Door Town Sedan that he was going to sell to me for $15. One Saturday, he drove out to Manhattan Beach, we met, we shook hands and $15 dollars was exchanged. He took his tools out of the back seat (It was his ‘daily driver’) and dad took him back home in the company truck. I was so innocent then. I had no idea that Jesse had to live in Compton and could never live in my neighborhood. Despite the fact that I thought he was a pretty neat guy.
What I didn’t learn on my own about social justice, my mother taught me. Even my father taught me that, he just wasn’t as vocal about it. But even so, when living in a ‘white bread’ community like Manhattan Beach, racism was just a concept. And then I joined the Navy. Wow! This was cool! I lived and worked with Black, Brown, Red and Yellow sailors. I enjoyed it and it felt right. Until I was sent to Jacksonville, North Carolina. The home of Camp Lejeune. There were over 50,000 Marines and some sailors living there; those of us who worked in the Base Hospital and those Navy Corpsman assigned to various Marine regiments. Officially, in 1960, there was no segregation in the armed forces. Unofficially, it existed. The fact that North Carolina, and especially Jacksonville, was segregated, made silent segregation almost inevitable on base.
When face to face with segregation I have to say that I was confused. My social idealism was threatened and being an INFP personality type, I was not going to be the one to try and change things. I had a Native American bunk mate; unfortunately, he became the stereotypical angry drunk and had no friends.  I did try to keep the few Black friends I had made and encouraged friendship with others but it was almost impossible as the Whites and the Blacks slowly drifted apart. The Blacks found bunking together was more comfortable and who could blame them? And most of them stayed on base during their tour. Why would they want to go to Jacksonville or beyond? On base, they could enjoy some dignity because of the shared uniform. Off the base, they were just another black face to be disrespected.
In late 1961, I was released to the West coast and some sanity as far as race relations…or so I thought until the first Watts Riots occurred in 1965. Even though I was shocked by the violence, I knew why it was happening. It’s that tribalism that we are all cursed with. And it continues today.
All of this while I was mowing…I hope I didn’t miss any spots.

From the Story People

Why is the world so confusing? he said & I said it's only confusing if you believe it has to make sense & he looked at me & shook his head. I can't believe they let just anyone have children, he said.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Courage Campaign

Tell Obama "We have your back!"

Use it!


Leads South Carolina Opposition to Debt Bills

"But the steadfastness stupidity of South Carolina lawmakers has owed as much to DeMint’s muscle and popularity at home as to raw political factors on the ground in the Palmetto State."

The blind leading the blind and where does that get you? In a ditch!

Moving soon

So, what’s new, you ask? Both houses are in escrow now and we’ve begun the inspection process. We’ve had a test of the well and a pest inspection. The buyer paid for a whole house inspection and that has occurred. Also a pool inspection. Last, but certainly not least, is the septic system testing and that will happen sometime this morning. The packing continues apace and there are boxes and more boxes in every room. I think we’re ahead of the game. We have a 60 day escrow on both houses and I believe we have only used up 7 of those days.
I had forgotten what an ‘impossible’ task moving is. How could we have accumulated so much? And why? The pile of things that will go to the Seniors Thrift Store grows apace. (I’ve always wanted to find a use for the word ‘apace’ and here I’ve found two spots for it in just two paragraphs) We’re not going to have a ‘garage sale’. We will invite our children and grandchildren over to view the accumulated stuff and ask them to take what they wish. We’ve already been through our library and have discarded many boxes of books. Whatever the family doesn’t take, goes to the Friends of the Library. At the same time, I’m amazed at the number of books we have decided to keep. We had told ourselves that now was the time to let the library go. We hadn’t opened a lot of these books in years; Kipling’s Kim would be a good example of that kind of neglect. But I can’t let it go! And so the boxes of books we will keep grows…but not apace. (Three times!)
Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the septic tank guy as he dug down to the covers of the tank. It was a hot day and so I brought him a bottle of water. And we talked. He’s a small business owner and has owned this septic tank pumping business for ten years. (Hey! Someone has to do it.) Before that, he was a farrier. That business was ruining his health as most farriers can tell you. Trying to hold up the hoof of a poorly trained, one thousand pound, horse can do terrible things to your back. Anyway, back to our conversation. He proceeded to tell me how ‘change’ in our country had produced terrible results. Crime was rampant! The streets weren’t safe. Welfare was out of control! And it didn’t used to be this way in the good old days…of course he was wrong on all points, but I didn’t want to pick a fight with the man. It was obvious that he believed these fables and I would never be able to change his mind. What bothers me most about our encounter is the fact that this man will probably vote. And so will his friends and family. Voting based on rumors and plain old lies.
When I meet and talk with people like this; good people, salt of the earth! But oh, so uninformed, I become quite worried about our future as people upon the earth. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Moving on

It's been a busy morning. I've been trying to consolidate my art materials into as few boxes as possible as we prepare for the move. I already have 10 boxes packed and I'm not through yet. My wife is carefully wrapping all the 'art decor' in the house. A job that I really can't do...I would be tempted to throw them in the box, write Fragile on top and call it good.

We both spend a lot of time daydreaming about the new house. We try to remember what things looked like; how big was that room? It's hopeless. I had good intentions; I was going to photograph each room. It never happened. Now I have to content myself with the photos I stole off the internet. It won't be long till we have the keys and then we can begin the moving in process. That's when we will remember what the house looked like!

We also spend a lot of time worrying. Will the pest inspection reveal that we have monster sized termites living under the floor? Will the well inspection reveal that our water is laced with arsenic and we just didn't know why we were feeling out of sorts? Septic tank inspection; we don't want to even think about it! On and on. Worry after worry. Which made me think that there should be a service which, for a fee, will 'guarantee' that everything will work out. I'd pay a $1,000 for that in a heartbeat! Maybe $2,000...

Snail mail my email?

Yes, in  my browsing of the intertubes this morning, I ran across this offer. I really want to do it, but I am suddenly speechless. What would I write? To who? Or to whom? I'm really an email kind of guy and always have been. Even my love letters, back when I was in my teens, were short and to the point. "Dear (blank) I love you. Yours forever, me" Then, in the Navy, I had to write nursing notes in all of my patients charts, each and every day! Sometimes I had fifty patients. It was agony...I vowed after that to never write again. And email has saved me. And you should know that a post this lengthy may take me an hour or more to complete. Whoa! I'm really off track here...visit the website and see for yourself.

ps It seems to me that the recipient should be very, very far away. Just to make it interesting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I feel better

I don't know if it will make any difference, but I just sent scolding (maybe even scathing) emails to my congressman, my Senators and my President. You should do the same. It gives you a temporary elevation of your mood. And it only took about 5 minutes. Worthwhile!

Things are happening

It seems we are adrift now. No home!

Okay, the house is in escrow (a good thing) and we have made an offer on what we hope will be our future home. (another good thing) We have our fingers crossed that the offer will be accepted. Our agent seems positive, so all we have to do now is borrow some of that positive energy from her!

Although we took a beating on the sale of our present home, the same market conditions have helped on the purchase of this new home. We believe the new home to be seriously undervalued. All we have to do now is wait for it to regain that value and we have nothing but'll happen.

This move will produce some culture shock. The last time we had neighbors that we're closer than 50' away was in 1977. Now we will be in 'suburbia', surrounded on three sides by civilization to the max. Directly behind us, the side not in suburbia, is a small ranch of, maybe, 20 acres. But that's behind a wooden fence that's on a raised portion. I would need a ladder to see over it. To the northeast of that ranch are the foothills that lead to the northern extreme of the Sierras.

I'm certain that we're going to love the new home. It's closer to family and we won't have the physical challenge that the orchard presented to us. I do think that we might be able to grow a tomato or two here, but not much more than that. Which only means that we will have to go to the local farmer's market more often. We know our power bill will be much smaller here. No swimming pool and no well. And it took a lot of energy to cool off that big house. So, all in all...we think it's the right move.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How time flies

I just read that today is the anniversary of the first landing on the moon. And like all such anniversaries, the memories of what we were doing at that moment come flooding back. We were in Phoenix, Arizona at the time. We were building the new Weinstock's Department store in Scottsdale and our boss had encouraged us to bring our families to Arizona for the duration of the job. He supplied the apartments. We had four families living at a nice apartment complex and since all of our children were close enough in age to really enjoy the Arizona summer...there was a pool, we did most things together. We even had our two month old son with us and the older children competed to baby sit with him.

That night we had all shared dinner and then we watched the television while standing on the balcony and looking at the moon. We kept the door to the apartment open while we ran from balcony to television to balcony again. Finally, we settled on watching the moon from the lawn below while sitting in lawn chairs and looking at a portable TV. Could we see the Lander? We debated that for awhile...and although it was impossible (certainly improbable) we liked to think we saw 'something' that night.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ain't life grand?

I’ve been to the doctor's office and despite many attempts, the implanted spinal cord stimulator didn’t work. Apparently, the electrode, the ‘paddle’ lead is in the wrong position. It seems to have slipped very slightly down and a little to the left of where it’s supposed to be; sitting directly underneath vertebrae T-9. Now what? More x-rays, of that I’m sure. Then it will certainly require another trip to the operating room. Four back surgeries in 2 years; four! And my back will soon look like a graphic representation of the Los Angeles freeway system.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Things I read about...

Khan Academy

I was just reading the latest issue of Wired and found a story about this place. I'm fascinated! I will reveal here that I never learned algebra; got a D-. It might have been the 9th grade teacher, Major Alfeo Bernardi, US Army retired. He taught the class as if he were commanding a platoon of recruits and if you didn't understand something, you were sent out of the room to 'police the area'. So I was frequently found outside the classroom, picking up litter. Anyway...enough of that. I'm going to try out the Khan Academy method of learning algebra... I'm almost 71 and I should learn it before...well, you know...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Google Plus

I'm a new member of the Google + test group. I imagine that there aren't more than ten or twenty million of us.
Since my membership is only a few hours old, I'm still looking it over and trying things out. I like the look of it. Certainly beats Facebook in appearance. And that is what I want it to do...beat Facebook. I really don't care for Mark whatshisname and his attitude and I think a dose of reality is what he needs. Listen to me...what am I doing? Comparing the qualities of the Super Rich when I don't even know them.? How do I know that Larry Page and Sergey Brin aren't just as obnoxious as Mark whatshisname? As it is said, Perception is Reality.

Anyway, let me know if you want an invite to be a Google+ tester...


Something is happening. After a full year, plus a month or so, we have movement in the real estate market. Our real estate. We heard last night that a couple that had viewed the house 3 times (in person) have decided to write us an offer today. We already know that we’re losing money on the house, but so are a few million other Americans. We’re in good company.
And we’re already viewing property in Chico. And using the internet to do it. We sit at our desks, back to back, and scan all the listings, pointing out the interesting ones to each other and bookmarking them. Sharing URL’s. It’s so 21st century! Remember how it used to be done? Getting in the realtor’s car and wandering about for a full day and seeing, perhaps, six houses? Hah! I can see that many houses in ten minutes now.
  We’re not going to be sad about moving. We have done the ‘country’ life more than once in our lifetime and although we enjoy the space that comes with it, there are too many negatives for us. The county we hope to leave is so ‘Red’ and so dedicated to the 20th century that we can scarcely breathe. Living in Chico, a town with a state university, will offer us some intellectual oxygen. No, it’s not a perfect city, but it’s about the right size for us. And it seems to have the right temperament.    
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself here…we haven’t seen the offer yet and it may turn out to be so ridiculous that we will have to turn it down. But something is happening…
More, later on.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Something New

I've been looking at the new 'Dashboard' of Blogger. Like all things Google these days, it has been simplified to the extreme! But it does have some great new features and it is much easier to navigate. The feature I am not all that fond of is the graphic representation of the traffic on my blog. Yikes! I must be talking to myself these days. That's okay, I was very interested in 'traffic' a few years ago and tried my best to keep it entertaining, but I'm not an entertainer at heart, I'm an observer. Every once in awhile I get motivated to write some lengthy post of indignation but then that feeling passes and I'm back in observation mode. Relaxed.

Speaking of being motivated...last night I finished the book, The Imperial Cruise by James Bradley. I now have a morbid fascination with the book, as on one hand, I want it out of the house because of the evil it contains; the words of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Yet I read it again as I find it hard to believe that these things really happened. They did. For instance, Mr. Bradley tells a short version of the Opium wars and of the fortunes made by Anglo entrepreneurs selling opium. Names we know...Warren Delano (think FDR), Cabot, Russell (think Yale Skull&Bones) Low (think Columbia University) Green (think Princeton) Forbes and Perkins.

 Enough of that ancient evil! We do have some fresh evil out there and that's the story of Rupert Murdoch and his handling of the "News of the World" hacking scandal. First, he shuts the newspaper down. Now where's the evidence? Harder to find when the newspaper no longer exists. The scandal grows, none the less, and it makes headlines on all of the news services...except FOX. They ignore it in favor of a story about Jennifer Anniston...did she or didn't she have plastic surgery?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Books of The Times -

James Bradley’s ‘Imperial Cruise’ - Queasy Side of Roosevelt’s Diplomacy

In our library this was marked as a 'New Book' and, unfortunately, with library budgets under attack everywhere, I'm sure it's the best they can do. So...the book is a few years old but no matter, the subject matter was fascinating to me; Teddy Roosevelt. I've read a few books about him but none with the detailed telling of his upbringing and of the times he lived in. Unfortunately, supporters of TR tell us that this was a time when white Americans commonly believed in their racial superiority. That's not an excuse. Presidents are meant to be better than the common man. Sadly, as we have found through the years, they are far more 'common' than exceptional and TR is no exception. I wouldn't have been able to stay in the same room with him without being sick to my soul.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Epic. Fail

I've been trying to keep up with the national news and whenever I do, I’m so disappointed by what I read. I sometimes wonder if the behavior of the politicians is calculated to drive away any valid interest in what they’re doing. They defy common sense in their assaults upon one another (and logic). This causes you to shake your head; baffled. So, you turn to the comics where Dilbert’s boss makes more sense than what you just read or heard from your representative. In the voter’s world, these buffoons were elected to do the citizens work. All of the citizens. Not just the Democrats that live in their district or the only the Republicans. They are supposed to work for ALL of us. Fail. Epic fail.
Take the Supreme Court; please. More buffoonery from the right side of that august bench. One; why on earth would anyone think that a corporation should deserve the same status as a person?  Two; their latest failing was their rejection of California’s law that protected minors from violent video games. They did agree that it was wrong for minors to see a bare breast in a video game but it was not wrong for that same minor to torture and kill that same woman as long as she was properly clothed. And Scalia, he with the IQ of a turnip, argued that since children already had access to ‘Hansel and Gretel’, where a witch would cook and eat little children, there was no reason to protect them from video game violence.
I sometime wish there were laws that said I couldn’t insult a Supreme Court judge or a Senator or a Congressman, even a President. (maybe there are? No, the Sedition laws were repealed some time ago) I would gladly go to jail just to proclaim loudly that Scalia and Thomas were devoid of both principle and intelligence. The list of Congresspersons and Senators that deserve the same is far too long to place here in print…but I will, if I need to.
And then there is the President. What happened? No, he is not any of the things that the conservatives call him. But he is certainly not the man I voted for. I can’t count, nor do I wish to recollect the promises he has broken. Yes, I know campaign speech contains promises that sometimes cannot be delivered. But far too many of his campaign promises never made it past the front door of the White House. I will vote for him again. I have to. I will do anything at all to keep a Republican from sitting in the Oval Office. It makes me gag whenever I think of the possibility of that happening. Every time we’ve had a Republican President, the nation has suffered immensely. Not one Republican President of the 20th century was worth a bucket of warm spit. Let’s not even consider that 21st century failure…the one that has caused all of the pain we’re suffering now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Atlanta cheating scandal

highlights dangers of high-stakes testing:

"Proponents of so-called 'reform' like to blame teachers' unions for everything bad that happens in schools, but with cheating scandals popping up across the country, including in a number of decidedly non-union districts, it's becoming clear that that's not the case. In fact, although Atlanta teachers have no collective bargaining rights, some of them belong to the American Federation of Teachers, and it was the local AFT chapter that first reported cheating to the district superintendent."

Campbell's Law is valid everywhere. It's in your school districts as well. They just haven't been caught yet.

Focus fireplaces

contemporary fireplaces | modern fireplaces

No, I don't want a fireplace. I hate the mess that comes with it; the wood fragments, ashes, even insects that hitchhike in on a log. I've cut and split enough wood in my lifetime to say that it's over for me! No more!

But...these fireplaces are tempting me! Amazing. Look at the whole product line, you might find the one that will tempt you as well.


From the Edge - Chico News & Review

Another good one from Mr. Porter. (my favorite local author) He describes a small part of aging in his usual humorous way. It's difficult to do much more than laugh when it comes to aging. And I welcome any opportunity to do so...!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kentucky Tea Party

Sells ‘Yup, I’m A Racist’ Fourth of July T-Shirts

There are times when I am utterly stunned by the gross stupidity of some of my fellow human beings. This is one of those times...