Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Top Ten

According to Newsweek, these are the 10 best high schools in the
United States. Contributing editor Jay Mathews devised a straightforward grading system for this list. The magazine divided the total number of Advanced Placement (AP) and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) tests taken by students in 2004 by the number of graduating seniors. Here are the top 10 high schools and their locations:

1. Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School Irondale, Ala.
2. International Academy Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
3. Stanton College Prep Jacksonville, Fla.
4. Eastside High School Gainesville, Fla.
5. H-B Woodlawn Arlington, Va.
6. School of Science Engineering (magnet school) Dallas
7. Paxon High School Jacksonville, Fla.
8. Pensacola High School Pensacola, Fla.
9. Raleigh Charter High School Raleigh, N.C.
10. Hillsborough High School Tampa, Fla.

Strange…and embarrassing. Not one school west of the Rockies made it on the list. And only one school west of the Mississippi river is on the list.

And if you're a graduating senior from California...trust me, California is west of the Mississippi and the Rockies.

Bad Day Good Day

I've been having a terrible time trying to post a simple story here...I get a 404 error every time and I'm not sure I won't get it again when I try to post this one. I had some computer problems yesterday and I ended up having to call DirecWay to get me back on line.

I was trying to add my applause for the former #2 man in the FBI, Mark Felt. A true patriot! Thanks Mark.

And I was trying to add a link to another blog... http://shortlaps.blogspot.com

And...good news! I have 2 tomatoes. Yes, they are quite small, but they show great promise!

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Race

Back in the day…I was just reading the story of this years Indianapolis 500 race, the 89th annual running of this classic. No, I didn’t watch it, but if I could have…I would have listened to it. When I was growing up, this was the race that everyone paid attention to. And on Memorial Day, you could walk down the street and hear the race from every house and garage you passed. It was the custom for the men of the household to spend the day out in the garage, tinkering, or? while listening to the race on the radio.

The first race that I really remember was 1950 and Johnny Parsons won that race. Then in 1953, Billy Vukovich won the race and that was the most exciting thing I had ever heard. I know that they call him Bill and not “Billy” now, but in the 1950’s he was Billy Vukovich and he was from California. He was one of us…

Here is clipping I found this morning…Bill Vukovich grew up in Fresno, Calif., one of eight children of Serbian-American parents. He was 14 when his father committed suicide and he dropped out of school to help support his family. He built his reputation as a fearless competitor racing midget cars on West Coast dirt tracks. He came to Indianapolis almost reluctantly after the popularity of midget racing began to fade. Vukovich struggled as an Indy rookie in 1951 but then began a streak that very easily could have produced four consecutive wins. He was leading in 1952 when a minor mechanical problem on lap 192 sent his car into the wall and Troy Ruttman to victory lane. Vukovich won in 1953, leading all but five laps on a brutally hot day in which only five of the 33 starters finished the race without relief. He repeated in 1954, again in dominant fashion. He was well on his way to three in a row with a half-lap lead in 1955 when tragedy struck on lap 57.

Bill Vukovich died in a terrible crash…Rodger Ward, who won the 500 in 1959 and '62, lost control exiting turn two. The cars of Al Keller and Johnny Boyd quickly were swept up in the accident as Vukovich bore down on them. With nowhere to go, Vukovich plowed into Boyd. His car became airborne and sailed over the wall. It landed nose-first, flipped 4-1/2 times in all and then exploded into flames as it landed on its back.

I still remember listening to that crash and not quite believing it had happened. It was incredibly sad. And racing lost its allure for me forever.

Thinking of Retiring?

This is the headline from the Economist, Global Agenda newsletter, “Populations are ageing, in rich and poor countries alike. This means big trouble for governments, who need to find some way to keep their retirees out of poverty without breaking the budget.” The story goes on to explain how the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) schemes, like Social Security, are in trouble world wide. And the article also provides the unsettling opinion that most of the corporate pensions and alternative private retirement accounts have become less than secure…United Airlines is a good example. Their solution is simple. Keep working. When the PAYGO plan sets an age for all to retire, then the plan is tied to demographics and in this case the demographics are overwhelming the plans.

What about myself? I’m not quite 65 and I retired almost a year and half ago. Should I have? I was definitely ready to retire from that job. And if I had those same feelings when I was at the age of forty, I would have had to quit and find another job. So it all depends on the job, doesn’t it? For some it’s life threatening to continue to work, while for others it is what keeps them alive…imagine having a job where you wake up in the morning and are delighted to know that in just a few hours you will be quite happily doing what you enjoy the most. Now that would be a job to keep! Maybe I’m not really retired; I’m just between jobs.

Emperor Norton

Emperor Norton

I first heard of the Emperor many years ago...and oddly enough, the story never goes away, re-appearing every few years. This is a good one.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Pay Raises

There has been quite a lot of news about the California legislators pay raises...and not all of the news is printed. Although, if you read carefully, you would see that the California Citizens Compensation Commission decides who gets a raise and how much. But that didn't stop our acting governor from lashing out at the legislators. What's missing from that story is the fact that Arnold is paying his staff 8% more than his predecessor did. It's no big deal...but fair is fair.

And I really had to laugh at this news story...Steve Maviglio, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, defended the commission vote. He said higher salaries for lawmakers are necessary to attract good candidates for office."The speaker respects the decision," he said. "If we want to continue to attract topflight legislators, their salaries need to be competitive with other public positions."

"...Continue to attract topflight legislators" What did he say?? If this is the best we get for our money, then we need to find another way of attracting them. Obviously, money doesn't work. We can see that from our experience with the acting governor. He takes no salary at all, getting his compensation by appearing in publicly funded movies, such as the "Terminator vs the Potholes" flick that was filmed last week. He does 2 or 3 of these each week, usually featuring his Hummer and some local restaurant...

ps...There are two vacancies on that California Citizens Compensation Commission and have been since 2003. The Governor is the only one who can fill those spots...and he hasn't.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Family Matters

OK, I have finished my second posting to the family blog...


I will add some photos later.

Turtle Bay Exploration Park

Turtle Bay

OK! The gardens open on Monday and now I will have to find a day to go and see them. You should as well. Especially if you haven't seen the Sundial Bridge and the Exploration Park. I know that Redding can be warm during the summer, but according to what I have read, there is a waterfall that you can stand under, located in the Pacific Rim garden area...


This is the Memorial Day weekend and a time to spend some time thinking about and then thanking God for those citizens who “soldiered on”, despite any fears or misgivings they might have had, and then had paid with their lives.

Fact: Very few people join the military. Yet what is common among them is the fact that they resemble all of the rest of us. Just plain folks. And expecting to die was the last thing on their minds. Sure, they heard the arguments, both pro and con, for and against the war…but it didn’t matter. They were really too busy to give it much thought. And besides, what did it matter? They were just doing their job.

Some facts that make for thoughtful reading on this Memorial Day. These were printed in the Chico News and Review and were credited to the Los Angeles Times, the New York times, the Washington Post and Harper’s magazine.

The number of soldiers killed during the official 21 day war in Iraq: 115

The number of soldiers killed since the end of that official war: 1,527

Number of soldiers wounded in Iraq: 12,350

Number of soldiers seeking disability benefits for physical and/or psychological injury from the war in Iraq: 33,000

There are a lot more facts to read about this war…but I will save them for another day.

Life is Just a Bowl of...

Saturday morning is here and life is good. Hey! Waking up is good…and I did that and now I have cup of coffee in front of me. It’s early, as usual, but the sun will make its presence known in about an hour and by that time the coffee will have done its job and I will be ready for it.

Today will be another warm one, but it is cooling off slightly over the next few days and it may be a few weeks before we see any more of the 95+ weather. That will be a good thing for the young garden I’m tending.

Yesterday was not a good garden day. It started normally enough as I looked out the study window about 6 AM to see how the new drip system was working. There was no sign of trouble so I continued to type. When I looked up again…I saw a lake forming where I was preparing to plant my strawberries. With garden clogs on my feet, but still in my pajamas, I gathered the evidence, a broken irrigation head, one that I had paid a little over $3 for the day before. Besides the small pond of wasted water, I also had a 3’ long trench in the strawberry patch, where the escaping water had scoured away the carefully prepared soil.

Then, after repairing the damage and making certain that everything else was working properly, I decided to pick cherries from the larger of the two cherry trees, the Bing cherry. I had been watching them grow and had even tried a couple a few days earlier. A little tart, but with a few more days of sun I knew that they would be perfect! I stared up into the tree and then stepped back to make certain I was looking at the right tree…there wasn’t a cherry to be seen. None! I had been robbed. They hadn't even left the pits. Despite the flashing reflective tape hanging all over the tree, the birds had been watching and waiting for that day of perfect ripeness as well.

OK, it’s war and I lost the first battle, but next year I will have a net to cover the tree. It is a chore to put it on, but I really don’t believe anything else will work.

Friday, May 27, 2005

New Blog

Time to switch gears...and rummage around in the closet filled with memories.

I'm sure I can handle two blogs. My good friend Dennis has three!

Hey Doc, Will This Hurt?

An interesting fact…when Medicare was created in 1965, the allowable fee for a doctor to charge was the standard or normal fee for a procedure in the area that the doctor practiced in. No dollar amounts were stipulated. If the majority of doctors in Poughkeepsie charged $200 for removing an ingrown toenail, then Medicare would pay $200, no questions asked. Some doctors figured out the obvious…raise the normal fee; and they did. And they kept doing that. Did you know that doctors make a lot more money (relatively) in 2005 than they did in 1965?

AB 756

Assembly Bill 756 was passed yesterday and that means that the "silly season" is here once again. AB 756 mandates that school districts must not buy any textbooks that have more than 200 pages. Not 201 or 215...200 or less! This comes from those hard working and intelligent folks in the California State Assembly, known far and wide for their intellectual acumen.

With smaller textbooks, perhaps we can shorten the educational process as well...think of the money we can save if we give out high school diplomas in the 10th grade! A "Reader's Digest" education to go along with our "Reader's Digest" version of a textbook.

Repeat after me, "Less words are better!" Keep repeating that until you feel better.

And Furthermore...

You may have noticed that I mentioned taxation in that last post and I didn’t qualify it by saying that it was unjust, unfair or evil. Taxation is none of those things. Taxation is how we pay for the things we need to survive as a nation. Taxation is how we pay to help one another.

And it seems quite obvious that taxes are not a burden to anyone. We are the richest nation in the world and it shows. We complain about taxes but we have plenty of money for cable TV, for cell phones and regular phone service, for high-speed internet, for latte’s, for dining out for breakfast, lunch and dinner, for SUV’s and DVD’s, on and on it goes. Take a look at what you have and what you pay for and tell me again how oppressive taxes are.

What is unjust, unfair or evil? Not taxes, but those who abuse and steal our tax money for their own agenda and not for the public good. If every tax had to pass the test of, “Is this good for all?” then we would truly be the richest nation, rich in spirit as well as in the material things.

My "To-do" List

I was listening to a discussion on the subject of Medicare yesterday and I can only say that it was most frustrating to listen to the convoluted reasoning that congress used to justify their plans. Have you heard about the “donut hole” in the Medicare drug benefits? (Google “donut hole medicare”)These senators, these congressmen, are supposed to be leaders, elected to do good for all of their constituents. Yet it has been 19 years since the last increase in the payroll tax for Medicare funding. After listening to this painful and embarrassing explanation of Medicare, I could only hope that I might die peacefully in my own bed. And I suppose I had better do it soon…

Of course that kind of thinking brought my faith to mind. If we are the Christian nation that we claim to be…something is wrong, terribly wrong. For starters, we don’t have enough churches for everyone to have a place to sit down on Sunday mornings. And what about the poor, the alien? We are called upon to help them. Jesus told us that we would always have the poor with us, but he didn’t say that we should ignore them. If we are a Christian nation, no one should be hungry and no one should be homeless. And what about giving? God calls for a tithe and so the coffers of the church should be filled to overflowing with funds for widows and orphans. They aren’t? Am I wrong? Did I miss something? I better get my Bible out again...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

On and On it Goes

Regarding John Bolton.

"Florida Republican Mel Martinez ...said it is "in our national interest sometimes to have direct blunt-speaking people."

I agree...and to be direct and blunt, I wouldn't go to a dogfight with this guy, and to think he is ambassador material is insane.

Unrest in Sacramento

I see by the headlines that our acting governor is facing some opposition these days...a crowd of 10 to 20 thousand confronted him yesterday as they demonstrated against his policies. What happened to all of his adoring fans? It might be time to fire up the Hummer and go out and practice "government by press conference/photo op" once again.

Interesting...the acting governor also made a statement yesterday that didn't pass the smell test. He said that the legislators had taken the billions that the Pete Wilson administration had in surplus and had spent it all...nice try, but Pete Wilson left office with a large deficit as his legacy, not a surplus.

Of course he said this with a straight face. As an actor, the governor has many valuable skills to call upon when he decides to lie...

You Don't Say

You say you went to the library to get a copy of Orwell's book, 1984? And the library was closed? Closed because there wasn't enough tax money to fund it anymore? Hmmm, I wonder?


It’s all about power. The executive and legislative branches of our government are at war with the judiciary and their aim is to eliminate it as a valid part of government. With judges out of the way, congress can propose any change and the president will sign those proposals into law. Do you really believe that congress and the president have your interests at heart? They are politicians! This is exactly why we need a free judiciary to protect us from them.

These are certainly sad times for us, as the right wing ideologues have taken over so much power in our government. Not just sad, but scary as well. These people have no agenda other than to grab all of the power and to eliminate any and all dissent. I can’t think of a historical equivalent; perhaps the terrible abuses that Senator McCarthy (1950’s) perpetrated would be similar, but certainly not in scope. Lying has become an art form for the neo-con’s and they seem to pride themselves on how successful they are at it. Perhaps it’s time to read Orwell’s book, 1984, once again. You haven't read it? You should...

The King is Dead

The king is dead; long live the king! The Jeopardy (television) show had a $2 million dollar tournament and the final winner, after many weeks of exciting elimination games, was not Ken Jennings. The winner was Brad Rutter. Ken wound up with the second place prize of $500,000. Add that to the $2 million+ he won last year and the advertising contracts he has...and he is doing quite well.

But now what am I going to do for entertainment? "Plain vanilla" style Jeopardy is back...I guess I had better get used to it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Good Eats!

I had a "Jewel" yam that I wanted to experiment with so I peeled it, cubed it into 1/2" pieces and put it in the steamer. I added some chopped red onion to the mix and let it cook for about 15 minutes. Took it off the stove and placed it in the serving dish. While it was still hot, I added a Tbsp of butter and mixed it all together until the butter was melted. Then I opened a small can of pineapple chunks and added that to the bowl, stirring once again (Don't drain the pineapple). As a finale, I sprinkled some of the dark, dark brown sugar over it, more for color than anything else.

Very good!
One of my pomegranate trees in all of its spring glory... Posted by Hello


Regarding the "honorable" Judge Owen...

"Enron's political action committee gave Owen $8,600 for her successful Supreme Court bid in 1994. Two years later, Owen wrote the majority opinion that reversed a lower court order and reduced Enron's school taxes by $15 million. Since 1993, Enron contributed $134,058 — more than any other corporation — to Owen and other members of the Texas Supreme Court. A study by Texans for Public Justice found that the court ruled in Enron's favor in five out of six cases involving the company since 1993."

Look! Up in the Sky...

I was just looking out of the window and admiring the sunrise. Although only a silver gray band of light on the eastern horizon exists at this moment, it is enough to silhouette the trees. The trees are still, not a leaf is moving, so I know that the day will be warm. Whoa! There they are…my pals, the bats, are flying as they catch the last few mosquitoes before heading to the rafters in the barn next door.

This will be the first day that I irrigate this season, and so about 6 AM I will head over to the canal and open the floodgates. I’m hoping that it will take just an hour to finish the flooding, but I know that the soil is already quite dry, despite the abundance of rain we enjoyed a few weeks ago.

The irrigation and this heat should combine to bring the apricots close to perfection in a few weeks. Believe me; a store-bought apricot does not resemble these fruit in any way! And once they begin to ripen, you have to be prepared to eat them or preserve them all right away. Unlike other fruit, it seems as if the whole tree will become ripe all at once.

Decisions, decisons...eat the apricot now? Or wait?


"Senate Ready to Confirm Owens As Judge"

And Brown will be next...

What a shame it is that these activist judges will be placed in office. Judges leashed to the White House and not allowed to judge according to the law.

We have lost the judiciary as a branch of power and the system of checks and balances is in disarray.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

This is on my "wish list". Posted by Hello

What Women Want

I was just reading an article about women in the workplace and a recent study that showed that they cared little for competition. And the article also stated that it was the wiser choice. I had to agree, in part. It was another one of those articles that made it (competition) appear to be a male/female specific trait and it really isn’t. Competition is a function of both culture and of personality type, not gender.

One statement, "Even in tasks where they do well, women seem to shy away from competition, whereas men seem to enjoy it too much," And another quote…“For two decades, academics crusading for equality in the workplace have been puzzled by surveys showing that women are at least as satisfied with their jobs and their pay as men are. This is known as "the paradox of the contented female worker."” These make it clear that the authors of the study have focused on gender and have ignored type and culture.

Here’s another “…there will always be some jobs that women, on average, will not want as badly as men do. Some of the best-paying jobs require crazed competition and the willingness to risk big losses - going broke, never seeing your family and friends, dying young.”

And as I read the article and thought about it, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the Bible and the book of Ecclesiastes. Verse after verse confirms the foolishness of those who live to compete.

Ecc 4:8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he has neither son nor brother; yet there is no end to all his labor; and his eyes are not satisfied with riches; and he says , For whom do I labor and take good from my soul? This is also vanity. Yes, it is an evil business.

Monday, May 23, 2005

3 reasons why Nash failed as an automaker... Posted by Hello

Pity the Poor Politician

I read where Doug LaMalfa has voted against a bill that would have banned the sale of extremely violent video games to children. He was immediately accused of being more interested in corporate profits than the health and welfare of children. His excuse was notable.

Here it is; he voted against the bill because he felt it wouldn't meet First Amendment provisions for free speech and because he felt it put a huge burden on retailers, forcing them to view each video game to determine which ones needed to be restricted.

Do you see the obvious here? Free speech? This is a video game that is for sale. It has nothing to do with free speech. The huge burden of viewing the games? Don't you think that the retailer should know exactly what he is selling? Bad choice, Doug!

And my own observation on LaMalfa; we saw him in the Durham parade and the Orland parade a few weeks later. It was surreal. He sat all alone in the back seat of a Mustang convertible, waving to the crowd. The crowd really didn't seem to notice or respond to him...in Orland, silence followed his car down the road. Perhaps he has a tape playing the sound of applause into a hidden set of earphones. "Yay! Way to go Doug! Clap! Clap! Clap!".

Trader Joe

Another great meal from TJ. Last night we had chicken on pasta with the Punjab Spinach Sauce.

I used the wide egg noodles from TJ for the pasta portion; and I cut the chicken into 1" cubes. It was simmered for about 45 minutes and during part of that time, I added about a dozen asparagus to the pan, letting them lie across the top of the bubbling brew.

I would give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5 possible.


I just came in from the garden where I have been busy weeding and watering; plus some planting. As my eldest often tells me...garden time is time very well spent. I find that my mind is free to wander and I often come up with some interesting thoughts...or two.

I was wondering about the words, "political science". No, I'm not picking on my granddaughter, who is a political science major, but here's my thought. Why is it called a "science"? Science deals with logic and predictable results, not at all what you find in politics. How about Political Chicanery? Or Political Wizardry? You can't call it Political Ethics; that only makes people laugh.

Or is it called a science because someone, a long time ago, thought it added some respectability to the process? Did you know that they call boxing, "The sweet science"? Of course it's not a real science...it's legalized brutality, but calling it a science does change how we perceive it.

OK, back to the garden!

This Modern World

Republicans believe the darndest things
It's always a good thing to start the day with a laugh or two...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Feeling Better

I feel so much better. And it was all because of a few polls that I read about. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks that Congress is doing a lousy job. Their job approval rating is at the lowest level since the mid 1990’s when squabbles forced a government shutdown of services.

And I am not the only one that does not trust Bush to appoint the right kind of justices.

Most Americans think the Senate should take an assertive role in examining Bush’s picks for federal judgeships.

Give the president’s judicial nominees the benefit of the doubt and approve them without a lot of scrutiny. 18%

Take an assertive role in examining each nominee. 78%

Of course it’s just another poll and I’m sure that there is one out there with completely contradictory results…

Summer Time and The Livin is Easy...

Today would not be a good day to visit downtown Chico…as the streets will be crowded with graduates as they show off their town to visiting relatives. The streets will also have a crowd of former students driving rental trucks and towing trailers as they begin their move back to mom and dad’s place; wherever that may be. This exodus will continue for the next week or so, with all sorts of strange and cumbersome cargo appearing in the beds of pickup trucks and on those trailers. And we will wonder if they can make it home without a ticket for littering and generally endangering the motoring public. But in a few weeks the town will return to Summer Normal mode, which is a very slow time of year for the bar owners and a great time of year for those who enjoy the look and feel of Chico as it once was…a long time ago.

And next year…it will be a joyful but sad time for us when the students depart, as our oldest granddaughter will be one of them! We really hope she won’t actually “depart”, but will stick around.

But Summer Normal mode is short and those trucks and trailers will return, with a new crop of students. And we have more grandchildren to make this exodus in the years to come.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

County Fair

Today we took time to see the annual parade in Orland and then visited the Glenn County Fair. We couldn't find any information as to the parade route, so we drove into town, figuring that it should be easy to spot...and it was. Like most small town parades, it involved high school bands, old cars, a sheriff's mounted posse, some assorted floats, a couple of local political figures, a dozen tractors and then a fire engine finale!

After the parade it was time to make our way over to the fair grounds and see what kind of exhibits they had. Since it was only 11, a lot of exhibits weren't open yet, so we headed down to the animal exhibits. We were quite used to the Lassen County Fair and when it comes to 4-H and FFA, Glenn and Lassen Counties look very much alike. We toured the sheep pens and the swine barn as well. At noon, the Fair officially opened and then it was time to visit the other buildings.

I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my computer graphic designs used on the Ag Reports from Plaza School. I must admit that they looked pretty good.

After looking at all of the exhibits, I think I will enter some of my things next year. Some of our roses could be winners...and stained glass wasn't even represented, so that's another one I could do.

I suppose I will have all next winter to plan...

Wise Words

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.” — Bertrand Russell

All States: GPP 2005 Report Cards

All States: GPP 2005 Report Cards
Just click on a State name and you can see some of the details behind the grades...This whole report should be required reading for our legislators and for those citizens that vote.

Golden State

I was watching California Connection on television last night and the program featured an interview with four previous governors and I must say that I have never seen so much baloney assembled in one place. There wasn’t a coherent thought in the entire group. I suppose that is one of the pitfalls of higher politics…you soon believe your own press releases and think you have greater mental powers than you really do. Surrounded by sycophants, what else can a political person believe? But there was a section of the show devoted to some statistics; a breath of fresh air! Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the statistics were not cheerful at all. This segment was entitled “Grading California’s Government” and the test that California was being graded on was for “effective government management.” The results were a “C-” and a tie for last place with the state of Alabama. Hey! At least we were tied...

This evaluation came from the Government Performance Project, a non-partisan group which grades how well state governments handles “money”, “people”, “infrastructure” and “information”.

Here is a portion of what was said by the author of the report.

“While many Californians hold that the Golden State, with its size and potency, is an exception to almost every rule, the Government Performance Project asserts this exceptionalism is a lame excuse for sloppy work. The opening line of their evaluation is sure to evoke dreaded memories for anyone who ever came close to flunking an important class:

“People who work in California government love to talk about how their state dwarfs entire countries in both population and economy. Well, everybody needs something to be proud of. They certainly can’t talk about how the state dwarfs anyone in the quality of its management.”

Here is a link to that report, and you will find plenty of pdf’s on the site to download and read at your leisure.


I have a feeling that my sister knew about this report…and that’s why she has moved to Arizona. It’s just a guess, but?

Friday, May 20, 2005

And the Nominees Are...

Nominees in Focus: The Nuclear Showdown

Here they are...again. More activist judges.


Pens from Colorado Pen Direct

What a fun website this is...! Take a look around. I was searching for some refills, which I found on another website, but since I was in the "Pen" mode I continued looking at various places that Google suggested. Now I wish I had bought the refills here.

The Supermarket Wars

We have been watching, with some interest, as Raley’s and Safeway do battle in the local region. I don’t know what percentage each has of the market as there are a few other contenders for the top spot; Albertson’s, Holiday, Food 4 Less, Winco and then there are some much smaller. But we generally shop at Raley’s, Safeway and Holiday.

Even though it involves some extra driving; with some careful planning we can make a trip to Chico into a value-added shopping experience. We have shopped at Safeway on our way into town and then stopped at Raley’s on our way out. We even carry an ice chest in the trunk for just these occasions.

But today we noticed a big difference in the prices and it looks like Safeway is out of the loop for now. $1.99 for lettuce vs. 99¢ and $1.00 for yoghurt vs. 50¢. The list goes on and on and Safeway prices were higher every time. We have been watching the prices slowly climbing at Safeway but now it makes no sense to stop there unless they have some great sale item we need. But what irritates me about the pricing is the fact that for so many people, there isn’t time in a crowded day to do the kind of shopping we enjoy, where we are free to get back in the car and drive to a bargain. Most people are stuck with a 10 or 15 minute window for shopping and they have to race through the store, getting the necessities. Value gets second billing. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.

Lights, Camera...Action!

The acting governor is at it again. (Reality is not his strong suit.)

“Go For It Arnold” is the name of a group that has been formed to aid the governor in his quest to govern by initiative and they are calling themselves a grass roots organization. Now the historical definition of grass roots is this, "movements organized by a network of ordinary citizens, inspired by an issue."

And from what I have read this morning, it appears that the California Republican Party has paid for the rented hotel room, the signs, a Web site, which features talking points, and suggested form letters to send to local newspapers. So we’re talking about Republican grass here…

Despite its ties to the Republican Party, “Go For It Arnold” said its message will be nonpartisan and aimed at every Californian. Does anybody see any difficulty with taking Republican money and remaining nonpartisan? That will take some acting ability!

Google News

Google has done it again. They have a customizable "home" page available now. It includes stock market quotes, news links...all of the usual stuff, and the quote of the day. Although I really like the looks of that homepage; simplicity is a Google trademark, I’m not certain that I can abandon my old and familiar Yahoo homepage.

Here are some quotes I found this morning when I tried out the new Google homepage.

The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action.
Frank Herbert, novelist (1920 - 1986)

I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many of the prejudices of the few.
Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Oh, Really? Senator...

I’m not a particular fan of filibusters; don’t really like them at all, but I’m an unabashed critic of those who attempt to re-write history while claiming moral superiority and Frist is doing that now. His sanctimonious attitude regarding the threat of a filibuster is nauseating to say the least. He speaks of the filibuster as if it were some evil plot hatched by Democrats, and of course, no Republican would ever dream of doing something so vile. What a little man he is…

“Republican Senator Strom Thurmond has the distinction of holding the Senate's filibuster record of 24 hours and 18 minutes." (Senator Thurmond had lots of unsavory items in his history and this is just one of the least offensive.)

“In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds to three-fifths, or sixty of the current one hundred senators.”

Cloture, the Senate rule that allows for the shutting off of a filibuster is available for the Republicans to use if they so wish…so why are they ignoring it and going for the “nuclear option” without trying to negotiate a settlement?

Let me repeat. What a little man he is…

The Race is On

Although the United States is still the king of consumer societies,
China is catching up and even overtaking us in some areas. According to the Earth Policy Institute’ China has overtaken Americans in the total consumption of items like TVs and cell phones. Yearly consumption, in millions, of key resources and
products in the two countries, as calculated by the institute:

China - USA

Steel (tons) 258 - 104
Cell phones (in use) 269 - 159
Televisions (in use) 374 - 243
PCs (in use) 36 - 190
Oil (barrels per day) 7 - 20
Automobiles (in use) 24 - 226
Fertilizer (tons) 40 - 20
Grain (tons) 382 - 278

Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

Prints & Photographs Online

Looking for images? You just might find them here. and if you want to see a spectacular exhibit of Russian images (before the revolution in 1917) click on the link below.


Saparmurat Niyazov

Saparmurat Niyazov

A very odd and dangerous character. This site also has some good links to resources if you want to know more about the "stan's" (Kazakhastan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan). All of these places will become more familiar as the energy wars heat up and you can expect to see more headlines with news from this part of the world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Señor Mayor

The election is over and Los Angeles has a new mayor.

"The election was a resounding defeat for Hahn, who was unable to keep his campaign focused on Los Angeles' falling crime rate and rising job growth. After a lackluster term tainted by corruption allegations at City Hall, Hahn was turned out of office in favor of a high school dropout and son of the barrio who once sported a tattoo that proclaimed "Born to Raise Hell." Villaraigosa turned his life around to become speaker of the California Assembly and then a member of the Los Angeles City Council."

Now I’m not sure that becoming a politician qualifies as a valid reason to say that Villaraigosa has “turned his life around”. If anything, he may be more dangerous! Just kidding…as the way the city is organized; the mayor is more of a figurehead than a political boss. This makes it tough for him to make the changes needed, and his campaign promises may turn out to be just that…promises.

Hopefully, this will be the last we see of the Hahn family in politics. I remember that family all too well from the time when I lived and worked in Los Angeles.

Play Ball!

Amphetamines and Baseball are in the headlines once again. From what I have read recently, the use of “speed” is common throughout the major leagues. Everyone who plays is looking for an edge according to the stories. What is odd is the fact that the players (apparently) are resisting any change to the culture that would eliminate the use of amphetamines.

"Negotiators for baseball commissioner Bud Selig proposed banning amphetamines during the last round of labor talks on steroids. But union officials, who had taken the unusual step of reopening a contract that remains in effect until 2006, resisted, arguing they already had agreed to a major concession on steroid testing."

How do you negotiate with a group of athletes that think that giving up drugs (steroids) was a “major concession”?

And if drug use is common at the major league level, do we really think it begins and ends there, and never occurs in minor league circles? And below minor league? And take it a step further…if it’s common in baseball, wouldn’t there be a good chance that it happens in all the other sports as well? Aren’t all so-called athletes looking for an edge?

It would be very refreshing to see major league sports/athletes take a stand on a simple no drugs policy; a policy that would include the banning of all drugs including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. Considering how much they are paid and how powerful their influence is on our youth; I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Where There's Smoke

Regarding the White House generated storm over the Newsweek story about the possible desecration of the Koran (Quran)…

“The Newsweek report was not the first public airing of allegations about U.S. personnel at Guantánamo Bay desecrating a Quran. In August and October 2004 there were news reports based on a lawsuit and a written report by British citizens who had been released from the prison in Cuba. They claimed abuse by U.S. guards, including throwing their Qurans into the toilet.

In January, Kristine Huskey, a lawyer representing Kuwaitis detained at Guantánamo, said they claimed to have been abused and in one case a detainee watched a guard throw a Quran into a toilet.”

I think we know that it is certainly possible that the event could have happened. A lot of people didn’t believe the events at Abu Ghraib prison occurred either…until they saw the photos.

Methinks the White House doth protest a bit too much!


Obviously the state of “Fairness” is not easily identified. The acting governor of California wants to remove union dues as a source of funding for political activism. As a union member I would pay my dues so that the union could conduct business on my behalf. Where else would they get that money if the members didn’t support them? We would vote on the amount of money to be assessed monthly. That certainly seemed fair. And the business I expected them to engage in was to protect the trade I was involved in; carpentry. I didn’t pay dues so that the union leaders could sit in an office all day, reading the sports pages. I wanted them doing something for the salary that our dues paid.

Looking at the other side now…A corporation (or a state) exists for the benefit of its shareholders (or citizens). On the face of it, that seems to be quite similar to the purpose of a union. Are corporate shareholders told that they can expect less money to be returned to them as dividends because the money was used for political activism? As a matter of fact, no, they aren’t. Are citizens of the state ever allowed a vote on how much politicians can spend promoting their own agenda instead of the citizens? No, they aren’t…our only recourse is to elect another politician in their place. And it starts all over again.

So “fairness” is all in the eye of the beholder isn’t it?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spelling makes a comeback

Spelling makes a comeback | csmonitor.com

Sports Fans

Hey! Sports fans!! Soccer is now an All American sport…Malcolm Glazer, who made his money from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has bought Manchester United, the premier football team in the world.

British fans are not happy though, burning Mr. Glazer in effigy at one point.

“An advertisement for Budweiser beer currently running on British television gently mocks Americans’ scant knowledge of football. Among the variations suggested to enliven the spectacle of a soccer match are monster-truck racing at half-time and a multi-ball shoot-out when matches end in a draw.”

Say…isn’t Budweiser an American beer company?

White House bashes Newsweek

White House bashes Newsweek

The difference between Newsweek and the White House...Newsweek apologized.


Newsweek magazine got itself into a jam by reporting (erroneously?) that interrogators at the Guantanamo prison had thrown copies of the Koran into toilets in an attempt to break the resolve of some prisoners. That report sparked riots in Afghanistan and those riots caused 15 or more people to die.

The May 9 report, which appeared as a brief item by Michael Isikoff and John Barry in the magazine's "Periscope" section, had a huge international impact, sparking the protests from Muslims who consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.

Desecration of the Koran is punishable by death in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This highlights one of the differences between Islam and Christianity. The Bible despite our reverence for its words is still only pieces of paper. It does not contain God. God uses the Bible and not the other way round. If God is God…how can what we do to a book affect Him? Throw it in the fire; is God harmed? Not in the least. Objects, like the Bible or the Koran can’t be holy. Only the words are holy and you can’t hurt words. Desecration of the Bible may offend our sensibilities but God doesn’t need our help.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

History Revisited III

I will continue with the story I started a few days ago.

June 24th 1968
It had been…what? Two weeks since dad had died? I stirred my coffee and tried to think of something else for awhile. The wake and the funeral had consumed my mother and even now she couldn’t go a day without bursting into tears at some point. Myself? I was busy trying to be the strong guy for her.

I thought about the day ahead of me. And with some dread. I was going into the shop today and try to be the boss. Dad had started the business 20 years ago, just before I was born, and he ran it with his own style, one that I didn’t understand. I had tried working there a few times, because it seemed to please him, but I didn’t think I was cut out for the printing trade. Dad hadn’t pushed me and I was grateful for that…at the time. But now, I wished that I had spent a few more days listening to him while he explained some of the intricacies of that press he was so proud of.

The clock on the stove said it was 5:30 and so I went to the refrigerator for the milk for my cereal. I was going to have to hurry if I was going to catch the Staten Island ferry at 6:30 for the trip to Manhattan. The print shop opened for business every day at 8 and that was something my dad had prided himself on; he was always on time to open that shop. He would always stop at the Dunkin Donuts near the corner of Clinton and Houston, and he would buy a dozen assorted for the crew before walking across the street and turning the key in the lock at 7:30 precisely.

Enough memories! I told myself and put the dishes in the sink. Mom might clean them later, but lately she hadn’t been doing much of anything. It used to be that she would fix my dad a breakfast of eggs and bacon, toast and jam, each and every morning. She tried doing that for me yesterday but had started crying as soon as she took the old black frying pan down from the cupboard.

Closing and locking the door behind me, I headed down the street to the bus stop. The morning was already warm and humid and I was glad I hadn’t brought a coat. The crowd around the bus stop seemed familiar; I suppose I had seen them all before whenever I had tried working a day or two for dad. Did any of them know who I was? Did anyone notice that dad wasn’t coming to the bus stop anymore?

The groan of tired springs, a blast of compressed air and the muted roar of the diesel engine announced the arrival of the bus and I found myself a place in line to board. The driver looked up at me, curious. Did he recognize my dad in me? I didn’t say anything and quickly found a seat for the 10 minute ride to the dock.

The ferry was on time and so I had a few minutes to find myself a place along the rail where I could be, more or less, by myself for the ride up to Manhattan. Although I’m normally a friendly enough guy, I just didn’t feel like getting involved in some pointless conversation about the Yankees or the Mets, not today anyway.

Once the ferry began to move, the breeze generated by our placid voyage was welcome. Although it was still June, it felt more like the middle of August already and I dreaded the afternoon, when I knew that the heat from the presses would overwhelm the meager air conditioning provided by the landlord.

We had already passed the Statue of Liberty and I hadn’t really noticed it. But I did look up to see the dark buildings that stood on Ellis Island and I remembered my grandfather taking me on this same ferry one summer day and telling me how he had entered the United States; only 16 years old, being detained and quarantined on that island until, a miracle…he was allowed in. His uncle, who was living in Newark, had vouched for him. I wonder what he…

A grinding and clanging interrupted my thoughts; reminding me that we were about to dock and so I made my way to the front of the ferry. I wanted to be sure I got to the Water Street bus stop and got a seat before the rest of the crowd.

I wonder how many times my father had made this same trip? I suppose I could do the math easy enough. He had only taken two vacations since the shop had opened and those had been for less than a week each time. He had spent all of the time we were supposed to be vacationing, phoning in to the shop and making sure that orders were being filled and that everyone was doing what he had so meticulously planned for his absence. Mom said she would never go again after the last vacation that ended after three days had elapsed. I think was dad was just as relieved as mom was that the vacation ordeals were officially over.

A short bus ride and I got off in front of Dunkin Donuts. I walked in and stood in line to order the expected dozen assorted. When I did, I got the same curious look that the bus driver had given me. And once again, I didn’t say anything but walked out the door with my donuts and ran across the street to the shop. For a minute, I stood on the sidewalk and stared at the gold lettering on the door, “Franklin K. Wright Company. Contract Printers. The Right Printers For You.” Would I ever change that name? I shook my head and reached for the lock with my key. It was 7:30.

Rainy Day

A strange day here in Orland. The sky is gray and there have been periods of gentle rain throughout the day...but it’s quite warm, almost tropical. In fact, I just turned on the overhead fan a few minutes ago to get the air moving and to (hopefully) relieve the oppressive humidity.

Now the fan is wafting a pleasant odor into the room; the scent of baking bread. I decided to rid the countertop of 3 very ripe bananas by making banana bread. Now you have to understand that I have never attempted this before, but I did well with the zucchini bread, a few weeks back, and how much of a difference can there be? I guess I will find out!

And if that goes well, I will consider myself to be on a roll (culinary-wise) and will make some cookies tonight. Ah! The retired life can be sweet at times.

Looking Ahead

Last year, the September 11 Commission recommended that a centralized federal office be established to protect civil liberties in the campaign against terrorism. The Senate agreed and pushed the White House to get it in place by establishing a board and a budget. Five months have now passed and there is no board in place or any immediate plans to have one. The White House is working on it! Does this lack of action tell you anything at all about the priorities of this administration? Even with the White House able to stack the board with their own neocon look-alike/think-alike members, they really don’t want to address civil liberties; it cramps their style. Check again in 2006.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

To Park or Not to Park...in Chico

The downtown parking garage controversy will fill the newspaper here for at least another year as both sides begin the long battle. As an interested observer I try and see both sides. After all…I don’t live in Chico. But when you’re dealing with bureaucracies you can’t be impartial for long. And what have the bureaucrats done so far? They have spent about $120,000 on studies and consulting. They will spend at least another $350,000 before they are ready to commission an Environmental Impact Report. OK, so it’s about half a million dollars and nothing much has happened in a material way. Lot’s of paper though!

It should be mentioned that someone has asked, why doesn’t the University build a parking garage? The answer was that the University is looking at the possibility of building a parking structure, but their bureaucracy moves even slower than the city’s and it would be 5 to 10 years before it could even be dreamed of. What? Was that an excuse?

And I read that the final bill for this parking structure will be $12 to $13 million dollars. And it will take at least a year to build. Now you may remember a previous posting where I wrote about the $3 million dollar footbridge across the Sacramento River that quickly became a $9 million dollar boondoggle across the river when the bureaucrats finished with it. I would guess that is the scenario that you can expect here as well.

Oh, oh…History lesson. Back in the days when I was a construction estimator, it was known that when bidding on a government project you were entering dangerous and costly areas. And to price your bid accordingly. For instance, I bid on some office buildings at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, an affiliate of the University of California. Office walls, ordinary walls…had been so over-designed that I had to price them at over $300 a lineal foot. Compare that to a private sector price for a similar wall of just $35.

History Revisited II

The other day I posted a story from the June 8, 1968 edition of the Oakland Tribune, a story of the death of two unnamed men in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They had been waiting for the funeral train of Robert Kennedy...I continue the story here. This is fiction.

I sensed something was wrong as soon as the screen door banged shut behind me. It was quiet; far too quiet for a Friday afternoon and mom would have yelled at me for letting the door slam. I walked through the front room and turned to go to the kitchen. “Hello?” I yelled, “Anyone home?” And that was when I heard the soft sobbing in the kitchen. I opened the door.

“Mom?” “What’s going on?”

My mother was sitting at the kitchen table, her head down and cradled in her arms, her thin back shuddering as she cried almost silently. As I ran to her, to comfort her, she raised her head to look at me and her eyes were wild, unfocused; tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Mom.” “What is it?” “Tell me, what’s the matter?”

She was unable to talk, her voice drowning in the sobs that only intensified as I held her in my arms.

Just then I heard the screen door swing shut again. I turned toward the door and Mrs. Myers walked in. Startled to see me, her hand flew to her chest, “Oh! Larry…we didn’t expect you for another hour. I don’t know what to say. Oh Larry, Larry…Your poor mother.”

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Your mother…she didn’t tell you?”

“No. What’s going on? What’s the matter with mom?”

I continued to hold her, trying to comfort her while she clung to my arms, her face pressed tight to my chest.

“Oh. Oh, Larry…it’s your father. He…he died this morning.”

I heard the words. I watched Mrs. Myers lips moving as she spoke them. I knew exactly what the words meant, but I couldn’t comprehend them. It was as if my mind was blocking out the harsh reality of those words. Feeling almost stupid, I asked, “What?” What did you say?” but knowing all the while what it was that I had heard. Would she tell me something else if I asked her? Oh, please tell me something else! But no, she repeated them and I knew.


“He’d gone to watch the train come through. You know…Bobby Kennedy’s funeral train. It was gonna come through town today and he wanted to see it. Said it was history.”

I vaguely remembered the conversation this morning. Dad saying he was going to see if he could sneak away from the shop long enough to see the funeral train as it headed south to Washington. “Larry.” he said, “Wanna come with me? It’s a once in a lifetime experience.” “And it would honor Bobby.” he added.

“Yeah. OK. I remember him saying something about it…but what happened?”

“Now I’m not really sure. But the policeman, when he came to tell us…he said there had been a crowd and that another train was coming through and that was when it happened.”

‘What? What happened?” I struggled with the question. Needing to know and yet dreading the answer.

“It…it was that train. It hit your father, Larry. Himself and another, an older man it was, they were killed.” And then she began to recite every single thing that the police had told her and my mother, as if she could somehow remove the painful words from her own memory by giving them to me.

As I listened to Mrs. Myers I tried to concentrate on what I knew to be real, to hold on to my mother and try to soothe her. I heard the ticking of the kitchen clock and it seemed louder than ever. I took refuge from the painful words and listened only to the clock while I tried to make sense of it all.

But, in a few moments, the banging of the screen door announced another visitor and it was soon a flood of ladies from the neighborhood, all gathering in our kitchen, prying my mother away from me to comfort her. Food appeared and mom and I were urged to eat. More people arrived and more hugs were shared while tears flowed.
Looking across the crowded room, I could see that mom was going to be OK. Mrs. Myers and Mrs. Lefkovitz were with her, one on each side and they were doing their best to comfort her. 4 or 5 other ladies were in attendance as well, hoping to be of some service to their friend, my mother.

Later, that evening, and after most of the neighbors had gone, I sat alone on the front porch. Mrs. Myers was with my mom and getting her ready for bed. Mrs. Myers was going to sleep over tonight, sleeping on the couch downstairs. “Now, Larry, don’t you worry.” she had told me, “I’ll be right there if you or your mother needs me.”

For now, the house was mercifully quiet and I had time to absorb all that had happened that day. My father had died. A family of three was now a family of two. Why? I kept repeating that question to myself, as if it might be answered if I persevered. But no answer came. Cars on the street illumined the front porch briefly in their passing and their occupants might have wondered, briefly, about a young man sitting on the steps with his head in his hands, but I was oblivious to them in my grief.

I felt that it was a story that needed telling. (I hated that too brief of a story in the Tribune.) No, the story isn't over.

Friday, May 13, 2005


I just read this in the local paper and I am mystified, baffled...and saddened to think that fellow humans can even think like this.

"Butte County is fiscally drowning, according to it's elected and appointed leaders...County leaders made the claim Thursday before members of the California Commission on State Mandates in an effort to demonstrate Butte is in such desperate economic straits it should be allowed to cut welfare payments to the poorest of the poor."

And what happens to the poorest of the poor after that?
Here is a photo taken from the RFK funeral train... Posted by Hello

Power of the Press

My eldest daughter brought me back a treasure from her garage sale trip to Penn Valley last weekend. It’s a large stack of old newspapers. Most of the papers are from the Oakland Tribune and are dated in the 1960’s. A good find! There are lots of historical headlines; John Glenn, the Kennedy’s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are some of the names found. But what I find most poignant are the names that no one remembers. Example; “Saturday, June 8, 1968. (AP) Elizabeth N.J. Two spectators waiting for the train bearing Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s body to Washington were killed today by a train heading in the opposite direction. Police said the crowd was jamming the tracks and the two persons apparently could not get out of the way of the northbound train…” The assassination and funeral of Bobby Kennedy was the headline story, but for two families it became quite personal and altered their lives forever. I wonder what became of those families? How did they deal with the loss?

The old papers are filled with stories similar to that. Little people, ordinary people…facing tragedy. The newspaper of today has the same sort of stories but the passage of time has given these old stories a patina that can’t be found in today’s news.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Rule of Law

A stray thought…

It seems to me, that if you desired the very best judiciary…then it would be best if the test for a judicial nominee would be to determine that the nominee had no leanings to the right or to the left. He or she would have to prove that they had no affiliation with a political party. Only registered independents need apply!

Of course this would only work if we really wanted the very best…but what we really want is a judiciary that we can control. Though very few of us study law or have any practical knowledge of the law…we still seem to know more than the judges and are quick to condemn them.


I mentioned the subject of “words” the other day and that has brought to mind something I have been wondering about for awhile. Have you noticed that there seems to be a concerted effort to replace the word “employee” with “associate”?

Why? I think it’s because associate lessens the responsibility that an employer might feel towards the person hired. Employee brings with it a connotation of the employer/employee relationship which involves some give and take by both parties. Ergo: If I employ someone, I have some responsibility for that person. We have entered into a relationship. Associates don’t have that relationship…dissolving an association is so much easier than firing an employee.

I know it’s just a word…but I wonder?

A Garden?

I realize that this looks more like a construction site than a full fledged garden, but look closely and you can see that there are plants planted and they are actually growing amidst the clutter. A few more weeks and it will look a lot better. The pathways should be filled with decomposed granite and the plants will be much taller. You might even be able to see the corn that is sprouting, just beyond the shovel.
Posted by Hello


I was reading the story about the United Airlines pension deal, where the courts have held that United can now ignore the signed contracts that they have with their employees and default on all of their pension obligations. I can tell you that this will become more common in the years to come. Pensions are soon to become fond memories for most workers. I'm certain that the company I worked for, a highly successful, all-union construction company will be ridding itself of a pension plan for its new corporate employees. The reason? It doesn’t need a pension plan to attract good employees. More and more of its competitors are doing business without the cost of a pension plan included in their bids…so, to be competitive, the pension has to go. Ask around and you will find that most employers have stopped including pensions in their benefit packages.

Do you see where this is heading? No pensions and reduced Social Security benefits. Sounds like and looks like a disaster in about 20 years from now. Since most American’s don’t want to save…or invest, it’s doubtful that they will have the means to live comfortably in their retirement. Which will hurt us all. (Economics 101)

There was a great story in the Sacramento Bee that illustrated how some American’s feel about savings…A Rancho Cordova schoolteacher has run up an approximate $17,000 debt for plastic surgery, using a credit card. She admits that she isn’t very good at the “whole savings thing.” And she added, “When I want something, I want it.”


Apparently those compa$$ionate conservative Republicans are compa$$ionate about “pork” as well. And the highway spending bill is pure “pork”. The Republican Senate is planning to increase (by $11 billion) the $284 billion maximum that was approved by the Republican House. That bill contains a record number (3,800) of projects designed to benefit a member’s district and only a member’s district. Graffiti-elimination plans, snowmobile trails, tourist sidewalks and trolleys, parking garages, and even a national Packard museum are included in the bill. One $200 million project would create a span almost the size of the Golden Gate Bridge for 50 residents of Gravina Island in Alaska. That’s the compa$$ionate work of Representative Don Young, the Alaska Republican, who as chairman of the Transportation Committee has earmarked 39 projects worth $722 million for his state. Mr. Young is already famous for his "bridges to nowhere” and is known by the nickname of “Mr. Concrete.” What a legacy!

You would think that a highway spending bill would contain some money for highways and maybe a plan or two to reduce our dependence upon foreign oil. Sorry, but the compa$$ionate conservatives spent most of the money on their own projects before they could get to those things. Since this bill is a six year spending bill, we only have to wait 6 or more years to get another chance to find some funds for highway improvements and public transportation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Some new words have sprung up lately and I like words…although I don’t like them when they are only substitutes for perfectly good, existing words. For instance; Redact. To redact is to edit, or prepare for publishing. Frequently, a redacted document, such as a memo or e-mail message, has simply had personal (or possibly actionable) information deleted or blacked out; as a consequence, redacted is often used to describe documents from which sensitive information has been expunged.

So what was the matter with the existing word “censor”? Say it a few times. Doesn’t it roll off of the tongue quite easily? Redact is a harsh word. You almost have to bite it off as you say it. Although the two words mean exactly the same thing, it is not politically correct to use the word "censored" because it has negative connotations. (As it should!) Use the word "redacted" and most people simply skip over it...too technical!

And this morning I saw a new term (for me) “charrette” and so I had to look that up as well. The word was used in the local paper story regarding a planned but controversial hospital expansion. Here’s a link to a good definition if you saw the word and wondered.


And another word…or words; “A well-manicured finger”. That seemed to be the only way that the press could describe the digit that was found in Wendy’s chili. As if it were normal to find poorly-manicured fingers floating in the chili and a well-manicured one was the real surprise. Or…maybe the press folks get paid by the word.


I didn't watch Frontline last night. I already knew what story they were going to be focused on and didn't want the pain of watching it. I actually turned it on for a minute and then the warning came on the screen, "disturbing images". And so I quickly turned to something lighter. I have been disturbed by this for too long already; I didn't need to add fuel to the fire.

The subject of their report was the "warehousing" of the mentally ill in the prison system. And that is something that I feel very strongly about and didn't need to be reminded of the shame we should feel as a nation by allowing it to happen. (It's also the primary reason for my distaste for Ronald Reagan, who was the person responsible for this.)

When will this nation ever grow up and take responsibility for its actions?
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Michael Arad is a name that usually goes unnoticed. He is the young (35) architect that designed the World Trade Center Memorial. It seems that everyone who might possibly be involved with the project has taken a turn at re-designing it. Two more architectural firms have been added. The Port Authority, victims families, downtown residents...all have been insistent upon being heard and their design modifications considered.

Considering the city and its history...I seriously doubt that the final project will look anything at all like the submitted design and the project will go over budget by at least 100%. Memorial? Hah! It's a cash cow for those that hang around City Hall.

Didn't someone once say that a camel was a horse designed by a committee?

Another "Duh" Moment

I just read that Hollywood is worried...the blockbuster movie "Kingdom of Heaven" only made $20 million on its opening. Two reasons have been given for the poor financial status. One, it's not a good movie. And two, it is rated "R". No kidding!

Overall for the year, box office revenue is down about 6% and attendance about 8%. Now, will the producers get the message? Somehow I doubt it.

Dangerous Wonder

Last weekend, I was discussing Michael Yaconelli’s book, Messy Spirituality with my daughter-in-law and I asked her if she had read his first book yet, Dangerous Wonder? I thought I had given it to her to read but apparently I hadn’t and sure enough, when I got home…there it was on the bookshelf. I pulled it down and began to read it again.

OK, here’s the deal. If you are ever confused about, or wonder about this “God, Jesus and you” relationship, do yourself a favor and read the book. Dangerous Wonder is a small book, only 146 pages and you can read it in a few days. You can order it on-line from Amazon and it’s less than $5 used. If you can’t find it, let me know and I will send you mine.


Morning Musings II

While I was in Chico this morning for the service appointment on our VW I decided to walk from the dealer down to the local Starbuck’s. No, it wasn’t my first choice in coffee establishments, but it was the only one I knew about in that area and I knew that they sold the New York Times. After claiming both a latte and a paper to read, I waited inside for a minute or two for a smoker to finish her cigarette and move away from the outside tables. I quickly claimed the upwind table. The morning was crisp and sunny and it was just about 8 AM. I read and sipped, sipped and read and thoroughly enjoyed the morning. Then…about 8:15, I heard the whine of a leaf blower starting up and it was quite close to me. I turned and met the glance of city employee armed with the latest Stihl leaf blower and he was blowing leaves and debris off of the sidewalk and into the street. We looked at each other. Finally he dropped his gaze and let up on the throttle while giving me a wide berth. Once he was past me, he cranked the Stihl back up to hypersonic speed and went around the corner, dust and leaves marking his route. Peace reigned…for about 15 minutes and then I saw him coming down the street on the other side now. And I looked down at the dust and leaves that were now back on the sidewalk. Of course, the traffic passing by had blown all of the debris back.

OK, is there some deeper meaning in any of this?

Monday, May 9, 2005

The Oz of the Middle East

The Oz of the Middle East

Yes, you should read this...absolutely amazing. Just when you think you have read it all and think that there are no further excesses for humans to aspire to. Sure enough, Dubai is the place for it. Would any of this seduce our leaders in any way?

Caltrans Live Streaming Traffic Video

Caltrans Live Streaming Traffic Video

I was just watching the traffic on US-50 at Myers. Lots of snowplows...4 in the last 2 minutes. Not much traffic otherwise and what traffic you see is going pretty slow!


Yesterday we traveled east to Susanville and took part in Dedication Sunday at the Evangelical Free Church. The twins joined 5 other babies being dedicated that morning. A good morning!

We decided to take highway 36 because of the heavy rain we had seen at home and the possibility of rock slides on highway 32. It takes a little bit longer to go this way, but it’s a pleasant drive as the highway winds through the forest and past the entrance to Lassen Park. The rain never let up; not always a heavy rain, but the windshield wipers were on continuously.

When we dropped down the hill and into Susanville, I was surprised to see how much snow was on Diamond Mountain and Thompson Peak. It’s just 3 weeks from June and the snow still covered the slopes, almost down to the valley floor.

On our way back, it was the same scenario; the rain never ceased. In fact, as we crossed Morgan Summit, the rain began to change to snow and the highway became a little slippery. Safely past the summit and on our way down the western slopes, we were still able to enjoy the sight of blooming Dogwood and Scotch Broom, despite the rain.

Safely home at a little after 6, we enjoyed a hot soup dinner, perfect after a day of rainy travels…but the rain wasn’t over yet! Later that evening, the heavens opened up and it poured! I lost the signal on both satellite dishes; something I have never seen happen before. As the rain thundered down, all I could think about was my garden. I know plants are resilient…but this was asking an awful of them! And it went on for over an hour.

The sky is silver blue this morning, with a few wisps of clouds visible. But what does the garden look like? I’m afraid to look!

Sunday, May 8, 2005

An Honest Mistake?

TheKCRAChannel.com - News - Governor's Office Says Redistricting Event Error Was Honest Mistake
Perhaps it wasn't really Arnold at all...maybe it was his stunt double? In fact, maybe we can blame all of his mistakes on that stunt double?

Good Old Days

We were in Durham yesterday for the 88th annual Durham parade. There were four parades scheduled for Saturday morning in the region and so choosing was a bit of a challenge. But I knew that the Durham parade would have plenty of tractors in it...plus one grandchild.

The Durham parade turned out to be just as expected. It received an "A" from me for having some great old tractors and a bumper crop of old Ford's to look at.

There is something about a small town parade that I enjoy and when we lived in Lassen County we were usually curbside to watch the parade down Main Street, every summer, just before the County Fair.
Posted by Hello

Government Estimates

Here's a copy of the headline I spotted first thing this morning.

WASHINGTON, May 7 - After spending more than $4.5 billion on screening devices to monitor the nation's ports, borders, airports, mail and air, the federal government is moving to replace or alter much of the antiterrorism equipment, concluding that it is ineffective, unreliable or too expensive to operate.

What I didn't copy and paste were all of the excuses that were being used for this debacle...as most of them were just as you might expect - "Well, having something was better than nothing at all." (Why is having an expensive "Something that does nothing" better?)

The good news? It shouldn't cost more than $7 billion to fix the screening devices in the airports. Then they can concentrate on the rest of the systems and that shouldn't cost more than $15 billion. Of course these figures are only government estimates...don't expect anyone to be held responsible for the final numbers.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

What Fun!

When I was driving down to Roseville the other day, I spotted a crop duster and watched as he flew low over the rice fields alongside the highway. I have to think that this is the purest form of flight today. (Whatever that means) This isn’t fly-by-wire technology; the pilot has full control and his hands and feet must feel every little twitch of the aircraft. I can only imagine the thrill as the pilot presses on the rudder pedals and pulls back on the stick at the same time while the engine thunders, carving a path through the air. At the same time, the pilot is very much aware of the proximity of power lines and the ground. I have only flown (hands-on) a few times but I have vivid memories of each flight; and they were just ordinary flights! A crop duster? I can’t imagine being paid to have so much fun!

The Vise Grip Company of Nebraska

The Vise Grip Company of Nebraska
Who would have thought? I can't imagine life without Vise-Grips! Back in the day when I worked in the field...and not in the office, I owned a dozen or more of these handy tools. When we were installing the panels that became the outer skin of the high rise buildings, we would clamp the panel to the frame work and then quickly release the crane to drop down and pick up the next panel. We would have a 2,000 pound panel, hanging hundreds of feet in the air...and secured by a dozen Vise-Grips. And just as you read in the story, we would sometimes simply the weld the vise-Grip into the structure rather than risk losing it's grip for a moment.

The Perfect Storm Part One

Yes, I am burdened once more by thoughts of the coming oil wars. The news this week is filled with ominous signs and portents. First we have the downgrading of Ford and GM bonds to the status of Junk. That was something I read about almost 3 months ago in the Economist. And yet they continued on course to build more and more of the vehicles that they can no longer sell. What were they thinking? If you were no longer the leader in automobile sales, wouldn’t you study the strategy of the company that took your place as leader? OK, it’s no big deal. If Ford and GM go bankrupt or are sold off, the market will twitch for a moment and then motor on. The market abhors a vacuum and it will quickly fill any vacancy. And the SUV/light truck anchor that is dragging these two old companies down is just one symptom of what’s wrong with our attitude towards oil.


Some interesting and provocative news from the Chico News & Review…It is Chico news and technically it doesn’t involve me, but since I’m sure it happens everywhere, I think it’s worth mentioning. It seems that every election year the Chamber of Commerce conducts a review of the candidates for City Council and then endorses those candidates it feels will be “business friendly”. There certainly is nothing wrong with that…on the surface. That same Chamber of Commerce also goes to the City Council and asks for funding as a community organization. And they always want the most of any organization; $118,948 this year. Whoa! And guess what? They have always received their requested amounts. Does anyone see a conflict of interest here?

Thursday, May 5, 2005


Read This

Yesterday, as I sat in the waiting room of my dentist, I picked up the April 4th edition of the New Yorker Magazine. And then I ran across this article...I couldn't put it down - they called me into the exam room and I took the magazine with me. I tried to sneak in a sentence or two from the article between scrapings and flossing. In the end, they told me to take the magazine home. Alright! This has everything you really didn't want to know about the medical profession. This morning, I googled the author, Atul Gawande. Highly respected and an author of some note.
(Results from a survey I found) Does anyone else think this is odd? Those we respect...we pay very little and those we don't respect...get our money. Wow! So if a teacher needs more money to live on, we can just "respect" them even more than we do now. I'm sure it will help... Posted by Hello

On the Road

I had to make a trip to see the dental hygienist, so when I drove to Roseville yesterday, I took along my portable memory, my mini-tape recorder, as I usually do when traveling alone. And I had a fruitful trip…adding to the tape quite often as I drove. Today I have to listen to the recordings and separate the “wheat from the chaff”, so to speak. My random thoughts are not always the gems I thought they were after I hear them played back.

One of the first items on the tape was quite cryptic; “The Dead Dog Café and where is Blossom, Alberta?” Why did I say that? Because I had been listening to KVMR and had just heard the show again. The Dead Dog Café is quite funny – if you have my sense of humor. I know, I know…most people don’t have my sense of humor.

Here’s a description of the show that I found on the net…
“The Dead Dog Cafe was a comedy series that ran on CBC radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) for about three or four years in the mid-90's. It was about a cafe in northern Alberta owned by two aboriginals (Jasper Friendly Bear and Gracie Heavy Hands) and their white friend Tom King, whom they tormented.

One of my favorite pieces was the fireside chat. This was where Jasper would sit down and read from a great work of Canadian literature. Every week the book was "The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples" which was a massive government commission that made over a thousand recommendations concerning the relationship between the Canadian government and first nations.”

And another comment…or two.

“Tom King (creator of the series) played himself in the series, which meant that he was, as in real life, half-white, half-Native. I seem to recall some mention made of him being part Cherokee, although he was humiliated by Jasper and Gracie for not speaking his native tongue. More important to the series was Jasper and Gracie's distinction between a Reserve Indian (which they were) and an Urban Indian (which Tom was). Because Tom was an Urban Indian, they had the segment "Indians Anonymous", for those Indians who have become White to prevent them from backsliding into becoming Indian again.”
“Dead Dog is a great example of a really delicately balanced kind of Native Canadian humour that manages to bring out the light side of first nations community issues in Canada without making light of them. I don't think I could decide on a favourite part... probably a tie between "Blackout Bingo" (where Jasper would call the same number for the entire season) and "Captain Dead Dog" (in which Tom would be bullied into wearing the Puppy Boy sidekick thong).”

A favorite of mine was the Authentic Indian Name Generator and this was used in just about every episode. Surprisingly, it survives on the internet.


And Blossom, Alberta? It’s the name of a fictional town in Tom King’s book, Green Grass, Running Water.

By the way, my Authentic Indian Name is Steven Winged Shorts.

Questions Seeking Answers

There is a(nother) crisis building these days and it is the United States' low national savings rate - the amount we save minus the amount the government borrows. But no one wants to talk about it. At least no one in power is talking about it…it’s not a popular subject.

From 2002 through 2004, the rate of national savings was lower than at any time since 1934. Tax cuts are driving the swing from budget surplus to budget deficit that we have seen over the past four years. Currently, the deficit offsets most of the economy's net private savings.

Also, individuals don’t save enough, as reflected in the widespread inadequacy of retirement savings. Some would argue that the amount of personal savings is understated because it does not take into account the increase in housing values, which has many homeowners feeling like one of the rich and famous. But increased home values do not add a dime to national savings. This “House Wealth” is not converted into cash until the house is sold, and at that point the money flowing into the sellers' pockets is simply money that is flowing out of the buyers' pockets. It’s the same money! No new wealth is created unless a seller saves the windfall – do you know many who have done that? And why would you want to save when the interest rates paid for savings are so low? And do you actually have any money left over to save?

On the last question; if you’re a member of the vast middle class, of course you do. It’s all a matter of priorities. If you don’t have any priorities, you’re rich. If your priorities are fixed, (rent, food, etc) you’re poor. Only the middle class has to worry about their priorities and they aren’t. And where’s the incentives?

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Faith, Politics, and Culture

Click HereThis might give you some insight into how Mr. DeLay operates...

What's it Worth?

A picture is worth...a lot of words! With inflation, it's bound to be worth more than a thousand. Posted by Hello

Shame on you, Sam

News Flash! OK, maybe it’s not all that new, but I just read it this morning.

“A new group of Wal-Mart critics ran a full-page advertisement on April 20 contending that the company's low pay had forced tens of thousands of its workers to resort to food stamps and Medicaid, costing taxpayers billions of dollars. On April 26, as part of a campaign called "Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart," five members of Congress joined women's advocates and labor leaders to assail the company for not paying its female employees more.”

Could it be that some people are finally seeing the light?

“H. Lee Scott Jr., Wal-Mart's chief executive, vigorously defends his company, arguing that wages are primarily determined by market forces and that Wal-Mart pays more than most retailers and provides better opportunities for advancement. Wal-Mart states that its full-time workers average $9.68 an hour, and with many of them working 35 hours a week, their annual pay comes to around $17,600. That is below the $19,157 poverty line for a family of four, but above the $15,219 line for a family of three.”

He’s right…in a depressed job market; people will take what they can get. That’s certainly a “market force”. And Wal-Mart studies the markets carefully, knowing exactly how low they can go.

“He said that if Wal-Mart were as greedy as its detractors say, it would never have attracted 8,000 job applicants for 525 places at a new store in Glendale, Ariz., or 3,000 applicants for 300 jobs in outlying Los Angeles.”

What he doesn’t say is that when there are no other jobs to be found…people will flock to where any kind of employment is available, even if it means working at Wal-Mart. Does he really expect us to believe that these people chose Wal-Mart over other job offers? His statement tells me that the economic situation in Glendale, Arizona is in dire straits and Wal-Mart is reaping the benefits of it. And it also tells me that if there were an In-n-Out Burger located in Glendale, I could make more money and have better benefits by working there. In this case, burger flipping is a step upwards.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

It's Done...

OK, I have made the plunge and I have planted my garden. It was scary...it is scary. All of my efforts are now subject to the whims of nature. Drought, wind, hail and bugs! Not to mention the evil gopher. I have all of the basics planted; tomato (5 types), corn, squash (2 types), bell pepper (2 types), onion, Tomatillos (2 types), melons and some gourds. I still need cucumbers and ??? I know I need something else, but I can't think of it. Perhaps a stroll through one of the local nurseries will jog my memory; and I still have space left in the garden.

Those Were The Days

It has been a little over 3 years now since my mother died and I was thinking of her this afternoon as I was out in the garden. (No, it wasn’t the garden that reminded me of her…I really can’t imagine her gardening.) It was simply an idle thought of her that grew into this post…

What I remembered were the afternoons when mom would get together with her friends for an hour or so of coffee and conversation. This was almost a daily routine and we always knew where mom was if the group of 3 wasn’t meeting at our house. She was at one of their houses. I really enjoyed it when they met at our house and I had the good fortune to be present. I would hang out, trying to be inconspicuous and listen to the conversation. Fascinating! They discussed everything.

My mother definitely had an opinion about everything and she enjoyed the give and take that they participated in over their cups of coffee. The arguments ebbed and flowed and at the end of the day, all were happy about the conclusions…or no conclusion. It didn’t seem to matter.

All of this took place in the 1940’s and 50’s. Mom didn’t drive and she didn’t have a job outside the home until the late 50’s, so this meeting of the minds was her “mental floss” for each day.

Wouldn't it be nice to return to those simple times?

Same Old...Same Old

I was listening to an NPR station on my trip to Red Bluff yesterday. You know, one of those left wing socialist commy programs...and the subject was immigration and how it was creating a real problem among the tax payers. Blah, blah, blah...The only thing that grabbed my attention was the accent of those being interviewed. All were decidedly British! Good Show and all that! It was very odd to hear the same low level insults concerning immigrants in a "British" voice. Didja know that England is the most crowded of European nations? And that they have 12 times more people per square mile than we do?

The consensus, as far as I could tell...was that there were three classes of immigrant and the welcome mat was out for only one; the highly skilled worker. All others need not apply and should return home, forthwith!

Yes, it's exactly the same as here. Is that comforting?


I was reading an Opinion column this morning that noted how the Democrats have failed to come up with an answer to any of the issues that resonate with the voters. The columnist was talking about California government, but it certainly applies to the national political scene as well.

This is the perfect time for them (or any other political party) to come up with some solutions. The president is sinking lower in the polls everyday and congress is lower yet. And in California, Arnold’s popularity wanes every time he opens his mouth.

So what are the Democrats doing? Basically, just confronting the same old issues with the same old answers. Do they ever talk to their constituents? Are their conversations limited to the paid consultants who tell them what’s really important? Yes. Not that the Republicans are any better, in fact, they may be in denial more often than the Democrats. They act like survivors of a shipwreck, grabbing onto anything that might float and save them…no matter how inappropriate.

The timing is perfect for a political party (any political party) to take the initiative and listen to the common man and woman. Oh, I know the two parties claim to do that all of the time; but if that were really true…we would have no popularity problems at all, would we?

C’mon, Green’s…where’s your voice? Libertarian’s? Peace and Freedom? Socialists? Hello! Anyone?

Monday, May 2, 2005

The Draft-Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Some well thought out commentary on the possibilities of the draft being used once again...

The Colors of Memory

Things to ponder...


I don’t think I mentioned that I had a haircut recently. So what, you say? Since I had stopped cutting my hair back in November of 2003, it had grown quite long and so it became quite an event to cut it off. My original intention was simply to experience the look and feel of having long hair. I had never had long hair before and I wanted to experience it. That’s all. But for some, it became more than that. It became divisive; although I can say that my middle child, (Bless you!) supported me. My oldest and youngest children (Plus my wife) were not quite so happy with my “look”. Although I often repeated the mantra, “it’s only hair”, it was apparent that not all believed that to be true.

So now I have had a haircut and it was because I wanted to experience the opposite of long hair; short or no hair at all. I used a ¼” guide on the clippers and you can definitely see my scalp now. I will say once again, with feeling! It’s only hair! But most will see some motive other than my own curiosity in this matter.

Some people believe I did this because summer is on its way. But that’s not true, as a very short haircut forces me to wear a hat, certainly not high on my list of things I like to do. So let me reveal the truth behind both the long and the short of my hair. I dislike barbers. No, not the barber himself. He is probably a fine person. I just dislike what I perceive to be a waste of my time, sitting in a barber chair. I always have felt this way and no barber was ever at fault…now I can cut my own hair if need be and do it in less than 10 minutes! Freedom (somewhat) from the tyranny of hair!