Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on the economy

Like many I am somewhat worried about the economy. I've seen my retirement fund shrink by almost half and am only two years away from 66. I probably won't retire when I hit 66 as I really enjoy the job I have, and I doubt if the market will recover that fast. There are many younger than I who are worried about the turn of events in our politics. I tend to be fiscally conservative but socially progressive. Frankly, the Republicans have screwed up their chance. I find the imposition of morality being fought for by the Religious Right to be divisive and out of context with our Constitution. Jesus once said, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's. I take that to mean God will take care of the moral issues, we need to attend to the secular issues. I am citing ideas that I may or may not necessarily agree with, but it religious teachings also say man has free will. Isn't the imposition of moral values by making them laws of the land an infringement on my free will. I realize that society has to set up some rules to govern our behavior, however it should not infringe upon my personal values to the extent that a decision that effects my person requires government approval. I may face a horrible illness, I should be able to choose my means of dealing with that. A woman or couple may face a personal dilemma that in the short term may lead to a decision one or both may regret later, such as abortion, but they will have to deal with that when the time comes.

I find Republican criticism of Obama to be correct. John McCain made a statement that essentially said, he will not rubber stamp Obama's plans. That is correct. Debate furthers the quality of the decision. However, there comes a point when debate serves no more purpose and any further fighting is just delaying the decision. I hope the Republicans can exert some wisdom in being the party of opposition.

It seems to me that this so called stimulus package will result in a one time tax rebate similar to last year. Many democrats are arguing that the tax rebate did not impact the economy because it was used to offset debt or saved. No shit! I saved mine. It will be spent this year on new flooring for our bedroom, when I get ready to lay the floor. In the meantime I would spent the tax rebate if it showed up in my paycheck twice a month. The $1200 I got last years would've been a $50 per pay period increase in my wages. I would've spent that. The idea of the stimulus is to spend money, yet the democrats seem to object to a tax cut that impacts the paycheck because tax rates would have to be lowered. The "tax and spend" party would not want to be associated with a tax cut, heavens. Yet we'll spend on projects that may hit the ground in a couple of years, in the meantime lets just bitch about it. By then the natural forces of recovery will begin to act and the public works may not be needed.

I wish both parties would show some "Statesmanship" instead of the petty political bickering that has already started. Nancy Pelosi is a lightening rod and would do a lot more good taking the upper road, but I do not think she is inclined to do that. The "Commonweal" is not her bag, get back at, is. Shame on her.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

There are some amazing stories out there

I am not a fan of Kurt Warner's, quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. I've followed his career and he has times of greatness and then other times he just seemed to be a workman football players. However, read the attached link. Perhaps you've seen it. The story is quite remarkable and speaks of a person who walks to a different drummer. His stock rose a great deal in my eyes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Remarkable Event

I came through the sixties. I graduated from high school in 1962. I recall the Kennedy Era, as short lived as it was. I remember LBJ signing civil rights legislation. I was too young to appreciate the impact and too isolated to understand segregation. I do remember seeing the attacks by police in southern cities on the peaceful demonstrators. I was shocked, angered, and embarrassed that citizens could not get along. I participated in civil rights discussions in college and always had a kind of naive misunderstanding about why should we grant Negroes rights under the law when they already had them. I did not understand a lot.

Part of my education as an adult was to develop an understanding. It did not change my feeling that we are all equal, not just under our law, but under the laws of nature. So today, January 20, 2009 is not a complete surprise. The swearing in of citizen Obama as our president is the justification for all of the demonstrations, all of the physical pain and psychological torment endured in the name of freedom. It is also natural. It is not just a coming of age of the black race, it is a coming of age of all American citizens.

I do not agree with much of his political agenda, or at least the means he ascribes to accomplish economic recovery. I do agree that he is the best man at this time for the job. I do not recall the presidential process creating such excitement in the electorate since JFK. Thank goodness we haven't attached any labels like Camelot to the start of the Obama administration. Right now, he is winning high marks from many people, six months from now we shall see. I wish him well, he seems like a good man.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Barny fFrank

I admire Barney Frank. He's gay. He has had to over come a lot to become the Congressman who seems to have transcended his sexual orientation and become a spokesman for the liberal left. However, he is one of the makers of the crisis we are in. The roots of the credit disaster can be found in the Clinton administration when the lending fair practices bill was passed and the administration and liberal members of Congress began advocating loosening up the credit standards so poor constituents could buy a home. Now to listen to Mr. Frank it is strictly mea culpa, and the bogeyman is in truth George Bush. Yes, Mr. Bush should've had someone paying attention and minding the store, but couldn't Mr. Frank have helped when things began to go awry and the bubble was starting to build?

Now, Mr. Frank wants part of the new stimulus program to go toward reducing the principle of loans that are in default. Is that guy great or what? I've worked much of my life to pay down on my home loan, it will be paid off in two months. I've forgone things I might really enjoy so my wife and I can retire and not be saddled by debt. Now the government is going to reduce the principle for people who should never have qualified for a loan in the first place. Do I feel like an ass. Should've joined the soup line years ago.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Turkey Italian Sausage

Yuck, blech, tastes like shit. Don't want no more.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Two Year Anniversay

Yesterday, January 9, 2009 marks two years since I had bowel resection surgery. I had written a long piece concerning my experience in home recovery after bowel resection and I Googled that topic this morning, the essay was in the number one position on the first page of the Google sort. According to my daughters that means for that topic it receives the most "hits." I have no idea as I do not have a counter, nor do I receive replies. However, over the two years I have had about four people send me emails appreciating my communication. The essay is quite graphic and direct, but reflects information I wanted to know during recovery.

How is life now, two years after?

It is OK. I went through a period of losing weight, on purpose mind you. I walked an hour a day, watched what I ate and had the outcome of having a physician pronounce my Diabetic II diagnosis resolved. I reduced my blood pressure medications to one. I reduced my cholesterol medication to one. I did go through a scary episode of irregular heartbeats but learned to live with them and have gotten off all medication that I was on for a mis-diagnosis of atrial fibrillation. So one might say the benefits of the surgery to remove a cancerous polyp went far beyond being cancer free.

I am disappointed in myself at the current time. I have put back on 30 pounds of the 60 pounds I took off. I walk several times a week instead of daily. I wouldn't mind the reduced exercise if I could keep the weight off. I worry about getting myself back into type II Diabetes and having to get back on medication. Yet I find myself almost mindlessly stuffing my face with sweets.

Health-wise I seem to be doing well. My last check up indicated my cholesterol level was below 200, and the other cholesterol readings were all within the desired ranges. I will see my surgeon in about two weeks but don't expect anything other than you are doing well to be the outcome of that check up. The annual colonoscopy check on year after surgery was clear and the next check up will be this coming November. If this check up is OK then I will not need to be checked for five years. I did go through a small bowel obstruction episode in June 2008. That scared the hell out of me. Their appeared to be no reason for the obstruction, but it was a mentally defeating experience.

So how do I really feel. The surgical scars are fading. My bowels are beginning to act in what I feel are a normal fashion. I am somewhat surprised at the length of time and the feeling that healing is still going on. I have had bowel issues since surgery, not anything painful or scary, but issues with having to go numerous times along with not being able to have the sense of voiding completely so you felt like you had to go a few minutes after you went. More of an aggravation that an actual concern. I did have my gall bladder out nine months after bowel surgery. That has added to the digestive tract discomfort, although that seems to be getting better too.

For the most part I feel well. I have some muscle aches that are a little unnerving. They tend to be located along my rib cage on the right side in my back muscles. They don't hurt all of the time, but on occasion when I work outside they will cause me pain that might carry on for a day or two. I don't know whether to associate that with a side effect from surgery or just old age. Probably old age. The weight loss has allowed me to be more flexible and I am much more active in repairing things around the house much to the delight of my wife.

The psychological scars are also dimming, but I do find myself spending too much time thinking about things. The surgery, and the fact that a cancerous polyp was removed awakened the realization that I am going to die some day when I thought I had dealt with that issue and was comfortable with the idea. However, a dear friend of mine, a high school classmate I still stay in touch with expressed to me that thought is on his mind about his mortality. So perhaps it is a stage of life rather than some psychological impact of surgery. I am 64 years old and I am starting to see land on the horizon of this sea of life I've been crossing.

Most days are good. I do not walk around with a sick feeling like I did before surgery. I enjoy where I live and have been able to resurrect my interest in doing house repairs and projects. I have a great appreciation for keeping in contact with my two daughters, I find their lives to be of great interest to me and their welfare precious. Life is good, my wife and I still have jobs in this time of economic recession. Our home is almost paid for, and I've negotiated a good refinancing contract with the local bank on our investment property. I do not want for material items and can afford most of those items that fall into the category of "toys."

So there is life after surgery. I do not know that my internal worry meter is any greater today than it was several years ago. The passage of time seems to move at a quicker pace than my younger years, but that is OK too. I am thankful for the skill of the surgeon and the support of my family through this recovery period. I do not consider myself completely recovered because I still encounter or notice improvements or a settling down of my body's functions and actions. If anyone has followed my writing on this topic because they are going through the same things I wish them Godspeed and I hope their outcome is as successful as mine appears to be.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Credit Cards

CNN runs a little poll on their home page every day. The question being polled may change once or twice a day. I just about always answer the question just to see how many are responding and what the sentiment is at the time. On January 7, 2009 the question is about credit card debt and has five categories to answer, first is I pay my credit cards off every month, second is less than $1000, third is less than $5000, fourth is less than $10,000 and the fifth alternative is more than $10,000. It is not an accurate poll, I understand that, but enough answer that there is some truth in the data.

This morning with 90,000 responding 49% paid their credit cards off monthly. However, the second largest category behind paying off monthly was more than $10,000 and 20% of the respondents fell into that category for about 18,000 respondents. I was surprised. This afternoon the number of respondents has increase to 180,000 and the percentages haven't changed. About 89,000 pay their credit cards off monthly, but 32,000 have over $10,000 in credit card debt. Wow! Think about the interest rate on that. Sounds like a racket to me.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Wall

Years ago we lost the back porch on our log cabin to rotten timbers. Since that time rain has taken it's toll and created wood rot that has necessitated major house repair. It is a simple process, grind away the rotten wood. Create a base, line the wall creating a false wall with treated 2 X 6's and then face the timbers with log facing recreating the log appearance. I have had this task for over three years and for some reason I have had a mental block against attacking the problem. I think it has to do with the magnitude of the task and the fact that you are fiddling with what I think is the structure of the house.

Well today I started rebuilding the wall. It was a lot easier than I thought, yet I've put it off for years. Now the relief is enormous and the feeling that I can get it done is overwhelming. I've enclosed some pictures that indicate the type of work I've done to date. I'll show finished when I get to that point.

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Israel vs. Hamas

Several days ago I was made aware of Israel's attack on Gaza. An event that has little to do with my world. Except I am part of a large world and things that go on concern me. I was upset that Israel should attack the way they did, and felt that maybe our support of Israel is inappropriate.

However, I also don't believe in half-measures. I've long felt the disregard that middle Eastern society has for human life makes negotiated settlements very tenuous and probably not long lived. So something has to get their attention. A price so steep that there is greater incentive to live in peace and harmony than to fight. Annihilation could be such an incentive. I know it sounds extreme, but how many years have Arabs, both Israelis and Palestinians been slaughtering one another. No intervention by world powers, the U.N. or any force I know of has forced peace. So, lets get rid of them, both.

Or, let one or the other have at it with the intent that only one is left standing. That appears to be Israel's strategy right now, they invaded Gaza this afternoon. I say let them go in and clean out the rat's nest. They are warning people to get out, after an appropriate amount of time lower the hammer. Level the joint, nothing is left standing, no one is left alive. Make the price so steep that peace and harmony is necessary for survival.

I always thought the price for 911 was 5000 killed for every victim, I don't care about guilt, wipe out a country. Perhaps some crazed terrorists would come to realize that if they keep up there activities there will be no homeland to return to.

Just one man's thoughts.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Some lessons from the Holidays

One: I love the scent of a pine/cedar tree. We have numerous pines and cedars on our property and I really enjoy walking near them sniffing that pine scent. One day last fall my wife asked what I was doing sticking my head in the middle of a very bushy cedar that grows in our yard. Caught in the act I had to confess that I was enjoying the scent of the tree. So last December I was scanning the Vermont Country Store catalog and saw a small log cabin incense burner that burned compressed cedar chip pellets. Thinking I would enjoy the odor of pine in the house I bought it and a small supply of pellets. WTF was I thinking? It does put forth a nice odor, that of burning wood. So I guess if you enjoy the pungent odor of wood smoke you got a winner. I still have to go stick my head in a tree to get the odor I want.

My youngest daughter who lives in Minneapolis sent us a pound of Caribou coffee for Christmas, That with other goodies, I don't want to leave the impression that she is a cheapskate. Anyway, when I talked with her about the gift the package said whole bean yet it was ground. Jenny told me that clerk asked when she ground it if we used a metal filter or paper filters, Jenny said paper, which is correct. When you compare the consistency of the custom ground coffee to that of commercial coffee there is a significant difference. The commercial coffee is coarse in texture to the custom ground.

Now my wife and I drink a lot of coffee. When we are both home all day it is not unusual for us to go through three to four pots of coffee. Being a heavy coffee drinker does not necessarily make me a connoisseur. We have our own grinder which can pulverize the beans into a fairly fine consistency, but not as fine as the coffee the Jenny sent us. I also noticed that I use about 30% less coffee grounds than commercial coffee to achieve what we deem to be that same taste. Thinking about that fact leads me to the scientific idea that being a more finely ground material more of the coffee bean is exposed to the water so more flavor is extracted than in a coarser ground.

We buy whole bean coffee, regularly and grind it fairly fine. I'll try to pay more attention. perhaps there is a savings to be had and still enjoy the same rich, robust flavor that coffee gives off.

Finally, having black eyed peas and hog jowl for dinner on New Year's Day and not having a gall bladder causes a damn near explosive condition. Last night lying in bed I woke myself up once the blast was so powerful. I'm sure had I been sitting on the ground it would've registered on the seismometer located on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. The relief was wonderful, the noise deafening and those who know me know I enjoy a good fart. I think I'll have some leftovers today.

All in all it has been a good holiday season. Lessons have been learned that have value, but probably only to me. So let's start of this new year with a good cedar tree, a good cup of coffee and the explosive expulsion of all our sins.