Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back in the Saddle

I got up with Bonnie this morning. Except on rare occasions I haven't been getting up with Bonnie on week mornings for the better part of a year. I've often gotten out of bed just as she was leaving for work, and almost always on weekends, but I've been enjoying the minor sleep-in for a while now.

But I had to be in for orientation at my new job this morning at 7:30 across town (half an hour when traffic is good, 45 minutes during the rush). Luckily leaving at 6:45 (I always allow myself a buffer on "important" days) involved pretty light traffic. And orientation was over by 2:00 so I missed the afternoon rush as well. I'll always miss the morning rush once I'm on the job but I won't miss the afternoon rush. It could be worse though. My afternoon commute zips along compared to traffic heading in the other direction; to the west side from the east. The west side is so much cheaper, and homes are much easier to find but most of the jobs are in the city. For me it's the opposite and that's just fine.

I've been through orientations like this one today probably twenty times. Maybe more. All put on by my new company's client with whom I have had association on and off (mostly on) for over the past fourteen years. They differ from orientation to orientation, but none of the real meat has changed since I've been through them. The company started aggressively pursuing an ambitious safety program about twelve years ago and that's been so integrated into the orientation now that its message has been trivialized. To be fair the intent has not been trivialized within the company. Bureaucratized yes, trivialized no.

The gal who taught the morning portion of the program (by far the longest portion) used to work for me. She was a carpenter’s helper for a while. Later on she worked as a safety rep as we liked to call them. Now she works for a contractor who contracts this service to my company’s client. She’s has a one-year-old boy of whom she showed me a picture. Last time I saw her she looked eleven months pregnant.

Class was predictably boring. I helped our young trainer out when blank faces stared at her requests for group participation. She asked me for technical help when the lap top movie failed to show up on the big screen. Those damn screen projection systems have plagued me with their connectivity difficulties too many times, and I told her so. She had to forget the little film clip. I felt bad, but I don’t think anyone cared. They were busy thinking of lunch.

The logistical management of this orientation gets failing marks though. The program is broken into two and a half parts. The first part (which is the longest) ends at the lunch break. The second and shortest part (now pay attention) is the half part I spoke of. You are told early on in the process that if your work is not going to be in the factory you don’t have to stay for part three in the late afternoon. Lunch is one hour of killing time (I hate killing time) and then you come back for about ten minutes of appendices to the morning session. And then you are told that you don’t need any of the afternoon session if you are an office worker.

I took my wasted hour and ten minutes in stride.

I met a few interesting folks at the orientation. About the same crowd of folks I have shared who knows how many of these orientations with. I also saw several folks I used to work with.

Back in the saddle.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I Got the Job!

For those of you who have been sitting on pins and needles as the drama unfolds (see Crossing My Fingers and No News Is ... No News), you will be pleased to know that at long last I got the job!

I am waiting to get my official contract emailed to me today but I am too excited to wait any longer and just had to post this. I asked for $5k more than I thought I could get and ended up getting $5k more than I asked for. I'll be making only a little less than I was making fourteen months ago when I decided to leave my old job, and will have many fewer headaches. I call that a win-win. I don't know all the benefits yet (they'll be spelled out in the contract) but I know they'll be competitive. I'll either update this post or add a new post once I have all that information.

And to refresh your memories, the company I will be working for is an English company with some real history. The company dates back to Scottland about 150 years ago, so it's quite venerable. The work I will be doing for this company is estimating and cost analysis. That probably makes you yawn and scratch your head (or wherever else you might like to scratch) and ask yourself why I could possibly be excited about estimating and cost analysis. Why indeed? Well that really is a good question I say rhetorically to the great unknown. It just happens that sort of stuff floats my boat. Just as well ask why you like pepperoni but despise salami.

I dont' start for two weeks (August 13th to be precise) because many little ducklings need to be ushered into a row first. That will give me time to finish a project or two at home and maybe finish the tome I am currently engulfed in.

I'll follow up when I have more juicy details. Until then, ciao!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No News Is ... No News

So the status of the job I interviewed for on Monday is unknown. It's in limbo. The interview went well. I think they like me and they want me. Here's the catch: This company has a client for whom this position is slated. The client has a representative who gets a say in who is hired. And this guy is on vacation. So the bottom line is that I can't even get an offer - assuming one is forthcoming - until this guy gets back from his summer fun. And then I may end up having to interview with him as well.

So I'm back to twiddling my thumbs. And I'm back to designing my landscaping and other outdoor features that I need to get a job so I can build. At this point I'm going to continue to fine-tune the designs so once I can afford to build them I'll have worked out all the kinks.

One thing I realized needed fixing was my garden shed layout. I have the lawnmower alcove right next to the door. This is dumb and I'm not even sure why I came up with this. So I've fixed this, as well as improving the fascias and adding a light (I think I can get some power over there). So here it is now:
Bonnie and I decided to create a comprehensive plan for our outdoor stuff. I'm going to put together the main plan and the individual piece plans and details in a bound set of blueprints. I've got a start right now with my main plan below:
If you click on the picture above it will open an 8-1/2x11 PDF file. I'll keep the PDF file updated with other sheets as I create them so visit now and then if you want to see what we've got in mind.

I'm really excited about completing all these ideas. I think we're going to end up with a beautiful front and back yard. I do need to start with weeding out the grass I poisoned in front of the sidewalk though.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Crossing My Fingers

Those of you who know me know that I have been self-unemployed for some time. I played the entrepreneur for awhile and it was fun. I just never made much money at it and so I found some other distractions to keep me busy until the money ran out.

I did a wonderful remodel of our upstairs bathroom (I’ll post a photo or two as soon as I can get Brandy in here with her wide angle lens), and I made Bonnie a shady “sanctuary” in the backyard. Bonnie’s going to post photos of this on her blog (http://bonitas-garden.blogspot.com/).

I’ve also been working on designs for other remodel and landscaping projects. Either Bonnie or I or both of us will post some of these sketches.

But despite all this fun and productivity, I’m not taking care of my end of the bargain and Bonnie’s gonna kick my ass out on the street if I don’t start bringing in some cold hard cash soon.
Oh well, I always wanted to know what a sabbatical was like. I guess I know now. I recommend it. It’s time to roll up my sleeves and get back to work though.

I had a phone interview about three weeks ago with a representative of an English company with whom I have had experience. They are hiring locally and their US Talent Acquisition Manager has his office out of New Jersey. He and I hit it off and he told me he wanted to meet with the local boys for a second interview. I was really encouraged.

And then I was cautiously optimistic. And then I was nervous. And then finally after two and a half weeks of “I’m getting around to it,” from my New Jersey friend, I was dumped without much explanation. New Jersey simply told me that the local boys didn’t think I would fill the bill. I said I regretted I wouldn’t have the chance to prove them wrong. Click.

Bonnie was encouraging (though she has since told me she was getting worried). I got depressed. The classifieds are no place to find a job. These people don’t know me. My credentials are specialized and don’t exactly make me qualified on paper for what I would really like to do. But I know what I can do and what I should never try doing. I wouldn’t pitch myself for something I’m not suited for. So if I apply for a job it’s because I know I can do it regardless of what my “qualifications” say.

But you have to know me to know that’s true. Bonnie knows it’s true. Brandy probably does too. But I can’t expect a stranger to know it. The old saw, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know,” really applies here. This is why the classifieds fail me. These people don’t know me and I don’t know them.

So I need to rely on my network. But my network is primarily composed of people in the type of work I don’t want to do anymore.

What made this English company so attractive is that it serves (among others) the industry I have been associated with without doing the kind of business I’ve been doing these past fifteen years. And I know some of their people and some of their people know me. This is supposed to be what people call the best of both worlds. Which is why I felt that this was the perfect job. Which is why I was despondent when they said thank you but no thank you.

After dusting off my pride I followed up with another contact with whom I had spoken last fall – back when I still thought I could be a successful business owner. He had suggested at the time that I interview with the firm he worked for. I spoke with him earlier this week and he said he’d get back to me late this week or early next week. I don’t know; this one may work out.

But before you go and say, “well there, so second choice may not be so bad,” listen to this: I got a phone call two days ago. From New Jersey. From the Talent Acquisition Manager who had so recently sent me packing. He started the conversation telling me I could hang up on him if I wanted to.

Right! Like I was going to hang up. I had no idea why he was calling but despite my sour grapes I still felt (and feel) that this was the job for me. Any call had the possibility of re-opening negotiations.

It seems that the local guy that Mr. New Jersey really wanted me to meet with has been on holiday and has just recently returned. I know him and have worked with him. He got wind of the prior interest in me and said of course he would want to interview me for the position. Yes!

I meet with this guy Monday. Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From Mindy's Mind

To my vast readership: As you know, I would not normally post anything crass in these august pages. However my precocious young neice Mindy sent this sweet gem my way (via her equally precocious aunt, Bonnie) and I just felt I should share it. The message is subtle and requires a careful reading between the lines for understanding. You can see why I am so proud of my neice:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Molar Number 31

I spent most of the day yesterday and most of the day before in a delirious state brought about by pain killers. Today is my first day since Thursday morning that I am fully lucid.

I have – actually I had – a molar that has given me a lifetime of pain. I estimate I have had no fewer than thirteen dental visits due solely to the maintenance, care and eventual removal of this one tooth. During its history this tooth has; had cavities filled; split down the middle; been adorned with a crown; root canalled through the crown; split down one side of the crown; cracked below the surface and infected; been extracted in itty bitty pieces; re-infected when one itty bitty piece was left behind; and finally been the cause for oral surgery to remove said itty bitty piece.

The dentist who extracted the tooth told me he was leaving behind an itty bitty piece. As it turned out, the piece was not so itty bitty. No wonder the damn thing got infected.

The dentist who botched the extraction practices in California where I happened to be last January and February. My dentist here at home told me this California doc didn’t botch the extraction. He said dentists often have to decide when extracting brittle teeth (which they become as a result of root canals) whether to go for the gold and possibly cause nerve damage or whether to leave well enough alone and hope bone will subsume the pieces left behind. He also told me that he no longer performs extractions for that very reason. He always refers to an oral surgeon, which is what he referred me to, and whom I was under the care of two days ago.

When the California quack (I don’t care how my dentist defends him) incompletely pulled the tooth last January he spent at least an hour pushing, prodding, saying “you may feel a little pressure,” pulling, hammering, and generally making me wish I was in hell for a break. One other thing a dentist’s office lacks, besides surgical expertise, is anesthesiology. You have two choices; local or none. So any extraction comes with you living in constant fear of this buffoon slipping and gashing the inside of your mouth, and it comes with increasing pain in your jaw as you try to open it even wider for the dentist’s pleasure.

The oral surgeon, on the other hand, offers the wonderful bliss of la-la land. You get to go to sleep during the procedure. Going to sleep under the care of an anesthesiologist is one of life’s great pleasures. This is perhaps the fourth time in my life I have had such an experience and I tell you it’s just about the best way to go. First of all a good anesthesiologist practically hypnotizes you to begin with, what with his or her gentle persuasions regarding how comfortable you will shortly be becoming. Then not long after, and this I have found on each occasion, you ask how much longer until you will be asleep, and without fail you are informed that it’s all over and you are waking up. I have never had any sense of some missing time in the interim. Just starting to feel wonderful and then being told you’re done.

Now I know some people don’t like this. Who knows after all what they could have done to you while you were out? They could have given you an anal probe or implanted an alien spore in you. You may have been provided with post hypnotic suggestions to murder your mailman. You might have had a GPS receiver implanted in your abdomen. You ask me; I don’t care. As long as I get to forgo the experience of the surgery I don’t care if they make me confess to Princess Di’s murder.

But too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing. The oral surgeon prescribed some pain killers – three types really: Regular, Extra Strong, and Mild. I had the Regular prescription filled prior to the surgery and that’s what I started on once Bonnie got me home following the slice and dice session. These put me to sleep immediately and I woke up briefly only every few hours just in time to take another pain killer. But that first evening things started getting pretty sore so Bonnie (sweet woman that she is) went and got the Extra Strong prescription filled for me. Those did the job very nicely for me for the next couple of doses.

But now I’m tired of sleeping (sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?). The pain is manageable at this point without anything, or with just a couple of ibuprofen. Should I get the Mild prescription filled? You know, just to have them around? I find painkillers are nice to have in the cabinet for those times you get a bad muscle ache or just can’t sleep or whatever. But I’m not an abuser of scrips and so I probably won’t get this one filled unless I find ibuprofen insufficient for the pain. Because I won’t go back to the pills that make me sleep for now. My back hurts from too much time in bed.

And I really get the feeling this one is a keeper. I think this will truly be the end of dentist office visits for molar number 31. Ta ta.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Twenty-One Grams

I intend to get serious here from time to time, hence three out of the last four posts I have written have been socio-political in their nature. But I am not strictly a political animal. I do like writing merely for the joy of writing.

I started writing this post without any clear idea what I would write about. I still haven't decided. Sit on the couch dear sir and unburden yourself with whatever first occurs to you. Free associate.

We watched a movie tonight called Twenty-One Grams. This two hour gem employed the acting talents of Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benecio Del Toro, as well as others whom I have seen elsewhere but could not name for the life of me.

In the movie, Naomi Watts occasionally snorts a little coke, so Bonnie and I both assumed the name, Twenty-One Grams, referred to her blow. Near the end of the movie - actually during Sean Penn's soliloquy which accompanied both his and the movie's ending - twenty-one grams had its meaning explained. Sean Penn intones that all people are known to lose twenty-one grams at the exact moment of their deaths. He goes on to ask what is gained (a hint at some very murky redemption in a sordid film), but the reference to twenty-one grams of weight loss concurrent with expiration is religious in origin.

I've heard this before though I didn't remember the specific amount of weight that supposedly evaporated post mortem. But according to espousers of this myth, some plethoa of empircal measurements by independent and respected researchers has shown this phenomenon to be universal. What could possibly account for such an odd thing? Oh wait, isn't it obvious? The human soul weighs (now we know!) precisely 21 grams and thus as it fleets off into heaven (or dear god we hope not: into hell) the body is suddenly relieved of this diminutive extra burden.

As in all such assertions by the overtly devout (religious, political, conspiratorial theoretical, you name it), no proof is offered. It's simply well known. I spouted off something I had merely heard and seen written about to my brother the other day, then upon reflection I realized I was claiming as fact something that was only hearsay to me. I followed up and found factual proof which I forwarded to my brother though he had not asked for it. It was important to me that I not parrot things I had heard but did not actually know to be true.

And now I'm asserting that supposed research proving humans lose 21 grams upon their demise is in fact fabricated. I have no proof of the fabrication. I simply assume it. To be fair to myself I am not parroting something I have heard elsewhere. I am simply stating my own opinion. But I am stating it as fact. And that is something I shouldn't do unless I know it to be fact.

I will make a point of researching where this twenty-one gram assertion originates from and I will see if I can actually find one or more of the studies that purport to support it. But unless something really bizarre occurs - like I find several reputable studies supporting this and can confirm the researchers' bonafides - I will only be able to continue to say that it is unproven. I cannot prove it is wrong. This is of course the way it goes with all religious and hocus-pocus assertions. You can say they are unproven but cannot prove them wrong. Hence the millennia long power of the shaman.

Damn, I went and got editorial after all.

Greedy America

I had an appointment yesterday with an oral surgeon to look at what another dentist left behind in my jaw after a difficult extraction. As I was a new patient the first order of business was filling out patient information forms and reading the office policy statements attached thereto. As it turned out, this policy statement was about one thing and only one thing: payment.

In essence, I read, the patient is entirely responsible for payment. The oral surgeon’s office does not have a contract with your insurance company and what your insurance company reimburses you is none of their concern. It’s cash on the barrel my friend. This policy was underscored by a prominent sign on the counter which read something to the effect of:

Payment in full is due at time of service. This office does not carry accounts.

Well that certainly clarified any possible nuances in the policy. The policy also made a big deal about the surgeon being highly trained with the latest techniques; that he provides highly specialized services; that you are paying for elite services and will be charged accordingly.

While I’m sure this declaration of excellence is true – or at least I guess I’ll take their word for it for now (I haven’t had the surgery yet) – it made me feel angry. I realize the juxtaposition to my recent viewing of Sicko underscored my anger, but I think I would have been feeling angry anyway. I wasn’t really angry at the oral surgeon or his office; they have to make enough money to keep the operation (no pun intended) going, and if the surgeon himself lives well I don’t begrudge him that. I even am fairly understanding of their reluctance to deal with insurance companies. Hell we all hate dealing with insurance companies. I’m really fortunate to be married to someone who is good at it.

No, what really makes me mad is that we as Americans are stuck with this system. I mean if you think about it, who better to work with insurance companies than the health providers? After all their businesses work hand in glove. The American public shouldn’t be expected to bear the burden of this complex system. Yet we are and we have so little recourse.

Now add to all that the fact that we will still be out of pocket several hundred for this procedure. I’m talking about after we get reimbursed by our insurer. I think about countries who take their public health seriously and make sure nobody is stuck paying at point of purchase (they pay via taxes, yes, but that is a tiered system – the public health services they receive are not). And the taxes they pay for their services as a whole divided on a per capita basis are lower than the premiums we and our employers pay.

Now take the fact that not one of the Republican presidential candidates is calling for universal health care. And add to that the fact that only one Democrat presidential candidate (Dennis Kucinich) is calling for public universal health care, and I am really mad. Assuming we get a Democrat elected as President (something I am not ready to assume), and assuming that President gets their pet universal healthcare program passed into law (again I’m not going to make that assumption just yet), we will still have insurance companies running the core of this system.

While we would then have a system under which everybody was covered by law, I would have to assume two things would still hold true:

1) Our premiums would continue on their upward spiral.
2) Insurance companies could still capriciously refuse coverage for all the reasons they currently claim.

So this is about corporate greed. I was pondering this greed this morning. I was asking myself how people (after all corporations are run by human beings) could be so greedy that their bottom lines trumped their compassion. It seemed all too insanely corrupt to me. Are these people lacking normal human empathy? Are they so drunk on their wealth that they see the masses as cockroaches?

But then a small light clicked on. Most of America has the same absence of empathy toward the rest of the world. That is the core of our problem.

We consume some 30 percent of the world’s resources, but have lass than 5 percent of the world’s population. Our foreign policies hinge on maintaining the so-called American way of life, as if the way of life for the remaining 95 percent of the world’s citizens is immaterial. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad if we could maintain our way of life without affecting the rest of the world, but in fact we rely on the support – willing or unwilling – of the rest of the world for securing that way of life. We’ve become a pimple on the face of our planet.

And I personally don’t do nearly enough to buck this system. I reap the benefit of cheap goods made in China. I love weekend drives (my car gets pretty good mileage but an un-necessary drive still pumps un-necessary carbon into the atmosphere and still supports the rape of citizens of the Middle East). I heat my home in the winter and cool it in the summer. I keep it fairly cold in the winter – much to the distress of visitors – and use evaporative cooling in the summer, and thus minimize my impact on the environment. But on the other hand I have twice the home I need because we’ve been able to afford it.

Although I make some concessions to green living (and we are starting to make more) I still all-in-all support a system that runs roughshod over my fellow citizens of our planet. I’m not a greedy person per se, but ours is a greedy nation and I am a member of that nation. It’s no wonder American citizens are as much the victims of greed as the world is a victim of America’s greed.

It’s said that change starts at home. I guess if I ever want to see the America I believe in I need to do my part to be an American I believe in.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

China Executes Food and Drug Director

In principle I am against the death penalty. Occasionally, however, I find instances where it does seem appropriate. Normally I feel this way when the crime committed is particularly heinous. Of course one argument against capital punishment is that the wrong person is potentially being put to death, and that can still hold true in the instance of heinous crimes. So I remain against the death penalty in principle.

Never, though, have I felt as much in favor of allowing an exception or two than when I first heard about China's decision to execute Zheng Xiaoyu, head of the State Food and Drug Administration. Now before you go thinking I have some personal axe to grind with Zheng Xiaoyu, let me clarify: I just kind of like the general idea of being able to execute some individuals for particularly heinous "white collar crimes."

I think Ken Lay would have qualified for this. Peculiarly, fate went and intervened on the state's behalf there. Donald Rumsfeld would also be a good candidate. Others in this administration (who shall remain un-named for the purposes of protecting my own ass) might also warrant consideration. Right-wing, white rich men who tend to be so ready to send black men to their deaths might change their tunes really quickly if they saw this coming their way. It might change their minds about gleefully endorsing state execution of black men and it might change their minds about fleecing Americans, about lying to Americans, about deliberately putting Americans in harm's way for their own political and economic gains. It might change their minds about invading sovereign countries unprovoked and tacitly encouraging torture. It might change their minds about summarily dispensing with the protections our Constitution has stood for these past 230 years.

I'm really starting to like the idea of redefining our definition of a capital crime. Or we might just invoke the already standing capital punishment for treason. It wouldn't snare all of these guys, but it would get a few.

More Shed Pics

Just for fun, I've got more renderings of the shed I'll be building. Each of these is a cut-away view.

This is the north side of the shed as seen from the south-west.

This is the south side of the shed as seen from the north-west.

This is the lower four feet or so of the shed as seen from the south-west. The alcove at the lower corner is for the lawn-mower.

Tres chic.

This stuff is really posted for Bonnie - she loves to look at these renderings and drool and plan and of course occasionally suggest changes.

I also have this posted for myself; since I'm nowhere near ready to start building, I spend my time desinging as the next best thing. Also, by the time I start building I actually have a real clear idea how I'm going to go about the project.

I still need to see if I can find used bricks or pavers for the floor, and I would love to find some old barn siding for the exterior walls. Old timbers would be great too. If anyone who reads this has a lead on any of these items, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


I read a good blog today: http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/blog-entry/2007/07/07/sicko-commenting-commentaries.html. The title is Sicko: Commenting on commentaries, by James Clay Fuller. The author provides some anecdotal support for claims and opinions voiced in Michael Moore's movie Sicko.

The forum allows comments and there are many. Most were equally supportive, also replete with anecdotal evidence. Some were less so, or not supportive at all. There was this one gem:

The same "Gubmint" whose failures at the Walter Reed hospital can't take care of its own soldiers surely can't take care of the nation as a whole. Government healthcare does NOT work well in Canada, Britain NOR Cuba, contrary what Michael Moore wants you to believe. Sure, its free. But wait two years to get a simple consultation, and see how "free" it really is, with skyhigh taxes. Canada has waiting lists to get on the waiting lists. People are dying while waiting.

Cuba has a two-tier healthcare system, one for the foreign "paying" customers, and one for the people. Not really that different from America. Go to Cuba and see for yourself. My wife, who is a foreign citizen has been there. She was shocked, because she had always heard Fidel was so great, etc. She saw the poverty that Communism spreads, as it wants everyone to be equal: equally poor, with the exception of a ruling oligarchy controlling the distribution of wealth, concentrating the power in the central government. The tourists to Cuba live like kings, while its people live like dogs, and it is really shocking that they have more rights than the citizens.

That is not to say that alot of these issues Moore points out are not real, they are, and they're terrible. But the "gubmint" is only going to make them worse. I don't want a massive inefficient bureaucracy machine taking care of my needs.

Michael Moore mixes truth and lies. What this is really about, in the end, is power. The Government's ability to exercise power over every aspect of your life, and it is they, the new massive HMO, who decides who lives and dies. That is a dangerous precedent, and sets the stage for the Biblical prophecies to be fulfilled, before the awesome Day of Adonai that is coming soon.

Not being one to shy away from confronting idocy, I replied. My reply was not profound or particularly well written. I only re-post it here for the record:

Ben, you're just spouting off the talking points of the American oligarchy, taking them for truth without bothering to question the facts at all. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you think Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

The bottom line with regard to having a massive bureaucracy running our health care is that I think we would be much better off if complaining about (and working on fixing) such a bureaucracy were that the only problem we had with our health care system. As it is we CURRENTLY have many massive bureaucracies (in the form of HMO's and other insurance carriers) ALREADY making a mess of our health care. And you can talk all you want about how terribly our government handles public services but I don't see any massive problems with the US Mail, or with the US Army, or with the Federal Highway system. Sure you read about waste and other issues in each of these, but it's not as if that characterizes these systems. Where you read the most about inefficiencies is in relation to so-called entitlement program administration. And are we surprised? Social Security, welfare programs, Head Start, and others are always on the chopping block so pork can be funded, and the taxes of the wealthy can be cut. There is no consistent, dependable public trust funding them, and so their staffing ebbs and flows. So let's not be coy about this.

I am sick and tired of the criminals who have taken over this country and who have taken over the minds of the uneducated who in turn dutifully spout out dependable renditions of the latest (and meanest) talking points of the extreme right. If it weren't so tragic and downright frightening, it would be hilarious: Millions of people getting screwed, lauding the efforts of those screwing them - and their children. Wake up Ben. Wake up all you dupes and open your minds.

I'm moving to England as soon as I can. I love America. I love what we are supposed to stand for. But we don't any more. I'm not sure we ever will again. We don't seem to have the will as a people to throw off this yoke. And this yoke is many times worse than King George's ever was. Oddly enough, the British have actually done a better job of throwing off that yoke than we ultimately have. That may not be fair to us. We've been about it longer than have the Brits. Still, I for one want to enjoy the remainder of my life in a country that CURRENTLY embodies the principles ours used to embody.

I signed my name too, but I didn't invite anyone to repent.

Garden Shed

I have a plan to build a garden shed in our back yard for Bonnie. I'd love to build it soon but things are tight right now. I need to get my butt back to work and put some money aside for this project. But I will build it.

My plan is to build it in the Fall of 2008. I could build it a few months earlier, but I hate working under the hot sun and this project is going to take at least two months. So I'll be building Bonnie's garden shed when things are getting hot and heavy over the upcoming elections. It will make for great radio as I work.

I'm going to buy a nail gun for this. I have a brad gun, my first pneumatic tool, and it's a wonder I ever managed to live without one. The darn things are so easy to use and cut jobs into half or even more. The nail gun is going to save my wrist and my elbow and besides that, it will just be plain fun to use. The shed I have in mind is a modification of a plan I found in a wonderful book by David Stiles. Bonnie bought me this book many years ago when I had plans to build a shed in Oregon. That shed never came to be, but this shed will.

The shed is built with posts and beams instead of standard 2x4 framing. The floor will be dry laid brick or pavers. The siding I want to use will be pine or fir board and batten. The roof will be asphalt shingles. Cedar shingles or shakes would be nice, but apart from being pricy, they simply would be too much at odds with our house.

The plans call for a large skylight on what will be the south side of this shed. I'm going to put the skylight (or skylights) on the north side instead to keep the hot direct sun out. Likewise I'm going to put the potting bench on the opposite side from that called for in Mr. Stiles plans.

One of the best things is that we'll have something like a ten foot by twelve foot area between the south side of the shed and the wall by the arroyo that runs south of our property. We're going to make this into a vegetable garden. I'll run plumbing to one of the south corners of the shed so we can have a tap for the garden. I might even pipe into the shed with another tap there (I can build a french drain under the pavers at the tap's location).

I'll write more about this project as I obtain materials (we'd love to find used clay brick for the floor, and I wouldn't mind using old barn siding for my boards and battens). Until then, I'm afraid I'll just have to refine my sketches.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Sobriety Dividend

I come from a family with a long proud historical commitment to the beer, wine and liquor industries. My grandfather on my mother’s side was reported to have told my grandmother, as she commented on his increasing intake of liquor, that in fact his alcohol intake had accelerated because he was now able to afford it. Thus he was able to crow at his fiscal prowess while simultaneously shutting down any dissent.

Many others; siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and even nieces and nephews; have tried valiantly to match my grandfather’s bravado. But none so successfully as myself. I mastered the art and honed it to a fine edge over nearly thirty-five years of alcoholic excellence. I even learned in the past decade to assert my ability to pay as I went (as my grandfather had done two generations before me) as an unchallengeable proof of my right to imbibe. And then when, despite my unimpeachable right to be sloshed, I was called a drunk, I copped to it. Yes, I said, I am a drunk, and I know it and I’m not going to hide it. So there. Stick that in your highball glass and drink it!

I was unassailable.

So why did I finally decide to kibosh the whole perfect scheme? Why, two and a half weeks ago, did I say “no more?” I have a laundry list of reasons; blood pressure, weight control, temper control, liver longevity; the list goes on. I made the decision the morning after a tiff that was not really pleasant. Honestly, it was pretty damn tame compared to what I used to get into, but as I age I find I’d rather not get into them at all. And Bonnie is always sore for a few days after even the smallest of these arguments and I want my baby’s love. That’s why (having scoured the house for any remaining booze and finding – and dispatching – just a half sip of gin and nothing more), I finally said “I guess it’s finally time.”

Of course staying off the sauce is the long-term challenge. I quit smoking nine months ago and that was really tough to do. That was a thirty-four year habit. And really, smoking is not a habit. It’s a nasty dirty shitty addiction. But I really quit this time. So I know I have the moral fiber or visceral wherewithal, or whatever it is, needed to succeed. So I’m just gonna do it. Plain and simple. No. More. Booze. For. Yar. Period.

The payoffs are all the things I listed above (you know – blood pressure, weight control, etc). But the payoff I hadn’t even considered when I made my fateful decision is the best of all. A rough estimate of the money I spent on getting shit-faced is $2,500 a year. When I mentioned this to Bonnie, she and I both had the same idea simultaneously. This is my sobriety dividend. This is money in the bank. This is a nice little vacation, or part of a great vacation. And since we both benefit from my quitting, it seems only fair that we both contribute equally to the little cash cache. Now that’s $5,000 a year and now we’re talking trips to Europe.

And now I just have to figure out how to order tonic water and ice in an English pub without crying.

Cuts Like a Knife

I celebrated my 25th anniversary two days ago. No, make that three days; it's after 1 a.m. as I write this. We decided to get married on July 3rd because it occurred halfway between Bonnie's times of the month that season. Only when friends started complaining about us messing up their holiday plans did we realize we had picked the day before the 4th of July.


The 25th anniversary is supposed to be the Silver anniversary. Since a quarter of a century really is quite a milestone, I considered buying something silver for Bonnie to commemorate this day. But then I didn't buy her paper on our paper anniversary (that's the first one if I remember right). I don't remember what I did buy her, but it certainly wasn't paper.

There are all sorts of other materials specific to the special year you and your honey are celebrating having been together. I don't remember what the other materials are. Just paper and silver. I think gold is eventually accounted for sometime during your years of dwindling strength. Some nosy busybody developed this list. It was probably a jewelry store. Well, actually it was more likely some store like Macy's or Gimble's. They sell/sold jewelry. But I believe they also sold stationary - which is assuredly what was intended for the paper anniversary. They also sell or sold leather (I'll bet one of those special years is named for leather), glass and crystal, and china. Yep, I'd say Macy's or Gimble's is a good bet for the authors of that lovely little tradition.

But really neither Bonnie nor I are very traditional. So I bought her some very lovely gold (yellow, not white) earrings with deep blue-green opals inset. She loves them. I knew she would.

Bonnie bought me knives. Now when you think wedding anniversary, and most especially when you think landmark wedding anniversary, you naturally think knives. Don't you?

Let me clarify. These are no ordinary Ginsu knives. These are made by Kai in Japan. They are virtual Samurai Swords of the culinary world. They are exotic looking with sinuous lines in both handle and blade and their bite is much better than their bark. I've never cut with such a sharp blade in my life. Ripe tomatoes melt at their touch. Whole onions dice fine in about ten strokes. We had in-laws over last night and I made fajitas because it was the meal with the highest number of things needing to be cut to little pieces that I could think of. I was in an ecstasy of chopping and slicing and dicing and mincing.

And I am a pro - I never drew blood. Bonnie draws blood just looking at knives. She's promised not to touch these, but I know she will as soon as my back is turned. And there will be blood drawn then. She'll drip crimson into the vegetables or meat or sandwich she's cutting at the moment. She'll throw away the contaminated food and clean up the knife and cutting board and hope I don't notice her bandaged wound. And then she really will shy away from my blades for a while. Until she gets brave and reckless again.

I got two knives that belong to a set of nine. I also got the knife block that holds all nine of them - a beautiful bamboo block that sits proudly next to my old Hinkle block. The two blades sit in their slots to the left side of the block with the other slots empty. I'll fill them. One by one, or occasionally two at a time, I'll fill those empty slots. I'll create more temptations for Bonnie.

I love my knives. Come over for dinner and I'll slice something up for you.