The Day After

Day after Christmas, time to reflect on what was what.  Exciting place for us, all the grandkids under foot and the family unit (such as it is) back in place for a short span of time.  With each year, the meaning of, and the feeling of the holidays change somewhat.  As one year comes to a close, a new year begins, and often, you cannot help but to be a little bit sad.

Sitting in my easy chair, I watch the parade of my life from the curb and clap as it rolls by.  I watch the Ford commercials on television and smile to myself.  Mike Rowe has a better idea.   These new Ford commercials they are running with the Dirty Jobs guy kind of crack me up.  Dirty Jobs on the Discover Channel profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable — yet vital — ways.  Our brave host and apprentice Mike Rowe (currently looking for dead fossils in Utah when he is not pimping off half-tons on TV at the Mall) leads us through this process.  On any given day, you will find Mike on the Ford Commercials on just about every television channel you might find.

Doing his level best to pointing out sublime cool neat accoutrements such as cigarette ashtrays and Big Gulper cup holders.

I often get a kick out of these commercials, glued, no riveted to the screen, I watch as Mike goes to the mall and talks about the new Ford automobiles and trucks (Funny but I never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine going to the mall to find a good deal on a truck … what was I thinking?).  With grace and seemingly no work at all, he hawks their apparent advantages to the cost-conscious car buying public.  Tonight he was pushing a Ford pickup on this unsuspecting American pickup buyer and after the spleel, the guy looks at Mike and says …. “Wow!  Where do I get one of these?”

Yes, I know.  Incredible.

(Uh try Big Lots Bucko, they might have one or two models on sale that were left over from Christmas)

Noticing the lights are coming on for the holidays, but it is still daylight, I guess I will have to reset the timer.  After the 21st of the month (first day of winter) the days naturally start to get even longer, such is the case here now.  It cannot be all that far off now, where American Idol will once again be a staple of our viewing fare and our days are spent in the shop sharpening the lawnmower blades in anticipation of spring.

My mind can now reflect on the Christmas that was and work on my new list for next year or other important things.

But there is good news, having stopped the ridiculous snow machine on my webpage and the days being longer, leaves me more time to find and point out the ludicrous things that happen on a daily basis, this process we call … Life.  Things like spending $400 on a battery powered dump truck, extra batteries, a battery charger, wrapping it all up and presenting it to a four year old.

Only to watch him spend the rest of the entire day playing with the box that it came in.

Stuff like that.

2011 has been an eclectic mix of this and that, and like most everyone else, I am not sad to see it leave.  I am in fact, looking ahead with great anticipation to 2012 which is incidentally the last year on the Mayan Calendar.  I am hearing a lot of grousing about “it being finally over” so I feel that I am not alone in my outlook for a New Year.  A fresh beginning, I have always been a sucker for something new.

That is today’s post … a dirty job … but someone has to do it.

yuk-yuk … (Okie Humor)

OOO

Armed and Dangerous

I have a friend, Rita she is great, but she is kind of a feminist in her nature.  If you see a woman driving a dump truck for instance (not a common everyday sort of occurrence) and you make casual mention of it, my friend, will launch into this song and dance routine she has … “Anything YOU can do, WE can do better … naner, naner, naner” and so on.

Sometimes spending quality time with an extroverted feminist is not an easy thing to do.

Which brings me to Victoria Cowie who will almost always be the smartest person in the room,  She is an 11 year old from England, who they say was extraordinarily bright from an early age, starting out by reading elementary school books as a toddler.  Recently she shocked everyone when she scored 162 on an IQ test.

This number surpasses such notables such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking.

Incidentally, I took a IQ test once, confident I was a lot smarter than I actually was, I quickly found out I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Freely I admit, this set me back a little bit, but I eventually got over it.  (No, I will not give you the number)

Back to Victoria I digress.

She said that it was quite daunting to be compared to great minds, but it feels good also to be thought of as that clever.  She says that she really enjoys science and doing experiments, loves acting and dancing and playing musical instruments.  She does theater workshops and loads of sports, really likes swimming.  She aspires to be a vet when she gets older because of her love of animals and she readily admits that she is not afraid of blood.

All that and she is only 11 years old.  When I was 11 it was a major undertaking by BOTH of my parents just to get me to clean up my room.

What else do I have for all of you this morning?  Oh yeah, I liked this one.  Another winner gone bad.  Bad week for former Survivor winner Richard Hatch who turned himself in to federal marshals this week to begin serving a 9 month prison sentence for failing to pay taxes on the $1 million he won on the reality show.

Hatch, has already spent three years behind bars for tax evasion, and is said to currently owe the IRS some $2 million in back taxes.  Now that would be kind of bad, go to prison as an avowed homosexual and have a name like Dick Hatch.

That is kind of scary.

Right where they want you.  You ever wonder why U.S. Corporations are not hiring?  Actually, many of them are.  They’re just not hiring Americans.  In the two years after the Wall Street meltdown triggered the Great Recession, large American corporations slashed payrolls by a net 500,000.  At the same time, they hired 729,000 workers overseas.  As globalization transforms the world economy, in fact, many U.S. companies are shifting the balance of their workforces overseas.

Ford for example reported in 1992 that 53% of its employees worked in the U.S. and Canada.  By 2009, it North American workforce made up only 37% after expanding to Mexico.  There is no such thing as job security in this country now.  We keep buying their cheap crap made oversea’s and they keep taking our jobs.  The old shooting yourself in the foot strategy is now being applied.  Things are no longer peachy and keen in the Heartland.

On top of all this, when you are replaced, the American company brings in the new foreign new-hires and expects YOU to train them (your replacements) and if you do not, they withhold your severance payments.  Is this a great country or what?  Now tell me again, how it is, that you believe Unions are no longer viable in this country.

Here is why it works.

Moving the jobs oversea’s not only saves on labor costs, which are noticibly down, but it also allows American companies to skirt envioromental issues, safety and health concerns.  When Pablo cracks open a old car battery he dumps it straight on the ground, he doesn’t wear a mask, and gloves are an option, if he can afford them.  Same with the poor sap in Indonesia or Jakarta.  They take it in the shorts, and Wall Street gets richer, meanwhile the rest of you are stuck at home delivering pizza to each other.

(Guess who used to write a Union paper before he did this?)

Who let the dogs out?  Charlie Sheen doesn’t have the market covered when it comes to weird or funny.  An Oregon woman called 911 to report an intruder hiding in her bathroom, just as the intruder was calling 911 to report his concerns that the homeowner might be armed.  On 911 tapes released by police the intruder admits breaking into the home and tells the dispatcher the owner behind the bathroom door might have a gun.

He is also heard to say that the owner told him she had two German shepherds.  Later, the homeowner can be heard warning the intruder that she’s about to call the police, to which the intruder yells back, “I’ve already called them.  They’re on the phone right now!”

Now that is funny … I don’t care where you live.  Often real life is better than the sitcom.  See you on Friday, hang in there, you almost have it made.

OOO

Obama’s first 100 – Adding it all up

voter

End of the month, here is another one we can stuff into the bag, and put it away for all time.

Haven’t been up on the old soapbox here lately, so today I am going to take a stab at it.  I have done rather well the last sixty days avoiding political issues and what-knot, but today I feel it in my bones to mention a few items of interest I have observed here of late.

Lot of talk about Obama’s first 100 days in office and to the average Joe, it appears that he might be the most polarizing president this country has ever seen.  The big rumble around here is a proposed tax on the miles that we drive, which should not come as any big surprise, we talked about that last year.

Once again, we prove ourselves to be just a tad bit ahead of the curve on things in general.

As more and more states find themselves cash strapped for gasoline income that is no longer there, they will come up with creative ways to soak the taxpayer even more, this is surely just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  It is also why we are seriously considering a Ford Hybrid and 41 miles per gallon, not so much to help out the folks at Ford, but to cut us a little slack on some of this high priced fuel.  Right now 700 miles on one tank is starting to look pretty good.

Best get ready boys n girls, the fed’s and the state are coming for you with their endless half-full bucket and they are going to ask you to fill it but one more time.

If you don’t believe that, then consider this.  When federal income tax was first established, in 1913, the tax code was a mere 400 pages.  Today the tax code is 70,320 pages and it is rumored that there is but a “handful of people in Washington” that can actually read it and comprehend its meaning.  This is one thing the government is very proficient at, and that is getting into your pocket.

It is now being reported that the federal budget deficit rose to a record $957 billion in the first six months of fiscal 2009.  Which is kind of funny, because we are just starting the “5th” month tomorrow, so how do they know it rose this much in five months and not what they are reporting (six).

March government outlays increased 41% to $321 billion from the previous year (March 2008).  While at the same time revenue fell 28% to about $129 billion.  So as you can plainly see, both the fed’s and the states are cash strapped, and who do you suppose they are going to tap to find a solution to the shortfall.

If there is a (new) way to gouge you, they will find it.  We seem to think in generalities, whereas they seem to deal in detail.

The only people that seem to do good at all this are the lobbyists.  They spent something like $3 billion last year in Washington DC and they got their money’s worth.  A University of Kansas study just released reports that a single corporate tax break in 2004 enabled 800 companies to save a total of $100 billion dollars.  I put back about $1300 but my tax liabilities were considerably higher, and that was without a bail out.

Just depends on how you look at it I guess.  Things could be worse, things could be better.

On the upside, it is rumored that Starbucks is putting out a new blend of “Deepresso Coffee” for those days that are so hard to get thru.  The Dallas Cowboys are building a new stadium, a $1 billion plus, 3 million square foot undertaking that will include 80,000 seats, two 180 foot long High Def Video screens, and the largest retractable roof ever constructed.

It is truly …. The worst of times … and the best of times in the USA.

For those who have everything, the economic downturn has some searching for “a greener and cheaper alternative to the dreaded McMansion prospective.”  You can now live in a smaller, much smaller house.  There is a new home on the market called the XS-House, a ready made 65-square foot, yes I said “65 sq ft” home.  It is being offered by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and it makes a diminutive domicile of all sorts and it is also the smallest model that they currently offer.

Price?  Just $37,000 and some change, can we build one for you?

We are such a diverse culture aren’t we, we celebrate Obama’s first 100 days in office, and are asked at the same time to critique his performance on the local news, which is like saying to the viewer, “let us pool our ignorance on this subject” and then make a pronouncement of this man’s abilities.

How sick is that.

I understand that scientists have now locked up six volunteers in a mock spacecraft for a 105-day stay, to see if they can manage not to kill one another.  Now we have a new standard for stupidity.  For an even tougher test, please identify three people you personally know who would truly push human tolerance and endurance to the limit if locked up together for 105 days.

How about your mother-in-law, the checkout girl at Lowe’s, maybe a credit card rep.

(Yeah I know, don’t write me any letters)

So for all you stalworth champions who have managed to hang in there this long, here is the point.  We fritter away our time on the frivolities of life, and virtually ignore the important issues.  Meanwhile  that wonderful gang of thugs, The Taliban and other Afghan extremists attack 256 schools in that country (during the past year) for the “crime” of teaching girls, killing 58 children and teachers.

Where is the “democracy in that” if it is there, I fail to see it.

We sit back and try to gauge the competence of our leadership, while we inspect every stock-jobbing swindle, pass on the Ponzi schemes, and wonder if the crash is really going to come?  Everyone hopes and prays that if it does, that it will land on the head of our neighbor, but not before we reap the profit from the financial storm and get caught in the shower of gold.

So much for April, another old tired soldier put to bed.

I believe I will go outside, sit on the porch, seriously ponder or study the size and weight of a cloud, and do my best to forget about this past 100 days.  For the most part, I feel that Obama is doing the best he can with what he has to deal with, and this is after all, going to be a long row to hoe, it isn’t going to get solved in 100 days for cryin’ out loud. That my friends is called a reality of life.

I am going to do my best to file it in the back part of my mind and not worry about it.

This of course comes under the heading of the “best laid plans, hopes and schemes of man” a plan that seldom actually works.  No matter what picture or landscape I try to paint, they always come back to haunt me.  I am sure they will be on every channel tonight or soon to remind me.

They are never far away, so much for day #1 of the second 100 days.

OOO

Cartoon courtesy of Think Progress Online.

Fuelish Moves

Fly By NiteToday was one of those rare, picture perfect Oklahoma Days, where you can sit on the porch and hear yourself think.  All the dogs are laid down and nappin’, no meter readers sneaking thru the yards, the police helicopter is in the stall at the downtown airpark, and I have peace of mind.

Sitting there in my very best George Bush Lied T-Shirt, sucking on a cup of good Columbian Coffee from China Mart and thinking about how sweet life seems to be. 

Then my neighbor Donna walks up and out of nowhere and announces, “You are going to have to take that camper off your truck, and get rid of that wind thingy on the roof.”  (It is an air deflector, but you have to remember, we are Okies, and a lot of the time, we just don’t know any better) Not being a big fan or a charter member of the “we are running out of oil doggy and pony show” that currently is showing all around the country, I said to her, “Why?”

And then she proceeded to tell me about how the world as we know it is just about flat out of everything known to modern man, that we will all perish in some cataclysmic event, and much like the dinosaurs of late, disappear from the face of the earth.  That the rays of the sun will turn our well tanned bodies into tomorrows’ old wrinkled prunes, and that we will in the end be worm food for some wide-eyed half-crazed environmentalist from the Sierra Club … or the San Francisco Bay Area …. Or something like that?

It never ends for me.

Just when it gets better, and I believe I am round the corner, here they come!  Someone, somewhere, opens a gate, and they all stampede to my house, foaming at the mouth.  Her solution to the dilemma was for me to either strip my vehicle to bare bones or buy a new car.  Weird science, but like I said, “we are Okies, and a lot of the time, we just don’t know any better.” (I can just hear all those folks over there in Arkansas at the Retirement Home snickering on that one.)

If you want to subscribe to the new car, I can beat the oil companies and GM/Ford at their own monthly installment game plan, go right ahead. 

Personally I am not all that hopped up to spend a couple of thousand to save a few hundred.  It is just outright insanity.  They are building better cars these days, I will give them that.  But they can do a lot better than what they are doing now.  Until then, it is just kick back, take your time, drive slower and do your level best to slow down.

In 2004, I caught car fever; I just had to have me a new silver hoopie, fully loaded with all the bells and whistles as they say. I knew all the negative consequences with financing and purchasing a new car, but I found a way to justify the purchase in my mind. Only two years later, my $34,000 vehicle was worth about $17,800, according to “The Blue Book.”  Next to nothing, according to the “Finance Specialist at the dealer.”  It was the worst depreciated asset I ever bought, and to this day, I regret it.

That’s a $16,200 loss in value over a two-year period. That’s like driving down the street and throwing $169 out of the window each and every week.  And now, with fuel benchmarked where it is, and my 13.4 mpg, I would virtually “have to pay them” to take it off my hands, it is that bad. 

New cars lose up to 70 percent of their value in the first four years. Depending on how many miles you drive per year and the physical wear and tear, it could be more. Lottery Winners drive brand new cars.  Self-made millionaires drive slightly used, paid-for cars (2 years old). They don’t believe in car payments.

I’m not talking entertainers, athletes or CEOs. I’m talking about common, everyday working people, who might be your next-door neighbor. They became millionaires by investing every month what the typical American pays in car notes. I tend to ask people I run into with new cars, what their payment might be, if they don’t mind? 

Most of the time the answer is over $500 per month.

Doing a little researching today I discovered that the average car payment is $378 over 63 months.  Let’s say that you invested $378 every month, instead of making car payments from age 30 to age 65 (35 years). If you average a rate of return of 12 percent (which is doable), your money will grow to $2.4 million.

Do you still want the car?    

Much as it breaks my heart to disappoint my well intentioned neighbor, I am keeping my old hoopie.  I am hanging onto my old family truckster, it has all the bells and the whistles, an Okie Box to sleep in, four new tires and I can buy truck loads of fuel with the $500 a month (and don’t forget insurance on a NEW car).  I am not shelling out what little cash I have to the boys at Ford and GM, or some Sand Pirate in the Persian Gulf.

I am gonna sit right here, drink my coffee and bleed a little more …

 

000