Saturday, July 2, 2011

A truck burns

While some people with a beloved object give it name, I never named my truck. Guys name their penis or families refer to the mini-van by an affectionate name. I liked my truck though it had no name.

When the freaking stalker drove long flat head nails in each tire, one after another at week intervals; I took it to the Goodyear store and got the tires fixed.  When a man exiting an ally against the light slammed into the passenger side fender and door, I sat and talked to him and his wife, waiting for the police. I was on my way to work and he on his way to his first chemotherapy appointment. I got the truck fixed as good as new. I learned the man's name of course, but I never looked for it in the obituaries.  When someone slammed into the back, pushing me into the back oa car stopped at a red light, I got the truck fixed as good as new.
This was the first and only new automobile I ever owned. I had been working a late night job at a call center, bored and reading Life magazine in 1995 when I saw the Dodge Ram pick-up. It was red and shiny and such a cool looking thing. I thought I'd buy it in a minute if I had the money.

That Memorial Day I went to the Dodge dealer and found one just like the picture. A salesman came over and offered me a chance to drive it. I got in the driver's side and him the passenger side. We buckled up and while driving around he begins his sales pitch. He tells me that it's not unusual for a woman to want this truck. Dodge was aware that women wanted trucks and had spent millions designing it for women. That's why it had plush cloth seats, nice carpet, electric windows and locks, power steering, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with a cassette tape player. The center consol gave you a space for extra tapes or make-up, gloves, sun glasses, whatever a woman liked to keep in her truck. Why they even had a mirror on the back side of the visor.

I'm behind the wheel and pull down the visor and on that side, no mirror. I look at him and say, "Dodge must think women are buying these trucks for their boyfriends as they obviously don't think women who drive them need a make-up mirror."

He got a little flustered and pointed out that on the ceiling between the two sides, just above the top of the windshield was a digital read out of the outside temperature and a directional compass. "Here's a compass that lets you tell which direction you're driving." I didn't tell him what I was thinking but I figured I could wait to buy the truck.

Labor Day week end a few months later, I went back and saw the perfect new truck. It was a new 1996 model and a salesman came out to talk it over. It was a different salesman. He was younger than me and asked me if I would like to test drive it. I said no let's talk about me buying it. An hour later I was driving home in the truck.

By the way the soon to be stalker boyfriend was with me and he thought I should pay what they asked for it. I bought it for $3000 less with my trade in.

A few days later I got a bed liner put in and a custom lid put on the bed. After I met Reggie he bought me a bumper sticker "Real Women Drive Trucks" and the next year at the State Fair he bought me "Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History." Oh wow that truck was a cherry.

In 2001 after 9/11 I put an American Flag on the cab back window and not too long after that the thermometer and directional read out stopped. When the radio died in 2003 Reggie got me a new one with a CD player for Christmas and put it in that next spring.

I drove that truck everywhere and used it for work to tote things here and there as needed. In all that time until now I less than 57,000 miles. The engine ran good. The seat hit my lower back in exactly the right spot. I could have slept in that cab.

All that came to an end a week ago Tuesday when the truck caught on fire and burned.

I was going to move it so we could load the back. I got in and turned the key to lower the driver side window as it wasn't hot yet. The CD player came on and I turned the key to start it. Nothing happened. No engine coming on, no grinding, no ooga ooga noise. So I turned the key off and pressed down on the gas peddle once then tried again. The engine still didn't start but I heard a pop to the right of the engine and then there was smoke and immediately flame.

I had a quilt in the truck bed and thought I might be able to smother the flames, so I popped the hood open and walked to the back. By the time I got the lid open the flames had migrated to the other side and was high above the front of the truck. I went inside and immediately called 911. When I told the operator the vehicle on fire was less than three feet form the building the fire engine was there in about five minutes.
I stood inside and watched as they poured water from hoses on the truck and front of the building for about ten minutes.

When they left all that was left was the back end from the cab window to the tail gate. The inside of the engine, cab, doors, dashboard, seats, everything was burned and melted.

I had canceled collision on the truck five years ago. When I called the insurance company I did so to cancel coverage on the truck since I sure wouldn’t be driving it. I discovered I had comprehensive coverage. I guess this is good news but there is a pile of paperwork and I'm waiting for a duplicate title since the original got burned up! Did you know you should keep your title in a separate place than your registration? Chalk that up to learning new things every day of my life!

This seems like such a small thing compared to sickness and death, war and famine but I have been sad about this since.

I looked into a new Ram. I don't like the grille on new ones. I looked into buying a used one with the same grille. All used '90's Ram trucks have from three to five times the mileage of mine. So these days I'm driving an even older car and it's just fine. I'm looking for an American made high MPG car. I like the Volt but it's too expensive. I'll start saving money. Maybe I can wait out the market and in five years there will be a 40+ mpg electric American made car for less than twenty thousand dollars.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Child's memory and child's play.

I watched the end of the news tonight about a camp set up for children whose fathers or mothers had died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Featured was a seven year old girl confronting life after her father was killed. The camp was created after a forty plus year old woman produced a documentary film about children whose parents were killed in the wars. She became fatherless herself six hours after birth when her father was killed in Vietnam. His death was a fact of her life though she did not know him at all. There was no deep discussion with her mother and of course no counseling in childhood.

My father died after a year in the Louisville VA Hospital. He died of cancer and my strongest memories of him were the visits we made there most Sundays. Mom drove the forty miles from home and my sister and I went along. Sometimes Mom went without us, but usually we were there too. Our job was to be quiet and sit in the waiting room until she returned from visiting and drove home. We got to go to Daddy's room for a few minutes and if he felt well enough we got a hug.

On Wednesday night shortly before midnight March 31, 1959 the phone rang. I was in bed with my grandmother sleeping but when she moved to get up I woke up. The light went on in my mother's bedroom next door where the phone was. She answered and spoke though I could not understand her words. When she hung up the receiver she came to the open door between the two rooms and stood framed by the light behind her speaking to grandmother. She said, "That was the hospital. He died." Grandmother went into the next room. She closed the door behind her and I lay there under the covers until she returned. She left the door open and got in bed. I pretended to be asleep.

Sometime during the night I heard mom crying in her room next door. I don't think grandmother went back to sleep either.

The following days were full of all the chaos of the funeral, visitors and that long ride in the back of our car to the cemetery in Kentucky.

The girl in tonight's broadcast story said she was concerned that she would not remember her dad. I would have liked to tell her she would always remember but I know people are not alike. Still, she had met him and had distinct memories. I was eight the day after Daddy died. I remember many things about him but not a lot before he got sick.

The thing most mentioned about this camp for kids of fathers and mothers who died in the wars, is they are able to share their thoughts with kids who have similar experience. I was the only kid in my classes all through school whose father had died. There were fathers who had left and divorced but no deaths. At my house we didn't talk about it. I never heard her talk about Daddy. I do remember her standing at the sink in the kitchen washing dishes crying.

I think this effort to help the kids is important. The survivor of her dad's death remembers her feelings from loosing her father in a war forty years ago. We are in another set of wars today and have been there for over a decade so there are more kids whose mom or dad died.

I question why this compounding grief from generation to generation does not stop our lust to go to war.
Monday evening this week in Louisville Kentucky a group of 11-13 year old kids were out playing in their neighborhood. They were running up to the door of a house, ringing the door bell and then running away on to the next house. It was a pleasant cool late spring evening in a nice neighborhood with pretty homes on city lots with yards. The area does not have drug crime and you don't often see an address listed in the newspaper crime reports.

According to the home owner, they went to his door. The fifty-six year old man whose name is Michael Bishop came out of his door and aimed a loaded shotgun at the kids running away. Twelve year old Jacob Eberle was struck in the back with buck shot and taken to the hospital with both lungs collapsed. He remains in the hospital tonight. He has told the police that the kids were walking up to the door and when they saw the man with a shotgun, they turned and ran. Whether they had rang the bell or not, this is something they were doing in the neighborhood on that spring evening.

Mr. Bishop has hired a good lawyer or two. He was arrested that night and released the next day on a $10,000 cash bond. Today he was arraigned and his attorneys say that night he was awakened from a deep sleep thinking someone was breaking into his house. The judge ordered all guns to be removed from his home and to have no contact with the Jacob or his family. He is due back in court the first of July.

Jacob's family has filed suit against Mr. Bishop for medical costs and other unspecified expenses.

Some of you may recall an incident on the other side of the city last October. I wrote about it here:

There is a Kentucky Law passed in recent years that says a person in their home feeling threatened can kill someone meaning them harm. This has pretty much been how it is forever, but the Legislature felt it needed to further underscore this with a law. So today I can keep a gun loaded and in my home for protection. Unfortunately unlike Mr. Bishop a lot of gun owners share the house with their kids, spouse and friends. Often they become victims of the gun.

The thing is there is a huge difference between a rock and a gun.

There is a huge difference between a kid ringing a door bell and a gun.

The reality is when you have that gun in your home it's more frequently the only solution you can think of to solve a problem that if you didn't have the gun so handy, you'd solve another way and all involved could be home in their beds that night.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Big deals and small claims.

Big disputes arise in most everyone's life. When I say big, I mean big to the individual. I've been lucky but that may be because I don't enjoy fights.

When starting the business I thought the best way to stay out of court was to do a good job for a client and charge them a fair amount.  Simplistic isn't it?

In business of over 32 years there were only two clients who did not pay us.
One was a white cloth restaurant which had been in business into the third generation. They contracted with us for a job that was billed at $383.42. The bill remained unpaid after two months and I called to ask payables when it would be paid. We had not required prepayment as we had worked for one of the owners personally several times. The payables clerk told us they had not asked us to do the work and even though I sent a receipt for its acceptance, refused to pay. We discussed taking them to small claims but didn't as we knew we could make more than the total in the half day it would take for one of us to go downtown and present the case.

The restaurant went out of business three years later. This was after it had been sold to one of their former employees. That person owned it for less than a year before they went bankrupt.

The original owners had opened a second restaurant and because they had stiffed us on the first job we told them we would not take on more work for the new place. A friend in the printing business did all their printing and when the second restaurant went bankrupt they lost over $5,000. So by not collecting and thereby being asked to take on new work, we were blessed.

The second deadbeat was another restaurant, though they were really a seafood market that happened to also serve sandwiches. They had been in business five years and we did a small job that billed out at $183.98. The work was to set up a mailing list from hand written contest entry slips.

Within a month they went bankrupt. The owners went on a vacation for a couple of months. They then re-opened under a slightly different name in the same location. When asked about the money they owed us we were told "No that was the old business. This is an entirely different business." Of course having a well organized list to use in promotion helped the new business.

If you had gone into the new place the signage was the same, the food sold was the same and all the employees were the same.

This business closed this past week end. I will be on the look out for another reincarnation.

I was told after the first deadbeat game I should require all my clients to sign a contract. I never took the advice.  I saw that as a penalty to all the hundreds of good people we worked with. If I had a feeling they were rats I started requesting payment in advance.  It's amazing how that requirement kept us from working for nothing.
This subject of dead beats and small claims was prompted by a story in the New York Times about small claims courts cutting back evening hours because of budget constraints. Now instead of waiting a month and a half for a court date, it will be five months.

Have you ever had a small claim that you took to court? If you have, did you get justice?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Civility and approaching storms.

Living in what I think of as Middle America, you learn to expect violent storms when the air heats up in spring or summer. This year the skies seem to be intent on keeping us on the edge of panic. Again last night we Louisville KY residents were "up all night" but not for any purpose of pleasure.

About noon the weather heads had put a crawl on the bottom of the screen announcing a long list of southern Indiana and north central Kentucky counties under a thunderstorm warming. This soon moved to a tornado watch. At 6 p.m. that changed and live meteorologists in front of those brilliant maps, tracking a line of storms 300 miles west of us, stretching 100 miles north to 80 miles south. The entire half hour of the local news was pre-empted and we got to see 10 minutes of national news after commercials. Then there were a few minutes of the two game shows and the remainder of the evening it was a non-stop rotation of five meteorologists reporting the storm.
I fixed supper, watched a cable show, talked to a couple friends on the phone and about 10 minutes before the predicted hit, turned off the computer, dug out my flashlight and sat on the top step watching the storm. First there was wind, then lightening, then thunder then rain so hard I could see only lights across the street. In ten minutes all that remained was rain.

I'm glad it worked out this way. The destruction in the south and near west is almost unbelievable this spring. From reports having a warning of approaching storms helps. Paying attention to the warnings and doing what you can is not enough.

The three broadcast stations each have full blown news organizations and their commercials year round remind us of the piles of money they have spent to buy the latest technology to keep us informed. After a day and night of repetitive minutia weather reporting, it seems less worthwhile to me. Do I in a big city need to know when a storm is going to pass over Leota Indiana? Do I need to know when it will pass Deputy or Memphis or through the bottoms of Brownstown? Who in those little towns sees this reporting? The place this reporting would be valuable is the radio. After all we are supposed to be hunkered down with our battery operated weather radios anyway. To the people sitting somewhere watching TV it's not necessary.
Consideration of others is a kind thing. I believe people who are considerate witness to everyone.

As was recently reported a woman got on an Amtrak train in Oakland for a sixteen hour trip. She talked loudly on her cell thereafter. Efforts by her fellow passengers and the train conductor had no impact, she continued to loudly talk. The train was stopped between stations in Salem Oregon and the local police arrested her for being an unruly passenger. A witty commenter on wrote, "She was later charged with unspeakable crimes against humanity and sentenced to live on some distant planet where there are no reception bars, ever."

That last part is a joke though popular correctness does often over react.

Wouldn't it be lovely if all similar incidents were so well addressed?

Being a voyeur, I enjoy listening to one side of conversations in public. The hardest part is pretending I'm not listening but when a guy is apologizing to his wife, girlfriend, fuck buddy for having done some unspeakable thing, I only wish there was video. That would be a reality show worth my time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Honoring dishonorable deeds for regression and the rapture.

It was announced this week in the local paper that a group of people from Sons of Confederate Veterans want Kentucky to approve a specialty license plate bearing the image of the Confederate flag. The effort is stalled and there may be law suits on both sides.

The plates would raise money for the Tennessee based organization. Their goal is to promote pride in Confederate history. This specialty plate is available already in nine southern states and 15,000 people have already put them on their cars.  As to the heritage of the Confederacy I wonder if they know what it is.  From history it was enslavement of humans brought over to America from their ancestral homes to work for free.  There's also the fact that they sold those same people like you'd sell a thing and this included the children of their slaves.  The rapes, beatings, murders, are also shameful.  Wanting to honor these horrors seems insane.
My experience with the Confederacy is from listening to my maternal grandmother speak about it. She was born in 1882 the oldest of fourteen children. Her father and mother remembered the war. As far as I know our family did not fight for the south. Our family on both sides were from a northern Kentucky county and ancestors moved there before Kentucky was a state.

I was born in 1951 so when things were lighting up in the '60's I would sit with my grandmother and watch the news seeing cities burning with race riots and police trying to deter peaceful demonstrations with water hoses and dogs. Grandmother would say, "I don't understand what those people want. They have the vote and they have public schools, why do they want ours?"

The county I grew up in was in southern Indiana within an hour's distance from Louisville. There were no blacks or Hispanic people living in the county. People bragged how there once was a sign posted at each road into the county about not staying over night if you weren't white. I never saw these signs but I have no doubt they existed.

When I was older gong to school in town my sister had a part time job after school and I walked to the town library to wait the few hours until she got off work and picked me up. The library was a Carnage Library and I would find a chair at a table behind the shelves and explore. I read encyclopedias. I read Ian Fleming novels. I read history. I read newspapers from Chicago and New York. I read Life and Time magazines. Opening those books and newspapers opened the world to me.

My attitude about people who were of a different religion or different color or home country was that really we were the same, human. I talked to my grandmother about this. I did not talk to my teachers or other kids at school. The Civil War and the then current fight for civil rights were covered in my classes as history. There was no overt sympathy for the south or the Confederacy. We learned to recite the Gettysburg Address.

I remember telling my grandmother that it seemed to me there couldn't be real peace among Americans of different kinds until we all had brown skin. She was shocked and wanted to know where I got such strange opinions. I told her the problem was I learned to read so I discovered how to think.

Now here we are one hundred fifty years since the Civil War and people who are hanging on to their white history want us to regress to make their flag an emblem on American license plates. If they want to put the Confederate flag on their cars they can paint them, use a bumper sticker or put a flag plate on the front. But a state issued license plate like that should not be sold.

This all started with license plates allowing you to personalize your plate with a quote or name and paying extra for it. I won't buy special plates because I'm too cheap. I'll buy whichever color plate that's issued that year and if anyone wants to raise money for their cause or have their name and cute quote on the plate hold a bake sale!

How would these guys like to see a state endorsed plate that celebrates Islam? I mean, the In God We Trust plate doesn't say a Christian god! How would these guys like a plate that celebrates the Underground Rail Road?
We do not need anymore things to divide us.
Also, some very rich old fellow in California is saying the Rapture is tomorrow about supper time. I'll be spending it with a good friend. He says we should try to end it with a bang!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mom's Diaries

This picture published in the Courier-Journal yesterday from the Evansville paper and taken by Denny Simmons.  It shows deer congregated on the little high ground from the flood in Indiana.

Recently I have been typing my mother's diary. She kept one for about a decade. She might have done so earlier in her life but there is no record if she did.

When I was eleven I got one of those red leatherette books with the strap from my grandmother. It had a clasp, lock and key. I wrote in it when I had something I thought important to document. In 2001 I began writing in a WORD document what I stated was my journal. I began again in 2002. In 2003 was the first year I wrote almost every day. I've continued until the present day.

When I learned my mom was keeping a diary she showed me these slips of note paper about 4" long and 2" wide. I bought her a blank book in 1987 and every year after that I bought her a blank book to use. Her handwriting is very small and each day she wrote from 80 to 100 words in one paragraph. Most days she begins after the date by saying what the temperature is and what time she checked the temperature. Often when I was visiting she would call the local time and temperature recording several times a day but usually she did not record it in her diary more than once.

May 8, 1986, Thursday
The sun is shining 7:00 am 66 degrees. Mabel called about the things coming up for homemaker's. I didn't feel like much this morning. Everything looks fresh from the rain last night. Called the doctor's office said would call in a prescription for nerves. I went out got it. Fixed pistachio pudding salad and took to Mother-daughter banquet at church tonight. Charlene came up and went with me. Was in 50s come. I think I had a good salad.
She was 73 years old on that day in 1987.

Her days fascinate me. She recorded who she spoke to on the phone or in person and what she did with her time generally. She would say if she watched a movie or listened to Billy Graham on the television. She would say what she ate for lunch or supper. If there was a pitch-in planned at church she said what she made to take. There is also an account of what she planted in her garden and when she picked something what she did with it. She shared her tomatoes and gooseberries. Her friends shared their rhubarb and tickets to lectures and banquet suppers. If she had lots of produce she canned it or froze it and accounted for how many quarts or pints she put up.

She made a cake or pie or casserole more often that you'd think and then shared it with her neighbor next door or across the street. She volunteered at the Hospital Auxiliary weekly and worked for the Missionary society at church. She and some friends were responsible for communion at her church. She picked up others and took them to church or they picked her up to go to church or other community meetings. She and her friends almost always went out for lunch after Sunday morning church. She would specify where they whet, what she ate, how much it cost and if she had a coupon.

She would account for letters she wrote to which relative or friends who were visiting their children or on vacation. She sent birthday, anniversary, condolence and get well cards. She documented who wrote her a letter or sent a greeting or post card. Often she called a mutual friend and read the letter she got to them and they did the same. When someone died, was sick or in an accident, she called her friends and told them. They did the same. She visited people at the hospital and local nursing home.

One thing she never did was speak about politics or mention entertainment news. I know this was not reported in such detail on the television or radio, but the closest she came was to mention was when a famous person died or if there was a major world disaster.

Considering how much she disagreed with my sister marrying her husband or me marrying Dennis, she referred to we couples as "the children." She documented conversations she had with Dennis. He sure loved her and she him. I think he was the son she wished she'd had.

I don't rant and rave in my journal but I do give my opinion of things that happen or what I'm thinking about something I'm trying to accomplish or decide on. She never revealed this in her writing. I wish she had.

I've completed the year 1986, which I believe it the first year and am a couple months shy of 1987.  Lenny asked me the other day why I was typing the diaries.  I told him I wanted to.

When my mom was packing up her house and moving to Arizona to live near my sister she asked who wanted her diaries and the letters our father had written her before they married. My sister wanted both. I said I'd like the diaries. After Mom died in 1998 my sister tried to get me to give her the diaries. I told her I'd send her copies of the typed document. I feel lucky to have them and hope to get them typed up and put online. I guess I'm a little behind in the typing.

Heck, John Adams has daily Tweets from 200 years ago.  My mom's words are not important to world history but they are important to me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A woman walked into the room.

A woman walked into the waiting room of my doctor's this afternoon. The doctor I was to see was a podiatrist I'd never seen before and he comes to my regular doctor's office to see referrals one afternoon a week. I'd been waiting for 40 minutes. I was reading a book.

A UPS delivery guy came in with three huge Styrofoam packages about 4' tall and stacked them on the reception counter. After getting his electronic signature box signed he turned to leave and pulled the still open door closed. I said, "Leave it open!" He turned around and smiled, "It is a pretty day!" The solid wood door was off a glassed in vestibule and the blue sky was visible outside in the bright sunshine.

A woman with a man sitting on chairs further from me said, "Thank you for asking him to do that. It's so nice to see sunshine after so much rain."  We've had 26 days of rain out of 33 these past weeks. I took a picture of the sky when I was getting in the truck to drive over.

She and the man were in their 40's. We continued to talk about all the rain we'd had and the disastrous tornados in the south as well as the Kentucky Derby that's to be run Saturday.

As we were talking, the woman walked in. She was older maybe 75 or so. She was carrying a small oxygen canister and clear plastic tubing ran encircling her head resting in her nostrils. She went to the counter, signed the book and then came into the room seating herself across from me. She placed her canister on the floor and sat watching the door.

A few moments later a younger version of her walked in. The younger woman spotted the older one and came over to her asking, "Did you sign in?" The older woman said, "Yes I did. I always do that. You know I always do that." The younger woman sat in the chair next to the older one and said, "I know Mother but I'm just checking so we don't wait longer than we should."

They sat there beside each other not speaking. The daughter eventually said, "Did you go to Steve's birthday party the other day?" Her mom said, "No I didn't go up there. It's all too much. All these birthday parties and they always have cake and ice cream and they all eat it when they shouldn't and I can't eat it for sure." Her daughter looked up at me and smiled tensely and said, "I just thought you could get out of the apartment for a little bit. You went to Jenny's party the other week, so I thought you'd go to Steve's too." Her mother said, "All those things are the same, same people, same cake, and same ice cream. It's boring."

The older woman looked up at me and I smiled at her and said, "Maybe you should go to some strangers' parties. Just go on in and get to know new people." The older woman laughed.

Soon they were called back. Yes, they came in after me and were called back before me!

The older woman walked ahead of her daughter who was holding the oxygen tank following. I said, "It looks like you've got your mom on a leash." The daughter laughed, "Yes it does doesn't it? Hey, nice to talk to you. Thank you for making my mom laugh. I can't seem to do it anymore."

So, there I was internally bitching about waiting again when I was early and I knew no one was ahead of me for this doctor because they just got back from lunch. And then a mother and daughter walked into a doctor's office. Sounds like the first line of a joke.

I feel compelled to say a word about Osama. The man was a fanatic who happened to be born into a Saudi family that had extreme wealth. The family was in construction building buildings and homes for extremely wealthy people who sell vast amounts of oil to western countries. Although he felt he was waging a religious war, he was not a good moral man. And some Americans believed and still believe we are in a religious war with all Muslims. He and his followers are the enemy, not all other Muslims.

Our country not finding this man in Afghanistan the first time and then leaving that country to go into Iraq on contrived proof and manipulated association with Osama is a crime that will never be adjudicated. This means that a decade later we not only lost people in New York, DC and Pennsylvania on 9/11/2001, we have lost more people in Afghanistan 1, Iraq and Afghanistan 2. While he is responsible for the first events he was validated by how we responded to that. That is America's responsibility.

I believe that if the first response had been patient and deliberate we would have had Osama before GW left office. I applaud the current leadership of all involved in killing Osama because that was a man who needed killing. All the people both in our military and their countries' civilian dead didn't need killing. That is the shame of this.
Today in Louisville the fillies ran a horse race for a blanket of stargazer lilies sewn to a large piece of satin. The color for the day is pink and everyone followed the plan; pink dresses of every tint, pink ties, hats, jackets, shoes, purses. They put pink shades in the spires or the original grandstands. It was quite a sight.

Tomorrow the 137th Kentucky Derby will be the biggest party in Kentucky. Rain late in the afternoon is predicted but I'd not bet against it. Everyone who lives here will be at a party literally or virtually and mass amounts of food and liquor will be consumed.

Pray for us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What is the cost of your time?

To your boss you are worth at least $8 an hour. If you have an advanced degree, are not a teacher and in an executive position you are worth at least $100 an hour.

A lawyer can be worth up to $500 an hour and a doctor about the same.

I have never been paid by a boss or paid myself as a business owner a lot of money an hour. Now, being semi-retired, it's even less, but I value my time these days for what I get to choose doing with that time.

Last Friday I went to my doctor for an 8:15 a.m. appointment. When I was rushing around getting ready unlike most mornings, I question my sanity. Usually I hold out for the last appointment of the day, knowing no matter how behind the office is running, I'll get seen quickly as no one wants to work past closing time. Regardless, I got to the office at 8 a.m. and remarkably the entire staff was there. Although I had not stopped in my rush to be on time to make or buy coffee I could smell coffee brewing somewhere in the back. The thought of asking for a cup of coffee vanished when I read again the bold lettered sign taped to the glass door: No Food or Drink.

So I go in and sign the sheet that requires me to give my name, address, phone number, insurance company and doctor's name. This is a piece of paper that I've fill in several times a year for twenty years.

I sit down, get my glasses, get my book and begin reading. Before 8:15 a.m. ten more people come in the door and do as I did. At 8:20 a.m. I'm called back to have my blood pressure, pulse and weight documented. I am in a small room sitting in a chair beside an exam table covered with white paper imprinted with the logo of the latest "hard dick" drug. When the nurse leaves the room and closes the door, I remain there reading my book. Doors open and close along the hall and voices migrate; sometimes so that I can understand them and sometimes as mumbles.

At 9:42 a.m. the doctor enters the room with a ten inch thick file; my file. He spends ten minutes with me asking me questions that I could have answered online. I do appreciate the personal one on one meeting with my doctor because if I walked in and was suddenly blue, I'd like a medical doctor to see that.

Later when making my appointment for June I asked the scheduler about shortening the time between when I present myself and when the doctor presents himself. She had no solution to the problem.  As with other inefficient business practices the solution is a well designed process of documenting and serving the patient.

My friend Lenny says he's solved the problem of wasting time in the doctor's office. He sees an endocrinologist too and years ago told him if he was not seen by the doctor within fifteen minutes he would not only not pay the bill he would send the doctor a bill for his time. Lenny's hourly rate is $190. He says he never has to wait though I have never gone with him to verify this.

I figure my time has been proven to be worth minus $20. That is my co-pay.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ed is Gone

A friend of mine died this past week. He was a few years older.

I met him in a local chat room in the early 90's. In fact, he was well known amongst the women who frequented the room for being the fellow who attended group lunches, and if you were the lucky girl that day sitting next to him, he'd have his hand on your knee. I called and told a friend about seeing the obituary and she reminded me of this habit of his. I recalled it was true!

This was that brief time when AOL was the a friendly internet service, before Google or Facebook. People had profiles that could be searched for age and location. Local chat rooms were popular. The way you check into Facebook now, you once checked in with your local chat room and your habits became known by your other chat buddies so much that if you did not check in people worried about your health!

When I became widowed and when I finally disentangled myself from the train wreck that was Roger, I met and made all my friends through the local AOL chat. Ed was a fixture there.

The obituary mentioned a loving wife and a herd of children with an even bigger herd of grandchildren. He had been a good provider and retired from a good job at a plant that went out of business a decade ago. These facts about his "real' life were news to me, proving that it is possible to live a virtual life completely removed from your real one.

I know both parts were real, come on!

We AOL buddies won't attend the visitation nor the funeral. We have the memory of Ed and that's quite enough.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Criminals, Thieves, and Accounting Time.

The first half of April always brings for me another birthday and tax filing. I can't be the only one who always pays taxes and always waits until close to the deadline to do so.

This year I have a new tax guy and unlike the old tax guy the forms are complete and I'm going to have them in on time. I think the new guy is good evidenced by having done Reggie's taxes for a long time without problem. He's a bit more expensive but after loosing sleep worrying about late taxes, it's worth it!

On the front page of the New York Times this morning was an article that analyzed how Wall Street, mortgage and bank executives ran the businesses they were hired to run for personal profit cheating their investors and now are getting away with it.  In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures by Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story it's all laid out before us.

Looking at the article you will be tempted not to read it. It's a big one, and takes about 20 minutes to read. But if you are one of the people who has or had investments or deposits in a bank, stocks traded on the exchanges, treasury bills or other financial instruments and have been confused about where all that money you lost went, it's worth your time. I'm talking about people like you and me, who got what education they could get, went to work and worked in whatever job we could get or chose, have always dealt fairly with employers, employees, local and national governments, and paid our bills, saved our money and expected to and did play by the rules.

As one of those people I want an accounting.

In the late 1980's after the savings and loan crisis over 1100 cases of fraud and wrong doing were referred to prosecutors and more than 800 bank officials went to jail. Today more than two years after the beginning of the recession and a financial mess huge in comparison, very few people are being held accountable.

The S.E.C. extracted a $550 million settlement from Goldman Sachs for a mortgage security the bank built, though the S.E.C. did not name executives in that case. The security was known by the top people to be slimy and their traders were told to push it at the same time with the company's money they bet against it.

Another exception is a civil lawsuit filed last month against top executives of Washington Mutual, the failed bank now owned by JPMorgan Chase. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued Kerry K. Killinger, the company’s former chief executive, and two other officials, accusing them of piling on risky loans to grow faster and increase their compensation. The outcome is not known as the suit is in its early stages.

I ask, how are all these thieves getting away with their crimes?

Unlike in the time of the S&L crisis, budgets for regulators to investigate and prosecute are small. The lessons of financial crises in the past were ignored again and in the aftermath no one is being held accountable. To me it seems those charged with regulation and prosecution are set up to fail by people we trust to represent us in Congress. The influence cultivated by big money firms has resulted in those in power being unwilling to proceed. Why have any rule or regulation to hold Wall Street and the Financial Markets accountable at all if regulators do not have the ability to actually do the job. That's a rhetorical question, obviously.

Red flags were flying high and straight prior to the crash. Efforts to investigate Countrywide, the nation's largest mortgage originator were stopped before any action could be taken.

"After the crisis had subsided, another opportunity to investigate Countrywide and its executives yielded little. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, created by Congress to investigate the origins of the disaster, decided not to make an in-depth examination of the company — though some staff members felt strongly that it should. It was canceled because Republican members of the commission did not want any more hearings."

Sub-prime mortgages as well as fiscally inept ones being bundled and sold as securities, was without a doubt the reason for the eventual collapse of markets.

I suspect one thing the heads of these companies did learn is how to create marketable instruments so complicated no one knew what they were investing in. They further covered their tracks and in buying influence with Congress, manipulated what was investigated and what was not. This hid their crimes and made the fight to prosecute so expensive it was impossible to practically do.

In this halcyon time of early spring with the awakening of flowers and allergies we are again filling out tax returns. I do not hate paying taxes as I must make money to do so. I do hate having seen my meager savings become decimated in the past decade because of crooks who use their skills and access to cheat their investors, make huge personal income and get away with it.

It's a time for an accounting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Personal freedom

Last week it was announced that the Supreme Court ruled for Westboro church people, that they do have the right to make asses of themselves standing outside funerals for our fallen military with hate filled signs.
I refuse to call them their official name because although I was born Baptist and converted to Catholicism, I don't think they are any kind of Baptist I can recognize. I'll call them church people for Lord knows lots of ignorance is alive and well in churches.

Anyway, five of their members came to Kentucky this past Sunday. They protested at a Protestant and Catholic Church in Owensboro. They protested at a Catholic Church in Louisville. An article about the day and the five people from the Westboro group as well as the local response was on the front page of the Courier-Journal Monday morning. According to the newspaper they chose the small Louisville church because it was on the way from Owensboro to the airport. That makes me wonder how they transport their hate signs. Do they go through the TSA checks with the signs and fold them up to fit in the overhead bin, or do they get folded into luggage that is checked?

A local man, a veteran, organized a group of about 200 people to stand on the other side of the road. These people were students from Bellarmine University and other school groups. Some of the students spoke to the reporter saying they had been debating freedom of speech issues and the Supreme Court's ruling in their classes. The signs the local group held said things like, "God is Love."
Wonderful. I think that is a fitting response to hate and often while believing that freedom of speech is important in America; we have to speak out but not with hate.

Another ruling by the Court last week had to do with AT&T and their belief they had the right to personal privacy when they didn't want information held by the government from a federal investigation of their billing practices, released under the Freedom of Information rules. This was a unanimous decision for the Court.

In the brief written by Chief Justice Roberts he spent several paragraphs discussing grammar and personal adjectives. To quote CJ Roberts: "The ordinary meaning of 'personal' does not refer to an impersonal company." I'm hopeful he has a sense of humor is isn't using this as a political device after the egregious ruing last year that gave corporations the right of free speech.

On another note, the Kentucky Legislature is in the last week of their session. Not much has been accomplished. The Senate brought up such bills as a law that would require people who need cold medicine to go to their doctors for a prescription. If that had been passed, instead of buying a box of 12 cold capsules for $12, you'd need to make an appointment with your doctor, so to the office, wait in there with 15 other sick people, meet with the doctor, get a prescription, pay the co-pay and your insurance company would have to pay what they do for the visit. That's making the assumption you have health insurance.
They did pass a bill allowing sale of previously banned fireworks. Now if you want to sell fireworks in Kentucky you get an annual license for $500 and pay sales taxes. The guy who sponsored the bill was mad because he saw Tennessee making all that money from Kentuckians who crossed the border each summer for fireworks.

Of course this is the same legislature that won't allow Kentuckians to legally gamble on anything but horses at race tracks. If we want to play slots or blackjack, we have to cross a river. According to all the Protestant preachers some of whom seem to be legislators, gambling is immoral and a sin. Fireworks on the other hand are ways to make tax money.

The Legislature also tried to pass a law that would allow every public school in the state to create a class to teach the Bible. The state would contribute funds for these classes and of course they would be voluntary. This didn't pass, but it sure got time on the floor in debate and was covered in every small town newspaper for the Christians to see.

Meanwhile Medicaid is unfunded by over $150 million and cuts are being made to any social safety net around. I guess it could be worse. We could live in Florida where Gov. Rick Scott, the former criminal health industry CEO whose company was sued by the federal government for cheating on their billing of Medicare and paid a billion dollar fine, has cut over $150 million from that state's education funding and gave it to his corporate buddies in tax cuts.

Or we could be like Wisconsin and have a governor devoting our time voters to destroy one of the hardest fought rights of the American worker, collective bargaining.

I worked at a company for ten years that got a union voted in. There were 12 employees and everyone was an office worker. You might wonder why this happened. It happened because the boss started having an affair with the head of one of the two departments. No one cared who he screwed but when she was promoted and people were being fired and laid off because they didn't give her the respect she felt she deserved, the remaining employees went through the process and got a union shop voted in.

It didn't last long but it got the attention of the boss and the board of directors! There's a whole story in that which does not need to be told here.

Unions are the reason we have 5-day 40 hour work weeks and there is overtime and paid vacations and benefit packages. The whole idea of safe working conditions and worker's comp and health insurance were negotiated by unions until they became part of the fabric of jobs in America. The reason people like the Koch brothers and corporate America fund elections of wack jobs like these new governors and such, is they want to get rid of their competition and face it, unions are the yang to the ying or corporations when it comes to laws and enforcement of laws in the country.

Oh, and don't let anyone get away with saying the reason American jobs went overseas is unions. The reason they went away is people like KFC wanted to sell chicken in China so they and others in the American consumer products corporations worked for free trade and before you knew it everyone was taking advantage of tax breaks to move production to cheap labor places.

You don't get benefits? You don't have a wage high enough to live on and have to work two or three jobs to pay your bills? Maybe it's time to vote and work for unionizing your work group.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Restoration and Redemption

I have to confess that I have recently become fascinated with makeover shows. No, not the ones where you walk into the studio dressed in paint splattered holey jeans and sweatshirt then come out fifty minutes later looking like a runway model. When I say a makeover show I mean the shows where a young struggling newly joined couple is living in their recently deceased Aunt Betsy's old fashioned house. The furniture was bought in 1950 and the appliances are the version that came out ten years after the invention of refrigeration and indoor cooking. The couple is being unnecessarily stunted by the house. They would be able to finally finish that master's thesis or have that first child or succeed in their high powered entry level careers if only the house was more up to date and worthy of who they aspire to become in twenty years. The house is dark and depressing. The house is holding them back.

A perky decorator and her friend the dependable and creative general contractor use $1000 to completely update the house. By the way, I can believe the perky decorator much more than I can visualize a dependable contractor.

This process takes three days and the fabulous new home is revealed in thirty minutes.

One thing I've noticed. Even though the young couple are in ripped jeans and dark or even black clothing during the initial consultation with the decorator, they show up for the big reveal in neat clothes that have color accents which match the new paint or pillows.

My good friend Anne told me about these shows several years ago but somehow I did not get addicted to watching them until one week end this winter when we had snow, ice and 15 degree temperatures.

I've decided this is like last year when I first discovered food blogs. I subscribe to quite a few on and am fascinated by the pictures and recipes. I've probably saved a hundred of these beautiful pictures and preparation methods.

You might ask "How many dishes have you prepared from these?"

I have gone so far as to buy the oddly named spice and the refined sanding sugar, but I have prepared none. Not the beautiful cookies in unique shapes with meticulous frosting and complicated designs. Not the fifteen versions of apple pie and home made pastry. Not the magnificent ten inch round eighteen inch tall four layer cakes prepared for that three year old's birthday party.

I look at the page, read the recipe along with supporting copy describing the reason the blogger's son Sean likes dark chocolate and cowboys on horses vs. milk chocolate and space men. I then copy it all to a word processing document, and save it in a catalogued file on my hard drive; cookies, biscuits, pies, cakes, meat, side dishes, etc.
I can loose myself in that activity realizing hours later I have accomplished nothing else.

When do foodies have time to make the dishes? Do they entertain every week where a group of victims, err friends taste everything and gratefully acknowledge the talent of the cook?

While I might have the inclination to make the cakes and roast the meat, I don’t have time. I'm watching how to retile my downstairs bathroom, paint three bedrooms, plant annuals at the front of the house and insulate the basement.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A flower grows out of concrete.

Almost every week someone is shot and killed in Louisville. There isn't a single scenario for these deaths. They are couples where one party, usually the man, shoots his wife or girlfriend and then shoots himself. A woman shoots her husband or boyfriend after years of abuse. One young man shoots another over a dispute in a bar. A group of young men drive around and shoot into homes killing the intended or unintended resident. An armed robbery is stopped by a clerk shooting the robber.

Recently I wrote about a home owner shooting at a group of young men running away, killing one.

The common element here is the gun.

Someone said the other day that although it is true that guns don't kill people, people do. How many people would have died Saturday in Tucson if the shooter had not had a gun?

I once worked for a company doing support for the data processing department second shift. It was a small department of five people. I was the only woman and about a decade older than the fellas. One man was a little tightly wound. He was a college educated smart married man with two kids. He was the guy who carried drama with him and when I walked into the office in the afternoon I would have a happier day if he was not at work. I wouldn't have said he was crazy. Evidently he was though, as he was a diagnosed manic depressive but not symptomatic, medicated.

A lot of perfectly "normal" people are mentally ill and medicated.

America is not a perfect place. America is my country and I love my country.

Much has been said about the cable and radio talking heads who lead a slavish audience tuning in to learn what to think. I guess I am somewhat surprised to not hear vitriolic speech this morning from all the usual mind makers. One reason things were strangely quiet however might be that the Leader of the Pack Roger Ailes instructed his minions to "shut up, tone it down and make your argument intellectually. You don't have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that." Although I don't see the same emotional effort to stir up followers of liberal thought, I look forward to the change of tone.

For people who love this country we must use our small influence and not accept those who will say anything for political fame. It is not sport to stir up your neighbor. A good citizen does not take on the demeanor of a two year old by shouting and saying anything to get attention. Little is ever accomplished by shouts. Much is by calm debate and thoughtful words.

In all this chaos I point out the heroes in the story. Just as those people who overtook the terrorists on the plane September 11 2001 and stopping it from crashing in Washington, there were people in Tucson Saturday who saved lives and stopped further victims, how many of us would go toward the danger instead of away from it? I am just so proud of those who did.

Heroes in America are teachers, clerks, students, nurses, retired generals, doctors, neighbors. Heroes are the people who do the right thing without any thought of personal danger. They stand up against evil and the self-serving whether it is popular or not.