Monday, May 30, 2005

A Life, for $37.50

Over the past few days, I've had a few garage sales to prepare for my return back East. Despite the fact that I have moved almost 20 times, its never easy. When I moved out here in 1991, my employer paid for the move. You won't find many employers doing that for their employees now except if you are at the executive level. So, this time, I have to reduce my 30 year career to the size of a thimble.

When I moved into this house in 2003, I had about 30 boxes, plus furniture. As far as moving goes, any mover would tell you that isn't much. But, nevertheless, trying to reduce one's life to fit in an envelope is never easy. I am moving by mail. The movers want too much money to move my minimum amount way across country, so I have to decide what is valuable and what is not.

Measuring 'value' is a very personal thing. Consider this. I have a pencil sharpener in the shape of a coffee grinder. Now, really, who uses pencils these days, much less sharpens them by hand? Who even bothers, when pencils go for about a penny apiece?

But here's the thing: That pencil sharpener was given to me as a Christmas gift, from an old woman friend and neighbor, Charlotte Furze, who lived downstairs from me when I grew up. I lived in a 4 apartment house when I was growing up and Charlotte and the rest of us would play blackjack for pennies. Charlotte was a sun worshipper who could always be found on a lounge chair in the backyard on any sunny summer's day.

Well, Charlotte has been dead for many years now, but when I look at that coffee grinder pencil sharpener, I think of her. Thus, a pencil sharpener, worth nothing on the 'open market' becomes a priceless object for me, since I'll never get another Christmas present from Charlotte again. That pencil sharpener has followed me wherever I went.

A couple of other 'useless' items included two bookcases that I had for my collection of books that I had from college. Some of the books I never read, but meant to, and other books I read but wanted to keep. One bookcase has been in my family for decades. Its nothing to look at per se, just a square bookcase with a shelf. My mother varnished it and I remember it being in my bedroom since I was a kid. I remember having an Opuntia cactus that I grew and it sprouted new growth every year from May till the middle of August. I even had a name for it, Oscar since it was an Opuntia Microdaisys. That bookcase is available practically for the taking.

Another bookcase was a simple one made from a few pine planks made from my friend Steve, with whom I worked early in my career. Steve wasn't a carpenter, but he'd like to tinker around and he just threw some boards together with nails and glue. I've had that bookcase for over 20 years. Steve and I were the best of friends back then and we stayed in touch via Christmas cards, but I have since lost track of him, so the bookcase will probably end up at curbside.

I am also giving up furniture that was in my mother's house but that's life. My mother was an artist of sorts, who could have painted professionally but didn't. But she did make me an embroidery of a tree (she loved trees and so do I) and when she gave it to me, I asked her to initial it and she did, in pencil, so it is labeled 'G.M., 1976'. So that is almost 30 years old.

But the first things that went out was the various pictures I had. One was made by my sister Elaine, who dabbled in painting for awhile and surprised the hell out of me when she gave it to me for Christmas one year. She asked me to look through a picture book and told me to pick one out. The one I picked out, she said it would be too difficult, so I moved on to a second choice, so you can imagine my suprise when she gave me the one I wanted for Christmas. It too is a nature scene with weeping willows that evoke a hot steamy, Southern plantation. You can almost taste the mint julep while swing on the porceh swing.

Other pictures included embroderies made for me by my sister June, who knew of my love for cacti as she did a four picture embroidery of four different kinds of cacti as well as one she made of an old time sailing ship. Pictures in frames, like photographs, are the irreplacable things that you'd want to get out of the house if it was on fire.

Two treasures that I must give up break my heart. I love cherry wood and I have a cherry wood entertainment center and a cherry wood writing desk with inlaid leather that I use as my computer desk. Both of these things were the first things I ever bought using my American Express card, back in the day when credit wasn't easy to come by and AMEX was the first company to break down and give me a credit card. I sold the entertainment center to Don, who watched over my house and dog when I was working back East, but I haven't found any takers for the desk. On June 17th, Opportunity Village, a charity, will come by to take any furniture I cannot unload.

That leads me to the garage sales. Since I live in a 'Master Planned Community' I had to invest in a couple of HOA approved garage sale signs, which of course you have to buy from them. They are basically styrofoam signs with metal for poking in the ground with the Summerlin logo on them and when I stopped at the Trails Community Center to buy them, the buttheads don't take cash or credit cards. They don't take cash for fear of being robbed. Robbery? Here in Perfect Podland? This is a Desperate Housewives neighborhood, where well-to-do matrons make their macaroni and cheese casseroles and it is the most sought after neigborhood to be a pool boy. In fact, the zip code is 891 Oh Baby, Oh Baby.

So that leads me to my other stuff. I opened the garage door, plopped down the signs, one in front of the house and the other at the entrance of the complex and I was open for business.

I put out the rest of my 'junque' which included glassware, tupperware and my extensive CD collection, which runs the gamut from pop to classic rock, 60's, R&B, Jazz and Blues. The last CD I bought was when I was last in Boston when I went with my coffee klatch friend, Ray, on our usual jaunts through Newbury Comics, which is appropriately on Newbury Street. It was the Best of the Jefferson Airplane. At one time or another I was a member of Columbia House and BMG Music Service (13 CDs for 1 penny!). I've outlived at least two managers of member services who have tried repeatedly, albeit in vain, to get me to come back ("We've missed you").

The good thing about having an Ipod is I can upload my songs into Itunes, now that I have an external CD room and have re-partitioned by drive away from Linux and put into use for Itunes. So I have two piles of CDs - one out in the garage and ready to go and another pile in the living room, not yet available as some of the songs need to uploaded into Itunes. Once done, I'll be able to eliminate at least one box that I won't have to sent back East.

Everybody has a garage sales every weekend, which I am told is a good thing because that brings out the crowds, so I decided to get a head start by opening the garage door on a Wednesday. No takers. Come to find out that the wind blew down my sign at the entrance to the complex.

On Thursday, I got a few neighbors stop by and one guy in a cowbow hat (from New York) bought a few classic CDs that I am selling, priced to move. I close at 5.

On Saturday, I was up very early so the early bird could catch the worm. I was competing with two other garage sales. I went to Starbucks early and sure enough it was packed. Desert dwellers do everything the the early morning hours and during the cool of the evening, so when I got back, I was again back in business. I sold another CD (Aretha Franklin) to a woman from Sun City who complained about the heat as she had no AC in her car. Bitch, bitch, bitch.

I sold one book and had to explain why I had a 'Vampires for Dummies' book, etc. I had a few Mexicans with a truck come so I could show them the furniture I am getting rid of. No takers.
After having all those people traipsing through my house, I now know what its like to live in a genuine Nevada whorehouse. Next time, I'll wear a wig and a pushup bra.

Two items I placed out there was a small candle of a coffin that I got at Walgreens a couple of Halloweens ago and I had on my mantle as a piece of bric-a-brac and other was a set of brass candlesticks that I got at the Sun City community yard sale a few years ago, complete with candles. When the first guy came in, he asked what was the sticky stuff. The coffin candle liquefied in the 105 degree heat and one of the other candles drooped like grandpa's penis.

I have since taken the CDs back into the house since I ran into a Starbucks friend, Staci and I told her about my CD collection, since I've seen her with headphones on. I also been asking my friends what kind of music they are into and I'll set them aside. I've put aside some Jazz CDs for another friend, Andrea. I'd rather have friends get them then strangers. Maybe when they'll remember me when they listen to them after I'm gone.

So far, my life is worth but $37.50. That's what its worth after 30 years of work, travel, homeownership and home rental. They say you can't take it with you when you when you die. I can't even take it with me when I leave Vegas.

Well, its almost 5pm on Memorial Day and I'm ready to close up shop. I opened one box of a picture that was wrapped up by the movers that I bought in Harvard Square years ago and was never unwrapped because I had much better pictures. When I opened it, the glass was broken, so I hauled it to the curb. Tonight is trash night. Maybe I should just put myself out there with it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

So What's It Gonna Take?

There's been alot of stories in the news about identity theft or near misses lately.

A few months ago, there was the story of Choice Point, a data collection agency that was hacked and many people's account numbers and social security numbers were compromised, including Bank of America customers mostly in Southern California. Choice Point has 'data' on nearly 4 BILLION people, nearly all the people on the planet. So the big question is, why do companies NEED to have all this information on you?

Another big company (don't remember which one) had data tapes stolen from a stolen Iron Mountain truck. Iron Mountain is one of the country's largest off-site storage companies that companies use for disaster recovery. You mean to tell me Iron Mountain didn't know the name of the driver of the truck and his anticipated route? Iron Mountain says its not their responsibility, since it is the responsibility of the data owner to encrypt their data. The other company of course, assumes that Iron Mountain will do its utmost to protect customer data, including arming their trucks if need be.

Now there was another incident the other day where Bank of America customer data was again compromised due to a local crime scam in New Jersey. I haven't heard if it was bank customers or credit card customers who might be at risk.

Isn't great to know that nearly all of us are vulnerable to identity theft thanks to all the mega mergers that went on in the past few years? You open an account with Company A which merges with Company B which is taken over by Company C which is bought out in a hostile corporate takeover by Company D. Now you are a customer of Company D that you never wanted to be in the first place. So now Mega Bank has been compromised.

And today there was the story of Quick Check. Quick Check is one of those online 'virtual' check writing services where 'no signature is required'. All somebody has to do is get a hold of your account number and off they go shopping in cyberspace.

And then there is WiFi, something I'll never use. Most home users like students and housewives at Starbucks, know little about firewalls and security and have little knowledge about setting security on their connections. All a thief has to do is ride around the neighborhood and 'pick up' your connection and presto, everything on your hard drive becomes public knowledge, without the user even being aware of it.

Its time for Congress, which likes to portray itself as 'tough on terror' to step up and start dealing with both the privacy issues involved as well as limiting what information data collectors can and cannot collect. I am against 'opt out' provisions. I support 'opt in'. Businesses should assume that I don't want to be involved with their data collection schemes, rather than letting them gather whatever they want from wherever they want and leaving the consumer to opt out. People like to assume that their doors are locked, but businesses like to think everything is an open book.

If your local criminal is doing these things, from kids on computers with laser printers printing conterfeit money (poker machines here in Vegas no longer accept $10 bills, because of one very successful scam) and your local crime family can do it (like B of A in New Jersey), will it take an Al Queda operation that could destroy the US economy before our leaders take this issue as seriously as the Terri Schiavo case or fillibustering?

"They're coming to get you, Barbara"

- Night of the Living Dead

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Excessive Heat Warning

Its not a good day to do anything. The temperature is supposed to be 105 today and an excessive heat warning has been declared due to the 'earlyness' of the summers lfirst heat wave. Usually, an 'excessive heat warning' doesn't get declared until the temperature hits 112. I don't think it is particularly that early, since Memorial Day weekend is usually the first time we hit triple digits. Its not that bad in the house and I don't have the AC on. It usually gets warm in here shorty after sundown when radiational heating takes over. But of course, now I have an 'official' excuse not to do anything, and I certainly don't feel like it. Today will be the last day I'll keep procrastinating until tomorrow. I was early but didn't accomplish anything. I am going to call a friend over tomorrow for a 'private viewing' of my garage sales that will happen all week. Considering the heat, I could call it an 'Almost Fire Sale'.

Here is a picture of my version of Nirvana in North America, with the exception of Hawaii which is unique in its own way. This is Lake Tahoe, in the 'other' Nevada, the Central to Northern part which is a more authentic version of Nevada's wild (natural) origins.

Think Cool

Saturday, May 21, 2005

For The Love Of Money

Fox News reported today that the City of Boston abolished a law that stated that Native Americans could not enter the city unless escorted. This law has been on the books for almost 400 years. The law hasn't been used in quite some time of course, but the real question is why did they remove the law right now? Its not just good business to get rid of outdated laws, but it apparently had something to do with Boston's bid for a major convention in 2008 and its sponers were critical of the law, and of course $40M or so (I don't remember the exact total) was at stake for the city. So is money the only way to get politicians to do anything? Do we need to set up a Pay Pal link for city, state and Federal officials into order to get them to do ANYTHING of benefit?

I'll be playing with the links on this blog to better organize them. So, I will be adding a few soon, weather permitting. Its getting too hot to do anything now. The temperature today is around 103 or so and it feels it. Like everything else, the first of the season feels worse. People who live in Vegas for years are somewhat accustomed to this, but new arrivals are not. Be careful out there. If you are new to town, and think 103 is hot, just wait. Its only the beginning.

Some links of note that I plan to add will of course be Pop Culture Rant from Media Master Rob from PodcastNYC which is already there. I have yet to check out out his Alley Cuts Podcasts about his favorite music cuts. I am sure they will be at the same level of quality as his other Podcasts. I download them, listen to them on my Ipod during my neighborhood walks.

Another section will be devoted to Blogs. One notable one is from my friend and 'blogging mentor', Ray, and his website Rayz Realm. Ray's been posting to his blog, since before blogs became 'de rigeur' in 1995. He's thinking of calling it quits, but maybe your comments will encourage him to keep on musing. I've got an entire list of movie and book recommendations from him. He originally posted under the guise of John BigBoote's Area51. Thus his byline: "If its out there, it's in here".

Another blog I read regularly is The Essence of Jaylectricity for the Anarchist in You. For a unique point of view, anarchism with a human face, visit his blog and tell him Pig sent you.

Enough for now. I feel like a wad of sizzling bacon. Even with the AC on. Oh the horror of the bill, as both gas heat and electric bills have gone up due to the cost of crude.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar

Our beloved Mayor, Oscar Goodman, is at it again. Now he was seen photographing strippers in a strip club and obviously having fun doing it. In a recent poll here, more than half said he was not as outrageous as some claim. You have to put Oscar in context with being Oscar. This is, after all, the guy who was a former Mob lawyer turned Mayor (How Vegas is that?); he's a guy who promotes Bombay Sapphire Gin as the city's Official Cocktail, and when asked by a bunch of third graders a few weeks ago, what would he bring with him on a desert island, he replied "A bottle of gin". Some parents were outraged, outraged I tell you! But Oscar just brushed it off as him being brutally (if politically incorrect) honest. This is also a Mayor who, along with the city council, dressed us as the Village People and sang 'YMCA' downtown.

I like Oscar. A lot, in fact. I met the man twice and have an autographed copy of his book Of Rats and Men about his lawyer days. He truly loves this town and I believe him when he says he's The Happiest Mayor on Earth. Despite what you may have heard, Vegas could use the publicity, what with all the competition we have with other states that have allowed 'gaming'. I'd like to see him run for President in '08. What about it, Mr. Mayor?

But for the rest of us who live in Microwave City, spring has come to an abrupt end. Today is to be the last of the 'tolerable' days at 97. Tomorrow it will be 100 for the first of the season, 102 on Saturday, 103 on Sunday and 105 on Monday.

I also received another 'bad boy' letter from the HOA. It seems no matter what I do (I moved the lawn yesterday, pulled any errant weeds on Tuesday) that matches their 'standards'. I'd love to know what is the 'meaning' of the standards. That we can afford hired help to cut our lawns? We have more money than you? We're better than other low lifes in the Valley?

I'm giving my notice on this place next week. After 14 years in a "Master Planned" community (what does that make the people who live here - serfs? slaves? sharecroppers?). I've had enough. Let some one else deal with these Superior Beings.

And what's up with Donald Trump? All of a sudden he has aplan for the WTC site. As much as I agree with him that the Twin Towers should be built as before with one extra story as defiance to the terrorists, my question to The Donald would be: Where the hell were YOU when the topic was being discussed back in 2001?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Greenspan must go

Alan Greenspan is supposed to step down come January. On Fox News today, the White House is prepared to ask him to stay on so that they can have time to find a replacement. Its only May, and Bush can't find a replacement within 8 months?

I used to have respect for Alan Greenspan, but lost it when he came up with his 'irrational exurberance' speech in 2000. At the time, the stock market was at its peak and Greenspan was in effect saying "The economy is doing well and I have no idea why". He saw inflation when no one else did and he raised interest rates 6 times in 2000 until he got what he wanted - the bubble burst.

Bill Clinton had a different economic philosophy than George Bush, but Greenspan deftly agreed with both Presidents when it was politically expedient. This exposes him for what he really is - a political hack who does not have the guts to do what is right. This is a guy who railed against deficits under Clinton and is strangely silent about the massive wealthfare program and its resultant historical deficits under Bush.

According to Big Al, the economy is doing just great. Never mind the millions of people who have lost their jobs since 2000 and have yet to find comparable ones with pay and benefits that they had before. And what has he done so far this year? Raise rates at least 6 or is it 7 times. With high oil prices, how can making it more expensive to borrow money help the economy?

With some many people over 40 having a tough time keeping their jobs, isn't it time to let 79 year old Al go? We need someone at the Fed whose focus on making it easier to create jobs, not making it more expensive.

Leave Al, leave and don't let the screen door hit your butt on the way out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

United Airlines

United Airlines is using its bankruptcy protection to justify screwing its long term employees out of their pensions. Why should a 'bankrupt' company be allowed to continue in business? When a company declares bankruptcy, it continues, pretty much as usual.

It comes as a surprise, then, (or maybe I should say it shouldn't) that United's CEO, Glenn F. Tilton, was given a $366,000 bonus while he's telling his longtime loyal employees, who signed on under the agreement that in exchange for years of service, they will be given a pension. Not a pension that HE'LL be given, but one where they can at least, (hopefully) they can retire on.

Ironically, just a few weeks ago, the Bush Administration passed a Bankruptcy Law telling us that we if we borrow money from a creditor (credit card company) we should be responsible and own up to our commitments. Not so for big business, however. Now the SHAME is on the other foot.

Another item from todays news makes me want to sqeal. It concerns FEMA and the payouts that went to Miami-Dade county for damage from last year's hurricanes. Miami-Dade was hardly touched at all from the hurricanes, but some homeowners applied and got $19,000 to replace appliances that were not damaged at all. Imagine, 19K to buy a set of washer and dryers. Meanwhile, some of the hardest parts of the state, where homes and firehouses were TOTALLY destroyed, people are still waiting. Who the hell is in charge of determining who gets what? Where are these peoples brains, sensitivity and sense of fairness? These are the people who should lose their jobs! (And their pensions!).

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Good Site About Podcasting

I downloaded a few Podcasts over the weekend, this time using Ipodder software. It worked well as it 'found' 15 podcasts and I just let it run while I went to Costco then to Starbucks. My connection stayed up for the most part and it crashed after I got home, but Ipodder did a good job of resuming where it left off. I was under the impression it would transfer them to Itunes, but maybe I'm doing it wrong, since I am saving the podcasts on another drive for spece reasons rather than putting it in an Itunes subdirectory. So I added the files (Itunes uses pointers rather than copying it to my C drive, which is good) and add files is really quick so that's not an issue.

But probaly the BEST Podcasting site comes from PodcastsNYC which is so good it sounds 'professional' (which to some people sounds bad). In one episode 'Media Master' (Rob0 claims that Podcasts will be the death knell for the growing Satellite Radio craze since the Internet and MP3 players are already available to the masses. Ah yes, but can the government and business start talking about regulating content, since Podcasts [are] too similar to Radio Broadcasts and [shouldn't they[ be regulated like Radio content?

Only a matter of time before we have THOSE controversies, but thankfully the government and business is generally slow to catch on with hi-tech trends.

I'll post the website when I can verify it.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Learn Chinese

I have always been a Sinophile. I've always loved East Asian culture and food, particularly Chinese and in college, I took every Chinese history and sociology class I could get my hands on.

Ever since Marco Polo, the West has been trying to tap into the huge Chinese market. Over a billion people, each with two arms and two legs - think of all the deodorant we can sell them as well as shoes! But China never was particularly interested in western courting. The British got angry enough they decided to get the Chinese hooked on opium and when the Emperor complained, the British invaded in 1848 and grabbed Hong Kong which they held until 1997.

Since the Communist Revolution in 1949, China wanted little to do with the 'imperialists', but since 1979, the Chinese have embraced the free market in a big way.

Newsweek in its May 9, cover story talks about the 'Chinese Century'. If the 20th century was America's Century, with the 21st be China's?

Some statistics are telling, if not frightening (if you are looking for a job in the US):

China's population is 1.3 billion (and India's is 1 billion). So if someone told you that you were 'one in a million', you'd take that as a compliment wouldn't you? If you were a 'one in a million' engineer or computer programmer that would mean China would have 1300 of these and India 1000. China has 4 times the US's population.

China has the world's largest population of English speakers - English is a required second language in China's schools. It has more cellphones than any other nation on earth. It maufactures 2/3 of the world's microwave ovens, DVD players, shoes ant toys, not to mention all the keychains and dice clocks you find in souvenir shops in Las Vegas.

WalMart is the world's largest corporation (8 times the size of Microsoft) and 4000 of its 5000 suppliers are located in guess where? China is also financing most of America's debt as well as becoming the world's second largest consumer of oil. Twenty years ago it was a net exporter of oil. Now you know why gas is $2+ a gallon and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.

So I went to Costco today with my friend Ellen to stock up on water. Its supposed to be about 98 today, and I was looking for the book (I need another book like I need another hole in the head) Conspiracy of Fools about the Enron scandals. I didn't find it, but a picked up a 4 CD Learn Mandarin course. I tried this once before, but the tapes were from the Library, so I'll give this a shot. Maybe by learning Mandarin, I might have an easier time finding work with a multi-national corporation.

Correction: Red Hot Chili Peppers will not be performing until July, today its Kool and the Gang.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Happy Birthday to us...

Tomorrow, May 15, is the 100th anniversary of the founding of Las Vegas.

There are many towns in Nevada that rose and fell with gold, silver and copper mining. One such town is Rhyolite to our northwest, that was a boom town of about 5000 people in 1895 only to be totally vacant within 5 years. One attraction of Rhyolite is the reamins of a 'beer bottle' house which was constructed entirely, or nearly so, by beer bottles.

Las Vegas wasn't one of those towns. The first settlers to Las Vegas were Mormons in the mid to late nineteenth century, but without air conditioning, Las Vegas can feel like its hell on earth, which is probably one reason why the Mormons did not stay. Las Vegas is known for constitantly re-inventing itself and not known for preserving its history. This is slowly changing, as the city has designated the Mormon fort downtown and at least one downtown neighborhood to be a historical preservation area.

Las Vegas was able to survive as a result of being blessed by having an underground aquifer which provided water to the settlement. Without water, you cannot survive in the desert. But it was by virture of being a stop on a California bound railroad (can't remember the name) which added a sense of permanance to the town. There were enough people here in 1905 to justify the settlement being called a town, and both the city's newspaer and its power company were started at the same time.

Totally ignored for decades, Bugsy Siegal had a 'vision' of a gambling playground and he established the Flamingo Hotel in the 1950s with organized crime funding and when it opened in the early 50's it promptly went bankrupt, only to re-open again a year later. The Flamingo wasn't the first casino in town, but it was one of the first to provide entertainment and food for gamblers, and thus 'modern' Las Vegas was born.

As a result of massive new residents, Las Vegas is today a thoroughly modern, world class metropolis that has little resemblance to what it was when I moved here in 1991 when my house was in the middle of the desert, never mind having any resemblance to what it was in 1905 or 1955. Very few buildings have been preserved from this period, such as the Moulin Rouge, the first casino built for African Americans who, like Sammy Davis Jr, who could perform at a Strip hotel but could not get a room there. Despite a devastating fire, the shell of the Moulin Rouge has been preserved and is now an aprtment complex. Another is the former Holsum Bakery that was gutted, turned into an apartment complex and they kept the neon sign outside.

So tomorrow is the actual birthday and they will be having the world's largest birthday cake (indoors) at Cashman Field. Guinness Book of World Records will be on hand to verify this, and several bands are performing for free including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Red Hot Chili Peppers and some others.

Today was the Helldorado Parade, a old west themed parade with a few western themed things going on downtown. And, befitting its age, tomorrow's temperature is expected to be 98. The heat is on, and I put on my AC for the first time last night for an hour or two.

Happy Centennial, Las Vegas!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Work and lifestyle choices...

It was reported on MSNBC yesterday that a woman in North Carolina got fired because she was cohabitating with her boyfriend. It seems that North Carolina, like several states have several obsolete laws on the books that date back 300 years. They are uaually unenforced, but are still on the books. Apparently an overzealous sheriff or boss (don't remember where she worked) cited the law that prohibits workers from living with members of the opposite sex. So how does one define a 'co-habitator' from a roommate?

And on last nights local Fox Station it was reported that some companies will now fire you if you smoke at home. They argue its because of the high cost of health care. Once again, they are putting the burden of our screwed up health care system on the individual rather than go after the drug companies who reap excessive profits, the government that prevents you from shopping with your feet by buying in Canada, a huge beauracracy that depends on reams of paperwork to ensure their jobs.

In my hometown of Fall River, Mass. the fire department instituted a 'no smoking' ban and an off duty firemen was seen lighting up at a private party, was 'turned in' by someone and he was fired.

Employees must agree to a no smoking pledge and allow themselves to be randomingly urine tested or blood tested to ensure compliance. A first offense can lead to a suspension of pay for 5 days. Fortunately, some states are ramping up laws against 'lifestyle' discrimination. I hope they succeed.

Some of the companies that were mentioned were Weyco and Alaska Airlines. Boycott these companies. Whatever you may feel about smoking and its costs, we can't let the long arm of the government and your employer reach into your home. Some condominums in California will not sell to smoking buyers. Either ban tobacco (and deprive the GOP of a chief source of revenue) or leave people alone.

So where will all this end up? As you know, once one company gets away with this, its only a matter of time before these lifestyle laws will get extended. No drinking at the Christmas Party or company picnic? Must you practice safe sex to get and keep a job? Will married people be allowed to have unprotected sex, but daters can not? What if one spouse cheats on the other? When will it end? America may still be the home of the brave, but it is becoming less and less the home of the free.

In other matters, I went to the Trails Community Center to purchase 'HOA-approved' signs so I can have a few garage sales. I didn't pick them up because they ONLY take checks or money orders, no cash or cards.

Music for the mood

My ipod froze today, but it might have been a low battery. I usually plug it in when I get up in the morning but today I only gave it a small charge. It has been charged and appears to be fine now.

I still have a credit balance on Itunes, so I downloaded a few Billie Holiday songs. One was "Strange Fruit" (1956 version) about lynchings in the South which were quite common from the 1860s until, believe it or not, the 1960s.

Entire families of white folks would turn out for these 'events'. School kids were let out to watch. Couples held hands, pictures were taken and postcards were created with a lock of the victims hair as a souvenir. Sometimes these victims actually committed crimes, many of which did not warrant the death penalty, but oftentimes, their 'crimes' were kissing a white woman or holding hands with one.

The other songs I downloaded with "God Bless This Child' and "Gloomy Sunday" a song about suicide. I'm not suicidal, but have been gloomy of late and these songs seem apropos.

I have a wide variety of songs on my Ipod, which includes Rock, Classic Rock, INXS, Big Bands, Jazz, Disco, Beatles, 60's, 80s, 90s, Eminem as well as a smattering of Podcasts. I'm glad I got 40GB version.

But when the Ipod died on my walk, I was forced to deal with the 'silence' of the mundane, Starbucks music, birds, cars and other people's conversations. When I'm listening to the Ipod, I block out the world. Some people claim that our society has become so individualistic, we've become a nation of islands marching to the beat of our own drummers. Yup. Now bug off.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

These days suck

It was a beautiful day today in Las Vegas. It was a clear day, about 82 degrees, which isn't bad for the month of May since the temperature could easily be over 100. The record high for the other day was 107. I went to Starbucks, after being on the computer for a few hours and read the remnants of last Sunday's paper and listened to a few Podcasts on my Ipod.

But these days suck. I have had two friend's moms pass away during the days leading up to Mother's Day and for me I have been trying to price out the cost of moving my stuff back East. But the prices are outrageous considering what little I have left. I am desperately trying to hand on to my cherry wood entertainment center, my cherry wood computer desk and a few boxes of personal items. I had planned to give my notice here on the 25th, but I will delay that by a month if I haven't found something I can afford. The biggest problem is finding a reputable mover. I have always dealt with Bekins and I called them, but my load may be too small. They referred me to Box Brothers who told me they won't move my stuff indoors. They will essentially drop stuff at the curb and you bring it in.

I called a local outfit but they don't do cross country, but they'll have another company call me. Now I am going to try two men and a truck. I sent a picture that my sister painted ahead because I didn't have a box big enough, so I told them to box it and ship it. That one item cost me $80. From the looks of things, I may be arriving with nothing but the clothes on my back. Now I'll check out what prices the Post Office can do. I estimate 15-20 boxes. At least what I can mail is mine to keep.

How much worse can it get? I've already lost my job, retirement, house, health care and even my dog up and died on me last year. All I have left is my computers which I need to continue the fool's errand of finding a job. Having lived in the high tech mecca of Boston and the country's fastest growing city, I have little hope of finding a job in my hometown that I left 20 years ago. For a guy with 20 years experience, a college degree and a good work record, I might as well be an illegal alien.

I will be having garage sales beginning this weekend or next weekend, not doing it for the money per se, but to reduce my load even further. I have moved at least 20 times mostly for employment and in each case i tend to get rid of something more. I am not a pack rat, and now I am down to some very personal, nostalgic items, like wall pictures, some Japanese porcelain, my two computers, printer, external drive and Ipod. At least the Ipod will come with me on the trip back.

As I mentioned, I have no health care. A few weeks ago, I had to make a trip to the dentists for some cracked fillings. I hadn't been there in awhile, because I have no dental care. It cost me $500 for the fillings and the initial visit.

The other night, I had made popcorn in a pan. Lately, I've gotten sick of microwave popcorn because of the chemicals. Go down the popcorn aisle in the supermarket, and you can smell the popcorn. It smells like a wet dog.

Anyway, as i was eating the popcorn, I crackea tooth. Not just the filling, but the entire tooth. Fortunately, it doesn't hurt, so I'll have to deal with that later.

Why the rich are rich

Since the 2000 election, George Bush has given the wealthiest Americans a $375B tax rebate. This is a major component of ‘compassionate conservatism’. The idea behind ‘trickle down economics’ is if you give more money to the richest people, they will in turn, ‘invest’ their savings into creating jobs and also, if the IRS gets less, charities will get more. On the one hand, if conservatives cut back on social programs, it will make ‘faith based’ charities more competitive with state welfare programs. But in an article in last Sunday’s New York Times, called ‘If The IRS Gets Less, Do Charities Get More?”, apparently not. Interestingly, last year it was reported that the poorest states, Mississippi and Arkansas contributed more per capita to charities than ‘rich’ states such as Massachusetts.

So there you have it, the reason why the rich get richer is because they are too cheap to spend any of their money. But we have been led (read: brainwashed) that talking about class warfare is ‘socialistic’ or ‘Marxist’ as we all know, we fought a 40 year Cold War so we could defeat the concept of class warfare.

Charitable Giving as a Proportion of Income

Income Group 2000 2003

$15,000 and under 23.0 26.0
$15,000 to $30,000 7.8 9.2
$30,000 to $50,000 4.9 5.3
$50,000 to $100,000 3.4 3.8
$100,000 to $200,000 2.8 3.0
$200,000 and over 3.7 3.4

Source: Analysis of Internal Revenue Service data

One justification for high CEO salaries is the belief that at the level of income (multi-million) would make these people immune to corruption. Obviously, that myth has exploded – just look at Andy Faistow, Ken Lay, Waxman, et. al.

Meanwhile, it was reported today that Dick Cheney does NOT have to reveal who was involved in his dealings with energy execs (Ken Lay?) which shaped the country’s all business all the time energy policy that still hasn’t been approved by the Republican Congress. So to quote Bill O’Reilly: “Whose Looking Out For You?”

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Democratization of the Media

The BAttle of New Orleans was fought on January 8, 1815. It was the last battle of the War of 1812. It was a unique battle, because it was fought AFTER the war was over! The War of 1812 officially ended in December, 1814. But it took a few weeks to get the word out to British and American troops to let them know.

In 1864, in an effort to hurry up and become a state, Nevada telegraphed its Constitution to President Lincoln (modern technology for its day) and it probably took a day or two to type it all in and transmit it. To this day, Nevada is the only state that had its constitution submitted this way.

In 1876, the telephone was invented and about the same time the phonograph and electric lighting. President Benjamin Harrison was the first President ot have electricity in the White House, but both he and his wife were afraid to touch the switch for fear of being electrocuted, so they continued to use candlelight.

Chester A. Arthur was the first Preident to have a phone in the White House as well as heated water.

In the 1890s, the player piano was the rage and of course, music producers tried suing them for copyright infringement.

Radio came on the scene during the Roaring 20s and Cal Coolidge was the first President to give a nationwide radio address.

TV had its first broadcast in 1941 in Britain and a few years later in the US. Harry Truman was the first President to give a nationwide television address. At the same time, science fiction like computers came on the scene, including a Sperry Univac that filled an entire room, but had as much power as a Commodore 64. In 1948, it 'calculated' that Truman would win, but newspapers had the banner headline of "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN". Even today, we think 'the computer is always right'.

Meanwhile, the music industry evolved into 78 rpm. My mom had a few of these. They weren't black, but blue and yellow. Then came 33 rpm, then 45 rpm.

I wasn't always the first on my block to have the latest in hi tech. We didn't get color TV until 1971. Friends had it first, but we had quite a few black and white TVs. My first color broadcast was "Lost In Space" in 1966. We watched the moon landing in 1969 on the neighbor's color set, but it was in black and white.

I completely ignored audiocassettes and 8 tracks. I got intrigued by CDs, but waited for them to get the bugs out. I didn't get my first VCR until the mid 80s.

But I was one of the first on my block to have a home computer. There was no PC industry back then. My first PC was a Commodore 64 in 1983 and I was mesmerized by Apple's now famous '1984' commercial that intoduced the Mac. A friend had a 128K Mac but I waited for the Fat Mac in 1984. Since then, I've had a Mac Quadra 605, a Mac G4 laptop and when I was working for my last employer, which was a 'Microsoft only' shop, I had to buy a Windoze laptop in order to log in from home, since the company didn't support Macs (I still have the G4 and still use it as a home finance and rolodex.

I was a member of the Boston Computer Society back when 'computers programming' was done by hobbyists sharing code. No Internet back then, although as a Cold War invention, was developed for the military in case DC got nuked and the rest of the country could still function. At the end of the Cold War in 1989, it was turned over to private hands, where development was swift. I was first exposed to the Internet when I was working at the Nevada Test Site in 1992. My first browser was 'Mozilla/Mosaic' developed in Europe.

The rapid technological change has led to the democratization of the 'media' in the sense that people have started blogging around 1995 and started posting anything and everything about anything and everything, including their opinions on current events.

One thing I don't like about watching Cable News talk shows is the fact that the panelists are mostly guys in suits, have jobs and health care and they sit there and tell you how good the economy is. You seldom get opinions from 'the rest of us' when it comes to how does the economy really affect the middle class. Is it really that good or is it a pipedream?

The first blogs hit the airwaves in 1995. Now thanks to the popularity of Apple's Ipod (way to go Apple - the most creative company out there) 'talk radio' has een democratized as well. Rush Limbaugh made a name for himself by calling for jail time for drug abusers - until he bacame one.

So 'Podcasts' are the newest big thing - blogs put to music. I have became aware of them by reading an article about them in Parade Magazine and began exploring them by visting click on any highlighted date in the claendar and it will bring you to the podcasts that were created on that day. I have downloaded there Ipodder collector, but haven't used it yet, as I have been downloading them manually and synching my Ipod with them. This way I don't waste time while walking around. Over time, I'm sure Podcasting will become as easy to do as blogging. When I was in college I was involved with the Concert Series and the radio station. I'd love to start doing my own radio shows. I am currently checking out the cost of the production of such a show.

One of the best shows so far is Blogosphere Radio a rather well done college radio show from somewhere in Canada, Alberta I think. They offer the latest in Podcasting news as well as tips, conferences, interviews, etc. I am also checking out a few others and when I hit a good one, will pass it on.

I may start my own news organization, the People's Information Group (PIG) network.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

You gotta love the title...

I've heard this one before.

The New York Times has a frontpage story about the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, signed by Bush last October. What it REALLY is is a tax break for companies that made huge profits overseas to bring the money back home and only pay 5.25% of it, as opposed to paying the 35% they are supposed to pay. As much as $80B are eligible. That's about 1/4 of the cost of the war in Iraq so far. Some of the biggest benificiaries of the big Drug Companies such as Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and Bristol Myers, despite the fact that much of their profit comes from the domestic customers. These are the same drug companies that pressured the formerly free-market Republicans to push for the closing of the Canadian border to American consumers who are looking for a cheaper alternative for the SAME drugs.

Even though most corporations are supposed to pay a top rate of 35% on profits, most of the drug companies (cartel) pay a collective total of about 15%. Think of it. The typical middle class individual pays 28%. In fact about about 89% of all tax revenue comes from you and me (not me, because I have no inncome to tax) and 11% comes from corporations.

But you gotta love the name - "The American Job Creation Act" of 2004. So where are the jobs? American corporations have been having some of the biggest profits since 2002, but they are still reluctant to bring on staff. Far better to make the ones they have non-exempt employees who can work for than one shift and pay them for only one. At the same time, cut back on the benefits like health care. Even McDonalds wants to convert to self serve kiosks so they can eliminate employees.

But having another loophole for corporations being disquised as an "American Job Creation Act" is simply deceitful. And deceit is another word for saying 'lying' which is quite immoral for the Values Party.

Meanwhile CNN (liberal media) had a biography of Tom DeLay. Funny, when he had his own exterminator business, the IRS put 3 liens on the business because he didn't pay payroll or SS taxes. Funny, this is the guy who wants to put in judges who are strict constructionists, in other words, judges who will interpret and follow the law. Of course, the Bush Administrations hates CNN and the New York Times because it covers stories that Fox dares to tread and if they do, won't give it much airplay.

I was watching (caught the end of) the Beltway Boys on Fox. This is the biggest waste of airtime on TV. Its not a talk show, its two Bush supporters who try to outdo each other in who is the better Republican.

But Mort Kondrake said something that was absolutely SHOCKING. He criticized Walmart for being the most successful corporation while its wages were among the lowest, was cited in Arkansas for hiring illegal aliens and again was on the chopping block for hiring illegal aliens as its cleaning staff. The company has since gone out of ite way, including commercials in Mandarin to get its point across that it was a 'good' company (especially for minorities) to work. Its called Damage Control.

But of course, Mort's partner in crime, Fred Barnes, who at least admitted he owns stock in the company by saying that Walmart's wages were no worse than other retail outfits, but Mort countered with some statistics that other stores like Target paid better.

Walmart - A Mexican Success Story.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Don't let them do it...

We live in a one party democracy. How much 'democracy' do you get when one party dominates all 3 branches of government? Especially when that party will go to great lengths to destroy its opponents and stifle dissent. Consider the following:

. We have the best government that money can buy. Or so they say. Most companies traditionally contribute to both political parties, usually spending more on the party in power and throwing scraps to the other party as a way of hedging their bets. But one thing that the embattled and ethically challenged majority whip and one of the most power Republicans, Tom DeLay, is known for is telling corporate donors that if they get caught contributing to the Democratic party may cost them access to power brokers. All donations MUST go to the GOP or else. It's bad enough we have to live in a 'Slutocracy' but I find this particular move somewhat immoral. Smacks of Nazi Germany.

. George Bush has been pushing tort reform as the centerpiece of his 'Health Care Reform'. No doubt, nuisance lawsuits cost everyone money, but he conveniently ignores the high cost due to CEO pay at the top of the Insurance and Drug companies, escessive beauracracy as well as preventing America's elderly from shopping for a better deal by shopping in Canada, as well as preventing cities and states from saving taxpayer money by doing the same. But there is something more ominous than meets the eye going on here. As a general statement 'all doctors are Republicans, and all lawyers are Democrats'. By going after nuisance lawsuits, Bush is making a backhanded attempt at cutting lawyer pay which in turn would cut into lawyers' contributions to the Democrats. This may seem like politics as usual, but ultimately it is designed to eliminate the opposition.

. Time magazine had an article in its May 2 issue about the American Telecommunications Conference which meets 3 times a year in cities across the Americas. But in last weeks meeting in Guatemals City, 4 of the at least two dozen of the US delegates selected ahve been bumped by the White House because they supported Kerry's 2004 campaign. Two of the companies barred were Qualcomm and Nokia. The White House 'argument' was that it wants its delegates to present the Administration in a posite light, and since Kerry tried 'to overthrow it' these companies were banned. But Nokia argues that sending delegates to international meeting should not be a partisan matter.

. The USA Patriot Act. I have yet to read this piece of legislation line for line, but I will. Although put in place to protect the country from Al Queda, there have been reports of using the Act to spy on and keep track of anti-war protests in Iowa. THAT's not the intent of the law!

. The attempt by the GOP to use the 'Nuclear Option' ie, elimination of the fillibuster in Congress. We could argue the benefits and drawbacks of this method of stalling nominations and legislation, but the attempt by the GOP to eliminate it, is yet another attempt to eliminate opposition. They claim they are against 'activist' judges, but what they are really saying is they are against judges that don't agree with them. Of course they support 'activist' judges - just conservative ones.

. And yesterday on MSNBC"s Countdown with Keith Olberman, there was a story of a Baptist minister in East Waynesburg, N.C. who had demanded that his congregation vote for George Bush in the last election. He argued that Kerry stood for a woman's right to choose (abortion) and gay rights (they shouldn't have any) and that ONLY George Bush was 'Christian'. Of course Bush won, and the issue calmed down.

But recently, the minister asked all those in the congregation who had voted for John Kerry to stand up. When those that did, did so, he expelled them from the church! This interplay with the GOP and American Taliban is getting a bit too much. This isn't Iran!

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is trying to bring 'democracy' to the Middle East.

This years elections won't be as big a deal as last year's but next year's will. It'll be time for midterm Congressional. If you have Republican representation, let them know this has gone on far enough and that you will work to unseat them. If not, work with the Democrats, Libertarians or any other group to bring back the diversity of opinion and more open debates on real issues. Bush won, but not by a landslide.

Congressional gridlock is better than what we have now...

But wait, there's more...

The Times had another article last week called "Only The Little People Pay for Lawn Care" about how even when CEO's get paid outrageous sums of money for the little that they do and to top it off they don't have many bills to pay. As part of their additional perks, the CEO of Tyson Foods, Donald J Tysori got a $38,000 stipend for an Oriental rug, $15,000 for a London vacation, $8,000 for a horse and other perks that include golf club memberships and lawn care. He shouldn't have to dip into his little nest egg, should he?

The perks included $200K in housekeeping for 5 houses, $84K in lawn care and $36K in phone bills. They even paid $1.1M to cover the taxes on these perks.

Its tough these days when you are forced to live on a tight budget which included $31.M in salary, $1.4M in bonuses (and that's after he RETIRED)

GE's Jack Welch got paid by the company for flowers, Knicks tickets, laundry and wine, even after he retired.

But yet, hiring ME would be too much of a burden. These people have no shame in an era where the GOP has made bankruptcy a shame, the unemployed are made out to be lazy and the poor are made to feel guilty.

The Saudis have a good idea on how to deal with these thives, even if it is legal. They are still thieves. Take them to the public square and cut their hands off.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Executive Pay

I apologize to those whom I've sent this to in an email a few weeks ago, but I am reprinting it as a seque into tomorrow's post.

The New York Times a few weeks ago did a thing on Executive pay. They actually listed in several pages the pay of hundreds of companies.

There is absolutely NO relationship between pay and performance. Some companies have lost money but their CEOs get raises anyway.

The following is the 'Haul of Fame'.

Larry Ellison Oracle $706.1M 2001
Charles B. Wang Computer Associates 655.4 1999
Michael Eisner Walt Disney 575.8 1998
Sanjay Kumar Computer Associates 359.2 1999
John S. Reed Citicorp 230.7 1997
Raymond J. Lane Oracle 233.9 2000

[Keep in mind there are 45 million people without health care in the US]

Sanford I. Weill Citicorp 230.7 1997
Sanford I. Weill Citicorp 224.9 2000
Michael D. Eisner Disney 203.0 1993
Mel Kerzamin CBS 201.9 1998
Alfred Lerner MBNA 195.0 2002
L. Dennis Kozlowski Tyco (on trial) 170.4 1999

[If we were talking about lazy poor people on welfare, the GOP would have been demanding REFORM NOW. Remember, no linkage between pay and performance).]

Sanford I. Weil Citicorp 167.1 1998
Gerald M. Levin AOL/Time Warner 164.4 2000
Stephen M. Case America Online 159.2 1998
Josef Straus JDS Uniphase 150.8 2001
Howard Solomon Forest Laboratories 148.5 2001
Jeffrey S. Raikes Microsoft 145.5 2000

[But raising the minimum wage would put undue hardship on business.]

Paul A. Moritz Microsoft 145.3 1999
Richard D. Fairbank Capital One Financial 142.2 2001
Kenneth L. Lay ENRON 141.7 2000
[Chief GOP fundraiser in 2000, on trial in 2006. Claims he doesn't know high tech or finance. So how did he get the job? Thousands lost jobs and pensions. Those who lost their jobs got the standard unemployment benefit.]
[If he were pushing crack and black, he'd get 20 years first offense.]

Reuben Mark Colgate-Palmolive 141.4 2003
[Company lost money in 2003 - remember no link to pay and performance.]

Henry R. Silverman Cendant 137.5 2000
Ronald T. LeMay Sprint 128.4 2000
Stephen M. Case AOL Time Warner 128.3 2001

[2 of the last 3 companies lost money last year].


The following is a list of what top CEOs get in retirement EVERY YEAR for the REST OF THEIR LIVES:

Henry A. McKinnell Pfizer 6.5M
Lee R. Raymond Exxon Mobil 5.9
Edward H. Whitacre SBC Communications 5.5
[SBC Communications is Sinclair Boradcasting that refused to air the Nightline show about American War Dead, he'll also get an $8.6M lump sum payment]

William W. McGuire United Health Group 5.1
Robert L. Nardelli Home Depot 3.9
Reuben Mark Colgate Palmolive 3.7 (maybe that's why the company didn't make any money, hmmm).

Ken D. Lewis Bank of America 3.5
[Use some of that money to protect people's identities and keep track of backup tapes]

Sam J. Palmisano IBM 3.4
Jeff R. Immelt GE 2.9
James Mulva Conoco Phillips 2.7
Richard K. Davidson Union Pacific 2.7
Arthur F. Ryan Prudential 2.6
Harold M. Messmer Robert Half 2.6
[But they can't find ME a job]

Noland Archibald Black and Decker 2.6
Robert A. Eckert Mattel 2.5
[It pays handsomely for cheap Chinese labor - so THAT's where the savings go]

Patrick Stokes Anheuser-Busch 2.5
Lewis Hay FPL Group 2.4
Sidney Taurel Eli Lilly 2.3
E. Neville Isdell Coca Cola 2.3
Douglas H. McCorkindale Gannett 2.2

In addition to his salary, Robert W. Selander of Master Card will get a $10M 'incentive bonus' to stay in his job for 6 more years, on top of his 9.2M salary. Many CEOs also get other 'incentive bonuses' such as free golf club memberships and corporate jet usage.

[So they give the guy $10M to stay on the job for 6 more years - what? They can't find a decent replacement among the 8 million people who are unemployed?]

And then there are those who are down on their luck:

Carly Fiorina of HP gets FIRED - walks away with $21M.
Martha Stewart gets 'home detention' in her mansion and she compalinig about her ankle bracelet.

Meanwhile the GOP (Greedy Old Party) has submitted these items into its budget paid for with YOUR tax dollars.

$3M for the Cal Rifkin Sr. Foundatio to build a replica of Camden Yards.
$1.7M to the International Fertilizer Foundation
$100K for the Tiger Woods Foundation (Tiger Woods is a millionaire, let him contribute to his OWN foundation)

Source: MSNBC

Sources: The Corporate Library, company proxy statements; Pearl Meyyer and Partners; Business Week.

Remeber there are 8 million people unemployed and 45 million have no health care, but nobody can find any money. Where is the 'Moral Party now'. Even the recent Bankruptcy legislation was based on 'moral' issues - people who can pay their debts should be foreced to.

We hear alot about the Hollywood 'Elite' but we never hear much about the 'Corporate' Elite. They operate in the shadows and so therefore NEVER under political attack.

And all these millionairs keep getting their taxes cut by the Bush Administration. Why aren't they paying 'their fair share' for the freedoms we enjoy?

Where's the Morality? Where's the ethics? Where's the outrage?


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Another weed story

I used to own my own home just a few blocks where I am now living. It is in the same 'Master Planned Community' that I have to deal with now. When I bought the house, I had purchased 3 Eastern Redbud Trees from a nursery and the price included 'installation' . I thought that was funny as I told the woman that you 'install' software, not trees. You plant them. I mapped out a plan and submitted it to the Design Review Committee for 'approval'.

Back then, I was living in the wide open desert, where tumbleweeds would blow down W. Lake Mead Blvd and I even had one growing in my yard. It became a bush, dried out and because it doesn't have a root system, would roll around the yard with the breeze. Before all the development came, there was little to stop the winter winds and I lost two of the three trees due to windstorms, once of which knocked down a marquee at a casino. I lost the third tree due to unknown causes, it got plenty of water, etc.

Eastern Redbud have leaves that look like cherry blossoms, but they are a lot of work. In the spring, the leaves come out pink, then they drop them and the second set of leaves come out green only to shed them in the fall. So I had to rake up leaves twice a year. One of the trees that was snapped in half sprouted new growth from the remaining half and I left it like that.

I moved back to Boston to work when my company's contract expired, but kept the house. A friend of mine, Don, managed the house and took care of my dog, Copa in my absense. The only thing I asked him to do was keep the HOA off my back. He kept the front yard neat and trim and he didn't mind the rules and regulations because he used to live on a few military bases.

In my back yard, outside my bedroom window was a weed. Don likes plants, just like I do and he turned the house into a mini jungle. He grew veggies in grow boxes in the back, and I doubt he got 'permission' from the HOA.

Over the years, while I was away (I planned on being away a year, but it turned out to be more like 5) the weed tree grew into a behomoth tree of 9 feet high and was taller than the house!

In September 2002, when I returned, the weed tree in the back stood there in all its glory, leaning over like a weeping willow. I kept it there for it was providing shade for the bedroom that the 'installed' trees failed to do. But once the cooler weather came, I decided to cut it down, because a weed is a weed is a weed. The root system had roots that were as thick as water pipes.

On day I went with a friend to the Cactus and Succelent Society of Southern Nevada to check out the selection. In a cardboard box, were pieces of Opuntia cactus (Prickly Pear) and for sale for a buck. I grabbed a small one, went home, planted it, (installed it), watered it ONCE and let mother nature do the rest. The following picture is how the 'pad' grew into a seven foot high 'tree'.

On the side of the house, I was located next to an empty lot that the Community Association set aside as a 'park'. This made my property 'promo' because I had the park and not another house. Landscaping was planted for privacy and it was on the side where my AC was located. Over time, weeds grew there and another weed tree grew on the side of my gouse that also grew taller than my roof. I began to cut away at these weeds because I was concerned about it affecting my AC Unit. I could only work for short periods of time, as I was out there with Don's hedge clippers in the 111 degree heat (and that was at 8PM!).

The HOA never complained about that either. So why are they being such dickheads now?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Meanwhile, in the 'hood

I went out to get my mail today and there was a taped 'blurb' on the side of the box saying paraphrased:

To My Neighbors:
As to why the police seem to always be at 2224 'My Street':

The house is being rented by 'Jennifer' who is employed as an escort for the 'Howdy Do' Escort service on Industrial Road. She has two daughters 'Alex' and 'Sarah' who are teenagers and she has this boyfriend 'George' who doesn't like the girls, so she asked him to leave. So, in anger, 'George' fired a gun at the entrance to the house on December 17, 2004. The police were called and his case number is xxx-xx in District Court. As a result of this incident, the neighbor at 2228 'My Street' has since put his house up for sale. (which has yet sell.) 'Jennifer' is renting this house and is in violation of her lease by having 'George' as a tenant as well as having a chihuahua on the premises which is also in violation of her lease.

But 'Jennifer' still loves 'George', so if you see 'George' in the neighborhood, please call police.

Meanwhile, my HOA is threatening to fine me for $100 for having a weed or two in my yard, and yet I have no clue as to what they are talking about.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Other Crisis

In last week's press conference, President Bush kept on the referring to the 'crisis' in Social Security. There are many, including some in the SSA itself, that dispute this claim that Social Security is headed for bankruptcy either in 2048 or 2018.

Bush tried to make the point that Grandma's benefits would not be cut, but benefits for Grandkid might not be there if we don't act NOW. He's on record saying that he doesn't want to be a President who passes problems to the next President. If he really cares about the next generation, why is he leaving the next generation enoromous debt? The tax cuts he gives millionaires today will be paid by the kids of tomorrow.

If Bush really wants to tackle a 'crisis' he'd better address the CURRENT crisis of health care. Forty six million Americans have no health care at all, 50% of whom are currently employed but their employers don't or won't offer health care benefits to their workers.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who works in a small store that I frequent. She told me she had worked a 12 hour shift. I said "Well, at least you get paid time and a half, right?". No. "Well, at least you have health care, don't you?" No, in fact she had just gotten kicked off Nevada's version of Medicare because, get this she makes TOO MUCH MONEY. How much money can a clerk behind a counter make to be pushed out of health care? At least they kept her kid, who has asthma, on the rolls.

I have been unemployed for too long now and of course, health care is a 'luxury' I'll probably never see again. I have a friend who has been unemployed for almost as long as I have and her COBRA is due to expire this month. She said she can't afford to pay $450 a month in private insurance.

During the 90s under the Clinton Administration it was primarily conservatives who pushed for the NAFTA agreements and other free trade policies. But in the Medicare 'Reform' Bill of last year, what did the 'free marketeer' Republicans push for? Preventing elderly Americans from shopping with feet by going over the border with Canada (a NAFTA signatory). They in effect made free market ILLEGAL when it comes to prescription drugs! You can go over the border and bring back Canadian cigarettes (not that you'd want to ecause they are more expensive then here), which are bad for you, but you cannot bring back Lipitor which could save your life.

Last week the GOP got one of its pet projects completed - the passage of the new bankruptcy 'reform' that had been vetoed by Clinton twice. Once again, they couch their legislation in the form of 'morality', by convincing you that poor people are immoral and they cost you (them) money. They brought back shame as a part of being poor. Of course, there are people who abuse the system, but the standard Republican response is "If we can find ONE person who cheats the system we'll FORCE change on everyone". Why not just punish severely the ones who get caught abusing the system? The bankrupcy law as well as the Medicare law were just bones thrown for the benefit of corporate America.

The funny thing is the two biggest reasons why people declare bankrupcy is due to long term unemployment and medical emergencies. If I should suddenly have to have my appendix removed, where the hell am I supposed to get the money to pay for the emergency operation? Should I just die? If I break my toe, should I just live with the pain until it heals itself?

If the Democrats ever have a hope of every gainging some political traction they should try making the fact that in the richest country in the world, nearly 50 million people have no access to any health care plan (even preventive medical care, never mind the best medical techniques on the planet. They need to make THAT a moral crusade. Start shaming the GOP instead of people who are simply trying to get by from one day to the next.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Blue Screen of Death

While checking out ways to upload pictures to this blog, blogger claims that they don't have a way to do this and they recommend that I install 'Hello' to do this. I did, and I was greeted with the 'Blue Screen of Death", in otherwords, reboot.

When my system came up, I left it alone and when I went to get my cellphone which is near the computer, I had the BS of D again. I watched it come up and the desktop had a problem and went into reverse video, so I thought, ok, what's different? When I was able to, I removed Hello and rebooted. The system came up better and I left it alone. It was 1 am. An hour later, I heard the machine rebooting itself.

This morning, I had the BS of D again and once up, I ran Norton and found no threats. I went out to Microsoft and found that they do have a Hotfix for my problem. But there's a catch. I can't just download it, as Microsoft will only let you have the patch after some geek there has determined that you really need this patch.

I can't call them or they might charge me, and since it is a problem with the OS (2000P) I shouldn't have to pay for the fix. Knowing I have a problem, I eagerly await the next bomb so I can write the exact message so I can send them e-mail and request 'permission' or 'approval' for the patch.

The system has been up for awhile, so that's good, but I hope it blows up soon, so I can get the issue resolved.

Microsoft has apparently turned into an HMO. They know what's good for me, since I apparently do not. Oy.