I was with a group of friends last night, and someone was unclear about what exactly a blog is.

Don’t throw ME in the briar patch!

But you know, I’ve been doing this blog thing for 6 and a half years. It is a container to hold the mind-matter that might otherwise jam up in my head.

I dont’ know if it begets further mediocrity or if it actually helps me hone my thinking.

I guess what I know for sure it does is save trees. I would be writing SOMETHING even if were on notebooks that would pile up and be in the way. I do have enough of those hanging around anyway.

If we didn’t have this new container for writing, communication, creativity, what-have-you, this receptacle that is the internet…I think we would probably write more letters.

Or maybe we would put on local dispalys of art–theater productions, paintings, music sessions, something. At the risk of sounding like Captain Kirk, I think it’s part of what makes humans great.

And yeah, there are a lot of stupid outpourings. This particular post would be one of them. But then, there is the occasional flash of something greater.  I have a category “Attempts at Profundity” that is for those little flashes.

I guess capturing them is worth the rest of the drivel.

Musical re-interpretations

Last week, I got my piano moved out of the kitchen and into its home against the interior living room wall. We had to get a pro to do it, and use special weight distributing cups under the piano wheel so that this heavy thing does not leave long scars in the ancient floor wood of our living room.

I can see the whole blessed piano from the dining table and while lying down on the couch. It had a thickish coat of grimy dust on it from being so near the stove which cooks our hamurger meat. I lovingly washed it with Murphy’s Wood Soap. I needed the grease to be really cleaned off it before I got to the real prize:

Polishing the wood

I have put so much work and love into that worthless piano, and I love love love to see the wood that I uncovered by my sweat, blood and tears shine like a redeemed life. I use Solid Gold furniture polish (I would link to it, but the internet is not on speaking terms with that brand). I rubbed and shined the oily redemption on my gorgeous instrument until I could see every grainy swirl of the proud tree it once was.

I plugged the piano lamp in to shed light and stood back. Yes, that’s my piano. Beautiful. About a million years ago, when I finally put the finish coat on my piano and saw the color it became, I determined that the piano was the color that I wish my hair was: a shimmering multi-faceted auburn that licked out like flame.

Maybe I was high from the fumes of the chemicals. But when I put the love-polish on my instrument, it ignites the flame every time.

THEN I found my fake book and played a few tunes. My fingers were weak from not playing since…oh…forever or February, which is when we refinished the floors in the house and when it was relagated to the kitchen. The piano also needs a tuning. Middle ‘D’ is quite dissonant. Hard to avoid middle ‘D’. It’s a popular and useful key.

I’ve been longing to play my piano, and I spent some time on it. I think I’ll try to at least touch the keys every day. Making music is a joy that I should not neglect. Since Chris has his finished office now, I can play and make mistakes without bothering anyone.

I like to play and sing. One thing I enjoy doing is taking a well-known song and reinterpreting it to my own style.

I just heard a great duet reinterpretation, and I’ll share it all with you here:

Little House in the Foothills- Cat bath

Last time I washed the cat was right before we moved into our little house. He suffered a tail injury-perhaps it was merely a tail indignation-which required a midnight trip to the vet and much concern.

We figured that Cat would never be bathed again.

But he is fat, and lazy, and not so good about grooming. He was accumulating dirt on his catskin like sand. He spends a lot of time laying down, and I figured he couldn’t be comfortable with the grit rubbing against his hide. I nerved myself up to bathe Cat.  Chris was sick, so I had to do it alone.

He took it better than expected. No scratching or biting, just several attempts at escape. In the end, he lay down in the tub and yowled as I doused him with water and rubbed him with Chris’s Pert. That made it hard to wash his tummy, but I did my best. Brown streams of water came off him.

I raised him out of the tub wrapped in a towel and held him until his panicked breathing slowed a little. He’s such a fat cat I had some fear of him having a stroke or something. But he at last calmed down and began licking his paws. I left a clean, dry towel on the floor to help with the drying process.

Lucy Dog came over to inspect. Cat smelled funny now; he didn’t used to smell like Pert. Lucy really wanted to help Cat by licking, but she knew that Cat had never tolerated such impudence. She stood over the grooming cat with her tongue slightly out, showing moral support I guess.

It’s been three days since the bath, and he loves to lay on the towel. It’s his now. He is a pleasure to pet and proud of his shiny coat. We can tell he is proud because he slits his eyes and blinks with buddha-like satsifaction. I think this bath proves that we could do it again if necessary.

home news

Chris has been keeping his eye on the progress, and this week we were the first on our block to get FIOS installed.

They said he might come as early as 8. But he didn’t get in until about 4. It took about 4 hours to install. They hung a box on the outside of the house, but they also had to put on on the inside. Unlike regular twisted pair phone wiring, fiber doesn’t carry power, so that means they had to put a battery pack inside the house as a backup for phone service in case the power goes out. They had to drill a hole in the wall of the house.

FIOS includes a TV service, but our neighborhood isn’t ready for TV yet. But since the guy had come out, he wanted to get it ready for when the TV would be activated. A coax cable needed to be run from the outside box into the hour near the TV. The easiest way to do this was under the house.

“Easy” is a relative term, though. There is about a 2 foot crawl space under the house, and Chris would have to swallow claustrophia to thread a coax from the living room corner out to  the far wall where the FIOS bos was hung.

He was successfull, but when he came out he was covered. He decided that the dust under the house was fine and floaty just like moon dust. He left a sifting in the house over to the bathroom where he immediately cleaned up.

“I should have worn my clothes into the shower and got them wet. It would have been cleaner.” he said.

Now, we have two buildings that needed to be served by this FIOS:the house and the office. As long as we had a cable running from one building to the other, that was fine. We did; when we built the office we had 3 runs of CAT 6 underground-rated cable.

Thing is, I’d never gotten the cable to work right. I punched down the cable on each end into RJ45 connector, the kind you use for network cable. But I’d never gotten it to work and I couldn’t figure out why. In despeartion, we’d put a strong wireless router in the office with barely and mostly reached the main house. That way I could still use my laptop to surf the web while watching tv in the living room.

Richard, the Verizon guy, was informed of my problems with the cable connecting the two buildings. He got a toner and confirmed that the cable was connected. He also checked my colors to make sure they were right. He assured me that it was indeed connected and it was punched in correctly.

I was glad to hear that I had done a good job, but that didn’t explain why it didn’t work. Richard got another tool to test each individual wire connection.

The problem was that the wires hadn’t been properly punched. Meaning, the little plastic punch-down tool hadn’t pierced the wire’s insulation enough to make reliable connection with the RJ45 jack’s metal connector.

“This is really tough cable,” Richard said. “Even using my good punchdown tool I had to push really hard.”

AT LAST! the problem was solved, and now I have FAT wireless connectivity in my home. Chris has superfast internetivity in his office and all is well.

Oscar the Orange Grower, or Why Wealth Redistribution Doesn’t Work

This story was inspired by the last presidential debate, starring ‘Joe the Plumber’, and by the many comments from small business owners who responded to this pajamasmedia piece.

Oscar had an orange tree in his backyard. One day, he put the oranges in the basket on his bike to sell them at the fruit market. He paid the ten cents to cross the toll bridge, and sold all his oranges that day. He counted his money and started making plans. Selling oranges became a regular thing, and Oscar set aside the money for the fares. The rest was pure profit.

Oscar kept thinking. He looked at the orange tree and saw its roots were in dry and dusty earth. He spent some money and did the work to water and fertilize his tree. Now he had so many oranges he had to make two trips a day on his bike to sell them all. So he bought a trailer to hold all the oranges. The time and toll money he saved soon paid off the investment in the trailer.

He bought another orange tree, and when it bore fruit he invested more money into his oranges. He needed more people to drive the oranges to the market, so he bought another bike and another trailer. When he had enough money, he hired someone to take the oranges to the market and now he had some real money.

He slowly added more bikes and more workers for his orange selling business. After time, he had paid ten people to sell his oranges and help tend his trees. He spent all his time overseeing the work.

But a new road commissioner took charge of the toll bridge. He wanted to change things. Currently, everyone paid ten cents to cross the bridge. But the commissioner thought that was unfair. He felt that ordinary people should not have to pay to cross the bridge. Only bikes with trailers—obvious commercial enterprises—should have to pay for the privilege. As he said, they are the only ones making money by crossing the bridge so they should be the only ones to pay. He wanted to take the extra money that he gathered and help poor people.

He bikes with trailers to pay a dollar for every crossing. Now Oscar had to start making plans. When he started out, he only had to pay bridge toll to sell his oranges. But as the business grew, he spent money on water, fertilizer, and a trailer. Now he had to pay his workers, collecting the money from the orange sales to cover all the expenses incurred by production and sales of oranges.

Oscar added up all the expenses with the new bridge toll. He thought about how hard he worked to keep everything flowing. He liked selling oranges, but it had been a long time since he himself had sold an orange. Now that the tolls were so much higher, he couldn’t make as much money with all his employees. Too much of his money would pay for tolls now; it didn’t make sense to work so hard for someone else.

He thought some more, and decided to live off the oranges from just one tree. He could go back to making two trips a day on his bike. If he didn’t use a trailer, he wouldn’t’ have to pay a toll at all. He would be quite comfortable.

He fired all his workers and went back to a peaceful life. His workers had no more money, so they went to the road commissioner. He’d said that he would distribute the new toll money to the poor, and they were poor now.

But without the bike trailer traffic there was no extra toll money, and the road commissioner turned them away.

Iceland’s bank accounts are frozen? Really?

We all know that the U.S. is having some money troubles. We’ve gotten used to hearing ‘seven hundred billion dollars’ repeated and echoed on TV and the radio and in print. But we are not alone in economic distress. Europe’s been feeling a little panicked, too.

By my reckoning, the first country that did a bail-out plan was Ireland. They jumped right on it:

(from 10/1/08)

Ireland said Tuesday it would guarantee payments on as much as €400 billion ($563 billion) in bank debt…The figure, which the government said guaranteed nearly its entire banking system, is twice the country’s gross domestic product.

Ireland acted a lot faster than the US in doing a bailout. And in terms of the size of the each respective country, Ireland’s move is substantially larger than America’s 700 Billions. Ireland is not nearly as large as the US. I think that speaks well of Ireland’s concern for its people and for its reputation. People will not say that the Irish renege on promises. Although, I would feel concern if I were an Irish taxpayer. But Ireland will probably come out all right.

That’s not true of every country. Take Iceland. Right now, the big explosion of Iceland’s banking has left nothing but rubble. Last year, the excitement was high and the money was pouring in. At that time, the London Times describes the scene in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. The “billionaires boys club” rode the wave of a deregulated banking system. The icelandic Krona was quite expensive, and everyone was living large:

Flush with cash raised domestically and from international markets and headed by fresh-faced entrepreneurial chief executives, firms such as Bakkavor Group, FL Group and Baugur have used Reykjavik as an unlikely base for aggressive overseas expansion…

The success of these firms has attracted overseas investment far out of kilter with Iceland’s own small economy… It is one reason for the run on the currency sparked by a mini-financial crisis in Iceland last year. Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, gave warning last week that it may cut the country’s sovereign rating, causing alarm bells to ring …To tame inflation it has lifted interest rates to a record 13.75 per cent.

Interest rates of 13.75%? Hot damn! Sign me up! But wait a minute. Even this optimistic times say there was a mini-crisis in 2006 and some “alarm bells” were ringing because the bank’s reach is out of kilter with the country. But people believed that banks are solid. They never fail; they always keep their promises.

Well, this october surprise was a trick, not a treat for the many investors in Icelandic banks: bupkis. Investors put their money in Iceland, and they aren’t getting it back. Not if you’re not an icelander, anyway. This is doesn’t make happy customers. A bunch of officials are converging on the little island. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made some speeches back home, telling his countrymen “We will take further action against the Icelandic authorities wherever that is necessary to recover the money…This is the responsibility of the Icelandic government. They’ve got to take responsibility.”

From what I have found, the Prime Minister has to say something.The situation in Iceland seems to have affected every corner of the UK:

Hundreds of thousand of British consumers have accounts now frozen in Icelandic banks that have collapsed and been nationalized. Also stuck is close to £1 billion held by British regional governments, police and fire departments and London’s transport authority. British companies are also thought to have substantial deposits in Iceland.

As far as the Brits were concerned, this must have seemed a sure thing. Everyone was doing it, and the interest rates were not something to pass by. And even if they had some doubts, Iceland was part of the EU. Every bank that was part of the EU guarantees deposits, just like the FDIC in the US. They could deposit up to 20,000 euros worth of money and be secure. That’s the law:

The government, however, has said it may not be able to compensate foreigners…Iceland Prime Minister Geir Haarde said Friday the two countries are trying to work constructively to resolve the dispute, but he found some of Mr. Brown’s comments in recent days “disconcerting and not very helpful.”

I’d say that the British Prime Minister’s comments were disconcerting! What did he mean by “further action” anyway? Is he planning an invasion? The British navy is good, but how are you going to draw blood from a turnip?

See, the Iceland banks did their job on advertising.The British invested heavily in Iceland, lured by the huge interest rates. They weren’t the only ones either; thirteen and three quarter interest attracted customers from a lot of other European nations. Holland had a lot of money over there too.  But you know what bank-savvy country didn’t fall for this fabulous interest rate deal?


The land of banking had a populace that apparently knew better than to fall for a “too good to be true” deal. I would like to think that I would be a credulous of such an outlying front-runner on the interest rate game. But maybe if I’d seen the ad, I’d have fallen for it too. Especially if I kept the balance below the 20,000 euro insured limit. If I had, I’d be screwed just like England.

This economic crisis is a challenge to the European Union’s newly achieved economic status. This month euro is falling against the dollar at last. And  the beaurocrats from Belgium haven’t had to deal with this sort of thing before. It will be a history-making and policy-changing adventure.

For Iceland, it will probably be even more of a change. All those Icelandic suits are going to be in mothballs in their closets. They’ll have to return to being fishermen. Or maybe they can go back to their roots and go pillaging like Vikings.But maybe they just did.

fish in a small pond

Thinking of the national scene, and the international scene has got me down. Maybe I should be thinking of my more local scene.

I do live in a pretty nice city, in a pretty nice area. Maybe I should narrow my focus and concentrate on my insular town.

I got myspace spammed with a local website:

It’s a homey website, talking about where the garage sales are and what kind of community events are upcoming.

Also, last night, I managed to paint one wall of my living room and wash my dog. That wore me out, so I couldn’t finish transcribing the recipe for peach cobbler I had created out of two other recipes.

We had a birthday potluck at work yesterday–our first–and the cobbler was a hit. Therefore, the recipe was worth retaining.

Also, the crib arrived on Tuesday and is in it’s box waiting to be assembled.

So manymany things happening. Relevant, important things. The dog truly needed a bath and a peach cobbler is a thing of beauty.

And yet these things are very mundane. Contemplating the voter fraud activities of ACORN is a little more exciting, but less wholesome.

Perhaps I should have a sub-blog as part of this website, “Little House in The Foothills”

Our house is little. And perhaps it would be worthwhile to celebrate the nano-events of my life as a point of perspective.

Or maybe…or maybe…I should just read more books.

Election Irrational Rage

I’m feeling a certain regret for becoming an informed citizen.

Talking with a staunch democrat friend, I told her that I thought  Obama would probably win and that maybe it was a good thing: “Maybe people wouldn’t be so mad.”

See, I feel like the anger is coming from the right,” she said.

She was talking about this:

The Secret Service is following up on media reports today that someone in the crowd at a McCain/Palin event suggested killing Barack Obama, according to Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley. The shout of “kill him” followed a Sarah Palin rant on Obama’s relationship with radical Chicagoan Bill Ayers.

Assuming that is an accurate report, shouting murderous intentions is pretty angry. No doubt a rally for McCain is a republican site. So, there is some right anger going on. 

But I’ve been hearing so much rage against Bush for so long, personally. I’ve had liberal friends describe violent and humiliating things they would like to do the the current president. Do I think they would actually do  such things? no. But I am amazed to find these usually rational people be so full of destructive ‘bad energy.’

And now we are at the election. Almost there. I see this old anger directed at McCain, and my homegirl Palin.

What is up with this? I hate to continue to spread these nasty things, but here is some ofwhat I’m talking about:

In a sign of increasing nastiness on the left, supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama have been booing rivals John McCain and Sarah Palin, and even screaming “liar!” — with no response from Obama.

Okay, screaming “liar!” about the opponent is not so bad. But there is more. Michelle Malkin chronicles what she’s found. That post is a comparison of left rage vs. right rage. She, like me, is a conservative. She has collected a bunch of nasty things about Palin and McCain, and reaches back to show the Bush-rage that I’ve been noticing too.

I wanted to find a quote to paste in here, but I just can’t…it’s so distasteful. Read it if you are feeling very balanced, but if you don’t want a downer skip it.

I find this rage incomprehensible. Passion about an issue, I understand. But how do these people, who claim to be so interested in “serving the common good” (a phrase I see repeated and repeated in democrat literature in my community) justify this kind of nastiness?

A lefty femme does admit (an act of honesty) that she enraged by Palin:

What I’ve written on this site about Palin so far has been pretty restrained, considering what I feel for her privately could be described as violent, nay, murderous, rage. When Palin spoke on Wednesday night, my head almost exploded from the incandescent anger boiling in my skull. And I’m not the only one! I had simultaneous IM conversations with many friends, who said things like, “she seems like a fucking monster” and “this feminist wants to murk that idiotic c*nt.”

The tone of the comments on our Palin acceptance speech live blog was pretty similar; in fact, this comment says it all: “I want to punch her in the face and ruin her sh*t. **** her for ruining this historic moment. THANKS SARAH, THE HOTTEST VP.”

[I have censored the language, sorry it’s not a direct quote. Go to the link for the full text]

I see anger from the left, and my friend sees it from the right. It’s not really possible to say which is stonger.

What IS possible to say is, to quote my childcare training, “It’s not OKAY.”

It’s time for a little refresher course:

Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive—manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward—on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Let’s get real people. Who are we helping with this kind of rage?  Step back, take a breath, and remember it will all be over in less than a month.

Just when I get excited…

So, basically, just this year I got all excited about the election.

And it looks like my team is losing. I could give the links that support that assessment, but I am too depressed.

I guess my newly acquired status as informed citizen has to find a new outlet.

Perhaps I can stay up on women’s issues. I have been reading what has to say, and it’s an interesting perspective.

Or maybe I can try to wade through the mess of info about what the heck is happening with the ecoomy. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it, but it’s murky.

I’m sort of too bummed to work it out.

I guess when you get high, there is a come-down. I’ve still got my McCain/Palin lawn sign out, but it’s mostly a token now.

UPDATE: Chris suggests I watch some Fred and Ginger. “That was what they did in the Great Depression! It should be good enough for you.”


Female empowerment cuts both ways

I’ve been wanting to post, but every time i start, I just get overwhelmed. There has been a lot of things happening in terms of current events. I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do to figure it out.

That’s especially true because EVERYONE doesn’t know what’s going on–at least with the ecomony.

I turned on the radio to listen to Fresh Air, which I hadn’t been listening to in a while. I thought it would be soothing to hear about something cultural. But I fogot how very very very political Terry Gross is.

She was interviewing a woman who wrote a book about the incomprehensible idea of women organizing as conservatives. Here is part of what she had to say:

Although feminists have long dominated the political landscape in terms of numbers and visibility, they are increasingly being challenged by other national organizations—those that are antifeminist and also claim to represent women’s interests. These conservative women’s groups present a substantial threat to the feminist movement. They are well organized, politically active, and have access to government institutions, political parties, and national media. As these organizations vie with feminists over what women need and desire, they publicly contest definitions of women’s interests and influence political debates and policy outcomes.

The group she is complaining about is the Independent Women’s Forum. And she seems very concerned about their activity in politics and access to speaking to the media. What is this? Would she have it that only her ‘pure feminism’ are allowed to speak?

I was appalled to hear the tone that Terry and her guest took. They were talking about Sarah Palin as a person who was “co-opting” feminist ideals.

How is behaving according to feminist ideals co-opting? Must she agree with every “feminist” ideology to be an empowered woman?

Politics is all about taking the parts that make sense and which work for you and implementing them.

I’m not happy that my promoting my femininity seems to have a long trail of amendments, like a bloated bill in Congress.

I am a Feminist. And I am a conservative.

Listen, Terry. You can’t tell me that since I, as a women, do not meet your preconcieved expectations I must be silent. Female empowerment works both ways.

At least I can thank this broadcast for letting me know about IWF. I’ll be checking it out.