Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I miss the days of the old rotary phones. It was nice to have a simple phone where you picked up a receiver that fit comfortably into your hand and the mouthpiece was located directly in front of your mouth. The sound was transmitted clearly and the larger earpiece that fit snuggly against the ear made for easy listening. Sudden disconnects, variable sound intensity and conversations filled with the words, “can you hear me now,” did not exist.

There are so many buttons on today’s phones it takes a teenager or an engineer to figure out how to use the device. Many of my friends have an iphone that has so many functions it takes years of training to master them all. I use my cell phone for a GPS system, camera, clock, calculator and address book. The functions go on and on from text messaging to watching movies.

Even the line phones at home are filled with buttons and devices to identify the caller, buttons to put the party on hold while having a conversation with someone calling in, buttons to permit a loud speaker and buttons to turn the phone into an answering machine. At my son’s home the answering machine answers on the second ring and by the time I get to the phone the message is playing and I have missed the call because I’m still searching for the button that will allow me to answer. Most of the new line phones don’t allow you to simply pick up a receiver and say hello. It’s necessary to find the hidden button to activate the talk mode.

One nice thing about the caller identification feature is that the annoying telemarketer can be identified. Those people always call at mealtime and speak in a foreign dialect as they try to sell you a spot in the yellow pages of a worthless directory they are creating. The telephone directories are another story altogether and are enough to make your blood boil.

It was nice when I was a kid when we had simple numbers that were easy to remember. Our number was 134 and you didn’t even have to dial. The operator answered with, “number please.’ If you didn’t know the number the operator always gave you friendly assistance. I don’t think operators even exist anymore.

On Christmas Eve we had an almost wonderful candlelight service at our church. It was a most reverent affair until, right in the middle of a quiet time in the service, someone’s cell phone started ringing. It rang with a very loud tone, multiple times before it was finally deactivated. It spoiled everything. I’m sure God must have groaned and I ‘m surprised he didn’t send a bolt of lightening into the church to teach us all a lesson.

I’m thinking about taking the phone off the porch. In the evening, when I’m taking a nap before officially going to bed, I stumble all over the room trying to get to the ringing annoyance. I’ve almost broken my toe on several occasions and it’s hardly ever worth the effort. I always feel obligated to answer because when I was a kid a call after dark always meant a death in the family. Now it’s someone trying to sell me something and if I had the caller in my hands there might indeed be a death.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rick Warren who appears to have replaced Billy Graham as America’s Christian leader is catching a lot of flack along with president-elect Obama because he has been ask to say the invocation at the Inauguration. The flack is coming from the gay community because Warren supported the recent ban on gay marriage in California. To me, Obama seems to be moving in the right direction. He has selected his administrative team from a fairly diverse background. Many were his political opponents but all appear to be the best qualified. I was happy that he picked someone like Rick Warren rather than Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Jesse Jackson for the invocation.

I have nothing against gays. They give us great music and literature and are much more interesting to talk to than the average redneck. In my last blog, I wrote about the genetic label. It is my strong belief that the gays are the way they are because of genetics. A few are that way because in some pseudointellectual circles it is considered cool. I just wish they would shut up ad stop demonstrating and flaunting their homosexuality. It would be best if their partnership was considered a civil union and not something called marriage sanctioned by the church.

The recent economic depression has resulted in a major geopolitical setback for the United States. We are no longer being considered the center of gravity for the world’s finances. We are no longer the manufacturing and industrial giant of the world. Even our military strength is beginning to falter as street fighting and mountain dwelling terrorist bring us to our knees. We were once considered the great fortress of the Christian faith and this is now deteriorating because of folks like the gays, Muslims, and numerous other minorities even within the so-called Christian camp. The Billy Graham’s of the world are quickly vanishing. Even the once powerful Catholics are disappearing and have been greatly injured by the sexual perverts who chose the priesthood so they could have ready access to their victims. No one really cares what the Pope says about right to life or anything else. Folks just wave at him as he motions to them from his balcony. People just like to gather in crowds to demonstrate or wave.

Perhaps it’s time we eliminate the invocation from the Inaugural proceedings and forget swearing in on the Bible and saying, “so help me God.” We have become a Godless society. It might be best to put us Christians on a reservation as we did the Indians. Christians could then perform their own rituals and have their own nation within a nation.

We are living in very sick times. The tenets of Christianity, Democracy and Capitalism are being challenged like never before in our history. I suspect that Billy Graham is happy to be on his porch and miss this inauguration. Just think about being in a crowd of several million people and needing to go to the bathroom. I had rather be on the porch watching reruns of Gilligan’s island.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shoes are important in a civilized society. Primitive man didn’t wear them. Even until the time of the civil war shoes were pretty primitive. Shoes weren’t paired into right and left until the time of the civil war. In East Texas many people still don’t wear shoes as a matter of routine. I don’t think I wore them much until I started to school.

Shoes are supposed to protect your feet but can also make them miserable. As I have grown older I have a yearning to again go barefooted. I have developed a bit of a bunion so that my narrow, winged tip, dress shoes kill me after I have worn them for only a few minutes. High-heeled shoes have ruined women’s feet and have created an entire specialty in medicine called Podiatry. These docs make their living fixing bunions and other deformities of the feet brought on by shoes.

Shoes are also used as weapons. People have been killed by the blow of the spiked heel of a woman’s shoe. Shoes can be like a weapon on the feet of a football player. They have also made some folks extremely rich. Manufacturers and professional athletes who advertise them have made the shoe industry a major business. There are innumerable types of jogging and walking shoes and also thousands of types of boots made from exotic skins and used for many purposes from cowboying to mountain climbing.

Shoes are also important political instruments. Several years ago the Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev made a famous speech at the UN where he took off his shoe and banged it on the podium. Just last week while President Bush was visiting Iraq a reporter took off his shoes and threw them at the President. Luckily, Bush has quick reflexes and dodged the shoes. It turns out these were Merrell shoes which is my favorite brand and the kind I wear routinely to ease my aching feet. Even if the reporter had hit the president not much damage would have been done because the shoes are pretty soft.

I’m proud that I wear a famous brand of shoes. About the only place I don’t wear them is on the porch. I still go barefoot on the porch where I like to remain primitive. Sometimes in church when I’m wearing my uncomfortable dress shoes I secretly slip them off and I sometimes feel like throwing them at the preacher during a bad sermon. Maybe that’s what happened to the reporter in Iraq. Bush is known for bad speeches. The reporter may only have bunions and this caused an international incident.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Even though I am a member of the Christian tribe some members of the tribe might consider me somewhat of a heretic. I am a believer in evolution. Maybe we didn’t evolve from an ape or an amoeba, but I belief the human species has evolved and adapted through the years. I have observed much of this process even during my time on the planet.

We are born with a scarlet letter stamped on our body called a genetic code. In many ways our life is predestined and we are stratified into our physical and emotional makeup. We may be labeled as a diabetic or with some other potential medical malady, such as cancer, by our genetic code. This genetic labeling even determines our social stratification in human society.

There are exceptions to the rule and many struggle to climb out of their predetermined level of stratification. This struggle produces all sorts of emotional conflicts. If an individual is born a redneck they are likely to marry and remain a redneck. The Beverly Hillbillies were a good example. They were born hillbillies and remained so even in a sophisticated environment. Most of us follow a particular religious belief or denomination because it was that of our parents. Once born a Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Jew or whatever, we stick with that tribe. Whether conscious or subconscious, folks tend to marry others with the same traits as their parents. All of this tends to propagate a particular strata within society as well as our physical traits.

The genetic code is influence by external stimuli. The environment, drugs, and experience may all influence the genetic stamp but usually the genetic stamp trumps everything else. Our personalities seem to be set for life. In other words, once a jerk always a jerk. Some tribes put little stock in marriage. A female may bear several children with different mates. The male is merely a stud, like the deer in my yard, running around impregnating any female who holds still. This is still the practice of a primitive and animal society and, hopefully, evolution will eventually cause this tribe to move to a more advanced level. Politicians, bankers, CEOs are in the tribe of thieves and seem to represent evolution in reverse. They are moving to the lowest level and, hopefully, will become extinct.

I come from a long line of porch sitters and sure hope my bunch doesn’t experience any adaptations or evolutionary changes in the next few years. I’m very content not to change.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Feds have slashed interest rates again and consumer prices fell by 1.7% last month, which is the greatest fall in over 60 years. Gas prices continue to fall and Congress is considering a bailout for those who can’t pay the mortgage on their homes. Hopefully, this will slow the recession.

All this is a great Christmas present. The banks will be giving away money and the department stores will be having discount sales. The sale of SUVs should again reach record highs giving relief to the faltering auto industry with giant bonuses for the executives and big raises for the autoworkers. Forget the energy crisis and global warming. Let the planet melt. I’m going out and buy a Cadillac Escapade and one of those bus like RVs. We can make a trip around the country with the RV pulling the Escapade. Before we leave I plan to contact a builder and start the new home my spouse has been dreaming about. The great thing about all this is that I can borrow all the money or pay this stuff out over time and if I default on anything the government will bail me out.

I’m glad the government can print so much money. We live in a great country that has the printing presses to print all these bills. The Indians and old timers used to trade with gold and other valuables like furs and beads. Now, it’s a lot easier to just print the money and use it to get the stuff we want. At one time we worked for the bills but now the government is going to give us all we want. Even if my house and worldly belongings are destroyed by a natural disaster the government will replace them.

Even though I lost a lot of my retirement in the recent stock market downturn, I don’t really need to worry anymore because the government is going to rescue me.

Life on the porch promises to get better again because the government is going to take care of everything. All I need to do now is figure out how to get the Feds to rid my place of the pesky deer.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It’s exciting to already have a scandal brewing around Obama even before he has been inaugurated. Every successful president needs a scandal somewhere in his camp. FDR had his mistress even though he was paraplegic and Eisenhower had a lady stashed away on his staff when he was a general in the army. Kennedy, of course, was a womanizer and is best noted for his fling with Marilyn Monroe. Bill Clinton had a harem of women, but most notable were Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones. Nixon was great for finally ending the Viet Nam War and reestablishing a talking relationship with China but did himself in with Watergate. Reagan was too old for an affair but must have had a good time in Hollywood. Bush is now ranked as one of the worse presidents because he had no scandal. The one potential scandal for Bush had to do with his military record and this backfired on the jerk reporter Dan Rather and ruined his career. Dan used to be a good guy when he reported on hurricanes in Galveston. Jimmy Carter was too holy for a scandal and he was as ineffective as Bush.

So, we need a good scandal to make a great president. Obama is well on his way. The Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, is now in the middle of a hot scandal that taints the Obama camp. The governor has been offered 1.5 million if he will pick a certain person to fill Obama’s Senate seat. Obam’s selection for Chief-of-Staff, Rahm Emanuel, has been implicated in the scandal as well as Jesse Jackson Jr.. It’s not clear who would benefit from this payoff but where there is smoke there is fire. Blagojevch has already lined up Ed Genson, the well known criminal lawyer, for his defense. This could be as good as an O.J. Simpson trial.

The main purpose this scandal will serve is to take the public’s mind off the recession and the economy. It’s what we need to get us back on track. Much of the recession and the stock market problem is psychological because our mind is set on doom. Now we can think about something else and get our mind back to doing things like spending money even though we don’t have any.

I’m relieved that there may again be hope for life on the porch. I may even turn the TV back on to watch the proceedings. It may even upstage the inauguration.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I worked in a grocery store when I was a teenager. The store was about half as big as the average HEB stores of today, but contained more merchandise. That’s a strange phenomenon but more goods were available to satisfy the needs of the customer. We didn’t need as much in those days but we had everything to prepare a great meal.

Today it’s very frustrating to go to the store with so much merchandise, and still not find what you want. For example, there are thousands of different cereals. I like shredded wheat and there are so many choices I just end up confused. There is bite sized shredded wheat and shredded wheat with strawberries and various other fruits. There are multiple sizes to choose from but they are usually out of the old kind I like which is the original biscuit. I love oatmeal and again there are multiple choices such as one minute, two minutes and five minutes as well as instant. All the nutrition has been removed from the instant kind, which is sort of like a tasteless mush when hot water is added.

It’s that way with everything. There are multiple choices with everything except the one I’m looking for. The drug aisle is mind boggling. There are Tylenol capsules, tablets, and liquids of various flavors. It comes in a variety of strengths with and without sedatives. Of course all are so tightly sealed for security that only a child can open them. This is all the result of the Tylenol scare several years ago when a nut laced some of the stuff with poison. Everything now is tamper proof and the packaging industry has made it so that an ax is required to gain access to drugs, food, batteries and everything else. Much of the merchandise is embedded in a hard clear plastic that is impenetrable even to a gorilla. I spend much of my time in retirement opening this stuff for my spouse.

The average store is now an obstacle course. There are displays filling the aisles and it takes an experience cart pusher to avoid crashing into a two story stack of canned good are running over some old lady or a toddler. I think we should have homeless people available for driving our carts since they have the most experience with pushing shopping baskets.

I could go on for a book describing the frozen foods compare to those when I worked in a grocery store. Virtually everything is frozen today. In my time we had a small freezer box containing English Peas and ice cream. That was it. We have come a long way to stores full of nonessentials and a place where it’s often hard to get what you really need and want.

It’s even confusing shopping for the dog. When I was a kid we fed the dog table scraps and on special occasions I would give him a can of some sort of meat product for dogs. I didn’t even want to know what was in that can but it smelled pretty good. Today, there are a variety of dry dog foods with all sorts of special vitamins and protein enrichments to keep a dog healthy. I thought my dog was pretty healthy. He survived several snake bites to the face and slept outside in the middle of winter. A heartworm wouldn’t dare infect my dog.

Anyway, visiting the store today is not a pleasant task. When I do go I try to shop at a place like Sams so I can buy enough for an army. A bottle of catsup from that place is enough to last for a couple of years even with the grandkids visiting. Shopping at Sams has allowed me to have more uninterrupted porch time rather than running to Brookshires or HEB several times a day.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

For the past couple of years I have tried to do most of my Christmas shopping on line to avoid the crowds. I do have to venture out for a few things with my spouse. We usually go to the upscale Crate and Barrel store in Austin to buy several cans of ginger cookies for our neighbors. My spouse’s grandmother and mother used to make ginger cookies that were terrific, but that is a monumental task, so we now do the next best thing and buy them. I’m pretty sure those two ladies are in heaven, and if I am lucky enough to go there I hope they are still making the ginger cookies at Christmas. It’s worth the effort to go to heaven to sample them again.

The cookies are the only thing I can afford in the Crate and Barrel place. They have a lot of stuff to cook with but the price for everything is sky high. There are mostly preppy looking people who are buying this stuff and I really feel out of place. I did look around while the clerk was getting our cookies and I was most impressed with all the gadgets to make coffee. One of the fancy machines cost $1,799.99. I couldn’t believe it. This was not a piece of equipment for commercial use. It’s intended to be used in the home, but it would take an engineer to operate the device. The controls look like the cockpit of a jet plane. Coffee can be brewed using various pressures resulting in just the desired strength. There are all sorts of buttons from setting the time of operation to doing the kids math homework. I guess it makes espresso, which is what coffee connoisseurs prefer because the flavor is greatly enhanced when hot water is forced through finely ground coffee. This gives the drinker a highly concentrated brew that captures more of the complete flavor of the coffee bean. With the price of that apparatus I would hope it would give the drinker the essence of pure gold.

With an expensive coffee maker like that you wouldn’t dare use some of the brands found in the grocery store. I’m sure the machine performs best with exotic flavors such as Jamaican Blue that cost $50 a pound and is the one favored by James Bond.

I learned to drink coffee that was made by boiling water in a pot that contained the ground coffee. This could be done over a campfire or a wood stove. You would wait a little while until the coffee settled to the bottom of the pot before pouring a cup. When I was a kid we also used a percolator that works by boiling the water in a special pot that has a little metal container full of holes at the top. The container is supported by a long metal stem extending to the bottom of the pot. The water boils up and spills into the container with the coffee and seeps through to give the resultant brew. There is a little glass window at the top so you can see the water boiling up. Then there is the drip method we currently use that has a little porous basket containing a filter. Boiling water flows through this filter and drips into a pot below. The two methods are basically the same, just pouring boiling water through ground coffee and catching the liquid in an awaiting pot.

There are many ways to make coffee and it is an art. Steaming milk can be added to give a mixture called cappuccino. There are special devices to make this stuff or you can buy it at Starbucks for 3-4 dollars a cup. I love coffee but paying $1,799.99 for an apparatus to make it is a little exorbitant and ridiculous.

Coffee is one of my favorite drinks on the porch but I’m going to stick with my old drip machine which is pretty simple for me to use. If that thing breaks I will just go back to boiling the grounds in a pot. Early in the morning when I have my first cup I’ll bet that stuff made in the expensive machine doesn’t taste a bit better than mine. I have the secret to the perfect cup. I use one scoop of Folgers Classic Roast for two cups and the key thing is to drink it fresh and hot. There is a special grind in Salado called Seasons of Salado that can be purchased in one of our stores. I use this on special occasions and for special guest who visit me on the porch.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wall Street is definitely run by idiots. I have trusted this bunch of imbeciles with my money for years, which makes me just as stupid. They have less knowledge about finances than a toddler. They just discovered this week that we are in a recession. Da! Da! What a brilliant observation. They rank close to politicians, bankers, and CEO’s on the lower end of the intelligence scale. They are just now discovering such things as an energy crisis and that the planet is melting. They probably don’t even know that Kennedy was assassinated. Now they have just discovered the news about the recession and we are back in 1929.

I really don’t know who these unknown people are that make the market go up and down each day. I have wanted to visit Wall Street to see who these folks are that are running around the floor with scrapes of paper, looking at monitors, screaming and listening for bells to sound. The guy with the big gavel standing at a podium up above the crowd has always interested me. He is clapping even when the market is down 800 points. At night all these folks must go to a bar and laugh about how much money they have lost for us today and how they are driving everyone crazy. The slightest bit if negative news sends the market into a tailspin. The feds lower the interest rate a fraction and the market rebounds but never to the level before the fall. Interest rates will soon be below 0, so when we go to the bank for a loan they will give you extra money rather than charging you for it.

In the past, I have heard many presentations from these blue suited financial wizards who manage your money. Many are slick Harvard grads and make you feel like an ignorant hayseed. Now I realize they know nothing. How could I have been so stupid to have been hornswoggled by these guys? They are about as accurate with their predictions as the economist and weathermen. There is sure no science about it. I would put more trust in a fortuneteller.

All of the economic problems can’t be blamed on this greedy lot on Wall Street. Much of the blame is with the common folks like myself. We have developed greedy appetites for everything from energy and cars on down to the exorbitant prices we pay for entertainment and sporting events. We are a nation of gluttons.

I was born at the end of an agricultural society and have lived through an industrial or manufacturing society. All of this is dying and we have become a nation of consumers and non-producers. The problem is, where is the money going to come from to buy all the stuff now grown or manufactured in foreign countries?

I sure don’t have the solution and there may not be one. Hindsight has 20/20 vision. I just wish now that I would have cashed everything in a few months ago and buried it under the porch. I could just sit on the porch with my shotgun and guard the loot and maybe plug a deer from time to time. It’s too late for that now.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I try to avoid doing insane things so as not to appear completely crazy. On the day after Thanksgiving, I left no doubt about my sanity because I did a most insane thing. No doubt about it, I am completely crazy. I went into Wal-Mart and Best Buy on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

I was worried about a recession until Friday. Everyone in Central Texas was in Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Target. I hope all these folks were spending real money rather than charging everything. It would have been nice if the Wall Street Barons could have been there to see the action, the stock market may have gone up a couple of thousand points. The way most of the folks looked, I’m pretty sure the bulk of the purchases were charged. This only means they will default on their payments and I will be paying for the stuff when the bailout for the credit card companies is approved.

It’s absolutely frightening and very dangerous to be out in the stores shopping on Black Friday. People line up in the middle of the night waiting for the doors to open and surge into the store like a tidal wave engulfing the stuff on sale. In New York, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death. That doesn’t surprise me at all. It was probably the poor old guy who stands at the door to greet the customers. This is usually a very senior citizen who is frail, senile and moves like a tortoise. There is another one of these folks at the exit door who is supposed to make sure you are not stealing anything. A shoplifter can walk past most of these poor folks with half the store of stolen merchandise in a convoy of shopping carts. Wal-Mart should hire retired professional football players armed with machine guns for these jobs.

Black Friday means that the stores should be in the black after the day’s sales. I’m sure they will have a positive figure on the number of sales but profit may be another thing. They had to slash prices to attract the customers this year and the price reductions may cut into the profit margin. The amount of stolen merchandise should also impact the profit margin.

Anyway, I’m most concerned about my sanity for even daring venture off the porch on a Black Friday. At least, I’m thankful to be back on the porch alive and without injury. I’m also happy that the recession must be over.