July 12, 2010

Those Crazy Raccoons!

It was September 28, 1998. We were living in Long Beach, Mississippi - a few miles west of Biloxi - about 100 yards off the beach itself. Hurricane Georges was nearly upon us and we had brought the motorcycles into the living room, filled up the bathtub with fresh water, and battened down the hatches.

My husband and I were playing Scrabble by candlelight, listening to the fury of the storm when I heard the strangest sound. It was a kind of "chittering" noise and it worried me because I couldn't identify it.

 I looked out the front window and saw the funniest thing EVER. We had a persimmon tree in the yard. The wind was whipping that 10-foot-tall tree so hard it was touching the ground before it sprang back up and blew over to touch the ground on the other side. Clinging tightly to the branches were not one, not two, but THREE adult raccoons - and they were squabbling over the persimmons as well as enjoying the wildest ride of their lives! We watched them for at least ten minutes before they tired of the game (or had eaten enough of our persimmons).

We were lucky. The storm surge didn't hit us, and the Category 2 storm didn't do much damage.  And we will never forget those nutty raccoons!

April 17, 2010

That's MY Seat!

So, every time I get up from my spot on the couch something or somethings furry immediately occupies it. 

Me: That's MY seat!  Move over.

Dog:  But I'm cold and I've already curled up under my blankie!

Me: That's MY blankie you dummy.  Now move!

Cat:  You tell her, Mom.  Stupid dog! (licks his privates)

Me:  You stay out of it.  And by the way, you're going to have to move, too!

Dog:  Shut up, Cat, or I'll bite your tail.  Mom, I'm COLD.

Me:  I don't care!  Move over or I'm going to call Animal Control.

Cat:  Oh, lighten up. It's just a couch.  You can sit in the middle, see?  (As he curls up on top of the dog under the blanket in MY SEAT.)

Me:  Dammit, I said MOVE!

Cat:  No. 

Dog: Cat, get off me!  

Cat:  No.

Me:  THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE.  I will give you both to the Asian restaurant down the street, I swear I will!

Cat:  (licking his privates again) Well, at least then you won't eat there any more.  You don't need to sit on the couch.  You need to get some exercise - you're fat, y'know.

Dog:  (laughing)

Husband:  (laughing)

Me:  OK, husband, get up.  YOU fight with them for a change!

Husband:  No. This is my seat!

Some days I just can't win.

March 22, 2010

Apathy, Ignorance and Obamacare

Although many people voiced their opinions about Obamacare, too many more did not.  I'm not going to get into the pros and cons of the health care reform that just passed.  Suffice it to say that we can get this legislation repealed, and I pray that we do it.

What I want to talk about is why so many citizens didn't respond, didn't act, didn't protest or endorse these bills.

Many formal polls showed that an overwhelming number of Americans are against this particular set of reforms.  But those polls, a "sampling" of Americans, don't accurately reflect the number of people who are ignorant or just don't care, because those are the people who either weren't surveyed or refused to respond.  Notice there aren't any numbers published for those people.

I conducted an informal poll of my friends and neighbors who are mostly middle class, and was stunned at the results.  Almost 80% didn't know any of the particulars of the bills.  Of the remaining 20%, 5% were "somewhat familiar" with the legislation.  The other 15% had a vague idea (a lot of it wrong) of what the legislation encompassed.

Of the people I surveyed, overall 23% were in favor of the bill, 40% against and an unbelievable 37% had no opinion.

The majority of the people who were for reform fell into the 20% who were either somewhat familiar with the legislation or had a vague idea (often erroneous) what it encompassed.

The number that concerns me the most is the 80% who were completely unfamiliar with the particulars of the legislation.  A lot of those people said they don't watch the news because it's too depressing.

Others said outright that they don't believe they can do anything about what the government is up to, so why bother?  Most of these people don't vote, by the way, for the same reason.

How can we reach the apathetic among our citizens?  What can we do to convince them that their votes and voices make a difference, without sounding like a bunch of alarmists?  I think we all know that the government isn't going to launch a campaign to get people involved...

Any ideas?  Anyone? 

March 14, 2010

Thoughts on Giving

I've always believed in that old adage "Charity begins at home." I've interpreted it to mean that I should keep my money close to home, to help out those around me in the US - rather than sending it out of country.

One of my mottoes is "If you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em." It's a very stark and cold-sounding way to phrase it, I know. I don't intend to offend anyone with it, it's just that I'm blunt about things I'm passionate about. They got themselves into the mess, they can get themselves out. I've often wondered who appointed America "Keepers of the World"?

But what about disaster relief? Now that's a topic that gives me grief. Out of compassion and sympathy, do I send my hard-earned dollars to help out or do I stick to my guns and keep my money at home? I compromised with the Haiti disaster - I sent some money but not nearly the amount I send to my local causes (like food banks, foster child support, school supplies). I'm happy with the compromise but I still feel a bit of guilt about not sending more.

Steve over at bripblap.com wrote a very interesting blog on this subject. He has expressed my thoughts on the matter in a much more politically correct manner. I'm sympathetic to his angst on the subject, too. Why don't you check it out and see what his thoughts are?

February 20, 2010

The 545 People Responsible for All of America's Woes

Recently I received one of those viral emails we all get.  This one, instead of promising good fortune if I passed it on to 30 more people, had real content.

It was a version of a column written by Charley Reese back in 1985. (Charley retired from writing on August 30, 2008.)  During his career Charley was, according to Wikipedia, "... a syndicated columnist known for his plainspoken manner and conservative views. He was associated with the Orlando Sentinel from 1971-2001, both as a writer and in various editorial capacities. King Features Syndicate distributed his column, which was published three times a week."

Charley's article, "The 545 People Responsible for All of America's Woes" is as pertinent today as it was in 1985.  Perhaps more so considering the population's disillusionment with our current government.

I've reprinted the original column here, with some additions and changes in red print.  I can't imagine a better call to arms (so to speak).  It's wake-up time for the people of the United States.  Let's do something before our government gets completely out of control: call your representatives and senators; write them; write letters to the editor; support a candidate whose platform calls for smaller government.  It's time to get involved, people!

The 545 People Responsible for All of America's Woes

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation (a recession)  and high taxes, we have inflation (a recession) and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices – 545 human beings out of the 235 (300) million – are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I excluded all but the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislation's responsibility to determine how he votes.


Don't you see how the con game is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O'Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.

The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes.

O'neill (Palin) is the speaker of the House. (S)He is the leader of the majority party. (S)He and his (her) fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto.


It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 (300) million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted – by present facts – of incompetence and irresponsibility.

I can't think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red. If the (Army and) Marines are in Lebanon (Iraq, Afrghanistan), it's because they want them in Lebanon (Iraq, Afrghanistan).

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation" or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

February 04, 2010

It Can Happen To You!

A couple of years ago I started putting our financial house in order. I subscribed to a two personal finance blogs (The Simple Dollar, and Man vs. Debt). I read their archives and went to work.

Thank God I did. It forced me to look closely at our expenditures and I was able to cut out a whole lot of wasted money. Now I'm funding our emergency fund as quickly as possible. I'm aiming for 6 months of living expenses in there. Unless something really bad happens, we're going to weather this recession.

My friend Margaret (not her real name) and her husband haven't been so conscientious and now they're in trouble. M. had a well-paying job until she was injured on the job in December of 2008. She hasn't been to work since, and there's serious doubt that she will be able to return to her old profession.

Shortly after they married, her husband quit his full-time job to start his own business. He struggled along and they paid their bills with a good bit left over for a few luxuries. He plays in a band and they were able to spend a good bit of money on drinks with friends and family at his gigs. She also had the money to spend on personal grooming (hair, nails).

But all that changed a few months ago when her worker's compensation claim was closed. To compound matters, during the last year or so her husband's business began to fail and has now all but died.

What's incredible to me is that they didn't make any substantial lifestyle changes when she became unable to work.

They now have no income other than the little bit he earns playing in the band a couple of times a week. They're behind on the mortgage. She just got food stamps yesterday but won't know if they'll get cash assistance or not until her 401(k) is evaluated by the state.

How did this happen? These people had much higher incomes than my husband and I. She has a financial advisor, even. Although she hasn't told me so, from what she has said about her finances I believe they had very little savings other than that 401(k). I can't help but wonder what advice her financial person gave her. Was she advised to save for a rainy day, and didn't? Or have they burned through the savings?

What frightens me is that this could happen to anyone who doesn't have a good emergency fund. I know, because it happened to us - twice. We almost lost our house once because my husband was injured and off work for 3 months. Three months. That's all it took for our financial house to come crashing down.

Ladies and gentlemen, Grandma was right. "Save it for a rainy day" isn't just a quaint homily - it's crucial to survival in today's world. Would you be able to survive if you and/or your significant other lost your jobs or were injured and unable to work?

February 03, 2010

Is it Hypocrisy? Socialism and Social Security Disability

President Obama's attempts to turn America into a socialist country are terrifying. The climate is right for such a change - it feeds into our society's sense of entitlement. I've read over and over lately how the vast majority of our youth (and a good bit of Generation Y) believe that our society owes them: owes them a job, an education, material possessions, owes them whatever they need or want. Most of them don't believe they should have to put forth much if any effort for what they get (hence the word "entitlement").

So much has been written about this lately that I don't really need to get into it here. And I don't want to, either. It infuriates me.

Moving on.

In 2008 one in five citizens had some form of disability, including me. I'm arguably one of the luckier ones. My disability is a mental illness which gives me some hope of eventually getting better, unlike those who have permanent physical disabilities. For the purposes of this article I'm defining the disabled as those of us who draw Social Security Disability income.

Is Social Security Disability a socialist program? Of course it is - it's called "Social" Security. And I'm vehemently against socialism. So, because my main source of income is from Disability, does that make me a hypocrite?

I think that it does. And although I didn't ask to get sick, and I'm doing my best to find a job that I can keep, and I'm an entrepreneur as well, I still rely on that Disability money to pay the bills. I can't see any other way to keep food in our mouths and a roof over our heads.

What do you think? Am I a hypocrite? Or is it OK for me to tell myself that the socialist programs already in place are OK - but no new ones are allowed? Where is the line between helping those who truly can't help themselves and providing for those who could?

February 01, 2010

No Role for Mental Health Professionals in the Practice of Torture

One of the ways I keep up with what's going on in the world is through email feeds from selected websites. One of them is from Science Daily, a wonderful site that publishes nuggets about the latest scientific research.

The title of this blog is from an article at Science Daily. Don't believe me? Click on the title and go read the short.

The research seems to be supported by this quote from an article in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Doctors and Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay", published July 7, 2005:

"Clinical expertise has a limited place in the planning and oversight of lawful interrogation. Psychologists play such a role in criminal investigations, and medical monitoring of detainees is called for by international legal instruments. But proximity of health professionals to interrogation settings, even when they act as caregivers, carries risk. It may invite interrogators to be more aggressive, because they imagine that these professionals will set needed limits."

The latest research according to Science Daily implies that the psychologists/psychiatrists aren't capable of setting limits because they don't have the necessary expertise.

And while all of this is very interesting (at least to psychologists and psychiatrists and torturers), and in an intellectual way I myself find it a fascinating discussion, what I want to know is this:

Why are we even TALKING about torture in the first place?

When the shit hit the fan about "interrogation techniques" at Guantanamo Bay I thought this whole torture business was over with. Apparently not. Apparently it's still acceptable for the US government to torture information out of suspected terrorists. Else why would research be going on into who's fit to participate?

Americans are members of a nation that practices the torture of other human beings. That means we all sanction it, because we're not doing anything to stop the government from doing it (even if the government would admit that it's still going on). And what about the people who are actually doing the torturing? Americans are sanctioning government employment of sociopaths and sadists, and we're paying them for their "skills" with our own money. Yours and mine.

Like many Americans, I don't give a lot of thought to homeland terrorism. I don't let fear rule my life, or even enter into it that much. When I do think about it it's usually in terms of "Oh, well, the government is watching out for that sort of thing." And when I think about what "watching out for" means, I certainly don't think it includes torture. Not after Guantanamo Bay anyway.

It seems I'm wrong. And it makes me sick to my stomach.

Do you have any thoughts about the practice of torture to secure information from suspected terrorists? Is it acceptable? What are the costs and are you willing to pay them?

January 31, 2010

Two for One: Spanish Style Shrimp with Garlic, Jeff's Shrimp and Rice

It was Girls' Night In. Mexican food was chosen and I wanted to fix something unique. So I looked in my recipe collection and found a tapas recipe I liked.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, tapas are little plates of yummies served in Spain along with your cocktail or beer. They allow you to try local specialties without spending a lot of money.

Anyway, the recipe I found was reasonably quick and easy: Spanish Style Shrimp with Garlic. It sounded yummy, so I sent hubby to the store to pick up some shrimp while I showered and made myself pretty.

Hubby called me from Wally World to make sure he got the size of shrimp that I wanted. What we both neglected to determine was whether I wanted raw or cooked shrimp.

He got cooked. The ones they boil in plain old water with no seasoning. Yuck. (He was very apologetic since I had a hysterical fit when he got home with it.)

Since there wasn't any way to modify the tapas recipe for cooked shrimp, I gave up and just contributed some cash to the food because this all happened about 3 hours before we all got together.

Leaving me with a pound of (yucky) cooked, thawed shrimp.

The next day that shrimp needed to be used. I refused to touch it, mostly because I didn't feel particularly clever that day and was unable to come up with any ideas for dinner. Which might've had something to do with the hangover I had from the bourbon I drank at Girl's Night In...

So Hubby came up with Jeff's Shrimp and Rice. Like any good cook he made it with a little of this and a little of that, so in the recipe below you'll need to use your own judgment about how much of each seasoning to use.

The recipes follow. If you try Jeff's Shrimp, why don't you come back and comment on how much of each seasoning you used?

Spanish Style Shrimp with Garlic
Yield 4 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup shrimp and 1 lemon wedge)


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 lemon wedges


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pepper, garlic, and bay leaf; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium-high. Add shrimp; sauté until shrimp have pink or orange markings and white, opaque flesh (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat. Sprinkle with salt. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 161 (31% from fat)
Fat: 5.5g (sat 0.9g,mono 3g,poly 1.1g)

Jeff's Shrimp and Rice

Canola oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh sweet onion (such as Mayan or Vidalia)
Black pepper
Red pepper flakes
Parsley flakes
Garlic powder
Cumin powder
Dried oregano
3 cups cooked white rice
Olive oil
1# cooked large shrimp

Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add seasonings, crumbling dried herbs with your fingers to release the flavor. Saute the seasonings for a minute or two. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in the cooked rice and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until rice is hot. Add just enough olive oil, stirring constantly, to give the mixture a slight sheen. Heat through; add cooked shrimp and cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently until shrimp is hot. Serve.

As usual, I'm unable to properly attribute the tapas recipe. I collect them from all over the web and don't usually log where I found them.

January 20, 2010

Haiti's Other Casualties

To recap what we already know:  the human death toll in Haiti continues to rise with today's aftershock.  Experts predict there could be one or more yet to come.  We're all familiar with (and appalled by) the devastation.  Aid has been mobilized from several nations, including our own.  

Most of that aid focuses on the people of that small island nation, as it should.  But what about Haiti's silent sufferers?  I'm talking about the animals.  Not just pets - livestock and wildlife, too.  Who will help them survive this disaster?

Well, me, for one.  There's no federal aid for animals in disaster areas.  The only help available comes from animal welfare charities and volunteers.  Today I donated cash since I can't get down there myself.  And believe me - if I could, I'd go down and help.  

Without relief efforts a very large number of Haiti's livestock will die.  Without this precious food resource the people of Haiti could starve.  Follow my logic?  

So please, consider donating to animal rescue efforts.  If you don't know who to give to, try visiting The Animal Rescue Site.  There's a link right there on the front page.  

And say a few prayers for everybody down there, would you?