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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What a MESS!

The pressure washer we bought last year, that we used once to wash the deck, began sprouting water when we used it the first time this year. So we decided to call Honda, the maker of the engine, to see if there was something we could do to stop the eruption. We called the number in the instruction manual, of course we get the robot answering the line with the usual press two if you want Spanish, press three for ..... press four.... etc., after pressing the closest appropriate number an announcement comes on to say we won a two day cruise in the Bahamas. If we didn't want to take advantage of the free ride press such and such number, then the next recorded message is to make sure we do not want to take advantage of the trip we won press such and such number. After pressing the next number we get disconnected.

Next we call Troy Bilt, the brand pressure washer, and of course get the robot and have to hold for customer service. The person in customer service tells me to call so and so, a local 'gold' service rep who tell me to call another company that is handling the warranty on the item.

The fifteen year old car finally became so unpredictable we bit the bullet and decided to purchase a brand new car. After shopping around and pricing brands and models we started to go look at a few. We decided on the car we wanted. One dealer for Nissan told us we were close to making a deal. We wanted to know what would be the final cost, without a trade in of the old car. Three times we asked and no numbers were forthcoming. We get a call that the want us to go back to the dealer so they can test drive the old car.  We call back and tell the salesperson that we would not be buying a car from them.

We find another Nissan dealer and make a deal to purchase a car. We have to wait a week to pick it up because we wanted to add a moon roof. They do not do that work but have to send it to another city. The week later when we arrive to pick up the car, we have to wait an hour for someone to sign the paperwork so we can drive the car off the lot.

The television picture sometimes keeps blinking. We have satellite service and a DVR to record programs we want to see later than when it is being played.  For the first call in to a Directv rep we go through all the usual stuff, reset the receiver, check all connections, unplug and replug in receiver, the problem is fixed. Another call in for the same problem and we are told that the resolution on the DVR is wrong and should be changed but there is no way to make the change, but turning everything off fixes it again. The next call in for the same problem the rep tells us to unplug the tv, that the receiver and tv equipment are not compatible - again the problem is fixed.  The blinking begins again and we call for a new DVR  and are told we should probably have a service person to check everything out, and there would be a service call even though we do not own the DVR but lease it. There would be a fee for a new DVR.  And if we pay five ninety nine for a service contract the house call will be covered. Since one of the other calls in for the same problem someone said a new DVR would not solve the problem and we are reaching the threshold of not worth spending any more money to watch reruns and the few sports programs, we opt to do nothing until we decide if we want to keep the service.

Accountability and the buck stops here are slogans that have gone by the wayside with integrity, the customer is always right, quality, and customer service. What this is causing, without anyone paying attention, is a breakdown in the consumer economy in America. There is no reason for anyone to buy something if they must be subjected to such abuse. It is the same as paying to be beaten up. There will be a further slow down in jobs because there will be no demand, the engine that runs America will reach a dead stop.

Corporations no longer are the economies of scale, the bigger is better to save cost and increase profits. There is no one responsible for the finished product. There is no quality control. And the corporations are now coming up with another smokescreen for the consumer, the satisfaction survey. They think we believe that they are paying attention to what we have to say. They don't answer their phones, why would we believe that.

Small business is attempting a come back, the mega shops call it the cottage industry, but the big corporations a trying to choke them out. First it was Walmart, moving into small towns in America forcing small businesses out of business because they could not compete with the product pricing of buying in bulk. Then the McDonald's starving local mom and pop eateries again for pricing. UnitedHealth Group is getting in their licks by offering cheap prescriptions through their mail order pharmacies killing local pharmacies. Monopolies will reign, there is no longer any competition for goods and services. The global economy has given the company store a new meaning. A shop like Walmart resembles the sweat shops of the twentieth century, and no one notices, because the goods are bought from another country and no one sees the squalor and poor working conditions. The blind eye to the financial bargain. The dog eat dog world.

Radical Islam has aggravated the situation, fostering insecurity and fear. But that is for another discussion.

Accountability is non existent. Much of American military activity is farmed out to consignment shops. Even the running of the government is not done by government employees but companies hired to do the job. Government employees were long believed to be slow to work, now the integrity and quality of the work is questionable and it is not being done by government employees.

The volunteer soldier is also being abused with extended tours of duty pressing their emotional well being to every test, more suicides among enlisted than ever and the numbers keep growing.

It is a free for all, if you know the expression, it is, everything is up for grabs, everyone is out for themselves grabbing all they can. The fear of the future has captured all by the throat, as the lunge their hands into the coffers, sweeping away every penny of workable cash from the American citizen. The few are stealing from the many.

Maybe this is a global consciousness - going on everywhere - a sign of the times - the new age of everything different but the same.

Twenty five million in America unemployed, infrastructure rotting, national debt unfunded.

And still we have millionaires and billionaires, the few who have it all. Seems like we are vaulting back to the dark ages of serfdom and there is probably nothing we can do about it but accept it. Too bad, it was nice while it lasted. And nothing lasts forever. Too bad it has to end this way. Too bad we didn't learn how to make it better. Take really good care of yourself.

Monday, June 24, 2013

About the Dear letters, WWII

This blog will be five years old in November. The most popular piece is written by my father, way back during WWII. The letters he wrote to my mother while he was overseas fighting a war. The majority of those notes were censored, meaning they were read by some military person to make sure my father was not sharing military secrets with the enemy. So there is a vagueness about them, a guarded script, like someone looking over one's shoulder. The do share the emotion of someone doing what they feel must be done and their uncomfortable-mess with the surroundings, circumstances and the not knowing about anything that is going on. In today's world we learn everything instantly. Back then, newspapers, radio and television in a small way, let everyone know what was going on. But, here is a guy in his thirties with a daughter he never saw, living every day in danger, unaware about everything except what was right in front of him. The only link with his outside world were the letters he received from family and friends, sometimes it was weeks before he received a post, sometimes plenty arrived together. It was his lifeline, and because he was a soldier on the front lines, he had to destroy the mail he received, so we have on an idea of what people wrote to him. Little stories of home life that reminded him of other places instead of the mud in front of him. He sounds so young. His first trip and only trip overseas. He volunteered, probably because he felt obligated. All his friends and relatives of age were drafted or volunteered. He felt strongly about doing his part to win the war. He drove a truck to bring supplies to the front lines, or he was chauffeuring  the general. You don't learn that from his letters. They don't really say anything about the war, except for the mud, rain and the cigarettes. Like the worker bee, he did his job, he did what was required of him. He did his best. And like the worker bee, he was one among the many. They are all very simple letters written mostly in pencil. Throughout the years writing you get the sense of the person, alone, lost, lonely, in a strange place, unable to leave, wanting to leave, waiting to leave, thinking of home, worrying about those at home, annoyed that he was not there to take care of things. He was a self educated man, who made something of himself, who read books to learn how to achieve his goals. A man with integrity who had some bad luck in his life, the worst being his mother dying when he was about five years old. A guy who grew up on the streets and set his standard of right and wrong above the average, and who was beaten down several times, just because of circumstances out of his control. And his days in the army captured in the letters he wrote to my mother, say nothing, and everything about being a soldier at war.

Who knew, the blog I started to express myself the easy way, putting out there what I believe is important and valuable, and it is my father who is the star. I guess I really knew how important those letters are, they are the most read items on the site. Good for him, he always wanted  to make a positive difference in the world.

You,me, them

The house is filled with life's accumulations. Memories of the past, people long gone, still holding on, unwilling to let go. There is so much stuff, piled around, collecting dust, needing cleaning, waving hello as we walk by. In every room there is history. Beautiful things, at least we think beautiful, positioned to catch our eye as we pass by, little mementos passed down from generations, the link with ancestors, their way of life, the world they lived in. Are they necessary? Must we continue to hold on to the past> Is there room in the present and the future to hold on to yesterday.

There is less room to move about freely. All the books have been read, they sit on the shelves, their titles easily read to remind us of the adventures between the pages. Why are these volumes clinging to us. The imagination of some one's fictional murder mystery necessary to sit to be viewed. Read years ago and not even significant volumes of literature, average books that touched a spot, a new place in the mind. And yet, must it, they, fill the shelves. What reason does it play in our daily lives, do they connect us with a door that will otherwise remain shut. What will happen to us if we remove them, will we lose the link, will we be unable to jump to the place of creativity.

And the little nick knacks or the photos, the paintings hanging on the walls. What do they do for us, is it something that we can not do for ourselves.

Must make room. Like the kid said, "I see dead people" all around our house. Pretty little things that clutter the space, create work and attract our focus.

They are part of us, they keep us in touch with the links of the memories that are important pieces of our life experience. But we can not continue the task of keeping them clean. We are at the stage in our life when simplicity reigns. Yet, I am unable to remove my share of the little thoughts of yesterday. I am unwilling to let go. I hold dear all the things I received from dead people, my link to the nice things in my life.

That is it!!!! Ah ha! Bingo! Our home is filled with reflections of the nice things in our lives. The happy memories, the little snippets of joy, the good times, the hugs, the warmth, the beauty, the best parts of our lives. We want not to forget, we hold fast, the best parts of our lives.

In the closets too. Old things not worn in years, pieces of the past hanging around to be discovered when we open the door. But there is no room, we must let go. The big house has become small. It is becoming difficult to walk, furniture that has out stayed it's welcome. It is nice to sit in a room filled to the brim with nice things, like a cup of hot chocolate in wintertime.

Must choose what to lose. Must use discipline to open the space, to make room, to reduce work, to eliminate clutter.

Clutter, it blocks the flow, it interrupts. When viewing the whole, looking into the room filled to the brim, it presents the display of clutter, chaos. Then the eye spots the fish on the wall, swimming effortlessly in the water, it has a calming effect. And the statue of the mother with an arm around a child, the comfort and safety, the link with family. So far they don't feel like clutter, when presented one at a time. All together they clog the brain. One at a time they soothe when we didn't even know we needed soothing.

What to do. Where to begin. Simplify. Let go. Give it up. HOW!

Words expended, trying to find the way to begin, the way to let go of the crutches I have invented to make my life better.  Must find the way to make it better on my own. It feels like I am cutting off my arm or leg. The thought of parting with some or all of this stuff is almost frightening. I don't want to give it up. Odd, this communication is all about me. I is not the way to write. For me, this topic is very personal. It is my problem to solve. Too tired to get up and begin, that's a good excuse to rest here a while. I know, I shall walk around the house and look at things to see who I can give them to. Who can I pass them on to. Who will see their value, whose life will it enrich. I am going to do that. Instead of throwing away the treasures by trying to sell them as junk, I shall inspect the value of items and share them with those whom I treasure as well, those who have enriched my life and shared their joy. It is a softer way to approach the portal to old age, to make me feel that my life in a small way is or has been valuable. I feel better already, lighter, less tense than before. It is  not like letting go, it is moving over. Putting the treasures in the place where they will do the most good(for me!) knowing I am giving something of beauty to those who have helped make my life beautiful. It is better than think I am getting old and must shed pounds to help me move. It is a purpose. Have not had a purpose for a while. Making dinner is not as big a purpose. This is good. I can focus on the task at hand. I have given myself the tool to get the job done. It is a position of fullness, unlike letting go  which creates an emptiness, a barrenness, a whole.  Sharing keeps me full. And now there is a twinkle in my eye, thinking about what a surprise I can make. Christmas in July, and I am not even catholic. A good time for giving. A good time to surprise someone with something special. Not necessarily something they may need, just something to help keep the twinkle in their eye. I hope I made this a twinkle in your eye. Happy new year in July. Hope you giggle too.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Melting Pot

  America is called the melting pot. Many persons from the nations on the planet settle here choosing the American way of life. The "original residents"whom Christopher Columbus mistakenly called Indians  thus so because  he had believed he reached the Indies and was meeting "Indians".  North America he believed was the Indies. Having no guide book he can not be faulted for his misinformation of course because in those days, 'the world was flat'.

  Fast forward to today and the name  Indian still sticks to all the tribes and nations, along with the 'politically correct'  title, Native American. A melting pot label for the peoples  found here by the Europeans. These Indigenous people are further disrespected by not being afforded the same label standards as other peoples in this melting pot.  Nationality is watered down to deny the existence of separate nations residing here before it became the United States of America. Why are they not called the Cherokee Nation of North America, or the Sioux Nation of North America, for that matter, what was this placed called before it was named after Amerigo Vespucci? does anyone know?

  Why we are not all called Americans is bizarre, we even segregate the Southerners from the Northerners.

  People settling here from Hungary are called Hungarian American, China - Chinese American, Italy - Italian American, and so on. But, has anyone called themselves English American? I know many "English Americans" but have never heard that label.

  Back to the American Indians aka Native Americans, why are they not called Sioux American and Cherokee American, as well as Blackfoot American. Are they Americans? Are they governed by the laws of the United States, do they pay taxes, are they represented? Native Americans or Indians, or the separate nations of the Native Americans culture and history are the least taught nationalities. Americans with other roots seem to have no interest in the culture of their neighbors whose land 'we' stole, are we trying to assuage our responsibility by ignoring their existence?  There are some individuals who stand out, Geronimo! a lone chief astride his horse atop a mountain. 

  Still the question begs, why not American Blackfoot and American Italian. If roots are relevant, are we not first American, is not our allegiance to this nation and not the nation of our roots. Do we not fight to protect our home not the home our ancestors came from?

The story of the peoples the European settlers met are lost on the wind. Like the tidal wave washing away everything in its path, the land we call home has lost its history, and no one cares, or if they do, they keep their thoughts to themselves.

We celebrate Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Columbus Day, St Patrick's Day, and Thanksgiving Day but nowhere do we pay homage to the 'first' Americans, and the rest of us are first foreigners, then Americans.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The collective conscience

  The collective consciousness

The younger Mr Bush was elected at a time when the country was divided equally. Voters felt strongly for or against issues. There was no compromise of ideals. How he was elected is a matter for the history books. Suffice it to say, it was a time in America when everyone had a black and white image of the issues.

9/11 has again created a dichotomy of opposites. Now, there is a strong sense of fear. Some see a scary enemy lurking and they are demanding protection at all costs. Tap the telephone, detain citizens indefinitely, drone the neighborhood.  Keep liquids off planes, scan passengers. A patriot act, cower. Bury your head in the sand of fear the unknown. Let the enemy know they have succeeded. The enemy has obtained control, is it the person seated next to you on the train, is the guy who bumped into you on the street. Hurry home, lock the door, load the gun. Get ready for war, they are coming to get us. Be afraid, freeze the brain into inactivity, dull the senses with the smell of war. Fight for your life, they have poison gas, they have bio hazard, they have the power to destroy us. They are getting stronger, they are on every continent, moving closer, watching, poising, build a wall, don't let them in. Keep us safe, no matter the cost, it is our right. The government must keep us safe.

Freedom. Without freedom this is not America, not The United States of America, home of the free and the brave. Yes, there is a new Crusade, a new religious war heading in our direction. Yes, there are those who are angry with the haves. The have not's have been brain washed into believing that in the next life(of which they are assured is reality) they will be rewarded with virgins. Is there a clarification for the female enemies, will they also receive virgins in the hereafter? We now have cameras on street corners, filming everyone, in the search for the lawbreaker running the red light, to add revenue, to keep the streets safe. And, to catch the killers! There is always someone watching. There is always someone seeing what you are doing, and interpreting what you are doing, to suit their needs. Is it a fair price to relinquish freedoms in the hope of securing safety? Are the watchers sufficiently tempered to see reality and not their illusion of reality? Can we depend upon the keepers of the peace to protect us. Or, do we continue living our lives as a free nation. Is a police state necessary?  9/11 has crippled the world economy. 9/11 has masked us in the apprehension of danger, positioning us for the fight or flight response. But has it also expanded our mind to the need to choose what is good for us. Is it good for us to be a frozen populace, afraid to laugh, afraid to dance, afraid to giggle. Get the gun, forget about folly.

Fear, greed, ignorance and want, the only enemies. Building walls further enhancing the dark ages. Remember the dark ages?, the days of serfs and lords, the haves and the have nots. The days before the printing press, and mass education, or education of the masses. Are we falling back in time, revisiting the dark ages of mass ignorance and mass want? Are we willing to give up the grandeur of the Internet, the instant information highway, in exchange for slave labor or forced imprisonment of the mind? Without the opportunity and the exercise of excellence we are simply surviving or fighting to survive as opposed to striving for excellence, learning about our selves and what is best for all of us. Can we stand by and accept the inevitability of war, to relieve the strain of the unemployed, or can we turn around the fear, the greed, the hunger and the want -- into a unity of purpose, a better life for all. Is because there has always been war the good reason to accept war as the inevitable. Can we stand by, doing nothing, and letting the worst possible scenario become the reality. Or can we each make a positive difference to prevent the habit of war as the only solution.


What's in a name?



A moral

    There was one year, every row was perfectly straight and equally spaced, it looked as though it was done by a machine. Each seed was spaced exactly the same distance, all the onions and garlic too. A beautiful site, amazing, awesome, simply lovely. We stood admiring our handiwork. Nothing grew.

   The artist worked for two years on the sculpture. Placing specks of clay day after day. After two years the artist had a tall statue made of clay, ready for the next step. Realizing exhaustion and needing a vacation before moving on in the process the artist decided to take a vacation. He told the gardener to wet the statue every day. When the two week vacation, the artist arrives home, where his statue one stood was a mound of wet clay.

    Moral of the story? Don't do anything too perfectly, you anger the gods.