Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's the little things....

We have a new toy, the result of The Great Corny Dog Incident of '13.


It's a convection toaster oven.

It all began on a warm summer's eve last week when K and I both wanted something to eat, but not a full blown meal.  She asked, "How about a couple of corny dogs?"  Ummm....OK.  As pre-heating the big 'ol electronic hot box under the stove takes so long, K just nuked 'em in the microwave instead.  

Gag!

The breading tasted like it had been soaking in water for several hours.  It was just awful.  She said a small countertop toaster oven would have been the way to go, except we didn't have a toaster oven.  She said it just makes cooking something simple for two (or was it cooking something for two simpletons?) so much easier.  I've never had a toaster oven, and as I've written about in the past, my mother wasn't a cook at all, so this was an all-new concept for me.

K always kids me about my tendency to run to Consumer Reports before I buy anything much more than a pair of socks, and this purchase was no exception.  There were several Breville toaster ovens rated on top, but they were $180....not gonna happen!  Next highest rated was this little Oster model.  I couldn't find it at any store locally, so it was Amazon to the rescue.

It arrived yesterday and we gave it the ultimate test....yep, corny dogs again.  This time I think even Consumer Reports would have approved, if they were to ever test corny dogs.  They were crispy and delicious, just like the ones Fletcher's cooks up at the Great State Fair of Texas.  ;)

And let me just say for the record, yes, they were 100% pure beef (from select cuts of the ear, hoof, and ass) and the breading was pure natural / green / organic / free range, too.  I'm pretty sure.  

S



Monday, July 29, 2013

It's not "what were we thinking?" but "ARE we thinking?"


It's said by middle class Americans that one class pays taxes, and another class gets the benefits.  That is probably greatly exaggerated, yet I would agree it still holds some truth.

Yes, we all benefit from police and fire protection, public sanitation, a strong military, the (increasingly irrelevant) postal system, etc, but individually, most of us in the middle class simply don't qualify for any public perk.  We pay for them, yet we "make too much" to qualify ourselves.  No wonder we're resentful.

Europeans pay considerably higher taxes than we do, but I've read that most pay it willingly (Greeks, Italians, and a few others excepted) because the average taxpayer there personally gets something in return.  Higher education is subsidized or is free, health care is subsidized or is free, day care is subsidized or is free, elderly care is subsidized or is free, and so forth. Not just for the poor, but for everyone.

I'm not saying we should necessarily emulate European socialism, but just pointing out how even middle class taxpayers there recieve something for their tax  dollars....er....Euros.  They're getting "bang for their buck".

If you're middle class in America, you're on your own.  You pay, you just don't get your money's worth in return.  As long as you have a good job and believe a bright future awaits you, you'll pay for your kid's daycare and college tuition, mom's nursing home, etc, out of your pocket and still pay your taxes and not think much of it.  But in this age of globalization, that often isn't possible any more.  

Anyone remember when Ross Perot ran for president back in 1992?  Free trade agreements were the hot topic back then (the opening salvo of globalization) and Ross said, "That giant sucking sound you hear will be American jobs going overseas." Prices were cheaper at Walmart, so (almost) everyone was happy.  We lost a few jobs initially, but no big deal.  

The next year, a few more jobs left, but the price of a toaster was cheaper still so who cared?...on and on.  Now the news (USA Today, Yahoo) reports that 4 of 5 middle class Americans are fearful of their future and are essentially just hanging on.  

Yes, we're creating new jobs once again, but they generally aren't anywhere near as high paying as the ones we've lost.  We're constantly lowering the bar.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A real world example of the mess we've caused for ourselves:  Our roads and bridges are crumbling.  They say it will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to fix them, money the state and federal governments don't have.

Road maintenance and expansion are paid for with gasoline sales taxes.  Because new cars get better (mandated) mileage these days, more people can drive more cars more miles and still buy less gasoline.  They put more strain on our highways, yet pay less taxes to maintain them.  

We really need to *gasp* raise gas taxes.  In my state most of our new major roads are toll roads.  So now I'm not paying more taxes, but I'm paying tolls instead.  My wallet can't tell the difference.  

Paying more taxes isn't necessarily a bad thing IF YOU CAN SHOW ME I'M PERSONALLY GETTING SOMETHING OF VALUE FOR IT.

The politicians are just playing games with us.  Yet by touting their tax cutting record, we keep re-electing them.  We've become a nation of airheads.

S


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yesterday at the park....

I've gotta give 'em credit....the weatherguessers nailed it yesterday.  We enjoyed a few puffy clouds, a mild breeze, and temps in the mid-80's.  I know!

To take advantage of this rare, cool Dallas summer day K and I decided we'd take a road trip all the way to downtown Dallas to see the new....



This is a $100M public/private venture that turned a three block long, 5.2 acre piece of land ON TOP OF AN 8-LANE HIGHWAY into a public park.


That's right, this freeway....


....goes underneath this beautiful park!

We arrived there a little after noon and had no trouble finding parking nearby.  What we hadn't counted on seeing there were...


....FOOD TRUCKS!  I love food trucks....yum!


We also noticed there were Corgi's everywhere.  What the...?  Turns out there was a Corgi owners club that had met there that morning.  Being as the place is so dog friendly you might think there would be some "piles" here and there, but there weren't.  It was super clean.


Man's best friend even had their own special cooling-off fountain.


Did I mention it was dog friendly?  Did I mention I like dogs?  ;)


It also had a dedicated Juvenile Holding Facility.  ;)


It looks like we just missed whatever kind of performance/presentation they had at the outdoor stage.


There were people tossing footballs around, a few frisbees, and even these guys playing a game of non-regulation croquet.  (I say "non-regulation" because they didn't have those little white sweaters tied loosely around their necks.)

After a while of walking around and taking in all the sights, we found us a shady spot to sit and "admire" the passersby.  


When hunger pangs finally overwhelmed us (OK...me) I walked back to the food trucks and settled on this one.


It was very good!  (Crab, red and jalapeno peppers, and siriachi sauce)


The park is right across the street from The Myerson Symphony Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Garden, and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  Kudos to "Big D" for their downtown renaissance effort.


If I worked at one of these downtown offices (or the little church), I think this park is where I'd spend my lunch hour.


Off topic:   I always liked the curved front facade on the Hunt Oil Building.


The best view of the park is probably from one of the Museum Tower condos.  Unfortunately for me, each unit is juuuuust a smidge over my budget.  (Ha!  Who are we kiddin'....more than my entire net worth.)

It was a very pleasant day.  If we have another cool summer Saturday, or maybe this Fall, we'll definitely be back.  

Have a great Sunday everyone.

S


Saturday, July 27, 2013

One down, two to go


Summer in Texas is a miserable, disgusting time of the year.  Anyone who disagrees has been out in it too long.  When you open the door first thing in the morning to step out to get the newspaper, for example, and you're immediately hit by a blast of air so hot and muggy your glasses fog up, it makes you want to just crank down the A/C and go back to bed.

This climate change thing has blindsided a lot of people this year.  Blizzards when they weren't supposed to, heat waves where we weren't supposed to, floods, freak sand storms....what's next?  But oddly enough, Dallas has so far had a fairly palatable summer.  We've had a few 100 degree days, but we've also had a few days that never even climbed into the 90's. 

This morning before 7 I took Luke the Wonderdog out for a long walk.  My weather app said the temp was 74 degrees, but a pretty stiff breeze made it feel like it was in the 60's.  And if the weatherguessers are to be believed, this will be one of those sub-90 degree days.  SWEET!

I'm not foolish enough to expect August and September to be like our July was, but at least I only have two more months of misery to endure before October relief arrives.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I like lists.  Not "To Do" lists, but lists of fun things.  Like today on Yahoo news, for example, it had a list of the 10 coolest summer cities (we're talking temperatures), and also the 10 hottest.  

Two of the top 10 coolest are among my personal favorite cities, too:  Seattle and Denver.  Seattle because of its uniqueness and Denver because it's just a short drive (by Texas standards) to the mountains.  THE mountains.  THE ROCKY mountains.  I love THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.  *insert little tiny heart shape symbol here*


My new address when I win the lottery

No surprise, 4 of the top 10 hottest summer cities were in Texas, Dallas being #3.  What's that old saying?...."I've got a spot in heaven guaranteed 'cause I've already done my time in hell."

Carry on and stay cool.

S


Friday, July 26, 2013

Our visit to the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum

One of the things K and I have been wanting to do is visit the recently opened George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and as K has some time off this week, we decided this would be the day to see it.

We purchased tickets online for the 11:30 am admission group.  Parking was somewhat of an issue as the SMU campus, the site of the Library, is very compact, so we opted for valet parking.  A short walk brought us to the front entry....



It is a beautiful, dignified building of a style complimenting the school's existing campus.


There is an impressive 4 story lobby featuring a 360 degree movie screen giving guests something to entertain them until their scheduled admission time.


 On the side walls were glass cases displaying many of the incredible, priceless gifts presented to the Bush's by visiting foreign dignitaries.  I'm assuming these baubles were for the First Lady. (Unless there's something George isn't telling us  ;)


All displays are on one floor, but quite a floor it is.  The organization was impeccable.


After viewing a 12 minute orientation film we proceeded on to the room that told the story of 9/11.


With marble walls engraved with the names of all those killed on that day, the centerpiece was several pieces of World Trade Center steel.


Touching was allowed.  Everyone displayed proper reverence.  


His official Daily Diary entry for that day was on display.  (Sorry for the poor quality photography.  These were all done on an iPhone camera.)


Who could ever forget the President addressing the responders the next day at ground zero through this bullhorn?

The next exhibit was a bit lighter:  An exact replica of the Oval Office.


"Are ya payin' attention, 'cause I'm only gonna say this once?  I want ribs, sausage, a little brisket, and some jalapeno beans....sauce on the side.  Got it?  And tell Putin I'll have to call him back."


Being an admirer of Winston Churchill, I was impressed by this bust GWB kept in the Oval Office, along with the obligatory paintings of Washington, Lincoln, etc.


Next up was an exhibit showing life in the Bush White House.


This was the setting of a State Dinner honoring HRH Queen Elizabeth II.


Even the First Dogs, Barney and Miss Beazley, got a shout out.


Some visiting animal-loving Head of State even remembered the pooches when he brought gifts.

This only scratches the surface of things to see here.  There were also exhibits that talked about Katrina (even admitting his administration's poor response), his education initiatives, his efforts to help end the spread of AIDS in Africa, the financial crisis that blew up right at the end of his second term in office, and lots more.

I was impressed with the fact that it was kept partisan-politics free.  It was very upbeat and inspiring, and ended with a call for all to serve.  Even those who were not great fans of GW Bush could visit and come away impressed.  

From an operational and execution standpoint there was nothing lacking at all, no corners cut.  It's amazing what a quarter of a billion dollars will buy!  It was a remarkably positive experience.  Two thumbs up.

S



Thursday, July 25, 2013

No wonder people laugh at France....

....French people talk funny.

Week two of French lessons and it's kicking my argot.  Actually I can read the words and understand what they mean.  I can usually get the gender, tense, etc right, too.  It's when it gives me a verbal sentence to translate that I lose it.  To me it sounds like ellefillegarconcahtnoirettubrutesontsomme when it's said in .003 seconds.  

Hold on there Kemo Sabe....S L O W   D O W N.  "Es" and "est" both sound the same to me when spoken at warp speed.  What happened to the "t" sound?   If France is supposed to be such a laid back place, why do they talk so damn fast? 



I'm thinking about speaking in English and then just wrapping it in a faux-French accent.  Have you ever noticed how all mimes are French?  You know why that is?  Because learning French kicked their argot, too.

Seriously, I'm committed to learning this.  I've always wanted to learn another language.  I'm thinking it will keep my mind....oh look....I Love Lucy is on.

The British on the other hand, despite their outwardly stodgy image, seem to know how to have a good time.

Reading the announcement of the new Royal Baby, Prince Elmo

An English judge

The famous Beefeaters

It looks to me like the whole country is just one giant costume party.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

K is taking a few days off work, so today we're going to visit the new George Dubya Bush Library on the SMU campus in Dallas.  Photos to follow.

Have a good day everyone.  Stay cool.

S


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

But wait. There's more. Call now and I'll DOUBLE the offer!

I'm gonna be rich!  This is a slam dunk, can't miss deal.  It's a noise cancelling device that will bring, to paraphrase Neville Chamberlain, peace to our time.  EVERYONE will want one of these.  OK, are you ready?  Here it is:


Here's how it works:  Whenever there is a aural-borne irritant in your life, such as barking from a stray household pet or a screaming child or just a loud-mouth neighbor, simply aim the yellow nozzle at them, squeeze the blue trigger, and Waa-Laa, quiet!

And it uses no harsh toxic chemicals....it actually runs on plain H2O.  That's right, water!  I have personally Beta tested it on Luke The Wonderdog just this morning and the results were outstanding!  

I can't wait to travel on an airplane again.  That irritating little creature sitting right behind you screaming something about his ears hurting....just one spritz and you can sit back and doze off for the rest of the flight.

I can see a huge market with the clergy, too.  Imagine Sunday service.  The sanctuary is packed.  You're preaching one helluva fire and brimstone sermon, and....Waaaaaaaa....Waaaaaaa.  Simply identify the culprit, adjust the nozzle for long range accuracy, and Pffffffttt!  Quiet.

How about in movie theatres?  The plot is getting intense, you're on the edge of your seat, and ring....ring....hello?  Squiiiirt.  With a little practice you'll be able to not only hit 'em up side the head, but short out their phone, too.

The possibilities are endless.  Look for the all new, Scott's Super Noise Cancelling Peacemaker in stores near you, coming this Fall.  :)

S



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Royal Baby

He probably looks something like this.

Daily life in Great Britain, the US, and much of the rest of the world came to a standstill for a few minutes yesterday when Princess Kate Duchess Windsor Middleton Cambridge gave birth to a new heir to the British Throne.  Little Prince Elroy* and his mum are both said to be doing well.  A beaming Prince William was quoted as saying, "Me?  Don't we have Royal Hired Help to change those?"

With the new expanded Windsor-Middleton-Cambridge family scheduled to come home today, Extreme Home Makeover, UK crews "gave it the beans" (English euphemism for "hurried things up"), getting the baby's room painted blue and the wood-cut-out letters E L R O Y hung over his crib.  

Elsewhere Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were spotted wearing floppy hats and dark sunglasses trying to quietly get a few last minute things at We Be Toys.  Besides a lamp and a small rug, the Queen reportedly bought a gilded photo frame for the autographed picture of Herself she planned to present to the Royal Tyke.

Royal Bookies currently have Baby Elroy eventually becoming a Royal Air Force Sea King helicopter pilot like his dad, 5-2 odds over becoming a British Army Apache helicopter pilot like his uncle Harry, despite the fact that Apache's are way more cool.

The Lowandslow's have sent their congratulatory email, and we look forward to someday meeting King Elroy when we visit England for a little sightseeing.  I'm sure he's looking forward to meeting us, too.

S

*Prince Scott was ruled out early after Scotland announced they would soon hold an election on whether to remain in the United Kingdom or go it alone.  An incensed Queen Elizabeth reportedly said, "Well then, shag 'em."



Monday, July 22, 2013

The "Free Market" isn't free at all


Parasites all in a row.

It's Monday, and like many of you I have a burr under my saddle.  Where most of you are just pissed it's Monday, my heartburn is a little more complex.  The heat source of my slow burn?  The Big Banks....again.  They've found another way to screw us, and of course, since Congress gave them a wink and a nod, it's completely legal.  But should it be?

They've taken a page from the business plan of 'ol John D. Rockefeller.  He didn't actually drill for oil....he just had a stranglehold on the pipelines (and the refining process).

It seems a group of financial players, most notably Goldman Sachs, owns many of the warehouses where aluminum bought/sold on the spot market is stored.  *yawn*  I know.  

It's been one of those sleepy little secrets that hasn't drawn attention until now, but has cost us consumers big time....$5B over just the past 3 years.  Yet they've added absolutely NOTHING to the economy in the process.  They are the absolute definition of "parasite".

Huge 1500 lb blocks of aluminum that will ultimately be used in beverage cans, cars, etc, sit in one of the Goldman Sachs-owned Detroit area warehouses.  An end user, say Coca Cola, buys a bunch of them and they are shipped out.  This process before Goldman bought the warehouses took about 6 weeks.  Now it takes about 16 months.  

Why the delay?  Because Goldman's warehouses alone hold 1.5 MILLION tons, and they charge $.48 per ton per day storage fee.   Other big banks have similar schemes at play, too.

Coca Cola and other end users complained to the London Metal Exchange (who somehow is charged with setting the rules) and the LME issued an edict:  Warehousers must move out at least 3,000 tons per day.  

And now they do....from one of their warehouses to another of their warehouses down the street.  It's just a big shell game.  Oh, and it isn't as if the LME is truly impartial.  They get 1% of all storage fees collected.  *stinky*

And it gets worse.  Thanks to intense bank lobbying, the Securities and Exchange Commission has approved a plan that will allow JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and BlackRock to buy up to 80% of the copper on the market.  They also have "interests" in oil, wheat, cotton, electricity generation, and more. 

Just FYI, JPMorgan is currently negotiating the terms of a $500M settlement with the Feds for electricity rate rigging.  *I'm not feelin' the love*

Experts say that by owning oil pipelines, port facilities, and warehouses, it gives them inside info on who's producing, moving, buying, and selling commodities, enabling them to make timely speculative purchases for themselves. It amounts to virtual "insider trading".  (A 2011 internal Goldman memo suggested that speculation drove up the price of a barrel of oil by a third, or about $10 per fill-up for the average driver.)

To my super-conservative friends who say we need less regulation and government interference (which I must admit sounds very good on paper), understand this:  The "free market" isn't free.  It's rigged.  

The bankers have simply set themselves up as middlemen.  They are adding NOTHING to the economy.  They are just parasites sucking the life out of society's producers.  Just because it's "legal" doesn't make it right.

S


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Dallas Morning News is a worthless piece of s__t!


Finally....a legitimate use for The Dallas Morning News.

If I had a bird, I wouldn't insult it by lining its cage with the Dallas Morning News.  

Many years ago Dallas had two daily newspapers, the Morning News and the (afternoon) Dallas Times Herald.  The Times Herald eventually closed its doors and the very next day (as I recall) classified advertising rates in the Morning News nearly doubled.  Bastards!

With the increasing popularity of internet news, most print newspapers have seen nothing but financial losses in recent years.  When the Dallas Morning News let go most of their writers to save a buck, the size of the paper was nearly cut in half....there wasn't much left worth reading.  AND the price shot up.  AND they lost 20% of their subscribers the next year.  Including ME!

I suspect they're staying afloat these days by being the local print and delivery source for a few national papers such as The New York Times and (I believe) The Wall Street Journal.  Trouble is, they can't reliably deliver them.  Literally half the time K has to call the paper and tell them they missed our delivery.  It's an ongoing battle.  

I quit!  Today we switched our national newspaper subscription to a digital online version only.  As I see it, though, I didn't fire the Dallas Morning News.  They fired themselves.  Good riddance.

S


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Careful what you pray for


I think I've figured out why the weather this summer is so hot:  During last winter's never-ending blizzard all you Yankees got down on your knees at the same time and said, "Dear God, PLEEEEEEEZE make this snow stop and give us some heat."  And hearing it from all sides He said, "OK, done."  Uh Huh....that was it.

There are some things that you can just count on.  Every spring the grass greens up and the trees bloom.  The track of the sun moves a little closer to the equator, and the temperature gets warmer miserably hot.  And I write a blog post bitching about the grass getting greener and needing mowing, the trees blooming and making me sneeze, and the sun track moving toward the equator making it miserably hot. 

Summertime as a school-age kid was fun, for obvious reason....school was out for 3 months.  WooHoo!  Even tempered by the fact that I was charged with mowing our lawn, summer was still a fun time.  

Now as an adult, however, I see absolutely NO redeeming social value whatsoever to summer.  Working/playing outside in the summer makes us HOT.  When we get hot we SWEAT.  When we sweat we STINK.  So basically we just walk around STINKING up the place for 3 months.  Why would anyone want to do that?  I'm pretty sure "summer" is an old Indian word for "stink".  

The only excuse I can figure for there even being a summer at all is because God must have wanted to make it up to you Yankees for sticking you way up north like that with all those blizzards.  "Oops, sorry guys.  To make it up to you I'll give you a few months of warmth, OK?  We good?"  But then He realized that was burning all us southerners to a crisp, so He gave us air conditioning....and ice cream with fresh strawberries on top. ;) 

*Sigh*  Oh well, I guess it's all part of The Plan.  Enjoy your Saturday, and stay cool.

S


Friday, July 19, 2013

Sports cheating? Who'd have thunk it?

Looks like another scandal is brewing in the Olympics.  No, it has nothing to do with doping, the usual athletic sin.  This time it has to do with cheating on the test for Olympians to go on to become judges in their sport.  That would be the ever-popular sport of wrestling....no, wait, they don't have wrestling in the Olympics any more.  This time it involves the high-stakes sport of "dancin' around with a ribbon on a stick".




*gasp*  So you mean previous great Olympic "rhythmic gymnasts" like 'ol....umm....what's-her-name....the one featured on the Wheaties box....what's that you say?....she wasn't on a Wheaties box?  Wheaties said they'd never heard of rhythmic gymnastics?

Maybe it's just me, but I don't understand how ribbon waving made it into the Olympics.  If that's such a big-deal sport, why then not marble shooting, or hula hooping, or horseshoes?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of sports, professional football is inching it's way back into the news....who's not yet signed a contract, who's still nursing injuries, etc.  On this morning's local news their informal poll-of-the-day was "How far do you think the Dallas Cowboys will go this year?"

8% said "the Superbowl" (obviously delusional)

17% said "the playoffs"  (only slightly less delusional)

77% said "are the Mavericks playing yet?"

Ha!  Take THAT Jerry Jones!  (Cowboy's owner)  *Brooklyn raspberry*

By my math that equals 102%  (Sorta like Chicago election vote counting, huh?  ;)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gotta come out of retirement to play CEO again today.  Adios, y'all.  Enjoy your weekend.

S