Friday, May 30, 2014

I heard they were dumbing down our schools, but.....

If I was a former student of the UC Irvine Merage School of Business and had considerable student loan debt, I think I'd offer to pay it off at $.10 on the dollar based on the math I learned from their own Professor Emeritus, Richard B. McKenzie:

"Just how overpriced is movie food? To find out, we turned to the guy who wrote the book on the subject: Richard B. McKenzie, professor emeritus at the UC Irvine Merage School of Business and author of Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies and Other Pricing Puzzles. Here are the markups for the biggest cinema staples:
  • $8.15:The average cost* of a large bucket popcorn (with free refill)
  • 90¢: The estimated cost of the raw goods needed to make it, per McKenzie’s research
That’s a markup of nearly 90 percent from kernel to consumption"

The Yahoo/ABC report also revealed:
  • $6.31: The average cost* of a large soda
  • 40¢: The estimated cost of the raw syrup that goes into a 50.5 oz. large Coke.
After figuring in the cost of the cup, lid, a straw, and one refill, the cost rises to $.91, for "an 86 percent markup".



Reminds me of the story of the two childhood friends who hadn't seen each other in 30 years.  One went on to Texas Tech, the other to Texas A&M.  (Chris:  Feel free to substitute University of Texas here.)  They met on the street by chance one day and the Aggie asked what kind of business the Red Raider was in.

The Tech alumni said he was in the import/export business.  He said he bought decorative pillows in Asia for $2 each, then sold them wholesale in the US to Macy's for $5 each.  

The Aggie said, "WOW!  3%....not bad!   :)

Have a great weekend everyone!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Evil lettuce....Blech! Blech!

Have you ever suffered from food poisoning? If you haven't, consider yourself VERY lucky.  But if you have, you know that you'll probably associate the last thing you ate with the gut wrenching (literally) illness, whether it was the real culprit or not.  I once ate an Arby's sandwich, then got deathly sick that night. I can't eat Arby's to this day.

A few years ago after a Christmas party K and I both got violently ill.  So did bro and my SIL and several other people from the same party.  SIL reported this to her doctor and he asked what was served.  She ran down the list, and when she said salad, he said "Whoa. That's it.  Lettuce is notorious for harboring all kinds of nasty 'wee beasties'" (my term).

I've always been extremely careful with lettuce ever since.  I usually buy fresh red or green leaf lettuce from Central Market, then wash it myself and use one of those spin dryer things before I put it away in Tupperware.  Until this week.  BIG MISTAKE!

Tuesday night for dinner we had some grilled home made hamburgers.  They were excellent as always, K and I both having the same thing except I put lettuce on mine.  Lettuce I bought in a hurry from evilWalmart.  (Yes, it's all one word:  evilWalmart.)  It was pre-packaged, sealed, and prominently labeled "Triple Washed". 

Triple washed my ass!

By midnight I had taken up residence in the bathroom.  I'll spare you the details.  It was one of those illnesses where you actually start to think about what kind of accommodations you'll have in your afterlife.

I'm hoping this episode doesn't develop into a personal life-long phobia against lettuce as I do like me a good salad bar now and then.  I am 0 for 2, after all.

You know how they say you should get right back on a horse if you ever fall off?  If that's really true, I'm thinking I'll need to go visit Jason's Deli salad bar soon.

Wish me luck.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sticker shock

 I asked the guy to make me look like this.  When I left he was still laughing.

As I mentioned a few days ago I have several elderly relatives whose time on Earth appears to be limited, so I figured I'd better get ready.  For years my daily wardrobe has consisted of jeans or shorts and t-shirts or polo shirts.  I have some casual pants and nicer shirts that would pass for "business casual", a couple of sport coats, and one suit, my "marryin' and buryin'" suit.

I tried my dressy clothes on and no surprise, they didn't fit well.  The later stages of middle age plus a low thyroid that is jerking my metabolism around meant a trip to The Men's Wearhouse was in order.

I've always found The Men's Wearhouse had good clothes at reasonable prices.  I could go in and be greeted by a knowledgeable sales person who could direct me to a nice suit that made me look less dorky than I really am, without breaking the bank.

Over the weekend K invited (dragged) me to the MW so they could polish me up a bit.  I had decided a sport coat that I already had was sufficiently conservative, so all I needed was a nice pair of dress pants.

The guy took me to the pants dept and went right to a pair that matched well and felt like good quality.  Being a decisive person I said fine, mark 'em for the right length and let me outta here.

But wait, there's more!

Today only, buy one pair of pants, get another pair FREE!  I only needed one pair, but heck, if they're free....  :)  So I took two pair, one charcoal colored, one navy blue, back to the dressing room and tried them on.  

He marked the first pair, and as I was taking them off I noticed the price tag:  $190.  For ONE pair of pants?  (Well over $200 with alterations and tax.)  *choke*

Is that the going price these days for a pair of pants, or has The Men's Wearhouse gone all Neiman Marcus on me?  The other pair was less expensive, so I just bought those which were "value priced" and didn't qualify for the BOGO promotion.  Free?  Yeah, right. 


Monday, May 26, 2014

You're all invited to my donkey barbecue

Now for that "donkey barbecue" I promised, better known as an ass chewing:  

We can sure "talk the talk", be we apparently aren't worth a damn at "walking the walk".  

Any time someone pulls out an American flag, we all applaud and whoop and holler and shoot off fireworks.  Many of us will see a service man or woman in uniform, or a veteran wearing a hat so proclaiming, and walk over and shake their hand and thank them for their service.  That's all well and good, BUT....

....When our veterans come home with wounds that previous generations of warriors would have died from on the battlefield, we just shuffle them off to a VA hospital and pat ourselves on the back for "taking such good care of our heroes".  

*pass the potato salad, please*

Fact is, our VA system sucks!  My wife is one of those currently being jerked around by the VA.  (Did you know the VA hospital computers don't talk to the VA HQ computers?)  Let me say right up front that they have some very caring people, and they have at times done wonderful things for her.  But the system as a whole is broken.

I get so sick and tired of hearing those Tea Party types say they are going to cut taxes.  They're like a broken record.  That's much too simplistic.  (Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, considering the simple minds that think up such one-liners.)  IMO, we're not overtaxed....our tax money is just squandered on the wrong things.

Why can't the VA system get their act together?  Is the system too complex?  Then simplify it.  Is it under-funded?  Then take those billions of $$$ of subsidies doled out to immensely profitable private companies and redirect that to the VA.  

Is it under-staffed?  Then transfer 10,000 of those otherwise questionably productive gubment bureaucrats elsewhere and train them to clear up all that backlog of red tape that is preventing our hurting veterans from getting the care WE PROMISED THEM.  (Then work to abolish the machine what makes the red tape.)

I'm thinking the tail is wagging the dog.  Our government bureaucracy is so bloated and entrenched that department secretaries aren't leaders at all, but just caretakers.  They seem to get settled into their Secretary of ____ job and then just oversee what has been going on there for decades.  What's wrong with COMPLETELY reorganizing how things are done, one section, one department at a time?

Take VA Secretary Eric Shenseki for example:  A retired 4-star General, an honorable man, no doubt.  He's been in his job since 2009, yet the VA seems to be as dysfunctional today as it ever has been.  Perhaps more so, even.  WTH?  What's he been doing the past 5 years?? 

Re-assign some, retire some, fire some, throw out the old rules and write all-new ones if necessary....JUST GET THE JOB DONE!

If Alan Mulally could move from Boeing to become Ford CEO....dead man walking, going down for the third time, dysfunctional, executive backstabbing Ford....and slap it around and reorganize it top to bottom and turn it around, why can't someone do something similar at the VA?   

"But that's the way we've always done it" is the problem.  Whenever a bureaucrat utters that they should be shown the door, pronto.

Come on people!  Fire off an email.  Demand our "leaders" lead.  And if they won't, then kick them to the curb and get new ones who will.  Our hurting veterans deserve better.

Rant over.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet"

No?  OK then, how 'bout "rugby, barbecue, peach ice cream, and Ferrari"?


I'm kinda liking these long holiday weekends.  Friday night we watched the Amlin Cup championship game (rugby), and my team, the Northampton Saints, won it all in a hard fought game.  WooHoo!

Then yesterday we watched the Heineken Cup European rugby championship game where Toulon (France) beat Saracens (UK).  This was good for me as next weekend Northampton plays Saracens for the Aviva Premiership championship, which is the Super Bowl of English rugby.  A beat up Saracens won't hurt my feelings.  ;) just a few minutes actually, I'm watching the Monaco F1 Grand Prix.  Do I dare hope Ferrari might sneak up on Mercedes and win one?

Later we're thinking about going downtown to Klyde Warren Park (no relation, DAMMIT!) to chill the afternoon away and maybe graze off one of the food trucks.  It all depends on the rain in the forecast.  It'll be one of those snap decisions if we go.

I missed grandson Parker's baseball game yesterday because it was at O-dark-thirty.  Next week it's at a more reasonable 11am.  He's a hoot to watch.  

At age 4 (almost 5) he plants his feet, taps home plate, takes a couple of practice swings, then steps into the pitch and clobbers it!  He must be batting something like .999.  And he's a fine first baseman, too.

Don't forget to think of all our service men and women who are and have served and sacrificed so much for us, especially on this Memorial Day weekend. 

Have fun, be safe everyone.  :)


Friday, May 23, 2014

Put GQ on notice....I'm bringing out The Suit

I have several very elderly (90's) relatives who are not doing well.  You know what that means?  I've got to dig through my closet and find The Suit

I'm trying to convince Bro we should go with a theme.  No?

*sigh*  Looks like I'll be buying a new suit this weekend.  Ninety-nine buck, gone....pfffft....just like that.

Have a fun, safe weekend everyone.  :)


Thursday, May 22, 2014

How American Airlines inspired the first Airbus

You've come a long way, baby!

I've always been an aviation enthusiast, sopping up all I could about the subject, from the first manned ascent by the Montgolfier brothers in a hot air balloon in 1783 to the almost-science-fiction-like aircraft of today.

Until the late 1960's-early 1970's American commercial airplane makers Boeing, Lockheed, and Douglas were the big players, with the Europeans lagging far behind.  That's when the French, Germans, Brits (and later the Spanish) joined together in a consortium to form what we know today as Airbus.

I like Airbus, mainly because I think it pushed the Americans into being more competitive and innovative, benefiting us all.  What I didn't know until recently was that it was the most American of airlines, American Airlines, that goaded Airbus into business.

Until then long-distance aircraft that flew over tall mountains or open stretches of ocean were 3 or 4 engined per FAA regulation (although it wasn't called the FAA back then).

That's because back in the days of piston engined aircraft it wasn't uncommon for one or even two engines to be shut down in flight due to malfunction.  Hence most long range aircraft aircraft of the day....DC-6 & 7, Lockheed Constellation, etc....had 4 engines for safety. (Smaller twin-engine aircraft like the DC-3 had to hug coastlines or fly thru mountain valleys.)

Engines are expensive, both to buy and service.  After jet engines came into common use on the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 it became obvious that jets were much more reliable, and therefore aircraft could safely fly with only 3 engines.  This was the heyday of the tri-motored Boeing 727 and later the wide-bodied Lockheed L1011, and Douglas DC-10.  (The mammoth 747 still retained 4 engines.)

Across the pond the Europeans knew they would have to pool their resources and talent to produce a world class aircraft alternative to the Americans or give up entirely and cede it all to the Yanks.  (Their existing programs, even the vaunted Concord, were not economically successful.) That would mean the loss of lots of jobs, and their technical aerospace talent would just waste away forever.

Always looking for ways to be more efficient, it was a VP at American Airlines who began pushing for a twin-engined airliner.  Remember, fewer engines = lower costs.  The big American plane builders said no thanks, they were committed to their tri-motors.

This was their big chance.  The Europeans took up American Airlines challenge and began work on the first wide-body, long-range, twin-engine jet, the Airbus A300.  It was quite a gamble.  We can see now it was a rather crude aircraft, but it was a start.  

Airbus' next game changer was the A300B, which pushed the Flight Engineer out of the cockpit due to increased automation and efficiency.  Now with only a pilot and co-pilot on the flight deck, payroll was reduced considerably.  One less engine and one less crew member meant more $$$$ for the airline.

The rest is history.  American Airlines and Airbus were right about having just two engines, and now most of the biggest, longest range aircraft (Boeing 767, 777, 787, Airbus A330, A350) and shorter range aircraft (Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families) are twins.

I love how one guy pushing for something different stood the status quo on its head.  :)

To quote the great Paul Harvey, "Now you know the rest of the story."


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Le Big Mac

Ahh, Paris....we have a problem.

Q.  What do you get when you cross a diet of Big Macs with the French railway system? 

A.   Trains that are too fat to fit between the station platforms.

"Mind the gap", the traditional warning to be careful and not step into the gap between the door of the train and the concrete platform will apparently no longer apply at thousands of French train stations.  It seems the railway operator SNCF just spent $20.5B buying 2,000 new trains, only to find they won't fit between some station platforms.

"We measured the gap at a number of stations and that's where we got our dimensions.  We sorta forgot that a lot of the older stations were narrower" said VP Engineering, Inspector (Jacques) Clouseau, whose previous career highlights included designing ignition switches for Chevy Cobalts.


To show their strong civic involvement, JP Morgan Chase Bank has announced that they will be committing $100M over five years to aid revitalization in Detroit.  They said they would donate the profit they make on their credit card operations next Monday morning between 8am and 8:15 to help bankrupt Detroit get back on their feet.  

They said they would like to do more, but that's all they could afford to piss away, what with the sky-high legal bills they're incurring trying to keep themselves out of the penitentiary.  

Not to be outdone, Goldman Sachs announced they would chip in $20M, too.

And dats today's (slightly embellished) news.  :)


Monday, May 19, 2014

Take two asprin and call me in the morning

I read an interesting article in the newspaper this weekend discussing the sky-high cost of the American health care system.  Because they are so visible and their fees seem so high (at first glance), doctors get the rap as the primary cause of our borderline-affordable medical care nightmare.  Turns out they aren't even close to being the highest paid links in the health care chain.

The story reported that the average surgeon makes $306K and a general practitioner makes on average $185K.  Considering all the education they must complete and the ungodly amount of medical school debt they assume, not to mention the literal life-or-death role they play, I don't think they are overpaid at all.  

And just FYI, the average nurse makes $61K and the average emergency medical tech makes $27K.  I think we patients are getting off cheap!

So where are the all the big bucks going?  The story suggested too much goes to administration / executive compensation.  For example, the average insurance company CEO makes $584K, the average hospital CEO $385K, the average hospital administrator $237K.  

Of course, the bigger insurance companies and hospitals pay WAAAAAY more than that.  Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini was given a salary in 2012 of $977K, with total compensation amounting to $36 MILLION!  Even the CEO of mid-sized New Jersey health system Barnabas Health made $21.7 MILLION total compensation in 2012 when he retired.  They also had 20 VP's who made over $350K each.

It seems the United States' $2.7 TRILLION health care system is top heavy with administrative costs, to the tune of 20-30% or $606 per American.  By contrast, health care administration in France costs $277 per person, Germany $237, and Canada $148.  (And for the record, citizens of those countries all have longer life expectancies than Americans.)

Doctors here are even protesting, too.  "Among doctors, there is growing frustration over the army of businesspeople (medical coders, claims adjusters, medical devise brokers, etc) around them and the impact of administrative costs which are reflected in inflated charges for medical services", they say.

So how can these guys justify their enormous incomes?  They say "large pay packages are necessary to attract top executives who have the expertise needed to cope with the complex structure of American health care, where hospitals and insurers undertake hundreds of negotiations to set prices."

Talk about job security!  You make the system so unbelievably complicated very few can decipher it, then demand a King's ransom to oversee the mess you created.

But when Obamacare was in the planning stage, who did they turn to for advice and political support?  The insurance companies and big hospital systems!  Well DUH!  (I guess they sorta had to, but still, their advice had to have been "cover your ass" biased.)

Maybe I'm getting way ahead of myself, but I'm wondering if that tiny little speck I see on the horizon coming headlong towards us isn't a single payer health care system....what its detractors call "socialized medicine"?  

My foreign friends say their system works well and we shouldn't be afraid of it.  Many Americans seem to think it will suck us all into a black hole of doom.  Me?  I have no clue.

I guess we'll just have to stay tuned.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Why do scientists always bring us bad news? A joke now and then would be appreciated.

This is NOT the news I wanted to read first thing this morning:

Scientist are warning that another El Nino is forming in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  As you can plainly see from this satellite photo, an El Nino is a brown stain that forms on the surface of the water, then (I'm guessing) catches fire and scorches places downwind, like Texas.  DAMN!

They say this is looking ominously like the El Nino that formed back in 1997 and darn near fried me to a crisp.  (I'm pretty sure it was aimed just at me.)  I don't like summers in the best of time, and if this is true, this summer will be a sucky one.  I think I'll need to start a Countdown To Fall calendar just to give me something to live for.


Ha!  I suddenly have a new appreciation of 'ol Mark Twain.  :)


I'll leave you today with a bit of humor:

The barber was cutting hair all morning and looking out the window of his barber shop on Main Street.  For hours he watched a guy across the street dig a hole, 4' deep and 4' wide, then move on down the street 50' and dig another hole 4' deep and 4' wide, then another, and another after that.

A few minutes later another guy comes along and fills back in the hole the first guy dug, then he moved 50' to the next hole and filled that one in, too.  Over and over.  One guy digs, another guy fills in.

Finally the barber walked across the street and asked what they were doing, digging and then filling in all those holes? 

The first guy said, "I know it probably looks odd, but you see, we work for the city.  We're normally a 3-man crew, but the guy who plants the tree is out sick today, so...."

Have a great weekend everyone! :)


Thursday, May 15, 2014

And it's Dung Slung Shit by a....nose (sorry)


Did you hear about the young people in NY (?) who recently bought a used couch at a Salvation Army thrift store?  It wasn't long before they realized how uncomfortably lumpy it was, so they opened some of the cushions and found over $40,000 in small bills, along with a deposit slip identifying the previous owner.  (Since when do couch cushions give deposit slips?)

They tracked down the lady, a 90-year oldster, and returned her money to her. 

Meanwhile mid-term election campaigning is in full swing and the best I can tell that DemoPublican candidate of Chinese heritage, Dung Slung Shit, is comfortably in the lead.  

Why can't we put some of those kids in office....someone who still knows how to do the right thing?  All we have are crooks vying to give the special interests more tax breaks, and rake off a hefty cut for themselves, too.


Speaking of....did you see the clip on TV of Senate Majority Leader Harry "Doogie" Reid (D-NV) lambasting the billionaire Koch Bros for setting up their payola action fund....with $400,000,000 to be spread around Congress. 

Doogie was just seething, he was so incensed.

But then when asked about one of his Nevada constituents, Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has a pretty hefty slush fund himself, Doogie said he was a virtual saint.  "He doesn't care about the money.  He just wants to help people."  (Yeah, so long as they're wearing a Member of Congress lapel pin.)

*sigh*  Such is politics.  I only hope I'm still around to see the revolution.  :)


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's deja vu all over again

I'm sure that's what Yogi Berra will say when he hears that Virgin America Airlines is vying for the right to fly from Dallas Love Field.  It would be a real coup as they are fighting the big kid on the block, Southwest Airlines, for those last 2 gates at Dallas' in-town airport.

Sitting there in Fargo, ND you might ask, "Why should I care about this?  I'm sitting here in Fargo, North #@$%^ Dakota?"  Here's why:

It was in 1971 from Dallas' Love Field that Southwest Airlines flew its first scheduled flight.  It was the "rebel with a cause" that stood the airline industry on its head.  For the next 30-something years it moved in to one airport after another and undercut the going airfare there by 50% or more.  We all benefited.

The airline execs said this caused much turmoil in the industry, causing some of the weaker carriers to go belly up.  Consumers said YEAH BABY!  

SWA's eventual CEO Herb Kelleher (now retired) is an absolutely brilliant, crazy guy who put sex appeal back in the air.  I like Southwest Airlines.  It's still based in Dallas, and is an absolute hoot to fly.  But it is no longer the precocious kid with big plans.  It isn't even a true "low cost airline" anymore. 

Now the Wright Amendment (the political deal that inadvertently pretty much gave Love Field to Southwest) is being repealed and other carriers are fighting for the right to go toe-to-toe with SWA.  Now the winner has been announced and it is......

....yes....Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin America Airlines.

It's like Herb Kelleher had an illegitimate son and he started his own airline, too.  Both are flamboyant, both love the airline biz, both love ladies in sexy uniforms, and both know how to treat customers.  Now we'll see if Sir Richard can set Dallas on fire today like Herb did in 1971.

Straight from Herb's playbook.

Do you see it?

I'm glad Dallas didn't cave and give the 2 gates up for grabs to the entrenched 500 pound gorilla.  SWA already has 97% of the business at Dallas Love.  That's enough too much.  Competition is good, and I think Virgin America will be good for us consumers and will keep SWA on their toes, too.

Welcome to Dallas Virgin America!  Now go out there and shake up the airline biz just like Herb did.  (Might you some day make it to Fargo, North #@$%^ Dakota?   I sorta promised.... :)


Monday, May 12, 2014

And my dossier at the NSA just gets bigger and bigger

I don't understand all the stink about Benghazi.  It seems that in trying to police the world....north Africa in this case....we botched security at one of our diplomatic missions.  A bunch of #$%^& Libyans attacked and killed 4 Americans.

At the time, it seems that an Administration official at some level decided that the American people wouldn't care if they thought our people were killed by a crowd spontaneously angered by some movie or some such nonsense vs an out-and-out terrorist attack, which would be horrible.  So they lied.

Why would one be worse than the other?  Our people are still dead, regardless.  

"Hello, Mrs. Widow.  I have some good news and some bad news.  First, your husband's dead.  But the good was just a spontaneous demonstration."

So a bunch of politicians lied.  Lying is what they do.  *yawn*

Somebody please tell me again why we give a rats ass what happens in Libya?  The f__kers just fight for the sake of fighting.  That seems to be the #1 pastime in that part of the world.  Why don't we seem to get that?  You scramble an ant pile with a stick, you're gonna get stung.

Why was security botched in the first place?  Didn't Congress vote to cut back funding for State Department security to help reduce the deficit?  Then this happened, and they're surprised?  Really?

Attacks on Americans overseas have been happening since the Reagan days, maybe before....I can't remember.  Here's one for you:  How come every time something bad happens in their back yard the Europeans expect the US to come and "fix it"?  Do we ask them to come over here and slap around the drug cartels in Mexico for us?

Republicans are just looking for something to throw in the face of the Democrats, just like the Democrats had a field day complaining about how NJ Governor Chris Christie (R) caused a traffic jam on some bridge to NY.  This whole thing is just sleazy politics.

You're on a slippery slope, Republicans, feigning outrage over Democrats lying about Benghazi.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!  You ALL lie!  Nixon lied, Reagan lied, Clinton, Bush, and Obama lied also.  And it is with great confidence that I can predict the president after Obama will lie to us, too.

Instead of distracting us with more Benghazi BS why not get your house in order?  Do your job....let me rephrase that.  Do the job THE AMERICAN PEOPLE sent you to Washington to do.  NOT the job the special interests (think: Goldman Sachs & Friends) are paying you to do now that you're there.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Johnny Manziel on the NFL draft: "They must not know who I think I am."

The headline read, "President Vladimir V. Putin greeted by servicemen in Moscow."

Umm....those are middle aged veterans from past wars, right?  'Cause if they're current active duty servicemen they might want to consider upping their physical training juuuuust a bit and going with a low-cal diet in the chow hall.


How come those who can afford it the least smoke the most?


Johnny Manziel, college football's golden boy the past 2 years, fell on his face yesterday in the NFL draft.  It was felt by many, certainly in his own inflated head, that he would be one of the top few picks, and certainly the first QB chosen.  "Johnny Football" was pick the Cleveland Browns.  Ouch!  The talent was there, for sure.  I wonder if teams passed over him because of his lack of towering height or the controversy that seems to surround him?

Take note future gridiron heroes:  Your talent will obviously be noticed.  So will your big mouth.  Do yourself a it.

Now I'll zip mine.  Have a great weekend everyone.  :)


Thursday, May 8, 2014

*singing* I want a girl just like the girl that married dear old dad

As I've mentioned before, my mom couldn't cook.  Her mom never taught her because her mom was raised in a well-to-do home with a live-in nanny/maid/cook and never learned herself.  Seasonings were a foreign concept to mom.  Her dishes tasted like the packaging they came in.

Please know I'm not making fun of my mom.  She knew her culinary limitations and even joked about it.  She had a grand sense of humor.

Her afternoon routine was as predictable as an atomic clock:  At 5 o'clock she would assume her position at her end of the couch with her book or magazine and a cup of coffee.  Around 5:30 dad would arrive home from work, change clothes, and sit in his chair and read the newspaper for a while.  By six it became obvious nothing was going to happen in the kitchen that evening, so dad would say, "Would you like to go out for dinner?"

At that mom would jump up with the look of excitement a Publishers Clearing House winner would have seeing a camera crew on their porch and squeal, "Uh huh!"  That just made her day.  She had made it one more day without having to cook.

Her whole day was spent in dread, literally.   She couldn't enjoy her day for fear of what she would do if an invitation to eat out didn't materialize.  She once told me that "meal planning" was the most stressful thing in her life.  Not meal cooking, but meal planning.

I never understood that.  How hard can it be to look into the refrigerator or the pantry and pull out something to eat?  (Assuming you can afford food.)  Why is it so hard to keep some meat loaf or a beef or chicken dish or some kind of pasta on hand?  They all come pre-packaged for the "cooking challenged".  Same with those freeze-dryed crops some people also put on their plates. 

It would be like me driving into a gas station and saying, "OMG...OMG...which pump should I pull up to?  Number 4?  Number 8?  Oh...the horror!  Oh no!  Now I have to pick an octane, too?  Why do they make it so hard?  Whatever shall I do?"

Yesterday K came home after work and announced that planning something for dinner was simply too stressful for her to contemplate.  She couldn't bear to do it anymore.

I think I've told K mom's story once too often.  Me and my big mouth.  ;)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sir, could you spare a dime for an old, broke banker?

Anti-banker post.  Move on now if you're here looking for butterflies and cute puppies.

Ever hear of the term "corporate welfare"?  Want an example?  After the financial meltdown of '08 the Federales quietly did what they could to get the banks back on their feet.  We know about the bailout loans, but did you know we just flat-out gave them money, too?

The Federal Reserve dropped the interest rate on post-crash loans they made to the banks (a regular occurrence) to 0%.  The banks borrowed by the truckload, which meant the Fed had to sell paper to finance the "deficit" this caused.  Then the banks turned right around, using their free borrowed money to buy government notes which paid them several percent (?) interest.

THAT'S how you re-capitalize a bank at taxpayers expense. money!  It was a 100% risk free transfer of money from your government directly to the banks.  I would have liked a little piece of that, too.  *Dream on Scott*


I saw an interesting piece on TV last night about rogue traders.  These are bankers (think: "London Whale") who work with little direct oversight buying and selling things such as foreign currencies, etc.  I have virtually no idea how it works but suffice it to say it amounts to high-stakes gambling with bank money.  

If they lose, they can bring down the bank.  True!  It's happened.  On the other hand, if they win, it's a mega payday for the bank, and the bankers.  Lose, they get a government handout.  Win, and it's party time!

The program interviewed some well known (within financial circles) rogue traders who got caught.  They told of how easy it was to fool their bank's risk management people, the regulators, and how easy it was to hide losses.

Here is what I took away:  It's still going on today.  Internal red flags are still brushed long as the profits keep coming.

You'd think that after the financial interests nearly blew up the world in 2008, we, the taxpayers who baled them out, would know better than to let them go right back to conducting risky business as usual, but we did. 

Our politicians are stuffing their pockets with bank "campaign contributions" and signing off on whatever the bankers want.  Post-meltdown bank "reform" was a joke. Our regulators are inept.  The bankers are still living extremely well on their ill-gotten gains while the rest of us are struggling to recover from the mess they made.

Remember this:  There will someday, sooner rather than later, be another giant financial catastrophe.  Don't think that things have stabilized and go back to living like all is well.  Scary, but all the ingredients are in place right now.  Don't say you weren't warned.

Now, go have a nice day.  :)


Monday, May 5, 2014

Smooth jazz and Italian coffee

K is a recruiter for a major national company, and recently one of her district managers sent her a very nice Bose radio to say "thank you" for sending him good candidates for a very hard-to-staff area on the East coast.  Apparently they're working out just fine and his bonus was substantial.  (Anything Bose isn't cheap, you know.)

Very nice of him, to say the least.  :)

This week is "Italia Week" at Central Market.  This is a high-end grocery store that carries a variety of specialty produce and paper towels or laundry detergent-type merchandise.

This is the type of theme stuff they do, in this case an Italian guy (?) walking around the store playing accordion music.  (Do Italians wear berets, too?  I thought that was just the French?)

Their bakery offered lots of specialty things to celebrate Italia Week, like this Chocolate Chocolate Biscotti.  (Are you paying attention Dana and Betina?)

K bought herself some Italian Coffee.  I wish she hadn't.


This morning we had the Bose thingy tuned to smooth jazz on Pandora.  It was a nice calming background to compliment my morning newspapers.  Then she came into the Great Room.

"I'm gonna call my mother now and tell her all about the new underwear I bought over the weekend.  Hey, since we're going over to see her next weekend for Mother's Day maybe I can take her to Macy's so she can get herself some new underwear, too.  I really like these....they're so cool, perfect for summer wear."

*the radio gets turned up*

"I'll be ready to go to work in just a minute.  I need to get me a new tube of Chap Stick.  You know I can't leave the house without my Chap Stick.  My lips dry out so quickly.  I'm thinking it's the low humidity in our office.  They keep that place so cold!  I'll be ready in just a minute....hold on."

*the radio gets turned up some more*

"Oh, and I need a little plate to take to work. I bought some of those Italian cookies, and I'm gonna put them on a plate.  Italian cookies need to be served on a plate.  I'm pretty sure that's how the Italians do it.  Not that I've ever been to Italy, but that just seems like that's something they would do, you know....being Italian and all."

*the radio is now maxed out*

"Tonight we're having know....the kind we found at Central Market that's won awards in Houston?  And they apparently know their sausage in Houston, 'cause that is GOOD stuff.   Oh, and sweet potatoes.  Remember when you used to not eat sweet potatoes?  Boy have you come around!  They're SO good, huh?  It's that little bit of brown sugar on top that does it.  OK, I'm leaving now."

*Kiss-kiss. Love you, mean it*

Wonder how long-lasting Italian caffeine is?  Tell me again how laid back and slow moving the Italians are?  Don't they drink their own coffee?

Now where was I?  Yes, smooth jazz and the newspaper.

Have a good day everyone.  :)


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cars and Coffee, May 2014....and the Cottonwood Arts Festival, too

My fellow motoring enthusiast friend and good all 'round guy Neil and I met up at 7:30 yesterday to oogle cars, as we do every first Saturday of the month.

It was a perfect Saturday morning to be outside looking at cars.  It was a lousy day to be trying to take photos of them....the sun was too bright and the shadows at that early hour too long.  Oh well, whatcha gonna do?

E-Type Jaguars are cool rain or shine.

Ditto for E-Type roadsters.

I'm not a big Lotus fan....they're rather fragile.  But this one, in this color, just exploded in the morning light.  I like the Tiger stripe effect, too.  (Listen to me, all artsy-fartsy!)

Umm....looks like they left the gate unattended for a few minutes and this snuck in.  ("Sneaked" in?)

Wonder if it belonged to this guy?

"Guy walks up and asks, 'Where'd ya get him?'
 The dog answers, 'Aww....I won him in a raffle.'"  :)

The German Goggomobil from last month was back.  Or maybe it never left?  Here's Neil standing next to it for size comparison.

This late model (2002) Acura NSX was a stand out.  We talked with another fellow we met there who bought one new in 1994 and uses it to this day as his daily driver.  He says it's rock-solid.  Try THAT with a Ferrari!

First you start with an overpriced SLR Mercedes, then you let McLaren have a turn tarting it the tune of a cool $500K!

Pay attention kid.  Mother's Day is coming up and she couldn't be any more obvious with her hint.  Tell dad....or maybe that guy over there.  (Not sure what he's looking at behind those sunglasses.  ;)

Ahh....the Frenchies.  The Citroen SM was so far ahead of its time the rest of the world finally just gave up trying to catch them.  Unfortunately it's been pretty much downhill for Citroen ever since.

We visited with the gentleman in the background who also owns an SM and he shared lots of anecdotal stories about these odd eccentric cars.  Meeting people like him is what makes C&C so much fun.

This chopped custom began life as a 1950 Pontiac Chieftain.

Innit kewl?

My first car was a '65 Mustang, but it didn't look anything this nice!

Just FYI, this is the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang.

I'm pretty sure it didn't roll off Ford's assembly line looking like this!

There were only 6 Shelby Daytona's ever built.  This wasn't one of them.  This is a replica (kit), and a darn nice one.

I'm generally not a BMW fan, but I seriously looked at a 2002tii just like this back in 1971 (?).  I didn't buy it.  Now every time I see one I kick myself.  DOH!

It's a classic today.

I also considered a Porsche 911 at one time.  Then I could have afforded it. way!  *banging head on wall*

A trivia question for you:  Has anyone ever seen an overflow vent hose (?) on a battery?  It left Neil and I both shaking our heads.

I hope that thing is strapped down tight.  If I ever see it on the freeway I'm gonna stay well back.

All I can say is....

And finally, here's a license plate I think many of these fancy car owners can identify with.


After C&C I picked up K and we went to the Cottonwood Arts Festival.  This was the absolute best art show I've been to.  It keeps growing and the caliber of the participating artists keeps improving, too.

K was too busy watching the gander that chased his lady out of the little pond and up into the crowd with....umm...."less than honorable intentions" to pose for my picture.

Besides checking out the art I always enjoy the people watching.  And the dog watching, too.

This was taken at the Southlake "Arts on the Square" show last weekend.  Our Tarrant County neighbors can't seem to get that "Old West" thing out of their system.  (Hey, I like cows, too, but I like mine served medium rare on a sizzling plate.)

That's all the art shows on our radar until the Fall.

Hope everyone had a great weekend, too.