Monday, December 29, 2008

Words Of Love

When asked what the most powereful words in the English language are,most people will say the are "I love You".Well, recently I was the recipient of two sets of words that meant much more than those.

1. I am one of four children. With the exception of my youngest brother, the rest of us are pretty much klutzes when it comes to repairs. Yes, we can all change a lightbulb (with help)or tape a torn piece of paper but that is about it. My Grandson, however, thinks differently. Recently he and my Daughter spent three weeks with us. We played a lot, went sledding, watched Goidzilla movies and played with his trucks. For him, when batteries go dead in his toys, he brings it to me to "fix". Or when the wheels fall off one of his trucks, Grampa gets to fix it.Or when his diaper needs to be thrown in the trash, guess who he brings it to? Me of course!. So, in his eyes I am the greatest fixer in the world. And I am not just assuming this 'cause one day he told his Momma: "Grampa can fix anything". You know what? After that I felt like I could.
2. After their visit my Daughter and Grandson were heading home. As we were standing in the security line at the airport, I was taking as many pictures as I could. Just before they went into the secure area, I knelt down (to be at my Grandson's level) to take one final picture. Apparently he saw nomething that I did not know was happening to me. He moved close to me, put his arm around my neck to give me a hug and said: "Don't cry Grampa". Even at the age of 3 he understood that by leaving we would not see each other for quite awhile.
Words of Love? Yes!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who Speaks For God

I was visiting my Daughter in Florida a few weeks ago. Now, Florida is OK but just not for me. (I live in the midwest). Too many bugs, too many weeds and the weather is really the pits. Anyway, a few blocks from my Daughter's home is a church. It's name: Brown's Church. I assume it is named after the pastor. My first thought was how arrogant can a person be to name a church for celebration of God after himself? I'll admit I am far from a religious person but the whole idea sort of freaked me out.
After that I started paying more attention to churches. Do you have any idea how many different branches of the Christian faith there are? Baptist, United Church of Christ, Episcopal Churches, Bible Churches, American Baptist Churches, Rainbow Memmonite, Disciples of Christ, Assemblies of God, Christian Science, Salvation Army, Unity, United Methodist, Quaker, 7th Day Adventist, Morman and no telling how many more. The only thing they appear to have in common is that they are based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. But some are more ornate than others (check out the Catholics with their fancy robes, vestments, chalices, etc.). Or the snake biting Baptists. What is that all about? Or the Baptists that picket soldiers funerals believing that God killed the soldiers. How sick and twisted is that! How in the heck did organized religion grow from the simple teachings of a carpenter to what we have today?
Have you noticed that more and more often, the number one person mentioned in newspaper and TV ads is the name of the pastor? No mention of God. Just "come and join Pastor Bob and his wife Cindy Lou. And the churches! Nothing simple there. Now many have huge auditoriums with sound and lighting systems to rival any concert hall. Nurseries, schools, even coffee shops! What happened?
The next time you go to church - if you have the nerve - stand up and ask your pastor/reverend/priest, etc, this simple question: Do you speak for God? The answer should be: No, because no one can speak for God. And you could also ask him/her if God speaks to them. try it.

Monday, April 14, 2008


The first year I was required to file a tax return was in 1959. I don't actually remember if I had to pay but I did have to file. That was in the days when the short form was really short. Pretty much of how much did I make, then this was my tax liability. All done on a cardboard IBM punch type card. Now the short form is a full page and the instruction alone is about 42 pages long. Last year - for the first time - I made a mistake which resulted in me owing extra monies to IRS. They sent me a letter, telling where my mistake was, how much more I owed and then to top it off, assessed me a penalty for not paying the full amount on time. The penalty was only about $3 but it was irrating to be fined over a simple mistake. But I got over that. Until this past Sunday. In the Sunday paper (actually the PARADE Magazine) there was an article about taxes. According to that article, 61% (that's right, 61%) of U.S. Corporations paid no taxes. That included 39% of large corporations but did not list them. Wal-Mart? Ford? GM? Yellow Freight? Sprint? Who knows? In 2007, according to the article, corporations shouldered just 14.4% of the U.S. tax burden compared with about 50% in 1940. Guess who made up the difference? This year, individuals are expected to pay $1.21 TRILLION (an increase from $1.16 TRILLION in 2007. Corporate taxes declined from $370 BILLION in 2007 to $364 BILLION in 2008. That's right: you and I pay trillions while corporations pay billions. And guess who is responsible for that? Your friendly elected representative. According to the Citizens for Tax Justice, the corporate tax burden in this country is the worlds third lowest when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product. So, the bottom line is that you and I are paying high taxes so that corporations do not have to. In all fairness, some elected officials are trying to end this. In February, the house passed a bill to end $18 billion in tax breaks for oil companies. But will the bill clear the senate and be signed by the president? Probably not. At the same time the head of the House Ways and Means Committee has introduced legislation to trim corporate tax rates while reducing loopholes. "Trim tax rates" "Reduce loopholes"? What does that mean. Less taxes for corporations or more? So, when you mail your check to uncle sam this year, think about how much you would pay if all corporations (and all citizens)paid taxes. No deductions. Everyone pays.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I was at Bob Evans restaurant last week with friends. One of the couples split a meal (but asked for separate plates), ordered water, and at the end of the meal, asked for a take home carton. Their bill came to $9.93 for which they left a $1 tip. The waitress was very attentive, refilled water/pop/coffee glasses frequently and when she brought the take home carton, included an extra dinner roll for that couple. I was embarrassed - even though I really do not believe in the practice of tipping. As I see it, it is the responsibility of the employer to play a salary based on the skill/difficulty of the job. Be a broom pusher at the mall - receive minimum wage. Be a doctor - receive a whole bunch. The salary does not nned to be enough to earn a living on, just a fair wage for the services performed. But somehow the restaurant industry has convinced us that we should pay those wages. Worse yet, they have also convinced the government that minimum wage does not apply to their business. Back to this couple. They are both in their 70's so have been around long enough to know how the restaurant business operates: Waitresses and waiters depend on tips for thier income. a lousy $1 tip will not go far. Even at 20%, the tip would only have been $2. As I said, I hate the whole idea of tipping. Unfortunately though, it is here to stay so I play the game. But I do not tip, the trashman, the mailman, the barber, the grocery store bagger, etc. I only tip at restaurants. I don't tip on the value of the meal however. After all what does that have to do with it? I mean 20% of a $60 meal is $12. That is $12 for about 10 minutes work. I know: the waiter must share with the cook, the runners, dishwasher, etc. But then, go to a Waffle House/I-Hop/Perkins/etc for breakfast with a bill of $8.00. A 20% tip is only $1.60 but the service is so much better. Constant refills on drinks, constant checks on how things are going, etc. Again, what does the cost of the meal have to do with how much you elect to tip? Go to a McDonalds type restaurant. Friendly service, fast service, food is always done right, etc. Tip? Nope. The employer pays a fair wage. So the moral of this is: If you feel obligated to tip, then tip on the service you receive, not the value of the meal.
P.S. The couple mentioned above? I went to a breakfast with him a few days later and he left $0.00

Monday, April 07, 2008

The State of Kansas

My home state of Kansas is somewhat noted for a few crazy organizations. For one, The State Board of Education has been trying for several years to require that creationism (as an explanation for the origins of man) be taught in the schools. I think that controversy is over. Recently, the Westboro Baptist Church has taken the limelight away from the Board of Education. For those of you who do not know who that is, they are the "christian" Church that pickets the funeral services of service men and women killed in Iraq and Afganistan. They do so because they claim the soldiers were killed as punishment for the nation's tolerance of gays and lesbians. (I don't believe than anyone can speak for god so how do they "know" this? And if we are all created in god's image, does that make god gay?) Yes, I understand the concept of free speech. Without it, we would not have a free and open form of government. But there are limits. You cannot yell "FIRE" in movie theatre. You cannot say "I have a bomb" in the airport and expect to escape punishment. You cannot slander someone. Where am I going with this? Well just recently the govenor of Kansas signed into law a bill requiring protestors to stand at least 150 feet from funerals. There is also a restriction that limits the protest to so many hours before and after the funeral. Other states have passed similiar laws. In fact a federal judge in Maryland just issued liens against the church in the amount of $5 million for its protests at the funeral of Marine Cpl Matthew A. Snyder, age 20. Unfortunately that will not stop the church. Only laws similar to the KS one will do that.

Friday, March 21, 2008


It is funny what things peopple remember. While I cannot remember the name of someone I was just introduced to, I can remember the floor plan of every place I lived. But who cares about that? Cars? That is a different story. The first car I bought was right after my discharge from the US Army in 1962. It was a 1954 Mercury two door hardtop with leather seats. It had a bit of rust on the passenger side rear wheel well but it only cost me $175. Two tone orange and white. Automatic. I bought it with the money I saved while in the Army. After the mone money ran out, I went to work as an orderly in a nursing home in Edina, MN. With steady money coming in I was ready to improve my wheels. 1956 Chevy convetible, Green and Turquoise. Automatic with the wonder bar radio. I really loved that car but in a moment of weakness traded it for a 1958 chevy 2 door sedan. I think I did that because my older brother had the same car before he and I joined the Army. What a lemon!. For the first and only time in my life I backed out of a loan and returned the car to the dealer. My next car was a 1954 Dodge I bought from a friend at work. I don't remember a lot about that car except one unique feature. It had a combination standard/automatic transmission. Used the clutch to shift into 1st gear, then it was an automatic. By this time I had a better job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture so was looking for a better car. I bought my older brother's 1956 Ford Crown Victoria. Blue and white. When he owned it, the car was very nice. By the time I acquired it, things were falling apart. I did another really dumb thing: I removed the accent trim chrome from the side and had Earl Scheib (who remembers him?) paint it all one color - turquoise. The cost, as I remember - was $29.95. It really looked ugly. Next I bought a 1956 Chevy two door sedan from a friend of my wife. Bad choice. Another clunker. Eventually sold it to my younger brother who was/is a wizard with anything. For awhile he raced it at the racetrack in Shakopee. Eventually he sold it. Next up was my first new car. 1965 Corvair Monza. 110 cubic inch. 3 speed on the floor. Bucket Seats But no power on the any grade bigger than 1% And, more important for MN, no heat to speak of. But, on the plus side it was a really cool looking car. The Corvair was probably my favorite car. It looked nice and was fun to drive. I installed speakers in the rea window, added a tachometer and red line tires! My wife and I took our first vacation in that car. a trip to California through the Black Hills, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas. Destination: Los Angeles. Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Wax Museum, The observatory and the WATTS Riots. The another dumb move (notice the trend?). I bought a 1957 Ford from my brother in law. Only problem was that it would not start in the winter. I didn't keep that car very long. I kept the Corvair for a lot of years and traded it only because of a minor accident. While driving south on Cedar Ave, I hit an ice patch and spun out of control. Bent the frame. After that the car looked like it was going sideways. To replace it, I bought a 1968 Chevy Biscayne 4 door sedan. Not a cool car at all. BUT, automatic, A/C really big trunk and a 25 (?) gallon gas tank. Bt that our daughter was about 3 so we all drove out to California again, following the same route we used in the Corvair. Shortly after that I bought a VW Beetle from my older brother. While he had, he installed flared fenders on the rear and removed the rear bumber. It really looked cool. Best of all? It had a gasoline heater which was great for the cold Minnesota winters. I added glass pack mufflers so it sounded cool too. We moved to my current home in KS and brought both the VW and Chevy with. By this time we were looking to replace the Chevy. I'm not sure when I sold the VW. A friend at work had just bought a 1975 Ford Pinto and really praised it. Based on his recommendation, I bought one. Big mistake. Small. Terrible gas mileage and did not start well in winters. I only kept that car a few years and then bought another new car: A VW Rabbit. That was a nice car. Good gas mileage. fun to drive and one of the last cars to have crank out side vent windows! The three of us and one of my nieces took that car to CA. Same route as previously. We traded it only because it had a blown piston and the mileage was piling up. Next up, A Nissan Stanza. Another really nice car. Bigger than the Rabbit. 134,000 miles later I traded it for a Ford Taurus. Midnight Blue out, and light blue in. Velour seats. A/C. Automatic. Bucket Seats. (Somewhere in this time frame I bought another car from my brother in law. A really big Cadillace two door coupe. White out and red inside. 8 track tape player, automatic, automatic trunk, PS/PB, etc. Only problem was that it had some type of electrical problem that always drained the battery. We gave the car to my In-laws who lived in Monticello, MN. ) Now things really get fuzzy. I also bought a 1954 Ford four door sedan. Bought it on a whim because it looked nice. Another lemon. Difficult to start and would always "lock up" (vapor lock I think) . When will I learn? After selling the Ford, we were down to one car. I bought a 1972 Nova two door sedan from a friend at work. It was a nice car. But, by the time we acquired it, it had seen better days. I sold that car after a few years so we were down to one - which was OK with my wife but it did limit what we could do. Somewhere in this time frame, I bought a car for my Daughter. It was a red VW. Really nice car. She drove that the last two years she was in high school. When she married, I "took" the car back. I had plans for it!. Looking for that second car, I bought a 1/4 ton Chevy pickup. The owner had done a lot of exterior modications to the truck so it looked real cool. After a blown head casket though, I decided to sell it to my son in law (who owned a garage. He fixed it and then sold it). To replace it I bought a bigger pick up. Nissan. Roll Bars, bucket seats, King Cab, realy big tires. Power all over and A/C. Really a nice truck but it had a lot of miles on it and eventually it started to just fall apart. To replace the truck, I bought a 1993 GEO tracker. White with white convertible top and black interior. A/C, Power. It is a bumpy ride but is fun to ride. I still had the Taurus but it was fast becoming a high mileage car , over 134,000 miles. I traded it for a Ford Windstar Van. The van was really practical. big, front/rear heater and A/C, Traction Control, and 25 gallon fuel tank. The mile piled up on that car pretty fast. My last purchase was 4 years ago. Traded the van for a Toy0ta Rav 4. Another nice car. CD/Cassette player, A/C, power and good fuel mileage. That car now has 90,000 so it is almost decision time. Buy another car or wait a few years to see hoe fuel economy improves with the new hybrids.
I did have another car that I did not drive too often. Again, the time frame is a bit hazy but it was shortly after my Daughter married. I bought a car kit - 1929 Mercedes. Before I bought it I asked my talented younger brother if he would put it together for me. Yep he said. And he did. Only problem was that the interior of the car was so small, I could barely fit in it. Same for the passenger. The interior was only big enough for a 12 year old child. For the drive train, I used the red VW I bought for my daughter when she was in high school. So, there it is, a list of all the cars I have owned/drive since 1962.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Radio Days

The first radio I remember listening to was one of those furniture pieces that stood about 4 feet tall and took up substantial wall space. For some reason I can even remember one program: listening to the results of the Truman/Dewey presidential race. Why I was doing that - I was only abaout 5 years old - I don't remember. That radio was in my first home located at 13 W 29th St In Minneapolis. The next radio I remember was quite a few years later - in about 1954 or so. It was a small transister that was shared by me and my siblings. That was a real step because for the first time I could listen to what I wanted, not just what my Dad wanted. Many years passed. The next radio was actually a combination radio/phonograph I received for my 17th birthday. That was really neat! Unfortunately, I had it shipped to Germany during my tour with the US Army and in a moment of stupidity, left it there.

I bought my first true stereo from Best Buy in Edina, MN. That was in about 1965. It was just 50 watts and needed separate speakers but to me it was really awesome. I kept that stereo for a lot of years. Initially I did not own a cassette player. Instead I opted for an 8-track tape player. At the time I felt the 8-track had more to offer and would blow cassettes out of the water. I went so far as to have one installed in my 1965 Corvair Monza. It was mounted under the dash with a slide out brackett so I could put it in the trunk when I left the car attended. With a small loan from my Mother, I even bought a 8-track recorder so I could transfer music from LP's to 8-tracks. Unfortunately, cassettes dominated the business so eventually I had to switch to that format. I did buy some cassettes - mostly music I already had on 8-tracks or LP's. Then, the big switch. I bought a really good receiver - 200 watts or so with surround sound. That was when I retired in 1994. I also bought my first CD player. It is a 6 disk cartridge type so it does not take up as much room as the carousel type. My first car with a cassette player was a Nissan Stanza. After that was a Ford Taurus and then a Ford Windstar Van. My most recent car - a Toyota RAV 4 plays both cassettes and CD's. At about this time, I started buying CD's to replace the cassettes. Now, MP3 players are the in thing. And - depending on the size - can store a gazillion songs. Even the smallest plays about 250 songs! Heck, I don't know if I even have 250 favortie songs! So, I am in a dilema: When I go for my daily walk, do I carry my portable walkmen to listen to CD's, my portable cassette to listen to cassettes or the always faithful radio or go wild and invest in a MP3 player. If so, one that plays MP3 Format only, one with FM radio? With Pictures? With Movies? HELP!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Things politicians do

My city made several changes last year that affects everyone who works here or lives her. One was to make all public places smoke free. If you are a smoker that could be devasting but only if you let it. For those of us who are non-smokers it is great. For way too many years we have to put up with people who felt it was their "right" to put us at risk from second hand smoke and polute our clothes, hair and skin with smoke. No more walking through a cloud of smoke from employees smoking in the front access to a business. And, to set the record straight, the loss in business/revenue did not happen. In fact business has improved as non smokers realized they could now frequent the business of their choice and not worry about the effects of 2nd handsmoke. Life is great!
The second thing the city did was to impose a crushing motel tax. I think it is now 18% (If credit cards charged that much, or home mortgagees, it would be considered unfair, fould, etc.). The reason? To pay for pet projects that citizens did not want to pay for. Now, I realize that many cities throughout the country have the same type of tax, but I always thought my town was better than that. Guess not. Now the word is "come, visit us and see all we have to offer but while you are here, help us pay for a few special projects". I'm ashamed for the city counil that voted for that increase.
The third is the city decided to annex land south of the city. This is not the first time but it is certainly the biggest. This time the excuse went like this: development is coming so we want to make sure it is developed correctly (i.e. more strip malls). The fact that most of the residents in the soon to be annexed area to not want annexation was not a factor. Again the city just said: (more or less) learn to live with it. With the annexation my city will be the 2nd biggest in the state. But big is not always good. With it comes decay of the older parts of the city, increases in taxes to run sewers, new roads, increase in government to handle the new areas, etc. Shame on the city for this land grab.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Gun Control

The majority of the U.S. Senate is applying pressure on the Parks Service to allow guns in the National Parks. I have no doubt that this is the result of "bribes" (see footnote below) from the NRA to our elected officials. Plus the majority of States now allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. All under the guise of self protection. I guess the thought is that if you see someone with a gun you can whip yours out and blast away. Well, the idea of protecting yourself by carring a gun is a false image. Most people that are killed with guns are killed in a drive by shooting, gang violence, or domestic disturbance. Would another gun have helped the victim? Probably not. And the recent mass shootings? Well maybe, but most likely more innocent people would have killed by untrained people whipping out their handguns and shooting wildly into a crowd. Although it is true that "guns do not kill people" (people kill people), the availability of guns makes killing so much easier.
In my opinion, the only solution is for the Supreme Court to take up the issue of what the Constitution says (actually what the writes meant it to say). By doing that they need to put the Article on the militia and right to bear arms in context. At the time the Constitution was written, firearms were pretty much the same for hundreds of years. Single shot, flintlock, black powder. The writers had no idea how firewarms would evolve into what they are today. But more important the writers were writing from a view of this country not having a standing professional army but thought in terms of a militia being necessary to protect the country from foreign interference. With that thought in mind, think about this: Let everyone in the country have a gun BUT only of the type know at the time the Constitution was written. Single shot, flintlock, black powder. One per individual. Try and do a drive by shooting with that. Or muder your family. Or commit robbery. A simple solution. After all, limiting the type of guns is no different that limiting the amount of loan interest, the size of a home in a neighborhood, how loud you play your music, how much you contribute to a political candidate, etc. If we truly want to be a leader a nations then we need to limit the amount of violence that happens every day - especially that with guns.
FOOTNOTE: Anytime an elected offical, appointed official or regular government employee (at any level) accepts ANYTHING from a corporation, company, individual, etc. they are in effect agreeing to do something for that entity. Yes, they may call it a campaign contribution, speaking fee, just a simple lunch, etc, and say they cannot be swayed. But they can and will. The donors know this. After all they don't buy lunches, pay for vacations, lodgings,car rentals just because they are nice people. They fully expect something in return.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Change is almost always good. Without it, we would still be living in caves and wearing skins to keep warm. On the other hand, some change is not ever good. I was brought up to alaways to "sir" or "ma'm". That seems to have gone by the wayside. Saying thanks was just a way of life. Today? Not many people bother. They are too preoccupied with cell phones, MP-3 players, etc to notice that you held the door open for them. Change isn't always good. It used to be that you could tell a woman that she looked nice. It seemed to make her day. Not anymore. Tell that to a young woman today and she will slap a sexual harrassment lawsuit on you. Why? Because you noticed she was a woman. Have you walked into a waiting room (doctor, motor vehicle, or been on a bus/subway where people are standing? At one time, men/children gave their seats to women and seniors. Not anymore. Hey, I got here first. Change isn't always good. At one time children were allowed to be children until they graduated from high school. Now parents rush their children into adulthood before they are ready. Maybe that is why so many young "adults" still act like children. Be a teacher and give a child a hug? Nope, can't do that anymore. Again, change is not always good. Nativity scene on the city courtyard lawn? Why that might offend one person. We used to dress up just to go downtown. Funerals, weddings, graduations and such were always an occassion for suits and ties, nylons, hats and gloves. Sort of like respecting the person being honored. Now? Shorts, t-shirts, jeans, and basball caps worn backwards. And, don't forget to stick a phone/headphone in your ear. No, Change is not always good. Men remove their hats while sitting down to eat? Not anymore. Yeah, it is changing world but I sure miss the "niceities" in life. Those things that made us civilized.