Sunday, December 30, 2012


Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight
We all know this nursery rhyme and I also know that many of us, and I would not hesitate to say nearly ALL of us have done this one time or another--there are times I STILL do at my ripe old age of sixty years.   
Unfortunately, and I don't' remember the numbers I once saw posted, many of those wishes were wasted because that "star" wasn't a star after all but the planet, Venus- which for a good chunk of the year is the first star that appears in the night sky.     That's the astronomer in me talking.

Looking back through the years I've seen very often, my wishes have come true--my family, friends, horses, hobbies are often the result of wishes of one sort or another.  Well, they could be called wishes.   They also could be called prayers or self-belief or taking control of one's life.  Changes and desires can be made to occur by self-reliance.  Napoleon Hill once said, "Whatever you conceive and believe you can achieve." Often, through my life,  this quote and another, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." which is reported that Jesus said in Luke, 17:6, have been the rudders that I have leaned on.  And in many cases, I've found them to be true for me.

I have never seen any of my great, humongous wishes come true...any that don't make a change in my life personally haven't happened.  I can wish for World Peace or that no one ever be hungry again or violence be stricken from humanity.  But I've learned that those don't happen.  Better, I've decided to wish for or make little changes in the world around me...hoping and praying that those changes are like yawns and are contagious.  If everyone tried to make their little piece of world better - by touching someone or something around them - then the great, humongous wishes just might come true .  By becoming selfless rather than selfish great things can and will occur.

I'm watching a friend make a great number of life changes right now.  She has learned to believe in herself and only recently she told me she was happy.  I'm watching a teenage girl beginning to spread her wings, again because she believes in herself and as a senior in high school is ready to fashion her world into what she wants.  And she will because of her self-reliance.

Wishes and wishing are only a part of the equation.  Believing in yourself and the will to sacrifice for what you want are more of the ingredients.   James M. Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) said,  " Dreams do come true, if we only wish hard enough.  You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything for it. " And he's right!
So next time you see that first star...go ahead and wish on it.  Even if it's Venus, the kernel of your dream will be planted.  But it's up to you to make that wish come true, it definitely is NOT in the stars!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

LOVE isn't far from HATE

As close as heaven is from hell, as far as the moon is from the sun, and sitting there right beside you.  This is a paraphrase of how far apart love and hate are.

BOTH are strong emotions.  BOTH are base emotions and likely, beyond the need for food and water are two of the most intense things a human being can feel.

Scientists studying the physical nature of hate have found that some of the nervous circuits in the brain responsible for it are the same as those that are used during the feeling of romantic love – although love and hate appear to be polar opposites. "Hate is often considered to be an evil passion that should, in a better world, be tamed, controlled and eradicated. Yet to the biologist, hate is a passion that is of equal interest to love," Professor Zeki (of University College London)  said.  There is a fine line between the two emotions and reactions to either are keenly sharp.

My wife posted a YouTube on Facebook yesterday.  It was a video of Luciano Pavarotti and Celine Dion singing "I hate you then I love you" and her comment was "Larry and I are beginning our 34th year together and this is a perfect song..... Always Love...not hate, but sometimes we are allowed to not "like". But Always Always LOVE...."  The song, in a nutshell says "I hate you then I love you.  Then I love you and I hate you, then I love you more. For whatever you do, I never never never want to be in love with anyone but you."

I contend that love and hate are not opposites...that they are such close emotions with actions and results so similar that they are basically the same emotion-but one is positive and one is negative.  How often do parents hear from children that they hate us?  We know they don't, it's a spur of the moment thing usually the result of a disciplinary action or not getting their way.  But do parents ever really hate their children?  I think, in most cases, temporarily, yes.  BUT the hate is underscored with love.  As my wife often says, "I love you always but sometimes I don't like you very much."

The problem with hate is the negativity it brings with it.  Negativity feeds itself and gets stronger and stronger.  The more negative a person feels towards a loved one or thing, the stronger the emotion hate becomes.  The only way to release the hate is to let go of the negativity and ultimately, the pendulum will swing back towards love in some manner.

This is evident in my relationship with one of my daughters (just one?). Things are said (or not said); things are done (or not done); or communication breaks down for whatever reason.  I am so emotionally tied to the daughter (s) that I find myself saying, "I hate you, damn it.  You can go to hell, bitch (or worse, much worse)."  In the next breath I'm contradicting myself telling me "I love her." [Yes, I DO talk to myself a lot--that comes from years and years alone on the road.]   In these instances, I'm allowing emotion to take over but the near immediate rebuttal with love is preventing negativity from overcoming  me...God forbid that I hate any of my children.

In the animal world, you don't see hate.  The most intense negative you see is FEAR.  And instinctively an animal will fear something that can hurt them (or eat them) so I'm not sure that is a negative.  However, when an animal loves (and this is another whole blog) a person, it is most often with unconditional love...those of us with dogs can see this daily.  How wonderful it would be to live in a world where love reigns supreme.

I feel that FEAR is actually the opposite of love. Love is embracing.   Fear triggers fight or flight tendencies.  Hate is often bottled up inside eating away at one's pysche.  Again, hate is negative.  We have the free will to choose to love or hate.  Love frees the soul but in a breath, can sometimes suffocate if it is allowed. That suffocation is hate...we need to breathe.  We need to love.

Monday, January 30, 2012

More than a penny saved...

There was an article I found yesterday while reading the news on the internet, sharing the story of a couple who paid cash for their home after zealously saving for two and a half years.  That is remarkable to say the least.  Here's a link to that story. 

The article tells of the ways they were able to save as much as $1700 a month to put towards purchasing that home and ways they earned extra income to help reach their goal-including blogging.

I'm not writing here about their budget. I'm writing about a startling discovery I made when I read the story.  And yes, it's a way to save money---BIG MONEY.

This brief blog is about eyeglasses.   I have myopia (I'm near-sighted).  I've worn glasses since the third or fourth grade.  When I reached my late forties, the optician convinced me that I had a problem reading and seeing things close up.   So he prescribed and I bought bi-focals   None of this is startling news...many of us as we age need reading glasses and many as well are near-sighted. (although to this day, I'm still trying to figure out how we become near-sighted AND far-sighted at the same time).  Over the ensuing years, I've had my eyes checked again and again...of course the prescription changed, too meaning I'd need another new pair of eyeglasses (curiously, the hyperopia - far-sightedness - is the only thing that has changed). 

The last time I had an eye exam, the new glasses with sturdy, bendable titanium frames, cost something like $305.  Since the last eye exam, the economy took a dump and our income did as well.  For the past couple of years, I've made due with eyeglasses and a prescription that is four or five years old.  Well, the frames on that pair of eyeglasses broke for the umteenth time (Remember, I raise horses and sometimes, through no fault of their own, they are knocked off by a flying hoof and a quickly moving head when I'm doing something with the animals- an occupational hazard, to be sure.).  I'm not sure my eyeglass repair person can fix them again so I'm settling for an older, scratched pair for this time.

It's time to get the eyes examined (and perhaps my head, too) for sure right now.  We've been cringing at the cost a new pair will be.  That's where the article I read yesterday comes in.  The author mentioned that they bought their eyeglasses from Zenni Optical.  I'd never heard of them so of course, internet surfer that I am, I checked them out.  All I can say is "wow".

The link to Zenni Optical is above.   To make Zenni Optical work, all you need is a complete prescription in front of you that you can read and accurately type in the the numbers on the prescription.  They have quite a few frame choices from conservative to very crazy (probably more than most optician shops).  they take you through the process step-by-step from choosing a set of frames (and including a way to see exactly how they are going to look on YOUR face) through getting the correct lenses, tints, and multi focal  lenses as well if you need them as I do.

The big deal here is that the cost is amazingly inexpensive.  I mentioned above that the last pair of glasses I bought were $305.  I inputted fairly close information to check prices and a similar frame to "my most recent favorite" frame with light bi-focal lenses that are "progressive" (no-line) and photo-chromic (darken in the sunlight).  I was flabbergasted to see the price-----$50.05!!!!  Without actually completing the order, I don't know if there was shipping included on top of that price but even so...that's saving more than $250!!!

The reviews I read about Zenni Optical were positive.  They have a live chat, an email AND an 800 number if you need help.   Needless to say, I'm going to try them out.   If it works as well as it sounds like it's going to, I may end up with two or three pair of eyeglasses. 


Crystal Paine, the Money Saving Mom Blog   This blog is loaded with ways to save money from coupon clipping to ways to earn money on the internet.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let the light shine in

For some this is old news.  But for others of us, it's just another major annoyance being brought to us compliments of our government. But I need to rant so...

 Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.


As is normally the case with legislation, this law covers a lot of things. But here is the essence of the short term regulations placed on light bulbs by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007:

Light bulbs from 40 watts through 100 watts must be 25% more efficient, by the following dates:
- The beginning of 2012 for 100 watt bulbs
- The beginning of 2013 for 75 watt bulbs
- The beginning of 2014 for 40 and 60 watt bulbs

Since most current incandescent bulbs do not meet this standard, this effectively bans them as of the above dates.

Okay, okay...the 100 watt bulbs are still available due to ANOTHER act of Congress, so they are available through October 1, 2012.  

Thank you very much, Congress.  Have you ever taken your head out from where the sun doesn't shine and seen the effects of some of what you are doing?

Ranchers, Farmers, Homeowners depend on incandescent light bulbs and not just for light

Typical Heat Lamp used by farmers
Incandescent light bulbs are inefficient.  One of the by-products of these light bulbs is heat and it is that very heat that is used by the three above-mentioned groups that make these light bulbs so useful.   As a rancher, I use incandescent light bulbs in specially designed fixtures on cold (freezing cold) days to provide a warm space in a stall for my young babies or sick adult horses.  We also use the same fixtures, as many small scale chicken/rabbit breeders do to provide warmth for those birds and animals.  Like many home owners, we have a 100 watt light bulb hanging and lit in our pump house to keep the temperature warm enough so pipes don't freeze.  For some homeowners, these light bulbs in heat lamp type fixtures make the difference between water and no water under a house that may be old or have a crawl space that is poorly insulated. Sure, in every application I mention above, there are alternatives but none as cheap as a 75 or 100 watt incandescent light bulb to buy or use.  The alternatives range from many dollars more than the cheap light bulbs to hundreds and even thousands of dollars for appliances that serve the very same purpose.

I'm all for saving money.  We have the suggested alternative light bulbs (compact fluorescent lamps or CFL's) in many of our lamps and fixtures in the house.  They cost more, put out an adequate amount of light (only adequate) but they do seem to last longer. In the barn we tried these same type of bulbs with a higher wattage...not only do they work poorly but they are almost unusable.  When placed at the height of the fixtures (generally 12 feet from the ground), the light they emit is feeble.  In cold weather, the feeble output of these bulbs is reduced to be generally useless for any work we need to do that needs lots of light ( a real negative to fluorescent bulbs, they don't like cold weather). We've tried several kinds of CFL's and none work near as well as the old fashioned 100 watt light bulb we have used for years.  At a minimum, the suitable replacement appliance would cost around 100 dollars and we'd need 12 of them (with bulbs that cost $36 each when they require replacement).

I suppose we could get around the eventual ban by just boosting the wattage of the bulbs we use but most of our fixtures aren't designed for (or wired for) that higher wattage so we'd be creating a fire hazard and in some places we just don't go to very often. Strange, 100 watt light bulbs won't be sold but 150 watt ones will!

I have seen many reasons why governments around the world want to ban the incandescent bulb (actually only specific types and wattages--you'll still be able to have one in your refrigerator or in your chandelier even after the ban takes effect).  The main reason keeps going back to energy efficiency (although I have seen global warming and greenhouse gas emissions - related to global warming - as alternative reasons).  Energy efficiency is a wonderful thing--who wouldn't mind seeing their electric bill go down by a couple of dollars? And multiplied by all the people in the world who use the original light bulb, gazillions of dollars/euros/yen will be saved and a whole lot of energy, too.  But to outright ban a tool useful and necessary is just plain dumb.

There is legislation pending that will ban the ban but it is unlikely to be passed.  So, in the meantime, I know we will be stocking up on 100 watt light bulbs (again) in the near future.  If the legislators keep their heads where they are normally, I don't have to worry about Big Brother watching.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

GBE-2 Week 36 "An Investment in Time"

base of dining table
Along with books, we also collect antiques.  Just sitting at my desk, and scanning the attached office, reception hall, and dining room, I get an eyeful--Maryann's desk is an antique walnut executive desk (mine came from a mass merchant), Bri's is a Mission-style oak desk from the 1930's (mine came from a mass merchant about 7 years ago), there's a 19th century cherry secretary in the reception hall as well as a display cabinet full of "salts" dating from the 18th and 19th century in a corner behind the door. The dining room is dominated by a heavy (oak, I believe) table that is massive in its base with lion claw feet (it has NINE extra leaves!) and a very pretty walnut sideboard with intricately carved panels for the cabinet doors, drawers, and skirting--all from the 1800's. The chairs are somewhat more modern--probably late 1800's or early 1900's--they have claw feet as well and most need to be reglued.  There's a smaller liquor cabinet/sideboard as well that is also intricately carved.  And finally a couple of small side tables and a rocking chair dating from the early 1900's (it's a good sized dining room--considering there is a 55 gallon fish tank in it as well).
Cherrywood Secretary

That's just really two rooms.  I'm not going to take you through a tour of the house.  We mix antiques with modern stuff.  Our decorating style is eclectic to say the least (note the guns in the above photo).

Collecting things appears to be something resembling a human instinct. Many people (like us) are almost natural hoarders and collecting all manner of items has been a common pastime for folks of almost every culture for a very long time. The innate desire to amass and to enjoy objects as well as to make money from them was what prompted many of today's collectors to begin antique collecting as a hobby.  Many folks look at antiques as a way to touch the past and allows them to intimately interact with history.  Indeed a number of our pieces have been in my wife's family for four generations and were old when they were acquired.  Don't tell my daughter, but Maryann's Mom was conceived on the bed she sleeps in (not the mattress).

floor stomper
One thing about antiques is their uniqueness.  Yes, you can go on Ebay and find the same or similar items you're interested in buying or selling but you rarely see hundreds or even tens of items that aren't particularly durable.  In a corner by our wood stove, we have something called a "floor stomper".  According to the dealer we bought it from in Massachusetts, it is from the 1700's and was used to stomp or tamp down dirt floors in pioneer cabins. In our years of collecting, we've never seen another and its rarity is the fact that it is made of wood and as they began to wear down, they were tossed in a fireplace and a new one was carved.  Antiques aren't Walmart or Target items.  They have endured for whatever reason for years and years.  Of course, generally, the older they are, the more valuable they are and some antiques are indeed an investment.  A recent car auction in Scottsdale, AZ had older cars selling for more than two million dollars (and that is in this lousy economy).  Some 17th century musical instruments ( Stradivarius violins come to mind) sell in the same range.  Even old jewelry and sterling silver has become very collectible--partly because of its precious metal weight-- and I often see investment grade estate gems being sold.

It's funny, as we get older, we begin to see stuff we played with as kids or saw our mom's use in the kitchen suddenly go up in value.  Toys are nostalgic and some fetch incredibly high prices.  Kitchen ware from the 50's and 60's is trendy.  I have a couple of boxes of new, in the box, Star Wars toy figures and accessories in the garage.  That stuff will eventually sky rocket in price (especially in new condition).  I guess I'm getting on to be an antique myself.

Vintage Breyer Horses
Collecting antiques covers the age spectrum.  There may be a cookie jar in a kitchen that belonged to someone's grandmother and a child grew up eating cookies from it and eventually started appreciating whatever the figure represented is. That child might end up collecting small things that are reminiscent of the cookie jar.  Young teens often find animal characters appealing.  My daughter has a significant collection of horses (what else?) that just appealed to her.  Most are older than she, some a whole lot older (Breyer horses, mostly but other things, too).  By the time kids are in college they are buying old, beat up furniture for their dorm rooms or apartments...they might, as I did, stumble on a gold mine of furniture from a house that needed to be cleared out after the owners, parents of a friend of mine, died for the cost of moving it.  Several apartments were furnished by that house.  My older sister still has a couple of pieces from that group and unless my brother doesn't have it anymore, I have several pieces in a storage locker in Boston.  I wish I knew more about antiques then...that house was indeed a gold mine.  By the time college years are over and setting up a house or apartment happens for real, old stuff is already ingrained in many minds.

Unless folks are bound and determined to decorate (or dress) in things that are brand spanking new, antiques can appeal to just about everyone.  Things from the 50's and 60's are just as modern looking and impressive as that cookie cutter furniture in a local store and as functional, too-often much better built.  The popularity of reality TV shows such as "Storage Wars" or "American Pickers" have reignited interest in old stuff and some of the pricing on Ebay shows that significantly.

Antiques are an investment in time.  They link us to the past with beauty, function and memories.

Is it Spring yet?

It's coming on the end of January-the 26th to be exact.  We're almost 1 month finished into 2012 and I have yet to write and mess up a check with the wrong year (of course, I haven't written one, either).

red-winged blackbird
Weather has been so screwy around here, I swear I heard a red-winged blackbird yesterday.  If so, Spring weather is actually going to hit us real soon.  They are one of the harbingers of spring in these parts.  We've had far more than a normal number of robins recently, too.  They outnumber the starlings. 

Korean Dogwood
Maryann and I are starting to talk about planting already.  We've decided to plant some sort of dogwood tree over the spot where we buried our dog last week.  Without realizing it, he was buried relatively close to the spot where a planned waterfall and pond are going to be.  The dogwood, if we can find one that is hardy enough for our area, will be perfect there.  According to the USDA hardiness zone, we are zone 6 (-5° to -10°).  I don't believe it even though the temperature rankings fit.  Most winters we have a great deal of hard and drying winds.  I'm sure we're going to have to find a colder-rated plant than recommended. 

sage, juniper and rabbit brush
The stuff that grows around here is relatively weird.  Powell Butte, OR is a "banana belt" for the region.  We're nearly 3300' above sea level and are definitely what is called High Desert.  Juniper Trees thrive here and in non-irrigated areas, sage and rabbit brush are the two main native plants.  In irrigated areas all sorts of grasses and shrubs do well and we have lovely forget-me-nots and watercress that grows wild along the irrigation ditches as well as a beautiful but pernicious and toxic weed called creeping meadow buttercup.  In pockets around, though, strange things do grow-things that just shouldn't survive in our climate.  We have something like 300 days of sunlight through the year and relatively little snow.  Again, our biggest challenge is that darned wind.

We're fortunate to have irrigation water for most of our property.  Irrigation changed this region from desert-like to an incredible agricultural and livestock producing area.   Desert grasses are fragile and don't grow back quickly but the soil, mostly a sandy type and shallow, is good.  There are vast acreages of hay and alfalfa grown as well as many root vegetables like onions, garlic, and potatoes.   In our immediate area we can't dig very deeply, though, because more often than not we hit a nearly impenetrable barrier of lava rock.  It makes it interesting trying to build a fence.  Irrigation normally runs here from early April to the end of October which comes close to last and first hard freezes. 

Dwarf Blue Arctic Willow
While the weather remains on the "warm" side (highs in the 40's and lows in the high teens and low 20's)  it is really too early to plant.  But it sure isn't too early to plan.  I have great plans for the front landscape.  Once my tractor is returned, I'll be able to dig out the pond and move the rocks for the waterfall.  Along with the dogwood tree, I intend to plant something call Blue Arctic Willow, red-twig and yellow-twig dogwood (a native shrub), a snowball tree (a type of viburnum) and a type of honeysuckle that grows shrub-like.  Then there will be mounds with mostly perennials planted on them. I'd love to forgo any lawn but that won't happen.  Most of these plantings will be on the south end of the house front and they are all low water plants (once established) except for the twig dogwoods but between the irrigation ditch and the pond, they'll do fine.  The north end is dominated by a massive and ancient willow tree that will shade most growing things (reason for the lawn).  In the heat of the summer, that shade is welcome.

Last week, there was so much snow in our mountains, the local ski resort, Mt Bachelor, closed.  We pretty much dodged that bullet other than a skiff of snow here and there.  But it's January 26th.  There are still two months to the spring equinox and lots of weather can happen.  And, of course, nights will remain cold.  Is it Spring yet?   I can dream, I guess.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fuel for thought--are we REALLY running out?

Recently,   and especially after passing gas stations with ever rising prices for gasoline and diesel, I've been thinking about oil.

For most of my life, I've been told (and I learned in grade school) that oil is a finite resource and that we are running out. I learned that oil is a fossil fuel and that it is a non-renewable resource.  As an adult and a horse transporter, one of my favorite stops was an oasis in Wyoming called Little America--a hotel/truck stop/restaurant in the middle of nowhere.  Prominently displayed at Little America is a green dinosaur, the logo and mascot for Sinclair Oil which imparts the message that oil comes to us from dead dinosaurs. Because we're running out of oil, there has been a hue and cry repeated over and over that we need to find another fuel source otherwise we're going to be caught with our pants down with nothing to push our (and the world's) economy or our cars and trucks for that matter.

I won't argue that using oil and related products is polluting.  That's a fact (and another blog).  But I'm beginning to think we've been fed misconceptions through most of our lives about the earth running out of oil.

I have driven millions of miles throughout the US over the years.  Many places, such as Texas and Oklahoma, are positively covered with oil wells.  Early on, those pumps over the wells stood idle.  Then, as prices for fuel began to creep up, the pumps were refurbished and restarted.  According to an acquaintance who owns some of those wells, the costs to create products from the crude oil in that region were too high to continue taking oil from those wells because of #1, the quality of the crude oil was poor; and #2 the oil was running out since these were among the first wells in the region to pump oil (oil was first discovered in the US in Pennsylvania of all places).  Well, after 15 years, those wells are still pumping and the oil, which was running out, is plentiful again. The same is true with oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico and many other places around the world.  The oil wells are being replenished with oil coming up from below the current oil fields!
biogenic theory

There are three major theories telling us how oil is created.  One, and it's the one most of us learned in grade school, that oil comes from dead animals and plants that were crushed and fermented under high pressure to create oil over a long, long time (biogenic theory).  Two, " Petroleum is a renewable resource made deep in the earth by inorganic processes (abiotic — an idea first proposed by Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov in 1757 who called it “rock oil”). That second theory is proposed by Dr. Thomas Gold, professor emeritus at Cornell and an astronomer.  A third theory is that there are deep pockets of petroleum near the center of the earth that, although not renewable, are vast and percolate upward, refilling current oil fields.  There is evidence of the abiotic theory occurring on the planet Mars
possible asphalt (oil producing) volcano ON MARS

Proofs for the latter two theories get a little technical but basically tell us that oil, deep oil, has none of the biological properties of the so-called shallow wells that have served us for as long as the past two hundred years! All the evidence from deep wells, six to eight miles deep, points to oil being mixed with biological matter as it works its way upwards towards the earth's surface and this is where the "fossil fuel" concept has come from. If you are interested in learning more of this, I'm providing links at the bottom of this blog.

The dinosaurs haven't been dead long enough to create the amounts of oil that is consumed yearly throughout the world nor did they live in sufficient quantities to create the oil "reserves" that have served humanity for (get this) 2500 years.  The question remains, if indeed oil is a renewable resource, are we using oil faster than it can be replenished?  Supposedly the world is going to START running out of oil in 2037.  Well, that year has been updated several times since I was a kid.  I have a sneaking suspicion that date will be changed again in the future as more research (and drilling) is done.  

In the meantime, we are held captive by high petroleum prices and world demand.  It's important we develop alternative energy sources for many reasons but I'm beginning to think running out of oil isn't one of them.  Just a little fuel for thought (ugh).

Major research on renewable oil

The Discovery of Oil

Origin of Petroleum 

Monday, January 23, 2012

They are going to spend HOW MUCH?

Much of this morning, I had a Facebook conversation with a friend.  It was an extremely political conversation which I won't repeat here (huge sigh of relief, I'm sure).  I'm not a political writer and other than a couple of special friends, don't very often make my political views known publicly.  This is as close to a political blog as you are likely to see from me.

That said, this is a presidential election year (as if you haven't noticed).  Our president is running unopposed for re-election.  There is a circus on the other side although the candidates are slowly being winnowed down to those who have the most money to spend and the loudest bully pulpit.  It is likely this will be the most expensive presidential election ever and money is pouring into the coffers of the major candidates.  I know it's been announced that President Obama intends to spend 1 BILLION dollars on his campaign.  It's unlikely that the other side will spend much less.

I have never pledged or donated money to a political campaign.  The few candidates I have truly believed in I donated my time. If I had money to donate, it might be 5 or 10 dollars, if I felt really flush, it might be $50. But this year, I won't give a dime for sure.  Many will pass over their hard earned money and more power to them (I know a woman who will be donating at least $10k to Obama's re-election campaign). 

Considering the state of our economy. 2 billion dollars spent on political campaigns is despicable (haven't we recently heard that word in the media?).  I realize television and other advertising, street signs, transportation and organization all costs money.  But billions is an obscene amount of money.  How many of us will tune out those ads or change the channel?  By the time the election gets down to the nitty gritty, it's going to be just plain dirty.  We all know those billions will be spent mostly to attack the opposite candidate.  Couldn't that money be better spent elsewhere?  How can any candidate relate to the "typical" citizen when they are campaigning for a job that pays only a fraction of that yet are willing to put billions of dollars on the line to get that job?  What favors have to be repaid to the "biggies" in retribution for the big checks written?

1 Billion Dollars illustrated here on 12 pallets of $100 bills (ten MILLION of them)

I guess it all boils down to politics and politics is expensive.  I'm a little person and have to flip and flop and dance to the tunes played by those in power.   I don't like it but it's a fact of life.

I'm an Independent voter.  I vote for who I consider the best person for the job. I don't have a lot of faith in politicians.  But I do have faith in people and I have faith in America.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh my aching back but I love them!

Books...books everywhere, hundreds, no thousands of books around the house.  And the garage, oh my Lord there are cases and cases of books waiting to be sorted.

I am a great reader, my wife used to be and my daughter is, sort of.  The consequence of two college English majors and a youngster we have read to and in front of her entire life are a plethora of books about all sorts of things. My 30 year old daughter seems to have finally caught the disease as well.

Mom's home away from home

I like the feel of a book in my hands.  Some of the volumes we own are 100+ years old and quite a bit more, as well.  Books are my friends and I inherited that from my Mom--who used the local library sometimes three times a week and read and read and read.

Since I've been married, we have never had the luxury of a library close to us and for many years, we lived far closer to book stores than any library so we bought books, instead of borrowing them.  Garage Sales and thrift stores have been a significant part of our life, too--when we ebayed heavily, those were sources of a lot of what we sold.  Of course, books are in those places,, 25 cents here and 50 cents there--more books!

The house we live in now has lots of windows...some floor to ceiling.  That was a choice.  We're light freaks.  Unfortunately, that left a greatly reduced space for bookshelves and artwork that we own.  And of course, we needed to choose. Sigh. I like the looks of walls covered with books but I like our art, too.

So we own enough books to open a bookstore.  We've thought about it.  But some will find their way, soon, on Ebay.  Others will end up at school libraries.  Still others will come in the house to join their mates and I've actually found more space for bookshelves (smile).

I trust that reading books will never go out of style.  I've read that Apple is trying to incorporate their Ipad into schools' curricula as a replacement for textbooks---I can't imagine how expensive that would be for school districts.  Just the thought of youngsters all running around with an Ipad in their backpacks, being thrown on the ground, left out in the rain and eaten by the dog scares me. Then there is the cost of buying the textbooks--probably new ones every year.  I don't think that will catch on real well with the 99%.  Apple is far too enamored with their company to allow any book vendor  to market their wares to another operating system.  Better another type of reader that has an open source for its operating system.  It would be cheaper in the long run.
Apple Ipad

I can see, however, how useful a tablet of some sort could be for college students.  I have carried those tomes, much to my back's dismay, many miles going to and from class burdened by the weight of books that cost 100 dollars or more each!  Not sure how a "poor" student (isn't that the description of most of them?)  is going to be able to buy a "used" textbook to save money, though.

I love my books.  I like the weight of them and the need to use bookmarks.  Even my textbooks are near and dear to my heart--some I reach for over and over.  The dog-eared paperbacks have a personality-especially those few that I read again and again.  The hardbacks look stately on the shelves and I'm thoroughly full of myself because I know I've read all of them.

Wanna dust these?
Unfortunately, where we live, every book we have displayed on our shelves sports a layer of dust and not for lack of cleaning.  Between the wood stove, acres and acres of fields around us and living in what I sometimes think is the windiest spot on earth (Chicago doesn't hold a candle to where we live), dust seeps into our old farmhouse and settles everywhere (remember I said we have lots of windows). Dusting each one of the while dusting the furniture would be a bit of a chore.

As I go through the books in the garage, most of which will be moved soon to a new storage area, I'm making a discovery-again.  Boxes of books weigh a ton!  I'm wondering if perhaps the bookstore might just be a grand idea!  I don't want to have to move them too very often more.  And I think of how many boxes of BOOKS I shipped from the Boston area to Oregon when I moved and then, like rabbits, they multiplied (the books must have read the Bible, "be ye fruitful and multiply."). We've moved many times in our married life and our books all came with us.  Oh my aching back.

And right now, I'm thinking I probably should buy a Kindle.  In fact, I have one picked out.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

(GBE35) The Time They Give Us

After recent events, I suppose I need to say that my principal pet peeve has to do with pets--what else?

For those who don't know, my dog, Randy never came out of his epileptic seizure bout on Thursday.  Maryann and I figure that about 2 AM on Friday, Jan 20, he was brain dead.  Our vet came by early on Friday morning and injected the euthanizing drug amid tears and memories.  He was my boy and he's gone despite heroic efforts from our vet and Maryann.

Pets are a significant portion of our lives. In this horrid economy, we spend a great deal of money on feed for the horses, ducks, chicken, rabbits, llamas, fish, birds, dogs, and cats.  We love all our animals but the dogs and cats hold a very, VERY special place in our hearts because we live with them all day and night every day and night. Some even sleep with us either in the bed or right beside it.  These felines and canines get loved on, cuddled, talked to (stepped on, tripped over, cussed at), scratched , brushed and generally have attention poured on them.  In return we get love--selfless, unconditional love and devotion.  These animals get our spirits and our hearts. Unlike the outside animals, they sit beside us for hours and touch us deeply.

Pets, and especially the dogs and cats that own us, generally don't live long enough lives.  Some leave us after only a short time while others linger on longer but most often, we outlive them.  Randy came to me in 2004 and the eight years that followed were full of joy for me and my family.  Randy's job in life, and I've said this many, many times, was to be sure everyone loved him.  And just about everyone he touched with his spirit did.  This is the way of most golden retrievers.

I remember reading somewhere that humans are put on the earth to learn important life lessons, mainly how to love and spread love.  This can and does take decades.  A dog is born knowing how to spread love; therefore its time on earth need not be longer. Perhaps this is the case.  In another blog I listed the sorts of things dogs and cats and other pets can do for people and why:

I've read case studies and stories about animals who have been able to touch and change autistic children; about animals who can reduce blood pressure for those who have hypertension; about animals who have brought back to life people who they loved; about animals who have rescued whole families from fire; and about animals who have traveled thousands of miles to find the people they loved.  Creatures are a gift to us humans.   Watching tropical fish in a tank is a tremendous stress-reducer.  Seeing a herd of young horses galloping across a field is something that can take one's breath away.  Puppy kisses make more than babies laugh!  Cuddling up with a best friend or two while reading a good book or watching a movie is incredibly satisfying.  Having an animal friend you can talk to or cry to without fear of judgement or recrimination  is remarkable.  They DO talk's in their eyes.  It's in their love.

Rarely do we hear of a companion animal living much beyond 20 or 30 years.  There are some, indeed, that do but it seems that those most responsive to human touch linger only a little while. They have their job to do and once it's done, they leave us to our own devices and memories are all that remain.  They pack a lot of life and love in their few short years and leave us with the imprint of that love. I wish they would stay with us longer but apparently that isn't in "the plan".

My dear, dear friend and buddy, Randy, may you Rest in Peace.  I thank you for the laughter, joy, and time you spent with us.  We'll see you again this side of the Rainbow Bridge and you'll remain in our hearts until then.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Canine Epileptic--and feeling horribly helpless

Today was horrible. This is more of a vent than anything.... 

I didn't sleep much last night because I wasn't feeling well and when I finally got to sleep (somewhere around 4 AM) I suppose I passed out.

Randy and his friend, Solomon

At 7:10 AM, our puppy started barking incessantly.  Waking up, I looked at the time and told my wife Randy needed his pill.  Randy is an 8 year old golden retriever who started having epileptic seizures last August.  I won't go into much detail but we brought him to a vet (not our primary one) and he prescribed phenobarbital.   So for the past five months, Randy has been getting pheno twice a day.  It seemed to help.  He had some mild seizures (his first two were grand mal, major episodes) but the drug obviously had reduced the intensity and there really wasn't all that much frequency. The pheno doses have to be given about 12 hours apart.  Last night he had his pheno at around 8 pm and I rather err giving him a little short of the 12 hours because he has had all his episodes in the morning.

Dietre and Randy

The puppy, Randy's best friend, was barking because he was telling us that Randy was in the pre-seizure phase and by the time Maryann got to Randy, he was working up to a seizure.  He spat out the pill the first time she gave it to him and she called me.  We THINK we got the pheno down at the back of his tongue the second time we tried.  But Randy went into a major gran mal episode.  After about an hour and a half he seemed to be recovering from that.  He went to the water bucket (five dogs, a bowl just isn't big enough) and drank an awful lot of water.  He wandered around the house restlessly (normal behavior after a seizure).  This went on for over an hour.  Feeding time (usually his favorite part of the day) came and he barely sniffed at his food.  A bit later he went into the living room and lay down--just wanting to be alone, I think.

Around 11, he started seizing again...another major episode with all the classic signs of an epileptic seizure.  Maryann called the vet around 11:30 to let him know what was going on.  They scheduled an appointment for three IF we could stabilize him.

At 1:30 he was still having seizures of various degrees.  I called the vet's office and spoke with the vet tech.  He told me we needed to either get the dog down there or one of us should come down to chat with the vet--again around 3:00.   All the while, in the background the vet tech could hear Randy whining and yipping--vocalizing which apparently isn't uncommon during these things.  This was the first time he'd done this.  I tried to stress the urgency to the vet tech and he basically blew me off.  EVERYTHING I have read about epileptic seizures in dogs has said that multiple and prolonged seizures are extremely dangerous and demand immediate veterinarian attention (this clinic has more than one vet).

After I got off the phone, I called our primary horse vet (who unfortunately had been out of town when Randy had his first seizure).  He was out of cell range but called me back as soon as he could make the call. I described what was going on and he was on his way (our "good" vets know that if we call, it's almost always an emergency).

When Dr. Jake arrived, he quickly evaluated Randy--who was still having a seizure and then gave him an IV shot of Valium/Diazapan.  This almost immediately stopped the seizure (besides being a tranquilizer, Diazapan is also an anti-convulsant).  Jake spent a half hour reading our log and discussing what had been done and how Randy had acted before/during/after previous episodes.  He told us Randy would be out at least 4-6 hours.  Then he made arrangements to return tomorrow to draw blood to test for pheno levels.  He also left us with 3mL of Diazapan in case he had another seizure.

Randy slept solidly for three hours and then started to come out of the drug induced sleep.  As he did, he started showing us signs of going right back into a seizure.  The vet called while this was occurring and the concern in his voice was definitely there. He told us to keep the dog quiet and in a dimly lit room.  It was far too soon to dose him again.

Over the next three hours, Randy drifted in and out of deep sleep.  For the first couple of hours he would show signs of seizure and then sleep again.  For the last (now) two hours, Randy has been sort of "out of it".  He must be exhausted.  He has a blink reflex if you put a hand near his eyes and his breathing is a bit elevated.

I spoke with the vet again about an hour ago and described what was going on.  We're all hoping that Randy will spring out of this enough that we can give him his pheno dose.  We can't until we know he has a swallowing reflex.  It's going to be a long night.

The ramifications of this entire day of epileptic seizures is unknown at the moment.  There could indeed be brain damage.  If he has another major seizure on the back of all that has occurred during the day, he could have a heart attack and die....   We just don't know.

Randy and Dietre on a better day

This dog is vigorous.  He's 95 pounds of energy normally.  Watching him in one of these episodes, indeed watching any creature in an epileptic mode, has got to be one of the most horrible feelings of helplessness a person could have.  All we can do is be there for him.  And we have.

I'll update you as we know since I'm publishing this.  Thanks for letting me vent.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Love with white hair

I found this today:

"The question is asked, 'Is there anything more beautiful in life than a boy and a girl clasping clean hands, and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be anything more beautiful than young love?' And the answer is given. 'Yes there is a more beautiful thing. It is the spectacle of an old man and an old woman finishing their journey together on that path. Their hands are gnarled, but still clasped. Their faces are seamed, but still radiant. Their hearts are physically bowed and tired. But still strong with love and devotion for one another.  Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than young love -- old love.'" (I couldn't find a source for this.)
Just after my Mom died, days after, she and my Dad would have celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.  I have two sisters who celebrate(d) their 41st anniversary.  My best friend through high school will celebrate his 42nd this year.  For all those people, that's a lot of years and in every case, is an example of the above although, other than my folks, I don't consider any of these people old.
Occasionally, photos show up on the internet like these:

Both illustrate an old, unending love--shall we say, "true love"?

Being in love is great fun.  The burst of hormones and physical feelings is like nothing else.  Gazing into the eyes of a new beloved reflects hope, expectation, and flames.   The adrenalin surge is first and foremost  but like a match, the flame will burn out without sustenance, nurturing and attention.

I have watched, over the years, many of our young people, foster children both male and female, fall in love and get dumped and hurt and then they do it all over again. I see it happening now as I watch my daughter (14 years old) flit from "love of my life" to "love of my life " all the while lamenting over the one she lost that she "really loved". Heck, I remember it happening to me all those long years ago.

Being "in love" to stay takes work, lots of work.  Most of those foster kids are grown up now with families of their own--some have relationships that have endured, others have not.  One, in her early thirties, is about to embark on her first marriage.  I wish them all good luck and would advise them to bring 100% to what they have and give that 100% to make the love last.   It has been more than flattering that several of these young people, and others who Maryann and I have touched, have said they want a marriage like ours (34 years this year).  Trust me, and any "old marrieds" will agree with this, it isn't easy.

Don't ask me what spawned this...perhaps a conversation with my first real love this morning (yes my wife knows about her and indeed is a friend on Facebook--scary thing is they call each other "sisters"), or one with my daughter tonight.   I could go on and on but I think, with a little bit jaded Italian eyes, of the older couples walking together holding hands or dancing with a sparkle that has never left their eyes after many years together and I just plain smile.   Honore de Balzac said about love. "True love is eternal, infinite, and always like itself. It is equal and pure, without violent demonstrations; it is seen with white hairs and is always young in the heart."   And it is those who love who have white hairs that should stand as an example for us all because those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.

Blogger is really screwing up the spacing on this one...sorry about it.  Have tried to edit it to make it right many times.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Against all odds--Comet Lovejoy

This just plain isn't fair.  Australia is experiencing early summer weather right now.  Australia has night sky wonders that we can't see whatsoever from the northern hemisphere. AND Australia had a holiday show of incredible magnitude when Comet Lovejoy survived a plunge through the edge of the sun and came back to dazzle viewers in the southern hemisphere!

Terry Lovejoy is an amateur astronomer in Brisbane, Australia.  He's known for modifying consumer grade digital cameras to make them more useable for astrophotography.  To date, Lovejoy has discovered three comets...most recently in November, 2011.  His most recent one, called C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) by the pros and Comet Lovejoy by the rest of us is a comet that, according to the scientists, should have met its demise on its approach to the sun mid-December of last year.

The above is a sequence of images taken by NASA/JPL satellites STEREO A&B of Comet Lovejoy approaching the sun.   At this time, the scientists estimated that the comet was about 200 meters (about two football fields) in diameter. A comet that small (comets are made up of dust, ice, and rock) should be vaporized by the sun in short order.  Imagine the surprise that the professionals had when they saw this image taken by NASA's  SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory).  The comet was exiting the Sun's atmosphere intact, albeit a bit smaller.  Professional astronomers are now saying that Comet Lovejoy was up to 1600 meters in diameter to have survived its brush with our Sun.

Well, Lovejoy seemed to have a will of its own.    The Sun's corona is several million degrees hot.  And Lovejoy wasn't done yet.  As it orbited away from the sun, it gave earthbound observers (and those on the ISS ) quite a show.  It's been a while since we've had a major comet visible without optical aid here in the northern hemisphere.  The data suggests we will see it here this month and next but I haven't seen anything yet.  Fingers crossed.  Enjoy the photos!  I'd love to see something like these but it is unlikely since Comet Lovejoy is moving away from us--and I really don't think I'll be here in 600 years on its return visit :(

Taken from International Space Station by Dan Burbank

taken by C. Legg
Alex Cherney photo

G Kelaher taken near Perth, Australia