Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sun City; Blue Haired Living?

                                                         Life In A Senior Community                                

This blog is about living within a senior community and the first thing I want to say is that I moved here when I was fifty-five and in nine years I've yet to see anyone with blue hair.  That castigation is often given to older folks by young folks too stupid to realize that, if they're lucky, they too may grow old.

Sun City, Arizona is the first and oldest planned senior community in the United States.  There are now half a dozen Sun City communities around Phoenix now but I live in the original.  This one division has over 30,000 homes and consists of three Phases.  Phase 1 is the oldest, with Phase 2 and 3 built at later dates, with each later phase showing greater likeness to modern homes.  I live in the oldest division, Phase 1.  My home is solidly built of brick with non-load bearing walls, which I'm told is a re modeler's dream since it offers greater latitude in design.

One of the great attributes for living in Sun City is that we have wide streets and generous sidewalk space, uncluttered by basketball hoops, abandoned bikes, or trash cans left out since last Thanksgiving. Street parking is restricted to short visits so residents have learned to actually use their garage for what is was designed for, unlike the typical home development where younger folks store $500 dollars worth of junk in their two or three car garage, while leaving their $40,000 dollar car out on the street.  Here you will not find oil stained driveways, heavy traffic, loud motorcycles or the thunderous thump of rap music emanating from a 5 foot speaker in the trunk.

There are eleven golf courses that intersperse throughout the community and as many recreation, activity and fitness centers so that every resident is within a few blocks of a pool, a spa or exercise equipment.  Each of the recreation centers serve to host hundreds of special interest clubs from computer clubs to RV clubs, to sewing, to political and ethnic clubs ad infinitum.

Weekly dances are held from everything from polka to swing to rock n roll.  There are couples parties and single meets and film theaters.  There are travel clubs who arrange senior sea cruises, trips to Laughlin or Vegas or bus trips to local casinos.

I'm told that Sun City seniors here represent the largest community volunteer force in the entire nation.  Each morning thousands of seniors here get up and fan out to hospitals, to serve as patient guides, provide nurse assistance, to homeless shelters to prepare and serve free meals, to schools where they serve as teacher assistants and to individual homes where they care for and deliver meals to the elderly.  Hundreds of Sun City seniors serve as the Maricopa County Sheriff's "posse".  They do home checks for residents who are away, they write traffic tickets, direct traffic, respond to vehicle accidents, etc.  The county sheriff says this "posse" saves the county more than a million dollars per year in law enforcement costs.

Anyone who drives through Sun City will readily see orange-vested volunteers who are cutting the grass in common areas, operating the irrigation systems, maintaining the thousands of citrus trees that grow here and line nearly every street in the area.  When the citrus ripens it is picked and shipped off to community kitchens and to fruit processing plants in Oregon where all that fruit is used in making jellies and jam and marmalade.

Of course, Sun City is not paradise.  We have our share of folks who either drive too slow, or too damned fast.  We have drivers who should probably relinquish their driver's license and board one of the community vans to get around.  Far too many drivers have found they and their cars parked six feet deep into a strip mall shop, shattered front glass all around them, as they lament having mistaken the gas for the brake pedal.

The average age in Sun City is supposedly 75 or so.  Of course that means at least once a month you're likely to see an ambulance arrive at some house down the street, lights flashing and sirens blaring.  If the resident was lucky he's transported to the excellent local hospital to be treated for a breathing problem or sudden stroke or heart attack.  When not so lucky, we know, as a dozen cars appear around the house, to be possibly followed by an "estate sale" a month or so later.

Sun City is famous for their "estate sales" and every weekend the antique buyers and looky-loos and bargain hunters are seen streaming north and south, east and west, following the many estate sale signs that adorn seemingly every street corner.

Contrary to what many believe all Sun City residents pay a county property tax with the amount on par with the average property tax paid throughout the county.   Our annual bill shows that we pay for county schools (although no one here has children), fire, library, police, etc.  I occasionally read a letter to the local newspaper accusing Sun City residents as out of touch with the community, accuse them of paying no property taxes, label them as "children haters", etc.  These letters are written by totally ignorant people.  Children are allowed to live here for up to 90 days at a time to visit, but of course, not to live permanently.  And we pay property taxes for schools, just as everyone else.  Our thousands of community volunteers outnumber any other demographic in the county and save the county millions  thorough their volunteering, which reduces school, hospital and law enforcement costs.

Since my home was built in 1961, it was built by craftsman, and not by slap shot contractors.  It is built on a large lot, a good 15 foot from the neighbor's nearest wall, unlike the smallish yards and homes crammed like sardines nearly wall to wall in newer communities.  I can still walk out on my patio in the morning and hear the birds sing and not the roar of local traffic.  In the spring, because of the thousands of citrus trees,  all of Sun City is permeated with the scent of citrus blossoms, a virtual Eden for nature lovers.

Our Neighborhood Watch really works and if we need our neighbors to meet the pool man, or water our garden, or gather in the newspapers, or keep watch over our home when we're away, we need only ask and it is graciously done.

I've also read postings and letters from young people that people here come here to die.  They couldn't be more wrong.  People come here to live.  Most of these Sun City folks will run you young folks into the ground.  While you're couch potatoeing they are out at fitness centers, or dances, or clubs, or cleaning up the common areas, playing senior softball, golfing, jogging, or manning volunteer positions in hospitals and schools and soup kitchens.

Sun City Blue Hairs?  I think not!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

McDonald's "Fishy" Fish Filet Sandwich

                                    Caution; Object Appear Larger in Ad Than On Your Plate

I just read in the news today that McDonald's has altered their fish sources for their Fish Fillet Sandwich.  They claim that the fish used previously was under threat of extinction so they've switched to an Alaskan pollack that is "sustainable", that is a readily abundant fish for their sandwiches.

I find that puzzling.  Since the Fish Fillet is about half Panko bread crumbs, with the fish content consisting of some minced fish pieces, how in hell would any fish content become unsustainable?  That is unless Panko bread crumbs is under assault.

I used to love the Fish Fillet sandwich when old Ray Kroc was still around and tromping through his franchises, prepared to close one down if they didn't meet his quality standards.  Now McDonald's is a "hit or miss" proposition, with some restaurants able to maintain a clean bathroom and serve a warm hamburger, while others are just a culinary time bomb.

But back to McDonald's Fish Fillet Sandwich:  I dare you to order one.  Feel the heft; it probably weighs four ounces and two ounces of that comes from a huge glob of tartar sauce, one ounce from the bun and a final desperate ounce of minced fish pieces surrounded by greasy panko bread crumbs and garnished with a slice of petroleum based imitation cheese slice.  It's a gastronomical disaster.

So good luck Micky D!  I guess you're still doing better than Burger King.  I hear their British franchises are under fire for slipping horse meat into their Whoppers.

Horse meat and minced fish!  Yuk!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Comeback Kid': Lost In America Revived


The day after the election I announced that my old blog, "Just Common Sense-Lost In America would take a hiatus, maybe even end.  However, as my readers have noticed, despite my efforts to discuss non-political matters in my "Good News Journal" blog, political and social issues have inevitably creeped into this blog.

Accordingly, I intend to revive the Lost In America blog.  Despite not posting to the old blog for months I am still getting a substantial number of "hits" as both new and old readers visit the old blog, seeking some explanation for the societal turmoil affecting America these days.

Further, Obama and his liberal minions have just gotten "too big for their britches", assuming a "mandate" through the last election.  I don't consider clopping together a group of liberal special interest groups, then rewarding them for their vote, a mandate.  51% of "takers" does not represent a mandate in my way of thinking.

So, I'll be posting new blogs to my old site.  I'll continue to post on this, The Good News Journal, as well, when I have kindler and gentler things to say about man and his environment.

Just wanted to let my readers know that Don Quixote is back on his hump backed steed, swinging at windmills and trying again to force America to stop and think about where we're going.

So, if you want to read about every day observances, enjoy a bit of humor once in awhile, or note observations about popular culture, by all means, confine your reading to this blog.  But if you wish to take a good cold hard look at the world, if you're ready again to campaign to take back America, mosey on over to Lost In America and set a spell.  Look for new posts there in the coming days.

Skyline Chili; The Awful Truth

I had heard and read about the famous Skyline Chili restaurant chain for years.  It's been featured in travel logs and any feature on Cincinnati, Ohio always trumps your need to visit a Skyline Chili restaurant when you visit that city.  Midwestern cultists offer hosannas about this chili formulas and Yahoo Groups even dedicate their lives to promoting this stuff.

So yesterday I was in Walmart and found Skyline Chili on their shelves.  It was priced at $2.86 cents, clearly twice the cost of any other leading brand of canned chili.  Never the less, having heard of so many praising this chili, I paid up and brought this stuff home.

Since I'm on the Atkins Diet I figured I would make a meal of this by covering a couple of turkey hot dogs with some of this infamous chili.  OMG!  This stuff immediately ruined a couple of perfectly good hot dogs.  It is sickeningly sweet and contains not a hint of spiciness.  Skyline boasts their use of cinnamon and chocolate in their recipe which, in proportion, is not a bad thing.  However, this chili tastes like you have poured a half gallon of pancake syrup into your chili.  Absolutely horrible!

Adding insult to injury, I would wager there's not a tablespoon of meat in this chili; it's just a thin, runny gruel so sweet it attacks the taste buds and overpowers the taste of anything it is used with.  Since the meat content is so small the chili, if you can call it that, is grossly overpriced.  The profit margins on this stuff must be terrific!

Folks, I've lowered my admiration for Midwesterners.  Anyone who champions this stuff as "chili" are simply panty-waist simpletons who have no taste for real chili.  Anyone west of the Mississippi would laugh at Midwestern palates who savor this crap.  Especially offensive is a lack of tomato, or even a hint of peppery and spicy goodness that we in the west expect in a respectable chili.

After tasting this stuff I was interested in the Yelp reviews for the restaurant fare.  After reading the reviews I see that we in the West are of like mind.  While the local yokels in Cincinnati were praising their three way, four way and five way chili and noodles, with heaps of cheddar cheese, the "out of town" folks were wondering what all the fuss was about and didn't care for it at all.  "An Acquired Taste, I guess" was the kindest review I found in reviews by those from the West.

This is a public service announcement for all of us here from the West, who know what real chili should taste like.  Do yourself a favor and save yourself $2.86 for a can of over-sweetened gruel that is destined to go down the garbage disposal.

P.S.  I posted this review on Craig's List, Cincinnati so I expect to be ruthlessly attacked post haste!

P.S.S.  As an aside, I just wanted to add that my attack of Midwesterners as "panty-waists" is meant to be a light hearted jab about what "real chili" should be.  Those who know me know how much I admire those from the Midwest.  To me they represent what is best about traditional America; hardworking, God-fearing Americans and so friendly and warm.  We would all be better off if we emulated the morals of those in America's heartland.....but they don't know what "real" chili is. :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Those Who Took Over For Martin Luther King


This past Monday America celebrated the birthday, and legacy of Martin Luther King.  Reverend King dedicated his life toward promoting voting rights, equal opportunity and living a good Christian life, including taking personal responsibility for your own life.  In the years since his death, and after the passage of Civil Rights laws and the Great Society programs, the following Black icons have proven to be the most influential in the lives of African-Americans:

Jessie Jackson
Al Sharpton
Charley Rangel
Maxine Waters
O.J. Simpson
Barack Hussein Obama
The Reverend Jerimiah Wright
Henry Louis Wallace
Trayvon Martin
Huey Newton
Eldridge Cleaver
Bobby Seale
H. Rap Brown
Snoop Dog
Michael Vick
Terrell Owens
Marion Barry
Jessie Jackson Jr.
Van Jones
And those who brought Rap to the streets of Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Newark, now deceased:
Nate Dogg 
Notorious B.I.G. 
Cowboy ( from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5) 
MC Trouble 
Buffy (from the Fat Boys) 
Pimp C 
Grym Reaper aka Too Poetic 
ODB aka Old Dirty Bastard 
Big L 
Big Pun 
Scot La Rock 
Michael Menson ( from Double Trouble) 
Trouble T-Roy ( From Heavy D & The boys) 
Brandon Mitchell ( From Wreckx N Effect) 
Michael Robinson (a.k.a. The Mac) 
Deah Dame ( From Damian Dame) 
Mr. Cee (from Ruthless By Law) 
Yafeu Fula aka Yaki Kadafi, Young Hollywood (from Outlawz Immortalz) 
Fat Pat 
Souljah Slim 
Mac Dre 
Big Hawk 
Fat Tone 
Holy Quran 
Speedy Loc 
J.Dilla (He rapped but was better known as one of the best Hip hop producers of all time) 
Jam Master Jay 
Dj Screw ( Not a rapper but one of the founding father of Chopped and screwed mixing. Slowing down the track like slow motion and chopping it up) 
Big Moe 
Professor X 

Happy Birthday Dr. King.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dead Broke...And Loving It!

I just received some good news about my personal finances!  No, I didn't win the lottery, and if I had to come up with the money for a new set of tires, I'd be hard pressed to find it.  No, what I learned yesterday is that, though I'm dead broke, my net worth is 550, 000% higher than that of the U.S. government.

It seems that one of those Wall Street gurus and some government economic experts reported yesterday that the best thing Uncle Sam could do is just declare bankruptcy.  After they finished auditing all the government debt they found that our "debt ceiling" is not $16.4 trillion but closer to $100 trillion!

Holy smokes!  Bet you guys didn't know that!  But after running a few fact checks, and poring through a bunch of Wikipedia data, that $100 trillion government debt seems to be true!  They call them "unfunded liabilities".

How the hell did our favorite "Uncle" run up that much debt?  Well, it seems back in the 60's a President named Lyndon Johnson needed to finance a whole bunch of Great Society programs while at the same time fund a big war in Vietnam.

Well, there clearly wasn't enough money in the government till to do both so Johnson and his Democratic pals in Congress came up with a brilliant idea!  It seems there are two big pots of money being managed by Uncle Sam.  One pot is all the taxes and fees we pay; that's called the General Fund.  But there was a second pot of money available to politicians.  It was a much larger pot and it was called the Social Security Trust Fund.  And the Social Security Fund was huge!  It had trillions of dollars in it, thanks to working Americans who had been paying into it for decades.  By law, the funds were never to be touched by politicians.  But laws can be changed.

So Congress changed the law and began tapping that Social Security fund money to pay for bridges to nowhere and water parks and rat preserves and foreign wars.  Every time Uncle Sam took money out of the Social Security Trust fund they just put an I.O.U. in there, to be paid back at a later date.

Sadly, Uncle Sam never got around to paying any of that money back and just kept taking more and more out and putting it into the General Fund.  And every President since Lyndon Johnson since then has continued to spend that Social Security money.  Then, last year we learned that all of those tens of trillions of dollars American workers paid into it are all gone....the only thing left are I.O.U.'s.

So now Uncle Sam is saying "we just can't afford to pay Social Security retirement to all these people!  We need to reform the system!  We need to raise the age of eligibility to 70 years old so that alot of those old folks will die before we ever have to pay out a cent in Social Security.

But now the Wall Street geniuses and the government economic geniuses are saying that $100 trillion can never be repaid, that what the U.S. government needs to do is just declare bankruptcy, because under any economic scenario they can't see how Uncle Sam could ever pay off that much debt!

Guess that would leave a hundred million seniors out in the cold...but what can you do?  "Shit happens", right?  How the hell else are we going to give billions in foreign aid to Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan if we don't tell these old people to go to hell?  How else are we going to afford to pay $6 million dollars for our President's round trip to Hawaii unless we tell old people to start eating Alpo?  How else are we going to afford putting out $70 billion dollars to rebuild homes for people stupid enough to build on the water, or in the Mississippi delta, or in New Orleans, a thousand feet below sea level, unless we keep raising the age of Social Security retirement so high that all the old fogies will be long dead before they ever draw a cent of Social Security money?

Whew!  I'm dead broke and loving it!  My net worth makes Uncle Sam look like a pauper..and he is!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"When Giants Walked The Earth"

In an age where America must be coddled, spoon fed, inoculated, medicated, cared for by the government and spared being told that "there really is no Santa Claus", we might remember the legacy of American courage.

America is now a nation of whiners.  We don't want to acknowledge our own failures and find it much more convenient to blame the rich, blame God, blame our neighbors for our own life choices.

We now live in an age where conservative politicians rant against the gay lifestyle, yet are themselves caught in an airport restroom soliciting gay sex.  It is an era where a Congressman Barney Frank and a Senator Dodd take preferential mortgage offers from lenders in exchange for looking the other way as preferential lenders exploit the poor.  We live in an age where a Democratic Senate is so utterly cowardly that they will not pass an annual budget, lest their vote for annual trillion dollar budget deficits be recorded for posterity.

Given the state of the American union it might be interesting to remember "when giants walked the earth".

George Washington led our country in war for seven long years, fighting an enemy that never had less than a 10 to 1 troop advantage.  While the well equipped British Army had the wealth of the British treasury behind them, Washington led troops who went shoeless at Valley Forge and went without pay for a year or more.  During those seven years, while leading a rag-tag army, Washington's estate suffered massive losses and left him deeply in debt when the war was over.   And sadly, Washington lost both of his children while fighting for America's "birth".  A Giant.

John Adams, while fighting for American independence, lost a son, then a daughter to breast cancer, but not before having to witness her double mastectomy performed without anesthesia.   Adams sacrificed a thriving legal career, as well as the health of his farm, while working tirelessly to build an American government that might assure freedom for his countrymen.

Thomas Jefferson wrote our Declaration of Independence, wrote the legal codicils that assured our religious freedoms, expanded the American empire from the Atlantic to the Pacific, all the while having endured the loss of his wife at the age of 33 and the loss of eight of his ten children before they ever achieved adulthood.  A Giant.

Abraham Lincoln was vilified by most of America as he assumed the Presidency.  He was called an ugly ape, an ignorant backwoodsman, a dolt.  During his entire Presidency he was under threat of assassination.  He suffered the agonizing loss of children while also agonizing over ever young man lost in a civil war that would kill 600,000 men before it was over.  To everyone of his enemies Lincoln extended an olive branch, and even in victory, he insisted on mercy for an enemy that wished only to destroy him.  And only weeks after winning the peace, he was gunned down by those he chose to forgive.  A Giant.

Ulysses S. Grant was a forgotten Army Captain selling hardware in his Illinois hometown when the Civil War began.  Four years later he would sign the peace treaty with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox wearing four stars on his shoulder boards.  A Giant

Theodore "Teddy Roosevelt, from a family of great wealth,  was elected Governor of New York, hand picked by the corrupt  "wealthy 1%" in some smoke filled back room.  Upon being elected he opted in favor of "the people" and swept the corrupt out of power.  Upon assuming the Presidency, he fought the "robber barons" of Carnegie and Rockefeller and enacted anti-trust laws and fair labor laws.  Never afraid to "speak softly but carry a big stick", he led the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish American War but sufficient reverence for peace to win the Nobel Peace Prize.  A Giant.

Within three years of taking office, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while trying mightily to bring America out of the Great Depression, was forced to confront the rantings of a monster emerging in Germany.  As country after country fell to the Nazi's, an isolationist America refused to approve our involvement in another world war.  Roosevelt had to use guile and subterfuge to enact "lend lease" to equip the British who were the last European nation standing in the way of the Nazi invasion of America.  After Pearl Harbor, it was Roosevelt who coached and charmed and dictated actions that would turn America into one massive war manufacturing machine, to arm and equip an allied army of fifteen million men.
He would die in office, two months before the end of the war, a war that could not have been won without his leadership.  A Giant.

In 1939 an obscure Lieutenant Colonel had already served nearly twenty years in the U.S. Army.  Four years later that same light Colonel would be a four star general directing the movements of a ten million man allied army and preparing for the largest invasion in history.  To achieve victory, Dwight David Eisenhower would have to be "diplomat", massaging the egos of Roosevelt and Churchill and DeGaulle, and Stalin, and "General", commanding the respect of a Montgomery and a Patton to achieve military victory.  Eisenhower would late assume the Presidency and preside over the most prosperous era America has ever enjoyed, built the national highway system, then retired to civilian life, but not before warning America about the potential for corruption of an out of control military industrial complex.  A Giant!

In 1960 the first of a new generation was elected to the Presidency.  John Kennedy, a handsome and youthful President, with his beautiful and elegant wife, and charming children, brought a re-newed sense of youth and confidence to the American scene.  New hopes for improved race relations, new hopes to eliminate poverty began to emerge.  A 20th century "Camelot" was declared.  A war hero who hated war, Kennedy none the less was forced to admit failure at the Bay of Pigs, and two years later confront, and triumph over a nuclear crisis that took the world to the edge of Armageddon in the span of a few brief days in November.   A year later America lost her optimism and her hope as this young man was taken from us in Dealy Plaza in Dallas.  A Giant.

And lest we forget, America in her first two hundred years was well populated with people who were collectively "giants".  People who braved the frontiers to homestead the west.  People who worked dawn to dusk, hard scraping a life out of the wilderness.  Immigrants who came to America every 20 years or so and continue to refine the "American Dream".  People who endured a ten year "Great Depression", but continued to love America sufficiently to fight for her in a savage World War.  People who emerged from that war and came home to build roads and homes and schools and factories and dreams.  From those people came Jonas Salk who developed a vaccine for polio, like Martin Luther King who preached equality in peaceful protest.  People like Steinbeck that reminded us of social conscience.  All Giants.

Where are today's "Giants?"  We in America today seemed to be a nation of "pygmies" and our icons are named Bieber and Beyonce and JayZ and Lady Gaga.  We have a Senate that won't pass a budget and a government corrupted by corporate influence.  And worst of all, Americans today are content to tweet and text and sext ....and whine...about how tough life is.  And on the horizon I see no "giants" coming to the rescue.

Sad.  Damned Sad.

Friday, January 18, 2013



I guess I've been "downsizing" my life for the last ten years or so.  I've found that I really don't need to dress in the latest fashion, own a larger home, drive a late model car, or go "above and beyond" to try and impress people in any way.

I suspect that comes naturally with age, at least if you've acquired enough wisdom to know that the "superficial" never makes one happy.  I feel sorry for those who can't imagine the idea of downsizing.  It frees up your heart and mind from things that are ultimately irrelevant to your happiness.

Downsizing seems to be a continuing process and takes many forms.  The last shock to my system was the last Presidential election.  I was shocked by the outcome of that election and seriously disappointed in that vast group of Americans who voted "self interest", having made John Kennedy's old "ask not what your country can do for you"....moot.

So now I've had to downsize my expectations about America's future.   Haven't watched Fox or ranted at MSNBC for months.   I've learned to largely ignore politicians and their speeches and the political "militants" on both sides of the political spectrum.

Still, I believe millions of Americans still carry that undying sense of optimism about what tomorrow may bring.  I'm no different, but now my future plans have been "downsized" to more humble hopes and dreams.   Oh sure, I still fall back to swinging my rusty lance and charging at windmills once in awhile, but thankfully not as often.

 Even as I write this, we, here in Phoenix, are dealing with a cold wave that is nightly killing off my beautiful Yellow Bell and Lantana and my basil and pepper plants.  Yet, I am already planning for my spring garden.  Should I seed my tomatoes this year..or should I "quick start" by planting seedlings.  What kinds are best able to withstand the summer and produce something for a summer dinner.  When am I due for feeding my citrus trees?  After the frost how much will I need to prune the damaged plantings so that my summer yard will again bloom with Yellow Bell and Lantana and Bottle Brush?  I seem to be "downsizing" to those things that I have some measure of control over.

So, I still have dreams and hopes...they're just smaller, less ambitious, less worldly.  I was homeless once, for a few months...talk about downsizing!...that was the ultimate in downsizing.  By contrast I am now living the life of luxury in a thousand square feet of house and hearth.

I've now "downsized" my expectations about the things that make me happy; finding a good read, discovering a new singer..or  a new song that makes the heart and soul to soar, admire a talented young painter, or just rejoicing that I now have time to really listen to the song of a meadowlark on a spring morning.

I've found that "less" is indeed so much more.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Tuning Out, Turning On"

If I were given Warren Buffett's billions and instructed to go out and buy the entire world a gift I think I'd just tell Warren to keep his dough and look elsewhere for the source.  Just now, as most of the world seems content with war making, or ambitions for wealth, or the petty diversions of Kim and Brittany and Justin and Facebook, I'd give the world's people the gift of "tuning out" from all those irrelevant things and "turn on" to a few of God's simple pleasures.

I would ask the people to just stop for a few minutes and examine the leaf on a tree.  Look at the dramatic contours of form as those little feeding lines wind their way around the edge of the leaf.  Look at the little veins running throughout the leaf, carrying nutrients from the mother tree.  Look at how "this leaf" is unique to this species alone among all other living things.

I would ask the people to turn away from the news of the day...or re-runs of "Cheers" and, if you have no book of poetry or prose to turn to, just open the family bible and turn to the Book of Psalms and read any one of the Psalms.  You don't have to be religious to appreciate the grand poetry of Psalms.  My favorite:

A psalm of David.The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.
Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side; your rod and staff give me courage.
You set a table before me as my enemies watch; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and love will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come

I would ask the people to stop and walk outside and listen to the miracle performance of a mocking bird as he re-creates the song of a robin, or a wood pecker, or even the mechanical drones of a cell phone.

I would ask the people to carry a chair out to the front porch and sit there until someone walks by...and make eye contact with that passerby, make some tiny nod toward a human connection for just a moment of your day.  That small moment of "recognition" of another human may mean more than a hundred Facebook posts.

I would ask the people to put down the I-phone, turn off the I-Pad, and spend five minutes looking upon the face of a loved one.  Take the time to look at the frown lines, and the laugh lines and appreciate them for enduring both the joy and the pain of life..and for sharing their lives with you.

I would ask the people to read a Robert Frost poem that speaks of the need to stop the "hurry" of your day and tarry awhile to see what's right in front of you:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

These generous gifts would be my offering for a world in desperate need of God's simple pleasures.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Peeing Purple..And Loving It!

I've been on the Atkins diet since the 1st of January, when I stepped on the scales and was shocked to learn of the toll all those those Christmas cookies and candies and pies had on my weight.  Several years ago I went on Atkins and lost 50 pounds in three months.  But that was when I was younger, healthier, and able to spend two hours a day in the gym.

I can't generate that kind of weight loss through exercise anymore.  In recent years Atkins' low carb diet  hasn't done much for me.  I could lose a few pounds but couldn't seem to achieve the weight loss I wanted.

But, on this journey through the low carb maze, I've learned to pay close attention to what I'm eating and measuring the carbs as if each were a gram of gold.  What I've learned this time is that, in my previous Atkins crusade against fat, I was cheating.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Atkins, the basic concept is that if you cheat your body of carbs your body is forced to consume your own fat to survive.  The "big government" food experts, and nutritionists say the average person needs about 200 carbs a day.   The "induction phase" of Atkins says you must restrict your carb count to less than 20 in order to lose weight and send you into "ketosis" which is the burning of fat.

Those on the Atkins diet can measure their progress with "keto sticks", available in Walmart and most drug stores.  After three "sub 20 carb days" you pull one of these little sticks out the container, pee on it.  If you are shedding ketones your stick will change color, from a faint rose..to a deep purple if you're really dumping the fat.  During my last few attempts at Atkins I felt like I was doing all I could to keep my carb count below 20 carbs per day.  Yet, each time I peed on that little keto stick the best I could manage was a rosy 'trace' of ketosis.

This time I've been monitoring my carb count closely and it is showing great results.  In fourteen days I've lost fourteen pounds....and "peeing purple" every morning.

My advice to anyone attempting the Atkins diet, pay close attention to every carb you consume, keep it under 20 per day, or don't even bother with the Atkins diet.  I've learned that a teaspoon of soy sauce is 1 carb..and needs to be counted.  I've learned that even those pseudo "low carb sweets and low carb breads" can stop your ketosis in its tracks.

The other day my wife, just back from a long trip, prepared me a lovely Asian meal; tofu soup, Asian squash, and egg fu yung.  I watched her flavor her cooking with soy sauce and other seasonings, watched her like a prison warden, and calculated each carb sizzling in the wok.  To be safe, I consumed not a single carb prior to that meal.

The next morning I pulled out a keto stick and was "peeing purple" and loving it!  So, folks, if you're going to try Atkins, if that Christmas pie and cake and candy, and turkey gravy is not sitting well on your waistline, go for Atkins!

Watch those carbs and pee purple!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Life Unexamined


As Socrates was being tried for heresy he answered the charges against him with great eloquence; "a life unexamined is a life not worth living", he said.

How true.  As we sail through this life in the fragile vessel of "being",  we have a cornucopia of choices as to how we will live it.  I've known people who were as shallow as the last dying rivulet of water at desert's edge.  Their life spark exists for the material world;  how much money they can make, how many things they can own, how much power can they wrest and hold.  Often, they are the pretty ones, the smart ones, the fortunate ones who, like spring flowers, are lovely to look but whose shallow roots fail them when the searing heat of summer arrives.   When one speaks to them they are too busy formulating their next "bon mot" to listen to what you are saying, or how you are feeling.  Alas, they are also the ones whose "life truth" arrives to them so very late in life that they are left to despair at the vast emptiness of their lives.

These beings are lost in a sea of apathy.  They seek happiness and fulfillment in the next new toy, discarding with disdain the old toy that failed to bring them either.  As a farmer plows the autumn fields of husk, they too plow under all the old memories of those who sought to touch them in some meaningful way.  All the familial and fraternal figures in their lives are standing back stage but the "shallow ones" refuse to pull the curtains back; too many regrets and failures lurk behind those curtains.

Once it becomes clear that the life journey is nearing an end the "shallow ones" refuse to acknowledge it.  They fear death and the end of the precious "me".  They abhor the wrinkled brow, the crinkled eyes, the age spots and the rapidly diminishing juices of youth.  In a vain effort to avoid confronting the natural cycle of death, they turn and look back...down the life path they travelled and see only the discarded toys and human refuge they threw by the wayside.  Having never contemplated the idea of a spiritual life they see only barren wasteland in the confines of coffin or urn.

Happily, I have known many who live their life under constant audit.  They are focused outward and the empathy for, and understanding of others is so very clear.  When one gazes on their visage one sees first the richness of their souls shining brightly in their eyes.  They are not without fault.  They sometimes stumble and fall but, inherent within them exists the spirit and knowledge that they must rise to live again.  Their peripheral perception is vast; they are able to see both the ugliness and beauty of their world and make a daily effort to make it just a little better.  Like the mighty oak, their roots in life run deep.  They can withstand the mightiest storms of life and become even stronger.  They feel the pain of loss more deeply because, having given something of themselves to those who they have lost, there is a bit less of them left behind to carry on with their own journey.  When they do make the big mistakes they find a place of solace within themselves and examine closely their actions and their regrets.

Those with lives well examined will be well prepared for the end of the journey, and know that death is as natural to the life cycle as birth.  Having lived a life under perennial audit they will have resolved their failures and tempered the glory of achievement with proper perspective.  Having lived a life of sincere and honest contemplation they will have achieved the spiritual assuredness of their beliefs and will depart this journey with regret at leaving their loved ones but with the adventurous spirit that knows the soul endures beyond this physical plain.

Bless all of those who have stumbled and dared to get up and try again.  Bless all of those who, having lived part of their life in shallow soil, have now scurried for deeper purchase and stand ready to brave life's greatest storms.  May you be blessed with the solace and satisfaction of a life well examined.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Treating Old People Right

In earlier blogs I've written of driving my mother from California out to Missouri so that she might visit her brother and jointly celebrate her 75th birthday.  During that visit I was most impressed by the little senior community where my Uncle Floyd was residing.

Situated in a park like setting were these little white cottages, all designated for seniors.  The little cottages had one bedroom, bath, a small kitchen, a small dining alcove and a decent size living room.  The entire home could not have been over 600 square feet but it was a lovely and efficient little cottage for a senior who has given up much of the material trappings of life and has chosen to live simply, and at one with nature.

These homes were made available for seniors by the state of Missouri and rent was assessed based on the senior's income.  I believe my Uncle Floyd was paying around $135 dollars per month and that included utilities.  Any time a repair was needed that too was taken care of by the management.

My Uncle Floyd had a lovely large old tree in front of his cottage and he drove to Walmart occasionally to buy huge bags of bird seed.  During my visit I accompanied him out to the front yard and watched his eyes sparkle and his lips turn upward in smile as he threw fistfuls of bird see around that big tree.  Soon the birds were flitting about his front yard, singing their unique morning songs.

Just a few feet away, down a short sidewalk lived my Aunt Francis who also lived here, having lost her husband a few years before. My Uncle Floyd and Aunt Fanny had the pleasure of sharing a morning cup of coffee, perhaps an hour of reminiscing, and could easily retreat to their own respective cottages as they wished.

Should the extended family wish to visit, this little senior community had a community center, fully furnished with a large kitchen and eating area.  This area allowed seniors to host large family gatherings and feed them in comfort.

Freed from the worries of secure, safe and affordable housing, my Uncle Floyd was free to drive out into the country, exchange pleasantries with an egg farmer, then bring back a couple of dozen farm fresh eggs.  I accompanied him one morning to the egg farm and enjoyed the country atmosphere and serenity of small town Missouri.

When Uncle Floyd wanted to escape domesticity he hooked up his boat, grabbed his fishing and camping gear and headed off to nearby or far off lakes for a few days of fishing.

And since pretty girls are the spice of life Uncle Floyd enjoyed a plethora of lovely nieces and grand-nieces who came to visit and fawn over him.

After visiting my Uncle and Aunt, after sharing several delicious meals, and hours and hours of family remembrances, my mom and I prepared to leave for our return trip to California.  As we waved goodbye I couldn't help but feel gratified that two of my beloved senior relatives were taken care of so well by the state of Missouri.

I thought about how complex and difficult and regulatory the state of California must impose on their senior housing programs.    The state of Missouri has been able to provide modest little homes for their seniors, at minimal cost, and by having the senior pay a little, preserves the senior's pride.

Missouri seems to know how to treat old people right, leaving them to live in peace and safety, and not making them feel like society's "victims".  What a lovely idea.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

News 'N Notes

                                                 OXO Air Tight Storage Containers

In my earlier blog on my "excellent" product discoveries I forgot to mention these OXO food storage containers.  I discovered (and admired) these at my daughter's house over Thanksgiving and was lucky enough to receive them as Christmas gifts.  These containers are excellent for long term storage of pasta, chips, beans, crackers, etc.  They are especially helpful to folks like me, who live alone and can't consume a bag of chips, or pasta, or a bargain quantity of beans, in a short time.  These containers preserve the freshness and greatly reduce food waste.  Target currently sells a full kitchen set for $49.00

                                                             The Doctor's BrushPicks

Another "daughter discovery", I find these little toothpicks such a great improvement on the old wooden toothpick.  They are flexible and offer little brush heads on one end that enables you to get into those hard to access areas where food can pocket and cause infection and disease.  They are also great for reduce tooth plaque.

Do you remember when your kids were growing up, and just loved to "role play?".  They might pull out Daddy or Mommy's old clothes from the attic and play out their fantasies?  We parents delighted in this cute little child's game.  And why not?  It enriches their sense of imagination and is not harmful unless the kids really start to believe they are indeed that real life character.  When that happens the kid fails to develop emotionally, lives perpetually in a fantasy land that doesn't exist, and, sadly, fail to develop the normal life skills necessary for finding productive works, assuming responsibility for their own actions, and even learn to lie in order to perpetuate their own personal fantasy views of  how the "real world" unfolds.  When this tragedy occurs the "little whelp" grows up to be a politician.  So sad.

Proof Positive That Americans Will Try Anything At Least Once!

I've been on the Atkins diet since the first of January; peeling off the weight gained over the holidays put on by consuming mass quantities of pie and cake and Christmas candy.  My diet naturally got me curious about the latest craze, The Paleo Diet.  I guess the basic concept is that dieters follow the diet that our caveman ancestors consumed.  I find it ironic that a generation of people with a current lifespan of 80 would opt to follow a diet of the caveman whose life span was no more than 40 years.  Hmmmm.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Chocolate Gravy & Other Exotics


I just read a food article about Southern cooking in today's Arizona Republic newspaper.  The article described the evolution of southern cooking and offered mouth-watering recipes for southern cornbread, fried chicken, pinto beans with ham hocks as well as a recipe for cooking greens.

All of this set my mind back to the great old "okie" meals my mother cooked for us as children.  We survived on very little income and my mother was genius in being able to turn out delicious meals on little money.  Our budget did not afford meat in any abundance but made up for it in flavor.

A typical meal at our house would consist of southern cornbread, cooked in a hot iron skillet, a pot of beans, flavored with a ham hock and a big bowl of cole slaw.  Dessert would be a fruit cobbler or a chocolate cake made entirely from scratch.

Another simple meal might be hot dogs and sauerkraut.  My mother used to make home-made sauerkraut in big gallon jars and it was delicious.  Supper might also mean fried potatoes with spam and cornbread or great northern beans with chunks of ham.  All were so good.

And yes, mom did venture out from southern cooking and we would have spaghetti.  Our favorite Mexican dish was her enchiladas, served with a big bowl of fresh green salad.  Even into her later years, when she heard I was coming home to visit she would run out and get the ingredients for enchiladas to prepare for me.  Such love and caring I received!   Not long after my mother died I was going through the pockets of her coat and found a grocery list consisting of a list of ingredients for enchiladas she was preparing for me.  I had to sit down and have a good cry....and I still have that grocery list.

For some reason, my mom just could not cook a decent bowl of oatmeal or cream of wheat.  I cook both often and have no problem but my mom's was always lumpy and uneven.  But mom did leave us all our favorite breakfast recipe, Chocolate Gravy.  For you "northerners" I urge you to cease the sneering and give it a try; it is, if not healthy, such a superb comfort food on a winter morning that it is without equal:

Simple recipe:

3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa powder
2 cups sugar (or seven tablespoons Splenda for sugar-free)
1/3 cup of corn starch or 3/4 cup of flour
One quart of cold whole milk (for creamier gravy use 2 large cans evaporated milk plus equal count water)

Pour cold milk into a medium size pot
Add dry ingredients into the cold milk (milk must be room temp or colder to prevent lumps)
Mix the wet and dry ingredients and stir until smooth
Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened into pudding like texture

Serve over hot biscuits, toast or crepe thin crispy pancakes.  Top with two or three tabs of butter.

Note:  Don't even ask me about calorie/carb count or nutritional values.  Sometimes you just gotta be naughty.

Y'all have a great day, hear!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy Birthday Elvis; Saw You in Walmart!

I love Walmart.  You can go to Walmart and get a haircut or perm and get your nails done, do your banking, get your taxes done, get a flu shot, buy a house, gets some keys made, still buy sewing goods by the yard, buy gourmet cheeses or a gallon can of menudo,  then celebrate with a Big Mac and a coke, all the while getting your car's oil changed.  Each Walmart has its own distinctive look and customer following so I also like to go to Walmart to "people watch".  In the South I've seen some really strange customers; folks who shop in their pajamas or wearing speedos or stretch pants that have overtaxed their capacity to the max.

Today, I visited Walmart to get an ink printer cartridge and a set of sheets.  My local Walmart is pretty tame; clean, well lit and our customers are just "average".  Thought so anyway until I ran into Elvis and can now personally verify that those National Inquirer "Elvis Lives!" articles were all true after all.

Being a skeptical sort I initially thought this is just one of those Elvis "wanna-be's" but damn his cart gave it away!  Stuffed in ole Elvis's cart were two loaves of white bread, a big jar of peanut butter, a tub of butter, a bunch of bananas and an "Elvis in Concert, Aloha From Hawwii" CD.  And, I'm reluctant to say, Elvis also had a tube of Preparation "H" and a box of "Just For Men" hair coloring, shade "Jet Black".

The King was pushing his cart down the front aisle, shadowed by two silver-haired "groupies", and we converged at the checkout counter at the same time.  I smiled at Elvis and gestured that he can go ahead of me.  He smiled back in that patented upturned smile, with slight upcurl of lip and said "thank you...thank you very much".

I watched as Elvis paid for his purchases and walk out the door.  I fully expected the Walmart loudspeaker to call out "Walmart shoppers...Elvis has left the building".......


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Danny's "Town Hall" Diner

It was cold enough this morning to make my hands, wrapped around a china mug full of coffee, feel pretty good so I dropped into Danny's Town Hall Diner this morning.  Don't know why the guy who owns and runs the place calls it Danny's.  His name is Jose Lopez and his family hails from Laredo, Texas.  Jose's lived in this county for 50 years; he came here with his family as a little kid and picked cotton in fields where Surprise now sits.

Up until 2008 Danny called his place Danny's Diner but the last few years the place has attracted a bunch of old retired guys from around here, guys who liked to chew on politics over their bacon and eggs so Jose added "Town Hall" to the name.  Says those two extra words on his new sign cost him an extra grand, but wouldn't have it any other way.

I walked in this morning, took a seat at the counter and ordered a cup of coffee.  Agnes works the counter and handles the register and Darlene waits the tables.  Both of them look like they're in their forties and life has been such that they don't look a day younger than that.  Agnes wears a starched white waitress smock, wears her hair in soft auburn curls has such an abundance of chest that she looks like she could balance a tray of coffee mugs on them and never spill a drop.  Darlene dresses younger; quite a bit younger.  The regulars drift from calling her "Darlin Darlene" to "Bo", short for rainbow, that being due to the streaks of purple and orange and blonde streaks gracing her beehive of hair.  She wears a lavender blouse, tucked into a black skirt probably two or three inches shorter than appropriate for her age...but the old regulars admire her legs so what the hell.

Since I'm not just a "newbie" Agnes gently placed a china mug on the counter and poured me coffee but wouldn't yet offer me a smart ass greeting she extends to the other guys at the counter or lounging around the long row of tables parallel to the counter.

I took a sip of the strong black coffee and peered through the serving window at Jose who serves as owner and cook.  Jose was busy at the grill, his broad brown face awash with steam from pots of chili being readied for lunch.  Jose likes to listen to the loud political banter and shout out his own political wisdom to some random "bon mot" from a regular.

This morning a fella tagged as "loose Larry" is holding court about gutless Republicans who caved in on Obama's tax hikes.  I haven't been here often enough to know if "loose Larry" has bowel problems or loose lips, but he's speaking to half a dozen oldsters who are nodding their heads in agreement.

"That damned Obama's gonna ruin this country", LL lamented.  "He ain't seen a program yet that he wasn't willing to drop a few billion dollars on...."didn't they learn him any math up there in Harvard?..."somebody needs to teach that guy just how much a trillion is!".

Darlene hurried over to Larry's table and poured him a refill and offered "Darlin, it don't do any good to get so worked up about it...the American people voted him back in for another run up the hill and we got to live with it until enough people take a good hard look at the bill".

Larry poured a little cream in his cup and stirred, his lips set in sour resignation.  Hal, his table mate, who wears ancient and scuffed brown boots and looks like an aging Marlboro man gone bad, spoke next.  Between bites of scrambled eggs he said "won't be long".   "How you figure?" queried Larry.
Hal, a strip of bacon pinched between two greasy fingers, stabbed his bacon strip at Loose Larry and said "Lincoln".

Loose Larry countered "now what the hell is that spose to mean?".  Hal shoved half a bacon strip into his mouth, took a sip of coffee, and pronounced "Old Abe was right..you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time".  Satisfied with his wise pronouncement Hal used a convenient sleeve to wipe a bit of grease off his bushy old mustache and began to butter up a triangle of toast.

Just then Jose stuck his head through the serving window and shouted "Hal, we live in a crazy world nowadays...don't be quoting old Abe Lincoln"..."this ain't the same America as back then..we got lotsa crazy people running around here now".

"Well it ain't helping to have a million illegal Mexicans parading across the border every year, Jose!", a rant from an old guy wearing medical smocks sitting at the counter to my right.  "You trying to rouse me Davie?", shouted Jose.  "I'm fifth generation American and I'll eat a bushel basket of Jalapenos if we haven't been here longer than you!", Jose countered..."I don't cozy up to the idea of illegals coming here any more than you do!"

Like an old turtle, Jose pulled his head back into the kitchen and began flipping hotcakes.  Agnes frowned at the fella named Davie and said "Davie, you're an ass....Jose could have made you look worse...he didn't even remind you that he lost his son, Augie, in Iraq, fought and died for this country".

Davie, looking sheepish, said "hell, Agnes, you know I ain't talking about Jose...it's them gang bangers over in Maryvale I'm talking about".   "Hey Jose!", shouted Davie, ya got a short stack back there for me buddy?".

Jose flashed a smile and said "coming up, Davie!"...friends once again.

Agnes lifted the coffee pot from the brewer and offered me a refill.  I set my hand over the top of my cup and said "no thanks".  As I stood to pay for my coffee, a fella named Howard began moaning about his Medicare premiums going up higher than his Social Security increase.  All heads turned his way and began nodding in sympathetic agreement.

A busy morning at Danny's Town Hall Diner.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Taxing The Rich

I've been quite amused this past week as Democrats rejoice at passage of the latest tax laws on the rich. You see, I learned two principle lessons from my college Econ 101 and 102, after poring through many a late night cram of Paul Samuelson's text and graphs thirty years ago.

1)  When the government tax the rich they end up getting less revenue than before the tax was implemented.

2)  There are two types of Ivy League law school graduates; those who major in tax law and those who major in government.

And while government lawyers are tapping a keg of beer in Scull and Bones, or in the back offices of the Harvard Law Review, the tax guys are sipping cognac and interning in high end New York tax palaces.

In other words, the rich always have smarter lawyers than does Uncle Sam.

Note the chart above.  One can argue over whether or not the rich need to pay more than the current 70% of all tax revenue, but you can't argue with the facts: When the government raises taxes on the rich, the rich are on the phone to their smart tax lawyers and throwing up barricades to protect their loot.

So, who bears the burden of increased taxation to fund government spending?  Yep, the same old "Joe Taxpayer" that pays the most of "sufferable taxation".   So, after all the tax laws kick in this year, look for that red line above to decline as fewer tax receipts are recorded on those higher tax rates.

Today, we have 47% of America who pay nothing, we have the top two percent, the rich, who pay 70% of all taxes, and we have about 50 million truck drivers and retail workers and small businessmen bearing the burden for those deemed too poor to pay.  The winners continue to be the rich and those who can either hide their real income or have learned to breed enough babies to put them in poverty status.

Each time a Democratic President or a Democratic Congress get ready to increase taxes we hear the same old mantra "the rich need to pay a little more".  Again, I ask you to look at the chart above.  Do you think Congress doesn't know that higher taxation leads to less revenue?  Of course they know!  But you can win elections if you make speeches poking at the rich.  It makes the voter feel better.....for a little while.

Then reality kicks in and Joe Taxpayer sees less and less of his paycheck and says "why?"

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller and Walter Chrysler saw their net worth increase year after year over their lifetimes.   Different today?  Take a look at Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or the Walmart heirs; they get richer and you get poorer.

So, dear readers, if you don't understand the basics of economics, if tax law has you stumped, keep your funny New Year's party hats and those little blow toys.  Celebrate the great tax hike on the rich with them.

But check back next January.  Google that little chart I provided above.  See if the rich paid any more in taxes and see if your taxes went down.