Thursday, May 30, 2013

Chinese Takeout...Human Fingers In Your Sausage?


Do you confidently have Smithfield Foods bacon or sausage with your morning eggs?  Have you been known to bring a Smithfield ham to your Christmas dinner?  How about John Morrell or Armour or Ekrich hot dogs? you grill them for the 4th of July?    Well...start worrying boys and girls.

Shingwai (or Shineway), a Chinese food conglomerate, has just announced the purchase of U.S. owned Smithfield Foods.  Smithfield is one of America's largest food producer and processor and brings much of your pork products to the American table.  

The Wall Street Journal reported the Chinese takeout of one America's food giants is that country's biggest encroachment yet into the American business establishment.

Well, we all knew this was coming.  China has had two things going for them for more than two decades; they've manipulated their currency by keeping exchange rates artificially low, and they also just happened to own over a trillion dollars of U.S. government debt.  This makes it highly unlikely that the U.S. government is going to intervene as China, now infamous for producing and selling tainted retail products, begins to take over American food processing.  After all, when you are drowning in debt, you don't do anything to piss off your "banker".

We've all read the horror stories about tainted Chinese food processing.  Remember the infant deaths attributable to tainted baby formula?  Remember when we learned that Walmart dog food was made in China?  Yeah, the one that killed hundreds of our beloved pets?  Can anyone recall a "little problem" China had with Swine Flu?  Bird flu anyone?

China's food processing standards have proven to be pretty well non-existent.  Not two months ago I read that tiny trading partner Vietnam has executed a boycott against China's meat and fresh produce products.  The Vietnamese tired of getting sick and dying over Chinese fruits and vegetables being injected with poisoned chemicals that extended the shelf life of  Chinese produce but shorten that of the human who consumes it.  They tired of trying to overlook the Chinese practice of using bleach to cover the smell of rotten shrimp.  

So, get ready folks!  Be ready to be far more vigilant about the food you buy and consume.  Its's gonna be hard to avoid the heavy Chinese hand on your food supply because Smithfield Foods occupies a hell of a lot of shelf space in our local grocery store.   

You want to start inspecting your breakfast sausage lest you find a little "finger food" you didn't about a little trichinella in your ham?  And are you ready to accept more than chicken, turkey, beef or pork in your July 4th hot dogs?  Will we find a little "canine" in our hot dogs in the future?  After all, something has to be done with all that dog flesh made available from tainted dog food!

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Breasts In Politics; A New Political Theorem

Since I have dedicated three of my blogs to the subject of women's breasts during the past two years,  I guess I could be accused of having a fetish about them, and could easily be labelled a "dirty old man".  However, I beg your patience as I offer both a social, and political theorem about these wonderful globular protuberances.

But before I do, let me first say that breasts need not be large to command one's admiration.  I've seen breasts that are small and perky and ultimately lovely.  I've seen breasts that provide a lovely cleavage at the center of the chest, made even more lovely as they adorn a low cut dress.  I've seen breasts that are wide apart and seemed to want to "go their own way", heading in opposite directions...and yet still very attractive.

You see folks?   I am an equal opportunity breast lover.  And why not?  They command our attention at work (though you must never comment, nor allow your stare to linger, lest you find yourself without a job in an era of the crumbling "glass ceiling), we admire them in grocery stores, day care centers, gas stations, hardware stores and most especially in night clubs and bars where they are often presented in grand splendor.

I have deemed this as "breast power" because all a woman need do is swing their "chests" in our direction and we are under a spell.

So it is my contention that women need to do more with their "assets".  I am firmly convinced that we can elect a woman President if she'll just show a modicum of intelligence and generous cleavage.  There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin could have swung the election in John McCain's favor just by shutting up and unbuttoning the top two buttons on her blouse.

And I'm telling you right now that if Speaker of The House John Boehner was sitting across the table from a President with nice cleavage we would have already had a budget agreement.

But please, no silicone or botox.  Nancy Pelosi has already shone what a disaster that can be.

Breast Power Baby!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What I'll Do With My Power Ball Winnings


Well, I finally "bit" and went down and bought a ticket to the Power Ball drawing this evening.  I came back home and tucked my ticket away and turned on the Channel 15 news.  Coincidently, the two young weekend reporters were talking about the big drawing tonight, then they ran an interview piece about past big winners.  I was shocked to learn that 70% of all big winners have gone bankrupt!  WTF?

That shook me to my foundation!  So, I sat back and gave some serious thought about what I'll do with that winning ticket sitting in front of me.  Well, first, I won't do a thing.  I'll report Monday morning and present my ticket and opt for the lump sum payment.  

That should give me about $400,000,000 dollars.  I'll then take my check and deposit it to my credit union account and let it sit for a few weeks.  Having already thought this out, I plan to establish a $1 million dollar education fund for each of my young grandchildren.  The ones who have already reached maturity will receive a million dollar trust fund, made available to them in monthly installments when they are 25.  I do this so that they'll not sit back and wait for the money, but will pursue a career that will bring them both happiness and satisfaction.  I will then pay off the home mortgages and all outstanding debts for all of my children as well as my brother and his wife....and I would buy my brother all the Giant and 49er sports garb that he wants!

I will also write million dollar checks to St. Jude's Children Research Hospital and the Humane Society.

At this point I will stop and evaluate my next moves.  I will look closely at my circle of friends and the rest of my family.  If I begin to receive calls from friends or family who haven't called me in the last ten years I'll immediately remove them from possible charity.

To my other dear ones, I'll look at each family and friend and decide how I can best improve their lives without having money and/or greed ruin their lives, giving money where it would do the most good.

My wife wants to establish a charity in Vietnam.  It would support Vietnam war veterans and the country's orphans.  She would like to dedicate the rest of her life to ease the pain and suffering of those most vulnerable.  I would write her a check for tens of millions in order for her to achieve these lofty goals.

I would then donate my fifty-three year old house and buy two modest homes, no more than 2,000 square feet and furnished modestly with art deco and danish furniture; perhaps one in Florida, the other in Virginia where I could see my grandkids as much as I like.  Once re-settled, I would coordinate my time with my family's schedule and we would all set out to complete a bucket list I wrote a while back; taking them to places I most wish for them to see in their lifetimes.  What a joyous trip that would be!

I would set up a charity that supports the educations of the  most hard-working young people in our country.  One of the fields that would receive scholarship support would be for those who are willing to become animal vets.  

Lastly, I would buy one brand spanking new Mini-RV like I used to own and I would hit America's roads to see this great country one more time before I pass on.

Hey, someone's got to have the winning ticket! just might be this one sitting in front of me at the moment.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Most Sublime Feeling


The other day I was thinking about moments in your life that provided the most sublime feelings; those times when you feel fulfilled and living the role you were meant to play in this lifetime.  I thought about the many times I have sung for an appreciate audience, or wrote and gave a humorous speech that had every one in uproarious glee.  Those were wonderful moments but the satisfaction was fleeting, ending about the moment the time of the last hand clapping.

Then I thought on the deeper and more spiritual and more meaningful moments when I felt satisfied and pleasured by my place in the world.  And then I thought about the sublime pleasure I used to feel in having one of my children asleep in my arms.  When they were babies, they would settle into my arms, peer sleepily up at me, smack their little lips, then fall into the sleep of the innocents.  I can't tell you why but the feeling of your babes nestled into your arms is such a sensual and intimate experience.

Even when my babes were older I felt such power as I lifted them from the car, having fallen asleep after a night at the movies or a dinner out.  You bent down, lifted them gently into your arms and ferried them off to their beds.  And the level of trust they bestowed upon you was greater than the most glorious praise from anyone else.  

Even the simple act of looking in on them before you went to bed was so empowering.  As they lay in their beds sleeping, and dreaming of games and tomorrows joys, you look down to them, bend to kiss their cheek, loving them more for their quiet nighttime grace, you feel like you've done your job this day.  You've seen to their needs; you've provided a safe home for them, your work has put nourishment on their table, and you've done your best this day to guide them down a road that shows promise and happiness.

We had four children and we had them when we were too young.  That promises that you'll make many mistakes.  For all that, you look back on the times when you got it right, when your day ended and you were satisfied with that day.  

And when they are grown, or nearly grown, your child is fighting for adulthood, for their own unique identities, and your own personal views may not be those of your child.  The inevitable clashes will occur and the loss of intimacy between parent and child will often feel like a chasm so wide it will never be breached.  But, thank God, most often love and time and life experience will bring parent and child together again.

But once your children are grown, you will never, ever achieve those moments of sublime bliss when you cradled that babe nestled so incredibly in your arms.   Never again will you have little arms wrapped about your neck, head on your chest,  as you carry them off to bed.  

Perhaps the only experience that might approximate those moments is when you lay helpless in old age, with death near, as your child, now grown, lifts you up in your aging frailty, kisses your cheek and whispers both love and thanks for a time when the roles were reversed.

The sublime cycle of life...never to be denied.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Geesh! More Shopping Advice?


Yesterday the Department of Agriculture released their latest surveys on the average costs to feed a family of four.  They wisely broke the numbers down, based on a thrifty shopper, and then one for those who pay no attention to sales, coupons or discounts.  The range was wide indeed.  The thrifty family reported spending about $ 760 per month while the "free spender" spent almost double that at over $1300 per month.

When my wife and I were raising our kids there was no question that we would be "thrifty shoppers".  Military pay back in those days was far less than what the troops are paid now.  Even after ten years of service, and after having achieved commissioned office status, my pay was less than $600 dollars per month.  The six of us had to live on that so my wife sewed clothes for the kids and we ate a lot of hamburger.

I can still remember when our first foray into financial freedom was reached when we could go to the commissary and buy our food on any day of the month.  That meant we had sufficient money in the bank to cover the food bill....and didn't have to wait until payday to shop.  We weren't alone.  Pay day at the commissary was a circus as most military families also lived payday to payday.

The next rung on the "financial freedom" ladder did not come until after I retired and began working in lucrative civilian positions.  That was when we had reached the point where we could write any reasonable amount on a check and not have to check the balance.

Now I'm back to "thrifty shopper" status.  I'm retired, live on a fixed income and cost of living increases are rare, if they come at all.  So, as real inflation creeps into my "personal economy", i.e., the 15% annual increases in the price of food, in increased utility costs and increased service costs, I have to learn each year to live with a little less.

To date, I'm giving myself an A- for a grade on managing my finances.  I continually seek out ways to save money.  I try to time my gas fill-ups as the price of oil declines (I monitor this on line).  I seek out and clip coupons whenever possible, I sign up for rewards programs, and I'll wait until as late as possible in the season to turn on the Air Conditioning or the Heat.

I'm a bit perplexed about why folks don't bother with coupons.  This week I went into my local Fry's grocery store armed with coupons and my Kroger reward coupons, some of them include free items.
I was able to buy over $100 dollars worth of groceries for $32 dollars.  And no, I did not buy a single item that I would not have bought without the coupons.  Now, I know most folks, if someone handed them $62 dollars and change would not turn it down!  So why not clip those coupons!

I also hold back coupons to use in conjunction with a sale on items I need.  For example, every month 
Fry's sends me loyalty rewards coupons that are general in nature that gives me flexibility when choosing what to buy.  About once a month Fry's offers bone-in chicken breasts for .99 cents per pound.  By using my $1.50 off any meat selection coupon I'm able to bring the costs of those chicken breasts down to less than .70 cents per pound.  Fry's also gives me a coupon for a free dozen eggs.
I always wait until the price of eggs spikes up before I use that coupon and buy when eggs are on sale.  Fry's also offers up to .40 cents per gallon discounts on their gas when you spend a hundred dollars during any month.  I use these discounts and use my USAA credit card to buy my gas because USAA gives me back .3 cents for each dollar I spend on gas!

Speaking of USAA, I'm retired military and fortunate that I qualify for car and home insurance with USAA, at costs about half of what any other insurance company charges!

I have also learned that store brand merchandise has significantly improved their quality over the last few years.  I buy store brands whenever possible and find many of them superior to other well known, advertised brands.

Finally, even though I am often just cooking for one, I will, whenever possible, prepare food in bulk, then portion meals out in tupperware for freezing and eating later.  This is a huge savings winner!

I am by no means a "coupon queen"....I've witnessed women in the check out line in front of me run two carts of groceries through checkout, hand over a satchel of coupons, and have them walk out without spending a dime, and often with cash back!  That would probably be just to hard for me to manage but coupons and rewards programs are well worth using.

I do admit to one failure.  For years my daughter has been after me to join Amazon Prime, with  I am a big Amazon customer but just never wanted to shell out the annual $79 dollar annual costs for membership.  Then one day last month I finally engaged my brain and added up all the rewards for Amazon Prime.  For $79 bucks a year Amazon gives you free two day shipping, they offer free loans of thousands of books, free video streaming of tens of thousands of movies and TV programs.  They actually give you too much for this price and I suspect that some day they'll raise the fee!

But last month I gave up my $140 dollar cable bill, bought a ROKU unit and watch free streaming movies and even the new TV shows for free from Amazon and the hundreds of other ROKU channels!  Score!

Shop wisely folks!  Take advantage of what folks are willing to give you!