Archive for June, 2011

 That Time Of The Month

Thank goodness that’s over. The thirtieth day couldn’t come quickly enough for me. I think I say this every year, but this was by far the hardest month so far. We had so much stuff going on this month, just finding the time to write was enough of a challenge, but I also struggled to find topics that I thought would be interesting. I hope I didn’t bore anyone to death with my ramblings. I’m pretty sure all of my friends have blocked me on Facebook because they are tired of hearing me rant. Well, if you’re still reading this, thanks for coming along for the ride and more than likely I’ll be punishing myself again next June and we’ll do it all over again. In the meantime, I will return to my regular schedule of once or twice a month when I have something important (or at least not completely tedious) to say. Thanks for listening!

 Projects Aplenty

Summer is always busy, but this month has seemed especially crazy with plenty of projects keeping me busy. Today we had our friend and concrete expert finish the patio we started two years ago by adding some steps to the face. Between that, adding the finishing touches to Josie’s play table, and working to complete my basement bar project, I don’t know if I’m ever going to have a chance to sit and relax again. Summer is going to fly by, and next thing I know it will be winter again, and I’ll have a new set of projects to work on.

 Wasting Money To Make Money

As a kid I remember collecting Susan B. Anthony dollar coins when they first came out in 1979. This attempt to resurrect dollar coinage in the United States was an unqualified failure — for a number of reasons. The most important being that it was something new and people are resistant to change (no pun intended). But it was also easy to confuse the Susan B with quarters, as they were the same color, and only slightly larger. So the total indifference by the public to this new coin was attributed by most to these factors. Fast forward twenty years, and take two: the Sacagawea dollar. It corrected the perceived issues with its predecessor, being larger and a different color, making it impossible to confuse it with a quarter. And it mattered not one whit. A decade later, the only place you can expect to find these coins in circulation is change from a Metrolink ticket machine.

Given this impressive track record, it should come as no surprise that Congress once again jumped into the fray and approached the problem with unassailable logic: if the Sacagawea dollar was good, then surely 44 more dollar coins (displaying the images of all of our former Presidents) would have to be that much better, right? So it is written and so it shall be. Here we are now, not even halfway into this new program that began in 2007, and we are learning just how pointless and wasteful this whole thing has become. NPR is reporting today that the US Mint has produced, and the Federal Reserve is storing, a billion of these coins which now sit languishing in vaults all over the country. The cost so far for producing these is over $300 million. But is anyone calling for an end to this madness? Hardly. In fact, since the program was created by an act of Congress, it would be against the law to stop. So we will continue minting coins that no one wants until every former president’s face appears on one. Total cost to taxpayers at that point will be something north of $700 million dollars, not counting the cost to store and guard all of that loot for almost a decade.

All of this wouldn’t be so bad if Congress had the political will to eliminate the paper dollar bill and at least save a little money in the process (although the NPR story points that there is reason to believe that there wouldn’t be any savings at all in pursuing that), but no one is brave enough to kill the iconic symbol of our economy. The political will is there to go on producing worthless coins for years, however. Well, at least Ecuador (which uses US currency) is happy.

 Home From The Hospital

Noah gave us a scare last night. He had been running a fever since Friday, but by Sunday morning he was feeling better and his temperature was down. Then he started complaining about neck pain and he couldn’t turn his head, so we started worrying that it might be meningitis. Calling our pediatrician, he recommended a trip to the ER, and off Dixie went last night. After a long night of waiting for tests and test results, they concluded that he was presenting with atypical symptoms of a strep infection that was causing not only inflammation of the lymph nodes in his neck, but also seemed to spawn pneumonia in his right lung. A couple of courses of intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotics later, the doctor prescribed some more for the road and sent us home. He’s still not a hundred percent, but we’re happy to have him back home. And I think he’s happy to be here.

 Reading and Writing

I envy people who view reading a book as a way to kill an afternoon. It usually takes me months to read a book. Part of it is I just don’t read that fast, but mostly it’s a matter of finding the time to sit down and read. The time that works best is bedtime right before I fall asleep, however, reading puts me to sleep faster than a double shot of melatonin, so I usually end reading a page, maybe two, before I’m out like a light. At a page a day, you can see that even a magazine could take me all winter to get through.

Writing I do a little better at, though not much. It usually takes a specific challenge like this month, or NaNoWriMo to motivate me. I guess what I’m saying is that I like to read and write, I just wish it wasn’t so challenging.

 White Castle

play table almost completeJosie’s castle / play table is almost done. In just a couple of hours this morning I was able to get a coat of primer on everything and assemble it in her room. She can’t wait to start playing with it, but I think I may need to take it back apart in order to finish painting it. I attached some 1x2s to the walls in her room to support the table, so it’s actually pretty easy to take it in and out. Josie wants pink and purple on her castle, and I’m going to work that into the color scheme. I should have it painted tomorrow and I’ll post some photos in my album of the finished product.

 Random Gas Prices

A year ago I wrote about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and I commented about how the prices at the gas pumps had remained unchanged. The normal annual pattern of price increases leading up to summer, with subsequent decreases, had been interrupted for some reason. Here we are a year later, and gas prices have indeed increased, but they went up in February and March this year, instead of April and May, and now, in the last few weeks, they have actually declined by about twenty cents a gallon nationwide. What’s going on?

So it seems that the perennial excuse by the oil companies that summertime demand for gas drives the prices up at the same time every year is completely bogus and that the oil companies really don’t have that great an understanding of the market forces at work in their own industry. Could this be true? Funny how we haven’t heard any of the talking heads speculating about the potential reasons for the fluctuations in gas prices. This time of year, it’s usually a lead story. I would be okay with an explanation that it is really just completely random and that no one can predict what gas prices will be. But since we claimed to know what caused it in the past, and now we apparently don’t, it leads me to think there might be something more sinister going on here. Maybe it’s just me.

 Marine Week In St. Louis

I still can’t figure out how St. Louis was lucky enough to be selected as the location for Marine Week 2011, but I’m not complaining. It was a great way to spend a father/son afternoon. Noah got a big kick out of the helicopters, the weapons, and the tank. Here’s a short video of our adventure:

 I Bought A Cow

I challenge anyone to watch the documentary Food, Inc. and not be influenced to make at least a few changes in the way you eat. More than likely, you’ll change a lot. You’ll look at that half-pound chicken breast and wonder if the chicken was still able to walk, supporting its unnatural weight. You’ll wonder what dose of antibiotics you’re receiving in that burger you just ate. Most importantly, you’ll wonder if cheap food really is the blessing we all assume it to be, when you take into account the hidden costs associated with eating it.

And you may even go off the deep end, like we have, and buy your own cow. Actually, it’s only half of a cow, and it’s in our freezer. But it was raised eating grass on a Missouri pasture not too far from here, it was slaughtered on June 4, dry-aged, vacuum-wrapped, frozen, and delivered to our door today. We figure it will last us about a year and it cost less than five dollars a pound.

Without wading into the debate about so-called “happy meat” and whether it even exists, I’ll just say that the fact that grass-fed beef is healthier for you than grain-fed beef is enough by itself to justifiy the decision. And I believe this method of raising livestock is more sustainable, so there are environmental benefits as well. It may end up costing us more in the long run, but maybe that’s what beef is supposed to cost?

 Chicago Holds Its Breath

After last year’s McDonald v Chicago decision by the Supreme Court, I wrote about how the tide seemed to be turning with respect to recognition of our basic human right to self-defense. I guess I should have known that just because the Supreme Court decides in your favor does not mean your opponent will acquiesce. Much like a child that holds its breath and stamps its feet in a fit of defiance, the City of Chicago has been throwing a tantrum for the last year over the outcome of this case. While they did repeal the handgun ban, they replaced it with another ordinance that appears to be equally oppressive. They refused to pay the winning side’s attorney fees, claiming that the Supreme Court decision did not represent a clear victory. That dispute made its way to the US Court of Appeals, and Chicago was once again defeated. The city also appears to be denying the suburb of Oak Park, a fellow defendant, any protection from the expenses associated with the case.

No one likes to be told they are wrong, much less being proven wrong in court, but come on Chicago, man up. Stop behaving like an insolent six-year-old that just lost a game of Chutes and Ladders. Can we all be adults about this? Meanwhile, the path to gun ownership in Chicago has apparently not gotten easier, in any practical sense. So you are risking another round of lawsuits, the outcome of which is a foregone conclusion at this point. To use the legal term, the Second Amendment has now been “incorporated” into the equal protection clause, thus it applies to all Americans at the state and local levels. Any further infringement upon the rights of your residents should necessarily be a painful and costly endeavor for you. Isn’t it time to cut your losses? Or are you still hoping you can take your ball and go home?