What's on my mind.

29 May 2007

I don't do efficiency, I work for the government

Real quick post on bureaucracy.

I work for the State of Alabama. Apparently, under the care of our newly retired property manager and his predecessor, our department has never "lost" a piece of equipment (actual loses (i.e. dropped in the river) were properly documented) and all property audits were passed with flying colors. I'm sure that any audit of general supply monies were also easily passed (he was known for giving out individual leads for mechanical pencils, individual cheap pens, and requiring requisition forms for everything. Understand that a requisition form had to be filled out so that all of these things could be bought in the first place. We have to fill out another form in order to be given any of the supplies.

We, also, have to have duplicate vehicle request forms - a copy to turn in to get the keys and the original that gets turn in with the keys that has the mileage (beginning, ending,& total) and gallons of gas and quarts of oil (if applicable) bought.

I am filling out a requisition form for 8 AA batteries, two box of staples, and a ream of paper in order to print off all of these damn forms!

Life sucks, sometimes!

We got some bad news Saturday. My sister had a CT scan Friday and the cancer is in her liver now. She had an MRI Sunday and learned that she has 5-6 months with treatment and without (and maybe with) it she'd have about a month. Dad's probably going to go to NC this week and he may stay until the end. Anna really wants to make it to Matt's birthday. (Matt, if you are reading this - go away) My sis-in-law is planning a surprise party for his 50th and Anna was going to come down. Now the party may have to be moved to Wilmington.

What really sucks about this is that I somehow came out feeling sorry for myself. Anna has lived more in the last three years than I have in the last 30. She is so full of life. Loves to hang out with friends, take her dog to the beach, go to supper with family... it really sucks eggs that she is too tired to do much now. I wish... a lot of things.

16 May 2007

Eating on $21 a week

...is damn hard to do, as several lawmakers are discovering.

A friend of the family and mother (I'll call her TR) of my former Little Sister (yeah, she finally left the bastard!!!!) used to get about $100 (maybe $150), if I remember correctly, when my LS was still at home and under 18 (That's for 2 people). That's not much to feed two people on. For years the TR went without so her daughter had enough. This screwed up her appetite/eating habits for a long time.

Now she gets $23 a month. Yes, twenty-three dollars.

My friend can't drive so I take her shopping once a month. My Dad drives her to doctor appointments most weeks and will stop at the store if she needs something in between. Before the monthly shopping trip, TR has to subtract out of her cash money she owes anyone, money for emergencies (never much, see previous), money for certain items cheaper at other stores, and money to use her landlord's phone ($5 a month!) All of this comes out of the approximately $250-275 dollars of her disability check she actually gets. The rest is used by her payee (an employee of the State, appointed to take care of her fiances due to TR's illnesses) to pay rent, water, electric, pharmacy bill (medicare copay and OTC meds), and the payee fee. TR very carefully figures how much she has to spend and how much of her pre-tax subtotal needs to be. Then she writes a shopping list with the expected price of everything. I carry a calculator to keep track of the total as she shops. She usually goes to the fish counter last. She budgets a couple of dollars and uses anything left over (budget-actual cost) to by fish and sometimes chicken or beef. All meat is repackaged and frozen (cooked if necessary) into meal sized portions. She focuses on fish because the Drs have told her to eat more protein and fish is the easiest to eat without teeth (that's a whole other story) and on a budget (obviously no scallops or salmon). There is usually some fish fairly cheap and a pound goes a long way.

This month her limit was $78 pretax for everything - food, pet food, off-brand Dawn,...all of it. She was lucky and got to buy about 3lbs of whiting and 1lb of catfish.

I typically walk in the store with no list and no worries as to how much it will cost. I'm only feeding myself (+ 1 dog and 3 cats). I feel bad sometimes when I buy a frozen meal or 2lbs of cherries or pre-cut broccoli because I too lazy to cut it up myself - I waste money on convenience and luxury foods while she pines for cheese puffs. I am rich and, if you are reading this on your own computer, so are you.

BTW food-stamps does not cover non-edible necessities of life (toilet tissue, dish liquid, laundry detergent, shampoo,....) just food and in some places not all food. Some state don't allow prepared meals/food with food stamps (no stopping at the deli for fried chicken on the 4th); some states don't allow meat (no hamburgers for the 4th either, or frying your own chicken) (this may no longer be true anywhere). On the plus side the state doesn't tax its own money and food stamp purchases are tax free (a big plus here, as state and county taxes add up to 8%, 9% in the city).

15 May 2007

Monday Photo Shoot

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of something beginning with the letter "B". That shouldn't be too brain-busting, right?

Blackberries. Well, they'll be black eventually. I just have to keep an eye on them so the birds don't eat them all first!

These are Ballerina Roses, a simple climbing rose.

This one could also count for the letter C, K, U, D, and S.

This is my bass. My parent's bought it for my brother to audition for and go to college with (to study bass performance). That didn't work out so well and when he came home 2 yrs later I got to upgrade:-) I don't play anymore (I never was much for solos) so the 'rents are going to get it fixed (needs some regluing) and sell it soon. I think it is pretty; I think all of the violin family have nice lines but basses have the best shape - droopy shoulders, long necks.... It looks a little sad just standing in my living room waiting to be played. (Not sure why the pic looks blurry.)

Update: Here is my photo shoot auf Deutsch.

11 May 2007

Weekend Assingment #165

Weekend Assignment #165: You've had your share of birthdays by now. Relate one or two that stick out in your mind. Could be a happy birthday, or an important birthday, or a birthday when something interesting but unrelated happened. Any interesting birthday works.

Extra Credit: What birthday are you looking forward to? Numerically, I mean.

Let's see. I remember who was at my 3rd birthday - first memory I can date. That is also the day my grandfather died. (I have a hazy picture/memory of him but it seems more like a memory of a picture than an actual scene) One year I had 4 birthday parties - my real b-day with parents and brother, with friends, with my grandparents in Illinois, and with my older sibs in Alabama. I don't know what year that was. Obviously we took the big summer trip in early July that year. No mailing in those presents. My 16th, no new car but my parents, brother, and a couple friends went to Burke Lake (Fairfax county, VA) for a picnic and canoeing. The four of us "kids" brought the canoe around to the boat launch and on the way we tried chasing ducks. Four paddlers and we still couldn't catch 'em. The canoe sat pretty low in the water with all four of us (now it does with just my parents and me!). My 21st my folks and I went camping for the first time in years (hadn't gotten them to sleep on the ground since). I awoke on my 22nd below West Spanish Peak (San Isabel National Forest, CO). Awesome scenery. My mom shipped me cupcakes and a tub of icing to share with the rest of the "field campers". My 0th birthday was pretty darn exciting too, but I don't remember it (nor does Mom for that matter).

I'm not looking forward to any particular birthday. It is just a number. It's my nieces' and nephews' birthdays that get me - the oldest is 25!!!! The youngest will be 20 in October. Damn, I'm old.

P.S. - if I'd been in town I'd have taken photos of my TV and the camp stove. I wish I didn't watch as much TV as I do but sometimes I just want to vegetate. I was debating taking the stove with me on my overnight camping trip (to cook or not to cook, that is the question...). I find the temperature difficult to judge and control properly. As I use it more I will get better and not burn the eggs to the pan. I finally decided I really wanted to be able to make tea in the morning and stuck it in the car. And completely forgot tea bags.

04 May 2007

don't have a title

I think part of the reason I've been so "talkative" lately is that there is something I don't want to think or talk about - my older sister.

Last week Dad told me she is applying for disability and figuring out if she will "retire" completely or work part time. I see advantages to both. If she works part time then she has something to keep her mind occupied and a bit of purpose to the week but it will be very draining. If she doesn't work she can rest all she needs and spend more time with the family and her friends, which is what makes life good. Obviously, if she isn't deemed 100% disabled she will have to work but be careful not to make too much money so she doesn't lose SSI disability or medicaid.

If you are wondering, she has breast cancer. It isn't a curable form. She was diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago. This is just about when the Dr predicted it would start getting bad. The main reason she is looking at disability is that she is now so tired after work she can't do anything in the evenings and hardly has the energy to do anything on the weekends. Just work and sleep is no life.

I hope my niece gets a job in Wilmington this summer (hope her mother will let her), so she can spend lots of time with Sis. They've always been very close. It's not fair that just as I get old enough (and paid enough) to go visit and get to spend time with her, she's sick.

She's very different than me. She is such a people-person. And a talker! She's had a really good attitude (always did). This sucks but sometimes life is that way. She'll have fun right up to the end.

They are having a hard time managing her pain. Mom said she's getting radiation by IV or something (don't understand how, Mom didn't have details but said rad. not chemo).

Sorry, I'm rambling.

02 May 2007

Put a Boot in Your @$$

I gave a shout out the other day to IdealistLefty because I think she writes some of my thoughts better than I do. But I still have my own thoughts buzzing around – so here’s my take.

This morning driving to work NPR was doing a story I didn’t care much about so I changed to one of the country stations for a couple of minutes of music. They were playing Toby Keith’s song about 9/11, the “we’ll put a butt in your ass…” one. (He’s done a couple as I recall) This one just toasts my tush. I didn’t really have a problem with us going into Afghanistan; unfortunately we are still there trying to stitch together a nation of tribes. But the chorus of the song has a few things wrong, IMHO.

To the average American the attacks on September 11, 2001 came out of the blue, no doubt. I was a shocked as anyone. To defense analysts, foreign policy wonks, and the like it wasn’t expected but not unsurprising. The method and location may have been a surprise; it was a bold move to attack in the USA. The number of dead was surprising. But the fact that Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and lots of others wanted Americans dead was well known. They were looking for bin Laden already. In a quite, sneak up on you way, rather than the post-9/11 in your face, we’ll let everyone know we’re looking for you, and give you lots of publicity way. It would be unfair in Hide-and-Seek to start looking without counting to 10 first (and not too fast) but this isn’t a school yard game. Bin Laden most likely assumed we were looking for him and took appropriate precautions. Now he knows for sure and has most likely doubled the precautions. (He’s like 6ft tall and on dialysis and yet we can’t find him!)

The Statue of Liberty did start shaking her fist but not, as Toby implies, at the terrorists but at our own government. The PATRIOT Act is not patriotic, despite careful wording to make a nice acronym. Ms Liberty was shaking her fist at the weakening of civil liberties. She shook her fist at the round-up of (vaguely) Middle Eastern looking persons. She is shaking her fist at the fear of immigrants that still simmers. She is shaking her fist at the detainment of “enemy combatants.” Neither criminals nor POWs, they are left in a legal limbo this country, home of the Bill of Rights, should not allow. She shakes her fist at government officials who lied to her people. She is shaking her fist at those of us who sit quietly by and let this continue.

Speaking of those of us on the home front – what home front? In the “War on Terror” we are not asked to change our way of life AT ALL. Unlike any previous war, most Americans need make no sacrifice. Certainly the friends and family of military personal wounded or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan make sacrifices (not to mention the soldiers themselves). But most of us go on about our daily lives without change, except for those yellow ribbons stuck on the back of the cars, trucks, and SUVs. Or maybe to sniff at anyone who dares question the war in Iraq because they aren’t supporting the troops*. No wonder Bush can continue to stay the course over there.

I agree with Idealist Lefty, the phrase “over there” makes it easier to ignore the war. It makes it something we don’t have to deal with on a daily basis. It makes it something foreign.

It’s lunch time and I’ve run out of steam, so I’ll stop for now.

* Italics meant to convey sarcasm.

4-Door, Sedan, 2-Door, SUV?

Yesterday I went to register my NEW CAR(!). When the lady asked me what kind of car it was - a sedan, SUV, 2-Door? I said station wagon because that's what it is. It isn't an SUV; it isn't a hatchback; it is a station wagon. A small one (Impreza) and one called a "sport wagon" (jumbo shrimp, anyone?) by Subaru but not an SUV. It is listed on the registration as a 4-door because "wagon" is no longer a choice. What? Two cars ago (register 1st time in 1997) I had a wagon. I'm not sure if it was listed as "wagon" or "5-door" on the form but certainly not as a 4-door.

I think my friend's Outback Sport might qualify as a "crossover SUV" (even though it is older than the term) and could qualify as SUV for the form. It is the same vehicle as mine but has 2" more clearance and different trim (making it, oddly, 0.5" wider). But really it's a small wagon, too. I will have to ask her how it is described since she moved to AL '03ish.

Why do so few car makers make station wagons now? Besides America's love of the SUV. They are far more practical and safer (in general), never mind more fuel efficient on average. An Expedition screams "soccer mom" as much as any Taurus wagon ever did!

01 May 2007


If you like my political rantings, perhaps you'll like Idealistlefty. She's a bit more articulate than I, more focused on politics, and has more "street cred" than me. Needless to say, I like what I've read there. I hope she has lots of readers.

Maybe someone someday will read a blogger's opinion and maybe, just maybe, think about his own opinions.

I can dream can't I?