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September 2009

August 2009

Typelists, Steinbeck, and Books I Like

Today I added a typelist to my weblog so anyone reading it can click and instantly be directed to for a look at the books I like. This is very complicated for me, and I wanted the darn thing to show up on each and every post. I don't think it's going to work, at least not at first. But the bottom line is: I read most of the time, and I usually read papers and journals. Books are a luxury, something you do if time is available; I hate to just read a book, I want to know something about the person who wrote the words. All of my life people have seen me read and they always ask me who my favorite author is. I never could give them an intelligent answer until lately, because I used to read a lot of fluff and entertainment. Now that I am older I can't stand the fluff anymore and I can only become interested if its an important piece of literature written by an interesting character.

When I read the New York Times, I am sorry, I have to skip Maureen Dowd. She is the definition of fluff and I really can't be bothered; I go to the science pages instead. And when I was very young Stephen King could scare me to death; now that I am older he hasn't got a thought that could pump my adrenaline. But for some reason, John Steinbeck has really taken my heart. I think in part because I am so familiar with his central coast California home, Salinas. Several years ago on a beautiful spring day, I rented a little motel room, opened the back window of my truck, and went downtown in the ocean breeze to visit the Steinbeck center; it changed me quite a lot. In that place you can find something that defines the spirit of what America really is. Some of what I saw there brought me to tears; I understood, finally, the struggle of real poverty, destitution, and how success is finally measured. In Steinbeck's words you can find the essence of America, and witness greed's cruel consequences, you can achieve understanding. We are facing a time now similar to Steinbeck's own experience; so now he should be read again.

Whatever you do in your spare time, try to pick up a Steinbeck book. They are all worth reading and each one will leave you with much to think about. So if you can find my little typelist, it will direct you straight over to my favorite author....his wisdom is priceless.

Martha's Vineyard: Inappropriate or Not?

This year, and most of my other years, I am taking my regular staycation at home. Yes, some people would argue I am always on vacation, at least mentally, and certainly I celebrate too much. But my last real holiday fun--the kind of plans you make that cost cash and produce pictures--was so many years ago it is now only  a hazy memory. I am feeling excluded from the plane hopping, fun seeking, crowd of prosperous American tourists hell bent on success and platitude. My question is, "How did I get left behind?" "Why is my president off at Martha's while I ponder the destitution of probable unemployment?" Doesn't seem very fair, and I am worried about how the public may view his sense of empathy. In these times of strife, wouldn't it have been more sanctimonious to have taken a four day vacation in Orlando and then returned to work with a Mickey Mouse hat? I am angry with the Obamas for taking this luxury getaway while we are in such a financial three ring circus. He has next year, and the year after that, to embark on some history making royal excursion. I am angry about the gourmet food, red wine, and beer, flowing out of Martha's classy little vineyard real estate. The five-hundred-dollar, knock out your eyes, little pink sneakers Michelle was seen in have somehow captured my attention. I fail to get it. We are in a crisis, and I can see it going on all around me, but the president is whooping it up at a mansion getaway; the other politicians are all on little, meaningless, luxury vacations of their own. Meanwhile, back on Earth, we are all encouraged to shop at the thrift, trade goods not buy them, and instead of traveling offshore, get a tent and pitch it in the yard. Even if I could afford a shopping trip to buy camping gear, I probably would be scared to spend the money. I think it's proof how detached the Obamas, and all politicians, are from reality. If they cared about the insecurity most of us are coping with, then they could never have visited Martha this year; they would have staycationed more down to Earth, instead of vacationing so regal. Of course, the Obama's and our politicians are not the only public personalities detached from reality, many of our wealthy commentators and media stars are equally guilty. More on that at another time.

A Strange Day

Well I want to tell you what a strange day it was. I woke up not wanting to look at the Sunday paper. I laid in bed feeling tired, and smoky, strange and quiet. It was one of those days when your eyes just don't want to open, and you have a dull ache inside your mind. It was a sad day because now, in some drifting and foggy way, summer is over. It's time for my child to surrender to regular society once more; it's time for me to wear the facade and pretend I agree with our culture's pressure to conform. We don't belong to the carnival, he and I, so we have to face those who think they are authority. We have to look at his teacher tomorrow and hide our true misgivings; we are forced to bring our bag from Target and surrender it to the communal pool. I don't believe it is fair he go to bed at nine; he should stay up all night and look outside with me at the sky, the stars, the clouds, the moon. All of this nonsense, and the test scores, and so-called friends, and the trappings of daily hum-drum boredom are now his normal. But I guess he has to go there, I can't get him to read everyday. And the tick tick of mathematics is beyond my capacity, so I can't teach him algebra, or algorythims, or fractal geometry; I can only tell him my stories, and share with him my street wise wisdom, my code, the nuances of communication. He needs more than all I can give, he needs the greatest of minds, the fairest of judges, and the most highest of universities. He needs this ivory tower, and the safety of intellect, education, and freedom. The beginning of his journey, his first step, will once again start tomorrow. Out of his little bed and into his pretty dress shirt, with his levi shorts, and his slingy cool book bag from his YMCA, he takes his first steps back into regular society. I am not afraid for him; instead, I am afraid for those who underestimate my fiery little man. O well, soon Fall will arrive with our pumpkins and our annual trip to our favorite park. Maybe by then my head will ache less and my heart will be cheerful; giving my child up to the world is so sad....

Tax Free Weekend

You are probably wondering where in the world we have been...well, yesterday we traveled around to several Target stores and one Walmart to buy school supplies. We made just a few small purchases: pencils, notebooks, erasers, so on and so forth. But what really mattered was the total amount. All of the items we bought qualified for tax free. This meant once the ticket was complete, no additional tax was charged. This experience fostered in me a desire to shop uninhibited; I wanted to go on a garrulous 'free for all' spending binge compliments of Visa and Texas. A truth already understood: taxes hurt consumers, thereby affecting marketplace profit.

What might have happened if, instead of a bailout, we would have went without taxes for a year? Could this have not created a "boom mentality" and a hiring binge by small business? The so called franchise tax in Texas is a real problem for restaurants, trucking companies, energy and law, and other businesses whose total receipts add up to a large gross revenue. If Kay Bailey really wants Rick Perry's seat, then she needs to make a promise to Texas business: she needs to get rid of some of these punitive and over reaching taxes. People are sick of taxes, whether they reside in Texas or some other state. We are sick of overpaid politicians who do nothing except argue against each other's silly little party and not the issues.

A "boom mentality" is what we need to pull the country out of this financial mess. A 'get back to work' kind of happiness and enthusiasm achieved without burdensome taxes and whining politicians. I have to credit Schwarzenegger: he has, in his dialogue, tried to squelch the whining and incessant bully politics within his own state. But I am not sure he has met the ultimate bully Rick Perry: a man who stood on my television and tried to deride Kay Bailey like she was just a little girl on an adventure. Obviously, Perry doesn't have enough IQ to understand that his condescending behavior is an insult to all women voters. We in Texas should feel grateful that we did get at least one tax break this year; Austin let us add some school supplies, backpacks and what nots, to tax free weekend!!!! WHOOPEE

Water Your Priorities?

Here in my little area of Texas, water is becoming a hot topic. And in my little townhome community waste is everywhere. Rows and rows of potted plants litter the landscape; pots of unattractive dirt with dingy looking flowers; yet, my neighbors are pouring on the liquid. In front of the laundry, one of the residents planted an attractive lime tree, but the fruit is just going to waste. I would like to go pick me a lime or two, but I know she would come after me with her broom. Under my living room window is a bare patch of ground. Another neighbor has been attempting to grow grass on this little muddy patch all summer. Gallons and gallons of water down the drain, and all we have to show for it is some lonely swatches of fuzzy grass. Most of our trees are suffering from lack of water; the tops are drying out and limbs are coming down. 

Many of our residents are allowed to grow vegetation near their own units, however, none of them will grow anything to eat. If you suggest they use the water for a more practical purpose, they become defensive. I guess tomatos and peppers are ugly plants; and grapevines serve no use. And I am sure they will want more money to pay for this wasted water; and I know this extra expense is going to get added to our already high condo fees. But whatever happens to Texas in this long and expensive drought, happens to the rest of the country. From small homes to large ranches, the economic recovery, for all of us, is hampered by the drought. And, hopefully, we can see an end to this suffering next month. But even so, fall rain will not replace the livestock, the grain crops, or the individual financial losses suffered this summer. I really don't want to pay for the frivolity of my neighbors; and the only real winners in my small community are the birds, lizards, and small mammals that enjoyed the odd drink.

But I am hoping something has been learned here. Maybe when my neighbors take a drive down the lovely roads of Texas, they will see some beauty in the grapevines, peppers, and tomatoes. Maybe when they plant their next pot of pretty little flowers they will squeeze in an ugly and useless tomato or pepper. Because flowers are beautiful snuggled around green leaves, in a vase, in a dining room, with a lovely glass of wine...made from grapes, with a nice jar of jelly, for breakfast with a friend, or a child. 

Finding Ground

Sometimes I feel stupid for ever writing at all and I know many of you feel the same; it's like picking up the phone and speaking into a dial tone. No one is ever going to hear you because no one is really there. So, of course, you never know what you should be saying into the mouthpiece. What topic does this phantom audience really want to hear? A multitude of issues are pounding the public arena. In fact, we  are saturated with information, both false and outdated. What can I possibly add to the discourse, and why would anyone want to listen anyway?

The truth is I am tired of healthcare, poverty, foreclosures, job losses, cash for clunks, and all of these other horrid discussions. Even if my point of view concerning these subjects brought me instant fame and a compound in Santa Barbara, I don't think I would feel passion for my work. Sadly, however, these depressing topics are snuffing the happiness out of my creativity and most of the time I just feel dark and angry. Sometimes I worry about the children born years into the future, what kind of literary legacy will all of us leave for them? Dark and depressing tales of poverty, murder, and homelessness will no doubt litter the market landscape. It isn't time for me to write, if I have to resort to all of that. So maybe for now, I wil settle for the dial tone, and in my heart I hope you are there, for if you are, then I may have inspiration, and an write something more meaningful than a 'how-to,' or a 'doom and gloom.'

Today we see a lot of desperation coming off the page and into the store. Writers are trying to capitalize penning 'surviving this' or 'beating the odds on that.'  But we must remember this digital record will survive long after we are all gone, and we must know future generations will judge our intellect and measure our humanity.  

Who Should Survive?

One of the funniest lies and misconceptions about our health industry in the United States is the notion that people from all over the world are flocking here for care. Well, first of all, no one has come up with a figure on this flocking of foreign nationals, but even if we had a figure it would not explain how these people are funding their own care. Has it ever occurred to anyone involved in this argument that most of these flockers, shall we call them, are getting reimbursed once they return home to their own country? Yes, the ones whom are not 'pro bo no' and reside in industrialized modern western cultures, are getting this care paid for by their home country. And suppose some of them are in the world can they afford it? Could it be that because they haven't been ripped off for a lifetime, they can now afford to pay if they have to? How has our own health care industry funded these so-called first class research and technology miracles??? Well maybe we could look at the bankruptcy rate connected to medical bills and then compute a figure based on what is actually overpaid into our system. And as to the second section of this lie, most of these other countries don't send their folks over here anyway, and they do everything they can to keep us out. If you immigrate to a country with nationalized medicine, then you better be able to pass a very stringent physical. In fact, many of us are flocking to places like India and Mexico so we can afford costly surgeries and care. The hospitals in some of these countries are as nice, or even better, than the finest ones here. 

If you believe in divinity, karma, God, Jesus, or any of these other religious and moral notions, then you must also believe in punishment for those who are greedy, cruel, and cold. On a quiet night in Texas you may have given serious thought to the oath of love, charity, and human decency. You may have wondered what it was like to watch your child, brother, parent, or friend suffer while insurance companies and doctors demand huge payments. You might have met a family member or friend who was unable to meander the maze of health insurance and patient care inequity. You might have heard of someone who suffered and died this way. You may have wondered about logic, balance, and inability to function under duress. This is the crux of the health care issue. So here is where we need to work; and whatever you think of Obama and Hillary, and ridiculous Pelosi, whatever, or whoever these silly people are...they are certainly right about one thing: we simply can not continue in this direction, for if we do, and then if you believe in any of the above, then you know we are going to fail as a citizenry.

Recently I watched a commercial featuring a Canadian woman. She claimed she was meted out care by her own country, put on a long waiting list, she was about to die, and that only the good old US health care system would ante up. Well, that's a complete fallacy engineered to scare the misinformed. I lived up there myself and still have many friends in that country. Canada has taken on more responsibility, and it is getting harder for them to fund their system, but you would never find an honest Canadian that would tell you they would give up their health care system for ours. Never. They wouldn't trade places with us for anything. And just one more point about regulation in regard to Canada: because they carefully monitored their mortgage business, they are not experiencing the so called 'bubble.' Canadians are not losing their homes, not due to mismanaged medical care, and not due to a collapsed and corrupt system of greed. How strange. Do we not deserve the same, after all, Canada IS a capitalist country?...

About Healthcare: Reform, Obama Care, Preventive Medicine, Socialism......

Today should have been a normal weekly stop into the doctor's office for my son's nurse administered allergy shot. But somehow it became something larger, and now it is a question about privilege, hardluck, and the monetary value we place on a person's life or well being. And along this road, as we mature as a western society, we must ask ourselves, "Who should survive and what role does preventive medicine play in our lives?" It is a tricky question because as a responsible adult and someone who has worked and contributed to American society, I feel like my child should count. He is, after all, just a child. He didn't even choose me as a parent for good or for bad. And I have only one child, not a litter. So who is this person at the desk to tell me I can't bring him to the clinic next week for his shots if I don't immediately pay a paltry $350 balance on a bill I have yet to receive. I think she may be someone whose family never fought in a war, or someone whose brother never fell to a drug addiction garnered in Vietnam. She may be a girl whose family has lived on our country's doorstep, and she may have visited a local emergency room for regular garden variety care; she may have let my hard working tax paying family and myself pay for her education and her bills. So here I am, strong and angry, demanding this request in writing and getting a refusal. I am getting dunned by someone who is half my age and has not one tenth of my life experience. I am standing in a clinic and I am disrespected in this fashion. After the hugs and the apologies from the doctor's wife, and the denials, and my shock and tears, all that is learned is nothing. For no one can really understand that moment until they have lived it. I wouldn't even bother to use the terminology currently popular in our argument about this topic; it taints the process and it clouds the reality of what is. But there we have it over our heads in black and white and any other color we want. Somehow they have missed their mark and the reform they are asking for is nothing. It matters to very few and it makes very little sense. If you can't take your insurance around the country, just like you do in your vehicle, then what is the use? If you can't collect, even a small figure to pay for it, from the hobo or the girl in the window, then what is the use? If you can only fund health insurance by forcing it on those who don't even care about their health, then how can it succeed? And if you have clinics charging exorbitant sums without impunity for small services like a simple shot, then what is the definition of corrupt?

But my boy is just a little thing that wants to live. And I see he is in danger from his allergies, and swine flu (that originated in a very dirty area of Mexico), and he suffers from respiratory illness in the winter that causes him to suffer beyond belief. And yet, I have this battle with insurance, clinics, and clueless little twits in the window, in public, on a beautiful Wednesday morning, in front of a little boy, who already wonders if he isn't too much of a burden...

Aliens would be fun!!

If aliens beamed into your house from deep space and asked for a 24-hour tour of Earth, what would you show them?
Submitted by Writer's Notebook.

If aliens beamed into my house, and asked for me to show them something, I would take them to the great city of Houston. We would look at the city from several points of view, and take lots of pictures of the beautiful, and world famous skyline. Then we would drive over the 610 bridge and take a look at the lazy ship channel, the steel yards, the tugboats, and we would smell the salty air. Then we would go down to McCarty Street for a beer and Mexican lunch; we would visit with the locals and play a game of pool. Later, after lunch was settled and we argued over the pool game, we would head on over to Airline Market for fresh fruit, delicious Mexican pastries, and spices for them to take back to Mars. I would show them the trucks, the busy people, and the beautiful new condos downtown. That night we could visit the Alley Theater and take in a play...then we could all go home.

Texas: Economics and Determination

Famous for energy and bar b q, Texas is truly a rich land loaded with opportunity and ingenuity. Even in this dismal economy, Texans are hanging onto hope with determination and grit. But how did this state of varied geography populated with such diverse culture manage the economic storm with such success? While most of us do not agree with everything, Rick Perry, our governor clamors to, most of our politicians really care about more than personal promotion. For example, Texas recently scrapped a plan for more toll roads. If you travel to neighboring Oklahoma, then you can witness first hand the desolution a toll road can bring to the communities in its path. When people travel long distances, they tend to resist visiting businesses and communities stationed along toll routes due to the inconvenience. Toll roads are like constrictor snakes squeezing the life out of everything around them. Business does not develop along these routes and cities along them rarely prosper. Texans work hard to perfect their roadways and this results in an atmosphere of friendliness, prosperity, and inclusion. Oklahoma toll roads, and others like them, have the opposite affect on travelers. People feel emotionally repressed when traveling through these areas and recreational opportunities are far flung and mediocre.

Texans are devoted to prosperity. This work ethic, along with a great legislature. should help weather the ongoing slow economy. I commend my fellow Texans for their decision concerning the toll. Jobs are hard to find in the Houston area, and good paying jobs are scarcer still. But I know when the economy starts to pull ahead that Texas will maintain its business and ethical leadership. We have what it takes.