The U.S. Federal Budget

Without looking it up!

How many years has it been since “our” congress completed one of their main jobs per the constitution and actually passed and confirmed a Federal Budget; Not a stop gap or limited budget?

2 years
4 years
6 years
8 years
12 years

Throw the rascals out, ALL OF THEM, none of them truly deserve your respect or your support. The opportunity to make our government better occurs every two years. Based on the fact that we are already seeing political ads on TV in Iowa it seems that we have an opportunity coming soon. I believe that In as little as 4 years, people in the ” fly over ” states can send a message that will start to accomplish the task nation wide.

If you chose “eight” above and it does not make you a little uneasy file your papers you have a definite future in politics. Particularly if you are only capable of looking at issues that are directly in front of you rather than the future of the whole country.

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U.S. Grant and Donald Trump

US Grant became president about 3 years after a civil war that divided our country and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our citizens on the battle field. We killed our fellow countrymen with such abandon that if you add the casualties together in all the other wars fought by the US since the Civil War you would fall well short of the blood-letting called the American Civil War. Shortly after the war we suffered a presidential assassination, A Presidential Impeachment Trial decided by only one vote and then the election of US Grant into an atmosphere that can only be described as acrimonious. Grant was an imperfect man. He chose badly for many of his cabinet members, He on occasion drank to excess. Many Senators literally hated him while members of his own party worked night and day to undermine him, He was a god-like hero to half the country and a demon to the other. A division that was not entirely drawn on the Mason Dixon Line. He made bad financial decisions. He participated in nepotism He was bloodied by war and politics but continued to try and follow a path of  equality and reconciliation with most of his enemies until it was proven that no reconcile was possible.

Now our country is once again divided remarkably along the same lines that divided it shortly after the Civil War. Many believe that the political system is un-repairable but I would believe that  the events during and following the Civil War argue that we can repair our divisions.

If what I believe is true, how then can it be fixed.?  At the present time it would seem to me  that our politicians would rather rail against the other party than seeking solutions. Democrats seemingly  can only see Republicans as the cause and facilitators  of all the problems facing our country. Republicans on the other hand seem to feel exactly  the same way about Democrats

Grant gave us the solution to the political, social and racial divisions we see in front of us today. In the aftermath of yet another bloody battle of the Civil War filled with great numbers of casualties and when it seemed that the North could even lose the war Grant emphatically told his officers , “Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.”

Simply replace the word Lee in the above quote with the word Democrats or Republicans and the message is clear. Instead of worrying and complaining about what the other side is doing or going to do perhaps our energies might be better spent worrying about what we are going to do.

Now I must add that if managed to you read political bias into this statement on either side of the spectrum, then to paraphrase Eldridge Cleaver, you are indeed “part of the problem not part of the solution.”

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”


Take hope! History is on our side.


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The Face of Poverty

I worked at the Johnston Partnership food pantry today. I try to work at least one day a week when I am in town. The place was packed this morning with the warmer weather creating  a constant stream of people of all races and probably all religions. I would like to share with you some experiences from today.
The first involved an elderly woman of what appeared to be Southeast Asian descent. We have a special place in the pantry for items that are either out of date, going out of date or going to spoil soon. Things in this area are outside of the allotment that families normally get so they make take these in addition to their allotment with no limit. This morning we had some bananas that were overly ripe and the woman was grateful to get them because as she told me in very careful halting English that her son loved bananas dipped in flour and fried and those overly ripe bananas would be perfect for that. Previous to that as I helped her around the pantry she had given me no inkling that she could speak a word of English but she was obviously so proud that she would be able to make her son happy and that it made me happy as well.
We ran out of our frozen meat very early this morning, an item that is often in short supply. One lady was absolutely thankful when someone dropped off some hotdogs as she was there as a donation because that meant that she could have some non-canned meat (there is usually tuna and chicken available) this month. She had a pack of 8 hotdogs and she had meat not for this day or this week but this month. As I took her things to the car she was also thankful for the cottage cheese and milk that she had received as she indicated that she really disliked powdered milk and that she had been living on that item since last weekend because that was what she had left.
A gentleman who appeared to be middle-eastern in descent and spoke little English was asking us to help him learn the names of the food as he selected his items. In the personal items section we had a good discussion about the difference between the word paste as in tooth paste and the word pasta as in well, pasta. He was happy to get his toothbrush and toothpaste once the confusion was cleared up.
The last incident is the one that caused me to write this, as it was so singular to me. A woman with kids in tow. Spent nearly 5 minutes deciding whether she needed two rolls of toilet paper or a bottle of laundry soap. Clients are limited to a certain number items they may select in the personal area. She had gotten toothbrushes and toothpaste for the kids and had only one item left to choose. She picked up and put down those two items several times and eventually went with the toilet paper. Strangely by some mysterious means she did end up with both in her cart when we got to her car.
It almost seems more painful to me to watch that decision between toilet paper and laundry soap than the question of if you have enough food to eat. It once again drove it home for me and helped me to understand just how lucky most of us are and just how screwed up some things have become when a decision between clean clothes and toilet paper is a real consideration. Think about that for a second, which one would you chose if it was a choice between an extra meal or toilet paper.
Finally it should be noted that not one person failed to thank me this morning for helping them.

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Making Divinity Candy or A Lesson In Humility


Making Divinity is one of the ultimate gray areas of making Christmas treats. Generally I have been successful in making the sugary confection but every time you make it you realize that failure is never far away.  Did you heat the sugar and corn syrup to just the right temperature?  Were the egg whites beaten to just the right stiffness.  In the final process did you beat the mixture of egg whites and hard ball sugar just long enough to be droppable but not long enough so that it almost instantly hardens in the mixing bowl.

If any of these areas is incorrectly done   the results are either a crumbly mass of hardened sugar in the mixing bowl or candy resembling a puddle of goo instead of a majestically divine peak of goodness

When I woke up this morning at 3:58 this morning I didn’t know I was a failure… By 5:00 AM divinity had taught the lesson.  I was a little apprehensive anyway as I have a new mixer and I used to be able to tell when the candy was the proper consistency by the sound of the mixer motor as it beat against the stiffening candy.   I thought everything was going sweetly okay until I poured the super-heated sugar/corn syrup mixture on the side of the mixer instead of into the bowl.  Okay I thought, we’re still okay as most of it got into the bowl it’ll still work. I’ll just let it beat while I take a paper towel and wipe off the side of the mixer before it hardens and I have to chip it off.  You could almost sense that a learning experience is on its way as I am not much of a multi-tasker  . As I was peeling the sugar skin ( a good sign because that meant  it was cooked to the right consistency)  off the side of the mixer, I learned that a mixer beater will grab the corner of a paper towel from your hands, pull the whole paper towel into the mixing bowl  and shred it into fine pieces with some big clumps in a matter of seconds while at the same time thoroughly covering it with gooey egg white.   This tends to interrupt the beating process while you fish out the clumps of paper towel from the sticky mass in the bowl also results in a sleepy wife coming out to the kitchen in response to the swearing .  Eventually you pretend to yourself  that the missing parts of the towel  will give the candy some needed  texture and decide to go on and finish it.  Divinity is fussy,  sometimes even the humidity in the air plays a part. My net result was that I ended up making paper fiber reinforced puddles of sugary goo that will probably never actually set up and can’t be thrown away as they  would provide enough calories to feed a family of four for a week .

I would guess I will use the old family tradition started by other divinity cooks and serve the divinity with a small spoon and my apologies.

I have heard that, “  to err is human to forgive is divinity. “Hmmm Ill bet Price Chopper sells it already made!  What a divine idea.

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Has ” The United States of America,” become an oxymoron?.

Phlllbbbbbt to both Democrats and Republicans and corporations for willingly even gleefully making mountains of dirt out of a mole hill of dust even before issues have been adjudicated. Forced firings, resignations, un-proven accusations treated as absolute fact, far before the truth is fully known. Both parties now seen locked in a firestorm of tit for tat politics ( probably can’t say that anymore) both seeking revenge or advantage rather than what is right. Doing it over and over and over again. Generalizing and stereotyping with ferocious abandon, making much ado over little, and too often abetted by media giants who seem anything but a free press. Who for all their posturings seem to be unable to see their declining historic value looming behind their present ratings.

I work with reshaping, painting, and carving gourds. A gourd can say almost anything you wish it to. It can be beautiful or ugly, carved or smoothly uniquely fluid, broken or unbroken but that does not change the fact  that  the inside of that hard but brittle shell it is largely empty of any life. Dried out, rotted and filled with mold and possibly a few seeds. Seeds which are the gourds future but most likely just rattling around and making noise with little hope that they will ever produce anything of value. In order to clean out a gourd you have to cut a hole through that hard shell. A hole that penetrates deeply  to allow you to  reach inside and clean out the putrescence hiding there. Perhaps its time to start cutting holes in both of our political parties and cleaning out the rot before it finds its way further out of the shell that seems to surround state houses everywhere.

All of our politicians were people before they were politicians. It’s time they remembered that.

It’s also time for them to remember the old ,” when you point a finger at some one you have three fingers pointing back at you.”

I’m afraid that Walt Kelly and Pogo got it right, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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Am I? Are You?

I have been thinking a great deal about the current catastrophe du jour, that being sexual abuse. Once again the problem for many becomes where do you draw the line followed by an ongoing introspection to see if you fit that definition now or used to fit the definition then.

Sexual Abuse is not a new phenomena it has been around for a long time. Four phrases and their true meanings keep warring in my mind about the current media and political “crisis” concerning the sexual abuse by powerful men and the delay between the act and the punishment. Never mind that it is not only the powerful who “abuse,” but then the non-powerful do not make headlines or give recompense.

The first phrase is , ” Revenge is best served cold.” The second is , ” Justice delayed is justice denied.” both have no accurate attribution but Pirkei Avot 5:7, a section of the Mishnah written sometime BC instructs us that “The sword comes into the world, because of justice delayed and justice denied…,” and the Magna Carta of 1215, clause 40 of which reads, “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.” All phrases can be applied to this modern situation, particularly our politicians. I notice that all of the phrases can be interpreted in various positive and negative ways depending on exactly where you are standing when you hear them.

Three final thoughts, ” Karma is real”,”People who live in glass houses should not throw stones” and “What goes around comes around.”

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Saving Face To Face Plant (Jobs Saga)

One year I had a wild idea to get into the computer imaging business. A computer imaging business  that was portable and could be taken to job sites, fairs, conventions and etc.   Once again I was  in on the ground floor of what would become a huge industry.  Just a little bit early,  and as it turns out  more like the cellar floor.

The business was  a total failure.Mostly a marketing, production and management failure. Three of the hats I wore.     In a fit of entrepreneurial abandon I had  bought  around $20,000 worth of digital production equipment (in the 80s that was a hunk of change) before digital was the norm. The equipment  allowed me to put any digitally stored imaged  on just about anything from key chains to buttons to pillows. I could even  make stuffed cloth dolls with your face on it or  someone else’s face which now sounds a bit perverted

The business descended rapidly from expectations and  was a total and abject failure.  The hours were long and  the profits slow which I found  seriously affects your desire to continue. I understand that it could have been a winner but not with me at the controls. Ater two years I eventually I gave the equipment to the Urbandale Schools GT department but like most digital equipment it was obsolete the moment I bought  it so I would guess my gift caused someone to use up valuable closet space or make a trip to the dump.

One valuable lesson learned from this debacle  was to cancel my subscription to Entrepreneur Magazine . I predict that to this day if I brought one of those magazines home and left it laying around in the house my wife would first get nervous and then start blessing me with pretty hard looks.

Entrepreneur Magazine is an instrument of the devil. So many successes, so many lies. You should only take that magazine with a huge grain of salt.   At least I learned to spell entrepreneur.   The r after the p still trips me up some times .  At first I couldn’t even spell entrepreneur then I was one albeit not a very good one.

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