Sunday, November 23, 2008

Old buddy

Buddy is sleeping at his food bowl because he's not sure when he will find it again. He spends a lot of time this way. He's been blind for two years, and deaf for one, but we think doggy dementia is here to stay. After the cataracts left him blind, he knew his way around the house and yard pretty good. Lately, though, he can't find the food bowl or even the door to go out.
Since he can't find the door to scratch, he barks, and I let him out. Sometimes we would do this three or four times a night. Then after he got out, he would wander around wondering why he was in the yard. My friend Anita suggested that maybe he was not asking to go out, but barking because he's lost and lonely. I fixed him a bed beside ours in a laundry basket. He's sleeping through the night.
He looks forward to his walks, a little shorter now. His tail never stops wagging. And he's looking forward to his next meal.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The rest of the Story

The continuing drama of trying to get a refund of my $1670.00 from the power company has come to an end. The money is in my account, where it has been for a week or so. I never thought to look there. The company had told me that they had already deposited the payment into their bank, so they would order a check to be sent to us. Every day we wait for the mail, but no check. Today I sent off another strong letter, then made another phone call to "customer service." (What a name.)

Today I got really upset with them when they wanted to put me in touch with their check-writing company. I told them they could track it themselves, because it was their choice to farm out the job of writing checks to some off-shore shady outfit. I told him that we were weak from hunger and could not afford the long-distance charges to call their off-shore company. I told him we needed medicines and would not have a Happy Thanksgiving and I hoped he wouldn't either. I told him they hadn't answered my letters and they need not bother, just to stuff the response where the sun don't shine.

Then, on a hunch, I opened the window on my on-line account, and the money was transfered back a week ago. Now, I was impressed that the customer service rep was able to do that so soon after my threats. I just don't understand how he got the bank to pre-date the deposit to make me think it had been there for a week.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Do Sweat the Small Stuff

One of the smallest things I can see is a decimal point. It is way too tiny to cause so much trouble. I was paying bills online, and one of them hopped around a bit. Instead of paying Progress Energy, (the electric company) $167.00, they actually got $1670.00. And they won't give it back.
I caught the mistake the next day, October 15th, over a month ago, and called them up. Yes, there it was, the polite lady from customer service agreed. She promised that they would order a check back to me right away. Of course I believed her, but I transferred money from savings just in case her version of right away was not the same as mine. After a strong letter and two more phone calls, all that has come in the mail is an overdue bill, including a finance charge. So they have not returned my money or used some of it to pay the bill. One more call.
This time she told me that the refund check had been ordered October 23rd from the company that actually writes their checks. That company takes several weeks to write the checks because they need to verify that there is money in the account. This strains the imagination, to think that Progress Energy's finances are so questionable that their check-writing company has to run an audit before cutting a check. And I know they have at least $1670.00.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Daylight Savings Time Hoax

I always hated it, and now I know why. I always thought it was silly, without any data to support my instinct. I was right. . .according to the National bureau for Economic Research.
The history of Daylight Saving Time (DST) has been long and controversial. Throughout its implementation during World Wars I and II, the oil embargo of the 1970s, consistent practice today, and recent extensions, the primary rationale for DST has always been to promote energy conservation. Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little evidence that DST actually saves energy. This paper takes advantage of a natural experiment in the state of Indiana to provide the first empirical estimates of DST effects on electricity consumption in the United States since the mid-1970s. Focusing on residential electricity demand, we conduct the first-ever study that uses micro-data on households to estimate an overall DST effect.
The dataset consists of more than 7 million observations on monthly billing data for the vast majority of households in southern Indiana for three years. Our main finding is that—contrary to the policy's intent—DST increases residential electricity demand. Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent, but we find that the effect is not constant throughout the DST period. DST causes the greatest increase in electricity consumption in the fall, when estimates range between 2 and 4 percent. These findings are consistent with simulation results that point to a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling. We estimate a cost of increased electricity bills to Indiana households of $9 million per year. We also estimate social costs of increased pollution emissions that range from $1.7 to $5.5 million per year. Finally, we argue that the effect is likely to be even stronger in other regions of the United States.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

War in Iraq

Well, I guess that last post really was a nothing. I don't know what happened, but I suspect Cheney is monitoring this site. Creepy thought.

I just got word from my cousin Rita that her daughter is home from Iraq in one piece. We are happy, and a little surprised, because she's a bomb defuser. Many people come home in one piece, but she was there as a mercenary, paid $300,000 a year to defuse bombs. This raises many questions.

1. For that kind of money, did they send her after ones no one else would touch? She must be pretty good at her job.

2. How many people do we have on our payroll at that rate?

3. How do the ordinary soldiers feel, who work alongside these mercenaries?

Anyway, welcome home, Dawn, you had us worried.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I wonder whatever became of Paula. She was a recognizable member of Clearwater's homeless group, and an old buddy of mine. When the county was getting ready to build the Bayside Bridge, she lived in the very footprints of the approach road. She had lived there since the days when she and Henry, her husband, had run a bait shop at a little dock. Actually, she didn't live in their house, because it was crammed to the rafters with stuff she had brought home from dumpsters. Her car quit running and she filled it up too, then the tent where she had lived for awhile. We condemned all that property, and paid her with a check for whatever her interests were. She wouldn't cash the check, and lived on the street.
I was there when the bulldozer flattened her little house, and her stuff went flying everywhere. A full-sized naked mannequin flew up and toward the dozer operator, who needed medical attention. The pile of dumpster treasures was easily three times as big as the house. She lived on the street, and wore a T-shirt that said "The Bayside Bridge tore down my house." On cooler days she wore a pink satin windbreaker advertising a topless bar. Her trademark was a terrycloth turban that she wore rain or shine. I'll bet she still does.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


We have about 100 trillion cells in our bodies, made of molecules, mostly empty space, except for atoms, mostly empty space. These cells are being replaced constantly. Some regenerate every day or so, some last much longer. It's safe to say we don't have any body parts that were there a few years ago.

Trees do the same thing with their cells. Some shed their leaves all at once, some gradually, while the rest of the tree replaces its cells slowly but constantly, as we do. Flowers disappear, leaves and all, and return in the spring.

What if we shed our cells all at once? Would we disappear, or just be invisible? Notice these are not the same, because by disappearing I mean left town, maybe for a day, maybe for the season.
This is something I think about when I get a haircut or trim my nails. Try not to think about it in the middle of the night.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


There are real people out there who do not eat garlic for fear of bad breath. Either pop a breath mint, or feed garlic to the group. I always cook garlic, which reduces its potency, or at least no one has offered me a breath mint after dinner. Other than key lime pie, it's hard to think of one item that can improve so many foods.

Our daughter, June, has inherited this garlic gene, and brings home great ideas. Kevin shares her enthusiasm. Saute fresh or frozen spinach in a little garlic oil, and you will never eat it plain again. Any time you have to use the oven for an hour, wrap a head of garlic in aluminum foil with a little olive oil, roast it, then squeeze out the soft cloves to eat on crackers or whatever. Even better is to put equal parts of olive oil and peeled cloves (say a cup of each) in a bowl, add a can of anchovies (or half a tube of paste) and let it bake for an hour or so. You can dip bread in it, pour some over pasta or roast some vegetables with it. Add about half as much vinegar to it, shake it up, you've got a great salad dressing. The best thing since sliced bread is the peeled garlic in a jar. And it's good for you.

Friday, August 1, 2008

It's not my fault

I guess it was Anne Morrow Lindberg, in A Gift from the Sea, that introduced me to the idea that our perception of reality is based on our own filters. Thus, if we are in a foul mood, we only see the bad side of things, and filter out the good and the beautiful. Conversely, of course, Pollyanna or Carol on a good day sees only the best in everyone and everything. This may work as a philosophy, but it fails to explain a bad day.

A bad day is not catastrophic, just a day full of glitches. I needed to call a company, call it Ajax. After listening to a litany of worthless options, I got through to "Chuck" from Bosnia, who has trouble pronouncing Ajax, and is useless. Try the website for the company, try "Contact Us," and you get two options: scroll through a page of FAQ's that don't apply, or call the new number, and you're back to Chuck.

I gave up, wrote them a letter, put it with the rest of the mail, including some thoughtful cards for friends with special occasions. We sent to the mailbox at the post office, always on the passenger side, and CJ tries to mail the stack of envelopes. He gives them a little toss, they all miss the slot and land in the gutter full of swiftly flowing water. I jump out, wade after them, squeeze past the car behind us, and got some of the sopping envelopes, but not Ajax, before they went down the storm drain.

My attitude did not cause these events. It's not my fault.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

speed bumps

I read somewhere that if you hold a pencil between your front teeth, sideways, without letting your lips touch the pencil, you will cheer up. It makes your brain think you're smiling. If you go out in public, of course, it makes a lot of other people smile, and that's good too. The trick is not to bite the pencil in half over a speedbump.

Speedbumps drive me crazy. They do not stop speeding, except at the point of impact. I, personally, hit the horn when I hit the bump, then speed away with squealing tires to release some anger. Some people believe that they reduce speeding, but they just reduce traffic in general. In other words, they move the problem over a block, until the people on that street get their own speedbumps because of the increase in traffic and speeders. This process fuels the perception that they work.

Politicians and homeowners' association officials like them because it makes the people think they are doing something. They don't like to be accused of doing nothing. Do something, even if it doesn't work. Our neighborhood is built around a big loop, so there is no other street to use to get to your house from anywhere.

There is also a perception that they will stop or reduce crime. I guess they think that criminals prefer smooth street for getaways, maybe even in a high-speed chase. I can just picture two masked guys in an unmarked van, slowing to read the sign that says, "Slow! Speedbumps ahead!" and turning around to find a smoother neighborhood. Even the burglars in our own neighborhood will go elsewhere to work.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Well, we're not supposed to discuss politics or religion in polite company, but I'm talking to myself here. It's my blog and I'll say what I want to.

I want to like both candidates better than I do. Flip-flops don't bother me a lot, because new information always comes along that we hope a candidate would listen to. A wise person said that "I wouldn't want to join a club that would invite me in." A corollary is that I wouldn't trust anyone who would actually want to be a politician, particularly a successful one. You have to sell a little bit of your soul to the devil or the party or the contributors to stay pure. Maybe pure is overrated anyhow.

Confucius said something like "To know that you know what you know, and to know that you don't know what you don't know, is true wisdom." I don't know, for example, why McCain is so reluctant to put any distance between himself and George. He is giving George credit for lowering the price of oil by $3.00 a barrel by announcing his support for offshore drilling, and joining that support. What about the fact that the price of oil went from $28.00 to $143.00 in George's watch? Just being practical, support for offshore drilling may cost McCain the Florida vote, because we're nuts about our Gulf.

Another thing I don't know is why Obama doesn't do more to counter the internet chatter that "exposes" him as not just a Muslim, but a secret agent of Al-Quaida who has been on a mission since before 9/11 to take over this country and turn it over to them? Show some backbone, Barack! I dunno.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fourth of July, 2008

Kevin, June's husband, cooked burgers and brats for all the family, 34, counting cousins, and would not yield his spatula to anyone. The twins are easier to tell apart now, because Daniel is the hairy one, Jacob (shown with Doug) is the smooth one. He's on crutches following foot surgery, but will be back marching as a cadet at Texas A & M this fall. The hairy one is at Baylor, but temporarily working as an intern for McCain at the campaign headquarters in D. C.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Fifty years ago, those two kids were happy to be married.

Twenty years later, CJ still looks pretty happy.

Doug and Lazara were cautiously optimistic.

June and Sarah Jean always had a lot in common.

Our 50th wedding anniversary was a big reunion of family and friends. Our "kids" planned a big dinner at Pepin's, with every detail carried out: flowers, appetizers, drinks, table arrangements, even a slide show covering more details of the past 50 years than me might have wished. I told Jason I had never seen such a slide show except at funerals, so he said I am "Ready to go." He hosted a big round table, June and Kevin took one, Doug and Lazara had another, leaving CJ and me to host the head table. I tried to make a speech, but was pretty much speechless. The others did much better, and many filled out memory squibs that went in the scrapbook Lazara made. Some of those were better read in the privacy of our home. More to come.