Monday, February 28, 2011

Collective Bargaining Angst

It would appear all hell is breaking loose in Wisconsin, & Ohio too as misguided politicians try to put the kabosh on workers rights. First the Supreme Court rules Corporations are People when it comes to campaign contributions, and now they are trying to pull the rug out from under labor unions.
School Teachers. Hard working folks. I'm thrilled to see masses in the streets, protesting.
Looks like the people have a little something to say....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

This one's for you Wisconsin

The Police are supporting the protestors, who have taken over the State Capitol

The Understory reports:

From inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, RAN ally Ryan Harvey reports:
“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”
Ryan reported on his Facebook page earlier today:
“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’" 
Clearly, the latest trend is to uplift the corporatocracy, and in doing so, squelching We the People, we the workers, forcing the loss of collective bargaining & workers rights. 

Way to go Wisconsin & Way to go Wisconsin Police!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pink slip reality check-Falling short of the "Sputnik Moment"

Chicago Sun Times reports:
The government announced last week that Boeing was the winner of a $35 billion project to build a new aerial refueling tanker. The Air Force has awarded Boeing an initial contract of $3.5 billion to engineer and manufacture the first four tankers, a design based on its 767. That is the first installment in the $35 billion program to build 179 tankers. The deal could potentially be worth $100 billion if the Air Force decides to build more. 

Other headlines:
Business Week reports:

The school board of Rhode Island's financially troubled capital city, Providence, voted Thursday to notify every one of its nearly 2,000 teachers that they were subject to being terminated at the end of the school year.
City officials said the action would give them the ability to make budget cuts. A recent audit showed Providence, which has about 175,000 residents, had nearly depleted its rainy-day fund and overspent its nearly $620 million city budget last year by more than $57 million. Next year's $308 million school budget is projected to have a gap of $40 million or more. The termination notices do not mean that all teachers will be out of a job, just that they might. Under Rhode Island law, teachers must be notified by March 1 if they will not have a job the following academic year.
108 teachers were given notice of anticipated layoffs, and 5 schools are going to close at the end of the school year to cover a  budget shortage of $22-$28 million, 15-20% of the district's operating budget. 
The Eugene Register Guard reports:
As expected, the Eugene School District on Friday handed out letters labeled “Notice of Anticipated Layoff” to 108 teachers and other licensed staff with the least seniority as part of an estimated $24 million in cost-saving measures for the 2011-12 school year. The staffing cuts cover $8.6-$11 million, the rest is recovered by closing 5 schools. The district had 39 schools, and one reason for the closures is falling enrollment numbers. 
The President said in his 2011 State of the Union Address:
"Think about it. Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us – as citizens, and as parents – are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.
Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don't meet this test. That's why instead of just pouring money into a system that's not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all fifty states, we said, "If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money."
Of course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That's why we've ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students. And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit – worth $10,000 for four years of college."
It all sounded so good, but locals who watched the district hold multiple, packed crowd school closure decision meetings, felt what he was saying & what was actually happening are two totally different realities. 
It seems like lip service.  We need school funding now, not pep talks. And when Boeing gets $35 billion, while schools face big time budget axes, you can't help but notice, the pep talk was hot air- the wealthy got tax cuts & the military still gets the lion's share of funding. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cutting the ties that bind

It all started with Allstate, the "You're in good hands people". Long story short we got an escrow analysis notice saying our monthly mortgage payment was going up $71 bucks a month.
What?? We have a fixed mortgage... what gives??

Turns out Allstate- for no particular reason & just for the hell of it decided they would jack up our homeowners insurance rate by 73%.  What???

We've been with them for over 20 years, and never filed on claim. We don't live in an area hit hard by a rash of natural disasters, no reason for such a huge leap. I called them & asked if this was an error.
Nope. I asked to speak with the manager. He was not there. In fact all successive calls later he was never there or available. My last call to them, when I asked to speak with the manager, you guessed it, he was, once again not there.

Is he EVER there? Does he really even exist at all?

No matter, when he could not respond & worked my way up a nationwide chain of command. My calls were bounced from Virginia, to Illinois to the Pacific NW regional manager. Finally, some dude named Josh sent me a letter of explanation. The explanation-- was the rate hike was due to the fact we live in a region.

Ohhh because we live in a region??? If he was going to pull explanations out of his ass, he could have come up with something better, like they consulted the magic 8 ball & the answer was "73% rate hike"
or "Yes".

We had already decided rather than wasting any more time on their pinball method of answering the question, that we should spend our time getting out of their jacked up rate deal.
Worse-- when I called the local office, the clerk tried to up sell me. If I'd just buy more product, maybe I could get our rate down.  Listen lady your company just jacked up our rate by 73%, don't even try to sell me anything right now.

Later she asked Why did we drop our Allstate insurance?
Because if your goal is to raise the rate so high you lose customers, you are doing a great job.
She wanted to go further into it, I cut her off.
You asked a question, I answered it. This part of the conversation is over. I lost my patience & respect for the company. Don't toy with my house being covered & give me some jive answer about a mysterious regional rate hike answer. I just want my prorated refund & that's it.

While we were at it, we were not happy with our State Farm Car insurance guy either. Spitting image for Ned Flanders, complete with occasional religious lectures. Believe me, when your car was double rear ended & totaled on the freeway & you have whiplash, the last thing you want from your insurance agent is to get a religious lecture. You want your rental car & a reasonable settlement.

So we delved into the world of insurance. A surreal place where for-profit companies pretend to care, when really they are only interested in taking your money, but are legally obliged to deal with claims should they come up.

Good Hands, There for you.... pick your slogan, it's all bullshit. What they are good at is adding on little fine print reasons of why & what they won't cover.

So we dumped them both & wound up going with a different company. But even then, the new insurer may demand we put on a new roof ASAP. Great!  Just the thing we want to do in the winter in the Pacific Northwest rain forest, where we get over 50 inches of rain per year. We are currently negotiating having them back off till summer when it makes sense to replace a roof that is not leaking. As far as we are concerned, moss on the roof simply adds another layer of protection! Besides, aren't they doing those newfangled "green roofs" these days? Why can't they just consider us to be ahead of the times & get off our backs?

Damn it! Why is nothing ever easy??

While we were on this rampage, we had been working hard all last year to make much bigger than minimum payments, to break out of the shackles of credit card debt. Just paid off & shut down 3 credit cards.
I was rate surfing, trying to get the best APR interest rate & before long we had all these different bills to pay, dealing with banks we did not even like.

I just put the last card in the shredder. It has been paid off & the account closed.

So goodbye Allstate, State Farm, Bank of America & Capitol One.

We're done!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Slutty confessions

It started out with a few different men. I’d have them meet me at the house after work, before the husband was home from work. We’d meet in different rooms, and sometimes, do it in the garage. But now it is out of control. Today I even called in sick at work so I could have the whole day to engage in this behavior- today with eight different men!

I had you going, didn’t I?? 

The old Zinsco panel                                                                                                             The shiny new 200 amp panel

These men are contractors. Friday was electric day.... the electrician is replaced the circuit breaker box, outdoor meter & mast. . The utility guys came & shut off power to the house for the whole day for this fun project. The City inspector came by to approve it.   My 53 year old house is begging to be brought into the 21st century.  Electrical here, roof there, new heat system & the freaking garage door belongs in the Smithsonian!!

So I am working it!  

All of thiese items are big ticket items & so we are consulting Consumer reports & checking things out. One guy spent over an hour talking about details & stuff he does. Did a printout with the formal estimate on the spot. Another guy scribbled a number on his business card & split. It felt so cheap & meaningless!

Old mast

                                                                                                                                                         New mast a few feet taller. 

So now that the electrical is updated, we can move on the the heat pump, unless the new insurance people demand we replace our roof now. That triggered a blitz to get 6 roof estimates in 1 week.  One contractor gave us a list of homes we can go look at specific roof types in person. 

Looking at a few inch glossy photo of shingles on a brochure does not cut it. Show me the real deal in natural light, please. 
What is it with me? If you put out random samples on a table I will always pick the high end one. The one I can't afford. 
Plus there is always the issue of Pandora's box, once the old roof comes off, there may be plywood that needs to be replaced & once the old roof is off, not like you can halt the project & shop around for replacing underlayment. 
I'd be crazy to think some additional thing will not come up, in the middle of the project. As with the electric, we could not just replace the box where it was, we had to do this & that additional to bring it up to current code. 

The difference between my house & the "This Old House" home repair show, is my house does not have that unlimited budget. So I will continue to be seeing men in my house, often when the husband is not home-- roofing contractors, and Ductless Heat pump people.

They had me at 2/3rds less heating bill cost.

 Whisper "$1500 Utility rebate" in my ear....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Louie Louie

Oh yea... a classic

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


This week promises to be crazy busy, work, a contractor doing an all day project, etc.
So Hooray for Egypt & their overthrowing the corrupt president.
Kudos to Obama for trying to cut the $ being subsidized to gas & oil who are so wealthy they do not need breaks.
Now I am just falling back on some retro music to get us through the week.
Enjoy some Booker T & the MG's playing their kick ass tune "Green Onions"

Always fun to have ridiculous groovy dancers back in the day, circa 1966 on the Shindig show!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lil' Red Riding Hood

I have a busy week ahead so I'm declaring this blast form the past oldies week ~ enjoy!
Have a groovy Valentines day.....  love is a good thing

Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs!

Wooly Bully

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fiore Fix

I posted earlier this year how the Health Care reform act-- aka "Obamacare" has already helped our family- enjoy the parody-- note the closing line!

As for this one.... I think words DO matter, but Fiore makes a good point about gun control.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Turbo Tax- The Free Federal Edition

What with the Feds not even sending out paper tax booklets this year, they want us to all do taxes on the internets. Turbo Tax has a "free" Federal edition you can use online.

This would be the first time I used Turbo tax & in & of itself, it was pretty nice.
It does all those little annoying side show portions where they have you do intricate math equations for several lines, only to determine you don't qualify & you will never get those collective hours  of your life back.

But this free version will hound you incessantly about wanting to purchase an upgrade. $20 bucks? $40 bucks? You can keep clicking no, & keep going, but as you may have guessed, it will keep asking.  In fact once the Federal tax is complete, it will offer to do your State taxes too.

Wow! Piece of cake! But then it will tell you the Federal part was free, but the State part is gonna cost you. $27.99. You have the option to choose no & let you do your own State tax, which is largely based on Federal taxes.

It then throws in a trickily worded "consent" to sign off on consent to use your info for other things besides taxes.  Just say NO.

Again another tricky little item asking how you might like to be solicited-- phone, e mail or snail mail.

I counted at least 10 attempts for the "free" version to try hit us up for $$$.

As if taxes are not annoying enough, lighten up, Turbo.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl ads

Ok it is an obscene amount of money spent on these ads, but it is the competition for the most creative... so here are some of my favs:

The Beaver

Knock off of Lassie

Reply All


In it over our heads in Pandora's box

Our house looks kind of like this one. 

1959 was a lovely year, I'm sure & the year our classic cookie cutter Ranch style house was built.
There is no architectural marvel to it.... it is a functional rectangle. Back in the day, ceiling heat was the latest greatest, and things were simple. By the time we bought it in 1993, there had been a few upgrades, but teapot wallpaper in the kitchen with the big clunky wagon wheel light fixture, the avocado shag carpet (in the bathroom wall to wall too!), were all things one had to look beyond to love the house.
By the way, all the above mentioned things were removed before we ever moved in.
The gross avocado carpet was covering hardwood floors. I paid a wallpaper pro to come remove the teapot wallpaper while I tore out the shag carpet & removed hundreds of tiny carpet tacks. By default we tend to be "sweat equity" type homeowners, putting our hard labor into making the place better. I never understood how a house increases in value as it ages-- houses, like cars, break down over time. Suddenly, I am realizing time has been unkind to this house. There were happy upgrades. One night, while doing dishes by hand after a 40 hour workweek, I declared that I had mastered the skill of hand washing dishes & was willing to sacrifice cabinet space to install a dishwasher. I decision I will never regret!

But ceiling heat sucks. Heat rises. Having radiant heat come from above makes no sense. It is also slow... so when trying to be efficient & turn the heat down, when the house gets cold & you crank up the heat- it takes forever to bring up the temp & then it is too hot. Our heating bills in the winter are more like for an estate that is 4 x the size of our little house. So we want to install a ductless heat pump.
Everyone swears, they will cut your bill to 1/3 the cost- plus you get whole house A/C in the summer too. We could learn to love & live with that, as summers have been scorchers here a few years in a row.

This is where the Pandora's box comes in. We need to upgrade the electrical breaker box to do the install. Electricians say we need to upgrade the outer connection, which involves roof work, and changing the location to adhere to 21st century code. OK we can roll with that... some serious sticker shock, but we're all over safety items. But the husband got up on the roof to clear off a hostile moss take over & announced the roof is "squishy". We know it is at least 18 years old.... but we do not know how much older it is. Too old is probably the correct answer.

As the husband put it, this will involve "many zero's" meaning big ticket items. So there you have it- The joys of homeownership, yours to fix. Now I've reached a point of thinking I don't really want to ask what next, or what else. It's like we are living in an ongoing episode of "This Old House", except we don't have the limitless budget, the right tools, or the ability to make the perfect cut the first time (on film anyway). We laugh about me having an endless stream of men coming to the house.... so far electricians, heat installation contractors, and now roofing guys. No tawdry sex scandals going on here... just some serious cash outgoing to get everything fixed.

Why do I think my "vacation " time will be spent letting in different trades in the next few months???
I know, I should  Quit my bitchin', be glad we have a freaking house to fix... and I am, just the list of repairs & sticker shock are presenting themselves in a big way this week. Maybe I should create a new reality show called This Old House--Oy!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reality check on checking out....

It is strange, how they just kind of invaded our reality. I'm talking about self check out automated machines. For the record, I hate them.  There is usually some item that comes up as a problem & an actual human has to intervene with the machine,  to get it to work anyway. I cringe to have a machine bossing me around-- SCAN YOUR ITEM AGAIN! or INSERT YOUR CARD NOW.  Hey! Take it down a notch, not like you are missing your break time.... ya effing machine. What is worse is if it's robotic voice tells me to have a nice day.That does not make me happy-- it creeps me out. A robot just told me to have a nice day, it's wrong on so many levels.
 Even if you like those machines-- you do know they are taking away the job of a human, right?

So many things are "Made in China"that we buy in stores... and now they are installing automated machines (who wants to guess if they are also Made in China)...
displacing workers of what few jobs we have left here in the United States.

Let's hang on to a thread of our dignity and join me in refusing to use the robotic cashiers.

What kind of customer service are we getting by allowing the stores to let us do it ourselves.... to do a task someone *should be getting paid for*.

Besides-- stick around those automated check out machines for a while & you can enjoy some colorful language & observe some serious frustration.

Hey! If enough people boycott the bullshit machines, maybe they will get rid of them & someone will either keep or have a job instead.

One web site touted this idea:
"So the next time you pay a visit to Walmart, check and see if they have the automated checkout system in place. If they do, go ahead and try it out. You might just never use a human cashier again."
Oh yes, wouldn't Wal Mart love that-- if they had NO human cashiers. No overtime, No health care benfits.  Not even minimum wage-- let the customers do the work!'

Across the pond in the UK:
"Tesco sounded the death knell for checkout workers today after opening Britain's first entirely self-service shop.

The Tesco Express in Kingsley, Northampton, has a total of five self-scan tills overseen by a single member of staff but no manned checkouts.
It is described by the company as an 'assisted service store' designed to increase efficiency and speed up the shopping process."

The point here is that while we have the chance, we should reject the machines. Sure some folks may find them to be "quicker", but in reality, it is just a quicker way to eliminate more jobs. 
1 person can oversee 5 machines- buh bye 4 jobs. 
Corporations like it like that. 
We the people ....  not so much. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

Happy Chinese New Year

Coming after the tumultuous Year of the Tiger, the year of the rabbit may give us a break. According to the lunar horoscope, the rabbit is naturally happy and a homebody. So put up your feet and enjoy your home. In China, there’s no housecleaning on New Year’s Day – it would wash away the good fortune.

The Chinese Lunar New Year is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600BC, when the Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first cycle of the zodiac. Like the Western calendar, The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a yearly one, with the start of the lunar year being based on the cycles of the moon. Therefore, because of this cyclical dating, the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. This year it falls on February 12th. A complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five cycles of 12 years each.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the twelve years after an animal. Legend has it that Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. The Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For what it's worth ~ Happy Groundhog Day!

Just say no to the blanket of silence for Palin

There is a movement circulating around the blogosphere about a "Palin Free February".
This is the logo:

I don't know about you, but this set up almost sounds like it was hatched from the Palin camp itself.
Funny it came up right around when the word from Alaska is maybe Todd is getting more than massages from a prostitute.  I really do try to avoid all the glaring hype or the seemingly perpetual trainwreck that is the "Wasilla hillbillies", aka the Palin family. Unlike mainstream media, I do not follow the every (mis)step of Palin & her clan. I try to not fan the flames of that situation, the last thing I want to do is encourage her in the philosophy that any press is good press & being in the headlines can only be good. 
 I'm not much for tabloid junk news- but I'm not taking the pledge. 
Palin gets no blanket month of silence from me. If something she is doing is entirely out of line- like her 
target/crosshairs map, then she will have to reap the wrath she sewed. 
Don't shush me Palin. Not in February or ever!