Saturday, December 11, 2010


In keeping with my fascination for figures, I have a few more for those sharing that interest.

Forty years ago the richest 1% of Americans made 8% of the nations income.
Now, in 2010 the richest 1% of Americans make 26% of the nations income!
Can you see a trend here?

Once upon a time CEO's made 40 to 50 times as much as the average worker in their companies - too much I agree. Now, they make 500 times as much - and more!

And these unbelievably rich people want even more money - and by God, we want to give it to them! Can you believe that? It seems that everyone is intent that the richest 2% of Americans should continue to get the tax cut that George W Bush gave them 10 years ago. Even G.W.Bush knew that we could not keep it up indefinitely, so he limited it to 10 years.

But we, in our superior knowledge, say no they are not rich enough yet, they deserve even more of our money, and we are prepared to borrow another almost one Trillion dollars from China to give it to them!

Help me out here, don't we have some problems here? A big debt, how will this be helped by adding another Trillion dollars to it to give to the already richest people on Earth? A big deficit, same question. By allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire - even just for the richest 2% of Americans - would solve the Social Security, and Medicare shortfall for at least the next 75 years. (And the "added" tax by allowing the tax cuts to expire would be only 4% extra tax) They have enjoyed these tax cuts for 10 years now. If allowing the Super Rich to escape paying their fair share of taxes were going to provide thousands of jobs and pull us out of this deficit and debt wouldn't that have happened by now? After 10 years of it! So how is letting them get away with not paying their fair share going to pull us out now? It didn't before! Why will it work now? Please tell me.

The richest 1% of Americans pay only 16% of their income in taxes! Less than you and I pay! Why should we pay more tax than people who make hundreds or even thousands of times as much money as you and I make?

There are many many people making a Million dollars a year, 10 Million dollars a year, 100 Million dollars a year and some even making a Billion dollars a year. And we want to give them a tax break! Give me a break! They have not produced the promised business start ups and jobs after having 10 years of tax breaks. They are not going to do it with another 2 years of tax breaks. I guarantee it. And if you believe that they will - well I have this bridge for sale.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food Waste Friday.

Friday again already! Searching through my refrigerator today I found - some chocolate. Well I certainly was not going to waste that! So into my mouth it went. Nothing else much of note, except a lonely crust of bread, so I fried up one of my lovely eggs - collected this morning, how fresh is that! And put it on the crust, delicious, nothing quite so tasty as a freshly laid fried egg.
Food waste Friday is not really fair for me to report on, as we keep a few chickens, virtually nothing gets wasted. the only thing they turn their noses, well beaks, up at is oranges, lemons, or any kind of citrus. If we will eat it, they will eat it. They are not keen on raw potatoes, carrot and other hard fruits and veg, but if it is cooked they love it. So we don't even waste potato peelings.

Merry Christmas everyone - those chickens will eventually get the Turkey scraps - after we have removed every scrap of meat for sandwiches or stews and then cooked it all down for hours, on the wood stove, for soup. After all that they get the "mush" which they gulp down as if it were free caviar!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Texas Thanksgiving 2010.

In 1997 Julia and I revisited the Baltic Sea on a cruise that we had first taken in 1962, during which we first met. We also stayed in Copenhagen for a week, the city where I had proposed to her.

In Christmas 1967, after 3 years of marriage, we took a magical tour around Texas with our, then, new friends Tom & Martha Hardin. This year, 2010, 43 years later we were going to repeat at least some of that trip with our, now, old friends Tom & Martha and our number one Grandson, 17 year old Bradley.

At first I was just going to give a few highlights of this trip, but as always, whenever I visit Texas I get carried away. At first this Blog started off with , - "I am not going to go into a lot of detail about the trip." - Somehow that morphed into this detailed account of another 'Texas Odyssey'. Believe it or not I could have expanded it even more, such is my love of all things Texas! (Even now I am drinking my coffee out of a cup that announces quite simply "TEXAS", while laying on the floor nearby is a T-Shirt that says "Don't Mess With Texas". (I wouldn't dare - would you?)

The three of us flew to San Antonio and Tom picked us up at about 10 pm. We then spent two days at their lovely home. The first day we visited The Alamo, two Missions and Riverwalk - where we had a fine Mexican meal. The second day, Sunday, after attending a service at Tom & Martha's Church and meeting several of their friends, we set off for West Texas, arriving late in the evening at our historic hotel The Limpia. In Fort Davis we visited Tom's old stomping grounds, the homes of several of his relatives including Dudes ranch and various other places that Julia and I had been to before but which were new to Bradley.

In the evening we went to the Indian Lodge, a cool building built in the 1930's by the CCC where there is a nice restaurant - The Black Bear. It is located in the Davis Mountains State Park. After a good meal Bradley and I went outside to see the stars which were unbelievably bright, and numerous, in the dark Texas night. We had been warned to look out for a Mountain Lion that had been seen in the area. When Bradley said "What is that?" pointing into the darkness, I of course thought that he was trying to scare me. Not seeing anything, but with Bradley insisting that there was an animal "right there", I dropped to my knees to try to get a better view of it against the sky. Still no sign, just them Tom turned on the lights of the car and there right in the headlights was a deer walking away from us! Either Bradley has incredibly good vision or I have bad sight - or maybe a bit of each. we then visited The McDonald Observatory on Mt. Locke and after a tour of the facilities, used several of their telescopes to observe some of the wonders of our universe. It was cold up there at night. The only cold temperatures we had during our 8 days in Texas.

The next day, Tuesday, was an adventure day as we went on a trip to the Mexican border. Due to "The troubles" we were not going to enter Mexico this time. On all our previous visits to Texas we have made several forays into that exciting country. This time we went to the border town of Presidio where in an otherwise dreary town we made an exciting discovery in the form of a wonderful and authentic Mexican Restaurant. A good meal was enjoyed by all. After that we set off to discover some of the "Towns" that we had visited in 1967. In order to appreciate what we were looking for you need to read my story "Texas, Christmas 1967". If you e-mail or call me I will e-mail you the story - it is about 26 pages long and gives a detailed story of a trip taken by us, two newcomers not only to Texas, but to the USA after just a few months here. It is interesting, if only as a History lesson of the observations of those two immigrants made 43 years ago. Read the story and then compare Texas then to Texas now!

After the Mexican meal we set off to "Discover" the "Towns" of Ruidosa and Candelaria. I cannot describe them for you, I'm sorry, to understand why, you will need to visit them for yourselves! In my humble opinion they are worth the visit although some, indeed many, would doubtless disagree with me! Enough said.

To get back to civilization we took an unmade "Road" to Marfa (Of Marfa Lights fame). Just as in Texas a "River" does not necessarily have water, so a "Road" is not necessarily a road!

The "Road" was long and dusty. Although it was only about 25 miles long it seemed much longer. The stones were large, many larger than the road clearance of our Mercury, but the views were stupendous. The Chisos Mountain Range kept beckoning, but never got closer.

On our 1967 trip over this same road it had been getting dark at this point in the trip, we were late for a dinner date with Tom's Cousin Mary, we had no idea what lay in wait around the next corner and we were going way too fast, even for Tom's venerable Ford Fairlane, survivor of some 75 miles of this wildest "road" that any of us had ever traversed in our lives. Even Tom was out of his depth. At one point, and we were all looking out for that 'infamous' point now, we had been travelling - well slipping and sliding really - at about 60 miles per hour, which was at least 50 miles per hour faster than we should have been going, we went down a slope that suddenly changed from down to up. The Ford 'bottomed out' with a sickening crunch to not only the car but to our four already bruised bottoms, and continued on. We were sure that at the very least several springs had fractured. And maybe the engine casing, oil pan, shock absorbers and any other parts that were underneath the car. But we did not stop to check. One problem was that the trunk was loaded down with a weeks worth of luggage and supplies for four Texas travellers. Consequently the the car was riding very low, especially its back end. We made it back to civilization, and to Cousin Mary's for dinner, albeit two or three hours late. Which didn't seem to faze her at all. That was something that we learned about Texans on that trip, nothing seems to faze them.

Back to 2010. About halfway along the Chisos Ranch road we saw a pick up truck ahead of us. We were steadily gaining on it, until suddenly we saw it turn into an even smaller road - was that possible? We passed it and shortly after saw it again, this time behind us. It followed us closely, close enough that we were able to see that it was a Border Patrol vehicle! Oh, Oh, did they think we were "Illegal Immigrants". We continued, hoping to reach a town or something before it pulled us over and searched us. Eventually we reached a 'paved' road. By now the ladies had gone too long without a "Pit Stop", and the bouncing had not helped. We looked for a suitable 'private' place to stop. (It doesn't get any more 'private' than this area, many miles from the nearest house!) But even so apparently a suitable stand of trees or bushes was needed. Eventually such a place was found. We pulled over. The Border Patrol vehicle stopped too and we all walked back towards him, hoping that he did not have four pairs of handcuffs out and ready. He didn't. Instead he climbed out of his large Pick Up and in his Texas drawl asked if we were all OK. When we assured him that we were, he said that he was following us in case we were having a problem. He probably thought that we were travelling rather slowly, not knowing that Tom was treating his loaner car gently. (Tom's own car was in the shop and when they didn't have it ready as they promised on Friday they gave him the almost new Mercury to use for the week. Little did they know that it was going to be bouncing around a bunch of ranch roads on the Mexican border!) Anyhow, the Border Patrol man didn't seem suspicious of any us, not even of Bradley, even after Bradley asked if he could have his picture taken with him! The Border Patrol man went on ahead and we followed in his considerable dust cloud. The ladies found a suitable bush and all was well with the world again. We pressed on to Marfa and had a fine meal at the famous Paisano Hotel & Restaurant on Highland Ave, also known as the "Home of the Stars", because James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor stayed there while filming the movie "Giant".(Dean stayed in Room 223, Hudson in 211 and Elizabeth Taylor - my favorite! - in Room 212), after which we went to the viewing area for the famous Marfa Lights and watched for a while - this time unsuccessfully. We had seen the mysterious lights on previous visits.

Then it was our last night at the Limpia Hotel. The next day we set off early for San Antonio. But it was to be a long day. There was much to see between the Fort Davis Mountains and the big city of San Antonio. Most of what we were to see Julia and I had seen before, but it would all be new to Bradley - which would make it new to us. Showing Bradley some of the highlights of my favorite State would be a new experience for me too.

We took Highway 90 and drove through Marfa. In Alpine we drove past the home of the famous Joaquin Jackson , author of "One Ranger" and " One Ranger Returns". The Gage Hotel in Marathon, a real Western hotel in a real Western Town was our next brief stop. The Gage was built by Trost and Trost - who were also the builders of the Paisano hotel in Marfa, that we had visited just a day earlier. Both hotels are full of history and deserved a longer stay. After a few pictures, one with Bradley poking his finger in the eye of a Mountain Lion (Stuffed), we pressed on. One day I would like to stay at one or both of these Hotels. Both are within easy driving of Big Bend National Park, an awesome Park well worth a visit - or two. Then it was on to the little town of Langtry and Judge Roy Bean's Home and Courthouse, "The Jersey Lilly", named after Lily Langtry the English Actress. It looks far different now than it did during our first visit in 1967 when there was no Visitors Center, no Cactus Garden and no anything except the Jersey Lilly Saloon that looked almost the same as it did now except that it was more dilapidated then. The famous "Hanging tree" was still there, also a little worse for wear. (Although it is thought that Judge Roy Bean, the Law West of the Pecos, had never actually hanged anyone there.) In 1967 there had been a lot of desert, tumbleweeds, sand and dust. And no visitors except us. Just across from the Jersey Lilly was Mr William Dodd's house which is literally falling down now, but had been intact in 1967, in fact we went inside then. Mr Dodd was the man that immigrated from England with Tom Hardin's grandfather John Henry Ashby. They formed a partnership with a Mr Cross, who was their Sunday School teacher in Birmingham, England. Mr Cross paid for them both to go tho Langtry Texas when they were 18. They were going to raise sheep and goats. When that didn't work (You will understand why if you ever go there - and I recommend that you do.) they tried cattle. That was also a failure. Mr Ashby married and moved to Uvalde where he opened the towns butcher shop. Dodd also married but stayed in Langtry where he owned the town's general store/post office and eventually took Bean's place as Justice of the Peace after he died. Dodd's relatives still live in Langtry and Tom keeps in touch with them. There are many stories that I could tell about Tom and Tom's family, and their adventures in Texas.

Our next stop was at Seminole Canyon State Park with an interesting Indian exhibit, including pictographs. And then it was through Del Rio and on to Tom's birthplace and hometown of Uvalde where we made a brief stop at a drug store that Tom has frequented for pretty much his whole life. We had ice cream floats, banana split, coffee etc. Tom saw people he has known for years. Then it was a quick drive through town, past his mothers old house and the Garner museum, which was closed for renovating, updating and adding on to. We almost met John Nance Garner in 1967. I was excited in my first year in the US to be meeting an ex Vice President of the US. His son Tully had been Tom's Uncle's partner in some business ventures, including the 10,000 acre ranch that they owned together. It was named Bitter Bottom and we had visited it several times over the years. However, Garner died just a few days before we were to meet him. Very inconsiderate of him we thought!

After Uvalde we went straight to San Antonio.

Tom, Bradley and I got up early the next day, which was Thursday and Thanksgiving Day, as Bradley had an early flight. Fortunately they live only ten minutes or so from the airport and we were there by around 6.00 am in time for his flight back to Baltimore and the new love of his life, Janie. Lucky Bradley. Oh, and of course his family. Bradley had elected to return to Baltimore to be with his family for Thanksgiving rather than spend an additional 4 days in Texas. Remarkable!

Thursday was a lazy day to recover from the trials of the trip. We went to an English Pub for Thanksgiving Dinner - how wild is that? The evening was spent looking at movies of two of Tom and Martha's trips - to Russia and China, and watching an old movie called Dial M for Murder.

Friday was time for a trip to Fredericksburg, a small town that we had visited before. On our previous trips there it had been a very quiet town, today it was different, as different as chalk and cheese! It was packed, we had trouble finding somewhere to park or to eat, and it was even hard to get into the stores to shop. This last tragedy did not seem to upset Tom at all! Fredericksburg is famous for being the home of the Chester Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War, which we visited, and enjoyed immensely. Indeed, although we spent two or three hours there we could easily have spent twice as long. It was one of the most interesting museums I have ever been in.

And then Saturday was an early start for our flight back home where our daughter Sarah met us. A perfect end to a lovely journey.

All was well at home, thanks to our friends Mike & Christine taking good care of the Chickens and Cats.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Lennon.

Yes it is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death. Hardly a cause for celebration.
But as many of you know, I am a sucker for figures, and some figures that spring to mind here are of gun deaths in the US. John Lennon's death by gun is just one of approximately 50,000 people per year in the US who die by guns! So, in the 30 years since his death one and a half million people have died by guns in the USA! (About the same number that die in traffic accidents every year in the USA.)
That includes deaths by Murder, Accident and Suicide.
Here is a breakdown: -
Number one is the USA at 14 per 100,000
Second place goes to Brazil, Mexico and Estonia at about 12
Then Argentina at 9
N. Ireland (a country at war!)and Finland 6
Switzerland, France, and Canada about 5
Norway, Austria, Portugal, Israel and Belgium about 3
Australia, Slovenia, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark
and Kuwait about 2
Greece, Germany, Hungary, S. Ireland, about 1
Spain, Netherlands, Scotland, England & Wales, Mauritius Hong Kong and S Korea less than 1
Japan .05 !! (1/2 per million or one two hundred and eightieth of the US ! Or one gun death for every 280 in the US!)

Most people would not see anything wrong there, but I would say that we have a problem!

It seems to me that the reason for this is the easy access to guns in the USA and the USA's acceptance of violence as a way of life.

But think, one and a half million deaths by gun since 1980 in the USA against about 100 in Japan in the same time period! Something wrong somewhere - as far as death by guns is concerned - and it isn't in Japan.

The new recyclers.

You have heard of the Nouveau Riche no doubt? But have you heard of the Nouveau Recyclers? No? Well they may come by your house too, they come by my house most days of the week. It works like this - I go out my front door to get my newspaper and on the way I pick up, today it was - some scratch off lottery tickets, an empty cigarette packet, (Minus the cellophane wrapping which must have blown away), and a plastic soda cup complete with lid and straw. Later today I will go out to get the mail and there will be more donations from my Nouveau Recycler friends. Perhaps a beer bottle or two, sometimes I get the whole six pack, carton and all, but not usually neatly packed together. Of course there are often miscellaneous donations like sodas cans, beer cans, McDonald bags complete with wrappers, unused food and even the plastic toy if I am lucky. I have even had socks and other articles of clothing - don't they know they are not recyclable? Anyway it all gets sorted and put into the appropriate bin, to picked up on Tuesdays by the AA County Recycling truck.
Thank you recycler friends, even if it is an unusual way of recycling, whatever works, I guess it's the thought that counts?

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's like watching a nature show!

These were Julia's words this morning as we sat, enthralled, by our view of The Lake. It was very windy, as it has been for several days now.
The Lake was covered with whitecaps, the trees were bending and twisting, but what held our gaze most was the birds. Over the period of a few minutes we observed Turkey Vultures, Eagles, Canada Geese, many types of Seagull and several different varieties of Diving Ducks.
Even after 2 years of living in paradise we still cannot believe the sight that meets our eyes whenever we look out at The Lake. It doesn't seem to matter what time of the day or night, there is some new sight for us to marvel at.
If it isn't the birds - which are always there, but there are many more on The Lake whenever it is stormy on The Bay - then it is the Sunset, or the Sunrise. Or the Moon & the Stars so bright that they could blind you. Or a fox running across the lawn, a baby Raccoon, Skunk or Possum or some other unknown Mystery Creature. Only once have we seen a Deer, a Stag at that!
On the other side, where we have a view of The Bay we can see Cruise Ships and Tankers passing and big whitecaps when it is rough, while here on The Lake it is comparatively calm even in the roughest storms.
The variety of scenes is staggering, every day is different, the Sun or the Moon or the Rain, Snow, Mist, Fog, Heat, Cold, new buds of Spring, the colors of Fall, always a different sight to see. Even after two years, I still see something new, something that I have not seen here before, at least once a week and often every day. Fish spawning, water over the pier, logs floating, a snake swimming, water rats, seagulls eating clams on the pier - after dropping them onto the pier from up high, swans gracing our waterfront, a turtle on a floating log, a crab eating a dead fish, Kingfishers, Egrets, Cormorants, Loons, Hawks, Osprey, Doves, Grouse, Bitterns, Owls, Hummingbirds, Blue Jays, all the other LBJ birds (Little Brown Jobs) and a thousand other wonders.
Whenever we plan to leave here a few days or a week I always hesitate and have been known to tell Julia, "I don't want to leave, there are only 365 sunsets a year and I hate to miss one of them."
Got to go, there are great Blue Herons calling to me.