Friday, November 28, 2008

Missed Opportunity

I fully intended to write a blog yesterday to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, but got sidetracked with a killer headache. What a way to start the day. I managed to get the turkey stuffed and in the roaster, then told my husband I was going to lie down for a while before our company arrived. I fell asleep and kind soul that he is, he let me sleep. Right up until the company pulled up.

Yikes, I was out of bed in a flash, ran a comb through my hair, splashed water on my face, and went out to greet them. Luckily, we were dining casually, so my sweats and t-shirt didn't raise an eyebrow.

Our company, which consisted of our daughter, her husband and her youngest son, and our youngest son, all brought the side dishes. I was responsible for the turkey, dressing, rolls, and pie. All in all it was a great feast and by mid afternoon we were all pleasantly full and ready to watch the Cowboys beat Seattle.

Later that afternoon, I realized my headache was gone. Not sure if it was the third dose of sinus pills, the good company, or the pumpkin pie. Or maybe a combination of all three.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

There's nobody in here but us chickens...

Here is another guest blog from Tracy Farr who has a particularly warped sense of humor. Thought you all would appreciate a bit of levity.

As most of you may know, I'm a quiet, unassuming kind of guy who is basically shy, never wants to stand out from the crowd, never speaks out on "the issues," who always does what he's told, and prefers to let rude people run all over me rather than to stand up for myself.

Yep! That's who I am! But today's going to be different. Today I'm going to stand tall and talk about a potential disaster that, if we don't do anything about it, will affect our local economy for now and for ever more. I'm talking about the possible demise of Pilgrim's Pride and the removal of Bo's Head.

(FYI: For those of you who don't know, there's a massive Bo Pilgrim bust standing alongside Hwy 271 just north of Pittsburg, Texas. It's a huge tourist attraction. People come from miles around just to see Bo's Head. So when I say "the removal of Bo's Head," I don't actually mean Bo's REAL head, I mean the tourist attraction head. Okay, now that we have that clear, let's move on.)

Since we live in a capitalistic society, and we all firmly believe that competition is good for the consumer -- that survival of the fittest dictates only the "strong" companies will survive -- there isn't very much we can do about helping Pilgrim's Pride. But if we lose Bo's Head, we might as well cash in our chips and head to the house.

I don't know about you, but when my friends and family come to visit from out of town, I always tell them to go see Bo's Head. And if they go home to THEIR communities and tell others about it, then a steady stream of tourists come through this area and that means they're eating in our restaurants, sleeping in our hotels, shopping in our Wal-Mart, and that's good for our local economy. In other words, it would devastate our community if Bo were to lose his Head.

Besides, Michelle Barganski is a loyal subscriber to this newsletter and Gil Newman is a founding member of The Stinky Creek Jazz Band -- and they both work for Pilgrim's. I sure would hate for anything to happen to their jobs, 'cause I like having them around, too.

In conclusion, it may already be too late to keep Bo's Head from the chopping block. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. But just in case, let's all go out this afternoon and buy a couple of Pilgrim's Pride whole chickens, and maybe even some thighs and chicken wings, just so we can say we did our part in trying to save Bo's Head.

May God be with us all, and may God Bless America.


The Daily Spittoon -- You can't say we don't care about the issues

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Successful Book Fair

Had a great time talking to high school students in Mineola - a small town in East Texas - on Tuesday for the Mineola Book Fair. The students were a respectful and attentive audience, and it is always so much fun to go to the schools and meet creative young people.

In the morning, I talked to two English classes about why we write and one of the reasons I cited was that we write to stir consciousness and stimulate debate.

Toward the end of the first session the teacher pulled up my blog and projected it on a screen so the students could read it. We ended up in a lively discussion about the situation at the DISD that I blogged about on the 16th. That was so neat to actually have live in the classroom a perfect example of the point I was making. One student and the teacher got into a discussion about why the DISD had to let teachers go, and the students ended up with a better understanding of how administration works. Not that it changed her mind that the situation was unfair to students. But it did broaden her view of the issue.

The other great thing about the Book Fair was that the school librarian who started the Fair four years ago said that her circulation has tripled since authors started visiting the school on an annual basis. She said it really seems to stimulate interest in reading to meet authors and have a chance to talk with them.

When someone asks if the event was a success. I tell them about the increase in reading. That is the success for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What Part of Fraud Don't You Understand?

A news item on Saturday reported that the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is being investigated bythe Social Security Administration (SSA) for assigning bogus social security numbers to employees hired from foreign countries. Apparently this started as someones bright idea for expediting the hiring system.

The new hires needed something for identificaion purposes to get on the payroll. So this "someone" decided they could use the fake SS numbers as temporary identification numbers until they received real ones. When new numbers were assigned by the SSA, the employees were supposed to tell officials at DISD so the fake SS numbers could be replaced.

That didn't always go according to the plan. In some cases, the fake numbers made their way to retirement accounts, the IRS, and the Social Security Administration. And some of the numbers were ones already legitimately assigned to other people. The legal department of the DISD is looking into the matter as well

I read this news story several time, trying to figure out how someone could not recognize from the get-go that this was a stupid idea. Not to mention a criminal idea. Falsifying Social Security information is a felony.

DISD is already under heavy scrutiny for budget shortfalls, attempting to solve that problem by firing a number of teachers, and other questionable operations. They sure didn't need another problem because the solutions to the problems always seem to impact the students and teachers most profoundly.

Those creating the problems continue to hold their jobs and receive large salaries and bonuses, while teachers struggle to make ends meet and students struggle to learn in an environment that becomes less conducive to learning every day.

And unfortunately, these are not problems unique to just one school district.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Something to Lighten Your Day

Since I have been so busy this week I thought I would have a guest bring you a bit of humor. Here is another offering from Tracy Farr, a very funny man who also plays a mean banjo.

A rose by any other name...
I don't know how you feel about the matter, but it makes me proud to live in a country where being elected to the highest office in the land does not depend upon the color of your skin, your religion, your sex or having a weird name like Barack.

Millions of people, good, honest, hard-working Americans, live their lives ashamed of having names like Garvin, Earl, Clementine, or Gertrude. Guys try with all their might to hide the fact they have girl names like Carol and Hollie. At the same time, Gals are constantly having to explain that their real name is Samantha, even though they go by Sam.

But now, with a president named Barack, we of unusual names can stand a little taller -- at least, I know I will.

I asked my parents why they named me Tracy, and they said at the time I was born, it was a common boy name. But I have my own thoughts. I think my parents were deep in debt with a bookie, and they agreed to give their first-born son a "girlie" name in exchange for not having their fingers cut off. I believe this because every time I go to the old neighborhood, I always run into an old man wearing a pinstriped suit and wing tip shoes who just points at me and laughs.

I remember when I was a young boy, with my friends over for supper, my mother gave me a package that had come in the mail. I opened it up (even though it was addressed to Ms. Tracy Farr) and read the letter: "Dear Ms. Farr, now that you are becoming a young lady, we would like to...." And then the sample feminine hygiene product fell into my lap.

One "friend" said, "Tracy, is there something you're not telling us?"

Another said, "So what's it like become a young lady?"

Finally, the last one said, "Hey, if you show me yours, I'll show you mine."

Now, with the election of Barack Obama, those of us with non-traditional names can walk the streets with our heads a little higher, and be proud of the names our parents dropped upon us. No longer does an American president have to be named George, Bill or Jimmy. He (or she) can be named Barack, Hillary, Jethro, or Daisy Mae.

And if that doesn’t prove change is in the air, nothing will.
The Daily Spittoon -- Always proud of our name

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Blues

It's been a busy few days since I posted last, which kept me pretty much offline, especially over the weekend. Our son came to visit for a few days, and we always enjoy working outdoors while he is here. Like me, he is a frustrated farmer, so he likes to do chores. The first day, we built a huge fire in the back and burned a lot of limbs and logs from trees that had fallen over the last year since we cleaned up back there and had a big burn.

We were also having a new roof put on the hay barn and discovered we have termites feasting on the posts. Not good. So we spent a couple of hours doing termite control. That entailed moving some old wood that had been stacked on one side of the barn and injecting insecticide into the ground around all the posts.

This morning, I'd hoped to get that old wood carted off to the burn pile and clean my front pasture, but got up to rain. None of us are liking it. Not even the goats. They head for the small barn when there is even a spit of rain. The cats all ran for the hay and the dog came inside.

I am not sure why I titled this Monday Morning Blues. It is really Monday Morning Gray. If the rain stays at a steady drizzle, I can keep working in my office, but if it develops into thunderstorms, I will have to shut down my computer. Not good since I have tons of work to do today. So maybe that's why I'm a little blue right now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Letter to Our New President

It's official, we now have a new president and we are in for an interesting four years. I'll admit I was a Barack supporter, and I am pleased that he won.

This morning, I received a message from Barack that was addressed to me personally. As I stated in my response to him, part of me wanted to believe that he had indeed penned -- or typed -- that message personally, but I know he simply would not have had time to write to the thousands of people on his e-mail list. But being the idealist that I am, I wrote a response in hopes that my message might somehow reach him.

Here is my letter:

Dear Barack,
Congratulations on your win. The idealist in me would like to believe that this note was written by you personally to me personally, but the realist knows it was probably written by someone on your staff and sent to your entire e-mail list. Even so, the fact that you probably asked that this be done is commendable.

While I have someone's ear at your headquarters, I would like to make an appeal. Millions of dollars are spent on Inagural ceremonies and Inagural balls, and it sure would make a strong statement if you streamlined all of that. The country is so far in debt that we don't need to be spending on pomp and you would do well to distance yourself from the lobbyists who pay for most of the social celebrations.

I know I am asking a lot. What does Washington live for but these opportunities to pull out the stops and celebrate, especially on such an historic moment. But think of the rest of us of modest means who are no longer going out to dinner once a week because inflation is eating up our cash flow and the financial crisis is killing our retirement.

Thank you for listening.

Maryann Miller

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Your Chuckle For The Day

I laughed so hard after reading this Mallard Fillmore cartoon this morning, I choked on my coffee.

Funny stuff:

"With only two days left in the campaign, the latest polling data show that 92 percent of registered voters now say they'll scream if they hear any more polling data...

"...while 84 percent say pollsters should be eaten alive by gerbils."

The other day, my husband and I thought we'd feed the pollsters to the coyotes, but death by gerbil might be more fitting. Coyotes kill their prey quickly.

Here's a link to more Mallard Fillmore fun