I don’t know what to make of the Presidential race

The Republicans are putting on a pretty good clown show with Trump driving all the candidates to the lunatic fringe. By the time it’s all said and done, they’ll have alienated every voter group except angry white males. That’s no way to win an election.

On the Democratic side, Bernie is giving Hillary fits. I like Bernie and what he stands for, but it’s hard to imagine the US electorate electing a self-declared socialist as President. Socialists are communists, don’t you know?

That leaves Hillary as the standard bearer. I don’t like Hillary and never have. She is representative of what’s wrong in American politics. She is smart and shrewd, but she is the ultimate insider and will do whatever is politically expedient. She’s just like Bill, but without the charm. But if she is the Democratic nominee, I will hold my nose and vote for her.

I’m not sure she’s a shoo-in for the nomination. I don’t think Bernie can beat her in a straight up race, but if he does it will be because she implodes in a yet-unnamed scandal. I’m not talking about her server problems or Benghazi. Neither of those “scandals” have any legs. I think what could bring her down is a major financial scandal involving the Clinton Foundation, or a bimbo eruption involving Bill. Does anyone really believe that Slick Willy has kept it in his pants all these years?

The Democrats really need a Plan B. The rumors of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren getting together make me think I’m not the only one thinking this way.

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Class Warfare

This guy has class:

This guy has none:

Jimmy Carter exhibits a grace that few achieve. The Republicans, all of whom profess a deep and profound faith could take a few lessons from Jimmy, the Sunday school teacher.

I’ve never understood why Carter is so reviled in America. Even a lot of Democrats don’t have much good to say about the guy. He was President during an extremely difficult time in the USA. The Vietnam War had just ended a couple of years before, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation were still fresh, and disco really did suck. He had no control over the really nasty stuff that happened on his watch. The 1973 oil crisis happened before his time and the resulting stagflation was beyond any President’s quick fix. He didn’t cause the 1979 Iranian Revolution or the hostage crisis. He did help the cause of peace by bringing Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin together at Camp David. That peace endures to this day. And no one gives him credit for hiring Paul Volcker as Fed chairman. It took Volker years to bring inflation under control, but St. Ronnie gets all the credit. Another thing he should get credit for is that no American servicemen died in combat under his watch.

The other guy – he’s just a narcissistic, bullying asshole. A very rich one, but still an asshole.

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Renovation Update

The kitchen has been done for a while now and is quite lovely. I did get annoyed for while because I thought the dishwasher was operating intermittently. But the bug turned out to be a feature. It actually works very well. It’s just that it’s so quiet, you have to really try to hear it running, even when your standing right in front of it!

P1050828We kept the old yellow pendant lamp as a reminder of what once was.

The next project was to make one usable walk-in closet out of two less-than-usable ones. It’s not huge, but it’s functional, and Megan’s happy. That’s all the counts.

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Work on the part of the house that I hated most, the front entry way, is now underway. An architectural designer I brought in for advice said it best when he said that he’d seen more welcoming entries to public utility buildings. Well, it’s a hell of a mess right now, but give us a week or two.

P1050830P1050831P1050829New foundations have been poured, interior walls are gone, the floor’s been jack-hammered out, and new exterior walls and doors are on their way. It was hard, but satisfying work for an old man. Who needs a gym when you get to spend a day with a jackhammer, and then get to load it all in the truck and haul it to the dump? I think next time I’ll got to the Crossfit down the street and find some folks to pay me to get some exercise.

And speaking of dumps – someone should invent a pickup truck dumper for use at transfer stations. You would back up on to a platform at the edge of the pit, use appropriate stops under the wheels, open the tailgate, and then hydraulics would tip the front of the truck up so everything would slide out the back. Great idea!

And speaking of great ideas (and changing the subject totally), daughter Megan is off on a 6-12 month round the world tour. She’d been planning it for months, surfing all the cheap travel sites, and came up with some pretty cool stuff. First, she found a credit card that gave her zillions of miles if she spent a few thousand dollars in the first few months. She fulfilled those requirements, and scored a ticket to New Zealand for $23!!! She’ll be doing some house-sitting and other creative things to make the trip inexpensive, but still very comfortable. You can follow her very entertaining travel blog here.

And yes, I did make my annual (mostly) motorcycle pilgrimage to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. It was a great trip, with decent weather, good music, and a fun time with family and friends in the old country. I’ve got a few stories to tell about that trip, but I think I’ll save them for another post. I’ve rambled on long enough.

 

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It’s time for a rant – an Ikea rant.

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed my two bits worth to the blogosphere. But Farley’s still dead, my kidney stones are gone, my knee is OK, Megan’s settling into her new job, and the kitchen is mostly done, so it’s time.

The rant will follow after a bit of kitchen history.

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Those of you who’ve been here, when first seeing the kitchen, must have wondered WTF were Megan and Walter thinking of when they bought this place, but were too polite to say so. Bright yellow Formica counters, crappy wood cupboards, drawers that wouldn’t open, and if they did, wouldn’t close. This was cheap crap in the 70s when it was built, and it certainly didn’t improve with age. Well, it is no more.

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I was quite amazed that it all fit in the truck!

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We ripped up the walls for access to the electrics and plumbing in preparation. We soon found that the walls and floor aren’t square or straight, but fortunately nothing was rotted or structurally unsound. We also learned not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. When I say we, the main man who knew what he was doing is my friend Geoff, jack of all trades. I was just his helper, building up some sweat equity in the place.

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We ran into the usual problems and had a million little and not so little details to work out, but the biggest hassle was with Ikea.

As long as you’re not into super-custom stuff, Ikea has a good product, with great hardware, at a really good price. The problem is that even when you order an entire kitchen and have them deliver it, they only deliver what they have in stock. They leave it up to you to track the shortages, check the website, and pick up the missing materials. They will not hold materials for you, so if you check the website, it says the stuff is in stock, you go down there, and it may or may not be there because someone else may have bought it in the meantime. First come, first serve!

The biggest missing piece we had was the sink. We couldn’t finalize anything until the sink was in place. About two weeks into the project, they told me sinks would be arriving on a Saturday. I called on Friday, just to make sure the sinks were still on schedule. They said they had eight in stock right then, so I drove the 30 miles across Seattle to the store and got the last one in stock. I was just lucky to get it when I did.  Imagine how pissed off I’d be if I’d gone to the store on Saturday morning when the doors opened, and all the sinks were gone!

With the sink in place, we were able to make the kitchen functional, and restaurants around here started laying people off. I ate in restaurants more in a month than I normally do in years.

Right now, I’m still missing four cabinet doors and five drawer fronts. After at least a half dozen trips to pick things up, I ordered the stuff online. They say they’ll ship on July 9th. We’ll see.

But the Ikea screwed up system doesn’t stop there. I paid for the whole kitchen, but they only shipped 80% of it. So they gave me three “gift” cards to pay for the rest. What they don’t tell you is that I bought during a 20% off sale, and the gift card amounts reflected that discounted price. So when I picked up materials from the original order and paid for them with the “gift” cards, the sale was over and I was charged full price. I had to spend considerable time in the kitchen department going over receipts and then spent more time in the “customer service” department getting the refund.

But wait! There’s more. The price for the whole kitchen included quartzite countertops that were supplied by a local firm. I found that firm absolutely impossible to deal with, so I cancelled the order. I found a different local contractor for less than half of Ikea’s sale price.

At the end of the day, I’ll be very happy with what we got from Ikea. And the hassle was worth it. Great value for product received. But beware, if you use Ikea for your kitchen remodel be prepared for a lot of headaches.

 

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Farley’s Gone

P1050577 (1)Last night in the street in front of our house, Farley was hit by a car. After being hit, he was still breathing and alert, so we rushed him to a 24 Hour veterinary hospital. X-rays soon revealed that his spine was fractured. The damage was severe and life-threatening. Our options were to take him to a vet hospital with a neurologist for further assessment, or have him put down. We were leaning toward having a neurologist take a look at him, but during the discussion he went into respiratory distress, and we made the heart-breaking decision to euthanize him.

Farley was born on Boxing Day of 2007. I wasn’t sure I’d ever replace Angus the Airedale after he died in the summer of 2006, but a year and a half later I was ready to start looking around. I liked Airedales, but Angus was a 75-pounder, which was a bit too big for me. I like Wheaten Terriers and they were about the right size, but Angus’ old vet told me they had lots of  congenital health issues. I liked the look of Labradoodles, but I was too cheap to spend $2500. So when I found Farley’s breeder on the internet, the description of the dogs she was breeding from a Wheaten Terrier father and a poodle mother sounded perfect. A non-shedding curly coat, males weighing around 50 pounds, and a touch of that terrier attitude. Add the fact that the breeder was in my home town of Saskatoon, and it seemed like a cosmic sign to me. So I made the commitment to get him after he was weaned. “F” was up next up in my alphabetical string of dog names. I chose Fred. But things were just starting to get interesting with Megan and me, so I brought her into the process. She didn’t like the name Fred. She ran through a whole lot of “F” names, and when she hit Farley, I knew immediately that was it. Farley (as in Mowat) from Saskatoon. Perfect!

Megan and I went skiing in Romania that February, and when we came back we were more than the good friends we had been for the previous year and a half. I left immediately for Saskatoon to fetch Farley. Megan and Farley and I have been together as a unit ever since. Now that trivalent bond is forever broken.

Farley was a furry ball of love from the beginning. He loved people and dogs and wasn’t afraid to show it. For those of you who met him, you know that he was often a bit over the top in his greetings. Though I tried, I never managed to train that exuberance out of him. I finally just gave up and let Farley be Farley. He wanted to play with every other dog he ever met, and never got aggressive even when they returned his enthusiasm with a growl or a snarl. He loved nothing more than running at full speed with grace and elegance and sheer joy.

Farley was a worthy successor to the other fabulous dogs I’ve had over the years. He was a great dog in his own right. He might have been the best ever, and will be sorely missed by me and Megan and anyone else whoever knew him.

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Gun Control, once again

Is there anything, any statistic, any event that could conceivably change the stance of a gun advocate (nut) on the issue of gun control? Sandy Hook didn’t do it, nor did Columbine, the Aurora theater shootings, or any of the other mass shootings. (These guys were insane; no gun laws could have stopped them; they could have been stopped had the victims been armed, etc., etc.) Statistics showing the correlation between gun ownership and firearm death rates in developed nations don’t move the needle. (Other developed nations don’t have the same big, barely civilized violent underclass that the USA has.) Appeals to the words of Second Amendment (what well-regulated militia do you belong to?) have no effect.

Because the “Freedom to Bear Arms” is a near-religious belief based on nothing more than gut feel (how can you argue against what you feel in your gut?), I doubt that I’ll ever change any minds. But I did recently find some interesting statistics about gun control and firearm death rates in those famous laboratories of democracy, the States of the United States.

So here I go again:

According to the Kaiser Institute, the USA firearm death rate is 10.4/100,000. That same website  shows the firearm death rates in each of the States.

The Brady Campaign, as reported by the Deseret News, ranks states according to the strictness of their gun laws. The ten strictest are here. The ten loosest States are here.

According to gun enthusiasts (nuts), more guns should make us safer. Let’s see.

The least restrictive gun control States are Utah (12.6), Alaska (19.8), Arizona (14.1), Oklahoma (16.5), and North Dakota (11.8). The firearm death rates are in brackets.

The tightest gun laws are in California (7.7), New Jersey (5.7),  Massachusetts (3.1), New York (4.2), and Connecticut (4.4). Once again, firearm death rates are in brackets.

Remember, the overall USA firearm death rate is 10.4. All of the lax gun law states are well above the national average. All of the tight gun law states are well below the average.

Tell me again how more guns and lax laws save lives.

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Indiana, Arkansas, Wal-Mart and more…

The last week has seen a huge battle erupt between religion and sexuality and the freedoms thereof. There’s lots of good and bad to be said for both sides. In the battle for marriage equality, the LGBT community has won a huge victory in an astonishingly short time. In 2004, states were passing “Defense of Marriage” laws across the country. Those ballot measures brought out a big vote that helped elect Bush the Younger to a second term. Now, a few short years later, marriage equality laws are sweeping the land, and barring something really weird, the Supreme Court will likely make it the law of the land. This is a huge victory. I just wish the winners were more magnanimous.

They’ve managed to demonize anyone who disagrees with them as bigots and fools. This is wrong. There are lots of good people with sincerely held beliefs who feel at least somewhat squeamish about embracing this New World Order. My dear departed mother could be described as a born-again Christian who loved everyone and rarely had anything bad to say about anyone. Even though her faith was sorely tested over the years, she managed to accept the divorces of two of her children, the remarriage of one, and the out-of-wedlock birth of her only great-grandchild. Her faith did evolve over the years, and I’m sure she would have loved any of her children had any of them been gay, but I doubt that she would have blessed a gay marriage. That would have been a bridge too far for her, but that does not make her evil and worthy of scorn.

My mother had a lovely voice and often was asked to sing at weddings and other special occasions. She wasn’t in the wedding singer business, but she loved doing it. But in spite of her loving and accepting nature, I don’t think she would have accepted an invitation to sing at a gay wedding. She didn’t do it for the money or to make a living, so I doubt she would have gotten into any legal trouble for her hypothetical actions. But people who go into for-profit business serving the public should have to provide their service or merchandise to all comers. In an egalitarian society, businesses shouldn’t be able to render moral judgement on the people they do business with. There are all sorts of things that we do in a civil society that are against our own beliefs, religious or otherwise. I hate the fact that almost 20% of my tax dollars go to fund the military-industrial establishment, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. So even though I don’t understand why a gay couple would even want a wedding cake or flowers or food from someone who hated them, they should have the right to get those products that are available to everyone else. So to you squeamish business owners out there, grit your teeth, force a smile, provide the service and take the money. Or find another line of business where you’re not in a position to judge your customers.

As for you cultural crusaders out there – What makes sex, especially the sex lives of others so special? In the pantheon of sins in the Bible, homosexuality is pretty low on the list. Fornication and adultery are big no-nos, as are murder and envy and having other gods before you. Gluttony and sloth up there too. At least they made it to the list of Seven Deadlies. I don’t see any evangelical florists refusing to do business with fat, poorly dressed fornicators on their second or third marriages.

As for you principled conservatives out there – We know where your principles really lie when you fold like a cheap tent as soon as Wal-Mart complains.

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