Thursday, March 23, 2017

Recreation Yard is Closed

I worked setting fence posts and running wire a couple of years ago so Lily would have somewhere to run. She can't be turned loose because her nose takes over and she just runs away. When we added Rose to the mix we knew we had a new challenge. Lily wants to go out and spends her time digging and barking. Rose goes out and runs the perimeter of the recreation yard looking for any weak spot she can exploit to escape. She digs along the fence and under the deck. I was spending time trying to fix the areas she was working on but eventually her persistence paid off and she escaped. Rose is not as difficult to catch as Lily but still a challenge. The good news for me is that her escape was before the foliage was out on the trees and bushes in the woods. I could at least see her. The bad news for me was that the thorns do not fall off the bushes. Say what you want about blue jeans but they are not the quality the were in the past. The material is lighter and the thorns go right through them now. As for Lily, the pictures below feature some of her digging skills and barking.

This is one of the times she decided to follow a mole trail across the yard, The good news is the digging is shallow.

She took a short break to do some barking. Coon hounds are known for their distinctive bark. It is said that hunters who use them can tell their dogs apart at a distance by their bark. I must admit Lily's full volume coon hound bark is impressive.


I include the two pictures above to give you an idea of what a stubborn dog can accomplish. While it may be a bit hard to see the hole Lily excavated here is 24 inches deep where the ground is level. The only reason it is not deeper is that I made her go in the house. She was not happy about being run out of her project and gave me a serious cursing in the form of barks.

Recreation will now be limited to walks with me and occasional outings to the dog park. We have to do those when other dogs are not at the park. Lily does not enjoy the company of other dogs with the exception of Rose.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

WWJD

I think it is important to start with what this is not. WWJD is normally shorthand for What Would Jesus Do. There seem to be lots of opinions about that. Many seem to think they know the mind of God. I, in all honesty, do not. I understand we have free choice but I have difficulty reconciling free choice with how many religious folks are willing to treat their fellow human beings. We have choices to make as individuals and as a nation. Today is about basic human needs. Food, shelter, clothing and health care. Today WWJD is What Would Jeff Do.

 This is one of the graphics I have seen with the highest estimate of uninsured under the current proposal pending in Congress. It saddens me that the number in the middle is accurate. I spent part of my adult life in the uninsured category. Those who have never been in that position will never understand how stressful that can be. You make too much to be on a government medical program and too little to afford the insurance offered by your employer. We had children. You were a heartbeat away from disaster. A fall, an unexpected illness, any kind of accident would change your circumstances perhaps forever. There are those in Congress who argue that the new health plan will give you access to health care. I remember having access back in those days when I did not have insurance. It was a choice. You had the option of having insurance but that left insufficient money for housing and food. What good is an option you cannot afford?

It isn't often that I agree with a religious leader. The question becomes this. How do we get from where we are to universal health care?

We spend a staggering amount of money on weapons of war. The other day we (the American taxpayer) spent about a million dollars to see if a Patriot missile could shoot down an unmanned drone aircraft. It was a drone you could buy for a few hundred dollars at Amazon. If it makes you feel safer, it did work. What could we have done with that million dollars? Or with this money?

Maybe the graphic below will help put our spending priorities in order.

Do we really need two more of those?

I am perhaps a bit odd. I am pro-choice and pro-life. I would prefer there were no abortions but I am unwilling to substitute my judgement for that of a woman who is faced with that choice. I do wonder why we are so willing as a country to fight for the unborn and at the same time less willing to assist in the health care, nutrition, education and housing of the child after it is born?

The graphic above shows how many hours you would have to work to afford a one bedroom apartment at the fair market rent rate in each state if you made minimum wage. I understand there is considerable opposition to raising the federal minimum wage. States have gone so far as preventing local governments from raising the minimum wage in their area. Many in Congress argue that decisions would be better made at the state or local level. That is, of course, until a decision is made they do not approve. Things like legalized marijuana and increasing the minimum wage. The minimum wage must be a living wage.

So, WWJD? We must provide for the basic needs of all our citizens. Food, shelter, clothing, education, and healthcare. They are our fundamental needs and we have a right to them and a responsibility to provide them to each citizens of our nation. The argument we cannot afford them is stupid. We are too willing to feed our war machine rather than care for our neighbors. It is wrong. It will lead to our ultimate undoing as a nation.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Oquawka

Mrs. Sutor's birthday rolled around and it was time to go on a road trip. She wanted to go to a quilt store in Oquawka so we headed out. It turns out the quilt shop there is located in an old bank. In a country where we tend to abandon and raze such structures it was refreshing to see this one saved and repurposed.

The appearance of the building strikes me as odd for a bank. It appears that at some point in the past the building was a home. Why a second floor? The same question regarding the balcony.

The vault door makes it clear at some point it was a bank.

If you had doubts this should clear up any questions.

Most of the fabric bolts are out in the main area of the store. The items in the vault are sale items marked down for quick sale. I enjoyed the sign over the vault encouraging us to "rob the bank".

This is the second vault which also contained sale fabrics. Overall it was a large well stocked store with a friendly and knowledgeable staff. They encouraged us to sign up for their mailing list. We declined since we spend about half the year in Georgia. We will return when we have a chance and make more purchases.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sometimes You Need Help

On Saturday we went to the band progression concert at the high school in Rushville. The pictures I posted the other day were all taken by me. Today I feature the photographs taken by my assistant photographers. It can be a bit nerve racking to hand an expensive camera to a young person. It is important to understand that they cannot learn without being given the opportunity.

This is my first assistant Johnnie Lynn.

My second assistant Audrey Layne.

One of the problems faced by shorter photographers is getting pictures of the back of people's heads. I will give credit to both my assistants in doing something I don't. They take a picture and then look to see how it turned out. Perhaps all my years dealing with film and having to wait sometimes weeks to see how they developed lead me to just continue to take pictures with the hope that something (read anything) might turn out decent.
The next picture corrected the back of the head problem. Perhaps a bit of over correction with too much overhead. There is a learning curve involved.

Picture three corrects both those problems. Progress and practice prove helpful.

I enjoy the composition of this picture and the truth is that a bit of cropping would correct any issues. Again the joys of digital photography.

A nice view of the zoom in to get a closer view of the band.

The last picture featured below was taken by someone else. I would give credit but I took it off Facebook and I don't remember who took the picture. The young lady with the dark brown eyes and brown hair holding a flute upright next to her face is our granddaughter Vannessa. She enjoys band especially marching band and we enjoy watching her perform. It has made a tremendous impact on her confidence, her overall performance in school and her level of maturity. The folks who think the arts are not important in school are just wrong. They are a vital part of a well rounded educational experience.
My thanks to my able assistants. I look forward to the next time I am able to share camera time with you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Strip Minimg

President Trump has promised to return manufacturing jobs to the United States. I would like to believe that is possible. The more I read the less likely it seems he will be able to do so. Even things I thought would work like refusing to buy products that were not made in the United States appear to be powerless to change the direction we are going. The strip mining mentioned in the title is financial strip mining.

Financial strip mining is a Wall Street practice of stripping a company of its wealth through stock buybacks. The article I read was about a company in Indianapolis, Indiana named Rexnord. They are a maker of bearings and ball bearings. They are moving 300 jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Mexican workers will make about three dollars per hour. The workers in the United States made twenty five dollars per hour. Normally I would think this is the main reason for the move. It is just part of the picture. In 2015 Rexnord bought back three hundred million dollars of their own stock. Why would Wall Street like that? When there is a stock buyback the demand for the stock causes the share price to rise. So hedge fund investors get an immediate increase in the value of the shares they hold. Second, now the company's earnings are spread over fewer shares. President Trump is committed to a deregulation agenda. From the Great Depression until 1982, under President Reagan, stock buybacks were virtually outlawed as a form of stock manipulation. In 1980 only 2% of corporate profits went to stock buybacks. At the time of the crash of 2007-08 over 75% of corporate profits went toward buying back the company's own shares.Hedge fund managers aren't the only ones who profit from these buybacks. CEO's now receive a significant portion of their pay from stock incentives. Their goal does not become anything other than raising the price of the stock. They move jobs to low wage countries to raise the stock price and enrich the value of their stock incentives. The truth is that President Trump cannot bully Wall Street into keeping jobs in the United States. They are interested only in making money quickly and the stock buybacks are the tool that works for them. President Trump's administration is full of economic advisors from Wall Street. They have no interest in changing the law that allows them to strip money and jobs out of these companies. Until we are able to create a mass movement among the people to fight this it is likely to continue for decades. Since these same corporate interests control our mass media it is unlikely such a movement will gain traction in the near future.

So, the promise to return jobs and punish those companies who move jobs out of the United States, is just more Trump bluster and bullshit.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday in Illinois

A couple of weeks ago the temperature was in the upper 60's and lower 70's. Some wondered if it would be an early spring. Make no mistake, the weather and the calendar declare clearly today, it is still winter. My friend and fellow blogger Mike is in Florida, no doubt, basking in the warm weather and seemingly endless sunshine. Last night when we went to be the world here was various shades of brown with hints of green as the plants anticipated spring. Saturday in Rushville, a mere 75 miles or so south, the daffodils were in bloom. A beautiful bit of greenery and yellow bloom against the palate of brown. Welcome to Monday.

 This is the view out our back door this morning. There is something beautiful about a pine tree frosted with snow. The world of brown is bright white today. Local schools are closed. It seems like excessive caution but in their defense I haven't been out on the roads. Perhaps they are worse than I think.


Some folks still had to work. The Ameren meter reader was by this morning. Since our meter is on the back of the house she has to park and walk back to read it. She was stealthy today as Lily and Rose never noticed her pull in or leave.

This one is included because I like the look of snow blowing off a roof.

What do I have planned today? There is a rack of firewood on the right and I intend to feed it to this fire and get more from the garage as needed. Retirement allows me to relax and watch the day go by.

Rose wondered why I was taking pictures and decided she wanted to be included. People ask what kind of dog she is. I usually reply that she is a rescue dog and they can pick a breed they like for her. She is very food motivated so I do sometimes call her a chow hound. One might also add attention whore to her list. She will at times today force me to go outside so she can address her physical needs. She also loves to play in the snow. Me, not so much.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Band Progression

Yesterday we traveled to Rushville to watch and listen to our granddaughter Vannessa's band concert. It was an interesting format. The concert progressed through the various band groups in the local school system. The beginners in the 5th and 6th grades, the junior high band and finally the high school band. It was amazing how much progress had been made over the course of years. Their ability to play more complex pieces, the quality of the performance and the maturity of the kids. The other interesting thing for us was the timing. We are accustomed to how things work on Tybee Island. If you have an event scheduled for 4:00 p.m. as this was, you are surprised if it starts by 4:15 and maybe 4:30. The band director was ready to go at about 3:55 but watched the clock until about 2 minutes before the start time to begin speaking. It was a refreshing change.

Here is the 5th grade group.

Note the time stamp on the bottom of the picture. They are playing at 16:03. For those not familiar with military time that is 4:03 p.m.  Don't they look incredibly young? Their musical selection was "Land of Lost Zombies" by Robert Grice.

The next group to play was the combined 5th and 6th grade bands.

This combined group benefited from the year of experience gained by the 6th grade members. Their musical selection was "Enchantment" by Brian Balmages.

The 6th grade band played next.
They performed "Hocus Pocus" by Rob Romeyn. It was another significant step in seeing their ability to play a more complex piece of music and hit the notes with more exactness.

The junior high band was next up.
This group performed "Pandora" by Randall Standridge.

The next group was the largest. It was the combined junior high and high school bands.
In this case every chair in the band area was filled. They performed "Shadows Unleashed" by Brian Balmages. It was once again an improvement in quality over the performance of the previous group.

The next picture is included for only one reason.

The back of the young man's shirt indicates he is a member of the class of 2021. A young lady a couple of rows in front of him is part of the class of 2020. They represent graduations classes that are 49 and 48 years after my own. It made me feel very old. Where did that almost half century go?

The final group to perform was the high school band. They are a very accomplished and talented group. They have won awards for their marching band and concert band competitions. It is a credit to two things. First and perhaps foremost the hard work and dedication of the students and their parents. Almost equally as important the skill and dedication of the instructors.

This group performed "Hocus Pocus"by James Syler and "Abracadabra" by Frank Ticheli. It was a polished performance by a very talented and dedicated group.

There are those who look at the younger generation and question what if anything they will be able to accomplish. I don't know about big cities and the suburban areas. If Rushville is an indicator of rural America we can learn a couple of things. Young people given the opportunity, instruction and encouragement can do incredible things. It once again reminds us that a fully rounded educational experience must include music and art education.