Sunday, December 24, 2006

Thursday December 24, 2006 The day before Christmas

My brother works for UPS. This is for him.

Twas the day before Christmas when all through the town
Everyone was rushing and wearing a frown.
Christmas day was drawing near
And all the packages weren't even here.

The children were talking with friends and checking their lists
Of the toys they had listed and the toys they had missed.
Mom was in the kitchen, and I was in my chair
Planning for guests who would soon appear.

When out on the street there rose such a clatter
That I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Drawing back the curtains and sidestepping the trash.

The sunlight reflecting from the autos below
Dazzled my eyes with their bright, shiny glow.
But then I saw what made all the noise
It was a UPS truck crammed full of toys.

The driver was haggard and slim
I knew in a moment it had to be Jim.
His old brown truck was cluttered and slow
But he always got there, even in snow.

He had trouble finding a spot on the road
to park his truck so he could unload.
The packages were large, not small
And way too heavy to have to haul.

Finally, he found a place
From which he could race
To the doors of every house
Whose inhabitants he had to rouse.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the doorways the driver he flew,
With his arms full of packages and boxes too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard at the door
The clatter of packages placed on the floor.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Jim rang the bell and listened for sound.

He was dressed all in brown, from his head to his feet,
And his clothes were all pressed nicely and neat.
Packages of toys from the truck he'd acquired,
And he looked like he was all worn out and tired.

His eyes-how downcast! his frown how wary!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn down like a bow,
And the teeth in his mouth were as white as the snow.

The stump of a pencil he held tight in his teeth,
And his hat encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a narrow face and big strong shoulders,
That handled the loads like a large pair of boulders!

He was slim and trim, a right jolly old elf,
And I admired his looks, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Unloaded his packages, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his pencil back in his pocket,
He hurried back to his truck, like a rocket!

He sprang to his truck, put his key in the ignition,
And away he drove like a man on a mission.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove down the trail,
"If you send it back, send it back by MAIL!"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday December 22, 2006 What is winning?

We can win!
All we need is another 100 billion dollars on top of the 80 billion this year and thousands of more troops with more in the future! That's the word coming down from the mountain.

They don't listen to the people, the voters.

This reminds me so much of Vietnam where we inserted ourselves into a civil war without a real plan. First it was just advisers. Then we had to support the government because they were too unstable to handle it by themselves. Our people said NO, but the politicians wouldn't listen. We had invested too much effort and lives and money just to walk away from it. Finally, the congress had to cut off the funds before the leaders and the military would let it go.

Now we are doing exactly the same thing. Back then, we were worried about the “Domino Theory” where if Vietnam fell to the communists, the rest of the region would follow. Now we are trying to “stabilize” the middle east by bringing democracy to Iraq, whether they want it or not. Our leaders and our military aren't listening to the people. The boys are over there doing their duty and following orders and getting mutilated and killed just like they did in Vietnam. Now we are friends with communist China and communist Vietnam and not worried about the “Domino Theory”. Now we are worried about the Islamic countries of the middle east. We don't understand them any better than we understood the Vietnamese or the Chinese.

George doesn't want his legacy to be just about the Iraqi war, but it's his war that he created, in spite of world opinion. It was for his “weapons of mass destruction” that we invaded another country without provocation. It's because he can't admit a mistake that we remain there in spite of his own people's opinion. He keeps talking about winning, but he has never defined how we will know when we have won. He keeps talking about bringing democracy to Iraq, when they want a theocracy.

It's part of their culture to have their religion deeply embedded in the government of their daily affairs. When we leave, there will be bloodshed until the majority of their people settle who will govern them. This religious debate (war) has been continuing for over a thousand years and we won't stop it. We are outsiders (unbelievers, infidels) who they don't trust and won't ever truly trust. They believe, rightly, that we have our own agenda in occupying their country and won't be happy until we leave.

Somehow, the world continued after we left Vietnam. We realized that we can't settle all the world's problems. We have trouble enough with handling our own crime, poverty, education, medical needs, disasters, etc without taking on the troubles of other countries. We don't have to be the policemen for the whole world. Why should we be?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thursday December 21, 2006 My newsletter

Okay, I haven't done it yet but it looks like everyone else is doing it – so I better.

I'm talking about the Christmas newsletters that everyone is sending out. I think they are really great and it's nice to know what has been happening to my friends and relatives – you feel a bit closer. I have been delinquent in doing the same. My life isn't filled with thrills and spills, but it is comfortable and friendly. I have never felt like everyone really wants to know what I have been up to but, since I appreciate knowing about their lives, I will try.

This year, 2006, has been a quietly active year.

January I was fighting a bad cold

February I was making bad investments in my IRA Switched into safe investments (Canadian trusts)

March I started a diet (lost 15 pounds)
Had some chest pains and spent 1 night in hospital (first time ever in hospital)
Had a lot of tests run but couldn't find anything wrong

April Drove down to Albuquerque to visit my daughter and son-in-law for 2 weeks (gained back 10 pounds)

May Worked for one week preparing steel estimate (too long out of the business – not again) Started diet again (through September lost 24 pounds)

June Daugher and grandson from Wyoming spent 3 weeks with me (zoo, fireworks, park)

July Recovering and dieting

August Began house remodeling – wallpaper removed, all walls and ceilings painted, bathroom tiles replaced, put up murals in entry and living room, changed light fixtures

September Continued remodeling

October Continued remodeling (gained 5 pounds)
Cousins from Minnesota dropped by for a nice visit on their way to Branson
Had a big drop in what I thought was safe investment (Canadian trusts)

November Enrolled in Medicare (finally, after going without insurance – a big relief) Daughter and son-in-law from New Mexico flew in for Thanksgiving holiday Had annual birthday dinner at Jess & Jims steak house (all sisters and brothers) (gained 5 pounds)

December Preparing for Christmas with sisters and brother (a wonderful time of the year) Preparing for back surgery in early January (30 year old injury from skiing finally needs repair) (gained 5 pounds)

All in all, it was a bad year for investments and dieting and a good year to see a lot of my relatives. My house now looks like I want it to on the inside and I feel very comfortable there.

I have a mural in the entryway of a woodland waterfall with ceiling spotlights really showing it off well. In the living room, I have a mural of a deep woods and it lends an aire of peace and relaxation to the area. Elsewhere in the house I have enlarged and framed some of my favorite scenic pictures that I took in different areas of the country – they remind me of other times and places. My daughters and son-in-laws and I have grown to become great friends – it took a while, but it was well worth it. They are wonderful people. My sisters and brother and I get together just about every week for a bit and we all care very much about each other.

If you haven't figured it out yet, you're listening to a very happy man.
The only other thing I can say is “MERRY CHRISTMAS”!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wednesday December 20, 2006 Worth it?

Let me try to understand. I need to draw an analogy.

The fire in Iraq is growing and growing. Idiots over there are throwing gasoline and their furniture onto the fire and sniping at our firemen as we try to bring it under control. It's almost reached the out-of-control point where you pull back and let it burn.

Now someone says: “Let's throw some more firemen into the fray and hope that somehow more bodies can bring it under control”. Even the smart people in Washington are listening to the dumb ones and saying “Well, maybe it will work – I don't see how, but maybe they know something I don't know.”. After all, what's a few more firemen? Didn't they volunteer for hazardous duty? Let's just ignore the idiots over there that are throwing gasoline on the fire. The fact that all the people are clapping and chanting for the fire doesn't mean anything. I'm sure in their hearts they really love our firemen.

Obviously our leaders understand a lot more about the situation than I do. I'm sure that it's very important to our welfare that this fire in Iraq doesn't spread clear over to us. I'm sure that we know more about what's better for the Iraqis than they do. Once we build some fire stations over there and help them control their businesses and oilfields and help them understand that we are there as friends with their best interests at heart, they will welcome us with open hearts and flowers as their liberators.

Meanwhile, we estimate that the total cost for this expedition may end up costing 2 Trillion dollars. That's a lot! That's a lot more than we pay to educate our kids or to medicate the uninsured. That's a lot of Katrinas and earthquakes and forest fires and floods.

I don't see the logic. To me it seems a huge waste of lives and dollars that could be used in so many other helpful ways in our own country. I feel so bad for the wounded and dead and their families that they tried so hard to do their duty and that their efforts were misdirected and wasted.

30 or 40 years from now when we are friends with our former enemies (England, Mexico, Spain, Germany, Japan, Germany again, Italy, Korea, China, Vietnam, Russia, Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq again, etc), some will wonder whether the sacrifice was worth it.

I wonder now.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tuesday December 19, 2006 Sometimes you wonder


The rise in wholesale energy costs was led by a 17.9 percent jump in gasoline prices, the biggest increase since June 2000. Natural gas for home use, home heating oil and diesel fuel costs all posted big gains at the wholesale level as well.

The 1.3 percent rise in core wholesale inflation was the biggest one-month gain since a similar 1.3 percent rise in July 1980.

Isn't it interesting how energy costs fell until right after the election?

It's probably just a coincidence. No one would deliberately try to control the cost of energy for political gain, would they? I'm sure the big energy companies just have our best interests at heart. They are more interested in our welfare than they are in profits, aren't they? They probably don't even care who is elected to what post. How could political pundits affect the energy companies? Who, besides Cheney and Bush, was ever connected to the energy businesses?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday December 18, 2006 Forget what?

I did it again last night.

I had one of those great, monumental, change-the-world insights that dawn on you in the middle of the night --- and I didn't write it down.

Now it's lost with all those other great thoughts that whisper by when you least expect them. I knew that I should write this wonderful thought down on paper, but I was sure that I would remember it and pass it along to all those loyal bloggers out there today.

I apologize, for I can't seem to find a thread of that great fabric my mind wove last night. I'm absolutely sure that it would have been a great boon to someone out there and would probably have changed their life forever, but now they are chained to their current situation without hope.

I must say, though, that sometimes the thoughts that I have scrawled down on paper in the middle of the night didn't always make a lot of sense – or the logic had a few flaws in it. But, I'm sure that last night's thought was really stupendous. It's comforting to know that your mind is still able to compose these great works of mental agility even though it won't let you remember them.

Maybe someday, with the proper drugs, I can bring my thought processes into alignment with my memory – if I don't forget.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wednesday December 13, 2006 Listen to Who?

What do you want to bet that George isn't going to listen to anybody else but his buddies and “Stay The Course”?


As stated in the Iraq Study Group Report:

“The United States has made a massive commitment to the future of Iraq in both blood and
treasure. As of December 2006, nearly 2,900 Americans have lost their lives serving in Iraq.
Another 21,000 Americans have been wounded, many severely.
To date, the United States has spent roughly $400 billion on the Iraq War, and costs are
running about $8 billion per month. In addition, the United States must expect significant “tail
costs” to come. Caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of
billions of dollars. Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement
in Iraq.

Despite a massive effort, stability in Iraq remains elusive and the situation is deteriorating.
The Iraqi government cannot now govern, sustain, and defend itself without the support of the
United States. Iraqis have not been convinced that they must take responsibility for their own
future. Iraq’s neighbors and much of the international community have not been persuaded to
play an active and constructive role in supporting Iraq. The ability of the United States to shape
outcomes is diminishing. Time is running out.”

The Iraq Study Group recommended most combat troops be withdrawn by early 2008 and the U.S. mission changed from combat to training and support of Iraqi units. It also called for an energetic effort to seek a diplomatic solution to Iraq's violence by engaging its neighbors, including Iran and Syria.


Bush, cool to both of the commission's central ideas, had been expected to follow his information-gathering with a pre-Christmas announcement of his own altered blueprint for U.S. involvement in Iraq. But the White House, citing the president's request for more time to refine and game out new policies, said Tuesday that Bush would wait until early next year.

The message to Bush, the defense specialist who requested anonymity said, is that the U.S. cannot withdraw a substantial number of combat troops by early 2008, as suggested in the Iraq Study Group report, because the Iraqis will not be ready to assume control of their country.


"It has been six weeks since the American people demanded change in Iraq. In that time Iraq has descended further toward all-out civil war and all the president has done is fire Donald Rumsfeld and conduct a listening tour," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Incoming Senate majority leader said. "Talking to the same people he should have talked to four years ago does not relieve the president of the need to demonstrate leadership and change his policy now."


Meanwhile, George and friends had plenty of time to produce a nice video about his dog, Barney.

You just have to take the time to work on the important things.

Besides, he already made up his mind long ago and he never admits to making a mistake.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tuesday December 12. 2006 When all is said and done

When all is said and done, it's not about the “things” you've gotten or the “wealth” you've amassed or the fancy car or the fancy house you've acquired.

These things are nice, but they aren't that important after years have passed and newness has worn off. It's all about the people you've met and the memories you have created.

Christmas is like life – you get pretty stressed out trying to get presents for all the people on your lists and going to all the functions and decorating and sending out cards – and when it's all over, the only thing that really mattered was the friendship and good feelings you shared. All the “things” associated with Christmas are just fancy window dressing. It's all about the pleasant memories of friends and family getting together or talking on the phone or sending letters and renewing old ties. The presents get soon forgotten and all the hubbub wears you down till you have that after-Christmas letdown. But, the love you shared feels warm and good way down deep inside. You can carry that feeling with you for all your years – it's that good. I don't remember all the presents that I received as a child, but I do remember the smiles and the hugs and happiness that surrounded me when Christmas came. It's that warmth and glow that I want to rekindle each Christmas.

In life, it's the same. When you get older and friends and relations have passed out of your life, it's not the “things” you acquired but the memories of times gone by. That's the warmth and glow you carry with you into the twilight.

Have a Merry Christmas and treasure the good feelings. Smile a lot and hug a friend.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday December 6, 2006 Christmas Cards

I was filling out my Christmas Cards the other day and found myself lost in different memories with each person's name. Memories that take me back many years are still fresh in my mind. Christmas is such a special time - a time for good thoughts and kind actions - a time when people look out for other people and actually carry a bit of a smile on their faces. I have always liked Christmas and try to prolong that special feeling over a period of as many weeks as I can.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and have great memories as well.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday December 1, 2006 Winter is

Snow, lovely snow, delightful to watch as it falls, wonderful to observe covering the trees and fields, but ugly to drive in.

We had about 6” of snow (up to 12” in some areas) and it looks nice and bright and clean today. The first snow of the new winter season is always exciting. Of course the weather turned much colder – last week it was in the 60s and now it's in the low teens. It was great watching a fire in the fireplace last night while a winter storm was blowing outside. Now we must face the aftermath – slick streets and sidewalks, horrible traffic and bitter cold. Winter is here early.

Now that everyone is sick of leftover turkey, it's time to think of Christmas – a pleasant thought. Christmas seems to draw out the kid in each of us. It must be the decorations and the music and the gift giving that reminds us of our childhood. It was a time of wonder and anticipation and of family. Everyone seemed to be just a bit friendlier at this time of the year. It's hard to single out a particular Christmas memory – they all were special in their own way. When I was young, it was all about what I would get from Santa. Later, it was about what I would give to those I loved. Now it's wonderful to watch the youngsters and their joy and to remember when I was the same. It really isn't what you get or what you give – it's all about the joy of sharing and the wonder of the season and the hope.