Fish

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Snow in March in Texas

I'm a Texas native.
I've grown up here and seen a wide range of weather from hurricanes to tornadoes to storms that would fry the normal person's hair.But one thing was always pretty consistent and that was the change of weather during the year. I don't remember one March day from my childhood where it snowed in Texas. I don't remember the kind of weather we have endured the last five years. What's interesting is that while the green types keep saying this is all evidence of Global Warming, our winters have been longer and colder in north Texas in the past five to ten years. Even when I was in high school back in the 70's winter centered from late December through mid-February. Now we're seeing the situation that is so confused that the bulbs I plant after the first frost have come up trying to bloom just in time to get frozen by one or two unprecedented winter storms.

My hypothesis is that the magnetic poles, which are not fixed, are shifting as they do from time to time. This in turn is resulting in altered weather patterns for the entire northern hemisphere. But, that being said, this is not the much ballyhooed Global Warming nor it is something we can control.

This year, in north Texas, we've had almost as much snow as we have ever had. My backyard featured seven inches of snow that fell last night, which was on top of nearly an inch of ice. I would say this isn't normal Texas weather for March, but for the last five years or so this type of weather has creeped into the Spring Break calendar. Tonight it will be 21 degrees here which might be normal for some Rust Belt states, but decidedly colder than history would have it for Dallas. Perhaps hell has truly frozen over. Given what's gone on lately, it wouldn't surprise me.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Tax Reality

My son broke his ankle last January. This was followed by a series of economic hurdles that included having to pay $5000 out of pocket just to get admitted to the hospital. After the surgery-two plates and sixteen screws-my son missed nearly two months of full time work. It was simply impossible for him to do his job as a high end bike sales rep. He couldn't drive. He couldn't stand up all day. But his company held his job and created opportunities for him to contribute. The end bill was around $45K for surgery and two and a half days of hospitalization.

This is where the trouble began. The nurses and doctors didn't wean him from the IV pain meds until he was being wheeled out the door. Because I teach school and had already missed several days to care for him, his older brother picked him up. My son suffered outrageous withdrawals, for which nobody seemed to have answers. He endured the agony for four days. Then we began getting bills. Although the hospital that the surgeon used had the brand name of a hospital on my son's insurance, because it was 51% owned by the doctors working there, we had to haggle to get the amount covered. We had no choice really. He broke the ankle on New Year's Day and the longer we waited, the worse the recovery would be. There were only two doctors from a list of 20 given by his insurance who could see him. Likewise, we had to either choose the facility offered or risk waiting two to three weeks. Now I ask you, does that sound like prudent and immediate care? But I digress.

Fast forward to this week. All my son's papers were in order (sounds menacing doesn't it) for filing taxes. He did get compensation from his company's accident insurance policy to cover his out of pocket expenses. He still ended up missing two months of work and had to make up for lost income. But when he went to file taxes, he was told that the compensation he used to pay off the hospital and doctor would be TAXED. So even though he ended up spending 12% of his annual gross income on medical bills, my son, who work retail, who has only recently made enough to afford to move out and live on his own, will owe money. When he told the person doing the taxes effectively that he would not be filing, she replied "but you make more than lots of people."

This is how conservatives are made.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Do My Job-Why Can't Other People Do Theirs?

A valid question.
I'm a high school teacher with all the job responsibility and paperwork that entails. I make lesson plans,  grade projects, call parents, go to meetings, make arrangements for competitions, collect permission slips, and on and on and on. I do this year in and year out.

We got a coordinator that we share with theater and dance.
She's handsomely paid.
For what I am not sure.
I call and she's never in her office. She allows her pet teacher to run meetings which means every event is designed to fit nicely with that teacher's schedule and not necessarily ours. This year, because this teacher wanted to win all the top places in our district show, they had the once a year, district, high school art show in late January. Never mind that we just got a new crop of classes and kids. Ignore that our regional show is coming up shorting. Forget that we have GRADES due-and all of that in the same week.

Fast forward to now. Teacher in question did win all top prizes-I'm not sure how when my kids got first in painting and first in drawing, but whatever. And Monday is Open House and Eighth Grade Roundup where we talk kids into taking art-and our "art coordinator" decided it would be a good thing for us to take down the show in the 90 minutes between school getting out and the event. We physically cannot do it. It takes 30 minutes just to drive over there and another hour or so to take down the art then 30 minutes to get back. That means no break from 7:30 am until 9:00 pm.

I already have high blood pressure. I simply cannot continue doing this kind of thrill kill schedule.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Here We Go Again

So once again radical Islamist decide that they are the arbiters of what free people can think, feel, write or draw. That this happened in France should be no surprise-they've been trying to remove all religion from their midst becoming a secular society by banning religious jewelry and only consolidated Islamists into a unified force. The moral of this story is appeasing bullies does no good.

This is not the first attack in Europe. A bus was targeted in London. A British soldier butchered by Islamist terrorists on the street. A bombing in Madrid. The thing that is different is that in every case the European response was to cower and allow sharia to grow. It is the same sick liberal mentality that refuses to see the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Ft. Hood shootings or the Navy Yard shootings for what they are-raw Islamic terror attacks.

It is deeply disturbing when I see Islam growing in suburban areas. While I would love to think these mosques are innocuous as the local Presbyterian church, I don't see the members of that synod throwing firebombs at shopping malls, Indeed, no other religion right now has exhibited such unbridled and unwarranted attacks as those who claim Muslim heritage. From Somalia to Indonesia random acts of violence on innocent people for the sole cause of not being Muslim make this appear to be the actions of some type of delusional madness.

Is that what Islam preaches? Violence? Hatred? Death?

And what is more, have the apologists in Europe-and here in the U.S-FINALLY gotten the message that the only way to end this is to seize control of these Muslim nations and take away their power? It's either that or somebody is going to end up flat and glassy and glowing.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Illustrated Star

My husband and I have been married for 32 years. We've been together nearly 40 years. Neither of our families was wealthy. HIs family had so many kids and my family just never seemed to accumulate wealth. I went to college on a Pell Grant. My husband went to college for one year because his Dad was a self made man and believed if people wanted college they would pay for it themselves. Nobody gave us anything because nobody was in the position to give us anything. We never asked.

Our first Christmas two months after we married was bittersweet. We lived in a small, bug infested suburban apartment and we were so strapped for cash we couldn't afford a tree. I guess Christmas was on a Friday or Saturday because two days before Christmas we found a medium sized tree in the dumpster. We took it home, put it in water. I borrowed old (and probably hazardous) lights from my parents, bought pressed glass ornaments from the dollar bin at Pier One and our tree was set-except for the star. My Christmas trees have always had stars. The star signaled the shepherds and wise men. The star signaled hope and gave direction. I went and dug out my colored pencils and drew a star. The star was flat, made from thick scrap illustration board from my class. But I drew it so that it looked three dimensional. It has been on our tree for 32 years.

Our Christmases came and went. I started each child on a collection of ornaments. Mike had cars. Bobby had puppies. Christi had cute little animals. As they grew, the collections grew. And then the kids moved out, married and now have their own Christmas trees with their own pieces of our Christmases on them. I will never have a designer tree. Oh yes, they're beautiful and make wonderful backdrops for the holiday photos, but my trees and my ornaments are little pieces of my memory. Memories don't always conform to fashion. And they shouldn't.

When I look at my kids, none of whom are wealthy or in prestigious careers, but who are good people who work hard and pay their bills, it makes me fear for them. It seems that virtues like honesty and honor, trust and faith, love and respect are no longer part of the fabric of the American Dream. Fame, notoriety, provocative behavior and greed seem to trump the sweetness of what used to be goals. I'm not sure who speaks for my children anymore. They have no champions in their corner. All I can cling to is that time changes everything and life is more a roller coaster ride than a road. Let's hope this pendulum swings back before we lose more than just Christmas, but our souls.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Recreating the 1960's

It seems to me that lately we have a generation-the grandchildren of those who marched in Selma and who fought for civil rights for all people-intent on reliving and recreating those years. While I understand the legacy of slavery 150 years ago resonated in the dissolution of families and culture, there's nobody alive now who was a slave or a slave owner. Most of the victims of Jim Crow laws are quite elderly and unless I'm unaware of it, the openly racist tactics of pushing people of color into second class status have been over for quite awhile.

We have programs designed to help minority students acquire a high school diploma and even to advance to college and professional schools. So why are so many students failing to take advantage of the system set in place to help them achieve? We've culturally simplified the tests-we even offer a safety net of tutoring, retests and mentoring programs to help the historic underachievers. Here's a little secret some people may not know-Anglo kids fail too. And they have far fewer safety nets in place. The idea that being white somehow protects you is a joke and half to these kids.

So we move the most recent unpleasantness. Like the Trayvon Martin case, the Michael Brown case was tried in the court of public opinion by those who have social and political agendas. In both cases, evidence was misrepresented by reporters who should have known better. In a similar way, agents and provocateurs used both of these cases as leverage to get the locals to open their wallets. Be careful when someone claims to be here to help-ask who they are helping beyond themselves. As the result of this false "evidence" rioting was promoted and occurred. The end result of this has yet to be seen, but there's no doubt that some businesses and their associated jobs will go away. This means that as the result of rioting Ferguson will have fewer job opportunities and is almost guaranteed to drop in terms of the ability to sustain itself.

The complaints of the 1960's were discrimination in housing, in education and in jobs. With fewer businesses, there's less tax revenue meaning the schools get less money. Few businesses also means fewer jobs and more people on welfare. It's almost as if this was the endgame for the entire situation was to create more poor, minority people. When you look at the protests, they are based on complaints that are legally flimsy. While nobody wants someone killed, neither do citizens want petty thieves and bullies wandering the streets. For all the public complaints about Michael Brown's death there have to be those who know the real background. Brown was kicked out by his parents and by his grandmother-that's not what happens to "gentle giants". Brown had to make up high school credits after graduation. That's not what kids with a bright future do. That is what kids who have a history of disrupting classes, bullying peers and skipping school do. So why are so many so willing to protest? I'm not saying all cops are golden, but it seems like certain cases have been hand picked by DOJ and the media for some purposes beyond the peaceful promotion of racial equality.

Who is pulling the strings on this and why?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Subjective Judgement: A Comparison

When we look at the instance of Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown, judgement seems to line up largely according to political lines. Of course those who had seen the shooting, who had no dog in the hunt and who gave anonymous testimony were probably the most accurate in terms of what happened and when. But the rest of the "witnesses" seem to cling to what they want the story to be even when it is refuted by evidence. They would never tolerate that kind of treatment of one of their own. So it breaks down into a game of "Who's The Hypocrite?"

Twitter also plays these games. I like twitter-probably a little too much. It's a good way to get information quickly and allows for a free flow of back and forth if you choose. Twitter is not the only site that has this kind of dubious ambiance, but it's the best known. My biggest problem with twitter is the nagging tattle tail enforcement of their "rules". Twitter's "rules" seem to change at will. And enforcement of those rules is based on whichever little meathead is in charge of the site at the time. For example: The New York Times published the address of Darren Wilson opening up not just him, but all of his neighbors, to attack. The two writers who did this hid behind a cloak of arrogant journalistic hubris. A few hours later two other websites posted the writers' addresses-one in Chicago and the other in New Orleans. I copied them and posted them AS DID MANY OTHER PEOPLE. My account was suspended. 

Keep in mind that tax rolls are public records. While I didn't do the heavy lifting of sifting through tax rolls, I don't think suspending my account makes sense when other subsequent people posted them as well and seemingly were not banned. Furthermore, if it is wrong for me-a private citizen who COPIED addresses from two other blogs then why is it not wrong for these self-important trumped up reporters to post Wilson's address exposing him and his neighbors to violence? What kind of game is twitter playing here? If they want to be the arbiters of what is right and wrong, fine. But by God do not get on a high horse over distant reporters' addresses when you allow them to point out a man who's life is in danger by publicly issue threats from the New Black Panthers. If it is wrong for one, it is wrong for all. I am willing to abide by that, but are the New York Times or Twitter?