SEE YA!

29 12 2011

Last year I promised to write a blog a week every week for a year – accomplished.  I hope to never make as stupid a commitment as that again.  To volunteer to perform the exact same task one day every week for a year?  No way!

This year I will try to do something different once a week, every week, and absolutely NOT blog about it.  One day I might have breakfast at a greasy dive; one day maybe visit a homeless man at the Vietnam Memorial Park and talk;  buy flowers for Laura for absolutely no reason;  go into the Apple Store and NOT buy anything.   It really doesn’t matter what I choose to do – just one thing completely different every week.   Fix a few things around the house and then hire a professional to fix whatever I screwed up.  But don’t worry, you’re not going to have to read about it anywhere any longer.

Some things bear repeating – blogs do not fall into that category.  Who knows, I might actually learn something.  At least I won’t be blathering away at a keyboard while the world passes by outside my window.  And you won’t be compelled to watch through the window while nothing happens.  Thanks!  John





52nd Post This Year

28 12 2011

WordPress sent me an email this morning asking me to respond to a number of questions regarding my commitment to blog once a week in 2011.  They asked how my blog has changed over the course of a year (not at all); whether I am ready to commit to a blog post a day in 2012 (hell, no); and a number of other questions prompting me to consider my future in the blogging universe (virtually none).

Despair, Inc. (a website everyone should have on their “favorites” lists) has this quote about blogging:

“Never Before Have So Many People With So Little To Say Said So Much To So Few”

I have now fulfilled my commitment to write a blog for every week of the year, which was a sort of New Years’ Resolution from last year.  Tomorrow will be my last blog and will briefly (I promise) describe my New Years Resolution for 2012, which is a very direct result of what I have truly learned from my experience with WordPress this past year.  ‘Nuff said!





THE FAIR TAX

27 12 2011

It is called a Fair Tax, so how could it not be fair?  It is also a “fairly” good idea with a few caveats.  Taxing what you spend rather than what you earn, simplifying the idiotic maze of taxes and codes that currently exist, and making taxes more transparent and easier to understand are all obviously good things.  I am in favor of the Fair Tax, but there are as always a few obvious bugs in the system.  On the other hand, almost any change in our tax system would be an improvement on our current tax system.

The Fair Tax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal income and payroll based taxes with an integrated approach including a progressive national retail sales tax, a prebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar federal revenue neutrality, and, through companion legislation, the repeal of the 16th Amendment.  Here is where my first major concern comes into play – repealing the 16th Amendment.  I highly recommend that if this information interests you; take some time to read about the history of the 16th Amendment.  I will not bore you with details, but the Civil War history of this Amendment to the Constitution alone is worth reading.

The Fair Tax taxes us only on what we choose to spend on new goods or services, not on what we earn. The  Fair Tax  is a fair, efficient, transparent, and intelligent solution to the frustration and inequity of our current tax system.  Proponents of the Fair Tax will highlight the following positives of the plan:

  • Enables workers to keep their entire paychecks
  • Enables retirees to keep their entire pensions
  • Refunds in advance the tax on purchases of basic necessities
  • Allows American products to compete fairly
  • Brings transparency and accountability to tax policy
  • Ensures Social Security and Medicare funding
  • Closes all loopholes and brings fairness to taxation
  • Abolishes the IRS

As you can imagine, the Fair Tax really is more complicated than it looks.  No complex forms to fill out every April, no need to wade through piles of old receipts to maximize your return, and no (or a greatly reduced in size) IRS!  It sounds like a dream, right?

One of its problems is a simple basic business formula that is an odd anomaly, but is something business people deal with on a daily basis: The Fair Tax rate would need to be higher than claimed to generate enough income.  Proponents of the Fair Tax maintain that the tax rate of 23% they tout will be adequate to (more than) generate the current level of income from all the taxes it would replace (not only the income tax, but corporate taxes, Social Security Taxes, estate taxes, etc.).  That number is tax inclusive, meaning it incorporates the amount of tax in the total from which the percentage is calculated.  If you read it as a normal sales tax (which is tax exclusive), it would be 30%.  A $100 item (before Fair Tax) would have a $30 Fair Tax added; $30/$130 gives us the 23% result we are trying to achieve – therefore the cost will be higher than originally anticipated.

My next concern is simply how foreign nations will react to the Fair Tax.  The Fair Tax website makes quite a few claims about how the Fair Tax will boost US competitiveness in the global market; it’ll make US exports cheaper to other countries, foreign imports will become more expensive (since the Fair Tax will add on top of the taxes the foreign manufacturer paid in their own country), and jobs and investment money will flow into the United States.  The EU becomes a competitive dynamo; their exports are cheaper in our stores, our products are more expensive over there, and businesses start to uproot to relocate in Europe, taking jobs with them.  Initially this was supposed to be a concern for the American Economy, but with the turn of events in the economic realities of the EU, this might actually be a boon and a means of helping the EU back on the road to economic recovery.  This is way above my area of expertise and will probably require decades of study (at which point it will be moot).  Without having some idea of how the other major countries of the world will react, it’s impossible to say whether switching to the Fair Tax will be a net benefit to the country.

The final issue I keep running into from opponents of this new system is that we would devastate the tax preparation market, as well as the IRS.  At the risk of opening myself up to horrible audits, as well as aggravating my accountants, my simple answer is: to hell with them.  We need change – if they can’t find a means of survival, they probably had no reason to exist in the first place.





Beef Tenderloin (by request)

26 12 2011

Ingredients

  • 2 (2 to 2 1/2 pound) center-cut pieces beef tenderloin
  • High quality extra virgin olive oil, for coating roasts, plus 3 tablespoons for sauce
  • Grill seasoning (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning for Steak by McCormick – warning: all I could find was the “hot” variety – use the regular mix – this is just too spicy for many people)
  • 1 large jar whole roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped, well-drained and pat dry
  • 5 cloves garlic, popped from skin
  • 2 full handfuls flat leaf parley, chopped
  • 1 cup (no more than one cup – this is plenty for this recipe)  high quality pitted kalamata olives, drained well
  • 1 cup italian herbs, either store bought or create your own favorites
  • Juice from two freshly squeezed lemons (thanks to my daughter Jessica for this suggestion – it made all of the difference in this sauce)
Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Liberally coat the meat with extra-virgin olive oil and grill seasoning. Place the meat on a roasting rack and place in oven.  Roast the meat 10 minutes on high then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and cook 30 minutes more. Do not open oven during those first 10 minutes. Remove meat from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.  Slice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch steaks and shingle two or three on each plate.

(This part can be done well in advance).  Place all other ingredients in a food processor.  Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary – I chose to only add a little bit of freshly ground pepper, but it is really not necessary.  Turn the processor on and stream in high quality extra virgin olive oil, about 3 tablespoons until thoroughly blended.  The sauce will be pretty thick.  Pour into squeeze bottles to drizzle over meat just before serving.  If you do not have squeeze bottles, just be careful how much your pour over the tenderloins – the sauce is pretty rich and goes a  long way.

Serves approximately 8 people as a main dish, and 12 people as a secondary entree dish.

 

 





Happy Thanksgiving Mom!

24 12 2011

Dear Mom – Happy Thanksgiving! No, this is not a manifestation of CRS disease (what Mom politely called “Can’t Remember Stuff” disease – I always used a different “S” word). I am very aware this is Christmas. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; Halloween was yours; I believe everyone but you and I vote Christmas as number 1, but I am probably wrong about that.

So for today, our first Christmas Eve Day without you in our lives, I choose to celebrate a personal Thanksgiving of sorts. Thanks from me for a life filled with adventure and excitement, knowing you would always be there if I faltered. Thanks for having my sister and brother, without whom most of this life would mean so little. Thanks from all three of us for being the greatest Mom. And thanks from our children (all of your Grandchildren) for whom you were “Everything”!

We survived Ben and Jamie’s wedding without you. We survived our first Thanksgiving without you. Today we will celebrate our first Christmas Eve Day without you. And tomorrow we will celebrate our first Christmas without you. I know you hated it when I used this word, but not having you here “sucks”.

You brought so much joy and love to our families, and we all miss you dearly. So let me make this Christmas season my season of Thanksgiving. Let me make every day the rest of my life a day of Thanksgiving. Without you, none of this would have happened. Without you, none of this would have mattered. We all love you very much – you will be missed forever – each and every day.





Healthy Holiday Treat

22 12 2011

OK – after my last blog, the least I could do is include a recipe that won’t make you look like the Michelin Tire Man, so here goes (they are easy too!)

PB and Craisin Clusters

Ingredients:
2 bags (approximately 20 ounces) Peanut Butter Chips
1 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 cup regular oats, uncooked
1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 teaspoon allspice

Directions:

Microwave chips in a bowl on high power until melted, about 2 minutes. Stir. Add remaining ingredients; mix thoroughly. Using your hands, firmly roll into 1-inch balls. Cool.

Yield: 60 – 70 treats






Largess

20 12 2011

We know from visual experience that a bunch of Americans are morbidly obese.  I prefer the word “grossly” to “morbidly” as an adverb for obese – but that is mostly because if someone expires from obesity, I would no longer have to look at them, and that would make my daily observations less “gross”.  The most recent data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimates that 33.9% of Americans are obese.

Obesity is a very expensive medical cost, estimated at 147 billion dollars annually.  My contention is that this money could be spent in better ways to combat this epidemic.  Bigger and better burgers are not the answer.  

Non hispanic black americans have the highest obesity rate (36.8%) in these studies.  Taking into consideration the higher rate of unemployment, the unintended effects of bigotry (see unemployment), and the assumption that Charles Darwin’s theory regarding the survival of the fittest (when viewed through the historic lens of slavery) should have propagated the healthiest race of people anywhere.  I could find no concrete explanation for this phenomenon – my only guess is that fast food is generally cheaper and unhealthy compared to their healthier counterparts.

Hispanics have an obesity rate of 30.7%, but these are hispanics in America.  My experience with food in Mexico is very healthy.  On the other hand, for many hispanics to reach America, they must be able to swim which is excellent exercise.

It seems to me that using simple American Ingenuity, for which we are famous, would enable us to find a way to make these 33.9 percent of Americans proportionately taller.  This would seem to be a reasonable response to the problem (and a great way to utilize that 147 billion dollars annually), and could also be a huge boon to the NBA and the WNBA.

Asians have the lowest obesity rate (16.7%) which only reinforces my belief that if we could just make people much taller, BMI would drop dramatically.

But the very best idea yet would be to engineer people to be around 4′ tall and weigh no more than 90 pounds.  The effect on our collective carbon footprint would be amazing.  Virtually everything from automobiles, planes, clothes, and furniture (to list but a few), would have a tremendous impact on the effect humans have on this planet.  These issues could possibly even be accomplished within a few generations using the aforementioned funds.





Parody of Catholic Church Response to Child Abuse

16 12 2011

VATICAN CITY—Calling forgiveness “one of the highest virtues taught to us by Jesus,” Pope John Paul II issued a papal decree Monday absolving priest-molested children of all sin. “Though grave and terrible sins have been committed, our Lord teaches us to turn the other cheek and forgive those who sin against us,” said the pope, reading a prepared statement from a balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. “That is why, despite the terrible wrongs they have committed, the church must move on and forgive these children for their misdeeds.” “As Jesus said, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,'” the pope continued. “We must send a clear message to these hundreds—perhaps thousands—of children whose sinful ways have tempted so many of the church’s servants into lustful violation of their holy vows of celibacy. The church forgives them for their transgressions and looks upon them not with intolerance, but compassion.” The papal announcement arrives in response to public outcry over the sex scandal sweeping the Catholic Church in theU.S.Though official church doctrine condemns such transgressions, the pope’s decision, observers say, is intended to demonstrate the church’s willingness to put the scandal behind it and restore the public trust. “By forgiving these children, primarily churchgoing boys between the ages of 5 and 15, the pope has shown true Christian kindness,” said Father Thomas O’Malley, a member of the New York archdiocese and one of the many priests implicated in charges of sexual activity with minors. “The pope is saying that, in their own way, these sinful youths are victims, too. Through their absolution, he sends the important message that empathy, contrary to what naysayers and critics in the secular media would have us believe, does have a place in modern Catholicism.” For Catholics waiting for the pope to break his long silence on the scandal, the sweeping, decisive nature of his response has come as welcome relief. “The pope has shown great love and compassion, much as Jesus did when he ministered to tax collectors and whores,” said Cardinal Bernard Law ofBoston. “Despite all they have done to jeopardize the careers of so many priests—to say nothing of imperiling the priests’ immortal souls—the church embraces these underaged seducers and tempters with open arms. The pope’s words and actions prove that the church is willing to put an end to the suffering and let the healing begin.” The mass absolution is being hailed by church scholars as one of theVatican’s most progressive acts since the Second Vatican Council in 1962. “One cannot overstate the break from tradition this represents,” said lay administrator Bruce McConnachie of theLos Angelesarchdiocese. “After all, under church doctrine, the act of seducing a priest is considered a grave sin against the laws of God, punishable by condemnation to Hell for all eternity. But the pope has put all of that aside. He has let bygones be bygones. For this, all of those misbehaving, sexy little guys should feel grateful. By showing such willingness to forgive and forget, the pope has sent a clear message: Even though these boys have done much to undermine and subvert the priestly vows of celibacy, they are still deserving of God’s love.” Margaret Leahy, 39, aSomerville,MA, homemaker and mother of one of the alleged seducers, expressed relief over the pope’s announcement. “For months, I feared that my boy—and the dozens of others who committed sinful acts with Father Halloran before he was moved to the safety of another parish to protect him from further temptation at their pre-pubescent hands—was going to Hell for what he’d done,” Leahy said. “It’s the worst feeling a mother can know. But thanks to the forgiveness of the pope, my long nightmare is finally over. He was just a boy of 8 at the time. He didn’t know any better. Thank you, your Holiness, for giving my poor little Timothy a second chance at redemption.” However, not everyone within the Catholic Church is so supportive of the pope’s actions. “What kind of a message is the pope sending today’s children? That it’s okay to seduce priests?” said one concernedBaltimorepriest who asked to remain anonymous due to a pending court case. “With the pope’s announcement, the church is essentially telling its youngest members, ‘Go ahead and let Father So-And-So reach into your swim trunks at the church-youth-group pool party. It’s okay, the pope will forgive you in the end.’ Without fear of eternal damnation, how are these provocative young lotharios ever going to learn?” “As the creep of secular humanism continues to chip away at our most sacred institutions, the Vatican has established a dangerous precedent,” the priest continued. “We look to the church’s authority for justice and righteousness, not politically convenient solutions that maintain the status quo. These nubile sinners should be held accountable for the damage they’ve done.”





Happy Birthday Laura!

15 12 2011

In some ways this will be easy to write because I love you and it is simply a matter of documenting a few of those things.

In other ways this will be difficult to write because (for me) a birthday is just another day in a long string of days (hopefully).

So let’s begin by celebrating who you are, and why you mean so much to so many people. To me, you are my rock, my best friend ever, the one who stays by my side through thick and thin (and there has been a lot of thin). You are compassionate and caring, loving and sweet, generous and giving, kind hearted and gracious, the perfect companion, and my soulmate.

You were a fabulous daughter for your mother, and I am sure she would echo all of the sentiments I listed above. You were the best friend she had, and the countless hours you spent together are a true testament to that.

Your two daughters, easily our best accomplishment together, both love you and think the world of you. I talk to so many parents who never hear from their children, and hardly a day passes when you don’t talk to each of them. You have so much to be proud about!

Today when you are celebrating your birthday, I hope you can take a few seconds and reflect on what your life has meant to all of us. And I didn’t even cover but a few close relatives. You are loved and appreciated by so many more.

I hope you have the best birthday ever, and many more to come!





Best Use Of Local Products Ever!

14 12 2011

You WILL feel guilty eating this, but it is worth whatever price you must pay for the experience.

Ingredients:
One half dozen fresh cinnamon rolls
One pint Vietnamese Cinnamon Ice Cream from Christopher Elbows Ice Cream Store
One pint Roasted Apple Ice Cream from Christopher Elbows Ice Cream Store
Caramel Ice Cream Topping
One can Apple Pie Filling

Cut cinnamon rolls into approximately 1/4″ cubes and layer in large baking dish. Pour caramel topping to taste over the chopped cinnamon rolls (I use a lot, but fat and sugar free).

Thaw the ice cream and mix together with a wire whip or a food processor. Pour ice cream mixture over the entire dish to cover, sprinkle with cinnamon and allspice to taste, cover and refrigerate for two hours for rolls to absorb the flavors.

Bake at 350 degrees, allow to cool on a rack for about 15 minutes and serve. I have no idea how many this serves – there is never any left!