2.26.2010

My First Visit To Trader Joe's

Mr. N and I decided to finally check out the new local Trader Joe's here in Corvallis.  I was looking for good quality and low prices and, after dealing with First Alternative Co-Op and their poor quality checkout service (in reference to bagging your groceries), I wanted someone to bag our groceries without having to ask or without attitude.  Overall, I was pleased.  Here's a brief rundown of our experience:

1) Bananas were very cheap at .19 cents a pound.  That blows away Winco's prices.  Since bananas are grown with very little pesticide usage, it isn't necessary to buy such items organically.  And yet, at .39 cents a pound for organic at TJ's (or was it .29???), this price blows away the price of organic bananas at the Co-Op.  Plus, the appearance was far superior. 

2) Their meat selection was pretty decent.  You can buy grass-fed/anti-biotic and hormone-free lean beef (90% fat-free) for a dollar less per pound than you can at the Co-Op.  We also picked up some free-range/hormone and antibiotic-free chicken breasts and thighs for a good price.

3) Their cheese selection was just ok.  Pretty pricey given their limited selection, although there were some very yummy-looking cheese that were hard to pass up.  The Co-Op blows TJ's out of the water in this department, in my opinion, in both prices and options.

4) If you're looking for fresh greens, forget it.  TJ's offers only the bag variety, which I don't like. 

5) As far as dry goods (cereals, crackers, etc.) you cannot beat TJ's prices or quality.  That's where the bulk of our shopping dollars went.  And I found a new favorite:  TJ's Ginger Snaps.  They contain an abundance of real ginger, which you immediately taste upon eating these tasty little treats.  They're also made with gluten-free flours and molasses.  As far as artificial preservatives and other nasties you cannot pronounce, forget about it.  TJ's stays away from such things.   

6) Their juice selection was a bit spendy, but cheaper than the Co-Op.  We bought a large carton of OJ from the refrigerated section for $1.99.  It is yummy!

7) The ambience is what was really nice.  It's a fairly small store, which I appreciate.  It was crowded when we went, but it didn't "feel" crowded.  The aisles, unlike the co-op, are nice and wide (which pregnant women like myself TRULY appreciate).  We also had a couple of conversations with complete strangers - something I have yet to find at the co-op, which seems to be more like a club for the elite - a club I apparently have yet to know the secret code in order to enter.  Probably a money or a Prius/Subaru thing...
8) For the beer and wine connoisseurs, TJ's has a huge selection of the two.  In fact, I would estimate that approximately 15% of the store was contained in just the beer and wine section. 

9) And last but not least, the checkout.  It was speedy and efficient.  The staff was friendly and unless you wish to do so yourself, your groceries are bagged.  Mr. N stepped in to do this task himself as he wanted to get out of the store quickly (the clerk was already starting the bagging process but then we had issues with the credit card machine, which warranted a call to the manager.) 

10) I am quite picky when it comes to the soaps, lotions, shampoos and make-up I put on my skin.  I've been buying this tea-tree bar at the co-op for a couple of years now.  At $3.29 per BAR, it gets to be an expensive purchase.  However, at TJ's, they have a 2-pack of tea-tree soap (with even fewer ingredients) for just $1.69.  At virtually the same size, I snagged 3 packages. 

Now all that being said, upon looking around the store, there was not one staff member who was over 30 that we could see on that particular day.  I say that given earlier this year, thousands stood in line at their chance of getting on with TJ's, many of these folks in their 40's and 50's and beyond.  It's unfortunate TJ's opted out of giving these folks a chance and instead, following the more "age-discriminatory" practice so often seen in the service industry of hiring the youngest worker.  What are these companies so fearful of?  God forbid someone with some gray hair or facial lines display themselves for the public?  Are they afraid older workers will "steal the show" given their stealth of experience and their (typically) stronger work ethic?  At least the Co-Op has several "older" workers.  Perhaps it's simply a matter of economics.  Older workers are more expensive to insure.

Whatever the reason, we figure we'll go there once a month to stock up on meats and dried goods.  And my bar soap!

Repuke Jim Bunning Blocks Unemployment Extension - Tells Oregon Democrap "Tough Shit"

Apparently football is more important than 1.2 million unemployed people. 

"Jim Bunning, a Republican from Kentucky, is single-handedly blocking Senate action needed to prevent an estimated 1.2 million American workers from prematurely losing their unemployment benefits next month.  As Democratic senators asked again and again for unanimous consent for a vote on a 30-day extension Thursday night, Bunning refused to go along.  And when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) begged him to drop his objection, Politico reports, Bunning replied: "Tough shit."  Bunning says he doesn't oppose extending benefits -- he just doesn't want the money that's required added to the deficit. He proposes paying for the 30-day extension with stimulus funds. The Senate's GOP leadership did not support him in his objections."

Well of course a 30-day extension in and of itself is pathetic, but it is something that is absolutely necessary for the time-being while these idiots in Congress enact real unemployment benefit legislation.  As Mr. N said "End the wars and use the funds to provide health care for all and unemployment benefits for the next 5 years" (which is how long so-called "experts" say before the economy returns to it's pre-depression status - which was pathetically dismal in and of itself).

Sigh...

2.23.2010

Hey All You Unemployed Americans: Come Work As A U.S. Census Taker

Hey, at least it's something, right?  At least that's what those people in our life keep telling us (said people either being retired and/or for the moment, gainfully employed).  All you gotta do is go stand in line with hundreds of other desperate folks, take a timed test and wait for a return call.  (And when you look around, you'll notice most are over the age of 50).  Of course they may not tell you that unless you score a perfect or near-perfect score, your chances of a return call are slim.  And they may not tell you the hours may be no more than 5 or that the weeks being employed may not be more than a few.

You can, if you wish, retake the test in hopes of a higher score.  But even at that, when you live in an area where over 500 tests have already been given and 3 more dates are on the calendar for testing, your odds of being hired are slim. 

No different than searching for a job in this market...

2.22.2010

Tidbits

*Congress, in it's infinite wisdom, has said they wish to extend the current Emergency Unemployment Compensation program through the 2nd week of March.  At that date, they will discuss extending it further. 
Comment:  Knock it off you elitist assholes and quit playing games with the American People.  Extend the program through the end of the year.  Then add more tiers.  Everyone (well except for my family and those like them) knows we're in a Depression.  Everyone knows this economy ain't gonna budge or even come close to any sort of recovery for another 3-5 years.  Your pompous arrogance ain't cute.  And neither is your ignorance. 

*You can't rely on local social service agencies to tell you any semblance of truth.  One attempts to educate themselves by doing research on particular programs prior to making contact with such agencies.  However, more often than not, when agency is contacted, you find out what you have read and what you are told by a PERSON are two totally different things.
Comment:  I believe this is done intentionally to piss off those in need.  Certainly it adds to an already over-loaded mind.  Of course what should we expect when most of these agencies hire brain-dead clueless folks under the age of 25 who sound like they're 12.  And to think - I once had the dream to work for such an agency.  I was once told, many years ago, by a Social Worker that I was too smart, too aware, too driven and too idealistic to be hired by any such agency, private or public. 

*I receive a lot of comments on this blog that I delete due to their spam content.
Comment:  So much for the hours I spent reorganizing this damn blog, learning about such things as blog aggregators and adsense and how to generate revenue.  All it's lead me to is an increase in the fucking little spammers.  My middle finger is up to the world and the system and to anyone who would dare question what I am doing with my life and the steps I am taking to make money.  My POV at this point is either give me some cash or get out of my personal space. 

*Lots of media attention surrounding these tea-party people.
Comment:  If only the blind fools of the left would actually show a willingness to see that there are some darn good and valid points these folks have to make.  And if only the tea party people themselves would stop chanting their religious "god" crap and their rugged individualism crap and their "abolish welfare" and support the "free market" diatribe, perhaps they would have their other more valid points and thus their overall agenda respected.  The more I contemplate this issue, the more I realize perhaps it is a good idea to break up the states into separate regions where each is completely self-governing.  Why should someone who WANTS a capitalistic/individualistic society have to live in a culture where the wealth is shared and collectivism is the norm and vice versa?

2.19.2010

Big Bucks For Big Brother

Forget the words behind the mission statement of the police in California.  Vehicle checkpoints to catch DUI offenders has turned into a mass of impounds for unlicensed drivers.  Who profits?  You guessed it. 

"In the course of its examination, the Investigative Reporting Program reviewed hundreds of pages of city financial records and police reports, and analyzed data documenting the results from every checkpoint that received state funding during the past two years. Among the findings:  Sobriety checkpoints frequently screen traffic within, or near, Hispanic neighborhoods. Cities where Hispanics represent a majority of the population are seizing cars at three times the rate of cities with small minority populations. In South Gate, a Los Angeles County city where Hispanics make up 92 percent of the population, police confiscated an average of 86 vehicles per operation last fiscal year.  The seizures appear to defy a 2005 federal appellate court ruling that determined police cannot impound cars solely because the driver is unlicensed. In fact, police across the state have ratcheted up vehicle seizures. Last year, officers impounded more than 24,000 cars and trucks at checkpoints. That total is roughly seven times higher than the 3,200 drunken driving arrests at roadway operations. The percentage of vehicle seizures has increased 53 percent statewide compared to 2007."

Yes, those unlicensed drivers, many of them immigrants (remember that in many states, including California, immigrants cannot obtain a driver's license), are far more dangerous to other drivers than those pesky drunk drivers.  Let's arrest the drunks (who are often repeat offenders) but let them retain their cars while we impound the vehicles of those who are unlicensed yet otherwise sober. 

2.18.2010

Brief Life Update

All is well with the little-one-to-be and yours truly.  Even though I have 3 months to go, I can't imagine how much more my muscles and skin can possibly stretch, although I am at the right weight for this stage.  I've been able to hear her hearbeat at a recent midwife visit with the fetoscope.  Aahh, this all such a miraculous, mind-blowing experience. 

We're just starting to put together her room and for now, are focused on kids furniture.  We've found the crib and are looking for a changing table, a dresser and either a recliner or glider.  The crib will be in our room for the first several months. 

On the job front and money-producing front, well that's still slow-going, although this particular post is netting me $35 so that's a positive!  My online collectible studio is garnering hits but no sales so far.  I remind myself that miracles happen every moment of every day, often when we least expect it.  This has certainly been the case with our little one...

Man Flies Plane Into IRS Building

This was one fed-up American.

"AUSTIN, Texas – A software engineer furious with the Internal Revenue Service launched a suicide attack on the agency Thursday by crashing his small plane into an office building containing nearly 200 IRS employees, setting off a raging fire that sent workers running for their lives.  At least one person in the building was missing.  The FBI tentatively identified the pilot as Joseph A. Stack, 53. Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still going on, said that before taking off, Stack apparently set fire to his house and posted a long anti-government screed on the Web. It was dated Thursday and signed "Joe Stack (1956-2010)."  In it, the author cited run-ins he had with the IRS and ranted about the tax agency, government bailouts and corporate America's "thugs and plunderers."  "I have had all I can stand," he wrote, adding: "I choose not to keep looking over my shoulder at `big brother' while he strips my carcass." "

This is so sad.  What is there to say, really?  It's a sign of the times and sadly, I believe there will be more such acts.  It's unfortunate he didn't join in with others of like-mind and attempt a more unified and even peaceful at change.  This is simply going to be news for a few days before it all gets swept away by some other lone individual.  Of course, I am assuming this was really the conscious choice of an individual who wasn't influenced by any person(s)...

Points of interest:  1) The building didn't collapse; and 2) F-16 Fighter jets were immediately called to the scene, unlike on 9/11.

SCOTUS: A Solid Reason For Unification of Left and Right?

Ah, one can only hope...

"A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that the vast majority of Americans are vehemently opposed to a recent Supreme Court ruling that opens the door for corporations, labor unions, and other organizations to spend money directly from their general funds to influence campaigns.  As noted by the Post's Dan Eggen, the poll's findings show "remarkably strong agreement" across the board, with roughly 80% of Americans saying that they're against the Court's 5-4 decision. Even more remarkable may be that opposition by Republicans, Democrats, and Independents were all near the same 80% opposition range. Specifically, 85% of Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans opposed it. In short, "everyone hates" the ruling."

It isn't like this behavior hasn't been going on for the past 3 decades or so, overlooked and unpunished.  All this did was put the rubber stamp of approval from our nations highest court for said behavior, making them immune from punishment.  Lady Liberty needs a new slogan:  Welcome To Corporate America where Big Biz Rulez and The People Looze. 

K2: This Isn't Your Daddy's (Or Jerry Garcia's) Marijuana

"JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – There may be nothing like the real thing, but some industrious marijuana users have seized on an obscure but easily accessible substance that mimics the drug's effects on the brain — creating a popular trade in legal dope that has stymied law enforcement authorities.  The users are buying a product known as K2 — or "Spice," Genie" and "Zohai" — that is commonly sold in head shops as incense. Produced in China and Korea, the mixture of herbs and spices is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Users roll it up in joints or inhale it from pipes, just like the real thing."

Read more here.

Hmm.  The song lyrics, "Ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby" go through my mind reading this. 

2.13.2010

New Crime Ring Hitting Corvallis Residents: Bold Thugs Stealing Cans and Bottles

Ok, I know, on the surface this sounds innocent enough.  People, desperate for cash (a state of mind I am all too familiar with), are stealing returnable bottles and cans from people's property.  I can understand this when the bottles and cans are taken from the recycling bins on trash day.  I can even understand this when the property owners have been asked if the individual(s) can come onto said property and help themselves.  However, I draw the line when these thugs walk onto the property without permission and rummage through the owners/occupiers trash and other items without permission.  I also take a huge exception when you happen to confront one of these individuals and they become verbally abusive and threatening and refuse to leave your property.

We have experienced this recently.  And from what the police say, so have others.  In fact, this has become quite the problem in the Corvallis area on both ends of town and police are asking residents to call immediately upon seeing someone on their property or any other property engaging in this behavior.  Today alone, as I drove down a side street, I saw two older men pushing grocery carts full of cans and bottles, walking up people's driveways, rummaging through trash. 

Not only is this theft, it's trespassing.

Our recent experience brought this to the forefront of my life when Mr. N happened to walk outside and saw some stranger going through our belongings out front.  While we keep our bottles and cans inside (learned that lesson last November when someone stole 3 large bags we had hidden in front of our car underneath some boxes which made it completely undetectable from the street), this individual obviously didn't know that.  And didn't care.  When Mr. N approached him, asked him what he was doing and told him to leave, the man refused, walked up to Mr. N and threatened to physically kick his a&&, that he was entitled and free to do whatever he wanted.  He even boldly stated (lied) that he had permission from everyone in our block to do this. 

"You don't have my permission so get off my property," Mr. N said.  The guy only left when he was done with his search. 

Talking to neighbors later, none declared they have given this individual (or anyone else) permission to walk on their property and help themselves to their returnable bottles.  One neighbor even commented "I've been wondering who has been taking our bottles!"

Perhaps I could have some sympathy for these folks if they weren't already targeting a rather impoverished neighborhood.  Many of the people on our street are either unemployed or underemployed and are on some sort of government assistance.  I was able to walk out at the end of the confrontation Mr. N had with this man and told him, yelled at him, as he rode off, that if he wanted to steal, he should hit the wealthier neighborhoods but to leave neighborhoods like ours alone. 

I mean really, the poor robbing from the poor?  Come on!  I thought we were supposed to be uniting... 

Study Shows Being Religious Doesn't Make One Healthier

An interesting study.

"The study, published in the journal Circulation, suggests that when it comes to heart disease and clogged arteries, attending religious services or having spiritual experiences may not protect against heart attacks and strokes.  "There's not a lot of extra burden or extra protection afforded by this particular aspect of people's lives," concluded Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, who led the study.  In a review of data from nearly 5,500 people, Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues expected to see less risk for heart disease among those with more "religiosity."  The researchers defined religiosity as participation in religious activities, prayer or meditation, and spirituality, regardless of denomination. They did not report the religious faiths of study participants.  Over the course of four years, those in the study had 152 events related to heart disease or clogged arteries, including 9 deaths, 42 heart attacks, and 24 strokes.  That rate of such events -- less than one percent per year -- was lower than in the general population, which the team expected because they excluded people who were already diagnosed with heart disease and related conditions.  However, neither the rate of heart disease events, nor the number of certain risk factors -- such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure -- differed among those who were more or less religious or spiritual."

While I have stated on this blog I am not religious in that I don't follow one set of religious doctrine nor do I attend church, I do take some issue with this study in that I have found the practice of meditation, whether it be while I am cooking, taking a walk, playing my piano, doing yoga or simply sitting alone in a quiet place quieting my mind and tuning in to the higher frequences of my being does have a positive effect on my physical body.  Regular practice, I believe, certainly can lower heart rate and, with other lifestyle changes, improve if not totally reverse heart disease. 

The authors of the study chose not to share the particular faith of the study participants.  That's unfortunate because that could possibly lead to the rather questionable results.  My guess is that the vast majority were Christian or Jewish or Muslim or one of the other more guilt-induced, restrictive religions, and that these folks attended regular church services, where they were fed religious script as interpreted through the eyes of another human being proclaiming to know God/Jesus better than his/her congregants, followed up by large but typically subtle doses of religious guilt, which goes something like this:  "We are to strive for perfection.  We are to strive to be like God.  Be like Jesus.  However, since you will never obtain such a goal, you must come back next Sunday again, empty your $$pockets$$ and listen to me speak all over again.  And remember, anyone claiming to have reached that state of perfection is under the influence of our good 'ole scapegoat, Satan." 

Such exposure sets up a duo inside our already over-burdened state of consciousness and awareness, over-burdened due to the dysfunctional disease of societal conditioning which tells us we're not good enough, not worthy, must prove ourselves and blah blah blah.  This duo results due to the societal programming which is in direct conflict with our authentic voice, which knows we're wonderfully worthy (not better than others for that is pure ego - just precious and wonderful at that inherent level) as we are and we don't have to prove our worth or for that matter, anything to another soul, human or otherwise.  Meditation and/or religious practice and exposure to those who follow the same inner conscious awareness most definitely can have a positive and profound effect on the physical body. 

So sayeth I.  And don't worry.  I won't ask you to fill the money basket. 

2.11.2010

Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Questions U.S. Role In 9/11

Then later recants.

"AUSTIN, Texas – A Republican gubernatorial candidate said Thursday she has questions about whether the U.S. government was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a statement she swiftly backed away from and one that drew immediate criticism from her better-known rivals in the race.  Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison dismissed the comments made by Debra Medina on the Glenn Beck Show that there were "some very good arguments" that the U.S. was involved in bringing down the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.  "I don't have all of the evidence there, Glenn," Medina said. "I think some very good questions have been raised. In that regard there's some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there."  Medina later released a statement saying she did not believe the government was involved in the attacks."

Well, of course we know what happened here.  Her handlers quickly pulled her aside after the interview (all while grimacing as she spoke her at-the-time truth), said "Are you NUTS?  Are you trying to commit political suicide?  Recant, woman!  Recant!"

2.10.2010

Oregon Senate Passes Unemployment Extension Bill

This should make some folks breath a sigh of relief, albeit it a temporary one.  (Only 6 weeks?  That's it?  These "representatives" receive hundreds of thousands in perks from special interest scumbags and go on lavish "business" trips at our expense.  They don't do a damn thing to petition the feds to end the war on terror and the war on drugs which would MORE THAN adaquately fund the rebuilding of America.  They keep throwing money at schools thinking that's going to somehow fix our failed public school system.  And yet they look to their constituents who are unemployed and/or underemployed and can say "here's a few more weeks of a tiny bit of relief for you."  I mean really, where is the consciousness, the brain matter, the compassion?)

Friggin' frackin' frogs.  Whatever...  Here's a snippet from the dang article:

"SALEM -- It seemed like deja vu in the Oregon Senate Friday morning, when lawmakers passed a bill extending emergency unemployment benefits to 18,600 Oregonians who have either run out of benefits or soon will.  Senate Bill 990 provides benefits to unemployed workers using $19 million from an emergency fund created by the 2009 Legislature. The fund is projected to pay two-to-six weeks of benefits per recipient.  The House passed nearly identical legislation Thursday with House Bill 3655. Leadership is expected to pick one that will move forward to Gov. Ted Kulongoski."

This should be easy legislation to push through, although I am bothered (baffled) by the following comment made by a (clueless) Democrat:

"...Sen. Bill Morrisette, D-Springfield, responded that the $19 million would go right back into the economy.   "I think these unemployment benefits will create jobs at the grocery stores and gas stations," he said."

Yes, that's just what we need.  More jobs in the SERVICE INDUSTRY.  More minimum wage, part-time, no benefit positions.  Yes, that will TRULY make the economy thrive once more.  That will lift people out of poverty.  Good lord...  I expect such idiocy from Republicans.  But from a Democrat?  Oh wait.  Silly me forgot.  They're all the same!  Wealthy, self-entitled elitists who don't have a fucking clue how to run an economy and grow business and create jobs much less what it's like to try and LIVE ON SUCH A WAGE at said "grocery stores and gas stations".  And nor do the majority of them even care to understand. 

Good-Bye First Alternative Co-Op - I Am Taking My Business To Trader Joe's

Here's a letter I recently sent to the First Alternative Co-Op:

Hello~


I have been shopping at the Co-Op since 1997. However, that time has come to an end now that Trader Joe's is coming to town. Why? I am fed up with having to bag my own groceries.

I have brought up this issue in e-mail and on the customer comment cards. I noticed I was not the only one having this issue in a Thymes edition that ran a couple of years ago. At the time, this particular customer was reassured bagging was part of the customer service/check-out procedure and the issue would be discussed/reviewed with staff.

Nothing has changed. In fact, the problem has only grown worse as you have added new staff (North Store). In fact, the last time I chose to ask a clerk if she would please bag my groceries, she gave me attitude. It was a Sunday evening late last fall. The store was very quiet. Upon finishing up the transaction, she proceeded to get on the phone and made a personal call while my groceries (4 bags worth) sat on the countertop. I waited until she was finished then asked her if she could please bag my groceries. She gave me a dirty look and sighed, then slowly began to bag my groceries. At the end I asked her if I could have some beans for my bags. She told me to help myself.

Today I was waited on by Max. I am very noticably pregnant. He didn't bother to bag my groceries. In fact, there was an elderly woman in front of me - likely near 80 or so - and he failed to bag her groceries as well.

Frankly, I am finished with paying my precious extra dollars in order to shop at and support your store. I (or no other customer) should ever have to ask a clerk to bag my groceries, regardless of how busy the store is. When I lived in Portland, I shopped at Trader Joe's frequently. I never once had to bag my own groceries. So for me and my family the choice is easy. Do we pay more for a place that provides less in customer service or do we pay less for a place that provides more in customer service?

That's an easy one for me to answer. Good-bye, Co-Op. You have had your chance to rectify this situation but have failed.

Before I conclude, I do want to say there are some real gems working there. They include Jonathan, Amy, Roslyn, the young girl with glasses and the nose ring, the store manager (all of whom ALWAYS bag my groceries) and the young girl with the pink dyed hair who stocks the produce. I realize (unlike Michelle Adams statement in the Thymes that the co-op pays their staff a higher wage - the clerks at Trader Joe's start at $9/hour whereas the co-op starts their staff at minimum wage) that many of these people make a wage that falls way below the living wage model (to which the Co-Op needs to seriously reconsider if they are to be taken serious in their sustainability philosophy). And I know, from past experience, what it is like to work with the public in a demanding job, having to stand on your feet and do the same thing repeatedly. However - perhaps if some of these lazy clerks of yours realized there are hundreds of very willing unemployed folks (my husband amongst that crowd) who would take the chance at being employed in their positions, they would rethink how they conduct themselves on the job.

2.09.2010

Bizarro News: Man Wins Settlement After Exploding Cigarette Knocks Out A Few Teeth

Well, this is one way to convince a person to quit smoking. 

"An Indonesian tobacco company has agreed to pay the medical expenses of a man who lost six teeth when a cigarette mysteriously exploded in his mouth.  Security guard Andi Susanto, 31, told Metro TV in an interview from his hospital bed that cigarette producer PT Nojorono Tobacco Indonesia had offered to pay for his treatment.  "The company's officials have talked to my family and we agreed to settle it amicably, as an out-of-court settlement," he said through bandaged lips. "They will pay all the medical expenses."  The cause of the explosion remains unknown.  Mr Susanto says he was not chewing anything when he lit the Clas Mild cigarette and did not notice anything strange about its odour, colour or taste.  He said he would quit smoking after the incident."

Well there ya go!

Bizarro News: Student Sells Virginity For $45K

Well, this is one way to make quick cash... 

"A cash-strapped New Zealand student who auctioned off her virginity to help pay for university said she had accepted an offer of $NZ45,000 to sleep with a stranger.  The 19-year-old offered her virginity to the highest bidder in an online auction and said there had been more than 1,200 bids.  "I have accepted an offer in excess of $45,000, which is way beyond what I dreamed," the student said on her web page when the auction ended.  "Thank you to the more than 30,000 people who viewed my ad and to the more than 1,200 offers made."  Calling herself "unigirl", the young woman had described herself as attractive, fit and healthy and said she had never been in a sexual relationship.  She did not respond to media requests for an interview but the proprietor of the website, Ross MacKenzie, told the Waikato Times newspaper he had been authorised to confirm the transaction.  The advertisement drew wide reaction in New Zealand, which has some of the world's most liberal laws on prostitution.  A woman is legally entitled to seek payment for sex and Mr MacKenzie said there was no reason for his website not to accept the advertisement."

Oh dear.  We naively think we know so much about life at that age.  As a mama-to-be myself, I can only imagine how this young woman's mother (and/or father) would react.  I would be horrified.  Saddened.  And doing everything in my power legal or not to stop this, er, "transaction" from taking place.  I would also do everything I could to make sure her college was paid for in such a manner that would not degrade herself or, worse yet, put her in potential harms way.  Oddly enough, the article doesn't mention the age of the man/woman (article does not state the gender of the "winner").  Likely some 50 plus year old pervert.  If he/she were decent, he/she would simply give the young girl the cash without expectation of sex.  Whoever has that kind of money to toss around for random sex certainly can afford to do something decent and good with it.

New Book Discusses How A Shadow Elite of Power Brokers Have Upended Our Democracy

Author Janine Wedel argues in her new book that a group of shadow elites have corrupted and thus are destroying the free markets and our democracy. 
Below is an excerpt.  Click on the above link for more.

'We live in a world of flexibility. We have flex time, flex workers, flex spending, flex enrollment, flex cars, flex technology, flex perks, mind flex—even flex identities. “Flex" has become an integral part not only of how we live, but of how power and influence are wielded. While influencers flex their roles and representations, organizations, institutions, and states, too, must be flexible in ways they haven’t been before. The mover and shaker who serves at one and the same time as business consultant, think-tanker, TV pundit, and government adviser glides in and around the organizations that enlist his services. It is not just his time that is divided. His loyalties, too, are often flexible. Even the short-term consultant doing one project at a time cannot afford to owe too much allegiance to the company or government agency. Such individuals are in these organizations (some of the time anyway), but they are seldom of them.  Being in, but not of, an organization enables these players to pursue a “coincidence of interests,” that is, to interweave and perform overlapping roles that serve their own goals or those of their associates. Because these “nonstate” actors working for companies, quasi-governmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) frequently do work that officials once did, they have privileged access to official information—information that they can deploy to their own ends. And they have more opportunities to use this information for purposes that are neither in the public interest nor easily detected, all the while controlling the message to keep their game going."



State Farm To The NHTSA: We Warned You In 2007 Of Acceleration Issues With The Toyota

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's largest auto insurer said Tuesday it alerted federal safety regulators in late 2007 about a rise in reports of unexpected acceleration in Toyota vehicles, the latest warning sign to emerge about the massive recall.  State Farm insurance said it noticed an uptick in reports of unwanted acceleration in Toyotas from its large customer database and warned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in late 2007. NHTSA officials said the report was reviewed and the agency issued a recall later that month.  NHTSA received complaints about acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles as early as 2003, and congressional investigators are looking into whether the government missed warning signs of the problems. A congressional hearing into the Toyota recalls planned for Wednesday was postponed because of a snowstorm expected to hit the capital."

More here.

I'm a Honda gal myself.

Billboard With Picture Of George W. Bush Asks: Do Ya Miss Me?

Whether this is a photoshop gag or not, I think most of us know the answer to that question.

"Folks in Minnesota on their way to work Tuesday morning looked up to find a familiar face staring down at them: former President George W. Bush. A billboard with the words "Miss Me Yet?" is causing a stir around the blogosphere, with some claiming it's fake and others curious to know who put it up.  The buzz started after Minnesota NPR's Bob Collins blogged that he had seen it in person as he drove on Interstate 35 near Wyoming, Minn. Pretty soon news stations were clamoring to get an interview with him (though all he did was see something).  After pictures of the billboard were posted, many people are claiming it's just another Photoshop hoax even though Collins says it's real."

I concur with the following words as boldly stated in the article:  Do you really want us to answer that, Mr. President?

2.07.2010

Kip Schoning's Crumbling Real Estate Empire Hitting His Own Home

While I haven't posted about this infamous local Landlord (or slumlord as many of his tenants refer to him) in well over a year, I continually receive regular hits on this blog from folks googling him from, quite literally, around the country.  I thought I would add the latest article about his financial troubles and crumbling empire which recently appeared in the local paper (as linked through the local craigslist).  Here's a good portion of it:

"Kip Schoning, the mid-valley landlord who has evicted hundreds of tenants for falling behind on their rent, could be facing eviction himself after falling more than a year behind on his home loan. Schoning has missed 13 straight monthly payments on his half-million-doKip Schoning, the mid-valley landlord who has evicted hundreds of tenants for falling behind on their rent, could be facing eviction himself after falling more than a year behind on his home loan.  Schoning has missed 13 straight monthly payments on his half-million-dollar residence at 4363 N.W. Honeysuckle Drive in the Timberhill district of Corvallis, according to a default notice filed by the lender. Filed in late December, the default notice claims Schoning owes more than $15,000 on the loan, failing to make monthly payments of $1,032.18 starting in December 2008. The arrears also include monthly late fees of $51.61 starting in January 2009. Schoning's own tenants face a $100 charge if the rent is more than four days past due. Schoning's Corvallis-based property management company, Bula Enterprises, once operated more than 200 rental houses around the mid-valley, many with their front doors painted a chipper shade of red. Behind those doors, however, the company has racked up scores of complaints over the years from tenants citing dilapidated properties, foot-dragging on repairs and excessive fees. And court records show that Schoning has filed more than 800 eviction proceedings in his career as a landlord. But his real estate empire has dwindled rapidly over the past two years, with Bula Enterprises rentals now numbering a little more than 100, property records show. Since the start of 2008, Schoning and his wife, Michelle, have lost at least two dozen homes to foreclosure, often resulting in tenants being evicted by the bank. At one time, the couple had as many as 79 properties in default, according to a records search, and at least 33 are currently in arrears and under threat of foreclosure. Schoning did not return calls to his home and office phones seeking comment for this story, and there was no response to a set of written questions sent to his fax machine. The Schonings have until April 29 to bring the loan payments up to date on their Honeysuckle Drive residence. Otherwise, the house where they live with their two children will be auctioned on the steps of the Benton County Courthouse at 10 a.m. May 3."

And in related Schoning news...



2.06.2010

The War On The Poor And Homeless Just Keeps Growing

This time, it has found its way to Fresno, CA.

"The Fresno City Council has passed, with a 6-1 vote, an ordinance that will remove homeless people from median islands while allowing established community groups to continue using the space for their fundraisers. Bill Simon, the chairperson of the Greater Fresno American Civil Liberties Union, called the measure discriminatory....Fresno City Council member Larry Westerland defended his ordinance, saying that if "somebody who wanted to, up to one time every six months, they would be able to come in and there would be a form they would fill out, a one page form, it would be like here is my name, here is the median I would like to occupy on this date, whatever that date would be. We talked about a 48 hour notice before going out there." Westerlund's ordinance would require the applicant to pay a filling fee, provide proof of insurance, and require the use of a brightly colored vest."



What an idiot.  How many homeless people have the money for a filing fee (or would be willing to pay it instead of using it for food and water)?  How many homeless have proof of insurance?  Does he really believe a homeless person is going to go through this hassle, not to mention having the opportunity to do this only ONCE EVERY SIX MONTHS and THEN have to PICK A DAMN DATE, in order to simply stand in a medium in the City of Fresno?

Of course not.  Which is why he's defending this discriminatory, fascist-leaning ordinance with such mindless dribble.  He knows his pathetic, ugly, discriminatory ordinance is going to put an end to the homeless standing in the city's precious mediums. 

I would like to see SOB's like him lose it all and then be told: "Sorry.  You can't park/stand/pee/eat/talk/request help here unless you give your government some money and proof of insurance."  Perhaps then they will pull their heads out of their behinds so that they can look at their Souls once again.  And remember...

Latest Diet Cult: WWJE (What Would Jesus Eat)

Some days you think you've seen it all, then you stumble upon something like this.  A new wave of dieting fanatics are cashing in on Christian Guilt by targeting the obese and posing this one question to them:  What Would Jesus Eat?

Then they try and sell you their overly-priced health food supplement.

"...Jordan S. Rubin writes that he has "known Jesus as my Lord and Savior since I was eight years old" and that he was cured of Crohn's Disease at age 19 in 1996 after spending 40 days eating only "whole foods consumed in Biblical times," mainly yogurt, whole grains, organic produce and grass-fed meats. From this, he devised his diet plan, dividing edibles into three categories. "Extraordinary" foods include soybeans, quinoa, kefir, mahi-mahi, buffalo hot dogs (without pork casings) and umeboshi paste. Merely "average" foods include amazake, agave nectar and spelt. "Trouble" foods to be avoided at all costs include ostrich, emu, cashews, Egg Beaters and eel.  He quickly followed up his original book with The Maker's Diet Daily Reminders, The Maker's Diet Shopper's Guide, The Maker's Diet for Weight Loss and more. It's heartening to see Rubin's emphasis on organic, free-range, fresh and wild, although his enthusiasm for highly saturated coconut oil unnerves some critics.  Ah, but he sells the oil -- for $15.95 per 16-ounce jar -- along with honey and supplements, through his Garden of Life brand. A $50 million company "with the goal of becoming a $100 million company," as Rubin puts it, Garden of Life offers dozens of products including the alleged fat-burner f├╝coThin® and Goatein®, a goat-milk powder that sells for $49.95 per 440-ounce jar.  Advising people on what to eat is all well and good, especially if you're advising them to go organic, shun processed foods, and increase their intake of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. But implying that God wants us to finish the job with a bunch of spendy, and to some extent untested, add-ons is entirely another."

And here I thought subterfusion was a mortal sin. 

2.04.2010

Local Craigslist Job Seeker/Poster Nails It!

Quite the truthful piece...

Dear HR/Hiring Manager,


So you're looking for someone with a Bachelor's degree, and you want to pay them $10 an hour. That's nice. Let's do some math...

$10/hr x 40 hrs/week = $400 week


$400/week x 52 weeks = $20,800.

So, gross pay is $20,800...but after taxes, and let's assume a conservative tax rate of 18%....

=net annual salary of $17,056.

Now, the average rent in Corvallis for a one bedroom apartment is around $600, and the minimum income/rent ratio for most landlords is 2 1/2 : 1. So, that means, to rent a one bedroom apartment at $600/month, you must take home a minimum of $1500. So, even if our landlord is generous and lets us rent anyway, here's what we have:

$1421 take home pay


-$600 rent


= $821

Now eating as cheaply as possible...that's probably $50/week, which is $200 a month right off the top...so now we have $621 left.

Gas is probably $75 at a minimum, allowing for no exorbitant travel, so now we have $546 left.

Car insurance is probably at least $70, and if you're a male, $100. So, to compromise, let's say $85. Now we're down to $461.

Medical insurance, now that's a big one...probably $150 at least, with the largest deductibles, if you're in good health and on an individual plan, since it obviously isn't offered with your wonderful establishment. So now we have $311.  [this must be a younger individual as a private plan will cost most adults at least 3-4X that amount]

Phone is probably around $50, for a basic nationwide unlimited plan (and no home line). Now we have $261.

Utilities? Let's be conservative and say $75. Now we have $186.  [electric would be $75 MINIMUM w/today's rates and h2o for one individual $35-$40.]

Wow, so we have a whopping $186 month contingency. Assuming of course, that we never get sick, never go out to eat, never rent a movie, never buy postage, never need to buy cleaning supplies, do laundry, get an oil change, have car problems, and generally never leave the house unless going to work. And of course, since our original model figures 52 weeks a year of work, that is NO sick days, NO vacation, and NO time off for any reason. And lastly, it assumes that we have NO credit card debt, NO student loans, NO car payment and NO kids.

Seriously, PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS!!!!!!!!!!   [Amen.}


Regards,


Potential Job Candidate





2.03.2010

Today's Top Oddball News: Uncle Sam Says "If You Wanna Go From Boy To Girl, We'll Give Ya A Little Tax Advantage!"

Thinking of having a sex change?  On Tuesday, The U.S. Tax Court ruled that a Massachusetts woman can write-off her hormone replacement therapies along with the accompanying surgery given such things are considered medically necessary.

"Rhiannon O'Donnabhain, who was born a man, had sued the Internal Revenue Service in 2007 after the agency denied her $5,000 deduction after deeming the procedures "cosmetic." In an opinion that could have a far-reaching effect on transgender Americans, the Tax Court said it found the IRS' argument "at best a superficial characterization of the circumstances" and one that was "thoroughly rebutted by the medical evidence," ABC News reported. "(Gender identity disorder) is a well-recognized and serious mental disorder," the majority wrote."


Nina's Commentary:  To each his own.  To feel you are in the "wrong" body must be a terribly lonely experience.  That being said, I wonder if the Tax Court would let me write-off a move to another planet for yours truly and family.  I often experience the sensation that, while I am in the right body, I am on the "wrong" planet. 

2.01.2010

Hey Hollywood: How About A Telethon For The Unemployed/Homeless Here In America?

Nothing disgusts me more than seeing the elite of Hollywood reach out to an economically depressed economy and ask for money. 

Nothing digusts me more than seeing these elitists showing so much concern for the suffering in other nations while they completely and utterly ignore the millions of unemployed/underemployed/homeless Americans.

I have an idea.  Let's organize a telethon for the millions set to lose their homes, set to lose their unemployment benefits.  Over $55 million was raised with the recent telethon for the victims of the Haitian earthquake.  Let's put these Hollywood elitists to work and have them amp up the effort with another telethon for the folks here at home.  For every dollar that is raised, they combine their capital and add a $20 spot for every dollar.  Or a $50 spot.  Or $100 spot.

Or better yet, let's have three telethons.  One for those set to lose their homes.  One for those set to lose their unemployment benefits.  And another for the uninsured. 

I mean really.  Who do these folks think they're impressing?  They volunteer to help the suffering in 3rd world nations (while ours slowly turns into one).  They adopt babies from other countries (while we continue to see the number of orphans increase).  Then they pat themselves on the back (by inviting the paparazzi to document their generosity) and return home, ignoring the growing crumbling and suffering that surrounds them. 

I realize human suffering knows no borders or skin color or status.  But come on.  At least let us see the elite do more work here at home NOW.  If I were one of them, that's what I would want to be doing.  Given the growing economic distress as faced by millions of americans, the numbers growing with each passing day, I would want to ensure the community around me was financially secure, job secure and shelter secure.  That would give me some peace of mind in feeling there wasn't some destitute American living on the streets, looking to take some of what I have.

America's Failing Electrical Grid

Back in 2005, the ASCE (society of civil engineers) issued this report card, outlining the state of America's infrastructure.  The overall grade was a "D".  Poor.  According to the report, $1.6 Trillion was/is needed to bring our infrastructure up to par.  Likely that number is much higher as of 2010.  As we all know, throwing a few billion here and there, like previous and the current Administration's have done, ain't gonna cut it.  Without a workable infrastructure, you can forget about an economy.

We live in an area that has a very high number of power surges.  That is, suddenly the power will go out then go back on again, causing computer's to shut down and digital clocks to reset themselves to "00:00" or flashing mode.  I've made it a practice to write down whenever we have one of these surges.  I also phone up the power company, report it and demand a truthful explanation.

None are ever forthcoming of course.  All we receive are corporate speaking puppets who give us the p/c version.  Here are some of the doozies we have received:

"A squirrel jumped onto a line."

"A bird touched a line."

"Oh, we were out in the area repairing an underground line and when it was turned back on, it triggered a surge."

"Weather."

I'm waiting for the day when they blame it on spiders.  So far that hasn't happened.  Yet...

We had power surge number 6 today (going back 10 days) so we decided to phone up the power company once again and inquire.  Or shall I say, find out what b.s. excuse they would be offering up today.

Today's answer?

The weather.

Oh yes, it is quite the wild weather we are having today.  Hmm, let me look out my window.  Ok, I see a bunch of clouds.  Some misting rain.  Stand back whilst I grab my chair and brace myself for the next bout of weather madness.

Give me a break.

When presented with that answer, I said "Oh come on, it's cloudy with light rain showers."

Well then there must have been a gust of wind, came the p/c reply.

"Nope, no wind.  None at all," sayeth the one who knows the truth (that would be me).

Well, that's what this individual was being told, came the, once again, p/c reply.

"Listen," I said, "Why don't you just tell me the truth for once, will you?  Admit it with me now.  The grid is failing.  Period.  There's too much demand on the current system and the current system needs a major overhaul nationwide."

Well, they didn't know about that, came the start of a reply to which I interrupted and informed the individual of the 2005 report card as put forth by the ACSE.  You know, the folks who know about stuff like this.  Not the employees of the power company.  I explained in 2001 the group gave the electric grid a D+.  In 2005, a D.  Such a drop in a grade would cause a parent to stand up and take notice.  Why wasn't the power company doing the same?

Silence.

Of course.  Sometimes silence is wonderful.  Other times, it's an annoyance, like it was today.

Until these corporate fascists (or at least their working minions) embrace the truth, the innocent squirrels, birds, cats, rodents, wild weather concoction of misty rain and clouds and lord knows what else will be given blame for power issues. 

I wonder if the spiders are aware of this and are unionizing...

Update:  I spoke with a friend today who knows someone who once was affiliated with the power company.  He informed me our particular city and its electric grid was designed for a population of 20,000.  Considering our current population is a bit above 50,000, I'd say that indeed my assertion to the power company that our grid is over-burdened is correct.