Class reunion or a root canal? Your choice . . . numbing agents optional.

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Found on the Web:

“I don’t entirely get the concept of high school reunions. I mean, in my mind, you keep in touch with the people you really want to keep in touch with, and who cares about the rest? Why torture yourself with coordinated events that you have to dress up and pay for, only to mingle briefly and wonder why you even bothered in the first place? Based on my observations from movies and television, the real reasons behind high school reunions are so a) the nerds can gloat about how totally hot and rich they are now, b) all the unpopular kids can gloat about how fat the popular kids are now, c) the people who have spouses/kids now can gloat about their spouses/kids with the other people who have spouses/kids and d) you can finally hook up with that guy/girl who was way out of your league your junior year and is now so crushed by life and/or drunk that they’re willing to let you touch them.”

The quote above is used without permission (sorry!) from the weblog: I’m just like you…but maybe more neurotic.

The author of that blog was reading my mind! Now see what I have to say on the subject:

OK, this is a rant. Two people have asked me to work on a class reunion, which by rights should have been held this past summer. Nobody put one together then, and now folks are saying we should do it. I say forget it. Here’s why:

Forty years ago I graduated from high school with about 106 other folks. Most of us never correspond. The few that do keep in touch with me are people I knew before, at our old school in Noel before we consolidated  two years before graduating, going to the much larger McDonald County High School. I have few fond memories of that place, sorry. It was large, cold and lonely. The teachers were mostly from Anderson, and the Anderson kids ruled. Even the Noel and Pineville teachers who moved over to the high school sucked up to the Anderson hierarchy. I was not an A student, and I wasn’t one of the cool ones. I was a nerdy musician, a bookworm, with a B minus average. I wasn’t part of a clique.  I didn’t date unless it was a special occasion, and those were few. After I left high school, I never looked back. The 10-year reunion was held without me, and that was OK. But by the 20th, I had mellowed out. I thought things might be different, and it was time to rekindle old friendships and try, really try, to fit into the groove.

I was contacted and asked to take part in the plans. A committee of about 15 of us met several times for months, created a questionnaire, compiled addresses, and mailed them out and put together a neat little booklet with information from classmates. We planned and carried out a reunion at the high school, complete with a program. The whole experience was exhausting, but we were proud of our accomplishment. However, during the luncheon, the committee spokesman got up and gave one classmate total credit for the work of the committee. And then that classmate, given the credit, thanked his family for all the hard work they did. Nobody thanked the committee. It was exactly like high school had been – people behind the scenes worked their butts off while a few figureheads took all the credit and got all the praise. And it isn’t that I wanted praise – I just felt that the group effort, which had been enormous, should have been applauded. And then, to top it all off, they gave the previous class president, a nice guy but someone who did nothing at all to plan the reunion, the job again in a mock election. It was ludicrous. 

I went home that afternoon with a splitting headache and a neck spasm. I decided right then and there that it would be a cold day in Hell before I went to another class reunion.  And what is it about people who are still live in the area, that we are supposed to be the ones putting a reunion together, anyway? Just because I still live in the area doesn’t mean that I have a better handle on it than anyone else. And I wouldn’t go if you planned it, guys. 

The fact is, the classmates I want to be in contact with, I am in contact with. The rest of them are people who move in different circles. Once in awhile I might run into them, but we have little in common and are very different people today from 40 years ago. I really don’t know these people. To be honest, being forced into planning a get-together for this bunch would be less enjoyable than a root canal – at least with the dental surgery, I get a little anesthetic.

OK, Kids – fasten your seatbelts. It's time for my annual New Year's Predictions for 2009!!!

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I’ve been posting predictions for years, but now that I have a blog, I can put them here. I don’t have a track record, and I don’t pretend to be some seer who can peer into the future. I am, however, good at reading people (because of my jobs as a teacher and salesperson) and I can predict trends, etc. There may also be a few predictions that are things that popped into my head as I was writing this, and some are from my study of astrology, which is something I know most of my friends laugh at. Go ahead! I don’t care! Take them for what I intend them to be – fun prognostications that are meant to be entertainment. And I love making predictions. So read and enjoy but don’t bet the farm on any of them. (But if you do, and you win large sums of money, we may have to talk, LOL)

The Chart

1. If 2009 had a theme song, it would be “Taking Care of Business.”  I cast a chart for the New Year, based on my own idea of when the chart should be cast – and I’m interpreting it in a mundane way. The astrological chart I cast for one minute after midnight on New Year’s Day is notable because all the planets but Saturn are located in the bottom of the chart, clustered together as though hunkering down for the winter. And in a way, they are.  Several are in dour Capricorn, but hopeful Aquarius and peaceful Pisces also gets a few. But Saturn is in Virgo in the 12th house of this horary chart, meaning secrets are about to be uprooted and some hard lessons will be learned by those who stood by and allowed the Bush regime to raid the treasury for eight years. I see some jail time for a few people, but none of them will be famous folks. The fall guys will be the “soldiers,” or peons in the organization. It is unfortunate, but true, that when you are rich and powerful you can pin the tail on any donkey you choose. I just hope the “donkey” is more of an elephant, in this case. (If you want to know more about horary astrology, or mundane astrology, which is what I am actually doing here, here’s a few links:

Another interesting thing about Saturn is that it is opposite many of the 2009 planets, in such a way that it resembles the handle of a pan. Saturn, then, will be handling many of the problems and issues we are dealing with in 2009. When Saturn is involved, we get what we deserve, both good and bad.

chart-of-20091

2. President Elect Obama has his work cut out for him. I predict he will be an able and charismatic president, winning over many people who didn’t vote for him. Alas, as is already happening, many of his backers on the liberal left will fall out of love, and will begin to pick at the bones of their dreams, which now lay abandoned on the floor with the confetti of the election. But that is OK. Many of those people aren’t really happy unless they feel the world is against them. Obama, in the meantime, will have a good year and will manage to deflect many of the blows that come his way.  However, I do sense that he will be forced to make some changes in the first six months inside his West Wing.  This will be sad for him, because he genuinely liked these people and hoped their work would be stellar. Sometimes the reality doesn’t match the dream.

3. Hillary Clinton, as our Secretary of State, will be responsible for restoring the good relationships we used to have with many countries around the globe, and will do a very good job. Of course, she will continue to have detractors. But here’s a prediction that may surprise you — I predict that Bill Clinton will be a wonderful asset to both Hillary and to the US and the World, and he will not live up to his previous reputation as a peccadillo committer (I really did look diligently for a noun here; I considered peccadilloist, or peccadillot, but neither word exists and my spellchecker is going crazy now that I typed them.)

4. Some huge changes are coming for established icons that we thought would never change: Chrysler, Ford, and GM, just to name three. In 2008 we saw banking giants fall, and in 2009 we will see a shift in some other established systems. One of these big three auto manufacturers will not survive, I predict. And I think it will be Chrysler. And GM will be restructured severely. Ford will come out better than the others, but even Ford will face some huge changes. I predict that by the end of 2010, we will have a new way of looking at many things, including healthcare, social welfare, and transportation.  Here’s a link to another WordPress blogger, StarCats, who has an interesting post about 2009:

5.  Stimulus to the economy will be broadened. Already we see that President-elect Obama wants to put $700 billion in public works, including roads and bridges. I predict that education, both higher and K-12, will also get a boost. So will public libraries. The economic downturn has put our educational institutions in serious danger, and President Obama will address this in time for fiscal year 2010. However, I feel that the education money will come with strings. This will anger many of the teacher unions across the nation, as the accountability being asked for will be seen as a way to appease the GOP. Many of President Obama’s planned stimuli will be criticized by the far left as being tainted by appeasement to the right. 

6. Wars will continue, and after Obama takes office, I predict that Iraq and Afghanistan will continue well into 2012 and beyond. I don’t foresee any relief for us in 2009, and even after Iraq is put on the shelf militarily, we will continue to have a strong presence there.

7. The Dow and the economy will begin to recover in the fourth quarter of 2009. This is not a new prediction, as a search on Google will reveal that pundits believe this will occur. However, I don’t foresee a fast return to a dow of 12,000 and above. By March, the Dow will be more or less static and the dramatic highs and lows that we suffered through in the past year and a half will not happen again for a long, long time, if ever. The main problem has been that wealth has been concentrated, with most of it held by a few. In the future, this will not be so much the case. Many of the wealthy will remain so, yes. We do live in a capitalist economy here in the US, and if you’ve ever played Monopoly®, you know that it is impossible to recover when everyone else has hotels and all you have is a couple of properties on the blue and purple side of the board. But work will return and our public works will improve, and there will be more opportunity to get involved.

8. Real Estate will remain dismal until 2010, when it will begin to rebound. Many people in real estate as a profession will be out of the profession in 2009, and in 2010 there will be a shortage of real estate agents. This will be surprising to people. I don’t know why they would be surprised. Real estate has been horrible for awhile.  Mortgage rates will stabilize lower, and most people who had horrendous rates will be able to refinance for a much lower rate. Because bank rates will be lower, investors will find it more to their advantage to invest in real estate than put their money in banks.

9. Banks won’t like it, but the extra charges they have imposed on consumers will be curtailed somewhat by new bills brought before Congress in the first term of 2009. Current banking practices have evolved over the last 10 years with deregulation of banks. Checking accounts and charges will be changed. Overdraft protection charges will be changed. Credit card percentage rates will be changed. Some of these changes will result in fewer services to consumers, who will not all be pleased about the changes. However, the result is a safer and more level playing field for banking customers. 

Now for some fun predictions for 2009

1. Condoleeza Rice will become a Democrat and will marry a prominent Democratic politician.

2. My Uncle Roy will have his unpublished novel picked up by one of the networks (HBO?) for a series that will have a 10-year run.

3. My daughter Desara will decide to give me another grandchild. 

4. Marilyn and Al Williams will have the best garden in McDonald County in 2009, and we will all be terribly jealous.

5. Chad Stebbins will have his published novel turned into a mini-series that will come out in 2012.

6.  Larry & Brenda Kilby will not go on a cruise. 

7. Noreen McMahan will have a grandchild.

8. Karen and Bob Madison will write a book together and the UA Press will publish it.

9. Many New Year’s Predictions will be revealed to be total rubbish.

Watch this Blog for More. I’m just getting started.

Brendon Leland Short is Christened

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Brendon Short, surrounded by his parents, godparents and Fr. Jarik, immediately after his Christening on Saturday.

Brendon Short, surrounded by his parents, godparents and Fr. Jarik, immediately after his Christening on Saturday. Brendon enjoys mugging for the camera. He is quite a ham, already.

My grandson Brendon was christened on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008, at St. Canera’s Catholic Church in Neosho, Mo. The ceremony was set for 6 p.m., so we arrived a few minutes before. Larry and I came with my mother, Charlcie Cates, and Fred Merrell, her partner since 1994. It was bitterly cold Saturday evening, but the church was packed. We sat in the very rear of the church, near the font. Brendon’s paternal grandmother, Ann Short, and his Aunt Maria and Uncle Jamie Bohannon, Uncle Steve Hatfield and cousins Derek, Shynel, Courtney, Megan, Cole and Katie were also there.
The evening service was wrapping up when we came in. We had noticed a couple of stretch limos outside the church when we arrived, and wondered if a wedding were taking place. Once inside, though, we realized that the young girl in the white dress was too young for marriage; it was a quinceañera we were witnessing, complete with eight female and eight male attendants and a photographer. A quinceañera is a girl’s 15th birthday celebration, which begins with a mass and culminates in a party and dance. From what I could see, it was very much like a wedding but without the groom.
While the birthday girl and her court were having their photos taken at the altar, we were relegated to the back of the church near the font, where the christening took place.
Brendon was dressed in a white christening suit of clothes, complete with special shoes. His mother and father held him while his godparents, uncle Ron Short and aunt Tonya Hatfield, looked on. The priest, Fr. Jaroslaw Skrzypek, is a man of about 30 years of age. He is from Poland, and has a distinctive European look and demeanor. He is also very strict.
Grandpa Larry found out how strict, when he was lectured by the Priest for chewing gum in the church and told to take it outside and dispose of it. I think the priest could have handled this differently. If he had known how few times Larry had been inside a church in the last 35 years, he might have let it go. As it stands now, Larry may wait until his last rites before he ever goes back.
Fr. Jarek (as he is called) looks like a young Elton John. He wears Christian Dior eyeglasses, very chic, and will become a good priest some day. In the meantime, I understand he is studying canon law. His surname means “violinist” in Polish. I think it is pronounced “Sha-PEK.” In the Ozarks, we would call him Jerry the Fiddler. I wonder if he knows that?
Brendon was pretty good during the ceremony. Afterwards, we went downstairs for cake and punch. The pictures are up on the gallery if you want to see the whole batch.

Happy Yule, Y'all!

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Gaze intently into this flame, and maybe it will warm your eyes. LOL

Gaze intently into this flame, and maybe it will warm your eyes. LOL

December 21, the Winter Solstice, is the turning point for the sun. Starting tomorrow, the sun will come up a little earlier and stay up a little longer than it did today. That is a good thing, because it is really cold right now. The Weatherbug icon on my computer says 19 degrees. That is cold. Last night it was down to 9 degrees before starting to “warm up” to a high of 20. I can’t imagine there being much difference in the way 9 degrees and 20 degrees feels. I would freeze to death quickly in either temperature, if left there long without proper attire. Actually, the attire is not even an issue. I would freeze to death.

The pagan ritual of Yule begins at the Solstice, with a Yule Log being brought into the house and allowed to burn for 12 days. I don’t think this would work for us, because we don’t have a fireplace that would allow anything to burn that long without turning it to cinders. The 12 days of the Yule Log later were co-opted by the Christians, who turned it into the 12 Days of Christmas. I found a place online where one can read more about the Solstice and pagan holidays. Another interesting thing is the color scheme for Yule, which is synonomous with what we consider “Christmas Colors,” and the fragrant flavors of the holiday, which are also Christmas smells.

Here’s the site:

Yule Log

WPIX, the TV Station, puts a burning Yule Log up for your enjoyment. But if you don’t have cable, there’s a two minute excerpt up on You Tube, so if you don’t have a fireplace, here ya go:

You Tube Log

The time has come, the pundits said, to talk of many things – the economy, web bot predictions, and whether our consciousness has wings??

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(My apologies to Lewis Carroll, who wrote “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” the inspiration for my headline.)
A double rainbow at dusk near Neosho, Mo. in October, 2008.

A double rainbow at dusk near Neosho, Mo. in October, 2008.

Ever since the Dow began to plunge late this summer, followed by even worse news of financial woes in the banking industry and the auto industry, pundits have been telling us they knew it all along. A quick look at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com reveal a plethora of books that prove, yes, there was evidence out there that this fall and winter would be disastrous for the economy. Big Deal. Thanks for the heads up.
Meanwhile, other pundits are saying it is only going to get worse before it gets better.
And I’m thinking, I should probably pay off all my credit cards as soon as possible and start hoarding cash. But then I think, “Will cash be worth anything when this is all over?”
An Internet check of predictions about 2009 revealed something very interesting to me – Web Bot Predictions. There’s a couple of different sites to look up for this, but here are two:

No, I haven’t lost my mind. But I think it is an interesting concept that predictions can be made from a robotic web crawler looking for trends; and it seems to work! For example, the urban survival site is actually an analysis based on the peoplenomics site (peoplenomics.com, a commercial site that businesses can subscribe to, in order to track financial trends. From their site, here is an explanation:

In June 2001 I began to correspond with a reader of my website who said he was willing to share access to a promising new web technology, on the condition that I protect his identity. The person related that he had been a very senior programmer with a software company in the Pacific Northwest (you can guess which company, right?) and besides being a SQL ace, he was also heavily into linguistics and a language called Prolog, which is more like an artificial intelligence language than anything else.

I was skeptical, to be sure, but a few days after we began the email exchange of ideas, he sent me a program he had written that allows a computer to be turned into speed reading tool. It was based on rapidly displaying individual words on a computer screen. He said this was a technology that he had developed and sold for a while on the Internet. He also explained how the development rights to the technology had been sold to a company ( http://www.ebrainspeed.com ). In essence, after looking up the patent he held for the technology, I was convinced that this fellow was for real and might be on to something with the method of looking for linguistic shift on the Internet as a tool to forecast future events.

He described how technology worked. A system of spiders, agents, and wanderers travel the Internet, much like a search engine robot, and look for particular kinds of words. It targets discussion groups, translation sites, and places were regular people post a lot of text.

When a “target word” was found, or something that was lexically similar, the web bots take a small 2048 byte snip of surrounding text and send it to a central collection point. The collected data at times approached 100 GB sample sizes and we could have used terabytes. The collected data was then filtered, using at least 7-layers of linguistic processing in Prolog, which was then reduced to numbers and then a resultant series of scatter chart plots on multiple layers of Intellicad ( http://www.cadinfo.net/icad/icadhis.htm ). Viewed over a period of time, the scatter chart points tended to coalesce into highly concentrated areas. Each dot on the scatter chart might represent one word or several hundred.

Here’s a link to that page so you can read more: http://urbansurvival.com/simplebots.htm
The really, really bad thing about all this is, I don’t think — no, I KNOW — that I’m not smart enough to really talk about this web bot stuff. It makes my head hurt, in much the same way pondering Black Holes, the age of the Universe or Time Travel Paradoxes does. (I looked that sentence over several times. “Does” is the right word. So there!)
Anyway, cut to the chase.
The Web Bot Prediction is that we are screwed. Just how screwed, I can’t tell you — the real data is only for “subscribers,” and I’m not one.
So, back to the personal finance question. This is my take on this — we shouldn’t hoard our money, but go ahead and put it in the bank. But we should take very good care of our own situations and pay off all the balances we can and reduce our financial imprint and hunker down. Get by on less! Buy less! But if we need something and we can afford it, buy it now.
Somebody out there needs to make a sale.

Editor’s Note: The Walrus and the Carpenter is a very appropriate invocation for this post, as it deals with a dirty trick played upon some oysters by the Walrus and the Carpenter, who lured the young mussels to their certain death. I suppose it could also be considered as Lewis Carroll’s statement against predatory activity, or perhaps he was pointing out that, (a) if you are an oyster, and (b) if your natural enemy asks you to take a walk, and (c) you do this, then maybe you deserve to be gobbled up. Whatever. Here’s a link so you can read the entire poem here: 

http://www.jabberwocky.com/carroll/walrus.html

Fighting the Scrooge Reflex

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The true meaning of Christmas? Is it presents? Is it giving? Or receiving? It is enough to make us all feel like Ebenezer Scrooge, especially when the economy is dire. But we must resist the reflex.

I saw a sign the other day that said “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and it got me to thinking. No offense to religious folks, but Jesus has never been the reason for the season. Merchants have made it a time for making money. Everyone, from the bell ringer outside Wal-Mart to the school children selling magazines at the door are seeking money. Even family get into the act, hinting for this gift or that. But Christmas is so much more than a time to get and give presents.

It is a time for connection. It is a time for taking stock and realizing what is truly important. In December in our Northern hemisphere and temperate climate, we feel vulnerable to the elements. We also have shortened days. Our gardens have died, our trees have lost their leaves, and we are forced to spend our days and nights inside the shelter of our homes. It is only natural that we would become somewhat introspective at this time of year. And those of us who are religious will seek the meaning of our lives. I’m not religious in the classic sense of the word. I don’t prescribe to a religion, and don’t like groups. To be effective in a group, you must wear your game face.  I find wearing a game face to a church to be a reprehensible act. But there is no way around it, to succeed it must be worn. I can’t be that hypocritical.  So churches, sorry, I won’t be darkening your doors to worship the nativity this season.

But I will be buying gifts for my parents, my children and my grandchildren, and I will be spending time with my family and reflecting on what is truly important. As I look around at my family this season, I will treasure every moment, knowing we never realize how lucky we truly are until we aren’t lucky. And the way the world is today, there is no need to dwell on that.

Dogwood berries, just in time for Christmas.

Dogwood berries, just in time for Christmas.