Saturday, August 29, 2009

On baking and learning...

I have long been a decent cook, and generally somewhat adventurous. I try a recipe and see what I like about and what I don't and then I start making changes, sometimes I make small changes and sometimes I change the recipe so much that it barely resembles the original, but it gives me a place to start and a result to work with. I'm confident enough in my abilities to know that when I venture off the path I can get what I am looking for eventually.

This week and weekend I have been playing baker, making my first ever tries at zucchini bread. Is it good, is it bad? It's hard to judge, but I think I have been doing quite well, working with the recipes that I was given to start with. One a cranberry-walnut concoction, another lemon-pecan, and one blueberry. Each one good in it's own way and quite enjoyable, but none of them quite what I had in mind. In my mind I remember a spice flavored bread, dark colored and a semi-smooth texture. When you bite into it you can taste the spices like cloves and allspice and ginger. Cinnamon is a given, but finding just the right recipe has been pretty futile. So I designed one from what I have found. I'm still tinkering, but I know I'm on the right track. Now it's a matter of refinement.

So I'm learning! I love learning, I like to know new things and to have new experiences. Many people put high stock in learning, but only in specific kinds of learning, what some refer to as, "book learning". Book learning is something specific, that you are taught by a proscribed method for a limited amount of time and here in America you have to pay for anything beyond public school. You can take a test and see what you have learned, and gauge your understanding by telling your teacher about the process. I love book learning, but I have found that book learning will only get a person so far, because books are limited to the experience of the author(s). Far too many of these authors lack the actual experiences that they write about, but rather use the anecdotal experiences of people that they interview, relying on imperfect memories and glazed over truths. Some of the experiences are documented in written accounts such as diaries and journals, and ever increasingly in pictures or video. But we all know that with the advancement of the recording industry there is corresponding advancement in editing and thus, how do you trust these documents? There is also the limitations of the teachers experience. Perhaps they have failed at the field that they are teaching, thus leading to the old adage, " Those who can't do, teach." Cynicism prevails and we find that truly the best teacher in life is none but experience.

Experience comes in many ways, sometimes by design, and sometimes by accident. We often don't even realize that we are learning something new as we go through our day. It isn't always something big, not a revelation such as understanding the theory of relativity, but perhaps you learn that if you stir your coffee with a ball point pen you get ink in your coffee. Or you learn that you need to use the brakes on your car harder to keep the brakes properly polished, or less hard to keep them from glazing. Hopefully we survive the bigger lessons, like don't drive to fast in the rain lest you hydroplane and lose control. But the point is that one of the best teachers is simple experience. Experience is something that we can apply to our daily lives. We know how hard to squeeze the toothpaste, not because we learned a formula in a book, but because we squirted toothpaste all over our hands when we were young. We know not to grab the handle of the frying pan without a pot holder because we got burned when we were young, or perhaps because we tried it as we were learning to cook. Employers come in 2 varieties, those who look for experience, and those who don't.

Those who hope for new employees with no experience want it this way because they are hoping to teach them their own set of bad habits for whatever job it is they are being hired to do. Often times this is for what could be considered a semi-skilled position, meaning you need to have certain basic skills to start with, but not so much skill that you could teach the job to your boss. Basically this is how manufacturers especially, keep employee costs down, because they don't have to pay a wage commensurate to the job they wish done. They can teach a literate dope off the street how to push a button and make a few measurements, and call them a machine operator, when it reality they should have a Machinist doing the job who can work mostly on his own and make the necessary adjustments based on his level of experience.

Then there are the higher-end employers who value experience and are willing to pay for it. The thing that immediately comes to mind is security firms, this is why they often hire retired police and military, because they have the experience required to keep the assets they are assigned to safe. But aside from this there are literally thousands of fields of endeavor that benefit from experienced employees, from finance and politics, to machine shops and auto mechanics. Experience show us the little things that we can't learn from a book. It teaches us by letting us make mistakes, and if we are smart, we don't make the same mistake twice.

Cooking is something that benefits from experience. If you make a mistake, you adjust and try again. Sometimes you can eat your mistakes, sometimes you can't. You've wasted time, food and money, and you just might go hungry. If you know what your mistake was you can avoid making it again, you use your experience to affect your future, and as you add to your experience you become better, as the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Been lazy...

Summer and the livin' is easy... Not so much. Been busy as all hell and trying to keep my head above water financially speaking. It doesn't help that I went out and bought an expensive toy, but I hope that in the end it will pay me back. That will take some time, but I'll keep hoping! LOL

So my summer has been pretty interesting, (If you can call most of it summer! The weather sure hasn't been the best!) I have probably put more miles on the bike than I have in the last 5 years. Been riding it as often as possible because the gas is cheaper when you only have to by $5 worth every 80 miles or so. And when I really push it I buy $7 around 125 miles! How do you like that? For 2 more dollars I go 45 more miles!! As long as I'm not doing any "high performance" riding I have gotten the mileage as high as 52.3 mpg this summer. That's awesome and sure makes it easier on the wallet. As long as the sky doesn't look too forbidding I take the bike. ( or when I'm not going for groceries!)

My weight loss continues. As of this week I am up to ( down to?) 60# gone, I am actually down to one extra chin! The last few weeks have been hard with festivals and carnivals around. I love greasy carnival food, corn dogs, fried dough, sugar waffles, and sausage loaded with onions and peppers, not to mention pizza and candied apples. I took a Friday night at the Onion Fest and chowed on the good stuff. And then last weekend pops went to a festival and brought home bag of sugar waffles. So I had 2 of those too. I have been quite good though most of the time. Since I have been harvesting my squish, I have been eating zucchini and yellow summer squash almost daily. I love the stuff grilled with loads of spices. It is also great in an omelet with some broccoli or sausage. My favorite so far though is to mix it with crushed tomatoes and pile it on a little bit of cooked pasta. Man is that a great treat. I can't do it too often, but when I do. it sure is worth the wait! My meat intake is actually way down this summer. I have been way more veggie centric than usual. Not that I want to cut meat out of my diet, but I think that I'm just better off eating more veggies and less of the vegetarians.

Got a new Lawn mower last week. My old one was getting pretty beat. I have had it for 5 years and I use it for grass in the summer and with the snowblower attachment for snow in the winter. Believe it or not I checked the numbers and it had less than 500 hours on it! I was kinda surprised when I saw that. I gave the old one to my sister. She has a much smaller yard to mow, and the riders are quite a bit lighter than me, so it should last them for a few years. As long as they keep it lubed and sharpened it should serve them well for a good while.

Been watching the news and all this healthcare debate with ever rising bile. I just can't believe that so many Americans are so stupid. Well, I take that back, I can easily believe it, I'm more saddened by how easily they fall for the crap that gets doled out by the republican obstructionists. The Preamble to the Constitution specifically states,:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

To me the general welfare includes the health of the citizens. Public Healthcare is more constitutional than any insurance company collecting premiums and denying coverage ever could be. So you don't want Public coverage? How about this, You don't take it. There are far too many people out in the country who have NOTHING!! They work to make ends meet and they have squat to show for it, and if they get sick? They work through it, usually making everyone around them sick in the process because they can't afford to miss a day of work . If they get sick and can't work? They're pretty much screwed, because you can bet that there are bills that are gonna be late. It is the health insurance that has put me in a freaking hole. How? Because I was paying for "health" insurance that turned out to be more scam that insurance. My own fault for trying to do something without enough research. I dropped that one and got some real coverage, but now the money coming out of my paycheck each week has dropped my net income substantially, so the bills that I should be able to easily pay each month are squeezing my Fridays awfully close together. I push the due-dates of my bills to the limit, and I count on the mail float from the time I write a check until it gets cleared at my bank. So I can send out a check on Wednesday and know that by the time the funds are demanded from my bank, the money will be there on Friday. I have lived paycheck to paycheck most of my life, but this is probably the tightest I have even had to keep the books, even now with a savings account, I can't get ahead. And I don't even pay rent or a mortgage! I can't imagine how a family survives. And the big difference is that I now have Health Insurance. And it is the LOWEST PRICED I could find. Them what has Medicare have it good and they know it. I love to see them on the news shouting "Keep your government hand off my Medicare!" Um... OOOKAAAYYYY.... Medicare IS government sponsored healthcare. My suggestion is that they first expand Medicare to cover anyone 50 and up. That takes a huge chunk of the population in, especially with the aging Baby Boomers. They are nearing 65 fast! Just two years to go before the first wave hits.

Ok enough for now. But remember please, FIND THE FACTS!! Rhetoric sounds great and it can fire you up, but the facts will set you free, and show you what is right and wrong.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

The benefits of Technology....

I'm gonna start by saying that in general, I'm not a great proponent of change, I have found that advances aren't always all they are cracked up to be, and sometimes changing things too fast bites one in the ass. Windows Vista anyone? Modern buildings seem to lack the character and charm of the old classics, the Gothic Cathedrals of Europe come to mind compared to the steel buildings that pass as churches in today's "build 'em faster and cheaper" society. That's not to say that all technological advances are bad, Digital Photography for one thing. In the film days, you took your pictures and then developed them, either yourself, or by paying someone else to do it, sure eventually it became about a 1 hour wait. The wait wasn't such a bad thing but the wasted frames, when you snapped a picture you had to be sure that everything was in place and ready and right or that was a wasted frame. AND you had to pay to have it developed before you knew it was a wasted frame. Invariably you would run out of film at a critical moment, and unless you had a loaded camera on stand-by, you were screwed until you reloaded or even worse went and got more film. With digital, it's better than the old Polaroid instant camera, just snap your picture, and look at the viewer. Was it what you wanted? No? Well, snap a few more and try something a little different each time. Memory is cheap and as many pictures as I take in a day, I have never run out of memory at a critical moment, ( Battery yes! Memory no...) So the advance is better.

A few years back, early in my internet experience, I joined a website called "6 Degrees" based on the old game "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon". Who remembers that game? It was also known as "Kevin Bacon is the Center of the Universe". The object was to connect Kevin Bacon to another person, ( usually famous, preferably an actor) by pairing him with a known associate, and then pairing that associate with another etc. and getting to the specified person in less than 6 pairings. The goal of the website was to connect people, by connecting their friends. It was an early shot at the social networking idea. I was never too impressed with it, and I think I visited it a few days a week for a couple months and finally lost interest.

Social Networking has advanced greatly since then, and while I was never much for MySpace, and I resisted Facebook for a long time, I finally broke down about 6 weeks ago and joined. One of the reasons that I have resisted is because I know A LOT of assholes, and I don't want them to find me. I don't care if I ever hear from loads of people from my past. But on the positive side, there is a large part of my family that I want to be able to keep up with, and know what's going on with them. (I'm not gonna follow Twitter though, as far as I'm concerned, Twitter is for twits!) Of course I don't need to know everything, but it's interesting to see old family pictures and to chat with the cousins who live so far away and to see how they are doing. We can trade jokes and pictures and share in the special family bond that we have built through years of teasing and torture. ;-)

Family is a funny thing, because as we all know most family trees have hidden places that we either don't talk about, don't know about, or know about but have no way of getting a better look. This is a new benefit of technology. In some cases it can connect an adopted child with their birth family, if the birth family is interested. In other cases it can help someone find a part of their family that they knew was out there, but never knew how to reach. That is what has happened to me. Back in May, I wrote about my mothers, and how I grew up with a step-mom, but I reconnected with my Bio-mom in my late teens. Since I didn't grow up with my bio-mom in my life, I also didn't grow up with her side of my family in my life. I knew that I had at least one aunt, and 2 uncles as well as grandparents connected to my mother. But from the age of 3, I had no contact, until by chance, I met my maternal Grandmother in a parking lot of a local shopping center when I was 12 or 13. I spent and afternoon with her shortly afterward, but then never really heard from her again. The summer that I was 18 I went looking for my bio-mom, by looking for an aunt that I knew was still in the area. ( How did I know? Because my father would tell me from time to time that he had run into her at some beer tent or carnival) I found my aunt, she gave me the telephone number for my mother and I called her. She was surprised and happy. I went to visit her, she came to my graduation, and I met one of my uncles, his wife and daughter. That was 22 years ago. No calls or other contact with the uncle since. Didn't even get to go to my grandmother's funeral, because I didn't know that she had died until after the funeral was over. ( My Bio-mom isn't the greatest with directions, so she couldn't find my house when she was here for the funeral.)

Enter Facebook. When you make "friends" you can look through their friends list and see if there is anyone you would like to add to your list. Mutual friends are a great way to meet new and interesting people, not to mention make contacts in business. Sometimes though, you stumble upon a name that seems like it should be someone you know, but don't. Especially if you know that there is family around that you don't know. That happened to me. I was looking through a friend's friend list, and I spotted a name that I wondered if I was related to. So I looked at what info was available, and it sure seemed like I should be related, so I took a chance and sent her a note. Sure enough not only was she my cousin, but even better she was looking for me! And by finding me, she also found my mother ( her aunt) and has connected me with her brother also. So now I have two new relatives to learn about! And the funniest part is that one of my newly found cousins lives less than ten minutes away from me! The other one lives more like 2000 miles away, but at least I know that he exists now... LOL I'm guessing that eventually I will get to learn about a few more cousins, and possibly some family history.

Too bad I didn't find out that I was related to philanthropic multi-millionaires, but I'm happy just to make my family a little bigger, and my tree a little more complete.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wandering around....

This past weekend, I took my motorcycle for a ride, and I took my new camera with me. I decided that I needed some subjects that I haven't been looking at on a daily basis, and what a better way to find them than to get out and go for a ride! And for a ride I went.

On Saturday I headed south, it seemed like a great direction, and the weather was nice and hot, with loads of humidity, and south is into the hills where there is plenty of shade and trees and cool breezes coming out of the deep green forests. So as I was riding I was looking at various things that I thought might make some great pics, but

I wasn't really struck, until I decided that I wanted to get some pictures of the Genesee River. Not just any pictures though, I wanted to show the high water level from all the rain that we have had this year, and the beautiful vistas of the river gorge as it winds along its northbound path above the dam. The Mt. Morris Dam, is a great place to get some awesome pictures, and I was glad to have the equipment to give it a good shot. The day was pretty humid, so you can see the haze in the distance in the pictures. I walked along the hiking paths along the rim and snapped pics from various points along the way. Of all that I took, I think this is my favorite, but If I put more out there you may have a different favorite. I do have more of them posted in my Stone Indian Gallery. I took pictures all along my way that day, mostly in the dam area, but I did stop a few time along the way to take other pictures too. I won't bore you with all of them!

Then on Sunday, Yes indeed, I went riding again on another hot, steamy day. This time, I decided to go north, to the shores of Lake Ontario. I figured there should be a decent breeze, and the temp should be a little bit lower close to the water.

First stop on this trip was Point Breeze, I wanted to get some shots of the boats or the jetskis playing out on the water, but everyone was being responsible and playing nice. Fortunately I did see some interesting things to photograph. Since it was mid afternoon, the charter fishing boats were coming back into the harbor, and they come in from the lake at a pretty good clip. They turn into the channel and drop the throttle to run up the creek and they look a little bit like the S.S Minnow. Well, since it was a nice day, and I was looking to stretch my legs with the camera, I
headed out from there, and wandered on down the road a ways. As I was riding along with my eyes open for possibilities, I spotted this gem. If I had stopped immediately I may have gotten a better picture , but then again maybe not. I figure he was gonna be skittish no matter what I did. How close can you get to a Bald Eagle?

After that, I went on for a few more miles and hit Golden Hill State Park. I went to the boat launch first hoping again to find some jetski action to get pics of, but alas, the price of gas, or maybe the fact that I passed about 100 weddings and everyone was invited, there wasn't much in the way of jetskiers on the water. So, I headed over to the Lighthouse at the campground. The lighthouse at 30-mile Point is a great little place to visit, and I think that the next time I go, I will pay the dollar admission and take the tour of the lighthouse too!

After I left the lighthouse I went to visit my sister, and had the chance to get a few of my niece while she was painting her brother's bedroom, and also to get a pic of my nephew who is part ham and part camera-shy goofball. Getting a good pic of him isn't easy, but I managed to do it!

That was three days ago as I write this. Since then I have been playing with my camera in an earnest way, trying to find the sweet spot settings to get the pictures that I want the way that I want them. Some of my favorite subjects to shoot are clouds, and one of the problems I have had in the past is the lack of glass to truly capture the detail of the formations. Sometimes it's not about the detail, but simply showing the size in a setting that it can truly be appreciated. The ones in this picture popped up on Tuesday evening after the hot, sticky day built up enough atmospheric turbulence to build some thunderheads, and I was in a position to capture that view.
Today at lunchtime I noticed that the gladiolas in pop's garden were blooming quite nicely, and they have some great colors. I was messing with some personal settings and I wanted to see how they compared to the factory settings, and to do that I have to take a whole bunch of pictures, and I really liked this one, and figured it would be cool to share.

Have a great day!
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

I had an MRI...

Ok, first of all let me say that it wasn't for anything catastrophic! I had an infected cyst on my back and when the doctor removed it, he found that it was quite deep, and to be sure that there was no deep tissue damage, or damage to my spine, ( it was very close to my spine) that I should have an MRI.

Now I have to admit that I was an MRI virgin, and I didn't really know what to expect, but knowing the the "M" stands for Magnetic, I assumed that there would be some interesting noises. Interesting barely begins to cover it! Having never even accompanied anyone getting an MRI I had no idea that it would be so freakin' NOISY!!! it was like being stuck in the middle of a construction/demolition area with no hearing protection. It wasn't that it was really uncomfortably loud, but it was really drowning out the music that was playing in my headphones!!

Now being aware that the super powerful magnet would be able to do some damage, I was mindful of the tech's reminder to be sure that I had all metal taken out of my clothes and of of my person. At least I thought I was mindful, as I was laying in the tube and the thing was jackhammering away, I realized that I had forgotten to remove my ring! Since I had made it that far, I I figured that it was truly made of sterling silver. After the first scan, and was pulled from the tube, I told the tech that I forgot to remove the ring, and she shrugged and said that since it hasn't been a problem, it probably wouldn't be a problem, which is what I figured too.

Now for those of you who think that my size would make it a problem to get into the tube, well, you're kinda right. It wasn't like sitting in an easy chair, since my arms did rub the sides, but my belly wasn't a problem at all. Having lost that 55 pounds, has really helped in that respect! So anyway, I was loaded in the tube and trying to enjoy my super 70's mix on the headphones over the incessant banging of the machine, when everything went quite and they pulled me out!

I thought that it was over, but it was only half way through! I still had to have a contrast run, so now the injected me with the dye, and this made me a little nervous because my sister had the dye and she reacted badly. and there after she broke out in hives whenever she ate shellfish! That would be bad for me, because I really like shrimp and lobster... and crawdads too come to think of it! So they injected the dye and stuffed me back in the tube for another round of rumbling.

The techs that I had were very cool and had great sense of humor, so I had a great experience. The dye didn't cause me any discomfort, and it looks like all my parts are safe and clear of problems. ( At least the parts they were primarily concerned with!) All things considered, I would not have a problem doing it again. It really helps that I am not claustrophobic in the least, being stuffed in a little tube for the better part of an hour kind felt like when I was working on RV's for a living!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My new toy!

Yes indeed some days you get what you are looking for, and this week I have gotten me a brand new toy, a new camera!! A new camera for me and this is a great big step up from the little point and shoots that I have been using. If you look at this picture you might guess that it takes some pretty nice pics, and you would be quite right! It is a Canon Rebel T1i, 15.1 Megapixel. Since I didn't have a whole lot of money to throw at this, I searched for a while to find the best price I could, and then I saved my pennies for a few months until I could afford the nut it took to make the purchase. I hope that I will be able to sell a few pictures to help me pay for this thing!

I was so tight on the money that I didn't even have the spare to buy the kit with a lens, I had to buy the body only version. Fortunately, and with some planning I happened to buy a camera of the same make that my Father already owns, and he has given me 2 of his old lenses that he no longer uses. ( He spent the money on some high-end lenses, so I can have the hand-me-downs!) One is the original that he got with his own Rebel XSi, an 18-55mm zoom, and the other a 55-250mm zoom. They are both great optics, but they have a drawback that pops wanted to overcome, they didn't have enough apeture to shoot clear indoor, sports, action shots. While I may want to do that occasionally, I am much more about outdoor nature shots. Yes, I do lots of parties and performances, but they are either well lit, or I have no problem lighting them with a flash, so it's plenty cool to use the higher apeture settings for me. Plus I have learned how to incorporate the blurred movement of certain things into my style.

It has been many years since I have had the luxury of a true SLR camera at my utter disposal, and I am feeling my oats with it. I have already taken over 175 pictures and I haven't even had it for 48 hours yet! Of course, they are not all good by any means, but I am improving quickly as I get used to the feel and the features of the camera. I really dig the auto focus, but it takes a little tweaking for a picky pixel hound like me to get it seeing what I want it to see. Fortunately that's one of the big advantages of this particular brand, I can set the focal points where I want them and the camera will heel to my becon call. One of the things that I have missed so much in recent years with the myriad subjects surrounding me, is the ability to get such a great adjustment in the depth of field in my pictures. Since the glass on point and shoot cameras is set up to be pretty much idiot-proof ( nothing ever is, because there are always better idiots waiting in the wings!) it is designed with a very limited depth of field capability, even with an adjustable aperature, it only closes down to f8, and that is still a gaping maw compared to the the f22, 25, 0r 28 that I can get with the SLR glass. Now I can have some fun with depth!

Not only that, but because I enjoy the nature shots so much, sometime it will allow me to get in close and personal with certain skittish critters. Like this little guy! He was hiding in the watergarden and I nearly stepped on him before I realized that he had himself stashed in such a tight spot. But I was able to get a bead on him for a few frames before he decided to dash away. I sure hope he got his dinner first! While I am not a fanatic conservationist or anything like that, there are tons of subjects that I love to get pics of, from the frogs and dragonflies, to the deer and game birds that spend so much time within my visual range. If I am lucky I may be able to get some pictures of some crazy birds this year. Maybe a turkey or a pheasant, and if I'm real lucky maybe I get me a partridge ( pear tree optional!)

So far I am pretty happy with what I can do, and I am looking forward to really pushing the limits of what this camera can accomplish, and as I learn all of it's little quirks and intricacies, I will be able to refine my own style of picture taking. I am not the most creative person in the world, but I do know what I like and what draws my attention. I really want to get back into getting people like I have in the past. I have been compared to paparazzi on more than one occasion, because I manage to get pictures of people and things that people don't even notice. Partly because I so often have a camera that it becomes an expectation and people lose their natural inhibitions to being caught on film, and partly because I have this habit of shooting so much around me that it is inevitable that eventually I get a few good pictures!

I wish I had a real crystal ball to look in and see what it is that I need to do to find that moment when I meet my dream, but since I don't, I will continue to play with the things that draw me in. Oh yeah, one more thing, this particular camera also does video, in FULL HD!! so cool! I have only just tried this feature for a few seconds to make sure that it worked, but as soon as I have my high capacity SD cards, I will give it a try for real! Looking forward to having some fun with that also!
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why are we so scared?

I recently read an article ( and when I say "recently" I mean in the last few months!) that broke down "freedom" by state. Using various legislative and social guideposts, the authors of the sited study, evaluated and graded the freedoms in each state. The conclusions were interesting to say the least, because what they found was that, in general, the states with the highest tax loads per capita had the least amount of personal freedom, and the states with the lowest tax loads had the most "perceived" freedom. Why, you may ask do I put the word "perceived" in quotes? Well, it is because, based on the study, most freedom is about perception,( ask your kids how free they feel when they are stuck in school) but when quantitatively measured, freedom has no meaning.

If a person has a job, and can feed their family and live a life that makes them happy, what freedom are they missing? If this person lives in country that is ruled by a military dictator, or by a democratically elected president makes no difference. If a different person has a job they can't stand, and makes barely enough money to live, and lives on the edge of financial ruin, never finding happiness in their entire life, are they ever truly free? Again, it makes no difference what system they live under.

Taxes that seem to go ever upward, with ever deepening cuts in the services offered, gives a feeling of the loss of freedom. When you can keep more of your wages, you feel like you have more freedom. When you are doing something that you enjoy, more than you're doing something that you don't, you feel free. Ask yourself, do you take a vacation to do stuff you hate? Of course not! Unless you're married and you take a vacation to catch up on the "Honey do.." list, then maybe you are doing stuff you don't like on vacation. See, you don't feel free then, do you?

In America, we spend so much of our time trying to meet our payments that we have lost view of what life is really about. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, were the golden trio described in our Declaration of Independence, but today we give them up for Work, Struggle and the pursuit of the next cool thing. Anybody who has lived a few years can tell you that the continuing struggle for money and belongings has sidetracked us from the real things in life, family, learning and living.

Living is one thing that the rest of the world seems to have on us. Especially the European countries. The European model has capitalism, with liberal amounts of socialism sprinkled in to make life livable for the masses, and not just for the lucky few. Health care is only one place where they have us beat. We have truly lost some greatness in our educational arenas, and our research capabilities too. Thanks very much to the odd religious nutcases who seem to get power, even when they are a minority. Long discussion for a different time.

Just as much, I pursue the dollars and the stuff. I have no time or money to do the things that I really want to do, so I compensate by getting stuff instead of going and seeing like I want to! Occasionally I have the luck and the time to get out of my small realm and see the broader world, and I always love those times. But they are far fewer that I would like, so in the middle times I amuse myself with what I think I want when I can't have what I really want. It is my freedom of choice and I use it rather unwisely!

On a lighter note.....55# gone. I have hit a plateau, but it might have to do with the hole in my back. Small surgical thing that needs to finish healing so I can get back into some more vigorous exercise. Sounds funny to say, but I miss it!