Rain!

We’ve had a couple of rainy days this week. We have had LOTS of gray days, but not a lot of precipitation. We live in this tiny dry micro-climate, and storms frequently slide just north or south of us. I’m sure that I80 and I88 direct the rain away from us.
I live in an area where a subdivision can not be built unless there is room for a retention pond to collect run-off from heavy storms. Whoever designed the ponds immediately to the east of us clearly needs to go back to school and take those lessons again.
The first year the ponds were created it became obvious rather quickly that the series of ponds, which interconnect, do not drain fast enough. Their response to it was to increase the size of the middle pond. All along the northern shoreline of the pond are homes with walk out basements, just waiting to flood.
So, with just two days of occasional heavy rain, the ponds have filled up to the point where you can no longer see the concrete culvert connecting two of the ponds, and with just a little more rain the last two ponds might overflow, and meet each other on the road between them. The homeowners must have interesting conversations with the developer when we finally get rain!
I think the developer might luck out this week. As I came home today, I could see from a ring of trash on the grass that one of the ponds has actually dropped eight inches or more. We’ve had gray skies, but no rain today, so perhaps it will drop some more.
I’m very surprised that they haven’t had to increase the size of the tiles to allow for better drainage. Perhaps something downstream prevents them from opening up the flow. Dear Husband wondered if they have ever cleaned out the drains.
We’re not in any danger. Our house sits almost at the top of a rise, and we are higher than the area that will flood. I’m just fascinated at the ineptness of designer of the pond, and the fact that the building department wasn’t able to determine that the design was inappropriate. It ticks me off that my taxes pay for a department that allows problems like this to slide by.

Soapbox Time!

I want to know who is responsible for the absolutely stupid idea that making our children feel good about themselves is more important than encouraging them to do the absolute best that they can do in school!?
When last I checked, life in general doesn’t care how you feel about yourself. We’re spending a lot of time worrying how the kids feel, and are ignoring basic education. These kids are going to be so sheltered that when they get out into “real life” they won’t have a clue how to deal with it.
I’ve been very concerned for the last 25 years or so that we do not teach children that it is their responsibility to learn, and that we expect them to learn to the very best of their ability. The last year I taught, the students were told that to attend the party at the end of the year they had to have at least a C- average. Personally, I would have phrased the rule to read: The party will be open to those students who have earned As, Bs and/or Cs on their report card. Sorry…I got sidetracked there.
At the final teacher’s meeting of the year, the principal announced that he wanted to let ALL the students attend the party. He felt the they should all have a good image of themselves, and be allowed to participate. There was dead silence in the room. I knew that I was not going to be returning the following year. I strongly suspected that I would not ever teach again, so I probably wasn’t going to need a reference from this jerk, so I raised my hand.
I said that it was inappropriate to change the rules at the end of the year. Those students who had tried really hard and made straight Cs would see that those who had not made any effort at all were going to be rewarded. What type of incentive is that!? I argued that if they wanted to change the policy, they could change it for the coming year, but it was inappropriate to do it at that point. I can’t recall whether what I said carried the day or not, but I still feel the principal’s plan was short sighted.
Another thing I detest is promoting kids socially. If a student can not prove mastery of 70 percent of the material taught that year, the student should not be allowed to go on to the next grade. I understand the concern some people have that older students might inappropriately affect the development of the younger students. If you are really concerned about that, then you need to find a way to segregate those students who have to repeat a class. Either you put them into a restricted area where they are tutored individually or in groups, or you create one school in a district which would address the needs of those who need to repeat a class.
I know….that might tarnish their self image. Too bad! Several decades ago, a principal in a Chicago school announced to the eighth grade that those who were failing would be held back until they could prove that they had mastered 70 percent of the material that had been taught through eighth grade. The students had the last few months of the eighth grade year plus the summer to learn enough to test out of eighth grade and be allowed to go on to high school. Wonder of wonders, almost all of the students managed to accomplish that task! Those kids needed the appropriate incentive to get the job done.
Perhaps we need to set our expectations higher. Perhaps we need rules rather than guidelines. We should reward children who strive to do their best. Perhaps we need to be rewarding kids who are well behaved, who get to school on time, who do their homework, and turn in their papers. We spend so much time giving attention to kids who misbehave that we are failing those who really try. We need to find the carrot that will encourage those who are failing to WANT to be like the kids who are successful.
I think a lot of that improvement needs to start at home with parents giving their children more attention. We need to teach children that homework comes first, and then, MAYBE you can see TV, or play with whatever electronic thing is currently popular.
Heck….I’m running out of time and I haven’t finished ranting! I’ll have to add more later,but I have a lot to say about our young and how they are turning out. A simpler life might not be such a bad thing.
Remind me….uniforms, and fewer material possessions, and the library, and walking……

Ticked!

I’m very ticked! I have been listening to WGN radio all my life. It’s a monster station out of Chicago that blows away all the competition with it’s wattage, and it has ridden on the top of the ratings for most of that time. My favorite announcer was, and always will be Bob Collins. Unfortunately, we lost him in a light plane crash, and I suspect the the WGN ratings have been in a tail spin ever since.
I was really ticked when they canceled the Farm Show at noon, a number of years ago. I wrote a letter of protest at the time and got a canned response about the fact that they needed to address the new ratings system, and they had to provide programming that pleased those who live in Chicago and the collar counties around the city. Unfortunately, WGN has SO MUCH power that it reaches all the farmland in surrounding states, not just counties, and basically they felt all those people could go hang. I got what little I knew about the farm market from WGN, so I was set adrift, too.
Then, the trend was toward men who had stand up comedy background. I adjusted to Steve Cochran, but I thought it was the last straw when Gary Meyer (Mayer, Meier…..however you spell his name) was hired for the 1:00 slot. I figured I could listen to books on tape or CDs while I worked in the office,
Well…I was wrong about it being the last straw. That came yesterday morning when “The Girls” announced that the radio station was changing their programming, and that I was listening to their last show. I am so ticked! “The Girls,” or Kathy and Judy (Kathy O’Malley and Judy Markey) have been sharing the microphone at the 9:00 a.m. hour for twenty years. They are of an age where they may have wanted to consider retiring, but the station took that option away from them. What’s worse, the station doesn’t have anyone hired for that spot. There was NO warning it was going to happen, and when I went to the Website to comment, I discovered it has been totally revamped. There was a ‘kiss off’ note saying that The Girls last show was yesterday. They gave an address for the station e-mail, and when I got the last “Girlfriend Gram.” I found addresses for both the women.
It takes a fair amount to get me to write a letter of complaint, but this succeeded. I understand demographics. I understand that what stations charge for their ad time is based on ratings, but rather than buck the system, WGN has let itself be cowed and now will sound just like all the other stations in town. It used to be a really big deal to be invited to work for WGN. I doubt it will be such a big deal in the future.
I expect to listen to the local classical music station a lot more now. I might tune in to the college jazz station. CDs, and cassette tapes of books will fill my day. I’m so sorry to loose a lifelong friend this way, but I think it’s time we went our separate ways.
Goodbye WGN Radio, and best of luck, Kathy and Judy!

Vandalism and Sabotage

This evening, Dear Husband and I sat in the living room while we had a quick dinner. We were watching the news and there were two stories in particular that caught our attention.
First, at a Boeing plant in Pennsylvania, a Chinook helicopter going through final assembly was found to have cut wires. A second helicopter had a washer where it didn’t belong. It gave me the chills to think that someone would willingly damage these helicopters, knowing that the crews who flew them might possibly die.
We both felt that this story was underplayed in the news. I checked for the story at CNN before I began writing tonight, and felt they had underplayed it as well. Perhaps there is a reason for this. It may be that they didn’t have the details yet. They may have not wanted to speculate (although that doesn’t seem to bother a lot of TV news departments these days). Perhaps Boeing was not willing to have their name splashed over the news for substandard products, although it was clearly an act of sabotage. They may have chosen to keep a lid on the story as security tries to determine what happened, and who might have had the opportunity to do the damage.
The second story was similar in a way, but was really one of local impact. Four or five students at a Chicago middle school vandalized the school. The news staff interviewed dozens of people from school staff and administration right up the chain of command to Mayor Daley. The school authorities have not decided just what will happen to these students, but there is discussion of expelling them from school.
Tables were turned over, books and papers thrown to the floor. Something was spread over, or ground into the carpet, and perhaps some equipment was damaged. All these things could be repaired.
If the students are expelled, just what does that mean? Will they be free to run around while the rest of the students finish out the last month of school? Will they be allowed to return to school next fall, and repeat the year, or do they have to find a way to finish the last semester on their own? I can see I really need to talk with my sister, Nan, who teaches kids “at risk.” Her school provides kids with their last chance at a public education before they are asked to leave the system.
Dear Husband and I were of the opinion that in-school suspension, no extra-curricular activity, and time spent cleaning up either their mess, or other messes, would be a better choice than expulsion. By taking them out of an arena where they get any reinforcement for what they’ve done, and by making them work to repair damage, it would take the “fun” out of the rampage. Now would be a good time for these students to learn that you have to be responsible for your action.
Let me say that we are concerned that a story which has national impact received less coverage than this local story. While it occurred out of state, had the damage not been discovered, the sabotage would have increased our concerns about terrorism, and it could have had a global impact. Perhaps terrorists have found a subtle way to redirect our focus, forcing us to review all that we do. How can we know if we’ve hired a saboteur, or a patriot?
On the other hand, perhaps we need to focus on the local level. If we “nip it in the bud” as Barney Fife used to say, we might head off problems in the future. Could it be that once a kid finds he can hold a school district hostage, be goes on to bigger projects? Do saboteurs act to support a political ideology, or are they kids who were once vandals, looking for a bigger thrill.
I don’t have the answers. As usual, I have a LOT of questions, but I certainly hope that those people who have chosen to work against society, be they child or adult, learn that you have to be responsible for your actions.

HOLY COW!!

In yesterday’s mail, we received a Notice of General Assessment. The Township Assessor and the Supervisor of Assessments have declared that our house has increased in value $80,000 in just one year! And that was in a year where economically things have been slow. We have not changed our house in any way. It’s a year older, and needs some maintenance. There have been no changes to the area around us, that would make our house more valuable. The township simply wants to be able to charge more in taxes.
Our present manner of funding for education is going to drive the average homeowner right out of their houses and into the streets. We’ll see tent cities like those in the depression, or homes where both husband and wife work will see third and fourth jobs becoming common.
Our General Assembly refuses to consider the people who elect them, and THEIR needs. Instead, they play political games which keep them from signing off on a balanced budget, and then they have the gall to complain that they are not paid a large enough per diem for the “overtime!” Meanwhile, our Governor takes pots shots at the General Assembly, trying to set himself up for re-election, and he’s not doing anything for us, either!
Our taxes have increased a horrendous amount each year at a time when we are trying to save for retirement. Just who is going to support us when the money we’ve saved runs out? What is going to happen to people who are so strapped by the taxes that they can’t save?
We’ve been paying into Social Security our entire lives. Unfortunately, by the time we reach the age when the Federal Government allows us to draw on Social Security, I doubt there will be a cent left, due to mismanagement by the government. Add the cost of medical care, and the war, and things look pretty grim.
I’m not a happy camper today. I doubt I’ll be a happy camper until SOMEONE turns our government around.
I read somewhere that a quarter or more of the population of the United States works in some governmental capacity: township, city, county, state, federal, the judicial system, the military, the CIA, the FBI, the CDC, Homeland Security……it’s endless. We give money away to other countries, when we are so strapped that we can’t provide decent health care to our uninsured.
Nope…..I’m not a happy camper. I’m ready for change!

I’m Fed Up!!

One of the companies for which I work purchased two units in a business center last year. Rubes that we were, it took us a while to realize that we had to arrange for electricity and gas service. As the office person, I started the ball rolling and we began to get electric bills for both units. Then I approached Nicor Gas, and the past four months have been a nightmare!
I filled out two requests for commercial accounts and faxed them over in late February. Unfortunately, the contracts were identical except for the unit numbers, which are 120, and 121. We began receiving gas bills for 120. Eventually, I called to find out why we were not being billed for 121. The lesson here is: NEVER DO A GOOD DEED!!
Nicor Gas took the problem under advisement, and told me that they would work things out and I’d have a bill within the month. A month later we began receiving calls from a collection agency.
After about the tenth call from the collection agency, I discovered that they thought we owned roughly 28 of these units, rather than just two.
I contacted Nicor Gas AGAIN, and sent them the names and addresses of the builder of the units, of the lawyer who closed on our purchase of the units, and of the realty company which manages the facility. I sent them the contracts that show our purchase of the TWO units. That was May 5th. I was told that everything would be worked out in about two weeks.
This week the collection agency has begun to call daily. No matter how much I explain the situation, they tell me there’s nothing they can do until Nicor Gas tells them not to pursue the situation. When I tried to explain the situation today, they hung up on me.
Today, I called Nicor Gas again, and was told that yesterday they had faxed a cease and desist notice to the collection agency. The next time the collection agency calls, I plan to ask for a manager, and an address where they can be contacted.
I am totally fed up with the situation. Both businesses seem to be run like the Federal Government: Assign twenty different people to it, and DITHER! Other than taking Valium, how would you handle this?? I need for this to end, NOW!

Mango Salsa

Whatever happened to traditional American cooking?
I know that the entire nation is concerned, if not obsessed, about weight control and cholesterol, and healthy eating. And, I know that there’s just so many ways you can publish stories about meatloaf and mashed potatoes or fried chicken. I know that the food magazines have to provide something new each issue or they loose subscribers.
I don’t mind trying new things. Over the years we’ve had family members introduce us to a cold corn salad, a pesto and goat cheese spread with dried tomatoes, and other recipes that you wouldn’t call old-fashioned cooking. But, it seems to me that you can’t open the page of a cooking magazine without finding the oddest ingredients, now. Have you ever read the food section in a Martha Stewart magazine? That woman never makes due with one ingredient where she can use twenty that you have to order either from her company or from an obscure shop in Manhattan.
Frankly, mango salsa on fish doesn’t do a thing for me. Neither does kiwi chutney.
I don’t need to learn Cordon Bleu cooking techniques. I need to learn techniques for quick, flavorful food that doesn’t require thirty steps, and twelve special pans or utensils to make.
I don’t mind lighter, healthier recipes, but enough with the cutesy stuff!

Taxes

I am SICK of TAXES! I propose that everyone, EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE COUNTRY, pay 15% of their income each year to support the federal government, and another 3% for state funding. Wouldn’t THAT streamline the process?
Can’t ya see all the accountants, and lawyers and government workers scrambling to head off that proposal? They’d all be out of jobs, or would have to shift over to collections.
We are so top-heavy with management, and so overwhelmed by government that we are slowly sinking into the mire. Soon the middle class won’t be able to support all the demands made upon them, and then just who do you think will pay those bills?

Three things….

…have ticked me off today. You’ll find two of them in entries below. The third thing had to do with the speech by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the United Nations.
I was sitting with Dear Husband, listening to the news tonight, and we heard clips of the speech. The first thought that came to my mind was “WHY are we buying oil from this man’s country?” I mean, why support someone who is so antagonistic?
Dear Husband, who thinks more globally than I do, and who is less emotional in his responses, cut to the chase and said, if we didn’t buy Venezuela’s oil, they’d just sell it to China. I have no doubt he is right.
Still, I’d like to see my country spend the money that is currently being spent on war, to find or develop other forms of energy, or other resources, which will make us less dependent on oil from other countries, or even better, not dependent at all.
For the first time, I truly feel that our government has made serious errors in their choices. I believe that our present government only responds to those who have the biggest lobbies, and that their decisions are not necessarily for the good of the many. I have the sense that our foreign relations are being handled ineptly. I hope that the administration is not setting the stage for WW III.
Am I being pessimistic? Probably. As I’ve said many times, it’s my job to worry. But, I’d like to leave a better world to my granddaughter than the one we live in now. I have a mental list growing. Global warming, e coli spreading through our food system, mad cow disease, improper farming techniques, the giving away of our jobs and manufacturing industry and research and development, the “dumbing down” of the nation, lack of decent health care for every citizen, horrendous prescription drug costs, abuse of the people by the government we elect, and even the need to update our election process…..these things all weigh on my mind. What about you? Are you bothered by these things?

Christmas Stamp

I was a bit irritated to find today that the USPS produces a stamp in their Holiday Celebrations Series that celebrates two Muslim holidays.
This address from Snopes.com has more information on the stamp.
Yes, I’m prejudiced. I understand that this could be considered an olive branch to Muslims, and I understand that we should willing to allow the celebration of every religion within our borders. But….why the heck are we honoring a religion that wants to wipe the United States off the face of the Earth?
It seems to me that we are hurting ourselves by trying to be politically correct.