I don’t like to be the Information Technology department at any time.

But it is especially loathsome to me when there is a problem with any electronic device that is assumed to be my responsibility to maintain.
I was always the type of kid who liked to take things apart to see what was inside. But I could never get them back together again. And if by some Divine assistance, I did manage some type of  re assembly, I would always have parts leftover.
Last week, Signore Pachioli, my accountant told me I needed a new computer program to upgrade the one I was currently using.
Apparently, my business is too complex now for me to keep the required records with just my abacus.
Luca I pleaded, I have had my abacus for 40 years. I bought it in China from a woman who was using the exact same model to ring up sales of calculators and transistor radios. Abacci have been used by ancient civilizations for thousands of years to keep track of the oranges they grew and the livestock they raised.
The irony of the situation was lost on Luca as he went on this accountant’s rant, “Blah, blah, blah…. debits, credits, ….devils and taxes, etc. Those people never had to deal with the IRS!”
Finally, I gave up and went to one of those big box emporiums of electrons.
After explaining to this nice young girl genius what I needed, she suggested I purchase this green and yellow boxed savior to my number collecting problems.

Two hundred dollars later, I was on my way to accounting heaven.
Little did I realize the road to numbers nirvana was paved with so many serpents and trolls.
First, I had no trouble opening the box and finding the CD and not much else. Such a big box for just one CD, I thought. Impressive.

But there in the bottom was a little instruction book in every language except English.
Anyway, I loaded the CD and after about an hour of waiting, warnings, and fidgeting, I was informed my installation had been a success.
I felt like doing one of those end zone dances footballers do when they score, but I resisted and maintained my composure. After all, I was working on accounting stuff.
So now, I was ready to talk to Signore Pachioli’s computer and everything would be back in balance.
Well, that did not happen…and I can’t figure out why.

So now I am out $200,  out of balance and out of control.

Alright, where did I put that abacus?

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Big social insecurity

January 28, 2013

For the last two months, my direct deposit social security credit comes with the descriptor,

Federal Government Benefit Payment.”
Now each month, I am reminded of the allegorical novels of the 1940s written by George Orwell; Animal Farm and 1984.
Though Orwell wrote them with the Stalinist Soviet Union in mind, they could equally be applied the culture and governance of 21 century Amerika. We even have our own Ministries of Truth that rewrite history in order for it to conform to current government policies.
At the risk of being jailed for subversive and not so furtive thought, I need to point out to the government spinners that my Social Security account was paid for by me and my employers over the last 50 years I have worked. These accounts, established as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, were always intended as a type of worker funded insurance annuity supported by employees and their employers. It is even called Federal Insurance Contribution Act.

The only involvement by the Federal Government was to administer the program. Payments were made into the plan by workers and their employers and benefits based on contributions were made to retirees. By they way, these benefits WERE NOT TAXED.
Over the years however, the government, could not resist meddling in and getting its hands on all this “free’ money it felt was its own and not that of its citizens.

Under Lyndon Johnson, it used the money to help fund its nasty southeast Asian war. Under Jimmy Carter, the government decided to provide benefits to immigrants and others who had not paid into the system. And along the way both the executive and congressional departments used Social Security to build themselves bigger, and bigger pork barrels.

By the way, an investment banker pulling the same scam would get 50 years free room and board at a federal prison.

So now Social Security has a massive unfunded future payment liability and the government must make payments out of its general funds to appear to keep its promise to its people.

Its solution, let’s change the rules and the words. Hence, its justification of  its Federal Government Benefit moniker.

Think of it as a bank that used your personal deposits to build grand buildings and buy expensive artwork for its enjoyment and good times, then repaying your money out of comingled funds and calling it a dividend–and taxing it too.

Just another iron boot step toward the social state Amerika is becoming.

My generation knows the Pravda  truth about FICA, but just as in the Orwellian worlds of Napoleon and Winston Smith, future generations will “forget.”

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show” — David Copperfield

In his delightful little book, Travels with Epicurus, Daniel Klein uses Dickens’ opening line to his masterpiece to begin a reflection on who is responsible for the heroics in one’s life.

Like Copperfield, we are all born of happenstance and then things start moving in different directions. Actions and events, some of which we cause, while some are caused by others. As we go though life, we develop a warehouse of recollections and memories that form the basis for our assessment of our role as hero… or villain of our life.
Klein tends to think that we cherry pick our memories and include mostly the good stuff. That is probably true, and if Mark Twain is to be believed, we remember the  “good” things whether they actually happened or not!
This is not so unusual I have come to discover. I, at times remember events that happened a certain way in my mind,  but when I read accounts of the event, the printed source remembers it differently.

Am I right? Or is the journalist more accurate?

Does it really matter?

Can I still be the hero of my life, if I see things a little, or a lot differently than the rest of the universe?
Determining the path of one’s destiny seems like a basic, exclusively human desire. Just being able to think about that notion is choosing. But, can we really choose, or is pre determination a significant factor in how we end up?

Are there other natural persons or supernatural powers which have already decided how we will end up?
For example, if you have a flawed DNA and possess the ingredients  for a serious disease, it seems no matter how heroically you exercise, nor how much cabbage you eat, you will get sick.
Obviously, behaviors and life choices may accelerate or slow the process. But down the road you will get sick.

So cherry picking my memories, and remembering events whether they happened or not, am I the hero or villain of my life? …or is that position claimed elsewhere?
It seems that we all must wait for the moving finger to finish writing its writ to see the final chapters and know that answer.

However, it is one of life’s little ironies that even as the final chapters of one’s life are reviewed by the critics, we will be unable to read it–unless there is a newsstand in the Hereafter.

Growing up in the 1950s, and born to depression/WWII era parents,  life was a lot different for kids back then than it is now, in many ways.  Some obvious, some not so much. One of the more subtle differences came to mind the other day during Ellie and Bennett’s visit to southwest Florida.

Sixty years ago,  there were no interstate highways, no jet transports, most food commerce was local except for canned goods. People of that time were grateful to have what they could get. There was not a lot of fresh fruit available, except in season. In the fall, you would get an apple or some grapes and maybe an orange around Christmas, but having fresh fruit year round was unheard of.
One of the items we nearly always had however, was canned  fruit cocktail. It came in a syrup type substance and included cut up pieces of peaches, pears, grapes, pineapple and the occasional maraschino cherry.
It wasn’t until I was about 9 or 10 during a visit to my rich uncle Leonard’s, (the doctor) house that I had real fresh fruit mixed and macerated together.

That was a revelation.

Fast forward 50 years. We are having dinner in a local restaurant and Les Petits order the ubiquitous chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese from the “kids” menu.

It comes with a fruit cup. Which is the same fruit cocktail from 50 years ago. Heck that stuff lasts forever, it might even have been the same fruit!

Well, kids being suspicious of anything new or different said, “What  is that?”

Apparently they had never been served canned fruit cocktail before. Both their mother and the school system insisting on fresh fruit.

It should be pointed out that Aimee and Co. are from Colorado and that state’s residents pride themselves on wholesome freshness in all things consumed. Why just recently, they have begun growing their own recreational herbal medicines.

Anyway, back to the fruit cup. I knew immediately what it was so I told Bennett and Ellie it was fruit cocktail. Warily, they opened up the little plastic cup and slowly tasted the contents. Each one moving in on the maraschino cherry first. Their eyes lit up as they tasted that sweet syrup and pronounced to their mother.

“This fruit cocktail is so good, you need to buy this at home!”

Surprised, Aimee wondered aloud, “do they even sell it in the stores?”

It was a revelation.

Farm fun

January 15, 2013

These past few days saw a visit to “papa’s farm” by Aimee and Co.

Ellie and Bennett were most interested in picking some oranges and visiting with the cows. We started after breakfast and got to the grove about 9:30. After a quick explanation about trees and what we will see, we met with John and Francisco who were injecting  liquid fertilizer into the irrigation system to give the trees a shot in the arm they will need. Not all that interested in the chemistry of that process, Ellie and Bennet headed straight for the trees hanging heavy with ripening fruit.
I grabbed a fruit bag and followed hoping to save some of the crop from The Petits.

After getting about a half a dozen each, they wanted to eat them.  In a  few minutes there were sticky hands and faces everywhere.
 Being satisfied for the moment, we headed for the pasture and the cows.
Piling into the bed of John’s pick up we soon came  across our first cow.
I said, “Oh look,there is Aimee!”
The kids looked up to see this big old gal with her black head bent down enjoying the dew laden grass.
“Aimee” they said, ” You named a cow, Aimee?”

“Yes, and she knows her name too.”  With that I shouted to the cow.

“Hey Aimee”

She  raised her head up and while still chewing, gave a shake and a nod.
The kids look at me in amazement, their mother looked at me with daggers.
It got more fun each time we passed a similar cow, the kids would yell, “There’s Aimee!”
We came upon a few more bovines and Ellie wanted to know when we were going to milk the cows. I started to say, these were not milk cows, they were hamburger cows, but Aimee cut me off. So I said they need the milk for their babies.
Passing by a new mother, very obviously engorged with milk for her new-born, John nearly lost control of the truck laughing so hard when Ellie blurted out

“Oh look, there are her milk things

We then saw a couple of bulls, that looked bigger than when I last saw them, obviously their new digs agreed with them. Thankfully, there was no mention of  “milk things” at the bull viewing.
After the tour, we retired to El  Pirata, Arcadia’s finest Mexican restaurant for a lunch.

With thoughts of Papa’s cows fresh in their heads Bennett had a beef taco and Ellie ordered a hamburger.

That’s the Petits!

About ten years ago, in order to maintain  a more perfect union of body and soul, I established personal policies which have through the years been helpful in avoiding life’s little and sometimes large annoyances.
These polices are not written down or part of some grand organizational personal policy manual, however, in the interest of bureaucratic efficiency,  I am considering publishing them. The policies are nevertheless at this time approved, ready and available for use.

Why just the other day, I had occasion to apply a policy when I received an annoying phone call from a paid solicitor telling me I won a free weekend in New York City.

Because, I am a kind and gentle person, I politely told him I did not want to go to New York, that I was perfectly happy where I was. But, he insisted that it was an all expense paid trip and all I had to do was sit though a three-hour presentation and answer a few questions.

By this time, I had enough of Mr. Solicitor, so I invoked the phone solicitation policy notification.

Me: I am sorry sir, but it is our policy not to entertain solicitations of any kind over the phone. I hope you understand.
Mr. Solicitor: Oh, I understand. Sorry for the inconvenience. (Hangs up)

These people know policies. They have tons of policies. If  it is a policy, they can’t argue with it. It is obviously beyond the customer’s pay grade to alter the policy, so they give up. Works every time for all types of solicitations.
Another policy I have is a strict embargo against visiting more than three places of commerce during one 24 hour period.

The members of the purchasing department know this policy and while they don’t quite agree with it, they are accommodating and will ensure I am dropped off at the home office if it looks like more than three places of business are going to be visited that day. For the record, I don’t count drive though bank windows and the like as official stops.

I have several other policies ranging from my prohibition against drinking milk of any kind, regardless of expiration date, to a strict avoidance of all things having to do with golf, either the miniature or the standard size kind.

However, it is my policy not to belabor policy issues.

So as a matter of policy I will stop now.

!!!! WARNING!!!!

This post contains language of a disturbing nature. Proceed with caution if you are prone to having a queasy stomach, have eaten undercooked eggs recently or are about to operate heavy machinery.

…………………………………………………………………………..

As many of you know, through years of experience, I have learned to avoid dangerous situations such as bounce houses, ball pits and other venues where small children tend to gather with their cute but nevertheless germ infested hands and faces. This behavior in no way suggests that I have a W.C. Fields type phobia of children, as I adore the little homunculi. Rather it is my personal attempt to stay germ free during the sneezing season.

Unfortunately, my 4-year-old namesake grandson, Bennett Woodrow takes the other approach and abandons all caution to the ill wind in these situations. You remember Bennett Woodrow, he is the one who caused me to be put into my first and only timeout. (See Timeouts,  July 26, 2011 )

Anyway, being full of Christmas candy, fun and frolic after several gatherings with other small, germy people his size, the predictable result came about while riding in Aimee’s car. Bennett, while securely strapped in his travel seat, suddenly, without warning let fly a tsunami of oral projectile madness.

Being on the highway, it took Aimee several minutes to stop and when she finally did, and turned to view the back seat, her worst vomit nightmare was laid out before her.

The car was trashed.

Bennett was covered with his own emetic madness and the iPad he was holding was floating in what appeared to be some very unpleasant smelling oatmeal.

Cleaning up Bennett, was easy enough, he hoses down pretty well, and soon he was racing around again in his brand clean batman shirt looking for new piles of schmutz to adhere to.

With the car being detailed, ( by someone who no doubt deserves a very large tip!)  Aimee turned her attention to the iPad. She cleaned it up as best she could and gave it to Kent to take to the Apple store to see what the geniuses there could do about it.

Arriving at the store, Kent presented the machine to one of the geniuses and explained the problem in precise detail.

Kent: “This iPad is not working.”

Genius: After close examination of the machine, ” There is a lot of schmutz in here.”

Kent: ” That’s what I was thinking.”

I don’t know what happened next, but about an hour later, Kent arrived home with a replacement iPad, which was at once hermetically sealed to prevent any possible cross contamination.

I tell you all this because next week, Bennett and Co. will be coming to Florida to see me, my oranges and my cows. Not necessarily in order of their enthusiasm.

In discussing the planned events for the week with Aimee, she advised that they would be flying into Orlando to see Mickey and company. Then they would rent a car and drive to southwest Florida.

She noted that Bennett was especially anxious to pick oranges and do some  ridin’ and ropin’ with the cows. Adding that, after the car/iPad/projectile incident, it will be a great relief to let him run free on grandpa’s farm.

Oh yeah, I thought to myself.  what schmutz could he possibly get into in a cow pasture?

Well at least the car is a rental.