612: Division of the House

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The conflict in the US over policy goes far, far beyond Democrat or Republican. In all actuality, those two surface divisions are far more alike than they are different. No, it goes far deeper and far more fundamental than political party affiliation.

Where we fundamentally agree is on “what’s best for America and her citizens.” Where we fundamentally disagree is on what exactly that “best” consists of.

To me, it boils down to two camps which are not necessarily identified by party affiliation, and this describes the two and the primary difference between them.

The difference, as I see it, is between those who  want people to stand on their own two feet, to be responsible and mature, and to provide for themselves and the progeny they produce: in effect, a limited government. This refers to the vast majority of able-bodied citizens, not those honestly and deservedly unable to care for themselves through advanced or young age, physical or in limited cases, mental defect. I get it, some people need AND DESERVE help. Unfortunately, there are far too many getting help currently who do not deserve help – they are where they are because of choices they themselves have made, and this camp believes that bad choices should have consequences.

The other camp believes that people actually born and breathing deserve all their needs, nay even their wants and desires (apparently irregardless of practicality or worth) met by a government that cares and provides for them from cradle to grave, in every aspect of life, economy, personal responsibility, decision making and bad choices totally irrelevant. Cost apparently irrelevant as well.

That appears to be where the division of the house occurs. I guess you can tell on which side of that fence I pitch my tent.

582: Remember

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Remember how it felt when Obama was elected the first time in 2008? Remember how you celebrated victory, and what you had to say to those misguided people who were bitterly disappointed? Remember when he was re-elected in 2012, and you were proud and sure of the rightness of the world, feeling vindicated about all you knew to be right and true about America? Remember?

THIS is how it felt to the other side in 2008 and 2012.

*sigh*

Do not put your trust in kings and princes (or presidents). God is every bit as much in control right now as He has ever been. He is able to create a victory out of a horrible mess, and He is working to have things just as they should be, which we often do not see or understand.

Remember when you said to give Obama a chance to prove himself? Ditto.

Remember when you said suck it up, buttercup, you lost, now let’s move forward to get some serious, much-needed work done for the country? Ditto.

Remember when you said to respect the American process, and the office of President, even if you could not respect the person? Ditto.

Remember when you said it’s time to heal divides, and work together for the good of everyone? Ditto.

NOTHING about what you said then was WRONG. It’s just harder to hear it and embrace it sitting on the losing side of the fence. Believe me, I know – and Trump was never my candidate.

573: Unacceptable Risk

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In America these days, there is no acceptable risk for something someone does not find useful to themselves.

We all get in our modes of transportation on a nearly daily basis, and willingly take the (rather significant) risk that our routine daily trip will not, this time, come to a horrible, bloody end. It does happen that way for many people the world over. We take that risk with nary a qualm.

We take other risks with insouciance, too.

Have you actually read the warning labels that come attached to most small appliances these days? Seriously? I think we should just improve the gene pool and leave these labels off, thanks very much. WHO showers while using their toaster? Or tries to dry their hair while still in the shower? The awful part is that SOME one obviously did it, or there would not be a warning label for the rest of us…who don’t actually need one, thanks.

I remember the prenatal class I took during my first pregnancy. They were very careful to warn us moms-to-be not to have sex (immediately after delivery) while we were still in the hospital.  I’m not too sure about the other moms, but that was a totally unnecessary warning for me – any man who got anywhere near me immediately after delivery had better have had a shot of morphine, not sperm. It wasn’t actually an experience I was looking forward to beginning all over again at that point, believe me. It took me nearly three YEARS to forget about how much better it felt going in than coming out. Once again, this warning prompts the question: WHO did such a thing, and was she conscious at the time? And as for risk, pregnancy and childbirth are still (even in this modern age) statistically pretty high risk endeavors, and still women do it all the time.

Risk. Actually, I take lots of risks when I get out of bed in the morning. Your home is full of mortal dangers: the electrical circuits, the bathtub, ceiling fans, the stuff crammed on the top shelf of the closet, the pets that weave in and out between your feet, assorted cleaning chemicals which can’t be combined (that bleach  and ammonia thing gets a few people every  year), food left on the counter, or saved a few days too long in the fridge….you  just don’t know all the stuff that can kill you once you take the risk and get out of bed.

Let’s just understand that risk is part of living. The only way to eliminate risk is to die – and then you have to hope that the funeral home dude isn’t a necrophiliac. You just don’t know – and at least, at that point, you just would not know (or care much, either).

Let’s get on with the business of living – and be mostly careful, without being nuts about it.

567: Travel Deals

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I have been subscribing to a travel website for years now that I would like to share. It is free to subscribe to travelzoo.com’s weekly e-mail posting of what they consider to be the Top Twenty travel deals that they found by canvassing hundreds and hundreds of travel companies world-wide. The weekly post arrives via e-mail every Wednesday, and highlights twenty or more local and/or international travel deals that are often astonishingly inexpensive.

To be fair, often they are at times during the year when I cannot travel, being a schoolteacher – travel companies tempt travelers to travel at non-peak times with extra good discounts, and usually, those are times when I am tied to my job and can’t go. However, if it is a time when I can go, the deals are spectacular!

I have booked and traveled with Travelzoo’s recommended deals several times over the last few years and I have been thoroughly pleased with each trip.Often the trip packages offered through the site’s recommended agencies include airfare, accommodation, taxes, fees and excursions, and some are all-inclusive resorts that include entertainment, sports and all you can eat and drink into the bargain.

To sign up for the free weekly e-mail and see the great travel deals yourself, go to http://www.travelzoo.com and register for free. They have departments of the company located in various parts of the world, so there are e-mail deal packages especially for people who live in Europe, or in the USA/Canada, or in Asia, for example. They also offer local deals for you based on your identified zip code, which means for me that I see extra travel and entertainment deals in the southeastern USA, and in Atlanta, Georgia, especially.

Have fun planning your next exotic (and cost-conscious) destination!

457: Thanks, WalMart!

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I am discovering America, riding as a guest passenger (ID’d, permitted, photographed, and insured) in a company-owned big rig driven by my newly-CDL-certified husband. He used to work in heating and air conditioning, but driving the truck pays better, and has better benefits, while costing him less as he lives out of the truck.

I am also discovering what it is like actually to be a long-distance truck driver. There are roads where big trucks are not allowed to drive (unless they are actually delivering to a business on that road), there are bridges too low (or too weak) to allow a big truck to pass (and not all are so marked), and big trucks are not allowed to park just anywhere when the driver’s allotted driving hours are up for the day.

I did not know it was so complicated. There are new federal laws (thanks, Barack Obama) that specify how many hours a day a driver can drive, how many breaks are required, how many hours they can drive in a week, and how many mandatory rest hours they must take. And these mandatory hours do not take into consideration where in the USA on the road the driver might happen to be when the time is up, either. There are reference books that list truck stops and rest areas where big trucks can stop legally for their required rest times, so that drivers can plan in advance (mostly) where they can stop – assuming that there are no traffic jams, accidents, or mechanical difficulties that occur to delay them from reaching the “safe” place before their minutes are up.

Plus, drivers pick up already-loaded trailers to haul to their destinations, or, they sit and wait while the shipper loads their trailer “live.” The DRIVER is responsible for the weight of the load that the shipper has already loaded for pick up. Or is loading while they wait. There are strict limits on the load they can haul, and the DRIVER is fined if the load is too heavy as weighed at various weigh stations located all over the country on nearly every big truck-drivable road. The trailer’s rear set of wheels (called the tandems) can be adjusted forward or backwards on the trailer to help distribute the load’s weight as measured by these weigh scales. So, often, the driver has to find a certified scale and check (and pay for the use of the scale) that the shipper has not overloaded the trailer they are hauling, or the driver has to pay the fines when they get caught at the Department of Transportation weigh scale on the road – and the violation goes against the driver’s license.

Well. I said I was learning a lot. Drivers do get paid pretty well, but they are responsible for, and put up with a lot, for that pay.

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One thing I am seriously learning to appreciate is WalMart. That chain has a store in nearly every reasonably-sized town in America. They have HUGE parking lots, and usually, there is space for a big truck to park and wait out their rest hours somewhere to the back or side of the lot, out of the way of shoppers. And WalMart is reasonably priced for the inevitable things that drivers and their certified guest passengers (like me) need for the road. Truck stops also have stuff drivers need, they just charge handsomely for it. What the truck stop has that the WalMart does not have is a shower and laundry machines. Otherwise, WalMart beats the truck stop hands-down. The food is better, less expensive, and there are healthier, lower-calorie choices. Plus, WalMart has personal care items (tweezers, pharmacy, over-the-counter medications, baby wipes, paper towels, gallon jugs of water, etc.), a deli (yum), a bakery (ditto), restrooms, hardware for minor repairs, an automotive department, clothing (new socks, anyone?) and lots of other stuff, like greeting cards for everyone’s birthdays.

Being on the road is not all bad – if you can keep the snacking to a minimum!

456: Along For The Ride

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For the first time since he qualified for his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), I am riding in the lower bunk of my husband’s tractor-trailer semi cab. He HAD a CDL before, but with that one, he trained for and drove exclusively school busses for a number of years. A school bus and a tractor-trailer are completely and totally different worlds, let me tell you.

I have a bird’s-eye view through the big front window of America passing by from my perch in the bunk. In three days, I have seen Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Colorado (so far). We are currently on the way to Illinois. I have seen the inner workings of the rig, and the inner areas of the truck stops as well. Truck stop showers are quite nice. LOTS of piping hot water and thick, absorbent towels, to boot. There are washers and dryers for laundry on-the-go. And there is a variety of bewildering equipment that runs off of the 12 volt DC current of the truck; adapters for the computer, phone and music/DVD player, the GPS (global positioning system) navigator, small portable stoves and ovens, coffee pots, refrigerators, televisions, microwave ovens and more. The truck I am in has two sleeping bunks, and numerous fascinating compartments, cabinets, and cubby holes for storing clothing and personal belongings.

It is interesting, to say the least. The part that is the most fun is bedding down for the mandatory 10 hour breaks after every 11 hours of drive time. There is even a cargo net that buckles across the front of the bunk for the safety of the sleepers. TALK about fun and games! Truck stops have arcades, and many offer free wi-fi, not to mention free merchandise for truckers who gas up their rigs there. That is the incentive for truckers to choose one truck stop over another one, since usually their freight companies’ gas credit cards are accepted at a variety of stops.

I do understand why most truckers gain weight. Nibbling on snacks as the miles roll on by is quite tempting, not to mention the infinite variety of snacky foods available at all those truck stops! Plus, SOME of the truck stops have gyms for working off calories and getting a decent amount of exercise after 11 hours of sitting and driving, but not all of them do. Yet.

The whole process of dropping off trailer loads of merchandise and picking up new trailer loads of merchandise is interesting and intricate. Parking them in tight spaces and maneuvering those big trailers and rigs around is not something I want to do. It makes me nervous to watch it, even when the driver has years of experience and manages it flawlessly. And there are endless safety regulations to observe and sign off on that are completed. I am gaining a new appreciation of the amount of work that goes into getting all that merchandise to the stores where we buy it, that is for sure. And I am having a great mini-vacation seeing part of America, to boot!

 

418: Whipper-snipper and other local colloquiliaisms

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Today in Panama, outside my office window, I heard the unmistakable sound of a two-cycle internal combustion engine, commonly used to operate motor scooters and lawn trimming machines: weed whackers, weed eaters, whipper-snippers, and other imaginative names for a fairly functional device. Taking a peek out the window confirmed the sound – seven, count ém, SEVEN men, dressed like Muslim women in pants (completely hijabéd in fabric from any contact with grass – in 95 degree weather) were busily mowing, by hand, with these weed eaters, an area of ground I estimated conservatively at five ACRES.

While this is a fairly common sight in Panama, it would be a very uncommon sight in America. In America, where the minimum wage for a laborer is over 7 bucks an hour and rising, there is the impetus to mow maximum grass in minimum time, and equipment is acquired which facilitates that aim. This is not a concept that has penetrated the Panamanian psyche. In fact, maximum work in minimum time is not a concept that has even introduced itself to the Panamanian psyche, much less cozied up to it and taken it to bed. Panamanian work psyche is still virgin territory, totally unpenetrated by anything approximating a work ethic – much less an ethic of efficiency.

It is perfectly reasonable, when you pay a worker twenty dollars a day (or LESS), to give him the cheapest piece of equipment you can find (I have seen men cutting grass on the roadside with machetes – I kid you not), expecting it to take him three or four days to mow what one Kubota triple-swath tractor could cut in two hours.

This attitude of it takes as long as it takes, using the cheapest equipment we can find, permeates this society. It is one reason I ride to and from work in a 20 year-old reconditioned BlueBird school bus, shipped down from America once it was retired from school service there, smartened up with a wild coat of paint (Jesus and a busty, suggestively posed bikini-clad girl jostling for the prime space on the back), tricked out with flashing neon lights and outfitted with a blasting turbo-charged horn, since that is what Panamanians drive with, anyway.

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Well. It does make life interesting, in a drop-your-jaw and stare sort of way…………