Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Here's Where YOU Come In...

On November 2, we will get the government we deserve. And it's up to each of us to participate in whether or not we get that government.

Go. Vote. Vote. Vote. I can repeat it. I don't mean "Chicago-style" (early-and-often) - but I mean get out of your bed or out of your office and get your rear-end (and your brain, please) to the polling place and cast your vote.

People (particularly extreme right-wing folks) are hawking their message about loudly and often. "This is an imperialist government!" "We need our country back!" "We don't need government in our [fill in the blank]!" "The Democrats have stolen the election!"

Ok, this is NOT an imperialist government. If it was, you wouldn't be running for elected office. I know logic hurts, but it really does help in the long run.

You  need your country back from WHAT? Pre-history days when women weren't allowed to vote, a black man (don't even talk about a black WOMAN) was 2/3 of a person? The days when only rich white MALE property owners could direct the course of history? Oh, yeah. THOSE good old days.

You don't  need government? How about your police, fire departments, your education system, the roads, bridges and transportation systems?

How can the Democrats steal an election that hasn't happened yet? And if they have stolen it, then why does every news station I hear say that the Republicans could see big wins? How is that stealing if YOUR party is predicted to come out ahead? I know it's just been a full moon, but THINK, PEOPLE!!

Again, logic hurts. But it's for the best; trust me.

I am concerned that people who actually think before they speak will figure they're "voting" by not voting. Or they'll believe the "polls" which say that the Democrats will lose big. Which is kind of silly, since the races have tightened up and in many cases, the Democrat's candidate is ahead. Don't believe everything you hear on the "liberal-controlled media" because (a) the media isn't controlled by the liberals - it's actually controlled by the right; and (b) polls are statistics. I can make a statistic sing Gregorian Chant if I want it to. And you'll believe it. Polls are slanted in regard to who they poll. And if a polling entity polls in a predominantly conservative area, guess what the results might be? Go ahead - guess. It's really easy. Using that darned logic again, you'll see that the poll might lean significantly toward the right. See? That didn't hurt.

Don't vote by not voting. Vote because you have something to say. Vote because our system, even as flawed as it is, is among the shining stars of functioning governments. People in other countries die because they want the right to do what you may consider skipping on November 2. People in many corners of the world actually vote, but vote for the "Ruler for Life" - which isn't really a vote. It's a way to not get shot.

I continue to believe in our system because I think it's better than a lot of the other systems out there. It's flawed. Heck, it's bound to be flawed because humans are involved. And it's corrupt to a certain extent, thanks to the Supreme Court's decision to allow corporations to be people.

That reminds me of algebra, where n is a number. "N" is a letter. I could never wrap my head around that, which is why I did so poorly in algebra.

I can't wrap my mind around a corporation being a person. I've worked for corporations. They're about as human as an Asian Carp. Which isn't - if you don't get the joke. An Asian Carp is an invasive species poised to totally wreck the ecosystem in Lake Michigan. They get up to about 40 lbs and have been known to knock people out of boats. They're not a happy fish, and whoever figures out how to catch 'em and sell them to people as food will be a millionaire in no time flat!

So anyhow, X Corporation is now a person, same as you and me. The corporation can donate any amount of money it chooses to support the candidate of its choice. Problem is that the corporation has way more money than I have. And the corporations are using that money to support corporate-friendly candidates.

Corporate-friendly candidates are generally not people-friendly. The main purpose of a corporation is to provide value for its shareholders (see, that MBA comes in handy!). So unless you're a shareholder of a corporation in a major way, you will more likely not see any benefits if a corporate-friendly candidate wins office. You'll likely see fewer benefits, particularly if you work for a corporation. Your benefits (health, retirement, etc.) may be reduced. Your job may be outsourced. To save money for the shareholders.

My Strategic Planning professor says that "if you're not in the business of becoming a global corporation, you're in the business of going out of business." I think that the US needs to make things again, so I am fundamentally opposed to corporations that want to shift as many jobs as they can to overseas job markets. We're hurting here, and yeah, it may cost more to build it here, but think of the marketing edge you'd have with all those uber-conservative uber-patriot types: "This widget is MADE IN AMERICA!" We don't want no foreign widgets in this country! We want only Yew-NITED STATES of AMERICA widgets!

So a corporation which ships say 35% of its jobs overseas buys an election. Don't laugh - look at the corporate donations through the American Chamber of Commerce. It'll make your tummy flop and your innards go to jelly. X Corporation is now NOT paying benefits to American workers (35% of whom it laid off); it is NOT paying taxes (because you don't have to pay into Social Security or Medicare if you don't have American workers); it is gaining money like crazy for its shareholders, but if you only own a small amount of shares, you can't exactly live off the dividends!

So go vote. Speak up for your beliefs. Make liars out of the pollsters who say we're lazy, unappreciative and apathetic. Please.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My 401k is now...

...a 200.5. 

Former Presi-dunce Bush (a/k/a "Shrub") gave a speech in which he bemoaned the fact that during his tenure, he never managed to privatize Social Security.

Ignoring the fact that he took a budget surplus and created a record deficit, started two illegal wars, and generally took us from one of the most respected countries to a country that was characterized as a "bully nation" - Shrub's biggest regret is that he didn't hand Social Security to the Wall Street Robber Barons to rape and pillage the retirement income of a vulnerable population: senior citizens.

My Granny, God rest her, was on Social Security. Granted, Grandpa left her ok - she didn't have to worry about eating Fancy Feast. She never had to decide to pay the mortgage, the gas bill or get her prescriptions. She never had to cut a pill in half to make the medicine last longer.

But too  many seniors do have to have those conversations with themselves. My mother, God love her, does get Social Security and she has a small pension. She doesn't need the constant worry about what her Social Security check might be if it's tied to the stock market. But she does have to worry about outliving her small pension. She hasn't gotten to the "do I cut the pills in half" question yet, but only because we're keeping an eye on her investments.

No senior does need that kind of worry, but you have to wonder about those folks who maybe don't have family astute enough or close enough to make sure they're ok. There was a paper written by the Division of Economic Research out of the Social Security Administration's Office of Policy, in 2001. It's available here:

And it's not light reading. But it does illuminate some facts that the politicians cleverly or ignorantly gloss over. Back in 2001, the paper assumes that the poverty threshold would continue to be adjusted for inflation but not for increases in real income. It also assumes that Social Security benefits wouldn't change and that earnings and "other incomes" would grow by 1%.

So if those variables were all true, poverty among the elderly, according to the authors, would actually decrease from 10.5% to about 7.7% in 2020. But read a newspaper or look at the news. Incomes haven't grown. Savings have been decimated. My 401k is now a 200.5...I rarely even look at my statements because I know it's only going to aggravate me.

But the Wall Street Robber Barons are giving themselves bonuses. None of them have to worry about housing costs, retirement plans and other things seniors in this country have to deal with.

And Shrub has his book, Laura's book, TV and speaking engagements where I'm sure he'll charge an arm, a leg and a wheelchair to attend. And people will willingly cough up the money to hear him talk about how he "regrets" not taking Social Security and handing it to people with no sense and no souls.

According to the Social Security Administration, at, "monthly Social Security and SSI benefits will not automatically increase in 2011 (italics mine) as there is no increase in the Consumer Price Index from the 3rd quarter of 2008, the last year a COLA (cost of living adjustment) was determined, to the 3rd quarter of 2010."  There was a decrease int he national average wage index for 2009, which affects the disability threshold, too, and the amount you need to earn to earn ONE Social Security Credit. No increase in the CPI for what? EIGHT quarters of our economic cycle?? Hello? Is anyone out there paying attention, or are we all consumed by the Kardashians and Lindsay Lohan?

So, the economy, to be blunt, is in the crapper. Republicans are screaming that only "they" have the secret for wealth, long life and happiness. But if you look beyond the screeching, you see that what they propose will only affect people who don't really care if they ever get a Social Security check - because they're already wealthy beyond the dreams of 80-90% of the population.

THINK before you vote. Think about  how you want YOUR retirement to look. Think about WHEN you want to retire. And think about the folks who would like to take that away from you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hats, Hats and More Hats...

So I have found the easiest baby hat pattern on earth. I've got some babies coming (one friend due in January, and my sister is awaiting her first grandchild), so I thought I'd do some baby things. I was looking to do hats but I didn't want anything too complex, at least till I finish this last MBA class. I need mindless knitting.

And I found it!! Go to and look for "free patterns." Under that, see if you can find Sweet Baby Hat. On top of the fact that they have the most angelic baby modeling this hat, you'll find an oh-so-simple hat that literally whips together in a couple of hours. And I'm no speed-knitter.

For the swift knitters out there, if you wanted a stash-buster, you could whip through as many of these as you could stand over a weekend and fill an entire "Giving Tree" at your church or favorite charity. The size is both preemie and baby so you have a couple of options there as well.

Hats for a baby girl
 Here's a shot of the "girl" hats I've done so far. Both hats have a "grape" stripe in them and the hot pink hat actually has 2 wide stripes. The "berry" one  on the right has three "grape" stripes. The pink hat was the first one I made. I figured out after that one that it's best to put the stripes above the roll-up ribbed brim! Oh well - it won't matter in the least to the baby, and I'm sure my friend Allison won't care if the stripe shows. The "grape" doesn't show up well in this picture, but you can tell it when you see them in person.

I really like the Simply Soft yarn for this project. It has a nice sheen to it; the colors are certainly bright and cheerful! And it's washable, light enough so it won't be too bulky for a little baby, and it holds its shape really well.

I suppose if you wanted a rolled-brim, you could omit the K2P2 rib on the bottom inch-and-a-half and just do Stockinette all the way to the crown. That way, you could also stripe it as you wanted. Or you could make the K2P2 rib in one color and add the main color after that.

The nice thing is, these are knit flat - you sew up the back seam and you're good to go. I do have some hat patterns for knitting circulars, but I don't have time at the moment to learn the ins-and-outs of DPNs, so this is a quick and easy solution.

The first "boy" hat is done as of this afternoon: the bright lemon yellow with lime green stripes. My hubby joked that, since this was our nephew's first baby, he might "misplace" the boy...but if he just looks for this extremely bright hat, he's likely to find the baby wearing it! I may do the berry with the yellow or lime green stripe next.

The options are endless: you can use the recommended variegated yarn; you could do double-stitching and do a solid hat with a pattern stitched atop the knitting. Since it's a baby hat, I'd avoid buttons or beads - there's so much you can do with yarn that you really don't need any extra stuff on these hats.

Check your stash, pull out your size 8 needles and get cracking - Christmas is coming and I'm sure that if you don't have any babies coming, your favorite charity could use some hats for the cooler weather. Hospitals are often looking for preemie hats. Homeless shelters can also use the help. Have a "Knit Along" or a mini-Olympics in your knitting group and have awards for "most creative," "most hats knitted," "most colorful," etc. You can do this project in one sitting.


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Prayer Shawl...

I've been busy. This last MBA class is kicking my butt and I've got the holiday knitting well underway. And there were those 2 wedding cakes... Yeesh! I'm happily busy (except for the homework stuff) but it's been awhile.

So, one of the projects that's recently finished is a shawl for my MIL. We lost my FIL this year due to Parkinson's Disease. If you want to know more, or if you want to donate in someone's honor or memory, go to - the website for the Parkinson's Disease group.

Anyway, there's a story here (what's new?). About 3 years ago, I went into the hospital for a 24-hour observation that turned into 4 days of tests for pneumonia that I kept telling them I didn't have. Well, for the first 3 days, I wasn't telling them ANYTHING because I couldn't talk! This was after 4 days on a 5-day antibiotic; I actually got worse, and my doctor was concerned. I was pretty much scared because that's not normal for me. I don't get sick often, but when I do, it's usually a doozy. It ended up that it was bronchitis, which is what I'd been telling them!

See the puppy bottom left? Ham!

Back to my story: I have a group of friends who know I knit; the one who lives closest to me brought me a basket from the group, and it included 2 DVDs of mysteries, some wonderful HoneyCrisp apples (my favorite, and only available this time of year), a mum and 7 skeins of Homespun yarn. The yarn sat around a while till I figured out what I wanted to do with it. I don't use Homespun often, but once the inspiration hit me, it was clear.

 I made this shawl for my MIL. The color is Sierra, and as you can see, it's rather large! What's hard to see (sorry - the only place I had room to spread out for a shot was in the hallway!) is that the colors are very pretty: there's tan, brown, black, cream and a rosy pink in there, and the colors just wash down the body of the shawl in almost a sunset pattern.

The shawl is a pattern from Lion Brand yarn and can be found here:

Minus the fringe. I don't like fringe. I did like the fact that this was (a) an easy pattern to do - I needed mindless knitting; and (b) an easy-to-care-for yarn. There's nothing special needed - my mother-in-law can just toss it in the wash. It's certainly big enough for her, since she's shorter AND thinner than I am!

As you can see, it reaches past my rear end, and will drape around her nicely. Click on the picture to enlarge it and get a better view of the shawl. Notice our puppy in the lower left? She couldn't stand that she wasn't part of the action!

I did this on needles 2 sizes larger than the pattern recommends; I think it's nicer this way - the "bulk" of the shawl is there, but it's more drapey and more fluid. The gals at the LYS said they thought it'd be too dense if it was done on the needles called for - and frankly, I didn't need yet another pair of big needles I was only going to use once in a while.

I need to run this in the fluff cycle of the dryer; the dogs came around to check on me as I knitted, but they left the shawl alone; our middle dog kind of barely touched the shawl, but I don't think she liked the "bouncy" feel of it, which is fine! One problem I do have with Homespun is that it does snag! Since my MIL has no pets, that shouldn't be an issue for her.

The shawl used 2.5 skeins; I had 7!! So it'll be a few more shawls, and maybe a scarf or two. But not now. I have some more Xmas gifts to get to, and a few more baby items. Pictures of those will come shortly.

We'll be taking this to our parish priest for a blessing, too. She'll like that, and I think it's appropriate as she faces the first holidays without her spouse of 60 years.

If you knit or crochet, consider a prayer shawl. You don't have to pray over it! You just knit and think about the person for whom you're knitting. Couldn't be easier. When they're wrapped in the warmth of what you've made - whether shawl, lap robe or afghan - they'll know you've held them in your heart as you've worked this with your hands.