Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season, both secular and sacred. The New Year brings a promise of new achievements, new chances, and new dreams. It also brings new challenges.

The year ahead does not look like it will be a good one. Wars and rumors of wars fill our ears; North Korea. Iraq. Al Qaida. Peace on Earth seems a distant dream. It reminds me of the old curse, "May you live in interesting times."

These are certainly interesting times.

I started to write something profound and inspirational about the coming New Year; about coming through the darkness to a better world on the other side, but that just isn't me. While there are some writers who can change a world with their words, I'm not one of them. I work best on a different stage. I'm an entertainer, at least I hope to be. If I can get you to smile or laugh for a minute, then I've done well. If I make you think a little, or see something from a slightly different perspective, then that's even better. If I can touch your heart, then that's the best I can do.

This blog has changed over the last year, hopefully for the better. There have been cosmetic changes, and server changes, as well as software changes, but more importantly, the content has changed. There is more of me in what I write now, and less of the pundit. I like the change, and I hope you do as well.

There will be more changes in the future, as I get used to MT, and learn more about css. (For example, I'll figure out how to keep entries on the index, even if I take a few days off. Thanks for the heads up, Bob!) As for content, I hope that will improve as well.

I want to thank all of you who have read these scribblings of mine, especially those who have encouraged me to continue. Your support has meant a lot to me. I've had several people encourage me to try and get something published, either a book, or some magazine articles. (Thanks Mom!) Who knows what the future might bring?

Well, the boys are dying to get on the computer for their daily EverQuest fix, so I'm going to wrap this up, but first, my goals for the New Year:
  1. Publish a piece somewhere and get paid for it.
  2. A 36 inch waist. I lost almost 80 pounds last year. This year, I'm looking for another 20 or so.
  3. Teach my kids to put their dirty dishes in the dish washer instead of the sink.
  4. Finish remodeling the family room, and start on the living room.
  5. Build a grandfather clock
  6. Sell a few woodturnings.
  7. Teach my kids that any dream is achievable, if you are willing to work at it.

Looking over the list, number 3 is going to be the biggest challenge...

Happy New Year y'all!

Posted by Rich
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Friday, December 20, 2002

Health Insurance is a Scam

You walk up to a table in a casino in Las Vegas. The dealer explains up front that the house has its percentage, and the game is rigged so that most people will lose, and lose big. You step away from the table, only to find two very large gentlemen who are very insistent that you play the game. In fact, they will become most unpleasant if you continue to refuse to play, intimating all kinds of unfortunate consequences unless you bet now. They even go so far as to tell you how much to bet, and what to bet on.

What does this have to do with health insurance?

Insurance of any kind is a con game where you are forced to bet against yourself, knowing that you are going to lose money. Las Vegas never had it so good!

It’s like this: for an insurance company to make a profit, it must take in more money than it puts out. For this to happen, on average each customer must pay more for his policy than he gets back in benefits. All the talk of 'cost sharing' and 'spreading the risk' is a smoke screen; the bottom line is that when we buy insurance, we pay more than we get back.

So why do we do it? Because most of us get our insurance through work, and we don't see just how much we are actually paying. We think we are getting more than we are paying, when the opposite is true. Take a look at your next pay stub, and see how much you are paying for health insurance. Now multiply by 4, and you'll get your employers contribution. Add the two together and multiply by 26 to get your annual health insurance bill.

Staggering isn't it? On average, employers pay 80% of the cost of your health insurance. Just ask a laid off worker how much his COBRA coverage costs.

I pay $56.50 bi weekly. My employer pays another $250 biweekly for a total annual cost of roughly $8000. Do I spend that much on an annual basis? Heck no! And I’m raising 6 kids. Now, financial advisors will tell us that we will recoup our costs when we get older, since we will be spending more on health care by then. Of course, most of us will no longer be on private insurance by then; we will have retired, and be on Medicare. Our excess payments will remain with the insurance company, to be paid out on somebody else’s claim. But even if we were still on private insurance, if the average man gets all of his money back, the insurance companies would go broke. Remember what I said at the start; if the insurance companies want to survive, then on average they must pay out less than they take in.

I've seen some of their buildings, and their balance sheets. They aren't going broke.

In order for the system to work, those who claim in excess of what they pay in must be outnumbered by those who claim less than what they pay in, which means that for the majority of the people, they will pay in more than they get back. In Vegas, this is called a sucker bet, and the house loves gamblers who take it. Additionally, insurance companies set their premiums based on total claims over the past year, adjusting the rates to ensure a slight profit. In Vegas, it’s called the house’s edge, and it is what pays for all those multi million dollar casinos and resorts.

Now here’s where it really gets fun, and where Bugsy Seigel could have learned a thing or two. In same cases, insurance is mandatory, either through law or necessity. For example, in most states, you must carry auto insurance in order to drive legally. Insurance companies, and the lawyers that follow them like hyenas have lobbied for and won legislation forcing you to take the wrong end of a sucker bet. Auto insurance isn’t quite as bad as health insurance, because there is no employer to hide the cost, which keeps it somewhat in check. But, because it is mandatory, market forces are limited, and in every state where auto insurance became mandatory, rates rose by as much as 200%.

In the case of health insurance, the necessity is a little subtler. Insurance companies routinely negotiate discounts for services rendered to patients on their plan. These discounts are often at or below the doctor’s costs. How does he make up the difference, so he can feed his family? He raises the price for non-insured patients. Check out your last insurance claim report. Check the difference between what the doctor charged, and what the insurance covered. The difference can be staggering. I know of one gentleman whose daughter stayed in the hospital overnight. The hospital bill was roughly $6000. The insurance company paid $700.

The worst part is that it is all unnecessary. If my employer paid me the $500 he pays for my insurance, I know I could invest it for a higher return than any private insurance company. I don’t have the overhead of adjustors, secretaries, boards of directors, advertising, and so on to cover. 100% that money could be dedicated towards creating a medical savings account, covering my health care far more effectively than an insurance company could. Of course, it would throw a lot of insurance company employees out of work, but we need to get rid of the parasites before they suck us dry.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What about the people who won’t save their money? What do we do about them? Let them suffer?

Yes. Why shouldn’t people face the consequences of their actions?

What about those who don’t make enough money to save for medical care?

Medical care can be provided as part of a safety net designed to help those who can’t help themselves, but it should be need based, and repaid through money, time, or service. Staff these public clinics with doctors, who can serve in lieu of paying off student loans. Patients pay once they are back on their feet, either with cash, volunteer hours, or, if they have a business, through services. But that is another post for another time.

Posted by Rich
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Lott is gone!

Breaking news from yahoo
Sen. Trent Lott will step down as Senate Republican leader, a senior GOP aide close to the Mississippian said Friday, two weeks after Lott's endorsement of Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential bid touched off a national uproar.

That's a win for the Republican Party. We get a more effective Senate Majority leader, as well as demonstrate a break from the old image of conservatism.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, December 19, 2002

Ed revisited

This is why I didn't like the whole, 'Ed leaving Carol' plotline. The last couple of episodes have really just ignored the whole thing. Yes, we got the shot of Ed and Carol burying the hatchet, and now they behave as if nothing happened. Yes, the other characters discuss it peripherally, but it no longer rings true. There are no scars on either Ed or Carol. Life goes on in Stuckeyville, at least until the next sweeps when we will see another manufactured crisis, as Ed gets closer to his new love interest.

It's just too artificial.

On the other hand, Alias is remaining faithful to it's concept and plot lines. If you haven't been watching this show, you've really been missing out. It's a spy thriller, but the best parts have more to do with personal relationships than with espionage. I won't try to bring you up to speed; there are several websites that will do that, but so far the show has remained consistent with it's storylines, while still throwing in the occasional surprise. The best example was the season premiere, where Sydney's mother turned herself in to the CIA. This was a great echo of the pilot, whre Sydney turned herself in, becoming a double agent for the CIA. The one forshadowed the other, giving us a framework to support the surprise. Of course, we don't know whether Irina is on the level, or advancing her own agenda, but we don't completely disbelieve that it could have happened. It was a shock, but within the bounds established by the series.

Of course, I am still watching Ed, because the Ed-Carol storyline was only one part of the show. The new lawyer they introduced this week will provide a good foil for Ed; it was nice to see Molly get a little more meat to her role; we got to spend sometime with Phil, on another bizarre entrepenurial journey; the only thing missing was Shirley. I am sad to see them recycling the "new love interest for Ed' angle again. Let's leave his love life alone for awhile....

Posted by Rich
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I’m confused…

I just started dating again. I've been out several times over the last few weeks, and I've had a great time, but the reaction of my friends and family has got me worried.

My son's basketball coach came up to me the other day, and said he heard from my son that I had started dating again. I said that yes, I had been out on a couple of dates, and then he congratulated me in a tone of voice usually reserved for those who just successfully climbed Mount Everest.

It struck me as a little strange. After all, I hadn't won the Nobel Prize or anything, just went out for dinner and a movie with a woman. It wouldn't have struck me, but he was the third or fourth person with that reaction, congratulating me for managing to get a date.

Strange....I mean, it's not like I'm the elephant man or anything. I guess it's sort of like I just recovered from a long illness, and they are congratulating me on getting well. It's just a little odd to be congratulated for doing something so simple as going out on a date.

I wonder what it'll take to get a trophy?

Posted by Rich
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New addition to the Rocky Top Brigade!

Via SKBubba, we have a new presence gracing us in the rocky Top Brigade, a Southern Belle known as Sugarfused. She adds a welcome note of charm and grace to our otherwise testosterone soaked group. Welcome, dear lady, and make yourself at home.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Rules of Etiquette for Yankees visiting Heaven (AKA the South)

More reader mail:

How to Get Your Butt Kicked in The South
  1. Don't order filet mignon or pasta primavera at Waffle House. It's just a diner. They serve breakfast 24 hours a day. Let them cook something they know. If you confuse them, they'll kick your butt.

  2. Don't laugh at our Southern names. (Merleen, Bodie, Ovine, Luther Ray,Tammy Lynn, Darla Beth, Inez, Billy Joe, Sissy, etc.) These people have all been known to kick butt.

  3. Don't order a bottle of pop or a can of soda down here. Down here its called Coke. Nobody gives a flying damn whether it's Pepsi, RC, Dr. Pepper, 7-Up, or whatever - it's still a Coke. Accept it. Doing otherwise can lead to an butt kicking.

  4. We know our heritage. Most of us are more literate than you (e.g., Welty, Williams, Faulkner). We are also better educated and generally a lot nicer. Don't refer to us as a bunch of hillbillies, or we'll kick your butt.

  5. We have plenty of business sense (e.g., Fred Smith of Fed Ex, Turner Broadcasting, MCI WorldCom, MTV, Netscape). Naturally, we do, sometimes, have small lapses in judgment (e.g., Carter, Edwards, Duke, Barnes). We don't care if you think we are dumb. We can still kick your butt.

  6. Don't laugh at our Civil War monuments. If Lee had listened to Longstreet and flanked Meade at Gettysburg instead of sending Pickett up the middle, you'd be paying taxes to Richmond instead of Washington. If you visit Stone Mountain and complain about the carving, we'll kick your butt.

  7. We are fully aware of how high the humidity is, so shut the hell up, spend your money, and get the hell out of here - or we'll kick your butt.

  8. Don't order wheat toast at Cracker Barrel. Everyone will instantly know that you're from Michigan. Eat your biscuits like God intended. Don't put sugar on your grits, or we'll kick your butt.

  9. Don't fake a Southern accent. This will incite a riot, and you will get your butt kicked.

  10. Don't talk about how much better things are at home because we don't give a damn. Many of us have visited hell holes like Detroit, Chicago, L.A., and D.C., and we have the scars to prove it. If you don't like it here, Delta is ready when you are. Take your butt home before it gets kicked.

  11. Yes, we know how to speak proper English. We talk this way because we don't want to sound like you. We don't care if you don't understand what we are saying. All other Southerners understand what we are saying, and that's all that matters. Now, go away, or we'll kick your butt.

  12. Don't complain that the South is dirty and polluted. None of OUR lakes have caught fire like scenic Lake Erie once did. Whine about OUR scenic beauty, and we'll kick your butt all the way back into Boston Harbor.

  13. Don't ridicule our Southern manners. We say "sir" and "ma'am," hold doors open for others, and offer our seats to old folks because such things are expected of civilized people. Behave yourselves around our sweet little gray-haired grannies or they'll kick some manners into your butt just like they did ours.

  14. So you think we're quaint or we're losers because most of us live in the countryside? That's because we have enough sense to not live in smelly, crime-infested cesspools like New York or L.A. Make fun of our fresh air, and we'll kick your butt.

  15. Last, but not least, DO NOT DARE to come down here trying to tell us how to cook barbecue. This will get your butt shot off (right after it is kicked). You're lucky we let you come down here at all. Question our sacred BBQ, and you go home in a pine box - minus your butt.

Y'all have a nice day!

Posted by Rich
Humor2 • (2) CommentsPermalink

From my mail

A little rosy, but true enough:
I Can't Believe You Made It! If you lived as a child in the 40's, 50's, 60's or 70's.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

(Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day.

No cell phones. Unthinkable. We played dodgeball and sometimes the ball would really hurt. We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame, but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda but we were never overweight...we were always outside playing. We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from this.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, video games at all, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, Personal Computers, Internet chat rooms ... we had friends. We went outside and found them. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

Imagine such a thing. Without asking a parent! By ourselves! Out there in the cold cruel world! Without a guardian. How did we do it?

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't, had to learn to deal with disappointment..... Some students weren't as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade.....Horrors. Tests were not adjusted for any reason.

Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law, imagine that!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

And you're one of them.


Posted by Rich
Personal • (6) CommentsPermalink

Monday, December 16, 2002

Your education dollars at work

I went to the Middle School basketball game tonight because my daughter was playing in the pep band. The basketball team lost, but the band won. Of course, they were playing unopposed, which helped them pull it out in the 4th quarter.

Anyway, on my way out of the gym after the game, I saw a flyer on the gym door listing "exploratory" classes available to the children. I'm not sure what the exact pupose of these courses were, but I certainly don't think "Board games and how to play them" is a suitable subject for school. "Tanagrams" does help develop an eye for spatial relationships, but does it deserve a class of it's own? Then again, they could take the class on "Trivia" which will come in handy if they're picked for the syndicated version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" It really is a good course; it covers Disney and the Wizard of Oz.

But my favorite has to be, and I'm not making this up, "History of the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle."

I think I've discovered why Johnny can't read; between Intramural Basketweaving and "How to Balance your Checkbook" they ran out of time to teach him how.

Posted by Rich
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Healthcare and Insurance

Interesting discussion on healthcare going on over at Bubba's. Here's my take, as posted in a comment:

Why is it a "right" to have access to healthcare? Is it one of the "inalienable" rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence? It isn't in my copy, but maybe I have the abridged version.

Nope, looked it up; not in there.

Well then, maybe it is a human right, not one reserved to American's, but to all people on the planet. Does everybody have a basic 'right' to healthcare? If so, then shouldn't our first act be to reduce the level of care available in the US to the world average, then use our surplus to bring the world average up? Of course, we would have to accept a tremendous rise in infant mortality, as well as a drastic fall in average longevity, but if health care is a right for everybody, we are unfairly monopolizing that resource for ourselves.

You don't like that idea?

Health care is not a right. It is a benefit of living in a wealthy, technologically advanced society. Now we can debate what level of priority we want to give this benefit, how many other benefits we are willing to sacrifice to maintain it, but calling it a right distorts the discussion before it begins.

If you really want to reform healthcare, get insurance out of it all together. Try a little experiment. Track health care costs over time, and see when they began rising faster than the general inflation rate. What you'll find is that the acceleration began when health insurance became more common. You'll see a similar result in auto insurance. When it becomes mandatory, it gets more expensive. The insurance companies claim it is because they have to accept high risk drivers, so everybody's premiums go up. This will also be true of a universal health insurance plan. right now, insurance companies screen their pool to minimize their exposure. Adding in the high risk clients will increase, not decrease the premiums. The present pool may be smaller, but it is a better risk than a larger pool.

The other problem with insurance is that it provides a tremendous pool of money to draw from. Hospitals can get away with charging $20 for an aspirin, because we don't feel the pain of paying the bill. Doctors can charge $75 for a 6 minute office visit because we only pay the co-pay or deductible; the rest comes from our employer. Health insurance is a licence for doctors/HMO's to steal. And they do.

Here's some more research for you. Track the averag salary of doctors against the per capita income over the last 70 years. You;ll see that doctors as a group earned just at or below the national average, then their earnings took off as medical insurance became more popular.

Finally, the large pool of available cash drew lawyers like sharks to blood. Malpractice suits skyrocketed as doctor's wealth increased.

So here comes the insurance company, happy to jump in and provide malpractice insurance, creating another large pool of money, drawing more parasites.

You want to fix health care? Get rid of health insurance.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (2) CommentsPermalink

Friday, December 13, 2002

Important Announcement

My sons are coming home from college this week. Why am I telling you this? Because blogging time at home is sure to be limited at best as they ballte over who gets to play Everquest.

I'll do what I can. but I make no promises...

Posted by Rich
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How Appropriate!

From the News-Sentinel:
ETSU wants to name fossil site center for Sundquist

It's the perfect way to honor a lizard like Sundquist.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, December 12, 2002

A Christmas recipe

from Snopes, just in case you thought they just debunked urban myths:

The Ultimate Fruitcake
All this talk of dry fruitcake made me pine for the days of yore when I would help grandma make Christmas cake. Here's the recipe (as best as I can remember it, it's a little fuzzy):

You'll need the following: a cup of water, a cup of sugar, four large eggs, two cups of dried fruit, a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of salt, a cup of brown sugar, lemon juice, nuts, and a bottle of whiskey. NOTE: Whiskey may be replaced with your favorite swill^H^H^H^Hbeverage. Being of Scottish ancestry, me and grandma naturally used Scotch.


Sample the whiskey to check for quality.

Take a large bowl. Check the whiskey again. To be sure it is the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again.

Make sure the whiskey is still okay. Cry another tup. Turn off the mixer. Break two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whiskey to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares? Check the whiskey. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever you can find.

Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don't forget to beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window, check the whiskey again and go to bed.

I think I'll go get me a piece.

Posted by Rich
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Christmas memories—Christmas eve

Another Christmas tradition is assembling the toys on Christmas Eve. Now, when I was a kid, my first suspicion that there might not be a Santa came when I got a brand new bicycle. I was all excited when I woke up and saw it sitting under the tree, a shiny orange 10-speed with only one speed. I don’t know how my dad found it, and I’ve never seen another one like it. It had the standard 10 speed frame, but no derailleur or gear shifts, or gears. It only had one gear, and by riding around on my friends bikes, I guessed it was about equivalent to 5th gear, which made uphill rough, but downhills just flew by. We opened the rest of our presents, and as soon as we got dressed, I went outside to ride my new bike. I rolled it out of the driveway, hopped on and rode out into the street. Everything went fine until I tried to turn. My foot slipped off of the pedal, and I fell forward.

Here’s something that has always puzzled me about bikes. A boy’s bike has a metal tube running from the front post to just underneath the seat. This bar reinforces the frame, adding rigidity to the bike. On a girls bike, this bar runs much lower, so they could get on and off while wearing a skirt without being immodest. The bike was slightly less rigid, but much more decorous. However, there was an important safety consideration the bicycle designer did not take into consideration when he designed the frame, and every man reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. If your foot slips off of the pedals, you fall forward, leaving the comfort of your seat and proceeding through about a two inch drop, until the high bar arrests your fall by crushing your testicles. (I’d say nuts, but this is a family blog.) Incidentally, this is a good proof of the stupidity of men, since we continued to ride these bikes, refusing to ride a girl’s bike because that would make us look like sissies.

So, after I recovered, I got back on the bike, and began to ride again, a bit more cautiously this time. Sure enough, the next time I tried to turn, my foot slipped off of the pedal again.

Now, my mother didn’t raise a complete fool, so when I got back on the bike again ( OK, so she raised a partial fool) I paid close attention to my feet. I was going slow enough this time to realize that when I turned, the front tire was hitting my foot, knocking it off of the pedal. I rolled the bike back to the house, put down the kickstand, and gave her a good look.

That’s when I noticed that the front fork was on backwards. A ha! We have found the problem. I called my dad out (he was very happy to leave that warm house and come out into the frigid December morning) and showed him how Santa had messed up on my bike. Dad said he’d show me how to fix it, and walked over to the bike. I expected him to go to the garage for his tools, but instead, he clamped the wheel between his legs, and with a grunt of effort, twisted the handle bars all the way around, until the fork was facing forward. I thought that was just too cool. Tools were for weaklings! When my daughter asked me to fix her handlebars, I knew exactly what to do. I clamped the front wheel between my legs, grabbed the handlebars, and with a mighty tug, snapped the little retaining bolt that holds the handlebars on right off.

After I got her to stop crying, we went to WalMart for a new bike, which I assembled using the proper tools.

Anyway, finding my bike assembled wrong that morning was my first idea that all was not right with Santa, and something a little more sinister occurred on Christmas Eve. Of course, I eventually found out the truth, and began to look forward to surprising my kids with presents on Christmas morning.

Shows how much I knew.

I have another little Christmas tradition, one that I would rather avoid, but it seems destined to continue until I’m in my grave. On Christmas Eve, I invariably have some form of stomach flue. I suspect it is the same virus, as it always hits at the same time every year, around 7:30 PM, EST, and lasts until just after the last toy is assembled, usually around 3AM. It starts with a mildly upset stomach, and progresses through several full blown Vesuvian eruptions scattered randomly throughout the evening. I am happy to report that being a generous sort, I have shared this virus with my wife on several occasions. It’s just not Christmas unless you’re running for the bathroom every 15 minutes or so.

One Christmas, we were both too miserable to go upstairs to bed after getting everything ready, so we crashed downstairs, and waited for the kids to come down. It was actually kind of romantic. Most of the nausea had passed, and I had just enough strength to reach over from the couch to the papa san chair and hold her hand. Our oldest son, who was about 7 at the time, came creeping downstairs at about 5:30. He didn’t see us down there, and looked at everybody’s presents before going upstairs to wake up his brothers and sisters. They sat upstairs whispering until 6:30, when they were allowed to wake us up. We let them look for us upstairs for a few minutes then called them down, and the festivities began.

Having lived through several Christmas Eves I am amazed that my father did so well. At 3AM, tab A does not fit into slot B no matter how big of a hammer you use. And if I never see another sticker again, I’ll die happy. I think that if you spend $100 on GI Joe Superfortress with Twin Helicopters and Functioning Cannon (action figures sold separately), then by golly the dad gum stickers should already be put on the blasted thing. I’ve spent 45 minutes putting the toy together (which is kind of cool) and another hour and a half trying to get the stickers on just like it shows on the box (which is really uncool.) Bikes are nothing…try putting together a Little Tykes Play Kitchen with food, utensils, and silverware. Did you know that the seams in molded plastic can be sharp enough to slice right through several layers of skin? I do now!

Now the cool thing about assembling all the toys is you get to play with them first; it's in the Parents Rulebook. I looked it up. One Christmas, we got the kids Super Soaker Squirt guns. Let's just say that my wife and I thoroughly tested them out, and waterd the tree at the same time. On the other hand, when you play with your kids toys, you run the risk of breaking them, which can lead to severe emotional damage, and requires immediate replacement of the toy with a close substitute. A word of advice: At 11PM on Christmas Eve, the only store open is Mabel's All Night Truckstop and Pawn Shop. My daughter once got a fully detailed remote controlled model of an 18 wheeler with horn and reverse ($79.95 batteries not included.) She loved it much better than the etch a sketch($19.99) we broke.

The worst Christmas Eve disaster happened about 6 years ago. My youngest son wanted a hobby horse, and I looked all over the place to find the best one. I finally found one at Toys R Us that was perfect. It had real extruded nylon hair for the main, and a little speaker that made galloping sounds when the kid rode it. I got it, plus a little cowboy play set with guns, spurs chaps and stuff. I was really excited to see how he would like it. So here comes Christmas Eve, and I get all the boxes from their hiding places, and start putting stuff together. I save the horse for last, because it’s pretty easy to assemble, a few bolts, four springs and no bleedin’ stickers.

About 1:30AM, I get to the horse. I open the box, and dump out the contents. Onto the carpet falls one hobby horse. Period. No springs, no nuts, no bolts, no stand, no instructions, no FAIR! I was so mad, that I forgot to be sick. Here it was, 1:30 on Christmas morning, and the centerpiece of my youngest son’s Christmas was ruined. I was a failure as a father and a worthless human being. So I did the only thing I could; I propped the horse up in front of the tree and wrote a note to him from Santa. I explained that I went through some rough weather on the way down, and some parts must have fallen from the sleigh, but that I would come back in a day or two and fix it.

The cool thing was that my son couldn’t have cared less. He saw the horse, gave a loud yell, jumped on, grabbed the mane with one hand and the tail with the other and started galloping around the house. Yeah, the foot pegs knocked a few holes in the drywall, but I wasn’t going to complain. He was happy, and that was all that mattered. A few days later, I exchanged horses, and all was well, except that he sometimes took the horse off the stand so he could ride it around the house.

Now the kids are older, and Santa gets to sleep in on Christmas Eve. Now that I’m not assembling toys, my virus has subsided into a few rumblings and grumblings through the night, although that might have more to do with the eggnog than anything else. The kids still wake up early, especially the young ones, but the oldest doesn’t sneak down to spy anymore, since everything is wrapped, and they let dad sleep until 7:00:01. I hope that they remember their Christmas’s as fondly as I do, and find the same joys I did, playing Santa for their kids at 3AM on Christmas Eve.

Posted by Rich
Humor2 • (1) CommentsPermalink

Political Shift Approaching…

I mentioned this briefly in a comment at SKBubba's place, but I'm seriously considering leaving the Republican Party, and joining the Libertarians.

Actually, to be more accurate, I feel like the Republican Party is leaving me. I believe in a small government, limited in scope and power. Unfortunately, neither of the major parties agree with me on this. Their answer to every problem seems to be bigger, more intrusive government.
  • People are poor--expand welfare
  • People are sick--socialize healthcare
  • There are people who don't like us out there--expand internal security
  • People are reading things that we find offensive--expand censorship
  • Kids are hanging out--raid parties and parking lots
  • Pop music sucks--regulate indie music out of existence
  • Your religious views offend me--prohibit public exhibitions of faith
  • He doesn't like me because I'm (gay, black, hispanic, female, transgendered)--pass hate crime legislation
  • Drugs are harmful--put a tenth of our population behind bars
  • People get hurt--regulate all risky pursuits.
  • I don't feel so good---take a pill and sue somebody.

At some point, you have to say enough is enough!

The only difference I see between the left and the right is which of my freedoms they want to steal first. I thought reps were the party that respected the limits of the constitution; instead, they appear to have adopted the tactics of the left, and are ready to 'interpret ' it to suit themselves. I didn't like it when Clinton did it; I don't like it when Bush does it.

Now I have to figure out how to be a libertarian, without letting the extreme left takeover. I've heard all the arguments about how voting for a third party candidate allows the opposition to win, and there is some validity to that. Libertarians generally pull more from republicans than from democrats, and I think this is because many find themselves in a position similar to mine; they feel abandoned when the actions of their party contradict it's core principles. Government has expanded under every administration, regardless of which party controls which branch. So how do I say "Enough!" and have it heard?

Maybe the only solution is to cost the rpublicans an election or two. If they need my vote, amybe they'll listen to my concerns. If not, then more people who think like I do will leave, and the Libertarian Party may become something more than a spoiler, despite how the system is rigged against them.

On the other hand, which is worse, creeping socialism, or a full on charge towards it?

Posted by Rich
Politics • (2) CommentsPermalink

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