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The Fordham Report


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This one is a bit of a long one, well, in comparison to what I usually post.  The short film, however, caught my attention.  It was filmed in Ireland and is primarily concerned with the suicide epidemic that is sweeping the nation since the collapse of what they called the Celtic Tiger period.  Here is the states we simply said, “business was good.”  Well, it hasn’t been “good” for a long time now, and it’s truly taking its toll on people.  I’ll forgo any long-winded diatribe this time and just post the video.

The best part of the video starts around the 8 minute mark.  The monologue from the main character is as applicable to the US as it is Ireland.

Don’t worry, though… it’ll all be grand.

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I have a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll try to keep it brief.  There are like most things two sides to the coin.  However, the sad reality of life in America today is that we have failed.  Between mandatory payroll deductions, the cost (and that now there is almost no way to avoid it) of healthcare thanks to the ACA, and the costs of everyday essentials like food, petrol, heating oil, and other consumables we no give hard working Americans a chance.  This doesn’t apply to the welfare queens or the benefit scammers… no these people aren’t like the rest.  They don’t have to worry about such things – it’s given to them.  It’s the people who work… hard… for so little that are truly being screwed.

Here’s some sad, hard to admit truth.  For quite a long time I earned a very comfortable wage.  Frankly, I made a lot of money.  I could buy toys, go on trips, not worry.  I was lucky.  Was it because I worked harder than everyone else?  Maybe it’s because I was smarter that all those people earning less?  Oh, I know… it’s because I was one of the chosen few.  Yeah… no.  Here’s the hard truth… I didn’t really work all that hard.  I sat mainly in air conditioned offices, in comfy chairs.  I attended meetings and talked on the phone.. a lot.  I’d occasionally have to yell at someone or negotiate a big deal.  I did a lot of paperwork, and every now and again, I worked on computers.   Often, I just babysat adults.  I had stress… often of my own making.  Looking back now, I think the EMT or police officer who literally has someone’s life in their hands might be a better judge of stress than I ever could be.

I didn’t work any harder than the single mother who waits tables or the EMT who is pulling their third double shift in a week.  The nanny who not only watches the kids, but cleans the house and cooks the meals.  The teacher, the fire fighter, or the police officer – these people objectively work harder than I ever did.

The difference… often these people struggle to make ends meet.  Many find they are are at or below the “federal poverty line.”  Any hope of getting ahead is lost to the simple need to find a way to pay for their housing, food, petrol to get to work, healthcare, daycare, and incidentals.  Too often, there’s just not enough to go around.

All you executives and CEO’s who say that you deserve your $25, $50, or $100 million dollar salaries because you work harder than everyone else.  You aren’t fooling anyone, let me tell you… you don’t.  I’ve sat across from too many of you and watched you flaunt your watches that cost more than my car.  I’ve seen you sitting in meetings looking at catalogues for boats that cost more than my house.  I’ve been in meetings where you discussed the bonuses for those executives who could “reduce employee overhead” to increase the quarter’s earnings numbers.   I’ve had to deal with your “extended vacation schedules” when most of your employees haven’t been able to afford one in years, let alone take the time off.  You don’t work that hard – and you don’t deserve a salary the size of some major city’s entire budget.  You’re fooling yourself, but you are not fooling anyone else.

Studies have shown that workers who are paid a fair wage are more motivated, happy, and productive.  They are able to maintain a better work life balance, and stay in their position longer.  They tend to be healthier (lower stress) and otherwise enjoy what they do more.  All of these things translate in to benefits for the employer in greater productivity, lower healthcare costs, less lost productivity, and less turnover and retaining costs.  So why do companies refuse to pay a “living wage?”

Because, it’s bad for the bottom line.  CEO’s / CXX’s and board members are happy to vote themselves huge pay increases, put in place monstrous golden parachutes, and otherwise continue to grow their fortunes at the expense of their employees.  This is not a sustainable system.  Trickle down economics don’t work if there is no trickling down of the wealth.

Anyway.. no one is reading this.  Corporate Greed Bad, Hardworking lower / lower-middle class people are being oppressed, no one gives a damn because this country has gone to Hell in a handbasket and our social and political leaders are caricatures of real people who only care about siphoning enough of the money off the rich to pretend to be the rich.

So, watch this entertaining video that is deeper than most people on the Internet will ever think about it.  Kristen Bell is as talented an actress you could hope to find.

Even Mary Poppins Needs a Raise.

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This personal update is not for the faint of heart.  It includes a little of everything; blood, sweat, tears, and shit.  Yeah, you don’t often hear that last one do you?  You must not live in the country.  There seems to be several constants about living out away from it all.  You have the long days, the hard work, the headaches, and the shit.  You have horse shit (great for the garden), dog shit, rabbit shit (which the dogs love to eat), cat shit, chicken shit (which REALLY stinks), and when your septic decides it’s time to back up and overflow… your shit.

So… here’s the break down.  Remember that silver lining post from a few weeks back.  You know, finding the morel mushrooms when the tractor broke down.  Well, the part finally came in.  I managed to get it all assembled, was feeling great and oh so accomplished.  I went out to mow the lawn which now resembled something akin to a rain forest mixed with a hay field.  Got about halfway done, and the NEW bolts supplied with the NEW part stripped out.  Leaving me with an utterly broken down tractor… again.  Also, the blades looked like a slinky they were so bent up.

Now.. the weekend was supposed to start right.  We had planned a nice breakfast at Bob Evan’s (thank you BOGO coupon) then we were off to see a matinee film at the cinema (yay, $5 tickets).  It was to be a nice relaxing day… then do a little shopping (new mower blades and some food) then home to continue the chores.  It was not meant to be.

I was taking my nice relaxing shower when it was interrupted by the frantic command to “TURN OFF THE WATER!”  Ohh k… then… “The basement is flooding.”  Not ok.  A little inspection later and two things were determined: 1. The previous own of this home was an idiot (no disrespect to the dead) 2. There was shit in my basement.  Turns out the sewage pipes throughout the house were completely backed up.  Also turns out the previous own had left an OPEN pipe connected to the sewage lines, but it’s ok.. he covered the open end with electrical tape.  The cheap bastard didn’t even spring for the duct tape.  So, the backed up sewage found the path of least resistance, and created a mesmerising fountain of poop coloured water cascading down in to my basement.  Let that visual set in for a minute.

A trip to Home Depot later for some PVC pipe and supplies (well we did go to Bob Evan’s.. you don’t let a BOGO coupon go to waste!) and we were home to try to regain the use of our septic system.

Turns out, depressurising the sewer line is even less fun than it sounds like.  Also.. it stinks.  Over two hours later, of alternating buckets full of poop water, and the one titular shit shower (yes, this is when the pressure in the line is sufficient to push the plug out and rain the contents of your septic line down upon you) we were finally able to inspect the line.

A big thank you goes out to our neighbour who graciously lent us the use of her industrial drain snake.  This thing was built in the 50’s, when people still built things.  It looks like it could knock a hole in a cement wall, let alone unclog a drain.  A medieval drain clearing mace, it was.

Turns out, there was just this massive blockage in the line heading out to the septic tank.  One year.. that’s how long this septic tank and drain field has been there.  One.  Fucking Unions.

Anyway.. to end this long diatribe… cleared blockage, cut out piping and fixed it to prevent future shit fountains, and added enough septic bacteria stuff to dissolve a small village.  Here’s to hoping.

Also… scrubbed ourselves raw.  I don’t think I’ve ever used that much soap at one time.  I’ll never be clean again.

Oh.. and on the tractor front.. Sunday, bought new blades, reassembled the tractor for the fourth time (using the case hardened original bolts) and managed to cut the remainder of the yard.  Finally.

Now we don’t look like those redneck neighbours.  We only smell like them.

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I don’t tend to watch these “political” comedies too often.  In fact, I didn’t watch this one live, either.  However, this monologue from the show has been making the rounds and it couldn’t be more poignant.  Obviously, it’s also meant to be funny, but take a few minutes (13 to be exact) and watch.  You’ll laugh, and then once you take a minute to think about it, you’ll cry at how we as a society can managed to screw up one of the greatest innovations we’ve ever accomplished as a people.  Yay, greed and selfishness.

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So,  10 days to the day after passing my Amateur Radio License exam… Technician (the lowest level) the FCC issued my call sign.  It is the seemingly random KD8YSK.

I plan on taking the next level exam (General) within a month, so it may change.  Not sure how they do it, but it might just be the first letter to indicate the higher license class.  Who knows.

Either way… I’m legal to transmit.

I did pick up a cheap HT (hand held) radio that transmits on the 2M and 70cm bands.  Pretty much only good for local chatting and hitting the repeaters.  I’ll program it tomorrow and see how it does.  Fun, Fun.

Heck.. in a week or so once I have a chance to really play with the radio, maybe I’ll write a review of it and use that new functionality of the website for the first time.  Who knows?

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Another quick update.  So it would seem the time for planting is almost upon us, again.  I can’t believe that this coming weekend is Memorial Day.  Where does the time go?  It seems like only yesterday I was out shovelling a mountain’s worth of snow off the driveway.  Well, this is Michigan, it was almost yesterday.

In truth, though, the time is flying by.  Summer will be here in a few short days, and in a few weeks the vegetables go in for the garden.  Before we know it the leaves will be changing and it’ll start all over again.

Before that, is all the hard work.  Yesterday was full of it.  We tilled the ground for the first “break up” and added quite a bit of peat and horse manure to the plot to build it up.  It was hard work, but the soil looks better than ever.  We’re hoping for a good crop this year.  It’ll need to be tilled one more time before planting, but we’re on our way.  Because of the cold weather that is still hanging around and how late the other trees and plants were to bloom this year we are going to wait an extra week to plant.  Traditionally, around here everyone plants on Memorial Weekend.  Well, we’re going to plant the following weekend, I think.  Means a slightly later harvest, but if we can avoid any chance of snap freezes, it’s worth it.

Otherwise, yesterday was a booming success for the new smoker.  After a lot of deliberating, we picked up a propane smoker on Saturday.  It’s a decent size thing, with a few bells and whistles.  Thanks to a $20.00 off coupon, we got a good deal on it.  Sunday, we put a chunk of pork shoulder in after brining it for 24 hours.  A little dry rub, and last night we had a great pulled pork.  Boy, how I missed that.  Michigan has a lot to offer but good barbecue is not one of them.  We put a good size chunk of the pork in a cure for the next 10 days.  Then we’ll smoke that up and if all goes well, we’ll have home made bacon.

Also… it’s dandelion season here in Michigan.  The fields have turned yellow.  You know what that means, right?  Time for Dandelion Jelly!  Our neighbour and J spent a good bit of time out in the yard picking what must be 20 cups of dandelions.  That’s enough for several batches of jelly, and what I’ve been waiting to make… Dandelion Wine!  Yep.. booze from weeds.  Never underestimate even the humblest of plants.

So, there you have it… it was a beautiful weekend, with finally great weather.  We managed to get a lot done, and have a little fun in the process.

Can’t ask for more than that.

PS – The first butterfly of the year.. enjoying the dandelions.


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Just a quickie.  So.. the day before yesterday I tried to go out and mow the lawn.  It’s been raining here EVERYDAY for the last two weeks.  I wish that was an exaggeration.  It’s not.  So we had a few hours of less rain, and I ran out to at least try to mow the near front and back yards.  Well, I managed to make a few passes with the tractor before the damn thing crapped out.  It seems there’s a problem with the mower deck drive belt.  It’s not staying taunt enough to spin the blades without causing the thing to vibrate apart.  I tried replacing the belt to no avail, so now I need to take the entire deck off and see if anything looks out of whack.  Otherwise, my only other thought is to replace the cable that engages the tensioner pulley.  Anyway.. it’s going to take a bit to fix.

Then, yesterday, our neighbour was walking through our yard and saw a bit of fungus gold.  A Morel mushroom.  She came and got me, and between us we managed to find a good dozen of the things… right in our front yard.  This weekend was likely to include a trip to a nearby state park to hunt, but mother nature gave us a head start.

To think, if the mower had worked, I’d have run them all down.

Not sure if a pouch full of mushrooms (even very good mushrooms) is worth the headache fixing the mower is going to be, but in an effort to see the glass half-full.  The silver lining to an otherwise terrible situation… morels.  In my front yard.

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Many of you have noticed my strong position on ensuring Net Neutrality.  Without getting up on my soapbox, I think this is the biggest “freedom of speech” like battle of this generation.

Unfortunately, many people have no idea what Net Neutrality is.  So… to do my part, here is a video from a young lady who explains it in simple terms, with pictures, that hopefully anyone can understand.  So please take a few minutes, watch the video, become educated on this very important issue.

Then if you want to maintain the freedoms we enjoy with an open and innovative Internet, please contact the FCC, write to your representatives, and otherwise make your voice heard.


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