Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ferally new

This little kitty kept me up Wednesday night. It wasn't because she was mewing in my ear or jumping around while I tried to sleep (annoying features that pro-cat people celebrate for some reason), but because I am too easily touched with the plight of beasts who are pitiful.

She is a relatively new semi-resident of the apartment's lot/alley, and the grey kitties who have been around for years don't seem to be territorial about the food my neighbors put out for them.

However, she's bony and wheezy and her eyes are weepy. She is not really feral, as she wanted to purr and be petted the first day I had time to try. That was Wednesday, and all night long, like a homework assignment that you didn't finish, a medical test result that you won't know until "later," a job interview that you can't stop obsessing over in advance, she and her fleas and her wheeze were all over my mind.

I don't feel this way when I see homeless people - why?

Occasionally I will be overwrought from an encounter with a child who is attached to a bad-seeming parent, an addicted one or homeless one, outright mean or negligent one. Yet, what, beyond a smile straight to their eyes, can I do?

I haven't found people to follow migratory habits I can track. They come and they go and are transient in the deepest sense of the word. They are flickers in our minds, like the man who was sleeping on the 11th Street sidewalk Tuesday morning - a block from City Hall, the Police Headquarters, people with jobs and court dates and "lives." Unlike a dirty cat at my door, a man completely underneath a blanket, to me, is not approachable.

I don't think I've seen the same "homeless person" twice. Therefore, there is no possibility of a relationship, the thing that comes easily with a desperately friendly cat, the thing that opens the way for you to help out without condescending.

We are taught early on to avoid strangers.

Monday, September 25, 2006

D-town KCK

It's new. . . .more finished now than was in this shot, includes characters.
. . .will be finished soon.

(By "finished," I do not mean tagged up by toys.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006


You can kind-of figure out your credit score based on the number of unsolicited card offers you receive in the mail. Frequency matters, as does the interest rate offered and its duration and associated fee. Usually, there is a fee, something like three percent, "no less than $5 and no more than $150," one of my recent ones read. For paying off one credit card with another equals a cash advance. I consider it refinancing.

Currently, I am nothing like my 70-year-old friend who went against his wife's wishes and purchased thousands of dollars of video recording and computer equipment; he's paying hundreds of dollars a month in interest. A balance transfer would suit him well, and he tells me that's what he's waiting for. My father is also of high debt and 70 years, and he periodically retells me the cautionary tale of how banks are allowed to raise your rate at any time for whatever reason. Yes, I think that man on the AM radio talks about that all the time. Too bad it's not better-packaged and retransmitted in something appealing to the younger people who need such advice.

If I were to preach, I'd say that schools are not teaching consumer finance. Wouldn't you think that managing money would be a priority skill to bestow on your "future?" Please tell me if I'm wrong about today's secondary curriculum, but "when I was in school" (can you hear my bones creak?), we did not learn anything as practical as how to balance a checkbook.

I would have to say that the kind small-town staff at Cloverleaf Bank taught me. Perhaps it was the printed instructions on the book? I am one for picking up things the "regular," academic way. I was lucky to adapt to the presented (forced) model of compulsory education. I also, ring my privleged bell, happened to aviod public schools until the university level, which, of course, is also not free of charge. Part of my father's debt comes from his charging his portion of my tuition.

(It was split with his ex/my mom, the part left after what was covered on an increasing basis by generous scholarships was deducted - merit-based, never upon "need"; somehow the world thinks that loans are an acceptable way to handle higher education. My brother will provide an interesting case study on this in less than a year.)

But just because ones parents did not demonstrate the making of decent investments doesn't mean that one couldn't break such a cycle by learning finance in school. Math class would be more compelling, at least if it offered some of the time, such quantifyable truths as, "if you screw up too much here and don't graduate, you'll likely have a minimum wage job and be considered as living below the poverty level. This is especially true if you want to have children or already do. You literally will not be able to afford them."

Does anyone want to be poor? I don't know, it seems if you put it to them like that they'd get the picture. Do they "get" how much it costs to rent and utilify a stupid apartment?

On a side note, when did the custom of waiting until one had enough money to establish a household before marrying or shacking up or getting serious end? No one plans very well, it seems to me. At least not the people I'm looking at on a daily basis. Remember, I have little access to the world of the $3,000/sq.ft. people.

I used to be a saver. I don't know what happened, probably mostly travel, clothes and travel. Car things. Time off from job months. My seemingly instinctive money-management habits were mostly accidental. I'm sure I remember my mom saying something about the importance of saving. She's still a better manager of money than I am, and certainly she's better than my father at it.

Unlike my old-man friend, my dad chooses to live off his small retirement and some Social Security or something and not get a job. He seems to have a good health plan, despite his bitterness at the feds for failing to increase such things on a cost-of-living basis.

I'd say my own wages don't keep up with my material desires. I always pitch those as quite small. I can't judge myself there; I would need an outside entity and a private discussion. I can say that I am learning to be a saver again. It's been a bitch. I hate dumping carts of cash to past purchases.

I think I've mentioned, however, my crappy car. My health insurance premium went up, and I won't even be able to decipher the "look at your options" pages that they sent in case I wanted a lower monthly payment and crummier coverage without consulting the agent.

Even though my credit is good and the feds did manage to hold interest rates steady once again, I always want more money and always don't want to spend it on a car or anything not investment-like. Cars do nothing but depreciate and suck money from your savings.

Cars necessitate yet more insurance, too. The only "good" thing about that kind, though, is that it goes down as the vehicle ages, unlike health insurance. (Yes, I compared us to vehicles.)

Anyway, you can have the banks stop cruising your credit rating and wasting paper junking up your mail box with things others could potentially steal and use in your name by writing to the three credit-reporting agencies. You also can opt out online.

If you can judge your credit-worthiness by the amount of junk mail you get, you can also start to notice the tellingness of your age by the number of meds lying around the place, no longer confined to the "medicine cabinet."

As president of me, my cabinet includes a number of notable Secretaries of Health. I hate them all and their invasion of my self-government. I'm almost done with my stupid ear-infection killer-pills, and yet I still can't hear half the time due to fluid. I feel like I'm swimming again. I looked up my "anti-nausea" things and it turns out they are actually an antihistamine that can kill you.

Upon further inspection, I noticed that all that junk I bought was generic; those shitty high prices were not for name-brand drugs, and even after my "insurance" did its thing, I still paid out the equivalent of a 100-degree-month electric bill for air conditioning (an apartment; about a Franklin).

Even though I hate their pill butterflies and drug flowers on that commercial, I am almost proud of Wal-Mart's balls-out move to continue to low-ball everyone else on the planet by offering 291 'scripts for only $4. It's funny they're starting in the retirement state with that. Their next market could be Phoenix, I hear.

For some reason, the announcement made its stock fall 17 cents to $48.70. At last trade, it was $48.29. It doesn't seem to move much throughout the year.

Maybe it's this:

In a conference call with reporters, (Bill) Simon (executive vice president of the company's professional services division) said that the generic drugs would not be sold at a loss to entice customers into the stores, a strategy that has been used in Wal-Mart's toy business.

Maybe the business world can't believe Wal-Mart admitted that you can make a profit by selling people their meds for only four bucks.

At any rate, I'm still not going to shop there.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Eighth and Woodland


As a defender of whole foods and wishing to dispell the myth that the contaminated spinach was suffering from intentional organic fertilizer (cow manure), I present this opinion from Nina Planck about what to do to keep leaves we eat free of harmful bacteria.

It seems that our practice to fatten cattle faster (while also making them require medications to deal with the extra gas and troubles of an all-grain diet that is not natural), also has created a monsterous strain of E. coli bacteria:

Where does this particularly virulent strain come from? It’s not found in the intestinal tracts of cattle raised on their natural diet of grass, hay and other fibrous forage. No, O157 thrives in a new — that is, recent in the history of animal diets — biological niche: the unnaturally acidic stomachs of beef and dairy cattle fed on grain, the typical ration on most industrial farms. It’s the infected manure from these grain-fed cattle that contaminates the groundwater and spreads the bacteria to produce, like spinach, growing on neighboring farms.

E. coli O157:H7 survives just fine in our stomachs because it likes acid (like our own E. coli, I guess), but causes abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and sometimes, fatal kidney failure.

Plancks' suggestion is what I've heard from others who are pro-cow and pro-cow-eating, feed the animal what it's supposed to eat — grass.

Of course, it may not be the water.

Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration, is saying it's "way too early" to blame skunky irrigation water, while the veggie-growers work on a new bunch of safety guidelines and whatnot, after 157 or so people got sick, 83 went to the hospital, and a few have died.

I thought it was funny to read these conflicting "rules" for eating greens that may be contaminated, as presented by our local daily:

Q: Can I wash E. coli off spinach?

A: No. To kill the bacteria, you must cook spinach for 15 seconds at 160 degrees, the FDA says, and wash your hands, utensils and cooking surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after.

So why can't you buy spinach anywhere? Because you can't trust people to follow cooking directions, I suppose. I mean, what person gives their two-year-old a spinach smoothie during a "don't eat spinach" lock-down?

The kind that sleeps with a baby (never advised) and allows the baby to fall into a bucket of spew that got there while mom was sick and passing out from too much partying, perhaps?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Stick to rice

Beef (which exists in slab form in the fridge presently) can give you mad cow disease, possibly Alzheimer's/dementia; spinach (which often is in the fridge) can give you a mad e-coli death, lately too. Common denominator may still be cattle. Whole food, raw food, supposedly healthy food is not necessarily clean food, I guess.

Some people, a couple of people, from my neighbor's description, tried to take my car last night or maybe just switch out the plates. They had other plates with them. They parked in our alley in a car very much, if not exactly like, mine.

That explains how they opened the door. . .all those old Japanese cars have the same keys. Unless I left it unlocked, the thing you think every time you get out but are too non-obsessive-compulsive to verify in any way other than an over-the-shoulder glance. It was late, dark/I was tired when I got home.

They got run off, thanks to good neighbors, and left the trunk open. There was jack-squat for them to find. I doubt there was even a quarter or dime in the whole vehicle. They broke my cup-holder, though.

They failed to notice my salvagable hubcaps, and I'm not sure if they noticed the spray paint. Didn't steal the X-acto blades. I'm glad they didn't break any windows.

If they had been successful at driving off, I think I would have found my car very near by later. Gas is already on E, oil is already stinking, car still only accelerates to 20 mph on any incline.

We were watching the NOVA show about how the Twin Towers fell because the floor trusses bowed to the point that the snapped the outer walls. It's a revision of the 2002 NOVA theory that the trusses themselves broke.

A main point seemed to be the dangerous narrowness of staircases and the weak-sauce nature of spray-on fire-proofing unless it is mixed with concrete.

Ergo, stayed up too late.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Constitution/Citizenship Day

September 16 was Independence Day in Mexico, while up north, today is Constitution Day, which used to be Citizenship Day, and is actually being celebrated all week.

In 1787 on this day, the 55 delegates of the Constitutional Congress finally agreed on that oft-misquoted document, our Constitution, and submitted it to the states for ratification.

The Nashua Telegraph sorts it out:

Constitution Day became a holiday in 2004 with the passage of an amendment by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. He inserted the amendment because of the apparent ignorance many Americans display in regard to their nation’s history. Prior to being known as Constitution Day, Sept. 17 was referred to as Citizenship Day. Beyond changing the name of the holiday, the amendment required all schools receiving federal funds to offer educational programming about the Constitution every Sept. 17.

Our current executive branch manager declared the holiday anew, as presidents, governors and mayors are are wont to do, despite recent minterpretation of its delegation of powers:

America is grateful to those who have worked to defend the Constitution and promote its ideals. During this observance, we also recognize the profound impact our Constitution has on the everyday lives of our citizens, and we call upon all Americans to help uphold its values of a free and just society.

If you can't name the rights in the First Amendment or the Amendments in the Bill of Rights or need help with that Preamble you memorized in grade school, Cornell Law School's site is one place to study.

There are a number of other annotated sites out there, and the official Constitution Center's site has downloads, an image of the four-parchment original, and even translations in Spanish, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Simplified Chinese.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This is Snow

Snow belongs to Dusty.

(Yeah, I know.)

I saw them Tuesday, when I was walking. I was still sick, but you can always stop for a neighbor and a dog.

I'm bettering. It's an ear infection (yes, we know that was obvious). What's amazing is to find out how much Flonase, the much-advertised medicine for runny-nose people (who don't know how to use a simple saline wash because that would be "too hippie") costs: $75.

My insurance "bargained" GlaxoSmithKline down to $44.12.

The antibiotic of choice, "Cefuroxime," was also $80 itself, which I got at the bargain rate of $48.99.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In sickness

We don't take vows when we take up a job. No one promises to tax their body beyond what is reasonable in order to receive money for food and shelter and transportation (the latterest of which is only necessary for said job), do they?

It's not like an ailing corporation is going to coddle you when it crashes and burns.

At any rate, I didn't take any such vows. The elements of the employment "contract" are vague. "May be terminated at any time without notice," seems to appear in that fine print at the bottom of every application, though custom and courtesy dictate that if you are the one leaving, you should politely give them a fortnight to adjust.

At the moment, I'm trying to determine why three kinds of decongestants have no pull on what is happening in my head. I can barely hear, but at least unlike last night, I am not crying in "there's an icepick in my ear" pain. I don't think I have had this feeling for 20 years.

Drugs are annoying. Sickness is it's own drug, but the bottom line is a lack of coherent thought.

Yesterday, one of my brakes make a squishing noise when I sat in the car (door open, one ear functioning) and, yeah, that's brake fluid spontaneously coming out, saying, "wow, you're heavy." Call me underadapted for life on this planet, but I am unable to deal with two kinds of clogging/draining/need doctor or mechanic issues at the same time. Especially (sentence fragments rock) when I have to leave town Friday for some work-related thing I could care less about, and it's all because my fellow humans haven't figured out how to transport ourselves around like they do in Star Trek.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Do I spend an inordinate amount of time discussing and photographing insects? They outnumber everything, after all, on the planet.

Is this annoying illness of mine a virus or bacteria, then? Do the flea bites have anything to do with it? Did I really catch it from my living partner? Why was he unfunctional longer? Am I actually pushing myself to some silly worse thing? Has anyone ever threatened you with "walking pneumonia?"

I went to work Saturday. Not Friday. I'll likely go today, as well, trudge up to the Northeast Fall Festival, starting around noon, perhaps, to catch sight of the women making pancakes in the park. It's in Concourse Park, home of the weak fountain and the random-seeming JFK memorial flame.

Anyone hungry for pancakes and pagentry? The business-owning and otherwise leaderly women of Historic Northeast are almost all over 50 years old, and thus they qualify for the International Red Hat Society. A-hem. You see how well someone like myself fits in.

They have a sense of humor, albeit not so funny to me, though the name "Real Ladies of Independence Avenue" does have its ring. There is no doubt, as my Saturday afternoon drive confirmed, that the place is rife with unhealth, some of which is prostitution-related, and I admire anyone who can take that in stride while also working half-heartedly to eradicate it.

The cops do help, I should say. The other night, they did a decoy on the Avenue and made over 40 arrests. Too bad hardly any of those people will serve any time or pay much of a fine. . .judges in Jackson County continue to make it the choicest spot for petty crimes. There are jokes about drug dealers who will meet their Platte or Clay County customers right on the Jackson County state line. Crossing over means risking real time.

But I digress. Forgive me if I seem, well, ill. I am. It's a sinus thing or perhaps avian flu, is making my throat and ears ache and obviously is also inducing me to be awake at this time.

I've eaten these Northeast Red Hat pancakes before, and the city's health department does come about and inspect the process, which is more than I can say for most of the mobile vendor units that crop up like mushrooms around Northeast parks and intersections. The pancakes are good, and I hear that the coffee is from the Roasterie.

Meaning, if you have six bucks and don't mind the scenery of a sleeping-carnival, stop by St. John and Benton (right by St. Anthony's Catholic Church/Cliff Drive/The Kansas City Museum) this morning between 10:30 and 1:30 (for the lazier of us and/or those who are awake at 3 a.m. but have recently taken Tylenol p.m., only getting now the joke that, hey, it's not yesterday anymore).

Speaking of fun and such, the actual festival wraps up today from 3 to 11 p.m. Expect free musical entertainment, kids' stuff like art and goofy little shows, bouncy tent things, aforementioned carnival rides to pay for, as well as people galore, food from places like Knight's Barbecue and Del Porton, Solgado Fruits and some place from up north called the Corn Crib, and even recycling.

I can't predict how the Chiefs home opener outcome may affect the atmosphere.

I will conjecture that my personal atmosphere will be cloudy and have something to do with Sudafed. Yes, I bought some of that again.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ladybugs 11

They are not chatting away at the Ladybug Picnic, this representative group of burned out beetles' shells resting on the round illuminators encircling the Liberty Memorial tower.

September 9, 1997: nine years and counting (on ladybugs).

Saturday, September 02, 2006