Saturday, July 24, 2010

Marking Your Territory

****This post appeared on the blog Fresh Confessions of a Screwed Up Texan yesterday. My first guest post ever. I meant to post it here at the same time; however, the reminder on my calendar didn't work. So, here it is...a day late.****

Hello all you happy people. You’ll just have to imagine the Droopy Dog voice here. If you don’t know who Droopy Dog is, you have my pity for obviously misspending your youth on things other than rotting your brain with the very best animation from the Golden Age of Cartoons. Spongebob ain’t got nothing on Droopy. Or Tom & Jerry. Or Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner. Or…. Google ‘em. Netflix ‘em. Become enlightened. When you can properly identify Michigan J. Frog, you will have achieved…absolutely nothing. But, you will totally ROCK at making strange noises and obscure cartoon references.

Yes, I really do imitate cartoon characters on occasion. No, I am not insane. Yes, my wife, The Queen, is a saint for putting up me and even giving me a courtesy giggle once in a while.

Speaking of my wife, I have volunteered for this guest blogging opportunity to share with you, Allie’s faithful followers, a story about the depth of my affection for the wonderful lady who I refer to as “The Queen”. I call her The Queen because I believe that a wife should be treated as a queen everyday and not just be a “princess for a day” at the wedding. The Queen has no objections to this arrangement and has graciously embraced her royal role.

At any rate, this blog we all read is called “Fresh Confessions of a Screwed Up Texan”. Since, I am, in fact, a screwed up Texan, I have a confession to make. Hi. My name is K., and I am a jealous husband.

I’m not a jealous husband in the Patrick Bergin “Sleeping with the Enemy” mold. And, it’s not that I don’t trust my wife. I most certainly trust her above all other living human beings given the fact that I chose to marry her and all. Besides, my wife is a woman of deep faith and conviction. She would never consider cheating on me because she fears God a whole lot more than she fears anything else. She’s just friendly.

I am a jealous husband because I don’t trust other men. I know men. I am men. Or, at least, I was just like most other men before I met my wife. You see, I know an important truth that escapes most women who are oblivious to the workings of the male mind: Men cannot be “just friends” with women. Even if a man is looking but not touching, he’s wondering about the touching. Single men (and some married ones) hang around women because they are hoping to be dating those women. Even if the woman is already dating (or even married to) someone else, men hang around hoping to “be there to help pick up the pieces” when the woman’s current relationship goes belly up.

The Queen, like most women, is oblivious to this fact. She finds it cute and amusing when some guy compliments her or wants to “be friends”, and I’m just sitting there wondering how many bodies I’m going to have to bury in the back yard.

I’m okay with others worshipping The Queen…respectfully…and from a distance. Really, I am. That is her right as The Queen. I just have a problem with men who lose their minds, simple courtesy and common decency in her presence. It’s embarrassing to her and disrespectful to me.

And it doesn’t help that The Queen knows EVERYONE on the planet. Seriously. She is one of those people who has never met a stranger. Here’s a couple of quick true stories. First, we decided to run (well…walk/jog really) the Turkey Trot in downtown Dallas one year. There are 17,000+ people in City Hall Plaza. The Queen runs into 3 people she went to college with. Next, I had to go to North Carolina or Virginia on a business trip back when we were still just dating. I arrive at DFW airport (which is an area larger than the island of Manhattan) at a little after midnight. I walk off the plane to be greeted by the sight of my future Queen waiting for me at the gate (this is pre-9/11) talking to people she knew from college…that she ran into at the big, freakin’ airport…at MIDNIGHT. This happens everywhere. All the time.

Seeing as how I am supposed to be King and Lord High Protector of The Queen, her familiarity with just about everyone makes my job difficult at times.

For example, every year in the fall our church organization holds a festival where members from congregations from around the world gather together for worship and fellowship. It’s a great time. The Queen grew up in the church and, as you might imagine, was courted and sought after by several men in the church before I came along. I have heard many a story about how so and so took The Queen out to dinner when she was 17 and offered her a ring or how this guy’s mother offered The Queen the house of her choice if she would just marry her son. Some of these guys are STILL single 20+ years later (no real surprise with some), and we still run into some of them at these church festivals. Do you see where this is going?

Yeah, I tend to get a little over protective in these situations. Case in point. One year we attended the church festival out in California where there is a higher than normal concentration of The Queen’s former beaus as that is where The Queen’s family is from, where the church was headquartered, where The Queen went to college, etc. Of course, The Queen has to introduce me to these men who are still interested in her. And I’m remembering all the stories I’ve been told. And I’m trying to NOT to kill them…at a church festival of all places.

As is the way of things at these festivals, the fellowshipping after services usually finds people meandering, mixing and mingling. This particular year, I was speaking with some musicians across the room from The Queen as there was talk of forming a brass sextet (I play trumpet). While engaged in my conversation, I look around the room to see where my wife is to find The Queen speaking with The Boy Whose Mother Offered The Queen a House (said boy is now 50…and still single). TBWMOTQH is closer than I feel is comfortable to The Queen, and The Queen is chatting away oblivious to the fact that TBWMOTQH is staring at her chest.

From this point forward, I am across the room from The Queen continuing my conversation while looking directly at The Queen and TBWMOTQH. Shortly after I began my lurking from afar of The Queen, my wife “just happens” to look my way and give me a little smile and wave. The Queen later told me that she could feel me staring at them from across the room.

She says that it was like I was “peeing on her leg”…from across the room.

So, now, anytime we are in a social situation and I walk up next to The Queen when she is speaking with another man, she tells me I’m peeing on her leg. She says she finds it very comforting to know that I’m protective of her. I’m okay with that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes I Have To Amuse Myself...

Nothing exciting to report today. So, I thought I'd post some photos from the archives.

A black cat crossing your path under a ladder...that's got to be some serious bad luck in someone's mojo book.

If anyone got a strange email from you know why.

Jump. Jump. Jump. Oh, wait. That's The Queen's favorite. I'll save you kitty....maybe.

You never know what you'll find in my desk drawers.

"Okay...what do I do with her now that I've got her pinned down?"

Sweet dreams....

Tiger cub hugs and love.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What ARE They Putting In The Water These Days???

Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes. I present this link to a news article without further comment other than to ask just what the heck does Rocky Mountain spring water do to your brain?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

...And Now For The Dramatic Unveiling

Some of you who have been hanging around for a while or who have way too much time on your hands such that you can read through the archives might remember my little story back in November about my efforts to remodel the bathroom. To refresh your memory or give you a memory you didn't have, the master bathroom at Castle Erickson used to look like this:

The master bath is huge by most standards at about 7 feet wide by 17 feet long. Unfortunately, it only had the dinky corner shower and a lot of wasted space. The long wall on the right has nothing except for the small window left over from the house's prior life as a 1970s vintage ranch style prior to it's complete rebuilding in 2002 after a fire. Why the prior owner kept the little ugly window while in the midst of a complete gutting and redesign of the house I will never know. But he did, and we are stuck with it. I wasn't about to take on the task of removing one window, rebricking, cutting a hole for a new window, etc. I have no doubt that I could accomplish the task. I just don't know how long it would take, and I just don't feel like living with a very large hole in the side of my house for extended periods of time.

I have learned a few things over the course of this shower remodel that I'd like to take a moment to share with you. First, don't count on salvaging anything from the previous shower.

The mess of ugly, broken plastic you are looking at above is what remains of the original shower drain. During the course of demolition, the drain flange took a somewhat accidental whack resulting in a large chunk breaking off. No problem. Nothing super glue won't fix. Then I attempted to take off the bolts holding the flange onto the drain itself to remove the old shower liner. No go. Complete and total fail. One of the bolt heads broke clean off at the flange. Two others wouldn't budge for love or money. One came off after a tense battle. I then attempted to remove the drain from the pipe. Apparently, it can be done...if you have the right tools...and the patience of a saint. I had neither. I wound up destroying the drain and damaging the drain pipe. Oh joy.

This was more or less a blessing in disguise as the existing drain location would have been in an odd location for the shower The Queen and I had designed to replace the dinky corner shower. So, after a call to the psuedo-contractor brother in law and a trip to Home Depot to rent a hammer drill, it was time for...

...cutting holes in the foundation of my house. Here is another lesson learned: Never take advice from your brother in law at face value when it comes to construction matters. Do you see that little black hole in the pipe bend just left of center? Here...let me help you...

That's the hole the hammer drill went through after my BIL assured me...repeatedly I might add...that there was no chance that I would hit the drain pipe with the hammer drill. I have saved that chunk of pipe. I'm going to mount it, bronze it and give it to him as the BIL Memorial Plumbing Advice Award.

Back to Home Depot....for a new section of drain pipe and some elbow bends...

...and some concrete to fill in the big, freakin' hole in my foundation. But, the drain is now more or less centered width-wise in my shower. Oh, one last lesson learned from this chapter: Hammer drills do not go through rebar.

One quick aside here. I bought brand new, heavy duty, all purpose work gloves for this project. They were not heavy duty or all purpose. Period. They didn't last through the demolition part of the project.

One other thing...90 degree cooper pipe elbows aren't really 90 degrees either. Their more like 87 or 85 or 91. It makes plumbing layout a challenge.

So, now the moment you've all been waiting for...

...the new master shower at Castle Erickson. The Queen and I decided on a custom double shower after pricing new jacuzzi tubs and not being able to find one we liked for under $5000. The walls and floor are done in tumble stone tile with black river rock inset.

I am very proud to say that I did all the work myself. And I do mean ALL the work. It's not like I didn't ask for help, but only one person even offered to assist. If any thing breaks, it was those guys, Manuel Labor and Ricky Retardo, I hired that messed it up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Riddle Me This Batman...

**Updated from the Comments**

I need help from you, my loyal readers and followers, to noodle through a question that’s been burning a hole in my brain for a while now. Normally, I try to bring you only fully formed and completely baked brain dribblings; however, this time, I have to bring you something only half baked ‘cause I was a liberal arts major in college and not an economist.

Here’s the basic question: how many unproductive people can an economy support before it collapses under its own weight?

Let me define that term “unproductive” here for a moment since that is the crux of what I want us to discuss here. By “unproductive”, I mean someone whose income is either non-existent or is derived from the taxes paid by those who do not derive their income from taxes.

I’ll give you a moment to let that settle in before hitting you with some numbers.

According to the best information I can find on the internet within the time constraints placed on my life by gainful employment, household tasks and loving my wife, there are approximately 309 million people in the United States right now. The actual number I found was 308.9 million; however, I figured I would round it off to the nearest million for the sake of simplicity. I’m not going to waste time quibbling about how many illegal aliens are in the country right now or whether or not they are included or excluded in that 309 million figure. Take the number for what it’s represented to be – the best information I could find. Births, deaths and border crossings change that figure every single day. Trying to say one number is better than another is a little like trying to pin jello to the wall.

Those 309 million people (more or less…your experience may vary) reportedly produce a gross domestic product (the total amount of goods and services produced by the US economy) of about $14.6 trillion of which the Federal Government takes in about $2.75 trillion in taxes (according to the IRS website’s 2008 figures which were the most recent available) before refunds.

The national debt is somewhere around $13.79 trillion dollars the last time I checked and is growing at a steady rate. To give you an idea of the rate, total US government spending for 2010 is budgeted to be around $3.72 trillion not including off budget spending (like the war in Afghanistan, etc). That makes for a budget deficit of at least $1.0 trillion; however, the government accounting office says it’s more like $1.56 trillion. Is it any wonder that President Obama’s hand selected debt commission warns of a “fiscal cancer”?

That’s not even the really scary part to me.

Now consider for the moment that the Federal Government directly employs approximately 2 million civilians and another 1.4 to 2.4 million military personnel. By the definition I gave above, these people should be considered unproductive as they derive their income to a greater or lesser extent from the taxes paid by the income of others derived from private sources. Yes, they are “employed and pay income taxes”; however, think for a moment about the true impact of the income taxes they pay. When a Federal employee gets a paycheck, he or she is being paid from the taxes paid by income derived from private sources since the government does not, for the most part, produce goods and services on a “for profit” basis. As a result, any “income tax” paid by a Federal employee is a de facto income adjustment since those “taxes” do not add anything new back into the pot.

So, how much does the Federal payroll account for in the budget? I was unable to find any meaningful number to answer that question. So, let’s make an assumption and go from there. Assume for the moment that the average Federal employee earns a salary of $75,000.00 per year not including benefits. Further, let’s use the low end figure of 3.4 million Federal employees. That nets you $255 billion in Federal payroll every year not including benefits. If we add in another $15,000.00 per employee for the alleged average of medical and dental benefits, you need to add another $42.5 billion to the payroll expense.

3.4 million Federal employees may not seem like much compared to the population. That’s a little over 1% of the population. $300 billion doesn’t seem like much when compared to the total budget. That is about 8%.

But what about all those people on Social Security or welfare?

As of 2007, there were about 49.9 million people receiving Social Security. Technically, these people are all on the Federal payroll, too; and, as baby boomers retire, that number is going to climb dramatically. Suddenly, instead of 1% of the population on the Federal payroll, it’s more like 17%. What does that do to payroll’s percentage against revenue?

I’ll let the co-chairman of President Obama’s own debt panel tell you:

The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans -- the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries," [former Republican Senator from Wyoming Alan] Simpson said.

If I’m reading that right, about 17% of the population takes up 100% of Federal revenues. That’s before we get into unemployment benefits or other welfare programs. That’s before we consider the impact of progressive tax policy which allows a significant percentage of the population pay no Federal income tax (some figures say as much as 45%).

None of the above takes into consideration state, county or city employees as it would be too time consuming to research. For instance, the state of Texas employed a little over 300,000 full time employees in 2009. There are 49 other states of varying size to research as well as territories like Puerto Rico and Guam which ding the Federal Budget to some extent. Another facet of the population not addressed here are children. Assume for the moment that half the population is under the minimum employable age. That gets us a total employable workforce of about 154 million. Take out the 53 or so million on the government payroll (including retirees) and that leaves about 100 million of us capable of footing the bill.

How long will it be before China says no more? I’m guessing sooner rather than later.

How long will it be before those people in the economy producing an income from private sources decide they don’t want to play anymore and stop producing? I know I’m sick of it already. God help us all if more than 50% of the population feels the same way.

If the top marginal tax rate is 39%, what is 39% of $0? That would be zero.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. If I am missing something, please let me know.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fourth of July Photos

Yes, I know these are being posted way later than they should be. Okay? I've been busy. Don't give me no grief. Enough with the excuses. Alright already, I'll get on with the picture posty now.

The Queen and I were invited to attend a pops concert and fireworks show at my sister...the devil's church. The Queen declined to attend as public appearances leave her drained, and we really didn't know how long things would last. Pictured above are mom (aka Mimi) and the nieces - my sister...the devil's two kids (Kyria, left and Kaitlyn). It was 90 something degrees outside with a nice, gentle breeze so that it only felt like 90 something minus 1 degrees.

This is the inside of the main sanctuary at my sister...the devil's church. Mom and I had a slight disagreement most of the day about whether or not I had been to this church building before. You see, my sister...the devil's church outgrew their previous accommodations several years ago and decided to spend millions of dollars building a new home complete with a large sanctuary, a chapel and a school. It's a very nice building. One I had never set foot in until July 4TH. Mom insisted that I had been there before for some event for the nieces. I firmly insisted that I had not. I think I would remember this sort of thing, and I'm pretty sure there would have been photographic evidence of such a visit.

This is the first time I've tried to photograph fireworks. It's a lot harder than I thought it would be. Especially with a point and shoot Canon PowerShot. Some of the photos turned out pretty the one above. Some look like someone's Lite Brite set got scattered by a four year missing a Ritalin fix. We won't post those.

I'm pretty sure the City of Plano Fire Department and who ever was hired to do the fireworks were having a serious case of the dirty underwear at this particular moment. There was about a minute or two worth of fireworks that went off at ground level which I am pretty sure was not what they intended.

I thought this photo turned out kinda neat with the reflection on the hood.

Here's one of those fuzzy ones I was telling you about. The only reason I posted this one is because it kinda sorta almost looks like Yoda's juggling a bunch light sabers.

Where's Waldo?

He's been busy. Makin' out with Carmen San Diego behind the dumpster at 7-11 probably.

I apologize for my absence. The Castle has been a madhouse of late, and I haven't had much time to post much of anything. We've had an infestation of niece, nephews and their friends. The Queen has been having a difficult time of it the last few days causing us to whip out the teenager repellent yesterday. The Queen's 93 year old grandma came out of the hospital to the wonder and amazement of all and the addition of hospice and home health care to the insanity around the house.

I'm actually bummed that I haven't been able to write much lately. There's been the MacDonald ruling from the Supreme Court, the Kagan Senate confirmation hearings, the whole mess down in the Gulf and several other topics competing for my attention. There are times when I have no idea what to write about. This time, I don't know which topic to write about FIRST.

I promise to get back to abusing with my wit and wisdom as soon as I can.