Dave's Journal, Nov.2011

jpgScorpio: Oct23 - Nov21 : Reputed to be the "most powerful" sign of the zodiac, Scorpios lead fate filled lives and have intense and dramatic personal relationships. Even as children Scorpios are often found to be wise beyond their years. Many astrologers call this the sign of the "oldest souls". Old and wise beyond the average, Scorpios often know all the answers, except sometimes; they too often have difficulty finding what they need to develop their own happiness. Passion, desire and power go hand in hand for Scorpios.


The Constellation: Over on the right is the constellation Scorpius. Before mousing over it, try to "see" the outline of a scorpion. Then mouse-over to view it. (I guessed it backwards and upside down ! ).

(mouse-overs) = Dave's guess . . . vs . . . . Actual


I have more saws than (_________) . . . I have a saw for every mood, every occasion, every task . . . so today, I bought another one (at Lowe's), that is similar to one that I already own, but the new one is painted green which is more organic looking than the identical one that I have which is red. I unpackaged it, cleaned it (who knows what kind of Chinese germs it brought over with it, huh ?), put a coat of (organic) oil on the blade and set it in the shed right next to the red saw that I already had.

Went back in the house and made myself a one-cup coffee (fair trade, organic, all-profits-to-charity of course) and looked out (from the porch) at all the yard cleanup work ahead of me. Thinking about all of this could have ruined my morning coffee experience except that it was a very strong blend and I added two spoons of raw sugar to it, so who (I ask you) gave a sh#t about the work that lies ahead, huh?

While I drank up the coffee, I imagined calling in teams of low wage people (probably illegal immigrants) to save me the indignity of actually having to clean up my own property by my own self. I thought "Everyone wins . . . they clean my yard for cheap (working lazily for 8 hours and sending the $5 I pay them back home to provide a week's food and medical care for their kids and aging parents) and I get to play Lord of the Manor and complain to them that their work ethic lacks that "passion for excellence" we expect from people we pay $5 a day to do the sh#t work we ourselves would rather die than do.

Then . . . my neighbor Ernest showed up with his chain saw and pickup truck and without even knowing that I saw him (from my chair on the porch sipping down my extra-strong but very pleasant coffee blend), he proceded to chainsaw the massive logs out there from my trees. And I remembered now that I cut him a deal . . . "You cut it, you keep it.", I told him yesterday. So here he was cutting it and keeping it, and here I was, when I heard her voice.

Mom's voice.

"Are you going to sit there and watch him work?"
"Yeh, actually, yeh."

Then the long silence, followed by . . . . "the look".

"Really . . . Are you going to sit there and watch him work?"

I look over to dad, who removes his hearing aids and reaches for the TV remote (I can tell that he is not responding to my call for "backup").

Three or four hours later, Ernest pulls away with his last (for today) load of wood, and I crawl ever so slowly back toward the house, clutching my lower back through frozen gloves, leaving my new saw (and a few other winter implements) lying in the snow, hoping that Deb has left at least 2 Advil in the jar.

At some point in my (ever shortening) life, I am going to write up something about how we all become the people that other people made us.

But, for the day, I thank Ernest for cutting and hauling all this sh#t off my land.

Double Feature Horror Show : Day of the Chain Saw plus Night of The Advil

(I thought of those catchy slasher movie titles just a moment ago, as I tried getting out of this chair.)

The good news today is that the red Japanese maple out front is not as bad as I thought. When I cut away the limbs of the larger maple that fell on it, I re-learned how important it is to be flexible in order to survive. A lot (but not all) of the Japanese maple branches just flexed to the ground (and sprang back when I cut them free ! ! ). There is some loss (20% ? ), but it will be okay.

The bad news is the Norway maple out back. Although only two branches broke away, they both split vertically at the trunk, so I need to cut away everything above the splits. Bad news there, as that tree has been struggling to take hold since we planted it.

Ernest was back today (he is the son of my 101 year old immediate neighbor). Really decent guy. Treated himself to a new chain saw (he has 3 now) just to deal with this storm. He is 71 years old and I've seen him toss a log up into his pickup truck that I could barely roll along the ground. (He used to cut and sell firewood for a living.) He cut tons of stuff today into 18" logs and was about to drive away and I told him if he didn't take those cut logs for himself, I would hire someone to deliver them to his house. Once he got convinced that I am more stubborn than he is, we agreed that those were his logs now.

jpgFamous Me

I made it to the local newspaper's website news. But, do you believe that they are SELLING copies ! This is not a joke. They put this big stamp across the pictures and are selling prints to whomever needs to pay for a picture of me cleaning up leaves ? ?

What silliness !

$8 for one 4X6 print ? ? . . . for my CafePhotos, I buy 8X10 prints over the internet for $3 ! !

What if . . . Chainsaw Dave.

jpg Pruning saws . . . since I complain about everything and everybody, I try to make an effort now and then to gush over something that I like, and this little pruning saw is as sweet as a bees knees.

The blade that I have is 6.5" (folds back into the handle) and slices through twigs and branches in a flash. It cuts through a 1/2" twig with one push and pull. The little devil earned it's keep (and then some) this week.

V, for Vendetta

One of my very favorite movies. A perfect blend of emotion, political revolution and science fiction. I watch it every 5th of November.

V: Evey, do you know what day this is?
Evey: Yes .... November 4th.
V: .......... Not any more.

The 5th of November

Remember, remember the 5th of November.
The "Gunpowder Treason" and plot.
I know of no reason the "Gunpowder Treason" should ever be forgot.

Thanks to my cousin, Ron for sending us Debbie's all time favorite door mat . . .


And, from the New Yorker . . .


A photo of Lexi at Walden Pond

A photo ("poster style") of a fly on a blade of grass: The Fly

The World . . . I don't miss it one bit . . (nor does it miss me !)


It's been a few months now that I have let the world go by, not logging into any of the "news" media sites. I am a much happier person (despite the recent storm and the creaky bones of colder weather). Though, I just dropped into the Christian Science Monitor website (my choice for politically-averaged news), and note that the world does not miss me at all. It doesn't miss my opinion, or my concern for the common welfare of it's people, or my desire to make it better for everyone. It's happily as f#$%%d up as it was when I left.

This takes a great deal of weight off my mind, as I previously thought that I needed to stay informed, educated and concerned about the goings on in the world. Obviously, I was wasting my time. The idiots out there rule these times and they are unstoppable.

Debbie says that I should apply for Andy Rooney's job. (She has a point, I think.)


The evening's excitement begins as follows . . . . I am going upstairs now to turn off the heat under the frying pan that I can smell is burning (what would have been) tonight's dinner.


Stacked wood for an hour. It was laughable; was wearing my back brace/belt and had a cane for bending down (actually, for getting up !), so it proceeded slowly, but the alternative was to not do it and today I couldn't sign up for doing nothing.

Then raked and barreled stuff; then cleaned the shed (that makes 9 times this year !) and emptied and stored (most of) the outside plant pots so they won't crack overwinter. Painted all the tree cuts with shellac (remember shellac ). My mis-perception has been that we moved from using shellac (my Dad's generation used it all the time) to urethane's because (I thought) shellac was "bad for you" and urethanes were safer to use (I was a kid at the time). Turns out that shellac is actually edible ! ! and you and I eat it several times a week, as it is used to coat medicines and food and is perfectly digestible . . . . so, I am won over . . I hate handling toxic sh#t (I let Debbie pump gas into the car, but I insist that she gets my donuts first ! or else uses those handywipes - which now that I think of it probably are more toxic than the gasoline.)

Looked across Doyle Street (while stacking wood) and saw one neighbor catching his breath on a log and another one sitting in a lawn chair watching me. To be honest, of the three of us, I was wearing the most fashionable hat, which, if my brother is reading this, I bought at the Salty Dog Cafe in Hilton Head in (was it?) 2007.


My back is a strange thing. (Not as strange as my personality, true, but the topic of the moment is my back, not me.) There are some movements that I can do as well as anyone; yet there are some movements that I know never to attempt; like bending over and getting back up (or trying to). The doctor says "Take it easy" . . . and I wonder how much he bills Medicare for having given me this jewel of medical wisdom.


For reasons that I am going to skip for the moment, today is a day that I am sorry that I retired from work (in 2007, at the age of 62), because, as I commented to someone, "You are at the mercy of everyone, and you have no options, no bailout procedures, no backup, no fallback position, no escape plan." I could have added "you also have no economic value (there's the death sentence in the USA today) and no social value (except that store clerks can nudge each other and say "He sure is a crazy old guy, don't you think?"), you're "out of the loop", and (in the very worst opinions) "you are a parasitic tax on the working people".

It's hard to express this and not sound like I'm bleeding my special problems on whoever is reading this, or that somehow my "problems" are bigger than other people's problems (they are not) but I am really waking up to facts that I just never thought about when I was younger. I never thought about me being old (62+ is my definition of "old" . . . and also . . . thinking that you're cool to wear a floppy hat is also "old") and I never thought about my generation not ruling the world anymore (which, to be truthful, is probably to the world's great benefit).

I'll back up someday and drop a punchline here, but at the moment, sitting here in my floppy hat, I don't feel as snarky as usual.

Making Black and White Images

I wrote up the process that I use to convert color images to "black and white" images, using The Gimp, and put a "blind page" (no obvious way to get there yet) on my CafePhotos website: http://www.cafephotos.net/Grayscale/Grayscale.html

"Why", you ask. . . . "Because the weather was bad and I felt like making a web page today", I answer.

okay okay, I have a snarky retirement punchline now . . .
"You can't decide when to retire until you know when you're going to die."
(If you decide to work to 70 and die when your'e 69, that's a problem. If you take early retirement at 62 and live beyond 73, you made a mistake.)

jpg Photo Book

I store all my printable 8X10 images on-line at ClarkColorLab, and recently created a book of some of my CafePhotos. The book turned out nice, but the price is (I forgot) near $60; per-picture it is cheap (there are about 30 pictures in it) but still $60 is a chunk of $ for a coffee table book. I did buy 2 copies, probably as Christmas gifts for some luckless people. For myself, I much prefer the "wooden box" approach for my stuff, as I can shuffle them around, throw them out, give them away individually. jpg

Movie Report: Winter's Bone

My rating: excellent. Stark, gritty. Acting and directing are great.

"An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact."

Sounds sentimental, but is far from it. "Dangerous social terrain" is an understatement!

Movie Report: The Blue Angel

I never liked Marlene Deitrich as much as other people have. Too skinny, too sour, too rigid. That's when she was a Hollywood creation. Last night I watched The Blue Angel (1930, German). She was pleasingly "chunky" (by Hollywood standards), flirtatious, sweet and bad. The movie was also better than I expected: more dramatic, almost a stage play. Never intended to watch the whole thing, but I did. Tragic.

Softening (Blurring) Parts of Images

To do something while I drank my coffee this morning, I wrote up a page about how I soften parts of images. It is here: Soft Effects

From the New Yorker

A Very Recent (100% Real) Phone Conversation

This is paraphrased (it was several one hour phone conversations), but on my oath, it is God's honest truth . . .

Social Security Person: Mr. Leo, we are going to cut your Social Security retirement benefits by 20%. And . . we are going to rule that you pay back 20% of all monthly payments you received for the last four years. We clearly agree that this was our error. All the info you provided was correct, verifiable and on-time, and it was our calculations that determined what your monthly payment would be. But . . . we made a mistake, and we want our money back and additionally we are cutting your lifetime benefits 20% beyond this point.

Me: This is some kind of joke, right?

Social Security Person: Mr. Leo, I stay up nights over these issues. I have been trying to get the local offices to be more diligent in their calculation . . . .

Me: This is joke ?

Social Security Person: Unfortunately, no. It's going to happen.

Me: You were the people who did my retirement calculations. I wrote you in 2009 and told you that they were wrong and you were paying me too much, but your people called me and said I was wrong and there was nothing to be concerned about.

Social Security Person: That is all correct, Mr. Leo, but we have had so much turnover in our personell, and . . . .

Me: What does that have to do with me?

Social Security Person: We are not saying that you did something wrong. We accept that it was our mistake . . .

Me: But I retired based on the numbers you guys gave me for my lifetime benefits . . .

Social Security Person: I understand that Mr. Leo, and it was our error, but, there is a law that says . . .

Me: I did not break any law.

Social Security Person: That is correct Mr. Leo, and it was our mistake but you will be getting a letter saying that we will cut your monthly payments by 20%. Beyond that, you may apply for an appeal.

Me: You're joking, right? This was your mistake and you guys enticed me to retire early and . . . I applied for retirement in 2008. You guys made it retroactive to 2007 based on your own ideas, not mine. Now You're saying that decision violated one of your own regulations and I am not entitled to all my payment? You are joking, right ?

Social Security Person: No. No, I'm not. I understand your feelings. I deal with these cases every day, all day long. We try to get our people in the local offices to understand how important . . .

God Bless America, kids.

GE pays no taxes + Congressmen invest in GE more than any other company

Two facts came back to my attention today, from several different sources:

I know, I know, this is mere coincidence.

I'm sure the IRS studied and legitimized every one of the 57,000 pages in GE's tax return to verify that their tax rate was zero (what was yours?).

I'm equally sure that the people in Congress would never tip the legal scales to favor their financial investments.

I'm with the Right Wing people 100% on this topic . . . big (tax-free) business is not the problem with this country . . . rich, business-owned congressmen are not the problem . . . the underlying problems with the US today are the leech people on Social Security (shouldn't they be dead by now?), the war vets getting medical treatments for blown-off arms and legs (maybe they got wounded in barroom fights), and the Mexicans who cross the border every day to take the sh#t low-paying jobs that no American applied for (I really really wanted that Burger King toilet cleaning job that pays $1.78 / hour but the F%^&^% Mexican took it).

How American Businesses Make Huge Profits and Pay No Taxes

I use the term "American Businesses" with a lot of bitterness, as these are people who care about making money, not the long term well being of our country. Here is why I say that . . .

The US tax law for American business says that, if they make money from factories and operations outside the US, they will not be taxed on that income. What this does, of course is to say to "American" businesses . . . . "If you want to make huge profits and pay no US taxes, then you had better shut down your business operations on US soil and move your factories, offices and jobs overseas. If you do that, we will not tax your income."

jpg My opinion is that American businesses that employ (or contract with) non-US citzens anywhere in the world must pay US federal taxes, unemployment insurance and social security tax for each of those non-US persons, to be distributed to US citizens who live, work, retire, and are unemployed on US soil.

The purpose of a business is to make money for it's owners (stock holders); the purpose of a government is to protect the common welfare of its citizens.

And, yes . . . . I will be running for President in 2012.

Cheap and Easy SoftEffects

Making pictures soft before computers . . . we used special filters in front of the lens. Some really shrewd old timers did this: put dabs of shellac on an old clear filter. This makes the overall image sloft jpg(and warm because shellac is amber colored).

Well, I just tried it. No computer effects at all (click the picture):

Not a great image, but the soft effect is (as you expected) nice and warm.

Here's another shot.

Thanksgiving Turkeys


The talk around town is that it will be no big deal when members of the political "supercommittee" announce their deadlock this week (which they will). All the data shows that voters on "both sides of the fence" (a phrase that ignores the 30% of us who are independents and free radicals) want the politicians to compromise, but they won't and they are deadlocked.

Our politicians won't compromise because they are not governed by the will of the people.

You'll have to figure out the rest of the story for yourself (and I challenge you to do that without first choosing which "side of the fence" you are on).

A Very Depressing News Item

This morning's NY Times : Goodbye Golden Years

Interactive Map of Census Data

jpgNote that it is interactive and you can type in a zipcode at the top.


jpg Cleaning the yard, I looked up and saw the flags flowing in a breeze, got a camera and shot them from below. The sky cooperated perfectly, and the Tiffen softfx#2 filter was on the lens at the right time.

"Black Friday" and Cash Flow

From today's CSM . . .

During the Great Recession [of the 1930's], median household income dropped by 3.2 percent, but during the [current] "recovery" it has decreased by 6.7 percent. The recession may technically be over, but Americans' personal financial crises remain all too real . . . Federal data reveal that between October of 2010 and October of 2011, real average weekly earnings fell by almost 2 percent, even as workers collectively put in more hours. The problem is that 70 percent of the economy depends on consumer spending, but 80 percent of families are experiencing declining wages. We aren't suffering from some mass hysteria or lack of confidence; we're broke. . . . Many of these families just don't have the financial stability to handle holiday shopping this year.

A Thanksgiving Poem

'tis the night before T-day, and poetry's flowing.
It's raining outside, but at least it ain't snowing.
Deb's in the kitchen and I'm sitting here,
She's mashing potatoes and I'm drinking beer
(and writing poetic holiday cheer
for readers who'll read this, then snicker, then sneer).

I'm learning, I'm learning to row with the flow,
Of everyday ups and downs, you know.
There ain't no equation, you can't do no math
To solve every problem that's thrown in your path.
But we're mashing potatoes, we're writing some verse,
Life could be a lot lot lot worse.

Pepper Spray, Firehoses and Bullets




It has taken me a few days to kind of absorb the photos of demonstrators being pepper-sprayed by police. In this photo, it is a group of seated students on the UC Davis campus; the photos have gone "viral" on the internet and we Americans are again viewed as a society of intolerant, violent people. We preach peace and tolerance to other people around the world and we criticize other governments for abusing protestors, yet here we are hiring the police to pepper-spray our own kids for protesting the excesses of Wall Street business practices. Why (you may well ask) didn't we hire the police to pepper-spray the Wall Street criminals and their Washington bedmates who turned life in the USA backwards 80 years.

The second photo (1963) shows the police fire-hosing civil rights protestors; the third photo (1970) show National Guardsmen shooting (to death) students on the Kent State campus for protesting the Vietnam War.

The real heroes in these pivotal events of course are those folks with enough courage to get beat up by the police, if that's what it takes to make a better USA. The rest of us will watch it on the internet and TV, hoping it's not one of our kids or grandkids sitting there getting sprayed or hosed or shot dead for complaining about what's wrong with their country.

jpgOn the other hand . . . the good news is that, while the police were pepper-spraying the rabble who complained about the crushing power of Wall Street and the big-money control of our government, happily they (the police) did have enough backup to protect the big banks from whatever eggs and tomatoes someone might throw at the (inch thick laminated plate glass) windows.

Am I mad? Yes, I am . . . I am mad at me for not showing up with a brick.

Or, at least, a rotten tomato. Me . . . always waiting for someone else to take center stage with the moxie needed to make the world better.

I'm mad at me, I am . . . . mad . . .

for not being fire-hosed fighting for other people's civil rights (1960's)

for not being shot by the federal militia for protesting the Vietnam war (1970's)

for not getting pepper-sprayed for protesting the Wall Street war on middle class America (2011)

Romancing the Dream

You might wonder, now and then, why so many (economically) middle class people vote to protect the rights and priviledges of big business and big-money interests, when so often those interests hurt the middle class people who (ironically) protect them. That is a very provocative question.

I think I know why.

Middle class people want to be rich, so they vote to protect the laws that protect the wealth of rich people . . . . laws which, someday, they hope will protect their wealth (when they become rich).

Also . . . middle class, working people get a sense that they are "in the upper classes" if they vote to protect the wealth of the "upper classes". If they voted otherwise (let's say to protect the rights and welfare of the lower econominc classes), they would feel to be part of the "lower classes".

So, middle class people, who live in a society that promises you can upgrade you class standing, are always willing to vote with the upper classes even if it hurts their own living standards.

Thus, we pepper-spray our own kids if they dare to rage against the big money machine. . . . because someday, we hope in our secret hearts, to be a part of it.

The Promise of Wealth

So . . . if you were extremely rich, let's say in the top .001% income bracket in the US today. You still have only one (that's 1) vote to put in the ballot box; true, you have spread lots of $$$$ around Washington to win over the right Congressmen to support your desires, but you still need, let's say 50,000,000 middle-class people from across the country to vote with you even though the item on the ballot will hurt their current lifestyle. For example, a new tax bill is going to raise the taxes of everyone who earns more than $10,000,000 / year while reducing the taxes of people making less than $200,000 / year to cover the difference. How could you convince those 50,000,000 middle income people to vote with you and kill this bill? Easy . . make them think that it is reasonable for them to expect that someday they will be very wealthy. Make them believe that they have a real shot at (someday) hauling in $10,000,000 / year if they play your game; vote with you; protect their future income and (tomorrow morning) vote to raise their own taxes and not to raise yours.

The only way this scheme works in a free democracy (where the very very few very very rich power-people can control the votes of millions of free-voting people) is if you can possibly find a country somewhere with 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 stupid, gullible, working, middle-class morons who actually think that someday they could be rich.

Okay . . . let's do a political joke . . .

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."
The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, "You're in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.
She rolled her eyes and said, "You must be a Republican.
"I am," replied the man. "How did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help to me."
The man smiled and responded, "You must be an Obama-Democrat."
"I am," replied the balloonist. "How did you know?"
"Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are -- or where you are going. You've risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You're in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it's my fault."

They Still Don't Get It

This is the title of an article in today's Washington Post, written by some Democrats on the failed "supercommittee":
The supercommittee failed because Republicans refused to compromise

This is the title of an article in today's Washington Post, written by some Republicans on the failed "supercommittee":
The supercommittee failed because Democrats insisted on $1 trillion in new taxes

So, (you guessed it, I'm sure) it's time for an "Alfred" . . .

The Alfred Award
Notable Achievements in Stupidity
Goes to . . .


The Congress of The United States
[Autumn, 2011]


jpgThe New Yorker on Immigration

Arguably the best magazine in terms of written excellence, the New Yorker does a fabulous job without words as well. Here is their (cover page) commentary on "illegal immigrants"

Making Pictures

I struggle with making my "next picture". Long ago, I got bored sick with making pretty pictures of pretty things, so making my next picture raises the almost unanswerable questions . . . "what should it be a picture of?" . . . and much more importantly . . ."what should it look like? . . . how should it feel? "

My personal favorite pictures are not what people want to hang in their parlors above the sofa. Actually, even I wouldn't hang my "best" stuff in our parlor above the sofa !

I bring this up because today I had the vision of my next picture, and I am 100% certain it will never hang on anyone's parlor wall.


page written by Dave Leo