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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aw, shoot.

This sucks

Nearly broke. Anyone out there have any work for me? I'm trying not to panic...

This sucks too

The Packers lost. Again. No matter what the outcome of the Vikings-Bears game tonight, the Pack is guaranteed to be in third place in the NFC North. Oh well, at least I'm not a Lions fan. They must really be hurting again this season.

This didn't suck

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Spent Turkey Day at Dagmar's mother's house -- a wonderful meal indeed! I have to admit, stereotypes were met last Thursday. After the meal it took me about twelve seconds to fall asleep in front of the TV while Dagmar and her mama did the dishes... I felt kinda bad about that. Not bad enough to get up and help, mind you, but I did feel at least a little bad.

Saturday we went to the family farm. Zoey-dog got to run free, a little. (A herd of deer walked past the window while the dog was inside. She about went nuts, running from one window to the next, watching the deer, barking her fool head off... After that we didn't let her off her leash for very long -- if she were to see a deer or squirrel or something it'd be a merry chase indeed for us to find our pooch.) The family was there, no bloodshed, lots of laughs. Another fantastic meal!

Saturday evening we went to the Legion Club in town where they were having a steak fry, then a fundraiser to raise funds to help buy clothing for veterans in need. Dagmar and I discovered that we are, indeed, old enough to play Bingo now. We're young enough to feel a little silly about it, but we played Bingo nonetheless. We didn't win anything, but it was for a good cause... (If I'm gonna be a loser, at least I wanna be a loser with a cause, I guess.) It was fun to see our friends!

We have a lot to be thankful for. If it weren't for financial woes I'd be giddy with glee -- I have a good family, a vunderful vife, a cat who sleeps on my feet, a dog who knows how to be happy, I'm not bound to a timeclock by a scowly boss, my friends seem genuinely happy to see me (most of the time), I'm learning new skills.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Random Rant

Rant... (Note: I started writing this a week ago, but ran out of time. Hence the untimeliness.)

I hear the auto industry is in trouble. They don't know why. I can tell you, and I won't even ask for an eleven-gazillion dollar bonus... They're not making the cars we want at a price we can afford.

I'll say it again using most of the same words in a slightly different order.

They're not making the cars we want. And we can't afford the ones they are making.

It's that simple. Really.

Did they mismanage their companies? Sure! (A congressman wryly noted "It's strange to see you guys get out of a private luxury jet to come to stand in front of us and beg for money.") This might be the one and only time you'll hear me say this, but paying the AVERAGE worker at an auto plant $74 an hour may be part of the problem. I have a college degree and 20 years experience in my field and I only made $15 an hour -- and that was in a union shop. I'm happy the workers were getting such a high wage! Don't get me wrong, I'm on their side, but the wages do seem to be out of line with the rest of the economy... Is there any wonder that us $10-15 per hour people buy Toyotas?

MAKE A CHEAP ELECTRIC CAR! You'll make billions. I know, I know, they say it can't be done with current technology. ("Current" technology. Get it? Oh, I'm positive you do. And don't get all negative on me now...) But we never will develop the technology unless someone gets off their duff and starts working on it! Go ahead, make a small, comfortable electric car that only goes 50 miles on a charge. If it's affordable, people who only drive 50 miles in a day will buy it!

So lets go ahead and give the auto makers all our money (or at least all we have left after the oil companies, banks, and insurance companies have had their share), but let's put a caveat on the dough. Okay, CEOs, you bozos ran your companies into the ground, you're fired. No bonuses, and no you can't keep your jets. You did a BAD job and should not be rewarded by either the government or your shareholders. Same with whatever structure you have in place running the companies. Get rid of 'em, hire some people from Toyota or Honda to come in and teach us how to do what we taught THEM to do 50 years ago...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Warning: Whining Ahead

I just have one question:

Just how many hours a day do I have to work before I break even?

It seems that no matter how hard I work or what promises people make I just can't get any money in the bank. I just don't know how to get any more hours in the day. I generally work from 4 a.m. to about 8 at night (with a break for lunch), but after the monthly bills there just isn't any money left over. Maybe it's time for me to raise my rates a little? (Or maybe I should quit giving everyone breaks on their bill. I have a hard time asking for money.)

Ah well. We still have the house, a car, a bike, a dog and a cat, and I don't have a boss.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'm still smiling

This one damn near made me cry for some reason (in a good way)...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day

Hi everyone.

We all celebrate Veterans Day in different ways. Some of us work, taking time out to pause for reflection during the day, thinking about all the men and women we know that served. Some get the day off to watch the tributes on television in and amongst our "day off" chores. Some veterans are, unfortunately, too busy finding money for food and shelter to pay much attention to this particular day.

Yesterday I swung by a local hotel where they were taking donations for a "shoe drive" for veterans, collecting shoes, clothing, blankets for veterans and their families. I had thought that they were simply collecting the items, so I was a bit surprised to see the parking lot full when I stopped in to drop off my donation. "How many people can be here at once?" I wondered to myself. "Why is everyone dropping off their donations at the same time?" When I went inside, however, my questions were answered. There were entire families there, going through the clothing, finding what they needed. They weren't donating, they were accepting. One man walked past clutching his framed Honorable Discharge in one hand as proof of his service, asking if there were any shoes left. A quick glance down showed a pair of battered tennis shoes the only barrier between his toes and the snow outside. A 25-year-old man with a 45-year-old face led three children down the hall, saying "We'll see, honey. I hope they have a coat for you..." He wore a camouflage jacket with one simple decoration pinned on his collar -- the red-black-gold-black-red of the Iraq campaign. "Maybe even some shoes for your brother, too."

Veterans Day wasn't always Veterans Day. It started out as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of WWI, the war to end all wars. It was meant to be celebrated at the time peace rang out over Europe and America -- the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was when the peace agreement was signed. We're steadily approaching the centennial anniversary of the event -- 2018 will be the 100th anniversary of peace. That's not so long away in the scheme of things. Veterans Day was a celebration of peace until the mid 1950s, when it changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day and took on a slightly somber meaning. In addition to remembering the victory of WWI and the bravery of America's veterans, many people started remembering veterans past. Today Veterans Day is largely a thing that's noticed on the morning news, mentioned somberly by the radio personality between songs... Oft confused for Memorial Day by most people, forgotten November 12th.

But it means something to us -- we who are aware of what it means to "raise your right hand and repeat after me..." We who remember that to raise your right hand in oath means that you agree to give our nation any amount of... of whatever we can give... from now until our time is up, one way or the other. We who remember our fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles that went before us and showed us how it's supposed to be done, who taught us what it means to put the flag out every morning. We who remember those who came back, and those who didn't.

This was written nearly a hundred years ago about a battleground: In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row, that mark our place; and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly -- scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead. Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe: to you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Friday, November 07, 2008

What the...

Shoulda seen it coming...

I ordered some business cards online today. "Get 250 Full Color Business Cards FREE" the ad said. I've ordered from this company before so I'm well aware that their definition of "free" is usually "$25.95" but they're still cheaper than anywhere else... So I log onto their site and reorder 500 business cards ("For Just $2.99!") and continued on to the checkout. By the time I had opted to have them printed on gloss cardstock rather than toilet paper, added in shipping and whatnot, the final bill for my $2.99 cards was just under $30.

This is all fine and dandy. Like I said, that's the way this company works, and I was expecting it. What I wasn't expecting, however, was to see a very small sentence on my bill, right under "Shipping and Handling," where they added a fifty-cent "Fuel Surcharge."

Isn't "Fuel Surcharge" part of "Shipping and Handling?" And how can it cost nearly $20 in shipping and handling to mail me a package the size of, oh, a square coffee mug via United States Postal Service? I know that's how this company makes their money, but still... "Fuel Surcharge?" Aw, c'mon. Just add it into S/H and be done with it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

All is quiet...


I've been horribly tired the last few weeks. Not much sleepy-time... Last night I at some yummy organic brown rice cooked in low-fat low-sodium mushroom soup with a handful of organic mushrooms tossed in. Within minutes of finishing up with the licking of the bowl portion of the meal I was slumped over on the couch, happily snoring away, my hand in the popcorn bowl.

I woke up a little later, just a bit, when the cat jumped on me and settled in on my legs. Sometime after that I opened one eye and grunted when my beloved bride, Dagmar, shook me gently and asked, "Are you okay? You're snorking und making funny noises." She took the popcorn bowl off my tummy and put it on the coffee table.

At one point in my snoozy delirium I could swear I looked over and saw Dagmar sleeping with Zoey-Dog on Zoey's little doggy-bed. We don't let Zoey up on the couch or on the bed, so I guess if you're gonna hug the dog you gotta get down on her level... So I'm on the couch with a cat in my lap while my wife's on the floor down by my feet with a doggie. It's nice to have a family.

Today I'm working at home. The cat is napping on the couch behind me. The dog is snoozing at my feet. Things are so calm and happy... I really, REALLY don't miss going in to work at the print shop every day where I'd sit at a desk with a space heater blowing on my feet, listening to a printing press whackity-whackity-whacking away, always trying to gauge my boss' moods.

Back to Normal, Whatever That Is

The elections are over. I'm VERY happy to be done with all the commercials, the negativity, the constant tension... I'm happy I can write about stuff in my blog that won't upset half my friends. I'm happy I can get back to being friends with my friends again. I'm sad, though, that in my last post I wrote, "America regained a bit of pride tonight. For the first time in years I feel hopeful about the future!" only to get an e-mail from a friend who's upset that I said that. He wondered why I wasn't proud of America when so many are proud of America and so many have fought for America, etc.

If you read what I said, there's nothing about MY pride or patriotism in that statement -- rather I said that America as a nation has regained a bit of pride. I can be proud of America while still noting that there are periods in American history where we faltered a bit. It's similar to being proud of your child even though the kid just got a "D" in math class. I'm proud of America, and I'm proud to be an American, but we've gone through a spell of mistrust, racism and bigotry that I'm not proud of. On Tuesday America regained a little pride when we took the first steps in a long time to ease those tensions.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to being able to write stuff here that doesn't upset anyone any more. It's not worth having opinions or values if you don't state them and stand by them, but I'm ready for a break.

Tomorrow I shall write a blog that won't mean anything to anyone, and I'll be happy about it.

Siouxland Sleep Out

The Siouxland Sleep Out is scheduled for tomorrow. Monday it was 80 degrees, but the forecast for tomorrow is 25-30 degrees, 35 mph winds, and snow. There are blizzard warnings just to the west of us. A grand day to sleep out in the park.

Sadly, my band was scheduled to play the event, but there's no way we can play outdoors in such icky conditions and keep our (mostly borrowed) equipment dry, so we're most likely going to cancel. We just can't justify risking thousands of dollars of (mostly borrowed) equipment to play in the snow.

We're still taking donations, though! Just go to www.siouxlandsleepout.com and PayPal us if you want.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Yes we can!

America regained a bit of pride tonight. For the first time in years I feel hopeful about the future!

Senator John McCain gave a VERY needed speech tonight, gracious, eloquent, and well-delivered, saying how the nation needs to come together, to heal, under President Barack Obama.

I cried several times tonight.

Sadly, Republican and fairly open racist Steve King was re-elected to congress over Vietnam veteran and retired minister Rob Hubler. I had hoped for change. But I have hope.

Yes. Yes we can.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It's the American Way

A couple years ago my beloved bride Dagmar (born in Vienna, raised in Innsbruck -- a vunderful accent she has!) bundled up in her heaviest coat, grabbed her sleeping bag, and headed for the door.

"Where are YOU going?" I asked. "It's the middle of November... You're not thinking of sleeping in the yard, are you?"

"No, I'm going to the Siouxland Sleepout." She paused to zip up her coat. "Ve take pledges and then go sleep in the park. Den ve give the money to homeless programs in town." And off she went. The next morning she was home at 8 a.m. -- "It was vunderful!" she said. "Ve raised tens of thousands of dollars!"

The next year, after watching the homeless population in Sioux City struggle, I decided to help out with the Sleepout. I've been hooked ever since! We took donations, then Dagmar and I went to the local semi-pro baseball team's home field, gave them our moolah, had hot chocolate, listened to a little band play for a while, sat around the campfire, set up our tent (a lot of people sleep in cardboard boxes to truly get the feeling of homelessness), and eventually snoozed...

Surprisingly, there are more homeless in Sioux City than one would think! And the problem is that most people, when they think of the homeless, tend to think of the 50-year-old alcoholic sitting on the corner with his hat pulled over his ears, battered backpack next to him... But the reality is that there are a TON of homeless women and children in the area -- you just don't see them standing around on the street. Veterans, especially those who have struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, have always comprised a good proportion of the homeless population, and now with the Iraq/Afghanistan wars going into their sixth year (is that right? Wow!) we're seeing a younger population of homeless veterans.

This year the Sleepout is scheduled for this coming Friday. The last week it's been unseasonably warm, but Friday is supposed to have a high in the upper 30's with rain and snow in the forecast -- it should be a learning experience for us!

If anyone wants to contribute or donate to the cause, any amount would be greatly appreciated! You can donate in any number of ways -- you can simply e-mail me (chris at hippieboydesign.com) to find out where to send a check or how to donate in person, or you can donate online if you prefer. I'm part of the American Legion Riders team -- you can donate in our name at http://www.siouxlandsleepout.com/team_alr.html or you can go to www.siouxlandsleepout.com and make a general donation -- either way is fine!

The money raised all stays local here in the Sioux City area, and it all goes towards helping the homeless.

Thank you for your attention, again, www.siouxlandsleepout.com

Sunday, November 02, 2008

For Western Iowans Only

Our Congressional Race

Hi everyone...

With the election just a few days away, I'm sure y'all have pretty much made up your minds about the presidential race, but I'd really like you to take a peek at our congressional race here in the Fifth District. I've been paying a lot of attention to Rob Hubler's campaign against incumbent Steve King (R), and the differences between the two of them are stark.


Rob Hubler
Rob Hubler joined the United States Navy in 1962, a year after graduating from high school in Council Bluffs. He graduated from both the Nuclear Power School and New London Submarine School while in the Navy and worked as a Nuclear Plant Operator. He received the Good Conduct Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal before receiving an honorable discharge in 1969.

A civilian again, Mr. Hubler returned to Iowa and enrolled at Parsons College in Fairfield. He was editor of the student newspaper and graduated with honors in 1971. That same year the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce named him their Man of the Year.

Throughout the 70s and 80s Mr. Hubler worked for various political campaigns, learning the ins and outs of the political process.

In 1989 he followed his father's footsteps into the ministry by enrolling at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. After graduation he was minister of congregations in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and California.

In 2000 Mr. Hubler retired from the ministry to care for his ailing father in California. He was also a caregiver for an aunt in a nearby town who was suffering from leukemia. At that time Mr. Hubler was an instructor for severely disabled children at the Training Education and Research Institute. After his father and aunt passed away Mr. Hubler continued to teach at the Institute for several years before returning home to Iowa in 2006. He challenges incumbent Steve King.

Steve King
Congressman Steve King attended college in Missouri, dropping out in 1970. In 1975 he founded King Construction, an earthmoving company. In 1996 he was elected to the state legislature and served one term as a state senator.

In 2002 Iowa went through a redistricting, which led to a four-way race in the Republican primaries for the United States House of Representatives for this district. Mr. King won with 30% of the vote, well under the 35% needed by Iowa law to continue his race. A nominating convention was convened. Mr. King won on the fourth ballot.

In the six years Mr. King has represented economically depressed western Iowa, he has only gotten one resolution passed, recognizing that Christmas is an important holiday for Christians. That's all.


Congressional Pay:
In the last six years Congressman King has voted to increase his own pay six times. He now earns nearly $170,000, almost $15,000 more than he did when taking office. According to Simply Hired, that puts Mr. King in the top 1% of the rich in his hometown of Storm Lake, IA, where the average male earns $27,321 working full-time and the average female earns $20,869.

Mr. Hubler, conversely, has vowed never to vote for a pay increase for himself if elected, and if given a pay raise he promised to give the money to charity.

Veterans' Issues
Congressman King has had numerous opportunities to show his support for the troops, and has largely failed. He voted against expanding the military's TRICARE program to Reservists and Guardsmen, thus denying tens of thousands of our troops insurance, while also voting to give United States President George Walker Bush enhanced rights to send yet more troops to Iraq. Mr. King also voted against giving a $1,500 bonus to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did vote for the New GI Bill -- after voting against it twice previously.

Mr. King also stated recently that foreign-born spouses of military personnel should be denied U.S. citizenship should the soldier die. "A soldier, man or woman, could get drunk in Bangkok, wake up in the morning and be married, as will happen sometimes in places like Las Vegas or Bangkok, be killed the next day, and the spouse who was a product of the evening's celebration would have then a right to claim access to come to the United States on a green card." This prompted a former president of the Reserve Officers Association of Iowa to say: "What a cheap, venal thing to do -- to paint the widow or widower of a military service member as a slut from the street. But that is beside the point. This is a man [Steve King] with very little honor. He wraps himself in the flag at every opportunity, and yet has chosen to malign the loved ones of deceased service members. Steve - why don't you just make these widows and widowers give back the flag that was draped on the coffin while you are at it? That would be another one for you to wrap yourself in."

Another example of Mr. King's failure to support the troops happened right here in Iowa. A bipartisan group of Iowa lawmakers drafted a letter saying that the National Guard should be represented on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thus ensuring that our Guardsmen and women would have a voice on the national level. Mr. King was the only lawmaker that failed to sign the letter.

It seems to me that Mr. King might have a yellow ribbon on his SUV, but his votes and statements prove that he has little respect for our men and women who have given so much to our country.

Mr. Hubler, on the other hand, spent seven years in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and understands the sacrifices our servicemen and women have made. He has repeatedly stated that he would support measures to help our soldiers and veterans get the assistance they need.

Health Care
In 2007 Senator Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa put together a bipartisan effort to increase the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by 25,000 children. Congressman Steve King was the only member of the delegation to vote against the bill -- thus denying 9,000 children here in the Fifth District health insurance. His rationale? According to the Dubuque Herald:
'"Any bill that allows American taxpayers to pay for services to illegal aliens has to be stopped,' King proclaimed. Apparently, King's concern is that checking a recipient's Social Security number is part of the process for them being accepted into the program. And since undocumented workers might have phony numbers, he contends SCHIP is designed to provide services for illegal aliens. Never mind that Americans routinely use Social Security numbers to identify themselves.”

In other words, Mr. King would deny health care to 9,000 children in his own district on the fear that ONE child of an illegal immigrant might benefit.

Mr. Hubler, disagreeing with Mr. King's vote, sent a letter to Mr. King inviting him to debate on the subject. Mr. King declined to debate.

Open Government
I watched Mr. King speak at a rally this fall. I noticed that he only answered questions from people who were holding identical-looking pieces of paper. It turned out that Mr. King and his staff had given prepared questions to a few people in the audience -- questions Mr. King had answers to. If a person didn't have a piece of paper, Mr. King didn't call on them, as that person might ask a question he couldn't handle.

That same day I saw Mr. Hubler spend half an hour talking to a small group of students on the sidewalk, explaining the issues, taking care to explain his position, answering questions -- even though the students were too young to vote. He then spoke with a group of people having a picnic. It was obvious that unlike Mr King, Mr. Hubler had nothing to hide; he answered every question asked that day openly and honestly.

Mr. Hubler as repeatedly asked Mr. King to debate him on the issues. Mr. King has denied every request, refusing to engage in an open debate with his opponent. This has led to occasional sightings of people dressed in chicken suits holding signs saying "Real Men Debate," and causes a lot of people to wonder just what Mr. King is hiding.

An Open-Ended Conclusion
I could go on for quite a while on the issues, but I'll simply say that Mr. King does NOT reflect my value system when he votes against sending aid to victims of the Katrina disaster, or when he votes against funding levees in here in Iowa that could have prevented the flood damage that happened earlier this year. When Mr. King votes to give big oil companies tax breaks while they make record profits it breaks my heart a little -- especially as some parts of the 5th District have 20% of the population living under the poverty line. When I hear that we're paying over $1,200 a month to lease a brand-new SUV for Mr. King to drive, it upsets me.

In his six years in Congress, Mr. King has accomplished very little -- and absolutely nothing that affects or benefits me, my family, or my friends here in Sioux City.

Mr. Hubler is a college educated veteran, an ordained minister, and worked with severely disabled children. Mr. King pushed dirt around with a bulldozer.

Mr. Hubler has vowed to refuse any pay raises, while Mr. King has voted six times in six years to increase his own pay.

Mr. Hubler is a veteran who has promised to support veterans' rights. Mr. King has repeatedly voted against supporting our troops.

Mr. Hubler supports expanding health care for children, while Mr. King actually voted against helping children.

I'm asking you to please consider taking a close look at Mr. King, and consider a vote for Mr. Rob Hubler on Tuesday. Please.

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