Wednesday, October 29, 2008

To Vote or Not To Vote?

That should not be the question.

Even if you can't stand either of the two media appointed contenders for President, you should still go out and vote. Make up your own rules. Vote for the people with the longest names (at least they have to work that much harder to sign any stupid laws or corporate giveaways). I once went and decided I would vote for all women. Of course, when men were the only choices, then I had to vote for the one with the most feminine sounding name. When that didn't work, I'd go back to the one with the longest name.

I wish they would put stuff like sexual orientation and handedness on the ballot. It would make it even more fun. I could vote for all of the left handed gay politicians!

Heck even birth dates would make it more fun. I could vote for all the left handed gay Aquarians!

Every time I've gone to vote, there is always at least one choice that I don't know anything about. I wish they would have Internet connections at the voting booths so I could do some last minute research. I usually take some dice with me. 1-2 I vote for this one, 3-4 I vote for this one, 5-6 I vote for this one. The people watching the booths normally don't bother me and I try to roll the dice quietly.

When are they going to have online voting? You go to town hall at the end of September and show that you are registered to vote and are handed a randomly assigned Internet voting card. You login with your card, change your password and cast your votes. Anytime up to November 4th you can view or change your votes using your login card and password. I'd go for that. Maybe I can talk the government into giving me $700,000,000,000 to implement it. Heck, I'd do it for 1% of that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Carnival Cruise: Embarkation

The Embarkation has to be the worst part of the cruise. You arrive at the terminal and you have two options. Check your bags or carry your bags.

The parking attendant dude told me that if my bags had rollers I would probably be happier taking care of them myself rather than checking them in. I still haven't decided whether or not he was wrong or right, but we decided to skip the check-in process and just roll our two big suitcases and one small suitcase.

We parked and approached the terminal. There is no one there with any instructions. Lots of old folks milling around looking rather lost. We joined that crowd. We milled around for several minutes while we heatedly discussed what to do with our bags. My wife was of the opinion that we should now check them in. We avoided the line of cars going to the check in counter because we can check them in ourselves or something. I think my stubbornness and the milling around with the old people finally wore her down so we finally go in "the line" with all our luggage in tow.

There is this huge building with probably 4 double glass doors leading in, but everyone is lined up behind one of the doors. There are no instructions. I guess they assume everyone has done it before. Or perhaps they line up the first 20 folks and assume everyone else has the Lemming mentality. I chose to behave like a lemming, but I was not the first. By the time we joined the masses, the line was already out to the curb and wrapping back in on itself.

Luckily some friendly vacationing school teachers got in line behind us and they were a hoot. They started complaining that my wife and I were doing too much kissing so I told them that she couldn't help it. This resulted in one lady heading back and running the circuit with all of her friends to tell them what I'd said. Pretty soon I felt like a stand-up lemming comedian. It was funny and uncomfortable all at the same time.

I lost track of time with all the giggling, but I feel that we stood in line for a very long time although not as long as we waited to get her passport stamped. Eventually we made it inside the building. Inside the building they have one of these roped off areas that allows the line to snake around 10 or 12 times before coming to security. I was, in a heartbeat, elated and broken. I was out of the Texas sun and into the building and the building was just another line.

Finally, we arrived at the security checkpoint and were able to prove we had nothing that they were looking for. And, for the curious, my wife's passport stood up to the initial onslaught of inspections.

We left the security line with all our luggage and were ushered into another room with another line. We were told to sit down because the line was too long. So, we sat... In plastic seats... I hate sitting in plastic seats. They make my... well, nevermind.

From my new vantage point I could see that this room had, in fact, two lines. We sat in our plastic seats for a bit. I don't think it could have been more than 30 minutes although my butt was numbing by the time I got up. They corralled us into another line and handed us a boarding number. I'm still not really sure what the number was for except maybe a safety device created to keep people from cutting in line. Darn 5 year olds.

The line finally evolved into a "checkout" type line sometimes used as some electronics chains. With one lady at the front telling each party which counter to approach. We were told which counter to go to and made our way to the counter. I had already entered all of our information online the day before and the guy at the counter was appreciative of our due diligence. He was the first person to pause at my wife's temporary passport, but he still let us go along with our "FunPass" cards. Later I'd learn these should be called, "Forget you are spending your actual money" cards. He gave us instructions on how to get on the ship. "Go this way and turn left" kind of deal.

This is the second line in the same room. It's not actually the line to get on the ship. It's the line to get your "first" picture made. Out of the crew of 900 on board the Ecstacy I suspect that 850 of them had cameras. This is the crew, not the passengers.

So, after the fast photo sessions (at least they were efficient). We were ushered up esculators to another line. I can now see the ship and this new line seems to be getting onboard so I am assuming this is the last line. It's another long one.

At the end of this line, you are on the ship and there are two crewmembers there taking pictures and scanning the Funpasses. It looks to me that they are assiging images to cards for future reference and to prove that no two lemmings are identical.

We are finally onboard. Yay!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Increase Taxes! Make People Happy!

Today in one of my many delirious random pondering episodes (I'm going to patent that), I came up with a wonderful plan to make people happy, make people spend more money, and increase income taxes.

It needs more research before it can be implemented.  I'm hoping the next President reads my blog.

For the sake of simplicity let's say that the current tax rate per American is 25%.  I know it's variable based on your income, but I am making things simple.  It's why I will never be a politician.  Things that are unnecessarily complicated fundamentally bug me.

So, my proposal is that every working American gets an instant 50,000 deduction.  That means that the first $50,000 you earn is tax free.  Furthermore, people with dependants get an additional $10,000 per dependant.  Thus, a married couple with 4 kids could earn up to $140,000 without being taxed for their income!

This should serve several purposes.  First, it would encourage people to get jobs (even low paying jobs).  The government could safely lower the minimum wage (a law I don't agree with anyway, but that's a seperate argument).  I mean if you are going to state that the minimum wage is $10 per hour, but your tax rate is 25%, you are actually creating a minimum wage of $7.50 per hour.  Someone making $10 per hour will never clear $50k per year so they'll never pay taxes.

People won't have their incomes taxed so they'll buy more and pay more sales tax.  They'll have more money to afford their mortages and buy bigger home that are less likely to be foreclosed.  Bigger homes pay more property tax.  You'll be giving more money to local governments at the expense of the giant federal government.

But, I'd also increase the income tax rate for other incomes.  At least until the government can get their wreckless spending under control.  So, instead of 25% taxes for up to 50k, let's increase it to 35%.  Everything you make over 50k is taxed at 10% higher than before.  You still get the first $50k for free.  If you are married and filing jointly you get the first $100k for free.

I have to go research this some more!  Please feel free to point out the errors in my logic.  There are always error in my logic.

Carnival Cruises Preface

Sorry I've been gone for so long.  I hope you all missed me.  I have been on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico since last we talked.  

I don't know why I titled this Preface.  I almost never come through on my multi-part series.  But, rather than give details, I will describe my cruising experience in general terms.  Sometime I might put more detail.  Mostly when I decide that the people I want to talk about have quit reading :).

Normally, after a vacation, I'm ready to be home.  I miss my bed.  I miss my house.  I just miss normalcy.

When I left the Carnival Cruise ship, I was rather sad.  Today, I miss the folks that I met on board.  There were lots of really entertaining, friendly people.  There were also some really entertaining, not so friendly people, but entertainment is entertainment.

I think you have to be in the right attitude to enjoy a cruise.  I didn't have the right attitude the first couple of days, but it grew on me.  It's the first time since probably 1980 that I went for an entire week without touching or thinking about a computer.  They had computers on board to check your emails and stuff, but I never touched one (honest).

I normally woke up around 10 and started drinking at lunch.  You never really drink enough to get drunk.  Well, most people don't.  It's just a casual thing.  They have stuff going on all day long so you just wander around until something strikes your fancy.  It probably helps to be a people person.  If you are interested in nature's scenery then the endless blue ocean might get rather dull although I did spend a lot of time watching the ocean and feeling insignificant.

I liked Progresso better then Cozumel which is different than what most people say.  I Cozumel is a well-polished tourist trap.  Progresso is not so polished so the people there still have a genuine quality.  I like that.

I also like that you can sit on the beach drinking good Mexican beer, margaritas or straight tequila and a stream of people walk by trying to sell you their wares.  It's like shopping with the wife at the mall without having to get up.  My wife was irritated because they kept trying to sell her stuff.  I found it immensely relaxing since I wasn't being drug from one store to the next in search of the perfect pair of shoes.  I figured if we stayed there long enough, the perfect pair of shoes might eventually arrive at our table on the beach.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fat Commercials

I know a fellow blogger who doesn't understand fat people.  He blogs about them obsessively.  I saw this commercial on TV today.  It made me giggle.  I don't advise the product.  Sex might be good exercise though.  And eating right is always good for you.  Even if it makes your boobs smaller.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Immigrants, USCIS, and Plastic Seat Sweat

Well, the trials and tribulations of last week are almost over.  The lenders lending the money to the folks buying my house slowed down so my closing is delayed by 2 days.  I figure this is just s sign of things to come.  Now that the people, via the government, own the lending institutions, the money will be there, it will just be held up in committee.

My cruise is back on.  I'm going to spend next week on a big ship with my fellow geriatrics.

In order for this to happen, my wife and I had to go to the local USCIS branch to get a stamp in her passport that says she can come back.  In order to get this information I had to call the State Department, The Department of Homeland Security and finally the Border Patrol.  Interestingly enough, the Border Patrol lady was the most helpful.  She said that with my wife's temporary German passport and the magic stamp from USCIS, it would be no problem getting back into the USA after the cruise to Mexico.

The local USCIS office is closed on Columbus Day.  I was there at 6:30 AM Monday morning so I should know.  After spending this week dealing with the USCIS, I am convinced that there is some plot to try and coerce immigrants to become citizens.

There is a big sign on the front door that says, "Office hours: 7:30 to 1:00".  However, if you make an appointment they take appointments from 6:00 to 11:30.  This is just the first part of the confusion.

If you call their 800 number they will inform you that you must have an appointment to come to this office and appointments can only be made online.  It's something called InfoPass.  It should be called, "The Less Painful Enema".

Anyway, we went back on Tuesday and arrived at 7:10 AM.  We were shocked to see people already being let into the building.  I guess I should mention that it's a two step process.  The first step is getting past the angry woman with the "tickets" or "the enema bag".   She can either give you a big one or a small one.  People with appointments get the small one.  We tried to make an appointment, but their earliest appointment was October 20th and our cruise was leaving October 18.  So, we had to make a "walk-in" visit.

So, at 7:10 AM, the enema specialist at the front window said that we needed proof that we were taking a cruise.  My first though was, "If I am here with my wife for our enema and we are saying we don't have the forms for the less painful one, isn't that proof enough?  Do people really just come in and request the most painful enema??"  But, my humor is not in full swing at 7 AM so I asked what kind of proof I needed.  She said, "tickets, receipts, anything to let me know you have a cruise booked on the 18th".  

My work is about 20 minutes away with no traffic.  There is always traffic in Dallas from 7 until 9 AM.  But, at about 7:35 I was at work printing out the receipt.  We made it back to the USCIS office at 8 and requested the really large and painful enema.  We were ushered inside by the angry window woman with the Spanish accent.  I smiled and said, "Gracias!"

Then they make you empty your pockets, lift up your pants legs, take off your belt, etc.  It's not quite as bad as getting on a plane, but it's very close.  The guy manning the x-ray machine informed us the he was born in Germany.  So, the Spanish window lady lets us in and the German x-ray man says we don't have anything dangerous.  He seemed genuinely nice though.  I suspect he knew what we were in for and didn't want to be in the line of fire when the sh*t started to fly.

So, at 8:30 AM, we are in our green plastic seats.  All the seats are color coded.  The orange seats in the back of the room seem to be more popular.  They have a big sign over them that reads, "Naturalization".  I suspect there are people there to take their citizenship tests so that they too can vote for the lesser of two evils in the next election.

It then occurs to me that voting isn't all that wonderful.  As my butt begins to trickle sweat and puddle into my plastic seat, I realize that they are bypassing this nightmare forever.  The orange plastic seat is the last plastic seat you'll have to puddle your sweat in unless you are crazy enough to marry an immigrant.  It's all a diabolical plan to create more US citizens.

At 11:45 AM, they finally call our number.  They got all of the InfoPass appointments over with first.  Even those that came hours after we did.  We approached the counter with staggering steps and an Indian man was sitting behind the counter.  I kid you not.  This place is a cornucopia of nationalities.  I haven't seen so much diversity since the Epcot Center.  And yet they are all here to help us live in the good ol' USA successfully via a large enema bag and tons of shit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chimichangas in the Rain

I don't know what the search engines key off of to find this blog. The title is an experiment. Enjoy.

Today, I present to you, with great anticipation and excitement, followed by unadulterated apathy: the rest of my week.

As you may have read, my wife lost her identity. It was traumatic.

On Monday, I wrote a story about my weekend of adversities. Today I tell you of the week following my Monday tale.

Tuesday, my wife called the German Consulate in Houston while I went to an appointment with my lawyer. My lawyer told me that my wife doesn't have to sign for my house. That this is just the lender being overly cautious. He went on to say that I could have a notary that knows my wife notarize her documents for her. Basically, I have nothing to worry about. There are many ways to kill this chicken. So, I sent an email to the title company. I still haven't heard anything.

My wife was told that she could go to Houston Wednesday at 11 and they could make her a "temporary passport". It's a "same day" kind of service. Get there at 11 and leave at 11:30 with a temporary passport.

Oh yeah. I should also mention that my Texas State Representative, Tan Parker, was doing what he could to get my wife a driver's license. Apparently Texas law makers had been busily trying to cut down on the number of illegal immigrants with licenses. It caught us in its cross hairs. I had received a couple of calls and a couple of emails from his office.

Wednesday at 5 AM we were headed to Houston to get a temporary passport. It's a 4 hour drive to Houston without traffic. I firmly believe that there is always traffic in Houston. We arrived at the German Consulate at 10:15. On the way there a Lieutenant from the Texas DPS office called my wife to ask her some questions. We had to fax him some copies of some forms of identification. He said he had been contacted by Parker's office. At 11:30, we left the German Consulate with a temporary passport.

Thursday morning at 7:30 AM we were at the DPS office in Plano to get a temporary driver's license with an "immigrants" restriction on it. I'd like to thank Tan Parker for helping out with this although I don't know if he ever saw it. I only talked to his assistant Trish who was very helpful. Maybe she should be the representative. Everyone vote for Trish in the upcoming election.

For those unable to keep up with the Ramblings, we now have a temporary passport (picture ID) and a temporary driver's license (for driving, but no picture...yet).

We still need something to allow her to go on the cruise and we're still not 100% that we've made the title company happy. They specifically asked for a US Issued Photo ID. We have a German photo ID and a temporary driver's license with no photo. I still haven't heard from them.

On Monday, I sent emails to both my US Senators, my Texas Senator and my Texas representative. My Texas representative was Tan Parker. He and/or his office helped out quite a lot and I appreciate it. It is a government for the people after all. I was contacted by Chris Harris. His office told me that he can't help me because it sounds like an immigration problem. They gave me the numbers to my US Senator's offices. I haven't called yet. I have to get in the right frame of mind for that kind of excitement.

My wife has steadfastly refused to call anyone that doesn't speak German. I was very proud of her for talking to the DPS officers that called her. Of course, they called her which was different. It didn't impact her refusal to call anyone that can't speak German. I'm very proud of her for sticking to her guns. One of them was named Heinz though. Maybe I should ask her about this.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hell, Weekend, Vista 64, Green Cards, Theft, Identity, Trauma, Drama, Sh*t

Today, I talk about happiness, joy and sudden pain. Probably in that order although the title is not quite appropriate.

Late last week I got confirmation that my house will sell on October 15! Woot! Huge celebrations and fireworks! To add to the oncoming celebration I booked a cruise on Carnival. My first ever cruise! Woot! Huge fireworks! Lots of celebration! But, what goes up, must come down. And sometimes it goes down in flames and you end up in a pit much deeper than the level playing field upon which you once tread.

On Friday night, to begin my weekend of celebrations, we went out with friends to a restaurant in Grapevine to be followed by much festivities and dancing at a bar. It's name is not important and I won't share to protect the innocent. We left the eatery all stuffed with Mexican food and some brew.

When we arrived at the bar, they asked for ID's because it was one of those places where they have to scan everyone's driver's license no matter how elderly you are. My wife's face went ashen as she searched through her purse looking for wallet which contained necessary ID. I knew something was amiss. Little did I know at the time I was on the downhill slippery slope of a very large cliff.

Today, I chat with you from a quiet lonely unhappy place I call, "my current state of mind". I never had that chat with my wife about identity theft. "Always leave what you don't need at home" is pointer numero uno.

You see someone had stolen my wife's wallet (presumable at the eatery on Friday night). In her wallet, she had her passport, her driver's license, her green card, her social security card and I can't talk about what else for fear of sliding further.

We can't go on our anniversary cruise because my wife is a German citizen and she can't leave the country without her green card. Well, technically she can leave, but they won't let her back in. The cruise was to Mexico.

On Saturday I got a letter from the Title Company that will sell my house for me. They had some papers for me to fill out. Page 2 talked about the fact that Texas is a "community property" state. What this means is that once you are married, your wife owns half. So, my wife has to sign for the house to sell. The documents must be notarized. A notary will not notarize anything without US Government issued Photo Identification.

6 AM Monday morning I find myself standing in the rain outside the USCIS in Dallas (United States Citizen and Immigration Service). They recommend against traveling until she receives her new green card. It should be here in February. If she has a passport, they can stamp it so that she can travel.

8 AM Monday morning I find myself at TXDPS in Dallas (Texas Department of Public Safety). Some crazy new law was passed last week that says, "Non-US citizens (or permanent residents) can not get a driver's license without a green card". The DPS thing in Texas needs some severe help in the customer service department. The first lady told us it would be no problem. We waited in line for an hour to be told things had changed. They should not do this to people who are traveling at a high rate of speed into a pit looking for something to grab hold to.

I've called lawyers, politicians, USCIS, German Consulates, etc. I feel slightly more stressed out than when I started.

Oh yeah, the 64 thing. Almost forgot my title. I decided to install Vista 64 Sunday to take my mind off other crap that I couldn't do anything about. The ironic thing about Vista 64 is that it allows you to access more than 3 gigs of RAM, but you can't install with 4 gigs of RAM. Go figure. I have 4 gigs of RAM on my computer. Every time it would start to install, I'd get the infamous blue screen of death. So, I removed 2 gigs, installed Vista 64, installed the infamous "4 gig patch" -- I kid you not, then put the other 2 gigs of memory back in. It's been running fine for a day now.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Relationship Counseling

The other day I was listening to the radio as I often do on my way to work and they were talking about relationships.  It seems that one of the DJ's was recently divorced after his wife decided she was tired of him.  Somehow he got left with the kids while she ran off and started living the high life.

Anyway, it's a sad situation and they had several people calling in trying to empathize.  One woman called in telling about how she's been burned one too many times.  She gave her boyfriend "everything" and he left her anyway so now she has nothing left to give.  Her heart has been spent.  She was 22.  

The radio show was consoling and strict at the same time.  They told her to get back in the game and not give up and never is a long time and all those nice little cliche's that everyone wants to hear when they are feeling lost and alone.

My take on the situation was, "Never, ever give someone everything.  This makes the eventual damage irreparable."  It's kind of like being on a plane when the flight attendant tells you that during loss of cabin pressure, take care of yourself first and then those around you.  If you don't do that, then you'll die and they'll die too.  If you live, you can help those around you live.

Relationships are the same way.  Take care of yourself first.  If you feel like you are giving someone everything then it will never work.  Imagine the stress you are putting on the other person.  Just be happy and if those around you aren't happy then it's their problem.

7 Year Old Kills Zoo Animals to Save a Crocodile

If you haven't read it yet, you should.

In summary, a 7 year old Australian kid broke into a zoo exhibit and killed several animals by bludgeoning them with a rock and then fed them and other animals to a crocodile.

The zoo says they are going to take the kid's parents to court to get reimbursed for the estimated $5000+ worth of damages.

I don't know what normal human beings think when they read stuff like this, but what I think is: If this had happened in the USA, the parents would be suing the zoo for not having enough security in place.  Their poor innocent child could have been seriously injured.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Anal Fissure named Bob

Since I have decided to adopt a sense of humor in the last few days, I have opted to reminisce.

Back when the Internet was young and fertile.  Before the time of Blogs.  There were newsgroups.  There still are newsgroups although they might not be as uplifting as they were back when.

The first "funny forward" email I ever received came from a friend of mine (who I believe was in Houston at the time).  We'll call him Ed.

Ed sent me the Anal Fissure email.  I don't know the exact authoring date of the story, but it seems like I first read it 15 or so years ago (in fact most postings seems to be dated 1993).  It's still the funniest email I've ever received.  I still giggle when I think about it.

Today, there are websites dedicated to the story of Bob.  However, this is probably the best place to read it

Just to whet your whistle, it starts out with, "After lurking about in the wings the required 2 months I have felt the need to tell you about my anal fissure Bob."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Bovine Lady

This is just funny.  Maybe she was protesting the government.  Read the actual story here.