Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blueberry Coffee

I recently had my old coffee maker finally die in a spectacular manner, which included flashing lights and spouting gouts of boiling water in a never-ending stream all over my kitchen counter until I could grab the cord and rip it out of the wall.

The coffee maker had been a Gevalia single-serve unit, and I wisely decided it was time for a change. So over the holidays, I bought a Keurig single-serve maker which was on sale for an excellent price, full of bells and whistles and a pretty blue flashing light.

The great thing about single-serve coffee is that everyone can have exactly what they want, and no pots of coffee lay around, half-full and going to waste. The downside is that coffee in K-Cups (single servings) can be more expensive than the standard bulk coffee. Since I drink only a cup or two a day, it's of no difference to me and it's nice to have an assortment to offer my guests.

I currently have on hand: Mudslide, Pecan Pie, Cowboy Coffee (which is stronger than Starbucks), a hawaiin blend of macadamia and coconut, Chocolate Almond, French Vanilla, and more.

But I discovered that when you buy an assortment, you invariably get something you don't want. So instead of drinking it or simply throwing it away, I try to foist it off on the people that I love.

My friend Pov is a blueberry fan. He can sit down and consume large amounts of blueberry pancakes and muffins. This is in contrast to me: I have never met a blueberry I liked unless it was freshly picked and eaten the same day.

However, a recent coffee assortment had two K-Cups of blueberry flavored coffee. I can't imagine there is a demand for the stuff, and I am really amazed they ever chose to offer it. It's as appealing as chicken-flavored hot cocoa.

So when Pov was over about a month ago, I slipped him a cup of blueberry coffee and he cheerfully drank it, proclaiming it to be great coffee.

I tried it again about a week ago. However, Pov was in a difficult mood. When he gets this way, he's unbearable to be around and he becomes deliberately disagreeable. No matter what you say or do, he is bound to argue with you about it.

So when Pov asked for a cup of coffee and I suggested the last blueberry flavored dose, he declared that he would never like the stuff and was unconvinced when I told him that I had served him some before. I quickly gave up, and he settled for a Mudslide flavored cup instead.

For over a week, the blueberry K-Cup sat there, mocking me. I felt guilty about throwing it away, but I would always reach over it to pick something... anything else.

I had almost thrown it away, when Pov came over this morning, demanding coffee. "No problem!," I said. "Sit down, watch the news, and I'll brew one up for you!" And while he was distracted, I whipped that last blueberry K-Cup into the machine and brewed him a fresh cup of the noxious stuff.

I had to run out the door to take my friend to the airport, and Pov was going in the opposite direction. But a little while later, he called to check in and I had to ask, "By the way, how was the coffee?"

"Great!" declared Pov.

"Great?" I asked, pressing my luck. "Everything was fine?"

"Yup, absolutely perfect," replied Pov.

I am finally rid of the last of the blueberry and since he never reads my blog, Pov is none the wiser. Perhaps I can interest him in chicken-flavored hot cocoa.

Monday, February 16, 2009

C Span Clip: Tremendous Draw-Down of Money in an Hour or Two

"At 2 minutes, 20 seconds into this C-Span video clip, Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania explains how the Federal Reserve told members of Congress about a "tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the United States, to the tune of $550 billion dollars." According to Kanjorski, this electronic transfer occured over the period of an hour or two.

This does not bode well for our economy."

This discussion took place on February 10th, 2009.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jobs and the Economy

I am currently being considered for a well-paying career with a glamorous title, but it will mean a hellish workday and a great deal of travel. Obviously my blog would have to go on hiatus if the offer is ultimately made, because I will be forced to accept it.

I don't really want the job, but I can't afford to sit around and wait for the perfect one to come my way. In this economy, I'll be lucky to be employed at all.

The economy is becoming a matter of global security. In the New York Times today, we read:

"The new director of national intelligence told Congress on Thursday that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States."

As we now know:

"The latest job loss is the worst since December 1974, and brings job losses to 1.8 million in just the last three months, or half of the 3.6 million jobs that have been lost since the beginning of 2008."

Also, ""The breadth of job losses now surpasses the prior two recessions," said John Silvia, chief economist for Wachovia."
Florida is particularly hard-hit, and will be the slowest to recover, as our economy is largely based on tourism.

By now, many of you may find this topic to be somewhat dull and redundant. But for those who live in its shadow every day, it is anything but.

Many are hoping that the Economic Stimulus Package will help. For more details on this package, there is an excellent article in USA Today about it. But the problem, as I see it, is that jobs will be created for blue collar workers only.

Some Republicans believe in trickle down economics: Is this trickle up economics?

There is no doubt that our blue collar workers have been hardest hit, but this is of the government's making. The government has allowed the illegal immigrant in to take the blue collar jobs, and the government has allowed Big Business to send other jobs overseas. So this is obviously an attempt to fix some of the damage that the Bush administration has done.

I do know that something may be better than nothing, but is it enough? And what of the pork that has wormed it's way into the package?

Again, we see a government that gives more lip service than actual service.

USA Today says "The $789 billion stimulus bill moving toward final passage by Congress will not quickly solve the historic problems besetting the economy, but it could reduce the damage, while providing relief for the unemployed and the uninsured."

That's wonderful if you've hit rock-bottom. But what about those of us who haven't? We have struggled but managed to pay our bills. We aren't in dire straights yet, but it's because we're sacrificing and scraping by.

If they're not careful, we will be penalized for our responsibility, while irresponsible spending and behaviors are rewarded.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Keeping Helga Busy

My best friend, Pov, and I recently volunteered to field calls for our local Christian radio network. It's a great network, full of very kindly people and great programs. As with all charitable groups, donations keep it afloat and they were having a fund drive.

Pov ended up seated next to a very nice elderly lady, who introduced herself to us as "Helga". Helga had a wonderful sense of humor, and soon she and Pov were as thick as thieves. Pov missed his calling as a stand up comedian, and in-between phone calls you could hear Helga shrieking with laughter. I cringed at times, wondering if it carried onto the airwaves, as the deejays were drifting among the volunteers, interviewing them on the air.

"Alissa", a personable and flamboyant deejay, came up to us during a lull in the calls and told us that she'd be interviewing us soon, if we weren't on the phone. Pov shook his head violently. "Oh no, not me," he said. "You don't want that. Pick her," he said, gesturing at me.

"OK, I'll just talk to the better half, then," said Alissa, winking at me. Everyone was assuming that Pov and I were married, and I didn't have time to correct her misconception as she drifted off again.

We ended up with a growing volume of calls that kept us busy for a while. Our average donation was around $50, although some were pledging as little as $15 and some were pledging as much as $400. Many people were asking for prayer as they'd just lost their jobs. I was happy that they had enough sense to keep their donations to a minimum.

In a little while, Alissa caught me when I wasn't busy and she did a warm little folksy "so-why-are-you-doing-this" interview. I was relieved that she didn't bring up my "husband", which would force me to correct that on-air.

I soon grew busy with the phones again, and the next time I looked up, Pov was gesturing to me with an agonized look upon his face.

"What is it?" I hissed.

"I TOLD her not to interview me!" he said, looking very strained.

"What happened?" I asked skeptically. After all, how bad could it be?

"Well," Pov began, "She came up to me, thrust a microphone in my face, and asked me why I was doing this! I couldn't think of anything to say, so I told everyone to donate so that they could help keep Helga off the streets!"

"Oh NO," I gasped. "You didn't! Is Helga still talking to you?"

"Yeah," he said, looking abashed. "But," he added with growing wonder, "it worked!"

"What do you mean it worked?" I asked.

"The next call I got was from a lady who said that she had heard me on the radio and pulled over right away so that she could call in her donation immediately," he said, watching my face.

"Really?" I said incredulously.

"Yup," he nodded. "And guess how much she pledged?"

"How much?" I asked.

"Six hundred dollars," Pov announced triumphantly.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Devil's BBQ

I was babysitting my friend's precocious five year old girl yesterday. We had to run some errands, and as we were shopping, "Tegan" and I were discussing what sort of behavior is expected of good children.

"Ah hafta be good," Tegan announced dramatically in her deep-fried southern Tennessee accent. "If not, the Devil hates little girls and he's gorna grab my soul, drag it into the depths of hell, and cook it!"

I couldn't help myself. I threw back my head and howled with laughter in the middle of the store while Tegan watched me, bewildered. "What?" she demanded. "What did ah say?"

I wiped my eyes, picturing the Devil hovering over a barbecue grill with a spatula, wearing a "Hell's Kitchen" apron.

"Who told you this?" I finally demanded.

"Mah cousin Angela," she said. "What? It's the truth!"

"Not exactly, little one," I said. "Angela sounds like a particularly nasty little girl."

"Wahl, she is," Tegan admitted. "She useta be purty mean to me."

"Well don't worry about it, honey. The Devil doesn't send children to hell if they do something bad. You believe in Jesus and he's watching out for you," I said. Or that's what I think I said. I had never had to discuss theology with a five year old before.

I called Tegan's dad, and told him what she had said so that he could handle it at another time. I listened to him roaring with laughter before I hung up the phone.

"What?" asked Tegan again. "Why is ever'one laughin'?"

"Well, that's just something that we hadn't heard before," I tried to explain soothingly.

"So he ain't gonna eat it when it's nice an crispy?" she asked.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

How to Get Back at Your Girlfriend

My best friend, "Pov", called me last night. "We have a crisis on our hands," he announced.

Our friends, "Jim and Arlene", have four kids. For a farm family out of the 1900s, this would be a manageable brood, but in today's age it's rather overwhelming when neither parent has made it past high school.

Jim and Arlene are very kindly people but with little common sense and a lack of ambition. Recently two of their boys, "Romeo" (age 16) and "Howie" (age 14), were picked up for shoplifting. Jim called Pov in a panic to ask for advice, and Pov and I discussed the various options with them.

Pov and I came up with a few suggestions. Immediate punishment was of great importance: Both boys were to be grounded and have everything taken away from them. But Jim and Arlene are great at asking for advice, and then not taking it. We weren't too sure about how well they would handle the situation.

However, shoplifting turned out to be minor in comparison to the next revelation. It was at this point that Romeo also confessed to his parents that he was having a sexual relationship with Juliet, a 15 year old girl.

Sex between teens is, sadly, not uncommon. But there is a line drawn by the court system between 15 and 16 year olds. It is possible for a 16 year old to be thrown in jail if he's caught having sex with a child who is 15 or younger. Furthermore, it is something that can become a permanent part of his record.

I warned Jim and Arlene about this. "Well, what should we do?" asked Jim. Pov and I agreed that it was a tough call. If I were Juliet's mother, I would want to know. I would be furious if I found out that another parent knew and hadn't told me. On the other hand, being honorable and approaching the other parents could land Romeo in jail.

Jim and Arlene decided to tell Romeo to cool it, and call it off with Juliet for now. Since Juliet's father is on the S.W.A.T. team, Pov and I agreed that it was probably the smartest option that Romeo could choose.

Everyone held their breath, crossed their fingers, and hoped it had all blown over. We hadn't heard another word about it until yesterday, when Juliet texted Arlene with the news that she might be pregnant.

Arlene immediately went into a panic, and was ready to go charging out the door with a pregnancy test, until Jim pointed out that this would certainly send up red flags with Juliet's parents. "It's only been a day," Jim pointed out. Then he called Pov, who in turn called me.

Everyone agreed that it still was best to simply leave it alone: The last thing that Jim and Arlene should do would be anything which might make Juliet's parents suspicious. "Give it a couple more days," I counseled them. "Wait and see. You'll know soon enough!"

I finished up the call by asking Jim if he'd really grounded Romeo and Howie, and was following through on everything that we had all agreed upon.

"Oh yes," Jim replied. "They're grounded all right! I don't know what more we can do!"

In half an hour, Jim called me again. "Well," he said breezily, "I guess it's been taken care of."

"Already?" I said, surprised. "How is that?"

"Well, I guess Juliet's been going around at school, telling all of her little friends that she might be pregnant. Romeo had warned her to keep quiet about it, and he was so angry about it that he decided to get back at her by texting her mom with the news."

"WHAT?" I gasped.

"Yup," said Jim, "But at least it's all out in the open now."

"Er, yeah, you could say that," I agreed. "But what about jail for Romeo?"

"Oh, we think it probably won't happen," Jim said breezily. "Besides, Arlene feels so much better now that everyone knows."

"Uh, OK," I said hesitantly. "Well, good luck with that."

My grandmother had a saying for such silly behavior. She called it "cutting off your nose to spite your face."

Perhaps jail will smarten Romeo up a bit. And if Juliet's pregnant, he will have eighteen years of child support to teach him a permanent lesson.

But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: None of that family has much sense. No one has stopped to think: If Romeo was truly grounded... how was he able to text Juliet's mom?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Walmart's Oily Charm

As experts agree, it is a great mistake to assume that falling gas prices are an end to our nation's fuel problems.

I recently sat down with a company that has a new gizmo which can be attached to any vehicle's engine and will allow an economizing of fuel by up to 15%, or so they claim. They say that they will not allow me to see schematics because this invention is still in the patenting process. Apparently this device was given to them by the Chinese government in exchange for an unrelated piece of hardware which they allowed the Chinese to use in some of their power plants.

Currently this company is seeking out other companies that would be willing to allow them to install this machinery so that a series of studies can be run in order to bolster their assertion that this is the most amazing invention since sliced bread.

And they're not the only ones scrambling to find fuel consumption remedies.

Walmart has recently announced that it has improved its fuel efficiency by more than 25% since 2005. It's been able to do so through more careful routing and packaging, which has reduced the number of trips required from the distribution center to the various stores. They also insist that drivers follow a dictated route, with no variances.

Finally, Walmart has retooled 15 trucks in Arizona to run on the used cooking grease which comes from their delicatessans. Their plans are to expand this number to other areas soon.

Love them or hate them, Walmart continues to be a success story due to their never-ending quest to save a dime whenever possible.

I was in Walmart this Sunday. Their entire store is the size of a couple warehouses stacked together, and the smell of food permeated every inch. I didn't find it at all appealing, but what is appealing is the notion that they will soon be recycling that oil into something which may set the standards for future retailers.