What a Pain in the Neck!

Lately, the political machinations in our country are giving me a pain in the neck. They go on and on. I know that many of you out there are sharing this experience. The problem is that I already have a stiff neck from an overzealous session at the gym. I had gained a little weight and thought an extra-long workout would do the trick. I think I should have a professional massage to loosen it up so I would not suffer for days. My husband said that he would rather do it, claiming that $100 for an hour is not worth it. What does he know? I scowled. He said that he can provide similar relief and apply the money to better purposes. Now, he is the pain in the neck. Ha! I have to convince him that the pro is worth every penny and that he does not have the trained touch, and this article from Higher Massage did the trick. They know just what to do without creating further injury. If your neck is really bad, a chiropractor may be the best choice. However, in my case the masseuse will do just fine. And so I booked an appointment. Here is what happened.

The masseuse said that I am in the right place and he works on people like me all the time. “I will have you walking straight and standing tall in no time flat.” I was relieved and impressed. After the wonderful session, I wanted to brag about it at home, but thought better of it when I saw my husband’s mood. Had he found out about it somehow; had he looked at my personal calendar? I think he just read my expression. He knows me that well. I must do something about this and practice a blank face so I don’t give away any more secrets.

After a few days of watching me zip around the house with no pain or strain evident, he seemed to have an epiphany. His own neck was sore from sleeping in a weird position and he wanted help. “Do you want me to do it?” I asked innocently, knowing where this was going. “No, of course not, you are plenty busy right now.” I was about to suggest my masseuse when suddenly he came up with the same idea himself. I was visual evidence of the efficacy of this solution. I promptly got out his number, dialed it, and scheduled my husband for that very evening.

There was no reluctance showing as my husband shut the front door. I sat and waited. He came back in a few hours with a big smile on his face. “My neck is better and I can stop taking aspirin,” he reported. “It is marvelous: only one session and I have relief. I can’t thank you enough for your guidance, and helping me realize how stubborn I am.” Now it was my turn to smile.

Don’t Talk Politics at Block Parties

I live in a friendly neighborhood, the kind they used to have in the mid twentieth century before parents got paranoid about their kids getting lost or kidnapped. Ladies shared family secrets over cups of morning coffee. They took breaks from household chores to gossip over the back fence. There were no play dates. Kids just went out into the front yard to see who was passing by on their bike. Information was exchanged about the latest child behavior theories or the best brand of washer and dryer to buy. Politics was not the topic of the day in those years.

This sets the tone for my own conversations with neighbors. It gets down to heavy political debates. Is the president up to snuff or not? Who else is going to quit this administration? Are there more scandals in the works? Block parties are not just times to drink lemonade and barbecue burgers in the street. When vocal tones are heated it is time to call a halt to political discussions. Maybe we shouldn’t bring them up at such family events. Why was my neighbor yelling at me? Did he have more than enough from the outdoor kegerator set out by the communal grill? It is a time to indulge as no one has to drive home and we all want to relax and kick back. I think he had kicked back a few too many brews.

I was sure we would end up as enemies when he was back to his senses and the beer was properly digested and the alcohol out of his system. Interestingly enough, when I encountered him in the driveway (we always at least wave or say hello), he acted as if nothing had happened. I responded in kind, which means I said nothing about the evening before and our political tangle. We were friends once again and the matter was forgotten. I was a bit concerned and my fears were promptly allayed. This doesn’t always happen with people in my life. Some hold grudges forever.

Human nature is always surprising me, but when people hit the kegerator hard and fast, I shouldn’t be amazed by what happens. After a mere two beers, my neighbor had turned into a bear with odd political beliefs. There was absolutely no meeting of minds last night. I asked myself whether I would ever invite him to a backyard party in the future. I didn’t want to be the object of his wrath. He is mad about something and it is President Trump. It is this or that issue, maybe all of them. Ha! I think we should stick to the old family topics of yesteryear. Men talked about sports and women their kids or cooking. Everyone seemed wholesome and polite. Remember those old TV shoes from the early days showed typical arguments took place around things like the wife denting the family car or the kid breaking the kitchen window with his errant baseball. Problems were never more severe than that. Politics were reserved to other shows like Meet the Press.

The Value Behind Scientific Research

Funding for science and health issues is in danger of being drastically cut. I worry how this will negatively impact everyday lives because it will be harder to fund quality of life studies for things like wake up lights for better sleep, etc. Some scientists will go forward as best they can; but for many, without funding, it means the end of the line. We will have to make do with what exists and forego innovations and improvements.

Let’s take the example of sleep aids. I am thinking of wake up lights, sunrise alarms, and their many benefits. If you have trouble arising, you will value the behind the research for these products, which you can find here: https://www.berightlight.com/science-wake-lights-sunrise-alarms-benefits/. You will want to support more effort to a very basic and pervasive human problem. While we have always had radio and sound alarms, they were not satisfactory in many cases. Then someone clever came along and devised the idea of waking up to an array of pretty colored lights in rainbow or other patterns. It was ingenious. I have to give it to the R & D department of these manufacturers. They must sit around saying, “how can we make a deep sleeper arise on time without pain and suffering?”

I can hear someone saying, “how about a simulation of a natural sunrise?” Wouldn’t that be a welcome addition to any alarm system, even a good one with pleasant sounds like birds chirping, crashing waves, or powerful waterfalls? There is something compelling about a sunrise even if it is faux. Any sleeper will respond with pleasure, get up on time, and make it to meetings or work without fail.

Many companies don’t have to depend on government grants because they have sufficient revenues. This allow this to push for progress. But there are other very creative people out there who need support. They may be working on better forms of personal care that fosters health and well-being. It is not fluff work by any means when you come up with a better way to use a heating pad, make an allergy-free pillow, or a better self defense flashlight that folds up in your backpack. It may sound trivial, but believe me, it is not. I use all sorts of things that improve my life on a day-to-day basis. Funding is limited and goes toward those who are most vocal. Let me speak on the behalf of the smaller businesses who are there to invent, create, and innovate.

Safety features on kitchen appliances are an example of household advancement. A vacuum that doesn’t snatch kids’ hands is a wonder. Chemical-free cleaning solutions are one of the best new products around. Childproofing gadgets make a mom’s life worry free. Irons and electric blankets that turn off automatically, portable home generators, tankless water heaters, and self-feeding pet food containers all have their merit. Why not novel wake up lights? They just starting to sync them with cell phones. So what is next?

Fundraising Event

I am interested in national and local politics and spend considerable time keeping up and voicing my opinion. I don’t believe anyone should feel suppressed whether they are in the majority or minority. Sometimes, my interest takes various turns. In today’s blog, rather than rant and rave about presidential decisions in the news, I am going to tell you how I found a way to support a local candidate that concurs with my views. Rather than donate money, which would make the contribution limited, I decided to organize a fundraiser for the community. If I rented a great invitation mailing list, made up of people known to throw their hat in his ring, I knew I could make a lot more money than what I could afford to give on my own. My husband was in full agreement and we discussed ideas.

We looked into various venues and found that hotels and resorts are quite expensive. Anyone who has planned a wedding knows the significant cost. If we were to maximize our take, we would need to use our backyard. As it happens, it is quite large and contains a variety of useful appliances in the outdoor kitchen. We could easily prepare food for a crowd. Given the time of year and the taste of people in Kentucky, a barbecue would be perfect. My husband, having a little free time on his hands, volunteered to rent a MIG welder and make his own smoker. He has a lot of experience with this type of tool and read about them at https://www.ratemywelder.com/best-mig-welder-reviews/. There is nothing better than meat prepared in this traditional southern way. We could use the grill for vegetables and potatoes (little foil packets made of diced and seasoned spuds). Knowing how handy he is, I was thrilled at the prospect.

It took a few days for him to get it just right, but now we had a permanent new addition to our backyard facilities. Ribs, chicken, and brisket of beef would never be better. In fact, they would rival our best barbecue restaurants. It was important to start everything well in advance of mealtime. This much I know. I had never done it before and consulted with several savvy friends who set me on the right track. I would include a variety of meats to give people a choice. If they didn’t care for the smoker-produced flavor, we would have a variety of salads and interesting side dishes. I was lucky to have several volunteers from the candidate’s campaign office.

The event was a huge success and the food scrumptious. The smoker was worth its weight in gold—and it didn’t cost a penny—maybe a few dollars for supplies. It is amazing how a well-trained person can make almost anything. People were aghast when they found out that my husband had made the smoker. Next, he plans to make a Thanksgiving turkey roaster so that we can try the deep-fried method we see so often on TV. What a difference a MIG welder can make!

Waterproof my Foot!

I love good conversation on line. It could be most any subject from politics to baking. I prefer, however, to discuss something that has pros and cons—a topic with a little meat on its bones. How about you? Are you starved for a serious and meaningful debate? We spend way too much time these days on pop culture and trivia. While it is fun and entertaining, it is not something you need to express your opinion about. It just is what it is. No fanfare. So let’s start talking.

Meanwhile, today’s blog is devoted to fakery and being taken. As a consumer, I have many stories to tell with negative endings. They are about bogus products, mostly bought on line. I am thinking first and foremost of the diet pills, cellulite reducing lotions, energy-boosting formulas, how to get rich quick in the stock market or real estate, and many more. Take your pick and I could go on and on. My latest run- in with an e-tail business had to do with a “waterproof” phone. I liked the idea of taking my mobile phone to the beach or letting it sit by me as I am relaxing at the pool. There is always the possibility of torrential rain as well. I bought something I thought was truly invulnerable to water. But when this waterproof gadget accidentally got knocked into a full sink and got wet, it didn’t work at all thereafter. It was useless and I had to replace it – with many complaints. I did get my money back only if I purchased the new one from them. I never saw that fine print. The company said that I didn’t read the directions and it was my fault. Why on earth do they make the instructions so complicated? What is the difference between waterproof and water resistant. Apparently I got them mixed up.

After this irritating experience, I started wondering about my Outdoor Light and Sound setup. They are not very old and haven’t been subject to the elements for more than a few times. Certainly, they got a lot of exposure to the rain and sometimes hose water when I needed to wash down the house. Sometimes they are dusty and laden with cobwebs. So far they are fine, but I am suspicious. I expect the sound to start crackling at any moment. Then there will be full failure. I went searching online and found this: https://www.outdoorlightandsound.com/waterproof-speakers-actually-waterproof/. Then, I called customer service to confirm. They assured me that they would be fine in any downpour. This is what an outdoor speaker is all about. It goes without saying that they are waterproof. Waterproof my foot!

What else is supposed to be invulnerable to water? A barbecue grill hood should allow for no leaks. A professionally built patio should have a sealed cover. A simple umbrella should resist the rain perfectly. A rain hat as well. A boat should spring no leaks if it has been constructed from waterproof materials. You have to learn to trust the manufacturers I guess.

Great Rally

With the state of the government and a controversial President, I have a lot to speak about these days. The media is going nuts, making me equally crazy and ready to voice my own opinion. I wonder if anyone can hear me amid the din. There are pros and cons on both sides making for a loud, raucous debate. When I had a chance to attend a public rally in a nearby town, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to express my concerns and discuss timely issues with other like-minded people. I took the weekend off to be able to take advantage of the event and discussion forums that followed. I wanted to immerse myself in the call for change as it is sorely needed. When it comes to politics, you can’t keep me down. I started immediate preparations.

I rented a house with a friend who also wanted to experience a public rally for the first time. She has always been curious having heard me recap several important ones. We would be close enough to walk to the venue and not have to worry about parking. Sometimes people can’t get to the event on time and just abandon their cars, blocking others from free passage. It can be a nightmare if it rains and I wasn’t going to take any chances. I had it all figured out. Comfortable waterproof walking shoes were in my backpack along with the rain poncho and collapsible umbrella I always carry. But the precaution was premature. It was a beautiful day if not a little brisk. We were outside for a long time and I took a chill after the sun went down and needed to go home to warm up. My feet were frozen stiff.

The house was cozy and comfortable and the temperature was a toasty 75 degrees when we arrived with scarves wrapped around our throats. My friend set it just before we left for the rally. The house must have a great electric heater with a very accurate thermostat. It also had a superior electric water heater system because I was able to take a long and very hot bath. It warmed me to my bones. There was plenty of hot water for my friend. You assume that you will have all the conveniences in a hotel, but not necessarily in a rented home. It was inexpensive for the two nights yet was clean as a whistle. It came stocked with all the right kitchen appliances, and to my great joy a coffeemaker.

We could have made dinner right then and there, but thought we would try a local restaurant. It was small and modest but the menu looked interesting. We wanted to “go local” in any case. It was full of rally attendees and friendly conversation was all around. We were happy to be allowed to join in. the entire weekend experience was wonderful and my friend promised to come with me the next time.

Get Involved in Politics

Sometimes it seems like things are a little too broken in this world, and much too hard and complicated to even try to fix. It all seems so…big. While I firmly believe that I live in the best country in the world—and in the best state in that nation—I know that things are not perfect. There are lots of things I wish we could do differently, more efficiently, or just BETTER.

Obviously I cannot just call up my president and tell him these things. I can’t walk up to the door of the Oval Office and say, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea on how to fix the education system!” and then we talk it over while drinking some coffee.

But you know whose office I can call? My local representative. I’ve got a member of the House of Representatives assigned to my district, and he’s got a number that I can call—so I do. I’ve got two senators, too. Plus a whole state government that is much more accessible than the men and women who represent Kentucky in Washington D.C. I’ve never even been to D.C.

If you’ve got a cause you care about—whether it be animal abuse, the music program at your kids’ school, the environment, a higher minimum wage—these are the people you start with. You don’t go directly to the top, you go to the person closest to you.

And how do you find those people? Well, your state legislature probably has its own website, so that shouldn’t be hard to find. Even if you don’t live near your state capital, they’ve got telephones and email addresses you can use to reach out to them.

At the federal level, the house.gov site allows you to type in your zip code (and possibly your address) to get the name and contact info for your rep. The Senatehas a simple drop down menu where you can pick your state, and it will give you the names and info for both of your senators.

Then—contact these people. Email or call them, although you should know that calling them is much, much better. Have your friends and neighbors call, too, if it is an issue that concerns them as well. Get on their mailing or phone chain lists so you will find out about events and functions that your local politicians will be attending. Go to the town halls and express your concerns. The more elected officials hear their constituents, the better they can do their jobs—representing the people they’ve promised to help if elected. Hold them to that. Let them know what they can do for you and follow up to make sure they’re doing it.

If we all did that in our own hometowns and our own states, it would create a ripple effect of activism around the whole country, and we could make this an even better place to live.

Why do we Even Need the Electoral College?

If you think about it, our forefathers were some smart people. However, they didn’t think all that highly of the common folks who would be taking part in their great democratic republic experiment. The Electoral College was a means to create a buffer between the people and those who actually voted for the president. It was supposed to be an extra layer of defense from being taken over by a despot who has a way with words and who appeals only to the lower classes.

It’s kind of insulting, isn’t it? Sure, there’s also the fact that it was supposed to prevent cities from having more of a say than rural areas by evening things out according to population, but again—think about the way the country was set up back then—rich landowners in rural areas and lots of common folks in the cities. Then you have issues like this past year where the presidency wasn’t won by the popular vote, which probably seems weird to most of our democratic neighbors.

There has been talk of getting rid of that whole system.Although I don’t know if we’ll ever do it—there are some good reasons to give the Electoral College the old heave-ho. First of all, do you know who gets appointed to the Electoral College? I’ll give you a hint—it’s not regular folks like you and me.

Political parties choose people at their conventions. That’s right—the political parties themselves choose their delegates. In other words, there’s a lot of loyalty and consequences for these people if they don’t vote along party lines. Many of these people get their appointments as a reward for heavy campaign support—usually through active support (union leaders pledging the support of their members) or through financial support. Or, you know, like last year when Bill Clinton was elected as a delegate to vote for his wife.

There are also a bunch of states who have passed laws declaring that their delegates are to vote according to the will of their residents. And while that is all well and good, it strips another layer of autonomy from the delegates. In other words, if they’re forced to vote the same as the people of their state, why aren’t the people of that state voting for the president directly themselves?

Right now, only Maine and Nebraska can split their votes, allowing them to divide up their electoral votes in a matter that is more in line with the way everyone in their states vote. If all states were capable of splitting up their votes the same way, we would either have to change the number you’d need for a majority in order to win, or switch to more of a runoff style election–because it would be incredibly hard to win the 270 votes required to become president. There’s another problem here: we’d likely have to redraw the boundaries of a LOT of districts, thanks to the gerrymandering stranglehold some of them have.

In other words, unless we get rid of it and go straight to a popular vote—which probably won’t happen—there’s way too much to do in order to change the system. So it looks like we’re stuck with the Electoral College for the foreseeable future.

Why I’m so Interested in Politics

I got into politics at a young age, probably in a weird manner. My parents really liked Joel Pett’s cartoons in the Lexington Herald-Leader, and I started clipping and collecting them. I didn’t often understand them, and would ask my parents what they meant.

I’m not sure why they would sit and patiently explain to me about environmental issues, gun rights concerns, political scandals, and all kinds of other things, but they did. Eventually I stopped asking. Not because I had gotten bored and moved on to another obsession—hardly. I started reading the paper myself.

Then for my birthday, I asked my parents to get me a subscription to Newsweek. This probably solidified me being considered the ‘odd’ child in my parents’ minds. But again, they did it anyway. I really think God knew what he was doing when he made us a family because there are plenty of parents who would not have encouraged this at all—they would have bought me dresses and dolls or told me that politics is just for grownups (or men, or grownup men). Instead, they’d let me stay up if there was breaking news.

All through high school, I toyed with being a journalist. I worked at the school paper and wrote here and there. I didn’t want to be on television—believe it or not, I was too shy to have a camera pointed at my face. But when I got to college, I hated the journalism courses and changed my major to history instead. Weirdly, I never wanted to go into public service. I would rather be the one reading the news than the one out there making it, I guess.

I like history because it gives things a context. Because I know more about where we have been as a country and what we have done, I can understand more about the things that we are doing now. For example, I wasn’t alive during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but knowing what went on really helps me understand the way things have been evolving with our relationship with Cuba. I find that kind of thing really interesting. See, it all ties back to politics, though.

The other thing I like about politics is that it is a willingness to shape the world around you, even if we’re talking about a small scale. You can use legislation to preserve things that are meaningful, set up regulations to help people maintain a certain standard of living, or even pass laws to promote trade or protect your citizens.

There are so many things that politics has a hand in that we don’t even really think about—your kids’ classrooms are paid with funds from your county government; from the state and federal government, too. The car you drive has improved safety features thanks to laws that have been passed. The road you’re driving on was likely paved through a public works program and maintained by state funds, too. Even if you don’t consider yourself political, you probably should—I guarantee you have an opinion on some of these things!

How to Spot Fake News

Growing up, my grandfather liked to read a specific newspaper. It was considered a tabloid (not in content, like the National Enquirer, but in old-school paper terms, as opposed to broadsheet papers like The New York Times. Am I broadcasting how old I am?) and I remember the sometimes-scandalous headlines. The actual articles were fairly balanced, but the bold type on the front page was what really sold copies, so the more attention-grabbing they were, the more money the paper made.

But that isn’t always the case nowadays. The internet has their own form of scandalous headlines, mostly in the form of clickbait—you know, where the headline is something you just have to click on because the headline was so interesting—and it usually turns out to not be an article at all. It’s an advertisement for something packaged to look like a news story. Half the time, we don’t even realize it is trying to sell us something until we’ve finished the whole article (and sometimes we don’t realize it at all).

But there is a lot of misinformation out there, often disguisedas real news. And it has a much wider reach now thanks to people reposting it on social media. If you aren’t sure about the article your mother/uncle/sister-in-law wants you to read, here are a few different ways to verify the source:

  • Check the URL. If it looks wrong—say it’s ‘cnn.com.co,’ then it doesn’t matter if they have the CNN logo as a masthead. That’s not their real website; it is a spoof. Stop reading. I’ve gotten confused by articles I didn’t realize were from The Onion or The Borowitz Report. And while those are also ‘fake news’ they don’t hide that fact on their websites. So check to see if the page you are reading comes with a similar “fantasy news” or “satire” warning.
  • Look at the date. You’d be surprised at how many times you are actually reading about something that happened in the past—the information may be outdated or completely irrelevant by now. So while this may not be fake news, you would likely read it and misinterpret the information as being current.
  • Look at the byline. While wire services don’t often credit their authors, most other sites do. If it is a legit story, most reporters want credit for their work. You can google their name and see what else they’ve written. I’ve done this and come up with an image of the supposed reporter that went by more than one name!
  • Actually read the entire article. You may find out that it is an editorial or an opinion piece and not even news. You may also find other signs that it is fake news—for example, ridiculously named “sources” or a lack of credible details can also tip you off that what you are reading might not be true.
  • Investigate the sources. If it’s a real article, it will provide names of sources that you can verify, or give you links to the places where they got their information. Verify the links. Oftentimes, they’ll just pick something that sounds good—for example, give you the number of a law and expect that you’ll be impressed enough not to look it up to see if it has any relevance to the article’s claims.
  • Glance at other articles. Are they all like that? Do you see articles expressing another viewpoint at all? Most news sites will cater to a certain point of view, but they’ll have a token opposition writer or two. Do you see mostly outlandish headlines and little real content? It’s things like that where you should wonder about the legitimacy of what you’re reading.

Last thing: if you’re still in doubt, there are organizations who look into these things. Check out snopes.com, FactCheck.org, or PolitiFact.com to see if anybody else has looked into it. They’ve got more resources than the rest of us, and they are trained to dig into questionable stories.

Hope this helped!

Vote for People, Not for Party

Most of the people in my family are of one particular party. And while I have no problem with identifying with a political party—it is the only way you can vote in primaries, after all—it does make it harder for them to judge candidates in an unbiased manner. And how many times have you heard someone say, “well, I liked a third-party candidate, but it would have just been wasting my vote?” That’s not the case everywhere. There are plenty of other countries who have more political parties than we do, and are more supportive of those minority parties than we are.

So, basically we are stuck with a two-party system, and you have to be invested in one or the other in order to have a say in who they nominate for positions. However, what happens come election day?

Personally, I sit down with the sample ballot and I research all the candidates as well as the proposals. I look up candidates on their websites as well as taking a look at their voting records (if they have one). I take the right to vote very seriously, and I want to make educated decisions on what I am voting for. I think it is important to not just take part in the process but to really be a PART of the process.

I try to be as unbiased as I can—in other words, I don’t look at each person running for office and check the box next to the D or the R just because. I vote across party lines all the time, because my job is to vote for the most qualified person running for office. Sometimes that is a third party candidate, and I have no problem voting for them, either. Sure, sometimes if there is a subject I am passionate about, I end up voting more for one side or another—and that’s fine. It’s the blind party loyalty that I have a problem with.

I know people are going to say that when Congress is split, we have a harder time getting anything accomplished. But here’s the thing—that’s on Congress. On the whole, American people can sit and have discussions and share ideas, and are capable of reasonable compromise. It’s when you add lobbyists and special interest groups into the mix that Congress has trouble getting anything done, but that’s a post for another time.

I also feel like blind party loyalty is why we got handed the candidates we did in this year’s presidential election. I know lots of Democrats who weren’t comfortable voting for Hillary Clinton but did anyway, and then there were lots of hard-line Republicans who had trouble voting for Donald Trump. There were plenty of others who cast their vote AGAINST someone instead of FOR a candidate, and that’s a really hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t want to be voting for the lesser of two evils. I want to be voting for someone that I think is actually going to do a good job with the position and power that they are elected to.

Am I alone in this?