Monday, June 30, 2008

Entry for June 30, 2008

The Internet has disappointed me in one very large way. Most news articles that I found worthy of bookmarking have disappeared. When I click on many of the links to items that I felt worth saving, I get an error message that usually says something about the article expiring, sometimes referring me to a “for-pay” archive search. Often search engines will hit on links that go nowhere; someone chose to remove whatever was once there but the engines still have it indexed.

I had hoped the World Wide Web would be a working history book; everything posted remained forever, at the very least for news items. Some kid 100 years from now may be doing research or the reality or myth of global warming, wondering what we felt about it.

Usually obituaries disappear from the web within rather short periods, again with news services offering “for pay” search and reprints.

I have taken to making copies of anything that I want to reference in the future. As far as blogging, I have tried to respect copyright notices by linking to articles rather than cutting and pasting them to my entries. I may need to rethink that.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Entry for June 28, 2008

Are you finding it hard to earn any serious dividends from your meager savings? So am I, but I guess we should be happy to have any savings at all. The government grouses about personal savings being below zero, yet the government fails to see, or refuses to acknowledge, there is little incentive for people to save. With the economy the way it is, normally fiscally disciplined people are running up debt just to cover food, transportation, and housing expenses. Many folks once rationalized that the appreciation in their home value would cover what they did not have in personal savings, only to recently watch their home values crash and burn. Some people are raiding their retirement savings long before retirement. Many people lucky enough not to be facing bankruptcy or home foreclosure may now suffer negative total net worth. Many older retirees once counted on their retirement accounts yielding investment income of no less than 6% per year. They now have to spend the principal because their yields have dropped to 4% or less.

The government-calculated
Core Inflation does not include food or fuel. Cynics believe this is to give the government a lower inflation number to tout. Cynicism aside, the core inflation rate now is higher than the yield on many short-term certificates of deposit. The old Consumer Price Index does include the items that are killing our pocketbooks. Using the CPI as a basis, it is clear to see that there is currently no conservative way for us to protect our savings against inflation. If we cannot afford to save, the next best thing is to avoid debt. If we cannot avoid debt, the best we can do is to try to keep the interest rates that we pay manageable. If we cannot manage the interest rates that we pay, we fail.

Citing their fear of inflation,
The Fed has signaled that they have stopped making rate cuts, so now the pundits will wait to see if the economy is stimulated enough. The Fed will never admit to the fact that they never have had a true clue what to do, and that so far they have not fixed anything.

Apples, oranges, corn, horses, sheep, and cattle, if you collect any group of farmers to serve as experts on farming they all will agree what is in the barnyard and what is growing in the fields and orchards. Financial experts never can agree on anything, so I am unsure on what exactly qualifies them as “experts.” Some financial experts are now crowing that we have avoided a recession; that the true measure of two consecutive quarters of negative growth was not met. Bah! The few basis points that we stayed about negative growth amounts to a village idiot defense against the obvious; the economy is wedged deep in the toilet trap and The Fed can’t find the plunger. We are in a recession; quit trying to spin it any other way. It may grow to be the mother of all recessions.

It is best to learn about money from those with the biggest bank accounts.
Warren Buffett is the King Kong of moneymakers, with $62 Billion in credentials. When The Oracle of Omaha says we are in a recession that will be deep and long, you best not bet against the house. Anyone wanting to argue against Mr. Buffett’s views, please first show us your bank balance.

Mr. Buffett has been rather vocal lately. This is free advice, coming from the very best. I suggest
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System may do well to tune in to The Oracle’s frequency.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Entry for June 26, 2008



This aging gunslinger does not feel like boring you with a long celebratory blog entry about today’s 5 – 4 Heller ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States. Pro-gun activists and anti-gun activists will long wrangle with the subsequent legal challenges on the endless minutia.

I have long argued that guns are not the cure for violence, and guns are not the cause of violence. Until some miracle removes violence from human nature, guns, knives, and clubs will be the tools of predators and of those choosing not to be victims.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Entry for June 25, 2008


Kenneth Robert Wichman, rest in peace.

I was doing some research on Lake Zurich, Illinois today and ran across Kenny’s death notice on the
Enid, Oklahoma News website, which coincidently posted it just today. I then went to the site of the Anderson-Burris Funeral Chapel and verified the bad news, Ken passed away just two days ago, on June 23, 2008.

Ken Wichman was six years younger than I was; I used to date his older sister, Denise, in the very early 1970’s. He had a great personality and was always gregarious. The last time I saw him was about sixteen years ago when he was doing some work for Z&E Automotive in Lake Zurich. I am very sad to hear of his passing.

Since the links to obituaries and death notices often are purged, or archived as “for pay,” I am also going to copy the information about Kenny to this entry, in the hope that friends and former classmates (LZHS Class of 1976) can someday find it.

. . . . .
FROM THE ENID
, OKLAHOMA NEWS WEBSITE:
Kenneth Robert Wichman
Published 6-25-08
Enid, OK — A memorial service for Kenneth Robert Wichman, 50, will be 10 a.m. Thursday, June 26, 2008, at Anderson-Burris Funeral Home Chapel. The Rev. Richard Dunn will officiate. Cremation arrangements are by Anderson-Burris Funeral Home and Crematory. He was born March 7, 1958, in Chicago Heights, Ill., to Robert and Diane Jean Delord Wichman and died Monday, June 23, 2008, at Integris Bass Baptist Health Center.


. . . . . .
FROM THE
ANDERSON-BURRIS FUNERAL CHAPEL WEBSITE

A Memorial Service for Kenneth Robert Wichman, age 50, will be at 10:00 A.M. Thursday, June 26, 2008, at the Anderson-Burris Funeral Home Chapel, with Rev. Richard Dunn officiating. Cremation arrangements are by Anderson-Burris Funeral Home and Crematory.

Kenneth was born to Robert and Diane Jean (Delord) Wichman on March 7, 1958, in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and died Monday, June 23, 2008, at Integris Bass Baptist Hospital in Enid.

He grew up In Lake Zurich, Illinois. He graduated from Lake Zurich High School, where he was involved in athletics. He was a goaltender for the high school hockey team. After graduation, he attended trade school. He worked as a Master Mechanic for Mercedes Benz. In 1991, he moved to Arkansas, and then to Enid in 2007. He was employed at Advance Foods in the Maintenance Department.


Kenneth is survived by his stepfather, James Francis Martin of Marengo, Illinois; one brother Mark Wichman of Flanagan, Illinois; four sisters, Denise Erickson of Sun City, Arizona, Melissa Crotty of Sandwich, Illinois, Rebecca Autry of Mesa, Arizona, and Jamie Kashmere of Cary, Illinois. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, mother, and father.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Entry for June 24, 2008


I think I’ll make a short salute to a teacher from long ago.

When
John F. Kennedy visited Barrington, Illinois on October 25, 1960, photographer Robert Perkins took this and many other photos. Earlier that day, JFK had visited the town where I was living, Lake Zurich, which is very near to Barrington.

There was a great deal of excitement about a presidential candidate visiting our small town. If memory serves, the schools let all of the kids in and above the fourth grade attend JFK’s drive through our “downtown.” I was eight years old at the time, in the third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Ulrich, explained the reason why we could not attend was that the school administrators thought the significance of the event would be lost on us younger kids, that we would not remember it in later years. I thought it sucked that we could not go, but also thought that it was cool of our teacher to explain to us in an adult manner why the schools were treating us as nothing but a bunch of stupid kids. Mrs. Ulrich was an OK teacher in my book. She was old back then, so I sincerely doubt that she would still be alive today. Very small in stature, so short most of us eight year old kids could stand eye to eye with here. As a teacher, she was totally in charge of that class and she controlled it by engaging our minds. Over that school year, she explained the significance of the JFK visit and dozens of other noteworthy news events. The news; she always told us to pay attention to the news, to read newspapers.

Well, here it is almost forty-eight years later and I still remember that JFK visit, and I still remember the exclusion of my third grade class from that event. Often school administrators can be extraordinarily shortsighted, but sometimes a teacher like Mrs. Ulrich can make up for it.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Entry for June 22, 2008

We know we are getting older when we hear more reports about someone dieing than someone giving birth. To live out a natural life, fate must guide us away from natural disasters, disease, accidents, acts of war, and crime. In the end, senescence claims all of those survivors; nobody gets off this big spinning rock alive.

The objective, we learned, is to play the game conservatively, for as long as we can, to breathe our last breath when there is no longer anyone from our past left alive to favor us with a memory. Face it, whether we die while young or old, the passing of time dooms all members of the masses to
damnatio memoriae. Fleeting legacies belong only to ourselves and to those we love. Within limits, we can choose that our last breath can be from the exhaustion of living a complete life rather than from infirmity or the tedium of futilely attempting to defy mortality.

Outliving others should not be the goal. Our aim should be to live life to the point where we have few if any regrets. We need to at least take a chance occasionally and hike that mountain trail for as far as it goes, or for as far as we can endure, then to sleep under the stars. If we gauge our steps, there is room for adventure while living a life of caution. We can live lavishly while spending parsimoniously. We need some adventure throughout all of our life, if we wait until the end there will never be enough time to complete the “bucket list.” There is no logic in starting a twelve-step program or a hundred mile hike when there are only six steps left to the grave.

Early on, we need to make a list for life, live that list, then make another.


James A. Zachary Jr.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Entry for June 17, 2008


Ever see something out of the ordinary and wonder whether to call the cops or not? I’m sure most of you have, and I am sure at the time you were wondering what to say to the cops if you did call. Sometimes we do call; sometimes we don’t and then long wonder if our inaction was the correct action.

Today at 6:45 PM I was driving north on Route 21 through Libertyville, Illinois when I was passed by a marked police cruiser. In itself, that isn’t at all unusual, but this squad was fully marked, “Sebastian County Sheriff.” Again, I initially thought Sebastian County was just one county in Illinois that I had never heard of. A glance at the license plate was the spice of the mystery, “Arkansas 463KEG,” a strange essence indeed.

I could not get a good look at the driver, he had white hair and I saw part of what looked like a uniform, but he was booking through traffic above the posted speed limit so I could not keep up. He drove by two local police cars and they either did not notice him or think anything was strange. I debated calling our sheriff’s office, but was not sure what to say; I have not had good experiences with them in the past on such inquiries.

I am not adept at dialing a cell phone while driving. My concerns about the Arkansas squad car did not constitute an emergency, so dialing 911 was out of the question. When I tried dialing the operator for assistance with getting through to our local sheriff’s non-emergency number, I got a touchtone menu, so that was no help to me while driving. Soon the mystery squad was out of my sight, so I decided against further action until I got home. Once there, I tried finding a number for the Illinois State Police dispatch, and could only find their administrative numbers. I decided the best course would be simply to call the Sebastian County Sheriff’s office and politely ask if they knew that one of their cruisers was this far north.

Their dispatcher had all of the expected southern charm, and she told me that one of their cruisers was in Chicago to pick up a prisoner for return to Arkansas. I told her that the squad was about 30 miles north of Chicago and was heading in the general direction of Wisconsin. She said not to worry, that the Deputy in the car had little sense of direction but eventually would figure it all out. Once I hung up the phone, I remembered that all of my southern relatives referred to all cities and towns in northern Illinois as “Chicago”; they found that much easier to remember than “Lake Zurich.” My guess now is that the Deputy was on course and heading toward the Lake County Jail in Waukegan to retrieve his prisoner.

In any case, there you have my tempest in a teapot, something strange that turned out to be nothing at all, but at least this time I know for sure.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Entry for June 14, 2008

Ah ha! Google comes through again. I have found a way to change the post dates of the ARCHIVE entries that I have moved / am moving from my Yahoo! blog site, that way they will be in the logical, proper order here on BLOGGER.

My messing around with the ARCHIVE entries that I have moved / am moving, MAY just cause some headaches for those using RSS feeds; I am not sure if what I am doing is going to “spam” you or not. If you see strange old ARCHIVE messages coming up on your feed, please stop the feed until I am done messing around. I know it is a pain, but some of those old posts are important to me. I won’t be making any new blog posts until I have finished moving and sorting the ARCHIVE entries, just a couple of days at the most. Thanks.

Happy Father’s Day weekend to all.

Your five sons sure miss you, Dad.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Entry for June 12, 2008

As soon as I think YAHOO! cannot suck any worse, they prove me WRONG! I am humbled by their suckiness.

My YAHOO! blogsite hosted from my personal webpage is dropping error messages and will not come up most of the time.

I changed the link on my personal webpage to pull up my GOOGLE BLOGGER site. Compared to Yahoo!, Google almost does not suck at all.

So far, those that access my blog from Yahoo! 360 can still get in (Hi Paula!)

For those that are still trying to go directly to my Yahoo! blogsite directly, I have no way to notify them what is going on. I may try to redirect the URL.

I hate to lose any of the few readers that I have. For those that may get through to the Yahoo! version of this blog, please please please switch your settings to go to

http://jamesazacharyjr.blogspot.com/


Yahoo!, you really do suck.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Entry for June 11, 2008

I hate starlings. They are rats with wings. Two years ago, I found lots of them nesting in the attic of my relatively new house. Picture me, middle age, overweight, out of shape, crawling among the rafters, during the heat of August, with pellet-pistol and flashlight in hand, just shooting the living hell out of the feathered intruders. I’ll save the hoplophobic bird-huggers among you a phone call to the authorities; starlings are a non-native species and not protected, as are songbirds. I asked these birds to leave quietly and they refused, so I invoked The Castle Doctrine. Die you wretched starlings. Die!

The contractor that built these houses used cheap, flimsy, metal ridge-vents on the roofs. On my house, some of the end caps were missing and some of the ridge-vent openings where bent and unscreened. I had a contractor come in and remove the metal ridge-vents, then install a different, more bird proof, ridge-vent design. Problem solved, right?

Now the flying vermin have discovered the exhaust fan vent for the downstairs half bath, and the exhaust fan vent for the stove. Starlings can hover much like a hummingbird and flip a vent exhaust louver open with their beaks, and sneak in an opening that looks like it would be too narrow for them. They are talented little pests. My first homeland defense instinct was to sit on the patio with my pellet rifle and Rambo every starling that came within range. My survival instincts reminded me that, since this is Waukegan, Illinois, there would be a good chance of a SWAT team response to my address after the neighbors called 911 to report “man with a rifle.” I considered shooting the starlings from inside the house through an open window, but again was concerned about the neighbors’ possible reactions to seeing the rifle barrel poking out. I decided on something more passive.

I found some ready made bird-proof covers for the bathroom and clothes-dryer exhaust vents, but had to improvise a cover for the stove exhaust vent. It has been a long, hard day with many trips shopping for the right materials, and many trips up and down the ladder. I am beat, but so are the starlings, at least for now.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Entry for June 10, 2008

Some experts are predicting $5.50 - $6.00 a gallon gasoline this year. Look for the mother of all recessions and a return of Jimmy Carter era stagflation if gasoline climbs to such heights. Many household and corporate budgets will not survive the weight of more debt.

Since the experts are going north, I will go south. Barring war, Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, or an act of terrorism, I predict that gasoline will be in the range of $3.50 a gallon by November 1, 2008. All bubbles burst, and most agree that currently much of the price for a barrel of oil is speculation.

Just a hunch, gasoline for $3.50 a gallon by November 1st, let’s see how close I come.


James A. Zachary Jr.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Entry for June 06, 2008

A bathroom in a home contains a toilet, a sink, and a bathtub or shower stall. A half bath refers to a bathroom with just a toilet and sink. Kids grow up saying, “I have to go to the bathroom,” when they need to take care of business. During my early school days, I found there was an unannounced rule change. To complicate matters, my folks were originally from Tennessee, and they brought a bit of an accent with them when they moved north. It was quite natural for their children to acquire a hint of that accent, along with some of Dad’s good old-fashioned southern logic.

I survived my earliest days of elementary school by just following the lead of my classmates, taking care of bathroom business before the first bell rang, and before or after the lunch break. One day the call of nature was uncooperative, so I raised my hand and asked the teacher if I could go to the bathroom.

“The bathroom? Are you going to take a bath?”

“Uh, no ma’am, I have to go.”

“We don’t have “bathrooms” here at school, there are no bathtubs here. We call them “restrooms.””

After the Principal paddled my ass with a 3’ long 2’’x6’’ board, I surmised that I had made a major error in discretion by suggesting to the teacher that since kids did not go there to rest it should be called “The piss room.” Note to self, never again try Dad’s country style logic on a teacher.

My survival skills kicked in, and I rarely asked the teacher for permission to “go,” but when I did, it was to “the restroom.” I had noticed that most of the other kids were asking the teacher if they could go to “the washroom” instead of “the restroom,” so one day I thought I would try the same designation. Here is where a touch of that Tennessee accent reared its head like a stepped-on rattlesnake.

“Teacher, may I go to the WARSHroom?”

“Pardon me?”

“May I go to the WARSHroom?”

The other kids in the class could see where the teacher was going with this, and they were falling out of their chairs laughing.

“I'm sorry, I don’t understand what you are asking for. What is a WARSHroom?”

Now I was confused and nervous, so I fell back to a previous mistake. “May I go to the bathroom? “

“We don’t take baths here at school. We have no bathrooms here.”

“Ma’am, I need to go.”

“You need to go where?”

“To the WARSHroom.”

“There is no “R” in “wash.” Say it for me, “WASH.””

“WARSH”

“WASH”

“WARSH”

I could not hear the “R” when I tried to say, “wash,” and could not comprehend the point my teacher was trying to make. My classmates were howling with laughter, no one was left in their seat.

“Allen, you have again disrupted the class so I am sending you back to the Principal’s office.”

Even though the stress and humiliation had me in tears, the devil in me was force majeure and had to make one last great act of defiance.

“Can I piss first?”

“OUT! NOW!”

You know you have been to The Principal’s Office far too many times when he gives you a nickname. “Now what are you here for, Zack?” As always, I was scared to death and I knew I was going to get another beating, but I had to make sure I kept the universe in balance. Though the tears and fear I grinned at the Principal and gave him my answer.

“Because the teacher wouldn’t let me go to the piss room.”



James A. Zachary Jr.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Entry for June 05, 2008

When I turned six years old, my parents ruined my celebration by ambushing me with the fact that I had to go to the first grade that fall. I knew my older brother had attended kindergarten when we lived in Chicago and had been going to school in Lake Zurich for a couple of years, but I thought I was exempt from such nonsense. Since I had never been to kindergarten, my parents knew I was lacking many of the skills needed for elementary school. A couple of months before my scheduled first day, my folks put me on a crash course, trying to teach me the basics of what I would need to know. The first problem was that I could not read at all, nor could I even recite the alphabet. Then there was the issue of teaching me the fact that wearing shoes was not optional, and I had yet to learn to tie my own shoes. My lack of attention hindered their efforts, and out of urgency and frustration, they overlooked a few things. One critical point my folks missed was that they neglected to tell me what my name was.

Mom had a habit of calling some of us by our middle names. Now, my older brother Wayne’s middle name is “Gaston” so Mom chose to spare him that indignity; back then, playgrounds were unsafe for anyone sporting the name “Gaston.” For some unknown reason she also spared my brother Jeffrey whose middle name is “Russell,” a name that was perfectly playground survivable. However, for the rest of us our middle name was to be our handle for most of the early years of our lives. Gordon’s middle name is “Eugene,” so Mom called him “Gene.” Raymond’s middle name is “Bradley,” so Mom called him “Brad.” My middle name is “Allen” and that’s the only name anyone had every used to address me.

Inevitably, the day came when my folks treasonously marched me off to school. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Washo, introduced all of the kids in the classroom to the roll call procedure. She read off each name alphabetically and that respective kid had to raise his or her hand and respond “HERE!” Since my last name was Zachary, I was at the end of the teacher’s list.

“James Zachary.”

I looked around the room, trying to catch a glimpse of another kid with the same last name that I had.

“James Zachary.”

All eyes in the room turned to me, while I just kept looking around for the kid with that name.

“JAMES ZACHARY!”

At that point, the teacher was glaring at me. The kid in the seat behind me whacked me on the shoulder and said, “HEY! You are the only one left!”

As best as a scared six-year-old kid could, I explained to the teacher that my name was “Allen” and not “James.” She looked at me as if I was damaged goods, scratched out “James” on her sheet, and scribbled “Allen.” Begrudgingly she announced to all of us that since there were several kids in the class named “James” or “Jim,” she would be calling me by the name of “Allen” to help avoid confusion.

After several more cultural traumas, my first day of school ended and I dejectedly trudged back home to tell Mom, “That teacher sure is dumb. She kept telling me my name was “James.”” I’ll never forget the incredulous, bemused look on Mom’s face when she responded, “Well, your name IS James, didn’t you know that, silly?” I am not sure exactly what my next words were since a six-year-old has limited eloquence, but they were something along the line of, “Just WHEN were you planning on getting around to telling me this?”

At least my name wasn’t “Gaston.”


James “Allen” Zachary Jr.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Entry for June 04, 2008


Flashing back to my childhood in Lake Zurich, Illinois, here is a 45-year-old class photo. I’m the kid on the far left, middle row.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Entry for June 03, 2008

The Google Blogger version of this blog received its first international hits on 6/2/2008. It is curious that they all came on the same day, but I’ll take a hit from wherever, whenever, for whatever reason.

Jakarta, Indonesia
Semarang, Indonesia
Buenos Aires, Argentina
New Delhi, India
Yekaterinburg, Russia

There have also been a few visits here from my childhood hometown, Lake Zurich, Illinois.

I send greetings to all of you; thanks for happening upon this site, hope you visit again soon.


James A. Zachary Jr.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Entry for June 02, 2008


Lake Michigan does not care how big and seaworthy you think your scrawny little boat is.

Last Friday’s storm had multidirectional winds that hit 60 MPH and the surface of Lake Michigan can churn waves up in no time at all when a sudden storm like that hits. If the winds on the lake were as variable as they were here on land, you can get “confused seas,” waves coming from all directions, very scary stuff. Whatever the case was on Friday, at 11:30 AM the waves were big enough to sink a charter fishing-boat, 3-miles offshore between Waukegan and Great Lakes Naval Station.

The Lake County News-Sun article said 6’ – 8’ waves swamped the 36-foot boat and it sank in a hurry. The Captain had the presence of mind to issue life vests to his passengers and crew, and to radio a Mayday to the Coast Guard with the boat’s GPS location coordinates. The Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived in 30-minutes, with their patrol boat arriving shortly thereafter. Another News-Sun article said that there were seven very cold, very lucky, people rescued. Give a hearty salute to our Coast Guard for a job very well done.

Before you call the boat’s captain a dumbass, hear me out. I can tell you stories of being on a glass smooth Lake Michigan when the weather service was warning of current wave conditions being over 6’, and I have been out there when the weather service said there were no waves at all while I was taking waves over the bow into the cockpit. Boating on Lake Michigan comes with no guarantee. Most of the time you go home and eat fish, but if the cards you are dealt turn up
black aces and eights you don’t go home and the fish get to eat you.

In other news related to Friday’s storm, there were still 6,900 homes without power as of Saturday morning. Sadly, I found that the storm winds stripped the petals from my last two remaining tulips of this season, a beautiful pair of pink tulips that lasted for what seemed like weeks. Gladly, my peach colored irises have bloomed. Spring is racing into summer.


James A. Zachary Jr.