Grounded

Those of you who have followed Filosofa’s Word for more than a year may remember a series of posts that I re-blogged by justascottishgirl, a young woman from Scotland who, in late 2015 to mid-2016 took time from her own life to volunteer helping refugees on the Greek Isle of Kos. Her tales were often heartbreaking, but I was so impressed with what she and others were doing – giving of themselves for the cause of humanity – that I shared her story a few times in March 2016. She eventually returned to Scotland, but has now moved to the Greek Isle of Kos. She has started a new blog, titled From Greece With Love, and shares her very astute thoughts on not just the refugee crisis, but the terrible inhumane incidents taking place around the globe. I am sharing, with her permission, the first post on her new blog where she starts with a question: How does one stay grounded with all the terrible things happening around the world? She concludes with: “Stand together, show love where you find hate and don’t let fear win.” Just A Scottish Girl is an excellent writer, thinker, and humanitarian extraordinaire, and this post is well worth the read. Please take a few moments to read her words, for they reflect what most of us are thinking in these troubled times. Thank you, Scottish Girl, for all you do, for your beautiful heart, and for permission to share your thoughts and words.

From Greece With Love

All through life when times get tough, when things start to run away with us or when things start to get too much we often hear the advice “stay grounded.” We are told to “keep our feet on the ground” to balance us, to remind of something solid, something steady that can help bring us down from those dizzying heights that challenging times can take us to. But what happens when that safety net fails, when you can no longer trust the earth to keep you steady?

Recently I experienced a rather nasty earthquake which has left this question playing on my mind. When we live in a world of such uncertainty, how exactly do we stay grounded when we can’t even trust the ground we walk on?

But this idea of losing trust in your surroundings goes further than a shift in tectonic plates, for me personally anyway. Over…

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the U.S., today is Thanksgiving.  Different people in the U.S. see this holiday in different ways.  Some see it as an excuse to cram as much food as they possibly can into their bodies, then spend the evening hours moaning about how miserable they are.  Others genuinely delight in a day to spend with family and friends.  Still others find it a great opportunity for a drunk-fest.  For some, it is almost a religious holiday, for others it is more about planning for black Friday shopping.

As I pondered what to write about this Thanksgiving, thinking it would be right and proper to keep my post free of politics, I tossed a number of ideas out the window after brief consideration.  I went back and looked at the post I wrote last Thanksgiving … here’s a link if you wish to re-read it, for it was a far nicer post than this one is likely to be and … it has cartoons!.  I put fingers to keyboard and tried a post about the happy things in life … yes, there are many … but it sounded canned, scripted.  I threw that one out and put fingers to keyboard again, trying this time for humour, but it was dry and brittle.  Delete.  And after several false starts, I concluded that I will just settle for wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving … but before I go …

I would, however, like to take this opportunity to say something to those of you who read this blog.  Three years ago, if anybody had told me that some of the best friends I would have would be those I had never met, I would have said they were nuts.  Today, I must say that you guys are among my most treasured friends.  Each and every one of you have become such an important part of my day.  I look forward to your comments, and to reading your blogs, though I don’t get to them as often as I would like. Some of you always make me laugh, others reel me back in when I go too deep into the rabbit hole.  Still others always give me a reason to think about things from another angle, or ponder that which I have never pondered.  And all of you have contributed to keeping this blog afloat, for you will never know how many times I have thought it was just a dumb blog, that I was preaching to the choir, or as Hugh says, ‘spitting in the wind’, and asked myself why I bother.  But the encouragement and many hugs I get from everybody here on WordPress has kept me going.  I just want to thank you all for your support, let you know that you are at the top of my “List of Things to be Thankful For”, and I love you all.

And now, I shall settle for wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

And I shall go chop some …onions-celery… to make …

stuffing … to put in the turkey

Play It Again, Sam …

Some days I think we take one step forward and two steps back, for it seems that we are having to fight the same battles over and over again.  How many times did we have to call or write our representatives in Congress to tell them we did not want ACA to be repealed willy-nilly?  It just kept popping back up like a bad dream, and still today it is back, since it has been tacked on to the equally abominable tax ‘reform’ bill.  And now, after we thought we had made our wishes clear on net neutrality, we find it has come back and with a vengeance.  I have lived on this planet 66 years, been politically astute for at least 50 of those years, and never in that entire time have I seen such chaos, such blatant disregard on the part of elected officials for the will of the people.

Back in July, when the issue of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to repeal net neutrality rules first reared its ugly head, I wrote a post about it.  In the interest of simplicity, and because I am tired today, don’t feel like re-inventing the wheel, I am replaying that post here.  Same game, different day, folks.  Keep those emails, tweets and phone calls to your representatives going, for even though it is a holiday week and they are not working, our voices will be heard … eventually.

TRUMP & PAI SET TO WRECK THE INTERNET

Posted on July 15, 2017 by jilldennison under Political commentarySocial commentary

I am sure by now you have all heard the term ‘net neutrality’.  Many do not understand quite what the term means, and others may have misconceptions based on political rhetoric, so for starters let us make sure we are on the same page with what it is and why it is so important.

Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet service providers (Comcast, AT&T, Time-Warner, Verizon, etc.) should treat all traffic on their networks equally. That means companies like Verizon should not block or slow down access to any website or content on the Web – for instance, to benefit their own services over those of competitors.

In layman’s terms, what this means is that your broadband provider, which controls your access to the Internet, can’t block or slow down the services or applications you use over the Web. It also means your Internet service provider — whether it’s a cable company or telephone service — can’t create so-called fast lanes that force content companies like Netflix to pay an additional fee to deliver their content to customers faster. It means that cable ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T or Verizon don’t get to choose which data is sent more quickly and which sites get blocked or throttled based on which content providers pay a premium.

paiAjit Varadaraj Pai, a former Verizon lawyer, is Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As such, he is against net neutrality, preferring to give full control of the internet to the tech giants, the wealthy communication corporations.

In 2015, the FCC voted to more strictly regulate Internet Service Providers.  But along comes Donald Trump in 2017 and, along with Pai, wants to repeal those rules.  What will the result be for the average internet user if net neutrality is overturned?  Let us look back to 2014:

In 2014, if your service provider was Comcast and you were a Netflix subscriber, you experienced a 30% slowdown on streaming videos via Netflix.  The reason is the communication giant ‘throttled’ Netflix.  Ultimately a deal was reached whereby Netflix would pay Comcast for direct access to its broadband network. While I do not know the amount of money involved, I can guarantee you that when Netflix incurs payment to Comcast, it does not see a reduction in its bottom line, but instead passes that additional cost to you, the consumer. The deal became null and void in 2015 with the advent of the new net neutrality rules, but if they are overturned, much more of this gouging can be expected within a short time.

Pretty much everyone outside the large cable companies supports the FCC’s net neutrality rules. In an uncharacteristic display of unity, large companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook have joined forces with smaller companies such as Reddit, Netflix, Vimeo and Etsy and activists including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU and Demand Progress to protest the proposed rollback. They are among the 200 organizations that participated in a day of action on Wednesday in an attempt to get their users to contact Congress and the FCC and demand that net neutrality be protected. After Wednesday’s day of action, members of the public will have until 18 July to send comments to the FCC. Replies to those comments are due by 16 August, after which the FCC will make a final decision.

net-neutrality-2And in a completely separate, yet related issue … In April, Trump signed into law a bill that repealed previous legislation guaranteeing our internet privacy.  The initial FCC regulations would have required broadband companies to get permission from their customers in order to use their “sensitive” data — including browsing history, geolocation and financial and medical information — to create targeted advertisements.  While this news was reported at the time, it was largely overlooked in light of whatever Trump news was dominating the headlines that day, so many may have been unaware.  What this means for you is that … say you Google a specific medical condition, such as athletes foot.  Tomorrow, your inbox may be filled with advertisements for creams and cures for the condition, but not only that … while you are browsing on social media, you will also receive pop-up ads for the same type of products.  Now just imagine that what you Googled was of a much more sensitive nature …

In both the net neutrality and the internet privacy issues, the winners are the big corporations, the communication giants and in the latter, any company that advertises on the internet.  The losers are We The People. While the internet privacy bill has already been signed and its repeal is unlikely under the current batch of republicans in both the White House and Congress, it is not too late to take a stand against the repeal of internet neutrality.  WordPress itself has placed an announcement requesting its members to use their voices to speak out against this repeal.  I second their motion.

And on that note, I wish you all a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!!!

Good People Doing Good Things — Rayn Boncie

Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours. – Les Brown


Today I would like to introduce you to a very special lady who has done, and is doing, some very special things to help abused and neglected children.  Her name is Rayn Boncie and I think you will fall in love with this lady … I know I did!

I will let Rayn tell you where her story began  …

“When I was 14 years-old I was placed in the foster care system. A few months later, another foster child arrived. She was also 14 and came in wearing clothing that would have fit a small nine-year-old. I remember seeing her change for bed and noticed reddish-purplish welts on her skin. Her clothing had literally injured her. I made a silent promise to her that day, that when I grew up, I would do something to help children like her and me.

I started Things of My Very Own, Inc. out of my home in 2008 in order to bridge the gap between what social service entities were able to provide and what children need. In 2010, we served 5,892 individuals. Now, we are in a 20,000 square foot building and I’m quite certain that this is going to be a record-breaking year.”

The mission of Things of My Very Own, located in Schenectady, New York, as stated on their website, is:

Things of My Very Own helps introduce children to the fundamental life skills needed to develop into stable, confident individuals with healthy levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Things of My Very Own, Inc. provides crisis intervention services to children impacted by extensive abuse and/or neglect. Services are also available to children who are, solely due to the lack of items necessary for sustainability, at risk of a Child Protective Services intervention. Our goal is to keep children together with non-abusive family members, and out of the foster care system, whenever possible.

rayn-1So, what do they do, exactly?  They act as a go-between among social service agencies, bridging the gap between crisis and long-term solution by providing assistance within four hours of receiving a referral, as well as providing up to seven days of emergency materials — clothing, toiletries, bedding, school supplies and access to a food pantry.

In November 2015,  Things of My Very Own, Inc. launched its Holiday Adoption Program which allows at-risk children to adopt stuffed animals that they will then care for. Volunteers were seen wearing light blue or black scrubs and stethoscopes as they walked around carrying stuffed animals being fed with baby bottles.

tomvo.jpg“Rather than just giving toys to underprivileged children, we decided to give them an experience. Children come in, fill out an application and learn a bit about the personality of each stuffed animal. There is even a birth certificate.” said Client Relations Specialist Candra Kimball.

This year, Rayn and her team of 500+ volunteers decided to try something new.  They created tags for the children in need in the community to write down what they would most like for Christmas … wishes they intend to fill as best they can.

tag-1.jpg“Every tag is connected to a child who wants to believe that someone in the world cares about their well-being. If we can show them for one moment that someone put their needs ahead of their own, maybe they will finally believe that what they have endured does not need to define who they grow up to be. For many of these children, we are the spark of hope that lights up their otherwise dark world. Many individuals and businesses have already stepped up, asking for tags; and for these children, we hope it is only the beginning.”

tag-4.jpgRayn has a Facebook page where she tells a bit of her story, and the giving doesn’t stop with Rayn and Things of my Very Own, for her Facebook followers are taking the ball and running with it …

C,S. This post prompted me to contact my daughter’s teacher. I asked if there were children in her kindergarten class that were not bringing snacks everyday. She told me yes and also said I could send in snacks for her to give these children. Made a trip to the store today and have several boxes of snacks for her to pass out to make sure every kid has a snack. Thanks for waking me up.

L.A.S. I  love this! i’m going to message my daughters teacher tomorrow!

D.M. GOOD FOR YOU,,I AM NOW CONSIDERING GOING TO THE LOCAL SCHOOL TO SEE HOW I CAN HELP,,THANK YOU,,6 YRS, US ARMY,,DISABLED VETERAN

Funny how good deeds inspire others to do their own good in the world, isn’t it?

Last year, Ms. Boncie was selected to attend the Effective Altruism Global 2016 conference in San Francisco. She was hand-picked from thousands of applicants and nominations throughout the world because she possesses the right combination of analytic thinking with altruistic motivations. Not only was she chosen to attend, but she was also awarded a scholarship.

Rayn has earned several awards and designations including but not limited to The Presidents Lifetime Achievement Award from President Obama.

I applaud this woman, the organization she founded and has dedicated her life to, as well as all those who volunteer their time and/or resources to Things of my Very Own, for they are helping so many young children in countless ways.  Thank you, Ms. Boncie for all you do!

clapping

Competitive Elections Are Bad For Us?

Most of us give very little thought to the U.S. Census Bureau and the census that is taken once every ten years.  Ho hum, right?  We get a form, fill it out, send it back and at the end, we read in the news how many people live in the country … just another statistic to store away somewhere in the backs of our minds, for there are more important things to think about.  But you may want to start thinking a bit harder about the census that will be taken in 2020.

census logoThe census is about more than simply counting how many people are in the country.  It is also the source for the demographics that are used by the government to make policy decisions. And, it determines such things as how many electoral votes each state gets, how may representatives each state will have in Congress, and where district lines will be drawn.  Therefore, it is pretty important to have accuracy in the census.  Though it is impossible to ever have complete accuracy, the Census Bureau strives for the highest possible degree of accuracy … we hope.

Currently, the head of the U.S. Census Bureau is a temporary career civil servant, and as the agency is beginning to gear up for the 2020 census, Trump is looking to appoint a permanent head for the bureau. Now think back to some of Trump’s other appointments. Trump has made a habit of appointing individuals to serve in his administration who are either supremely unqualified or seemingly opposed to the very objectives of the agencies they are tapped to lead:  Betsy DeVos, who is against public schools, for Secretary of the Department of Education; Jeff Sessions, a known racist, for U.S. Attorney General; Scott Pruitt, who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multiple times, for head of the EPA, the very agency he has threatened to abolish. So who, you might ask, is Trump reportedly planning to appoint to lead the Census Bureau?

brunell

Thomas Brunell

Thomas Brunell, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Dallas, and author of the book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America (Controversies in Electoral Democracy and Representation).  Think on this one for just a minute, friends.  The man who will be in charge of the department that will determine how representation is apportioned believes that competitive elections are a bad thing.  Mind-boggling, don’t you think?

The leadership positions in the U.S. Census Bureau have typically been held by non-partisan civil servants with a background in statistics. Trump is planning to nominate Brunell to the number two position at the bureau, deputy director, which does not require Senate confirmation, as the position of director would. Brunell would become the highest-ranking permanent official at the agency. Though the deputy director technically reports to the census director, that slot is temporarily being filled by a career civil servant. There is currently no nominee for a permanent director.

brunell-bookTrump has already paved the way for curtailment of voter’s rights with his false, unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 elections.  He is also said to be considering an executive order to add a question to the census form about immigration/citizenship status, which would reduce the number of responses from minorities, fearing what the government might do with the information.  At the same time, his budget calls for an inadequate 7% increase for the Census Bureau at a time when they bureau must hire tens of thousands of people and open dozens of field offices nationwide.  And we cannot forget his ‘Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ which has been the source of much controversy and is currently facing a number of lawsuits after attempting to collect the private information, including Social Security numbers and criminal conviction data of registered voters.

The appointment of Brunell is but another indication that Trump has little respect for our rights as voters, for the democratic process.  My hope is that Trump will be out of office by the end of 2018, but even so, many of the moves he is making today, such as the appointment of Brunell, may be difficult to undo, if his replacement is even willing to reverse his actions.  Coupled with the fact that there is no doubt in my mind Russia will continue to play a role in our elections, since there have been no repercussions to them, no sanctions, for their proven interference in the 2016 elections, I think it’s safe to say our right to have a voice in government is greatly diminished.

Terri Ann Lowenthal, former co-director of the Census Project, said, “It is imperative that the Census Bureau’s leadership be viewed by the public and by lawmakers as completely nonpartisan. If either the director or the deputy director bring partisan baggage to their position, public confidence in the integrity of the census could plummet. So could congressional confidence. And it is Congress that must accept the apportionment results. All this stuff worries me.”

Keystone XL … A Hollow Victory?

Last week I reported about the spill of 210,000 gallons of oil from the Keystone XL pipeline, and expressed hopes that somehow this would sway the Nebraska Public Service Commission that was set to vote yesterday on whether or not to grant approval for the final stage of the pipeline that would go through Nebraska.    So what happened yesterday?

Predictably, the commission voted that the pipeline may proceed through Nebraska … BUT … it is not the win TransCanada, the builders of the pipeline, had hoped for.  Why?  Because, while the commission said they could proceed, they mandated that it follow an alternative route.  Hey, it’s an alternative world with alternative facts, so why not an alternative route?  What does all this mean, you ask?

pipeline-new-routeFirst, it means that the project that has been on the drawing board for nine years now will be futher delayed.  Second, you may remember I noted that the two environmental impact studies were outdated (2012 & 2014) and thus did not include last week’s major spill.  With the alternative route, a new environmental impact study could be called for – one that would include the recent spill, as well as the one from last year. Third, the landowners along the new, alternative route, have not had the opportunity of due process, the chance to argue their case before the state commission, which could result in a legal delay. Fourth, with oil prices down significantly from when the project was first proposed, TransCanada was already looking at diminished returns on their investment.  With the legal delays, scheduling changes, and additional costs involved, they could well decide not to proceed with the project at all.

TransCanada’s CEO, Ross Girling, was less than enthusiastic, saying the company is now “assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project.” Top financial and market analysts expressed skepticism that the project will ever reach fruition.  Environmental groups opposed to the project are cautiously optimistic.  One such group, Friends of the Earth, sent me this email …

Keystone friends of earthNo, I did not send them a donation, though if I could afford it, I probably would, for it is a good organization and they do good work.

In addition to environmental groups, Native Americans and other landowners would have much preferred the commission to vote down the project altogether. According to Bloomberg …

“Nebraska’s decision overrode the objections of environmental groups, Native American tribes and landowners along the pipeline’s prospective route. The project had the support of the state’s governor, Republican Pete Ricketts, its chamber of commerce, trade unions and the petroleum industry.”

Tells you all you need to know, doesn’t it?

The commissioners who supported the route change said it would impact fewer threatened and endangered species, fewer wells, less irrigated cropland, and that it included one less river crossing. While TransCanada had originally included the alternative route in its proposal, no impact studies were ever done for that route, leading most to believe it was never intended to be considered.

What happens next?  Landowners and environmental groups have 30 days to file an appeal, which I would bet my bottom dollar will happen in well under 30 days. The decision by the Public Service Commission (PSC) was not a complete victory for either side, but it will certainly delay the project further, could possibly halt it based on new environmental impact studies, and could even cause TransCanada to cancel the project.  Time will tell, but for the moment, it seems rather a hollow victory for TransCanada and its wealthy stockholders.  And oh, by the way, speaking of stockholders  …

You may find it interesting to note that Donald Trump holds stock in TransCanada, as well as in Energy Transfer Partners, the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Wow, what a surprise, yes?

Stay tuned ….

Delivery Systems

What is the purpose of an education? It seems that more and more these days it is considered to be learning only facts and figures, only for the purpose of earning money. Have we forgotten the higher purpose of learning how to think for ourselves, how to understand how the world works? Is this why we have such ineptitude in government today? Have we come to believe that the sole purpose in education is to get a job and make a lot of money, have a lot of ‘things’? Our friend Hugh has some thoughts on this topic that I would like to share with you today, so please read on … and thank you, Hugh, for the post and permission to share!

hughcurtler

In responding to a comment on a recent blog I noted that in teaching our kids we have become caught up in the methods of teaching and have lost sight of the all-important question of what it is that teachers ought to do — not how they might do it more effectively. I want to expand on that for a bit.

We are talking here about what have been called “delivery systems,” the how of teaching rather than the why of teaching. In my response to the comment mentioned above I referred to them as “gimmicks and tools” — mostly gimmicks that arise from the mistaken notion that teaching is a science when, in fact, it is an art. Teacher evaluations, for example, are focused on the question “how well does your teacher teach?” This reflects the larger societal preoccupation with methods rather than substance.  Science, for example, has become…

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A Jolly Pre-Thanksgiving Monday To YOU!

Welcome, dear friends … quick … come in out of the cold, for it is freezing out there!  (Okay, Gronda, Hortie, Don and the rest of you down in Florida … hold your laughter, please!) Did you all have a good weekend?  I did a dumb thing.  I have had to stop driving after dark, for a couple of weeks ago, I could not see the entrance to my street, drove the car up over a sidewalk and into a ditch, so that was the end of my night-driving.  Since I don’t have a car, I have to use daughter Chris’ car after she comes home from work or on weekends.  So, that left me to do the grocery shopping this weekend.  Do you have any idea how many people go to Kroger on the Sunday before Thanksgiving?  NEVER AGAIN!  Anyway, that experience is behind me, and I am now going into winter hibernation, for it was freezing today, and my old bones are still, some 12 hours later, feeling the chill.  So let us settle in with something warm to drink and have a few laughs to start the week out right, shall we?

 


For some reason, I always tend to associate bagpipes with funerals. A New Zealand man apparently intended to make it necessary to hold a funeral … his own … when he took a notion to drive his car while playing the pipes!

bagpipes“The driver didn’t have their hands on the wheel at the time, and he was clearly playing the instrument while driving the car. His fingers were going a million miles an hour,” Acting Sergeant Bryce Johnson said.  The man denied the charges, claimed he was only playing “air pipes”, and was let off without a fine.  Sergeant Johnson must have been in a good mood, else he had no evidence.


Most people put their children in the bathtub when they are dirty, but one enterprising mom in China may have thought it would be quicker to clean her 10-year-old son in the clothes washing machine.  Long story short, the boy became stuck and it took firefighters nearly half an hour, during which they had to take the washing machine apart, to rescue the boy!

 

Think twice before you toss your kid into the washer, okay?


And speaking of getting stuck in strange places, this one also took place in China.  This one is really hard to figure, and the story did not elucidate on how, exactly, she got her leg stuck.  Perhaps it is for the better …

 

What is it with the Chinese and plumbing fixtures?


When I was in junior high school, or what they now call ‘middle school’, there was no such thing as a “Family & Consumer Sciences” class, but times have changed and apparently now there is.  Administrators at Carter G. Woodson Middle School in Hopewell, Virginia, found themselves in a wee bit of hot water last week over a “Family Quiz” worksheet that a teacher downloaded from the internet for her 7th grade class.  It may be that the teacher should have looked more closely at the questions, or the disclaimer that read, “Please remember that this worksheet may not be appropriate to teach to younger students and can be adapted to your own needs.”

Family quizNeedless to say, parents were in a bit of a state, and one parent issued a statement:

“No one in the schools system needs to be teaching my daughter what a mistress is or a trophy wife or boy toy. It’s inappropriate for a school. Period. We send our kids there to learn math, reading, science and history not to learn this other stuff that goes on in the world that they eventually going to learn anyways.”

Hmmm … could be that this mother could benefit from a grammar class refresher? The school district apologized to parents.  No word on whether the teacher, unnamed in the articles I read, remains employed, but if I had to guess ….

job wanted


With Thanksgiving coming in just a few days, the gifting holidays aren’t far behind, so it’s time to be thinking about that special gift for that special someone, right? Well, never fear, for this year Filosofa has taken it upon herself to help you out, take some of the work out of scouring the stores and the internet in search of, so I will, from time to time apprise you of the ‘to die for’ gifts that I find.  And starting with this week …

Is there someone who does embroidery or other forms of crafts using yarn on your list?  This Sterling Silver Yarn Ball is sure to delight them!

Tiffany yarn

DESCRIPTION & DETAILS:

This limited-edition piece is one of five handcrafted by Tiffany artisans in New York in 2017. A ball of yarn is reimagined in handspun strands of textured sterling silver, rendering the ordinary extraordinary.

Sterling silver

Available exclusively at Tiffany.com, the New York flagship and select Tiffany stores

The price?  Oh piffle, you know your friend is worth whatever the price.  But really, at $9,000 it’s a steal, don’t you think?

Or how about this … a Sterling Silver Tin Can makes a great pencil holder …

Tiffany tin canDESCRIPTION & DETAILS:

Tiffany artisans transform utilitarian items into handcrafted works of art. Sterling silver and shining vermeil upgrade this classic tin can.

Sterling silver and vermeil with Tiffany Blue® enamel accent

4.5″ high

Instantly recognizable, the signature Tiffany Blue® hue of this design’s enamel accent has been as iconic as the brand itself since its founding in 1837

A true bargain at only $1,000!

And last one for today … a Sterling Silver Paper Plate for only $950!  Now who wouldn’t love this?

Tiffany paper plateDESCRIPTION & DETAILS:

Tiffany artisans transform utilitarian items into handcrafted works of art. Reimagined in sterling silver, this plate is infused with modern wit.

Sterling silver

9.7″ diameter

Available exclusively at Tiffany.com, the New York flagship and select Tiffany stores

All of these are part of Tiffany’s ‘Everyday Collection’ that I just know you’ll want to check out!  Oh, and by the way, engraving is also available, at an extra cost, I imagine.


In my Saturday Surprise feature, I told you about some rather oddish Thanksgiving-themed foods and beverages.  Today I have one that, while not turkey & dressing flavoured, nonetheless qualifies as oddish.  What would you think of Fried Chicken Beer?  I like fried chicken fine, and I like beer okay every once in a blue moon, but the combination … just thinking about it does odd things to my stomach.

Fried chicken beerVirginia’s The Veil Brewing Company teamed up with New York-based Evil Twin Brewing to create Fried Fried Chicken Chicken beer, an IPA-style beer made using trace amounts of fried chicken.

“The idea came to us after eating a significant amount of fried chicken at various establishments in our beautiful city of Richmond,” Veil Brewing said. “We actually put a very small amount of fried chicken in one of two of the mashes (less than .4% of the total weight of the mash contents).”

If any of you decide to give it a try, be sure to stop by and let me know how it tasted … better yet, bring me a sample!


And now, dear friends, I’m sad to say our time together must come to an end.  I shall miss you all, but I’ll see you during the week, and we will all meet back here next Monday and you can tell me all about your Thanksgiving!  I’ve decided to end with a song … one of my favourites, Mack The Knife sung by Bobby Darin.  (Keith … you may remember I mentioned payback?  😉 ).  Have a great week … for my U.S. readers, it will be a short work week.  Keep safe, keep warm, and be happy.  And remember, if I have made you smile even a little bit today, please share that smile as you go about your day.  They grow when you share them, y’know.  Love ‘n hugs from Filosofa!

 

toon-maxine

toon-turkey

 

The Ultimate Irony …

In the wake of the shooting in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton remarked that the solution for preventing more shootings in churches from occurring in the future was “at least arming some of the parishioners so they can respond to something like this.”   I noted at the time that this was an inane remark, but apparently some took it to heart.

It happened at a church in Tellico Plains, Tennessee.  A group of parishioners were meeting in a church to discuss the idea of bringing guns into church, as suggested by Mr. Paxton, when an 82 year old man pulled out his gun to show, saying “I carry my handgun everywhere.” He unloaded the gun, it was passed around, no doubt with plenty of “ooohs” and “aaahs”, and then he reloaded the gun and replaced it in his pocket.  A few minutes later somebody asked to see it again.  The man pulled the gun out of his pocket again, saying, “With this loaded indicator, I can tell that it’s not loaded.”  Sigh.  Care to guess what came next?

The man pulled the trigger to prove his point, the gun fired, going through the man’s palm and then through his wife’s stomach. Fortunately, neither suffered life-threatening wounds and should be on the road to recovery by now.

LePierre

LaPierre

Okay, gun advocates … would you like to tell me again how, in the words of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, “The Only Thing That Stops A Bad Guy With A Gun, Is A Good Guy With A Gun”? Or how about you, Attorney Geneeral Ken Paxton … you have a good comeback here?  Aren’t you proud of yourself for suggesting this brilliant idea?

This incident makes the point, I think, that the ordinary person has no reason to carry a gun anywhere, ever. I have no need to expound on this, for the incident carries such irony that it speaks for itself.  I rest my case.

A Vicious Circle …

I discovered something tonight that I did not know.  There are 20 states in which, if you default on your student loan payments, the state can and will suspend your professional and/or drivers’ licenses until you catch up the payments.

Now, think about this one.  You owe a huge student loan, for college is anything but cheap, and scholarships not easy to come by.  But, you value education, want to be able to provide well for your family, so you go to college for 4 years, 6 years, or more, and you come out a teacher, nurse, lawyer or accountant.  You get a job, you’re doing well enough, though salaries are not keeping up with inflation, so you haven’t as much of a cushion as you’d like.  And then BOOM … something happens.  Perhaps you lose your job, or perhaps you become ill and are temporarily unable to work.  The first priorities?  Food and shelter, utilities, car payments, medical care for yourself and your family.  Lowest on the priority list?  Entertainment, unnecessary car trips, and student loan payments. You finally find another job, or resolve your medical issues, and … WAIT … you cannot be hired, for your license has been suspended by the state due to being in default on your student loans.  Your license will be reinstated when you catch up those loan payments … with additional interest, of course.  But how can you do that without a job?  Makes about as much sense as … nothing, right?

What’s even worse, is South Dakota and Iowa, where they can and will suspend your driver’s license for defaulting on your student loan!  You cannot even legally get to an interview, and if you managed that, you would not be able to drive to work!

Shannon Otto, of Nashville, Tennessee could tell you a bit about it. After years of school and thousands of dollars of loans, she eventually landed her dream job as a nurse, in Tennessee, a state facing a shortage of nurses. Then, after working for more than a decade, she started having epileptic seizures. They arrived without warning, in terrifying gusts. She couldn’t care for herself, let alone anyone else. Unable to work, she defaulted on her student loans. Ms. Otto eventually got her seizures under control, and prepared to go back to work and resume payments on her debt. But Tennessee’s Board of Nursing suspended her license after she defaulted. To get the license back she would have to pay more than $1,500. She couldn’t.

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The average student leaves college with about $37,000 in student loan debt. The monthly payment on a $37,000 student loan is approximately $351. And that assumes the student went to a public university rather than a for-profit, private school. Those who have been working for most of their lives don’t think much of a $351 payment, but for a young person just starting out in an entry-level position, that can be a lot of money.  I was very lucky to come through my first four years of college with zero debt, due to Pell Grants, scholarships, and working 2, sometimes 3 jobs at a time throughout those four years, but not everybody is as lucky … most aren’t, in fact. My daughter, who has two nursing degrees and a degree in computer programming currently has more than $109,000 in student loans, which have been in deferment, but we will resume payments on in January. As she said to me today, she expects to be paying on her loans until the day she dies.

Student loan payments are now the largest source of household debt outside of mortgages. Until recently, the state and federal recourse for defaulters has included lawsuits, property liens, wage attachments, and seizing tax refunds.  The tactic of suspending licenses is far more crippling, and plunges the debtor into a vicious circle from which he/she may not be able to exit.

Proponents of the move say that it is unfair for taxpayers to have to foot the bill for unpaid loans, and they rationalize that the defaulter will ‘find a way’ to pay their default in order to get their license back.  Don’t you just love it when those who have never been in a situation sit back and say that those going through it will ‘find a way’?  But critics on both sides of the partisan aisle argue that it is wrong.  Daniel Zolnikov, a Republican state representative in Montana says, “It’s like shooting yourself in the foot, to take away the only way for these people to get back on track.” In 2015, Mr. Zolnikov co-sponsored a bill with Representative Moffie Funk, a Democrat, that stopped Montana from revoking licenses for people with unpaid student debt — a rare instance of bipartisanship.

Tabitha McArdle earned $48,000 when she started out as a teacher in Houston. A single mother, she couldn’t keep up with her monthly $800 student loan payments. In March, the Texas Education Agency put her on a list of 390 teachers whose certifications cannot be renewed until they make steady payments. She now has no license.

States that withhold professional and or drivers’ licences for default of student loans include: Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

Does anybody imagine that, with Betsy DeVos, one of the elite 1%, serving as head of the Department of Education, more states won’t be encouraged to follow this path?  This can only keep some of those who would be the best and brightest from pursuing a college education.  We, as a nation, have already fallen behind in education rankings worldwide.  According to a Pew Research study earlier this year, “Recently released data from international math and science assessments indicate that U.S. students continue to rank around the middle of the pack, and behind many other advanced industrial nations.” 

Pew

Bernie Sanders ran for president last year on a democratic-socialist platform that included free college and health care for all. While it sounded great, it would not have been sustainable.  I do not propose free college for all, but today, college in the U.S. is outrageously out of reach for the average high school graduate, and likely to become even more so in the coming years.  Like so many other things in this nation today, the benefit is weighted heavily toward that top 1% that we keep hearing about.  More and more, students are opting for trade or vocational schools.  So, I ask you, who will be the doctors, lawyers, educators and government representatives a generation from now?

We hear of the ‘dumbing down’ of America.  Perhaps it is not such a far-fetched concept after all.

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Look What We’re Doing To Our Planet!!! 🌍 🌏 🌎

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Spilled oil in South Dakota – 2016

Early Friday morning it was announced that on Thursday, an existing portion of TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline leaked at least 210,000 gallons of oil near Amherst, South Dakota. The spill is about 40 miles from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation. Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal chairman David Flute said his community is concerned the leak, the largest by the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota to date, could pollute the area’s aquifer and waterways.

“We are keeping a watchful eye and an open ear. The concern is at a high level, but there is really nothing we can do.”

On November 20th, the Nebraska Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to accept TransCanada’s Keystone XL proposal to construct new pipeline through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.  Thursday’s spill is the largest yet in the pipeline’s 7-year history. Last year, another major leak sent 16,800 gallons of oil spilling onto South Dakota grasslands. Now, one might expect a leak of more than 210,000 gallons might influence the decision of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, mightn’t one?  Well, think again.  An excerpt from the law governing the approval process:

“Commission Determination – In determining whether the pipeline carrier has met its burden, the Act prohibits the Commission from evaluating safety considerations, including the safety as to the design, installation, inspection, emergency plans and procedures, testing, construction, extension, operation, replacement, maintenance, and risk or impact of spills or leaks from the major oil pipeline.”

The law also states that an environmental impact study is to be presented and considered.  The environmental impact study can and does consider spills and leaks and those are reflected in the report.  The only problem here is that two environmental impact studies will be presented:  one was conducted by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in 2012, and the other conducted by the State Department in 2014.  No environmental impact study has been performed for three years, thus neither this latest major spill nor the one last year will be considered in the decision next week.

dallas-goldtooth

Dallas Goldtooth

“It poses a risk to the Indigenous rights of tribal nations all along the route and it’s a complete disregard for free prior and informed consent as guaranteed on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It puts at risk the drinking water of over 65,000 Indigenous peoples along the route and puts at risk the livelihood for so many people that depend on tourism, on the land itself for farming and livestock. It’s a risk we can’t take.” – Dallas Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

TransCanada first noticed the drop in pressure that is indicative of a leak at around 6:00 a.m., Thursday morning; the state was not notified until 10:30 a.m., and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe was not notified until noon.PipelineThe Obama administration spent six years considering the controversial cross-border pipeline before ultimately denying a permit for its construction in November of 2015. On Friday, 04 March 2017, the Trump administration issued a permit allowing the pipeline to move forward. Why?  Two reasons, greed and Trump’s determination to reverse every action President Obama took during his eight years in office.

However, there is yet another twist in the story. When the project was first proposed in 2008, oil prices had just topped $70 a barrel, rising to more than $90 a barrel between 2010 and 2014. But since then, oil prices have dropped precipitously — down to just about $56 a barrel today, greatly reducing the profitability and salability of the oil from the pipeline.

We have one planet to live on.  Humans will not, contrary to what some believe, live on Mars or the moon.  Humans and most of the other living creatures and vegetation currently calling this planet their home, will survive on this planet or not at all.  But, as with any home, we must maintain it, care for it, and take responsibility for its habitability.  The industrialized, western nations are, quite frankly, doing a lousy job of taking care of our planet, nearly always choosing profit over good stewardship.  love earth

We have a responsibility to preserve our planet for future generations.  Instead, we applaud a leader who approves a risky pipeline that will endanger the water supplies in at least four states, and who has refused to work toward a healthier, more sustainable environment.  If, after 11 spills in 7 years, two of them major spills, this pipeline is allowed to continue, it will be an abomination, another time that we traded human life for profit, another time we bowed to greed.  A saying I have heard many times in the last few years is that the Earth will survive without humans, but humans will not survive without Earth. Think about it.earth