Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Wish Book

I was thinking about Christmases past and present. I remembered the one thing that made the season special. The one thing we kids looked forward to each year, the wish book. It was a peek into another world. It was what dreams were made of. Inside its pages was a wonderland of all that was new and exciting. All the newest and greatest things were in there.
Bikes and scooters, robots and trains, dolls and games, everything a child’s hart desired. Each year it came filled with all that was new and exciting for the holiday season. More than a place to buy things it was the place dreams were made. When it came we spent hours turning the pages and imagining what fun we could have with each new treasurer.

I am sure there were other things besides toys in there, but we really didn't notice. What we wanted was to pick out the things we couldn't’t live without and start dropping hints to mom and dad to get them for us.
I don’t remember if we ever got the things we wanted, but I do remember all the hours spent thumbing through those pages. Without that book the holidays would not have been the same. The childhood dreams of what might be filled our harts with excitement and anticipation. That is what was special about it. The hart felt dreams and wishes of a child’s Christmas.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Three Bailout

How important do you need to be to get help? One after another we have watched little factories close their doors and lay off workers. They can not make a profit and they go out of business. Fifty or sixty workers here, a hundred there, and how many jobs does it take to be important? If the company is poorly run should someone bail them out by throwing good money after bad? No amount of money can help if they are not profitable.
The size of the company and the number of jobs involved should not make a difference. The big three auto makers or an investment bank it should not matter. If they can’t make it maybe they need to change the way they do business.

The following is from the column, Other People's Money, written by CNET's Declan McCullagh. For CBS News.

"One of the best reasons why Detroit automakers should not receive a bailout can be found in a General Motors "Jobs Bank" program that, bizarrely, pays employees not to work. A beneficiary of that program was someone named Jerry Mellon, who worked for GM until his division merged with another in 2000 and he was no longer needed. Except for a brief period in 2001, Mellon received his full salary for not working, which reached $64,500 a year by 2006. Include benefits, and the annual cost to GM exceeds $100,000. To earn his pay, Mellon was given the formidable task of showing up in a windowless shed, sitting at a table, and doing nothing for eight hours a day for six years, according to a profile in the Wall Street Journal. Jobs Bank employees have the option of attending classes teaching such important manufacturing skills as dealing blackjack and poker. Mellon spent part of his time reading Reader's Digest, learning how to play Trivial Pursuit, napping on a makeshift bed of chairs pushed together, or simply staring at the wall for hours at a time. During those six years, Toyota surpassed GM as the world's largest car manufacturer, thanks to innovations like the fuel-sipping Prius. Nissan developed the GT-R, a technological marvel with a 0 to 60 time of 3.2 seconds and a lower sticker price than the Corvette ZR1. Honda kept its focus on smaller cars such as the Civic and Accord, and saw its sales continue to increase this summer while GM, Ford, and Chrysler have slid. The United Auto Workers union and Detroit executives concocted the Jobs Bank idea in the early 1980s. Now these same economic whizzes are lobbying for handouts in the form of your tax dollars."

I know these companies represent hundreds of thousands of workers and that their loss would have a devastating effect on the economy. I just don’t feel right about using our tax dollars to help them out. The underlying problems are still there and must be fixed. They should change the way they do business before they come asking for tax dollars to fix their problems.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Good Old Days

There seems to be a lot of things being written lately about the baby boomers, In particular those of us born in the fifties. As we get older, it is natural to look back at the good old days when life was simpler.

Things cost less, but we made less. Our folks were lucky to earn two dollars an hour. Most of the clothes we wore were either hand me downs from older siblings and cousins, or mom made them. Lots of the things we had as kids came from the Dime Store. Where you could get everything from toys and candy to new sneakers. We had a TV, but it was in black and white and only got three channels. The phone was rented from the phone company and you had to share it with other families on the party line. That phone had to stay in one place, no making a call from where ever you were.

How did we ever get along without cell phones, computers, and cable TV? What did our folks do with out credit cards and debit cards? How did we ever live without I-Pods, CD players, and DVDs? What about microwave ovens to reheat our take out food?

Good old days? How did we ever survive?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winter is here.

All those wonderful words are back snow and cold, lake effect, system snow, blowing and drifting. It’s time to turn on the TV and check for school closings and delays. Winter has returned to northern Michigan. The ski resorts have fired up their snow guns and are talking about the earliest start to the season in years. It’s true we get snow this early in the season; it’s just that it usually does not stay. When it comes this early it will be gone in two or three days.

Not this year. This time it feels different. This time it feels like it could stay. Still it does not matter, if it stays or not we have to live with it. Slippery roads put cars in the ditch and most of us just aren’t ready. We’ve lost our hat and gloves and there isn’t a scraper in the car. There is no ice melt for the walk and the snow blower won’t start. Snow may be fun to play in, but as a rule it’s a pain in the butt.
Maybe if I close the curtains and ignore, it will go away. I think bears have the right idea when they sleep through the winter. I think I’ll go back to bed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter Fun

In Benzonia, Michigan behind the elementary school there is a hill. A road ran down that hill and in the winter it would be closed to traffic. The Village kept it plowed and maintained a tow rope there. On weekends we would go there to slide.
Someone would build a bonfire at the top of the hill so we could get warm and we would spend the day riding our bobsleds, toboggans, and two runner sleds down to the bottom. Snowboards had yet to be invented so we used bump jumpers. These were basically a ski with a seat that you road using your feet for balance.
If you got tired of this, there was an ice rink across from the school. It was made by flattening the snow and spraying it with water.
All this was maintained by the Village of Benzonia and was enjoyed by all. The cost to use it? Nothing! It was just there to give us something to do.

No one supervised us. Our folks knew where we were. They also knew that if we got hurt someone would see that we got home.
No one worried about strangers, liability, or suing the Village if something happened. All that mattered was having a good time and getting home in time for supper.