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The Spirit of Christmas Survives December 11, 2018

Posted by geoff in News.
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Having been through 5 decades of people trying to squelch Christmas at schools, I’m stunned that this is still true:

Three-fourths of Americans agree that Christmas should be celebrated in public schools, says a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted the same week that a Nebraska elementary school principal banned Christmas in her school, right down to candy canes, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the colors red and green and “Elf on the Shelf” items.

 

Make Room, Make Room* December 11, 2018

Posted by geoff in News.
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There are some 750 billion (mostly) 3rd-world country residents who’d like to move permanently to a place with better economic conditions. In many of these countries, roughly half or more of adults would like to relocate.

Guess where they’d like to go?

Number of People Wanting to Emigrate

Yes, according to Gallup, some 158 million people would like to live and work in the United States.

And this is why “Open Borders” policies are untenable.

*Title of an old Harry Harrison sci-fi story (the one used as a basis for Soylent Green)

The Crap Tree, 2018 December 10, 2018

Posted by geoff in News.
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[Note by Michael (2013): It has become a tradition at Innocent Bystanders to annually republish the first-ever blog post by Dave in Texas during the Christmas season. Dave’s story has become a classic tale of Christmas cheer and the endurance of traditions. This is the original version, which actually predates the founding of Innocent Bystanders in 2006. Except I have greatly improved it by centering the pictures.]

Several years ago my wife conceived a plan to take over Christmas decorations in our home. She’s been very patient, moving so carefully that I only realized the scope of her plan this year. This fight isn’t over, not by a long shot. But I’ve lost a lot of ground.

I am what you would call a ‘Christmas kind of guy’. I love Christmas. I love the lights and the pretty packages, the wreaths, the greenery hanging everywhere. I like Christmas plates and coffee cups. Christmas cookies, Christmas music, Christmas towels in the bathrooms, Christmas napkins, Christmas movies and books, if they had Christmas toilet paper I would buy two cases (does anybody know if they make that?). I think Christmas lights on pickup trucks look terrific.

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I really dig Christmas.

As soon as the clutter is cleaned away from the Thanksgiving feast, I’m up in the attic getting boxes down. I know where every one of them is, and I pretty much know what’s inside of them. Not because I pack them up every January (that always makes me sad). I suppose it’s just that we tend to use the same boxes for things. You could sum up my taste in Christmas decorations in one phrase. Colored lights. Yes, like the late Michael Kelly wrote on the topic of Christmas lights, there are white light people, and colored light people. I’m in the second group. Years ago I conceded the inevitability of teeny lights taking over. I gave up trying to find strings of lights with those big painted bulbs that burned your fingers. I miss them, but I understand. Technology changes things. But even if they’re teeny, I have to have colored lights. This theme extends to other decorations.

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I have an affinity for Christmas-schlock. The cheesier the better. A dancing Santa Claus with an electric guitar and sunglasses? Oh yes. Strings of lights that look like jalapenos? Lovely. Elves laid out in a winter North Pole Office Party display, holding little cans of Bud Light while singing drunken Christmas tunes? I am so there. And you have guessed the dark secret of Christmas in our home. My wife is not a colored lights kind of person. She is a white lights gal. I don’t blame her, taste is subjective, right? Eye of the beholder and all that. We can coexist. We can cooperate, compromise, a little give here, a little take there. We’ll find a way to get along. You know, the Russkies and the Americans. Detente baby.

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limited edition strat and twin reverb amp ornament

Well, I was wrong so I didn’t see it coming. It started with a new Christmas tree. She brought it home a few years ago. It’s bigger than our old tree. 10 feet. It’s frickin ginormous! Me, I’m all excited. What could be better than one Christmas tree? Two trees! Oh yeah, two sets of lights and ornaments and glitter, extra room for more presents. This will be so cool! I set the new tree up first. In the formal dining room, right there in the front window where everyone can see it. We decided the older tree would be just fine in the family room, we moved some things around and set it up there. Looked just fine. I didn’t even notice when my wife pulled the strings of white lights out that something was amiss. ‘Sure’, I thought, ‘woo… fan-cee’. What the heck. White lights on the new tree.

Then I noticed we had packages (really nice packages, you know, the kind of shopping bags you keep cause they’re so pretty?) with more ornaments in them. Impressive looking ornaments too, glass and crystal and gold. Wow. But hey, 10 foot tree, sure, we’ll need more stuff to put on it. It was when I reached into a box to pull out my favorite lights, the string of little Fender Telecasters, and headed for the new tree, that the plan in its entirety was revealed to me. She said ‘STOP right there!’ evenly spacing her words using a tone of voice that said I should seriously consider stopping right there. ‘There will be none of that on this tree’, she said. Same tone. I said what most husbands say when they are confronted with possible wrongdoing. ‘Wh-a-a-at?’ Real slowly, dumb-like. ‘No guitar lights. No old pictures. No jalapenos’ she said.

guitars_jalapenos.JPG

And she was deadly serious. She looked right at me and announced ‘this is the ‘nice tree’’.

The Nice Tree™. In the front room, prominently displayed in the big window. I looked around. The other decorations in the room began to make sense to me. The special Christmas china was set on the formal table. The expensive candle holders on the table by the entry, with long tapered white candles in them, you know, the kind you can’t get at Wal-Mart (10 for .55 cents). And then I understood. This room, was going to be ‘pretty’. Like a Christmas display at some expensive store on 5th Avenue, the ones whose names I can’t pronounce correctly. I looked at what was now my tree. Guitar lights. Ornaments from Fender. The decorations my kids made in Sunday school with funny shaped noodles and gold spray paint. Popsicle sticks and yarn and pictures. Hidden in the family room where no eye shall be offended. No one can see it.

I began calling my tree the “Crap Tree”.

The Nice Tree has gold swirly things on it, and a special tree skirt thingy made of silk and shiny stuff. It’s really pretty. It looks like something you would find in one of those stores in Salado. The Crap Tree has an old skirt made of something that looks like shag carpet. It has a pattern that sort of resembles a Christmas tree, at least, the way a Christmas tree looks to a myopic drunk. In a moment of weakness my brother in law crocheted it for us. It’s been more than 15 years and I still kick his ass about that.

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easy to spot boxes

I am not allowed to put my special guitar ornaments on the Nice Tree. Who am I kidding? I’m not allowed to put anything on the Nice Tree. Every now and then, I sneak one on it when no one is looking. It doesn’t matter. My oldest daughter finds it and moves it back. At lease I’m not completely alone in my fight, my youngest daughter will take one of my ornaments and sneak it back on the nice tree. Occasionally sibling rivalry will overcome their natural tendency to gang up on you because of gender affiliation. Which is nice.

The Crap Tree has lights on it from The Hard Rock Café. I think those are my favorite, although the lights that look like jalapenos are a close second. Ever since my wife debuted the Nice Tree, Christmas in our house has been looking a little different. The living room is starting to spread out. Our old Frosty the Snowman and Christmas tree hand towels we used to put in the guest bathroom have been replaced with much prettier hand towels. None of us is allowed to touch them. You wash your hands in this bathroom, you better wipe them off on your blue jeans. My ‘singing Santa’ with the electric guitar and the sunglasses is now back in my bedroom on the dresser. The battery has been removed.

This year I couldn’t find the Drunken Office Party Elves. My wife says she has no idea what happened to them. She says it in a way that makes me think she knows exactly what happened to them, and I will never see them again.

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Olive, the other reindeer

So I know what I’m up against. Soon, next year, or maybe the one after that, I will find myself engaged in a desperate battle, a last stand in front of my dearest Christmas decoration, the Crap Tree.

She may relent. The Crap Tree has ornaments that have all our Christmas memories on it, 22 years worth. Decorations we bought when we spent our first Christmas together. Things our friends gave to us. Decorations that her students gave to her. Special ornaments with years on them from Christmases past that go back before our kids were born. Pictures of the girls when they were little in red and white Christmas dresses, hugging Santa and telling him how good they had been this year. So long ago, before cars and boys and college. Every now and then I find a little bit of attic insulation in one of the branches, from a Christmas years ago when I slipped in the overhead and put my foot through the ceiling, right over the tree. The youngest looked up and said ‘Mommy, it’s Santa’! I think she was 4.

I love the Crap Tree. It is an old friend. It’s the decoration in our house that says “Christmas” to me, and I hope it always will.

Hey guess where this is?

A gift from the Geoffs. Proudly displayed.

 

A Bleak Christmas Indeed December 10, 2018

Posted by geoff in News.
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As you all know, I’m all about the metrics, i.e., measurements that tell you how well something is doing. And for Christmas, there’s one key metric I use year after year:

Godzilla ornaments

You’ve got to ask yourself: “How much Godzilla can I shoehorn into my Christmas?”

Unfortunately, with the discontinuation of the annual Godzilla ornament release (WTH Hallmark/Carlton?) the Christmas spirit has taken a blow from which it may never recover.

Yes, friends, we’re going to have to live with the collection from 2005 – 2017, which is shown in my crappy photo below:

Godzillas 2018
Try to have a great Christmas anyway.

Exports Data for October 2018 December 9, 2018

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Exports continue to struggle, but hopefully the US-Canada trade agreement (signed a week ago) and the softening of the trade war with China, will improve things within a few months. Remember, the trade data lags by two months, so we probably won’t see any impact from these events until February – March of next year.

Here’s your chart:

ExportsDecember2018Report

I Wish the Stock Market Looked Like Manufacturing Employment December 8, 2018

Posted by geoff in News.
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Of course, manufacturing doesn’t have the Fed standing in its way.

Anyway, manufacturing employment continues its relentless ascent.

ManufJobsDec2018Report

Scorecard:

Manufacturing jobs added during Obama’s 4-year “1 million new jobs” period: 386K

Manufacturing jobs added in 2 years since Trump’s election: 468K

November 2018 Unemployment Data is In December 7, 2018

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Well would you look at that?

FullTimeEmpvsCivPopDec2018Report

Nice little uptick in the employment numbers last month, mostly due to a lot of part-time jobs being replaced by full-time jobs.

I haven’t shown this one in a while, so here’s the same chart, but over a much longer period of time:

FullTimeEmpvsCivPopDec2018ReportLongTerm

This is the best this metric has looked in just over 10 years.

Baby elephant and cranes December 6, 2018

Posted by Sobek in News.
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20181206_185918

Pucking Liberal Defense Strategy November 28, 2018

Posted by geoff in News.
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How are our fearless intellectual leaders in academia planning to confront shooters in the future? Well, you can be sure it’s not by allowing carry on campus:

A university in suburban Detroit is distributing hockey pucks as a form of self-defense against potential active shooters, according to reports.

…and how did the head of campus security come to the conclusion that this might be an effective form of protection?

“The first thing that came to my mind was a hockey puck. I was a hockey coach for my kids growing up. I remember getting hit in the head with a hockey puck once and it hurt,” Gordon told Detroit’s FOX 2.

Well that seems pretty well-researched. Though it makes one wonder if he should be issuing hockey sticks as well.

But only if there were a means of defending yourself where it didn’t rely the strength of your arm . . . where you had more than one chance of hitting the shooter . . . where he couldn’t simply bat your puck out of the air . . . where you might actually take the shooter down . . . where your form of defense wasn’t the equivalent of throwing smooth rocks . . .

Which brings us to the opening line of the article:

How do you stop a bad guy with a gun when there’s no good guy with a gun around?

In a rational world, that scenario would be rare.

How to Draw a Turkey (Repost) November 22, 2018

Posted by Sobek in News.
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Here’s a fun activity for Thanksgiving that’s easy to do and a festive way to decorate. All you need are pencils and a piece of paper  (and maybe an eraser, if you suck).  Let’s get started!

Step 1: Trace your hand

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Don’t worry if you have more or less fingers than I do. It just means your turkey will be unique!

(more…)

Unclear on the Concept… November 13, 2018

Posted by geoff in News.
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…of capitalism. Target wants to close two underperforming stores in south Chicago, which is an economically depressed area.

Target, which descended on the Chicago area with its Greatland outlets in the early 1990s, is closing six stores next year in Illinois, New York, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Two Illinois locations are closing and both are in South Side neighborhoods, Chatham and Morgan Park. …

In other words, the South Side loses again. Hundreds of workers will be displaced. Nearby stores that rely on Target as an anchor will suffer. And left behind? Two vacant behemoths, each the size of three football fields.

So far nothing out of the ordinary. Businesses close underperforming stores all the time. But since this one is in an economically depressed area, Target is catching extra flak.

A group rallied on Monday in an effort to save two Target stores on Chicago’s South Side. Target recently announced plans to close stores in the Morgan Park and Chatham neighborhoods.

“We are demanding that Target rescind its decision,” said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.

Rush is threatening a Black Friday boycott if Target does not reverse its decision to close two of its South Side stores.

And this is where their brilliance shines. By depressing sales during the hottest sales event of the year, they’ll be convincing Target that their decision was absolutely correct.

So all their protesting and boycotting is/will be completely counterproductive. That, combined with their unconvincing social justice arguments for keeping the stores opened, means that this community is doomed to economic mediocrity at best.

It’s really time that conservatives and/or the GOP started formulating and executing plans to improve the lots of those trapped under Democratic rule.

November 2018 Exports Data November 10, 2018

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I haven’t updated the exports data in a while. Here ’tis, with the trade wars with China & Canada probably responsible for the past 5 months of poor growth:

ExportsNovember2018Report

Hopefully the resolution of both of those situations will get us back on the growth track. Still, better than it was.

*Data from 1/1/16 forward updated per latest BEA release.