Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Connection For Our Disconnected World

These days people are working from home, going to school from home, and shopping from home. E-mail and other social networking sites have become the preferred mode of communication. Even telephones are becoming obsolete. I have felt alienated from this trend for a long while, but I thought that I was alone in my ennui.

Then I saw the movie Sidewalls, an Argentine film directed by Gustavo Taretto. While the film, which takes place in Buenos Aires, has a very dark message, it cheered me tremendously. Taretto employs cartoons, some internet devices, and a touch of magic realism in combination with conventional story telling to get his message across. Much of the film takes place in two people’s shoebox flats (about 400 square feet). They spend most of their lives in their apartments almost totally isolated except for their internet contacts and a few essential appointments. At one point, the main character laments that the computer has brought the world so much closer to him – he can work, pay bills, order dinner, and many other things – but he is so much further away from life. Yes! I’m not the only one experiencing this alienation although Gustavo Taretto portrayed this far more eloquently than I could. 

On the other hand, I heard recently about a website that actually uses the internet to facilitate face-to-face contacts among people. Operative in 180 cities around the world, connects people to each other to enjoy home cooked meals. A traveler can find someone offering a home cooked meal while abroad or people can sign up to be hosts to someone traveling in their city. Their idea is that if people share a wholesome home cooked meal together, it can break down all kinds of barriers. Since I love meeting people from other countries, I’m looking forward to participating. While traveling, it could be a great way to meet people should there be a connection where I am going. At home, it is a way to meet people, also. The instruction for people hosting is to make what they would cook for their own family to provide an authentic experience for the traveler. 

Speaking of typical home cooked meals, this is a great recipe for leftover chicken, turkey, or lamb. Adjust the amount depending upon how many people there are. This recipe serves four. Prep time is about 30 minutes.


1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups water
½ Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp chicken bouillon
leftover meat cut in julienne strips
1 onion sliced
vegetable oil
¼ cup raisins
4 Tbsp sliced almonds
½ tsp cinnamon
dash of pepper and nutmeg

     1.     Add 2 cups of water, the curry powder, and chicken bouillon to the rice and cook.
     2.     Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit
     3.     Saute the onion in the vegetable oil.
     4.     Cut the chicken or turkey into julienne strips
     5.     When rice is cooked, mix all the ingredients in a casserole dish. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What You Need to Know Before Tax Day April 15, 2013

Teaching my grandson how to play War [the card game] brought back many childhood memories of rainy summer afternoons. My friends and I would play War for hours until one or both of us got tired of it at which point we ended the game to do something else. I don’t remember ever finishing a game of war. Pondering Tax Day 2013, the game of War felt like a metaphor or at least a simile.

I was reminded of  War, the card game because in response to my last year’s post'tWeGetAnItemizedBill!, I received a message from Amy Clark requesting that I look at the on-line video Well, go ahead and take a look. It may explain things to you. They tried to make it understandable by taking an average salary of $43,000 per year and projecting a lifetime Federal tax expenditure of $345,000. They estimate that person will draw more than they pay in Social Security and Medicare- $417,000.

www.onlinemba may be right, but I feel that their argument will not resonate with a large portion of our population. Unless someone’s tax dollars go in part for Head Start, public education, and higher education, some people may never have the opportunity to work at jobs in which they pay in that much. Besides, for those families living from paycheck to paycheck, finding out that they may get more in retirement than they pay in is cold comfort.

Last year, I wanted an itemized bill. At that point, my husband and I had paid $24,000 for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan according to an average estimate and I wasn’t happy about continuing to pay for this. The human costs of the war were of course way too high but that needs to be the subject of a whole other article.
This year, I tried to look up the updated monetary cost and there were many divergent estimates. On the numbers kept ticking to the point that I couldn’t keep up. The ticking numbers hurt my eyes. According to the Center for Strategic And International Studies, the OMB estimates we’ve spent 198.2 billion on those wars in Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013. Wickipedia’s article estimates $3.2-3.4 trillion altogether and a Reuter’s article estimates $3.7 million. Whichever estimate is correct, I believe that my share is too much. With the war in Iraq supposedly over except for the contractors and the Afghanistan War winding down, surely we have some money left over for Head Start, education, and other social safety net programs such as Food Stamps and Medicaid. If we don’t invest in people during the earlier stages of their lives, they may never live to pay those taxes. It’s time to end this game of war including the contractors’ involvement and to play something else. How about school?