A Family Christmas

This year was a unique Christmas season for a few reasons.  It was the first Christmas of my life without my mom around.  That brought back a flood of memories.  I think we all realize now that my parents are gone how much the Christmas season is really about memories.  Every year over the Christmas season we spent a couple days at my Dad and Mom’s house.  There were specific games we played every year (31, charades, Scategories).  There were always a lot of cookies to be eaten.  We were often fortunate enough to be there when the Romanian Christmas Carolers came around to sing old Romanian Christmas carols to us.  And there was always a lot of family laughing, story-telling and arguing.  I think this year brought home to all of us how much those memories meant to us.

We were also missing Bryce.  While he was only part of the family for a few short years, he represented our last real link to the wonder and magic of Christmas.  We wont forget.

On the positive side, Rose and I were lucky enough to have all of the kids home for Christmas day.  Last year Nate was not able to make it because of work.  We are truly blessed to have great kids who we have a lot of fun with.  So the noise level in the house is WAY up.  The “friendly” “arguing” continues.  But the love for family surely shines through if you were to spend any amount of time in our house.  We genuinely have a great time together whether it be playing a game, making a puzzle, opening gifts, eating or talking.  It is so much fun.

Who knows how many more Christmas we will have like this year?  Circumstances will change.  So I think I will just bask in the fun of this season.  And the new memories that they created.

I hope your Christmas season had some good memories to store up.

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Should veterans be different?

The latest round of budgets included some reductions in the retirement benefits for our veterans.  This, of course, gained a lot of howling and protests from Veterans’ Groups and their supporters.  Veterans served our country and are deserving of these benefits go the arguments. No doubt.  But what is the true reality here?

For those of us who have worked in the private sector, the reductions in benefits is a story we are all accustomed to.

  • Are the reductions painful? Yes
  • Are they fair? Probably not
  • Were all of us angry when we saw them happen to us? Yes
  • Are there some other wasteful areas where we could have made reductions? Sure
  • Do some high-paying, upper level people get to make the decisions even though they are not hurt by them? Yep.
  • Is it an economic reality that the generous benefits of the past no longer fit the present? Unfortunately, yes.

So I am sympathetic to the veteran’s plight.  But are they more special than those of us at NCR who saw reduction after reduction? What about all of those GM employees who saw their pensions and benefits cut?  I think not.  Unfortunately we all need to live in a new economic reality.  And given our elected officials’ inability to govern, the cuts they have chosen to make need to stick.  It is the new reality.  The only consolation for our veterans is that their benefits, even with the cuts are way more generous than the ones we all receive.  And that is probably right.

A few things that make me go hmmmm

Lately there have been a couple items that made me think about them since the light of day has been shined on them.

#1. The papers and Internet are abuzz with the threat that milk prices will “double or more” if Congress does not pass a farm bill.  That got me thinking.  From my understanding of economics, the market generally dictates a price that buyers and sellers agree on (supply and demand).  In the case of milk, is the Government artificially holding the price of milk down drastically (why else would the price go way up if the Government stops doing something)?  If the Government is artificially holding down prices, why is it?  If it is not, then a number of suppliers will rush into the market if the price doubles and I would assume demand would also lower a lot based on the extremely higher price.  The market will reset a price somewhere between today’s supposedly artificial price and tomorrow’s way-too-high initial price.  What is going on here?

#2. According to The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, The Ohio State University spends over $380,000 on each football player. Wow.  That is a lot of money spent on a few students (less than .002% of OSU students), for mostly non-educational purposes. There are all kinds of reasons people support this spending.  People argue that the football program supports all of the other sports programs.  It is THE money maker at OSU.  In addition, the success of the football program attracts more students to want to go to OSU.  Plus, the great publicity the football program’s success brings donations to the school.  So spending that amount of money (by the way, the team has over 80 players, you do the math on how big this investment is) is a wise “investment” that brings a huge return to the school.  Most, if not all of the “investment” on football players comes from athletic revenues, not general school funds.  I cannot argue with any of those assertions. What bothers me is that football has become the “Straw that stirs the drink”.  What is the purpose of The Ohio State University?  Is it to educate students?  Is it to conduct award winning research?  Is it to run athletic programs? It is becoming more cloudy as the big money of football begins to snowball.  “Student-athletes” are accepted at the University with marginal credentials (if they were not an athlete they would not even get a second look by Admissions).  Marginal majors are created.  Special tutoring, special classes, special dorms are created for this “student-athlete” cohort.  Lets face it, they are unlike the rest of the school.  They are a special class.  Does that make sense??????????????

#3. Congress is contemplating extending “long term unemployment benefits to more than one million Americans”.   According to the Secretary of Labor, extending those benefits would boost the still-fragile economy.  White House economics advisor Betsey Stevenson says it would be “unprecedented to cut off  benefits for the long term unemployed”.  Hard to argue on the surface that it is not fair to help out the less fortunate Americans.  The labor market has not been great, and we all probably know someone who is unemployed.  This program provides benefits up to 72 weeks (extended from 26 weeks) for those people unable to find a job.  I am sympathetic.  But here is the key to the issue.  This program was originally approved by Congress as a temporary measure to deal with job losses from the 2008 recession.  When does “temporary” stop? It is five years later. That is no longer temporary.  Either stop it or make it permanent.  Let’s face another fact.  The program is not doing ANYTHING to get people new jobs.  All it does is provide more Government benefits for an additional year. If we think that is a good idea, lets make it permanent.  Otherwise, don’t tell me extending a “temporary program” for over five years MUST happen.

So that is why I go “hhhmmmmm” sometimes.

Thanksgiving Memories

This was the first Thanksgiving I have ever had without my Mom.  It caused me to pause for a moment.  We always went to my Mom and Dad’s house for Thanksgiving with the rest of the family.  As the family grew, the kids got to hang out with their cousins.  We always had a family football game.  There were numerous games to play – the card game 31, charades, board games, etc. These games inevitably led to a lot of laughs.  They would not be complete without numerous arguments about the rules, about who won last year and about the whatever other nonsense we could find.

Charades was a personal favorite of my mom’s.  I think she liked it so much for three reasons.  First, everyone could play.  Second, it required everyone else to pay attention to the one doing the charade.  The third reason was it allowed one person to be the center of attention, even if only for a minute.  Mom did not like anyone being left out.  Most of us were not too fond of  charades.  But we played it because grandma asked.  Without it, we never would have had Cousin William doing a charade of “The Mask of Mikuda’s Brother” – some show none of us had ever heard of.  That has become an item of laughter at family gatherings for years.  So, despite us hating charades, without it we would have not had one of our family’s most enduring memories.

I worry that my kids will most remember grandma and papa for what they were at the end of their lives, not when the kids were growing up.  The last few years of my parent’s lives were not the best for them health-wise.  So they were unable to do things they did when the kids were younger.  Hopefully the kids will remember all the fun times.

I know that we all missed not getting together as we have for so many years.  It just wasn’t Thanksgiving as we all are accustomed to.  And hopefully that is what the kids will realize and want to be together.