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Ann's Corner

VOLUME 105-----------MARCH 2011



March 1, 2011


Ann's Anniversary Flowers

Our 49th  anniversary celebration went off without a hitch.  We did dine at the Chef In The Forest on the evening of February 4th and had our stay in a nice hotel suite on Saturday the 5th.

The Chef in the Forest, mentioned last month, was different; not as rustic, but very nice.  The menu was much the same as pre-burned-down days.  (Everything except the prices of course.)  We were seated in a secluded corner by the fireplace, and enjoyed a romantic evening.  Ann dined on Filet Mignon while I had the house specialty, Roast Duck.  Ann reported that the filet was excellent, while the duck was; well, I've had better.

Just after noon on the 5th we checked into a suite at the new Hampton Inn hotel near Spokane Valley Mall.  Rick, Christi, and Jennifer joined us for afternoon snacks and drinks in what has become somewhat of a tradition in the past few years.


L to R:  Anniversary couple by the fireplace at Chef in the Forest; Ann, Jennifer, and Christi at the Hampton Inn; Me taking a picture of me taking a picture of Rick

Next stop was the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation annual banquet and fundraiser on Saturday evening.  As we perused the items up for live auction, we noted a rifle like the one we gave Rick in celebration of obtaining his Bachelor's Degree from Eastern Washington University.  (See the January 2009 newsletter)

This was a limited edition John Wayne 100th anniversary commemorative Winchester Model 1892 lever action rifle in .44-40 caliber.  This is a "fancied up" replica of the rifle the "Duke" carried in the "Rooster Cogburn" movies.

As we looked and fondled the Winchester, I remarked that if it didn't fetch more than $1,500, I might buy it so I'd have one like Rick's.  It didn't, and I did!  Buying a gun at  the RMEF auction is not as much fun as winning one, but the end result is very similar.  (Except for the money part, of course.)

New Winchester Model 92  in 44WCF (Better known as the .44-40)

I believe I mentioned last month that January brought little snow but cold temperatures.  That wasn't nothin' compared to the last few days of February!  Just as we can almost taste the beginning of March, we get a blizzard and below zero temperatures.

The blizzard also picked a show-up time that coincided with the arrival of contract workers doing a bathroom remodel in the master bath.  I'm way too danged old (and lazy) to be on the tractor at 6:00AM,  in the dark, mid blizzard, clearing snow for the contractor's vehicles!

As I mentioned in the February newsletter, I have more to say about the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) report released in January.  This is going to require an even longer trip to the soap box than last month, so if you don't want to go there, it's your choice.

One paragraph quoted from the FCIC draft report says the following:  "As a nation, we must also accept responsibility for what we permitted to occur.  Still, we do place special responsibility with the public leaders charged with protecting our financial system.No one said, 'No.' "  (emphasis mine)

Hmmmm!  We and public leaders?  Why do they include this 'WE' stuff?  Ain't this all the fault of the 'PUBLIC LEADERS'; the Wall Street Tycoons, the Elected Officials, the hired and/or appointed Government Regulators, the Corporate Executives, the Local Bankers, the Manufacturers, the Retail Sellers, the Wholesalers, the Mortgage Companies. . . . . . . . ; Well, you get the idea.

But wait!  Don't we elect the officials?  Don't we buy into the financial transactions that allowed the Wall Street Tycoons, Brokers, and Bankers to profit via commissions and bonuses from our money?  Don't we allow Government Regulators to tell us what products or services meet standards that we should accept?  Don't we all have that tiny little bit of "Yeah, I'll lower my ethical standards just a tad if the payoff is big enough?"

I heard a guy named Gordon Graham give several talks at meetings and conferences during the waning years of my career as a Federal Mediator.

Prior to establishing a successful consulting firm assisting individuals and organizations in dealing with change and transition, Gordy was a criminal.  He has been imprisoned, knifed, shot, instigated and led prison riots, escaped from a maximum security prison, and once spent 365 days in isolation subsisting on bread and water!

Part of Gordy's presentation postulates that, "Gradually and incrementally human beings can become accustomed to almost anything!"  Thus, his gradual acceptance of stealing, conning, violence, imprisonment, and general lawlessness became a 'normal' way of life for Gordon Graham!

I won't go into how Mr. Graham brought himself from Convict Number 28203 to becoming a successful and respected business man and catalyst for dealing with individual and organizational change.  For that story you should read his book, The One-Eyed Man Is King.

I do want to discuss a couple of examples brought to mind by his "gradually and incrementally getting used to things" though.

Have you purchased a 2X4 from a lumber supplier lately?  Really?  You may have purchased a 1X3, but I doubt you bought a 2X4!

Of course this all happened 'gradually and incrementally.'  First the rough sawn 2X4 was planed or smoothed on one side and one edge to provide a flatter surface upon which to attach material for a more uniform finish, as in putting up lathe and plaster for interiors of houses a century and more ago.  That made the 2X4 a 1⅞X 3⅞.

Next came the smoothing of all four sides of the lumber and we then had a 1X3.  Here I get a bit lost, as next thing we know a 2X4 became a 1⅝X3⅝.  Shortly, they shrunk even more, to today's nominal 1X3 dimensions.

Why did we not just mill the boards large enough to keep them at 2X4 after being planed?  'Cause you can't get as many boards out of the log that way, dummy!  Yep, the dollars are certainly in play here.

Here come the regulators again!  In the interest of more insulation and energy efficiency, the standard building codes in many jurisdictions for residential house framing  has come to require 2X6 lumber instead of our traditional 2X4s.  (I'm sorry, I meant 1X5s)

So, we've shrunk the 2X4 to the point that it is no longer sufficient for framing walls of houses, and we are now required to use a so called 2X6!

An 8 foot 2X4, if that were its actual dimensions, would contain 768 cubic inches of wood.  (2 x 4 x 96 = 768)  An 8 foot 2x6, using its actual measurements, contains  792 cubic inches.  (1.5 x 5.5 x 96 = 792)  We are actually getting barely over 3% more lumber in today's 2X6, than we were in the real 2X4 of yesteryear.

Let's remind ourselves that we still pay for lumber by the 'board foot.'  The formula for measuring board feet has not changed. It is still defined as 'one square foot of lumber, 1 inch thick.'  In other words, a board foot contains 144 cubic inches of wood.

An 8 foot 2X6, if it really measured 2 inches by 6 inches, equals 8 board feet of lumber. (2 x 6 x 96 144 = 8)  That's what you are paying for.  What you are actually getting in today's 2X6 is five and one half board feet!  (1.5 x 5.5 x 96 144 = 5.5)

Putting all this together, we are paying 50% more for 2X6's than 2X4's, while getting only about 3% more actual lumber than a real, honest to goodness, 2X4!  Or, looking at it another way, when buying 2X6 lumber we are getting over 30% less wood than we are actually paying for!

As if that ain't enough, in the course of mediating dozens of lumber mill negotiations I learned that the lumber grading standards have 'gradually and incrementally' changed over the years so you are not buying the same quality of lumber as in years past either!

Purchased eggs from a supermarket lately?  That carton was likely labeled Grade AA wasn't it?

Well, I've cracked and scrambled a lot of those supermarket eggs in our kitchen, and I can assure you nearly all are at best, Grade 'C' eggs.

While a freshman in high school, I was on the poultry judging team in our Vocational Agriculture program.  Included in the knowledge base in poultry judging was the ability to accurately 'Grade' eggs according to the standards in effect at the time.  I received an individual gold medal at State contests that year, so I'm pretty confident in my assessment!

Feel the toughness of the membrane inside the shell as you pull it apart?  Look inside the large end of the egg shell and observe the size of the air pocket.  The toughness of the membrane and the large air pocket are both indicators that the egg is far from 'fresh' and has likely been in cold storage far too long.

Those of you who have eaten actual 'farm fresh' eggs straight from the hen house, as some of us older folks have, will know what I'm talking about.  Those who have experienced none but those supermarket eggs; I'm sorry!

Have you compared the quantity of product in some supermarket packaging to what it was a year ago?  It's been all over the news lately.  The package may be the same shape and size but what's in it has shrunk!

So, what does all this rambling tell us?  It tells me two things:

One, Gordon Graham is spot on with his assessment.  We can and do "gradually and incrementally" become used to things; including accepting as normal, things that are not in our best interest!

Two, when it becomes difficult or not profitable enough to adhere to a given set of standards, just lower the standards!  If done slowly and gradually, those affected (WE) will usually accept it as if nothing happened!

Now, doesn't that make us all feel really good about the direction in which we've allowed our country to drift?

Can these kinds of trends be halted or reversed?  I happen to believe they can!  We need only look at developments in firearms law, right to self defense, and concealed carry trends around the country to see that it can, and is, being done.

I'll talk about what's happening in those areas and more, next month.

This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from a story I've told over the years about a Missouri watermelon entrepreneur:

A Missouri Hillbilly, observing a watermelon crop failure in his home area, decided to take his pickup truck to Arkansas, where production was bountiful.  His plan was to buy watermelons in Arkansas and haul them to Missouri for resale.

Seeking the lowest price possible, he was able to buy a pickup load of melons for $1 each.  Upon returning to Missouri, in spite of his best efforts and good advertising he was only able to get 75 cents each for his melons.

The Hillbilly's solution to the problem:  Buy a Bigger Truck!

Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .

'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!

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