Friday, January 30, 2009

The Hmong - Unsung Heroes During The Vietnam War And Their Struggles To This Day

I stumbled upon a web site that was written by Jeff Lindsay, about a group of people that most Americans have never heard of....The Hmongs. Most of the adults were born in Laos and grew up as poor farmers from the hilltops of northern Laos, before they were recruited to fight a bloody secret war for the United States against powerful Communist forces. The Hmong were instrumental in saving the lives of many U.S. soldiers fighting during the Vietnam War. There are approximately 180,000 Hmong living in the U.S. Jeff Lindsay's web site tells the story of the Hmong people from the days of the Vietnam War to present time. A story that few people know about. Here is a link to Jeff Lindsay's web site:
http://www.jefflindsay.com/hmong.shtml

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Emerging From The Fog Of Apathy

Our family moved to Tampa, FL around 1967. During those days I was not into watching television too much. I mainly wanted to go outside and play with my friends or just hang out with them. During the 60s, the world and our society was in turmoil...there was a lot going on. There was the Vietnam War, there were war protests, the hippy movement, free love and the sexual revolution, drug usage, Woodstock, counter cultural values, psychedelic rock music, the continuation of the American Civil Rights Movement..just a lot of upheaval and changes in our society during this time period. For some reason, my friends and I did not really talk about it at all. We just went about our business with our long hair, heavy metal music...doing our own thing. We seemed to have insulated ourselves from the goings on of the outside world, especially where the war was concerned and we distanced ourselves from our parents and adults in general. We were discontented and disconnected from the realities of life....angry at everyone and everything. Maybe what we saw on a daily basis bent us toward a degree of apathy, about what was going on in our world. Upon returning home for dinner after being out with friends, I would stop by the television and briefly watch the news. Each and every time, I saw updated news reports on the war in Vietnam. At my age during this time period, I had no idea where Vietnam was nor what the war was all about....what I did know was that men, just a few years older than me, were in a far off land getting injured or dying. This was drummed into my head each night, upon entering my house for dinner, I would see numbers being displayed on the television screen ...... ...KIA...MIA....Killed In Action....Missing in Action. Of course there were some sterilized video of the war shown on the TV but what I kept going back to were the numbers...day in and day out...again and again....at all hours day and night and even on weekends. Looking back I think that maybe I had become desensitized to what I was seeing possibly because of the number of times that I was seeing it. It happening to someone else and was going on somewhere else, far away from my cocooned life. That all changed on a Summer day, when a friend of mine that lived one street over from me, told me that his brother had just returned from Vietnam. My friend asked me if I wanted to go over and see him. I said sure and we headed over to his house. I wasn't sure what to expect because the war was still going on and I had never met anyone who had been in the war. After knocking on the bedroom door we entered it. The first things that I noticed was how dark the room was...shades drawn down tight with very little light coming in. A young man, probably 7 years older than me, was leaning back on the bed. He was dressed in military fatigues and they appeared to have been worn for many days straight. This young man looked like he was so much older than he actually was. He did not really say much to either his brother or to me. I was afraid to ask him any questions. My friend went to a table that was in the room and began to show me some items...war memorabilia that his brother had brought home from the war. I don't remember a thing about this veteran, not his face, not anything that he might have said, nor anything else about him other than he was wearing worn out fatigues and one of the items that he had brought home. My friend handed me a grenade that his brother had brought home as a memento. This grenade had the "guts" taken out of it, so it was mainly an empty grenade. The table was full of assorted military items but it is that grenade that sticks with me to this day. After visiting for just a few minutes, my friend and I left. As we were walking around outside, I told my friend that his brother did not talk much. My friend told me that his brother was different since he came back from the war. After meeting my friends brother, the meaning and the reality of those numbers that i had seen on television began to make sense and hit me hard. I then started to pay much more attention to what was going on with the war and to those who returned. Many soldiers returned to a society that shunned them and to a Veterans medical benefit system that made it very difficult to obtain the help that they needed. In 1974, at the age of 18, I enlisted in the US Army. Because of the date that I enlisted, I was considered to be a Vietnam Era Veteran. I have never been comfortable with that designation....I did NOT earn the right to have that designation. Others made the sacrifice and earned the right to be called a Vietnam Era Veteran but I was not one of them. I spent about 7 years in the military and decided that it was not for me. I was honorably discharged in 1981. A couple of years after I got out of the military , I had the opportunity to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. The sight of the dark black granite walls with over 58,000 names etched in the marble can be very emotional thing. I saw uniformed veterans there touching the wall where the etched names of their friend and fellow soldier were and others just taking in the enormity of what lay in front of them. Some trying to grasp the meaning of it all. You could see it on their faces and in the tears that rolled down their cheeks. Like I said...it was a very emotional sight. Some were still wearing their military issued jackets from a bye gone war. Many seemed to still be dealing with the images, the sounds, the cries, the smells and everything that encompasses a war. At least that was my impression of what I saw. There were flower arrangements or even a single flower resting against the black granite wall itself. There were 58,000+ names of those that were either KIA or MIA during the Vietnam War listed on the wall.....each etched name representing more than just letters or a name on a wall...they were the father to a child, the husband to a wife, a mothers son, a friend to others. Real people who lived real lives and who made the ultimate sacrifice. And then there were the thousands of soldiers that returned home with injuries. Some that could and some that could not been seen. Whether you believed in the reason for the war or not, it does not diminish the fact that all of these soldiers did what were asked of them, made sacrifices in their lives and with their lives...they have earned our respect and honor. And for those who returned, they have also earned the full benefits that the government promised them and owe to them. For those that did return home and those that did not make it back....I want to say...Thank You and I Am Sorry.

And now, we once again have our troops on foreign soil doing their jobs as soldiers are expected to do. Upon the return home of these soldiers, I truly hope that as a society we have learned something from the wars and conflicts in our past and how we treat those returning home. I know that I have.

For more information about the Vietnam War, please click on the below link:
http://www.landscaper.net/timelin.htm#Participants%20and%20Casualties

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BLOG OF NOTE for my wife TOO

Kudos to my wife Veronica for winning the BLOG OF NOTE yesterday. I won last week and now she wins it this week. Wow...what a week it has been. To visit my wife's artistic blog, please click on the link below:
http://artbyveronica.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Many Faces Of Me

These photos will wrap up "The Early Years" series. It is amazing how we change over the years. These are the many faces of me as the years have gone by.
I must be bored to death already and I have just begun my journey through life. Taken in the 50s.



Taken in the mid 60s. I am the one on the right posing in style.

Now this brings back memories.Taken back in the early 70s. You gotta love the hair. Those were the good ole days.



Yikes.....my hair has disappeared. These were in the mid to late 70s.





You gotta love a guy in uniform. Taken back in the 80s.

Who the heck is this and what is he doing sneaking in on my blog. Taken back in the 90s...I was helping Veronica out at work.
Taken in the late 90s

Taken in early 2000

Taken in 2007

The below photos of me were taken a couple of days ago.......jusat kidding.... I figured that I would throw in a couple photos of my buddy...Hershel Harley. Hershel is a real cut up and quite the ladies man. I have to really keep an eye on him when we are traveling.

The Early Years Part #4

I'm the one on the left. I was at 3 1/2-4 years old at the time.
Me at 5-6 years old
Me at 3 1/2- 4 years old. This was taken in Carmel, IN Here I am at 3 1/2 years old doing my best Howdy Doody impersonation or maybe with the hair, it might have been my best Elvis impersonation.
Here I am in Carmel, IN and I was 3 1/2-4 years old. Look at the car in the background.
No peeking!!!
Here I am at 3 1/2 weeks old
The rest are of me at 3 1/2 years old. My table etiquite left much to be desired and depending on what I am eating, it hasn't got much better to this day.



Saturday, January 24, 2009

ONE WORLD....ONE HEART EVENT




I will be participating in the ONE WORLD ONE HEART EVENT. My wife talked me into this event. So I figured that I would go along with it and support her and this event. Please post a comment to this blog entry. By doing this, you will be entered into a drawing for a handmade work of art made by my wife Veronica. See work of art above. This is the work of art that you will receive should the random number generator pick your placement on the comments page of this blog entry. For a close up view, please click on the picture and it will enlarge it to a bigger size.
I will pick the winner by using a random number generator, on 2/12/09. Whatever number the generator gives me, I will count down from the top of the comments and go down until I reach the number that the generator gave me. Here is more information about this event:
A woman named Lisa Swifka is the author of this blog, as well as the host of this worldwide blogging event that is taking place January 19-February 12. Rather than me trying to explain it all to you, I'll share an excerpt from Lisa, the creator of One World-One Heart:"The original idea behind this giveaway event was to bring bloggers together from around the world who may never ordinarily meet. It closes the gap of the blog community and enables us to interact, discover new and wonderful people, and in the process possibly win a prize or many prizes along the way...This is more than wanting to win something.......that is only the means.......in the end it's about finding kindred spirits. Someone who may be fairly new to blogging, not sure how to navigate, find others and have others find them....Some are long time bloggers and in some cases well known in the art community. Whatever the case it brings all of them together...We are not solving the worlds problems nor are we curing anything nor are we changing the world. We are merely generating a closer community between humans through blogging

If this Has Happened To Anyone Else..Please Raise Your Hands

I wanted to share a situation with you. This is one of those things that really get the ole "roids" all fired up. Here is the scenario....you have lots of assorted items on your daily "to do" list. But you have to hold off on doing them because you need to contact a life insurance, which I will call Company X. Company X sent me a check for $8.00 and there was no note or letter attached or in the envelope...just the lone check. Now I have learned my lesson from past experiences...there is no such thing as free money and by cashing this check, I could be agreeing who knows what, possibly raising my life insurance policy to 2.5 million dollars. Of course along with the raise in the policy there also comes a huge raise in the premium, which I can't afford. So being the honorable and concerned customer that I am, I proceed to call the phone number to Company X that is listed on my last premium notice. After dialing the number, I get this boring mechanical simulated human voice telling me that if I want so & so, please press on the phone or say the number 1 or if I want another so & so, then I need to press press on the phone or say number 2. This continues through 7 different sections within Company X. Now since the free check that I received did not fit into any of the numbered categories that the boring mechanical simulated human voice requested that I press or say, I am left to my own devices and I need to make an educated guess. So I decide that #3 seems to fit the closest to what my problem was. So I say #3. After saying this number, I am then transferred into...now here comes the scary movie sounds...DA DA DA DA..."THE QUE". Now that I am in...DA DA DA DA..."THE QUE", someone is trying to keep me awake by playing some type of lounge lizard music. The music is like hypnosis to me and I start to nod off. Every minute or so, I get awoke by another boring mechanical simulated human voice telling me how important my call is, that all of their people are busy with other complainers...I mean customers and that the next available person will be with me shortly. Then the music starts again and I start to nod off once again. This sequence occurs for at least 10 minutes. At this point in time, I put my phone on the speaker phone function because I am getting a kink in my nexk. It is around this time I hear a different voice, a voice of someone that was doing their best to speak the English language but it wasn't working out so well. This person stated their name and asked me if they could help me. Because I was almost completely asleep, I almost missed talking to this person but collected my foggy thoughts just in time and I began explain about the free check I received and what the check was for. Unfortunately I had to repeat myself 3 times because we just could not connect on the same frequency. After my last attempt at communication, this person said that she would have to transfer me to another department. During this transferal process, I can hear a phone ringing like i had just dialed a number. Once the sound of the dialing stopped, I was once again placed in...DA DA DA DA...another QUE. Rewind and play lounge lizard sleepy time music...boring mechanical simulated human voice again..OK you know how this goes..no need for me to tire out my typing finger repeating the process. Then out of the blue a persons voice jumped on the line and stated their name, in their best English and asked me if they could help me. I said "yes please help me...I NEED HELP!!!!" and I started to explain about the free check that I received in the mail. I was starting to feel really good that I finally reached the proper destination and that help was on its way. I was almost through my spiel when all of a sudden....silence.....disconnected...NOOOOOooooooooo!!!!!!...input hair pulling and cussing at this point in time. Another 1/2 hour wasted out of my life.
Now let's be honest here...if this has happened to you, please raise your hands and let me get a count. Ok..There is 1..got you at 2...I see you over there 3...c'mon raise it like you mean it, ok 4.......

The Early Years Part #3

Here are a couple of photographs of my parents. Their anniversary is coming up this Wed, 1/28.
Here is a photograph of my Dad dressed up for Halloween. This was about 2-3 years ago.
Tomorrow I will post the last of this series...The Early Years. There will be some photos of me when I was 3 1/2 weeks old up to about 6 years old. After I post those, please be gentle with your comments :)

Thank You!!!

I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your very kind comments. I am deeply humbled by them and I appreciate them greatly. Rick

Friday, January 23, 2009

Todays Thought

It is not important the color of a man's skin
What is important, is that he is comfortable in it.
Me

The Early Years Part #2

What are those early years without some very important people being involved.
Below is a picture of my Bubby and Zady. Zady was a watch repairmen by trade. I remember that he had a small watch repair shop in Hartford, CT. I would visit him once in a while in the city, while he was at work. Everytime I saw him there he would have one of those jewelers monocle at his eyes so that he could see what he was repairing. Every morning before going to work, my Bubby would pack him up a peanut butter and banana sandwhich on toast for his lunch...his favorite. Zady was an excellent gardener too. He would grow roses and especially dahlias. Zady was very hard to understand because he spoke with a very heavy slavic accent. Bubby was the nicest person that you would ever want to meet. She loved to cook.
Here is a picture of my other grandparents, Nana and Gramps. Nana and Gramps lived in New London, CT. They owned a furrier shop. Back in those days furs were very sought after, fashionable and a widely accepted garment or accessory. One of my memories of Nana was that she had diabetes and she would sneak a bowl of ice cream or something else that she knew she wasn't supposed to eat. When we would catch her "sneaking", she would have this cheshire cat-like grin on her face.
All of my Grandparents are gone and I miss them very much but my fond memories of them will stay with me always. Stay tuned for more of "The Early Years".

Thursday, January 22, 2009

BLOGGING MEMORIES OF LIFE Followup

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has visited my blog and for all of the comments that were left too. Many people, through their comments, wanted to know what relationship Veronica and I share. Veronica is my wife of just over 11 years. She is also my best friend. I think that it is also important for me to explain why I continue to blog and why I wrote the entry BLOGGING MEMORIES OF LIFE. When I first started my blog, I did it mainly to present my nature and flower photography with others. I was diagnosed with Mast Cell Disease several years ago. If you go back in my blog, you will finds entries about that medical issue. Just this last year, after being a smoker for about 34 years, I found out that I had myoplasia on the right side of my tongue. It was a pre-cancerous growth and yes it made quitting smoking a very easy decision and task. This medical issue is also discussed in depth, in some of my earlier blog entries. Because of these 2 events it gave me a different viewpoint of life, living and of my own mortality. Currently all medical issues are in check but you never really know when something will change. In some ways I continue to write in this blog as a way of preparing for my eventual death. I realize that this might sound rather morbid but it is a fact of life that I accept. It might not be today...tomorrow or the next day but it will happen. I wanted to leave something behind that Veronica could read, reminisce and hopefully it would bring a smile on her face after I was gone....giving her a partial look at the footprints through my life including things that we shared together. I guess like most of you out there...I just want to be remembered...to leave something behind that would mean something to others. Like I refered to in the original entry....I welcome all of you in sharing my continued journey but at the end of the day and the lights dim...it is mainly for Veronica that I do this.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

BLOGGING MEMORIES OF LIFE

About 1 year ago, Veronica gave me a journal book and suggested that I write down my thoughts on a daily basis and she would do the same. That way when either one of us died, the other would be able to read the journal and have something that was written by the other. To be honest with you, I really did not have the interest or drive to sit each day and hand write how I felt, my thoughts of the day or what might be bothering me. Call my lack of interest whatever you want, but let's call it what it truly was....laziness and boredom. I really don't like sitting and handwriting anything down on a daily basis....I find it really boring. My handwriting is atrocious and my thought process does not blend well with handwriting everything down, especially when trying to compose something so that it reads like I had put some sort of serious thought to it. I originally started my blog so that I could journal what I felt was meaningful to me, throw in a few personal thoughts, some tidbits of humor, some photos for good measure and share it with all of you. But as my blog has grown over the days, weeks and months and looking back on it's growth and content, I have discovered that I was actually doing what Veronica had asked me to do but in a format that I enjoyed doing and one that is so much better than the hand written journal method ...instead of being one dimensional, now we have something that is multi-dimensional.I do enjoy people visiting my blog and I don't mind sharing portions of my life's journeys with you, but at the end of my days, this blog is truly for Veronica. One of these days after I have left this world and you feel alone or sad or just want to reminisce, with me in your thoughts....Veronica....with the snow lightly falling outside...with the fireplace crackling....put on your warm jammies and pour yourself a cup of our favorite coffee...not too much cream for you, so unlike the way I enjoy it...lol... find a comfy couch to sit in...and let's take that walk down memory lane together. Just like this blog, I will always be here...awaiting those special visits from you....where we can be together again. Love Always......Rick

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome New Visitors

I just wanted to welcome and thank all of the new visitors to my blog. I hope that you will feel free to spend some time and view some of my older entries. So grab yourself a cup of coffee, hot cocoa, tea and whatever your drink of choice might be and kick back and enjoy yourself.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Early Years Part #1

Last night I had a very hard time sleeping. It might have had something to do with my Dads 80th birthday coming up in April. For some reason my mind took me back to 1955 and would not allow me to leave that time period or fall asleep. I was born June 24th 1955 at Indianapolis IN. Thinking about all of these memories, it seems like many lifetimes ago but I can see things like they happened yesterday.
We actually lived in a very small town called Carmel. My first recollections of Carmel, we lived in a rental home on Range Line Road. I lived there from about 2 years old until I was about 8 years old. I have a very good memory when it comes to my early years. I would like to share some snippets of memories and brief thoughts about those early years. Our home had a small plot of land in the backyard, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 acre, that was dedicated to my Dads garden. My Dad had someone with a tractor and plow come over to turn the soil to get it prepared for seeding. He would plant several types of beans, corn and other vegetables. On weekends, he would get up early and go out back to work on his garden. When I would get up, I would go out back and watch him. My Dad has always enjoyed gardening and still does. At the end of the growing season, I would gather up the old corn stalks and build teepee's that I could go into and hide. In the back yard, we also had what I will call a grape arbor. It had a trellis on both sides and trellis on the top of it. The grapes would grown up the sides and over the top of the arbor. When it was completely covered with grapes, it reminded me of a short tunnel. If I had to guess now, I would say this arbor was about 30 feet long.
My Dad was just starting his career with the US Geological Service during this time period. He used to have a friend named Dave who also worked for the USGS. Dave used to come over frequently and spend time with my Dad. My bedroom was on the 2nd floor of our house. There were many nights, after I had been put to bed, I would peek out of the small window that was next to my bed and I could watch my Dad and Dave sitting at a picnic table in the back yard, drinking beer from some tall metal cups. They would be out there for hours talking and nursing their beers.
Depending on the time of year, it was still light when I was put to bed. There was a time that I was in bed and I peeked out of the little window. I looked up in the skies and there must have been millions of birds flying in one direction in their migratory pattern. There were so many birds that it would darken the skies. I have never seen a sight like that since then. It was truly amazing.
For Summer vacations, we would pack our bags for our yearly trip to Connecticut to visit relatives. My Dad would go to the Ice House to get a block of ice to put in our large coolers that we would take. My Dad would chip the block of ice up, so that the ice would fit in our coolers. My mother would make all kinds of sandwiches, snacks and get drinks to stock up the coolers.
Back then, going to the drive in theater and going to Dairy Queen was a big thing for us kids. I should mention that I am the middle child.
The business district of Carmel was only about 1/2 - maybe 3/4 of a mile up the road from our house. Back then Carmel was a small town. In Carmel, there used to be a movie theater, barber, drug store, doctors office and a Five and Dime Store. There were many more stores but I can't remember them all. The Five and Dime store was an interesting store. It was on the other side of the train tracks and it had a long large wooden loading dock that faced the train tracks. We would walk up the wooden stairs and onto the dock. This was a large 2-3 story tall wooden building. When you walk in, the first thing that you would see were lots of wooden tables that had wooden slats in it. The slats divided the table top into small sections where they would stack little toys and such, keeping each style separated from the other items. The store was rather dark and damp. At some point in time, a new store came into town...a slot car racing business. I used to go into there and watched in amazement as the older kids and grownups would race these little cars around a large racetrack.
Next to the towns movie theater were 2 homes that I remember. One was owned by Mrs. Nutt and the other by Mr. Hendricks. I don't remember too much about Mrs. Nutt other than my mother would take us there to visit. Mr. Hendricks house was always fun to go to. Mr. Hendricks had a very large concrete fish pond in his back yard. We would go there and just sit and watch his fish swimming around.
For Kindergarten, I went to a little red school house. We had a dog named Brownie during this time period. Brownie was a beagle mix. He was the best dog a kid could ever have. Brownie used to walk with me to kindergarten almost everyday. He would watch me walk into the school house and was there patiently waiting for me after school was over. There was a day when we were having show and tell at this school. Of course Brownie was my show and tell. Someone else brought a horse in..kept the horse behind the school house until it was show and tell time. Although the horse stole the show, I proudly presented Brownie to my classmates, with him jumping about and his tail wagging. Sadly Brownie got hit by a car many years later. Brownie was never the same after that and my parents had to put him down. Even after all of these years, I still have fond memories of Brownie.
My mother used to take us to town once in a while. It wasn't too long of a walk. What I remember most was that if we were good, she would take us into the drug store where they had one of those soda fountain set ups that they had years ago. If we were good, we used to get a bag of chips and a coca cola. I had a strange way of eating the chips. I would put a chip in my mouth and then take a sip of cola. The cola would get the chip to fizz up a little. I know...what a strange little kid I was.
One time when I was riding either my trike or bike with training wheels(can't remember exactly), I fell off of the trike and got a rock caught in my knee. The rock went far enough in to hit my kneecap. The rock popped out and it left a hole in my knee. My Dad took me to the local doctor. The doctor sutured me up without the aid of any Novocaine or numbing agent. I remember screaming while the doctor took his little hook with the string attached and started sewing my knee up.
I am sure that we all have certain things that stay firmly affixed in our memory banks and this is one that I have.
My brother went to summer day camp one year. I thought that was really great. I was hoping that I would get the chance to go when I got a little bigger but it never happen. Life sure can be hard on a young kid.
When my brother and I were in elementary school we were volunteered to sing a duet for the PTA and we ended up singing a bicycle built for two. That was my first and last experience at singing in front of a crowd.
A couple of years ago, Veronica and I returned to Carmel...at least the old portion of town. Main Street was mainly empty with very few stores doing business there. I also got a chance to see our old house. Of course everything looked a lot different but after all of these years, I still could pick out specific buildings in town, locations where buildings used to be but were now gone (the little red schoolhouse). Our old house was still there. Returning and seeing Carmel again brought back many memories. It was as if time had never passed and like I was still living there....except in reality, it was literally a lifetime ago.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Some People Will Do Anything For 15 Minutes Of Fame

My friend Ken, from Canada, sent me another great video. Thanks Ken and keep'm coming. Just click on the link to view the video:
http://www.maniacworld.com/Record-New-Years-Eve-Jump.html

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do I Have Stupid Written On My Forehead?

I received something in the mail today that I just felt the need to share with you. I received an envelope from what originally appeared to be HSBC..the credit card folks. I do actually have an HSBC credit card that I use once in a great while. Upon opening up the envelope, the first thing that I noticed was that there were 2 real checks inside...one for $8.25 and the other for $9.75. Now these are actual checks made out to me. The 2nd thing that I noticed in the envelope was a "form" slip of paper and the top line was highlighted in yellow marker along with a line on another section below. The first highlighted line stated in bold lettering "RE: MONEY BACK ON YOUR HSBC PLATINUM CREDIT CARD PURCHASES". The lower highlighted line "BONUS! YOU CAN CLAIM AND ADDITIONAL 2% BACK". Both of these lines were boldly underlined too. After reading all of writing on the slip of paper it basically gave me this information- by cashing the $8.25 check, I would have joined a program called Just For Me. By cashing the check I could start earning 2% cash back on new purchases and receive up to $100.00 a year cash back. By cashing the $9.75 check, I would have joined a program called Buyers Advantage. With this program, I would receive an additional 2% back for my purchases and thus making it up to $200.00 that I could receive per year.
On the one last additional piece of paper that was in the envelope, there were further descriptions on what these 2 checks would provide to me via the 2 programs. Just For Me would provide me with 2% on my first $5,000 worth of new purchases up to the $100.00 yearly limit. The Just For Me Plan also provided me with a savings of up to 20% off for discounted facials, manicures at participating businesses along with a week of FREE Jazzercise Classes...That's right folks....1 FULL WEEK OF FREE JAZZERCISE CLASSES. I truly feel blessed by this particular perk....almost like the tooth fairy, after many decades of being a no show, returned for one last visit.
The Buyers Advantage would provide me with an additional $100.00 on purchases made through them. The Buyers Advantage program would also provide me with a Return Purchases plan, Automatic Warranty Extension and a savings of up to 50% when I repair most household and electronic items.

Of course there was a whole hell of a lot of fine print on the reverse side of this form letter but unfortunately I am still awaiting for my newly purchased quadrafocal glasses, from the optometrist, in order to read the little munchkin writing that is there.

Now here comes the "kicker".....at the end of the 30 day trail period, my credit card will be charged $59.99 for EACH program. And that charge is not done annually but SEMI-ANNUALLY. That comes to almost $120.00 semi-annually or almost $240.00 a year for the 2 programs and I have not even made 1 purchase so that I can cash in on the fantastic deal of getting my whopping 2% back.
Another thing about these programs is that they state that they are not affiliated with HSBC at all, which means HSBC provided these people with my highly guarded personal info.

Now, I know that I might not be the brightest bulb in the lot but I truly despise someone trying to put a red hot poker up this ole mans keester.

One Happy And Very Lucky Penguin

My friend Ken, from Canada, emailed me this great video. I am not sure where he gets these videos but keep them coming!!!!

video

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Other Skagway Alaska

Over the last couple of days I have been trying to arrange an excursion in Skagway, Alaska for Veronica and I, during our upcoming Alaska cruise. I also wanted to obtain a feel for Skagway...the real Skagway. The Skagway that most visitors might not know about, think about or see...the "other" Skagway....the non touristy Skagway. I did some reasearch on line about Skagway along with making contact with a business there, Frontier Excursions, for our excursions while in Skagway. During this time of year, it is difficult to make contact with some of the businesses in Skagway. Not because they don't want your business or that they aren't friendly but because of the Winters that they endure up there. The Winter weather can make it extremely difficult to move around up there with the snow and brutal wind chills. I made contact with Jeanne, who is a very friendly and helpful woman and is the owner of Frontier Excursions. Jeanne lives in Skagway and she explained to me that during the harsh Winter months, she tries to get to her office in town at least twice a week to take care of business. Through Jeanne I ended up booking a Yukon Discovery Tour plus an add on side tour of the Gold Rush Cemetery in town and a scenic overlook that looks over the town and harbor areas....a good photography opportunity. If you ever get the chance to go on an Alaska cruise and have a port of call in Skagway, I would definitely recommend giving Jeanne and Frontier Excursions a phone call. She will go out of her way to take great care of you and set you up with an excursion that highlights the best of Skagway and surrounding beautiful scenery and wildlife, along with the Yukon Territory. And as "icing on your cake" the excursion prices through Frontier Excursions are much better than what you get through the cruise lines and promotional tour companies. A link to Frontier Excursions will be at the bottom of this blog entry. Jeanne told me that Skagway is only 4 blocks wide and 23 blocks long. Food and other items are barged, not trucked into Skagway. The barge carries the large containers that you would normally see behind 18 wheel trucks. By the sounds of it, there are only about 6 businesses that are open during the winter months...maybe a few more and just because the weather might be brutal at times up there, people in Skagway still make their way around outside to get wherever they need to go. Life in Skagway does not totally stop just because of a few snowflakes and a little cold weather. It definitely sounded as if Skagway is mainly a cruise ship port of call town....when the cruise ships stop at Skagway as a port of call, the town is very busy and this is when the residents make most of their income. After the cruise ship season ends, the town slowly closes up except for a few essential businesses. But even after the cruise ships have finished visiting Skagway for the season and Winter has rolled in full force, fraternal organizations in Skagway are busy putting together several of the towns special events that they have each year. During the Winter there are events such as the multi day Christmas Yule Tide Celebration and the Buckwheat Classic cross-country ski race. From what I have read on Skagways Chamber of Commerce page...back in 2005, Skagway had only 854 residents but when the cruise ships came in, the number of people in Skagway tripled if not more.
A portion of the downtown area has been designated as the Skagway unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and over 800,000 visitors are expected during the summer season. Skagway is the point of embarkment for the famous Chilkoot and White Pass Trails.
Skagway has 5 churches, 1 library, and 1 financial institution. There are approximately 250 hotel/motel rooms in 11 facilities, ranging from modern to historic, including 3 bed & breakfasts, 1 home hostel and 3 cabin-style lodges. Some of these businesses are open year round. Parking is available during the summer for over 300 recreational vehicles, in addition to numerous tent camping sites. Skagway has 1 clinic, staffed by a physician's assistant and a nurse practitioner and is open Monday through Friday year-round. Several doctors, a public health nurse, and a dentist each visit on a regular basis. A mental health counselor is also available. Emergencies are transported by air to Juneau, if possible, or by road to Whitehorse.
Skagway has 1 school, K-12, with 17 classrooms, and an average of 105 students, 13 teachers and 1 superintendent.
As remote as Skagway might seem, it has all of the infrastructure as any other town except on a smaller scale.
I find the lifestyle combined with the challenges of the weather and location to be quite interesting and in a lot of ways alluring. I can see why Jeanne had nothing but good things to say about Skagway and living in Alaska.
For more excursion information in Skagway:

http://www.frontierexcursions.com/

For more information about Skagway:

http://www.skagwaychamber.org/community.html

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's Our Money - Let Us Do What We Want With It

I have been wanting to write about this for a long time and I am just now getting around to it. Did you know that you are only allowed a certain number of withdrawals/tranfers from your savings account before you accrue a penalty fee. This includes tranfers from your saving to another in house account...within the same bank. When I have a vacation or there is something special I want to buy and I am saving up for it over a matter of time, I would usually transfer some of the money for whatever it was that i wanted, from our checking into our savings account. That way it was "protected and out of the way"...out of our checking account. With it being in savings, I knew that I would not spend the money through the course of normal living and spending throughout the course of the month. Then when I had built up enough to get...let us say....airline tickets...I would transfer the cost of the airline tickets over from our savings account to our checking account and buy the tickets using our bank card. One year I did this around Christmas time. Transferring different ammounts of money from savings to checking when I found a gift that I wanted to buy Veronica. After the end of a statement period, I must have transfered more that 6 times. Because I went over the government mandated 6 transaction rule, I was penalized, I believe it was $20. I am not sure who got this money...whether it was the bank or the government. When I saw this penalty charged to our account, I called the bank up and was told that anyone who withdraws or transfers money more that 6 times from the savings account during a statement period gets the penalty. After doing a little research on line, here is what I found outr about this:

Section 204.2(d)(2) of Regulation D of the Federal Reserve Board:

…the depositor is permitted or authorized to make no more than six transfers and withdrawals, or a combination of such transfers and withdrawals, per calendar month or statement cycle… to another account (including a transaction account) of the depositor at the same institution or to a third party by means of a preauthorized or automatic transfer, or telephonic (including data transmission) agreement, order, or instruction, and no more than three of the six such transfers may be made by check, draft, debit card, or similar order made by the depositor and payable to third parties.

I have a real problem with this. People work very hard for their money and they should have the complete right to put the money in the bank or do what they want with it, ie moving it from one account to another, as they see fit. I don't feel that the government should be penalizing us because we aren't saving our money the way that they want us to. The same government that is penalizing us, is the same goverment that is at least a trillion dollars in debt and hasn't learned how to manage their own money. Doesn't make much sense to me...how about you?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Is It Spring Already?

This morning I woke up and it was 66 degrees. It is almost 9:30AM now and the temperature has gone up to 70 degrees. Here we are, well into January and it feels like Springtime. That is the way this Winter has gone so far. No real long lasting cold spells. The weather has reealy messed up the timing of some of the garden plants. Our dafodils have already broke ground. A cold front will be coming through in a couple of hours and that should bring the temperatures back down to a more normal level.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

While Cruisin' around the internet(pun intended), I found this really cool countdown clock that leads us up to our very first cruise:

nauticalcities.com Ticker

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sick Again

I apologize for my lack of recent entries in my blog. Once again the "bug" has got ahold of me. Hopefully I will be back to my usual self soon....not sure if that is a good thing or not.
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