Archive for April, 2013

Tax-achusetts?

April 30, 2013

I’ve heard this label applied to the state of Massachusetts for many years and I would hazard to guess that you have as well.  And, while this may have been the case in the 1970s, Massachusetts has done a remarkable turnaround by decreasing their tax levels from the late 70s to now.  Here’s an interesting report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center that helps put this bad press to rest.

What got me started down this path you might ask?  Well, I saw a state comparison of sales tax figures for January 1, 2013 (courtesy of the April issue of the AARP Bulletin), and I guess I just expected Massachusetts to be among the highest.  Lo and behold, there were nine states that had higher sales tax rates than Massachusetts.   So, it’s time to give Massachusetts a break!

States with the highest Sales Tax rates:
1. California (7.5%)
2. Indiana (7.0%)
2. Mississippi (7.0%)
2. New Jersey (7.0%)
2. Rhode Island (7.0%)
2. Tennessee (7.0%)

States with the lowest Sales Tax rates:
1. Alaska (none)
1. Delaware (none)
1. Montana (none)
1. Oregon (none)
1. Colorado (2.9%) . . . then the next lowest jumps to 4.0%.

Abandoned But Not Forgotten, Number Two!

April 29, 2013

kolmanskop-namibiaKolmanskop is Namibia’s most famous ghost town and is located a couple of miles inland from the port of Luderitz. What started as a diamond mining community in the early 1900s (reaching its peak development in the 1920s) gradually declined after World War 1 when diamond prices crashed. Then when richer diamond deposits were discovered further south, the operations were moved to Oranjemund and within a span of 40 years Kolmanskop lived, flourished and died. Between the wind and the encroaching sand dunes, the town’s former stately homes have been reduced to crumbling ruins. Then In 1980, De Beers (the mining company), restored a number of the buildings and established an interesting museum. Despite its isolation, Kolmanskop has now become a tourist attraction.

How Great, Indeed!

April 28, 2013

What a great way to start a Sunday!  Every now and then you run across a song that just makes  you feel good.  Here is a duet of “How Great Thou Art” by John Glosson and Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland).  Enjoy!

Simply Staggering!

April 27, 2013

When you see someone staggering around, what comes to mind?  When I was working in law enforcement, it was a definite symptom of intoxication and worthy of a closer look (to see if additional symptoms were present).  But at the same time, people can be unsteady on their feet for a number of reasons: diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Meniere’s disease, inner ear problems, physical limitations, or even titubation.

titubation

\tich-oobey-shuh\, noun;

a disturbance of body equilibrium in standing or walking, resulting in an uncertain gait and trembling, especially resulting from diseases of the cerebellum.

And, just for fun . . . here are some synonyms and related words for “staggering” . . .
lurch, stumble, careen, keel, reel, swag, flounder, totter, sway, falter, wobble, waver, teeter, gait, dither, halt, hesitate, pitch, shake, stammer, step, sway, swing, topple, vacillate, wheel, whiffle, zigzag, and walk.

Sources: http://www.dictionary.com, http://www.thesaurus.com, The Highly Selective Dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate by Eugene Ehrlich

Best Read Cities?

April 26, 2013

stacks-of-booksAccording to Amazon.com, here are the 10 best read cities (with populations over 100,000).  The rankings were determined by looking at the number [no qualitative measure] of books, newspapers and magazines that were purchased (per capita) from Amazon.com.
.

10. Pittsburgh, PA
9. Columbia, SC
8. Cincinnati, OH
7. Berkeley, CA
6. Ann Arbor, MI
5. Orlando, FL
4. Cambridge, MA
3. Miami, FL
2. Knoxville, TN

and the #1 best read city . . .
1. Alexandria, VA

Enemies and Tact!

April 25, 2013

“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.”

“Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”

These are a couple of quotations attributed to Abraham Lincoln.  But regardless of his many noteworthy/memorable quotations, the Gettysburg Address remains the greatest speech ever (and probably the shortest: a mere 272 words, less than the content of two tweets).    He was a great president (but an even greater human being) who managed to lead the United States through some of its greatest challenges (including the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery).   A true leader.

Address delivered at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg.

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln Signature.svg

November 19, 1863.

Also attributed to Abraham Lincoln (in jest or as a joke): “The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity.”  (Ha, he was obviously a visionary . . . well ahead of his time.  I had to throw in this one just for fun.)

Stained Glass Mosaic!

April 24, 2013

003Most stained glass is designed to be displayed in a window where the light can shine through.  And, while I have a couple of windows in my apartment, they really aren’t situated all that well.  So, while meandering through the “Art After Hours” event in Broken Arrow last week, I saw this stained glass mosaic by Katie Pernu (I’ve appreciated her work for quite some time now) in a lighted box frame . . . was there really a decision to make?  Nope, not at all; I knew this piece would be going home with me.  I now have the benefit of a lighted display (without needing the sun) that can be hung/displayed anywhere there is an electrical outlet.  For now, I have it on the wall in my kitchen.  Simply beautiful.

The Power of Suggestion!

April 23, 2013

Here is an infographic (courtesy of BrainTrack.com) that shows how educators can use psychology to improve student intelligence and academic achievement.

The Power of Suggestion

Abandoned But Not Forgotten, Number One!

April 22, 2013

ChristUnderwaterOver the course of the next several weeks, I’m going to highlight some of the most “beautiful abandoned places in the world.”  The decision on whether or not to add these locations to your travel bucket list is entirely up to you, but if you are running out of ideas, these are all pretty awesome.  I’m going to start with a location that really isn’t abandoned, but it is very difficult to get to (unless you have scuba gear and you are willing to go for a dive).  So for all you divers out there, this is a definite “must see” if you ever get the hankering or the chance.

Christ of the Abyss at San Fruttuoso, Italy

In San Fruttuoso bay, nearly 56 feet underwater, stands the  enormous bronze statue of the Christ of the Abyss, protector of divers. The statue was the brainchild of an  Italian artist (Guido Galletti) and it is placed near the spot where Dario Gonzatti (the first Italian to use SCUBA gear) died.  The Christ of the Abyss was deposited on the seabed in August  1954.   The effects of the sea on the statue have been harsh (corrosion, crustacean growth, etc.) and in 2003 the statue was removed from the water and restored — it was returned to the water (on a new base) in July of 2004.  The statue stands a little over 8 feet tall.

And, if you’d rather not travel to Italy to see the original, a couple additional sculptures were cast from the same mold.

  • off the coast of St. George’s, Grenada (placed in the water on October 22, 1961).
  • off the coast of Key Largo, Florida (in 25 feet of water around Dry Rocks, around six miles east of Key Largo in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park; it was placed in the water on August 25, 1965).

Better Beans!

April 21, 2013

It is hard to improve on some things in life.  Take for example fresh green beans . . . add some butter and minimal seasoning and you have a delicious (and easy to prepare) vegetable that goes with just about anything.  But what would happen if you threw some bacon into the mix and added a glaze?  You make great beans extraordinary!  Here’s a fabulous recipe for transforming your fresh green beans into a heavenly serving of vegetables.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
3/4 to 1 pound of fresh green beans
4-6 bacon strips
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon soy sauce

Directions
1. Place beans in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil. Cook uncovered for about 8 minutes or until the beans are crisp-tender. Drain beans and set aside.

2. At the same time, in a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until cooked, but not crispy (about three minutes per side). Remove to paper towels.

3. Place about 10-12 beans on each strip of bacon and wrap the bacon around the beans. Place the wrapped beans on an ungreased baking sheet.

4. In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar, garlic salt, and soy sauce. Mix well, then brush this mixture over the top of the green bean bundles.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.