Archive for November, 2011

French Bulldogs

November 30, 2011

The last thing I thought I would ever blog about is French Bulldogs. Not my breed.  so much not my breed…and I’ll tell you why:

I’m a sighthound fancier, and form follows function—as they say—. while I’ve had  a few serious health issues with my dogs in the past, nothing chronic, nothing that required constant attention.  I  still live with a Saluki who is 14 years old, and has a heart murmur and a 12-year-old tough as nails Whippet.

But the Frenchies? The bracheocephalics?  You are asking for heartbreak.

When I moved out of my  parents home and got one of my first grooming jobs, it was with Joan Fredericksen.  She raised Boston Terriers.  At one time, Bostons & Frenchies were the same breed.  Now, the ideal Boston  is actually a refined Frenchie.  If you are a  real conformation dog fancier, and you read the breed standards, you can see the  stewards of these breeds put a lot of thought into the ideal conformation of both these breeds.  They also love the personalities.  You can really get an idea of their personalities when you see them with other  dogs. They love to play, but they are  teasers and aggravators:  they will nudge other dogs, and when the nudged dog  lets them know he won’t tolerate what’s going on, they Bostons shriek and run.  They have patella issues, and often eye issues.  Because  of the prominent eyes, they often abbraid their corneas.  Joan had terrible problems with the dogs rubbing their eyes and abbraiding their corneas, as well as paying for  C sections and having more mismarked pups than  the Boston  pattern. She stopped stopped breeding Bostons when y=she had immediate successes with another breed.

I moved back to Chicago and became acquainted with a former  dog show handler, Matt Kassan.  He had an Afghan Hound when we met, but  for a number of reasons, gave that dog up, and one thing led to another, and he got the Frenchie pup.  Back in the early 1970’s, they were a very rare breed, and I know another handler got the pup for Matt …and that’s how I learned the standard.

They were not over bred back then. Again, this was the early 1970’s.  How things change.  What happened was that  the hobby breeders sold  pups with full registration, expecting the  buyers to get the pups spayed and neutered.  They probably also expected the pet buyers to stay in touch…but people move, get divorced, lose papers, and  someone knows someone who wants a Frenchie—miniature Bulldogs—and gets a breedable bitch, or 2, and some photographer has a client who wants one of these cuties in a print ad, and then they are in more and more print ads, and movies or TV commercials & the demand heats up, and everyone is breeding every bitch…and worse, the general public either doesn’t know how to find an ethical hobby breeder, or  goes into a pet store (which has gotten them   shipped from puppy mills—these days, European puppy mills), and the guy who wasn’t even planning on buying anything plunks down his credit card  and surprises him wife with a puppy (happened to a grooming client of mine.   She was horrified.)

But while the  early hobby breeders, euthanized the pups with cleft palates, in the 1970’s, nobody was checking for luxated patellas, liver shunts, or spinal issues.  Now, in the 21st century, many  hobby breeders may be doing more genetic testing, and selling pets with limited registration or already neutered, but the cat is out of the bag, and  the commercial sellers—be they backyard breeders or puppy mills, are raising dogs as livestock, and by the time the hereditary defect shows up, the owners have lost the papers, and would have no intention of holding the breeder responsible anyways. The veterinarians, making a bundle off these dogs,  don’t tell the owners that  the hereditary defects were disc9verable, and that’s just how it is.

I have recently worked at kennels offering dog daycare where there were more Frenchies and Boston Terriers than Miniature Schnauzersor West Highland White Terriers. Virtually all the pet Frenchies have either cherry eye (nictating membrane irritated) or eyelid entropy, heart or liver problems,  club feet, and I’ve seen 2 paralyzed and in dog wheel chairs, needing their bladders & bowels expressed manually. No joke.  So the $2000 dog ends up costing over $5000.  The buyers/owners of these dogs blame the breeders, but have done nothing to put the breeders out of business.

I would tell anyone  who wants a Boston or Frenchie to  contact either  the French Bulldog Club of America or Boston Terrier Club of America, and ask to be put in touch with local breeders AND I would tell them to also contact the French Bulldog & Boston Terrier Rescues (some have links to the parent club, some operate without the sanction) and ask the coordinator about health or training issues.

Not every dog that looks cute, is.  Frenchies happen to be, but  this is not a healthy breed.  Unless you have a lot of expendable income, this may not be the breed for you.

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Ledford vs. Ledford, and Social Security

November 24, 2011

This has been an interesting 2 weeks.

I got my annual statement on my mortgage & escrow account, and my home owners insurance went up 25%.

I’ve been working at a very nice kennel with very nice co-workers for a little over 6 months, but I’ve been looking for part time work, as they can’t generate enough grooming, but  won’t pay a higher per centage.   There were other aggravating complications (groupons  & a manager under-pricing grooming—which they made me eat ), but I was looking for other part time work.

As luck would have it, a place that I wanted  to work for part-time wants me full time…, offering great benefits and  equally great opportunities….but they want to see my actual Social Security Card.  I know it’s around here, but I tore the place apart looking for it and could not find it.

I had a lot on my plate—as they say.  I’ve been playing phone tag with the home owners insurance company (Farmer’s—which was  over 25% cheaper than Travelers last year), and   knew, because property taxes & water fees are going up, that I have to lower my costs.  Fact is, I am paying 5.25% on my mortgage, and the going rate is…3.5%

Last time I refinanced, which had to be around 2005, they included  the rents in my income.  They don’t do that anymore, and last year my adjusted gross income was  $16,100.  That’s without rents.  Adjusted.  Not enough to refinance.  Yes—the irony is that I have never missed a mortgage payment (or any bill payment except for those bills that didn’t get to me because the USPS lost them—what—maybe 3 times?), and I haven’t really had to go into savings (except that, once again, Citimortgage decided my escrow account was too low—so I could either cough up $2200, or pay an additional $248 a month—& they didn’t bat an eye  about the 25%  raise in insurance. That’s my problem.  Whatever….

How to accomplish this….so I asked if my father could be a co-signer on the re-fi, and the mortgage brokers  said, “NO, not unless he lives with you.  He’d be an investor, & your  per cent would be  up 1% over prevailing rates  & you’d have to  pay an additional 2 points to close ($1400).  That made no sense to me.  Nor did it make any sense to pay  10% in closing costs to Citimortgage to lower my fee. That’s BS.

So, I am in negotiations with my roommate.  Meanwhile…

This other  pet  shop company offered me a full time job less than 5 miles from home—with benefits.  One of the issues I’ve had with where I have been working is that it has been taking 45 minutes to  an hour—no matter the time of day—to get to them—just 11 miles from home.   They also wanted me to drive a mobile dog grooming van an additional  20 miles—which would have added another 2 hours commuting time.  No benefits.  My new commute would be 20 minutes or less.  While initially I will probably take a pay cut, it’s actually a wash, as  I figure the health insurance is worth at least $50 a week minimum.  But they  don’t care that the law states I only have to show my passport, or my drivers license  and my birth certificate to prove that I am legal to work in the USA. Their policy  is they want to eyeball the   social security card.

So…I went to  my social security office with my birth certificate, and, said, while I was there, I wanted to go back to using my maiden name.  Like the proverbial wrench into the machine,  ah, no…no can do.  Didn’t matter what my birth certificate said, or that I have been paying taxes for over 30 years (& have gotten 3 mortgages) using my maiden name… the SSA demands to see legal proof you are divorced so you can legally use your maiden name.

I can’t believe this is true. I wrote Cong. Jan Schakowsky, & Sen. Dick Durbin (from whom I got a canned letter saying htat he did not support cuts in Social Securlty—his staff should be ashamed THAT THEY DID NOT RESPOND TO MY QUERY!!!) and Sen. Mark Kirk.  I don’t have time to wait.

I went downtown to the county building, & remembered, from a bit over 20 years ago, when I went into Peace Corps (they want to see that you don’t owe child support or alimony), that the  lawsuit was Ledford vs.Ledford .  We were divorced in  or around 1980…& they were able to locate  the decree on microfishe.

I went back to the Social Security office, gave them the divorce decree  and my birth certificate, and  should have a new card soon—but at least I have a receipt that says I applied for the new card, &  and we start another chapter in the saga.  But after Thanksgiving,I, again, have to nag Farmers….

Book Review: Look Me in te Eye, by John Elder Robison

November 17, 2011

There was an old joke that  people used to tell, about a couple who had a child, and the child never learned to talk. The  parents asked the doctor, and the doctor said he’ll talk when he was ready.  One day, during dinner, the child said “The soup is too salty.”  The parents were overjoyed that the child talked, and asked him why he didn’t talk, and the child said, “Things were fine until now.”  Funny?

Not if you are the parent of a child with autism or Aspergers.  Thanks to Temple Grandin, there is more publicity about  the autism spectrum.  Aspergians (like me, & the author of this book) are high functioning, and this is not a disease.  It is a personality type.

I learned about  this about  9 years ago, when I read Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures.  I  then asked several clients who were psychologists, and they laughed and said, “Yep, this is you.”

A ‘fellow Aspergian’ gave me this book. The author happens to be the brother of Augusten Burroughs, who wrote the classic, Running With Scissors.   Their parents had serious mental problems, adding to their  complications.   Robison is a lucid writer, and he goes into  the cogent details of why he & Augusten have different surnames, and  how he coped with being different.  He was not ‘diagnosed’ until he was an adult.  Then, suddenly,  all the troubles he had fitting in(to society on The Wrong Planet) fell into place, and he was able to start dealing with people.

He’s had a remarkably  interesting life, being a road engineer for KISS, inventing games for Mattel, and finding his way.

If you  know someone who seems very intelligent, but has no social skills,  get this book.  It was just published in 2007 and has been through several printings. I am sure you can get it on Amazon if your local bookstore can’t order it.

Is Greece a Failed State? Transparency International! Hello!

November 10, 2011

A few years ago, I  visited Egypt.  Amazing  country.  Thousands of miles of absolutely nothing, punctuated by  areas of intense beuaty, and a  long  area along the Nile of human history.  Incredible.

One thing I noticed, as we drove along, was the  many unfinished buildings. In fact, one of the hotels we stayed in (in Luxor) had a totally unfinished floor.

I asked the guide about this, and he told me that you don’t have to pay property taxes until the building is finished. You can occupy the building, but you don’t have tyo pay taxes.

Ah, yes.  This is how it is in much of the developing world.  That’s the law.  & so their infrastructure crumbles.  You wonder, “How do they exist?’  Foreign Aid.   The Europeans, the  Americans. even the Chinese.  It’s a way to build relationships.a  But it’s also a way to keep the corrupt in power, and the irony is that this foreign  aid is supposed to benefit  the citizenry.  The stand off is, it benefits the politicians, & the  citizenry don’t have to be mature and pay  for what they need.

Granted, a lot of the citizenry won’t be home owners, they will be renters, and they could not afford an abrupt change —because  their landlords will pass on the increase to the renters.  Many will either  take in  ‘roommates’ & over populate the property, or become homeless.

I saw this in Malawi, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.    I saw it in India, where the homeless/landless canp out  in front of the gates of the wealthy.  We are seeing it in Greece.

I have a friend whose father is Greek, and she has spent  a lot of time in Greece.  She rolls her eyes when you ask about  why you can’t get someone evicted for nonpayement of rent (possession is 9/10ths of the law…& squatters pay off  the people  who would evict them).

Many Greeks go to other countries, make a lot of money, & return to Greece to retire, as the pensions are so favorable….for Greek nationals.

The fact is, the only difference between the Greeks & the Africans is, the Greeks are  mostly cuacasian.

So,  even though the rest of Europe, the EEU, knew that was how the Greeks operated,they welcomed them into their economic community. It made no sense, unless you  would be funding them with other peoples money & making a commission.

I remember when  Transparency International sent  representatives to the African Studies Association conference. The officials, formerly of the ‘World Bank‘   told us how they were going to work with  developing governments to  bring good governance and respect for ‘rule of law’, so they could borrow more money after they had squandered ( and because they were tricked, in many cases—-I refer you to Naomi Klein’s  excellent book,Shock Doctrine:  the Rise of Disaster Capitalism) what they had already gotten.

I recently read a review Adam Gopnick, the New Yorker writer, wrote on The Wealth of Nations.  He highlighted  the notion that it benefitted buyers and sellers to act with integrity.  it was part of the deal…yet the people in charge of doling out money for investment seem to be…unclear on the concept.

Before I went to Egypt, I traveled in Malaysia.  Malaysia is an amazing country.  Very high rate of literacy,   excellent health care system (hey. compared to the USA…) modern infrastructure.  It seems that these people have a different view of transparency and capitalism than the Europeans & Americans.  This country is what America would be like if we hadn’t invested in wars instead of ourselves.

In the next few weeks, a super committee will present to the Congress of the United States  a way to close our bazillion dollar deficit. They are going to raise the eligibility age for  social securlty and medicare, and most likely eliminate the tax deduction for home mortgage ingerest and  real estate taxes.  They will NOT—you wait & see—lower their own salaries or pensions, nor will they  eliminate foreign aid or cut military spending.  We will still have a department of education that  realy  doesn’t do too much to improve the quality of lives in America.  In fact, we will still have all the government departments that repackage our tax dollars & send it out.   Very high income people—the 1%—will not be asked to pay more for anything.

& we will still have people like Cain, Bachman, & Perry having a degree of  credibility becaus they are not Obama, and because most Americans are  exhuaseted, frightened, and innumerate.  I don’t know hwat the solution is.  You can’t  undo  what all those who didn’t have integrity  did to create this mess.

 

Update:Maximising donations-in-kind

November 2, 2011

I have posted  before on making the world a better place.  These past few years have been difficult for us all, but  we are not running out of stuff.  Since I live in a very  high density (some people would call it the ghetto, or slum…but they haven’t been to urban Africa or Indian…) neighborhood, lots of multi-unit housing,  I find a lot of stuff.

People move all the time, & they  have some very nice things they no longer want. But they don’t have the time to sell it or take it to people who need it, so they  put it by their trash bins. We  alley entrepreneurs take the stuff  to use ourselves or  to give to people who need the stuff.

Shoes & used clothing are the most frequently put out items, but  often I find cookware, small furniture and appliances, and books and toys.  I manage  to  find people who need stuff because we have many non-profit organizations that   provide assistance to the needy.  Some  specialize in  serving  homeless women, some teen mothers, some the elderly.  One  organization (I do some volunteering for them),  Heartland Alliance for Human Needs,  provides resettlement services for refugees.

It used to be that virtually all these people were eligible for  some sort of welfare:  Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or Social Security. Well, the fact it, eligibility has been greatly curtailed since the Clinton era…no joke.  By making it harder to get welfare, he appeased the Republicans (at the time) &  balanced the federal budget.  He also gave people  an incentive to make a way for themselves.  They may not be on the payroll to somebody, but that does not mean they are not earning money.

That’s neither here nor there.  I  don’t know if  mental illness preceeds job loss & displacement, or job loss & displacement preceed mental illness.  No matter.  People are in need.

In the early 1980’s, I was a founding board member or Uptown Recycling Station, in Chicago. We board members were coming to recycling from different interests. Some of us were particularly interested in environmental conservation, and several were interested in job creation for entry level workers.  We got  a loan from a religious order,  some assistance from the father of recycling in Chicago, Ken Dunn, and some help from the city.  This was under the Harold Washington administration. I doubt we would have gotten the help from the administration of any other mayor.  We turned a cute, hippie idea into 3 full time and several part-time jobs for entry level workers, and advanced the cause of recycling in Chicago.

But we did not all live happily ever after. It’s been slow going.  We managed to get the city to pay us a diversion credit.   What that meant was…for every  cubic ton of waste we kept  from going to a land fill, the city gave us money.  We barely made a dent.  We had to nag out elected officials for years to take recycling—for import substitution, seriously.

So, now it is 2011, and an idealist with a plan, Brittany Martin Graunke, got an idea to  put up a waste exchange—or , rather, a clearing house for  donations-in-kind, online.  It’s called http://www.zealousgood.com   She gets nonprofits needing donations-in-kind to pay a monthly fee to post their wants.  I found her  by accident, but  I am hoping to help her  market the site an the idea to area non-profits.  This is not recycling glass/metals/paper/plastics, which is feedstock  for manufacturing, like we did at the recycling station.  It is  repurposing  value added stuff.

I have been self-employed  for a  good long time, and  the first thing my father taught me was, “Get a receipt.”  For years, however, I was  donating stuff  without thinking, and NOT  itemizing the receipts.   By chance, I found a book called, Cash for Your Used Clothing,” which is a client valuation guide approved by the IRS.  Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, and yes, the IRS publish similar guides online.  If you itemize on your taxes, and aren’t an active stock/bond trader, you  must take advantage of every tax deduction you  can legally take.   If you don’t inventory your donations, you are most likely  undervaluing  your donation, and paying more taxes than you have to.  Your donation  is actually  whatever your taqx braqcket is.

Because I had managed  thrift stores for  two nonprofit organizations, I know how valuable the  donations-in-kind are.  Currently, Goodwill Industries  reminds their donors that by donating stuff, they are creating jobs for people.  It’s true. It’s a lot of labor to sort, clean, tag, and display stuff (I am sure anyone who works in a retail store will tell you this).  From a nonprofit perspective, I also know that  people donate cash to organizations that take stuff, as they have a social link with that organization.

From the perspective of a donor…I’ve just heard too much whining from  donors about how poor they are (this is a constant refrain), and they complain about their taxes, but I have to do a lot of ‘hand holding’ to get them to inventory and  categorize stuff to maximize a donation that can result in a significant tax deduction.

I know that, due to the  federal deficit, that  our lawmakers are looking to get rid of tax deduction loopholes, but I certainly hope the nonprofits  are vocal about the need to continue to allow this  transfer of ‘wealth’.  It is significant,  I am not in a position to give money at this time, but I know that generally I donate over  $2000 worth of stuff to area nonprofits. I know this, because I inventory and evaluate, and I sell a lot of stuff.

People give me stuff to donate all the time, as they know I would know  someone who could use it.  They ask what I will take. I tell them what I won’t take:  If it stinks, or sticks, we can’t use it.

If you support an  organization that needs more money, take the donations-in-kind and resell the items you  and your clients can’t use.  Encourage yur organization to network with other organizations.  Consider sponsoring a retail store, like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and  several other Non-profits in Chicago (The Ark, Brown Elephant, Save-a-Pet) do.  To me, if you throw away a usable item…you are throwing away money.