Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In this turbulent economy

It was interesting that WSJ published an article about the estimated cost of heavy drinking to be at $220 billion annually based on lost productivity, health care cost and the added criminal activities. It also stated that based on the 2006 survey and numbers, the cost translates to $1.96 per drink! Knowing an alcoholic first hand, I know for a fact that the non numeric facts are quite accurate if not more, and as for the $ amount data, I trust it to be somewhat true as well.

Since we are talking about cost, I have to talk about the flip side of the balance sheet which is the revenue to make the argument worth while, at least for the accountant in me. And I am wondering how much revenue does the hard liquor generate on an annual basis? How many jobs does it produce? From farming to making the booze, from glass manufacturers to bottling the drink plants and delivering it, from distributing from the wholesaler to the stores and the bars and last but not the list from the marketing to fancy advertisements, how much money each industry makes and how many people have they employed?

No beer company is complaining about tough economic time, WSJ advertises the various brands of Vodka that enter the market consistently. Every state, county and city within US has started it's own winery and promotes its own wine. This is one commodity that is recession proof, not only people do not stop buying them, but in tough times, they even buy more.

If the cost of one drink to the society is $1.96, the price of a drink in a happy hour is about $5 a drink for the consumer. One does not need to be an accountant to see the picture. I salute WSJ for publishing the article and raising the society's awareness of issues that have not only monetary cost, but social ones embedded in them, but the fact remains that as far as there is a demand then there will always be enough booze around for the consumption of the drinkers and for the benefit of employment and booze industry.

Cheers !!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Oxford, Here we come!

I have passed through New Oxford numerous times and never took the time to consider making a left or right turn on any of the side streets. We just drove through it to an auction site that we visit every once in awhile in Hanover, PA. I have to admit that we had wondered about a couple of bed and breakfasts that were around town, but we never followed our curiosity to see where it takes us. We should have!

As always I heard the tip in the weirdest places; waiting in line to mail an IRS envelope in the post office, the guy was telling his friend about an antique mall in New Oxford, PA. I did not want to look that I was ears dropping or interrupting him, but he was talking at length and by the time he was done talking he was out of the post office. I had a choice to wait another 20 minutes in line by chasing him, or wait my turn (next one in line) and Google the matter. Time restraint made me choose the latter. So….

We took I270 North towards Frederick and continued on Route 15 N towards Thurmont and Gettysburg. There are a few stops that are worth the while if you have time to stop and explore. The Cunningham Falls is on Route 15 and it is a decent place to cool off and take a dip in the lake area of the park. The hike is also a desired activity, if it is not too hot to follow the trails. Another place that is also worth looking into and I just found out about is Catoctin Wildlife Preserve Zoo just before Thurmont. The zoo features unique safari truck rides that allow visitors to touch and feed large herbivores in a wooded setting. What people don’t know is that this place has a big collection of snakes with deadly venoms for research purposes. Scientist study the venom to make an anti dote for the poison when and if someone is stung by that. Thy have rooms full of these cold blooded reptiles that hiss and move to just give you the creeps.

Upon entering the state of Pennsylvania, be prepared to take a look at their outlet just on your right hand side. The Outlet is nothing compared to the big and fancy one in Leesburg, VA or the one on Route 50, but with the limited choices that you are offered, I always get a lot of shopping done for a lot less than anywhere else. The prices are a lot cheaper and there is no sales tax!

On route 15 there are a lot of farms that in the past just sold you their produce on stands with big signs, but this time I noticed people actually walking the fields and picking up their own fruit. The trend of picking up your fruit has gotten into the border of Maryland/Pennsylvania and I guess now days this is a family activity for bonding and spending quality time together. When I stopped at one of the stands, people were picking cherries and blueberries and looked flushed, yet very happy and satisfied. The produce was as good as any other farmer market.

A few exits after Gettysburg, we finally turned into Route 30 East towards Hanover, and that is the road that we were very familiar, but not anymore! In the place that they once had all the junk stores, a new building with 10+ Movie Theater has opened and has become the attraction of the area. As we traveled down the road, I noticed that a few second hand stores are gone, but the second hand hub cab store is still working. The guy with a very small junk store has bought the whole strip and is expanding the store and renting the others to second hand shops. The bargain hunting days were over, as these stores have jacked up their prices with more trash to sell. Once, there was a real caboose that we always had ice-cream and coffee with the 4teens in it and that has closed down and an available for lease sign is posted in front. But as you get to the heart of the town with the beautiful circle and the water fountain that floats the blue water, a new coffee shop has opened that multitasks and serves a lot of purposes. The coffee shop serves as the tourist center, advertising stand and information station. The lady who ran the store asked a lot of questions from us and wanted to make sure that we had enough to do and that we were informed about the upcoming events. As we were drinking the delicious and freshly brewed coffee and some scones, we noticed that people were coming for more pound cake and apple cake that the store has been running out since the morning. They said that no one makes these cakes better than this store. I have to admit that the scones were good. There were a few bars and restaurants in that circle that were family run and packed with people. The menu looked good.

And at the long last, we found a couple of antique mall and stores that we had not noticed before and I our many various trips in the past. Nice stores, plenty to see. One of them had really antique stuff with good prices and there I saw a lot of picture frames and oil paintings that are worth buying for those who are looking for them.

As for us, we bought a few glass dishes that I can recycle, regift and resell in my world. As usual, the hubby chubby found all the weird stuff that no one ever notices and values except for him and the vendor. This time he bought a thermometer that I used to use as a child in my hometown. We had a lovely day and I do not regret one bit my ears dropping the other day. Sometimes it pays to put your nose into various affairs. I came home with old and new purchases and tired enough to have a very dreamless night. New Oxford, really recommended for even an overnight stay.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where will I be this Saturday?

Last week, the question from an acquaintance, “Are you becoming religious?” started me thinking. I knew that I was not getting more observant than I am and that was never part of the plan, but somehow I am sending this message to people. Do I care what they think? No I don’t, but….

I had to step back and look at myself from afar. It is not news to people who know me that in the past months I have been attending the synagogue almost every Saturday and special occasions and that I have been reading the book of psalm on a regular basis. I have also started volunteering again and have made some minor changes in my life. I am reading more often, but the type of books and articles have changed too. I am reading more biographies and the sort versus fiction and magazines. But I was sure curious to find out why was the need for the changes in my life and it took me a week of continuous metro ride back and forth from work until last Saturday I figured out why.

I was raised in a traditional home. I was taught the values that are very much in line with the laws of humanity and in this case, Judaism. In different stages of my life, I have attended the services for numerous reasons, but one reason has been constant from my childhood to this age and that has been the socializing part of it. As a child, we played in the synagogue with friends that we seldom met and at 4tplus, I am still looking to see friends and chitchat with them. Food was never an incentive to attend services and neither was boredom of my life or lack of things to do.

At this point of my life, I need some peace and quiet as some may call meditation. I need to balance my super busy life with something with human essence. I was so wrapped up in my daily life that I forgot about the small things in life that have big weights. I stopped appreciating the good things in my life and started fretting over things that are yes important, but on a bigger scale not that important. I was in the middle of my life and busy with day to day things that I almost forgot the bigger picture. In short the famous balance was not there, and I know it, because I was irritable, grumpy and dissatisfied all the time. I needed to remember a few things that I had forgotten. For instance, I had forgotten how I enjoy learning or the value of a good intellectual discussion. I enjoy the rabbi’s sermon, even if on days that I do not agree with him. It just adds some value t my life and you can call it whatever you want.

And for the record, even if I were looking for an answer to the whys of my life, it has not gotten me any closer to any explanations.

In conclusion, for those of you who are looking for me on Saturday mornings, if I am not at the beach or the antiquing excursions, I am at the synagogue early praying and seeking balance and peace for my tired soul. I sometimes close my eyes and just listen to the words without even understanding and I am uplifted. Just doing nothing and listening to the tunes refresh me. There is something soothing about those minutes in my day. If food is the nourishment for my body, then this hour of my life is the food for my soul that pushes me to rethink my life and strive to be a better person. Now if there is food at the end of the services, and often there is, I am not going to refuse!

Friday, June 25, 2010

They call me the Sandwich Generation

A decade or so ago, when my late father in law went to the hospital for a second heart attack, an older friend welcomed me to the “sandwich generation”. When she saw my raised eye brow, she explained that this generation have both older parents that need attention as well as children who still need to be taken care of and that they (people like my hubby and I)are stuck between the two, hence the term sandwich generation. The nice analogy made a lot of sense back then and brought a huge smile to my face. I honestly found the term amusing. Imagine me being the cheese (I like grilled cheese sandwich) and the both sets of parent’s one slice of bread and the children the other. Back then whole grain breads were not that trendy and Panini was not much in style as they are now, so assumed them to be the soft white Wonder bread. The thought was simply delightful. How stupid was I??

What she failed to tell me then, and I too immature and foolish to realize, was that as I (the cheese) grow older, the sandwich just gets bigger. For instance, the bread goes from 6” sub to a foot long, and gets stale and hard as well. On the other hand, the amount of cheese in the sandwich remains the same and the inside of it gets fuller with condiments and various vegetables and sauce. Honestly at 4T++ I do not find the sandwich generation amusing any more, in fact I find it very exhausting. I think this is a real situation and lasts until…… I become a slice of bread myself.

And then I had another unorthodox thought. I think that we should first be born as parents and then become children versus what is the norm right now. I know that it reminds us the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, but I really mean that we should be born as adults and especially parents, and with that memory and experience age reversely to become children.

It is only now that I realize how I have missed on many things in my life, and how I could have done things differently as child and a youth. Now is the time that I understand my parents and feel what they went through as I was growing, even though I was an exemplary child!! I am sure that with this experience now, if I would have been born as a child, I would have not fretted over many useless things. I would not have been worried for every detail and fought for silly beliefs. I would have enjoyed life more often and laughed harder. I would have engaged myself more with family and would have been kinder to others. I would have not been judgmental and would have been more co-operative. I would have listened more to my parents and trusted them and trusted that things always work out one way or another. I would not have been afraid of the future and worry about things that does not matter in a long run. I would have simply enjoyed the freedom of irresponsibility and found pleasure in simple things such as sunset and the singing of a bird or even enjoy the day to day living. I would not have tried to please everyone or sought everyone’s approval. I would have been more of me and less of what they wanted me to be.

And about the fact that when we are born as a parent, how do we know as of how to function as parents? Well, I know that we all resent one thing or two about our parents and that we swear that no matter what, we will never do that to our children, or be like our parents. Some of us even have to see therapist to resolve some issues about our childhood to become better parents and God knows we all do try our best, to be the best as we can. But here is the truth, as parents, we will be blamed for one thing or another no matter how hard we try. There is always at least one thing that we definitely mess with our children’s lives, so I guess we are ok to be born parents first, because we are always at fault. Later, as we become children, we know through experience what can hurt our parents and what makes them proud and why, or that they are only human doing their best and basically understand where they are coming from. Are you following me???

I am feeling that not only the youth was wasted on me, but middle age is also being wasted on me and I don’t know when I should start to live? I believe that if this was the case, maybe I would have been a better cheese or either slice of the bread in our sandwich. Who knows.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Killing two birds in one shot

I have learned that with age not only comes serenity, buts also some anxiety over various undefined feelings and you can call it whatever you want. However, the acute survival sense in me has also taught me to find organic ways to deal with the turbulent sensations of what ever life throws at me and that it is inevitable. And through those techniques I have learned far more than putting those butterflies in my stomach to sleep. Well more like a nap than sleep!

One of the ways that I have tried to keep my inner anxiety on leash is reading the psalms every once in a while. Of course some times more than other, but honestly, as I use to read the scripts, there are portions that really bring tears to my eyes and others that make my stomach churn. I believed that by reading the holy literature, I will only find words of kindness, wisdom, forgiveness and all the traits that I wish I had and most of the times don’t find it in my heart. And as I read through every psalm, I realize how King David was first a regular human being like me, and then a divine and holy royal figure. He has poured his heart and bared his soul over his dreams, disasters, inner turmoil and shortcomings in the verses. He even cursed and laments his enemies through his beautiful (??) verses.

I believe that if King David was alive in these days and times, he would have been a very successful country singer with a harp and not a guitar. And all of a sudden, I feel a whole lot better; King David’s royal pains are as genuine and identical to my common pains!
I realized that a person can be more than one thing in his life if the perspective is correct and his heart is in the right place. A singer and a king of a holy kingdom, and successful in both, how farfetched and conflicting is that? Second, I learned that that I am an original and independent thinker and that I see things unconventional and with a different shade and that I like that about me. If only I can find the different shade of what I think about my unregal pains and aches!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy happy meal

It is really interesting how happy meals from McDonald are one of the good memories for my younger 4teen and me in the same direction. Even today that he is a freshman in college, we occasionally meet at a Mickey D over a happy meal and ice-cream, which is my calcium intake, to disagree some more and yell at each other for how he should live his life and that how I am wrong in every move that I make. Some things like Mickey D don’t change! Or…

He is home for thanksgiving and last week we grabbed a happy meal while I picked him up from the train station and I was determined to reprimand him for something, when something else came up. The happy meal impressed us on many levels; we were both impressed by the fact that the portions were labeled with nutritional values for each item, from fries to chicken nugget were clearly indicated, we also found the portions were a bit smaller and we could not figure out if it was because of the economy or simply a health stand, and when we got to the toy and we saw the nerf gun, we both started looking quizzically at each other. Why on earth would McDonald put a nerf gun in a happy meal? I immediately questioned the reasoning behind promoting gun, and the miracle of miracles happened and the 4teen happened to agree with me! After so many years of fighting vehemently over buying toy guns, he was agreeing with me. Ok there is a GOD after all, but that is not the point right now.

The point is that we were both confused by the fact that MacDonald doesn’t want people to die from health reasons due to unhealthy eating habits and obesity, therefore, they label all the ingredients of the foods that they serve very adequately. But with that being said, they do not mind people dying due to improper gun control and promoting gun use in our youth. In essence, they are keeping the balance, they try to save lives with healthy eating habits, but they promote death due to violence and gun use.

What are they thinking? Or better yet. Are they thinking at all? Do they need some government body to monitor their common sense as well? I don’t know who decides on these toys, but maybe a parent panel should be in charge of that.

The way I see it, the bottom line of everything is $$. I wonder if MacDonald would have labeled it’s food if their revenues did not go down, or if the trend was not eating healthier? I wonder what happened to traditional toys like puzzles, balls and figurines. I also wonder if the phrase of socially responsible companies in business text books means anything to any corporation any more.

But 4T and 4teen did bond and agree on this issue, and that is a rarity. Then why am I still complaining about issues of the society!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2009 Nobel Peace Prize

And the award goes to............ President Barack Obama!
And the whole world, including President Obama, is surprised not only by the nomination, but by winning the prize. No one, even himself, believed that he deserved it. I thought that it was the comic of the day, and like April's Fool day joke, and that this one was yet another humor.

It was not a joke, but very much a reality, and the media went berserk with the news and for weeks and even up to now everyone is talking about it.

The fact that he won is not an issue for me. The fact that bothered me most is that he was the best among all the nominees and what did the rest do that his actions was the best among the worst? Come to think about it, it is kind of sad that we do not have eligible people who actually qualify for the peace prize, meaning no one is really attempting to make peace between anything and anyone and maybe this is the core of the problem of today's world.