I Have Poor Relatives

Shabby Man

Once upon a time there was a poor little boy from a poor family. His Father was poor.  His Mother was poor.  The maid was poor.  The cook was poor.  The butler was poor.  Even the chauffeur was poor. One day, he went to his father and asked if he could have a pony.  His Father said no, because they were too poor to afford a pony.  The poor little boy went to his piggy-bank, took out enough money to buy himself the pony, and put the rest back….

We are often so busy with our own lives, that without really obvious clues, we think that everyone is pretty much like ourselves. It takes an observant and analytical mind to notice the struggles of those at the bottom of the financial, pissed-on trickle down ladder.  I am distressed that a $180 pair of distressed designer jeans looks just like my four-years-old $24.95 Wal-Mart pair.

This is why politicians, who are already being paid far too much to do a job that their predecessors did without pay, as a Public Service, feel free to waste millions – Billions – of our dollars, and still fraudulently pad their office budgets and expense accounts.  They have no idea, and don’t care, what it’s like at the bottom of the pile, and it’s been this way since long before Marie Antoinette offered to “let them eat cake.”

It is just as illegal for a millionaire to sleep under a bridge, as it is for a homeless man to do so.

I recently had a conversation with a friend. It seemed that both of us were keeping an eye on family finances – total income vs. expenses – only I think that he was doing it at a much higher level than I was.  I’ve never asked how much he makes.  It’s none of my business, and doesn’t affect our friendship.

With his experience, training, intelligence and education, I suspect his annual salary is somewhere north of $100,000/year. His talented wife probably makes half of that.

With my learning disabilities, and poor short-term memory adding to my tendency for procrastination, I’m lucky to have accomplished what I have during my life. About 15 years ago, before I retired to live on Government and company pensions – with a bunch of overtime, I grossed $44,000, but the wife had been ‘downsized.’  Earlier, when I made $38,000, she added $19,000.

This is not a whine! I’m still doing better than a lot of people, including the little guy who busks in the cold, outside the local grocery store.  As an engineer, Jim Wheeler says that it is not worth his while to stop and pick up a penny.  I still grab the occasional one or two from the ‘Need A Penny/ Leave A Penny’ tray at the corner store.  People abandon them because the Mint has stopped making them.

I always check the reject chutes of the coin-counting machines in stores. Sometimes I find Canadian coins, as well as foreign ones which I add to my collection.  It’s quick and easy to eyeball the change chutes of vending machines.  I’m not too proud to (discreetly) stick my finger in the few payphone chutes that still exist.  The last time I did, I found $2.  It’s all relative.  $2 to a millionaire is nothing, although Bill Gates (or his minions) cashed a check for 39 cents.  $2 to someone who is eating cat food (We don’t.) means a lot.

Having pets is a wonderful experience. I would not want to get rid of any that we have, but the wife wants even more.  I cannot convince her that, between food, treats, litter, and vet bills, each animal costs us about $1000 a year.  I would sooner have that money to pay down our still-existing mortgage, or use it to take enjoyable trips, while we are still physically capable of doing so.

Some people waste money, too often MY money!  Some people scrimp and save, show restraint and fiscal control, and budget their money to get them the most they can.  I’d be patting myself on the back, but I’m busy crawling around on the floor, trying to find that quarter I dropped.  I’ll be back up at the computer in a couple of days.  Please come back again then.   😉

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Coins Of The Realms

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My coin collection started innocently and modestly enough, with a few older Canadian coins. Then, as described in my ‘Penny, lira, etc.’ post, I was tricked into collecting foreign coins. Slowly but steadily, over the (many) years, I’ve added coins to both groups, till now I don’t count my coins, so much as weigh them occasionally.

I have almost 600 foreign coins, from over 100 countries around the world, some of which no longer exist, as well as numerous Canadian and American coins. The five binders shown above include Canadian and American coins, as well as bills, and total just over 47 pounds.  I store them on a closet shelf, next to the wall, directly over the support bracket, so as not to collapse it.

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Clamshell 2 x 2s come in various sizes, for various coins. They are folded over a coin and stapled shut on three sides, then the unit is inserted in a plastic sheet with 20 pockets.  Soon after I got started, I received some helpful tips from a couple of old collectors/dealers.

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I buy mounting sheets with reinforced holes, because the weight of 20 coins can tear unprotected sheets. If you’re collecting sequentially dated coins, and one always follows the next, they are inserted into the sheets and forever remain there.

If I get another Spanish coin, I might need to now give Portuguese coins their own page for enough room. My coins can move around.  One dealer advised me to trim the bottom corners of the 2 X 2s at 45°, so that they would slide into the tight pockets easier.  Clipped bottoms and unclipped tops seem ‘unfinished’ to me, so I trim all 4 corners, creating little square ‘malls’ among the coins on the sheet.

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Staples holding the 2 X 2s closed, protrude in small bulges at the back, causing an already bulky assembly to take up even more room. I have a special pair of pliers, with which I crimp them flat, ensuring smoother insertion and retraction, and less volume.

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The arrangement of my foreign coins in my catalogs resembles a giant M on a world map.  They start at the bottom of South America, work their way up past Panama and the Caribbean, and throw a quick wave at the USA and Canada with a couple of odd/special coins.

They cross the Atlantic, through England, Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands, and work their way across Europe. They then dodge the rocket attacks in the Middle East and flow down the body of Africa.  Returning, they trudge eastward through Russia and China, and down through South-East Asia, to Australia and New Zealand.

My foreign coins have taught me much about geography and history. Separate regions are arbitrarily jammed together to form the likes of Czechoslovakia.  Countries are split apart, like Germany, or India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.  World economy, and that of individual countries, changes coins from gold and silver, to brass, steel, nickel and copper, all the way down to aluminum.

My little digital camera will not take good photos of individual coins, but I have some bright, flamboyant foreign bills/notes I hope to show you later. To some of you, these are not ‘foreign’, but merely coins of your realm.

Old Stuff – Part 4

Nun

As the youngest of nine Catholic children, the wife’s two oldest siblings, through no fault of their own, both became nuns. The eldest rather vainly insisted one day, that she was not 20 years older.  Careful calculation revealed it was only 19 years, 11 months and 17 days.

Not being terribly Catholic, I knew that priests moved from parish to parish as needed, but thought that nuns more or less served where they enrolled, or were sent where needed – and left there. Watching these two women over the years, I was amazed at the frequent-flyer miles they racked up.  Join a convent, and see the world.  If I’d known that there was this much free world travel, I’d have become a nun.

They both became School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND). The younger of the two was a better administrator, so she got more trips.  She was sent for two years to Le Pas, Manitoba, to organize a school district for Aboriginals, although that was more cruel and unusual punishment than reward.  She went for six months of missionary work to Ecuador – in our winter.  She flew to Rome, to the Vatican, where she met the then-Pope, and spent six months with a world-wide think-tank group.  She was brevetted to Mississippi for two years to reorganize their Catholic school system.

After several years of break-in period at a local Catholic girls’ school, the elder sister went to work at the Mother House in the Hamilton Diocese, which administers most of Southern Ontario. Not exactly world travel, it’s only an hour’s drive away and, if nuns owned cars, she could have commuted home each evening.

She returned after a couple of years, and worked as an aide at the Catholic School Board offices. Finally she was awarded a real trip.  While her younger sister, the Sister, spent six months in Ecuador, she was parachuted into the jungles of El Salvador.  She returned to Canada, and spent another couple of years at the Hamilton Mother House.

She so impressed upper management with her rigid, assertive attitude, that they offered her a five year post as a house mother to about twenty teenaged Catholic girls at an upscale private school in London, England. These were the privileged daughters of ambassadors and minor foreign royalty.

The boarding house, along with its convent and school, were hundreds of years old. With solid stone outers, there wasn’t much need for interior repair and redecorating.  The dining hall had gorgeous oak wainscoting on the lower halves of the walls.  Oxidization and polish had turned it almost black, but the grain still glowed beneath the shine.

The same oxidation eventually deteriorated the plaster walls and ceiling and it was finally decided to redo them. The Sister watched in dismay, as the glorious wood was pried off the wall and thrown away.  As the tradesmen worked, suddenly something fell from between the wood and the wall, and rolled almost to her feet.

When she examined it, it was a very thin coin. At first, she thought it might be something one of the girls had inserted, a toy, like Monopoly money.  A closer look revealed that, as thin and worn as it was, it was a real coin.  It is still a prevalent practice around the world to add a coin to a new building or addition for good luck.

Knowing that I collected coins, she held it until she returned to Canada and gave it to me. Study reveals that it is an Edward II, short-cross, silver sixpence, minted between 1547 and 1552 – Eddie didn’t rule very long – back then coins often weren’t dated.

From the wear on it, it probably didn’t get hidden till near 1600, but it gives you an idea how long ago the building was erected. Because of the wear, it’s worth ‘only’ about $25 today, but would have had about that level of buying power when it was minted.  Someone was serious about this one.  It was more than mere pocket change.

At over 450 years old, it’s the oldest thing I own. I’ve also included a few photos of my older, 1850 – 1900 Canadian coins, including a couple that were minted before the government got around to producing coinage, and allowed individual banks to issue their own.

For those who can’t see the detail, Tails side first;

Pre-1858 Bank of     Bank of Upper    Two-headed 1965
Montreal token        Canada token      Churchill commemorative
one sou.                      one penny            crown

Edward VI                 Hanover                Victorian penny
short cross               love token              186?
sixpence                   penny equal

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Smitty’s Loose Change #3

Smitty's Loose Change

A Provincial Liberal spin-doctor, trying to justify the amounts of money spent (wasted) by the Government, wrote, “We’ve increased Guaranteed Income Supplement payments for seniors. We’ve started building more roads, bridges and transit to create jobs, and help you get to work on time at the end of a long day.”  Would that be in a cart placed firmly in front of the horse, or is it as we go to our second job, to be able to pay the taxes to replace what they’ve frittered away?

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The above ranks right up there with the sign in the Notre Dame football locker-room that says, “Success is getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.” Go ahead, try that.  You haven’t been knocked down, so you only have to get up once….  This success thing is harder than it looks – especially in university mathematics.

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The term for ‘It’s been wrong so often and for so long, that now it’s right, is ‘hypercorrect incorrectness.’ All those who haven’t nodded off, can now pray to have Archon’s OCD cured.

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“The better you feel about yourself, the less you feel the need to show off.” And now I know why I’m so low-key.  I am very comfortable in my own skin.

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Did I miss a language lesson somewhere??? When the Hell did ‘chick’ become ‘chic’?  I collect the occasional misusage, to poke fun at.  This has become endemic.  I see it everywhere! Me and this chic went to a bar. Chic [sheek] means fashionable, stylish, elegant and/or attractive.

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GRAMMAR:
It’s the difference between knowing your shit, and knowing you’re shit.

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While recently celebrating Columbus Day, certain Americans discovered that Canadians were celebrating our Thanksgiving, earlier than the US, because of our shorter growing season. Considerable confusion arose. “Well, do you celebrate Christmas and Easter at the same time we do?”

MSN.ca celebrated with an article titled, ’23 things Canadians say, that Americans don’t understand.’ It included my favorite, poutine (French fries, gravy and grated mozzarella), serviette (paper napkin) and two-four (a case of beer).

I discovered another regionalism, but balked at the quote some Canuck used to explain it. “A washroom is just a polite way of saying bathroom.”  No, it’s not!  As my Grade 5 teacher explained to “that kid”, a room which contains a toilet/urinal, and a sink, is a washroom.  If instead, it contains a tub, or shower stall, it then becomes a bathroom.

‘Restroom’ is an already chi-chi way to describe a place where you can sit down, rest, and take a load off – your feet.  ‘Powder room’ has nothing to do with explosions or demolition.  It’s one of the above, full of euphemism, not powder.  As a comedienne explained, “Women don’t fart, and we don’t sweat.  If we didn’t bitch, we’d explode.”    😆

Sassin’ The Sassenach

Union Jack

The grandson, ‘Thorn Smith’, has finished his three-year welding apprentice course, and is now licensed to work anywhere in Canada.  He recently accompanied his fiancé to Ottawa, ON (545 Km – 340 Mi. – 5 ½ hour drive) so that she could attend university there.

Before they each take this big life-step, they decided that they should see a bit of the world first. He saved money from his placement employment, and she from her job as a Starbucks barista, and they flew to London, England for a week.

One of the big attractions was a chance to see the new Harry Potter play, ‘The Cursed Child.’ On the day that tickets were released, they crouched over their computer, waiting for the floodgates to open.  When it happened, they quickly found that the system would respond to PCs, but not to their Apple.  In the slightly less than an hour that it took them to physically move to where there was an available PC, ALL TICKETS for the entire run were sold out.

Still, money had been saved, and plane tickets had been bought, so off they went. A tiny, unexpected payment from a retirement fund allowed us to gift them with £100 in ten-pound notes, because vacations are always costly, and London is said to be expensive.

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Aside from the missed play, they enjoyed all the touristy London things – London Bridge, Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye Ferris Wheel, Curry In A Hurry, and fish and chips.

Even before the Brexit from the E.U. England had not accepted Euro notes or coins, especially after (relatively) recently having switched over to decimal coinage. The grandson brought me back a complete set of coins.  They descend from the bi-metal 2-Pound, to the single, round-Pound, heptagonal 50-pence and 20-pence, quarter-sized 10-pence, dime-sized 5-pence, 50-cent-sized copper 2-pence, and a copper penny.

Around the edge of the 2-Pound coin is inscribed, “On The Shoulders Of Giants”, a reference to Sir Isaac Newton. Around the 1-Pound coin’s edge is, “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit” the royal Stuart and a Scottish motto, meaning, “No-one attacks me with impunity.”

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Not knowing that I had one, he also brought me back a 5-Pound note. Different from mine, I find that British notes are now not only color-coded, but size-coded, as well; the smaller the denomination, the smaller the bill.

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I also have a Scottish 1-Pound note, and a British Armed Services 1-Pound Scrip bill not to be used anywhere but, or even removed from, Armed Forces bases. I have a surprising number of items like that, Russian Rubles and Kopeks, Cuban Pesos.

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There’s a lot of separation going on over there. Britain has left the E.U.  Scotland wants to separate from England, and may independently rejoin it.  They are allowed to print their own money.  Ireland wants little to do with either, and also prints up their own greenbacks.

When grandson and fiancé were first driven to Ottawa to take possession of their apartment, they found a Starbucks, literally visible from their front window. When they drove over for a caffeine-break, her mother got the first coffee, and stepped back to wait.

Perhaps recognising new customers, the female manager approached to welcome and ask how things were. The mother said that her daughter worked at a Starbucks in Kitchener, and would be looking for a position in Ottawa.

“She’s an experienced barista??! I’m short-handed and hiring.  Have her manager email me, and I’ll have a job for her as soon as she’s available.”  Going to class and working part-time will be busy, but they’ll have income until he finds a decent job.  I love it when a plan comes together.

[Hopefully, the grandson is reading this on his Smart-Phone. Thanx for all your past help.  We miss you already.  Good luck, and keep in touch.]   😀

Smitty’s Loose Change #2

Smitty's Loose Change

Extra Extra

NEWSPAPER HEADLINE

Caller to distress line gets recorded message

SUB-CAPTION

‘It’s fortunate I wasn’t in crisis’

Then why in Hell were you calling the distress line? To find the time of the next bus??!  When I saw the headline, I thought it referred to the 911 line.  When I read it, it turned out to be a suicide prevention hotline, and I cut a little bit of slack.

Still, like idiots who overload the 911 line with complaints that McDonalds didn’t put onions on their Big Mac, if you call a suicide hotline when you’re NOT in crisis, somebody with a bottle of pills, or a car running in the garage can’t get through, and gets the recorded message that you complained of.

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RECENTLY-READ BLOG-POST OPENING

If Batmans parents are died how can he be here? The writers didn’t think this threw.” With a picture of Superman, that he’d captioned, “I got to get out off this planet.” (signed) Capt. Darkfeir

Well, if Superman’s going, I’m going with him. I know that this is probably a gamer-boy, still living in his mom’s basement, but, if we’ve got people so lazy and dumb that they can’t/won’t read the back-story to a comic book, society is doomed.

It didn’t occur to him that Bruce Wayne was already 10, when he witnessed his parents’ murder, but he believes himself so smart that he’s spotted a contradiction that no-one else has noticed for 80 years.

I almost left the planet when I saw his ‘parents are died’ construction, and ‘threw’ for ‘through’ usage.  The Superman caption needs some work, although maybe he wants to be Capt. Darkfeir, instead of ‘fire.’

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A local man is a powerful bicycling proponent. He rides his bike everywhere in the city.  Recently, his 18-year-old daughter was on her way to school.  She rode her bike without a helmet, on the wrong side of the road, and failed to stop at an intersection.  She was struck and killed by a turning car.  Now he is demanding that some level of government ‘train all young cyclists in bike safety.’

Another man took his 3-, and 5-year-old sons into a busy Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop and ordered a tea. The clerk placed it on the counter in front of him.  Too distracted to pay attention to either his tea or his kids, the tea somehow got knocked over onto the 3-year-old, severely scalding him.  Now he’s whining about, “Why did Tim’s make the tea so hot?”  After that dumb bitch cooked her crotch some years ago, see warning on all cups, “Caution! Contents may be hot.”

When, oh when, will asshats like Bicycle Bob, and Koffee-Shop Klutz, take responsibility for their actions and offspring, and not try to palm it off onto government or business?

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Last year I mentioned that there was about a 200 square foot portion of my back yard where the grass had been supplanted by millet, from seeds that birds had spilled from a feeder. The above photo shows what that section of lawn(?) looked like, just before the first mowing this spring.

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That’s all the random rants for the moment. We now return to my regularly organized confusion.  😉