In an effort to reduce the amount of physical stuff we have in our house; my winter project is to scan the photos that we have accumulated. As I see it, my job at this point is not to cut or cull stuff just reproduce it digitally.
Folks, this is a daunting task. I started in January with two boxes of my stuff which were mostly photo albums. The rest of it belongs to my wife. She has boxes from both her grandmothers plus her mom plus her stuff. I started with 8 boxes. There are more boxes that may have stuff in them but you gotta start somewhere.
During January, I finished going through about two and a half boxes. Thus far I have the following to report: 13,447 individual files and 159 gigabytes of storage space. There’s actually more but you get the idea. The age of the photos is about a 100-year span from the 1890’s to 1990’s. In addition, there are newspaper clippings, recipes, diaries, and other stuff.
One of the unique things in and amongst all this stuff are scrapbooks that seem to have their origin with people of limited means. One type of scrapbook from some distant relative was created from an existing book and that was covered on every page with clippings from various newspapers. Not only do you get deaths and births but entries into social pages, news articles, and a host of other things that seemed important to the person that created the book. Some are scrapbooks with five or six columns of articles on each page: front and back. The box I’m working in now has a few of these in the bottom. They look to be very labor intensive to scan. In fact, I may have to buy a book scanner to do them. I won’t really know until I start on them, probably next week.
To do this project, I’m using an Epson photo scanner (Model FF-680W). It works great but needs constant cleaning. This scanner does both front and back of photos. In addition, it also tries to auto-correct color. I am also using a multifunction HP printer/scanner (Officejet Pro 7740). Most photos have been done at 1,200 dpi and other things have mostly been 600 dpi. I am using both the Photo app in Windows 11 and ACDsee photo software. The software is mostly for cropping and touching up the things that I scan.
An example of what I’m scanning is Grandma’s scrapbook for the 1946 road trip to Glacier National Park, Canada, Utah, and other parts of the West. She has 109 pages for this road trip with receipts, postcards, personal photos, handwritten narrative of each day and so forth.
Not only is it an insight into my wife’s family but also a glimpse at post-war America. An additional ten pages in the scrapbook were for a much shorter trip in 1947. This scrapbook yielded 660 files.
I know I won’t complete this project before spring, but I hope to make a dent in the pile.
Next, I will need to tag people in the photos and try to sort them by year. Part of this will allow the first cutting of unknown people out of the pile. This is afterall a genealogy project, at least in part. Of course, if the children don’t get going with grandchildren, then this project will lose much of its importance.
I must say that I have a greater appreciation for the resilience and determination of past generations as a result of this project. I have so little information about my own family that to see another that did try to give to the next generation evokes many emotions in me.
Of all the things to blog about in the days leading to Christmas, I am choosing to vent about electric charging stations. No, I’m not crazy enough to buy an electric car but we did end-up with a hybrid Jeep. It gets great mileage but works differently than my wife’s old Ford. This vehicle has the ability to plug in and charge the battery.
I think the difference between the Ford and Jeep hybrids is this; the Ford’s propulsion is electric and is augmented with essentially a gas generator while the Jeep is run by the gas engine which is helped by the electric battery.
Anyway, since we don’t have a garage, we have no place in Idaho to charge the Jeep. Plugging it into 120 VAC takes over 15 hours. The token charging station in our area does not have a compatible plug. This I am learning is a common problem.
Anyway, since we are visiting relatives at Christmas time, I thought we could try charging the battery at least once during the trip. At a stop in Oregon, we encountered three charging stations. Each station had two different plug ends. Yep, six different plug options. The second station was out of order. As a result, we couldn’t charge our Jeep. Station two, the one out of order, had the only correct plug. Strike One.
After we entered the once Golden State, we made our way to see an old high school friend. Said friend had previously owned two electric Chevy’s. His plug was on a 25-foot cord and fit the Jeep. During our visit, we got the battery up to 81 percent charged.
Once we arrived in the East Bay Area, we thought surely, we could find a charger here. We literally looked at about two dozen stations. The only ones we could find that fit our Jeep were out of order. Most of the others were attached to Teslas. Strikes two and three.
So, we have yet to get a full charge on the battery and as things stand now, we won’t on this trip. I only want to charge it once in a while to keep the battery in working order.
This points out the stupidity of forcing everyone into electric cars. Vehicle plugs are not standardized, the charging stations are often broken, and there’s just not enough to make the technology viable. My car doesn’t need to be charged in order to run but if the technology is available why can’t I use it?
Yep. Many government leaders make claims that you can pick your own gender, but have you ever tried filling out government forms for these guys? Fact is they still wanna know your gender and only give you two choices male and female. (OK, your pets get to choose spayed or neutered when you sign them up for their license.)
Anyway, if you check the wrong box, guess what? Your application gets stopped until it is resolved. I got to experience this firsthand about a week ago.
I’m about to turn 62 and decided to apply for Social Security. I figured I should apply once I get within 90 days of my birthday. Well sure enough there was a problem. I found out after ignoring a phone call with a 301-area code. Of course, I ignored the call since I have no idea where 301 is and don’t have the number in my address book. A voice mail was left from someone claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. I called the number and extension that I was given and left messages on three separate occasions over the space of about 10 days. Of course, nobody has called me again. Oh, the number left on my voicemail did not match the one on my caller ID.
Finally, I got a letter from SSA which stated that there was a problem with my application. In typical government fashion, the letter never said what the issue was that was causing all the fuss. They asked me to complete a form SS-5 (it was an application for a duplicate Social Security Card). FYI you can only apply for a duplicate Card in person and the local Social Security office will not let you make an appointment to do this. (It took more than an hour of persistent dialing to my local SSA office to learn about the no appointments thing.)
In an attempt to learn more, I called the generic 800 number on the Social Security Administration website. Amazingly, I was able to speak with a real human. After extensive grilling to try to verify my identity, I was finally able to ask someone what the dire problem was with my application. Back in 1980, when I applied for a duplicate copy of my Social Security Card; allegedly, I accidently checked the box for female. Whether this is true or not I can’t say because I have never been offered a copy of this errant form. Ironically, this was the same time that I was registering for Selective Service—a male only requirement—and two years before I went in the military to serve in a male only occupation. At the time, this error never bothered anyone. However, it is a big issue now.
I find the Federal government making an issue out of checking the wrong gender box on a form 43 years ago laughable. I thought under the enlightened leadership of Joe Biden that nobody cared about gender. I thought nowadays that gender could change on a whim; like maybe which restroom had the shortest line when you need to pee.
Anyway, I dug through my box of important documents and prepared to go to the nearest SSA office the next day.
The next morning, I got out of bed, got dressed, and then drove the hour and a half to the nearest SSA office. I arrived about 8 AM and was proudly the first in line. When they opened at 9 AM, I was admitted into the office and took a number. A few minutes later I was called to one of the four windows serving customers. I showed my letter from SSA and my documents. The lady was satisfied that I was in fact male without resorting to a package check. I was assured that the information would be forwarded to the SSA case worker that was holding up my application. Oh, and I will also get a new SSA card in the mail in a few weeks.
Please note that this was supposedly resolved over a week ago, but as of today, per the SSA website, my application is still on hold pending further review.
My wife is glad this happened because she was able to laugh at my predicament and then load me down with a list of chores to do when I went to the big city. As a result, we now have a barn door on the downstairs bathroom. What took three minutes in a YouTube video actually took two days to accomplish but that is a story for another day.
With my manhood secure and my pride recovering, I just wanted to share my story to let you know what I’m doing in my spare time.
Saturday, the wife and I were on our way to eat lunch at Good Grief. Per their t-shirt, Good Grief claims a population of three people, two dogs, and one grumpy guy. The restaurant at Good Grief is about 45 minutes from our house.
We got about a mile down the road when we ran upon an accident on Highway 95. On a steep downhill grade, a guy pulling a load of hay spilled bails over all four lanes of the road. (Truck in photo above is not subject of this story.) Traffic stopped and then folks got out of their cars and started moving the hay out of the way. In less than five minutes, the road was open in both directions. Below are several pictures that my wife took while I was helping with the others.
Only one guy tried to get thru the mess. He was on a motorcycle. Everyone one else waited and/or helped.
At one point a person said, “I’d like to see this happen in New York City.”
My response was, “They’d just call 9-1-1 and wait for help.”
Yep, I can picture some guy trying to help in New York and finding that his vehicle was stolen while they were helping.
It was spontaneous and just what you’d expect in this part of the country.
Yep, the wife and I have been busy finishing our house in North Idaho. (Don’t say “Northern” just “North”.) Right now, it’s mostly livable, except the stove is not operational yet. The glass for the shower will be here in early September. The cabinet guys will be here whenever they feel like it. So, yes, there are a few loose ends out of my control but mostly the downstairs is about done. Upstairs is functional … to a point. We still need to install flooring and cover the ceiling joists.
The California house is now sold. We have cut ties to the once “Golden State”. Sadly, Johnnie Does and the rest of the gang are still in Elk Grove. I do miss them and a few of the local restaurants. Gone are the editorial board lunch meetings at the local salsa bars. However, I have gained much by leaving. I have my Second Amendment rights restored. I can now open carry a sidearm with no permit. I can cast a line into the local river without leaving my property. I plan to register as a Republican again as the Party here actually stands for something other than “democrat lite”. Oh, I have found that the John Birch Society is alive and well here too. Deer are abundant on our property. We enjoy watching three young bucks as their antlers continue to grow. They come daily to eat apples from the lone apple tree on the property.
It seems like half the folks in our county are formerly from the Left Coast state that is rarely named here. Many have been here for decades and are not necessarily refugees of the horrible governance of Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown. All these folks have one thing in common and that is that they will not allow Idaho to become like the place that they left. It is my observation that most folks in California claiming to be conservative are really liberals and they don’t fit in with folks that are actually conservative. Most California “conservatives” love big government and can’t comprehend a world where “The State” doesn’t dictate their every move.
For example, my dad is totally appalled at the lack of permits and government oversight that we are under while building our home here. We didn’t need an architect or engineer to stamp drawings to get a building permit. We didn’t need T-24 calculations. We don’t need a Certificate of Occupancy to move into our house. I can go on, but I think you get the point. Also, we didn’t have to pay north of $100,000 in taxes and fees to get a building permit like you must do in Elk Grove. Our building permit was less than $1,600. I hand drew several pages of the permit package and used a computer for the rest. Any additional questions were answered verbally over the cell phone. There were fees to connect to the power grid and city sewer but compared to where we came from, the cost was minimal. Had we lived outside the city limits, these costs would be even less. The only big expense was putting in a well since city water was not readily available.
The thing I do miss the most is that my son is not here to share the wonder of Idaho with us. He is attending college in Arizona. Nothing against Arizona but his poor life choices are proof to me that he is ungrateful and immature. I am praying that God will kick him in the butt and get him back on the straight and narrow. Sadly, all my wife’s offspring are insistent on doing things the hard way.
The people here are nice but not in much of a hurry. This is frustrating for many, and I just have to roll with it. There is more work here than workers. Working with contractors on our house has been a juggling act. Two contractors really have been a joy to work with and a third has been a good one overall.
The church we are attending is small (less than 100 people). The pastor went to college with our dear friend George Fincke. George ended up in the Reformed Episcopal Church while Leonard (the pastor here) stayed in the Bible Presbyterian Church. Bob Jones produced a couple of great pastors in these men. George died almost 8 years ago. Leonard is very involved in the community here.
I will start blogging more frequently in the weeks to come. I still have to get a few projects done before I can devote more time to writing.
I know that I haven’t posted much lately but life has been hectic. The wife and I have been packing up the house and parting with lots of accumulated stuff. Chief beneficiaries of this process have been the cancer society store, Goodwill, and the Kiefer landfill. We are going from about 2,100 square feet to 880.
The amount of photos, genealogy stuff, old yearbooks, and the like is ridiculous. In one room we packed six large boxes that weighed 30 to 40 pounds each. We still have to tackle one closet of photos plus the stuff currently hanging on the walls. For the sake of space, most picture frames are being discarded. Eastman Kodak had no idea what a mess they would be creating for my family.
Officially, we are whittling down the furniture to 11 pieces, half of which are for the bedroom. The rest are for sale or already sold.
Much of the rest of our stuff is books. We started with several thousand books in the house. I have parted with many that I have had for decades. A few are being packed but designated as a donation to the local church library at our new home. Our neighbor will be getting a box of vintage sci-fi stuff after the next garage sale. Goodwill will likely be getting a few hundred pounds of tomes as well.
XBOX is no longer part of our lives. The original console was traded for credit at a local store a few days ago. The 360 and One are going with my son to college–along with the remaining games in our house. I doubt they will survive to the end of the first year of college.
We are parting with more than half the clothing and linens in the house.
Two items remain in the attic, a red wagon and a dedication plaque for a bank that once existed in Elk Grove. (Update: The plaque left us last week.)
Many of the children’s school papers that we had saved have been sent to the landfill. We saved a few plus the usual—report cards and school photos.
Reducing the amount of stuff, we have is something that is long overdue. I’m glad we are doing it now. However, my choices of what to keep or part with have been colored by the stupid decisions that my son has been making lately. This will be a topic covered elsewhere on the blog. I just want to be on record that his bad behavior has consequences now and not just in the future.
The truth is that we should have left California many years ago. Due to stupid financial decisions, we probably couldn’t have done it but … I’m glad we are getting out now. Gavin and his fellow travelers are turning this place into a third world hell hole.
The purpose of this blog is to show the affect television and internet have on people’s lives in regard to natural disasters. These are the reactions of one man I work with.
First, we start with the Oroville Dam spillway several years ago in 2017. The CA Dept of Water Resources, when there was first reported to be trouble, downplayed it, or put out very odd press releases to re-assure the public there were no issues. DWR had to shut down the spillways due to damage, but continued to put out press releases that all was well. I do not know about you guys, but I have never heard of any government organization putting out a press release essentially saying “all is ok” when something bad isn’t brewing. When it comes to a dam, common sense says, if the spillways are closed, water is building up behind it. Put into English, the water will need to go somewhere, and the object standing in its way is causing it to build higher.
I casually mentioned this to a colleague, he shouted me down saying he saw on the news all was well. I Googled and found the clip on YouTube that he referenced. It was a man who claimed to be in charge of emergency services, not DWR, also the interview was taking place in Sacramento, not Oroville where the dam is located. But hey, “Honey we are fine, the man on TV says so.” “He is from the government, and he is here to help!”
Over the next 7 days, stories would appear on my Yahoo.com feed. The biggest was one saying “DWR was evacuating the fish from the hatchery located at the dam’s base. But again, nothing for us to worry about, this is normal…I guess? On February 10th crews began removing trees from around the emergency spillway. Seems really fishy because in CA I believe cutting down a tree may make you eligible for the death penalty. Also, the environmentalists were dead silent on this tree removal operation, telling me something was really not good. Not to worry, Alfred E Newman at my office said he hasn’t seen anything bad reported yet.
Two days later, evacuation orders were made for the counties surrounding the area near the dam. This happened on a workday around 10 am. The colleague of mine took a call from his spouse, in the breakroom, said “oh my God, we need to head for safety.” He walked out, and declared everything was ok, and he was going to work from home. On his way out, I said “hope you survive this Armageddon predicted by me earlier.”
Keep in mind readers, Oroville is 1.4 hours away from our headquarters by car. Moreover, the land between here and Oroville is literally flat, spread-out farmland. I dated a girl in college who was from that area, and when I visited it was yeah, flat farmland, it could easily flood and barely anyone would notice. Another pro tip, her father like many others in the area grew rice, a crop that quite literally can sit in flooded fields for months. My point being by the time the water reached Sacramento, let alone my office or house, the stream would be moving at a glacial trickle pace.
He freaked out, got into a car and decided to drive. Yup, Mr. I ain’t never scared, booked it out of town. Nothing ever came of this situation by the way.
The second scenario involves the “atmospheric rivers” our area has experienced since New Year’s Eve. There have been 3 in total. Prior to the first storm, my colleague made it clear he was very scared of the storms. As I tried to explain, the storm they are describing is mostly wind, the rain happens in large amounts very quickly, but it’s nothing our systems cannot handle. Of course, I’m not on TV so my words were not taken at all. Instead, he relied on meteorologists and articles written online, aka news. The news is supposed to do 1 thing, mostly like a shock jock of yesteryear, its job is to stir people up and create panic/ratings. If it bleeds it leads is still true today.
On all three occasions he freaked out, spouting cable news BS of the levees could fail etc. etc. etc. Keep in mind he is about 32 years older than me, yet he reacts like a toddler who dropped his ice cream cone. He packed his belongings, and headed to Patterson, yes as in an area that usually floods each time there is heavy rain and runoff. But its ok, the news people on TV told him to flee.
On all three occasions, we did get rain, but not too much. Yes, the normal areas flooded, Wilton, Discovery Park, and some other creeks in the area. The bypass area flooded, but all these scenarios happen each time we experience significant rains. The areas ordered to evacuate are very very rural and surprise, they have to evacuate every time this happens. Wind damage occurred, and yes trees were toppled, fences were downed, but no massive loss of life or damage.
My point here is the same one I have made quite a few times. Ditch cable. Look at the two scenarios again, in the first, TV said all was well, it was not. The second? Made it seem like we were in Biblical times and an ark was needed to survive this. Nothing happened. The freak out that occurred was unfounded and unnecessary.
Keep watching TV and the next thing to freak out about will get you scared. Anyone remember the “murder hornets” during the pandemic? I’m still waiting for them to show up.
By the time I’ve posted this blog, I will have two weeks until I kiss my state job goodbye. I think on my calendar at work, its marked as Bobby’s Johnny Paycheck Day or some such thing. Oh, Johnny Paycheck is best known for a song he did in the 1970’s called, “Take this job and shove it.” I doubt anybody but me knows or cares about this one last slap at my employer, but it’s intended as sarcasm.
Anyway, I’m making a bunch of decisions with little time to think about them. Thankfully my wife is in on my decisions and deliberations. As long as we agree, things should be OK. Oh, one benefit of retiring in January is that I have only one five-day work week during my last month of employment.
Just for entertainment value, I also got a jury duty summons for my last week. Since it’s a four-day work week, and my group number is just over halfway thru the pack, I doubt I have to show up but who knows? Whatever happens, its my last jury duty in California. I can’t wait to get out of this place.
Our new home, in a much more freedom loving place, is slowly coming together. The inside is warm and cozy but in need of drywall and finishes. Also, the wife seems to agree that we each need our own area to work so Really Right looks to be on track for a full-time office. No, I don’t plan on going full blogger 24/7 but I might finally write a book or two like I’ve been wanting to do.
The reduction in income is balanced against the payoff in completing the house. I’m looking forward to having more of a hand in completing our house. When I do work on projects, I harken back to some sage advice offered in one of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies; “A man’s got to know his limitations”. Sometimes I skip doing work due to a lack of knowledge and sometimes due to a lack of insurance. I’d rather let the guy with liability insurance do some types of work rather than do it myself.
Yep, today I have decided to clean off all the unposted things that I’ve been saving to write about but never got there. I hope you find a few funny and others interesting.
The following was posted on social media a few months ago. It is a news account of a Russian general being killed in the Ukraine war.
In the opinion of some, there was a shadow over this report. Some said the news was tainted. I sought the original post on the Ukraine news site but was unable to find it.
Sadly, it is indeed a forgery. The photo is actually from the Command and Conquer computer games series by Electronic Arts. Specifically in Red Alert 3, actor Tim Curry played Premier Anatoly Cherdenko. Other names you might recognize in the cinematic cut screens include Gina Carano, Jonathan Pryce, J.K. Simmons, George Takei, David Hasselhoff, Jenny McCarthy, and Kelly Hu.
Next is a meme that I found on the website Gab.
Microsoft has now confirmed signing a malicious driver being distributed within gaming environments.
This driver, called “Netfilter,” is in fact a rootkit that was observed communicating with Chinese command-and-control (C2) IPs.
Another Covid atrocity is this photo which I found many months ago. I call it “Really Wrong”.
I found this gem on my Microsoft account. Don’t know how they found me here.
Could this be the proof that I’m more Indian than Elizabeth Warren.
Here’s two stories from a different perspective that talk about Russia versus the West.
Apti Alaudinov, the commander of Chechen forces fighting for Russia, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, calling it a “holy war” against the “Satanic” values of Europe and the United States as well as the LGBTQ community.
Alaudinov made the remarks during a recent segment of Russia’s state-run Russia-1 television channel. A clip of his remarks were shared to Twitter on Sunday by Julia Davis, a columnist for The Daily Beast and creator of the Russian Media Monitor. Chechnya, where Alaudinov hails from, is a Republic of Russia under the jurisdiction of Moscow.
In his comments, the Chechen commander praised Putin for standing up against the West and NATO, describing them as evil. He praised the Russian president for preventing LGBTQ rights from advancing in their country, contending that the fight in Ukraine was a war against the marginalized community.
Alaudinov noted that he is “grateful” that Putin is following the values of “the Most High,” referring to God. “We are not under the flags of the LGBT and as long as he’s alive, we won’t be under those flags.”
To my knowledge, I am the only culture war analyst in the world who contends that the current Russia/Ukraine war started not with President Putin’s Feb. 24, 2022. “Empire of Lies” speech, nor with the Obama/Soros-orchestrated Maidan coup on Feb. 22, 2014, to replace pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych with their own stooge, but with Vladimir Putin’s signature on June 30, 2013, making the LGBT propaganda ban the law of the land.
More than any other factor in the vast constellation of geopolitical rivalries and concerns, that single act declared the Russian Federation an enemy of globalism, and more importantly in the realpolitik sense, an enemy of the megalomaniac “closeted” homosexual Barack Obama who, even then, had done more to advance the global LGBT agenda than any other living man.
In other news, the “Velvet Sweatshop” a.k.a. Microsoft has digitized most of the world and made the data available for free. Sorry, I didn’t check for the accuracy of Area 51, but you’re welcome to look. However, I’m sure North Korea can now accurately target your house using these same geolocation tools.
Did you know that the first fatal nuclear reactor deaths were in the United States in 1961?
Yep, Jane Fonda was still in braces when this happened. This article is a good read. I think the Sith Lord would find it interesting. Also, any of you Navy Nukes that did prototype training in Idaho will find this of interest.
ATOMIC CITY, Idaho — People in this remote, high-desert town still talk about the alleged mysterious love triangle that, 60 years ago, triggered a murder-suicide — and resulted in the world’s first fatal nuclear explosion.
The accident never got the same attention as Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) or Fukushima (2011). But the sensational story behind it lives in infamy, even though some experts believe it may have been made up by government officials.
This single sentence is true: Army Specialists Jack Byrnes, 22, and Richard McKinley, 26, and Navy Seabee Richard Legg, 26, died violent, gruesome deaths on Jan. 3, 1961, at the US Army’s pioneering SL-1 reactor in Idaho.
More proof that the ancient world was not what they taught you in school. The gizmo in this article is super cool.
Great mysteries are meant to be penetrated and one of the most fascinating is the 2,000-year-old computing machine known as the ancient Greek Antikythera Mechanism.
This intricate, bronze clockwork device was first discovered by Greek sponge divers inspecting a Roman-era shipwreck back in 1900 near the island of Antikythera in the Mediterranean Sea. Since then, scholars and historians have speculated as to the exact nature of its precision Steampunk-like workings.
Now a team of scientists and researchers at University College London (UCL) has uncovered a significant piece of the puzzle that comprises this fascinating astronomical calculator, which is thought to be a hand-cranked mechanical contraption used to predict astronomical events and heavenly logistics.
The Antikythera Mechanism is considered to be the world’s first analog computer and perhaps the finest feat of engineering ever to emerge from that era of antiquity. No equivalent machine was created until at least a thousand years later when craftsmen built medieval cathedral clocks.
This 2,000-year-old device was fabricated using a complex intermeshing of 30 surviving gears and was harnessed to not only predict the positions of the Sun, Moon and the planets, lunar and solar eclipses, and astronomical phenomena, but also dates for the ancient Olympics.
If you aspire playing 4K Blu-ray disks on your computer, here’s some news you need to know.
There is no greater acknowledgement that we have moved on from physical media than Intel dropping support for them from their latest processors.
The first laptops without DVD drives were being released around 10 years ago, but until the 12th generation of Intel’s processors, the company still included support for the SGX (software guard extension) DRM technology needed to decrypt the discs.
This is no longer the case, as Intel confirmed in the spec sheet for the 12th Generation processor.
Last but not least are two stories on the financial failure that is the State of California. Yep, sorry Gavin lovers—not that I know of any—but all this talk of budget surplus is BS for gullible voters and the children running Silicone Valley.
Oh, the following is from a year and a half ago and its only gotten worse.
So we sued the State of California to get the records that are legally required to be made available to anyone who requests them.
Our initial request on Aug. 23, 2019 was ignored, and follow-up letters in October and November were finally acknowledged – 11 weeks after the first request, a violation of state open records law.
Our request was later denied, with Yee saying that they were “unable to locate” the evidence of payments that her office made and that it did not track payments that went through other state offices.
In 2018, Yee’s office paid 49 million bills totaling $320 billion in payments. While she made the payments, she claims she cannot track the payments.
The State Controller’s Office is the worst agency in the State of California. Trust me because I’ve seen this in the private sector. If you only count your revenue and don’t include all your expenses, you think you have a huge profit (revenue surplus). It sometimes takes an outside set of eyes to set the record straight. When government denies such oversight then it has something to hide.
In 2018, California resident Steven Childs wanted to know how much the state paid to a single vendor over a five-year period. Instead of the data, California Controller Betty Yee sent him an invoice for $1,250. Childs asked more questions and the Controller’s chief counsel, Rick Chivaro, admitted the state held electronic records and “warrant records” akin to “maintaining a checking account online.”
Today, in a Sacramento superior court, the controller denies having a checkbook and claims the warrant register doesn’t contain vendor information. The Golden State is the only state in the nation not to produce state spending under open records laws.
Our organization at OpenTheBooks.com is battling the controller in this case over our freedom of information request for the entire line-by-line state vendor checkbook. When the controller rejected our request, we sued.
Yee is claiming her office “couldn’t locate” a single payment. No, that’s not fake news, or a comedy punch line. California’s top financial officer actually argued this in court recently, despite admitting she paid 50 million individual bills last year.
Furthermore, the controller now claims that transparency itself is an “undue burden.” She swears it’s necessary to take 72,000 work hours to go through each of the 50 million payments by hand.
Here are some of the arguments Yee is making to stonewall our request:
“In order to produce checkbook level data as requested … staff would need to manually review the estimated 50 million transactions …” (Emphasis added.)
“The public interest served by not disclosing the requested records and data clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure. As such, the [State Controller’s Office] is relieved of any obligation to produce the requested records.” (Emphasis added.)
Do we have a representative republic if the representatives get to hide all transactions from the people—and claim that it’s for their own good?
Controller Yee acts like she has something to hide. Here are just a couple items we learned during discovery about how taxpayer dollars are spent by the controller:
1. Using paper and string. An estimated 200,000 bills — submitted only on paper — were paid during the fiscal year. Incredibly, the justification for each payment contains even more paper — between 15-20 pages and is bound and physically tied together with string. It takes 7-10 minutes to deconstruct, copy, and reconstruct each file.
2. State agencies submit employee reimbursements and supplemental payments to the controller without payee information. The controller provides the money with no accountability and no auditing.
The controller makes state payments, is compelled by the state constitution to audit them, and therefore must be able to track those payments. Any responsible entity that makes a payment can track the payment. It is the minimum standard in any basic accounting system.
In California, the controller has frequently blamed their outdated systems that store records on paper, microfiche, and electronic tape. Yee even admitted that couriers with manila folders run demands for payments from state agencies. Is this ancient Rome?
Oh, by the way, I have been in the room where the paper and string claim schedules are processed. This is 100 percent true and as a State employee, I’ve made and submitted many of these during my time working for the state. Oh, the string must be on the correct side of the Claim Schedule packet, or it will be returned to you rejected and unprocessed. Also, the knot on the packet is a bow just like when mama taught you to tie your shoes. If the knot is wrong, it will be returned to you—again rejected.
This is how government in the heart of the alleged technology capital of the world is really run. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Besides dealing with my wife’s cancer, we have been going forward with our plans to exit California. As part of that process, we decided to buy a barn as an interim home. (More on that as this article unfolds.) Anyway, we needed to layout the interior design of the barn that we purchased.
I decided to look online for some software that was affordable that I could use to reproduce the barn floor plan that we had purchased and then insert furniture, plumbing fixtures, and do a basic electrical design. Also, we would need additional drawings to submit with our building permit application. I know that I didn’t want to spend several thousand dollars on a program like AutoCAD but making the design in 3D was a necessity.
Frankly, the search on the internet was frustrating because it was more about companies paying for endorsements and product placement than anything else. As a result, I decided to start checking out websites of various companies. Many of the programs offered online were very old and clearly not actively supported.
After much searching, I did find a company that was actively supporting their products but then I faced another question, were the lower priced tiers of the product worth it or just a way to make you upgrade to get the features that you really wanted—I’m thinking like software that lets you design but not print or save—if you’re tried enough limited demo programs you know what I mean.
Still unsure, I decided to view some of the tutorial programs available on their website. I also searched for reviews of the product.
First the reviews. The product reviews for home design software are often as useless as the ones on Amazon. A certain amount of the contributors are computer illiterate people that don’t know their right mouse button from their left. (Those with one mouse button are irredeemable.) Others said that the learning curve was steep but doable. These folks were at least trying to make the software work for them. On the whole, this group was satisfied or happy with the product.
The real selling point to me was the online videos. First, it told me the product was actively being updated and second that even without the software, you could follow what was happening as the program was demonstrated.
After several days of looking around, I decided to shell-out about $100 for the lowest tier of home design software by Chief Architect. Current price is $129.(Reader note: the Chief that contributes to our blog is not related to or being endorsed to support this product.)
Folks, the first thing you need to do is download this software and then go eat lunch or spend a long period on “the throne”. Trivia: On the throne is actually from the Old Testament. See Judges 3: 12-25.
You have been warned. If you try to install this program immediately after downloading it won’t work. Like a good apple pie, it needs to rest a few minutes. It seems that until Windows Defender has a good, hard look at it, Windows won’t allow it to install.
As with any software package, have the license key handy. By the way, this program allows you to have multiple copies of the program on various computers. Turn the license off on one machine and then activate it on the other. This allows me to switch from my desktop computer to the wife’s laptop and back. There are no limits on moving the license key, only that one device at a time can be active on the license.
I started to learn the program with a basic rectangular floor plan with doors and windows. It also had stairs and a loft. Placement of the stairs took a lot of trial and error to figure out. By the time that I mastered the program basics, my wife had seen enough to run the program too. To get the roofline and everything like I wanted was eleven hours, but the next day my wife was able to sit down and layout all the furniture, bathroom fixtures, and the kitchen in just a few hours. Then she went on to move stuff around, paint the inside and add floor coverings. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes fun.
You can place electrical outlets and fire alarms, sinks, bookshelves, granite or quartz countertops, and just about anything else you can think of. Some of this includes name brands of appliances, sinks, cabinets, hardware, paint, carpet, decking, doors, and more.
This tier of the program will do some remarkable things but if you want a full material take-off, floor joist and roof plan, or the ability to print formal blueprints then you need to step up to a higher version of the product.
The 3D views were nice to see but did seem to be limited in one important visual aspect. The program can show backgrounds and textured ground level, but when we tested it, the entire building foundation seemed to be sitting on the ground and not partially sunken into the earth. This makes any building on a stem wall look abnormally tall.
The best 3D view is from the Doll House perspective. In the actual program, 3D renders can be rotated by moving your mouse and/or changing the camera perspective.
You get a variety of textures and furnishings to put in your virtual home and have the option to buy even more on Chief’s website. The program will allow some colors and textures to be input into the program but frankly my wife can do that easier than I, because I never spent much time with this part of the program.
Oh, Chief Architect is based out of Idaho. I won’t say that the limits of this program are your imagination, but it gets really close.