Friday, January 22, 2010

Money, Politicians, Judges and Picture Rail

The House of 42 Doors is a narrowly focused blog. It doesn't include a good number of things from my life, which helps me stay on topic and steers me clear of the three things to avoid in conversations; religion, sex and politics.

But I can't let this one go.

Two recent decisions by courts, one national and one local are worth noting. The first is the recent Supreme Court decision (5 to 4) that overturns a ban on corporate or union spending on federal campaigns. A company is no longer prohibited from spending money to support or oppose a federal candidate.

That's any amount of money, any federal candidate. Here is a fairly balanced article that sums it up nicely.

Coincidentally, our state has just made a similar decision. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently ruled 4 to 3 that judges need not recluse themselves from a case whose plaintiffs or defendants made campaign contributions to the judge's election campaign (Wisconsin judges are elected). According to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, if I donate $10,000 to a judge's campaign, there is no conflict of interest when he (or she) hears my case.

Again, here is an article that explains the situation in depth.

Read the articles and make your own conclusions, but I am utterly dismayed at how these decisions have made it easier for those with money to influence our politics and our courts, especially at the national scene. Its no wonder why I spend most of my time these days researching moulding profiles for picture rail. It's a lot less depressing.

Friday, January 15, 2010


While illegal, burning money is the only financially honest hobby one can have.

This week I finished The $64 Tomato by William Alexander. In it, the author buys a house and three acres of land and then proceeds to spend the next several years trying to reconcile his vision of a garden with reality. He hires a professional landscaper to put in his gardening beds. He installs electric fencing and drip irrigation lines. He battles a woodchuck he calls "Superchuck." He even considers installing a pink granite obelisk in his garden.

One day, his wife jokingly made an off-hand comment that he should enjoy his Brandywine tomatoes, because each one probably cost $40. Curious, William sat down and figured out what it cost him to grow a Brandywine tomato. He was shocked enough to title his book after the results. William didn't make all of his calculations known, but he did go through his process of figuring cost. It looked reasonable.

This leads me to my initial point. All of us have interests and hobbies; golf, fishing, hunting, dance, brewing, camping, reading, etc. Gardening is William's hobby. When was the last time you actually figured the cost of your hobby? If you knew, would it change how you spend your time and money?

For those of us with old houses, we live in our hobbies every day. Just like William and his garden, we try to reconcile our vision of our house with the reality that confronts us. Eventually, the difference between the two converges, with the result sometimes closer to the vision, sometimes closer to reality.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Books and Music

It's hard to work on the house in winter. Many of the projects I have in progress could probably be finished up with another three or four hours of work each. Unfortunately, the days are short and my ambition is lacking. Instead of working on the house, I've been doing a lot of reading lately. I recently finished Soul Survivor and am right in the middle of Three Cups of Tea. The first one was interesting, but not one I would recommend to everyone. Three Cups of Tea is worth a read though, no matter who you are. I've been summarizing and paraphrasing it for my five year old daughter. Bath time is a time when we talk about Pakistan, K2, Greg and his schools.

I've also been struggling with technology the last few weeks. About ten years ago I bought a Gateway DVD player that would wireless stream MP3's, pictures and videos from a PC, so that it was accessible from my stereo/TV. That DVD player finally died and now I'm struggling to find an affordable replacement (under $150). I'm quite shocked to see that in ten years the technology has gotten neither simpler nor cheaper. If anything, it's grown more complicated and more expensive. Its disappointing that our large MP3 library (which we ripped from CDs we bought "back in the day") are sitting on our PC, mostly useless to us.

If anyone has any ideas, I'm open to them.