Friday, April 24, 2009

Beaufort, SC, Day Two

At Sunday morning breakfast Pat and I sat with two sisters that had grown up in Beaufort. They were both widows and were spending time together, having just come from Savannah. They related how Beaufort was when they were growing up. Dorothy was on my right and Shirley was directly across form me. I began to ignore Dorothy and talk with Shirley who now lives in San Francisco. I asked Shirley: "Why, why, why do you continue to vote for Nancy Pilosi?" She smiled and claimed that a conservative like her was completely out numbered, it was not her fault. During the conversation Dorothy let it be known that she had a boyfriend. While I did not let on, it was a great surprise to me. I was astonished at the various questions that popped into my mind. Why isn't he here? Is she really a needy person? Does she live with him? Is it only platonic, like having somebody to go to concerts with? Did she use the past tense when she said that? Why did she tell us that? At any rate, I did not mention or even let on that I heard her statement. Yet my mind was full of questions. I devoted more of my time talking to her. Looking back on it all, and reflecting on my own puzzling behavior, I now wonder if she had interjected the information as a ploy knowing she becomes instantly more interesting. Both ladies were very knowledgeable and had done much travelling. The four of us hit it off very well and we found much to laugh at. When it came time to breakup, they both lamented that we would be parting. At one point they said they wanted to come with us and spend the rest of the day in our company. But we did part, Pat and I to the Tea Plantation and we never did find out what they were going to do the rest of the day. I do not know their last names. "The Tea Plantation", 30 miles southwest of Charleston. We drove both cars to The Tea Plantation, I led the way using Pat's GPS module. It was my first time using a GPS and it was very easy to use. It gave directions for every turn, said when we were at the turn, and gave a beep when that portion was completed, then showed the next leg of the journey. There was one glitch, it said they we had arrived at the destination and we could not see "The Tea Plantation." At this point we are out on a small two lane road in the SC country side. Up ahead I saw a small Church, drove to it, and inquired of a person in the front where the Tea Plantation could be found. He indicated it was further down the road, and it was only about .2 miles further. The GPS got us very close but it was not a ringer. We toured the factory where the tea is sorted from debris, dried, put on a conveyor, dried some more to make either: black tea, orange tea or green tea. Yes, it all comes from the type of drying. We were told that it took only two people to run the whole factory since everything was automated. When exiting the factory and entering the gift shop, we were offered two different teas to drink. Both were iced tea and both, to me, were terrible. I prefer tea to be hot and so, since this was not my cup of tea, I discarded it. There is a bus tour, cost $10.00/person, that took us out to the fields where the tea is grown. The tea bushes look like Azalea bushes without the azalea blossoms. The tea leaves come from new growth springing up at the top of the bush. The driver said there were two inches of new growth on the bushes and when it gets to four inches the leaves will be harvested. In China the leaves are harvested by hand, here it is harvested by a specialized machine that straddles the rows of bushes and then cuts the new leaves like a lawnmower. This is the only tea plantation in the U.S. and the bushes come from a field that was planted here many years ago. That plantation went broke and the bushes then grew to thirty feet tall. The fields we saw were all grown from cuttings from that original plantation. There were some weeds in the fields, the driver said they were all pulled by hand before the harvesting. The name of this tea Company? The Bigelow Tea Company and their tea bag is made in the shape of a triangle.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beaufort, South Carlonia

Duane and Debbie told Pat about their trip to Beaufort, S.C. and Pat thought it would be a good place to meet for a weekend. So, we each drove to Beaufort and met at the same Bed and Breakfast that they had stayed; what's more, we stayed in the same room that they had had. For me it was a four hour trip and a five and a half hour trip for Pat. We had dinner at the local "Outback" restaurant. Saturday morning breakfast was served at eight-thirty and it was excellent. First, a cream-cheese blintz with a drizzle of raspberry sauce, followed by a cheese Quiche with two wings of very crisp toast. Pat could not finish her Quiche and I ate the remainder. The coffee was so-so. At eleven in the morning we had arranged for a guided, walking tour of historic Beaufort. We were told to meet in a parking lot and to look for a person with wild, crazy, white hair. He was easy to spot even though there were many people in the lot. He wore army boots, short shorts, denim shirt and no hat. There were nine of us in the tour group. One lady wore flimsy sandals, one guy wore Crocs, Pat and I wore cross-trainer tennis shoes. It was designated as a three hour tour and I wondered how the wrongly shod would endure it. The guide, John, had a loud, strong voice and he spoke clearly and distinctly. He said he had read many books about Beaufort history and was fascinated with the historical nature of his adopted town. Also, we found he was somewhat of an actor, and, in addition, found beauty in many mundane things. Some things he covered: 1. The Spanish Conquistadors came here when they were running out of Indian slaves in Mexico. They invited over a hundred Indians on board their ship and then merely sailed away with them. 2. The Gulf Stream is just off the coast and this town made a good spot for privateers (or pirates) to prey on Spanish Gallions that were sailing back to Spain. The pirate town of Point Royale was close by. 3. Sir Francis Drake lived in Beaufort and used it as a base of operations. 4. Twice, all the inhabitants of Beaufort were slaughtered. The first English contingent that was left here by the first English ship were not welcome; the Indians, remembering the Spanish, killed them all. The second time, the established English colony was raided by the Spanish who killed everyone. They were retaliating for the plundering of their Gallions. 5. The surrounding area plantations grew sugar-cane, switched to cotton then switched to rice. This was a very rich area and money was always rolling in. 6. During the Revolutionary War, South Carolina lost more men than any other State. 7. South Carolina secessionists first met and planned their moves in Beaufort. 8. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, even before Lincoln became President. 9. The town fell into Union hands in 1862 and the large mansions were used as hospitals. The wounded were brought in by ship and stayed until they had recovered. 10. After Sherman had spared Savannah, he came to Beaufort for some rest and relaxation. He used the town as a base and burned everything in the surrounding two hundred miles to the ground. After our three hour walk my feet were tired, Pat's too. The slippered lady and the guy with the Crocs were nowhere to be seen. We had lunch in a little Bistro; shrimp, calamari and a cup of clam chowder. We went back to the B & B and got a most restful nap. For dinner, we went to "The Upper Crust" for Italian food. After dinner we drove around the old town to get a closer look at some of the large mansions.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stephan Decatur

When Thomas Jefferson wanted an American response to the Barbary pirates the American Navy sent Stephan Decatur to handle the problem. He took care of it by landing on Moroccan shores, blowing up some of the buildings and destroying some of the ships. The Barbary pirates never again bothered American ships. Once again an American President called upon the Navy to solve a very distressing problem. Navy seals took care of it. Stephan Decatur was proclaimed a hero of our Country. Will these brave seals also achieve hero status?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Reading Tea Leaves

While watching an Argentinian movie (English sub-titles) a scene was presented which brought back some very old memories. The scene involved a woman asking a man visiting in her home if she could read his tea leaves. He agreed, and she asked him to finish his tea, put the saucer over the cup, invert the two together, and let it drain. After a while she looked into the cup to read what the pattern of the tea leaves told her. He sat calmly while she mentioned a few things. One of the things she mentioned was that his life was going to change for the better. And, indeed it did. That scene pushed directly into my long range memory. My Father would sometimes read my Mother's tea leaves after the end of dinner. In the late thirties and early forties tea was made by dropping an amount of loose tea into a tea pot, allowing it to steep, and then the host would pour it into tea cups. There were always tea leaves at the bottom of the cup. If you drained the cup, while drinking, tea leaves would enter the mouth. It was customary to consume down to very low in the cup and leave some roiled tea in the cup so as not to contend with the leaves. Lipton and his bags changed all this. My Father would turn the cup in his hands and contemplate the tea leaf pattern, sometimes tilting the cup for better lighting, or different perspective. I recall one time he told my Mother: "You will be receiving a letter." Her response surprised me because I took this as a parlor game my Mother and Father played. She asked: "What is it about? When will it get here? Did somebody die?" The questions surprised me because this revealed that she was taking this seriously, which I, in my ten year old wisdom, did not. He merely looked serious and indicated that was all he could see. Intrigued, I asked my Father to show me where it told him that. He showed me a very small bit of leaf that was removed from the rest of the group at the bottom of the cup. He said it was travelling toward the larger group and was therefore a letter. Curiously, my Mother did not ask to see this evidence. The manner my Father used in searching the cup, and hesitating trying to find something to say, indicated to me that it was all hokum. My Mother had a sharp intellect and I could not understand her irrational interest. They played this game for a number of years, perhaps remembering their parents or grandparents playing the same game. My spinster aunt, Vonna, once asked my Father to read her tea leaves. I recall the ceremony being more elaborate for this reading. She made sure she had sufficient leaves in her cup, sat directly across from him, lifted the inverted cup from the saucer and handed it to him in the most serious manner. She was barely breathing while waiting for my Father to begin. She was shocked when my Father told her she would soon meet the man she would marry. This greatly troubled her as she was resigned to remaining unmarried. (Many people at this time did not get married because there was a world wide depression and few could afford marriage.) Within a few days she did meet the man she married. Vonna acclaimed my Father's talent far and wide, bringing him notoriety and requests for a reading, but he never was able to nail it so well again.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Sharia Law

English law, the basis of United States law, has recently been changed by an English judge. The judge allowed a segment of English citizens, who are Muslim, to be ruled in England by Sharia law. This group of Muslims denied that English law was good for Muslims and they insisted that they would rather be ruled by Sharia law. What is so great about Sharia law that they missed in English law? They pointed to their "culture" and their need to be true to it. Here is a nation that is going to try to live with two legal systems. Can it be done? Equality of the sexes is a problem for Muslims, the male must always rule, and even more, he is the disciplinarian of the family. Family females are subservient to him and must follow his desires. If he says no then it does not happen. Transgressions can be severely punished. If he decides that his female children will have their clitoris removed then it is done. Females have no need of joy in sex. Homosexuals are anathema to Muslims and they preach death for them. London has it's share and I predict trouble ahead. If a Muslim woman is raped the blame goes to the woman and not the man who raped her. Some punishment have been severe ranging from whipping, caning and even execution. How are the English going to maintain a dual legal system? Is it possible? Here in the U.S. we had a segment of our society that believed in polygamy and over the years the Mormons changed. Is there a possibility for Muslims in England to change? Not when they will be allowed their own law. The English people have much trouble coming in the near future.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Mark To Market

To many people accounting is an esoteric subject and beyond their comprehension, or they just do not want to be bothered. However, the Financial Accounting Services Board (FSAB) has rules that are followed in order for our financial markets to make sense. Recently, that Board has stated that "mark to market" does not require strict adherence in volatile markets. This will affect the financial markets enormously. Also, the "uptick rule" is to be reinstated. This rule was in effect since 1934 and was recently removed by congressman Chris Dodd. This disregard of the uptick rule was a factor in the rapid decline of our markets for the last two years. If you are keeping track of the financial markets you will have noticed that there has been a turn around this past week. That turn around has been influenced by these two rules. It indicates that the bottom has been seen and the market is ready to return to sanity.