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Happy Birthday Anthony

Hope your day was filled with lots of good food and guitar playing.
Happy Birthday Jessica

Have a happy day dear. Hope all your finals are done and that you have lots of fun Christmasy crafts and baking planned.
Technical Difficulties
Ack! I had to change my hosting accounts and this has caused my css (template) to disappear into oblivion. I will rectify this as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Looks like everything is back in place. I had a copy of the css file at work and was finally able to upload the background images from home. Crisis averted!
Winter Fire

It was snowing on Friday night, but we braved the roads to have fire at Como Park. It was Anthony's cousin's birthday and so we layered on the wool and picked up cookies to go with the fire-warmed cider.

The falling snow was so beautiful and it was nice and toasty with our big fire. We had a radio to listen to the Wild game and lots of goodies to fill our bellies. We ended the night with some good beer and warmth at Sweeny's.
A lump of coal
We've got a big deficit. $5.2 billion big. Not because we overspent, but because people are paying less taxes. The economy is in the shitter and we cut income taxes in the Ventura administration and now everything's f'ed up. Unlike the federal government, who can run a deficit, the state has to balance it by the end of May. After that, we're into special session. If we don't solve it by July 1, there's a government shut down. That means I don't get paid, state parks are closed and public defenders have to work for free.

We can't only tax our way out of this, raising taxes would only generate about $300 million (not to mention, the governor is absolutely against raising taxes). We can't *only* cut either (we did cut $125 million last year too). And the cost and size of government has been on the decline for a long time. It has to be a combination.

But where do you cut? There is a poll on the Strib website where you can vote where to cut: schools, health care, prisons, road projects, or local government aid. A majority chose prisons, followed by local government aid. Gee, we can't pay to incarcerate all those criminals, so lets just let them out of jail. And cut that silly LGA, I want to pay for policemen in my property taxes.

I shouldn't have, but I read comments on the Strib's deficit article. Pretty much just made me hate everyone.

People don't get it. Because the fact is, most, as in 64% of the budget is Education and Health Care. The total state budget = $34 billion. E-12 education gets 13 billion which is 38% of the budget (this is not including higher ed which gets a meager $3 billion). Health and Human services gets 9 billion which is 26% of the budget (they used to get 21 billion, that's a big cut we already made people). The rest is divvied up among ag & vets, environment, public safety, judiciary, transportation, economic development, state government and property tax aids. (Check my facts here.)

So are we going to make school districts more strapped for cash, ultimately forcing them to increase class sizes and to levy property taxes? Or are we going to take Grandma's health care away? When she is already on social security and doesn't have an extra penny to spend.

Then I listened to MPR with Lenczewski & Seifert. That was a little better. But people were calling in saying, "Protect education! I have a special needs child and I can't afford to pay for their schooling."

Everyone thinks government is too big and spends too much. Until something bad happens to them, like a flood or a fire or someone robs them or they lose their job and need unemployment. Then, they want the government to be there. But they want someone else to pay for it. Property taxes pays for schools, libraries, police and fire. Income taxes pay for health care and more schools and an environment where business is possible. Might be kind of hard to transport goods without keeping up our roads.

This session is going to be brutal. We did a lot of bad things in 2003 when we had a similar shortfall. We're going to end up doing a lot of bad things this year too. Like unallotting. That's where the governor has the power to take away money that hasn't been given out yet. Like the December Local Government Aid payment. Cities count on those monies to supplement their budget. That could mean lay-offs. Like my mom. Oy.

I could go on and on about how the government is an economic engine and how it is our best chance for good. But I'm a believer.

How the hell are we going to fix this? Maybe I'm too involved?
Mail Season
I was so happy when I got the mail yesterday and saw my Winter Mix from Chrissa! And then I was overjoyed to see that she put Dave Matthews Band "The Christmas Song" on it. I promptly put it in my CD player and started enjoying.

Thanks Chrissa!

"She was his girl, he was her boyfriend. She'd be his wife and make him her husband."
The Hat
Erica gave me a copy of her Winter Mix up in Bemidji and it was great for the drive back down to the Cities. I'm currently repeating quite a few songs on that CD, but especially Ingrid Michaelson's The Hat.

The hook is spinning around in my head today and I keep singing it out loud. (For the enjoyment of my co-workers, I'm sure.)

I should tell you that you were my first love...
Also loving Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareiles on Winter Song, "This is my winter song...Is love alive?" You can hear it on the music player on Ingrid Michaelson's site.

Thanks Erica!
Advent 2008

It's Advent season again. I had meant to post about it on Monday, but just didn't get it done. My mom gave me a lovely little Advent Calendar card at Thanksgiving and it's so fun to open it each day.

Tonight, I think I will follow what the reading for last Sunday suggested and "Prepare for the Coming." Namely, decorate! Or at least start. I'll be pulling out last year's decorations and attempting to craft some new ones too. Mom lent her glue gun to me for my cone of ball ornaments. Now I just have to make sure that the balls will fit just right and will have to devise a way to disguise the hooks.

Isaiah 40:1-5 (The Message)

Messages of Comfort
Prepare for God's Arrival

1-2 "Comfort, oh comfort my people,"
says your God.
"Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem,
but also make it very clear
That she has served her sentence,
that her sin is taken care of—forgiven!
She's been punished enough and more than enough,
and now it's over and done with."

3-5Thunder in the desert!
"Prepare for God's arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God's bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said."

Night We Light Parade 2008

NightWeLight2008 048, originally uploaded by juliemaealbrecht.

Mom and Auntie Lisa braving the cold and enjoying the parade.

Dancing Snowmen

The Grinch

There were lots of horse-drawn wagons alight.

A winter cottage

Lots of Lutherans up North:

Bethel Lutheran Church, hand bells & choir.

Trinity Lutheran kids stayed warm in the bus.

The front said, "Power from Poultry Litter". Sounds stinky.

New City trucks looking festive.

Snowmobiles ready for snow.

Can't beat decorated big trucks - this one was the electric company's.


Then it was on to Bridgid's with Erica J. and the cousins for hot toddies and music by Lance Benson

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